We are living in an
age of enormous productivity. In today’s world, progress is measured by
productive capacity, that is, by the gross national product, and not by the
peace and happiness that people experience.
But the productivity which is the pride of this age is
boon companion to destruction. In fact, the more humanity is able to produce,
the more quickly it can destroy: when there are more arms there are more
killings, when there are more chemicals there is more ecological damage.
This strange activity of avidly producing and
destroying is not the only kind of contradiction, or if you like, absurdity
that exists in the modern world. We might also ask: Are we in an epoch of
communication or of compartmentalization? Are we human beings growing more
powerful or more helpless as we proceed headlong on our course?
Communication is also a speciality of the age. The
means of communication are getting constantly more sophisticated. Even remote
villages in underdeveloped countries are under the impact of far-away ideas and
ideologies, and urged into folly as much as towards literary or other desirable
ends. Reaching out to millions means also stirring them up into hatreds, and
conditioning them into postures to which they were previously immune.
Communication divides - a paradoxical reality.
The world is terribly divided in spite of or because
of the communication miracle. We may even anticipate a future in which people
do not have to meet each other in flesh and blood, because visual and auditory
messages can be sent and received within walled enclosures. 
There is now a frightening power in humanity’s hands -
to destroy itself and its environment by nuclear, chemical and other means; to
intrude into nature and other people’s lives; and to remodel organisms by
genetic manipulation. As technological competence and scientific knowledge grow
in the future, humanity’s power will increase. But with so much power in their
hands, human beings are still pathetically helpless to render themselves and
others happy, and to make this world a good place to live in.
Man lacks the wisdom to do simple things like being at
peace, sharing what he does not need, learning what right relationship is. He
knows how to do complex exercises of the intellect, but not how to be kind,
innocent and good. This inability or seeming powerlessness arises from inner
confusion. There are as many anomalies in the individual’s consciousness as
there are in the society he is part of. Let us note one or two of the important
To the overwhelming majority of people, the bodily
life - sensations, the pleasure of quenching its lusts, and catering to real or
imaginary comforts - is all that is of primary importance. Generally, money is
earned for that, and relationships are conditioned to suit desires.
The highly materialistic, consumerist character of
modern society represents greed for sensations and unnecessary conveniences and
comforts. But although most people identify themselves with the body and its
cravings, they also like to think they have a future beyond the body. They have
a deep-seated lurking sense of insecurity and want to ensure their future by
turning to some sort of superhuman agency. Very few really want to become
extinct with the death of the body. They fear death and old age, and
desperately try to prolong life in the body. The human mind has not tried to resolve
whether it exists to satisfy the body, or whether it has a spiritual role and
Parallel to this contradiction of a critical character
is the confusion about what is reality. A bag of highly priced diamonds ceases
to be valuable when the owner is in a boat which is going to sink. All the
luxuries and possessions a person has fade into unimportance as the breath is
leaving the body. Incidents which were sharply felt at the time of their
occurrence appear trivial with time.
How much of what happens in this world is significant?
The mind is continually misled and bewildered by the appearance of significance
where it does not exist. It hopes of finding it in man or woman, power and
position are repeatedly shattered. People are racing blindly at random to find
meaning, without a clue about where it exists.
Thus, both the individual and human society as a whole
are directionless. No wonder that the world is chaotic, cruel, unhappy.
Gigantic efforts are being made to bring about so-called progress, but thought
is not given to the question of how we can know what real progress is, if we do
not know what we are and what not. We do not want to trouble ourselves to
explore and discover the course of our own evolution. We do not realize that it
is crucial to know whether it can be achieved by production of more objects and
enjoyments, or whether we must work for the blossoming of the spirit, the
consciousness within. The answer becomes convincing only to individuals who
look at themselves carefully and deeply and realize what is essential being,
and what is imaginary selfhood.
Humankind has done enough of exploring outside. This
has brought it expanding knowledge. But to obtain wisdom, and build a nobly
structured mutual relationship in the form of ‘society’, human beings must look
inwards, go deeper and discover the dimension in which there are no
contradictions, but only integration and illumination.
The methodology of science, which has been strikingly
successful in the outer exploration, is needed for bringing self-enquiry to
fruition. Perhaps this is the purpose of the scientific era - to endow the mind
with the power to enquire without obscuration or deception till it comes to
know facts as they are, undisguised and undistorted at the psychological and
subtler levels, not only at the physical level. All the other achievements of
this age may appear minor if it succeeds in teaching human beings to
investigate and see truly.
The motto of the Theosophical Society , ‘There is no religion higher than truth’, is supremely scientific.
The Theosophist who follows it is more scientific than the scientist, because
he applies it to understand his own being and the reality or otherwise of his
own perceptions, and not merely to examine the structure and processes of the
material world outside. Self-knowledge is the foundation of the Divine Wisdom
that is Theosophy, and will be the salvation of mankind. It implies putting
aside one’s accumulated as well as innate prejudices, and letting the mind be
The Journey to
‘A clean life, an open mind, a pure heart’ are the
first steps to reach Divine Wisdom. A clean life is necessary to give the mind
the alertness, clarity and sensitivity it needs to observe the inner world of
self. A life of indulgence, of drugs and deception, alcohol and excitement,
seriously obstructs self-observation, for the instrument of observation (body
and brain) is then not effective.
