[Theosophy has been spoken of as a synthesis of religion, philosophy, and science, as the formulated truth regarding the nature, constitution and destiny of man and the Universes. Theosophy therefore covers indeed what is an overwhelming range of thought comprising all possible human knowledge. Yet against this enormous cosmic back-drop certain fundamental teachings stand out clearly, and if these can be grasped by the student he then has certain keys which act as touchstones to truth. Any superstructure that is erected can thus wisely be tested.
We find in this chapter that these fundamentals are emphasized so that the picture of the Theosophical philosophy becomes more clearly defined. The teachings remain not vague impracticable theories or postulates — something to dream about only — but are made extremely practical. They become for us that vital teaching of the Wisdom of the Gods which we can live and should desire to live. It is this downright refusal to divorce practical application from what may be spoken of as technical or theoretical teaching that is perhaps Trevor Barker's most outstanding contribution to Theosophical thought and is the chiefest charm of his writing.]
Before we can answer this question at all satisfactorily and present reasons as to why we should study Theosophy, we naturally ask ourselves, 'What is Theosophy?'
Theosophy is not something new; it is not the invention of one or two men or women, either modern or ancient; it is not a progressive system which is subject to change from day to day, following upon experiments in the realm of science, where any morning we may wake up to find that that which we had thought to be Truth has actually had to be changed, modified, or altered. This is the difference between the Ancient Wisdom and scientific methods.
A passage from our teachings will show you in language much better than I could employ, just where Theosophy comes from:
Theosophy is the Primeval One Truth taught Humanity in the infancy of its Races by every First Messenger — the Planetary Spirit whose remembrance lingers in the memory of man as Elu of the Chaldees, Osiris the Egyptian, Vishnu and the first Buddhas — for there was a primeval revelation and it still exists; nor will it ever be lost to the world but will reappear. The Wisdom religion has been Esoteric in all ages: it was ever One and the same and being the last word of possible human knowledge was therefore carefully preserved. It is the substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies — but its doctrines are the exclusive possession of none of them. They are the birthright of every human soul and pertain exclusively to man's knowledge of his own nature and the higher life of the soul. It was the universally diffused religion of the Ancient and prehistoric world. Proof of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teaching of its great Adepts, exist to this day in the secret crypts and libraries belonging to the Occult Fraternity.
This Ancient Wisdom which was preserved by the elect of mankind literally from the birth of humanity on this planet, has been restated for us by one of that Brotherhood who was sent to the Western world, and whom we know as H. P. Blavatsky. It was she who founded the Theosophical Society and gave Theosophy to us. Now this does not mean that Theosophy is limited to the writings of Blavatsky. That is not true. You will find the literary records of Theosophy spread everywhere. For example, you will find traces of Theosophy amongst the writings of the early Christian Fathers; you will find it in the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament; you will find it in the Egyptian 'Book of the Dead,' and in the teachings, literally, of all the great Sages and Seers that the world has ever known. Take the teachings of Gautama-Buddha, for example. From our point of view as Theosophists, there is no difference between the teachings of the Buddha and the teachings of Theosophy, though I must enter one little word of warning in case the record of what the Buddha taught may not be exactly as he gave it in all respects, any more than the record of the teachings of Christ is exactly as he gave them. Nevertheless, whatever we have of the real teachings of these great Masters of Life and Wisdom is Theosophy.
You will find Theosophy in the Upanishads of ancient India; you will find it in the Bhagavad-Gita; and in the writings of Confucius and Lao-tse. So it is no narrow, sectarian idea of some kind of religious philosophy, but it is literally the essence, both ethical and philosophical, of all the world-religions.
And yet, strange as they may appear, the writings of Blavatsky were not the mere synthesis, if you understand me, of what those different religions contained — and this is a very important point. If that were so, then you or I, if we had had the brains, could have merely gone through these different records and books, and put them together in some kind of fashion, and said: "There, that is your Theosophy!" It would have contained possibly a great deal of Theosophy, but it nevertheless would not be the real thing; and that is why I say that Theosophy is the mother-root, the essence, of all these great religions. It is the mother-root from which these great teachings originally came. I want to emphasize this because Theosophy is the Esoteric Doctrine, the real truth about man and the universe; the real truth about the human soul and its pilgrimage, and what we are here for, and what the whole universe is about. These Truths are preserved by a living Brotherhood of Holy Men, and it was that Brotherhood from whom came the Great Teachers. It is that Brotherhood which is the root from which all the great religions sprang — a root imbedded in the consciousness of living man.
What is the great need of man today? It is not, mind you, something that is exclusively a need of our own times, but it is particularly emphasized in this moment of the world's history. Every man sooner or later asks himself the question as to the nature of the universe. He comes in conflict with his environment, and he seeks an explanation — as a rule outside of himself first of all, because we seem to be built that way. If we suffer, we tend to think that it must be the world around us which is wrong, and therefore when faced with problems which to us are unfair, or which seem at a given moment insoluble, we start to ask ourselves about the universe!
Therefore the first great reason why we study Theosophy is because it gives us an explanation of the universe around us — an explanation that you will find nowhere else in modern literature. It gives us an explanation of the origin not only of our planet, but of the solar system of which the planet is a part — aye, and the universe, which is full of solar systems. And by extending, as it does inevitably, our vision of the universe in which we live and move and have our being, we come as it were out of the little tight box in which — we recognise after the event — we were confined, all our life, up to that moment. That is why honestly I can sincerely envy the man or woman to whom at my moment — perhaps the present — Theosophy comes for the first time; because I remember what it meant for me when as a very sick man during the Great War I was in the situation where, suffering very much in all sorts of ways, I sought an answer to the problems of my own life. Sooner or later I believe we all get into this position. Life drives us until we come up against some great enigma, then, if our longing is sincere and true enough, we find Theosophy. It comes as a revelation to the mind, as if one's whole soul were opened to the sunlight for the first time. The effect of this upon me was to get me in touch with the nearest Theosophical library, and no power on earth could have stopped me from taking an armful of books away, and then reading till I had dragged the inside out of them, and absorbed them. That is a wonderful experience, and any one of us can have it. It is part of the work of the Theosophical Society — in fact, the main part of our work — to bring to others these truths which have meant so much to us, and to ask them to take them in their turn to still others.
It is quite obvious that we cannot pass on these truths unless we know something about them ourselves. But one of the beautiful things about Theosophy is that one who hears its teachings for the first time reflects upon what he has heard; and then he starts to read for himself a few relatively simple manuals or books, and immediately the mind becomes quickened; the hunger for truth is aroused. The next step is that the longing which is bound to be present in a man or woman who is ready for these teachings must be satisfied: the longing to help all those around him who also are perplexed with the enigma of life, who suffer.
This is the background of experience, therefore, which every server in the Theosophic Cause goes through; because the way for the individual and the race to acquire this knowledge opens only when the human soul has been brought by suffering to the point where the teaching is received as a trust, as something more precious than earthly gold or jewels, something which is to him literally the breath of life. Every one of us has received these teachings from the work and efforts of others, and as we receive them we make of ourselves a chalice into which gradually the out-pouring of the Life of the Spirit flows. But our life obviously has to be cleansed of its material propensities; we have to empty ourselves; the vessel in which we would hold the waters of life and give them to others must be made a clean vessel — otherwise, we cannot give clean water to those who seek it.
One of the great reasons for the study of Theosophy is that in the process, in the effort — and it demands an effort — the psychomental, emotional, passional part of man's organization and being begins to be purified. You cannot study this philosophy unless in the process the mind becomes gradually purified of its dross; and then, like a bird, it begins to soar: rising out of the mire of the lower personal life, often indeed to sink down again into the mud, but nevertheless feeling its wings, rising with aspiration and devotion and hope. Little by little the doors of the soul are opened; and as the student acquires a grasp of the whole religious, philosophic, and scientific range of thought that this wonderful teaching reveals to his vision, he finds that he no longer is dependent to the same degree upon the books from which he first started his studies. At a certain stage, if the metaphysical and ethical truths are allowed to enter his heart as well as his head, he will begin to find that he has a perpetual fountain of truth welling up from within, that literally enables him to give something unusual, if it is only an illuminated thought, to everyone that he contacts.
It is stated — and here is another reason for the study of Theosophy — that even one who is confined in a prison-cell could be a worker for Theosophy if he had the knowledge; for one of its great teachings is that the mind of man is linked by the dynamic quality of thought with every part of the boundless universe itself. And so we are united one with another. We see evidence of it around us today, brought to our attention by the great discoveries of modern science: how the universe or the planet on which we live daily becomes smaller, from the point of view of the speed with which we can travel through the air, or hear through the spaces by means of telephones and wireless operations, and so on. So that we realize today in a much easier fashion than was possible in the dark Middle Ages, that the peoples of other nations are very little different from our own people; that, for example, the so-called 'barbarian' is not so essentially different from ourselves — shocking as the thought may appear to some stiff-necked Europeans! They are human souls; they are here to make the same pilgrimage as we are. Therefore are we indissolubly united into one living, breathing whole. This is the main principle of the structure upon which the whole Theosophical Movement is based. We have to come to an understanding, a realization, of what is meant by Universal Brotherhood. It is the sole prerequisite to becoming an Associate of the Theosophical Society. You do not have to accept any other principle; but it is a principle that is pregnant and significant.
It is a perfectly true thing to say that there is only one real Brotherhood on earth. We all know that the human family is one great Brotherhood; and linked to it are all the kingdoms of nature, higher and lower. But do we realize it? Obviously not. Otherwise we would act brotherly. But what prevents such action by us? Simply this: there is a tremendous duality existing in nature, and particularly in man. When he comes into contact with the life-giving waters of Theosophy, if he is serious, sooner or later he will find that within him there is a beneficent force which is seeking entrance into his life, in the light of which he can love and serve his fellows; and there is also a maleficent force, its direct antithesis. Man is really crucified between these two forces. If he follows the light, if he follows the higher dictates of his own soul and conscience, if he follows the way the ancient Teachings show, he will be the recipient of no other force in the universe than the one that flows from the Supreme Itself. But man does not. It is not that he cannot, but that he does not live on the heights all the time; and when he stumbles and falls, then is the moment that the teachings of Theosophy are needed to explain his psychological and intellectual, his physical and spiritual, constitution.
We are very complex beings, and often what we feel and believe sincerely to be the reason why we behave in any given way, is not the reason that is hidden deep in some interior part of our psychological nature. Deep and mysterious is the nature of man, and nothing other than a, study of the teachings of Theosophy will show you what this nature is. Actually Theosophical teaching tells you that the nature of man is sevenfold. That will show you that already you have seven great divisions or parts of your nature — not divided into boxes, but rather interblending, interpenetrating, the different parts of your being. The simplest division of this sevenfold nature is the threefold one that St. Paul uses in the New Testament. He described it as spirit, soul, and body. You are the soul man, the Thinker, who has to win his immortality. It would be equally true to say that he is a divine, immortal entity, and that he always was, and that he is rooted in the great Universal Soul as an integral part of it.
