THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 6, April, 1948
(Pages 264-266; Size: 10K)
[Article number (7) in this Q&A Department]
SINCE there is nothing new under the sun, it seems logical that truth should be neither new nor old, but always the same. Why, then, is it necessary to have truth constantly re-expressed in different terms? Why doesn't the "free truth" stand as stated, once and for all?
This question contains by implication an inquiry into the nature of truth itself. If we hold that there can be no knowledge without the knowers of it, we are committed to the view that truth can have no independent existence. In the course of a single life, our idea of truth -- and how can we ever approach truth except by successive ideas of it? -- is dependent on constantly modified conditions, both internal and external. It is an instantaneous mental perception, which, for the human mind, is never the same. "Truth," like lightning, never strikes twice in the same spot -- or in the same terms. Like lightning, too, it rives the form into which it passes, and compels the erection of a new one. Each man fashions for himself the mold in which to cast the truth he sees, and he must constantly make new molds to accommodate further perceptions.
The process of growth is nothing more than the discarding of outgrown perceptions for others which give more scope for expanding capacities. In the same way that the living cells in the trunk of a tree are continually being edged outward into the sphere of "dead" wood to make room for new growth, so ideas are ever dying and being born in the mind of man. Truth cannot permanently inhere in any given formulation, any more than the life-sap of the tree can be perpetually retained in the same set of cells. Can we not say that truth, while ever the same, must be forever re-expressed in order to remain "true" to the one who gives it life?
In the February THEOSOPHY, in answer to the question of how we can "make" people think, much was said about mental "shock treatment." While it is evident that such technique carried to excess might be dangerous, it still seems to be the only way to wake some people up.
Under sanction of the theosophical doctrine of analogy and correspondence, may we not apply to this question some remarks made by the Hindu scientist, Sir Chundra Bose, in regard to plants? In his book Plant Autographs and Their Revelations, he recounts a series of experiments in stimulating the growth processes of plants. Stimulation was by means of mechanical friction, drugs, and electric shock. His findings may be summarized in brief: When the growing tip of the plant was directly stimulated by any of these means, the unvarying reaction was contraction and retardation of growth. When stimulation was indirect, that is, applied to a portion of the plant withdrawn some distance from the sensitive growing core, the "shock" had the effect of enhancing the rate of growth.
It might be assumed, for the purpose of our analogy, that the "growing tip" of a man would be some idea or attitude -- at least partly true -- on which his attention is focussed for the time being. To attack this point directly would have the effect of repressing growth. Stimulation or "shock" directed to a sufficiently withdrawn area (or "unsore" point) might lead the man toward expansion in a more constructive direction. For this reason, drawing attention away from an undesirable line of thought or habit of action is often the more effective method. It tends to neutralize extremes, thus helping the person to regain his mental balance, and to return with a fresh enthusiasm to the task of correcting a particular deficiency.
Of course there are also ignorant or harmful ideas and attitudes which are not growing tips at all, and will be the focus for some sort of shock when contrasted with reality. But these do not represent that part of man which is his own, inviolate, and negatively sensitive to external compulsion. That core, or growing tip, partially revealed in those activities or ideas in which the man is most engrossed, cannot be favorably affected by the direct efforts of other men. It responds in a positive way only to self-stimulation.
In regard to the "excess use" of the shock treatment, mentioned by the questioner, we might turn again to our plant expert. His experiments indicate that a gentle stimulation encourages the plant's internal activity, while strong impetus halts it -- a discovery made in relation to human nature by, for instance, the Seeress of Prevorst (see W.Q.J.'s Letters, p. 39). "Gentleness," says Mr. Judge, "is better because an opposition current is always provoked, and, of course, if that which produces it is gentle, it will also be the same." Incidentally, this is the distinction between mesmerism and hypnotism. Mesmerism does no violence, whether physical, psychological or mental, to the patient. Wisdom and effective action equally consist in the avoidance of extremes. [Note: For those who would like to read the whole 11th "Letter" by WQJ, the one referred to, you'll find a link to it when you get to the end of this article.--Compiler]
How much are we really justified in not defending ourselves against the attacks of others?
It is difficult to say. There are many kinds of attack, and many kinds of defense. As a rule, we feel justified in defending ourselves by fair means against an unfair attack. A consideration of the ideal, however, causes us to realize that self-defense is never, in itself, the basis of the wise man's action. He does not think in those terms, being free from the common propensity for seeing opposition where none exists, and for charging as "unjust" a statement which -- were it not for self-love -- would have to be admitted as true.
Since the sage determines his course of action by the effect it will have on all his fellows, it is evident that he cannot be described as one who never defends himself, nor as one who always does. His guide is principle, not policy. H.P.B. did not "defend" herself against the slanders set afoot by the Coulomb affair, nor against the subsequent betrayal by many of her students. On the other hand, Mr. Judge did defend himself -- in order to defend H.P.B. after her death (see The Theosophical Movement on "The 'Sun' Libel Case"). [Note: For those interested, the book itself is available from The Theosophy Company, the publisher of all the articles on this web site. A link to the publisher is on the "Additional" articles page. On the same page there is a 34-part series of articles of the same name, that the book itself was based on, along with two other series of articles, that have a lot of this history in them; so if you know how to use this web site's search engine, which is also on the "Additional" articles page, it might prove useful. I must admit that I'm not very good at using search engines.--Compiler]
Socrates likewise, delivered himself of a very able defense before his judges in the Apology, while at the same time refusing to escape or be rescued. If he was willing to die, why did he make such a careful defense? The answer must lie in the fact that the defense was not of Socrates, but of the principles that motivated him. Here was an opportunity to gain a hearing for his ideas -- a crucial opportunity, for which he exchanged his life. Instead of saying, with Jesus, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," he obviously wanted to make sure that they did know. He attempted to give them a full view of the real issue and the moral consequences that would follow their decision. Socrates could not prevent his judges from making the wrong choice, but he could at least identify, without self-righteousness, a better course.
[Note: Here's the link to WQJ's 11th "Letter", that was mentioned and quoted from in the above article by the Editors. The particular part that was quoted from is near the end of the letter.--Compiler]
[Article number (8) in this Q&A Department]
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