Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Second Series: No. 12 (November 24, 1930)
(Lecture delivered September 28, 1930)
CONTENTS: Shadows of the astral realms. What power have they? — Ours is a ghost-ridden world. — We are the willing victims of ghosts. — The outworn half-truths of our fathers, philosophic, scientific and religious. — Look for new aspects of old truths. — The world is on the edge of a moral abyss. — An ethical, social, and physical catastrophe. — Quotations from Arthur Stanley Eddington. He glimpses the reality of inner realms. — "My rights!" the cry of the Occident. The fertile mother of selfishness. — Ghosts of egoism, intolerance, and hate. — What a man believes is vital. — Vampirizing mental ghosts. — The leaders of scientific thought and their intuitions. — Sir Oliver Lodge touches theosophical truths. — Are all paths to wisdom equally good? — Our world but one inn on the journey of life. — Become acquainted with yourself! Look towards the shining god at the core of your being!
I am going to talk to you this afternoon about ghosts; and to do so I require no dark seance room, and no subterranean dwelling where we may see in our fertile imagination the flitting, fleeting, wandering sights of the underworld. But I would that I could talk to you in the face of heaven, under the splendor of the golden sun, and in that beautiful environment call to your minds the fact that the ghosts I am going especially to talk to you about this afternoon are not the ghosts of Hades or the underworld — those dim and shadowy simulacra of human beings that have been; not those wan and bloodless spooks, not they — but the ghosts of which you, my Brothers, are the victims, willing, conscious, and therefore enslaved: the ghosts of past things, of past ideas, of past ideals, which still exercise their sway over your minds, and therefore govern your conduct; ghosts whose influence is still powerful in your spiritual and intellectual life, because you still have more or less belief in them and follow them. Thus instead of raising your eyes to the golden sunlight, and breathing the spiritual effluence flowing from our day-star, your eyes are directed into the subconscious regions of your own minds, where the ghosts of the past still abide and enslave you: ghosts of many kinds — religious ghosts, philosophical ghosts, scientific ghosts, social ghosts — the astral-mental remnants of things that have been and which you still permit to enslave you, and to govern your conduct not only as between man and man, but in nearly all things that compose our average human life.
Now, as regards spooks, why should I waste time in telling you what the theosophical wisdom of the ages has long, long, long since probed, turned inside out, and thus exposed to the understanding of any intelligent student? It is the testimony of universal history that men when they die leave behind themselves in the astral world these pale simulacra — copies, images, of the physical vital men who were — and these images remain in those dim and shadowy astral realms until these images themselves fade out, exactly as the physical body contemporaneously dissolves into its elemental dust.
This takes place after the starry spirit has fled from the astral image or eidolon, that starry spirit which gave the living men all the spiritual and intellectual energy and force that they had, all the sublime and inspiriting ideas that those men had when alive on earth, ideas of great spiritual and intellectual value and power; for it was those ideas which shook the world of the time and made and unmade civilizations.
All this nobler spiritual part finally abandons these astral images of the men that were, leaving behind therefore but the pale and bloodless shadows — shadows, as the ancients truly called them, which have no power except that of astral-physical and moral infection. They can infect but automatically, much in the same way as a rotten apple in a barrel of apples can infect and spoil the other apples in the barrel. Their mere presence when sought and entertained is productive of repulsive effects on living men. But nature takes good care of all these things when not interfered with by man's over-inquisitive and curious appetite for sensation; and if these astral eidola are left strictly alone, and man turns while alive on earth to the spiritual energies within his being and cultivates these energies — I mean to these spiritual faculties which I have just told you make men great, and inspire them, and which form the spiritual essence of their being — then these repulsive astral corpses or images have no effect upon the living, and indeed are repelled.
But it is not of these astral ghosts of dead men that I wish to speak. As the novelist says: That is a story which can be told on some other occasion.
Our world today is a ghost-ridden world. Men and women today believe in theories and things, philosophical, religious, and scientific, that the leaders of human thought have abandoned as outworn, as at the very best only half-truths or a series of half-truths. But the average man today is hardly cognizant of this fact, and consequently he still uses the books that were printed in the time of our fathers, or indeed copies the ideas and theories more or less fully that were contained in the books that were printed in the time of our fathers, and uses these new editions as textbooks in schools and universities. These theories and outworn ideas are therefore truly ghosts that nobody now believes in — no one, I mean, of the great leaders, the real thinkers, of the human race. These mental and emotional ghosts are of many kinds, philosophical and religious and scientific and social and whatnot.
