ON THE WATCH TOWER
In recent years, we have witnessed several situations which recall forcibly to mind the centuries old teaching of the Wise One that hatred ceaseth not by hatred. Revengeful and retaliatory actions and attitudes, with each party determined not to let the other get away with any advantage, have made such areas of the world as the Middle East and Ireland arenas of prolonged and tragic conflict. Newspapers and magazines have recently portrayed in detail the immense suffering endured by large numbers of innocent people, both in Israel and in Lebanon, when brutal terrorist attacks and sternly unmerciful reprisals took place. This is but one example of many events of the kind. The circle of mutual hatred and suspicion is bound to widen with each revenge-filled explosion.
In the larger field of world affairs the alarming and seemingly endless arms-race is the result of mutual suspicion, fear and hatred on a vast scale. This arms-race has gone on for so long that, except for the few who are deeply concerned with the destiny of the human race, mankind generally has become accustomed to it. Yet it could one day lead to a tragedy in comparison to which the travail of the Middle East and Ireland would pale into insignificance. Mutual suspicion and fear and the perpetuation of hatred can only lead the world into conflagration.
Each explosion leaves behind a trail of death and destruction. The widow deprived of her husband, the bereaved mother, daughter, brother or sister mourns a personal loss, the bitterness of which is held to the account of the enemy. It is rare that the mourners are conscious that pain and sorrow are shared by the bereaved and the injured of the opposite side. To rejoice in triumph over the number of enemy dead while bewailing one’s own loss appears ‘natural’ from the conventional, personal and nationalistic points of view. But nature points to the fact that the major phenomena of existence - life and death, sorrow and joy - cut across all barriers made by man. This fact is so obvious and its implications so clear that it is a marvel that so few pay heed to it. Even a little reflection on this subject brings about an awareness of the truth that basically man is man, and the divisions created by geographical, political and other boundaries are inconsequential when regarded in the perspective of the phenomena whose impact his consciousness has to meet and transcend. Every individual has the same task in life: he has to face the challenge of life’s movement - the ebb and flow of things - and discover in their midst a sense of purpose which answers all situations.
Love alone offers such an unerodable purpose and the means to stem the tide of hatred and pain. The meaning of life does not lie in personal self-gratification. Paradoxically, the more a person strives to make his individual existence meaningful, the farther he wanders away from the source of significance in life. Success in the business of survival, the grasping of comfort and enjoyment, the attainment of status, power and importance, and the many other things which appear rewarding and purposeful to the vast majority of individual men and women are the fabric and substance of the agonizing struggle in which human life has been trapped for ages. The desire to find that which is individually and personally purposeful leads to a conflict of interests which periodically mounts up into chaotic storms of hatred negating the possibility of rewarding experience and the growth of the human consciousness.
In the evolutionary movement and design each expression of the life-force - human, animal, vegetable and mineral - is unfolding, moment by moment, a uniquely beautiful truth. The value and significance of what is unfolded has nothing to do with its apparent usefulness to another. It exists in itself. Its message remains valid even if perceived by none. The human individual who seeks to make his own personal life purposeful by making use of other manifestations of life, misses the very meaning he seeks because he narrows and confines himself to the objects of his desire. Love takes birth when an awareness arises of universal purpose and meaning, the personal purpose being merged in the larger. The history of mankind can change into a thrilling story of discovery of the meaningful verities of life - happiness, peace, beauty - only when violence is not met by vengeance and hatred is not answered by hatred, but by a sympathetic awareness of the shared universality of suffering if not by loving response.
Dr. Raymond Moody in his book, Life after Life, summarizes the experiences of the many persons interviewed by him who had crossed the threshold of death and after a time had returned to live in the physical body. During the passing over, a review of the past incarnation which takes place makes the ‘dead’ person aware that the purpose of life is love. Incarnation takes place so that one can learn to love. Unwillingness to accept the lesson is resistance to the law of Nature and causes the individual to experience pain and suffering. Love alone is the action which accords with nature’s inherent purpose and is therefore the absolute and universal remedy against hatred. Sorrow cannot touch anyone who has truly learnt the lesson of love.
The technical and material progress of the present age are the outcome of the scientific spirit. Scientific enquiry and knowledge are based on well formulated principles of testing and strictly logical deductions. Blind belief, prejudgements and prejudices have no place in the scientific approach to truth. In the age of science, and in countries where science and technology have so revolutionized daily life that travelling from the ‘developed’ to the ‘undeveloped’ countries one has the impression of journeying into a different world, it is interesting to note the widespread growth of credulity. Charlatans of many kinds are able to foist a variety of cults and beliefs on eager devotees who are willing victims. Self-styled gods are many in number because their claims are accepted without question by a sufficient congregation. UFO enthusiasts relate not only observed phenomena, but append wild tales which appear to be all the more convincing to believers because they are so far removed from the normal and the rational. On the one hand there is legitimate enquiry into how far scientific knowledge can lead and what its limits are; on the other there is the craze for abandoning all rational parameters and adopting a passive role of acceptance before a ‘guru.’ ‘Gurus’ in diverse garbs have mushroomed to pander to the hidden desire of the believers to abdicate responsibility, the guise of dispenser of truth being an essential part of the make-believe. Credulity is becoming as much a symptom of the times as scientific progress.
The more science advances, the more apparent it is becoming that even the surface of the unfathomed depths and mysteries of life and nature has hardly been explored and that the seership of the wise men of old was able to apprehend facts of nature by means other than those which science has so far recognized. Capra’s book The Tao of Physics is one of the latest publications to correlate the ancient wisdom with the discoveries of science. Science, philosophy and religion, in the real sense, are all avenues to truth and may one day form an integrated pathway thereto. The possibility of realizing truth cannot be assigned solely to the province of the scientist, although blind belief and irrationality have been rejected by science as, indeed, they have by true philosophy (love of wisdom) and true religion. Both religion and philosophy (if worthy of the name) have dealt with the truth of separational existence but not with the illusory shadows which arise from irrational urges.
