(Lecture delivered September 29, 1929)
I have twenty-odd questions before me here, and half an hour in which to answer them, — or a little more than half an hour.
I don't like to be long-winded on the one hand; but, on the other hand, I dislike to make my answers too short, because if the answers are too brief, justice is not done to some of these questions which are both deep and well worth some lengthy consideration.
The first question is as follows:
"History is a pitifully limited record of civilization after civilization developed by laborious effort to a more or less splendid climax. But carrying within itself the seed of its own disintegration, each one has crumbled to the dust, leaving only a few scattered, tragically silent ruins for present man to contemplate and ponder over.
"Will man eventually succeed in evolving a civilization that will withstand the savage ravage of time — and endure What unknown (or known) quantity would such a civilization be founded on, or is it the prescribed order of things that every civilization has its rise and fall, and having run its course vanishes into the mysterious river of time?"
Isn't that a beautiful question! The asker of this question has a poet's heart. He senses the melancholy prospect that even we moderns, with all our boasted civilization of paper, shall vanish away, leaving not a wrack behind us. What a loss, we moderns think! And yet infallibly it will be so.
Now, let me ask a question, in order to answer this question, following the method of the ancient Greek, Socrates. Would you want our civilization, as it now is, to endure forever? Nothing better coming in its wake and after it? Would you have wanted the civilizations of Greece and Rome, of Egypt and Persia, of ancient India and of other countries, to endure forever? Heavens! What a prospect of crystallized immobility!
Let us leave the melancholy aspect of it, and turn and see the beauty of it. Oh! thank the immortal gods that nature is builded on cyclical processes and procedures, so that when anything has run its course, it vanishes away, leaving the ground free for something better and higher. Everything, civilizations included, contains within itself the seeds of disintegration, and what a merciful provision of nature that it is so! Always something better — in the long run, please — succeeds what exists.
How would you like to be yourself as you are now, forever and forever and forever, and forever? Merciful gods! Nature is kinder than human imagination apparently wants it to be.
Here is another question:
"The ancient philosophers regarded the earth as a huge animal. It is difficult to harmonize this view with that of the modern scientists who teach that the earth's interior is molten, though not perhaps fluidic. There is one point at least on which the analogy between the earth and an animal breaks down. The earth does not propagate its kind. The animals produced by the earth are of the nature of parasites, not offspring. Will you kindly elucidate?"
Well, I agree with the ancient philosophers. In the first place, let us understand what they meant by the term "animal." This word comes to us from the Romans, from the Latin tongue, and signifies any entity which has an anima, a living personal soul, a personal center of vitality. For instance, the rocks have not an anima; the beasts have. The trees have not yet fully developed an anima. Men have an anima, as the beasts have likewise. The ancient Hindus made this distinction between animate and inanimate things clear by speaking of all things which had an anima or a personal vital soul, a center of personal vitality, or a human soul, or a spiritual soul, as Jjangama, "movers," things which move on the face of the earth; and all entities or things which have not an anima, a personal vital soul, nor a spiritual soul, nor a human soul, the ancient Sanskrit writers called sthavara, a word meaning "fixtures," such as the trees and the rocks.
Now, the earth moves. What is the difference in this respect between the earth and a man for instance, or a beast? Why may we not therefore call it an animal, it being a mover? It moves in marvelously accurate motions. It is composed of the same elements of which our bodies are composed, the same chemical elements in every respect. It is shaped differently, of course; but why should we say that it is not an animal because it does not propagate its offspring in the manner by which we do so?
In theosophy, however, the teaching is very definite that the earth does indeed propagate its offspring, that it propagates its offspring not in fact in the same method and manner that men and beasts use, but nevertheless after its own way. It has its life even as man has his life; and, may I ask in passing, will you tell me what the human life-force is? If you will, then I will tell you what the earth life-force is. You don't know what it is; but that fact is clearly taught in theosophy; and I may tell you that actually there is no fundamental difference between the magneto-electric currents which form the vitality of our earth globe, and the particular manifestation of vital electricity which men call life. They are the same thing in their elements.
