Voice in the Wilderness

NO ONE has a right to say that he can do nothing for others, on any pretext whatever, Theosophy says.

The poor widow in the Synoptic Gospels gives everything she had, while others give only a small portion of their own wealth.

“A cup of cold water given in time to a thirsty wayfarer is a nobler duty and more worth,” Theosophy teaches, “than a dozen dinners given away, out of season, to men who can afford to pay for them.”

Following H. P. Blavatsky’s death in 1891, an editorial was published in the New York Daily Tribune (founded by Horace Greeley) said of her:

“Madame Blavatsky held that the regeneration of mankind must be based upon the development of altruism. In this she was at one with the greatest thinkers, not alone of the present day, but of all time,” the Editorial acknowledged.

“And, it is becoming more and more apparent, at one with the strongest spiritual tendencies of the age.

“This alone would entitle her teachings to the candid and serious consideration of all who respect the influences that make for righteousness.”

The clearest statements of Blavatsky’s ethical views, are in The Key to Theosophy (Section 12), where she insists that “altruism is an integral part of self-development.” It is man’s duty “to give all that which is wholly his own and can benefit no one but himself, if he selfishly keeps it from others,” she wrote.

Asked how a person could achieve such an elevated state, her reply focused on four overarching aspects: “By the use of our higher reason, spiritual intuition and moral sense, and by following the dictates of what we call ‘the still small voice’ of our conscience —

“…and which speaks louder in us than the earthquakes and the thunders of Jehovah.”

Saintly Macaques

Following is a clip from the radio interview that Carl Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan did to promote their book Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors in the early 1990’s. In this clip they discuss how some animals, in this case macaque monkeys, show better ethical behavior than humans. They compare the results with with the shocking “Milgram Experiment” on humans.

Thought Matters

Blavatsky further raised the bar on ethics, emphasizing altruistic thinking. “There are persons who never think with the higher faculties of their mind at all,” she wrote, and “those who do so are the minority and are thus, in a way, beyond, if not above, the average of human kind.”

Altruistic works would be natural for them because, she says “they will think even upon ordinary matters on that higher plane.”

A key problem in Darwin’s theory of evolution was the existence of altruism. Early scholars sought to understand how selfless helping could have evolved. Primarily, evolutionists are confused by the existence of altruism. The belief that humans and other animals engage in altruistic acts (e.g. risking one’s own life to help another) is paradoxical in light of neo-Darwinist theory.

Milgram Experiment

Stanley Milgram, a Harvard PhD, designed a series of studies on obedience to authority, using a “teacher” and a “learner.” The “teacher” is supposed to shock the “learner” if an answer is incorrect, starting at 15 volts and going up to 450 volts, increasing the shock each time the “learner” misses a word in the list.

Ultimately 65% of all of the “teachers” punished the “learners” to the maximum 450 volts. Obviously the still small voice of conscience and altruism did not speak loud enough in most the “teachers” to stop them.

Optimism vs Pessimism

It is the “idiosyncrasy of the person” that determines which layer of the spectrum of consciousness we call ‘mind’ is activated. And this “determines in which ‘principle’ of the mind the thinking is done,” Blavatsky again notes. Both our physical heredity and our ingrained tendencies from prior lifetimes comes into play.

The materialistically inclined person is genuinely handicapped because, through disuse, she says, “the metaphysical portion” of their brain is “almost atrophied.”  

Destroying the Earth for financial gain.

It is just as difficult for such a materially focused person to raise himself higher, as it is for a naturally spiritually minded person “to descend to the level of the matter-of-fact vulgar thought.”

The twin human features of optimism and pessimism “depend on it also in a large measure,” Blavatsky adds.


The Last Mountain

The fight for the last great mountain in America’s Appalachian heartland pits the mining giant that wants to explode it to extract the coal within, against the community fighting to preserve the mountain and build a wind farm on its ridges instead. The Last Mountain highlights a battle for the future of energy that affects us all.

