At the dawn of his consciousness, the man of the Third Root-Race had thus no beliefs that could be called RELIGION ... It was the "Golden Age" in those days of old, the age when the "gods walked the earth, and mixed freely with the mortals." Since then, the gods departed (i.e. became invisible), and later generations ended by worshipping their kingdoms -- the Elementals.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, pages 272-73.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, October 1937, pages 246-55.]
We find many of the best-known teachings of Theosophy in Poe. This is important because of the prevalent ignorance of the fact. Misconceptions concerning him have prevented some from reading his best writings. Those who have read him may judge based on preconceptions about Poe rather than from the intrinsic worth of his ideas.
To write a criticism of the man and his works in general is not our present purpose, and a few brief remarks must suffice as introduction to our main topic. To whomsoever the fault may be due, the fact remains that his literary executor defamed Poe, and that the writers in encyclopedias and works on literature, who are not always as wise as their claims would suggest, accepted this false picture without examination.
Later, certain writers who possessed the ability to assess values by intrinsic merit, and to judge the author by his works rather than the other way round, succeeded in exposing the calumnies. No doubt, some of these carried the reaction too far in the other direction; but at the present date, it is easy for anyone to obtain a fair and balanced judgment concerning the life and character of Poe.
He was an over-sensitive and badly balanced temperament, a sad misfit in the world into which he was born. He suffered from misunderstanding, frustration, and continual poverty. Like a being that a passing comet has deposited upon an unfamiliar globe, he lived in a realm strangely apart from ordinary human interests. His intense and one-sided temperament carries him to great heights, and by inevitable reaction to morbid depths.
His tales are all in the strange aloof world of his: he fails when he tries to introduce the usual components of a fictional narrative -- human interest, dialog, etc. Some of these tales are beautiful, others morbid; all are chaste. His attempts at humor are distressing. It is in his prose writings rather than in his scanty verse that he justifies his title of poet.
Poe's almost invariable habit of writing in the first person has probably led some not very competent critics into the belief that many of his tales are autobiographical. Such a technique comes natural to a genius whose object is intensity and vividness. To write a tale in the third person is to give an outside view; the true artist thinks himself into that which he designs to portray, realizes the drama in his mind, and identifies himself with the character. How much more vivid instead of "Mr. So-and-so came of a race noted for vigor of fancy, etc." -- to write, "I am come of a race noted for vigor of fancy."
Psychoanalytic experts have dissected his character in a way that impresses you only so long as you fail to realize that any other complex character -- yours or mine -- could be dissected in precisely the same way and with the same results. We one and all have subtle motives which we suppress until we can find an opportunity of expressing them under some respectable disguise; Poe is a long way from being the only writer who has sought relief by expressing in imagination what he has failed to express in actual life.
There will be some who, having prejudged Poe in consequence of the misrepresentations, will not either read his best writings or will dismiss them as the lucid intervals of a dipsomaniac; which perhaps will seem to them a good reason for discounting anything he has said, regardless of possible intrinsic merit. There will be also what we may call the supernaturalists, who regard manifestations of genius as due to some occult inspiration from a power behind the scenes, said power being in turn but the medium for a still higher power; and so on, so that the source continually recedes like the rainbow.
This doctrine contravenes the idea that man contains within himself the potency of all knowledge, and this potency can be brought into actuality by his own efforts. Poe shows no sign of indebtedness to the Orient or to ancient Greece. Whether his intuitions were his own, or were breathed into him by somebody else, let each decide for himself.
In his prose poem "Eureka," Poe shows the universe as proceeding from an original unity to multiplicity, and back from multiplicity to unity; the two tendencies being continually operative, their perpetual interaction causing the movement, the stress, the joy, or life; the close of a cycle of manifestation being marked by the final predominance of the unifying tendency. This universe is only one of an infinite number of universes. These surely are Theosophical doctrines. Gravitation is the desire of separated particles to return to unity; they seek the center of spheres, not because these are centers, but because such is the shortest road towards unity. This general principle is worked out at great length and much detail in a consideration of the stellar universe and its mechanics.
It must not be thought that he leaves us with a dry mechanism or views the universe as a cold crystal. For him, all is life, down to the smallest atomic particle; the entire universe is sentient. In this, he bears out his own contention that a MERE mathematician cannot reason, but that a man must be a poet as well as a mathematician. See "The Purloined Letter," "As poet AND mathematician, he would reason well; as mere mathematician he could not have reasoned at all." The following extract from the conclusion of "Eureka" will illustrate what we have said:
There was an epoch in the Night of Time, when a still existent being existed -- one of an infinite number of similar Beings that people the infinite domains of the infinite space. It was not and is not in the power of this Being -- any more than it is in your own -- to extend by actual increase, the joy of his Existence; but just as it IS in your power to expand or to concentrate your pleasures (the absolute amount of happiness remaining always the same) so did and does a similar capability appertain to this Divine Being, who thus passes his Eternity in perpetual variation of Concentrated Self and almost Infinite Self-Diffusion. What you call the Universe is but his present expansive existence. He now feels his life through an infinity of imperfect pleasures -- the partial and pain-intertangled pleasures of those inconceivably numerous things that you designate as his creatures, but which are really but infinite individualizations of Himself. All these creatures -- ALL -- those which you term animate, as well as those to whom you deny life for no better reason than that you do not behold it in operation -- ALL these creatures have, in a greater or less degree, a capacity for pleasure and for pain: -- BUT THE GENERAL SUM OF THEIR SENSATIONS IS PRECISELY THAT AMOUNT OF HAPPINESS WHICH APPERTAINS BY RIGHT TO THE DIVINE BEING WHEN CONCENTRATED WITHIN HIMSELF. These creatures are all, too, more or less conscious Intelligences; conscious, first, of a proper identity; conscious, secondly, and by faint indeterminate glimpses, of an identity with the Divine Being of whom we speak -- of an identity with God. Of the two classes of consciousness, fancy that the former will grow weaker, the latter stronger, during the long succession of ages that must elapse before these myriads of individual Intelligences become blended -- when the bright stars become blended -- into One. Think that the sense of individual identity will be gradually merged in the general consciousness -- that Man, for example, ceasing imperceptibly to feel himself Man, will at length attain that awfully triumphant epoch when he shall recognize his existence as that of Jehovah. In the meantime, bear in mind that all is Life -- Life -- Life within Life -- the less within the greater, and all within the SPIRIT DIVINE.
It is superfluous to point out the many ideas familiar to Theosophists that occur in this passage. In another passage, he speaks of the "law of periodicity."
Are we not more than justified in entertaining a belief -- let us say rather in indulging a hope -- that the processes we have here ventured to contemplate will be renewed forever, and forever, and forever; a novel Universe swelling into existence, and then subsiding into nothingness, at every throb of the Heart Divine?
We also note the familiar analogy between the Great Breath and the pulse of the heart. As to this heart, he continues:
Now -- this Heart Divine -- what is it? IT IS OUR OWN.
This redeems the philosophy from all suspicion of being that of an external universe, a universe purely objective, omitting the subject, and therefore unreal and abstract. Such an external objective universe is familiar enough to scientific philosophy, and to many metaphysical systems. This cutting off object from subject not only shuts out one-half of reality but also precludes a just comprehension of the remaining half.
Poe's criterion of truth is its beauty, its consistency, the conviction that it brings to the mind, the response as of recognition that it evokes from the heart. He makes great fun of the inductive and deductive methods, which he dubs the method of creeping and the method of crawling. The pedants who rely on either of these methods do not care whether a truth is true; all they want to know is the method by which the alleged truth has been arrived at; if it has not been arrived at by their favorite method, it is not true. We are reminded of those earnest truth seekers who are always demanding "proof" -- people who, to be logical, would have to deny their own existence. Here is a passage from "Mellonta Tauta" ("These things are of the future"):
Do you know that it is not more than a thousand years ago since the metaphysicians consented to relieve the people of the singular fancy that there existed but TWO POSSIBLE ROADS FOR THE ATTAINMENT OF TRUTH! Believe it if you can!
Then with his cumbrous humor, he makes fun of the Aristotelians and the Baconians, who started from axioms and sensations respectively, or from noumena and phenomena. These notions operated to retard the progress of knowledge -- which makes its advances almost invariably by intuitive bounds.
No man dared utter a truth for which be felt himself indebted to his SOUL alone. It mattered not whether the truth was even DEMONSTRABLY a truth, for the bullet-headed savants of the time regarded only THE ROAD by which he had attained it. They would not even LOOK at the end. "Let us see the means," they cried, "the means!" If, upon investigation of the means, it was found to come under neither the category Aries (that is to say Ram) nor under the category Hog, why then the savants went no farther, but pronounced the "theorist" a fool, and would have nothing to do with him or his truth.
Is it not passing strange that, with their eternal prattling about ROADS to Truth, these bigoted people missed what we now so clearly perceive to be the great highway -- that of Consistency? Does it not seem singular how they should have failed to deduce from the works of God the vital fact that a perfect consistency MUST be an absolute truth!
The problem of the origin of evil presents no difficulty to one who views the universe in this way; he sees that we have imposed sorrows upon ourselves for our own purposes. The passage quoted below also connects this thought with the idea of the unity of all souls in the one Oversoul.
