Category Archives: Buddhism

Ambition vs. Attainment

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– G. G. LeGros

“Oh, not the men of pomp and guile,
The crafty and the bold,
The haughty men who never smile,
And men who live for gold;
But broken men with hands that bleed
And souls by anguish rent . . . . ”

On the first page of Light on the Path we read the number one rule for disciples – “Kill out ambition.” The Adept-author explains that “Ambition is the first curse: the great tempter of the man who is rising above his fellows. It is the simplest form of looking for reward. Men of intelligence and power are led away from their higher possibilities by it continually. Yet it is a necessary teacher. Its results turn to dust and ashes in the mouth; like death and estrangement it shows the man at last that to work for self is to work for disappointment.”

Ambition may even persist in the life of the occultist “…who fancies he has removed his interest from self, but who has in reality only enlarged the limits of experience and desire, and transferred his interest to the things which concern his larger span of life.” We see this everywhere – “astral projection,” “psychic powers,” “third-eye clairvoyance,” “hypnotic control over others, ” etc. Ambition is a hydra-headed thing.

In another book – Fragments of Life and Thought – the same Adept points out that “…not until the man has triumphed again and again in one incarnation after another, not until success has become tedious to him, and the high places of the earth all seem low and poor to him, is he beginning to be ready to go beyond it. And only so can it be killed out. “Man must go on struggling for earthly prizes until he reaches the point “…where the excelling of his fellows becomes suddenly and forever contemptible in his eyes, beneath the dignity and greatness of his soul, and then he will kill out ambition and cast it from him as a weed of earth. He will perceive that the strength which he has developed must be used, not in order to excel, but in the endeavor to attain.”

Attainment is different from Ambition because the latter fires one with a passion to out-distance all others striving for the same goal. The ambitious man is by necessity personal, jealous, envious, and ruthless – in other words, a menace to the world because he sows discord. To realize his aims he will stop at nothing save that which imperils his own preservation. And sometimes he will risk even that, like Shakespeare’s soldier “… seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.”

Attainment, on the other hand, is a reaching out from self to SELF, from the finite to the Infinite, from the conditioned to the Unconditioned. The man who attains finds no rivals at his side, no single prize waiting at the end of the race. He moves in Eternity, where there is room for all.

Ambition is the effort of man to add to himself some coveted fragment of Earth, hoping thereby to exalt and increase his stature before others; but Attainment is the giving of oneself to the Whole.

A good example is the poet who wins first prize in an important contest. At the reception which follows, he receives honor and praise, and for a little hour feels as a god among men. But he also looks upon the faces of other poets who had competed and lost. They regard him as a thief, a usurper of the prize they sought, and which, in their opinion, they deserve.

He also thinks of next year’s contest, and wonders if he will win again, or only receive honorable mention, or no mention at all. Instead of rejoicing in his triumph, he finds himself under a cloud of apprehension. Victory is not the splendid thing he had envisioned.

Looking back, he sees that writing the poem was Attainment; but competing and winning the prize was Ambition. In the joy of creating something beautiful, he reached out of himself into the starry spaces where the Gods of Glory sing, and where, for a moment, he was one with their song.

But winning the prize and humbling his rivals, was an earthly thing that compressed his soul, and imprisoned him in a little world made by the littleness of men, where Ambition is king, demanding its terrible price.

The poet should sing as a bird sings – not for reward, but to Attain, to reach out from self to Infinity. The poet can be taken as a symbol of all men because everyone strives to express what he is – what is in him – either to win something from the world that may be added unto himself, or to give something of himself to the world. Each man is, by nature, either a taker or a giver.

The taker, following the path of Ambition, loses with every step because he violates the Supreme Order of the Universe, which is Duty, Service, and Cooperation. The giver, following the path of Attainment, wins with every step because he acts in keeping with the Harmony of the Whole, thereby enriching himself, because he is the Universe.

