An adept -- the highest as the lowest -- is one ONLY DURING THE EXERCISE OF HIS OCCULT POWERS ... Whenever these powers are needed, the sovereign will unlocks the dorr to the INNER man (the adept,) who can emerge and act freely but on condition that his jailor -- the OUTER man -- will be either completely or partially paralyzed as the case may require ...
-- THE MAHATMA LETTERS, Letter 24-B, 3rd ed., Page 176
By Sophia TenBroeck
[based upon a December 28, 1997 posting to theos-talk.]
Some may feel that doing one's duty and getting on with the job is out-of-date, that it is backward, holding people from moving forward with their dreams and practice. I would like to suggest that it is not a nineteenth century thing. The ancient Aryans, Zoroastrians, Chinese philosophers, and others have practiced it. The Sermon on the Mount teaches this by implication.
To my mind, Theosophy has to do with the revival of the great concepts of previous ages and people, those that make for great civilizations. THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE says, "If sun thou canst not be, then be the humble planet." If the great ideas seems far above and away, let us practice duty in the way we see best, and as we do so our horizons will expand and grow.
Rather than being "enslaving," this attention to duty is paradoxically freeing. If our own good works binds us, as THE BHAGAVAD GITA says, "looking for the fruit of our actions," we cannot move on. When we do what we see is duty and needed without looking for the results, we have the time and opportunity of engaging in other good works, leaving the results to the Good Law, that of Karma. Karma binds us by the bad we do, the good we do, and the things left undone, which we ought to have done but failed to do.
DUTY to humanity was the quotation I used. But this is still limited. DUTY has even a wider scope -- that which is DUE TO ALL LIVING THINGS. In Theosophy, this includes all of nature. Every molecule or atom of nature is a living being.
Every religion practiced in the world today with all their faults set aside have a practice of saying something akin to what is called GRACE in Christianity. What did this really mean? When we buy the food from a supermarket and pay cash, we may think that we have paid what it is worth. What we have done is paid for the work put in by the various long lines of people involved in the production and supply of the food to the supermarket. We have paid to the soil, the water, the sunshine, and the air and natures forces for their contribution to the production of the food. How we can do this, is a real problem, is it not? We stand in a strange sort of debt to nature for the food we consume, and have at hand very little means of paying this debt. Especially these days when we are fast recognizing the great disturbances humans are causing to nature's balance, and directly or indirectly, we are contributing to an accumulation of greater debts.
How can we settle this? We are not all farmers, tillers of the soil. We live in great cities, and procure our food. The idea of GRACE before eating was that people should remember this chain of GIVING FREELY, which has brought the food to our tables.
One should in ones heart and mind, give THANKS to all the visible and invisible beings which are the real participants in the food production cycle. These THANKS should not be given as a matter of course. Give THANKS with sincerity, a deep sense of obligation, and a realization that the energy and sustenance thus received should be utilized for benefiting others. Then in some little way we contribute towards the payment of our DEBT.
Nature gives, and gives, and gives endlessly, supporting all living beings on and in this earth. The least it seems to me we can do is learn from her tireless giving to give too, without expectation and freely. Economics, in its present all encompassing form, was given birth to in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and possibly its doctrines of buying goods and services, and paying for them with money, has some defects.
Nature's way seems to be to give and give without expectation.
By Katinka Hesselink
When we talk of the goal of the Theosophical Society, or of the Theosophical Societies, often people express the opinion that to spread the so-called theosophical teachings, is a primary goal. In my lodge, it was seriously said that it would be better to study a book that was published by the T.S., than it would be to study Krishnamurti. Personally, I do not agree with this. If studying Krishnamurti brings wisdom, then we should study his books. That should be our only guide in deciding what is important enough to spend lodge time on.
It seems that "theosophy" has come to mean, for many members, that which is within the Theosophical Society. In the same way, the word "theosophist" has come to mean a member of the T.S. This is not the way the Mahatma's or H.P. Blavatsky used these words. To them a theosophist was one who leads a practical altruistic life and is an independent thinker. Theosophy is the Wisdom Religion, in its non-sectarian form. The Wisdom Religion is the religion of the wise. It is that knowledge and philosophy that comes automatically to one who studies nature, with kindness in the heart.
They meant the Theosophical Society to be a non-sectarian movement. For instance in her COLLECTED WRITINGS, IX, page 8, H.P. Blavatsky says:
Free discussion, temperate, candid, undefiled by personalities and animosity, is, we think, the most efficacious means of getting rid of error and bringing out the underlying truth ... [of different religions, philosophies and opinions.]
And again, in the same volume on page 9:
Precisely because LUCIFER is a theosophical magazine, it opens its columns to writers whose views of life and things may not only slightly differ from its own, but even be diametrically opposed to the opinions of the editors.
She proclaims this open policy that is not practiced by any of the theosophical magazines I know of, except THE HIGH COUNTY THEOSOPHIST, perhaps, by saying (page 10):
One ever learns more from one's enemies than from one's friends.
About the definition of the word "Theosophist," BCW, II, page 102:
Once a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought -- God-ward -- he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the universal truth with an inspiration of his own to solve the universal problems.
This definition makes it very clear that it does not take a member of one of the Theosophical Societies to make a theosophist. A theosophist is any independent seeker after universal truth. The Theosophical Societies are only there for seekers to meet and help each other. H.P. Blavatsky confirms this opinion by saying (H.P. BLAVATSKY LETTERS TO SINNET, letter C, page 221):
Don't let us do as Christians do. Our society was established to bring together people as searchers after truth, independent thinkers, one having no right to force his opinion on the other: or meddle in his religious views.
I think it is very important, when looking at the Theosophical Movement, that it was NOT meant as a new religion. It was meant as the foundation stone of new religions, plural. That is a very different thing.
Though the doctrines that H.P. Blavatsky brought forward obviously play an important part in the work of the Theosophical Society, the mere spreading of these doctrines was not, in my opinion, the goal. When people merely replace one set of doctrines by another, they are not changing the quality of their consciousness.
It is not for nothing that Brotherhood was stressed so much by the theosophical Mahatmas. The active practice of brotherhood requires a consciousness that reaches beyond the self, to other selves. In this practice, sometimes, thinking about the doctrines of H.P. Blavatsky and the Mahatmas helps, but so does contemplating Lao-tze, or what Sai Baba wrote.
There is no need to limit any theosophical society to the literature of a century ago, or even, a bit more broadly, to the literature of the different theosophical societies.
It is only when there is a difference of opinion that people start examining their own minds. In that sense, we are very stupid. We somehow need other people to point out our flaws. Ideally, I suppose, we would not need that. But since we are not ideal, we have to live with the reality of our incapability.
In order for us to have an open mind, we need to doubt. All concepts in our mind should be loose and fragile enough to shatter when evidence comes that these concepts do not function very well. Unfortunately, this doubt is not easily kept alive. We would all like to think that this, that, and the other, at least are certainties. But even if, say, 'the Oneness of Life', is a reality, that still does not mean that it is so real to me personally that I can see all ramifications of the concept.
The question is how can the Theosophical Society help us in seeing the different sides of each subject we might study. As far as I am concerned, the answer is easy: we need people with different views on the same subject. We need diversity in membership. We need dialogue between people who do not automatically agree. In order to have this, we need to say to people, "You are welcome."
This is necessary, but not enough. We also need to also give these people the same privileges that the people have who express more conventionally theosophical opinions. In short, there should be space in our theosophical magazines for those who believe, for instance, in a personal God. Then the editors can either publish their own opinion in another article, to show the difference, or they can publish some article by someone else, that gives an opposite meaning.
This was the editorial policy of H.P. Blavatsky and Damodar, and it made their magazines (THE THEOSOPHIST and LUCIFER) lively and unpredictable forums. These days this function is played by the theosophical email discussion lists. With no editors, there is no way for uniformity to eat up the liveliness of the theosophical movement. In the same way, for individual lodges and centers to function well, they too need to be seriously open to diverse opinions.
By B.P. Wadia
[from THUS HAVE I HEARD, pages 128-30.]
The light of the spirit is the eternal Sabbath of the mystic or the occultist. That which is meant by the allegorical sentence, FIAT LUX is -- when esoterically rendered -- "Let there be the 'Sons of Light.'"
-- H. P. BLAVATSKY
Without spiritual afflatus -- the miraculous communication of supernatural knowledge -- the mind remains the playground of the senses and falls prey to the sweet-tongued voices of illusion. The mind needs not only breadth and depth but also points to draw it to the Supreme. To help aspiring minds, teachers of soul wisdom have always presented simple but profound images that awaken the mind, assisting it to assimilate one or more aspects of the eternal verities.
There are images which energize us to high endeavor. The first of the four, which Jesus used to exhort his admirers to right practice, is "Ye are the Salt of the Earth." The next three bring in the imagery of Light, which almost every teacher has used in instructing the few elect or the many less ardent. The image of Light is profound and may well be compared to the ocean, shallow enough at the shore for a child to paddle in, but gradually deepening until it may drown the most expert of swimmers. The light of the eyes, the light of the mind, the light of the Soul, are the phrases most commonly used. But there are philosophical and mystical aspects to them, which make the understanding and interpretation of the image of light most fascinating.
