Sound ... may even RESURRECT a man or an animal whose astral "vital body" has not been irreparably separated from the physical body by the severance of magnetic or odic chord. AS ONE SAVED THRICE FROM DEATH by that power, the writer ought to be credited with knowing personally something about it.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 555.
By B.P. Wadia
[From THUS HAVE I HEARD, pages 222-24.]
To take the unreal for the real is bondage. Friend, heed this.
Thus, spoke the great Sankaracharya, the Adept-Teacher who was more than a metaphysician and a philosopher. Like his illustrious predecessor, Gautama Buddha, he was a religious reformer, an occultist, and an enlightened man. If his above-quoted saying is true then most men and women living and laboring on this globe are in bondage. Many are unconscious of their bondage; and the "clever" among them would ask: "What is real? Is the food we like and eat unreal? Are the clothes dressing our bodies unreal? Is money unreal, and fame and all the rest of it?"
Shankara's doctrine of glamor, MAYA, has been discussed by generations of logicians and speculative philosophers. But for the understanding of the doctrine of MAYA -- Glamor and MOHA -- Infatuation, (more generally spoken of as Illusion and Delusion) a better approach is the sight of the heart. Although the practical man aspires to apply the teaching in his life, the cold intellectual analysis and speculation cannot be easily and readily accepted. The flights of the mind may satisfy those who desire merely to comprehend the doctrine but continue to live in the ocean of MAYA. The man who desires to see the inwardness of the teaching with a view to improve his life uses his heart-instinct to unlock the door of the mystery of MAYA and MOHA. He feels that there is truth in this teaching.
The VIVEKACHUDAMANI, a small book but one very highly valued by devotees of the spiritual life, from which the above saying is quoted, contains some verses of practical significance which help the man of heart to pierce the shell and get at the kernel of what is the Real lying hidden within the unreal.
As a cloud wreath, brought into being by the Sun's shining, spreads and conceals the Sun, so the personal self, which comes into being through the Self, spreads and conceals the true Self.
The simple-minded but honest-hearted man knows that the divine and the demonic jostle each other in his blood and brain. To him the above verse offers an image of a psychological truth he has actually experienced. He is aware that his sensuous cravings glamor and infatuate his mind; also that the sun of his soul-nature is there -- often powerless to bring the mind to listen to the divine voice within. He seeks the next step:
Cut thy bonds stained with the stains of the world; by strong effort make thy manhood fruitful.
A little reflection on this injunction convinces him that his dual nature is triple -- his sensorium and himself, the Soul, are joined by his mind. The mind is the ambassador of the King Soul in the land of the senses; the mind entangled in the social whirl of the kingdom of the senses forgets his duty to his King. By strong effort, he should make his manhood fruitful. How?
The fixing of the heart on sensuous things causes the increase of evil mind images, progressively as its fruits; knowing this through discernment, and rejecting sensuous things, let him ever fix the heart on the true Self.
The control of the wandering heart results in control of mind. The heart's nobler aspirations free the mind, dispersing dark images born of the personal self, and then the Light of the Soul guides the Mind. Having glimpsed the sun let him fix his attention thereon. Having created the knowledge of the Real let him preserve its good effects. There are Those who have attained to this high position permanently and who radiate the Light of the Spiritual Sun.
Drawing near to that being whose form is ever stainless, illuminated, and blissful, put far from thee this disguise, inert and impure. Let it not even be remembered again; for, to remember as an object of desire the thing that has been vomited, brings contempt.
These steps are simple and what is required is not knowledge so much as the courage to apply the teaching about glamor and infatuation to the personal self. Machinations of the mind hide from us the weakness of our character; the courageous heart sees his weaknesses and seeks to remove these by the aid of his mind. The mind is our enemy now; it becomes our friend when the desire to improve begins to function.
By Wesley Amerman
All students of Theosophy and inquirers are cordially invited to attend the Seventh Annual Gathering in Cambria, CA, on August 11 and 12, 2001.
The topic for the weekend is:
THEOSOPHY -- ANCIENT WISDOM FOR MODERN TIMES
A public meeting will be held on Saturday, August 11, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM at the Joslyn Recreation Center, 950 Main Street, Cambria. A brunch and informal discussion will follow on Sunday, August 12 at 10:00 AM at the Hospitality House, 305 Pembrook, across from Shamel Park. In addition, the Hospitality House will be open to all visitors during the week of August 6-12.
A Web site for the Cambria event can be found at:
It includes more information on the area, lodging, transportation, event times, etc.
This is a very popular vacation spot, so plan and make lodging and travel reservations as early as possible. Cambria is on Route 1, about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco or San Jose. The nearest local airport is San Luis Obispo.
We hope to see old friends there and meet new ones, gathering in the spirit of Unity and Brotherhood, continuing the tradition of the Annual Gatherings in Brookings.
For further information, contact
By Victor Endersby
[CHRONICLES ON THE PATH, Part IV. This 18-part series appeared in THEOSOPHICAL NOTES from September 1951 through November 1954.]
Armand the Companion strolled beside the waters to enjoy the waning autumn sun. There he beheld a man sitting, watching the boats go in and out. This man was not ancient, not young; he was graying. His eyes gazed down the sunset slope into the shadows of the unknown that attend the close of life for those without knowledge.
Armand sat beside him. Shortly, observing friendship in the eyes of the Companion, the man spoke.
"Is there an answer to the riddle of life?" he asked.
"So I have heard," said Armand. "What is your thought on the matter?"
"So I also have heard," replied the man. "It is possible that I had my hands on it once."
"They called it 'The Wisdom.' I attended its assembly for a time."
"And were not satisfied therewith?"
"No. I could grasp nothing tangible and of use to a practical man. Ever the talk was of brotherhood and the need of the upright life. Every school child knows those things."
"And there was no more than this?"
"Oh, yes. There was much talk of the karma of past lives, and of vast origins and destinies of man and his kindred. It may have been true. It may have been fantasy. What could I do with all that? I had need of that which would benefit my trade and my household life. In time I went no more, and sought elsewhere."
"And did you find somewhat?"
"I found one who instructed in observing the color of the soul, so that one might know the nature of those with whom he dealt in the market place. He taught much solid detail. A man could put his teeth into such knowledge. It required much gold, but seemed worth it."
"You then saw the colors of many souls?"
"No, I did not see any. The Preceptor said that my evolution was lacking."
"And returned your gold?"
"Why should he? He had spent his time and wrought patiently upon me. The effort did not turn out well for me. Upon occasion, I used the formula in trying to test my wife's faithfulness. I discovered nothing, but she, learning of it, was vexed, and a trouble arose between us that did never end. Women are not reasonable ... I sought some form of knowledge not requiring so much labor and so much gold."
"What was the nature of your next essay?"
"It was with one who determined the propitious times for love and business by means of charts of the stars. This, too, took money, but not so much. It required no great labor on my part. This also did not do well; tasks undertaken by the stars went badly more often than not. Long afterward I met another of that calling, who explained that his competitor, being ignorant, used a zodiac thirty degrees awry."
"How did the new Zodiac turn out?"
"I did not try. I had become mistrustful of zodiacs. Also I had no more money."
"Yet, perhaps," said the Companion, "there is knowledge of both souls and stars that cannot be had for money, only by selflessness? Perhaps knowledge of great power that is unusable in the marketplace?"
"You speak precisely as one of those of the Wisdom. This was my great disappointment in them. Ever they spoke of such powers and knowledge, ever raising a barricade of such sacrifices as would render power useless. What good is knowledge to the self when the self exists no longer? Also it was clear that they themselves had no such Powers, for they were plain people with no great wealth."
"And your man of the souls -- he no doubt exhibited the results of wisdom in his life?"
"Oh, yes indeed. Fine raiment, and a shrine most elegant."
"And he of the thirty degrees awry -- his ignorance was no doubt made manifest by poverty?"
"Oh, no! He also was well housed and well decked out. Why, that was a little strange, was it not? This had not occurred to me before."
"I would not say that it was strange," murmured the Companion to himself, "in a world full of such as thou." Aloud -- "What was the nature of your further seeking?"
"This and that -- nothing much. I had become mistrustful and naught appealed as worth time and gold, although I looked into many things."
"You said that perhaps you had placed hands on knowledge in the form of the Wisdom. Did you return to that?"
"No. What could there be in that which was given without price, where costly teachings had failed me? And yet ... and yet ... as my days add to their number and the remainder grows short, that Wisdom somehow clings to my mind, though I have forgotten most of its teachings."
"Why not essay it once more?"
"It is too late now. I have no interest in life. My wife is dead. My children have their own lives. I am aging, sad and weary, and large thoughts make my head ache. I have been disappointed so many times. Why risk it again?"
He fell into a sad brooding, becoming oblivious of Armand, who rose quietly and betook himself to the city. At the end of the quay he looked back at the man, the gray man gazing upon the gray waters, and for a time the day was dim to his vision, out of pity. He reflected that after all there was a "tomorrow" in which, with the moon of folly setting; the sun of wisdom might rise. Thereupon he shook the thing from his mind in attention to the immediate.
