All the thoughts and emotions, all the learning and knowledge, revealed and acquired, of the early races, found their pictorial expression in allegory and parable. Why? Because THE SPOKEN WORD HAS A POTENCY UNKNOWN TO, UNSUSPECTED AND DISBELIEVED IN, by the modern "sages." ... because such or another vibration in the air is sure to awaken corresponding powers, union with which produces good or bad results, as the case may be. No student was ever allowed to recite historical, religious, or any real events in so many unmistakable words, lest the powers connected with the event should be once more attracted. Such events were narrated only during the Initiation, and every student had to record them in corresponding symbols, drawn out of his own mind and examined later by his master, before they were finally accepted.
-- THE SECRET DOCRTINE, I, 307
By A. Keightley
[From THE THEOSOPHIC ISIS, August 15, 1896, pages 220-24. Note that this School was founded, becoming the Point Loma Theosophical Community, which existed until 1942, when the site was sold and the Society moved to Covina, California.]
The proposal to found this School was put forward on the 26th of April 1896, at the Convention of the Theosophical Society in America, held on that day. The date inaugurated the commencement of a new cycle in which such a proposal became possible, and those who reflect on what such a proposal means, will acknowledge that the old order must have changed, "giving place to new." Previously we have been told that from 1896 to 1900 A.D. there would be the close of various cycles closely coincident, and consequently the commencement of new cycles. Thus it would necessarily seem that the time was rife for changes, and further, that it may be profitable with such a proposal before us, to examine what it imports.
That there were "Mysteries" in olden time, none can deny. Those of Eleusis, the Orphic and Bacchic, the Mysteries of Isis in Egypt, with those of Chaldaea and Assyria, show to students of history how deeply impressed on the minds of the people was the idea. But with the dawn of the Christian Era came the religious prosecutions, which continued with unabated force through the dark "middle" ages. Still, through all, we have the records, more or less legendary, that the Mysteries survived among the various religious orders, the Alchemists and the Rosicrucians, while the traditions, if not the history of the Masonic order would argue that it is the lineal descendant of those who were formerly the Hierophants of the Mysteries of olden times.
After the prosecutions came the "slanders." The Mysteries were profaned, and no student of the subject can doubt that holy and sacred as were the real Mysteries, there were degrading and disgusting parodies which justified the strictures and statements of Pane, Knight and Inman. But such representations are slanders so far as the un-degraded and un-profaned Mysteries of Initiation are concerned. And it is these latter, which arc the "lost" Mysteries of antiquity, which arc to be revived.
The question naturally arises, How, if these Mysteries are "lost," can they be revived? The reply is obvious. They are "lost" only to the profane, for during the degradation period, and the period of the prosecutions and slanders, the Mysteries and the key to their symbols were very carefully concealed. So carefully was this done, that while very many of the ceremonies and symbols survive, to more or less extent, in the usage of the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches, the meanings are almost entirely lost. The idea has been materialized, idolatry has replaced symbolism, and the worship of the personal has thrown a veil over spiritual aspiration.
But there are, and have ever been, the real Hierophants and Custodians of the Mysteries. Carefully concealing their existence from the general public, they are able to move to and fro without let or hindrance, and themselves, or in the person of their trusted and obedient agents, take part in all that tends to promote the harmony and welfare of humanity. In this connection compare THE THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY by Madame Blavatsky, under the heading of "Mesmer," a part which I know to be from the pen of HPB.
He was an initiated member of the Brotherhoods of tile FRATRES LUCIS and of Lukshoor (or Luxor), or the Egyptian branch of the latter. It was the council of "Luxor" which selected him, according to the orders of the "Great Brotherhood," to act in the eighteenth century as their usual pioneer, sent in the last quarter of every century to enlighten a small portion of the Western nations in occult lore. It was St. Germain who supervised the development of events in this case; and later, Cagliostro was commissioned to help, but having made a series of mistakes, more or less fatal, he was recalled ... Mesmer founded the "Order of Universal Harmony," in which, presumably, only animal magnetism was taught, but which in reality he expounded the tenets of Hippocrates, the methods of the ancient Asclepicia, the Temples of Healing, and many other occult sciences.
The Brothers of these orders (and especially that called the "Great Brotherhood") are the custodians of the Mysteries, and they keep alive in the heart of humanity the flame which purifies man, and leads him from the degradation of materiality, to the knowledge of the real essence of nature.
The word MYSTERIES has its origin in the Greek MUO "to close the mouth," a symbol at once of secrecy or silence, and of hidden meaning. Plato, and other sages of antiquity affirm that the Mysteries were highly religious, moral and beneficent as a school of ethics. They were observances kept secret from the "profane" or uninitiated, in which:
were taught by dramatic representation and other methods, the origin of things, the nature of the human spirit, its relation to the body, and the method of its purification and restoration to higher life. Physical science, medicine, the laws of music, divination, were all taught in the same manner. The Hippocratic oath was but a mystic obligation.
-- "Mysteries" in THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY
In this we see that one of the attempts of Mesmer was the revival of the part of the ceremonies of Initiation, preliminary to which, and as a condition, was the entry to the "Order of Universal Harmony."
The sacred Mysteries were enacted in the ancient Temples by the initiated Hierophants, for the benefit and instruction of the candidates ... [They] were in every country a series of dramatic performances, in which the mysteries of Cosmogony and nature, in general, were personified by the priests and neophytes, who enacted the parts of various gods and goddesses, repeating supposed scenes (allegories) from their respective lives. These were explained in their hidden meaning to the candidates for initiation, and incorporated into philosophical doctrines.
-- "Mysteries" in THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY
In every way that was possible, those who had been received into the inner learning, endeavored to keep alive the sense of true "religion" in the minds of the masses. All the arts and sciences seem to have been in the hands of the initiated few who used them for the benefit of the nations whom they led. It is not until the knowledge so entrusted, and the mysteries themselves were abused and profaned, that the spirit of true "religion" lost its hold on the people, and the revolts against priestcraft and superstition took place. The element of trust was missing, and the people were forced to think for themselves. Thus far it was good, but in the absence of the trust, the result was a denial of the whole of the inner side of life, and materialism became rampant. In the reaction between the creeds and dogmas, amid the clash of sectarians, the attempts by one religious sect after another to proclaim itself the sole repository of the truth, the real possessors of knowledge retired and lived unknown, though welcoming the few who kept alive the inner light in their hearts. Thus they provided, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, the continuous line of custodians of the mysteries who survive to the present day, making in each century the effort to fan the flame.
What then may be the meaning to this the latest effort? Simply that the Theosophical Movement has reached a new phrase. Not by any means is the Theosophical Society responsible for this effort, for it is not, though, perhaps many of its members may be associated with the work of this School. This phase is to link on the ethics with the practice and demonstrate the scientific basis for those ethics, so that all may read the lesson. It means that again, before many, will the mystery plays be enacted in word and symbol: That ceremonies which, heretofore, have had no life, will begin to live once more, and that we may understand their value and meaning. That sounds, sights and colors will be known to have a new meaning, and one not necessarily attached to the aesthetic side of humanity.
Finally, there is the possibility that once the School is founded, and carried out on the lines projected by the wise who have ordered and directed its foundation, there may be those among us who will be able to recognize the presence of those who occupy today, the place of the ancient Hierophants. What the dwelling among men, and the being known will mean, one cannot say. At least it means a great destiny for those who, through Karma, have earned the right to come in contact with the Hierophant, and it means also that great chances are given to other men and women as well, and further, that a great general evolution has taken place. That the School will be founded in the West of America is only in accord with what HPB said of that region of the earth, and amid the dawn of a new cycle, amid the early foreshadowing of a new race, has arisen a new and grander possibility for the teaching and uplifting of humanity.
By Reed Carson
Blavatsky Net (http://www.blavatsky.net) passed another milestone this month. Just two days ago the number of "quotes of the day" sent out, exceeded 1000. These are challenging quotes requiring attention to appreciate and I am amazed to find this level of interest. Numerous people unsubscribe from that mailing list but it keeps growing. It was about 150 people in December of 1998. It is an inspiring thought that these words spread around the world every day.
The articles by Judge continue to be added online with four more added this month.
With some hesitation I added a potentially important new section to the site. At the bottom of the home page there is now a click for "history" of the Theosophical movement. I was finally moved to start it because Derek Davis was closing down his site and offered to BN an online book containing the early speeches and other material of Annie Besant. As many of you could guess, I have very serious reservations about the later activities of Besant. Yet she was known for brilliant oratorical skills. So this online book now forms the beginning of the "history section".
Frankly, I expect to move only slowly on this section -- though there is various other original material I already have in mind that seems important to place online. The problem is that the laws of occultism provided that the early leaders of the movement be tested severly and the results were not all a success. Yet the individuals who, in my opinion, failed, need to be seen fairly. And on top of that, it is especially important, again in my opinion, that newcomers be shown the truth that they might not obtain from just one source. One conclusion will be that the sure guide to truth in matters Theosophical, comes from Madame Blavatsky and her teachers. The masters say they searched a century before they found an agent as suitable as she! For newcommers I will be glad to recommend the teachings themselves rather than studying the history of the movement at one's first pass. The biography of Cranston on Blavatsky is another very readable and useful starting point into the history of the movement. Along with this new section is a new aisle in the bookstore on the history of the movement.
