We have been obliged, not only by the Teacher's explicit orders, but by the voice of our own conscience, to tell, to set forth, to bring together, these ancient thoughts of the Mystery-Schools in such fashion that you who are members can understand and follow them with comparative ease; and yet if the transcript of what is here said fell into the hands of an outsider, he would merely read what might to him be an interesting expose of philosophical thought, and perhaps no more.
-- G. de Purucker, FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, page 326
By B.P. Wadia
[From THUS HAVE I HEARD, pages 372-75.]
The Spirit of War is synonymous with the Force of Violence. That Spirit has many expressions but in itself is immortal. That Force manifests in numerous ways but conserves itself ever and always. The source of war and of peace, the source of violence and of non-violence, and the source of mortality and of immortality is the same. "I am death and immortality," says Krishna in THE BHAGAVAD-GITA. (IX, 19)
Unless lovers of peace comprehend the implications of this philosophic proposition, their efforts to wage war against wars will not be wholly successful. We cannot destroy violence without destroying peace. How can the death-forces be used to gain immortality? How can the forces of violence be made to serve the cause of peace and non-violence? It is an alchemical process and true pacifists have to learn the art of this alchemy.
The evil omens of war were apparent even on the day when people were celebrating the advent of peace after the ignominious fall of Hitler. Recent events make the destruction of this civilization by war a graver possibility than ever before. Lovers of peace everywhere are bestirring themselves to organize for peace; and among them are some followers of Gandhiji, firm and convinced believers in the principle of non-violence.
Gandhiji not only understood with his mind, but also applied with his heart the truth that war and peace make a pair. He comprehended the alchemy referred to above so thoroughly that he proceeded to apply its teachings to mass movements in India. Having practiced them in his own personal life and having experimented with them publicly in South Africa, he courageously exercised his knowledge and influence in and through events that are now matters of history.
Gandhiji saw that the very forces of ignorance, of moral temerity, and of old-fashioned blunderbuss patriotism have to be transmuted. His was the rare sense that the commonsense of numerous administrators, politicians, and publicists could not appreciate. Gandhiji's appeal to the soul-force of the people was rooted in his faith that men did not possess souls, but were souls and possessed mental and moral weaknesses that the powers of the soul could overcome. Therefore, he led them to fight with the weapon of non-violence the evils of injustice, exploitation, and tyranny.
At times, he spoke of his "Himalayan blunders." What were they? They were the inability of people to stand firm in the resolve of non-violence. The process of alchemy had gone so far in them and no farther, and so he repeatedly cried halt, took to preaching the doctrine of satyagraha, and then once again launched into experimenting with the force of truth and non-violence in his people. Within his own personal self, the spiritual transmutation was so great, so nearly complete, that he became a target for death by foul murder.
Unless those who call themselves pacifists understand this technique in greater measure, their efforts may consist of feverish or even eloquent propaganda but will not bring forth Peace.
Pacifists must learn to wage war against the warlike and violent forces in their own flesh, blood, and brains. Consciously experienced, unhappiness, affliction, and suffering cleanse and purify. This is not the suffering ordinarily experienced. It is an affliction that brings the sure consciousness that the soul is, that soul-force is available, and that mental anguish, moral suffering, bodily disease are stepping-stones.
Consciously faced, this higher type of suffering brings to birth the new man, the first of the four classes of the righteous ones dear to the Divine. Through such conscious evaluation of suffering, man transmutes cowardice into courage, ignorance into knowledge, conceit into humility, and egotism into altruism.
Unless a few become men of peace after the pattern of Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus and follow the example of the twentieth-century apostle of peace through truth and non-violence, wars in their destructive character will not cease.
Suffering is upon the whole earth today. It makes discontent and competition, and leads to national pride and prejudice, poisoning the international atmosphere. Neither the UNO nor UNESCO will successfully overcome these evil forces until they plan and create an army, however small, of men and women who study the alchemy of peace by waging the greatest of all wars, the war against their own animalism. The war-beast will prowl the wide world over unless such an Army of Peace-Men faces it and help it to overcome its disease by deep heartfelt suffering.
Such a reflection gives meaning to a saying in the ancient Mysteries. "Blessed be the Name of the Great God, the Most High, who sends suffering to His devotees so that they may rise to Him in Purity and Beauty." It makes the saying of the ancient occultists a pregnant aphorism. "Woe to those who live without suffering."
By Sri S.K. George
[From THE ARYAN PATH, September 1953, pages 387-91.]
The story of every religion is interesting for the line of progress that is to be traced in each. Nothing has discredited religion more in modern thought than the refusal to recognize this line of progress, than the identification of all religions with what is gross and superstitious in the origins of them all. There are religious conservatives who hold onto the entirety of religious tradition, jealously guarding the fixed deposit of the faith delivered once for all to the saints. They are as much to blame for the blight that has come upon religion as the undiscriminating modern critic who would debunk the whole of religious insight -- its loftiest flights as well as its incipient groping after Truth -- as a fruitless search after a non-existent reality.
The Fundamentalist Christian affirms the verbal inerrancy of the Bible from cover to cover. "And the covers too," exclaimed an ecstatic believer when another was making the assertion! This does more to question the worth of the apprehension of the Eternal through Hebrew and Christian channels than the rationalist does in condemning it all as "lost illusion." The same is true of all religious search and realization. They make sense only when the lines of their advance and growing illumination are recognized and the mind is kept continually open to fresh insights to be won into the unspent, deep resources of Ultimate Reality.
This is most clearly seen in man's conceptions regarding the nature of the soul and human destiny. We note the Hebrew and Christian religious traditions, not for the intellectual satisfaction they give to ultimate questions, but for their strong ethical emphasis. We note them not so much for the explanations they give as for the power they confer on man to withstand and overcome "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." The early Hebrews had hazy notions about the destiny of the human soul after earthly existence. They seem to have shared the early Greek view about a shadowy world of the dead in which there was no remembrance of God. "For ... they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee," cried an early prophet.
The only survival the early Hebrews believed in or cared for was that of the race, hence their passionate longing for children, especially male, to carry forward the race and inherit the promises of God to the fathers. There was also the belief that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. The most sacred of their texts, the Ten Commandments, declared their God to be "a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." (Exodus, 20: 5, 6)
In the face of continued national calamities, this conception of racial solidarity and divine justice failed to satisfy them. The significance of the individual dawned late on Hebrew thinkers as it did on other primitive races. In the days of Hebrew exile in Babylon in the sixth century BC, the Prophet Ezekiel courageously faced the problem of individual suffering. He asserted the justice of God and declared that if the Jews of his generation were suffering the woes of captivity, it was because of their own wrongdoing and not the sins of their forebears. He contested the current proverb in Israel, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." Speaking in the name of the Eternal, he declared, "Ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold ... the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezekiel, 18: 2-4)
Although this doctrine had its place and significance in deepening the sense of individual responsibility among the Jews, it failed to satisfy thoughtful minds exercised over the problem of unmerited individual suffering, which is a poignant fact of observation and experience. The Book of Job dramatically presents and grapples this problem.
One of the three reputed righteous men of Jewish mythology, Job is the victim of dire affliction. Conscious of no wrongdoing on his own part to merit this terrible suffering, he arraigns the justice of the Almighty in sending the same event to the righteous as to the wicked. What distresses him most is the consolation offered him by his comforters that his suffering is due to his own sins. This he vehemently repudiates. Their traditionally cheap arguments are equally condemned by the Eternal when He manifests Himself to Job in the end. Even the Eternal does not give any intellectually convincing or satisfying answer to Job's problem, although Job arrives at a profound acceptance of his lot as somehow justified in the inscrutable scheme of a Divine Providence that transcends human understanding.
In the course of his arguments, Job throws out the gleam of a new hope that became increasingly clear in further Jewish thinking on the subject. This is the hope of individual survival in a future existence where the injustices of the present order will be rectified.
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
-- Job 19: 25-27
It was this hope of an after-existence, a resurrection of the righteous to rewards and of the wicked to everlasting punishment, that satisfied the more devout section of the Jewish people in the days of Jesus of Nazareth. This was linked up with Jewish Messianic hopes, the Messiah being looked upon as the agent of God in working out this divine righteousness in a new order of existence that he was to inaugurate.
Jesus Christ claimed for himself this role of the Messiah and accepted this scheme of divine justice, though the standards of judgment that he laid down were more spiritual and ethical than the racial ideas of the Jews. He refused to let others draw him into discussions regarding the causes of human suffering and its theoretical justifications.
Once, someone specifically confronted him with a case of unmerited individual suffering. A man born blind was presented to him and he was asked, "Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
This question, implying that perhaps the man was expiating his own sins in a previous birth, is one of the few specific references in the Bible to the possibility of rebirth. Another such is the belief, widely held at the time of Jesus, was that the Prophet Elijah would come again as the forerunner of the Messiah.
Jesus did not directly answer the questions posed to him in both contexts. He seems to imply that John the Baptist had come in the spirit of Elijah, though we cannot press this statement to mean an acceptance of the belief in the rebirth of the old prophet. To the more direct question regarding the blind birth being the consequence of the individual's own sins, his answer was evasive. Like the Buddha, Jesus seems to have discouraged speculation on such matters deliberately. "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him," was his answer, and he proceeded to heal the man.
Christianity is not primarily concerned with and does not answer questions regarding the ultimate origins of things or of the problem of evil in the world. It is fundamentally a manifestation of the power of God unto salvation, enabling its devotees, not so much to explain the riddles of life as to grasp its nettle, to triumph over suffering and death rather than explain their mysteries. It does not rule out, however, speculation on these abiding problems of life, as is seen from the history of Christian thought, in New Testament times as well as later.
The great appeal of the doctrine of Karma lies in its emphasis on the rule of Law (Dharma) in every realm and aspect of the Universe. This is unreservedly accepted in the best Christian thought of all times, although perverted notions of a personal God have nourished belief in a God who arbitrarily intervenes in the working of His providence. Such notions have received no greater condemnation than from St. Paul. Writing to his disciples in Galatia, he declared, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Galatians, 6: 7, 8)
This is the Eternal Dharma, the Law of Life, whatever its application may be. All Indian thought -- Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain -- has seen the working out of this Law in the doctrine of Karma and Transmigration, the individual soul working out the consequences of its Karma in a series of births until it works out its own salvation through the various means of release provided by a redemptive providence. In its primary conception, the doctrine regards life on earth as an unfailing process of growth and redemption. It regards the successive births being not so much as punishment for wrongdoing as recurring opportunity for growth and fulfillment for souls that can and will find rest only in the Eternal Source of all life.
This view is more satisfying than the prevalent, unthinking Protestant conception of the short span of a single individual existence on earth deciding the eternal destiny of an immortal soul. The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is more in consonance with reason, although its underlying concept of life as a scheme of rewards and punishments administered and adjusted by a personal God according to the dispensations of a divinely instituted, but nonetheless earthly, corporation detracts from the sense of justice and law permeating the whole Universe.
Final and complete answers on these questions may be beyond the finite human mind. Like pristine Buddhism, Christianity wisely refrains from giving dogmatic answers to such speculative questions. Neither rules out human endeavors to search after and hold onto answers that conduce to the redemptive purposes of this vast Universe, permeated by the reign of Law in the lowest as well as the highest of its manifestations.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, February 1939, pages 124-27.]
Time is the destroyer of worlds; another time has for its nature to bring to pass. This latter, according as it is gross or minute, is called by two names -- real and unreal.
-- Surya Siddhanta
Here we get a clue to the mystery. The word "time" stands for a good many different things. If there is confusion in discussions, surely the fact that the same word is used in two or more different senses, without the discussers suspecting it, is reason enough for the confusion. To begin with, we habitually speak of time as an extended magnitude, a sort of line reaching forward and backward. We also speak of it as a motion along this line, a velocity, so that we speak of traveling through time. As J.W. Dunne points out, it takes time to travel anywhere, even through time. It takes time to travel through time. Here are two sorts of time already. Dunne, having thus got two terms of a series, proceeds to make it an infinite series, so he gets an indefinite number of sorts of time. This is his "serial time." Not satisfied, he gives us a serial universe.
Philosophy has discussed whether time is subjective or objective, whether it is an element of consciousness or if exists outside of consciousness. When we see a divergence like that, it is a good indication that both views are wrong and both right. We find in a quotation from James Ward given in Webster's Dictionary:
[Time and space] belong neither to the subject alone apart from the object, nor to the object alone apart from the subject, but to experience as the duality of both. They neither are subjective forms psychologically or logically prior to experience nor are they objective realities independent of experience.
In fact, subject and object are abstractions from reality. They constitute a distinction that we must make in order to define cognition. That tyrant Time lies deeper in the mysteries of reality than such distinctions, so that neither a subjective nor an objective view can encompass the whole of him.
The chief difficulty experienced in discussing the nature of time is that our very thought-processes are bound up in it. To view a thing properly, it is necessary to stand outside of it. The essence of time (the kind of time now being spoken of) is succession. When we think or reason, we are conscious of a SUCCESSION of thoughts. Hence, we cannot eliminate time to be able to take a detached view of it.
To see time, we must stand outside time. That is, we must stop thinking. ("Mind is the slayer of the real. Let the disciple slay the slayer.") We argue about the nature of time, using in our arguments such words as "now" and "then," which presuppose the very thing we are trying to deduce. It is clear that, to understand the time of our ordinary consciousness, we must step into another plane of consciousness. If succession is an indispensable attribute of time, then we must get into a state of consciousness where there is no succession, no procession of things following one after another, but what is clumsily called "an eternal present" or an "eternal now."
THE SECRET DOCTRINE contrasts Time with Duration (a substitute word borrowed for want of a better), in the same way as phenomenon is contrasted with noumenon, or manifest with unmanifest, and finite with infinite. There is an epoch (there again we have to use a question-begging word), "when" eternal Duration gives place to Time, which is no longer infinite but is measured and divided. The common conception of eternity as simply a very great deal of time is wrong. Eternity or Duration is not Time at all, whether much or little. What it is I do not know and if I did know, I could not tell. If we cannot know what a thing is, it may help somewhat to know what it is not.
THE SECRET DOCTRINE points out that when defined as the boundary between past and future, the present becomes reduced to a mathematical point. Having no dimension, it reduces to nothing at all. What we CALL the present is a blurred impression of many such atomic present moments, bound together by memory and anticipation. This is like the successive images in a motion picture that blur into a visible image, although each is too brief to make an impression on the eye.
As just stated, the present, when analyzed, reduces to a dimensionless point. Therefore, no object or event can be said to have any existence in the present; it has no duration, THE SECRET DOCTRINE says. Hence, we realize the necessity of regarding time (that is, the lapse of time or duration in time) as a necessary component in the specification of an object or an event. Thus, we arrive at the four-dimensional space-time continuum, so dear to fourth-dimensionalists and relativists. Our existence in any moment is only a cross section of our total existence. To represent our totality, we must take in every moment from the beginning to the end of our existence.
We adduce the analogy of a solid figure passing through a plane. Having passed from three dimensions to four, is there any reason for us to stop? Might we go further? This method of reasoning is probably one way of referring to the various time-series of Dunne, the various planes of consciousness or of matter, the various principles in man and the kosmos, etc.
In thinking of infinity and eternity, we are apt to imagine them as very large. This is like imagining God to be simply a large man. The characteristic of infinitude is that it is unbounded. We have instances familiar to experience.
A circle is an infinite line, without boundaries or parts. If we place a point in it, we divide it into ONE part. Before that, it had NO parts. The surface of a sphere is a boundless plane. It is an interesting effort of imagination to try to imagine oneself placed on the surface of a perfectly smooth and uniform sphere.
One might wander indefinitely in any direction without ever coming anywhere, unaware that one traversed the same ground repeatedly. Yet this surface, though infinite in one sense, is not so in another. It has a definite size as compared with other objects. Mathematicians would say that it is doubly infinite, and the circle singly infinite.
Applying this to time, we get the idea of various orders of infinitude. Time may be singly infinite, doubly infinite, etc. This is quite an advance over the crude notion of jumping at once from the finite to absolute infinity. Time, then, seems to have become a medley of relative velocities. Any difficulty we may have in defining it is due merely to impatience and the desire to arrive at consummate knowledge without passing through the requisite grades.
As our conceptions of time enlarge because of study and contemplation, we escape some of the horrors and lamentations that ordinarily attend the subject. We may banish the Nevermore and the Irrevocable and that time that, "like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away." For, as has been shown, all things have an eternal existence independently of their brief flitting across the focus of what we call the present. The past lives in more than a figurative sense.
Again, we view time as cyclic, so that the ever-rolling stream will some day bear all its sons back again. The able novelist, after portraying the events of a life and the evolution of a character, is perforce obliged to ring down the curtain, as the hand of death renders everything abortive and turns the whole drama into a useless farce. How different is the Theosophical view of a life and a character!
In this impatient age, we are apt to forget how mighty an agent and how useful a tool mere time is. We want something that will clean in five minutes or five seconds when pure water will do a better job if only given time. If I can move one end of a piano one inch, I can move the whole piano any required distance. It is only a question of time. Get time on your side!
By Sri J.M. Ganguli
[From THE ARYAN PATH, May 1952, pages 199-203.]
He looked rather downcast that morning, that old gentleman, out, as was his wont, on his early morning round, with his familiar thick stick in his hand. There was obviously something on his mind, something in his rather vacant gaze on the surroundings, something in his unmindful steps, which struck me as I went across to meet him.
I had always had respect for his age, as I had also greatly appreciated his sincere and affectionate greetings. I looked straight into his eyes, anticipating the conventional query.
"How do you do," he said with a faint smile on his lips. "Not too well," he added almost impulsively, "but haven't I had enough use of this body?"
"But," I interjected.
He dryly cut me short and went on, "No. It is time for us old people to go. There is no pleasure in dragging on this miserable existence and no use either."
'No use either!' The words struck me as they have often struck me before. We hear that so often and from so many old people. Rarely do we meet a man of venerable age with a bland smile of satisfaction and contentment on his face. He shows no sign that he is enjoying his ripe, restful age.
