(Lecture delivered September 1, 1929)
I am a man with a message — a very sacred and holy message, a message of the everlasting truth lying at the heart of the universe. I realize how deep, how profound, this wonderful message is and also how utterly inadequate any human soul is to express it with even a modicum of approach to the reality.
I am going to do my best this afternoon, in continuation of the series of studies that we have had together, in our Temple of Peace, to answer a number of very interesting questions that have been sent in to me. Some of these questions are deep; all of them interesting; some of them are quite theosophical, and some of them I have not brought to you at all, because there are certain matters, and I tell you this frankly, which I do not like to bring into the thought-atmosphere of this Temple of Peace and spiritual aspiration.
However, any question that touches upon matters of deep moment, I am always glad to receive: all questions on philosophy or religion or science, I am delighted to receive; but, I don't like to receive questions about politics or about how to make money quickly, or concerning what kind of a wife somebody should have, or it may be a husband, because these things do not seem to me to belong to this holy place.
I am going to read the questions that I have received, not in the order that possibly they might take, logically speaking, but in the order in which I have received them.
"What is understood by 'the deeper teachings of theosophy?' What line of research do they follow? If the highest state of consciousness and usefulness is the natural result of a self-sacrificing life of brotherly love and unceasing work for the spiritual benefit of others, what more is there to attain by intellectual 'study'?"
This is supposed to be one question, but I can count three, and possibly four in these lines. The deeper teachings of theosophy are simply the formulation in human language of the deeper mysteries of the universe — a formulation achieved by the great seers and sages of the ages: those men whose inner nature has been so evolved, who have by purity of life and striving after spiritual things so opened the inner eye of the mind and of the heart that they have been able, so to say, to send their spirit behind the veil of the outer seeming and to return thence, having seen, and thus bringing revelations from the after, the beyond, the underneath, the above (call it what you like) sides of life.
Theosophy, therefore, is a formulation, both in its exoteric or popular teachings and in its esoteric or deeply mystical teachings, of the operations and structure of the universe. This does not means something cold, something abstract, something out of the way and apart from us. It means, on the contrary, the things which are closest to us. Are you different from the universe? On the contrary, you are a part of it, every one of you, an inseparable part. Every one of us is its child. Therefore, if we understand the universe, we understand ourselves and what wondrous mysteries lie within us.
And, on the other hand, as the great sages and seers have always taught us, if a man knows himself, he knows the universe; for the same forces which are the universe (not which are merely in it), the same forces and substances which compose the universe, also compose every part of the whole; and therefore compose you.
And, as I have often pointed out to you, what does this also mean, following another line of thought? It means that if you can go into yourself, go behind veil after veil of selfhood, deeper and deeper into yourself, you go deeper and deeper into the wonderous mysteries of universal Nature.
You see the meaning now of the ancient admonition of the Greek Oracle of the God Apollo at Delphi: "Man, know thyself." In yourself lie all the mysteries of the universe.
These are the deeper teachings of theosophy. Theosophy teaches a human being to know himself. Knowing himself, thereby he progresses more quickly than the average running of the evolutionary course; and when this pace is quickened to the utmost, we have what we call initiation, short cuts in fact, but only for those who are fit and ready to take these difficult, very difficult, short cuts.
Growth proceeds step by step. Some men are more evolved then other men, as men are more evolved than the beasts, and as the gods are more evolved than men; but those men who are more evolved than other men are they whose inner natures have been more developed, whose inner facilities and powers have come more into actual operation and into conscious functioning; and these higher men, as they grow from childhood towards manhood, in any one life, are the fit, the neophytes, whose natures are opening, and who have the ears to hear and the eyes to see what is put before them.
There is no favoritism in nature. Nature has no favorites. The old, old rule is a true one. Man takes what he himself can get, and you know what that means: what he himself is. Isn't it obvious that if you have not belief in your own inner parts you know nothing about them? If you don't understand your own inner nature, if you don't believe you have an inner nature, you close the doors, you turn your back on the Light; but those who have the intuition of something greater within, of something splendid and grand, of something which is growing within the heart and within the mind, like the budding flower: these are the ones who shall finally see more, and these are the initiates developing into the great seers and sages.