In my mind the most important events this month were the tumultuous and strongly felt discussions on BNstudy concerning Judge and THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE. I might tell you that those who had been criticizing Judge are now, as I understand it, somewhat retracting their view as they now find confusion as to what had in fact been done by Judge and Mead relative to changes in that book. Those discussions were another factor in making me accept Davis' offer on Annie Besant and start a history section. The historical info will need to be available for those who want it.
In order to change the direction of BNstudy it is now studying various aspects of Moses in the light of Theosophy. Though conversation is slim I think some serious value is comming out. I am anticipating a letter soon on Moses and the mountain of wisdom. You knew about that didn't you? (Not Sinai.)
I don't feel like ending on "history" so I will tell you, I am currently reading a book in my "available time", an oxymoron, that may not be written exactly as I would like to see, but that deals with an issue in physics today that is very important to Theosophists. Through a culminating experiment in 1997, scientists obtained utter proof of what they call the principle of "non-locality". Particles affected each other faster than the speed of light (instantaneously?) at a distance of seven miles apart. Einstein didn't think it could happen in a "thought experiment" he proposed first in 1937. A physisist at Princeton in the 1990's said if physisists weren't worried about the preliminary results at that time, they had "rocks in their heads". The authors of the book call it the most important experiment in the history of science. There are easy conclusions from it such as "everything is very fundamentally connected and one". The authors claim that "mind" must be integrated as part of the "one" and cannot be understood as something separate. I will have to see if I can read it in my "spare time", (that comes after the "available time"), and pass the book on to you folks.
It has been suggested to me to pass onto you, and I am glad to, that May 8 is the anniversary of Madame Blavatsky's death. In various places students gather on that day to celebrate the accomplishments of her life and what she has given to all of us. My "suggestor" in this case comes from New York City where Blavatsky founded the modern Movement. There an event will be held on Monday, May 8th at 7:30pm at Theosophy Hall, 347 E. 72 Street, NY NY 10021.
Also note the announcement added on the "events" page this month for the August 11-13, 2000 Sixth Annual Theosophy Conference - sponsored by Brookings Theosophy Study Group in Oregon USA. I always hear very fine things about this now yearly gathering.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From pages 16 to 24 of a booklet published by Theosophical University Press in 1943, with materials based upon MAN IN EVOLUTION by G. de Purucker.]
Question: What is meant by an evolution on three lines?
Physical evolution cannot be the only kind; it is not even the whole of one kind. Theosophy recognizes an evolution along three lines which are coincident, contemporaneous, and connected: an evolution of the spiritual nature of the developing creature; an evolution of the intermediate or psycho-mental nature; and an evolution of the vital-astral-physical nature. The last results in a body, made increasingly fitter for the expression of the powers unfolding from the intermediate and spiritual natures.
Question: What bearing has this fact on the Darwinian view?
The Darwinians have studied only physical evolution, which, as shown above, is not even the whole of number three in our list. Any difficulties which they may have met in reconciling their theory with the facts of nature, are sufficiently accounted for by their view having been so partial. Our wider vision enables us to give the real reason why an animal may progress by inhabiting successive forms, each higher than the one before; while the forms themselves do not progress beyond a certain point.
Question: What is evolution by accretion?
An erroneous idea of evolution, due to permitting mechanical and molar ideas to influence our minds. Evolution is not a piling-up of variation upon variation, or of experience upon experience, like building a wall by adding brick to brick, or accumulating a pile of information by memorizing data. Evolution is the unfolding of what is wrapped in the seed. In the physical germ the future attributes are as yet latent, though on inner planes they are expressed; when the germ evolves, these attributes become expressed on the physical plane.
Question: How does this apply to man, for instance?
His growth in knowledge must be regarded, not as an accumulation of experience, but as a progressive calling-forth of powers that are latent within him; a gradual process of self-realization, in fact. The accumulative process does play its due part, of course; but will not provide a full explanation unless we take into account the other process. We see an illustration of this in the case of people with vast powers of memory and mental acquisitiveness, but very deficient in the power of making any use of their acquisitiveness.
Question: And what is the bearing of this upon organic evolution in general?
No progress can result from a mere adding of organ to organ, function to function, without aim or plan; progress can be made only by the realization of a preexistent design. Processes of accretion take place in conformity with such design. Here we see that theorists have put the cart before the horse: they have tried to make out that evolution is the RESULT of accretion.
Question: What is meant by saying that there are many evolutionary ladders?
Instead of there being one procession of living beings pursuing an uninterrupted course from the protozoa to man, there are various ladders along each of which a procession of its own kind climbs. Each of these stocks, climbing its own ladder, has reached an evolutionary development far divergent from the other stocks and from the original parent source wherefrom they all sprang. The result is the wide divergence which we see, and the marked discontinuity in the alleged chain of evolution. The longer a stock has been evolving, the more progressed has it become; and conversely, the more progressed a stock is, the older it is. The human stock is the oldest and most progressed of the mammals.
Question: What scientific evidence is there of the primitiveness of the human stock?
Very much, but we have no space to enumerate the items. In Dr. de Purucker's MAN IN EVOLUTION are to be found many quotations from eminent men of science to this effect.
Question: Will animals ever become men?
Yes and No. The animal-stocks now on earth will not become men in this Manvantara. Their destiny during this Manvantara is to perfect their particular forms and then to die out. In accordance with the general law of cycles, their history comprises a period of expansion followed by one of contraction, analogous to the life history of any organism, man included. But the monads tenanting those animal forms will, in the following Globe-Round, pursue higher stages in their evolution, eventually entering the human kingdom. Thus every being, from the smallest atom, is destined to become human; not by physical transformation or procreation, but in the way mentioned.
Question: Darwinists claim that they can find among the fossils of extinct forms some of the missing links in their assumed chain of evolution.
These are not links in such a chain; they are but the fossils of various offshoots from one or more of the great stocks below man.
Question: What is the salutatory school of evolution?
Propounders of an alternative theory to that of gradual change. They hold that changes take place periodically and by sudden leaps. The names of de Vries and Bateson are connected with this school. They have an element of the truth, for nature uses both gradual and abrupt movements in her economy.
These comparatively rapid changes, known as mutations, are due to the fact that accumulated tendencies, or, as we should prefer to say, habits, have remained latent until a favorable opportunity for their expression is provided by environmental conditions.
It has been stated that every part of the universe is subject to continual evolution. Yet it is observable that many things remain, or seem to remain, unchanged for long periods.
This is due to circumstances which have been generalized under the term "the law of acceleration and retardation." The cells in the human body are not at present free to follow their own special evolutionary path, because they are constrained by the need of conforming to the evolutionary plan of the whole body whereof they are parts. Thus they are said to come under the law of retardation, while the body as a whole is under the law of acceleration. This is part of the general give-and-take policy by which corporate action among individuals is rendered possible. It is not reluctantly, but by consent, that we so often yield our private purposes to the exigencies of a corporate policy in which we share.
Question: What about the evolution of worlds?
They follow the same general course as man and the other entities we have considered. The worlds issue into physical manifestation from the bosom of Nature, the great Mother, as nebulae, which are composed of ethereal matter; this undergoes concretion or materialization, in successive stages, until the physical stage familiar to us is reached. This descent is followed by a reascent toward the ethereal and spiritual.
Question: Does evolution, then, return in a circular path to its starting point?
No; its course is spiral; not a plane spiral but helical -- like a screw-thread. This kind of motion combines the rectilinear with the circular; or perhaps we should rather say that both the circle and the straight line are abstractions from the truth. The helix itself can be curved around so as to form another circle, to which the name vortex is given. And the process can be continued indefinitely. Thus all evolution is cyclic or recurrent, and at the same time indefinitely progressive. Further, there must necessarily be cycles within cycles, without end, from the infinitesimal orbital periods of a revolving electron to the majestic sweep of a planetary node, and beyond. This Law of Cycles is a universal passkey and must be applied to the study of evolution. By its aid we can see how our remote ancestors may be our superiors in one sense and our inferiors in another. We live in a more advanced cycle, but they may have stood at a higher point in their cycle than we yet stand in ours.
Question: What are manvantaras and pralayas?
The alternating periods of activity and repose to which evolution, in all its phases, is subject. This is a universal characteristic, and we may discern it in many familiar concerns; it will suffice to mention day and night, the phases of new and full moon, the rebirth and decline of the year, the alternate life- and death-cycles of animate beings, perennial plants for instance. It is here that we contemplate nature as a duality and recognize those alternating states which, acting together, constitute or define motion. The idea is familiar to science, which finds rhythm and pulsation everywhere. Such rhythmic vibration extends from the inconceivably rapid oscillations of radiant energy to the vast periods of cosmic activity and cosmic repose. It is to these latter that the words MANVANTARA and PRALAYA are chiefly applied.
