The Theosophical Forum – March 1948


Much emphasis is placed upon impersonality. Why? Please explain the difference between personality and impersonality. What is impersonality?

In a word, impersonality is unselfishness, forgetting yourself and your own self-interests in thought of others. It is deep and careful thoughtfulness about what is true and right to do without self interest in the matter. It is self abnegation. This does not mean injustice to yourself nor neglect of your own natural duties. Quite the contrary. It may require much unselfishness to do one's natural duties and not forget or neglect them. In practical life the main question is one of motive. Is the motive pure and true and unselfish? If the motive is vanity, to attract attention, to display oneself, to further some scheme, ambition, desire, or, on the contrary, to express some prejudice or dislike, it is certainly not impersonal. When we lose all consciousness of self in love of the duty in hand, or in the love of others, or in love of the Work, then we are impersonal, and that would free us from most of our troubles.

In a deeper sense impersonality can be cultivated by meditation on the Higher Self. Seek to blend your consciousness with the Higher Consciousness. "Think of the Self, dwell on the Self with love and the Self will raise you." When you think of the Real Self as the actor you become the vehicle for those high powers, but when the sense of self comes in you are limited to your own small compass. Suppose you are absorbed in writing, speaking or singing and the sense of self comes in — it shuts off the light of the Higher Self, as turning the switch turns off the electric light. The brain may go on running like a flywheel by its own momentum, but the inspiration is gone.

To express or explain the matter of personality and impersonality in a technical philosophical way: A man is essentially and fundamentally a spiritual being that has sent down a ray or stream of its own essence to express Itself in matter. It passes through plane after plane of matter. On the highest plane the force and consciousness of this being is universal, divine, all-encompassing. The lower it goes the denser and denser the substance, and the more confined and restricted it becomes until you get to the plane of the man who is limited to his five senses and their reports to his brain-mind. No matter how great this brain-mind may be it is quite possible for it to shut out all spiritual light. In that case the man is often spoken of as "soulless," meaning that the light of the soul or the spirit is not active. But the spirit is always there. By turning the attention inward and upward, by unselfish prayer or aspiration, the power and presence of the spirit can be invoked, regained. The soul or spirit is never lost. It is the man who is lost — that is, the mere brain-mind man. This brain-mind is a shut-in thing, therefore purely personal and perishable. The supreme spirit is entirely impersonal and imperishable.

It is because the personal consciousness is sunk in matter, bound and limited by matter, that we have the sense of separateness. This sense of separateness is the greatest of all delusions — the root and cause of all selfishness out of which spring all the other evils of human life. Out of the delusion of separateness blows the tornado of unbrotherliness which is the insanity that threatens the very life of civilization.

In the personal self dwells the human elemental and all the clamoring menagerie of elemental or animal instincts and passions. But the personality is not to be destroyed, killed out, annihilated. It is a vehicle we have built up for ourselves through countless lives of effort, struggle and sorrow, for the soul's use — not abuse. It is the most complicated yet living mechanism in the world. Through its material and chemical parts it is a laboratory of all the physical and chemical elements in nature. In its vital, pranic or rajasic nature it is a switchboard of all the forces and powers of the cosmos; while through its mental and intellectual faculties it can become a symposium of godlike knowledge and wisdom.

The higher we raise our consciousness along the spiritual Ray which constitutes our link with the Higher Self the clearer the atmosphere and the wider the vision, the less the discord and the greater the harmony, for the Higher Consciousness is the source of all love and wisdom and beauty.

In the degree to which we can raise our consciousness and blend it with the All do we become impersonal. A mental exercise which, oft repeated, will help free us, is to affirm, as Mr. Judge told us, "I am not this body, I am not this brain, I am the Soul, I am the Self."

In the individuality and the personality of man are two great tides of thought and emotion. One makes of him an animal, the other makes of him a god. He takes his choice.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition