The Theosophical Forum – October 1950

OURSELVES AND OTHERS (1) — Kenneth Morris

In the Chinese language the word Jen is written first with a stroke which looks like the numeral one in our Arabic figures, and then two horizontal strokes. The first element, the figure one, stands for Man; and the two horizontal lines stand for the numeral two. The word means: Do unto others as you would they should do unto you. Man + two. The Individual, you or I, any man, and the plurality; the Ego -and the Non-ego; the right relation between a man and the world, humanity, the universe; which is, according to the Chinese way of thinking, reciprocal love, or Ourselves and Others and that relation that does really, and ought actually, to exist between us.

Now, what are we? To say we are human beings explains nothing. If you don't think at all; if your life is as that of the beasts of the field, why, that statement is quite satisfactory; all that needs saying has been said. But if you think and examine into things, you will need much more than that. You think a little more, and perhaps say: I am two things in one, a body and a soul. Or you may go to your Testament and say with Paul, a body, soul and spirit. Then comes up the question, What is the soul? And then, What is the spirit? And what is the difference between the soul and the spirit? Possibly, if you are curious, you will go to your minister about that; and I don't know what he will tell you.

Let us look into ourselves, and see what we can find out. Here first are our bodies: are they ourselves? Are our clothes ourselves? Of course not. We put on our clothes in the morning, and take them off at night; we get a new suit, and it lasts us a year or two, and then gets sold in a jumble sale — we have done with it. Our bodies are suits of clothes we put on at birth and take off and discard at death; they are the means whereby we live in this world and gain experience of life in this world.

Next consider the consciousness inside the body, the consciousness, I said; but I am not so sure about that; I should have said consciousnesses, I think. For all in the same day three different types of thought may come into your mind or mine, and may find expression in words on our lips. We may say, I am hungry, I want a drink, I want a smoke; I desire this, that or the other thing. Or we may say, reasoning from the evidence in front of me, I believe the world to be round; or, I think man is a good deal more than his body; or, I believe in this or that philosophy or religion. Or again, the thought may come into your mind and pass your lips as words, I love my country; I wish to God I could do something to better the condition of humanity; I aspire to be something much grander and more noble than I am.

Here we see a different self speaking in three ways. This exemplifies three souls at least. Lowest is the animal soul, that desires. Above it is the human soul. We can call it so, as we have called the other the animal soul, because the lowest soul we have in common with the animals; they too desire things, but they don't think and reason; they don't believe the world is round, or that the angles at the base of an isosceles triangle are equal, or have religions or philosophies. And then, above the human soul, is what we may call the divine soul: that in us which aspires, which loves impersonally — loves without thought of getting anything in return for ourselves.

Now, which of those is ourself — our self-most self, so to say? Not the animal; because the animal soul may say, I want a drink, I desire this or that: and something else in us may reply: Yes, but you are not going to get it, because it would be bad for you! The thinking soul, the human one, may reason it out from experience that gratification of the desires of the animal self or soul leads to bodily sickness and to the dimming of its own, the human soul's, powers to think; so it may exercise control over the animal soul, and forbid it what it clamors for. So obviously that human soul is, so to speak, a selfer self in us than the animal self.

And as the human soul can train and educate the animal self, can permit it this and forbid it that, hold it in check, and even direct its energies, so that it shall come to desire ever finer and finer things; does it not follow that the divine soul can also so educate and raise up the human soul? Doesn't it also follow that the three are associated thus together in each human individuality, for the purposes of evolution? The animal may evolve by association with its betters, the human; and the human may evolve by association with its better, the divine.

Did you ever think of the meaning of self-sacrifice? To sacrifice is what they call a transitive verb. It must have a subject, the one who does the sacrifice; and an object — the thing sacrificed. Thus we read of Abraham sacrificing the ram. Subject Abraham; verb sacrifice; object or thing sacrificed, the ram. And we read of many who sacrificed their lives for great causes, as Joan of Arc to free France from the English. But the fact that she sacrificed her life — gave her body to be burned — proves that her body was not herself, her life was not herself. Her Self was something behind and above body and life that decided that she could afford to give up body and life, things not herself, for the cause she believed in, because the Self-most-self of Joan of Arc is something higher and more inward still. And it is — Compassion.

Now what is compassion? The deepest feeling within one, that although one knows oneself to be suffering hell forever, yet there is a more real self within that will live forever, that Joan of Arc, for example, would live on forever in her people, her freed people. France was more really herself, more permanently herself, than she was herself. The self that was sacrificed was all that could be included under the term Joan of Arc, now and forever; the sacrificer was something greater than Joan of Arc.

