Copyright © 1992 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
Men and parties, sects and schools are but the mere ephemera of the world's day. TRUTH, high-seated upon its rock of adamant, is alone eternal and supreme. — H. P. BLAVATSKY, Isis Unveiled, Preface
Men have their unselfish moods, but even their great purposes are fickle and changing: their aspirations are here today and gone tomorrow. How then could such a one as Helena Petrovna Blavatsky have been understood by her time? Except to those who have discovered that the worldly life is not the delightful thing it claims to be, who have come to the limit of it and found ambition and selfishness to be delusions, she will remain forever a mystery. Those who understood her must have in some previous life waked to the unreality and impermanence of the things men mostly set their hearts on; and then they must have waked to the reality beyond, which demands of us the will to grow and the will to serve.
While HPB remains a mystery in some senses, there is about her a certain grandeur that impels us towards search for the inner meaning of things and an effort to awaken the deepest part of our nature where all truth abides for us to discover. It was for these needs she came, and offered her life on the altar of truth. She saw how humanity had been drifting through the ages unaware of its birthright and unconscious of its dignity: how the indefiniteness of modern ideas had confused the minds of the people and engendered everywhere uncertainty and helpless doubt; how the essential truths of religion had been honeycombed with falsehood by the tortuous forces that retard the progress of mankind. She left for posterity a body of teachings with power in them to change the whole world, and as it were raise from the dead the immortal part of man. She was the herald and champion of the soul, the living God in man, as against dead dogma and conventional opinion, every phase of stultifying unreality, and every evil that would destroy mankind.
The philosophy of life accepted by the majority has constantly led men away from their noblest possibilities. We eat and sleep and suffer and die in our brain-minds and the lower and unreal portion of ourselves, and keep the chambers of the soul with doors locked against our own entrance.
Look at the faces in the street, the general aspect of humanity in public places: they are already beginning to fear death; the thought of death is with them always. Fear is in our blood and it will be in the blood of our descendants. Our young men grow old before they have been young, and our women are bowed down and joyless. We are limited in our intellect and heart-life and physically, and where many should be giants, they are apologies for men — and all because down through the centuries we have been presented with half-truths only. The great and universal truths about life have been hidden away under forms and ceremonies and reasoning and argument and expectancy and faith, till we no longer know where we are.
Most men and women do not really think at all — they imagine they do, but they do not — and this is one of the great troubles of the day. They borrow their opinions from outside sources and ignore the divinity sleeping within themselves. Appearances pass for truth, the letter is preferred to the spirit, and while we take the thoughts of this one and that and seek to follow them, the grander and more helpful thoughts are within ourselves, unawakened and awaiting recognition.
We hunger and thirst for the surface of things and will never rest long enough in the chambers of the immortal man, often taking no step forward in things spiritual because our minds are so immersed in books, often burdened with a kind of scholarship that tears out the heart of humanity and explains the universe and all that therein is from the standpoint of matter and the brain-mind alone. Even if we read and studied millions of books and had the greatest of teachers to instruct us, we would find no truth until we believed in our own inner selves and that, being human, we are more than human — greater than the world imagines or than dogmas and creeds allow — because there is within us that which is capable of absolute knowledge and may not stop, without self-degradation, at faith.
Many who desire truth are yet unwilling to give up for its sake any of their mental encumbrances that bear no relation to truth: preconceived notions lingering in the halls of their memory, opinions born of their own whims or the psychological influence of their neighbors' minds or the books they read or their environment, the conventional views they absorbed through their education when they were taught to accept cant phrases as substitutes for vital realities.
Consider the injunction that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. We read it glibly in church on Sundays and repeat it with a certain vanity in the repetition, but what have we of it in our daily life? Conventional phrases expressive of politeness and a conventional attitude of goodwill; lip-worn platitudes, in respect to which whoever violates normal usage is accounted rude and unfriendly. It never or rarely occurs to us that talking about loving our neighbor as ourselves, unless real feeling capable of dominating our lives and actions lies behind the words, is all a vain repetition — lip service, cant, and even hypocrisy.
