reprinted from “Theosophical Siftings” Volume - 2 -

IN The Theosophist of Nov., 1882, is printed an address to Madame Blavatsky, from the fifteen members of the Theosophical Society at Berhampore, India, wherein occurs the following sentence: “According to our Hindu teaching, five enemies, residing in every man, have to be overcome before he can be initiated; viz., Lust, Anger, Greed, Ignorance, and Vanity".

This is a remarkably condensed statement of the training upon which admission to the Mysteries is conditioned. I do not know that I have seen anywhere a more terse, clear, comprehensive, and rational summing-up of Theosophic education. There is far more in it than anyone paper can unfold, and it is only purposed at present to expand two of the many thoughts therein.

The first is that these five qualities, considered altogether in themselves and without reference to them when acting upon other persons than the possessor, have no moral character. [ It is very doubtful whether these qualities or vices can be so considered. They either exist under all conditions and have a moral character, and, therefore have to be reckoned with by humanity, or they are an illusion and do not exist. From the view of the "Higher Self", all such things, however abstract, have a moral bearing, not only upon any man, per se, but upon others as well, by magnetic elements of disharmony arising from the presence of the “Five Enemies", even under the guise of desire only. The author, in endeavouring to take a wide view of the subject has, at first, forgotten this fact. (T .P .S.)] “Lust" is as purely a physical matter as is hunger or thirst, [ The physical act may be; not so the desire. It is impossible to divest man of his responsibilities and degrade him to the level of an animal, which is in the position asserted as regards the gratification of lust. The author, who at the end shows himself to be a Theosophist and a Transcendentalist, is here unconsciously urging a materialistic point which has too often been put forward as an excuse for the indulgence of vice. (T .P .S.) ] and the gratification of it, regarded abstractly, has no more a moral element than has the consumption of dinner. The moral element attaches at the moment when someone else is injured, or when a third person's rights are invaded. “Anger" is so far from being essentially wrong, that in some of its forms — indignation, for instance — it may have very high merit. The man who can look unmoved on cruelty, perfidy, injustice, or inhumanity is not a philosopher with an enviable temperament, but a being, whether philosophic or otherwise, having a defective moral sense, a callous heart, or an inadequate sympathy. [ The author here is engaged with the old difficulty of distinguishing between and separating the "anger" directed against a wrong act from the anger directed against the doer of that act. But in either case, “anger" is an "enemy", for it, and all the other enemies, are emotions directed against the Harmony of Universal Brotherhood. (T. P.S.)] For the just punishment of liars and tyrants, [Page 11] for the preservation of the finer sentiments, for the insistence that men in a community shall respect the rights of others, for the security of all that is sweet, and good, and wholesome, and safe in social lire, a swift check to outrage is most necessary, and this is secured by nature's linking to the moral sense a moral impulse, adding, in other words, indignation to disgust. It is, I believe, a grievous mistake to suppose that Theosophy is flinty-hearted or mealy-mouthed, that it has not the delicacy to discern or the vigour to denounce violations of human rights, that it is indifferent to moral distinctions, careless in the chastisement of aggression, flabby in moral texture and feeble in moral nerve. It is sometimes so represented, and extremists have intimated that there are heights from which all actions in the plain below are sure to lose
their colour, the good and the bad, the true and the false, becoming indistinguishable. It would certainly seem strange for the moral sense to fail in function at the very point where it had become most acute, and the very suggestion of such a thing may, perhaps, justify a touch of the indignation which they deprecate. There are times, then, when anger is a legitimate feeling, and the objection to it, from the moral side, arises when it is excessive in amount, misdirected in expression, and so a cause of injustice. [ Which, being interpreted, means that mortal man is wiser than the divine Law of Karma. (T.P.S.) ]

"Greed", if we understand it as meaning "acquisitiveness, , is only immoral when it seeks to gain others' property without fair equivalent. There is nothing wrong in large fortunes honestly secured. Indeed, the acquisitive instinct is not only the motive, but even the condition, by which social advance goes on. Political economy shows that the first steps in civilization begin in two things, — thrift in a worker, recognition by others of his right to his gains. More than this, it shows, too, that the best government is that which least hinders the citizen in his enterprises and most protects him in their results. Even the very spread of Theosophy is made possible by these principles, for, as one can easily see, it would soon be paralyzed if its members, together with their means, their books, and their printing presses, were subjected to the arbitrary will of a civil despot. Yet, of course, acquisitiveness receives a moral taint when it passes the boundary of justice, invades the equal rights of others, and becomes covetous, dishonest, venal.

