Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered October 13, 1929)
I am going to talk to you this afternoon by answering some questions that people ask. On other occasions I have talked from this platform in answer to questions that children ask — for children are also people.
As I came into the Temple this afternoon and sat down in my seat, someone handed me a paper. This is the paper:
"This noon, at dinner, I was reading aloud to the boys the program for the afternoon Temple Service. On coming to your name I said: 'By the way, do any of you know what Gottfried means?' 'Yes, I know: it means "the peace of God," ' answered one of the young men. 'A piece of God?', queried another boy in surprise."
I do not think that I have ever been called before "a piece of God," but oh! how true this thought is in the spiritual sense, for is not every one of us in our highest parts an imbodied divinity, a spark of the Central Fire which vivifies the universe, and from which the peace which steals into human hearts and blesses us comes? And it comes because we are "pieces" or atoms, so to speak, of the cosmic spirit, of that central spiritual Fire. The quaint remark which I have just read to you is an example of the wisdom of little children.
Do you know that this thought of the spiritual unity of all beings is at the foundation, is in fact the basis, of every great religion and philosophy of the past? This thought is that the human being has, indeed is, in the core of the core of himself, a spark of the Central Fire, of that bright Intelligence which infills the universe; and they said, these great sages and seers of olden times, that the pathway to unutterable wisdom and peace and bliss and love is by following that still, small pathway within leading ever farther inwards, upwards, until self is lost in the All-self, and the pilgrim becomes at one with the Divine Fire which vitalizes and infills and guides the universe.
The Mysteries of antiquity were likewise based upon this fundamental fact of being. These Mysteries were methods, taught methods, imbodied methods, of training by which the unit-individual may become one with the All, nevertheless never losing its individuality, its unitary being. As the Buddhist puts it so beautifully, when this occurs then the "dew-drop slips into the shining sea." What a vision — no wonder it has been called the vision sublime! The whole effort of the initiatory ceremonies of ancient epochs — the whole purpose of the Mysteries of antiquity, the whole purpose of the schools of the great sages and seers — was to teach man to come into his spiritual own; in other words, to become his spiritual self.
Man, know thyself, as the Greek Oracle put it; for in yourself lies all: everything, everything! How could it be otherwise? Are we different from, or separate from, or other than the universe? Are we not inseparable parts of it? Think! Therefore, everything that is in the universe is in you, in potentia — in potency — or in actual manifestation. Do you see the high dignity that this clothes humanity with? Do you see the vast and frontierless possibilities of achievement? Realize that these conceptions are realities, not merely fine talk, and that every normal human being who once begins to understand them must have not merely his brain fired with the reflection of the vision sublime, but will feel his heart expand so as to take within its sympathies boundless infinitude. Do you see also how morals and ethics are likewise based on this sublime truth?
Here is a short question preceded by several lines of explanation.
"Rosita Forbes, the famous traveler and friend of the Arabs, met a Ulema, evidently a real spiritual teacher among the Mohammedans, who said the West was not yet ready for the deeper teachings which were yet alive in the Orient, because the Western peoples were not 'single-hearted' enough. What is this desired quality?"
"Single-heartedness" — that idea is nothing new. It is the burthen of the message of all the sages and seers of the ages. Gain the child-heart. Be simple; be not complex. Be upright; be not supine. See! Be not blind. Live in the life eternal, and live not the living death of the beings of matter. Be true, which is simplicity. Be simple, which is truth. Be single-hearted, not double-hearted.
Our Western world has been psychologized for the last one hundred years or more by the now moribund materialism of our fathers, now passing away and more or less dead, but leaving its baleful influence on our minds still; whereas, in the Orient, the mystic flame still lives. Men there still yearn to know and to understand. They understand enough to see that mere speculative theories about the nature around us are not truth, and that the passing phases of human intelligence are not truth; that truth if anything is simple, direct, clear, and that the only way to know anything is to be it. If you have no links of sympathetic self-being with it you cannot understand it.
