Regeneration and the Objects of the T.S
Radha Burnier – India
[Recognizing regeneration as the kernel of all Theosophical work, the International Theosophical Centre at Naarden, The Netherlands, jointly with the Federation of Theosophical Societies in Europe, organized two seminars in July 1990, with a number of office-bearers, workers and members of the Society from different countries as participants. The proceedings of the seminar were published as a book under the title Human Regeneration.]
Although the Theosophical Society has three Objects, it surely has only a single purpose, which is to uplift humanity from the moral and spiritual point of view. This is not identical with what most people call progress. But moral and spiritual regeneration will be the strongest force in bringing about even material progress. Everywhere we see attempts that are retarded because of selfishness, tensions, and indifference. Therefore progress must centre around a new outlook, new attitudes.
The Objects of the Society cannot be unrelated to each other, for they are all related to the question of human progress and perfection, to regeneration. If we think of them as separate, each one having its own independent purpose, they may not help to fulfil the goal of the T.S. It is probably necessary for members of the T.S. throughout the world to enquire into what these Objects signify in terms of regeneration, the upliftment of the human mind — whatever one likes to call it.
Universal brotherhood, the realization of a mind in which there is no prejudice whatsoever, no barrier against anything, is regeneration, because such a consciousness is totally different from the ordinary consciousness. It has, as mentioned, a religious quality. The realization of the indivisibility of existence is the aim of true religion. In “Is Theosophy a Religion?” H.P.B. says that religion per se is that which unites all men, and all beings into one whole; it is not something which divides. So the experience of unity is a religious experience, it is a new kind of perception, a new quality of the mind.
This is a marvel, because we are in the midst of incredible diversity, and the evolutionary process implies inequality. Nothing in manifestation is like anything else. This is an absolute fact in nature. When we think two things are alike, it is because they bear some resemblance to each other, not because they are identical. In a remarkable book, Human Destiny (by Pierre Lecomte du Noüy [New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1947], the scientist author outlined as the aims of evolution: harmony, freedom, and individuality. He argued that as evolution progresses, there is a greater and greater revelation of uniqueness. When we think of perfection, we may make the mistake of imagining that all beings who are perfect must be alike. It is not so. They are all perfect, but each in his or her own unique way. That uniqueness exists throughout nature at every level, not a single leaf of a tree being an exact replica of another.
Inequality is inherent in evolution. In some creatures, consciousness is more awake and in some it is less awake. Consciousness is many things, such as mental activity, intelligence, and sympathy. Some creatures have those qualities in large measure; others are apparently duller. Some are clever, they have developed skills and capabilities, others have not. The consciousness of animals and plants is less developed. So we think that they have less importance than human beings and that we have a right to suppress them.
So there are these two things in nature: inequality and diversity. Each being is at its own level on the evolutionary ladder, and everything is different from everything else. Yet, underlying everything is one being, one essence. It is a paradox: one essence, one life, one consciousness in the midst of an incredible diversity that reveals a supreme creative energy. And although there is no equality, from the outer point of view, concealed within is a supreme value which is the same in everything, because everything is a unit of the same universal being, a drop in the same ocean of consciousness. Perhaps it is a drop at the bottom of the ocean, or one that moves on the surface, but all are part of the ocean of life. This is the meaning of the sacred syllable Om, which symbolizes different planes, different stages of diversity, integrated into a wholeness or unity. There is an essential equality in all manifested individual existences for they are all part of one sacred life.
The realization of brotherhood is an awareness of something marvelous, and paradoxical when looked at from the lower point of view, but nonetheless real. There is a mystic quality in the realization of brotherhood; it is not an ordinary experience. When some people say that the Theosophical Society’s Object of universal brotherhood is obsolete, they do not know what they are saying. They look at it in a very ordinary sort of way, not understanding the depth and truth contained in that Object. They think there are many organizations that support international relations. The United Nations is meant to bring all the nations together. There are other humanistic movements. The idea has spread everywhere, so that Object can be shunted away.
But from the deeper point of view, universal brotherhood is far from realized, and nowhere do we see brotherhood in action. Unless we see that this Object implies a deep psychological revolution, we will not be able to carry out the work of the Society with the requisite energy. When human consciousness becomes free of its biases and barriers, when it ceases to separate itself from everything else, a new world of beauty, freedom, and goodness will materialize at the physical and subtler levels. Krishnaji stated: “Where the self is, beauty does not exist,” the beauty that is goodness, peace, and bliss. So, when we reflect well, it should not be difficult to realize that universal brotherhood without distinctions of any kind is a revolution in consciousness. It is the one thing which will change humanity and bring it to a new level of existence.
Incidentally, the distinctions mentioned in the statement of the first Object of the Society are not meant to be complete. They are examples of the many distinctions that arise and exist in the mind. There are other divisions on the basis of social position, economic status, age, intellectual attainments, all sorts of things! This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but what is called “illustrative.” There would be no point in adding more words. Our minds can invent any number of divisions and even if we add more words, they will be insufficient.
Let us now proceed to the second Object, the study of religion, philosophy, and science, which H.P.B. tried to relate together in The Secret Doctrine, which she called “a synthesis of science, religion and philosophy.” All three are avenues to truth, valid roads to a single point. Truth is of primary importance to our lives, because what we see conditions what we do. When we do something foolish, discordant, or cruel, we do it because we have failed to see correctly. If we see truth in the ultimate sense of the term — which is the same as realizing unity, and knowing the nature of love — then all our actions and relationships are bound to change qualitatively.
