THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 10, August, 1948
(Pages 462-466; Size: 14K)
(Number 4 of a 15-part series)
MIND OF THE AGE
A FAITH in "romance" must be regarded as an important constituent of the Western mind-set. However loosely the term "romance" may be used, it suggests to nearly every Westerner something he either believes or is tempted to believe -- that the highest value of his existence may be found in adventure through various physical experiences which focus intense emotions. Every religion, of course, is founded upon a belief in the superiority of certain states of feeling or emotion. Religion may easily be distinguished from philosophy by this definition, also, for philosophy does not concern itself with the attainment of emotional states, but instead with what purposive use is to be made of them.
The much older and more renunciation-minded East, in its successive developments of Hindu and Buddhist religion, has devoted considerable attention to the experience of states of feeling which completely transcend physical sensations. Western civilization, save for the confused interruption of medieval Christianity, has believed that the end of human life is the attainment of a state of human feeling intimately associated with sensation. This is the unacknowledged religion which still commands the allegiance of the majority of men and women of English-speaking countries in particular. The Asiatics, we say, tend to be "stoics." Americans confess to being "romanticists," and usually are secretly a little proud of the admission.
There are various ways of analyzing romanticism. It is often regarded as a sort of childish pre-occupation with involvement of the two sexes, and a sublimation in art and literature of the same mood. These, in a sense, are the tendencies which link man much more securely to physical than to moral values. It must be remembered that "romance" among Western peoples has also produced some creditable results. The courageous opposition to religious authoritarianism, which allied itself with the quest for freedom of the human spirit, focussed upon a surge of romanticism. The Renaissance, with its revival of Grecian concepts of art and Grecian tastes in literature, was a recurrence of the belief in the real value of the physical world. The matter of defining human "desire" received a different kind of attention, for the personal and romantic desires in men were held to be potentially beautiful rather than sinful. This movement in thought, which accompanied the march of the scientific spirit of free investigation from Newton to Freud, increased popular respect for the physical world, and was a trend which affrighted both Catholics and Puritans. But the most strenuous efforts produced by Catholic organization and Fundamentalist revivalism failed to check the widespread effort to vindicate man's belief in the value of his emotions. The religion of romanticism, as all religions, has a few foundations in reality, however obscure.
The Theosophical philosophy suggests that every phase of existence contains evolutionary significance. Just as it is legitimate to argue from Theosophical principles that the neglect of moral man is a crime against nature, so it must be that an a priori derision of all values incident to participation in the emotions dissects "nature" unnaturally. In terms of basic analysis, the question becomes not, "Is this emotion to be rejected because it is an emotion?" but "Is this emotion inclusive or exclusive?" Both "private individual salvation" -- in the sense of deliverance from all human involvements -- and a possessive passion, limit one's rapport with others, and both these engrossing states of consciousness are obstacles to the growth of beings toward each other in brotherhood.
In refreshing contrast to the narrow and confining attitudes which surround modern human relations with so much of fear and reluctance, suspicion and obtuseness, are the attitudes toward personal relations, that are implicit in and explicitly illustrated by the lives of H. P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge, and Robert Crosbie. Such philosophers have begun with the premise that no intimacy between people arises without cause, although it may assert itself in a comparatively short time. All "practical Theosophists" have suggested that the karma of affinity be probed with the principle of reincarnation, for they knew that the influence of the past on the future will operate to better effect if the individual mind carrying that influence is trained to note, measure, and direct its affinities, instead of being carried away by them. Mr. Judge makes several references to this time-honored principle of human relations. In his Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita, he explores the possibility in these words:Suppose in some life long-past I had a dear friend, or wife, or relative, with whom my intimacy was interior and deep. Death separates us, and in subsequent lives he devotes himself to truth, to wisdom, to the highest in him, while I go on careless of all but pleasure in the present. After many lives we meet again as either friends or acquaintances. At once the old intimacy asserts itself, and my former friend -- although maybe neither of us knows it -- has a strange power to touch my inward life, and wakes me up to search for truth and my own soul. It is the unexpended affinity, and by its aid nature works my salvation.A self-impelled growth toward realization of Karma does not lead one to fear and distrust all emotions, but rather to the intelligent rejection of certain emotions. The love of man for woman, involving perhaps the most personal of all attachments, will not be without value for him who seeks, in this instance, as in all others, to build upon each value another and greater one. The Western urge to adventure and the Eastern desire to find a realm beyond the distraction of emotions may, then, be complementary rather than antithetical. The journey of the soul is no less a journey, whatever the terrain traversed. Of course, it is only a true journey when undertaken with a desire to reach a goal, yet is this necessarily less true of the men who live bold and colorful lives than of those who live in the hope of transcending "color"?
Then we should both seek devotion....
Every trend of religious thought has carried with it much of negation, and because men must assert as well as refuse to live as growing souls, they have been led to "sin" by the very constraining influence of their religions. It is necessary to find some way of separating man's belief in the value or beauty of his emotions from his tendency to indulge those emotions without control or purpose. That which is deepest in religion -- a sense of purpose -- could combine with that which is full of life and vigor. Yet, "adventurous" men seldom do this -- though when they do we may find that their religions are notably excellent. The men of religion seldom deign to try, and this may be because they both fear and envy audacious and wholly confident spirits.
Walt Whitman combined the realities of both "Eastern" and "Western" points of view in his incomparable "Song of the Open Road." Some of the stanzas of this poem are worth close scrutiny in the light of Theosophical principles. Whitman is interested in both the world of the senses and the evolution of the soul. Who is not? But Whitman's perception in these lines is that one's attitudes towards emotional life are the enemies of tranquility and happiness, so that one need not negate life itself to be calm and self-sufficient, but only any particular thing in life.Afoot and light-hearted, I take toWhitman's "Song" is the most hopeful and most real "American Dream." In it there is much of courage, and beneath the surface, much of philosophy. While some may come to appreciate the reality of Theosophical principles through emotional disappointments, it may be that many more will arrive at that point when they can come as Whitman came -- not as a result of weakness perceived, but rather through strength achieved.
the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me,
leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune
-- I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more,
postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the
The earth -- that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations
I know they are very well where
I know they suffice for those who
belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old
I carry them, men and women -- I
carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to
get rid of them;
I am fill'd with them, and I will
fill them in return.)
* * *
To gather the minds of men out of
their brains as you encounter
them -- to gather the love out
of their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with
you, for all that you leave them
To know the universe itself as a road
-- as many roads -- as roads for
The Soul travels;
The body does not travel as much as
The body has just as great a work as
the soul, and parts away at last
for the journeys of the soul.
All parts away for the progress
All religion, all solid things, arts,
governments, -- all that was or
is apparent upon this globe or
any globe, falls into niches and
corners before the procession of
Souls along the grand roads of
Of the progress of the souls of men
and women along the grand roads
of the universe, all other
progress is the needed emblem
* * *
Allons! we must not stop here!
However sweet these laid-up stores --
however convenient this dwelling,
we cannot remain here;
However shelter'd this port, and
however calm these waters, we
must not anchor here;
However welcome the hospitality that
surrounds us, we are permitted to
receive it but a little while.
* * *
My call is the call of battle -- I
nourish active rebellion;
He going with me must go well arm'd.
He going with me goes often with
spare diet, poverty, angry
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe -- I have tried
it -- my own feet have
tried it well. * * *
Mon enfant! I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious
I give you myself, before preaching
Will you give me yourself? will you
come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long
as we live?
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond.
MIND OF THE AGE
V: FREUDIANISM VS. RELIGION
(Part 5 of a 15-part series)
Back to the
"MIND OF THE AGE"
series complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".