Do Theosophists have any doctrine similar to the Christian theological doctrine of predestination? Do we say as the Calvinist Christians, and as many Romanist theologians believe in their hearts, that the Divine foreknew everything before it came into being, and predestinated all and each and every thing before it happened? My answer is this:
The Divine Ideation of the Monas Monadum, of the Monad of Monads, let us say the Hierarch of our Solar System, or if you wish the Hierarch of our galaxy: the Divine Ideation foresaw, foreknew, knew before, knew ahead, the ways of the working of karman for the Manvantara to begin, to unfold. But this was the knowledge not of an extra-cosmic God creating things and stamping upon these entities and things an irrevocable decree of fate, but merely the forevision of divinity of what the multitudes of monads forming the hierarchies within that universe would, each individual in its own measure of free will, do in the manvantara beginning to unroll. In the same way, perhaps as a parent or as a Master, might do: the parent for its little child, knowing the child's character, will say: I must watch out for this, this tendency or bias. Or as a Master may say of his disciple, I see in him this leaning. I will be more watchful and helpful in that direction.
The Divine Ideation saw all that would happen; all that was present in the Divine Mind, all that would happen during the forthcoming Manvantara, all that its children would do, how every one of those children would act according to its free will, and according to the divine urge or karman which it itself had effected in the preceding cosmic manvantara. In fact, Divine Ideation has not merely foreknowledge of macrocosmic and microcosmic events to be unfolded in accordance with that very Divine Ideation itself, which is the supreme law of the universe to come into being; but that Divine Ideation was (is), as it were, the very Architect's Plan (1) of the future universe to be, and of all in it up to the end of that universe; albeit each monad of the multitudes to spring into activity when manvantara opens, being in its essence a part of the Divine Life, and therefore an instrument of the Divine Ideation, acts according to its own inmost impulses, in the last analysis, through all the evolutionary pilgrimage in the University of Life. Hence drawing its own free will from the Divine life, its own proportion thereof (and when all is said, acting in accordance with the Divine Ideation, because acting contrary to it is impossible) we see therefore that there is no fatalism in this, and no predestined fate, i. e., the mandate of a power superior to the evolving Hosts of Monads. Each monad, in other words, acts out its own destiny in accordance with its own inmost swabhava or character; but nevertheless must obey the Architectural Plan of the Divine Ideation itself. Being, however, a spark of the Divine Life of which the Divine Ideation itself is but a manifestation, we have a picture, immensely grandiose and sublime, of all monads actually becoming co-operators in the divine plan, and acting contrary thereto only at their cost in suffering and misery. There is absolutely in this no blind destiny, no infallible Kismet, no inescapable Fate. Do you follow?
All monads when a manvantara ends, end as it were with a trial balance. As the Mohhammedans phrase it rather poetically, a man's destiny is written in the Book of Destiny. His future is written in the Book by his own previous lives. And the Divine Ideation knew all this because that Divine Ideation — what is it? — is the All-comprehending Hierarch, of whom we are sparks.
Thus we teach no predestination in the Christian theological sense, but we most emphatically teach destiny which each man is weaving for himself by his intelligence, and his will, from life to life, aye — from year to year, from day to day, with every thought, with every feeling, registering itself not only in his character and changing it, but in the Astral Light where molds are left, photographs are made.
As a spider weaves its web, so does a man weave around himself his own web of destiny. Often and often we human beings suffer for things for which we ourselves are not fully responsible. Think! Are you, am I, responsible for the wars that take place throughout the whole world? In one sense we are, as being part of the human race. Our thoughts in the past have helped to build up the astral molds in the Astral Light, but as individuals none of us made the bold strokes that lead nations into war. Yet these wars react on us, react on the unhappy peoples today living in fear and sadness. It was their karman themselves. They wove it in past lives to be in the midst of things. But as individuals not one of them is wholly responsible. This sounds subtil; it is really simple if we follow it. A war, so closely is mankind knitted together, in any part of the world affects the whole world today. Prices rise, expenses rise, foods, luxuries are perhaps beyond the means of the majority or are prohibited. Positions are lost, anxiety, fear, rule everywhere. Did I do it, because I suffer from it? No; did my Karman put me here by my own acts? Yes, and hence to some extent I am responsible. There are a great many things happening to us that we ourselves as men living in our quaternary — the lower part of us, the earth- child, the human soul — are not fully karmically responsible for. Yet there is a part of us that is responsible, and this is the Dhyan-Chohan within us, the Reincarnating Ego. So there is no essential injustice in this.
In other words, I will try to phrase it in this way. The spiritual part of us is wholly responsible for all that happens to us, for everything that happens to us, for it is the Reimbodying Ego, and has lived thousands of lives; but this human ego, this earth-child, the ordinary human soul, is not responsible for many things that the spiritual ego makes it suffer; and therefore so far as it is concerned undergoes unmerited suffering. Strange paradox! I call the attention of readers to H. P. B.'s own words on this matter of unmerited suffering which will be found in her The Key to Theosophy, original edition, republished at Point Loma in 1939, on pages 161-162 — especially perhaps page 162. It is in these two pages that H. P. B. in her incomparable style points out that while the Reincarnating Ego is responsible for all that happens to a man, good, bad and indifferent, the earth-child or the merely reimbodied man, often undergoes what to him is unmerited suffering; but as H. P. B. points out on page 162, at the moment of death for a short moment the personal man becomes one with the spiritual individuality, sees and understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception.
