Lessons in Becoming Human–I


Most of us tend to believe that just to be born in a physical body qualifies us to be regarded as Human. But this is not necessarily true. H. P. Blavatsky, in one of her messages to the American Convention, says that Theosophy helps us to develop the human side of our nature in addition to the animal. Hindu and Buddhist scriptures tell us that it is extremely fortunate to obtain human birth. Many people take this to mean that it is fortunate to be born in a physical body, but it is more likely to mean that we are fortunate if we have those qualities in our being that enable us to understand spiritual truths. A person who lives an animalistic life, only caring about the basic physical necessities, such as food, drink, clothing, sex, etc., can live from the cradle to the grave without for one instant living in the presence of his or her soul.

The term Human Solidarity is a more positive expression of that Law because it depends entirely on human effort deliberately made in the right direction. Each individual is a self-conscious thinker, and as such he has to put himself in unison and harmony with all beings and with the whole nature around him. Man and man alone can realize how essential it is to follow this great Law of Love eternal.

So what is it that makes us truly human? What are those aspects of our nature that need to be developed if we are to access the real dimensions of our Being? In Buddhism, a person who achieves a certain level of enlightenment is known as the True Man or the True Woman. In Taoism, the term Real Human is used to designate someone who has reached a certain level of enlightenment.

Theosophy give us detailed teachings regarding the evolution of consciousness and how, during one stage of its unfolding, it inhabits a vehicle that is known as Man. Mankind embodies specific qualities, and as we refine these qualities the vehicle that we occupy becomes more ethereal; as it is now it is too gross to express the ideas pouring in from the Universal Mind. So we need a different basis to express these ideas at a certain level of complexity. If one reads The Secret Doctrine, a general idea of the wonder and beauty of this unfoldment can be had. This process is referred to as evolution, but not in the sense that we might imagine, and not, according to Theosophy, in the Darwinian sense. Our teachings tell us that apes were the product of an act that took place millions of years ago when human beings mated with animal-like creatures, and they are not the missing link in the way that some scientists imagine. In reality, consciousness does not evolve, it is always the same; but we are limited in our understanding of who or what we are, and this limitation crystallizes into the form of a vehicle that embodies these misunderstandings. As we take to the Spiritual Path and proceed, as The Secret Doctrine tells us, by self-induced and self-devised methods and by our studies, meditation and practices, we become more aware of our true nature and therefore the vehicle refines itself. Also, the more we progress in our understanding, the more the veils that are removed and the nearer we grow inwardly as human beings. We are only separated by these misunderstandings.

Theosophy also teaches that when we reach the human stage we develop self-consciousness. Animals are said to be conscious, but not self-conscious. The Theosophical teaching that can be demonstrated logically is that the physical vehicle that we have and the modes of communication, etc., can be refined to express more and more of the Spirit within.

Everything depends on whether the mind allies itself to Kama, the animal desires, or to Buddhi, the Spiritual Soul, which is the vehicle of pure Universal Spirit, Atma. So here we have the key to what makes us human beings. It is the orientation of the mind so that instead of being swallowed up by the materialistic world, it actually purifies itself and thereby becomes the True Man mentioned earlier. The upper imperishable triad of Higher Manas, Buddhi and Atma is known in Theosophical teaching as the Individuality. It is the actor on the stage of life, whereas the lower quaternary, which includes Kama and the physical body, consists of the parts played, the personalities that change from life to life. The higher triad remains constant through all our seeming changes and is known as sutratma or thread-soul, because it is like a golden thread that runs through all our lives, which are compared to pearls added to that thread. Hopefully, by self-induced and self-devised methods we can reach a stage at which we flower as truly human. We should constantly meditate on the permanent dimension to our nature by becoming aware how, despite the ageing of our bodies, there is that part of us that does not age. In this way we can drink from the Fount of Eternal Youth.

H. P. Blavatsky said that all our success as regards the practice of altruism is in the recognition of the Higher Self, colourless, cosmopolitan, unsectarian, sexless, unworldly, altruistic, and the doing of our work on that basis. It is the identification of that Higher Self in ourselves and others that makes us more and more aware of the immortality of the True Self. The Bhagavad-Gita tells us that this Spiritual Self is indestructible; fire cannot burn it, water cannot wet it, the sword cannot injure it. It is untouched by any of the troubles of the world, physical, mental and moral. This is a great lesson to learn and to teach.

It is important, then, to realize practically that there is a part of us that does not alter despite the changes around and within us. That is one of the most important teachings of Theosophy or of any genuine spiritual movement. it is certainly the most important as regards Buddhism and Vedantism. They both emphasize the transience of the physical body and the personal self, but point in their own way to an Eternal Dimension. It is a lesson of great hope to everyone and should be spread over the world to counteract all the violence and depression that has followed materialistic teachings and propaganda. It is obvious that all is not well with the society that we live in now. It is riddled with deception, vice, illness, brutality and so many other negative vibrations. No wonder the weather is deteriorating, natural disasters are on the increase, wars and confrontations are mushrooming, and new illnesses, physical, mental and moral, springing up every day. Even the orthodox medical profession is beginning to admit that physical illness follows in the wake of wrong thought, that it originates in the mind. Well, Theosophy teaches that we are all ONE, so we must think of the results of the negativity in the COLLECTIVE mind of humanity.