"Ye are the light of the world," exclaims Jesus and calls upon his devotees not to hide the light within them, but to let it shine so that some at least among the hoi polloi, struck by the radiance, may be emboldened to kindle their own small lamps. Why does he address his intimates thus? How did they come to possess the Divine Light? In silence and secrecy, listening to his words, reflecting upon his parables, perceiving the "miracles" he wrought which drew their attention not only to the existence of the worlds invisible but to the fact that the laws governing them could be mastered by the humble yet persevering learner provided his heart was pure.
The human tendency to hide the knowledge of such experiences, lest they be doubted and scoffed at, prompts many who know to hold their tongues, to compress their brain and slow down the beats of the heart. How many men of today do we not know, who, aware of the mystical urges of their mind, seek knowledge in secret like the good Nicodemus? And again, how many are there who keep mum about their quest, findings, and realizations of spiritual things, lest they be laughed at by their colleagues of the business world for "getting religion," or by their club friends for "becoming odd!" The followers of Jesus had more reason to "light a candle and put it under a bushel" -- the suspicious, tyrannical Sanhedrin! Jesus demands that they let their divine light shine so that all may know of their real Self, the Christos, the Buddha, the Krishna within. And such showing would not be out of egotism but as a sacrament which would give an outward and visible sign of the grace of Light Supernal within, ever ready to preside in the heart of the meek, the humble, the aspiring lover of mankind. This is the Light of all lights. (See THE BHAGAVAD GITA, XIII, 17)
The light of the mind is different from the light of the Spirit. Even the light of the Thinker, the real man, does not shine equally in all mortals. Ordinary education gives breadth and depth to the mind and increases mind light. Extraordinary instruction is necessary to make the Spirit Light manifest through the human mind. It is the self-imposed task of the divine AVATARAS and the real GURUS to offer special knowledge and to light that which is named the TATHAGATA Light -- to create in the mortal man a Son of Light by whose grace that mortal can become immortal.
The Wisdom-Religion, Bodhi-Dharma, teaches a way of living founded upon a moral philosophy. That philosophy is a very definite body of knowledge, called in THE BHAGAVAD GITA the Kingly Science and the Kingly Mystery. It is ageless. Ever does it move silently and secretly in the midst of ignorance begotten by false knowledge. The study of its doctrines stirs the depths of the human mind. The application of them stirs the depths of the heart, causing it to respond to the higher morality of the Universal and the Impersonal. When the altruistic service of teaching ignorant or proud minds and empty or depraved hearts is undertaken, the glorification of "the Father which is in heaven" takes place. In the process the Light of the Buddhas and the Christs -- the great Sons of Light -- begins to glow in us -- the Tathagata Light -- the Light of the Illustrious Predecessors. Of such are the words of the image:
"A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid."
The following annoucements have been received in the past month about new or changed theosophical websites.
ESOTERIC STUDIES GUIDE
by Katinka Hesselink
There is a new website on theosophy. It is called the Esoteric Studies Guide. It features articles and quotes from H.P. Blavatsky and other classic theosophical writers on the subjects practical wisdom, chelas, mahatmas, the theosophical society, and other like subjects. The quotes and articles are organised around these themes, so that the reader can brows effectively. For those interested mainly in practical wisdom, these same quotes have been organised in a pick-a-quote section.
THEOSOFIA -- NEW WEBSITE IN DUTCH
by Katinka Hesselink
This new site on theosophy is in the Dutch language and is called after the Dutch theosophical magazine with the same name. As its name suggests it features many articles which were first published in the magazine. Articles are on subjects like inner growth, metaphysics and ethics. There are also articles on theosophy itself.
Short quotes can be picked in the section called "spreuken trekken." These quotes are from diverse spiritual sources. There are a few by HPB, Mohammed and also Sai Baba.
NEW "THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY" WEBSITE
by Daniel Caldwell
The THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY website, now has a new address. It is an online extension of the THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY JOURNAL founded in 1985 by Leslie Price and edited since 1990 by James A. Santucci.
THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY is now in its 15th year. Theosophical History is the independent scholarly journal devoted to all aspects of theosophy (with and without a capital "T").
The site is a collaborative effort of serious students of all aspects of theosophy, with an emphasis on the wave of occultism, spiritualism, New Age thought and Theosophy as it has developed during the last 150 years. The web site is intended to be a 21st-century "Notes and Queries" clearing house for information on original sources, archival material and recent work of interest alike to scholars and all serious students of these matters.
Dr Santucci welcome your comments and contributions.
The website is beginning to publish the full text of the back issues of THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY and also original articles and research material that has not been published in the journal.
Here is information on how to contact Dr. Santucci:
Professor James A. Santucci. Department of Comparative Religion P.O. Box 6868 California State University Fullerton, CA 92834-6868 Phone: (714) 278-3727; Fax: (714) 693-0142 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A NEW HPB PHOTO GALLERY
by Daniel Caldwell
Check out the new HPB Photo Gallery at Blavatsky Archives. There are almost 30 photos of HPB and many of her co-workers.
Remember to click on the smaller version of the photo for the larger version.
Photos are best viewed in Internet Explorer in the full screen mode.
We plan to expand this section.
By A. Trevor Barker
[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, Theosophical University Press, 1941, pages 303-12]
I would like to begin by reading to you a short passage on one of the great mysteries of man's inner nature: the mystery that all of us are confronted with at the final stage of our lives; the mystery that at certain times during the course of our earthly pilgrimage we are brought face to face with when someone with whom we have been closely connected -- dear to us possibly -- passes over the Great Divide and we are brought into living consciousness with eternal realities.
Now the mysteries that surround the great subject of Death absorb modern thought to a quite surprising degree. One of the biggest Movements of our times is that which is called the Movement of Spiritualism -- miscalled as we think because it has little to do with Spirit, with the Divine; and it is my purpose tonight, after reading this short passage, to try to elucidate some of the thoughts that are contained therein.
These lines are from THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, pages 170-71. In the pages of that book you will find an at present unexplored treasury of knowledge, a collection of information and facts about all the problems of Death -- the problems with which the Spiritualists concern themselves -- if you will examine them. Now listen to this:
Yet from the last pulsation, from and between the last throbbing of his heart and the moment when the last spark of animal heat leaves the body, the BRAIN THINKS and the EGO lives over in those few brief seconds his whole life over again. Speak in whispers, ye, who assist at a deathbed, and find yourselves in the solemn presence of Death. Especially have you to keep quiet just after Death has laid her clammy hand upon the body. Speak in whispers, I say, lest you disturb the quiet ripple of thought, and hinder the busy work of the Past casting on its reflection upon the Veil of the Future.
Is there any one of us who could hope to reach to such language as that? If you have a literary sense you will realize that words like that can come only out of the very heart of being itself, from one of those High Beings -- a Mahatma, a Great Soul, one who has learned to attune his mind and heart to great Universal Mind itself, and is one with it. Being master of the forces of his own being he can penetrate into the mysteries of Nature as a conscious, fully intelligent, and potentially omniscient being.
BEINGS WHO KNOW TRUTH
The doctrines that we are going to discuss tonight are not the vain speculations and theories of ancient or modern materialistic scientists who use instruments of matter, instruments of scientific precision; who reason from a collection of facts observable by the external senses, and endeavor to deduce therefrom some working hypothesis which for the time being they will label "the laws of nature."
It is not about such so-called scientific facts that we wish to speak, because it is our experience that, in a matter of two or three centuries, such so-called scientific laws change. The scientist discovers that what he thought was truth, was not; and a new theory, a new hypothesis, has to be evolved. From such sources as this we could get no inspiration or light for our mind, and no food for our hearts; no relief for the perplexities under which humanity suffers. Therefore, we have to find some other avenue of information and of knowledge; otherwise, those great problems that perplex the human heart will not be solved.
So the nature of these doctrines then must come from men who know; and it is the statement of Theosophy -- and one of the most helpful and illuminating statements that is to be found in the whole of our philosophy -- that not only does Truth exist, being the workings of Nature herself in all departments visible and invisible, within and without and below -- but that there are BEINGS WHO KNOW -- for something which exists merely in the abstract is of no possible use for us; we cannot utilize it unless there are Beings who know.
Our approach to knowledge must be directly or indirectly by an approach to those who already have this knowledge: and those, in a word, are the Ancient Teachers of the race who exist as a living Brotherhood among men, sending their Messengers from time to time out into the world -- always at work, mostly secretly but nevertheless having witnesses on the scene to testify that Truth, and knowledge of it, exist, and that there is a way by which man may illumine this material brain of his, and learn the Truth if he will.
The truths that we are going to study tonight, then, you can expect will literally strip the veils from this vast Unknown mystery, the mystery that the teachings enshrined -- and truly enshrined -- in the Christian scriptures simply do not approach at all. Go anywhere you like in any Christian church, and unless by -- I was going to say by accident -- you happen to come across a learned Kabbalist (and it is most unlikely because you would not find him there) you will not get any knowledge whatsoever of the mysteries of Death. You will be informed that the Almighty, if he had meant you to understand these mysteries, would have given you this information if it had been good for you, and the fact that it is not given in the Christian Bible means that we are to know nothing about it.
Theosophy begins with the statement that an Adept -- one who is trained and skilled in Nature's mysteries -- can by the power of his own Spirit know all that has been known, all that is known, and all that ever will be known. Now that is a large statement, but it is a necessary one if we are to have the right approach to this problem of the mysteries of Death.
