THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 12, October, 1952
(Pages 555-558; Size: 12K)


[Article number (11) in this Q&A Department]

WHAT is the source of that inspirational drive towards self-realization and knowledge which some men are able to manifest to a degree far beyond the capacity of the average?

As holds true in regard to many important questions dealing with the nature of man, we feel that there is no one answer to this question. For, although the "source" in question seems to be only a higher aspect of the basic impulse or tendency of "becoming" that manifests itself throughout the realms of nature universally, the inspiration and capacity to manifest this natural urge with conscious force and direction are due to strictly human qualities.

Two interpretations of the key-word, "source," are applicable: "the beginning, or first cause," and "the origin or beginningless tendency from which other causes -- relative beginnings -- have sprung." For though the basic impulse and tendency of nature (nature meaning the countless monads or intelligences behind form) which periodically seeks fuller consciousness through forms, has never had a first beginning, and therefore is beginningless, there is a kind of beginning to "that inspirational drive" which becomes possible with the "lighting of manas." So, then, the fundamental source of this self-determined effort to learn wisdom springs from the laws governing a three-fold evolutionary process.

But another dimension of the question is then before us. What enables some men to manifest this quality to a degree far beyond the capacity of the average? Or, initially, What enables men to manifest it to any degree? We shall attempt to explain this under two headings. At the outset, however, one clarification should be made: Man, having gained self-consciousness, is motivated and directed by his Will and power of choice, as contrasted with impulse and instinct in the lower order of nature. The two factors are: (a) a standard of values which enables man to realize the strategic importance of full self-consciousness and knowledge of Self -- in short one's relationship to the whole as a potentially perfectible being; and (b) one's ability to employ self-mastery by the development of the Will. The man who can adjust his values to that which the soul requires, as contrasted to what he simply wants or shuns, is in the position to partake of inspiration. That which is either wanted or shunned refers not only to sensation, glory, power, and false security, but to all prejudiced minds involved with the many sorts of "vested interests." True inspiration flourishes only when, "be what he may [regardless of creed or sect] a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought -- Godward." The man who partakes of inspiration, who snatches a glimpse of a more perfect relationship with the universe, and momentarily realizes his perfectibility, gladly accepts hardships and personal discomfitures and steels himself to conquer.

Inspiration, in a subtle sense, also reveals the nature of that which is sought. A standard of soul-values will become the means by which the vision is gradually realized. Fortunate indeed would be the aspirer who could be constantly propelled by Herculean strength, but such is never the case. Self-realization is dependent upon a slow growth of steadfastness. Thus a triad -- working-values, inspiration, and will -- represents the possible transformation of potential growth into actual growth, an ascending cycle. This recurring inspiration, known to a few, explains the difference in the capacity of the average man and the man of inspiration to manifest soul-effort; the inspired man fully utilizes all the creative forces and powers of nature.

Some psychologists feel that a certain amount of rationalization may be necessary in assigning motivations for our actions. But would a new set of values perhaps supplant the need for rationalization?

The tendency to rationalize is popular enough in our civilization, and the question is interesting to investigate for this reason alone. We should consider, too, whether there is a positive or useful side of rationalization.

Rationalization can be defined either as "attributing to one's actions creditable motives," or, "to make conformable one's actions satisfactory to reason." In the first case, we are crediting ourselves with good motives, whether or not this is justified. But in the second case we may be making a conscious effort to find a reason for our actions so that we will better understand ourselves -- is not this a positive and useful form of "rationalization"?

The first definition partially explains the position taken by some psychologists who hold that in ordinary, everyday affairs there is neither the leisure nor the necessity for analyzing all of one's motives. For unimportant matters it presumably does no harm to assign a socially approved but perhaps unwarranted motive, especially if this may make an individual happier and more "self-respecting," or better company for those among whom he lives. Many people, it is also argued, are afflicted with "guilt complexes" and feelings of inadequacy, and this sort of rationalization tends to keep down feelings which otherwise might possibly be exaggerated into neuroses. So the thought must be that we may well do away with morbid introspection over every small action. But how can we determine what are big and small actions?

It is probably generally agreed that the relationship of our past experiences (combined with heredity) forms a pattern which contributes a great deal to the quality of our actions in any given situation. It is, then, the culmination of many actions, both big and small, which determines our thread of action, and which affects the basic conditions of our lives. We may say, in a general sense, that these actions which affect the basic conditions of our lives are the important ones. Therefore, the tendency to rationalize in a self-justifying manner would not necessarily stop with the "small, unimportant" actions, because these are the very actions which are brought together to influence important decisions.

To refer to the last portion of the question: A new set of values could either be a personal moral standard based on opinion or a deeply considered philosophy of life. Standards can become dogmatic or simply serve as an approach or method of evaluation. We may set up a punitive standard -- all persons who steal will receive as punishment two years in a penitentiary -- but one man may steal food because he is hungry, another to gain power, while yet another may steal because he is insane. Each situation is a "value situation," but all do not have the same value. Obviously, there are degrees of value in respect to any situation.

If we interpret a standard, however, as a method of evaluation, or as a philosophy of life, problems can be approached individually with only fundamental principles involved. In accordance with this, a Theosophical standard would involve the three Fundamental Propositions. That is, these propositions would be the test in connection with any problem. Self-justifying rationalization usually takes place when we are primarily concerned about society's immediate judgment, rather than ultimate value. Yet, if such doctrines as Karma and Reincarnation are used as standards, there would be no need for a purely social fear concerning any basic condition of our lives.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of answering all questions "yes, and no"? Even though this may be philosophically correct, it frequently only annoys people.

The attitude of "yes, and no" does indeed seem to be a philosophical one, whether or not it should be a policy to answer all questions thus.

Would it not be important, first, to try to determine the object of the questioner in asking? A "yes, and no" answer might be a means of avoiding an explanation too involved and too difficult for the questioner to assimilate at that particular time. Or, it may be felt that the obstacles arising from the annoyance of the questioner at having his question parried with a "yes, and no" is of less importance than the danger of satisfying him completely with a pat answer. Perhaps this is partly why Socrates considered the gadfly so essential. By not closing the questioner's mind to further thought of his own, sometimes new mental horizons are opened up and he is led on to more profound answers than the most correct and complete explanation would afford. This method is similar to the one followed by Buddha when asked by the wandering monk Vacchagotta about the existence of the Ego. When pressed to answer, "the Exalted One maintained silence."

There might be occasions when inquiry into the implications of belief or non-belief are not so important as the acceptance of the idea itself for further consideration. For instance, one may accept the idea of reincarnation as a working basis for living, but still may not wish to assent to "believing in" it.

Actually, if the tendency to provide "yes and no" answers arises from a desire to avoid forming limiting conceptions, and serves instead to deepen one's own perceptions and those of others, this would seem to be an important and vital method of learning. The words in which "answers" are clothed must in any case vary with the circumstances and the individuals involved.

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(November 1952)
[Article number (12) in this Q&A Department]

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