The Theosophical Forum – August 1938


We often quote that maxim, used by several of the ancient Greek authors, Μήδεν αγαν, "not too much of anything, nothing in excess, moderation in all things"; but perhaps not always realizing sufficiently its import. The genius of our race is in an important respect the opposite of that of these ancient Greeks. Strenuousness is rather our cult, the philosophy of the utmost; and this we carry into everything we do, from manual labor to devotional aspirations. But the Greeks cherished the ideal of balance and eschewed the notion of excess in anything; some of their stories depict the retribution that comes on those who pursue one line of endeavor too strenuously. Proportion is the keynote of their art. Astrology books tell us that certain prominent occidental nations are under the fiery sign Aries, the Ram; and that the Chinese are ruled by its opposite, Libra or the Balance. Contrast our philosophies and religions with those of ancient China.

Yet even in speaking of the Tao philosophy, so deeply engrained is the racial genius above spoken of, that we are apt to try and translate the words of Lao-Tse and Chuang-Tse into terms more consonant with our own ideals, as though these philosophers were concealing their meaning under some guise of indirect speech But there is no need to seek to evade these teachings, for they are what we find in ancient India and in many Theosophical books which we revere. They amount, philosophically speaking, to the finding of the true Self by progressive rejection of all that encumbers it; and, as regards action, they imply the finding of the real actor in man, by relegating to their proper place all the minor impulses to action, which are only the qualities of nature, as the Bhagavad-Gita tells us.

Indian philosophy runs to vast masses of detail, terms innumerable, categories, classifications, doctrines, schools; but the Chinese eschews every complication and avoids terminology and formal doctrine, all world-systems and theories of the constitution of man. There are many roads to truth, but all have the same goal.

Occidental people are afraid that if they abandon strenuousness they will fall into inertia. There are many tools in the workshop of life, and he would be a poor craftsman who should use one tool for all purposes. If we have neglected the balance wheel in our mechanism, at least a flywheel is not much good without power; and on the other hand an engine without any sort of governor runs amuck.

No doubt the remaining signs of the Zodiac, besides Aries and Libra as mentioned, denote various implements of necessary use and all contributory to a well-balanced outfit. Individuals may be divided into a classification on this basis, each showing the idiosyncrasy pertaining to the particular cosmic potency in question; and so with the seven symbolic planets.

If Karman is connected with any particular sign it must be that of the Balance, for it is the great adjuster of equilibrium.

No doubt it is wisely said that one should act according to his own nature, rather than seek to imitate the nature of another; and if the racial type to which we belong imbodies a particular Genius, we probably do well to manifest that Genius. Let each do his own job. But, this much having been allowed, it may be interesting and helpful to consider the matter further.

The Theosophical Forum