Attainment is the foundation of the Ultimate Discipline of Life. “Work as those work who are ambitious.” Make the utmost of the life that is yours; but seek no personal victories which, once realized, crush those around you. Regard men not as rivals, but as fellow pilgrims walking beside you on the Eternal Highway. Help them to attain with you, to become whole with you, and all the treasures of the Universe will be yours!

(from “Messiah”)

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More Jung and Theosophy

Jung

 

“Higher Spirituality in Jung”

 

Editor, The Canadian Theosophist:

 

In your number of May 15th, 1935, there is an arrticle called “The Psychology of The New Age,” signed W.F.S., and in it a passing mention of Jung’s psychology. It seems to me that the author cannot have studied Jung’s latest works, or he would never have concluded his paragraph with such a depreciatory statement. Not only has the existence of “higher spiritual and mental realms” occurred to Jung but his psychology actually leads to parallels with the highest Chinese Yoga, as shown in his commentary on “The Secret of The Golden Flower.” His concept of the “unconscious” seems to me parallel with the “anima mundi” spoken of by H.P.B. in “The Secret Doctrine” as follows, –

 

She says, (S.D. II, 511), “Akasa – the astral light, – can be defined in a few words; it is the universal Soul, the Matrix of the universe, the Mysterium Magnum, from which all that exists is born by seperation or differentiation . . . . as the finite, in the Infinite, as regards manifestation, this light must have its shadowy side… which its actions draw upon humanity and which men attract and force to activity. Hence, while it is the universal Cause in its unmanifested, unity and infinity, the Astral Light becomes with regard to Mankind, simply the effects of the causes produced by men . . . that determines the unavoidable action and reaction of the great magic agent. It is mankind which has become the ‘Serpent of Genesis’ and thus causes daily and hourly the Fall and sin of the ‘Celestial Virgin’ – which thus becomes the Mother of gods and devils at one and the same time: for she is the ever-loving beneficent deity to all those who stir her Soul and heart, instead of attracting to themselves her shadowy manifested essence . . . .which kills and destroys . . . . .The Astral Light may be God and Devil at once – ‘Demon est Deus inverses’. . . . . the `Holy Ghost’ and `Satan’ at one and the same time …The manifested effects of the two who are one, guided and attracted by ourselves is the Karma of humanity.”

 

“The Astral Light stands in the same relation to Akasa and Anima Mundi as Satan stands to the Deity – they are one and the same thing seen from two aspects.” – (S.D., I, 197)

 

She says again: – “Alaya is literally the ‘Soul of the World’ or Anima Mundi, the ‘Over Soul’ of Emerson . . . . not only the Dhyani-Buddhas are one with Alaya in Soul and Essence, but even the man strong in the Yoga (mystic meditation), is able to merge his soul with it.” (S.D., I, 48)

 

On page 59 she speaks, of “the prototypes impressed in the Astral Light – the lowest plane and world of Anima Mundi” which is dual and bisexual. (I, 196)

 

The Logoi of all countries and religions are correlative. . . with the female Soul of the World, or the “Great Deep”; the deity, from which these two in one have their being, is ever concealed and called the “Hidden One”. . . it can act only through the Dual Force emanating from the Eternal Essence. (S.D., I, 353)

 

Svabhavat is the mystic essence, the plastic root of physical Nature – “Numbers” when manifested; the Number, in its unity of Substance, on the highest plane. The name is of Buddhist use and a synonym for the four-fold Anima Mundi, the Kabalistic “Archetypal world.” (S.D., I, 98)

 

Now the above is what Jung means by his concept of the “unconscious.”

 

In “Psychological Types,” p. 271, he says: “The great problems of life. . . are always related to the primordial images of the collective unconscious. These images are really balancing or compensating factors which correspond with the problems life presents in actuality ….. Every great experience in life, every profound conflict, evokes the treasured wealth of these images, and brings them to inner perception; as such, they become accessible to consciousness only in the presence of that degree of self-awareness and power of understanding which enables a man also to think what he experiences instead of just living it blindly. In the latter case he actually lives the myth and the symbol without knowing it.”