By Katinka Hesselink
I am intrigued by this question as one of the many questions that theosophy poses. I have no ready answers, but will share some thoughts and literature. How does the mind acts on matter? How do spirit and matter relate? Side issues include how psychosomatic illnesses work and how they are best treated. Science could profit by looking more into it. How did mankind evolve? What is the evolutionary role of language, culture, schools, knowledge, and art? Why are we strongly affected by music? Also relevant: What consciousness is there in other beings beside humans? Is a physical body like ours necessary for consciousness? Then again: How should we define consciousness? What are its limits? Consider a computer. It can do what humans do, but easier and quicker. It can calculate, play chess, see if one's spelling is correct, and store a seemingly endless amount of information. This without flaw if programmed correctly, which is the crux of the problem with a computer. A computer can do many things, but the impulse, the command, and the programming all have to be done by a human being. Compared to computers, we are lousy at calculating, our memory is very limited and subject to distortion, but we can act on our own impulse. We can decide that something is necessary and then do it. A computer will do only what we tell it to do, but we have the capacity to choose.
In my search for the relation between spirit and matter, this seems like an important step. Spirit has the capacity to make decisions, a quality called "will" in theosophy. (In my discussion, I shall avoid theosophical terms like Atma, Buddhi, Manas, and Kama, feeling that the western words are fine.) Scientists have argued that evolution is by chance. They would prove that matter is all, and that certain genes in seeking reproduction cause the illusion of thought. This theory is taught in school, except in a few Christian schools. The paradox is obvious. Why would genes WANT to reproduce themselves? Biologists do not consider this. There is a splendor of life forms. Biologists see how they are related, how they evolve out of others, how they function biochemically, and in higher animals how they function socially. Biologists would object to using the word "want" in connection with reproduction. They tell us that organisms only reproduce so the organisms will not die out. This is a mechanical thing for them. The impulse is only there because those organisms that do not have the impulse to reproduce, will automatically die out. This is the biological viewpoint. In Buddhism, the will to live, called Tanha, is seen as the sole reason for reincarnation. Our consciousness is an observed fact, but many scientists do not look at it that way. Luckily, there are exceptions, though.
Where does consciousness start? Do the genes already have it, or are individual cells the first to have some form of consciousness? If we judge based upon the will to live, viruses are alive. Biologically, viruses are at the border of the definition of life, since they do not eat, and they only reproduce with the help of other organisms. Add the will to live to our list of qualities. We now have the will itself and the will to live. Both qualities are absent from a computer, though theosophically everything has consciousness. I suppose in that way a computer has as much (or as little) consciousness as any mineral. A virus is a set of molecules grouped together to effectively ensure that other organisms copy it. This is as far as science goes.
In psychology, the medical approach is winning out. In this approach, every problem is seen as physical. Solutions are sought by treating the body. This attitude drives away more and more patients, sending them into the realm of new age healing. This brings me back to the main questions: What is spirit? What is matter? How do the two relate? Are they ever separate? The revealing answer comes in THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT. We find that they are never separate. Spirit divorced from matter is a mere abstraction.
But what is "Spirit" pure and impersonal per se? Is it possible that you should not have realized yet our meaning? Why, such a SPIRIT is a nonentity, a pure abstraction, and an absolute blank to our senses -- even to the most spiritual. It becomes SOMETHING only in union with matter -- hence it is always SOMETHING since matter is infinite, indestructible, and NON-EXISTENT without Spirit, which in matter is LIFE. Separated from matter it becomes the absolute negation of LIFE and BEING, whereas matter is inseparable from it.
-- page 155 (Letter 23B, Answer 6).
Spirit and matter cannot be separated. Listening to this the question changes. It is no longer how spirit and matter relate to one another. We can now ask why we perceive spirit and matter as separate. We come back to the questions that we started with, but slightly changed. How does consciousness work on different levels of physicality? What is matter? What is spirit? I am intrigued by these questions. I have no ready answers, but hope that in sharing some thoughts and literature, I can help readers approach the subject with the same sense of wonder, and find some answers for themselves.
By Madeline Clark
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, November 1946, pages 513-18.]
Like the diamond in the heap of grain, a thought encountered in a paragraph from SCIENCE flashed forth a suggestive gleam -- and a train of ideas was born.
[This paragraph comes from REMARKS ON PROFESSIONS IN MEDICINE, by Dr. Alfred E. Cohn, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York. January 24, 1940, address before the Alpha Omega Alpha (Honorary Fraternity), Delta Chapter of New York.]
This is the paragraph:
I remind you that the uses to which the heart, the blood, and the blood vessels are put, engaged the attention of naturalists early. They (the naturalists) kept coming back century after century to an attempt at solution, always thinking that an answer had been found, but never aware of the inaccuracy or the inadequacy of those answers. We think now that we have been making and are making great strides toward understanding. We are. Let me remind you also that truly, we possess small likelihood of thinking of kinds of mechanisms except those that lie reasonably close to our hands. Yet, in connection with the circulation and its mechanics, the questions we can and do ask for which there is not even an approach to an answer are startling. I am thinking, in the heart, of so essential a part of its mechanism as rhythm -- rhythm itself being a phenomenon widely recognized as occurring in many aspects of nature, without in most situations our having the remotest notion as to how to proceed to find an answer to our enquiry concerning its origin or its nature.
Learned Sirs, if you could fathom that marvel, you would know the secret of the Universe. That mysterious and invincible rhythm that comes to you through your stethoscope, if you could trace it to its source, would take you out to the borders of universal manifestation -- beyond the planets in their courses, beyond the Pole-star, beyond the realms of Time itself, to where Eternal Duration holds sway over the deeps of Space. In that human heartbeat you hear an echo from Infinitude, because, as you yourselves have half-perceived, everything in manifested life responds in rhythm to "that Absolute Unity, that ever-pulsating great Heart that beats throughout, as in every atom, of nature." [THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 2]
This little man, this soul tossed on the frothy billows of circumstance, comes to you for help in keeping his bark seaworthy. He is an epitome of the Universe. "He is in little all the sphere," as George Herbert (1593-1633), the Welsh-English mystic, says in his poem on MAN. To the myriads of infinitesimal lives that ensoul the cells and atoms of his being, a single beat of his heart is the beginning and ending of a definite cycle. Imagine him expanded to the utmost in all his spiritual parts and principles, and you have the Adam Kadmon, the Heavenly Man, the cosmic entity itself, of which the "one absolute attribute, which is ITSELF, eternal, ceaseless Motion, is called ... the 'Great Breath' ... the perpetual motion of the Universe." [THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 2]
We can follow this Rhythm or Motion to the confines of thought, but we can never get away from it. It manifests in the coming-into-being of worlds and systems and their august deaths, when they sink again into "the dark mystery of non-Being." [THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 2] It is in the ceaseless reembodiment of all lesser creatures, down to the smallest. It governs the beating of the solar heart in its eleven-year cycles. It is seen in the tides of the ocean, the fluctuations of the seasons, day and night, sleeping and waking, the fall of the leaves and budding of the trees, in Mendeleef's table of the Elements, in Bode's Law, and in all the majestic movements of the celestial bodies. It is "finite and periodical" in the manifested universe, but "eternal and ceaseless" in the Intro-Cosmic Spaces ... That human heart will cease to beat; it and the Universe and all in it will in time pass away, but the underlying immortal Rhythm is unceasing, and will one day bring them forth again.
"We must put hard heads at the service of soft hearts," said Dr. Cohn at the close of his address: another flash of the diamond, for he has unconsciously touched an ancient truth, which does put the head at the service of the heart, as a matter of their essential nature, linking both in a mystic spiritual unity.
Our Theosophical Teachers have pointed out (and history supports this) that the ancients held the heart to be the seat of the understanding, in some sense, of the deeper thinking faculty, and that the head (the brain-mind) was second to the heart and guided by it in its intellection. How is it that we, for example, still use the expression, "to learn by heart?" It is a carry-over, undoubtedly, from the days when the relations of heart and brain were better understood. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," is still a common saying. "What his heart thinks his tongue speaks," said Shakespeare. There is still a minority of scholars and thinkers, who conceive the heart to be the organ of "inmost and most private, thought," to quote from the dictionary. Yet for the most part the thoughtless multitude of today think of the heart only as the seat of the emotions, sentiments, and even passions, or at best as expressing the motivating power to thought.
There is a modern revival in Theosophy of the ancient teaching regarding the heart and its spiritual functioning in our human makeup, and it was given by Dr. de Purucker in several of his talks to his students. (This material was preserved in Dr. de Purucker's books, MAN IN EVOLUTION and STUDIES IN OCCULT PHILOSOPHY.) The heart, he said, is the most evolved organ in the body, "the hyparxis, physically speaking," and is actually the organ of our Inner God, whose ray touches it and fills it with its presence. That is why it is in fact the abode of conscience, love, peace, courage, hope, and wisdom. The mystic heart, of which the physical organ is the physical vital instrument, is higher than the brain, said Dr. de Purucker, "because it is the organ of the individual's spiritual nature, including the higher Manas or spiritual intellect."
Here is a teaching to fire the imagination -- that man carries within his breast, pulsating, vibrating with cosmic life, a tangible link with the spiritual worlds to which he aspires. Many a time must we all have marveled at the miracle of the unceasing motion of the heart from birth to far-off death, absorbing the shocks, the joys, and jolts of life, invincible and undismayed. But the fact that it is sustained and energized by one of the bright gods, destined to manifest for the period of a human incarnation, that alone perhaps brings such a marvel within our understanding.
