Universal Brotherhood Path – September 1902


No more important saying is to be found in the whole range of literature than those words given by H. P. Blavatsky in the Voice of the Silence, where she says:

But stay, Disciple — yet one word. Canst thou destroy divine COMPASSION? Compassion is no attribute. It is the Law of Laws, a shoreless, universal essence, the light of everlasting right, and fitness of all things, the Law of Love Eternal. The more thou dost become at one with it, thy being melted in its Being, the more thy soul unites with that which is, the more thou wilt become COMPASSION ABSOLUTE.

These words go to the root of many important subjects. They remind us of similar words spoken by Jesus, where he says:

If ye had known what this meaneth, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

In their views of life, and of religion, most men tend to one of two extremes: They are hard and cruel, or else sentimental and foolish. The religion of some is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; while with others it is a foolish notion of pity which has no root in true wisdom and love. With very many, in the western world, the notion of salvation from the results of sin, by accepting the sacrifice of one who was not guilty, but, by a theological make-believe was esteemed guilty, is the sum and substance of religion, the "plan of salvation," as it is called. This most surely leads to confused notions of justice, and it saps the moral fiber of all peoples who accept it. As against this, we now have the Theosophical teaching of Karma — Divine Justice. This is the health-giving tonic which men sorely need. They need to be continually reminded that we must reap what we sow; and that no one can take another's guilt.

With not a few Theosophists, in the early days, the truly merciful law of Karma was taught with a hardness which was foreign to all compassion. If a certain person suffered, the suffering was regarded as Karma, and no more compassion was felt than a mathematician feels in working out some problem. This was, perhaps, the natural rebound from vicarious atonement, and a doctrine of forgiveness that acted as a moral opiate. But this un-Theosophic spirit, shown by certain self-styled Theosophists, was all the more strange, seeing that these words of H. P. Blavatsky, whom they professed to follow, stand out like a beacon light. Her words declare that compassion is an essential part, not only of true religion, but an essential part of Being itself. She says: "Compassion is no attribute — it is the Law of Laws." Or, as the Christian scriptures put it, "God is Love."

Much has been written about attributes — much of it unwisely. It was said the Divine had no attributes, and the man of the world retorted; "How then can God give what he does not possess?" We may understand attributes as temporary appearances with which the Divine clothes itself during manifestation. They are the "Time-vesture" of the Eternal, as Carlyle says. But H. P. Blavatsky assures us that Compassion is no attribute — no mere Time-vesture, but Essential Being itself. It is no mere phenomenon or appearance; it does not change or pass away. It does not seem merely, it ever is. The Religion of Compassion, therefore, must have a deep fullness in it — the fullness of divinity, which is able to meet all human needs.

There is a form, and a very common one, which pity assumes, that does not really help people. It has often been said — in fact proven — that unwise charity tends to foster beggary. The boy or girl, the man or woman, that is "spoilt" by a false pity, is conspicuously lacking in those qualities of strength and manliness and unselfishness which Nature has been at such pains to encourage.

According to the common theory of evolution, Nature is very pitiless. Nature, who is so careful of the type, is apparently careless of the single life, and "of fifty seeds she often brings but one to bear." All the way up to man, Nature seems to be built upon rapine. The strong consume the weak, as natural food. It is said that Nature keeps up the type by this merciless process of sending the weaker to the wall, so that only the strong may survive. That may be so up to man. But man is something more than an animal. Professor Huxley, in his celebrated "Romanes Lecture," was bold enough to state that " now the law of evolution, as applied to men, was not simply the survival of the fittest, but that as many as possible might be made fit to survive." This is the testimony of one of the foremost men of science to the lofty Religion of Compassion. It breathes the spirit of the well-known and beautiful words, "A bruised reed shall he not break and the smoking flax shall he not quench."

The new key-note struck in the Theosophical Society, by the present Leader, in the Crusade around the world, by the feeding of the poor, was more important as declaring the Religion of Compassion, than in simply satisfying so many appetites for a few hours. It was a declaration of compassion, and it recalls the words concerning the great Teacher of Nazareth: "And he had compassion on the multitude, because they had nothing to eat." If it be true, as the proverb has it, that "the way to some people's hearts is through their pockets," it is equally true that the way to the hearts of others lies through satisfying the needs of the "physical nature." This is mentioned, chiefly because it illustrates the fact that thoughtfulness, compassion, is a powerful factor in man's redemption. The heart, as the deepest wisdom teaches, is the great mainspring in man. We are saved not by the intellect chiefly, but through the heart.

A great deal of foolishness is attached to the exercise of what the world calls compassion, in many cases, but this is owing to the unwisdom of the person who shows it, and to the mistaking of weak sentiment for compassion. True compassion is the highest wisdom.

Compassion must take on many forms according as the end or object of wisdom will be most perfectly accomplished; but it never ceases to be compassion; and it is always dangerous for weak, erring mortals to "take the law into their own hands." The Scripture says, "Judgment is mine, and I will repay, saith the Lord, therefore, if thine enemy hunger feed him, if he thirst give him drink, for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head." When the true religion of compassion comes into general operation it will prove a "saving health to all peoples."

A parent or a state which punishes through fear, or vindictiveness, or in the spirit of retaliation, does not diminish the number of criminals. Like begets like. We have to reform our criminal jurisprudence according to the highest light — the Light of true Compassion. This would not mean that the bed of the criminal is to be made a bed of roses — but it does mean that wisdom should always act with the tender glow of compassion ever shining upon her countenance. The parable tells us the Father met the returning prodigal when he was yet a great way off!

The moral and spiritual effect of correction does not lie in its seventy, but in the strong compassion which the sufferer feels existing for him in the heart of his corrector. The moral end and aim of all pain in this universe must be corrective; to help us to shun the wrong course to which the red danger-signal of suffering is attached. As we perceive that it is out of compassion itself that Nature inflicts all her penalties for broken law, and as we learn to copy Nature, then life will take on a new meaning. Nothing will be cruel, nothing will be arbitrary — we shall feel that if we do suffer, it is the working of the All-Compassionate Law, in order that we may come into complete harmony with that law and suffer no more.

We prove ourselves Sons of God by acting in a Godlike manner. The Scripture says: "He that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God;" and again: "If a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"

In truly feeling and wisely showing compassion we preach the highest gospel — we declare our own divinity, and we exercise a divine power — the power which humanity needs at this hour.

Washington says: "Lenity will operate with greater force, in some instances, than rigor. It is therefore my first wish, to have my whole conduct distinguished by it."

The high doctrine, the lofty teaching of Theosophy is, that when we have learned all lessons, and when we stand ready to enter heaven, the Voice of True Compassion says: "Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?" and then the true Theosophist, he who has made many renunciations will make the GREAT RENUNCIATION; he returns from the other shore as COMPASSION ABSOLUTE — a Savior of the world.

Common sense tells us that this is the highest, noblest, best goal of all, and that the surest and also the easiest way to reach those Godlike heights is to daily exercise the religion of true compassion in all the little things of life. "He that is faithful in that which is least," Jesus says, "is faithful also in much."

The words of H. P. Blavatsky, with which we began, "That Compassion is no attribute but the Law of Laws, Alaya's Self," find an echo in these words of Sir Edwin Arnold, in the Light of Asia, where he says there "Is fixed a power divine which moves to Good, only its laws endure."

Such is the Law which moves to righteousness,
Which none, at last, can turn aside or stay;
The heart of it is Love, the end of it
Is Peace and Consummation Sweet. Obey.

Universal Brotherhood Path

Theosophical University Press Online Edition