Turning now to another viewpoint of argument: can you tell me what makes the earth an entity, what holds it together as an entity and makes it keep its shape and its courses of movement and its individuality? To say that it is matter acted upon by gravitation, says nothing at all. That is merely describing what we already know, in other words. What is gravitation? What is matter? Explain these truly to me, and then I will accept your explanation; but until you can explain to me the elements of the explanation that you might attempt to make, or try to make, I refuse to cheat my mind with words.
Yes, gravitation exists; matter exists. Both do, of course; but gravitation and matter exist likewise in the human body, act upon it and compose it. And the same facts in argument do apply with equal force to the chemical elements, the matter with which the chemist deals in his laboratory when he investigates the fundamentals of physical being. The atoms have lately been discovered to be as much entities and as much governed by gravitation and an inward urge or life as the earth, the larger atom, is also. There is but a difference in size or bulk between them. Indeed, as I have often pointed out before, the atom is in many respects, if not in all, a miniature solar system. But atom, and earth, and sun, and solar system in its turn, all are held in their respective courses and places by this mysterious inner entity which men call soul, working in matter by what chemists call attraction in the large and cohesion in the small, and which the astronomers call gravitation. All these things bear directly on the argument, for in all cases the things dealt with are entities each after its kind: each has its individuality, its character and characteristics lasting through shock and through change until dissolution comes — but that comes likewise to human beings.
Now I suppose that you would like to know how the earth propagates its kind. That is a matter which would take too long to tell you this afternoon, and therefore I cannot do so; but if you will study our theosophical literature you will find out the full and proper answer. The earth propagates its kind after the manner of the earth, as all other entities propagate their kind each one after its own individual way of doing so.
The earth has a life — rather a life-center, a life-consciousness, which is what holds it in the form that it has and retains — which is what keeps its component atoms together, gripped in the titanic grasp of its vital essence, even as the body of man is held in its regular coherent form by the grip of the vital entity within it. Otherwise, will you tell me please, what holds the component atoms of the earth together, and what compels it to retain its form through the ages as the years pass by and sink into the ocean of oblivion? Think about the matter a little bit, and you will get some realization of what the ancients meant when they spoke of the earth as a huge animal.
No, human beings and the minerals and the trees and the beasts and the other things that are on the earth are truly parasites, so far as the earth is concerned, little lives living on and within the greater life, but these are not the earth's offspring. Man's body is builded in precisely the same way in fundamentals as the earth is builded. Both are builded of innumerable hosts of little lives, just as the earth is; and all these little lives are held together, gripped by the central vital consciousness, which in the human being is the lowest aspect of his inner constitution; and the same observation applies with equal force to the case of the physical body of our planet which we call the earth.
If there were not this centralizing, this gripping power, the earth would disintegrate into its component atoms over night, or mayhap within an hour.
"Brisbane tells his readers that 'man can conquer many difficulties and has shown that whatever he can imagine he can do.' If this statement be true, what is it that limits our power of imagination? Does theosophy throw any light on this question?"
It does indeed. I think that this Brisbane — I presume that this is the newspaper man — I think that Mr. Brisbane voices in a general way a great truth. It is true that man has creative imagination, and when it is working he can do almost anything. But we should sharply distinguish the imagination from mere phantasy or fancy. I can fancy, in my phantasy I can see, a railroad from the earth to the sun or the moon; but I could work my imagination till doomsday and be unable to bring it about as a physical reality.
Nevertheless the imagination is creative, is one of the faculties of consciousness, one of the powers of consciousness; and when the imagination, the image-building faculty, the power of visualization, combines with the will — that penetrating power that man has, piercing all obstacles — then he can build for himself almost anything — not merely his own future, but actually physical things.
It is a teaching of the ancient wisdom in the different lands, that the creative power of man, impelled by his will, can even bring into physical objectivity beings and substances from the invisible world. Men don't know their power, and that is why most men are failures in the sense that they don't realize what is within them, nor live what is within them: don't know the godlike powers of creative individuality which they have within themselves. Oh, the pity of it!
