Discrimination in Service, By Roberto Assagioli
Whenever we help a person it is very important to be conscious of our different motives for doing so. We must also learn to discriminate between what the person asks for and what is actually needed.
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Discrimination in Service, By Roberto Assagioli
Discrimination in Service
By Roberto Assagioli M. D. Source: The Institute of Psychosynthesis, London
This is a subject with many facets and these comments can only constitute a general survey, touching briefly on certain points of practical interest. The subject can be divided into three parts:
Discrimination on the part of the server Discrimination concerning service Discrimination towards those to be served
Of course, these divisions overlap and blend in practice, but considering them separately can help clear thinking about the issues involved and thus lead to wiser action in service.
I. Discrimination on the part of the server
This is largely a question of motive. It is almost superfluous to emphasise the importance of motive and the need for a careful examination of and constant watchfulness over the motives that impel us to serve. We may often discover behind motives that are pure and right - and mixed with them in varying proportions - others faulty or wrong because they are the outcome of some kind of glamour or illusion. The most frequent of these are:
a. Ambition. When there are seeds of ambition dormant in a server they may find fruitful ground in which to thrive in his activity. Service may become a means of reaching some position of command or authority, thus satisfying a desire for power and eminence, the urge to personal self-assertion. People on the First and allied Rays are more susceptible to this kind of wrong motive.
b. Sentiment. The discovery of this kind of glamour often requires subtle discrimination. We must discern between true spiritual compassion and the personal distress aroused in us by contact with the suffering of others and the consequent urge to eliminate it so as to get rid of our own discomfort.
There is a sure touchstone by which to discriminate between these two motives. When service is motivated by sentiment, we rush to alleviate the pain, to soothe the suffering personalities, without realizing that we are thus dealing only with effects, and perhaps are producing no real and enduring benefit. Often we may, in fact, even delay the progress of those we "help" by indulging their attachments and preventing them from becoming aware of the lessons which their souls are trying to impart to them.
True spiritual compassion, on the contrary, while not excluding some measure of immediate relief when the suffering is acute, is concerned primarily to ascertain, point out and help to eliminate the causes of the suffering. This is done by interpreting the lesson with what wisdom we can and helping the person to understand it.
Another wrong motive, based on sentiment, is the desire to be loved and appreciated, and to have the praise and gratitude of those we so "generously" help. Fortunately, people are often ungrateful and thus help us to get rid of that tendency! Indeed, we should really be grateful to them for their ingratitude! To this glamour of sentiment servers on the Second Ray are particularly susceptible, and they should be constantly on their guard against it.
c. Evasion. This is a form of glamour that appears frequently in the field of service and manifests itself in subtle ways, masquerading under the best and noblest guises. Too often we consciously or unconsciously shirk our responsibilities, either from physical or moral laziness (it is far more agreeable to follow the line of least resistance!), or through fear, or simply because the task confronting us is distasteful to our personality. In such cases some useful activity, some kind of service we are accustomed to render that is easy and pleasant, may offer us a plausible excuse for evading the irksome or forbidding venture which, being our true duty, is a greater spiritual opportunity and would prepare us for higher types of service.
d. Attachment. This kind of glamour may delude us in 'two ways:
1. By attachment to a favoured habitual form of service
2. By attachment to the fruits of our service. In its crudest form this consists of expecting some kind of personal reward for service rendered, such as praise, recognition or gratitude.
A more refined type of attachment is the apparently justifiable desire to know that our service has been useful, that it has brought the fruits that are right. Of course, there is nothing wrong in noticing that good has resulted from one's selfless efforts; it is most encouraging. But there are some kinds of long-range work or subjective service the "fruits" of which cannot be seen and can only be surmised. In such cases we must work with utter detachment, renouncing the evidence of results and relying only on an unswerving faith in the great law of cause and effect. We can be sure that, if good seeds are sown in the proper soil, good fruit, in due time, will appear.