Why not? I have often wondered and thought it over. There are the silly years of boyhood. Then come the rugged and storm-tossed youth. After the careworn and ever-busy after-youth years, one enters the region where wisdom flows in through years of experience. Then work and duty do not keep one tied to the revolving pivot in a ceaseless round, but rather leisure and freedom from the relentless dictates of the table timepiece come of themselves.
At this point, why not one heave a deep sigh of relief? How is it that old people should wish for a change of life, or rather for a change of the body, which they blame for all their sufferings and that alone is subject to change? Do the sufferings really come from the body? Do they not simply and closely follow the close-linked chain of one's karma -- the chain that runs through life after life until karma ceases and its end is wound up by the subsiding again of the body-conscious ego into the dead level of the One and the Absolute?
How persistently we prefer to forget, seeking relief from the piercing thrusts of repentance by attributing our miseries to bad luck, frolicsome turns of fortune, or the evil doings of others! Indeed, most of our woes center on the body. It has aches and pains or is exhausted, failing to function as before due to improper use or over-use under the uncontrolled impulses of the physical senses. Still ruled by sense-hankerings, the mind then wails from within. "The body is failing. Alas, age has come. I cannot eat the things I love any more. I cannot have the pleasures of bygone days any more. Oh, wretched life!"
Thus, the mind cries. It cannot be consoled unless it looks back and starts revaluing the things for which it still craves. The experiences of the years left behind have been gone through in vain if they have not brought the mind to maturity along with the maturity of the body. It is really the discrepancy in the maturity of the mind and that of the body that creates regret and discontent. The mind lags behind the body because that mind had been following the lead of the physical impulses instead of controlling and leading them. After the blinding intoxication of youthful days, the body and the mind are at cross-purposes and do not pull together. The body has overexerted itself and is looking for quiet repose. The mind is still longingly looking back, wanting to do the skipping, running, and fooling as before, as it ignores the bitter experiences that they brought.
That discrepancy has to be reconciled if old age is to be enjoyed instead of regretted. The mind advances with thoughtful realization of the significance of the consequence of past doings. We want the arms and the legs, the eyes and the tongue, and all the other parts and senses to function as they had in the prime of our youth. But does it not strike us that those limbs, parts, and senses only led us astray into more and more distractions, giving a deceiving sense of pleasure that leaves a biting hankering but never a soothing contentment? Did they not thereby keep our inner sight, our finer perceptions, and our subtler senses deeply buried under a thick crust of the crude and material? Is not our mental discontent and suffering traceable to them? Should we then really want to rejuvenate them, to feel again their blasting and blinding fury? Should we learn instead to feel the relief and lightness that comes after the storm has dashed us at last onto shore?
The age of night and gloom has sunk below the horizon. In clear weather, a new age is coming up in the east. Now safe on the shore, we rub our eyes in the light of a glorious dawn. Down beyond, over there, the sea of life is rolling and roaring, foaming and dashing. How its waves toss up and then throw down the poor creatures! How many are plunged into the sea and drowned! How many of come up again to be dashed upon breakwaters! How strange that those creatures appear so blind and intoxicated in the impulsive fury of life that they do not realize the dangers of a fall or the stupidity of their movements.
What an eye-opener this backward glance at life ought to be to the old man that has come through it and is now perched safe, high and dry on the coast of mature old age! What wisdom on earth can make him turn wishful eyes to plunging in again? If there was a moment of maddening pleasure when one was tossed up on the crest of a wave, there was a plunge to follow. If there was an interval of smoothness on the surface, there was an upheaval forming at no great distance. If there were love and happiness round a family hearth, there was a storm brewing outside to snatch away a dear one and blast all impermanent ties.
What wisdom, indeed, would it be to think of counting on those ties again and to float and drift in pursuit of a silly whim or a short-lived pleasure? Surely, an old man forgets his experiences when he regrets having passed beyond them! He thinks of cutting short what he calls his miserable present existence. Doing so, he does not foresee how his rebirth means the dreaded pangs of birth and death, the useless and helpless years of infancy, the reckless stupidity of youth, and the many shocks and disappointments, ailments, and sufferings throughout life again. At the end, he comes back to where he is now.
If there is a dark cloak of mystery over this life and world, at least one thing emerges clearly. There is nothing without deep purpose behind it. The life one leaves behind has significance. It was not a waste. Its ever-mixed experiences teach us to go deeply into the value of things, getting surer wisdom and clearer sight. After the rush and roar of the past and in the serenity and restfulness of old age, one can sit and ruminate over the lessons of the past, Doing so, one looks back with amusement, and wondering what he had been doing so long. Such reflections give a sense of relief and security in old age, instead of silly regrets and unwise hankerings.
Who does not enjoy sitting safe on the shore, in sight of the sea tossing below? The old man should enjoy the sight of the sea of life stretching out at his feet. He should feel happier at the thought of having come safely through its waters. He should feel inspired, too, at the immense vista of emancipation opening out before him there on the shore. It is so inviting, if only the old man has developed the subtleness to perceive it. The way to it is easy, because it is all on solid ground.
To embark on that trek, he has to cut the ties of the past and lighten himself of the burden of regret and longing for the illusions and enchantments of former days. The prodding of bitter memories comes from behind. The hope of redemption shows the way onwards. Are this time, this age, and this experience to be really regretted? Or is every moment of it to give joyful inspiration, a burning impatience to go on to the blissful destination of this life, where a Buddha has visualized Nirvana, the Yogi has perceived his fading away into the Absolute, the devotee has dreamed of an eternal embrace with his Deity, and the life-tortured, unhappy creature has hoped for enduring solace?
Such are the brilliant prospects that dazzle him. Let him make haste to disburden himself. He was a wise man who said the other day on the eve of his retirement that he would now take the same interest and pleasure in un-learning, un-saving, and untying as he had taken before in acquiring, saving, and forming ties of endearment. How deeply significant his words are! That should not be difficult, for do not our experiences forcibly turn our minds and eyes away from former activities? Do they not goad us on to a different effort, seeking, and outlook?
Let not the great house of cards, which the old man had toiled, earned, and saved to build, keep his mind locked in a cellar. Let it come out in the open under the thrilling blue of the sky and in the sublime fresh air. Let the old man not continue to total his bank balances repeatedly. Let him have the exquisite joy of giving them away, feeling the exhilarating lightness of possessing nothing. Let him not focus his thought and love on the few inmates of the house, whom he calls his family. Let him spread them out on all, thereby overcoming the closer ties of love.
That was not possible when his eyes were unseeing and his age unripe. Now, in the fullness of his years and in the richness of his experience, he is capable of realizing his goal and encompassing in one perspective the eventful past, the fruitful present, and the glorious future. Onward, up and onward! Onward to Mukti, to Nirvana, to eternal Salvation! Who will madly think of turning back? Who will wish for a mere change of body and life like the old one to go through again? Cut the cords pulling us back so the mind may turn and concentrate on the crimson glow ahead. There lies the cherished destination, the final attainment of the purpose behind all life's experiences.
If one feels weak, if he still has misgivings, if his heart still flutters at parting from the memories of the past, let him clasp his hands, look up, and hear Krishna's message. "Surrender your doubts, your weaknesses, your hopes, and your despair unto me, oh Arjuna. See that you and all and everything are in me. Wherefore, then, your fear, your hesitation?"
In all ages, climes, and languages, such a message has come. Its echoes and reverberations have been heard from the mountain cliffs, from the forest depths, from the waters of the deep sea, and from inside the darkness of caves. Wherever and whenever man, overcoming himself, has sat, meditated, and concentrated, he hears it. The music of it has come, wafted by a soft breeze or spread out and scattered by the bell of a temple or a church, to the ears of those who, in the maturity of years and experience, have turned away from the follies of yore definitely and resolutely.
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.]
The day of the trial came, and from sunrise, those of high rank in the Empire had access to the court. They report that the Emperor ate nothing from the preceding day, being preoccupied with the case. He read the indictment repeatedly, sometimes with fury and at other times with a certain degree of calmness.
Writing from the safety of a century later, Philostratus says we may assume that Domitian was highly incensed at the laws for having invented tribunals!
As usual, Apollonius seemed the least concerned in the matter. He argued wisely with the officer in charge, who approved what he said and was friendly.
Defense was by the clock. A time was set and the defense had to be completed in that period. There was no chance to talk out the case. Drop by drop the water in clepsydra told the passing of the seconds until the last drop had run out and with it the prisoner's right to speak.
"How much water do you want for your defense," asked the officer.
"If the Emperor permits me to say as much as the cause demands, then all the water in the Tiber would not suffice," said the Tyanean. "If only as much as I wish, then the amount will be regulated by the number of questions the accuser asks. I shall answer quickly enough."
"You have cultivated very opposite talents, I see," said the officer, "in being able to speak briefly or at length on the same subject."
Nothing worried Apollonius. He was as ready to debate the point as he was to think of his personal danger. "Hardly opposite," said he, "but if anything, rather similar, for he who excels in one will not be deficient in the other. There is a talent between them, which rather than the third I should call the first talent of an oration for it partakes of both. The fourth talent on a trial is what I call silence."
The Irish translator of Philostratus gives the officer's comment.