Now then, Dr. de Purucker goes on to make plain how it is that the heart leads, and the head follows. The two centers connected with the brain, the pineal gland and the pituitary body, are the seats of the spiritual intuitions and of the will, respectively, and their connection with the heart is of the closest, for the pineal gland is the heart's organ of spiritual-intellectual activity in the head, and its impulse to activity comes from the heart. The pituitary body is in its turn actuated by the pineal gland, and when high and noble impulses come from the heart, the whole being of the man becomes "a harmony of higher energies -- relatively godlike."
The process of the heart's influence upon the pineal and pituitary centers can only be mentioned suggestively here: the whole subject, embracing also the other centers, or "chakras," should be studied in the two books by Dr. de Purucker already cited in this article.
-- Editors of THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM
These higher energies, which we might call in a general way the faculties of sensitive perception and of instant intuition, are actually the sixth and seventh senses represented by these centers in the head, which the human race is destined to develop, but which are "not yet existent and working in us and through us as manifested activities." Yet even now the first faint stirrings of these faculties can be felt. They can never be developed safely unless all selfish motives are eradicated. Dr. de Purucker tells us how to go about the conquest of these higher powers:
The first rule is: live as a true man. It is as simple as that. Do everything you have to do, and do it in accordance with your best. Your ideas of what is best will grow and improve, but begin. The next thing is to cultivate SPECIFICALLY AS UNITS the higher qualities in you which will make you superiorly human as contrasted with inferiorly human. Be just, be gentle, be forgiving, and be compassionate and pitiful. Learn the wondrous beauty of self-sacrifice for others; there is something grandly heroic about it. Keep these things in your heart. Believe that you have intuition. Live in your higher being. Then when this can be kept up continuously so that it becomes your life, habitual to you, then the time approaches when you will become a man made perfect, a glorious Buddha.
Scientific discoveries of recent years about sunspots and the magnetic influence of solar radiation support the statement of Theosophy that the Sun is in fact the pulsing heart of the Solar System. Theosophy goes still further, and says that the Sun is the heart AND MIND of the Solar System. In THE SECRET DOCTRINE, H.P. Blavatsky quotes an ancient Commentary as saying:
The Sun is the heart of the Solar World [System] and its brain is hidden behind the [visible] Sun. Thence, sensation is radiated into every nerve-cell of the great body, and the waves of the life-essence flow into each artery and vein ... The planets are its limbs and pulses.
Dr. de Purucker refers familiarly to the same fact in his STUDIES IN OCCULT PHILOSOPHY:
The Sun, since it is not only the heart but also the mind of the solar system as long as this solar system remains a coherent unity, is therefore the governor of all the forces in that solar system -- governor and controller, as well as source and final focus.
Here we have heart and mind (or brain) seated in the same celestial organ: a suggestive and significant fact, more closely related to our human heart and brain than will be understood soon or generally.
A final word -- again highly suggestive: The doctrine of "singular points" (Sir James Jeans), or "lays-centers," as named in Theosophy, through which the matters or substances of one world or "dimension" stream through into the world next below, is really one of wide application. Dr. Jeans applied it to nebulae: Dr. de Purucker remarks (QUESTIONS WE ALL ASK, II, 219):
Let me tell you something more: every globe that you see in space has as its center, its heart, just such a "singular point," ... and through this center of each such globe come into that globe the streams of entities, the river of living things, by which that globe is inhabited, all of them on their evolutionary pathway. They then enter into the atmosphere of any such globe, such as our earth, and find ... their habitats ...
Considering the human heart as the gateway for the life-giving elements which sustain the circulations of the body, could not the heart in its higher function be the laya-center through which stream into our consciousness spiritually creative life-atoms from the higher worlds?
By Elsie Benjamin
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, July 1946, pages 297-301.]
No, Theosophy is not and never has been versus Christianity, nor has it been against Truth wherever it may be found, in whatever language and through whatever symbology. It may seem that this question has been dealt with sufficiently for there to be no more need to write about it; but as the Theosophical Society is an ever-expanding body, with new people contacting it continually, it is a question that periodically comes up for discussion and clarification.
This article will attempt to answer recent actual questions that have been asked: (1) Will you give a definite and final statement as to what is a Theosophist's attitude towards Christianity? (2) Why was H. P. Blavatsky so anti-Christian? (3) Why do Theosophists generally deny the existence of Jesus as an actual person?
Briefly the answers are: (1) No, we cannot give a definite and final statement as to what Theosophists should believe on any point. (2) HPB was not anti-Christian. (3) Theosophists do not deny the existence of Jesus.
Elaborating the first answer: the Statement that "a belief in the Principle of Universal Brotherhood is the only prerequisite to Fellowship in the Theosophical Society" is not a mere theoretic declaration but is meant literally. The Society has no creedal or dogmatic beliefs that must be held in order to be a Theosophist in good standing. Independence of thought and individual research along all avenues leading to truth are encouraged. No teaching need be accepted on the authority of someone else. So it behooves each student of Theosophy to investigate these matters for himself -- if they interest him, remembering however that studying ONLY Christianity does not enable him to judge of the truths in other religions, nor to place Christianity in its proper perspective.
On April 22, 1888, there was held in America a Convention of the Theosophical Society, and HPB sent a Message to William Q. Judge to be read to the Theosophists assembled. One passage in her Message has bearing on the first question under consideration:
Orthodoxy in Theosophy is a thing neither possible nor desirable. It is diversity of opinion, within certain limits, that keeps the Theosophical Society a living and a healthy body, its many other ugly features notwithstanding. Were it not, also, for the existence of a large amount of uncertainty in the minds of students of Theosophy, such healthy divergences would be impossible, and the Society would degenerate into a sect, in which a narrow and stereotyped creed would take the place of the living and breathing spirit of Truth and an ever growing Knowledge.
Dr. de Purucker continually warned us against trying to place our teachings and our beliefs in watertight compartments in our minds, to pigeonhole them so that there would forever be an end to discussion and diversity of opinion. He invariably resisted pleas for an authoritative and final statement on any particular doctrine.
This does not mean, however, that individual Theosophists cannot hold definite ideas themselves about what they believe -- always being ready with an open mind however to discard previous beliefs if some larger truth is unveiled; and remembering also that they have no right to try to impose their beliefs on others.
In answering questions (2) and (3), we can clear the situation considerably by turning back to early Theosophical writings and seeing what HPB, the Founder of the Society, and her Teachers, have to say. It will be seen that HPB, far from being anti-Christian, was one of the greatest champions of true Christianity, and her statements regarding its great Founder dignify and give a far nobler conception than many of the orthodox Christian views current today. A study of her writings will show that she was just as valiant a fighter against misinterpretations of Theosophy, as she was a vigorous opponent of the desecrations of true Christianity. She sought for and upheld truth wherever she could find it, in Theosophy, Christianity, Buddhism, and all ancient religions and philosophies. It must always be remembered that when she wrote and taught, various Eastern and other religions were not held in the respect that they relatively are among people today. Today if one professes a belief in Buddhism, or considers that the ancient Egyptians had a marvelous philosophy, it is not considered highly scandalous.
In her magazine LUCIFER for Dec. 1887, HPB published her famous "Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury." The whole of it is well worth reading, but we quote only a few brief passages:
The chief work, so far, of the Theosophical Society has been to revive in each religion its own animating spirit, by encouraging and helping inquiry into the true significance of its doctrines and observances. Theosophists know that the deeper one penetrates into the meaning of the dogmas and ceremonies of all religions, the greater becomes their apparent underlying similarity, until finally a perception of their fundamental unity is reached. Theosophists, therefore, are respecters of all the religions, and for the religious ethics of Jesus they have profound admiration. ... These teachings ... are the same as those of Theosophy. So far, therefore, as modern Christianity makes good its claim to be the practical religion taught by Jesus, Theosophists are with it heart and hand. So far as it goes contrary to those ethics, pure and simple, Theosophists are its opponents. Any Christian can, if he will, compare the Sermon on the Mount with the dogmas of his church, and the spirit that breathes in it, with the principles that animate this Christian civilization and govern his own life; and then he will be able to judge for himself how far the religion of Jesus enters into his Christianity and how far, therefore, he and Theosophists are agreed.
Your Grace will now understand why it is that the Theosophical Society has taken for one of its three "objects" the study of those Eastern religions and philosophies, which shed such a flood of light upon the inner meaning of Christianity ... In so doing, we are acting not as the enemies, but as the friends of the religion taught by Jesus -- of true Christianity, in fact ... The Churches have brought the teachings themselves into ridicule and contempt, and Christianity into serious danger of complete collapse, undermined as it is by historical criticism and mythological research, besides being broken by the sledge-hammer of modern science.
