THEOSOPHY, Vol. 41, No. 8, June, 1953
(Pages 364-368; Size: 14K)


[Article number (19) in this Q&A Department]

IF a person were not performing his job as well as might he expected, would it be better to leave the job so his employer could get someone more competent, or should he stay, although it might take a long time to improve his ability to do a good job?

This seems to be a question of judgment, and the question naturally arises as to who shall be the evaluator in such a case. Is the person employed in a position where he may judge his abilities? Usually, the employer should be the one to decide whether or not the employee is equipped to do the job at hand -- although the successful performance of some jobs depends on self-initiative.

Does evaluation of one's work -- or, more correctly, partial evaluation -- indicate, in the terms of the Gita, interest in the fruit of actions? We are faced with two alternatives: First, to regard judgment as in the domain of The Law of Karma, while we seek to be "averse neither to those works which fail nor those which succeed." In this context, one's duty is to work at those tasks immediately confronting one, giving up the results as a true "renouncer." The implication here is that full attention on putting our best energies forward on the job is not possible if there is preoccupation with success or failure, or attachment to the outcome. Second, along with philosophical acceptance of situations as they are, there should be -- if a real working out of "specific" Karma is to be accomplished -- a positive attempt to judge oneself "as from afar," by "oneself" really meaning the nature and quality of one's efforts. This certainly means being concerned with efficiency and productivity, for these represent conscientiousness, but does not have to mean "attachment to results." Thus a synthesis of these two partial truths alone brings psychological constancy to the individual without sacrificing any part of his working capacity.

Besides implying the passing of self-judgment, the original question holds the potential ingredients for discussion of employer-employee relationships, which also need to be examined here. This aspect of the question, the employer-employee relationship, calls forth specific considerations and is directly linked to one's self-evaluation of work. Constructive self-evaluation is achievable only through objectivity and background (experience plus working-knowledge). "Objectivity," i.e., seeing one's work as though it was another's, is psychologically similar to "leaving of results to Law." But since any worker who is not fully experienced doesn't have adequate background, it is impossible for him to judge, in a final sense, either his efforts or "successes" without the advice of one with such knowledge. The natural source for such advice is the employer or "boss," but sometimes, due to circumstances or unreasonable attitudes, this source is "blocked." Thus a senior worker in many cases may fulfill the function. With good advice and constructive criticism assisting, intelligent and continued effort can both solve one's own problem and at the same time supply an example in attitude for other new members of personnel.

One can only do his best. If his attitude demands absolute perfection in the rendering of his job, he is not apt to be satisfied with any job. Such an attitude indicates his failure to recognize his real capacities and limitations, for instead there is an identification with an imaginary "ideal self" -- a present illusion. Honesty and realism are the only tonics for this psychological malady. Until this is realized, the lesson which a man must learn through certain circumstances will pursue him to the next job and the next. "Hearing" about the law of Karma, however, may add a steadying note and set one to looking to the "Why" of things. Better situations must be earned. Perhaps the efforts of the Theosophist so striving help others with similar shortcomings.

Why is it that whenever Theosophy is mentioned people close their minds to it? If you call it something else, philosophy, truth or nature, they will listen to it and see its reasonableness.

The present generation has been negatively conditioned by sectarianism to be distrustful of patterns of belief. People just don't trust any particular system of thought. History shows that philosophy or political or economic schemes based on anything less than universal laws have only helped this disillusionment.

Although science is gradually approaching a more rational explanation of life, most are still clinging to a pragmatic conception of the meaning of life. One meets many people who are willing to listen for awhile, then smile indulgently, and go on their ways. A student should observe, and exercise discrimination until such a time comes when he will know whom to speak to, and when to stop speaking.

Once ideas are labeled "Theosophy," some immediately feel that here is something in opposition to their own thoughts, a reaction which fails to leave an opening for seeing the similarity of Theosophical ideas and all sincere convictions. The important thing, it would seem, would be for the ideas to spread. Perhaps when people see the logic of the ideas, they will become open-minded enough to accept the name. If a person were able to listen to ideas, he might become interested enough to know where more of such ideas could be found. He might then be ready for the name Theosophy. Another thing, though -- Theosophy is powerful. As Mr. Crosbie said, even the name has power -- or else so many wouldn't misuse it. Perhaps, unconsciously, people feel, at the mention of the name, the dynamic force of the philosophy and its knowers, which, although in the world for the salvation of every soul, must of necessity spell the downfall of every partial dogma and belief.

What is the value of giving one's life for a principle? What factors might enter the case in deciding?

(a) In a smaller degree, the various decisions one makes in his daily life might be considered a parallel. Aspiring to perfect daily habit and thought in time will accumulate judgment and ability to see along the "razor's edge" -- until, finally, our higher power of direct intuition will prevail.

