Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered October 27, 1929)
I have quite a number of questions to answer this week — twenty, twenty-five, thirty, perhaps — and what shall I do? Shall I answer each one very briefly, or take a few and answer them at greater length? I think the better plan will be simply to follow the inspiration of the moment, and when the psychical touch of response that a speaker always receives from his audience comes upon him, then to dwell at greater length on the points of thought which seem to be mutually interesting.
Here is the first question:
"You recently defined a holy place as a region of the earth where spiritual forces were concentrated. Would it be of any advantage to the ordinary man to live in such localities inasmuch as these forces would probably rouse into activity his evil propensities as well as his latent good qualities?"
Some people have interesting minds. They send to me a question to answer, and then proceed to answer it themselves. This question is answered from the standpoint of the mind of the questioner, because he appears already to have made up his mind that such holy places arouse evil propensities in an ordinary man, as well as latent good qualities.
I think that our wonderful, our majestic, system of theosophical philosophy, however, can tell us something more about this matter. Why should it be assumed, in the first place, that high spiritual forces are they which arouse the latent evil propensities in one? I don't know why they should. I don't think they do. I think that this is an assumption on the part of the kind friend who sent this question in to me. I think that it is very beneficial indeed for the average man to live in a holy place, in a place where the forces of nature are vibrating in consonance with the higher realms or spheres of being; and I utterly fail to see how spiritual forces in the man which would be stimulated by these vibrations could arouse in any human being his or her evil propensities.
Therefore do I say that I don't think the statement is true; and consequently it would be immensely beneficial for any human being to live in a place where nature, the Great Mother of us all, has concentrated her forces of a spiritual character, and where, therefore, spiritual currents are running strong. Of course some people are so oddly constituted that you cannot do anything with them — at least apparently. I will admit that. It is sufficient for them even to see a holy man immediately to become pugnacious and to want to fight his ideas: this attitude of mind arising perhaps through the peculiar trait in human nature which impels one to think that "because I am not like him, therefore he is not as he should be."
But the forces of nature are not themselves responsible for such peculiar traits in human beings. These traits come from the imperfections of the man who so acts or thinks; and in justice to human nature I think that there are very few such men or women in the world, when compared with the great majority.
Here is another question which, I take it, comes from the same kind friend, and is much along the same line of thought.
"May not a place become holy by reason of its being the residence of a man of high spiritual development?"
Yes, for a man, not merely through his spiritual nature but through his intellectual and psychical constitution, is a very dynamo of energy, and the thoughts that he throws forth from himself — the energies that he spreads abroad even from his physical being — radiate from him as the solar rays do from the sun, and produce an atmosphere, so that when you come into the presence of such a human being, you say: Oh, how reposeful is his presence! I feel calm, I sense refinement, I touch the frontiers of peace. I am happy! Such an atmosphere indeed can a good man throw around his domicile also, because he himself is the heart of it.
Everything that is, from electron to highest god, is essentially a center of energy; and therefore let us look to the converse of what I have just before spoken of. If the atmosphere of a holy man does good and helps his fellows, likewise the energies of an evil man — one whose heart is filled with selfishness and impulses to evildoing and whose mind is filled with thoughts of how to carry these impulses into action — make around himself an atmosphere which troubles, hurts, injures, and arouses evil passions in those who come within the sphere of influence of his atmosphere.
Verily, a holy man does make the place wherein he lives holy; and this is an old old idea which has existed from immemorial time the world over. So much so that where a very holy man has lived, people who are spiritually sensitive will tell you for centuries afterwards that the place is filled with vibrations similar to those engendered by the holy man when he lived and worked there.
Have you never entered a house, entered a room, gone into a home, where you sensed the inspiring vibrations, to use the popular term, and are at peace and are happy, and feel bettered and inspired? Of course you have. How many times have I heard kind friends say to me, or say to my colleagues: It was wonderful to come into your Temple. The atmosphere was beautiful. There was such a sense of peace and rest!
Now, please do not misunderstand me. I don't mean to say that we have any holy man hiding in secret in the Temple here, but merely that this Temple's atmosphere has been the recipient for many years of beautiful thoughts — high, generous, whole-hearted, impersonal, and therefore good and holy. Harmony is the explanation of the wonderful atmosphere we have in this Temple of Peace, for harmony is the very essence of love; and where love is, all other things of beauty abide, for beauty is the harmonious relation of things with other things, and therefore of human hearts with other hearts; and only love can produce it: for love and harmony are one, whether this be in the sphere of the cosmos or in the human heart itself.
