Malakhov P. - Theosophical View on Morality Importance
Published in "Modern Theosophical Thought", 2016-1 (1)
This talk was given during the Theosophical Readings in Makarevka in August 2015. Translated from Russian by Olga Fyodorova
in Russian: Малахов П.Н. - Значение нравственности с точки зрения теософии
It may seem to someone that morality does not need any analysis, that it is an internal feeling associated with such fairly abstract – because of its wide meaning – and difficult to define concepts such as justice, love, duty, conscience. Nevertheless, the concept of morality is directly related to thinking.
The emergence of the moral and the immoral follows the development of mental activity. This is a product of the analysis of the relationship between a person and his environment. This is an understanding of what actions should be done and what not and why. The emergence of the concept of morality is caused by the need for a person to give a logical explanation for his actions and motivation, to develop rules for joint peaceful coexistence with other people. In Greece, this need was expressed in the concept of ethics (ἠθικόν), derived from the ancient Greek word ethos (ἦθος), meaning living together and the rules generated by this. The sophists in the 5th century BCE, reflecting on the obvious difference between existence in the wild nature and in human society, where each culture has its own laws, came to the conclusion that the reason is in mind.
In the Roman Empire, the philosopher and orator Cicero (01.03.106 – 07.12.43 BCE) introduced the term morality (moralitas) to denote the ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, good and evil, and also he used this term to describe the norms of behavior arising from these views. This term comes from the Latin word mores, which means generally accepted traditions, unspoken rules.
In Russian, the word nravy (нравы) has a similar meaning, denoting customs, common habits and way of social life, from where the term nravstvennost (нравственность) came from as a set of rules that determine the correct or worthy behavior of a person.
Due to its connection with thinking, understanding of the moral and immoral can vary widely in people. And due to the same connection, the sources of morality go back to the period when a person becomes a thinking creature. Theosophical teaching about the cyclical nature of the evolutionary movement indicates that this happened in the 4th Round, in the 3rd Root Race, in its 3rd sub-race. At that time, man (being so far as such only potentially) began to acquire rationality, that is become the fully-fledged man, so to say. Up to that time, only one feeling prevailed – a feeling of harmony or consonance with the surrounding world. Since man already reached the 3rd sub-race in the 3rd race, even this single spiritual feeling had three aspects or shades: vision, hearing and touch, which were not distinguished then by such isolation as now and were not limited by space or time. It was a purely spiritual sense of perception of the surrounding high vibrations and unconscious response vibrations. The feeling was innate and natural for everyone. With the development of rationality and the manifestation of free will – capable of violating the natural harmony of the environment – deviations from following the laws of evolution began to appear in human actions. The feeling of all-encompassing consonance began to be divided into narrower ranges of perception of the world, which, in turn, contributed to the greater and greater isolation of people from each other. A single and general perception of the world was fragmented at the level of vibrations, elements, and physical bodies.
As the spirit descended into matter and due to its differentiation, the man had a need to perceive the features of increasing heterogeneity, so he gradually developed and deepened the corresponding feelings. All that happened simultaneously with the general evolution. Each human Root Race added new feelings and deepened those previously acquired. Being today in the 5th Root-Race, in its 5th sub-race, we have already mastered sufficiently five senses, which appeared in the following order: sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. According to another classification, the senses appeared as follows: hearing, touch, sight, taste, smell. In fact, the separation of feelings is very conditional and directly depends on the mind that perceives them. Nevertheless, each new feeling more and more individualized people, and the descent into matter shifted the emphasis from spiritual feelings to objective or physical feelings. This alienated people from understanding each other. The appearance of sight caused different views of the world. The appearance of hearing made it possible to remain deaf to something and someone. The voice became the cause of discord. The appearance of taste and smell began to separate people not only by the perception of vibrations, but also already at the level of environmental elements: the same chemical elements began to be perceived differently.
People became more and more individualized, dissimilar to each other, a sense of natural harmony was lost, so that after a long period of struggle, trial and error, torment and disappointment, man would return to it consciously, by free will of his own, through his own efforts. As a result of this internal work, after numerous clashes with each other, people gradually develop the concept of morality, leading to harmonious, mutually nice and mutually beneficial coexistence.
