The Theosophical Forum – March 1942

BROADCAST FROM SHANGHAI: III

This is the third of the series of weekly quarter-hour broadcasts given over radio station XQHB, Shanghai, China, last Spring, by Miss Inga Sjostedt and Miss Elsa-Brita Bergqvist of the Shanghai Theosophical Lodge. This talk, broadcast on April 6th, outlines several of the most important Theosophical doctrines.

Good evening, everybody:

The speaker last week explained the meaning of universal brotherhood as based on the fundamental divinity of all that is. This thought may seem at first sight incongruous in the face of present-day civilization, but we must realize that man today has travelled a long way from his spiritual home, and that his fall into matter has been an aeons-long proceeding. If we read the first few chapters of Genesis in the Christian Bible, we find there the story of the original fall of the spiritual entities into the beginnings of manifested life or material existence. In this allegory Adam and Eve were told regarding the fruit of the tree of Knowledge: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. II, 17). Tempted by the serpent, which is an ancient symbol of wisdom in all mythologies, they did eat, and it says in the next chapter of Genesis, verse 22: "The Lord God said: Behold the man is become as one of us to know good and evil." Thus the unself-conscious spiritual entities first acquired responsibility and free choice and began their pilgrimage through all the spheres of nature, gaining experience of all manner of manifested life, until they shall have attained to self-conscious union with the divine. That is the goal of all beings, from atoms to stars — man included. Nature never jumps, but all things evolve slowly by gradual growth in a spiral motion. A cycle of growth is succeeded by a cycle of decay, followed again by a cycle of growth on a higher plane. As a spiritual entity sinks into matter, its spiritual qualities recede and give place to the qualities pertaining to the opposite pole, the pole of matter. For spirit and matter, being the opposite poles of life, are fundamentally life itself and inseparable from each other. Then the entity immersed in matter, has to evolve in itself its inherent spiritual qualities in order to return to its own divine source, as an experienced and fully conscious god. The teachers of mankind have taught us that we, as humanity today, are beginning our upward journey and must evolve those spiritual qualities in us, which are at present obscured by the material side of our nature. This is also the reason for the coming of the succession of spiritual teachers. We are at the turning-point, when we can develop no further in the direction of materiality and must return with the upward trend of evolution.

The cyclic course of evolution can be traced in all forms of life. Planets circle around the sun in regular order, and the seasons follow one another in due course. We live by day and sleep by night and return to pick up the threads of our waking life regularly each morning. In precisely similar fashion we are born, live and die in a regular cycle. Reincarnation does not mean, as so many people think, a return to life in animal bodies. The trend of evolution is ever forward, and an entity, having reached the human stage and developed the faculty through which human beings chiefly function, the self-conscious thinking mind, cannot lose that faculty and return to any lower form of life, but must evolve ever more of its latent capacities, until it becomes a truly spiritual being — a Master, as we call such a man. That is, one who has united himself with the divine self within him and functions consciously on the plane of spirit.

Reincarnation also provides the only satisfactory explanation of the obvious inequalities in life. We all wonder why some people are born with every opportunity for making life a splendid experience, while others are confronted with hardships and difficulties from the very beginning. If we regard life from the viewpoint furnished by a belief in reincarnation, we realize that these inequalities arise out of mistakes and successes in some former life. There is a Sanskrit word we often use in this connection — the word Karman. It means action and reaction. This speaks for itself. Karman is really a natural law, which balances cause and effect, action and reaction. Any thing which in any way disturbs the natural harmony brings its own results. Theosophy does not countenance the idea of a god judging human beings after one short life on earth to eternal bliss or damnation. Either sentence would be ghastly. The thought of stagnating in heaven for all eternity imperfect as we are, must give the creeps to any honest man — not to mention an equally unending sojourn in hell. We say that nature provides her own punishments and rewards in exact proportion to the deeds or thoughts, which produced them, and that there is no arbitrary judgment by a deity either wrathful or merciful: "As ye sow, so shall ye also reap." The result is only the exact effect of the cause, not strictly speaking a punishment or a reward, but a natural outcome.

Thus the divine entity repeatedly imbodies itself in vehicles suited to its sphere of action. These vehicles range from the first spiritual veil over pure divinity, through all the forms of intelligence and emotion down to the physical bodies. All beings have all these principles although not all are active. For instance the animal kingdom has not yet developed the use of its thinking faculty. The animals are not capable of abstract thought, whereas human beings are. But the animals have developed the principle of emotion, which in the vegetable kingdom still lies dormant — and so on. We humans have reached the point, where we must learn to use the spiritual principle, which we possess in latency. It is our next duty to learn to function in that still unexplored region of our composite constitution. This will not be accomplished in one life, nor yet in two. It may take hundreds of lives before humanity as a whole has reached the status of a Buddha or a Christ. The latter teacher gave us specific instructions to begin: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father, which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. V, 48). Not one of us has the conceit to imagine that this can be accomplished before we die — say to-morrow or in fifty years.

And when we do reach what to us now would seem perfection, we shall find that we are only entering into a larger and more advanced existence. Our earth-lives are only one step on the ladder, and when we have united ourselves with the highest that we can conceive of, then will begin our evolution on a grander scale. The entire universe is pursuing its own course of development, of which we are a part. Yet the universe in its turn is only a part of a greater hierarchy of lives. We are all too prone to think of the stars as mere shining globes placed in the sky for our delectation by some deity with a sense of their decorative value. That is of course absurd, and it is far more reasonable to suppose that they are animate entities in various stages of evolutionary progress. This, incidentally, was an accepted teaching in the Christian church at the time of the church-father Origen, until, along with many other theosophical teachings, it was anathematized by the Home-Synod, which met at Constantinople in about 538 a.d., some three hundred years after Origen's death.

The stars then are living entities, and the beings inhabiting them form a part of their life, just as the characteristic denizens of our globe, mineral, vegetable, animal and human form a part of the earth and its life. In the same manner the atoms composing our physical bodies are a part of these. In this way we see all life as a system of hierarchies, where entities at different stages of evolution grow within their respective spheres.

In the human hierarchy, as in all others, there are beings very backward in development, such as savages, and others, who have reached far ahead of the average human being. These pioneers in spiritual development we call Mahatmans, a word meaning great soul, or Masters, for they have striven to reach the goal of human development in order to help the general run of mankind. From time to time such a Master will appear among men, teaching the truths of nature and giving a fresh impetus to the urge for spiritual advancement. Thank you.


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