Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Wind of the Spirit
The Heritage of Man Is Man Himself
Where Are the Sages and Seers?
Shifting Our Center of Consciousness
Carving Your Destiny
There is one thing I learned when I was a boy, and I learned it well, and it has been one of my best friends ever since. It is that I can learn from everything, and that if I allow a single day to pass without increasing my store of wisdom, without enlarging and enriching my inner life, by however small an increment, that day is a lost day in my life. Too many of us are asleep; we sleep and dream. We dream dreams, and all too often these dreams are evil dreams, for they are the upsurgings of the lower, personal, easily self-satisfied ego of ours. But others of us dream visions of incomparable beauty — and I mean not merely physical beauty, but beauty of any kind: spiritual beauty, intellectual beauty, ay, even beauty of wondrous nature around us. And every such new envisioning of a marvel awakens us by just so much. Oh, how we sleep, and are forgetful of what we are and of the richness around us which is ours for the taking, ours if we will take it! For there is naught that stands in the way of taking except oneself. There are none so blind as they who refuse to see; none so deaf as they who refuse to hear; and, on the other hand, none so wise as they who meet every new experience in life's wondrous adventure with the feeling: there is an angel behind this for me. I must discover him; learn what that angelic messenger is trying to tell me. Every experience is such.
I think one of the grandest things that theosophy does for us is to unveil our eyes, unstop our ears, so that seeing, we see somewhat more, and hearing we hear somewhat more; until finally we begin to hear what the silence tells us — the voice of the silence, which is the greatest and the richest and the most wisdom-pregnant voice to us. Theosophy were but a farce, were but as tinsel if it did not awaken us out of ourselves and make us more than we were. That is its one purpose; and that is the whole purpose of our study of it: to become ever more enlightened, a little bigger, a little more receptive.
Just here we see the difference between the beast and the man. The beast sees and knows not, recognizes not; the man sees and understands somewhat; and the master sees and hears, and the message enters in in its fullness; and the god, the producer of that which we see and hear — all the gods have to receive their light from still sublimer worlds, planes, spheres of universal life.
So now facing what is taking place in the world today we must recognize it as no chance event, no haphazard or fortuitous occurrence, not the blind blows of fate, but the working out of the events which are coming. We must recognize that behind these events there is power, spiritual power, spiritual force. It will all work out to an already predestined and sublime ending. For despite the agony and the sadness that we in our blindness feel, there is the wind of the spirit sweeping over the earth, rearranging, remaking, reshaping. And the agonies and sorrows that come, come from ourselves, blind humans that we are who will not enter into nature's majestic processes, helping her, but instead oppose her, and in opposing her suffer.
One may say: "Alas, we know not how to act in consonance with nature's laws!" But the statement is not true. It is a lie, for men have been taught since immemorial time that right is right, just is just, wrong is wrong. How then may we choose between the right and the wrong? Just here enters in a difficulty; not that it exists in itself, but we create it. It is not right to employ violence and force — there is the first law: "Thou shalt not kill." Violate this law, and you set yourself in opposition to nature's processes. Even in ordinary affairs man's genius recognizes this, and it is imbodied in our systems of jurisprudence today, an advance truly; for no longer is it considered logical for the avenger, the one wronged, to seek out his enemy and engage in mortal combat. We are advancing, for the time was when to refuse to recognize what was then called one's honor would have subjected a man to shameful ostracism. Our ideas have enlarged. Is there a man or woman in the world today who would dare to tell me that the only way to settle disputes is by violence, when, mayhap, victory will perch upon the banners of the one who is less right than the other?
The way to settle disputes is by reason, by refusing to accept anything less grand than that. For he who takes up the sword, as the avatara Jesus put it, by the sword will he perish. Perhaps not immediately, but in the long run. Disputes are righteously and in justice composed on the basis of reason and right, not on the basis of the heavy hand of violence.
We ask why we suffer. We ask why these things have fallen upon us. In our ignorance of our own higher selves, and in our lack of a perfect confidence in the eternal laws of cosmic life, we assume, we take to ourselves, the duties of the avenger. What man knows enough to judge any other man unto the scaffold? So well are these principles recognized that there is not a civilized society today that recommends them. They all want justice; they all want to use reason. Why don't they use it? And using it, why don't they abide by it? Face facts if you want to know the reason of the suffering and agony, the terror and appalling privations that are upon us. It is no extracosmic God, or intracosmic God, who has put these horrible things upon us, his blind children. It is we ourselves.
I am not preaching a doctrine of illogical pacifism, in the sense of submitting to anything without struggle; for society must protect itself. But let it protect itself by means which laws, national and international, have already established, and to which the greatest and supposedly most civilized nations on earth have years ago pledged their honor and their allegiance. But when the test comes: "Oh, no; this is a matter of national honor. We will attend to this ourselves!" Then when the heavy blows fall, when happiness and honor have fled, when want and misery stalk through our streets, we cry unto high heaven and say: "What have I done that these things should fall upon me?" Were there no means of securing, of establishing right, it would be a different matter. But there are the means, recognized and accepted means, to which the so-called statesmen of our world have pledged their allegiance in solemn compact.