Open therefore your hearts. Be simple, be true. Look within, ally yourself with your higher energies — which is the same thing as entering behind the veils of outward, material nature, going ever more and more behind or upwards until you see the vision sublime. Then nothing will ever shake you. Nothing can ever move you. Nothing will ever disturb you. Be single-hearted.
"What is the real nature of the electron of modern chemical, magnetoelectric theory? Is it matter or force, or is it a ray?"
Now, isn't this an example of lovely Occidental logical thinking! First, there is the suggestion contained in this question that matter and force are two things, and that if a thing is neither matter nor force, it is a ray. A ray of what? Do you know that it is an ancient teaching of theosophy that matter and force — or equivalently, spirit and substance — are one fundamentally, two manifestations of the cosmic life, two phases of being, of the cosmic intelligence-life; and therefore that everything that is, whether it is in the matter phase or in the energy phase, is but passing through a temporary part of the long evolutionary journey of the monadic center — which monads are the building blocks of the universe, and which monads are now manifesting in and indeed compose the spirit phase, and which at other times manifest in and indeed compose the matter phase?
But what is a ray? If it is neither force nor matter, what then is it? If it has no substance, if it has no substantiality on the one hand, and if it is not energic on the other hand — in short, if it is neither force nor substance — what is it? Obviously it is matter, substance, just as everything else is, and also obviously it is energic just as everything else is. If it were neither matter nor force, it could have no existence whether as a ray or otherwise. All this is quite true, because force is merely etherealized matter or, as theosophists prefer to say, matter is merely crystallized force, one of the two fundamental phases or events of the cosmic intelligence.
I have spoken about this subject in our Temple of Peace time and time and time again; I have talked on this subject and I have explained it! So you will forgive me if I do not pause too long over it this afternoon.
But what, then, is the electron? It must be matter; otherwise it could not affect matter, could have no relations with matter. It must also be energy or force; otherwise it would be without movement, without possibility of self-expression in its own characteristic and individual way. It is, therefore, both energy and matter; but is it a "ray"? A ray of what? Calling a thing a ray is saying nothing at all.
Let me read to you in this connection an extract, and a very apt and appropriate one, that I found in an English newspaper, The Observer, of London, of the issue of September 15, 1929:
"The theory that hydrogen was not an indivisible element, as hitherto supposed, but a compound, had been known in technical circles for some months, but, like most theories of the kind, had taken time to percolate through to the public lecture-room. It has an important bearing on the new wave-mechanics, and tended to confirm the recent belief that the electron, and through it the universe, resolved itself ultimately into 'rays,' rather than 'matter.'"
This is a statement of a very eminent British astronomer, Sir James Jeans. I would like now to ask: if it is a ray, but if it is not matter, what is it? If it has no substance, no substantiality, what is it? Energy? What is energy? According to the dictum of the latest modern science it is matter, or, as theosophists say, matter is concreted or crystallized energies, energy and matter being two sides of the same thing.
That conception is one fertile viewpoint that Dr. Albert Einstein, directly or indirectly, has restored to the attention of the thinking minds of the modern Occident. He has brought forth an old conception of the theosophical philosophy, known for ages: and that is, that there are no "absolutes" in the universe. People used to think that there was something called absolute matter on the one hand, and something else called absolute force on the other hand, and that they were quite different things and yet that they interlocked and interworked and interacted. How all this was nobody knew and nobody could ever explain. But, said Einstein, there are no such absolutes, or at any rate they could not be proved. And this is quite true, for matter and energy, or spirit and substance, are two sides of the same thing, and that is just what we theosophists proclaim.
From the theosophical standpoint an electron is, of course, matter — but by no means necessarily the gross, merely physical matter of our gross physical senses. Therefore an electron is also force; it is likewise a ray, because it is a manifested expression in a certain direction of matter and force. The electron also is matter in one of its lowest subdivisions; it is energy in one of energy's lowest subdivisions also. It is a ray, because it is the ultimate material point of a spiritual monad, of a spiritual consciousness-center, of a spiritual consciousness-life-entity.
