"The unrighteous and vicious are always to be pitied in any case; and one can afford to forgive as well as pity him who is curable, and refrain and calm one's anger . . . avoid nursing ill-feeling. But upon him who is unwilling to engage in self-reformation and wholly evil, the vials of our objective wrath should be poured out. Good men ought, when occasion demands, to be both gentle and compassionate."
In this essay we'll examine self-reformation as an essential element within Perennialist practice. Perennialist teachers recognize that self-transformation is an activity that is never-ending for themselves and others, that even after death persons enter into a process of remorse and self-transformation. They also understand that genuine transformation must be carried out primarily by oneself, though others can provide insight and incentive.
Genuine self-transformation is only possible for a person who recognizes and acknowledges honestly and straightforwardly, to himself and others, that he has committed immoral acts--and is doing everything he can to unflinchingly correct his defects and make amends for his past malfeasances and enormities.
The Perennialist teacher possesses the higher understanding of how to help a person engage in self-reformation. She provides information concerning how to develop effective self-motivation for self-transformation and how to engage in efficacious self-transformation. With her higher wisdom she attempts to provide insight and motivation for self-reform only to those persons who have already evinced genuine remorse and desire for self-transformation.
The Perennialist teacher has the wisdom to know when a person or a group is so vile and irremediable that she does not even suggest that these persons reform themselve. She knows these persons would undoubtedly take her suggestion of self-reformation as a personal affront and think she was a fool to consider them in need of reformation when they are certain that she is the one who needs redemption and regeneration.
"One of the most fundamental things about all the obstructive refuse you have to contend with, is that it has released its relationship with the ultimate source of life, and is cooling off and dying of decomposition. Once you realize and understand this, thoroughly, you will never be tempted to lose hope and give in. For with this engraved on your mind, it is impossible to entertain personal antagonism: you know too well the reason for things being the way they are. And once above personal antagonism, and aware of your own free power of relationship with the source, you find the way cleared for the bringing in of the fresh, healthy, over-laying material."
Stewart Edward and Betty White, Across the Unknown
As we see in the opening quote from Plato in his Laws, we must sagaciously distinguish between those who are so "unrighteous and vicious" that they are irremediable and those who are remorseful and "curable." We should not give up on any person who is curable, which must include ourselves as long as we feel genuine remorse and wish to engage in self-reform.
Perennialists understand the difference between mere "personal antagonism" against immoral persons and "objective wrath" which should be poured out on those who are "wholly evil."
While self-improvement requires honest recognition of past errors, if you feel genuine remorse and are engaging in self-remediation, you also need to forgive yourself for what you have been and done--just as you need to forgive others who are remediable. It's inadvisable to try to associate with people who cannot forgive you for what past mistakes you've made. Such debased personalities have a completely distorted view of themselves as being right in all things.
The word self-reformation refers to the process of re-forming oneself, wisely selecting a new Form by which to pattern one's personal life. To do this requires our studying and then selecting a new Form or Model to serve as the archetype for our entire character and behavior. This is why it is so important for young people to become acquainted with highly intelligent, discerning, moral people who can serve as a model. Unfortunately, even being acquainted with outstanding person does not insure that the person will pattern his life after these Exemplars.
I had the very great privilege to come in contact with one such Exemplar when I was in middle and high school. Mr. O. H. Attebery was the director of our high school orchestra. This was in a small hamlet in Oklahoma, population twenty-five hundred, yet in fifty district, state, tri-state and national contests, this orchestra won highest honors in forty of them and second highest honors in the others--a remarkable achievement. Mr. Attebery possessed extraordinary qualities of being, inspiring many of his students to achieve to the height of their capability. Yet his advanced spiritual state was "hidden" within his work as an orchestra director, discernible only to those "with eyes to see."
Some persons, including myself, have found it necessary to also create our own Forms or Models after which to pattern our lives. It requires very early discernment and awareness for a young person to select a worthy model for their lives.
One of the most destructive elements of capitalism is that it inculcates in all its victims--all persons in the world-wide capitalist system--belief in and adherence to a single model of human life: dog-eat-dog competition, the rich murdering the poor without compunction and the poor passively accepting its slaughter.
Thus, we must look to non-capitalist, progressive models with which to re-form our lives. The
communist and socialist "forms" of human society have proven to be abject failures. The only Form or Archetype of human society that is viable is the Commonwealth Form as depicted in
The New Commonwealth.
In selecting new Forms or Models for our personal lives, we should select only those Exemplars who have developed themselves into
True Humans those who have engaged in the the complete development of the human essence--progressive awareness:
Increasing one's understanding: peeling away our personal illusions, at whatever level we happen to be
Critical thinking: forming one's personal beliefs by basing them on evidence
Self-awareness: developing an autonomous self that is able to think and act on its own initiative
Critical consciousness: going beyond merely personal development to a genuine concern for human welfare in general; learning to perceive social, political, and economic injustice and learning to take action against the oppressive elements of reality
Enlightened discernment: casting light on social challenges and philosophical themes and developing social infrastructures which allow for greater freedom and creativity
Progressive activities: working in whatever ways possible to expose tyranny and develop concepts and structures allowing people to join in forming a commonwealth community in which the good of all is the goal
"The deeper secrets and laws of our being are self-protected; to
learn them requires an adaptation of
character and purpose, and a humility of mind and spirit, inconsistent with those displayed by the perverse or
merely curious enquirer. To understand, let alone practically to explore, the Hermetic Mystery is not for
every one--at least, at his present state of evolutional unfolding . . . Only to those whose spiritual destiny has
already equipped them with a certain high measure of moral and intellectual fitness will even a rough notional
apprehension of it be practicable."
Walter Leslie Wilmhurst, Introduction to M. A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850
Self-reform is essential to the entire Perennialist Program, because a person must overcome elemental moral and intellectual defects in order to understand Perennialist teachings or engage in advanced Perennialist activities such as:
The Perennial Tradition possesses an actual science or technology for helping specially selected students develop higher states of consciousness. Perennialist books, essays, exercises, and stories contain metaphysically designed elements which act on the student's psyche (personality and mind) to produce precise effects. The prescribed elements effect results relative to students' capabilities.
To assist genuine seekers, the Perennialist Teacher provides
spiritual diagnoses to indicate what specific elements must be reformed. If the seeker is able to attain understanding of his diagnosis and works assiduously at self-remediation, then the teacher is able to provide specific "prescriptions"--recommended activities for overcoming defects or attaining specific capabilities.
"Every man by nature is and ought to be his own friend. Whereas the excessive love of self is in reality the source to each man of all offences; for the lover is blinded about the beloved, so that he judges wrongly of the just, the good, and the honourable, and thinks that he ought always to prefer himself to the truth. But he who would be a great man ought to regard, not himself or his interests, but what is just, whether the just act be his own or that of another. Through a similar error men are induced to fancy that their own ignorance is wisdom, and thus we who may be truly said to know nothing, think that we know all things; and because we will not let others act for us in what we do not know, we are compelled to act amiss ourselves. Wherefore let every man avoid excess of self-love, and condescend to follow a wiser man than himself, not allowing any false shame to stand in the way."