The wind of the spirit that is blowing over the world, tumultuous, cold and biting as it seems to our sensitive lives, is nevertheless the wind of the spirit, and it will blow away the fogs and illusions; and men once more at last can see peace, heavenly peace, and prosperity, and self-respect.
It is well to remember that while our hearts may ache — and the man is inhuman whose heart today does not ache over what our brothers in humanity are everywhere enduring — behind the suffering there is learning; behind and beyond the present events there is a dawn. Let us as individuals, not merely as theosophists, do our part in helping to bring the new day, when violence will be seen for the folly that it is, and the reign of justice and reason and fellow feeling will be with us and around us. If not, we shall have a recurrence, and worse, of what now we are passing through, and after that another recurrence still worse than the former, and so on to the remains of our civilization, until our civilized society will vanish in flame and blood.
Those of you who may be alive to see the handwriting on the wall had better awaken.
MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN!
Weighed, Weighed, Wanting — the Persians!
The tragedy of society is that it has lost its trust in an abiding spiritual power in this world of ours, and reason has lost its seat. This entire universe of ours is but an appearance, an outer shell, a physical body, manifesting the tremendous forces at work on the other side of the veil of nature; and no man, no demigod, or god, can offend or oppose these powers with impunity. Law rules this world and sooner or later the gods will descend from their azure seats. Let us see that they come to us as envoys of happiness and peace, rather than with the flaming swords avenging overthrown innocence.
You will tell me: "You are preaching after the event." But this is not true, for worse will come unless we heed. These things have been told to mankind from immemorial time. The man who said, "God and I are a majority against the whole world" was no flamboyant egoist — if we understand his meaning.
I have felt impelled to speak of the wind of the spirit blowing over the earth. It will extinguish all false lights; the true and the holy will but burn the brighter and will remain. Yet judge not. Things do not happen in a day. Perhaps it may be fifty years before we know at least something of the inner meaning of what is now coming upon us: of good, of ill; of high, of low; of pathos or of bathos. But this that I have called the wind of the spirit is clairvoyant in the heavenly sense. It is the spirit of Earth, if you wish, and its works are utter true. All that is grand and unselfish will live. What is false and selfish, this wind will not merely pass by, but mayhap overthrow. Put your whole trust in the divine power behind nature and live in accordance therewith, and nature will look upon you as working with her and therefore as her master and will make obeisance. Those of you who have ears to hear, hear!
The heritage of man is man himself. Each man is the builder of himself, and the destroyer maybe. Each man is his own regenerator and savior, and each man undoes the work upon himself which mayhap for aeons in the past he had been building. This statement may sound recondite, difficult to understand, a dark saying; and yet I wonder that anyone could or might doubt so self-evident a truth. Is it not clear enough that what a man is, he is; and that what he is, is the result of his former lives, the resultant of his thoughts and his feelings, the resultant of his previous willings and thinking and feeling? We make ourselves, we fashion our own characters.
This is one of the commonplaces of human experience. But just think what it means to grasp it in fullness. We make our lives shapely from day to day and year to year and from life to life; or we make them very ugly; and no one is to blame on the one hand, and no one is to be praised on the other hand, except the man himself. Think how just this is. We have nobody, naught outside ourselves, to blame if we have made ourselves unshapely and ugly and full of sorrow and pain; and there is none to be praised when our lives become shapely and beautiful in symmetry through our own efforts, save we ourselves. A man by thinking may change his character, which means changing his soul, which means changing his destiny, which means changing everything that he is or becomes in the present and in the future. Why blame the blameless gods for our own faults, for molding us in the patterns that we ourselves have shaped? It is the old idea of passing the buck — slang, but how expressive! — throwing the blame on someone else. This is the surest way to go down instead of going up; for the recognition of truth and of justice and the cognizance of responsibility in a man, by a man of himself, are the first steps to climbing the path higher; and what hope there is in this. Think of the mistakes we have made in the past, the wrongs that we have wrought on others and on ourselves. Only half the story is told when we say that we have made ourselves and that we are responsible for ourselves. The other half of the story is what we have done upon others: how we have helped to shape their lives in beauty, or to misshape their lives in ugliness.
This recognition of man's responsibility not only to himself, but to others, is the lost keynote of modern civilization which seems to be infatuated with the idea that things will run themselves, and that all that men have to do is to get what they can from the surrounding atmosphere. I think that is a hellish doctrine, and can but produce its harvest of misery. Let a man realize that he is a man and that what he sows he shall reap, and that what he is reaping he himself has sown, and see how the face of the world will be changed. Each man will become enormously observant not only of his acts which are the proofs of his thoughts and his feelings, firstly upon himself, but perhaps more important, of the impact he makes upon others. I think it is the lack of this feeling of individual responsibility and also mass responsibility in the world today which is the cause of the many, many horrors which are growing worse instead of better. It fosters the belief that violence can right a wrong. It never can. Violence never has perished by adding violence unto it. No problem ever has been solved after that manner. It is against the laws of being, against the laws of things as they are.