THE SPIRITUALISTIC MEDIUM
Take the Spiritualist position. Some scientists have joined the ranks of the Spiritualist Movement hoping to gain illumination, scientific facts, and data that will bring knowledge of a mystery of which they are entitled to have information and experience if it be possible, and those who began to investigate along these lines in the beginning of the last quarter of the last century found that in the majority of cases man has simply not got the equipment to enable him to go behind the curtain of matter and examine the process of what happens when a living intelligence passes out of this world -- never to return, as far as he knows.
Therefore, we have the first fact that accounts for the existence of a certain class of human beings who call themselves mediums, i.e., persons who have a peculiar constitution -- a constitution that is psychically sensitive, in exactly the same way as a cat is. I do not wish to be offensive; do not think that for a moment. A cat is part of the cat-family of nature, and its mechanism is extremely psychically sensitive. Those of you who have ridden on a horse on a dark night will know that horses also are clairvoyant: they see. Cats see, dogs, most animals do; so that these senses that the spiritualistic community imagine are so highly spiritual, are shared, dear friends, by the animal kingdom -- nothing more exalted than that; and the nervous mechanism from which this vision functions is that of the sympathetic nervous system, having its seat and controlling factor in what in the human being we call the solar plexus.
Anybody who is physiologically instructed will know that this mechanism is not under the control of our will at all. It is an unconscious function; and therefore, as you would expect, the capacities and so-called powers of a medium will not be under his or her conscious control. On the contrary, a definition of MEDIUM is one who is a passive instrument of forces that control and guide him -- exterior forces. The medium imagines that because some exterior force comes and as it were hypnotizes him, and he surrenders the control of the divine temple of his body to this extraneous force, therefore it must give wisdom, when he has lost control of it and it begins, like the oracle in ancient times, to give messages that are supposed to come from entities beyond the veil of death.
When somebody loses one who is dear to him, and, not being instructed perhaps in philosophical teachings, feels all the more keenly the loss, it is this human feeling of loss that leads him to be attracted to anyone within reason who declares that he is able to communicate with the one he has lost -- a very natural human feeling.
When such people hear that Theosophy challenges the position of Spiritualism, they begin to feel perhaps we are going to take something from them, and they perhaps for the time being give us a wide berth. Then perhaps they examine into Spiritualism; they attend seances -- and what do they find? This is the crux of the situation. If they are patient enough and spend enough money: note this, SPEND ENOUGH MONEY: they will see a variety of phenomena. In fact the number of diverse phenomena that they will see and perceive and learn about, and hear theories about, to try to explain them, are simply legion. I could not begin to tell you in an hour's talk more than the outer fringe of the numbers that they deal with; but nevertheless the most common, in whatever particular form of medium you are dealing with, is of course a message of some kind from one who has passed over.
Now then, practically the whole of the Spiritualist Movement is built up on one idea; and it is simply that they can communicate with the dead through mediums. Mediums gain their living this way: and there is roughly the whole thing in a nutshell. Theosophy comes along and says: "But you don't have the philosophy to explain your beliefs. We know you get messages; we know that you get materializations of some entity that is made to look like and assume the features and appearance of someone you knew. That is possible." Then the Spiritualists answer: "But this is evidence. Nobody ever looked like that but so and so," -- and for the time being you are convinced. They call it evidential value; yet, it is in reality one of the things that go to prove how our senses deceive us.
TWO ASPECTS OF THE AFTER-DEATH STATE
What are the facts underlying this matter? When the last particle of animal soul, as we read from THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, leaves the body what happens? What is the nature of the being that is leaving its tenement of flesh? Whence did it come? Whither has it gone? Can our Christianity explain it? It cannot; it is only the knowledge of the ancient mystery teachings of antiquity that gives you the answer for which men and women are looking today. Who are you? What am I? Am I the body that is endeavoring to utter words and phrases to convey certain ideas to you tonight? Is it the body that is I? No.
When the tenement is cold, that inner flame of intelligence that energizes all manifested lives, and especially human beings, vanishes in a flash. The human consciousness, the inner Ego, the true individuality of the man who is passing, in the last moments before the body is completely cold, lives over again every incident from death to birth: EVERY INCIDENT: nothing is left out. So that he understands the long chain of causes that he has set going, the meaning, in all their aggregate sequences, of every incident of life, and these he gathers together in his memory in a period of complete unconscious supervision. This is the first step.
Then what happens? Check what I tell you tonight with what you may have heard stated in the fields of Spiritualism. This inner entity, if he has led a decent and spiritual kind of life, will pass through those disturbing ghostlike regions of the purgatorial and astral world; pass through them very much as a child will pass through a den of vice and be unaffected by it; and then that indwelling consciousness, the Real Man that has shaken off his body, begins to divest itself of that clothing of subtler matter through which he expresses the emotions, feelings, desires, and lower thoughts.
This clothing of subtler matter you can think of as corresponding to the physical body on earth; but though the body may be burnt, this form of desire in the shape of the man that we know on earth persists, and if you had the clairvoyant vision, you could see the exact likeness of the man or woman that was. The form is the same that in the East they call the kamarupa, "the body of desire."
It is around the desire-body that the whole field of psychic phenomena centers, for this cast-off spook, this mere simulacrum of the man that was, has certain peculiar faculties. We cannot call them powers but they are faculties, if you can use the term thus, because these spooks of the dead are made up of matter that is living, and this matter contains the impress and memory of everything that happens to the entity or around the entity during life.
The curious thing about the mediumistic function is that directly such an entity is attracted to it, this dynamic force, this mediumistic power, acts very much like the energy that revolves the disc of the gramophone. The "gramophone" is set, and the medium then repeats whatever incident is wanted out of the memory of the individual that is gone.
Whoever goes to a Spiritualistic seance carries with him his own memory of all the long history of his relationship with the one that is lost. It is all there: the appearance of the one he loved, and every incident, happy or unhappy, in the whole long existence. We carry around with us from birth to death the whole record of everything that we have done, thought, said, felt, desired or willed, all that we have seen or heard even; and the medium can read that record, for it can all be seen by one who has the inner vision.
You will be asking: "Well, if all that is left of us after death is a spook, what about our boasted immortality?" Aye, you may well ask, for immortality is something that, according to the Ancient Wisdom Teachings, we have to earn. I asked just now what is the nature of the being that has gone into the Great Unknown. Is it something essentially transitory and material; or is it something divine and immortal, winging its way into the spaces of space with the power and faculties of a god? And the answer to the question is, at least in part, that the transitory or "devilish" part of it cannot proceed; and yet that upon which the Spiritualist bases his so-called evidence of survival, is the most transitory part -- except the body.
Strange, isn't it, but it is a fact. That which does wing its way into the inner spaces, cannot be reached by the ordinary medium. If the entity who has passed on was a spiritual person while on earth, one who had led a clean, religious, and ethical life, he will not be held in the lower purgatorial regions at all. He will have a slight discomfort, perhaps, in shaking himself free of the lower vessels; but it will be in a kind of dream state, and he will experience, later on, either after the longer or shorter dream, something that is equivalent to the passing from earth life: a struggle, a brief struggle, as he frees himself finally from the last clinging bonds of matter.
That inner entity then enters into what in our technical language we call a kind of gestation state -- that which precedes birth; for Nature follows the same law everywhere, whether it is the birth of a mosquito, a human being, a planet, a sun or a solar system -- the same law operates. It enters into a gestation period, and then very soon it enters into unspeakable peace and bliss where it commences to live over and over again from birth to death the spiritualized memory of the life it was living while on earth, with a memory as vivid as the imagination of a child. If you have watched a child, you know what that means.
To the entities in the heaven-world, there is no death: they have lost nothing. In their spiritualized dream they are surrounded by those they loved on earth, and they believe themselves to be on earth, for the life there is lived in terms of the real personality. I do not wish to dwell longer on this phase except to say this: that it is possible for us to rise in spirit and contact that entity in that state of unalloyed bliss, absorbed in its dream as it is; but I beg leave to doubt whether any paid medium is capable of doing it.
Because the medium cannot rise so high, what happens? You get those puerile messages of mere repetition, containing perhaps what you call evidential value because it quotes some peculiar characteristic that you knew belonged to the entity that is gone. But does it give you anything of real explanation? Does it give you any more knowledge than the individual had in life? None whatever, and generally less.
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Now if these theories are true -- and you will find it very difficult, and I dare suggest impossible, to explode or knock a hole in them, because they are consistent with Nature: they hold water and are true to the facts as we know them -- if these theories are true, there must be a practical application to our lives; for a great Master once said that he who possesses the keys to the mysteries of death is possessed of the keys to life.
Why is that so? It means simply this: that if we know what is going to happen to our inner soul nature when it passes into the Great Beyond, we shall be extremely unwise if we do not order our lives in accordance with that knowledge. If you know that to the extent that you live a sensual, devilish kind of life, if you know that a dwelling upon evil during physical life, in act and thought, will so intensify and materialize that which you have to meet face to face after death, if you know that you risk to have no rebirth into the spiritual world at all; that your experience after death will be one of intense suffering, and a suffering that you can do nothing at all about: will you not consider that it is time to do something about it now before it is too late?