No thinking being lives who, at some luminous point of his life of thought, has not felt himself lost amid the surges of futile efforts at understanding or believing that anything exists that is GREATER THAN HIS OWN SOUL. It is utterly impossible for anyone's soul to feel itself inferior to another. There is an intense overwhelming dissatisfaction and rebellion at the thought. These, with the omni-prevalent aspirations at perfection are but the spiritual, coincident with the material, struggles towards the original Unity -- are, to my mind at least, a species of proof far surpassing what Man terms demonstration, that no one soul IS inferior to another -- that nothing is, or can be, superior to any one soul. Each soul is, in part, its own God -- its own Creator: -- in a word, that God -- the material AND spiritual God -- NOW exists solely in the diffused Matter and Spirit of the Universe; and that the regathering of this diffused Matter and Spirit will be but the reconstitution of the PURELY Spiritual and Individual God.
In this view, and in this view alone, we comprehend the riddles of Divine Injustice -- or Inexorable Fate. In this view alone, the existence of Evil becomes intelligible; but in this view it becomes more -- it becomes endurable. Our souls no longer rebel at a SORROW that we ourselves have imposed upon ourselves, in furtherance of our own purposes -- with a view -- if even with a futile view -- to the extension of our own JOY.
By Katherine Heck
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, March 1946, pages 97-99.]
Intrinsically, there is nothing wrong with metaphysics or mysticism in most of its phases. The trouble lies with the student of "other world" philosophies. Sometimes it seems that "victim" is a better word.
The following comments are not going to deal with the obvious dangers of the seance or warn against dabbling in black magic, but are for those of us who think, "I know better than that. It will take a mighty-smart dugpa to fool me. I am a REAL student of TRUE occultism." Is that so? Well, there are degrees in everything and hierarchies in every place. There are smart devils for smart people. Everything is nicely graded in the thoroughly organized universe of which we mystics are so sure we are a part.
Right here is the crux of the matter. If we become so convinced that the Universe and we are one, it is only a question of time in the cyclic development of the Western mystic, at least, before we ARE the Universe and our present incarnations are but paltry mud spots on the garment of Truth. We do not live here anymore. We are heading straight for Nirvana on a private train labeled "Personal Salvation" for the Western mystic, and "Freedom from the Wheel of Life" for the Eastern philosopher.
In the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese poet Liu Chang-Ching wrote the following:
Walking along a little path, I find a footprint on the moss, A white cloud low on the quiet lake, Grasses that sweeten an idle door, A pine grown greener with the rain, A brook that comes from a mountain source ... And, mingling with Truth among the flowers, I have forgotten what to say.
This Taoist poem contains a key to mysticism. Inarticulateness is a mark of the true mystic. Throughout all literature, his message lies in what he has sense enough not to say. Mystics and true Occultists have a language of the heart. In the silence, they converse one with another. Without words, they enter together into the bliss of "at-one-ness" which is their goal.
It would appear from this that mystics and students of metaphysics would be the most unselfish of people. Indeed, they would have a feeling for brotherhood that would make them knowers of sorrow and sharers of joy. In fact, you would suppose that a true Occultist would be tops as a psychologist just because he not only knows people but also in a certain sense IS "people."
It does not often happen that way primarily because mystics and occultists are people too and not perfect in their chosen path, however altruistic that path may be. Our problem, therefore, is with the sincere student on the path of wisdom or metaphysics who, by his very sincerity and earnestness, is most likely to miss the forest for the trees. He concentrates so hard on casting a mote out of his own eyes that sometimes he forgets that there are other people with eyes and motes of their own -- and sorrows too.
This is a warning to us. Remember the whole. We have a body as well as a spirit and soul. Theosophy declares that the whole constitution of man is dependent upon its basic vehicle for expression and the chance to progress. Why do we hasten to impede ourselves? Here is our opportunity as evolving entities to learn certain lessons, impossible to experience if we were not here on earth, with earth bodies and the necessary equipment for reacting to physical, mental, moral, and spiritual stimuli that can operate only on the Earth.
The Earth is an entity too. We are not just our physical bodies, and the Earth is not just a bunch of oceans and land masses either. It is quite possible that we have reached a stage in our evolution where fundamentally we are supposed, for our souls' good, to learn something about Globe D, the Earth chain. Otherwise, why are we here with all our fine equipment for learning?
What is wrong with metaphysics? Intrinsically, nothing at all is wrong. A subtle trap is set for the student who allows metaphysics to lead him -- very quietly, almost imperceptibly -- to a form of selfishness that outranks all the petty grabbing and pushing and "Me first-ness" of the world. This is spiritual selfishness. Alas, it is so often beautifully disguised as a love of mankind and an apparently altruistic search for truth.
It has been said countless times, but is worth repeating, that love and loyalty in our immediate personal contacts and fidelity to our present duties and tasks will change a theoretic acceptance of Universal Brotherhood into actual practice. In this wise, we will find ourselves firmly anchored to the path of aspiring Godhood, while to our hearts belong the stars.
By John M. Prentice
[This is a true sketch of a Theosophist written by the President of the Australian Section of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena), from THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, January 1945, pages 20-22.]
It is more than thirty-five years since she first attracted notice as a regular at Lodge Meetings. Long before that, she had been a member of the Theosophical Society, although no one ever seems to have known the circumstances under which she joined. You see, she said so little at any time and it probably never occurred to anyone to enquire. She was accepted as a member and that was all there was to it. When death came to her, it was in the same quiet, unostentatious fashion, although the newspapers of the day, taking account of her social position, gave her more publicity than she had ever known before. They did not mention, however, the fact that she was a Theosophist.
She was a Quaker. Her grey silk frock blended into any surroundings without making her in any way obtrusive. It was of the richest silk and the women folk said it was the kind selected for wearing quality rather than for other reasons. Her grey bonnet matched it perfectly and set off the charm of her unlined face. She never wore any other frock or bonnet in all the years she attended Lodge meetings.
Her wealth was fabulous. Had she been different, she would have been greatly sought after. Her generosity was in proportion to her means, yet she was never known to contribute to any of the charities that are so well publicized. Many a poor scholar found his way through school or university eased through the scholarships and bursaries she so richly endowed. Organizers of soup kitchens or indeed any palliatives of the social order were quietly but effectively dismissed from her portals.
She never spoke in public. She took no part in the often-animated debates and discussions following the lecture for the evening. Yet those who encountered her privately said her knowledge of the teachings was both wide and deep. Many a thirsty soul went to her and came away refreshed. Those who were puzzled in mind or weary of spirit found in her quietly spoken words the solution to their problems or departed with their doubts resolved.
She was deeply versed in the Christian Scriptures but some said also that she had whole chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita memorized. She frequently carried a copy of LIGHT ON THE PATH or THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE with her. In her sitting room, where she received those who came to her unbidden, was a splendid portrait of H.P. Blavatsky, before which was always a vase of seasonable flowers -- white camellias or gardenias, jonquils, or in winter those quaint white berries that are called snowballs. There were generally two or three markers in her volumes of THE SECRET DOCTRINE.
Although she never contributed verbally to the activities of the Lodge, her very presence was a benediction. She carried with her an aura of peace. However quietly she ascended the stair -- and her movements were always quiet -- and slid into her accustomed seat, somehow everybody knew she was present, that she had arrived. It was impossible for any uncouth expression to be used in her hearing. The most vociferous dropped their voices unconsciously when they realized that, unnoticed, she had dropped in amongst them. She was always the first to leave. Many a knotty point in the teaching grew clearer because of her presence. Such terrifying subjects as "Rounds and Races" unraveled themselves as she sat and listened to some student endeavoring to put forth an explanation.
Although elderly, she was magnificently alive in every way: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Somehow, it seemed that every moment was used to the advantage of others. Tired members, for people who worked for a living almost entirely made up the Lodge, seemed to renew their strength in her proximity. Yet the physical plane seemed to demand the least of her activities. Without effort, she created the impression that in the world of the spirit she walked a free citizen, in her own right.
In another age and under other conditions, she might easily have been accepted as a Saint. It was not that she worked miracles, at least to outward vision. Only those who pierce through to essentials could have assessed what she accomplished in changed lives, in her healing of broken souls.
Some said that her keynote was Power. Others were equally emphatic that it was Peace. From her intercourse with the denizens of higher worlds of consciousness, she brought both back. In the final analysis, these two are one. Her likeness was etched ages ago in the Bhagavad-Gita:
The simile for the Sage in yoga, with heart at rest and continuing in meditation, is declared to be as a lamp in a windless place.
When the heart, disciplined by the practice of yoga, rests from the final struggle; when it, viewing the Self by the Self, receives content in the Self,
When the objectless, self-perceived summit of bliss he knows, and being where he never falls from the Reality,
Having gained which no other gain is considered superior thereto; in which one fixed is not moved, even by great grief.
Power and Peace are the hallmarks of the Theosophist. Yet this is "that power which the disciple shall aspire to is that which will make him appear as nothing in the eyes of men!" Surpasses all understanding, there is a peace that is the guerdon of those dwelling in the Boundless. There is indeed a power that renews all things. It abides in and wells up from the hearts of those comprehending the Unity of Self ceaselessly.
