Theosophy is a formulated teaching of Spiritual Realities. It is the truth about Nature and Man, explaining the operations of Nature, as they have been perceived by the piercing vision of Supermen — great Initiates and Seers. These Supermen have sent their consciousness behind the veils of Nature, contacting Truth at first hand. They formulated in human thought and speech what they had perceived. These formulations have been re-tested by every succeeding generation of seers throughout all time, leading invariably to the same conclusions.
Theosophy teaches that this Earth is the coarsest outer garment or crust of more ethereal, invisible, and causal worlds or planes, which this physical Earth enshrouds. Analogically we find that the physical body of man is also the densest enshrouding veil or garment of more ethereal principles within. In these inner principles there reside faculties and powers which in the course of long evolutionary time-periods will unfold and shine forth in the waking life of man. They do not now manifest in us, because our present coarse mode of thinking and acting, does not provide the necessary congenial soil. Generally, human life is too selfish and petty; it lacks the breadth of self-sacrificing love. Mankind is too deeply absorbed in purely physical life, which silences effectually the "Voice of the Spirit," for it cannot be heard amidst the insatiable clamorings of the life of sense. It is much the same as though the seed of a lovely flower is swept into a hard, barren, and dry crevice of unyielding rock where the conditions for the sprouting of seeds are lacking. While these conditions last, a flower will remain nothing more than a latent potential energy. Man provides the necessary conditions for the sprouting of his latent spiritual faculties when he begins to realize the spiritual basis of his being, and regulates his thinking and acting in harmony therewith. Selfishnesses in any form are effectual barriers preventing the manifestation of spiritual energies in man. These can only become manifest in the measure that we become impersonal and universal in thought and action.
Our Universe is one vast organized unit of Life and Consciousness. All the countless entities, high or low, composing it are its children, for all of them at their core enshrine a spark of its Ultimate Essence, linking all into one vast interacting and inseparable Unit. This Spark is the Root, linking them all to the Central Flame — the Supreme Intelligence of the Cosmos. The man who realizes this basic fact of life is filled with deep compassion and pity when he perceives how greatly this basic truth is violated by all men, more or less, for most people are altogether oblivious of this truth, continuing life after life, to pay little heed to their responsibilities and duties to others, living for themselves almost exclusively. For the benefit of the few who do realize this fact, the following rule of life, will be found to be an excellent spiritual practice: Whenever the impulse is felt to concentrate upon personal ambitions and desires we should instantly remind ourselves that we have resolved to become impersonal and universal, and then to reflect to what extent we might be able to cleanse the selfish impulse of its personal elements. Every time we engage in selfish thoughts or actions we are forging another strong link with the personal side of life which we have decided to transcend.
The materially inclined person will of course regard these remarks with disdain, believing them to have no firmer basis than fantastic and man-made ethics. Yes, they are ethics indeed; but be it emphatically understood that ethics are not exotic and man-made empty sentiments, however much some ethics may have become disfigured by the crude thoughts of man. True ethics are based on the great facts and laws of life, upon impersonal and universal Love, upon self-sacrifice, harmony, and peace, all of which are the very breath and essence of Cosmic Being. It is these very qualities which make our Cosmos one all-embracing Unit, in which perfect Harmony and Love reign supreme. Ethics are based on Nature herself.
The reason some people look upon these sublime themes as being impracticable fads is because of a decided material outlook upon life. These people regard the existence of finer, and to us invisible, principles within the physical Earth, and within the physical body of man, as impossible because they have no idea whatever of the immense amount of knowledge that can be had in regard to their existence. They are greatly influenced by the attitude of science in regard to all such subjects. Up to about a decade or two ago the scientific attitude in this respect was one of unqualified negation. But since then a very remarkable change has come over the minds of most of our foremost scientific thinkers due to scientific research into the constitution of matter. The discovery of Radio-activity has opened to these men a most enthralling field for the intense study of the constitution of the physical atom. It is some of these extraordinary discoveries which have revolutionized to a very great extent the scientific concepts in regard to the constitution of the Universe and its relation to consciousness. There are but few of the rank and file of materially thinking people who are conversant with the present day attitude of science in regard to this subject. We will, therefore, briefly review the position. But before doing so it should be mentioned that scientists today are divided into two sections, one being composed of those men who are so deeply impressed with modern scientific discoveries in regard to the constitution of matter that they have deliberately broken through some of the barriers which orthodox science in the past had set up against metaphysics (a decade or two ago it was considered a violation of the maxims of science for the scientific mind to pass in its reasoning beyond the borderline into Metaphysics!) whereas the other section of our scientists is composed of those men who strictly confine their reasoning within the artificially constructed borderline separating physics from metaphysics.