It is important that all of us, who are capable of an unselfish impulse, try to awaken to the Divinity in ourselves and in others. It is essential to develop Love in its true sense. Cold intellectual study of the Teachings will not get us anywhere. It does not matter if one is a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Pagan, a Christian, or whatever; these can be just names that separate us—illusions created by the lower mind that likes to imagine itself separate and so builds its own world, based upon the great dire heresy of separateness. One of the most subtle of these chimeras manifests in the form of exoteric religions.

To flower into truly human beings, we need to come together as just that, as humans, beyond religions and philosophies, political organizations, etc. Let us read all scriptures as One Scripture, see all people as One Humanity. Let us feel and see the spiritual beauty of this world, deep in the core of our hearts and therefore in the heart of all things.

The Master K.H. once said that "the greatest consolation in and the foremost duty of life is not to give pain, and avoid causing suffering to man or beast." In this world of illusions and false values that go under the name of "religion," we fall far short of possessing those qualities that cause us to flower into humanity. In our heart the lower nature weaves its web of deceit and we justify acts that have nothing to do with us as human beings. We compliment ourselves on being uncaring or harsh, or asserting ourselves at the expense of others, on indulging in all those things that fall under the heading of self-esteem, while the real esteem should be for the Self, the Higher, Imperishable Self, and for that dimension to our being that is shared by everyone, black or white, rich or poor, male or female, good or bad. The mistake that is made is that esteem of the modern phychologist and therapist is for the personal self.

It is this worship of the physical that is the cause of most of the troubles in modern society. It is said that the Atlanteans brought about their own destruction because they degenerated into worship of the physical and all that goes with it. Let us make sure that we do not go down the same road.

Fortunately, we have an answer. Theosophy gives us that. It is altruism.

Confucius said, "There are only two paths: human fellow-feeling, true humanity, or the absence of human fellow-feeling, the absence of humanity." Master Zhou, commenting on this, added: "If you leave the former, you enter the latter. If for a day or for an hour you do not recognize human fellow-feeling, then for a day or for an hour you are not truly human. Without human fellow-feeling, we are not human." This is because if we labour under the illusion of separateness, we grow to believe that we as temporary personalities are the be-all and end-all of existence. The key to being human is this realization that we are all brothers and sisters under the skin. This has nothing to do with any sentimental ideal or with political diplomacy, but is a fact in nature. Even materialistic scientists are coming to terms with the fact that we share with others the very physical atoms of our bodies, so how much more is this true on higher levels! As above, so below, and vice versa.

Rumi, the Sufi poet, says that: "Love rends every instant a hundred veils." It alone can rend the veils that we have created through selfishness, through building a society diametrically opposed to the words of all those Great Ones who have come to earth to awaken us to who we really are.

That is why these Great Souls were sent to this earth—whether Jesus Christ, Krishna, Gautama Buddha, or the myriad other Christs, Buddhas and Krishnas throughout the ages. In Theosophy we learn of a secret Brotherhood of Adepts who constantly look after humanity and are concerned with its welfare. They have renounced the bliss of Nirvana to remain in contact with the world, and out of an intense and undying love for poor orphan humanity try ceaselessly to awaken our benumbed souls to some inkling of the beauty and depth of our true nature. At their head is the "Silent Watcher"—a Being who, out of compassion, watches over this earth-plane ceaselessly.

This protection takes the form of a "Guardian Wall" which has been "built by the hands of many Masters of Compassion, raised by their tortures, by their blood cemented," and it "shields mankind, since man is man, protecting it from further and far greater misery and sorrow." So says The Voice of the Silence. The Theosophical Movement was started by members of this Brotherhood with the express intention of helping humanity to become aware of its Divine Nature. These exalted beings are the unvanquished friends of mankind, those who help us to find our humanity, to find that humane nature that will transform us into the Children of Light that we truly are.

So it is important for us to realize that this Hierarchy of Compassionate Beings is endeavouring to bring further help to us all, and to continue the work of the Buddhas, Christs and all the lesser lights. We should all take great hope from that, from the fact that there is a "Silent Watcher" who supervises the welfare of this planet. Also greater hope can be had from the realization that each one of us has his or her own "Silent Watcher," who is none other than the higher imperishable Triad of Atma, Buddhi, Manas. This Watcher does watch over us, protect us, guide us, although we may not be aware of it. Of course we have to be somewhat awakened to its presence to be the better able to receive its humanizing and civilizing influences. We can shut ourselves off from its Light and wander in the darkness of our own making, which, unfortunately, most of society does, and suffer terrible consequences. Yet, there is something beautiful, good and kind in this world that is always leading us deeper into the centre of our very own being. This centre is identical in each one of us. It is the awakening that humanizes our nature, that slowly transforms us from animal beings to true humans.

So there is always reason to be cheerful, despite the darkest phases of our life. All the above-mentioned enlightened beings, such as Buddha and Christ, started off very much like us. They were saddened and sickened by the state of the world at the time. We probably all know the story of Gautama Buddha, how he was protected as a Prince until curiosity drove him to sneak out into the city, and there he saw old age, sickness, and death; all of which turned his mind and fired him with the quest to find permanency among all these changes. This is also the story of everyone. It is when we as individuals become aware of the impermanence of our personal selves and all that is around us that we start the journey to our true Selves.


(To be concluded)




Jesus said: Whoever knows the All but fails to know himself lacks everything.

The Gospel according to Thomas


to return to the table of contents