Can The Mahatmas Be Selfish?
Theosophist, August, 1884
In various writings on occult subjects, it has been stated that unselfishness is a sine qua non for success in occultism. Or a more correct form of putting it, would be that the development of an unselfish feeling is in itself the primary training which brings with it “knowledge which is power” as a necessary accessory. It is not, therefore, “knowledge,” as ordinarily understood, that the occultist works for, but it comes to him as a matter of course, in consequence of his having removed the veil, which screens true knowledge from his view. The basis of knowledge exists everywhere, since the phenomenal world furnishes or rather abounds with facts, the causes of which have to be discovered. We see only the effects in the phenomenal world, for each cause in that world is itself the effect of some other cause, and so on; and, therefore, true knowledge consists in getting at the root of all phenomena, and thus arriving at a correct understanding of the primal cause, the “rootless root,” which is not an effect in its turn.
To perceive anything correctly, one can use only those senses or instruments which correspond to the nature of that object. Hence, to comprehend the noumenal, a noumenal sense is a pre-requisite; while the transient phenomena can be perceived by senses corresponding to the nature of those phenomena. Occult Philosophy teaches us that the seventh principle is the only eternal Reality, while the rest, belonging as they do to the “world of forms” which are non-permanent, are illusive in the sense that they are transient. To these is limited the phenomenal world which can be taken cognisance of by the senses corresponding to the nature of those six principles. It will thus be clear that it is only the seventh sense, which pertains to the noumenal world, that can comprehend the Abstract Reality underlying all phenomena. As this seventh principle is all-pervading, it exists potentially in all of us; and he, who would arrive at true knowledge, has to develop that sense in him, or rather he must remove those veils which obscure its manifestation. All sense of personality is limited only to these lower six principles, for the former relates only to the “world of forms.” Consequently, true “knowledge” can be obtained only by tearing away all the curtains of Maya raised by a sense of personality before the impersonal Atma. It is only in that personality that is centred selfishness, or rather the latter creates the former and vice versa, since they mutually act and react upon each other. For, selfishness is that feeling which seeks after the aggrandisement of one’s own egotistic personality to the exclusion of others. If, therefore, selfishness limits one to narrow personalities, absolute knowledge is impossible so long as selfishness is not got rid of. So long, however, as we are in this world of phenomena, we cannot be entirely rid of a sense of personality, however exalted that feeling may be in the sense that no feeling of personal aggrandisement or ambition remains. We are, by our constitution and state of evolution, placed in the “World of Relativity,” but as we find that impersonality and non-duality is the ultimate end of cosmic evolution, we have to endeavour to work along with Nature, and not place ourselves in opposition to its inherent impulse which must ultimately assert itself. To oppose it, must necessitate suffering, since a weaker force, in its egotism, tries to array itself against the universal law.
All that the occultist does, is to hasten this process, by allowing his Will to act in unison with the Cosmic Will or the Demiurgic Mind, which can be done by successfully checking the vain attempt of personality to assert itself in opposition to the former. And since the Mahatma is but an advanced occultist, who has so far controlled his lower “self” as to hold it more or less in complete subjection to the Cosmic impulse, it is in the nature of things impossible for him to act in any other but an unselfish manner. No sooner does he allow the “personal self” to assert itself, than he ceases to be a Mahatma. Those, therefore, who being still entangled in the web of the delusive sense of personality charge the Mahatmas with “selfishness” in withholding “knowledge”—do not consider what they are talking about. The Law of Cosmic evolution is ever operating to achieve its purpose of ultimate unity and to carry the phenomenal into the noumenal plane, and the Mahatma, being en rapport with it, are assisting that purpose. They therefore know best what knowledge is best for mankind at a particular stage of its evolution, and none else is competent to judge of that matter, since they alone have got to the basic knowledge which can determine the right course and exercise proper discrimination. And for us who are yet struggling in the mire of the illusive senses to dictate what knowledge Mahatmas shall impart to us and how they shall act, is like a street-boy presuming to teach science to Prof. Huxley or politics to Mr. Gladstone. For, it will be evident that, as soon as the least feeling of selfishness tries to assert itself, the vision of the spiritual sense, which is the only perception of the Mahatma, becomes clouded and he loses the “power” which abstract “knowledge” alone can confer. Hence, the vigilant watch of the “Will” we have constantly to exercise to prevent our lower nature from coming up to the surface, which it does in our present undeveloped state; and thus extreme activity and not passivity is the essential condition with which the student has to commence. First his activity is directed to check the opposing influence of the “lower self”; and, when that is conquered, his untrammelled Will centred in his higher (real) “self,” continues to work most efficaciously and actively in unison with the cosmic ideation in the “Divine Mind.”