Universal Brotherhood Path – June 1901



The more closely we become related to our fellow-beings, and the more unconstrained become our dealings with them it often seems that the less are we able to rely on what they will do or say. Of course there are exceptions to this as to all rules. There are personalities so simple that to know them once is to know them always. Though even these, under sudden stress, will often surprise us. All of which is not in the least meant to hint that our fellows become untrustworthy; but simply to describe the fact that, once the cloak of conventionality is thrown off and we get beyond the prescribed social action and politenesses, the infinite complexity of human nature asserts itself.

And therein lie the joy and the sorrow of friendship, therein is the clue to so many heartaches and broken relations. Our dearest friend is continually perplexing us as we are him.

A man may at one time show himself cruel and vindictive; and his spectators with sweeping assertiveness will call him a devil. That same man the next day, under different circumstances, in a different mood, perhaps with merely a different sort of dinner under process of digestion, will be patient, charitable, even altruistic; and his companions of this time will call him with psychic enthusiasm a saint.

Yet he is neither saint nor devil, but a very human creature whose personality is the battle ground of ever shifting forces which he has generated throughout the ages. We cannot say of any comrade that he is wholly either good or evil; for within him exist immeasurable altitudes of virtue and a soundless abyss of vice. From both the forces are continually pressing into his outer nature, ready at a moment's notice to burst forth into active life.

Nor is the man himself always conscious of that which has flared forth in him. How often has each one of us been told that on such and such an occasion we were morose, or cross, or scornful, or "queer," much to our surprise, for we had not been conscious of anything unusual in ourselves. All unknown to us something from the past had surged up, called up by outer circumstance; from the many chambered storehouse of our being it had shown forth to man.

It would help us much to remain undismayed by other people's transient moods if we could more constantly remember the infinite complexity of human nature, and the vast store of past thought and deed which each carries with him to be eventually worked out. Truly the present is but as a mathematical point with no dimension; the meeting point of past and future and none may tell what the moment will bring forth in others — or in himself.

But we cannot remember this so long as we fix our gaze upon the unstable personalities of those about us. We have to learn to look through personalities, not at them. We have to learn to see in all men, as does our Leader, not the outside petty vestures, but throbbing immortal HEARTS.

So looking, so seeing, we shall not need to call up in ourselves any artificial, sentimental idea of brotherhood. Instead there will surge up in us that real love of which it has been said that it "suffereth long and is kind"; the love that beareth all things, hopeth all things, thinketh no evil; the love that "never faileth."

Then with the eye of the heart we shall look through the bewildering, wounding personalities, and with the inner vision see in each an eternal struggling soul; a soul again and again overcome by past unvanquished evil, but ever, in spite of all outer appearances, battling on, and toiling, however slowly, and often in unknown sorrow and shame, towards the goal of spiritual perfection.

So looking we shall see no longer possibly despicable men and women, but divine and deathless Warriors, sore wounded at times, yet worthy always of our compassion and our aid.


The doctrine of the "survival of the fittest" has been said to be not applicable to man, since the one who apparently succeeds best under present social conditions is often not by any means the "fittest" in the highest and best sense.

But may it not be that man appears to make an exception to this rule because we have not understood it, or rather because we have tried to make it interwork on two different planes of his being?

Taken merely physically man of all other animal organisms has certainly proved himself the best able to survive. While lower animals have become dwarfed, altered beyond all but the most scientific recognition, in many cases even extinct, man alone has endured practically unchanged through the many vicissitudes of time and climate.

But he has done this not by altering himself or running away from conditions, but by protecting himself from their lethal effects. The man for instance who wishes to protect himself from cold, and who proves himself fittest to survive it, does not walk naked around the outside of his hut. He clothes himself warmly, retires within the shelter he has made, and there keeps a warm fire glowing, in the radiance of which he can bask and defy the bitterest blizzard that may rage without.

Is not the same true of the real man? When we are overcome by external conditions, by mental atmospheres and miasmic thought-emanations, is it not because we have failed to retire "within?" There is that in the nature of each one of us which will surround and protect us if we will but let it. It is all a question of living at the center of our being instead of at its circumference.

Survival, for the real man, is insured precisely as with the animal: by adaptation to outer conditions. But that does not mean, as we have mistakenly supposed, lowering the inner to meet the outer. The man in the hut does not lower its temperature because it is cold outside. Quite the contrary. The colder it is the more he piles on fuel. And so with the real man. The more benumbing the outer conditions, the more lowering to spiritual vitality, the more should we keep warmly glowing within the fire of spiritual ideas and aspiration. But we have to remain at the center to do this. While we live at the circumference of our being the fire untended dies down and the paralyzing cold creeps in.

The man who lives at the circumference may indeed obtain worldly success but he does it at the expense of his individual integrity. He has not "survived;" for he has been changed, lowered, and thus overcome by outer conditions and influences.

Only at the center are we safely sheltered. Only at the center can we get that complete and balanced view of men and events which will leave us unimpaired. At the circumference we can see but a part, and thus become of necessity unbalanced, swayed by every passing breeze of thought and act.

Only at the center are we protected from suffering, for only there are the forces so equalized that our poise is undisturbed. We cannot alter that which must come to us. But we can so maintain our position that whatever comes it will not shake us; or, if it should make us sway, it will be but as those "rocking stones," so nicely poised by nature that though they may be violently oscillated they will not be overthrown.

Thus firmly seated "on the spot which is our own" we shall be able to maintain our mental equilibrium amid the psychic whirlwinds of other men's emotions, and our own desires. It is only the "sage of self-centered heart" who is "at rest and free from attachment to desires," and of him the simile is recorded, "as a lamp that is sheltered from the wind flickereth not."

Theosophical University Press Online Edition