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

No. 7 (November 12, 1929)

QUESTIONS WE ALL ASK

(Lecture delivered July 28, 1929)

An announcer of glad tidings always has a happy heart; and, as the Hebrew poet says in substance: "Beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them who come bringing tidings of good cheer." I always feel, when standing on this platform to speak, that I am like the messenger of glad tidings to men; for our wonderful philosophy is replete, is full, of the most noble and elevating thoughts — not garnered merely from the storehouse of the thoughts of the great seers and Sages of the ages, but thoughts that you and I can prove to be true by entering into our own fora, going within ourselves, into those silent places that every human heart possesses, which are so similar to, and yet so different from, each one as contrasted with all the others.

In these silent places we receive illumination, we receive visions of truth, because our spirit — the core of us, the heart of us — has gone into the very core of being, where it is native, from which it is separated never, from which it originally sprang, and with which we are all in direct and unceasing communication.

Realize this wonderful truth; take it to heart; for there are fountains inexhaustible of wisdom, of knowledge, and of love — yes, and power — power over self first of all, which means power over the so-called inanimate nature in which we live and move and have our being.

What is this core of your being? That is the question, friends, that the great sages and seers of all the ages have answered: it is the inner god in you, the divine spirit, the Christos-spirit, the living Christ. These are not vain words, not poetical terms; for there is nothing so real, nothing so actual, nothing which gives such comfort and help and solace in time of stress and grief and sorrow and suffering.

It is a wonderful experience to go into the silent places of the heart. It is pitiful how the average man fritters away his time in a fevered and restless search for the things that amount to so little after all, and that perforce he needs must leave behind him when the great and beautiful angel of death is at his bedside.

But in life, while we are living as men and women on this earth, we can at any moment, if we so will, not merely ally ourselves with, but become at one with, be, the very heart of the universe. This is the substance of the noblest, the most elevated, religious and philosophical teachings that the world has ever received.

It is into these quiet places of the soul, if you like to put it so, into these deep silences of the heart — that is to say, the inmost of the inmost of the human being — that enter the great seers and sages when they want to acquire more light and greater knowledge; for by so doing they enter into the very structure and fabric of the universe, and therefore know truth at first hand, because they become in their own minds and intelligences, in the interpreting organ we call the mentality, one with that universe, vibrating synchronously, sympathetically, with the vibrations on all planes of the Eternal Mother. There they become at one with all, and therefore know truth intuitively.

People ask questions. Now why, as I said on last Sunday, do they ask questions? Because they desire to know. The reason why people ask questions is obvious, because it is an instinct for more knowledge; but this instinct for knowledge is a hungering for light, is a search for truth, and no heart, no mind, should be satisfied with any answer which does not at least contain some of the elements springing forth from this fountain of light itself, from this fountain of life inexplicable, resident in the core of the human being.

Men differ in their expressions of forms and about forms; but they never differ when the strings of the heart are plucked by the intelligence, for then they recognize truth to be truth.

I have before me a list of questions that have been sent in to me for answer, and I might say in passing that although I have called myself an animated encyclopedia, or a walking dictionary, in answering so many questions, I am always glad to receive these questions, and I shall try to answer them with the same sincerity that I have all other questions that I have received, whether from inside or outside of the grounds of our International Headquarters. If you are interested in any subject at all that you think I may be able, with my theosophical training, to throw light upon, send your question to me and I will try to answer it.

First then: I will read all the questions I have here and then I will try to answer them in order. Some of these questions are rather obscure. I think they refer to previous lectures that have been given here in this our Temple of Peace. At any rate, I will read them as I have received them.

(What a philosophical mind this questioner has! I think that he or she must be an Einsteinian. At any rate, it sounds like it, and in a certain sense I also am an Einsteinian.)

Yes, I think the time is here for a new phraseology for philosophical dicta. I believe that the time has come for an entire reshaping of philosophical thought itself in Occidental countries. The philosophical systems in Occidental countries are outworn. They were outlined 150, 250 or more years ago, before the recent great discoveries in science took place that are now so enlightening the minds of men regarding the physical nature surrounding us. Hence new views of nature have become imperative; and naturally, for the philosophical systems themselves are bound to change as greater knowledge comes, and indeed they are now so changing. Therefore the phraseology in which they have been couched is also bound to change, and it is also indeed changing.

