The Path – October 1887


What is known in the present day under the name of Theosophy, as has repeatedly been stated, is the primary truth which all the religions of the world alike have enshrined — it may be regarded as the kernel of which the religions have been the husks, and it would seem that in the development of this idea, and in the comparison of the objects aimed at by the various religions and by Theosophy, that we shall best realize the stupendous scope and importance of this divine hidden wisdom.

While some of the religions may have been more transparent husks than others through which the kernel of the wisdom of the ages might be dimly visioned, in other words, while some may contain vague hints of the wider horizon and the more transcendent heights of being, it may generally be stated without making invidious distinctions that the religions of the world as a rule have concerned themselves almost exclusively with the present earth life and the life lying immediately beyond. It is with the rewards and punishments of this state in the immediate future, and with the moral or virtuous thoughts and actions of the present life, which are supposed to be the means of meriting the former and of avoiding the latter, that the priesthoods and the teachers of religion have principally dealt. Indeed, so engrossed in the pursuit of worldly objects have the priesthoods of some religions become that the wider horizon has been completely lost by them.

While the quality of spirituality is but feebly developed in mankind, while the occupations and aims of this present earth life continue to absorb so very much the greater part of the energy of men, and while the intellectual development of those who have some dim perception of a higher state has still to achieve its period of blossom, the different religions adopted by the various races of men will continue to supply the required needs. But there are a few in each country who have risen above the prevailing level — the forerunners we take it of the mighty coming race, and their numbers are being daily added to — men of thought and feeling who through pain and inward struggle have emancipated themselves from the deadly bonds of superstition, and who have at the same time been too great hearted to fall into the still deadlier grip of the opposing faction that usurps the name of science, and that parades its little aims under the denial of all that is most sacred in humanity — men who by intense imaginative power have grasped and realized all that this life has to give, and have been forced to put it by as failing to satisfy their highest aspirations. For such men the Theosophic advent has been a true Eirenicon. No longer bounded by the dimly imaged heaven which superstitious ignorance stretched into eternity, all life now lies before the impartial student of nature in logical order. The law of absolute justice under the name of Karma, which follows with impartial reward or retribution every act, every word and every thought, is now recognized alike as satisfying the moral conscience of the religious man, and as extending over the whole horizon of man's nature the inevitable sequence of cause and effect which the scientists have shown to exist in the material world; while in marked contrast alike to the agnostic acceptance of annihilation, and to the diabolic theory of the arbitrary awardment of eternal bliss or eternal misery to the poor struggling mortals, who after a short life time of 70 or 80 years are surely unlikely to be deserving of either, the picture is completed by the steady progress and evolution of the soul through the continually repeated vicissitudes of earthly life — alternated and relieved by the blissful dreams of heaven where the infinite variety of human character will through aeons of time reap in subtle distinction that which is the due of each.

The objects of the Theosophical Society may be stated as twofold. Firstly to act as a counter movement alike to the decaying but still lingering superstitions, and still more to the rampant and growing materialism of the present day, and the best way to attain this first object is surely to give to the world such a system of thought as may help to explain the mysteries of life. Such a system as will at once satisfy man's logical requirements, his moral feeling of fitness, and his highest spiritual aspirations. And where will such a system be found as in the doctrines Theosophy teaches? The second and main object to which the first leads up, is to act as a guide to the pathway of deliverance by which man may escape from the alternating miseries of birth and death, and attain the one permanent state of Being. This is the great — the divine — secret — to be bound no longer in conditioned existence — to merge the manhood in the Godhead! To catch a glimpse of one of the thousand states of ecstatic being that lie in infinite gradation between us and that stupendous goal would blind us with excess of light. Surely then the only figure before the mind when whispering in worshiping awe of that ineffable state of being should be the kneeling angel with head bent low, and wings crossed before the face.