In modern society, there is a tendency to give priority to knowledge over morality: various sciences can be studied by anyone, regardless of the moral qualities of the student, but this was not always the case. Not so long ago, all the knowledge was in the hands of a small number of people. In those days, there was a tradition of initiation, which essentially meant the transfer of knowledge only to the one who was ready to accept it. Such readiness meant applying the gained knowledge only for the benefit of humanity.
In the previous 4th Root-Race (Atlanteans) knowledge was not hidden. Until the very end of that race, man still had a third eye for which there were no barriers either in space or in time. But many people began to abuse knowledge and selfishly use the forces of nature for one’s own goal; their actions began to be painted in light and dark colors. Thus appeared white and black magic which eventually led to large-scale wars and the destruction of the Atlantean race.
There is a difference between our knowledge and traits. No matter what knowledge we acquire during our life, in the next incarnation we still have to learn all over again. And although once the beaten track is re-mastered faster, it still takes time to complete it. On the other hand, any character trait we have acquired (or our inner quality) remains with us constantly.
For example, it is most likely that none of us possessed knowledge about computers in previous incarnations, but in the current one, almost everybody possesses the knowledge to some extent. Of course, each has a different need for such knowledge, but if we consider those who need it to the same extent (for example, in a profession), we will see that people acquire equally new knowledge differently. What does it depend on? It obviously depends on qualities acquired in past incarnations. Diligence and laziness, determination and absent-mindedness, perseverance and restlessness, thoughtfulness and superficial thinking, as well as many other traits of our character, determine the success in assimilating new knowledge. It is important to note that the development of these qualities does not depend on the type of activity. They can be acquired at sea, and on land; in a factory, and at school; in the office, and in the field; in poverty, and in luxury – life provides us with a wide field for experiments in attempts to change ourselves.
Judging by the consequences, it is more important for human development to develop his own traits (qualities of his character) than to acquire knowledge, since the acquired knowledge in itself is nothing but a manifestation of a certain traits in a person. Strictly speaking, knowledge cannot be increased or decreased – it is just a turn of speech. Indeed, knowledge in general and all specific knowledges about a certain subject in particular are always and everywhere present. All knowledge of the past and of the future is present constantly all over. The student is only required to find a way to access the knowledge that interests him. In other words, keep your ears and eyes opened, that is, become receptive to what is already present in and around you. There are several ways to do this. For example, knowledge can be obtained by studying the literature, experimenting, observing, that is, through the logical comprehension of incoming information. Or it can also be obtained through revelation and insight. Each way has many techniques.
The priority of traits (over knowledge) is also confirmed by the fact that for the Mahatmas it is not difficult to obtain comprehensive knowledge of any modern invention, despite the fact that they are not specialists in the field and have not studied the numerous disciplines and information sources that led the inventor to his creation. Over the course of many of their previous incarnations, the Mahatmas acquired such traits that allow them to get a direct understanding of any subject, to immediately see the essence of a statement, formula, invention, etc. Moreover, to strengthen these traits, they worked in the environment that corresponded to their era, with the material and local private knowledge that could be acquired there and then. They could be carpenters or shoemakers, poets or sculptors, military leaders or priests. All the things of that time, the environment and entire nations with all their culture might not have retained even traces of their existence to our days, but what was experienced and perceived there, those internal transformations that took place at that time – all this was preserved in subsequent incarnations.
Any kind of activity gives us the opportunity to improve our character traits, to make them more harmonious and clear. The very life of a person in an embodied state is intended for this. The disembodied state in which one finds oneself after death shows – for the majority – a world of consequences, where development is extremely difficult and a person only experiences the consequences of his actions and thoughts.
