THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 1, November, 1948
(Pages 26-28; Size: 9K)


[Article number (14) in this Q&A Department]

IS it possible for a person to live without the joy of life, or the thirst for life, or whatever name you give to the feeling that it's good to be alive? Is this part of the make-up of the perfected man?

The word H. P. Blavatsky used to describe this is Tanha, which she termed "the desire to live and clinging to life on this earth." Tanha is more than simply the feeling of well-being, of course, since men born and spending lives in great misery still cling to life. The question of whether or not a man can live without this feeling or force depends for answer on what "man" we are talking about. The existence of the body, the astral body, and the kamic body -- man's lower principles -- is inextricably bound up with Tanha. None of these have any other dimension to their present consciousness than the experiencing of sensation.

Spiritual man, on the other hand, though needing these lower bodies in order to exist in matter, has a different impulsion for that existence. Spirit incarnates to gain knowledge and experience, not simply pleasurable sensations. There is a passage in the Secret Doctrine (II, 109-110) which makes this clear, for it describes the dual force in man's evolution as being that of the Monad and that of the "lower astral body or the personal self."

Tanha is the force of unsatisfied desires, carrying over from one day to the next, or from life to life. These desires have in themselves no positive value in human evolution, but they do serve to draw the man within reach of needed experience. When we speak of a perfected man who has "risen beyond the pairs of opposites," we mean that the mind-man has assumed control and direction, instead of being led into activity by the desires of the psychic nature. The perfected man may be said to have the force of Tanha, or the "joy of life," as the natural product of his lower instruments, but he has it under control and is not dependent on these "enthusiasms" for the motor power of his existence. We don't have to be, either.

How far is it safe to go, in trusting other people?

Two further questions may be asked about this one, before we attempt an answer: In the first place, what part of ourselves are we trying to keep "safe," and what part of other people are we trying to trust? If the answer to both of these questions involves our own self-interest, or our hopes for our own safety, we are bound to be disappointed.

There are, we need to see, innumerable possibilities for good and evil in every human being. No matter what present character a person is exhibiting, the very fact that he is a man means that at any moment in the future, altered circumstances or a changed attitude of mind may bring to the front a completely different aspect of his nature. Of one thing we can be sure -- as long as a man is a man, he cannot be "trusted" to be either completely godlike or completely devilish.

How are we to gauge men, and how best to work so that the good will be drawn out, and the evil receive no encouragement from our actions? This is a fundamental problem, and when we try to solve it, we'll find out whether we are optimists or pessimists about the human race. From one point of view, it would seem that the only man who is really and consistently cynical about the trustworthiness of other people is the man who has seriously disappointed himself. Most of us alternate between hope and cynicism. We get our ability to trust others from being able to trust ourselves, and from taking notice of how our performance improves when others are optimistic of our capacity.

Can we not think that fearing the worst of another person (or, what is more usual, fearing for ourselves if the "worst" should appear in him) actually attracts the very evil it seeks to avoid? If, as Mr. Judge wrote in the Ocean, "every thought makes a physical as well as mental link with the desire in which it is rooted," the desire to avoid something can bind us just as closely to a thing as the desire to obtain it. With this realization, a man could gradually bring himself to stop acting and reacting on the basis of what the Voice calls "selfish fear," and begin to think of other people as at least partly, or potentially, good people.

Suppose we were to act on the basis that the current of our thoughts exerts a powerful influence on the variously-compounded "middle soul" of every being we contact. The student of Theosophy comes more and more to respect the potency of the human will and the "mysterious power of thought which enables it to produce external, perceptible, phenomenal results by its own inherent energy," A man gains more faith in human nature as he sees that persistent effort can change it -- in himself. Once having erased the depressing idea that the present status quo is the inevitable blueprint of the future, he can move constructively with others.

While it may be true that strain results from doing something we don't want to do -- from working with a divided mind, so to say -- yet it often happens that strain is produced by too much concentration on a certain thing which we want very much to do. How can this be explained?

In the first place, is it ever possible to concentrate too much? We can concentrate too long on something, perhaps, but not too well. If that is the case, we will have to meet the stresses which inevitably result from attempts to do all the things we feel we ought to do after having spent too much time on something else. But for the length of time that the mind is actually concentrated on one thing, it is not subject to strain. Strain means a conflict of forces.

It is often difficult to tell at exactly what point complete concentration ceases with the intrusion of another train of thought, however. Nor is it only dislike of the task at hand that "divides" the mind. Attention may wander on too far ahead of present activities, perhaps, and the person will find himself straining to see and provide for future possible needs to the neglect of more immediate necessities. A parallel to this kind of strain is described in a book on eye troubles as the habit some drivers have of keeping their eyes fixed on the "vanishing point" of the horizon, causing the passing landscape (seen more or less involuntarily out of the corners of their eyes) to blur and swim in their vision.

The corresponding psychological state is that of either the "impractical dreamer" or the "anxiety-ridden" individual. Both are more concerned about the future than the present. There is a fitness in concern about the future, but the only way of really satisfying that concern is by giving concentrated and specific attention to the present. This means weighing the causes now being set in motion, for the future is only a word for the time when present causes will have become effects. The real vision is of the eternal -- not fleeting -- NOW.

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(December 1948)
[Article number (15) in this Q&A Department]

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