THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 9, July, 1948
(Pages 402-404; Size: 29K)


[Article number (10) in this Q&A Department]

IT is easy to draw a distinction between effort and strain, but how do you actually go about using one without getting the other?

Must it not be true that the method which accomplishes this for each person is something which he alone can find by studying himself? Conditions which seem to produce strain for one person are regarded by another as a normal and satisfactory atmosphere for working. If, however, we succeed in making a real, and not just verbal, distinction between the two, we'll probably see quite clearly how to make the application of it.

Although doing too much may cause physical strain, the significant strain is psychological, and it comes from desiring to do too much. This throws us out of balance and causes the inner strain we want to overcome. H. P. Blavatsky makes an interesting statement in one of her articles concerning this tendency of the uncontrolled psychic nature (see THEOSOPHY XXXIV, 90). [Note: The article referred to is entitled "Spiritual Progress". For those who would like to read it, once you have finished reading this article, I've placed a link to it at the end of this one.--Compiler]

Strain comes, we may say, from working with a divided mind, while effort represents concentrated, single-minded work. If our attention is constantly shifting from the work we are doing to anxiety as to what we'll get out of it, or resentment at the fact that apparently we aren't going to get much, we are harboring a basic strain-producer -- the desire for reward. As long as two different objectives draw us on, we are subject to strain. The personal man has short-range wants, the soul has a long-distance perspective of necessity. When we try to get both these objects in the single "picture" we call our life, one or the other will be blurred or "strained." We need to move the personal, close-at-hand object far enough away from ourselves so that it emerges clearly in the perspective of impersonality.

When anyone wants to discredit an idea, he just has to say that it's a superstition. But don't all superstitions have a basis in fact, no matter how far back you have to go to find it?

Many of them do have a basis in fact, but that's different from saying they have a basis in truth. A fact is true at one time and in one circumstance, and quite possibly false in any other -- it is a temporary expression of reality. A "superstition" which has its basis in a past fact is simply the irrational preservation of a concrete -- hence partial -- form of truth: an outmoded way of looking at a thing or idea.

Some things, however, are considered antiquated just because they are "antique." The customs and ideas of ancient peoples would be superstitions if we were to adopt them unthinkingly today, but they were not necessarily superstitions to the ancients. Any time we close our minds to an idea just because it has been handed down to us, we are actually being superstitious ourselves. Suppose we throw out as superstitious the idea that it's bad luck to walk under a ladder, and insist on trying to spite the "superstition" at every chance. A mysterious curse may not descend upon us, but a brick, a man, or the ladder might....

Anything we accept without proof and apply without reason is a dangerous superstition. Plato's Republic, if read superficially, can be -- and has been -- regarded as a totalitarian document. This is not to say that we must accept nothing we cannot actually prove. Many ideas claim our respect because we can see their reasonableness, if not their specific "reason." Superstitions really are made by fear. Those who accept "truths" they do not understand enough to trust, submit to them from fear. Any idea is degrading to the extent that it is fear which motivates our belief in it.

Will the Golden Age follow directly on the present Dark Age, or do we have to shade back to it through the Bronze and the Silver Ages?

Mr. Crosbie speaks of this in the Answers to Questions (p. 184), comparing the four ages to the cycles of infancy, youth, maturity and death in the life of man. Just as birth follows "directly" after death as far as forms and appearances go, the Golden Age follows the Dark Age. But in terms of the states of consciousness of the Ego, there are two intervening states between death and birth -- Kama-Loka and Devachan. A similar subjective link must bind the two Ages together: there must be a kind of assimilation to "golden" ideas taking place in the dark age, else how could the bright age ever come about?

The "decline" into matter is a more or less unconscious, therefore gradual, cycling downward, but the regaining of the "child-state" we have lost must come about consciously. It is said that with the first reversing of the Kali-Yuga current of selfishness comes the occult beginning of the Golden Age. Since that reversing comes only from an arousal of the will, we can perhaps understand why the transformation is accomplished in a comparatively short time.

Is not possessiveness the greatest of all evils?