By Kenneth Morris
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, July 1945, pages 289-92, reprinted there from THE WELSH THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, January/February 1945.]
This is what Theosophy means and is. It came to us from the Masters of Wisdom, who have traveled the road of evolution to a point much farther than we have reached, and are much nearer than we to that Kingdom of Nature which is next above our human kingdom. They are the Guardians of Humanity. Their supreme interest is to aid in the evolution of mankind, to draw men upward, away from the ignorance and consequent selfishness and wrong living that keep us in misery and make this planet and the life on it seem the bad joke of an omnipotent Caliban.
There is a Divinity within us. There are men made One with that Divinity, and the allies of the Divinity in all men. The last thing they want is to form a new orthodoxy. They do not want to found a church of the "saved," a new religion for getting its faithful into its own particular brand of "heaven." They do not seek to start a School of Magic and teach people how to develop their "powers" nor to give them interesting teachings to amuse them and make them feel superior to their fellows. Their Theosophy -- or Divine Wisdom -- has nothing whatever to do with any of these things; if these are what you are after, do not join the Theosophical Society; you will never feel at home in it.
Study the Masters' teachings, that you may get from them power to help your fellows. Get them clear in your mind. Do not confuse them with the personal opinions of Tom, Dick, and Harry posing as teachers at so much a lesson. It is from the Masters' Theosophy you will get the power to help, however amusingly fantastic the views of these others may be; but shun like poison the mood of the creed monger, the attitude that you know it all!
A creed is a dead thing, merely something you "believe in," asserting finality to where you are, doping you with the bluff that nothing is to be learned nor any road of growth to be traveled. No matter what clauses it might contain, it would still be a lie. For Truth is not a formula, but a certain direction, and traveling in that direction; a growth; a progress, from gross to fine, from mean to noble, from limited to universal. Could truth be embodied in a creed, it would be a lie in one tick of the clock.
There is no way to come towards Truth except by cutting out one's limitations, universalizing one -- which is as much as to say, deepening and widening one's sympathies. To learn anything of truth, you must do the work the Masters desire done, learning in order that you may teach and living in the will to better the stuff of humanity.
Why should you study what is taught about the Universe and Man, the Monads and Hierarchies, the Principles and the Atoms? -- Why, just that you may get the keys to yourself and to the methods of things, and have entry into the treasure chambers of wisdom, courage, and compassion that are within you, and bring forth from them what shall sweeten the life of your valley and your town. That you may be able to recreate courage where it has fainted to extinction-point; to waken hope and manhood, and the knowledge that will sustain them, where before there was only despair; and all, that the stuff of humanity may be bettered.
You cannot get truth without becoming pervious to that within you that knows truth, the Higher Nature. The higher the Higher Nature, the more universal it is, the more it is something that is in all mankind, in all life, equally. Therefore, the more you live in your fellow men, in the will to help, serve, and raise them up, the more you are That Which Knows Truth -- or the more you know of Theosophy.
What has been written about karma, for instance, would fill volumes. One means what has been given out from the Masters for the intellects of men to assimilate. Anything that can be spoken, written, or printed can be twisted into a lie. Thus, one has heard it argued that karma means that a murderer should be hanged for his crime. No one could think so who knew that Theosophy is Truth, Light, and Liberation for Discouraged Humanity. A real knowledge of, or belief in, karma, on the other hand, convinces us that punishment must be left to karma, which is impersonal, automatic, and certain, and in which there is no concept of punishment or revenge.
Actually, no human being can be just when he undertakes to punish another; we cannot know, ever, how much of guilt, of evil will, went to impel a criminal to his crime. We have no means of measuring how far the man was responsible, nor what degree of punishment putting him to death may be. Universal Nature does know, because man is part of her; and she takes her steps, dealing out absolute justice, not to avenge, but to cure.
There is the old contention that to come to the assistance of one who is suffering is to interfere with his karma. His karma and yours brought you there at the time with the ability to help him; and not to do so is to sin against the Oneness of Being, and to incur heavy karma by so flouting the Whole of which we are parts.
There are those who would make dogmas out of karma, and a cause for division, hatred, and attack; religious doctrinal hairsplitting; "Who does not believe about it as I do, or phrase the thing as I do, is a liar and deceiver, and probably a thief." "Dicach yr od!" Is there help for any man in such tomfoolery?
If you want to know the truth about karma, find a man who is in despair and tell him what will bring the light of new courage into his eyes. Tell him what will take from him the bitter feeling that someone else is wronging him, and make him know that he, and he alone, is absolutely the Lord and Master of his own destiny; aye, and more, can enroll himself right now among the Helpers of Mankind; and you will have told him the truth about it.
You will soon find out that half measures won't do; that sometimes-just and sometimes-unjust has no power to rouse the lion in the soul of him, that it is only H.P. Blavatsky's teaching, justice Absolute and Infallible, that can do that. This is the real test; because Theosophy is Truth, Light, and Liberation for discouraged humanity; and what is not lit by compassion is not Theosophy.
What is that, you say? Can any religion comfort people in adversity? Yes, the falsest of them all can dope a man into effortless drifting with the current, leaving it all to God or Church or priest -- to anything outside himself. The "Comfort" of Theosophy is to have him swimming up-stream with strong strokes, knowing himself mightier than the current.
Nothing is really yours until you have given it away. To know Theosophy you must help people with it; you must show them how to meet their difficulties with it. When you have done that, the teachings you have read about, and have thus used, become Theosophy in you; Knowledge, Power, Peace; above all, a living Love.
By George William Russell
[From THE CANDLE OF VISION, pages 66-76.]
In all I have related hitherto, imagination was not present but only vision. These are too often referred to as identical. In what I have written, I have tried to make clear the distinction.
If beyond my window I see amid the manifold hills a river winding ablaze with light, nobody speaks of what is seen as a thing imagined. If I look out of a window of the soul and see more marvels of shining and shadow, neither is this an act of imagination. It is indeed a higher thing than vision, much rarer. There is something hidden in being as the Son in the bosom of the Father. It is made manifest in the act of imagination. A transfiguration takes place like that we imagine in the Spirit when it willed, "Let there be light."
Imagination is not a vision of something that already exists, in itself unchanged by the act of seeing. What exists in latency or essence is realized outwardly by imagination. It is given a form in thought. With full consciousness, we can contemplate that which hitherto had been unrevealed or only intuitionally surmised. In imagination, there is a revelation of the self to the self. There is a definite change in being, like when a spark ignites a vapor and becomes an inflammation in the air. Here images appear in consciousness that we may refer definitely to an internal creator, with power to use or remold preexisting forms, endowing them with life, motion, and voice.
We infer this because dream and vision sometimes assume a symbolic character with significance personal to us. They tell us plainly, "For you only we exist." We cannot conceive of what is seen as but a reflection of life in any sphere. In exploring the ancestry of the symbolic vision, we draw near to that clouded majesty we divine in the depths of our being. It is heard normally in intuition and conscience but now reveals character in its manifestation as the artist in his work.
I had a gay adventure when I was a boy at the beginning of my mental traveling. I did not meet a lion, but rather a symbolic vision in the path. I had read somewhere of one whose dreams made a continuous story from night to night. I was excited at this and wondered whether I too could not build up life for myself in a fairyland of my own creation. Could I be the lord of this in dream, and offset the petty circumstance of daily life with the beauty of a realm in which I would be king? I bent myself to this, walking about the country roads at night in the darkness, building up in fantasy the country of sleep.
I remember some of my gorgeous fancies. My dream world was self-shining. Light was born in everything there at dawn, and faded into a colored gloom at eve. If I walked across my lawns in darkness, the grasses stirred by my feet would waken to vivid color and glimmer behind me in a trail of green fire. If a bird was disturbed at night in my shadowy woods, it became a winged jewel of blue, rose, gold, and white. The leaves tipped by its wings would blaze in flakes of emerald flame. There were flocks of wild birds that my shouts would call forth to light with glittering plumage the monstrous dusk of the heavens.
Many other fancies I had which now I forget. Some were intuitions about the Many-Colored Land. After I had conceived this world, one night in a fury of effort, I willed that it should be my habitation in dream. But of all my dreams, I remember only two.
In the first, I saw a mass of pale clouds. On them was perched a little ape clutching at the misty substance with its fingers and trying to fashion it to some form. It looked from its work every now and then at something beyond and below the clouds. I came closer in my dream and saw that what the ape was watching was our earth, spinning below in space. It was trying to model a sphere of mist in mimicry of that which spun past it. While I was intent, this grotesque sculptor turned suddenly, looking at me with an extraordinary grimace that said clearly as words could say, "That is what you are trying to do."
Then I was whirled away again. I was the tiniest figure in vast mid-air. Before me was a gigantic gate, seeming lofty as the skies. A shadowy figure filled the doorway and barred my passage. That is all I can remember. I am forced by dreams like this to conclude there is a creator of such dreams within us. I cannot suppose that anywhere in space or time a little ape sat on a cloud and tried to fashion it into planetary form.
