What makes a sage and seer? A sage and seer becomes such because of the perfecting and refining of inner sheaths enshrouding the essential self. When these sheaths, through aspiration, initiatory training and also through the vast store of experience gained in many preceding earth-lives, are rendered so fine that they become diaphanous to the radiation from the inner god, then the brain-mind is touched almost directly by the radiating light, and the man becomes filled with spiritual wisdom, and therefore can truly be called not only a sage because of his wisdom, but a seer because of his vision. Such are all the truly great spiritual teachers of the human race. Of course there are degrees as regards inner development among the great ones, and the most highly evolved are called the buddhas, the "awakened ones" who can see on inner planes, and therefore are seers.
The buddhas are men who have become relatively perfected in the series of earth-lives through which they have passed. Thus they are the products of evolution, brought about by self-devised efforts. Thus a buddha is one who has become self-consciously united with his own inner dhyani-buddha or spiritual monad, which in the west is signified by the term christ. Hence every buddha is likewise a christ because of such self-conscious union, but not every christ is a buddha. Christs are divisible into two classes: buddhas and avataras. While every buddha, i.e. manushya-buddha, is a christ because of his self-conscious assimilation of the dhyani-buddha within him, not every christ is a buddha because one class of the christs is formed of avataras — beings who have no past karma, nor will they have any future karma, at least, not in any other than in a very mystical cosmical sense.
Buddhahood is attained by evolving human beings who have both past and future karma and who therefore retain their buddhahood into the future; whereas christhood is a condition brought about by the imbodiment either temporary or permanent, of a spiritual-divine principle. The permanent cases of imbodiment are those of the buddhas; the temporary cases of imbodiment are the avataras, and each is the result of a supreme act of white magic — performed for special purposes at certain cyclical periods for a great spiritual objective.
Forming a sharp contrast with the true spiritual seers, there appear from time to time in the religious history of the world, individuals of more or less erratic character who may be designated as "visionaries." It is important to gain at least a brief knowledge of the nature of these individuals, because such knowledge provides a protection for earnest seekers after truth against religious or mystical imposition, even if it be not intentional but the result of delusion and self-deception on the part of such visionaries.
These visionaries are almost invariably of somewhat fanatic temperament, who promulgate with more or less success various sorts of teachings based, as seems to be always claimed, on the doctrines of some already established great religion. These are very successful in woefully misinterpreting what they usually claim to be either a "revelation" of the meaning of the teachings they adopt, or a "revelation" claimed to be of more spiritual character than the already established teaching, because it belongs to a later age. These innovators, who are not always imposters because frequently genuinely self-deceived, usually claim to speak with religious authority, in rarer cases the claim is made of inspiration from God, or from some "angelic" dignitary.
Semi-mystics or erratic religionists are very numerous in history; any thoughtful student of religious history should have little difficulty in recognizing or in knowing them for what they are. They lack all the insignia majestatis of the real sage and seer.
They see "visions" indeed, but it may be said with small chance of error that the visions they see are false; and even when these visionaries are sincere, their "visions" are the pictures in their minds reflecting astral photographs in the astral light. Multitudes of men have frequently been led astray by such visionaries who can emit only that which their imaginations — vagrant, wandering, unguided — and their untaught intellects impel them to voice in the utterance of ideas which rarely are for the spiritual and intellectual good of mankind.
To understand this better, the astral light is the repository of everything that has ever lived, lives, or will live, on earth. Hence these lower regions of the astral light are called nature's picture gallery, for they have been indelibly impressed with the records or "photographs" of whatever is or has ever been, on earth or elsewhere in the solar system.
We are swimming in it, so to speak; it washes through our brains continuously as well as through every molecule of our body. Every thought that passes through the human brain, good, bad, or indifferent, the imaginings of the lunatic, the spiritual vision of the seer, even the thought of every god — all come by way of the astral light. The astral light is a picture gallery through which our minds wander constantly and which, when sympathetic contact has been made, bring over such astral record or picture into the brain; and furthermore, each such astral picture or "vision" receives the added energic impulse or characteristic impress made on it by the brain through which it passes. Nor is this all. Each such picture passes again back into the astral light, with its added impress or embroidery stamped on it by the brain through which it had passed, and then some other human brain takes it up immediately or it may be after a hundred years or more, and that new brain changes it or gives it a new psychic impulse; and so forth indefinitely.
