Theosophy

For the Love of Humanity

Cary Gardner – USA  

Theosophy GARD 2 global peace 1

What do we really know about the human family and the pilgrimage of mankind? The Voice of the Silence makes this firm statement.   “To live to benefit mankind is the first step.” How do we benefit mankind?  What do we really know about mankind as a whole?   Our personal life, our family and community provide us with our initial clues.   As we grow older we might have travel experiences, reading and media influences that might reveal more about our fellow man, but our knowledge is fragmentary at best, no matter how well traveled one might be.  How grand is this family of which we are members? Where did we come from and where are we going?

The human saga is only hinted at by the Mythologies of old. There is a hidden Wisdom embedded in the mystical traditions of ancient cultures. It is a Wisdom concerning who we are and where we come from.  And this story is told in Nature Herself.   To understand Human Solidarity we have to ask these basic questions coupled with  perhaps the most important one “What does it mean to be human? And if we all do share the same home, Mother Earth, and derive our spirit and consciousness from a common source, The Spiritual Sun, why are we so perpetually at odds with each other? Why do we struggle to get along?

The mystery of the human family grows exponentially when we add to the equation all those who have come before us in addition to the 8 billion souls currently alive on this planet with us, at this time.  A single human lifetime averaging 70 years is comprised of over 2 billion seconds.

 If we were to combine together all the lifetimes of all the peoples that have lived upon this earth the number of experiences, billions of moments, trillions of seconds simply defies comprehension.  And of all this activity what portion of it are we aware of? It would be like counting the grains of sand on the earth’s surface.  Yet every moment, each and every one of them, had a lesson to teach, an emotion to feel and a thought behind it.  To think about Human Solidary in these ways solicits a profound humility. The experiences of mankind are largely unknown to us.  Just how do I proceed to live to benefit mankind?

What would it mean to take the temperature of the human race at any given moment in time?  What does humanity need from me today?  To what height would one need to ascend?  To what perspective would one need to aspire?  Who can speak for the whole of mankind? Walt Whitman entertains that thought in his Leaves of Grass when he said of Great Teachers like Jesus, “That we all labor together transmitting the same charge and succession. We few equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times, We enclosers of all continents, all castes, allowers of all theologies, Compassionators, perceivers, the rapport of men.” 

“Compassionators , rapport of men”, what wonderful expressions to characterize the mental posture of the Mahatmas, the Bodhisattvas, the Guides of the Human Race.  What a lofty ideal to aspire to.  Could it be that we must earn our place in the family of man?  We must deserve the privilege of being part of the human family?  Could it be that is not granted to us merely by being born into a human body. What does it mean to join the human race?  Are we all invited to be members of the Buddha Family, The Christ family, but only a few truly join?  What is the price of admission one might ask?   The Sage replies in one word:  Benevolence.

Human Solidarity is the easiest of the Theosophical tenets to grasp and seemingly the hardest to practice.   Yet Human Solidarity, which is a phrase that parallels the notion of Universal Brotherhood, is the central notion of the modern theosophical movement and the May Pole of the philosophy.   What good is the Wisdom Tradition, painstakingly passed on from Great Teacher to Great Teacher, Sage to Sage, Generation to Generation, if it does not address the plight of the human condition? 

There is a both a nobility and a pathos to the human condition. The nobility comes from the perpetual struggle, the profound effort, the sacrifice and strain necessary to evolve human consciousness upwards.  There is nobility is learning to walk.  There is dignity in learning to speak.  There is respect for those who learn to care and comfort their fellow man. There is admiration for those who have gained some level of contentment and peace of mind through mastering their own nature, by untying the knots of past karma, unwinding the petty ego. And above all there is reverence for those who sacrifice so much on our behalf.

