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

Second Series: No. 1 (September 1, 1930)


(Lecture delivered June 29, 1930)
CONTENTS: Who are you? — The body a mere physical event. — The foundations of ethics laid in nature's heart itself. — The key thought of the ancient Mystery schools. The "Lost Word." — Peace, light, consolation: all are within you. — Pain and suffering the fruit of ignorance. — "Behold, the feast is laid!" — The soulless materialism of our grandfathers merely a superstition. — Scientific fads exist today. — Materialism is soul-devastating. — H. P. Blavatsky and the mental ghosts of her day. — The origin of cosmic law and order. — Why do we sometimes apparently suffer unjustly? — Why is every phase of life characterized by fierce conflict? — Claim your birthright of the spirit! — The noblest path in life.

Who are you? As you must know, this is an old question that men for ages have asked each other, Who are you? "What a stupid question!" some people may say. And they will probably answer: "I am so-and-so; I have such a name; I occupy such a position in society; I was born in such a place; in brief, I am so-and-so." But the wise man, the true thinker, repeats his question: "Who are you? Who indeed are you? Explain your answer to me. Any other person might have had your name, been born where you were born, worn the clothes that you have worn, followed more or less the same intricate pathways of destiny that you followed, and yet have been different."

Are you a mere body and nothing more? Do you reckon, in other words, your spiritual paternity by the flesh-house in which you live? What is it that distinguishes you from others; and outside of this distinction, what is it, not that which makes you what you are, but which causes you to be what you are? Here is the answer: You are essentially a character, each one of you. You express it in all you do: in your thoughts, in your actions, in your consequent character, built up as that character is by thoughts and emotions and consequent actions. Therefore also do you express that character in the destiny which you make for yourself.

A mere body cannot do that. A body is a mere physical "event," to use the language of modern scientific philosophers, for it appears and disappears; and yet you retain your individuality even in the short span between the first conscious strivings of the individuality of your soul in any lifetime until you pass into what men call the great mystery of death.

Therefore do I repeat my question: Who are you? You have not answered the question; and just this is the question that I want you to think about this afternoon, friends, and to take in thought away with you, because it is the most important question with which human beings can concern themselves. It involves everything that you are and do. If you know truly who you are, you will know your origin; you will also know why you are here, and why you are doing such-and-such things, and not doing other things. You will also know whither the course of your thoughts is leading you — in other words you will have some vision of what the destiny is which your present character is already shaping for you. Do you see the ethical, the moral, implications in all this?

Now let me tell you as a theosophical teacher just what you are, albeit my explanation be brief. You are, each one of you, a visible expression of an inner divine and flaming intelligence, poorly expressing itself through the human vehicle; but the root of you is divine, a child of the spiritual universe, even as your physical body is an offspring of the physical universe. You are a child of the spiritual-divine universe in the inmost of the inmost of your being. You are, therefore, inseparable from that spiritual-divine universe, for you cannot leave that universe, a fact that I have so often told you before. You are an essential, intrinsic part of it. Think what that fact means. It means among other things that within you, somewhere, either active or latent, there is everything that is in the Boundless; somewhere locked up within you there is this fiery spirit, a god-spark, of which you, in your intelligence and in the feelings of your heart, are a still feeble expression; but you are destined in the far-distant aeons of the future much more completely to manifest forth the divine flame within you.

What hope there is in this doctrine! You may see now from what has been said where the foundations of ethics are laid — in nature's heart itself. You see now from this brief sketch that right is right, and wrong is wrong, and that nature is built on fundamental lines of equity, on eternal and infinite justice, and that what causes the so-called disharmony and disorder in various parts of the universe, even as in the hierarchy of men, is the varying and conflicting wills and emotions and thoughts of hosts of individuals striving one against all, or a few against all, and vice versa; and this conflict produces friction, which is disharmony, which is lack of peace, and which in individuals is a violation of the fundamental love and harmony which are the very roots, which are the very heart, of the universe.