We are our brothers' keepers: how shall we do our duty by any one of them while the contents of our minds are neither thought nor truth, but catchwords, trite phrases, and conventional terms? What place in the scheme of things can we adequately fill while we let the thought-tides serve as the substance of our mental activity? We must think away from our puny selves and narrow environments and the little gods we have set up in our hearts and homes as though time and the higher law would wait for any man. We must think away from the superficiality that runs through all modern life.
Many who desire to be and seem to be sincere are among its victims. Here you have a lawyer, a typical man of the world. He goes to his office daily and stands before society a very eminent representative of the law. At home, amidst his family that he loves, he attends church with regularity and gives handsomely to the offertory. He gives his banquets, he is a high official of the State, he caters to the whims of this one and that one, is of this or that political party — and since the way of the world is towards self-advancement, the world calls him a splendid man. It seeks his society and visits at his home and is anxious to have him as its friend; and he is flattered by the attentions and adulation of the world and feels that he has won his place in life and has no will or desire to grow.
And then his body dies and he receives great honors and a public funeral, and the newspapers are full of his greatness — and it is all nonsense. There is nothing in it: nothing real, nothing to endure. Under all that stress of ambition and show and publicity, nothing was growing. It was just a certain aspect of the man that was active — the material side of him — and he never knew how to fall back on the real and deep resources of his nature which are in the soul, and at the last he went out blind and having learned nothing.
No man can walk in the light until he has freed himself from this superficiality. The human mind must achieve its independence, stepping out and standing for greater things than mere society shibboleths. What is the use of being content with less than truth? As long as we are confused and our thinking is all awry with the ideas of the old religious systems, so long will it be impossible for us to understand the real nature of man because the essentials for such an understanding lie all within man's divine higher self, in the inmost sanctuary of life.
We know that these two beings exist in every man: the lower nature that loves to follow its own inclinations; and the immortal imprisoned in the flesh, who is only to be made manifest by nobility of character. In the one part the treasures of indulgence and conceit are held to and hoarded, from it is that snarling, grumbling selfishness that steals into life like a snake. From the other come all our golden moments filled with sacred meaning: the joy of service, of giving the best one has and can, which is all that there is of value in life, the precious treasure that money cannot buy nor time lay waste; imagination, the artist within which, coming forth like an angel of light from the chambers of the soul, fashions the life to perfect beauty. To live successfully, we must learn infallibly to discriminate between these two. We must learn to overcome by knowledge or we shall be taught by suffering to overcome. And how can a man learn if his mental vision is so untrained that he cannot distinguish between convention and fact, between living truth and dead dogma?
One of the greatest of all the stumbling blocks in the path of humanity today is the ease with which error intermingles with truth, or we should not have the worldful of conflicting thought-systems we have. It is absurd for the human mind, being finite, to proclaim the finality of any creed. He who builds on blind faith builds his house upon the sands. Did the spirit of truth still inform and sanctify the world's religions, there would be none of these deep divisions among men, for we are in reality all part of the universal scheme, brothers in respect to whatever is real in our being.
The kingdom of heaven is within us; it is not far away. Deity pervades the whole universe. It is impersonal and unknowable, no matter how near we may draw to the light of it. It is the absolute, the goal which we climb towards and never reach; that we climb towards forever, forever learning and growing in the will and power to serve, forever acquiring new and grander ideals of that towards which we climb. He who understands this knows what is the dignity of man, and that the religion which alone will fitly correspond to our innate religious nature will be a universal system of human brotherhood based on the knowledge that we are essentially divine — a system that will warm our hearts with the knowledge that there is nothing outside ourselves that can save us or damn, that it is we ourselves who alone must and can work out our own salvation.