Thus we get another of the great reasons why we study Theosophy: at first we seek the explanation of the universe; second, we seek a knowledge of our own being, because very soon we discover that knowing about the universe is not quite enough. No; it is not the universe that is wrong: we find that it is we ourselves who are wrong, and only a knowledge of our own being enables us little by little to adjust ourselves to the Universal Harmony. In the process of discovering ourselves we necessarily discover that at the root of our being is a Divinity, a God. The source from which flow those things in our lives which are sweet and beautiful, those thoughts and dreams of a higher life, the love which we bear to our fellows, all aspirations that encourage one to lead a different kind of life, all deeds that are helpful in character and of a truly spiritual and divine nature: all that is eternal in our being — these qualities flow from this Divine part of us. But, having discovered the existence of this spiritual pole of our being, we want to know how we are going to strengthen the Divine and vanquish the lower. That gives us another reason for the study of Theosophy: to find the way of life — the ethics of conduct in our daily lives. We know in a vague sort of way what we ought to do. We have heard from our childhood the golden rule of not doing to others what we would not have them do to us — a summing-up of the ethics of all the great Teachers; but still we need something further.
Let me put it to you from another angle: what are you going to study if you do not study Theosophy? For example, you have the Christian Churches. There are some 320 varieties of Christian sects and what not. Why do so many people find that they still have an unsatisfied need and hunger? One of the reasons is that although the New Testament has sublime ethics — you cannot find a better ethical standard anywhere than in the 'Sermon on the Mount' — what it lacks is philosophy. Men and women in these days want a reason why they should be better and do better. They are no longer satisfied with being told "Be good and you will be happy," even if you have a dull time of it! No, they want to know why they are here, where they came from, where they are going, and what it feels like to be in that state that all men must come to when their earthly life is finished. Have we not all asked ourselves these questions? And was there any orthodox religion in the world, with the noble exception of Buddhism, and to some extent Hinduism, that could answer you? I do not believe so.
You will find in the teachings of Theosophy, once you understand them correctly, food of a religious nature for the spiritual part of your being; philosophy for your aspiring intellect; and a code of ethics for living your daily life.
QUESTION: You mentioned in your article 'Why Study Theosophy?' that Theosophy was the basis of many religions. The majority of these believe in the existence of a personal God. Can you suggest the origin of the idea?
ANSWER: The origin of the idea of a personal God is a long story. It is stated in Theosophical teachings that this idea is not an innate one. The real origin of the personal-God idea is found in the tendency of ignorant man to build a conception of Deity in terms of his own personal self, which is all he knows, and which is necessarily limited; and so he merely builds a big idea of himself and calls that 'God.' The personal God means, according to our European conceptions, an extra-cosmic Deity — that is to say, a being somehow outside of his universe (that is this universe), because he is said to be infinite, boundless, omnipresent, and at the same time somebody who can be prayed to, supplicated to save us from the effects of all the silly things that we have done in our lives.
I have always thought that the translation of the Latin word 'persona,' meaning a mask, is something that helps us particularly to understand our own — what we call — personality, the lower part of ourselves, that which hides the light. It is the external part which is the personality according to the Theosophical teaching, not the higher part, which is real; this lower, material part is the mayavic, the illusory part; and it may be helpful to some to look upon the personal-God idea as essentially an illusory concept.
This personal-God idea is one that the Theosophist does not countenance at all; and I should make it clear that it is the limited, dogmatic concept, which gives such a very false idea of Deity, and which exhorts men and women to look outside of themselves for the source of their salvation. But the Theosophist comes in and directs men's attention to the Divinity within him, which in very truth is a personal divinity for each man; and whilst he takes away with one hand, he gives you something which is really far more sublime; for Theosophy teaches self-dependence; it follows the teaching of the Christian Avatara: that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. It is to that Deity that we appeal in every man. But this 'personal' God that we aspire towards, and whose light radiates in the heart of every man, this Immortal entity, collectively the aggregate of all the Divinities in our Solar System or our Universal Cosmos together, makes up what is called the Universal World-Soul, and all men are rooted in That, have their being in That, and sooner or later can consciously raise themselves by their unity with that which It represents.
One of the most valuable and practical books in Theosophical literature is the interpretation by William Q. Judge of The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. It is well recognised by all students of Theosophy that the attainment of abstract meditation has to be achieved by one means or another by all who intend to make Theosophy a living power in their lives.
In Book I, verse 20, of the Yoga Aphorisms, Patanjali lays it down that in the case of those who are able to discriminate as to pure spirit "their meditation is preceded by Faith, Energy, Intentness (upon a. single point) and Discernment"; but recognising that the majority of men find difficulty in attaining to this state of meditation he shows how devotion may be used as a means to the end in view and analyses the obstacles that have to be overcome by the devotee.
Verse 23: The state of abstract meditation may be attained by profound devotedness toward the Supreme Spirit considered in its incomprehensible manifestation as Iswara.
It is said that this profound devotedness is a pre-eminent means of attaining abstract meditation and its fruits. "Iswara" is The Spirit in the body.
Verse 24: Iswara is a spirit, untouched by troubles, works, fruits of works, or desires.
Verse 25: In Iswara becomes infinite that omniscience which in man exists but as a germ.
Verse 26: Iswara is the preceptor of all, even of the earliest of created beings, for He is not limited by time.
Verse 27: His name is OM.
Verse 28: The repetition of this name should be made with reflection upon its signification. . . .
Verse 29: From this repetition and reflection on its significance, there comes a knowledge of the Spirit and the absence of obstacles to the attainment of the end in view.
In the verses above quoted there is hope and encouragement for every Arjuna who stands upon the battlefield of his being. During those periods when the mind of the student becomes darkened by doubt and uncertainty Patanjali shows clearly just where the cause of the trouble lies, and in a most practical way provides the remedy for those who can see it and are willing to use the means suggested.
In Verse 30 he states that
The obstacles in the way of him who desires to attain concentration are Sickness, Langour, Doubt, Carelessness, Laziness, Addiction to objects of sense, Erroneous Perception, Failure to attain my stage of abstraction, and Instability in any state when attained.
Verse 31: These obstacles are accompanied by grief, distress, trembling and sighing.
All students who are doing their best to take themselves in hand, striving to live in the light of the Higher Self, will at some time show forth one or other of the symptoms of that searching diagnosis. These are the "enshrouding veils of the lower selfhood," and the fact that Patanjali mentions them in this ancient scripture shows that they have application to all men and all races; and therefore those who discover these obstacles in themselves at once realize that they are not alone in having to face such difficulties, but on the contrary they are simply proving for themselves the universal experience of all aspirants. When the mind is unstable, and for the time being is unable to reflect the calm power of the guiding spirit within, it is always because one or all of the obstacles to meditation as defined by Patanjali are active. For the prevention of them he recommends that one truth should be dwelt upon, and there is the added comment that by this he means "any accepted truth of which one approves."
In the periods of the greatest spiritual darkness we can always find something in our spiritual experience which we really believe in because we have proved the truth of it. When such a truth is dwelt upon to the exclusion of concepts about which there is uncertainty, the mind immediately becomes steady. The particular truth dwelt upon will vary according to the nature of the student. With one it may be the profound conviction of the reality of the Higher Self; with another it may be the knowledge of the existence of the great Masters of Wisdom, or the essential truth of the Theosophical teaching as a whole, or of some particular sacred scripture or book or part of a book. Then the cure is completed, and the mind becomes purified "through the practising of Benevolence, Tenderness, Complacency, and Disregard for objects of happiness, grief, virtue, and vice. . . ." (Verse 33)
If these things are practised with aspiration and faith in their efficacy, combined with some regular daily study of some of the classics of Theosophical literature, the student will find the greatest possible inspiration and help coming to him.
What is the whole Theosophical conception of the doctrine of Correspondence and Analogy based upon? It must have a basis, and one of the most ancient axioms upon which it is founded is the Hermetic one, which goes something like this: True without error, certain most true: that which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for performing the marvels of the Cosmos. "For performing the marvels of the Cosmos" — that is a strange phrase, is it not? The key to it you will find in that very remarkable twelfth chapter of Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, p. 635, where H. P. B. states that "The trinity of nature is the lock of magic and the trinity in man is the key that fits it." It is because this threefold nature of man, or if you like to call it sevenfold nature of man, fits the threefold, sevenfold, or tenfold lock of magic of Nature and the Universe, that it is possible by a knowledge of these principles of correspondence to perform the marvels that are recorded as achieved by all the Great Sages and Magicians of past ages. They all use the same method: the sovereign will of the illuminated Adept acts through his unified sevenfold nature upon the corresponding part of that aspect of matter or Prakriti wherein he desires to produce his phenomenal results. In other words every one of our sevenfold principles or vehicles of consciousness is necessarily built of matter; and these principles, or the matter of which they are composed, necessarily relate us to the corresponding plane of matter in the vast Universe. For instance our body relates us to the planet Earth on which we live; our Linga-sarira, our astral body, relates us to the corresponding principle of the Globe, and so on, right through all the different planes of Nature and being; and once the Adept is freed so that he can at will mount the stairway of his own inner being, changing the level at which his consciousness at any one time is polarized, either in his material physical brain; in the mayavi-rupa; in the thought-world; in the principle of direct knowledge and cognition which we call the intuition, or Buddhic principle — aye, even Atman itself: once he can do that — which is necessarily a very advanced state of being — he is freed of all the planes in the Universe; and by a knowledge of the principles of Nature he can call upon and utilize any of the sevenfold principles, which contain all the forces and energies in the Cosmos, and do literally what he wants, because he is a self-conscious being. This is one aspect of what is called liberation being free to roam through the spaces of space — outer and inner, on this planet and the other Sacred Planets of our Solar System. Continuing from the twelfth chapter of Isis Unveiled, Volume II, pages 587-8:
Nature is triune: there is a visible, objective nature; an invisible, indwelling, energizing nature, the exact model of the other, and its vital principle; and, above these two, spirit, source of all forces, alone eternal, and indestructible. The lower two constantly change: the higher third does not.
Immediately now we get an example of correspondence:
Man is also triune: he has his objective, physical body; his vitalizing astral body (or soul), the real man; and these two are brooded over and illuminated by the third — the sovereign, the immortal spirit. When the real man succeeds in merging himself with the latter, he becomes an immortal entity.
and only an Immortal entity is free of the planes of Nature in the sense that I have tried to express to you.