Question: What are life and death, birth and decease?
Merely specimens of the said alternating states. Life is continuous, and subject to alternating phases. The life of a human being on earth is simply a phase of the continued existence of that being; it is but a single one out of many such phases; and these periods of life on earth alternate with periods of life elsewhere, in other states. Death is the termination of one state and the beginning of another. Thus death is birth, and birth is death, when each is regarded from another point of view.
Question: Who am I?
A god on a pilgrimage through the halls of experience. The drama of your evolution depicts the adventures of a Monad, beginning its career as an unselfconscious god-spark and ending as a fully self-conscious god; but it must be confessed that it is wrong to use such words as END and BEGINNING, and we do so only for convenience. For the accomplishment of this purpose it is needful that the Monad forgets for a while its divinity; that it clothes itself in veils that at once hide the light that shines from planes above, and reveal it to planes below. The divine mind in man turns away its gaze from its divine source and fixes it upon the special work before it. Thus you are a god having many of your powers hid and latent, in order that you may be the better able to accomplish your functions in the lower worlds of matter.
Question: How does this connect with the law of cycles?
Your career consists of two phases: a gradual descent of spirit into matter; and a reascent of matter into spirit. The early human races were spiritual and ethereal, but "mindless." As the races grew more material, they developed more of the faculties of mind. After reaching the limit of materiality, they then proceed on a gradually sublimating cycle toward spirituality. But within the main cycle of descent and reascent we must recognize many lesser cycles of the same kind and of differing degrees.
Question: What relation is there between the evolution of races and the evolution of individuals?
"Race" is a generalizing term, and stands for a majority of individuals resembling each other in the stage of their evolution. The particular evolution is therefore not constrained by the general law; and among individual men we may look to find those whose evolution is rapid and those who are laggards; while it is likely that every individual will be one or the other at different stages of his career.
Question: What is reincarnation?
The reappearance of a living being in a body of flesh, after a period when that being had no such body.
Question: What is Metempsychosis?
Reensoulment, as contrasted with reinfleshment. Soul, in this connection, may be regarded as coming between spirit and body; it is at once a body for spirit, and a spirit for body. The spirit may create for itself a soul as a vehicle for its expression. This compound of spirit and soul may then create for itself a fleshly body for a vehicle.
Question: What is the connection between spirit and matter?
Spirit cannot act in matter, or on matter, directly; they are too far apart. There is no common ground. It has been a standing problem to explain the action of mind on body; but it becomes more understandable if we admit the existence of intermediate gradations. In man, the thoughts act on the intermediate fluidic body, which again acts on the physical body. In general there are various successive degrees between spirit and matter.
Question: But if it is difficult to bridge the gap between one degree and the next, is not the difficulty multiplied when we multiply the number of such degrees?
Yes, if we make the preliminary error of regarding these degrees as essentially separate from each other. They are not essentially separate, but separate only AS degrees -- like the colors in a rainbow, for instance. To solve such problems as this it is always needful to hold in mind at once the idea of continuity and the idea of graduation; to see that a thing may be continuous and yet at the same time marked off into stages. Analogies are plentiful, as, for instance, in the various stages of hydrogen monoxide, which can be ice, water, or steam, all different yet the same.
The difficulty lies in regarding as separate what is really one. If we regard things as separate, we have to invent a bridge between them. There is no need for a bridge between mind and matter, because they are not separate; they are separate in degree but not in essence. When we say that spirit cannot act directly on matter, or that mind cannot act directly on matter, we mean that these opposite poles of the same thing are connected by intermediate degrees.
Question: What is the source of the belief in the resurrection of the body?
This is a teaching of the esoteric philosophy which has been misunderstood and turned into something else. That teaching is that all the life-atoms which we throw off and discard must eventually return to us, in fulfilment of a universal law whereby like attracts like. These atoms are our offspring, imbued with our quality; and by a universal law of affinity will come where they belong. Only we must beware of letting mechanical habits affect our minds here. When we say "affinity," it is not to a blind force that we allude; that affinity is the very same force which attracts living beings together by love and affection. The atoms go home; they seek each other and their common parent and their common home.
Question: What is the true name of the doctrine of resurrection?
The transmigration of the life-atoms. When we reincarnate, we do not indeed have the same body again; that is dissipated long ago, nor would we need the same body -- it is a better one that we need, or perchance a worse one, one adapted to our existent needs -- but our new body IS composed of the same life-atoms. These thus begin a new cycle of evolution under our tutelage, accomplishing at once their own evolution and ours.
Question: How is this related to the Weismann discovery?
As said, Weismann found that certain cells are transmitted unchanged from parent to offspring throughout generations, so that verily the body may be said to be immortal. Thus Weismann's discovery is one instance of a general law -- that of the unity and perpetuity of the essence throughout innumerable transformations of the incidentals.
Question: How does Weismann's discovery confirm Theosophy?
Theosophy teaches that the human stock is the oldest of the mammalian stocks and constitutes a main trunk-line from which other stocks have branched off. Weismann's researches imply that the germ plasm has been handed down from all antiquity in the human trunk-line.
Question: What else has Theosophy to teach about evolution?
A great deal more, for the subject is endless. This is a bare outline and very incomplete at that; but it may serve as an introduction and an invitation to further study.
Question: What are the main points brought out?
That the universe is a living entity, composed of innumerable living entities, there being nothing anywhere that is not a living entity. That all these entities are evolving from unselfconscious sparks of the One Life to fully self-conscious manifestations thereof; that this manifold evolution proceeds in an orderly manner by a universal law of development, controlled by intelligences, of many degrees, superior and inferior, arranged in hierarchies, the members of which work harmoniously by an adjustment of individual purposes to general purposes.
Question: Where does modern science come in?
Science, so long as faithful to its purpose, can but confirm the truths enunciated by Theosophy. The Seers who have formulated the Theosophical teachings have an immense advantage over modern science both in the antiquity of their studies and in the scope of their vision. Hence they can assist science by giving it a plan to work by. The Theosophical teachings on evolution explain the puzzles which science encounters in trying to adjust its theories to the facts of nature. If science is exact knowledge, so is Theosophy, but in a higher degree and on a vastly greater scale.
By W. Emmett Small
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, April 1945, pages 165-70.]
When I think of Humor, I think of stars -- not because they twinkle, though that might be fair enough reason, but because it sets in mind a certain train of thought which starts with recollection of the following story. Reginald Machell was on night guard at Point Loma. In the old days that was one of the regular jobs that all members of the Headquarters Staff shared in -- making the usual rounds and seeing all was well. Mr. Machell, who had recently come from London, was an artist, writer, wood carver, dramatic critic and actor. His watch was at midnight until 1:30. How lovely were the stars, how serene! There was the blending of self with the greater Self! But suddenly he looked at his watch. His relief was fifteen minutes late. Gone like a flash was the peace, the silence, the beauty. The artist soul no longer communed with the stars, but ordinary human expostulation barked its vehement irritation. After a few moments of course came chuckles as good humor flooded in laughing at the vagaries of human nature that can change so swiftly from the Impersonal High to the personal everyday.
And when I think of Common Sense I think of buttons; or rather of that well-known story of H.P. Blavatsky that has come down in a score of variations. A pupil of HPB was sitting at her feet begging for instruction in occultism. "My dear," she said, "the button on your dress needs sewing on. Attend to that. The first lesson in occultism is to do well the duty at hand." Not that she used such prosy language, but it conveys the idea. It was the Teacher's way of jerking the possibly too adoring pupil back to a sense of reality and emphasizing an important lesson: that Occultism has nothing to do with sentimentality but is based on fact and wisdom. One can put oneself in the pupil's shoes to see that a bit of humor was needed to make the right and dutiful response. In fact as we study this subject of Humor and Common Sense it is amazing to note how strongly they complement each other. The man of common sense is often also the man of humor, and vice versa. This is especially true in our Theosophical work, which evokes such burning devotion. Common sense and a bit of humor must be coupled with that devotion lest we foster a fanaticism which crushes the life from the very thing we seek to nurture. Drops of water on a grindstone which is being used to sharpen some tool are necessary, or the heat or friction would injure the instrument. And so without the cooling fluid of humor to balance the temper and judgment of our own human instruments, we might incline to become fanatical, and in Theosophy fanaticism must be avoided as Common Sense Rule Number One.
Yes, Humor to the rescue if we would preserve sanity. There was once an author. He'd been working days, weeks, months, and had finished the manuscript of a great book. The last page was done. That night with what relief he could lie down to sleep. But early in the morning came along the maid putting things in order. It was cold too, and the fire needed to get started, so into the grate went all those old scribbly papers lying on the tables, and soon there was a cheerful blaze going!
I wonder with what humor Carlyle met the situation! Anyway he wrote the whole book over. That was his FRENCH REVOLUTION.