It was Emerson who said that to go through life depending on some external power to save one's soul was like running up bills on the chance of Somebody Else's paying them, with no thought or intention of paying them oneself. And the certainty is that he who looks for such foolish salvation is blind to fact and sense. The notion has made us quite indifferent to our higher interests: it has dimmed for us the glory within and left us with nothing better than the brain-mind and barren faith to be our guides. It has given no answer to the deep appeal of the heart but forms and rites and half-truths that often become wholly false, so that fear of punishment, proceeding from the doctrine of original sin, has been all through the centuries shutting us in and holding us down: we have been torn, worn out, and driven into a corner by the psychological influence of fear. Our lives and powers are dwarfed and perverted by it — fear of death, fear of public opinion, fear of an imaginary revengeful God.
There would have been no need of a doctrine of salvation if a doctrine of damnation had never been preached to deaden our understanding of spiritual things and put a veil between us and our high possibilities, and to turn us aside from the path of investigation the soul demands we should follow and leave us stranded on barren beaches with doubt and despair for our companions, haunted by disappointment and beset with questions we cannot answer.
I would have the word sinner abolished. I would take sin out of the dictionaries and out of the speech and memory of men. Whilst humanity is hypnotized by religious fear we cannot stand out in the richness of real life. We cannot be our true selves whilst these pessimistic and ignoble ideas poison the mental atmosphere. Sons of God that we are, here to work out superb destinies for ourselves and the world we live in, to permit them to enter our minds for an instant is to blaspheme against the eternal law. Instead of the blinding and crippling tyranny of creeds and dogmas, we should have freedom to breathe the broad sweet air of life and find infinity within ourselves; we should have leave to stand on the conviction that we are immortal, inheritors of all the good in the universe. There is no punishment — there is nothing to fear except what we create in ourselves.
How man's spiritual nature has been neglected — how starved, how overlooked and forgotten! The god in man has been entombed for ages and the exterior life has been the force all-predominating. Every evil in life is the result of ignorance and the false teaching of seeking the light outside ourselves and ignoring that inner source from which all spiritual light shines. And now we sit like dumb things waiting for time to change or for revelations to fall out of the blue, and all the while it is ourselves that hold the keys to all our situations. In an hour or a moment, if one desires to, one can find the door within that opens into regions of which we have never dreamed, where happiness is, because there all our problems are solved. Here surely a self-confidence is offered and attainable which passes all understanding. The essence of theosophical teaching is that we should kill out fear and in its place plant love.
Each of us can, and must eventually, become a law unto himself: each having that divine power latent in him and being linked vitally with the great cause, source, and center of life — linked consciously if he eliminates fear and all other pessimistic thought and feeling. For there is within us always a grand inspiration, a breath and force from the innermost which no limitations nor yardstick ideas nor intellectual criticisms can touch. It may be called the love of the Supreme, for it is a royal compassion which is the heart and essence of all existence. To gain the knowledge that would save him a man need not open any book nor once lift his voice in prayer, nor wait to be born again or forgiven by any personal God, nor reach out in any way for help from outside himself.
It is himself who must forgive himself, resting in the law that controls all life; falling back in confidence upon the stronger, the eternal side of himself; holding himself through imagination in divine realms of thought; feeling himself a part of the everlasting beauty. For there are no dark places in the chambers of the soul: it is wholly an abode of living light and knowledge. We need not look outside ourselves for the grandeur and the aid our hearts are craving. The secret and key to all situations is in the heart. All truth is within. It has been on those inner planes for ages and still lies sleeping in the spirit of man.
No one can tell it in words, no one can convey it in speech or writing — none can reveal to us the secret of life. Keys and hints may be given, enthusiasms may be awakened, hearts may be aroused and minds stimulated to thought, but the reality is a thing each one must find for himself. Greater than all the books that ever were written, greater than all the wisdom the teachers of old brought to mankind, are the books of revelation a man may read in within himself.