I will try to show by analogy, and by direct reference to parts of the teaching that are well known to you just how this law of correspondence works. If those axiomatic propositions which I have just read to you are true, then you will find that you can understand the first Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine by a knowledge of these principles. You have the threefold principles in operation in the very highest metaphysical triad that you can think of: the Boundless, the Absolute, That upon which no speculation is possible, symbolized in The Secret Doctrine under the aspect of Eternal Duration. You also have the abstract idea of Space, and the abstract idea of Motion. Come down a stage in your thought, and apply the same rule of correspondence, and you find in the manifested Universe the whole of Nature pervaded by duality, corresponding to what? — to motion and to space. You find it reflected in Spirit and Matter, in your own consciousness, and in the elements and principles of which the Cosmos is composed. Where is the third mysterious, connecting link between Spirit and Matter that H. P. B. speaks of in this first Fundamental Proposition? Obviously that mysterious force which unites Spirit and Matter is in the nature of man supplied by the bridge that in The Voice of the Silence is called antahkarana. It is the power of upward aspiring thought that connects your lower, personal soul or perishable self with the Immortal and indestructible Divine Ego. Note that this mysterious bridge or link on the scale of correspondence that I am now speaking of depends upon upward aspiring thought and nothing else. If it is a low kind of thought, identified with matter, there is no bridge between the lower part of the man and the higher; and such a man in such a state of consciousness is unable to use this threefold key which fits the lock of magic. He can never become a magician; he can never become an Adept or a disciple, let alone a Master of Wisdom.
Space — the seven-skinned Mother — a curious phrase: the seven-skinned Mother. It means the differentiated matter or material or substance of which our Solar system or our Universe is composed. The most usual way of thinking about the planes of being, or the substance of which they are composed, is by reference to the elements and principles. Now, is there any difference between the principles and elements? The elements you are probably familiar with under the names of Aether or Akasa, earth, air, fire, water. These may not mean a great deal to you, but the principles which or rather without which these elements would not exist, are possibly more familiar to you, for they are the sevenfold dynamic, spiritual and Cosmic energies which course through our own consciousness, and which keep the planets in rotation and being. In fact they are an expression of what the Brahmins called the Tattwas. What are the Tattwas They are the forces that are distributed to us through the Seven Sacred Planets, and to use the Brahminical phraseology they are: Adi-tattwa, the highest, most spiritual one, Anupapadaka-tattwa, Akasa-tattwa, Vayu-tattwa, Taijasa-tattwa, Apas-tattwa, and Prithivi-tattwa.
Beginning at the bottom the forces come to us: — Prithivi from Mercury, Apas from Venus, Taijasa from Mars (that is why it is red in color), Vayu from Jupiter, Akasa from Saturn. The highest spiritual Tattwas come from the two Sacred Planets connected with the Sun and Moon, and when I say connected with the Sun and Moon I mean that intra-mercurial planet which some modern astronomers christened Vulcan, and that mysterious body which lies behind the Moon — very close to the Moon, but which is actually a planet. There is a planet situated just behind the Moon, and you will say to me "Well, if there is why don't we see it?" If we had the eyes to see it we should see it, but there are many more planets than are ever suspected by astronomers in our Solar system, who now only recognise seven. We cannot see this particular one, simply because it is on a plane of matter which is a little bit higher than our ordinary physical sight will enable us to perceive; but it is the explanation, I believe you will find, as to why the Moon is called one of the Sacred Planets, which otherwise it is not, because it is a dead planet. Nevertheless the Moon is the transmitter to us of some of the highest spiritual energies that we receive, as well as some influences which are distinctly evil.
I will try to elucidate just a little further these tattwic forces. They are not so mysterious as you think, because each one of our sevenfold principles is directly related to one of these planets, and is the particular vehicle of that planet with which it has a direct correspondence. All these spiritual energies play through all the principles, because every principle is sevenfold in its turn, and seven times seven make up the forty-nine fires spoken of in The Secret Doctrine. On page 153, Volume I, The Secret Doctrine, the correspondence between the human principles and the seven Globes of the planetary chain is very clearly set out if you refer to the diagram. "These invisible companions" (i. e. the invisible companion Globes of the planet — our Earth, H. P. B. says) "correspond curiously to that which we call 'the principles in Man.' " Rather an odd phrase — "correspond curiously." One might be led to suppose that the seven Globes of the Planetary Chain are actually the higher principles of the planet. Now the question is, are they, or are they not? This word "curiously" seems to suggest there is a snag somewhere, so I just point it out to you.
Here is another passage from The Secret Doctrine, Volume I, pp. 154-5:
It is said that the planetary chains have their "Days" and their "Nights" — i. e., periods of activity or life, and of inertia or death — and behave in heaven as do men on Earth: they generate their likes, get old, and become personally extinct, their spiritual principles only living in their progeny as a survival of themselves.
Do you not see the master-hand in that paragraph?
It reminds one of another statement in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, pp. 203-4, in reference to the birth of a comet:
A laya-centre is lighted and awakened into life by the fires of another "pilgrim," after which the new "centre" rushes into space and becomes a comet. It is only after losing its velocity, and hence its fiery tail, that the "Fiery Dragon" settles down into quiet and steady life as a regular respectable citizen of the sidereal family. . . .
And what is there so impossible that a laya centre — a lump of cosmic protoplasm, homogeneous and latent, when suddenly animated or fired up — should rush from its bed in Space and whirl throughout the abysmal depths in order to strengthen its homogeneous organism by an accumulation and addition of differentiated elements? And why should not such a comet settle in life, live, and become an inhabited globe!
So here we have some analogy and correspondence.
Bearing in mind that other phrase that the invisible Globes of the Planetary Chain "correspond curiously" with the principles in Man, listen to this from p. 159, Vol. I, The Secret Doctrine:
Our Earth, as the visible representative of its invisible superior fellow globes, its "lords" or "principles," has to live, as have the others, through seven Rounds.
That looks as if the higher principles of the Planetary Chain are the seven principles. I wonder how we can resolve the difficulty. I suggest a reference to The Mahatma Letters. I am going to read to you several passages because they are extraordinarily apropos. Master M. is describing the birth of a Globe. We quote verbatim from pp. 70-1, filling in words missing in the original MS.:
Nothing in nature springs into existence suddenly all being subjected to the same law of gradual evolution. Realize but once the process of the maha cycle, of one sphere and you have realized them all. One man is born like another man, one race evolves, develops, and declines like another and all other races. Nature follows the same groove from the "creation" of a universe down to that of a moskito. In studying esoteric cosmogony, keep a spiritual eye upon the physiological process of human birth; proceed from cause to effect establishing as you go along, analogies between the birth of a man and that of a world. In our doctrine you will find necessary the synthetic method; you will have to embrace the whole universe — that is to say to blend the macrocosm and the microcosm together — before you are enabled to study the parts separately or analyze them with profit to your understanding. Cosmology is the physiology of the universe spiritualized, for there is but one law.
You notice we are to "keep a spiritual eye upon the physiological process of human birth." Why? Because it gives the key to what happens in the inner worlds. We have discussed the relation or correspondence between the birth of a little child and its rebirth in the after life in the state of Devachan, and you have here an exactly analogical process. The birth of a child is preceded by a gestation period, in which the child is unconscious, and the birth of a man in the spiritual world after death is preceded by a gestation period in which he is unconscious. Then when he is reborn he begins his spiritual meditation at that point where his first conscious spiritual memories of his last earth life began, and then working them out, corresponding exactly to the course of the man on earth. We all experience this. We know that we are born on this planet; we know that we must die; and we can reason from this, by this occult law of analogy and correspondence that because it happens to man therefore it must happen to planets, and it must happen to solar systems. All wake and sleep, sleep and wake; there is day and night, there are the seasons of the year, the rising and falling all these things reflecting the of the tides, the sun and the moon — a law of analogy and correspondence in themselves — showing the marvelous interdependence of every part of the Universe and its perfect harmony.
Let us turn to another passage describing the birth of a world (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 94):
Now the life impulse reaches "A" or rather that which is destined to become "A" and which so far is but cosmic dust. A centre is formed in the nebulous matter of the condensation of the solar dust disseminated through space and a series of three evolutions invisible to the eye of flesh occur in succession, viz., three kingdoms of elementals or nature forces are evoluted: in other words the animal soul of the future world is formed; or as a Kabalist will express it, the gnomes, the salamanders, and the undines are created. The correspondence between a mother-globe and her child-man may be thus worked out. Both have their seven principles.
Those seven must necessarily correspond with the seven planetary types. This is important. Please note it because there are in everything in nature, these sevenfold Cosmic energies showing themselves, so that there are seven main types or classes of minerals, or may I put it this way: that every mineral will fall into one of the seven tattvic and therefore planetary groups. The same in the vegetable world. Look bow important this is from a physiological point of view, in the cure of disease, for example. The occult therapeutist of ancient days knew the Cosmic relation and correspondence between planets, minerals, plants, animals and man, and was therefore enabled to select the particular mineral or herb which corresponded to the nature of the patient, and so cured him: this is what we have to rediscover. The homeopaths have got on to this principle, knowingly or unknowingly. Possibly Hahnemann, the originator of the system, knew. He seems to have been a man with occult knowledge of some kind. In homeopathy it is possible to find for each individual what is called his constitutional remedy, which always seems to benefit that person, and is therefore worth a very great deal to the patient when once it is discovered. I think it will be found that the plant or mineral from which the medicine was made belonged to the same planetary essence as the patient, and thus gives more satisfactory results, being so to speak in harmony with his own nature.
Now to continue the quotation from page 94 of The Mahatma Letters:
In the Globe, the elementals (of which there are in all seven species) form (a) a gross body, (b) her fluidic double (linga sariram), (c) her life principle (jiva); (d) her fourth principle kama rupa is formed by her creative impulse working from centre to circumference; (e) her fifth principle (animal soul or Manas, physical intelligence) is embodied in the vegetable (in germ) and animal kingdoms; (f) her sixth principle (or spiritual soul, Buddhi) is man (g) and her seventh principle (atma) is in a film of spiritualized akasa that surrounds her.
There we have the basis for understanding what is meant by the seven principles of the Globe. Man is actually the Buddhic principle of the planet on which he lives. Relate that to the occult hierarchy — the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, the Dhyan-Chohans, the Wondrous Being, and the Silent Watcher — and you can understand something of what is meant by man being the sixth or Buddhic principle of the Globe on which he lives.
