(Lecture delivered September 8, 1929)
It is a very interesting thing to note that the questions which I receive for answering in these our afternoon lectures in our Temple of Peace here at our International Theosophical Headquarters, have, as a rule, a very wide range, passing from the highest and noblest and into the most difficult points of philosophy and religion, down to questions of quite another type, of very matter-of-fact and pragmatical affairs. As for instance, one of the questions that I shall try to answer this afternoon concerning the English biologist Darwin: whether he was a sage and seer who incarnated for the benefit of humanity, or whether this is not the case. It is rather curious what ideas people get of other men and women who have achieved a certain fame or notoriety in the world. This in itself by no means signifies that a man is great. Some of the greatest men who have ever lived have lived obscure and almost unknown to their fellows, and their greatness has come out only in later years and therefore after their death. These questions also show another interesting thing: the psychological trend of the minds of men of our present age, as well as the bends or biases of their mentalities.
Doubtless many of the questions that are asked, are asked from the standpoint of curiosity; but many of the questions that are asked are not framed merely from the itch of curiosity to know what I might say, but from a sincere desire to get a prominent theosophist's viewpoint on problems that vex or perplex or disturb the mind of the questioner. The difficulty that I have in answering these questions is not in knowing what to say, for that is easy enough; but to frame my answers in such language and with such verbal coloring as will make them easily understandable in the first place, and appealing to the understanding in the second place.
I now take up the list of questions that have been kindly sent in to me and I begin with the first one that I have before me, not that it is the most important or that it is the most interesting, but simply because it is the first one that came in to me.
"Am I mistaken in believing that the average person in our western world has cheated himself by leaving all thought of art to the professional artist and by thinking of art only under the classification of the fine arts?
"Has this not prevented a fuller realization of the relation of art to life?
"If it be true that a ray of the great Artist of the universe animates and illuminates each of us, are we not all artists potentially?"
Yes, I think that we are all artists potentially, just as it may also be said that each of us is a statesman, a philosopher, a religious mystic, an inventor, a genius potentially. In fact I am sure of it. But I do not altogether like the phrase: "the Great Artist of the Universe." This phrase reminds me a little of the "Great Big Man up there," that is so familiar to us from reading about undeveloped peoples, although it is a thought very common likewise among highly civilized Occidentals. I don't believe in the existence of any such kind of cosmic being.
However, I know what this kind friend and questioner means; I simply call his attention to the fact that this part of the question is not couched in the words in which I would have put it: I would have said universal life, universal spirit, instead of great Artist of the universe. The essence of creative art of course is part of this universal life or universal spirit, because the latter is harmony itself; is beauty itself; and harmony and beauty — what are they but the life of art?
Yes, I do think that the average person in our Western world has cheated himself by leaving all thoughts of art to the professional artist. But I suppose that the average person thinks that it is his pleasure or business merely to enjoy what the professional artist produces; and of course that idea is all right as far as it goes. But there is something else that the average person forgets: there is the creative artistic spirit latent in the heart of every human being. Each one of us in his own little way tries to give expression in his daily life to this sense of beauty, to his sense of the artistic, to his inner sense of harmony and of that inner loveliness in the spirit of him, of each one of us, which flows from the harmony and beauty of the universe.
Every theosophist must be more or less of an artist, for he has the instinct of the beautiful and of the harmonious. As a student of life he is beginning to see and to feel the harmony and beauty in his own spiritual soul; and these qualities are productive of harmonious and beautiful thoughts; and they, in turn, manifest in the individual's life. In fact, I think that the most excellent artist among men is the one who lives a beautiful and harmonious life.
Here is a rather curious question:
"Can children understand the laws of reincarnation and of karma?"
An extraordinary note accompanied this question, saying that a certain child, a boy, had a notion, and expressed it to the writer of the question, that he would like some day to be able to wear bobbed hair and short skirts and high-heeled boots. When the questioner asked him just what he meant by that, he said: "I don't know; perhaps I was a woman in my last life, and these are memories that have come back to me."