What is a man's heritage? I say again, it is man himself. I am myself because I made me in other lives. And how ashamed I am of myself at times that I have not made me wiser and better and higher and nobler in every way; and how I bless the whispering intimations of divinity within my heart that I can say I am not worse than I am! You see, this is the first realization of my responsibility to all — and the all includes me. And here is a wonder-thought: when a man does right, no matter at what cost to himself, he strengthens himself and he strengthens all others. It is a work of wonderful magic. And when a man does evil, is it not obvious that he weakens himself? First there is the weakening of his will, then the soiling of his thoughts, and then the lessening of the strength of his genuine inner feelings. The very contact with such a man, provided he follow the downward path long enough, causes the self to be soiled. Even as one rotten apple, they say, will ruin a whole barrelful of sound fruit, so will an evil character adversely and evilly affect not only himself, but all unfortunates who may be near him.
We can save ourselves from this very easily, because there are few things so revealing as evil. It has naught to stand upon except illusion. Leave it alone and it will vanish like a mist. Do not strengthen it by pouring more evil into the illusion from your own energy. If it has naught to stand upon, no source of vital activity within itself, it falls, it goes to pieces. How different is good, which is health-giving and strengthening and cleansing. Such simple truths, and so profound! I suppose the most simple things are the most beautiful and the most profound.
So this doctrine of the heritage of a man which is himself is simply the doctrine of another chance for the man whose life has been spoiled by himself. No other man can spoil you unless you yourself cooperate in the spoiling. None other can make you evil unless you conjoin in the suggestion or in the doing. Blame not the other for your fall. It is yourself who fall, and you will never fall, you would never have fallen, unless you had preferred that which brought about the fall. Such simple truths, and yet they comprise a code of divine conduct for us men on this earth. A child may understand these things because they are so clear, they are so obvious.
The doctrine of another chance! Think of the man — any one of us — who has made a mess of his life and wonders why ill fortune and misfortune and unhappiness and misery and other terrible things come upon him, until sometimes in the agony of self-reproach he cries, "Lord, deliver me from this hell." It is the old weak appeal to something where no help lies, for help is within. The divinity lies in your breast, the source of all strength and grandeur; and the more you appeal to it the more you exercise it, the more you strengthen your own self, advance in truth and wisdom, rise above all the planes of weakness and sorrow and pain brought about by evildoing.
So you have made yourself; and in your next life you will be just what you are now making yourself to be. You will be your own heritage. You are now writing, as it were, your last will and testament for yourself. When a man realizes this wonderful fact, he no longer blames others, no longer sits in judgment upon his brothers. He no longer says: I am holier than thou — an attitude which is the sure mark of the weak and of the poor in spiritual life.
There is a wonderful French proverb which runs thus: Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner: "To understand everything is to forgive all." To understand all the hid causes, the results, the past destiny, the present strength, the temptation, the virtue, whatever it may be — to understand all this is to have divine knowledge, and it means to forgive. It is a wonderful proverb and must have been uttered first, I venture to say, by some human being who had a touch of illumination. I know myself by my own experience that when I have been hurt, or am hurt and think I am unjustly treated, I say to myself, even when it seems to me that the wrongdoing unto myself is obvious: If I could read the heart of my brother who has wronged me, read back into the distant past and see what mayhap I did to him to wrong him, perhaps I would realize that he now is as unconscious of the wrong he does me as I was then of the wrong I did to him. I shall not increase the treasury of virtue and happiness and peace in this world by taking up the gauge of battle and injecting more fury and hatred into a hatred-ridden world. But I can do my part in strengthening myself, do my part in getting some illumination from above-within, from the god within me, by doing what I myself have taught: practicing what I preach. Peace and happiness come from this, and the sense of increased self-respect and the growth of pity.
Do you know, I sometimes think that pity or compassion is one of the most celestial visitors to the temple of the human heart. The old sages used to say that none but the gods really pay men exact justice, or what they think is justice and flatter themselves that they are right. The gods hear all, see all, feel all, understand all, and are filled with pity. Think, if any one of us human beings were weighed in the strictest scales of karmic justice untempered by pity and wisdom, what chance do you think any one of us would have to escape condemnation? Does any one of you think that you are so spotless in virtue and holy strength that the scales would not fall against you? If so, you are very, very happy — or very, very blind! I think that if such spotless purity of past karma were yours, you would not be here as a man on this earth working out your own heritage — yourself.
True it is that in the future all the human race are going to be gods, and there is no reason on earth why we should not begin in the present instant of time to grow towards godhood. You win all, you gain all; you lose naught. From driven slave of past karma you become the orderer in time of your own destiny, for you are your own heritage. What a doctrine of comfort! What light it bestows!
The great sages and seers, the masters of wisdom and compassion, belong to no race, and especially to no creed. They are the children of the spirit, awakened men, whose familiar thought is truth itself; and hence their sympathies are universal. They need no frontiers of race, of caste, of creed, of color. They are truth-seekers, truth-teachers, and the Theosophical Society was founded by them to promulgate the truth, the cosmic wisdom, the cosmic philosophy, that existed before the foundations of the mighty mountains were laid, ay, even before the sons of morning began to sing, to chant their hymns celestial. For truth has no age. It never was born, it never has not been. It is timeless because universal. Its appeal is to the hearts and minds of all men. It matters not a whit from what part of the world a beautiful truth may be drawn; and hence whenever any human has so attuned the seven-stringed lyre of Apollo — which is his heart or his seven principles — to whisper and ring like an aeolian harp when the winds of heaven blow upon it, then, for the time being and as long as he can hold this plane of consciousness, he is one of the sages and seers, whether his fellowmen recognize him or not; and this means you and me and all men, at least any one of us who may have attained thus much.