But can this high estate be achieved merely by living a life of brotherly love and unceasing work for the spiritual benefit of others, without any intellectual comprehension of the process and of what is in doing? No, friends, every faculty of man's nature must be brought into activity in this high and sublime work. No imperfect entity can climb the heights of Parnassus; no human can ascend the peaks of Olympus unless he himself be a near-god developing into godhood from manhood.
Therefore the intellectual faculty, being one of the noblest in the human inner constitution, also must be developed. There must be understanding as well as inner feeling. Both are necessary. Is it not obvious? But, if you wish to make a contrast between what are popularly called intellect and heart — on the one hand the man whose whole heart beats in sympathy for the sufferings and trials of others, who has felt the divine light of pity and compassion, and the man of acute mind but insensible heart — the former indeed stands far higher than the man who has no heart-sense, no instinctual feeling for high and sublime traits of character, and who is therefore a mere brain-mind egoist, although his brain-mind understanding may be large.
But why go to these two extremes of contrast? Why not understand that all of man must climb? You cannot reach the heights leaving part of yourself below in the valleys. You must go up — all of you. Therefore the intellectual part as well as the tenderer side of the human being must be developed. There must be understanding as well as feeling. When you have these two conjoined and sympathetically cooperating, you have the sage, the seer.
Here is another question:
"The law of karma is sometimes represented as 'giving to every man according to his works,' with all the accuracy of a calculating machine, and with no more emotion than is displayed by that infallible piece of mechanism when presenting its final statement.
"And yet I remember hearing one of your speakers refer to 'the mercy of the Higher Law.' Can these two opposing points of view be reconciled?'
I don't see any opposition. Seeing no opposition I find nothing to reconcile. It is true that karma is as impersonal as a machine. It is truly emotionless. It is not capricious. It is not swayed by what produces favoritism in human hearts. Its lines of action are eminently and infinitely just: therefore it moves with the stately majesty that nature herself manifests everywhere. The rain falls on the just and the unjust; and were this Higher Law moved by caprice, given to favoritism, swayed by choice, choosing victims for sacrifice and choosing favorites for heaven — in the name of holy truth, what kind of "mercy" is that? The "mercy of the Higher Law" consists in its utter steady, majestic, and unvarying movement. There are for it and in it no favorites. It is justice, infinite justice, which is one with infinite love. That is the mercy of the Higher Law. Think it over.
We Occidentals are so used to being taught of and to think of a supposed god existing somewhere in the spaces, to whom it is necessary only to pray in order to sway the almighty workings of nature; also in order that, after having eaten our cake we may have it again: or in order that, after having violated perhaps every law of justice, we may escape scot-free and leave the victims of our evildoing unrequited for their helpless pain and misery.
No. Theosophy teaches no such thing. It teaches that as ye sow ye shall reap. Sow good seeds, seeds of kindliness, of mercy, of pity, of compassion, and you will reap fruits of character and of circumstance of the same kind. Sow seeds of selfishness and evildoing and you will reap suffering, sorrow, pain. If you violate a law of physical nature what then happens? Is your recompense peace and health, or is it suffering and disease?
The mercy of the Higher Law consists in the fact that every human being is rooted in the Divine, is himself one of the operations of the universal Divinity, and also one of the operators in universal nature. He has, so to say, the divine faculty of free will and choice, and if he throws into confusion and disharmony his portion of the universe, it is his divine privilege to readjust that harmony; and thus he learns, so delicately and beautifully is nature balanced. He learns by both processes; and our greatest teachers, our most effective teachers, are suffering and pain.
Ask yourselves if this be not so. These two are the sweet friends who with healing hands pour the balm into our wounded hearts. They teach us to lacerate the hearts of others no more. They teach us what nature is; they teach us to have pity, to have compassion, to have sympathy with the sufferings and sorrow of others. In this fact lies the secret appeal of the Christ story to Occidentals.
No, friends, the mercy of the Higher Law lies in the fact that it cannot be turned aside or stayed. It moves with majestic march onwards in evolutionary course, ever carrying along in the wonderful stream of nature all beings that are. For all beings and entities are learning, all are growing, all are developing, all are evolving; and how? They pass from imperfection to perfection. They pass from darkness to Light, and they pass from splendor to a greater and sublimer life.