Once we have passed over, our lives become dictated by the causes that we have set going in life: our hatreds and passions and desires are the things that will take possession in the after-life and make existence a perfect hell, an evil nightmare of unrequited desire for beings we loved, and which we cannot get rid of. These will surround us in the after-life with all the intensity of a horrible nightmare, and if this is multiplied and intensified as in the most evil cases it is, it means the death of all that is spiritual in us.
On the contrary and in the other pole of consciousness, if we have lived in the ethical and spiritual side of our being, then indeed we have a tremendous incentive and encouragement and hope, for as we live life here, so it will be there; and if you want to know what you are going to discover when you pass the portals of death, study your own life now, and you will have a very good clue to the nature of the experiences that you will then undergo.
By H.P. Blavatsky
[From ISIS UNVEILED, II, pages 587-89.]
To comprehend the principles of natural law involved in the several phenomena hereinafter described, the reader must keep in mind the fundamental propositions of the Oriental philosophy which we have successively elucidated. Let us recapitulate very briefly:
1st. There is no miracle. Everything that happens is the result of law -- eternal, immutable, ever active. Apparent miracle is but the operation of forces antagonistic to what Dr. W. B. Carpenter, F. R. S. -- a man of great learning but little knowledge -- calls "the well-ascertained laws of nature." Like many of his class, Dr. Carpenter ignores the fact that there may be laws once "known," now unknown to science.
2nd. Nature is triune: there is a visible, objective nature; an invisible, indwelling, energizing nature, the exact model of the other, and its vital principle; and, above these two, SPIRIT, source of all forces, alone eternal, and indestructible. The lower two constantly change; the higher third does not.
3rd. Man is also triune: he has his objective, physical body; his vitalizing astral body (or soul), the real man; and these two are brooded over and illuminated by the third -- the sovereign, the immortal spirit. When the real man succeeds in merging himself with the latter, he becomes an immortal entity.
4th. Magic, as a science, is the knowledge of these principles, and of the way by which the omniscience and omnipotence of the spirit and its control over nature's forces may be acquired by the individual while still in the body. Magic, as an art, is the application of this knowledge in practice.
5th. Arcane knowledge misapplied, is sorcery; beneficently used, true magic or WISDOM.
6th. Mediumship is the opposite of adeptship; the medium is the passive instrument of foreign influences, the adept actively controls himself and all inferior potencies.
7th. All things that ever were, that are, or that will be, having their record upon the astral light, or tablet of the unseen universe, the initiated adept, by using the vision of his own spirit, can know all that has been known or can be known.
8th. Races of men differ in spiritual gifts as in color, stature, or any other external quality; among some peoples seership naturally prevails, among others mediumship. Some are addicted to sorcery, and transmit its secret rules of practice from generation to generation, with a range of psychical phenomena, more or less wide, as the result.
9th. One phase of magical skill is the voluntary and conscious withdrawal of the inner man (astral form) from the outer man (physical body). In the cases of some mediums withdrawal occurs, but it is unconscious and involuntary. With the latter the body is more or less cataleptic at such times; but with the adept the absence of the astral form would not be noticed, for the physical senses are alert, and the individual appears only as though in a fit of abstraction -- "a brown study," as some call it.
To the movements of the wandering astral form neither time nor space offer obstacles. The thaumaturgist, thoroughly skilled in occult science, can cause himself (that is, his physical body) to SEEM to disappear, or to apparently take on any shape that he may choose. He may make his astral form visible, or he may give it protean appearances. In both cases these results will be achieved by a mesmeric hallucination of the senses of all witnesses, simultaneously brought on. This hallucination is so perfect that the subject of it would stake his life that he saw a reality, when it is but a picture in his own mind, impressed upon his consciousness by the irresistible will of the mesmerizer.
But, while the astral form can go anywhere, penetrate any obstacle, and be seen at any distance from the physical body, the latter is dependent upon ordinary methods of transportation. It may be levitated under prescribed magnetic conditions, but not pass from one locality to another except in the usual way. Hence we discredit all stories of the aerial flight of mediums in body, for such would be miracle, and miracle we repudiate. Inert matter may be, in certain cases and under certain conditions, disintegrated, passed through walls, and recombined, but living animal organisms cannot.
Swedenborgians believe and arcane science teaches that the abandonment of the living body by the soul frequently occurs, and that we encounter every day, in every condition of life, such living corpses. Various causes, among them overpowering fright, grief, despair, a violent attack of sickness, or excessive sensuality may bring this about. The vacant carcass may be entered and inhabited by the astral form of an adept sorcerer, or an elementary (an earth-bound disembodied human soul), or, very rarely, an elemental. Of course, an adept of white magic has the same power, but unless some very exceptional and great object is to be accomplished, he will never consent to pollute himself by occupying the body of an impure person. In insanity, the patient's astral being is either semi-paralyzed, bewildered, and subject to the influence of every passing spirit of any sort, or it has departed forever, and the body is taken possession of by some vampirish entity near its own disintegration, and clinging desperately to earth, whose sensual pleasures it may enjoy for a brief season longer by this expedient.
10th. The corner-stone of MAGIC is an intimate practical knowledge of magnetism and electricity, their qualities, correlations, and potencies. Especially necessary is a familiarity with their effects in and upon the animal kingdom and man. There are occult properties in many other minerals, equally strange with that in the lodestone, which all practitioners of magic MUST know, and of which so-called exact science is wholly ignorant. Plants also have like mystical properties in a most wonderful degree, and the secrets of the herbs of dreams and enchantments are only lost to European science, and useless to say, too, are unknown to it, except in a few marked instances, such as opium and hashish. Yet, the psychical effects of even these few upon the human system are regarded as evidences of a temporary mental disorder. The women of Thessaly and Epirus, the female hierophants of the rites of Sabazius, did not carry their secrets away with the downfall of their sanctuaries. They are still preserved, and those who are aware of the nature of Soma, know the properties of other plants as well.
To sum up all in a few words, MAGIC is spiritual WISDOM; nature, the material ally, pupil and servant of the magician. One common vital principle pervades all things, and this is controllable by the perfected human will. The adept can stimulate the movements of the natural forces in plants and animals in a preternatural degree. Such experiments are not obstructions of nature, but quickenings; the conditions of intenser vital action are given.
By Madeline Clark
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, March 1948, pages 150-54.]
We want the creative faculty to imagine that which we know; we want the generous impulse to act that which we imagine.
The divine inventive faculty is perhaps the most useful, as it is the most elusive and the most courted, of all human attributes. It is a sort of celestial lightning, a spark of Promethean fire, difficult to snatch from the gods, but priceless and necessary to all achievement. Without it, we would be hardly more than graceless clods. When this spark leaps into flame, we have genius; and works of art and beauty, works of universal usefulness, are born -- but not without arduous toil. When the flame burns less fiercely, we have all the lesser originalities, without which daily life could not go forward.
It is in the intensity of creative effort that we live most fully. No joy so supreme, no sense of freedom so unlimited, as that felt at the moment of "going over the top" after concentrated and sustained, often painful, effort. But the period of effort is remembered afterwards as one of purest joy. Dostoevsky has this idea when he makes one of his characters say: "Oh, you may be perfectly sure that if Columbus was happy, it was not after he had discovered America, but when he was discovering it! ... What is any 'discovery' whatever compared with the incessant, eternal discovery of life?"
Two young children in a temporarily impoverished family were told one bleak day in December: "There will be no Christmas for you this year except what you can make for yourselves." With the help of their father, an all-round artisan and artist, and of their mother (mothers are always creative artists!) these children gathered materials and made their own toys: usable bows and arrows, a drum, Indian flutes, a kite, a fleet of small boats to sail in the creek, surprises also for their parents. Never had they known such Christmas joy, and never again would they go back to the old way of being mere recipients of purchased Theosophical Society member.
It seems to be demanded of us that this creative faculty should remain aggressively active in us while life lasts. The gaining of a livelihood is a natural spur to this end. Take note of two extremes in this connection. There is on the one hand the individual who launches out, like Perseus with the winged sandals leaping from the cliff, to carve his own destiny, staking his all, risking want and hunger, lean days. He makes his start, drawing upon his ingenuity and creative imagination to the utmost to build up his art or his business, and still does so ever thereafter to keep it a going concern. At the other end we have the individual engaged in directed employment, if his interest in his work is entirely perfunctory, if he considers his responsibility over when the five o'clock whistle blows, and that he has no need for foresight and judgment beyond the limits of his own person or family. Between these extremes is the great body of men and women who, even in supervised employment, bring to bear their creative talents on their jobs, just because it is the normal and natural thing to do useful work in the most worthwhile way.
The observation was made years ago, in the days when moving pictures, the radio, and other substitutes for self-created entertainment were only beginning to be prevalent. The observation was that in a civilization in which such distractions are brought within the reach of all, there is a danger that character will become lax, with having no need to draw upon the individual's own resources of native talent, perseverance, taste, and judgment to this same end.
The psychological contrast between the negative, receptive attitude, simply responding to stimuli, and the positive, creative, effortful one, is here very sharply drawn. Every teacher of children knows that these souls on their way to maturity are at their best and happiest when they are busy with work and play partly of their own devising. Behind every creative idea as it goes into action lies Will, the soul of the idea is Imagination, and both of these thrive with use.