Needless to say the study of this subject of the 'Word,' that is supposed to have been lost to the Western Races of men during the dark ages which succeeded a few centuries after the death of the great Avatara Jesus, reveals a number of surprising facts which I will endeavor to lay before you for your consideration. There are no doubt many points of view from which we can approach the subject, and to begin with it may be well to mention some of those who have testified to their belief in and search for that mysterious Word that gave Light and Wisdom and Power to the Hierophants, the Mystics, the Initiates of the Past. In ancient India there is a tradition
that long before the days of Ad-am, and his inquisitive wife, He-va, where now are found but salt lakes and desolate barren deserts, there was a vast inland sea, which extended over Middle Asia, north of the proud Himalayan range, and its western prolongation. An island, which for its unparalleled beauty had no rival in the world, was inhabited by the last remnant of the race which preceded ours. . . . This race could live with equal ease in water, air, or fire, for it had an unlimited control over the elements. These were the "Sons of God"; not those who saw the daughters of men, but the real Elohim, though in the oriental Kabala they have another name. It was they who imparted Nature's most weird secrets to men, and revealed to them the ineffable, and now lost "word.". . . This word, which is no word, has travelled once around the globe, and still lingers as a far-off dying echo in the hearts of some privileged men. The hierophants of all the Sacerdotal Colleges were aware of the existence of this island; but the "word" was known only to the Java Aleim (Maha Chohan in another tongue), or chief lord of every college, and was passed to his successor only at the moment of death. There were many such colleges, and the old classic authors speak of them. -- The Secret Doctrine, II, 220
As H. P. B. tells us in Isis Unveiled, Volume I, page 29, the masons "may 'shed tears at the grave of their respectable Master, Hiram Abiff'; but vainly will they search for the true locality, 'where the sprig of myrtle was placed.' " It is the same with our modern knights of the Sacred Arch. They may descend " 'through the nine arches into the bowels of the earth,' " but " 'they will never discover the sacred Delta of Enoch.' The 'Sir Knights in the South Valley' and those in 'the North Valley' may try to assure themselves that 'enlightenment dawns upon their minds,' and that as they progress in Masonry 'the veil of superstition, despotism, tyranny' and so on, no longer obscures the visions of their minds. But these are all empty words." They have cause to bewail their fate. For "since Phillipe le Bel destroyed the Knights-Templars, not one has appeared to clear up your doubts notwithstanding all claims to the contrary. Truly," she says, "you are 'wanderers from Jerusalem, seeking the lost treasure of the holy place.' Have you found it? Alas, no! for the holy place is profaned; the pillars of wisdom, strength and beauty are destroyed. Henceforth, 'you must wander in darkness,' and 'travel in humility' . . . in search of the 'lost word.' 'Pass on!' — you will never find it . . . because you are 'travelling in darkness,' and this darkness can only be dispelled by the light of the blazing torch of truth which alone the right descendants of Ormasd carry."
The great Northern Seer Swedenborg advises us to search for the Lost Word amongst the hierophants of Tartary, China, and Tibet, for it is only there now. The four Vedas, Books of Hermes, Chaldean Book of Numbers, the Kabala, Sepher Jezira, the Book of Wisdom, the Brahmanas, etc., etc., all had the same basis which, when their philosophy is understood, will all be found to reveal the same primeval Secret Doctrine which is the Ultima Thule of true philosophy, and will disclose what is this Lost Word.
The greatest of the Kabalistic works of the Hebrews, the Zohar, was compiled by Rabbi Simeon Ben Yo'hai and only completed by his son. On account of the fact that he was known to be in possession of the secret knowledge and of the 'Word,' his life became endangered, and he fled to the wilderness where he lived in a cave for twelve years surrounded by his disciples and finally died there, by signs and wonders. He is said at last to have disappeared from view; the whole cave became filled with heavenly light, and only when it subsided did the disciples perceive that the lamp of Israel was extinguished. He never imparted the most important points of his doctrine except to a few disciples, and then only orally from mouth to ear, and at low breath. Since his death this hidden doctrine has remained an inviolate secret from the outside world. Only a substitute for the Word is now used by modern masonry.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead shows that the Egyptians regarded man as not merely soul and body, but spirit also. Moreover they knew of the septenary nature of man as well. If the defunct was a purified soul that had become united with spirit, if it had the gnosis, by the power of the 'Word' it conquered the dragon Apophis, otherwise it could not escape the second death.
This points incidentally to the teachings of the esoteric philosophy as to immortality being conditional. By the neglect of the study of this knowledge of the 'Word' man risks to lose most of what is worth while — unless he wants to remain in the ranks of the living dead of the profane. But a knowledge of the Word can Save. "Its potency lies in the rhythm or the accent. This means simply that even a bad person may, by the study of the Sacred Science, be redeemed and stopped on the path of destruction."
That there are fearful secrets in nature may well be believed when, as we have seen in the case of the Russian Znachar, the sorcerer cannot die until he has passed the word to another, and the hierophants of White Magic rarely do. It seems as if the dread power of the "Word" could only be entrusted to one man of a certain district or body of people at a time. When the Brahmatma was about to lay aside the burden of physical existence, he imparted his secret to his successor, either orally, or by a writing placed in a securely-fastened casket which went into the latter's hands alone. Moses "lays his hands" upon his neophyte, Joshua, in the solitudes of Nebo and passes away forever. Aaron initiates Eleazar on Mount Hor, and dies. Siddhartha-Buddha promises his mendicants before his death to live in him who shall deserve it, embraces his favorite disciple, whispers in his ear, and dies; and as John's head lies upon the bosom of Jesus, he is told that he shall "tarry" until he shall come. Like signal-fires of the olden times, which, lighted and extinguished by turns upon one hill-top after another, conveyed intelligence along a whole stretch of country, so we see a long line of "wise" men from the beginning of history down to our own times communicating the word of wisdom to their direct successors. Passing from seer to seer, the "Word" flashes out like lightning, and while carrying off the initiator from human sight forever, brings the new initiate into view. Meanwhile, whole nations murder each other in the name of another "Word," an empty substitute accepted literally by each, and misinterpreted by all! — Isis Unveiled, II, 571
From this the reader will see that it was not Madame Blavatsky who doubted the power of the Word or the fact of succession from one hierophant of the Mysteries to another.
Before taking up the study and discussion of the subject tonight, which is "Destiny, Liberation, Annihilation," may I just preface my remarks by drawing your attention to the basis upon which we, of the Theosophical Society, endeavor to do our work of spreading a knowledge of the Ancient Teachings, called in this era "Theosophy." You will find that one of the first objects of the Theosophical Society is: "To diffuse among men a knowledge of the laws inherent in the Universe." Now this is rather a complicated way of saying: to try to teach men Theosophy; and so in these public lectures on Sunday nights that is what we are endeavoring to do: to pass on to you a statement, to the extent of our capacity, of the teachings that have come down literally from the dawn of thinking man on this planet, in an unbroken oral tradition. This tradition has been preserved by the elect of the human race, and has percolated down to our present era, when we had a restatement of the ancient Truths by H. P. Blavatsky.
It is very important from our point of view, and I venture to think from yours, that we should do our work in just that way, viz.: try to pass these teachings on to you, as much as possible uncolored by our own psycho-mental apparatus. It is important to you because you want to know what the Great Teachers of the human race have said upon the vast problems of human life and suffering, and man's relation to the universe. It is important from our point of view because we dare not take the responsibility of sowing, in the hearts and minds of men, ideas which are merely the product of our own human, and therefore fallible, imaginations and thinking. Therefore what you hear from this platform should be understood as a sincere endeavor, at least, on the part of the speaker to give you the teachings of Theosophy as he understands them, and, although it is also necessary for him to endeavor to make certain deductions of a practical kind, in order to show that this is not a mere system of high philosophy and metaphysics without any relation to life, yet you find, for the most part, that the teachers rather leave to the students the task of making the application. Especially in public propaganda work we believe in trying to deduce the practical issues from this grand system of thought. Immensely comprehensive as it is, a single life is by no means enough to gain even a bowing acquaintance with the teachings as a whole; but this does not mean that we cannot very quickly obtain a sufficient amount of knowledge to make an immediate difference in the conduct of our own lives, and enable us, to some extent at least, to be of some service to our fellow men.
Although we strive to hand on these teachings in accordance with what we call the Esoteric tradition, nevertheless there is a danger that we, as students, have also to try and avoid. There is nothing easier than to permit the mind to crystallize its thought, its understanding, upon some one or other of the Theosophical doctrines, and so prevent the entrance of any further light. This is a serious danger to the student, and I want to read you a rather remarkable passage from Dr. de Purucker's book, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, p. 202, in which he deals with this particular tendency. He says:
If anyone thinks — I never did, thank the immortal Gods! — if anyone thinks that he knows The Secret Doctrine by reading it once or even a dozen times, or a score of times, he mistakes greatly the situation. It must be read not only between the lines, but within the words. I have found the value of the following rule: never take a single statement in it and allow your mind to mould itself around it, never let a single idea crystallize; break the molds, let in the light. It is an excellent rule. As soon as a man says "I have the truth. I do not agree with such a one of our teachers: I think such and such a teacher was wrong," look out for him, for he is probably blind. The molds of his mind are crystallized, and he cannot see the light.
That statement is worth taking to heart, and because of it I am going to endeavor — I say advisedly — endeavor — because I do not know just how the experiment will work out — to raise with you certain points of view that may perhaps be new in our understanding of the subject.
You can translate Destiny, if you like, by the word 'Karma' — Sanskrit word. You can translate Liberation by the word 'Yoga,' and Annihilation by 'Nirvana.' Therefore, these being important parts of the Esoteric philosophy, we want to pay at least some attention to them tonight.
Does Theosophy believe in Destiny for us human individuals? Are we predestined to follow such or another path through earth life? Is it all mapped out for us in advance according to the dictates or the will of some personal or extra-cosmic deity, who decrees that such and such a man shall do such and such a thing, whether he be good, evil or what? On the other hand have we complete free-will? These I think you will agree are important issues. Well, Theosophy does believe in Destiny; it also believes in free-will, and it makes the following statement. At the close of his period of rest, before he returns to earth, the immortal Seer is shown the general course of his life as a man, and the causes that led up to that moment. He is also shown a picture of the future with its opportunities of progress, its successes, its failures, and the reasons for them. Then the human entity, in the process of incarnation (or reincarnation) forgets the causes. He has a new human brain; he has the difficult task of subjecting or gaining power over the new physical mechanism, and the new brain has no recollection of anything that did not pass through its cells.
On the other hand it has character, and the character of the individual, strange as it may appear, is actually its destiny. The past Karma, the consequences, the effects of every single thing that the entity had thought, willed, felt or done in the infinitely long series of its past incarnations is wrought into the very fabric of that entity's own being, and produces the man as he is today or at any moment in life. Therefore Theosophy says man is his own Karma, and Karma is nothing else but the man himself, containing within himself all consequences, be they good or evil, that appear to flow to him from outside himself. So we can immediately deduce that Destiny is something that, if it exists, the man has made for himself. You see man is an incarnate God actually. He is a being with power to create — to create his future for good or ill. At any moment that he may like to examine his personal life he will find that his circumstances, his powers and faculties, his condition of health or ill-health, have all been produced by his own action. He has created his own destiny and he can change it. You see Theosophy does not admit for a single moment that any individual in the Universe has special privilege. He has gained any advantages of personality, individuality or spirituality, or advantages of environment, or anything else you can think of, strictly by his own effort. There are no special privileges anywhere in nature, and therefore we come to the next step, viz. — everybody has had to win at some time or another the powers or faculties that he possesses. How has it been done? We can look at the Titan intellects of the human race — the great Teachers, the tradition that we have of those Buddha-like men who embody Wisdom and Compassion, and we can say to ourselves — "What they have done we some day can, must, and will do." But how?
