Questions We All Ask by G. de Purucker
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

No. 23 (March 4, 1930)

QUESTIONS WE ALL ASK

(Lecture delivered November 17, 1929)

I am going to begin our study together this afternoon with an allusion to the wisdom of children, the buds of future men and women, because I believe that in the minds of the little ones you will find precisely the same qualities that exist in our own sophisticated hearts — but unspoiled. Out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom; and while this saying has mystical reference to the sages and seers of the human race, who are always called, in the terminology of the ancient Mystery Schools little children because their hearts were unspoiled and their intuitions were direct, nevertheless this saying also refers to an actual fact in human life that the figure of speech was taken from — that the child-heart sees truth intuitively, and only the child's undeveloped brain prevents it from giving easy and complete expression to that truth.

I have two delightful notes here, sent in to me by two teachers in our own Raja-Yoga School. The first is a fragment of a conversation that took place between three children, between the ages of four and five years.

Paddy said: "I am never going to die." Laura asked: "Why?" And Paddy answered: "Because I don't want to." And then little David interjected: "Oh! We have to die, so we can be born again!"

I have heard it said that reincarnation is so abstruse a doctrine that none but the most educated minds can understand it. It is precisely the sophistication of our minds that prevents us from understanding it, and understanding it fully; but the child-mind — unspoiled, intuitive, clairvoyant — sees the truth.

Here is another pretty little thing from a child five years old:

"I know we can be very good, but why cannot we be perfect?"

Can any one of you answer that question? You laugh, friends, because you know you cannot. No one who is not a theosophist can answer that question fully, but our wonderful theosophical philosophy does give us some statement as to what the proper answer should be.

Do you want to be perfect? I don't, because I don't want to stop growing. I want to grow forever and forever, becoming continually more great, grander. I don't want to reach a term in development of my faculties and powers. Becoming ever more perfect, yes; but reaching perfection, and then stopping growth? No!

The child-mind intuitively saw that truth, but did not know how to express it. "I know we can be very good, but why can't we be perfect?" It would be an awful outlook for the human race if evolution should ever come to an end. But how can it possibly come to an end? No, I don't want to be perfect.

Perhaps you may remember the saying in the Christian New Testament: "Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Now, that saying is not a contradiction at all of what I have just said; because who and what is this Father in heaven that the Christian scripture speaks of? It is the evolving, cosmic intelligence and life, with infinitude behind it and infinitude before it; and, like everything else, every other entity everywhere, it is continuously passing through phases of its own divine evolutionary course. And in It we live and move and have our being.

My meaning is that we should be perfect in the sense that this hierarchy of our universe is perfect, a spiritual entity existing for others, and on a continuously enlarging pathway of ever grander development. In this sense we are perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect.

One of these days I am going to talk to you about Christianity, and about the Christian Bible, and how to interpret them. I am screwing up my courage to do this because I don't want to hurt the feelings of our brothers the Christians, for one reason; and the other reason is that I know that they won't understand me.

Now, let us turn in thought from the matters of childhood to those of adulthood. Let us turn from the intuitions of a little child to the intuition of a great scientific thinker, a modern breaker of the molds of mind. Here is the question which imbodies this new idea:

"What is your opinion of Einstein's statement [which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, for the week ending October 26, 1929], to wit: 'Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust — we all dance to a mysterious tune intoned in the distance by an invisible player'?"

Poetic! But before I pay Einstein a compliment, I am going to say something about him running in the other direction. Dr. Einstein possesses the same more or less anthropomorphic outlook on the universe that has crippled the soaring of the human spirit in the Occident for the last two thousand years. Why should we speak of an invisible player, to the rhythm and beat, to the measured guidance, of whose tune we dance? — as marionettes, I suppose.

Here is the old personal God idea, you see — a sort of aggrandized, over-worked, over-grown, over-evolved man, and Einstein makes his cosmic Divinity intone a tune!