Therefore, for a student of timeless wisdom, it makes little difference whether he is studying carpentry or nanotechnology. The process of learning and mastering the subject itself is important, since in the process of learning he acquires the necessary traits, such as perseverance, hard work, the ability to find the necessary information, an unbiased judgement of it, self-criticism, a humble attitude towards misunderstanding, ridicule and humiliation, tolerance for the shortcomings of associates and many others universal traits, the acquisition of which does not depend on the type of activity. It is towards such an inner transformation of man that the work of the Teachers of humanity is directed. Therefore, they use a lot of techniques, in accordance with the circumstances of time and place.
Realizing this, let us once again pay attention to the importance that the Teachers attach to morality. Revealing in varying degrees of detailed elaboration the secrets of the structure of the Universe, describing the laws governing it, they give simple and concise commandments for everyday use. They can be found in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. These are simple and succinct formulas for success in evolutionary development. These are parting words, milestones, landmarks, without which any knowledge gained will be harmful.
For example, in the Buddhist Catechism, recognized by the Buddhist world as a worthy introduction to Buddhism and reprinted over 40 times, Henry Steel Olcott says:
“331. Q. Should Buddhism be called a chart of science or a code of morals?
A. Properly speaking, a pure moral philosophy, a system of ethics and transcendental metaphysics. It is so eminently practical that the Buddha kept silent when Malunka asked about the origin of things.
332. Q. Why did he do that?
A. Because he thought that our chief aim should be to see things as they exist around us and try to make them better, not to waste time in intellectual speculations.”
Moral qualities give a very important trait for the cognition of truth, namely: an undistorted perception of reality. The higher the morality of a person, the closer to the truth his judgment, which cannot be said about intellectuality. The latter quality, no matter how it is developed, provides only a tool for comprehending the world, but does not guarantee its effective application. The intellect can be directed equally to the comprehension of the truth and to its distortion. A good example of this is the ancient school of the Sophists, which trained its students in logic and taught them to develop proof of opposite conclusions from one statement. Thus, intelligence is a blind force directed by a person in accordance with his preferences, which are ultimately determined by his moral principles. That is why, in spiritual discipleship, much attention is paid to the preparation and testing of the student's readiness to accept knowledge.
Intellect can be developed very well, but if it receives information through unclean agents, then its conclusions will be far from reality. This does not mean that it is useless – on the contrary, being in the 5th Race, the 5th sub-race, our task is precisely to develop it – but we must have a clear understanding that, being very important, intellect is only a tool, and certain conditions are required for its effective use, otherwise one can get seriously injured, and these wounds of the consequences of incorrect intellectual conclusions could require a long time for healing, more than one incarnation. Morality, as safety measures, is necessary to avoid such accidents.
The Great Teachers of mankind present their teachings in such a way that they transform people internally, so that they change them qualitatively. It is in this qualitative change that the meaning of the observance of moral laws lies. If we obey them, we become more perfect, we move more quickly along the evolutionary path. We must obey them not because of the fear of inevitable punishment, but because of consideration of their vital necessity and practicality (usefulness) for our own development.
Keeping the most moral way of life we can, we thereby improve ourselves and, as a result, improve the whole world, since the world consists of separate but inextricably interconnected particles. If a particle improves, then the whole inevitably improves. Therefore, it is very important for a person to feel like a part of one world life, thus he begins to understand that improving himself, he improves everything around. He is not a limp grain of sand, but a real factor in changing the world. The deeper this understanding, the more a person transforms himself, the more he affects the change in the world. So morality brings us closer to understanding universal unity, one life that is present in everything around us, to understanding the meaning of the person himself.
The meaningful formula “treat people the way you want them to treat you” forms a worldview that helps the personal “self” expand and include the understanding of the “self” of other people. In such attitude, actions intended for another person are already perceived as intended for himself; the feeling of personal “self” expands, it includes personal “selves” of other people, and his own personal boundaries are gradually erased. Actions in such a way will be the embodiment of the idea of one world life. If such motivation is present in all actions and thoughts, then a person will naturally behave according to moral standards, and the latter will be the standards of everyday life, and not theoretical speculations only.