"It is, if you think so," to paraphrase a remark of Mr. Judge. This is an awkward question to answer, since there really doesn't seem to be any question at all -- at least, not in the inquirer's mind. We wonder, by the way, is it not possible to be so "possessed" by a question that our mind is actually not open to an answer? H. P. Blavatsky makes a telling statement about one form of this obsession (which is the beginning of all dogmatism) in her article, "On Engrafting Religious Thought" (THEOSOPHY XXXII, 10): "Our 'love of man' ought to be strong enough and sufficiently intuitional to stifle in us that spark of selfishness which is the chief motor in our desire to force upon our brother and neighbour our own religious opinions and views which we may 'consider (for the time being) to be true'." [Note: Since you may want to read it after you finish reading this article, I have provided a full copy of "On Engrafting Religious Thought" at the end of this one.--Compiler]

This attitude shows itself in every form of exclusiveness, for it is an expression of the "Heresy of Separateness." A theosophical view of the problem shows the fallacy of thinking that it would be eliminated if there were no private ownership. This puts the cart before the horse, and keeps them both from going anywhere. Possessions represent karmic attachments, and that karma cannot be walked away from, though it can be worked through -- by learning how to use things to their full capacity and care for them to their full need.

No one is going to be helped away from a possessive attitude simply by hearing its evils expounded. The way out of this condition is not to feel irresponsible toward the things that are owned and used. As a man becomes more responsible for more things, his perspective broadens -- and every broadening of outlook narrows down the possible field of his possessiveness.

[Note: Before moving on to the next article in this grouping, here's the copy of the article quoted from just above in the answer to the 4th question.--Compiler]

THEOSOPHY, Vol. 32, No. 1, November, 1943
(Pages 5-11)


[In The Theosophist for June, 1883, H. P. Blavatsky published an article entitled, "A Few Thoughts On Some Wise Words From a Wise Man." She began by quoting extensively from Babu Rajnarain Bose, "the well known Brahmo," who had written on the text, "Strengthening the bonds of union between men of all religious persuasions, and creeds." This is the "esteemed contemporary," the "respected Brahmo gentleman" referred to on p. 9, and "the author," p. 10. Madame Blavatsky "begs to differ" from Bose's opinion that "Differences of religion must always exist in the world," and in her subsequent remarks, she defines the "genuine morality" which is independent of religions, creeds, codes, and -- God or gods.

Although her point of departure in this article is religious dissensions, their cause and cure, the principles used can be applied to all other differences of individual opinion, as well. The practical tolerance she here outlines and demonstrates, and the motto with which she concludes, are lines of direction on which indeed may be established a union of all men of no matter what creed, a union in which the individual's highest integrity is preserved and protected. Such a basis, such a modulus, is desperately needed in the world today, and that it may furnish fresh inspiration to theosophists whose first object is universal brotherhood, this article is now reprinted for the first time.--Editors THEOSOPHY.] [Note: For those who would like to read it, once you have finished reading this article, I've placed a link to "A Few Thoughts On Some Wise Words From a Wise Man" at the end of this one.--Compiler]

AS our esteemed contemporary puts it, -- "it is impossible to obliterate differences of face and make all faces exactly resemble each other." Has the idea ever struck him that it is as difficult to entirely obliterate innate differences of mental perceptions and faculties, let alone to reconcile them by bringing under one standard the endless varieties of human nature and thought? The latter may be forced from its natural into an artificial channel. But like a mask however securely stuck on one's face, and which is liable to be torn off by the first strong gust of wind that blows under, the convictions thus artificially inoculated are liable at any day to resume their natural course -- the new cloth put upon the old garment torn out, and -- "the rent made worse." We are with those who think that as nature has never intended the process known in horticulture as engrafting, so she has never meant that the ideas of one man should be engrafted with those of any other man, since were it so she would have -- if really guided by intelligence -- created all the faculties of human mind, as all plants, homogeneous, which is not the case. Hence, as no kind of plant can be induced to grow and thrive artificially upon another plant which does not belong to the same natural order, so no attempt toward engrafting our views and beliefs on individuals whose mental and intellectual capacities differ from ours as one variety or species of plants differs from another variety -- will ever be successful. The missionary efforts directed for several hundred years toward christianizing the natives of India, is a good instance in hand and illustrates the inevitable failure following every such fallacious attempt. Very few among those natives upon whom the process of engrafting succeeded, have any real merit; while the tendency of the great majority is to return to its original specific type, that of a true-born pantheistic Hindu, clinging to his forefather's caste and gods as a plant clings to its original genera. ... We doubt whether we will ever prove our love to man by depriving him of a fundamental and essential prerogative, that of an untrammelled and entire liberty of his thoughts and conscience.

