THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 12, October, 1949
(Pages 547-549; Size: 9K)


[Article number (25) in this Q&A Department]

WHY is it that the most beautiful things -- creations of art, music, etc. -- are most often the saddest?

It is also the case, is it not, that the most beautiful moments of our lives seem the saddest -- and at the same time the most full of meaning to us? This must be, not because they are sad, but because they are composed of an almost ideal Truth which is not at home in our workaday world. Consider that most of what we see about us from day to day on this plane is mere illusion, the product of our ever-active senses. These senses are affected by the opposites, by pleasure and by pain, but they are not attuned to report the realities of higher planes. The man who lives only for himself, surrounded with all the pleasures money can buy, will regard with complete bewilderment the career of a self-sacrificing philanthropist. To the pleasure-seeker, life without social distractions and material comforts would seem to be unalleviated sadness. It is the same with our senses. They contact, for example, a work of art or music and transcribe it for the mind, but they cannot comprehend the truth the soul may perceive through the medium of that art or music. What is congenial to the soul, and may be considered a "happiness" for it, can only puzzle the personal man -- the slave of sensation -- and leave behind an indefinable feeling of "un-pleasure," translated as sadness.

Perhaps, too, a kind of sadness is an inevitable part of the Ego, which forces itself to incarnate in forms which are, in reality, prisons for it. With every soul must abide a memory of its original pure and free state. Through this haunting remembrance, it may be, men are impelled to seek once more their perfect state.

Is there ever a right motive in killing another -- perhaps in order to protect a child from a murderer -- in view of the teaching that the "astral shells" of the latter influence sensitive people?

Any question involving motive is difficult enough to answer when we ask it of ourselves about ourselves. But when another asks us a question having to do with the motive of a third person, the question seems virtually impossible to answer. Who can say whether a hypothetical motive is right or wrong? Only the man who has the motive knows whether it is truly unselfish or whether it is tinged with personal fear or desire. All we can say is that a right motive will, in the words of Robert Crosbie, "save the moral character, but it does not ensure those thoughts and deeds which make for the highest good of humanity." That is to say, one's intention may be subjectively (from the point of view of the man's inner nature) good, and at the same time objectively (considering the actual deed and its consequences) evil. It must be evident that any violent act will have violent, hence disruptive, effects which cannot be offset by "good intentions."

The implications of the doctrine of Karma and that of the skandhas are that a man can so purify his atmosphere and his tendencies that there will exist in him no focus for violence of any kind. For such a man, we can suppose, there will invariably appear -- seemingly by happy chance -- some other way out than killing, even in such a situation as the one mentioned. For us, as we stand now, having had violent thoughts and having done violence many times in many ways, there may be an unconscious tendency to solve problems violently, and a corresponding tendency for violent situations to be attracted to us. This condition cannot be changed in a moment. But we can be sure that by scrupulously maintaining a "nonviolent" attitude in spite of everything that may tempt us to impatience or anger, and by persisting in this, we shall eventually exhaust our self-made heritage of violence and become as those are who "people their current in space with entities powerful for good alone."

We know that some writers find it very easy to write, while others create their work only with the greatest difficulty. We heard a theosophist call this the difference between psychic and manasic writing. Could you explain what was meant by this?

Well, we've all read books -- many of our modern novels, for instance -- which seem to be turned out on a literary "assembly line," with only new labels, names and places substituted for variety. These often make pleasant reading, it is true, but they do not incite to thought. This is the mark of "psychic" literature. It is easy to produce, once one "gets in the current." The theosophical doctrine of the astral light -- the gallery wherein all men's thoughts and acts are preserved and displayed before our inner eye -- explains this. It is as though the writer had brought some portion of the astral light into his own personal focus, and then set about describing the constantly shifting pictures there shown.

Manasic writing, on the other hand, is an effort of the real man to incarnate something of himself in the symbols we call words. Psychic writing is essentially the relation of events, emotions, impressions; it is as though the writer had somehow been able to endow his five senses with the power to verbally record impressions. There is no moral content -- and often little mental content -- in this kind of literature. Reactions on the reader's part are easily evoked and quickly forgotten. When, however, the writing is "manasic," there has been a kind of creation -- possibly the most painful kind, if we can believe the statements of great writers. The very lives of such authors reflect the struggle and suffering they undergo in their effort to draw out and make objective to others the realities which lie unexpressed in all our hearts.

Another mark of psychic writing is the tendency to run on and on. The man of few words is very often the man of deep thoughts, just as the short-length book frequently shows greater clarity of perception and sharper "point" than the long-drawn-out recital. The Perfect Tribute, a story about the Gettysburg Address by Mary Shipman Andrews, tells of a man of few words -- in a book of few pages.

The application of all this is important, whether or not we are trying to achieve something other than style and technique in writing. The use made of words, spoken or written, gives a clue as to how we are forming our characters -- there is the man who writes because he has something to say, and the man who finds something to say because he'll get paid for saying it cleverly. Manasic writing does not issue from the man who exchanges his integrity for money, fame, or influence, any more than moral progress can be combined with personal profit.

Next article:
(November 1949)
[Article number (26) in this Q&A Department]

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