Conservatism in some cases is an excellent thing; it functions as a rein on too hasty an acceptance of newer fads and theories; and contrariwise new thinking also in most cases is an excellent thing, because it is usually the result of a vision; but I have known cases where men have driven an automobile over a precipice because they thought they saw a vision of a clear road before them; and I have known of other cases when men have refused to accept a truth, a vision of actuality, because they had their faces turned to the past — actually worshiping ghosts of dead and outworn ideas.
I mean by a ghost a once living belief which has been rejected by the greatest thinkers of the human race, which is discarded by them, and nevertheless which is still taught as a living truth by the rank and file of other men. There is a whole series of religious and philosophical and scientific beliefs today which are taught, taught in your universities and colleges and high schools, and indeed in the lower grades also, and which are beliefs which have been discovered to be untrue or at best only adumbrations of truths, and which the leaders of thought have rejected either in whole or in part. These are the ghosts that I want to talk to you about this afternoon.
Part of my duty as a theosophical teacher is to awaken men to the real things of life, to those things which pass not but endure, and which, marvelously enough, are things that have a life which is everlasting. Such real factors in human existence which are perpetually true and perpetually inspiring are brotherhood, compassion, love, kindliness, forgiveness, peace, altruism. These remain always the same. They pass not nor do they ever die. But all other theories and fancies and fads and so-called facts die that are not in that starry class; and these starry inspirations in our minds are the reflected energies of the deathless spirit within us, the sublime teachings of our own inner god which we receive in the quiet when the mind is still, and in the silence of our fevered emotional nature.
It is a change in men's hearts that is required today, and this change is the easiest thing to accomplish, and yet the most difficult! This is a paradox. It is the easiest thing to accomplish because recognition of these starry spiritual energies of our being is native to us and comes stealing into our consciousness when we pause and reflect; and yet one of the most difficult things to do because so few men seek the silent places of the soul and thus learn to think clearly and consecutively. I do not know anything else except theosophy that has a shadow of a chance to achieve this change of human hearts and minds, and I say this for the following reasons: theosophy has, first, no dogmatic beliefs which must be accepted whether one is convinced or not of their truth. Our eyes are always turned to the Mystic East for a new light on old truths and facts; and it is marvelous how often theosophists find that we have already discovered this new light in our sublime theosophical teachings. Theosophists are always on the lookout for a new aspect of an old truth that we already have.
Next, our appeal is to brotherhood: our appeal is to men sincerely to love each other, truly to help each other, and this is not vapid sentimentality at all, but a recognition of a fundamental characteristic of our being; and hence our appeal is for men to treat other men as brothers; and, mark you, this does not mean falling on each others' necks and slobbering there. A brother can be stern with a brother if the need be, but sternness in right and truth and for a high principle does not mean cruelty. It means working for justice, it means labor in the paths of right.
There are many kinds of ghosts that you are psychologized with today — I repeat, many kinds of ghosts — theories and doctrines and fads and fancies and ideas that are no longer living, but are dead, most of them being the beliefs and teachings and doctrines of our fathers, the scientific doctrines of our fathers, for instance, of fifty years ago and of one hundred years ago, which comprised the scientific materialism of our fathers which is still taught in your schools, changed somewhat it may be in some respects, but nevertheless still taught in its elements. It is in this atmosphere of a scientific past that your children are still brought up, and consequently their minds are distorted and perverted and set and crystallized in outworn beliefs; although today our greatest thinkers are telling you that that scientific materialism of the past is dead, because it was untrue.
The situation is serious, for the world today is shaking, is trembling, on the edge of a moral abyss, due to the false religious and scientific and philosophical teaching of the last three or four hundred years, and the only thing that will save the situation is a change in men's hearts, and this change can come about only with the coming of a new vision of reality. Without a vision of truth the people perish.
The Occidental world today has placed its scientific beliefs in the forefront of its civilization, and in most cases these scientific beliefs mean the outlived beliefs of fifty years ago, except for the enlightened few who have followed with intelligent mind and opening heart the latest discoveries, and deductions from those discoveries, made by the greatest of our scientific researchers. Many of the scientific beliefs still taught in our schools and still permeating our thought-atmosphere are based wholly or in part on materialistic beliefs that have been abandoned by the greatest scientists themselves.