To be human means to have one foot on earth and one foot in heaven.   Mankind spans the chasm. Krishna reminds us in the Gita that we must meditate on Birth, Death, Decay, Sickness and Error if we would be wise.  All of these point to the need for detachment.  We need a detachment of identity, a critical distance from the vestures of perception on this plane of existence. The Buddha warned us about the world figuratively being on fire.  It is on fire because of Nitya Pralaya, the Process of ceaseless dissolution, of constant change.  Whatever we cling to will be torn away. But nothing is lost because there is also Nitya Sarga, ceaseless creation which serves as a counterbalance.  The Sage stands outside the fray in consciousness, witnessing the changes, participating in the play but never wholly involved in it.  “Krishna mysteriously says, “I created this entire universe with a single portion of myself yet remain separate.”  We are in the world but we are not of this world.

And what do we know about the pathos of the human condition? Humanity may have its Mona Lisas, its Magna Cartas, its Pyramids and its Ragas.  But it also has its world wars, concentration camps, genocide, inquisitions, slavery ships, torture chambers, witch hunts and rape.   The human story has a dark side, a bitterly dark side.  Theosophy teaches there is no evil principle at work in the universe.  Evil exists because of the ignorance of men. Evil’s only home is the human heart and the human mind.  A heart and mind devoid of empathy, ignorant of the lives of others, bent on getting what it wants no matter how much others must suffer to fulfill its desires.  The enemy of man is his ego, the separative, acquisitive sense of self. It is the prison cell of selfhood. What are the signs of hope in light of the oppressive power of human selfishness?

Hope comes in the form of millions of sacrifices lovingly given to others. Uncountable are the everyday sacrifices of parents for their children, the compassionate care of patients by nurses and doctors, of school teachers for their students, meals lovingly prepared for families, and the smiles of strangers we enjoy as we walk down the street. We are encouraged by the fellowship of backpackers on the trail who are total strangers yet share the common bond of the adventure.  Emerson said wherever there are little children there is a golden age.  There are many signs of hope if we could just turn off the spicket of bad news bombarding our consciousness.  Humanity is sustained by millions of acts of kindness that go unreported and often unnoticed.

So, we must face up to our shortcomings and confront facts as unpleasant as they might be.  It is the mature thing to do.  To take inventory, to pay up accounts, to stand before the rude truth is a heroic act of being human.  If we want Human Solidarity to become a reality here on earth and not merely an ideal in the Akasa we are expected to learn from our mistakes rather than to run away from them. And that is precisely what we intend to do in this lecture series as painful as it may be.

Theosophy is the Wisdom Tradition which demands that we ask the tough questions.  Why do we struggle so mightily to get along with each other?

H.P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine provides us with clues. We are told that humanity, in our present form, is NOT thousands of years old but rather millions of years old, as fantastic as that might sound. We are living through an immense cycle which the Ancient Hindus called a Manvantara, an exceedingly long period of evolution. That cycle began in a Golden Age, somewhat analogous to a new born’s first months of life. The infant does not cling to identification with name and form. Its sense of self is more fluid and porous.  Every being is a mother or father or some part of oneself.

It was a time that devotion to one’s spiritual parents was the first feeling and motor power of the human heart.   It was a time of human innocence in a word.   As we have coursed through the Silver and Bronze ages into the present Kali Yuga or Iron Age our consciousness has become ever more attached to name and form, to the vestures we use to operate on this physical plane of existence. This pattern is natural but the polarity of the evolution of spirit descending into matter must now be reversed into the sublimation of matter into spirit.  We are essentially spiritual beings, minds and hearts connected to the whole, and not material beings merely with names and forms. We are on the second half of an immense spiritual pilgrimage back to the Spiritual Sun, to reclaim one’s true identity as representatives of the Self of all Creatures.

Our journey into form and identification with our vestures leads to the separateness, the disconnected feeling we have from each other and from nature. We must re-establish the childlike state of loving kindness, non-judgement, and unity which comes so naturally to the newborn child but is lost over time.  But this time around it must become a self-conscious choice, a daily discipline, a vigilant mental posture. It is the road to enlightenment and redemption from selfishness and separateness.

In the novel Contact by Carl Sagan the first conversation between Ellie, the sole representative from Earth sent to the distant planet Vega solicits this comment from her extra-terrestrial friend, “We have been watching you for some time.  You are capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares.”  