Many of our most eminent men of science have declared that the latest scientific discoveries force them to assume that the Universe is not moved by blind force, as declared by the old school of science, for this blind force they can neither explain nor account for; but that Intelligence and Design are at the back of all manifestation. They now say that physical matter is an illusion, and that it has no actual existence at all because it consists mainly of what, for the want of a better term, we might call "holes in space." The impression of solidity is given to physical substance by hosts upon hosts of infinitely minute groups of still smaller entities which compose the atom and which they have called electrons. They say that these electrons are whirling with the inconceivable speed of several thousand miles per second around an inconceivably minute center, which they call a proton; and these enormous movements are confined within an area so infinitesimally small that the mind is incapable of conceiving it. They also say that the relative distances of these whirling electrons around their center, and their respective volume and orbits, seem to follow what astronomers call Bode's Law, which they say determines the orbits of our planets around our sun. Scientists, therefore, have likened the atom and the electrons to a solar system. They further say that all physical matter is crystallized thought-energy or consciousness. This implies that our physical Earth is an effect and the product of the conscious activity of countless entities at all stages of evolution, all of which compose our universe. We are also forced to assume, analogically, that man's physical body, and its characteristics, are the result of his thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which reproduce on the outside of us what each one is in his inner nature and being.
These statements, coming from our most eminent men of science, should make the materially inclined person reflect, for they most definitely point to the existence of subtler human principles than this outer dense physical body, as well as to subtler planes or worlds than this dense physical Earth. The most liberal of our scientific men seem to have arrived at a point in their thinking where they are willing to pass into the forbidden territory of metaphysics. The moral courage behind this attitude is most laudable, for it shows that these men will follow truth wherever it may point. They refuse to be tied to artificial restrictions imposed upon them by orthodox science. It should be self-evident that this is the only proper attitude which scientists should hold, for as Science is looking for Truth, they cannot afford to have a fence set around their reasoning, beyond which they are not allowed to go.
Human life in all its departments seems to pass through transformations and birth-pains in the effort to bring to light something better than we now have. This applies equally to the social, economic, and religious life, as it does to the scientific.
One of the greatest of lessons which our humanity must learn from the existing welter of confusion and wretchedness prevailing everywhere, is the lesson of the solidarity of man — of Universal Brotherhood. It is only when mankind realizes that our Universe is not merely an agglomeration of unrelated and separate centers of life, but one vast, inter-related, and inter-acting Unit, and that nothing whatsoever stands separate and alone, that the concept of Universal Brotherhood can become the true basis for human thought and action. The keynote of human life today is separateness and selfishness, and not unity. Is it any wonder then that individuals as well as nations are in perpetual warfare with one another, mutual distrust, and fear, and selfishness being the motives which govern our human thoughts and actions? It is the absence of the ideal of Unity and Brotherhood which has transformed our world into an armed camp, fitted with the most hellish devices for fiendish wholesale slaughter, cruelty, and destruction; and if this frightful Bubble of War, now hanging over us should burst, it will involve the whole of the human race in a struggle which will destroy in quick time all the noblest achievements of many centuries of constructive endeavor, as well as bringing indescribable horrors upon mankind. It is this horror which is haunting men in their dreams, and which is the curse of their waking life. The only sure cure of this moral degradation is a return to sanity and the recognition of the Universal Brotherhood of man.
