Within the symbols and doctrines of the Christian Church may indeed lie hidden all the truths of the Occult Philosophy, and another and abler pen has already traced the correspondences, but it is necessary to realize differences as well as likenesses, and while Christianity, as a definite system, has embodied for the world many noble ideas, it seems to the writer to have been able to display only one fact of the divine jewel of Truth — to have been able to trace only a short line of the celestial circle of Wisdom.
Putting aside all such unphilosophical dogmas, as a personal anthropomorphic God — atonement by the vicarious sacrifice of another — eternal damnation and such like, which may be regarded as the outworks of the Creed, and which indeed many of its own professors deny or minimize, and coming to the essential kernel of the system — the inner stronghold of the faith — that which would be regarded as such by all its truest sons throughout these nearly nineteen centuries of its existence, it would yet seem to be but a one-sided statement — a partial view — compared with the all-embracing Catholicity of the Occult Wisdom.
Unfortunately the outworks and excrescences above referred to, have, during these many centuries, so warped the thoughts and feelings of the populations professing this religion that it is no longer the pure and exalted doctrine as preached by its founder, but something very different. There are, no doubt, here and there good and noble souls, who practice the higher virtues of Christianity, but they are in such a minority that they are quite unable to affect the popular standard.
When one begins to analyse the stupendous outgrowth called Western Civilization, of which steam and electricity, in their practical uses, may be regarded as the types, and to ask how and by what means this vast fabric has arisen, we are informed by those who are able to see below the mere surface of things that the setting of men's minds in a certain direction must have been the factor, and it is only logical that if a man's highest religious duty is put before him as the saving of his own soul from perdition, a tendency of mind which may be characterized as the supremely selfish must naturally be set in motion. When the converging lines of heredity through many generations have so strengthened this tendency that it has become a potent factor, the development "in excelsis" of the purely intellectual faculties as dissociated from the moral will be seen to be the inevitable result, and from this has naturally evolved the Western Civilization which is spoken of with so much pride. But are not nations like trees to be known by their fruits? "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"
What sins are dwelt on with more emphatic reprobation throughout the whole teachings of Christ than those of hypocrisy and cupidity? And where is hypocrisy deeper than within the Christian fold? So deep indeed, that it has become an integral part of the nature, and is no more recognized as a vice than it was by the Pharisees of old. And where is the worship of mammon more rampant than throughout the length and breadth of Christendom? The preachers of the Churches may utter faint-hearted protests, but the nations nevertheless remain prostrate before their idol, and as steam and electricity extend their sway, and new countries are laid open to modern progress, the more primitive races, to avoid extinction, join in the mad competition for wealth. But whether conspicuously shown in the acts of States lustful to conquer fresh territory, or hidden in the individual character, where it displays itself in the haste to grow rich by fair means or foul, it remains none the less a gnawing canker at the heart of Christendom.
What a gulf there lies between the practice of modern Europe and the divine teachings of the Master.
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon Earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
And again: "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."
There is probably no teaching more thoroughly altruistic in its character, and which, if it could be literally applied, would exercise so direct and beneficial an influence on the human race as the teaching of Christ, but to the impartial student there seems to be none, the spirit of whose revelation has been more perverted and degraded by his followers of all denominations, and following the spiritual law whose complement on the physical plane may be recognized in the axiom that action and reaction are equal, the moral light to which Christ's teachings soared is the measure which decides the depth to which such teaching, when perverted, must inevitably fall, and Christendom may veritably be said to have become Anti-Christian. (1) All the religions of the world have more or less lost the divine afflatus by which they were originally vivified, but it has been reserved for Christianity to mould the life of the nations from the very blackness of the shadows cast by the "Light of the World."
When we ask to what goal or catastrophe this Western Civilization is hurrying, it is still more necessary to have the eyes of those who are able to read the signs of the times. The following is an extract from a letter to which many of the above ideas may be traced which was signed "a Turkish Effendi" (in the absence of any right to suggest the real and more authoritative name), and was published by his correspondent in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine of January, 1880:
"The persistent violation for centuries of the great altruistic laws propounded and enjoined by the great founder of the Christian religion, must inevitably produce a corresponding catastrophe; and the day is not far distant when modern civilization will find, that in its great scientific discoveries and inventions, devised for the purpose of ministering to its own extravagant necessities, it has forged the weapons by which it will itself be destroyed. No better evidence of the truth of this can be found than in the fact that Anti-Christendom alone is menaced with the danger of a great class revolution: already in every so-called Christian country we hear the mutterings of the coming storm, when labor and capital will find themselves arrayed against each other — when rich and poor will meet in deadly antagonism, and the spoilers and the spoiled solve, by means of the most recently invented artillery, the economic problems of modern 'progress.' It is surely a remarkable fact that this struggle between rich and poor is specially reserved for those whose religion inculcates upon them as the highest law — the love of their neighbor — and most strongly denounces the love of money. No country which does not bear the name of Christian is thus threatened."
But to return from this long digression, take Christianity, I say, in its loftiest ideal, as taught and practiced by its founder — and it certainly is a very lofty one — altruism in its most sublimated form — self-sacrifice incarnate upon Earth — giving of its life-blood to raise the sons of men, and drawing all to Him by the sheer force of divine love, until the believer's heart is set on flame, and nothing seems worthy in his eyes short of absolute union with this divine personality who is at once his Saviour, his brother and his God.
Yet were you to analyse the thoughts and feelings of the most ecstatic saint, would they display more than an ardent soul, a devout mind and a holy life?
Those of the Dualist Philosophy might indeed argue that such an one had his feet well planted on the narrow way — but the students of the wider Philosophy of Nature know well that everything on Earth — religion included — is under the governance of natural law. The attainment of perfection is not to be achieved by sentiment alone — it is a scientific process, and knowledge is the supreme enlightener.
