Theosophical University Press Online Edition
After Death: You Are Yourself
The Secret of Human Conflict
The Divine Proportion
Civilization Built upon Thought
The Injunction of Pythagoras
Universality and the Esoteric Tradition
Where the Masters Work
Prayer and Aspiration
I hope that the time will come when we shall weigh more strongly than we have been doing on the teachings of what happens after death. The average man seems to be today not so much immoral as amoral, that is, seems to have largely lost the sense of moral responsibility. If men and women could realize what is going to happen to them after death, it would awaken a certain sense of needed behavior or conduct.
Let us try to restore to mankind the teaching of the ancient wisdom: as you live so will you be after you die. It is a simple teaching and it is so logical, it appeals. Some may resent it at first, they may not like it; but there is a thought there which on account of its logic, its justice, will finally throw forth sprouts of thought in the mind.
If you want to understand the kama-loka and the devachan, just study yourself now, and you will know what you are going to get. Just that. You are going to get a continuation of precisely what now you are. If a man indulges in vice, what is going to happen to him? He reaps the consequences of his evildoing. He learns by it the lessons that come out of the suffering. If a man fills his mind with gross thoughts and evil dreams, he learns by it in the long run through suffering, for the effects and consequences on his mind and character will ensue. He suffers, he is in torture, he pays the penalty, he has poisoned his inner system and he won't have peace until the poison has worked itself out, until he has become what is called re-formed, re-shaped. Then he will have peace again; he will be able to sleep in peace again.
Study yourself in your daily consciousness; and also study what kind of dreams you have. Why are these two conjoined? Because your dreams are from your own mind, and therefore are a part of your own consciousness. A man during his waking hours has evil dreams, evil thoughts; when he sleeps he has nightmares. He learns by them when he sleeps; he certainly is not going to have a heaven of dreams because he has filled his mind with horrid, hateful, mean, degrading thoughts. He has not built the substances of heaven.
There you have the answer; and the kama-loka is simply a state of consciousness which the man's consciousness enters after death because he has made himself during his lifetime to have that kind of consciousness. It works itself out, and then he rises or sinks into whatever is his destiny: a weak devachan or no devachan at all, according to the individual. In other words, if he has made for himself a character which is X, he will have that character X, whatever it is, after death. He won't have character Y, or Z, or A, or B. Contrariwise, a man who during life has kept himself in hand, has controlled himself, has lived manly, experiences the same law precisely: the after-death state will be unconscious in the kama-loka, or very nearly so, because he has no kama-loka biases in himself; and probably there will be a blissful devachan.
Suppose a man has no marked character at all, is neither particularly good nor particularly bad. What kind of after-death states is he going to have? He will have a colorless kama-loka, nothing particularly bad; and he will have a colorless devachan, nothing particularly beautiful or blissful. It will all be like a sort of vague, intangible dream. It doesn't amount to much, and consequently he won't amount to much after he dies.
Or take the case of a young man of evil ways who reforms, let us say, at about middle age, and spends the rest of his life in deeds of virtue, of self-improvement. What will be his fate in the worlds to come? As stated, the kama-loka and the devachan are simply a continuation of what the man is when he dies. So consequently an evil young man becoming a good old man has practically no kama-loka of an unpleasant kind at all. He will have to pay to the uttermost farthing for any evil he did as a youth — but in his future life; his evil deeds are thought-deposits there. But as he reformed at about middle age, and lived a clean decent life thereafter, his kama-loka will be very slight because it will be simply a continuation of what he was when he died, and the devachan will be in accordance likewise.
One can be in the kama-loka, as well as in the devachan, before death comes; indeed, it is possible to be in the avichi-condition even while imbodied. And here is a very important deduction we should draw from this fact: if we have kama-loka while imbodied men and women, we shall have it after death; and precisely according to the same law, because we have spiritual yearnings, dreams of a spiritual type or character while imbodied, we shall have the devachan after death. To repeat, the kama-loka is a prolongation or a continuation, until it is worked out, of what you have been through in your life. If you set your thought and mind and heart on things which bring you pain, which make you suffer because you are selfish, and stiff-necked in pride and egoism, you will assuredly continue the same bending of your consciousness after death. It cannot be otherwise. It is simply you. Therefore, the devachan and the kama-loka are prolongations or continuations of the same states of consciousness respectively that you have gone through on earth, with this difference: that being out of the body, which is at once a blind and a shield of protection, you are, as it were — thought, naked thought. And if your thought has been during life on things of horror, or if you have allowed your thought to bend in those directions while imbodied, you won't be washed free of stain merely because you have cast off the body. Your thought, which is yourself, will continue and you will have to pass through kama-loka and exhaust that phase of thought. It will have to die out as a fire will burn itself out.
