All life is a compromise and a violation of Universal Brotherhoods. It is one of the paradoxes of nature. I occupy a position in business where I am making money; necessarily by holding that position I prevent some other equally worthy person from making that money; when I breathe and eat I cause the death of myriads of beings -- yet were I to push Universal Brotherhood to its extreme limit, then I should have to die at once. This question really is one relating to a person's inner attitude.
-- W.Q. Judge, PRACTICAL OCCULTISM, pages 207-08
By B.P. Wadia
[From THUS HAVE I HEARD, pages 333-36.]
A name made great is a name destroyed; he who increases not, decreases; and he who will not learn deserves slaughter; and he who serves himself with the tiara perishes.
These are words of the great Hillel, highly reminiscent of the Chinese Lao-Tzu. As far as we know, there has been no biography of Hillel in the English language, and so we greatly welcome the recently published book HILLEL: BOOK AGAINST THE SWORD. Ely E. Pilchik uses some of the techniques of fiction and has tried to paint the Rabbi, Master of the Torah, in colors suited to the eye and taste of the modern economist and social reformer. He was a Babylonian Jew who was out of sympathy with the sense life that attracted the companions of his youth and so he immigrated with his young and faithful wife to Jerusalem, where they knew him in his famous career as the Babylonian. His exact date is not fixed by modern scholarship but there are good grounds for assigning 40 B.C. as the date of his death.
No doubt the author has brought to life the Head of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem during a part of the reign of the notorious Herod. The portrait loses its real beauty through its painter's lack of a deeper perception in the mystic character of Hillel. No doubt Hillel was a very learned scholar and was respected for his knowledge and application of the Torah; no doubt, also, Hillel introduced reforms and bettered the Jewish society of his day; but his own pious life, his instruction to his intimate pupils, his own heart of peace and the legacy of his sayings are grander achievements than his rulings from the seat of honor in the Sanhedrin, which earned for him trust and recognition from the Jewish people. The socio-economic basis of his reforms included the raising of the standard of marriage and his "arrangements" about payment of loans. These are important and deserve our tribute. Hillel the Mystic has for us a profounder significance.
Mr. Pilchik tells the good tale of the strange manner of his entrance into the School of Shemaya and Abtalion, and describes his rise to power till he came to be called "a second Ezra." Some of his sayings are used by Mr. Pilchik, but there are many more; a few of them we give below. They remind us of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels; Hillel was a contemporary of the Nazarene; who borrowed from whom? Probably neither one borrowed from the other. They were Soul-Companions and the Heart of each may have caught the throb of the other's Heart. The worth of these inspiring sayings is not in who spoke them or where or when; they carry their own conviction to every mind which loves peace, which seeks truth, and which aspires to be brotherly to all minds. We have culled a few for the benefit of our readers. We shall begin with the saying which is said to have been the motto of Hillel, "He who makes a worldly use of the Crown of the Torah shall waste away." The golden rule, "What is hateful unto thee do not unto thy neighbor; this is the whole Torah and all the rest is commentary. Go now and learn."
Hillel bears further witness to the law of cause and effect, known in India as karma, saying:
Because thou drownedst, they drowned thee; and they that drowned thee shall in turn be drowned.
He preached peace:
Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing it; loving all mankind and bringing them nigh to the Torah.
Separate not thyself from the community, and trust not in thyself before the day of thy death; judge not thy fellow until thou comes into his place; do not delay teaching; say not, "When I have leisure, I shall study;" perchance thou mayest not have leisure.
He preached humility, but not self-effacement:
My humility is my exaltation; my exaltation is my humility.
If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when then?
Again and again Hillel stressed the great value of learning:
More flesh, more worms; more maidservants, more lewdness; more manservants, more theft. He who hath gotten unto himself the words of the Torah hath gotten unto himself life in the world to come.
Learn where there are teachers; teach where there are learners.
It is a high ideal of human uprightness and purity which he upheld:
No boor is a sin fearer; nor is the unrefined pious; the shamefaced is not apt to learn, nor the passionate (prone to anger) fit to teach. Nor is everyone that has much traffic wise. In a place where there are no men, endeavor to be a man.
As in a theatre and circus, the statues of the king must be kept clean by him to whom they have been entrusted, so the bathing of the body is a duty of man, who was created in the image of the almighty King of the world.
By George William Russell
[From THE CANDLE OF VISION, Chapter XX, pages 170-75.]
I think of earth as the floor of a cathedral where altar and Presence are everywhere. This reverence came to me as a boy listening to the voice of birds one colored evening in summer, when suddenly birds and trees and grass and tinted air and I seemed but one mood or companionship, and I felt a certitude that the same spirit was in all. A little breaking of the barriers and being would mingle with being.
Whitman writes of the earth that it is rude and incomprehensible at first. "But I swear to you," He cries, "that there are divine things well hidden." Yet they are not so concealed that the lover may not discover them, and to the lover nature reveals herself like a shy maiden who is slowly drawn to one who adores her at a distance, and who is first acknowledged by a lifting of the veil, a long-remembered glance, a glimmering smile, and at last comes speech and the mingling of life with life.
So the lover of Earth obtains his reward, and little by little the veil is lifted of an inexhaustible beauty and majesty. It may be he will be entranced in some spiritual communion, or will find his being overflowing into the being of the elements, or become aware that they are breathing their life into his own.
Or Earth may become on an instant completely the realm of fairies to him, and earth and air resound with the music of its invisible people. Or the trees and rocks may waver before his eyes and become transparent, revealing what creatures were hidden from him by the curtain, and he will know as the ancients did of dryad and hamadryad, of genii of wood and mountain.
Or earth may suddenly blaze about him with supernatural light in some lonely spot amid the hills, and he will find he stands as the prophet in a place that is holy ground, and he may breathe the intoxicating exhalations as did the sibyls of old. Or his love may hurry him away in dream to share in deeper mysteries, and he may see the palace chambers of nature where the wise ones dwell in secret, looking out over the nations, breathing power into this man's heart or that man's brain, on any who appear to their vision to wear the color of truth.
So gradually the earth lover realizes the golden world is all about him in imperishable beauty, and he may pass from the vision to the profounder beauty of being, and know an eternal love is within and around him, pressing upon him and sustaining with infinite tenderness his body, his soul, and his spirit.
I have obscured the vision of that being by dilating too much on what was curious, but I desired to draw others to this meditation, if by reasoning it were possible to free the intellect from its own fetters, so that the imagination might go forth, as Blake says, "in uncurbed glory." So I stayed the vision which might have been art, or the ecstasy which might have been poetry, and asked of them rather to lead me back to the ancestral fountain from which they issued.
I think by this meditation we can renew for ourselves the magic and beauty of Earth, and understand the meaning of things in the sacred books which had grown dim. We have so passed away from vital contact with divine powers that they have become for most names for the veriest abstractions, and those who read do not know that the Mighty Mother is that Earth on which they tread and whose holy substance they call common clay.
The Paraclete is the strength of our being, the power which binds atom to atom and Earth to Heaven: or that the Christos is the Magician of the Beautiful and that it is not only the Architect of the God-world but is that in us which sees beauty, creates beauty, and it is verily wisdom in us and is our deepest self; or that the Father is the fountain of substance and power and wisdom, and that we could not lift an eyelash but that we have our being in Him.
When we turn from books to living nature we begin to understand the ancient wisdom, and it is no longer an abstraction, for the Great Spirit whose home is in the vast becomes for us a moving glamor in the heavens, a dropping tenderness at twilight, a visionary light in the hills, a voice in the heart, the Earth underfoot becomes sacred, and the air we breathe is like wine poured out for us by some heavenly cupbearer.
As we grow intimate with earth we realize what sweet and august things await humanity when it goes back to that forgotten mother. Who would be ambitious, who would wish to fling a name like Caesar's in the air, if he saw what thrones and majesties awaited the heavenly adventurer? Who would hate if he could see beneath the husk of the body the spirit which is obscured and imprisoned there, and how it was brother to his own spirit and all were children of the King? Who would weary of nature or think it solitude once the veil had been lifted for him, once he had seen that great glory?
Would they not long all of them for the coming of that divine hour in the twilights of time, when out of rock, mountain, water, tree, bird, beast, or man the seraph spirits of all that live shall emerge realizing their kinship, and all together, fierce things made gentle, and timid things made bold, and small made great, shall return to the Father Being and be made one in Its infinitudes.
When we attain this vision nature will melt magically before our eyes, and powers that seem dreadful, things that seemed abhorrent in her, will reveal themselves as brothers and allies. Until then she is unmoved by our conflicts and will carry on her ceaseless labors.
No sign is made while empires pass.
The flowers and stars are still His care,
The constellations hid in grass,
The golden miracles in air.
Life in an instant will be rent
When death is glittering, blind and wild,
The Heavenly Brooding is intent
To that last instant on Its child.
