Rosicrucian Writings Online


The
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH
 
WHAT ARE SELFISH INTERESTS?
 
By THE IMPERATOR
[H. Spencer Lewis]

 
[From The Rosicrucian Digest October 1933]
 
 
THE question often arises in the mind of the student on the Path or the seeker for spiritual unfoldment as to how far he may go in urging or promoting his own personal evolution and development without transgression of what seems to be the unwritten law about selfish interest.
 
After all, one must carefully give consideration to a clear analysis of what constitutes selfish interests. If we stop to think of the very opposite of selfish interest, we will have what might be termed a condition of selflessness. Is such a condition at all possible and would it be of any value to any of us? Those who claim that the true attitude of the mystic and of the humanitarian should be a total lack of personal interest or selfish benefits would seem to have in mind a vague and rather impossible condition of self-annihilation as the proper mental attitude to be assumed. Such persons contend that our every thought and our every desire, our every act, should be impersonal and should extend beyond the self or ego and find action and reaction wholly in the fields external to ourselves and in no way related to our own personal interests. This would contemplate a condition of self-annihilation to the extent that we would look upon the world and its problems as though we were not only separate from them but actually non-existent. We would have to take an assumed attitude of suspended existence and consider ourselves as either inferior or superior to the very conditions we are trying to improve and unassociated in any way with the human problems which face all mankind and which we hope to eliminate.
 
If we look upon the foreign missionary as an example, for instance, of devotion to the interests of others, we would have to say, according to those who hold to the above ideas, that the missionary should assume that all of the problems which face the ones he is helping are problems which do not affect him or cannot affect him and that all of the problems which he has believed were his own are no longer in existence because he as an entity does not exist.
 
Such a view-point on the part of the missionary would undoubtedly affect the efficiency of the work he is trying to do and would handicap him in his ability to sympathetically attune himself with the needs of those whom he is trying to help. Cannot the same be true regarding the mystic in his general studies and activities? Those who have devoted the greater part of their lives to the welfare of humanity have discovered that the first and most important step in their efficient work has been to sympathetically attune themselves with the mass of civilization and to place themselves in the very center of all the problems which face humanity. They must take the spiritual and philosophical attitude that, except for the grace of God, they themselves would be in the same position as those they are trying to help. The mystic is always brought closer to mankind by following the precepts of the philosopher who looked upon a worn and neglected specimen of humanity, ostracized by all and beaten by the conditions around him, and said to himself, "Except for the grace of God that is me!" Such an idea is the safest guide for the life of a mystic in any of his activities and it eliminates any tendency on the part of one to become possessed of a superiority complex or a sense of superior being.
 
It is not necessarily the lowering of one's real self to a humiliating position in order to assist humanity for all of humanity is not in a humiliating position, nor is all of it in poverty, want, and privation. Those who are in possession of the world's richest bounties and are considered wealthy and fortunately placed, likewise have their problems and their need for light and guidance and help, and the mystic in order to help them must be able to attune himself with them and view life from their view-point as well as from the view-point of the most humble and the most lowly. But, after all, the salvation of the race or of a world of people is not a mass accomplishment but a procedure that is dependent upon the exemplification of principles by the individuals composing the mass. Reform of any nature must begin with the individual and proceed to the mass. Each person must be considered as a human being not necessarily wholly independent of all other human beings, but most certainly distinguished from the collective body.
 
Our own position here on earth, incarnate in a physical body, is a demonstration, or shall we say a salutary indication of the Cosmic plan of evolving human beings through personal experience and trials. It is as the fire burns in the crucible of the individual soul and purifies the outer physical self that the spiritual flame and Cosmic guidance is fanned into a dominating power in the individual. To ignore our own incarnation here and ignore our own personal development and progress merely for the sake of helping others is to ignore the Cosmic scheme intended for each individual including ourselves. We have no more right to ignore what the Cosmic intended us to do for ourselves in this incarnation than we have to ignore what the Cosmic intended for every other human being. The moment we set aside our own development and our own progress and our own interests and give thought only to others, we are attempting to arbitrarily alter the Cosmic scheme. We may see the fallacy instantly in this method if we assume that what is right for ourselves is right for every other human being. That would mean that every human being would set aside his own personal progress and even attempt to hold it back in his desire to help others. This would lead to confusion so far as progress is concerned and the mass of human beings would find a very definite delay in spiritual and mental progress.
 