Ought Theosophists themselves, then, to be regarded by Christians as their enemies, because they believe that orthodox Christianity is, on the whole, opposed to the religion of Jesus; and because they have the courage to tell the Churches that they are traitors to the MASTER they profess to revere and serve? Far from it, indeed. Theosophists know that the same spirit that animated the words of Jesus lies latent in the hearts of Christians, as it does naturally in all men's hearts. Their fundamental tenet is the Brotherhood of Man, the ultimate realization of which is alone made possible by that which was known long before the days of Jesus as "the Christ spirit." ... We know that Christians in their lives frequently rise above the level of their Christianity. All Churches contain many noble, self-sacrificing, and virtuous men and women, eager to do good in their generation according to their lights and opportunities and full of aspirations to higher things than those of earth -- followers of Jesus in spite of their Christianity.
She ends her Letter on this optimistic note. It is a note that assures all truth-seekers the world over. Despite the discouraging aspects of the present day, humanity is not deserted by the Brotherhood whom Jesus represented in his time. By allying themselves with the Forces of Light, the Constructive forces of the Universe, obscurantism, dogmatism, and the forces of darkness cannot gain full sway over mankind.
But He told you He would come as a thief in the night; and lo! He is coming already in the hearts of men. He is coming to take possession of His Father's kingdom there, where alone His kingdom is. But you know Him not! Were the Churches themselves not carried away in the flood of negation and materialism, which has engulfed Society, they would recognize the quickly growing germ of the Christ-spirit in the hearts of thousands whom they now brand as infidels and madmen. They would recognize there the same spirit of love, of self-sacrifice, of immense pity for the ignorance, the folly, and the sufferings of the world, which appeared in its purity in the heart of Jesus, as it had appeared in the hearts of other Holy Reformers in other ages; and which is the light of all true religion, and the lamp by which the Theosophists of all times have endeavored to guide their steps along the narrow path that leads to salvation -- the path which is trodden by every incarnation of CHRISTOS or the SPIRIT OF TRUTH.
In the face of the above quotations, one wonders whether what is really at the bottom of the alarm with which some people view the Theosophical conception of Christianity, is an unconscious rebellion on their part that ANY OTHER RELIGION EXCEPT CHRISTIANITY should be considered as teaching Truth.
Now comes the third question. These extracts speak for themselves.
We leave it to every impartial mind to judge whether Jesus is not more honored by the Theosophists, who see in him, or the ideal he embodies, a perfect adept (the highest of his epoch), a mortal being far above uninitiated humanity, than he is by the Christians who have created out of him an imperfect solar-god. ... No Theosophist ... ever denied the existence of the Apostle who is an historical personage.
-- COLLECTED WRITINGS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY, IV, 361.
In days of old the "mediators" of humanity were men like Christna, Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Paul, Apollonius of Tyana, Plotinus, Porphyry, and the like of them. They were Adepts Philosophers -- men who, by struggling their whole lives in purity, study, and self-sacrifice, through trials, privations, and self-discipline, attained divine illumination and seemingly superhuman powers.
-- COLLECTED WRITINGS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY, I, 299.
The motive of Jesus was evidently like that of Gautama-Buddha, to benefit humanity at large by producing a religious reform, which would give it a religion of pure ethics.
-- ISIS UNVEILED, II, 133
As an incarnated God there is no single record of him on this earth capable of withstanding the critical examination of science; as one of the greatest reformers, an inveterate enemy of every theological dogmatism, a persecutor of bigotry, a teacher of one of the most sublime codes of ethics, Jesus is one of the grandest and most clearly-defined figures on the panorama of human history.
-- ISIS UNVEILED, II, 150
Surely, HPB cannot be accused of denying the existence of Jesus! But here again, it would seem that some people MUST have Jesus as the ONLY Teacher, the ONLY Savior of mankind, the ONLY Son of God.
The difficulty has been not in finding enough quotations to support our brief answers, but in resisting the temptation to quote too many instances supporting them. We will end with the following, which comes from a letter from one of the greatest authorities a Theosophist could recognize, called by HPB "my own Master's MASTER," the Maha-Chohan:
Once unfettered, delivered from their dead weight of dogmatism, interpretations, personal names, anthropomorphic conceptions, and salaried priests, the fundamental doctrines of all religions will be proved identical in their esoteric meaning. Osiris, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, will be shown as different means for one and the same royal highway of final bliss -- Nirvana. Mystical Christianity teaches SELF-redemption through one's own seventh principle, the liberated Paramatama, called by the one Christ, by others Buddha; this is equivalent to regeneration, or rebirth in spirit, and it therefore expounds just the same truth as the Nirvana of Buddhism. All of us have to get rid of our own Ego, the illusory, apparent self, to recognize our true Self, in a transcendental divine life.
By George William Russell
[From THE IRISH THEOSOPHIST, August-October 1895, and June 1897]
I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' Gleams that untravell'd world ... ... Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world. -- ULYSSES
Humanity is no longer the child it was at the beginning of the world. The spirit which, prompted by some divine intent, flung itself long ago into a vague, nebulous, drifting nature, though it has endured through many periods of youth, maturity, and age, has yet had its own transformations. Its gay, wonderful childhood gave way, as cycle after cycle coiled itself into slumber, to more definite purposes, and now it is old and burdened with experiences. It is not an age that quenches its fire, but it will not renew again the activities that gave it wisdom.
And so it comes that men pause with a feeling that they translate into weariness of life before the accustomed joys and purposes of their race. They wonder at the spell that induced their fathers to plot and execute deeds that seem to them to have no more meaning than a whirl of dust. But their fathers had this weariness also and concealed it from each other in fear, for it meant the laying aside of the scepter, the toppling over of empires, the chilling of the household warmth, and all for a voice whose inner significance revealed itself but to one or two among myriads.
The spirit has hardly emerged from the childhood with which nature clothes it afresh at every new birth, when the disparity between the garment and the wearer becomes manifest: the little tissue of joys and dreams woven about it is found inadequate for shelter: it trembles exposed to the winds blowing out of the unknown. We linger at twilight with some companion, still glad, contented, and in tune with the nature that fills the orchards with blossom and sprays the hedges with dewy blooms. The laughing lips give utterance to wishes -- ours until that moment. Then the spirit, without warning, suddenly falls into immeasurable age: a sphinx-like face looks at us: our lips answer, but far from the region of elemental being we inhabit, they syllable in shadowy sound, out of old usage, the response, speaking of a love and a hope which we know have vanished from us for evermore.
So hour-by-hour the scourge of the infinite drives us out of every nook and corner of life we find pleasant. And this always takes place when all is fashioned to our liking: then into our dream strides the wielder of the lightning: we get glimpses of a world beyond us thronged with mighty, exultant beings: our own deeds become infinitesimal to us: the colors of our imagination, once so shining, grow pale as the living lights of God glow upon them. We find a little honey in the heart which we make sweeter for some one, and then another lover, whose forms are legion, sighs to us out of its multitudinous being: we know that the old love is gone. There is sweetness in song or in the cunning re-imaging of the beauty we see; but the Magician of the Beautiful whispers to us of his art, how we were with him when he laid the foundations of the world, and the song is unfinished, the fingers grow listless.
As we receive these intimations of age our very sins become negative: we are still pleased if a voice praises us, but we grow lethargic in enterprises where the spur to activity is fame or the acclamation of men. At some point in the past we may have struggled mightily for the sweet incense which men offer to a towering personality; but the infinite is forever within man: we sighed for other worlds and found that to be saluted as victor by men did not mean acceptance by the gods.
But the placing of an invisible finger upon our lips when we would speak, the heart-throb of warning where we would love, that we grow contemptuous of the prizes of life, does not mean that the spirit has ceased from its labors, that the high-built beauty of the spheres is to topple mistily into chaos, as a mighty temple in the desert sinks into the sand, watched only by a few barbarians too feeble to renew its ancient pomp and the ritual of its once shining congregations.
Before we, who were the bright children of the dawn, may return as the twilight race into the silence, our purpose must be achieved, we have to assume mastery over that nature which now overwhelms us, driving into the Fire-fold the flocks of stars and wandering fires. Does it seem very vast and far away? Do you sigh at the long, long time? Or does it appear hopeless to you who perhaps return with trembling feet evening after evening from a little labor?
But it is behind all these things that the renewal takes place, when love and grief are dead; when they loosen their hold on the spirit and it sinks back into itself, looking out on the pitiful plight of those who, like it, are the weary inheritors of so great destinies: then a tenderness which is the most profound quality of its being springs up like the outraying of the dawn, and if in that mood it would plan or execute it knows no weariness, for it is nourished from the First Fountain.
As for these feeble children of the once glorious spirits of the dawn, only a vast hope can arouse them from so vast a despair, for the fire will not invigorate them for the repetition of petty deeds but only for the eternal enterprise, the war in heaven, that conflict between Titan and Zeus which is part of the never-ending struggle of the human spirit to assert its supremacy over nature. We, who lie, crushed by this mountain nature piled above us, must arise again, unite to storm the heavens and sit on the seats of the mighty.
We speak out of too petty a spirit to each other; the true poems, said Whitman:
Bring none to his or to her terminus or to be content and full, Whom they take they take into space to behold the birth of stars, to learn one of the meanings, To launch off with absolute faith, to sweep through the ceaseless rings and never be quiet again.
Here is inspiration -- the voice of the soul. Every word that really inspires is spoken as if the Golden Age had never passed. The great teachers ignore the personal identity and speak to the eternal pilgrim. Too often, the form or surface far removed from beauty makes us falter, and we speak to that form and the soul is not stirred. But an equal temper arouses it. To whoever hails in it the lover, the hero, the magician, it will respond, but not to him who accosts it in the name and style of its outer self.
