“I don’t want to preach at anybody; I just want to share something beautiful. The true teacher brings his own iris of beauty to you without proselytizing, I, without thrusting things at you. He makes you remind YOURSELF of the deep blue sky and the fluttering gold of autumn, or the thrill of fern fronds and the sweet stirring earth of spring. A man like that who stimulates living is his own sermon.”
SINCE we are not ourselves ultimates, we cannot know ultimate Purpose.
The present purpose seems to be evolution by means of functioning. The objective of evolution is twofold. On the one hand it is the development of the independent individual. On the other it is the coordination of the individuals so developed into a functioning Unity.
This dual objective is the Aim with which we must be concerned. It is the rod by which we must measure our ambitions, activities and deeds. Are they in furtherance of this universal aim? Provincial divergences of ethics must yield to this simple criterion. So the development of ourselves as individuals in evolution becomes our first obligation.
When this doctrine of self-development was first offered us by the Invisibles we shied away. In common with most of our generation we had been brought up on an ethic of “doing for others,” of “unselfishness,” of “service.” We had not lived up to that ideal. As children we had often endured the finger of scorn and the epithet “Selfish!” And as grown-ups we had more than once had an uncomfortable feeling we were not “doing our duty” by others. The idea that maybe we had been at least partly right all along looked too much like wishful thinking.
But the Invisibles persisted. A little here, a little there, they infiltrated their subject. Finally they treated it to a full-length discourse.
“You must,” said they, “learn to understand what necessary over-emphasis has obscured. This is that the word ‘selfish’ has also an obverse, a meaning of usefulness, even a meaning of necessity. Like all ingredients of life, it has its necessary proportion.
“Your first duty in development, not only for your own sake but for the sake of the greater whole, is the establishment of a homogeneous, close-knit, invulnerable core of yourself as an individual. Until you have so established a center or nucleus, no matter how small, in which your conviction is absolute that it is the germ center of yourself as a separate eternal entity in cosmos, any venturing outside your boundaries is unwarranted and will inevitably prove more or less disastrous. Even the natural instinctive eagerness of outfling must be withheld until that sure core of integration is assured.
“This primary central establishment is the first indispensable step in the creation of the eternal self. Whether it takes a decade, a half-century, a whole lifetime, or the repeated incarnations of a number of phases, NO FORWARD MOVEMENT CAN SAFELY, EFFECTIVELY OR CONSTRUCTIVELY BE ATTEMPTED UNTIL THIS IS ACCOMPLISHED. Outside engagements can succeed only after this fact. Thenceforward this central self becomes a citadel for withdrawal from mistaken or premature outgoings. Such outgoings, before the complete and homogeneous occupation of this center, leave a tenuosity behind your back permeable by usurping forces which a firmer establishment would have automatically excluded. Therefore, stop AT THIS POINT OF DEVELOPMENT until the assurance is gained, no matter what implication even to yourself such a course may seem to have of selfishness, self-centeredness, lack of outside response and responsibility, or any of the other reproachful concepts of which this use is the constructive obverse.
“Here is a truth so profound and yet so simply stated that I would have it in a separate paragraph: “OUTGIVNG IS NEVER CONSTRUCTIVELY EFFECTIVE UNLESS IT IS AN OVERFLOW.
“You may out-give by pumping up, generally with the suction of what is expected, or the proper thing, or the duty, or the obligation to the world or humanity, general or specific. But pumping up always means depletion; depletion means vacuum; and vacuum is a vortex of attraction for the destructive. Overflow, on the other hand, is a super-abundance that leaves no lack behind it, but still the filled reservoir of accomplishment. When you rush forth to give, driven by your natural instincts of sympathy, of desire to reconstruct, of sensitivity to conditions, pause to consider whether you are leaving your territory unoccupied, open to an invasion that ultimately is going to make you ineffective. Your responsibility as a component part of the greater whole is primarily yourself, and only secondarily that which you accomplish outside yourself. That the secondary may be important is acknowledged, BUT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE that it should be aught but ephemeral if the primary is not a solid reality. In this sense it is your BUSINESS to be selfish, in the shining aspect of that word. And the great paradox is that the shining use of selfishness enables you to be effectively, and without disintegration, what the world calls ‘unselfish.’”
As a rule the Invisibles waited for us to practice what they preached before they gave explanations. The idea seemed to be that only in this way could we accomplish anything permanent. Otherwise it would not be ourselves who accomplished. It would be merely the acceptance of someone else’s accomplishment. And that is never permanent.
