[Reprinted from THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, February 1963.]
It is to infuse a new current of ideas and aspirations into modern thought, in short, to supply a logical basis for an elevated morality, a science and philosophy which is suited to the knowledge of the day, that Theosophy comes before the world. Mere physical philanthropy, apart from the infusion of new influences and ennobling conceptions of life into the minds of the masses, is worthless. The gradual assimilation by mankind of great spiritual truths will alone revolutionize the face of civilization, and ultimately result in a far more effective panacea for evil, than the mere tinkering of superficial misery.
One of the characteristics of the Dark Age, the Kali Yuga, in which we live is the rapidity with which all things come to pass in it. In these fast-moving times it is not uncommon to find the unexpected happening. Effects are being felt by individuals and nations which seem to be out of all proportion to the causes sown.
An undercurrent of turmoil is prevalent in every quarter of the globe. Fear, war, poverty, hunger, disease have encompassed all. So much so that pessimistic forces are overpowering our race and we hear the doom of our civilization pronounced. But the destruction of our civilization should not be taken to spell the death of human souls and the stoppage of their progression towards perfection. Civilizations have arisen and slowly declined or crashed to nothingness, but the human mind-soul has always gone on, ascending the spiral of evolution. National governments may be overthrown, but the government of the natural order of things will go on. Popes and their churches will be swept away, but the Spirit of Religion will survive. Nuclear bombs may destroy laboratories and libraries and the knowledge that they hold, but the true Knowledge which is in the custody of the elect of the Race can never be destroyed and can be regained by a spirit of fearless inquiry. Mundane pomp and pride may be swept away, but the meek in heart will be ready to inherit the earth and to create a new civilization.
Students of Theosophy are labouring, not in blind faith, but by the light of sure knowledge, for a better time, a brighter morrow. In our civilization, in the name of freedom, license and selfishness are practised in personal as in national and international life. Knowledge, sufficient and genuine, enables the student to see that the death of selfishness alone will ameliorate the condition of the world. Legislative enactments can never wipe out selfishness and its triple progeny—Lust, Anger and Greed. Nor can religious preachers or social reformers succeed in destroying selfishness. And the failure in every case is due to lack of true knowledge of the spiritual condition of man, his aim and destiny.
It is only through self-reform of individual units that humanity en masse can be uplifted and made whole. Hence the need so to educate the individual as to make him aware of his own responsibility. That is the task for which students of Theosophy have to prepare themselves. The preparation involves re-forming their own morality, i.e., the acquiring of a new code of ethics founded upon the principles of the Esoteric Philosophy—not for self-advancement, but with a view to becoming better philanthropists, more efficient workers for the cause of Universal Brotherhood. In order to become effective servers of humanity, they are called upon to form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood, without any distinctions whatsoever. The binding power necessary for the realization of Brotherhood comes from knowledge and morality. To practise Brotherhood means the purification of one's feelings and character according to the principles of the philosophy and science of Theosophy. If true knowledge and morality are not made the basis of life and their universal nature is not perceived, progress cannot take place and the world cannot be saved.
Students of Theosophy have to rise higher than the creed, religious and social, into which they are born. Often they fail to recognize their foes when they meet them and are caught in the whirl of worldliness. In these days there is much specious talk about better standards of material living, which misleads the student. Mental emancipation from worldly notions constitutes the right asceticism that he is called upon to practise. He has also to emancipate himself from any false philosophical notions and formulae that may have come to be accepted in place of religion and social practices rejected as false. Without due study he may but replace his old superstitions and ignorance with new ones; and, although to him they represent Theosophical Verities, they may be but a new set of superstitions and a new bundle of false knowledge. But, when the mind is purified by knowledge and is made ready to receive the light and guidance of the Manasic Ego, the Inner Ruler, then is the right way to Theosophic living discerned.
The mundane standard of morality is the aspirant's strong foe. Outside of metaphysics, the world of today has largely lost the values of morality and has substituted a code of convenience and convention that has one application for the rich and another for the poor; one for one's own clique or country and another for the opposite camp. True morality is at a discount while a tinsel show of rectitude is accepted as the hallmark of respectability.
The newer outlook, the larger morality, require the training and subduing of the Kama elements pertaining to the personality in order that the latter may become ready to glimpse the Light of Higher Manas, to listen to the inner Voice of Buddhi and to be filled with the divine radiance of Atma. Then only can come about the death of selfishness.
The application of moral rules has always been an arduous process in which the falls are many while the recompense generally remains afar off. For the disciple, his dharma—his religion or, in a wider sense, his duty—creates his morality. At every turn he has to seek for Truth with a liberal mind ere deciding upon what his duty is and how it can be performed.
It has been said that the first step in practical occultism is to guard and devote oneself to the interests of others. The disciple is taught to examine his motive, to keep ward and watch over it and to guide it according to right knowledge. A Master of Wisdom has written:
...motives are vapours, as attenuated as the atmospheric moisture: and, as the latter develops its dynamic energy for man's use only when concentrated and applied as steam or hydraulic power, so the practical value of good motives is best seen when they take the form of deeds.
Loving and self-sacrificing deeds give rise to Self-Knowledge. The puzzling injunction of the Master Krishna to the disciple Arjuna, to offer everything as sacrifice "to me alone" and then to act, puzzles no more when it is recognized that the disciple is learning to find the only basis of true morality. It is summed up in the grand words of the Gita:
But further listen to my supreme and most mysterious words which I will now for thy good reveal unto thee because thou art dearly beloved of me. Place thy heart upon me as I have declared myself to be, serve me, offer unto me alone, and bow down before me alone, and thou shalt come to me; I swear it, for thou art dear to me. Forsake every other religion and take refuge alone with me; grieve not, for I shall deliver thee from all transgressions. (XVIII, 64-66)
Man—a being in search of meaning.