Few have told us as much about the world beyond our physical existence as did Gottfried de Purucker. That is one reason he is still alive to me. Such a man would certainly have protested against a eulogy or any special attention being paid to his person. He often emphasized that the personality — from the Latin word persona, "mask" — is only a means to an end, a vehicle created by the inner self. So let us examine the teachings of the ancient wisdom which he loved above all else, and which he never tired of re-expressing.
Dr. de Purucker taught incessantly, presenting his message in many ways in order to stimulate different aspects of our being. He left behind an enormous body of writings, the majority compiled from talks, lectures, questions and answers, messages, and letters. In these he returns constantly to certain keynotes. For example, he put all his energy into encouraging people to find the hidden center within them:
We cannot understand ourselves and others unless we have evolved the understanding heart. The key is sympathy, and the method is to look to the divine being within. As we aspire to become more like it in every moment of our lives, light will come and we shall know truth when we find it. We shall become compassionate and strong — qualities that are the true insignia of the self-illumined man. The first lesson, then, is to seek the light of our own inner god, and trust it alone. When we follow this light and are warmed by its sublime and life-giving rays, then we shall see the same god-light in others. — Fountain-Source of Occultism, p. 13
Just pause a moment and connect up these thoughts with the Christian saying: Not my will but thine be done: not the will of the ordinary, stupid, selfish, compromising and foolish man that nearly everyone of us is, but the will, the inspiration to the lower man, of the divinity within, which guides and leads, urges and impels us constantly. — Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 145
We must learn to depend upon our true being: to try, weigh and consider, employ our own powers, and let our inner self be the only touchstone for the truth in daily life as well as in spiritual and intellectual study.
Dr. de Purucker realized that true ethics are an expression in human life of universal realities, so that it is necessary to understand our place in the never-ending interplay of lives — atomic, terrestrial, solar, and galactic. The simple key to understanding these things, he said, is the realization of our oneness with the All. The immense scope of our being and our sublime origin are put more simply and intuitively, in words that speak from heart to heart:
Human beings essentially are kin to the gods, kin to the cosmic spirits. The universe is our home. We cannot ever leave it. We are its children, its offspring, and therefore all that there is of boundless space is we ourselves in our inmost. We are native there, and boundless space is our home, and our instinct tells us therefore that 'all is well.' — Golden Precepts of Esotericism, p. 73
And what will become of us when we have left behind the human phase of evolution? Dr. de Purucker does not hesitate to show the path ahead: "In time to come every human soul will become a spiritual soul or Monad, and each one of these Monads will become a sun, . . ." (Dialogues 1:206).
Another keynote of Dr. de Purucker's work was explaining what we can do practically in order to progress. What evokes an especially strong response within me is his insistence that the teachings must be lived. By this process we actually make ourselves, because each human being
weaves around himself from birth to death a web of action and of thought — each one of them producing results, some immediately, some later. Each act is a seed. And that seed inevitably, by the doctrine of swabhava (1), will produce the results which belong to it, and none other. — Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, pp. 158-9
This thought can, of course, be viewed the other way round: if we want to learn about our past, we need not "regress" to former incarnations. Instead we can study ourselves today, since we are precisely what we made ourselves in the past, its culmination.
Covina Headquarters of the Theosophical Society, with view of Mt. Baldy
His writings on the spiritual path inform us that it is open to all and that there is no essential difference between an accepted disciple and a seeker on the path:
Some people imagine that the path of spiritual attainment is far away over the mountains of the future, almost unreachable, when in reality there is a relatively narrow frontier between ordinary life and that followed by the neophyte or chela. Essentially the difference is one of outlook, and not of metaphysical distance. — Fountain-Source of Occultism, p. 14
All pilgrims on the path ponder the question: "How can I become more spiritual when I have only just awakened to self-awareness? How can I live these grand ideas and improve myself?" Dr. de Purucker advises that the seeker cultivate a "growing indifference to himself, and an increasing interest in all that is. There we have the path of morals, of ethics, of wisdom; . . . The world, all mankind, the Universe, he loses himself in, and becomes it; and there is the secret of all initiations, from the greatest to the least" (Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 228). He also tells us that
the voice of the intuition is the voice of the Spirit within us, and it is infallible. It has no frontiers. . . . we can allow intuition to become ever stronger within us, enlightening our minds and opening our hearts, by not being afraid of it, afraid of having hunches, by not being afraid of following our conscience, and our intuitions when they come to us. They are coming to us all the time.
Most men are ashamed to act intuitively. They don't want to make mistakes. Prudential, yes! But it is only prudence, and uncommendable, cowardly and weak, and small, if it is merely because you don't want to begin to make a fool of yourself until you have learned more. The strong man is not afraid of making a fool of himself occasionally, because he knows that that very fact will stimulate him, awaken him, make him think; and after a while he will not make a fool of himself. He will learn to trust his inner powers. — Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 213
As to details of how to proceed, by aspiration and service we will discover what we need to know:
"I am the servant of the servants of God — of the Divine." When the idea imbodied in this principle burns in the heart and sets it afire with its holy flame, then the brain receives enlightenment in its turn and sees, indeed evokes, the methods, the way, the path, the means.
Let never this challenge pass unanswered. Take it up immediately. . . .