Thus it is that the astral light in its higher parts records the noblest thoughts and emotions and impulses that the human race has had as individuals; whereas the lower realms of the astral light, which are quasi-physical, are the particular picture gallery or depositary of all the vile and loathsome emanations, pictures, passions, impulses, with which low and degraded human beings have filled it.
The human brain could never think a thought, could never imagine anything, nor could the emotional apparatus be enslaved by its emotional movements, whether passional or otherwise, were not all these things already existent in and drawn from the astral light — only to be returned to it. It must not be forgotten, however, that the astral light is likewise the intermediary plane between the physical world and the invisible spiritual worlds, and therefore is in a sense a channel of communication. Thus, spiritual thoughts and emotions flash through the astral light also, but spurning what is unlike themselves; for all — good, bad, or indifferent — must pass through the astral light before reaching the human brain.
Every medium sees in the astral light to a greater or less extent. The cubism and futurism of modern art, or the pictures engraven on the tombs and temples of ancient Egypt with their beast heads, even the symbolic art of the Chinese, all come from the same cosmic picture gallery. All of these instances imbody symbolic ideas, deliberate attempts to suggest truths. In themselves they are creative thoughts, but they become clothed with astral characteristics because of their passing through the astral light in order to reach the human brain, and then become still further modified.
Thus interpretation is an important factor to bear in mind. A number of people may see the identic picture in the astral picture gallery, but each interpret it with differences of mental and emotional outline, according to his own nature. Herein lies one of the main causes of the unreliability always present in what semi-mystics and quasi-seers or visionaries often describe as "visions of truth." They can bring on to the physical plane only such pictures of the astral light as they happen to "see" and then only through the vehicle of their own respective imaginations. The great danger lies in the ascription wrongly of spiritual truth to their astral visionings, and hence they make wrong connections with consequent wrong interpretations. There is, therefore, no genuinely spiritual seership about it; because the true seer knows thoroughly the dangers and distortions of the astral light, and sends his piercing gaze into the regions of the spirit where he can envision and transmit truths directly to the waiting brain. The mere visionary, on the other hand, imagines, often sincerely, that what he "sees" are the workings of the "spiritual world," whereas all he actually experiences is a wandering of his erratic and untutored psychomental apparatus through the terribly deceptive and illusory picture galleries of the astral light.
The spiritual adept, however, can wander in his consciousness through any one of the chambers of the astral picture gallery with perfect safety, and with a vision so clear that he knows precisely what it is that he sees or feels, and hence is in no danger of self-deception, or of falling under the maya of this most deceptive of all nature's planes. Probably the sole reason of an adept's so acting would be to read the records of the past.
As regards ordinary human beings, it may be said that they are unconsciously affected by the astral light, which streams through their minds and emotional apparatus in unceasing flow. For instance, it is often the case that a man who tells a deliberate lie does so because he is at the moment servile to a crooked astral current. This does not mean that his moral nature has no existence, for this is absurd; the idea is that the moral nature succumbs to temptation, whereas it should react strongly against deceiving and throw it off, and thus rise to higher inner realms. The man who commonly gives way in servile fashion to his thoughts and emotions is simply one who has not strengthened his moral instincts and faculties, and is more or less enslaved to such crooked astral currents as may be at any time flowing through his mind.
Thus it is seen how needful it is to strengthen the moral sense, to rest upon it as the saving guide in life; for the man who thus lives can no more be affected by the vile emanations from the astral light than can the great rocks on the seashore be moved by even the winter storms. But the weak man is a victim of the filthinesses and impurities constantly floating around in the astral light. Such an individual does not realize that his mind has become a mere transmitter of often disgusting astral pictures or records. Thus the liar actually thinks he lies because he is weak and cannot throw them off, but the lies are simply pictures in the astral light to which his own unstable moral nature responded sympathetically.
