The reader has to bear in mind that the Stanzas given treat only of the Cosmogony of our own planetary System and what is visible around it, after a Solar Pralaya. The secret teachings with regard to the Evolution of the Universal Kosmos cannot be given, since they could not be understood by the highest minds in this age, and there seem to be very few Initiates, even among the greatest, who are allowed to speculate upon this subject.
H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, page 13.
By B.P. Wadia
[From THUS HAVE I HEARD, pages 200-3.]
The mistakes and the sufferings of human life make me think sometimes that those ancient seers, or interpreters of the secrets of heaven and the counsels of the Divine Mind, had some glimpses of the truth, when they said that men are born in order to suffer the penalty for some sins committed in a former life.
Successive lives on earth in human bodies for the unfolding Mind-Soul of man is a reasonable and satisfying doctrine. It solves problems and answers questions that no other doctrine does. It is logical and our minds are satisfied if we examine its basis and principles. It not only engenders hope in the heart but also brings it the contentment born of understanding and the dauntless energy to press forward on the road to self-improvement leading to Self-realization.
Cicero speaks of "ancient seers." In the modern world, they are not revered because their ideas are not studied. No era has been without seers, however few or however exotic. Mystics and Occultists down the ages have uniformly asserted the truth of Reincarnation. Transmigration, Metempsychosis, and other terms are also used. The main and central idea is that the human soul is immortal and unfolding. Its growth takes place in the soil of the body and its sensorium. The nature, as the genesis of the Soul, need not remain matters of conjecture and speculation. There is knowledge. It is not sought earnestly and sincerely because modern knowledge has pronounced the soul as mortal and the minds of large numbers are lazy, unquestioning, and charged with blind belief. There are other minds not influenced by materialistic science but by illogical theologies.
Were an Asiatic to ask me for a definition of Europe, I should be forced to answer him: It is that part of the world which is haunted by the incredible delusion that man was created out of nothing, and that his present birth is his first entrance into life.
Since the days of this German, Asiatics have also become "civilized" and reject the immortality of the Soul. The tide has been turning and there have been not only mystics and poets but also scientists and men of affairs who hold fast to their own intimations of Reincarnation. The Law of Cycles, by which the processes of Nature take place, compels a logical mind to arrive at the conclusion that Reincarnation represents the cycle of human evolution. Man is born and dies as the universe is making the vast cycles of the days and nights of Brahma. Voltaire saw this when he said that "It is not more surprising to be born twice than once; everything in Nature is resurrection."
One whole issue of this magazine would not suffice to present the intuitive expressions of poets, ancient or modern. They are in a class by themselves and are not bothered by the strictures of science or the syllogisms of logic. Relying on their own intuitions they have sung in China, India, Persia, and in Europe -- from Virgil and Ovid to Masefield, the Poet-laureate of Britain.
One argument against a serious consideration of Reincarnation is its supposed impracticability. It is taken to be a teaching that stresses other-worldliness. This, once again, is a hasty deduction. It has been recommended that Reincarnation may be taken as a working hypothesis not only for the purposes of solving our personal problems, but also national and social ones. If Reincarnation were true what a vast change, a revolution, must take place in educating the young. If children's bodies enshrine immortal souls, who have been here before and who are here once again to pick up the thread of learning and experience, then the system of education and the methods of teaching would have to be transformed. Is there an idea more significant than this, which favors and ought to compel a sincere and unprejudiced enquiry into the principles and details of Reincarnation? Take penal reform. Are not delinquent boys or habitual criminals evolving intelligences? Is it right to deprive them of individual responsibility by saying society makes criminals? We do not deny the truth implicit in the statement that all of us are in a measure responsible for the crimes and sins committed by our brothers. They are young souls, or sick souls, who need schools and clinics run on the principles of a spiritual philosophy. Is there such a philosophy, which can sustain its consistency, without the teaching of Reincarnation?
Men of modern knowledge accept numerous aspects of Reincarnation. Recurrence and resurrection create the spiral of progress everywhere. Death and Regeneration are to be seen everywhere. Why should it be otherwise with man's body which dies but which must refashion itself with the Will to Live which every human soul possesses and holds to with a superb tenacity? No, the great American, Benjamin Franklin was right in penning his own Epitaph when he was only 23 years old: --
The Body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, Like the cover of an old book, Its contents worn out, And stripped of its lettering and gilding, Lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be lost, For it will, as he believed, appear once more, In a new and more elegant edition, Revised and corrected by The Author.
By Gerald Schueler
The traditional relationship of a guru and chela is changing today, especially in the west. The chela had to obey the guru in all things without question. Beginning as a piece of crap, the chela had to earn respect. The method produced results. If the chela's ego were too big to assume the role, he or she would quit or be told to leave.
The guru did not explain in a classroom-like manner that the ego was unreal. He did not write it on a chalkboard or assign it as homework. He acted as if there was no ego. This role-playing is a powerful psychological tool in spiritual development. Today, Theosophists study that the ego is unreal, but keep going as if they had one. You cannot transcend Manas by using Manas!
This relationship is not like a good marriage. That would not work. The guru and chela can never be on the same footing. When the chela finally equals the guru, the guru will send him or her away.
The inner divinity is the best guru. Just saying that will not help. We have to contact it. How do we do that? Theosophists believe we all have an inner core of divine essence. How many communicate with and learn from it?
The esoteric is beyond words. A true guru will teach with action. Consider the example of Zen. There are gurus hitting chelas with sticks, talking nonsense, answering with a smile, or acting irrationally. These are attempts to live as if already spiritual and perfect. The guru works to get the chela to rise above Manas.
A problem with Theosophy is that it has no valid gurus. The Theosophical Path has degenerated. It is now one of reading and study, keeping students stuck in Manas. How would a guru change this? First, get people to realize their condition, perhaps hammering on them until they stop conceptualizing. Doing this with one or two chelas is hard work. It is impossible to do this with the many theosophical organizations.
Enlightenment is the goal of the guru-chela relationship. It is not a career or hobby. It requires a major shift in worldview and self-image, two organs of the psyche resistant to change.
The job of the guru is to get the chela into communication with his or her inner divinity. That is all a guru can do. This sounds easy enough, but it is extremely difficult, requiring major personality and worldview changes.
What does a chela do when the guru says something completely contradicting their worldview? We all know what Manas would have us do. Suppose a guru says Atma is mayavic. The chela might challenge the guru for proof and quote scripture proving Atma an eternal pilgrim. The guru might find the student in continual self-defense when faced with such challenges. Over time, the guru becomes frustrated, and asks the chela to leave. In going away, the chela continues thinking that Atma is an eternal pilgrim, now convinced that the guru is a quack.
A relationship with a guru will not work if it is on an equal basis. The chela has to believe in the guru totally. One needs great faith and devotion to change one's worldview. The relationship cannot be simply Manasic, which cannot work.
By W. Emmett Small
[From a lecture given at Point Loma, taken from THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, March 1941, pages 177-83.]
I do not like the title of this talk. It is patently absurd.
Do you honestly think our universe mad? Then you belong to those unfortunates who have no purpose in life. They see no reason for it, no majesty, no dignity, and no grandeur in universal nature. Such a person is an unhappy egoist, himself the center of all his immature and essentially emotional thinking.
If the universe is mad, we are also mad as part of that universe. Not one could remain sane. Such sanity would be foreign to this universe. The less partakes of the whole. It cannot be something the whole is not. With no plan or purpose, we would be drifters in cosmic space. Coming into existence by chance, we would drift along, doomed to some chance ending. It is absurd.
Perhaps you belong to the unawakened that see an erratic obedience to the decrees of God in all that happens. Outside our universe, he sits in judgment on us. In his own whimsical, wayward, or cruel way, he metes out penalty or recompense to the children of earth.
Such a person is dead in his intuitions. He is dead in his ability to draw direct and conclusive deductions from the facts of nature staring him in the face. Were such a hideous Supreme Being true, this universe would be a madhouse inhabited by raving lunatics. They would have to be maniacs. There could be no sanity. Again, the part must share in the whole. It cannot have something the whole does not have. That would be absurd.
There is an Ancient Wisdom at the heart of all religions. It tells us that Law, Order, and Cosmic justice guide our lives. Along with its decent thinking students, maybe you believe this. Is not it obvious?
Look around and see the orderly procedures of nature. A single individual falls ill and experiences suffering. From this, can we say there is no law in life? Closely observing, we see it an exemplification of Law. The people of the world are busy cutting each other's throats now. A riot of senseless war is sweeping the world. Even so, this is no sensible reason to say the universe is mad.
The world is sick. It is temporarily mad, if you will, because the people in it are temporarily mad. That is because of Law and Order in universal life. We cannot transgress Nature's laws for long without retribution. We make that retribution for ourselves. The adjustments we witness today are attempts to restore the disturbed equilibrium.
In these times, suffering is rife. Sorrow and heartache are more nearly universal. Perhaps because of this, we think harder on life's problems.
Why are we here? Where are we going? Who are we? What is the meaning of it all? The philosophic rationale is plain. Did something kill a single individual meaninglessly? Do a million individuals suffer such a fate? Regardless, the rationale remains unchanged if such were haphazard or cruel whimsy of an extra-cosmic God. This is true whether one suffers from lack of milk and bread or a million suffer. It would be atrocious even were but one to suffer so. That would reflect the reign of Universal Haphazard or Universal Cruelty.