However, from one point of view, that is to say from our theosophical point of view, I do not object to the idea, mystically speaking, of an invisible player intoning music to the spiritual-electric rhythms of which we live and move. The most beautiful, the profoundest parts, of our wonderful theosophical philosophy tell us that the universe is filled full with gods, spiritual beings, existing in all degrees or grades or stages of intelligence and evolving life: of which the smaller exist within the life-compass of the greater, and these greater in their turn are but the spiritual atoms of other entities still more sublime.

So that the tune of life which we dance to — the evolutionary course that we follow, our limitations and the frontiers that we can reach in the constantly increasing perfection of our faculties — all depend upon the fundamental vibrational rate of the life essences of this sublime entity within which or whom we of our own home-universe live and move and have our being. This fundamental vibrational rate, the rate of this vital essence in other words, of this divine cosmic being, furnishes the background or the general keynote of the life of the spacial ocean in which we are.

This cosmic entity is but as a spiritual atom — an atom of intelligence and consciousness, to be sure, nevertheless but a spiritual atom — existing in the life essence of other entities still more cosmically sublime. These ranges of being and consciousness, these steps and degrees of the universal life, are literally endless. There are no absolute jumping-off places beyond which is — what? Nothingness? There is no nothingness! Life is infinite, continuous, both in space and time.

Einstein's statement, anthropomorphic in form as it is, is nevertheless a wonderful intuition of the fact that smaller beings are encompassed in the life of greater; but in this observation or thought of Dr. Einstein, a statement does not appear that this greater life in its turn is but one of another host of entities existing within the life-compass of some other entity unspeakably greater.

I turn to another question received by me, and this question reminds me of my boyhood. Oh! the hours that I used to pass in my boyhood, thinking over questions just like this one — until finally the light came to me, and then I knew!

"Is thought merely a movement of molecules in the brain, or a result of molecular agitation, or is it an energy which governs the molecules?"

The latter, say theosophists. If not, will you tell me, pray, what is the movement of these molecules so called? Why do they move? What is their beginning and ending in movement? The only answer that the materialist can furnish is: I do not know. But the great intellects of the human race, illumined by high spirituality, the great seers and sages of the human race, have sent their spirit into and behind the veils of physical substance, and into and behind the mental veils which obscure our vision, into the recesses of the spirit, and have brought back what they have seen; and then have formulated their vision, their insight, into philosophy and religion and science; and they tell us that within the physical universe there is a spiritual universe of which the physical universe is but the outer garment or veil, the mere reflection, copying the energies, substances, reasons, and laws which prevail within.

The physical universe is but the reflection of the within. And this within is not one; it is an infinite range of what theosophists call planes or steps or grades of intelligences, of consciousnesses, of substances, of energies, each one interlocked with every other one: each one, so to say, interpenetrating every other, and all together furnishing the phenomena and the noumena, the effects and the causes, of things as they are — not merely of the physical universe that we sense more or less perfectly with our physical eyes, imperfect as these organs of report are, but of the universe in the theosophical sense, as the manifestation of cosmic lives and intelligences, these cosmic lives and intelligences existing in hierarchies of conscious and thinking beings.

Oh, what a vision! How suggestive! Once the idea is grasped, how both mind and heart are taken captive, and the imagination led on from point to point of thought, until the logic of it all is seen, and finally there comes the light; and then the thinker realizes his oneness with all that is, his unseparate nature from all that is: that verily in himself, which means all his constitution inner and outer, there lie all the wonders and mysteries of the boundless All of which he is a child, of which he is the product; and therefore is he an inseparable part of it, life of its life, intelligence of its intelligence, consciousness of its consciousness.

It is these various grades or steps or degrees of nature — of substance, of energy, of consciousness, of everything — that form the varied phenomena of the universe that our marvelous intelligence tells us somewhat of, and in which universe we see the various degrees of perfection: the less evolved, the more evolved, the still more evolved, and so on to the still greater evolved. And here we stop, simply because our human imagination, as yet weak and of little power, fails to comprehend the greatness of it all.

But see the promise of this conception of the universe! See what growth will bring us: in ever expanding consciousness and in ever deepening love for all that is, when we sense our intrinsic, inherent oneness with the universe, spiritual, intermediate, and physical.

