This year the population of the world will reach an enormous 7 billion people. Each one of us has his or her own character! Every tree, plant, animal, atom or molecule has its own character. We see flowers developing from buds, and a bud from a seed. The key question is where does the seed come from with its predetermined programme, of form, colour, and odour? And humans where do we get our characters from? Do we get them by chance or do we have to earn them? Our characters are composed of our talents, capacities, tendencies, likes, dislikes, loves, hatreds, instincts, attractions and repulsions. A whole list of plusses and minuses. Firstly I will describe what character is, and then I will try to find scientific support for character as energy and end with character building.


What is character?


The word comes to us via Latin from the Greek kharaktēr a stamping tool. A distinctive mark and from this a description of a person’s qualities. It is the combination of psychological traits that distinguish one person from other people.


Looking around us we see some people that are gifted and talented, while there are those that are very limited in capacities. Then there are those that are fit and healthy, while others are invalids for life. He who sees all these inequalities may rightfully ask: Why all this injustice? Why are people not all healthy, gifted and prosperous? Some people say that we inherit our characters and tendencies. But even here the answer is still insufficient to the inequalities, injustices and misfortunes that affect so many of us.


 To find meaningful answers we have to dig deeper into the meaning of life. See what science has discovered about matter and life.


Science and occult knowledge


Science has come a long way since the days of Sir. Isaac Newton. In his day, 1684, Newton had formulated basic ideas as guide lines to learn how Nature works. These provisional ideas became crystallized through time. Men held the belief that the matter of the universe was composed of ultimate particles, indivisible “billiard-ball” like atoms, which formed the elements. Solid matter was thought to be the building blocks of the universe. Matter was classified as existing in three states — solids, liquids, and gases — but the nature of energy, electricity and magnetism was a mystery.


Today we are living in an age of amazing revelations. Scientific investigators have made great efforts to discover what is space, time, gravity, light, sound, electricity and magnetism, heat, force and energy and matter itself. In recent years quantum mechanics and the relativistic physics have become increasingly important. The discovery of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) which is the genetic material of most living organisms has become so established and common that we accept it without question. In RNA (ribonucleic acid), a complex living organic compound in living cells, are found the hereditary material. The next step which is highly complex has become the most recent breakthrough. It is the mapping of the genome, producing a complete DNA sequence for any particular organism. Science is still intensively busy looking for the answers to life by examining matter, even into subatomic levels.  


Theosophy the occult knowledge


The word theosophy, comes from the Greek theos meaning God and sophia meaning knowledge or wisdom. Theosophy is wisdom and knowledge. We cannot teach wisdom, it has to be acquired. Theosophy is an ethical doctrine, a way of living. It also offers great intellectual revelations. Through the disclosure of occult knowledge in the form of theosophy, we learn that the matter of science is far from being the Primary Element or building blocks of the universe. In fact it is the lowest of the seven states of substance forms that are manifest in the Universe.


Modern science is slowly approaching theosophical knowledge. It has discovered that matter is potentially energy. When visible it is kinetic energy, or energy in motion. Science postulates the law of the conservation of energy. Energy or matter never disappears completely but is just transformed into other modes of substance. Take water for example. When heated it turns into steam and rises into the air becoming invisible to the naked eye. It later cools down in the higher atmosphere and forms clouds. Then it returns to the earth as, rain, snow, sleet, hail or mist. It also freezes becoming an iceberg, and through global warming, heated thus turning back to water. A complete circle, showing that water never completely disappears, but only changes form, even when it is invisible.


How does this all relate to our characters? This is just the point we are trying to make. To discover the truth in Nature we have to keep an open mind. Man is part of and has an intimate relation to Nature. Taking the analogy of water, nothing completely disappears. When things disappear from our sight or become invisible to the naked eye, they just change their form. Everything changes form from moving energy to potential energy and back again.  Matter is driven forward by something invisible which is known as consciousness. These two are inseparable and form the bipolarity in all forms manifest in Nature. We humans are formed out of our physical bodies (which is 70% water) and our consciousness. When our physical bodies die it does not mean that this is the end. We just become invisible to the naked eye and what disappears becomes potential energy in an invisible form.


