THEOSOPHY, Vol. 20, No. 12, October, 1932
(Pages 553-556; Size: 12K)
[Article number (24) in this Q&A Department]
IF we did nothing but good, how would we progress? Isn't it necessary to learn by contrasts?
In the first place what is goodness? Is it an inflexible law transcending all human experience? And who is the maker of such law, and whence its authority? Law is not something above man; it is the working of his own essential nature. To put it broadly, goodness lies in the fulfilment of interest, the satisfaction of an internal need. Perhaps some will take offense at the word "interest" because of its association with personal desire. Looking out for one's own interest is, of course, selfish. But it should be remembered that there are universal interests as opposed to individual; godlike as opposed to human. And what is man? Too often he is mistaken for an animal. But that is only his superficial and antagonistic appearance. Within, man is a god; he is one in spirit with the universe. Krishna, Buddha and Jesus are divine men who know this.
Yet goodness must be distinguished from that which is only good as a means, or which furthers one's interest in an external object. The Good is good in itself. Money is not good in itself; it is only good for what it will buy. In this world of phenomena, the object sought becomes the means for another object, until finally one ends in futility or boredom. Then the whole process is repeated again in a different manner. Money brings substance, but what is mere existence without innumerable other things? Beyond change, beyond phenomena there are certain ultimates good in themselves everlastingly -- such are wisdom, love, realization of the Self. They are the universal needs of men. They may be manifested through phenomena but they are never phenomenal themselves. They may not exist visibly in all men but they are shown forth by some. Their manifestation appears to us as moral or spiritual progress.
It may be said -- of course, all men naturally follow their best interests. But men do not know their best interests in most cases, and even when they do, they fail to work them out either through ignorance or lack of will. Man must fight for his true being. And now coming back to the question, "If we did nothing but good, how could we progress?" If we did nothing but good we would be at the end of our progress, at one with our true self, fulfilling constantly our universal needs. But do we not learn through contrasts? Of course we do in the world of phenomena. Yet what is learnt is always beyond phenomena and therefore applicable to them. By struggling in the world of change, we learn to look beyond for wisdom. In the learning process we work by the method of trial and error. We look for peace; we look for pleasure; we meet with delusion at every step. And so by our mistakes we learn to search for the more ultimate. Thus contrasts are a necessity to learning; but wisdom is a necessity to right action.
It has been noticed that people who love flowers can grow better flowers from the same seed and in the same soil, than those who have little interest in them. How account for this?
(a) To act with love is to act according to the nature of the Higher Self, the One Life in all beings. Therefore, actions performed with love are more effective because of their universal basis. Plants are sentient, are sensitive to the influences flowing from man, whether from his higher or his lower nature. The man who cares for flowers with love is treating them from the basis of a regard for the life in them and with feeling prompted by that regard. For this reason a higher perception or growth may be aroused in them. The impulsion of the mind of the higher being is communicated to the consciousness of the plant. Some people can not even handle plants without harming them, while others can handle them with benefit.
(b) All Life being ONE, there is a constant inter-exchange between the "lives" that make up beings, be they mineral, plant, animal or human beings. When we love a thing, flower or anything else, we are in tune, in harmony with it. The interchange of life is of benefit and provides the necessary elements for growth and development. When we hate or dislike, we produce discords and the life we radiate is destructive and prevents the growth of that which we contact. If we have a lesson to learn, to hate or dislike it is the sure way not to be able to understand it -- hate sets up a barrier. In order to gain a true understanding of all we come in contact with, we must identify ourselves with it, recognize that all Life is One; and what power is greater than Love, the realization of Brotherhood, to make us be of benefit to all we meet?
A friend of mine says that he believes he attracts business to his office, because he never permits desultory affairs to engage him there; he attends strictly to business and study along its lines. Is there any real basis for his idea?
Does he not have the same basis for his idea that U.L.T. has as a Lodge: "not to take part in side issues"? [Note: "U.L.T." means "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler.] If we stay on the road when we travel, we can see both sides and can interpret all that we meet according to the Road we have chosen, thereby becoming able to take care of all that may come along. If we wander off the road, we do not see what is taking place on the other side and often may even lose sight of the road itself. So "tending strictly to business" is the thing to do, once one has made up one's mind which road to travel; and he will thereby attract those who know he is tending to business and therefore able to help them, as well as himself.
How do you think a Theosophical student is at advantage in the affairs of daily life -- in school, or business, or even at home?
To study Theosophy, is studying the true relationship between Man and the whole Universe. Learning to know what we are and why we are here, what the basis for our actions should be, should that not help us in school, business or at home? Instead of blindly running on, disregarding all we contact, upsetting all that is not "pleasing" to us, we have an opportunity to think before we act, enabling us to act rightly. And if we do make a mistake, that is no reason for despair, we will know we made the mistake and set about cheerfully to undo the mistake and restore the equilibrium we have disturbed. Studying Theosophy is learning to meet all that comes as a lesson to be learned, to do our very best to understand that lesson under whatever form, in whatever disguise it may come to us, in order "to be the better able to help and teach others."
What is meant by the term "Theosophical Fanatic"? How could such a sane philosophy breed fanatics?
(a) What is meant by any sort of fanatic? then it will be easier to give the specific case. A fanatic is one who becomes so engrossed in a particular subject that he forgets that men have other interests. In fact he so completely forgets that he attempts to inflict his attitude on his neighbors. So we have bores who bother us with the only key to paradise, with the only tooth paste, the only cigarette, etc., etc. In all these cases, it is evident that one interest is being forced to the neglect of others. But when a system embraces the deepest and most universal interests, what room is there for fanaticism? This is the problem of the questioner. How can such a philosophy as Theosophy breed fanatics? Such an assumption is internally contradictory. Fanaticism must lie, then, in the individual's grasp of the philosophy, not in the philosophy itself. This is a fundamental evil. So many people go in for Theosophy individually. They bring to it their prejudices; they cast their own shadows of misconceptions over the whole of the teachings. Their "first step" is often one in dogmatism; its unhappy consequence too often fanaticism. Such people disagree not only with the world in general but with Theosophists also. The important point to remember is that "Theosophists are brothers to all men and nations." Their duty is to understand the other fellow, and in so doing, help him towards a fuller realization of the Universal Self.
(b) The Truth has ever been in the world, under different names and in various forms. They who study it and try to live it will learn to discriminate between the True and the False; the heart will be warm, the head clear and the eye far-seeing. But there are those, who, having found the Truth, regard it as their "personal property," theirs is the only true doctrine they state; no one else possesses anything like it, everything else that exists is false and not even to be considered or investigated; such ones are "fanatics." If they had understood the Philosophy, they would have learned that it teaches quite differently, but it is because they only look at the surface and jump to conclusions that they become confused and misinterpret the Truths they see before them. Truth does not breed fanaticism, nor ignorance; it is we who distort Truth so, that we ourselves are unable to recognize it.
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:
Relative truth is the cause of man's becoming involved in a partial view of the universe and of himself. Each man tries to segregate truth, by looking only in some given direction. He thinks all is right on this side; all wrong on that. Thus each man makes his own limitations. We say, thus far shall we go, and no farther. As a man thinks, he becomes ... We are always acting upon and affecting each other, in thought and action. So we get a consensus of ideas, and that consensus forms the general impression and the general limitation, of the individual, of a class of men, of mankind generally. This is the barrier that each has to overcome for himself if we are ever to get beyond personal or racial limitations.
[Article number (25) in this Q&A Department]
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