I intend to read to you this afternoon two or three quotations from eminent scientific men which will prove to you what I have just said. I have made this statement frequently before about the world still generally believing in an outworn scientific materialism, and after making such remarks I have sometimes received notes asking: "Why did you say that? Do you mean to say that our great educators do not know any more than to feed our children an intellectual pabulum of dead beliefs which have been openly abandoned by those in the forefront of scientific research?" And my answer is, YES! That is just what is done, and it is high time that earnest voices be raised to expose the facts, and to state the truth, before it is too late. Men's minds have been distorted. They have been taught that they are but overgrown beasts. They have been taught that the universe is uncaused by any spiritual energy, that it has been fortuitously built, and is proceeding in a crazy galloping race towards — what? Nobody ever really answered that question.
The average man of today does not know what the greatest scientific leaders of today are teaching: that the universe is ensouled, that it is a living organism, a living entity, and that mind — or, as theosophists say, minds, in the plural — is the instigating and inspiriting energy which has built the Universe as it is, and thus makes of it an understandably evolving entity. That is in substance what the greatest scientific thinkers today are teaching; but the average of mankind still believes in the mental ghosts of what is now a dead past. A truer knowledge, as followed by the scientific leaders, has not yet seeped into the common consciousness of mankind; and it is high time that this newer knowledge were broadcast over the earth, for it will unquestionably be a saving power in the emotional and psychological turmoil in which the world is struggling today.
I tell you that our civilization is drifting, and drifting fast, towards a moral abyss, and only a real knowledge of the essential spiritual nature of mankind and of the universe will save it from not only an ethical but a social and physical catastrophe of worldwide proportions. It is ghosts, the psychological infections derived from believing in ghosts of dead or worn out beliefs, which are the main causes of the troubles in the world today.
Arthur Stanley Eddington, F. R. S., Plumian Professor of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, in his Swarthmore Lecture of 1929, printed in that year in a small book entitled Science and the Unseen World, has the following interesting comments to make, among a number of other thoughtful observations:
I have already said that science is no longer disposed to identify reality with concreteness. Materialism in its literal sense is long since dead. But its place has been taken by other philosophies which represent a virtually equivalent outlook. The tendency today is not to reduce everything to manifestations of matter — since matter now has only a minor place in the physical world — but to reduce it to manifestations of the operation of natural law. By 'natural law' is here meant laws of the type prevailing in geometry, mechanics, and physics, which are found to have this common characteristic — that they are ultimately reducible to mathematical equations. . . .
It is probably true that the recent changes of scientific thought remove some of the obstacles to a reconciliation of religion with science; but this must be carefully distinguished from any proposal to base religion on scientific discovery. For my own part I am wholly opposed to any such attempt. Briefly the position is this. We have learnt that the exploration of the external world by the methods of physical science leads not to a concrete reality but to a shadow world of symbols, beneath which those methods are unadapted for penetrating. Feeling that there must be more behind, we return to our starting point in human consciousness — the one center where more might become known. There we find other stirrings, other revelations (true or false) than those conditioned by the world of symbols. Are not these too of significance? — pp. 50 and 73
Indeed, these other stirrings, these other revelations, are verily highly significant. Reduced to its elements, what does this ultramodern scientific teaching mean? It means that the world that the physical senses apprise us a little of is but a small part of the universe, and the least part; that the greater is within; that the real world is the spiritual side of life — that which is behind the physical veil of existence, which works through that physical veil, and which we see around us as manifesting its invisible powers in producing all the phenomena of being.
Theosophists have taught this for many, many years, and have spoken of the invisible worlds, the invisible worlds and spheres, which are the real living inner causes of things; and furthermore we have always taught that the universe is filled full with gods, cosmic spirits, call them by what name you will — divine beings, thinking, conscious, sentient entities — which furnish the motivating and driving power of the universe of which our physical sense apparatus gives us only a relatively insignificant and quite imperfect report. These teachings are ancient, archaic, but nevertheless everlasting because they are true. They are not mental ghosts, not some man's or a number of men's beliefs, outworn and now dead but still exercising their infecting sway over the hearts and minds of later generations. So far as our modern world is concerned, a new vision has come to our scientific researchers: they are beginning to dream dreams of reality, and to see visions of truth.