In the ancient Hindu writings this power of the creative imagination is called kriya-sakti, and was well known and frequently practiced in ancient times as by the sages of today. The ancient sages taught that one whose will was trained and whose creative imagination was developed, by using these two faculties could bring into physical being and activity whatever he willed: give it a physical body, which merely means to collect around the picture that he had cast into the air the atoms of the atmosphere, thus giving his thought a body and a form. This is a fact; and men do it even today in an indirect way incidentally, as for instance when a painter creates a picture, or a sculptor from a block of marble brings into being some work of imagination, whose beauty and grace, delight and enchant, and so forth, and so forth.
The difference between the weak man and the strong man is simply that the latter, unconsciously or consciously, uses some of the powers of his soul and of his creative imagination — his power to see pictures and to incorporate them in actualities.
Coming down to matters of earth, fortunes are builded, destinies are made, empires are founded and governed, evolution is directed by the working of this power within us of picturing and of following the pictures. Men call it all dreams! Ah! It is the beginning of the working of the power of the creative imagination. It is the true dreamers who bring things to pass.
Here is the difference between the weak man and the strong man — be the latter teacher, be he sage, be he criminal, or whatnot — he can picture, he can see, and within him is his will. It is thus that the gods have builded the universe — by "seeing" and "willing."
Here is a deep question:
"What is mind? Are brain activity and mental states synonymous?"
They are not. Mind is a faculty, also an energy, of consciousness. It is not superior to consciousness. It is one of the energies of consciousness. Brain activity is the reflection of mental consciousness; and it is thus that the mind originates the pictures which become actualities in human life.
No, friends, the whole difficulty in questions like this is that our Occidental mentality has been for centuries psychologized with the idea that consciousness and mental states are something which exist outside of physical man. How about the materialists who say that all mental activity is due to the molecular agitations of the linings of the brain? Ah! Nobody believes that today. But nevertheless, questions like this one arouse the Occidental mentality from the psychologization that has been going on among us Western men for centuries, to the effect that the so-called soul is something which exists apart from the body, belongs to another realm, and that the body in a sense is added to it, by God or by nature, or by something or somebody.
We don't teach this. We do not make the sharp antinomy between soul on the one hand and body on the other: between mind on the one hand and brain on the other hand. Were this so, then I ask where is the link between the two, the natural link? If the soul were something quite apart from the body, which was put into the body by God, or in some way just worked itself into the body in childhood, then where is the natural link between the two; in other words what attracts soul to body or body to soul? Nobody knows. It is precisely this antinomy, or sharp suggested difference of nature and character between soul and body which the theosophist so vigorously repudiates.
The theosophical view is entirely different from this Occidental view of our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers. We say that the mind is a function of consciousness, and that consciousness is substance — the highest form of substance known. Put the matter in another way. Consciousness is an energy; and all matter, all substance, is a lower form of force, of energy. Mind and brain are essentially the same, not because mind springs from brain — but for the opposite reason. Brain comes from mind. The brain, our physical brain, the brain of the body, is but the deposit, the lees, the dregs, the lowest plane of mind, taking physical form and shape, due to the unconscious working of the will for physical existence and the unconscious picturization, image-making, inherent in the consciousness. These two working together give you your entire physical body.
Your body is actually builded of the substance of the soul — of the lowest part of the soul, what might be called the cast-off part, the lees, the dregs, the lowest plane of mind taking physical form and shape. Do you begin to see the difference between soul and body and their identity in substance? The theosophist positively refuses to make any distinction between energy and substance, between spirit and substance, between force and matter. To him they are fundamentally the same thing. We live in a universe of spirit, and all things and entities that we see around us are the expressions of spiritual entities, of consciousnesses.
But nevertheless, don't cheat yourself with mere vague words, with generalizations like consciousness, substance, matter, force, energy. These terms are all right; but if you want to be particular and exact in your thinking, you must go beyond the words to the meaning of them. Therefore say, consciousnesses, forces, energies, matters, substances. Remember that all things live in all other things and that every entity or thing that is, is composed of other things and entities. The small exist within the greater, and the greater within still greater ones, and so on ad infinitum.