II. Discrimination concerning service
There are many kinds of service and there are times when the choice between the claims of the various fields is not at all easy. The following general rules can be a help in finding our true place in this:
a. Do not persist in a lower or more limited and less effective kind of service if your capacities fit you to work in broader and more potent ways.
b. Do not presume to serve in a higher and more difficult sphere until you have trained and tested your ability to meet its requirements with wisdom and harmlessness.
c. At the same time, no matter what our abilities or equipment, we should be ready to serve in any way, however humble and disagreeable, when an urgent need confronts us.
We also have to bear in mind two important tendencies that are gathering momentum and therefore increasingly influencing our forms of service. These are:
The rapidly emerging tendency towards group life and group activity. Service rendered by one individual to another will increasingly give place to service given by a group to another group or groups. This will necessitate training in the new and difficult technique of harmonious co-operation and of creating a "group entity." The new, or rather renewed, recognition of the reality of the unseen Universe which surrounds and permeates us, and of the tremendous potency of its subtle energies. This recognition helps us to discover more and more the immense scope and value of subjective service. Spiritual aspirants should make every effort to fit themselves as quickly as possible to work in subjective as well as objective fields, and this for three important reasons which, generally speaking, have not so far been sufficiently appreciated.
First, subjective action is incomparably more efficacious and, therefore, more valuable than objective, because it deals with causes and not with effects; because it uses forces that are much subtler, more potent and far-reaching, much less limited by space, time and other physical plane barriers; because it uses the true method of all creative processes, "the method of God". This operates along the path which travels from the subtle to the dense, from the Centre to the circumference, from Spirit to matter, from Life and Consciousness to form, or, more technically, from the idea (mental) to the ideal (emotional), and from this to the idol or material form, the visible expression (physical).
Second, there are comparatively few true spiritual workers competent to render safe and effective subjective service, because of its difficult and severe requirements, even in its more elementary aspects.
Third, we are seeing a rapid - almost alarming - increase in the number of people developing psychic sensitivity either spontaneously (owing to the general spiritual stimulation) or deliberately (and often prematurely and unwisely). The result has been a corresponding increase in the "diseases of the mystics".
But the problem that confronts spiritual servers, at this time, is made more difficult and complicated by the fact that we are in a transition period of unique importance and opportunity, in which both ways of service, objective and subjective, are urgently needed.
This complex situation, these diverse and at times apparently conflicting demands call for careful and subtle discrimination. We are constantly confronted by problems of choice, and these can be settled only by each individual for himself. Each case and situation presents a unique combination of elements, personal and spiritual, which makes it unprecedented and each choice and solution "original". Nevertheless, a few pointers and considerations having a general application may be helpful.
First, we have to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials. It is far easier to see the truth and importance of this than to put it consistently into practice. So many non-essentials cling to us tenaciously, like barnacles to a ship, deposited and nourished by habit, by conscious and unconscious attachments on our part, and by the clamorous demands or the insidious and subtle influence of people attached to us. Unremitting watchfulness is called for, and clear-cut discrimination.
Secondly, we should be prepared to delegate our outer service to others whenever they can be found ready and willing to undertake it. But here we must also use discrimination to make sure that those who make the offer are adequately equipped for the task.
A third point - an extension of the second - is that we often have a responsibility to train others and to help the seeker to find deeper and more subjective ways of service. This, too, calls for discrimination; it is easy both to overestimate or, on the other hand, fail to appreciate a person's true potentiality.
III. Discrimination towards those to be served
Harmful and sometimes even serious consequences can result from well-intentioned but misdirected efforts; these are usually due to a lack of discrimination concerning the true need of those with whom we are concerned. The following five rules can be helpful here:
Let us not be in a hurry to bestow upon everybody the form of aid that we ourselves have happened to find helpful
This enthusiastic belief is a common fallacy - all know the well-intentioned person who has been helped by a patent medicine (or, rather, as is more often the case, by faith in it) and unreservedly recommends it to everyone for all kinds of ailments. Sixth ray people are particularly susceptible to this error because they are likely to be self-centred and, therefore, poor psychologists. They fail to recognize the application to service of the simple adage, "One man's meat is another man's poison". We can avoid this mistake by observing the following second rule:
Before helping someone, study him thoroughly
The better our understanding of our fellowmen the more clearly we realize how much they differ from each other. Modern scientific psychology, with its discovery and description of the various types, such as extraverts, introverts, etc., has done useful work in this direction, but it is as yet only in the pioneer stage, and very incomplete. Fortunately, valuable teachings in the field of esoteric psychology enable us now to begin to consider and study each human in terms of:
a. The stage of evolution attained and, consequently, of his prevalent polarization (physical, emotional, mental).
