Today I want to share with you all one of the classics of theosophy, a letter published as ‘written by a master of wisdom’. It’s called ‘Some words on daily life‘ and starts out:
It is divine philosophy alone, the spiritual and psychic blending of man with nature, which, by revealing the fundamental truths that lie hidden under the objects of sense and perception, can promote a spirit of unity and harmony in spite of the great diversities of conflicting creeds. Theosophy, therefore, expects and demands from the Fellows of the Society a great mutual toleration and charity for each other’s shortcomings, ungrudging mutual help in the search for truths in every department of nature—moral and physical. And this ethical standard must be unflinchingly applied to daily life.
This follows up the theme in several of my recent posts: that the best spirituality is universal spirituality. As this quote makes clear, this only amounts to something if it is also practiced in every day life.
Ethics are probably the least popular part of modern day spirituality. I know my section on theosophy and ethics is one of the least popular sections on my website, for instance. This may be partly because ethics is one of those subjects where it is easy to talk – difficult to practice. Which is perhaps why the master follows the above paragraph up with this:
Theosophy should not represent merely a collection of moral verities, a bundle of metaphysical ethics, epitomized in theoretical dissertations. Theosophy must be made practical; and it has, therefore, to be disencumbered of useless digressions, in the sense of desultory orations and fine talk.
Well, I’m not sure what to say about that. I know many theosophists do volunteer work, and the TS itself founded the Theosophical Order of Service, which does much good all over the world. But generally our lodges do have a lot of theoretical dissertations, I’m afraid. These can be fun, inspiring and even enlightening. But still not very practical. Our brothers in Anthroposophy, the students of Rudolf Steiner, are better at that. But with them I’m not sure they understood the universal aspect of the work. Perhaps one can’t have everything.
Next the master turns to the subject of praise and criticism… He tells us to be above both:
Do not set your pride in the appreciation and acknowledgment of that work by others. Why should any member of the Theosophical Society, striving to become a Theosophist, put any value upon his neighbours’ good or bad opinion of himself and his work, so long as he himself knows it to be useful and beneficent to other people? Human praise and enthusiasm are short-lived at best; the laugh of the scoffer and the condemnation of the indifferent looker-on are sure to follow, and generally to out-weigh the admiring praise of the friendly. Do not despise the opinion of the world, nor provoke it uselessly to unjust criticism. Remain rather as indifferent to the abuse as to the praise of those who can never know you as you really are, and who ought, therefore, to find you unmoved by either, and ever placing the approval or condemnation of your own Inner Self higher than that of the multitudes.
I find that a difficult order as well. Personally I have no trouble being above criticism when I have done something I know will bring criticism, but which I could not have avoided doing. It is harder for me to be above either praise or criticism when it comes to stuff I’m insecure about. But the master is right: praise is easy to give and to criticize isn’t difficult either. What’s hard is right action.
What comes next … well, read for yourself – I think the next part deserves it’s own post. Come back for it next Friday.