Therefore such words as consciousness, energy, force, substance, matter, et cetera, are all abstractions. The word humanity is an abstraction. There is no such thing as humanity, but there are men. There is the point. Consciousness, therefore, really means consciousnesses. Divinity really means gods, innumerable hierarchies of conscious beings infilling the universe, and in them we live and move and have our being, even as the little lives composing my physical body and yours in us live and move and have their being: they are all little lives, learning entities living in our vital constitution, even as we live in the vital constitution of our physical globe, earth. Our vitalized bodies are therefore earth-animals in the sense already explained; and in the highest spheres we live in the hierarchies of the gods, as parts of their being, so to speak, as flesh of their flesh, bone of their bone, blood of their blood. That is what the theosophist means when he says that the inmost of the inmost of himself is a god.
To some this may seem to be high philosophy, but was I not asked a highly philosophical question? What is mind? Mind is one of the operations of consciousness; and in its working, it works in substances, and substance is energy, and the combined operations of these two produce the brain, a part of the body. The mental states are merely the "states in time" of the operations of this particular center of consciousness, called the mind or the soul. Why, even some of our Occidental poets have seized this truth. You know what the English poet Spenser has said:
For of the soul the body form doth take
For soul is form and doth the body make,
as I have just pointed out to you.
Picture to yourself a little child. Picture to yourself the human life-seed of which the little child is the evolution. Picture to yourself this life-seed, and its path, if you can, by image-making, by imagination, and in so doing your thought has reached a point where it vanishes out of the physical world. And yet, when this incarnating center of consciousness through that life-seed begins to work and to build the seed into the body and brings it into maturity, you begin perhaps to see the thought that I am trying to develop.
The body is simply the lees, the dregs, of the soul within you, and the soul is simply a name for your composite, inner intermediary essence; and higher than the soul within you, of which the soul or mind is an offspring, is your inner god, your inner divinity, one of the operators in the cosmic spaces. A child of the gods, it is a god itself.
Oh, if you knew what is within you! The Christs and the Buddhas and all the great sages and seers of the ages knew, and they became what they became because, knowing, they pursued the path of development through initiation and self-conquest, so that they became what they were. In every one of you is this Christ-spirit, in every one of you is this inner Buddha, in every one of you is a living god — a spark of the Cosmic Fire.
"Where is the seat of the soul?"
Here we are again. This question implies the Occidental idea that the soul is something outside of, and apart from, the body, something outside of and apart from the physical man, and that certainly it must have a seat somewhere in the physical body. The queerness of this idea is clear enough and the very fact that I can see you smile and hear you laughing shows me that you understand the queerness of it all. If you knew the pleasure that it is to a speaker to feel that he has his audience with him in sympathetic understanding, you would realize how agreeable it is to me.
Yes, having these thoughts in mind I may repeat the question to you: Where is this so-called seat of the soul? And in answer I tell you that there is no seat of the soul. The soul is the man himself, and the physical man is the deposit of the soul: the dregs, the lees, of the bundle of energy that man's inner constitution is. The physical body is what the soul has builded out of itself, and is the grossest part of the man; and because of this fact of the natural bonds of union of the parentage of the body in the soul, does the soul find the links of attraction to the body and lives within it.
But this does not mean that the incarnated entity so called, or the man — call that incarnated entity what you like, the ethereal part within, the focus of the energies which make man man — it does not mean that these energies working through a man have no particular part of the physical body through which they manifest themselves, because they actually have such localized centers of expression. And these particular foci, focuses, in the body are what are called the organs of the body; for man is a composite being, a bundle of forces, and the organs of the body correspond each to each to the different energies working through man's inner constitution, and this is the cause of the different types of organs in the physical body. They reflect the different types of energy in man's inner constitution. This explanation also shows the causes of the different physical senses that man has, which senses express the different types of energies or faculties in man's inner constitution.