So likewise a man may have spent nearly a whole lifetime pressing indefatigably toward a high goal, and then, say in his late sixties, his house tumbles about him and he is where he was at twenty. Less catastrophes have caused suicide. But humor to the rescue and he would see the hand of karmic destiny and laugh at his puny setting of himself against it. He would be more than human if he were not hurt, but he would endeavor to keep free from bitterness, that corroding internal acid that makes life not worth living. He would take the long view and know that destiny was working out its inscrutable but lawful mathematical design.
So often in our Theosophical work vie are deserted by good sense and kindly humor, and we drive people away by too forceful, even belligerent methods. Attack is not what we want, but simple persuasion -- persuasion from an understanding of the teachings themselves. We should show interest in the inquirer as a human soul treading the age-old path, and our anxiety should be to help, not to impose or intrude. Let us take the attitude that the race is long, but that all shall be victors in the end. You, my friend and inquirer, will one day join us -- first of course in wish, in will, in thought, and then in deed.
We are not a society to discuss reform in food, health, politics, though individual members may be zealously devoted to such pursuits. We are not here to advocate yoga practices, postures for meditation, breath control. We do not issue manuals on ritual, incense burning, incantation, meditation. What are we here for? To give the gospel of truth as much as we have been taught it: to tell of the FACT of the universal brotherhood of mankind and all beings and things; to tell of the basic laws of Nature: that we reap only what we sow and that the way of growth is by reembodiment; to point to man's past and the early Races on this Globe, to describe the present and indicate the future destiny of man. Finally to tell, and in what earnest degree we can to demonstrate, that each one of us is the Christ-child, the inner Buddha, the inner Divinity, and that the sublime destiny of the whole human family is to march on toward the realization of this truth.
From a conscientious study of life and of human character, which is the beginning of real occult study, we begin to see in their true role those little weaknesses and failings which we are perhaps a bit too prone to excuse, with a shrug, as "well, just human nature." Let me name just three: (1) Unfriendly and cruel gossip; (2) meddlesome interference in others' duties; (3) the desire to dominate another's life. You may think it puerile to mention things like these so often moralized upon in a thousand sermons; but it is these "little things" which engender the big things which create world chaos. Take the last named point, on which I think Theosophists can never bear down too hard: NEVER IMPOSE YOUR WILL ON ANOTHER OR ENTERTAIN THE WISH EVEN TO DO SO. Any student of Theosophy will tell you that the danger of such indulgence -- one of the truly wickedest things you can do -- is a radical interference with the normal and healthy growth of a soul, warping it often, always weakening it; in other words leading it on the downward path, while at the same time it encourages in the practicer the seeds which if allowed to take firm root, without exaggeration can lead to the inevitable appearance in his character of that power or force we designate as black magic. He is then caught in his own web of evil power, and is even worse off than his victim. He faces the Dweller of his Threshold and is threatened by the very elements of his own creation.
But all this does not mean that we should not help others; give sound advice and counsel when asked. We should look, however, for real wisdom in this most difficult of human tasks, perhaps made easier by cultivating a calm detachment and yet a sympathetic interest in our fellow human beings. Tolerance and broad-mindedness as well as the ability to disengage our minds from the personal affairs of others will also help us shift our thought from any desire for personal domination and power. This is the commonsense view, and in the long run it is the happiest way to live.
Common sense is by no means common or general. By it we do not mean mediocrity or a spurious acceptance of weak compromise with our inner ideals. Common sense means balance, judgment, judicial ability to see things from an all-round viewpoint. These are the qualities that are needed in the membership of the Theosophical Society. The future of the Theosophical Society, said HPB in THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, will depend last but not least,
... on the amount of knowledge and wisdom possessed by those members, on whom it will fall to carry on the work, and to direct the Society after the death of the Founders ... I do not refer to technical knowledge of the esoteric doctrine, though that is most important; I spoke rather of the great need which our successors in the guidance of the Society will have of unbiased and clear judgment.
Every human organization of course has its troubles, and the T. S. is no exception. We have them within our lodges, within ourselves. But we need not be bowled over by them if we meet them with humor, patience, and common sense. We are all working for the same grand purposes, yet the clash of wills seems as inevitable as the clattering of dishes in a cafeteria. What is the cure? Orchestration, not solo playing. And if you are slated to play third French horn in Dr. Smith's "American Melodies" and must wait 502 measures before your 24 after-beats come in, accept it as wise and proper orchestration, just in fact what the composer wanted. Enjoy it. It might be much worse. Some day you might be in a position to tell the conductor or the composer just what you think about it; or you might be the maestro yourself! Now of course if you can't stand playing French horn, why by all means don't flagellate yourself (and others); take steps to learn the oboe. It would be foolish forever to do something you detested. In fact, nature looks after that. Something would happen to that French horn very soon, if you really felt that badly!
It is impossible to explain true humor. Clifton Fadiman says it does something to you, like great literature:
It changes your feelings, usually in the direction of greater well-being and general expansiveness. Instead of tensing you, it relaxes you. It works not on the nerves and the brain but on the heart and the imagination. It does not have a 'point,' which is a hard, direct thing. It suffuses an atmosphere, which is a soft and subtle thing.
Agreed. But I want to go a little farther. There is a spiritual quality in humor. Clifton Fadiman wouldn't like that; but it's true. Humor is born of a consideration of the relationship of the transitory and the enduring -- there the Cosmic Vastness, here our human frailty -- with particular recognition of the seeming incongruity of the juxtaposition. As Theosophists therefore we have an admirable opportunity to cultivate humor. Indeed we have little excuse for not having a good handy fund readily on tap. For we have, there is no doubt, grand universal truths for contemplation, yet equally truly must we live our own individual human lives, and these are studded with those little insignificant happenings that overwhelm so many, but which if viewed against the background of those vast ideas, tickle the fancy and stir our humor to an awareness of the contrast and deep relationship. On the one hand are those stirring grand principles, 'unknowable' in their ultimates. On the other hand we turn the arc-light on man himself, and at times nothing seems more puny or more grotesque than our funny little selves making shadow-pictures on the great Screen of Time. It is not always easy solidly to identify ourselves with the Light that casts the shadow. True, when we think of the Omnipresent, Immutable, Boundless PRINCIPLE, we are apt to feel the personal problem of little significance. But WE don't think so really, because we ARE that personal human (and will be for a good long time to come), and we don't like having it ignored even for the welfare let us say of humanity, or the contemplation of sublime heights of the stars and their spiritual regents. We figure, quite sanely after all, that we have to live right down here on earth, with its pains, its joys, its beauties, its sorrows, its nagging irritations, and its signal successes -- concerning all of which the divinities that be remain "magnificently unperturbed." Yet in the divine scheme we cannot be forgetful of our spiritual heritage. Where humor borders on the reverence of true religion, there you recall or feel that those serene gods you think are so impervious to your cries, so remote, are actually in a certain sense your very inmost selves. Paradox, to be sure. But paradoxes are the index fingers of Truth.
How far are the gods! How puny are we! The words of William Watson flow through the mind:
The august, inhospitable, inhuman night, Glittering magnificently unperturbed.
But we need that far distance. We need that unapproachableness, that unattainability. Without it we could not endure. With it we are sometimes miserable. We strive to annihilate it. We long to attain it, or at best to humanize it, to bring it warmly into our human understanding. The struggle is the drama of life, the song in its tragedy, the sigh and sorrow in its comedy. The more sensitive will share more deeply these extremes, feeling the bitter poignancy of effort to wrestle with the Unknowable, recognizing our littleness against the vast backdrop of Eternity, yet sustained by the voice that will not be denied which whispers our own starry grandeur. Thus, stimulated and balanced by the recognition of this human-cosmic relationship, which is the seed of true humor, we seek to understand the cosmic music, not sure at times whether it is half chuckle or half choking sorrow, but knowing it is the ever throbbing reverberation of rhythmic Being.
By A. Trevor Barker
[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, Theosophical University Press, 1941, pages 216-28.]
Rather more than six hundred years before the beginning of our Christian era the great Sage Shakyamuni, whom we know through our historical records as Gautama the Buddha, lived and died in ancient Hindustan, and he taught the origin of suffering; he taught what is its root; he taught what is the annihilation of suffering, and what is the means whereby you could enter upon that annihilation, what he called the four noble Truths. Most of the Buddha's teaching and philosophy is centered around the explanation of those four noble Truths, and of the eightfold Path which he explained as the means toward attaining the great end, the emancipation from suffering.
Therefore right at the outset of our consideration of the subject, we have not only the great ideal of the Buddha himself, but we have the statement which must ever be of the most tremendous encouragement to all who strive upon the upward Path. We have that statement of his that emancipation from the suffering of human misery such as we know it can be achieved even in this life. More, he went still farther in saying that if a man would sincerely enter upon the noble eightfold way, and strive to put into practice, and to make a reality, the eight conditions of that Path, even for a comparatively short while, such a man would receive the fruits of merit of that deed, and thereby would begin to feel the results in his own life.
Many of us have heard over and over again the statement of those qualities demanded by the eightfold Path. We are familiar with the noble Truths, and like many things that we have heard so often, sometimes the significance is missed by us, and we do not apply it. The realization of the practical application of those great teachings does not seem to enter into the very being of us.
