When a human being reaches that state of evolution where the material experiences of life no longer satisfy him, it is a natural working of his sub-conscious Ego to create such a tremendous urge within him that it must of necessity find an outlet in the thoughts and actions that dominate his personality. He becomes a Pilgrim, mentally wandering here and there, seeking that certain something which will satisfy this urge within him. He may try this or that, and may almost despair of the hope of finding what he subconsciously seeks so earnestly. There may be among those that read these lines just such a person. To him let me say that we who have also groped about in the darkness of materialism, prodded by the spiritual urge within us, and who have finally found our way on to the true path of Life, welcome this possible opportunity of assisting you, our fellow-man, to find that which you may be seeking.
So, as briefly and simply as I can, in every-day language, I will tell you a little, a very little, about Theosophy. The operations of human consciousness are threefold and are designated by men as Religion, Philosophy, and Science. These three are not fundamentally different things, but may be likened to the three sides of an equilateral triangle; three views of looking at Truth. An attempted separation of Religion, Philosophy, and Science is unnatural, so the Theosophist uses their unified vision to proclaim the hidden facts of Being. We may then define Theosophy as a Scientific Religion, a Religious Science, and a Philosophy of Nature — the Oneness of Man with the Universe. We are taught that there is One Infinite Life without beginning or end. Everything is alive. There is no such thing as 'Dead Matter' existing in Nature. The manifestation of Life in dualities of Spirit and Matter descends in cycles of Activity and Repose, whether applied to Cosmic, Solar World Periods, or to such common alternations as Sleeping and Waking, with which we are all familiar. Man on Earth is a 'Life-Atom' of the Divine, immersed in matter, a Pilgrim seeking his way back to the Source.
You have probably been taught from an orthodox source that you have a Soul; you know you have a Body, because you can see it. Theosophy teaches us that each one of us is a Soul, and that our body is nothing but the vehicle of our present evolution in this particular incarnation or life. You may Liken your body to a house in which dwells the real man, the Inner Man, the man with the wee small voice, which is sometimes called Conscience.
Theosophy teaches that the real nature of Man is sevenfold, classified as:
First — Spirit, the highest part of man, which gives to him, and indeed to every other Entity or thing, its sentient consciousness of Selfhood.
Second — Spiritual Soul, which gives to Man Spiritual Consciousness, and is the Vehicle of Spirit.
Third — Human Soul, the center of Ego-consciousness in Man, Mind, the essentially human element.
Fourth — Our Passions and Desires, the driving or impelling force within us.
Fifth — Vitality or Life principle.
Sixth — Astral Body, the Model or Pattern or framework around which the physical body is builded.
Seventh — Physical Body, the House, Man's carrier, and no more an essential part of him than are the clothes in which his body is garmented.
Now that I have told you briefly of the seven principles of Man, let us consider the very ancient and worldwide doctrine of Reincarnation, or Reimbodiment in flesh. It is the doctrine that man lives many times on earth as a human being, the conditions of each incarnation being the natural result of the causes set in motion in former lives. Think of the hope that is given us by our belief in Reincarnation: We get another chance to make up for all the frustrations of this life, the inequalities, the unfinished business, the failures — all necessary experiences and part of our evolution. Does Reincarnation not answer the "Why did this have to happen?" that we hear so often. Does it not explain and give logic to accidents and deaths of little children and babies and men and women cut down at the very threshold of their careers? Reincarnation is a magnificent prospect; it makes of Man a God, and gives to every part of Nature the possibility of rising in the scale or on the Ladder of Life. What is the Universe for, and for what final purpose is Man, the immortal thinker, here in evolution? It is all for the experience and evolution of the soul, for the purpose of raising the entire mass of manifested matter up to the stature, nature and dignity of conscious god-hood. The only way physical and spiritual evolution can be carried on is by Reincarnation.
You ask "Why do we not remember our former lives?" Because memory is a product of the physical brain and perishes with the body. The soul does remember its past experiences and in the too seldom flashes of intuition or 'hunch' we have the answer and the possibilities.
Reincarnation, the natural method by which the soul evolves, logically implies that we experience the results of our thoughts and actions in past lives. These experiences, the adjustment of causes to effects, are the manifestation of the Law of Karman. Karmic Law is unerring, it is the natural Law of Justice, which wisely, intelligently, and equitably adjusts each effect to its cause. It is in no sense fatalism or chance, which have no place in Theosophy. With this knowledge of Karmic Law we have the comforting thought that our destiny is in our own hands. We not only can control such destiny, but we must do so. Bear in mind that every action, every thought that you have, is a force sent out from within you, that later on — no matter how much later — comes back to you as an effect, and the effect must produce equilibrium or harmony with its cause. Each one is therefore his own karman, and whatever happens to us is the natural harvest of former plantings. This principle is beautifully expressed by our Leader, in his Golden Precepts of Esotericism, wherein he says:
Sow an act, and you will reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you will reap a destiny, because habits build character. This is the sequence: an act, a habit, a character, and a destiny. You are the creator of yourself. What you make yourself to be now, you will be in the future. What you are now, is precisely what you have made yourself to be in the past. What you sow, you shall reap.
Our evolution goes on and on according to the Law of Cycles, not like a train on a straight track, but rather along a spiral path, ever returning toward a past circuit of our experience, but always bounding the curve in another, broader sweep. There are cycles within cycles. We are familiar with the alternations of day and night, life and death, sleeping and waking, the ebb and flow of the tides, the four Seasons. Nature continually repeats itself and so do all manifestations of Nature including ourselves.
This simple exposition of the Theosophic teachings of the Seven Principles of Man, of Reincarnation, Karman, and Cyclic Law, may awaken in your consciousness the knowledge that you are not the helpless mortal that you may have thought you were, to cringe in fear of a divine wrath that might be visited on you because of your human frailties. Not at all. You are a definite part of the Divinity of all Nature. Below you in varying states of evolution are the Elementals, the Mineral Kingdom, the Vegetable Kingdom, and the Animals. Above you are the Mahatmans, those perfect men, relatively speaking, whom Theosophists call Teachers, Elder Brothers, Masters, Sages, and Seers. They are the Guardians of the Race, and of the Records of past ages, portions of which they give out from time to time, when the world is ready to receive them, as fragments of a now long forgotten Wisdom.
You are one class of 'young Gods' incarnated in bodies of flesh at the present stage of your own particular evolutionary journey. The human stage of evolution is about half way between the undeveloped life-atom and the fully developed Kosmic Spirit or God.
Recognise your Divinity, and with such recognition realize your responsibilities to all Nature. Begin within you, to acquire that inherent sense of Universal Brotherhood, not in the sense of sentimental unity or political or social co-operation, but in the Spiritual Brotherhood of all Beings. Begin with your thoughts. Thoughts are powerful energies and each one is an embryo of your future karman. That is the thought I would like to leave with you.
If these few simple Theosophical truths are understood and accepted by you, limitless possibilities of action within yourselves will be opened up, and by the very impetus of your own efforts you will go forward, unafraid, and with dignity, to your inescapable destiny.