Now, of course children can understand the essential meaning of reincarnation, and also of karma, the law of consequences, of cause and effect; but as soon as this question takes the form: Can they understand the laws of these two operations of nature? then I am inclined to say that they cannot, because it requires a very high sage, a very lofty seer indeed, to understand laws of nature so deep as these; but the mere fact of the existence of reincarnation and of karma as operations of universal activity: certainly a child can understand these ideas and very easily. Any child can understand that if it puts its finger into the fire, or into a pail of hot water, it is apt to be burned or scalded. A child learns those things by daily experience.
I suppose that you might want to hear something more about this little boy, but I cannot tell you anything more about him because I don't know anything more about him. Children have odd notions sometimes; I have known of girls who wanted to be boys: they wanted to wear trousers and so forth, and play boyish games, and give up their dolls. I don't think there is anything very unnatural or abnormal about this. Children get notions. Don't we grownups get notions sometimes? In what way then are children altogether different from us? Nevertheless please think of the high responsibility involved in training a child's mind. The responsibility of a true teacher is a very heavy one indeed. Personally I am glad I have not the charge of that boy.
Now, here is another question, and this is possibly a hit — humorous or otherwise — at us theosophists:
"There is a strong tendency, on the part of theosophical writers, to disparage the men of our own times, and to exalt the ancients as their superiors.
"Believing, as I do, in reincarnation, this seems rather strange. If the moderns are simply ancient egos in new bodies, they ought to be superior, because, to their past experience, must be added what they have gained in the life now being lived. Will you kindly explain?"
Well, to tell you the truth, I have not noticed such a tendency. We theosophists do not say that because men have lived and are now dead, they are therefore superior to what we are who are not dead but are living. We recognize as well as anybody else that the men now living are the same egos that were in the bodies of men of olden times. But what we claim — and this doubtless is the reason for the asking of this question — is that the men of ancient times had souls as great incarnated among them as have ever incarnated since those olden times, and that the ancients were as great as are the men in physical earth-life today. Yes, and perhaps a little more than that.
I will tell you why: in olden times the ancient wisdom-religion, the mystic System explaining the secrets of the universe which today is called theosophy, was more or less in universal vogue in those older religions. The ancients therefore were nearer to this archaic system of truth, today called theosophy, than have been the men following the religion popular in Occidental countries for the last fifteen hundred or eighteen hundred years. That is all there is to it.
As you may know, it has been customary in the last two hundred years or so in the West to disparage the ancients; to claim that all scientific knowledge originated with Galileo and Newton, and a few others living in or about the same period of time; and that there never has been any real knowledge with regard to nature previous to the scientific knowledge which took rise, more or less, in their day: the knowledge which began with Copernicus and Tycho Brahe, and their successors, and which has eventuated in the splendidly built and outwardly gorgeous temple of modern science. Now, to us theosophists, that is a very foolish view; we claim that the knowledge of the ancients with regard to nature both inner and outer was great as well as mystical, or intuitive if the expression be preferred, and therefore far greater than anything that has taken place in the way of knowledge of nature in the Occidental world since the downfall of the Roman Empire. You perhaps may doubt that statement, because the modern idea of knowledge is comprised solely in our scientific discoveries and the theories flowing forth from them which are theories formulated after the patterns of the minds of the formulators, running along one particular line and based on physical nature alone.
But these theories and formulated hypotheses have changed with every lustrum, as everyone knows; and indeed, this is the boast of modern science: that its very being is change or progress, and that change is synonymous with increasing knowledge. It is a proud boast, and in one sense it is a true one; but where will you find everlasting truth in a series of changing theories and hypotheses? In something which is founded in change? Do you realize that all the systems of scientific thought regarding physical nature existent in the Occident today are the belated product of the formulated theories of the men of two thousand years and more agone? Do you not know that all the great philosophies of the Occident today are founded in principle and sometimes in detail upon the great religious and scientific philosophies of the men who lived two thousand and more years agone? Do you realize that the explanations of the universe accepted today by our ultra-modern scientists are verging more and more and more, as each lustrum of five years passes, back to the theories of the ancient Greek and Hindu philosophers?