The laws of morality are not abstract reflections, but rather concrete indications on the path of the inner transformation of a person, allowing one to perceive reality as less distorted. The information received by a person is inevitably refracted and distorted through the prism of his individual features. The degree of this refraction will be the degree of the illusory worldview, which will inevitably remain limited and incomplete until a person in his consciousness becomes one with everyone and gets rid of the personal perception of the world around him. Only when he merges the consciousness of his own “self” with “self” of all the others he can see the truth in all its depth and versatility.
Consider, for example, one of the most important moral qualities: truthfulness. Truthfulness means an unbiased reflection of reality. Such direct perception is a necessary condition for comprehending the truth. Truthfulness gives a special chemistry to a person. In other words, under its influence, the set of elements that makes up a person is changing. With the development of this trait, the quality of clarity and transparency is acquired. While lying gives the opposite effect. A person using lies and slander hardly thinks that everything is interconnected, that the like attracts the like, that with his actions he inevitably changes himself both spiritually, mentally, and bodily, his mind in this regard has to deal with contaminated agents, and getting the initial data distorted, it is difficult to draw conclusions that correspond to reality.
One of the basic laws that Theosophy draws attention to is the law of analogy. So the effect produced on our nature by truthfulness can be illustrated by a glass cleaner used for cleaning glass through which we try to look and see how the outside world works. Deceit, vengefulness, resentment, and other symptoms of our imperfection dirty this glass. Perseverance in negative traits will result in scratches, shears, and chipping. Morality, as a combination of positive qualities, cleanses and polishes it, allowing to penetrate the undistorted and clear light of truth into the consciousness.
The practicality of morality also lies in its protective properties. It is known that each poison has its own antidote, and knowledge or ignorance – both can destroy or save. This can be understood broadly: in relation to physical poisons, as a chemical composition, in relation to legal laws, in relation to psychological influences, and so on – up to a philosophical generalized understanding of action and reaction in general. Thus, knowledge of the antidote will neutralize the poison. H.P.Blavatsky tells us in
“But the best protection is a clear conscience and a firm desire to benefit Humanity.”
Regarding the danger of obsession, she adds:
“No one strong in his virtue, and righteous in his walk of life, can risk or dread any such thing; but only those depraved in heart.”
Thus, morality is a universal antidote that does not require knowledge of the specific properties of each poison. It causes a number of consequences, among which one of the most important is the protection of more highly developed beings.
“The knowledge of some principles compensates for the ignorance of many facts,” says the wisdom and morality belongs to such fundamental principles.
Having realized the need for morality, we ask ourselves: "How can we improve our moral qualities? How can we see our shortcomings? How can we overcome them?" By research and answer such questions, we begin to see more and more clearly how the concept of morality is actually deeply connected with our life. We notice that it penetrates into all manifestations of life and then morality moves from the realm of the unmanifested and abstract to the realm of the objective and practical. While the essence of morality getting obvious for us, it shows certain forms and meanings. We see it not only in actions, but also in words, thoughts, and intentions.
Aristotle, who paid a lot of attention to ethics, was the first to use this term to refer to the practical part of philosophy, designed to answer the question of human behavior. According to Aristotle, the goal of ethics is not knowledge, but actions, and the question of what is good is directly linked to the question of how to achieve it.
As H.P. Blavatsky says:
“There is a strange law in Occultism which has been ascertained and proven by thousands of years of experience… As soon as anyone pledges himself as a “Probationer,” certain occult effects ensue. Of these the first is the throwing outward of everything latent in the nature of the man: his faults, habits, qualities, or subdued desires, whether good, bad, or indifferent. … Its action is the more marked the more earnest and sincere the desire of the candidate, and the more deeply he has felt the reality and importance of his pledge.”