The creator of that vision was transcendent to the waking self and to the self that experienced the dream. Neither self took conscious part in the creation. The creator of that vision was seer into my consciousness in waking and in sleep. What of the vision I remember was half a scorn of my effort and half a warning that my ambition was against natural law. The creator of that vision could combine forms and endow them with motion and life for the vision was intellectual and penetrated me with its meaning.
Is it irrational to assume so much, or that the vision indicated a peculiar character in its creator, and that the ironic mood was not alien to it or even humor? I am rather thankful to surmise this of a self which waves away so many of our dreams and joys, and which seems in some moods to be remote from the normal and terrible as the angel with the flaming sword pointing every way to guard the Tree of Life.
Higher in the tower of our being that reaches up to the heavens, some self of me made objective manifestation of its thought in this dream. There were moments when it seemed itself to descend, wrapping its memories of heaven about it like a cloth, and to enter the body. I knew it as more truly myself than that which began in my mother's womb. It was antecedent to anything which had body in the world.
Here I must return to those imaginations I had while walking about the country roads as a boy. I select from these, as I have done from vision, things upon which the reason may be brought to bear. It is more difficult, for when there is divine visitation the mortal is made dark and blinded with glory. In its fiery fusion with the spirit, reason is abased, bewildered, or spreads too feeble a net to capture Leviathan. Often, we cannot translate to ourselves in memory afterwards what the spirit said, though every faculty is eager to gather what is left after the visitation. This is alike how the rabble in eastern legend scramble to pick up the gold showered in the passing of the king.
By the time I was seventeen or eighteen, my brain began to flicker with vivid images. I tried to paint these, beginning a series of pictures with much enthusiasm. They were to illustrate the history of man. Starting with his birth in the Divine Mind where he first glimmered in the darkness of chaos in vague and monstrous forms, they showed him growing ever nearer to the human. There were men-beasts and men-birds continuing until the most perfect form were born in space at last, the divine idea of man.
I traced the descent into matter, its conflict with the elements, and finally the series ended in a pessimistic fancy with one of our descendants millions of years hence. A minute philosopher, a creature less than three inches in height, sat on one of our gigantic skulls, watching the skies ruining back into their original chaos and the stars falling from their thrones on the height.
Most of these pictures were only the fancies of a boy. In considering one, I began to feel myself in alliance with a deeper consciousness. That was when I was trying to imagine the apparition in the Divine Mind of the idea of the Heavenly Man.
Something ancient and eternal seemed to breathe through my fancies. Then I was blinded by intensity of feeling to the demerits of the picture. I was excited in an extraordinary way over what I had done, laying awake long into the night brooding over it. I asked myself what legend I would write under the picture.
Something beyond reason held me. I felt like one in a dark room hearing the breathing of another creature. He waits breathless for its utterance. I struggled to understand what wished to be said. At last, while I was preternaturally dilated and intent, something whispered to me, "Call it the Birth of Eon." The word "Eon" thrilled me, for it seemed to evoke by association of ideas, moods, and memories most ancient, out of some ancestral life where they lay hidden.
Still meditative and clinging to the word as a lover clings to the name of the beloved, a myth incarnated in me. I think it was the following day. It was the story of an Eon. One of the first starry emanations of Deity, preeminent in the highest heavens, he was so near to Deity and so high in pride that he would be not less than a god himself, enduring no dominion over him save the law of his own will.
This Eon of my imagination revolted against heaven and left its courts, descending into the depths where it mirrored itself in chaos, weaving out of the wild elements a mansion for its spirit. That mansion was our earth and that Eon was the God of our world.
This myth incarnated in me as a boy walking along the country roads in Armagh. I returned to Dublin after a fortnight. It was a day or two after that I went into the Library at Leinster House and asked for an art journal. I stood by a table while the attendant searched for the volume. There was a book lying open there. My eye rested on it. It was a dictionary of religions, I think, for the first word my eye caught was "Eon" and it was explained as a word used by the Gnostics to designate the first created beings.
I trembled through my body. At that time I knew nothing of mystical literature and indeed little of any literature except such tales as a boy reads. The imaginations that had begun to overwhelm me were to me then nothing but mere imaginations. They were personal and unrelated in my mind with any conception of truth or idea that the imagination could lay hold of truth.
I trembled because I was certain I had never heard the word before. There rushed into my mind the thought of preexistence and that this was memory of the past. I went away hurriedly that I might think by myself, but my thoughts drove me back again soon.
I asked the librarian who were the Gnostics and if there was a book that gave an account of their ideas. He referred me to a volume of Neander's CHURCH HISTORY. There in the section dealing with the Sabaeans, I found the myth of the proud Eon who mirrored himself in chaos and became the lord of our world.
I believed then, and still believe, that the immortal in us has memory of all its wisdom. As Keats puts it in one of his letters, there is an ancestral wisdom in man and we can if we wish drink that old wine of heaven. This memory of the spirit is the real basis of imagination. When it speaks to us, we feel truly inspired and a mightier creature than ourselves speaks through us.
I remember how pure, holy, and beautiful these imaginations seemed, how they came like crystal water sweeping aside the muddy current of my life. I who was almost inarticulate was astonished to find sentences which seemed noble and full of melody sounding in my brain as if another and greater than I had spoken them. A little later, how strange it was also to write without effort verse, which some people still think has beauty, while I could hardly, because my reason had then no mastery over the materials of thought, pen a prose sentence intelligently.
I am convinced that all poetry is, as Emerson said, first written in the heavens. That is, it is conceived by a self deeper than appears in normal life. When it speaks to us or tells us its ancient story, we taste of eternity and drink the Soma juice, the elixir of immortality.
By H. Graat
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, December 1945, pages 532-37, reprinted there from an address to the European Convention of the Theosophical Society, Visingso, Sweden, 1937.]
... There is a Road, steep, thorny, and beset with perils of every kind, but yet a Road, and it leads to the Heart of the Universe.
Could there be found a more beautiful motto, drawing in one stroke, so to speak, the character of the old, old Chela Path, which each one of us here sincerely hopes to tread eventually?
The Path is narrow. It is thorny. It can be trodden, however great the obstacles and dangers may be to the weary pilgrim, who, spiritually speaking, exerts himself to the utmost to tread firmly this holy Path.
Nor is it the only Path to go. At each step, it is crossed by other pathways, which seem broad and well paved. The pleasing foliage of the spreading trees of self-sufficiency afford plenty of shelter against the dazzling Light of Truth and Self-knowledge, which blinding light shines right into the eyes of the pilgrim on the narrow Path. The pleasantly sloping broad and easy roads lead downwards, unperceived by the traveler, so that he, perhaps without realizing it, enwraps himself more and more in the poisonous vapors rising from the swampy land of the lower selfhood.
The other Path, narrow and steep, leads on high. It demands the utmost of the pilgrim's powers. Each moment threatens the danger of making a false step and sliding down the road again, either to tumble down into an abyss, or to sink deeper than the point where the rising had begun.
This narrow, thorny, steep Path is the Chela Path and it must be traveled with bleeding feet. Where does it lead to, this upward Path, that there are those who choose to steadfastly walk it with inexorable earnestness, free from fear of the troubles and dangers that lurk at every crossroad, free from selfishness and the lower personality? What is the final purpose of it? Who are those Pilgrims who have chosen to travel it?
We know what the final purpose is, and we know whither this Path will lead, ultimately. It is to the Heart of the Universe.
Where shall we find it? How do we tread the Path that leads to the Heart of the Universe? Who are they, who have the courage and the strength and the perseverance to commence upon that steep Path? Are they supermen, liberated from human weaknesses? Are they gods or semi-gods, exempt from human qualities?
No, Companions. The Chela is a human being, like all of us. His nature is dual, with a higher and a lower aspect. It places him before contradictory objectives. The Chela, too, knows the flashlights of personal desires and temptations, the delusions of self-conceit. He knows them all, as they arise in the lower nature of man. He knows them all, but he is not confused by them; they do not get hold of him. There is a secret, invisible guide, safely leading the Chela along the marshlands of impurity. This guide is the Chela's own knowledge that he must travel his thorny road without paying attention to his lower personality.
The only yearning infilling his thoughts and his very being, is, to approach nearer and nearer to that wondrous Heart of the Universe whose steady pulsation is echoed in the deepest recesses of his own heart. His attention is focused on the great SELF of the Universe, in which he has found again his own deepest Self. Thus, he treads the Path, blind and deaf to the temptations and the sorrows of the lower personality, in which he, too, being human, is clothed. He does not fight. He does not attempt to kill his lower nature. All violence is strange to him. He does not grieve at the faults that lie behind him any more than a little child regrets its last fall when it is intent on learning to walk, but just rises again, ready and strong for new endeavors.
Nor does the Chela in a personal sense rejoice at his own progress. He knows that all personal ambition will distract him from the lofty goal he has in view. He does not pride himself on his attainments; no more does he grieve at his failures. There is but one aim, one wish: to tread the Path that will bring him nearer and nearer to the Source of all Being.