These are deep questions of philosophy, and the theosophist is never satisfied with an answer which appeals merely to the emotions. He must satisfy both mind and heart. So it comes to this: Which do you prefer, a capricious deity whom we find nowhere, and who is repellent to both mind and heart, and who is swayed by capricious favoritisms; or the majestic operations of universal nature which vary never one iota, and of which you all are, so to say, extensions of the power. A living god is in the inmost of the inmost of each one of you, and you are not merely cooperators in this universal nature, extensions, so to say, of the inner divinity, instruments of the Divine, but are, in your inmost essence, that Divine itself.
Another question, two of them:
"Is real honest-to-goodness universal brotherhood possible under the competitive system now in vogue? Is universal brotherhood with the region of lofty ideals that naturally follow in its train attainable under the cooperative system that will some day envelop the earth, embracing it as the long lost, long sought, prodigal brother planet?"
The only two objections I have to these two questions are, first: universal brotherhood in this question is limited to merely human brotherhood; whereas in theosophy universal brotherhood means the spiritual oneness of all that is — everywhere, in all the spaces of pace, in the worlds visible and invisible, in the worlds spiritual and material; and not merely some system, developed in spiritual ignorance, of a mere political fraternity which custom has dubbed universal brotherhood. I do not care a rap for so-called brotherhood of that type. It is nature which is the last court of appeal, not men's imaginings about political fads and fancies.
So when I am asked whether universal brotherhood is possible under the so-called competitive or so-called cooperative systems, all I have to say is: universal brotherhood not only is possible, but is. It is here all the time. You cannot bring it into being; it always was and it always will be; and it is only human egoisms, human imaginations, which turn our hearts away from the vision of spiritual reality, and give instead these blinding fads and fancies to our brain-minds, fads which take various and different forms, social or political or religious or quasi-philosophical or what not kinds of fads. Those who want them may follow them. To me they are perfectly indifferent. The things that I look for in my life are the things which are deathless and eternal and are superhuman and divine.
Universal brotherhood, as the theosophists teach it and mean it, is the fundamental identity of everything that is on earth, in the solar system, in the entire spaces of space — in the worlds spiritual and the worlds physical — absolutely everything that is. We are all bound together with unbreakable bonds, and these words, this phrase, "universal brotherhood," is merely our theosophical way of expressing the divine harmony at and of and in the heart of the universe: that which keeps all things steady, true, in correct and never varying movements; which adjusts all failures in equilibrium brought about by weak minds; which is the driving force behind the evolutionary power; and which is not only the source of all that is, but likewise the end. Its working, its essence, is universal harmony which, when it expresses itself in human hearts, we call spiritual brotherhood.
So you see, when one speaks of the competitive system or of the cooperative system: these may or may not be interesting things for you to study: but for my part I care very little about them. They are perfectly indifferent to me. I look to the heart of things, and I could be as happy under the reign of a despot, providing I had freedom of soul and freedom of mind, as I could be under that of an enlightened sage, because personally I care nothing at all for politics. I love the great things of life; my heart yearns for truth. My very soul expands when I send it forth on its voyages of discovery, for these compose the great adventure of the inner worlds.
Oh, how small and petty do merely human things of earth then appear! No wonder it is that religion has been called the greatest force swaying men's minds and hearts. Let us have the true religion of nature lest we be misled by some man-made religions.
Universal brotherhood can exist under any system, political or social, philosophical or religious, because it eternally IS — and when men realize this and understand it, then all the varying political or social or philosophical or religious systems will vanish like mists before the morning sun, and there will then be a true universal brotherhood of mankind on earth. When every man recognizes his fellow, not merely as a competitor; which he then will no longer be, but as a brother, as a fellow cooperator and adventurer in nature's beautiful secrets, then he will feel brotherly not merely towards all other men but towards all beings existent everywhere. There in this thought is the vision of the Beautiful.
Here is another question, or rather it is a question and a commentary both:
"Is your God big enough? This was the heading of the report published of a sermon recently given in one of the big Chicago churches. The preacher acknowledged that for some time a process had been going on by which men's faith in old forms and creeds and doctrines had broken down; but he said that he 'was not at all worried that this condition of religious indifference exists,' and added 'I believe it is but the darkness before the dawn.' What answer would you give from the standpoint of theosophy?"
