Spiritual Path, Theosophy and Self-Integration
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
The process of learning theosophy brings about a psychological transmutation of pain into contentment, and ignorance into wisdom. It is not enough to look for the highest: one has to change at the same time that which is on Earth.
When obstacles emerge along the path, many think that a more intense involvement of the pilgrim with the theosophical effort will lead him to a greater integration of his personality. The altruistic work has an alchemical power and gives more consistency to the relation between the thoughts, feelings and actions of the individual.
The idea is correct in most cases. However, both modern psychology and classical theosophy show that exceptions are numerous. We see examples of that in the esoteric movement of the 21st century, and in previous centuries. The fact is clearly recorded in theosophical literature.
In the Karma of an individual, everything depends on three levels of motivation as he tries to tread the path: the conscious level, the subconscious and the supraconscious. There is in every human being a difference between the deep notion of self or identity, on one hand, and the “social self”, the visible self, on the other hand.
If there is a great distance between the inner (subconscious) self and the self that is socially visible, a stronger involvement with the external aspects of the theosophical Cause may increase, instead of reducing, the cleavage between social appearance and the internal reality experienced.
And this makes it more difficult for antahkarana to work. Antahkarana is the contact with one’s spiritual soul and the source of all legitimacy. When there is an absence of consistency in the relation with oneself, the contrast among thought, feeling and action expands and may get to high levels of absurdity.
How can such a problem be avoided?
The pilgrim must go ahead slowly enough for his integration with himself to face no danger. His sense of peace with himself must keep the same level and expand, even if little by little. Self-respect and self-knowledge are inseparable. It is impossible to make progress without them.
In the process of searching for wisdom, the pilgrim must observe the degree of contrast and contradiction between his “social self” - his individuality as perceived by other persons - and his “deeper self”, which the others cannot see.
Some students make sincere attempts to completely identify themselves with their “socially built self”, the self that is praised, the self consisting of appearance. They don’t realize that, as they expand the efforts to deserve the praise of others, the presence of frustration increases in their subconscious. Every attempt to look like a saint or a wise person is a form of psychological violence against oneself. The real feelings of the pilgrim are then suppressed. As a result of such a pretense, negative emotions get deeper and spread in his inner world.
By making efforts to “be” the spiritualized image of himself which he shows to others, the pilgrim struggles against the facts. He believes that, by obtaining social recognition and applause for his noble actions, the accumulated energy of right action - and of the praises received - will give him the strength necessary to “weld” his conflicted character, harmonizing the self that does not deserve praises, and is full of fear or anger, with the politically-correct self which is shown in social interaction.
The desired “welding” or healing does not occur, because the Deeper Intention is substantially different from the intention that is shown to other persons. The basic emotional self is hostile to the emotional self which exists for-the-others-to-see. And if the pilgrim intensifies his attempts to look like polite and politically-correct, the only result is a growth in fear, pride and aggressiveness, however disguised.
This mutually destructive symmetry between feelings shown and feelings repressed is quite dangerous in theosophy. It is much better not to go ahead than to take steps toward falsity.
In the history of nations, social hypocrisy is one of the sources of political and religious conflicts. It is from the accumulated process of emotional discomfort that wars emerge.
When the political leaders obey mainly to the rules of marketing and appearance, hatred and error go rampant in society. Military conflicts and terrorism bring down to the material world the anger and fear accumulated in the astral atmosphere. Brutal and treacherous aggression is the other face of politically correct falsity.
The elements described above are part of the psychology of each individual in the present moment of our humanity. Therefore, vigilance is of the essence even when the pilgrim is fundamentally consistent in the relation with himself. No one is completely free from such a challenge.
The citizen of good will may have in his soul a central and dominating love for truth, and perhaps he is part of a deep humanitarian project. Still, he will have to observe the struggle between appearance and reality in his own soul. If he tells himself he has “already won the battle”, he is but deceiving himself.
Respect Strengthens Harmony
It is up to each pilgrim to evaluate his journey.
Self-esteem is antahkarana. One must respect his own being, in order to understand the Path. And if the student does not have self-esteem enough, the creation of a secondary self, socially praiseworthy, will not be an alternative.
As the pilgrim needs to be in deep peace with himself, the goal in theosophy is to find the silent place of internal healing, and to activate the point of equilibrium that includes all facts and compensates and purifies the whole being, step by step. This task belongs to the soul, that is, to the essence of the individual.
He who studies the pedagogy expressed in “The Mahatma Letters” and the “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom” may find it easier to see the process of unconditional inner clarity. The Letters are a valuable tool: there is nothing comparable to them in modern or ancient literature, if the pilgrim wants to know the point of view of the Initiates with regard to teaching and learning.
An arduous confrontation of one’s own mistakes and of the failures of others is an inevitable condition for the theosophical mission, and a necessity for one to achieve a lucid vision. However, this is not enough. The main duty is to build. Creative activity depends on brain areas and actions that are different from those functions which label, separate and criticize. The act of building implies the use of new forms of intelligence, quite dissimilar from the “intelligences of dismantlement”.
When a student has nothing to criticize - or when he realizes that discussing other people’s faults does not provoke the positive results desired - it becomes necessary for him to increase his inner severity and to confront the resistance in his own soul that boycotts the creative energy of wisdom.
The benevolent-self of the theosophist must transmute that section of the non-social self that fights the search for wisdom, and which does this from areas situated outside everything that is said or thought. The key factor in walking along the uphill path does not consist in showing to others that one is wise. On the contrary, it is allowing one’s mistakes to be visible, so that they can be healed, and establishing correct habits.
The quantity of tasks accomplished for a humanitarian cause has no supreme importance. It is the durability, the stability, the attention, sincerity, courage and humility with which they are performed by the pilgrim that makes the difference.
It is not by merely increasing one’s theosophical tasks that one’s soul makes progress toward the integration of the self and emotional consistency. Besides the strength of his decision, the discerning pilgrim observes the quality of his motivation.
When the method of learning is effective, the fulfilment of tasks expresses a devotion to impersonal truth. Then the altruistic effort constitutes a tool for that sort of self-discipline which improves the lower self in the wider perspective of love for time eternal, for the universal Law, and infinite Space.