THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 4, February, 1931
(Pages 148-151; Size: 13K)

SELF-RELIANCE

ONE of the greatest dangers which confronts students of Occultism is that of crystallized and hardened concepts of Theosophic Truths. Frequently, the most earnest, those who are most solicitous of maintaining intact the purity of the Teachings, are subject to this danger, no less than those of less pure motives. Interpretation usurps the place of explanation. Every student-teacher has a grave responsibility, especially as there is a strong inclination on the part of so many people to allow others to do their thinking for them. Brilliant students may obtain an ascendancy over the minds of their fellows and thus color the teachings with their own views. This is the origin of all perversions of the Wisdom-Religion, and of the establishment of creeds and sects. It is this danger, which has wrecked every attempt of the Masters to impart Theosophy to the world at large.

How is this danger to be averted? The way has been pointed out by all the great Teachers of Theosophy over and over again. It is Self-reliance, with the emphasis on the SELF. Theosophists must become students themselves instead of depending on the ideas and interpretations of others. If human evolution depends on self-induced and self-devised efforts, how can any one expect to acquire Wisdom without Self-dependence? Says, H.P.B. in the preface to The Key to Theosophy, "To the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a riddle; for in the world mental as in the world Spiritual each man must progress by his own efforts. The writer cannot do the reader's thinking for him, nor would the latter be any the better off if such vicarious thought were possible."

The admonition to be self-reliant is so common that we are apt to pass it by; to overlook the fact that in occultism common things and homely sayings acquire new meanings. Self-reliance in its deepest sense implies that nothing of an external character whether in the visible or invisible worlds can ever be the final arbiter of Truth. Since all worlds are external to SELF, impressions coming from metaphysical planes are external as far as that SELF is concerned, although they may be subjective to our ordinary waking consciousness. Says, Light on the Path, "Hold fast to that which has neither substance nor existence. Listen only to the voice which is soundless. Look only on that which is invisible alike to the inner and to the outer sense."

No one can fall prey to an external danger of any kind unless he has the seeds in himself which are consubstantial with the particular external condition. On the physical plane this fact is generally conceded, as it is recognized that during epidemics it is only those who are physically susceptible who are in danger of contagion. What is true on the physical plane is just as true on the inner psychic, mental and spiritual planes. In fact, the operation of this law on the inner and higher planes is far more powerful and insidious than its operation on the most outward of all spheres -- the physical. Bodily immunity may give us a fair degree of physical health; but what is that in comparison to immunity from infections of an astral(1), a mental, a spiritual nature? By infections of a spiritual nature are meant any influences which tend to fasten themselves upon the Soul and to hold it in thrall, and which are brought to bear upon us through our very higher aspirations. These are the most subtle of all and the most difficult to get rid of. All creeds are founded upon and exploit these higher aspirations of the soul and this accounts for their well-nigh unbreakable hold upon their followers.

Socrates is said to have been disqualified from initiation into the Mysteries because he turned for guidance to his "demon." For, although this spirit may have guided him aright, still his very dependence in this respect unfitted Socrates for the company of Those who have learned to stand absolutely alone, if need be. By "demon" here may be included any person or influence, embodied or disembodied, which has assumed the proportions of an obsession. The term "obsession" is used in its broadest sense and does not mean necessarily influence of a spiritualistic or hypnotic nature. It is any abdication of each one's inherent right and duty of responsibility. Subjecting oneself to impressions even of a good nature, as in the case of Socrates, is undesirable for the simple reason that the passive and dependent attitude engendered thereby may equally subject one to influences of an evil nature. This may explain the reason why the average man oscillates between good and evil. Both states for him are due to impressions and sanctions of an external nature. His footing is not sure, hence his liability to fall.

True spiritual independence accords the same right to all and hence does not impose on others in any respect. All are left absolutely free to choose. The truly spiritual man shrinks from adulation or anything that savors of a personal following. His greatest sorrow is to see others surrender their right of choice, the Soul's birthright, for a mess of pottage -- dependence, whether on a crystallized set of dogmas and rules, or on their exponents.

It is the fundamental duty of every one to stand on his own feet. Says, Light on The Path, "There is a law of nature which insists that a man shall read these mysteries for himself. By no other method can he obtain them. A man who desires to live must eat his food himself; this is the simple law of nature -- which applies also to the higher life. A man who would live and act in it cannot be fed like a babe with a spoon; he must eat for himself."

