Who are we? Where are we going? Where have we come from? I told you that the old Egyptians disappeared. If you inquire into Egyptian history, the most interesting because the most obscure, you will find, as the writers say, that the civilization seems to rise to the zenith at once. We do not see when it began. The civilization was so great it must have existed an enormous length of time to get to that height, so that we cannot trace it from its beginning, and it disappears suddenly from the sky; there is nothing of it left but the enormous remains which testify to these great things, for the ancient Egyptians not only made mummies in which they displayed the art of bandaging that we cannot better, but they had put everything to such a degree of specialization that we must conclude they had many centuries of civilization. There was a specialist for one eye and a specialist for the other, a specialist for the eyebrow, and so on. In my poor and humble opinion, we are the Egyptians.
We have come back again, after our five thousand or whatever years' cycle it is, and we have dragged back with us some one called the Semitic race, with which we are connected by some old impression that we cannot get rid of, and so upon us is impinged that very Semitic image. We have drawn back with us, by the inevitable law of association in cyclic return, some race, some personages connected with us by some acts of ours in that great old civilization now disappeared, and we cannot get rid of it; we must raise them up to some other plane as we raise ourselves.
I think in America is the evidence that this old civilization is coming back, for in the theosophical theory nothing is lost. If we were left to records, buildings and the like, they would soon disappear and nothing could ever be recovered; there never would be any progress. But each individual in the civilization, wherever it may be, puts the record in himself, and when he comes into the favorable circumstances described by Patanjali, an old Hindoo, when he gets the apparatus, he will bring out the old impression. The ancients say each act has a thought under it, and each thought makes a mental impression; and when the apparatus is provided, there will then arise that new condition, in rank, place and endowment.
So we retain in ourselves the impression of all the things that we have done, and when the time comes that we have cycled back, over and over again, through the middle ages perhaps, into England, into Germany, into France, we come at last to an environment such as is provided here, just the thing physically and every other way to enable us to do well, and to enable the others who are coming after us. I can almost see them; they are coming in a little army from the countries of the old world to endeavor to improve this one; for here ages ago there was a civilization also, perhaps we were in it then, perhaps anterior to the ancient Egyptians. It disappeared from here, when we do not know, and it left this land arid for many thousands of years until it was discovered once more by the Europeans. The ancient world, I mean Europe, has been poisoned, the land has been soaked with the emanations, poisoned by the emanations of the people who have lived upon it: the air above it is consequently poisoned by the emanations from the land; but here in America, just the place for the new race, is an arable land which has had time over and over again to destroy the poisons that were planted here ages and ages ago. It gives us a new land, with vibrations in the air that stir up every particle in a man who breathes it, and thus we find the people coming from the old world seeming to receive through their feet the impressions of an American country. All this bears upon our civilization and race.
We are here a new race in a new cycle, and persons who know say that a cycle is going to end in a few years and a new one begin, and that that ending and beginning will be accompanied by convulsions of society and of nature. We can all almost see it coming. The events are very complete in the sky. You remember Daniel says, "A time, half a time, and a time," and so on, and people in the Christian system have been trying to find out the time when the time began, and that is just the difficulty. We do not know when the time began. And the only person who in all these many years has made a direct statement is Madame Blavatsky, and she said, "A cycle is ending in a few years, you must prepare." So that it was like the old prophets who came to the people and said, "Prepare for a new era of things, get ready for what you have to do." That is just what this civilization is doing. It is the highest, although the crudest, civilization now on the earth. It is the beginning of the great civilization that is to come, when old Europe has been destroyed; when the civilizations of Europe are unable to do any more, then this will be the place where the new great civilization will begin to put out a hand once more to grasp that of the ancient East, who has sat there silently doing nothing all these years, holding in her ancient crypts and libraries and records the philosophy which the world wants, and it is this philosophy and this ethics that the Theosophical Society is trying to give you. It is a philosophy you can understand and practice.