Having these considerations in mind, we see why the theosophical position is that the light of knowledge did not dawn two hundred or three hundred years ago, and that the human race has not always lived in Cimmerian darkness of soul and intellect.
Here is a difficult question, difficult because it involves so many fascinating, interesting, side-lines of thought:
"What is the origin of the observance of Sunday as a day set apart — is it from the Bible teaching that 'In six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day?' How does theosophy interpret this religious teaching?"
I don't know why the emphasis placed on the number seven in ancient philosophy and religion should be called religious teaching solely. In theosophy it is said to be a natural teaching: a philosophic and therefore a scientific teaching. The holding of the seventh day as a day of rest or for other purposes was a foundation idea in many of the archaic religions and philosophies. So far as the Christian observance of Sunday is concerned as a day set apart, this is a purely sectarian religious idea inherited from the Jews of Palestine who, however, observed what we now call Saturday as the seventh day or Sabbath, and the Christians some few centuries after the alleged date of the death of Jesus abandoned the Jewish Sabbath and chose the next day, the day of the sun or Sunday as their seventh day, and set it apart for religious worship and meditation. This particular form the rest of the world does not recognize nor observe, and we may probably say with perfect truth that it is Christian only.
Furthermore, it is only from the Bible teachings of the Jews that we learn that in six days Jehovah made the world and all that in it is, and grew so tired on the seventh day that he had to sit down and rest. I hope that I am not offensive in speaking thus; I don't mean to offend anybody, but the quaintly human ideas expressed in these passages of the Jewish Bible are so thoroughly anthropomorphic that they are ludicrous to me. I am lecturing as a Theosophist and trying to tell you the truth, or what I believe to be the truth — in other words, what I have learned to be the truth. I may frankly state that such an anthropomorphic man-made god as the biblical Jehovah I don't accept.
But I would like to add something more to what I have already said, if you please. This septenary division of nature's functions and stages of being — in other words, the heptamerous division, the division into sevens — is a natural division; and one day scientists will discover it as a fact in nature. The septenary structure and procedure in nature are likewise taught in theosophy, which, as you will remember is a majestic system formulated by the greatest sages and seers of the world, the mightiest intellects, the most titanic spiritual perceivers. The meaning of the Jewish biblical passage quoted above is fundamentally astrological, in which the heptamerous or sevenfold division of time is fundamental.
Other methods of dividing the structure and functions of nature, in other parts of the world, were by tens, or by twelves, or by scores, or by hundreds, or by thousands; the favorite division in Greece, for instance, was by tens. It is necessary to point out here, however, that these various numerical divisions of nature's hierarchical structure and of its functions and activities were all closely connected together, as is readily seen in the Babylonian division, by twelves or perhaps more radically by sixes; thus we have the six, the twelve, the sixty, and the three hundred and sixty, or six times sixty, and the ten is obviously likewise included in this, as is also the five.
All these various methods of division have a profound esoteric meaning and were simply various manners of viewing nature based upon nature's own cyclic progressions. For this reason the Babylonians divided the circle into three hundred and sixty degrees of which each degree consists of sixty minutes, and each minute in its turn consists of sixty seconds. This division of the circle prevails in mathematics even in our own day.
Whatever the modern scientist, philosophical or otherwise, may have to say about these numerical fundamentals in nature, it is the teaching of theosophy that there actually are such fundamentals, and the time is coming when our Occidental scientists will recognize the fact fully. The Hindus are not Jews, and yet the Hindus had the septenary or heptamerous division in their astrological science, and also in some of their religious philosophies; nor did they limit their methods of dividing up nature's structure and functions into sevenfold progressions only, for they also use the five, the six, the ten, the twelve, the score, the sixty, and the three hundred and sixty, as well as other numbers somewhat less important than these last. Theosophy explains all these things to the student who is earnest enough and devoted enough to give the necessary time and attention to it; and therefore I am going to tangle you all up now, I fear, in a little bit of technical Theosophical philosophy.