 

With regard to mythological associations Jung says . . . “Those motives and images . . . can spring anew in every age and clime, without historical tradition or migration. I term these contents the collective unconscious, just as conscious contents are engaged in a definite activity, the unconscious contents – so experience teaches us – are similarly active.” (p. 616) “I am myself so profoundly convinced of this homogeneity of the human psyche that I have actually embraced it in the concept of the collective unconscious as a universal and homogeneous subtratum whose homogeneity extends even into a world-wide identity or similarity of myths and fairy tales, so that a negro of the southern states of America dreams in the motives of Grecian mytholoy, and a Swiss grocer’s apprentice repeats in his psychosis the vistion of an Egyptian Gnostic.” (p. 264)

 

Speaking of popular myth and legend, H.P.B. says, in the Secret Doctrine (II, 293): “The imagination of the masses . . . could never have conceived and fabricated ex nihilo so many monstrous figures, such a wealth of extraordinary tales, had it not had to serve it as a central nucleus, those floating reminiscences, obscure and vague, which unite the broken links of the chain of time to form with them the mysterious dream foundation of our collective consciousness.”

 

Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious is bound up with the problem of the pairs of opposites. In “Two Essays” (page 115) he says: “Through tension beween the opposites, the collective unconscious brings forth images which as symbols make possible an irrational union of the opposites”, (meaning that it cannot be done by brain reasoning). Our immediate life is only a world of images. All conscious imagination and action have grown out of these unconscious prototypes, and remain bound up with them.”

 

In “Psychological Types”, p. 577, Jung says: – Active phantasy, which brings the symbol to birth, “belongs to the highest form of psychic activity. For here, in a converging stream, flow the conscious and unconsciouss personality of the subject into a common and reconciling product. A phantasy thus framed may be the supreme expression of the unity of an individual; it may even create the individual by the consummate expression of its unity.”

 

(p. 144): Under normal conditions…. energy must be artificially added to the unconscious symbol, in order to. . .bring it to consciousness – this occurs. . . through a differentiation of the Self from the opposites… “this points to the separability of an individual nucleus”. This detachment causes the energy to sink into the unconscious, where it automatically takes possession of the waiting phantasy material, which it activaltes and urges towards consciousness.” The expression for the symbol “living form” is happily chosen, “because the phantasy material thus animated contains images of the psychological development of the individual in its successive states, thus providing a sort of model or representative of the further way between the opposites….. this function of mediation between the opposites I have termed the transcendent function. (p. 149). The positive something which results is the “symbolic determinant of the Will” …..

 

“The primordial image to which I refer is revealed in that growth of oriental thought which centres around the Brahman-Atman teaching in India, and in China found its philosophical representative in Lao Tze. (p. 151) …… Tao is….. a middle road between the opposites, freed from them and yet uniting them in itself. The purpose of life is to travel this middle path and never to deviate towards the opposites.” Such a wisdom presents what is the highest attainable to spiritual superiority. (p. 153): “For its achievement the highest moral effort, the greatest self-denial and sacrifice, the most intense religious earnestness and saintliness, are needed.” (p. 244): “The East has for thousands of years been familiar with this process, and has founded thereon a psychological doctrine of salvation which brings the way of deliverance within the compass of human intention – thus both the Indian and the Chinese religions, as also Buddhism which combines the spheres of both, possess the idea of a redeeming middle path of magical efficacy which is attainable through a conscious attitude.”

 

Jung quotes the Kaushitaki Upanishad, 1-4, “like one who faring fast in a chariot looketh down upon the chariot wheels, so upon day and night, upon good and evil deeds and upon all the opposites doth he look down; but he, freed from good and evil deeds, as knower of Brahman, entereth into Brahman.”

