Sunday, 14 February 2016

Theosophy Basics: Blavatsky on Altruism

"For every flower of love and charity he plants in his neighbour’s garden, a loathsome weed will disappear from his own, and so this garden of the gods — Humanity — shall blossom as a rose."

Despite the general human tendency towards selfishness, the theosophical approach gives major importance to the unselfish altruistic values:
It sounds very simple, but is eminently difficult; for that cure is “ALTRUISM.” And this is the keynote of Theosophy and the cure for all ills; this it is which the real Founders of the Theosophical Society promote as its first object — UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD. (Letter II — 1889 – Third Annual Convention — April 28-29)

My first reply then is : Nothing of that which is conducive to help man, collectively or individually, to live—not « happily »—but less unhappily in this world, ought to be indifferent to the Theosophist-Occultist. It is no concern of his whether his help benefits a man in his worldly or spiritual progress ; his first duty is to be ever ready to help if he can, without stopping to philosophize. [WHAT SHALL WE DO FOR OUR FELLOW-MEN ? Lucifer, Vol. V, No. 26, October, 1889, pp. 156-165, CW 11, 466]

 “Love one another,” said the great Teacher to those who were studying the mysteries of “the kingdom of God.” “preach altruism, keep unity, mutual understanding and harmony in your groups, all of you who place yourselves among the neophytes and the seekers after the ONE TRUTH,” other Teachers tell us. “Without unity, and intellectual as well as psychic sympathy, you will arrive at nothing. He who sows discord, reaps the whirlwind ...”[1] [THE BEACON OF THE UNKNOWN La Revue Théosophique,  Paris, Vol. I, Nos. 3,4,5,6; May 21 , 1889, pp. 1-9; June 21, 1889; pp. 1-7; July 21, 1889, pp. 1-6; August 21, 1889, pp. 1-9, CW 11, 275]

 All are willing to work for their own development and progress; very few for those of others. To quote the same writer again: “Men have been deceived and deluded long enough; they must break their idols, put away their shams, and go to work for themselves — nay, there is one little word too much or too many, for he who works for himself had better not work at all; rather let him work himself for others, for all. For every flower of love and charity he plants in his neighbour’s garden, a loathsome weed will disappear from his own, and so this garden of the gods — Humanity — shall blossom as a rose. In all Bibles, all religions, this is plainly set forth — but designing men have at first misinterpreted and finally emasculated, materialised, besotted them. It does not require a new revelation. Let every man be a revelation unto himself. Let once man’s immortal spirit take possession of the temple of his body, drive out the money-changers and every unclean thing, and his own divine humanity will redeem him, for when he is thus at one with himself he will know the ‘builder of the Temple.’” (Key 53)

No man has a right to say that he can do nothing for others, on any pretext whatever. “By doing the proper duty in the proper place, a man may make the world his debtor,” says an English writer. A cup of cold water given in time to a thirsty wayfarer is a nobler duty and more worth, than a dozen of dinners given away, out of season, to men who can afford to pay for them. No man who has not got it in him will ever become a Theosophist; but he may remain a member of our Society all the same. We have no rules by which we could force any man to become a practical Theosophist, if he does not desire to be one. (Key 241)

 An extract from a letter from one of Blavatsky’s teachers has become a classic formulation of this idea:
“He who does not practice altruism; he who is not prepared to share his last morsel with a weaker or a poorer than himself; he who neglects to help his brother man, of whatever race, nation, or creed, whenever and wherever he meets suffering, and who turns a deaf ear to the cry of human misery; he who hears an innocent person slandered, whether a brother Theosophist or not, and  does not undertake his defense as he would undertake his own—is no Theosophist. [The Theosophical Society: Its mission and it Future. Lucifer, Vol. II, No. 12, August, 1888, pp. 421-433, CW 10, 70]