Theosophy teaches that the universal laws of evolution prevail everywhere and act in periodic functions; that the course of evolution advances and recedes cyclically, and that each such progression, each such march forward, before the recession or retrogression ensues, is done in cyclical periods of seven, or in seven steps or notions: seven stages, or seven degrees; and that the seventh is the highest, if you count the first as the beginning, the seventh leading on to the first of the next similar hierarchical division of the evolutionary course.
So the meaning of the observance of Sunday, the day of the Sun — the day of rest or the Sabbath as the Jews called it — was simply a memorizing in human, everyday life and affairs of the fact that the laws of Nature move in sevenfold type or fashion or stages. All the life of the ancients was builded around an archaic and esoteric body of teaching. Their systems of weights and material measures, their systems of computing and measuring time, their systems of political forms, in some ways so different in all respects from modern Occidental ideas of these things — in other words, the entire course of their daily life — was based on esoteric teachings which were drawn from the structure and courses and operations of nature.
Do you follow my meaning? I tell you frankly that unless you have studied theosophy this is a somewhat difficult thing to explain, and yet theosophy has the explanation, if you can get it. You know of course that the Jews had their day of rest, which was what they called the last day, Saturn's day or the Sabbath; and the planet Saturn, by the way, astrologically speaking the principle overruling the planet Saturn, was the Jewish tribal deity; and therefore they naturally and logically placed the end of the evolutionary course, the culmination of the evolutionary progress, in their divinity Saturn; and in accordance with the facts above sketched they reproduced this system in the affairs of daily life and called the last day of their week the Sabbath or day of rest or repose.
But when these Jewish ideas and statements were taken over by the Greek and Roman Christians, filled as the latters' minds were with Greek and Roman ideas and statements, they transferred, arbitrarily, the seventh or rest day of the week to honor a particular celestial body held in great honor among their own people, to wit, the Sun; and, like the northern nations of Europe who had these same astrological ideas and customs in a large degree, they chose the day of the sun, later called Sunday, as being their last or highest day of the week, thus signifying the culmination of the evolutionary progress which meant the gathering together of all evolving stocks into the bosom of the highest deity known to them, to wit, the Sun.
I will tell you something more about this very interesting item of Occidental religious history at another time. I can speak upon it no further at present, as I have before me other questions that require answers.
"I have heard theosophists speak of themselves as being very tolerant of the beliefs of others. Is this a particularly noble virtue on the one hand; and, on the other, is it something belonging distinctively to theosophists? I believe people of other beliefs also declare that they are tolerant of beliefs not their own. Please state your views."
Why, of course, everybody is tolerant — or boasts of being tolerant. The average man thinks that he is nobly virtuous if he says: "Oh, I am tolerant; of course I am." All the modern Occidental churches, without one exception, boast of their tolerance. But with the questioner, I don't think that it is a particularly noble virtue. In fact — excuse me for saying so plainly — I think it is a damnably bad vice; and I am going to tell you why I think so.
When a man says that he is tolerant of the beliefs of other men, do you realize that it is an insult to the other men? It means: "Oh yes, I have heard what you say. I will tolerate you." Do you like that? I do not. I am not tolerant, because I am not intolerant. I am neither one nor the other. It is the man or the organization that is intolerant at heart that claims what is called the virtue of tolerance, when he or it cannot act otherwise. Such a man tolerates others because he cannot do something else to them; and the same remark may be made with regard to so-called tolerant organizations.
The theosophist is neither tolerant nor intolerant. He has respect for the beliefs of others, if they be honest, no matter how much they may differ from his own. Furthermore, it is one of the purposes of our Theosophical Society to study with sympathetic understanding the religions and philosophical beliefs of others.
Which do you like the better: do you want me to tolerate you, or do you want to feel that in a theosophist you have a sympathetic friend? No, we are not "tolerant" (and let us proclaim it from the housetops) because we are not intolerant. Just remember the next time that you hear somebody say or some organization claim "We are tolerant," that you can shrug your shoulders and say: "He (it) tolerates me." Just put it in that way; and if you like to be tolerated, you are more of an angel than I am.