How often do we not long to break through the veils which divide us from some one, but custom, convention, or a fear of being misunderstood prevent us, and so the moment passes whose heat might have burned through every barrier. Out with it -- out with it, the hidden heart, the love that is voiceless, the secret tender germ of an infinite forgiveness. That speaks to the heart. That pierces through many a vesture of the Soul.
Our companion struggles in some labyrinth of passion. We help him, we think, with ethic and moralities. Ah, very well they are; well to know and to keep, but wherefore? For their own sake? No, but that the King may arise in his beauty. We write that in letters, in books, but to the face of the fallen who brings back remembrance? Who calls him by his secret name? Let a man but feel for what high cause is his battle, for what is his cyclic labor, and a warrior who is invincible fights for him and he draws upon divine powers.
Our attitude to man and to nature, expressed or not, has something of the effect of ritual, of evocation. As our aspiration so is our inspiration. We believe in life universal, in a brotherhood which links the elements to man, and makes the glow-worm feel far off something of the rapture of the seraph hosts. Then we go out into the living world, and what influences pour through us! We are "at league with the stones of the field." The winds of the world blow radiantly upon us, as in the early time. We feel wrapt about with love, with an infinite tenderness that caresses us. Alone in our rooms as we ponder, what sudden abysses of light open within us! The Gods are so much nearer than we dreamed. We rise up intoxicated with the thought, and reel out seeking an equal companionship under the great night and the stars.
Let us get near to realities. We read too much. We think of that which is "the goal, the Comforter, the Lord, the Witness, the resting-place, the asylum, and the Friend." Is it by any of these dear and familiar names? The soul of the modern mystic is becoming a mere hoarding-place for uncomely theories. He creates an uncouth symbolism, and blinds his soul within with names drawn from the Kabala or ancient Sanskrit, and makes alien to himself the intimate powers of his spirit, things which in truth are more his than the beatings of his heart. Could we not speak of them in our own tongue, and the language of today will be as sacred as any of the past.
From the Golden One, the child of the divine, comes a voice to its shadow. It is stranger to our world, aloof from our ambitions, with a destiny not here to be fulfilled. It says: "You are of dust while I am robed in opalescent airs. You dwell in houses of clay, I in a temple not made by hands. I will not go with thee, but thou must come with me." And not alone is the form of the divine aloof but the spirit behind the form.
It is called the Goal truly, but it has no ending. It is the Comforter, but it waves away our joys and hopes like the angel with the flaming sword. Though it is the Resting-place, it stirs to all heroic strife, to outgoing, to conquest. It is the Friend indeed, but it will not yield to our desires.
Is it this strange, unfathomable self we think to know, to awaken to, by what is written, or by study of it as so many planes of consciousness? But in vain, we store the upper chambers of the mind with such quaint furniture of thought. No archangel makes his abode therein. They abide only in the shining. No wonder that the Gods do not incarnate. We cannot say we do pay reverence to these awful powers. We repulse the living truth by our doubts and reasoning. We would compel the Gods to fall in with our petty philosophy rather than trust in the heavenly guidance. Ah, to think of it, those dread deities, the divine Fires, to be so enslaved! We have not comprehended the meaning of the voice which cried, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," or this, "Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates. Be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in."
Nothing that we read is useful unless it calls up living things in the soul. To read a mystic book truly is to invoke the powers. If they do not rise up plumed and radiant, the apparitions of spiritual things, then is our labor barren. We only encumber the mind with useless symbols. They knew better ways long ago. "Master of the Green-waving Planisphere, ... Lord of the Azure Expanse, ... it is thus we invoke", cried the magicians of old.
And us, let us invoke them with joy; let us call upon them with love, the Light we hail, or the Divine Darkness we worship with silent breath. That silence cries aloud to the Gods. Then they will approach us. Then we may learn that speech of many colors, for they will not speak in our mortal tongue; they will not answer to the names of men. Their names are rainbow glories. Yet, these are mysteries, and they cannot be reasoned out or argued over. We cannot speak truly of them from report, or description, or from what another has written. A relation to the thing in itself alone is our warrant, and this means we must set aside our intellectual self-sufficiency and await guidance.
It will surely come to those who wait in trust, a glow, and a heat in the heart announcing the awakening of the Fire. And, as it blows with its mystic breath into the brain, there is a hurtling of visions, a brilliance of lights, a sound as of great waters vibrant and musical in their flowing, and murmurs from a single yet multitudinous being. In such a mood, when the far becomes near, the strange familiar, and the infinite possible, he wrote from whose words we get the inspiration:
To launch off with absolute faith, to sweep through the ceaseless rings and never be quiet again.
Such a faith and such unrest be ours: faith which is mistrust of the visible, unrest which is full of a hidden surety and reliance. We, when we fall into pleasant places, rest and dream our strength away. Before every enterprise and adventure of the soul, we calculate in fear our power to do. But remember, "Oh, disciple, in thy work for thy brother thou hast many allies; in the winds, in the air, in all the voices of the silent shore." These are the far-wandered powers of our own nature, and they turn again home at our need.
We came out of the Great Mother-Life for the purposes of soul. Are her darlings forgotten where they darkly wander and strive? Never. Are not the lives of all her heroes proof? Though they seem to stand alone, the eternal Mother keeps watch on them, and voices far away and unknown to them before arise in passionate defense, and hearts beat warm to help them. Aye, if we could look within we would see vast nature stirred on their behalf. We would see institutions shaken, until the truth that they fight for triumphs, and they pass, and a wake of glory ever widening behind them trails down the ocean of the years.
Thus the warrior within us works, or, if we choose to phrase it so, it is the action of the spiritual will. Shall we not, then, trust in it and face the unknown, defiant and fearless of its dangers. Though we seem to go alone to the high, the lonely, the pure, we need not despair. Let no one bring to this task the mood of the martyr or of one who thinks he sacrifices something. Yet, let all who will come. Let them enter the path, facing all things in life and death with a mood at once gay and reverent, as beseems those who are immortal -- who are children today, but whose hands tomorrow may grasp the scepter, sitting down with the Gods as equals and companions. "What a man thinks, that he is: that is the old secret." In this self-conception lies the secret of life, the way of escape and return. We have imagined ourselves into littleness, darkness, and feebleness. We must imagine ourselves into greatness. "If thou wilt not equal thyself to God, thou canst not understand God. The like is only intelligible by the like." In some moment of more complete imagination, the thought-born may go forth and look on the ancient Beauty.
So it was in the mysteries long ago, and may well be today. The poor dead shadow was laid to sleep, forgotten in its darkness, as the fiery power, mounting from heart to head, went forth in radiance. Not then did it rest, nor ought we. The dim worlds dropped behind it, the lights of earth disappeared as it neared the heights of the immortals. There was One seated on a throne, One dark and bright with ethereal glory. It arose in greeting. The radiant figure laid its head against the breast which grew suddenly golden, and Father and Son vanished in that which has no place or name.
Who are exiles? As for me Where beneath the diamond dome Lies the light on hills or tree There my palace is and home.
We are outcasts from Deity; therefore we defame the place of our exile. But who is there may set apart his destiny from the earth which bore him? I am one of those who would bring back the old reverence for the Mother, the magic, and the love. I think, metaphysician, you have gone astray. You would seek within yourself for the fountain of life. Yes, there is the true, the only light. But do not dream it will lead you farther away from the earth, but rather deeper into its heart. By it you are nourished with those living waters you would drink.
You are yet in the womb and unborn, and the Mother breathes for you the diviner airs. Dart out your farthest ray of thought to the original, and yet you have not found a new path of your own. Your ray is still enclosed in the parent ray, and only on the sidereal streams are you borne to the freedom of the deep, to the sacred stars whose distance maddens, and to the lonely Light of Lights.
Let us, therefore, accept the conditions and address ourselves with wonder, with awe, with love, as we well may, to that being in whom we move. I abate no jot of those vaster hopes, yet I would pursue that ardent aspiration, content as to here and today. I do not believe in a nature red with tooth and claw. If indeed she appears so terrible to any it is because they themselves have armed her. Again, behind the anger of the Gods there is a love. Are the rocks barren? Lay your brow against them and learn what memories they keep. Is the brown earth unbeautiful? Yet lie on the breast of the Mother and you shall be aureoled with the dews of fairy.
The earth is the entrance to the Halls of Twilight. What emanations are those that make radiant the dark woods of pine! Round every leaf and tree and over all the mountains wave the fiery tresses of that hidden sun which is the soul of the earth and parent of your soul. But we think of these things no longer. Like the prodigal we have wandered far from our home, but no more return. We idly pass or wait as strangers in the halls our spirit built.
Sad or fain no more to live? I have pressed the lips of pain: With the kisses lovers give Ransomed ancient powers again.
I would raise this shrinking soul to a universal acceptance. What! Does it aspire to the All, and yet deny by its revolt and inner protest the justice of Law? From sorrow we shall take no less and no more than from our joys. For if the one reveals to the soul the mode by which the power overflows and fills it here, the other indicates to it the unalterable will which checks excess and leads it on to true proportion and its own ancestral ideal. Yet men seem forever to fly from their destiny of inevitable beauty; because of delay the power invites and lures no longer but goes out into the highways with a hand of iron.