* * * * *

What religion ever claimed more than Christianity "love of God and love of man" -- aye, "love of all men as our brothers"; and yet where is that creed that has ever surpassed it in bloodthirstiness and cruelty, in intolerance to the damnation of all other religions! "What crimes has it (Religion in general) not committed?" exclaims Prof. Huxley quoting from Lucretius, and -- "what cruelties," he adds, referring to Christianity -- "have been perpetrated in the name of Him who said 'Love your enemies; blessed are the peacemakers,' and so many other noble things." Truly this religion of Love and Charity is now built upon the most gigantic holocaust of victims, the fruits of the unlawful, sinful desire to bring over all men to one mode of thinking, at any rate to one "essential" point in their religion -- belief in Christ. We admit and recognize fully that it is the duty of every honest man to try to bring round by "argument and gentle persuasion" every man who errs with respect to the "essentials" of universal ethics, and the usually recognized standard of morality. But the latter is the common property of all religions, as of all the honest men, irrespective of their beliefs. The principles of the true moral code, tried by the standard of right and justice, are recognized as fully, and followed just as much by the honest atheist as by the honest theist, religion and piety having, as can be proved by statistics, very little to do with the repression of vice and crime. A broad line has to be drawn between the external practice of one's moral and social duties, and that of the real intrinsic virtue practised but for its own sake. Genuine morality does not rest with the profession of any particular creed or faith, least of all with belief in gods or a God; but it rather depends upon the degree of our own individual perceptions of its direct bearing upon human happiness in general, hence -- upon our own personal weal. But even this is surely not all. "So long as man is taught and allowed to believe that he must be just, that the strong hand of law may not punish him, or his neighbour take his revenge"; that he must be enduring because complaint is useless and weakness can only bring contempt; that he must be temperate, that his health may keep good and all his appetites retain their acuteness; and, he is told that, if he serves his friends, his friends may serve him, if he defends his country, he defends himself, and that by serving his God he prepares for himself an eternal life of happiness hereafter -- so long, we say, as he acts on such principles, virtue is no virtue, but verily the culmination of SELFISHNESS. However sincere and ardent the faith of a theist, unless, while conforming his life to what he pleases to term divine laws, he gives precedence in his thoughts first to the benefit that accrues from such a moral course of actions to his brother, and then only thinks of himself -- he will remain at best -- a pious egotist; and we do claim that belief in, and fear of God in man, is chiefly based upon, develops and grows in exact proportion to his selfishness, his fear of punishment and bad results only for himself, without the least concern for his brother. We see daily that the theist, although defining morality as the conformity of human actions to divine laws, is not a tittle more moral than the average atheist or infidel who regards a moral life simply the duty of every honest right-thinking man without giving a thought to any reward for it in afterlife. The apparently discrepant fact that one who disbelieves in his survival after death should, nevertheless, frame in most cases his life in accordance with the highest rules of morality, is not as abnormal as it seems at first. The atheist, knowing of but one existence, is anxious to leave the memory of his life as unsullied as possible in the after-remembrances of his family and posterity, and in honour even with those yet unborn. In the words of the Greek Stoic -- "though all our fellow-men were swept away, and not a mortal nor immortal eye were left to approve or condemn, should we not here, within our breast, have a judge to dread, and a friend to conciliate?" No more than theism is atheism congenite with man. Both grow and develope in him together with his reasoning powers, and become either fortified or weakened by reflection and deduction of evidence from facts. In short, both are entirely due to the degree of his emotional nature, and man is no more responsible for being an atheist than he is for becoming a theist. Both terms are entirely misunderstood. Many are called impious not for having a worse but a different religion, from their neighbours, says Epicurus. Mahomedans are stronger theists than the Christians, yet they are called "infidels" by the latter, and many are the theosophists regarded as atheists, not for the denying of the Deity but for thinking somewhat peculiarly concerning this ever-to-be unknown Principle. As a living contrast to the atheist, stands the theist believing in other lives or a life to come. Taught by his creed that prayer, repentance and offerings are capable of obliterating sin in the sight of the "all-forgiving, loving and merciful Father in Heaven," he is given every hope -- the strength of which grows in proportion to the sincerity of his faith -- that his sins will be remitted to him. Thus, the moral obstacle between the believer and sin is very weak, if we view it from the standpoint of human nature. The more a child feels sure of his parents' love for him, the easier he feels it to break his father's commands. Who will dare to deny that the chief, if not the only cause of half the misery with which Christendom is afflicted -- especially in Europe, the stronghold of sin and crime -- lies not so much with human depravity as with its belief in the goodness and infinite mercy of "our Father in Heaven," and especially in the vicarious atonement? Why should not men imagine that they can drink of the cup of vice with impunity -- at any rate, in its results in the hereafter -- when one half of the population is offered to purchase absolution for its sins for a certain paltry sum of money, and the other has but to have faith in, and place reliance upon, Christ to secure a place in paradise -- though he be a murderer, starting for it right from the gallows! The public sale of indulgences for the perpetration of crime on the one hand, and the assurance made by the ministers of God that the consequences of the worst of sins may be obliterated by God at his will and pleasure, on the other, are quite sufficient, we believe, to keep crime and sin at the highest figure. He, who loves not virtue and good for their own sake and shuns not vice as vice, is sure to court the latter as a direct result of his pernicious belief. One ought to despise that virtue which prudence and fear alone direct.