If we ask the pilgrim whether it is not a difficult road to follow, he will smile at us pityingly and answer that not HIS Path is difficult to walk, but OURS, as far as it leads us away from the Light. If we point at his bleeding feet, he will look down in surprise, for certainly, HE had not noticed the wounds, and they do not harm him. In fact, there is nothing left of the personal man in him that can be hurt or harmed. He keeps aloof from ambition. He does not know of jealousy. Hatred and anger are incapable of disturbing his inner peace and balance. Thus, he advances on the Path, which is rough to the PERSONAL man only, but is like a broad highway, like a flowery plain for him, who, while renouncing the personal self, FINDS himself in the Universal Self.
Truly, how could it be otherwise? We read in GOLDEN PRECEPTS OF ESOTERICISM:
In living the Chela life, you simply exchange things that you detest inwardly, that you hate, for things that are beautiful, helpful; exchanging weakness for strength, ugliness for beauty, blindness for vision, darkness for Light.
Thus is the revolution that takes place in the inner life of him who steadfastly and courageously places his feet on the Chela Path.
Where is this sacred Path to be found? How can we tread it? The Chela Path lies within us. Yea, we ourselves ARE the Chela Path. "Thou canst not travel on the Path before thou hast become that Path itself," says H.P. Blavatsky in THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, and likewise say all the great Teachers of Humanity.
The Path lies within ourselves, within each one of us. For that very reason, we all can tread the Path, as the possibilities lie hidden in each and all of us. Every human being knows of precious moments in his life, during which he lives in his higher nature. Do let us keep in mind continuously that what is needed to raise ourselves to the higher, spiritual plane is not to acquire new faculties, but rather to let the obstructions of our lower nature fall off quietly, like water drops fall off a swan's stainless wing.
The confusion of the lower desires, the passions of anger, the bragging of ambition, the false smile of self-sufficiency, the whisperings of jealousy, the clamor of unbrotherliness, all drown the still small voice of the Higher Self. Silence their noise, and we find ourselves face to face with our own inner divinity.
As soon as we consciously strive to attain this purpose, we find ourselves on the Chela Path. Even beforehand, we had a vision of the wondrous possibilities that lie hidden in man. For isn't it true, Companions, that we all of us know the blessed moments of inspiration in which the great, the good, the beautiful, is born from within us, the moments of self-forgetfulness and grandeur, in which we can perform deeds and can think thoughts of which later on we can hardly understand that they were OUR deeds, OUR thoughts? We had outgrown our lower personality for a short while.
They are the moments of sacred emotion, during which the grand secret of the Universe reveals itself to us in the beauty of a flower, in the smile of a little child, or in the sparkling of a dewdrop. They are the blessed moments in which we experience that there is no such thing as segregation; that all separateness is an illusion; moments in which the true Oneness of all being opens itself as a glorious verity before our enthralled vision. It is the whisperings of the Divine within ourselves, the comprehension of which will come home to us when the lower voices are silenced. It is the reflection of the inner Light radiating through the lower principles now become transparent for a while.
These spiritual experiences may serve as guides to the Chela Path. From the very moment we consciously determine to do our utmost to raise continuously our whole being up to this high plane of thought and living, we have placed our feet on the sacred Road.
The Chela Path is open for all who long to tread it; for all who have the vision to recognize it; for all who do not fear the sharp thorns that will tear the Pilgrim's human feet.
Oh wondrous Chela Path, Path of growth, it is said. Yet verily the Path of growth is not a difficult one, though none can tread it but on wounded feet. How are we to understand this strange paradox? Is it the Path of Growing Consciousness? Then whereby is this growth obtained?
There is one word, weighty with significance, and it will give us the answer. It is SELF-FORGETFULNESS. Self-forgetfulness coupled with continuous self-renunciation. For the Chela Path is the path of renunciation of the personal selfhood. The thorns and the wounds belong to the personal selfhood only. Paying attention to them while walking the path, he will be racked and tortured. The Chela does not heed it. What he is aiming at is growth of the consciousness of the Higher Self. This growth keeps pace with the Chela's success in losing sight of his personal self. Only thus can he proceed along the Pathway.
There is a danger threatening him at every step. It lies in looking back on the personality and in entangling again in past faults and failures. They will make him slide down and fall. If he with the greatest exertion stands up again, he will find that he must travel anew part of the road he had already covered before his fall.
The Chela Path consists in rising and falling. In this sense too, it is a Path of growth, along which the Chela progresses ever more steadily so that his stumbles become fewer and fewer.
This is spoken of in THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, where it says:
No Arhan, Oh Lanoo, becomes one in that birth when for the first time the Soul begins to long for final liberation. Yet, Oh thou anxious one, no warrior volunteering fight in the fierce strife between the living and the dead, not one recruit can ever be refused the right to enter on the Path that leads toward the field of Battle.
Even if he does stumble and fall down, even so the effort is not lost, for as HPB says:
If he falls, even then he does not fall in vain; the enemies he slew in the last battle will not return to life in the next birth that will be his.
When the Chela, guided by his holy perseverance, equipped with the armor of the seven Paramitas, succeeds in traveling the Pathway to the very end, then a crossroad awaits him not far from the ultimate goal. The Path divides itself and becomes the Two Paths. The one is called the Open Way. It leads to the ultimate goal: Nirvana. The other, the Secret Way, leads him back to the world as a Buddha of Compassion. Guided by his Compassion and his self-forgotten love, he renounces even the state of perfect bliss and once more descends to the earth, saying, "As long as there is one soul left in anguish yet, I will not enter upon Nirvanic Bliss."
Thus, Companions, is the lofty Choice of the Lords Buddha. So, too, is the Choice, be it on a small scale, put to any one who commences upon the Chela Path, at each moment of his life. For at each step we are placed before the Choice of the Two Paths, one leading up to Delivery and Bliss, the other to Renunciation, also called the Path of Woe.
As HPB says in THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE:
Behold! The goal of Bliss and the long Path of Woe are at the furthest end. Thou canst choose either, Oh aspirant to Sorrow, throughout the coming cycles!
Companions, it is not a choice of one single moment. They that desire to tread the Path, have to make a choice at each new step. Ultimately all will travel the Path of Woe, the only Road possible to him who has attained to perfect self-forgetfulness and all-embracing Compassion. The Goal seems endlessly far ahead when the Chela sets out on his Great Journey. Countless are the opportunities to choose the Open Path, the one leading up to ultimate Bliss. His eyes will compassionately fall on those who walk behind him in the valleys of suffering and ignorance His ears will listen to even the faintest sighs of unhappiness and sorrow and in this way. He will arrive at the Great Self-Renunciation.
By Phillip A. Malpas
[The following comes from a series that appeared in THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, under Katherine Tingley as Editor and published at the Point Loma Theosophical Community. It later appeared in book form under the title TRUE MESSIAH: THE STORY AND WISDOM OF APOLLONIUS OF TYANA 3 B.C. -- 96 A.D., published by Point Loma Publications.]
AMONG THE SAGES
Three things are said by Apollonius of the Sages, "I have seen the Brachmanes of India dwelling on the earth, and not on the earth; defended without walls; 'possessing nothing, yet having everything.' They sleep on grass spread on the ground; they wear their hair long with white miters or turbans. The only clothing they wear is a short tunic made apparently of asbestos from which oil is extracted. By virtue of their ring and wand they are able to discover many secrets."
The sages receive Apollonius with hearty greeting and open arms. Iarchas sat on a high throne of black brass adorned with figures of wrought gold; the others sat in seats regularly arranged below the throne, not so high and without the golden figures.
Iarchas immediately asked for the letter that Apollonius had from the King of the Indians, and on the latter expressing surprise at his knowing about it, he declared that inside the letter was a letter D missing, which was found to be the case when it was opened.
Iarchas remarked that the other men are accustomed to ask a new arrival who he is and what he comes for. "But the first proof we give of our knowledge is that we know all of this beforehand." He then told Apollonius the whole of his family history both on the father's and mother's side, what happened at Aegae, his first interview with Damis, the conversation they had on the way, and what they learnt from others. This was all related by the Indian sage in a clear distinct order, without any hesitation, as if he had traveled with them.
Apollonius was amazed at what he heard and asked how Iarchas came by this knowledge. Iarchas replied, "Thou Apollonius art come to share in this wisdom, but art not yet in full possession of all." Apollonius asked if he might not be made acquainted with this wisdom, and Iarchas heartily acquiesced.
"Have you been able to form any opinion of my natural disposition?"
"Yes, we can discern the different dispositions of the mind by a variety of ways," answered Iarchas. "But noon is approaching and we must prepare for the offerings to the gods, after which we can talk about that. You are invited to assist at our religious worship." Apollonius was delighted with the permission.
The ceremony he witnessed was peculiar. First they anointed themselves with a preparation of amber, after which they bathed. Next they went to a temple, crowned with garlands, and singing hymns with all due solemnity. There they formed themselves into the figure of the ancient chorus, with Iarchas at their head as Coryphaeus. Then with staves uplifted they struck the earth all together, which made it heave and swell like the waves of the sea. By this they were elevated almost two cubits above it. Meanwhile they continued singing a hymn not unlike one of Sophocles's paeans sung at Athens in honor of Aesculapius. The religious exercises took much time, and at the end the sages took their seats, with Apollonius seated on the throne of Phraotes ready to debate with them.