We look back cheerfully enough upon those old trials out of which we have passed; but we have gleaned only an aftermath of wisdom, and missed the full harvest if the will has not risen royally at the moment in unison with the will of the Immortal, even though it comes rolled round with terror and suffering and strikes at the heart of clay.
Through all these things, in doubt, despair, poverty, sick, feeble, or baffled, we have yet to learn reliance. "I WILL NOT LEAVE THEE OR FORSAKE THEE" are the words of the most ancient spirit to the spark wandering in the immensity of its own being. This high courage brings with it a vision. It sees the true intent in all circumstance out of which its own emerges to meet it. Before it the blackness melts into forms of beauty, and back of all illusions is seen the old enchanter tenderly smiling, the dark, hidden Father enveloping his children.
All things have their compensations. For what is absent here there is always, if we seek, a nobler presence about us.
Captive, see what stars give light In the hidden heart of clay: At their radiance dark and bright Fades the dreamy King of Day.
We complain of conditions, but this very imperfection it is which urges us to arise and seek for the Isles of the Immortals. What we lack recalls the fullness. The soul has seen a brighter day than this and a sun which never sets. Hence the retrospect:
Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, the jasper, the sapphire, emerald .... Thou was upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
We would point out these radiant avenues of return. But sometimes we feel in our hearts that we sound but cockney voices, as guides amid the ancient temples, the cyclopean crypts sanctified by the mysteries. To be intelligible we replace the opalescent shining by the terms of the scientist, and we prate of occult physiology in the same breath with the Most High. Yet when the soul has the vision divine it knows not it has a body. Let it remember, and the breath of glory kindles it no more; it is once again a captive. After all it does not make the mysteries clearer to speak in physical terms and do violence to our intuitions. If we ever use these centers, as fires we shall see them, or they shall well up within us as fountains of potent sound.
We may satisfy people's minds with a sense correspondence, and their souls may yet hold aloof. We shall only inspire by the magic of a superior beauty. Yet this too has its dangers. "Thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness," continues the seer. If we follow too much the elusive beauty of form we will miss the spirit. The last secrets are for those who translate vision into being. Does the glory fade away before you? Say truly in your heart, "I care not. I will wear the robes I am endowed with today." You are already become beautiful, being beyond desire and free.
Night and day no more eclipse Friendly eyes that on us shine, Speech from old familiar lips, Playmates of a youth divine.
To childhood once again! We must regain the lost state. But it is to the giant and spiritual childhood of the young immortals we must return, when into their clear and translucent souls first fell the rays of the father-beings. The men of old were intimates of wind and wave and playmates of many a brightness long since forgotten. The rapture of the fire was their rest; their outgoing was still consciously through universal being. By darkened images we may figure something vaguely akin, as when in rare moments under the stars the big dreamy heart of childhood is pervaded with quiet and brimmed full with love.
Dear children of the world, so tired today, so weary seeking after the light. Would you recover strength and immortal vigor? Not one star alone, your star, shall shed its happy light upon you, but the All you must adore. Something intimate, secret, unspeakable, akin to thee, will emerge silently, insensibly, and ally itself with thee as thou gatherest thyself from the four quarters of the earth.
We shall go back to the world of the dawn, but to a brighter light than that which opened up this wondrous story of the cycles. The forms of elder years will reappear in our vision, the father-beings once again. So we shall grow at home amid these grandeurs, and with that All-Presence about us may cry in our hearts, "At last is our meeting, Immortal. 0 starry one, now is our rest!"
Come away, oh, come away; We will quench the heart's desire Past the gateways of the day In the rapture of the fire.
By Boris de Zirkoff
[From a tape recording entitled "Karma, Soul and Ego," made of a private class held on August 4, 1954.]
At the point where we now are in the book FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, there are one or two ideas that have to be expressed. Frankly, they are so difficult that I do not know what to do to simplify them. The subject is Souls and Egos. It is something that is so different from the connotation of these words in the dictionary that one is apt to feel rather discouraged about trying to get the correct meaning. Essentially the idea is simple enough. To express it adequately is by no means easy.
I have pondered this over the years. The idea recurs every now and then in the Theosophical writings. It seems as if we might be able to put it simple language. A center of consciousness, a Monad, enters into its period of active manifestation, of active involvement into matter, and later evolution out of matter into spirit. The essential center of consciousness, this consciousness by itself, is not yet limited by any particular vehicle or form. It is consciousness per se, in itself. We can liken it to the conception of "I am," not that "I am" anything in particular, but that "I am" merely in the abstract, of being. That consciousness, per se, as a sense of being, is the spiritual aspect of consciousness. Both HPB and Dr. de Purucker make a great point of this idea.
During the process of involution into matter, there are limitations of the various vehicles through which consciousness passes or builds for itself. The consciousness imposes upon these vehicles certain qualities. It is in these qualities that it recognizes itself. When consciousness reflects upon itself, and recognizes itself in its vehicles, it ceases to be the "I am." It then becomes the "I am I and not something else," limiting itself in an illusory barrier, in illusory limitations. Herein grows the sense of separateness. It is a necessary experience, but an experience that has to be outgrown, an illusory condition of imagining oneself different from all else. It is intrinsically the same with everything else. It recognizing itself as being temporarily different, experiencing the sense of separateness, because of illusion.
It is pointed out that it is when the sheer consciousness, of the spiritual self builds itself vehicles, through which it recognizes itself as an "I," "I Am I and not something else," that there comes into being this sense of ego, the conception of egoity. When that consciousness, which is now the consciousness of an ego, clothes itself in a vehicle for purposes of evolution on any one plane, it builds for itself what is technically called a soul. That is not necessarily a human soul.
The idea is stressed here that sheer consciousness, the self, builds on all the planes through which it passes souls, in the sense of vehicles. The meaning of the word is different. We use the word "souls," not in a Christian sense, but in a sense of vehicles, or sheaths, or forms, through which to contact the plane through which it passes. The sequence is: self, ego, and then soul, on any plane and on all of them. There is a spiritual ego and a spiritual soul. Then there is an intellectual ego and an intellectual soul. Going down the line, we finally, at the end of the sevenfold classification, are able to speak even of physical egoity and of physical soul or vehicle, which is obviously our physical body -- soul in the sense of vehicle, only.
That may sound abstract. That is the simplest that I can put it. It is a metaphysical subject, intangible and subtle. Would anybody like to say something?
I would like to ask a question. The soul is not the reincarnating entity. Is it the Ego?
Yes. Then the question would then be in order, "Which Ego?" It is really the intellectual egoity, self-manifesting as an Ego on an intellectual plane, which is the center that passes through the various births and deaths. One could use other language for that, too.
How about the idea from Buddha, that there is no abiding principle in man? There never were either what we call Ego, or the soul, as eternal or indestructible. They are only built up. I wonder what they call this reincarnating part in Mahayana Buddhism. Perhaps is it the skandhas. How would you define skandhas for the Westerners, so they will understand?
Do you think I can?
What contributes to build the idea of "self?" That is "self" with a small "s." It is the intellectual aspect of the human being, the passional, emotional, and what we call the average mind. That self you may call "Ego." In the higher intellectual aspect, it would be the human Ego. A particular side of it is what reincarnates. There is nothing that you might say that is a thing in itself. It is not an abiding thing, eternal and uncreated. It is built up. I understand that from the first glimmerings of individualized consciousness, the individuality begins to be built up. That is why human beings are individualized, and they have that sense of separateness.
Is it just sort of Theosophical literary license that they use terms like the multitude of souls, the hosts of souls waiting to be reincarnated? They do not mean souls the way we usually talk about them?
No, they do not mean it in that sense.
We talk about animals as having "group souls." They do not have Egos. If the souls are created by the Ego, how could this work? There is something missing here.
They already have something within that group. The mere fact that they follow the line of incarnation shows that they have something. We might not be able to understand their language and their feelings, but they have aspects of self-consciousness.
I will tell you something that I saw. Last week I went to Westlake Park, and was taking a sunbath. I sat down and saw a bit of a duck, about ten yards from me. Probably some other animal killed it, but just dropped it there. Nearby was a tree. A flock of ducks, about fifteen or twenty, came out of the water. They came walking in a bunch towards that tree. They had to pass in front of the dead duck. Do you know what they did?
The first one stopped, looked at the duck, and began to "cluck-cluck." The others spread out forming a circle around that dead duck. For about five minutes, they gave a serenade there of "cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck." Tell me whether they did not know that that was their own species. It was only a little bit of a thing, but it was part of one of them. They understood that much. They were saying what we might if we just walked out in the street and saw a man laying down dead. We stop there and say, "Maybe you know this man? Who is he?" We all being to congregate and say the same thing. It is exactly the same thing.
That must have been a rare thing to see. Those ducks are practically human beings. They live with so many human beings down there in the park. You know, I think they pick up their habits!
I go down there quite often, and I see the mothers with the little babies. Then another mother with babies come along, they get together, and they began to call out names because they do not want the families to be mixed up. Right? The ducks have feelings. There is already in the animal kingdom a certain glimmering of individualized consciousness of the soul. They have that sense of separateness, which shows a glimmering of individuality.