The central human question of , “Who am I?” can also be formulated as “What does it mean to be human?” or “ What is the constitution of human nature?”. Human nature is multi-dimensional, sevenfold, and mysterious.  Gandhi memorably noted that “Human Nature is such that it must either soar or sink.”  There is no in-between. Are we walking towards the sun or away from it.   Is the shadow lengthening or shortening. The fallen can rise and the risen can fall.  History is replete with such examples.  Ravana was once a mighty sage with vast powers who goes over to the dark side.  Angulimala, the robber who wore a necklace of human fingers taken from his victims awakens to the Buddha’s message and confronts his sins.  He becomes a life-long disciple and member of the Sangam.  Krishna says in the Gita, “The tumultuous senses and organs hurry away by force the heart even of the Wiseman.” On this pilgrimage there are no guarantees, no panaceas, no short cuts.  The capacity to choose, the privilege and burden of self-consciousness, means progress on our journey bears no certainties.   Shortly thereafter Krishna describes the dangers of the downward path for both the advanced student and the beginner:  

He who attendeth to the inclination of the senses in them hath a concern; from this concern is created passion, from passion anger, from anger is produced delusion, from delusion a loss of the memory, from the loss of memory the loss of discrimination, and from the loss of discrimination loss of all.

The higher we climb the more severe the temptations and the harder we fall.  The price of individuation and agency over our choices is eternal vigilance.

Christ implores us to love one another.  The Golden Rule, which pervades all the religious systems, pleads with us to treat each other as we ourselves would wish to be treated.  It is not calmness, nor comfort, nor insight or detachment that constitutes the first step.   The first step is to establish the motive.  Without it we will get lost. Right Motive is the north star of the disciple and it must be perpetually and incrementally refined we are told.

To love and serve mankind may seem obvious and simple but it is anything but.  As long as there is a single thread of separateness in our consciousness selfishness looms around the corner. It is easy to love little children, difficult to identify with the ruthless criminal.    Yet Lao Tzu says the Sage has no self of his own, he makes the self of others his own.   And that does not mean the people we may like, our countrymen, our tribe or group or club.   The Sage makes the self of ALL others his or her own. Human Solidarity is universal.

 If we are indeed a family, then we are a family despite any differences we might see with our five senses.   And if we are a family we are a dysfunctional one at that.  The angry elementals of the earth impressed with our selfishness and greed no doubt stand behind the climate chaos we are currently experiencing. Selfishness and greed has concentrated more and more wealth into the hands of a few.  We have yet another land war in Europe.  And our political discourse world-wide has been gravitating to new lows of incivility. But no matter how dire we paint this picture it is still only a small portion of the overall story.  Theosophy is about hope and redemption. Theosophy is the long view, it points to the civilization of the future and to human potential.

Tommy Emmanual the wonderful Australian guitar maestro was asked what he did for a living while on a long plane flight; he responded with “ I am in the happiness business.   I play my guitar and people get happy.” The Dalai Lama proclaimed that Buddhism was not really his religion, a strange pronouncement indeed coming from the foremost spokesperson for that tradition on the planet.  “My religion is loving kindness, my philosophy is the teachings of the Buddha.”    Every human being on the planet would benefit from the attitudes of these men.   We can all make loving kindness the centerpiece of a life well lived.  Perhaps it is precisely what is owed to each other. The duty or dharma of being in a human form might very well be benevolence.  This could help to break up the divisions created by religion that have so divided us and become the source of so much evil.   Gandhi went on to say that every man essentially has his or her own religion and that is the “manner in which we choose to live our lives.”

What would it take to see each other as souls on an immense pilgrimage?  What would it take to see beyond the color of our skin, our gender or class we are born into?  Human Solidarity is impossible without breaking down this false sense of identity.  Put another way Human Solidarity is impossible without an immense capacity for compassion.  It is impossible without love.

He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In
!”

                                 Edwin Markham

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