True morality is not a thing of words or phrases or modes of action of any kind, nor is its basis to be found in the many kinds of ideas of morality in the world, which vary as to time and place. What is “moral” at one time is “immoral” at another. There is no basis whatever in this changing attitude towards actions, changing classifications of good and evil, in a changing “division of the universe.”
Intolerance is their sure resultant; for those who pride themselves upon their own special brands of “morality” are always intolerant of others who do not accept that brand. True morality rests in an understanding and in a realization of man’s own spiritual nature, and must of necessity flow from it, irrespective of all kinds of conventions. We need to know our own inner natures in order to know what is, in truth, morality.
The conventions of external life are established merely by a consensus of opinion of the beings living at any one time and in any one place. They are not necessarily based on truth, and certainly not on a perception of the whole of truth. As we may see, the best interests of all are not served by the ideas that are generally held. The world is in a tremendously evil and selfish state. With all our prevailing ideas of progress, of morality and of religion, it is not anywhere nearly so happy a place as it was perhaps a century or two ago; it is not nearly so good a place for human beings to live in as it was in the more innocent and less complex civilizations of the older nations. There is evidently some thing wrong with the ideas that we hold, if we find it impossible to deny the fact that instead of the world getting better and in stead of life becoming more simple, the world is growing worse and life is becoming more and more complex. We should not find ourselves in the present condition if our ideas, religious and moral, flowed from the underlying basic ideas of all religions, philosophies, and systems of thought.
The basis of understanding of life accepted by the majority of Western peoples has been a revealed religion, and a personal God who revealed that religion. From this basis have sprung all our wrong conceptions. Hence the great stress laid on physical existence. in fact, one might say that the generality of human thinking is centered entirely on physical existence. The question has not even been asked, “How is it that I am born at this time, under such conditions, in this people, and not at some previous or future time, when the world might be better?” The question has not been asked, “Why are we here at all?” Nor have we asked, “What is the pre-existing cause that brought us into this relation? Was it at the whim or caprice a special Being, or was it under the operation of an indwelling, inherent law within ourselves?” If we are here with our present qualities, surrounded with difficulties, not because of anything we ourselves have done, but because of the whim or caprice of some Being, then we must regard ourselves as absolutely irresponsible for anything what ever. If we were so created, there is nothing that can undo that creation and we must suffer the consequences, the causes for which we did not set in motion!
The true ideas of the ancient philosophy relieve us of two misconceptions: one, the idea that there is a revengeful God who punishes us for those things that we are unable to prevent ourselves from doing; and second, the idea of a Devil to whom we are consigned if we do not follow the lines that some people have laid down for us. A knowledge of Theosophy enables us to understand that there never was any “creation,” in the sense of making something out of nothing; but that everything—every being of every kind—has evolved, and is still evolving. The beings below us are evolving to our estate, where the beings, now evolved so far beyond us, some time in the distant past went through a similar stage. All beings are what they are through evolution from within outwards, that evolution proceeding under Law.
Law is operative everywhere and upon every being, because the Law is not something separate from him; it is not separate from the inner spiritual man. Law is the law of man’s own action. So, as we act along those lines that affect others for good or for evil, we necessarily receive the return from those good or evil effects which we cause others to experience. Each individual is the operator of the Law; according to his actions he gets the re-actions; according to his sowing, does he reap. In place, then, of the idea of a revengeful God, we have the ideas of absolute Justice and individual responsibility.
If, from the point of view of Law, we ask ourselves what pre-existing causes brought us into these relations, we can see that what now is must have been brought about by ourselves, and what now is is similar to what was. At once the idea is presented to our minds that this is not the first time, by many times, we have been in a body; that re-incarnation is the process by which human beings reach greater and greater heights; that there is no other way or means to learn all the lessons to be gained in physical life among our fellow-men, except through repeated incarnations.
We come, then, to another phase of our being—for we see there is in us something that is continuous in its operation, something which was never born and never dies. If it continues from one life to another, through many lives, and for many lives, there must be a permanency in us which no change of condition or body or circumstance can alter for a single instant. As we thus think in terms of ages rather than in the days of one short life, we begin to get a glimpse of that Reality which lies within us; we open the door so that those internal, real, more permanent perceptions can find operation in our daily waking thoughts—for every single human being has sprung from the One Great Source, is animated by That, is, in fact, That at the very root of his being; in That is his power of perception and of action, which is spiritual and permanent. The power of perception and of action exists in everyone; the direction of that perception and action rests in each one. Each has the power to take the course which to him seems best; but, in taking the course, he sows, and must also reap as was the nature of his sowing. Every being in this universe of Law is experiencing as he is because of his own thoughts, words, and deeds; every circumstance, every misshapen day, every evil that comes to us as well as every good, is due to thought, word of deed of ours in the past. In each incarnation we find friends as well as enemies. So our minds may be set at rest with regard to either God or Devil. Each one of us represents both the Spirit—the highest divine nature—and also, the very lowest—the infernal nature. Man is spiritual, in fact, but, thinking himself material and separate, and acting in accordance with his thinking, he brings about the battle between the two natures in him.