Well has it been said that he who lives creatively helps to create and re-create his portion of the World, while he who lives vegetatively stands still rooted to the same spot until the day of disintegration. Is it true, then, that an individual is vegetating whenever he is not making efforts? Obviously, one cannot be on tiptoe all the time. Nature demands her periods of rest and recuperation. Therefore, the vegetative side has its place. It is only when it is over-indulged that it begins to express the evil, unprogressive aspect of things. Yet there is no doubt that our civilization and the individuals composing it could be set upon a path of spiritual improvement were the higher creative powers made more use of, were there less mere drifting.
In the production of countless gadgets that contribute to our comfort and convenience, our civilization has shown a magnificent quality of inventiveness. But just as the general mentality in our present Race has been stepped up to higher level, intellectually speaking, with the swift development of Mind, so the time has come for the inventive faculty to become active on a higher plane, and to concern itself with ways of making life kinder, more enlightened.
Perhaps this is happening already in a rudimentary way although we cannot forget that selfishness and insincerity are still prevalent. "Gracious living" is a phrase that has become almost a household word, and relates not only to artistry in the use of material things about the person, the home, or the office, but also to human behavior. This means that we actually have a sort of code that invokes the creative spirit in no small measure. In every act that involves others beside ourselves, "gracious living" demands that we put into it a little more effort and thought, a little touch of originality, to give it grace and charm.
All this, desirable though it may be, is not necessarily an expression of the deeper aspect, the ultimate good, in human nature. It may go no deeper than the psychological element in us, which is far from being a stable and spiritual thing. On the other hand, this gentle artistry may spring from that deep fount of genuine altruism which is the spiritual and relatively permanent aspect of us, and which finds its natural expression in acts of considerateness and kindness.
Perhaps the creative idea is never more nobly conceived than when it is invoked on behalf of others, in forgetfulness of self, as when an Theosophical Society member, for example, employs his quieter moments in devising new ways to help on the work of his Lodge, or to approach those he meets with the message of Theosophy. This is the beginning of occultism; and the advanced occultist must be ever more fertile in resource as his work for humanity advances. The life-stories of H.P. Blavatsky, W.Q. Judge, and the successive Leaders of the Theosophical Society are striking examples of this. HPB, ill, living on borrowed time, labored unceasingly on her stupendous literary and other works, almost to the day of her death. Judge was tireless in lecturing, organizing, writing literally thousands of letters, editing and carrying on almost single-handed his magazine THE PATH.
Every Leader of the Theosophical Society, upon coming into office, must bring into play to a transcendent degree this inventive faculty, this flame of creative genius. The broad outline of what it is hoped he will accomplish are given to him by the Brothers who founded the Society: it is for the Messenger to work out the details, as we have often been told and have seen.
The tremendous outpouring of spiritual energy that is felt by every devoted Theosophical Society member as the "Lodge Force" upon the advent of a new Teacher, has its rise in that creative flame of divine will and imagination that is the heart of the work for humanity of which the Theosophical Society is the outer representative. The Teacher is the focus of this Force, and he inspires in his pupils this WILL to inaugurate a new era of achievement. Dr. de Purucker, in the first days of his leadership called attention to the "creative individuality" that each Fellow could exercise to help on the new effort; the present Leader, when he took up the torch, called upon each member to devote his "natural talents" to the furtherance of the Work.
H.P. Blavatsky refers to the "outpouring or upheaval of spirituality." W.Q. Judge writes of "the large and affluent streams" of "potentialities for good" that come from the Adept. Katherine Tingley speaks of the "new energy" that is "being liberated from the center of life." Their effort is to arouse us to the realization of that creative fount from which our inspiration comes.
Finding this, the aspirant concerns himself seriously with finding ways and means to help the Messengers. He allies himself with forces of light in the Universe. He is actually helping on the work of the Divine Architects who, according to technical Theosophical teaching, plan, inaugurate, and set in motion the universal creative labor, which is carried out by the Builders, the more or less vegetative forces in Nature.
By Ernest Wood
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, July 1947, pages 394-400.]
It is often thought that yoga, as expounded by the most famous authority on the subject, namely Patanjali, is something to be attempted only by highly privileged persons, either particularly endowed mentally or favored by having the agreeable karma of a pleasant existence in the countryside. This is not the fact. Many of the old books touching on Yoga say to those who read them that the reader, having had the good fortune to be born a man, and especially a Brahmin (which really means a thinking man), would be indeed a fool to miss the opportunity of taking deliberate steps to reach the goal of life. To put this in modern terms I would say that yoga is life in any environment lived intelligently with a good knowledge of human psychology, as contrasted with the same life lived according to the animal instincts we have inherited. We make the most of our intelligence, even to the point of the conscious enjoyment of intuitions and ecstasies in a life.
The word yoga is to be taken in two senses: (1) as describing the goal of life, which is "union with the one life" or "the uncovering of the light" and (2) as describing the practical steps which may be taken to accelerate our movement towards that desirable end. Really, no one can escape that movement, because do what we will we are bound to learn either by thought or by experience.
If we follow what may be called the positive path of yoga pursued by the man of intelligence and love and will, we shall learn by intuition -- in other words, finer elements in our active being will awaken and take hold of finer realities in our lives. But even if we follow the other and common way, the path of material enlargement -- the path of quantity of things, not the path of quality of life -- we shall be taught by karma, and thus we shall move towards the progressive uncovering of the light, though with pain and trouble and difficulty, instead of with freedom and ecstasy.
Now, turning to Patanjali, we find first his statement that the practice of yoga is chitta -- vritti -- nirodha. Chitta is the mind that deals with things. Vrittis are ideas. Nirodha means control. So, yoga is control of the ideas in the mind. Patanjali goes on to say that when this control is achieved the man exists in his own true state, but otherwise he is the slave of his ideas and that implies his circumstances also. Somewhere else the uncontrolled man has been described as the slave of Nature.
Students of Patanjali do not always realize that vrittis are ideas and that ideas are objects in the mind. Ideas are not to be confused with thought. Thought is an activity of the mind in relation to objects or forms of the material world, and it uses ideas in its thinking. It is not the same as mental drift or the undirected flow of ideas.
It is quite necessary to make this clear distinction between thinking and ideas. We know it well in the study of Geometry, where first we have certain axioms, which are ideas, and then we manipulate those in various ways when we deal with propositions. In Geometry then, still further, we do our thinking on a certain proposition. That becomes for us a definite result. In turn, it becomes an idea upon which later on we may build with further thought. That vrittis are ideas and not operations of thinking becomes quite clear when Patanjali proceeds to give us a list of the vrittis.
He enumerates them as in five classes. The first group is that of right ideas, which he says can be arrived at by perception, or by inference, or from the testimony of reliable witnesses. The second division is the group of wrong ideas, as in the case when at dusk we mistake a post for a man or a piece of rope for a snake. The third group is fanciful ideas, such as the horns of a rabbit. Fourthly comes sleep. We say in the morning that we slept well last night. We mean not merely that we felt well when we woke up, and therefore we infer that we slept well, but that there was some sort of conscious experience, which can be described by the expression "slept well."
Lastly, we come to memory. Memories, of which there are several kinds, need not be described here.
Obviously, it is a good thing for every person, whatever he or she may be doing in life, to use his or her brains in thinking, not merely in mental drift. Mental drift occurs if, let us say, at one moment I am thinking of a cat and a few moments later I find myself thinking about a bridge which I have often admired that spans the river Indus. Now, I could ask myself how I came to think of that bridge soon after I started to think about a cat. Upon looking into my mind I find that the idea of a cat brought forth a picture of a cat lying on a hearth-rug, that then this hearth-rug reminded me of a factory where I had seen such rugs being made. That factory was near the banks of the river Indus and further up the river was the bridge of which I found myself thinking.
That was mental drift. If I had controlled my ideas, I might have thought of something to more purpose. I might have controlled my idea on the cat so that I would know a lot more about it. I would have directed my thought by my will. As we do in all study, I would first have concentrated and then meditated. I would have concentrated on the cat and then I would have expanded my knowledge of the cat without abandoning my concentration upon that subject. That process of thinking is what we call meditation when we apply it to spiritual, religious, ethical, abstract, or philosophical thinking.
Next, Patanjali tells us that nirodha or control becomes steady with practice and colorlessness.
Patanjali speaks of these two as abhyasa and vairagya. Abhyasa is practice, and one need only say that it is helpful to practice occasionally, when there is opportunity, the art of controlling and directing our own ideas, in reference to anything that may occur to us at the moment, or that may come up in the business of life. We shall have to tear the word vairagya to pieces to get the real meaning out of it. "Vai" means contrary to or against; "raga" has to do with being red or colored, and the termination "ya" is here equivalent to our "ness," thus converting the whole thing into the abstract noun, colorlessness.
The idea is that just as you may put a block of glass on red paper and it will look red, or on green paper it will look green, so do persons have their thinking and feeling colored by their environment and ideas. But the instruction here is that the aspirant should stop, look, and listen every now and then to see that he is not being carried away by external impulses, but is using his own faculties in every business that he deals with. This subject could be expanded, for multifarious are the ways small and big in which we become slaves to Nature. But this much should now be said -- that first we should complete an idea by meditation, if we want to stop the mental process and derive some intuition by some uncovering of the light.