I have never found a better phraseology in which to express the facts of nature than our own theosophical terminology. It is ancient, it has stood the test of time, it is very expressive, it is exact. Even in those modern theosophical words that we have had to develop, or bring forth, or invent, in order to give some distinctly clear idea of what our own Sanskrit terms mean, we see the working of this natural element of change.

"If the body is a bunch of sheaths of energy, why say 'inside or outside,' why point upwards for heaven, or downwards for the opposite place?"

It has never struck me that these gestures upwards or downwards as made by a speaker or as used by a writer in verbal expression mean anything more than symbolic suggestions of superiority or inferiority as the case may be. A man in speaking may point upwards or downwards, but certainly a theosophical lecturer by using these two gestures in either direction would not signify that in his view heaven is above the spot of our round globe on which he stands, or that hell is below it. They are merely symbolic gestures understood by everybody: a species of sign language signifying, as I have already said, inferiority or superiority: elevation or the opposite.

The questioner is quite right in criticizing the terms inside or outside, for not merely the physical body but the entire human constitution, as our theosophical teaching says it is — visible and invisible, so-called inner and so-called outer — is composed of sheaths of energy-substance working all together as a unit through the physical body, which is the grossest of the remaining parts of the human constitution; and it is this larger part of the human constitution working through the physical body which controls the body, manifests through it, and that physical body like all other sheaths of the constitution is composed of substance-energy. Verily indeed, there is neither "inside" nor "outside," strictly speaking. It would in all cases, I think, be better to say inferior and superior, higher and lower — not meaning in any case mere spacial location but difference of intrinsic quality.

Next:

"Is not the word 'relativity' sufficiently understood, and the fallacy of 'time and space' sufficiently impressed upon the modern minds through the demonstration of radio, to warrant new lines of expression?"

I think this querent is the same one who asked the first question. No, I do not think that the word "relativity" is sufficiently understood. I think that very few people understand it even in its simplest meaning — this wonderful Einsteinian phrase. Dr. Albert Einstein in his fundamental scientific or philosophical teachings touched upon a very ancient truth which has been taught in the theosophical philosophy for ages upon ages upon ages, and it is this: that everything that is in the world, visible and invisible, high or low, inferior or superior, is relative to one another. There are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, no absolute separations, nothing absolute — that is to say anything standing by itself, and utterly radical from the root up and therefore utterly different from any other thing. On the contrary, everything is relative to everything else. All things are interlocked and interlinked and interblended and interwoven; and this web of being is the great universe of which we human beings, in common with all other beings, are inseparable parts.

We are relative to the Universe as it is relative to us, and so is the humblest of things and the highest of things and beings. That is the fundamental idea of the theory of relativity.

Now whether Dr. Albert Einstein has successfully proved his theory mathematically is another question entirely. I do not think he has. I may be wrong, but I do not think that he has proved it with completely satisfying mathematical demonstration. Nevertheless, his fundamental idea is a wonderful natural truth.

There is no such thing as time utterly separate from space; but space and time are two aspects, two sides, two phases, or events, of the same underlying reality. Matter and energy again are not utterly different, but are two aspects, two phases, two events, as I have just said, of the same underlying reality. And substance and spirit — or force and matter, if you prefer the words — and time and space: all these four are but four aspects, four phases, four events, of this one underlying reality.

Never mind by what name you call this underlying reality. No human intellect can encompass it in itself. It is deathless, it is immortal, it is infinite, and it is eternal. Theosophists, adopting the ancient Sanskrit terminology, simply call it That. We give to it no other name except That; and how much more reverent this is, is it not, than to give a name to it which limits it, if only by small and petty human association of ideas.

I do not know really what the questioner means by saying, "through the demonstration of radio." It is true that time and space, considered as separate things, are fallacious. I mean that they are fallacies and have no existence in themselves. They do not exist separately from each other, as I have just said. They are two sides, two aspects, two phases of the same underlying thing. But I do not see what radio has to do with it. I think the idea is that because radio is an electromagnetic effect, and because some man's voice can be heard practically instantaneously on opposite sides of the earth, the querent seems to believe that this proves that there is no such thing as time and space, or rather, as Relativists say, time-space.