To extend this thought. There is still a bigger self in us than the self of our country. It is the self of humanity. The man who had really found himself would live in and for humanity. He would never be able to rest content till all the suffering in the world was eliminated; he would feel it his — not duty so much as ardent pleasure to be making war on human suffering, and what causes human suffering, which is human selfishness; and what causes human selfishness, which is human ignorance. That ignorance which makes us identify ourselves with the lowest selves in us; which keeps us from feeling and acting as the higher selves, the real selves in us. Now if we are those higher selves really; if the highest self is the divinest and inmost self in us — there is a saying of Jesus that ought to take on a new light "Ye are Gods; be ye perfect." Ye are Gods; that is, I am a god, thou art a god, he is a god, she is a god; we are gods; you are gods; they are gods.

Now we have come back to our starting point again, the Chinese word Jen. Ourselves and Others — who are ourselves.

Let us approach it from another angle. Let us forget all we have been taught, all religious and scientific views, and become as little children, that we may enter into the kingdom of heaven and discover something about the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. For if you are going to believe Jesus, the kingdom of heaven is something we can get into any moment, because as he said, It is within us here and now. Religion, however, has made it something you can get to when you are dead; but Jesus when he used those words — and his opinions, like yours and mine and anybody else's, are worth finding out and looking into — meant something within us that is not generally known or considered; something divine, that we could come to know about. Let us call it the truth, or the secret of life and death, or the reality behind Religion. So if we are going to enter into it, we have to approach things with a child's mind: seeing what we do know very well for ourselves, and never mind what we have read in books or been taught in Sunday school or chapel or church or wherever else. What is the one thing you know for certain? Why, that you exist; that you are a conscious being. What is the one book you can read, everyone can read, literates and illiterates, Jews, Turks, infidels and heretics, and you and I? Why, ourselves.

And starting out from that certain knowledge, what can we infer? That we are conscious beings; and that we know we come from this universe. We know we are the children of the universe. And we have seen that our inmost self is universal; that the most real man is the most compassionate man; the biggest man is the man with the biggest and widest sympathies. He is the man in whom, the human soul has trained the animal soul to discipline and obedience; and in whom the divine soul has trained the human soul to think and feel as it, the divine soul, does. He therefore is the man in whom the process of evolution has gone furthest. Now, doesn't it strike you that there we have stumbled on the purpose of life? — Evolution.

There those three are associated in each of us; and unless we take the lowest of them, the animal soul, in hand, and evolve it, make it evolve, by disciplining our desires and passions, we suffer in health. Doesn't that suggest that they are there to evolve? And if so, that such evolution is the purpose of life? The purpose of nature — the thing the universe is doing, that it exists for?

It isn't a case of monkeys changing gradually, in generation after generation, until their children have miraculously been born men. That theory should not be called evolution at all, because evolution means the unfolding out of something, of some potentiality that is already in it; thus the oak tree evolves out of the acorn. The Darwinian theory ought to be called, not evolution, but as it is in French, Transformism. Evolution, so far as we are concerned, denotes the possibility of the human, thinking soul in man capturing, taming and training the animal soul, and making it human; and of the divine soul capturing and inspiring the human soul, and making it divine. Anyone who wants to believe that this process begins, for every triad of animal, human and divine souls, at the birth of the body they are to inhabit, and that it ends with the death of that body, may do so; but he must have queer ideas as to the economy of the universe. It would be like a book that begins half way down page 308 and ends in the middle of a sentence; but for the moment, never mind that. What I want you to hold in mind is, that the purpose of life, of nature, of the universe, is Evolution.

Now who is wise, who is sensible, who is likely to succeed? The man who works in accordance with natural law, or the man who works against it? The man who furthers the purpose of the universe and life and nature, or the fool who tries to stop the broad stream of evolution from flowing on its majestic way? I need hardly ask, need I? Obviously the man who allies himself with evolution is the sensible man. How can we do it?

Well, first and foremost, by being the human soul in us instead of the animal soul; and that can only be done by making the human soul gravitate up towards the divine soul. Now what is the divine soul? The one that thinks and feels not in our limited personalities, but in humanity. The one that lives for others, not for self. The motivating force of evolution.

That much can be said to everyone in the world. I want to say something particularly to the Rhondda people.

My home, up till two years ago, was in one of the most beautiful spots in one of the loveliest countries in the world, California. There the sun shines, I suppose at least three hundred and fifty days in the year; all day long on about three hundred days. There the cities have wide clean streets; the buildings are fine and handsome, nearly all of them. In the suburbs, where the people live, the gardens run down to the pavements, with no dividing wall or hedge; you walk with the flowers beside you; at the ends of the streets you see vistas of mountains, pale blue, dark blue, purple, sometimes capped with snow. The streets are avenues of beautiful trees. That is a lovely land, and, in general, mankind works to preserve and enhance its loveliness. Well — hiraeth called me back to Wales.

And then I chanced to come to the Rhondda to lecture. And I saw the Rhondda, that once was a valley of pure beauty; how grimly hideous men have made it. And I spoke to Rhondda people; and I said to myself, There is where I must live.