"Ignorance" is too negative a quality to have immediate bearings upon second parties. It is simply the "not knowing", which is a personal matter, and though there may be moral issues where it is the consequence of sloth or wilfulness, it is in itself a mere negation. [ Only in appearance. Ignorance is the ignorance of Truth. Ignorance of the relation of man to his "Higher Self"; of his relation to other men. It is one of the most potent of the "enemies", for a single-hearted man would certainly do his duty if he only knew it. INTUITION, the voice of the Higher Self, is the only guide, and man has to develop the faculty of hearing that voice, if he would live the spiritual life and dispel the cloud of ignorance by which he is surrounded. (T.P.S.) ] [Page 12]

" Vanity” seems to have as its very essence a claim for the undue admiration of others. But if we leave others out of the question, it becomes only conceit; and if conceit is saved of its excess, and reduced to normal size and function, it becomes merely self-respect. Now self-respect is a virtue, not a fault, the powerful motive to truthfulness, honour, and rectitude, the preliminary to respect for fellow-men. Indeed, the loss of it marks an advanced point on the downward road. One of its most important missions is the insistence on individual rights, the withstanding that reckless defiance of others which so especially flourishes in communities based on equality, and which can never be checked, there or anywhere, until each man sees that the maintenance of what is due to him helps to insure the concession of what is due to all. In fact, any other policy results in allowing the turbulent, the pushing, and the selfish to trample on the equal rights of the more deserving, and thus to give latitude to the very characters which ought to be suppressed. Yet, here again, a true quality may become false when in excess, and a self-respect swollen to conceit will undoubtedly become vicious if it invades the domain beyond and demands homage from other men as vanity. [Vanity certainly arises from a false idea of one's relation to others. Self-respect, if it be true, is obedience to the dictates of the Higher Self, even without regard for others; for this depends on a Universal Principle, and therefore must be in accordance with Harmony and Truth. (T.P.S.)]

From this analysis we see that the five qualities in every individual, reduced to their primal form and shut off from all operation on other individuals, are either purely negative or actually meritorious. Why, then, one may very well ask, are they antagonized by Occultism; and why were these Eastern disciples justified in the assertion that they have to be overcome before any man can be initiated ? Can there be any good reason for repressing and excising functions which, under the above conditions, play a valuable part in social development and security, and the absence of which would ultimately reduce society to chaos ?

To these questions there are two answers. The first is that the sphere of operations contemplated by this discipline is not general, but, on the contrary, is extremely limited. Occult Science is not here laying down a maxim in morals, or a universal rule for human affairs, or an aim to be pursued in every life, but an element in the training for one specific, highly differentiated, rarely-sought vocation. [ The Rules are the Rules of True Life; they enjoin what Humanity to be true to itself, ought to do. Society and its customs are shams, and its best efforts and regulations are vitiated by its false basis and real untruth. Here the author's real views would be apt to be mistaken, for he seems to recommend the idea that Truth is only to be followed by a few, and as a special pursuit, instead of saying that all ought to follow it, while only few are willing or have the energy or strength. (T .P .S.)] Modes of life and social energies, entirely innocent or even laudable, are discarded in this training, not because they are believed trivial, or to bear any moral stigma, but merely because they impede progress on the particular lines the aspirant [Page 13] has preferred. It is precisely here as with the contestant in athletic sports. During his preparation for the tests which are to determine his proficiency, he renounces not a few of his ordinary habits. His food is restricted in variety and amount, his pleasures are curtailed in certain directions, his exercises are made regular and in every way systematic, his whole regimen is conformed to the rules experience has established. It is not pretended that these things have any merit in themselves, or that they contain or exhibit a moral element, still less that they are a pattern for the world at large. The only claim is that, for the particular end in view, for the one sole purpose to which they have any application, they are the condition of success.

For precisely analogous reasons are the candidates for initiation subjected to certain discipline before they are subjected to the trials which are to decide whether it has been effective. Such candidates are in an exceptional position. As with the physical, so with the spiritual athlete. Neither says that bodily pleasure is sinful, that a business career is unworthy of pursuit, that his own aim should be that of every fellow-being, but only that, this aim being the one most attractive to him, he prefers to part from the habits which are incompatible with it rather than part from the aim itself. He gives up that for which he cares less, to gain that for which he cares more. This is, indeed, only another case illustrating a universal law of life. It is impossible to have all things, especially if opposed. One cannot acquire learning and yet enjoy a repose fatal to its acquirement; one cannot reach any elevation without efforts which are always irksome and sometimes painful. And however innocent, or even meritorious, may be the habits irreconcilable with any desire, they have to be relinquished if the desire is to be secured.

This being so, there yet remains the query why the five qualities we are treating of require repression. Remembering still that we are now looking at them in their normal condition, and also as excluded from any bearing on other parties, the reason seems to be that they are relatively lower faculties which in the process of Occult development need subordination to the higher. We are told that Will is a symbol of Deity; that it is the very essence of the individual or Ego; that, seated on its central throne, it must control all the outlying departments of man's being, having each within instant and absolute obedience. Hence there can be no order, no precision, no promptness until its dominion is secure from all revolt. And as not only the Body, but the interests rooted in it, and the Mind, with all its faculties and functions, and the very Soul, rich in emotions and impulses, are all without that middle chamber of the Will, they must be brought under its sway and subjected to its rule, till at last the whole complicated nature obeys the one Sovereign, moves harmoniously with the one impulse. [Page 14]

