There is but one Eternal Truth, one universal, infinite and changeless spirit of Love, Truth, and Wisdom, impersonal, therefore, bearing a different name in every nation, one Light for all, in which the whole Humanity lives and moves, and has its being. Like the spectrum in optics giving multi-colored and various rays, which are yet caused by one and the same sun, so theologized and sacerdotal systems are many. But the universal religion CAN ONLY BE ONE if we accept the real primitive meaning of the root of that word. We Theosophists so accept it; and therefore say, we are all brothers — by the laws of nature, of birth, of death, as also by the laws of our utter helplessness from birth to death in this world of sorrow and deceptive illusions. Let us then love, help and mutually defend each other against the spirit of deception; and while holding to that which each of us accepts as his ideal of truth and unity — i.e., to the religion which suits each of us best — let us unite to form a practical nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, or color. — H. P. Blavatsky
My subject takes me back to my childhood days — far back, into the State of Massachusetts on the banks of the historic Merrimac River, immortalized by the American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier. There I spent my childhood days on my father's estate. I lived far away from the rush and whirl of city life.
On one side of my family they were strong members of the Congregational Church, and on the other side they were materialists. I was the only daughter in the family, and even between five and six years of age I found myself questioning and studying the great mystery of life. I looked upon nature as one of God's greatest gifts. Young as I was, I realized its mystery, its wonder, its superb silence, its dignity, its life, and its teaching. I learned to love nature: the flowers, the birds, the blue sky, and all. My young life was spent largely with nature — in the woods, over the hills, in my boat, along the country waysides on horseback, and in other outdoor sports. At that time it was considered very disgraceful for a young girl to attempt to row a boat or to ride a horse astride or to swim. I was severely criticized sometimes for indulging in these innocent pleasures. A precise maiden-lady of the Puritan order promised that my life would be a very unpleasant one, and that everything would go wrong with me because I did some things a little outside the conventionalities of church life.
I never knew what fear was. I remember the first time I heard the name of God mentioned, I was so disappointed and set back and almost discouraged to think that the God that I had learned to love in nature, the God I had learned to love with all my soul, without any teachings, was, according to the preachments of man, "a revengeful and a punishing God." This set me thinking. I kept on thinking and am still thinking and am still wondering and regretting that this is believed by many. Yet I still believe in the eternal, supreme, all-powerful Light — the source, center, and all-compassionate giver of all that is true and noble in life. This is my God.
In my love of nature and in my love of the true and the beautiful, in my love of this eternal supreme power, my views broadened and I felt that there was a still greater knowledge and a more wonderful meaning to human life. As I grew older, went off to boarding school and came back to my home, and then went out into the world, married, and lived for many years in New York City, there were daily pictures before me that were so despairing, so disappointing, so beyond endurance for a human mind like mine. I saw the poverty on the East Side of New York City, I saw the street-woman, I went to the prisons and saw the unfortunates there, I read in the newspapers of men being hanged. Then I began to recognize when not so very old that men do not tell each other what they think of each other. I began to think that all men wore masks in order to hide their real selves. Finally I realized that these insincerities were the result of man's limited views of life. If a man believes in only one life and if he believes in a punishing God, he must have fear, he cannot have a proper understanding of his own divine nature, of the majesty of the soul, its power, and his future, his responsibilities.
But all this changes when we can take the broad view of human life and believe that under all these outer aspects, all these disappointing features, all the heartache, the agony, the vice, and the crime of the world, there is within every man the divine part of his nature, and that this divinity is a part of God. There is one of the reasons why I am a theosophist, why I look at life so hopefully and with so much encouragement, why I can learn all the time to love my fellowmen, why I can call myself an internationalist in the truest sense, because I love all nations and I love all people; and I cannot be a theosophist unless I do this.
Back of the imaginings and hopes and dreams of my childhood and womanhood, deeper than the pain caused by the contrasts I have observed in human life, there is a consciousness of the love of God and the spiritual dignity of man. And it is this consciousness that is needed now to make the world better, to bring man to his own, to give him the key to life's problems, so that he can combat difficulties understandingly, overcome injustice through knowledge, and live in the joy of life in the truest and noblest sense.
Theosophists are striving to attract the attention of humanity to a consciousness of the essential divinity of man. Our purpose is not to persuade people to join the Theosophical Society, but to show humanity that there is an open door to the path of peace and of success — moral and spiritual success. That door can be found through the study of theosophy and its application in daily life. If one lives a true, noble, unselfish, clean, intelligent life, he is a theosophist. It was through the experiences which I have spoken of that I found myself closely in harmony with the teachings of the divine wisdom, theosophy.
