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On Deliberate Action

How to Proceed Straight Towards the Goal
 
 
John Garrigues
 
 



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Editorial Note:
 
The following text appeared in the December
1926 edition of “Theosophy” magazine, pp. 84-86,
with no indication as to its author. An analysis of
its contents and style indicates it was written by
Mr. Garrigues. Its original title is “Deliberate Action”. 
 
(CCA)
 
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If a man is thoughtful and sincere, he responds to the challenge of Theosophy with the determination to take his place as a responsible being by endeavoring to apply its teachings in his own life. Or, to state it differently, simultaneously with his recognition that his bark has been drifting with the current, he instinctively grasps the idle oars and attempts to direct his course.
 
The average man is the victim of circumstances, the puppet of the effects of causes he has set up and over which he exercises no present control. His reactions to stimuli from without are calculable with almost as much certainty as the results of chemical combinations: a slight will enkindle his anger as inevitably as his vanity will batten on injudicious praise. 
 
In proportion as he realizes his true nature to be distinct from and superior to that which is slighted or praised,  his command over his reactions increases. Until he perfects that control and is no longer at the mercy of events, it is folly for him to aspire to added powers. A bomb is as potentially dangerous in the hands of a child as in those of a vicious criminal, and, seeing all about him the devastating effects of lack of control, let every man be glad that, until he is beyond the reactions of anger and envy and hate, his weapons are no sharper and his reach so limited.
 
It is not alone the unscrupulous and the violent from whom the secrets of Occultism [1] must be withheld for the safety of the world; the irresponsible are no better fitted to be entrusted with the knowledge which is power. Recognizing each casual word or act as potentially pregnant with far-reaching consequences, disastrous or beneficent, the Occultist dare not fail to pay strict attention to what he is about. If one aspiring to Occultism is not beyond such careless slips as misdirecting a letter or forgetting an errand, he need look no further for a sufficient explanation of his tread-mill existence.
 
Errors of judgement are referable to our stage of development, and unerring discrimination must wait on added experience and the awakening of intuition; but inadvertence is a puerile plea, an admission that our wits were wool-gathering instead of being held strictly to the matter in hand.
 
It is true that responsibility attaches in a greater degree to deliberate than to impulsive action, and that he who acts deliberately with a selfish motive courts inevitable disaster, since he is pitting himself against the irresistible centripetal force of the ascending arc of the evolutionary cycle. But unconsidered action also ill becomes one who would be a co-worker with Nature, whose movements are ever purposeful and rhythmic. As surely as there is a due time for the return of solstice and equinox, there is a proper time for the performance of every act and duty.
 
As Nature never hurries nor procrastinates, so the man of deliberate action has not the harassed feeling of working under pressure; nor does he unduly postpone necessary action, for which there is always time. Necessary acts can be distinguished from the importunate throng of possible activities if one stops to question which represents his own duty and not that of another, and which is necessary to others and to himself as souls, that he should perform. All of the time and strength spent, for instance, in pampering the physical body, beyond its actual requirements for maintenance as a fit instrument for the soul, represents futile dissipation of energy.
 
But whatever action each decides to be necessary for him is worth the time and effort needed to perform it carefully and well. Dependence may safely be placed only on the man of conscience who, during his waking hours, is in constant and positive control of his instruments of action - accurate and heedful at all times. Dependability is not a spectacular quality; it is the solid bedrock for the lack of which no decorations on the superstructure can compensate. It is not possible to the day-dreamer or the medium. Its development calls for unremitting watchfulness, for scrupulous attention to the business of each moment. Dependability means living in the present, alert and concentrated here and now, not fumbling our tasks while we dream of a glorious future.
 
A dependable man will keep a promise at whatever cost, but where no pledge is involved, deliberate action does not call for rigid adherence to a plan regardless of changed circumstances. To ignore new factors which arise after a decision is reached, is folly and shows lack of adaptability. Wisdom enables us to conserve our energy by availing ourselves of any unexpected current, provided it does not carry us out of our course. We need only note the circumstances, moment by moment, and in their light act according to our best judgement.
 
Potent among our instruments of action is the power of speech with its unmeasured possibilities for weal or woe. We may not leave out of account the evil of gossip. Anyone aspiring earnestly to apply the principles of Theosophy is beyond the willingness to injure any fellow-being  -  certainly beyond the employment of this basest of weapons  -  but too often people recognize no further need for curbing their tongues beyond refraining from evil speaking. The responsibility which we assume in directing the attention of others to trivial or unworthy matters is often not recognized. Who can say how much shorter the course of any man might be if he could proceed straight towards the goal instead of constantly having to make detours around obstructing non-essentials?
 
We scorn to deliberately place obstacles in a fellow-wayfarer’s path for him to stumble over, but an idle phrase of ours may set another off on an unprofitable line of thought. Can we disclaim responsibility for the resulting delay in his progress? We may not yet be able to keep our own premises clear of the litter of disorderly thinking, but we can at least refrain from cluttering the neighborhood with it.
 
Deliberate speech is not necessarily slow speech. It involves thought before the words are uttered, which may well eliminate much heedless expression; but as the habit of thinking before speaking becomes established, accuracy becomes paramount. Speech at random is often inaccurate to the point of mendacity. 
 
Deliberate control of speech and action presupposes equilibrium. So long as we are tossed hither and thither by the force of our desires, we are handicapped much as would be a skilled draftsman who attempted to do his work on a pitching boat. We cannot calculate with accuracy the result of this or the other move until we are on the firm ground of dispassion and are able to make our decisions unswayed by attraction or repulsion. 
 
Until we can approximate that state, the best we can do is to take into account as liabilities our likes and dislikes, lest they should exert an unrecognized influence on our decisions. We must compel ourselves to act deliberately.
 
NOTE:
 
[1] Occultism. Occultism or Secret Science is the science of the secrets of Nature. It is the science of those aspects of Nature and Life which are essential, and therefore cannot be grasped through the five senses. (CCA)
 
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On Deliberate Action




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