THEOSOPHY, Vol. 20, No. 11, September, 1932
(Pages 503-506; Size: 12K)


[Article number (23) in this Q&A Department]

HOW can one reform his mode of life if he is constantly attracting old, bad affinities?

When we, as divine beings, undertook the task of raising up the whole of matter to a higher degree of consciousness, we undertook also the responsibilities and dangers inherent in such a duty. In order to do it we had to take on bodies of flesh and blood -- matter. Most of us became so engrossed in these vehicles that we forgot the indwelling divinity; we began to regard ourselves as creatures instead of creators. Our original purpose of incarnation was obscured and we started to exploit for our selfish gratification the kingdoms of nature we had come to raise up. This began the long chain of affinities which we as Theosophists are attempting to adjust in our lives. The best proof that we can triumph is our present knowledge of who and what we really are and that it was ourselves who created the affinities. We made the bad associations; it is in our power to replace them with good ones. It may be staggering at first when we realize that after all "it is our own fault," but this knowledge should give us strength to go at our task of eradicating bad tendencies with redoubled vigor. Such action is only the preparation for our original duty for the performance of which we started this cycle of incarnation: to raise up the whole of matter.

If Theosophists do not believe in capital punishment, would they let a murderer go free?

(a) Is there not a great latitude between "going free" and being murdered, be it in the electric chair or by the noose? Has capital punishment made crime less, or has it taught the hanged or electrocuted wrongdoer anything? A criminal is a sick man and should be treated as such. All murderers are not criminals. A man having a fever from a bad cold and one lying at the point of death from yellow fever are not given the same treatment. Putting the murderer in the electric chair, or in solitary confinement, will not teach him that his act was wrong. His mind and feelings should be taught in addition to keeping his body occupied and busy. He should learn about life -- what life is, what he is, and his fellowmen. Then he may be able to see, and no man on earth will need to teach him, for he will teach himself. It is a very difficult task, one that needs a great deal of thought and effort and patience! It is so much "easier" to execute him and get rid of him, but that is the greatest injustice done to a fellow human being, because capital punishment is only deliberate, coldblooded and premeditated murder. Murder is murder whether within or without the law.

(b) If we mean by "free" the right to live, the answer is yes; the murderer should be allowed to live. How else is he to see justice working in the universe. The after-death state is not a state of learning but an effect state. In the eyes of a Theosophist, a murderer is the same as a sick man and should be treated accordingly. Of course, anyone who is a menace to society -- whether a small-pox patient or a murderer -- should not be allowed to freely mingle with others, but all criminals should be treated with a consideration for their condition. What ails them is that they have lost all feeling of Brotherhood. Christianity, with its personal god idea, its ideas of revenge and hatred, is responsible for the production of such human beings in our civilization. All criminals should be confined and even more carefully looked after than any physically sick person, and gradually brought to the point where they can be taught the fundamentals of Theosophy, which may bring back their lost sense of responsibility and their realization of brotherhood.

What happens to criminals after death if they are executed?

(a) Executed criminals can do much more harm than embodied ones, for they continue to live until the end of what their normal life would have been, with the same tendencies and thoughts, but without a physical vehicle. This means that they work through weak-willed people in bodies and influence them much more strongly than they could if they were alive. Hence, one strong objection against capital punishment by Theosophists.

(b) They continue to live out their life span on the astral plane, minus the physical body. They are not really dead, as Mr. Judge says, and "are ever rehearsing in Kama-Loka their crime, their trial, their execution and their revenge." This desire for the gratification of unsated passions and the hunger for vengeance leads the unfortunate shell to seek contact with sensitives and mediums for the purpose of influencing them to carry out the evil desires which he cannot fulfill, lacking as he does, the physical instrument.

Are indignation, resentment and hatred never justifiable? Against the murderer of a good and innocent man, for instance?

(a) Indignation and resentment are but degrees of hatred and hatred never is justifiable. We all know only all too well what hatred is; it is our fear and hatred that cloud our true understanding and prevent us from seeing straight and clearly. Should we not rather feel pity and compassion for the murderer? It is he who is the greatest sufferer, as he will have to put forth great efforts to repair the wrong done. The murdered man, especially if he is "good and innocent" loses only his physical body, but cannot be harmed otherwise. Why are we horrified at a murder? May it not be that through bitter experience we have learned our lesson? Not to feel indignation or resentment against a thing does not mean to sanction it or approve of it; we must ever fight that which is wrong, but shall never win the fight by indignation, resentment or hatred. Hatred in whatever degree only increases the hatred that already exists. Let us transform the destructive force of hatred into the creative force of Love or Compassion. Real Love is not goody-goody, weak and colorless, but energetic, strong and radiant, and is the True Warrior in us.

(b) Never. The man who commits a crime, no matter how evil, is in reality an embodiment of Spirit, which, as Krishna says, "neither killeth nor is it killed." We may judge the act but not the person. Buddha said, "Hatred ceases by love; this is an old rule." If this rule were applied universally -- if everyone were to regard the criminal with compassion and understanding -- think of the effect it would have on him. In all likelihood he would be so surprised that he would change his way of life completely.

Is the "lower nature" always "bad"?

(a) Is the ocean bad? Is the sun bad? Yet many drown in the sea and lose their lives through a sunstroke! Nothing is either good or bad in itself, it is we who make it so through our use or mis-use of it. Without the "lower nature" Man would have no instrument here to work with and through. We must learn to know our lower nature and control it, using it when, how, and where it is necessary. It is like possessing a team of very fiery, spirited and unruly horses; we can sit down on the job, refuse to drive the horses, let them go wherever they wish, and first thing you know, horses, carriage and we, are at the bottom of a precipice, a total wreck; or, we can hold the reins firmly and pit our strength and will against the horses, making them go where we wish them to go in order to perform our work. The lower nature is neither good, nor bad, for that matter; the use we make of it is "good" or "bad." Good or bad for what? For the Real Man, who through the lower nature is enabled to carry on his work and learn his lesson, or is hindered therein.

(b) Our lower nature is not something pocketed off and identified with a label, not some definite part of the mind or the emotions. That old pocketing propensity belongs to the generation of John Stuart Mills and the crowd of nineteenth century determinists which followed him. But the ancient and eastern outlook, as was also Spinoza's, had the capacity to look at things relatively. Yet the capacity to see things from many angles, when not tending to scepticism, is far more profound than any deterministic philosophy. Spinoza makes his distinction of lower and higher by the terms passive and active. The same emotions and mind may be looked at in two ways. In one we are drawn to feeling and thought from the outside; in the other we act from within, by force of will, completely our own masters. In Theosophy we would say that our lower nature consists roughly of body and desires. These are our passive instruments, and in so much as we are controlled through them, they may be considered our lower nature. But once controlled by the perfected human will, they become instruments of all that is good. So, let us call "lower" the passive nature and "higher" the actively god-like. Now what is bad is "bad for." What is bad for the active nature furthers the passive. But what we must do is to find what we ought to further. To most people it will obviously be the active, the higher, and progressive nature. Anything which retards man in his evolution to a greater self-realization is bad, because it is "bad for" that realization. Most certainly our passive inclinations are always "bad for," because they are the very opposite, the drag of our progress.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Question: Is not fate closely connected with Karma?

Answer: It depends on how you look at it; that is, if you put your finger in the fire, the "fate" is to have a burn. The time to have decided the fate was before you put your finger in the fire. The only "fate" is that which comes from our own decisions.--Robert Crosbie

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(October 1932)
[Article number (24) in this Q&A Department]

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