Faith has ever been an element in the religious approach. The Christian virtues include faith along with hope and charity. The Hindu Vedanta, stating the qualifications necessary for the path, includes sraddha or faith. In Buddhism, both belief and doubt have been named as fetters which have to be cast away by the aspirant who wishes to tread the way of enlightenment. Faith, however, is not blind belief, still less is it credulity. Faith, in its true religious sense, refers to the inner stability which arises from the recognition that the universe is guided by law and from knowledge of the principles embodied in its manifestation. To mention an example, recognition of the principle of perfection which is inherent in the evolutionary process leads to faith and serves as an unshakable anchor with which to weather all storms. If rightly understood, faith engendered by this principle would place all relationships on a basis different from that of the faithless. It exists with and encourages free investigation and search for truth because it gives inner stability.
Faith has thus little to do with belief, which is attachment to things which help to cover up hidden weaknesses and inadequacies. Whenever there is blind belief there is fear that the inadequacy may be exposed and hence belief is often accompanied by fanaticism, resistance to challenge and the shutting out of any other point of view. Faith is open minded and needs no shoring up, while belief stands always on shaky ground.
It is obvious that the credulous mind is not one which can follow the road to truth. It falls by the roadside, clinging to any glamourous temptation, and pursues the by-paths. The search for truth calls for a healthy scepticism and the reservations of judgement when confronted by that which, for the time being, remains unexplained. Scepticism is unhealthy from a spiritual point of view if it is carried to an extreme, for unproven and indescribable things cannot be said not to exist. It was pointed out long ago that science can explain what water is, but not what wetness is. Such principles as perfection and beauty exist though there may be many who do not perceive them at all. An individual who asserts that what he himself cannot see, prove or know does not exist, is maintaining himself in a state of blindness. The humility of saying, ‘I do not know,’ is essential for anyone who seeks truth. Doubt is therefore numbered among the fetters in the Buddhist tradition.
The humility with which a seeker for truth proceeds, however, is not to be confused with credulity. Credulity arises, as mentioned above, because of an unconscious urge to counterbalance hidden uncertainties. The greater the uncertainty the more shut in and defensive of his belief is the believer or credulous person. Awareness of truth is a state of total wakefulness, the release from finiteness to vastness, from superficiality to profundity. The words buddha and buddhi refer to ‘waking up’ from dreams, illusions and limitation. Intense alertness and an extremely sensitive mind are necessary in the search for truth. A spirit of enquiry and investigation helps to retain alertness, while credulity closes the mind and lulls it to sleep. Belief, therefore, is a fetter which must be cast aside.
‘...Theosophy is not a Religion... but Religion itself...’ * [H.P. Blavatsky’s: Collected Writings, Vol.X.] declares H. P. Blavatsky. And she goes on: ‘Its doctrines, if seriously studied, call forth, by stimulating one’s reasoning powers and awakening the inner in the animal man, every hitherto dormant power for good in us, and also the perception of the true and the real, as opposed to the false and the unreal. Tearing off with no uncertain hand the thick veil of dead-letter with which every old religious scripture was cloaked, scientific Theosophy, learned in the cunning symbolism of the ages, reveals to the scoffer at the old wisdom the origin of the world’s faiths and sciences. It opens new vistas beyond the old horizons of crystallized, motionless and despotic faiths; and turning blind belief into a reasoned knowledge founded on mathematical laws - the only exact science - it demonstrates to him under profounder and more philosophical aspects the existence of that which, repelled by the grossness of its dead letter form, he had long since abandoned as a nursery tale.’
H. P. B. also wrote: ‘ What is needed is not that we should convert each other, but that each of us should deepen and spiritualise his own religion and find out its value for himself. As that spirit spreads over the world, surely the emergence of a world-religion becomes possible.’
The above statements suggest that the Theosophist has to examine and regard his own religion in the light of Theosophy and that, stripping it of dead-letter encrustations, he should deepen and spiritualise it as a preparation for the emergence of a world religion.
Some decades ago, there was a strong movement among Theosophists to try to do this. The light of Theosophy was turned upon the major religions of the world and public attention was aroused to the possibility of restoring to the faiths their pristine splendour. The interest which many Theosophists took in the Bharata Samaja in India and the Liberal Catholic Church in the West was symptomatic of a strongly felt need for reform, and for deepening and spiritualising the religious consciousness.
Although H. P. B.’s words still remain valid, it is to be regretted that so many members of the Theosophical Society still remain conventional, if not orthodox, adherents of their particular religion. A Theosophist cannot be conventional, for true Theosophy stimulates the reasoning powers and the capacity to discriminate between the false and the real. It is when Theosophy itself becomes a dead letter or a lip philosophy that there is no vital change in one’s outlook whether it be in the religious, social, educational or any other sphere.
The Theosophical Society’s vitality also depends on its being alive with an essentially religious spirit, so that it may be a pure vessel for the dissemination of the Wisdom-Religion to the world. The three declared Objects of the Society, when pursued in a profane spirit, could lead to the degeneration of the Society into a mere social-service organization, an academic body or an ‘academy of magic’. It is the spirit infused into the Society by the undeclared Object, which is to act as a channel of the Wisdom-Religion, which can prevent it from losing ‘by imperceptible degrees that vitality which living truth alone can impart.’
The Theosophist 1978
Universal Brotherhood is the only thing which is
binding on members of The Theosophical Society.
Nothing else. The Theosophical teachings as to
Karma, Reincarnation, or the Masters, are not
binding on the mind or conscience of any member.
The Changing World, Annie Besant