Starting the Journey from
 Human Mankind to Divine Mankind
Radha Burnier
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. [1]
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 ones.
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 possibilities.
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 [2], ‘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 open.
The Journey to Universal Brotherhood
‘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 [3] 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 his search.
The Teaching of Real Masters
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 Esoteric Philosophy
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 [4] 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 [5]. 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 and love.
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 Noble Society
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 [6] 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.
[1] 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)
[2] Also the motto of the Independent Lodge of Theosophists. See the article “No Religion Higher Than Truth”. (CCA)
[3] 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)
[4] Or at least some sectors in the theosophical movement, among them the Independent Lodge of Theosophists. (CCA)
[5] 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)
[6] 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.
Read more:
* A Lunatic Race?, by Radha Burnier.
* Goodness Is Beauty Revealed, by Radha Burnier.
* The 2007-2008 Events in Adyar, by Pedro R. M. de Oliveira.
Helena Blavatsky (photo) wrote these words: “Deserve, then desire”.