Copyright © 1996 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
Theosophy is the thread which passes through and strings together all the ancient philosophies and religious systems; and, what is more, it reconciles and explains them. — H. P. Blavatsky
For centuries humanity has been taught the letter instead of the spirit of the Bible; hence the unrest, the questionings, and the controversies of today. The wisdom which Jesus taught was the ancient wisdom known long before Christ was born. It was the misinterpretation of the Bible by the early Church Fathers that led to its being accepted according to the letter, so that the so-called Christian nations have ever since acted on the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, instead of following Christ's simple injunction "that ye love one another."
Today we have a repetition in some respects of the conditions and environments which the early Church Fathers had to meet in their efforts to establish the Christian religion. Of course there were not quite so many divergent doctrines then, because there were not so many people. But there was a great deal of antagonism and discussion and even despotism all through the first few centuries of the Christian era.
During the confusion of thought of those early centuries there were a number of great philosophers, perhaps wiser than we today; and there were others who were waiting for the light and who were, through the influence of the Church, breaking away from paganism — and yet they were not ready to accept the doctrine of the atonement through the crucifixion of Jesus nor were they ready to accept him as specially born. Think of the variety of opinions and of the contradictions about the question of the special divinity of Christ. According Jesus' teachings, we are all "sons of God" — we are all essentially divine. We are immortal, we are a part of God, and God is in us and we are in God.
The only difference between Christ and many of those around him was that he recognized his inner divinity. He evoked from his own nature a splendid compassion. It should be remembered that in the sacred legends of many nations, far preceding the time of Christ, there were highly enlightened souls, advanced men — and women too — declared by their associates and disciples to have been of immaculate or virgin birth. We should not interpret these legends literally and thus degrade and materialize them. The idea of the virgin birth should be taken symbolically, as meaning that Jesus was pure and undefiled in the spiritual sense and had achieved spiritual knowledge through his own self-directed evolution, while physically he was born of an earthly mother and father.
This is a page from universal symbolism which will help all to interpret many of the teachings of the Bible, which the early Church Fathers misinterpreted. The Church Fathers doubtless felt that making their Savior supernatural, rather than admitting that he was simply a noble man of very spiritual attainment, would be a telling point in gaining converts, and that the spread of Christianity would thus be greatly accelerated. Moreover, the Jews had a legend that the Messiah was to come upon the earth. This we interpret as meaning the Christos-spirit — a breath or wave or influence of the divine teachings which Jesus later brought to the Jews — would take possession of the hearts of men. But the Church Fathers accepted the coming of the Messiah literally, and a certain number of the Jews declared that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.
Have we not arrived at the time when we must learn how much is to be found through self-directed evolution, through applying the teachings of Christ and of all the great world teachers, through belief in our divine heritage? Thus we can strengthen our characters for larger issues and larger service and for a more noble and exalted expression of the higher law. Considered in this light, we may understand that the coming of Christ does not refer to the coming of the man specially born, but to the spirit of the Christos in men, reflected in their spiritual exaltation to a state of understanding and discrimination and possibly of inspiration.
We, too, are all in our soul-life born of the spirit just as Jesus was, but it is a question whether humanity as a whole has cared for the soul-life or the spiritual life. How much thought do we give to the idea that we are united with God, that we are in God and a part of God? If this were not so, we would not be here. Take these few ideas and work them out to your own satisfaction. You will find many such ideas in the writings of H. P. Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine, Isis Unveiled, and The Key to Theosophy.
The earnest investigator of spiritual things must begin with a determined will to follow the path of spiritual endeavor until he finds himself in a higher state of consciousness which reveals to him the true life. When we give sincere thought to our own nature, and challenge ourself in the true spirit of aspiring to a better life, we have begun the climb. The second step brings to us in the silence of our own inner being a touch of the universal life. This alone is a splendid philosophy to follow. Our own soul tells us that we are a part of divinity — a part of God. But we are also a part of the great human family; and the only way to reinstate and restore the primitive teachings of the wisdom-religion is to live the life which Jesus and all the great spiritual teachers of mankind have taught us to live.
