Practical Theosophy or Devotion through Right Performance of Action
By Renée Hall
From a talk given at the London Blavatsky Branch, 13th October 1993.
“It is an occult law, that no man can rise superior to his individual failings, without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part. In the same way, no one can sin, nor suffer the effects of sin, alone. In reality there is no such thing as “Separateness” and the nearest approach to that selfish state, which the laws of life permit, is in the intent or motive.”
– H.P. Blavatsky, The Key To Theosophy, p.203
This in a nutshell is the beginning, the middle and end of the reason for practical occultism.
Katherine Tingley in The Path of the Mystic says “Think of Theosophy as the highest law of conduct, which is the enacted expression of divine love or compassion.” She repeatedly stresses the importance of practical theosophy in her book The Gods Await: “Superficial examination of its teachings will avail nothing. As none could become a musician by mere study of the theory of music, so none can come to an understanding of theosophy by reading of it in books. In both cases practice is needed: one must live the life if one would know the law. A artist never attained excellence in his art nor the musician in his music who did not begin with basic principles,” p.175.
But we will first take a quick look at some theory in order to understand more clearly the reason for practical occultism or high conduct.
There are some significant words in the Theosophical University Press brochure which provide the key to understanding why we are dedicated to the uplifting of humanity through a better understanding of the oneness of life. There is a power of meaning in that small phrase “oneness of life”; the foundation stone of these ancient teachings. Briefly and simply, everything in the universe is linked and interdependent on every plane – physically and spiritually. Thus Universal Brotherhood is a fundamental law of nature. Mankind really is one big family – what affects one affects all.
Each component of our universal organism – from a grain of sand to a star – shares a common divine origin and destiny: at the heart of every physical atom be it a drop of water, rock, plant, animal, or human being there is a monad or divine-spiritual life atom, a spark from the central fire or Cosmic Self. Each monad is developing its patent potential (like the acorn becoming the oak tree) up through the various kingdoms and forms of existence as an unselfconscious god-spark until in an unimaginable amount of time – aeons – it will become a self-conscious god. This is the whole purpose of evolution.
Now the pure spirit consciousness of the human monad which is compsed of Atma-Buddhi (Discernment) can’t possibly work directly through a human body – it would burn it up. So intermediate elements act as transformers or conducters as it were. Buddhi, the vehicle of Atma, steps down the energies of Atman to the Higher Manas or Mind. The lower part of Manas in turn transmits and blends with the higher aspects of the principle of Desire or Kama which is part of our lower constitution. Kama-Manas makes makes up our human personality as we are now. “Personality, selfishness, egoism – these are the things which inhibit the manifestations of the divine energies within us” – (G de Purucker, Golden Precepts of Esotericism, p.83). This is the reason why we wobble between the animal and godlike in our human nature. And this condition is reflected in the wider scene, for example humanitarian efforts and national selfishness.
“When a man lives solely in his four principles he is less than a true man. He merely vegetates. He exists. He has no chance of immortality, because there is nothing immortal in the four lower principles of us…When a man lives in his human monad the four lower principles are ensouled…ensouling means living those things which we intuitively and instinctively sense belong to the better part of us…living in the human soul instead of in the animal soul…living in the buddhi-manas instead of in the kama-manas.”
– G de Purucker, Wind of the Spirit, p.103.
Understanding these principles helps to explain why we are pulled between good and evil, why there is conflict between our higher self and lower self. Selfishness, uncontrolled anger, greed, cruelty, hate, envy, lust, the list is endless, are impelled by the lower human. While unselfish service, truth, goodness and wisdom, compassion and impersonal love spring from the spiritual side of man – the higher Manasic Ego, inspired by Atma-Buddhi. Under this magic sunshine the dark side of the Kamic Principle will wither away; divine Kama will come into action and join with Lower Manas. Duality will disappear and the two will be welded into a perfect vehicle, through which our inner god may pour its divine energies. Such men were Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha.
Let’s turn our attention now to the how of practical Theosophy; hints and advice for everyday living. There is a wealth of beautifully expressed guidance in TUP literature. HPB’s The Voice of the Silence, The Bhagavad-Gita, W.Q. Judge’s Letters That Have Helped Me, G de Purucker’s Golden Precepts of Esotericism and Wind of the Spirit, Katherine Tingley’s Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic and The Gods Await.
