The Theosophical Forum — February 1943

MAN, KNOW THYSELF — Clifton Meek

Judge Light's excellent letter on "Social Behavior" prompts me to express a few theosophical thoughts on the subject. "Why do people behave as they do?" he asks. I think the answer can be epitomized into the simple following statement: Man, in his present state, is but partially, and hence, imperfectly evolved.

Out of this arises the difficulties which so relentlessly pursue mankind, and which will continue to do so until we intelligently go about the task, as individual creators, of improving our spiritual, moral and ethical status. We are free agents, the creators of good or evil, as we will. When our thoughts and actions are not in accordance, but at variance with, the immutable laws of universal nature, which, for the sake of convenience and the conservation of mental energy on the part of the mass of mankind are called God, a reaction occurs as nature restores the equilibrium which has been upset, thus causing pain and suffering to mankind.

In Oriental religion and philosophy this is called Karman, or Karma. It is an action of nature as inevitable and impersonal as the burning of the hand which is foolishly put into the fire. There is individual, national, racial and world Karman; nature is a universal brotherhood, and the Karman of every entity is linked with that of every other entity, and when the collective evil Karman of groups becomes overwhelming, catastrophes such as war occur.

Someone has said that the proper study of mankind is man, yet it is probably the one study that men understand least. Judge Light strikes a vital keynote when he cites the injunction of ancient mystery schools — "Man, know thyself" — which was inscribed above the entrance to one of the celebrated seats of learning of ancient Greece. Nature insists that every human soul must grow for itself, spiritually, morally and intellectually, make its own mistakes if necessary, and suffer the consequences, for only in that way can it evolve its potential possibilities. The great difficulty of course, lies in the fact, that at our present stage of evolution, which is a very materialistic one, too few have little or any interest in things of the spirit, or in developing their spiritual intuitions. They are content to drift along with the slow moving tide of evolution, satisfied with a "bread and circus" philosophy of life, learning the hard, slow way, reluctant to take their destiny in their own hands. Even many of those with spiritual aspirations are often under the self-imposed handicap of leaning too heavily on theological crutches instead of learning to walk on their own feet. The great truths regarding their own divine natures and their spiritual relationships with the larger pattern of life, as it was taught in the ancient mystery-schools, and as it still is in their present day counterpart, have been so thickly veiled with religious allegory, symbol and ritual, as to be practically lost to their view and understanding. Orthodox religion has attempted to cram divine intelligence into a "personality," making of God an exterior being rather than the central spiritual fire of man himself, thus necessitating an agent or intermediary through which, or whom, all spiritual traffic must be conducted. It is my belief, after years of observation and thought, that this purely human and materialistic concept has done more to retard the spiritual advancement of the race than any other single factor. Religious ceremonial, originally intended, and having its proper place as an aid and stimulus, has become a glittering distraction.

Such a system precludes the possibility of any further enlightenment or understanding on the part of man regarding the so-called mystery of life and his own being, discourages any exploration into the strata of his own divine nature, and too often discourages the idea that he possesses such a nature.

Ages ago, before the race had sunk to the level of materialism we now know, but from which we will again emerge, the spiritual Titans and teachers of nascent humanity explored the primeval strata of man's being, and nature itself, preserving their knowledge and wisdom under the seal of the mystery schools while civilizations rose and fell, giving out from time to time as conditions warranted and the spiritual intuitions of men were able to receive and understand it, the primeval truth regarding man and nature.

It was in these basic teachings that the world's great exoteric religions had their origin, each revamping its teachings to suit the particular, but not too ethical requirements, of various theological systems.

Man's evolution pursues a parallel and concurrent development on three planes — spiritual, intellectual and physical. The ancient system was, and still is, a synthesis of religion, philosophy and science, in contradistinction to the absurd and unnatural modern system (?) of three separate and often contradictory schools of thought. Men speak of the conflict between science and religion. There can be no conflict between a religious truth and scientific fact. The contradictions lie in the dogmas and theories which men have presented under the guise of religion and science.

I cannot agree with my friend, however, that the answer to the problem of social behavior is to be found in the teachings of modern day psychiatry or psychology, for as these terms indicate, they deal merely with the psychic, or intermediate nature of man, and do not go to the spiritual roots of his being. Dabbling with the vital psychic forces of human nature, without an understanding of their relationship to the whole, can work incalculable harm. Like many modern day cults which are based upon half truths they can be dangerous instruments in inexperienced hands.


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