And mark you the promise in this statement: that precisely because we are children of Infinitude, not merely sons of the gods but the very offspring of the celestial spaces, there is that within us which is attuned with them, and which therefore is timeless, which therefore is infinite, which therefore is eternal.
How true the old statement in the New Testament is, which you so often hear me quote because so lost sight of by Christians in these days! I link two such statements together: "Know ye not that ye are gods and that the spirit of the eternal liveth within you?"
Where are the sages and seers? Where they have always been. The question at first blush may strike one as being foolish, but I suppose it arises in the desire to explain to people why the masters do not take the human race in hand, and oblige it, force it, to be decent. But what good would that do? How may you convince men by compulsion that this, that, or some other thing is true? Isn't it obvious that men believe only what their own hearts teach them; and that no matter what they hear or are taught, if there is not an answering response in the human heart, and an instant answer in the human intellect, there is no acceptance, but a worse than steel wall raised?
Truth is eternal. Truth is always with us, and the devotees of truth are always with us and always have been and always will be; and it is we in our folly and ignorance and blindness who refuse to accept them. Open your hearts and open your minds, and the light will come pouring in. There is the promise of all the sages the human race has ever given birth to. The teachers are always ready when the pupil is ready. If we see no evidence of masters in the world today, it is partly because we are too stupid, partly because we have forgotten the god-wisdom in the world, and partly because we won't hearken.
Yes, the truth has been laid down by the titan intellects of the human race; and if men do not accept it, whose fault is it? Not that of the teachers. If I prefer strife and wretchedness and crime and horror, why shall I say to the deaf heavens: "Where art thou, O God?" Of all the agonies of stupidity, we see here just one more evidence of man's attempt at self-justification of his own folly and ignorance. You might as well say, where are the laws of nature? What has become of them? Why don't they take the human race in hand? A nice spirit! Even ordinary human parents know better than that. Ordinarily a father or mother would not attempt to interfere with the growth of a child by force. It never worked and never will. You cannot cause a leopard to change its spots, and no amount of starving or chastisement or vengeful so-called punishment will ever make a leopard anything but a leopard — until that leopard has evolved.
Do you want truth? You can have it whenever you want it. The world is full of it. The great teachings of the ages are full of it. What prevents our seeing it? Is there any man so blind as he who won't look? Is there any man so stupidly deaf as he who refuses to hear? These are some of the simple truths known to every child; yet we prefer hypocrisy and cant and self-justification to righting the wrongs we ourselves wreak on others, and then raise a clamor to the immortal gods for help when we ourselves begin to suffer from our folly. Yes, we choose hypocrisy; and how many of us can say before the tribunal divine within our own hearts: "I am not a hypocrite. I am pure. I thank God that I am not as other men!" Now honestly, hasn't that ever occurred to your hearts and minds? And don't you see that that is the first shackle you yourself have placed on your limbs as a pilgrim: self-justification and self-righteousness? Don't you see that by so doing you blind your own eyes?
How true it is that truth is not popular, that truth is not welcome, that people do not like it. Why? Because it means change. It means an evolution of feeling and thinking. It means a revolution of the moral instincts to become alive and vigorous again. To become acquainted with, to have firsthand individual knowledge of, the great teachers, the first step is to become as far as we may and can, alike unto them. There is no other way. The heart must be consecrated to truth at any cost. Are you strong enough? If you are, you are ready for chelaship, for discipleship; and you will be a disciple before this life is ended — perhaps before tomorrow sees the setting of our daystar.
The masters, the great sages and seers are ready for you always. There is no barrier to them whatsoever except yourself, absolutely none; and if you don't attain chelaship in this life or in the next or in the following one, blame none but yourself. How can you become a disciple or a chela before you are ready for it, before you have become it? How can you see the light before you have eyes with which to see it? How can you appreciate beauty or get a touch of beauty anywhere, until beauty already is taking birth within your soul, so that the beauty within you can sense beauty without? How can you recognize a great man until some grandeur at least is born within yourself to enable you to recognize grandeur? If you are paltry and small and mean, how can you recognize the opposites of these?
It is like the men who go through the world incognizant, blind and deaf to the divine beauty in their own fellow human beings. One of the easiest ways to find beauty, to find truth, and more quickly to come into instant magnetic sympathy with your fellow human beings is by becoming yourself sympathetic and seeing. If a man has no sympathy in his soul, how can he sense the sympathy in the souls of others? If he has no beauty in his heart, how can he see beauty anywhere, or as Shakespeare phrases it:
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
You will never see the master-self until you have become masterlike within yourself, because you won't recognize him. It would be impossible. You have not developed the vision inside, the faculties inside; but those faculties are there.
