Theosophy as Guide of Life

If Theosophy is not able to give practical guidance in our daily struggles with and in life, then it is of little use to men and women of the world. If Theosophy is like modern mathematical astronomy, remote and removed from our intimate problems of pain and sorrow, of joy and happiness, then its interest is but academic. If Theosophy is merely a speculative philosophy which helps learned people to discuss the problems of the Absolute and the Relative, the One in the Many, and the Many in the one, but does not help them to bear a toothache with composure and equanimity, then too Theosophy would be of little worth to us all. The test of the worth of any science or any philosophy is twofold: First, it must give adequate knowledge in terms of principles and fundamentals about man and the universe in which he lives. Secondly, this knowledge must not be speculative; it must be practical in the sense that these principles and fundamentals can be applied to the daily problems of life.

To take an example from modern science: The science of chemistry is not only theoretical; applied chemistry has affected the lives of the people. By his discoveries and inventions, the chemist has revolutionized the modes and methods of our lives.

But there is one very remarkable feature about modern scientific knowledge. Modern science began its career in an atmosphere of religious persecution and therefore it has developed along purely materialistic lines. If modern science and its methods are still dealing with matter as a primary fundamental, it is because of religious persecution of the great scientists. Therefore is modern science unconcerned with spiritual, ethical and moral propositions. A chemist or a physicist, a biologist or a pathologist, in prosecuting his investigations is not concerned with the moral and ethical aspects of life. Have modern inventions elevated human morals? So far, the answer is in the negative. To take another example: Chemical knowledge, which has grown and grown, is utilized to make powerful weapons, poisonous gases and powders. Why do chemists consent to such nefarious acts? Why do they not see and recognize their grave responsibility as makers of war? Because they are employed by rich and influential financiers who manufacture armaments. In this example, knowledge is divorced from morality and ethics. Therefore even when knowledge is available, its applications do not always elevate human life. In our modern civilization, knowledge and morality do not go hand in hand.

Now turn to ancient science and its modern heir, Theosophy. Apply the double test: First, is there adequate knowledge—not speculative but practical? And then inquire if this knowledge degrades human life. In the ancient world, science was religious and religion and philosophy were not speculative, composed of metaphysical abstractions, but also taught their practical and ethical applications. Therefore, we find that great scientists and philosophers of ancient times were also grand altruists and philanthropists. They taught the masses, taking into account the moral limitations of their character.

Knowledge and ethics went hand in hand and these ancient teachers devised ways to safeguard their own positions and to fulfil their own responsibilities. First, they wrote or spoke in terms understandable by the men and women of the time who had a certain depth of ethical and moral perception. These ancient philosophers did not give out their knowledge indiscriminately; they guarded themselves. More, a certain kind of knowledge, which was beyond the ken and morals of the ordinary run of humanity, they kept private and secret. Thus arose the exoteric and esoteric systems of knowledge. In Hinduism there is Para and Apara Vidya, and more—Gupta Vidya. The Buddha preached openly for 45 years, but he taught his esoteric wisdom privately to his Bhikkhus. In the Christian Gospels Jesus is reported to have said to his disciples: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (Matthew, VII, 6). And more specifically he said: "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand." (Luke, VIII, 10)

This system of symbols and emblems, allegories and parables, as also the method of imparting higher knowledge to the morally worthy, enabled the Ancient Teachers to help humanity make all-round progress. Modern Theosophy is the direct heir of Alexandrian Theosophy, the Buddha's Bodhi-Dharma, the Brahma-Vidya of the Hindus. In the Theosophy of H. P. Blavatsky and her Masters, common sense is not violated, high morality is demanded, and knowledge is available not only to the intelligent mind but also to the pure in heart. Theosophy, as a philosophy, as a definite system of knowledge, offers not merely speculations and theories but practical guidance. For every grade of mind, for every aspirant, unlearned or learned, Theosophy teaches the rich how to use their wealth and poor how to derive benefit from poverty. Theosophy may be compared to a mountain; grade after grade, height after height is there. Humanity composed of sages and savages, and all those who come in between, climb that mountain, each member of the race reaching his own level, his own height. There are abstruse and very difficult teachings that few of us can understand, but there are teachings which all not only can understand, but also make use of.

Let us now turn to the practical and ethical aspects and see what kind of guidance Theosophy has to offer to us.

What is the chief, the central problem, of every member of the human race? What is it that faces every man or woman, whatever his or her station in life, in the East or in the West? The problem of every one of us is that of adjustment, between ourselves and the universe in which we live. If we could learn the secret of adjustment, if we could know how to adapt ourselves to our circumstances, how to draw the best, the most, and the worthiest out of our environment, then we would be possessing the key both to wisdom and to happiness. To adjust and to adapt—that is our task. To adjust ourselves to our families and others around us, to adapt ourselves to our city and country, and in ever-widening circles to the universe at large—that is what we need. The Great Soul, the Perfected Mahatma who has attained Mukti and Nirvana, may be said to have adjusted himself to the universe governed by Law and filled through and through with Light.

