Mar 11, 2015

Optimism in Esoteric Philosophy

Or the Art of Having Confidence in the Future

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

Optimism in theosophy emerges from a correct perception of the Universe


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The following text reproduces Chapter 25 of
the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical
Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, The
Aquarian Theosophist, Portugal, 255 pp., 2013. 

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“Having patience I should develop
enthusiasm; for awakening will dwell
only in those who exert themselves. Just
as there is no movement without wind, so
merit does not occur without enthusiasm.”

(Acharya Shantideva [1])


Ethics cannot be efficiently stimulated by mere propaganda. Unethical behavior must be understood as a symptom of a deeper psychological process. Selfish emotion - often disguised in theosophical circles under spiritual appearances - is a form of blindness. Undue personal ambition constitutes a self-defeating attempt to avoid or compensate fear and despondency.  

In the absence of a bright vision of the future, human behavior is dominated by a blind search for short-term satisfaction. Problems like ethical crisis, attachment to routine, lack of mental concentration or an exaggerated struggle for power within “spiritual” organizations, are associated with the absence of a correct vision of the future. They emerge because there is not an adequate understanding of the mystery of time.

Theosophy teaches that life can and must be renewed, both at the individual and the community level. An inner rebirth may occur at any time. As soon as an individual - or a community - sees the causes of suffering, understanding replaces pain. Absence of ethics emerges from the lack of a deeply felt Purpose in life. On the other hand, a correct life-project is inseparable from a healthy vision of the future and a clear perception of long-term Time.

When past, present and future are recognized as inseparable parts of the one and single Duration, the Law of Karma is better understood and the disease of an egotistical attitude towards life is cured from within each individual soul.

The preparation for that includes getting strong enough to emerge above the trivialities of a blind and self-destructive civilization. Then one’s vision of the future gets stimulating; the meaning of life reveals itself; one’s positive potentialities get to work, and despondency and mental distractions seem to have never existed.

Optimism and Happiness

The question of optimism in Theosophy must be examined, for the theosophical effort is about the preparation of a better future, and optimism can be defined as confidence in future events.

Every philosophy must offer its students a reliable path to happiness through self-knowledge and a true understanding of the universe. Theosophy is no exception. Optimism and an inner happiness are the natural results of life, if life is lived in a correct way.

Anyone who wants to have strong reasons to be confident about the future must search for truth so as to attain real knowledge of the laws that govern life. It is helpful to take this ancient axiom into close consideration:

“Sow an act, and you reap a habit,
Sow a habit, and you reap a character,
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” [2]

The path to wisdom is in fact the path to happiness. Theosophy can only be seen as the path of woe from the point of view of the lower self, which is illusory.

Suffering is part of life because life implies illusions. Therefore Dukkha, pain, or affliction, is the first noble truth of Buddhism. It is the first truth to be seen, for its right understanding is the starting point along the path towards bliss, liberation, or nirvana.

Esoteric philosophy shows that for each pain there is a lesson, and often more than one; and that these lessons can be learned in a conscious way, if one sincerely looks for the Causes of suffering. There is no emotional idealization in true Optimism. Confidence in the future is based on Discernment. 

Once we know how Life works, we see we can rely on it. Optimism is that confidence in the future and in oneself that makes one preserve inner happiness in spite of one’s suffering and while acting in solidarity with all suffering beings on this planet.

Pain is but a form of Teaching, generously given us by Nature. No suffering is more intense than the lesson taught by it, nor can human affliction be greater than the blessing that compensates it in due time. A Master of the Wisdom wrote:

“Nature has an antidote for every poison and her laws a reward for every suffering. The butterfly devoured by a bird becomes that bird, and the little bird killed by an animal goes into a higher form. It is the blind law of necessity and the eternal fitness of things…” [3]

Of course, philosophical optimism can appear to be too severe to some. Being profound, it does not have to appear on the surface for everyone to see and supposedly to applaud it, out of short-term emotional considerations. 

Confidence in the future is a deep source of that understanding that sustains a long-term self-sacrifice.

One needs to have true optimism before making a vow to dedicate one’s life to a noble ideal, thus leaving aside all attachment to personal comfort. True theosophy is not an anesthetic. It eliminates the source, not the symptoms, of human pain.

The ultimate source of optimism is to be found perhaps in the intimate relationship existing between each individual and the whole universe. Ancient tradition says that every human soul has its star in the sky. And “Light on the Path” adds:

“When you have found the beginning of the way the star of your soul will show its light; and by that light you will perceive how great is the darkness in which it burns. (…) Be not appalled and terrified by this sight; keep your eyes fixed on the small light and it will grow. (…) Then do you enter into a partnership of joy, which brings indeed terrible toil and profound sadness, but also a great and ever-increasing delight.” [4]

Optimism in esoteric philosophy is the ability to see the blissful essence of Life and to get in harmony with it, regardless of outer difficulties.

All beings exist in the realm of universal law. A conscious unity with that One Law constitutes the key to transcendent happiness.


NOTES:

[1] “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”, 1979, Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, Dharamsala, 212 pp., see p. 82.

[2] From an article entitled “The Genesis of Evil in Human Life”, signed by “I” and published at “Lucifer” magazine, January 1889 edition, pp. 373-378. The word “Lucifer” is an ancient name for the planet Venus, the “morning star”.

[3] “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, T.U.P. edition, Pasadena, USA, see Letter X, pp. 56-57. In the Chronological edition (TPH-Philippines), this is letter number 88.

[4] “Light on the Path”, M. C., Theosophy Company, Mumbai, India, 90 pp., see p. 19.

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In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.  

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E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).


Those who want to join E-Theosophy e-group at YahooGroups can do that by visiting https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/E-Theosophy/info.

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