Mental limitations are restrictions upon the potential expression of an individual
mind. In the beginning these are better seen as steps towards development — they
exist for our protection, to guard us against undertaking things beyond our capacity
to achieve or control.
Although we can see limitations in the early conditions of our lives as necessary
cradles or nurseries, we must, as students, make sure that the cradle which enfolded
the immature life is discarded after it has completed its usefulness. Many like to
retain this childish state of limitation because it gives them a false conception of
security. They resist change, and regard any challenge as a calamity. Should they be
called upon to assume responsibility for their actions or undertakings, they become
destructive, like a spoilt child, and crouch suspiciously behind their immaturity,
stubbornly refusing to shoulder their responsibilities towards the group.
To seek security by limiting our responsibilities is a very common human failing.
It is often done mechanically, without any particular process of reasoning, with the
result that, like a bird that refuses to fly, the person becomes a victim of conditions
which he should long since have left behind. To tell him that the cause of his dif-
ficulties is a self-imposed limitation, and the disease of the body is due to an
impediment in his mind, would arouse his resentment. He would insist that he had
not had the opportunity or it happened to him without any apparent reason — he
was a victim of circumstances, deserving of pity and condolence. Yet if one tries, as
far as one can, to evaluate the results of such a person’s life up to the moment, one
finds that he has made very little effort. As a rule he has convinced himself with self-
satisfied excuses, putting much of the blame on others, and using all sorts of escapist
arguments, in order to evade the plain fact that his limitations are self-imposed and
deliberately retained in order to get out of responsibility and the duty to progress.
This state of retained infancy, carried on into adult life, is unfortunately encour-
aged in many ways by those who should know better, such as politicians who
exploit this psychological laziness for their own ends and to the people’s detriment.
They seek to have the best of two worlds, and are not prepared to encourage or
contribute towards anything that benefits the whole community.
Ouspensky refers to people in this state as the sleep-walkers, who, unwilling to
be awakened, usually accuse anyone who is more awakened than themselves of
being self-seeking. It is a strange form of mental protection, and shows poor reason-
ing, when those who are lazy and dishonest accuse others of being opportunists.
Such limitations are moral weaknesses. One can often listen to arguments and
debates in which this form of selfishness is kept alive. It can be emotionally con-
vincing at the time, and many are deceived by it — for it is so much more com-
fortable to remain asleep in a fools’ paradise, than to face up to spiritual and social
Research and observation show that, no matter how much is spent on education,
or on propaganda against scattering litter in parks and streets, or on road safety
campaigns, it is almost impossible to convince the majority. If you tackled a chance
individual about it he would very likely reply, “Why should I bother about other
people? Why shouldn’t I throw my paper down in the street? There are men paid to
clear it up!” Such an attitude is the despair of municipal authorities. This lack of
consideration provokes repressive regulations, and more liberty is lost. Whole classes
of people who choose to live in ignorance, rather than to develop their minds and
reasoning powers, undermine the intricate system of law and order. On such foun-
dations dictatorships rise and flourish.
Now let us consider the people who are but half awake, these have a little know-
ledge and make much noise. We find them rushing into print, pounding platforms,
deceiving themselves. They dogmatise about political and religious issues with their
half-awakened intellects. They think they are stirring people up, when really they
are further duping them, for the complacency supplies them with power to exploit
their victims to their own advantage. We are living in a twilight of half-truths, with
real truth as a mirror which always eludes us. Cheap journalism, the type of news
published all over the world for our assimilation, is a spiritual insult to God’s divine
creations. Yet the journalists themselves are also limited. If you asked the owner of
one of these principalities why he used his financial resources to print rubbish he
would reply, “Because that is what the public wants.”
This stage of “half-way-between” is dangerous, because it produces ignorant
leaders of mediocre quality who are not capable of continuing or carrying out the
irrational ideas they propound. The result, as history proves, is a confusion of ideas
and projects, few of which are ever completed. Limitations of this sort waste the
products of people’s labour and also waste the resources of God’s Nature Kingdoms.
Now let us study the stage of the partially awakened. Imagine a ship which has
one person stationed aloft at the mast-head and another below at the wheel. The
one aloft calls, “Rocks ahead, steer two degrees to starboard,” and the one at the
wheel replies, “I don’t believe you, I can’t see any rocks,” and steers straight on to
them. One has a limited view, whereas the other can see much further towards the
horizon of truth. Though these people at the wheel are in peril of losing everything,
they refuse to accept guidance or advice, thereby hindering those who are more
awakened from giving of their best to the community.
Now let us assume that in a small way some of us have arrived at the stage of
spiritual awakening. How many limitations shall we bring into our new spiritual
conception? Unfortunately, conditioned as we are, we shall bring over a great many.
On the one hand we have the spiritual horizon where everything is possible, and on
the other we have the physical horizon where many things are considered impossible.
It requires great strength and spiritual courage to stand firm on the conception that
with God everything is possible, provided we can free ourselves from the restrictions
which have been our companions for many years. This is not easy to do at first — to
dissociate ourselves from old ideas and habits, to adopt an absolutely new way of
reasoning, a completely new approach.
Let us try this in some small personal way. What problems have we? Are we try-
ing to solve these problems by using our past limitations, or by using the new power
and vision which we have discovered? In your first attempt do not discuss your
problem with others. You may be sure they will echo those very limitations from
which you are trying to free yourself. They will uphold their own state of com-
placency, and wonder why you are bothering yourself to do anything different.
Spiritual laziness is the greatest sin that man can commit. A person should seek to
improve himself, not only for the sake of material advantage, but because he will
acquire greater skill and artistry, and be enabled to make a better contribution to
the community, showing that he is following a high ideal.
At this stage we must try to visualise the vast potential resources which the mind
can call upon, It is like a great waiting storehouse that we must have the courage to
use, Usually, at first, our limitations make us afraid to trust this new storehouse,
this new supply, because habit says “It is impossible,” routine ways, “We haven’t
the time” and the fixations say, “I am very comfortable as I am.” Likewise the Ego
will raise objections. We must resist any limitations which restrict the mind from
developing new channels of interest.
gallilee serie – Duty of Freedom – hoofdstuk 6 author R.P. Beesley