There is a tremendous emphasis on Desire in our modern Western society. Fulfilling personal desires is the basis of much of our advertising, entertainment, education, and even our very idea of what constitutes happiness. The extent to which we satisfy our desires is a major measure of socio-economic status and our measure of self-worth. Why are we so caught up in Desire often at the expense of the finer qualities of our Being? According to Theosophy the reason for our love-affair with Desire is because the majority of Mankind’s’ consciousness is centred currently in the ‘Desire Mind’ aspect of our inner constitution rather than the ‘Compassion Mind’ aspect of our multiple and mostly invisible nature.


Desires and how to deal with them have been a real problem for most religions throughout the ages. Desire has usually been seen as the enemy of those wishing to live a good life according to the dictates of many different religions. Repression, Guilt, and even punishment have been inflicted on those seen to be indulging their desires. Whole religious systems have featured the question of temptation and resisting desires and this theme is central to Puritanical and Fundamentalist forms of any religious tradition. But is Desire really the Enemy of the Good?


Theosophical Definition of Desire: Theosophy does not view Desire in itself as inherently evil. Theosophical writer Dr Purucker defines Desire as a colourless force which brings ideas into manifestation made evil or good according to the motivation of the ‘Desirer’:


“…Desire: the fourth substance-principle of which the human constitution is composed: it’s desire or the driving, impelling force. Born from the interaction of Atman (Spirit), Buddhi (Compassion), and Manas (Mind), Kama (Desire) per se is a colourless force, good or bad according to the way the mind and soul use it. It is the seat of living electrical impulses, desires, aspirations, considered in their energetic aspect. When a person follows his lower impulses and centres his consciousness in the body and astral nature, he is directing that force downwards. When he aspires and opens his heart to the influence of his Higher Manas and Buddhi, he is directing that force upwards and thus progressing evolution…” – from G de Purucker, Encyclopedic Glossary.


Where Did Desire Come From? If Desire is so important in creating our manifest universe – where did it come from? According to Theosophy, we all arose from the One Essence at the beginning of the manifestation of our Universe. We are now on the road back to Self-Conscious reabsorption with that Essence in the far future for most of us. Going back to the dawn of creation (13.7 billion years ago according to modern science but much longer according to Theosophy) in order for the ‘One-Ness’ to manifest itself so we lesser beings can have an environment to learn in this Universe, ‘It’ had to ‘step-down’ its energies from a higher plane to this comparatively low plane of consciousness. To achieve this transformation of energy and thus, the creation of the material universe from the ‘Idea’ of the ‘One’, it had to energize the ‘Idea’ of the Universe, ie. it had to Desire that the Universe exist on the material plane or as Theosophy says: “Desire first arose in It” – utilizing the mysterious force known in Theosophy as ‘Fohat’ to create the material Universe. Thus energized by Desire, the One became the ‘Many’ and we now live in a dualistic universe of spirit and matter where we can chose to apply Desire in positive or negative ways as we progress on our Path of spiritual learning.


What is Fohat? “…the Cosmic ‘Life’ or Vitality by which by which ideas become material reality is known by its ancient Tibetan name in Theosophy – ‘Fohat’. It is the cosmic life or vitality; bipolar cosmic vital electricity, equivalent to the light of the Logos, ‘Daiviprakriti’, Eros, the fiery whirlwind, etc. As the bridge between spirit and matter, Fohat is the collectivity of intelligent forces through which cosmic ideation impresses itself upon substance, thus forming the various worlds of manifestation…” from G de Purucker Encyclopedic Glossary.


Getting Back to the ‘Oneness’: as we progress along the Path of spiritual evolution, Humanity, over vast ages began to lose sight of our inner connection with the Oneness as we became enmeshed in the attractions of the material universe. As Theosophy would say, we became subject to illusion – ‘Maya’ – and the three ‘Gunas’ or three qualities/aspects of all things in the manifest world – ‘Slothefullness (Tamas), Passion (Rajas), and the Spiritual (Sattva) – all of this enmeshes us further in the material world and directs our energies into objects related to the material world instead of recognizing their innate Oneness. We become ‘attached’ to objects of the senses and we are motivated into the ‘Desire’ aspects of our mind catching us up further into materialism, ie human behaviour generally as we see it everywhere today. Our job is to transcend this illusion of separateness from All-being, and self consciously work our way back to the Oness again starting with transferring our centre of consciousness from the ‘Me-Centred’ Desire Mind to the ‘Other-Centred’ Compassion Mind.