It may be said in passing that photographs purporting to be pictures from the astral world may or may not be genuine; even if not genuine, the mere fact that they could have been presented as genuine "astrals," in itself proves that the offerer is in a current of the astral light urging him to deceive.
While the photographic plate will not normally register anything except a material object, many astral things can, under certain conditions, become quasi-material, more or less condensed matter like gas; and if this "gas" has a certain color or form, even though the eye cannot see it, there is the possibility that the photographic plate can catch it.
Yet no photographic plate can ever "catch" a spirit, because a spirit is essentially arupa, i.e. formless and nonmaterial, and consequently is entirely outside of this physical plane. The vibrations of spirit are utterly different from those of physical matter, although all physical matter is but the dregs or lees of spirit. Hence, what the camera may catch would be what the Greeks call an eidolon — a quasi-astral image. Thus the photographic plate that the astronomers use in photographing the deeps of interstellar space will catch through exposure of greater or less strength, what the human eye cannot see through the telescope. This shows that the filmy translucent nebulae are material, although very ethereal, and in fact are often celestial bodies not belonging to this plane, which are caught only because of the combination of long exposure and the immense spacial depth or spread of ethereal substance — a matter extremely difficult to explain in a few words.
The lower regions of the astral light interpenetrate physical matter much as the formerly popular "ether" of science was supposed to be a substratum in which all physical matter exists. One may venture to predict that "cosmic ether" will again come into its own, and will then perhaps be recognized as but one of a number of cosmic ethers of varying degrees of ethereality. The lower realms of the astral light are, therefore, the region which receives and records all the vilest emanations of the earth, including those particular evils of which the human race is the immediate cause. These lower astral regions in consequence are the habitation of the "spooks" or "ghosts" of excarnate human beings who, having ascended out of these lower regions after the death of the physical body, have nevertheless left behind them their astral eidola or kamarupas — the "shades" of the ancients.
These kamarupic shades and eidola of the astral world are around us all the time. We breathe them in, or repel them, as the case may be; we pass through them or they pass through us with every motion made on either plane. These regions are a circumambient ethereal or astral atmosphere, like the air of earth; thus it is that these kamarupic or astral shades are wandering around all the time in the lower regions of the astral light, attracted hither and yon; and, except for the elementaries, they are mere astral shells which, if left alone and not attracted by human psychic meddling, more or less rapidly dissolve into their component astral life-atoms, and are just as unpleasant as is the decaying human corpse. Left to themselves they have no power to harm any imbodied human being, except that when attracted by affinity they actually can be sucked in to a human being's own astral body and thus become automatic stimulants to the particular vice or foulness that such an individual may be addicted to. In themselves, these kamarupas are simply decaying astral corpses, temporarily held together until their dissolution comes, by elementals — nature forces. One has to ascend a complete cosmic plane in order to encounter imbodied beings possessing willpower and consciousness resembling those of man imbodied on earth; and the intermediate regions of the astral light are simply the transitional subplanes between us and this higher cosmic plane, the astral light itself being divided into planes, and these again into subplanes.
The lower regions of the astral light are a perfect welter of involved and moving astral currents, filled with the flotsam and jetsam or the effluvia of earth as well as the human shells left behind. This welter of confusion may be pictured as a mass of wriggling and squirming astral entities automatically drifting in all directions, much as dust and leaves are driven around by the air currents on the earth. On the other hand, the highest regions of the astral light are pure akasa, or spiritual substance. In fact, the akasic records are the originals for the entire lower realms of the astral world. The lower realms are like an astral ocean of swirling currents, possessing no stability.
Hence it is that psychics, sensitives, and other visionaries, who are all more or less subject to the influences and currents emanating from the astral light, are like blind creatures in the astral ocean-deeps whither the solar rays penetrate but slightly; whereas normal and strong-minded human beings almost automatically spurn these astral emanations and more or less live in the relative sunlight of the intermediate realms, just as the gods or dhyani-chohans have their consciousness placed in the akasa.
