The Theosophical Forum – May 1949

HALF-WAY HOUSE — Elsa-Brita Bergqvist

     . . . for without vision the people perish.

There is always danger in extremes. Vice has been said to be excess of virtue, for any quality, however noble in itself, when carried to excess, deviates too far from the delicate balance that is required to hold the ship of life on an even keel.

The study of theosophical doctrines is no exception, for where much knowledge is gained, there is need for the counterbalance of understanding and goodness to maintain the equipoise of wisdom. Because of their immense fascination, these doctrines can cause us to become mere intellectual robots, possessing impressive quantities of knowledge and storing our minds with pat analogies and clever arguments. Our logic is unanswerable, our erudition, gleaned largely from the fruits of other people's research, impressive, and these benefits we confer on all who will listen.

But do we give anything of real value in so doing? Technical Theosophy, like any technical science, is a two-edged sword. It may be used to wound as well as to protect. We may indeed inflict serious damage on ourselves and others in pursuing knowledge without wisdom. For every fact that we truly understand, how many do we just learn? And in passing on our acquired knowledge, how often do we succeed in awakening a responsive glow of genuine comprehension?

It were better to lead one simple soul to intuit the bare fact of universal brotherhood than to convey to a thousand scientists how better to know and handle the matter of the earth.

Today, no one is blind to the factual possibility of the destruction of civilization. We know this to be a physical possibility. We know also that the saving power lies, not in physical means, but in the deciding factor — the mind and will of man. If man wills, he may preserve the state of things now existing. If he wills, he may reduce humanity to an existence of primitive simplicity. The workings of karman may be plainly seen in this bald fact: If the destructive forces in man's own nature take the upper hand, he will be karmically forced — through his own agency — into a state of life wherein no further such barbarous disturbances of nature's harmony will be possible. Think of what it would mean, the destruction of our cities and "modern conveniences" — life with scarcely the barest necessities; no books, radios, electric light, concrete mixers, automobiles, at least for a long period of rehabilitation. This would necessitate a concentration on essentials, and life would be much simplified. Karman would see to rebalancing the forces, and man would be in a state of receptivity to the simple natural things that are essential. The superfluous additions, that appertain to civilized life and that blind us to the fact and purpose of living, would give place to a necessarily uncomfortable but salutary mode of existence.

The important thing is to see things as they are and to face the facts without bias. We are all instrumental in bringing humanity to this point, where the choice must be made between materialistic lust for power and the ethical principles that are of lasting value. To know this in theory is one thing. To realize that we can destroy our present civilization, as we formerly participated in the destruction of others, is a much more difficult thing to do, and one that demands insight and intuition. We may condense our thought to this: If we are incapable of refraining from destruction, then our spiritual welfare will demand that we suffer the consequences of this destruction. The fact is clear, yet it is astonishingly difficult to grasp.

Therefore, I repeat: It is better to bring home to a man, any man, the bare fact of universal brotherhood, than to present science with yet another weapon.

Humanity is composed of individual units, few of whom are incapable of unselfish devotion, provided they recognize the need therefor. Mankind as a body can be raised to glorious heights of altruistic cooperation and a grander civilized life than ever before, if each human individual can be persuaded to assume his share of the common responsibility. If each one of us were to resist one egoistic impulse and make one positive effort toward betterment each day, the collective result would be stupendous. More, it would add impulse to future efforts of a similar trend and the ensuing regeneration would gain momentum endlessly.

Nations and races, taken as units, develop more slowly than the individuals composing them, but, given the impetus of collective individual effort, would of necessity pursue the course followed by the mass of individuals. What a glorious prospect may be conjured up before the mind's eye of a world of peace and constantly growing and enlarging spiritual endeavor! We need not be discouraged by the obvious fact that the great majority of people would at first, or even for a long time, disregard or ignore any such collective effort. We, you and I, may make a beginning, and, however insignificant our contribution, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction. As we progress, more and more people will join our ranks until the majority will be working on the side of the gods.

When that point is reached, there will be a reversal of the balance, for the weight of public opinion will then add its overwhelming pressure. There is still no force so powerful as the tacit approval or disapproval of our associates, for, when all rewards and punishments fail to make an impression, we still depend on our fellow-beings to gauge our estimate of ourselves. Among certain people it suffices to say that a thing is "not done" to prevent a man from breaking an unwritten rule.

There is so much of beauty, so much of peace, durable and glorious, in the teaching concerning the oneness of man and of nature, embracing, as it does, all others. The more this thought finds lodgment in our hearts, the greater does it grow. The more we permit ourselves to ponder on its endless ramifications, the closer do we feel ourselves united with all the living, pulsing, radiance of life under the sun. For the never-ceasing flow of the life-forces of spiritual nature touches us all and is most intimately concerned with every particle throughout the moving worlds. Those who would live for themselves, have they ever paused to reflect on what their fate would be, if they could, for even an instant, divorce themselves from all surrounding life? Without the cooperation of all nature, they could not exist. What air would they breathe, what food imbibe, what would the lone consciousness cognize? We live only by our impact upon other lives, their impact upon us, on which interchange we are entirely dependent. It is a beautiful thought and one that inspires to genuine altruism and grateful service to all beings.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition