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Series 2:


Study Set 2

Christ's Unique Occasion


Seed Thought

Reading Assignment

Written Work to be Completed

Letter from Teaching Staff

Man Has A Body But Also A Soul

On Not Being A Philosopher


When man brings his own Inner Self into right relation with his outer form, other relationships more beautiful and more valuable become possible to him, and through him.

Reading Assignment: REAPPEARANCE OF THE CHRIST Pages 15-35


Below are two passages from Charles Johnston's translation of the BHAGAVAD GITA. (We highly recommend this translation of the BHAGAVAD GITA.)

"The man who, offering up all desires, walks without allurement, without the sense of possessing, without self-reference, he enters into peace.

"This is the God-like resting-place, nor will he who has gained it be led away; dwelling in this at the time of the end, he wins union with the Eternal." II 71,72

"Self is the friend of self for him in whom the self is conquered by the Self; but to him who is far from the Self, his own self is hostile, like an enemy." VI 6

1. Write out what each of these passages means to you. We hope you will give this considerable thought and write at some length.

2. The Bhagavad Gita is part of the sacred tradition of ancient India. All scriptures have a timeless appeal. The essential truths they embody are eternal; but many beloved passages of the various world scriptures deal with specific problems of an earlier period. They met the need of civilizations that now no longer exist. As humanity evolves, the eternal truths need to be freshly integrated.

How would you apply the passages quoted above, to the daily life in today's world?

Dear Fellow Meditator:

The whole purpose of meditation is to unfold and release into radiant expression, the Soul that dwells within every man. The nature of the Soul is love. The nature of the Soul is also light. So the outstanding results of meditation are more love brought into the daily life, and, better "visi- bility" in human relations. For the better the light, the better do we see. And one of the early results of meditation, one of the signs that more soul light is coming into one's consciousness, is that the meditator sees his triple form (his threefold personality) in the light of the Soul (his Higher Self); and he sees his form more clearly, more accurately than ever before.

The personality, that part of man which is made up of a mental, an emotional and a physical body, is by nature self-conscious. For many lifetimes it is completely self-centered. It works for self, it dreams and creates for self, it loves and fights for self. There is really nothing in the life of the personality except itself. When we view it from this angle it is like the walled cities of centuries past, bristling with every measure for its self-protection, fearfully keeping round-the-clock-watches lest the enemy storm its ramparts.

The personality began, we might say, ages ago as a potential or germ of human life, the sole aim of which was to stay physically alive When it had solved this truly gigantic problem to some extent it began to be aware of emotion, and the second side of human nature came into being. The expression of the emotions, the refinement Of the emotions, the study and analysis of emotions, and the simple enjoyment of emotion are still in the forefront of human life. Many people really do not know the difference between emotion and thought, between feeling and thinking.

The mental body of the human race is healthy and burgeoning, however. Education and communication are having a yeast-like effect upon minds everywhere, even. in the more backward areas of the earth. More and more people are becoming mental as well as emotional and physical, reaching at last the triune state intended as the normal one for the human unit.

What happens now? Hopefully, integration of these three sides of the personality so that it will be enriched and made attractive by emotion, deepened and made thoughtful by mind, focussed and effective in physical plane activity. And when integration of the personality happens, some times while it happens, the waiting Soul is given its opportunity.

The Piscean Age has been called the Age of the Individual. More correctly it might be called the Age of the Personality. For while individuality was the goal held up before advanced members of the race, it was not individuality in the spiritual sense. For the most part, under the Piscean influence personalities became more clearly defined, more firmly focussed and less spiritual.

Individuality, enshrined in the hearts of humanity today, has a deeper meaning than is generally recognized. Individuality is the sense of the Soul's immortality. Individuality has nothing to do with self-expression in any of the forms of art; it does not mean being a leader or standing out in the crowd; it does not even mean being separate or different from others. In fact, the more concerned a human being is with self-expression, with being different, with being avant garde, the less individual he is. If a man is concerned with these things then he is self-conscious and competitive; he is still proving himself to himself.

Individuality is the Soul. The Soul, firmly rooted in the One Life, knowing itself to be one with all Souls, is so sure of its selfhood that it has no need to give attention to Self. Therefore it is often written and said that "the Soul is selfless" because the loving, serving Soul tends to forget itself in its concern for others' welfare.

Eventually in the course of evolution, the Soul dwelling in and imprisoned within its triple instrument, begins to disturb the consistency of the personality's self pre-occupation. The self-centered personality begins to sense that it is more noble to care about other people, about the world. Yet he still cares very much for himself.

The glamour or self-assertive, self-conscious self-expression gradually loses its allure. Serving the small self has become unimportant. For yet awhile serving others is something for which he has no skill, and the Voice of the Soul does not reach him clearly. But the Voice is there and its timbre can be felt if not heard.

