Modern society is very much one of information. We seem to be obsessed with filling our heads with trivial facts. Now we have the Internet which gives us access to almost unlimited information on a wide range of topics. This is said to be a great leap forward for humanity in that we can acquire a great deal of knowledge with relative ease. It is a step forward, however, only for the lower aspects of the mind, which accumulates facts but shuts out the true light of the Higher Mind.
Human nature in general has not changed much over the last few thousand years. It has still not learned how to rely upon the Inner Self in contradistinction to the outer. We have built a civilization that is reliant upon externals, upon machines and devices. In England recently there was a fuel shortage, due to a strike by the suppliers. In a few days the whole country was brought to a virtual standstill; even food supplies dwindled to practically nothing because of "panic buying," i.e., people selfishly thinking of themselves and their own families and ignoring the plight of others. Lack of fuel had meant that deliveries to shops had ceased, but if people had thought in a communal sense, the situation would not have escalated to the level that it did. it is also true that if there were a breakdown in the computer system, due to a virus for example, much chaos would result.
It is true to say that there are some benefits to all of this from the perspective of education, but the technological society is in danger of controlling instead of being controlled. All the great scriptures of the world point to man being capable of achieving "wonders," by the development of his own spiritual nature, by disciplining his own mind. Sadly nowadays we chase after externals, mere will-o'-the wisps that will lead us nowhere in the end, except a divorce from the Light of the Soul and deeper into despair and doubt. This society is an extremely cynical one in which people gain pleasure from gossip and denouncing their neighbour and from repeating the Old Testament adage, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," which Jesus refuted in the New Testament, telling us instead to love our enemies and forgive them. But nowadays it is a case of "revenge is sweet" and people revelling in the fact that they made another human being suffer "deservedly." Elderly people who seek only peace in their later years are preyed upon by violent criminals and confidence-tricksters, weak and miserable examples of manhood who exemplify the worst in a material Society.
Even "serial killers" are lauded. A recent film, "Hannibal," tells of the exploits of a cannibalistic murderer, and pictures of the character "grace" the covers of countless magazines worldwide. What is more, the film broke all box-office records in its first few days of release. This kind of salacious material will certainly pollute the collective imagination of humanity and incite weak, mediumistic natures to commit the most abysmal crimes. But even the strong-willed cannot be free from the taint of such degrading material, whether it takes the form of films, television, books or music. H.P.B. says in one of her articles that dwelling on gruesome murders can help to cultivate the "evil eye" in certain individuals and that the deadly magnetic influence will be passed on to others by merely gazing at them. This is a chilling thought, given society's obsession with murder and "horror" in films and books.
H.P.B. also tells us that we must never despair of humanity if we are to be true Theosophists, therefore we need to find positive solutions to the world's plight. It is obvious that it is the preponderance of materiality that has caused this sad state. There is no longer any appreciation of true beauty, the beauty that arises from a respect for all things spiritual. The Tao Te Ching says:
By not exalting the talented
Yet the whole of society is based upon the exact opposite of these wise maxims. We put a great deal of effort into making material goods seem, not just desirable, but essential. Therefore, according to this reasoning, we are not leading life to the full unless we possess all the latest material gadgets! We are prepared to go to any extent to obtain these goods, because, if we have exalted technological "wonders" we have at the same time degraded the concept of humanity. The Theosophical Movement in general was the latest attempt to try to reveal to the world the true nature of humanity and its place in the unfoldment of consciousness. It also reveals to us the value of human life, which is not truly understood by the majority of people.
Low "self-esteem" is a common problem for which people consult psychiatrists and counsellors nowadays. Depression follows in the wake of this. The following verse from The Voice of the Silence is very appropriate here:
Alas, alas, that all men should possess Alaya, be one with the Great Soul, and that possessing it, Alaya should so little avail them!