I have described the first few sutras in Book I of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Later in Book I, that author describes the final practice of complete control, called samadhi. We can leave that for the moment and jump to the beginning of Book II, where Patanjali tells the student of yoga what he must do first in practical life. I have heard of cases in which a would-be pupil has come to a teacher of yoga and the teacher has sent him away, telling him to come back after a number of years, and that in the meantime he should live an ordinary life in the world and try to practice certain things in that life.
Patanjali here gives us three things that are to be practiced in the world as a kind of preparatory yoga, and in conjunction even with more advanced yoga if that is being carried on in the world of ordinary life. I must mention that these three practices are intended to weaken five difficulties or obstacles, instincts that arise in a man himself. These five are called the kleshas. They are: (1) mistake, (2) I-am-ness, (3) liking, (4) disliking, (5) clinging to form.
The first is the error of identifying oneself with the game of life. It is as though a chess player were to forget that his game is only a game. The yoga practice in this connection is to observe the distinction between the self and not-self as often as possible, to watch the business of life going on as a spectator but not as a passing spectator, rather as one who is playing a very important game with a very definite purpose, and yet is playing that game outside himself. In this, one watches not only the external activities but also the flow of one's own thought and feeling. One sees the vrittis and becomes aware of the kleshas that build and sustain them. One has no need to pronounce sentence upon them. The mere viveka or perception uncovers the light. There is nothing to be done or made.
The second klesha is self-personality. We know that our personality is a definite compound, let us hope well coordinated and useful in the world. There is a certain type of body with certain abilities and accomplishments, accompanied by a collection of ideas and habitual feelings. Such personality is a definite thing. As long as we recognize it as such and use it as our instrument in the business or game of life, it is well, but as soon as we fall into thinking "I am this" we lose our true character. For the character or core of a man is something different, which expresses itself in certain powers of thought, feeling and will.
The third klesha is akin to that coloredness which I mentioned before. It is a strong desire to obtain something, or even more, it is wishing. The implication is that we can become agitated and enslaved because we cannot get the thing that we want, or we cannot get enough of it, or, having obtained it, we are afraid of losing it. It colors our life. If we have it not, it worries us so that we do not employ our powers in dealing with other things that are in our power, or in our possession.
The fourth of these kleshas is just the opposite of that. It is the troubled condition, which arises when we want to get rid of things, persons that we have, or conditions that we cannot get away from. If we allow this desire to escape from undesired conditions, to dominate our thinking and feeling, or to govern our actions, again we lose our character and independence.
The fifth is clinging to things, even to the extent of fear of death. Come to understanding that such possessions are simply for use. Understand that they must come and go. Understand that there is no such thing as static wealth. See that life can only live on the wing. In brief, realize that there is not life but only living, in which everything is to be used as a possession. If we fail in this, it is a fact that we become possessed by our so-called possessions. This applies to everything, even to the body itself, about which there is such widespread and unnecessary fear of death.
I do not want to dwell particularly on these kleshas now, but the three practices enjoined on the novice will deal with them quite effectively. These three practices are called tapas, swadhyaya, and ishwara-pranidhana. They pertain to the three parts of our nature -- body, thoughts, and feelings. Tapas means literally ardor. It is from the root tap, which means to heat. It almost means effort -- but not quite.
Some have exaggerated it into the idea of mortification of the flesh, and there are instances in India of people doing very absurd things, such as sitting on spikes or holding an arm up until it withers, with the idea of practicing tapas. Those are only superstitions for the real thing.
Put simply, tapas means that the novice must do for his body whatever he knows to be best. If, for example, he thinks that it is not good to take mineral salt with his food, then he will not take it. If he thinks that a certain amount of exercise at a certain time is good, he will do it. With regard to action or abstention from action, he will live his bodily life in accordance with his best understanding, in relation to its own best functioning and his social environment, in which it should be harmonious with others.
The second practice means self-study. It is just that a certain amount of time should be given to studying the nature of man and his relation to his environment.
The third klesha is bowing to the Divine. This means a feeling of devotion with regard to everything. That religious life includes both ethics and devotion. Everything has to be thought of as providing the best opportunity for self-development. This puts an end to a great many of the bad emotions in life, such as resentment, envy, jealousy, greed, pride, anger, and fear. It makes the aspirant look out upon the world very much as an architect does, who takes all materials for exactly what they are: wood, stone, etc. Stone is stone, iron is iron, glass is glass, and he would be a very curious architect who would sit at the roadside and weep because he could not bend a sheet of glass as he would bend a sheet of iron.
There is, however, in this practice not a mere intellectual acceptance of all things as useful. It is more than that. We find ourselves in a glad and joyful devotional response to this great fullness of life. It should carry with it all that intense devotion which is sometimes found with very narrow outlooks in religious circles, but it involves recognition of the highest in everything.
I need not carry this idea of yoga in daily life much further. It is quite open to all of us to spend part of our day in concentration, meditation, and contemplation, and in that contemplation to receive occasional inspirations and intuitions, accompanied by a corresponding ecstasy. To be able to control our thoughts, to expand them, and then to suspend them in an act of contemplation of any thing or idea, is not outside our reach and in fact should become easy when the three preliminary practices are carried on in daily life. These three practices weaken the kleshas. Later on, we may perform a "meditation" that will destroy them.
Patanjali mentions certain siddhis or abnormal powers that arise in a man as he progresses in the art of mind control or the control of ideas. But he mentions also that these are not of importance. If they become a source of pleasure or amusement, the man will stop at that subject and go no further. They will come, but he has merely to note them and pass them by. He can use them as white magic for the benefit of mankind, or the welfare of the world, but that will only be part of his particular business in life, and in his yoga practice, they too will have to become subject to nirodha. If he delights in them, he comes within the sphere of the kleshas, and will fall into black magic from which he will ultimately escape only by the tuition of karma.
I have said enough, perhaps, to show that yoga is for all of us and that there is no need to treat the subject with that kind of false respect which would make us think that it is only for uncommon people or people more advanced than ourselves.
By Boris de Zirkoff
[From a tape recording of a private class held on February 2, 1955.]
We have these ten groupings, levels, keynotes, or wavelengths, if you like, in the Hierarchy of a system. There are three subdivisions, modifications of the Elemental Kingdom. Then comes the Mineral level, higher than the Elementals. Then we have the Vegetable or Plant Kingdom, tremendously complex and multiform. It is followed by the Animal Kingdom, TREMENDOUSLY complex when you consider that even to our modern science there are over 400,000 different insects classified, insects alone. What a tremendous realm the Animal Kingdom is! The Human Kingdom follows. This includes anything from the Australian Bushman up to what we consider the highest exponents of men that we know of in history. There are men like Jesus, like Leonardo da Vinci and others. Men with yet higher stages of spiritual illumination, the Adepts of various degrees, Bodhisattvas, and rare and infrequent Buddhas follow them. The three aspects, phases, or subdivisions of the Dhyani-Chohans follow them. The Greeks had names for the Dhyanis, so did the ancient Sanskrit language. We have lost the ideas and lost the names. The Greeks had heroes, demigods, and gods. In the Sanskrit, various adjectives denote the types of Dhyani-Chohans. Also DEVAS is another term.
In the early development of the Christian world, we took from Greeks a few terms. Some of the early Christian mystics like Dionysius Areopagita wrote books on the doctrine of Hierarchies, lost things these days. He used these terms profusely, and they stuck in the church, but the church lost the meaning. They are Angels, Archangels -- that is from Greece, ANGELOEAI, and ARCHANGELOEAI, which mean MESSENGER, and GREATER or SUPREME MESSENGER. That is all these words mean. Then we took from the ancient Kabala of the Jews the words SERAPHIM and CHERUBIM.
Cherubs. These are beings at a high degree of spiritual attainment. These are Dhyani-Chohans. Ask any priest, any minister, with the exception of some of the highest theologians of the Roman Church who know -- even if they do not tell you that they know. Ask the average minister, clergyman, priest, can they explain what these things are? Certainly not!
St. Paul brought into his writings several other things. He spoke of Principalities, of Powers, of Thrones. These are English words, translating certain Greek words, in the Greek Epistles of Paul. There are other terms from the ancient Mystery Schools of Greece. They are not abstractions. They are divisions, aspects, and modifications. You could almost say classes if you like. They are divisions of the higher Kingdoms of life. They are entities, individualities, different from each other, just as much different from each other as men of different stages of consciousness differ from each other. Nobody is going to confuse an Australian Bushman with Leonardo da Vinci, or the average individual of any country with some of the great geniuses that have enriched human life and have shown what a tremendous height the human intellect and heart can attain.
Having lost the philosophy of it all, the occidental civilization has always turned hopelessly confused. What is an Angel? What is the difference from an Archangel? What are Cherubim? What are Seraphim? What are Powers, Principalities, and Thrones? What do these terms mean to people today? Absolutely nothing! You cannot get one scrap of definition from anyone as to what these terms mean today, and not for centuries past. They are the Dhyani-Chohanic Kingdoms with its three main classes. And these together with the others that we have mentioned -- human and below -- are the ten classes of Monads in the ten different stages of unfoldment from the elemental to the full-fledged divinity.
We are only talking about this particular hierarchy. There are hierarchies below. There are hierarchies above. There are interpenetrating hierarchies crosswise, if you want to use that simile.