The inmost of the inmost of the inmost of the core of each one of you is a god, a divine being. "Man, know thyself," said the old Greek Oracle of the god Apollo at Delphi — Gnothi seauton. Do you think that this knowledge of yourself means the little knowledge that is comprised within your brains and in your human heart and derived from your personal and petty affairs of life? O friends, friends, friends! It means that if you know what is within you, all the powers and faculties and energies locked up in you, which you derive from the very heart of being, you have all wisdom and truth, for these are in the core of the core of your being, where they are waiting for your recognition; it also means that the very essential light of you is almighty love, the heart of things.

Do you begin to see now the reason of the question: "Who are you?" Do you see the implications of this question? Do you see the hope that lies in this very brief and altogether incomplete explanation that I have tried merely to sketch in outline for you?

There is a road, a pathway, leading to the heart of the universe, and each one of you is that pathway — each one of you is that pathway; and by following this still small pathway, as the Hindu Upanishads so nobly put it, which is the pathway of consciousness leading to the divinity within you, to your own inner spiritual self, you can ascend out of the spheres of matter, through the expansion of your growing consciousness, until that human consciousness becomes universal in its sweep.

This is the key thought of all the ancient schools of initiation, of all the ancient Mystery schools. They taught this one fact openly; and what was hid from the ordinary mankind was how to tread this pathway. For there are dangers along this road — steep and thorny, but sublime — which slowly ascends out of the valleys of material existence in constant rise over the mountain peaks of the spirit, until finally, when you reach the highest pinnacle of what any one sphere of life can give to you, the wings, to use a figure of speech, of your soul have grown so that you can launch yourself into the blue ether and ascend along the solar rays of the spirit to a union, a self-conscious union, with divinity. Sons of the sun you are — each one of you is a son of the sun, the spiritual sun.

This teaching of the inner god, of the inner divinity, of the limitless powers and possibilities in the evolutionary growth of every human being, is the "Lost Word" of which faint whisperings are still heard in your spiritually deaf Occidental world. For this Lost Word is no mere word, because strictly speaking it is an interior illumination. It is a system of thought and a manner of living. It is the ancient wisdom-religion of mankind, the wisdom of the gods. Any sincere son of man who will not be balked by obstacles, whose spirit rises high above the attractions of the material world, and who wills to know and who dares to follow that pathway can become in its divine fullness the god within, first, and then afterwards there will open before him other pathways leading to the heart of the cosmic divine.

You will doubtless remember what the great Christian teacher said: "I am the Way, I am the Life"; and his first disciples knew well the meaning of his teaching; but alas! alas! how quickly did it die out from the memory of men, when ecclesiasticism and the lust for temporal power blinded men's eyes. Do you not know intuitively that each one of you is in the inmost of his inmost just such a Christos-spirit — just such an immanent Christ, of which the modern mystical Christians are beginning to talk, just such an inner Buddha, as the Orientals say? And alas! because men know this sublime truth no longer, because they have forgotten it, they turn to things of the exterior world, and attempt to find consolation and peace where there is neither consolation nor peace, seeking help where help will never be found; searching for light where light is not. All — peace, light, consolation, help — are within you. Your understanding is within. Your heart-force is within. All your percipient faculties are within. Where then, logically, should you seek for light? Outside of you? No, within.

Do I then mean by this appeal to the spiritual individual that there is no need for teachers, that there is no need for organization? Do I then imply by voicing these unquestionably true and sublime facts that every man is a sufficient law unto himself? I do not. Just examine yourselves and you yourselves will then understand. Are you consciously expressing the divine powers within you? Do you even know of their existence otherwise than intuitively perhaps? Do you know how so to live that the divine within you may show forth its transcendent powers? Herein therefore is seen the need of a true teacher. Every great sage and seer of the past has taught among many other things one fundamental, identic, truth, which is what I have briefly set forth to you this afternoon. Every one of them can say, and many of them have said, just as Jesus did: "I am the Truth; I am the Way; I am the Life." So also is each one of you, if only you live unto the god within you.

