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A Textbook of Theosophy by C W Leadbeater


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To fulfil our duty in the divine scheme we must try to understand not only that scheme as a whole, but the special part that man is intended to play in it. The divine outbreathing reached its deepest immersion in matter in the mineral kingdom, but it reaches its ultimate point of differentiation not at the lowest level of materiality, but at the entrance into the human kingdom on the upward arc of evolution. We have thus to realize three stages in the course of this evolution.

(a) The downward arc in which the tendency is towards differentiation and also towards greater materiality. In this stage spirit is involving itself in matter, in order that it may learn to receive impressions through it.

(b) The earlier part of the upward arc, in which the tendency is still towards greater differentiation, but at the same time towards spiritualization and escape from materiality. In this stage the spirit is learning to dominate matter and to see it as an expression of itself.

(c) The later part of the upward arc, when differentiation has been finally accomplished, and the tendency is towards unity as well as towards greater spirituality. In this stage the spirit, having learnt perfectly how to receive impression through matter and how to express itself through it, and having awakened its dormant powers, learns to use these powers rightly in the service of the Deity.

The object of the whole previous evolution has been to produce the ego as a manifestation of the Monad. Then the ego in its turn evolves by putting itself down into a succession of personalities. Men who do not understand this look upon the personality as the self, and consequently live for it alone, and try to regulate their lives for what appears to be its temporary advantage. The man who understands realizes that the only important thing is the life of the ego, and that its progress is the object for which the temporary personality must be used. Therefore when he has to decide between two possible courses he thinks not, as the ordinary man might: "Which will bring the greater pleasure and profit to me as a personality?" but "Which will bring greater progress to me as an ego?" Experience soon teaches him that nothing can ever be really good for him, or for anyone, which is not good for all, and so presently he learns to forget himself altogether, and to ask only what will be best for humanity as a whole.

Clearly then at this stage of evolution whatever tends to unity, whatever tends to spirituality, is in accord with the plan of the Deity for us, and is therefore right for us, while whatever tends to separateness or to materiality is equally certainly wrong for us. There are thoughts and emotions which tend to unity, such as love, sympathy, reverence, benevolence; there are others which tend to disunion, such as hatred, jealousy, envy, pride, cruelty, fear. Obviously the former group are for us the right, the latter group are for us the wrong.

In all these thoughts and feelings which are clearly wrong, we recognize one dominant note, the thought of self; while in all those which are clearly right we recognize that the thought is turned toward others, and that the personal self is forgotten. Wherefore we see that selfishness is the one great wrong, and that perfect unselfishness is the crown of all virtue. This gives us at once a rule of life. The man who wishes intelligently to co-operate with the Divine Will must lay aside all thought of the advantage or pleasure of the personal self, and must devote himself exclusively to carrying out that Will by working for the welfare and happiness of others.