THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 4, February, 1948
(Pages 163-165; Size: 11K)


[Article number (5) in this Q&A Department]

HOW can we make people think? Some prominent writers and lecturers apparently believe that unless they shock the public, they can't instruct it.

Something is seriously lacking in this sort of "educational" program. It is one thing to present a necessary truth, and quite another matter to plan to shock people with it. Shock, as an impulsion to reform, is closely related to fear, and fear, we are told, proceeds by a process of freezing -- which can hardly contribute to progress. Perhaps an odd idea of altruism leads one to think that other men are not self-moving, but he is; that he can, by some means or other, make them think. Isn't this the old theological rut of the Personal God idea? Perception comes from within: "You cannot build a temple of truth by hammering dead stones. Its foundations must precipitate themselves like crystals from the solution of life."

What we call a man's blind spot -- what is it but that point on which he will not allow light to be thrown, whether by inner perception or outer logic? Thus our limitations, like our errors, are wont to entrench themselves when attacked. H.P.B., while she came "to break the molds of men's minds," regarded the "right of private judgment" as paramount, and even the revolutionary ideas she brought are powerless to erase wrong patterns of thought, until they are accepted by men. Since truth for each one comprises those ideas which have ripened to fruition, a blind spot might be considered as the shell encasing an idea whose time has not yet come. The seed within, as it grows, will break the shell -- and hammer blows are not a recipe for growth.

Popular writers may not be aware of "the inexorable shadow that follows all human innovation" (see "The Adepts and Modern Science," by W.Q.J.), but this principle goes far toward explaining the nullifying resistance called up by using the "shock technique" in place of education. The weakness of iconoclasm is also dealt with in "A Master's Letter" (THEOSOPHY XXI, 487), where it is pointed out that unless a man has the courage to fill up his worn grooves of thought, and make new ones for himself, he must perforce travel on the old lines. Wise education, from this basis, is the arousal of courage, which in turn permits free thought. [Note: For those who would like to read either one or both of the articles that are referred to in this paragraph, once you have finished reading this article, I've placed links to them at the end of this one.--Compiler]

Why do resolutions often seem to backfire? You think of something you'd "never think of doing," and then you go ahead and do it.

Remember Mr. Judge's statement, "To turn away in horror is not detachment"? What elements would be present, for instance, if we were to see another do something "bad," and virtuously pat ourselves on the back with the assurance that we'd "never think of doing that!" There is a physiological axiom to the effect that nerve-currents follow attention. Could we apply this, perhaps, to the habit of making negative resolutions? In that case, our attention is on the evil we would overcome, and our attention strengthens it. If we think hard enough about what we would "never think of doing," we're doing the thinking -- and therefore preparing to do the thing.

Every virtue becomes a vice to the degree that we pride ourselves on its possession. Have we not often found that we possessed many things to which we never laid claim; and, conversely, we lost those things which we tried to secure for ourselves? A resolution made with a view to our own benefit is bound to backfire, even though the resolution is firmly adhered to. This for the reason that self-seeking works against self-knowledge. Resolutions made in connection with our ideals cannot backfire, though we may fail and fall short of carrying them out. The resolution remains "uninjured" as long as we strive to fulfill it.

Is vegetarianism purely a matter of preference? Or is it a protest against the slaughter of animals for food?

Vegetarianism, with some, is a matter of preference, or instinct; with others, it appears to be a matter of conviction. The practice of vegetarianism may embody a refusal to take animal life, but since Life is omnipresent, a diet of vegetables -- and even every human breath -- takes life in some form. This line of reasoning early approaches a logical absurdity. Where, then, to draw the line?

The point inevitably emerges that right action is not determined by any specific rule, but by the necessity and motive which impel the doing, and which produce either a worthy or an unworthy sacrifice (see Mr. Judge's Gita Notes, pp. 88-90). Most Westerners may not be able to maintain a proper energy or vitality balance without some form of animal food (although the past fifty years have witnessed a growing trend toward more vegetables -- if not toward vegetarianism). The psychic effects of meat-eating, however, are an additional factor, arising from inordinate desire for that kind of nourishment. As suggested in "Contemplation" (January THEOSOPHY), freedom from this unnatural concentration is the real achievement -- and "vegetarianism" a physical corollary. [Note: For those who would like to read the "Contemplation" article referred to, once you have finished reading this article, I've placed a link to it at the end of this one.--Compiler]

We often hear that gossip is the worst foe to brotherhood. Does this mean we shouldn't ever discuss our personal affairs? It's rather difficult always to be "impersonal."

Perhaps we need to do some thinking on the word "impersonality" -- a word which for theosophists owes much of its import to Robert Crosbie. We can hardly think that he strove for it as an end in itself, or that he meant by that word something strained or unnatural. Impersonality was for him simply a means to bring about unity of effort among those who would work for their fellows. Gossip, in this connection, is only another word for the destructive workings of our lower mind and nature. Impersonality does not cut out all speaking of others -- our work is always with people, and work cannot be done by non-entities in a vacuum -- but it must at least mean not speaking with destructive intent of their faults.

Mr. Judge sets forth the same idea when he says, "It is easy to do well by those we like; it is our duty to make ourselves do and think well by those we do not like." Without destroying the personality -- our field of action -- we can overcome the personal ideas about ourselves and others. This is obviously not to be accomplished by secretly feeding the personality behind the thick walls of pseudo-impersonality. Our personalities are not to be perfected or controlled in isolation -- unless our goal is spiritual selfishness.

Gossip is perhaps the "worst foe to brotherhood" just because it tends to isolate the individual who indulges in it, whether the "Chinese Wall about his soul" be pride, self-righteousness, vanity, envy or fear. Everything that brings us closer to an understanding and sympathy with other human beings, to more confidence in the value of their purpose and strivings, can rightly be placed, it would seem, under the heading of impersonality.

Compiler's Notes: Here are the links to the three articles that were quoted from and/or referred to by the Editors in the above article. The first two are in the answer to the 1st question. The third one is in the answer to the 3rd question:

(1) The Adepts and Modern Science, by William Q. Judge. (This link is to the 78th article of the 166 that make up the "Setting the Stage" book on this web site.)

(2) A Master's Letter (This title, used by the Editors in their reprint of it, refers to the first letter by the Master K.H. to  A. O. Hume. I didn't scan and proofread it from THEOSOPHY magazine since I found this link to it at Theosophical University Press Online.)

(3) Contemplation, "by Damodar K. Mavalankar, F.T.S." (I also didn't scan and proofread this one from the reprint in THEOSOPHY magazine, since it too was online at TUP, inclusive of all the parts described in this "NOTE" that was placed at the bottom of the first page of the THEOSOPHY magazine reprint: "This article was first published by H. P. Blavatsky in The Theosophist, February, 1884. Letters to the editor drew further discussion in the April and August issues, and Damodar's replies are here reprinted, following the original article.--Eds. THEOSOPHY.")

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(March 1948)
[Article number (6) in this Q&A Department]

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