These sages and seers exist today; they take pupils, to use the ordinary phrase. Indeed more, they pass through the world searching, seeking, not so much like Diogenes for an honest man, but searching everywhere for good material, sensitive human souls, looking wherever they may see, however dim it may be, a touch of the buddhic splendor in a human heart; and when they see that, instantly their attention is attracted. They feel the impact instantly in their own hearts. They approach, they aid, they inspire; they do everything they can to foster the trembling flame of vision and of feeling. They foster it and feed it, until the flame finally burns strong, and the man is reborn, no longer born of the flesh, but reborn of the spirit, of the inspiration from within and from the teacher without.
Above and beyond and back of these sages and seers there is their own great Chief. What a marvelous figure of celestial wisdom and beauty, utterly dedicated to the spirit and to the world and all that is in it, irrespective of race, nation, creed, caste, color, or sex. This being is a god. Theosophists speak of it in reverence and awe as the Silent Watcher. He is the chief of the masters. He is one of us — brilliant guide, teacher, friend, brother, the source so far as men are concerned of all enlightenment and wisdom and beauty and love. In the deeper reaches of the theosophical teachings we may say with great reverence, yet with all truth, that back of all our labor however imperfectly we human beings may be doing, back of it as its origin and inspiration is this grand divinity.
What a hope! What a wonder to look forward to! I think that there are millions, hundreds of millions of men and women in this world today who are yearning, in reverence, in universal love, to advance upwards and onwards forever. Oh, that they might be collected all together into one band of impersonal workers! What a power in the world they would then be! No longer would problems vex man's intelligence, problems born of his selfishness. No longer would the human race be afflicted with poverty, misery, and with most of the dreadful, appalling wretchedness that now exists. I sometimes think that the most heart-touching, the most heart-rending story in the world amongst our fellow human beings is that story which is not heard, which is carried in the dumb agony of the silence. Oh, how human beings suffer so needlessly!
I know of no loftier title to give to the great teachers than this: Friends of mankind and of all that lives!
What ails the world? Can its ills be cured by shifting politics, changing forms of government which change themselves with time, or by a change of mind and heart which actually will produce effectual results that every normal man today feels are needed — if for nothing else than to divert into harmless channels the psychic energy gathering for the crisis which all, clearly or vaguely, feel impending? But what about politics? Had we naught but politics to depend upon, I for one feel that the case would pass from being desperate to being hopeless. Fortunately there is a way out.
I have always felt that the theosophist, as an individual, should follow what politics he pleases; but I have likewise felt that ethics, individual and collective, are an incomparably more practical and interesting phase of human life. Political theories change and vary from century to century, or oftener; and what one age thinks is the proper way in which to conduct the affairs of the world is usually rejected in the next age. People usually fight like Kilkenny cats about politics, and fight as foolishly; but all agree upon the fundamental verities of morals or ethics and the grand lessons taught by philosophy and the inspiration of religion — as contrasted with religions — are of unsurpassed importance in their sway over human thought and imagination. As a rule it is only when men have lost confidence in religious matters, or have come to look upon philosophy as a dry-as-dust system of empty speculation without practical value, that they turn to politics in order to find what seems to them an interesting and sometimes, alas, a lucrative pursuit and outlet for latent energy.
As regards the sometimes mooted question of the individual ownership of money and property, I myself, as a follower and student of the ancient and traditional path of discipleship, believe that no permanent, no enduring, no genuine happiness, can be found merely in the ownership of material things at any time. In other words, I might even be said to believe in and to accept the old statement found in the New Testament, summarized somewhat as follows: "Except ye leave father and mother, wife or child, and property, and follow me, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of the gods." Obviously, this stern mandate applies only so far as the individual is concerned who is desirous of becoming one with that sublime brotherhood of noble-hearted men whose whole life is devoted to the betterment of the human race as a whole; for if such individual disciple have family attachments or property attachments, he is thereby bound to them, and his energies and interests are more or less diffused and dissipated thereby.
This in no wise signifies that a man should neglect any smallest duty if he has already assumed it; nor should he leave father or mother, or wife or child, or even property, until he has made proper, equitable, and generous provision in all senses of the word for those depending upon him, and taken proper care for the administration of the property which every true man must realize he holds in trust for the happiness of others. Remember that a man's future destiny depends upon that which his heart most loves now. If his heart is set solely upon acquiring personal property for himself and for those associated with him, how indeed can he free himself from the bonds of personal ties, from the bonds which hold him fast in the worldly life? That of course is not politics; but it is ethics and religion and philosophy and true science, because when properly understood its meaning is this: love not these things; set not your heart upon them so that your heart thereby becomes enchained, bound, shackled. Use them, however, as you use all other good things of earth; but use them as a master of them, not as a slave to them.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me say here once for all, that I have absolutely no patience with, nor sympathy for, the actions of the man who abandons those who are dependent upon him merely for the sake of pursuing his own career, even if it be a spiritual career. A man cannot fulfill a greater duty if he willfully and cruelly neglects or ignores the smaller duty. A man who does at all times and in all places even his worldly duties is the man who is on the right path. Should it happen — and this is one of those rare, exceedingly rare cases — that he is called to follow the path of chelaship, of discipleship, he cannot make a proper beginning in following this path if he plays the part of a coward by ignoring the duties he has already assumed. These duties he must either first fulfill and then become free in an honorable and upright and kindly way and by mutual understanding with those depending upon him, and after providing for them; or, if they are already provided for, then by mutual agreement that, after a time at least, he shall be free to follow the dictates of his soul. The theosophist above everything is not a nonsocial being; he recognizes his social obligations as keenly as anyone. He believes in marriage; he believes in being a good citizen, a good husband and father, son and brother, and in doing his duty by the state under whose protection he lives. This applies to all, irrespective of who they are.
