I have no desire for any other line of life; but by the time I had awakened to a knowledge of this life, I found myself involved by circumstances against which I do not rebel, but out of and through which, I am determined to work, neglecting no known duty to others.
— Letter from a Friend
The "Dweller of the Threshold" which stares even advanced occultists in the face and often threatens to overwhelm them, and the ordeals of Chelaship or of probation for Chelaship, differ from each other only in degree. It may not be unprofitable to analyze this Dweller and those ordeals. For our present purpose, it is enough to state, that they are of a triune nature and depend upon these three relations: (1) To our nationality; (2) to our family; and (3) to ourselves. And every one of these three relations is due to the assertion of a portion of our own past Karma, that is to say, to its effects.
Why should we be born in a particular nation and in a particular family? Because of the effect of a particular set of our Karmic attractions, which assert themselves in that manner. I mean that one set of our past Karmas exhaust themselves in throwing us in our present incarnation amidst a particular nation, another set introducing us into a particular family; and a third set serving to differentiate or individualize us from all the other members of the nation or of the family. One of our Eastern proverbs says: "the five children of a family differ like the five fingers of a hand." Unless we look at this difference from this standpoint, it must always appear to us a riddle, a problem too difficult to solve, a mystery, in short, why children born of one family, while they have some traits common to all, should still appear to differ vastly from one another. What applies to the family applies also to the nation, of which families are but units; and also to mankind as a whole, of whom nations are but families or units. The only way to decide the great question of the age, whether the laws of nature are blind and material, or spiritual, intelligent and divine, is, it seems to me to point out in connection with every subject, the absolutely intelligent and divine manner in which these laws act, and how they force us to realize the economy of nature. This is the only way by which we could become spiritual; and I would, once for all, call upon my co-workers for the cause, to realize at every step of their study, as far as possible, the Divine Intelligence thus manifesting itself. Otherwise, how much soever you might believe or take it for granted, that the forces that govern the universe are spiritual, the belief, however deep rooted it might appear, would be of little use to you when you have to pass through the ordeals of Chelaship; and then you are sure to succumb and exclaim that the "Law is blind, unjust and cruel," especially when your selfishness and personality overwhelm you. When once a practical occultist and a learned philosopher met with, what seemed to him a "serious calamity and trial," in spite of himself he exclaimed to me frankly, "the law of Karma is surely blind, there is no God; what better proofs are needed?" So deep-rooted in human nature is infidelity and selfishness; no one need therefore to be sure of his own spiritual nature. No amount of lip learning will avail us in the hour of need. We have to study the law in all its aspects and assimilate to our highest consciousness — that which is called by Du Prel super sensuous consciousness — all the data which go to prove and convince us that the Power is spiritual. Look around and see whether any two persons are absolutely identical, even for a time. How intelligent must be the power that ever strives to keep each and every one of us totally different on the whole, while, if analyzed, we possess some traits in common.
In this connection I shall refer you to a passage in the article on "Chelas and Lay Chelas" (vide column 1, page 11 of "Supplement to the Theosophist" for July, 1883): "The Chela is not only called to face all latent evil propensities of his nature, but in addition, the whole volume of maleficent power accumulated by the community and nation to which he belongs . . . until the result is known." I shall only ask you to apply the same principle to your family relations affecting your present incarnation. Thus seven things are found to secure us a victory, or a sad, inglorious defeat in the mighty struggle known as the Dweller of the threshold and the ordeals of Chelaship: — (1) The evil propensities common to ourselves and to our family; (2) those common to ourself and our nation; (3) those common to ourself and to mankind in general, or better known as the weakness of human nature, the fruits of Adam's first transgression; (4 to 6) the noble qualities common to us and to these three; (7) the peculiar way in which the 6 sets of our past Karmas choose or are allowed to influence us now, or their effects in producing in us the present tendency. The adept alone can take the seventh or last mentioned item completely into his own hands; and every mortal who would, as I have since recently begun to reiterate, direct all his energies to the highest plane possible for him ("Desire always to attain the unattainable" — says the author of "Light on the Path"),— such a mortal too could more or less do the same thing as the adept, in so far as he acts up to the rule. Every Chela, and also those who have a desire to be Chelas even, as they suppose secretly, have to do with the first six propensities or influences.