The truly ideal standard is that in which the individual makes every effort to promote his own best interests and to bring his own evolution to the highest degree in every sense. He should seek, first of all, to further his spiritual development to the broadest possible comprehension of universal principles. Then he should proceed to lift up his own physical and worldly situation to a degree that is compatible with the spiritual one. If he has risen to great heights in a spiritual sense he should also seek to raise himself in a worldly way to the greatest possible heights. At the same time, however, he should have in mind the needs of all other fellow beings and seek not only to give each of them the same opportunity to rise to great heights but should contribute in every way possible to the progress of all others.
 
Looking at it from the purely economical and social point of view, the great problem that faces the world today is not that there are insufficient numbers of human beings devoted to humanitarian activities, or an insufficient number of unselfish workers devoting their lives and thoughts and powers to the helping of others, but there is a great insufficiency of those who are attempting to promote their own best interests in the proper manner and to the highest degree. We have in a general sense sufficient humanitarian and good-will organizations, including the schools, colleges, charity organizations, brotherhoods, individual workers, and other methods for the general help of individuals, but the great lack is to be found in the inability of the individual to help himself or perhaps in the lack of a desire to help himself.
 
One needs only to travel, for instance, through some of the foreign countries such as in the native's sections of Egypt, Palestine, Persia, India, as well as in the slum districts of Europe and America, to see that the great need there is for that ambition, that personal interest, that dominating desire on the part of each individual to lift himself up. The indifference to personal interest, the indifference to personal possibilities and the indifference to the effect of this upon the mass of humanity is the great problem of today. In each of these deplorable places where a section of the mass of humanity has allowed itself to slide down hill in all worldly progress and where one individual has suddenly taken it upon himself to promote his own best interests and lift himself up to the highest worldly and spiritual standing, a great number have been influenced by his example and a younger race has tried to exemplify what he has done and he is held forth by parents and others as a model of what may be done. The wholesome effect of such selfish promotion of personal interests is a matter that must be reckoned with because of its serious effects.
 
Wherever we see one individual promoting his best interest and lifting himself above the situations in which he was born, and doing this without becoming a parasite upon humanity and without injuring others, we may see an excellent example of good influence. When such a person is not wholly indifferent to the rights of others and is not miserly in his personal ambitions he cannot escape the blessings that he will inevitably bring to those around him. When he is inclined to promote his interests and at the same time share some of them with others, we have the ideal example of humanitarian action.
 
It behooves every individual to make the utmost of his life. He need not be wholly selfish nor should he be wholly selfless in his view-point of his desires and ambitions. But he must in fairness to the Cosmic plan and in fairness to the general scheme of things make the best of each opportunity to promote himself and to rise to the highest worldly as well as spiritual powers. He may be a chosen channel for the distribution of wealth after he has acquired it and until he acquires it through personal ambition, he cannot serve in the Master's vineyard in the manner in which the Cosmic has decreed. It may be that his own personal advancement is desired by the Cosmic in order to stimulate the same ambition in the hearts and minds of hundreds or thousands of others. The life of every successful businessman is a standard of possibility for the youth of every land. The attainment of happiness, contentment, and peace is a glorious demonstration to thousands. The ability to meet the obstacles of life and overcome them with the material things which one has rightfully attained is another excellent example that will help to fire the thoughts and actions of many others. We cannot bring complete happiness into our own lives without that happiness flowing over the brim to bring happiness to others. We cannot possess great wealth without yielding to the temptation to spend it and in spending it we begin to share it with others and even the act of spending is an encouragement to those who have suffered for the lack of inspiration.
 
Again it resolves itself into the element of motive. If our motive in seeking personal development is purely self-aggrandizement at the cost of happiness, peace, and the advancement of others, we shall be checked in our career sooner or later and find that we have created Karmic debts instead of Cosmic blessings. But if our motive is reasonable and not lacking in consideration of our obligations to the Cosmic and to all mankind, we will find that each and every personal ambition and desire is considered by the Cosmic and strengthened and fortified by it.
 
 
The Alcove for October
 
The month of October was known as the alcove of the inventors and of genius among the ancients noted as workers. In this alcove were Archimedes, Jacquard, Gutenberg, Hatch, Fulton, Watt, Palissy, Whitney, and many moderns. Among the outstanding mystics and Rosicrucians were Roger Bacon, and Madame Curie.
   

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