The following came to me as a question, although it seems rather to be a request for an interpretation.
"The following question is dedicated to the Raja-Yoga University choir. How do you interpret the quotation: 'Sing — your very song shall vibrate in the universe when you return to earth a thousand lives from now.' "
This looks to me like a very positive declaration. It does not read like a question at all. However, I think that it is a very true declaration. In comment I may say that it is one of the common places of Occidental scientific discovery and thought that no vibration ever has an ending, but goes vibrating onwards into the spacial deeps of infinitude forever and forever. Out of the deeps of time it came, and into the deeps of the future it is marching onwards. So does a thought live also.
Therefore, expressing the thoughts of one's heart in song, or in high and beautiful words, comes to much the same thing after all. For you make a record on the screen of time which by reaction will affect yourself very beneficially indeed, and will come back to you some day — back to you, its creator. Then harmony will again enter into your heart, and you will sing the old songs in the future: in another language perhaps, and perhaps expressed in another mode, but the same music that now fills your heart will then fill it again.
I will go a step farther, turning from beauty to philosophy — not that I mean that philosophy is ugly — but just changing the thought a bit. No vibration, whether it be musical or otherwise — whether it be a psychical vibration, or a physical vibration, or a spiritual vibration — ever really "begins." It comes out from the deeps of eternity and infinitude, and returns to those who once before sent it on its way at some past time, who now again receive it; and so it will continue forever. And in each new return of such a vibrational cycle the creative human soul and the creative human imagination impress on this vibration, or on these vibrations, a new touch, a new something — call it what you like, human words fail — which stamps the vibration with a new musical soul, a new musical individuality — raise it, if you like — so that each new return of the musical vibrational cycle is accordant with the evolutionary progress achieved by those who have received and modified it in the past.
Nothing ever really begins, nothing ever really ends. Beginnings and endings of things are dreams, illusions, and only appear to be beginnings and endings of things because we are not wise enough to know how such things come to us and whither they go when they pass from us. A seed — whether it be of a star or of a flower matters not — comes from some other thing similar, alike unto itself: produces its own kind, which in turn becomes a creative focus of energy and produces its offspring. So it is with vibrations or anything else — however absurd this may sound in the ears of the modern pragmatical scientists.
We human beings are each one an aggregate of vibrations — yes, each one of us; and we are not here coming from nothingness and going into nothingness, but are the fruitage of what we were before, and we are now making for ourselves what we shall be in the future. We ourselves are the seeds of our future lives; and we are now the fruit of what we were before. This is, in brief, the theory of reincarnation, you see.
"Sing, and your song will return to you." Only, friends, real song is from the heart, not from the mouth. And one who has harmony in his soul is a natural musician, whether he knows three consecutive notes on the written score or not.
"I am told that theosophists do not accept the ten commandments of Moses as binding upon them. What, then, is the moral code in which they do believe, and upon what principle is it based?"
I know that the friend who wrote this question has a very kind heart, but it looks to me exactly like a verbal catch, like a verbal trap. However, I am awfully glad. I love to walk into traps — I usually find that I come out at the other end, carrying the trap with me!
Please do not let us confuse a formal code with the principles and sanctions of ethics themselves. A code may contain these latter, and usually does, but not necessarily so. We do not accept the moral code of Moses merely because it is the Mosaic code, or because other people believe in it as a code, as a formal written instrument; but we do not reject the Mosaic code, on the other hand, in so far as it contains good things — certainly not.
Theosophists have no formal, written, theosophical code of ethics, but I think that we are the most moral, ethical people in the world; and I will tell you why. Because we recognize the principles of the moral law and the sanctions behind these principles; and we know that if we do not follow them, not only do we fail, but also that we suffer greatly.
Our ethical code, then, is an unwritten instrument and is the cream of the moral law: of the ethical systems of the entire world, whether they be Buddhistic, or Brahmanical, or Mosaic, or Christian, or whatnot. We believe that right is right and that wrong is wrong; and we do not believe this because it is written in a code and reduced to a number of different articles or clauses; but we believe it because we have a philosophy of the universe behind us, which shows us that ethics, that moral principles and sanctions, are based on the very fabric and structure of nature herself; and that morals — not merely formal morals, customs, etc., not conventions religious or social or what they may be, but natural truth — is the unwritten code, nature's code, in which we believe and which we follow as best we can.