In these days a theosophical speaker can publicly express almost any part of the theosophical philosophy, because men's minds are more open than they used to be. The time was when we pointed out the dangers of what is now popularly called hypnotism, and then the wise public smiled or laughed, as the case was, at the stupidity of the lecturing theosophist in believing in such superstitions; but we nevertheless taught and taught and taught, and kept on teaching and pointed out that just because there was this power — and I am using this merely as an example of many, many instances — just because there is this power latent in all men, which those who have become conscious of it can exercise upon their fellow men, therefore is it a real danger; and in the wrong use of any human faculty or power there lies a heavy ethical responsibility.
One of the ghosts of the past is the idea of "rights: I stand for my rights!" A constant and unfailing repetition of this otherwise proper phrase has become nauseating. Where do you hear men today speak of "My duties, my obligations"? You hear it only in the cases of a few illuminated and kindly-hearted men who have freed themselves from that ghost of the past — the ghost of "my rights!" and who have come to realize a far greater and nobler ideal of being true to one's obligations, to one's duties.
The entire civilization of the Occident is builded on the basis of the idea of "my rights!" and we have almost lost any thought that so one-sided an ideal can be naught else than the fertile mother of selfishness and ultimate social disintegration, because every man thinks of his rights, and looks upon his duties as something to escape from if possible. All this means a lack of social coherence, and unless checked will in time bring about the downfall of the one-sided but proud fabric of Occidental civilization.
Think of your duties, ponder over your obligations. There is a noble manhood in this conception and a clothing of the human being with a spiritual and intellectual dignity. Remember that other men are like you, my brothers; and if you get this idea and follow it out faithfully, in time they will think like you too. Don't you see that in getting this other and nobler vision you won't need to talk of your individual rights? In such case nobody will ever infringe them or will desire to. Let brotherhood and the sense of individual obligation towards others become understood and faithfully followed of men, accompanied with kindliness of feeling and kindliness of spirit, and then nobody will ever desire to attack your rights. Think what a heaven human life would be if we could shake off that one ghost of the past, and honorable and thinking men today realized more keenly their duties to each other, their obligations to each other and to the human race! Then all your disturbing and fevered political questions would die a natural death. These are the most ghastly ghosts of all, the most unreal things, the most stupid, because the most artificial.
You cannot legislate men into being good. Do you think that by changing your government you are going to change men's hearts? What will make our civilization endure, my Brothers, is a change in the heart of each one of you and a telling to others of the change in your heart. Then all your problems will solve themselves, and indeed there will no longer be any such problems to solve. Everybody will be safe and everybody will be truly happy, and men's faces will be set forwards, seeing a vision of the future, instead of doing as men now do, looking backwards into the past, and thus being infected by the mental ghosts of the past with its outworn and shaky ideals.
I am wondering how many of you have really got my idea? I believe however that most of you have seized it and I am glad; and I believe this because I see the light of understanding and sympathy in your eyes and showing in your faces.
Some people don't like to move mentally; it hurts them to change their ideas. They prefer to suck in ghosts with every mental breath that they breathe, rather than to breathe the golden sunshine, the golden light, of enduring truth which is so native to the human soul and appeals with an appeal which receives so quick and ready an answer in our hearts. These people make me think of a story that I read today of a Negro preacher, a story written by Mr. Irvin S. Cobb. I brought it over to the Temple to read to you this afternoon. I have never been able properly to tell a story, so instead of trying to tell you it, I am going to read it to you. If I told this story, you would laugh at me — you would not laugh at the story. So I prefer to read it. This story cleverly shows how disinclined a certain type of people are to change their ideas. Here is the story:
It would seem that down on a Georgia plantation an aged Negro preacher took for his text, on a certain Sunday morning, a passage out of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. Warming to his theme, he gave his own version of the Creation. He then told how the earth and the heavens above the earth and the waters beneath had been fashioned from nothingness by the Divine Will within the span of a single week. By such stages he arrived at the beginning of the recorded history of our original Grandparent.
"Den come Adam!" he shouted, "Adam, he wuz de fust man. God made Adam out of mud. Yas, suh; jes grab a han'ful of mud an' squooze hit togither an' dar wuz Mister Adam, all complete. But de mud wuz soft lak an' he wuz still damp. So God taken an' sot him up ag'inst de fence to dry, an' —"
From the rear of the meeting-house arose an interrupting voice: "Who made de fence?"
