(Lecture, delivered June 8, 1930)
CONTENTS: All real teaching is a call to awaken. — Truth needs no embroidery. — The present wave of psychism perilous to human sanity. The fate of early Christianity. Psychism is not imagination. — Are ethics mere conventions? — Does frequent repetition of a truth become tiresome? — Objections to the theosophical policy of unity based on hearsay and misunderstandings. — Are the doors of The Theosophical Society open to all? There are no backstair methods. — Theosophically speaking, exactly what is universal brotherhood? — May the imagination be cultivated, and if so, through what agents? Don't confuse imagination and fantasy. — What is karma? — What is reincarnation. — Noble verses from the Dhammapada, a scripture of the Buddhists. — Man is his own self-maker.
This message of theosophy, this sublime series of doctrines, is the ancient wisdom-religion of the race, of humanity — not the fruit of lucubrations conducted in the light of the midnight oil, not the fruitage of the excogitations of philosophers or scientists or dogmatic religionists, but a formulation in human language of what the great seers and sages of the race have seen, who sent their seeing, visioning spirit behind the veil of the outward seeming, and seeing were enabled to understand, and understanding to interpret, and interpreting to bring truth to their fellow men.
It is out of this foundation of truth, setting forth the nature, structure, and operations of the wonderful universe in which we live and move and have our being, that the teachings today called theosophy arise. Nothing that any theosophical teacher could say out of his own mind could add one iota to this foundation. All that a theosophical lecturer, or theosophical interpreter, can do, is to give you a vision, an insight, into that which his mind and will are attempting to set forth, and this is done along the waves of thought, running into your minds. Is not all teaching conducted in this way? Is not all real teaching, after all, an appeal, a call, to that in you to awaken which cognizes, recognizes, and then knows?
The appeal, therefore, in the ultimate, is a statement addressed to the inner god in each one of you, for each one of you is a feeble manifestation of a divinity dwelling at the core of the core of you: and therefore such an appeal is to this inner god to come forth in human lives, to stand forth, and to show its greatness. The mystical Christians of the Occident call this inner god, the immanent Christos; the Buddhists, as I have so often pointed out to you, speak of it as the inner Buddha; in other religions the same thought is expressed in divers ways; but always is the truth the same, always is the meaning identic, in whatever form or phrasing by which the message may be conveyed. Always it is the same appeal. "Man, know thyself," said the ancient oracle at Delphi in Greece: for if you know your inner self, if you become at one with the god within you, you become thereby allied with the very heart of the universe, become at one with the spiritual-divine energies, powers, substances, of which you are, each one of you, an inseparable part; for verily, in holy truth, every man and woman is a god manifesting through an imperfect human tabernacle.
That inner divinity is the source, the fountain, the origin, of all things that make men truly men: that make men great and grand and noble, that give men understanding, that give men knowledge, that give men compassion, that give men love, that give men peace. What bliss it is to recognize one's kinship with all that is; to feel and to understand, and in feeling and in understanding thereby to act in accordance with the realization that one is akin to the gods who guide and control the boundless universe.
So anything that any speaker could add to these marvelous thoughts, so uplifting and so inspiring, would be like adding meretricious ornament to the beauty of a flower. The duty of a theosophical teacher, of a theosophical lecturer, is to tell truth, without any embroidery, without any ornament, simply setting forth as best he can and may that with which his own soul is permeated and filled.
It does not matter in what language the lecturer may speak; it matters not at all in what time he may live or have lived. You will find, if you examine the foundations of all the great world religions and world philosophies, that the founders of these all taught one essential truth which in fundamentals is identic in all parts of the world.
Your Occidental world in particular needs this message badly, very badly indeed. Occidentals are heart-hungry for truth, for something that will withstand searching investigation: something that will not merely survive the test, but will by that very investigation, have the beclouding veils of mere human opinion stripped off, so that divine, holy truth shall stand revealed. The duty of every theosophical teacher is to lift at least a corner of the veil of Isis, so that the divinity underneath that veil may send forth into human consciousness its supernal light.
