The Theosophical Forum — October 1943


What is the use of emanations from the divine?

We must assume the "That the underlying principle H. P. B. describes as beyond human conception, to be perfection; therefore "That" cannot become more perfect by the issuing forth from Itself of numberless universes. What therefore is the use of manifestations from "That'? Why are we here?

John P. Van Mater — A fundamental point to remember is that "Tat" or "That" is no thing at all. It is. It is all things manifest and unmanifest, and on all planes. It is all that is, but it is also that which to us is not. Saying Tat is perfect makes of Tat something to be perfect therefore some thing, therefore finite. Tat is beyond all human comprehension. It is the infinite, and therefore includes the finite as well. It is the Boundless All. It is not perfection because perfection applies to things, and the Boundless is no thing. It is perfection and imperfection, as well as being that which is neither.

Why then do universes periodically appear and disappear? This question resolves itself into a second question: Why are we here? Life is infinite, manifesting throughout infinities of both time and space. It is logical, then, that some of its basic purposes cannot be comprehended by finite minds. But there are one or two things we can say to start ourselves thinking in the right direction.

One of the purposes of life seems to be that of growth or evolution. The spirit within us gains experience through manifesting in material worlds, and its vehicles on all planes from the spiritual-ethereal to the physical evolve through this process. Each one of us is composed of lesser lives — the atoms, molecules, cells, etc., of our body — indeed of all our bodies, astral, physical, emotional, mental, etc. These lesser lives are growing and expanding through evolutionary experience. We are responsible for those lesser lives that belong to us. Therefore another reason why we are here is because the growth of lives less evolved than ourselves depends upon our leadership and successful running of the race of life. Each one of us is a part of the Universe, a lesser life thereof, and has his (or its) part to play in that life. G. de P. has said that if one atom were destroyed, the Universe itself would crumble into nothingness. Therefore every atom and electron and each one of us is important, indeed vital to the working of the grand Whole. Another reason, then, why we are here is because we are inextricably linked with Nature and are essential to the purposes of all life.

We are here because:

  1. Being here is essential to the growth and expansion of ourselves as individuals.
  2. By being here in the manifested worlds we aid in raising all that is below us, the lesser lives of the Universe.
  3. We are inseparable parts of the Universe, without which the Universe could not function, for we collectively are the Universe.
  4. What is said above applies to all things great and small, universes as well as atoms.

But if we ask further: Why are we growing? What is the purpose of all life? Why do we exist at all? We find ourselves faced with a mystery. The very fact that we do not know a complete answer to the question is the reason why we are here. If we knew all the purposes of life, then life would hold nothing more for us in experience, in knowledge, in opportunities for self-expression, and we would have passed through it, graduated from it, because we would have learned all that it has to offer. The fact that we are here is strong evidence that we are as yet imperfect and unlearned in those things which life here teaches us.

If we ask: Why is the Divine within us here? Why need the perfect manifest at all? We again touch a mystery that can only be explained by saying that if we knew the reason why spirit or Divinity seeks manifestation, then we would be as great as or greater than Divinity itself, and not the imperfect humans that we are. When we know why we are here as humans, then we shall have become greater than human — gods, let us say; and as gods, no doubt, will be propounding the same question to ourselves. The complete answer lies infinitely away deep within the Boundless. Perhaps the reason for life is so that every living being, every spark of divinity, may in increasing degree understand the purposes of life which are infinite; and therefore the Ladder of Life is infinite. And because the Masters and the Gods above us increase in all those grand qualities the human heart reveres, in compassion, in majesty, in spiritual strength and grandeur, we can dwell in our hearts upon the fact that Life's purposes are unspeakably sublime, even though incomprehensible to us.

It is true we have difficulty in grasping even our portion of the All, but as Katherine Tingley says:

Thinking towards the unthinkable is a wonderful, spiritualizing force; one cannot think towards it without a disposition either to think more, or feel more — without opening up the inner consciousness of man. And when that inner consciousness is awakened, the soul finds itself closer to the infinite laws, closer to That, or that Great Center that no words can express.

What of Purgatives, Cathartics?

" . . . . ancients made use of catharms or purgations . . . for as this earthly body is washed by water, so is that spiritous body cleansed by cathartic vapours — some of these vapours being nutritive, others purgative." (Quoted from Cudworth's Intellectual System, by G. R S. Mead in Extracts from the Vahan, page 74).

In what way do purgatives, laxatives, etc, affect the astral? What, for instance, is the effect of castor oil on the astral? Is it good? — E. S. W.