It is absurd!
Law and Order prevail throughout universal unending Nature.
We need grand cosmic ideas to sweep clear from our brains the cobwebs of musty hand-me-down thoughts from past generations. Then the sunlight of truth can pour through the windows of our souls. Its warmth shall give us spiritual energy so that we revive and accomplish worthy things.
The average man views life too parochially. He still hugs the outmoded. He is not sufficiently daring or selfless. He must learn to view himself as immortal. He is an eternal pilgrim wending his cyclic way from invisible world to visible world as what we call birth or death periodically claims him. He must view man as rooted in the universe, not alone as a child of earth.
Man is a little universe. He partakes of all the substance and energy of the universe. He is fundamentally at one with it, a vital factor that can cooperate with Nature and work constructively with her, or destructively against her.
We have touched on three points of doctrine as old as there has been thinking man. There are The Law of Analogy, Cyclic Law, and Karma.
Here is an analogy: The physical body is itself a cosmos in miniature, where law and order abide, and action and reaction are the fundamental law.
Here are examples of cyclic law: the expansion and contraction of the human heart, the turning of the wheel of the year bringing winter, spring, summer, and autumn, and the ebb and flow of tides.
Karma means action and reaction. It is the law of consequences, saying that what a man sows he reaps.
The sun is the beating heart of the solar system. The sunspot cycle of about eleven years corresponds to the contraction and expansion, systole and diastole, of the human heart. The little universe of Man and the larger Universe of Nature follow the same orderly pattern.
Cyclic law governs the evolution of great races, called root-races in Theosophy. There are four distinct cycles: (1) a Golden Age, of 1,728,000 human years, (2) a Silver Age, 1,296,000 years, (3) a Bronze Age, 864,000 years, and (4) an Iron Age, "black with horror," 432,000 years.
There is a sequence in these cycles of the digits four, three, and two that runs through esoteric numerology. The sun takes 25,920 years to make a complete revolution, called a precessional cycle. We breathe 25,920 times in 24 hours, figuring 18 breaths to a minute. The human heart beats 72 times a minute. It takes the sun 72 years to pass one degree along the zodiac. In one hour, the heart beats 4,320 times. The same digits refer to the great races of mankind. From these few examples, we see the cosmos permeated by One Law. One of the keys to understanding this is Analogy, which H.P. Blavatsky speaks of in THE SECRET DOCTRINE as "the guiding law in Nature."
We do not believe in a soulless mechanistic universe, fortuitously put together. We believe in an intelligently guided universe in which there is no dead matter. We believe that varying degrees of consciousness ensoul every celestial body.
We do not believe in what scientists today call entropy. The cosmos is not running down to a state of stagnation without the ability to rewind itself. It is not "pointlessly grinding its way towards ultimate stagnation and death," to borrow words of Aldous Huxley, making a picture that he for one does not believe.
We believe in the birth and death of a planet and in its rebirth. It reembodies as a planet again, a more evolved house of life. What we conceive of as our visible universe is only one of innumerable universes in endless succession and advancement, wherein law, order, and harmony prevail.
You have your choice. You have either a lunatic universe or an ordered universe. If you cannot picture the latter in cold reason, can you not at least dream toward what your own commonsense, if not your inner intuition, must tell you are sane and purposive? Then perhaps with your daring, knowledge will come.
Perhaps when you stop centering thought on your ego and its all-importance, understanding will come of grander vistas in life. There are happier and brighter destinies for all. A feeling of that ineffable mystery of our oneness with the very Heart of Being can steal into your soul, enlightening it with this deathless message of hope.
Confidence and peace comes. Knowing something of life, someone has a certain sphere of influence. It draws you. He is a seasoned and experienced man. You have confidence in him. He is one whom you instinctively rely and intuitively trust. Theosophy brings you this same confidence and knowledge. Theosophy brings it in greater abundance than what a man can offer, unless he is an Initiate of the Mysteries.
Through study and practice of the Ageless Wisdom, you become wise in life. Why is this? Because you gain a vision of the travel that life unreels for every pilgrim. In your hand, you hold a map that is guide to some intricacies of the soul's journey. You discern plan, order, and pattern. You recognize what we can best call The Path. This is not madness. This is not whimsy, nor erratic favoritism. It is Purpose. It is not Chaos. It is Order. It is not Chance. It is Law. It is Justice.
I know many throughout the world with such an understanding of life. They have found it through the help of Theosophy. They are of all walks of life. They occupy various social stations. Far from all outer madness, they have an inmost center with a degree of peace, confidence, strength, and spiritual illumination. Each of you can have what they have. Because you are one with the universe, you share it, though perhaps not wittingly.
Madness allies your best energies with your mean and ignoble side. Free yourself from identification with it. Rise within and awake your inner possibility of accomplishment. Recognize yourself as a living god and your body as the temple of that living god. Abandon the petty and the parochial. Embrace the universal.
Thus, we grow. In our individual human universes, our own selves, we keep order. Thus, we cooperate with Nature, working constructively with her. We can purposefully direct this active cooperation. A vision of the future destiny of mankind can enlightened us. Then we become the Seers who are the Pillars that support the world.
Again, we ask, "Is our Universe mad?"
Great disturbances are opportunities. We can show balance, sanity, firmness, vision, action moderated by purposive vision, a lack of wastefulness, and economy of mere gesture. We have a challenge. Who and what are we? For what are we here? What is our duty? Is there any duty? Why did we get here? Where are we going?
Some say Echo mocks in haunting ricochet of imitative sounds taunting, "What, Why, Where?"
The old, old Wisdom says the inner recesses of one's nature awaken if one is self-forgetful and sympathetic for the welfare of others. Expand your thought. Seek to learn the fundamental lesson of the ancient sages. Man and the Universe are one, Inseparable!
Man is a reduced universe, quantitatively, if you wish, but not qualitatively. The potentialities of both are the same. The underlying laws are the same. The only difference is in degree of inner expression and unfoldment but not in kind. You are spirit of the Spirit of the Universe, soul of its Soul, body of its Body. Divinity, Spirit, Intelligence, Love, Power, breathe through both.
Power lies in restraint as well as in release. Action withheld is as strong, if not more potent at times, than action delivered. Power lies in kindliness, warmth of understanding, purity of motive, and determination to be just. Riot is unleashed, uncontrolled power. The latter sweeps like an epidemic over the "moon-stirred multitude." The former derives from the sun whose beneficent rays kindle spiritual life and fructify all things.
What happens is the just desert of actions. This is karma. Evil actions have brought evil results and will bring evil results. Good actions have brought beneficent results and will bring beneficent results. Cleave to that fundamental idea, and apply it in scale to individual, nation, and humanity. We reap what we sow, just what we sow, eventually. This is not a sign of madness. It is the steady signal-light of Order.
Let that thought act as a deterrent in our thoughtless escapade of life, our mad careening from one alluring though unsubstantial excitement to another. That path leads to insanity, imbalance, moral degradation, rottenness, and disintegration. The other path leads to peace, honor, and fruitful growth along moral and uplifting lines. It brings integration and balance.
Presently there is a violent inversion of normal conditions in the world. It is a transition time from one era into another, the birth of something new. Pain always accompanies birth. There is often destruction and an upset of normal conditions. With the intense longing of our hearts, let us hope that something constructively grand, sane, balanced, and beautiful will emerge from the awful conflict.
Now turn eyes to the stars. Stretch our thought outward to the stellar sweeps of Rigel, and Orion, and Betelgeuse. Those bright spheres were once but inexperienced globes, electrons in comparison with their present attainment. Eons and eons ago, they had locked up within them those qualities that now appear as Rigel, Orion, and Betelgeuse.
Within the inner sanctuary of the human heart lie the powers thus to expand. Some day, you and I shall live, breathe, and move to the immense sweep of stellar magnitude. We shall hold intercourse in high dignity with the galaxies.
By Victor Endersby
[CHRONICLES ON THE PATH, Part XVIII. This 18 -- part series appeared in THEOSOPHICAL NOTES from September 1951 through November 1954.]
The young neophyte, having taken the Great Vow, duly meditated before retiring for the night. He thought to fall into a sleep that might bring new knowledge upon awaking. Perhaps he might awaken in the night to see one of Their forms, and hear the soundless voice of high instruction. Unreined images, released aspirations, and dreams from years past took charge of the chariot of the mind, dragging it hither and yon. Excited and tense, the boy strove in vain to sleep, which finally overtook him in the small hours of the night.
He was gloomy and not refreshed in the morning. He took himself to a companion he had confidence in, and spoke of his difficult night.
"You had no useful recollection?" said the one.
"Indeed I had a recollection. It makes my bones ache to think of it."
"And its nature?"
"After I lost sight of the moonlight on the mountains, there was a time of indescribable duration. Then I found myself in a lonely, desolate place. It was a narrow pass. There were disorderly piles of stones with sharp edges and spikes. Sometimes the piles met overhead. Sometimes they opened to give glimpses of dark clouds before daunting peaks."
"You saw no one?"
"Not a person. There was no sign of man but for tracks in the dust worn from the stone."
"Nor any sound?"
