THEOSOPHICAL NOTES, An Independent Publication, Not the Organ of Any Theosophical Lodge or Association. October 1951 p. 25-27
On the Importance of Being Affirmative
We wish to introduce a new criterion for judging books, people, ideas and attitudes. It is, in fact, a Panacea for universal-minded Impassive Discriminators - those who are intent upon finding the Best in the Worst and the Worst in the Best. Its keynote is Affirmation, pure and simple. If anyone says anything affirmative, that is, positive, he may be approved. If negative, he must be quashed. The criterion of the Affirmative is, we submit, safe, harmless, and absolutely foolproof. Even a child can evaluate such formidable edifices as James Jones' From Here to Eternity without kinking his hair or twisting his morals. All that is required is that the user of this universal panacea for troubled critics should attain a universal frame of mind.
Now what, we will ask, is a universal frame of mind? First, if in listening to some person, or in reading a book, we gain the impression that the person strongly believes what he says or writes - then, beware! Not that convictions themselves are bad, but the Impassive Discriminator has learned through painful experience that strong convictions, when presented in any but the most unemotional and impassive manner, are almost always simply prejudices masquerading as rational convictions. We cannot be too careful around people who have carelessly formed the habit of expressing themselves freely and frankly. Such regrettable spontaneity is catching, and is sure to raise the bumps of emotionalism on the smooth fair skin of the Impassive Discriminator.
Let us say right here that one 0f the paramount qualities of the Impassive Discriminator is a complete absence of emotion when discussing any matter of importance. Let the slightest tinge of color invade the cheek of one engaged in an intellectual conversation; let his voice be raised one note above its accustomed pitch, and the attentive Discriminator needs no more evidence to form his conclusions. It is not necessary to listen further to what the person is saying. In fact, it may be considered as positively harmful to pay much attention to anyone so lost to reason that he can still become excited in an endeavor to put over his point.
Besides, as has somewhere been written, "enthusiasm breeds conviction!"
This, then, vastly simplifies the task of the young Discriminator. He is in duty bound to mark as faulty and exceedingly suspicious anything another says, if that person cannot maintain a faultlessly dead-level monotone of vocal delivery, and an equally stone-cold manner and exterior. What is needed is "objectivity" - akin, perhaps, to that "high indifference" of which the Gita speaks. He who possesses this rare attribute is above the petty fault-finding of the amateur critic. He has attained that penetrating vision which can discern a kernel of truth in the most revoltingly vicious pile of falsehoods, and hold it triumphantly aloft for all to worship. Gone - banished to the farthest reaches of Limbo - those out-dated critics who would--- 26
judge a book as a whole, taking, its dominant tone and message and evaluating that on the basis of a moral philosophy. Up! the banner of the enlightened, the Impassive Discriminators, who scorn to use such obvious methods, who deign not to waste their talent on books which every normal reader can see are of a nature to uplift and inspire the reader.
No, the keen-edged sword of spiritual discernment is not to be blunted in scratching the diamond which lies on the surface of the ground ready for the taking. Let us instead reap the greater glory of penetrating the prime-ordeal slime and rescuing the pearl - there must be a pearl, where there is so much slime bent hiding it! - imprisoned in its hideous embrace! Such a grand task is alone worthy of the efforts of the Discriminator!
Let us strike out courageously (ah! glowing word, mascot of our manhood, badge of our liberation) let us abandon the trodden highway of routine and seek fresh fields where our researches shall be original and breath-taking! Of what value to point the obvious value of the obviously good? Let us rather show the double-edge of our discrimination in disclosing the hidden value of the obviously bad; that is a task which takes talent, which calls to the ever-yearning Adventurer in man.
"Man is continually wanting to do two different things at the same time," is the profound analysis of human nature which one of our foremost exponents is fond of pronouncing. Men! here is the chance to do! Read the sultriest, the most suggestive books that your impulsive fancy draws you to. Read them, we say, and enjoy them, too - have we not been told that whatever is worth while doing at all is worth enjoying? And while you are doing what you want to do - the dearer - do also that which your intuition tells you is the better. Bring to bear your spiritual perception, and find that in the book which is Affirmative, Positive, Theosophical, and acclaim it far and wide.
Friends! Does this not open before you a larger vista, a glimpse of far horizons of perfect impartiality, and equality? For even the best of men has evil in him, and since even the worst man can be shown to have good in him, are they not completely and perfectly matched? This is the missing link of democracy. It is not enough to say that all men are equal because all men are souls, and potentially perfect. We need to see that all men are equal spiritually and psychically because they all contain both good and evil. It is the self-imposed task of the Impassive Discriminators to show up the little evils in the good men, and to uncover with assiduity the tiny virtues in the evil men, so that all will float on an unruffled sea of equality.
What could be sweeter? *
* This article, received as we "go to press," seems a little pointed. Could it be another criticism of the handling of "Eternity?"