[Reprinted from THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, May 1975.]
As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.
Theosophy is the message of the heart and is sometimes called the Heart Doctrine; but it also satisfies the intellect, advocating as it does study and search. We are told in the First Item of The Secret Doctrine that the facts constituting the system of thought we know today as Theosophy were collected and collated by countless generations of Sages and Seers, and no one's experience or vision was accepted until it was checked, tested and verified by the visions and experiences of other great Seers and Adepts, so that this body of wisdom is the result of collective evidence and is not based on anyone's independent experience or authority.
And so Theosophy is the balanced combination of the heart and the head. Sometimes, however, the heart message is sadly neglected, and as a result, particularly today, we find civilization oscillating between two great fires, the fire of the heart and the fire of the lower passional nature. The fire of the heart was originally lit by the great Sages, Saviours and Teachers of humanity, and time and again there have been attempts to rekindle that fire. But, because of man's ignorance and evil ways, his passions and tyrannies, the dying embers of that fire emit today but a fitful glow.
Both the heart and the head play important roles in the constitution of man. Modern psychology gives us a wealth of details pertaining to the interaction between the two, but it is yet far from any real explanation, or even recognition, of the ability of the heart to think. Mind and heart constitute the fundamental motivating powers of man, his two principal organs for functioning as a self-conscious human being. So naturally the understanding of man's mental and heart power is of paramount importance.
What is the mind? It is that by which one thinks and reasons, but it is much more than that. Reasoning from premises to conclusions is the intellectual aspect of the mind and a very necessary aspect. But the power to reason is just one small aspect of the mind. It has another vaster function, and little is known in reference to this. It is the ability of the mind to reflect. Reflect what? Whence originate our ideas? Could ideas exist apart from the thinking mind? That is something that needs to be pondered upon.
From an evolutionary viewpoint, life has never had any beginning and therefore can have no end; and so we cannot say when ideas first originated. But we can say that we as thinking beings on this earth originated about 18,000,000 years ago. And so for us there was a beginning in the human thinking process, but the ideas had been thought by millions of beings millions and billions of years before. Where were those ideas when the beings disappeared? They were impressed, implanted, photographed, if you like, on a substance which Theosophy calls astral for want of a better word. Nothing is ever lost and every impression, thought, feeling is indelibly implanted. Therefore, the mind of every human being has the power to reflect on many of its impressions under many conditions.
The mind of man has five faculties—thought, will, feeling, imagination and memory. When the mind, which is in itself something of a sensitive plate or mirror, reflects ideas, there come to the assistance of that mind some of these faculties. To see a reflection requires a form—imagination; seeing is imagining, imagining is seeing. Also, as the result of that reflection, a feeling can be stimulated, a certain kind of feeling.
There are many kinds of feeling, because man is both animal and godlike; there is animal feeling and there is divine feeling, lower and higher feeling, impure and pure feeling. The senses contribute to partial knowledge of life, but limited as they are by matter, they generally bring us feelings which are physical sensations. The animal world also experiences these.
Then another step can be taken by the mind—the use of the faculty to reason about those feelings. We have human emotions, feelings such as love, courage, fearlessness, feelings of loyalty, of honour, of patriotism. They are feelings which are superior to the animal feelings, for they have been thought about, reasoned about. When we approach this particular area of the mind, that of human feelings and emotions, we have come into a realm which may be classified under the general head "psychic." This is where the intellect and the feelings, the mind and the heart, begin to merge. The term "psychic" is used to express the whole gamut of man's powers of mind, from the highest spiritual to the lowest physical.
To turn from the mind to the heart. The illumination of the heart, the power of the heart to think, would be useless except for the fact that there is something to illumine. Of what use would light be if there was no life, no world, nothing to be lit up? The heart is the centre of the spiritual man, the Real Man. It is sometimes spoken of as the king of the body. There is a spot in the heart which is the first to live in the foetus and the last to die. The Deity, the only Deity we can know anything about, lives in the heart, the spiritual heart.
Now, we shall find that in the higher realms of being, heart and mind are one entity. In the psychic realm, desire and intellect are the two ruling principles; but on the plane of the spiritual man, these merge and become one. Many a problem, such as that of good and evil, has arisen because of the separation of heart and mind. On the animal or even the purely human plane of existence, heart and mind do not act as one, but as two separate and generally antagonistic forces, and this is where the trouble begins. This is the source of all selfishness and separateness.
Our ability to receive and give off impressions is generally attributed to material or sensuous causes. But the actual causal processes originate in Spirit, which is the Real Man and of whom little or nothing is known. Therefore, there has been no real basis for ethics other than sentiment, religious dogmas and beliefs, and that which cannot be explained by these means is termed "miraculous." Theosophy postulates that law prevails everywhere in the universe, and that true knowledge cannot be acquired except on the basis of effort and by the use not only of the mind but of faculties that in most people are practically dormant for lack of use.
