The Path – October 1891


In Bhagavad Gita II. 45, Krishna says to Arjuna: "O Arjuna, rise above the three qualities to attain the pure satvic and higher consciousness — the consciousness of Higher Self, for the ordinary and lower consciousness, including even the exoteric knowledge of the Vedas, is an admixture of three qualities, i.e., a mixture of pure and impure elements of good and evil tendencies."

In this single verse of Bhagavad Gita we find the whole development of philosophic thought contained as in a nut shell. Rightly understood, it embraces all moral science and philosophy; it is the keystone of the arch of morality as well as its criterion, and is expressed and embraced by the first object of our Society, — Universal Brotherhood.

Modern science divides itself into two schools as regards the test of moral sentiments. These schools are (a) the intuitive: (b) the experimental. The first points to conscience, or the inner moral sense, as criterion; the other relies upon the experience of this material plane; each takes cognizance of certain definite phases of consciousness and omits others: hence both classes of thinkers must be regarded as having a vague and incomplete method.

Bhagavad Gita, or Aryan philosophy, mentions, in this regard, three menial modifications which it calls prakritija or mayavic gunas (mental qualities). After the differentiation of Sat and Asat, Purush and Prakriti, Spirit and matter, from the undifferentiated Sat, we have two cosmic forces or centres of energy, viz., Spirit and matter, working together. This combination of two forces may be said to work in three different ways, viz., the two separate and combined, so that we may say we have three distinct forces working together in what are called prakritijagunas or qualities produced from Prakriti by the contact of Purusha. These three gunas, Satva, Rajas, and Tamas, are three modifications of cosmic mind, which point to three attributes of the divine manifestation, namely, the creative, the preservative, and the destructive powers. By careful study of Bhagavad Gita we find that the terms Satva, Rajas, and Tamas are used in three different senses. 1st. They are used for the modifications of the cosmic mind alone. 2nd. For modifications of all minds from cosmic to human minds of various grades, and planes. 3rd. For modifications of the human mind on this material plane only. In this case they correspond to three ordinary states of the human mind known as the right, the erroneous, and the vicious states. Of these, the first is a moral state; the other two are immoral. The point which determines the morality of any given state is the feeling of non-separation. This consciousness of unity, of undividedness, distinguishes the true moral sentiment, and that of personality, of separation, indicates immoral sentiment, as taught by Aryan philosophy. (1) Shre-Shankaracharya defines right thought as undivided thought.

We shall now endeavor to test this idea in its application to daily life and see whether it serves as a test of true morality. We must then ascertain what the moral and unmoral sentiments are as facts of human nature, and then point out the difference between them. Moral sentiment is a term of mental and moral science indicating the fact of human nature, of life and mind, known as the feeling of universal altruism or love; this feeling regards the interests of all as one whole. Feeling is a mental fact. What an event is to external nature, feeling is to mental nature. Unmoral sentiment is another term of mental science expressive of a converse fact of human nature, which is the feeling of selfishness, the tendency to regard the interests of one or a given number of personalities to the exclusion of others. In the one fact, we find a tendency to represent all: in the other, a prevalent representation of one to the exclusion of others. One represents the universal republic of Thought: the other sets up a single soul as absolute arbiter and judge.

In this latter consists an usurpation, to that extent, of divine authority, and this is done whenever a man thinks that his view is alone the right view and that his duty is to convert the world to that view. This is his inner attitude, his latent spirit, called by Bhagawatgita "Asuri-Prakriti" when applied to this plane. (XVI, 7-22.) Moral feeling manifests itself in equanimity, impersonality: concern for the interests of all as one whole: acceptance of personalities as part and parcel of the whole; and preservation of the functional balance of the universal Organism in every movement of thought and life. The immoral feeling is the direct reverse of this, and disturbs the functional balance of the universal Organism by the undue stress laid upon personality, by actions arising from a fixed sense of separateness. The line of cleavage between the moral and the immoral lies along the question of Separation and Non-Separation; the former leads in every injustice, deceit, and aggression; the latter preserves from them all. The modern tendency to personality in thought and action, whether business or social, destroys the universal order of "give and take". In forming a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood we have pledged ourselves to sustain the integrity of this divine order; to keep up the criterion of moral activity: to stop, so far as we can, the division and separation of interests arising from personality and competition: and to maintain that natural position which is one of synthesis and not of analysis. Our Universal Reformer and Teacher of Theosophy, H. P. B. (whom time may prove to be the prophet of the 19th century), has followed the method of occult wisdom, or Gupta Vidlya of the ancient Aryans, by bringing within the brief compass of the first object of the T. S. the spirit of the whole of universal philosophy. "Universal Brotherhood" is the expression of all philosophy in occult symbolical language. The second object of T. S. is instrumental to the first, and the third is the natural outcome of the first.

