THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 10, August, 1948
(Pages 455-457; Size: 9K)


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

IF truth is universal, why do we have to study to learn it? And why are we so often mistaken about it?

When we speak of universal truth, we do not mean that truth is universally evident, but that, once found, it is capable of universal application. (See H. P. Blavatsky on "What is Truth?" THEOSOPHY XXVII, 347.) We can infer from the section in the Secret Doctrine on "Races with the 'Third Eye'," that men in the early cycles saw, effortlessly, the principle involved in anything to which they turned their minds. This is not true of humanity at present. We have to search hard for the principles of truth, and even then, as the questioner points out, we make mistakes. Why?

The history of the later Atlanteans (who were, of course, ourselves) contains reference to many things which they did with full knowledge of the evil consequences which would ensue. As they continued to act contrary to their higher perceptions, they began, naturally, to lose those perceptions -- which are still lost to most of us most of the time. This is the karma which we inherit from ourselves in other ages: when we do those things which we see we should not do, or when we refrain from doing what we see we ought to do, we add to the density of those clouds which so irritatingly cut off our vision at the very time when we most want to see. The man who never leaves a good intention to moulder, unfulfilled, will not lack for long the wisdom to apply his good intentions with knowledge and power. [Note: For those who would like to read it, once you have finished reading this article, I've placed a link to HPB's "What is Truth?" article at the end of this one.--Compiler]

What is meant by the statement that Theosophy gives a "self-compelling basis for ethics"? This seems to imply that knowing about the theosophical philosophy is going to make men ethical. Yet we know that theosophists aren't perfect, any more than anyone else.

It is the implications of this very idea that "no one is perfect" that Mr. Judge was opposing, we think, when he spoke of the self-compelling basis for ethics. The idea that perfect action for every being at every moment is attainable, is the only root that can sustain true ethics. Consider, for instance, that both science and religion give out the idea that there is someone or something outside of man which, through superior force, can compel him to act in some particular manner currently deemed "moral." A man cannot be truly moral (no matter how well-behaved he is) unless he is so from his own free choice. The theosophical ideas alone allow and encourage men to be moral in the ultimate sense. They have this power because, rightly understood, they free man from all fear of external compulsion. These ideas heighten his awareness of the Self within which impels him to a higher life.

As long as men act from fear of punishment, from hope of reward or from the desire for self-aggrandizement, they only appear to be acting morally. There is, of course, the danger that Theosophy may be taken with similar attitudes. This makes the difference between Theosophy "pure and simple" and Theosophy-made-into-a-religion. If we find ourselves beginning to think of Karma, for instance, as something which is going to "catch up with us" if we do something "wrong," we have temporarily slipped from the Self-compelling basis for ethics to the fate and fear psychology.

The philosophy of all the Great Teachers rests on the recognition that morality, justice, honesty, and self-sacrifice are qualities which are native to the soul, and which, therefore, men need only to be encouraged to seek freely and eagerly as ends in themselves. H.P.B. said of Truth: "To approach even terrestrial truth requires, first of all, love of truth for its own sake, for otherwise no recognition of it will follow." Every man occasionally comes to such a recognition of truth as truth, and not simply as something good or pleasant or useful. In the same way, Theosophy teaches, it is in the nature of man that, once freed from misconceptions, he will seek real virtue as something homogeneous with himself and spontaneously attempt to perform right action.

Is there any way to overcome indifference in other people? Just being enthusiastic yourself doesn't seem to do it.

It couldn't be expected to, could it? -- because enthusiasm by itself never accomplishes anything. And often we dissipate what eagerness for work we do have by trying to generate an equal enthusiasm in others. The proper end of enthusiasm is work, not propaganda. If we've ever tried to "entertain" a young child, we have probably discovered in short order that his indifference or standoffishness was not overcome by a sparkling monologue about "how nice it would be to do a certain thing, wouldn't it, little boy?" But if he perceives us enthusiastically engaged in some activity, there may arise in him the natural desire to participate.

What is violence? There are various kinds of violence, and it does not seem enough to define it as force used either to compel a man to do a certain thing or to keep him from doing it. Restraint is not necessarily a form of violence, and we often take violent physical means to save someone from danger.

Don't you think that what needs to be studied are the subtler forms of violence that impose upon the free will of others -- dogma and propaganda, for instance, and their sources in prejudice and suspicion. No man who does what is necessary -- what is his duty -- can violate any one else's integrity.

But how do we determine our duty? We could take the criterion of what is best for the whole. Still, all depends on how we apply that criterion. Suppose a nation, or any individual, felt that it would be "best for the world" to destroy some other nation, or dispose of some other individual, who seemed to be a liability rather than an asset to human progress. Does not the feeling of superiority, like that of self-righteousness, predispose a man to violence?

Take the Inquisition, for instance. It was further corrupted by lust for personal power and gain, of course, but there were Inquisitors who sincerely believed that by burning "bad" people at the stake, they were giving them their only possible chance of salvation. The Inquisition shows the lengths to which men will go to save other people's souls for them. It is evident that there's a difference between saying, "I will sacrifice myself for what I consider the good of the world," and "I will sacrifice so-and-so for the good of the world -- or for his own good."

Without a recognition and a real respect for the integrity and independence of all other souls, just having what we think is a "good motive" will not keep us from doing violence to our fellows. And conversely, if we really see other people as evolving souls, that perception in itself will enlighten the fine line between what Mr. Judge terms "intelligent interference" and any kind of violence.

[Note: Here's the link to HPB's article, entitled "What is Truth?", that was pointed to in the first answer in above article by the Editors.--Compiler]

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[Article number (12) in this Q&A Department]

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