Tonight we want to examine in the light of Theosophy how we can apply the teaching of the Buddha to our own lives. We must remember that in the time of the Blessed One there was the Order, the holy company of the monks and ascetics, the Bhikkus, who followed in his footsteps. Of course his remarks were addressed largely to his disciples. Today in our own times it is amongst such Brotherhoods as Theosophical Societies that you will find those who are striving to tread that same eightfold Path. It is there that you will find that spiritual companionship that is so necessary as a support, as an encouragement, in all endeavor toward spiritual living.
Let us ask ourselves, therefore, first of all, what change comes over the attitude of mind of one who has made a study and an application of Theosophical truth. How does it influence his attitude toward this mystery of human suffering? Well, friends, it is a very large question; but in the first place has it ever struck you how enormous is the amount of human misery that is caused by our attitude of mind to what we call God? Cast your mind back to your own childhood. Think of the amount of misery you suffered owing to the supposed wrath that you incurred of some Deity external to yourself, who was going to punish you.
We Theosophists do not believe in that personal God of all the orthodox Churches. We do not believe in him because there is logically no room for him. If God, a being, was the omnipotent and omniscient creator and controller of this universe, then how are we to account for the presence of evil in our midst? We must of necessity hold him responsible for it if he is omnipotent, if he is all-wise, and if he is all-worthy. Therefore this is the first great idea that Theosophy gives to us as to the nature of Deity: In essence every man is a God. At the heart of his own being there is that living fire which exists at the heart of every created thing in this Universe.
Whence, you may ask, are the laws of nature that obviously exist around us? We discover their existence when we break them and reap the penalty of so doing! Are those laws the will of a Creator? What are they? Theosophy gives one a very helpful symbol, a helpful image, whereby we can begin to understand the relationship of man to nature. According to that ancient teaching there exists nowhere in the Universe a Being who consciously controls by means of the laws of nature other created beings -- you and me, in other words. We are told by the ancient Teachers that we will get an absolutely wrong idea, and one harmful to ourselves and to our spiritual growth and progress, if we imagine God as a being somewhere outside of us, who is controlling our destinies.
How can we think about it? How can we begin to understand the problem? Why, first, friends, by studying ourselves. What are we? Look at this body of ours. We see, if we examine the teachings of science, that it itself is a vast universe; that it is composed of millions upon millions of tiny lives, atoms, molecules, and structures of living, vibrating matter pulsing with life; and the teaching of Theosophy comes along and says that each of these tiny lives is instinct with the same life that imbues your own consciousness as a Thinker; that each of those tiny lives in vast and agelong evolution proceeds to unfold, to unwrap, the forces inherent in the very being of it, inherent in the heart of it; until it passes through all the stages of progress up to and including the power of conscious and deliberate choice of action and thought; that each of those tiny lives will be raised up to the level of a conscious Thinker.
Just for a moment let us think of ourselves as bearing the same relation to the unknown Deity that those tiny lives of our own bodies bear to the consciousness of the personal man. Here is a great thought for us, because actually if you consider that relationship, you can see it is most unlikely that to those tiny lives any complete consciousness is possible of the man who lives and uses the body which they compose and build up. All that they know is that there is a central will, a central force, and certain laws -- call them laws of nature if you will -- which work. Can they possibly have any conception of the God within who uses that body of flesh and blood as a means of locomotion, as a means of action, as a means of thought and feeling and service to other human beings? Not at all. Such an idea must be for them merely an inferential possibility, if they can think at all.
Now that is exactly our relation to the unknown Deity. His conscious power to control anything, anywhere, must be for us a mere inferential possibility, and therefore we rid ourselves once and for all of the bogey of a conscious Being controlling and directing our destinies. We look for a grander, truer, more spiritual teaching which will enable us to realize ourselves in the sense and meaning of the ancient Delphic Oracle: "Man, know thyself." Man know yourself to be what you are in your innermost spiritual essence. That is our problem, and that ultimately must hold the meaning and explanation of suffering; for after all what is it that suffers? Man is not only a body. We know that the body suffers, but there is something more permanent, more real -- the Eternal man transcending the body: the man that passes from body to body and life to life, and even from planet to planet, and world to world, and solar system to solar system, in the agelong pilgrimage upon which he is bound.
That brings us to the second thought that I want to put before you: that the change that takes place in a man when he studies Theosophy in regard to the problem of human suffering is tremendously influenced by the great doctrine of Reembodiment, or Reincarnation. We do not believe that man has only one short life to live on this planet, because such an idea is an absolute denial of all justice. Do we not often see the sinner dying in his sin and from our point of view never having received any adequate punishment -- to use the term -- for all the evil he has done? On the other hand, as we look about us and study ourselves, do we not ask: although the purpose of life is not only progress but perfection, how many of us reach perfection at the end of one short life? Obviously so few that it is not worth considering. Therefore when we hear for the first time that great doctrine of Reincarnation by which the eternal, inner, real man comes again into tabernacles of flesh to take up his life, take up his task where he left it off, then we get another key which will help us to understand human suffering.
And the third key, which I want to put before you, is that other doctrine, Karma, as they call it in the East: the doctrine by which that eternal man, that reincarnating entity, does represent every single result of every cause that he created during any one particular earth-life. We do not admit the possibility that man does actually endure suffering which is unmerited. UNMERITED FROM HIS POINT OF VIEW IT MAY BE, yes, because we do not bring back to this life, as you know, a recollection of previous lives. Why is that? Simply because we have now a new brain, we have a new mechanism of consciousness, which has not received the impress and record of the previous lives that have been led. Therefore, the man in his new body does not remember. But the real man remembers and sees the essential justice of his human experience.
Bearing these three main ideas in mind: the nature of the Deity, the law of Reincarnation, and the law of Karma, what would you teach a child about the idea of pain? It is a very fundamental question that. What would you teach a child? Well, perhaps it is not a question that is very easy to answer, but I think the first great lesson that any child should learn is to gain the habit and power of not identifying itself with discomfort, with pleasure, as a matter of fact, or with pain. You will say perhaps that is a bit of a counsel of perfection for a tiny child, but it is not so: tiny children do respond in the most wonderful and impersonal way if you go the right way about it and teach them, to use the ancient Eastern simile, to regard pain for themselves with indifference; to be to themselves in regard to pain as the stone of the mango.
At the same time inculcate the idea that, while they are hard and indifferent to the pain which comes to them, they should be soft as the fruit in the pulp of the mango to every cry of pain and every cry of distress that they hear from another outside of themselves. You will find that even a tiny child will respond to that idea, and will learn the first great lesson: that for it pleasure and pain are equal and opposite; things to be experienced merely, but never to be identified with to the point of losing hold of the calm spirit within their own heart as a guiding light in their own lives.
Remember that directly pain or pleasure gains the power over us to distract our spiritual meditation, then it begins to represent evil for us; and therefore the earlier that we can get hold of the impersonal idea toward pain the better it is for us. Some people may think that it is not possible to apply this principle with a tiny child, but I will give you a little example because it shows you how the great teaching of Theosophy can be applied in life. Little children are always tumbling about, always hurting themselves, always bursting into tears -- are they not? -- as they learn to walk and so on. Well, what are you going to do about it? A tiny child will respond to the idea that he may have hurt that which he bumped up against, and in distracting the attention of the child to the consideration of the damage that he has done to his father's furniture, for instance. Lo and behold! You find the child has forgotten all about the bump that he has received. And so with the Spirit of man: while his thought is turned ever and eternally away from himself he forgets the personal, as he forgets the bumps and bruises and the unpleasantness of life; and he becomes detached from objects of sense, and his heart begins to enter on the Way of Peace. That after all is the meaning of all teaching, of all Theosophy.
Shall we be always subject to pain? In answer, you have the teaching of the Blessed Buddha, who won complete enlightenment in this life, and lived in imperishable and eternal bliss while walking the ways of men. He gave it as a promise to all who followed in his footsteps: that they should realize here and now, when they had gone through the necessary steps of purification, that life was no longer a mystery of pain; they would then experience right in the core of their own being the ineffable joy and bliss that actually are at the heart of all existence. Do not think that this joy is merely a figure of speech. I do not mean it so. If Theosophy means anything at all, it means just that profound realization in the lives of individual Theosophists that they have an understanding, that they have a peace, that they have a joy in spiritual living which takes them in consciousness away -- literally away -- from all the unpleasantness of life, and turns it into one endless progression of lessons and experiences.
Think what the Theosophical conception really means! Probably a true understanding of the mystery of pain is not realized, and cannot be understood, until the age-old Path is entered and the man begins to take hold of his own lower nature, and studying it he begins to realize the blessing of pain. After all, all entry into new life is caused through pain or through death. Death of what? Why, the death of the lower elements of being. All growth and progress are a turning away of mind from that which has been, to that which is to be.