For not the fraction of a second did the pastor hesitate.
"Put dat fella out of dis church!" he ordered. "Put him out an' mek him stay out. Sich questions ez dat is would destroy all de theology in de world!"
Now, doesn't this neat little story cleverly illustrate one kind of the mental ghosts that I have been talking to you about? This story illustrates the kind of mental ghost, my Brothers, that infected men's minds so badly that they deluged the soil of some European battlefields during the Middle Ages with human blood: the kind of ghosts which built the torture chamber of the Middle Ages, and only the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion and Peace know how many human hearts were broken in those times, due to the mental infection caused by these ghosts of egoism, intolerance, and hate. Such ghosts as these are very dangerous, for they infect men's hearts and poison their minds, and thus lead to inhuman and despicable actions.
It won't do to say: "I don't care what a man believes, provided that he acts decently." I tell you that I do care a great deal what men believe, for what men believe is the cause of what they do and what they build or of what they destroy. I want men to be generous, kindly, uplooking, brotherly, open-hearted, open-minded, utterly incapable of raising a hand against a fellow human being. It matters a great deal to me what my brother humans believe; and I am going to try to change their beliefs as much as I can, not by instilling more mental ghosts into their minds, but by an appeal to their hearts, by an appeal to their intellect, not to believe merely as I do and to think merely as I do, but to think for themselves, to cast away the mental ghosts that they still harbor in their minds, and which are vampirizing the best life out of them — religious ghosts, scientific ghosts, ghosts of philosophy, social ghosts, all kinds of ghosts.
The amazing revolution that is taking place in scientific thought today I look upon as one of the saving graces of our time. The scientists today — that is to say the greatest men of them, the leaders of them — are more truly religious than many professional religionists are who are all too often psychologized by ghosts of the type that the Negro preacher in the little story was psychologized by. These great-minded ultramodern scientific discoverers are beginning to sense the oneness of their own spirit with universal being. They sense the one cosmic life pulsing through all things both great and small. These great men of science are beginning to realize with both heart and mind that they are the children of the universe, entities inseparable from it because they are blood of its blood and bone of its bone and life of its life, so to speak; and in time they will reach the keen realization of the fundamental doctrine of theosophy, of the ancient wisdom, that in every human being, in fact in every entity, all that is in the boundless universe is and lives and works in every such component inseparable part of that Universe. The part cannot be different in essence from the whole.
This is an archaic theosophical teaching. I have spoken of it here from this platform on almost every Sunday afternoon when I have had the pleasure of speaking to you; and these modern, ultramodern, scientific thinkers and researchers are now themselves beginning to understand this sublime conception. It is truly a vision sublime. They are getting entirely new ideas of the structure of the universe and of the substance of the universe. The universe to them is becoming an entirely different thing to study from what it was conceived to be in the days of our fathers; and our scientists are enabled to do this because they are freeing themselves from the dominance of mental ghosts — the outworn beliefs and thoughts and ideas of the past.
I call your attention to the latest scientific discoveries and researches not so much as regards the deductions drawn from these discoveries but more particularly as to what these discoveries and deductions point to. They are full of promise for the future. In most cases the fundamental ideas of them are very familiar to theosophists, teaching as we do the wisdom-religion of mankind, knowing as we do that every human being is an incarnate god, an imbodied divinity, albeit feebly manifesting its transcendent powers through the mind, through the mere human brain. Yet from this divinity within each one of us comes all that is worthwhile in the human being, all that is enduring, all that lasts throughout time.
Why not ally yourselves with this divine entity within you? It means immortality for you! Do you get the idea? When you have so allied yourself self-consciously with your inner god then you are one of those sublime beings whom theosophists speak of as the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion and Peace, consciously and at will living from age to age; and I may point out to you that the traditions of all humanity tell us of the existence of these great men. But until that full alliance with your inner god comes, you can at least obtain some gleams, some glimmers, of the vision sublime, and gain the peace of heart and the quiet of the spirit which are a treasure greater than the contents of all earth's material treasure-houses. No one can take this treasure from you, no one can steal it away or destroy it. It will live in you and with you forever.
Such great men are the men who truly rule the world, whose ideas change civilizations. They can do this because they have seen the vision sublime and realize their oneness in faculty and in power with the cosmic life.