But why so? Remember that spacial distance and intervals of time we judge solely by the effect of outside nature upon our senses acting as reporters to our consciousness, and our senses are very imperfect and therefore report to us imperfectly.

Consider the question of time. Remember how slow our life is as contrasted with other lives and how rapid it is in its cycle as compared with other entities. Speed has nothing to do with life or consciousness except as mere effect. The electrons of the atom whirling around their central protonic nucleus, let us say six or seven quadrillion times in one human second, may have on them — on these tiny atomic planets — infinitesimal beings, thinking beings, living beings, even as you and I live on this earthly planet Terra whirling around its central sun.

But note how rapidly the entire cycle of their electronic life runs — seven quadrillions of their years in one human second; and, on the contrary, how rapidly we must live in comparison with supernal Intelligences in the vast abysses of the spaces of space, whose life periods must extend over quadrillions and quintillions and sextillions, and heaven knows how many -illions of human years. You see therefore how relative all these things are to circumstances and conditions.

So, therefore, radio to us is practically instantaneous transmission of thought, but to beings of another order of intelligence it might be exceedingly long between the speaker's word and the one who receives the voice; and again contrariwise, it might be much more rapid even than it is to us. All these cases are instances of the poor fallacy of considering time to have existence in itself, and to be judged of by our own imperfect sense receptions. We are so apt to judge these things, as just said, by our own sense organs, forgetting how imperfect these sense organs are. Very imperfect senses indeed have we, and we live so much in our physical sense "apparatus" that we are apt to think all the foundations of the universe are builded according to the way our so imperfect physical senses interpret those foundations to us. Remember that carefully, please.

"And if so, why do we talk and think of trillions and quadrillions of miles of space in light-years, etc.? Radio would suggest no distance or space."

Well, but it does. Even electricity, rapid in movement as it is to us humans, takes a certain time to pass over a certain extension of physical matter and so also does radio transmission take time, however short that period of time may seem to be to us.

"Is not everything within reach — here and now?"

Yes, provided you can reach it! Provided you can reach it! Everything is here and now, no matter how great or how small. That is all there is to the fact. It is the inner spiritual evolution, bringing forth what is within, as the flower manifests the vital energy of its parent seed, bringing forth what is within itself: its evolution, the development of the inner faculties and powers, it is this evolution which prepares us ever more and more as time goes on to reach out and take not only what belongs to us, but what pertains to circumambient life; but if we do it according to nature's fundamental laws, we take only in order that we may give, we gain only in order to use what we gain for others, for nature is one harmonious and completely interblending organism of which every part by the fundamental law of Nature works for every other part.

That is the fundamental law of the universe, and that law we theosophists briefly and perhaps rather inaccurately call universal brotherhood, meaning by that the absolute inseparability, fundamental, radical, basic, of everything that is. Consequently everything is within reach if only you have learned to take it: and I may remind you here that only those may take who themselves can give, paradoxical as it sounds: and those who can take more than others are precisely those who can give more than others, and those are what we humans call geniuses. Those again who take still more than do the geniuses are what we call the great sages and seers of the ages. Those who take less are what are commonly called humbler men, men less evolved; and finally there are those who take still less from nature's reservoirs and storehouses, and those are the entities in the inferior or lower walks of life, evolutionally speaking.

"Is there any such thing as time or space?"

Yes, there is time-space, what Einstein and his followers call the time-space continuum, a thought which does not mean that time exists on the one hand, so to speak, and space exists on the other hand, so to speak, as entities radically differ, for as I have just pointed out to you, time and space are but two phases, two events, of the underlying reality, and it might be better to phrase the matter in an entirely different way and say that time and space are merely two aspects of the underlying reality as our imperfect senses interpret natural phenomenon to our minds. It is only our physical senses that makes us think these two things — time and space — exist absolutely separately, the one from the other; while the continuum idea briefly expresses the natural fact that both are the continuous and uninterrupted existence of reality. Energy and matter, or spirit and substance, are still two further aspects or phases of the same underlying reality. All this may be to the average man rather high philosophy; but I must point out to you that the questions which I am trying to answer touch on points of high philosophy.

"Might not an electron at the end of one's foot get instantaneous communication with an electron in the brain notwithstanding the distance of separation?"