The demand which grows in his consciousness is the same demand which is made upon every growing entity on every level of life: Die to the old; arise to the new. From minerals which become plants, to plants which become animals, and animals which become human beings, who later join the gods, the demand is the same -- withdraw from that which is lower and arise into that which is higher. The selfconscious man who is spiritually growing can meet this demand in only one way. He must tune in on his Soul and turn away from his personal self pre-occupation. He must drop the old familiar skin of selfconsciousness and expand into the attitude of self-forgetfulness. He must transcend himself and become his SELF. To remain in the constriction of the lower consciousness when the higher calls is to say "No" to Life. For the Way of Life is ever the way of rising and expanding and on-going.

Your loving friends, The Staff of ARCANA


Sydney J. Harris

A friend of mine, who prides himself on being a hard-headed materialist, recently told me that he gets annoyed with my occasional references to the "Soul".

"Since I don't believe in God or in any so-called 'spiritual' qualities," he said, "I'd like you to define for me what you mean by the 'soul' without mentioning God or going into religious matters that nobody can prove one way or the other."

I think it can be done so as to satisfy even my old-fashioned materialistic friend. The English word "soul" corresponds to the Greek word "psyche," which means the inner self of a person. That each of us has an inner self can be demonstrated without any reference to supernatural matters.

The brilliant French essayist Alain, in his book, DEFINITIONS gave what I believe is the best description of what people in all centuries and cultures -- religious or pagan -- have meant by the soul. I should like to quote a central paragraph of his essay to show how closely "lack of soul" corresponds to what we call "neurosis" in modern parlance: "The soul is what refuses the body. What, for instance, refuses to flee when the body is provoked, what refuses to drink when the body thirsts, what refuses to take when the body desires, what refuses to give up when the body recoils in horror. These refusals are the prerogative of man. Total refusal is sainthood; looking before leaping is wisdom; and this power of refusal is the soul."

The neurotic lives only for self; he cannot oppose "self to self " He does not have the freedom of will to refuse the body; he is a driven creature, a slave to his own fears and appetites. He suffers from what moderns call "an impairment of psychic liberty," and what the ancients called a defect of soul. He is not what a human being should be -- and what is proper to a human being can only be summed up in the word "soul", in the act that refuses the body for the greater good of the whole creature.

Los Angeles MIRROR, 1961


"Have you read Epictetus lately?" "No, not lately." "Oh, you ought to read him. Tommy's been reading him for the first time, and is fearfully excited." I caught this scrap of dialogue from the next table in the lounge of a hotel.. I became interested, curious, for I had never read Epictetus, though I had often looked at his works on the shelf -- perhaps I had even quoted him -- and I wondered if here at last was the book of wisdom that I had been looking for at intervals ever since I was at school. Never have I lost my early-faith that wisdom is to be found somewhere in a book -- to be picked up as easily as a shell from the sand. I desire wisdom as keenly as Solomon did, but it must be wisdom that can be obtained with very little effort -- wisdom that can be caught almost by infection. I have no time or energy for the laborious quest of philosophy. I wish the philosophers'to perform the laborious quest' and, at-the end of it, to feed me. with the fruits of their labours; just as I get eggs from the farmer, apples from the fruit-grower, medicine from the chemist, so do I expect the philosopher to provide me with wisdom at the cost of a few shillings. That is why at one time I read Emerson and, at another, Marcus Aurelius. To read them, I hoped, was to become wise by reading. But I did not become wise. I agreed with them while I read them, but, when I had finished reading I was still much the same man that I had been before, incapable of concentrating on the things on which they said I should concentrate or of not being indifferent to things to which they said I should not be indifferent. Still, I have never lost faith in books, believing that somewhere printed matter exists from which I shall be able to absorb philosophy and strength of character while smoking in an arm-chair. It was in this mood that I took down Epictetus after hearing the conversation in the hotel lounge.

I read him, I confess, with considerable excitement. He is the kind of philosopher I like, not treating life as if at its finest it were an argument conducted in difficult jargon, but discussing, among other things, how men should behave in the affairs of ordinary life. Also, I agreed with nearly everything he said. Indifference to pain, death, poverty -- yes, that is eminently desirable. Not to be troubled about anything over which one has no control, whether the oppression of tyrants or the peril of earthquakes -- on the necessity of this also, Epictetus and I are as one. Yet, close as is the resemblance between our opinions, I could not help feeling, as I read, that Epictetus was wise in holding his opinions and that I, though holding the same opinions, was far from wise. For, indeed, though I held the same opinions for purposes of theory, I could not entertain them for a moment for purposes of conduct. Death, pain, and poverty are to me very real evils, except when I am in an armchair reading a book by a philosopher. If an earthquake happened while I was reading a book of philosophy, I should forget the book of philosophy and think only of the earthquake and how to avoid tumbling walls and chimneys. This, though I am the staunchest possible admirer of Socrates, Pliny, and people of that sort. Sound though I am as an armchair philosopher, at a crisis I find that both the spirit and the flesh are weak.

