THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 3, January, 1933
(Pages 97-100; Size: 11K)
(Number 3 of a 12-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 12 articles have the same name.]

THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE

SELF-KNOWLEDGE in itself is neither a pursuit nor a possession, but the realization, partial or complete, of the own nature of Life. It is direct perception, first of one's own being, and finally of all beings -- is in truth and in fact the very essence of being itself, or be-ness, as expressed in the term coined by H. P. Blavatsky to relieve the lack in our language of a word to include both of the endless "pairs of opposites" which compose human consciousness and comprise human experiences.

Whatever our conception of self may be, and whatever the nature or extent of our experiences, neither is permanently held. Life, and the elements in life as we use and are used by them, are the same to the child as to the adult, to the least of beings as to the greatest, to inorganic and intangible nature as to the organic and the concrete. Moreover, whatever our idea or experience of self or of nature, there is always in the background of our consciousness the unformulated recognition of its opposite. The concrete image dismissed, the abstract reservoir of nature and of experience at once presents, not a void, but a fresh object of perception, a changed conception of nature and of self.

Unity of self and of nature are ever-present, ever-unchanging in all things however diverse or opposed these may and do appear. The self which perceives and acts and experiences the results of both remains actually one and unchanging in the midst of all diversity and changes. This is true both within the range of our knowledge and of our memory. Self is dependent on memory and knowledge for its definitions of experience, which in turn proceeds from action of some kind. Action, experience, memory, and knowledge are all convertible terms, transformable terms, which have no meaning, no validity, no existence of their own apart from self. They begin in self; they exist in self; they return into self; they are hence but expressions of self, creations and creatures of self which image objectively or subjectively a portion or phase of self, which is no image but the reality within and without all images.

When the whole life manifested in change is seen to be but the image or the shadow of life unchanging, a new sense of self and of nature is awakened in the man -- a Spiritual, not a physical or mental sense. This is the beginning of Self-knowledge; but it is only the beginning. Before it can become a realization, that sense has to be exercised in actu if it is to be converted into Spiritual experience, experience transformed into memory, memory unified in terms of Spiritual knowledge. How is all this to be achieved?

Assuredly, if such realization were possible from the points of view we name respectively religion, science, philosophy, as presently and hitherto pursued by men, then Theosophy and Occultism would merely be other names for what we already know and enjoy, or else superfluous and worthless. But every man already knows, each for himself, that life is filled with mysteries and unsolved problems. If these problems cannot be solved, if these mysteries cannot be resolved, then our philosophy, our science, our religion, are themselves superfluous and worthless. Yet not only do we know that the three comprise the sum-totals of our experience and assimilation, but all men are witness to the presence and activity of some element or principle in their being which continually urges and impels them to attempt the apparently impossible. Whatever the nature of this part of our being, it self-evidently involves a flat contradiction to all that we now know or remember. How is this paradox in nature and in self, to be reconciled? The very existence of the Unknown in the midst of the known, of the Unremembered in the midst of our memories, and our consciousness of them, demonstrates both the reality and the potency of that portion of nature and of self which lie beyond and within our human consciousness, which we assume to be the whole.

Which we assume to be the whole, while at the same time recognizing and admitting that it is pure assumption, and a false assumption at that. Whether we call it deduction or induction, belief or opinion, or by any other name, the fact remains the same: we act, not merely on what we know and remember, but in a controlling and directive sense our actions are based on an assumption which, by some sixth sense, we are all the time infallibly conscious is false. With both truth and falsehood as the dual basis of our conduct, it is inevitable that that conduct should yield us dual results -- the ever-recurring "pairs of opposites" which comprise our experience and our human being.

The fundamental assumptions which in reality constitute our religion, science, and philosophy, are, then, quite distinct from the facts of experience on which they are claimed to be based, even as they are distinct from the power in us which sees and knows that they do not solve the problems of life or self. The moment our religion, our science, our philosophy, is faced with its own facts, it cannot reconcile its assumptions with them. Those who believe that their respective revelation, or theory, or system of thought, is the "last word" on any subject, are simply not worth consideration or discussion. If they cannot see the visibly changing, how could they be expected to look behind the visible into the invisible and unchanging? No lens can assist total blindness; no tones can reach the deaf; no force can open a closed mind; no miracle raise the dead. Only from the view-point provided by Theosophy and Occultism can those be understood whose understanding of self and of nature is but a spark. The doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation provide hope for them as for all that live in all the kingdoms of great Nature. That theirs is a hope deferred calls neither for vain regret, nor vain exertions in dealing with them on any other basis than the facts permit.

The facts dealt with by Theosophy are the same as those common to all systems. It could not be otherwise, seeing that they are common to all experience. But when we come to the fundamental assumptions of the Wisdom-Religion, they are found to be submitted neither as a revelation, an evolution, nor as a speculative philosophy. They are claimed to be a transmission of what has been known and verified by succeeding generations of students of nature throughout interminable ages. Just as the common facts of life are either known to all men or can be verified by any man, so with the fundamental axioms, definitions, postulates, and propositions of the Wisdom-Religion which have at different epochs been put afloat or recorded among mankind; they are offered as a theory of life which can be investigated and verified by each man for himself. As contrasted with any and all prevailing systems, Theosophy is their polar opposite, and represents as great an antithesis to them as could possibly be imagined. Its teachings are declared to be the embodiment of Soul-knowledge and Soul-memory, immutable as Life itself.

Necessarily, Theosophy must remain nothing more than assumption, a mere theory which can be accepted or rejected in whole or in part by the individual man, unless and until its teachings are tested out by him in the actual living conditions of every day existence. Most men are satisfied merely with belief in one or another alleged explanation of the mysteries of life. They disbelieve in Theosophy simply because they already have a belief of their own which satisfies them for the time being -- a belief inherited, acquired, adopted, or into which they have been educated. Having no actual foundation in knowledge or experience, their faith, whatever it is, is subject to attrition, and they pass from one belief to another, no wiser than before. In this way many come to believe in Theosophy and, while they are infinitely more fortunate than their fellows if their belief should actually rest on the eternal verities themselves, its value to them is wholly negative. Nevertheless, it is a step, if but a single step, in the right direction, for no man does actually stand still in any sense, and the current of thought into which they have entered must at last bear them into deeper waters where they must learn to swim for themselves. Every Theosophist is thus a theoretical Occultist, as every Occultist is a practical Theosophist. The two terms, Theosophy and Occultism, do not represent a difference except in the sense of degree, the distinction between the seed and the tree. The genuine Occultist is the normal evolution of the human being into the full-grown Tree of Life everlasting through the pursuit of Self-knowledge.

The seed of the Tree of Life is in every man, as it is in every other form in nature. Man is man on earth because in him this germinal essence, like the seed of the lotus, contains within itself already fully formed the prototype of all the past, the antitype of all the future -- Soul-memory and Soul-knowledge. But it can never come to actual birth except through Union -- the union of all the elements of his being with all the Elements in nature. Self-knowledge, by its very nature, must be self-induced and self-devised.


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