 

On p. 266 Jung says of Tao: “Tao is an irrational union of the opposites, therefore a symbol which is and is not”…. “The spirit of the valley is immortal; it is called the deep feminine. The gateway of the deep feminine is called root of heaven and earth”…. – “Too withdraw oneself is the celestial way”…. (quoting Lao Tze): “Therefore is he (the complete one) inaccessible to intimacy, inaccessible to estrangement, inaccessible to profit, inaccessible to injury, inaccessible to honor, inaccessible to disgrace.” Being one with Tao resembles the spiritual condition of a child. This is the psychological attitude which is an esesntial condition of the inheritance of the Christian Kingdom of Heaven – …. The basic image and symbol whence proceeds the redeeming effect. (p 267): “Hence as a microcosm, uniting in himself the world opposites, man corresponds with the irrational symbol which reconciles psychological antithesis – . This root-image of man – accords with the symbol `living forms’.” The opposites are two mutually contending tendencies, both striving to drag man into extreme attitudes and entangle him in the world.

 

Wu Wei, another Chinese concept, means “not doing and not doing nothing.” In this connection Jung quotes a Japanese philosopher, NakaeToju – “Ri is the world soul, Ki the world matter, which are two aspects of the same thing. The individual also embraces the opposites.” There is a universal Self and an individual Self which is a divine essence which Toju calls Ryochi. It is the universal Self in use (as Jung also says elsewhere: “The individual Self is a …. representative of something universally present in all living are creatures.”) Ryochi is the True Self – not the false self which is an “acquired personality arising from perverted beliefs.” Ryochi is called “alone being,” or “alone knowing.” It is the self regulating function, this mediator of the pairs of opposites Ri and Ki; it is the “ancient Wise One
who dwelleth in thy heart” – “in every heart there dwelIeth a Sage; only man will not steadfastly believe it; therefore hath the whole remained buried.”

 

In the “Secret of the Golden Flower” (p. 83) Jung says, “My professional experiences have shown me that in my technique I had been unconsciously led along the secret way which for centuries has been the preoccupation of the best minds of the East.” The Chinese text shows striking parallels with the course of psychic development in European people. With them it is also a question of the way in which one may become what the Hindu terms Nirdvandva, free of the opposites – but the way is narrow as a knife’s edge. He says: “This detachment is the therapeutic effect par excellence for which I labor with my students and patients.” But he points out that this technique is only appropriate at a certain stage of development, and in the second half of life it must not be entered upon too soon. The instruction is only intended for him whose “light of consciousness is capable of freeing him from the powers of life, in order to enter into the ultimate undivided unity, into the ‘centre of emptiness’ where ‘dwells the god of utmost emptiness and life,’ as the Chinese text says. This ‘centre’ reminds one of what was said by a (Theosophical) Master: “Desire only in your efforts to reach nearest the centre of life. (which is the same in the universe and in yourself). It is your divinity, it is the divinity we all share, which has within it, in its heart, a supreme and awful power.”

 

Jung says: “This something, though strange to us, is yet so near it is altogether ourselves and yet unrecognizable, a virtual middle point. I have called this middle point the Self.” In another place he says: “The psyche may be regarded as a mathematical point, and at the same time as a universe of fixed stars.”

 

He says: “Obviously the veil of Maya cannot be lifted by a mere decision of reason, but demands the most thorough-going and wearisome preparation consisting in the right payment of all debts to life… till then, there are real and relatively real figures of the unconscious.”

 

Of Westerners Jung says: “We would like to climb the heights of a philosophical religion, but are, in fact, incapable of it. The best we can do is to grow up to it.”

 

I think that the parallels given above prove that the “existence of higher spiritual and mental realms” has occurred to Jung!

 

– Maude Bernard

(From Canadian Theosophist, Aug., 15, 1935)

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Thoughts on Reincarnation

daffodils

We sometimes turn to Nature for illustrations that we can use in explaining some of the doctrines, and the best illustration that I can find for the teaching of reincarnation is a perennial plant. Perhaps a plant growing from a bulb provides the best example of all, because during the winter months all that had grown above the ground has been shed, and the bulb lies invisibly below the surface waiting for the new spring-time growth.

It is a wonderful thing, once you come to think about it, how the life-energies bring forth the blade-like leaves, and then the flower, and then when the flowering is over, the energies withdraw into the bulb, and the flower and the leaves are shed.