The world at large would consider it an eccentricity to sacrifice one's life for an ideal or principle. Yet because of some men who died for principles, many of our spiritual and physical freedoms have been bequeathed to us. Those men had the vision of the future. They knew the law of life -- of sowing and reaping, and rendering mercy, and saw these things as bigger than continuance of their own personal life or health.

All men act on motive, whether consciously or not. Some daily give portions of their lives for "principles"; these principles may be mere will-o-the-wisps, or they may be timeless, true, and real. In each case, though, the sacrifice involved at least contributes to self-discipline.

A study of the true psychology of man, his nature, and his ideal -- would shatter his delusions and start him on a track that would enable him to understand his actions, those of nature, and also every kind of reaction. The value of sacrifice grows only with one's gradual perception of the immutable truths of the universe. But how can any act be measured except over the "long-course" of Re-incarnations, guided by Karma?

(b) The motive behind the decision may throw a determining light on the value of such a decision, although this cannot always be the deciding factor. Good motive does not always mean that the man, held back by a human tendency to error, is doing the right thing. His decision to give up his life might weaken his principle in the world rather than strengthen it.

(c) Physical existence is a valuable thing to a soul since it is the only means of soul-development. To vow, then, to give one's life for a principle, one needs to consider various factors.

A principle might be confused with a hard-and-fast rule. We know that "Honesty is the best policy" and can call this a principle, but to follow this principle does not call for always speaking unpleasant truths. Here we see that a principle might mislead one if it is not wedded to other ideals. A principle does not prescribe a particular action, but is more of an attitude toward things.

We have to consider also our karmic duties to others. Life's problems are choices between comparative values, most often, and we need to remember already assumed responsibilities. Yet it is an important sign that one be moved to sacrifice for the sake of an idea. This feeling can always be put to work, if not spectacularly, then in the many small duties that face us daily.

Why are the three fundamentals of Theosophy continuously presented in the traditional order of omnipresent Deity, natural law, and the identity of perfectibility of life? Is this only because "H.P.B. did it that way"?

Obviously, to establish a superphysical doctrine of cosmogenesis in terms of emanations must involve positing the reality of a source-principle. Philosophy as a whole, according to the Britannica, consists "of two main divisions -- epistemology, the doctrine or theory of knowing, and ontology, the science of that which truly is." And, theosophically speaking, both the power of cognition or perception and Absolute Consciousness belong in the domain of the First Fundamental.

However, examination of such a study-class procedural tradition should be both provocative and instructive. We must admit that repetition is common to habit, custom, and ritual. Acceptance, lack of concentration, and unreasoned conviction often accompany repetition. Yet the dangers these tendencies engender, i.e., dogmatism and ritualism, are lessened in direct proportion to the inspiration and originality of the speaker. The force of habit nevertheless is not unmanifest.

We are reminded of a "bull session" with a materialistic (although humanitarian) socialist, during which an attempt was made to represent Theosophic philosophy by establishing first principles. Unfortunately, without a second thought, we commenced by trying (futilely, it was later found) to lay the grounds for "the philosophy" by way of discussing the highly abstract, metaphysical, "Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible." This approach erected an initial obstacle which pretty much disconcerted subsequent efforts directed at developing the other fundamentals. Perhaps the wrong level for reasonable discussion was chosen -- at least for this man, and perhaps significant mistakes of this sort are likely when habit channels expression; repetition, too, can discourage original thought.

A functional approach in the case mentioned, might have proved much better. For instance, by starting with the humanitarian concept of the fundamental identity of all human beings (which has a parallel in Socialist idealism) some sort of contact might have been established.

Operating from a functional basis, the order of presenting the fundamental propositions would be naturally determined by the text, subject-matter, or bent of the inquirer's mind. Not by tradition. Did not H.P.B. generally employ this style in her Key? Not one of the three fundamentals is there considered in a doctrinal systematic sense until page 41, when she begins to discuss "The Common Origin of Man." If considering, say, Chapter II of the Ocean, which deals expressly with Cosmogenesis, a study class would quite logically treat of the fundamentals in the order "One-Two-Three." The first chapter, however, might stimulate an initial positing of the Third Fundamental, for this chapter deals with the Masters as living proof of the Perfectibility of MAN.

The "functional" technique also seems more universally applicable to the affairs of everyday. Depending upon whom we are speaking to, and the circumstances and opinions which influence him, some particular tenet of Theosophy is more likely than any other to stimulate an affinity of thought. It depends upon our sensitivity of perception and common sense to judge where a common language may most easily be found.

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(July 1953)
[Article number (20) in this Q&A Department]

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