"Sure," returned the officer, "this is a talent which can be of no use, either to you or any other person in a capital information."
"Yet," said Apollonius, "it was extremely useful to Socrates, the Athenian, when he delivered himself from the charge brought against him."
"Pray," answered the officer, "how did it serve him, inasmuch as he died in consequence of being silent?"
"He did not die," said Apollonius, "but the Athenians believed it."
While they were waiting at the door of the tribunal, another officer came out and said, "Tyanean, you must enter naked!" This to an old gentleman well advanced in the nineties! After all, he was from one of the most important families of Cappadocia, of the Greek colony there.
"What, have you brought me for a bath, then? I thought it was to plead my cause!"
What would the old man say next? He did not seem a bit overawed.
"I am not thinking of your clothes," said the officer. "The Emperor has given an order that you are not to bring with you any amulet or book or charm or any writing whatever." The informer and accuser had thus at a blow cut the prisoner off from his defense, for who can defend himself without his parchments and tablets?
Apollonius answered loudly enough for Euphrates to hear and for all the others, "Does he forbid me to bring a rod for the back of those who have given him such silly advice?"
Euphrates was terrified, or at least pretended to be so. He probably did not have to pretend very hard. "O Emperor," he cried in alarm, "this conjurer threatens me with stripes as being the man who gave you this advice!"
Apollonius did not care if all Rome heard him. "If that is so," he said, "you are more of a conjurer than I am. For you confess you have persuaded the Emperor to believe I am what I could never persuade him I am not."
The point was neat, but it is hardly likely the officers and others in the court dared applaud, as they might have done in the presence of any other than Domitian.
All this time, there stood by Euphrates a freedman of his who had been sent into Ionia with money to collect every morsel of tittle-tattle that could be brought against Apollonius. Any one who had the least little thing to accuse him of was to have whatever price he liked for the information. How could a man escape from such a black situation?
The court was packed as if for some great event with all the high officers of state. Domitian had determined to make the most of the case as one of rebellion.
Damis was not at hand. He had gone tramping to Puteoli, three days on the roads. Were it not, Apollonius would likely have discussed with him interesting things to relieve the boredom the court caused him. This was as if his life were a matter of no particular interest to anyone. There were the respective merits of Babylonian and Egyptian music. There were the playful megalosaurus that once disported its huge bulk in the mud. He might discourse on the happiness that ever springs up spontaneously in the heart of the true philosopher. Then there were the giants that dwelt in the earth "in those days."
As no Damis was there, he looked around nonchalantly, never noticing the Emperor. He never even saw him! That after all poor Aelian told him about not showing disrespect!
The accusing attorney, Euphrates, saw his chance and seized it. "I command you to look upon the Emperor as the God of all men," he thundered.
Apollonius said not a word, but he made a characteristic gesture that he had often done before. He "looked up" -- and what could they not read in that philosophical look! It said as plain as a pikestaff, "Oh Jupiter above, is not the one who admits such gross flattery viler than the flatterer himself. Thou art the God and Father of all!"
The Emperor boiled with rage, but in the presence of all those high officials, all that state pomp, and the stake he was playing for, he held himself back. Aelian, without a doubt, was looking blue enough, but dared not show a sign of even recognizing the prisoner. Euphrates was beside himself with fury.
"O Emperor, measure out the water now, at once, before we are all suffocated with this fellow's talk." (Apollonius had not said a single word!) "I have here the roll of the heads of the charges he must answer, and reply distinctly to each." The sting was in the tail.
As the words rolled off his smooth tongue, he was thinking of the last terrible charge. All the rest were mere pinpricks to enrage and tire the bull before finishing him, though they could be made to look ugly enough before Domitian. Actually, the latter commended the accuser for his good advice and told Apollonius to plead, as Euphrates should prescribe.
So all the articles of the accusation were at once cut down to four. The pinpricks could go, now the Emperor was won over publicly.
The first question was simple enough, just a sort of banderilla to get things started.
"Why do you not wear the same kind of clothes as other people, but only such as are peculiar and truly singular?" (Oh, the crime of being unfashionable, the turpitude of an old suit, the iniquity of a last year's frock!)
"Because the earth which supplies me with food, supplies me also with raiment, and by wearing garments derived from it, I offer no injury to miserable animals." Apollonius was brevity itself in his reply.
"Why do men call you a God?"
"Because every good man is entitled to be so called," said Apollonius. He had not forgotten Iarchas and the Indians.
Now the third question. Things were getting a little warmer!
"How did you come to predict the plague at Ephesus? Was it by an instinctive impulse or by mere conjecture?"
"By living on a lighter diet than other men, O Emperor, I was the first to see its approach. Now if it meets your approbation, I will enumerate the several causes of pestilential diseases."
Domitian pricked up his ears. He saw the coming argument this irrepressible old Cappadocian Greek was going to spring on him -- on him, the Emperor!
"It is not necessary to go into that now," he said. Well he might, for he knew the old man was as likely as not to say that the injustice of rulers, emperors for instance, Roman emperors, was such a cause. To say nothing of a Roman Emperor who had killed his brother Titus and then married his daughter, his own niece Julia, after first going through the little formality of putting her husband Sabinus (who was a relative of his own) to death!
Had they not deliberately omitted from the dossier the serious accusation that when the Ephesians offered a sacrifice to the gods for the averting of such evil consequence as this ghastly crime could not fail to bring, Apollonius had been heard to mutter in none too low a voice, "Oh night of the Danaids, how singular thou hast been!" The Danaids had stabbed each one her murderous husband rather than accept him, but Julia never even offered to scratch her uncle Domitian with a buckle-pin! Why had not that ass of a Euphrates foreseen this and avoided giving the naked old nonagenarian such an opening?
Domitian began to have his doubts of Euphrates after all had seemed so cunningly and infallibly arranged. Well, there was the fourth question. That will do the trick and rid us of this turbulent philosopher. Sacrificing a boy at midnight by moonlight to see what no mere old wives' almanac could foretell his own death and the identity of his successor -- that was a crime if you like, and proved up to the hilt! The informer had seen Apollonius and Nerva doing it; he was in the very same field at the time.
What was the accuser up to? The eager court expected him to break out into a furious onslaught that not all the wisdom of all the Apolloniuses in Rome could withstand. Instead, he stood pensive and thoughtful. Was he going to spring a cunning lawyer-like trap just when all thought he was embarrassed? No, he seemed to be approaching the question on a sort of gentle gradient.
"Apollonius, tell me on whose account you sacrificed a boy on the day you left your house and went into the country?"
Now if Damis had been named Sam Weller, and if he had been in court, even he might have seen that this wonderful old philosopher was slowly turning the terrible trial for his life into as much of a joke as he ever turned all his troubles and dangers. Why not prove an alibi?
Apollonius spoke as to a naughty little child, "Speak nicely, please. If it can be proved I left the house on the day named, I will grant my being in the country and offering the sacrifice in question. More than that, if I did so sacrifice, I will allow that I committed the atrocity of eating the flesh on that occasion. Now while I admit this, I shall demand that persons both of credit and character substantiate the fact."
Checkmate! The whole court roared with applause such as that Imperial tribunal never knew before, right in front of Domitian, who was only doing it all to have a show of justice in condemning Nerva, Orfitus, Rufus, and Apollonius too. He had decided to kill them all anyway, and all this pomp and circumstance were merely to show that he could not possibly condemn a man without a fair trial. Now here was a queer fix. All the imperial officers in Rome, the elite of the empire, assembled to see his justice, were witnesses that his accusations were all moonshine. Even Domitian was sharp enough to see the force and ingenuity of the naked old man's defense and he did what even Domitian could not avoid doing. He gave his judgment.
"Apollonius, I acquit you of all the crimes laid to your charge, but you shall not go until I have had some private talk with you."
Did ever a cause celebre end so wonderfully? What gossip there would be in Rome that evening! What news bearing throughout the Empire and beyond the borders! It was worth living in these modern times to have been present at such a trial. How the state officials and grandees of Rome would picture to themselves the great story they would tell their grandchildren, of how they saw the famous Apollonius tried and acquitted by the butcher who never acquitted anyone unless he had to. Ah, but he is speaking again. Let us hear every word.
"O King! I thank you for this," said the even tones of Apollonius. "On account of the wicked informers who infest your court, I must tell you your cities are in ruins, the islands are full of exiles, the mainland echoes with groans, the army is shaken with fears, and the senate undermined with suspicions. Listen to me, I beg you, and if you will not, send persons to take my body, for it is impossible to take my soul. I will say more, you cannot even take my body, for as Homer says, 'not even thy deadly spear can slay me, because I am not mortal.'"
In uttering these words, he vanished from the tribunal, "taking the wisest part, as I think," says the dry comment of Philostratus, "when all the circumstances are considered, for it is notorious that the Emperor was insincere and bore him no good will."
That is how he "passed through the midst of them without being seen."
He had promised, you see, that he would stay in the Emperor's power until Nerva and his friends were no longer in danger. He had kept his word.
Damis carefully preserved the long speech prepared for the defense according to the time allowed by the water clock, though with the refusal to let Apollonius take even a scrap of writing with him and by limiting him to four questions only it had to remain undelivered.