Suppose, just for the sake of this illustration, we cut the flower in its prime and preserve it.  When the new flower appears during the next Spring, we may find that to all intents and purposes it is an altogether different flower, as much so almost as though it had sprung from a different bulb.  And yet it is the outgrowth of the flower that we preserved from the year before, because the same life-energy produced them both.

It seems that here is the secret of the difference between the personality and the individuality.  The individuality, which we also call the reincarnating ego, is like the bulb because it puts forth a new personality at each new birth, which process we have come to call reincarnation.  The personality of this life-time is to all intents and purposes a different being from the personality that the reincarnating ego brought forth in its previous sojourn on earth.  And this is the reason that we cannot remember our past lives.

Now the great task confronting us in human life is to make of this personality a fitting instrument and vehicle for the life of the individuality, which is really the higher Self.  When we recognize that we as human beings have the responsibility of maintaining our bodies in health and control, and of using them for constructive purposes, and that we are responsible in the last analysis to our higher Selves, then this higher Self, or the individuality as we also call it, can become more manifest in our consciousness.  When this has been more or less successfully accomplished we have true human greatness.

So when a person says:  “But I don’t want to reincarnate,” that is the impermanent part of him speaking that isn’t going to endure anyway.  When he makes a sincere effort to study the grand teachings, and to live them, then he becomes conscious of those vaster reaches of his being that comprise the entity which does survive through the ages in that mysterious process called reincarnation.

And one more thought.  Reincarnation is only a special case of a wider teaching of the Continuance of Life.  We reincarnate because humanity at the present level of its unfoldment needs the experience.  There are entities in the universe that do not reincarnate because there is not the need for it.  They have passed through that phase of spiritual evolution, or, again, in other instances have not yet reached that phase, wherein reincarnation is the answer to their specific needs.

All entities, however, follow the habits of Nature, and the Continuance of Life in one form or another is the first law of cosmic activity.  Thus many entities, both above and below the human kingdom, reimbody although they remain within their own class.  Only entities that wear bodies of flesh, such as we humans, and the animals, reincarnate.
If we follow this line of thinking it will lead us into some of the deepest mysteries of consciousness.  And there is no spiritual exercise to be compared with that of delving into the teachings and encompassing them with our minds and hearts.  That is the secret of growth along spiritual and ethical lines.

 

– L. Gordon Plummer,  (Eclectic Theosophist, May, 1978)
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What is Theosophy?

Theosophy is a Greek term meaning Divine Wisdom, said to be the synthesis of religion, philosophy and science.  During the Dark Ages this wisdom was only taught in secret to dedicated pupils, but during the last century it became available to all seekers after spiritual truth, and its promulgation was intended to act as a counter-balance in our present age of scientific materialism. Theosophy is a Greek term meaning Divine Wisdom, said to be the synthesis of religion, philosophy and science.  During the Dark Ages this wisdom was only taught in secret to dedicated pupils, but during the last century it became available to all seekers after spiritual truth, and its promulgation was intended to act as a counter-balance in our present age of scientific materialism.
Two main teachings are stressed in Theosophy – Reincarnation and Karma.  Reincarnation means the successive births of every individual in a new human body, on this earth, birth and death following each other like waking and sleeping so that a period of activity is followed by a period of rest and assimilation.  Karma, meaning ‘action’, is the law of cause and effect, action and reaction being equal and opposite.
Put into practical terms, these two doctrines, called twins since one cannot be considered without the other, supply a rational and satisfactory explanation of what appears to be gross injustice in our lives.  Obviously we are not born equal, either physically or mentally, and our sense of justice demands a better explanation than laying the blame on the will of God or Fate.
If we realized the real implication of the Biblical injunction that “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” and if we applied this in our thoughts and actions, the quality of life would be immeasurably improved, eventually permeating the whole fabric of society.
A belief in reincarnation, which is accepted by two-thirds of the world’s population, would remove the fear of death, putting it in its proper place as a part of living, a door into a new state of consciousness free of the limitations of the physical body.
During the period between physical lives, the immortal man, the undying individuality, assimilates the experience and lessons of the life just ended, so that when the time comes to enter a new body again, he will be wiser and better able to cope with life’s problems as they arise.
Theosophical students revere all the great teachers and sages of history, as examples of what is possible for every individual.  “I have said, ye are gods and children of the most High.”
The third basic idea in Theosophy is that of the unity of all life and human brotherhood as a fact, not a sentimental opinion.
We are very aware today of the interdependence in the chain of life in the kingdoms below man.  Theosophy always taught this, but in addition includes mankind.  We are all parts of the greater life, sparks of Divinity, united like the fingers of one hand, and we have learned that when one finger is injured the whole hand suffers.
These three basic ideas are the foundation of Theosophy and can be grasped even by a child, although the deeper reaches of the philosophy have given great minds their fullest scope and will satisfy the spiritual longings of those who are gradually turning away from self-centered materialistic living.
( Dorita Gilmour, from The Eclectic Theosophist, Jan 15, 1978 )
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Fundamental Buddhist Beliefs

