THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 4, February, 1928
(Pages 146-149; Size: 14K)


INSANITY is greatly on the increase in the most highly civilized Western countries. It affects all classes but is more highly prevalent among the educated and refined, the leisurely and the well-to-do than among the lowly. Many of the most brilliant minds have become, practically without warning, unbalanced, and, strange as it may sound, many great names in history, and many well known living characters, for all their powers, their learning and reputation, could not pass an inquirendo de lunatico.

Examined from a medical standpoint it is certain that many of the great movements in history could only have been inspired by madness, as for example, the Crusades -- madness which afflicted whole populations during centuries. So with periodic outbreaks of persecution for witchcraft. So with numberless other delusions and hallucinations which have overpowered the normal mentalities of masses of people, including the virtuous and intelligent as well as the weak, the wicked and the ignorant. How many of the canonized Saints of Roman Catholicism were simply religious madmen? And how about those who canonized them, and those who worship them and their images and bones? How about our Puritan forefathers? How about any man or set of men who would persecute others for opinion's sake? Are they sane or insane?

It is astonishing, once an investigation is begun, to see what monstrous beliefs and conduct have passed current not merely as sane, but as holy and ordained of Deity. One does not need to linger with pious reprobation over the bloody and licentious rites of many of the old Pagan faiths. He can find modern instances a-plenty of subjects so sanctified by universal hallucination that he who questioned their equity, their justice, their sanity, was himself regarded and treated as insane -- as dangerously insane. Instance human slavery; instance the "divine right of Kings;" instance the "divine rights" once exercised for centuries, and still claimed by the Roman Hierarchy; instance the Lordship exercised and claimed by the male man over his female counter-part; instance the actual prevalence of the divine rights of property over the rights of humanity; instance vivisection in principle as well as in practice; instance the final argument of States as well as individuals that "might makes right." Are these beliefs and practices, and countless others which will occur to any man upon reflection -- are they evidences of sanity or of mental and moral perversion?

Whether we name it revelation or possession or obsession, delusion, hallucination, or whatnot, our language and our history are full of evidences that men's minds are subject to strange influences, the nature of which is not understood even by the most profound students. Ranging all the way from individual aberration on some one point or subject to complete derangement of all the psychological faculties, from the temporary to the chronic, from rare cases to the engulfment of whole populations, it remains that to-day as always, insanity is a baffling mystery indeed, however much has been achieved in the segregation, the treatment and care of the unbalanced.

Although cases of insanity, complete or partial, are all too abundant in ordinary secular existence, it is in the field called religious that is always to be found the largest harvest of this unnatural crop. One who studies the pathology of religious devotees is soon forced to the conclusion, either that Humanity en masse is chronically deranged, or that by far the larger number of the saints and seers, the founders of sects, cults, and their dogmas and rites, were and are insane. The evidence in every case is direct and first-hand, and is to be found in the teachings, the conduct and practices, and the claims and professions made when viewed in the light of the accumulated experience and wisdom of the most enlightened of the race.

"Who can minister to a mind diseased?" is more than a dramatic question: it is the problem of the ages for the true Humanitarian. In any sustained attempt to become such a true Philanthropist, the student of Human Nature will be well-advised, very early in his career, to take the most profound precautions lest he himself unwittingly become infected with the very disease he seeks to understand in order to alleviate and cure its victims. His first steps in investigation should teach him that those who thus lose their mental and moral balance, do so unconsciously to themselves. Using a single word, for the sake of brevity, to cover all classes and degrees of insanity, how can the man who has already lost his Discrimination know, or even admit, argumenti gratia, that he has lost it? No sane man holds to any universally self-evident conviction or perception with greater tenacity than every insane man holds to his mania. The insane man is simply no more open to argument touching his particular delusion or his own sanity than a normal man would be open to argument on the commonest unquestioned actual fact.

The student will soon come to ask himself, in order to make correct diagnosis, What is the dividing line between sanity and insanity, between balanced and unbalanced minds? What are the "characteristic marks" of the sane and of the insane? How is Discrimination to be used in this most important of all problems?

Removing the subject from the field of the personal, the controversial, the religious, to that of pathology, of diagnosis pure and simple, confusion begins to lessen, for the signs of sanity or insanity are unmistakable when one sets out to find the facts, quite apart from whatever the facts may fit -- in other words, sets out to identify symptoms, not who may exhibit them.