The world is inclined — at least in this Kali Yuga (the Dark Age) — always to begin at the wrong end of anything and direct all its faculties to the perception of effects and not of their causes. So the ideas of "renunciation," "asceticism" and of the "true feeling of universal Brotherhood" (or "mercy," as I call it, in accordance with South Indian Ethics), all of which are compatible with Gnanis, or the most exalted of Mahatmas, all these have come to be recognized by all our Theosophists, in general, as the means of progress for a beginner; while the real means of progress for us mortals — duties to our own families and to our own nation, or "kindness" and "patriotism" in the highest and ethical sense of the terms — are discarded. True, from the standpoint of a Jivanmukta, a true friend of humanity, these two Sadhanas are really "selfishness"; still, until we attain that exalted state, these two feelings should be made the ladders for raising ourselves, the means of not only getting ourselves rid of our family defects and natural idiosyncrasies, but also of strengthening in ourselves the noble qualities of our families and of our nation. Until we reach that ideal state where the blessed soul has to make neither good nor bad Karma, we must strive to be constantly doing "good" Karma, in order that we might become Karma-less (nish Karmis).
Let it not be understood at all, that I mean by "family duties" and "national duties," false attachments to the family or to the nation. Family duty consists not in sensuality or pleasure-hunting, but in cultivating and in elevating the emotional nature (the fourth principle), of ourselves and of our family; in being equally "kind," not only to the members of the family, but also to all creatures, and in enjoying all such pleasures of the family life as are consistent with the acquirement of "wealth" (all the means necessary for the performance of Dharma or whole duty) according to the teachings of Valluvar, and in utilizing such pleasures and means for the performance of our duty to our nation. Patriotism consists similarly in theosophising our own nation, in not only getting ourselves rid of our national defects, as well as other members of the nation rid of the same, but also in strengthening in ourselves and in our nation as a whole, all the noble qualities which belong to our nation; in the enjoyment of the privileges (1) of the nation and using them as a means for the performance of Dharma. If family duties are taken due care of, our duties to the nation and to humanity would, to a great extent, take care of themselves unimpeded. Our national duties, if strictly performed, serve to purify our fifth lower principle of its dross and to establish and develop the better part of it, while the performance of our duty to Humanity or the realization of universal tolerance and mercy, purifies the lower (human) stuff in the fifth higher principle and makes it divine, thus enabling us to free ourselves gradually from the bonds of ignorance common to all human beings.
The above assertions, might, at first sight, seem rather bold and untheosophical. But I should venture to state my conviction that the whole edifice of Aryan religions and Aryan philosophy is based upon these principles, and that, on a careful consideration of the subject, the great importance attached to household life (Grihasta ashrama) in that philosophy, would be fully borne out. To my mind no ascetics, no teachers of mankind, however eminent and full of the highest knowledge, are really such good and practical benefactors of humanity as Valluvar, of ancient times, who incarnated on earth for the express purpose, among others, of setting an example of an ideal household life to mortals who were prematurely and madly rushing against the rocks of renunciation, and of proving the possibility of leading such a life in any age however degenerated; or as Rama, who, even after having become an avatar-purusha, came down amidst mortals and led a household life.
It has often been contended that the world has not progressed on the path because gnanis, or Mahatmas, have dwindled in their number and greatness, and because it is Kali Yuga, or the dark age, now. Such arguments are due to our mistaking the effects for their causes. The only way to prepare the way for the advent of a favorable Yuga and for the increase of the number and greatness of Mahatmas, is to establish gradually the conditions for the leading of a true household life. I should unhesitatingly state, that that is the duty of earnest Theosophists and real philanthropists.
Is it not conceded by all philanthropists that unselfish labors for humanity can alone relieve us from the ocean of Samsara (rebirth), develop our highest potentialities and help us to alchemise our human weakness? Applying the same principle to unselfish discharge of our family and national duties, my position becomes tenable. A Mahatma has, it appears, declared that He has still "patriotism." But He has not said nor would say, that He has still family "attachments." This proves that He has got out of the defects of the family to which He belongs, while He is only striving to get out of national defects, some of which at any rate cling to Him. A Buddha would say, that He has "mercy," but no "patriotism."
