Renunciation of Action
From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, October, 1921
It would be a grave mistake to think that by not acting one frees himself from the consequences of action. Such would be a totally false view of the “renunciation of action.” The whole universe is action. First, last, and all the time ceaseless motion lies behind everything that is. Among all creatures the impulse to move on—to progress—is action, and it comes from the very nature of Spirit itself; it cannot be denied. Nor can one, even if he should think so, ever cease from action, in not doing that which ought to be done; for there is action in the very thought—thought being the real plane of action and that which induces any kind of action. Without action there is no manifested life. While we live, we are constantly acting. There is not a moment when action ceases, whether the action is through a mind in a body, or after the terrestrial mind and body are laid aside for the time being and functioning goes on in inner instruments and sheaths of the soul.
Motion is the basis of man’s physical existence. There is not one atom, not one molecule in the body, which is not in constant motion, and it is through that constant motion that the body is enabled to register the various diff effects presented by physical matter itself. But within the body is that which gives direction—the mind—or that bundle of ideas which each one has. In the last analysis, it comes home to each individual that he himself is his own judge, jury and executioner; for, if his ideas are small and concerned only with physical existence, then the motion given is in a wrong direction, personal and physical. If, however, we realize that such ideas as we have accepted and made a basis for our action may not be true, we can change and enlarge them, or reject them altogether. Who, then, are WE, having the power behind both body and mind to arouse change?
We are the real mover behind the ideas and behind the will—the Experiencer—Spirit itself—that which looks out through our eyes and that which senses through our organs. It is the same Self in each and every instrument. Spirit has the faculty of identifying itself with the business upon which the mind is concentrated, so that it becomes involved in its instruments and confused by its involution. Although we are Spirit—divine, eternal, beginningless, endless—we have created right or wrong ideas as to our own natures, as to anything and everything which we experience in any direction, upon any plane of being. We are the One Reality behind all experiences, behind all planes of being—which are but temporary in their nature, while Man himself, divested of every means of communication with them, becomes creator of his own means. Within the spiritual nature lie every possible power, force and means for the creation of a more and more perfect instrument, yet, by our own actions, by our own creation of false ideals as their basis, we have made the conditions in which we find ourselves.
We could get beyond the troubles by which we are affected, if we would cease to deal in every case with effects. We are constantly in a sea of effects, and we try to relate one effect to another without for one moment going back to the basis of causation—to the Self, the Spirit within. In the Spirit, no one of us differs—no human being, nor any kind of being—whether above man, man, or below man. The One Spirit in all is the perceiving power. It is the executing power. It is the creative, the preservative and the regenerative power in every being. Out side of us lies nothing but perception, but within us lies the power of realization of Spirit itself and of the powers which lie within that Spirit. Our differences lie in our spiritual advancement and in our discriminative knowledge, according to our self-evolved nature of mind and body—an evolution which always takes place under law, under the same law ruling from the minutest life to the highest spiritual being—that inherent law which is the power to act. Action is merely the execution of that spiritual law.
We are learning all the time because we are acting all the time. In every fresh combination, the understanding and proper use of it points us onward and enables us to go still further into higher worlds and wider combinations. Each one of us is a sensitive instrument—the embodiment of everything there is in the whole of nature; for we have evolved from instruments of homogeneous substance more concrete instruments and we move in them, as spiritual beings from an immense past, to make all possible differentiations and combinations to be obtained in our evolutionary stream. And let us not forget that we were concerned not only with the beings above us and those of our own high estate when we began this evolution, but with all the beings below us in the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. All are interdependent. It can only be when we realize our own natures and act in accordance with them that we shall fulfill the purpose of our life here, which, in fact, includes every being of every kind anywhere. We act upon them all to some degree in every thought and action of our own, and just as we affect them so the effect flows back upon us through beings like us, and beings above us and below us. So, the whole course of understanding—the proper ideas from which to act—lies within our selves and not outside.
To imagine that we are here by chance, that there is no law, that there are accidents, that we are not responsible for our selves being impinged upon while others are gratified of their desires—is an error. We have brought ourselves into the present condition by doing similar things before. We have in other lives pursued a course that shut us out from a knowledge of our own nature. We have so acted through the inherent power within ourselves as to bring about a closure between our high perception and our lives in the body; we have affected others in a similar way, and they in their turn come back to affect us and keep us on that plane of thought and action. For it can be seen that our thoughts are action more than the acts themselves. It is the way we think that produces action, and others are permeable to these thoughts of ours, be they good or bad.
