The Philosophy of Perfectibility

“Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached “reality”; but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya [illusion].”

— HP Blavatsky, from The Key to Theosophy

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Masters are, in consequence of evolution and great effort continued through many lives, now at the point of physically, mentally and spiritually where adepts, and others striving, will be in the distant future. They are living men, only higher and holier than we are. While They are truly living men, They may not be understood to be like ourselves. They have bodies, but these bodies are made of the most highly refined and spiritualized matter – matter of which we have but the slight conception. … If we thus dimly grasp the nature of Masters, we will be ble to reverence Them in our hearts, and to endeavor to draw near to Them in our innermost being; nor will we be deceived by claims made by, and for, this or that person, nor take it for granted that books written with purpose of defining Master’s powers, place, or imagined individual characteristics, have any value whatever. All such are mere speculations and an attempt in fact to drag those great Beings down to our plane of terrestrial conceptions – ” a misuse of sacred names,” as H.P.B. wrote in The Key to Theosophy. Masters are facts in Nature, facts however which our highest ideals will not fully encompass. Let us therefore endow Them with the highest we can conceive of, try to assimilate that ‘highest’ within ourselves, endeavor to draw near to Them in our heart of hearts, and thus form for ourselves that line of communication which They have said They are always ready to help establish; and let us keep that ideal as a sacred thing in the repository of our hearts, not to be lightly thought of nor spoken of, but as a shrine of our highest aspirations, safely guarded from all intrusion, sacred and secret. Thus and thus only may we in time come to know Them face to face.

— Robert Crosbie

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"Look inward, thou are Buddha." The Voice of the Silence

What is the relationship between human perfectibility and looking inward?

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What is the relationship between human perfectibility and looking inward?

This is perhaps the most important relationship in respects to spiritual evolution and perfection.  Socrates said, "Know thyself".  The Buddha said (as you quoted above), "Look inward, thou are Buddha".  Both are pointing to the fact that all lasting and important change is internal to the person, that each individual must look within and know themselves and effect the proper changes necessary to become perfect.  Eventually we will all move on to more advanced realms or forms of consciousness and perhaps we will return to this world to help those on their journey.  But the key to it all, as you and many wise people over the centuries have pointed out, is going within and knowing thyself.

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This question ties together with the previous discussion in this group, the Sevenfold Constitution of Man and Nature.  The sevenfold nature points to a series of planes of being, each more casual then the next, each more universal than the next.  Turning inward is reaching up to these higher planes, it seems to me.  The importance of silence and listening is being taken up in the Art of Living group right now which play a role in this turning inward Tamiko is asking about. 

I think what is important to remember is that the inner man is perfect, the Higher Man within us is perfect and was is perfectible is the lower vehicles.

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These are three great ideas and are very relevant to the discussion we are having in the Art of Living group too.  Right Speech could be thought of as an effort to apply the first idea of human fellowship, an area of human life worthy of infinite refinement corresponding to the second perfectibility idea and exemplified by Great Teachers pertaining to the third idea.

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MAHATMAS AND CHELAS
Article by H. P. Blavatsky

A MAHATMA is a personage, who, by special training and education, has evolved those higher faculties and has attained that spiritual knowledge, which ordinary humanity will acquire after passing through numberless series of reincarnations during the process of cosmic evolution, provided, of course, that they do not go, in the meanwhile, against the purposes of Nature and thus bring on their own annihilation. This process of the self-evolution of the MAHATMA extends over a number of “incarnations,” although, comparatively speaking, they are very few. Now, what is it that incarnates? The occult doctrine, so far as it is given out, shows that the first three principles die more or less with what is called the physical death. The fourth principle, together with the lower portions of the fifth, in which reside the animal propensities, has Kama Loka for its abode, where it suffers the throes of disintegration in proportion to the intensity of those lower desires; while it is the higher Manas, the pure man, which is associated with the sixth and seventh principles, that goes into Devachan to enjoy there the effects of its good Karma, and then to be reincarnated as a higher individuality. Now, an entity, that is passing through the occult training in its successive births, gradually has less and less (in each incarnation) of that lower Manas until there arrives a time when its whole Manas, being of an entirely elevated character, is centered in the higher individuality, when such a person may be said to have become a MAHATMA. At the time of his physical death, all the lower four principles perish without any suffering, for these are, in fact, to him like a piece of wearing apparel which he puts on and off at will.

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The Doctrine of Inherent Perfectibility can more clearly be understood by some when considered against it's opposite: the false teaching of Original Sin.  Many good people of our time blindly accept the notion of Original Sin.  However, these people fail to see that anything "originally sinful" or (said differently) "inherently imperfect" has no hope of ever attaining perfect harmony with Nature's perfection -- unless they deceive themselves into believing the other false teachings of "miracles" and "vicarious atonement."  Once the absurdity of miracles and vicarious atonement is established in the mind of an individual, this may clear the way for him to consider the Truth behind the Doctrine of Inherent Perfectibility.

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Good point Thomas.  It is helpful to see the contrast which you have so ably done here.  The other notion it combats is the materialistic notion that man is an animal only subject to the pressures of his environment.  There is no doubt that many people act as if original sin were true and buy into the behaviorism.  But paraphrase one of my college professors on the subject, the danger is not so much whether these theories are true or not but rather that by believing the they will make them true.

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A famous quote from Shankara:

"The great and peaceful ones live regenerating the world like the coming of the spring.  Having crossed the ocean of embodied existence themselves they freely aid all others who seek to cross it.  The very essence and inherent will of Mahatmas is to remove the suffering of others, just as the ambrosia rayed moon, of itself, cools the earth."

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A favorite of mine too.  The line that rises above the others for me is " the very essence and inherent will of Mahatmas is to remove the suffering of others."  Compassion is the light of lights.