Every entity and every thing in the universe is a learning thing: every entity therefore is on its upward evolutionary way. The universe is divisible into numberless hosts of beings in all phases of evolutionary progress: endless hierarchies of beings and things and entities, graded in steps and stages; and the same principle prevails in similar fashion on our earth.
Are all men identical? Are there not good men, better men, and best men; small men, tall men, all kinds of men? Do we not see diversity and individuality and the characteristics that follow individuality in all manifested beings? There are multitudinous families of different stocks, composed of individuals, each one on its upward evolutionary pathway: growing, learning, evolving, which means unwrapping, unrolling, what is within, and manifesting that within as the ages pass, thus bringing out spirit from the enshrouding veils of matter — which matter is but spirit in another of its phases.
Such therefore is an electron: the tip or end of a spiritual ray working in matter and manifesting as an electron, a point of negative electricity as the modern scientific chemists tell us is the case. As regards this modern chemical terminology, theosophists make no particular comment. We have no objection to that terminology. A name is merely a name; and electricity is as good as any other name. Get the idea that behind this electron there is vitality: a vital ray streaming from the heart of a spiritual monad which is the core of the core of the entity, manifesting at this point of its long evolutionary journey, and undergoing experience in its electronic phase — the electron therefore is an "event."
We human beings in our higher parts are therefore also monads, manifesting as human beings, and the human being obviously is more advanced in evolution than is the electron. Why should an electron be? What is it? Why is it?
Again, why is a man here as a man? By chance, or as the result of previous evolution? Do you like the word chance? I do not, because I am not going to cheat myself with words. Chance means nothing to me. I am simply fooling myself if I use words as counters, meaning nothing in particular, and only providing a screen with which I may veil my own ignorance. No! Instinct, logic, intellectual faculties, my spiritual intuition, tell me that the characteristic of individuality is in the background of everything that is, and is the cause of the individual appearance of things, and the cause of the showing forth of any entity's individual characteristics.
Fundamentally, man and the electron are the same. The difference is that man is more advanced in evolution than is the electron. Man is higher than the beast; the beast is higher than the plant; the plant is higher than the mineral.
Here is a rather touching question that has been sent in to me for answer:
"Your lecture on Sunday afternoon revived certain thoughts that I have pondered upon from time to time. These are in regard to the re-attraction of friends in future incarnations. As I understand it, people who are far along the path have the choice of coming back more often in order to help humanity. Speaking from a pupil's point of view, he is sometimes strongly attached to his teacher.
"Question A: Though he is less advanced, can he if he loves his teacher hard enough, come back as often as his teacher does, or must he skip a few possibilities of again working with his teacher?
"Question B: Is there a final separation?"
It is the teaching of the ancient wisdom-religion, today called theosophy, that love is a mighty power; that it is, so to say, the very cement of the universe, linking everything to everything else; that love is eternal in essence, and that if this love be impersonal, unselfish — therefore not limited — it can span the gap which men call death and reach out over the so-called abyss to draw one who loved together with the other who loved.
It is our teaching that the bond between teacher and pupil is a very high one, a very holy one. It is based on an impersonal love. To use our own technical theosophical phrasing, a pupil should love his teacher more than his mother or than his father, more than wife or son, or daughter, or friend of his heart. And why? Because, for instance, while the parents give to the pupil his body, the teacher gives to him his soul, because the teacher awakens that soul.
Yes, impersonal devotion of that type will bring the pupil back into companionship with the teacher whom he loved, if his love be impersonal and purely without individual thought for personal gain. Whether this love can so work, in view of the law of karma — that is, the law of cause and effect operating everywhere in natural being — that the pupil can come back into earth-life with every incarnation of his teacher into earth-life, is something that I would not like to answer offhand, because it is perhaps too much to affirm positively; but assuredly such a love will bring teacher and pupil together again and again and again, and the bond between them will grow ever stronger.
"Is there a final separation?"