"Yes. There were the lonely skirl of a bird, the deep rumble of distant thunder, and the sound of avalanche or earthquake. There were dark sounds to match the somber heaven that brooded overhead."
"What way did these tracks lead?"
"Upward. Ever and wearily upward."
"Not one. Always upward."
"And your direction?"
"I do not know. I suppose because, becoming aware, I found myself facing that direction. Perhaps the others went that way. I remember an urge to overtake them."
"These tracks, were they few or many?"
"Many indeed. Uncountable."
"So there were countless tracks always upward. What do you make of that?"
The boy thought, frowning, then replied, "I think it means that there is a vast space beyond for standing. On the path itself was hardly room for one alone."
"What else do you make of no one returning?"
"There may be contentment beyond, or perhaps death!"
The friend, chin in hand, considered the youth for a moment. "If it were death, would you pioneer a backward path?"
"I do not understand. We talk about but a dream, a dream that is past. Yet were it real, I would say I could not turn upon my tracks. I have to know what lies ahead, come what might."
("And that is well, poor lad," thought the other.) "Well," he continued aloud, "let us pursue this."
"You are not bored with my foolish dream?"
"You might be surprised at how little I am bored. Tell more."
"Well, I was exasperated, realizing my wasted effort. Along this twisted, tortuous route, I repeatedly gazed over boulders to observe where I had passed many weary hours before. I knew that if more alert, with a hard scramble, I might have been far ahead, and with limbs less weary."
"And how did you missed these points?"
"I plodded in the dust with eyes too tired. Too often, I looked with longing toward the shrouded peak, seeking signs of my destination. I also thought that since so many went this way, I must have been taking the only way."
("So he does as all do," thought again the companion. "Too low, too high, too fixed ahead was his gaze. He was too observant of the path worn by others, and too blind to the breadth of Nature.") He said aloud, "What other details might you recall? Were there comforts or relaxations in your trek?"
"There were little indeed. I was grateful when the sharp stones had been beaten into dust that was soft to the feet. Otherwise, it was not pleasant. The stones were sharp, offering cuts and bruises. I often bumped my head or scraped my brow on hanging stones. My shoulders were gouged in the narrow ways."
"No doubt at such narrow corners you thought of others. Did you seek to better the way for those coming after you?"
The boy looked up, startled, and then hung his head. "I am ashamed. I had no thought of others. It seemed all I could do to keep going. Thinking now, I realize that the worn pathway, which indicated numberless feet ahead, meant countless others tread behind me."
"Then having gone through the passage, you did not leave it easier to pass for those that followed?"
"Not entirely. I remember that at times, for my own ease, I took a stone and pounded down a corner, or tore loose a threatening spike. This possibly saved some unknown traveler a bump. With so many passing this way, why would not the whole passage be as smooth as glass by now? Ah well! Why expect reason of a dream?"
("Or such dream, like events as the roughness growing ever back again," thought the friend.) "What other scenery caught your attention?"
"There was a branching path that tempted me, until I closely looked at it."
"Because it was wide, and sloped a bit downward. It seemed straight. It showed a tinge of rose glow. It seemed happier, and did not have the gloom overhead as did the path I had been following."
"Then why did you not follow it?"
"On either side was a stone column. On each pillar were signs that led me to examine them closely. Each was topped with a vulture. At the each base were skulls sitting in the dust."
"Ah! And these signs?"
"On one was an inverted triangle, with two points up and one point down. On the other was the Jod. In the dream, I remember that the Wisdom indicated that these signs are unhealthy. Thus I looked attentively."
"And who may have carved these signs?"
"Some of our own, perhaps? Some who returned thus far, leaking their mark above and their bones below?"
"You have an excellent memory, considering this was a dream."
"Will you then interpret it for me?"
"It needs interpretation?"
"But I understand nothing of it!"
"You will in time. "
A brazen bell clanged, echoing through temple corridors. A priest parted the curtains.
"Neophyte, the High Priest awaits thee to begin thy instruction. It is a high honor. Make haste!"
The friend and the messenger met eyes, glazing over the neophyte's head. There was something cold, without love, in their exchange.
The boy stood to follow. The priest turned, revealing his high beaked profile. The boy recalled a vivid image from his dream, a pillared vulture against a somber sky. A chill crept over his frame. He turned to his calm, alert, unsmiling friend. His friend said with his eyes, "I wait here."
As the curtain fell, hiding the Priest and boy neophyte, the friend walked to the casement. He gazed across the valley with his hands clasped behind his back.
"Darkest under the lamp," he whispered. "The boy makes a good beginning. There is promise of one more in the Wall some day."
By Galina K. Tucker
Starlight dances Taking chances Moonlight shimmers Lake face glimmers The hooting owls The lupine howls Crickets chirping Panthers lurking Fern plants sleep Little bugs creep Petals drifting My spirits lifting Alone I came I leave the same Nature's wonders Thrown asunder By my human soul.
By Geoffrey A. Farthing
[This was the 2001 Blavatsky Lecture, given July 29, 2001 at the Summer School of the Theosophical Society in England. Slightly edited, it appears now with permission of the speaker and the Theosophical Society.]
Potentiality Three: DIVINE LAW
All of us are born at a certain time to certain parents living in a certain place in a certain country. We are of a certain nationality and religion and come into the world endowed with certain personal gifts or deficiencies, as a male or a female, born into a house of riches or poverty, to parents of culture and refinement or the very opposite. The place we are born into is somewhere on the surface of the planet.
When we are old enough, we will look into the heavens and see something there of the endless spaces and something of the multitudes of stars. When we are even older, maybe we will discover the enormity of those spaces. We will learn that the whole vast scheme of things has been going for unimaginable ages in terms of earth years. But there it all is, now; in some miraculous way the whole boundless plane, periodically "the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing ... [has survived.]" (See THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, Proem).
The Ancient Wisdom teaching is that both our private individual affairs and those of the boundless universe are all ordered according to universal or divine law. When the law is applied to human beings particularly it is referred to as the Law of Karma, but it is nevertheless always an aspect of the universal Divine Law, of which HPB has this to say:
We consider it as the Ultimate Law of the Universe, the source, origin and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature. Karma is the unerring law that adjusts effect to cause, on the physical, mental and spiritual planes of being. As no cause remains without its due effect from greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like, Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer. Though itself unknowable, its action is perceivable.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, page 201, Original Edition
Its action is the endless flow of events through time, with everything in that flow determined by what went before. In this sense, the law is that of causation, of action and of effect. Everything in the Cosmos, including ourselves, is an effect of causes generated in the past. All our actions become causes for future effects.
Just as the universe and everything in it persists for periods long enough for everything in it to perform its function in the total process, so men, animals, and plants live long enough to fulfill their part in the scheme of things. In the case of man this period is variable depending on many factors, such as state of health and so on, but those factors themselves are the effects of causes set up in the past.
The teaching says quite unequivocally that according to law we and our circumstances are all determined as a comprehensive result of what we have done in the past. What we have done includes our relationships with other people: our immediate families, our relations, our religious group, our nation, our race. All of these in themselves generate their own Karma to which to an extent we are all heirs.
Although we are all responsible for what befalls us in life, this is not wholly dependent on our own doings but on those of the groups to which we belong. Again, according to the Law, the circumstances of our birth and our parents are all predetermined, so is our physical constitution with a tendency to, or immunity from, certain diseases.
We might consider all that befalls us in life as fate, providence, even chance or luck, which some over-ruling Power arbitrarily dispenses, but the grand teaching tells us quite otherwise. It tells us that, whether we are aware of it or not, all that befalls us is the result of what we have done. The 'doing' involves even thinking and feeling.
The law is one of perfect justice. We get our deserts no more and no less. As we said earlier, however, these desserts can to a degree be modified both by ourselves in our present actions and by the groups that we have belonged to. We cannot escape that group Karma but as a member of that group, we contribute towards it.
The beneficent aspect of this potentiality is its perfect justice. The law takes account of the degree of our immaturity and of our motives for whatever we do. The Karmic effects of a child's actions will be different from those of similar acts performed by a responsible adult.
This may be difficult to understand as it is said that the Law adjusts wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause. How can a universal law be wise or intelligent? The answer is in the livingness of everything, be it the life of a sub-atomic particle or of a great being. The essential beingness of all things is not in their objective but in their interior state, in the subjective worlds.
The great beings who operate, so to speak, the Law are collective beings, aggregates in terms of consciousness, knowledge and experience of many, many lives at all levels of development. They do, however, manifest a unit intelligence or a single consciousness, at a level commensurate with their development.
These great beings function through subordinate entities on lower hierarchical levels that in their turn constitute the ordering principle of the universe. Their aggregate action is the Law in operation, but they are themselves subject to it. By the continuous cycle of Nature's processes, these beings are heirs to a vast experience extending back into unimaginable epochs of time. This accumulated experience conditions or regulates their action in ordering of things. They are the agents of the Law, or of the laws to which Nature in all its collective activities subscribes.
The certain operations of the Law, in which we are inescapably involved, give us an unshakeable assurance that in the end all will be well. As an old hymn says, "God is working his purpose out," and according to the Ancient Wisdom that purpose is the evolutionary process for everything, a journey to perfection by stages. We are part of that process.
