To Thine Own Self Be True

Kurt Reineman

Whenever Jesus went among the people and addressed the crowds who gathered, it was remarked that he did not speak, like the learned Levites and the Pharisees, by the book, but that his words were those of "one having authority." He himself on a certain occasion met the doubts of the prominent Pharisee Nicodemus with the flat statement that he (Jesus) spoke of what he himself knew and testified of things that he himself had seen. In other words, what Jesus was saying came not from the books and the sayings of other men, but out of his own life-experience. Coming as they did from the very heart of him, his words carry conviction to this day.

When we refer to someone today as an authority on any matter, what we mean is that we consider him to know of his own knowledge especially much about that subject. Therefore whatever he says has the ring of sincerity, because he is de facto true to his convictions.

Broadly speaking, we say that an individual is sincere when his actions conform to his words; when his deeds and his professions are in accord. In the sincere person the outer man honestly tries to reflect the inner. The perfection of sincerity was attained by Him who could rightfully say: "I and my Father are one." Such a man never suffers from that deepest of all sorrows, disappointment with oneself. There is about him a wholeness, an integrity, that people instinctively trust.

It is this quality of utter sincerity, coupled with an all-inclusive goodwill to men, that has won for the members of the Society of Friends, the Quakers, the unqualified trust of peoples and governments the world over and that, for the purposes of their noble work of human relief and rehabilitation, has wiped out the restrictions of national boundaries and the road-blocks of racial and credal differences. This it was, too, that gave to the early settlers of Pennsylvania their immunity from attack by the Indians. People intuitively know that they can count to the full on persons who possess this quality of integrity.

Such individuals are not notable for self-assertiveness, yet their intensity of conviction impresses others more powerfully than do the efforts of the loud-voiced go-getter. One is reminded of the story a veteran usher in an old Berlin concert-hall tells. The auditorium was an unusually large one. "Of all the great violinists who have played in this hall," he said, "the only one whose every tone carried clearly to the very back, where I used to stand, was the man with the reputation of having a weak tone: the Spaniard Sarasate. It was the extreme purity of his tone that gave it such great carrying power."

What, actually, is it then that goes out from one to another? We are becoming increasingly aware that man, in his inner nature, is some kind of electromagnetic organism. Indeed, we are beginning to suspect that this inner organism possesses awesome potentialities, as yet hardly guessed at: that in it are locked up energies which, if they could be released, would parallel the amazing developments of the atomic age. Man apparently is himself a small-scale atomic pile. The microcosmic rays that he gives off can exert a powerful influence on other men, even at a distance. This radiation evidently pours forth, for the most part, from his eyes, is carried by the tones of his voice, and flows out from the tips of his fingers. It travels at an enormous speed. On reaching and affecting other people, who are in their turn themselves similar generators, a counterflow is set up, which a sensitive speaker feels at once. He and his hearers are then en rapport.

When his instrument begins really to "sing," the violinist, for example, feels the flow of this force through his right arm and the bow, and through his left arm to the vibrating violin, where it definitely modifies the outgoing tones. So much is this so, that it is a well-known fact that every violinist has his individual characteristic tone-quality — something quite apart from his individual style of playing. That tone-quality is an accurate expression of his intrinsic character, and as such it has a much more potent impact than has his personality.

[image]The singer has a similar experience, as does in fact every creative artist who faces an audience, whatever his field of activity. In the case of the symphony orchestra conductor it is especially marked — provided that he is a creative artist. As he and his players get into the full flow of the music, the conductor feels his whole being becoming a channel for the influx of an almost overpowering force. As he molds the form of the tonal mass and guides its ebb-and-flow, the force flowing through him leaps, like an invisible electric arc, from his finger-tips to the players. The result of the interblend is magic — that something that cannot be adequately described, but which at its finest raises the receptive hearer to an almost divine ecstasy.

The initial force invoked by the conductor seems to come from outside and beyond him: from the macrocosm into the microcosm, from the great universe into the small. Like the lightning-rod he in very truth calls down and is the conductor of "fire from heaven"; after it is over, he is completely exhausted. His fatigue is due not so much to the physical exertion as to the tremendous output of nervous energy involved to be the vehicle, temporarily at least, of a force almost greater than himself. For a string, in order that it may sing, has to be stretched taut and held so.

It has been noted that among peoples who live close to nature, such as the aboriginal Amerindians and Africans, intense feeling, coupled with deep conviction and simple sincerity, often produce an untaught eloquence of a high order. Such natural eloquence, needless to say, is many light-years removed in quality from the jovial wise cracking of the typical M.C. of today. It cannot be taught by the schools, for the simple reason that sincerity is incapable of being transmitted by one person to another. It simply cannot be acquired from outside sources. Like the statue hidden in the block of rough marble, it has to be brought to light through the gradual chiseling away of whatever hides it from view. This chipping is done with the chisel of self-discipline. The vision of the ideal figure waiting to be released from its stony prison is for each of us to achieve for himself. It is the vision of himself as he really is.

(From Sunrise magazine, March 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)

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