By Phillip A. Malpas
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, June 1948, pages 327-36.]
A Chinese philosopher divided Humanity into Superior Men, Average Men, and Inferior Men. This simple statement means more than it seems. It is a declaration of one section or department of the doctrine of endless progress. There are minerals, vegetables, animals, men, supermen, gods, super-gods, and so forward infinitely. Clearly, the Australian bush fellow or Hottentot is not as highly evolved as a great scientist or philosopher, just as a half-human chimpanzee or orangutan is less evolved than a primitive man.
It is not as obvious that there are men far more advanced along the line of evolution than the scientist and philosopher, and beyond them, "gods," and "super-gods." Man is half-way between animal and god. The word "god" here does not refer to the Incomprehensible, often called God. By mere mention, it becomes nothing at all, just as silence is annihilated by speaking of it.
We know little of the natural capabilities and functions of the more highly evolved parts or principles of man. What we called psychism or the psychic nature is certainly a part of nature. From what we see of it, it is often lower than ordinary brain-intellect. We would hardly call it highly evolved, though it is strange and not well known.
In the nineties of the past century, Western science, so-called, had attained to such a height, as it thought and claimed, that there was little left to do other than classify and catalogue what we thought we knew. It never occurred to the average westerner that others knew as much more than himself as he knew more than an animal. There was a keynote of pride in Western learning. A few farsighted leaders of thought saw that this meant stagnation and, if not smashed, it meant retrogression and degeneracy. Assuming that there is a law in nature that evolution may not go backwards, this indicated a possible destruction of our civilization in order to make way for a smaller and progressive successor, perhaps after a long interval of rest.
Few saw this. The average man went on playing what he thought was the game of life like a child. Unaware of his responsibility, yet he had the physical and mental strength to imagine that he dominated the world. Perhaps he did not know there was any other strength.
Into this world of self-complacency flashed a strange character, an American citizen of Russian birth known as Madame Blavatsky. In 1875, she was a vigorous, forceful, unorthodox individual who did not pay tribute to the gods of the social sphere. She went her own way like a comet in the heavens gathering force to make a new world. She flouted many a convention that deserved flouting, which did not make her popular with the slaves of those conventions. She did not seek popularity and when she passed away, a great writer said it of her, "It is not given to many to divide the world into two camps -- her friends and her enemies." Obviously, she was not a negative force in the world.
She wrote books, she founded a Society, and in private, she demonstrated a mastery over unknown laws of nature, something that to the gaping multitude was either miracle or fraud. Like untrained children, the friends to whom she privately made these demonstrations were incapable of keeping them private. The result was that, with few exceptions, they and she were wholly misunderstood by all classes of society.
It was precisely these exceptions, men and women with a little intuition, an almost unknown faculty in her days but not unknown by name and claim, it was these for whom she had a message. "Excelsius!"
All could understand to a degree two doctrines she taught, but not all could believe them. They were the doctrine of Responsibility, the law that what a man sows that he shall reap, no more and no less, and the doctrine of Reincarnation, the machinery by which the law of Responsibility is carried out. Are they new ideas? No. They are as old as humanity, but seem new to that thoughtless generation. They were uncomfortable to believe in except for serious men and women no longer in their spiritual childhood. Simple as these teachings are, they were almost too much for the majority. She made no secret of the fact that there are far deeper teachings of almost unlimited scope, teachings waiting for those sufficiently evolved to learn by them.
One of these teachings, cautiously put forward, was that there has always existed in the world a body of men far more evolved than the greatest known to the public, some so far evolved that they might be described as gods. All men are gods. They are just not demonstrating the fact in their daily lives. To grow to that point, they must plod or run along the ways of human development, some longer and some not so long, all according to their capacities. What she pointed out was that there were those who had attained to a higher point in evolution than the average. They were Superior Men, as the old Chinese philosopher has it. Maybe he was one himself, but was not telling.
Privately she showed portraits of two such men, men of handsome appearance and noble gravity. They were not Occidentals. They did not look like the moneymaking, social-climbing, publicity-seeking careerists of the West. That at once was against them. They were not "orthodox." Here again some of her students, untrained in the knowledge of human psychology, were indiscreet in what they said about these men behind the scenes. Antagonism and ridicule were created. For those who had eyes to see, here was the demonstration of a big reason why such philosophers should have long ago made it a rule to keep out of the limelight of the world's marketplaces.
There are always vested interests whose existence is threatened by such disclosures. They stop at nothing to prevent the public from taking advantage of the opportunities offered them to learn the art of life that they have been in danger of forgetting. These interests sometimes consciously, sometimes less so, deny the very existence of such men, or, alternatively, characterize them as evil, and they did not fail to do so in this case.
In the East, these more-evolved men have been known for ages as Mahatmas, "Men of Great Soul." Madame Blavatsky used the word. Her opponents denied its very existence. It was said that she invented it for purposes of deception and many of the empty-brained public believed that claim. It did not occur to these negative folk to ask why she should want to deceive anyone.
Now, less than a hundred years later, the word is familiar and has been used for years as the familiar title of a great patriot and politician. It is commonplace, though in his case it does not mean quite so much as in other cases. With him, it is much like saying "Esquire." Meanwhile, the misled public has suffered from the calumny and the calumniators have drawn other and newer arrows from their poisoned sheaths. They fear the doctrine of man's perfectibility becoming too well known. They prefer that men shall lean upon someone whom they regard as a higher power. Why not themselves? Power seeking is a curious thing, even more curious than the sheep-like desire of many folk to range themselves under any power except their own interior divinity.
Madame Blavatsky allowed it to be known that she was the Messenger, the Envoy, of some such Superior Men, Mahatmas, Elder Brothers, Masters, or whatever title of the many may be preferred.
It seems simple enough at first sight. Why not come out into the open, prove or demonstrate everything, and be done with it? Why so much reticence and mystery? Experience has shown that there was not enough reticence rather than too much. These Wise Men have ages of experience behind them and they know what to expect in an age of spiritual darkness. Many a religion in the world's history among the earliest and the latest has used the symbolism of crucifixion for what any Teacher or Messenger has to go through as the price of trying to lift a few out of the plane of personality into that of spirituality, out of animalism into divinity. Of course, there are other meanings, as there are with all great symbolism. Still more important, they know the dangers facing those they desire to help.
If this is not true then where shall we find the man or woman who does not want to know the NAMES, the personalities, of some of these great spiritual men in history? As though names meant anything! What do we know of any man as he is in himself, of the spiritual man? As a sop to these brain-mind curiosity-seekers, a few names have been given. All know the names of a few statesmen, scientists, discoverers, and philosophers who were evidently great. Higher than these, a few others are known, but few realize why they are greater, because it is a matter of spirituality and not of brain-mind intelligence, nor what is more subtle, emotional attraction or repulsion.
Take such men as Plato, Buddha, Pythagoras, Jesus, Krishna, Lao-tzu, Confucius, Quetzalcohuatl, Apollonius of Tyana, and Orpheus. Something about them is different from ordinary men. In one word, it is manifested spirituality. It is not that simple. There were degrees, high, low, and middle. Some had one task to perform for humanity, some another. Some may have been reincarnations of others. Some may not have come under the law of reincarnation. Some may have been the agents of such or another Greater One behind the scenes. More than one may have been the agent of such a One. Alternatively, one may have been the agent of several, and they in their turn may have been the agents of others yet higher in the scale. Some may have been such agents at one time, and at another, themselves, whether great or not so great. The whole thing bristles with difficulties unless the student has had a long training behind him to enable him to understand, and understanding, to be and to do. No wonder reticence is prescribed.
What has happened is simply that such people have outrun the race in their development. They are what many others will be untold ages hence. The manner of it, the machinery, so to say, is also interesting. The name usually given to it is Initiation. It is initiatory training, about which we may have a little more to say later.
It is obvious that volumes might be written on the subject without exhausting it. Our purpose is only to give a glimpse of what the man historically known as Jesus was. The ideal figure of the Gospels was not a man at all. That figure represents all men at a certain stage of their spiritual development. Answering the description figuratively, the later historical character exemplified it. It is doubtful whether the Gospels were originally written with the intention to give a picture of the historical man. He was probably known to the writers as a historical character, but the making of him into a flesh-and-blood hero of the mystical allegories and symbolism is perhaps an afterthought.
In other words, the Gospel story is perhaps five percent history. It is universal history, if we may use such a term to describe a process that applies to men at all times of world history. It is general rather than particular, but localized according to traditional usage, just as the submergence of Atlantis is localized in the Hebrew passage of the Red Sea, or any other similar instance.
Now the historical Jesus was an Initiate. The statement conveys more when the reader realizes what an Initiate is. In a way, it means two things. It means initiation into certain Mysteries and it means in its full extent such attainment of discipline, knowledge, and spiritual perception as to make such initiation possible. We say in its full extent because those who do not know or have forgotten its meaning have watered down the term "Initiation" into something of only symbolic significance. Take infant baptism. It represents symbolically whatever the operators wish it to represent. Any real development of the child it does not represent at all. It is simply a form.