To some minds the light of this divinity is blinding. Such minds are not strong enough to bear its transcendent beauty and splendor; and that is usually the case in the Occident today, so that our theosophical teachings have had to be given forth in more or less simple form, in forms easily understood, so as not to overtax the untrained mentality of Occidentals.
There is a great and impending danger to human sanity in the Occident today. Do you know what it is? It is the danger of psychism — psychism, so popular because misunderstood. It is the same peril that invaded early Christianity and finally overcame it, so that belief in miracle and dogma succeeded the teaching of holy truth emanating from the great avatara Jesus later called the Christos.
The danger in psychism is not that it is an event in the psychological history of mankind, and thereby merits a certain amount of study. That is not the danger. Study is always proper. Study of it is not the danger. But the danger is this: that unless you have the foundation doctrines, in other words the key to it all, through ignorance your attention is distracted away from spiritual things to the illusions of the lower mentality, to the intermediate or psychical nature, and thus the glorious sun of the spirit is lost sight of, for you then see but the murks of the befogging brain-mind.
There is a wave of psychism passing over the Occident today which bears in its train the possibility of the loss of human souls — the loss of one incarnation at least, in which those souls might have learned more, and might have grown into greater, nobler, beings more helpful to their fellows. Men's attention is being drawn to these things of psychical range which all die when the body dies, which have no essential permanence, which tell you no fundamental truths, which often merely captivate the fancy — which is not the same as the imagination, for true imagination is a spiritual faculty.
It is the great truths of the spirit which men should study, as imbodied in the age-old doctrines which represent in human language the operations, structure, and foundations of the great Mother, nature, the source of us all.
These are the doctrines or teachings which it is the duty of a theosophical teacher to set forth to you; whereas it is the dangers lying inherent in the psychical realms against which the great Masters of Wisdom and Compassion have spoken, and in no uncertain terms: Beware of the false lights of maya, of illusion! — seductive, attractive, often captivating because misunderstood. These lights are like the moonlight working its unholy magic at night. On the other hand, turn to the sunlight of the spirit within you. Learn eternal truth which varies never from age to age. Let your heart expand with the divine energies latent within it: love, compassion, pity, understanding of others, kindliness, the vision of beauty in the light of love, and of love in the light of the beauty that itself emanates.
Learn to forgive, for forgiveness is sublime. Learn to love, for to love is divine. Love is the very cement of the universe, holding things in orderly sequences, keeping things together, and providing the great fundamental motivating force which in men expresses itself as noble and exalted manhood, thus producing noble civilizations.
I tell you that ethics, morals, are not mere conventions. They are founded in the very symmetry and harmony of the universe, and that symmetry and that harmony are the outflowings of love — at least that which human beings call impersonal love because they have no other name for it; and in human hearts it expresses itself as love. Essentially it is harmony, it is beauty, it is order, it is peace.
I refer to these matters so often during the course of my Sunday afternoon lectures that sometimes the idea has come to me: I wonder if I am stressing these thoughts too frequently and too strongly? Do I tire my audiences by repeating things which are in themselves beautiful and grand? I cannot believe it. A good thing will bear repetition, and repetition is one of the best ways by which to drive truths home. Do I weigh upon these sublime thoughts too heavily? Do I speak too long about them? That too I doubt. At any rate my own feeling is that before I have the right to touch upon more recondite matters of the philosophy, it is my duty to lay the foundations in general principles of thought, and these general principles, simple as they are, are not readily and easily expressible in a few short sentences. It is by repetition that they become fixed in the mind and prepare that mind to receive the mental superstructure of detail.
A friend sent in to me this morning a little story. I am going to read to you this little story. It is as follows:
A clergyman was questioning his Sunday School concerning the story of Eutychus, the young man who, listening to the preaching of the Apostle Paul, fell asleep, and falling out of a window was taken up dead.
"What do we learn from this solemn event?" asked the clergyman. The reply came from a little girl: "Please, sir, clergymen should learn not to preach such long sermons."
I now come to the questions which I have to answer this afternoon, and the first one is the following:
It seems to me, as an interested observer of what is going on in the theosophic world today, that the objections that some evidently earnest and sincere workers for theosophy urge against your policy of union of all members of The Theosophical Society, who are true to the original program of its founders, are due to vague impressions, misunderstandings, unwarranted inferences, surmises, and hearsay. Am I not right?