Buddhist Temple

The following text is of the fourteen items of belief which have been accepted as fundamental principles in both the Southern and Northern sections of Buddhism, by authoritative committees to whom they were submitted by me personally…… [ – H. S. Olcott (1881) ]
I. Buddhists are taught to show the same tolerance, forbearance, and brotherly love to all men, without distinction; and an unswerving kindness towards the members of the animal kingdom.

II. The universe was evolved, not created; and it functions according to law, not according to the caprice of any God.

III. The truths upon which Buddhism is founded are natural. They have, we believe, been taught in successive kalpas, or world-periods, by certain illuminated beings called BUDDHAS, the name BUDDHA meaning “Enlightened”.

IV. The fourth Teacher in the present kalpa was Sakya Muni, or Gautama Buddha, who was born in a royal family in India about 2,500 years ago. He is an historical personage and his name was Siddhartha Gautama.

V. Sakya Muni taught that ignorance produces desire, unsatisfied desire is the cause of rebirth, and rebirth, the cause of sorrow. To get rid of sorrow, therefore, it is necessary to escape rebirth; to escape rebirth, it is necessary to extinguish desire; and to extinguish desire, it is necessary to destroy ignorance.

VI. Ignorance fosters the belief that rebirth is a necessary thing. When ignorance is destroyed the worthlessness of every such rebirth, considered as an end in itself, is perceived, as well as the paramount need of adopting a course of life by which the necessity for such repeated rebirths can be abolished. Ignorance also begets the illusive and illogical idea that there is only one existence for man, and the other illusion that this one life is followed by states of unchangeable pleasure or torment.

VII. The dispersion of all this ignorance can be attained by the persevering practice of an all-embracing altruism in conduct, development of intelligence, wisdom in thought, and destruction of desire for the lower personal pleasures.

VIII. The desire to live being the cause of rebirth, when that is extinguished rebirths cease and the perfected individual attains by meditation that highest state of peace called Nirvana.

IX. Sakya Muni taught that ignorance can be dispelled and sorrow removed by the knowledge of the four Noble Truths, namely:
1. The miseries of existence;
2. The cause productive of misery, which is the desire ever renewed of satisfying oneself without being able ever to secure that end;
3. The destruction of that desire, or the estranging of oneself from it;
4. The means of obtaining this destruction of desire. The means which he pointed out is called the Noble Eightfold Path, viz.: Right Belief; Right Thought; Right Speech; Right Action; Right Means of Livelihood; Right Exertion; Right Remembrance; Right Meditation.

X. Right Meditation leads to spiritual enlightenment, or the development of that Buddha-like faculty which is latent in every man.

XI. The essence of Buddhism, as summed up by the Tathagatha (Buddha) himself, is:
To cease from all sin,
To get virtue,
To purify the heart.

XII. The universe is subject to a natural causation known as “Karma”. The merits and demerits of a being in past existences determine his condition in the present one. Each man, therefore, has prepared the causes of the effects which he now experiences.