Obviously, there are many kinds of Initiates. It is not much use trying to find out in detail exactly what kind of an Initiate Jesus was. First, we would not understand it unless we are Initiates or have had some training along that line. In the former case, we would probably be wise enough to say little or nothing about it. In the other case, we only try to do what the stupid-clever men of the nineties of the last century did, attempting to classify something we do not understand, trying to label the incomprehensible, like preparing dead butterflies for a museum case. What we can do is to get hold of a few details and seek to widen our comprehension with a view to learning more when ready. The word "learning" does not mean either brain-mind "knowledge" or psychic will-o-the-wisps, however fascinating and emotion tickling such learning may seem to be. It means spiritual perception.
The historical Jesus was an Avatara. Like many technical terms of philosophy, this word has been accepted for centuries as meaning a simple thing without the scholars who use it having any notion of its far-reaching significance.
Simply defined, the word means "a descent." A little more technically, it means the descent of a god. Here again we may suppose a volume might be written about gods, their classes, degrees, functions, faculties, powers, and a hundred other details, if we knew enough. The statement is made often enough that man is himself a god, unexpressed as such. Likewise is every atom, every electron. There is no limit to the significance of this statement except the degree of manifestation, of realization.
One rather crude definition of one class of gods is that they are men of a former humanity, now passed onwards in their evolution eons and eons ago, just as some say we men are animals, or rather Monads who went through the experience of animal life ages and ages ago. There are higher beings connected with humanity who have retained some responsibility towards us and exercise certain functions at times to helping our development or evolution along right lines. Whether these beings are "outside" us or "inside" us is another point. The answer may be "both." In the same way, we shall ourselves for eons to come be responsible for the atoms of our bodies to which we are now as gods. They are part of us.
An Avatara would be such a descent into man, into or towards an individual. There is little use for one of the gods in high heaven to descent into some clod of a man quite incapable of expressing any degree of spirituality. Some malignant powers in nature do at times take mastery of unstable individuals, especially those unfortunate enough to be "psychic." There is nothing spiritual about that, though some boast of it.
Any such "descent" is normal only in the case of a highly spiritual character. This was undoubtedly the case with the man known as Jesus. The Gospels symbolically show him as being impervious to the entrance of psychic influences or entities, which is necessary if a man is to be a man and a spiritual man at that. It is difficult to imagine a man with any spiritual intuitions laying him open to the influence or entrance of outside things that are not spiritual, clean, pure, and impersonal.
Until Dr. de Purucker, a man qualified to do so, explained to us something of the meaning of the word Avatara, its significance was almost unknown in Western Philosophy, or so vaguely known as to be of little help to the ordinary scholar. Even now, the greater part remains unsaid.
For our present purpose, it is enough to know that the historical man known as Jesus was an Avatara, a high spiritual being, one of a long line of Avataras that come when the world needs them, as Krishna says in THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, that noble poem of all religions of the spiritual type.
Not all Superior Men are Avataras. There is an endless chain of evolution from the animal to the god and beyond. This symbol of the chain is extremely old and graphic. Homer mentions it. The Greeks called it the Chain of Hermes, the Hermetic Chain, the Golden Chain of Hermes. This refers to the unbroken succession of these great spiritual men who keep humanity in touch with higher realms and higher beings. It is their work to keep the link unbroken for struggling humanity.
In secrecy and silence, they come and go. They pass on the guardianship of the Hidden Wisdom from one to another throughout the ages. Here and there at stated intervals, one of them comes out before the world as a Messenger or through a Messenger for renewing the flame of spirituality in human life. Spirituality is as opposed to personality as it is to psychism, so they seek no personal glory, but rather the contrary.
There is another chain that reaches from the lowest entity in life to the highest Archangel at any time. It is, as it were, a cross that was made with the chain from past to present, a realization of the fact that there is no such thing as irresponsibility. We are all responsible to the highest for the lowest in our world. This too is a teaching of the Superior Men.
We have given one or two reasons for the need for discretion, for reticence, for silence in discussing such matters. Here is another. Some students and seekers are capable of understanding that caution is necessary. It is necessary to go step by step and train the mind to distinguish between the true and the false. Even so, there are many others, that have only the superficial habits of the day in their thinking, fostered unfortunately by newspapers and other sources of information that are often quite irresponsible and even misleading. They are prone to making the most unfortunate mistakes, often irreparable.
Tell them about Superior Men, and their untrained minds, still restricted by the power of personality and quite unspiritual in their perceptions, at once fall to seeing Superior Men in any popular idol of the day, even political or psychical. They are harmed thereby, because their chances of recognizing anything spiritual are by so much impaired. They may even support something to public detriment, with the best intentions in the world encouraging what they would flee from in horror if they knew its real nature. It should be enough to point to the destruction and misery of millions through such adulation of an individual as we occasionally see in history, but it is not everybody who can go a step farther and see the far greater crime against the light of human spiritual intuitions to which such personality and personality-worship often lead.
Careful observation will show that all real spiritual teachers try to avert personal regard and prefer to direct attention to their teachings. They do not want honors for themselves. They want their people to consider and use their teachings. Such a one was Jesus, the historical Teacher. We are not referring to the symbolical figure of the Gospels. Yet for nearly two thousand years, attention has focused upon his personality and his teachings have been so neglected that we often hear the fatuous remark that they have never really been tried.
By G. de Purucker
[From THE HIERARCHY OF COMPASSION, pages 3-15.]
In FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, I set forth in part what took place when representatives of the Hierarchy of Compassion first began work among the men of this earth.
It was during the Third Race of Humanity of this Fourth Round on this globe, when the incarnate ray in each of the units of the then mankind had evolved forth its vehicle (by generating from within itself this vehicle, fit for the expression of itself, of the divine spirit within); and then that vehicle, or soul, became self-conscious.
Then, as time passed, there came a period when an Interpreter, a Guide, a Teacher of the Race of mankind was needed, because the race was rapidly sinking with every sub-cycle of the Great Age more totally into matter and consequent illusion and spiritual defilement, for such is produced by the evolving of matter. The Dhyani-Chohans, the "Lords of Meditation," who were men from a former great Period of Activity of our Planet Terra, beings from a former Manvantara, were then leaving or withdrawing from this earth. They had already done their cyclical work, done all they could, in informing, inspiring, and illuminating the then Mankind; but they now needed successors more like the sinking Men of the period.
Due to a Mystery that we cannot elucidate here, the noblest representatives of the then humanity became the direct and willing vehicles of self-conscious Rays from these Dhyani-Chohans, "Lords of Meditation." It was not exactly what is called in Brahmanism an Avatara -- a "descent" that means the over-shadowing incarnation of a portion of a high spirit in a high human being. It was the actual indwelling (fully conscious on both sides, and relatively complete) of a portion of the essence of a Dhyani-Chohan in a fully conscious, willing, and utterly self-sacrificing, Man of high degree.
Now, please mark well: the highest one of these incarnations, the noblest Man-fruit of human evolution produced up to that time, became the head of this spiritual-psychological Hierarchy literally, and in very truth, in his case, was a Man infilled with a Dhyani-Chohan. He was what we might actually call an incarnate god. This was -- and still IS -- the Silent Watcher, the Initiator, the Wondrous Being, and the Great Sacrifice.
-- pages 182-83
Again, writing on the same subject in THE ESOTERIC TRADITION, I point out that:
... the Silent Watcher of the Globe, through the spiritual-magnetic attraction of like to like, was enabled to attract to the Path of Light, even from the earliest times of the Third Root-Race, certain unusual human individuals, early forerunners of the general Manasaputric 'descent,' and thus to form with these individuals a Focus of Spiritual and Intellectual Light on Earth. This fact signified not so much an association or society or brotherhood as a unity of human spiritual and intellectual Flames, so to speak, which then represented on Earth the heart of the Hierarchy of Compassion.
This Focus or Heart, as the ages passed, slowly attracted to itself other individuals whose increments of energy increased the Holy Flame, and thus kept the Sacred Light alive and present on Earth through the ages that succeeded. These ages brought about the materialization of the human race that culminated in the human weaknesses and malpractices of the later Fourth Root-Race. Thus it was that this Focus of Living Flames became in the middle and later Fourth Root-Race the first and holiest of the true Mystery-Schools. As the succeeding ages rolled on into the past, it became racialized or nationalized into smaller or inferior foci enlightening, each after its own manner and possibilities, the various greater and less sub-races of the Fourth Root-Race.
Now it was just this original focus of Living Flames, which never degenerated nor lost its high status of the mystic center on Earth through which poured the supernal glory of the Hierarchy of Compassion, today represented by the Great Brotherhood of the Mahatmas, which is referred to in the present portion of this study. Thus, it is that the Great Brotherhood traces an unbroken and uninterrupted ancestry back to the original focus of Light of the Third Root-Race.
-- Page 1049, fn 445
HPB describes this event in the history of the Humanity of our globe as follows:
... The Arhats of the "fire-mist" of the seventh rung are but one remove from the Root-Base of their Hierarchy -- the highest on Earth, and our Terrestrial chain. This "Root-Base" has a name that can only be translated by several compound words into English -- "the Ever-living-human Banyan." This "Wondrous Being" descended from a "high region," they say, in the early part of the Third Age, before the separation of the sexes of the Third Race.