Now the mahatmas can at will function in the astral light, but their consciousness — unless deliberately directed to the lower regions — is in the akasic regions of the astral world, in the higher regions of the aether, which is the same as saying in the causal regions of the inner worlds. It is only the noblest and best balanced minds that can cast the percipient consciousness into the deceptive waves of the astral world and retain therein perfect intellectual and spiritual balance, self-control, and command. The mahatma can vision the truths of the universe in the akasic regions of the astral light or, more accurately, in the sphere and on the plane of the Anima Mundi to which he chooses to direct his consciousness; and on the rare occasions when he sends his consciousness into the lower realms of the astral light, but being immensely strong of will and thoroughly trained, he knows all the deceptive illusions therein, and in consequence he can give the right interpretation of all that he sees. The more highly developed a seer is, the farther ahead in time he can see, and the deeper he can go into the realities of the invisible worlds. Thus is he able, at least in degree, to forecast the future.
It is from the astral light that flow forth such terrestrial phenomena as epidemics, storms, wars, blights on crops, etc., etc. All have their causal origins in the cyclically recurring movements of the astral light; yet have their primary or ultimate causes in cosmic spheres. The sun and moon and the seven sacred planets are the original and potent fields wherein the primal causes arise, and these latter affect and work through the mediate or effectual causes aroused in the regions of the astral light. This does not mean that human beings are but irresponsible victims of cosmic fatality, for this is emphatically not the teaching. The human family collectively, or as individuals, itself arouses these efficient causes. Suffice it to say — stellae agunt non cogunt — "the stars impel but do not compel"; meaning that any human being, because possessing the divine faculty of free will in degree, can at any moment direct his own life and can, in proportion to the development of his spiritual intellect, rise superior to the cosmic karmic urges brought about by the influences of the celestial bodies. The divine spirit in man is incomparably superior to any cosmic force that can bring about results on earth; and while a human being can at no time escape the karmic consequences of his former thoughts and deeds, he can at every instant of his life modify for the better all new situations in which he may be placed. Thus little by little, by following the inner light, he can build up a store of karmic consequences which when they reach him in future ages will be like incoming angels of light and mercy.
It is not rarely that a visionary, because of his extremely pure life and spiritual instincts, is able to enter into communion with the akasic realms of spirit; but even in these cases, because they are almost invariably untrained by initiation, their best is to be considered as suspect and needing the most rigid checking with the teachings of the great sages and seers. Such an untrained mystic may indeed have at rare intervals more or less distorted visions of spiritual realities, but he does not understand them, and in consequence cannot properly interpret them.
Take the case of the Swedish semi-mystic Emanuel Swedenborg who, among other things, stated that the inhabitants of certain other planets are like men, and he "saw" those inhabitants in the garments worn by Swedish peasants. This is obviously wrong. What he actually saw was pictures in the astral light, which his mind immediately embroidered. If Swedenborg had lived in Russia, he probably would have clothed his supposititious inhabitants of other planets in the clothing of the typical Russian muzhik, with the big boots, baggy trousers, long hair, and blouse.
The actual functioning consciousness of such semi-mystics is higher than that of the mere mediums, who with rare exceptions, because of the striking dislocations in their psychological apparatus, are often the playthings of the beings and pictures of the lower realms of the astral light, and not infrequently these mediums sincerely think they are giving "spiritual truths."
The higher the psychic or visionary is in mental and spiritual vigor, the steadier he is in character and the more truthful are his "visions," although these are always confused, and in consequence misinterpreted in equal degree. Such higher psychics or visionaries are not deliberate deceivers; but the very fact that they do sometimes read more or less truly what they see in the astral light is in itself a dangerous thing, because not only they but others will take this occasional hitting upon the truth as a proof of regular and perfect seership; finding these occasional true visions to be verified, they will use these instances as a support for all other "visions" that they may have.
