How To Move Forward? How to Reconciling the Opposites

Mary Anderson – UK 

Mary worked and lived at Adyar for many years. She was International Vice-President from 1996 to 2001 and International Secretary from 2002 to 2008, when she resigned. At present she lives in Ferndown, Dorset near Bournemouth in the UK.

There is at present the danger of a certain dichotomy in the Theosophical Society. This has happened before, resulting in or leading to the existence of the ‘Adyar society’ on the one hand and the Point Loma/Pasadena, Covina etc. societies on the other. In these cases, the society with its headquarters at Adyar has remained the largest society representing the world-wide Theosophical movement.

But at present there is the danger of a more serious dichotomy. Following the recent Presidential elections, which resulted in a large majority of votes in India for the Indian candidate and a large majority of votes in the rest of the world for the American candidate, many tirades of hate have appeared on the internet. The idea of two Theosophical Societies - East and West - has even been broached.

There may be a tendency toward such dichotomies, whatever may be their cause, from time to time in most groups and organizations. Certain ideas set out in a book by the late Dr Hugh Shearman (who was awarded the Subba Rao Medal), The Passionate Necessity, may be useful in helping us to understand and come to terms with the present dichotomy. In chapter 14 (’Heaven and Hell’), he points out that, although the old idea of hellfire is no longer generally accepted, the terms ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ represent ‘a psychological reality’ (93), possibly resulting in ‘a dichotomy . . . between east and west or left and right or those we cling to and those we hate. The normal conflicts of mankind keep getting transformed into conflicts of light and darkness’ (94).

Dr Shearman points out that this is an untrue view of life, for our ‘opponents’ are not unlike ourselves, though we may take evasive action to keep our prejudices at all costs intact. We all have the ‘compulsive desire to see life in terms of opposite extremes, of heavenly and infernal polarities’ (94).

‘What are the roots of this tendency in the individual and can any good thing be led to grow forth from such roots? . . . The individual human being exists largely out of sight. . . . What is out of sight in us is what is so often called . . . the unconscious, that part of our nature which causes us to do many things of which we are nevertheless habitually unaware’ (94-5). ‘The unconscious . . . is not merely a chaos. . . . it contains living energy. . . . Energy is always a tension or flow between opposites’ (96).

‘But we tend not to recognize or control this process, pursuing one of a pair of opposites and ignoring the fact that we are giving energy to its opposite within ourselves. It is the tendency which causes us to take on disconcertedly the qualities of our enemies’ (96). ‘This rebound out of the unconscious always happens when we accept something without accepting its opposite, so attempting to cut life in two’ (97). ‘We see it happening in religious organizations which are often full of quarrels and disputes such as would not arise in more secular pursuits. Hatreds can arise in a church such as would be most unlikely in a dart club’ (97).

To keep up checking on opposites would be an endless and sterile task. We have to come to recognize that there is always this tension of opposites; and it is never a question wholly of deciding in favour of one opposite against the other. Both are factors in one living process. The creative reality is the tension or flow between the opposites, not the opposites themselves as such. It is quite healthy and right that within us there should be tensions; but these tensions should have our watchful attentiveness, not with any idea of eliminating one of the opposites which have brought the tensions into being, but rather to see that the tension itself should have a creative outlet’ (98).

‘One can see how this would apply to world tensions. If people everywhere were giving no great attention to the opposites of east and west but were instead keenly alert for such new life and energy and creative effects as might be released through the interplay of these two opposites, then we should have an entirely new attitude to international affairs. And in the same way, in the conflicts of opposites which occur in our more private lives, it is by giving our attention to the total situation or the movement of energy which arises from the interplay of opposites that we move towards a solution of our problems, and not by a static attitude of indignation or fear directed against one of the opposites. If we can do this, we shall be taking a step towards our own liberation from being merely at the mercy of uncontrolled and compulsive attitudes’ (98).

‘In taking that step of watching the total situation, in ourselves and in the world, not trying to exclude either opposite at any time but observing with understanding the creative produce of their tension, we are crossing the great divide from universal unconscious to universal conscious’ (100).

Just how we can penetrate behind, above or beyond two opposites and arrive at the benevolent energy behind them is a matter for each of us to investigate. Can we see our way to being ‘together differently’? In mutual respect and understanding, even for what we may consider wrong (and who are we to judge?), we may approach a solution or resolution of the present difficulties. Are we not all members of the Theosophical Society, sharing the wonderful Theosophical philosophy and showing respect for those whose attitude and opinions may differ from ours? Karma, the great teacher, will in due course teach those who may think or act wrongly in some respects.

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