It is now easy to see why the five qualities must, at this stage, be considered as enemies until they are entirely overcome. Lust, that most potent of all passions, would, by its perturbations, its memories, its imaginings, paralyze every effort after meditation or spiritual insight. Anger, not necessarily excessive, gives, in every grade, a quiver to the system which disturbs the delicate workings of the Higher Self. Greed, merely as acquisitiveness, emphasizes the personality, seeks its honour, or enrichment, or power, calls the very forces into play which are most hostile to altruism, elevates the standards which Occultism avowedly deprecates. Ignorance, even as the mere negation of knowledge, still more in its wider sense of incapacity for spiritual vision, unfits at once for any intelligent effort, any wise exertion. Vanity, only as self-esteem, is yet a form of self-hood, and no such form is consonant with a system which breaks down partition-walls and lets the universal currents flow without restraint. Unless, therefore, these forces are bridled, they may run away with the chariot; and unless the reins are held by a firm hand, they certainly will.

It was said that there are two answers to the question why the Eastern disciples were justified in the language they used. The second appears in that language itself. They assert that the five enemies have to be overcome. Overcome, you observe; not extirpated, or annihilated, or even crippled. Indeed, the word “enemy" implies this, for civilized people do not butcher or massacre their enemies, but only subdue them. That is, they first establish the certainty of their superior power through victory, and then use it to guide and control the no longer resisting foe.

Similarly, it would seem, does the (Occult) Esoteric training treat the inner forces of the man. Under the surface, below their manifestations, down at their source, they are not bad. In one of his exquisite essays, “The Soul of Good in Evil", Frothingham, that master of language, shows how evil is a perversion, a misapplication, a misdirection of the essential good, that at its root there is a truth, distorted into a lie and an abomination at its far-off appearance. So with these enemies. The initial force has its uses. We have already seen some of these, and how they conserve the life of society. Yet there may be a deeper analysis, easy to the disciplined insight of the man approaching initiation, who thus can probe to their essence and take it as one of the treasures he is to use. Having overcome such forces in even their least gross manifestations, having made himself their master and secured himself against revolt, having nothing now to fear from clamorous passion or insidious selfishness, he may even draw forth and utilize the inner essence of that which in a mild form is damaging, and in a coarse form is disastrous. He has conquered that most difficult of all territories — Self, and therefore has a right to all of its contents. [Page 15]

So much for the first of the two thoughts to be handled in this paper. It has been of the five enemies in their somewhat rarefied state, considered apart from any hearing on other parties, and as respects their treatment by an advanced student nearing initiation. They undoubtedly have, however, more interest to us in their ordinary manifestations, in their action and re-action around, and as matters with which we, who are not advanced students, have to deal. It is understood that all Theosophists, as such, are desirous to progress. Now if, in a sublimated form, the five enemies are the conquest which the would-be Initiate has to make, it would seem that, in their present grosser form, they are the field wherein the would-be Chela has to strive. It would seem, too, that the struggle must begin with the grossest form of all. Now, this is evidently an invasion of the rights of others. Every time, then, an aspirant perceives an impulse to sensuality, wrath, selfishness, thoughtlessness, or self-assertion, which would carry him across the boundary of his equal privileges with his neighbour, he is supplied by Nature with an immediate opportunity for asserting the strength of principle. You may say, indeed, that respect for others' rights is no more than what is demanded from any person of proper feeling. This is true; but it is to be remembered 1st that the number of such persons is everywhere small; and 2nd , that no man will be a good Theosophist until he first joins it. It is in the small details of social life that his membership is shown. It may seem trivial to say that a man who blocks the platform of a street-car, or talks during an opera, is an invader of others' rights, yet such is the fact, and, it being a fact, we may therefore assert that he is not a real Theosophist. The principle involved is the same as that in a large business operation or the policy of an empire, and the clear-headedness to perceive this and the persistence in acting on it are part of the initial outfit of him who is to contend. In truth, until a full recognition of the rights of others is a permanent, unvarying, inflexible, almost unconsciously exercised habit to any man, he may have a sentimental interest in Theosophy, but he is not a Theosophist.

Nor is this, when it has been attained, all. The five enemies, in their next lesser form of grossness, are not subdued so long as they rule the man, and not he them. This is the stage where, though no one else is sacrificed, there is discontent at the absence of gratification. Now it is not possible to enjoy equanimity, and hence the condition for much interior development, so long as either the physical desires or those of the lower fifth principle cannot be quieted at will. Here we seem to find the area for the next contest of the mounting soul. It is not a question of morals, still less of the factitious moral system society adopts, but rather, generically, of that self-training undergone by a writer who teaches himself to compose among talkers, or [Page 16] by a sickly person who learns to look unmoved upon dainties. It is a form of abstraction, by which the subject, collecting his finer faculties, ascends to a height above the coarser ones in their raging, and orders them to be still while he attends to his work. When he is able to do this at any time, and to do it effectually, he would seem to be ready for the step into the next area — the area referred to by the Hindu disciples as before initiation, and a slight sketch of which was attempted in the earlier part of this paper


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