Spiritual vision comes from the "inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness" as Browning says; and the mahatmas of the highest type are those who can go inwards and foresee what is coming to pass because they can send their consciousness into the higher realms of the Anima Mundi, and read therein what is preparing to be projected or precipitated in the near or distant future in human affairs and on earth.
This is not fatalism, because although the destiny of the earth and of all beings on it is steadily following pathways of karmic necessity or nemesis, yet any individual can at any moment use his free will in the direction in which he determines to make it effective. The evolving human being indeed is a self-conscious and willing part of the universal mechanism — and hence, because all that is in him is part and parcel of universal nature, his will and his own intellectual power bring him to take an active part in the cosmic labor. Thus the individual man at any time is in part impelled by the karma of the universe, and in part employs his freedom of choice and his intellectual capacities to perform his portion of the cosmic labor.
In this general connection, all that future manvantaras are to bring forth is already foreshadowed in or patterned after the astral light that now is, which is the karmic resultant of the astral light that was. As an instance, the astral light of the moon* produced the earth and all that is in it, and the astral light of the present planetary chain of earth will produce the chain-child of this earth in the distant future.
*Here one may as well state that the term lunar pitris means far more than is generally supposed. It means in its most general sense the “lunar fathers” — hence everything that comes from the moon: the three kingdoms of the elementals, minerals, vegetables, beasts, humans, dhyani-chohans — all were “fathers” from the moon, the lunar ancestors; although of course in a strictly technical sense the phrase lunar pitris is usually restricted to mean those classes of lunar monads who became the various human and more-than-human groups now on earth.
There are a number of interesting facts connected with the astral light. One is that the higher one ascends above the surface of the earth, the quieter and more steady the astral light is. Its currents and vibrations become steadily more agitated and confused the nearer one approaches the center of the earth; so that were a true seer to reach the center of the earth he would find the astral currents to be in a mad danse macabre.
Another fact of interest is that the great cities of the world are swirling whirlpools in the astral light; in another sense they may be called ganglia, nerve centers, in the lower regions of the astral light.
This is one reason why, from time immemorial, recluses desiring places of undisturbed meditation seek refuge in the mountains, where they are farther away from the most disturbing influences of the condensed waves of the astral light, and likewise breathe even a purer physical atmosphere.
Though the masters will be found wherever their duties call them, yet it is a fact that for much the same reason that astronomers go to higher parts of mountains in order to obtain a pure atmosphere freer than usual from the heat-waves of the earth's surface, and religious communities from the earliest times choose quiet places in the mountains for their centers, so do these elder brothers select for their mystic seats certain parts of the globe which are most untouched by the miasmic influences emanating from great cities and thickly inhabited lands where are the soul-stupefying astral and physical influences which work against training in spiritual development.
There are associations of the great teachers in Asia Minor and in Egypt, in America and elsewhere; but the chief seat, it is said, of the greatest among them is in Tibet.
Visionaries are of many kinds, and the following names are suggested as a few who belong to the class of the sincere: Pico della Mirandola, Cardinal de Cusa, Copernicus, Meister Eckhart, Tauler, Jakob Boehme, Swedenborg, Emerson.
Socrates was another of still different type of visionary; and it may be added here that he suffered the penalty of death at Athens not so much for the reasons promulgated, but really because he had unwittingly betrayed the teachings of the Greek Mysteries, which in that age was a criminal offense punishable with death, and, apparently, when the matter had been called to his attention, Socrates refused to heed the warning.
The ancients were very strict about this matter of the betrayal, witting or unwitting, of the secrets of the Mystery schools. This involves a mystery within a mystery; and may be explained by stating that before degeneration had set in in the Mystery schools, the "death penalty" meant originally the natural karmic inner reaction taking place in the betrayer's own soul, leading ultimately to the "death of the soul." In later times, when the intense convictions of the early ages had given way merely to religious and philosophical speculations, such inner soul-loss rarely if ever occurred, and the state undertook to punish divulgation of the secrets of the Mysteries by penalties adequate to the various degrees of guilt; and in still later times, the state dropped even these distinctions and punished capitally any degree of betrayal of the Mysteries, whether it were deliberate or not.