It breathes the glow in brain and heart.
Life is made magical. Until
Body and spirit are apart
The Everlasting works Its will.
In that wild orchid that your feet
In their next falling shall destroy,
Minute and passionate and sweet,
The Mighty Master holds His joy.
Though the crushed jewels droop and fade
The Artist's labors will not cease,
And from the ruins shall be made
Some yet more lovely masterpiece.
By Mikhail Naimy
[From THE ARYAN PATH, January 1953, pages 3-7.]
Four knights from the four corners of the earth, riding four graceful steeds in magnificent trappings, met in the midst of a far-flung trackless desert. After exchanging greetings, they dismounted to take a little rest and to rest their exhausted mounts. As is natural for strangers meeting so unexpectedly in such a place, the knights' first halting conversation turned on the whence and the whither of each, and on the purpose of his journey through that vast and parched desolation.
The knights were astounded when it became apparent to them that their stories were practically identical. Each had conquered that quarter of the globe from which he hailed. Having subdued the last of his enemies, and having become weary of fighting, his soul began to long for the blessing of Peace. Hard as he tried, he could not find in his vast domain the peace he craved with his whole soul. The failure to realize that desire cast a shadow of gloom over all his life; it turned his brilliant conquests into black defeat, poisoned his dreams, and made of his great kingdom a prison for his heart. No longer could he relish his food or hunt a passing pleasure anywhere.
At last, he consulted the wisest man in his kingdom, and the wise man counseled him to seek the Oasis of Peace in such-and-such a desert. From that Oasis, if he once enter and drink of the waters thereof, he would know Peace -- perfect Peace -- to the end of his days. An exceeding strong wall surrounded that Oasis, however, in which there was but one small door that only those who had CONQUERED could open.
For more than an hour, the knights exchanged tales of battles and adventures, wondering where the Oasis might be and how far they might be from it. All four expressed amazement at a certain phenomenon that had followed each of them from the moment they entered that awesome desert. As they marched, each seemed to feel himself followed at a distance by his own armies and the armies he had conquered, armies locked in a bitter fight of life and death. The shadows of those armies could be clearly seen during the day but their voices and the din of battle could not be heard except at night.
One of the knights, endowed evidently with a livelier imagination than the other three, ventured the opinion that what they saw and heard was nothing but a mirage, that the ear had mirages much as the eye has. This explanation seemed plausible to his companions and they readily concurred in it.
As the four were about to resume their interrupted march, there loomed in the distance the figure of a man with a staff in hand. He was walking towards them in broad, measured steps. The man sang as he walked and was dressed in a flowing black robe of goat's hair, his feet strapped in wooden sandals. When a few paces from them, he saluted them saying, "Peace be with you."
The salutation displeased the imaginative knight who had explained the eye and ear mirage to his companions. He said gruffly to the stranger, "How can you salute us with peace? Have you perchance been to the Oasis of Peace?"
"I have not," replied the man simply and light-heartedly. "But I am on the way."
"Then let your peace return to you unheeded. For how can anyone give peace with his tongue when his heart is devoid of peace?"
The stranger took the knight's rebuke with a smile and said, "You are right, brother. Peace belongs to the men of Peace. It is a language that peaceful hearts alone can understand."
The knight was infuriated when the stranger addressed him as "brother." Giving vent to his fury, he shouted at the man. "How dare you call me 'brother' when you are but a tramp and I am the lord of one quarter of the earth? Behold! We four have conquered the whole earth. What have you conquered to make you even dream of entering the Oasis of Peace? Do you not know that none but those who have conquered may enter it?"
"Aye, that is not unknown to me," said the man nonchalantly. "And it is because I know it that I am on my way to the Oasis. I have conquered all my enemies and yet I have killed or harmed not a single man."
"What enemies have you conquered when we, the lords of the earth, have never heard of you, nor have we encountered you and your armies in any of the battles we have fought? Are you, perchance, not of this earth?"
"I am of this earth as much as you are and I own of it much more than the four of you combined, but what I own is different from what you own. As to the enemies that I have conquered, you shall know their might at the entrance of the Oasis. Let us be hence if you would reach your goal before sundown."
"Stranger than your looks are your speech, indeed. Do you know the way to the Oasis?"
"I do. Follow me."
The knights remounted their horses and rode behind the stranger, wondering in their hearts whether to take him seriously. The shadows of armies locked in a deadly struggle, of which they spoke a while ago, followed them at a distance, marching as they marched, halting when they halted, and trotting as they trotted.
After a wearying march of several hours, with the blazing sun beating mercilessly upon them, the small company came in sight of a luxuriant Oasis. Its tall and stately trees wafted to a distance the cool and aromatic breath of healthy verdure. Birds flitted and warbled among the trembling branches. In the midst of that sandy desolation, it appeared as a huge emerald set in an immense disc of gold. Approaching closer, the travelers found themselves face to face with a thick and high wall, built of human skulls. Snakes, scorpions, and worms of all sizes, shapes, and colors crawled and squirmed in and out of the eye-sockets, biting and mauling one another and hissing hideously. The sight was sufficiently ghastly to send the creeps up anyone's spine.
Looking at that wall, the four intrepid conquerors of the earth turned extremely pale. Their hearts contracted and their tongues tied. What added to their fright was the fact that the fighting armies that had marched in their wake all along the road, and which they had believed to be a mere mirage or hallucination, became now very real flesh and blood. They were their own armies and those of their enemies engaged in a deadly combat, and spread fan-like all about the Oasis.
Appalled by the scene in front of them and all about them, the knights exchanged stupefied glances as if to say, "Is this the Oasis of Peace? Or is it Gehenna?" They were confounded beyond measure when they remembered their strange companion and guide to the Oasis. They beheld him sitting comfortably on the ground with no trace on his face of any fear or bewilderment whatsoever. On the contrary, his face radiated peace and joy, as of one who was viewing some charming vista and listening to celestial symphonies. They approached him shyly, begging him to assure them that the Oasis before them was the Oasis of Peace and point out the door into it. The man did not move an eyelash or a lip, but simply motioned to the knights to ride thrice around the wall and they did.
When they came back to their starting point, the four kings of the globe found the stranger standing in front of a small, low door that they had not espied before. Above the door, they saw a great sign, written in large, luminous letters.
THIS IS THE OASIS OF PEACE. NONE MAY ENTER IT SAVE CONQUERORS.
The sign seemed to restore to the frightened knights their courage and their confidence. As soon as they read it, one of them walked firmly and slowly to the small door and pushed it with his forefinger. The door did not open. He pushed it with his fist. Again, it did not open. He kicked it with his boot, but to no avail. Enraged by his repeated failures, he threw the weight of his whole body against the door. The door remained firm and never let out even a faint squeak.
Then the second knight took a turn, then the third, and the fourth. Finally, all four combined their might and weight against that tiny door, but it moved not even the breadth of a hair. The stranger all the while looked on, keeping his peace. Their patience and their resources exhausted, the four knights took counsel together as to the best means out of the ugly dilemma.
The happy thought flashed through the mind of one that the inscription above the door could have meant none other than him who has conquered the whole earth, not only a quarter thereof. The only solution, therefore, would be for the four of them to match their strength and prowess. Perchance the strongest would open the door and keep it open for the other three. The solution was readily accepted by all.
For a long time did the four horsemen charge and countercharge until three of them fell to the ground. The fourth that remained in the saddle, sighed a great sigh of relief, and boastfully announced, "I am the lord of the earth!" Dismounting, he walked arrogantly towards the door, pushed it with his spear, kicked it, now with one foot, now with the other, but the door remained as firm as a mountain. In utter despondency and disgust, he looked to the fifth pilgrim and said somewhat contemptuously, "Ho, tramp! Perhaps you know the secret of this door. Will you not open it for me?"
"I do," he replied with confidence, taking no offence at the knight's derisive manner. With firm, unhurried steps, he walked to the door. No sooner did he touch it gently with his hand than it was flung wide open, revealing behind it a marvelous garden such as may be seen in dreams, and that very rarely. It was a veritable paradise.
Immediately after the man was inside, the door swung shut behind him, leaving the "lord of the earth" outside, greatly perplexed. Broken-hearted and defeated, he shouted at the man inside, "In the name of God, queer fellow, explain this mystery to me. Does not the sign above the door say that none may enter it save conquerors?"
"So it says," intoned the stranger from within.
"How come, then, that I, the lord of the whole earth, am denied admittance, while you, a miserable vagabond, are admitted so readily and with such surpassing ease?"
"Simply because I have conquered, and you have not," was the stranger's soft and confident reply.
"But whom have you conquered, idiot? I have never seen your wretched face in any of my battles."
"I have conquered myself."
"What a glorious conquest! A rat conquering a rat! You make me laugh."