Invited to ask any question of "the men who know all things," Apollonius asked whether they knew themselves. He had an idea that, like the Greeks, they would consider this a difficult question.
Iarchas replied, "We know all things because we know ourselves. Not one of us would have been admitted to the study of philosophy, were we without that previous knowledge."
Admiring the reply, Apollonius next asked what they thought of themselves.
"Gods, said Iarchas.
"Why," asked the Greek.
"Because WE ARE GOOD MEN," was the answer. So wise did Apollonius consider it that he afterwards used it in his defense before Domitian.
IARCHAS ON REINCARNATION
Apollonius asked Iarchas, "What is your opinion of the Soul?"
"The same," said Iarchas, "as was delivered by Pythagoras to you, and by us to the Egyptians."
"Am I to understand," asked Apollonius, "that as Pythagoras said he was Euphorbus, so you were some Trojan or Greek, or other person before you become possessed of your present body?"
"Troy was destroyed by the Greeks who sailed to its shores, and you are destroyed by the tales told of it," said the Indian. "From an idea that the men who fought at Troy were the only men to be esteemed, you overlook many of a more divine character born in your country, in Egypt, and in India. But since you have asked about my former body, tell me who was the worthiest of those who fought for or against Troy!"
"Achilles, son of Peleus and Thetis," replied Apollonius. "He is celebrated by Homer as the most beautiful and valiant of all the Greeks and his deeds are described as being greater than all others. The Ajaxes and Nereuses are also celebrated for their beauty and courage, but only next after Achilles."
"You may compare my progenitor with him; or rather the body of my progenitor, for such was the light in which Pythagoras considered Euphorbus."
"There was a time," he continued, "when this country was inhabited by the Ethiopians, an Indian nation. Ethiopia did not then exist, for Egypt stretched its boundaries beyond Meroe and the cataracts, taking in not only the sources, but the mouths of the Nile. Whilst the Ethiopians lived in the country now possessed by us, and were obedient to the rule of a sovereign named Ganges, they had all the productions of the earth in plenty, and were secure under the protection of heaven. But when they murdered their King, they were no longer regarded as pure by the rest of the Indians, and the land produced not what was sufficient for their subsistence. Their corn was destroyed before it came into ear; the women suffered from frequent miscarriages; and the land could not support their flocks and cattle. Wherever they fixed on for building a city, the ground gave way, and sunk under their feet. The ghost of their King Ganges haunted them wherever they went, and struck a terror into the lower orders which never ceased till atonement was made to the earth, of the perpetrators of the murder and the shedders of the King's blood. This Ganges, whose beauty was above that of other men, was ten cubits high. It was the son of the Ganges River. The deluge which was brought on by the father was turned into the Red Sea by the son, in consequence of which the father again became friendly to the land. When the King lived, the earth brought forth its fruits in abundance, but when he died it took ample vengeance.
"Homer says Achilles sailed to Troy for the sake of Helen, and subdued twelve cities by sea and eleven by land; but adds that when she was forced from him by Agamemnon, he became cruel and ungovernable. Let us compare in these circumstances the Grecian hero with this Indian Prince. He was the founder of sixty cities, the most famous in the country. To build will be admitted better than to destroy. Ganges next drove out the Scythians who marched an army over Caucasus and infested the country. To liberate a country is unquestionably greater than to enslave a city and that for a woman who was, likely enough, not carried away without her consent. Besides, the Prince of the country now reigned over by Phraotes, contrary to all justice, carried off the wife of Ganges; and her virtue was such that he would not break the alliance entered into between them, saying that in spite of the injury to him personally, he would not violate a treaty which he had religiously sworn to observe.
"I could enumerate many more actions of this man," said Iarchas "was I not afraid of speaking in my own praise, as I was that identical person, something that I proved when I was only four years old. Ganges, it is known, buried in the grounds seven adamantine swords, which he did for the purpose of freeing the country ever after of all hostile alarm."
(Ctesias is quoted as saying that the Indians used to bury iron in the ground to avert the consequences of storms and such disturbances. This is evidently an echo of the Indian use of the principle of the lightning-conductor, known among many ancient nations.)
"The Gods ordered a sacrifice to be offered on the very spot where the swords were hid, but none could point out the place. Though at the time a child, I took the interpreters of the oracle to the place where I commanded them to dig, and said the swords were deposited."
"Be not surprised," said Iarchas, "at my transformation from Indian to Indian. Here is a youth (and he pointed to one not more than twenty years of age), who is above all men I know best qualified for cultivating philosophy; one who is of good health, of an excellent constitution, capable of enduring any pain of fire or amputation; and yet, in spite of all this, he hates philosophy."
"What kind of disease is he suffering from," asked Apollonius. "It is extraordinary to think that a man of such qualities, whilst in your society, should neither cultivate nor love philosophy."
"The truth is," said Iarchas, "that he is not of our company, but rather in our keeping: for like a lion taken and confined against his will, he looks upon us with an evil eye, even when we are flattering and caressing him. This youth was Palamedes, who served in the war of Troy. There he had to encounter two most bitter enemies, Ulysses and Homer, one of whom laid an ambush for him, in consequence of which he was stoned to death. The other deemed him unworthy of a place in his poems. Finding that his wisdom was of no avail and his name unrecorded by Homer (who has noticed many others of less celebrity); and besides that he was outwitted by Ulysses (though innocent), he hates philosophy and deplores his own fate. And this is the Palamedes who wrote without ever having been taught the use of letters."
A FORMER INCARNATION OF APOLLONIUS
While they were talking, a messenger arrived from the King to say he would be with them at noon to discuss some business of his.
"Let him come, since he may go back better than he came, after conversing with the Greek," said Iarchas in reply to the messenger, as he turned to continue his conversation with Apollonius, asking what his last incarnation was.
"It was ignoble and I remember little of it," declared Apollonius.
"Do you then consider it ignoble to be the pilot of an Egyptian vessel," asked Iarchas. "I know that is what you were."
"You are right," said Apollonius. "Yet I consider that condition of life not only ignoble but despicable. It is true that knowledge of maritime affairs is considered as reputable as governing a city or commanding an army; but it has fallen into contempt on account of the character of those who follow it. The action I pride myself most upon in that profession is not one that entitles much praise to me."
Iarchas asked what that action was, and led Apollonius to narrate how he had been approached in a temple by a pirate's secret agent tempting him by great promises of wealth and property to betray to them a richly laden ship in his charge. Afraid to refuse for the sake of the ship and the risk of attack, Apollonius appeared to entertain the proposal with every sign of sincerity; and after making all arrangements, sailed his ship as far away from the pirate's hunting-ground as he could.
"Is this what you look upon as a great act of justice," asked Iarchas.
"Yes, and of humanity too," was the answer. "I think that many virtues are comprised in the character of a pilot who neither destroys the lives of men nor wastes the substance of his employers; and who, above all, conquers his love of money."
Iarchas smiled. "I think you make justice consist in not doing injustice," he said. The Indian philosopher discoursed of the manner in which the Greeks acted upon this principle, even to the point of the poets making the cruel Minos a judge in Hades; while Tantalus, who gave to the men the blessing of immortality is deprived by them of food and drink; and they even describe him as having a stone suspended over his head. Instead of which, Iarchas said he would like to see him placed in a lake of nectar, of which he made so generous a distribution to others. Saying this, he showed Apollonius a statue of Tantalus which stood at their left hand, about four cubits in height, appearing like a Greek some fifty years of age. In one hand was a goblet of pure sparkling liquid which was always filled but never overflowing, enough to quench a man's thirst.
By Walter E. Kent
Sitting to meditate, peace again fills me and I am set free. The troubles of the world have stopped, their ugly voices are not heard. A sweet and warm love fills me, but this love is quiet, without passion. I find myself not fighting anger, it is sleepiness and dreaminess that oppose me. Making war on an untrained imagination is incredibly hard! I cannot simply confront it and in a heroic effort tear it to pieces. For the sly devil of unconsciousness and darkness will never face me. It slips in behind my back and catches me unaware, bringing death. I will kill you, devil! You must die! I must and shall win this war! It is you that oppose life and bring about its decay, collapse, and ruin. And I will sit here in meditation wrestling with you until I can get hold of you. Then I will apply tremendous pressure as I kill you by giving you form. When given form and shape, you cannot survive, for you are a shadow. By forcing you to enter my conscious world of manifest life, I shall destroy your foul, dark, poisonous, seductive emanations. Let there be light! Let consciousness reign supreme! Annihilate the shadows! There is another form of darkness, though, that is rich, sweet, deep, wondrous. This is the sweet darkness of the void, the unspeakable wonder of Reality. It consists of an ocean of boundless love, of pure wisdom, of perfect peace. And it is only hidden from my gaze by the slimy pseudo-darkness of the enemy. The enemy is a very personal thing; it fits me as closely as dirt on my body. This dirt must be washed clean, and to do so requires ruthless alertness. It is necessary to watch out for it; in the blink of an eye I could be overtaken. Minutes later, I might look up in amazement. How did I lose? When did I forget? Still meditating, I find a time of such delightful clearness of mind! For many seconds, perhaps even minutes, I am free, clean, pure in vision. This is not an experience of a psychic circus of colors and loud sounds. Far grander, it is a joyous taste of profound, sacred, but vibrant silence. One may ask me why I should sit still and meditate by myself. There are so many enriching and rewarding things to do in the world! But too much greed for outer life starves me, I become a ghost. It is the loving communion with the unseen divine that brightens my life.