I should deeply regret it were anyone to think that I have given Brother Moses a black eye. That is not my intention at all. I simply mean that, while the Mosaic code does contain undoubtedly certain splendid principles of conduct, particularly applicable to the times for which they were composed, our theosophic ethical system is far deeper, far broader, far more beautiful, universal, having the cosmos or universe as its background and the human heart as its shrine.
Here are three profound questions:
"What becomes of us when we lose our individuality?"
I don't know whether this questioner means when we lose our personality or our individuality, because theosophists make quite a distinction between these two. The individuality is the spiritual and immortal part of us, deathless, the root of us, the very essence of us, the spiritual sun within, our inner god; whereas what we call the personality is all the lower man, all the psychical and astral and physical impulses and thoughts and tendencies, and what not. When we throw off or deliver ourselves from the influence of these latter, then we become in very truth a god walking the earth.
Unfortunately, most people are not in such high spiritual condition, and that is why we have so few human gods among us today!
There is another side to this matter, a very deep and profound one, which truly it would be hopeless adequately to explain this afternoon, because it would require a full half-hour of introductory explanations of various kinds; and this side of the matter on which I now touch refers to the fate of a lost soul. Read our theosophical books, if this latter subject of thought interests you, and you will find the explanation of it briefly outlined there.
Dividing man, as we do, into spiritual individuality and person or mask — the word "person" as you know being taken from the Latin word persona which means "a mask," through which the actor, the spiritual individuality, speaks — freeing ourselves from the domination of the person, the mask, the veil, through which the individuality speaks, then we show forth all the spiritual and so-called superhuman qualities; and this will happen in the future, in the far distant aeons of the future, when every human being shall have become a Buddha, a Christ. Such is the destiny of the human race.
When human evolution shall have run its full course, then we shall be like gods walking the surface of Mother Earth.
"What is mind?"
Mind is a faculty of consciousness, from one standpoint. It is an aspect or function of consciousness, from another standpoint. It is the dregs of pure consciousness. Mind belongs to the intermediate or psychic nature of the human being. Call mind mentality, and you see at once the difference between it and pure consciousness, such as the gods have. Mind in this sense is a limitation; it is the mental instrument through which consciousness expresses itself in human beings, and in beings living on other planets who are equivalent to us humans and who have reached a similar degree of evolutionary development there that we have attained on our earth. Mind, therefore, is the psychic instrument in which human consciousness works at our present evolutionary stage.
Furthermore, we say that there are several kinds of mind, all of them expressing fundamental consciousness which is the root-energy of the universe: that is, the spiritual mind, the human mind, the animal mind, and the ordinary brain-mind which is very close to the animal mind; whereas, through all these faculties there is the unitary stream of consciousness, and in and through each one of these minds the consciousness expresses itself as best it can; and the whole purpose of human evolution is to raise our consciousness from the animal or brain-mind into the more typical and higher human mind, and from it into the spiritual mind, and when this shall have been attained then we shall be like gods.
Here is another very profound question:
"What is Truth? I do not mean truth in the ordinary sense as contrasted with telling a falsehood; but Truth in its higher and deeper meaning."
According to the Christian New Testament, Pontius Pilate asked what truth was and then washed his hands and went away. Now, of course I answer all these questions from the theosophical standpoint; I don't even bother with ordinary ideas or any other so-called philosophy or religion or whatnot. I am here to tell you what theosophy has to say. That is my job.
Truth to us, truth in the abstract, is Reality, the Real — not as any human mind may interpret natural reality, but the Thing itself. That to us is truth. The Real is the fundamental essence of the universe, as consciousness-life existing in the bosom of being; and when great sages and seers have interpreted this Reality and put their interpretation in human formulations, then we can truly say: "This is a system of truth"; but as I have just said, REALITY is its essence, is its background and sphere. Reality and Truth, therefore, are fundamentally exactly the same thing; and when I say natural truth, I do not mean merely the truth of physical nature at all; I mean what we theosophists mean when we speak of nature — more especially the spiritual realms, the invisible worlds, the causal spheres, those which through their workings and interlocked activities produce in our material sphere things as they are. That is reality even here — the reflection of the cosmic Real. And when we interpret this reality truthfully, accurately, actually, then we say: "That is truth, reality, things-as-they-are-in-themselves, not as human minds may interpret them."