The great mistake of religionists in our age has been the classification of good and evil. There is nothing good in itself. There is nothing evil in itself. It is the use to which anything is put that makes it good or makes it evil. How can we draw a fine line between good and bad in every case? Good and evil are judged by the effects that flow from the action done, but what might seem bad in one case might be in fact the highest good, and what might seem good in another case might, in fact, lead to the greatest evil. Just a hair’s line divides the Divine from the Satanic. And that hair’s line consists, not in this nor in that mode of conduct, but in the clearly presented motive or intention of the one who acts. A good motive can never produce altogether evil results, and yet a good motive is not enough. We may have the best motive in the world, but if we have not also knowledge and wisdom, we may unintentionally do a wrong thing when we intended to do good; and sometimes we may do a good thing when we intended to do evil. Thus true morality may be seen to lie not in the act itself, but in the motive; it depends on the knowledge and intelligence of the being acting.
The lines of true morality may go anywhere, but by this is not meant that we do evil that good may come! How could we do evil if our perception is good, if our knowledge is clear, if our motive is unquestioned and without self-interest? No imaginable evil could flow under such conditions, which are of the nature of the Spirit. The widest range of intelligence and wisdom are required to make it possible for no evil effects to flow even if good is intended. Wisdom is always required, because the very nature and essence of our being is wisdom itself, the object of wisdom, and that which is to be obtained by wisdom. There is nothing higher than that essence of our being, and we may consciously gain it by first setting aside all those ideas that conflict with it, and then, acting from the basis of our spiritual nature, from the basis of absolute, unerring Law. Once these ideas are held in mind to the exclusion of all other separative ideas, unity of Spirit, unity of thought and unity of action take place.
This great philosophy of Theosophy, then, presents a basis from which the truest kind of morality can be perceived. True morality does not depend upon words, phrases, or conventions, but upon a universal perception of all things, whereby everything is done for good, every thought and feeling expended for the benefit of others rather than for one’s self. A clear perception of one’s own spiritual nature, and the motive to benefit mankind in every direction and in every case, without self-interest, are the two essentials for true morality. True morality is, in fact, a universal existence, and the beginning of it is in the desire to live to benefit mankind without self-interest or hope of any reward whatever; then, to practice and to help those who know still less than we do.
This is quite the reverse of prevailing religious ideas of personal salvation, yet this universal existence is our salvation. At once, when these universal ideas are seen and to some extent realized, one loses all fears. Neither change nor death, nor things present or to come, can have any effect upon that one. He meets conditions as they come, does what he can, and lets other conditions succeed them. He moves through life, far from an un happy being, quite capable of taking all the joy and pleasure that exist in the world—all that upon which his fellow-men only subsist or hope to subsist. He moves among his fellow-men, understanding everything that they are going through, enjoying with their joy and sorrowing when they sorrow, yet himself free from either joy or sorrow. When we arrive at that condition, our sense of morality will be based on the nature of man. We shall then look on each and every being as of the same kind as ourselves, differing only in degree of understanding. There can not be in us anything but tolerance and mercy, for we shall know we can not judge others in their struggles; we can not say that there is good in this case, bad in that; we shall understand that goodness and badness are entirely relative in men, while they perceive the Reality not at all; we shall see that the best thing we can do for anyone is to assist him to understand himself, so that he may reach that point of perception and knowledge and power which is, in reality, his own and which he has but to realize.
Man’s false conceptions of life are what prevent him from knowing the truth, and it is evident that the first step towards true perception lies in throwing aside the prejudices and predilections he has lived by. And there is always help. Never have we been, left alone. Always there are beings greater in evolution than we, who return to this field of physical existence to help us, to wake us up to a perception of our natures. Such has been the mission of all Divine Incarnations down the ages. Those beings have come and lived among us, have become “in all things like unto us,” as was said of Jesus, in order that the human words They spoke should be words we would understand. They meet us on the basis of our ideas and try to clarify them and set them in a true course. They can do nothing to stop what we have done and what we want to do; They can not interfere; but They can help us to see the right direction, if we are so willed; They can give help when we turn to that direction which They indicate—that Path which They themselves followed so many ages ago. Always They try to help us, even when we are proceeding along wrong lines and bringing upon ourselves the suffering such wrong lines entail—even then They try to direct the results into a better channel. They hold back the awful Karma that would shake the world, and let the effects come so gradually that we can stand and bear them. That is part of the protective power of the spiritual nature, and it operates in every direction.
It is for us, then, to say which way we shall go. We are not creatures of circumstance. We are not the creatures of environment. We are their creators. It is for us to see that we think right, that we build right, that we build upon the strong foundation of the eternal verities, and that we keep our eyes upon that Path which the great Masters of Wisdom have sought to open before us. So in our turn we shall point out the Way among the hosts who are moving in delusion and ignorance, and as we help each one, we help ourselves. As we help ourselves by helping others, we raise all.