An open mind has no preconclusions about truth.
Nationality, race, religion, prior experiences, ambition, desire and many other
things condition the mind and incline it away from facts. When a person looks
through the spectacles of his nation, he sees at an angle which falsifies the
picture. For this reason, the first object of the Theosophical Society  is an indication not only about how
to be related, but about how to realize truth. It is only when all the
specialized perceptions and ideas pertaining to race, religion and so forth are
banished from the mind that it really sees.
A poor man and rich man do not see things in the same
way. The subordinate and the superior have opposing points of view. Man’s views
of woman’s life are twisted. But when one views life, including oneself and
one’s relationships, not as Japanese or North-American, Hindu or Moslem, as
poor or rich, inferior or superior, man or woman, but with unbiased vision, a
truer picture begins to emerge.
The open mind is not only free of obfuscating
identities, it is sensitive and therefore grasps what is implied and not merely
what is projected. It can see through the surface into the underlying nature of
existence. It does not take anything for granted, but questions and probes,
observes again and again as the scientist does. This is important in the process
of self-understanding because there is a shifting, shadowy scenery within until
one reaches the deep core.
The ego-sense of the I-ness is a strongly rooted
network of forces, and is the parent of a variety of illusions. A pure heart
implies cleansing the consciousness of the feeling of being a separate entity,
whose desires must have precedence over those of others. A scientist cannot
reach near to truth if he allows his personal desires, expectations and hopes
to come in the way of his research. A seeker for wisdom, who is the truly
religious person, can no less afford to let personal desire stand in the way of
The Teaching of
The ego-sense is the greatest obstacle to Wisdom and
the source of corruption in society. It is pride, aggression, avarice,
isolation, self-pity - a sort of Pandora’s box of immorality. It is because the
modern world is in pursuit of knowledge without the will or courage to take a
stand against the ambitious, aggressive way of life, that there is so much suffering
and cruelty in it. Madame Blavatsky wrote:
“No wisdom from above descends on anyone save on
condition of leaving every atom of selfishness, or desire for personal ends and
benefits. Nature gives up her innermost secrets and imparts true wisdom only to
him who seeks truth for its own sake, and who craves knowledge in order to
confer benefit on others, not on his own unimportant personality.”
But the benefits she writes about are not to be
identified with economic growth and material prosperity. These are spurious,
co-existing, as we can see, with much evil and suffering. The real benefits are
at the moral and spiritual level; it is growth into goodness, patience,
understanding, love. Therefore, the knowledge the world needs is what will aid
the growth of unselfishness and virtue.
Theosophy, if properly understood, is such knowledge.
It is not a sterile theology, a philosophy unrelated to daily life and
relationship. It is the teaching coming down through the ages to guide human
beings to understand the design and purpose of life, not only their individual
lives, but their lives in the vast context of a unitary, dynamic whole. Every
real spiritual teacher has taught Theosophy in this sense. No one of them gave
instructions about how to build society through economic planning or political
and social debates. They have taught about purity and virtue because every
system is undermined by corruption, if the people who are part of it are not
noble, pure and unselfish.
The Task of
The Lord Buddha called the way to self-cleansing
wisdom, the Noble Way. Thought and speech, effort and perception, must be wiped
clean of the separatist self in its varied and subtle forms. Then there is
nobility in the person, and harmony and kindness in his relationships. This is
the essential teaching of all enlightened teachers.
Society is a byproduct of what people are.
Unfortunately, too many people believe in mere conformity, in imitating other
people, and accepting the beliefs around them, instead of questioning them and
adopting a way of life which will transform society at least one little bit towards
nobility and goodness. There is widespread acceptance of the self-centered way
of life, and even children are taught to conform to the pattern. They are told:
‘If you don’t conform, you will not succeed. Therefore
do as others do.’
Non-conformity is not a matter of putting on a
different dress, or being dirty if other people are clean. That is all of no
consequence and may even be silly. Real non-conformity is a matter of
questioning prevalent attitudes, examining one’s own thoughts and desires, and
realizing what is really wise and progressive from the spiritual viewpoint.
The Theosophical Society  encourages such questioning and investigation which leads to
wisdom. That is the primary task of the Society.
As Madame Blavatsky said:
“Theosophists are of necessity the friends of all movements in the
world, whether intellectual or practical, for the amelioration of the condition
of mankind…. We are the friends of those who exercise practical charity, who
seek to lift a little of the tremendous weight that is crushing down the poor.
But in our quality of Theosophists, we cannot engage in any one of these great
works in particular. As individuals we may do so, but as Theosophists we have a
larger, more important and much more difficult work to do. The function of
Theosophists is to open men’s hearts and understanding to charity and justice,
attributes which belong specifically to the human kingdom and are natural to
man when he has developed the qualities of a human being. Theosophy teaches the
animal man to be a human man; and when people have learned to think and feel as
truly human beings should think and feel, they will act humanely and works of
charity, justice and generosity will be done spontaneously by all.”