"Laugh, mighty King. Hyenas thrive on corpses and always laugh. But they know not Peace."
"Is not Peace the prize of victory?"
"Peace is the prize of victory over self. To vanquish others by the force of arms is to raise from the victor's lusts and arrogance and from the skulls the pains, humiliations, distress, and malice of the vanquished. This is an insurmountable barrier to Peace for both victor and vanquished. To vanquish others is to live in perpetual fear of vengeance, which fear is the deadliest enemy of Peace. Whereas to vanquish one's own animal passions with no other weapons than those of Love, Charity, and Holy Understanding of one's unbroken unity with all creation is to live at peace with oneself and with all the things and creatures in the earth below and in the heavens above. It is for such conquerors only that this Oasis is set in the midst of such a boundless, trackless desert."
"Never shall I accept your childish prattle, nor shall I ever surrender my kingdom until I surrender my life."
"And never shall you know Peace, O deluded King, though you rule the four quarters of the earth!"
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.]
Apollonius was never off duty. No sooner was he among the other unbound prisoners, and there were about fifty of them in a wretched state of mind, than he began to rouse them up and encourage them and show them the bright side of things. Many of them were under the most trivial accusations and suspicions and yet they seemed sure of death at the hand of the homicidal maniac on the throne. To him a house, a city, a country bounded by rivers, an ocean-bound continent, the whole world, were prisons, the body itself was a prison full of suffering. As for the prison at Rome, he had voluntarily come thither, so why should they fear more than he did?
The result of his speech to all and every one, was that many who through fear had been going without their meals now left the steward with empty shelves, and smiles took the place of tears and groans.
"How can any harm befall us while Apollonius is with us," they said.
Speaking to individuals in the prison, Apollonius had as usual been very frank in what he said of the Emperor, just as he was equally frank in blaming a crime or inculcating fortitude. One crime he mentions is interesting. Among other things, he tells an accused man that if he has really committed a crime such as acquiring wealth by robbery, or selling poisonous drugs, or by ransacking the tombs of ancient kings, stored with gold and precious treasure, he ought to be capitally punished. This to a man whose inherited riches had excited envy.
One was actually under the grave accusation of liking to live alone on a little island in peace. How could a man do that, the informers argued, unless he had committed some crime to make him shun the mainland?
Next day, the same thing happened, and Apollonius began to talk. Even in the prison, there seemed to be informers. A new prisoner came in talking as volubly as an informer talks when he is making eight or ten false accusations. He said he was in great danger, and did everything to get others to talk, especially Apollonius. The wise old philosopher saw through the trick and realized that this was simply a spy sent to catch him in treasonable utterances against the Emperor.
How he talked, that old Tyanean! How the prisoners were delighted with what he said and how eagerly they listened to his fascinating discourse! Did he speak of the Emperor? He said not a word of him! He was talking of rivers, mountains, animals, trees, and all the wonderful things of nature. Quite likely, he talked, as all those philosophers do, of vast cyclopean ruins, of giants, of flying dragons and pterodactyls that once inhabited the earth, of lost continents and huge cataclysms, and a thousand and one things they had barely heard mentioned in books. Only, as this wonderful old man spoke, you could almost see the things he described. There was no vague speculation, but such a vivid imagery of description as a man having the object before his eyes could not excel.
The new prisoner could not make head or tail of it. He was here to catch the old man. Perhaps the steward had thought he might save more on the victuals if he said that the old man was in some mysterious way putting heart of courage into all the prisoners; by talking against the Emperor, doubtless. Well, if he would not talk against the Emperor, he must be made to do so. The informer put it to him pointblank.
"You can say what you like against him," was the surprising answer. "I shall not turn informer! As for myself, I will tell the Emperor in person whatever I think reprehensible in his conduct."
The spy was beaten. How had the old man read his thoughts?
Aelian was evidently on tenterhooks as to what Apollonius would say to the Emperor. At the very least, he was sure to insult him to his face, for the Tyanean feared nobody, least of all the worldly great. He had promised out of consideration for Aelian not to be disrespectful, but that might only be the old man's polite way of putting it. When another mysterious stranger came in and asked for the Tyanean, Apollonius was watchful. When the man took him aside and said significantly, "The Emperor will speak with you tomorrow," his sense of sincerity told him that the message was from Aelian. The visitor asked if he had all he needed, as orders had been given to the keeper of the prison to supply all he wished.
"That is right," said Apollonius, "but I need nothing. I live here just as I do everywhere else, and I talk on the common things of life as usual. I have no wants." Apollonius seemed very amenable to reason and good-tempered, so out came the real message.
"Would you not like the advice of a friend to tell you the right way to address the Emperor," he asked. If only the old man could be got to let some lawyer tell him the way to talk, there might be a chance of his coming alive out of the Emperor's hands. If not, there was no telling what he would say or would not say, and then the fat would be in the fire with a vengeance. Now if he would only cultivate a little delicate flattery.
"I should indeed like such a friend to advise me," said Apollonius, "if he could only keep from advising me to flatter him!"
The messenger tried again. "Suppose he advised you not to be disrespectful and to avoid any kind of insolence?"
"Thank you for the advice. It is good, and it is just what I shall follow," said Apollonius. Was that a little smile at the corner of the old man's lips?
"Well, that is what I came for, to advise you so, and I am delighted to hear you will control yourself and act in obedience to it. I thought it right to prepare you to meet the terrible countenance and voice of the Emperor without faltering. For even when he tries to speak gently his voice is harsh, and his eyebrows hang heavy over his eyes, while his cheeks are so bloated with bile that there is not another man in the Empire like him to look upon. Try not to let these things intimidate you, Oh Tyanean. They are really only natural defects."
Apollonius encouraged him to have no fear by quoting the way in which Ulysses faced the unseeing Polyphemus and then returned alive. He would have similar courage. He told Damis all that had passed and said he wanted no more than to escape with his friends for whom he had placed himself in such peril. Then he went to sleep, or seemed to do so. In the morning, he said he had passed a sleepless night and needed rest.
Would Damis ever really understand his old Teacher? Here he had been with him for more years than go to make up many a lifetime of activity and he thought at once the Tyanean had been worrying with anxiety and perhaps fear.
"Yes, you see, I have been thinking all night over what Phraotes said to me," said the old man. Perhaps there was a touch of humor in his tone.
Really, he must be showing signs of his great age! "I think if you had to stay awake you might at least have been preparing for the interview; it's not a light matter, that," said Damis. Had he passed sleepless hours worrying over the peril of his dear Master?
"How can I prepare for what as yet I know nothing about," asked Apollonius in that strangely disconcerting direct way of his.
Damis opened his eyes in hopeless perplexity. Would he never understand the old man? "Do you mean to say you are going to argue a cause which involves your own life, without any kind of preparation," he asked.
"Certainly I do. All my life has been passed without preparation until now, without fixed plans, and so it shall be to the last." Then he appeased Damis by showing him his little joke, if it may be called that. He told him how Phraotes had taught him how to tame lions. This a queer occupation for a philosopher, especially one who had quite recently argued a rich, ignorant young man out of his ignoble occupation of teaching birds to talk with a cockney accent, or whatever corresponded to cockneyism in the days of Domitian and the Roman 'Arrius, and to spend his time learning to speak decently himself. Tyrants are lions said the Master, and Phraotes was really telling me how to deal with tyrants, not too severely, and not too gently.
LESSON FROM AESOP
"In Aesop there is a fable of a lion that lay stretched out in his den, not sick, but only pretending to be so, for the purpose of seizing on every animal that came to see him. Aesop adds there was a fox, who in considering the case of this lion observed, 'I do not find that anyone remains with him, nor the footsteps of any who return from him.' Yet," said Apollonius, "I should have thought more of the wisdom of the fox had he entered the cave without suffering himself to be taken; and on his return had been able to show his own footsteps."
He turned over and went to sleep, leaving Damis to think it out. Many of the Master's best lessons were garbed in the simplest form and after all, Aesop's fables were a divine gift of Mercury, Wisdom, himself. Could the old man really mean that though there were no footsteps that ever came back from the judgment seat of that greater Nero, the awful Domitian, that there was now a fox showing the world how it might be done? The thought was too good to be true. Oh, if only it were all over!
When it was day, Apollonius paid his adorations to the rising sun as well as he could in prison, and spoke to all who wished to hear him. About noon, an officer came to prepare him for the audience.
"I'm ready, let us go," said Apollonius on the instant, eager to be away. He was always dressed! Surrounded by four guards who kept at a greater distance than usual when guarding a common prisoner, he left the prison. In the background, there was a figure that followed with fear and trembling and much sadness. Nobody noticed that inconspicuously clad man, for he was dressed much as the crowd was dressed; had not the Master told Damis not to make himself look peculiar?
