It appears that man is essentially an ego. Difficult as it is to define the word, it must be taken to be some point which has intelligence and, when this is used, it has force.
We can then say that man's mind is the extension of this point although it may not be the first differentiation of the origin.
The obvious expression of one of his stages of manifestation, is the brain, and its local instrument the body, both of which are but to give means for the operation of a non-material force on a material plane.
Man's actions produce his environment which in turn encourages the fuller development of that type of action which he is in the habit of performing on account of his character. If this type is unethical, it eventually leads to its own destruction. If it is a moral type, it is self-consolidating and leads to a greater intensity of the action.
Where does this begin with the individual? His birth is determined by his previous actions, it is a balance brought forward. He then begins to act according to his own swabhava, which allows him to act in accordance with it or he can act contrary to it, although this will be against his "nature." He can at any time turn from stage one to the next although at first he does so by reason of compulsion of feeling or education. Later, when he begins to think, he will decide to turn because he thinks it is right to, even when he does not want to. This stage is not dependent on age, in years, but of development. Until man reaches this stage he is not adult, not capable of independent intellectual thought, unaffected by passion, yet not cold because over-fathered by the new intuition of the divinity of life.
Most men do not think. They only react against the circumstances around them, this is why so many naturally grouse. They then pull themselves up and determine to be cheerful, in which state of mind they still do not think, but ignore inharmonious conditions, and pretend that either they do not exist or else they cannot affect them.
When man becomes more aware of the planes of thought, he will perceive that there exist many webs of thought vibrations. He can tune himself to any of these within his range, and he will then think as all the others in that web. If this is a powerful vibration he will be so overcome with it that he will believe it to be the only true one, and if his mind is limited in its ability to encompass the new thought-form, he will tend to become a fanatic. Those who rise into the higher principles of their own composition, meet the divine aspects of life. They have a much higher perception of the values of life, and so powerful and so true is this awareness of things that they say they have seen God.
Man usually has the humility to accord the responsibility for this supreme vision to something outside himself. Here he is both right and wrong, for the truths that he feels are relating to a factor which is present in all men, even if it is only latent, and so he is wrong in attributing this to a source outside himself.
And yet he is also right, for he has now become acquainted for the first time with the essence that is present in all men, but this is the lowest plane of expression on which it shows. Below this man is chiefly a thing of personality, and this obscures the common denominator; especially as we all try to develop the personality so much nowadays. This stratum in the many man has, is called by various names, often the Christos, the Higher Self, or just the Conscience.
Many battles have been fought about the particular label that shall be applied to the exact name that shall be given to a certain stratum. Names tend to divide men, and they should try to feel the idea that the other is putting forward. Most of us think that our way of looking at an idea is the best one, and perhaps the only one. Yet if we could put our aspect into the minds of the other man, it would not appeal so much to him as his own, because we all have different backgrounds and tendencies.
Therefore the actual mental process and conclusion is unimportant. Too much thinking dulls the edge of action. Thinking is not to be made an end in itself, it is only a middle stage in three stages of living. The first is experience of action, then comes the realisation of what has happened, coupled with the mental reaction of what should next be done, and finally the doing of it.
Turning to the third stage of the swing of the pendulum of life, the action resolved on after careful weighing of the experience of the day; we find that we have choices of several ways. If our actions have brought us unhappiness, we can still do the same things again, with promise of still more unhappiness. Most of us have deliberately done things, that we know we shall rue. We have felt impelled by external forces to do them. Paul described this choice, and rightly ascribed the tendency to do the wrong thing, to his lower nature. All of us have to go through this experience, and return to it many times, long after we thought we had quelled its influence. Many of us blame this apparent dictation on our wills, we say we have bad tempers, or are too weak-willed to resist certain tendencies in our characters. We forget that the will is but the kinetic force of the mass of thoughts we hold. The nature of these thoughts is determined by desire. If we wish to change the desire, we must first uproot it for inspection, and this many of us are afraid to do, because we like the experience the possession of this or that desire gives us. We do not like the payment that we have to give for its possession, but while we subject our minds to its sensations, we love it and are glad to see it grow. But when the time comes to pay for the damage it does, its cost of upkeep, our minds revolt and we determine to get rid of the animal, which it truly is. During this revulsion the detached ego sees truth in a rather too stark contrast to its surroundings and rapid repentance sets in. This is but the first stage in determining one's future policy. Repentance is easy, it is automatic. Burning of one's boats is helpful, in deciding to take the other way, but unless the focus of consciousness is deliberately fixed on the goal of the other way, and above all an attempt is made to like it, no lasting results will occur.
1. Reprinted from Y Fforwm Tkeosoffaidd, July, 1940, Cardiff, Wales. (return to text)