No, I believe in teachers; I believe in true teaching; I believe in helping others. Teachers, true teachings, mutual help, are things that are needed. But when the teaching has been given, when the light has been received, then is the chance for your own inner faculties to show what power and resiliency of will you are able to manifest in your own life, and thereafter to tread the sublime path as a free spiritual entity. Furthermore, you will meet teachers always along the path, no matter how high you may go. The universe is a composite entity, builded of worlds within worlds, worlds invisible within the physical and astral encasements; and each one of these inner and invisible worlds of hierarchies, has its own heads, its own teachers, leaders, guides — spiritual beings who have attained that high state through self-directed evolution as my great predecessor Katherine Tingley loved to phrase it.

Do you see the logic of it all? Organization is needed because organization is the same thing as law and order. Imagine what would happen if every human being on earth were to be a law unto himself in every detail, thoughtless of the rights of others, following his own whims and wishes at whatever cost to others. A blessed peace, a sublime harmony, should we have on earth, should we not! Men who teach such an anarchy of organization are not great. They lack wisdom. They lack first of all the inner vision, the vision sublime of the spirit; and do you know what is written all over this Vision in characters so beautiful that they are indescriptible in language ordinarily human? It is this: Give up thy lower personal life if thou would'st find the life everlasting. Do you see? Exchange the limited, the personal, the small, the petty, the incomplete, the unevolved, for all the contraries of these. For within you are all things and all possibilities of growth.

But in order to find the way, to put your feet on this path, which you must tread inwards, leading to divinity, you must have guides; you must be taught. Where are these guides? Where will you be taught? I can show you the way; I can show you how to put your feet on this still, small path leading ever more and more and more inwards. But the initiating motion must come from you. I have no right to sway your will; I have no right to force the slightest situation in your mind, nor do I desire to do this. It would not only be futile but downright foolish, because no one can see until he opens his eyes. All I can say to you is a repeating of the teaching of the great seers and sages: Behold, the feast is laid, the wine of the spirit and the bread of life are on the table. Come and partake freely.

Unhappiness, sorrow, pain, suffering, and disease are the fruits of ignorance. Has that thought sunken into your hearts? The way to freedom and to peace which passeth all understanding, and to light and to harmony and to love, can be found. Knock; knock with a clean heart and an eager mind and an unveiled spiritual perception, and then your knock will be the right one, and the portals will open before you. Ask, and ask with the same qualities of heart and mind, and you will receive. I tell you in all sincerity that these are not empty words. There is truth to be had, there is wisdom in the world; there is light. I will show you. That is my duty; that is in part what I was sent to do. Love, almighty love, will crack the stoniest of human hearts, for it works from within, and nothing can withstand its all-penetrating power.

The first question that I will briefly answer this afternoon along the line of thought upon which I have already tried to speak to you, is this:

Are life and its phenomena the resultants of a soulless mechanism called nature, or are they the results of law and order moving in mysterious ways?

Isn't that a typical example of a brain-mind question! I don't believe that the man has ever lived who has used his brain so slightly that he really looks upon nature as a soulless mechanism. Does a machine run itself as Nature does? Does a machine reproduce itself as nature does? Is a machine inspired, as nature is, producing its marvelous phenomena? Furthermore, a machine proves a mechanician — not one who has made the machine out of nothing at all, which is absurd, but one who is the controller and guide of mechanical appliances so to speak which already exist. The gods guiding and in a sense controlling nature do not "make" nature, but they produce it out of already preexisting material and seeds of individuality resident in the heart of each atom: in other words they are the guides, the teachers, the watchers, the leaders, after whose pattern of thought and following whose urgent will nature moves into manifested being.

Do you know that the cause of questions like this is the old materialism of our fathers and grandfathers, a materialism which was a fad, a scientific doctrine in which no one believed but which everyone talked about because it was the fashion? I remember in my boyhood that I used to have the fun of my life in asking questions of those people who talked to me so persistently about "fortuity," and the "machine of nature," and "natural mechanisms," and all that kind of thing; and I never received a satisfactory or strictly logical answer.