That other figure of Apollonius between the four soldiers! How people stared! See, they keep their distance; he is an important one, that! What a strange garb for such a man, look at the cut and fashion of it! Not a tailor in Rome but would lose every customer if he acknowledged having made that linen garment. Look at his shoes, made of some kind of tree-bark or bast. What long hair for so old a man -- must be ninety-five at least! Surely, he might show the Emperor the compliment of combing it, like Leonidas and his Spartans when the hosts of Persia came down upon them. It is the sign of a freeman to wear long hair, but a freeman need not neglect it; did not they answer the Persian summons to surrender by saying to the ambassador, "they were combing their hair," and not a word more? "For me, I think he will soon have it combed for him, and perhaps a little more, too."
The usual crowd -- wit and levity. Very few felt quite like that this noon. There was something squalid in his garb, but there was something divine in his face and bearing; the latter was as superior to their own natures, and they felt it, as their smart clothes were superior to his linen garment. A more serious current to talk and thought ran through that Roman crowd that day. Even his enemies were overwhelmed with admiration.
This old man was yet an old man twenty years before. He might well have earned the right to live out his years in peace. He had done what no man had ever done before or was ever likely to do again -- he had actually come of his own free will to Rome to save his friends Nerva and Orfitus and Rufus! The thing was a prodigy to be spoken of in history while the world should last. They dared not whisper that Nerva was to be Emperor after Domitian, for so it had been foretold, or that others were for the other two of his companions, for the very stones in the street would turn informer, if they did; but they thought, they thought!
It was a busy scene. There were throngs of sightseers eager to see and be seen. Great and small officials passed out of the palace with documents. There were soldiers with their uniforms. Friends and friends of their friends flattered those in office lest perchance they let fall crumbs from the imperial table. Officials in the making went in. Office-seekers elbowed them up the stairs. A prisoner was under guard waiting to be tried. Fashionable people greeted their friends. They were greeted by them in turn with the gossip of the day. Butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers jostled, chattered, and gossiped. There was all the traffic of a great city. Only one man in the midst of them seemed oblivious of it all; he was alone in the crowd as only a philosopher can be.
AT THE PALACE GATES
Now they had stopped at the palace-gates and Damis was able to creep a little nearer. He was very sad. Would he ever see his Master and Teacher again? True, this was not a trial; it was only a confrontation, but what was that to that devil Domitian, who was quite capable of killing the old man with his own hand at the first word of indiscretion. Who could trust Apollonius to say anything but what he chose to say? What was he thinking of?
A voice reached him from among the four guards. It was his Master speaking to him while they waited. Doubtless, he appreciated his danger and his solemn situation, as Damis had long done.
"Looks to me like a public bath," said the old man. "Those who are inside are trying to get out, and those who are outside want to get in; the former have had their bath and the latter are yet unwashed!"
Damis was so taken aback at the comic suggestion that for a moment he forgot his sadness and depression, and actually smiled. This was what Apollonius wanted him to do. Did not he seem to hear one of the guards muttering, "It is a pretty hot bath you are in for this time, old man, no question about that," or was it one of the passersby, or only imagination?
Apollonius was unchanged. He chaffed Damis with looking like a dead man who thought the Imperial Palace was Hades, whose gates had all but closed on him.
Damis hardly laughed at this. "I do not feel like a dead man, not quite, but I do feel like one who is going to die soon," said Damis.
"I thought I had prepared you, Damis, to be always ready for death, like a true philosopher," said Apollonius. "Instead of that you do not seem to like it."
They talked, and Apollonius drew the mind of Damis away from his troubles as they waited at the palace-gates. The guards wondered not a little at this strange old man who seemed to forget that the next few minutes might decide whether he was to be boiled in oil or have fishhooks stuck all over his back -- actually the latter treatment was rumored abroad. Did not rumor recall that an old Jew visionary had undergone the oil treatment before what was left of him was banished to the islands -- Patmos, or some place like that?
By Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
[From THE ARYAN PATH, November 1953, pages 493-98.]
"Zen" is an abbreviation of Zazen, which is Japanese. The Chinese original is Ch'an, which is the translation of the Sanskrit term Dhyana. In Pali, it is Janna. Chinese scholars do not like to use the original Sanskrit terms. They prefer to translate into Chinese every Sanskrit term. When they find the Chinese equivalent of the original Sanskrit, they try to blend the Chinese with the Sanskrit. They create a hybrid in that way. To the Chinese mind, these hybrid terms are expressive. Long usage has established words in that hybrid terminology as technical terms.
Now the terms Ch'an and Zazen have been dropped and Zen alone is used. That means Janna, which in its original sense, means meditation. This is not exactly meditation as used in the West although something very similar to it. Janna we may take to mean meditation, contemplation, tranquillization, or concentration. Such terms nearly express the original meaning of Janna, but not exactly. The way in which Zen Buddhism uses the term Zen is quite different from its original meaning. This has to be emphasized at the outset.
Zen developed in China in the eighth century. It is traditionally ascribed to Bodhidharma, known as Tamo in China and as Daruma in Japan. Bodhidharma came to China from India in the sixth century, but what he taught was not exactly what came to be known as Zen. Zen developed about 150 or 200 years after Bodhidharma came.
The real founder of Zen in China is known as Hui Neng, Wei Lang, or Yeno. What distinguished Hui Neng from his predecessors and from the rest of the Chinese Buddhist teachers? It is this, which really constitutes the essence of Zen teaching:
Enlightenment is an experience that Buddha had and through which he was able to teach Buddhism. Buddhism really means "the Doctrine of Enlightenment." Prajana is used quite frequently as synonymous with enlightenment.
In China, before Yeno, it had been thought that this enlightenment could be attained only after one had practiced Janna and attained proficiency in meditation. Yeno maintained that Prajna and Janna should go together; neither alone would do. These two are considered most essential in the study of Buddhism.
There are three forms of discipline in the observance of Buddhism: (1) moral precepts like non-stealing, (2) Janna or Zen, and (3) Prajna. Leaving aside the first, let us begin with Janna or Zen and with Prajna. Yeno said that Janna is Prajna and Prajna is Janna. One cannot separate these two. One does not begin with Janna and then obtain Prajna. Where there is Prajna there is Janna, and vice versa. When one is attained, the other comes with it. No separation between them is possible. This was his original teaching.
When we say "Zen Buddhism," this Zen is used in a somewhat different sense from the ordinary one. Usually Zen is meditation, concentration, or contemplation but in Zen Buddhism, Zen is used not in that sense but as synonymous with Prajna. To understand Zen Buddhism, therefore, it is necessary to know that Dhyana is not something different from Prajna and that Prajna is not something obtained after Zen is obtained. Prajna unfolds itself the very moment that we practice Janna. This was the original teaching of Yeno and it was the beginning of Zen Buddhism.
One day a Chinese Government Officer who was also a poet and a painter called on the immediate disciple of Yeno and asked, "What is this one way? What is the teaching of your school that denies the distinction between Zen and Prajna?"
The disciple of Yeno replied, "Zen is where you are talking. You ask a question and Zen is there. It is not that one comes before the other. They are simultaneous. When you talk to me, there is Zen. There is Prajna. They are not different."
To express this in a more modern way: while we are doing, thinking, and feeling, there is this identity of Zen and Prajna. This spatial intuitive knowledge is not to be developed after the practice of Zen. Prajna is where Zen is.
Prajna is another difficult term to translate into English. We generally use "Transcendental Wisdom" or "Intuitive Knowledge" to express Prajna. In spite of their dislike for foreign languages, the Chinese used a term that is the Chinese translation of Prajna. Prajna is something that our discursive knowledge cannot attain. It belongs to a different category from mere knowledge. Buddhists emphasize this distinction very much. They say, not knowing, but knowing and seeing. These two must come together.
To know there must be two -- subject and object.
Now, seeing is not just our knowing about something. Seeing is directly seeing it. Knowing and seeing are generally coupled in Buddhist teaching. Knowing is not enough. Seeing must come with knowing. In the West, you distinguish between knowing and seeing. Knowing is philosophical, knowing about. Seeing is seeing directly, personally, that is, by personal experience. Knowing always requires a mediator but seeing is direct, yet in seeing, we do not generally see things directly. When we think we see something, that seeing is not real from the Zen point of view. When you see a flower, for example, not only must you see it but the flower must see you also; otherwise, there is no real seeing. Seeing is really my seeing the flower and the flower seeing me. When this seeing is mutual, there is real seeing.
Certain scholars say that when we think we see the flower, we put our feelings into the flower. My thinking or seeing or your thinking or seeing is put into the flower and the flower is given life. To the Zen way of thinking, there is no transference of my imagination into the flower. The flower itself is living and as a living thing, it sees me. My seeing is also the flower seeing. When this takes place, there is real seeing. When this end is achieved, i.e., when my seeing becomes the flower seeing, then there is real communication or real identification of the flower with myself, of subject with object. When this mutual identification takes place, the flower is myself and I am the flower.