Similarly, indeed exactly: if in life you have had beautiful thoughts, grand thoughts, sublime thoughts, you will assuredly have the same in the devachan, but a thousandfold stronger because no longer smothered by the body when you have cast it off. So if you want to know what your destiny will be after death, just study yourself now and take warning. There is a very important and pertinent lesson that we can learn from this fact, just in that. You can make your postmortem condition what you will it to be now, before it is too late. Nothing in the universe can prevent the bliss of devachan coming to you, or rather your making it for yourself. Deduction: take yourself in hand.
There you have the teaching of the kama-loka. There you have the teaching of the devachan. It is very simple. All the intricate, abstract questions I think arise largely in failing to understand the elementary principles of the teachings. When you lie down you dream, or you are unconscious. When you die you dream, or you are unconscious. You have, when you lie down at night, evil dreams or good dreams, or you are unconscious. When you die you will have evil dreams or beautiful dreams or you will be unconscious — all depending upon the individual and the life he has led. So the kama-loka and the devachan, and indeed the avichi, are not things that are going suddenly to happen to you when you die; but because your consciousness has been that way while imbodied, they, one or the other, will continue after you die.
You see now the importance of ethics, and why all the great sages and seers throughout time have tried to teach men to spiritualize and refine their thoughts, to live in the heart-life, to cast out the things which are wrong and evil. The devachan is not waiting for you; the kama-loka is not waiting for you — I mean as absolute conditions now separate from you. If you had them in life, you will have them after death. The man who has had no thought of hatred or horror or detestation or venom toward another, in other words whose heart and mind have never been nests of evil, will have neither an avichi in life nor after death, nor an unhappy kama-loka in life or after death. He will have an exquisite devachan, and will come back refreshed and vigorous and strong and renewed to begin a new life and with everything in his favor.
After death you continue to be precisely what you are when you die. There is the whole thing. There is the secret of the kama-loka and of the devachan and of all the intermediate states of the bardo, as the Tibetans call it. All the rest is detail, and that is why I keep emphasizing in my public lectures and in my writings that death is but a sleep. Death is a perfect sleep and sleep an imperfect death. It is literally so. When you sleep you are partly dead. When you die, you are absolutely asleep. If you grasp these simple ideas you will have the whole teaching on your thumbnail, a thumbnail picture.
Now another point: I have heard people say that they don't want to remain in devachan, it is a waste of time. This is a misunderstanding. You might as well say, I don't want to have sleep tonight, it is a waste of time. As a matter of fact, you need the rest, recuperation, assimilation of the experiences of the past life. You are strengthened by it, you grow by it. So that while the devachan is not a time for evolution it is a time for building, for recuperation, for assimilation, for inner digestion, for strengthening, and is just as much needed as a night's rest is for the body.
There will come a time in human evolution when even the devachan is no longer required, because the man has learned to live in the higher part of his being. Devachan, however beautiful, is an illusion. The time will come in the future when men will no longer have to sleep at night; they won't require it. They will have different kinds of bodies and thus learn to do without the devachan, and will reincarnate almost immediately in order to help mankind — which is the thing they love most of all — and all other beings. These men are what we call masters, in all their grades. But for us ordinary human beings the devachan is a necessary episode.
The devachan, however, while a beautiful experience of the consciousness, is an experience of the higher personal consciousness, the higher part of us human egos, the higher part of the personal man, its aroma, so to speak. In this fact lies the training bringing about the shortening of the devachan. If you learn to live outside of the personality and in the Eternal, while you are imbodied, if it becomes habitual with you, your devachan will be correspondingly shortened because you won't want it. You won't need it. The bent of your mind is not in selfish beatific satisfactions of the soul. That is what the devachan is, a fool's paradise. When compared with reality, it is an illusion. But just because men and women strain for those things and suffer to attain them, the devachan in nature's infinite pity becomes the time when they have it, the resting, relaxing time, the time of recuperation, digestion, assimilation. As we grow, as the ages pass, in future ages we won't long so desperately to have these beatific satisfactions of the soul. We shall find our happiness in impersonal attachments to things of beauty, things which belong to the higher spiritual man, and not to the hungry human soul.
This is where the training lies that all chelas are taught, that same truth, that and nothing more. Rise out of the personality so that you learn to use it as a willing, acquiescent instrument, and live in the spiritual part of you, which means impersonally; live universally so that you are not swayed by your own hunger for the things that please and help and rest you; but live in the spiritual, in the universal, and all these other things will be added unto you.
The secret of conflict not only amongst men, but even in the universe, is in the existing degrees of ignorance, selfishness, and lack of altruism — the noblest emotion that can possibly enter the human heart. It is only in altruism, in thinking of others, in putting others before ourselves, that we forget ourselves, and in the forgetting lose the pains and sorrows and the little happinesses that we hug so close to us and call our selves.