Why certainly; but it all depends upon what you mean by "instantaneous," as I have already tried to explain. Electricity is practically instantaneous in its passage from point to point as we humans sense it, but to other beings different from us humans the time which elapses between the pressing of the electric contact and the response of the light which flashes on in the electric globe might be exceedingly long to an order of intelligences evolved along different evolutionary pathways than those followed by us humans. We are so apt to judge nature by the reports given to us by our own imperfect physical senses, and also according to the way nature has builded our own little dust-speck which we call Mother Earth: we judge the whole universe by what our senses enable us to learn of Mother Earth and hence we think the entire universal nature must be builded in the way and after the manner and according to the plans by which our planet Terra has been builded.

We humans are physical children of Mother Earth, even as the inhabitants of other planets are children of their planets, living in vehicles or bodies that nature working on those other planets has builded as appropriate vehicles for existence there.

"Do human beings come into earth-life haphazard, or according to laws of cause and effect?"

I don't think that this friend has ever been in our Temple of Peace before; otherwise he would have remembered that I have answered this question already many times in past lectures. Human beings most certainly do not come into earth-life haphazard. Haphazard is a word which means chance. Now chance is simply a word which men use when they do not know the true answer to a thing: men simply say that such and such a thing happened, or that it chanced. But in a little while perhaps they know more about it, and then the word chance is forgotten, and we give an expression to this little more of knowledge that we have then acquired by a word which we think embodies our greater knowledge and which perhaps is a long neo-Greek or neo-Latin name. In such circumstances we have acquired a little more knowledge than before, it is true; but let us also remember that there is much more knowledge still to attain about the same thing.

If there is one thing that a theosophist learns above everything else, it is not to build ideas of finalities into his mind and to refuse to recognize any absolutes, whether these be of the nature of barriers or complete endings. There are always greater things to know, there is always a beyond in knowledge, in growth, in wisdom, yes, and in love. Love, the cement of the universe, which keeps the stars in their courses, which builds the worlds, which teaches men the noblest of things, self-sacrifice; and oh how beautiful, how inexpressibly lovely, is the self-sacrifice originating in impersonal love!

Yes, human beings come into the world strictly according to the laws of what theosophists call karma. The average man may perhaps call it the law of cause and effect. I much prefer our own theosophical explanation of karma, as the doctrine of consequences, meaning the consequences of what one has himself sown, he alone must reap. To be sure, cause and effect — I mean these two words — have a scientific flavor about them, an aroma (I won't be discourteous), a perfume, of a moribund, that is to say, of a dying, if not dead, science. Therefore we theosophists like our own terms better; and instead of saying cause and effect I, at least, prefer to say consequences, meaning the fruits, the results, the consequences, of what one has sown himself or done himself or himself thought. These ye reap and nothing else, for ye yourselves sowed the seed of which you are now reaping the fruit.

Consequently human beings reincarnate or come into earth-life strictly according to what they have made themselves to be in other lives — into the nation, into the family, into the time period, and into the circumstances that they themselves have prepared for themselves in other lives. How simple, how appealing is this doctrine in its simplicity. Here then is the essence of the doctrine of karma, and also its twin doctrine of reincarnation, and surely you see that neither of the two doctrines is at all difficult to understand — at least to understand the principles of them.

"I believe that your theosophical doctrine of reincarnation is true; but why should some souls reincarnate as men and some as women? What is the cause of it if the human soul is without sex, as I understand is the case?"

Well, I suppose that this question must have occurred to everybody who has heard of the doctrine of reincarnation for the first few times. I remember that it occurred to me as a youth when I first heard of reincarnation as being a fundamental theosophical teaching. Would you like to know the answer to this question? I will tell you, and please, friends, forgive me if from the necessities of the case I cannot speak as plainly nor as fully as I might if I were speaking in a medical lecture hall.

The human soul is sexless. It has no more sex than has this pillar at my side, it has no more sex than has the wood of this lectern at my side. But karmically, that is to say according to the law of consequences working throughout nature, at different periods the human soul takes unto itself or into itself different colorings or affections so to speak. It is modified in one of two directions — bent, biased, temporarily — but while this bias lasts, it exercises its influence. The result of this bias or bending or penchant or leaning or affection in one direction of the two brings through the process of reincarnation a man-child into the world; and the result of the penchant or bias or bending — or of what we may call "mental deposits," as William Q. Judge used to say — in the other direction in precisely identical fashion brings a woman-child into the world.