For such people, there are no longer such questions as: “What is the value of morality?” or "How tight should I hold it?" It is quite clear to them that this is the only possible path of progress, if only they do not want to follow the left-hand Path. Just as in the days of the Atlanteans, selfish abuse of knowledge led to wars, degradation and ended in cataclysms, so to this day, the conscious or unconscious use of black magic harms all of humanity and slows down its progress. In this regard, for an ordinary person who is just beginning to pose questions to himself, it is necessary to point out again and again the worthiness of morality in spite of the evidence. Unfortunately, the young mind is greatly influenced by negative examples of everyday evidence. A young man sees that it is easier to live by deceiving, that one can steal without a punishment; that a dissolute life is presented as freedom; that because of the imperfection of human laws, injustice can be done quite legally. Seeing this, it is not easy to avoid temptation. The mind will easily find an excuse for any weakness, if it is not tamed with a more powerful will. People know the commandments, understand what is good and what is bad, but this knowledge seems to them too idealistic, not suitable for practical life. However, until we understand the immutability of moral laws, until we begin to live according to them, we will be like a skier who put his skis on two different tracks. Moving in such position along the path of life, we will be forced to leave one track sooner or later; balancing on one leg and obeying either the requirements of the surrounding or the voice of conscience.
For the conclusion there would be very useful to recall three inspiring quotes from The Key to Theosophy (Section XII) about meaning and aspects of morality. H.P.Blavatsky says in this book:
“All good and evil things in humanity have their roots in human character, and this character is, and has been, conditioned by the endless chain of cause and effect. But this conditioning applies to the future as well as to the present and the past. Selfishness, indifference, and brutality can never be the normal state of the race — to believe so would be to despair of humanity — and that no Theosophist can do. Progress can be attained, and only attained, by the development of the nobler qualities. Now, true evolution teaches us that by altering the surroundings of the organism we can alter and improve the organism; and in the strictest sense this is true with regard to man. Every Theosophist, therefore, is bound to do his utmost to help on, by all the means in his power, every wise and well-considered social effort which has for its object the amelioration of the condition of the poor.”
Here, “the poor” can be understood not only as people with small income, but also as people with other troubles, such as loneliness, mutilation, ignorance. The latter is called the main cause of suffering by Gotama Buddha, and special attention should be paid to this trouble.
Elena Petrovna Blavatsky constantly emphasized, both in her literary works and by personal example, that it is necessary not only to know the principles of Theosophy, but it is necessary to live according to them. For example, about charity she said:
“The Theosophical ideas of charity mean personal exertion for others; personal mercy and kindness; personal interest in the welfare of those who suffer; personal sympathy, forethought and assistance in their troubles or needs. We Theosophists do not believe in giving money (N. B., if we had it) through other people's hands or organizations. We believe in giving to the money a thousandfold greater power and effectiveness by our personal contact and sympathy with those who need it.”
Some people, desiring to lead a decent lifestyle, despite all the literature they read, are tormented by the question: “What exactly should I do?” Theosophy, being a timeless wisdom applicable to all circumstances, shifts the emphasis from the question of "what" to the question of "how." If we can achieve such a condition of consciousness that in any situation we will act according to our ideals, then the results of our activities will be worthy, no matter which sphere they are applied in.
Helena Petrovna says:
“Theosophist. – … In every conceivable case he himself must be a centre of spiritual action, and from him and his own daily individual life must radiate those higher spiritual forces which alone can regenerate his fellow-men.
Enquirer. – But why should he do this? Are not he and all, as you teach, conditioned by their Karma, and must not Karma necessarily work itself out on certain lines?
Theosophist. – It is this very law of Karma which gives strength to all that I have said. The individual cannot separate himself from the race, nor the race from the individual. The law of Karma applies equally to all, although all are not equally developed. In helping on the development of others, the Theosophist believes that he is not only helping them to fulfil their Karma, but that he is also, in the strictest sense, fulfilling his own. It is the development of humanity, of which both he and they are integral parts, that he has always in view, and he knows that any failure on his part to respond to the highest within him retards not only himself but all, in their progressive march. By his actions, he can make it either more difficult or more easy for humanity to attain the next higher plane of being.”
The Teachers of humanity (the Mahatmas themselves or through their disciples) constantly help people to find various opportunities for self-perfection. And there are such possibilities at any level of consciousness and at any age. Such optimistic run of things is inspiring!
- H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, v.3, p.451
- H.P. Blavatsky, Instructions For Inner Group, Instruction No 3, See HPB CW, v.12, p.636.
- H.P. Blavatsky, Instructions for Inner Group, Instruction No 1, See HPB CW, v.12, p.515.