Now we are going to leap from the cosmic to the infinitesimal. I have a question here before me about electrons; and yet, when one comes to consider points of deep philosophy, the infinitesimal is as sublime in its way and as majestically grand as is the cosmic, for it is an inversion of the cosmic. Because from the theosophical standpoint there is as vast a deep of infinitude in the infinitesimal world as there is in the cosmical sphere. Otherwise you would have a jumping-off place in the infinitesimal where everything ended, and if this were so, taking your leap from the jumping-off place, into what could you leap? The human mind very naturally and very properly refuses even to conceive of such a state of things, because it has an intuition that it is fundamentally false. Nature is everlastingly continuous: there are no absolute frontiers and endings where existence and being stop.
Therefore, space, time, consciousness, have as wide being and existence in the world infinitesimal as they have in the world of the cosmos. And now listen: What we call the cosmos, the wide spaces of space, as they say, are merely such to us because we are human beings of a particular type in the universe; for I can tell you that there are conscious, sentient, living beings and things to whom the spaces of an atom are just as grand as our spaces are to us. In fact the atom, as I have been telling you for several years past from this platform of our Temple of Peace, is as fully inhabited by celestial bodies on an atomic scale and by entities inhabiting those bodies, as is our own cosmos.
Further, there are beings so much more immense than we are that their relation to us is like our relation to the atomic world, so that our whole spatial infinitude is their infinitesimal world. Let this thought sink into your minds. It will be very fruitful of suggestive ideas in your meditations upon it. Our ultramodern scientists are brushing the frontiers of these theosophical teachings even today, but hesitate as yet to pass over into the unknown which they dimly see on the horizons of their thought; and yet, how their hearts long for it, and how their minds are reaching and straining beyond what they recognize as the physical sphere.
Here is the question about the electron, to which I have just alluded:
"What is the theosophical teaching with regard to the scientific electron? Is it a hard little point of matter, or is it just a wave-center?"
It is both, it is either, according to the way by which you look at it. I wonder if I can make this a little clearer. Everything that is, is an energy-point essentially and ultimately: whether it be human being or atom, star or god, it is builded around an energy-point, a consciousness-point, call it soul or spirit, the name matters not at all for the present — it is a center which, looked at from "above," seems material, and is material to that above; but looked at from within, so to say, or upwards, it appears as a vibration, a series of waves.
The human heart may well exemplify the electronic structure. As the heart appears to us it is a material, physical organ, beating constantly in rhythmic vibration; but if we were to transfer our center of consciousness to the astral realms, we should not see the physical organ: our eyes there would not be built to cognize it, but we should sense a series of waves, of rhythmic beatings, and we would say: These waves come from a wave-center. Such also is the electron itself, quite apart from its place or function in the atomic structure. In itself it is just such as I have described — an energy-point, ultimately a consciousness-point, a beating heart of consciousness-life, in other words a monad expressing its energies in the atomic sphere.
Let me read to you in this connection what a very great modern British scientific thinker has to say, for it is a most unusual thing. I quote from an address to the British Institute of Philosophical Studies, delivered by Sir Oliver Lodge on July 26, 1929. This address was entitled, "Beyond Physics," which is a translation of the Greek word "metaphysics." I will read to you a few extracts that I have made from a report of this address:
"One remarkable outcome is that the difference between a wave and a particle is disappearing. We have to do with something that is neither, and yet shares the properties of both; something for which the name 'wavicle' has been suggested. The constitution of an electron, notwithstanding its utterly minute size, is by no means so simple as we used to think it might be. In the outer orbits of an atom, a long way from the nucleus, an electron behaves something like a little sphere, revolving round a center of force under astronomical laws. But an electron nearer the central nucleus, and therefore traveling at high speed and subject to stiff control, does not seem to be located at a point at all, but spreads out over the orbit like a succession of stationary waves. The whole thing is rather complicated. All I want to insist upon is that the difference between a wave and a particle is one of degree rather than of kind. . . ."
