THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 8, June, 1952
(Pages 365-368; Size: 12K)


[Article number (7) in this Q&A Department]

IT is said we bind ourselves to people by our love and hate. What can be said of someone trying to "work out" his Karma with someone he dislikes in order to break the bond of hate?

Since we are beings of mind, the motive is the deciding factor in whether an act is "good" or "bad." But first, what is "working out" our Karma? Our karmic connection with a person represents lines of thought and action commenced at a previous time. These lines can be on the physical, mental, or spiritual plane of becoming. When we have acted consciously and objectively in a relationship with a constructive motive, we are on the road to terminating the binding lines.

We have many relationships of differing natures. Each relationship finds us involved to a greater or less degree, depending upon our state of mind and previous Karma. Since it is our uncontrolled feelings which involve us, it must be control of that part of our nature by something else which frees us. Therefore, nursing or even allowing a feeling of dislike merely keeps the lines of action in play. The only sort of act which leaves man "free" is a conscious, compassionate act, which is free from demands of selfishness; the whole man, as a unit, participates in the act. Thus this attitude must be held before any real progress can be made in untangling our Karma.

H.P.B. says in the Key to Theosophy that we do not forgive those whom we wrong. This could be the reason for the continued dislike felt toward others. Maybe we have wronged them in the past. It is difficult to admit, even to ourselves, that we are wrong. We may have a guilt-feeling which we try to get rid of by blaming others. And misunderstanding of oneself leads to hate.

It is impossible to see a thing clearly when consumed with hate. Our perspective is narrowed and we are looking "in" -- at our own lower natures -- instead of out, at the whole situation. Since it is impossible to go two ways at once, a person will often fail in attempts to "free" himself, merely involving himself more deeply. Such a person would be like one who says he is trying to see clearly, but who has not yet opened his eyes.

What is (a) the scientific, as well as (b) the theosophical, basis for advocating abstention from alcohol? (c) How can we help the youth of today see the truth of the matter?

(a) In history, we find various reform movements cropping up every so often, which insist on abstention from alcohol, and usually, on prohibition. Are such movements anything more than moralistic reactions to justify ourselves after allowing years of crime and evil-doing in our society? After a while we always seem to settle back in the same old rut. In the United States, Prohibition can be traced all the way back to 1773, when it became a state law in Georgia. Since then we find one prohibition law after another, first adopted, then repealed. The history of prohibition in other countries is similar. Iceland, Russia, Canada, and Finland attempted prohibition and then abandoned it. What seems to be important, however, is the fact that no matter how much evidence is shown as to the injurious effects of drinking alcohol people will not quit the habit, until they decide for themselves to quit.

According to a psychiatrist, Dr. J. L. Henderson: "The alcoholic's basic difficulty is not alcohol, but emotional immaturity, and treatment in order to be effective must be built up on this principle...." Drinking by young people, then, seems to be due chiefly to a feeling of inadequacy and a desire to be a "he-man" or "one of the gang."

It seems reasonable to assert that a large percentage of modern-day youth are aware of the facts uncovered by science on the ill effects of alcohol, even though the majority of this group are not, apparently, impressed by the facts. This manifest lack of awe for what science has to say does not mean that there are deficiencies in the scientific basis or in the scientific method itself, but only that this method is limited in scope to a study of objective phenomena, and makes us draw the line between being aware of and "seeing the truth" in certain things; every experience is concerned not only with objective facts, but with moral and philosophical values as well. Thus, in a question including values and facts, science can offer at best a negative decree; for instance, "the intemperate use of alcohol may be considered an inadvisable practice since it produces injurious effects on the body," is a statement which is unimpressive, even though it includes appeal to self-interest. The reason given is also weak, chiefly because it leaves out a positive alternative.

Thorough proof has been established by physiological research that any amount of alcohol taken internally robs a man's nervous and muscular systems of coordination, sensitivity, and stamina. Even more important than this is the dulling effect that alcohol has on the processes of good judgment and self-restraint -- processes attributed by science to the brain. When alcohol reaches the stomach, the blood immediately begins to absorb it without any chemical change. Since the body has no way of storing it, alcohol must remain in the blood until it is burned in the cells or eliminated. Alcohol is called the "great illusion," for invariably the individual feels stronger, while the opposite is the case. This illusion has led many to believe that there is medicinal value in the use of alcohol as a stimulant, but scientific evidence goes to show that alcohol eventually reacts on the body as a depressant -- actually lowering body temperature and resistance.

(b) The Theosophic view encompasses and transcends the scientific basis for abstaining from alcoholic beverages. According to Theosophy, the body, which experimental science is alone concerned with, is but part of man in his entirety. The physical and astral organs of man's form are the necessary channels through which the pilgrim soul expresses and seeks experience; such growth cannot take place when the channels are blocked and disabled -- the precise effect of alcohol. Since the very purpose of man's existence, in theosophic terms, is defeated by the practice of drinking, H.P.B. found it appropriate to make one of the few categorical statements to be found in Theosophic writings. In the Key to Theosophy, she writes: "Wine and spirits drinking is only less destructive to the development of the inner powers, than the habitual use of hashish, opium, and similar drugs." Thus the paralyzing effects of intoxicants on the higher centers of the brain -- a fact that science is well aware of -- prevents the development of those faculties and powers which enable man to be the captain of his destiny, the master of life's situations, the "image of God."

(c) To "help the youth of today see the truth in the matter" means to point out the importance of Values dealing with what man is and what he is here for. This can be done in positive, humanistic terms, which strengthen and encourage each individual; values which place a premium on self-reliance and integrity, not on group acceptance at the expense of character.

When H.P.B. said that all forms of alcohol have a "direct, marked, and very deleterious influence on man's psychic condition," she also gave the "scientific view." But she attaches importance to this fact on the basis that it is destructive to the development of man's inner powers, not only because of the change of physical condition. It is manifestly true to anyone that the drinking of alcohol dulls the control of whatever sort of agent it is which governs the actions of the body; the full power of reasoned, thoughtful choice is absent.

The Theosophical reason for advocating abstention from alcohol, then, is that it dulls man's power of choice. The "basis" of this objection and the thing that makes it important lies in the theosophical conception of the nature of man and his purpose in life. Theosophy says that man is before all else a chooser, a being who constantly makes his own future by means of every choice; that wrapped up in the nature of man is not only the power to become more than he is, but also the desire to become, and that therefore his future is the story of a progressive growth in understanding and wisdom -- understanding of the world around him, of himself, and of the instruments he uses, and wisdom about the right way to use his knowledge for the good of all.

Theosophy suggests, then, that there is that within man which tends to make him more and more of a "perfected man"; that a perfected man is a free man, and his perfection is measured by the degree of freedom he possesses. The perfected man is free from the demands of his physical body, that is, he is in perfect control of its actions, he uses his instruments for his own purposes instead of being used by them for theirs. It is easy to see that the drinking of alcohol does not fit into this frame of reference, since it does not contribute to the forming of a perfected man.

People have tried to show the youth of today the "truth in the matter" for a long time and in endless ways, mostly to no avail. The evils of the thing itself have been much described. Perhaps the theosophical method must be, in this case as in so many others, to disseminate the fundamental principles of the philosophy. They seem to invite conclusions, rather than give conclusions, and this is probably always more successful, slow though the process certainly is.

Next article:
(July 1952)
[Article number (8) in this Q&A Department]

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