Let us use two or three of the golden keys or jewels of Wisdom that unlock a further stage to the understanding of this problem. We have used one of the keys in talking about the doctrine of Karma. We have also touched on Reincarnation. Now these are keys I would ask you to note that we, as students, should try to apply to the understanding of any problem. But you cannot understand the doctrine of Karma, or any other problem of human life, unless you understand something about the doctrine of what we call Hierarchies. As applied to man this means that he is not a single, simple entity — perhaps just a physical body as some may think — but on the contrary he is composite of literally untold milliards of lives and intelligences. He is a sevenfold being — a ten and twelvefold being; and each department of his nature is seven, ten and twelvefold in its turn. Man is a Hierarchy — spiritual, intellectual and physical: three main systems of evolution going on all the time.
Now Karma is actually made, and the repository of it is, so to speak, contained in the intermediate principle of the man. I wonder if you have ever read H. P. B.'s own definition of what Karma is. Let me read you a rather fascinating paragraph from her Theosophical Glossary. She says:
When Buddhism teaches that "Karma is that moral kernel (of any being) which alone survives death and continues in transmigration" or reincarnation, it simply means that there remains nought after each Personality but the causes produced by it; causes which are undying, i. e., which cannot be eliminated from the Universe until replaced by their legitimate effects, and wiped out by them, so to speak, and such causes — unless compensated during the life of the person [note that] who produced them with adequate effects, will follow the reincarnated Ego and reach it in its subsequent reincarnation until a harmony between effects and causes is fully re-established. . . .
And as it is that Ego which chooses the personality it will inform, after each Devachan, and which receives through these personalities the effects of the Karmic causes produced, it is therefore the Ego, that self which is the "moral kernel" referred to and embodied karma, "which alone survives death."
So there you have H. P. B.'s own statement that man is his own Karma. It is the "moral kernel" of the individual — the higher part of the intellectual, thinking, human entity.
You will wonder what all this is leading up to. I began to draw these deductions and make these statements about the conception of Destiny.
Now I want to draw your attention for awhile to the other idea of Liberation. Liberation from what? Liberation means freeing ourselves — from Destiny, the self-created thing that has bound us to the wheel of birth and death, forever, unless we find the way of escaping from it. It is the great statement of Theosophy that we can and must find such liberation. The great Buddha taught the way to get free from the miseries of life and the wheel of birth and death. How is it to be done?
There must be a way. How often do we not get asked: "Well, you tell me that I have made myself what I am, but I am in such an appalling state, that Heaven knows when I shall be able to work out the consequences of what somebody you theorists say was I, has done in perhaps preceding incarnations — for I never did anything in this life to warrant my present condition. Can I change it? Have I just got to sit down and put up with it? What is the practical issue involved?"
You who have been brought up in a Christian land will probably be connecting these ideas with the Christian idea of vicarious atonement, forgiveness of sins, and various other things. You are right so to connect them, just to see what light Theosophy throws upon such problems. We do not believe — and the Great Sages of antiquity have never taught — that anyone can do anything at all to wipe out or bear for us the consequences of our own wrong doing. That doctrine, which has gained a hold on the mind of Christendom, is something that has caused untold damage to the mind of the race. It has warped its thinking, and it has actually brought about an immense amount of actual evil in the world; but, as in all these things, there is behind it a truth of some kind which in the process of time has become distorted. Throughout the East the idea of Liberation from the bonds of Karma is everywhere. They all believe it is possible if they go the right way about it; and you also find that the Christian firmly believes in the possibility of a full and perfect remission of his sins — that is what he calls it. What is it all about?
At this point I am going to read to you two or three Aphorisms on Karma, which come from an article under that title by Wm. Q. Judge in The Path, March, 1893. There are some 31 Aphorisms of a profoundly metaphysical nature, but this is what I want you to listen to:
The effects may be counteracted or mitigated by the thoughts and acts of oneself or of another, and then the resulting effects represent the combination and interaction of the whole number of causes involved in producing the effects.
I think you will agree that there is a distinct suggestion that it is possible to counteract and mitigate.
Now another one:
Changes may occur in the instrument [that is the body and psychological mechanism of the man] during one life so as to make it appropriate for a new class of Karma, and this may take place in two ways: (a) through intensity of thought and the power of a vow, and (b) through natural alterations due to complete exhaustion of old causes.
"Through intensity of thought and the power of a vow" — that is the particular one that I think we should pay attention to, because again it is a practical issue that we want to get at.
You may be interested further to bear what Katherine Tingley had to say on the subject of a vow.
A vow is an action rising like a star high above the level of the common deeds of life. It is a witness that the outer man has at that moment realized its union with the inner [you will notice 'union with the inner' — that means by Liberation or Yoga] purpose of its existence, registering a great resolve to become one with its Father in Heaven. At that moment the radiant Path of Light is seen with the eye of pure vision. The disciple is reborn, the old life is left behind, he enters a new way. For a moment he feels the touch of a guiding hand ever stretched out to him from the inner chamber. For a moment his ear catches the harmonies of the soul. It is a descent upon him of the Holy Ghost, 'the Grace of God.'
I have read these passages to show you that the deduction I want to make has a very good foundation in our recorded teachings. It is possible, friends and brothers, to change ourselves by intensity of thought, by self-sacrifice, by the power of a vow. If it is possible it means this — the changing of our destiny. How? You will say "But I have hundreds of lives of Karma, and they are going to keep me as I am for ever — or at least for another three or four lives." Now that is sometimes the way we comfort ourselves, you see, with the doctrine of reincarnation, which is another way of putting off till tomorrow what we ought to perform today. But directly we wake up to the fact that we shall not have any different tomorrow unless we change ourselves today, then we begin to wonder whether it may not be better worth while to get a move on now, in the present.
That is what some students have come to believe. They recognise, in the light of the teachings of Theosophy, that we have got to do something about changing the "moral kernel" of our nature: that we have got to so change it that the consequences that flow to it and from it are the kind that we want, instead of the kind that make us feel so very uncomfortable and even miserable.
Do you think that it is impossible to get a clue — another clue — as to what we have to do from the teachings of the Avatara Jesus? I rather think we shall find that that Master Mind threw a dazzling light upon the problem in something that you and I, perhaps, have neglected to pay much attention to for many long years — I refer to that best known of all Invocations, or Occult Formulae, as it truly is, called the Lord's Prayer. It is a wonderful Invocation, and therein is made the appeal to our Father in Heaven — our Inner God, our Higher Self. "To forgive us our misdeeds"; but it states the condition: that we are willing to forgive those who have trespassed against us. What do you think He meant? It is not written so that he who runs may read, but I commend it to your attention as something for deep meditation and thinking over. You have to study it with the idea well in mind that if you created causes you have got to reap the effects: you cannot escape, and yet there is this idea of forgiveness, this Eastern idea of liberation from all bonds of Karma. You have the statement in the Bhagavad-Gita that an evil man speedily becometh a righteous man when once he has rightly determined — determined to do what? — to renounce his personal self and devote it to the Supreme. There is a deeply mystical meaning in this idea of the forgiveness of sin. What is it, do you think, that shuts out the light that prevents our having or being in that state that Katherine Tingley refers to as the "Grace of God," of being in a state of spiritual grace? I venture to suggest to you that it is nothing in the world but actions of a personal kind with a personal end, misguidedly performed, which have made what Theosophists call "bad Karma," and what the Christian calls in one word, "sin." Now that creates a block which makes it impossible for the man, when he goes into his closet to commune with his Father in Heaven, to hear the still small Voice of his spiritual consciousness. It makes it impossible, I say, for him to hear that voice, and therefore is he in a state, not of liberation, but of bondage, and not atonement, or Yoga, or union, but simply of unregenerate human frailty and sinfulness.
But if the whole of the personal man is cleansed by the "power of a vow," by the determination from this time forward to empty himself of all thoughts and tendencies to action which are detrimental to his fellow man, and which keep him from the light of the God within; then in the strength of that vow, and in the power of the appeal to the Christos within his own heart, something happens, and an actual change can and does take place within his soul nature (which remember is the sum total of all his past actions that we call Karma). A change takes place when he has been willing to pay the price; but I want to emphasize that the price has to be paid by every human soul that seeks to find the path to union with his own Augoeides.
The man who makes that renunciation of his personal self can, in a moment of time, pay such a price that the very harmony that he disturbed is righted, transmuted, changed, and in that moment he is liberated from the Cross of matter upon which he has been fixed; his bonds fall away, and he rises into union — one-ness — with the light of his own Divinity.
Do you see what a different light we begin to get upon the whole problem with which every one of our personal lives is confronted?
There is another word we have not yet touched upon that is included in our subject tonight — the awe-inspiring term 'Annihilation.' There are two or three ways in which we can understand that term. Do you believe that it is possible for a human entity to be completely annihilated — wiped out, extinguished, so that there is nothing left? It is possible if you go about it properly, and do just the worst you know how to do for a number of lives, and keep on doing it. Then you will eventually get into the condition or state where you will forfeit all possibility of Yoga or union with your divine, spiritual counterpart or parent. In other words you may gain the whole world, but in the process you will lose your own soul which, incidentally, is the only thing that makes life worth living. Such an entity, being first soulless, and then becoming a lost soul, proceeds downwards, lower and lower and lower, until he is literally annihilated. But fortunately there is another aspect to this idea of annihilation. Remember that no human being is ever too far gone if he wants to save himself, for a single upward aspiration to the light of his own Savior and Redeemer — the God in him — will actually re-establish the link of connexion that has been broken.
There is another kind of annihilation that the Western Orientalists used rather to delight to talk about — and you know that they actually translated the Buddhist term 'Nirvana' as Annihilation! Theosophy denies the accuracy of the translation. And yet the word, if you go to its root and origin, actually means 'blown out' or 'snuffed out,' and this is part of the highest spiritual teachings of the Buddha himself. Whilst still on earth he was said to have achieved Nirvana, but he certainly was not wiped out. He was very much there, and he taught — made the statement, that wherever his precepts were practised in their fulness there was Nirvana. Nirvana means 'Enlightenment'; it means union; it means entering into peace and into bliss; but in the process the personal nature of the man, the animal entity, has to be yielded up, ground over, and literally annihilated. The poor physical body has very little to do with it at all; it is often the unwilling slave of the nature of the man inside. The Theosophical conception of Nirvana is to enter into union with the Supreme while living here on earth; and we make the further statement that if we do not succeed in doing it here, we cannot do it hereafter.
QUESTION: What do you mean by the expression, "To pay the price"? You said that a price has to he paid by every human soul, that seeks to find the path to union with his own Augoeides.