Some years before coming in touch with the Theosophical Movement I was living in New York. I had a comfortable home and no children. My love of children was very great and my love of the unfortunate also, so I began to work in the prisons in New York. I worked with women on the street, and for the drunkards and the poverty-stricken, the starving and the sick. I was happy to do it. I neglected none of my home duties, I did every duty as conscientiously as I could; but I could not enjoy life, I dared not face my conscience without doing something to lift the weight of the burdens from the suffering people.
So my work carried me down to the East Side of New York, where thousands of people come in from different countries — the immigrants, thinking when they come that America is the open door to wealth and prosperity. They find themselves in very small quarters, in very limited surroundings, very many of them go hungry and suffer much, and thus lose faith in humanity. It was among these that I worked.
Never in all my experiences with these people, even with the lowest and most depraved creature I ever met in my work in the prisons, have I lost faith in the essential divinity of man. Never! One of the great secrets of my mission, especially with this class of people, was in applying the theosophical teachings and saying to the prisoner who was condemned to be hanged: "There is another chance. God is more compassionate, more merciful than man. God never made the law that, guilty as you are, you should be hanged. Your body will die, if you are hanged, but your soul cannot be touched by the hand of man or man-made laws. The soul belongs to eternity, and it moves on and on through the scale of evolution, from one life to another, marks time with progress, and ultimately finds itself in a state of perfectibility." No matter where we go or whom we meet, we can say, there is another chance in another life, with new opportunities, with trust in these divine and immutable laws.
Remember that if we are to have justice in our lives, we must live justly. We must love the principles of justice. We must act justly. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" must not be merely an expression of the lips, we must do it. Sunday must not be the only day when we think of God and of our duty to man. It must be every day, in every duty, and in the smallest act of our lives.
In such a state of mind one can easily find one's higher self. No matter how much poverty, no matter how many disappointments, no matter how much injustice, no matter how much persecution, the dignity of the soul-life will rise and bring to man the secrets of his own divine nature. Man is a mystery, and it is that wonderful mysterious part of man, the soul, that is the promising factor in human life.
One life is not enough to satisfy man's highest hopes. Some of the greatest poets, scientists, statesmen, and artists, just at the time when they are reaching a point where they can grasp mighty truths, where they are ready to flood the world with the knowledge of the splendor of their attainments, die according to the generally accepted idea of human life. Is that all there is for these characters? Is it not more natural to think that their work is not yet finished, that this divine law of God has given every man his chances in another life, that the mistakes belong to the past and need not be a part of the next life? Thus man is led to a knowledge of greater opportunities in a future life.
With these teachings there is never discouragement, there is never a shadow or a lack of faith. There is that eternal, burning fire in the divine nature that lifts us up to the heights of hope and trust. Then these objective things, these everyday trials, these disappointments, the loss of money, personal sorrows, and heartaches, all seem so little when we realize that there are other opportunities, other chances for all, and that the mercy of the divine law is not for today, not for one life only, but it is for all eternity. And not until men can love one another, as Jesus was in himself an example of a man truly capable of loving, can they begin to know what human life means.
Fear is the result of a limited view of life, that is all.
The only thing in life to be afraid of is doing wrong. No other fears should have place in the life of man. For his inner nature, his higher nature, should show him that if he has sorrow, somewhere along the path there has been a cause for it. If somebody has treated him unjustly, he can explain it. If he is persecuted he can keep on with his work and face his enemies and conquer in the end, because he has the consciousness of not being as he has been represented to be. And so he pursues his way in full confidence.
The divine laws are perfect and immutable, and why do not we, the highest expression of life, trust these immutable laws? Simply because our views are limited, because we look at life only objectively. We pay little attention to our blessings. We half-live from day to day. We struggle, we suffer, we doubt, we have half-faith. And when we die, we die in the shadows because we are not certain of the future. But when man finds the consciousness of his essential divinity, he then begins to find all that is true and all that is noble in his own life and in his fellowmen.
It is not in the divine plan that man is to go through life living simply on faith without facts to support it. Humanity's place is on the mountaintops, viewing all life with trust and seeing its beauty, because man should be at one with God. When that vision comes, old age will be far away, and we shall find as men go on into the years of life that they will meet death with the knowledge that it is but a change — a glorious change — a release, a conquest. Death, so called, takes place as naturally as the trees in the winter shed their leaves and seem to be dead. They sleep, and in the springtime they come forth again with all their green foliage. So does the soul of man, the higher consciousness, step forth and move on with new effort and a larger trust. There is no limit to the love of God; there is no limit to these divine laws; there is no limit to the possibilities of man.