Disappointments, heartaches, sickness, bereavement, persecution, count for nothing if one will hold to these uplifting teachings. All things that seem such a nightmare upon humanity would pass away if we would rise in our spiritual aspirations, in our trust in the divine law, and feel the glory of God permeating our natures enough to make us strong and purposeful in will, full of love for humanity, full of pity and forgiveness, full of the spirit of service to all humanity and, above all, full of protest against the evils of the age. There is in every man and woman a spark of the divine life — the soul. That is why life may be made a joy and a glory, no matter in what situation we may be found. We must sing the song of Life is Joy, we must make a new picture, a new vista for the world, if we are to stem the tide of disintegration with a spiritual hope that will never die.
There is physical unrest in every human being, for none of us is living rightly: physically none of us is living up to the best. When we are not ill or in physical distress, we are apt to forget that this body is the temple in which the soul of man seeking expression lives, and the instrument through which God manifests as far as divinity can be expressed in man. We forget these things and pile penalties upon ourselves by carelessness and indifference. And then when sickness comes we are cowards. The majority are getting ready to die when they are forty or fifty.
Think of the world peopled with a glorious humanity with the light of spiritual knowledge shining through them! In spite of the disintegration that we see all about us, the eternal light of truth is burning, the light of the ancient wisdom. Under the pressure of a great thought-wave, a spiritual wave which cannot be fully explained, humanity will also be reinstated, will be restored to its rightful heritage and will find its real place in the universal scheme of life. Sadness will be turned into joy, tears into laughter, suffering into happiness. Then we shall have the true higher education — education for the souls of men and for the development of a noble civilization.
If one were to investigate the condition in some of our jails and penitentiaries, one would find that the inmates are often treated as though they were not human. This I cannot understand in view of the fact that for the past nineteen centuries Western civilization had professedly accepted the gospel of the Nazarene. It may be claimed that the treatment of prisoners is much more humane than it used to be, but I say frankly that most prisons today are hell-houses and unfit for even the worst specimens of mankind to be in. Those in charge of them are often simply trying to perform their duties as best they can, but it is a terrible reflection upon the so-called Christian world and upon our present civilization that these things are as they are.
How soon humanity forgot what the great Nazarene taught. It seems not to disturb many when they hear that a man is to be hanged, electrocuted, or gassed. A few may shudder for a moment, and then the tragedy is forgotten. Unbrotherliness is the insanity of the age and it is crippling the spiritual advancement of the world. Yet the essential teachings are in all religions. It is the presentation of creeds and dogmas in place of religion that have led humanity astray. The teachings of the Gospel have been ignored. The recent war was a proof of it. Christ's teachings were brushed aside in the interests of material gains. No civilization can advance in spiritual knowledge under such conditions.
It would be very unwise and very unbrotherly to say, "Down with the churches!" Let the churches stand; they have good in them. Let those who believe in the churches sustain them as long as they can. But never allow the teachings of Jesus himself to be misplaced or misunderstood. Hold to all that is good, true, and beautiful, and eliminate all that is false and misleading. We must use no violence to cause destruction, but rather cooperate and build up.
Man is essentially divine, truly the son of God insofar as he allows the godlike qualities within him to rule his life, as Jesus did. How I love to talk to prisoners, and take out of their minds the woe born of the idea that alone in the blood of Christ is their atonement. He never said anything to that effect, and it is not so. Out of the tangle and confusion of all that has been said by different writers, after a while something in our own natures will rise, if we believe in the essential divinity of our own souls; and we will find the lost word, the lost chord — that within us which has the power to heal and comfort the hearts of those who are despairing. I think, as civilization advances, that it is the duty of every human being to be tolerant and patient with his fellows, for thus we help them truly.