ANSWER: I mean what the New Testament meant when describing the man who had to go and sell all that he had, and follow the Teacher. Now it sounds simple, when translated in terms of material possessions, but that is the least of the things that you have to cease to be attached to. It is not necessary that you have no money; it is not necessary that you have no roof over your head, nor any family connexions. It is necessary that you use and hold all these things with a sense of stewardship, which means that you personally renounce all interest in them, and use them simply for the spiritual purpose to which your life is dedicated. The main difficulty comes in renouncing those likes and dislikes, tendencies of thought, and will and feeling that go to make up the whole of the personal nature of the disciple. It is that to which Light on the Path refers when it speaks of tearing out of the heart the giant weed of self. It has got to go. It means the complete renunciation of the personal view, of the personal will, and of what we like, perhaps, to think of as our intellectual power of accomplishment, and what not. Whatever it is that we cling to, that we are not willing to surrender to the dictates of the God within, we have eventually to pay the price of losing; and that is another way of saying that we have to learn to lose our lives — lose our personal lives, and permit them to be annihilated.
QUESTION: How can we recognize the voice of the Higher Self?
ANSWER: You cannot know what are the dictates of the Higher Self, unless you simply make the listening to the "still small voice" of your spiritual consciousness the most important thing in life. Set aside time for it, aspire towards it, look for it, seek for it; and until you have been willing to pay the price that is necessary, and which must differ with every human individual — and have yielded up your personal life — you will not hear that Voice which speaks, as Light on the Path says, "where there is none to speak." It cannot be done. That is why some people say it is impossible to do it at all. But that is not true. There would be no hope for us, obviously, if it were impossible to live in the light of the Higher Self, since Theosophy teaches that that is man's only Savior and Redeemer; and true it is that, until we have made at least some connexion with the God Within, we shall not even get a feeble whisper of that inner Voice, and we shall not find the strength of that Inner Warrior. We should warn ourselves that, because of the limited extent to which we as individuals have succeeded in entering into union, it is possible for us to make many mistakes in following out the dictates of what we believe to be the highest and the best we know. But are we going to be deterred by that because somebody says it is difficult? Did not a Great Teacher say that the Kingdom of Heaven has got to be taken by storm? That means strength! Nothing worth while was ever won, nor anything worth while ever learnt, by the man who never made a mistake, or was afraid of making a mistake, and paying the price and taking the consequences. We have got to do it. But which is the better thing to do? Surely it is to aspire towards the only source of Light that exists (within our own hearts); to prove its existence, and all the time live up to the highest that we see at any moment — even if, from time to time, we find we have less of a vision of the Truth than we believed ourselves to have. Nevertheless at least we will be living up to the highest that we know, and the man that does that sincerely, following out that fourth of the Buddha's Paramitas: "With dauntless energy fighting his way to the Supernal Truth, undismayed by any failure," will surely arrive; and in every effort that he makes, the bonds that unite the Higher to the intermediate Self grow stronger and stronger. The more you look towards Him the more will He fight in thee. It is better to take the risk of making a mistake or two, than never to aspire at all.
QUESTION: The standard of life you have laid down seems too high for ordinary mortals. What is the use of preaching a philosophy that few, if any, can live up to?
ANSWER: I am speaking here tonight, not for people who are so enormously advanced that listening to this philosophy has no purpose for them. It does not seem to me to be a useful or even a practical thing to study a teaching that no one but a Mahatma can live up to. Why did the Great Masters of Wisdom give us these teachings if it is impossible to perform them? Why did they teach us? What did H. P. B. teach, in The Key to Theosophy, as to where a Theosophist must look for strength to conquer himself, i. e., the weaknesses in his personal nature? She dismissed it with a single sentence: "He looks to the Higher Self." Well now, since H. P. B.'s definition of a Theosophist is one in whom the Higher nature predominates relatively over the lower; since he is taught that his only source of inspiration, of strength to conquer himself, is that same Higher Self, I think that we can give you proof — in chapter and verse — which should be perfectly sufficient to show that this idea is implicit in all Theosophical teaching. Necessarily it must be so, but please do not misunderstand me or forget what I said just now: that we have got to begin; that the completely unregenerate, profane human individual does not receive such inspiration. All right. But he can begin to change himself; he can begin to live the life and aspire towards the source of light that exists in him. Do you not admit that there will be a result? Yes. I suggested that it might be a feeble glimmer, in comparison with which the full union of a perfected Adept would be the difference between the blazing sun and a flickering candle; but nevertheless, the flickering candle is of vast importance to a man in a dark cellar. It is the source of light within ourselves, and if it were impossible to get any light we might as well give up the attempt.
This title, "Spiritual Gifts and their Attainment," you may possibly be thinking — and I am not at all sure that I would not agree with you — is something of a misnomer directly we begin to examine its significance. However, the expression was used by William Q. Judge in an article that he published many years ago in his inspired magazine The Path. He there inquired into the question of spiritual gifts: as to whether there actually are such things as gifts of any kind that are bestowed upon any human being.
You remember, H. P. B. in the first volume of The Secret Doctrine laid it down as a fundamental principle of all spiritual effort, and an underlying law of our own being, that there are no special gifts or privileges that man is heir to. On the contrary, she said, every spiritual, intellectual, psychical or physical power that anyone is able to bring forth, manifest, and show to the world, any such power or faculty, has been developed by his own striving, by his own effort.
In what sense, therefore, can we understand this question of so-called spiritual gifts? I think it is true to say that our old friend St. Paul was responsible for the term "spiritual gifts"; and he included in the term such qualities as faith, vision, and the knowledge of the performance of feats which in those days were called miracles, such as healing; and likewise the performance of various other actions of a very good and spiritual character. Yet he pointed out in his Epistle to the Corinthians that, excellent as these things undoubtedly are, and useful in their proper place, nevertheless there were spiritual qualities that transcended all these, and that the gift of Charity (so translated in the Bible) — which incidentally is the first of the Divine Paramitas of The Voice of the Silence — was said to transcend all these. In fact that it was possible to have all these other gifts, and if they were not permeated and irradiated by Compassion, they were worth nothing. Therefore we have to come to the conclusion that spiritual gifts, if they mean anything, are those which are bestowed upon the human being who has given up his personal life; and they thereby become an instrument in the hands of his own inner and higher nature — a channel in fact for the power of the Supreme Spirit to pour forth into the world. All mystics, all disciples, of all ages, have borne witness to the fact that, though they had given up everything that from a personal and worldly point of view might be considered to make life worth living, nevertheless they treasured above everything that power to do, to will, to know, and to serve their fellows. They entered into the purified Temple of their own being once they had passed through the experience of losing their physical lives, of giving up the things that prevented the light of the Supreme Spirit from flooding into the purified Temple of the body.
This is the subject of the whole discourse of the Bhagavad-Gita. If you study carefully the first Discourse of this wonderful spiritual allegory you will find there the four characters that give us a clue to the symbols that are used throughout this great epic. First there is, of course, the Divine Teacher Krishna in the three or four aspects of the Supreme which he severally adopts and acts through in his instruction of Arjuna. Krishna is the symbol of the Supreme: he is the Paramatman, the Self: that Self which is the same in you, in me, and in all creatures everywhere; that Self which is the object of all our strivings, all our aspirations, all our searchings for Truth; our answer, once we have done the work that will enable us to perceive the precepts of gods and men in our own hearts. If we are searching for the true spiritual gifts, then we shall turn to the Bhagavad-Gita and see whether we can kindle the lamp of spiritual knowledge through the fire that burns and glimmers through the pages of that ancient book.
Krishna is the first character then, whose words of instruction we shall listen to as he teaches his disciple Arjuna; and Arjuna is the symbol of the higher mind — the Higher Manas, as we should say in our technical Theosophical language — as he stands on the battlefield of his being, on the field of Kurukshetra. He stands, as all spiritual pilgrims do, upon the battlefield of his own being: the Higher Manas, the higher mind, the real individuality in you and in me.
Then you have the character of Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and you can regard him as the lower unpurified mind: the personality in all its unattractiveness. He is blind, he is unable to see a thing.
Finally you have the fourth character, Sanjaya, the Brahmin Teacher, who represents the voice of conscience, actually standing for the link between the Higher and the lower Manas in much the same way as Buddhi is the principle that unites the higher mind to the supreme spirit, Atman — as those of you will recognise who are aware of our Theosophical arrangement of the inner nature, and the principles that go to make up man's constitution. Sanjaya, the voice of conscience, is that which enables the lower personal man to wake up and begin to listen to the first whisperings and promptings of his own higher nature.
And so we come to inquire as to what really is the nature of the work that we have to do on ourselves if we are going to succeed in developing the spiritual faculties that all men desire, and rightly desire, to find unfolding within themselves; for these are the powers and faculties that we can share with all men. This work and training take nothing from any human creature, but on the contrary, once this inner fire is kindled in the heart of any one of us, he becomes to a very small degree a channel through which spiritual and regenerating ideas flow to the world of men.
What, then, is the nature of this work? I will try to find language to give at least some ideas about it. First of all we shall not be interested in these subjects unless we have already come to the conclusion that there is a spiritual power that it is possible for us to contact; that there is something in the depths of the heart, or in the spiritual part of our being, that, if we could only learn how to reflect, to become, to manifest it, at least for a decent part of our waking life, would greatly benefit ourselves as individuals, and likewise those around us. We recognise that the spiritual power is there if we can only reach it; but according to the particular point in the ladder of evolution that we stand at, we are in the position of Dhritarashtra. We have a lower personality, a mind and emotions, that are more or less turbulent, more or less attached to the objects of the senses, to all that makes up the outward attractiveness of the earth or world. That personality is probably engaged in the struggle for existence; or, if born into circumstances where there is no such struggle, then it has a still harder time, for it has more to learn, more to give up, and less incentive to enter into the performance of action which calls forth capacity to attend to the daily duties and learn how to perform them in a way that will open up the possibility of knowing the true individuality something quite different from the consciousness for so long experienced in what is really and truly the tomb of personal life.
And so the individual, or rather the personal man, when he is awakened to the point where he recognises the existence of the spiritual nature within, arises and sets forth to seek out the Ancient Teachers of the race. He aspires, and somewhere in the depths of his own being he begins to experience the promptings of conscience, to follow along and do certain simple, perhaps everyday, actions helpful to others, or to carry out some simple or more complex duties. Directly he begins to do that there come the whisperings of the Higher Manas to the personality; and then perhaps such a book as the Bhagavad-Gita falls into his hands, and he begins to study. The lower mind begins to be purified, the emotions to be stirred, and as he goes on aspiring perhaps he is fortunate in companionship of others engaged in a similar pursuit. Then one day comes that event when the aspiration of the lower man evokes an outpouring of divine life from the Buddhic splendor within him, the vehicle of that shoreless ocean of spiritual life which is frontierless and boundless, and which all men live in and are inspired by. He realizes that to take this Kingdom of Heaven by the force of his awakened spiritual will he must enter the Temple of the Heart. He must plunge deep within his own nature; and if he does this, there will come that flashing response which will mean that this personal man is no longer left as a more or less rudderless ship, but that the strength of his own true individuality descends into his own heart as a flame. From that moment onwards he has in a true sense set his feet upon the pathway that will carry him to the heart of being itself; will take him to the source from which all impulses of a spiritual kind flow into this universe.