A Chinese scholar once asked a Zen Master, "One of the earlier Buddhist philosophers said, 'Heaven and earth are of the same source; 10,000 things and I are one.'" He added, "Is this not a wonderful saying?"
The Master looked at a flower in the courtyard and said, "Men of the world see this flower as in a dream," meaning that their seeing is not real seeing, which implies that for real seeing, it is necessary for me to see the flower and for the flower to see me. When this is mutual and identification takes place, then there is real seeing. Then we experience what the Buddhist scholar stated in the passage just quoted. "Heaven and earth are of the same source; 10,000 things and I are one."
This is mere abstract talk. So long as we are dealing with abstractions, there is no actual experience. The Zen Master pointed out this fact to his disciple. "Instead of talking about abstractions or quoting what others have said, do look at this flower that is now becoming and identify yourself with it, not as if you are in a dream, but see in actual reality the flower itself. Then you see that the whole universe is nothing but the expression of one's own mind."
Before I left Japan, I read in an English journal an interesting article by a Russian whose idea was this: "The objective world can exist only in my subjectivity. The objective world does not really exist until it is experienced by this subjectivity or myself." That is something like Berkeley's Idealism. One day this Russian was riding his bicycle and he collided with a lorry. The driver was angry but the Russian kept on saying, "The world is nothing but my subjectivity." On another occasion when he was thinking in the ordinary way, there was no collision but something else happened and he awakened to this truth. "There is nothing but my subjectivity." When he experienced this, he had quite an illumination and he said to a friend, "Everything is in everything else." That means that all things are the same but he did not say that. He said, "Everything, each individual object, is in each other individual object. So this world of multitudes is not denied, as each thing is in every other one." This is most significant. When he expressed this to his friend, the friend could not understand but later the friend attained the same experience. This is Prajna. This is transcendental wisdom. When we attain this intuition, we have Zen. Zen is no other than this intuitive knowledge.
I must say more about this intuitive knowledge or direct seeing. For example, if we touch fire, the finger burns. I feel intuitively that fire is dangerous without having to reason about it. When people talk about intuition, it is connected with individual objects. Someone has an intuition and something about which he has the intuition. There is nothing between subject and object. These intuitions may take place immediately, that is, without any intermediary. Nevertheless, there are subject and object, though their relationship is immediate instead of being through an intermediate agent.
We talk about this kind of intuition, but the intuition that Zen talks about is identification seeing. That is, when I see the flower and the flower sees me, this kind of intuition or mutual identification is not individual seeing. It is not individual intuition. "I see the flower and the flower sees me" means that the flower ceases to be a flower. I cease to be myself. Instead, there is unification. The flower vanishes into something higher than a flower and I vanish into that something higher than any individual object.
Now when this leveling up takes place, this being absorbed into something higher than each relative being, it does not mean merely being absorbed. There is intuition, awakening. There is something that acknowledges itself to be itself. This is not annihilation or mere absorption into the void. Intuition accompanies this "annihilation." That is the most important point. When this takes place, there is real seeing of the flower. Therefore, we say that "my seeing the flower and the flower seeing me" takes place on a plane higher than that where the flower is seen as an individual flower and I am seen as an individual being. When there is absorption of the individual into something higher, there is intuition. This is most important. This is in accordance with the original teaching of Wei Lang. Prajna is Janna.
Earlier teachers than Yeno had stated that when Janna was practiced, all things vanished and there was nothing left. By this, it was meant that no individual thing was left. There is something that is not an individual object. There is a perception of something and this perception is intuition. This intuition is Prajna or enlightenment and Yeno most strongly emphasized this.
Now it may not be quite clear what Zen is driving at. I have a book here that contains all the Zen sayings, starting with those of Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma may be a fictitious individual but that does not matter. Yeno is historical. From him down to the early part of the Sung Dynasty, about 900 years ago, this book contains all those Chinese sayings called Mondo. The mind revolves, that is, it works. It operates as it faces 10,000 situations. When I see the lamp, I see it illuminated. When I touch this table, it is hard, so my mind moves along. When I am struck, I feel. In this way, the mind moves from one sense to another just as things come along. This moving of the mind is most subtle, obscure, and mysterious.
When I strike this table, I feel, but who is it that feels? What is it that feels? When you try to get that person, mind, soul, or spirit out here and see it, you cannot. You would like to get something out of yourself, but you cannot. All the time, soul or spirit moves on and this moving on is subtle. When it is working in such a subtle way, when it is going on, you can get hold of that something that cannot be taken hold of. Then you have it. When you have that, then there is real wisdom or Prajna. When you have this Prajna, then you are entirely free from all sorrows, afflictions, and all other things.
Now when I speak of being free from desires, tensions, and fears, you may think that the understanding of Zen will turn you into a piece of wood, insensitive, indifferent; but I do not say this. When I strike the table, it feels pain as much as I would. You may say, "This is insane. It is not so." Everything is filled with sense, mind, and heart. So when Buddha says to be free from desires and afflictions, this does not mean to become like a piece of wood. It means to make a piece of wood turn into a sensitive being.
In a Chinese Zen monastery, they have a heavy stick made of one piece of wood that they strike with a hammer. It is very sensitive. When a monk struck this, the Master said, "I have a pain." That is not exaggerated. It really takes place. When they see a worm on the ground, Buddhists try to avoid stepping on it. You may say that you cannot move an inch because something would be trodden on and die. True, you cannot move if you pursue this practice in its relative sense. Actually, when you have this intuitive understanding of things, you are like St. Francis of Assisi when he talked about "Our Brother Sun" and "Sister Moon" and about befriending wolves and birds. He took everything as his own brother. His feeling was moving along the same lines, so there is no difference between the Christian and the Buddhist experience of final reality.
When Zen people talk about not having any feeling whatever, that does not mean no feeling on the relative plane, but no feeling based on selfissh interests. To have no pain and no desires does not mean to become cold ashes. It means to have no feeling in connection with selfish ideas. So long as we are individuals, we cannot but be selfish to some extent but this selfishness is not separate from that which is more than self. When self stays as self and does not expand to something higher than itself, that is the relative self. When self finds itself enveloped, a component in something that is much wider and deeper, then it is not merely the relative self. When that kind of self is realized, enlightenment takes place. Zen Buddhism tries to make us attain that end.
Most Christians think that Christ was historically born at a certain place and time. According to Eckhart, the great German philosopher of the thirteenth century, Christ is born in every one of us. When that is so, the relative self dies to itself and that relative self becomes empty. When the experience of uniformity, sameness, and sensitivity takes place in our soul, it is then that Christ is born there. Every impediment or faulty particle of that which we call ourselves ought to be purged and the self ought to become really empty.
This is quite different from the ordinary Christian way of understanding the birth of Christ but Eckhart had no knowledge whatever of Buddhism and Buddha had no knowledge of him, yet their teachings coincide perfectly. When I read Eckhart, I seem to be reading a Buddhist text with but a different terminology. As far as inner comprehension is concerned, they are the same.
This comprehension corresponds to intuition. Prehension is only grasping. Touch is, I suppose, the most primitive sense, but this gives the purest feeling of identity, so prehension, taking hold of by the hand, is necessary. Sight is the most intellectual sense and hearing is next but there is a great distance between them and their object. With touch, there is an immediate coming together. We must experience that. It is the same as intuition, not just relative intuition but collective or total intuition. When this takes place, there is real understanding of reality and the experience of enlightenment. This is what constitutes the teaching of Zen as first taught by Yeno, Hui Neng, or Wei Lang in the eighth century.
By James Sterling
To the Members of the Theosophical Society, And to all Theosophists worldwide, It is time to settle our petty differences, COME TOGETHER, And stand united as one body: FOR THE TIME HAS COME. We have journeyed together in past lives, And we meet again to face the DARKNESS, As David stood humbly before Goliath. We are all Chelas on the Path; Every Member who works for Theosophy, And battles the demons of the lower nature; WE ARE ALL CHELAS ON THE PATH, Enlightenment is ours if we stand together, Like the Oak stands TALL when the Storm Rages and Ravishes our trembling souls. I'm on that Ancient Path, that Wise Men Say leads to the Heart of the Universe, And I have FAITH that my time will come, But you, members of the Theosophical Society, What do you believe? The time has come to put away our petty differences, Because we all know that the world needs US, And we must join together as a WHOLE, And fight for TRUTH, no matter what the cost. As Chelas on the Path, we must follow orders, From our spiritual source, From Mahatmas waiting and waiting, To Bring the Race Forward Onto A Higher Plane, Where The Dark Force will SOON remain as ashes, In their dark, evil grave.
By Sri C.V. Srinivasa Murty
[From THE ARYAN PATH, February 1953, pages 70-75.]
