If you, your personal self, do not set to work to tame, train and evolve that other you, your animal self: the latter you will make short work of the former. Watch your animal self and you will understand the animals; watch an animal, and you will get understanding of your animal self, the seat of your desires and passions. You may shoo her off the table a dozen times, but the cat will come for the bit of fish that is there: her soul, her nature, impels her to it, and no inward voice whispers a Thou shalt not. Nor does she take harm, in her natural state, by obeying the impulse of her nature; but in us, that impulse from the animal must be dominated; or the animal self, given the reins, would kill our minds and bodies. The evolution of our animal selves is forced upon us: we must act as agents of evolution or perish; and thus we see that evolution is a fact in nature. You, the personal self, have attained self-consciousness; which the animal self, whether in man or in the brutes, has not; and therefore you have to play your part as an agent of universal law and get busy evolving, training and sublimating your animal self.
Bellerophon, gazing into the waters of the fountain, saw the approach of the winged steed; you, searching thus into yourself, can discover the laws of the universe. Why bother to discover them? Because you can't live your life successfully unless you know the laws that govern life. Because the World — in the body and soul of which you are a component atom — is being run with disgraceful unsuccess; which cannot be bettered except by folk who understand the laws that govern life. Whatever one's job, one cannot do it properly unless one knows the principles involved. Life is the job of all of us; the World is the job of all of us. It is what it is, and not prosperous and happy, because people have not bothered to understand. That is why its most crying need today is Theosophy. Theosophy is, simply, understanding.
Matter is in itself non-existent: the atom, its ultimate subdivision, is made of force, not matter; the proton-sun in that little solar system is a charge of positive, and its electron-planets are charges of negative, electricity. Force in the same way is nonexistent in itself; it is an appearance caused in turn by the action of Consciousness: Consciousness stands to Force as Force stands to Matter. The universe is built of consciousness, of consciousnesses, of conscious beings: consciousness is the ultimate and only reality. You are consciousness; and therefore it is within yourself that you can discover the laws and principles that govern life.
Is there nothing in you that stands to the personal self as that does to the animal self? Examine your personal self. It is that in you which makes you feel distinct from everyone else, the sense that you are yourself. Sort it out; take the microscope or a small tooth-comb to it; note how it is composed and inhabited. Such and such fears, tendencies, dislikes and attractions; the memories that give you a sense of identity, or being the infinitesimal thing that dwells in your body and brain in the midst of this infinite universe. Is there nothing above it, as it is above the animal: nothing to make it worth while, as it must make the animal inexorbitant?
Of course there is. Take up a text-book of Theosophy, and begin reading. Soon you are out of your personal self; your thoughts are no longer personal and limited; you dwell no longer in the little body and brain, shut in; but in the dignity of "intellectual being," with "thoughts that wander through eternity." You are thinking now, in some real sense of the word: a giant to what you were; impersonal, and therefore free of the universe. Contrast the self of the petty concerns and trivial memories with this greater self that thinks; dwell on the contrast; examine it: discover the meaning of those two regions of what we call the mind.
The one so small, so unimportant; the other potentially as great as it was in Plato or any of the sages; as great, you may say, as the universe of which it makes you free. It is there, to be discovered and used; a continent of which we have for the most part but sighted the shores afar. It is there in all of us; the dullest lout of us all, turning his attention that way, might yet in time carve out for himself grand kingdoms there; and not one of us can make his mark, or accomplish anything, or be worth while in any sense, unless sometimes he rises from the personal to the impersonal mind, and has begun to think.
This Higher Intellect is there, then; and has the job on its hands of evolving its shabby little poor relation, its marred reflexion, our personal selves. Is there nothing in turn that may be supposed to have the job of evolving it? What is the thing we call genius?
Beethoven (perhaps Europe's supreme Man of Genius), at the height of his illumination by it, when notes and numbers could carry him no further, broke out into the cry of that Super-intellectual Self which lies latent in all of us: "Joy to you, ye mortal millions! Here's a kiss for all mankind!" And there you have indication of what is the essential nature of genius — however perverted genius may become as it struggles down into manifestation. Its essential nature is an electric universality, a flaming compassion, a boundless joy in its universality and compassion, an exultant knowledge that the Inmost Self in all of us is universal; that one life, one Self, shines through all being, through ourselves and the sun and the stars. "God is love," said the Nazarene, with scientific exactitude. Love — which does not mean fastening your affections on some personality, whether another's or your own: but living not for self but to benefit mankind — is the manifestation in us of Pure Consciousness, the Self of our universe.
Thus we are Jacob's Ladders, a self in us for every rung, from these flesh-and-bone bodies of ours up to what you may call "God" if you want to use a thoroughly spoiled name for It. The business of each of these selves or rungs is twofold: to raise itself towards the self above, and to evolve the self below: of the animal self, to be mastered, trained and sublimated; of the personal self, to train the animal, and to learn to marshall great thoughts across the mind's surface instead of being at the mercy of what trivial or base thoughts come buzzing to it; of the Higher Intellect, to evolve the personal self, and to infuse itself with the glory from above, Compassion. This is what Evolution means.
1. The late Kenneth Morris was President of the Welsh Section, T. S., from 1931 until his death in 1938. He was also known in the world of letters as author and literary critic, as well as interpreter of the ancient folklore and mysticism of ancient Wales. We feel that in time there is no doubt that equal recognition will be given him as a poet, particularly in the two fields he loved most, the Chinese and the Celtic. — Eds. (return to text)