That fact has been emphasized in the Orient, where no difference exists between religion and philosophy. In the religio-philosophical schools, teachers point out that seeing rightly is essential because of the effect it has on actions. We may recall the well-known illustration of Vedanta: if you see a snake, you are afraid, you become aggressive, you may push others in order to get away quickly. But if you realize the snake is nothing more than a rope, your action becomes different. The emotions and thoughts that arose from seeing the snake cannot arise when it is realized to be a rope.
As mentioned previously, we live in a world of unreality that appears real. We must wake up into another level of reality. Even then, it will not be reality from a still deeper point of view, and there must be progressive awakenings. But for the moment, whatever we perceive is experienced as real: the solidity of objects, the separateness of all things. But these are like the reality experienced in a dream. Because of the unreality of our “reality,” we act as we do. When the possession of objects, of money, and so forth, is a reality, and they appear important for our safety and happiness, we act in a particular way. But if we see the unreality or the relative value of such possessions, then actions become different.
The search for truth is a search for a reality that cannot be contradicted at any time. The reality of a dream is contradicted by the reality of the waking state. The reality of an ambition to possess material objects gives place to a different reality if the person becomes more mature, less materialistic. So every reality makes way for a superior reality. We have to go on negating the lesser realities in life, by the use of viveka. But is there a reality which cannot be contradicted by anything else, because it is for ever? It is the eternal truth, which is the aim of religion, philosophy, and science. Although the methods and approach of religion, philosophy, and science are different, they all seek the truth.
Scientists started with the study of material nature, but they have been pushing further and further, until some of the greatest have come to nonmaterial reality. Sir Alister Hardy has been questioning the force behind evolution, which is no longer considered by leading scientists as a mechanical, haphazard development. Hoyle says that it is statistically impossible for the micro-organism to become a human by a series of chance improvements. So what is the force behind it? He says it is intelligence. Hardy says it is love. Dirac says there is order and beauty in the very nature of the universe. So scientists are coming from the study of material manifestation to the greater reality beyond.
The material universe, which seems so real, changes; it may even be destroyed. The earth may one day become like the moon. But the power which moves it always exists, and creativity continues. Religion is the quest for this eternal existence. It is the release from finite existence for a fusion with the infinite. We are speaking of religion in the true sense of the term, not of organized religion. We cannot discuss religion here, because it is a vast subject. But at its basis is an awareness that the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. Therefore, the finite — which I call my mind and myself — must break out of its shell, to know truth, which on the religious path is realized as sacred. Philosophy seeks to comprehend the nature and relation of all things, briefly summarized as God, man, and universe. Philosophy, like religion and science, is an avenue to truth. They start at different points, have different approaches, but what they seek to reach is the same. So they cannot be unrelated to each other.
The important thing is to realize that truth makes one free from the folly of action based on false conceptions of reality. The truth of seeing a rope as a rope prevents a person from running away in fear or trying to kill. Nothing can be more right than the statement: “Truth shall make you free.” At the Feet of the Master puts it differently when it says that anyone who has a glimpse of the Plan, the splendor behind the processes of life, cannot help working for it, standing for the good and resisting evil, working for evolution and not for selfishness.
The second Object of the T.S. is not concerned merely with speculative thinking or academic discussions unrelated to the problems of the world and to our problems as individuals. It is directed toward the removal of ignorance, lifting the mind out of the unrealities in which it lives. This Object too is meant to bring about regeneration.
The third Object is investigation of the hidden laws of nature and of the powers latent in human beings. All natural laws are an expression of the divine intelligence. Those who do not understand them, who do not realize they are unchangeable and intransgressible, come up against an impenetrable wall, so to speak, and hurt themselves. Knowledge of the laws, on the other hand, is power to accelerate progress. If we do not understand how the great stream of evolution proceeds, what the great design is, we are led into foolishness and vanity. All the world is vanity because, if we think that we can work outside the law, we do not try to understand it. The law of harmony is perhaps the most important of all, for all other laws may be an expression of the great harmony of the universe.
This third Object implies study not only of nature in its outer manifestation but of the relationship of all things, one to another, for all law is a statement of relationships. Those relationships are subtle, and many people think they do not exist. But an understanding of ourselves is connected with an understanding of laws and of the forces at work behind them. There are many such forces and many forms of intelligence at work everywhere. There is a hierarchy of intelligences, we are told, working for the great Plan. What is our own place in all this? Can we claim a place which is not in the Plan, or carve a place for ourselves according to our own notions? Do we have to abandon our ideas and find out how to live according to the Plan? Discovering the answers is the same as trying to understand what our potential powers are, what spiritual faculties are latent in human consciousness, and how they can be unfolded.
We mentioned earlier that, unless we see what the human being is potentially, we cannot create an environment helpful to true progress. We are doing the opposite, creating chaotic surroundings that suppress the human potential instead of awakening it. So the study of the human beings as we really are, and of our highest possibilities, the depths or heights we can reach, is important for humanity.
It seems to me that, to make the work of the Society effective, we must see the connection between the three Objects of the T.S. and the relation of all three Objects to the unfoldment of the human consciousness and the upliftment of humanity. The history of the Society is clear on this point: the one thing for which it is founded is to help the true progress of humanity. How can the Society have Objects not related to that purpose? Perhaps in our Lodges and groups we have not given sufficient consideration to the meaning of the Objects of the Society. We assume them to be unconnected. But if we see the relatedness, then all of us can work together for the same thing, which is the renewal of the human mind, human regeneration.
To be continued