I have before me a number of questions that came in a week or two ago, and I simply have not had time to answer them before today. I apologize to the kind friends who sent them in, and I am going to answer them today — or at least I shall answer one, two, three, four, perhaps five questions more.
"However earnestly one desires to ignore things that pertain to the psychic plane, is it possible to do so if the subtle psychic energies marvelously intermingled and delicately interlaced with other forces, are a part of us and we of them? Can we shut the door of the soul?
"Do not psychic energies permeate every cell and atom of matter, and do they not contain much that is good, as well as much that is otherwise?"
Well, this dear friend writes as if he knew all about the psychic forces. He puts the proper adjective before the noun; he says that they are marvelously intermingled and delicately interlaced with other forces; that they are a part of us and we of them; and he also asks if we can shut the door on our soul, with the meaning of course that we cannot. He knows a good deal about it. I sincerely mean this last remark. I am not at all ironical.
But I suppose that this question was asked in order to find out if I knew anything more than the questioner does. Well, in the first place, I think that a mistake is commonly made in reference to this matter of psychic forces so called, by the tacit supposition or notion that they are good in part and bad in part. I wonder how that notion came to have currency. Can you say, for instance, that the forces of nature are good forces and bad forces? Nice forces, naughty forces? The forces of nature are, ethically speaking, colorless: they are neither good nor bad. It is the use that individuals possessing free will or choice, and consciousness, make of nature's forces, which stamps these individuals as being on the right-hand path or on the left-hand path, as workers for good or for evil.
Can you say that gravitation and cohesion, for instance, and electricity, and other forces like these are, let us say, half good and half bad? I tell you that they are in themselves, ethically, colorless; they have no moral qualities in the human sense of the word. I never knew of a naughty part of gravitation as contrasted with a good part.
Of course psychic entities and forces permeate every cell and atom of matter; and these forces in themselves do not contain what humans call good, because if they did, we should have to say that they contain much that humans call bad. The situation is as follows: What are called psychic energies are the forces resident in and forming the vitality or life-energies of the ethereal plane superior to this physical plane.
Now, as the human race is plainly advancing, evolving, it is becoming etherealized; and consequently, as the aeons pass, it comes slowly more and more into touch with these energies and forces and entities of the more ethereal plane immediately superior to our present gross physical plane, forces and entities which we have not yet learned to control in any large degree at all. The consequence is that as we bathe in this psychic atmosphere, the forces of that atmosphere often play havoc with us, because we do not understand them fully, and therefore we do not know how to control them. I am here speaking of the average person. As time goes on, we shall learn to control these psychical forces for our own good and for the good of others. Let us remember also that even the forces of our own physical plane we can scarcely control as yet, and hardly understand, if we understand at all, what the physical forces are. Think over this idea, if you please.
So, really, these forces are neither good physical forces nor bad physical forces, nor good psychic forces nor bad psychic forces. These human attributes as applied to these forces depend only upon the use that is made of them by human beings. Dynamite and other explosives can be used as helpful instruments of progress, and they can be used also as instruments of evil by perverted minds. Many other things will likewise illustrate this point — chemical compounds, machinery, electricity, whatnot.
But I will go a little further and say a little more: I will say that the higher one goes along the hierarchical ladder of life — in other words, the more deeply one penetrates into the structure of nature — the more dangerous these forces of nature are, because more powerful than are the lower forces; and there is where the danger lies so far as we humans in our present state of evolution are concerned, when we ignorantly meddle with these things. But we are destined in the future through evolution to know vastly more about them than we now do; and it is our duty also to study them, but to study them with great and thoughtful care, and above all not to misuse them for private or personal advantage or gain.
But that is one side of the matter which pertains to esoteric study and to our future development. Let us learn something about these subtle forces first before we attempt to use them. We are like infants in our ignorance of these things. I beg you to think the matter over and you will see that what I tell you is true.