When pushed to the limit, they always said the same things that the parsons did, but of course in other words and from another viewpoint: "I really don't know. I cannot answer that question. It is just so." And I always asked: "Is that an answer?" And the response reluctantly came: "No, I realize that it is not an answer, but it is the best response that I can give." "All right," I said, "if your answer is an acknowledged lack of a logical, formal, definite proof of what you have staked your life and reputation upon, then what kind of a belief is it?" To me it is just a blind belief, taking somebody else's opinions as nature's truth. And do you know, furthermore, that that soulless materialism of our fathers and grandfathers was just a superstition, a plain unvarnished superstition, without an atom of truth in it, a mere scientific fad, a mere scientific theory — and there are scientific fads and superstitions even today, and we might as well know it and talk about it because it will help the great men of science to have the ceaseless chattering of the camp followers of science stopped.

The most interesting thing about this whole matter is that the people who have pulled down these former scientific bigwigs from their thrones of infallibility are the other scientists. The attacks which destroyed the old soulless materialism of our fathers came from within the ranks of scientists themselves, and such attacks are always the most disintegrative of all, the most fatal. You may perhaps think that my words are a little severe upon science. I am not speaking of science per se; science is grand, is holy, for it is, as far as we have carried it, ordered knowledge of the Universe; and you would find all theosophists rallying like a massed army against any attack upon honest investigation of nature's secrets. Theosophists will tolerate no attacks of that kind; but scientists, individual men, no matter what their sincerity may be, are a different matter entirely from science itself. Get that idea!

I tell you plainly that these old materialists, these materialists of the days of our fathers and grandfathers, taught a superstition which was not founded on nature, but founded upon the results of their own lucubrations, their own thoughts — honest, devoted, sincere, doubtless, and comprising an attempt to find explanations of things, but nevertheless wholly mistaken. Even as a boy I would have none of it.

The great scientists of today are beginning to recognize this fact that the old materialism of our fathers was an unvarnished, crude superstition. Some of the greatest minds in science today are openly proclaiming the same thing that I am saying. From this platform I have often called the old materialism soulless, uninspired, in fact worse, soul-devastating, because it is wholly untrue and is a mere scientific superstition; and it worked such evil on men's minds because it cut off men's cognition and intuition of an inner and spiritual universe and the knowledge that there is light to be had from this interior universe.

This morning a friend handed in to me an extract from a lecture or writing, I don't know which, by one of the most eminent English scientific men, and I will read this extract to you. It is from Professor J. S. Haldane, one of the most eminent men of Great Britain in his line. He says:

Materialism, once a scientific theory, is now the fatalistic creed of thousands; but materialism is nothing better than a superstition on the same level as belief in witches and devils.

I have never used language as strong as that, nor as uncomplimentary. And yet this language is true. So you have this corroboration of my words from one of the most eminent scientific men of today.

The fruits of the old materialism of our fathers and grandfathers are working evil even today in the minds and hearts of men. The fatalistic materialism existing today in such multitudes, a fatalistic materialism which the scientists have already repudiated, and yet which vast multitudes of men and women today unconsciously believe in because they have read it in the books found in the libraries, and are still taught it in the schools, is naught but a crude superstition, as this eminent scientific thinker says, and is to be classed in the same category with the old beliefs in witches and devils.

I tell you that our scientists today are beginning to be mystics. They are beginning to dream dreams and to see visions of truth. They are receiving a greater light, and I know of no cause which has worked more strongly to bring this about than the work of The Theosophical Society, and of that wonderful woman, H. P. Blavatsky, who founded The Theosophical Society. In her day, when she came, the world was in its mental attitude and outlook sunken in a materialistic mental swamp, a mental morass. She challenged the truth of these old materialistic theories. She ran full tilt, not like Don Quixote at windmills, but at mental ghosts — the thoughts and beliefs, false, unnatural, untrue — which were taught in all the universities of the Occidental world.

H. P. Blavatsky deserves the heartfelt gratitude of every thinking man and woman, and The Theosophical Society which she was the founder of, has for the last fifty years and more brought forth and taught the teachings which in her time were at first considered to be most unaccountably weird and queer, and yet which later have become in many cases the accepted doctrines of our ultramodern scientific luminaries. I have made this statement before and I have proved it by quoting item and instance time and time again.