So thought, and all other phenomena, are simply the manifested effects, the resultants, of the ever-working energies of the human constitution; and these energies it is which differentiate one man from another man, and produce what we humans call the phenomena of individuality. The root of us is a spiritual being whom we may call variously our inner god, the divine m,onad, or by some other equivalent phrase.

Here is a beautiful question. I thought to myself when I received this question: Can I give to my friends in the Temple of Peace some conception of our theosophical teaching in answer to this? Here it is:

"Is the sun of our solar system inhabited, or is it a 'consuming fire,' therefore uninhabitable?"

Most decidedly it is not a consuming fire. The sun is not on fire. Cast that old, formerly scientifically orthodox, and now completely discarded, idea, notion, out of your minds! The sun is not burning. Theosophists go very much farther than this mere negation of a former scientific fact. We say that in itself it is not even hot, though there may be heat, in one sense of the word, surrounding it, paradoxical as the statement sounds. It is a ball, a vast globe, of all kinds of energies: spiritual, intellectual, psychical, vital-astral, electromagnetic, physical. How much more could I tell you about the sun, had I the time to do so, and were you prepared to hear it!

"Is it inhibited?" Shall we turn to Herschel's idea and say that the willow-leaves of Nasmyth are the solar inhabitants — that those strange rufflings of the solar surface that the astronomers see are the inhabitants of the sun? No, certainly not! But an intuition of the reality was in Herschel's mind. The sun is the source of all life in our own solar system, the heart of that system. It is not only full of life, but also full of lives; but these lives are not men. A man's physical body would be simply annihilated were it to fall nearly within the encompassing range of the titanic forces that play through the solar orb: any body of matter as we know it would be instantaneously dissipated into blue, impalpable ether.

Nevertheless the spirit of man — deathless, immortal, of titanic power — could undergo undisturbed the play of forces pouring through the sun; and not only that, but it would feel an inexpressible joy were it to penetrate the solar orb. The sun is the heart of our solar system. It is the home of all the vital energies that play through our own family of planets. It is all this, but it is vastly more than this. It is the manifestation of an indwelling soul, a spirit if you like, of which its terrific powers, its blinding luminosity, are but feeble expressions; and we speak of them as feeble only because we human beings, living atoms of the sun's family, can understand no more of it than what we do understand — unless indeed man turns to the understanding facility of his spiritual being, which is, in holy truth, a child of the sun. In his inmost essence, man is a son of the sun.

We are not sun worshipers. Please do not misunderstand me to mean that. We do not worship the sun. But cannot we recognize a truth without being belittled by the public and given an unfriendly name? Every new truth is, as a rule, unwelcome to men; and theosophists have been voicing unwelcome truths since our Society was started in 1875, but we are continuing on the path that was then entered upon of revealing truths to men.

Most of the one-time unwelcome truths that we formerly enunciated, most of them I say, are today accepted scientific doctrines. That, if you like to consider it so, is our present reward. But we are not pausing in our work. We are going to enunciate a great many more doctrines which will be new to the Occidental world in general: doctrines that most people won't like to hear at first, because they will be new. This is a promise that I make to you, so prepare! However, I advise you to come along with us, if you have the feeling of our common human nature that you desire to be on the right side. Therefore, I repeat: follow us, and you will have your great reward. I mean this, every word of it.

I have so many questions here before me that I am afraid I won't be able to answer them all this afternoon, so I take up a few.

"What is the attitude that a theosophist should take in reference to the schemes of those who believe that humanity can be reformed by legislation?"

I don't know what theosophists in general might say. Speaking as one of them, my attitude towards those people who think that you can legislate a man into being honest or good is simply that of quiet good humor. I would say: "Brother, you are wasting your time." The way to make a man good, the way to make him obey the law, is by working upon him from within, not by trying to regulate his life from without. Nine hundred and ninety-nine men out of a thousand will resent that. Nobody likes it.

But show men truth. Take their hearts and imaginations captive with the beauty of ethics philosophically explained. Show them truth and an explanation of truth, and you have hooked them, because they are with you. Every decent man will say: "He is right."