What causes these mental deposits — these storings up of thought and emotions, these seeds of the body to be, mental and moral seeds directing the course of the reincarnating soul into the body of a man-child or of a woman-child? The cause is what you have done in the last life or lives, in your emotions, in your thoughts.

Do you understand the drift of my meaning? If a man is strongly attracted to the other sex in any one life, he makes mental deposits in his psychological apparatus, he stirs up tendencies in a certain direction, and that apparatus is therefore biased or affected in a certain direction; and these tendencies lie latent during the post-mortem period until their combined energy, their accumulated energy, attracts him or drives him into the direction — do you follow me? — in other words, leading him into the body to be of his next incarnation on earth.

It is therefore attraction to a body of a certain type that determines the sex of the child; or rather, to put it more clearly, it is attraction that determines whether a man-child or a woman-child shall be the next physical vehicle for that particular reincarnating soul. I think that I have spoken with sufficient clearness.

"Who are the Masters of Wisdom of whom I have read in theosophical literature? Are they spirits of dead men?"

Most emphatically they are not. They are living men, as alive as I am, as alive as you are. They are living men; sages, seers, great men, great ones, very holy, very wise, very compassionate. The great Buddha Gautama was one; Jesus called the Christ was one. Sankaracharya, the great Hindu sage was one. Lao-Tse the great Chinese philosopher and sage was one, as was also Confucius. Among Greeks the names of Apollonius of Tyana, of Pythagoras, of Empedocles, occur to me; and there have been many, many more, and there are today many.

Has it ever occurred to you to ponder over the fact that these great men have lived? Has it ever occurred to you to wonder about it? Why should they be so great that they move the souls not only of the men and women of their own time, so that in fact they have made and unmade civilizations, but also that the memories of their lives have come down through the ages as exemplars of superhuman greatness?

Yes they were men, great men. They are the sages and seers, and it is from their teachings, formulated into a system, that the modern theosophical philosophy-science-religion has taken its present form. They are not the spirits of dead men.

"Is it possible for anybody — the plain man or woman — to enter into personal relations with these great sages? If so, how is it done? Where do they live?"

Well, it is possible for anybody, no matter how plain and what the world calls humble, no matter how rich and what the world calls princely — prince or peasant, black-skinned or pink, brown or white, it matters nothing at all.

The open sesame is none of these merely human qualities or attributes. It is what you are yourself within yourself which determines whether you shall be called to meet these great ones. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. And if you give the right knock, the portals fly open before you as if by magic.

When such or another came to Jesus, did he say: Where were you born? How much money have you? What is your rank in life? No, he didn't. Nor do the great sages and seers ask these questions. They know these things. They can tell as it were by a glance of the eye.

Along the same lines of argument exactly: if you were a teacher of Sanskrit, as I have been, and want to know whether another man is a Sanskrit scholar, you don't ask him questions about where he was born or what his name is or how much money he has. You test him by the only means which common sense provides, and then you know. And they do the same, with this exception, however, that their means and methods are far more subtle than the illustration I have given because they know by spiritual and psychological tests and know instantly.

That then is the way by which to enter into relations with these great sages and seers. Be the highest you love. Live the noblest you know; and the way to communication with them lies open before your feet. Anybody, plain or not plain, to use the questioner's words, provided that he comes and knocks, to use the language of the Christian New Testament, provided that he has that within him, that something which will not be denied, and which by divine right of spiritual growth requires an answer, will get it. I repeat: he will get the answer. Theosophists call the marks of majesty in this case the buddhic light of the self, and the Christians might call it the Christ-light. The meaning of these two expressions is the same in a general way, and only the words differ. There is the way by which to enter into personal relations with the great seers and sages who today as always compose the band or association or society of great men of which I have spoken before.

This teaching of the existence of this association of great men is nothing new. The great men have lived. That is a fact in history; and may I ask you: Has nature grown so enfeebled through evolution that she cannot now produce what once she produced? Are there no such great sages and seers today? Of course there are, and I invite you to use your common sense and to answer your own question.