There were, of course, men who even in the late and degenerate days attempted to mitigate the penalty of death by legal devices, as for instance, commuting the death penalty into ostracism or banishment in cases where the offense was neither flagrant nor productive of what was considered to be irreparable damage to the institution of the Mysteries, which for ages had been a state function.
Here is the main test by which men may know whether such or another propagandist or preacher is a messenger, deriving his authority and doctrine from the Great Brotherhood: Are his teachings those universal principles of nature which every great religion and philosophy has comprised when first formulated by some great sage or seer? The reason why the test of universality is so conclusive and forceful is because universality is another way of stating that the teachings promulgated are in strict accordance with the so-called laws of the universe, which obviously must have been working from infinite past times. Indeed, what a true teacher gives is something which applies in its essentials not only on earth but likewise on every other planet of our sun's realms as well as in the kingdoms of the polar star. Otherwise phrased, the test of universality is so powerful a touchstone simply because universality is but another name for universal truth.
Another test, though less forceful than that of universality, is that of inner virtue. Now virtue in the Latin sense of "manhood," virtus, and with the distinction that the ancients made when they spoke of "virtue" as contrasted with mere conventional ethics or morality, signifies true spiritual manhood, and is a distinguishing mark of a genuine teacher. Such virtue is not a sentimental thing, but is a collection of spiritual and intellectual as well as psychical qualities and faculties which make a man truly a man, and include strength of character, indomitable will, penetrating intelligence, spiritual intuition — exemplifications of the divine fire which lives within him and which flows from out his "heart." Therefore, if the proponent of teachings has these qualities and at the same time teaches the age-old fundamental doctrines found over the globe and in all ages, then with high probability can he be recognized as one to whom trust and confidence may be given.
Virtue has ever been sung in the great literatures of the ancient world as an attribute of the truly great man. As Sa'di, a Sufi mystic, sings:
The virtuous man will aid and even benefit the one who has wronged him. — Bostan, ch. 4
Another Persian Sufi poet, Hafiz, wrote:
Learn from yon orient shell to love thy foe,
And store with pearls the hand that brings thee woe:
Free, like yon rock, from base vindictive pride,
Imblaze with gems the wrist that rends thy side:
Mark, when yon tree rewards the stony show’r
With fruit nectareous, or the balmy flow’r:
All nature calls aloud: “Shall men do less
Than heal the smiter, and the railer bless?”
— in The Works of Sir William Jones, 1807, 3:244
The philosophical rationale of this is that nothing comes to us except through karma. If we endure great suffering through the acts of another, that one in turn can never escape the due retribution of natural law; but our suffering and our injury never could have come to us had we not planted seeds of present effects, as causes in the past. Hence the teaching of all the great ones, that the way by which to obtain wisdom and peace is freeing the heart and mind from the corrosive influences of hatred and revenge, and planting in their places the seeds of kindliness and unswerving justice for all. An intuition of this great truth must lie in the heart of everyone. "One man and God," as the Christian Saint Athanasius — of otherwise unpleasant memory — is stated to have said, "are a majority against the world." Such a man is in the majority because he has the countless spiritual and divine hierarchies of the universe with him, working with him and infilling him with their own power. All he has to do is to cast out the personal, small, and crippling yearnings, loves and hatreds, and let the winds of eternity blow through him and wash him clean.
In India there is found the following beautiful injunction along the same general line:
The virtuous man, even at the moment of his destruction, if there be no safety to be found, should remember that his duty is not to hate his slayer, but to forgive him, and even to have the desire to benefit him, just as the fragrant sandalwood tree at the time of its felling sheds fragrance on the very ax which lays it low.
