The Theosophical Forum – April 1938


A valued correspondent writes that he believes many people are repelled by the supposition that impersonality, so strongly advanced in Theosophy, is equivalent to the complete obliteration of diversities in character between human beings. He says rightly that people do not relish the prospect of a dreary uniformity in anything; no one will strive for a spiritual existence in which all would be cast in exactly the same mold, even if told that it would lead to Nirvana or a heaven of harps and crowns. Quoting Thoreau, "I want all men to be as different as possible," he suggests that harmony in diversity, similarity without identity, with the suppression of selfishness and egoism, is a higher ideal.

He is right, and if anyone imagines that the distorted view of impersonality he pictures is Theosophical, a little study of what the Theosophical leaders have written will quickly clear up the misunderstanding. The mistake may have arisen from misapprehension of Arnold's famous line about the dewdrop slipping into the shining sea, but more probably from a lack of understanding of the meaning of "non-attachment," the key to impersonality.

Dr. de Purucker's Golden Precepts of Esotericism contains a clear explanation of the meaning and importance of impersonality, and it is plainly stated that it is the only practical method of breaking down the obscuring veils between man and his inner Divinity. Impersonal love, forgetfulness of the selfish demands of the lower personality, are the ways to save humanity from sinking into an abyss from which it could only escape after passing through untold suffering. It is an individual problem. Our "civilization" is made by the thoughts and desires of individuals, and no alleviation of the evils of this "iron age" is possible while efforts are directed merely to the change of conditions, and the change of hearts is ignored.

But light is breaking here and there through the darkness and evidence is increasing of the development of Theosophical principles of duty to humanity. While the majority in the churches still cling to the creeds which appeal to the pathetic craving for "personal salvation," intuitive minds are beginning to attract attention by proclaiming that nearly all the values accepted in the West for the re-ordering of the world are useless because they do not go to the root of the trouble. A prominent clergyman recently said from the pulpit: "Accepted standards are damning the world. Respectability has led us to the brink of destruction. The ordinary level of human ideals, thought and practice is a dead level. Jesus did not hesitate to demand that His followers be so much unlike the run of society that they be noticeably marked. "Do not even the others so?" is a question He often put to them."

Dr. Matthews, Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, wrote lately, "Christians have not had the courage or the insight to draw the conclusions from their own principles. Jesus was indeed a revolutionary . . . but he had no faith in the efficacy of political or economic changes which were alleviations of conditions but not of people. In His view "as a man thinks, so he is." There is no real revolution which does not begin with a change of mind." Not only Jesus, but all the World-Teachers, held and taught the same age-old doctrine.

And now comes Mr. Aldous Huxley (one of the famous grandsons of Professor T. H. Huxley, the champion of Darwinism), who has aroused widespread interest by his new book, Ends and Means, a brilliant presentation of the true remedy of our ills. If Mr. Huxley ever was a materialist he has quite abandoned that dreary creed. His eloquent words ring like the call to righteousness from one of the major prophets. His corrective is radical and, whether he knows it or not, it is purely Theosophical. He appeals for a thorough-going reform through spiritual self-discipline and a new outlook on the meaning of life. He insists upon the reality and validity of the mystical experience. Liberation from attachment to the desires of the lower side of our dual nature can be reached and the beatific vision obtained, but not without the strictest self-discipline. He shows that in the concept of union with the Divine Principle within there is no room for a personal, anthropomorphic God, and he believes that not only the great mystics and seers of antiquity accepted this, but that even the great Christian mystics did the same. (1) In the same connexion he writes:

Belief in a personal God has . . . led to that enormous over-valuation of the individual ego, which is so characteristic of Western popular philosophy. All the great religions have taught the necessity of transcending personality, but the Christians have made it particularly difficult for themselves to act upon this teaching. They have accompanied the injunction that men should lose their lives in order to save them by the assertion that God himself is a person and that personal values are the highest that we can know.

Mr. Huxley sets forth with clarity the true significance of impersonality or non-attachment, and shows that it is not a negative but a very positive quality. A few quotations illustrate the fundamental principles by which he would reform the world. They are indeed familiar to Theosophists, and they are true. But would they be listened to even today if it had not been for the sacrifice made by H. P. Blavatsky in bringing Theosophy to a bitterly hostile world? Can we honorably accept and profit by the teachings while scornfully rejecting the teacher, as many have done? Mr. Huxley writes:

The ideal man is the non-attached man . . . non-attached to wealth, fame, social position. Non-attached even to science, art, speculation and philosophy. Yes, non-attached even to these. . . .

But such profound non-attachment does not mean running away to the jungle and living on roots and herbs. As W. Q. Judge said, the place of the true mystic is in the rough and tumble of the world, where his duty to humanity lies. Mr. Huxley sees this, for he says, further:

The practice of non-attachment entails all the virtues. It entails the practice of charity, for example; for there are no more fatal impediments than anger (even "righteous indignation") and cold-blooded malice to the identification of the self with the immanent and transcendent more-than-self. It entails the practice of courage, for fear is a painful and obsessive identification of the self with its body. . . . It entails the cultivation of intelligence, for insensitive stupidity is a main root of all the other vices. It entails the practice of generosity and disinterestedness, for avarice and the love of possessions constrain their victim to equate himself with mere things. . . . It imposes upon those who would practice it the adoption of an intensely practical attitude toward the world.

We are not reviewing Ends and Means, but only mentioning one of its leading features as an illustration of the spread of Theosophical ideas; there is much more in it with which we heartily agree. For instance, the author fully realizes that unless human nature is changed no amount of social improvement will produce permanent reform; the defects of the personality will simply find new ways of expressing themselves. This change, as he sees, can only come by individual effort, from within. A slow process, perhaps, for most of us, but sure, and while it can be helped by a better social order there is no hope of overcoming the evils of our age by any form of violence, military or economic. Above all else, to obtain practical results, "the life of the spirit must be quickened." Speaking of the great snares, the love of Money, Power, Social Success, Mr. Huxley's remedy is non-attachment to these appeals to the lower nature, and a turning of the mind to higher ideals, and especially to the love of our neighbor and our duty to humanity. These will lead away from the limitations of "personality" toward the mystic union with the greater life "which passeth [ordinary] understanding."

If the intuitive minds who are approaching the Theosophical viewpoint about the cure for present discontents will study without prejudice the profound philosophic and scientific teaching of the Ancient Wisdom, they will find that their ethical views are not mere opinions, ideals, or hopes, but that they are rooted in the very fabric of the universe, as scientifically true as they are spiritually beautiful. The strength of Theosophy lies in its unification of religion, philosophy, and science.


1. H. P. Blavatsky, writing of the Great Ones who had succeeded in uniting themselves permanently with their inner Divinity, thereby becoming gods on earth, says there were others, such as Moses, Pythagoras, Plotinus, Confucius, etc., "and some Christian saints," who were so united at intervals, and have taken rank as demi-gods. See Isis Unveiled, II, 159. (return to text)

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