Yes, the questioner is right; but the existence of these objections against my hope of union is not surprising. I do not expect people to understand all that I have in my mind, nor would you expect everyone to know all that you believe or work for. I do not wear my heart on my sleeve, nor do you. If I saw a man so think and act that, as the saying goes, he exposed his heart on his sleeve, I think that I should be a little suspicious of it all. I might be inclined to suppose that he is merely an actor, clothed with the habiliments of the stage and one who wants to make an impression on his audience by wearing on his arm some flaunting signal of policy.
I certainly do not tell all that I think. I most emphatically do not say all that I mean. But whatever I do say is truth, and comes from my heart. Consequently, how can anyone doing as I do not be misunderstood? How can anyone be completely understood, anyone who is obliged, as every real Leader is, to keep a great deal of his heart's hope behind the veil of privacy? But what I have said has been true, and what I say and what I will say will be true also.
I yearn, I long, for the day when the Theosophical Movement no longer will be split up into different and differing bodies, alas! but will become one spiritual brotherhood in actuality and not merely in name. It is shameful that a movement founded to preach brotherhood, to teach it, to live it, to enact it, should present to the world an example of a house divided against itself; and the sooner we theosophists recognize this truth and try to correct any such existing fault, the better for us.
My invitation to other theosophists or theosophical Societies is a challenge to those who in their hearts feel as I do. How beautiful a thing it is for brothers to dwell together in peace and unity! Can we not forget superficial differences, overlook the differences and mistakes of the past, and stand shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, and go forwards towards that mystical East, on the mountains of which you can even now see the light of the new era, of the new sun?
Have the vision; for those who lack it, sooner or later will regret its lack — and I do not say this with anything akin to unkindness in my heart: those who cannot see what is coming, who lack vision, who try to place themselves in the path of the on-coming wheel of destiny, will find themselves in the rear, broken, forgotten mayhap, but in any case with hearts straining under the agony of the realization of a great and high chance, seen, had — and refused!
I do not expect the members of other Theosophical Societies to come to me and throw themselves on the ground at my feet and say: "I am going to come over to you. I want what you can give to me. Your Theosophical Society is the only one that teaches truth. I am going to turn against my Leader, against my President, against those I love in the Society in which I first saw the gleams of theosophic light."
I would say to such a one: "Stand up! If you come to me in all earnestness of heart and sincerity of purpose because your instinct for more light is not satisfied, then you can join us if you will and we shall be glad to receive you; but if you come to us merely because your feelings have been ruffled in your own Society and your heart is still in your own Society, then I would say to you: 'Return to those to whom you belong.' "
The truth of the matter is: the doors of The Theosophical Society are open to anyone; and anyone may become a Fellow if be believes in the principle of universal brotherhood, and whether he is a member of some other Theosophical Society or not. This seems clear enough. Anyone can join us who accepts the only prerequisite, which is a belief in universal brotherhood; and it matters nothing to me to what other Theosophical Society he may belong. But I want him to come to us with a full and sincere heart.
Furthermore, those who have long since left other Theosophical Societies and are, spiritually speaking, homeless and wanderers, to them likewise the doors of The Theosophical Society are open and we will gladly welcome them as collaborators in our sublime work. Such as these last need our help and they can help us. They are not traitors or hypocrites.
As to traitors and hypocrites: I want no traitors and hypocrites in The Theosophical Society. I want true-hearted men, men who will not abandon what they believe to be right and true. My appeal is to the human heart, to the human soul, and I shall win, for nothing can withstand the all-penetrating power of almighty love, of sympathy, of kindliness, of utter sincerity, of longing for peace, unity, and brotherhood. Those who have no conception of this I feel should remain in their own Theosophical Societies.
Nevertheless, let us all work together. That is the first step on the path. Then — and this I will frankly say — Yes, I do want all theosophists to join us. If they come aright and in the proper spirit they will be very welcome. I want all true and noble hearts in The Theosophical Society. Our Constitution has no barriers against any true-hearted man. It bars none. We theosophists have no dogmas. We are searchers of and learners for more truth, and students of truth.