Move out into the fields of thought where reality is and you will have left your volumes of theology behind and you will have ceased to do injustice to your own soul. Your personal God will have died a natural death in your mind. He will be sitting no longer aloof in space nursing his moods of love or revenge, or cutting you off after a single lifetime from all opportunity to gain experience or do service, and shutting out the splendor of infinite and eternal existence from you — all that fantastic creation of human brain-minds will have vanished away. But the divine consciousness within will be growing as the flowers grow. You will have come to see how the harmony and protecting universal delight which we may call God's love breathes through all worlds and events and peoples, and you will have come to realize how you, being a dweller in eternity, have been made subject to time. We do belong to eternity. It is the scene of the unfoldment of our life: the school, arena, and native habitation of the soul.
Man, we know, is religious by nature. Every human being, even the lowest, has tendencies towards religion because all are sprung from a divine source. Whatever the mind or even the life of a man may be, the god is still sleeping within. This basic knowledge that man is essentially divine can solve all the problems that have vexed us or our forefathers before us; by it humanity may be lifted out of all its despair and limitations. The thought that springs from it immediately is that our evolution is in our own hands to create and direct, that our salvation can only come from ourselves and through our own efforts. One has but to evoke one's own higher nature, perceiving and recognizing the resources of the god within one's own being, and the response will come as surely as the rising of tomorrow's sun. Was it not said that the kingdom of heaven should be found within ourselves?
We are wonder-seekers: the mind is curious and tends to reach after what is unknown and far away, so we set our thoughts and hopes upon remote regions, a point in space beyond the stars. But men are not led to their highest duty by what excites in them this love of the marvelous. Was it not in the heart, in the chambers of the heart — there and there only — that the kingdom of heaven might be discovered?
Forms and creeds and dogmas can but obscure the light within. As long as the mind is led by them — no matter how high the principles they may seem to inculcate — it cannot but miss seeing at least one half of the meaning of life, it cannot but be put off with half-truths and be deaf to the inner voice. There can be no glory nor inspiration in the life: the soul like a lonely wanderer will go on seeking to touch the mind to growth and the life to nobler standards of character. It will go on seeking to flood the conscious self, the whole personality, with the fullness and grandeur of its power — and seeking in vain. That is why humanity is drifting out now into these seas of unrest, and why the shadows overwhelm us and our sight cannot penetrate them: we do not understand ourselves.
And now all antiquated theories are being overturned, customs and beliefs are being abandoned. There is some force at work in the world today that compels us to acknowledge the poverty of our religious life and thought. Before the World War [1914-1918] a large portion of humanity was half asleep. Those of the dogmatic faiths were complacently satisfied with their religion, but now men find themselves everywhere stirred with a new unrest: the faith that seemed so abiding before holds no such absolute sway now. Dogmas and creeds are dying slowly, and there is such a depletion in church attendance that the clergy everywhere are alarmed. Why? Because humanity is starving for the bread of life and can take no more of the wretched husks that have been doled out to it for centuries.
The fact is that we are essentially divine, born to evolve. That is what we are here for, and not to sit negative under a burden of errors. The possibilities of human nature are not limited and it is not difficult to discover truth if we only look for it unbiasedly. But we must be without preconceived notions, we must have no belief in a personal God or that we live but one life on earth, for such ideas as these cripple the mind and are bound to generate fear and unrest. To find that infinity within us, we must start upon the quest aright, having freed our minds of all such remembrances as would forever prevent our realizing the goal.
True religion can function only through the inner nature: only through it can we realize the relationship between man and man, man and the universe, man and deity. Therefore he who is wise will clear his mind of dogma and let the soul sweep in on him as the tides cover the shore: that for things as they are, and with eyes concentrated on the inward life, he may have sight of the inner beauty; that he may have sight of the soul growing and evolving as naturally as the flowers do; that the interior life of humanity, from which all our hopes, aspirations, and ideals come, may express itself through him as simply and perfectly as the beauty of a rose is expressed through its form and color and perfume.
