The Heroism of Self-Forgetfulness

Osvald Siren, Sweden

When do we consider that a human being reaches the highest? When does he most clearly and entirely express the noblest characteristics of human nature? Is it not when he forgets himself for something greater; when, through self-conquest, through courage and devotion, he becomes a hero in the trials of peace or of war? When he sacrifices himself for an inspiring cause; goes to his death, perhaps, for his country, or for a fellow man? On such a one we bestow our applause and our honors independently of what creeds or views of life he may have entertained. His example becomes a support and an incentive to others. Such a man has, through firm resolution, or by long-continued loyal work, or through profound devotion, reached forward to the point where life's lower inclinations no longer enchain him, thus allowing the indwelling higher power to act untrammeled and to raise him to the heroic deed.

We call this honor and heroism, and are forced to admit that human nature is not so utterly ruined as certain theologians and pessimists teach. There is evidently something — let us call it heart-force — which is able to break through all forms of belief and mental dogmas, a creative power whose expression is action and whose essence is life. At the core it is the same power which enlightens the artist in his noblest creations, which blossoms in the verse which springs from the poet's heart. Whether this fruition is the result of a momentary flaming transport or is the consequence of a long life struggle, in either event it is in essence an uplifting, inspiring power. It is when this power is liberated that the human being first truly begins his career as a god-illumined being.

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

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