It is well enough to say to a man, Do right, but after a while, in this superstitious era, he will say, Why should I do right, unless I feel like it? When you are showing these laws, that he must come back in his cycle; that he is subject to evolution; that he is a reincarnated pilgrim soul, then he will see the reason why, and then in order to get him a secure basis, he accepts the philosophy, and that is what the Theosophical Society and the Theosophical movement are trying to do. It was said the other day, in speaking of a subject like this, that the great end and aim is the great renunciation. That is, that after progressing to great heights, which you can only do by unselfishness, at last you say to yourself, "I may take the ease to which I am entitled." For what prevails in one place must prevail in another, and in the course of progress we must come at last to a time when we can take our ease, but if you say to yourself, "I will not take it, but as I know this world and all the people on it are bound to live and last for many thousand years more, and if not helped perhaps might fail, I will not take it but I will stay here and I will suffer, because of having greater knowledge and greater sensitiveness" — this is the great renunciation as theosophy tells us.
I know we do not often talk this way, because many of us think that the people will say to us at once when we talk of the great renunciation, "I don't want it; it is too much trouble." So generally we talk about the fine progress, and how you will at last escape the necessity of reincarnation, and at last escape the necessity of doing this or that and the other, but if you do your duty, you must make up your mind when you reach the height, when you know all, when you participate in the government of the world — not of a town, but the actual government of the world and the people upon it — instead of sleeping away your time, you will stay to help those who are left behind, and that is the great renunciation. That is what is told of Buddha, and of Jesus. Doubtless the whole story about Jesus, which cannot be proved historically to my mind, is based upon the same thing that we call renunciation. He was crucified after two or three years' work. But we say it means that this being divine resolves he will crucify himself in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of others, so that he can save men. Buddha did the same thing long before Jesus is said to have been born. The story that he made the great renunciation just means that which I have been telling you, instead of escaping from this horrible place, as it seems to us. For this is indeed horrible, as we look at it, surrounded by obstructions, liable to defeat at any moment, liable to wake up in the morning after planning a great reform, and see it dashed to the ground. Instead of escaping all that, he remained in the world and started his doctrine, which he knew at least would be adhered to by some. But this great doctrine of renunciation teaches that instead of working for yourself, you will work to know everything, to do everything in your power for those who may be left behind you, just as Madame Blavatsky says in the Voice of the Silence, "Step out of the sunshine into the shade, to make more room for others."
Isn't that better than a heaven which is reached at the price of the damnation of those of your relatives who will not believe a dogma? Is this not a great philosophy and a great religion which includes the salvation and regeneration, the scientific upraising and perfecting of the whole human family, and every particle in the whole universe, instead of imagining that a few miserable beings after seventy years of life shall enter into paradise, and then they look behind to see the torments in hell of those who would not accept a dogma?
What are these other religions compared with that? How any man can continue to believe such an idea as the usual one of damnation for mere unbelief I cannot comprehend. I had rather — if I had to choose — be an idolator of the most pronounced kind, who believed in Indra, and be left with my common reasoning, than believe in such a doctrine as that which permits me to suppose that my brother who does not believe a dogma is sizzling in hell while I, by simply believing, may enjoy myself in heaven.
Theosophists, if they will learn the doctrine and try to explain it, will reform this world. It will percolate everywhere, infiltrate into every stratum of society and prevent the need of legislation. It will alter the people, whereas you go on legislating and leaving this world's people as they are, and you will have just what happened in France. Capitalists in that day, in the day of the revolution — that is the royalists — oppressed the people. At last the people rose up and philosophers of the day instituted the reign of reason, and out of the reign of reason — mind you they had introduced there a beautiful idea of mankind, that idea struck root in a soil that was not prepared — came the practice of murdering other people by the wholesale until streams of blood ran all over France. So you see if something is not done to raise the people what the result will be. We have seen in Chicago the result of such acts, the mutterings of such a storm if the theosophical philosophy — call it by any other name you like — is not preached and understood. But if these old doctrines are not taught to the race you will have a revolution, and instead of making progress in a steady, normal fashion, you will come up to better things through storm, trouble and sorrow. You will come up, of course, for even out of revolutions and blood there comes progress, but isn't it better to have progress without that? And that is what the theosophical philosophy is intended for. That is why the Mahatmas we were talking about, directing their servant H. P. Blavatsky, as they have directed many before, came out at a time when materialism was fighting religion and was about getting the upper hand, and once more everything moved forward in its cyclic way and these old doctrines were revivified under the guidance of the theosophical movement. They are doctrines that explain all problems and in the universal scheme give man a place as a potential god.
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