"Is there any soul substance?"
Most emphatically there is. Let us suppose that man's soul was not substantial. Then I ask how could it manifest at all in substance? There would not be any link between the physical substance and the intangible unsubstantial character of such a supposed soul. It would be, so to say, hanging up in the air like Mohammed's coffin! It could not be in a body, could not work in a body, could not manifest through a body, because it would have no links or line of connection between itself and the physical body so different from its own essential being, according to this strange theory. Do you see the point? The soul therefore must be substantial, but of substance of its own kind; and this is another way of showing that the inner man, the intermediary man, must be substantial, but of a substance belonging to his own realms; and this is the same thing as saying that man is an energy or a bundle of energies because substance is concreted force, concreted or crystallized energy.
Analyze this wonderful "matter" of which we hear so much. What is it composed of in the first analysis? Physical atoms. And what are these physical atoms composed of? Electrons. And what are they? Points of electricity. Such is the latest dictum of modern science; but the idea, however, is as old as the ages, and we have been teaching it in theosophy for fifty years more or less last past. So your physical matter is composed of nothing but electrical points, energy-centers, of force-atoms — which amounts to the same thing. Naturally, your soul, your mind, the intermediate part of you (call it what you like), the part between the inner god and the physical body, is substantial because it is an energy, a bundle of energies; it is therefore a composite thing. Indeed, if the intermediary part of man called his soul were just one pure unadulterated essence, something which it is impossible to find anywhere, then it could have no contact or lines of interconnection with any other thing in the universe; and all our experiences, all our knowledge, as well as our intuition, show us that such absolute essences are nonexistent; for everything that is, is interconnected and interlinked with everything else, and all things work together towards one common end.
Even what it is customary to call in theosophical philosophy the individuality, is composite of a number of things: will, consciousness, egoity, substance, energy. But as this composition of the individuality exists on a plane so superior to ours that it seems to us to be indivisible, in other words to be homogeneous, we speak of it as the indivisible part of us, or the individuality.
There is much deep philosophy imbodied in these observations that I have just made; but they would take too long to develop fully in the short time at my disposal to speak to you from this platform, and I must therefore refer you to our books for a fuller and more complete elucidation.
"Descartes thought that there was a soul substance and placed it in the pineal gland; now the physiologists place the psychical center behind the forehead. What is the theosophical explanation?"
I presume that the idea in this question is the following: What is the theosophical view Well, Descartes merely re-echoed the ancient philosophers when he said that the soul is substantial. It is one of the few good things that Descartes ever said, in my opinion. The idea of placing the soul in one little gland in the head is rather arbitrary, to say the least. I don't object to the gland being small; but if this gland is the seat of the soul, how about the rest of the poor body? Does it receive soul control from the pineal gland as from a focus?
Now, it is true that the pineal gland is small, but this has nothing to do with the case from the theosophical standpoint; nor is it the "seat of the soul." The pineal gland is one only of the organs through which the soul manifests: it is the seat only of one particular energy of the mind or the soul, call it what you like, through which this particular energy of this intermediate part of man manifests. The pituitary body is another organ, the heart is another, the liver is another, and so forth, all such organs of the physical body being the foci or centers through which corresponding various and particular energies of the intermediate part of man express themselves.
It is these energies of the intermediate part of man, whether you call that intermediate part of man mind or soul, which manifest themselves through the corresponding and respective organs of the physical body, which organs these various energies themselves have builded up for that purpose.
Now, all these organs together, with the rest of the matter which forms the body, compose the vehicle which the soul substance together with all its faculties and energies permeates. When electricity passes along or in or through or around a wire, shall we say that its passage is in one particular point of the wire, or in a particular succession of points? Similarly with the soul, it has no one seat in the body in which it resides or sits. It permeates it. It works through all the body, particularly through the organs which are the channels of the differentiated faculties and powers of the soul.
But this applies only to the intermediate portion of man's constitution. It does not apply to the higher parts of the soul. I have been speaking of the merely astral parts of the soul, the dregs of the soul, the lees of the soul, which in their grossest form compose the physical body with its various organs and tissues, etc.