The theosophist as a believer in and teacher of brotherhood and peace, which includes amelioration and betterment in human relations of all kinds, is de facto a believer in law and order and an upholder of established authority; and as a good citizen he therefore recognizes his duty to his country and obedience to the laws under which he lives. He realizes that believing in brotherhood as a universal fact of being, he should therefore first exemplify it in his actions and conduct by becoming in himself a living example of order, good will, and willing acquiescence in the laws of the country where he lives; the while always seeking in every lawful and proper way for an improvement in the social structure, for the changing of imperfect or bad laws into better ones; and in doing what good he can as an individual to his fellowmen.
What I am trying to say in these brief and rather aphoristic sentences is that as earnest men and women we should strive at all times to weaken the merely personal and selfish bonds which cramp the winging flight of our souls into higher regions. For such selfish desires and bonds cause, by conflict and friction both with ourselves and with others who hold the same views and who act similarly, the larger part of the human misery and moral degradation in the world.
It is not money per se that is the root of all evil; it is the selfish love of it. Money in the hands of a noble and wise and good man can be a most useful instrument for helping mankind. It is in the selfish love of these things for oneself alone, or for the sake of those immediately associated with one to the detriment of others not so closely associated, that lies the evil and the consequent wrongdoing. This is what Jesus the avatara meant, and what the great sages and seers of all the ages have meant and have taught: tie not your heart unto the things of earth, but enter into the profound deeps of the spirit within you, and there you will find utter freedom and immense peace and ineffable happiness.
The wise man is he who lives in the world and uses the things of the world — never in a merely worldly way, but with wisdom and kindliness and due regard for the rights of others, yet with his heart free from all attachment to these worldly things, and free from all love thereof. This is the chela path, this is the path of the disciple — at least in the beginning of it. This is the reason I have answered the question which has been more than once asked of me: "G. de P., if someone gave to you ten million dollars, would you accept it? And if so, what would you do with this money," My answer has been immediate: "Gladly would I accept it, and devote it all to works of usefulness and beneficence for mankind. For myself, not one penny; I am pledged to personal poverty. Yet I am no idiot; I know the power of a good instrument, and money and property can and should be instruments for good. It is not these things themselves that injure; it is our selfish reaction to their influence which is injurious — not only to ourselves but to others."
Consequently, though the Theosophical Society as a society shuns politics, yet every individual member thereof holds and practices such politics as he pleases. I think the world is approaching the time when it will realize that the only way in which men can "save themselves," to use an old-fashioned term, and "save the world," is by being, and not by preaching whether it be preaching politics or philosophy or religion. Politics, at least such as we understand them today, will vanish away as an illusion, and I believe a pestiferous illusion, once men realize what riches lie in the human heart, the great secret mysteries that lie there: love and brotherhood, compassion and peace, the love of a man to be a man, and to grow, to improve himself, his mind and his morals, and his yearning to allow his instincts for right and justice towards all full play and activity. These are the great things that should come into the world, for the world's universal benefit. I believe that some day a great man will appear with an idea, or a series of ideas, of a spiritual and intellectual character, which will show the present tottering civilization the sure way to safety, human concord, and peace; and bring about, not a crash as some wrongly suppose, but a new super-structure of thought and ideals on a nobly strengthened social foundation. It is, after all, ideas that rule the world; and it is precisely because people misthink and wrongly suppose that money or property is a thing in itself of absolute value, and that politics is a thing in itself having intrinsic worth, that these feeble instruments and products of human endeavor have their grip on mankind and wield their sway over human hearts.
Men make politics, men make money, men make things, men make property, men make civilizations. It is ideas that rule the world, and it is likewise from men that come ideas. Let us then change our ideas, and follow ideas which are composite of good, ideas based on universal brotherhood, ideas of intrinsic moral beauty, of spiritual and intellectual grandeur, ideas which in time will bring about a confraternity not only of the peoples of the earth, but of all the smaller social units that go to make up a nation. Then, with these ideas permeating our consciousness, we shall not need to bother about petty politics and the rights or non-rights of private property, or what not. The world of humans will then run as easily and smoothly as a well-ordered mechanism; and we shall have happiness and peace all over our globe.
This is not the pipe dream of a vaguely visioning and idealistic dreamer. It is an actuality which can be put into practical operation simply by a reorienting of our thinking and of our feeling into new standards of human conduct; and in such a new world men will be judged not only by what they do or produce, but by what they think, because thoughts of brotherly and humane benevolence will be carried into constructive action. They will then not be judged by what they have or own. Property will not be the standard of righteousness nor of the proprieties, nor again of respectability.