Don't you see that the only pathway to wisdom and universal peace and utter happiness is putting the whole before the insignificant, the many before yourself; and therefore living in the universal life instead of living only in your own small compass of vital comprehension? There is the secret of it all; and it is precisely this secret that the modern world has forgotten. It has forgotten that in self-forgetfulness is greatness, peace, and happiness; that our lack of peace and our unhappinesses come from hugging our little pettinesses and worries close to us; for these anxieties and hatreds gnaw the very fiber of our inner being, and then we suffer, we are hurt, and we raise our eyes to divinity or to the gods and exclaim: "Why has this happened to me, to us? What have I done? What have we done?" Yet the merest cognizance of spiritual and natural law should tell us that everything that happens in the great and in the small — because the small is included in the great — happens according to divine law; and that misery and unhappiness and conflict and wretchedness and poverty and all the array of accompanying ills, arise out of human negligence to obey the cosmic law. It is as simple as that.
The great lost chord of modern civilization is forgetfulness of the fact in nature of universal brotherhood, which means not merely a sentimental or political brotherhood; it means that we are all of one common cosmic or spiritual origin, and that what affects one affects all, and therefore that the interests of the unit are insignificant as compared with the interests of the multitude. But forget not that the multitude is composed of units, so that you cannot be unjust or cruel or do wrong even to a single unit without offending the whole. These are simple laws that have been hammered into the consciousness of mankind from time out of mind, from an age preceding ours so far back in the remote past that what we now call the eternal mountains were not even yet dreamed of and were sleeping in the ooze of archaeozoic slime.
Now this lost chord, this forgotten truth, the forgetfulness of human brotherhood, can be expressed otherwise: the loss of the conviction that nature is fundamentally spiritual, and therefore is ruled by law, and therefore has compensation for meritorious conduct and retribution for unmeritorious; and that these twain, the compensation and the retribution, are as infallible as is that cosmic law itself, for they are but the expressions of it. When a man allows these wondrous and yet so simple thoughts to sink into his consciousness so that they become a part of the very fiber of his being and of his feeling, no longer will he willfully injure another. He cannot. It is no longer his character. He has drawn himself out of the mud, and seen the golden sunshine. He recognizes that fundamentally all is one, all beings are one, and that the unit is as important as the whole, and the whole is as important as the unit; and that the unit within the whole is infinitely more important than the unit, single, alone. By the units themselves thinking in this way, the cosmic rule of harmony is preserved unto infinity.
That is what we have lost: the conviction that we shall meet compensation or retribution for our thoughts and for our feelings; that good will infallibly come to us if we sow good and do and think and feel right, and sow seeds of justice and honor and probity and decency in our conduct towards all other men — all others, not merely "my" friends — all. For the cosmos is a unity and knows no divisions or human separations. This is what we have lost. This is where we fail. This is the secret of all human conflict.
Now mind you, this thought — because of the very complex character of modern civilization, and because of this fact only — raises a bewildering series of embarrassing questions. But any man with a heart in the right place, can solve such questions because he is illuminated by the god within him, if he will allow his heart to speak. Then his judgment is virtually infallible. And when I say the heart, I do not mean emotion; I mean the man's instinct of upright honor and inner moral and spiritual cleanliness. The fact is, we of the Occident have been cowards entirely too long, always wanting to put the fault on someone else. So we have erected a pure figment of our imagination, and we speak of it as Christ Jesus, and on his shoulders lay all our sins; and at the end we shall be washed white in the blood of the lamb if only we believe it. Aye, but how about those who have suffered under my evil doing? Because I am saved, does that help them? How about those whom I in my stupid, ignorant and evil past, perhaps have given the shove downwards instead of the brotherly helping upward lift? How about them? Don't you see that those ideas are the complete reversal of a cosmic philosophy? Don't you see that it is all wrong? That it is not so important what happens to the unit; the greater thing is what happens to all others, the endless, toiling, hoping, working, suffering multitudes. That is important, and every weakened unit knows it and feels it.
Now this inevitability of retribution or of lovely compensation is what we call the doctrine of consequences, the doctrine of karma: that what you sow you shall reap, either now or at a later date, and that there is no escape. We know it perfectly well in the ordinary things of life; it does not require any argument. If you put your hand in a flame or touch a live wire, the fire is not going to not burn you because you are stupid and ignorant, and the electricity will not refrain from perhaps killing you because you don't know the laws of electricity.
Fortunately there is another and beautiful side to this. Our most wondrous teacher, the greatest friend we have, is our sorrow. What is it that softens a man's heart so that he can understand the suffering of others and feel with others? Sympathy, feeling together. It is when we suffer ourselves that we grow. Nothing softens the heart like one's own suffering. Strange and beautiful paradox, it puts steel into our character likewise. It makes us stronger. The man who has never suffered is without feeling, is a very "in-volved" person indeed — he is "turned in" upon himself.