The only effectual way to get out of family defects is to discharge all our duty to our family before leaving it, as ascetics, or before we die. Blessed is he (2) who, in each of his incarnations, then and there, gets rid of the defects of the family into which he is ushered, thereby converts those defects in his parents, brothers and sisters, into noble qualities, thus strengthening and developing the good qualities both of himself and of his family, then strives to be born in the same family again and again, until he himself becomes a Buddha and assists his family to become a family fit for a Buddha to be born into, while he becomes the cream of all the noble qualities of the family without being tainted with its idiosyncrasies. A Dugpa (Black Magician) is frequently born in the same family and becomes the cream of all its evil propensities. Here again is the operation of the sublime and divinely intelligent law of universal and natural economy asserting itself. This is beautifully allegorized in the story of a Jivanmukta churning out of the ocean, the elixir of life and leaving the visha (the poison, all the evil propensities) for the Dugpas. This is one of the meanings of the allegory. Avoiding all personalities and questionable facts, I shall rely solely upon our Puranas and scriptures to prove that in every family where Adepts and Gnanis are (or choose to be) frequently born, often Dugpas are also born, as a matter of course. Krishna was the greatest of Gnanis and his uncle Kansa (for our present purpose) was a terrible Dugpa. The five Pandavas had a hundred wicked cousins, the Kauravas. Devas and the whole brood of wicked Asuras were born of the same parent. Vibhishana had for his brother, Ravana, the prince of Dugpas; so had the good Sugriva a brother like Vali. Prahlada had a monster for his father.
Take the case of one who has not done all his duty to his family, before he dies, or before he takes the vows of renunciation and becomes an ascetic. Such ascetics find themselves attracted by the family defects and selfishness of themselves (which hitherto perhaps lay more or less dormant and now become kindled and awakened by the selfishness of the relatives) and are disturbed in the performance of the duties of their new order or Ashrama, however unselfish their relatives might have been "unconsciously" or unintentionally. In spite of themselves these relatives arrest the progress of the ascetics in whom the family defects become thus strengthened and developed. Such is the mysterious law of attraction. This man must be born again (1) either in the same family, with the family defects strengthened, both in himself and in his family; (2) or in another family. In the first case, the noble qualities of the family are not strengthened and therefore gradually disappear both from him and from the family. In the second case, he becomes an undutiful son, brother or husband, in his new family, firstly because of the natural law of repetition, which, with the terrible Karmic interest, strengthens the tendency in him to disregard duty; secondly because of the "counter family attractions" (or repulsions). Let not this unfortunate wanderer from the post of his family duty console himself with the foolish idea that this tendency would confine its havoc to family traits (good and evil) and to family duties alone. It would extend itself in all directions, wherever it can; it would make him disregard his duties to his nation and to himself (or in other words, to humanity). He would suddenly be surprised to find himself apathetic to his nation and to his highest nature, or to mankind. Such are the mazes and unknown ramifications of our evil or good propensities. Any evil or noble element of human nature converts itself, under "favorable" conditions into any other element however apparently remote. The conditions are there ready wherever the element is strong; where there is a will there is a way. Performance of family duties therefore develops patriotism and mercy.
I do not at all mean to say that the effects of Karma always assert themselves in the same shape or form; but they often might and do. Nor do I mean that the affinities above stated, blossom and ripen in the incarnation immediately succeeding; they might develop ten or even one hundred incarnations after; but in such a case, the Karma only accumulates enormous interest. The affinities might not develop at the same time in both him and her, who was once his wife; if they did at the same time, the account could be easily settled, — otherwise, woe to him and to her! Supposing that the attractions for him are developed in her, while the attachments for her are not developed in him at the same time; the result might be, that she pines and languishes for him, sends her poisonous darts consciously or "unconsciously" against him; if these arrows do not kindle the corresponding nature in him, for the time being they frustrate his achievements in other directions. Supposing by the time the affinities in him are developed, he becomes an initiate and she becomes, (let us suppose) his pupil (male or female). If at the time the pupil's affinities have become converted into devotion for the initiate, the latter becomes blinded in his philanthropic work and noble duties of a sage, and commits, through the infatuation of a love for the pupil, serious blunders, which result in a catastrophe to both of them and to humanity: and both the pupil and initiate fall down and have to mount their rugged pathway again with increased difficulties in their way.
Once, in an age and in a country, when and where household life continues to be ideal, one single wretch commits the first act of transgression by impetuously rushing into the circle of ascetics, or by dying before wholly discharging his duty to his family, the natural result is that both himself, his family, and his nation, become thereby seriously affected. The Akasa (3) becomes affected by the impulse to transgress in this direction; this impulse forces itself gradually (with accumulated interest, redoubled force) upon others; the ignoble example becomes a precedent; other cases of a like nature follow in quick succession. In course of time, (just when a sad descending cycle begins, such is the divine intelligence of the law that economizes energies and makes things fit it) the leading of the ideal family life becomes almost impossible and very rare; the whole community is thus ruined. Learned and great adepts retire to other spheres (where there then is an ascending cycle) and leave the nation to be swallowed by a cataclysm after ages of degradation and vice.
