THEOSOPHY, Vol. 45, No. 12, October, 1957 (Pages 562-566; Size: 14K) (Number 7 of a 7-part series)
SEEDS AND SEEDLINGS
A SINE QUA NON IN THEOSOPHY[The short articles comprising this series are derived from characteristic talks given during the years 1915-35. As often as practicable, the words of the speaker have been used without change, in the hope of conveying some of the force originally imparted to the ideas. -- Editors.]TRULY human hearts have ever responded to the idea of Brotherhood; the very sound of the word has power to invoke in us a feeling of beatitude. Yet if Brotherhood is to be more than an ideal -- albeit an ideal which has thrilled idealists and humanists throughout the ages -- it must be shown to have its roots in the very nature of existence.
The theosophic conception of Brotherhood differs from all former historical expressions of the idea by being universal in scope. Former attempts to establish a Brotherhood among men have been restricted to one group, one nation, one race, one religion. But the theosophic ideal of Brotherhood relates to all men -- members of all races, of all religions, of any and every degree. The vastness of this conception needs a universal background against which we may consider its possibilities, its meaning for us, personally. Just such a universal background is provided by the fundamental propositions of Theosophy.
If we were seeking some phrase that would fit alike the smallest conceivable particle in the universe and the highest being we could imagine in the universe, and the whole universe itself, what better phrase could we use than a kind of perpetual motion machine? What is man, physically and metaphysically, but a kind of perpetual motion machine? And an atom is the same thing. This brings clearly before us the fact that the universe is in perpetual motion. Yet besides this perpetual motion, which is frictionless, there is intermittent motion, which is frictional. From this latter kind of motion come all our sorrows and all our joys. Our attention is so centered on that form of motion -- which comes and goes, and in coming and going produces pleasure and pain -- that it is very rarely indeed that a man divorces himself from the temporary aspect of activity to consider the infinite, eternal and ceaseless side of this subject of motion. Yet this is one way to express the first fundamental proposition of Theosophy -- Eternal, Ceaseless Motion.
Whatever our conception of God may be, it is perhaps best put in the phrase of an intelligence, ceaselessly operative. Now what is there in Nature that we are acquainted with that most nearly fits that definition? It is that other conception which we call Law: the second fundamental proposition of Theosophy. Law is everywhere operative, setting limits to the energic efforts of any being or any mass of beings. When the invisible horizon of any expenditure of energy from within outward is reached, Law says, "Thus far shalt thou go and no farther." One of the most graphic pictures of the operation of law -- whether as regards the motion of an atom or of the so-called inorganic mass that constitutes the mineral kingdom, or of any organic activity -- is the Circle Pass Not.
Many of us tend to identify ourselves, in our thoughts and desires, in our memories and hopes, in our imaginings and fears, with temporary actions. Yet are we so sure that this is a correct ascription of our real nature? For there are others who identify themselves with bodily action and activities, which are ever in flux -- while the man is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Then, there are still others who identify themselves with that kind of action which we denominate in a broad way by the term "the mind." Yet there is not one of us who is not witness that his mind this minute is not the same as it was ten minutes ago. We know that we have the capacity, as we call it, to change our minds: we have done it many times in the past, and feel sure that before death supervenes, we shall change our minds many times in the future. The man-who-thinks, however, continues to be the same entity, regardless of his changes of mind. So it is with all action, as we customarily think of "action."
When, however, we think of action in terms of ceaseless motion, in terms of infinite yet present law; when we think of it as operative intelligence, beginningless and endless, we shall find a much greater kinship between the Self in us and the ceaseless motion of the Infinite, than between the Self and the finite motions; we shall see a far closer affinity between the Self in us and what we call Law, than between the Self and what we call our actions.
We often hear it said, "So and so is a law unto himself." That is a true statement; for, as a matter of fact, each being is not only a law unto himself, but he is the law unto himself, within certain limits. For example, since no man can be made to believe what he is set against believing, he is a law unto himself as to what he shall or shall not believe; since no man can be made to like a thing that he does not like, he is the law unto himself as to what he shall like or what he shall dislike; since no man can be coerced into giving his attention in any direction that he does not choose to, he is a law unto himself in regard to his choice, or volition, or motive. These forms of action proceed from within, from the very Self, the "I."
Thus people talk about Law or Fate or Free Will as if they were different operations. But they are the same road -- traveled in different directions. If a man travels in one direction, the weight of all Nature is against him; and he calls this Fate. If he travels in another direction, the energic evaluation of Nature constantly supports his expenditures, fills the vacuum; then he calls this Free Will. And, always, we ought to realize that since we have bodies, we must be finite in regard to matter; and always, since we can extend the receptiveness of our senses just so far, our perceptions are circumscribed. The horizon is variable -- but there is always a horizon. The same is true of our minds. One man has a wider range of thought; another man has stronger desires; a third man has more exquisite finesse in feeling. But however wide the circumference, there is still a horizon.