By Boris de Zirkoff
[This talk comes from the first part of the tape recording on "Chapter XII of FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, Part II," made of a private class held on June 2, 1954.]
We continue the study of Chapter 12 of Fundamentals. Already touched upon, the first point regards the essential nature and characteristics of man as an evolving entity. It addresses the doctrine of Swabhava further.
The author speaks of the main characteristics of Swabhava: self-formation, self-evolution, self-development, and self-becoming. These relate closely to universal hierarchies and the law of the essential nature of things. He points out that the essential nature of man is responsible for everything he is or will ever become. This is important. Man is responsible for himself.
Also part of other things, man is responsible to them as well. This is the ethical implication of the doctrine of the essential nature of man, Swabhava, of self-becoming and self-unfoldment. Man is responsible for himself because his urge for action come from within. It does not come from without, even if largely influenced by the action of others. He is responsible to his Higher Self but also responsible to other beings because we are all essentially one.
Since we spring from the same source ultimately, Swabhava involves ethical responsibility. It is impossible to understand these Teachings without feeling a greater responsibility in life for our actions, thoughts, and feelings. It is impossible to understand this doctrine of the essential Svabhavic nature of man without becoming aware of the interconnectedness of all that is.
We have previously covered questions like, "What makes a rose bring forth always a rose, or an acorn bringing forth always an oak?" Be it of an oak tree or a future man, any seed contains within the spiritual characteristics of the entity essential to embody itself, to grow forth from that seed. The seed also holds the entire past history of that entity. That is important.
We plant a seed and see an oak grows out of it. This means the grown oak was contained in the seed in potential. Even more important, it also means the entire history of that oak species through 10,000's and 100,000's of years is also contained in the seed. That seed came from an oak. The oak came from another seed. The seed came from yet another oak. Thus into the immemorial past there stretches a line of physical heredity. In the case of spiritual entities such as man, there stretches a line of the spiritual heredity as well.
Start from today's incarnation and look back to the seed that produced it. Look back to the man in his former incarnation giving rise to the seed of the present life. Going back, we have the same sequence as with seed and oak, oak and seed. This law holds true even when we look upon a man and do not know his physical heredity or genealogical tree. From the standpoint of the ancient teachings, his present incarnation is merely the result of a line of past lives.
This teaching of the essential nature of man as a seed in unfoldment was prominent among the Stoics of Greece and Rome. They spoke mainly of the formation of a system of worlds. They used the Greek term "Logoi" (plural for "Logos"). The seed or spermatic Logoi were seed-reasons that sprang into existence at the beginning of a Manvantara. They unfold whole hierarchies of beings from within, the natural result of former embodiments of the same system.
There is no essential difference between the various scales of life. There is no difference between the formation of a world system and the formation of you or me for an incarnation. We all come from a seed. That seed is compound both outwardly and inwardly. A solar system has millions of different hierarchies in it. The same applies to you and me. Even in our physical body, we are an aggregate of hierarchies. We are a world in miniature.
When the next period of evolution came, these Logoi could only produce that which they were already. As seeds do, they produced their inner natures. A seed can produce nothing but itself, nothing but what is in it. This is the heart of Swabhava. Many would to describe it as a law. It is really a habit of nature. Nature operates upon this basis. It is not a law established by someone, but rather is the habit of nature itself, the manner in which nature operates.
Next, everything comes from within. The higher does not leave its sphere in the process of unfoldment. The higher does not entirely become the lower, and the lower wholly become still lower, leaving a vacuum or emptiness above. The life on the higher spheres remains always. Dr. de Purucker says it is like the flame of a candle laid at the wick of another candle. From that one candle, you can light all the candles of the universe, a simile that HPB also used. You can light all the candles of the universe without diminution of its energy, force, or characteristic essence. The highest remains the highest always. It remains that part of us, the developing energy acting from within.
Atman, the Inner God, or the Inner Flame is the root of everything we are. It descends into lower spheres for evolution. A ray from it comes down, becoming Buddhi. Down further, it becomes Manas. Down yet further, it becomes the lower quaternary.
We do not mean that the highest itself ever descends into lower spheres. The Stoics did not mean this in ancient Rome and Greece nor did any similar philosophy in India. The highest simply sends a ray out of itself, an influence. It activates elements in the descending spheres of being. Widening its sphere of influence, it overshadows these elements. It remains in its own sphere from which it cannot descend because it is a denizen of that sphere.
Cycling into existence, everything manifests aspects of itself on the lower spheres. Look about us in this world. Where is our Inner God? Is it here? Obviously, it is not here. Where is our higher Ego? It is certainly not here. Our Higher Ego is on the inner planes with an influence that penetrates down to the lowest plane partially. Paradoxically, there is even an Atmic presence in the lower spheres. It is true of our physical bodies, even to their last little cells. There is also a presence from Buddhi, and from Manas.
The Inner God exists as an emanation, influence, or guiding presence in the most material or grossest spheres of life. Otherwise, there would be no connection between the grossest and the highest. The Esoteric Philosophy states that everything hangs together. The idea is that the highest comes down, manifesting itself in the lowest, however twisted and degraded the lower may be. This principle has a practical application. Our passions, lusts, and criminal tendencies are not evil energies. They are not forces of evil in the Christian sense, completely dissimilar from the divine and in opposition to the highest. They are simply twisted spiritual energies, energies distorted out of shape. They run in the wrong direction.
As students of Occultism, we do not intend to destroy our personalities, forever removing the passionate energies. We transmute the energies into their spiritual equivalent. We raise, untwist, and straighten them out, removing their distortions. We redirect the hates, dislikes, and other manifestations of selfishness. We make an ally of the divine spark in them, using its energies for high purposes.
However low and gross our personality may be, the ultimate essence of it reflects nobility and greatness. If we can straighten out its distortions, the energies manifesting as vices will become tremendous forces allied with our higher nature, now working for good.
Should we kill out our personality, killing our selfish propensities? No! This is sheer nonsense that some half-baked students believe and teach. There is nothing to kill. We transmute energy to higher octaves. Manifesting in our lower vices, it is no more evil than electric current in a wire, which can run machinery or blow up a factory if handled wrongly. In itself, electricity is neither good nor bad.
The energy of our personality is neither good nor bad. It is universal force. If the motive behind it is selfish, it becomes evil. Change the motive and it becomes good, manifesting in higher forms. This is true even in men who have not advanced far, if they are self-controlled.
The highest comes down to the lower spheres as an influence or presence without quitting its higher state. Consider the gestation of a human and his descent into incarnation. His spiritual nature does not come down becoming his body. It remains his spiritual nature always. It throws out parts of itself, its lower principles. As the Manvantaric cycle proceeds, each part secretes, protrudes, or excretes something lower in turn.
The physical body is a temple reflecting the glory of the Living God within, the lowest manifestation of that God. What is the difference between a temple built of stones and a temple in this sense? Our body is sedimentation of energies coming from within us, whereas man erects a temple using material brought from outside and put together. Our body is not a temple built using material brought from outside. It is a deposit of higher energies upon the various planes of manifestation. By means of a complex spiritual mechanism, it finally forms. At one stage, it forms the human body, which gradually matures.
Do we build the physical body from the food we eat? Yes, if we consider food as taken from outside nature and put into our mouth. This view of food is shallow, but true in a limited sense. The teachers have not given the last word about food. They have only given hints. There is a more important aspect to food. When we eat, we absorb the energies that come through food. It is not easy to say how much of the energies that we absorb from the food are ours, coming from our inner principles that way. Our energies come to us at least partially that way. This is a field ripe for future medical and dietary discoveries. It is chock-full of occult facts that present-day humanity is unready to understand.
Some of the energies that come to us through food are ours. We recall them through our eating. There is a great deal of evidence for this. I do not want to be specific. The food we to eat today have come into our organism karmically. We have had choice in the matter, but karmically a certain number of living entities have come into our system by means of what we have eaten. It was not by chance. We have a karmic relation with that which we have eaten and absorbed. It is anybody's guess as to what that connection may be on inner lines. A percentage of the food taken in was part of our constitutions in other lives. The balance of the food was a temporary vehicle to carry into us that portion which was ours. There is no accident in this.
Outwardly, everything looks accidental, casual, having no particular reason. Inwardly, accidents do not exist. Everything connects together. An individual may eat the same food as another, existing on the same diet. Only one builds up nicely on the food. Even though the same food and the food agrees with the second individual, he does not particularly benefit from it. Is there any physical explanation? Medicine has a score of explanations, but the occult facts are not touched at all.
One occult fact is that the first individual absorbs from the food something that is his own and the second does not. The second is in a karmic situation whereby there is not much benefit from that food accruing to him. Some years later, the two may find themselves in reversed roles. When you explain the lower manifestations of nature as accidental, you forget the Teaching of the interconnectedness of all that lives.
