Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered October 6, 1929)
I am going to begin the lecture this afternoon with a question that is a very profound one and a very interesting one too. It is one which has been debated for a long, long time by scientific men as well as by religionists and by philosophers.
Here then is the first question:
"Theosophy teaches that the other planets have human inhabitants. Does this imply that their bodies conform to the type that we recognize as human, or may they differ as widely from us as our bodies do from those of the lobsters?"
There is much more involved in this matter than appears in the words of the question. I don't know that theosophy does teach that the other planets are inhabited by "human" beings; I don't think that is what our wonderful philosophy does teach. It does, in fact, teach that all other celestial bodies whatsoever are inhabited by beings appropriate to each one of these celestial spheres, just as this earth is inhabited by beings who have bodies appropriate for life on this earth. That fact seems obvious, and that also is the teaching of theosophy; but to say that the beings living on other planets are human beings — that is, beings such as we are, having human bodies like ours — I am positive that theosophy does not teach this.
I don't think that a man on earth in his physical body, an earth man, would have a very pleasant time of it on the planet Jupiter, for instance, or on the planet Saturn. And I have a notion that if a Saturnian or a Martian or a Jovian came to Earth, he would be equally unhappy if he came with the body that belonged to the inhabitants of his own planet.
Having said this much, let me enter a caveat, lest what I have said be taken too strictly. It is the teaching of the esoteric part of our philosophy, of the more profound part, that the human race passes a certain period of time on our planet Earth; that it likewise passes a certain period of time on certain other planets of our own solar system. Also that there are in our solar system other planets which in our interplanetary peregrinations we, as a human host, never enter.
It is our theosophical teaching that there are many, many planets, scores of them, in our own solar system, which we humans have no cognizance of and therefore can neither see, nor hear, nor sense in any other way. The reason is that our senses have not been builded through evolution to receive the impressions, the energic impacts, which otherwise would produce the sense impressions originating in the energies which these other planets send forth into space. That is why we know nothing about the invisible planets. Depending as we do upon our physical sense apparatus, our senses do not interpret to us the vibrations of energy that these, to us invisible, planets send forth.
But all the visible planets of our solar system excepting Uranus and Neptune are what may be called our planetary family: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the planet for which the Sun stands as a symbol, Venus, Mercury, and the planet for which the Moon stands as a symbol. This is our planetary family, and the inhabitants of these planets resemble each other very closely because they belong more or less to the same evolutionary life-wave.
This does not mean that the inhabitants of Jupiter or of Mars or of Mercury or of Venus, if any at present, have human bodies proportioned exactly as our human bodies are, or that they are formed of flesh as our human bodies are. On the contrary, the inhabitants of these planets, whatever and whoever they may be, have bodies different from ours but yet approximating to ours somewhat. Whereas the inhabitants of the other planets not belonging to our evolutionary life-wave, to our planetary family, as I have just explained, these beings have bodies which are very different indeed from ours, and may be said to differ more from our human bodies, for instance, than does the lobster from us. I wish I could dwell on this question more at length if time allowed me to do so, for it is a fascinating theme of study.
"Theosophy teaches that every point in the universe is pervaded by omnipresent Deity; why then should one place be considered more holy than another? What constitutes a holy place?"
Well, it is true that our teaching is that every point in boundless infinitude is a consciousness-point, a monadic point, and that these consciousness-points or monadic centers are, so to say, the atoms of omnipresent or all-permeant cosmic spirit.
But it is nevertheless our teaching that certain places — and this teaching, as you will see, is quite consonant with Common human experience — are more favorable for spiritual development than are other places. Certain places are indeed such. A man writing a book, for instance, the poet composing some noble poem, the philosopher excogitating some cosmic scheme, the mystic attempting to send his spiritual thought behind and underneath the veils of material existence, would hardly choose for his work the noisy hurly-burly of the marts of men, but would go to the sublime peace and quiet of the mountains where nature seems more harmonious and attuned to what he himself has in his heart to bring forth.
But it is our teaching, our theosophical teaching, that still more than this can be said. There are certain places where the higher life-forces collect, as it were, where they are concentrated. This is very difficult to describe, but perhaps a hint to you will give you the idea.
There are places where the spiritual vitality, so to say, is running higher and stronger than in certain other places.
For instance, there are certain spots on the globe — and the north pole is one — where there are actual fountains of terrestrial vitality; the real places that the mystics of the medieval times sought and sought in vain, and called the fountains of life. You will remember, of course, the story of Ponce de Leon. Such places as I have just spoken of actually do exist.
But there are places on earth where nature's higher powers and energies — where the cosmic forces of a still higher and more sublime type than mere physical vitality — pour through the earth; and these are the favorite spots where the sages and seers, the Masters of Wisdom, today gather. These are the natural holy places of the earth; and the human being living near, or in, or upon, one of such holy places is bathed in more concentrated cosmic spiritual vitality than in other places.