Who is the great man? The man who has never suffered? Or the one whose sufferings have given him strength, inner power, vision, who knows what suffering is, and because of his own recollection of it, never will bring suffering upon others? With him the heart has begun to awaken. Consciousness is once more aroused to these simple cosmic verities.
You see then how wonderfully the universe is constructed, so that although we are stupid and ignorant, and may lack the noblest feeling possible to human beings which is altruism, love, and feeling for others, yet by our very sufferings and stupidities and ignorance we learn the better way, and with each step in learning we grow, we grow greater. After a long period of this very slow and wholesome and painful evolutionary journey, we come to the point when we shall say to ourselves: no more of that; I have had enough. From now on I shall take myself in my own hands, and govern my life by self-directed evolution. Hereafter I shall choose my path. Naught shall sway my will to this side or that. There is the goal, and that goal is a cosmic one. No longer shall I be a slave of fell circumstance. From now on I rule my own pathway. I choose my own destiny. I have seen the Law.
It is a strange paradox that once the soul begins to awaken and the eyes to open, because of the very complex and really I think disastrous state of modern life, the man who is earnestly trying to do his job, to do his duty in life, to live manly, uprightly, meets a thousand times more difficulties than the man who just goes along because, like the animals, he is too stupid to think. But would you be a mere human animal, not thinking, not reflecting, not having the godlike feeling of choosing your own way in life?
It is, then, my conviction that human conflicts would end, and fairly rapidly too, if all of us were to realize our individual responsibility towards our fellowmen. I think that just that one rule would run through all the fabric of human life from the highest to the lowest: our solidarity as units in a human hierarchy, so that what affects one affects all, whether for good or for ill.
I have often wondered how many think of these things in the silent hours of night, or when they are puzzled and anxious as to what course to follow, and are afraid to follow because the multitude does not. The multitude likes to follow what it thinks is "enlightened selfishness." I cannot conceive a more diabolic or satanic notion than what is covered by that phrase. It is a deliberate obscuring of every noble intuition of the human soul. just ask yourselves: Do they do a thing because it is beautiful and because it is right and just, and because it will bring happiness and security and peace to all? No, these proponents of enlightened selfishness say "If I do it, it ultimately will be good for me and mine." Now suppose people in different parts of the world followed that gospel, what would you see? What you see today. And it can all be stopped, all human conflict. Mind you, I don't mean stopping differences of opinion, which is one of the most beautiful things about us humans. Differences of opinion, if honestly and courteously and altruistically cultivated, lend spice and enchantment to life, lend charm and beauty. The French have a wonderful proverb: Du choc des idees jaillit la lumiere, "From the shock of ideas springs forth light." That is the principle of congresses and parliaments and unions and reunions of men: to exchange ideas and to skim off the best.
So I don't refer to differences of ideas. These are natural. I mean conflicts, hatreds, lack of respect for the other man, lack of seeing in him something which is as wonderful as what he can see in you. Have you ever tried just this simple rule, looking into the eyes of some other man when you are talking with him; not trying to force your idea into his head as we all do; not trying to persuade him and make him believe as you do; but just looking into the eyes of that man. Do you know, you can see marvels, a world of hitherto unexpressed and unknown beauty there. That man's whole soul, if you just give him a chance, is ready to come out and meet you. But of course he may be as much scared of you as you are scared of him, and just as much afraid of being a man as you are afraid of being a man.
I assure you that if men would trust each other and expect decency from each other, they would get it. I have never known it to fail. I will tell you frankly I have never been betrayed in a trust I have given, because I have given my trust always without stint and as an appeal. It works, and it is the principle upon which modern business, the highest type, is based: mutual trust, mutual confidence, mutual honor; and when a man does not live up to these things, he very soon gets a rap.
Now, I have actually heard it said that it is good for the human race to be in continuous conflict because it makes men strong. Yes, I have heard of pugilists, but I have never known any of them who have been especially famous for genius or for setting the world on fire with their brains or for changing the course of destiny or of history. Pachydermatous human beings, thick-skinned human beings, have their value, but they are not exactly the type that we choose when we want a man to handle some very difficult, delicately balanced, and intricate negotiations. There we need a man not only of brains but a man of heart, because the man of brains who has no heart cannot understand the other man who may have just enough of a heart-touch to give him a very heavy advantage over the heartless man. The man without heart is only half-built in psychology; he is at an enormous disadvantage. The other man will put it all over him. Heart and brain working together make the complete man, because there is the understanding of both the song of the heart and the philosophy of the mind.
Shall we continue these interminable conflicts? I think they will pass away. I think that beauty and respect are in the offing even now. The way to begin is with ourselves: I with myself, you with yourself.
