Brotherhood: Basis of Ethics

by John Van Mater, Jr.

How can we keep alive and viable the truths or ideas of theosophy into the next century? This must invoke a dedication to the practice of universal brotherhood in our daily lives. Have theosophists been fully living up to the ethics of the teachings presented by H. P. Blavatsky and her teachers? In asking these questions it is apparent that the essential principles in life never change. We are all karmically responsible for continually reexamining and reexpressing them in our daily lives. Out of this effort we may tap the wisdom of the enduring, compassionate heart and find creative solutions. We can speak to the specific needs of the moment or of the age in which we live.

Every being comes into the world as a unique expression of its divinity, having an important role to play. It is true that we all share one cosmic essence, yet the endless diversity of souls simply underscores that oneness. This remarkable variety of beings with their inner colors or qualities makes up humanity. We are only reflecting certain aspects of the one truth at any given time, yet every shade or hue is required to complete the picture. No life is insignificant, for all strivings toward the spirit, whether seeming to result in failures or triumphs, are part of the great cosmic design.

There are many challenges facing us now and in the future, and they begin with ourselves. A human being is simply a microcosm of all humanity. This is not to underplay the powerful effect a small group of highly dedicated individuals can exert on the thought-life of all.

Continuous vigilance is necessary along with self-examination, in order to resist the negativity of the personal and selfish side, and to keep the better half in command. There are many opportunities for creative exchange with others, but we should also consider the grooves and patterns of habit we have made as individuals. Not all our habits are good. One challenge we face is the growing wave of psychic practices. An intense stirring of energies and rending of veils are breaking up established patterns in all areas.

It is evident that many are fostering the positive trends toward universal brotherhood that mark the transition from this century to the next. A spiritual force is at work behind all man's efforts that is greater than any organization. Nevertheless, it still comes down to the individual -- what we are inside and how well we can practice brotherhood. How deep is our love for other beings?

One of the themes of The Secret Doctrine that is important to me concerns the oneness of all things, united by an innate divine essence, rooted in the Boundless; that everything from galaxies to the tiniest particle is alive and contributes to the whole. This is a living doctrine outlining universal brotherhood on every level. Without the divine harmony and order that enable all entities to evolve together (karma), there would be no manifested life.

Profound changes are taking place, providing opportunities for inner growth but fraught with dangers resulting from new awakenings and searches into unfamiliar avenues of thought. There can't be enough emphasis on the practical ethics of brotherhood which relates to karma and reincarnation. Because of this we should not only evaluate the positive breakthroughs that are being made but also face the perils and illusions that accompany them. The Bodhisattva ideal -- living for others, and practicing the Paramitas (virtues) -- is the key to harmonious action amidst outer disturbances.

We may look to the past and speculate on the future, but to me wisdom is applying the highest ethical conduct in the present. The grand comprehensive view of life as an integrated whole is being substantiated by new scientific discoveries, particularly in the field of biology, which maintains that life forms on Earth carry out necessary functions of the one being -- Gaia. We are at last beginning to look at ourselves not only as part of Mother Earth but as belonging also to the solar system and to the universe. This is the first step toward realizing and demonstrating the brotherhood of life and our ethical responsibilities to work with nature in serving its greater purposes.

(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, April/May 1989. Copyright © 1989 by Theosophical University Press)

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