Through agelong false thinking and acting the poison of selfishness has eaten into the hearts and minds of mankind in greater or lesser degree. One, therefore, does find at times this poison in evidence in the most unexpected places. The writer just now has in mind a particular kind of person, to be found even among some classes of Theosophists, who will strenuously denounce the need of spiritual teachers, maintaining that all men have within themselves all that is necessary for their spiritual growth. Now although this statement is quite true in some respects, it is only one half of the truth, for it fails to take into account many other factors that, are involved. It fails to consider all the manifold forces and energies, spiritual, intellectual, moral, psychic, and physical, all of which are interacting during the physical life of any man, and all of which have their proper place in life. The fact is also overlooked that as Spirit becomes more deeply involved in matter it becomes also more and more limited in its powers of manifestation on the material planes of life, and it will remain so limited until the lower principles succeed in attuning themselves to the keynote of the higher ensouling life. Spirit on its own planes of the Cosmos is as free as it wills to soar to the greatest heights of its own element. But when Spirit becomes clothed with a mental, psychic, and physical principle, it is so deeply buried in matter, that it must wait till its lower clothing has adjusted itself to its ensouling life, and not till then is Spirit enabled to shed its radiance into its lower vestures and their respective planes of matter. When this adjustment is left entirely to the exceedingly slow cosmic evolutionary urge, and to the spasmodic and ill-advised ignorant efforts of an uninformed brain-mind, spiritual growth is exceedingly slow, requiring immense time-periods for any appreciable growth. But this time factor can be enormously quickened by wisely directed effort and proper understanding of all the conditions, which can only be acquired by means of the invaluable assistance of a true spiritual teacher. The supply of such teachers is always assured by Nature's own wise laws, which demand that the "greater must ever give and sacrifice himself to the needs of the lesser." It is an occult law that every aspiring human soul must be devoted in selfless service to the whole of mankind without any thought for its personal self. The desire of impersonal service must arise spontaneously in the human heart, making compassion and self-sacrificing service its natural aim. It is only in the measure that the spiritually aspiring human soul is learning to live for others that the spiritual faculties latent in man can become manifest. This is, as a matter of fact, the supreme reason why we incarnate in human bodies.
You have all probably heard of the Mystery-Schools of Antiquity. What were they? Were they engineered by a designing priesthood? Most surely they were not. They were Mystery-Schools originated by great Initiates and Supermen, in which was taught the most sublime knowledge which man is capable of knowing and assimilating. At one time a portion of this wisdom was more or less known and understood by all. But during the last two thousand years of spiritual decline these Mystery-Schools have disappeared from the outer life of man, and this Ancient Wisdom has been no longer openly taught. As a result the great mass of mankind has entirely forgotten that it has ever existed. About sixty years ago these Supermen started the Theosophical Society through their Messenger, H. P. Blavatsky, in order to proclaim once more these ancient forgotten truths.
These Supermen are members of a Great Spiritual Brotherhood, which is sometimes spoken of as the Great White Lodge of Adepts, which includes in its ranks the humblest neophyte who has pledged himself to the selfless service of mankind. The neophyte here spoken of is a member of such a Mystery-School where he is being taught some of those deeper aspects of life. But the experience of many ages has taught that this sacred knowledge must not be given out indiscriminately to all who may come along. Before any person can be admitted to any such School he must prove by his own life and conduct that he can be safely entrusted with these sacred truths. Surely no one would ever dream of giving a box of matches to a little child to play with, and then lock it up in a room where it is surrounded with open barrels of gunpowder.
A neophyte then is a man who has been admitted to such a Mystery-School, where he is being taught some of the great spiritual facts of life, which by well-directed and self-devised efforts will hasten his spiritual unfoldment. In these efforts, impersonality and universality must wholly supersede personality and egoity, which means that the individual must learn to identify himself with the whole of mankind, and live for it instead of for his personal self. Such a man has surely stepped out from among the great herd of men, and although he is still living in the world, he is no longer of it, and although he is still using his brain-mind for his physical expression, his consciousness is habitually focussed in his spiritual mind, where unity, service, self-sacrifice, and universal compassion, are the normal expression of the consciousness.
These Supermen have always their envoys in the world of men. But the question might arise, How can anyone be sure that any man is truly such an envoy? There are various ways by means of which such assurance may be gained. Here is one way, which is open and within the reach of all. Find out the kind of life such a man is leading. Study his teachings and the effect they have upon you and upon others. Do they inspire pure and unselfish thoughts, leading you to become more unselfish? Is he consistent throughout? If his teaching has such an ennobling effect, then all doubts ought to be set at rest, and we ought to feel that here is a man whom we can fully trust. But this does not mean that we must accept blindly all he says. We should always discriminate, and if we fail to understand some aspects of his teaching, this part is not yet for us. More likely than not, sooner or later we will find that it is true. But by refusing to accept what we did not understand, we were but exercising our divine prerogative of free will and choice. We will learn to know truth in course of time at sight. But on the other hand, if we find that his teaching appeals to us and synchronizes with all we have so far found to be true, then let us accept it gladly, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to passing it on to others also. By so doing, compassion, ineffable peace, harmony, and love will abide within us, for by trying to live for, and to serve, others we are ever touching something in our innermost which nothing less than that can ever reach.
1. The leading thoughts of this article are taken from various lectures delivered by Dr. G. de Purucker. (return to text)