What does this mean? It means a parting from the habits of mind, and the states of being, and the modes of action, to which we are accustomed. It means that we are prepared, having seen the light, and something more and better, to relinquish our old methods and old habits of mind and being. In that moment we die: the spiritual life is a constant dying, a constant death upon the cross of our material being. Is that a miserable thing? Is that an unhappy thing, as the Christian scriptures have rather taught us to believe? Not at all, because it simply means a giving up of the things that are not essential in our lives. We give up that which for the time being we think is important, which we think has significance for us, because we realize that this giving up is in accordance with and in harmony with the higher law.
Then what happens? In a little while, after we have passed through the strangeness and the quietness that succeed an entry into a new state of being, we realize that the suffering that we have gone through has merely brought forth blossoms and buds of spiritual life in ourselves, and we realize that there is not one single experience of pain that we pass through in this small life of ours but has a peculiar significance to the man who is treading the noble eightfold Path. And I speak particularly to the one who is a spiritual aspirant -- because the meaning of pain is missed, is passed by, by those who have not got the conscious spiritual guidance by which to direct their lives -- that until you have learned to subordinate every single action in life to your inner spiritual purpose, you won't understand the meaning of the pain; but directly you have learned that lesson, then comes the realization that those things in your life which have been the hardest, the most difficult to cope with, are the very things which have given you the power, the capacity, the knowledge, the sympathy, and most of all the understanding, with which to help your fellow pilgrims upon that same Spiritual Path that you yourself are beginning to tread. It is one of the deepest mysteries of the great subject of pain, how every experience of life tends toward the development of some faculty, some power, of the inner Spiritual being, which will enable you to help some brother one step farther upon the Path.
Let us turn back for a moment with that thought in mind to the inner nature of man, because Theosophy has such a sublime teaching, and it is this: that the very progress of the inner nature of man toward perfection is dependent upon the effort of that inner man to raise first of all his own material being to the condition where that lower man is a fit tabernacle for the God that exists within; and as a further stage beyond that: progress of the inner man depends upon his identification with the God who broods over him and in his own heart. Now the progress of that inner God also depends -- and here is one of the great teachings of Theosophy -- the progress of that God depends upon its power, its effort, to raise the lower man, to raise the inner real man, to the conscious recognition of its oneness with that inner God.
How does it come about? As that inner Spiritual being is always ready, if we turn the polarity of our minds upward to the inner Spiritual nature within us, that beam of light that exists there will grow stronger and stronger until it blazes as a lamp within the heart of that inner man; and he knows without any argument, without any reasoning or help from outside himself, HE KNOWS that his own next step on the Path of Spiritual progress will be a step toward truth; and he then can bring that light of knowledge that he has won to those who as yet tread the path in darkness.
Is it not a sublime thought that as we ourselves -- and we can all of us do it, friends, at any rate to some extent -- as we look out from ourselves, and leaning down for a moment stoop to help someone who needs that help, in that moment the doors of the soul open, and the light of the inner man grows stronger and stronger; and so the inner God raises the inner man, and the inner man raises the outer man, and all three together work in the service of the one cause and the one life and the one light that exist in the heart of all creation. Don't you see how it works? It is a wonderful idea.
In these times when the stress of economic life is so tremendous, we are forced to realize that men and women, by the very privations that they are forced to go through, enter into one of the classes of beings who begin to study spiritual truths, who begin to long for an explanation of the sufferings of material life. So it is that during the times of adversity the spiritual life of men is actually quickened. During the times of tremendous prosperity all their attention is turned outwards in identification with the very things that will lead them away from the search that we are all really and truly, however misguidedly, engaged in pursuing.
One of the troubles that many people have to face is the loss of some individual with whom they have spent some part of their lives; the loss of some loved one who passes into the Great Beyond; and that for them brings about an anguish and suffering that is very real. Now Theosophy does work a great change in a man's life even in such a case as that. Why is this? Simply because the man who has learnt to tread the Spiritual Path within himself has found a Divine companion. He has found a Divine companion that he can never lose; and therefore, while he becomes more sensitive, more loving, more compassionate, and more sympathetic to the needs of those around him, the personal loss takes on an altogether different aspect, because he knows the laws of nature, he knows that the great rhythm of life that brought the loved one to him must inevitably take the same one away beyond into a further life, and he knows that that is not something to cause sorrow to anybody except the one who is left behind. He realizes that it is only a personal and selfish idea; he renounces his personal sorrow like other things of the personal life. He gives it up because he knows that the loved one has gone to a region where there is no more sorrow, where he will enter into a realm of Spiritual bliss and living which is beyond the mystery of pain altogether. He is free from the shackles of the flesh and all that it means until he returns once more into earth life.
What is the message of Theosophy to those whose business it is to minister to the sick? They indeed are brought constantly into this problem of pain in every moment of their lives. I think the answer would be this: that in all pain and all disease, although every individual receives naught but what he himself has sown, yet he is in need very often -- and most of the time -- much more of Spiritual comfort than of material assistance; and therefore the great idea that Theosophy would give to every physician of the body would be to see if you cannot light in the patient's mind and in his heart a faith, a conscious recognition, of the spiritual power that is lying dormant within his own nature. Think, if everybody, if every physician, were also a physician and healer of the soul. Why, friends, the world would quickly be a different place. It is because in most cases that physicians and others do not know how to minister to the needs of the soul that the needs of the body become so very pressing.
Sometimes the question is asked: Are disease and pain a mere figment of our imagination? Will a change of mind, a change of thought, cure them? Is it my fault, can I cure them by merely taking thought? That is a big question, a very important one, because, as you know, there is a whole school -- what shall I call it? -- Scientists, Christian Scientists, Mental Psychologists, I do not know what you would like to call them -- those who believe, and so teach, that there is no such thing as pain, that there is no such thing as evil. But turn to the record of the lives of the great Teachers that have been in past ages, and see what their attitude to the problem of pain and disease is. Did they say it did not exist? Not at all. On the contrary, every single case of suffering that any one of the great Teachers came across invariably called forth their human pity and compassion, showing that they realized what it meant. They gave a spiritual remedy, quickening the spiritual life in that individual so that he should learn how to heal himself.
What is the healing that Theosophy recognizes and considers permissible? Friends, it is a fact and a very potent and spiritual fact, that a change of mind and heart of the individual does affect the physical and bodily health, and even his circumstances. It is a fact; but does that mean that where a man has got a serious physical disease, or even a simple ache or pain, he shall deliberately deny it in his mind and his consciousness, and tell himself that he has only got to go on thinking that way and it will disappear? Well now, it is a fact that probably if he goes about it strongly enough he may lose that particular ache or pain. It is not a very happy thing for him if he does, because he has merely deflected it for future use. He has forced it back into the mechanism of his own consciousness where it came from, and in the fulness of time it will work out again. It had its root in a thought, in a feeling, in some wrong action. Until it has worked itself out it cannot be got rid of.
All the individual can do is to learn, simply as the Buddha taught, to give up the practice of evil, to enter the noble eightfold Path, and in so doing he ceases to create future causes of evil. That is why THE BHAGAVAD GITA states: "Even a man of very evil ways, once he is devoted to me, crossing over every evil in the bark of knowledge, will verily come to me." That is the truth. All we have to do is to consider that ray of spiritual light in ourselves. Faith in that connection and aspiration are a tremendous force for good, not only in our own lives but in everything that we try to do for others.
By Boris de Zirkoff
[From a tape recording of a private class held on September 1, 1954.]
There's a certain subject that is very worth going into. That is the subject of Teachers and coming Teachers. That is also something that we hear from other people, among our friends and people in general. I think it would be of considerable importance and be worthwhile to clarify our ideas a little bit on that general subject.
It would appear that there are many people in the world today, mostly the Occidentals, students of metaphysics, who are in a frame of mind or in different types of frame of mind more or less similar to each other. They are in a frame of mind where they expect, like to expect, the appearance of some great Teacher in the world of today and a need for anything like this is very obvious.
There are a variety of views on that general subject. Some express themselves in very sound and logical terms. Some have woven into this idea of a lot of wishful thinking. Some have simply have gone haywire on the whole idea. Some people, as a matter of fact, claim to be such World Teachers of the present time. They don't have a very great calling, but it all shows that the subject is confused. When there is a confused subject, there is always some particle of truth somewhere that has been twisted or exaggerated or in some way or other misunderstood. So it is very, very worth our while to clarify things if we can.
It is a Teaching of the esoteric philosophy, from immemorial days, that spiritual Teachers guide. Spiritual leaders of thought appear from time to time among men. From time immemorial they have done so. They do so now from time to time. They will continue to do it. They will continue to do so in the future. Because the appearance of these spiritual Teachers, these sages and seers or Initiates and Adepts, is part of the occult life of the planet on which we live.
From time to time as the need arises and spirituality sinks, to be superseded by a great deal of selfishness or materialism, a Teacher makes his appearance in accordance with a certain occult law. He proclaims a certain message. He does his work for the time being and vanishes from the scene of action after awhile, leaving a message or a book or a movement according to what kind of Teacher he was.