What sympathy is to love, which is cosmic harmony, consciousness is to divine intelligence. In other words, love awakened or in action shows itself as what we humans call sympathy; intelligence awakened to action and self-cognizing being expresses itself as consciousness. This includes likewise self-consciousness which is but consciousness reflected back upon itself so that it "sees" or "feels" itself. Indeed everything in the universe, and consequently everything in man, who is but an offspring of the universe, is ultimately reducible in the last analysis to one: whether you call it the one cosmic ultimate or the cosmic principle, is a matter of words only; from this One — which is not monotheism in any sense — from this abstract unity there flow forth into activity what we call intelligence, consciousness, mind, sympathy, etc. Thus then what sympathy is to love, which is cosmic harmony ultimately, consciousness is to cosmic intelligence.
Thought is the motive power of men. It governs even emotion and can control it, and although sometimes thought is evoked by feeling, I think that on the higher planes they are one. The world we live in is a world of thinkers and feelers; and if the world is bad, it is because our thoughts and feelings have made it so. If human conditions are inharmonious, even diabolic at times, when brute force takes the place of reason and justice, it is because our thoughts have made it so.
Ideas control actions. There you have the cause of the unrest in the world we live in, and its cure. If a man wants to reform himself, he does so by first of all changing his thought; he begins by feeling differently. It is the only lasting way, for it means a change of character. If you want to prevent a quarrel you have to begin your work before the quarrel threatens. If you try to interfere in a quarrel between two people, not only are you apt to hurt yourself, but you will have a quarrel of three. It is no way to stop a quarrel by going to the quarrelers and preaching. By so doing you have not touched them where they are susceptible, you have not changed them, you have not appealed to their thought or their feelings. You have been trying mere palliatives.
Make them see that they are acting a bit worse than the beasts are when they fight, because the beasts have not our reason and common sense. Make your appeal with ideas; awaken thoughts. Put into their minds a new sequence of thought and feeling. Then they will begin to realize that you cannot settle a quarrel by brute force, for that simply means that the chap who has got the worst of it is going to bide his time to see if he can best the other fellow by brute force. They will begin to see that you cannot stop wars by making wars to stop wars. It has never worked and never will, because it is a wrong psychology, as well as foolish.
All civilization is built upon thought, and if you want to change a civilization, you must change accepted thought by giving a new thought. What is an invention? A thought. What is literature? What are philosophy, religion, science? Thought. What is the social structure under which we live? Thought. Every movement in the world today is built upon thought: social, political, philosophic, religious, and scientific. Nine out of ten of these movements began in the mind of one individual, and spread. You see in the pages of history the tremendous cataclysmic effects of thought. What is war? Not only the result of thought, but thought itself Men fighting because of ideas, thoughts. To avoid another world war we must begin before the next one happens — begin by starting a new current of thought in the world.
These truths are so simple they pass us by and we do not take them in and digest them. It is ideas that shake the world. It is ideas that make the world. It is ideas that unmake men and the world of men. Consult the annals of history. Look at the amazing results that spring from movements which begin perhaps with a handful of earnest people. For years they may work and preach and labor apparently without result. Suddenly, for some remarkable reason, the idea catches and spreads like wildfire. At times ideas take hold of people in the most amazing way. What were the Crusades, when men left home and hearth and fireside and everything they held dear to go and fight the paynim, in a distant foreign and unknown land? These tens of thousands of men collected from all over Europe for an idea. Still more remarkable: what was this amazing and thought- arresting idea which even caught the thoughts and imaginations of little children? Have you not heard of the Children's Crusade? Out of Germany and what is now Belgium and Holland and France and Switzerland, down into the south of France and into Italy suddenly children began to arise — boys and girls from toddling ones up to those of thirteen or fourteen years they took to the roads and went by the scores of thousands till the highways were black with their marching feet. Hundreds of miles they went, dying by thousands on the way, and horribly treated by human monsters who battened on them. Nobody knows how this thought arose. Suddenly the children in the various countries took it into their heads: "We will go fight, we will go save the Holy Sepulcher." Fancy children talking like that! They got it from their parents, of course; but look at the psychology — a psychology that swept every home, took one or more children from every fireside. The mothers and fathers could not stop them. They would steal out by night. They would go by byways and devious pathways to the great highways, those bands of helpless children going south, going south! All for an idea, a thought!
What was the idea of the wonderful tarantella which is best described by the historians of Spain and Italy — Italy particularly? Suddenly for no understandable reason, grown men and women got the idea that they must dance; and they began to dance, and danced on and on until they fell down unconscious, exhausted. They could not stop themselves from singing and dancing, singly and together, whole countrysides, whole districts of them — a psychology, a thought, an idea.