Early Start

“A proper and sane system of education should produce the most vigorous and liberal mind,” Blavatsky maintains [Key, Sect. 13], “strictly trained in logical and accurate thought, and not in blind faith.”

“Children should above all be taught self-reliance, love for all men, altruism, mutual charity, and more than anything else, to think and reason for themselves.”


“How can you ever expect good results,” she asks, “while you pervert the reasoning faculty of your children by bidding them believe in the miracles of the Bible on Sunday, while for the six other days of the week you teach them that such things are scientifically impossible?

The Mission of The Meditation Initiative is to, in their own words: “provide free meditation classes and training for children, adults and seniors to help prevent stress and anxiety, improve focus and attention, and share tools for anger management while improving overall mental and emotional health and well-being.”

Free & Unselfish

“We would reduce the purely mechanical work of the memory to an absolute minimum, and devote the time to the development and training of the inner senses, faculties and latent capacities.

“We should aim at creating free men and women, free intellectually, free morally, unprejudiced in all respects, and above all things, unselfish.”

“We would endeavour to deal with each child as a unit,” Mme. Blavatsky wrote, “and to educate it so as to produce the most harmonious and equal unfoldment of its powers, in order that its special aptitudes should find their full natural development.”

Caring for Nature

Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, which happens to be one of the world’s hotspots for marine mammal strandings, is also the home of IFAW’s International headquarters. IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue team responds to hundreds of calls of animals in trouble. “It seems Cape Cod’s shallow water and extreme tides can be especially difficult for dolphins to navigate.”

Moral Foundation

Unselfishness, we would argue, seems to be the necessary moral platform for the building of altruism and empathy. The scaffolding upon which is molded the good, the kind and the generous.

“Humanity is the highest manifestation on earth of the Unseen Supreme Deity,” says Blavatsky, “and each man an incarnation of his God.”

“To become a genuine spiritual entity … man must first create himself anew, so to speak, i.e., thoroughly eliminate from his mind and spirit, not only the dominating influence of selfishness and other impurity, but also the infection of superstition and prejudice.”

Empathy Circuit

In the book, entitled “Zero Degrees of Empathy” in Britain, and The Science of Evil in the United States, where it comes out in July, Simon Baron-Cohen seeks to pick apart and define components of empathy—including hormones, genes, environment, nurture, and early childhood experiences.

Citing decades of scientific research, he says there are at least 10 regions of the brain which make up what he calls the “empathy circuit.”

“When people hurt others, either systematically or fleetingly, parts of that circuit are malfunctioning.”


“The aim is to produce children who trust that the world is a safe place — not children who grow up unable to trust adults because they have been beaten or because there is no predictability about then they are next going to see their parent. Those children experience lack of safety and lack of routine in their early environment

“…are the ones who may end up with life-long issues around trust in relationships, and an inability to get close to other people.”

“Some of them will end up zero negative, damaged and potentially dangerous.”  (Liz Else, NewScientist, 9 April 2011)

Read More:

The Center for Building
a Culture of Empathy


“When I talk or think about altruism, I am often in tears. Why? Because it is really precious and wonderful…”

The Dali Lama

2 responses to “Voice in the Wilderness

  1. Yes,
    A great post – “by their fruits ye shall know them”. All the talk in the world means nothing unless it is reflected in altruistic behaviour to help others. Unfortunately, in this world propaganda is cunningly devised and manipulated to fool people into thinking that good is being done whilst they are being exploited.

  2. This posting is just wonderful, thank you.
    The great thing about TW is how in one place, we can receive the teachings from many places…HH Dalai Lama to Jane Goodall to Carl Sagan…I don’t think it would occur to this student to consciously gather these particular components in one place to explore one spiritual idea, though we know the teachings are there. It’s just so great to receive this. And the obvious reminder that Theosophy is not just intellectual study, but completely practical. The video with His Holiness is very moving – we are truly fortunate just to be able to see him, be in his presence, and hear him express his own love for these ideas, much less explain to us the different stages of this incredible Compassion. Thank you very much. I love you. Namaste, all.

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