Never, never; for love is the very cement of the universe. It is the great attractive power which links thing to thing, human heart to human heart; and the higher that one goes in evolution, the closer does love enwrap its tendrils through all the fiber of one's being; or, to change the figure of speech, the more does the human heart expand with love, until finally it embraces in its folds all the universe, so that one comes to love all things both great and small, without distinction of place or time. Oh! the blessedness of this feeling, of this realization! It is divine; for love, impersonal love, is divine!
Are there any Christians here present this afternoon? If so, I hope that they will not be offended with the following question and my answer to it. It is one of the questions that were sent in to me, and in simple courtesy I feel bound to answer it.
"Why are the Christian nations whose 'God is love' the most warlike?"
Well, I think that they are the most warlike at the present time. But I don't think that the Christian nations — a theosophist must be just — are at present more warlike than other certain races of men or nations have been in the past. The tread of the legions of Rome shook the civilized world at one time, and so did the thunder of the chariots of the Egyptians and of the Assyrians shake the civilizations of their respective ages. A nation is warlike in a certain phase of its evolutionary existence, coming to pass in what theosophists call the fourth period of its life; but that phase of its existence will be followed by phases of peace.
Look at the history of individual nations; look at the history of Spain, of Portugal, of France, of Italy, and of other countries of the European medieval times. Look at the history of Great Britain today. In all these you will find a period of growth, a period of national expansion, followed by the instinct to war and battle for the preservation and for the larger expansion of the national ideals — held up to the little children of the time as something which it is right and even holy to follow. Then comes a time, brought about perhaps by the very unwieldy weight of the national conquests, when peace works its holy magic into the national heart, and then men arise and preach peace! They see that in peace is a stronger power cementing men together than is the adding of more to the already great burden of responsibility that the nation then carries. There is the psychology of it all; but it all happens according to cyclic law, and nature rights wrongs always.
I don't think that the Christian nations are more warlike today, merely because they are passing through that particular phase of their national existence, than were the Romans of old, or than were the Assyrians, or the Egyptians, or than were the Chinese in their period of battle and warlike fever.
Yes, the God of the Christians is proclaimed to be a God of love; and yet in his name holocausts of victims have been offered to a God of hate.
But outside of all national religions or racial religious peoples, let us turn in thought a moment to RELIGION per se, which is a very different thing from any particular belief that may be followed. Oh, blessed, blessed religion which is beyond and above all human inventions and man-made creeds! When I think of the religion of Gautama the Buddha, in whose name never a drop of blood has been shed, never a letter of hatred conceived in the spirit of dogmatic intolerance has been written, then I see for that great religion a destiny sublime.
But theosophists are not Buddhists. We are, however, just in our judgment of our fellow men; or we try to be just.
Here is a very interesting question: as a matter of fact, a series of four questions, of which I will answer two this afternoon.
"Why is the human stock represented by only one type or species, so to speak, and the animal and vegetable stocks, etc., represented by such a variety of strains?"
This question was called forth, I take it, by the fact of the great modern interest in the so-called theory of evolution. Now, theosophists are evolutionists through and through and through, but we are not Darwinists nor neo-Darwinists, nor Lamarckians nor neo-Lamarckians. We do not believe that any thing or any entity, merely by some peculiar working or magic of nature — what is nature, by the way? — automatically becomes something else. I cannot conceive of that as a fact of nature. I can conceive only of growth, of becoming, of one thing self-growing into something nobler; but it is utterly impossible for me logically to conceive of a pile of metal and ivory and pots of paint and cloth and wood, and so forth, "evolving" into a piano! If there is not an urging intelligence, a driving intelligent force, behind the energies working through the beings of the earth, and indeed of the universe, what is there behind entities and things which drives them forward from imperfection to relative perfection, from the less to the greater? Again, what is this nature that we hear so much about that originates all these wonderful things? Cannot you see that nature is a word merely expressing an abstraction of thought?
If you think that you know, then tell me what nature is? Why, you say, it is the sun and the stars and the earth and we and other things, and bodies and entities and so forth. Well, that is all right as series or a list of names; but do not you see that you are merely giving a list of names of beings and things? What is this nature that is supposed to bring forth all these things and to perfect them, according to the modern scientific idea? Men have made out of a mental abstraction a creative entity, and they called it nature, forgetting that nature thus conceived is but a mental abstraction, and that there is no such thing per se.
