Feb 2, 2017

The Futility of Haste

Or The Correct Use of One’s Time and Energy

John Garrigues


Editorial Note:

The following text was first published by
“Theosophy” magazine, at Los Angeles, in
the edition of January 1928, pp. 106-108,
with no indication as to the name of the author.



“…. Let us hurry nothing.
Eternity is here all the time.”

(William Q. Judge in “Letters That Have Helped Me”)

Probably no one else sees so many things that need doing as the Theosophist, but when their vast number is reduced to include only the duties which devolve specifically upon him he should be able to hold the even tenor of his way without being stampeded.

The earnest Theosophist who is deliberately taking his own evolution in hand with the object of fitting himself for the most effective service of the human race is embarked on an undertaking whose consummation in most cases lies several lives hence, at best, and for the attaining of which the spirit of rush is not only futile but a positive handicap.

Haste is for the sudden spurt. The long-distance runner strikes his stride and holds evenly, doggedly, to it. A boy, racing beside him a brief fraction of his journey, can pass him and drop back well-pleased with his achievement, while the runner proceeds steadily, unperturbed by what would appear defeat to one viewing but that portion of the course and recking not of the distant goal.

To urge the substitution of deliberate action for the spirit of rush, however, is not to sanction idleness.

There is no cure for petty anxiety or the sensation of working under pressure like reflection upon the cosmic ultimates, but our contemplation of Infinite Duration ought not to lead to the dwarfing in our minds of the importance of present action.

Past and future alike are part of the Eternal Now, but, though the springs of action may reach back into the past as its results may stretch far into the future, the action itself can take place only at the juncture of past and future which we call the present.

Each moment, as it passes from the future to the past, should carry its due freight of purposeful activity.

Action is indispensable, but unless it is rhythmic and harmonious it falls short of its highest possibilities for lasting benefit. These characteristics presuppose the exercise of deliberate judgment and discrimination as to the object of activity as well as its mode.

There is conflict of duties in seeming only.

Our duty under any circumstances can not be greater than the limit of our possible performance. Similarly the duty of any given moment can not include more than we can accomplish in that moment. The weighing of the relative claims of apparently conflicting duties and their adjustment can be properly accomplished only in the light of the higher discrimination which is an attribute of the real man.

The Theosophist’s progress depends in large measure on the extent to which he recognizes and heeds the voice of his Higher Self, for the hearing of which calmness is the one thing necessary.

Until we are much farther along than the present stage of most of us, communion with our real nature is spasmodic and halting. We, as personalities, do not receive the uninterrupted flow of inspiration we aspire to ultimately, but must endeavor to refer, with ever greater frequency and regularity, the situations in which we find ourselves to that higher nature for solution and for the sanction of our proposed reactions. That reference precludes the random short and the snap judgment, and imposes a salutary check, however irksome to the impulsive temperament.

One whose mind works quickly often fells himself somewhat superior to the deliberate thinker, but mental celerity has its own disadvantages, as was brought out in one of the Master’s letters:

“All quick thinkers are hard to impress - in a flash they are out and away in ‘full cry’ before half understanding what one wants to have them think.” [1]

Many people mistake sheer restlessness of temperament for laudable industry and fritter away their strength in constant feverish motion, complacent in the sensation of being busy, though their efforts have no worthy or lasting purpose. They are as much slaves of the Rajasic quality as confirmed idlers are of the Tamasic. He whose action is harmonious, Sattwic, does not indulge in unconsidered action, but conserves his surplus energy.

He does not wear himself out in fear or anticipation, but concentrates attention and effort on the duty of each moment as it presents itself. A common tendency is to dwell in anticipation on some specific future event and, focusing attention on the next “high spot” in the journey of life, to slight the present and its lessons. But if eternity is here all the time, it can mean no less than that every moment is intrinsically and potentially as important as any other. We can enter upon our heritage at any moment we will claim it. And the more closely we can hold our attention to what we are about, the better account shall we be able to give of our stewardship of time.

Another count against haste is that it prevents taking advantage of the hints and suggestions furnished by the unfolding of karma. We are told that the Occultist should not be committed in advance to any fixed plan of action but be ready to shape his conduct in harmony with developments.

But a man driving at top speed is only too likely to miss detour warnings, to his subsequent sorrow. Nature has her own laws and policemen, and the “speed trap” which is the bane of the modern motorist has its prototype in the Karmic reaction from all ill-considered haste.

A point to bear in mind in connection with all our activities is that the Theosophist is not on piece-work but has full-time employment, where quality counts for more than mere quantity of output.

Every true Theosophist labors at the erection of the outer defenses of the Fane of Truth which has been reared by the efforts of untold generations of Adepts. It is a high task, calling for care and skill in setting each brick firmly in its due place.

The work of scurrying incompetents, no less than that of enemies within the Movement, has to be taken out and done again.

The number of bricks each worker is able to set depends on his qualifications under Karma, but it is within the power of all of us, if we free ourselves of the anxiety and irritation arising from haste, to do well whatever we are able to do, be it little or much, and so to build for the centuries.


[1] “The Mahatma Letters”, TUP, Pasadena, California, 1992, Letter VIII, p. 36.


Date of publication online, June 2012.


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.