Knowledge and Confidence Are Part Of
The Right Effort In the Search for Wisdom
John Garrigues (1868-1944) was one of the
founders of the United Lodge of Theosophists,
, in February 1909. The following Los Angeles
article was first published anonymously at “Theosophy”
magazine, in November 1920, pp. 28-29. An analysis of
its contents and style indicates it was written by Mr. Garrigues.
Let us premise first, that there exists in all nature and in every organism the tendency to repeat any action once performed; second, that there exists in every form of consciousness the power to change any action or course of action.
These two distinctions of consciousness and form are the essential duality behind all manifestation that is expressed in the words Spirit and Matter.
No organism has any intelligence or any power of action in itself; it is a product, an effect, not a cause. The body is not self illuminative, neither is the mind; neither, it may be added, are any or all of the “principles” in man or in Nature. The power to initiate action, or to change action, or to perceive the results of action, lies in the Consciousness and not in the form; in Spirit, not in Matter.
But every organism of any kind or quality is itself composed of forms of consciousness or “Lives”, each with its own radius of perception, initiation of action, and ability to change - all held together in some sort of unison of action and coherence of direction by the power of a superior Life which uses the combination as a vehicle or instrument for its own action in a wider radius than it could achieve singly and alone.
The simile of an army, with its commanding general, its officers, private soldiers and greater or less degree of discipline, is an exact illustration of the nature of every organism, great or small. Man is an organism in which the Ego is the commanding general, and his different principles or sheaths in his army with its divisions and rank-and-file drawn from every order of intelligence, every form of consciousness and action possible in this solar system. The Masters are Egos who have put their army in a state of perfect discipline and control, and are therefore capable of instant and supreme power of action in any direction, on any plane of being.
The human being has not yet succeeded in disciplining his army. He has all the necessary elements in his organism, but he is sure neither of himself neither of his army. He lacks, first and foremost, confidence in himself, and secondly, knowledge of what to do and how to do it. In other words, he is as yet exactly as far from having a real army as he is far from being a real general. He has the command, he has the power, for he and none other has summoned his levies from the six directions in space; but he is by turns bold and timid, resolute and vacillating, too severe and too lax.
It is clear that the individual entities composing the “army” or nature, or principles, or bodies of man, have each their own integrity, but it should be equally clear that the “army” has not summoned itself, and as such has no initiative, no power of any kind, save as instigated and directed by Man and the Ego, the general.
The teachings of Theosophy are the science of war, which includes the formation, organization and disciplining of armies, as well as the use to which that army is to be put when ready for war. The student is the Ego learning and fitting himself to be a true General, and he has been engaged in this task for countless lives, and has made some progress, but he has made many mistakes, and these are reflected in the habits, tendencies and qualities of his army.
No one can overcome these but himself. And he has to remember that none but a very few of his soldiers have intelligence enough to be entirely plastic and obedient to his instructions, directions, and orders. They all have desires of their own, ambitions of their own, ideas of their own, which run counter to his purposes and are destructive of all true discipline from the army standpoint. If left to themselves they will run riot, become wholly insubordinate, and at last disintegrate.
Of course he could kill his rebellious soldiers, but if he did that they would be of no use in his army, and he needs them, every one, if his army is to be complete; and it must be complete if he is to be supreme on his field of battle. What he has to do is to kill out those practices and tendencies in his soldiers which are subversive of discipline. Only he can do that.
His efforts are retarded by the ignorance, the lack of morale, the acquired characteristics of the component elements of his soldiery; by his own mistaken tactics in the past; by his own mistaken tactics in the past, by his lack of firmness in enforcing obedience to his will. They constitute together the two great obstacles in his path: the inertia in the individual soldiers; the rebellious and seditious elements in his minor subdivisions.
Confidence in himself: confidence in his ability to learn and apply the science of war; action from these two bases is the trinity that will make of the human being a Master of his army.
The longer we delay, the more we procrastinate and try to hire or bribe or coax someone else to do our work for us, the more our army becomes unmanageable. The more we listen to the clamor of the soldiery, the more we yield to their infractions of discipline, the harder will be our task. The more we shirk or shrink from study and effort, the greater the mountain of inertia to be overcome.
Many lives already we have had to die, that is, disband our army, without accomplishing the great task. Something we have learned, but the two great things we have not yet learned; resolution - confidence in our ability and purpose - and work - sustained effort to learn and to apply our teaching. To learn these two things demands self-discipline. For Nature, everywhere and inviolably, is an ordre pour le mérite. 
 We have kept the original title, “The Law of Retardation”, and added a subtitle. (C.C.A.)
 “An order according to merit”, in French. (C.C.A.)
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