It is just such kind of insane psychology that rules the world of human thought today. Men and women have got the idea that it is impossible to prevent another great war. They really believe it. That is one of the reasons it will happen unless sanity resumes its sway over our minds. What makes and carries on any war? Thought. What stops any war? Thought: a changing of the thoughts of men; for by changing their thoughts you change their hearts, you change their lives and therefore their civilizations. If a war comes, it is because men and women have brought it about by their thinking. Their thinking arouses their feeling. Their feeling arouses their jealousy and fear. Evil thought will be followed by similar thought. You cannot extinguish fire by fire. You cannot stop war by war. This is as simple as ABC. These are thoughts which fly unnoticed over our heads because we are so accustomed to them, and yet they are the secret of all good and all evil. A man's life is changed sublimely by his thoughts; so too can he go to hell or the gallows by his thinking. It is thought which makes the gentleman or the boor. It is thought which makes the courageous man or the coward. It is thought which produces forgiveness or carries on hate.
It was because of these facts that the Theosophical Society was begun: to try to change the thoughts of men and women towards better and higher things; to arouse inspiring and benevolent ideas in the minds of individual men and women. Why don't theosophists all go out and take lunch baskets around to the starving, and go to the bedsides of the people who are smitten with disease, and dying? Many of us do it and have done it. But our main work in life is to try to do away with poverty, rather than tinkering with the needs of the poor; and this will gradually be accomplished by changing people's minds so that our civilization will be an enlightened one. That, among other noble objectives, is what we aspire towards. There is no other work which is farther reaching than that. It goes to the root of things, instead of only putting plaster and ointments on the surface of the festering wounds. And in a still higher field our work is to teach men and women what they as individuals have locked up within them: powers, capacities, faculties, which the average man or woman today does not suspect. Yet they are there. The titan intellects, the greatest men who have ever lived, have proved what the human mind is capable of; and every normal person has the same potencies within himself. It is a part of the work of the Theosophical Society to re-arouse belief in these things, so that human beings will yearn to cultivate themselves from within outwards, to awaken what is within, and to become greater and grander. What a world we shall live in then! It is thought that will do it, and the feeling which follows upon thought. Then indeed will the Christ, crucified in us every day we live, ascend from the crucifix, our own being, the body of each man, and enter into his brain and enlighten his life, and reform his conduct towards his fellows. just that one thought alone, if you could get men and women to believe it and inwardly to know it, would bring about a universal "conversion" — a "turning around," a changing — of our minds and hearts to the living Christ within, the living Buddha!
Remember the rule laid down by Pythagoras. It has been quoted again and again, but it loses none of its beauty and profundity by repetition. It runs somewhat as follows:
"Let not the setting sun reach the western horizon, nor close thine eyes in sleep, before thou hast gone over all the events of the day just past, and hast asked thyself. What have I done today that has been done amiss? What have I done today that has been done aright? Have I injured anyone? Have I failed in my duty? Let not the setting sun reach the western rim of space, nor let thine eyelids close in sleep ere thou hast asked thyself these questions."
If only men and women would conscientiously follow that simple rule, ninety-nine percent of the world's trouble, heartache, sin, and anxiety, would be nonexistent, would never happen. The reason is simple. The world's troubles arise from our weaknesses, not from our strength; and if we would increase our strength, and do away with our weaknesses, every human being thereafter, in proportion to his inner evolution, would become a power for good in the world. And you see what that would mean. It would cut the taproot of most of the thoughts and feelings and acts that bring misery amongst us.
H. P. Blavatsky wrote grandly of the secret doctrine of the ages, and she pointed out that this secret doctrine has come down to us from time immemorial in the guardianship of the great teachers, in all their various grades. She showed that this wisdom of the gods was originally handed to the first human protoplasts by spiritual beings from other spheres, from other planes. But it seemed to me that with all the grandeur of her teaching and the high plane of thought to which she led us, there still remained something to be given which should guard the student against the intrusion into his mind of false ideas, false teachings, doctrines leading him away from the central Fire. In other words, men lacked a standard, a test stone, against which they could lay a teaching presented to them and find out whether the teaching were pure gold or only brass.
What is this infallible touchstone, this instrument which you can use if you recognize it? It is universality. Any teaching presented to you which cannot stand that test, which can be shown to be only a purported communication from other spheres, and which has no basis in the great philosophies and religions and sciences of the past given to mankind by masters of wisdom — any such teaching is fraudulent and has no right, no place, in the court of our conscience. The gods taught man in his childhood, and led him on, and bred him up, enlightened his mind, so that it could receive and understand and pass on in secret and open tradition the archaic god-wisdom, the god-teachings, the secret doctrine.
In getting this idea, this conception that truth, reality, has been communicated to mankind, that it is now on earth ready for us when we prove ourselves ready for it and worthy of it, we understand that it is traditional, that it has been given forth in larger or smaller measure and in varying manners from age to age by the greatest men, the titan intellects, of the human race; and therefore that this tradition, this Qabbalah, this Brahma-vidya, can be found in all the great religions and philosophies of the ages.
In accepting this view, you lose sight of the mere author of whatever book may be in your hands. You forget the personality, the individuality of the teacher, and you look to what he brings. If he is genuine you find, not the vague frontiers upon which structures of falsity may be erected by scheming minds; but you understand that here is a glorious and mighty tradition coming down to us from the universe, from the heart of Divinity.
