Alice Bailey made the statement that harmlessness is really a state of mind. It’s not always just an action, but it’s an action based on a poised state of mind and a state of mind that looks into the heart of the other person before they speak or before action is taken. So, it really comes about with mental development, and that’s very important in understanding the basis of harmlessness.

Robert: Hello and welcome to Inner Sight. Our subject today is harmlessness. We feel that harmlessness is a great strength, and that the greater degree of harmlessness that’s within us, the stronger we are as human beings. We live in a society that, perhaps subconsciously, and maybe even consciously, views harmlessness as a weakness, and there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. I like this thought from a book called Kinship with All Life: “If you would learn the secret of right relations, look only for the good, that is, the divine in people and things, and leave all the rest to God.” I suppose that particular approach to life is what Jesus Christ used; Buddha and people who are perhaps even more contemporary, like Krishnamurti too. When we look at people and attempt to see a spark of divinity in them, look for the divine within each person, we’ll be giving them the highest respect. If we do that, we’re really enhancing our world and we’re looking at humanity with the degree of respect and dignity that God intends us to. Is harmlessness just a passive attitude? 

Sarah: No, but certainly, as you say, we live in a society that seems to undervalue it, and I don’t really know why. I think everybody notices that, particularly in recent times, maybe the last few decades, there’s an increasing kind of aggressiveness and combativeness between people looking out for number one, meaning, for the individual. I don’t know what all that portends, but harmlessness is definitely not a passive attitude. It’s a constructive, creative attitude. The trouble is, it’s a word that contains within it a negative, lessness, so it sort of sets its own problem up by sounding so innocuous and so vacant. But in fact, for those who are treading the spiritual path, harmlessness is kind of a speed trap, because one finds that as you become more aware of the spiritual realm, the spiritual laws that an aspirant must follow, you become more and more aware of its opposite, which is harmfulness, and all that works against the good and the true and the beautiful becomes more and more apparent to one. So, it definitely is something that people on the spiritual path have to wrestle with and it’s exceedingly subtle. Obviously, I think all decent people know that they shouldn’t do violence to any living thing. Anybody with any decency knows that. But there are other levels of harm and of even violence that can occur in the emotions and in the thoughts. When you start trying to examine the quality and the content of what you feel and what you think, that’s what I mean about it being a kind of a speed trap. You really find yourself being caught and brought up short by how much harmfulness can colour your thinking, your attitudes, and your motives. So, it’s extremely subtle. 

Dale: Yes, it can be. You have to watch your speech. You realize very often and it kind of hits you in the face, if you’re aware about this thing called harmlessness, how harmful your speech can be sometimes. What you say can cause some pretty bad reactions. 

Sarah: Enough to strike you dumb! 

Dale: That’s right. And that’s one of the areas where one learns to be cautious about the reticence of speech and the ability to refrain from impulsive action. You begin to demonstrate a non-criticalness in your speech when you really think about being harmless, and that’s a major step, really. You’re beginning to take the position of the other person that you may harm; you consider him or her, looking into that other person’s heart and see how he or she may react. 

Sarah: Isn’t it said that the last aspect of the nature to be controlled is the tongue? Certainly, gaining control of speech is something that a lot of us still strive towards. It’s still a goal and not a present attainment, but we have to keep trying. 

Dale: It’s a manifestation of the awakened mind, which becomes more alert, keener, and more critical. That’s a good thing, but it also has its drawbacks. So, this critical mind is one of the things to look out for. 

Sarah: It’s something that a lot of very intelligent, very accomplished people still have to struggle with because their minds are so razor sharp and their thinking processes are so fast, they can be very impatient and very judgmental with themselves and with others. And of course, harmlessness should apply not only to others but to oneself. We have to learn to be forgiving and harmless in our evaluation of ourselves and our present weaknesses, and for some of us, that’s the hardest of all. 

Robert: I can’t help but think of something you said, Sarah, in another show that relates to correct speech and it constantly comes back to haunt me. I use it as a frame of reference and I think it’s worth mentioning again because our speech can be very harmful. It’s a formula for our own speech where one says to oneself before we just let words fly out of our mouth, is it true, is it necessary and is it kind? If we use those three questions in reviewing everything that comes out of our mouth, I think that we’ll be on the road to harmlessness. Both of you are correct, our speech has a lot to do with being harmless individuals. We can cause a lot of harm with our speech if we’re not more selective about what we choose to say. Is harmlessness just refraining from wrong actions, or is it something more? 

Sarah: It’s much more than that. Certainly, wrong actions have to be checked, but it’s the ability to nip in the bud wrong emotional reactions and wrong thinking patterns. So, it really requires that the person be on the lookout, ever vigilant for the ambitious, critical, judgmental, selfish aspects of the lower nature that might come to the surface and want to take over. I think it said somewhere in the writings of Alice Bailey that the attainment of harmlessness, if one were to work at it diligently, would require at least three years to build in a new pattern of reaction and relating. There’s a wonderful story of the attainment of harmlessness which has to do with the balance between action and motive, which is given to us in the great Hindu text of the Bhagavad Gita, and that is the story of the struggle of Arjuna, who is the representative or the prototype of the spiritual aspirant. This is a story from ancient India. I think the Bhagavad Gita comes from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Anyway, there was a great battle in ancient times, which is told in this story, and Arjuna finally just threw up his hands. He didn’t know where to put his forces or what to fight for, who to fight with, and who to fight against. He saw war on every side and he knew and loved people on both sides of the conflict, and he didn’t know what to do, what stand to take. So, I think all of us who strive toward harmlessness can imagine the point he reached where he just wanted to sit on the fence and do nothing. But that’s not the answer either. Harmlessness is the refraining from wrong action in the sense that the word karma, which I think a lot of our listeners might be familiar with, is a word for action. Every action produces an effect, either a good effect or a bad effect, but any time you act you create an effect that eventually has to come into play, so you’re automatically setting something into action. Arjuna could not just sit on the fence. He was told by Krishna in the story that he had to choose. He had to make a selection, he had to use judgment and choose where he stood. It was only when he gave all of his resources over to the soul that he was able to choose. And I suppose that’s the answer to the right expression of harmlessness: It has to do with action, but the action of the soul. 

Dale:  Yes, that’s very true, and I think even today, we’re still facing the same kind of battles that Arjuna had to face with himself. Sometimes I think it’s necessary to take drastic action. You can be harmless and still act very forcefully sometimes; for example, you might want to take action against someone so they won’t harm themselves, saving them from self-destruction like suicide, or perhaps one of your children is getting into drugs and you want to take some strong action against your child. So, it might mean tough love but that’s really harmless because you’re trying to direct this child on the right path in life, and everybody knows that following the path of drugs is certainly not the right path to go down. So, you might be saving him from himself and that’s really a harmless act, even though you might have to act forcefully. 

Sarah: You could say that an action like that comes from a sense of identification with the one that you seek to help. You’re not pitting yourself against the person, you’re really feeling at one with them, and because of that love you can take action. There’s a statement from the Bhagavad Gita that talks about this in Arjuna’s struggle. It says that when he was able to see that all forms constitute the one form, the battle was over, the soul was in complete control and no sense of separateness was ever again possible. Then you can act, when you’re not being separative and pitting yourself against another. Is that what you mean? 

Dale: Yes, I think so. In the case of a parent and a child, the parent would be like taking the position of the soul, I suppose. It comes down to motive, to the intent. If you really want to hurt your child, then that’s something else, but if your intent is goodwill and if your intent is to set this child on the right course in life, then whatever you do is going to be pretty harmless. 

Robert: And can you give us some examples of positive, dynamic harmlessness? 

Sarah: Well, I think one example or one technique that comes to mind would be the emptying of one’s consciousness of any preconceived notions regarding another person, any expectations or suspicions and prejudices that might be quite subtle and at work in the back of the mind, and not very obvious if one doesn’t really probe for them. Coming into an area or a relationship that might have some conflict with a completely open mind that is truly coloured with goodwill, positive expectancy, with a sense of the spiritual worth and the dignity of another human being, then you are putting yourself into a position of creative dynamic action. You’re charging a situation or a relationship with harmlessness. You’re not just taking a passive, empty, uncontrolled, reactionary stance. You’re bringing the qualities of goodwill, hopeful expectancy and trust to the situation or the relationship. To me that’s an example. Maybe Dale has something else in mind. 

Dale: Well, I just wanted to remind people that Alice Bailey made the statement that harmlessness is really a state of mind. It’s not always just an action, but it’s an action based on a poised state of mind and a state of mind that looks into the heart of the other person before they speak or before action is taken. So, it really comes about with mental development, and that’s very important in understanding the basis of harmlessness. 

Sarah: There’s a statement from the writings of Alice Bailey that really makes you think. I came across it when I was thinking about the theme for this program. She wrote that “Only that can be contacted which is already present in the perceiver’s consciousness.” So, at least in part, it has to be present in the perceiver’s consciousness to be able to contact it, and she said, “if ill will and hatred are met with by the perceiver, it’s because in him the seeds of ill will and hatred are present. When they are absent, nothing but unity and harmony exists.” That brings to mind those rare souls that are able to render even wild beasts impotent in their presence. I think we’ve heard of them—people who can be confronted with a bear or a tiger and the animal is just completely calm and walks away. That seems to bear out the statement of Alice Bailey that if we run into ill will and wrong action and enmity, it’s because something is present within ourselves that invites that. 

Robert: So, it has to do with the human condition too, that there is war and evil within humanity. 

Sarah: We’re all a part of it and have had a hand in it. I remember a psychologist saying some years ago at a meeting I attended, something that really struck me. She said, “Don’t assume your own goodness.” So many of us do. We assume that we’re nice, good, decent people. Certainly, many of us strive to be that, but don’t just take it for granted. Take a look at what’s really going on in your thoughts and your emotional attitudes. If you want to understand why the world is in the shape that it is, realise that we all had a hand in creating it. 

