February 2010

Fundamental Guide to Living: The Fulfillment of Desire

   In order to make Theosophy practical, its fundamental principles must become a living power. In order to keep the power of theosophical ideas alive in the world, they must be put into practice. That human principle which arouses and guides the living power of theosophical ideas and their practical application is desire. The aim of human action is to bring about change. The purpose of change is to achieve the end in view or to reach a specific goal. All those engaged in the true service of humanity are united by bonds forged by similarity of aim, purpose and especially universal truths.

What is a universal truth? A universal truth is an enduring basis for thought and action that can be perceived and applied by all human beings. It may be perceived and applied at any time, in every circumstance and at any place. Most importantly, it is self-evident. It does not require blind belief, acceptance of outside authority or superhuman powers beyond the capacities of the human mind. Theosophical principles are statements of universal truths based on the accumulated experience of ages of human inquiry. They are propositions that can be checked, tested and verified by each and every human being.

Since desire is key to living the theosophical life, it is important to determine universal truths regarding desire. The first universal truth to consider is that all human action begins with and depends upon desire. Nothing can be done, nothing can be created, nothing can be preserved, nothing can be destroyed, nothing can be changed without the desire to do, to create, to preserve, to destroy or to change. Such desire does not arise spontaneously. A human being must generate the desire to act and the desire to change in order to achieve a goal. The attainment of the goal is the fulfillment of desire.

The second universal truth to consider is that there are two kinds of desires. There are selfish desires and unselfish desires. Selfish desires manifest in many obvious and subtle ways but they all have one characteristic in common. The fulfillment of a selfish desire is to receive personal reward for action. The person who desires selfishly is attached to the results of action. The key to understanding selfish desire is to realize that it is not the object that we desire but the way it makes us feel. To achieve the object of one’s selfish desire is pleasant and gratifying, but the personal gratification that is obtained by achieving the object of selfish desire is always short-lived. We want more of that feeling so we continuously pursue more and more of the object. Continuous contact with the object of desire is satiating and reduces the pleasure and personal gratification. Still seeking that feeling of person gratification, we abandon that object of selfish desire and pursue a new object. And so we go on and on. Those who pursue the objects of desire selfishly are never content or fulfilled in an enduring sense. They may have things but inwardly they feel restless or empty.

On the other hand, an unselfish desire finds fulfillment in the successful accomplishment of action made for the benefit of others. One may begin by desiring wealth, knowledge, power and capability as a precondition for the desire to help others and find enrichment, wisdom, power and ability. Stated another way, one may desire to fit themselves to be the better

able to help and teach others. When we desire and work for the fulfillment of the desires of others, we are fulfilled ourselves. As we enhance the lives of others, we are enhanced. As individuals we never loose what we unselfishly accomplish for another. In fact, we are now and will become the sum total of all we have done for others and given to others. There is personal fulfillment and gratification from unselfish desire to help others, but it is not fleeting or diminishing. It is enduring and expansive.

The third universal truth to consider is that even unselfish desire must be guided with discrimination or wisdom. Not all objects of desire, even when pursued unselfishly for the benefit of others, are in the highest interest and service of humanity. What kind of wealth, knowledge, power and ability does humanity need most? In order to answer this question, we need to know why we are here and what our true purpose in life is. The objects we choose to desire for others and for ourselves will largely depend on the end in view, the perceived goal of the changes we desire to make. This problem will be addressed in the next issue of Theosophical Independence.

However, for now, we can move on to the fourth universal truth regarding desire and that is: We Are Not Our Desires. We are the observers of all the desires, weak and strong, selfish and unselfish, that change, grow and diminish before the constant and unchanging awareness of the enduring perceiver. As we are not our desires, we are always free to stand back, observe and freely choose which desires to pursue and whether we will pursue them selfishly or unselfishly.


It is desire and passion which caused us to be born, and will bring us to birth again and again in this body or in some other. It is by passion and desire we are made to evolve through the mansions of death called lives on earth. It was by the arising of desire in the unknown first cause, the one absolute existence, that the whole collection of worlds was manifested, and by means of the influence of desire in the now manifested world is the latter kept in existence.

As the old Hermetists say: "Behind will stands desire." For whether we wish to do well or ill we have to first arouse within us the desire for either course. The good man who at last becomes even a sage had at one time in his many lives to arouse the desire for the company of holy men and to keep his desire for progress alive in order to continue on his way. Even a Buddha or a Jesus had first to make a vow, which is a desire, in some life, that he would save the world or some part of it, and to persevere with the desire alive in his heart through countless lives. And equally so, on the other hand, the bad man life after life took unto himself low, selfish, wicked desires, thus debasing instead of purifying this principle. On the material and scientific side of occultism, the use of the inner hidden powers of our nature, if this principle of desire be not strong the master power of imagination cannot do its work, because though it makes a mold or matrix the will cannot act unless it is moved, directed, and kept up to pitch by desire.

W.Q. Judge: Ocean of Theosophy

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