So what are holy places? They are the places where the forces from the upper realms of the universe find entrance into our sphere of being, into our material sphere. No place can be made holy by any human act — neither by consecrations by prayer nor by ritualistic ceremonies, nor by anything of the sort — but such places are holy only where nature herself has set the stamp of her own handiwork. These are the natural holy places, and such there are indeed. Holy places, therefore, are simply concentrations of the vitality of the spirit, as contrasted with the gross physical vitality of material existence.
Here is a question of quite a different type:
"Is there any test by which one can make certain that something that springs into the mind comes from the higher nature and is not merely from some desire or colored by some desire?"
I think so. I think it is an obvious test, too, and an easy one. The higher nature is impersonal; it is self-forgetful; it is kind; it is loving; it is pitiful; it is compassionate; it has sublime inspirations. The lower nature is selfish, ingathering, acquisitive for self, hateful often, unforgiving, violent. There is your test.
If what comes wandering into your mind, or is brought hither by your own willpower and aspiration, is such as urges you to do good to your fellow men; which gives you inner peace and comfort: which makes you kindlier: more thoughtful of others: it is from the higher part. There is your test — an easy one; and you can work out the theory easily. This higher impulse may be a desire, but it is not a desire for the personality; it is a desire of the spirit, a desire to grow greater, to be more, to help others, to love, to forget injury, to forgive. There is the test.
Here is another question — a series of questions:
"What is inspiration? Where is its source? Is there anyone daring enough to set a limit to it? Does it come from within or from without, or both? What is the relationship between genius and inspiration?"
I have often answered these questions here; but they are well worth answering again and again and again. Inspiration is the receiving of interior illumination, and such comes only from the source of illumination, the inner light, which is equivalent to saying the inner spiritual sun or, as we theosophists put it, one's own inner god.
In Occidental countries this source of inspiration, this spiritual sun within, is spoken of by Christian mystical thinkers as the Immanent Christ, the Christ-spirit within. In the Orient it is called by various names. The Buddhists call it the inner Buddha; and theosophists often speak of it as the inner god, for that is what it is indeed. Thence comes inspiration flowing into the lower mind, into the brain-mind, through the intellect and enlightening us, showing us the way, and giving us peace and comfort sublime.
"Is there anyone daring enough to set a limit to it?"
Oh yes! multitudes of people are daring enough to set a limit to anything; but I think the question really means: is there anyone who can confine it? No. Inspiration really has no limits whatsoever. The amount, so to say, to speak in human terms, of inspiration that any one human being can receive depends entirely upon his own receptive power, upon the degree in which he can assimilate the inner light.
But inspiration in itself is limitless, springing from an overflowing fountain, flowing full and free throughout eternity; for ultimately inspiration, which is the vision sublime, the inner light, comes from the very heart of the universe.
"Does inspiration come from within or from without, or both?"
From within. But the outer world can stimulate the percipient mind so that it opens to receive the light. Do you understand me? Have you ever arisen early in the morning, and gone out and watched the sun rise, with the fresh cool breezes sweeping over your brow: watched the glorious sun come up over the mountains of the east? Then you feel that you are receptive and perceptive, and you feel your whole nature expanding and opening, and oh, the thoughts that pour into the mind! Such is the only way in which outward circumstances, the exterior life, can aid inspiration. Outer nature offers the stimulus, but the life is within, the light is within, the illumination comes from within the core of the core of your being. It is exhaustless. Oh, if men and women only knew who and what they are, what they have within them! Their ignorance is pitiful, simply pitiful!
"What is the relationship between genius and inspiration?"
This question is a very profound one. There is indeed a relationship. Both spring from the god within, from the working of the spiritual forces within the human being. But genius is, so to say, the natural working of the already evolved intermediate nature of the human being. Genius is a certain evolutionary stage which has been attained; whereas inspiration comes flooding into the soul, into the mind, as the "sun comes up like thunder out of China 'cross the sea," as the English poet Kipling puts it. Such is the way in which inspiration comes, as a flood of light.
Genius is accomplishment: that which has been achieved, the inner nature having been so evolved that it has raised itself into a natural harmony, and thus receives light more or less continuously in quiet and steady stream. Inspiration is higher, but it is temporary, though it may be the full flood of the inner light from the god within, one's own spiritual sun.
"Many of us carry away from your Sunday lectures the consciousness of vast and mighty forces of law and order governing the universe, and that all forms of life are contained therein, including, of course, human life.
"Some people seem blind to these forces of law and order, both in their greater and universal aspects, and in their lesser aspects as governing the essentials of our present human life.
"What is the value to human beings of these laws and of their recognition?"