Again, an immediate aspect of the Law for each of us is not only the confidence that all will be well but it bestows self-reliance and responsibility on each of us. In the light of it, insofar as we can accept it, we become mature beings, knowingly playing our part in Nature's endless progressive journey.
A significant insight applying the Law to the human condition is the following:
Nor would the ways of Karma be inscrutable were men to work in union and harmony, instead of disunion and strife. For our ignorance of those ways -- which one portion of mankind calls the ways of Providence, dark and intricate, while another sees in them the action of blind Fatalism, and a third, simple chance, with neither gods nor devils to guide them -- would surely disappear, if we would but attribute all these to their correct cause. With right knowledge, or at any rate with a confident conviction that our neighbors will no more work to hurt us than we would think of harming them, the two-thirds of the World's evil would vanish into thin air. Were no man to hurt his brother, Karma-Nemesis would have neither cause to work for, nor weapons to act through. It is the constant presence in our midst of every element of strife and opposition, and the division of races, nations, tribes, societies, and individuals into Cains and Abels, wolves and lambs, that is the chief cause of the "ways of Providence."
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 643
Potentiality Four: EVOLUTION, LIFE EVER-BECOMING
The whole order of nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life. There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces. The whole process of evolution with its endless adaptation is a proof of this. The immutable laws that weed out the weak and feeble species, to make room for the strong, and which ensure the "survival of the fittest," though so cruel in their immediate action -- all are working toward the grand end. The very fact that adaptations do occur, that the fittest do survive in the struggle for existence, shows that what is called "unconscious Nature" is in reality an aggregate of forces manipulated by semi-intelligent beings (Elementals) guided by High Planetary Spirits (Dhyani-Chohans), whose collective aggregate forms the manifested verbum of the unmanifested LOGOS, and constitutes at one and the same time the MIND of the Universe and its immutable LAW.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, pages 277-78
In the spiritual realms of being the life process is continuous and virtually everlasting but all the forms that life uses or inhabits, from mineral up to human, are only temporary and must necessarily have an end. Beginnings always follow ends, however, in the continuous but cyclic process.
In Potentiality Two, we saw man in a direct relationship with the universe. His existence, as is that of every thing, is subject to law, and an aspect of the Law is the evolutionary process. The process has many aspects, all-beneficent in their way. They work in their own time and involve factors relating to the inner worlds not yet recognized in modern philosophies. The problems of evil involve universal balance and the Law's cause and effect aspect. Every thing in existence is as it is as a result of what went before. Always there are antecedents to everything.
The human lifespan is variable. It is a cycle within a greater cycle in the graded evolutionary process. The progress of the whole human kingdom depends, in the aggregate, on the efforts made by, and the achievements of, its members. These are of infinite variety: they include, for example, a wide range of mental processes at one level, down to the most humdrum physical work, all of which are necessary for the survival of the race. These activities result in rich experience, the fruit of living. The aggregate of individual experience is that of the race. As the race persists, so is this experience on going. It is accumulated and stored in the cosmic memory.
Much experience is in terms of relationships, either between individuals or between the individual and the environment. In theosophical terms, both kinds are complex because of their effects in the inner worlds, in man particularly on his inner principles, all of which are modified by experience. Everything in Nature also has its inner principles, more or less developed and active, or dormant.
Evolution is the process of the ever-improvement of life forms to fit themselves to express more and more of the potentialities of spirit. Improving forms are in effect the development of the Monad. By its nature the Monad, reflecting the absolute in existence, or as the One Manifest, does not change or grow. It is the forms that it energizes or animates, and through which it expresses or manifests its own unlimited characteristics or qualities, that have to grow or expand in both size and complexity. All Nature has its 'form' aspect; its spirit is 'Life' itself.
The mere exigencies of existence ensure that in the long run, in due season, forms do grow, expand, develop, in all the ways that are necessary. This growth in accomplished by accumulating experience on the one hand, and 'effort' on the other. Living forms develop by effort; muscles grow thereby, so do minds. Both need exercise.
In our opening paragraph to this Potentiality the phrase, "survival of the fittest" is used. It is significant and contains a lesson for us all. It is by survival that the process of adaptations can work. This process applies to us all. The moral is that we are here in earth life, life after life, to learn, passively by experience and often suffering but actively by making effort in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Easy lives are unproductive in the evolutionary sense. Having had this pointed out to us, the rest is up to us.
Potentiality Five: REINCARNATION
The immortal spiritual Egoic principle in the occult constitution of man is a key factor in the understanding of reincarnation: however, this is not generally recognized. Reincarnation is commonly understood to mean a return to earth of a deceased personality, a rebirth of that same person, a kind of resurrection. The theosophical teachings correct and amplify this popular view. H.P. Blavatsky dealt with Reincarnation and its associated Law of Karma in one of her essays.
If Theosophy prevailing in the struggle, its all-embracing philosophy strikes deep root into the minds and hearts of men, if its doctrines of Reincarnation and Karma, in other words, of Hope and Responsibility, find a home in the lives of the new generations, then, indeed, will dawn the day of joy and gladness for all who now suffer and are outcast. For real Theosophy is ALTRUISM, and we cannot repeat it too often. It is brotherly love, mutual help, unswerving devotion to Truth. If once men do but realize that in these alone can true happiness be found, and never in wealth, possession, or any selfish gratification, then the dark clouds will roll away, and a new humanity will be born upon earth. Then, the GOLDEN AGE will be there indeed.
-- COLLECTED WRITINGS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY, XI, page 202
This passage refers to Reincarnation and Karma as doctrines of Hope and Responsibility. Elsewhere HPB refers to them as the twin doctrines. The one cannot be properly understood without the other. We dealt with Karma under Potentiality Three, the Law, which has a number of aspects all more or less relating to that of cause and effect. Successive personalities are the effects of causes set up by their immediate predecessors and possibly those before that.
But what is the process of reincarnation? It is the flow of 'Life' through a series of successive temporary forms. The process is continuous but alternately passive and active. It applies to the largest of manifest things, e.g. universes, down to the very smallest, e.g., sub-atomic particles. Everything has a period of existence and a period of withdrawal, but there is THAT which continues through both states, LIFE itself, everlasting Essence, or Spirit.
Man is regarded as essentially a unit of the Universal Spirit, regarded as an Ego or Individuality. At intervals of a few millennia of earth time (variable with circumstances) this Spiritual Entity projects into the physical world by a complicated process of rebirth a new personality. Each personality is linked to its predecessor by a number of "hereditary" factors that condition the new one from birth, and each personality has an allotted life span of a relatively short duration (commonly 70 to 80 years).
During each life, the personality is subject to Karma, even to his/her inherited characteristics. In a lifetime, the personality gains many experiences and then eventually dies. Life experience is said to be of two kinds, personal and spiritual. The purely personal becomes a hereditary factor in the conditioning of later personalities. The spiritual is separated out after death and is assimilated by the spiritual Individuality during a very long inter-life period in an unalloyed blissful subjective state.
The importance of a person's realization of his or her essential divine nature is much stressed in theosophical literature. If it can become a consciously recognized fact in our lives, it affects every aspect of our behavior for the better. As HPB has expressed it, it humanizes the otherwise animal man.
Reincarnation, as far as man is concerned, is the modus operandi of the vast evolutionary journey that we are all engaged in.
Against background knowledge of the reincarnation process, death can be seen in perspective. This can reflect into the making of very different decisions. For example, in the case of brain-damaged patients on life-support machines, what is the purpose of our striving to keep physical bodies alive beyond their useful conscious lifespan? Similarly, we are casting doubt on the usefulness of much vivisection research and other cruelties inflicted on animals to produce medicines. Our bodies may be kept alive for a period longer than if we did not take animal-tested drugs, but in the light of reincarnation and Karma is such a practice justified?
The teaching tells us of a virtually endless progressive unfoldment of the potentialities of spirit. These reflect into the personalities that are also progressively developing, manifesting as they do more and more of the qualities of the divine Essence. Personalities are also on a journey to perfection, by stages, culminating in their complete spiritual regeneration.
These stages are marked by the progressive unfoldment of proper human faculties with their expression on one hand in the personality's living, its relationships, attitudes, and actions and on the other in an expanding consciousness. The person becomes increasingly sensible of the spiritual powers. As he grows, so he becomes aware of the fact that he is inseverable linked with whatever beings there are at those high levels.
All these great ideas must surely give us a vision or a hope for our future that we could never otherwise have had. Our responsibility is to discover the ways and means, according to the Law, of realizing them.
By Countess Constance Wachtmeister
[From REMINISCENCES OF H.P. BLAVATSKY AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Some material has been silently deleted and explanatory words have been added within brackets by Daniel Caldwell.]
In the autumn of 1885, I was making preparations to leave my home in Sweden to spend the winter with some friends in Italy, and incidentally, en route to pay Madame Gebhard a promised visit at her residence in Elberfeld [Germany].
It was while I was engaged in putting my affairs in order, in view of my long absence, that an incident occurred, not indeed singular in my experience, but out of the normal. I was arranging and laying aside the articles I intended to take with me to Italy when I heard a voice saying, "Take that book, it will be useful to you on your journey." I may as well say at once that I have the faculties of clairvoyance and clairaudience rather strongly developed. I turned my eyes on a manuscript volume I had placed among the heap of things to be locked away until my return. Certainly it seemed a singular inappropriate vade mecum for a holiday, being a collection of notes on the Tarot and passages in the Kabbalah that had been compiled for me by a friend. However, I decided to take it with me, and laid the book in the bottom of one of my traveling trunks.