The marks of sanity and of insanity are accurately set forth in the Sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita.The often-mentioned but seldom pondered "thirty-two marks of the perfect Buddha" are the net signature of perfect sanity. Western men may find them as explicitly notated in the Sermon on the Mount. If there is such a state as Sanity -- poise, balance, equilibrium in all circumstances and conditions, external and internal -- then Sanity is the characteristic of such Beings as Buddha, Jesus, and others like them -- of their Teachings and of their conduct. Insanity, in whatever degree of permanence or impermanence, and whether slight, intermediate, or beyond measure -- that is, complete -- is unmistakably indicated by the degree of departure from Sanity as thus identified. Until the equilibrium, mental or moral, has passed from stable to unstable, from unstable to entire loss, temporary or final, it is always possible for the individual thus shaken to regain his poise -- to become once more relatively or positively Sane.

Everywhere, in all times, among all classes of humanity insanity is denoted by an enormous expansion of Egotism -- an expansion so great as to constitute for the time being a state of mind in which the sense of Self in the victim is exaggerated to the point of supreme superiority to any and all other men. Whoever or whatever seems to question this superiority is at once anathema, is a fit subject for discipline, for being "put in his proper place." This includes first and foremost those persons and relations hitherto most loved and respected. A concomitant and corollary manifestation is an immense acceleration of pride, of conceit, of vanity, of determination to demand and enforce for one's self that veneration and respect which is due a Supreme being, to chastise recalcitrants, to compel obedience. There is no room for any love but self-love, any sympathy but self-pity, any charity but pardon and forgiveness to rebels who surrender, to converts who render obeisance, to supporters who accept without question the Authority. The pages of history are filled with great Names of men who were, in point of impersonal diagnosis, completely insane. In the religious field, these Names are always those of persons of great devotion and piety, of extremely powerful nature, who were devoured, mind and soul, by such an exaggerated sense of self that their "meditation with a seed" had convinced them through and through with the ideas (a) that mankind must be "saved;" (b) that they are the appointed and chosen "Savior." Lesser cases in men of lesser stature are simply numberless. But always the "seed" of the insanity is fundamentally the idea of "salvation;" of one's self as "savior;" of "sacrifice" according to the will of the savior as the means of salvation. The madman leader of his madmen followers first finds salvation for himself; then esteems himself as the Agent of salvation for others willing to "receive" him; then as Agent for the punishment of the "wicked" who reject him.

The insane man, having lost his equilibrium, is upset, is very literally upside down psychologically, and hence of necessity sees all things reversed -- exactly contrary to their true meaning and relation. The more he is devoted by nature, more he is under the internal compulsion to restore the world to balance.

In the teachings of Theosophy, to "lose one's balance" has a scientific valuation. It refers and relates to the Fourth or Middle Principle in the seven-fold Human constitution -- the Balance principle of the seven; to the Fourth Round(1) of evolving Humanity -- the Balance round. It is in this Principle and in this Round that is to be determined by the individual and by mankind whether the Way shall go up or down -- up to perfect Sanity, that is Mahatmaship or Buddhahood; or down, that is, to Insanity, or the complete loss of the true Sense of self, its replacement by Egotism.

These cyclic points are reached in the fourth Race of each round; in the Fourth Round; in the fourth stage of each incarnation -- but they all relate to the Fourth Principle in Nature and in Man -- not to either Spiritual or Physical evolution, except as corollaries to Intellectual or Psychic evolution. Either this middle or Psychic Principle comes under the entire control of the Ego, or that Ego is absorbed in it.

That such a psychic evolution in respect of certain classes of Egos is at hand, was the occasion for the Incarnation, the Message and the Mission of H. P. Blavatsky. It is the cycle for the renaissance of the Psychic Principle. It will become increasingly active. The real problem for the individual and for Theosophists at large is, therefore, not its suppression, but its understanding and control. Its predominance spells the medium, the sensitive, the pseudo-messiah, the cultist. Its regulated use, in full understanding and development, spells the Occultist -- the genuine Chela(2) of the Masters of H.P.B.

Let students ponder H.P.B.'s Last Message to the American Theosophists. Let them compare Sanity as defined in the teachings and conduct of H.P.B. with the definitions afforded by the writings and conduct of those who have claimed to teach in her Name and that of her Masters. The record is writ large for all who may desire to read. Psychism in full flower is only another word for Insanity. It is the cycle of Sanity or Insanity for those who represent or misrepresent the Theosophical Movement before the world.

Next article:
"Wisdom"--and its Background


COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Round" is a very long cyclic period of planetary manifestation for every plane (a cycle which has a beginning and an ending) -- from the most ethereal down to the densest material plane, which we are familiar with.
Back to text.

(2) "Chela" is a disciple, the pupil of an Adept or a group of Adepts.
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