Now what we call Matter is in fact the horizon of action for any being. If we can get that conception, we will be able to see that matter is not what we see, but what we do not see. It is just like light and darkness: light is what we see, and darkness is what we do not see. It is just like knowledge and ignorance: knowledge is what we know, and ignorance is what we do not know. So, in terms of consciousness, Spirit is what we see, and Matter is what we do not see. In other words, Matter is the limitation of perception in any direction, physical or metaphysical. To get this point of view, is to enable us to consider that temporary actions -- the individual sphere of discordant and inharmonious actions -- are what prevent our vision of the eternal motion of Life itself.
No man can imagine a time when there was no Life, nor a time when Life of every kind shall cease to be. Our confusion arises from thinking that the Life in this body is separate from the Life in another body, or in the apparently void space between two bodies. Yet a little reflection will convince a man that the Life that is in himself is no different from the Life in any other being; for the proof of Life, externally speaking, is discriminative reaction to impulsion given; and everything in Nature reacts in its own degree.
So, the realization that the source of all is One Life, and that all Life flows from that one source, is the basis of Brotherhood in an eternal, universal sense -- the third fundamental proposition of Theosophy. When we love our "brother," we pour out all our energy of thought and of will and of feeling towards him for the sake of communion with him. But suppose we hate a man -- what then? The energy, the force, the flow of our soul goes out to him in order that we may destroy him. There is no difference in the energy; the difference is in the direction given. But the powerful impact of the accumulated capacities and powers of untold habitual excesses in hatred will make us stumble again and again, until we see that the difference between love and hate is not in the object but in ourselves; that the difference between love and hate is not in the energy discharged, but in the direction given. When that realization comes, the immense accumulation of soul energies that have been poured in one direction will be changed; and little by little, with ceaseless effort, the one who was formerly a hater becomes a lover, a "brother," eventually a Christ.
The life in man, because it is Life, demands free expression. The divinity in man, because it is divine, demands the right to choose for itself. The Theosophical Movement throughout all the ages is nothing in the world but the ceaseless struggle of the involved soul for freedom of thought, liberty of conscience. One of the great difficulties of our civilization, no matter what we call ourselves individually or collectively, is trying to enforce our ideas as to how things ought to be done by compulsion on others. Christ did not try to force anybody; Buddha did not try to force anybody; the wise father and mother do not try to force their children. The moment you coerce, compel the will, the mind, the conscience of another, you no longer have a "man" -- you have a present slave and a potential rebel.
So the Theosophical Society, established by H. P. Blavatsky in 1875, had for its first object the formation of a nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Mankind, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, color, or condition. Yet, if a quarrelsome man sees intellectually that Theosophy is true, and joins the Society, does that make him a member of a Universal Brotherhood? No; he has first to quit being quarrelsome. If a man whose disposition is vain, envious, malignant, sees that the teachings of Theosophy are scientifically exact as far as he can measure them, and yet does not reform his own attitude toward others, he does not enter into the Universal Brotherhood, the Concert of Nature. What good then has Theosophy done him? None.
The difficulty, once a universal platform of Brotherhood is taken, lies with the individual man. In spite of ourselves, we are saturated with the idea of a vicarious atonement, the idea of miracles, the idea of special dispensation, the idea that there is some way and some place in Nature by which we can reap without sowing. The result is that, though every man knows that to get the fruits of unselfishness, he has to be unselfish; and that to get the fruits of knowledge, he has to use it for the good of those who surround him; and that to increase his powers, he has to exercise them; yet he does not do it.
Those who join the Theosophical Society have the eternal, the universal platform upon which is erected the whole structure of Life. But do they embody that structure in themselves? Christ ate and drank and lived and moved and walked and talked with publicans and sinners, with friends and foes, with the good and the bad. He saw what they were mentally and morally; but he knew what they were spiritually -- Souls. And he dealt with them as souls. It is this knowledge of the identity of souls that a man must experience within himself if he is to take his "first step" toward a realization of Universal Brotherhood.
The teachers of Theosophy have stated unequivocally that he who condemns another is no Theosophist. We do not prove ourselves Theosophists by what we say we are, but by what we do and by what we do not do. "Every action without exception is comprehended in spiritual knowledge. Even if thou wert the greatest of all sinners, thou shalt be able to cross over all sins in the bark of spiritual knowledge. As the natural fire reduceth fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes." Contrariwise, if we are unable to reduce all actions (our own and others') to ashes, and scatter them to the winds of Karma, we are not seated in the bark of spiritual knowledge.
Yet this high standard is for our own personal use; it is the measuring rod of our own shortcomings. No man has the right to hold the yardstick against another.
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