It is this tradition, this secret doctrine, which gave to H. P. Blavatsky the title of her masterpiece; and it was for this same reason that I chose these actual words, the esoteric tradition, as the title of my latest book. It is esoteric because few have as yet understood it; it is traditional because it has been handed down from immemorial time. Thus The Esoteric Tradition is an attempt, feeble it may be, but very honest and sincere, to do what our teachers are trying to do with us: to instill into our hearts and minds a reverence for and a worship of the truth before us; to awaken in our hearts the divine fire of love for all that is, which becomes constricted and restricted and usually degraded when it is fastened solely on an individual accepted as a teacher.
The suggestion in the title of this book is that a teacher should receive reverence, but only in so far as his teaching is truth. In losing sight of the person, you see the message. Is there not need of just this touchstone, particularly in the Theosophical movement today? Is it not absolutely accordant with all that H. P. Blavatsky taught us: to look within, to look up, to forget yet to revere the hand which gives, to take the message? Inspect it; take from it what you find good; reject the balance if you wish. You may make a mistake in so doing, but you are exercising your prerogative of choice, of discrimination, of intuition. By so exercising it you give it strength; and as time passes it will grow very powerful, and you will then take back the cornerstone which you rejected, and in so doing you will receive the teacher with the teaching in your hearts, and in the proper way.
One lesson I have learned: that it is the teaching and its magic working upon me which counts; for when the teaching enters my heart my reverence for the communicator grows. Is not your reverence for the masters infinitely greater when you realize that they awaken in us the noblest and best? It is just this noblest and best in us which, when awakened, enables us to see them. And that is what they want: not to have us see them, but to have us awake, our hearts beating in steady rhythm with the heartbeat of the universal heart, and our minds fired with the truth which they communicate to us and which we value precisely in proportion as it is impersonal.
I think the Theosophical movement will suffer from no more fakers, no more false teachers, now or in the future, provided we can remember that the touchstone of anything that may be offered to us for a teaching is universality, and the appeal to the conscience, the appeal to the voice within.
Do the Masters help, inspire others than theosophists, than the Theosophical Society? I should be awfully ashamed of any theosophist who could not answer that question instantly. Of course they do! Why, it is one of our A B C thoughts, teachings, that the masters aid and help and inspire anywhere where there is an open door to their entrance, in other words, where the soul is not surrounded with impassable frontiers, keeping the light out, the help away. Why of course! And if the masters' influence were not felt in other organizations than the T. S., as indeed it may be felt, it would be in this case because they had lost touch, had enclosed themselves with the impassable barriers of the frontiers of thought and feelings. The truth is that the masters work anywhere where the doors are opened to their entrance, and where the conditions propitious for their work exist.
just take one thought which has been one of the dreams of my life from childhood. If the Christian church or churches could go back to the original teachings of their great master, to really primitive Christianity, the masters would be working through them as one of the greatest channels in the West today to help men. And if they don't so work therein, it will be because the help is barred out by frontiers of thought and feeling.
And the T. S. — as I have often pointed out, it will depend upon us whether the masters continue to work through it as an instrument as now they are doing, or abandon it. They will never abandon us as long as we keep our hearts and minds open; but if we begin to put frontiers around our consciousness, we do the work of exclusion, not they. The gods, said the old Greeks, visit the houses of those who open doors to them. Think what that means. Why not try to entertain divine and divinely human guests?
The whole trouble with us and with civilization is that we build these frontiers around us. They are not placed there by nature. They are built by ourselves, frontiers of exclusion in thought, in feeling, in tradition, in everything. What happens to the man who shuts himself up in a cell and lives there? Who loses? The world, or the foolish man? Such a cell is a frontier of consciousness. And the man (or the civilization) is great precisely in proportion as he can break through the barriers, the frontiers, with which habit and custom and he himself have surrounded himself, and move out to ever loftier houses of consciousness, ever receding frontiers of consciousness.
What makes a religion successful? The building around itself of frontiers of thought, frontiers, barriers of exclusion? Why of course not. The answer is obvious. Destroy the barriers, the door is open to all.
When we are asked the question "Do theosophists pray?" I for one answer yes and no; it depends upon what the questioner means by prayer. If he means getting down on bended knee and addressing a petition to a god outside of himself, purely imaginary, which the intellect has enormous labor in attempting to conceive of, and therefore which is not instinctive in the human heart as a reality, then we must answer: no, not prayer of that type. That is an abdication of the god within the individual denying its own rights and appealing for help outside itself. That is mere supplication, mere petitioning, a mere begging for benefits. It is purely exoteric.
