The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
June 2009 – Vol. 12 Issue 4
Question: Suppose a person wrote a letter to a newspaper anonymously, and its publication aroused the anger of a large group, would the vibrations of anger from this group reach and affect the writer of the letter?
Answer: We are inescapably interdependent, and in the plane of thought and feeling strongly affect each other continuously. Every time someone thinks, feels, or acts, he is leaving an indelible impression on his own inner or astral body, and in the same way on the community astral light.
What is the astral light? In modern theosophy the term "astral" is used for the subtle model on which the physical bodies of both man and globe build themselves. The word astral is frequently found in parapsychology journals, although various terms are likewise employed, such as energy body, bioplasma, and the like.
The astral light, as earth's finer counterpart is called in theosophical parlance, ranges from the most dense to the most ethereal and spiritual, its lowest levels being heavy with the dregs of human thought and emotion, its uppermost levels merging with the akasa – the subtle, supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space – through which higher beings may commune at rare intervals with those who command their interest. H. P. Blavatsky refers to the astral light as "the great picture-gallery of eternity" because it contains "a faithful record of every act, and even thought, of man, of all that was, is, or ever will be, in the phenomenal Universe." (The Secret Doctrine 1:104)
Since whatever is experienced leaves its seal on the earth's aura and on our own, the astral light is the repository and hence the reflector of the most altruistic thoughts and aspirations as well as the most degraded of human impulses of the countless men and women who have ever lived on our planet. There is continual interchange: we imprint the astral light, and the astral light in turn leaves its imprint upon us, a two-way flow of astral energies circulating in and through earth and its kingdoms. Actually, we are awash with astral currents all the time: our thoughts are astral, our feelings also. As we talk together, we are using astral thought substance. When we are inwardly in harmony, we may unknowingly be the recipient of intimations of truth and beauty either from our inner god, or from the upper ranges of the astral light, the akasa. Contrariwise, when we are depressed and allow negative thoughts and emotions to make inroads into our consciousness, we may be opening the door unawares to lower astral influences. Unless we are in command of ourselves, it is often downright hard to shut that door when we want to, and even more difficult to keep it shut. Moreover, to the undisciplined and untrained, the currents of the astral light can prove extremely deceptive, and therefore dangerous.
Hence, the answer to the original question is that the anger of a large group of people would leave a correspondingly stronger impression on the general astral storehouse, creating a whirlpool of angry heat-waves which would find no difficulty in reaching the anonymous writer.
Would the writer be affected? That depends entirely upon himself. If he is even moderately sensitive, he is bound to perceive the barrage of distorted feeling hurled against him, but whether he would be affected would be conditioned solely by his character and interior development. No one needs to be affected by anything unless he is in sympathy with it. We are all human, however, and naturally are highly sensitive to the anger or praise of others, especially perhaps when we feel that our sincere efforts have been misunderstood. It may be, however, that we need to learn the gentler method of winning the support of good people through love rather than anger.
Those strong in wisdom, while momentarily feeling hurt perhaps at the stupidity of others, will not be greatly affected by the anger or malice, but will continue to fight for right even against the opposition of the whole world. Through long years of purification and self-discipline they have built up that tenuous barrier of self-protection which instantly repels and dispels disturbed astral currents, and which leaves them free to act in harmony with the inner forces instead of against them. – Grace F. Knoche
This month "Is Anger Justified?” is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What purposes does anger serve in our lives? What are its root causes, and when is it an appropriate, useful response? How can we deal constructively with our own anger? Why is it so hard to let go of aggressive, bitter feelings? What can we do when confronted with a hostile or angry person? How can we help those who are feeling hurt, depressed, irate, or wronged? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
These subjects are currently being considered for the Monthly Discussion group. As always, those who have a particular topic they would like to have featured are encouraged to contact us.