As we wake up in the morning all teachers urge the importance of our first thoughts of the day: The Gods Await, p.127 –
“To throw the mind, on waking directly on outward things is to lose half the life of the day…”
From H.P. Blavatsky, Letter to a London Group, 1887 –
“…it is the first rule in the daily life of a student of occultism, namely, to never take off your attention from the smallest circumstances that may happen, whether in your own or in your fellow-worker’s lives. Once an earnest mystic joins the T.S. he is, inevitably and unconsciously to himself, placed on quite a different plane from those around him. There are no more meaningless or trifling circumstances in his life, for each is a link purposely placed in the chain of events that have led him on, forward to the Golden Gate. Each step, each person he meets with, every word uttered may be a word purposely placed in the day’s sentence with the purpose of giving certain importance to the chapter it belongs to and such or another (Karmic) meaning to the volume of life.”
The folly of looking ahead from The Gods Await by Katherine Tingley, p.125 –
“The trouble with some theosophical aspirants is that they waste the strength of their lives looking at the goal ahead, rather than at the immediate moments and seconds of which the Path is composed, and so their better selves become exhausted. They should let the beaming thought pour itself into each arriving moment and be indifferent to the morrow. One can find in every instant of time, if one has the desire, the door into worlds of golden opportunity, the gateway to a glorious path stretching out into the limitless eternal.”
The nature of thoughts by W.Q. Judge from Letters That Have Helped Me, p.22 –
“A thought, on its departure from the mind, is said to associate itself with an elemental; it is attracted wherever there is a similar vibration, or, let us say, a suitable soil, just as the winged thistle-seed floats off and sows itself in this spot and not in that, in the soil of its natural selection. Thus the man of virtue, by admitting a material or sensual thought into the mind, even though he expels it, sends it forth to swell the evil impulses of the man of vice from whom he imagines himself separated by a wide gulf, and to whom he may have just given a fresh impulse to sin…The occultist cannot go far upon his way without realizing to what a great extent he is “his brother’s keeper”.”
Contemplation by W.Q. Judge from Letters That Have Helped Me, p.41 –
“Thought has a self-reproductive power, and when the mind is held steadily to one idea it becomes colored by it, and, as we may say, all the correlates of that thought arise within the mind. Hence the mystic obtains knowledge about any object of which he thinks constantly in fixed contemplation.”
Taming the mind by W.Q. Judge from Letters That Have Helped Me, p.73 –
“You can solidify your character by attending to small things. By attacking small faults, and on every small occasion, one by one. This will arouse the inner attitude of attention and caution. The small faults and small occasions being conquered, the character grows strong. Feelings and desires and not wholly of the body. If the mind is deliberately taken off such subjects and placed on other and better ones then the whole body will follow the mind and grow tractable. This struggle must be kept up, and after a while it will be easier. Old age only makes this difference – the machine of body is less strong; for in old age the thoughts are the same if we let them grow without pruning.”
Criticism by W.Q. Judge from Letters That Have Helped Me, p.80-81 –
“(a) Criticism should be abandoned. It is no good. Cooperation is better than criticism. The duty of another is dangerous for one whose duty it is not. The insidious coming of unbrotherly criticism should be warned against, prevented, stopped. By example you can do much, as also by word in due season.
(b) Calmness is now a thing to be had, to be preserved. No irritation should be let dwell inside. It is a deadly foe. Sit on all the small occasions that evoke it and the greater ones will never arise to trouble you.
(d) Acceptation of others.
It is not wise to be always analysing our faults and failures; to regret is waste of energy: if we endeavour to use all our energy in the service of the Cause, we shall find ourselves rising above our faults and failures, and though these must perhaps occur, they will lose their power to drag us down. Of course we do have to face our faults and fight them, but our strength for such a struggle will increase with our devotion and unselfishness. This does not mean that vigilance over one’s thoughts and acts is ever to be relaxed.
If you will rely upon the truth that your inner self is a part of the great Spirit, you will be able to conquer these things that annoy, and if you will add to that a proper care of your bodily health, you will get strength in every department. Do not look at things as failures, but regard every apparent failure after real effort as a success, for the real test is in the effort and motive, and not in the result. If you will think over this idea on the lines of The Bhagavat Gita you will gain strength from it.”