The first thing that strikes me about this is the following: Like all good Christians, and bad Christians too, because there are such as the latter in the world, there seems to be a most lamentable confusion in the mind of this questioner as concerns men's idea of God, and of the nature of creeds and doctrines. The very question: "Is your God big enough?" shows that the questioner had in mind some kind of God whom he had either imagined or whom someone else had imagined, and whom he had adopted, or had heard that the Christians had adopted. I don't know of any God of that kind which can be big enough to suit me. In fact, I don't believe in a God of that kind. I don't want to limit my God. I am not going to limit it at all. I am not going to define it. What can I know about infinitude and eternity? I consider any such limitation of the idea of the eternally infinite mind divine as simply blasphemous, and I much prefer to say I do not believe in any god, rather than to say: My God is so and so.
Instead, the theosophist will tell you of That. Now let me ask you: Which is the more reverent, your delimited, defined, outlined deity, who is a caricature of man's own faculties and qualities, or the aspiration of the heart of the true theosophist towards that sublime and truly inexpressible mystery which he expresses by the one word That? But while such is the position of the reverent-hearted theosophist, we say likewise that the universe is filled full with gods, with spiritual beings, with divinities who are the agents and instruments of a spiritual Universe which reflects as best it can this inexpressible mystery we call That. You men and women belong to the same category of intelligent and self-conscious entities as the gods of whom I have spoken. In you all is a spark of the Divine. You are all rooted in That.
Do you think that human beings are the only conscious and intelligent creatures in the vast spaces of boundless space, in all the fields of infinitude? Just put the question in that crude fashion to yourselves, and the answer will come to you immediately: No. This being so, where will you draw the line and say consciousness and intelligence go thus far, no higher, or go down thus far, no lower? Drawing any such imaginary lines means that you want to limit consciousness and intelligence, just as some people desire to limit their God, if they have one. I hope you haven't such a God.
No, friends, consciousness and intelligence are infinite, as frontierless as is infinitude. And consciousness and intelligence express themselves everywhere through entities, through beings, who exist in numberless hierarchies filling full the spaces of space, and of whom the human race is but one small hierarchy among endless hosts of others. Vast legions, hosts, multitudes of hierarchies of consciousnesses fill space full, and it is this multitude of divers wills and intelligences and consciousnesses — now think hard for a moment, pray — which produce the infinite variety of universal nature. Great gods, less gods, inferior gods, others still lower, spiritual beings, men, beasts. May we end the ladder of life there? Why? Think it over and you will see that there is working of intelligence and consciousness, after their kinds, according to their families, in all the creatures whom we call the vegetable and the mineral kingdoms; and our wonderful philosophy tells us that even beneath these kingdoms there are hosts of hierarchies of other intelligences and consciousnesses existing in their own realms, appropriate to their own realms; and the only reason why we don't sense more consciousness and more intelligence in the vegetable and mineral kingdoms is because the entities comprising these kingdoms have entered this physical sphere as beginners on the ladder of life, much like a little child which enters this physical human life as a beginner. But as the child grows to maturity, its inner faculties and powers begin to manifest themselves; and just in the same way as these vegetable and mineral entities grow to beasthood and from beasthood to manhood: in other words, as they grow to intellectual and spiritual maturity, they attain within this sphere in which we presently are living a more expanded consciousness and a brighter intelligence.
These are very great questions which I have briefly outlined for you; but I want you to get a view of the general philosophy of theosophy. Then you will be enabled to fill in the details yourself by reading our theosophical books. For the above reasons, I don't think that the present disinclination of the average man or woman to accept the theology of the now bygone age can rightly be called the darkness before the dawn. I think it is rather the dawn of light after the preceding darkness. I think that people have grown since the days of our great- great- great- great-grandfathers. I hope so, at least.
Here is another question:
"You said last Sunday that a man might spend as much as ten thousand years in rest and preparation for the next life on earth, in a subjective condition called devachan. Is there any method by which this interval can be shortened, in the case of one who is desirous of helping humanity and hastening the progress of his self-directed evolution?"