Such individuals are of various degree of attainment. Some are Avataras. Some are Buddhas, the most rare. Some are various types of advanced Initiates and masters of life, with a sort of avataric mission, even though they are not actual Avataras. Some are still less than these. You might say that they are local Teachers for one continent or a race instead of worldwide in their effect. Some are less yet, being only very advanced disciples of higher Teachers sent by the latter as Messengers to proclaim a certain message or to found a movement or do some other specialized work.
We might say that the greater the individual is who appears, the more infrequent is his appearance. Some of these individuals like Avataras appear at considerably long periods of time. Others appear every few thousand years. Others again appear with what is known as the zodiacal cycle, the messianic cycles of 2160 years.
These individuals do not appear by chance. Their appearance is just as much geared to the occult life of the globe and of mankind as all the other events and phenomena of life, ideas to a pattern, to a spiritual mechanism over which advanced intelligences preside. There is no chance in anything. The phenomena taking place within our own constitution, from our physiological phenomena up, or from our spiritual changes down, are just as much geared to various laws as are the appearances of Teachers in the rounds and the races, and the ushering of this, that and another cycle.
Point number one is that Teachers of any kind, less or greater or very great, Teachers of any kind do not appear by chance. They appear at stated intervals of time. About these intervals of time, we don't know very much. But we know a little bit.
It certainly looks from a certain angle, from a certain standpoint -- and we can have sympathy with people who see it that way -- that the condition in the world is such that it would be an awfully nice thing if some great spiritual Teacher was to turn up and to help us to harmonize ourselves and to bring order out of chaos and generally speaking to help us back on the road to sanity. It would be a wonderful thing. Still, just because things look that way, it does not necessarily mean that a Teacher is going to appear right now.
The seeming chaos is not necessarily because of the result of the lack of Teachers or guides or leaders of thought in the world, not necessarily the result of their absence. It is rather the opposite. Try to look at it from another angle. It is because there is already in the world a tremendous spiritual energy at work. It is precisely because there is a great spiritual challenge in the midst of mankind that there is also a great chaos and disorder as a reaction to the former, as a byproduct of the former.
We see the chaotic conditions because they are very obvious. We notice them and are sometimes overwhelmed by them because they are so patterned, because they impinge upon everything and you cannot disregard them or ignore them or overlook them. It is very easy to overlook and disregard the tremendous spiritual shift of consciousness that exists in the world and which has brought about the temporary chaotic conditions of mind and emotions as a reaction, and a natural reaction, to it.
First of all, I think I'd like to eliminate out of the discussion, or out of the picture at least for the present, one basic misunderstanding. Not a misunderstanding among you, but a misunderstanding that exists among thousands of students who follow various metaphysical schools and are not very well grounded in any one particular school of thought.
There are a lot of books with quite a number of different people who have proclaimed the idea that a very great Teacher is about to come and even given it the name, the Sanskrit name of Maitreya, which means "the friendly one." You will find some theosophical books, mostly by Annie Besant, mentioning that. You will find Mrs. Alice Bailey's books full of it, and a lot of others. Various modifications of that idea, various variations, you might say, playing upon that main theme, of the appearance of a Teacher by the name of Maitreya. This, if you haven't heard yet, you probably run into sooner or later.
This idea is a complete misunderstanding of the Teaching contained in Blavatsky's THE SECRET DOCTRINE, to the effect that as the Buddha, known as the Gautama by his first name, Gautama the Buddha, Gautama the Enlightened, appeared some 2500 years ago, and had to do with the spiritual impetus approximately around the middle period of the fifth root race. So there will be another great Buddha by the name of Maitreya the Friendly. He will usher in, in due course of time, the beginning of the sixth root race, which is a matter of several million years from now -- several million years.
It is that Teaching, taken out of its general context, thoroughly misunderstood, foreshortened to apply to a matter of a few centuries instead of to a matter of a few million years. It has given rise among many students and writers to the mistaken idea that the Maitreya Buddha or a Teacher by the name of Maitreya is going to turn up practically in our own lifetime, and if not, very soon after. It is not so.
This unfortunately is not the only misunderstanding of the ancient Teachings, not the only misunderstanding that you will find in the current literature, a literature that calls itself in theosophical or metaphysical or occult. You might just as well eliminate this idea as being completely and utterly worthless.
No such individual, Avatara, Buddha, is due to come. The Buddhas come at the most rare of intervals. There is a Buddha that is ushering in a Root Race. There is a Buddha that appears towards the middle of it. There is a Buddha that appears at the ushering of the next one, with millions of years in between the two of them. That is sufficient. Their work is sufficient. This work is accomplished within their lifetime because of the tremendous individualities that they are, and the tremendous, unimaginable spiritual impress, an impression that is produced by them upon the thought of mankind.
Is there any kind of a lesser Teacher that is going to turn up more or less within our lifetime or a little after? Yes, it might be so. In order to make that clear we have to go back a little. In discussing this subject, we are primarily concerned with one kind of Teacher, which is the most practical that we can talk about, the most understandable that we can talk about. That is the Teacher that appears among mankind twelve times within a zodiacal year.
A zodiacal year is 25,920 years in duration, the time that it takes the precession of the equinoxes to be accomplished. It is an astronomical and astrological fact as well. The period is divided into twelve sub-periods, each one of 2160 years, which is a messianic cycle according to the term used by mystics in the Occident. Every 2160 years, more or less, because these cycles overlap, there is the appearance of an unusual individual who is ushering a new zodiacal age, one of the twelve zodiacal ages of a complete zodiacal period.
One of the last ones was the individual whom history has recorded as Jesus of Nazareth. We don't know his true name. The Talmud speaks of Je Jehoshua Ben Pandira as being his real name, son of Pandira. We don't know. His personal life is unknown except to the Brotherhood of Adepts and lately they haven't said very much about him for some reason or another. He ushered what might have been called the Piscean Age. This is because in those days, approximately 2200, 2150 years ago, more or less, the equinox was entering into the sign of Pisces.
Curiously enough, the Christians know it but they don't apply the right key to their symbolism. They talk about Jesus as having been a fisher of men. They represented in the early centuries Christians as fishes. That's a symbol for the Piscean age, the sign of the two fishes, by which is symbolized the sign of Pisces in the zodiac.
There are all sorts of occult implications and meaning which the Christian church has lost. 2160 years, more or less, have elapsed since the appearance of that Teacher. We are ostensibly in the year 1954, but that is simply a mistake of calendar. Jesus, whatever his real name was, was born at least 120 if not more years prior to the time imagined for him, or set for him arbitrarily. A monk had set the Christian year arbitrarily in the year 600 A.D.
There has been a time for the appearance of the next individual of the next messianic Messenger. In plain, ordinary language let it be understood that that other individual was Blavatsky. Please don't make a mistake now of imagining that I, or some other student, speaking on the subject, compares Blavatsky to the Teacher known by the name of Jesus. They had a certain similarity in mission, but they are not equal in status, not at all.
The individual known as Jesus was an Avatara. Blavatsky was not. Blavatsky was a Messenger from the Lodge of the Masters and did a certain work of an avataric nature. You know how easily we are misunderstood by captious minds that say "Oh well, they compare their Blavatsky to Jesus." No, they don't. No more so than Blavatsky could be compared with Krishna or Rama or Moses or Osiris or anything. You must compare missions to be performed, but not necessarily the status of the individual.
When I said that within the zodiacal cycle there would be twelve of these Teachers, I did not mean to imply that these twelve would be equal in achievement, knowledge, and inner spiritual status. Some of them may be far greater than others. The main point at issue now is that as the occultist, the Initiate, whoever he was, went down in history under the name of Jesus, as he opened the Piscean age.
The spiritual influence that was working through Blavatsky, and was far greater than the woman Blavatsky, opened the Aquarian Age. We will not fully enter that age for 200, 300, 400 years. That individual ushered the beginnings of that age, of that new zodiacal sign, which is overlapping like everything else in nature with the preceding one and the one to succeed.
Even the influence of these Teachers overlaps. There is no need for another appearance of any kind of Teacher similar to Blavatsky and the influence back of her, which is far greater than her. There is no need for any other one for the next 2100 years. Let's get that straight. It is sufficient.
Don't get discouraged by the fact that you see in the world only a few Theosophists now. The influence of the Theosophical Movement is not reckoned by numbers. It is not necessarily reckoned by people at all. It is primarily reckoned, its influence, its impress upon the age is reckoned primarily by the -- what shall I say -- by the loosening, the letting forth, the loosening of a powerful current of ideas from a certain occult quarter, the Lodge of the Masters, you might say. This happens at a certain specified time when the clock points to a certain place. The influence of the current of thought then spreads through different individuals and through other movements and through groups of people helped by various students. Some of these individuals are known and some are unknown. The influence revolutionizes the thought atmosphere of the world.
You know darned well that between 1875 when this was done and today, the current of the spiritual thoughts that were loosened in those days and later have swept away the entire materialism of the nineteenth century and produced a major thought revolution in mankind. I mean political revolutions now. Thought revolution along spiritual, religious, philosophical, psychological, scientific lines, everything!