To take up first the meaning of Mysticism: the term is often taken to mean something indefinite and inexplicable. It is identified with intuition, which, unless properly defined, is often a name for ignorance of the causes at work. Definitions are legion and they will not help us. The best that can be done is to indicate the sense in which it is to be used in this paper. Mysticism is essentially an experience that gives us not merely a feeling of intimate and personal relationship but knowledge as well. The knowledge derived from mystic experience is described as intuitive and is regarded as opposed to knowledge derived from reasoning. The point of view developed here does not envisage such a conflict between reason and intuition. Radhakrishnan observes:
In order to be able to say that religious experience reveals reality and in order to be able to transform religious certitude into logical certainty, we are obliged to give an intellectual account of the experience ... There can be no final breach between the two powers of the human mind, reason and intuition.
-- Radhakrishnan, THE HINDU VIEW OF LIFE, pages 16-17
Intuitive mystical experience cannot be regarded as a special gift. Every rational individual has the capacity for it, and does experience it at some moment of his life. In its higher levels, it is, in a sense, a direct and intimate experience revealing knowledge. The sage, the scientist, and the philosopher may have a mystic experience that is qualitatively more significant than that of the layman because of their special cultivation in their respective fields. The term is wrongly confined to religious mysticism. Such restriction of the term cuts at the root of the possibility of validating mystic knowledge.
With a well-stored mind and deep contemplation of the mystery of the universe that is able to translate his speculative awareness of things into actual experience, a great man -- be he scientist, philosopher, or poet -- has a claim to be called a mystic. Such awareness and experience in that aspect of the universe described as SACRED, as distinguished from the SECULAR, is religious mysticism. Hence, religious mysticism is the same mysticism applied to a unique aspect of man's experience.
Clearly mystic experience is universal in character. There appears to be a difference between the intuition of the scientist and that of the saint. The scientist who is a mystic looks on the world and his subject matter appears to him to be something different from himself, something external and objective that he contemplates and with which he communes. The religious mystic feels he is communing with himself, and more of himself, and experiencing a feeling of self-transcendence to achieve the presence of or identity with the Supreme and the Divine. There is knowledge, illumination, and blissful experience. Bertrand Russell beautifully remarks:
The mystic insight begins with the sense of a mystery unveiled, of a hidden wisdom now suddenly become certain beyond the possibility of a doubt. The sense of certainty and revelation comes earlier than any definite belief.
-- Bertrand Russell, MYSTICISM AND LOGIC, page 9
William James in his classic work, THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, rightly observes that we cannot define such an experience. We cannot express it in conceptual formula. It can be described. He mentions four characteristic marks of mystic experience: (1) Ineffability, (2) Noetic Quality, (3) Transience, and (4) Passivity. (See pages 380-81.)
An experience that has stamped upon it these four characteristic marks deserves the name of mysticism. Russell goes further and points to the reality revealed in the experience.
This reality is regarded with an admiration often amounting to worship. It is felt to be always and everywhere close at hand, thinly veiled by the shows of sense, ready, for the receptive mind, to shine in its glory even through the apparent folly and wickedness of man. The poet, the artist, and the lover are the seekers after that glory. The haunting beauty that they pursue is the faint reflection of its sun. The mystic lives in the full light of the vision. What others dimly seek he knows, with a knowledge beside which all other knowledge is ignorance.
-- Bertrand Russell, MYSTICISM AND LOGIC, pages 9-10
To bring out the importance of the mystical outlook on life, one can do no better than to quote the further memorable words of Russell:
I believe that, by sufficient restraint, there is an element of wisdom to be learned from the mystical way of feeling, which does not seem to be attainable in any other manner. If this is the truth, mysticism is to be commended as an attitude towards life, not as a creed about the world ... Even the cautious and patient investigation of truth by science, which seems the very antithesis of the mystic's swift certainty, may be fostered and nourished by that very spirit of reverence in which mysticism lives and moves.
-- Bertrand Russell, MYSTICISM AND LOGIC, pages 11-12
While every individual has the potentiality for mystical experience, its highest ecstatic reaches are open to few. Look upon mysticism as the most intimate form of adjustment to the universe as a whole, in which the individual claims to achieve peace, harmony, and joy. In order to appraise the claims made for mysticism correctly, it is necessary to make an excursion into psychology, especially psychoanalysis. Modern psychological developments have thrown a flood of light on the personality and have considerably influenced our attitude to religious problems. Thanks to the speculation of Sigmund Freud, the scope of psychology is no longer confined to the conscious processes.
Fanatics in the field unearthed the roots of the mental experiences of exceptional individuals in the fields of art, science, philosophy, and religion, leaders of thought and life, asserting that they resembled those of neurotics. They claimed that the religious life might be due to increased suggestibility, emotional excitement, and frustration of the deep-seated impulses of the personality. William James observes -- I think truly -- that:
Even more perhaps than any other kinds of genius, religious leaders have been subject to abnormal psychical visitations. Invariably they have been creatures of exalted emotional sensibility. Often they have led a discordant inner life and had melancholy during a part of their career. They have known no measure, been liable to obsessions and fixed ideas, and frequently have fallen into trances, heard voices, seen visions, and presented all sorts of peculiarities that are originally classed as pathological.
-- William James, THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, pages 6-7
We suppress or even repress a number of our experiences -- normal as well as exceptional -- owing to custom, tradition, and many newer social inhibitions of a complex society. These elements form a reservoir of energy that is dynamic and highly explosive. Many of our experiences, especially religious mysticism of the ecstatic type, are explained as an up-rush from the subconscious. It is said that experiences similar to those of mysticism may be brought about by self-hypnosis, autosuggestion, or Yogic practices, involving fasting and affecting the digestive system. Shall we therefore dismiss mysticism as a malady of the human mind?
At this stage, it is necessary to remind ourselves of the limitations of psychology. Psychology is a descriptive science. It can observe, describe, and analyze mental experiences and maybe determine causes and conditions that bring them about. It over-reaches when attempting to estimate the value of such experiences and their significance for human life. To say this is not to reject psychology. A correct knowledge of the origin and development of religious experiences throws light on the formation of value judgments. The application of psychology to the understanding of the religious mind has revealed the inner structure of the human mind and the potentialities of the human personality. Such knowledge, far from turning out religious skeptics, ought to purify religion and strengthen the religious spirit. The origin of our religious experiences cannot determine their validity.
The religious mystic looks upon his experience as unique and inexpressible. He lays claim to supreme delight and joy ineffable. Though mystics have spoken with one voice of the inexpressible nature of the experience, curiously enough, they pour out their hearts in eloquent and emotionally charged words. Some regard the experience as having brought them into the very presence of the great Being, and the vision that begins with "dark with excess of light" and later changes to an exhilarating sense of illumination.
The experience is the same but the manner in which a mystic interprets it depends upon the mystic's cultural and religious background. They believe that the experience is solemn and awe-inspiring, that of an objective reality more real than anything else in life. This intense "Reality-feeling" is accompanied by the emotion of refreshing joy and the birth of a new meaning in an intuition more akin to sense than to thought but distinguished from both by its immensely superior power to reveal the divine.
As far as the mystic is concerned, the experience is self-certifying. He is troubled by no doubts or misgivings. Such certainty is purely subjective. Any experience, to have meaning for human life, must be validated. Our philosophic quest for truth and certainty requires that all we understand all aspects of experience as a coherent whole. We can least afford to pass by mystic experience, which through the ages has been acclaimed as the deepest and the most significant.
If this view is correct, the dilemma of mystic knowledge results from a wrong conception of the relation between reason and intuition. Rational knowledge is taken to be purely analytical and mediate, while the knowledge derived from intuition is regarded as synthetic and immediate. There need be no hiatus between mediate and immediate knowledge, between reason and intuition. The human mind works by analysis and synthesis. Reason and intuition may be regarded as alternative stages in the development of knowledge.
In the process of understanding the Universe as a whole, the highest flights of speculative intellect may result in the summing up of the experience of a whole people in a deep and comprehensive intuition. The reality of the Universe may appear as a unique experience. What is merely mediate knowledge might translate into immediate experience, the latter becoming the basis for further advancement. From this point of view, there is nothing in genuine mystic experience that is not present in every rational individual. The experience differs in degree and not in kind.
Such an attitude helps us to distinguish genuine mysticism from the counterfeit. No one has asserted that the milder form of mysticism is pathological. Although one finds in the lives of the mystics a certain element of monoideism and suggestibility, their experiences, taken as a whole, necessarily point to large differences between the mystic and the hysteric. Delacroix observes:
The soul of the mystic has a richness of intuition and of action that sometimes goes to the extent of delirium; but the power of adaptation to life and the intelligence which stands back of the intuition distinguish the ordering of the mystic life from that of the really delirious.
