Universal Brotherhood Path – July 1900


How is it that Theosophy seems opposed to the supremacy of reason? When we look at the emancipation of man from the thraldom of creed and dogma which has come about through the development of the reasoning faculty; when we look also great progress in science and philosophy as a further result of this development, it seems indeed right to follow reason as a guide, and I do not understand the position taken by some Theosophists in regard to it. Please explain what grounds, if any, they may have for their views. — T. C.

To say that Theosophy is opposed to the supremacy of reason is very different from saying that Theosophy is opposed to reason — and this latter it certainly is not, any more than it is opposed to any other part of man's nature, when acting harmoniously and in its right sphere. Theosophy, as I understand it, is opposed to the supremacy of reason just as it is opposed to the supremacy of the physical body and its appetites, or to the supremacy of other passions and desires. But it does not reject or despise any one of these.

The matter may be looked at in this way, that to make one instrument or any combination of instruments, in an orchestra, supreme, would be to destroy the harmony and balance of the whole. The conductor or leader of the orchestra is and must be supreme, and to him every member must respond. The same is true of an army or a factory or any great institution if it is to do effective work. There must be the supreme harmonizer.

An incomplete analysis and study by man of himself has led him to place this supreme power in the mind, the seat of which is the brain or head. He has been impelled to this through the selfish propensities of his lower nature which loves to dominate and rule. That which feeds and sustains and is the root of this love of power is the reasoning principle. It gratifies man's idea of his swelling self-importance which seeks the recognition and homage of others.

But the study of man which has led to this idea of the supremacy of mind is, as said, incomplete. Even physiologically has a mistake been made and facts overlooked, and more particularly so from a psychological and spiritual standpoint. There is a perfect analogy between the powers of man as a mental and spiritual being and the organs and functions of the physical body. The physiological fact which has been overlooked is that the brain, for its perfect action, depends upon the heart. It is true there must be mutual interdependence between all the organs, but these organs are, as it were, on different planes of action and, as is known, operate in different spheres. We may in part express the relation between the heart and the brain in this way — that the heart is on a higher plane and has a more interior sphere of action than the brain and so should stand to the latter as controller, inspirer and guide. Who is there has not experienced that quality of heart-force that is communicated through a simple grasp of the hand before the mind has had time to act, but which even a child may understand and which is a true index to the character? But let us turn to further experience — Who are the greatest in the world's history? Whose names are the most revered? Shall we speak of Sir Isaac Newton, Huxley or Spencer; shall we mention Alexander or Caesar; or William Pitt. Gladstone, Jefferson: or our heroes. Christopher Columbus, or George Washington? All of these were great, each in his own way and to each must honor be given. put the world's homage and love is given to those whom we call the Saviors of Humanity — to Jesus, and Buddha, and others who have been like them. If we inquire what are the distinguishing marks of these last, we find that their power was not that of the head, though in this they overtopped all others — their great power lay in the heart. It was not in the love of power, in the dominance of intellect, the seeking to be first — but in the love and service of others.

So, too, with the other names mentioned; those whose work was pre-eminently for others and not self or fame will remain in the loving memory of men, their deeds will live after them, the harvests of the seeds they have sown shall be reaped year after year and be a lasting memorial to them when the memory of the greatest soldiers, statesmen and philosophers whose work was not so characterized has passed into oblivion, however great their mental development may have been.

To give supremacy to the reason is to separate oneself from others. The heart-supremacy unites. The one is analytical, questioning, doubting, having no certain foundation, swayed by argument, sure one day and doubting the next, dreaming unreal fantastic dreams. The other is synthetic, trusting, compassionate.