You know, my favorite job is hooking people. I am a fisher of men, and I am proud of it. I go out fishing for men on every Sunday, and in a little while I hope that I shall be able to make a fishing tour over the world, and for that purpose I have my bait ready and my hooks are sharp, and I am going to hook all the men that I can. What are my hooks and what is my bait? My bait is the sublime wisdom-religion of antiquity, and my hooks are telling men of their own inner faculties, unknown to themselves — an appeal to their own inner, spiritual being — a call to them to know what they themselves are. Man, know thyself! I am trying to show my fellow men what mysteries and beauties they have locked up within; and every word that I say along this line is a hook; and, as the Founder of Christianity, Jesus, said: Be ye fishers of men.

"I like your teaching to the effect that we should control our thoughts, that good thoughts should be substituted for evil thoughts, and so on. But in reading your literature I come upon advice like this: 'Silence thy thoughts.'
"It seems to me that if I were to stop thinking, there would be nothing left of me. Please tell me what becomes of my consciousness when the flow of thought is stopped."

Well, in the first place, you would have peace. You would begin to know something. Isn't it amazing how people seem to think that a mind crammed full of the ideas of other men is a genial mind, the mind of a genius? Stop thinking? But you cannot do that, nor is that the advice given to you. The advice is: "Silence your thoughts," which means: control them, be the master of them. Do not be the slave of the vagrant mental tramps that run through your mind; but be men. Give birth to thoughts and rule these your children, and when they become naughty, put the dampers on. Silence them.

Be a thinker, not so much of thoughts, but of thought. Do you see the difference? In other words, leave the restless activity of your brain-mind, and go into the inner chambers of your heart, into the recesses of your consciousness, the holy place within, and see the light. Receive the light. Silence your thoughts, and enter into consciousness. Think it over, please.

Examine your own mental processes, and see how much time you waste in merely thinking thoughts, useless thoughts, most of them, and neglect to drink of those sublime fountains of knowledge and wisdom and consciousness that you have within you, the sources of inspiration and genius: to drink of the genial springs, of those Pierian founts, whence flows all that makes life worth while.

Here is a question of another kind:

"I am sometimes served with walnuts which have three 'halves,' and I have seen a calf with six legs. If nature is divine in origin, how is it that these blunders are happening all the time?"

I think that this kind friend thinks he is going to catch me. Now, watch me hook him. Why does he think the things he mentions are blunders? What makes him think that? Doesn't he see that in supposing that nature is blundering, he is taking things for granted, and therefore crippling his own vision? Why take it for granted that nature does not know better than you do what she is doing; and because a six-legged calf or a three-halved walnut should fall in your way, that therefore nature is out of joint and things are going awry: in other words, that because this is not normal, therefore it is wrong? Don't you see that you dislike it because it seems to you to be wrong?

Is genius normal, for the matter of that? I should be awfully glad to hear that it were so! Then all men would be geniuses: then you are a genius and I am too!

But I will tell you just what these so-called teratological phenomena are, these so-called monstrosities — and there are many, many kinds of them. They are either hark-backs — a harking back to what once was the rule, the norm — or they are shadows of what is coming to pass, future events casting their shadows before, things which nature is attempting to bring forth and can only bring forth at present in sporadic instances where conditions and environment are proper.

Now, to which of these two explanations any particular wonder may belong is another question again, and it would require a very wise mind to decide. But our wondrous Theosophical philosophy gives us a clue even here, because it tells us what previous humanities and previous races of beasts and previous vegetations were like; and it also tells us what future humanities and what the beasts of the future and the vegetation of the future, shall be like. Sometimes men are born today with six fingers, or six toes, or even one more than six.

As of course you know, people used to kill other people not so long ago who thought a little differently from the normal run of men. They were killed because they were supposed to be wicked for thinking differently, and consequently they were considered abnormal. In other words, they were not like everybody else. They were wicked to have thoughts that nobody else had; therefore of course the devil had something to do with it. They were called witches or wizards or whatnot.