There are those to whom this noble ethic may seem to be too lofty to follow. They are entirely wrong, for it is all a matter of conviction. Let a man but try and it will be a marvel to him how much he can accomplish. Yet for such human individuals who doubt their capacity, there are beautiful, ethical teachings which are easily within the range of comprehension. The great Frenchman, Victor Hugo, said: "In the night I accept the authority of the torches," although he as well as all other men knew that there is a sun in heaven. There are certain human minds for whom the sun is too high and too bright. They like the authority of the torches. They like the smaller lights, because they seem to be more easy to follow, less penetrating and therefore more indulgent of favorite peccadilloes. But some day they will walk out of the shadows where their only lights are the torches, out of the cave of which Plato wrote, wherein men see only the dancing shadows on the wall. They will walk out into the sunlight, and the torches will be laid aside.
Initiation is the strait and narrow way, thorny and perilous, yet it is the short way, it is the way of the teachers themselves, the way of self-renunciation to the service of the world; the way of personal self-forgetfulness. Initiation is the way by which the evolutionary process of growth can be quickened greatly; but a man must have the qualifications; in other words, he must be ready for initiation before he may venture to attempt passing through its rites. All this involves very serious self-training, comprising an immense hunger for the light, and the possessing of an inflexible will to go ahead which nothing can daunt. It means a man's becoming at-one with the higher part of himself, letting it actively work in his daily life, instead of merely resting, as the multitudes do, in quiescence, spiritually asleep, and indifferently allowing nature's slow river of time to carry him along on its tranquil and ever-moving wave.
Thus there are two ways to the goal: one is on the bosom of the river of time, going along with it, maybe for ages, and then being caught in a little eddy and perhaps moving forwards a trifle; the other way is using one's intelligence and will and energy to construct the mystic inner vessel, which way is the process of initiation; and being oneself that "vessel," it can carry one far more quickly through the turbulent waters of life. This is why true initiation and genuine teachers are necessary for the courageous disciple.
Here is a strange paradox: Nothing in these mystic matters is given for nothing, for such is utterly contrary to esoteric law, because the disciple must himself become the way before he can tread it; it is only when he himself gives that he receives. The help and guidance which are given thus have the effect of arousing inner self-help and of evoking the buddhic splendor within one's own being; so that one's own path is lighted by the radiance that streams from the advancing pilgrim himself.
There are some who may be said to have attained a degree of inner light, and thus to have passed through a kind of self-given initiation; but this happens unconsciously to themselves. The reason is that their past karma was a fortunate one, and seeds of past thoughts and acts are now blossoming into monitors and guides. Yet even in these cases, they wander more-or-less blindly in a half-light. Were they more evolved they would by instinct and chosen action belong to the masters' work. While they have indeed attained a certain degree of natural inner illumination, they do not know that the truth they have is the Truth, at least in part. They are alone, they do not have the help that spiritual companionship gives; and they have no consciously recognized teacher.
Men such as Jakob Boehme, for instance, have attained a certain quasi-initiation, unconsciously to themselves. Boehme's case was one of a singular kind: he had been initiated in other lives, at least in minor degree, but he entered this life in a karmically afflicted psychological apparatus, and the nirmanakayas, doing what they could for him, simply allowed him to live that life out, to work out that old karma.
This illustrates what the teachers have so often said: It is never right to prevent the working out of karma; let it come and be finished with it. This is infinitely better than damming it back, and then having it come out at some future time, when its appearance is truly distressing, as in the case of Jakob Boehme, who should have been self-consciously ascending toward the peaks. There have been many individuals in history whose karma had at some time been dammed back, as seeds of troubles to come in the future; and these seeds found their outlet for growth in later incarnations when they were much more difficult to handle than if they had not formerly been dammed back but had then come to their fruiting.
Therefore if you are afflicted, for your own sake, courageously let the trouble come out and exhaust its energy. Seek help of course; if it be a matter of illness, seek good medical advice and profit by it! You are entitled as a human being to all the help that you can get, and to perfect cure if it can come; but do not dam the karmic trouble back by inner psychological processes of attempted suppression and by side-stepping, all of which only lays it up for future reaping in suffering and possible disability.