What do we have in science today? You know, the science of the entire world is telling us back some theosophical ideas that earlier students tried to fertilize science with and succeeded. Never mind the application of science, never mind the misapplication, never mind the bombs and the warfare stuff, never mind this. I'm speaking of ideas about the structure of nature. Science today is talking Theosophy, but it is in scientific language.
It's all right. Who did it? Not any one person. Not even Blavatsky herself. She did a lot. It was accomplished by the momentum of spiritual force, the current loosened at that time through certain individuals who were the Messengers, the lesser Messengers of the time. The main one in those days was Blavatsky, to be followed by others. The effect of that is going to increase as centuries go by. It will not decrease.
The Theosophical Society as an organization may vanish out of sight, but students of that wisdom will multiply ad infinitum until new religious movements and new psychological schools grow out of it. New social institutions and social orders and new sciences, and new discoveries, and new everything, will grow out of it for centuries to come. There is plenty in that impulse for the next 2160 years, indeed.
If that is so, is there any need for the appearance of any kind of a Teacher now in our lifetime? Yes. That's the third point. The 2160 years, more or less, of the zodiacal, of the messianic cycle, are sort of punctuated by the appearance of lesser men or women each century. At least that seems to be the way in which it works now in the Occident. I couldn't tell you, because my knowledge is not sufficient. I couldn't tell you whether that is the general plan and has been so before and will be so forever after. I don't know.
Consider one of the great Teachers who embodied part of the consciousness of Gautama the Buddha, who lived 2500 years ago. This Teacher lived in Tibet. His name was Tsong-ka-pa, the great reformer of Tibetan Lamaism. He lived in the fourteenth century of our era, in other words some 500 years ago. He embodied within his constitution part of the ray, of the same ray, from Gautama the Buddha. He did a tremendous work, more or less limited to the Buddhism, already established Buddhism, of Tibet, and reforming its abuses.
It is that Teacher Tsong-ka-pa, an Avatara of a kind, who lay upon his disciples and his school the duty to try and enlighten the western world. They come once in a hundred years to make a special effort. They come at the end of the century to lift the west spiritually, to give it a new installment of the old Teachings, to send a Messenger of one kind or another to help with the spiritual life.
It is under that plan that Blavatsky worked. That is under that plan that a 100 years before her time, approximately in the days of the American Revolution and the French Revolution certain scholars opened up for the first time in the history of Europe. They opened up the wealth of Oriental literature to the west. They began to translate Oriental writings. That was part of the effort of a hundred years before Blavatsky.
Those earlier efforts are not very easy to trace. They're not easy to trace because some of these efforts apparently have been on the quiet. The one apparently made by Blavatsky was right smack before everybody and was a big bang.
It is presumed, hoped for, by great many of us students in this school that towards the end of this century, maybe somewhere around 1970 or something like that, or '75, they would appear from the same quarters. This would be another Messenger, not as great as Blavatsky, no, a lesser one, maybe equal if you like. He would give a new spiritual impetus to this century. And others would appear to repeat the same pattern in the twenty-first century, and the twenty-second century, and so forth and so on. We're thinking now of the appearance of lesser men or women, high chelas, high disciples, but not great Adepts or anything like that, on a smaller scale within 2160 years.
So let's sum up the whole thing. I think a musician could explain this better than I could. There seems to be a fundamental keynote that is struck by great Avataras for millions of years. Smaller Initiates, but very great ones just the same, strike again that note on a smaller scale of thousands of years. These still lesser Adepts strike the same keynote or a corresponding one over a period of zodiacal ages.
Their Messengers and lesser individuals strike the same keynote perhaps every century -- if that is correct at all times. I know it's correct as far as the Occident goes. I do not claim to know too much about it. I couldn't tell you whether that was the case a thousand years ago and will be the case a thousand years from now. It is the case now. It's like a musical light motif, as the Germans put it, repeating itself with variations on smaller scales and in a descending series of octaves.
The answer briefly is there is always from time to time the appearance of Teachers. Their quality, achievements, spiritual greatness, differs widely, enormously. The Maitreya Buddha is not going to come for millions of years, don't fool yourself about that. The information, or misinformation, is wrong.
The Theosophical Movement, not the organization, the Movement, the spiritual Movement, initiated by Blavatsky as one of the Messianic Teachers, will last for hundreds of years, a couple of thousand. Yet, we may look forward with expectation and hope to see the appearance of some unusual individual, man or woman, towards the end of the century, the latter quarter of the century. This will happen if we don't make a perfect mess of our life, politically and otherwise, so that such effort will be wasted.
That we can do, mind you. We can make a mess so that affairs in the occult hierarchy are postponed. This isn't a promise that he is going to turn up, that he might. Blavatsky herself said, as Mr. Judge said, as my own Teacher de Purucker said, yes he might and probably will if we don't make an awful bunch of fools of ourselves, something which I don't think we will.
To that particular individual, we may look forward. How are we going to recognize him is not an easy question. I'll leave that question for you to answer. How tomorrow are we are going to recognize him? We have already all sorts of claims and counterclaims. In those days we're going to have more claims and more counterclaims. There will be fakes and there will be well-meaning people who will just be pushed by others as fakes. Somewhere there is going to be the real individual.
I trust that we'll have the intuition enough to find in the welter of confusing claims which one is the individual who holds the same torch and proclaims the same message, unaltered, that the previous one did. When I say, "unaltered," it's got to be adapted to this century. The essence of it must not be altered. No matter how much it will be adapted, it must be absolutely at one on all four with the previous ones because of the succession of the hierarchy and the uninterrupted flow of the same force.
If you have any other things that you'd like to have brought out on the general subject, I will be glad to answer some questions. Naturally, I don't claim to do anything more than to give a brief outline of the whole thing in the short time available to us.
Boris, how is it we determined whether a person was an Avatara or just a Teacher or Messenger?
How is it determined whether an individual is an Avatara or just a Messenger or Teacher? Well, I'm afraid that we as mere students would not be able definitely to determine this. I don't think we have the spiritual insight for it, and we haven't got too much to go on.
To us, an outstanding spiritual individual will appear great enough and will satisfy our yearnings and aspirations and he will be the embodiment to us of what we consider to be very lofty and noble. He will be a great symbol. Can we know whether he is of one or another type, whether he stands spiritually on this level or twice as high or higher yet? No. I'm afraid we will fail miserably in appraising his spiritual status, which, I think, is not very important anyway.
But how do we know now that Jesus was an Avatara? How did we find out?
All I can do is to pass on the Teachings, as stated by Blavatsky in THE SECRET DOCTRINE. I do not claim to be able to bring any proofs in support of it. I would not be able to determine this myself. Of course not! We might as well be frank about these things. They are far beyond our firsthand knowledge.
The doctrine of Avataras is a very mysterious one. While we can grasp the general idea of it, I don't think that we are in a position ourselves as yet to have any firsthand knowledge as to which particular Teacher was or is an Avatara.
Boris, you say that there's one Teacher every messianic period. Aren't Gautama Buddha and Jesus very close on that timing? That is, 2500 years ago and approximately 2000 years ago. It's only a matter of 500 years approximately.
Yes, yes, there are even more curious, what shall I say, complications. There are even more difficult things than that, showing one thing. They show that there are various overlapping cycles regarding which we don't know very much.
Here is the point. Between Gautama the Buddha and the time of Jesus there would have been possibly five to six hundred years. Between the appearance of Gautama the Buddha and an Avatara very well known throughout the Orient by the name of Shankara was only a couple of hundred years and between the appearance of the one we've known as Jesus, and Apollonius of Tyana, another Avatara, there probably wasn't more than a hundred years. The key is in the fact that there are several successorships. One belongs in this line doesn't belong in that one. Within his own line, he follows a certain time sequence. When compared with some other line, of which we don't know enough, it looks as if things were even mixed up or overlapping.
If cycles were following each other end on, the picture would be very simple. The point is that cycles are like curves, like graphs on a ruled paper. The one cycle may have this kind of a sweep and the other may have a much smaller sweep, and a third one may be very short in the vibratory rate, and they all may be encompassed in one sweep of a still greater cycle.
If you put this on paper, which is not too difficult, you will find that at certain points in your graph there are knots. These are where larger and smaller cycles either completely coincide or approximately coincide. You will find if you want to draw it with pen and ink that there will be a multiplicity of lines coming to that point. Each one of these cycles is represented by some force or other or vibratory rate. Therefore at that particular historical time there will be the appearance of several individuals, each doing his specific work.
From the statement of Blavatsky, such a year was 1897, at which a number of important cycles ran together and crossed each other. Therefore, the last quarter of the nineteenth century was of a special importance, and a special effort was made at that time. Several individuals worked simultaneously, although she was the best known of them all. That does not mean that in the latter quarter of this century there will be any convergence of cycles of that nature. There may be just the one-century effort, and nothing else.
You see how complex these things are. Fortunately, they can be represented mathematically on paper and therefore have a purely scientific or mathematical appeal to the scientific student. They are not highfalutin metaphysics. They can be drawn on paper with the usual mathematical rules that we have.