Is it not clear that the idea that because things are not normal therefore they are wrong — don't you see that this idea is a superstition? We should rather look for the cause, and look with an open mind, to obtain some new truth, than to suppose that our judgment of things is infallible, and that our normal state is nature's fundamental and changeless rule.

Nature makes no radical mistakes. Hence the idea that because a six-legged calf is born, therefore there is something wrong with nature's ways and that it is a blunder, and that therefore nature cannot be divine in origin because a six-legged calf is born, is rather foolish.

You see, the ideas do not hang logically together. It is wrong to suppose that because you do not understand a thing, therefore nature is out of tune with herself. What I am actually trying to impress upon your minds is this: that it is not only ludicrous in itself, but positively foolish to attempt to mensurate nature in all ways by the standard of what our ordinary human experience considers to be the norm.

For instance, do you know what the inhabitants of other planets may be like in appearance? I have spoken of this matter before, and I will now again tell you that if you could see the inhabitants of some other planets, you would not like their looks at all — because they don't look like you! That is a fact.

Now, we white men, or rather pink men (most of us are pink), think that we are the beauties of the earth; but other races do not think that we are. They think that we white men, or pink men, have a rather unpleasant aroma about us, and also an unpleasant color of skin, and disagreeable features. I have talked intimately with men of other races, and I have learned just about what they think of us. Don't think that because a thing is not like you, therefore nature has blundered in shaping the other so different from you.

"Are we justified in asking an actor to personate a murderer? Can he escape the evil influence of the emotions of hate, or greed, which he is required to simulate?"

This really is a profound question. There are two sides to it, or rather, two ways of answering it. I myself have acted on the stage, or rather, have tried to act, and I have found that if I tried to impersonate an imperfect character I began to get imperfect thoughts: began to feel that my own life had links of strong sympathy with the imperfections that I was personating.

I also have played the part of a god on the stage, and I know how it is to feel that you are a god. It is an ennobling thing to feel in that way. However, I have never acted the part of a homicide. I think that I would like to try that role sometime, merely in order to find out what homicidal feelings might bring to my mind. I don't think that it would affect me, but I do believe that if a man passed his life in impersonating, and in trying to feel, the actions and thoughts and emotions of a murderer, night after night, he would break down a certain mental and emotional barrier which all decent folk have in their consciousness, and thus come to realize that murdering would become, to a certain extent, familiar to him.

Now, that is my feeling about it. I may be wrong. Fortunately, actors do not pass their lives in impersonating one thing all the time. They change their roles. A murderer on the stage one day, and an attempt to be a god on the stage the next day; and I suppose that the one role counteracts the evil influences of the other. Answer this question in the way that you yourself like!

Here is a profound question, and a very interesting one:

"Is it true that cosmos and chaos are a duality: that chaos is a something incomprehensible and terrifying (that is, terrifying to a human mind), in which vast universes may and do come into being only to be swallowed up and dispersed by other vast cosmic energies; and that cosmos is that portion of chaos which has been seized and held in beauty and order by the determined will of individuals, whether they be gods, demigods, or men?"

To the latter part of the question regarding cosmos, I can answer at once that such is the teaching of the ancient wisdom-religion, today called theosophy; but that chaos is not something which remains forever chaos; and further, that it is not merely ungoverned, unensouled, unruled space. Chaos is a Greek word originating in a Greek root meaning, "to yawn open." Actually it is what we moderns call space, in the original, archaic conception comprising the idea of an indwelling, over-brooding, cosmic, spiritual power, which the modern idea lacks.

Again, chaos, from which we have the English word chaotic — meaning an assemblage of things in disorder — meant to the Greek philosophers who used this term simply that in space, once that universes have passed out of physical existence, there remain seeds of what had been — seeds deposited by these universes. But these seeds of life, when in future aeons the time for manifestation comes anew, are destined to develop into another cosmos or universe of law and order.