The Animal Man and
the Human Man
The animal confronts another over territory. One
growls and the other growls too. Then the first one bares its teeth, which
makes the second equally aggressive. An eye for an eye is at work in this
animal world, and animal man behaves in the same way . He retaliates, fights over territory, and unfortunately
nourishes permanent hatreds, which the animals do not.
The human man, on the other hand, should realize that
the great elements - earth, sky, wind, water - these do not belong to anybody.
They are for all, a common blessing. Even mind does not belong to anybody. It
is like the sky, a vast deep and immeasurable thing. The ideas thrown up in
particular brains cannot be equated with the creative source of manifested
existence which is the universal mind. Its plans and designs, as they take
shape in the physical or subtler worlds, reveal in symbol eternal beauty, truth
Only when our thoughts and perceptions reflect what is
in the Great Mind, we see truth. It is a sad illusion to believe that the
limited set of ideas and thoughts emerging out of our present brains, which
even at their best only function partially, are of importance because they are
believed to be ‘mine’, and together they compose ‘my mind’. When people comprehend
that there is only one Great Mind, which like the elements belongs to nobody,
there is no cause to quarrel over opinions and ideas. Virtuous conduct comes
spontaneously to the human man because he is rising out of the limited,
personal point of view; because he is neither possessive nor imitative.
How to Build a
Most people are afraid to let go of their mental
possessions, even more than of their material possessions. Therefore, humanity
is stuck in a mire of ignorance about how to create a society which will bring
happiness for all. It is time that all ideas about what is progress and the
methods so far adopted to bring it about be re-examined from the base,
realizing that these ideas and methods have failed and have only resulted in
chaos. A deep inquiry must also be made into the source from which ideas and
theories have sprung. The source is the separative self, which exists to
promote itself and ensure its own comfort, security and pleasure.
To build a noble society, which means right
relationship between human beings, and also between humans and the rest of
Nature, the devas  and elements
included, a real change must take place within individuals. They must shake
themselves free of their dark ignorance, which makes the ideas and desires of
the personal self appear to be fine and useful. They must rise out of this to
be integrated into boundless spirit, which is always without walls and
barriers. The wise mind is the one that experiences unambiguous unity. When
wisdom inspires human action, a new golden era of nobility will unfold. Human
society will be such that every form of life will be able to reveal more and
more of its innate glory. The Divine Reality is everywhere. Its glories are
unlimited. As Sri Krishna, symbolic of that Reality, says in the Bhagavad-Gita:
“I (meaning that supreme Reality) am the radiance in
moon and sun; the Word of Power in the spoken Truth; I am the sound in ether, the
vitality in men; the pure fragrance of earth and brilliance of fire am I; the
life in all beings am I, and the austerity in ascetics.”
The noble society must impartially provide the
atmosphere and opportunity for ‘the life in all beings’ to blossom into
heretofore unknown splendour, and shed perfume on all.
We must begin to build such a society by reaching the
wisdom that the pure, selfless heart and the open, sensitive mind, blended into
one, know. A new human society such as that will consist of people who have
passed from the stage of animal man to human man, and are starting the journey
from human man to divine man.
 The present article transcribes a talk delivered in
1993: this sentence anticipates the visual electronic meetings that became
available to the public on the Internet in the 21st century. (CCA)
 And of the Independent Lodge of Theosophists: “To
form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of
race, creed, sex, caste or colour”. (CCA)
 Or at least some sectors in the theosophical movement,
among them the Independent Lodge of Theosophists. (CCA)
 In fact, the precept of “an eye for an eye” (a
commandment established in the Book of Exodus, 21:23-27) does not mean that
vengeance is desirable. It recommends moderation and says one must avoid
escalation in conflict. It could be called “the principle of proportionate
response”. If some nation challenges yours on the political scene, don’t attack
it with your nuclear weapons. If someone disagrees with you in a conversation,
do not attack him physically. The precept of “an eye for an eye” has been
widely distorted, but this is a minor mistake in this excellent article by
Radha Burnier, and her main idea in the sentence is perfectly correct. (CCA)
 Devas: a Sanskrit term meaning gods or celestial
being, many of whom are present in Nature. (CCA)
The article “Towards a Wise Mind and a Noble Society”
was published in the associated websites on 15 August 2022. It is reproduced
from “The Theosophist” magazine, Adyar, India, September 1993, pp. 443-448. It transcribes
a speech delivered by Radha Burnier at the opening of the Eighth World Congress
of the Theosophical Society (Adyar), on 24 July 1993, in Brasilia, Brazil. We
have added the subtitles and explanatory footnotes.
Mrs. Radha Burnier
(1923-2013) was the seventh international president of the Theosophical Society
(Adyar), and served as such from 1980 up to 2013.
(photo) wrote these words: “Deserve,