To return to our mental faculties, we can take an illustration to understand how they function. Supposing a person enters a wood with a little child. The child strays and a rattlesnake is not far off. The first intimation of this to the adult is the sound of the rattle, which is impressed upon him through the sense of hearing. As a result of that sensation, and through association of ideas, a fear arises, and that is memory, for that person in the past has passed through a similar experience. We have, therefore, the interaction of sensation and feeling. Another faculty of the mind is quickly brought to bear upon the situation, namely, reason; and because of reason, memory and sensation, the whole picture is focused in the mind of the adult. In spite of that, and to save the life of the child, the adult attacks the rattlesnake, risks his own life, and out of that experience arises a feeling—we call it courage. We know that an animal would have reacted in the same manner up to a certain point, would have recoiled with fear and aversion, would have shown courage to save its young; but in that experience what other faculties would be absent? Reason and a certain type of imagination, because animals have a lower form of imagination and thought. There is also the faculty of will. When that quick effort was made which resulted in the saving of the child's life, there was the employment of the faculty of will. That will is a heart thought, because until will is free of lower desire it is not the spiritual will. The heart is the seat of all potential life, energy, thought and will. Let us remember that.
We could give example after example to show how feelings arise. We could see how the feeling of hate would arise in a person, the reverse of the higher feeling of courage; but let us just say briefly that all negative feelings are an admixture, an alloy, of animal sensations. It is only in the realm of the lower man, through his sense-nature and animal proclivities, that there arise the opposities—such as light and darkness, like and dislike, hate and love—and this is because of the fact that we are so preoccupied with our mind processes that we have fallen away from the source of the heart, we have lost the ability to reason, to imagine, to will and to remember in conjunction with qualities which are entirely of the heart. Recognition of this and the ability to sort out, from among the heap of rubbish which constitutes our lower feelings, the nuggets of gold that lie in the heart, has an important bearing upon the subject of ethics.
How could we eradicate the lower, bad feelings? By educating the mind and purifying desire. The mind is magnetic, is electrical, and in that sense is electrically and magnetically connected with all life and becomes a focus, by attraction or repulsion, for all the correlates which we have just mentioned. When they begin to engulf that aspect of man which we speak of as the desire nature, tides of sensation sweep over and around us, but in the very midst of those sensations, a feeling or emotion can arise like the intoning of a deep bell, and bring back from the distant shores waves of compassion, of altruism, of selflessness, cleansing, purifying.
Wherever we find, therefore, such feelings as remorse for wrong actions committed, the prickings of conscience, better resolves and altruistic urges, we can be sure that these originate from the mind of the heart, and impress themselves upon man's lower nature. Many explanations have been put forth, many terms and words have been used to account for these experiences, but they are not fully understood. There are people whose lives and characters have been completed transformed as the result of an experience. Why should that happen to that person and not to someone else? And what is it that actually takes place? Theosophy would say it is all the working of Karma, which is a word meaning the Law of Retribution, the Law of cause and effect, or Ethical Causation. We reap what we have sown not only in the past of this life, but also in the other lives, for we have lived in other bodies, we have had other minds and other hearts and other faculties, and we come back into this life with the accumulated experience of all these. Even without the knowledge of this, we sometimes act under the impulse of an urge; we have rung the bell of the heart and something happens, something breaks through—when we are sufficiently freed from the dominance of the lower senses and desires—something beyond the ken of the individual's brain-mind.
Therefore, sometimes, may be under great duress and stress, the stream of the heart's afflatus pours like a fountain upon that being and he becomes another person, able to accomplish what previously would have been considered a miracle, and is no longer held fast by that which constituted his erstwhile normal, everyday life. The power of the heart to think! The person no longer thinks as he did previously. He feels as if he has risen from one plane to another, has passed from a condition of mortality to a condition of immortality, where his power is illimitable, illumined by the light of the heart. Some people speak of having heard a voice, and if they are too strongly embedded in religious beliefs, they call it the voice of God.
Theosophists would say the same thing, but their "God" would not be a Being or form with limits, the "voice" would not be a cry, but a song. Poets, creative thinkers, sages, prophets, have all related such experiences, generally in language which is symbolical, for it is impossible to put into words the full extent of the language of the heart. It is not so much a thought, an idea, as a feeling, and if we are honest and sincere we shall have to admit that, if we have ever touched greatness withing ourselves, perhaps recognized by no one else, then the ideas or thoughts which arose within us followed a feeling and did not precede that feeling; and Theosophy would say that that feeling was the thought of the spiritual man, the Soul. Those who make these ideas realities to their conscious minds are the enfranchised beings, the Mahatmas, the Adepts. We have not made any channels through which that idea can come to our brain-mind other than recognizing it as an ideal, a feeling.