"If so, how is it done?"

I have already told you. The Buddha told us how; Jesus told us how. Apollonius, Empedocles, Pythagoras, and all the others have told us how; and the telling is the same identically in all cases. "Come unto me," is the answer; "come unto me." And how can you come if you are heavy laden and burdened with egoism, laboring under the heavy weight of blinding selfish desires in particular? But come with the child-heart, come with the spiritual instinct that there are intelligence and love at the foundations of the universe, and that these are also in your own heart: and your questions will be answered.

"Where do they live?"

Anywhere. More specifically, there are groups or lodges of them in different parts of the world, especially in Tibet, and also in a certain place in Asia Minor, in a certain part of India, and also in a certain part of South America; and these are the places where the busy marts of men are less in evidence, where the air is less polluted by evil human emanations, where the noise and distractions are less. Does the novelist, does the poet, does the scientists, do the thinkers, ever go by preference into the main streets of our great cities and try to produce the fine flowers of their thinking there with all the noise and hustle and hurly-burly around them? No, they go to the quiet places, into the places of peace and beauty. That is why these great seers and sages live in the unfrequented parts of the earth. There is nothing uncanny about their choice, as you readily see.

"Is the Theosophical Society under the guidance and control of the great seers and sages that you so often speak of in your lectures?"

Under their guidance in a general way, yes. Under their control, not at all. They inspire our theosophical work; they guide our efforts; they teach, they show the way; they light the path; they tell us of the sunny splendor ahead. But control! The questioner has not the remotest conception of the method of the great ones. Control of others is evil, it is mischievous, it is fraught with danger, it is selfish. They guide, direct, inspire, but they don't control in the sense of the questioner. They enlighten, they inspire, they guide, they point the path, and say: Higher, come up higher! Or, and this comes to the same thing: Come unto me; I am the Way and the Truth and the Life and the Light.

And poor mistaken human hearts have taken these words as signifying the mere personality of a great man. It is truly pathetic. The idea, on the other hand, was: the following of a noble life, the taking of the teachings given, the receiving and evolving of the inner native splendor, of the divine inner being, is the result of the buddhic splendor, the Christ-light. That was the thought behind the saying of Jesus.

"I understand your theosophical doctrine of karma to be simply the formulation of the laws of cause and effect. Who or what laid down these laws in the universe?"

The first part of this question I have already answered; and I will answer the second part by saying that nothing, nobody, laid down these laws in the Universe. These so-called laws of cause and effect are simply the operations of nature itself, its natural actions, movements, its intrinsic being. Do you understand me?

There is no supreme law giver. You will realize that fact clearly if you think about it. But permeating all nature, working through all nature, there is wondrous, mystic, splendid spirit, and "beyond" that spirit is superspirit, impersonal, divine. Remember that personality always has limitations, always has its restrictions; otherwise it cannot be impersonal or divine. Only impersonality is eternal and infinite. These laws of cause and effect therefore are simply the operations of natural being, radical, inherent in nature; and in fact are naught but the movements of nature itself. What else can they be?

Why is wood, wood? If wood had the texture and the qualities of gold, let us say, would it be wood? It would be gold. That is the idea. Gold has certain intrinsic qualities, certain chemical qualities, which are the very nature of this metal and hence it is gold. So these causal and effectual operations of nature are inherent in nature itself: so to say they are the very nature of nature itself. Also never forget that nature is rooted in spirit, and spirit is rooted in superspirit, and superspirit in That.

"Is not intelligence the greatest and profoundest quality of nature? Or is there something still deeper?"

Intelligence in this abstract sense is universal. All nature is consequential in its action and in its structure. All nature is builded according to certain fashions which make it what it is. This is the work of universal intelligence manifesting in individuals — high or low, as in us human beings — in each after a certain fashion.

But is there something deeper in nature than what men call intelligence, something which appeals still more to the heart of man? Yes; and that is that wondrous mystery which I have called the cement of the universe, which holds things together, which keeps the stars in their paths, which keeps human hearts beating in aspiration and hope, which shows us the sunny splendors on the other side of death. Do you know what it is? Very great men have called it Love. Love — a holy, beautiful name; and I think that only human beings degrade it.


Vol 1, No 8

Contents