Our difficulties arise because we do not know the science and the art of adjusting and adapting ourselves to our environment and circumstances. We desire others to adapt themselves to our likes and dislikes; we want our family and friends to adjust themselves to us as personalities, and naturally we meet with failure and frustration. There is continuous struggle and strife because we do not succeed in bringing others round to our personal point of view, to our requirements. We do not act thus consciously and deliberately; we act in ignorance, and our motives are hidden from us. We shall understand this problem of our own individual struggle better if we get away from our personal self and examine it in the light of the struggles of collective humanity.

As with nations, so with individuals: Are we not, each one of us, looking at our environment and the world from our own personal point of view? Are we not, each one of us, trying to help ourselves irrespective of others, even competing with and fearing them? And just as the political leaders have failed and are failing because they will not get away from economics and physical-plane existence and develop a universal, spiritual and moral perspective, so also each one of us is bound to meet frustration if we do not get away from the narrow physical sense-life and examine ourselves by the light of moral and spiritual principles.

Scientific discoveries and growing knowledge have unified the world. But that unification has not taken place in the minds and morals of the people. Moral beliefs and mental outlooks differ and divide people. What are these dividing factors in the sphere of mind and morals? Scientific knowledge per se is not a bar to human unity. There are two main abysses in modern civilization which divide man from man and prevent the emergence of a truly International World. Religion is one; politics is the second; for religion has become sectarian and politics is corrupted.

Religions divide; political opinions divide. Social customs and manners differ because of religions; nations show separative tendencies because of politics. Applying this to our own personal lives, in our homes with their many problems: Each one has his or her own temperament, personal habits, etc., which cause differences in the family; e.g., differing tastes in matters of food almost fight each for its own satisfaction. We may say, "But these are not serious problems." True, they are not, but only as long as each gets what he or she wants. Religious people are tolerant when there is no interference; the orthodox Hindu is tolerant of Islam as long as the cow is not butchered; the Muslim is tolerant of the temple as long as there is neither pipe nor drum near a mosque! This is a sham tolerance; it is but armed neutrality.

The guidance of Theosophy to each man and woman is: Remove from within you that feeling of sectarian religion which divides one from another; and the same is the guidance about politics—remove the feeling that party-politics raises. Look at the problems of life, personal and individual, or collective and racial, not by and through feelings but with the aid of knowledge and reason—knowledge first and reason next, for there can be no real reasoning without a basis of true knowledge.

Therefore Theosophy advises us to acquire knowledge so that we may succeed in adapting ourselves to the world, in adjusting ourselves to our environment. This knowledge and the reason and the thought that follow, enable us to destroy the barriers between man and man, without destroying our own individual integrity. A word of caution: Adaptability does not mean compromising with wrongdoing or sectarianism or superstition. In adjusting ourselves to our environment, we have not to descend to the level of the ignorant and the credulous. We have to rise to the altitude where we contact Free Souls, Reliant Souls. We have to free ourselves from the binding, limiting forces of mere feelings, and learn to rely on the Religion of the Heart and Mind. Religion, for most people, is the religion of blood and belief; and blood and belief are roots of struggle and sorrow. War of any and every kind is in the blood of humans and therefore in their beliefs. Study of Theosophy will help us to understand further what the Religion of the Heart and the Mind is.

What is the function of the Mind and its organs, the brain and nervous system? Just as all the processes of the body are registered and can be known in the brain, so the knowledge of Theosophy gives the student the code of Religion, not for belief but for understanding all things. The function of the heart is to keep the blood circulating, and with every breath the heart throws of dross and takes in health. The Heart Doctrine, taught by Theosophy, brings to the student something more than knowledge and understanding; it gives him the strength of conviction necessary for right action.

So we need the Religion of the Mind and the Heart in place of the Religion of blood and belief; the latter divides, the former unifies. This guidance of Theosophy enables us to live by understanding the Law of Brotherhood; not partial brotherhood, not the brotherhood of sectarian religion and of party politics. The Religion of Mind and Heart alone energizes us to make Universal Brotherhood a reality. It is the comprehension and practice in life of the Doctrine of Universal Brotherhood that enlightens the human soul and makes it truly free, truly liberated. Such freed and liberated Souls are the Great Teachers of the race, two of whom are the real Founders of the Theosophical Movement. Through H. P. Blavatsky they gave the Teaching of the Religion of the Mind and Heart, which accepted would make the world mentally and morally unified, because that Religion brings Peace and Enlightenment to the man or woman who studies and practises it.

The only ones who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.

—Albert Schweitzer

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