Here is another question along the same line of thought:
"Where is the elusive line of demarcation (if any) between the psychic and the physical? Is there a definite line of demarcation, any more than between the night and the dawn or the day and late evening?"
No, they simply blend into each other. The forces in our physical world are simply the lees, the dregs, the reflection, to change the figure of speech, of the forces in the astral world, which are the psychic forces; and these psychic forces range all the way from the most ethereal, which means verging more and more towards the spiritual, down to the lowest of the astral dregs of the astral world, where they merge into the forces energizing the physical world. There is no distinct and abrupt line of demarcation. And let this statement be very positively understood. Taking an example from physics which may help to illustrate the point, I cannot see any difference ultimately between cohesion on the one hand, and gravitation on the other hand. This same energy of attraction, when it manifests in the cosmic spaces, is given a name: gravity, or gravitation; and when it manifests in what we call physical matter in our world, in the world which the chemist investigates, it is called the force of cohesion; but fundamentally both are the same thing.
"Is it possible to ignore the air that we breathe? May not that air be supercharged with psychic energy?"
How would you answer that question? You are as capable of answering it as I am. I think the idea is that as the air that we breathe is so filled with the psychic forces, it is something that we can conquer and use for our purposes. Well, that is true. "May not that air be supercharged with psychic energy?" Well, I would not say that it is supercharged. It can possibly be, under certain conditions. I have heard meteorologists speak about the air being supercharged with electricity before a thunderstorm. Whether that be the exact way of describing the electrical conditions then prevailing, I would not like to say offhand. But it is quite possible to supercharge a limited space of the physical world with the energies flowing from the psychic realms, from the astral realms. It can be done, and in fact often is done.
As a matter of fact, every time that you think, you do it. And the more intensely you think, the more your brain is supercharged with psychic forces.
"Why is the word psychology so much heard today from the leaders of abstract thought, down to, well — say the boy that shines one's shoes [that is a new kind of leader of thought!], the manager of a pugilist, or the psychoanalysis experts offering their high-priced wares to the unwary? Are the people of this age more susceptible to psychic influence than those of the preceding age? If so, why?"
Well, I think the word "psychology" is so much heard today because it has become popular, and like all popular words it is used as a sort of counter: when people don't quite know what else to say, then they talk about psychology. It is a popular word. The comment that I have just made about the use of this word as a counter is true, and I challenge any man or woman here to give me a short, clear-cut definition of psychology which will include all the varying views of the different so-called psychology experts. I would not undertake to do it.
I think that people of this age are indeed more susceptible to psychic influences than those of the preceding age; but just what is meant by the preceding age: one hundred years ago, or five hundred years ago, or one thousand, or the brilliant civilizations of the Greek or Roman eras? I often have to guess at the questioner's meaning when I answer these questions; so I ask you to forgive me if I fail perhaps invariably to get the real meaning in the mind of the querent. If the answer is not satisfactory, it is the querent's fault — not mine! Nevertheless I think that people today are more susceptible to psychic influences than those living at any time since the downfall of the Roman Empire; and the reason is that nature moves in cycles, as I have already pointed out, and we are entering a more ethereal psychological atmosphere, so to speak, than the more grossly physical one which has prevailed for the last eighteen or nineteen hundred years.
If you will carefully examine the annals of history, you will find that civilization advances not in a straight course, but as it were by a movement forwards and backwards; in other words, civilization pursues a cyclical path: we see an era of religious activity, then a recoil to scientific investigation, followed perhaps by another era of philosophical activity, then another recoil to religion or something else of a somewhat different kind.
I think that we are now moving into an age in which religious matters are beginning to interest the men and women of our time more than they have interested the men and women of the immediate preceding two or three hundred years; and I think that this is all there is to say about it. At the present time in the Occident — because in the Occident there is no great new religion, no great new religious illumination at all — the thought of our period has taken the form of what today is popularly called psychology: the investigation of the operations of the laws of mind, which means thought and resultant conduct, popularly called Behaviorism; but really, European psychology is not psychology at all. European and American psychology is a sort of sublimated physiology. I don't know how else adequately to describe it. It has its basis of study in the functions and activities of the physical body; and people reason about it nevertheless as if psychology were a system of thought dealing with the functions of the human mentality. The cause of all this is the crass materialism in both religious and scientific matters of our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers.
