THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY AND SURVIVAL AFTER DEATH
A recent review in The Observer (London) by the distinguished scholar, Dr. L. P. Jacks, of The Purpose of God, by Dean W. R. Matthews of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, is of interest to students on account of certain phrases used by the reviewer which carry a marked Theosophical stamp, and show how our principles are permeating the best thought of the age. For instance, when speaking of Dean Matthews' lucid defense of the rationality of the universe, Dr. Jacks draws attention to the fact that in any case man and the universe are one and indivisible: "he is bone of its bone, and flesh of its flesh, a veritable 'child of the stars' as Plato said . . . it and we are of one substance and one nature. . . ." "Chaos cannot evolve order out of itself, nor aimless forces discover their own aimlessness." As the universe is not chaotic, so by analogy and in fact are we rational and purposeful in our true nature, which is infinitely greater than the transient personality.
On the difficult subject of the moral law, Dr. Jacks is as positive as our Theosophical Teachers. He says without compromise that,
the infinite difference between right and wrong, and the categorical imperatives which proceed from it, are not presented to the human mind in the form of persuasion or of friendly good advice . . . They speak with authority; their language is a word of command. . . . There is, indeed, a kind of persuasion which is nothing else than compulsion under a more attractive name; the kind, namely, which is certain to be followed, when we disregard it, by what George Meredith called a "celestial hail of thwacks."
Dean Matthews, the writer of the broad-minded book commended by Dr. Jacks, has recently delivered three radio-broadcasts on 'The Hope of Immortality.' They are filled with close reasonings relating to survival after death which, with few exceptions, might have been written by a well-informed Theosophist. For instance, he thinks that the problem of personality — What is Man? — must be settled before ordinary reason can expect to face the problem of Survival intelligently. Does the personality persist after death, and if so, what is that personality? Is the old man the identic personality that was the child of the same name many years ago? The personality has so greatly changed that it is hard to think so. But there is a continuity, and the Dean suggests that the death of the body is only an incident in an infinite process which will ultimately show me "what I really am."
Dr. Matthews' idea of the practical impermanence of the personality because of its constant transformation, leads straight to the principle of Reincarnation which explains the paradox of 'the one and the many,' the one eternal Monad and its many successive vestures. He believes that after bodily death the qualities that make up our character remain, though no doubt they may be altered with certain limits — excellent Theosophy indeed, and still more so when he declares that it would be terrible to go on for ever just as we are, in an immortality of weak, limited personality.
Another good reason for Survival is, he thinks, the fact that human life is so tragically incomplete; our tasks are all left unfinished. We revolt against this apparent waste; all the higher values of life are incomplete in the experience of one short life. Then the Dean brings up the problem of Justice, and while accepting a moral government of the universe, admits that no one can believe that the world as we see it is perfectly just. While rough justice is done to many, we see the wicked escaping their penalties and the good suffering grievous harm. This cannot be explained except by some kind of Survival. In connexion with the argument for justice (which of course is satisfied by the natural processes of Reincarnation and Karman, by which absolute justice is fulfilled), Dr. Matthews makes a significant remark: "It is fashionable to despise this kind of reasoning today, but I think justice an essential element in any idea of God." Quite so; a revengeful, partial, tribal God, under whatsoever high-sounding name, is no God at all. And the Dean would find that when reasoning based on the principle of justice is presented, as in the Theosophical formulation of the laws of life, it cannot be despised, for the principles of Reincarnation and Karman (the unerring law of Cause and Effect) appeal to every logical mind.
The Dean expresses one very beautiful thought in support of Survival. Kant said that the aim of a moral life was to reach perfect holiness, i. e., to make the will perfectly obedient to the moral law. But as we go on we find that the moral law demands more of us than it did at the beginning. The holiest men are more conscious of their imperfections than others, not because they are worse than 'sinners,' but because they see more and more clearly their duty, and what 'holiness' involves. As we pursue high ideals, still higher ones open to us in glorious perspective, and those we have attained seem insignificant if not actually mean. The spiritual horizon of attainment recedes as we advance.
That concept is found fully developed in the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, and the life of the chela has been described as a series of awakenings, as the Buddhic Radiance or Christ-light within gets brighter. And in regard to becoming aware of one's imperfections in proportion to the progress made, our devotional books frequently mention it, but always tell us to keep our faces toward the Light, and not look back.
The Dean takes a balanced view on Psychic Research and the claims of the Spiritualists. He reasonably argues that even if Survival may be ultimately proved by investigation — not an impossibility in spite of the incredible difficulties in the way — that would not prove immortality. The good may obtain an immortality "by living in God"; but what about the irreclaimably wicked? As he cannot accept the unjust abomination of an eternal hell, he is inclined to think that they will naturally be annihilated because they have cut off all connexion with 'God.' Do we not here see an adumbration of the ancient teaching of the 'loss of the soul'?
Dr. Matthews's broadcasts were published in The Listener (London) for January 22nd and two succeeding weekly numbers.
