THEOSOPHY, Vol. 47, No. 3, January, 1959 (Pages 129-131; Size: 9K)
RIGHT AND WRONG
QUESTIONS regarding right and wrong arise in the life of everyone. Sometimes the answers seem to be quite simple, but problems of ethics and morals are seldom easily solved. Perhaps difficulties are encountered from concepts of authority, from questions as to what is the true basis of ethics or from a multiplicity of desires. Even a single desire that has become an obsession obscures the vision of the soul. That desire which is for freedom from desire ceases to be an obsession. Freedom from obsessing desire is an essential for spiritual perception. For the sake of Brotherhood, that kind of freedom becomes a legitimate aspiration of the human soul.
Whatever the cause of a problem may be, or the questions that arise therefrom, answers from incomplete knowledge, partial considerations, or personal bias do not really answer, and lead far astray. Another consideration is that what is good for one may not be so for another. Much depends upon what is being considered, how, and especially why. A question of relativity, for instance, is quite different from one of principle or natural law. Though incidentals do not require the same emphasis as essentials, yet they often assume an appearance of undue importance. At such times there is lack of true perspective. Hence at least a glimpse of fundamental verities underlying the eternal fitness of things is essential for truly evaluating right and wrong. When such glimpses are deepened and expanded into clear vision, the evaluations become more sound and true.
To think of ourselves as brothers to all that lives, and to act upon that principle, can be a tremendous power for good. The whole nature of man is awakened thereby to a higher perspective and a broader view. This helps to banish the great heresy of separateness, the greatest curse of any age.
Every living thing is intelligent. As "all is soul and spirit ever evolving under the rule of law which is inherent in the whole," even the atom has the intelligence to do what it does. This follows from the universality of the principle of Mind. Animals are obviously intelligent, and even choose in their way. The difference between animals and men in this regard lies in man's power to choose self-consciously. He is on a higher rung of the ladder of being. Yet Nature often shows more sense than man seems to. This is because there are universal Laws which prevail everywhere. Also, Nature includes man and living beings of greater Wisdom than mankind generally has yet attained.
True concepts of the Self of all lead to right action. Erroneous concepts precipitate mistakes. They are an inversion of the true. Maya is the great illusion of life that deceives and obscures the real. The principle of reality is impersonal. From a practical point of view, impersonality means freedom from personality. This may seem to have little to do with right and wrong, but is actually the soul of it. No true evaluations can be made without some practical realization of just such principles. Learning to live in the true, a balancing of diversities is seen to be the harmony of the universe.
Considerations of right and wrong confined to others omit a vital factor. That is the one for whom the problems and questions arise. When deliberations exclude a consideration for others, the true perspective is lost. Right and wrong are not things in themselves. They cannot be categorized or labeled as dogmatism would have us believe. Good or evil attend and follow applications or misapplications of principles. They pertain to relationships of all kinds at any time anywhere. Hence the why of a question should go to the root of the problem. Motive is highly important. One cannot really do right with a selfish motive. The question of motive, however, has to be answered from within, not from without.
Generally speaking, there are three considerations necessary to the solution of any problem. (1) What is the underlying principle? (2) How is it to be applied? (3) Why?
Anyone who makes a decision does so according to some conscious or unconscious assumption. This may be based either on speculation or on knowledge, on guess-work or on practical experience. The application may be good or bad. Appearances constantly deceive. To see beneath them is the great task. Only Adepts are said to be able to do so truly and completely. What, then, can and should be done? Is there a means of evaluation? Does there exist a criterion of some kind? Is there a truly enlightening approach to any and all problems? This is where Theosophy can and ought to help -- not as a creed or dogma, but by the light it has to throw on the principles of things.
Universal Brotherhood, for instance, can be regarded as an underlying principle of all life and a fact in Nature. Or, when not denied altogether, it may be thought of as no more than a practically unattainable ideal. The whole teaching of Theosophy is to show the folly of this notion by demonstrating the soundness of the principle and the necessity for living accordingly. But concepts of Brotherhood can be so wide of the mark as to actually obscure its practical realization.
To think that the law of Karma, or of cause and effect, often works, but sometimes not, or that there are exceptions, is due to non-realization of the infallible working of the Law. To believe that efforts can be effective though half-hearted, or must conform to the opinions and views of others, also is folly. The opinion of the world is not to be despised, but it may be evaluated more truly in the light of Theosophical knowledge and experience. Right and wrong have nothing to do with creeds, dogmas or conformity, but everything to do with eternal verities and their application in daily life. Men, seeking Reality, give it many names. To see beyond all anthropomorphic conceptions, however, is to realize that reality is nameless.
To be in sympathy with whatever is good and true does not imply or require a personal following. It is rather a constant endeavor to live up to impersonal ideals. It is to give freely whatever is given without a thought of return. This is difficult for the personal man to understand, but is the quintessence of duty and an essential of a spiritual life. No one can be too diligent in that pursuit. It is the way for all together.
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:
THE RIGHT TO HERESY
Since, in every age, violence renews itself in changed forms, the struggle against it must continually be renewed by those who cling to the things of the spirit. They must never take refuge behind the pretext that at the moment force is too strong for them. For what it is necessary to say cannot be said too often, and truth can never be uttered in vain. Even when the Word is not victorious, it manifests its eternal presence; and one who serves it at such an hour has given glorious proof that no Terror holds sway over a free spirit, but that even in the most cruel of centuries there is still a place for the voice of humaneness.
What is the Soul?