Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The Curse of Separateness
The Curse of Separateness
by J.W. Brodie-Innes
Reprinted from “Theosophical Siftings” Volume 2
The Theosophical Publishing Society, England
Nothing on this earth is single;
All things by a law divine
With each other's being mingle.
"THE eternal unity of all things" was an elementary doctrine of the most ancient Eastern philosophies, and their final resolution into the universal soul was their ultimate hope and desire. “Destroy separateness! " says the modern Theosophist. “Cast out the self — the personality which is maya or delusion". "That they may be one as we are one" was the last prayer of Jesus Christ, referring to that transcendental unity of the Divine Trinity, as the ultimate goal whereto His followers should aspire. The modern nineteenth century man, to whom the light of the ancient wisdom is new and strange, asks with bewilderment what it all means, for race instincts inherited through countless generations, and all the course of Western education, from the cradle to the grave, tend to the development of the personality, [ Meaning by this term the sum total of the qualities which separate one individual from another, and constitute what in popular language is called Individuality ] the glorification of self, and the accentuation of separateness. Nay, even our family affection, highest and purest of all our emotions, as we Westerns count it, is but a more refined selfishness, according to the tenets of the East. "He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me", says Jesus, again, speaking in the Christ-spirit, as the manifestation of God and the universal soul, the union wherewith is our hope and our destiny.
The Oriental and the Hermetic philosophies are at one on this, yet it is hard for the mind to grasp; but when once the fact is realized that separateness, individuality, disunion, by whatever name you call it, is, in fact, the source of all evil, the key to every curse that broods over humanity, the root of every error, it will be found that in this one principle we have a key that will unlock many of the secrets and solve many of the problems which now perplex humanity.
That each individual man is an image of the whole universe, that within his soul is, as it were, reflected the microcosm answering to the macrocosm, which is universal, is a Hermetic axiom which Jesus enunciated when he said, “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you"; and even the unmethodized, unscientific study of one's own inner self which the ordinary man can give, may furnish a clue to many important occult principles, if undertaken in a careful and honest. spirit. Consider then, first, how the mechanism of the material body is carried on. Everywhere are nerve centres, and the mechanism of a centre involves first a sensitive surface; secondly, a nerve carrying the thrills of sensation received by that surface to the appropriate brain-cell, as a telegraph wire takes a message to headquarters; thirdly, a return nerve bringing back instructions, and fourthly a muscle, which, receiving these instructions, expands or contracts with a nicety of adjustment which no machine could equal. Many thousands of these pieces of mechanism are located all over the body, and so far, as above indicated, we can trace their functions, but how the message is received and the command transmitted from the brain-cell no science has ever yet been bold enough even to speculate upon; herein lies the life of man, and this is unity, the spirit which harmonizes every sensation, so that “If one member suffers, all its members suffer with it; and if one member rejoices, all the members rejoice with it “; and if this unity be disturbed, if there be but the slightest separateness in any of the countless nerve centres, pain and disease follow as a matter of course; let there be from any external cause an excitation of a surface, the natural action of the nerves quickly recalls the blood and restores equilibrium; but if any failure of connection with “headquarters“ prevents this natural action, there results a stagnation of the blood, followed by inflammation and rapid deterioration of the unoxidized blood, mortification and poisoning of the healthy blood through all the body, resulting from the separateness of one or more nerve centres; the fault may be in the centre itself, in the transmitting power of the nerve, or in the brain-cell which ought to send the orders; but wherever the fault is, it is separateness which directly causes pain and disease and death in the material body, and if the whole were harmonious there could be no such things. Here, then, is one result of the fall of man, or, in other words, the descent of the spiritual into matter; for if the spiritual entirely dominated the material envelope, as it did before the fall, no separateness, no pain or death could be possible. And what is thus true of man's material body is true also of other things. Needless to say that precisely the same remarks hold true of the material bodies of animals, and it needs but little extension of the principle to see that it applies to plants as well. Many would probably be startled at the bare notion of a brain in connection with a plant; but those who have watched and studied the motions of the sensitive radicle-tip, varying according to circumstances, and the corresponding development of the plumule, the motion of the currents of protoplasm, and the general phenomena of growth of every plant, from the lowliest moss to the most stately oak, must admit that there is a unity, and a harmony of principle about it all, which can only be satisfactorily accounted for by the theory of a central authority, receiving messages from the remotest portions and transmitting orders accordingly. Any particle which is not subject to that central authority is dead, so far as the life of the plant is concerned, even as a leaf, when the connection of the veins with the sap veins of the stem is severed, may retain its form and its glossy appearance, may even put on hues of exquisite beauty; but the curse of separateness is on it for all that, it is dead, and its entire detachment and disintegration is merely a question of time.
Now, go lower still in the scale of creation. If we pick up a stone, it seems utterly separate, and, by consequence, utterly dead, yet when we drop it, it returns too by the force of gravitation to its parent earth, showing that it too obeys a central authority, and that entire separation is wholly impossible; for by this central law at all events, even though there were no other at all, the whole universe and all the expanse of the starry heavens are held together.