The sublime possibilities for the human aspirant are so distant that in a sense they hardly act as an incentive to push forward. The man that enters upon this Pathway eventually becomes the Mahatma, the Great Soul; but he has his long, long pilgrimage to perform; and there has never been any secret made of it that this state is not achieved at a single bound in one short life, but demands steady, devoted, self-sacrificing effort toward one clear objective with all personal side-issues dropped.
Somehow, one feels that in these days when the stress and storm of world-events touches us all so closely, men's minds are not so concerned with high metaphysics. They want to know what is their next step; they want to know what they have to do; and I believe that we shall meet with success in our Work to the extent that we can give a practical message. I do not mean in a material sense, but a practical spiritual message to those who are interested in spiritual things. There is nothing that any one of us has that we believe of value in the spiritual life that we cannot share with another. And so this matter of the first steps on the Pathway is being discussed designedly tonight. It is the things that we can do that are the most interesting for us; and we can take the first steps on the Pathway that will lead us to make use of the gifts of our spiritual nature.
QUESTION: What is the significance of Teachers for those who enter upon this search?
ANSWER: There are Teachers in the world that it is possible for you and me to reach. There are other Teachers that it may be possible for us to reach if we are successful in our search — our inward search; if we are successful in accomplishing a few steps of what the alchemists of old called the Great Work. Our Teachers are necessary for us.
What function do they play in our own pilgrimage? Let us reflect on this fact: that it is very few — probably it is true to say that no one comes into contact with this Movement who does not owe his knowledge of it to books or to other people who are engaged in the Movement; and all of these efforts, the literature, the teachings, are due to the sacrifice made by those who have given their lives to teach. It will be found that if we want to make progress in the real sense of the word we shall do well to seek out that company, and try to be in the company of what Mr. Judge described as "holy men."
And it should be remembered at this point that this does not mean that we are seeking out someone who shall do our work for us, because if we do that we shall be disappointed. That would merely be the eternal looking outside of ourselves for something that we would never find. We shall never find a true Teacher until we have found something within ourselves that will enable us to recognise the true Teacher when we come across him. The example of such a one, the spiritual and philosophical instruction, the inner spiritual stimulus, is such as to make him the real heart and head of a Movement such as ours. You cannot in a spiritual Movement expect that any real spiritual life will exist unless there is a consolidated community of individuals linked together by a common aspiration, a common purpose, with spiritual Leadership that they trust, and with a common teaching — a teaching that is not only ethical, intellectual, philosophical and spiritual, but also universal in character.
QUESTION: Should we seek after this union with our Higher Self? Is so much concentration on ourselves a spiritual selfishness?
ANSWER: I suppose everything can be a kind of selfishness. There are such beings as Pratyeka-Buddhas in our philosophy: those who seek their knowledge purely for themselves. Such beings exist: such a path exists, and I believe this path is called the Path of Liberation, a path that is followed by one who simply seeks knowledge for his own self-satisfaction. And yet this is not the path that the Teachers of mankind have indicated to us. They point to the fact that these spiritual beings do exist who are concentrated upon their own perfection; but that the true way is to be found by a dropping of interest in all personal ambition, all personal strivings for success, and living simply to be an instrument in the hands of the only one Teacher.
QUESTION: Is it always necessary to experience suffering in order to enter the Path?
ANSWER: There are many things that call forth the effort to spiritual striving, according to the nature of the man. Take the case of a scientist. I can conceive of a scientist, and even a great one, who from his early life became absorbed in the pursuit of knowledge, perhaps with the very highest ideal of offering up his knowledge on the altar of the service of his fellows. I can quite conceive that suffering as such may not touch his life for a long, long time. Are you going to tell me that such a man who truly follows his researches into the secrets of Mother Nature is not following a pathway of evolution suitable for him — knowledge and service of the race having called forth his effort?
Then there are people who would listen to no appeal, and yet would be moved by the message contained in great art, in beauty. That has opened up some channel in their spiritual being; but sooner or later, if they progress upon the Pathway at all, suffering will come. It cannot be avoided and it is the greatest Teacher. That does not mean to say that you have to sit around with a moping expression waiting for this suffering to descend upon you. It will come in its own time, and it will unlock doors when it comes.
Rather more than six hundred years before the beginning of our Christian era the great Sage Sakyamuni, whom we know through our historical records as Gautama the Buddha, lived and died in ancient Hindusthan, and he taught the origin of suffering; he taught what is its root; he taught what is the annihilation of suffering, and what is the means whereby you could enter upon that annihilation, what he called the four noble Truths. Most of the Buddha's teaching and philosophy centers around the explanation of those four noble Truths, and of the eightfold Path which he explained as the means towards attaining the great end, the emancipation from suffering. Therefore right at the outset of our consideration of the subject, we have not only the great ideal of the Buddha himself, but we have the statement which must ever be of the most tremendous encouragement to all who strive upon the upward Path. We have that statement of his that emancipation from the suffering of human misery such as we know it can be achieved even in this life. More, he went still farther in saying that if a man would sincerely enter upon the noble eightfold way, and strive to put into practice, and to make a reality, the eight conditions of that Path, even for a comparatively short while, such a man would receive the fruits of merit of that deed, and thereby would begin to feel the results in his own life.
Many of us have heard over and over again the statement of those qualities demanded by the eightfold Path. We are familiar with the noble Truths, and like many things that we have heard so often, sometimes the significance is missed by us, and we do not apply it. The realization of the practical application of those great teachings does not seem to enter into the very being of us. Tonight we want to examine for a while in the light of Theosophy how we can apply the teaching of the Buddha to our own lives. We must remember that in the time of the Blessed One there was the Order, the holy company of the monks and ascetics, the Bhikkus, who followed in his footsteps; and of course his remarks were addressed largely to his disciples. Today in our own times it is amongst such Brotherhoods as Theosophical Societies that you will find those who are striving to tread that same eightfold Path. It is there that you will find that spiritual companionship that is so necessary as a support, as an encouragement, in all endeavor towards spiritual living.
Let us ask ourselves, therefore, first of all what change comes over the attitude of mind of one who has made a study and an application of Theosophical truth. How does it influence his attitude towards this mystery of human suffering? Well, friends, it is a very large question; but in the first place has it ever struck you how enormous is the amount of human misery that is caused by our attitude of mind to what we call God? Cast your mind back to your own childhood. Think of the amount of misery you suffered owing to the supposed wrath that you incurred of some Deity external to yourself, who was going to punish you. We Theosophists do not believe in that personal God of all the orthodox Churches. We do not believe in him because there is logically no room for him. If God, a being, was the omnipotent and omniscient creator and controller of this universe, then how are we to account for the presence of evil in our midst? We must of necessity hold him responsible for it if he is omnipotent, if he is all-wise, and if he is all-worthy. Therefore this is the first great idea that Theosophy gives to us as to the nature of Deity: In essence every man is a God. At the heart of his own being there is that living fire which exists at the heart of every created thing in this Universe.
Whence, you may ask, are the laws of nature that obviously exist around us? We discover their existence when we break them and reap the penalty of so doing! Are those laws the will of a Creator? What are they? Theosophy gives one a very helpful symbol, a helpful image, whereby we can begin to understand the relationship of man to nature. According to that ancient teaching there exists nowhere in the Universe a Being who consciously controls by means of the laws of nature other created beings — you and me, in other words. We are told by the ancient Teachers that we shall get an absolutely wrong idea, and one harmful to ourselves and to our spiritual growth and progress, if we imagine God as a being somewhere outside of us, who is controlling our destinies.
How can we think about it? How can we begin to understand the problem? Why, first, friends, by studying ourselves. What are we? Look at this body of ours. We see, if we examine the teachings of science, that it itself is a vast universe; that it is composed of millions upon millions of tiny lives, atoms, molecules, and structures of living, vibrating matter pulsing with life; and the teaching of Theosophy comes along and says that each of these tiny lives is instinct with the same life that imbues your own consciousness as a Thinker; that each of those tiny lives in vast and age-long evolution proceeds to unfold, to unwrap, the forces inherent in the very being of it, inherent in the heart of it; until it passes through all the stages of progress up to and including the power of conscious and deliberate choice of action and thought; that each of those tiny lives will be raised up to the level of a conscious Thinker.
Just for a moment let us think of ourselves as bearing the same relation to the unknown Deity that those tiny lives of our own bodies bear to the consciousness of the personal man. Here is a great thought for us, because actually if you consider that relationship, you can see it is most unlikely that to those tiny lives any complete consciousness is possible of the man who lives and uses the body which they compose and build up. All that they know is that there is a central will, a central force, and certain laws — call them laws of nature if you will — which work. Can they possibly have any conception of the God within who uses that body of flesh and blood as a means of locomotion, as a means of action, as a means of thought and feeling and service to other human beings? Not at all. Such an idea must be for them merely an inferential possibility, if they can think at all.
Now that is exactly our relation to the unknown Deity. His conscious power to control anything, anywhere, must be for us a mere inferential possibility, and therefore we rid ourselves once and for all of the bogey of a conscious Being controlling and directing our destinies; and we look for a grander, truer, more spiritual teaching which will enable us to realize ourselves in the sense and meaning of the ancient Delphic Oracle: "Man, know thyself." Man know yourself to be what you are in your innermost spiritual essence. That is our problem, and that ultimately must hold the meaning and explanation of suffering; for after all what is it that suffers? Man is not only a body. We know that the body suffers, but there is something more permanent, more real — the Eternal man transcending the body: the man that passes from body to body and life to life, and even from planet to planet, and world to world, and solar system to solar system, in the age-long pilgrimage upon which he is bound.
That brings us to the second thought that I want to put before you: that the change that takes place in a man when he studies Theosophy in regard to the problem of human suffering is tremendously influenced by the great doctrine of Reimbodiment, or Reincarnation. We do not believe that man has only one short life to live on this planet, because such an idea is an absolute denial of all justice. Do we not often see the sinner dying in his sin and from our point of view never having received any adequate punishment — to use the term — for all the evil he has done? On the other hand, as we look about us and study ourselves, do we not ask: although the purpose of life is not only progress but perfection, how many of us reach perfection at the end of one short life? Obviously so few that it is not worth considering. Therefore when we hear for the first time that great doctrine of Reincarnation by which the eternal, inner, real man comes again into tabernacles of flesh to take up his life, take up his task where he left it off, then we get another key which will help us to understand human suffering.