At last the day came for me to leave Sweden, in October 1885, and I arrived at Elberfeld, where I met with a cordial and affectionate greeting from Madame Gebhard. However, the time was drawing near for me to pass on into Italy. My friends never ceased pressing me to join them there, and at last the date of my departure was fixed.
When I told Madame Gebhard that I must leave her in a few days, she spoke to me of a letter she had received from HPB ... she was ill in body and depressed in mind. Her sole companions were her servant and an Indian gentleman.
"Go to her," said Madame Gebhard, "she needs sympathy, and you can cheer her up."
I thought the matter over. Madame Gebhard was genuinely pleased when I made known my decision to her and showed her a letter I had written to "the old lady" in Wurzburg suggesting that if she cared to receive me I would spend a few weeks with her. The letter was dispatched, and we waited eagerly for the reply. When at last it lay upon the breakfast table, there was much excitement in regard to its contents, but anticipation soon turned into consternation on Madame Gebhard's part and disappointment on mine, when we found nothing more nor less than a polite refusal. Madame Blavatsky was sorry, but she had no room for me; besides, she was so occupied in writing her Secret Doctrine that she had no time to entertain visitors, but hoped we might meet on my return from Italy. After the first natural disappointment, I set my eyes hopefully southward.
My luggage was soon ready, and a cab was actually waiting for me at the door when a telegram was put into my hands containing these words, "Come to Wurzburg at once, wanted immediately -- Blavatsky."
It may easily be imagined that this message took me by surprise. There was no resisting and instead of taking my ticket to Rome I took one to Wurzburg.
It was evening when I reached Madame Blavatsky's lodgings, and as I mounted the stairs my pulse was a little hurried while I speculated upon the reception which awaited me.
Madame Blavatsky's welcome was a warm one, and after the first few words of greeting, she remarked, "I have to apologize to you for behaving so strangely. I will tell you the truth, which is, that I did not want you. I have only one bedroom here, and I thought that you might be a fine lady and not care to share it with me. My ways are probably not your ways. If you came to me I knew that you would have to put up with many things that might seem to you intolerable discomforts. That is why I decided to decline your offer, and I wrote to you in that sense; but after my letter was posted Master spoke to me and said that I was to tell you to come. I never disobey a word from Master, and I telegraphed at once. Since then I have been trying to make the bedroom more habitable. I have bought a large screen which will divide the room, so that you can have one side and I, the other, and I hope you will not be too uncomfortable."
I replied that whatever the surroundings to which I had been accustomed might have been, I would willingly relinquish them all for the pleasure of her companionship.
I remember very well that it was then, on going into the dining room together to take some tea, that she said to me abruptly, as of something that had been dwelling on her mind.
"Master says you have a book for me of which I am much in need."
"No, indeed," I replied, "I have no books with me."
"Think again," she said, "Master says you were told in Sweden to bring a book on the Tarot and the Kabbalah."
Then I recollected the circumstances that I have related before. From the time I had placed the volume in the bottom of my box it had been out of my sight and out of my mind. Now, when I hurried to the bedroom, unlocked the trunk, and dived to the bottom, I found it in the same corner I had left it when packing in Sweden, undisturbed from that moment to this. But this was not all. When I returned to the dining room with it in my hand, Madame Blavatsky made a gesture and cried, "Stay, do not open it yet. Now turn to page ten and on the sixth line you will find the words ..." And she quoted a passage.
I opened the book which, let it be remembered, was no printed volume of which there might be a copy in HPB's possession, but a manuscript album in which had been written notes and excerpts by a friend of mine for my own use; yet, on the page and at the line she had indicated, I found the very words she had uttered.
When I handed her the book I ventured to ask her why she wanted it.
"Oh," she replied, "for THE SECRET DOCTRINE. That is my new work that I am so busily engaged in writing. Master is collecting material for me. He knew you had the book and told you to bring it that it might be at hand for reference."
[From a booklet that appeared when G. de Purucker became head of the Theosophical Society with International Headquarters at Point Loma, California.]
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What is to be your policy as the new Leader and Official Head of the Theosophical Society as regards the conduct of that Organization?
This is a big question to answer: "What is your policy?" I have a very definite policy -- a clear-cut one, which is not my own, in a sense, but which has been put upon me as a sacred trust to carry out, and which I have taken into my heart and mind and will carry out; and therefore in that sense it is my own. Who put it upon me? Katherine Tingley did.
You may know that we have a line of successorship in the Theosophical Society that is different perhaps from anything else in the world. Christianity in its early years had somewhat the same idea, which it called and still calls the Apostolic Succession, that is to say, that Teacher succeeded Teacher, or Leader succeeded Leader; but the SPIRITUAL aspect of this true system died out very quickly in the Christian Church and in the very early centuries of the history of that ecclesiastical society.
It has not died out among us, and may the immortal gods prevent that it ever die out, because it is based on a spiritual fact or operation of Nature. Messenger to messenger transmit the light of the holy Sages down the ages. Certain ones, certain human beings, can be trained to transmit that light in purity and in fullness, and it is their duty and their joy to transmit it.
This chain of succession in Teachers is what is often spoken of in Greek historical tradition as the Hermetic Chain or the Golden Chain as it is sometimes called, and was considered among Greek philosophical mystics as reaching from Father Zeus through a series of spiritual and then noble human beings down to ordinary men. This was a teaching of the Mysteries where it was fully explained. I may tell you here and now that it is a true teaching because it represents distinctly and clearly a true operation of Nature.
More or less faint copies of this Hermetic Chain or Golden Chain or Succession of Teachers were taken over by various later formal and esoteric sects such as the Christian Church, wherein it was called the Apostolic Succession.
As it actually took place in the Christian Church, the Apostolic Succession became a mere form, a mere matter of election to the office of Teacher, or mere appointment. What there was of the Divine Light was gone. Consequently, the Apostolic Succession in the Christian Church is but a whitened sepulcher filled with the ideals of men long dead. These ideals have left but their aroma in the whitened sepulcher. This is no criticism of the good people of the Christian Church. I am simply stating a historical and an esoteric, or as we Theosophists sometimes say, an occult fact.
In all the great Mystery Schools of antiquity, there was this succession of teacher following teacher. As the world puts it, it was a succession of Leader following Leader. Each one passed on the light to his successor as he himself had received it from his Predecessor. As long as this transmission of light was a reality, it was a spiritual thing. Therefore, all such movements lived, flourished, and did great good in the world.
These Teachers were the messengers to men from what we Theosophists call the Great White Lodge of the Masters of Wisdom. It is time that the public knew something of these things, knew the truth about them. People have already distorted our ancient Theosophical teachings. There are some fantastic ideas abroad about what we believe and do not believe.
The cornerstone of my policy is the handing on of the light undimmed, pure, and as brilliant as I have received it. As I have received it, I shall likewise pass it on.
As regards the details of my policy, I will let you into a little secret, which only recently I have communicated to my trusted officials here; and it is this: my great Predecessor, Katherine Tingley, hid in her heart the policy that she told me to carry out after she had gone. She said,
G. de P., you must do what I have been unable to do, because none was ready; but you can do it; you can work with trained helpers and officials, whom I did not have to work with in the beginning. I have spent my life, I have given all I am and all I have, to train the membership of the Society to understand, so that understanding they might receive, and in receiving, they could give in turn.
That was Katherine Tingley's dearest wish. The direction this policy follows is a return to the original lines of thought and teaching which H.P. Blavatsky, the main founder of the Theosophical Society in modern times, lay down. Why was this not done before? They could not be. They were too esoteric and difficult for the membership even of the Theosophical Movement to understand and follow. Therefore, my great Predecessor give up all her life in her leadership to training, teaching, raising the thought and understanding of the membership of the Society so that when the time came for the deliverance into their hearts and minds of some of the most sacred truths of the esoteric teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, they could receive them because then they would be enabled to understand them.
You see what I mean when I state that the keystone of my policy is such-and-such, and that to me it is a sacred trust. In telling you this I can let out my heart to you, talk to you frankly -- to those of you who are interested, and even to those of you who have come merely to hear what a Theosophical lecturer could have to say.
Realize, friends, that all such movements as the Theosophical Society are historical movements. Those of you who understand some of our teachings and of the history of the Theosophical Movement likewise know that it is in no wise different from similar movements in the past. Considered as bodies, all these different movements have one common teaching, one core of doctrine. That heart-doctrine is the ancient Wisdom Religion of the ages, transmitted in ancient times, for instance, in countries bordering the Inland Sea of Europe, through what were there called the Mystery Schools.
The teachings given in these Schools of the Ancient Mysteries lay at the foundation of all the great religions and philosophies of the past. From them, all these great religions and philosophies have today more or less degenerated. I may indeed make one single exception, however, an exception that I make with one single reservation, and this exception is the great Buddhist religion. I make this exception simply in justice. We Theosophists are not Buddhists, but that great religion, founded by the noblest Seer and Sage that the earth has seen for thousands of centuries -- not years -- has the least degenerated from the original teachings of the Ancient Wisdom.
