Thought is the motive power of men. It governs even emotion and can control it. The world we live in is a world of men, a world of thinkers and feelers; and if the world is bad, it is because men's thoughts and feelings have made it so. If human conditions are inharmonious, even diabolic at times, when brute force takes the place of reason and justice, it is because men's thoughts have made it so.
Ideas control actions. There you have the cause of the unrest in the world we live in, and its cure. If a man wants to reform himself, he does so by first of all changing his thought; he begins by feeling differently. There is no other way. It is the only lasting way, for it means a change of character.
Civilization is builded upon thought, and if you want to change a civilization, you must change accepted thought, give a new thought. What is invention? A thought. What is literature? Thought. What are philosophy, religion, science? Thought. What is the social structure under which we live? Thought. Every movement in the world today is builded upon thought: social, political, philosophic, religious, scientific. Nine out of ten of these movements began in the mind of one man, and spread. You see in the pages of history the tremendous cataclysmic effects of thought.
These truths are so simple they pass over our heads and we do not take them in and digest them. It is ideas that shake the world. It is ideas that make the world. It is ideas that unmake men and the world of men. Consult the annals of history. Look at the amazing results that spring from movements which begin perhaps with a handful of earnest people. For years they may work and preach and labor apparently without result. Suddenly, for some remarkable reason, the idea catches and spreads like wild-fire. Sometimes ideas take hold of men in the most amazing way. What were the Crusades, when men left home and hearth and fireside and everything they held dear to go and fight the paynim, in a distant foreign and unknown land? These tens of thousands of men collected from all over Europe for an idea.
What makes and carries on any war? Thought. What stops any war? Thought: a changing of the thoughts of men; by changing their thoughts you change their hearts, you change their lives and therefore their civilizations. If a war comes, it is because men and women have brought it about by their thinking. A man's life is changed sublimely by his thoughts; so too can he go to 'hell' or the gallows by his thinking. It is thought which makes the gentleman and the boor. It is thought which produces forgiveness or carries on hate.
The titan intellects, the greatest men who have ever lived, have proved what the human mind is capable of; and every normal man has the same potencies within himself.
Our work is to teach men and women what they as individuals have locked up within them: powers, capacities, faculties, which the average man or woman today does not suspect . . . to re-arouse belief in these things, so that men will yearn to cultivate themselves from within outwards, to awaken what is within, and to become greater and grander. It is thought that will do it, and the feeling which follows upon thought.
(From Sunrise magazine, July 1952; copyright © 1952 Theosophical University Press)