There is the faculty in man of identifying himself with whatever condition he finds himself in—the faculty, called in The Bhagavad-Gita Ahankara, or egotism. As soon as we are involved in any set of circumstances—be it happiness or misery—we immediately identify ourselves with the prevailing condition, forgetting that there were other conditions before and that there will be other conditions in the future with which we may again identify ourselves, if we have not learned to do otherwise. So we go on thinking that we are this body, that we are this nation, these events, and this period of time. All these ideas are subversive of an understanding of our true natures, but they are eradicable, because we ourselves created and maintain them.
A true understanding may be had by no matter whom or where through what is known in one of the ancient writings—the Mundaka-Upanishad”—as the shaving process. It is the elimination of all that is not the Self. For nothing that we can see is Self; nothing that we can hear, or smell, or taste, or know is Self. The Self senses all, through its instruments, but is not any of these things. Nor are we any of the experiences we have ‘had, are now having, or will have. We are that which experiences, and are not any of the changes. We are none of the processes through which we go every day, from sleeping to waking, or from life to death, according to universal law. ‘WE never sleep; WE never die. Sleep is just the reaction of the body, and when the body sleeps WE are still thinking and perceiving and experiencing, in the dreaming state, and in deep sleep states beyond, where we have full spiritual self-consciousness.
Why do we bring back so little memory of the action of consciousness during deep sleep? Because our registering apparatus is of a small calibre. The physical brain which is the register of our thinking—our manipulating instrument here—like every-thing else in our bodies is formed from food, and so is constantly changing as our impressions change. It becomes receptive only to the constant influence of our earthly thinking. But, if while awake, we take a spiritual basis for our thinking—that which compels us in right action, with the recognition of all men coming from the same source and proceeding toward the same goal, though the path varies with the pilgrim—thinking and acting on that basis during our daily lives, then the brain will become responsive to those other forms of consciousness during the sleep of the body; then, all that we know on the high planes of being can be carried through and to a great degree expressed in the body.
In all processes something of change is going on. So, action from the highest basis of thought institutes an action in the body itself and changes the very nature of the lives in our bodies, making them porous to the inner side of nature so that they finally become translucent, and permeable to all higher and finer influences. There is the higher and inner side of any and every form that exists—mineral, vegetable, animal, human or beyond the human—and as we become more universal in our modes of thinking and of action, we contact more fully that higher, inner side. We raise ourselves higher, and we see the world as quite different from the one perceived when we were treading the path of mere terrestrial existence. ‘We see what all false modes of thought and action have brought about- animosities, wars, divisions between individuals, pestilences, disease, cyclones and earthquakes, noxious insects and animals.
The great errors of mental conception which darken man’s mind keep him as an ever-acting being creating the conditions which bring him his sorrows and disabilities. If there were no human being in the world who would ever harm another, there would be no harm. All harmful things would disappear. But even though there be harmful beings, and their nature can not be changed, we can so change our own attitude that no harm can come to us from them. If harm comes to us, there must be harm in us. The Yogi of the East can go into the midst of all kinds of harmful creatures unharmed, because of his own harmlessness. When our thought is fixed on false ideas, it is apparent to the harmful creatures, and their instinct of so-called self-preservation moves them to attack us, because they recognize a danger in us. The natures of those beings below us will be changed only by man, for they can not change themselves. It is the lives which we are using in our own bodies—themselves motion, action—which become the embodiment of beings in the various kingdoms, because we have endowed them with our thought and action and given them direction, as each moment passes, back on to their own plane. We are their creators and their providence, or we delay their progress by misunderstanding our own natures and, consequently, theirs.
What will be in the future depends upon those who have the power to act in any state of matter. The civilization that now is has been created by ourselves, but behind all true progress there must be a universal conception of Spirit, mind, and action. Let us dismiss any idea of renunciation of action. Act always. We have to act. Every principle of our nature compels us to act. If we fear or fail to act in any given place where the situation calls for action, then we have acted in a wrong way, for we have missed an opportunity. And an error of omission is worse than an error of commission. Act, then, but act for and as the Self of all creatures. Renounce not action, but selfish interest in every thought and act.