Professor Jorgensen of Copenhagen, in a recent address at the International Congress of Philosophy held in Oxford, England, this September stated that recent advances in the physical sciences had brought about "radical changes in — or rather destruction of — current opinions about the world in two or three fundamental respects: in respect of the structure of the world, in respect of the stuff of the world, and — according to some thinkers — in respect of the reality of the world." This "destruction of current opinions" is an outstanding example in point of what I have been talking to you about concerning the overthrowing of mental ghosts with which our minds have been filled and which have misguided us, for all old opinions are ghosts — unless indeed such opinions belong to the class of thinking which is harmonious with nature's own inner processes.
How close does Professor Jorgensen in these remarks approach to our theosophical thought! Think over what his words mean: a complete rejection not merely of the scientific teachings of our fathers — mental ghosts that your children are too often being taught today, changed a bit it may be, but yet the same ghosts — but they mean an entirely new outlook on, and an entirely new insight into, the universe, and signify that the so-called material universe is but a sporadic phenomenon in the cosmic spaces, and that the great reality resides in the so-called emptiness of cosmic space. Do you get the idea? To us, to our physical sense apparatus, space is seemingly empty; but yet it is our theosophical teaching that space is packed full with living things, living entities, invisible to us, intangible by sense, but containing all the worthwhile part of the universe, in other words the invisible and spiritual realms of cosmic being.
The scientists now are not only questioning, but in large degree have changed their views regarding the stuff of the universe, and also their views as to how that universe is builded, in other words its structure; and they are even asking, as the ancient philosophers of Hindustan did many, many thousands of years ago: Is the physical world a reality, or an illusion? And their answer is: illusion. It is mostly spaces, holes: a thing called matter built up of molecules, formed of atoms; and these atoms are most apparently empty spaces, little worlds with relatively as much distance between electron and electron in an atom as there is between planet and planet in our solar system. So where is your seemingly dense, compact, and everlasting material world? It is an illusion. Yet man, with his penetrating mind, with his intuitive spirit, with his inquisitive intellect, is slowly more and more penetrating behind the veil, drawing the veil away; and in doing so he is beginning to see the vision of reality — a vision so new to your Occident, yet so ancient to universal human thought.
Thank the immortal gods, therefore, that the ghosts of the past are dying. Let the dead past bury its dead, and let us turn to the golden sunlight of truth.
And now Sir Oliver Lodge, a great scientist indeed, has this to say:
We have concentrated too much upon matter, and attended too little to the possibilities of space. Already science is discovering that all activity, all energy, all spontaneity, is to be traced to the properties possessed by what we call empty space, and that the matter that appeals to our senses is a comparatively trivial interruption of its continuity, with a function purely demonstrative.
The atoms of matter show what is going on in space. They have no initiative of their own, are pushed hither and thither, and take the path of least resistance. All the genuine activity has hitherto eluded us. We have been studying pointer-readings, and are only now beginning to realize the immensity of the powers which move those pointers and bring about all the phenomena, some of which we are familiar with and others that so far only a few believe in.
The real fact is that we are in the midst of a spiritual world; that it dominates the material.
It constitutes the great and omnipresent reality, whose powers we are only beginning to realize, whose properties and functions exhaust all our admiration.
They might indeed be terrifying had we not been assured for our consolation that these tremendous energies are all controlled by a beneficent . . . power whose name is Love.
In that faith, we can face any destiny that may befall us in the infinite future.
Now, on the whole, these are really splendid words. They show a vision — a bit of that vision sublime of which I have spoken to you so often. But what does the deduction mean that we are compelled to draw from his words? It means that men have been ghost-believers, worshipers of ghosts, followers of dead things, of unreal things, and worst of all that men have been sacrificing on the altar of their hearts to what they thought was truth and which is turning out to be mental ghosts coming out of the past.
Therefore change your viewpoint. Get the new vision. That vision is already in you. All that prevents your seeing this vision of reality and getting the conviction of this natural truth is simply the false deductions, the scientific and religious and philosophical ghosts, mental ghosts, derived from the teachings and books of the last two or three generations. Reach out and seize the idea that you are fundamentally a spiritual entity, each one of you, for that idea is the truth; and once you have this idea, then live accordingly. Live accordingly, I say! In fact, once that idea comes home to your hearts and minds, you will long to live accordingly, and you will quickly find out what living accordingly will bring to you. It will bring the vision of truth to you. This vision of truth will come quickly to you then, because your nature will have become harmoniously adjusted with the universe. There will be synchronous vibration, to use a popular expression, between you and the universe in which you live, and of which you are an integral and inseparable part. This synchronous vibration will produce the vision within you. Furthermore you will get powers.