H. T. Edge — Sthula-sarira, linga-sarira, prana, form a triad of which the parts are so closely interwoven that it seems difficult, for such a purpose as the present, to separate them, or to think of one being influenced apart from the others. I would say that a drug like castor oil affects the whole system. Yet we may classify such purifiers according to their degree of grossness or subtlety. A gas, like sulphur fumes, is subtler, and reaches the blood stream quickly through the lungs; homeopathic remedies are still more subtle, and probably act directly on the linga-sarira; or, to put it more in the language of science, on a finer order of atoms than the physical atoms. All of these means purify the physical system; but that alone is not sufficient to cleanse the intermediate nature. For this the use of the will is necessary. Nevertheless physical means are valuable so long as we bear in mind that they are only used as aids to moral force. It is of no use to cleanse the outer vestures, if this is merely to give us a new lease for self-indulgence. In antiquity we shall doubtless find drugs and fumigants used for purely medical purposes, as with us today; but in the preparation of candidates for initiation it is likely that these physical means were used as accessory to the inner training undergone by the pupil. The astral body stands between the physical and the mental, and is affected by both; consequently it must be purified from above and from below, both. It is true that a clean mind makes a clean body; but much time and energy can be wasted in struggling against handicaps due to bad habits, faulty regimen, or curable illness. Drugs soon lose their effect, and become our masters instead of our servants, if habitually used. But if kept for emergencies only, and under the advice of a physician, they may prove valuable aids.

Conscience and the laws of one's country

It is understood that Theosophists as a matter of course will obey the laws of their country. What should one do, however, if any one of these laws goes against one's conscience? — C. C.

L. L. Wright — We must always remember that Theosophy lays down for our guidance only the broad principles of ethics and brotherhood. It does not — it cannot, if it is consistent with itself — dictate to any individual how that man or woman shall apply those principles to his own situation. To do so would be to interfere with individual free will, one of the most sacred attributes of the human soul. To go into any country and to declare which of its laws are "right" and which are "wrong" would introduce an element of dictation, which is contrary to the very nature of Theosophy.

Another point. How could anyone evolve as a self-directed individual if he were told how to think and feel and act at every difficulty or crisis of his career? It is only by learning to meet these in the light of our own experience, intuition, and wisdom that our highest spiritual qualities can be developed. While it is undoubtedly the broad axiom of Theosophy that a man or woman should obey the laws of his country, every individual has the Karmic right and responsibility to make his own decisions as to how he can best obey them.

Panoramic Vision After Death

Many people have probably gone through a great deal in their lives which they would not care to experience again. It must be pretty hard to have to go through it all again at the time of death as I believe is your Theosophical teaching.

Abbott Clark — There is a misconception of the teachings shown in the question. There is no suffering in the automatic yet solemn spiritual process of death nor of this panoramic vision. It is a wise provision of beneficent mother Nature. This review of the life's events enables the soul to get a comprehensive and just evaluation of the lifetime just drawing or drawn to a close and to distil whatever amount of wisdom may have been acquired thereby. This distillation is a permanent acquisition of the soul and appears in the next rebirth in such forms as talents and aptitudes, innate ideas and inherent character. It is in this way that innate conceptions of morality are incorporated into the very substance of the soul and show forth as character in future lives on earth. It is the personality of a man that has emotions and suffers. The mere personality sinks into abeyance in the process of death while the karmic record indelibly photographed in the akasic aura of the brain passes in review before the departing soul's eye. It is the Individuality or Reincarnating Ego which is the onlooker. The process is not an emotional one but solemnly spiritual.

The teaching referred to by the questioner is that every thought, emotion and event throughout one's entire life is indelibly recorded on the tablets of memory in the substance of the soul and that in the solemn moment of the process of death this photographic record or visualized memory passes in review before the mind's eye. From the dawn of consciousness in infancy to the moment of death, the record is seen in the minutest detail. This occurs in all cases no matter what the cause, condition or manner of the death. It occurs just after the last breath or heart beat. It is said in the teaching that no one dies or goes through the complete process of death unconsciously or insane. In unusual cases such as death by violence or accident this process occurs after the pain or shock to the body and brain are over. The freeing of the soul from a pain-racked body is a process of escape or liberation not of fear or dread. The time-consciousness is absent and the process may be very short or instantaneous.

During this review the man sees and faces every thought and act of the life just passed and realizes exactly what it was worth, good, bad or indifferent. There is neither fear nor favor, neither excuse nor self-justification. In this hour the lessons of a lifetime are synthesized and distilled and carried forward into the devachanic state where they are elaborated and assimilated and finally assist in guiding the ego to the proper environment for its reincarnation.

In some cases of death and resuscitation the panoramic vision above described is vividly recalled and remembered on recovery. I have met several such cases, among them my own father. When a young man in the State of Maine he was drowned and resuscitated. I have often heard him recount the experience. He said: "You all know how painful it is to strangle. But after that struggle was over I sank on the mossy bottom of the lake as easily and gently as lying down on a grassy bank. Then followed a flash more vivid than any dream — a memory or vision of my life in its minutest detail. While this was going on it was as if I sat back on the judgment-seat of my own soul and viewed, without fear or favor, the right and wrong, the good and bad, of every thought and act of my entire life. As I passed into unconsciousness at the end of this vision I rose into a state of consciousness which I can only describe as more real and divine than anything experienced on earth."

This remained the most vivid experience of his life. Thereafter religious forms had no interest for him. He said: "Some day we may wake up spiritually and realize that this world is as unreal as a dream."

The Theosophical Forum