We firmly believe in the actuality and the philosophical necessity of Karma, i.e., in that law of unavoidable retribution, the not-to-be diverted effect of every cause produced by us, reward as punishment in strict conformity with our actions; and we maintain that since no one can be made responsible for another man's religious beliefs with whom, and with which, he is not in the least concerned -- that perpetual craving for the conversion of all men we meet to our own modes of thinking and respective creeds becomes a highly reprehensible action. With the exception of those above-mentioned cases of the universally recognized code of morality, the furtherance or neglect of which has a direct bearing upon human weal or woe, we have no right to be influencing our neighbours' opinions upon purely transcendental and unprovable questions, the speculations of our emotional nature. Not because any of these respective beliefs are in any way injurious or bad per se; on the contrary, for every ideal that serves us as a point of departure and a guiding star in the path of goodness and purity, is to be eagerly sought for, and as unswervingly followed; but precisely on account of those differences and endless variety of human temperaments, so ably pointed out to us by the respected Brahmo gentleman in the lines as above quoted.*(1) For if, as he truly points out -- none of us is infallible, and that "the religious opinions of men are subject to progress" (and change, as he adds), that progress being endless and quite likely to upset on any day our strongest convictions of the day previous; and that as historically and daily proved "nothing has done so much mischief" as the great variety of conflicting creeds and sects which have led but to bloody wars and persecutions, and the slaughter of one portion of mankind by the other, it becomes an evident and an undeniable fact that, by adding converts to those sects, we add but so many antagonists to fight and tear themselves to pieces, if not now, then at no distant future. And in this case we do become responsible for their actions. Propagandism and conversion are the fruitful seeds sown for the perpetration of future crimes, the odium theologicum stirring up religious hatreds -- which relate as much to the "Essentials" as to the non-essentials of any religion -- being the most fruitful as the most dangerous for the peace of mankind. In Christendom, where at each street-corner starvation cries for help: where pauperism, and its direct result, vice and crime, fill the land with desolation -- millions upon millions are annually spent upon this unprofitable and sinful work of proselytism. With that charming inconsistency which was ever the characteristic of the Christian churches, the same Bishops who have opposed but a few decades back the building of railways, on the ground that it was an act of rebellion against God who willed that man should not go quite as quick as the wind; and had opposed the introduction of the telegraphy, saying that it was a tempting of Providence; and even the application of anaesthetics in obstetrical cases, "under the pretence," Prof. Draper tells us, "that it was an impious attempt to escape from the curse denounced against all women in Genesis iii. 16," those same Bishops do not hesitate to meddle with the work of Providence when the "heathen" are concerned. Surely if Providence hath so decreed that women should be left to suffer for the sin of Eve, then it must have also willed that a man born a heathen should be left one as -- pre-ordained. Are the missionaries wiser, they think, than their God, that they should try to correct his mistakes; and do they not also rebel against Providence, and its mysterious ways? But leaving aside things as dark to them as they are to us, and viewing "conversion" so called, but from its practical aspect, we say that he, who under the dubious pretext that because something is truth to him it must be truth also for everyone else, labours at the conversion of his neighbours, is simply engaged in the unholy work of breeding and raising future Cains.