There most certainly is, and this very desire is the best method of doing it. Matters of the soul and of human destiny are not governed by chance. A man does not stay after death in the heaven world, or what we theosophists call devachan, on account of some God's caprice. He stays there for a long period because he longs — or in other words the bent and impulse of his being make him long — to stay there for a long period. All his life he has been heart-hungry for spiritual things, and his hunger is satisfied by a long period in the heaven world when his physical body dies. During his past life he has built this hunger into the fabric of his being, so that it has become a real part of his inner constitution; and consequently after physical death, after the dissolution of the physical body, this heart-hunger for things of the spirit, for spiritual joy, for peace, for high happiness and for noble love and for the evolving of the flower of aspiration — all this then takes place or occurs naturally in the post-mortem state and it is obvious that the time period is much longer in such a case than in the case of one of purely materialistic bias or bent.
But in the case of a man still greater of soul and more evolved than the preceding man — one who is still grander of soul and sublimer in aspiration — such a man with his altruistic impulses and yearning to help others is impelled by these sublime tendencies of his being to forgo even the short period of one thousand years in the heaven world, or devachan, because he feels that he leaves behind him misery and unhappiness on earth: if, in other words, the Christ-light, the buddhic light, is burning in his heart, so that he feels that he must return to earth and help his fellows as best he may, this brings him back before the otherwise natural instincts of the soul for joy and peace are satisfied; and he reincarnates as a savior, in his own small way, of his fellows, as a great and good man, whose very presence is a benediction and a blessing.
Furthermore, as he follows this self-forgetful course of living, of life in the next life, through the succeeding life and through the life after this succeeding life, and into the third or fourth succeeding life, perhaps, growing all the time, he finally becomes one of the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion, one of the great souls, one of the great seers and sages of the ages: in other words, he becomes a Christ, a Buddha. These are the impulses or heart-hunger of the spirit which will bring you back after a short period of rest and utter bliss in the heaven world.
In ordinary human affairs the case may be likened to a man who is worn out after many long days of nursing, let us say, some dear friend on a sick bed — he has given night after night and day after day to nursing his beloved friend; and the time comes finally when he feels that physically he can endure no more, and he lies him down to sleep for a while. He merits this rest; he has deserved it. He has been good and noble-hearted and pitiful. But as his head reaches the pillow, the thought comes to him: Immortal gods! can I lie here and sleep and leave my brother to die? And then he arises and takes his post again at the side of the sickbed of his friend.
This illustration gives an instance of the working of the spirit of the Buddha, of the buddhic light which is the same as the spirit of the Christos; it is the spirit of the Masters of Compassion and Wisdom; and it is the same spiritual yearning, if it is working in your heart when you leave this physical body, that will shorten for you the period of bliss and rest and peace in the heaven-world. Please remember in this connection that in the heaven world, in devachan, you will get precisely what you have built into your own character, which is equivalent to saying what you longed for in the way of spiritual recuperation and peace and bliss.
In these few sentences lies the secret meaning of the heaven world and the nature of its functioning and of what happens to the resting ego. It is, therefore, perfectly obvious that a man, on the one hand, whose whole nature is of materialistic bent or bias, whose thoughts are of the earth earthy, and whose instincts impel him to things of matter, will remain but a short time in the heaven world, for he has built little into his character which will keep him in the heaven-world for a long period of time; whereas a man, on the other hand, whose whole nature is of a spiritual type, who has received but little spiritual joy and peace and rest in the busy turmoil of physical existence and whose nature therefore is entirely unsatisfied along these lines, will pass a long time in the heaven world, for the entire impulses of the heart-hunger of his being cling to what the resting ego there undergoes and receives.
And third and last: a man of the latter type who nevertheless is so greatly evolved that he cannot bear to receive joy while his fellows are suffering and in misery in the web of earth-life, such a man who by nature would remain a very long time in the devachan or heaven world, is nevertheless so directed or swayed or impelled by this compassion for others that he is attracted back to earth to do what he can to help raise the heavy karmic burden from the hearts and lives of his fellows.
I have many more questions before me this afternoon. But as the time for closing this lecture is drawing near, I shall be obliged to omit some of these questions. Here however, is a question that I desire to answer today.
"I have read in your literature that a tiger which springs on its prey 'robs nature' by wasting and scattering energy, and will he held accountable. Is there anything in the animal kingdom that corresponds to moral delinquency among men? In other words: can an animal commit sin?"
No, an animal cannot commit sin. There is nothing in the animal kingdom, in the beast kingdom I mean, that corresponds to moral delinquency among men, and the reason is that in men there is the inner spiritual light which shows him the difference between right and wrong and which enables him to distinguish the personal from the impersonal. It is this spiritual quality of vision and feeling which when violated constitutes what is called sin. But this moral faculty, which is the working of the spiritual nature through the discriminating intellect in man, has not yet been evolved in the beasts. In them it is latent and not yet evolved, that is to say, brought out or unfolded, as it has been in man.