Let us now reverse this case, and suppose that in the most degenerate nation, in the darkest of cycles, one philanthropist becomes unselfish and intelligent enough to set a noble and intelligent example by fulfilling all family duties; then, as naturally as in the preceding case, the precedent gradually gains acceptance; the way is paved for the advent of an ascending cycle; Gnanis bless the noble man and come down from other unfavorable spheres, where descending cycles begin to dawn.
Now it may be easy to understand why Chelas and lay Chelas (who have not yet thrown off their family defects and thus become the cream of their family's good qualities) are told to be careful lest they become Dugpas (Black Magicians).
I will ask you to apply the same kinds of arguments to the necessity for performing (and the failure to perform) our duties to our nation and to mankind. You can see that the phenomena of heresy, downfall of religions, rise of new religions, the birth in Europe of a Max Muller, who expatiates upon the greatness of the Vedic philosophy, and of Bradlaughs and other infidel sons of Christian parents — all these are due to the fact (and also to other causes), that the individuals concerned had not in some one or other of their past incarnations, done their duty to the nations (or religions), to which they respectively belonged. A study of the times when and in the manner in which the traits of these men are brought into play should be profitable in several ways. Extending the analogy, it may be said that heartlessness, murder, cannibalism, etc., are due to failure to discharge, in past incarnations, one's duty to humanity (that is to one's self).
In conclusion it might be added that the most important element in the "Dweller of the Threshold," and in the ordeals of Chelaship, is family defects, which ought to be first "conquered"; then in order come national defects and the "diseases of the flesh" in general. Though all these three have to be got rid of simultaneously as far as possible, and all the three kinds of duties performed, still beginners should pay more attention to the first than to the second, and more to the second than to the third, and none of these neglected.
In those happy Aryan ages, when Dharma was known and performed fully, those men and women who did not marry, remained in the family for performing their family duties and led a strictly ascetical and Vedantic life as Brahmacharis and Kannikas (or virgins). Those alone married, who were in every way qualified for leading a grihasta (household) life. Marriage was in those days a sacred and religious contract, and not at all a means of gratifying selfish desires and animal passions. These marriages were of two kinds: (1) Those who married for the express purpose of assisting each other (husband and wife) in their determination to lead a higher life, in fulfilling their family duties, in enjoying all pleasures enjoined for such a life and thereby acquiring the means for attaining the qualifications for higher ashrama of renunciation (Sannyasa), and, above all, for giving the world the benefit of children, who would become gnanis and work for humanity. Such a husband and wife might be regarded as not having in their previous incarnations been able enough to become ripe for Chelaship. (2) Those who had, in their past incarnations already fitted themselves completely for entering the sanctuary of Occultism and gnana marga (path of wisdom). One of them, the Pati (the master or "husband") was the Guru who had advanced far higher than his Patni (co-worker or pupil or "wife"). As soon as the alliance between them was made, these retired into the forest to lead the life of celibacy and practical Occultism. But, before so retiring, they had invariably promised to their parents and other members of their family to assist and elevate them even from a distance and offered to periodically adjust (4) the inner life of all the relatives. I quote the language generally used in making such promises: — "Whenever mother, father, sister and brothers, any of you think of me in your hour of need, wherever or whatever I may be, I solemnly promise to lend you a helping hand."
Needless to say, that such vows were conscientiously kept, and that those who were not really able to do so never made such promises nor retired from the side of their family, but chose to belong to the first class of married people. This second class of persons who thus retired into the forest and became hermits, were called Vanaprasthas. They always obtained the full consent (5) of their near relatives and renounced "pleasures" and material prosperity (money making, etc.).
The fourth highest order of life was complete renunciation (Sannyasis). These were the blessed few who had, then and there, in each incarnation, got out of family defects. Only those were admitted into this order whom the defects of no family could affect. Long before their admission into this order, they had, by fulfilling family duties, successively, incarnation after incarnation gone far beyond the reach of family defects. Brahmacharis and Kannikas could, after they had discharged family duties, become Sannyasis. All except those belonging to the second order of life, were called upon and did take a vow to give up one or more of their dearest and strongest defects.
