Immortality and Good and Evil
I have been reading the record of H. P. B.'s Inner Group in this month's Forum [January, 1941], and in an "Editor's Note" the statement is made that only by becoming actively good or evil can one achieve immortality. The ordinary folk, neither very good nor very evil, cease to be. Now, if I read this aright, it seems very terrible, and although a return to this troublous world does not seem enviable just now, one feels that surely those not wholly given up to evil have a better right to continue than the utterly evil.
Also it does not seem consistent with the teaching that all must eventually evolve to the highest.
Perhaps I am not clear in my reasoning, for I am still very much a beginner in Theosophical thought. I read and re-read the articles in the Forum, and often find that after many studies light dawns. But I do find this latest problem beyond me. — B. M.
G. de P. — I am not at all astonished that the questioner was puzzled at the language used in the article in Leaves of Theosophical History as quoting from H. P. B.'s Inner Group, and the reason is that the teaching as here imbodied is given patterned after the peculiar language of the French Qabbalist Eliphas Levi, who is notorious for extreme statements on the one hand, (for that was his psychology), and on the other hand for the singularity of his paradoxes. Yet because he was intuitive in some respects, H. P. B. often quoted him either verbatim or in substance.
Take careful note of the following facts: The Monads whether of gods or of men or of beasts or of plants or of stones or of elementals, are immortal, for they are spiritual consciousness-centers. But the references in the passage that bothered the questioner, do not point to the monads, but to the various souls of the different hierarchies of lives or different kingdoms of lives, which either must rise up into immortality and "god" by joining with the spirit within them, or in other words with the spiritual side of the monad; or attain immortality in what is called "evil," by descending and becoming unified with what we Theosophists call absolute matter. In this way, philosophically speaking, there is immortality; and this is the important word here, self-conscious immortality either with the divine or with the absolutely material: absolute Spirit on the one hand, or absolute Matter on the other hand — so far as our own universe is concerned, that is.
We human beings, although immortal in our monads, cannot be called immortal in our souls, because our consciousness is interrupted by death. And here is the point to remember: A person is not immortal if there ensue long lapses of his consciousness, although he is immortal in the other sense of never-ending inner or monadic consciousness. Thus we human beings are immortal in our monads, conditionally immortal in our souls, and mortal in our bodies, because these last change and our stream of consciousness is interrupted by death. The soul, if worthy of it, has its dreamy blissful state in the devachan, and then is reimbodied; but this is obviously not immortality of the self-conscious soul, because this consciousness changes. Immortality means an unchanging consciousness without modifications or variations, an uninterrupted continuance of a stream of thought, so to speak.
Now, if this stream of thought or of consciousness is interrupted by death, we cannot call it immortal. We must call it mortal, even though that stream of thought, because based in the monad, takes up its continuance when reimbodiment occurs. The difficulty lies in the odd way of using the word "immortal" in the sense employed by Eliphas Levi and H. P. B. in this extreme thought quoted.
Thus the gods are immortal from the beginning of a manvantara to its ending, comprising billions of years; but we human beings, and monads less evolved than the gods, have many interruptions from the beginning of a manvantara to its end; and we cannot thus be called immortal, because of these interruptions. Nevertheless we are immortal in our spiritual monads; and when we as humans or souls shall have become allied with our spiritual monads, and become Buddhas or Bodhisattvas or Christs, then we shall enter immortality in this peculiar sense of speaking.
The whole difficulty, therefore, is in understanding the peculiar technical sense in which the word "Immortal" is used in this extract. Hence Theosophists often speak of the soul as being mortal, conditionally so, or as being immortal, conditionally so, as H. P. B. does in The Key to Theosophy. The soul becomes immortal when it unites with the Buddha or Bodhisattva or Christ within itself, its "Father in Heaven," or in other words when the soul unites with the Monad. Then it enjoys the immortality of the monad, uninterrupted consciousness.
The Healing of Diseases
What does Theosophy teach about the Healing of Diseases?
H. T. Edge — The querent probably has in mind the treatment of diseases and mental disorders by what may roughly be termed occult or psychic means. Theosophists are in general averse to these practices. In ordinary medicine, much study is required in order to qualify for being a practitioner; and a large body of knowledge, the result of the experience of doctors for a long time, is behind the medical art. But in matters psychic — where are we to find anything like such safeguards, such conditions. This is truly ground where it may be said that "angels fear to tread"; yet we find that almost anybody is ready to rush in, and either to attempt to practise himself, or to undertake to teach others to do so. What would such a condition be called in the medical world?
Both the material dealt with — the finer parts of the human constitution — and the forces and methods to be used, are of a far more delicate and intricate kind than those which ordinary medicine deals with, delicate and intricate though the latter are. It is but reasonable to infer that anyone aspiring to competence in this field would have to pass through a very long and difficult course of instruction and training before he could qualify; and that, if he should practise without such qualification, he would be likely to do more harm than good to his patients.
Diseases in general are evils which are in process of being cast out of the system. They had their origin in wrong thinking and feeling, and they have worked their way down to the physical body, which is trying to excrete them. If this natural process of elimination should be prevented, the evil would remain in the system, and the case would resemble that of stopping the flow from a suppurating sore. The relief given would be temporary, resulting in worse evil later on; moreover it would amount merely to a suppression of the symptoms, not a healing of the disease. This is a mistake to which psychic healing is peculiarly liable; and it is evident claims of immediate success do not refute the objection. An adept is needed to judge if and when it is advisable to interfere; and who of us has the profound knowledge which would enable us to take into account the intricate fabric of a human being's destiny and karman, so as to be sure that we shall benefit and not injure our patient?
Co-operate with Nature
What is the right and safe way of treating diseases?
H. T. Edge — The physical part of the treatment should be left to the doctor, who, if he is a wise physician, will pay much less attention to the administration of drugs than to assisting nature to do her own powerful remedial work. The patient should assist the remedial process by adapting his mind as much as possible to the circumstances. Realizing that a remedial process is going on, he will accept it as such, instead of rebelling against it. And he will endeavor, by living as healthily as he knows how, mentally, morally, and physically, to avoid setting up any further discordant conditions which would have to be cleared out of the system in the same painful way. He should try to forget his complaint rather than to focus his attention on it. It is well known that people sometimes dwell on their complaints until they make them worse and believe themselves to have diseases which they have not; they become hypochondriacs or valetudinarians. The same thing can happen to those who try to drive away their complaint by concentrating on it; the disease feeds by attention, and besides the treatment is likely to be without knowledge and unskillful.