b. The Rays which qualify his soul, his personality, and his mental, emotional and physical bodies.
c. The Zodiacal signs which condition the individual.
d. The points of cleavage or lack of integration in his personality existing at various levels.
e. Methods of co-ordination and synthesis (integration and fusion) suited to each individual case.
f. His life tasks (vocation, avocation, service).
This is a fascinating and fruitful line of research, not only for spiritual workers, but for every doctor, teacher, parent - in fact, everyone who realizes the responsibility and the opportunity inherent in the influence we have on our fellowmen.
3. Let us not always give what is asked or expected of us, but what will meet the real need
We should realize and always bear in mind that the help which people believe they need and clamour for is often quite different from and, at times, just the opposite of what they really need for their welfare and spiritual progress. Again, we need to discriminate carefully in this respect, often refusing what is asked for, while trying to point out what, instead, the true need is and offering help appropriate to this need. Second Ray servers, particularly, should be on their guard against allowing sentiment, weakness, desire to please, or unenlightened compassion to induce them to cater to personality demands, instead of to what is in accordance with the will and purpose of the souls of those they are trying to help.
4. Let us avoid personal attachment on both sides
He who seeks to serve harmlessly should avoid becoming attached, not only to a certain type of service (as mentioned earlier), but also to the people concerned. This can be achieved by clearly discriminating between true spiritual, and therefore impersonal, love and emotional attachment. Frequently the unused affective tendencies of a server seek, and find, an outlet or objective in helping others. This may be legitimate within certain limits, such as purely philanthropic forms of work, but it becomes a hindrance and a danger in strictly spiritual work. In order to qualify for this type of work the server should put the affective forces of his emotional nature through a drastic purification and transmutation, so that they may become sublimated in impersonal, detached and radiant spiritual love.
But even when the server is himself free from such attachment, it is only too easy for those being helped to attach themselves, at times in a passionate degree, to their helper. Such attachments are of two kinds, which should be carefully distinguished, because they have to be dealt with and offset in different ways:
a. Affective attachments, having a possessive, exacting, often jealous character, with a tendency to "absorb", sometimes reaching the point of actual astral vampirism.
Such attachments are due to an overdeveloped and unsatisfied emotional nature. In some cases unused and unrequited emotions stored up in the subconscious are "projected" upon the server through the process called by psychologists "affective transference". This tendency manifests in varying degrees, from an over-emotional, self-centered and dramatising temperament to the grave physical and psychological symptoms of a hysterical type.
b. Attachments due to weakness, fear, indecision, and inability or unwillingness to accept responsibilities.
Such people are clingers and beg to be helped, often exhibiting infantile traits. They want to be reassured, directed, even commanded. Typical and extreme cases of such behaviour are represented by people affected by psychoneuroses or by forms of melancholic depression. They are notably introverted, inhibited by complexes, and suffer from marked inner cleavages. It is well to bear in mind that some people show both kinds of attachments in varying proportions.
The first type of attachments can be dealt with and offset by directing the exuberant energies to other objectives and constructive outlets, by fostering their transmutation and sublimation, and by transferring them to higher levels. The second, or clinging, type can be eliminated by helping the individuals to "grow up" emotionally, to develop self-reliance, to train their will, to appeal to and obey their own souls, to extravert in the right way, establishing an active and fruitful interplay with the outer world and their fellowmen - in a word, to achieve their own psychosynthesis.
From this brief survey of the threefold series of problems confronting those who attempt to serve, it emerges clearly how essential it is to use constant, watchful and increasingly subtle discrimination. Only through this will our service be adequate, fruitful - and harmless.
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