It was just this way in the present case. But eventually they gave us more insight into how this self-development thing worked.
“The individual man,” said they, “is a member of not one narrow group only, such as the family. He is also a member of a succession of ever more inclusive groups, until he is to be considered eventually a member of that which comprises the sum total of earthly incarnations. Each of these groups has its own type of problems, good and evil, to be worked out. And all of these problems have the same characteristic of being beyond the scope and power of individual solution. They have also the characteristic in common that they are the individual problem and responsibility.
“From this it follows that if an individual works out his own development, he automatically also works out, as far as the individual can, the group problem. And consequently, if the group problem is by so much carried out, there is so much less of it to weigh upon the other members of the group. In that thought you may glimpse the interrelations of effort, and the value to others of whatever real progress you make for yourself. You may also, perhaps, glimpse the reverse, and perceive how imposing additional limitations on yourself through inertia and indifference does likewise to others. This is for the automatic relationships.
“There enters also a semi-automatic relationship, as one might say. If the individual works out within himself his own portion of the group Impetus, he will in the process, by a universal law, have produced something which manifests that bit of development in the external world.
It may be a concrete thing, or a bit of practical knowledge, or merely an externalized spiritual attitude. But whatever its form, it is there existent in an appropriatable shape for those who can reach out for it and utilize it. And whenever such an appropriation is made by another, not only does the utilization aid further in the solving of that group problem, but also in repercussion it renders stable the advancement of the one first attaining.” “Then,” commented one of us, “it really is legitimate to pursue personal ambitions!” “Surely!” was the reply. “One should build one’s self the best possible.
The trouble often is that that becomes both sufficient and inviolable.
One forgets that the building of one’s self is but for the purpose of contributing one’s self-contributing one’s self COMPLETELY. That may sound out of reach, impractical, even undesirable. And maybe it is—for the present. Nevertheless it is an eventuality to be faced, for the things we hold back are what keep us from participation in the greater Whole.”
So indispensable to the longer view of evolution is this imperative of self-development that to it we may ascribe the urgency of one of mankind’s deepest instincts. Like other basic instincts, at this stage of human development it is more often perverted than not. But the handicap of present perversion is a lesser price to pay for the later perfected function. I refer here to the acquisitional sense.
This instinct expresses itself in a thousand forms. It is a fruitful cause of injustice, greed, wars, all the less pretty manifestations. Yet we could not exist, much less advance in evolution, without it. It has also its higher manifestations, and they are worth waiting for and paying for. In order that our level of abundance may rise to the point of overflow.
“Like everything else,” said the Invisibles, “the acquisitional sense can be transposed from the gathering together of things—often a necessary and valuable pursuit—to intangible and more valuable purposes. Also we can acquire by drawing entirely to ourselves and keeping what we gain, or we can acquire what is necessary for a FORTHGOING PLAN. This second form of acquisitiveness is manifested in countless ways, from the hungers of the body, which are hungers of purpose beyond the mere possession of the immediate object, to the farthest reaches of man’s serving of his destiny. Viewed thus from a height, this impulse we inadequately call the acquisitive sense is but the ambition of an artist seeking finer and still finer materials for his creative purposes. Break the health of this function and you destroy man’s reason for being.” Betty was introduced to this higher acquisitiveness in one of her symbolic experiences with the Invisibles.
“It is hard to tell you of this,”, she said, “because I know so little about it, but it rests on firm sane laws. It is hidden under the surface glint of materially desirable things. Those who never possess these sometimes find the secret of possession of all life; and those who have satiated themselves come painfully to starvation on golden platters: and some in between acquire the balance which directs them to the secret of possession.
“I cannot grow in a moment to where I can describe this vivid contrast in the methods of ownership: ownership after the manner of man, and ownership by way of the law. I can only just sense it by looking at my associates here. Because today I am in the company of those who have completely abandoned self for the heritage of participating in the whole.
They are absolutely dispossessed of things. They’ve grown into enormous, almost unlimited power by the strength of their aims. I don’t understand it. I only know their power is a kind of selfless power which makes their position unrelated to any of the products we call possessions.
“I was experimentally broadcasting myself to participation in the great elements of life, and I said: Why do I not come to dissolution of my individuality this way? And then I dimly sensed the use of that other gathering-in, collecting instinct in its unperverted state. I sensed its ability to concentrate power collected to be utilized for the intelligent purposes of cooperation. But I’m too feeble and stupid to tell you much that is useful….
“Here are two great forces. I must leave them there.”
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published February 2016
Size: 229 x 152 mm