Are We Self-Governed?
To Think By Ourselves Is Not As Easy As It Seems
The Theosophical Movement
From the hour of birth to the dying day, we come under outside influence. It is helpful to examine the factors that influence us and to see what aspect of our nature is influenced.
Organized religions try to appeal to a certain portion of our nature and to stir it into action. But, if we ask the priests, “What is the constitution and character of that portion of my nature that you are appealing to?”, there is seldom a convincing answer. Orthodox religion does not appeal to our reason, for religion and reason do not go together.
Then there are the teachers of the youth, those who impart knowledge in schools and universities. Science and modern learning make an appeal to a certain portion of our nature, namely, our reason. But how much do the modern scientists, philosophers, psychologists and men of learning know of that part of our nature to which they appeal, and what its relation is to the whole man?
In the same way, what we read in newspapers and books, and what we see or hear in popular entertainments or advertisements, influences us, but when we probe further and ask to know something about that portion of our nature which is influenced, we have no satisfactory answer.
These are the factors to which the majority of people look for enlightenment. Anyone who knows how to arouse our passions, no matter of what kind, can veritably lead us by the nose, whither he will. If a person knows the secret of injecting into a certain portion of our nature an appetite that was not there before, or of arousing one we were unaware of, he can lead us to a religious heaven and equally to a religious hell.
We say that man is master of himself, yet he is swayed by others all the time, for good or ill. A single individual in a position of power can, merely by signing his name to a declaration of war, plunge a whole nation into combat. A single word sometimes has a magical effect and makes people hurl themselves in one or another direction. Take the word “God”. Anyone who chooses to use his faculties can very quickly ascertain for himself that the God of orthodox religions is an absurd fiction; yet, how many have hurled themselves into action, sometimes even destructive action, at the magic of the word “God”! How does this come about? The secret does not lie in the churches, or in any power outside of us. The secret lies in the mysteries of our own being.
What the churches try to appeal to is the moral nature in man. In so far as they can awaken and arouse the moral nature, a tremendous force has been evoked. What is our moral nature? It is that in us which, perceiving that there are things beneficial and things hurtful to ourselves and to others, aspires always to do the beneficial things; perceiving that there are things noble and things ignoble, that there are vessels of honour as well as of dishonour, seeks to throw its force, its energy, its power of action, in the direction of the noble and the honourable rather than the ignoble and dishonourable. Every great accomplishment in the world has been made possible by an appeal to the moral nature of men and women. Not only this, but also every maleficent and ruinous thing in this world has always been produced by an appeal to the same moral nature.
What is the explanation? It is worth looking into. How is it that in the name of, say, Christ - a Being who himself embodied compassion absolute, who was himself a living, walking, human testimony to universal fraternity - how comes it that in his name millions of men and women have been brought to hurl themselves at each other’s throats? It is because these people, their moral nature once aroused, took, not the channel of Truth, but the channel suggested, like hypnotized victims. No matter how otherwise intelligent or noble, once get a person hypnotized and he will believe anything he is told, he will do anything that is suggested to him.
What is the secret? These men disregard that portion of their nature which is just as important and necessary as the moral nature, namely, their reason. No one who accepts the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount can ever be persuaded to lift his hand against another man if he uses his reason. He would say, “I don’t care who or what it is that bids me persecute men, deny them their liberty of conscience, their freedom of thought. Whoever tries to persuade me to do that in Christ’s name is worse than Judas Iscariot; he betrayed but one man, but he who makes the Christ appeal and incites men against their fellow men is ten thousand Judases rolled into one.” And yet every day great masses of people are betrayed by an appeal to their moral nature, and their mental and reasoning faculty is lulled to sleep, so that when they persecute other men they are acting as if that portion of their nature which is aroused is their whole nature.
Once the moral nature is fully aroused, reason at once becomes a slave to the suggestion implanted; and, therefore reason will work to the utter undoing of the moral nature. No more infernal doctrine has ever been preached than the doctrine of vicarious atonement: a murdered man who has not yet uttered the confession of faith goes to hell for all eternity, while the murderer, if he but says that he believes in the self-sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of mankind, has his crime forgiven! Can one find a greater invitation to cupidity, to hypocrisy, to any abomination one can conceive of - and all this practised and preached in the name of the Most High! In Christianity today, in spite of all the talk about a Christian renewal, there are millions of men and women whose reasoning power, in so far as it relates to their moral nature, is as much under the domination of a hypnotizing religion as is that of a victim in the hypnotizer’s chair.
Turning to modern science, how is it possible that it should have the hold that it has at present on the best minds of the race? Anything that goes in the name of science has today the same hypnotizing effect as religion once had. Science appeals to our reasoning faculty - at the expense of all the rest. We do not see that the same consequences are entailed as when the priest appeals to the moral nature. Using our reasoning faculty only, we come to the point where the moral nature says: “What is the use? Why should I deny myself anything I can get? Why should I make sacrifices for another? Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Each one for himself and the devil take the hindmost!” No one ever performed a kind act as a result of reasoning it out. Every time we reason with our moral impulse, we do not act up to it.
So, our religions crucify the reasoning nature, our sciences crucify the moral nature, and yet both natures are in us. The same result accrues to the followers of modern science as to the followers of popular religion, and that result is - irresponsibility. If one does not take into consideration the moral aspect of things, then he is not a complete human being.
Take the example of vivisection. Vivisectionists believe that the end justifies the means. They do with an animal what they would not for a moment submit to themselves, and they say they are doing this for the sake of humanity - and humanity swallows it! Is it any wonder that diseases multiply faster than remedies? And when we chase the scourge of disease out of one organ of our bodies, the same old scourge reappears in another organ and we give it another name. The way vivisection is justified today is a fair sample of modern scientific thinking.
Every government in the world is using the very ablest talent it can enlist for preparing weapons of wholesale murder. Our enemy of today is our friend of yesterday and will be our friend tomorrow. And so, when we find ourselves in such a moral relation with another that we call him a friend, our reason tells us to do what we can to help him; and when we are in antipodal moral relation with him who till this moment was our friend but whom we now call our enemy, our reason is enlisted to devise ways and means to do him injury. Why do we do that? It is because we do not think; it is because we do not look in the right place for an answer to our problems. If we study our nature with care we shall know all about the laws of evolution. We shall know the beginning, the middle and the end of all things. We shall know our past and the past of this solar system. We shall know our future and the future of this solar system, because it is all locked up in the being called Man.
Are We Self-Governed?
The above article is reproduced from the June 2003 edition of the international magazine “The Theosophical Movement”.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.
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