Do you begin to understand the idea that I am trying to convey to you? It is these lower energies, these lower substances, of the intermediate part of man — call it human soul or mind, or what you like — which permeate the body somewhat in electrical or electromagnetic fashion — certain particular energies of this intermediate part of man working through certain particular and corresponding parts of the body, which are called the bodily organs.
I cannot go at greater length into this subject of thought this afternoon, because it would take too long a time. Returning to the question, I don't know why the physiologists of the present day should place the psychical center of man behind the physical forehead. This is some curious and transitory notion or phase of thought, I suppose, which will in time very likely be replaced by some other idea.
Here is the next question:
"Can consciousness be explained, or some illuminating words thrown on its nature?"
Well, that is somewhat like asking a man to lift himself by pulling at his shoes. Such an act is a poor way to lift oneself from the floor. Thus it is also difficult to explain consciousness by consciousness. Consciousness is an energy, but it is also a substance, because the two are fundamentally one thing. Ask a man to explain to you what consciousness is, you are asking him a very difficult question which he doubtless would be puzzled to answer. It is somewhat like asking a man: Who are you? He answers: Who am I? I am I. Then you say: I know, but who are you? And he replies: Who is I? Well, I am I. You see, you are asking consciousness to explain itself, and this is a very difficult thing to do.
However, we can throw some illuminating words on the character of consciousness. It is energy in its essence. In its essence it is eternal. It manifests in manifold forms and shapes, in all degrees of evolutionary beings, which is the same as saying of evolving beings. The theosophist sees consciousness working everywhere. It is the very root-essence of the universe; it is the primal force. It contains the cosmic life, for it is cosmic consciousness; and this cosmic life-consciousness expresses itself in the universe as the many-varied energies of the cosmos.
Consciousness is the fundamental fact of being. Please remember also that the idea of consciousness, per se, as I have already pointed out, is an abstraction, and one may well ask: Is there such a thing as consciousness per se, or should we not rather speak of consciousnesses in innumerable grades of hierarchical existence which, considered in their vast aggregate, for purposes of convenience we call consciousness?
Personally, I am strongly inclined to disbelieve that there is any such thing as 'consciousness' apart from consciousnesses. For instance, is there such an entity as humanity apart from the men who compose humanity? Is there such a thing as rose apart from the roses? Is there such a thing as goodness apart from entities or things which are good? Is there such a thing as evil existing absolutely as apart from entities and things which are evil? I doubt it all. For the same reasons I am strongly given to doubt that there is such a thing as consciousness absolutely apart from consciousnesses.
In order to make this a bit more clear, permit me to make the following observations. The universe is a composite entity composed of innumerable hosts of consciousnesses, and of these consciousnesses which are simply innumerable the less live in the greater; and the greater live in others still greater — live in them and move in them and have their being in them; and these still greater consciousnesses live in the gods and move and have their being in the gods, and so forth practically indefinitely; and we can picture these innumerable hierarchies as in and of the universe and surrounded by the UNIVERSE, which thus is verily the cosmic Divinity. These divinities in their turn live and move and have their being in hierarchies of cosmic Divinity still more sublime.
Where will you stop in thought? In neither direction can you find an absolute ending. Endless are the frontiers of infinitude. Beginningless, endless, are the frontiers of eternity; and therefore what is in one point of infinitude must be everywhere. Otherwise, how did that one point come into being if it exists alone by itself? Each point, as well as every point, is a child of the Eternal, and therefore partakes of the life of the Eternal, of the consciousness of the Eternal, and of the energies of the Eternal, and of the destiny of the Eternal.
All things and beings everywhere are knitted together in bonds of unbreakable union and this is what the theosophist means when he speaks of universal brotherhood: the essential oneness of all things that are.
"Is the spirit of Christ that you so often speak of in your lectures the same as the spirit of Jesus Christ? In other words, when you speak of the Christos-spirit, do you mean the soul of Jesus?"
