The Responsibility of Being Human

by Sarah Belle Dougherty
. . . your Karma, good or bad, being one and the common property of all mankind, nothing good or bad can happen to you that is not shared by many others. -- H. P. Blavatsky's Teacher (cited in H. P. Blavatsky to the American Conventions: 1888-1891, p. 22.)

What is a human being? An animated body? A mind? Where can we place the limit on who we are? Our emotional, mental, and spiritual self cannot be contained within our physical form. Rather, it extends into the world around us, an enormous field of forces which reaches out to the sun and stars. We in turn exist within the invisible portions of the stars and planets, as well as in those of the earth's various families. The cosmos is a webwork of these interpenetrating lives, and truly, as the poet says, "thou canst not stir a flower without troubling of a star."

If all nature is so intimately linked, how close must our relationship be with our fellowmen. Far from a sentimental regard for the rest of humanity as distant cousins, or even children of one divinity, brotherhood is the complete interdependence of each with all. There is a constant intermingling of our individual consciousnesses with that of the rest of mankind for, just as we share the same physical environment, we also share the psychological and spiritual environment. Our thoughts and feelings are not conditions of matter or mere abstractions, they are real -- living energies that endure, circulating through the corresponding aspects of the earth's being and affecting the mentality of others. As the focus of these psychological and spiritual energies, a person is something like a radio station, transmitting and receiving worldwide the thoughts and feelings which correspond to the "frequency" he tunes himself to at any time. We are constantly attracting thoughts and feelings and impressing our mental energies upon them. When a thought enters our consciousness, we may improve or degrade it, or leave it unchanged. Again, we may ignore it or, through concentration, energize it so it is easier for others on a similar wavelength to attract it to themselves. Thus we each unconsciously help shape the thought-reservoir on which all draw.

In fact, the acts of our consciousness are as real as any other aspect of us, and have consequences that are inevitably shared by great numbers of people. When we feel or think or do something, we usually feel the results belong to us in some exclusive way: that it is "my business," "my problem," "my credit," "my karma." But every act, thought, feeling, or aspiration has potential consequences for our fellowmen all over the globe, now and for ages to come. Our consciousness is much more extensive than our bodies and accessible to the whole of mankind, so that our mental, emotional, and spiritual activity actually has a far wider influence than our visible outer activities. Further, its influence is heavily colored by motive and attitude, factors which we are apt to dismiss as intangible. This reflects our refusal to recognize the reality of what we cannot trace with our physical senses, even though the psychological world we share with the rest of humanity is the main sphere of human activity.

Our responsibility, then, goes beyond how we seem to how we are. Living an upright life is not a question of "keeping up appearances" or conforming outwardly to society's dicta, but hinges upon the thoughts and feelings that we gather to us, our aspirations and desires, and the motives that underlie our actions. The very structure of each human being and of the world we inhabit makes it impossible to isolate ourselves or limit the range of our influence. We share, willy-nilly, the elements that form our inner life even if no one else knows of them. Because we tend to focus our personal consciousness on our most limited aspects, we usually fail to realize our oneness or to live accordingly. But occasionally, as when on a starry night the vastness of space draws us out of our everyday consciousness, we sense momentarily an echo within us of that incomprehensible vastness, an intuition that we are connected to all of nature in the most fundamental way. As we consciously try to bring ourselves into greater harmony with the whole which we help form, this awareness will grow ever stronger until it becomes the moving force behind our daily lives. Then we will be fulfilling the true responsibility of being human.

(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, April/May 1987. Copyright © 1987 by Theosophical University Press)

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