So there in brief is your answer to the question that was asked of me. Life and its phenomena are not the resultants of a soulless machine called nature. They are the evidences of what men in their ignorance call law and order, moving in mysterious ways; and what is this law and what is this order? I will tell you briefly what they are. What men call law and order in the uiverse are the wills and conscious movements — the movements of the consciousness — of the gods with which the universe is filled full, and of all the smaller entities in the divine hierarchies through which or whom these sublime cosmic spirits work. I call them gods, because such in truth they are; but if you like the word not, then call them cosmic spirits — call them what you like, but get the idea.

These gods exist in all-various grades, degrees, steps, stages, of evolutionary advancement, so that we have the greatest that human imagination in its loftiest flights can think of, can picture, can figurate, down through all intermediate stages to our own material sphere, yea, and below — what we humans call below. Now you see where so-called cosmic law and cosmic order come from, or rather originate. Take a man's body as an instance of my thought. In it dwell his intelligence and will. His body is permeated with his will and intelligence, and when he raises his arm he does so with will and with movement of his consciousness; and all the countless hosts, unnumbered decillions, of atoms composing the physical substance of that arm, obey his will. Those atoms are a part of the man's own being — bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, life of his life — and just so are all inferior things in nature herself, so to speak, bone of the bone, life of the life, blood of the blood, of the gods who infill the universe.

Such is the explanation of what men, not knowing the truth, abstractly call law and order — the movements of the consciousnesses, that is to say of the wills and of the intelligences, of the divine beings who infill the universe and who indeed are it in its nobler parts. For even gross physical matter itself is not different from the universe of which it is a part. Obviously. At the core of the core of the core of every atom, above it, surrounding it, manifesting through it, so feebly but yet manifesting through it, there dwells, there sits, there is, the life of an inner god; and as evolution — which means unfolding what is within, bringing out what is locked up — pursues its work on all these hosts of less things, they grow steadily greater, because ever more and more do they bring out the divine powers within; and finally man appears, imperfect, very imperfect, but still a man; beginning very feebly, but nevertheless beginning, to show the divine powers within.

And beyond man there are hosts of other entities along the rising ladder of life, expressing in still nobler degree and in fuller measure, the powers of the inner god, the immanent Christ if you like the term, the inner Buddha, if you like the term, the inner god as I call it.

So matter itself is rooted in divinity. See the beauty, see the hope, see the peace, in this thought. Imagine what men shall become in the future; imagine the time to come when men will walk the earth like gods. And why? Because then they will be men-gods, god-men, from having evolved forth more and more of the bright and flaming fire in the core of the core of their being. "Ye are gods," said the Christian New Testament, and the statement is true. Why do we suffer?

Here comes in orderly logical sequence my next question:

What can you say to those who suffer and seem to suffer unjustly?

Friends, the world is indeed full of pain. Hard must be the human heart which cannot see it; stony must it be which cannot feel it. Is any human being exempt from suffering and pain? From sorrow and grief? Have you never looked into the eyes of those whose souls are wrung with torture? I have. And the first time in this life when that revelation came to me, when I saw the cause, I said: Forevermore I am a servant of Those who bring peace and light and love into the world.

As the great Buddha-Gautama said: "Ye suffer from yourselves, none outside brings it upon you." You choose wrongly what you think and therefore wrongly do you act. You choose the difficult path instead — marvelous paradox! — that path steep and thorny, but only to the low, mean, ignoble, human passionate man: you choose the difficult path instead of that road (steep and thorny it may be) which leads upwards into light and peace indescribable. Men bring down suffering, sorrow, disharmony, disease upon themselves.

Instead of uniting in fraternal action, instead of each man feeling the woes of the world and attempting to do what he can, however small, to help, men alas! choose the path of satisfaction of the personal desires of the lower self; and since all men do this, the world is filled with pain and sorrow. That is why ye suffer, ye sons of men. That is why your hearts are wrung. That is why ye are diseased both in mind and body. Nature will not tolerate such action contrary to her own heart of hearts. The very heart of nature is love and harmony and peace, which mean cooperation, mutual helpfulness, brotherliness, kindness.