I saw the Rhondda, where there is not a street or building that isn't hideous; where even, so far as it is possible to do it, men have spoilt the outlines of the eternal hills themselves with vile coal-tips; where the children seem to have nowhere to play but in the hideous streets; where the automobiles kill them. Little Doris Pennington was killed at Llwynypia the other day; I owe it to her memory and her parents' sorrow to press this point on you. And — I spoke to Rhondda people.

It wasn't just that they are my own people: of my own race, or if not that, of my own country. There was more to it than that. I'll try to tell you how I felt: how I always feel in speaking to Rhondda people; how they — how you — make me feel.

Have you ever tried the experiment with salt and a glass of water? You put a spoonful of salt in, and it melts, and the water is still clear. And you put in another, and the water is still clear. And you go on putting salt in, spoonful by spoonful, until what I think is called the saturation point is reached; anyhow, that will convey the meaning. Then suddenly, after the last spoonful is put in, there is no longer clear water in the glass, but opaque, unliquid salt.

Or, haven't you felt in singing: that you can start singing, and go on, and in your singing reach upwards, and get something greater, and something greater again, and something still greater; until you feel that somewhere above you or ahead of you that you might reach is a point where you could transform the universe; where it wouldn't be just singing any more, but magic?

Or again, sometimes in the East, in China or Japan, you hear the temple bells. They are not like our churchbells, that flurry out their peals impatiently, and seem extraordinarily excited about something. Instead, a low, deep, round, clear note booms out, and drifts along the twilight valleys, and steals into your consciousness with deep and deep and deeper peace. And when the vibration is dying, out it booms and sings and rolls again, and lifts you yet higher; until you feel that sometime will come a boom, gonglike, that will shatter the visible universe, and reveal the fairyland that is behind it, and reveal the villagers, the coolies, everyone, yourself included, as a god, an angel, the disguise of his vulgar humanity thrown aside.

Well — that's how the Rhondda miner makes me feel every time. That if just the right note could be struck; just the right word said; just the last spoonful of the salt of inspiration put into the water of his mind — there would be a transformation.

I see a lot of evidence of the animal soul in him, and above all in the valley he lives in. It is chaotic, undisciplined, unimproved; hideous is this once lovely valley; and it is man that has made it so. But, I see a deal of evidence of the human soul behind all that waste. I contact the men who think, who study. I speak to men who listen keenly, who weigh what I say, who appreciate thought and reason. But — and here is the point: I never look into your eyes but I see the divine soul. I meet young men roaring and shouting through the streets at night, keeping sleep from the eyes of tired women, of the sick and the aged: and, Yes, the animal soul is undisciplined, I say to myself; and that is the work of the chaotic, undisciplined animal soul; but behind it there is still that which makes me say to myself: Yes; Jesus was right after all when he said, Ye are Gods; that each of us, in the inmost reality of his being, is a god, a divinity, a thing of wisdom, power, beauty and compassion. And, a passion comes on me to evoke, to call forth, to bring into conscious life and action, that wonderful divinity I sense in you.

How do it? You who are out of work, who have all the hours of the day to fill somehow, could you find no means of furthering the work of evolution in those hours? To go against nature is to live in and for yourself; to go with nature is to live for others. He who makes what is hideous beautiful, what is inharmonious harmonious, is working with and for evolution. He who joins with his fellows in such a work, subordinating himself and his desires, is doubly working with and for evolution. Is there no way in which the unemployed could combine to improve the Rhondda? To make beauty of this ugliness, brightness of this gloom, playgrounds for the kiddies or parks or gardens of the vile coaltips? I don't know. But — is there no way? And — it would be bringing happiness into lives that can't be too happy; because there is no happiness like that gainable from working for no reward, for no personal benefit, but for the good of others. There is no happiness like that; because, think! When the animal soul or self gets what it desires, it looks upon that as happiness; but there comes a quick reaction; to tell us that that animal soul or self is not really ourself but something in our charge; a servant we must train; gratifying it is not gratifying our Self. To gratify the human self, to think — yes, that is not so bad; that is satisfying up to a point; but it does not bring the real thrill of happiness which gratifying the divine self does.

And there is one other point I would like to bring before you. There is a way of finding out about things. If you have been interested in any of the thoughts I have brought before you: there is a way of following it up. The kingdom of heaven is within you, here and now; it may be given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Or rather, that privilege is one that you may take for yourself; as it says, the kingdom of heaven is taken by violence, that is, by a man's own efforts. What does that mean but that a man may come to know, he may learn, he may find out for himself, the truth about the universe and life, the hidden things? I have just been trying to tell you a little about Theosophy, which word means divine wisdom, wisdom from the divine self in man. If you want happiness, why, follow up that teaching, and find out by its aid for yourselves: it will give you the key, what is the real truth about Ourselves and Others. It isn't a new religion; it isn't a religion, one of the many religions, at all; but simply the key to the truth underlying all religions.


1. Address given before a group of Welsh miners in the Rhondda Valley where Kenneth Morris from 1930 until his death in 1937 labored to establish active theosophical centers among his countrymen. (return to text)

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