We must shift our moral center of gravity to ethics where it rightly and truly belongs, and away from property where it has been falsely placed during the last few thousand years because of unfortunate contributing historical causes. It is easier far to make such shift of values to their natural, proper, and therefore legitimate sphere, than it is to continue being involved through centuries of the future in the horrible struggles of an international or internecine character with their bitter animosities and unforgetting hatreds, their dislocations of social and political life, and the consequent misery weighing so heavily upon us all. There is not a single logical or reasonable argument to be urged against it — this shifting of our center of consciousness — except ignorance, prejudice, and dense human stupidity, due to the inertia brought about by moral somnolence and empty disbelief in our own powers to carve our destiny shapely.
It would seem to be undoubtedly true that unless there come upon the world a new outlook and a change of our habit, mental and psychical, of envisaging events through the distorted lenses of our present-day sense of values, our already badly shaken civilization runs a danger of sliding down into a welter of confusion, despair, and human misery, such as the annals of known history have not yet chronicled. The peoples of the earth gathered into nations must learn to look upon each other, and to treat each other, with decorum, high sense of honor, and instinct for mutual service, instead of continuing to follow courses of conduct based upon the very shaky foundations of opportunism, expediency, and convenience, that have so often governed and disgraced international relations in the past, thus presenting a picture of international morals probably far beneath even the standard held by the average man in the street. The case is by no means hopeless, however, for the remedy is simple indeed, practical and practicable, and lies merely in a shifting of our center of gravity of consciousness from politics and profit to morals and mutual service. The average intelligent businessman today has come to realize that a successful enterprise must be founded upon honesty and service; otherwise he is doomed to failure. There is no ostensible, no actual, reason why nations should follow courses which the average man would consider disgraceful in his own case. The whole secret lies in a change of outlook, in a change of vision; and then the apparent difficulties will be understood for what they are, illusions; and they will be gladly cast aside for the standards prevailing along the pathway of safety, progress, happiness, and peace.
I most emphatically do not wish to give the impression, when speaking of the loss in recent centuries of a sense of ethical values, which arose in a translation therefrom of our center of gravity of consciousness to property as the pivot around which our national and individual interest revolves, that the theosophist is in any wise blind to, unconscious of, or indifferent to, the really great and harrowing misery that exists in the world in individual cases because of a lack of proper resources or support. Very much to the contrary. But we point to such conditions as an illustration of the power which material possessions have gained over both human heart and mind; for the insane race for wealth and the desire for acquisition for the individual himself, even to the detriment of his fellows, has blinded him to one of the primal human duties: a brotherly regard for, consideration and, in needful cases, proper care of one's fellowmen less fortunately placed by karma — or destiny — than he himself is.
It is good to note that during recent times the whole tendency in the various countries of the world is towards doing everything possible, both through the state and by the individual, to ameliorate the condition of the needy, combined with the growing realization that essential values lie not in property but in human beneficence, and in that universal brotherhood which is inherent in any properly organized and enduring social structure.
Some of the noblest men who have ever lived have suffered all the pangs of personal humiliation as well as the great disadvantages of dire poverty, while it is a commonplace of history that great riches have often lain at the disposition of the unworthy or the incompetent. The world is rapidly moving towards a time — provided its course be not interrupted or broken by some catastrophe — when it will be recognized far more keenly than now it is that every human being has an inherent right, in the words of the American Constitution, to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and that it is one of the noblest duties of an enlightened State not merely to provide equal opportunities for all, but actively to aid those who, from one cause or another, often greatly to their credit, are not accumulators of property. Such things as the need of old-age pensions, free education, and the providing of work for every willing hand, have become commonplaces of conversation, and rightly so.
Yet, admitting all this, and much more, and after stating that the tendency above alluded to is all to the good, I take occasion to point out that the root of all the world's troubles in the past has lain in the wrong centering of our human sense of permanent values — in property rather than inherently residing in human beings themselves. The natural and inevitable consequence has found its culmination in the present-day worldwide unrest, conflict, endless arguments, and a talk about rights ad nauseam, but we discover very little talk about the duty which a man owes to his fellowmen. Once our center of gravity of moral consciousness is taken from property as the pivot of civilization, and placed in man himself as the center of all greatest and primal values, then 99 percent of the world's constantly recurring paroxysms of agitation, perturbation, and violence will vanish; and human relations of whatever kind, international, national, social, or political, will automatically adjust themselves to and for the common good. Universal brotherhood — not as merely vague sentimentalism, but as a recognition of human solidarity based on nature's own laws — is, after all, the keynote of any true civilization, and without it no civilization can endure.
Human nature is so prone when hearing or reading about altruism to imagine that it is something foreign to us, lugged into human life as a most desirable thing to follow, but, after all, highly impractical — that it is not inherent in the characteristics of human beings to be altruistic naturally. In other words, they are all fascinated with the idea of isolated self-interest. Is not this supposition utterly unfounded in nature? For wherever we look, whatever we consider or study, we find that the individual working alone for himself is helpless. In all the great kingdoms of the universe, it is union of effort, cooperation in living combines, which is not only what nature herself is working to bring about and therefore which we find everywhere, but that anything that runs counter and contrary to this fundamental law of the universe — unity in action — produces disharmony, strife, and what in our own bodies we call disease. Health is that condition of bodily structure where all parts work to a common end in what we may call friendship, union.