I dare not condemn the man who is condemned to die — perhaps for some monstrous offense. I believe that there is a remedy for the crimes of the world; I accept the duality of human nature. When a man commits a crime, it is from the lower part of his nature which he has not learned to control. I dare say that civilization is partly responsible for it — that the greed, the insincerity, and the crimes that shock us do not belong just to those who have made the mistakes which have brought them behind bars. They belong to the whole race insofar as the race has done nothing to better conditions. And one cannot better conditions much by telling a man that God, the all-powerful and all-loving Father, first creates him in sin and then condemns him to eternal punishment unless he is saved through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Suppose a man has committed murder and I had the power to have him pardoned. Do you suppose I could make a saint of him? Certainly not! There are the laws of evolution to be considered, and karma. But it does not mean that a jealous God punishes a man for his misdeeds: the man punishes himself. If I put my hand into the fire, it burns. So I learn not to do it again.
But what do I know of the man who is condemned to be hanged? What do I know of his heredity? What do I know of the thoughts that were present in the minds of those who were responsible for his birth, even before he was born, during gestation? What do I know of his lack of knowledge, his lack of the proper home life? Nothing! I only know that he is a soul; that every man must have a chance to evolve, and that because he has gone so far astray he is in greatest need of the light. He does not need coddling or anything of the sort, but he does need an opportunity to redeem himself. He must be told that there is still another chance to begin to undo the wrong that he has done. And if the laws of the state are to redeem the unfortunate, they must be made so merciful, so true, so strong, so helpful, and so Christ-like, that such as I speak of will be looked upon as invalids — not only sick in body, but sick in mind — and will be treated as such and prevented from doing harm until cured and proved trustworthy.
In the Ancient Mysteries, the inner schools of the pagan religion, there was the teaching of the higher and lower natures in man — the great secret without which the contradictions and inconsistencies in human nature can never be explained. On the one side there is the immortal man, the soul, imprisoned in the house of flesh and made manifest only by noble actions; and the other, the animal, brute side of human nature, to be mastered by the higher and transmuted into a more spiritual life.
So when you read of a man who would walk out of his way to avoid treading on an ant hill one day, and the next day murdered his mother in anger, think of the duality of human nature. Normally his spiritual nature manifested itself in so small a thing that he could not tread on an ant hill, but the next day his lower nature — that part that loved money more than truth, that yielded to passion and vice under certain circumstances — forfeited his right to freedom of intercourse with his fellowmen, who were acting at least half rightly, because he killed another.
Where is our Christian sympathy when we see men put in prison? Some prejudiced mind might say, "Shall we have murderers at large, ready to kill us?" Not at all! But we should have schools that would furnish education of a quality that would stir the minds of the most obtuse, the most indifferent and blinded. The advent of such schools should be met as a great gala-day. We would not permit the state to carry out the old Mosaic law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, which Jesus denounced. We would have educational institutions instead of prisons for those moral invalids.
If the man we speak of had been brought up to know his divine nature and how to follow its guidance always, and that his lower nature, the other part of him, must be conquered and made a willing servant to the higher, he would long ago have learned self-control. But as a rule children are allowed to grow up without knowing anything about why they are here or about their own natures and very little effort is made to teach them, for the average teacher himself knows very little about these most important facts in life.
The process of learning self-control must begin in childhood. From the moment a child, no matter how small, raises its hand to strike, its will power has begun to act, and that will power must be directed along right channels. What education did that child have in a former life? What does it know of its reincarnations? What does it know of its potentialities or its possibilities? Parents do not realize that by allowing the child to be mastered by its temper or its desires, they are cultivating the very conditions in that child's nature that may lead to crime and the penitentiary later on. The child is never told about the duality of its own nature, but should be.
I love children. I think home is sacred and motherhood divine. But no matter how strong the mothers' hearts, how full, how loving, how self-sacrificing, they have not the necessary knowledge. They do not know themselves. The first thing that every human being and every child should know, is himself. Study the laws of your own being and you will know the laws of the universe.
Fill your lives with dreams and pictures of the possibility of self-conquest — not repressing the tendencies of the lower nature, but overcoming them. Begin this process with the youth. Think what fair flowers of manhood and womanhood we can develop in the light of spiritual self-mastery! Think of the beautiful home life we can build which is not within our vision now; think of the humane laws we can make for the benefit of humanity; think of the educational institutions we can have of the highest order in every city, town, and village in the world, for the youth, for the parents, and for those who make mistakes — institutions governed in true knowledge of man's possibilities and potentialities. Truly these words, "Love ye one another," are filled with the spirit of the heart doctrine, the great hope.