But men act contrariwise and then they say: "My God, what has brought this upon me?" Yourself! Why not live the god within you? Why not have peace? Why not have union? Why not think brotherly? Live brotherly? Don't you know — have you not yet found out — how painful selfishness is, how devastating both in heart and mind? Haven't you discovered that the man who thinks of naught but himself always loses in the end?

Give up your personal life, if ye would find the life everlasting, because such is the law, the nature, of the god within you. There is the road to peace; there is the road to happiness; there is the road to joy; there is the road to health; for that road leads to harmony and almighty love.

Do you get the idea? If so then you see why we suffer. We suffer from ourselves; and the sooner the lesson is learned, the sooner shall we taste of the life everlasting.

You say that love is the cement of the universe and that the heart of things is harmony and peace. How then do you account for human weakness, misery, wretchedness, sin, and pain?

I think that I have already answered that question, but in further elaboration of the thought, I may remark that I received the other day, along the same line of thinking, two questions. I believe they were written by the same kind friend. I will read them to you. They contain almost the same thought as that which is imbodied in the question that I have just read to you, and have answered somewhat but have not yet answered fully. The first of them is this:

Every phase of life is largely a matter of combat — bloodthirsty, ruthless, merciless, devastating combat. The whetted sword, mammoth guns, deadly gases, sharp claws, and saber teeth, to say nothing of the more subtle whispering conflict among many humans. Beneath the placid surface of ethereal blue seas move two great schools, the hunters and the hunted, the latter the prey of sharp teeth, voracious jaws, and powerful tentacles. The keynote of our sports and games is combat.
Flowers and trees seem to be exempt therefrom. Perhaps if we could pierce the veil and see all the invisible processes of growth and blossoming one might find combat there also. A collection of flowers is often described as "a riot of color."
Why all this conflict? Is it the law of life?

The second question is this, preceded by a quotation from the great English biologist, Thomas Huxley:

"Not only does every animal live at the expense of some other animal or plant, but the very plants are at war."
Was Huxley right in saying this?

As a bald statement Huxley's observation is true. It is true. And is not that just what I also have said? The causes of all this war is the conflict of wills and emotions and intensified low personal desires in these imperfect and ungrown creatures and things. Yet the heart of the Boundless is harmony and peace. It is only in manifested material worlds where every entity is for itself, because it is imperfect, ignorant, unwise, unknowing of the law of nature's heart, that you will find this horrible situation. Our earth is not a high sphere in the mansions of space. It is a low one, it is very material indeed. We humans are passing through it now, we, the host of men, simply as one phase of our long evolutionary journey backwards to the divine; and does not your heart move when you see this picture, realizing the all-powerful god within you on the one hand, and the misery and wretchedness around you on the other hand? Does not your heart whisper its sublime admonitions to help?

O men of death, why not claim your birthright of the spirit? Unlock the transcendent powers of the divinity within you. Ye know not what is locked up within you. Every son of man, every daughter of woman, is in the heart of the core of himself or herself, not only an inner god, a divinity, but a poet, a sage, a seer, an artist, a fountain of every quality and faculty that the noblest of men have ever expressed in their professions. Every one of you is such.

Having this vision sublime, we theosophists do not shut our eyes to the misery of others, but devote our lives like the buddhas of Compassion to help all things, first by raising ourselves — impersonally, not personally — so that we may help others to see the light divine. You cannot merely carry others always. That is not the right and profitable way. They must learn to walk each one for himself or itself. They themselves, each one of them, must learn to walk, to think, to feel, to grow.

But you can always bring light, help, show the path, be a teacher unto your fellow men. Ye will be doing Masters' work in this way. It is nobler than any other path in life, and such a work needs men. No weakling can do it. It needs men of iron will first, for self-conquest; it needs men — and women of course — of high intellectual capacity; and ye can attain it. It needs men and women of spiritual vision, having the conscious reception of the light divine. That is the vision sublime. That is what ye may see on the mystic mountains of the spirit. And oh! the blessing, the peace, the consolation, and the spiritual balm for broken hearts that ye can give to others when once ye have seen that vision sublime! O friends, think, feel, be — at least in part — the god within you!

Vol 2, No 2