THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 10, August, 1949
(Pages 457-459; Size: 9K)


[Article number (23) in this Q&A Department]

IS it right to do things for the sake of setting an example, which we wouldn't do anyway as a matter of course? And what about the related problem of asking questions at a meeting in order to keep the meeting "going" or for the sake of clarifying points for newcomers? Is there not some hypocrisy involved in such a course?

To take the first part of the question first, there would be hypocrisy involved if we were to act as an example to another when he was present, with no intention of continuing on that line in his absence. Sometimes we do this with children, carefully setting a good example "for their sakes," but feeling that with our friends there is no need to preserve the same standard. We can take liberties with the rules because we're "older" or "wiser" or just because we're "the boss." This is hypocritical and dishonest -- and ultimately ineffective, because while we may be fooling ourselves, we're not fooling the children for very long.

Sometimes, of course, we do something we would not otherwise need to do, for the sake of illustrating a principle to another. Having learned the lesson previously, we can review the experience mentally, but there is no hypocrisy involved in acting it out (seeming as if we didn't know any better) in order to participate in the other's learning of the lesson. This is evident in the episodes of Carl Ewald's "My Little Boy," in which the father frequently lays aside his experience and wisdom and enters into an adventure with his son just as if he were another child, instead of saying, wearily, "I've been all through that, and this is what will happen, so why don't you take my word for it?" Performing an action with full consciousness of its potential power can never be wasted effort, much less a hypocritical device.

The same principle is active in the matter of asking questions in a meeting, we should think. It is a way of helping newcomers as comrades rather than "teachers." It is also good practice for us to be able to "put ourselves in the position of another," to figure out what questions and problems may arise in another's mind and try to phrase them for discussion. We will find that such mental effort pays well in ourselves, also, for the habit of searching for questions on whatever subject comes up will lead us, finally, to the answers we are perhaps unconsciously seeking.

What is the environment of freedom? How are we to determine what conditions are necessary for it to exist?

The first thing we shall need to determine is that the conditions most important to the establishment of freedom are not the external physical conditions, but rather some intangibles which might be covered by the somewhat nebulous term, "a state of mind." Not only the Theosophical philosophy tells us this, but present history as well. The great movement fostered by Gandhi, for instance, aimed to free India from the domination of England, but more especially to free her from the idea that any country can enslave the people of another country against their will. Gandhi's efforts were directed only partly toward the British. He concentrated mainly on his own people, in order to rouse them to inner freedom -- their moral independence -- since he knew that without this "condition" any outer freedom they might attain would be but an appearance.

The work of Gandhi illustrates another prerequisite of freedom, and that is the attitude of the reformer toward those with whom he works. The difference between freedom and compulsion may be said to lie in whether the "leader" regards his "followers" as his peers or his inferiors. If they are considered inferior, he will use some form of compulsion as a short-cut to bring his "superior" plan to fruition. If, on the other hand, he considers his associates as co-workers, he will be careful to encourage their sense of responsibility, and will not resort to any short-cut which might lessen their power of choice.

Gandhi very evidently followed the latter course, for he expected much from his fellows. Incidentally, it appears that the greater the man, the more he finds in all beings to admire and trust. This is the reverse of the common conception of greatness, which we are apt to associate with aloofness and removal far from the world of common mortals. Yet when we think about it, we realize that it is the man of small ideas and barren heart who limits whatever inspiration he receives and imparts to those who are his "equals" or his superiors. We may even say that the great man is revered not so much because of his attainment, but rather because of the encouragement he is able to give to others to attain the same. Is this not a real basis for establishing the "environment of freedom"?

Is it necessary to be COMPLETELY pure? Is there no room in a person's make-up for human frailties -- often the very qualities which most endear him to others? After all, the pearl would not be formed were it not for the "imperfection" of a grain of sand inside the oyster's shell; and rain would not fall were there no molecules of "dirt" in the atmosphere on which the vapor could precipitate itself.

We are faced with a persuasive argument. Everyone wants the story to keep on telling, and "purity" and "perfection" do have the taste of awful finality. But let us be strictly honest with ourselves. Was it not Galileo who wrote once to a friend of the compulsion to honesty which his mathematical mind enforced on him -- "If someone asks me how many cows there are in a field, I cannot let myself say 35 or 37; there is only one number which is the right one, and that is the one I must give -- because it is true, and any other, no matter how close, is false."

What is it, really, which can make another's frailties a lovable quality? Do we unconsciously find comfort in knowing that the other person is not so very different from ourselves, that he does have some defects? Sometimes we are a little in the position of the hare in the race with the tortoise -- only instead of sleeping away our advantage, we prefer to rest and still keep one eye on the road to see that the tortoise doesn't pass us by! Perhaps we much prefer a few defects in another than that attitude of self-righteous virtue which proclaims the surmounting of the last obstacle and the attainment of the ultimate goal. Are the frailties themselves attractive, or is it the "pearl" formed when a frailty is conquered and power is gained?

Then, on the matter of the rain, let's not get confused between the water which comes down as rain and the water which must rise again from the earth and the sea as invisible vapor. Faults, and other unfinished business, bring man back into incarnation; so the grain of dirt allows the rain to fall. But if the sun is to draw up that drop of water again in due course of time, it must be without any dross whatsoever. The sun's rays cannot lift the speck of dirt, which has its own part to play on the surface of the earth, and would not belong to "higher realms."

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(September 1949)
[Article number (24) in this Q&A Department]

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