As for me, in my office I am not a dictator, I am not a tyrant, I am not an autocrat. I am simply a man who is loved by those who know me. I want to see the time when the gods and the blessed Masters of Wisdom and Compassion bring it around in the karmic cyclic sequence of events when there will be but one Theosophical Society of the world.
But I never act unfairly. I use no backstair methods. My appeal is straight from my heart, to the heart of others, and I have said to all: Here is my hand. Take it. Love will win, and sincerity and pity are its handmaidens. Oh, how blessed a thing it is for men to dwell together in peace and unity! I would that I might live a thousand years in the depths of the most awful hell, if by my own personal suffering and agony I could bring the light that I have, and the love with which my heart is filled, into the hearts and lives of my fellows!
Do you not know the wondrous story of the buddhas of compassion, of the holy order of the Buddhas of Compassion, who reach a point in their own evolution when they renounce, give up, resign, all further personal advancement for the time being; who turn around on the evolutionary pathway so to say, and remain in the realms of illusion and pain, on our earth for instance, in order to help their less progressed fellows? There indeed we see compassion sublime. Theosophists are taught that this is an ideal towards which we all should aspire. However imperfect we may be, however feeble our efforts for self-improvement, nevertheless if our hearts are pure and our minds are earnest, our will will be adamantine in its strength, and we shall move steadily forward in the direction of peace and brotherhood.
To bring peace to men, to give them hope, to give them light, to show them the way out of the intricate maze of material existence, to bring back to one's fellow men the knowledge of their own essential divinity as a reality, and not as a mere poetic phrase, but as a real thing — oh! is not that a sublime work? I break hearts of stone; and one of my duties is to smash prejudices imprisoning the souls of my fellows. Every true-hearted theosophical lecturer, student, teacher, leader, has that duty. But it must be done with the utmost kindliness, with the utmost sympathy, with an understanding heart seeing and pitying others' difficulties. Let us not forget that.
The corner-stone of theosophy is universal brotherhood. What is the theosophical definition of brotherhood? Of what does it consist?
In the first place, brotherhood is not a mere political system in the theosophical view. It is a fact, an actuality, of great n
nature; and theosophists understand it to mean the fundamental and therefore intrinsic unity of everything that is, for all entities and things are rooted in the one life-spirit, or sspirit-life, all issuing from the one great central source of being; therefore one life flows through all, one intelligence manifests everywhere in thinking entities and in various degrees and after different manners, according to the individualities of the ones who express it: one Cosmic Life fundamental, one cosmic substance fundamental, one cosmic understanding or mind fundamental. For the world is filled full with gods, and the human host is but one minor example on this small earth of ours, of the principle and nature of hierarchical existence.
The universe is composite of vast and innumerable hierarchies of spiritual beings whom I call gods, existing in various evolutionary stages — high, intermediate, low — just as men are; and these very beings not only infill, inspirit, invigorate, but guide, the universe and all other universes outside the frontiers and boundaries of our own home-universe.
Do you realize that every time you put your hand on a human being, you are touching the garment of a god? That statement is not mere poetry; it is an actual fact of being. Make an appeal to that god within your fellow man. If men can be swayed by an appeal to beastly and ignoble passions, they can be swayed far more easily by an appeal to the spiritual energies and forces within them, for their understanding is spiritual. Comprehension is a spiritual faculty. And what human heart has ever resisted love?
Brotherhood is, because it is the essential oneness of all that is — all things, all beings everywhere — and is simply another way of saying that the cosmic life, which for purposes of convenience we call the one life, is really composed of innumerable hierarchies, armies, multitudes, of spiritual beings, in all-various grades of evolutionary development; and these hierarchies themselves exist in spheres and realms which are high, intermediate, and low. These stages of existence are without beginning and have no conceivable end; and this is the pathway of growth, of evolution, for every being and thing that is.
Growth is beginningless and endless; and man for instance, in his present state on this earth, in his present evolutionary stage, is passing but a short period of time on this globe of ours, before going onwards to greater heighths. What a picture of splendor and hope!