Well, these laws are; and human beings are their offspring. These laws are the working of the universe, and human beings, as offspring thereof, are cooperators in the great cosmic labor. The value to human beings in recognizing natural truth is in the opening of the inner nature, is in the hastening of the evolution of the soul, is in its quicker blossoming and blooming; for truth is a mighty power and opens many portals of the human mind which otherwise remain closed. There is the value of teaching; there is the value of a teacher, who stimulates, who touches magic parts of your nature, and thus you awaken. Such is the work of the teacher. He can "give" you nothing; but he awakens you to yourselves. Think it over.
There is the splendor and beauty and truth of teaching. There is shown the necessity of a real teacher. And even as you must know yourselves, when your own soul suddenly recognizes a truth, then you have the sense of expanding consciousness, the sense of satisfaction, spiritual and mental, when suddenly you see. "My God! I see!" Such is the value of recognition, which is the beginning, if you will, of the vision sublime.
"Are the influences of psychic forces responsible, at least in part, for such things as exquisite musical composition of a soul-awakening power, as well as, on the other hand, for revolting crimes?"
For the latter, yes, for the psychic forces are not of a high degree. They are the forces of the lower part of the intermediate nature of man, of the lower part of what is commonly called his soul or his mind. But they are not responsible for anything that is noble or high: they participate therein, however, because when trained they are the vehicle, the body, the carrier, through which the inner light descends from the god within.
This is the case with the average man of our period of evolution; but in the great sages and seers, or in human beings of high evolutionary attainment, the psychic forces have become transmuted or so raised in etherealization and quality that they practically disappear as psychic forces, and become the lower grade of the forces working in the lowest spiritual realms.
A piano is silent unless the master's hand evokes the sublime harmony from it; but even the master's hand is powerless if the keys are wrongly placed or if they lack. Such as the piano also is the psychic nature, to follow the analogical example that we have given. The psychic nature transmits and helps to interpret, when trained and controlled, the visions received from the god within; but when left to themselves these psychic forces bring about not only unrest to the individual, but also frequently they mislead. They are the center of temptation, they are the seat of desire, they are the locality where selfishness and evil frolic and often riot.
"On a previous Sunday you explained the difference, from a theosophical standpoint, between soul and spirit. Do I understand, therefore, that soul is but a non-evolved spirit, and that spirit is an evolved soul, and that both are born out of human experience?"
This question is a trifle difficult to answer briefly because it is rather involved. I know that it is a little difficult to express very profound thoughts briefly in the form of a question, but here, as you see, there are three or four questions under the guise of one. In answer I will say that both spirit and soul are functions of the inner god. Spirit is the vehicle of Divinity. Soul is the vehicle of spirit. Body is the vehicle of soul, for all these three, spirit, soul, and body, are grades or degrees of energy-substance ranging from the higher downwards, so to say — from spirit to grossest physical, material existence — and through all these the divine ray must penetrate before it can touch the brain-mind.
Soul is born out of human experience, but not from human experience. Human experience is not its parent. Human experience is the method by which the evolving inner entity learns. Do you see the distinction? What is soul? What is spirit? Spirit is the vehicle or garment, the body of light, the body of life, so to say, in which the inner god lives and works and has its being. Therefore spirit is virtually eternal. Soul is a ray of the spirit: a feeble ray working in physical and psychological existence — nevertheless always existing as a ray.
Soul, therefore, is born from spirit — in spirit has its origin — and is not born from human experiences. But it evolves by means of the outer stimuli of human experiences: through experience it grows greater, and ever greater, until finally the ray ascending towards its source rebecomes the spirit from which it came, but no longer is it an unself-conscious god-spark, but a self-conscious god.
All this is high philosophy indeed, but a philosophy which is fascinating, very fascinating. The soul, therefore, is not merely a non-evolved spirit in the usual sense of the word evolution, nor, on the other hand, is spirit an evolved soul in the usual sense of the word evolution. This usual sense of the word evolution is based, however, upon the now moribund evolutionary teachings of systems like that of Charles Darwin of biologic fame. But our teaching of evolution is far deeper, is far grander, and as a function of nature is based fully on Mother Nature herself. Evolution, with us, means the unfolding, the unrolling, the unwrapping, of what is within: an ever fuller and more perfect expression of inner spiritual fire, of inner spiritual energies. The energy and fire are in essence eternal, expressing themselves through a consciousness-center which we humans call the soul; and the evolution of this soul is merely an ever fuller manifestation of its own interior faculties and powers which repercuss, so to say, or which reproduce their effect, on the physical body. Therefore the physical body likewise grows more perfect under this interior stimulus through the ages.
"I understand that The Theosophical Society is absolutely non-political. But if it teaches spiritual and ethical doctrines, do you not think it your duty to take an interest in politics in order to raise the general ethical standpoint?"
