THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 7, May, 1948
(Pages 312-314; Size: 9K)

YOUTH-COMPANIONS ASK--

[Article number (8) in this Q&A Department]

WHY is there anything? Why did we ever begin?

These are questions which can be either profound or pointless. They may be profound when asked and answered by oneself; pointless and "unanswerable" if they deny or ignore the Self. Unless we take it as an axiom that there is a Reality, it is impossible to move to any conclusion: a man must exist, before he can ask why he exists.

We may sometimes forget that, no matter how much diversity we see, diversity is bounded on all sides by the infinite circle of Unity. Whether recognized or not, all questions arise from and are based on that One Reality, just as they, along with all manifestation, are finally resolved into that Reality. The question of why there is anything is grounded in the perception that something is. Once we recognize that there is always something -- or, to our minds, No-thing -- that precedes and makes possible our questioning of all other things, we have accepted the first inescapable and unexplainable premise. We have passed from an infinite Incomprehensible to the finite world which alone our minds are capable of enclosing.

The Theosophical philosophy contains answers to the questions of why we are here, what the universe is for, and the reason for all manifestation, in one simple word -- Evolution. The question of why there is any "thing" or being to evolve is unanswerable, for no mind can question its own existence. We cannot, for example, think ourselves out of existence, for, though we abolish worlds and universes in our minds, we are still there, watching the destruction of things. In the same way, we cannot think ourselves into existence. We are. "There is no existence for that which does not exist, nor is there any non-existence for what exists," says the Gita, and, on that point, there is no more to say.

Simple though this principle is, few seem inclined to accept as a starting point the concept of a Boundless Unknown as the source of all. Those who believe in some form of Christianity take the "Unknown" part, but reject the idea of its being Boundless: a limited unknown is just another way of saying "personal god." Others, wary of an Unknown which has to be worshipped, believe that there is no reality which cannot be seen, weighed or measured. Scientists, therefore, are likely to accept the idea of boundlessness, but it is for them a material, knowable source.

Descartes reasoned from the postulate: "I think, therefore I am." For our purposes, we might change this a little, starting with the most basic and self-evident fact -- "I am." It might be argued that we only think that we think, and that therefore Descartes' statement is not a premise, but already a conclusion. What if he had said, "I am, therefore I think"? Existence, the bare fact of being, is the one incontrovertible fact in the experience of all men.

Is there anything wrong with taking very young children -- sometimes even babies -- to the movies? I can't trace it any further than an uncomfortable feeling that they can't do much else but suffer from the unnatural noise and violence and passion which seem to characterize most movie scripts.

Perhaps that "uncomfortable feeling" is the surest guide we have to the right and wrong in such a case. Every parent, no matter what his limitations in other directions, instinctively feels that an infant is almost completely helpless, needing all the protection that can be afforded by his natural environment. This must be why there is the almost universal feeling that a kind of silence and secrecy should surround birth and infancy.

The "infant" makes one choice: He chooses the environment into which he will incarnate and the parents to whom he will come. From that point, we may say, the causal life of the Ego runs underground, to gradually emerge once more with the progressive incarnation of Manas. The coming of a child is the result of a "compact" made between that soul and the parents who are to provide it with its instruments. The formation of those instruments, the drawing out of latent tendencies, is a karmic trust held by the parents until such time as the "child" Ego incarnates more fully and assumes its own responsibility.

The family has a current of its own, and it would seem that in that current, free from the intrusion of "unnatural" events, lies the only possible fulfilment of the trust that underlies every birth. Parents can rightly consider themselves responsible for the environment with which they supply the child -- for the choices which they make for him, since he is obviously not capable of making them for himself. While the environment of the fully incarnated man is what he grows in, the environment of the infant is, literally, what he grows from.

Tom Paine remarked that any system of religion with anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system. If a parent sees qualities in some movies which would shock the mind of a child, is not he, as well as the child, benefited by avoiding those movies? Perhaps by considering more the natural needs of children than the conditioned desires -- unchild-like, though often childish -- of an adult, one would draw nearer to the "child state he has lost," which is a symbol of the purity and trustfulness that each man must consciously regain.

What about the skandhas? How can we be sure that everything that comes to us actually belongs to us?

The elements of such surety precipitate themselves gradually from a serious analysis of our day-by-day experiences. We need to see at the outset that we ourselves are, finally and inevitably, the real determinants of any experience we go through. An experience is only the raw material from which we select the elements we have affinities for. From the same type of earth, containing exactly the same elements in exactly the same proportions, different varieties of plants will select different foods. As the Gita suggests, contrasting the Sage with the ordinary man: "What is night to those who are unenlightened, is as day to his gaze; what seems to them as day is known to him as night -- the night of ignorance."

Just as we are given to seeing in other people or in ourselves only that which we are ready or "want" to see, so it is in fact with every experience that comes to us. We alter the polarity -- by means of the skandhas or tendencies in ourselves -- of everything around us. The magnet unfailingly attracts to itself what is homogeneous to it. We are continually magnetizing -- attracting or repelling -- ideas by the ever-active "electro-magnetic field" of our attitude of mind.


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(June 1948)
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