Indeed, our "love of man" ought to be strong enough and sufficiently intuitional to stifle in us that spark of selfishness which is the chief motor in our desire to force upon our brother and neighbour our own religious opinions and views which we may "consider (for the time being) to be true." It is a grand thing to have a worthy Ideal, but a still greater one to live up to it; and where is that wise and infallible man who can show without fear of being mistaken to another man what or who should be his ideal? If, as the theist assures us -- "God is all in all" -- then must he be in every ideal -- whatever its nature, if it neither clashes with recognized morality, nor can it be shown productive of bad results. Thus, whether this Ideal be God, the pursuit of Truth, humanity collectively, or, as John Stuart Mill has so eloquently proved, simply our own country; and that in the name of that ideal man not only works for it, but becomes better himself, creating thereby an example of morality and goodness for others to follow, what matters it to his neighbour whether this ideal be a chimerical utopia, an abstraction, or even an inanimate object in the shape of an idol, or a piece of clay?

Let us not meddle with the natural bent of man's religious or irreligious thought, any more than we should think of meddling with his private thoughts, lest by so doing, we should create more mischief than benefit, and deserve thereby his curses. Were religions as harmless and as innocent as the flowers with which the author compares them, we would not have one word to say against them. Let every "gardener" attend but his own plants without forcing unasked his own variety upon those of other people, and all will remain satisfied. As popularly understood, Theism has, doubtless, its own peculiar beauty, and may well seem "the most fragrant of flowers in the garden of religions" -- to the ardent theist. To the atheist, however, it may possibly appear no better than a prickly thistle; and the theist has no more right to take him to task for his opinion, than the atheist has to blame him for his horror of atheism. For all its beauty it is an ungrateful task to seek to engraft the rose upon the thistle, since in nine cases out of ten the rose will lose its fragrance, and both plants their shapes to become a monstrous hybrid. In the economy of nature everything is in its right place, has its special purpose, and the same potentiality for good as for evil in various degrees -- if we will but leave it to its natural course. The most fragrant rose has often the sharpest thorns; and it is the flowers of the thistle when pounded and made up into an ointment that will best cure the wounds made by her cruel thorns.

In our humble opinion, the only "Essentials" in the Religion of Humanity are -- virtue, morality, brotherly love, and kind sympathy with every living creature, whether human or animal. This is the common platform that our Society offers to all to stand upon; the most fundamental differences between religions and sects sinking into insignificance before the mighty problem of reconciling humanity, of gathering all the various races into one family, and of bringing them all to a conviction of the utmost necessity in this world of sorrow to cultivate feelings of brotherly sympathy and tolerance, if not actually of love. Having taken for our motto -- "In these Fundamentals -- unity; in non-essentials -- full liberty; in all things -- charity," we say to all collectively and to every one individually -- "keep to your forefather's religion, whatever it may be -- if you feel attached to it, Brother; think with your own brains -- if you have any; be by all means yourself -- whatever you are, unless you are really a bad man. And remember above all, that a wolf in his own skin is immeasurably more honest than the same animal -- under a sheep's clothing."

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

The principles which constitute a society are facts as well as ideas, and purposes as well as facts. 


[Note: Here are the links to HPB's two articles that were quoted from in the above articles: Number 1 was in the first article; number 2 was in the Editor's introduction to the second article.--Compiler].
(1) Spiritual Progress
(2) A Few Thoughts On Some Wise Words From a Wise Man

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(August 1948)
[Article number (11) in this Q&A Department]

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(1) *Omitted here. See The Theosophist IV, 213-14.--Editors THEOSOPHY.
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