I wish that someone would tell me what is meant by the "soul of Jesus." It is easy enough to use words such as these. But to the theosophist who is accustomed to studying the facts of nature as imbodied in his majestic philosophy, the soul of Jesus or the soul of Buddha carries a very particular meaning. At any rate, when the theosophist speaks of the Christos-spirit, he does not mean the soul of the man Jesus. By the Christos-spirit he means the inner god at the center of everything that is — therefore of men also, of course: the inner Buddha, the Immanent Christ, the inner god, the divinity within. Using popular phraseology in the West for the sake of being easily understood, we often speak of the Christos-spirit instead of saying the inner Buddha or the inner god. This obviously does not refer to the soul of the man Jesus.
"When you say that The Theosophical Society has no dogmas, do you mean that it has no specific or definite teachings, and that it is a mere attempt to form a brotherhood of mankind based on merely general ethical grounds? If The Theosophical Society has certain definite teachings which it promulgates, as seems to be the fact, in what way does this differ from the ordinary dogmas of any church?"
Well, that is a natural question to ask. We have no dogmas at all; but we have very definite and specific teachings, doctrines, tenets — call them what you like. The Theosophical Movement is vastly more than an attempt to form a brotherhood of mankind based on merely general ethical grounds. That plan has been tried again and again and will always fail, because in order to succeed you must have something to fire the imagination of men and to stir their hearts. You must give them the vision sublime; and that is what The Theosophical Society was founded to do.
We have very definite teachings, which outline in formulated fashion for the Western World of the present day the mysteries of universal being. These are the doctrines of theosophy. Therefore are they scientific to the last degree, religious to the last degree, philosophic to the last degree, because they are an exposition of the nature of things as they are — Truth.
Our teachings and doctrines differ from the dogmas of the churches because we never say: "These are things which you must believe, if you wish to be saved." We say: "These teachings have been tested and proved to be true by the sages and seers of all the ages. You yourself can test them and prove them. That is what we desire you to do. Receive; study; and abide by the results of your study; abide by what your conscience tells you to accept."
We know what would be the result of such examination. We ask only for a fair hearing; and we are now beginning to have a fair hearing — just beginning. In the past we have had to meet dogmatic prejudices, enmity of all kinds — religious, scientific, social, whatnot? But today we are beginning to be understood. More of this understanding, I think, is due to the wonderful discoveries of modern science than to any other cause that I know; for the modern scientific discoveries are so near to our theosophical doctrines that people have begun to wonder and to ask themselves: "This is very strange; how can it be?"
Well, I will read one more question before I close this afternoon.
"Who and what are the gods so frequently talked about in your lectures? Are they merely developed men?"
I cannot answer this question by a simple Yes or No. If you mean by developed men, the mere growth of the physical body into a god, then I must laugh at your idea. We certainly do not mean that. The gods spoken of in the theosophical philosophy, who are the spiritual beings infilling the cosmos with intelligence and consciousness and power, are entities who in long past aeons of cosmic development were beings like us, human beings. Did I not tell you a little while ago that the core of the core of your being, the heart of the heart of you, was a god, and that the entirety of evolution is the giving out of the latent powers and faculties of this divinity within: the unfolding, the unwrapping, the bringing forth into manifestation of these divine powers and faculties within, of this inner god?
As this evolution takes place through the ages, the evolving soul or entity passes from manhood to supermanhood, from supermanhood to beings still higher which are angelic in character, from these to the gods, and from them to beings still more sublime. But the gods are not merely "developed men" in the modern sense at all. They are beings who in former ages were like us humans, as I have already said; but they are they who, through the revolving ages, have felt developing within them more and more the out-growing of the faculties within, until finally the outer vestures of mortality dropped away, and the god appeared: a spiritual energy, an incarnation of intelligence, wisdom, compassion, and love. These gods are simply beings who have become, through evolution, their own inner selves and who have passed over the age-long peregrinations of evolving faculty, throwing off from stage to stage vehicles outgrown and outworn, until, having rebecome themselves — their own inmost spiritual essence — they become the flowers of eternity, divine beings.