THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 2, December, 1947
(Pages 75-77; Size: 9K)
[Article number (3) in this Q&A Department]
IT is said that evolution begins at the top. Now, if Theosophy is ever going to get anywhere in "breaking the mold of men's minds," it ought somehow to be brought to the attention of the leaders of the world. How is this going to come about?
First of all, just what is the "top"? Our age is one of inversions, and often what appears as high should be known to us as low, to paraphrase the Gita. When we speak of evolution beginning at the top, we do not mean that it begins at the top of appearances. Is not real pioneering a superbly humble thing to look at, even though its beginnings are at the height of inspiration? The same holds true of an individual. His highest work is inexpressible, being in and on himself; his effect on his fellows is, in a way, the lowest arc of his efforts, no matter how "high" those men may be.
The practical work of Theosophy is not an imposition from above on "the masses." It manifests as a rising tide of surety among individuals. Those who appear to be the leaders of the world are seldom more than followers of their followers -- personified symbols of prevailing world values. Why imagine that in them lies the power to break the mold of men's minds, since it is their mold, too, and especially since their power depends on keeping it intact? The problem, then, is not to bring Theosophy to the leaders of the world, but to educate new leaders. Those who to some extent realize their responsibility, their soul-capacities, and their oneness with all life are to that extent leaders in a very real world of thought. And though the world knows not their voices nor their names, their ideas may become the common currency of the future.
It is sometimes quoted that the Brahmin, the outcaste and the cow are regarded equally by the wise man. How far is it wise to make no distinctions, when a perfected discrimination is supposed to be the fruit of wisdom?
The statement is not that all these -- the Brahmin, the outcaste and the cow -- are equal, or to be regarded as equal, but that they are regarded by the wise man with equal mind. Such a one is not inwardly moved or influenced by outward appearances. He maintains an undisturbed equilibrium within himself, and at the same time recognizes that all beings live, and that all life is important by reason of its essential nature. Perceiving this, he may find more to be approved in some "outcastes" than in many a "Brahmin."
This does not mean that he is unable to "make distinctions." Wisdom, however, does not lie simply in the power to make distinctions, but in proper discrimination as to what distinctions are significant. We automatically discover distinctions wherever we look. They are the fruit of comparison, but they are not in themselves the seeds of wisdom.
What about race prejudice? Where does the theosophist stand on that question? I should think we would be leading the fight against it. Doesn't the first Object clearly specify no distinctions of race?
Just who "the" theosophist is, and precisely where he stands on any problem would be impossible to say. Each one stands in his own spot. But wherever there is prejudice, it may be agreed that any theosophist should be standing as far away from it as possible. As we develop reason, we put away childish things -- prejudice among them. It is one thing to remove it from oneself, however, and something quite different to attempt to remove it from others.
Some crusades on behalf of oppressed minorities are carried on by militant individuals who, by confining themselves to a concern with one special prejudice, come close to fanaticism on that single subject. This is one way of "fighting against prejudice" -- and results show its weakness. Without a philosophical basis for understanding the background of the problem, such a movement is often weakened by emotional propagandizing. The Theosophical philosophy indicates that no problem can be truly solved in isolation from the many other problems with which it is karmically intertwined.
As a matter of fact, distinctions of race, creed, sex, caste or color are incidental. In karmic contacts, it is the individual who counts. The Theosophical philosophy does not make distinctions -- it recognizes human differences. The significant differences are suggested by the Secret Doctrine statements that the classes of monads are distinguished by their "past Karmas" (II, 249 fn and 318 fn). Recognition that these differences exist (though we are not able to discover and assign them to specific individuals and certainly not to "races") does not mean intolerance or prejudice, because it goes with a philosophical perception of the radical spiritual unity beyond all classes of beings.
The idea of universal brotherhood is one for universal application, however. The challenge comes to every man, and he meets it where it affronts his sense of justice. For some, this is on the question of religious prejudice, for others, racial, etc. For theosophists, the fight must be against all prejudice -- against the materialism and ignorance that are the causal synonyms of prejudice. The theosophical philosophy, perhaps, rather than any individual, leads the fight for tolerance, because Theosophy has the whole of Humanity for its object. All those who work to abolish any particular prejudice are allies of the Theosophical Movement to the extent that they dedicate their efforts to some portion of their fellow-men.
Since movies seem to be here to stay, why don't we accept them, then, and emphasize some of their good points for a change?
By all means let us do so, not losing sight of the fact that the greater part of that good is still potential. A road paved with nothing more than Glorious Possibilities leads to the same place as the well-known one of Good Intentions. As long as the movie producers, like some progressive educators, continue to sit placidly in the nation's wheelbarrow, trundled along in the same old ruts by the prejudices and passions of the public that they are supposed to be educating, they must be content with faint praise from some quarters.
It's true, of course, that constructive reform can't be effected simply by lamenting present evils, but neither can it be aided by Pollyanna-like acceptance of present good as all-sufficient. We "cooperate with the inevitable" only when we're sure that it is inevitable, and there is no situation that is not subject to change by the will of the individuals concerned. The level of motion pictures, therefore, rises and sinks not alone in accord with the men who make them -- the producers -- but also in accord with those who see and feel their effects -- the public. Every individual helps to determine that general level, as he gives his support to one kind of movie or another. Each one, then, can make his own standards, and, by holding to them himself, to that degree he makes Hollywood do the same.
[Article number (4) in this Q&A Department]
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