We have so much potential and yet squander it at every moment of our lives. It seems that we try to cultivate the negative side of our nature, almost consciously. Lust, anger, greed, jealousy and hatred are looked upon as normal and regarded as "human" emotions by the light of modern values. Ancient texts predicted a time when values would be reversed and acts of kindness, compassion and gentleness would be regarded as impractical and the reverse accepted as necessary. Sadly, that time is upon us. It is now considered important to be self-centred both in business transactions and ordinary life. Those of us who try to cultivate the more sensitive side of our natures are regarded as "soft" and of no account in modern society. This animalistic "survival of the fittest" attitude ignores all the finer human feelings that are described in all the sacred texts. It is true that the world needs more tender loving care and it is good that we have the example of many men and women who have shown this in their lives and teachings. H.P.B., who herself was a prime example, mentions two instances from the Roman-Catholic faith—Father Damien and Sister Gertrude, who lived and died to help the lepers on the Island of Molokai. In the Buddhist faith there are countless holy men who exemplify the words of the Master K.H.: "The greatest consolation in and the foremost duty of life is not to give pain, and avoid causing suffering to man or beast."
This is alsot true in all other traditions, no matter how much they may have been tainted by dogmas and rituals, etc. There are always those who transcend tradition and see beyond the dead letter. Writing of the above mentioned Sister Gertrude in her article "The Last Song of the Swan," H.P.B. says that which can be applied to all those beings who "sweeter make the Ocean's bitter waves—that mighty sea formed of the tears of men":
She is the rare manifestation of a "Higher Ego," free from the trammels of all the elements of its Lower one; influenced by these elements only so far as the errors of her terrestrial sense perceptions—with regard to religious form—seem to bear a true witness to that which is still human in her Personality—namely, her reasoning powers. Hence the ceaseless and untiring self-sacrifice of such natures to what appears religious duty, but which in sober truth is the very essence and esse of the dormant Individuality—"divine compassion," which is "no attribute" but verily "the law of laws, eternal Harmony, Alaya's SELF."
In this seemingly cruel and heartless society, it is heartening to think that there are beings in all walks of life and at all levels who are actively trying to help humanity despite its numerous failings. These beings form part of what is known as the "Guardian Wall" and work on different levels. At the lowest level there may be no knowledged of the import of the task. Some people have a natural desire to help others, even though they may have no religious or spiritual inclinations. More enlightened beings are able to continue this work with full consciousness of what they are doing and there are countless degrees in between these extremes. It is therefore essential that we realize that there are constant endeavours to prevent civilization from slipping deeper into the mire of its own making and that we should always have faith in the TRUE human nature, not the failings of the transitory personality. From our studies and meditations we should find methods to promote spirituality and to help to awaken humanity to the TRUTH. We are all different. Some of us are intuitional, some poetic, others scientific and logical. There are ways that each of these types can contribute something to the welfare of the world. This is Theosophical work pure and simple. All these viewpoints are represented in the works of H.P.B. and the Masters, as well as in other genuine spiritual writings. It is up to each one of us individually and collectively to make Theosophy a living reality in our daily lives.
It is evident that when toleration is not the outcome of indifference it must arise from wide-spreading charity and large-minded sympathy. Intolerance is pre-eminently the consequence of ignorance and jealousy. He who fondly believes that he has got the great ocean in his family water-jug is naturally intolerant of his neighbour, who also is pleased to imagine that he has poured the broad expanse of the sea of truth into his own particular pitcher. But anyone who, like the Theosophist, knows how infinite is that ocean of eternal wisdom, to be fathomed by no one man, class, or party, and realizes how little the largest vessel made by man contains in comparison to what lies dormant and still unperceived in its dark, bottomless depths, cannot help but be tolerant. For he sees that others have filled their little water-jugs at the same great reservoir in which he has dipped his own, and if the water in the various pitchers seems different to the eye, it can only be because it is discoloured by impurities that were in the vessel before the pure crystalline element—a portion of the one eternal truth—entered into it.