-- Quoted in THE RELIGIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS, by J.B. Pratt, page 464
Genuine mysticism contributes to ever-greater integration of personality. In pathological cases, there is disintegration of the personality, paralyzing both will and intellect. William James recommends the pragmatic test for determining the value of mysticism. Truth is that which works. It is hardly necessary to array arguments against the pragmatic test of truth. It is enough to point out that "workability," good effects on the personality, etc., simply point to the direction in which one may discover truth.
If the mystic experience leads to larger integration of the personality, inner happiness, peace, and contentment, we may believe that the experience itself is valuable. A problem remains. How can we validate the mystic's claim to the revelation of a God who is a "presence," real and objective, authoritative and compulsive in character? There are two arguments: mystics speak with one voice as to the authenticity of the experience and genuine mystics are virtuous and sincere. These arguments do not carry us far. Of the first argument, it is not true that there is unanimity among mystics; among them are pantheists and theists, monists and dualists. Viscount Samuel remarks:
The character of the preacher is no guarantee of the truth of his doctrine. Exceptional virtue is one thing. Divine insight may be another. Further, the saints of one religion say different things from the saints of another religion. Both cannot be right. The world cannot find here the sure test by which to judge between this creed and that, between one claim to mystic inspiration and another.
-- BELIEF AND ACTION, pages 67-68
There is every reason to admit that an individual can develop his spiritual capacities and achieve complete harmony with the universe of men and things and that the individual may even be dimly aware of a spiritual atmosphere pervading the cosmos. There is nothing to justify a mystic's interpretation of his experience in terms of a particular theology. Freed from creedal interpretations, mysticism is valuable, giving us the experience of true religion.
The feeling of Reality that the mystic experiences may be that of a comprehensive spirit expressed in and through the world. The connected system of things and persons with which the mystic seeks harmonious adjustment may itself be partly responsible for stimulating the individual and leading him to a comprehensive and consistent experience.
In the present state of psychological and epistemological knowledge, however, it is difficult if not impossible to say definitely whether mystical states give us a vision superior to anything we know. We do not know enough of subjective communications such as precognition, clairvoyance, and telepathy to judge the validity of supernormal understanding.
William James, a sympathetic but authoritative exponent of religious mysticism, says:
It must always remain an open question whether mystical states may not possibly be ... superior points of view, windows through which the mind looks out upon a more extensive and inclusive world ... Mystical states indeed wield no authority due simply to their being mystical states. The higher ones among them point in directions to which the religious sentiments even of non-mystical men may incline. They tell of the supremacy of the ideal, of the vastness of Union, of safety, and of rest.
-- William James, THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
These are, as James rightly believes, only HYPOTHESES.
By G. de Purucker
[From SPACE AND THE DOCTRINE OF MAYA, pages 47-53.]
The Universe is called, with everything in it, Maya, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a firefly to that of the Sun. Compared to the eternal immutability of the ONE, and the changelessness of that Principle, the Universe, with its evanescent ever-changing forms, must be necessarily, in the mind of a philosopher, no better than a will-o'-the-wisp. Yet, the Universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which are as unreal as it is itself.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 274
What the Occidental means when he uses the word "Infinite" is often difficult to specify, being a word conveying an abstraction -- i.e., everything that is non-finite. It is at best a negative expression conveying perfect ignorance on one hand and by implication incomprehensibility on the other. When the Occidental says "Infinitude" or "Eternity," he implies endless extension for the former and unending duration for the latter. The terms are adequate provided they signify just that and are not clothed with mental similitudes or garments of entification.
As just described, these two words correspond with fair accuracy to the Ain Soph of the Hebrew Qabbalah, for that means "without bounds," i.e., the Boundless. This term comprises both Infinity and Endless Duration, both of which are boundless, unlimited, frontierless, and without encompassing limits.
Sanskrit is probably the most nearly perfect language that human genius has yet evolved for the expression of both concrete and abstract philosophical thought. It is, nevertheless, an offspring of human consciousness; and even with the help of this marvelously flexible and comprehensive instrument of human thought, the Sages and Seers themselves find it difficult to express the loftier flights of intuitions of their genius at times.
In Theosophical writings as well as in the writings of the Adwaita-Vedanta of India, Parabrahman and its Cosmic Veil Mulaprakriti -- two sides or elements of the one fundamental conception -- are often employed to signify the boundless expanse of both Space and Time beyond the Brahman-Pradhana of our own Universe. Grammatically at least, Parabrahman-Mulaprakriti admits this usage readily.
What does Parabrahman mean? This word is a compound, formed of the prepositional particle "Para," meaning beyond, and "Brahman," which is the Absolute, the Hierarch of a Universe, the summit or apex of a Cosmic Hierarchy, or in other words the highest divine-spiritual Entity of a Universe or Cosmos. From this descriptive explanation, it is sufficiently clear that Parabrahman when considered to be an Entity -- however vast or sublime -- is really erroneously so considered, for an entity of any magnitude is de facto limited, and Parabrahman, as just stated, means beyond Brahman.
Do you begin to get the thought? Infinitude thus, when properly used in a philosophical sense, is THAT, the Incomprehensible ALL, which with its shoreless fields is beyond the loftiest reach of either human or divine consciousness. Human consciousness should not pretend to limit it by saying anything about it. It is incapable of qualifying it by any adjective. No operation of even the loftiest and most illuminated consciousness can encompass it. Thus, Parabrahman is no Entity whatsoever, but is confessedly a philosophical term meaning beyond Brahman, and Brahman is the Absolute Spiritual Summit of our Universe.
"Absolute" is a relative term in another sense. It is the philosophic One -- the Cosmic Originant -- that is the Absolute. From the One come the Two. From the Two comes the Triad. From the Triad comes the Cosmic Tetrad or Quaternary, which again through emanational evolution breaks up into the manifested multiplicity of differentiation. The philosophic One or the Cosmic One is the Cosmic Absolute, but it is not the mystic Zero, representing Infinitude. Consequently, the Zero, Infinitude, holds or contains, because it is, an infinite number of such Cosmic Ones, otherwise Cosmic Monads, and the hosts and multitudes of minor Monads that are derivatives of any such Cosmic One.
There are no Absolutes in the sense of Infinitudes. No matter how great or how vast, every being is relative. It is related to something else and to all else. Every Absolute is the Hierarch of its own Hierarchy. It is the One from which all subsequent series in that Hierarchy thereafter outflow or emanate, starting from one, two, three, etc. to the limit or frontier of the Hierarchy. Each such One, as above said, is an Absolute or Cosmic Mukta or Cosmic Jivan-Mukta. It is an absolutum, the latter a Latin participle signifying free. It is set free from servitude to all the lower planes because master or Originant thereof. Hence, absolute is a word signifying an entity that has reached a condition of perfect liberation, relatively speaking. The Sanskrit words "Moksha" or "Mukti" refer to this condition or state. Thus the Absolute of our, or of any other, Universe or Cosmic Hierarchy is the highest Divinity or supreme Chief or Silent Watcher of the encompassed or included Hierarchy of Light and of Compassion forming the light-side of such Cosmic Hierarchy.
Had Occidentals only studied, or studied more carefully, even the elements of some of the greater Oriental philosophical systems, they would see the enormous difference between the Cosmic Jivan-Mukta, above explained, which is an Absolute, a Cosmic Freed One -- and TAT, the Boundless and Frontierless Infinitude of THAT.
Once that you attempt to miscall Infinity by the word "Absolute," your mind immediately creates mentally a Being, therefore limited, therefore finite, however vast, however high. It is impossible in true philosophy to predicate absoluteness of Infinity. Infinity is neither absolute nor non-absolute. Absolute is a definite adjective, connoting certain logical attributes, and therefore implying limitation.
Of Infinitude, no such attributes can be predicated. Infinitude is neither conscious nor unconscious. It is neither alive nor dead. This is because conscious and unconscious, living and dead, and all similar human attributes belong to manifested, limited, and consequently non-infinite beings and things, dealing with finitude, whether large or small.
So common in Occidental philosophy and religion, the misuse of the word "Absolute" arose out of the psychology in European philosophers' minds of the Christian theological scheme, which they could not shake off. They had the personal god, the infinite person, or the Absolute. They pursued a logical train of thinking arising in a proper conception, but the term used to express this fundamental conception is wrong. The term "Absolute" does not mean infinity. A person cannot be infinity. This is a contradiction in terms. There can be an absolute person, a Hierarch, the summit of a Hierarchy. This Hierarch is only one of an infinite number of other Hierarchs, of other Hierarchies. There are an infinite number of such Ones, but the Infinite -- without number, attribute, qualification, or form -- is non-absolute. I am striking at the roots of old theological superstitions and old philosophical superstitions.
Although she frequently employed it in its ordinary and mistaken significance, HPB was keenly aware of the proper grammatical and logical use of the term Absolute.