The mother knows her own child in the animal kingdom and will defend her own child.
The only way in which the idea of group soul really can have a definite meaning is that their individualities, their sense of ego, is less individualized than in the human kingdom. Their individualities are much less so in the vegetable, and still less so in the mineral. This is not in the sense that some students have built up, quite erroneously, that there is no individuality in animals and plants, and that they all somehow partake of a group soul, which is the group individuality for them. That is an erroneous idea.
It certainly is, and anyone who has ever owned any animals knows that.
There is less individualization in the lower kingdoms among the monadic vehicles, in the egoic vehicles of the monad, than there is at a later stage in human development. Paradoxically enough, the full flower of individuality, or individualization, is in the human kingdom. In the kingdoms beyond the human, the Dhyan-Chohanic kingdoms, everything is resolved into a greater unity with spiritual divine light, without losing its individuality.
It is a paradox. The more personal you become, the more individualized you become. The more impersonal you become, the less individualized you are without losing your individuality. The animal cannot feel separate from others, nor the flower. The human being can feel perfect separateness from all else, as an illusion. The Mahatma, which is a human being, feels much less separateness. The Dhyani-Chohans feel divine identification with all that lives, but they do not lose their individuality in so doing. It is one of the greatest paradoxes.
How can this conscious monadic center have experiences in an embodied form? How can something that is a consciousness, per se, come down and build these sheathes on all planes, if it is what it is? Is it not it a part of the whole? Is it not, in itself, infinite? I do not see how it can possibly do what it does! I do not see how something that is infinite can become finite!
How are we ever going to explain anything like this, with our inadequate words and finite conceptions?
Is that not the idea you were trying to get over?
It is partially the idea. I do not see what else I can say to make it any clearer.
We might say that all that is an illusion. It is what modern psychology calls "mind constructs." We see the world according to our five senses. Maybe it is not anything like we think it is. It only appears to us that way. We live in that particular world of illusion. You have to remember that we live mostly as individuals, that we only think we are separate from all the others. We live in a world of five senses.
Those five senses are limited in scope. We have not half as good sight as some birds have. We have far less than half as good hearing as some animals. We have all the other senses limited too. Consequently, we only perceive a small fraction of the material world. Things appear to us in a certain way, but they may be entirely different. What we conceive in the events of evolution, to be certain facts, are not facts at all, but are appearances. They are illusions. We construe them to be that way. They are our mental constructs.
That is true. They are largely mental constructs. We could illustrate this by something that has to do with our physical bodies. There is no question of course, that from the standpoint of physical senses, that our bodies are what they look to be. We speak of man as what he looks to be. It is difficult for us, with our senses, to conceive what is mind, what is the center of our emotional life, what is thought. Unless an individual is naturally clairvoyant, he knows nothing of it. He only sees the physical body of another human being and his own. How utterly illusory this impression is! Consider an imaginative case. Suppose that we had X-ray eyes, that we had X-ray vision. Our eyes could penetrate all other human beings through and through. To an X-ray eye, the physical bodies would be completely nonexistent. We would see only the emotional centers of the human being, and his thought, but not his brain.
How would the human being appear? What kind of a form would he have? Everything has a form. However illusory, on whatever plane, it has a relative form. What kind of a human being would we have? Would we see each other as centers of force? What kind of form, or what color, or what shape, or what intensity would it appear as? Would they blend? Would we be all overlapping each other, living within each other? This is probably so. To the X-ray eye, the human physical body would be non-existent. Its physical organs would be non-existent, but the functions of these organs would be existent. What if we did not see the human lungs, and the human liver, and the human stomach, which we can see with the physical eye if we open the chest? We would see the functional activity of these organs. Not on the physical plane, but what emotions and thoughts and feelings they correspond to. What kind of an appearance would the human being have?
It would contain certain ranges of color in motion. The human body itself gives evidence of that. You know why? In all the extremities of the human bodies, there are circles. Take the fingers, the tips of the fingers, the tips of the toes and at the back of the head, and you will see certain lines there which have that tendency, that are indicating a certain evolution of energy.
Even the fingerprints, the mysterious fingerprints.
I am lying in bed pretending to be asleep. Our dog will noisily jump on the bed. If I am asleep, he gets up quietly. How does he know the difference? The lights are out. My eyes are closed. There is no activity. He knows that I am just lying there. He knows that I am awake, even though there is neither sight nor sound that would indicate so. He knows the difference. What do they see when you sleep? Do they know?
You may still be breathing, but the body behaves differently when the individual is asleep that it does when it is awake. In the complete relaxation of sleep, you breathe differently. You may fool a human being, but the dog can tell the difference.
Animals live largely on the psychic plane. Their thought processes are in latency. They are there, but they are not developed, not as the human being has them. The human lives more on an intellectual plane. The animal lives largely on the psychic plane. The psychic centers are more developed in the animals than in the human in the present stage of evolution. The animals as a rule would see colors and hear sounds of an astral kind pertaining to both the animal world and the human world, and the world of other kingdoms. Unquestionably, dogs and cats, and a number of other animals, of course, see the human being in its psychic portions.
What about the fact that wild beasts do not attack a sleeping man? They will not attack a sleeping man, not only for the reason that they are perfectly safe -- they have no reason to attack -- but also because of the fact that the sleeping individual automatically charges his surrounding aura with a repellent magnetism.
We are speaking of the natural propensities of animals. Do not imagine that what we feed our dogs, cats, and horses is their natural food. Of course not! It is true that there are few wild horses and few wild cats and wild dogs in our present state of civilization. Still, there are species of animals that have become halfway humanized. In other words, they have been halfway distorted and twisted away from their natural habit.
A sleeping man charges his aura with a protective or repellant force, as an automatic method of self-protection. It may be differently so in the safety of your own home, or in relative lack of safety in the wilds. Maybe the human being changes its habits somewhat, I do not know. I think a general statement is in order, that the fact of falling asleep rearranges the magnetism of the surrounding aura. I speak now of the physical aura, because the inner man withdraws from its physical vehicle, from its physical brain and nervous system, and maybe a considerable distance from the body.
Here again is a complicated subject, because there are various portions of the human constitution, and they have a different method of withdrawing, and are in different states or conditions. If we just make a general statement, it is the physical aura that is changed in its polarity, and seems to be saturated with a fluid or with a magnetic force that is repellant to attacking influences, if there are such -- an automatic self-protection.
The other self-protection that one should practice is utter benevolence -- utter and complete lack of enmity. We are all quite far from it. Some people are a little nearer to it than others. It is harmlessness, one of the great Buddhist precepts, which they call ahimsa, harmlessness.
If an individual can practice utter and complete harmlessness at all times, his aura will be saturated with such positive currents or forces of love that they will automatically repel any force that may be trying to hurt it. In fact, forces that are trying to hurt you would never dare approach an individual of utter benevolence, because it would mean their complete routing if they were to try to do anything. We are far from that condition, I am afraid, even the best of us.
There are men who have saturated themselves in great harmlessness and love. They have reached the point in their evolution where they have reached such a state of love that they were never attacked, poisoned, or otherwise harmed by wild animals. They handled them and lived with them in the forest. Their numbers may have included Mahatma Gandhi, and a great many hermits, monks, and recluses and simple folks of religious bent of mind. They can be found in all the countries of the world, belonging to any religion or none at all.
This fullness of love, though, does not necessarily go together with great intellectual development, oh no!
By Inez Davenport
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, June 1936, pages 429-34.]
Twenty-five hundred years ago there was born to the royal family of the Shakya clan a son, the Prince Siddhartha. Through no fault of his own, he caused the King, his father, deep concern. This was because even so many centuries before the coming of the great Christian Teacher, and before the Prince had reached what is commonly termed the age of discretion, he had already discovered the balance of values between the treasures of earth and the Treasures of Heaven. He was born into one of the best families, where nobility of character vied with wealth of possession to surround him with all that heart could desire. Still, he seemed often to retire inward to a world unknown to his associates.
Handsome he was, strong, and brave, but he had no interest in the sports that engrossed his cousins. While they busied themselves in friendly games of contest, he would steal away into the garden. Sitting under his favorite tree, he would try to recapture that elusive thing that haunted him as a half-memory of a purpose in life not yet revealed.
The sage Vishwamitra, who had charge of his scholastic training, is said to have picked up his books and departed, marveling. It was as if no human brain had knowledge great enough to instruct this man who was destined to become the Buddha.
There are different kinds of Saviors. The case of a Buddha is different from an Avatara, such as Jesus the Christ. An Avatara is a demonstration to humanity of the keen interest with which superior beings brood over the progress of men. Shall we call them gods?
An Avatara is the mysterious union of a divinity with the highly evolved soul of one who has formerly become a Buddha, acting in a pure physical body. This magical, but not supernatural, appearance of a divinity among men takes place at times of spiritual barrenness. An Avatara appears in order to encourage those seeking the light of truth by showing them glimpses of sublime heights yet to be climbed.
