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Disdain for personality

Apr 21, 1998 06:53 AM
by K Paul Johnson

Mark's comments about the unfortunate prevalence of an internal
"holier than thou" split in Theosophical consciousnesses strike
me as right on the mark. I won't argue that a contemptuous
attitude toward the "lower personality" can be found in the
source literature, since I know that it can. But a more nuanced
approach can also be found, e.g. in the second fragment of the
Voice of the Silence.

The bottom line, for me, is the evident results of disdain for
personality. It can manifest as monasticism, actual or virtual,
a rejection of all pleasures of the flesh, a stern
otherworldliness. We see this in various ES restrictions that
are imposed on TS membership when on the grounds of TS
facilities: no smoking, no drinking, no sharing of rooms by
unmarried couples, no meat/chicken/fish, etc. We see it in
language that is violent in tone: references to
"annihilation" of the personality or to "warfare" between the
lower and higher principles. ("If thine eye offend thee pluck it
out" is a prototype of this sentiment.)

I've definitely "been there, done that" having started my
theosophical career with a fairly strong commitment to celibacy,
teetotaling, vegetarianism. And have eventually abandoned those
things because I concluded that the results were unhealthy-- a
sense of isolation from the rest of humanity rather than
engagement, a spiritual elitism that looks down on "average
people," a reduced effectiveness in connecting with the people
around me. No regrets at having reverted to all the ES no-nos,
sex, alcohol, non-veggie diet, etc., since despite or because of
all that my life is filled with spiritual joy that was not so
intense or constant when I was mortifying the personality.

Seems to me that most people who disdain the personality have
personality disorders that they had better work on, and fix the
problem rather than trying to "rise above it." There's something
really creepy-feeling about most of those "above it all" types
I've met, whether they're Theosophists or Baha'is or whatever.
It's as if the stronger they deny the personality the more
evident it is that they are totally in the grips of a personality
with definite blind spots, complexes, avoidances, etc.

I'll conclude by saying that one time when I felt that I was really
mistreateed by an eminent Theosophist, and complained to him about all the
ways in which he'd violated my trust and common ethical
principles, he loftily replied that these matters were all
"personality issues." Meaning, to me, that those who disdain the
personality can treat you like merde and deny personal
responsibility for it, since they are "above the personality"
and make their decisions based on "higher factors" that allow
them an ends-justifies-the-means "out" to justify any
mistreatment of individuals they may commit.

In People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck defines human evil as the
pattern of destructive, scapegoating behavior with total denial
of personal responsibility for one's actions. I've seen a lot
more such evil among "true believers" in various cults that
disdain the personality than among average folks who have no such
inclinations. One of the most valuable and distinctive elements
of the Cayce readings is how much they emphasize balance and
integration of physical, mental and spiritual rather than warfare
and annihilation internally.


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