When predicated of the UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE, it denotes an abstract noun, which is more correct and logical than to apply the adjective 'absolute' to that which has neither attributes nor limitations, nor can IT have any.
-- THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY definition of "absolute"
Mulaprakriti is a Sanskrit compound. It consists of Mula (root) and Prakriti (nature) and therefore signifies elemental or Originant Nature. It is the other side or other selfhood of Parabrahman, but more particularly the root-matter of any and therefore of every hierarchical system or Cosmos.
A universe is both. It is Mulaprakriti in its essence. In its essence, it is Parabrahman, because it is formed of hosts of individual monads. The heart of a monad is boundless space and boundless space has two aspects: life or energy and substance or form. You cannot separate the one from the other. Life or energy is what we call Parabrahman. The substance-side or vehicular side is the Mulaprakriti. Wipe out Mulaprakriti, if it were possible, which it is not, and you would have pure consciousness, pure energy. That is not possible, because energy and matter are two sides of the same thing. Force and substance are two sides of the same thing. Electricity, for example, is both energy and substance. Consciousness is both energy (force) and substance.
Your body, my body, or any body is fundamentally Mulaprakriti, Root-substance, fundamental Essence, manifesting in form. Everything else is too, be it a star, a bit of wood, a stone, a beast, or a bit of thistledown floating in the air. Its essence is Mulaprakriti. Out in the abysmal spaces, in the deepest deeps of Space, is Mulaprakriti, but also Parabrahman.
In these two words, "Parabrahman" and "Mulaprakriti," you get an entirely different conception from the vague, Occidental mental abstraction of Infinite as signifying but a negation or non-finite. The Oriental conception accepts the manifested universe and points to endlessness beyond it, and says Parabrahman or Mulaprakriti. The Occidental also accepts the manifested universe, but does not point beyond it, simply using a term signifying "something different from the manifested universe." This latter conception is philosophically and fundamentally erroneous, for it makes a distinction between This and Beyond.
The Orientals, and likewise the Ancient Wisdom, never used the word "Eternity." They rejected that conception. It is like a mental cloud to speak of "Eternity." The best way in which Occidentals express this conception is by saying endless duration. This is not endless time, because time is a limited human conception, but rather as endless enduring, that which endures for aye.
All that the human consciousness is authorized to postulate is that Parabrahman, "Beyond Brahman," or the Absolute is exactly what we see around us, as far as our human physical sense-apparatus can translate it to us, but limitlessly so. Parabrahman, therefore, is not an entity. It is not a being. As a term, it is a descriptive adjective turned into a noun, simply meaning "Beyond Brahman." "As above, so below" -- and there is no fundamental essential difference between the above and the below.
Every atom has its home in a molecule. Every molecule has its home in a cell. Every cell has its home in a body. Every body has its home in a greater body. The greater body, in this case our Earth, has its habitat or dwelling or home in the solar ether. The solar system has its home in the Galaxy. The Galaxy has its home in what we humans call the Universe. Although our telescopes carry us no farther, the Universe has its home in a larger, greater, vaster Universe. This vaster Universe again has its home in one still vaster. This goes, as Occidentals say, ad infinitum. That ad infinitum is the Occidental's way of saying what the Oriental means when he says Parabrahman or Beyond Brahman. It is with a profound and radical difference. The root-idea in the mind of the Oriental is the inner, invisible, spiritual worlds, which the modern Occidental almost universally ignores.
Everything exists in something else greater than it is. Everything contains hosts of beings inferior to itself. Parabrahman simply means "beyond our Absolute" or "beyond our Brahman." Brahman is the Absolute and Parabrahman H.P. Blavatsky calls "SPACE." This is not emptiness, but using here just a descriptive word, a descriptive noun, just as when she says "Duration." Duration is filled with time, moments, or time instants. Space, similarly, is filled with manifested Monads. Absolutes are Monads of a far advanced type. They contain armies and hosts of evolving inferior Monads.
This is what Parabrahman means and Mulaprakriti is but its other side, the side of expansion and change. You can say that Parabrahman is the consciousness-side of it, and that Mulaprakriti is the space-side of it. It hurts to hear Theosophists talk about Parabrahman as if it were a kind of god. It is simply Space. It does not mean anything in particular, however, because it is a purely generalizing term. It is a confession that human consciousness stops here. It cannot go any farther.
Even the word "Infinite," if you analyze it, simply means "not finite." It does not mean anything in particular. It is man's confession of ignorance and of inability to penetrate deeper. It is a word exactly like Parabrahman. It simply means "not finite," meaning the human consciousness can no longer reach into the frontiers of the finite, to seize, grasp, and comprehend what is there. Being unable to do so, it simply says, "Ah! That, that is beyond all we know. It is IN-finite, not finite, the All." The often-used theosophical word "Boundless" is simply a verbal counter. This very "Boundless" is filled full of, made up of, and composed of finite, bounded things, of individuals, beings. People use these terms that are pure abstractions as if they were concrete realities, creating thoughts about them and thereby cheating themselves.
Everything -- even what we call "That" -- is contained in something greater. The word "THAT" is nevertheless sufficient to include the entire range of this conception. The entire Galaxy is a Cosmic Cell. What the modern astronomers call the Island-Universes, are other Cosmic Cells. Bathed in the inter-galactic ether, these Cosmic Cells unite into an ultra-cosmic, incomprehensible BEING. This is just as the cells of a man's body appear separate from one other when viewed under the microscope and yet unite to form a man's physical body in the world. Our Galaxy is like a Cell in a Cosmic Body surrounded by the abstraction we call Infinitude.
Consider an interesting scientific intuition of the same thought:
The essential units of which we are composed are molecules and chains of molecules. Our life processes are expressed in terms of their properties. Our thoughts are conditioned by their interactions. Perhaps in the infinite series of cosmic units there are others that play the role of molecules in living organisms. Sub-electrons of the hundredth order may be the molecules, so to speak, of conscious beings that live through a million generations in what to us is a second of time. Super-galaxies of the hundredth order may similarly be the molecules of conscious beings whose life cycles consume unimaginable intervals of time. At any rate, it would be unjustifiable for us in our ignorance to assume that only on our level out of the infinite possibilities is there life.
-- Forest R Moulton, CONSIDER THE HEAVENS, page 300
Let us, therefore, once more assume the existence of intelligent beings whose constituent elements -- whose atoms, so to speak -- are galaxies or super-galaxies of stars. Their life-cycles are measured in millions of billions of years, for such periods of time are required for important transformations of super-galaxies of the higher orders, which are for these beings only the cells in their bodies or the corpuscles of the blood which circulates in their veins. When they breathe, there are exhaled from their nostrils torrents of super-galaxies; when their heart beats, the galaxies of a billion light-years are in convulsions. For these beings, the galaxies that we know are only electrons or photons whose gravitational expansions and contractions and whose oscillations in form are expressed vaguely in wave packets. To their gross sense organs, such minute physical units as galaxies have no accurately definable locations or motions, though these entities persist and possess a quantitative property. For them, the galaxies are the primary elementary units in a chaos out of which by statistical averages a considerable degree of order emerges in the super-galaxies.
-- Forest R Moulton, CONSIDER THE HEAVENS, page 330
Parabrahman and Mulaprakriti simply mean "Boundless Space" with all its indwelling hosts of beings. At any one particular point of it, a Logos may be springing into manifestation from its Pralaya. That may happen here, there, or anywhere. Millions of these Logoi may contemporaneously be bursting forth into new Manvantaras. Millions of others may contemporaneously be passing into their respective Pralayas.
Now in order to describe cosmic evolution and its beginning, a Teacher says that, "In the beginning was THAT." This beginning is not an absolute commencement of all infinitude, which is absurd, but one of any beginnings of a system in Boundless Duration. At its commencement of time, the Logos springs forth, the Logos merely meaning one of these innumerable monadic points in THAT. From this Logos -- one such Logos -- is evolved forth a Hierarchy -- whether it be a Cosmic Hierarchy, solar system, planetary chain, human being, or atom.
These Logoic points are numberless. Every mathematical point in Space is a potential Logos. There are also many kinds of Logoi. Some are much higher in evolution, but in generalized terms, the doctrine is applicable to all.
Within, behind, above, and surrounding all such manifestations of Cosmic Logoi or Cosmic Universes, there is that unthinkable and therefore indescribable Mystery of Mysteries, which the reverence of the archaic sages rarely ever spoke of or mentioned otherwise than by hint or by allusion, and which the Vedic Sages in ancient India called simply THAT. This is the Nameless, as much beyond the loftiest spiritual intuition of the highest gods in all manifested Universes as it is beyond the most supreme understanding of man. It is frontierless Infinitude, beginningless and endless Duration, and the utterly incomprehensible boundless LIFE that forever IS.