Social and Legal Methods: Given that our attachment to Desire for materialism can cause a multitude of problems (and let’s not forget, some advantages too!), how does society deal with Desire. The traditional way has been through outright punishment with physical force and repression imposed by social and religious conventions. Both of these externally imposed controls come with a host of problems such as burdening the judicial system/overcrowded jails though to all the psychological horrors of repression seen in our psychiatric hospitals and catalogued by psychiatrists such as Freud. At the other extreme, we are witness to the indulgence of Desires allowed by our modern free-thinking society, again with all the problems we see on the TV news and in the health-care system. In the final analysis, most of us seem to learn to curb our desires by endlessly repeating our mistakes until we learn better by suffering the results, ie. banging our stubborn heads against the proverbial brick wall!


Religious Methods – External Controls – Christianity and Islam: Mostly monumental religions have conspired with governments to control Desires by the use of fear based on concepts of divine judgement and retribution. Such religions impose prescriptive rules based on revealed scriptures such as The Holy Bible and The Holy Quran. Fear as a method of control takes many forms including after-death retribution – Satan and Hell. Fear of a monumental religious organization and legal system such as Shariah Law and social ostracism. Fear of being categorized as an outsider, or non-believer, and all that can mean for the quality of life. Fear related to the all-pervasive power of guilt and the attraction of the confessional. Many religions promote the idea that only the power of faith and surrender to an external God can overcome innate human failings manifesting as Desires.


Control of Desires according to Buddhism: quite the opposite approach has been advocated by Buddhism and Hinduism from India, and Taoism from China. These religions, and many other philosophies based on them, seek to strengthen our internalized control of Desires arising from attachment to materialism.


Buddhism looks to the source of Desires described as the Four Noble Truths:


  1. ‘Attachment’ or ‘Thirst’ (‘Trishna’) for the objects of sense is the real cause of suffering and heartache in the world.
  2. “Attachment’ can be made to cease by:
  3. ‘Living the Life’ conducive to breaking attachment to materialism by:
  4. Application of the ‘Exalted Eightfold Path’.


Along life’s journey it is inevitable that we all encounter the ‘Three Awakening Sights’ – Disease, Old, Age, and Death – which eventually will cause us to realize the necessity of breaking the cycle of suffering through attachment to desires and thus to apply the Exalted Eightfold Path being:


Wisdom: 1. Right Views. 2. Right Intentions.


Morality: 3. Right Speech. 4. Right Action. 5. Right Livelihood.


Meditation: 6. Right Effort. 7. Right Mindfulness. 8. Right Concentration.


Further, Buddhism provides practical mechanisms called the six ‘Paramitas’ (Perfections) which are necessary qualities to achieve liberation from the Lower Desires. These are: Generosity, Ethical Discipline, Patience, Joyous Perseverance, Meditative Stabilization, and Wisdom. In the words of the great Tibetan Buddhist spiritual teacher, Tsong-Kha-Pa, explaining the Paramitas:


“Why should we develop these particular qualities along the Path of spiritual learning? To achieve the aims of others for spiritual understanding you must first help them with material goods as they won’t appreciate spirituality if they have an empty stomach! Since no benefit will come from Generosity accompanied by harmfulness towards living beings, you need Ethical Discipline, which has great purpose for others; this is the state of desisting from harm to others and the causes of harm. To bring this to its full development, you need Patience that disregards the harm done to you. You need to develop the ability to fix your mind on your ideals so you need to develop Meditative Stabilization. Calmness and single-mindedness in the service of others lead to Wisdom. None of this is attainable by laziness, so you need Joyous Perseverance in pursuit of wisdom through service to others and so this quality is the basis of the other Perfections.” [These comments are based on Tsong-Kha-Pa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment]. 


A tall order you might say! Let’s sum it all up with a little story from the Buddha’s life which could apply to all of us: “A man asked The Buddha: “I want Happiness”. Lord Buddha said: First remove ‘I’ – that’s Ego. Then remove ‘Want’ – that’s Desire. See now you are only left with – ‘Happiness’!”