Here is in the reservation of which I speak. The above exception does not mean that the Buddhist teachings as they exist today in the Buddhist scriptures are technically Theosophical. For this reason, even the great Founder of Buddhism framed those noble teachings in enigmatic form. They are in the form of parables so that to understand even Buddhism, you must understand Theosophy which is the master key opening the secret meaning of all these ancient religions and philosophies.
The sacred trust that I have received is to bring back to the hearts of men hope, the promise of a bright future, by delivering into their hearts and minds the doctrines, tenets, and teachings of the ancient Wisdom Religion of mankind. What the nature of my policy is I shall answer more fully in answering another question that I have before me.
Is it your intention to work exactly as your Predecessor Katherine Tingley worked? Are you going to make changes which she would not herself have made? In other words, is the conduct of the Society under your direction to be the same as hers, or different from hers?
I cannot answer that question by a simple yes or a simple no. If I said it was to be different, I would not be telling you truth. If I said it was the same, I would not be telling you truth either. That very remarkable genius, Katherine Tingley, hid her policy, the secret objective, the aim, of all her Theosophical work, deep in her heart and communicated it only to a select group and in full only to me.
She pursued different methods from those it is now my bounden duty to pursue. The secret policy that she, our two great Predecessors, and I aimed at is precisely the same. The policy in its essentials, in the heart of it, has not varied and will not vary an iota. The methods of necessity must vary with changed times. The time has come for drawing the curtain, for showing some of the ancient arcane. For that, Katherine Tingley worked. She prepared the foundations sure and everlasting for the superstructure that is now in building, of which the building has now begun.
Which is the more important -- the everlasting foundation or the superstructure? Neither. One cannot exist without the other. Therefore, the policy that is the secret policy of Katherine Tingley is mine. These methods of teaching or propaganda are what Katherine Tingley most earnestly desired to carry out, the wish of her very heart. I shall carry them out. This wish was what she called a return to the methods of the great founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.
Is this the so-called Back to Blavatsky Movement? Not on your life! Excuse the vernacular. Actually, that idea signifies that the Theosophical Movement has wandered from H.P. Blavatsky, first Messenger in modern times of the great Masters of Wisdom to men. As far as those people who belong to the Back to Blavatsky Movement are concerned, they no doubt tell the truth when they say they want to go back to Blavatsky because they have wandered from her, but such is not the case with us. We admit not that the Theosophical Society has ever swerved from that direct line originating in H.P. Blavatsky and running, as to the Pole Star, up to the present day.
Does it mean that our membership has been trained and can now carry on the work which H.P. Blavatsky herself could not fully carry on because the times were not ripe and the members were even less ready to receive than they were ready to receive the wish of Katherine Tingley's heart, and the heart of her Predecessor Mr. Judge?
Had H.P. Blavatsky taught what she wanted to teach and what she knew in time would be taught, it would have been a sowing of seed in stony places. The hot sun would have come up, scorched, and killed the seed. The whole Theosophical Movement would have been a futile effort. She trained and taught her members. So did Katherine Tingley. Please understand that I am the Servant of the Law. My duty is clear-cut. I shall follow it to the end. For me, it is a happy and a joyful duty.
Are Theosophy and Occultism the same thing, or different things?
Some of these questions are difficult to answer. I know just what I should say, but I am so afraid of giving an answer that will in turn give to you a misleading impression. I am not a gifted speaker and the consequence is, as I have said before, that I feel on occasions a positive alarm when I try to answer these questions; and all that I can do is to take my courage in my hands and go to it.
In one sense, Theosophy and Occultism are the same. In another sense, they are different. Let me try to illustrate. Do not the Christians for instance say that the teachings of Christ and the Christian theology are the same, yet different? They claim that the theological doctrines originated in the teachings of Jesus Christ, but that the actual teachings which Jesus Christ gave in his day were not -- and it is true -- the theological doctrines of later times.
Theosophy is the ancient Wisdom Religion in an all-inclusive sense. Spiritual beings from other spheres originally gave these wonderful and sublime doctrines to mankind on this planet. They were gods among men. The doctrines have descended in the care of this great Association of the Masters of Wisdom down to us even unto this day. They are given out from time to time, from age to age, when the world needs a spiritual rejuvenation. That body of teachings or doctrine is Theosophy, the wisdom of the gods, the master key to all the great religions, sciences, and philosophies of the past.
Occultism is that part of Theosophy that treats of the deeper, hid, mystic, and esoteric side of nature and of man. It is Theosophy indeed, but that part of Theosophy that the average man cannot "eat" -- to use the figure of the New Testament, the metaphor of the Christian Scripture -- because he is still a little child. He needs must be fed the milk -- to use again the figure of the New Testament -- that is to say, to begin with the simpler teachings.
Discipline, as we Theosophists say, precedes the Mysteries. Occultism, therefore, is that branch of the general Theosophical philosophy that treats of these operations of Nature and the secret laws of Nature and of man. These two are the same fundamentally, and yet that same thing, as it were, is two branches: one for the esoteric; and the other is the all-inclusive source from which streams the current of the teachings for the exoteric.
Friends, these two divisions are not arbitrary. It all depends upon the applicant. You cannot keep a good man down, is an old saying; and the man who comes to our doors and knocks and gives the right knock -- we know what the right knock is -- enters.
Is your Society something new in the history of the world, or is it in the same line of teachings that the Ancient Mysteries of Antiquity followed? Do you believe in the necessity of having a Teacher whose main duty it is to teach natural truths? Is it possible for a Society to live and exist without a teacher, with members trying to get what natural facts they can?
Well, after what I have just been telling you, it seems to me that this question allows me to make a very ready and appropriate answer. Most emphatically, our Society is not new in the history of the world. It has always existed. At intervals, it has disappeared as a public organization and been preserved in the secret places of the earth. Our Society follows precisely the same line of teaching that the Ancient Mysteries followed, not merely of Greece and of Rome and of ancient Hindustan and the ancient countries of the Americas, for the same Wisdom Religion of the archaic ages was and is identical in all.
We Theosophists believe not as some people who merely call themselves Theosophists believe; but we of the original Society, accepting the teachings of our Predecessors: the teachings of the Masters of Wisdom: believe that to have a true Teacher is the best and simplest way of learning, and the quickest. Do not accept any Teacher, however, in whom you have not trust. Refuse! When you do give your trust, are you man enough or woman enough to accept that Teacher honestly and courageously and to follow him? I am, for I have learned the wisdom of it. We Theosophists most certainly believe in Teachers. We most certainly believe in the successorship of which I spoke in the beginning of my talk this afternoon.
I myself have been a faithful servant and disciple under my Predecessors. I gave them my heart-trust and all my life. I put all that I had and all that I am in their spiritual keeping, and I have never regretted it. I have learned, and I have a peace in my heart and happiness in my mind that are beyond all understanding of anyone but myself; because I know.
By George William Russell
[From THE IRISH THEOSOPHIST, May 1893.]
This story is extraordinary. That is not why I wish to tell you it. I think mere weirdness, grotesque or unusual character, are not sufficient reasons for making public incidents in which there is an element of the superhuman. The world, in spite of its desire to understand the nature of the occult, is sick of and refuses to listen to stories of apparitions that betray no spiritual character or reveal no spiritual law.
The incident here related is burned into my mind and life, not because of its dramatic intensity or personal character, but because it was a revelation of the SECRET OF POWER, a secret which the wise in good and the wise in evil alike have knowledge of.
My friend Felix was strangely disturbed. Not only were his material affairs unsettled, but he was also passing through a crisis in his spiritual life. Two paths were open before him. On one side lay the dazzling mystery of passion. On the other, "the small old path" held out its secret and spiritual allurements. I had hope that he would choose the latter, and as I was keenly interested in his decision, I invested the struggle going on in his mind with something of universal significance, seeing in it a symbol of the strife between "light and darkness that are the world's eternal ways."
Felix came in late one evening. I saw at once by the dim light that there was something strange in his manner. I spoke to him in enquiry. He answered me in a harsh dry voice foreign to his usual manner. "Oh, I am not going to trouble myself anymore, I will let things take their course." This seemed the one idea in his mind. The one thing he understood clearly was that things were to take their own course.
He failed to grasp the significance of any other idea or its relative importance. He answered "Aye, indeed," with every appearance of interest and eagerness to some trivial remark about the weather, and was quite unconcerned about another and most important matter which should have interested him deeply.
I soon saw what had happened. The forces were evenly balanced in his mind. They had fought strenuously. His mind had become so utterly wearied out that it could work no longer. A flash of old intuition illumined it at last. It was not wise to strive with such bitterness over life. Therefore, he said to me in memory of this intuition, "I am going to let things take their course." A larger tribunal would decide. He had appealed unto Caesar. I sent him up to his room and tried to quiet his fever by magnetization with some success. He fell asleep. As I was rather weary myself, I retired soon after.
This was the vision of the night. It was surely in the room I lay on my bed, and yet space opened on every side with pale, clear light. A slight wavering figure caught my eye, a figure that swayed back and forth. I was struck with its utter feebleness, yet I understood it was its own will or some quality of its nature that determined that palpitating movement towards the poles between which it swung. What were they? I became silent as night and thought no more.
