Introduction to Character of Life in Literature & Cinema


Entertaining literature enthralls us with suspense, humor and the intense action of an engaging plot. Superior literature transcends mere action. It presents to the reader the author's insights into human character and reveals the complex ways in which character and action interrelate to generate chains of consequences and results. Still finer literature reveals the complex interactions between action, individual character and the evolving character of the society in which the action takes place. The greatest literature goes still further. It reveals not only insights of individual and social character but of the character of life itself.

Character of Life

Does life have a character of its own? When we speak of character in an individual, we usually mean the fixed and recurring pattern of traits that are associated with a person. Such and such behavior is characteristic of that individual. We may even divide people into broad categories or types, grouping them according to common tendencies such as ruthless aggressiveness and ambition, constricting selfishness and stinginess, or expansive cheerfulness, generosity and goodwill. Underlying the individual variations of human character, we recognize some common tendencies and characteristics of the entire human race that govern all human behavior. We refer to this common character as human nature. Individuals vary not only in the type of their character but also in the degree. Those whose lives are determined and directed by the prevailing habits, fashions, beliefs, attitudes, opinions and values of the society in which they live have at best a developed social as opposed to an individual character. Their conduct is determined by the expectations of society. They act and live within its norms, refusing to fall below the required social minimum, failing to rise above the maximum expected of a normal member of the group. On one extreme are those that do not even conform to the minimum standards, who fail to acquire the socially required behaviors, attitudes and values. They are unformed individuals, lacking even a formed social character. At the other extreme are those whose beliefs, attitudes and values are determined internally by the strength of their own convictions. These are individuals with developed minds and formed characters of their own. Individuals do not live or act in a vacuum. They exist and act in a human social environment of other people that constantly acts on them and reacts to their actions. They also live in a natural environment of physical objects and material forces such as the weather. And those familiar with occult and spiritual traditions recognize that there is also a subtle environment of other planes of existence, both higher planes of spiritual influence and lower planes of negative forces in universal nature seeking to act on the lives and express through the character and actions of human beings. All these levels or planes including the social, material and the occult constitute the field of human activity. Each of them functions according to its own laws or principles. Each of them has its own characteristic modes of action and influence on human life. When we speak of the character of life, we refer to those subtle laws and principles that govern the interaction between individuals and the world around them. This character reveals itself in many different ways. It has been observed and codified in countless forms by earlier, less scientifically minded civilizations, as auspicious signs, omens, symbols, superstitions, rules for action, social conventions, vital intuitions, mental insights and spiritual wisdom. Most of what remains of these earlier forms of knowledge is either unintelligible to our modern understanding or so mixed with superstition that it is of little use for modern life, no matter how valid or useful it was to societies in the past.

The Mental Being

The modern mental individual seeks a set of rational principles by which to understand phenomenon life, not a set of blind dictates and inexplicable tenets. Modern civilization has developed as a result and expression of man's evolution as a mental being. In the process, the physical and rational mind of humanity has become a powerful instrument for the observation and comprehension of material phenomena codified as the various branches of physical and biological science. But this unprecedented advancement in the material realm has not been accompanied by a corresponding growth in knowledge of human psychology and the more general field of life events. In fact it seems that with the growth of these mental faculties, man has for a time lost an earlier capacity to see and know life directly through his own vital being. Most scientists approach psychology as a branch of biological science which in effect delegates man to the same treatment as his non-mental ancestors in the animal kingdom. Where psychologists venture beyond these physical limits, they are always on precarious ground and most often end in constructing mental theories with little relevance to living realities. When it comes to a science of life itself, as opposed to a science of matter and material forms of life, science has simply refused to address the topic and has attempted to dismiss it by the premise that life movements are a combination of natural physical determinisms and chance events with no underlying principle of order or harmony.

But when we turn away from the sphere of modern science, we discover that knowledge of man and knowledge of life have been perceived and comprehended in great depth and clarity by mystics and yogis of different countries and historical periods. In bs it by thedualsaphysicats agno moded as the var

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