Here is a question of another kind.
The following are some questions that have long puzzled me:
1. Is smoking cigarettes a good or a bad habit?
Do you smoke? I do, but I don't smoke too much. Therefore I think that smoking is a good habit — for me! It might be a bad habit for someone else. I think that I will refuse to answer this question, because if I do answer it in detail, I should be sure to step on somebody's sensitive toes, and I don't want to do that. I really think that it is enough to say that "it all depends." If you smoke moderately and don't overdo it, and especially don't do it if you have too much of an appetite for it, then probably it is not a "bad habit." You might do worse, a great deal worse, than smoking a cigarette occasionally; but I know that if I gave even a diplomatic answer like this is, and gentle as this is, some people would not like the answer. No, I don't think that smoking in moderation is a bad habit for some people. "It all depends!"
Question 2. Why does it seem that leaders, reformers, or teachers, of a "real life," have such bad karma? A man of the street seems to encounter less.
Isn't it presuming a little bit to say that those who love their fellow men — I am now speaking of the real leaders and reformers, not of busybodies and of mischief makers, but of those who really long to help others, and who do it — don't you think that it is presuming a little bit to say that they always have bad karma, i. e., what the man in the street would call bad luck? I think so.
This is what really happens in the cases of outstanding human characters: those who have high and noble ideas are so swayed by them, so charmed by their intrinsic beauty, that their lives are ennobled, therefore changed, therefore strengthened; and they act like strong men. Acting like strong men, the reaction against them is strong. Some people say that they are trouble makers. Isn't that what was said of Jesus, the Syrian avatara? Is not that what was said of the greatest Initiate on earth in recent times — Gautama the Buddha? Isn't that what is said of every proponent of truth even in minor degree — of every man who has stood for liberty of thought and for liberty of souls? Have they not, most of them at least, been called trouble makers, mischief makers — persecuted, chased, hunted, derided, oft ignored (happy fate!), and sometimes foully done to death?
Whereas the man in the street — he is a good fellow, perhaps; but often he belongs to the class that the great Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, called the living dead — living in the body, but dead to all the nobler and higher parts of his being. Naturally a man like that won't irritate anybody in particular. His path is an easy one. So is that of a cow! Give me a man!
Even a man like the Christian Church Father Athanasius, even a man of that type, bigoted and mistaken as he was, can be looked upon as a strong and sincere character, for he had the manhood to say: Ego Athanasius contra mundum — I, Athanasius, am against the world! A man who can face the crystallized and bigoted notions of the world of his day boldly and without fear evidences true manhood, whatever we may think of his grotesque and mistaken notions; and every great man in similar circumstances has said the same.
Therefore perhaps you now see why the man on the street has an easy time, has much less to struggle against than the great and outstanding characters of history. He does not amount to much, he does not count for much; and people simply leave him alone. But the men who move things, who set things going, who are the thinkers and disturbers of smug notions and crystallized thoughts — such men as these disturb people, irritate people, as I do sometimes!
At any rate, while the statement in the question I believe to be wrong, nevertheless so far as I am concerned, I prefer to undergo the difficult karma of strong and virile manhood, even if men call such karma difficult and unfortunate, if in doing my duty I can do it manfully and have my conscience clean and free of all stain, and my heart empty of all guile. When the spirit works within a man, then he acts, and acts strongly; and usually it will be a long time, and history shows it, before other men understand him and leave him in peace.
The next question is the following:
In what manner does the imagination act as a connecting link between the mind and the soul? Is it a positive state — a wire along which the current passes — or may it act as a stimulant in itself, stirring mind and creating a passage through mind for the spiritual concept? May it be cultivated? Through what agents?
Is there any faculty that man possesses that cannot be cultivated, evolved, drawn out, increased? Of course imagination can be cultivated. Do you know what imagination is? This question is based on a statement in The Wine of Life, written by Katherine Tingley, my great-hearted predecessor, who wrote of imagination as being "the bridge between the mind and the soul," meaning by these words the brain-mind of the ordinary physical man on the one hand and the spiritual soul on the other hand, which spiritual soul is the garment of the divinity within, the inner god.
