The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
July 2008 -- Vol. 11 Issue 5
Like all ages, our times are filled with conflict on many fronts. The wars of every level of viciousness and brutality raging in countries around the world remind us that humanity is still very far from perfect. Repressive and aggressively intolerant groups and institutions bring torment and fear to suffering humanity. Very often the ordinary individual learns to lie low – to say little or nothing against the forces of blank authority, least their wrath be aroused. For their part, authoritarians will claim that they are protecting us from terrible evils and disasters, be they political or moral; that if we but surrender our own judgment and obediently follow their direction, we will be safer, happier, or even find eternal salvation; and if we insist upon thinking for ourselves, we will become servants of the forces of evil.
In such a polarized environment, how do we find a balanced approach to people who may have nothing but contempt for our own ideals and values? How can we respect people who would take away our freedom, not just to speak but even to think for ourselves? I don’t think the answer lies in trying to convince others that they are wrong or that we are somehow more right than they are. We all have a limited understanding of ourselves and the universe. How do we know that our beliefs are any truer than those who dis-agree with us? In fact, we do not know, because no one can. So any approach based on convincing or coercing others to accept our opinions as true seems bound to failure. Indeed, it is at the root of many of the conflicts bedeviling humanity these days.
Rather than butting heads together in the vain attempt to persuade others, I think much more understanding can be achieved if we first open our hearts. If we see someone as a fellow human being following their own unique path to spiritual development according to their own accumulated wisdom, then we establish a fundamental basis for respect and tolerance. We become shipmates plying the great sea of life together. We realize that, however it may appear, we need each other to succeed.
We each have something unique to share with every other – ourselves. Whatever our circumstances in life, we find can always practice tolerance by respecting the luminous, compassionate being at the core of each person. Then we can find the patience to look behind rigid narrow thoughts or even hostile words to try to reach the spiritual heart of the matter. Focusing on a person’s inner self rather than their views, we can be a friend even while not agreeing. – Bill Dougherty
What if every single human being is spiritually united with God simply by virtue of God’s love for all? What if hell and divine wrath are man-made ideas rather than spiritual realities? These are some of the views put forward by former Pentecostal Bishop Carlton Pearson in his Gospel of Inclusion. Quoting the Bible extensively, he argues that, rather than only a few elect believers, the whole world and all of humanity are already saved by God. God’s love is the only necessary factor; a person’s beliefs, or lack of them, cannot override divine intensions. He shows that the idea of universal salvation was common in early Christianity. Considering religions to be human creations, he holds that by their exclusivity and emphasis on fear, judgment, and conformity, many religious institutions and doctrines in fact encourage bigotry, self-righteousness, hatred, and ignorance rather than love of the Divine, one’s self, and one’s fellow humans: the commandments of Jesus. We would do better to share our love with others through the way we live than try to frighten or coerce them into adopting our beliefs. After all, he says, God is not a Christian – or a member of any other sect. God is all-encompassing reality itself. These ideas, and the journey that led the author to embrace them, make for an unusual read.
"Understanding, Tolerance, Respect is our next subject. We will be discussing such questions as: How can we bring about better understanding in our families, community, and worldwide? What are some concrete ways we can come to appreciate other traditions, cultures, and viewpoints? How important is it that people in a community share the same beliefs, practices, and ideals? Should we tolerate opinions and acts we disapprove of, or tolerate intolerance itself? Do we have the right to impose our views on others? What are the causes of fanaticism and exclusivity? How can people value each other when they disagree on fundamental issues? How do religions forward or prevent people respecting and acting compassionately toward others? What benefit is there in associating with those who hold different views and values? What is owed to others simply by virtue of their being fellow human beings? Come and share your ideasCome 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.
August 14: Ancient Mysteries and Monuments
September: The Path of the Mystic
This sentence in the Bhagavad Gita has been often passed over as being either meaningless or mysterious; on one hand worthless to consider, and on the other hand impossible. Some students have, however, made good use of the teaching contained in it.
This sentence indicates that there exists two selfs, one the enemy and also the friend of the other. After a little study of the human constitution – material and spiritual – as we find it outlined in the Wisdom-Religion, we easily see that the higher and the lower self are meant.
The next injunction, to "raise the self by the self," clearly points to this; for, as a thing cannot raise itself without a fulcrum, the self which will raise us must be the higher one, and that which is to be raised is the lower.
In order to accomplish this task we must gain an acquaintance with the self which is to be raised. The greater and more accurate that acquaintance is, the quicker will proceed the work of elevating the being who attempts it.
One of the obstacles we must face is that there is a tendency that daily grows stronger for the mind to get into a rut, its own rut or mode of looking at things and ideas. The person who has freed his mind so that it is capable of easily entering into the methods of other minds is more likely to see truth quicker than he who is fixed in his own ways.
Thus, our first step for getting to know ourselves and the most difficult – for some, indeed impossible – is to shock ourselves in such a manner that we may quickly be able to get out of, or rather understand, our own mental methods. I do not mean that we must abandon all our previous training and education, but that we shall so analyze all our mental operations as to know the certainty, to easily perceive, the actual difference in method between ourselves and any other person. This is a thing seldom undertaken or accomplished nowadays. Each one is enamored of his own mental habits, and disinclined to admit that any other one can be better. When we have become acquainted with this mental path of ours, we are then in position to see whether in any particular case our view is false.
This is the psychological and metaphysical equivalent of that scientific process which classifies and compares so as to arrive at distinguishing differences in things in order that physical laws may be discovered. For while we remain in ignorance of the method and path of our mind's actions, there is no way in which we can compare with other minds. We can compare views and opinions, but not the actual mechanics of the thought. We can hear doctrines, but are unable to say whether we accept or reject from right reasoning or because our peculiar slant on the mental plane compels us to ratiocinate wholly in accordance with a mental obliquity acquired by many years of hurried life.
The value of thus understanding our own mental bias so that we can give it up at will and enter into a bias of another's mind is seen when we consider that each of us is able to perceive but one of many sides which truth presents. If we remain in the rut which is natural, we pass through an entire life viewing nature and the field of thought through but one sort of instrument. But by the other practice we may obtain as many different views of truth as the number of the minds we meet. When another human being brings his thoughts before us, we may not only examine them in our way, but also take his method and, adopting his bias for the time as our own, see just that much more.
It is very easy to illustrate this from ordinary life. The novelist sees in the drawing-rooms of society and the hovels of the poor only the material that may serve as the basis for a new book, while the social schemer drives thought of hovels away and sees in society only the means of gratifying pride and ambition, yet the artist can only think of the play of color and arrangement of figures, the harmony that delights his artistic sense.
In every stratum of society and every art or profession we constantly have it brought home to us that each person looks at any subject from but one or two standpoints, and when a well-balanced mind is found looking at events and people and thoughts freely from all sides, everyone sees at once a superiority in the person, albeit they may not be able to explain it.
The truth is simple and not so difficult to arrive at if we will follow the advice of the Hindu Upanishad and cut away error. Error grows largely out of notions and preconceptions educated into us by our teachers and our lives