This Third Race is sometimes called collectively "the Sons of Passive Yoga," i.e., it was produced unconsciously by the second Race, which, as it was intellectually inactive, is supposed to have been constantly plunged in a kind of blank or abstract contemplation, as required by the conditions of the Yoga state.
In the first or earlier portion of the existence of this third race, while it was yet in its state of purity, the "Sons of Wisdom," who, as will be seen, incarnated in this Third Race, produced by Kriyasakti a progeny called the "Sons of Ad" or "of the Fire-Mist," the "Sons of Will and Yoga," etc. They were a conscious production, as a portion of the race that was already animated with the divine spark of spiritual, superior intelligence.
It was not a Race, this progeny. It was at first a wondrous Being, called the "Initiator," and after him a group of semi-divine and semi-human beings. "Set apart" in archaic genesis for certain purposes, they are those in whom are said to have incarnated the highest Dhyanis, "Munis and Rishis from previous Manvantaras" -- to form the nursery for future human adepts, on this earth and during the present cycle. These "Sons of Will and Yoga" born, so to speak, in an immaculate way, remained, it is explained, entirely apart from the rest of mankind.
The "BEING" just referred to, which has to remain nameless, is the Tree from which, in subsequent ages, all the great historically known Sages and Hierophants, such as the Rishi Kapila, Hermes, Enoch, Orpheus, etc., etc., have branched off. As objective man, he is the mysterious (to the profane -- the ever invisible) yet ever present Personage about whom legends are rife in the East, especially among the Occultists and the students of the Sacred Science. It is he who changes form, yet remains ever the same. It is he again who holds spiritual sway over the initiated Adepts throughout the whole world. He is, as said, the "Nameless One" who has so many names, and yet whose names and whose very nature are unknown.
He is the "Initiator," called the "GREAT SACRIFICE." For, sitting at the threshold of LIGHT, he looks into it from within the circle of Darkness, which he will not cross; nor will he quit his post till the last day of this life-cycle. Why does the solitary Watcher remain at his self-chosen post? Why does he sit by the fountain of primeval Wisdom, of which he drinks no longer, as he has naught to learn which he does not know -- aye, neither on this Earth, nor in its heaven? Because the lonely, sore-footed pilgrims on their way back to their home are never sure to the last moment of not losing their way in this limitless desert of illusion and matter called Earth-Life. Because he would fain show the way to that region of freedom and light, from which he is a voluntary exile himself, to every prisoner who has succeeded in liberating himself from the bonds of flesh and illusion. Because, in short, he has sacrificed himself for the sake of mankind, though but a few Elect may profit by the GREAT SACRIFICE.
It is under the direct, silent guidance of this MAHA -- (great) -- GURU that all the other less divine Teachers and instructors of mankind became, from the first awakening of human consciousness, the guides of early Humanity. It is through these "Sons of God" that infant humanity got its first notions of all the arts and sciences, as well as of spiritual knowledge; and it is they who have laid the first foundation stone of those ancient civilizations that puzzle so sorely our modern generation of students and scholars.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 207-08.
Descending from a high plane before the middle of the Third Root-Race on this Globe during this Fourth Round, the Wondrous Being came by way of Globes C and B from Globe A, which was the high plane of which HPB speaks. This descent was rather a projection of energy than a dropping or descent of an embodied entity downwards. It was a visitation in our Underworld, undertaken for the sake of helping beings living in the shadows of this Underworld. "Underworld" is a technical term meaning any world inferior to that on which a being lives. There is no absolute Underworld. Globe A is an Underworld to a higher Globe.
This Wondrous Being is a Dhyani-Buddha. Interlocked in the vital essence of this Dhyani-Buddha and streaming forth from him are innumerable rays. Picture the sun, a figure easily understood. Streaming from the vital essence or essential heart of this Wondrous Being, these children-rays are human egos. As pointed out, we call him the Ever-Living-Human Banyan. This is because, like the banyan tree, he sends forth rays or tendrils of the spirit from himself. They reach down into the substantial fabric of the Universe in which he lives, taking root there. Because of receiving the life-essence from him, they become children-banyan-trees themselves, growing up in their turn. In other words, they become fully initiated and achieve full evolutionary growth. They achieve spiritual, intellectual, and psychical maturity. Then in their turn, they send forth other new tendrils downwards, taking root in the substantial fabric of the Universe, and thus building up new trunks.
Do you catch the picture? The Ever-Living-Human Banyan or Wondrous Being is the hierarchical Brotherhood of Adepts of our Planetary Chain, begun in this Fourth Round on this Globe Earth shortly before the middle of the Third Root-Race. This was the proper period, because then infant humanity was beginning to be self-conscious. It was ready for the receiving and understanding of Light.
Remember one of the most beautiful teachings that we have. This Wondrous Being descended from a high plane in the Third Age during this Fourth Round on this Earth. He came to us as a visitor, living in what was to him the Underworld. He dwelt for a time amongst us, at first as the premier, greatest, and primal master-spirit of the human race. He and his activities built the Brotherhood of Adepts, over which he still presides. He is a Being that is one and many at once -- a mystery. Therefore is he called the Wondrous Being. He is the Ever-Living-Human Banyan, alike the tree that may cover acres of ground and consist of hundreds of children banyans and yet have one life-essence. Out of One, there are the Many.
Now a Mystery, and let him understand it who may -- and can. Every initiate reaching initiation and passing successfully through it is derivative from the heart-essence of the Wondrous Being, the Dhyani-Buddha of this Fourth Round. Initiations during the Fifth Round on any Globe of our Planetary Chain will have their causal being in the activities of the Fifth-Round Dhyani-Buddha. Those undergoing the trials and tests of the then initiatory cycle will be under the supervision and connected with the Dhyani-Buddha of the Fifth Round, exactly as the Dhyani-Buddha of the present Fourth Round holds the same relative place and performs the same relative functions for initiants in this Fourth Round. Similarly, the Sixth and Seventh Rounds, in so far as initiations are concerned, will be connected in identical manner with the respective Dhyani-Buddhas of each.
-- THE ESOTERIC TRADITION, pages 943-4.
There are many Wondrous Beings, many Silent Watchers, like a ladder of life in rising scale of perfection and grandeur. The Wondrous Beings themselves are children banyans from a still greater Banyan composed of super-beings; and this greater Banyan is the Solar System, and its heart is Father-Sun.
There is no single doctrine of Theosophy that can be completely understood alone. You can understand them with relative perfection only when you know something of them all. The skilled Theosophical thinker and student is he who remembers a few simple fundamental lines of the thought, of the doctrine, and unifies his ideas, synthesizes the doctrines, and thus gets a relatively complete picture.
By Boris de Zirkoff
[This talk comes from the first part of the tape recording on "Chapter XIII of FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY," made of a private class held on July 7, 1954.]
We start on the thirteenth chapter of FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY. It opens with a quotation from THE MAHATMA LETTERS that nothing in nature springs into existence suddenly. All are subject to the same law of gradual evolution.
Realize but once the process of the maha cycle, of one sphere, and you have realized them all. One man is born like another man, one race evolves, develops and declines like another and all other races. Nature follows the same groove from the "creation" of a universe down to that of a mosquito. In studying esoteric cosmogony, keep a spiritual eye upon the physiological process of human birth; proceed from cause to effect establishing ... analogies between the ... man and that of a world ... Cosmology is the physiology of the universe spiritualized, for there is but one law.
-- THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, pages 70-71
Bear in mind that in nature's general evolutionary scheme there is one fundamental law working throughout. It is not a chaotic setup where various laws work on different planes of existence. There is similarity throughout the entire structure of the universe. From one sphere to another, there is the same basic operation, the same fundamental orderliness established by the general correlation of evolving entities.
The birth, growth, and evolution of any particular entity in the universe will be similar with all other entities. Nature follows the same groove in the production, sustenance, and periodic destruction of forms. Nature follows the same pattern, the same order. That is why analogy is a basic law of nature. That is why we can conceive of how things operate in the great if we study the small, or conceive the operation of the small if we study the great.
We say that nature follows the same groove from the creation of a universe down to that of a mosquito. This is not a mere poetic phrase. It is a fact that all operations of cosmic law are rooted in the same source. When we study human nature and its subdivisions, we also study the structure of the universe and its subdivisions. As we study the processes by which a human being comes into birth -- the particular illustration brought out here -- we learn by analogy about the coming into being of a universe.
The physiology of the human being has its spiritualized counterpart in the universe. There are correspondences to his physical organs in the universal structure. Even so, that does not mean, for example, that the solar system has exactly the same organs. It has centers of force that correspond to his organs and perform the same function in a spiritual sense. The same law is back of all. If we realize the complete harmony that exists from plane to plane and from sphere to sphere, we take a long step towards understanding the structure of the universe.
After this introductory quotation from THE MAHATMA LETTERS, the chapter opens with a passage from THE SECRET DOCTRINE. If we give the passage our undivided attention now, it may not bring out the main thought, so I will come back to it.
