THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 11, September, 1952
(Pages 506-509; Size: 12K)

YOUTH-COMPANIONS ASK--
AND ANSWER

[Article number (10) in this Q&A Department]

HOW does the Theosophical concept of promulgating Universal Brotherhood -- thus bettering the lot of mankind as a whole -- compare with various socio-economic reform movements calculated to achieve what is commonly called "One World" and over-all prosperity?

Both types of "reform," the Theosophical Movement and socio-economic movements, we might say in pointing to similarities, are devoted to the improvement of man and the conditions which surround and affect groups of men; both "reform movements" to some extent transcend the limitations of racial, creedal, and national clannishness. But beyond this point, what other significant likenesses can be defined? As to the basic objectives to be realized, and the ways and means of achieving such realizations, a considerable discrepancy seems to exist. The basic philosophies of the Theosophical Movement and of most socio-economic ideologies are certainly different, though cooperation between the two is easily possible.

Undoubtedly there are some groups of social idealists, and many idealistic individuals, who uphold "humanist" values -- "the dignity of man," and the "inalienable rights" of man -- which include freedom of expression and conscience. Yet valid reasons for supporting the "rights" of individuality seem obscure and blurred, due probably to obscure and blurred ideas as to what man essentially is. By and large, the socio-economical movements of the Western World, such as communism, fascism, and capitalism (to mention only a few), vaguely support orthodox psychology's theory that man is a complex animal who is shaped by the master-moulds of group conditioning (environment) and heredity. Needless to say, a mechanistic theory of this sort lends little support to the humanistic hopes of nineteenth-century idealism; the importance, nobility, and meaningfulness of individual man is little talked about. Yet even when a superficial, animalistic view of man is supposedly accepted, the logical thing to do, for those who can't help wanting to improve present conditions, seems to be to advocate more humane systems of government, remove physical environmental factors which are weakening humanity, raise the world-standard of living, establish a "brotherhood" on the basis of mutual contentment.

The Theosophical Movement represents the application of a much more dynamic and challenging program of progress. All genuine reform is held to be primarily an individual matter, which occurs as man seeks to understand the significance, relatedness and purpose of his own being with all "beings." Humanistic hopes can be rationally explained and supported in these terms: man is a soul, an integral, individual character, experiencing evolution through a form or body. Man is morally responsible because he has the power to choose between rapport with "the universe" and attempted exploitation of its opportunities. Heredity and environment are two of the tools of justice, results which represent the individual and racial karma of decisions perhaps made long before. The Theosophic doctrine teaches that man is, in a sense, a little "universe" within the great universe, and thus the understanding and improvement of the one means a proportionately increased understanding and improvement of the other.

The Theosophical idea of promulgating brotherhood then, is both esoteric and psychological, and concerned primarily with the emancipation of the soul. Socio-economic movements are devoted to the change of systems; the happiness of man is seen in terms of economic security, the improvement of environmental conditions, and the discovery of new scientific vistas to be discovered for man's material happiness. The ethical surge, however, may be the same.

How can parents and teachers avoid being overprotective of children and allow them the experiences which are necessary for growth?

There are many discussions of such problems in magazines which tell parents what to do, and why "protection against overprotections" is to be recommended. But the Theosophist has an additional obligation: he needs to get at the causes of overprotectiveness in relation to man's dual nature rather than to content himself with specific admonitions. In order to do this, three broad traditions at work in the Western world must be examined in the light of the attitudes they encourage in parents and teachers. These traditions variously answer the question, "What is my duty to my child?", for each answer is directly dependent upon what the child is thought to be, essentially.

In the Christian tradition, man is considered to be conceived in sin, and therefore to be inclined largely toward sin throughout his life. This may be in part because the Christian projects supreme goodness and strength outside of himself into his concept of God, which leaves himself always inferior, weak, and dependent. The purpose of life, in these terms, is to avoid as much evil and temptation as possible, in order to achieve the goal of heaven which awaits, as reward, the least evil of men. This concept of the inherent sinfulness of the child implies that the parents' duty is almost entirely to protect children from themselves and the follies of society. The weakness attributed to the child's nature encourages such Christian parents -- weak, too, but at least more experienced with evil -- to make choices for him.

According to the materialistic view, on the other hand, man is held to be simply and solely a highly developed animal, the product of heredity and environment. To parents the young child is entirely neutral, plastic material, which it is their duty to mold as they see fit. Whatever values the child should adopt must be injected into his character patiently and methodically, as if with a hypodermic needle. Here, again, parents feel the necessity of choosing for their child. As a rule, the goal of this molding process is conceded to be the successful adjustment of the child to the norm of contemporary culture, so that he will be able to live amicably with his fellows.

It is not difficult to recognize the seeds of over-protection in these two examples. Now, the third view -- the Theosophical view -- describes man as primarily a being of individual choice. Even the child is a being of his own making, his essential character formed by choices from long past lives. His most important business on earth, consequently, is the development of inner strength for a better future. This is the concept of man as a self-evolving soul.

But just what is a parent's duty to a "self-evolving soul"? We think it is simply to provide an atmosphere which is conducive to soul-growth -- an atmosphere of moral awareness which precipitates the making of choices. The soul's powers of discernment and judgment must grow. The child must exercise his own powers himself if he is to learn; no one else can do it for him. He is obligated to understand the world around him, but can be allowed to do so in his own terms, so long as consideration for others is shown.

If the parent concludes that the most important development is in the capacity for making decisions and in the maturity with which problems are met, and if he can let this philosophy color his daily perspective, the chances of being over-protective will diminish. If the child fails, or does wrong, such experiences the parent may consider food for learning rather than as calamity. The parent, however, does have the responsibility of presenting suggestions, and constructive criticism as he sees the need, for it is also the Theosophical teaching that a child comes to a particular family and situation in order to learn from them.

Any parent may well ask himself, "Could it be an unconscious desire that my child remain dependent upon me that causes this over-protective instinct to manifest?" Such a parent needs to remember that it is his or her responsibility to help develop in the child a desire to be self-dependent. The baby, loved and cherished and given a sense of security in very early life, should gradually learn to depend less and less on the parent. The parent's natural urge to "protect" is fitting during infancy, but if, later on, everything is done for the child, all decisions made for him, he has little chance to develop a spirit of individual creativity. The young parents who want to avoid becoming over-protective follow the plan of nature: their love draws the baby into life and provides a source from which the child may grow; it shelters the children when they can be helped by it; then, parents strive to develop gradually in the child a sense of self-reliance, dependability, responsibility, and to draw out its latent powers. As the child matures, parents find other interests after gradually allowing the child to live its own life.

An important issue to ponder in answering the remainder of the original question is, "Who determines what experiences are necessary for growth?" To a great extent the child should, as exhibited by his needs and enthusiasms, for these comprise the growing-tip of learning for him as a soul. To a certain extent, too, the parents have a definite responsibility to use their powers of discrimination in the child's behalf. Ideally, decisions should be made cooperatively, the parent taking an advisory role, the child remaining the final judge -- at least in a field where he can deal with the consequences of his choice intelligently. Summing up, then, the most effective way that parents may avoid being over-protective is -- as in avoiding anything not to be desired -- to understand first all the elements in the situation. Then it is possible to examine carefully all those forces at work in the culture which tend to encourage over-protectiveness, and to decide if, or to what extent, they may be irrational directing agents.


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