The devotion of Bhakti is indeed a necessary prelude to progress in the religious life, under the guidance of whichever special cult the neophyte may aspire, but it is as it were the outer court of the Temple, and the Holy of Holies cannot be reached by any save those who have attained knowledge.
Without some previous study of occult writings, this word knowledge will entirely fail to carry home the idea which it is intended to express, and let alone the liability to misinterpretation from this cause, how can anyone pretend to describe it who has himself none of this knowledge, who has not yet trodden one step of the path that leads there, and who can only strain with vague imagination towards the sublime conception of the inmost workings of Nature through her manifold diversity laid bare before the intuitive vision? However, although it is an act of temerity on the writer's part, these few words may convey some idea to those who are no further on the path than himself.
When the lower states of consciousness have been so welded in the fire of supreme emotion that duty, though involving the most appalling sacrifice, is no longer a thing to strive after with pain and struggle, but is a natural outcome of the life — the absolute expression of unity with nature — when the higher faculties, emotional, ethical and intellectual, whose respective functions may be said to be the perceiving of the Beautiful, the Good, and the True, have been so merged in one that the Buddhi or divine spark which hitherto flickered, becomes a bright, steady, luminous flame — when the "Explosion," as St. Martin called it, has taken place, "by which our natural will is forever dispersed and annihilated by contact with the divine," — then and then only is one fit to begin to tread the path of knowledge.
That it leads altogether beyond human experience, and entirely transcends what we can conceive is but too apparent.
The 15th and 16th Rules in the second part of "Light on the Path" may help towards a vague apprehension of what this knowledge means.
15th. Inquire of the earth, the air and the water of the secrets they hold for you. The development of your inner senses will enable you to do this.
16th. Inquire of the holy ones of the earth of the secrets they hold for you. The conquering of the desires of the outer senses will give you the right to do this.
And the final secret of all may be said to be wrapped up in the mystery of "self." When the knowledge of the individualization of Being is reached, man has learned all that this world can teach him, and in the words "Know thyself" lie folded the ultimate possibilities of Humanity. Knowledge is indeed the supreme enlightener.
"There is no purifier like thereto
In all this world, and he who seeketh it
Shall find it — being grown perfect – in himself."
Whether any intelligible idea as to the knowledge itself can be evolved from what is here written — it will at least be apparent that a goodness so exalted as to be scarcely imaginable as a human attribute is required as Unnecessary qualification for the commencement of the search.
Well did Shelley write in his Prometheus:
"The good want power but to weep barren tears
The powerful goodness want — worse need for them.
The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom.
And all best things are thus confused to ill.
Many are strong and rich, and would be just
But live among their suffering fellow-men
As if none felt: they know not what to do."
and the current Theologies of the world have not been able to remove the reproach. In the case of Christianity the failure may, to a great extent, be owing to its sentimentality and its failure to realize that to be supremely good it is necessary to be wise — though wise with a higher wisdom than that referred to in the above lines.
But Christianity's greatest fall has probably been its disregard of the facts of Reincarnation. Whatever interpretation may be put on the great Master's utterance on this subject, and however the early church may have regarded it, it is notorious that Christianity, as interpreted by its mediaeval and modern professors alike, has entirely ignored the evolution of the soul progressing through innumerable earthly existences, and has instead adopted the illogical and unphilosophic dogma of a human soul born into the world from nothingness and meriting by its 70 or 80 years of earth-life an Eternity of bliss or an Eternity of misery.
But one does not expect of the child the reason-guided actions of mature manhood — its teachings must be given in the form of dogma, to which it must yield implicit obedience. Nor do we expect the infant school to provide the same training that the University does for the cultured intellect. Similarly the various Religions of the world have been the infant schools for growing Humanity until the complete stature of manhood should be reached.
It has been remarked by some Christians who are much enamored of the self-devoted love exhibited by the Founder of their faith, and the strong feeling of personal love and attachment thereby called forth from them, that Theosophy is cold because it does not dwell exclusively on that side of the nature, but while each separate Religion that has existed in the world may be regarded as the analysis of one special characteristic of the mind, the occult philosophy gathers into one synthetical whole all its varied characteristics. The different religions accentuating as they do different truths may be regarded at the same time — according as one looks at them from the scientific or religious stand-point — and both views are equally tenable and mutually comprehensive — as natural evolutions of the peoples among whom they arose, and as revelations from the unseen universe of partial truths which have to be received and assimilated before mankind can be fitted to comprehend the Supreme Truth in its abstract purity.
It will be seen from the foregoing that what we call Theosophy is the supreme expression of all Religion, as it is the final synthesis of all Science — for it is faith merged in Knowledge.
When one looks abroad on the world and sees how few even among the Religious, the Cultured and the Intellectual are able to grasp the Truth by intuitive vision — while the masses of mankind are sunk in degradation and semi-barbarity, the mind is lost in the vistas of the future, during which the present Religions or those which may have taken their place will have to continue their work of teaching.
Education is slow and Evolution is tardy, and the whole circle of wisdom is slow to trace; but the march of Nature has been as it was bound to be — for the best — and the line of Pope
"One truth is clear, whatever is is right."
seems more and more to be borne in upon the mind as an Eternal verity.
Destiny has guided us till now, and has made us what we are, but we who now realize the omnipotence of the divinely guided Will, have become potentially the makers — let us take it in our hands and shape our own career, for the sooner we rise to the heights of our Being, the sooner shall we be able to stretch down helping hands to the suffering Humanity of To-day.
1. It is an old declaration of the esoteric doctrine that "the counterfeit religion will last as long us the true one." — [Ed.] (return to text)
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