Control of Desires according to Hinduism: The central message of Hinduism is to be ‘Non – Attached’ to the result of our actions, and to materialism. Instead we should do the best that we can in any given situation and trust to the reality of the Law of Karma as to the outcome, and accept whatever happens. As they say in India “Manushya Yatram Bhagvan Kripa” – “A man/woman should try and then the God(s) will bless you”. The spiritual ‘flow-chart’ for achieving non-attachment is indicated by Lord Krishna in the Hindu religious classic, The Bhagavad Gita (The Lord’s Song) where he says to his student, Arjuna: “A person who attends to the inclinations of the senses eventually becomes absorbed in them at the expense of pretty much everything else. From this Absorption in the Senses is created Passion; from Passion – Anger; from Anger – Delusion; from Delusion – a loss of Memory and Discrimination; from the loss of Discrimination – the Loss of All!”


The great Hindu Indian statesman, Mahatma Gandhi, put this exalted advice in a more down-to-earth way when he encouraged us to – ‘make a straight line’ from our Desires, through our Thoughts and subsequent Actions, for he said:


Your Beliefs become your Thoughts,

Your Thoughts become your Words,

Your Words Become your Actions,

Your Actions become your Habits,

Your Habits become your Values,

Your Values become your Destiny.

Managing Desires according to Taoism: Taoist sage, Lao Tzu, affirms that people that take less will always have more. People with insatiable desires end up becoming obsessed with the object of their “affection” which tends to throw their energies, and their thought processes, out of control. To Lao Tzu, greed without limits constituted the worse of the vices. If you work towards being content with what you have, you would find that you already have enough to be happy. One can easily reach Peace of Spirit when you limit the amount of desires to manifest in your life. Lao Tzu says: “The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself, the more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the Sage is to act but not to compete.”

But how do you get to this point of detachment from desires when modern society is pushing indulgence constantly? It all seems so overwhelming! Taoism advises that it is always better to deal with facts and situations while they are small, before they become bigger and more difficult.  If one is planning to reach a big goal, one should establish a series of small steps that would guide one safely to the destination.  This is essentially the principal of ‘Kaizen’: progress through small increments. As Lao Tzu says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Managing Desires: some ideas from Theosophy: As we have seen, the major religions have taken basically two paths to the management of Desires – external control through fear, punishment and faith in an external God; and internal control by strengthening our capacity to make right choices and building a bridge to our Inner God. Theosophy certainly falls into the second category in its recommendations to seek inward strength through a variety of simple and commonsense methods. A ‘grab-bag’ of such methods from Theosophy includes:


  • Accept the reality of the Law of Karma and the process of Reincarnation and this will have a salutatory affect on how we live our lives.


  • Consider the voice of our Conscience, which is nothing but the inner ‘remembrance’ of hard lessons learnt in previous lives.


  • Balance our reactions to life events by not going to extremes of emotion.


  • Exercise the Spiritual Will by doing what we know is Right.


  • We can solidify our character by attending to small things. By attacking small faults, and on every small occasion one by one. This will arouse the inner attitude of attention and caution. The small faults and small occasions being conquered, the character gradually grows stronger and more grounded in the higher aspirations.


  • Feelings and Desires are not wholly of the body. If the mind is deliberately taken off such subjects and placed on other and better ones, then the whole body will follow the mind and grow tractable. This struggle must be kept up, and after a while it will be easier.


  • Chanting and Mantras: desires arising from the lower self are likely to come on quickly and can be overwhelming. A time honoured way of projecting the mind and heart to higher aspects of our inner nature is to chant or repeat prayers or mantrams over and over to put us on a different and higher vibrationary level. Examples would be repeating the Lords Prayer for Christians or the Gayatri Mantram for people of Hindu background. If you want to experience something of the soothing affect of chanting a Mantram, then click here: to hear Deva Premal chanting the Gayatri Mantram.
  • Meditation: there are many and varied techniques of meditation ultimately aimed at strengthening our connection to our Higher Self within. Two methods are suggested by theosophical teachers as especially valuable:


  • Practice a nightly review of the day extracting from it what we have learnt that was of enduring spiritual value before going to sleep each night.


  • Practice meditation in the sense of absorption of thought and aspiration in the noblest ideal we can envisage. We don’t have to worry about specific postures, techniques or gurus; there will be a natural inflow of light into the nature, for our Inner Master, our real guru, is our Higher Self.