Our fundamental duty to read the mysteries of life for ourselves becomes our fundamental right as far as others are concerned. "The duty of another is full of danger," this danger lying in the Karmic reaction resulting from the interference with the right of everyone to think and act for himself. It is a form of sorcery to force even Truth upon another, as it is contrary to the very essence of Truth to establish itself by force, whether physical or mental. Our good intentions are no justification. Intolerance and dogmatism have always invoked good intentions as justification. The end never justifies the means. When anything that savors of interference with the free will of another is exercised in imparting any teaching or body of knowledge, we may be sure that Truth is already in the process of adulteration.

True freedom is absolute dependence upon Law. Law is inexorable in its operation and it will run its course regardless and in spite of all interference. To seek to subject others to our way of looking at things, or to fear and be intolerant towards the views of others, is to have no real confidence in the justice of the universe and the everlasting triumph of Truth. We grow ever from within, hence the ultimate objective of all true teaching is to throw the pupil back upon himself. Any method which accomplishes this is a good method. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you," said one Great Teacher; "Look inward, thou art Buddha," teaches The Voice of the Silence. "Desire only that which is within you," states Light on The Path: "For within you is the light of the world -- the only light that can be shed upon the Path. If you are unable to perceive it within you, it is useless to look for it elsewhere."

There is safety only for him, whose final arbiter is ever within. There are crucial moments in the lives of all when every prop, every external aid is gone, and unless one has the power to face his trials alone, he is sure to fall. We are born and we die alone. When finally we are prepared for a greater birth we must pass over alone. To quote again from Light on The Path:

"Each man has to accomplish the great leap for himself and without aid; yet it is something of a staff to lean on to know that others have gone on that road. It is possible that they have been lost in the abyss; no matter, they have had the courage to enter it. Why I say that it is possible they have been lost in the abyss is because of this fact, that one who has passed through is unrecognizable until the other and altogether new condition is attained by both. It is unnecessary to enter upon the subject of what that condition is at present. I only say this, that in the early state in which man is entering upon the silence he loses knowledge of his friends, of his lovers, of all who have been near and dear to him; and also loses sight of his teachers and of those who have preceded him on his way. I explain this because scarce one passes through without bitter complaint. Could but the mind grasp beforehand that the silence must be complete, surely this complaint need not arise as a hindrance on the path. Your teacher, or your predecessor may hold your hand in his, and give you the utmost sympathy the human heart is capable of. But when the silence and the darkness comes, you lose all knowledge of him; you are alone and he cannot help you, not because his power is gone, but because you have invoked your great enemy."
Self-reliance is not alone freedom from dependence upon others; but also liberation from enslaving desires of every kind. The "great enemy" which we must finally meet and overcome before we can cross the threshold leading to the Hall of Wisdom is just this mass of animal and personal desires which have hurled us back over and over again into the whirl of rebirth. One who is a slave to his own kamic(2) and personal nature, is dependent upon other people. Those who are incapable of self-reliance, who lean upon others, will be found to be victims of desires and ambitions of one kind or another. This applies equally to those who love to lord it over their fellowmen as well as those who are always looking about for a leader. Master and slave are in the same boat and both suffer from the same ailment. With a turn of the wheel, they are very apt to reverse their positions. The master and leader are dependent upon the slave and the follower -- so, where is the real freedom of either? Theosophists may be divided into two classes: those consecrated to the Great Cause, and those attached to a particular exponent of the Teachings. True teachers seek comrades and co-workers, never followers.

Next article:
The Nature of Thought


TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Astral" means the Electro-Magnetic spectrum at every level. The "Astral Body" is the electromagnetic design body that the physical molecules adhere to in the building up of every form, in every kingdom, on the physical plane. The theosophical "Astral Light" is the "Ether" of modern science. It is the source of the idea known as the "Recording Angel" -- because every thought, word, and deed is recorded, stored, and magnetically reflected back to its source at a dynamically proper time: in other words, when conditions naturally warrant or permit it. We call this Karma, or Lawful action and reaction. All of us are also magnets for imprints in the "Astral Light" which were put there by others and which are similar to us in character. So we constantly affect and infect each other in this way -- for good or for bad.
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(2) "Kamic" nature is our lower Passions and Desires.
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