We resume a study of lines of thought touched upon in Chapter 12. At the outset, we read that the book explains part of H.P. Blavatsky's SECRET DOCTRINE. It also offers a consecutive outline of the doctrines of the Esoteric Philosophy. This enables the careful, attentive student to carry in mind the general outline of the teachings, the general scheme that makes up the study of the Esoteric Philosophy. This is with a certain purpose in view. It is an important purpose. In the words of the author,
The world of the present day is simply overwhelmed with books of various sorts, treating of quasi-spiritual, and of so-called psychic and quasi-psychic matters, and to the one who does not know the key-doctrines of Theosophy, who has not, as H.P. Blavatsky had, at his mental elbow, so to say, the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom-Religion, by which all these various matters may be tested and proved, there is place for much mental confusion, indecision, and doubt as to what the real sense or meaning thereof may be, because many of these books are written very ably, but ability in writing well is no sign or proof that an author understands properly the ancient thought; such ability is merely the capacity of presenting certain thoughts -- the writer's own views -- clearly enough and very praiseworthily, but merely praiseworthy writing is certainly no proof that the writer possesses an adequate and sufficient criterion of the ancient truth itself.
-- FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, page 128
Certain books present teachings we can call genuine. This is not because we have an emotional attachment and consider all else false. That would be stupid. We know certain books are genuine because we have found in practice that the teachings presented in them are genuine. They lead to illumination. They lead to help for ourselves as well as for others.
This is far more important, friends, than appears on the surface. How many of us realize that the study of these teachings, important though it is in itself, is not all there is to it. There are many in this room, others not here today, and more in different classes. Of us all, how many realize this point? It is one of the chief purposes of the study of these teachings that we call Theosophy, the Wisdom Religion, or the Esoteric Philosophy.
Suppose the student really knows what this book contains. He has not only understood it intellectually, but also has understood it with his heart and begun to apply the teachings to his daily life. In other words, he has understood and learned. He is not repeating parrot-like what he has heard or read, but he has really digested it. He has a bird's eye view of the essential teachings of the Ancient Wisdom and he is trying to base his life upon them.
The student may feel secure in this knowledge. He may feel satisfied, happy that he has something he can call a sound philosophy of life. Then there comes a test. He partakes of its experience, which may relate to him directly, to some close friend, or perhaps a relative. In the midst of its circumstances, there arises a book, individual, group of people, or society claiming to teach the truth. There are resounding claims of all kinds, offering quite an outline, sometimes a little strange. This outline of teachings about nature, man, and the universe claims to be the truth, to have been received its materials from a high source with some great, noble name attached to it. Although he knows that not everything is good therein, he may heavily sway in the direction of these teachings or he may see friends of his heavily swayed.
When these circumstances arise, a definite knowledge of even some basic principles of the Ancient Wisdom help us avoid pseudo-teachings, refusing to accept cheaper material instead of the coin that we have proven to ourselves was genuine indeed. We have to have some ground, some principles, some ideas, which we use as a touchstone with which to test the genuineness of other teachings. The teachings should appeal to reason as well as to the intuition in our hearts. We must train both. Without exception, there are times when we face tests. It is unbelievable to think otherwise. It would be completely unimaginable that we would not have opportunity to have our own knowledge tested.
Look at the existing situation in the world. It is sufficient to take this city, go to a library shelf, and see the books there. Most contradict each other. Most deny what is in the other books. Most make claims the others disparage, while making claims of their own.
How do you find what is true? How do you tell the true teacher from the false one? I will illustrate, giving names. I do not care what you think of me. At this end of this shelf stands THE SECRET DOCTRINE of H.P. Blavatsky. A little further, there are INVISIBLE HELPERS and THE INNER SIDE OF LIFE by C.W. Leadbeater. A little further, you find INITIATION HUMAN AND SOLAR by Mrs. Alice Bailey. Just a foot from it is THE ROSICRUCIAN COSMO-CONCEPTION of Max Heindel. Not far are books by the Ballards.
Imagine none of us has read any of these books. We will take two or three from the library to read. Since they all contradict each other, we cannot compare one to another, even superficially. They present entirely different teachings that cannot be coordinated or harmonized in the slightest degree.
Imagine that you have already studied THE SECRET DOCTRINE of H.P. Blavatsky and can trust it. You found through study, observation, and application in daily life that it works. It has appealed to your reason, intuition, and heart, satisfying their yearning. You are not a dogmatist. You know there are rays of truth everywhere, even though intermixed with a great deal of error. You are not a sectarian who has decided that one person or book is above all else. You are satisfied that certain books or teachers -- one, two, three, or four of them -- ring true. You have decided that when you read other things, you will compare what they say with what you have found genuine.
First, you find first by reasonableness and intuition what is true to you, as true as you want to have it. Then you use this as a touchstone with which to compare and test other works, teachers, groups, and societies. You test other types of literary productions, however beautifully written they may be, finding out for yourselves whether they ring true, whether they accord with what you have found to be true.
Having therefore these doctrines of the Ancient Wisdom-Religion (Theosophy) in mind, and properly understanding them, we have tests by which we may prove to ourselves whether such-and-such a doctrine of any religion, ancient or modern, or such-and-such a teaching of any thinker, ancient or modern, is in accord with that primeval spiritual and natural relation granted to the first members of the first human and truly thinking race by the spiritual beings from whom we likewise derived our inner essence and life, and who are, really, our own present spiritual selves.
-- FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, page 128
The tests that Theosophy provides us are not of a dogmatic, religious nature. They are not beliefs necessary to our "salvation." Heavens and hells do not depend for their reality upon their acceptance or rejection by men, no more than do the facts used by an expert in mathematics, chemistry, or in any other branch of science or natural philosophy. We use the theosophical tests just as a scientist uses these facts to ascertain if something new agrees with truths already established by himself and his collaborators.
Consider another thought, if possible in this hot weather! Note the welter of ideas, teachings, and approaches to truth in today's world. This is not the first time there is confusion. It is periodic, cyclical. Now ask, is there absolute truth? Is there one, definite, specific teaching regarding the structure of the universe, the nature of man, and the building of the nature in which we live, or are all teachings relatively true and relatively false? If so, we may as well take one as another. We might get truth or error out of almost anything.
Say there is such a thing in the universe, in nature, here on earth, in our humanity as a specific set of teachings, the only true teachings, all else being modifications or distortions of it. If so, if we know where they are, we can compare everything else with them. Note that I did not state any idea of my own here, I said "if so" and "then." How do you feel about it? Is there such a thing as absolute truth? If there were absolute truth, there would be an end to evolution. Is there an absolute truth that is unmodified, never changed no matter what we do?
What do people think? I ask because it is involved in this paragraph we are reading, even if the actual wording is not there. I would like to see how many different views there might be on this.
One person says the Absolute is the only truth there is, but we are unable to cognize it. Another says truth is not absolute, known according to individual growth. Another says there is absolute truth, but we each perceive but part of it, just a reflection, with those interested in spiritual development in perpetual search of it. Yet another says that behind every atom in the universe is Absolute Truth or the One Cause, unchangeable and unattainable, working as natural law to make the universe go round.
In Matthew 5:17 it says, "till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law," which certainly suggests that law is absolute.
I have heard intelligent people say there is no such thing as absolute truth. All truths are relative, because everything is related. That is fine. I have propounded that idea in lectures, talks, and discussions. Even so, I now try to express the idea that there are certain fundamental facts of nature that are unchangeable. They are unchangeable by anyone -- god, demigod, or man. I have no words with which to do this, and challenge any of you to find the words!
In illustration, consider how two atoms of hydrogen, an atom of oxygen, and a spark of electricity are required to produce water. One can change nothing in it. With no spark, there is no water. With no hydrogen, there is no water. With too much hydrogen, there is no water. With too much oxygen, there is no water. We need two atoms of hydrogen, an atom of oxygen, and an electric spark to produce water. There is no known deviation from this.
Say ten men each write a book to explain how it works. They give ten different theories. Challenge the ten, saying their ideas are unquestionably wrong when compared with explanations another ten would give five hundred years from now. In spite of how many men may write about it, two atoms of hydrogen, one of oxygen, and a spark of electricity will produce water in the times of the Cheops pyramid, in the time of Abraham Lincoln, and 10,000 years from now. Can we call this an absolute truth, an immovable fact in nature over which we have no control? Yes.
At sea level, water only boils at 100 degrees Celsius. We can change nothing about it. Water boils at a certain temperature and air pressure. To change this, you have to alter other conditions. Under no circumstances can water run upstream. You could make a long list of physical facts that are unalterable, although the theories explaining them change every few years. H2O produces water. Water does not go upstream. One physicist explains it one way in one century. There may be a vastly different explanation in the next century. However explained, the results are still the same.
Our knowledge regarding the inner constitution of man is not great. We have learned certain facts from individuals of vast spiritual knowledge who left some teachings behind for humanity to study. Our personal knowledge regarding the after-death states and conditions is not great, but we have certain teachings left by those who personally know whereof they speak.
Now, by analogy, ask a couple of other questions. The facts regarding the structure of invisible nature and its laws are as definite as are those of chemistry, physics, or mathematics. In mathematics, we have many things no one can deny. At no time is it possible to have three halves. It is impossible to have a triangle with four sides. Nobody has seen a square with two sides. There are basic principles of nature whereby numerical relations exist in an unalterable state.