July 9: Faith, Knowledge, Experience
August: Finding Balance in Life
September: The Seasons of Our Lives
October: Peace and Justice
November: The Universe Within
December: Service to Humanity
“Most of our suffering is born from our lack of understanding and insight that there is no separate self. The other person is you, you are the other person. If you get in touch with that truth, anger will vanish.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Anger is an instinctive response to threats, preparing us to protect ourselves by attacking. With its adrenalin rush, energy, and righteousness added to its ability to camouflage uncomfortable feelings, it can easily become a habit even when we recognize how corrosive it is both to others and ourselves. Particularly when it becomes a chronic state, anger can destroy our health, relationships, and enjoyment of life.
Most often anger is triggered by threats to our ego, not to our physical well being: someone insults us, lets us down, thwarts our plans, betrays or hurts us, or perhaps we make a mistake or feel foolish. We externalize the pain by shifting our focus onto blaming, punishing, or getting even. But as Thich Nhat Hahn points out in Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, it is our innate potential for anger that makes us lose our temper, not events or other people. After all, what enrages us may leave someone else completely unmoved. So we need first to deal with what is going on inside us before trying to deal with the outer situation.
Moreover, anger can cover up more inward-turning emotions like sadness, disappointment, grief, or humiliation. In fact, it works so well as a defense that we often forget the softer emotions we have hidden underneath it because they were too painful to engage with directly. One way of diffusing stubborn anger is to ask: Why does this bother me so much? Why can’t I let it go? Looking within we may find a hurt, loss, or other sorrow that we haven’t recognized.
Even if the cause is small, once we’re angry it’s hard to let it go. We are hurt and must deal kindly with ourselves. We can think of anger as the cry of an inarticulate aspect of us which needs to have its suffering or frustration acknowledged and soothed. Once it is calmed we can evaluate and deal with whatever caused the trouble. I believe all types of pain are warning signals drawing our attention to something we’re doing that could be dangerous or destructive. Just as people who can’t feel physical pain or refuse to respond to it are more apt to injure themselves, so people can hurt themselves by ignoring or dealing destructively with psychological pain – and many times anger is the outlet of choice for inner pain. Thus anger presents us with a decision about how we are going to use the energy it puts at our disposal. Will we lash out, bottle it up as a source of stress, deny it, or recognize it as the ringing of an inner alarm that we need to attend to?
What can we use to transform anger? Just as love casts out fear, compassion casts out anger. Truly “feeling with” another means putting ourselves in their place, identifying with their motives and pain. We may still disagree with them and feel they are unwarranted or even immoral, but once we empathize with them we won’t be angry any longer. We can then approach the situation calmly and with a clear mind.
The Buddha held that avidya, lack of insight, is the root of all error and pain. Even when people deliberately do unkind or unjust things it is because their view is limited. If they saw more deeply into reality and their own essential interests, they would act differently. We don’t feel justified in being angry at infants for crying or making a mess because we know they aren’t capable of behaving otherwise. In the same way, all beings deserve our compassionate understanding of their current limitations. This doesn’t imply that we must consent to their behavior and its results; but neither can we justify or rationalize away any violent or hurtful responses to them.
Anger’s emphasis on separateness is opposed to compassion’s realization of oneness. Is anger ever justified? I believe it is. Particularly in the face of injustice it’s not enough to recognize it, analyze it, or wring our hands over it. We need to act, and anger is an emotion fully functioning in all of us that overcomes indifference and apathy. Behind most advances in human rights lies constructively applied outrage. People need strong motivation to make changes, take risks, and put themselves on the line. Undeniably compassion is the superior and more effective attitude, but many of us simply aren’t at the stage where we react to injustice and abuse with dynamic compassion. That we are one with everything is not yet a living reality in our awareness. To become more compassionate is a vital goal for each person and for humanity as a whole, but meanwhile channeling anger’s powerful energy into persistent, just, and intelligent action can bring about significant, and even radical, improvements within society, to those around us, and in our own lives.
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