Studying Nature and the Single Earth-Life Theory


When we learn to understand ourselves we discover how Nature and the universe work. The idea of a single life on earth is contradictory to the operations of Nature. These ideas, viz., that God created man and, that we evolve from matter via lower species such as the apes, have in common the single earth-life idea. These ideas are incompatible with a belief in Justice and the natural law of cause and effect, as well as the scientific postulate, the Law of the Conservation of Energy. Nothing in the world dies forever. All things pass and change. Reincarnation is naturally more in harmony with cause and effect and justice. On the material plain modern science has established that matter and energy are indestructible. Matter and energy undergo many transformations, but they were never created and can never be destroyed. Man’s Soul or consciousness is the purest form of energy in the universe. His consciousness creates his physical body to exist and experience life. This he does through rebirth after a period of rest after death.


Besides our physical body and our consciousness we also have mind, which is the power for reason. Modern psychology has proved that the majority of people use a very small percentage of their total mental capacity. One of the reasons for this is that our schools teach us only to accumulate knowledge. We are taught very little on how to digest and use knowledge after it has been acquired. We should get into the habit of learning the how and why of things. The basis of establishing character formation is the fact that Life as a term and idea has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is universal and infinite; it is beginningless and endless.  It manifests itself in innumerable forms. It alternates between two main phases of itself, that is birth and death. Birth being dynamically active producing evolutionary growth and death being recessive, resting and preparing for another cycle of dynamic, outgoing energy.


Study our minds


We are travellers on a long, amazing journey through the universe that is never still. Each one of us has the freewill to choose our own direction. Our mind is the key. Like it or not, our mind is always creating, affecting our world and ourselves, affecting our present and our future. We need to understand how our mind works and then we can discover how Nature works.


Our character is formed by our mental and moral qualities which are distinctive to us as individuals. The forces and impulses of our minds are always looking for new channels for growth in life. This collection of forces and impulses form our characters. Character is therefore a growing thing. It manifests through our talents, capacities, genius, leanings, and tendencies. As you can see character is formed inwardly. 


Our characters are formed by our minds and the thoughts that we cherish. No thought was ever created in the human brain. The brain is a receiving and sending station for signals and messages of every kind. Thoughts are energies. When they pass through our minds we tend to colourize them. For example, we get red in the face when we are insulted. We get excited about things we hear. Our character is formed by these colourizations. We have made ourselves as a result of all our thoughts and deeds. The Eastern Wisdom puts it simply as follows:

If you sow a thought you reap an act;

                                             If you sow an act you reap a habit;

    If you sow a habit you reap a character;

        If you sow a character you reap a destiny.


In the light of repeated existences through rebirth and the sequences of cause and effect we can solve the riddle of our characters. Man is himself responsible for his heredity, the good and evil that befall him and he is morally responsible for all his acts. The continuity of our consciousness is unbroken. Man is a continuous flow of consciousness in life.


Character building


Modern men are always producing or achieving something of material value that can be measured by the outward senses and passions. These lead them away from their inner selves. They need to learn to develop their minds and discover their souls and consciousness; these are the only things that they can take with them when they die. As the old saying goes, “Shrouds have no pockets.” It is not an easy thing to change our habits of character. Only by daily practise can we learn to develop our minds. The importance in character building is the need for a sound foundation that can support the mighty structure of the enlightened mind. Thoughts and ideas are energies. If we use them for evil ends we will only end up by destroying ourselves. 


What do we mean by “Man know thyself”? Are we our physical bodies that constantly change as we grow older? Or are we our minds that keeps being led astray by thoughts, emotions and ideas? Can we learn to treat triumph and disaster just the same? By learning to know ourselves, we find that we can’t be our physical bodies. These change constantly and then die after growing old, for most of us. I was recently at a burial service of a beloved old lady. It was very clear to me that she was no longer in her body. Her consciousness had left the body that she was so concerned about during her lifetime. This means that we cannot be the physical bodies that we spend so much time trying to make it comfortable. 


When we learn to treat triumph and disaster the same, we begin to lay down a solid foundation to build our characters. The mind is a powerful instrument. We have to use it to get rid of unwanted habits of thoughts and deeds, and replace them by virtuous behaviour. Man is a composite being, formed out body, mind and spirit. He is essentially a centre of creative consciousness. Therefore man is basically Mind. He is not yet highly evolved because of too much attachment to emotions and desires. Above the mind there we find a centre of spiritual intuition, a direct perception for Truth. In this centre we find wisdom, sympathy and compassion. Higher than this we find the Divine Self a spark of Cosmic Divinity.


