THEOSOPHY, Vol. 42, No. 4, February, 1954
(Pages 171-174; Size: 13K)
[Article number (27) in this Q&A Department]
IN a recent meeting it was said we should live as souls. How would one unfamiliar with the Theosophical concept of the nature of man wish to live a "life of the soul," when what he is able to perceive with his senses is that happy living concerns the tangible part of his nature, the body and its desires? [Note: This same exact question was the 3rd one in the 25th article in this department, but the answer was completely different than the one in this 27th article.--Compiler.]
(a) A person may, as is indicated in this question, wish to live a "life of the soul" without actually being acquainted with the real existence and purpose of the soul. The highest he knows and expresses would then constitute a life of the soul for him. For motive is an important factor; and if one's motive is to lead a higher life, then Theosophy holds that Karmic Law will ultimately lead a man to a contact with the real "life of the soul."
(b) Any clear-thinking, logical mind would immediately pierce the premise that happiness is gained by satiating the body and its desires. With a little self-analysis one can see, even without coming into contact with Theosophy, that these desires are forever changing and turning to different fields, the happiness never being permanent.
This awareness is the first real movement in the right direction. It indicates that the individual's mind has been aroused. This may come about in a variety of ways: some perhaps are disgusted with the materialistic trends so prevalent in Western civilization; while others may meet another who is actually "living the life" and catch their spark from him.
The search for happiness will inevitably lead to the question of what man (the soul) is, in his innermost nature. Eventually, in this life or some other, the persistent seeker will find the answer.
(c) There is a wide gulf between the theosophical concept of soul and the idea of domination by the physical body and its desires. These opposing ideas just can't both be held actively within a healthy mind. Although many people give lip-service to a concept of the soul, it may mean nothing workable to them. Once the idea of soul is thoughtfully considered, there is an attempt to know more of its nature. This is our present position. Although each must act according to his present understanding and faith, these surely grow as he sincerely strives. It is not so much that we attain an intellectual understanding, as that -- when we take the attitude of desiring truth for all -- knowledge comes from within.
(d) It would not seem possible for a person who is convinced that all of happy living consists in the tangibles of life, to even be interested in being virtuous. If he feels no joy in helping another, in the comfort of sympathy and love and companionship of mind, he is a person to whom the very word "soul" would probably be taboo -- let alone his even considering living as soul. This latter would naturally entail the acceptance of obligations and responsibilities far beyond the living of a merely virtuous life.
Montaigne, in his essays, presents interesting commentary on the stabilization of society, which goes something like this: In the first place, if we try to change the customs and way of thinking of other groups of people we are stirring up rebellions and possible violent revolutions. Therefore, if we are to change either customs or ideas they should be our own, and by being tolerant of other people we can perhaps learn from them instead of making their ideas and customs conform to our own. This is all fine, but what of the idealist or the socialist who feels that many of the problems of mankind are the result of class struggle or a particular form of government, and who proclaims to the world that we must change these conditions to liberate men? What of a person who sees danger in the moral authoritarianism of Roman Catholicism, and proclaims to the world that Catholicism is to be shunned? Men with these concerns are not following Montaigne's advice, but do we think the less or the more of them because they don't?
Can "stability" be a satisfactory criterion of the "ideal society," and if so, what kind of stability? Certainly not intellectual stagnation, nor rigid behavior patterns would typify that society. Change, education, and social growth usually go hand in hand. Education, by definition, is concerned with the development and encouragement of the intellectual faculties, and are not societies to be educated? It becomes necessary here to distinguish between the intent of education, as contrasted with that of indoctrination, because in the present period of history and even in the so-called "free world," the two are often confused. Indoctrination, then, means, to "inculcate," or "to impress by repeated statement or admonition."
Education suggests the training and "development of the special and general abilities of the mind (to know); a liberal education." This education, obviously, includes a discipline and training of the mind along the lines of reasoning and logic. Therefore, under the auspices of real education, that which is taught, or "knowledge," must pass all tests imposed by reason. Of course, no form of totalitarianism can tolerate the scrutiny of reason and fact, for its object is conformity and blind devotion.
This is, we think, the fundamental distinction that has to be made between education and indoctrination, a distinction made recently by Robert M. Hutchins in an article called "University of Utopians" (Saturday Review, Oct. 17). Dr. Hutchins suggests that an ideal university will always encourage intellectual controversy. Academic freedom will not, for the Utopians, seem to "threaten" the established social order, because it will be understood that it is very important to subject all so-called "truths" to testing; they must be ready to meet challenge of their validity.
Perhaps what Dr. Hutchins posits for the ideal university can also be posited as a prerequisite of the ideal, ever-maturing society -- a conviction that "truths" beaten into peoples' heads are no truths. If so, Hutchins and Montaigne are not at odds. Hutchins recommends revolutions, but at the discussion table. Ultimately, it would seem, the crucial point is not whether there is individual or national controversy, but whether it can be limited to the field of debate and arbitration. This distinction, if valid, would weed out both doctrinaire Communists and Catholics as candidates for governing Utopia. The Communists "openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions" (last paragraph, Communist Manifesto), while the Catholics support the assertion that "The Pope is the infallible leader of mankind, and when he speaks for the Church in matters of faith and morals, he cannot make a mistake" (Pius IX, July 18, 1870).
Utopians will simply have to be philosophers, for philosophy, as the synthesis of the various aspects of learning, is crucial to the maturation of society. Philosophy can also be defined as a knowledge of the individual's relationship to, and role in, society. Philosophy, therefore, can serve as a basis for intelligent and principled social and political action. Philosophy, as contrasted with collective or group religion and political creeds, tends to strengthen individual decision, morality, and nobility.
Mr. Judge states in LETTERS THAT HAVE HELPED ME (p. 20): "Each one who really comes into Theosophy does so because it is only an 'extension of previous beliefs.' For no idea we get is any more than an extension of previous ones. That is, they are cause and effect in endless succession." Why then are newcomers to Theosophy admonished to drop previous beliefs in considering new ones?
Newcomers are never "admonished to drop previous beliefs," but merely to reconsider them. The whole basis of U.L.T. is against such insistence. The "previous beliefs" may even be regarded as a help rather than a hindrance, and serve as bridges to Theosophy. [Note: "U.L.T" means "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler.]
The suggestion really is to lay aside prejudices. Then, although seemingly new, the propositions of Theosophy may themselves be seen simply as in some respects an extension of previous ideas. In the event that a man rejects ideas propounded in U.L.T., but still comes to listen, he should be no less respected by the members than anyone else. A devoted student does not attempt to change other people's ideas. In line with this thinking, Robert Crosbie offers some interesting advice concerning dogmatism in The Friendly Philosopher (p. 114).
Seeking wisdom is like having a body with certain defects, and when the effort is made to improve the body and strengthen it, thereby relinquishing the old condition for a stronger, better vehicle, new changes are constantly being made. Once one has open-mindedly considered a new idea offered for consideration, he may then return to his former ideas with light from the new one. He cannot help but have his former ideas extended to some degree, at any rate. In order to really grasp Theosophy, one must think out for himself the place of his ideas in the scheme of Theosophy and, vice versa, see Theosophy in his scheme of ideas.
Naturally a newcomer will view Theosophy from whatever vantage-point he may have attained. From there, he must be willing to travel wherever truth may lead. Only with this attitude can one hope to go beyond his present point of understanding. Theosophy has its great appeal from the fact that it arouses all wide-awake people. It shows the similarities rather than the differences of all great religions and schools of thought. It brings out the truth in each one, as, for instance, by delving into those allegories in which so many great ideas are preserved.
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