So say we theosophists. Sir Oliver Lodge is a very intuitive man, and were it not for what I personally think to be his rather peculiar quasi-religious ideas, I would say that he is a man who is inspired, to a certain extent. Like Planck of Berlin, like Bohr of Copenhagen, like Einstein of Berlin, and like Eddington of England, he is one who has received a light and has tried to interpret it and formulate it in human fashion.
Why does an electron in the atom seem to behave in such contradictory fashion: just like a little atomic planet when its position is far from its atomic sun; and almost like a solid ring when it is near to its nucleus, the atomic sun? Because in the latter case it revolves or vibrates so rapidly that our senses of perception do not perceive its revolutions as interpreted to us by our clever scientific instruments, but sense only the effect of its activity conveyed to our perception as a continuous streak or ring of substance-energy.
Set a wheel revolving with extreme rapidity, or put a bar on a pivot and revolve that bar, pivoted at its center, with extreme rapidity; and instead of seeing the spokes of the wheel or the two ends of the bar, if you see anything at all you will sense just a series of waves or a blur in the air. Now try to poke your finger, as suddenly and rapidly as you like, into this blur, if you are courageous enough to risk the mutilation of your finger, and you never will find a place where your finger can enter. Your finger will touch matter at whatever point of the blur where you may try to insert the finger, simply because the wheel or the bar is revolving with such extreme rapidity that the spokes or the two ends of the bar seem to be everywhere at once. The wheel or the bar thus seems to have become a physical, continuous, wave of substantial matter.
So you see that from our standpoint, the electron, supposed by modern science to be the ultimate particle of physical existence, is at once a wave-center and a material point or particle. It is indeed both, depending upon the way by which you look at it. Thus all physical matter seems heavy, solid, substantial, because the electrons of which it is composed are more or less closely compacted together in and by the atomic systems which they in their turn form; whereas in more ethereal matter, such as the air, the atoms are not so closely united.
An electron, in theosophy, is not only an energy-point: it is also a consciousness-point expressing itself as an electrical particle or energy-point. Do you realize that there is no difference, essentially, between matter and force, or equivalently between spirit and substance, — that the two are essentially and fundamentally one? The same underlying Reality, the same Reality in the background, expresses itself in these two phases: one, the various phases of spirit, and the other the various phases of physical substance of which one phase is so familiar to us. But the essence of each is the same.
I shall now answer one more question this afternoon. This is a very pretty question, and a profound one also.
"Do flowers have souls? If so, what kind of souls?"
Why not? If they have not souls, what have they? What gives them permanence of type? What gives them individuality? What makes a rose differ from any other flower? What makes a carnation differ from a geranium, or the so-called humble violet differ from the magnolia? It is individuality, the inherent life-force within it, expressing itself in this, that, or any other form, shape, color, odor, and in the general harmony of its own being. This is the working of its soul of which all these varied phenomena are the outward expressions.
The soul of a man is, mutatis mutandis, exactly the same thing — the consciousness-energy expressing itself as his character, as his facilities, as his inner energy, as his thought, as all his emotions and powers. That is why one man differs from other men, why no two men are identical. Yes, flowers have souls; plants have souls; animals have souls; humans have souls — the very chemical elements as manifested in their atoms, of which all matter is ultimately formed, have souls: every atom is ensouled, every electron is the expression of a soul, of a consciousness-point. Let the name be what you like; but pray get the thought!
And through this soul of any entity pour the still higher and sublimer energies of the spirit above and behind, the inner god. Do you know what evolution is? It is merely the bringing out of what is within, an ever larger and more perfect expression of soul, or spirit — of character in other words. That is all that evolution is — the unwrapping, the unfolding, of what is within; and growth, just simple, plain growth, is evolution in the small, proceeding at a rapid rate.
As a child or the six-foot man has grown from a microscopic human seed, thus evolving from the infinitesimal into our own sphere by growth — by evolution, by unfolding, by unwrapping, the essential faculties and powers within — so does the human race, through the ages, collectively and individually evolve, bringing forth the soul powers, everything, that is within.
And this procedure will continue until in far distant aeons of the future, the human race shall have run its final course on this earth, and evolution shall have brought forth its finest; and instead of men, we shall see human gods walking the ground. That is our teaching; that is the promise of the future. And every one of you today has all the potency, all the latent powers, and is the promise of what you are to be in the future through evolution. Ally yourself quickly with this inner spiritual essence of you, and then you shall be great men. Such were the Buddhas and the Christs of the past. Be it!
Vol 1, No 21