Two figures awful in their power opposed each other. The frail being wavering between them could by putting out its arms have touched them both. It alone wavered, for they were silent, resolute, and knit in the conflict of will. They stirred not a hand nor a foot. There was only a still quivering now and then as of intense effort, but they made no other movement. Their heads were bent forward slightly. Their arms were folded. Their bodies were straight, rigid, and inclined slightly backwards from each other like two spokes of a gigantic wheel.
What were they, these figures? I knew not, and yet gazing upon them, thought that took no words to clothe itself mutely read their meaning. Here were the culminations of the human, towering images of the good and evil man may aspire to.
I looked at the face of the evil adept. His bright red-brown eyes burned with a strange radiance of power. I felt an answering emotion of pride, of personal intoxication, of psychic richness rise up within me gazing upon him.
His face was archetypal. The abstract passion that eluded me in the features of many people I knew was here declared, exultant, defiant, and gigantic. It seemed to leap like fire, to be free. In this face, I was close to the legendary past, to the hopeless worlds where men were martyred by stony kings, where prayer was hopeless, where pity was none. I traced a resemblance to many of the great Destroyers in history whose features have been preserved, Napoleon, Ramases, and a hundred others, named and nameless, the long line of those who were crowned in cruelty.
His strength was in human weakness. I saw this, for space and the hearts of men were bare before me. Out of space, there flowed to him a stream half invisible of red. It nourished that rich radiant energy of passion. It flowed from men as they walked and brooded in loneliness, or as they tossed in sleep.
I withdrew my gaze from the face that awoke in me a lurid sense accompaniment, and turned it on the other. An aura of pale soft blue was around this figure, through which gleamed an underlight as of universal gold.
The vision was already dim and departing, but I caught a glimpse of a face godlike in its calm, terrible in the beauty of a life we know only in dreams, with strength which is the end of the hero's toil, which belongs to the many times martyred soul. Yet, not far away, nor in the past was its power. It was the might of life that exists eternally.
I understood how easy it would have been for this one to end the conflict, to have gained a material victory by its power, but this would not have touched on or furthered its spiritual ends. Only its real being had force to attract that real being which was shrouded in the wavering figure.
This truth the adept of darkness knew also and therefore he intensified within the sense of pride and passionate personality. Therefore, they stirred not a hand nor a foot while under the stimulus of their presence culminated the good and evil in the life that had appealed to a higher tribunal to decide.
Then this figure wavering between the two moved forward and touched with its hand the Son of Light. All at once, the scene and actors vanished, and the eye that saw them was closed. I was alone with darkness and a hurricane of thoughts.
Strange and powerful figures! I knew your secret of strength. It is only TO BE. Nature quickened by your presence leaps up in response. I knew no less the freedom of that human soul, for your power only revealed its unmanifest nature. It merely precipitated experience. I knew that although the gods and cosmic powers may war over us forever, it is we alone declare them victors or vanquished.
For the rest, the vision of that night was prophetic, and the feet of my friend are now set on that way which was the innermost impulse of his soul.
By Boris de Zirkoff
[This talk comes from the second part of a tape recording entitled "HPB Highlights" made of a private class held on January 9, 1955. Some spots on the tape were hard to make out so there may be a few inaccuracies in the edited version of the talk.]
It is curious that HPB and Colonel Olcott should have had to open the Theosophical Society's Headquarters in India. Why would they have to go there?
Over 2,000 years, India has gone downhill gradually. She has forgotten the wealth of spirituality in her scriptures, the message of her great sages and seers. Building up psychologies by the dozens, including Brahmanical, Hindu, and Jain, India got in the solid grip of a temporal priesthood. In the west, the priesthood of the Roman Church did the same. There were the same influences, types of people, and objectives. The aim was to have power over people and get money out of them. India went down, down, and down.
The Teachers explained that India was paying a heavy karmic debt for her past wrongs. They wanted an effort to reawaken the consciousness of the people, those sensitive enough. There was a possibility to reawaken their memory of their spiritual potential as a nation. Largely done in India, the effort included Ceylon, the Buddhist part of the country.
There is practically no Buddhism in India. A Hindu, Gautama the Buddha, started it there. Buddhism rooted in Tibet, Burma, and Nepal, but the priesthood drove it out of India. The priests did not want reform. What little of Buddhism that remained crystallized. Olcott worked indefatigably amongst Buddhists of Ceylon, where they considered him almost a saint.
In the West, there were trends of spirituality and metaphysics good for the Teachers to reseed India. My teacher, Dr. de Purucker, pointed out an interesting fact. It was the karmic destiny of the Occident, both Europe and America, to reintroduce the appreciation of spiritual things into India. It had sunken, having forgotten the message and precepts of its past.
Thousands of years ago, India was a great spiritual country. In the future, it is destined to become so again. In this era, we have an interesting interchange between the Orient and the Occident. We benefit by receiving the wealth of Indian philosophy in translation, adapting it to our Occidental thinking. This has taken place since the founding of the Theosophical Movement, carrying out one of its objectives. Without being Theosophists necessarily, people take hold of our ideas and carry out our cause in the outer rim of the Movement.
You might ask if it were significant that HPB was never the President of the Theosophical Society. She served as Corresponding Secretary. As the brains behind the organization, she was never its nominal head. Her position was unique.
Out of respect for her, the Society abolished the office of Corresponding Secretary when she died. There is a letter with instructions from her Teachers. The original exists. Colonel Olcott was to do the executive work as organizer, lecturer, contact man, and public relations man. He would support the facade of the Society. While Corresponding Secretary, HPB would deal with occult teachings, training, and the policies of the Movement unseen from the outside. She would have everything to do with esoteric work.
In 1888, she founded the Esoteric School of Theosophy for the occult training of would-be disciples. We also know it as the Eastern School of Theosophy. They are two names for the same thing. Olcott had nothing to do with it. That was completely HPB's jurisdiction. At that time, Olcott had been a direct disciple of Master M for several years. In later years, he met his Teacher more than once. HPB entirely conducted the Esoteric Section.
That arrangement paralleled Tibetan Lamaism. It has an outer or exoteric head, the Dalai Lama, and an inner or esoteric head, the Tashi Lama. The Dalai Lama resided in Lhasa and the Tashi Lama in Shigatse. The ancient Mystery Schools used this arrangement. They had their outer work and inner work, like a two-horse carriage, each with its own jurisdiction. It existed in the Greek School, the Egyptian School, and the Babylonian School. The modern Theosophical Movement has tried it, but I cannot say that it is so now. It was successful during HPB's time, but not perfect. It has not worked well since then.
Each School is an experiment. Some work and others do not. Human weaknesses arise. The Teachers are not dictators. Having no right to, they will not do anything against the karmic trend. Failing in many things, yet they succeed at times. They do not impose, but only lead or suggest. Today, we live up to the standards or fail.
Garibaldi founded the Italian form of democracy. Someone might consider him the George Washington or Simon Bolivar of Italy. How did HPB participate? We know little of this obscure period of her life. Under pressure from two or three contemporaneous students who wanted to know more of what she did, she gave a specific statement. "Yes," she said, "I was at the Battle of Mentana, November 3, 1867. I was there with Garibaldi, fought the Frenchmen, the Austrians, and the armies of the states of the pope. Garibaldi was beaten." She added it was nobody's business what she was doing there.
As a woman apparently in men's dress, why did she fight in the battle of Garibaldi? She told Olcott she was there in an ordinary Garibaldian red shirt, like they all wore. Wounded possibly more than once, she found herself left there, taken for dead. What was she doing there? She never fully disclosed it. There was a veil thrown over this period of her life. She was there under order of her Teacher. There was something to do.
The lives of advanced occultists are mysterious. Look at the lives of Count de St. Germain or of Cagliostro. They are even more mysteries than Blavatsky. They found themselves in curious places. They did strange things, which made no sense from the worldly standpoint. They never explained.
That is all we know about the Battle of Mentana. HPB said nobody knows about it except the Garibaldis. A few years ago, there were still several Garibaldis alive, the grandsons. I tried to get information from one. He knew nothing. Did the family know anything about it? Perhaps they decided not to say anything. This one, though, knew nothing. The family is still alive in Italy.
HPB was in other strange and curious places for unknown reasons.
Look at HPB's horoscope. Note that around 1875 the progressed chart shows a conjunction of the moon with the sun. Ordinarily in a woman's chart, this signifies the birth of a child. The Theosophical Society was her child.
St. Germain was highly cultured, polished, and with courtly manners. Immensely wealthy, he revolved in high circles all his life. Heaven only knows what he did. He was a Messenger from the Lodge and his work was mysterious. Some occultists work in such circles, others work among the very poor, and others work in between. The circle depends upon the mission he or she is to perform.
Can you believe the movies depicting Cagliostro as the worst possible character? We have much work to rehabilitate some characters. We see others like Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan shown as decent men. Misrepresentation of anyone is possible. Strange people get hold of a few facts and twist them. Some even show Blavatsky as a shady character! Great people have the destiny of finding themselves misrepresented at times. Eventually, truth will win out.
Wanting to keep church doctrine alive, members of orthodox churches rose against great occult students. They were strongly against truth coming out. Books against HPB come from them. The same with anti-Cagliostro propaganda from Catholics, trying to strengthen their church against truth others offered of the Laws of Nature. This opposition is almost unavoidable. Was Cagliostro ultimately martyred? Did they burn him at the stake or imprison him in Italy? Nobody knows. He went where he wanted, so I doubt they could hold him in handcuffs.