It is quite true, however, that our theosophical teachings are that the human race as a whole, in aeons far distant, will be much more spiritual — but not psychical, for we shall have advanced far beyond that phase of evolutionary development — the human race of the far distant future will be much more spiritual than we are at the present time, and with a command over powers and faculties pertaining to a plane of nature far above our astral plane. But this high stage of development will not be reached before many tens of millions of years shall have flowed into the ocean of the past.
"How does the Raja-Yoga system of education set about developing the balance of a well-ordered mind?"
This is a profound question. I might answer it inclusively in one word: coordination, coordination of every faculty in the human being, bringing them, through this coordinative training of every part of the human constitution into functional activity: not merely the physical, not merely the psychical, not merely the mental — and there our modern Occidental educational systems stop — but the coordinating or training of the minds of the little children and of the youths confided to our care, so that the ethical instinct and the spiritual vision also become active and therefore function in the constitution. The spiritual faculties we attempt to arouse, and that is why Katherine Tingley has so beautifully called her Raja-Yoga system of education "the balance of all the faculties, physical, mental, and spiritual."
We admit that we cannot work miracles, that we cannot work marvels, that we cannot do the impossible, but we do our best. We have the system in operation, and we know that it succeeds. The secret of it is the coordination of every part of the human being so that these parts function easily and in sympathetic cooperation.
"What do you understand to be the difference between soul and spirit?"
This is a profound question — very; much more profound than I can undertake to explain in a few moments in a short afternoon lecture. The spirit is the immortal part of the human constitution — the monad, the monadic essence, that which tastes never of death, which lasts from the beginning of what we call the manvantara or the universal manifestation of the universe, to the end of that majestic period of cosmic manifestation; that which passes over the cosmic pralaya or cosmic period of rest to begin its spiritual and other activities again when the new cosmic manvantara or cosmic period of manifestation begins.
And so on in cyclical periods constantly recurring forever, the spirit or monad is constantly growing: it is evolving, on its way to become the superspiritual, finally to become the Divine, then the Superdivine. Is that the end of its evolutionary possibilities? No, it advances ever, constantly and endlessly evolving, growing. But words fail us here to describe this sublime conception. We cannot describe it in faltering human language. Our imagination falls palsied in any such attempt, and we can merely point to the evolutionary path vanishing in both directions into infinity and into eternity, as beginningless as it is unending.
That is the spirit or the monadic essence. It is the god within us; it is the bright intelligence which stirs and moves the inmost articulations of the higher parts of our constitution, which movements, in their turn, are reflected in our brain-minds, in our human mentalities. It is the source of everything that is great and noble and high, pure, good, aspiring, and clean, in the human being. It is the source of immortal love, the source of self-sacrifice, the source of all harmony and beauty in the human being. That is the spirit, the immortal monad, the undying, the stainless, the eternal inner god.
The human soul is a ray of it, and you humans are all souls. The soul is what you recognize as the human being, the feeling that "I am I." And the soul, even as is the spirit, is a growing, advancing, progressing, evolving, thing — growing ever greater; and in the far distant aeons of the future, the soul will in its turn have so evolved forth its own innate and latent capacities, powers, and faculties — the splendor within itself — that from soul it shall have become spirit because the root or seed of the soul is a spiritual ray. When this shall be in its culmination then man shall have evolved from manhood into human godhood, from a human being into an incarnate god. Then will the god within you manifest itself with its transcendent faculties and powers and you will have become a living Buddha showing forth the Christ immanent within you.
"How can one overcome fear?"