While a large and increasing number are likely to be influenced by the teachings of Theosophy towards more tolerant and wider views of life, the number of those who will feel impelled to attempt the great undertaking will not probably in this age of darkness be relatively large. But indeed it is not a matter of choice, the destiny of each guides unerringly in the path he is bound to tread, the good within drives and will drive in ways that we know not of. The deep depression or the cutting sorrow of former years may pass away, the torture may take a more subtle form, but while the wings are yet too weak to soar for long in the heavenly air, the detachment from earthly things is bound to bear its first fruits of pain, and the heart will still remain steadily crushed between the upper and the nether millstones. When the aimlessness of this life has made itself felt, to the exclusion of all other thought, to escape from its desolating curse must seem the one object worthy of accomplishment. The converging lines of Karma must doubtless have led those who feel impelled to scale the transcendent heights, compared with which the most soaring ambition of earthly life sinks into nothingness, but in weak-kneed moments to be thrust on such a path of greatness is felt to be a pathetic destiny, a forlorn hope, truly forlorn if the present life alone is regarded, but it is a forlorn hope that has to be led.

To realize with vivid distinctness the inanity of all earthly bliss, and yet to catch no refreshing glimpse of the beatific vision; to taste no strengthening sip of the heavenly Amrit, this is indeed a desolateness without any parallel in worldly life, it is the "indescribable vacuum" of the heart, so well pictured in an article in the June Theosophist entitled "Divine Heartache." But as the writer there goes on to describe in words which recall St. John of the Cross's "Obscure Night of the Soul" the apparent contraction of the heart is caused by the divine fire which is driving out its rheum and filthy moisture, and is but a prelude to the ultimate expansion. St. Thomas a Kempis, also dwells on the trouble of mind the disciple must learn to bear, and points out that "to be in a state of great devotion and sweetness" is not advantageous "for it is not by these things that a true lover of virtue is known, nor doth the spiritual progress and perfection of a man consist in these things."

It is written, "He that hath put aside woman hath put aside the world" and this would seem to be the best illustration of that final detachment which is the prelude to the first step on the path to higher things. The different earthly desires from that of mere animal comfort up to the most ideal love, have all got characteristics that blend into each other, but earthly desire at every turn has to be fought and conquered, or put in other words it is a continual raising of the object of desire, either through the failure of realization or through the satiety that comes of realization. It may have required the experience of many incarnations to weed out of the heart the desire for wealth, for title, for power, for consideration among men, at each death of the body a step may have been gained, and the object of desire raised a degree in nobility, until its culmination is reached in the desire for the ideal union, the true marriage of the soul, to which the bodily union is but a subsidiary supplement. The intensity of a fruitless passion if kept undegraded by any acceptance of a lower love, if steadily nursed through a whole life-time as the one thing worthy of achievement, may have alchemical force enough to transmute this love into what it already resembles, the still loftier and purer love of the Universal Soul. "Woman" may have been "put aside" and the ideal union as a tangible reality in this life despaired of — in moments of enthusiasm the earthly love may appear totally eclipsed by the heavenly — but while lungs fit to breathe the heavenly ether are still undeveloped, descents have to be made to the lower air, the old hopes of love rise again in the breast though more faintly, and the old torture is gone through again.

But if the ultimate goal is steadily kept before the mind's eye, each pang that has been endured should have given added strength. The goad that drives each man to higher things is deep seated in his being, and must remain so through life until it ceases to be a goad at all by the conquest of the special desire against which it was directed, and if only we bear in mind that it is a matter of small moment whether or not we attain our earthly desires, and that the one thing important is to follow loyally what at the time seems to us highest and worthiest — though that highest and worthiest ideal is ever moving upwards — periods of peace and satisfaction are bound to come at last, and we may repeat with Sidney

"Leave me, O Love, that readiest but to dust;
     "And thou my mind aspire to higher things;
"Grow rich in that which never taketh rust;
     "Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings.
* * * * * *
"Then farewell World! thy uttermost I see
"Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me!"

The Path