There is a class of people — thinkers and reasoners, so-called, who say — "Prove to me and then I will believe and do, but I must know first." There is a second class who live on the thoughts of others, who read books and books, depending on the reasoning of others, but looking into their own life for the purpose of life but ever ready to quote this or that author: who count their knowledge by the number of books they have read, and so are often perplexed when authors disagree, whose mind therefore never sees clearly, but is confused, no matter how orderly the thoughts of others may be pigeon-holed away in the brain. A third class there is — not large, yet whose faces are turned toward the light, who say — "I know but little, yet this one thing I do know, that it is within my power — the power of my heart — to help, if ever so little to bear my brother's burden; to trust to the law of life, that ultimately all will be well; I have love to give, I have faith and trust — I will both love and trust." Thus is made the first step towards true knowledge, that knowledge of which Christ spoke when he said — "He that doeth the will of my Father, shall know of the doctrine."

The thirst for knowledge can become as much a craze mentally as the thirst for drink may be physically, and as much or more disastrous to the perfect health and balance of man.

The end of knowledge is use. Thus knowledge for knowledge's sake, which is the natural outcome of the supremacy of the reason, is subversive of its true end.

As we express and act out that which we already have and are, using our store of knowledge — which each, however ignorant, still possesses, — so do we make the acquirement of further knowledge possible. The mind is, as it were, a lens upon which the divine light of wisdom may shine when adjusted and focussed to receive it. Or, it is like a river bed into which ever new streams flow as the old pass on.

But let us turn again to experience. Theory after theory has been built up by Science only to be found worthless as some newly discovered fact come within the range of observation. This is because reason has been enthroned as supreme. Reason can never pass from the known to the unknown. Its operations depend upon the supposition of fixed relationships: yet because the Universe is a Universe of Life there are and can be no fixed relationships, but growth and an ever varying adjustment. Take, as example, the relation between the Earth and the Sun and planets, the knowledge of whose interaction may be rightly called one of the triumphs of observation and reason. But the Sun and Earth and planets are living entities through, whom act the Cosmic Intelligence and Will. The theories which through reason, based upon observation, Science has put forth in regard to the Solar Svstem and the Universe may be true to-day and to-morrow because of the stupendous order, permanence, and stability of the heavenly bodies, compared to the life of man and the grasp of his comprehension. But as new factors continually come into the life of man, completely changing his course of action and his relationship in life, so it must be also in the life and growth of planets, suns and systems. Modern science has investigated the heavenly bodies as though they were dead inert matter and whose orbits were eternally fixed. It is as though one should compute the relation between two men, one big and one little, solely on the basis of their size and without reference to their intelligence and heart force, or should say that because a man has pursued a certain course of action for a number of years, therefore he will continue in that course throughout life. In the case of the man as in the case of the planet such a course may be perfectly harmonious for the time being, but it should be remembered that harmony leads on to new harmonies, that the seed develops into the plant, the plant blooms and seeds, that back of plant and man and planet is an incommensurable divine directing power. But the Science of Astronomy knows no other than physical gravitation, so-called, and tacitly assumes there are no other than physical relations existing between the heavenly bodies.

As another illustration, it is as though science had observed the growth of plants from the time they appeared as young shoots above the ground, but knew naught of blossom or fruit or seed. Where these are not known, no amount of reason will lead to the knowledge of them as a natural process of the development of a plant.

But why multiply instances? It must be clear to any intelligent person that reason is a secondary thing to "knowledge" and may be often even the means of obscuring it.

For there is "knowledge" and sight, and clear apprehension of the Truth; the soul is heir to all knowledge and through that which in them is kindred to its divine nature it can come into an understanding and clear seeing of the relationship of the things around it.

Knowledge comes through service, through use of those powers which each now has, for the good of all. The hindrances to knowledge are the thick screens of selfishness, pride, ambition, with which we have surrounded ourselves. As these are removed that the light of the Sun may shine in our hearts, that light we shall find to be not alone light, but beauty and knowledge.

To reach that light we must even now let the light that is within our hearts shine out on others, then will come the answering light from the hearts of those others and from that great Luminary which is the Source and the End of all Light.

It is not by reason that this can be attained, but by the heart's love and service, and hence that man who bows down to Reason as the supreme god is surely deluded. — J. H. F.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition