An Understanding Heart

By Sarah Belle Dougherty

Gottfried de Purucker, Leader of the Theosophical Society from 1929 to 1942, presented a message of love, hope, and brotherhood, based on a fuller understanding of man and the universe. In his illuminating description of the nature and structure of solar, planetary, and human beings, he sought to inspire his hearers and readers to recognize their true position in the great sweep of life, and act accordingly. Purucker insisted that truth can be known, that by striving to broaden our insight and become "at first nobly human, and finally godlike," we can come to know ourselves and the cosmos in relative fullness — with the horizon of our further possibilities stretching into the infinite distance.

For G. de Purucker the universe is a living organism. Life and consciousness are everywhere, each particle or galaxy a consciousness-center with spiritual and psychological dimensions and a growing capacity for individual will. There are no absolutes — whether of perfection, divinity, good, or evil — only evolving beings on an endless continuum of development. He rejected the concept of "chance," considering it no more than an admission of ignorance. Surrounding conditions result from the interplay of countless imperfect con- sciousnesses using their varying degrees of free will, all linked in the resulting web of cause and effect that they together have woven.

Because the universe as an entity is a self-consistent whole, one of Purucker's favorite tools is analogy. By grasping the fundamental principles involved, we can apply insights gained about one scale of life to others. His writings encourage us to exercise our inner powers and judgment by trying to discover answers for ourselves. Even though our conclusions may be flawed, spiritual faculties grow only with use. As finite beings addressing infinite subjects, our understanding will never be complete. However, we can and will know more as we become more, for in essence we are one with the heart of the universe.

In this process of human growth, Purucker emphasized particularly the "understanding heart." This phrase does not imply sentimentality, but rather an illumining of the understanding by the intuitive and spiritual core of our being, and a purifying of the emotions by realization of our oneness with all. The understanding heart is wise, universal in its love, skillful in judgment, capable of a direct vision of truth combined with compassionate awareness. Here the heart does not stand opposed to the intellect. When asked whether the heart and ethics should be more emphasized in theosophy, he replied that

The need of ethics and the need of more heart in our work is perennially true. It will always be so. But there is an equal, and an equally perennial, need for an emphasis of the intellectual side. The two must unite and become one; and it is foolish to say: No intellect and only ethics; or, No ethics and only intellect. The first makes a man a gentle fool. The second makes of man an ungentle demon. Combined they make the real man. — Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 440

Our flowering as complete human beings under the influence of the highest within us forms the basis of his approach.

This Special Issue presents a few highlights of Gottfried de Purucker's life, work, and re-presentation of the ancient wisdom. Those who wish a more extensive view are encouraged to delve into his writings and discover the man and his ideas for themselves.

(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2000; copyright © 2000 Theosophical University Press)


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