It is the individual's own human buddhic splendor that the masters are always looking for and striving to help. They and their representatives are in all parts of the globe, and their envoys are likewise everywhere working, usually unknown to the multitudes. They have their regular methods of examining, as it were, all the individual units of mankind. Wherever they see even a spark of the buddhic splendor, there they work as best they can, by encouraging that spark so that it may in time become a living flame. There are many instances of men who in all ages have received both direct and indirect help from the Brotherhood, but such help usually has to be given unknown to the recipients thereof. The time, however, will surely come when these recipients will self-consciously recognize and acknowledge at least to themselves the channels of communication that the masters open between themselves and all spiritually aspiring human beings.
The instances of "angels" having inspired some individual to high and extraordinary action are, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the appearance not of "angels" but of the mahatmas themselves or their chelas. These usually invisible envoys of the Brotherhood are always harbingers of spiritual good to mankind. They sometimes appear where the need is great and when the karma of the individual, or the nation or race, allows this to be done. The one who is thus helped, seeing what appears to be an extraordinary visitant, even perhaps a brilliant human figure shining with light, might say, if reared in the Christian belief and knows nothing else: "an angel has appeared!" Joan of Arc was a well-known instance in point of this kind of visioner or visionary.
Sometimes, what actually takes place is the appearance under very rare and unusual conditions, and seen by unusual people in an unusual state of consciousness, of certain advanced beings of an ethereal character who are closely linked with the human race; and if those who see these extraordinary visitants give them wings, it is usually the imagination of the visioner alone which is at work. Although these "appearances" are well-known in ancient history, they are generally regarded by our modern skeptics as being mere visions unfounded in fact. They are in truth the appearances of beings from other planes who because of convergence of extremely rare conditions involving both spacial and temporal states and karmic necessity, "appear" to individuals as visitants from another world — which in one sense is exactly what they are.
Sharply contrasted with these visitants are the more frequent but still rare "appearances" of nirmanakayas who belong to the Brotherhood.
Still more sublime than the help rendered men by masters is the living reality and ever-constant inspiration of the god within each one of us. So many men on earth, so many gods in "heaven." This bright and flaming divinity is the link of each individual human not only with the cosmic divinity or hierarch, but, through it, with the boundless divinity of the cosmic universe. More often than not, the appearance of "angels" is connected with psychological mysteries belonging to the visioner's own inner self. Anyone who has studied modern psychology will realize that the phenomena of exteriorization sometimes make one's own thoughts appear to stand as exterior to the observer. There are many instances in history when men and women have been simply raised out of themselves, and have become filled with the holy fire of the divinity within, and have thereupon acted almost like human gods. It has been the "angel" within that has done this — more accurately, the god within. The martyrs for what they call truth through the ages are instances where the spirit rose supreme over flesh and its weaknesses.
While it is absolutely true that the highest and safest teacher for each human being is his own higher self, the god within, nevertheless it is equally necessary for every aspirant to have a teacher in the beginning of his following of the path, one who is spiritually able to guide and to acquaint the disciple with his own inner god. It has been shown that the mere visionary is not capable of self-consciously coming into this communion with his own inner divinity, because an initiator is always needed; and because the visionary would not be able alone and at first to link his self-conscious mentality with his own inner god, he is no true teacher himself, and is more apt to mislead himself than others.
The real seers, the great teachers of mankind, are relatively infallible guides because they have penetrated into the deepest arcana of spirit and matter in two ways, and thereafter register their knowledge for the benefit of the human race. The first way is by examining the indelible records of the astral light, which contain the portrayal of all evolution from the very dawn of time; and the second way is through initiation, in the highest of which one comes face to face with one's own inner god, recognizes the duality merging into self-conscious unity or identity, and thereafter, in degree corresponding with the master's own awakened abilities, becomes a relatively-perfect exponent of the god within him. Divine wisdom and all human knowledge are a part of the consciousness of the inner divinity, which in turn is an inseparable monadic part and individualized function of the divine essence of nature herself; and thus knowledge is drawn upon at will at initiation.