For we are here as warriors of the universal law to do battle superbly for the spiritual manifestation of man, that these cloudy things which prey upon the mind may be dispelled by the sun that makes all things clear: by the light of the soul, the illumination of the higher self, the eternal spiritual shining of man's own inward divinity. What we see of humanity, even at its best, is but the shadow of the real thing which is unmanifest and forever striving towards manifestation, and this is the higher, the immortal part of man.
Life is a scientific problem and must be approached scientifically. We cannot carry with us false and useless notions and thereby conduct our lives to a success, for somewhere on the road we shall catch our feet in them and be tripped up and have to start again from the beginning. We shall come, all of us, to the place where the law and life itself will demand renunciation from us and it can no longer be postponed. Then we shall need a large burying ground for the foolish and too-much-loved fallacies that have blocked our way. It was this that Jesus meant when he said that a man cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven until he has become as a little child. It is a cleaning of one's mental house — a preparation of the mind for a larger vision and equipment.
Where prejudices are discarded thus, with the misconceptions that have burdened us for years, new life is bound to sweep into the mind like music from the heaven-world. The universal harmony is bound to sweep into our lives: we shall enter into brighter realms of thought and effort and see a goal in front more glorious than any we have dreamed of; and the knowledge of it fortifies us and is a sure foundation on which to build our lives and thought.
A new sense of responsibility comes because the largeness of life is apprehended and the will is set towards self-evolution, and we know that life is eternal and may be fashioned as one will. It may be fashioned as we will — and this not our own life only. On this path a man takes his fellows along with him; he cannot travel it alone. He is restless and unhappy unless aware that he is serving the whole human race. He knows that life and the universe exist not for the individual, not for himself, but for humanity; that in reality there is no separateness, that inwardly he is not apart from mankind at all; that it is only in the outward aspects of life that separate being and these many differences of thought and growth and feeling are to be found. He has attained an inner realization of unity: he has come into that profound knowledge of it which is inherent in the higher states of consciousness. He has seen nature from a new standpoint. The largeness of her life, the combination and interplay of her forces, he sees are all tending towards a vast unity and that, though on the outside there may be disagreement and much he does not understand, the undercurrent is all towards a mighty music and a harmony. For the universe, like the human soul, proceeds from the central source of existence.
Continually new and grander conceptions of life and duty come to him. He leaves it to the sectarian to imagine he has done all he could do. For his part, he feels that all he has ever done has been less than well done because it was done with less than full understanding. He feels that he has fallen short always, and done much less than enough, because he has not understood. He leaves it to the sectarian to imagine a reward awaiting him in heaven and complacency and self-satisfaction to be his in another world beyond death. He could not be satisfied with himself or with bliss: he could not be satisfied, though he saw nothing but happiness and never disease or death, while one human being was left suffering or lightless.
For in that inner consciousness in which we all share there is an unsilenceable voice calling to us to render help. And though it may not make itself heard in our minds and our hearts because the shadows overcloud us, and though we may think we are satisfied because our eyes are on the objective world, yet in truth it is utterly impossible for any fragment of humanity to be secure and in peace and untroubled while any other fragment is in peril or oppressed, because inwardly and in reality we are one.
All this he knows — that life is sacred, man's responsibility infinite, and every moment of time infinitely precious. All doubt and pessimism have gone from him; he walks the noble path assured of his position. His affection for humanity — for all this living universe — grows with the growth of his sense of duty: he finds that there is more and more to do and think, in the way of service, daily. He becomes ever more aware of that higher and universal self within him to which he owes all service at all times, supremest duty forever.
His body has become for him merely that in which he lives. He sees himself on this plane as a part of the great scheme of life, here to carry on its divine purposes which are ever pressing into his mind and fostering his growth towards the type of the perfect man that is to be. So he has brought his physical life into perfection, has practiced physical as well as mental purification. His modes of thought and reflection have permeated his whole system and begun the creation of the new type, which cannot be brought into being in any other way. The soul has mastery over the body and shapes for itself a destiny wonderful and beautiful beyond our conception.