Consider the stones: are they not combines, are they not unions of individuals composing, making, producing, a thing? No single atom of any of the chemical elements of which any stone is composed is the stone itself. How about the lovely flower? How about the bodies in which we live? How about a single man? Could he alone produce the great works that men have bent their genius to achieve? What is civilization but the combined efforts of human beings to produce great and noble effects in human life: increasing comfort, dispelling danger, bringing about the productions of genius from greater men which redound to our own comfort and use. Show me a single instance where pure self-interest has produced anything. If we consult nature in all her kingdoms, we find naught but unity of working brought about by multitudes of individuals cooperating to a common end. And what is that but altruism? Altruism is the word we give to this fact when we see its ethical significance, and this significance is in no wise, nor in any great way nor in any small, different from what we see in the world physical. Altruism means the one working for the all — nature's fundamental law in all her grand structures — and the all standing as the guard and shield and field of effort of the one. Think of the deep moral lesson, the deduction, to be drawn from this greatest of the universe's — not mysteries but verities; so common around us that usually we pass it by unseeing, with unseeing eye. Show me anything that can endure sole and alone for a single instant of time.
Two or more atoms uniting make a molecule; two or more molecules a larger production; and it is the countless multitudes of such unions which produce the universe. Any single entity essaying to follow the ignoble path of isolated self-interest sets its or his puny will against the force which keeps the stars in their courses, gives health to our bodies, brings about civilizations, and produces all the wonders that are around us.
There is a point of teaching in this connection which it is important to introduce into the world today, and that is hope. You know the old Greek story about a certain very curious and inquisitive person who opened a box and all the evils in the world fled out, and there remained therein only hope. I think this contains a great deal of truth which has a practical bearing on life's problems. As long as a man has hope he does not despair. Weak or strong, it matters not; if he has hope, something to look forward to, if his inner spirit, the spiritual being within him, teaches him something of hope, he not only will never despair, but he will become a builder, a constructor, a worker with the universe, because he will move forwards. And this is altruism.
We are all children of the universe, of its physical side and of its spiritual and divine side. This being so, there is in every human breast an undying font not only of inspiration, but likewise of growth, of hope, of wisdom, and of love. So that the world today, although apparently in a parlous condition, in a desperate state, still contains in it men and women enough to carry the evolutionary wave of progress over its present turmoil and strife; for the majority of mankind are essentially right in their instincts, especially the higher instincts.
Therefore, I do not see anything horribly hopeless about the world's condition today. I believe not only that there is ground for hope, but that the undying spark of spirituality, of wisdom, and love of altruism, always living in the human heart, will carry the human race not only out of its present series of impasses, of difficulties, but into brighter days, which will be brighter because wiser and gentler. It is not the crises, when things crash or seem to crash; it is not the horrific noise of the thunder or the crash of its bolt, which govern the great functions of life, human and cosmic; but those slow, to us, always quiet, unending silent processes which build: build when we wake, build when we sleep, build all the time; and even in the human race carry it through folly after folly after folly into the future.
There is the ground of our hope; and it seems to me that all good men and true should rally to the defense of these primal, simple verities which every human heart, adult or child, can understand. I believe it is about time that men and women began to look on the bright side of things, to see hope around us, to forget themselves and their petty worries, and to live in the Infinite and in the Eternal. It is easy, infinitely easier than making ourselves continuously sick with frets and worries. Within each one of us there is something divine to which we can cling, and which will carry us through.
Don't talk to me about altruism being something foreign or exotic, unusual, impractical, and therefore impracticable; for it is the only thing which perpetually lives, the only thing which endures for aye. When any single element or part in a human body begins to run on its own, we have disease. When any single element or part in any structural combine which helps to compose the world around us begins to run on its own, i.e., what we call self-interest, there we see degeneration and decay.
Deduction and question: which of the twain should we follow — the pathway of the cosmic intelligence bringing us health inner and outer, peace inner and outer, strength internal and external, and union inner and outer? Or the teaching of a tawdry and isolated self-interest which seeks its own to the prejudice of all?
Is it not high time that we gave the world a few of the simple inner teachings of the god-wisdom of the ancients? Will you show me one more sublime, more appealing to human intellect and to the dictates of human conscience, than that of altruism, which puts us in intimate union with the throbbing of the cosmic heart, and which idea, if we can pass it over into the minds of men, will more than justify all the work that the great masters of wisdom have been doing for mankind since time immemorial? Ethics above all!
You have infinity before you, eternity. Face it. Thus teaches the god-wisdom: a doctrine of hope, rich with the promise of the future. No man need ever say it is too late — those terrible words, too late. No man need ever say that. Every instant of time is a new choice. As in the past he has made himself what now he is, so in the future he can carve his destiny and make himself to be precisely in accordance with the vision that he has of himself to become in the future. What a grand doctrine! Man is but a reproduction, a cyclical evolutionary reproduction of himself out of the past, in the present, marching into the future. There is your destiny.