THEOSOPHY, Vol. 41, No. 1, November, 1952
(Pages 29-32; Size: 12K)


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

THE modern child seems to have lost his natural interest in reading (except for trash) and therefore is missing the values to be gained from a good book. Why is this, and what can be done to stimulate constructive reading?

What must always be kept in mind is that each child has unlimited potentiality of constructive imagination -- the ability to read the good books. We all grant the necessity and values of a good book, but should we not also consider that children are not mentally equipped to know that certain books are better for them than others?

There are, perhaps, several reasons why interest in "constructive reading" seems to be replaced by an intense desire for excitement through comics and the like. An example is set by the child's elders, who turn to sensually adventurous fiction, most popular and readily available.

Another reason for lack of thought-provoking reading is the near disappearance of the old-time "family reading circle by the fire." Families used to make their own entertainment -- at home, among themselves. The book which father would pull out at night was often a regular closing of the day's impressions, and these readings played a deep and meaningful part in the child's life. Problems which arose might even be referred to in the terms of the book being read. The child was thus encouraged by the family to find value and food for thought in some of the classics. Now, the closeness of a family in that sense is almost nil, partly because of the density of population and the so-called "benefits" of civilization. The vast offerings of popular entertainment, many of which are directed to the child, has to a large extent crowded out what might have been a desire for constructive reading. There seems to be no need for it in his life, and there is so little requiring him to use his initiative. The "adventurous spirit" is partially satisfied by today's popular science-fiction stories. Life is so complicated that a child is hurled into the confusion and easily swept along by the intriguing glitter of the modern pace of living.

In order to help a child to become an individual instead of a mere consequence of his age, we should emphasize attitudes prevalent in great civilizations which produced self-reliant, interesting children. The lines of study, however, must be shown as an integral part of living and of child nature. If reading material is suggested to the child, it should be both useful and challenging to the powers of his mind and imagination; he needs to constantly broaden his outlook and gradually begin to discern for himself true, basic values which he may later distinguish from those which are unsteady and superficial. In this way will his natural interest in "good books" take hold.

Is it possible to use "the indirect method of geometric proof" to prove rhetorically the existence of universal law?

If the alternative to Universal Law, which is Chaos, may be cancelled out in favor of law, it becomes necessary to cancel out the idea of a Supreme Being who could irrationally govern the Cosmos.

The indirect method of geometric proof states that a postulate is either correct or incorrect, and that if we can prove that the postulate is not incorrect, it follows that the postulate is correct. We can start, then, with the assumption that we have either a universe of law or a universe of chaos. If it is proved that this is a universe of law, we then face two possibilities -- a universe governed by a personal god, or a universe governed by absolute law, devoid of personality.

In The Friendly Philosopher, Robert Crosbie states that "we have to assume that this is a universe of law or a universe of chaos." This must be a universe of law, he says, "because everything we use and understand we see to be under law; and where something befalls us, the cause of which we cannot discern, we none the less assume a cause and try to find it." However, to carry out the geometric proof a little further, we must also bring the personal-god conception into consideration.

Of course, if we limit ourselves to the laws of matter, several questions arise: What is behind the laws of matter? Why any "laws" at all? Also, why would it not follow that there are moral or metaphysical laws as well as physical? We could answer the first question by the assumption of a personal deity, but, among other things, the personal-god idea proves to have detrimental effects. That is, if we rely on an outside power instead of upon ourselves, nothing real in the sense of individual, self-reliant accomplishment could be expected to take place, and, without expectations, how could anything happen? Therefore, while we could postulate a "deity," it would be better to conceive deity as impersonal and incapable of being connected with either man's personal merits or his punishment. If we were to postulate that Law is Deity, however, this would mean that all phenomena and all action are governed by an absolute principle.

If an attempt were made to prove the existence of metaphysical laws, it would be improbable that any exact proof could be gained, the reason being that, at the present time, there is not available a clear philosophical connection between the physical and the metaphysical realms. A metaphysical or moral law is not "objective," but a process subjectively realized as law.

How do we go about detecting and eliminating prejudice within ourselves?

We should perhaps be wary of allowing ourselves to believe that questions of this nature can be solved by the application of neat little formulas and rules.

Ultimately, discovering and rooting out prejudices is an individual matter, and the effort is doomed to failure unless there is present a strong determination and sincere desire to rid oneself of prejudice.

The individual who is liberal-minded enough to ask the question: "How can I detect prejudice within myself?" is usually already partly liberated from the most obvious prejudices. Yet he still must be concerned with the finer points of prejudice, and realize that, just as the sum total of the parts make up the whole, so may some hidden little points of bias lead him astray; so also do these finer points make for the generalized prejudgments which are just as dangerous as many of the more obvious ones he condemns.

These are many and complex. We live in an atmosphere which is permeated with biased views and dogmatic assertions. So much so that a person very frequently is unaware that he is judging an issue with anything but the strictest impartiality. One can only suggest that in this respect we examine those tendencies and attitudes of mind which lead to prejudice.

"Immediate classification" is, perhaps, a good example of one of these tendencies, found in everyday life. Few situations can be said to be "just like" another, without some kind of qualification. No word can be said to adequately describe another person. Classification implies limitation, and to limit another person is to deny that person's potentiality in both thought and action, which all men have. Our very verbal expressions build attitudes and lead us sometimes to suffer from delusion. Also, the tendency to make generalizations which are entirely unwarranted and to judge an entire group by one or two individuals representing it seems to be a basic error of the prejudiced mind.

Much is written these days on the "scientific method." However much abused this term is, the ideal it conveys of exploring impartially every avenue of approach to a problem, and of verification by experiment where possible, is one we could well hope to achieve in everyday life.

The dictionary defines prejudice as either a "bias" or a "prejudgment." Ultimately, it will be admitted, "judgments" have to be made for the immediate necessities of life. But if we are going to judge anything, an analysis should be made of all its component parts.

It is a depressing phenomenon that many people will blindly cling to their own time- or group-honoured beliefs and carry prejudice to its extreme by refusing even to consider any ideas which run counter to them. This is the worst form of prejudice, for it stops the growth of the mind -- which will gradually wither away unless fed on new ideas. Here, as in so many questions of this sort, man's conception of what he himself is holds the key to the problem. It is a sort of "paranoiac logic" that, if one considers himself to be his ideas and beliefs, or his feelings and sentiments, he will defend fanatically what he consciously or unconsciously considers to be himself.

It is interesting to observe that malicious remarks directed against particular groups or individuals often originate in the protective haven of another group -- made up of people who would not speak thus as individuals, but whose integrity is subjugated to a neurotic delight in this verbal carnage. It is the obligation of every one who calls himself a Theosophist to denounce this practice and to fight prejudice wherever he finds it -- whether in himself or in others.

In the light of the Theosophic teaching that the soul is the real man, how ridiculous it is for us to taint and disfigure our discrimination with our petty likes and dislikes!

It would seem, then, in the final analysis, that prejudice is largely a manifestation of selfish protectiveness, and must be destroyed, not merely by a change of mind, but by a widening of soul vision.

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(December 1952)
[Article number (13) in this Q&A Department]

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