I don't think that this is quite a fair question; for, as individuals, we do take a normal human interest in politics — except myself. I don't like politics at all! I don't like to waste my time. But let me ask you a question: Would you involve yourself in something which is outside your line of activity, merely in order to show somebody that you are doing what you are actually doing? In other words, should we theosophists abandon our theosophical work in order to go and tell the politicians what we think they ought to do, meddling in their business and forgetting our own, abandoning our own line of activity? No!
We theosophists go into the homes through our teaching; we go by our teachings into the hearts of the politicians — if we can — and we shall reach their hearts some day; and our regenerating work is done there, in men's hearts, therefore from within and not from the outside. There is your answer. Change the men, change the hearts of men, and you won't need to talk about refashioning your politics or about elevating your politics. That is what theosophists are doing, or trying to do.
"Which was the higher: Gautama the Buddha, or Jesus called the Christ?"
Well, I would know what to tell you very clearly if I were in a Buddhist country; but as I am not, I don't desire to offend any kindly Christian friend. It would be too difficult to explain the distinction that theosophists draw between the spiritual stature and understanding of these two sublime men. If we were to say that Gautama the Buddha was the higher of the two, I should tell you truth. If we were to tell you, on the other hand, that Jesus, later called the Christ, was his equal in a certain mystical and spiritual sense, I should also tell you truth. The difference is this: Jesus, called the Christ, was what we call an avatara, which means the descent of a continuous flow of inspiration from a divinity into a human soul and mind — in other words, what is popularly called the "descent" of a god.
But while there is much more to say about the mystery of Jesus, I have no time today to tell it to you, and will attempt merely to tell you in outline what a Buddha is. He is one who through life after life after life after life, through almost innumerable ages, has grown great, and from greatness to a larger greatness, and from that larger greatness to quasi-divinity, thus passing, by his own unaided efforts, towards spiritual perfection.
It was thus that Gautama the Buddha became the very incarnation of wisdom and love — wisdom and love achieved, not bestowed, which latter is an impossibility in nature. Therefore, which is the greater of the two: an avatara or a Buddha? One who has reached divinity through self-directed evolution, as our beloved Katherine Tingley taught, and as do the Buddhas; or one who passes across the spiritual horizon of human history like a flashing glorious meteor, and is then gone? The Buddha will return again and again through the aeons to assist his fellow man to attain divinity.
The Christ Jesus was a single manifestation of a sublime spiritual energy entering the human atmosphere of our earth in order to purify and to raise humanity, but which then was gone. Nevertheless the influences of the life and of the teachings of that great being called Jesus the Christ still endure and help men; but so do the influences of the life and of the teachings of the noblest sage and seer known to history, the very incarnation of wisdom and love, as I have already said: Gautama, the Awakened One, the Buddha.
Theosophists are not Buddhists -— please do not misunderstand me to mean that — but the first duty of a Theosophist is to recognize truth wherever it exists, and to render justice to the religions of his fellow-men. I will read to you one more question before I close my lecture this afternoon:
"It has been often stated by the theosophical Leaders that we shall meet again those of our friends who have gone on. I should like to know if this statement refers to meeting them in devachan — the heaven world — as well as to reunion in other earthly lives. If, as I understand, devachan is the realization of all our highest aspirations, surely one would meet there those who evoked all that was best in us. I hope you will be able to reassure me on this point."
This is a pathetic pleading, in a way: a question framed with a hope that I shall be able to tell this kindly friend that the one whom he or she loved so truly shall be met with again after death. But, O friends, think! What did you love in the one who has passed on? What bound him or her to your heart with bonds that will never, never break? Was it not the beautiful traits of character, the visioning of the light divine in the eyes, the recognition of the working of the spirit through the loved one's face and acts and in his or her thoughts? What was it that you loved in the one who has passed on? You loved the best that which you can confide in and trust forever.
This best is eternal, for it is a part of the reincarnating ego. You will meet your friend again, and again, and again; for love is a mighty force and will draw you together inevitably. But the devachan or heaven world is but a sleep and a merciful forgetting of everything that caused pain and harrowing care and anxiety in the life last lived on earth. You lie down to sleep and you awaken refreshed and find your loved one at your side. Yea, death is a sleep. It is rest. It is a forgetting of all that cause pain; and it is more: it is a being in touch with love and vision. You are with the one you loved when you die, in all that comprises understanding and bliss. But there is no meeting of body with body.
Pause a moment! Have you not been happier in seeing the lofty sublimity in the heart and soul of him or of her whom you have loved, rather than in sensing the petty personality even of the loved one? Reflect! It is the personality, it is the lower part, which obscures the vision, which cripples the love, which blinds the sight. But in the devachan or heaven world there is peace, sublime truth, rest, lasting vision of the loved one, which passeth the understanding of men in physical life.
And then comes the reawakening into earth-life in the next reincarnation, and your loved one is with you again — really in the same body, and with the same soul and the same mind.
Vol 1, No 18