He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him.
Thus, while the personal man, the earth-child, the lower quaternary, does indeed undergo unmerited sufferings in this life, for causes sown in previous lives, and thus gets its recompense in the bliss of devachan, yet the Reincarnating Ego or the true Actor in Life's drama, is responsible because the carrier of karman; and thus when the personal man is united at the moment of death with the reincarnating spiritual ego, even the personal man then sees the perfect justice of all that has happened — suffering unmerited by the man of this life, but karmically the consequence of the actions of the ego in past lives.
So you see, one part of us is responsible for what the lower innocent part is not responsible for. And it is this lower part of us that after death gets its recompense in the Devachan for all the unmerited sufferings and sadnesses and sorrows and hurts that it has had, or experienced, in life; in other words, the things that it itself in that life had not willingly brought about, but were brought upon it because the Reincarnating Ego unlike its child, the lower man, is responsible.
No wonder the Masters tell us that one of the greatest things in human life is the cultivation of the spirit of compassion, of pity, of sympathy, sympathy for the souls of men. When we have it we rise out of our earth-child soul still higher. And if I dared I would even go this far, although it is not a teaching that I should mention in public here, but I can hint at it. The spiritual part of us sometimes leads us into sorrow and suffering and trouble for our own good. It itself becomes responsible. So I say to you, Companions, do not be so ready to blame others, do not be so ready to say, Oh, it is his karman! Precisely that is just your chance to give a helping hand. Inactive in a deed of mercy, you become active in a cardinal sin, as H. P. B. so nobly declares. And you will be held to account. And this lesson does not mean doing things blindly and rushing around in a wild emotion of compassion. It means using your brains. There are plenty of crooks in the world, and they are making a terrible karman in the world. But when one does know that someone needs the helping hand, it is a criminal act if we withhold it, and we shall suffer karmic retribution for our inaction. Think what it means to us when we in desperate need feel the warm clasp of a helping hand. The courage that flows back to us, the feeling that we are not alone in the world; that there is at least one person who has given us a kindly thought. One touch of the divine heals and strengthens the whole world.
So in answer to the question, Does Theosophy teach Predestination? The answer is an emphatic negative. No. But we do indeed teach destiny, which every man weaves for himself, around himself, and from which there is no escape, for it is the fruiting of the seeds sown by our own volition or choice. We do teach the doctrine, sublime and grand, as already stated, of man's free will, relatively so at least, dependent upon his evolutionary status, and of the inescapable Destiny that dogs the footsteps of the evil-doer, and showers blessings upon the doer of good. The one, retribution, is as inescapable as the other, compensation for the good that we have sown.
It is a marvelous thought to reflect that the Divine Ideation at the opening of the manvantara has, as it were, a Plan of all the future time of that manvantara, predestinating nothing, reprobating nothing, but, as the Silent Watcher sees it in his glorious wisdom, what its children in that Manvantara will unroll from themselves: the destiny woven in the past. It is very largely in order to carry out the Plan immanent in the Divine Ideation that the Avataras of the gods from time to time come amongst us to direct our vision towards the Laws of Being, and in doing so to guide as well as comfort and aid us human pilgrims.
The above article on Predestination, and the first article on Easter, are both transcriptions of comments by Dr. de Pumcker at public meetings, neither of which had been corrected by him.
1. "Plan" in the sense that the Great Breath which will build the universe is guided and controlled in all its structural or building-activity by the ideal outline contained in the Cosmic Ideation. This Divine or Cosmic Ideation, philosophically speaking, is at once the Past, the Present, and the Future, in the sense of an Eternal now. The futurity of the universe, as well of course as its past, is therefore present in the Divine Ideation, and unrolls itself at the beginning of a manvantara along the lines of karman, guided by the Lipikas working under the ideal compulsion of the Cosmic Ideation. This last of course containing all futurity, by the fact contains everything that ever shall be in the universe presently to come into being, from the beat of a mosquito's wing to the coming of the pralaya of a Solar System. Thus while our destiny is indeed written for us not only in the stars, but likewise in the Cosmic Mind, seeing past, present, and future; yet every monad being a child of that Cosmic Mind, a portion of its own essence, has its corresponding portion of free will, and uses it. The misuse thereof instantly awakens the retributive action of karman; the co-operative use thereof instantly awakens the compensatory blessings of karman. "Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance." — The Voice of the Silence, p. 14, orig. ed.
Thus while there is destiny, there is no fate, for every monad at its heart contains its portion as its own of the divine Will and Intelligence, and is free to use these as it pleases. (return to text)
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