Yes, I repeat it: powers. The same tempting bait with which you, my Brothers, have been tempted by every itinerant mystical or quasi-mystical lecturer on a public platform. But these powers that I speak of ye never can misuse, for they are cosmic powers: they are powers which will enable you to rise along the ladder of evolution more rapidly than otherwise ye could have gone. Ye will gain vision, clairvoyance of the spirit, ability to see behind the material veil into the very operations of natural being around you. A single abuse of these powers means loss of them, for abuse of these wondrous powers arises out of a selfish hunger for personal gain, and such self-seeking is constrictive and condenses the garments of the soul around the soul, thus making the veils of selfhood thicker than they were before; and these spiritual powers come only — can come only — when the nature of the aspirant expands and opens to the rays of the god within, and these rays are in fact the fundamental energies which produce faculty and power. I hope that you understand this.
You will also gain the faculty of spiritual clairaudience. I have spoken of these matters to you before, and I desire briefly to repeat them again today. It is properly called spiritual clairaudience, because having this faculty ye will be able to hear with the inner ear things at a far distance — or close at hand — as the case may be. This power also ye never can abuse, because a single attempt to abuse it, a single attempt to misuse it, will mean loss of it, for such abuse is a gratification of a hunger for personal selfish gain, and that again means constriction and brings about the conditions that I have just spoken of; and ye can get this power only by expanding and opening your being as in the preceding case. I choose my words carefully because I am trying to present a clear-cut picture to your minds.
Other powers: powers for instance enabling you to leave your physical encasement, the body, and to go with your self-consciousness and your will to other parts of the earth. Yes, and even to other planets of our solar system, and it may be also to Father Sun; and much more than this, you may win also the ability to enter into the invisible realms and be in them and cognise in them as a self-conscious entity. But if you abuse this power, it means loss of it in its turn. As a matter of fact, you cannot really abuse it, for in the attempt to abuse it ye shall lose it; for such an attempt to abuse means a gathering of selfish veils around yourself, which is constriction, binding, closing in, shutting up; and this power can come only from expansion of consciousness, from self-forgetfulness, from an opening and broadening of the inner being — becoming cosmic or quasi-cosmic, in other words. Do you get the idea?
If I asked a man to tell me how I could reach Chicago, and he said to me: "Oh, take any road you wish, whichever appeals to you most," I would think either that he did not have the information I wished, or that there was no such city. But we hear would-be teachers nowadays frequently give the same advice when asked to be shown the road to wisdom, to truth. "Follow any teacher, study any philosophy," they say, "whatever pleases you most; it is not necessary to follow any particular one."
Question: Is not this a tacit acknowledgment on their part that they do not believe there is one fundamental truth in the universe, and that all we can do is to make the best of a bad job?
A great many people think along the line of the preliminary observations to this question, and I am convinced that they are utterly wrong. I also would say that I have found this idea to be a very common one, and there actually are men and women today who pride themselves on having this notion, and think that it is a duty to propagandize it, saying to others: "Oh, do anything you like. Follow any path. All roads lead to Rome. All roads lead to Chicago."
I think the reason why this idea is so popular is because it is so plausible and easy to understand. But plausibility and ease in understanding an idea are no proof of its worth. I do not believe in this idea. I do not see anything in it that is helpful, that is really worthwhile, or that shows even ordinary reflection or common good sense. For my part, I know perfectly well that there is always a better road than the one that any man may be following, and that in a general way we may say that there is also always a best.
Yes, I think that the questioner is quite right in supposing that such an idea is a tacit acknowledgment that the people who utter this idea disbelieve in any fundamental truth in the universe and also disbelieve that there is a pathway by which that truth may be reached. If you are asked by some passing tourist: "I beg your pardon. Will you kindly tell me the shortest road to San Diego?" would you say in answer: "Oh, take any road, any road will lead there"? You would be misleading him. If a person comes to me and says, and I feel the pathetic plea of his heart: "Can you help me? My heart wearies of the world, of its sadness, of its pain. I have suffered. I want peace." And if I were to answer that man: "Surely, study anything you like in order to gain peace; any study will lead you to its acquirement," I would not merely be lying to him, but betraying my trust as a teacher.
