THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 11, September, 1931 (Pages 513-516; Size: 10K)
THE question as to whether the teachings of Theosophy can be practically applied in every day life is one that is frequently asked not only by the casual inquirer into the philosophy, but also by students themselves. The answer is simple: to make a practical application of anything, we have to use that thing.
All too often the teachings of Theosophy are regarded as a mere abstract system of thought, consisting in an intellectual explanation of life and its various processes and manifestations. Such a view, no matter how abstract and intellectual the teachings may seem to any particular person, is nevertheless erroneous. It springs from a basic misconception, and one of the most fatal for anyone to harbour, who would make of Theosophy a living power in his life, because it constitutes a self-erected and unsurmountable barrier on the path of true knowledge.
Such a misconception, like many others under which we all labour, without being aware of the fact, is due to our "seeing" things upside-down, physically as well as metaphysically, on this our so-called "waking" plane of perception. And while we have learned from earliest childhood to reverse automatically the images which come to us from the outside and are reflected upside-down on the retina of our physical eye, we have yet to find out how to apply the same process to the pictures that come to us from the inside, and are reflected, as ideas, on the "retina" of our inner vision.
The question whether Theosophy can be applied practically springs from such an "upside-down" picture. Reverse it and the question will be: "is there anything in the teachings of Theosophy that can not be applied practically?" The answer is: "no, because Theosophy is essentially and preëminently practical, inasmuch as none of its teachings are based either on revelation, speculation, or theory, but are without a single exception the result of actual experience," which is more than all religions, philosophies and sciences put together can say. And therefore, being based upon actual experience, being knowledge of facts, whether of physical, psychical or spiritual facts in Nature, the teachings of Theosophy constitute the only true KNOWLEDGE there is. They are based upon direct perception.
But facts are facts only to the man who experiences them. Therefore every man must prove them for himself and to himself. Every man has to make them a part of his own nature by experiencing them in himself, before they can in any way seem facts to him.
It is evident then that it depends in every case upon the man himself to what an extent the teachings of Theosophy will be transformed from abstractions into realities as far as he is concerned. It is a process of "reversing the picture," a process that no one can do for another.
To the extent that anyone has used the teachings, to that extent he has experienced them, made them part of his own nature, assimilated them, and therefore to that extent he knows them to be practical. Whatever to anyone seems purely abstract, has not yet come within the realm of his conscious experience, has not yet entered his consciousness, because it has not been used by him. But he who applies Theosophy will soon find out how practical it is. "Even a little of this practice delivereth a man from great evil," has been said of old. The trouble is that we usually emphasize "little" instead of "practice."
If therefore Theosophy is not made practical by every man for himself, it must needs remain a mere abstraction to him -- so much "information." It can never become Knowledge in a true sense. It is only through their application, through their use, that the teachings are changed from abstractions into realities, from the "Eye-Doctrine" into the "Heart-Doctrine."
This effort to realize Theosophy constitutes the first step on the path of the would-be disciple. This effort continuously maintained, this "living of the Life," constitutes discipleship. It is a study-course in applied Theosophy.
That course may be followed by anyone. All one has to do to be admitted, is to start practicing Theosophy. The course is the same for all, the teacher is the same for all, the school is the same for all. Life is the school, the teacher is Karma.
As a matter of fact we all are in that school, we all are under that teacher. Why then are we not all disciples, why are we not all following this course in applied Theosophy? What stands in our way? Who prevents us from gaining practical knowledge? Nobody prevents us, nothing stands in our way. The Path lies there for all of us to follow, open and unobstructed. There is no visible obstacle to bar the way; why is it then that so many fail to see it? The reason is an invisible obstacle, invisible because within the would-be disciple himself. It is a negative obstacle, the lack of something, something so simple that on account of its very simplicity it is not recognized. It consists in the failure to tread the Path, in the failure to practice what we profess.
The failure to reach any goal is due to the failure of traveling the road that leads to that goal. Only, in the case of Theosophy, the goal, the road, and the one who travels it, are one. Therefore it is said: "Without moving is the going on this Path." But how, then, are we to reach the goal? That goal is TRUTH. The Path is the Path of Truth. The traveling on that Path consists in applying whatever we have recognized to be true. It is only by applying Truth that we assimilate Truth. It is only by assimilating Truth that we "become" Truth. It is only by becoming Truth that we finally realize that we are TRUTH. "Thou canst not travel on the Path before thou hast become that Path itself."
What then is the most practical thing for us to do? We have all read, and heard, and repeated it many times. It is "to take the position of the Higher Self." We all expect some day to "reach up" to such a high state, we imagine that some day, after a more or less prolonged period of trials, we shall be rewarded by being "lifted" to such an exalted position. And in anticipation of this glorious event, we decide to wait, with patience and resignation, for the hour to strike, hoping in our inmost heart that somehow that hour may not be too far off. Alas, this is an "upside-down" picture of the true situation. It is a fatal misconception, a self-erected obstacle in our way.
To take the position of the Higher Self does not mean to wait, however patiently and resignedly, until "some day" we may "reach up" or be "lifted" to such a position. We can never reach up or be lifted to it for the simple reason that we are IT. But being it, we do not know it. We think that we are the lower self, and have a Higher Self. This is looking at ourselves from below up, instead of from above down. We have to "reverse the picture," we have to realize that we are the Higher Self and have a lower self.
We constantly identify ourselves with our perceptions and with our instruments of perception, in other words with our lower nature, and try to reach up to the Higher Nature, whereas to take the position of the higher Self really means to act consciously, right here and right now, in all that we think, and say, and do, from the point of view of the very highest in us, looking down at the lower nature, not as if it were ourself, not even ourself, but seeing it to be "a mere subject for grave experiment and experience," intrusted to us by Nature, and we therefore responsible to Nature for its proper use and care.
To thus take the position of the Higher Self, to thus act from the very highest in us, to thus look at everything in and around us from above, instead of from below, is the most practical thing anyone can do. It does not consist in suppressing or destroying the lower nature, but in ceasing to identify ourselves with it.
The "upside-down" conception in regard to our true nature, so impossible to overcome until we "reverse the position," is what is meant in the Bhagavad-Gita by Ahankara. And the "taking of the position of the Higher Self" is there described as "discrimination of the Kshetra from the Kshetrajna," the former meaning the lower self and including every department of our nature we can possibly think of, the latter meaning the higher Self, what we really are, the KNOWER, without any attributes whatsoever.
The secret of KNOWLEDGE does not lie in acquiring knowledge, but in realizing that we are the KNOWER of all Knowledge. That realization can only come through application.
True Knowledge is Theosophy applied.
The Lost Canon