The Path – April 1890

RESPONSIBILITY FOR RIGHT AND WRONG ACTION — Exeter

Look not mournfully into the Past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy Future, without fear, and with a manly heart. — Hyperion.

A fundamental teaching of Theosophy is man’s responsibility to himself alone for his actions, good, bad, or indifferent. It is at once a wise and truthful teaching, and calculated to inspire one with lofty thoughts and higher aspirations. It presupposes a positive knowledge on the part of man of the difference between good and evil in their relative capacities. Even the lower strata of humanity, surrounded by every form of vice and wickedness, know from observation and intuition that there is a higher degree or form of life on the plane of humanity, although they may choose to walk in the path of animalism and wrongdoing. The dulled life they lead is theirs from choice; it cannot be said, however, that by a superhuman effort the criminal, the debauchee, or the self-imposed outcast from society may not lift himself by degrees from his low station to one of truth, refinement, and spirituality.

Because of the teachings of Theosophy on this point Theosophists are perhaps more than any others, unusually receptive to the voice of the Higher Self. The study of Theosophy is well calculated to lend to the individual an enlargement of comprehension in respect of humanity that is unattainable through any other process of reasoning. Individual opinion as to what is right and what is wrong will ever be the rule, and the intention the guide of judgment. A man may, with the hope of future reward, do right; a man may, because of some apparent timely advantage of right over wrong, do right; or he may be a passive doer of right for the sake of appearances and because right action is reputable and the aim of the majority. But the Theosophist, provided always that he is consistent, will look upon the question of right and wrong from a higher standpoint, — from the standpoint of Universal Brotherhood. For the good of humanity: for an example; because right is right, not because it is customary, will the Theosophist walk in the higher round.

Now, because of this teaching of responsibility, the idea arises of a still equally important phase of the question, and that is, every man is a law unto himself. Taken as it stands, this conception is, it must be admitted, startling; but it is nevertheless true. The laws of Karma and reincarnation demonstrate its truthfulness:

* * * * each man’s life
     The outcome of his former living is;
The bygone wrongs bring forth sorrows and woes,
     The bygone right breeds bliss.

That which ye sow ye reap. See yonder fields!
     The sesamum was sesamum, the corn Was corn.
The silence and the darkness knew!
     So is a man’s fate born.

He cometh, reaper of the things he sowed,
     Sesamum, corn, so much cast in past birth;
And so much weed and poison-stuff, which mar
     Him and the aching earth.

If he shall labor rightly, rooting these,
     And planting wholesome seedlings where they grew,
Fruitful and fair and clean the ground shall be,
     And rich the harvest due.

If he who liveth, learning whence woe springs,
     Enduring patiently, striving to pay
His utmost debt for ancient evils done
     In Love and Truth always;

If making none to lack, he thoroughly purge
     The lie and lust of self forth from his blood;
Suffering all meekly, rendering for offense
     Nothing but grace and good;

If he shall day by day dwell merciful,
     Holy and just and kind and true; and rend
Desire from whence it clings with bleeding roots,
     Till love of life have end:

He — dying — leaveth as the sum of him
     A life-count closed, whose ills are dead and quit,
Whose good is quick and mighty, far and near,
     So that fruits follow it." (1)

To draw a line of demarcation between right and wrong will not be a difficult task for the student of theosophy; and if the faculty of closely distinguishing the spurious from the true is latent in the student, the still smooking ember may be set a flame by a touch from the torch of Karma. The doer of good for the sake of good itself — he who sees wherein good may be evolved from presumptive evil, (for the two are at times closely allied); he who, for the sake of the good that is embedded therein, walks boldly into the monster’s lair, caring nothing for physical or mental scars and unheeding the scoffings of the super-holy in order to extract the true and put away the false, is surely working on the Theosophic plane.

When men are led to a conception of responsibility to self, when men come to see by the light of future events that he who sows shall surely reap — not a vicarious reward or punishment, but — a just proportion of praise or blame consistent with his present life, then will come to him the crowning day of theosophic effort. When the millions of rich and poor realize that man is a law unto himself in respect of spiritual things, then will Universal Brotherhood become a universal factor in the mundane sphere.

But the world moves. The progress of the past few years in the theosophic arena shows sense of increase an hundred fold before the cycle is ended. Man’s spiritual nature is slowly but surely developing in a degree in proportion to the development of the race. It is with no pessimistic eye that the members of the Theosophical Society need view the future. Theosophy is an accepted fact, and the practice of altruism is forming a light in the background that will eventually envelop humanity in one grand brotherhood for the glorification of good and the deification of man.

FOOTNOTE:

1. The Light of Asia. (return to text)


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