Appealing to the Higher Nature

by Henry T. Edge

The higher nature of man is not something mysterious and far-off. It is not something that belongs to after-death or to Sundays and Holy-days only. It is something real and actual and practical; something that is familiar and with us all the time. All that is needed is to recognise its existence and allow it its proper standing in our affairs.

But the trouble is that people will not recognise its existence. Why is the appeal always made to "self-interest"? Why do political parties advertise what they are going to do for the self-interests of you or me or the farmer or the businessman or the common people or the country or whatever it may be? Why do even preachers try to make you think that it will be an advantage to you to embrace their particular form of doctrine?

Perhaps the most offensive form which this kind of appeal takes is when we hear people shouting that "Christianity is the best business policy"; or "the Golden Rule is good for salesmanship"; or when some mountebank glories in his intimacy with the Deity as a friendly power who takes an interest in his personal wants. Do not parents appeal to the self-interest of their children, when they exhort them to behave because then they will prosper and be respected; or teachers, when they proclaim morality as the best means of 'getting on' and feathering one's own nest?

There is a great deal too much of this sort of thing, as we all know; and however indulgent we may be towards such a policy, out of deference to the weakness of human nature, still there is no moving away from the fact that in every such case it is the selfish propensities that are appealed to; and the result can only be to feed those propensities.

But we dare to proclaim that, as Theosophists, and as genuinely sensible and practical people, we take a better view of human nature than that. We believe that man actually has a higher nature, and that he pines to express it and have it recognised and catered for.

Recent and contemporary history show that, when a leader of men has sense enough and courage enough to appeal to something better than mere personal self-interest; then, even though the ideals which he does appeal to may not be very high, still he always arouses great enthusiasm and achieves great results. If this can be done by an appeal to self-sacrifice in such a bad cause as war, or by an appeal to sacrifice one's private interests for the sake of a national interest (real or alleged), then it goes to prove how thirsty the common people are for a chance to express their finer nature. It goes to show how much greater things might be accomplished by a similar appeal addressed to a really high and sublime motive.

Theosophy, like the Christianity of Jesus, recognises the needs of "the people," and sows its seeds where they are likely to find fertile soil. The appeal of Theosophy is to all; and, as so often said, it is large enough to satisfy the most profound intellects, and yet simple enough to appeal to those who, though without profound intellects, possess the other necessary qualities of human nature.

Let us recognise that we have a higher nature ourself, and be ready to admit that other people have a higher nature to which we can appeal.

Have parents the faith and courage to appeal to the higher nature of their children, even when that involves contradicting the personal desires of their children? Have they sufficient knowledge of human nature to know that a child will ask for a thing when he does not really wish to get it? While the lower nature of the child is asking you to gratify it, the higher nature is hoping that you will refuse. This is a fact, observable in grown-ups as well as in children.

Do not some of us grown-ups look back and wish that our parents had appealed more to our higher nature? How gladly we would have responded; yet we often made the appeal in vain. What an inestimable advantage those children have who are brought up on those right principles of appealing to the higher nature, while allowing the lower nature all that it needs but not permitting it to rule and encroach!

It is common enough to hear of people talking about what they owe to their mothers. It is infrequent enough to call for special remark, evidently. It is not a general rule. We all owe to our mothers those natural parental loves and duties that belong to the maternal function; but it is not all, or even the majority, who can say that they owe the formation of their character to that influence. Too often the influence has been neutral or even hindersome.

All through life we are met with the appeal to our lower nature, showing how little faith our elders must have in the existence of a higher nature, however much they may talk about it. And yet they must be blind not to see it. When we go to school and college, it is to 'get on' and 'get ahead'; not to do our duty.

As Katherine Tingley has so often said, the motive of advantage too often enters predominantly into the marriage-engagement; the consequence of which is disappointment. For that engagement, in its real significance, is a sacrament, and therefore brings duties and responsibilities, the faithful observance of which is the only condition of happiness. If no false expectations were entertained, there would be no disappointment at the failure to achieve them.

No doubt, if successful unions are to become the rule, more wisdom is needed than is usually forthcoming; but the first step towards the attainment of an ideal is to recognise both its desirability and its possibility.

In fine, a very great deal can be accomplished by a simple recognition of the fact that man has higher nature; and that this higher nature has at least as much (and, we declare, much more) right to be allowed expression as the lower nature. We should have enough faith in the higher nature of other people to give us courage to appeal to it.

(Condensed from The Theosophical Path, June 1928, pp. 523-25)

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