Chaos, therefore, really is but the other aspect of cosmos. To use our own theosophical terms, cosmos is manvantara, and chaos is space in the state of pralaya. Chaos is space filled with the seeds of universes and of beings to be: in other words, it is sleeping, resting, Matter. Cosmos, therefore, is simply a Universe in manvantaric being and pursuing its evolutionary course until its time comes to sink into sleep and to undergo the dissipation of its composing atomic hosts; and then what is called chaos will again be there, until once more the clock, the cosmic timepiece, so to say, shows the hour for the universal rebirth, for universal reimbodiment, and then the universe that was comes into being again: the old hosts of atoms are reassembled once more, and form a cosmos — suns and planets, constellations and whatnot.

Even so pragmatical a mind as that of Herbert Spencer grasped this ancient thought — also a favorite teaching of the old Stoical philosophy — and Spencer wrote of the time when, according to his idea, nature would run down only to resurrect again from its cosmic ashes.

I now turn to a question which was sent to me some weeks ago, and as my time for closing is nearly here, it seems only fair that I should answer it this afternoon:

"Dean Inge, dean of St. Paul's, London, in an article published on September 18, in The Evening Standard, on "Magic and Miracle," makes the following statement:
"'America has provided us with several superstitions, and a philosophy which tolerates them. The philosophy is the old philosophy of Protagoras that "Man is the measure of all things." A civilization which rests on bluff aspires to bluff Nature and the Author of Nature. Man creates his own values to suit himself; if he feels jolly, he can snap his fingers at science. "What is truth?" said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.'
"Do you accept the philosophical saying of Protagoras that 'Man is the measure of all things'? If so, please state in what way this saying is to be interpreted."

Well, of course, Dean Inge has his own opinions about things. He is an interesting man and he knows the generous American heart. He knows that he can say anything about the American people, and if he says it in a courteous way, the Americans will understand him — have their own opinions, of course, of what he says, but won't be offended. It is true, there is quite a deal of bluff in this country; but are Americans the only bluffers? Privately (tell it not abroad!) I think that Dean Inge himself is somewhat of a bluffer. It has been my experience, friends, that we usually accuse the other chap of just what we ourselves are guilty of. Our own fault looms so large in our consciousness that we think perforce the other fellow must be doing the same thing or thinking the same thing.

Now, in answer to the question: Yes, it is the teaching of the ancient wisdom that man is in very truth the measure of all things. There are very many sides from which this question can and should be answered. First, being an inseparable part of the universe, man must have everything in him which the universe contains. He is its offspring, a child of infinitude; he is not separate from the universe. Nothing can exist anywhere in the spaces of space, in boundless infinitude, which man has not in himself as an inseparable portion of the whole.

Next, how do you understand anything? Do you understand it by some wonderful, mysterious faculty, which is different from and not found in the universe of which you are an inseparable part? You can understand the universe only by your own inner powers, spiritual and intellectual, which merely reflect the energies and operations of that universe — which is all things. Therefore are you naturally, intrinsically, a measure of all things. You can know truth only by your own faculties. Another man may have a vision and may tell you his vision; but you cannot really understand it until you yourself have seen; and you can see that same vision because the other man and you are both inseparable parts of the cosmic Mother, and the same faculties, energies, powers, possibilities, play through you both and through all others. In brief, man measures everything by his own innate powers.

When we reflect that those innate powers are but the offspring of the universe which man is measuring, then we see that he, man, is a measure of all things, because in the inmost of his inmost, he is all things. A child of the universe, its life is his life. He is rooted in the divinest of the divine, if indeed we may pause there, and lives even his physical existence in the midst of the encompassing substances and powers of the physical world, of which in his physical form he likewise is an inseparable part.

Man, therefore, is essentially everything, existing on all planes of consciousness; therefore he is a measure of all things, the measuring rod, by which he may translate to himself the mysteries, divine and other, within himself — which means within the universe.

And in proportion as you ally yourself with your own inner god, with the fountain of divinity which is constantly pouring through your inner being, does your consciousness ascend and expand in power and reach, so that with inner growth comes expanding vision on the one hand and the expanding consciousness to interpret that vision on the other hand.


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