There is a path to wisdom, my Brothers, which is also a path to peace and a path to truth. Does anyone doubt it? When you hear the babel of voices around you, and your ears are afflicted at every street corner with leather-lunged proclamations and declamations and acclamations, and all promising an easy path to achievement, what are you going to do? Are you going to listen to every voice and follow each one after the other and thus achieve naught but a running of circles around yourself? You would be very foolish if you did this. On the contrary I tell you: look within, look into your own heart and your heart will tell you that there is a secret way to peace and to wisdom and to truth.
Now, my Brothers, I can show you that path. As a theosophical teacher I can give you the same answer that theosophical teachers have always given: "Come to me, all ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest and wisdom and peace."
I will show you the pathway leading to wisdom, to inner happiness, and to achievement; but I cannot tread that pathway for you, I can merely point out where that path lies, and show you how to begin to tread it. You yourself must reach that path and thereafter must tread it alone. So much I can do. Remember also that this is not my truth, it is the ancient wisdom-religion of mankind, formulated by the titanic seers of the human race, and of this wisdom I have given to you this afternoon but a tiny fragment.
I can do so much because I have studied, because I myself have been taught, and therefore I stand in duty bound to give to others what I myself have learned. Don't trust me merely because I tell you this, but trust your own intuition as to the truth of what I tell you. This is my first word to you: Don't trust me because I am I, but take everything that I lay before you and examine it carefully and minutely. If you find it good, then hold to it until you discover a greater good. I can show you that wondrous path.
I will most emphatically not tell you that any philosophy is good enough, that any mental discipline is good enough! I am not a fool and I will not betray your confidence in acting in that wise. There is always a better road, better than the last road followed, and beyond the better there is always a still better and a best. I have found that road or pathway, and I can show you how you may find it. I can do no more. I cannot grow for the growing child; I cannot eat for my friend; I cannot understand for him. He himself must grow; he himself must eat; he himself must understand. But I can show him where he can find understanding, where he can learn how to grow, and I can point out to him the Master's table where the feast lies spread.
Now, in closing: Every human creature — every man, every woman — is, in the core of the core of his being, or her being, a divinity. In the Christian New Testament this is spoken of under the saying: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of the divine, and that the spirit of the divine dwelleth in you?" But theosophists give much more point and definiteness to this teaching. We learn that every one of us is in the inmost of his being a god. We live in a spiritual universe, composed of many inner realms, planes, spheres; and the physical sphere on which we are dwelling at present is but one inn on the journey of life, one resting-house; for, as the Christian New Testament again so truly and mystically says: "In my Father's house are many mansions." This inner god of you is all there is of you that is worth anything of enduring value. All the rest of you is composite and will ultimately decay.
You can become acquainted with yourself, with your spiritual self. "Man, know thyself," said the Greek god Apollo from his Oracle at Delphi. There is a world of wisdom in this injunction. You can become acquainted with yourself, and thereafter enter into bliss unspeakable, you can learn how to gain and to use spiritual powers which will make you master of life and of death, and you can become a savior and a benefactor of your fellow men if you will.
To me my audiences always seem to be audiences of imbodied divinities. I feel as if I were standing on Olympus, and talking to the gods, for I see not merely these human faces before me, but I sense also the inner spiritual glory shining through them. Oh, my Brothers, when you come to have the insight, to realize the feeling that when you look upon your fellow humans you see them as imbodied gods, then you will have a peace of heart and mind which are beyond expression in words, and you will also feel your heavy responsibility as a teacher. Each one of you being an imbodied god, my Brothers, why not ally yourselves with this deathless part of you? Why not enter into this beauty, into this sublimity, into this lofty life? You can do so if you will.
Ally yourself with the immanent Christ within your being, as the modern mystical Christian puts it; become the inner Buddha, as theosophists phrase it. But in any case, become one with the god within you — and then live grandly, live to benefit mankind. There is no such peace on earth, there is no such happiness, as the feeling of doing good to others. The very urge of the god within you impels you to do this; and for you who so act it will ultimately win you deathlessness, for you will then have allied yourselves self-consciously with the shining god at the core of your being.
Vol 2, No 13