We have talked about food. It is the same with heat. Covering ourselves, we warm ourselves with our own heat reflected back to us. That is what I experience now, a little bit of heat. There are profound and wide-reaching implications to the heat that the physical body contains within itself. Of these, we are concerned with facts dealing with the evolutionary unfoldment of the man and his lifespan on earth.
The physical body has heat, inner heat, depending largely upon food and oxidation (muscle contractions producing heat). It has another aspect not recognized by science. It appears as a descending cycle. An individual is hottest when born. About to die, he or she is the coldest. Through childhood, boyhood, and adolescence as the frame grows older, it loses heat increasingly. It becomes colder and colder. The heat of a baby is fantastic compared with that of middle age or the chill that so many old people experience.
Science knows this process on the cosmic scale. There is tremendous heat early in the evolution of a planet. There are periods of volcanic and seismic activity. As the planet ages, it cools. It settles down. It has fewer manifestations of heat from within. As the physical body of a cosmic entity, it ages and therefore cools. The human body does the same, mirroring the cosmic system in which he lives.
Science speaks of dying suns, stars cooling and losing their heat finally. It does not understand the process entirely, but has excellent intuitions about it. As far as loss of heat goes, there is a descending cycle from embodiment to disembodiment. We know little of the occult relation between that, food, and breathing.
The process of evolution does not always work out. At our human level, there are the soulless and lost souls. The two are quite different.
Some have indulged in evil consciously for many lives. We call them lost souls. They love evil for its own sake. They finally break the tie binding their individuality or Ego with the Inner God or Monad within. Nothing can destroy a Monad, only its vehicles. Indulging in evil for its own sake, constantly shutting out the influence of the monadic self, and living increasingly in devotion to evil, they finally break the tie to the inner divinity.
Seeking purification, the lower parts of these unfortunate people drop out of this hierarchy. As H.P. Blavatsky put it, Nature's laboratory grinds them over. Their Monads finds themselves at the foot of the class, having to evolve anew their vehicles throughout ages to come.
A much different class of people, the soulless are younger souls. They are not born spiritually yet. They have not tapped the fullness of their spiritual nature. They have not recognized that there is such a thing. The bridge binding them to their inner self is there, though weak and with little conscious connection. They do not reflect much of the guiding force from within in their minds and emotions. They are younger souls. They have been slow in their evolution. They are not soulless in the sense of not having a soul. That is not the idea. We use soulless as a technical term, saying they are not fully ensouled yet. Obviously, we have not fully ensouled ourselves from within. A Mahatma is, relatively speaking.
We are not soulless because we embody a good deal of our Inner Man's spiritual aspiration and intuition. Millions are soulless, relatively unensouled. In this incarnation, the spiritual humanity of their Inner Self manifests little. The nobler soul qualities are inactive or dormant.
The link with their Inner God remains unbroken. They have not devoted themselves to evil. They are not strong enough to devote themselves to either evil or good. It takes strength to choose evil in preference to good. It takes a strong individual with an evil will. Soulless people are colorless. They have not made choices. Eventually, perhaps a future incarnation, they will reach a stage where more humanity will manifest through their soul apparatus. HPB calls them "soulless." Remember that this is a technical term and does not mean that they have no soul. The soulless and the lost souls are at entirely different poles of the evolutionary ladder.
Coming back to the doctrine of Swabhava, you cannot produce anything that is not within you. What of major evolutionary steps, like when an animal first transforms into a low human? Is this a case where a seed does not produce what it was before? No, it is not, because Swabhava refers to the inner spiritual nature of the evolving entity.
The Monad manifests in a particular kingdom. Gradually over time, it manifests the consciousness of the next higher kingdom from within. At one time, it manifested the mineral consciousness. Later, it manifested the vegetable consciousness and then that of the animal kingdom. The Monad will blossom over time, realizing successive degrees of self-unfoldment out of its inherent Swabhava.
In time, a greater degree of consciousness unfolds from within the Monad. It is self-consciousness, consciousness recognizing its own existence. That stage is human. Having a physical body like ours is not necessary. Being human involves a type of consciousness. The Monad has reached the point where it has unfolded self-consciousness. That stage we call human. A Monad has previously manifested in the higher grades of the animal kingdom. In a new planetary chain, it now manifests as a low human, a beginner in the human kingdom. That means it has unfolded the germ of self-consciousness from within. There is no jump there.
The Monad does not drop off or lose anything. It retains everything previously developed. The Monad begins to manifest in bodies more human than animal. Even so, there are in between stages where the physical body had looked ape-like. From this arose the scientific misconception that man came from the ape. Science does not teach this any longer, now knowing that man and ape come from a common ancestor. That is fine, a step towards the occult teaching. The next would be to discover that the ape line is a sideline from the human.
Of all animals, apes and perhaps some monkeys are highest and next to becoming human. They might make the grade in this Planetary Manvantara, becoming low-type humans. Other animals will not become human until the next embodiment of this chain.
We have considered how you manifest from within progressively. There is another wonderful idea. All things contain all things. In the Scriptures, Paul said, "Be all things to all men." Even now, we manifest so many facets of our being that we can help any type of human mind that we want. We understand all because we are contained in them and they are contained in us.
All things contain all other things. This bears upon the healing arts. There are many occult connections. Every cell of the body reflects all that the man is. It symbolizes him in its entirety. Unquestionably, a science exists whereby we can diagnose a man from any part of his structure. This could be from any cell of his body or even from the features of his face. We can diagnose the ills of a man as well as his good qualities. Unfortunately, we do not have it yet in our laboratories.
Every part of man contains within itself everything of which that man is. That was the great idea of Paracelsus, who taught it in the middle ages. It is impossible to find that out physically. From research conducted with inner senses, the physician of the future may have tools at his command for the common good that would sound fantastic and completely miraculous today.
The Ring-Pass-Not is mentioned several places in Fundamentals. It goes together with the Teaching of Swabhava. At any time, an evolving entity has a particular state of consciousness, which is its Ring-Pass-Not. This state is what it has arrived at from past evolution. It cannot go beyond that scope or conceive of anything else. Until it rises to the next stage in unfolding consciousness, it can only fathom or understand the sphere of its present consciousness. When it does, it can look back and realize that it has quit a narrow sphere of consciousness and stepped into a wider one.
Throughout the ages, mystics have taught that we never know exactly when we pass into a higher condition of consciousness. We never know when we are about to cross the threshold. We do know that we have crossed it when we actually have. We can look back then, seeing the narrow mold we used to consider home. The Ring-Pass-Not is the limit beyond which the entity cannot go, short of another great effort from within. It requires another stage of growth or unfoldment, sometimes is slow and gradual and other times it is sudden.
They are two ways in which everything grows. There are periods of slow, steady growth, punctuated by sudden leaps. It exists in plants. It exists in chemical reactions. It exists in animal species. It most certainly exists in us. There are periods of slow, steady growth. They are so slow sometimes that we might assume that we stay in a static state. We do not. A leap forward punctuates the slow growth at times.
There may be a strange, sudden change that is not easily explainable by science. Science knows of mutations, but not of their cause. Even in lower species, the cause is a change of state of consciousness. We may not recognize readily mutation in a human being. One could write an interesting book on the subject, showing the sudden transformations of human consciousness. In the lives of men, such changes may occur inwardly. Suddenly, you have become an entirely different human being, with new reactions, attitude, and outlook on life. Your friends do not recognize you. This does not happen to everyone, but it happens often enough.
People have latent potential. They frustrate themselves with self-imposed limits. They may have great talent but think they cannot go further. Only in this particular sense can we consider the Ring-Pass-Not as self-imposed. It results naturally from our reaching this stage of evolution, which has its corresponding condition of consciousness.
What happens if you become too satisfied? Then you crystallize yourself in a stage. Perhaps you cease making further effort. Perhaps you sidetrack yourself into bypaths, killing time with shallow and silly things. You lessen your efforts for growth, losing your spirit of adventure in the discovery of new things, both inner and outer. Then the Ring-Pass-Not, which is really the stage in which you exist, becomes a crystallized mold.
You could be further ahead. You could be greater. You could have expanded. You could have reached out to something nobler, but you have not. There are many possible causes. Perhaps it was a result of self-satisfaction, conceit, the lack of effort, some temporary stupidity or foolishness, or simply mental and spiritual laziness.
Most of us could be much further ahead if we made greater effort. Few want to make the effort. Consider an early generation of Theosophists in the 1880's and 1890's, comparing a man like Damodar with them. Well! He was a Chela that did not stop. He was not self-satisfied in any way. He made the grade in a way that nobody else did at the time. The Teachers actually took him for training in their spiritual retreats. Like Damodar, perhaps others have pushed forward later on. We do not know. His is an outstanding case that we know a great deal about.
A great many other people could have done the same, except that they were sidetracked. They were satisfied with what they got, only few making any further effort. Much of our limitations are self-made. We do not make enough of an effort to grow out of them. We should grow into a wider scope where we certainly will have limitations, but of a wider nature. The Ring-Pass-Not will be wider. Our consciousness will be more nearly universal and we will see a wider horizon of possibilities.