Charity in all things maketh a man's heart to sing; for it beautifies his own life and beautifies the lives of those whom it touches. Let us, therefore, have charity in our hearts, brotherly love towards all. Let us keep our faces to the Spiritual East always, and march, march, march, at the head of the van, into the light of the Spiritual Sun! — Messages to Conventions, pp. 150, 79
In this context Dr. de Purucker's short message of love, strength, and unity comes to mind: "Fideles, sursum corda: Up hearts, ye faithful ones!" When I lose courage and don't know how to carry on, this puts heart into me again.
How can we assist our fellow human beings on their paths? There is no pat answer; each one must choose his pathway individually and with full responsibility. Nevertheless, Dr. de Purucker suggests that immersing oneself in the wisdom-teachings and practicing them in daily life is the best means both to progress individually and to help others. As he explains:
the more fully the Theosophical life or the life beautiful is lived, the more fully we shall know the doctrine, because we shall then be more fully functioning on the higher planes of our constitution than now is the case, and therefore more capable of understanding wider reaches of Theosophy, and in consequence likewise more capable of interpreting the divine Theosophia for the benefit of others.
. . . and this can best be done when we train ourselves to be living exemplars of the Wisdom which we ourselves are learners of. No man can teach genuinely technical Theosophy unless he has achieved a more or less complete union of heart and mind and life and intelligence and moral strength and love. — The Theosophical Forum, Oct. 15, 1933, pp. 81-2
At the HPB Centennial Conference in London on June 24, 1931, he remarked that the most practical and efficient method to forward human progress lay in "concentrating our thoughts and our minds on the heart of our Theosophical teachings: in living them, in teaching them, in giving them to the world, so that we may change men's minds and hearts" (Messages to Conventions, p. 19).
Can these ideas and their practice change human life? Looking back on 125 years of theosophical activity, the strong and increasing influence of the wisdom teachings on modern thought and attitudes is undeniable. This influence is particularly marked in the extraordinary progress in scientific thought. While much has changed since the 1930s and '40s, the concepts that physicists formulated in the first third of the century still have not entered popular awareness. Dr. de Purucker delighted in exploring the fundamental concepts behind scientific thought in light of theosophy. Concerning ancient and modern views of material reality, he pointed out that the Stoics "taught that the material universe was illusory precisely as the Hindu speaks of maya; and the Stoic understood that this apparently dense, gross, heavy, material universe is phenomenally unreal, mostly built up of holes, so to say . . ." — a view very close to modern scientific ideas (Fundamentals, p. 25). How is it, he asks,
that man cannot see these truths intimately and immediately? We all know the answer is, on account of the illusion under which his mind labors, the illusion which is a part of himself, not cast upon him from the outside: he sees, for instance, and his mind reacts to the vision, and the reaction is conducted along the lines of the illusion which, taking the ancient Sanskrit word, is called maya.
This is a technical term in the ancient Brahmanical philosophy. . . . It comes from a Sanskrit root ma, meaning "to measure," and by a figure of speech it comes to mean to effect, or to form, and hence to limit. . . .
Now maya, as a technical term, has come to mean . . . the fabrication by man's mind of ideas derived from interior and exterior impressions, and hence the illusory aspect of man's thoughts as he considers and tries to interpret and understand life and his surroundings — and thence was derived the sense which it technically bears, illusion. It does not mean that the exterior world is nonexistent; if it were, it obviously could not be illusory; it exists, but is not. It is "measured out" or it stands out to the human spirit as a mirage. In other words, we do not see clearly and plainly and in their reality the vision and the visions which our mind and senses present to the inner life and eye. — Fundamentals, pp. 32-3
By comparing Dr. de Purucker's analyses with current knowledge, we can gain new insights into both the ancient wisdom and modern science.
Unquestionably the core of Dr. de Purucker's presentation was the fundamental idea of theosophy, universal brotherhood, a love that conquers every boundary: "Love is the cement of the universe; it holds all things in place and in eternal keeping; its very nature is celestial peace, its very characteristic is cosmic harmony, permeating all things, boundless, deathless, infinite, eternal. It is everywhere, and is the very heart of the heart of all that is" (Golden Precepts, p. 111).
So much more could be said about the enormous fields of theosophical teaching that Dr. de Purucker offered us. But this message to mankind was closer to his heart than any other:
The sign of the great man, and of the noble-hearted woman, is in the measure that he or she follows the pathway leading to the god, the inner god, within each one of you. Oh! that I might bring this truth to the understanding of men and women today: that wonderful truth, holy, sublime, inspiring as none other is: that within each one of you there is an unspeakable fount of strength, of wisdom, of love, of compassion, of forgiveness, of purity. Ally yourselves with this fountain of strength; it is in you, none can ever take it from you. Its value is more excellent than all the treasures of the Universe, for knowing it, being it, you are all. — Lucifer (1:2), March-April 1930, p. 66
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2000; copyright © 2000 Theosophical University Press)
1. "Swabhava (Sanskrit) A compound word derived from the verb-root bhu, meaning `to become' — not so much 'to be' in the passive sense, but rather 'to become,' to 'grow into' something. The quasi-pronominal prefix swa, means `self'; hence the noun means 'self-becoming,' 'self-generation,' `self-growing' into something.'' — Occult Glossary (return to text)