XIII. The obstacles to the attainment of good karma may be removed by the observance of the following precepts, which are embraced in the moral code of Buddhism, namely: (1) Kill not; (2) Steal not; (3) Indulge in no forbidden sexual pleasure; (4) Lie not; (5) Take no intoxicating or stupefying drug or liquor. Five other precepts which need not be here enumerated should be observed by those who would attain, more quickly than the average layman, the release from misery and rebirth.

XIV. Buddhism discourages superstitious credulity. Gautama Buddha taught it to be the duty of a parent to have his child educated in science and literature. He also taught that no one should believe what is spoken by any sage, written in any book, or affirmed by tradition, unless it accords with reason.

Drafted as a common platform upon which all Buddhists can agree.

– H. S. Olcott, P.T.S. (from Appendix of “The Buddhist Catechism”)

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Voluntary Action vs. Compulsion

charity

 

Militarily things seem pretty much the same today as 73 years ago – only not so much so. The inner laws of Nature, however, are still exactly the same.
[1944]

Two thousand Allied bombers drop hundreds of tons of flaming death on German cities. The four great powers meet at Dumbarton Oaks to agree on means for maintaining peace in the world. Eight thousand Japanese exterminated on Pelieliu Island. Thousands of tons of food supplies and clothing distributed to the war indigent in Italy, France and Greece.

Those, and similar contrasting newspaper headlines, run through the mind, as wending a somewhat weary way from the great city, the peace and quiet of the wayside is gratefully received. What does it all mean? This destroying with one hand and constructing and helping with the other.

The answer to all problems can be found by a communing with Nature, as long as we do not qualify it by placing that word HUMAN before it. Nature requires a rather close observation at times. So it is that we can note that all growth, whether vegetable or animal, all evolution or change of form, seems to be controlled by two great laws. One is Voluntary Action and the other is Compulsion.

It does not seem to matter much which law is allowed to hold its sway, the results seem to be the same. However, we note that the law of Compulsion is generally accompanied by sufferings, while that of Voluntary Action always seems to be a joyous affair.

Another thing to be noted is that whenever Voluntary Action is spurned, the very effects of such spurning is what produces the manifestations of Compulsion. An entity partakes of too much food, repudiating self-control, voluntarily exercised. Such nausea is produced that COMPULSION causes abstinence, until balance is once more restored. Therefore, the Law of Compulsion is not enforced by exterior forces, but merely produced by the throwing aside of the Divine Law of Voluntary Action.

In Nature, if it be studied with the Seeing Eye, it will be found that the Mineral Kingdom is ruled by the Law of Compulsion alone. In the Vegetable Kingdom, Voluntary Action makes its appearance, but faintly. Many botanical species have appeared and disappeared on account of it, but the Vegetable Kingdom, as a whole, has wonderfully progressed, since the days of the primitive fungi and gigantic tree ferns.

In the Animal Kingdom, Voluntary Action becomes more perceptible, as locomotion, the ability to change position has entered the life picture. Pity the poor plant, over-shadowed by the growing tree: it cannot move over into the sunshine, but has to make the best of it. Partly by Voluntary Action, partly by Compulsion, many a plant has grown into a tree that has overshadowed the tree that almost snuffed it out of existence. Sometimes, it is itself snuffed out of existence. In the Human Kingdom, having locomotion, as well as self-conscious mind, the Law of Voluntary action becomes supreme, the Law of Compulsion only lurks in the shadows of man’s creation, ready with its whip-lash to drive him onward and upward, if he will not move on his own intiative.

Now read again the first paragraph, and see if you can reconcile the conflicting actions, in the light of the Law of Compulsion, acting through the man-made destruction, compelling man to do what he should have done voluntarily.

Moral: Man advances, willy-nilly. With joy in his heart, voluntarily, or under the whip-lash of the Law of Compulsion.
And that’s just simple Theosophy.