Even in the small things of life I cannot comfort myself like a philosopher of the school of Epictetus. Thus, for example, when he advises us how to "eat acceptably to the gods" and bids us to this end to be patient even under the most incompetent service at our meals, he commends a spiritual attitude of which my nature is incapable. "When you have asked for warm water," he says, "and the slave does not heed you; or if he does heed you but brings tepid water; or if he is not even to be found in the house, then to refrain from anger and not to explode, is not this acceptable to the gods? ... Do you not remember over whom you rule -- that they are kinsmen, that they are brothers by nature, and they are the offspring of Zeus?" That is all perfectly true, and I should like very much to be a man who could sit in a restaurant, smiling patiently and philosophically while the waiter brought all the wrong things or forgot to bring anything at all. But in point of fact bad waiting irritates me. I dislike having to ask three times for the wine-list. I am annoyed when, after a quarter of an hour's delay, I am told that there is no celery. It is true that I do not make a scene on such occasions. I have not enough courage for that. I am as sparing of objurgations as a philosopher, but I suspect that the scowling spirit within me must show itself in my features. Certainly, I do not think of telling myself: "This waiter is my kinsman; he is the offspring of Zeus." Besides, even if he were, why should the offspring of Zeus wait so badly? Epictetus never dined at the ----- Restaurant. And yet his patience might have served him ever there. If so, what a differnce between Epictetus and me! - And, if I cannot achieve his imperturbability in so small affairs as I have mentioned, what hope is there of being able to play the philosopher in presence of tyrants and earthquakes?

Again, when Epictetus expresses his opinions on material posessions and counsels us to be so indifferent to them that we should not object to their being stolen, I agree with him in theory and yet in practice I know I should be unable to obey him. There is nothing more certain than that a man whose happiness depends on his possessions is not happy. I am sure a wise man can be happy on a pittance. Not that happiness should be the aim of life, according to Epictetus or myself. But Epictetus at least holds up an ideal of imperturbability and he assures us that we shall achieve this if we care so little for material things that it does not matter to us whether somebody steals them or not. "Stop admiring your clothes," he bids us, "and you are not angry at the man who steals them." And he goes on persuasively concerning the thief: "He does not know wherein the true good of man consists, but fancies that it consists in having fine clothes, the very same fancy, that you also entertain. Shall he not come, then, and carry them off? Yes, logic- ally I suppose he should, and yet I cannot feel so at the moment at which I find that a guest at a party has taken my new hat and left his old one in its place. It gives me no comfort to say to myself: "He does not know wherein the true good of man consists, but fancies that it consists in having my hat." Nor should I dream of attempting to console a guest at a party in my own house with such philosophy in similar circumstances. It is very irritating to lose anything at all, especially if one thinks it has been taken on purpose. I feel that I could imitate Epictetus if I lived in a world in which nothing happened. But in a world in which things disappear through loss, theft, and "pinching", and in which bad meals are served by bad waiters in many of the restaurants, and a thousand other disagreeable things happen, an ordinary man might as well set out to climb the Himalayas in walking shoes as attempt to live the life of a philosopher at all hours.

In spite of this, however, most of us cannot help believing that the philosophers were right -- right when they proclaimed, amid all their differences, that most of the things we bother about are not worth bothering about. It is easier to believe that oneself is a fool than that Socrates was a fool; and yet, if he was not right, he must have been the greatest fool who ever lived. The truth is, nearly everybody is agreed that such men as Socrates and Epictetus were right in their indifference to external things. Even men earning 10,000 pounds a year and working for more would admit this. Yet, while admitting it, most of us would be alarmed if one of our dearest friends began to put the philosophy of Epictetus into practice too literally. What we regard as wisdom in Epictetus we should look on as insanity in our acquaintance. Or, perhaps, not in an acquaintance, but at least in a near relation. I am sure that if I became as indifferent to money and comfort and all external things as Epictetus, and reasoned in his fashion with a happy smile about property and thieves, my relations would become more perturbed than if I became a successful company promoter with the most materialistic philosophy conceivable. Think, for example, of the reasoning of Epictetus over the thief who stole his iron lamp:

He bought a lamp for a very high price; for a lamp he became a thief, for a lamp he became faithless, for a lamp he became bestial. This is what seemed to him to be profitable!

The reasoning is sound, yet neither individually nor as a society do we live in that contempt of property on which it is based. A few saints do, but even they are at first a cause of great concern, to their friends. When the world is normally cheerful and comfortable, we hold the paradoxi- cal belief that the philosophers were wise men, but that we should be fools to imitate then. We are convinced that, while philosophers are worth reading, material things are worth bothering about. It is as though we enjoyed wisdom as a spectacle -- a delightful spectacle on a stage which it would be unseemly for the audience to attempt to invade. Were the Greeks and the Romans made differently? Did the admirers of Socrates and Epictetus really attempt to become philosophers, or were they like ourselves, hopeful of achieving wisdom, not by practice, but through a magic potion administered by a wiser man than they? To become wise without effort -- by listening to a voice, by reading a book -- it is at once the most exciting and the most soothing of dreams. In such a dream I took down Epictetus. And, behold, it was only a dream. By Robert Lynd from THOUGHT IN PROSE edited by Beal and Korg.

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