Safe cultivation of self-mastery by W.Q. Judge from Letters That Have Helped Me, p.63 –
“Begin by trying to conquer the habit, almost universal, of pushing yourself forward. This arises from personality. Do not monopolise the conversation. Keep in the background. If someone begins to tell you about himself and his doings, do not take first chance to tell him about yourself, but listen to him and talk solely to bring him out. And when he has finished suppress in yourself the desire to tell about yourself, your opinions and experiences. Do not ask a question unless you intend to listen to the answer and inquire into its value. Try to recollect that you are a very small affair in the world, and that the people around do not value you at all and grieve not when you are absent. Your only true greatness lies in your inner true self and it is not desirous of obtaining the applause of others. If you will follow these directions for one week you will find they will take considerable effort, and you will begin to discover a part of the meaning of the saying, “Man, know thyself.” “
Be charitable by G de Purucker, Wind of the Spirit, p.208-9 –
“Truth is relative…be generous in your feelings towards others. Truth per se is infinite wisdom, and what man has it? Even the Gods themselves have only portions, but portions vastly greater than we have…Remember that your own growth in wisdom is steady, your own growth in understanding is constant. Learn then to be charitable to others.”
Tell the truth by G de Purucker, Wind of the Spirit, p.151
“Tell the truth always, except when telling the truth will bring injury and suffering to others. Then be compassionate and suffer yourself in silence. In attaining what you desire, is there danger that you can obtain it, achieve it, only at the cost of suffering or loss to others; and even then that you can get it, attain it, only by double dealing, what is called the double-cross? Are you large enough to refuse to take that step downwards, it may be the first, towards the Pit? Do you realize that the next step, if you take that first step downwards, will be followed by an attempt to cover what you yourself are ashamed to tell? You become thereafter not merely a double-crosser, but a hypocrite; and the third step is easy, when discovery threatens to tempt you to cover your tracks by pleading charity, forgiveness, pity for others, and you acted thus for so-and-so because your heart ached to say aught.
Three steps: and have you noticed that each one of these steps is a distortion of your character, a twisting of your mind, and of the natural human impulses of your heart? That you thereby have made a definite mark upon your character which perdure, it may be for aeons? How much better and simpler is it to do one’s best to avoid having the feet mired in wrongdoing. Or if one is caught, to break free and ally yourself with the gods at any cost.
How many more rules might I not give. They are the simplest things in the world, these rules. They are so wonderfully occult, so simple and plain, that people won’t believe in their efficacy half the time, and yet they are the rules made by the world’s greatest sages and seers: live uprightly, speak the truth, let your life be clean, cleanly, so that you can look man or woman in the face without shame. Do unto others — I will put it in the other form — do not do unto others what you yourself object to having others do unto you. It is in this way that in due course of time Buddhas are born, the holiest men on earth.”
Avoid being negative by G de Purucker, Wind of the Spirit, p.158
“It is true that the world is in a saddened and anxious state. But I think it unwise and spiritually and psychologically unwholesome to emphasize this, for it raises none to higher things but depresses courage, the courage to meet life and carry on in a higher and nobler way. See the beauty in and behind things, see the beauty in your fellowmen; see likewise the ignominy and the ugliness in life, although do not let these latter depress you or discourage you. There is no reason to lose our calm, our inner peace, in order to become like unto them of the mobs, passion driven, governed by prejudice. Such an attitude will not help us or those who suffer. But we can send forth into the world thoughts of courage and hope and an optimistic looking into the future: that no matter what happens through man’s folly or infamy or infidelity to his inner god, to his spiritual essence, there are always right and justice which will ultimately triumph over all. The only thing is to be sure we are on the side of right and justice — and we cannot always judge by appearances.”
The English poet Robert Browning expresses this thought, albeit in the theological language of the time, when he said: “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.” Those who do not like this optimistic outlook and conviction and who are trying to get down into the arena of hysteria and discouragement, mock at it; yet every sane man who keeps his mind cool and clear and can think for himself realizes full well that the mightiest forces in this world are cosmic right and cosmic justice, and that they in the long run will always prevail. There is no need to be discouraged. Avoid hysterias; on the other hand, avoid running at one and the same time with the hares and chasing with the hounds, which is what we all do more or less. Have your own convictions, and sometimes hide them if it is not wise to shout them from the housetops; but keep your own heart upright, in love with love, hating hate, always standing up for justice and innate right. Only be sure that when you stand up you are not standing up for the propaganda atmosphere around you, but for something that you in your own heart know to be right and true.
It would be a sorry thing indeed if there were naught to our world but what we see around us today, or have seen at particular intervals during the past; but every time and always the conscience and the sense of justice of mankind have proved supreme over all and risen above human feelings and follies, and marched onwards and upwards to balance and harmony. Don’t be downhearted or discouraged or think the world is going to the devil because you don’t like what is going on. You have a right to like it or to dislike it. But be sure that you, as an individual, on your part do not add to the hatred in the world, to its discouragement and unhappiness.