Nevertheless, will you tell me that the tiger which pounces upon its prey, or the hawk which seizes the chick, does so unnaturally, that is to say that it is a "chance" happening and that it is outside of the laws of nature? Do you believe that a tiger which springs on its prey and kills it and rends it and eats it, depriving that creature of its normal course of life, does so accidentally, by chance; or do you believe, as we theosophists do, that there is no such thing as chance, that every smallest movement in nature is a natural movement, regulated by the law of consequences, that is to say, of cause and effect? Here then is what theosophists mean when we say that even the tiger, though morally irresponsible for the killing of the other beast, is nevertheless held accountable in nature's balances because it has disturbed nature's harmonious courses.
To take another illustration: in a chemical laboratory you may put two elements together and find that they combine. Do you think that this act is done outside of nature's province or outside of its laws? There was a state or condition in nature's being which you have disturbed by your act and the natural balance or equilibrium thus disturbed by your act has to be restored.
There is the fundamental idea. Yes, even the morally irresponsible tiger or hawk who strikes and rends and eats its prey, just as well as the man who slays his fellows, is held responsible; but when the man does this he is held morally responsible for his act, because he commits this heinous crime knowing that it is a crime, and knowing that it is wrong. Nature therefore holds man to a strict accounting, not only in his physical being but much more so in his ethical being, in his soul, and recompense for this criminal disturbing of nature's equilibrium will be exacted from the man to the last iota of responsibility. Can you not therefore see and understand how utterly just this is?
The "infinite mercy of the Higher Law," as my great-hearted predecessor continually used to love to say, straightens out the tangle of will and of circumstance that such a morally criminal act has caused, and it does so in order that the harmony of universal being shall finally be restored. Harmony, as I have so often told you, is the very heart of nature. This is the meaning of the beautiful old saying that the tears at last shall be wiped away from the eyes of those who weep.
"Theosophy teaches that after death the soul lives in a body of a more ethereal kind; but the body is substantial and must occupy space. Can it be said to travel up to devachan (or the heaven world) to take its interval of rest before another life on earth? Is there any actual descent when it enters another physical body to carry on its evolution in the world of physical substance?"
I would prefer to answer this question in an off-hand manner and to answer it by simply saying Yes or No. But I cannot do this because my answer would be totally inadequate and should leave a wrong impression on your minds. Strictly speaking, the heaven world, devachan, is not a place or locality, but is a state of consciousness. For instance, happiness is a state of consciousness and is not a place. There is no particular place or locality called hate, nor is there any particular place or locality called happiness; but for all that, there actually are places where one is more comfortable, so to say, than in other places — in other words there are places where it is easier to attain and retain a state called happiness, where circumstances and the surrounding environment are more naturally appropriate for certain kinds of living; and the material realms, following the same line of thought, are obviously not very appropriate places for spiritual living and therefore for spiritual happiness and peace. I mean in this instance for the life of the spirit after death. The consequence is that not the ethereal body enlivening the physical frame, but the soul entity, actually does ascend, so far as this our earth-globe is concerned — I mean ascend away from it as a focus of material existence.
Remember that our earth is a globe. Consequently, no matter on what part of this globe an entity may be, at the dissolution of that entity's physical body the inner constitution in its higher parts is repelled from that material globe, because this globe is of another nature than the spiritual part of the constitution, in other words, of another polarity; and this difference in polarity it is which accounts for the repulsion of the spiritual from the material or vice versa. Hold this illustration in mind. It is readily seen that in a certain sense there is an actual ascension of the higher parts of a man's constitution from the gross matter of this physical globe. I hope that this illustration, although a bit involved and complex, will clarify the matter in your minds, because the fundamental idea is very simple.
We human beings here in California, as is obvious, stand on the earth with our heads up and our feet down: but on the opposite side of the earth men are standing with what are to us their feet up and their heads down; and to these men of the antipodes, we human beings in California are doing the same thing.