Turn to the mythologies of the world. Every one has echoes of that knowledge. Not just the great ones, known as the Greek, the Hindu, or the Egyptian, had echoes. The lesser-known ones, the Polynesian and many other mythologies, had their echoes too. They have divisions, sometimes with peculiar names. There are mythological stories, for instance, in which all of these categories are described using different types of animals.
Q.: This symbolism is used in Egypt, with headdresses and all.
Yes, men with heads of hawks and heads of ibises! On the other hand, you'll find the reflection of these teachings in the Mystery Schools, where in Greece for instance, and Chaldea, the various disciples were called pigs and wolves and sheep and lions. There were degrees of them. These names symbolize their specific relations to certain spiritual hierarchies and the characteristics of their training.
What a holy mess the Occidental scholars have made of that! I say "scholars" in quotation marks. They thought that this was due to the superabundant imagination of the infant humanity. Such a great and tremendously wise statement to make! Everybody was a fool until Year One, or perhaps until the Eighteenth century, or the Nineteenth. We are the only ones to know.
We are just beginning to discover how little we know and how much time we have wasted thinking about how much we knew. Well, it is about time for me to change the subject before I get hot under the collar.
If you have the time and the inclination, read Cicero's work on the nature of the gods. There are many good translations of the Latin text. It is not a long book. You can read similar writing by Plutarch, Plotinus, Lucien, or other Greek or Roman writers. All of them have been translated. Try to get into the frame of mind of these people. It was practically yesterday, just yesterday. They represent merely 2000 years in the evolution of humanity.
To the Greek or Roman writers, these gods existed. They worked. They lived. They had a relation to men. Men could establish closer relations with them. This was almost like certain animals can establish certain closer relations to the human, and become slightly humanized. Men can become slightly divinized by closer relations to higher kingdoms.
What are the requirements? Is it worth the effort? How is it done? There is a big realm there. It is not enough to say that the ancients believed in gods, so they had Zeus and Jupiter and Juno and Aphrodite. What were they doing? What do these names stand for? What was meant by their supposed human interrelations, by the battles they fought together and by the love they had and by the hatred they had? These were symbols of certain events in nature, and are not to be interpreted literally.
The ancients were not fools. If they were fools, believed in non-entities, and imagined things that do not exist, why do we today, 2000 years later, still go to the ancients for every worthwhile thing that we have? There are very worthwhile things that we have from the ancients: all of our mathematics, all of our codes of laws, all of our mutual human interrelations, most of our psychological ideas, most of our fundamental ideas about astronomy, most of our code of measurements and proportions in architecture, practically all of medicine. These have been improved upon in various ways -- yes -- and dragged down.
There must be something worthwhile in what the ancients thought about gods. That is not new to you. Heavens! What a big job there exists to be done among the scholars of the west. There are but a few now who are beginning to ask themselves some very searching questions and changing their attitudes towards the ancients!
When you throw a little light of Theosophy on this, remember that some of us are the ancients! Some of us today, including some of the professors in the universities and other institutions of learning, may be those old Greeks and Egyptians and Chaldeans come back. We are beginning to show interest in things that are some of our own old baggage that we brought with us.
More power to scholars asking these searching questions! They will leaven this dough from the inside, which is the only way to do it.
Anybody has anything else on his or her minds?
Marge: Before you talked of Cicero, Boris, I was thinking of the practical application that you mentioned. You said that we could become divinized just as animals can become humanized. How is this done? That is my question. I was wondering if you have any suggestions. Is there a daily mental exercise that we could use to attune ourselves to be more controlled, coming closer to the divinity?
Thereby hangs the whole realm of ethics, which are not man-made morals. They are not human, not national, and not worldly conventions. They are not conventionalities, but rather are ethics as principles of conduct rooted in the structure of the universe itself. This is something altogether different from mere man-made morals, here today and gone tomorrow, changing with the various winds.
We are inspired as long as we recognize in ourselves a divine self, an inner, divine companion that is our highest center of consciousness. We are inspired as long as we recognize its existence. We are inspired and closer to that center.
We can ascend from where we are today. Recognize that there is that path. Attend that path in the direction of that inner consciousness. Purify the intervening distance by a certain type of life. Recognize these things. There is nothing else for us. We are on the road. We are marching, however slowly.
There are a number of specific rules of conduct. These are conducive to what my own teacher called "the ensouling of man." This conduct leads to the growth of the soul-powers. From being dormant, mostly inactive, the soul-powers, the powers of the inner self, infuse themselves into the lower personality. The personality becomes increasingly "ensouled," in the technical sense of the word. That divinizes us to some extent.
What are some of these rules of conduct? There are many. We could mention a few. One is detachment from concerns of the world. A great many people have misunderstood that. They mistakenly think that students of Theosophy are advising one to retire from the world. No, we do not. You can be detached in the worldly pursuits. You can become increasingly engrossed with spiritual interests. This is without in the least affecting your efficiency in the world where you have physical obligations and duties to perform. "Be in the world but not of it." There are things that tie, things that attach. They tie and bind human emotions and mind to the outer world. Physical obligations mean less and less to you as time goes on, without undermining your efficiency in carrying out your duty in that world. It sounds like a paradox. It is only a paradox, and not a contradiction.
Another rule of conduct is to try to conquer all emotions. It does not matter which. One individual may have a wild temper. That does not place him lower than another individual who is always perfectly serene and quiet. That second person may entertain quietly, without the slightest outside manifestation, a bitter hatred for somebody. He may be worse off than the first, who blows off his top every now and then. Try to control all emotions. Some are hot. They are tempers. Others are cold, unfeeling moods, which is another type of emotion. There are hot emotions. There are cold emotions, too. There are also spiritual emotions and psychic emotions as well.
Try to control the emotions of fear, anxiety, and worry. Some have one. Some have another. Try to control the emotion of gluttony in the people whose god is eating. There have been many students of Theosophy. They knew THE SECRET DOCTRINE by heart. They have not controlled the demon of gluttony. Well, it may not apply to anyone in this room, but I know it applies to others.
Let us try to the best of our ability to control excitability of any kind, so that what you hear, or what you see, or what influences you, leaves you standing unshaken. That has been misinterpreted as paying no attention to things, being as cold as a fish, feeling nothing, and being completely indifferent to everything. It is only a misinterpretation.
You may be deeply affected in sorrow. You may be in sympathy or compassion. You may be in anxiety, in the sense of anxiety for the welfare of that other person, feeling the impact of other people's hatreds and dislikes and jealousies. You may be powerfully affected inside from many influences. Do not show it. Be calm outside. Take it as a part of your pattern. Deal with it. Use it for growth. Use it as a stepping-stone, and not a stumbling block. When it comes upon you, take it philosophically. Say, "That's mine. I have brought it upon myself, in some past. It's mine, it's part of me that has come back." You cannot refuse taking back what is yours. You have given it out, so it is coming back at you.
Take it philosophically. It is yours. Do not blame the other fellow for not being a god yet. We are not gods. How can we blame the other fellow for doing what he does? That is his pattern. He will have to outgrow it. Our attitude of serenity and peace might help him more than anything we might say or do. He might say at first, "What a dumb fool this John Smith is! You can't even excite him." After awhile he will begin to ask himself the question, "What makes him tick? Why is he that way?" That is good. It might help him find out something about a new philosophy of life that we exemplify by our attitude of quiet.
There is yet another rule of conduct that is wonderful in that direction of ensoulment. It is to try to forget about our personal welfare. It is not easy. They say that the first and foremost motive is self-preservation. This is true of the animal. It is also true of the animal in the human, yes. It is not true, though, of the human. The human being is above that. The animal in the human is not, but the human is.
One wonderful exercise is to remember that every person's life has a pattern. Nothing is ever going to happen in that person's life that is not in that pattern. Let that pattern be worked out. Do not put yourself against it. Do not become an obstacle in it, in its working out. The pattern is what the Buddhists called the dharma, the self-realization of this particular life. Let us remember that nothing happens with us by chance, so let us try to let that law work itself out. That law is part of us. It's "we" in a higher sense.
Another exercise is to become less interested in personal possessions, what we own, what we have. We can shuffle around millions of dollars. The money will not matter if we just become completely disinterested in any worldly power that it might confer. We can be channels for the operations of all sorts of things, financially and otherwise, and become completely detached from it.
I do not mean to say to try to become as poor as you can. That is not the idea. Have all you need and all you require to do a certain work, but try to become increasingly detached from it. If the karmic stage-setting changes and everything is taken away from you, you stay just as happy. Nothing really has happened to you. You are just as happy with the traveling stake and a bag on your shoulders and perhaps not knowing where the next meal is coming from.
I do not say that all this is easy. You have asked me a question that involves principles of conduct towards divinizing yourself. That is not an easy way of life.
Q. Is there some method that you could use to help yourself concentrate? Say you try once a day, in the morning or evening, so that during the day you would be able to attain one or two of these attitudes. You could not possibly get them all every single day. It might be a little easier for you if you were able to learn to control your concentration, like in using the yogi methods.