What is, then, imagination? Imagination, in the first place, is vision. It is therefore called the image-making faculty, the ability to see pictorially things as they are. In one of its phases it is also the faculty of seeing into the future. It is visioning; and the brain-mind translates these visions as images, pictures, and therefore men give to the faculty a name in accordance with the product: imagination, image-making. Imagination is therefore vision, and this vision is a spiritual quality, it is a spiritual faculty.
Don't confuse imagination with what the divine Plato called the fantasy. Fantasy is, as it were, the mere distorted reflection of vision, somewhat as the deceptive rays of the moonlight, seen in still water, give you a fantastic picture of the real thing. Such is fantasy. Whereas imagination, properly called spiritual imagination, is vision, which the brain-mind images or translates as pictures. Thus, then, this vision of reality, of the truths of the spirit, of the heart divine of things — your own inmost — is a "bridge" between the divinity itself within you and the brain-mind of you, which brain-mind is the mentality of the ordinary man.
Through what agents may the imagination be cultivated? Through love, aspiration, sympathy, will: these four go together. Love opens your nature; its power is expansive. Sympathy enables you to feel with others, with other things; your being vibrates consonantly with the vibrations of other beings and entities, and this is sympathy. Aspiration is a reaching upwards to higher realms; and will resides in the feeling, the faculty, the sense of knowledge, expressing itself positively in the conception: I know.
The man thereafter becomes immovable. Actually as an energy, will is a current of spiritual force streaming from the god within down into the physical brain-mind; and naturally, therefore, there are many varieties of will; because there are many varieties of brain-mind which color and sometimes discolor the stream; but I have given you the fundamental idea.
Of course the imagination can be cultivated; and oh! how wonderful are the rewards of that cultivation, for it eventuates in the vision sublime!
As a French mystic of the Middle Ages, Bernard of Clairvaux, once said: "Empty all personality out of yourself." In doing so you are merely casting aside the veils and the garments of your interior constitution which blind you and becloud your spiritual being, and hide the inner splendor. Empty all personal things out of yourself: what is left is the Real; and when the distracting influences of all these personal thoughts and imaginings in the mind are emptied out, as Bernard of Clairvaux said, then you become simple with the divine simplicity of the god within you. All great things are simple; all things of matter are complex; and the difficulty in obtaining sheer truth is not that truth is complicated, but that it is so sublimely simple that our complicated brain-minds have difficulty in grasping it and holding it, and making it a part of us — in other words, retaining as a part of itself the splendor from within.
You cannot know truth except with the knower; you cannot understand anything outside of you except with and by and through the understander within you; and yet what is outside of you is likewise within you, for you are an inseparable part of the Universe, of which you are a child. Go, therefore, within; follow the pathway within. Ascend along the Rising Arc and join the gods, your kin. You can do it. Every normal human being can follow that pathway, if he has the spiritual imagination to vision it, the love to follow it, the aspiration to go higher, sympathy with it, and the will to hold to it; and this pathway leads to the Heart of the Universe — which is within yourself.
Who is the heart of the universe? You, in your innermost divine essence. Aham asmi parabrahma, says the Hindu: I am the Boundless!
I have been attending some of your Temple services and have heard you speak several times of reincarnation and karma. They are interesting subjects and seem to solve some of life's problems, at least as far as I understand them. Will you please give the theosophical teaching of: What is karma? What is reincarnation?
These two questions provide subjects for a week's talk, and this kind friend supposes that in a few moments of time, in an afternoon devoted to answering many other questions, I can set forth two of the fundamental operations of nature insofar as humanity and other equivalent entities are concerned!
Karma is a Sanskrit word. Literally translated it means "act," "action"; but this Sanskrit word is a technical term, and therefore do not let your understanding dwell too long on a mere technical word. It means far more than a mere word. It signifies a doctrine, and the doctrine is this: Every self-conscious entity has free will, because the inmost of the inmost of the inmost of itself is rooted in the divine. It uses this free will in action, which is karma, and because the universe is filled with vast hierarchies, multitudes, armies, of other beings, acting in identical fashion, there is therefore a consequent reaction upon the actor, for your action is thrown back upon you so to speak by these other entities, and this originating act of the actor and the reaction of nature when combined as they always are, produce effects which theosophists call by the technical term karma.