I spoke upon that question on a previous Sunday. You can overcome fear by visualizing to yourself actions and thoughts of high and noble courage. Think of yourself as doing courageous actions. Study and admire courageous actions in others. Study and admire courageous thought in others. Grow to love courage, so that you follow it. Then you become it and fear will vanish away like the mists of the night before the rising sun. There lies the secret of overcoming fear: it is to use the creative imagination.
Here is another question:
"An admirer of Charles Darwin has suggested that he may have been a man of high spiritual attainment in some former life, who deliberately took upon himself the contracted mentality of the scientific men of his time, the better to come into touch with those he was trying to help. Is such a sacrifice possible?"
Such a sacrifice is possible; and every great sage and seer, every world savior, every Buddha, every Christ, every incarnate god manifesting in a human body, has done it: entered human flesh for the teaching of his fellows, giving up divinity for men, for the sake of helping wandering, erring men. But was that the case with Charles Darwin? No. A hundred thousand times, No. Darwin was a great man of a brain-mind type, with a mighty brain-mind; but nothing more. He was purblind spiritually, as most men of his type are.
"I have heard that Madame Blavatsky said that a dog which had been vivisected received its compensation as follows: The sufferings it has endured have so accelerated its progress that it has no need for any more animal incarnations. It remains in a condition of perfect bliss until the time comes when all the other animals are ready to enter the human stage."
I don't believe that H. P. Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, ever made any such statement. Not only is it untrue in general that such a thing could take place, not only is the general idea untrue, but it is untrue because it is unnatural. The sufferings that the poor beasts endure they will receive their natural just compensation for; but only the supremely bright intelligence flowing throughout nature, which makes nature's harmony and its beauty, could be capable of understanding in every detail just what particular compensations any unfortunate beast shall receive for its suffering. It is abstractly true that the sufferings of a vivisected beast do help its progress. It is also true that the sufferings of human beings do greatly help their progress.
But these facts are beside the point. Would you, in order to help the progress of your fellow, go out and torture him? How about the torturer? Do you think that you will escape scot-free for violating nature's fundamental law of compassion and of harmony? No. The truth of the matter is: out of evil grows good; but woe unto the evildoer. That is nature's law. You violate a law of nature in your physical body, and what then happens? Disease, suffering, and death. Cruelty, and unnatural action even if it be not cruel, are opposed to the harmony at the heart of being. The mere hope or belief, if such actually exist, that by doing unnatural or cruel actions with a good motive, benefits may flow forth, is a totally distorted and indeed evil way of looking at things, and opens the doors to all kinds of unethical and distorted moral actions.
He who does unnatural things, or evil things, shall suffer for them. That is nature's law. Nature — karma, the law of consequences — will attend to that. But no dog, merely because it has been vivisected, is ready to enter the human kingdom in its next incarnation. The idea is ludicrous, and H. P. Blavatsky never taught it. Whatever she may have said along somewhat the same lines, has another meaning entirely; and I merely make this reservation because her mind was so great, her knowledge was so sublime, that she often touched upon things, and made statements concerning them, which have not been understood. It is well to say this, friends, because there are other Theosophical societies so called, in the world, who have misunderstood in many ways the great teacher of men and the messenger of the Masters of Wisdom, H. P. Blavatsky.
Now I come to my last question for this afternoon:
"How can we awaken the spirit of Christ in our hearts?"
Well, were we living in the Orient, in a Buddhist country, for instance, the question there would probably have been, with precisely the same fundamental thoughts: "How can I awaken the living Buddha in me, the divinity within?" I will tell you: it is by love. Learn to love. It is the secret of evolution. Evolution brings forth the inner or immanent Christ, as the modern Christians say; it brings forth the sublime Buddha, the great initiate, the sage and seer, as the ancients and the Orientals say and said.
Forgive — which is one of the steps to love — forgive and love, and you thereby place your feet on the pathway which will lead you direct to the spiritual Sun which rises eternally with healing in its wings. Forgive and love; and before you know it, you will feel the sweet influence of the Christ-spirit stealing all through your being. You will not merely become beloved by others, but you will understand all things, because love is truly clairvoyant and is a mighty power.