Ethics & spirituality & polite lying

Katinka Hesselink, Oktober 2000

In the Theosophical Movement ethics have always been considered highly important for a spiritual life. In fact, many definitions of a "theosophist" start with the practice of Brotherhood. A true theosophist, therefore is not so much a member of a particular organization, but a practitioner of kindness and a person who does not feel distinctions according to race, creed, sex or religion to be of primary importance in judging the worth of a person.

Ethics - what does that mean, practically? In theosophy there are no hard and set rules of behavior. What is right for one, is wrong for another. Circumstances also change what is right behavior. Still there are a few signposts, which are in common between all religions. Don't do to your neighbor what you would not have done to yourself. Don't lie. Don't steal. Don't kill. 

Don't lie is one that is in fact probably more important than it seems. In fact - does politeness fall under this rule? The reason given for this rule is a very strict one in my opinion. It is that a lie changes a persons vision of reality. Therefore a lie makes it harder to find out what the truth in any given situation is. A polite lie may make life easier in the short term, but it does not at all ease the burden of the few who are too honest to lie - but stand alone because other people in fact would rather keep their place in the organization, than speak out for what they believe in. 

Those who would search in spirituality for another reason to do as they please, without regard for the consequences for those around them, should leave theosophy aside. Theosophy is for those who instinctively know that the only way to change the world, is to make sure that what is condemned in others, is expelled from ones own life. So if hypocrisy is condemned, no lie should flow from our lips. This may not be an easy way of living, but then spirituality is not really an easy road.