But there are entities — innumerable hosts of them — which are all growing beings, growing and developing and evolving from the impulses of the life within, each one evolving, throwing forth, unwrapping, what is within: showing more and more of the divine powers and faculties and energies which form the core of the core, the heart of the heart, of the god within. And the more this god within unfolds its faculties and powers, the more does the entity in which these god-energies work become perfect through evolution.
Evolution, therefore, is a ceaseless striving or growth towards an ever-receding goal of perfection, because what we humans think is perfection is to the gods very, very great imperfection. Perfection and imperfection are relative like everything else, and are not absolutes.
The human beings of the earth compose but one stock comprising a few species, if you like: at any rate a single stock called humanity. For a number of reasons which I have set forth in other lectures delivered here in our Temple of Peace and which have appeared in our monthly magazine The Theosophical Path, I have shown that the human stock is the oldest on earth, instead of the last and therefore the youngest, as modern science proclaims.
What it is customary sometimes to call stocks of animate and inanimate entities, theosophists call evolving life-waves, meaning by this term a group or family of entities more or less in the same stage of evolution, of unfolding; evolving together, understanding and knowing each other, attracted together, and thus forming a group or family, or a class, or an order — use whatever word you may like. Our own present human stock which theosophists call the human kingdom, being the primordial and therefore the oldest stock, has advanced the farthest in evolutionary development.
What are these many stocks of the beasts and of the vegetables? They are less evolved than are the human stock; but each one of such stocks represents an evolving life-wave such as is our own human but more progressed stock.
There is a certain egoism in the idea that we, because we are humans and the most advanced, are quite different from the other things of the universe. Tell me why that should or could be so! We are not different in essence. The energies that play in and through our bodies are the same energies that play elsewhere in and through boundless infinitude; and the matter of which our bodies are composed, or the substance of which our inner natures are composed, is the same matter and the same substance which make all other entities and beings to be vehicles through which pass the divine rays streaming from the spiritual Fire of the universe.
Let us forget our human egoism in considering ourselves unique in the universe; and in place of this egoism let us remember that we are one in essence with all that is, and therefore are linked in closest relationships with everything else. Let us invert our viewpoint.
Suppose, for instance, that the ox or the turtle or the serpent separated themselves from the rest of the universe and said: Why is it that we are one stock, and there are so many other stocks inferior to us? What would the other stocks of animate and inanimate entities have to say in answer, or what might they be conceived to say in answer?
We humans are simply the most evolved of the life-waves on our earth only. We humans are growing towards angelhood, godhood, and we have developed from our inferior human selves — not from the beasts, but from our inferior human selves — as is exemplified in the individual when the microscopic human life-germ grows or evolves to the full stature of a six-foot man, developing his faculties as his body matures and can express the powers and faculties of the god within, in some degree at least.
Just in a similar way have we humans grown through the ages of the past from our inferior selves, our less evolved selves; and these inferior selves or bodies we have used as steppingstones, climbing towards higher things. In an identical fashion our present humanity is merely a stepping-stone, so to say, on which, through which, by means of which, we humans are now climbing to godhood, progressively in ever fuller measure manifesting the god within.
(2) "The lower we go in the scale of evolution the greater is the variety found in the life-stocks. When we go higher than the present human stock, will the evolved human gods of that period have still less variety among them than the present men have?"
This is a very interesting question. "When we go higher than the present human stock, will the evolved human gods of that future period have still less variety among them than the present men have?" Evidently the idea here is that the many multitudes of minerals have given birth through evolution to the smaller number of multitudes of vegetables, which have given birth through evolution to a still smaller number of animal stocks, which have given birth through evolution to our unique stock, human beings.
That is not our teaching. There is not a single fact in nature today that proves it: not one fact in modern science that proves it. All nature indeed proves evolution, but not necessarily the theories of men as to how evolution works.