Robert: When we view our thoughts as being harmless, we’re not really correct about that. If we’re going to value harmlessness, if we’re going to take the first step and say I want to be a harmless person, I want to contribute to a better world, then we have to acknowledge that our thoughts can cause harm too. I remember an article in Psychology Today that was very interesting. It was speaking about a particular research project where they interviewed prisoners about how they ended up in that particular situation and most of the prisoners said, “the crime was first committed in my mind. I entertained the thought and then as I got into the thought more and more, it became more of a viable possibility.” So, that to me underscores the idea that our thoughts can cause harm and we really have to be careful about what we think. 

Sarah: And what we subject ourselves to in terms of media, what ideas we listen to, what we allow to influence our thinking, especially with impressionable minds, like children, not letting them be exposed to violence, ill will, and hatred. 

Dale: Yes, and it just proves the old esoteric spiritual adage: that energy follows and conforms itself to thought. 

Robert: What do we do about our thoughts though? 

Sarah: Monitor them to begin with. Try to reserve some part of your nature that stands aside and observes the quality of your thinking. You can do this with practice so that you don’t get completely caught up in your thoughts and emotions. There can be a part of you that stands back and says, in effect, what in heaven’s name am I doing with this thought, or where did that come from? When you have a sensation or a reaction run through you, you can become aware of it. That’s a start. 

Dale: You have to become self-aware and once you begin to become self-aware—and that doesn’t mean selfish, that means aware of this inner self that is actually the one that has the power to control what one thinks and what one does—then that’s a start. A lot of the problems come through the mind, but it’s in the mind that the solution lies also, just like it’s said: “As wars begin in the minds of men, it’s in the minds of men that you build the defences of peace.” So, it all starts there in the mind. 

Sarah: It takes a kind of a ruthless self-honesty to be able to start monitoring these processes and for a while it can be kind of depressing. And it’s humbling. 

Robert: You mentioned energy follows thought, in relation to the prisoners and their thoughts and how their thoughts were the first step in getting them into the deep trouble that many of them got into. What did you mean by that, Dale? 

Dale: Well, it goes back to what I said earlier about the mind. Thoughts are not just fleeting things that pass through your mind and are gone, but they stay there and the more you think about them the more energy you’re building up in the thought. In the case of criminal activity, the thought form of causing harm to someone keeps building and building and the more it’s thought about, the more the thought is energized, and pretty soon it leads to action.  

Sarah: I think a lot of people probably think that if they’re just thinking something, or if they’re just feeling something but they don’t act on it, that it doesn’t matter, and that’s not true. Whatever you are thinking or feeling eventually works itself out in a physical way, either through illness and ill health or through troubled relationships or whatever. A pattern kept up, like you say, long enough, has to work itself out in an outer demonstration. I don’t mean to scare people, but we do need to start being aware of what we’re indulging ourselves in, inside of our heads. 

Robert: Did Jesus Christ have a comment about thoughts? I think we were speaking about that in the office one day and you came up with a quote from Scripture, and it was about how if we so much as think badly against our neighbor, we have committed a sin. 

Sarah: Yes, and oh that reminds me of that famous story about poor Jimmy Carter, who gave this interview to either Playboy or Esquire when he was running for president, and he admitted that he had lusted after women in his heart. Well, everybody made fun of him, but really what he was saying was that he recognized the power of an emotional reaction that he felt was wrong, and in a sense, we all do have to start monitoring ourselves that way, just as he did. 

Robert: Does harmlessness mean that you can never say what you really think or believe? 

Sarah: No, it means that you do in fact have to be honest and speak truthfully and make your beliefs clear, but that it has to be done with the spirit of goodwill and non-separativeness. It’s all about the plane from which you speak. In other words, if you can speak from a point of unity with another person, you can speak truthfully, and that’s what the goal is, to not deceive or hide, to speak openly and honestly, but out of a sense of unity. 

Robert: Are there any rules or techniques for developing harmlessness, as I think we’d all like to be on that path? 

Dale: There are some very ancient rules that are mentioned in Alice Bailey’s books, one being, “Enter thy brother’s heart and see his woe; then speak.” In other words, look into the person’s heart and try to understand where that person is coming from and then you would begin to empathize with them, and perhaps wouldn’t speak so critically. 

Robert: I love that. We always think that we know everything in our generation, but there’s an ancient Hindu thought in the form of a prayer: “May all creatures be free of pain and disease, and may all creatures be given the right circumstances to grow and evolve. May they all feel happiness and joy in every aspect of their lives.” So, the ancients really had a lot of knowledge that sometimes we don’t give them credit for. In closing we invite you to ponder on this thought. Goodwill is the touchstone that will transform the world. Goodwill is love in action. It’s the energy that draws us together in right relationship. There’s a world prayer called the Great Invocation. It’s a call for light, love, and goodwill to flow into the world and into our hearts. Let’s listen for a moment to these powerful words. 

Sarah: Closes the program with the adapted version of the Great Invocation

(This is an edited transcript of a recorded radio program called “Inner Sight”. This conversation was recorded between the host, Robert Anderson, and the then President and Vice-President of Lucis Trust, Sarah and Dale McKechnie.)

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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