By focusing on essentials we can learn more about ourselves. For example food and dress are of little importance when we work on spiritual improvement. Although eating healthy food is important. We should learn to cultivate a sense of humour. Try to laugh at ourselves even at our attempts at self-improvement. This way we become less self-deluded at our progress. By developing this mental attitude we become more charitable. We should avoid focusing on our inadequacies. These are a trap because they encourage us to keep feeding them. They will die out when we stop refuelling them.


In the Dhammapada, a Buddhist book of the right path in life we find that, “Hatred ceases not by hatred, hatred cease by love.” Looking at it scientifically, hatred is accumulated energy. As we said earlier, according to scientific discoveries, energy cannot just disappear. It must be transformed to other forms or modes of motion. To control our lower passions we have to lead them to higher goals. Thus love for something vulgar can be transformed by love for something higher.


What method we use is of little importance. The method must always be secondary to the goal. All religions and scriptures as well as schools of self-development are only methods. They are subject to the law of change. They are born, they grow up, they grow old and they die. Truth is our goal. It alone is constant. The methods are only pointers towards Truth. We should use the methods as tools. Like a craftsman uses different tools to create a masterpiece. When they have served their purpose they should be put away. Religions and self-development philosophies point the way. We alone have to walk the path. Enlightenment should come from within. Only we can work out our own salvation. No genuine teacher will allow his followers to worship him. A true teacher has a deep and genuine humility, and a profound will to serve humanity.


As the Master K.H., who is behind the forming of the Theosophical Society says in his letter to A. P. Sinnett: “The first and last consideration is whether we can do good to our neighbour, no matter how humble he may be; we do not permit ourselves even to think of the danger of any contumely, abuse or injustice visited upon ourselves. We are ready to be spat upon and crucified — not once — if real good to another can come of it”.


There is wisdom in the world, wisdom that is not apparent to the eyes of men. There is a secret path that leads to that wisdom.  It starts in the very root of your own heart. There is a secret method of living which provides the necessary conditions for treading that path. It enables man to reach that hidden wisdom and make it his own. These three: the hidden wisdom to be attained, the path which leads to it, and the method of living — these are the main keynotes of the message of theosophy to the world.


Taking one more look at science. Everything that is alive lives in something greater than itself. Everything that is, is comprised of an infinite number of beings that are on lower scale than itself. The electron one of the smallest things that we know of lives and has its consciousness in an atom. An atom lives and has its consciousness in a molecule. A molecule lives and has its consciousness within the cells of our bodies.  So do we live and exist, have our consciousness in a greater being — the Earth. The earth is part of our solar system. Our solar system is a part of our universe or Milky Way. Our milky way is a part of our Local Group of about 30 galaxies similar to our own, and so on, and on. Everything, having its own inherent character, formed by itself. This transcends the boundaries of our imagination and the limited powers of the human mind. The Absolute is beyond all comprehension.  Be humble and you will remain whole.


Theosophy has three fundamental propositions:


First: The unity of all Life — the Oneness of being — the essential unity of all that lives in the boundless Universe.


Second: The Divine Origin and destiny of Man — the divine nature of his consciousness.


Third: The Path to Knowledge and Wisdom is through the union of the human consciousness with the Divine Consciousness at the heart of man himself.


Our characters are amazing when you come to think of it. They are unique, just like our DNA and yet united to the Oneness of all in the Universe.  The future and the way we are does not come up from before to meet us; it comes streaming up from behind over our heads. We have an eternity before us. Theosophy teaches a doctrine of hope, with great promises for the future. At every instant in time we have a new choice. In the past we made yourselves to be what we are now. So now we have the opportunity of vision. We can make yourselves to be what we want in the future. We are a reproduction, a cyclic evolutionary reproduction of ourselves. We come from the past, live in the present and are marching into the future. There is our destiny.


Source references:


Isis Unveiled, vol I.                       H. P. Blavatsky, p. 152.

Karma for today’s traveller.          Phra Bhasakorn Bhavilai

Theosophy explains life.              E. Cunningham, Theosophical Forum December, 1946, p.596

Concentration and meditation.     C. Humphreys.

The search within.                        C. Humphreys.

The Esoteric Tradition, vol II.       G. de Purucker, p. 674.

Wind of the Spirit.                         G. de Purucker, p. 30. 

Oxford English dictionary.

A scientific spiritual philosophy.     B. Moffett,  Sunrise 1975. p. 80.

The Science of Nature.                  O. Tyberg.

The dream that never dies.            Boris de Zirkoff.


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessaruily those of the Theosophical Society Pasadena.