Such, my friends, were the Laws of Manu. If any of you could establish a community on a better foundation, I should be happy to give up my allegiance to the great Sage, Saviour and Legislator. As every Manu establishes the same Manava Dharma again and again, and as the Manus are higher than Buddha and other founders of religions, I should call upon you to pay all possible attention to this subject. Manu is higher, because he overshadows a Buddha.
I must request the readers, to study every word and the whole of this paper (if it deserves to be so called) and not tear it piece-meal or interpret passages and phrases in it, as they please. I must add, that by "family duties" I do not at all mean sacrificing your duty or conviction and Truth, to gratify the whims or selfish nature or sectarian views of any of your "relatives." But I use the expression "family duties" in a peculiar sense, namely "that course and only that course of action, speech and thoughts by which you can not only get rid of your family defects in this very incarnation, but also strengthen in yourself all the noble qualities of your family, and which will at the same time enable your relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, wife, children, etc.,) also to get rid of the same defects and strengthen in themselves the same good qualities — so that you might be born again and again in the same family." "Patriotism" is used in a similar manner; and the article "Elixir of Life" (see Theosophist) should be read in the light of this paper.
The question is asked, "Has the dweller of the threshold an objective form; upon what does its objective form depend; does it always appear to every one in the same form as it did to Glyndon in Bulwer's story?"
It is objective to those who have gone very far. It depends upon (1) a certain thing I shall not here name; (2) the stage of development to which the chela or occultist has attained or is near attaining; (3) the mode of regarding elementals and the Dweller, peculiar to the chela or occultist, to his family and to his nation, or rather to the national and family legends or religion; (4) which form, more or less monstrous or incongruous, would be most frightful and overpowering to him at the critical period. Subject to the above four conditions, the Dweller assumes a form according to the manner in which the chela or occultist has or has not fulfilled his threefold duties, and according to the manner in which the sevenfold elements of the Dweller assert themselves upon him. The better he has fulfilled the threefold duties, the less does the Dweller affect him. Of course the form is not necessarily the same for every one.
Why did the Dweller appear to Glyndon's sister, who was not undergoing probation, and why in the same form?
Because she was sympathetic and sensitive enough. The principle involved in this case is the same as in obsession. The Dweller might either be but one elemental, or a group or several groups of elementals assuming one collective form. It is one elemental, when the crisis comes at the very commencement of the chela's or occultist's attempt to elevate his lower nature. This is the case when he has the least (Karmic) stamina for the "uphill path." The later on his path he is waylaid the more numerous are the elementals of which the Dweller is composed.
It need not be imagined that this appearance or influence confronts the chela only once until he reaches the first initiation, and an initiate only once during the interval between two initiations. It appears as often as the stock of his Karmic stamina falls below the minimum limit.
By Karmic stamina is meant the phala (effect or fruit) of past unselfish, good Karma that has become ripened. Though the occultist might have an immense quantity of past unselfish good Karma stored up, still, if during his crisis there be not a sufficient number of present unselfish good thoughts to ripen a sufficient portion of that quantity, he finds himself destitute of the necessary stock of stamina. Few are they who have already laid up a good quantity of unselfish good Karma; and fewer still are they who have the requisite degree of unselfish and spiritual nature during the period of trial; and there are still fewer who would not rush for further Yoga development, without having all the requisite means.
When not qualified fully for it, we ought to and could go on developing ourselves in the ordinary way, and try to secure the necessary means by leading an unselfish life and setting an example to others, and this is the stage of nearly all ordinary Theosophists. They, in common with all their fellows, are influenced by a "Dweller," which is the effect upon them of their own, their family, and national defects; and although they may never, in this life, see objectively any such form, the influence is still there, and is commonly recognized as "bad inclinations and discouraging thoughts."
Seek then, to live the Higher life by beginning now to purify your thoughts by good deeds, and by right speech.
— The Path, July and August, 1886
1. I use this word "privilege" in its ethical sense; privileges are to the patriot what the "pleasures" are to the family life. (return to text)
2. This is the man to be in the family and not of the family like the water on the lotus leaf, making only the good traits of the family the seat of his higher self. (return to text)
3. The Ether, the Astral Light. [Ed.] (return to text)
4. I use the word in the peculiar sense which I have already attached to it. (return to text)
5. "Full consent" including the consent of all their various consciousnesses. If the Patni or Pati saw, and they ought to be able to see, that even in one of the consciousnesses of any of their near relatives there lurked a latent spark of hesitation to consent or of unwillingness, then the pair unselfishly gave up their determination to become Vanaprasthas and remained with the family until the proper time came. (return to text)