– The Wayfarer [Maj. Hubert S. Turner]

– From “Thoughts by the Wayside,” Theosophia, Nov.-Dec., 1944

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Ambition vs. Attainment

2ambition

                                             – G. C. LeGros

“Oh, not the men of pomp and guile,
The crafty and the bold,
The haughty men who never smile,
And men who live for gold;
But broken men with hands that bleed
And souls by anguish rent . . . . ”

On the first page of Light on the Path we read the number one rule for disciples – “Kill out ambition.” The Adept-author explains that “Ambition is the first curse: the great tempter of the man who is rising above his fellows. It is the simplest form of looking for reward. Men of intelligence and power are led away from their higher possibilities by it continually. Yet it is a necessary teacher. Its results turn to dust and ashes in the mouth; like death and estrangement it shows the man at last that to work for self is to work for disappointment.”

Ambition may even persist in the life of the occultists “…who fancies he has removed his interest from self, but who has in reality only enlarged the limits of experience and desire, and transferred his interest to the things which concern his larger span of life.” We see this everywhere – “astral projection,” “psychic powers,” “third-eye clairvoyance,” “hypnotic control over others, ” etc.  Ambition is a hydra-headed thing.

In another book – Fragments of Life and Thought – the same Adept points out that “…not until the man has triumphed again and again in one incarnation after another, not until success has become tedious to him, and the high places of the earth all seem low and poor to him, is he beginning to be ready to go beyond it. And only so can it be killed out. “Man must go on struggling for earthly prizes until he reaches the point “…where the excelling of his fellows becomes suddenly and forever contemptible in his eyes, beneath the dignity and greatness of his soul, and then he will kill out ambition and cast it from him as a weed of earth. He will perceive that the strength which he has developed must be used, not in order to excel, but in the endeavor to attain.”

Attainment is different from Ambition because the latter fires one with a passion to out-distance all others striving for the same goal. The ambitious man is by necessity personal, jealous, envious, and ruthless – in other words, a menace to the world because he sows discord. To realize his aims he will stop at nothing save that which imperils his own preservation. And sometimes he will risk even that, like Shakespeare’s soldier “… seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.”

Attainment, on the other hand, is a reaching out from self to SELF, from the finite to the Infinite, from the conditioned to the Unconditioned. The man who attains finds no rivals at his side, no single prize waiting at the end of the race. He moves in Eternity, where there is room for all.

Ambition is the effort of man to add to himself some coveted fragment of Earth, hoping thereby to exalt and increase his stature before others; but Attainment is the giving of oneself to the Whole.

A good example is the poet who wins first prize in an important contest. At the reception which follows, he receives honor and praise, and for a little hour feels as a god among men. But he also looks upon the faces of other poets who had competed and lost. They regard him as a thief, a usurper of the prize they sought, and which, in their opinion, they deserve.

He also thinks of next year’s contest, and wonders if he will win again, or only receive honorable mention, or no mention at all. Instead of rejoicing in his triumph, he finds himself under a cloud of apprehension. Victory is not the splendid thing he had envisioned.

Looking back, he sees that writing the poem was Attainment; but competing and winning the prize was Ambition. In the joy of creating something beautiful, he reached out of himself into the starry spaces where the Gods of Glory sing, and where, for a moment, he was one with their song.

But winning the prize and humbling his rivals, was an earthly thing that compressed his soul, and imprisoned him in a little world made by the littleness of men, where Ambition is king, demanding its terrible price.

The poet should sing as a bird sings – not for reward, but to Attain, to reach out from self to Infinity. The poet can be taken as a symbol of all men because everyone strives to express what he is – what is in him – either to win something from the world that may be added unto himself, or to give something of himself to the world. Each man is, by nature, either a taker or a giver.

The taker, following the path of Ambition, loses with every step because he violates the Supreme Order of the Universe, which is Duty, Service, and Cooperation. The giver, following the path of Attainment, wins with every step because he acts in keeping with the Harmony of the Whole, thereby enriching himself, because he is the Universe.

Attainment is the foundation of the Ultimate Discipline of Life. “Work as those work who are ambitious.” Make the utmost of the life that is yours; but seek no personal victories which, once realized, crush those around you. Regard men not as rivals, but as fellow pilgrims walking beside you on the Eternal Highway. Help them to attain with you, to become whole with you, and all the treasures of the Universe will be yours!

(from “Messiah”)

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