In a book by a psychologist at the United States Department of Health, we read about a convict at Leavenworth. No prison could hold him. One time they put him in solitary confinement and he showed up in a theater in Kansas City. No one had an idea how he got there. He never broke through the bars. He would vanish and reappear in theaters hundreds of miles away. He must have had some powers. Perhaps it was a case of materialization and dematerialization.
The Spiritualist Movement has diminished in potency and type of followers. With many psychic things, it has more people. Having become a church, it is less significant spiritually. The Spiritualist Church even has its ordained ministers. In HPB's days, it was not scientific. It brought a revival of interest in the psychic, which the West had completely denied for centuries. It was a useful tool to break through into a greater field.
That worked in the 1870's. The opportunity was limited to American Spiritualism, not to a different type of people in France, Germany, and England. The Teachers saw possibility with the Americans, who really had some remarkable people among their millions looking for deeper things.
The Spiritualists did not want to know more. HPB wrote in defense of genuine psychic phenomena for two years. She defended the reputation of some of the best mediums in America. The materialists attacked them, denying they were genuine and there was anything to their claims. While HPB defended them, they were with her.
HPB's Teachers ordered her to write articles about the real causes of these phenomena. From that moment, the Spiritualists threw her overboard. She was not a Spiritualist and did not believe as they did. Because they would never defend their beliefs, they just dropped her like a hot potato. They were becoming a church. The Spiritualists ignored the tremendous spiritual knowledge that she offered. At that time, she continued her by forming an organization completely independent of the Spiritualist Movement.
In those days, there were remarkable men in the Spiritualistic Movement, qualified for higher training. They were high-class mediums who did not believe in Spiritualistic explanations. Their internal nature was good material for advanced occultists to train. Some received guidance from the Masters, including C.C. Massey and Stainton Moses (a pseudonym for M.A. Oxon). They were intuitive people.
In her early articles, HPB pointed out that ordinary Spiritualism is no good, since it is just hunger after psychism. Nevertheless, she said, it has a higher aspect. If one wants to find out the real operation of universal law behind the phenomena, he or she will have to undergo severe occult training. Few people want to do that.
Spiritualism broke through materialism allowing people to see that matter is not concrete, that there was something more than the physical. Remember the depth of ignorance in those days. We speak about materialism rampant today. True, materialism has invaded many new domains of our lives, but it was stronger then. There was nothing but churches or materialism, no recognition of anything existing outside of matter.
Spiritualistic manifestations began to take place in Europe and America on a large scale. They were like a hole driven into the wall of materialism. They acted like a pointed finger, directing people to look to another domain open to investigation. The Masters used Spiritualism as a wedge in the wall of unbelief and denial. Although it proved insufficient, it served a purpose. Someday we will be able to write the true story. We need facts from more perspectives. It is too soon to write something.
We will see the big picture in the proper cycle in the receding distance of time. In my last issue of THEOSOPHIA, there is an article on cycles. It discusses the relation of cosmic cycles to breathing and the pulsations of the heart. We could spend an entire evening on that.
Sometimes a subject apart from ordinary life helps people. They may not consider something written on their problem. You simply take them away to another realm of thought.
The present Dalai Lama of Tibet is quite young, perhaps 22 years old. I do not think that he is just a figurehead. I believe that both the Dalai and Tashi Lama are men of profound spiritual insight. They are both Initiates. To what degree, I do not know.
One of the finest books on Tibet is by Colonel Bell. He was a commissioner there some years ago. He was not writing on the current Dalai Lama, but the one preceding him. The Dalai Lama was a man of unusual spirituality. There is a testimonial of an Englishman that when he came into his presence, something special happened.
The Buddhist reformer, Tsongkhapa, was a great initiate. He established the succession of Dalai Lamas, which has gone on since the fifteenth century. The Dalai and Tashi Lamas are genuine successions of spiritual teachers. A prophecy in Tibet said there would be thirteen Dalai and Tashi Lamas. Is the term up? I do not know if the present Dalai Lama is a real successor. Perhaps he is just a nice boy. Even so, he is still highly spiritual.
Do not be confused about politics. The communists came in and led the Dalai Lama somewhere. They took the Tashi Lama to China and then brought him back. We know little of the intricacies of Oriental politics. Some are deceptive to mislead others. The high Lamaistic officials of genuine spirituality have nothing to do with politics. They might play a difficult game to make people think everything is all right. We know little of what they do, little of what is really taking place.
Could the Tibetans run the communists out of their country? It is possible. There is still a great spiritual force in the Lamaistic church, even with its lower form degraded, perhaps forcibly. It has a nucleus.
Even with the strange doings of the Catholic Church through the centuries, it still has a nucleus of spirituality. It may be small, but it still exists somewhere. Inside the church, there are people of real spirituality playing a game to keep it alive.
We had enough evidence to say that within the structure of the Lamaistic church are Initiates of real knowledge and high degree. Because of this, we can say that true, Northern Buddhism has much more of a nucleus of spirituality.
The Tibetans are jealous of what we have. Suspicious of westerners, they put up a false front. Can you blame them? Everywhere we go, we try to introduce our ways. If we can, we laugh down, criticize, and destroy the ways of other people. We deny their aspirations, trying to impose our European or American system. We cannot blame them for being suspicious and not wanting to open up their country.
Our information about them is fragmentary. We find in public libraries books on Tibet written by westerners having been there recently. With genuine spirit, cordiality, and open-heartedness, their have won trust. The Tibetans opened up to them and showed more of what is going on.
Ten years ago, a young Frenchman wrote a good book. He went there and gained their trust. He found a true spiritual teacher. The latter part of this book is amazing. He tells of their real spiritual knowledge and control of natural forces. It is inspiring to reading what that old lama told him.
Another book is THE PEAKS AND LAMAS by Marco Pallis, a Greek. It gives a splendid account of Tibet. Every time a fine man goes there, he sees finer things. Every time an ordinary materialist goes there, he sees the outside show, next to nothing. He cannot fool a Tibetan hierarchy of spiritual, enlightened men. They will know who he is and what he can do.
A westerner goes into the world as missionary or diplomat. One gets results with respect and gratitude. Acting like a teenager, another does not get results. Even if the people do not understand one's words, the attitude is explanatory. Apart from being intelligent, this keen understanding is essential.
A person may live in a hovel. Someone else lives is something better, but lacking western refinement. Neither person's home describes them as an individual. Either could be a highly spiritual man with great wisdom and a background of culture that we will not reach in a thousand years. We judge the world by our standards: the Englishman have theirs, Frenchman another, Americans a third. The Emily Post standard, for instance, is no good.
Lowell Thomas in OUT OF THIS WORLD TO FORBIDDEN TIBET describes Tibetans as shoddy, bearded, with long hair, and wearing ragged clothes thrown one on top of the other to keep warm. He describes them as horrible. One held a dog, and Thomas asked which looked the shaggier. He clearly was not interested in the spiritual.
Ponder the idea, an important thought. Aspiring to truth, we students of the spiritual constantly work to avoid misjudging of people or events by their outward appearance. We are self-deceived a million different ways, looking upon habits, customs, dress, outward circumstance, and even another's speech as showing what they are. No, these do not reflect their soul life necessarily.
Another's soul life may be rich. One sentence of his may contain quite a message! He may look shabby. He may come from the North Pole and not talk our language. He may have bad table manners. He may be our next-door neighbor. We imagine him rather coarse. Even so, he has a philosophy better than ours. With no facility of language to express it, he may say a word or two worth listening to, giving us a new insight on life.
Avoid the misjudging of people. Outward appearances are ok, but too important to shallow people. As students, we follow people's souls, the workings of their minds, and the keynote of their heart-life. We consider what they are, not how they appear. What they are radiates independent of what suit they wear. The akasha radiates through them whether they be in a bus, a theater, or our drawing room. What they are simply IS. It radiates. We get it. We attune ourselves to it. They cannot hide it.
We do not attune ourselves to another intellectually. If we remove our intellect for a while, it will be easier to catch the undertone. Full of ideas, we make a barrier between another and us. Cultivate a desire to know, sympathy towards the heart and soul of the other, and a yearning to help if possible. Open oneself to the fine in him. Then we can attune to them. This is not merely an intellectual process. There is sympathetic intercourse, a willingness to learn, and a willingness to listen. Everyone is our teacher. They have something to teach us.
Our duty is to put ourselves in their souls, thereby building links of great mutual importance for the future. Is there an attitude of superiority or self-righteousness? Do we have the feeling we sure have got it all, whether as an individual, group, or nation? If so, we live a teenage psychology. This is the same as a schoolboy anywhere in the world may do. They think they know it all.
I heard the great Dr. Merrill once say in a lecture on astronomy, "Fifty years ago, we knew all about these things. We do not know so much now!" He was aware. He had a sense of humor.
One may understand the complexities of life. He knows that he knows little. In his humility, that man is greater than the self-righteous. As students of Theosophy, we cultivate that genuine humility. We do not grovel in the dust, but rather are humble in recognition of the greatness of life. We see our potential greatness, stand in awe before the unknown, and feel deep reverence to all that is.