This first object is the highest object known to man, for its development and full realization lead to the expansion of individual consciousness into universal consciousness: this is the chief duty of man on this earthly plane of action and duty. This conclusion is that of all Religions, of all true Science and Philosophies, of Rishis and eminent thinkers of all ages and nations. Viewed in its totality it is Paramarth, it is Dnyan or Yoga. it is the Sat. The Yoga and ordinary life are two opposite poles of Thought and Action. To examine more closely these two sets of ideas and to prove that the Yoga attitude of Non-Separation is the true attitude, we must ascertain where lies the point of badness or evil in selfishness and desire of aggrandizement over other personalities. The factors of personal power are Force and Deceit. There is also a difference to be made between the selfishness of error and the selfishness of vice. The former shows more aggressiveness: the other, less. This aggressive tendency of personal force is Ahankara; it is shown in the two-fold aspect of authority and flattery, indicated in the man of power and the man subservient to power. The feeling of Non-Separation is Satvic; that of Selfishness is Tamasic; the Rajasic or erroneous state is the connecting link between the two, and has a qualitative and quantitative admixture of both. The right, the erroneous, and the vicious feelings may be called respectively the Sat, the Sadasat, and Asat states of mind, or Theosophic, Mixed, and Untheosophic states. Commonly, we find a mixture of these three together, and in occultism, or Theosophy proper, we have the Satvic feeling alone (Bhagavad Gita II. 45.) The first step in occultism is to cease to do evil to others; the second step is to do good to others; the third is to have universal consciousness. As in ordinary life this mixed or two-fold division of state exists, and now good, now evil predominates, by keeping to the right direction we destroy this two-fold division, and the main force of our organism, instead of being separated into two branches and acting in opposite directions, thus neutralizing the effects of both, now works in a single direction, and its full strength is utilized as an undivided force. This is what we do in Yoga or Samadhi. To define:

Occultism is a mode of working in thought and life sphere towards the preservation of purity and universal justice and equilibrium. It is the symbol of spirituality and ancient civilization.

Ordinary Life is the direct opposite of occultism. It is the symbol of materiality and modern life.

The first step can only be taken when the nature of our evil tendencies their causes and effects, are studied theoretically and then mastered practically. "It is our duty to know the soul of good in evil, and the soul of evil in good, as we have a mixture of them in ordinary life" (Bhagavad Gita). By such study several secrets of occultism could be better revealed to many, and it is our duty to master scientifically these three states of mind. Both good and evil tendencies must be mastered; the study of one alone leads to error, and all our great Teachers tell us not to neglect any, as the mastering of all the gunas prepares one to place his foot in the sacred precincts of the sanctuary of occultism. Therefore these three mental states must be studied in all their details side by side, the good as well as the evil and the mistaken.

Vice, in the form of deceit of all kinds in particular, has almost become an ethical and commercial trade of modern times, and the phenomena of vice have come to occupy a place side by side with the higher intellectual phenomena, both in ethical importance and multiplicity of details: they even pass for wisdom, tho' of a false order. Sham and false authority are at the root of modern life. The study of the character of our present humanity, in its totality, requires the study of wisdom in its true and false aspects. The phenomena of vice, error, and deceit have their own laws and have to be studied in ourselves and in others with scientific observation. This idea of their study on a scientific basis and for guidance in the opposite and true direction first came to me from noticing the reverse course of some Indian people, with whom the study of the phenomena of egotism and vice is pursued for purposes of black magic. I have observed especially that in vicious phenomena words and deeds have no accord, while the constant search after truth, and of seeing the soul of truth in untruth (which is, in evil, to know the exact point which is evil and why it is so), unifies the thoughts, speech, and action. This process of constant mental and ethical analysis forms one of the principal factors of Dnyan, or occultism proper, as said in Bhagavad Gita XIII, I-II.

There is no part of the world where this study can be so well prosecuted as in the East, for there only do we find the highest spirituality and a most glorious past, side by side with the lowest vices and present degeneration. There are several classes of people in India who make a special and scientific study of vice for selfish and vicious ends as family and class
pursuits, just as yogis are also to be found there. Many of us believe that India has paid the price of her present degeneration for indulgence, by some of her peoples, in the former vicious extreme. Only the persistent study and pursuit of Universal Brotherhood through the elimination of selfishness and the mastery of the gunas can help our material civilization, by supplying it with a spiritual motor power.


1. And Emerson defines virtue as being the adherence, inaction, to the true nature of things. [Ed.]. (return to text)

The Path