Karma means — and now I explain it — the teaching of the law of consequences: that every action is a cause which produces an effect, which effect instantly becomes another cause which produces its effect, and this second effect instantly becomes another cause: this series of actions and reactions thus producing a chain of causation which is beginningless and endless.
Some people call the law of karma, as they express it, the law of cause and effect. That definition is descriptive, and is an imperfect way of phrasing the facts. I think that you will understand the doctrine more clearly if I call it, as I often do, the doctrine of consequences, meaning that whatever you do has a consequence or result. You cannot think, you cannot move, you cannot act, without changing things in your life — things spiritual, things astral, things physical, things mental, all kinds of things, things on all planes — because your apparatus of consciousness, your inner constitution, runs through all the realms of nature. Whatever you do, because it is preceded by a thought, energized by your will, produces a result which reacts upon you, immediately or at a later day. Whatever you think or do or feel produces a consequence, and sooner or later that consequence will react upon you. You originated it, you did the act, you caused the happiness or misery of yourself or others, and nature reacts upon you and in turn brings to you happiness or misery — to yourself or to others, and usually to both.
"What is reincarnation?" It is the working of the law of karma so far as human beings are concerned, and this working consists in the rebirth of the acting and thinking entity into other human bodies. These rebirths are brought about by your karma, by the consequences of preceding thoughts and feelings and acts, thus producing in each human being his own individual chain of causation consisting of cause and effect, effect and cause, cause and effect, effect and cause, and extending over the so-called abyss that men in their ignorance call the oblivion of death.
Nature makes no mistakes; and as man is a part of spiritual and astral and physical nature, therefore whatever happens to man happens strictly according to natural law. You came here to earth because you are bound into this chain of causation of which you yourself are the producer. You made yourself to be in former lives what now you are; and what you now are thinking and doing and feeling will make yourself to be what in after lives, lives in the future on earth, you then will be. Karma and reincarnation are inseparably combined together and are really two aspects of one thing, like the two sides of a hand, the two sides of a coin.
In the Dhammapada, a wonderful scripture of the Buddhists, the nature and condition of karma is expressed very beautifully, in the four or five opening verses of this scripture which I wrote down for you this morning. These verses contain in brief the whole essential teaching of what karma is — indeed, both of karma and of reincarnation.
1. All that we are is the consequence of what we have thought. It is based on our thoughts. It is all derived from our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a thought of evil, suffering follows him, exactly as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the cart.
2. All that we are is the consequence of what we have thought. It is based on our thoughts; it is derived from our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an innocent and pure thought, happiness follows him, exactly like a shadow that never leaves him.
3. "He treated me badly; he struck me; he overcame me; he robbed me" — in those who cultivate such feelings hate will never cease.
4. "He treated me badly; he struck me; he overcame me; he robbed me" — in those who do not cultivate such thoughts, hatred will die.
5. For hate never is overcome by hate at any time. Hate passes away through love. This is the ancient rule.
Such is also our theosophical teaching. This teaching is sublimely instructive and illuminating; and how greatly it dignifies man! It shows man to be his own self-maker. It shows him the pathway of evolution as his own creation, as his own production; for he himself is the path of evolution that he follows; and this is what Jesus the Syrian avatara meant when he said: I am the Path, the Way, the Life. Every great seer and sage necessarily teaches the same thing; and of every entity and thing in the universe can the same be said. You are your own path; and you can consciously ally yourself with the gods who guide and inspirit the universe, if you will. Or, if ye so will, contrariwise ye can go down into what the ancient Mysteries called the bottomless pit.
Choose therefore your own pathway and may the immortal gods and your own inner divinity inspire you to choose the upward way. Love is the first step on this upward way. It is all intermediate steps and it is the last, if indeed there be a last. Love is also the last and highest initiation on earth, and here I mean impersonal love, for such love is divine. Forgiveness is the movement of the heart which will lead you to make that first step; and therefore I say: Learn to forgive, for it is sublime; learn to love, for it is divine!