Thus far, then, it would seem that entire separateness is impossible, that partial separateness brings pain, disease and death, and that the destruction of separateness, the final reunion, is hope and joy and peace; the Nirvana of the Buddhists, the eternal hope of the Christian; and this is worked out through all the material creation, for the higher we get in the scale, the more plainly do we see strivings after a more and more perfect and universal union. Even among animals, the union and concerted action of the higher types is well known, as in a bee-hive, an ant-hill, a rookery for example, or in the manoeuvres of a herd of wolves circumventing some antelopes; in all these the sinking of self for the benefit of the community is most marked. Or, leaving these higher types, the union of families among animals, though resulting in the first instance from the separation of the sexes, is an effort at reunion; the pairing being, by Nature's law, an effort towards the primal masculine-feminine type, the re-attainment of which would remove all that great series of separatenesses arising from sexual causes, lust, and jealousy and desire, among animals and among men in whom the animal nature is predominant.
Looking next at the race of men, even the very lowest are grouped in colonies, tribes, clans, nations, separateness is impossible, and, the higher we get in the range of civilization, the more complex and intimate does this union become, and the clearer grows the analogy of the community to the individual man. The primitive savage has but his bow and arrows, — his squaw and his children represent the group with whom his life is shared; but even he owes an obedience to his chief, a comradeship to the rest of his tribe, which he cannot lay aside without suffering and loss. The most civilized nations of the West carry on their government by an analogy wonderfully close to the life of an individual man. Like branching nerves, the electric wires radiate from the central seat of government, where various departments like brain-cells receive intelligence from remote parts, and transmit orders in accordance with the one central informing will, which may be embodied in the person of a despot, or may be vague and indefinite as the representatives of the people, but is the central will for all that; railways and steamers, like veins and arteries, take the raw material, or the manufactured product, to feed, to clothe, or to strengthen every part alike; wherever there is separateness or the action of any part against the will of the central authority, there is crime and trouble and wrong. It may be that the central authority itself is too weak to hold the out-lying parts together; it may be that the central authority is itself smitten with the curse of separateness, which is the case when a despot governs with motives of self-seeking, and not for the people's good, or where the expression of the popular will means mob law and the dominion of the ignorant masses by brute force. But from whatever cause it proceeds, the part which is not subject to the central authority, which does not sacrifice self for the general good, is smitten with the curse of separateness, and unless a speedy remedy can be found, is in danger of decay and death. What is true of a nation is true also of every other body or community, and more especially of a religious body or church. One of the leading doctrines of Theosophy is the great underlying abstract truth which is the common basis of all the great historic religions, and which all more or less imperfectly represent, the imperfection being caused by the imperfection of man, which again arises from his selfishness, his materialism, the results of his fall, in a word, his separateness. This blurs and distorts the great truths which, but for this, he would see clearly and know perfectly. Every Church, every religion, every faith in the world is founded on this underlying basis of truth, and is in actual living connection with it, otherwise it is dead, and though the outward form of a body remains, it is as surely doomed to disintegration as a leaf that no longer draws sustenance from the parent stem. The individual members of that body are not necessarily separate; like the molecules that form the leaf, they are drawn to other connections, as gravity brings the leaf to the ground, and other natural forces reabsorb it in mother earth; but the separate existence is over, as a leaf, or as a separate religious body, and thus separateness carried on to its logical result tends always to the destruction of separateness and to the affirmation of union.
Between the different great religions of the world again, so far as they reflect or manifest the great central truth, all are true, all are similar, showing but divers facets of the same grand whole; but when they differ (which difference is manifest, not in affirmation of apparently divergent truths, which may, nevertheless, be transcendently harmonious but in their denial denunciation and intolerance of each other), then clearly the curse of separateness is on them, and both are wrong. Nothing, then, can rightly be denounced but denunciation, nothing denied but denial; we should only be intolerant of intolerance, and thus the ultimate unity may be promoted and the curse of separateness removed. The brotherhood of humanity is an aim of Theosophy, yet it is but a first step, its final results must be universal oneness — union with the universal soul which is not a loss, but a transcendent expansion of consciousness, wherein the fetters of the self fall off.
Meantime all that hinders or obstructs the brotherhood of humanity is wrong, and tends to continue the curse of separateness. The member of one religious body who denounces or denies the doctrines or teaching of another proves thereby that he loves the community that he belongs to more than the universal brotherhood, and is accentuating the curse of separateness. What he may and should denounce is everything in the doctrines of that other, or of his own community, which is of denial, of protest, of separateness, this serpent he should kill out wherever and however he meets it. Occasionally we meet with faiths whose whole raison d‘être is the denial of something believed or put forth by others; these have no vitality in them, save only the evil magnetism which is engendered by spite, malice, and antagonism. Destroy their denials and they will die of inanition; and such destruction is a good and holy work, for if they have any truth, any connection with the great living body, this will not be impaired, but strengthened and purified by the removal of the curse of separateness. It will be obvious that the Catholic Church, in denouncing the sin of schism, was, so far, following these rules, and endeavouring, with such light as was in her, to strive against separateness.
Finally, if any man from love of his family, or from love of his country, be tempted to deny, to denounce, or to contend, or even to lend silent support to those who do so, he is by that very action forming a group, to a greater or less extent antagonistic to the universal brotherhood, and therefore more dangerous, more hard to deal with, more thoroughly smitten with the curse of separateness than even the selfish individual. These family ties are holy and helpful, but when they take the place of devotion to the universal brotherhood and to the striving for final union, they become false and dangerous, just in proportion to their holiness. "He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me". The love of father and mother, of wife and children are first helps, and almost indispensable helps to the conquest of self; but he who allows them to usurp the place of self, and to keep him from his striving after the eternal "peace of God", which is Nirvana and the final result of the At-one-ment of Christ, has set up a false idol and fallen again more completely than before under the curse of separateness.
Labels: J.W. Brodie-Innes