Yes. As an example, suppose you start the day by making a clear-cut and powerful mental picture before your mind's eye. Picture all men are divine. Picture that they are all essentially but rays from the same self. There is no difference between them except in the degree of manifestation. This is followed by the thought that if that is so, all men are but part of myself. That thought also shows that you are part of all of them, rays from the same sun, atoms in the same organic structure. Then see what happens when the other fellow piles something on you, a stream of his selfish emotions or a projection of his evil thought. See what happens. Many things will happen, because your attitude will be different. It may not shake you.
Take another example. You might start the day by thinking that whatever happens to you in this day is from something that you have done sometime to another. It is now, after a long cycling journey, coming back to you. You originated it. It is all sorts of things somewhere in a cycle. It is now back. It is yours. What are you going to do with it? It is not evil. It lacks goodness, but it is not evil. It can be elevated. It has to be elevated! Otherwise, it will poison you, because it is less than what your standard is today. You have grown since you sent out this energy. You recognize it now for being relatively evil.
How can you elevate it? What can you do with it to transmute it, to use it for constructive purposes? This is, granted, an obstacle. Are you going to make a stepping-stone out of it? You can. Try these two things. Try the clear-cut mental picture of all men being divine. Try accepting what comes to you as your karma, and elevate it. These two techniques work. For another, a third, decide when you get up that under no circumstances will you get excited about anything today.
Q. At one time, you mentioned seven words given us by Dr. de Purucker. One is compassion. I had written them down, and then carried the list around in my wallet for ages. I looked for it the other day and it was gone. I just wish I could remember what they were.
Do you mean this?
Light for the mind. Love for the heart. Understanding for the intellect. All these must be satisfied before the man has peace.
Is that what you meant?
Q. It was just a list of seven words, like Compassion and Understanding. These are seven qualities for you to keep in your mind's eye.
There are many of these things. The best thing is to have a few in your mind, just a few, and then make some of your own against the background of broad ethical principles. Each of us knows best our own weaknesses. We can devise our efforts according to the line that will work best to overcome that particular weakness or the next one that we will attack.
Q. Every now and then, we should discuss this and renew our thoughts on it. We can get into a rut and lose our perspective because we feel we have fallen down so far. At times, we should start again to bring ourselves upward.
That is right.
Q. Where along the line is the choice made? Is it made about now for most human beings? They are in grossness and materiality. That grossness could simply be a manifestation that they will slough off, and go upward. Do you go where your tendencies direct you, or does there come a point where you make an individual choice? I know it cannot be a cut-and-dried thing where you say, "Right here."
No, there is no cut-and-dried point. However, the choice is practically made in every action. The choice is made every time we decide between selfishness and unselfishness, self-seeking and self-abnegation. It is made in one direction when we are doing something for ourselves to the sacrifice of another, the sacrifice of another's spiritual interest or welfare. It is made in another direction when we are doing something in forgetfulness of ourselves and with a view to the spiritual interest and welfare of another.
Every time an action is taken, there is a choice between these two directions, however small it may be. The cumulative effect of these little choices results at times in some drastic choice.
For society, a racial choice can result at times from the cumulative effect of the individual human, from the effect of individual human beings. In the evolution down the Descending Arc to the bottom, and up again along the Ascending Arc, there is a supreme choice for this particular cycle at the bottom-most point of materiality, first in every Root Race, and then in every Round.
While the supreme choice for this particular Round has been made in the Atlantean Root Race, there will be a supreme choice for the whole Manvantara of the Earth Chain in the next Round.
It is a combination of individual choices, daily, and cumulative effects over time. That does not mean that individuals are evil who fail to make the right choice and drop out of the pilgrimage for a while. They just did not make the grade. Like in class, they did not make the grade. They have other chances, but they are behind. They are lagging. They are behind. They are not evil. They are not black magicians. They are not individuals without spirituality. Not at all, no more so than boys and girls who flunk in the schools become evil human beings. Not at all! They just did not make the grade, but they have other chances. They will make the grade eventually, but they are behind.
There are kingdoms that inhabit the material spheres of being. We have the hierarchy of light is on one side and the hierarchy of darkness on the other side. There are only relative degrees of perfectibility. The hierarchy of lesser-progressed Monads inhabits and "inspirits," we might say, the matter side of nature. This matter side of nature forms vehicles through which the hierarchy of light works for its own purposes.
From one angle, you might look upon nature as being divided into the two eternal sides of light and darkness. From another side, you should agree that they are only two aspects of the same reality. Even THE SECRET DOCTRINE says little regarding this great mystery. It contains only hints and allusions as to the real nature of this mystery. We will comprehend it later in our development.
It is a very difficult subject. Yes, there are tremendously powerful forces working through the matter side of nature. These are powerful hierarchies of spiritual beings devoted to material ends. It is a great mystery. How could there be spiritual beings devoted to material ends? For they are an aspect, a manifestation of cosmic life, spirituality gone wrong for a while. They represent a twisted spirituality, which the powers of light can use for the leavening of the material side of nature. They are sleeping Monads, Monads that have not yet awakened to spiritual light. This is a very difficult subject.
Q.: Boris, could a person make a choice such as that, if they did it with understanding? Might it be more of a supreme sacrifice than going along the light side?
In some instances, yes, it would. Those particular forces would be working almost like Avataras in those lower kingdoms. That would be a rarity.
The whole subject of Avataras is wound up in this. We have Avataras that descend from spiritual realms into the material realms. We have the mythological accounts of the great saviors descending into hell, into Hades. There is a profound esoteric meaning. It is not only mythology. It is not only theology. It has a profound meaning. It refers to the redeeming powers exercised by spiritual beings -- gods and demigods -- going down into the world of matter, lower than anything we are in. These beings descend there to lift and to magnetize spiritually, and to redeem the lower hierarchies. These lower worlds are hell to these lofty beings, but which are nevertheless part of the sleeping spheres that must be lifted to a higher spiritual life.
It is a very profound subject. The subject is little understood, one about which I do not know much myself.
Well, it is about time for us to wind up and quit, interesting as it always is. Let us return for a moment to where we started, and close the cycle, as it were. We come here. Other people come to other places for similar studies. We engage for an hour or two in a rather concentrated effort at understanding spiritual truth. Each in his own way, we yearn to understand. We yearn to express ourselves. We are able to occasionally break through our various personal limitations. Doing so, we really give light to our thoughts, scope to our minds, enlarge our heart understanding, and commune with each other. Perhaps we distantly commune with similar people scattered the world over -- very probably so -- along inner lines. In a way, we shut out the disturbing influences of the material world. We come to a peaceful place where we commune together. We try to lift our minds and hearts in aspiration towards a reality that we are convinced is worthwhile, to which we aspire, and which we try to understand.
In this effort, in this yearning, in this concentration -- in terms of spirituality -- it is like a light. It is opposed to darkness and ignorance. Therefore, that light -- which could almost be seen, spiritually speaking -- is seen as a flame by those who do. It may not be too steady, but it is a light. The flame bursts from within our spiritual consciousness and is registered as light upon that mystic stream.
This sort of gathering radiates into the surrounding darkness. That darkness is of material concerns. It is a darkness of ignorance, of selfishness, of frustration and negativity, and soul-death. This gathering radiates the power of light, of goodness, an elevating force. We hardly know, we do not know, we have no way of knowing, how far that influence can extend. It may touch other people's hearts next door, next town, or the next continent. There is no space and time in such things. Somebody in the darkest Africa may be powerfully assisted by the force that comes from the two hours of the kind of work that we are doing here. We may never know. Some individual may be attuned to just this sort of vibratory rate and catch an assisting thought. They may get an inspiring idea because of our deliberations. It may be in the same city. Who knows?
Nothing is ever wasted. Nothing is ever lost. These ideas go on. These vibratory rates continue. The meeting is adjourned, but what we have done goes on. It will come back to us someday, like those negative emotions we were talking about. It will come back to us as a blessing. It returns not as a demon, but as an angel, at a time when we may need it badly. I have no doubt whatsoever that gatherings of this nature -- as we have had here so many, many times, and elsewhere -- are welcome as an addition. They are welcome as a contribution to the sum total of light that helps and redeems our human race from its relatively low stage of evolution.
If anything is welcome in these quarters, and it is, there must be give-and-take. There must be assistance given along inner lines from quarters we know but little about. There is a persevering effort on our part to keep that light burning and increase it, both individually and collectively. That effort in itself is a guarantee that we will be helped ourselves. We will be helped to attain a greater insight, a deeper understanding, and a wider range of consciousness. Everything that we give is received and registered in due quarters. If we carefully watch our lives, particularly the little details in our lives, we will eventually notice guidance. We will find that things do not happen by chance. The people we meet are the right kind of people that we should meet, in order that we learn. The people we associate with are mirrors to ourselves, in whom we see a part of us, good in some, bad in others.
Whatever happens to us is a part of a mystic pattern. Each man has his own pattern, not to be confused with the pattern of another. We have sown the seeds of the pattern. We have made the blueprint for it. That pattern will work itself out. We can be certain of that. Let the Good Law work its magic unhampered. We can do this in earnestness and in deep understanding.
The Good Law is essentially the inner Self of each of us. We are dependent upon it because we are like a pendant hanging from it. We hang from the inner self. We are its radiation, its aspect, one of its facets. As soon as we realize this, there grows in us a profound reverence for all life, and a sense of the fitness of all things, no matter how strange these things may be. Our feet are traveling with a sure step upon that path which ascends from ignorance into knowledge, and from darkness into an ever-increasing light.