And the third key that I want to put before you is that other doctrine, Karma, as they call it in the East: the doctrine by which that eternal man, that reincarnating entity, does represent every single result of every cause that he created during any one particular earth-life. We do not admit the possibility that man does actually endure suffering which is unmerited. Unmerited from his point of view it may be, yes, because we do not bring back to this life, as you know, a recollection of previous lives. Why is that? Simply because we have now a new brain, we have a new mechanism of consciousness, which has not received the impress and record of the previous lives that have been led; and therefore the man in his new body does not remember. But the real man remembers and sees the essential justice of his human experience.
Bearing these three main ideas in mind: the nature of the Deity, the law of Reincarnation, and the law of Karma, what would you teach a child about the idea of pain? It is a very fundamental question that. What would you teach a child? Well, perhaps it is not a question that is very easy to answer, but I think the first great lesson that any child should learn is to gain the habit and power of not identifying itself with discomfort, with pleasure, as a matter of fact, or with pain. You will say perhaps that is a bit of a counsel of perfection for a tiny child, but it is not so: tiny children do respond in the most wonderful and impersonal way if you go the right way about it and teach them, to use the ancient Eastern simile, to regard pain for themselves with indifference; to be to themselves in regard to pain as the stone of the mango. At the same time inculcate the idea that, while they are hard and indifferent to the pain which comes to them, they should be soft as the fruit in the pulp of the mango to every cry of pain and every cry of distress that they hear from another outside of themselves. You will find that even a tiny child will respond to that idea, and will learn the first great lesson: that for it pleasure and pain are equal and opposite; things to be experienced merely, but never to be identified with to the point of losing hold of the calm spirit within their own heart as a guiding light in their own lives.
Remember that directly pain or pleasure gains the power over us to distract our spiritual meditation, then it begins to represent evil for us; and therefore the earlier that we can get hold of the impersonal idea towards pain the better it is for us. Some people may think that it is not possible to apply this principle with a tiny child, but I will give you a little example because it shows you how the great teaching of Theosophy can be applied in life. Little children are always tumbling about, always hurting themselves, always bursting into tears, are they not? — as they learn to walk and so on. Well, what are you going to do about it? A tiny child will respond to the idea that he may have hurt that which he bumped up against, and in distracting the attention of the child to the consideration of the damage that he has done to his father's furniture, for instance, lo and behold! you find the child has forgotten all about the bump that he has received. And so with the Spirit of man: while his thought is turned ever and eternally away from himself he forgets the personal, as he forgets the bumps and bruises and the unpleasantnesses of life; and he becomes detached from objects of sense, and his heart begins to enter on the Way of Peace. That after all is the meaning of all teaching, of all Theosophy.
Shall we be always subject to pain? In answer, you have the teaching of the Blessed Buddha, who won complete enlightenment in this life, and lived in imperishable and eternal bliss while walking the ways of men. He gave it as a promise to all who followed in his footsteps: that they should realize here and now, when they had gone through the necessary steps of purification, that life was no longer a mystery of pain; they would then experience right in the core of their own being the ineffable joy and bliss that actually are at the heart of all existence. Do not think that that is merely a figure of speech. I do not mean it so. If Theosophy means anything at all, it means just that profound realization in the lives of individual Theosophists that they have an understanding, that they have a peace, that they have a joy in spiritual living which takes them in consciousness away — literally away — from all the unpleasantness of life, and turns it into one endless progression of lessons and experiences.
Think what the Theosophical conception really means! Probably a true understanding of the mystery of pain is not realized, and cannot be understood, until the age-old Path is entered and the man begins to take hold of his own lower nature, and studying it he begins to realize the blessing of pain. After all, all entry into new life is caused through pain or through death. Death of what? Why, the death of the lower elements of being. All growth and progress is a turning away of mind from that which has been, to that which is to be; and what does this mean? It means a parting from the habits of mind, and the states of being, and the modes of action, to which we are accustomed. It means that we are prepared, having seen the light, and something more and better, to relinquish our old methods and old habits of mind and being. In that moment we die: the spiritual life is a constant dying, a constant death upon the cross of our material being. Is that a miserable thing? Is that an unhappy thing, as the Christian scriptures have rather taught us to believe? Not at all, because it simply means a giving up of the things that are not essential in our lives. We give up that which for the time being we think important, which we think has significance for us, because we realize that this giving up is in accordance with and in harmony with the higher law.
Then what happens? In a little while, after we have passed through the strangeness and the quietness that succeed an entry into a new state of being, we realize that the suffering that we have gone through has merely brought forth blossoms and buds of spiritual life in ourselves, and we realize that there is not one single experience of pain that we pass through in this small life of ours but has a peculiar significance to the man who is treading the noble eightfold Path. And I speak particularly to the one who is a spiritual aspirant — because the meaning of pain is missed, is passed by, by those who have not got the conscious spiritual guidance by which to direct their lives — that until you have learned to subordinate every single action in life to your inner spiritual purpose, you won't understand the meaning of the pain; but directly you have learned that lesson, then comes the realization that those things in your life which have been the hardest, the most difficult to cope with, are the very things which have given you the power, the capacity, the knowledge, the sympathy, and most of all the understanding, with which to help your fellow pilgrims upon that same Spiritual Path that you yourself are beginning to tread. It is one of the deepest mysteries of the great subject of pain, how every experience of life tends towards the development of some faculty, some power, of the inner Spiritual being, which will enable you to help some brother one step farther upon the Path.
Let us turn back for a moment with that thought in mind to the inner nature of man, because Theosophy has such a sublime teaching, and it is this: that the very progress of the inner nature of man towards perfection is dependent upon the effort of that inner man to raise first of all his own material being to the condition where that lower man is a fit tabernacle for the God that exists within; and as a further stage beyond that: progress of the inner man depends upon his identification with the God who broods over him and in his own heart. Now the progress of that inner God also depends — and here is one of the great teachings of Theosophy — the progress of that God depends upon its power, its effort, to raise the lower man, to raise the inner real man, to the conscious recognition of its oneness with that inner God. How does it come about? As that inner Spiritual being is always ready, if we turn the polarity of our minds upward to the inner Spiritual nature within us, that beam of light that exists there will grow stronger and stronger until it blazes as a lamp within the heart of that inner man; and he knows without any argument, without any reasoning or help from outside himself, he knows that his own next step on the Path of Spiritual progress will be a step towards truth; and he then can bring that light of knowledge that he has won to those who as yet tread the path in darkness. Is it not a sublime thought that as we ourselves — and we can all of us do it, friends, at any rate to some extent — as we look out from ourselves, and leaning down for a moment stoop to help someone who needs that help, in that moment the doors of the soul open, and the light of the inner man grows stronger and stronger; and so the inner God raises the inner man, and the inner man raises the outer man, and all three together work in the service of the one cause and the one life and the one light that exist in the heart of all creation. Don't you see how it works? It is a wonderful idea.
In these times when the stress of economic life is so tremendous, we are forced to realize that men and women, by the very privations that they are forced to go through, enter into one of the classes of beings who begin to study spiritual truths, who begin to long for an explanation of the sufferings of material life; and so it is that during the times of adversity the spiritual life of men is actually quickened. During the times of tremendous prosperity all their attention is turned outwards in identification with the very things that will lead them away from the search that we are all really and truly, however misguidedly, engaged in pursuing.
One of the troubles that many people have to face is the loss of some individual with whom they have spent some part of their lives; the loss of some loved one who passes into the Great Beyond; and that for them brings about an anguish and suffering that is very real. Now Theosophy does work a great change in a man's life even in such a case as that. Why is this? Simply because the man who has learnt to tread the Spiritual Path within himself has found a Divine companion. He has found a Divine companion that he can never lose; and therefore, while he becomes more sensitive, more loving, more compassionate, and more sympathetic to the needs of those around him, the personal loss takes on an altogether different aspect, because he knows the laws of nature, he knows that the great rhythm of life that brought the loved one to him must inevitably take the same one away beyond into a further life, and he knows that that is not something to cause sorrow to anybody except the one who is left behind. He realizes that it is only a personal and selfish idea; he renounces his personal sorrow like other things of the personal life. He gives it up because he knows that the loved one has gone to a region where there is no more sorrow, where he will enter into a realm of Spiritual bliss and living which is beyond the mystery of pain altogether. He is free from the shackles of the flesh and all that it means until he returns once more into earth life.
What is the message of Theosophy to those whose business it is to minister to the sick? They indeed are brought constantly into this problem of pain in every moment of their lives. I think the answer would be this: that in all pain and all disease, although every individual receives naught but what he himself has sown, yet he is in need very often — and most of the time — much more of Spiritual comfort than of material assistance; and therefore the great idea that Theosophy would give to every physician of the body would be to see if you cannot light in the patient's mind and in his heart a faith, a conscious recognition, of the spiritual power that is lying dormant within his own nature. Think, if everybody, if every physician, were also a physician and healer of the soul — why, friends, the world would quickly be a different place. It is because in most cases physicians and others do not know how to minister to the needs of the soul that the needs of the body become so very pressing.
Sometimes the question is asked: Are disease and pain a mere figment of our imagination? Will a change of mind, a change of thought, cure them? Is it my fault, can I cure them by merely taking thought? That is a big question, a very important one, because, as you know, there is a whole school — what shall I call it? — Scientists, Christian Scientists, Mental Psychologists, I do not know what you would like to call them — those who believe, and so teach, that there is no such thing as pain, that there is no such thing as evil. But turn to the record of the lives of the great Teachers that have been in past ages, and see what their attitude to the problem of pain and disease is. Did they say it did not exist? Not at all. On the contrary, every single case of suffering that any one of the great Teachers came across invariably called forth their human pity and compassion, showing that they realized what it meant; and they gave a spiritual remedy, quickening the spiritual life in that individual so that he should learn how to heal himself.
What is the healing that Theosophy recognises and considers permissible? — because, friends, it is a fact and a very potent and spiritual fact, that a change of mind and heart of the individual does affect the physical and bodily health, and even his circumstances. It is a fact; but does that mean that where a man has got a serious physical disease, or even a simple ache or pain, he shall deliberately deny it in his mind and his consciousness, and tell himself that he has only got to go on thinking that way and it will disappear? Well now, it is a fact that probably if he goes about it strongly enough he may lose that particular ache or pain. It is not a very happy thing for him if he does, because he has merely deflected it for future use. He has forced it back into the mechanism of his own consciousness where it came from, and in the fulness of time it will work out again. It had its root in a thought, in a feeling, in some wrong action; and until it has worked itself out it cannot be got rid of. All the individual can do is to learn, simply as the Buddha taught, to give up the practice of evil, to enter the noble eightfold Path, and in so doing he ceases to create future causes of evil. That is why the Bhagavad-Gita states: "Even a man of very evil ways, once he is devoted to me, crossing over every evil in the bark of knowledge, will verily come to me." That is the truth. All we have to do is to consider that ray of spiritual light in ourselves; and faith in that connexion and aspiration are a tremendous force for good, not only in our own lives but in everything that we try to do for others.