So consequently, the polar repulsion that I have spoken of sends the higher psychic entity away, upwards, from the physical globe; and to beings living in the same spot, it is an apparent 'ascent'; and thus also, for the entity which reincarnates in the same spot, there is an apparent descent. But I tell you very frankly that I do not like to emphasize this minor fact because it will distract your attention away from the true teaching that these ascents and descents are purely local. I don't dare leave the fact unmentioned because I want the explanation of this detail of the teaching to be as complete, although brief, as I can make it.
Nevertheless remember that the heaven world or devachan, strictly speaking, is a state or condition of consciousness of the higher psychic entity. Nor, on the other hand, is the condition of unhappiness and misery that a man of evil heart and mind undergoes, which condition in exoteric religions is called hell, a locality or place, because this so-called hell is a condition or state of consciousness of the psychic entity also.
"If I were to loosen the bricks in the wall above the cradle of a sleeping child, so that they fell and caused the child's death, I should be regarded with horror and detestation by every normal man and woman. How would my action differ from the action of God when he sends an earthquake which causes the destruction of human life? Does theosophy teach that earthquakes are sent by God? If not, who is responsible?"
Most certainly theosophy does not teach that earthquakes are "sent by God." I have just explained to you what the theosophist thinks of God, or rather does not think about God. That theosophical explanation is certainly nearer the truth because it is consistent both with reason and with nature as we know her, than are the various theological and philosophical imaginings of uninitiated men. The theosophist is determined that he will not attempt to place any mental limits or frontiers on That — an inexpressible Mystery — by any definition or attempt at delineation.
"Who is responsible for earthquakes?" In this question you can see the effect in the Occidental mind of centuries of theological training — the theological wish to make Somebody responsible for what happens. On the other hand, the theosophist points with unerring finger to universal nature, and the universal laws. The universe is filled full, as I have already said, with these bright intelligences, with these gods, with these spiritual beings, in all-various ranges of power, of development, and of activity. They are the instruments of the karmic law; they are the channels for the expression of the cosmic consciousness; they are the guides of destiny; they are the beings through whom work the various forces, the various energies, of universal nature, which, when they manifest, cause ignorant men to say: "What a terrible earthquake; how angry God must be!" No. The theosophist does not think or reason or argue in that way.
Here is my last question for today:
"From a lecture on Theosophy which I once heard delivered, I gathered that theosophists believed in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man; but in reading your literature I once came across the expression 'the Great Orphan Humanity.' Does theosophy teach the existence of 'Our Father which art in Heaven,' or not?"
In answer to the last question, the theosophist answers with all the emphasis at his command: It does not! Is that definite enough? With all due respect to the many good men, noble men and women often, in the Christian Church, I am not going to stand here and tell you a falsehood with regard to our beliefs merely in order to save a passing pain, perhaps, to some kindly heart. The theosophist does not accept "Our Father which art in Heaven." We positively and definitely refuse to place any limitations on frontierless consciousness, which is neither a father nor is it in heaven. Such words are human terms, which belittle an utterly inexpressible, non-understandable Mystery which the theosophist, in agreement with the old seers of the Veda, simply speaks of as That. Tribal deities or national gods are and have been many; but the great wisdom-religion of the ages will have none of them. To those whom these limited religious ideas satisfy, the theosophist has nothing to say either in disrespect or in commendation. He respects the religion of any man, the religions of all men, if these be sincerely held; but even as he respects them, he expects respect for his own views.
As regards the brotherhood of man, this is most certainly a theosophical teaching, one of our most beautiful and fundamental teachings. As regards the so-called great orphan humanity, this is but an expression, a figurative expression, a metaphor, a trope, a symbolic theosophical phrase. Instead of looking outwards from yourself to a limited God of any kind, the great sages and seers of the ages have told us: "Look within. Man, know thyself!" Divinity is at the heart of you. It is the root of you. It is the core of the core of your being; and you can ascend along the pathway of the spiritual self, passing veil after veil of obscuring selfhood, until you attain unity with that inner divinity. There is the most sublime adventure known to man — the study of the self of man.
Thus you will climb the mountains not merely of Parnassus and of Olympus, but you will in time, by following this inner pathway of self-knowledge, grow so greatly in understanding and in inner vision that your eyes will take in ranges and sweeps of inner light, unveiling to you the most awful, because the holiest and the most beautiful, mysteries of the boundless universe. Every one of you is a living and incarnate god. Be it.