Well, in answer to this question, I should say that the evolved humans of the far distant future, who will then be approaching divinity, will indeed have less physical or material variety than they have now; but, on the other hand, they will be approaching a larger increase in manifestation, in every sense of the word, of the spiritual individuality within; in other words, our individualities will grow greater and our physical differences melt away and practically disappear. Nature is tending all that way so far as we humans are concerned.
In other words, the inner god of each evolving entity will, as time passes, expand more and more its manifestation through the physical vehicle, so that the individuality — all that makes man man, the spiritual and intellectual powers — will manifest in ever greater measure, and thus the human being will grow grander and grander. But the differences of body will grow fewer and fewer; so that, instead of there being several varieties of man, of human man-gods then, as there are now several varieties of men — black and brown and pink and mixed — there will be one humanity ruling the earth like gods and walking like gods, thinking like gods, living and loving like gods. Greater variety in individuality, less variety in body, for the reason that all shall have more fully evolved towards the point of expressing the godhood innate in all.
"When I recollect a scene of my childhood days, do I revive a record from any private collection of memories, or do I avail myself of the general register of memories stored up in the astral light?"
I think in answer to this question that I should say that the individual revives a record, re-collects, re-members, from his own mental storehouse, and does not see the record in the astral light. The astral light is nature's record, for, as even our scientists of today will tell you, not a shadow falls on a wall which is not indelibly registered there forever. Practically ninety-nine percent, I should say, of the recollections and of the memories that pass through the brain come from the soul-record within.
"What do you think is the future of Christianity?"
Really, I think that some of these questions are a little unkind. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and yet I don't like to ignore an honest question; so I will do my best to answer it kindly. My father was a Christian clergyman, and I remember how sincere he was in his beliefs. I never was a Christian. But of course that is merely a matter of what was, has been, and is, my own belief. I believe that the future of Christianity will be to become more and more theosophical.
I believe I see the time in the future, when the churches — a very different thing from theological Christianity, by the way — when the churches will be theosophical lecture halls, whither thinking men and women will flock to hear able Theosophical lecturers teach. That is what I think will be the future of Christianity. Our modern Theosophical Movement is an infant yet, is a mere babe. We have hardly begun to walk. But wait until we begin to run!
Here is a beautiful question with which I will close today:
"If man is an incarnate god and possesses divine powers and faculties, why are we not better than we actually are? If we were gods we would surely live as such. What is it in us that inhibits the action of the inner god, and how can it be overcome? I ask this supplementary question because, when listening to you, I reproach myself for not being better than I am."
This kindly friend has asked a question which I believe that many of you have, must have, asked. Man is indeed not at present an incarnate god; but is the manifestation, imperfect as yet — to be perfected in future aeons — of a god seeking incarnation of its energies. The inner god overshadows, inspires, invigorates: is the core of the core of us and the heart of the heart of us; but man is not yet an incarnate god. That is why we do not think and act and live and walk the earth as gods. But we shall do so in the far distant aeons of the future.
I would like to know the vain and egoistic mind who would place limits to the possibility of evolution and who would say: "Thus far and no farther!" Evolution is endless; time has neither beginning nor end. We are children of the universe, and our pathway in progress, in growth, is as endless as time; and our field of action, the theater of our efforts, and the majestic plays — cosmic in character — that we shall put on the stage in future times, are in the fields of space, of boundless infinitudes.
"What is it in us that inhibits the action of the inner god, and how can it be overcome?"
I will tell you. Personality — that's all, and all the evils that flow forth from personality. I do not mean individuality, which is godhood, the indivisible part of us, deathless and immortal, which tastes never of death nor of decay — but personality: the small, mean, petty, restricted, limited things which form a close and compact atmosphere around our being, and which scarcely anything except immortal love can ever penetrate. Personality, selfishness, egoism — these are the things which inhibit the manifestation of the divine energies within us. These it is which cripple men, so that men do not give full expression even to the powers and faculties that they now have.
Great men are great through the working of the god within. It is this working which gives them intuition, which gives them light, which illumines their souls; and the recognition of this truth is the first step. In time you shall see the vision sublime.
Vol 1, No 19