"MASS THOUGHT INFLUENCE ON THE WEATHER"
We have received some interesting clippings from English journals in regard to weather and sunspot cycles, and about the possibility that the thoughts of a large body of persons, if sufficiently intense and directed toward a single idea, may affect the weather! Is there an answer to prayers for rain on grounds of natural law? — though not on merely physico-chemical mechanistic combinations any more than by the 'miraculous' intervention of a personal Jehovah. The Morning Post (London) has published a correspondence from which we gather the following information.
One contributor, Mr. E. L. Hawke, Secretary of the Royal Meteorological Society, offers many examples of the apparent influence of collective thought on the weather, which are indeed curious, even if nothing more than 'coincidences' (whatever that may mean!). For instance, the British Royal Jubilee Days which occurred in 1809, 1887, 1897, and 1935, were all brilliantly fine. Queen Victoria was so fortunate in the weather for her public ceremonials that it became common to speak of 'Queen's weather,' as millions still living remember. On the other hand, the heaviest fall of rain ever known in the British Islands in twenty-four hours (nine and a half inches) took place on June 17, 1917, when the most intense international hatred was raging during the World War. Queen Victoria's death was followed by exceptionally violent and widespread blizzards. The same writer gives a long list of apparent coincidences between weather-conditions and the prevailing mental emotions of the people, but he frankly admits that there are many exceptions and that the case is not yet proved.
In regard to sunspots, however, he believes there is a good case, and he quotes Professor Tchijevsky, noted Russian statistician, who claims a close connexion between sunspots and popular tumults, revolutions, and other forms of mass unrest. From the fifth century b. c. onwards, Professor Tchijevsky finds that 60 percent of such upheavals have occurred in the three years around the sunspot maximum while only 5 percent happened in the three years around the minimum. He offers no explanation, but the reason we feel inclined to withhold final acceptance of this claim — though it seems to us not improbable — is that we have no correct record of the years of sunspot frequency for more than a comparatively short time back. Sunspots do not follow an even rhythm, and although there is seemingly an average or mean period of about 11 years, the maximum often comes a year or two before or after its expected time, and the same with the minimum. For the two thousand years before scientific records were kept of the number of sunspots there is no way of telling the exact dates of the three-year periods he uses, and if he uses the average dates a good many of them are sure to be wrong. Perhaps, however, he may have allowed for a considerable percentage of error.
Mr. Hawke says that Swedenborg is cited as the originator of the notion that mass thought affects the weather; he certainly considered that the sun is but the material counterpart of a divine emanation from the unseen worlds, which constitutes the source of life and intelligence. Was he wrong?
Another correspondent to the Morning Post says that long before Swedenborg the belief in thought-influence was established: "Its first written affirmation was in Sanskrit in the Vedas, which formed part of that which we term the Ancient Wisdom."
Discussing the sunspot theory of the Russian professor, Mr. A. B. Street, in a later contribution to the Morning Post, mentions the discovery by Drs. Traute and Bernhard Dull, Danish scientists, of a relationship between solar activity and the death-rate. In Copenhagen 36,000 deaths occurred between January 1, 1928, and December 31, 1932. They were divided into fourteen classes, according to disease, and also according to age and sex. In each division a twenty-seven day rhythm was found, which is the period of the rotation of the principal sunspot zone with its concomitant electro-magnetic cycle, which is reflected on earth. The maxima in the death-curves of various groups of maladies do not all occur exactly in accord with the maxima of solar activity. Some come a little later than others, though always in the same relationship. Deaths due to suicide follow the same rule as those from disease. The same two scientists conducted a similar inquiry in Zurich, Switzerland, which is a long way from Copenhagen, and they obtained similar results. No chance or fortuitous coincidence theory can explain this.
In regard to the possibility of spiritual forces being behind or within such phenomena as wind, rain, or clouds, a writer in the Referee (London) makes the daring suggestion that the winds are not purposeless or mindless! He seems to have struck a deep Theosophical note, however strange it may sound to some. He says, in part:
I have noticed the remarkable behavior of the winds among the different strata of the clouds, and know that the perfect and varied shapings of condensing or expanding vapors, with the consequence of the cloud positions and fulfilments, are absolutely ruled and regulated by the winds. . . . The wind, in my opinion, has more than a mind and purpose — it is personal.
Has Mr Huxley listened to the weird wail of a tempest as it races across a barren stretch of moorland? Has he noted it speaking and singing in many keys among the trees? . . . This is all, in my humble opinion, the proof of purpose, and the granted spiritual expression of mind. . . . Is not the spiritual aspect of any substance — especially man's — the ruling power and accepted influence of thought? I feel that the breath is the life, not only of animate Nature but also of the subjective.
If reference is made to The Secret Doctrine, Volume II, pages 280, 392, 613, 615; Isis Unveiled, I, 284-5; and The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 160-1, intuitive readers will see that thought and weather-phenomena may have some undiscovered connexion. On page 615, volume II of the first-named work we find an illuminating suggestion. In referring to the Maruts, frequently mentioned in the Puranas, H. P. Blavatsky says that from one point of view the Maruts or the Storm-gods, are literally "actual conscious Existences, Beings of a cosmic and psychic nature." They are also, "the passions that storm and rage within every candidate's breast, when preparing for an ascetic life." We can go no farther into this significant question here, though it is well worth study.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE