A VERY large part of that branch of our Theosophical literature which treats of the daily life of an occult student is written in the form of a sermon; that is to say, it consists of moral precepts and exhortations, enforced by an appeal to the conscience and to the sense of duty. We are, told to follow a particular line of conduct — say, for example, to practise altruism, because it is right to do so, because it is our duty. In short, in this class of writings it is the heart that is appealed to. But our daily intercourse with fellow-students impresses us more and more frequently with the fact that, to a considerable proportion of aspirants, appeals couched in such terms as this are not merely ineffectual, but positively distasteful. They complain that a moral exhortation, however lofty its theme, produces in them, by virtue of its very nature as an exhortation, the sensations which may ascribed to a Sunday-school scholar when admonished by his teacher; that is, a feeling of irksome restraint coupled with the desire to disobey — for the sake of disobeying, These sentiments are not unhealthy, nor are they signs of a want of moral stamina in the character of the individuals in whom they are evoked; temperance reformers will tell you the same tale, and descant upon the uselessness of trying to reform certain drunkards by telling them that inebriety is wrong or that it displeases God. The reason is the same in both cases, viz., that the wrong sentiment has been appealed to, the wrong chord touched, through a misjudgment of the individual's character. Many persons are so constituted that their head rules their heart to a greater extent than among their fellows; they guide their conduct by reason rather than by sentiment, by expediency rather than by duty. They are self-reliant; and, their intellectual acumen being usually above the average, are on that account accustomed from youth up to look with comparative contempt on the opinions of their more ordinarily gifted friends, who are guided by conventional usages. Hence they have a fair share of intellectual conceit, and an appeal to their sense of obligation to their fellow-creatures or to God, immediately piques their pride and self-reliance, causing them to ask themselves: — "Why must I act thus ? Who is God that he should set up his opinion against mine ? Who are the Adepts that they should enjoin upon me a course of conduct without assigning a reason ?."
The right way to deal with such persons is, not to condemn them as [Page 20] void of conscience or sense of duty, but to strike another chord in their nature, to give them their appropriate food. They require to be shown the rationale of a precept, to be convinced of its expediency, of its consistency with the laws of harmony. It is useless to tell them to be unselfish; they must know why; an intellectual reason will be to them far more cogent than a mere appeal to their sense of duty. For example, while the mass of students may be content to be told that they must be unselfish, that the Masters wish it, that it is right; these intellectual students must be shown that selfishness is a disease, that by being selfish they are crippling themselves and injuring their fellow-creatures. Students of ethics must not blame students of science, if the latter seem to derive more real benefit and comfort from the study of correspondences in nature than from meditation on moral maxims; but must remember that we climb the mountain on different sides, and that though the steps are not the same, the same summit is ultimately reached. For this reason, I would exhort those in whom the intellect is stronger than the heart, whenever after reading a Theosophical sermon, they find themselves forced into the position of a "naughty boy", to remember that there are more ways of progressing than one, that intellectual appreciation is as necessary to final achievement as moral conviction, and that if they find themselves in this incarnation unsuited to ascend the mountain of truth upon the side called duty, they can do so upon that called harmony, and the result in the end will be the same, for both duty and harmony are merely partial aspects of the whole truth.
Take as an instance the case of a man whose predominant sentiment is a love of harmony, so much so indeed as to render it unlikely that he could be made to follow the path through any other influence. Such a man must not be fed upon sermons, the sense of duty is weak as yet, and he cannot bear restraint. He must be shown how harmony is a law which operates throughout the universe, how it brings peace and happiness wherever it reigns, and how selfishness violates this law, producing the same effect as the undue prominence of one note in a musical chord. As an instance of this I can supply the author of " Modes of Meditation " with one more mode from my own experience. It is to sit down at the organ and strike those six notes which form the "harmonic chord" and the ratios of whose vibration-numbers are those of the first six numerals (do1 do2 sol2 do3 mi3 sol3). The lowest note is struck first and represents the great underlying consciousness of the universe; then the others are added in succession, and the harmony gains in perfection till the whole galaxy of spiritual powers is complete. The meditation on this harmony and the spiritual ideas to which it corresponds and gives the clue, may benefit a student more than a host of sermons.
As a second instance, let us take the case of a man whose strongest
sentiment is a love of beauty of form. If he is one of the class of "head-worshippers", it will
be useless to appeal to his sense of duty in exhorting him to become an occultist. He must be shown that beauty
of form is merely the expression of beauty of thought, and that he is a fool for eating the husks and neglecting
the kernel. He will then soon learn the connection between individualism and ugliness of form on the one hand,
and between altruism and symmetry of form on the other. These two instances must suffice for the present, but
many more could be given.
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