When we consider the Avataras, the teachings should occupy our fullest attention. Noble as it is, their personal lives are unimportant. With the Buddha, however, our keenest interest is aroused by the study of his life, his trials, and his testing of teachers and methods. Every one of us can follow his procedure if we will. He started out eons ago a man, as we are now. According to the stories, it was
A hundred thousand cycles vast And our immensities ago,
In that distant past, he registered his first vow to reach Enlightenment or Buddhahood. This vow he kept fast in mind and heart. He resolved it anew with twenty-four successive Buddhas. We read this was a necessary part of the fulfillment of such a vow. Because of the inspiration and example given us by the life of such a great man, this is worth serious study. In fact, it is an essential part of his teaching.
Many and fanciful are the tales of prenatal visions entertained by the noble Maya, the one chosen as mother by the Bodhisattva, together with the interpretations put upon them by the Sages of the day, wise Brahmanas versed in true astrology. We read descriptions of the conditions of the Holy One in the heaven world, where he is represented as teaching the inhabitants in the interim between one earth life and the next.
There are some 550 Birth Stories said to be episodes in the various incarnations of this aspirant to perfection, dating from the beginning of the world. Significant indeed is the impression we receive that his birth into the Shakya family was a conscious, well-considered act. He took this step as an imminent Buddha.
His royal father, Shuddhodhana, as was the custom, summoned wise men to his court to examine the child and read the signs they saw on him. He possessed all thirty-two marks of divinity. The prophecies of six of the Sages were unanimous. If he remained in the household life, he would rule as the best of kings. If he relinquished that life, he would become Lord of the Universe, the Awakened One, and the Buddha. The seventh Sage, a younger man but nevertheless more intuitive than his brethren, saw only one course open to the young Prince, the attainment of Buddhahood.
The king was a wise and kindly ruler, but he had no understanding of the nature and status of a Buddha. To his mind, human kingship was the destiny above all. It was what he would choose for his son. He tried to fill his son's life with beauty, wealth, happiness, and distractions of every pleasurable kind. He built for him stately palaces and gardens appropriate to the four seasons of the year. He provided for him in marriage the loveliest of his royal cousins, the radiant Yashodhara. He brought to court for his delight and entertainment the flower of the dancing and singing maidens of the country. Poor foolish king, to think mere beauty of sight and sound could appease the nostalgia in the soul of a Bodhisattva!
According to legend, the gods became impatient. For too long, the future Buddha lingered in the toils of material allurements. So in defiance of the King's commands that when his son rode abroad he should see naught but youth, health, success, and beauty, the gods provided for him the Three Awakening Sights. These were an old bent man who was hideous with age and deprivation, a man stricken with fatal illness, and a corpse being borne to the funeral pyre. Not all at once were these three Sights sprung upon the young Prince, but during successive drives. Day by day, the power of his resolve gathered momentum.
From the time of the First Awakening Sight, be begun to observe his fellows in a new way. He found none in whose face he could read signs of the true course of life. At last, after the third Sight, he met a hermit wearing such a look of peace that now he knew and would wait no longer. It was the striking of the karmic hour. Henceforth and forever, there was no possibility of Siddhartha's succeeding his father as merely a human king. In the dead of night, his beloved wife smiling in her sleep, he bade a silent farewell, fearing lest the pain of parting prove too great for the human will if accompanied with words and tears.
Understand that the Buddha does not generally recommend the breaking of home ties. He urged obedience to mother and father, and the faithful performance of duties owed to others. He once sent back as unready one who hoped to become a devotee of truth without having first observed the loyalties due to the home. He said:
If you would find comfort in my society, the first thing for you to learn is purity of conduct. Go back, therefore, to your home. Learn to obey your parents, recite your prayers, and be diligent in your daily occupations. Let no love of ease tempt you to neglect cleanliness of person or decency of dress. Then having learned this, come back to me and you may be allowed to enter the companionship of my followers.
His loved ones were prepared for his leaving. Often he told both wife and father of his desire to enter the ascetic life to seek release for mankind from the ills of sickness, old age, and death, which seemed to make futile all their lofty aspirations and worthy ambitions. He felt that ignorance was the cause of man's suffering, and there was truth somewhere that he was entitled to. He balanced the temporary anguish his absence would bring his family against the liberation of mind and spirit he knew they would gain when he became Buddha and they his faithful disciples. It did happen. He gave up all that men hold dear and began life anew as a hermit.
Clad in yellow gown and carrying the ascetic's begging-bowl, the Prince studied under various teachers, Rishis and Brahmanas, for six years. He tried their methods, spared him not at all. He undertook discipline so severe that it was self-torture. Still he did not attain the inner illumination he was seeking.
At the point of death, sorely grieved that he had not reached his goal in this life, he decided to break his fast and seek another way. Again, the gods are said to have intervened. They provided him with pure and nourishing food that restored his wasted tissues and caused fresh blood to course through his veins. He was readied for the final test, pictured in allegorical form as his meditation under the Bodhi Tree. Here Mara's hosts, the mighty Powers of Darkness, made their greatest and most prolonged attempt to dissuade the Holy One from his purpose.
Fearful and wonderful was the battle that raged during the watches of the night. The Bodhisattva easily overcame violence, hate, envy, and the brood of hideous vice with the peace and tranquility of mind he had attained. Then Mara, using subtler wiles, caused apparitions of his wife and father to call to him to return home and ease their distress. He needed more than human strength to resist. This strength was his too. Calm and unperturbed, he remained under the Sacred Tree, reiterating once again his ancient vow:
Let the sun and moon fall down to earth, let these snowy mountains be removed from their base, if I do not attain the end of my search: the pearl of the True Law.
Then, indeed, he did attain. The Hosts of Darkness vanished away, and morning broke upon the marvel of the Holy One grown at last from Bodhisattva, the promise of a Buddha, into the full flower of Perfected Manhood, the Enlightened One, the Buddha.
He sat in contemplation for seven days and nights, seeking the best way to tell mankind what he had learned. Brooding on the mystery of life, on the composite and therefore impermanent character of the visible Universe and of man, he wondered if words could tell the truths he knew.
Picturing lotus flowers in a pond, he remembered how some grow high out of the water. Some grow less high, and others never rise above the surface. Thus, they receive varying amounts of sunlight. Men are like the lotus flowers. The sun is the truth. The wise do not need teaching. The stupid would not understand. There are those neither wise nor stupid, who question, seek, but know not where to find. They should receive help. Therefore, I will teach. At this, the elements of the Universe joined with the Heavens and the Earth to proclaim their joy upon the arrival of a Buddha of Compassion.
Thereafter for forty-five years, Shakyamuni fulfilled his promise. He wandered up and down India, teaching all who would listen. Among his earliest disciples were five anchorites who had witnessed in amazement the extremes of asceticism to which his zeal had led him, but who later reviled him when they thought he had relapsed into worldly life. Sitting at their devotions, these five saw approach one whom at a distance they recognized as the monk Gautama. Thinking to show their disapproval of his treachery to their Order, they conspired to show him courtesy upon his arrival, but no deference. Little did they know that the transformation that had occurred in the meantime. Little did they know what power it was that drew them to their feet and caused them to do most reverent obeisance. Looking into his face and seeing the glory with which he was transfused, they entreated the Buddha to accept them as pupils. Because of their sincerity, and their faithfulness to the light of truth as they had seen it, he granted their request. Many an instance is given of similar meetings.
Brahmanas were indignant at his refusal to discriminate between the castes. They were indignant at his willingness to impart what they had kept so rigidly secret from the masses. They challenged him with questions they thought he could not answer. Having seen him, they were glad to yield their allegiance to one whose presence and wisdom were so superior to theirs that deference to him became the highest honor they could desire.
It is unfortunate for their descendants that more of this learned caste did not understand the mission and teachings of the Buddha, for the heart of both Brahmanism and Buddhism is the same. The Buddha came not as inventor of a new religion, but as illuminator of the old, which had its source in the same Heart of the Universe, as all the World Religions have had.
It is not one-sided to speak of the beauties of the teachings of the Buddha and yet fail to condemn the deficiencies of modern Buddhism. Whatever may be lacking in the application men today make of religion in their lives is the fault of the men themselves, not of the original Teacher of that religion. It would be decidedly unfair were we not to mention that even after twenty-five hundred years, Buddhism is still active and a powerful influence in the lives of millions.
Of all known World Religions, Buddhism has created the least disharmony, been the cause of no wars, undertaken no conversions by violence, inaugurated no inquisitions, nor approved any form of mental or physical torture, whether self-inflicted or not.
Even today, men of every race could adopt it with but slight modification. The cornerstone of it is love for all beings. Its building bricks are the virtues that make life beautiful when practiced. Ignorance is a vice not to be tolerated, for truth is in the Universe and is to be had for the taking.
The Buddha concluded his mission among men at the ripe age of eighty years. In full possession of his faculties, he gathered his disciples around him for the last time. Translators have given his farewell speech in varying forms. The message is the same in each. Salvation for mankind comes from within.
When self-appointed teachers appear, test what they say by the truth you already possess. Do not believe without examination everything you hear. Think for yourself.
I have lit the lamp of wisdom. Its rays alone can drive away the gloom that shrouds the world. On your part, be diligent! With virtuous purpose, practice well these rules. Nourish and cherish a still and peaceful heart. Be lamps unto yourselves. Work out your own salvation. Look within! Exert yourselves to the utmost. Give no place to remissness. Earnestly practice every good work.