  • Follow our duties (‘Dharma’) in life without distraction by the lower desires. As one of our Leaders, William Quan Judge, said: “Dharma is the Talisman”.


  • Practice non-attachment to the results of our actions doing the best we can to fulfil our individual Dharma.


  • Consider our real self as ‘The Observer’ of our daily activities. Are we up to the high standards of behaviour of the Higher Self which is the Observer of the activities of the Lower Self? We are not a Unitary being subject to our lower desires, but a composite of forces including spirit which is the ‘Driver’ of the lower forces which are its ‘Vehicle’. We have the capacity to analyse our desires and ascribe them to an aspect of ourself rather than thinking they are controlling our whole self. We can then step outside of ourselves as ‘The Observer’ and see them for what they are – aspects of our lower self  which can be managed if we find the will-power and strategies to do so – a kind of ‘Spiritual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)’! As William Quan Judge said: “For Desire will cease to attract us when we no longer identify it with ourself.’ –WQJ Echoes of the Orient V.3, page 265 available online at:


  • Theosophy teaches us that man is a composite entity made up of the the different planes of the Universe with three competing ‘souls’ within us – the spiritual soul, the human soul and the animal soul. The temptation for us is to live in the animal side of our being when our future lies in the human and, eventually, the spiritual soul. We should analyse our thoughts and emotions to determine from which ‘soul’ they are emanating from, and whether we are going to grant them ‘house room’ in our consciousness. It is just because the great mass of people do not understand the processes which educe their thoughts, emotions and feelings that we find so much sorrow and suffering amongst men. For more information on this aspect, see ‘Human nature in the light of Theosophy’, by B. Finkernagel in the Theosophical Forum, Oct. 1940:


  • Consider always the purpose of our lives, ie, the attainment for ourselves and others of ‘Transcendance” or greater spiritual self-consciousness through experience in the world. Brotherhood and Service are the roots of this tree of spiritual growth – not the gaining of powers or self-growth or emancipation: these are the flowers and fruits. Are our actions and our use of Desire in accordance with our basic mission to move others, and ourselves onwards, and upwards spiritually to eventual self-conscious reabsorption into ‘The One”?


  • Follow the advice of all the great religions which in their own say as their central message: ‘Do unto Others as you would have them do to You’. This is the basis of all the world’s great religions as you can see below:


  • Baha’i: “Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.” — Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, 71
  • Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” — Udana-Varga, 5:18
  • Christianity: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” — Matthew 7:12
  • Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” — Analects 15:23
  • Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” — Mahabharata 5:1517
  • Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” — Sunnab
  • Jainism: “In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” — Lord Mahavir 24th Tirthankara
  • Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the law: all the rest is commentary.” — Talmud, Shabbat 31a
  • Native American: “Respect for all life is the foundation.” — The Great Law of Peace
  • Sikhism: “Don’t create enmity with anyone as God is within everyone.” — Guru Arjan Devji 259. Guru Granth Sahib
  • Zoroastrianism: “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.” — Dadistan-i-Dinik, 94:5


Your Mission – Should You Decide To Accept It! According to Theosophy, we are now living at the beginning of the ‘Kali Yuga’ or ‘Black Age’. This is the materialistically oriented era of our present 5th Root Race of the 4th Global Round of Humanity’s long evolutionary journey on the various visible and invisible globes of the Earth’s Being. This means that the majority of the world’s population is absorbed in the ‘Kama Manas’, or ‘Desire Mind’ creating the world with all its many challenges as we see it today.


Our mission is to follow the example of such advanced forerunners of Humanity such as Buddha, Christ, and Krishna, and direct our Desires to the development of the ‘Compassionate Mind’ – the ‘Buddhi Manas’ – leading to more enlightened patterns of living eventually for all Mankind.


These suggestions are based on the work of William Quan Judge especially his books Letters That Have Helped Me and Practical Occultism available as a book from our library, by purchase through our website, or free online at: – and –


“…the path to [spiritual] freedom is found in “unbinding the attachments that constitute one’s preference, desires, or inclinations”. To find God, one has to empty oneself of oneself, to make room for God to enter. Or, as Jesus said, “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; then shalt thou see clearly.” And it seems the only way to do that is to try and try again: daily practice…” – from Parabola Magazine Winter 2013.


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