Think of the torture that we inflict upon a man who has made his mistakes — no matter how serious they were — by continually reminding him of them. That is the idea of reformation, so called, that is usually practiced: keep him thinking about his sins! But what say you of taking that man and telling him that he is an invalid, that he is ill, that he needs care, physically and mentally. Give him his moral physician as well as his physical physician. Drive out of the minds of human beings the thought of legalized murder and of punishment! No matter what the man's crime we are not privileged, we have not the right, to destroy human beings. Why, we should not even strike a child, or a horse or a dog, because our conscience should not allow us to do it. We have just enough of our spiritual nature awakened to bring us to the realization that every thought has an effect for good or evil, and that we can bless our life or we can curse it by our thought-life as well as by our actions.
I see men of twenty and even forty going along the streets of our cities, with their hands in their pockets, heads down, and an expression of lamentation or carelessness all along the way. Go out on the streets, if you will, and look at the young girls! Out of the first hundred that you see, pick out one, if you can, who has received that light of self-knowledge which should be preached in every Christian church in the world. How many have been taught the full meaning of the words "as ye sow so must ye also reap"? How many people go through life constantly showing the spirit of love and forgiveness and gentleness and tenderness?
Oh, how I pity the mothers and the fathers! And how I pity particularly the working people. The mother has her love of virtue and her love of right and home and of everything that is beautiful, but she must struggle along with her family. And sometimes she sees one of her children go out of the fold — it is awful, it is terrible, it is cursed; it is a thing that civilization should be ashamed of.
In spite of these menacing dangers, in spite of the tragedies that we read about in the newspapers, the crimes — more than we have ever had before — there is in the hearts of men the fire of spiritual aspirations yet burning. But none can bring to these I speak of the answer to their heart's yearnings. They must find it themselves. They will find it if they really work for it, and if they do not work for it they must take the consequences of the immutable law of karma.
We cannot have true religion, we cannot love, we cannot do noble service, unless we have a right royal enthusiasm. From my experience in helping prisoners and unfortunate women, I have found that there is only one message that I can take to all who suffer and who are despairing — those who have lost faith in God and man. There is nothing that will answer the yearnings of their souls except the truth. They should know that in spite of their errors, in spite of their mistakes, in spite of their being condemned and considered helpless, they too are the children of God insofar as they will turn about and make the divine laws a part of their lives.
Think of the man who is about to be hanged, who hates the world, hates humanity, has no belief in God nor in anything — just a brain-mind and perhaps a beast in the flesh; and then give him this message! I can assure you that if I had time I could recount my experiences with some of these men. I have seen them walk out of the death chamber already redeemed — redeemed through their own heartaches, their despair, their disappointments, and finally redeemed through their trust in the supreme, infinite, omnipresent power that holds us all in its keeping.
This is one of the reasons why I am so intense, so earnest, so eager to clear away some of the obscurations of truth that are holding men down. We must warm our hearts in the knowledge that there is no outside power to save us, but that it is we ourselves who, through our own self-directed thought and the consciousness that we are a part of the divine laws, must work out our own salvation. This must be done by opening our hearts to the heart doctrine and to the love of God in the truest sense — by making life beautiful in our simplest acts of kindness and of brotherly love, by leading a clean, noble life.
Jesus was one of the many great spiritual initiates who have come down through the ages. If we could study some of the hidden manuscripts of the past, we would find that there were many like him in degree, many who had won their greatest battles in self-conquest. And perhaps in the humblest walks of life there are those who have had no opportunity to step forth but who are living the life of self-purification, who have faith in their own divine natures. And in spite of the chaos, the unrest, the uncertainty, the deceit, the greed, and all these things that come from man's lack of recognition of his higher self, we can have a hope that will be so eternal that it will stay with us all through our different lives, and bring to us added courage each time. On such foundations we can build so beautifully and so royally that we never will be satisfied with the limited knowledge of one earth-life. Never!
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