True prayer is the rich, deep, spiritual humility of the human self envisioning the ineffably grand. It is a yearning to become like the heavenly Father, as Jesus phrased it; yearning to become a son of the divine. It is almost a command of the man to himself to arise and pass on to higher things, upwards towards the divine, of which a spark pulsates in every human soul. When we come into sympathetic relationship, into identic vibrational frequency, with this inner heartbeat, this pulsing of the divine, then our lives are made over; we are completely reformed. We become no longer mere men begging for favors, and thereby weakening ourselves; we begin to recognize our identity with the divine. Dignity steals over us and enfolds us like a garment. And what prayer is nobler than this: for the son to yearn to become like unto its divine parent?
I, for my own part, never sleep at night, never arise from my bed in the morning, until at least once I have raised myself and attained the experience. And prayer of this kind is not merely an attitude of mind. It is a way of life, a way of living, clothing him who falls in love with it, and follows it, with dignity, enriching his mind with understanding, making him sympathetic to all else that lives.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small.
Yes, for this is a becoming at one with all around us. It simply means progressively making your consciousness greater, expanding every day a little more, to include a little more, to encompass, to embrace a little more of the world around us. Our consciousness, after this way of prayer, of living, of thinking, of feeling, grows ever larger, until finally some day we shall be in our thoughts and feelings able to encompass the universe. Then no longer shall we be merely men; we shall be god-men, and after we die we shall take our place with the gods, the cosmic spirits, archangels, angels, powers — if you like the Christian phrase.
What is the difference between the ordinary man and the genius? The ordinary man is one who lives in the small, circumscribed shell of personal consciousness; he cannot go beyond it. He has no intuition, no inspirations. The man of genius is the man who has broken this shell. He wanders out in consciousness and feeling to the surrounding universe. He vibrates in synchronous frequency with the universe around him, and then come inspiration and marvelous ideas. He sees, he feels — and men say, "A genius has arisen."
This then is the prayer that puts us in touch with all things. It gives us qualities that have been latent in us before but now have an opportunity to evolve, to unroll, to expand. And by true prayer we mean not only enlarging the personal consciousness towards becoming at one with the universal consciousness, but putting this experience into practice. And this is a pleasure just as exquisite: to practice what we preach. Otherwise we are but as tinkling cymbals and the rolling bellow of empty drums — Vox et praeterea nihil, "A voice and nothing more." But when you practice prayer, then you reinforce your own powers by exercise. What you have yourself felt, you begin to practice. You see the light of understanding flash in the eyes of others, a new and secret sympathy springing up between man and man. It is a new life force. This kind of prayer is likewise a way of life; it is likewise science; it is philosophy; it is religion.
We are children of the infinite, of the divine. Our deity is intracosmic and yet transcendent, in the same way as a man is not only his physical body, and not only his mind or his spirit. He is body and feelings and emotions and mind and soul; but above these he is transcendent; there is something in him which is greater than all this. That is the spark of the divine, the spark by which man is linked with the invisible, with divinity. That spark is the most important, the most powerful element in us. It is the predominating and governing factor in our destiny, and if we want to grow grander and greater and nobler and higher, we have to raise ourselves up towards that spark, we have to raise ourselves by living what we know. And then our life will become grand. And finally, when practice has become relatively perfect, the vision of genius will steal into the mind. For genius is cosmic wisdom. With genius, understanding grows and grows, and finally we begin to realize that we are not merely a person with perhaps a postmortem life in heaven or hell, but that our destiny is the destiny of the infinite All: that we are endless, coeval with duration, with cosmic time, that the boundless universe is our home; that we are here on earth merely for a day-night; that this is just a phase in our evolutionary journey upwards and onwards.
This is what we aspire towards, this is what we pray for: an ever enlarging consciousness by aspiration, by study, by living the life we profess — an ever enlarging consciousness towards that ultimate, a unity with the divine. We pass through all the kingdoms of nature, grow from being a man to becoming a superman; from a superman becoming a demigod; from demigodhood to godhood, to supergodhood, and so on and up the endless ladders of life. What a marvel! What a conception!
That divine spirit of which we speak so glibly — because it does represent an intuition, an answer to that yearning, that ineffable hunger within every normal man — that divinity we realize is but our human conception of something still more wonderful, vaster, and that we can never reach an end; that it is growth and advance and enlarging genius of consciousness forever and forever.
Do theosophists pray? In the way that we try to make our daily lives a prayer in action. We have the Ariadne's thread, we have the key, and we are trying to use it. And do you know what this key is? It is the god-wisdom. And do you know what the lock is? It is we ourselves, taking this key. By inserting it into our own consciousness, turning it however slightly, magic streams forth from the slightly open door, from the ineffable mysteries hidden within, drawn from the cosmic font. No one can ever name it. It is nameless. Names but degrade it. Aspiration towards it always and forever — that is prayer. By living it we grow. What hope and what peace! What increase of understanding comes to one who from within himself, from his own consciousness, has got the end of the Ariadne's thread. This, in its steadily progressing stages of experience and growth, is what we call initiation.