All of us have made our lives difficult beyond need. For millennia we have prided ourselves on our learning, our erudition, our understanding of truth. And yet the teachers of the race have ever reminded mankind that the heart-doctrine is to be preferred to the eye-doctrine: the learning that is native to the heart, the intuition, the spiritual will of man, rather than the learning that is purely intellectual and motivated by the human will. Can't we realize that the enigmas of life are solved not by mere reason, but by intuition; not by sentimentality, but by judgment?
-- James A. Long, EXPANDING HORIZONS, page 114
By B.P. Wadia
[From LIVING THE LIFE, pages 45-47.]
Students of Theosophy, having grasped the tenets of Reincarnation, Karma, and the Path to the Masters, naturally endeavor to make practical application in their own lives and circumstances. They want to live. Earnestly they attempt to manifest in their daily actions the results of their mental acquisitions of the great teachings. Seeing the sweet reasonableness and merciful justice of the laws of manifested Nature, they desire to cooperate with the Divine Will in evolution. Let us apply Theosophy, they say, and forthwith they begin.
A dozen things instantly overpower their budding enthusiasm. A hundred small things of life conspire to defeat their earnest purpose. Girding their loins and more determined than ever they stand up, Arjuna-like, resolute to fight. Between petty triumphs and many failures, blaming their own Karma and doing what they can, most of them spend their days hugging small satisfactions and hoping that something sure will happen some day -- and they add, if not in this life, then in the next.
Long experience and continued observation of such Theosophic efforts of earnest and devoted individuals enable us to answer, albeit partially, the question that is sometimes asked, "What is wrong with us?"
Let us try to find an adequate reply.
That the Spiritual Path is uphill and steep, that it is the Path of Woe, and that the gateway to it is strait and narrow, that it is sharp as the razor's edge and can shave human natures all too fine, is not fully comprehended by the enthusiastic neophyte. All have read these statements but each one of us thinks that by some special decree of Providence "it will be different with me."
We profess belief in brotherhood, but with most it is profession and not life; for in this, too, as in all else, we are brothers and the Path of Woe is for ALL; the razor will shave ALL. When the Buddha instituted shaving the head for his mendicants, he did not make himself an exception, nor say to his favorite disciple, "Ananda, thou mayst retain thy lovely locks." The Law of Brotherhood manifests everywhere at all times, but more than at any other place does it work its miracle in the heart of the would-be aspirant to Perfection and Wisdom and Sacrifice and Service.
That great Law is at once the expression and the gauge of spiritual unfoldment. It sings its perfect song in the Hearts of Compassion of the Great Ones. Next, naturally, it envelops men and women who desire to be Their disciples and servants. We who are resolved to tread that Path must expect not to be exceptions; if our path is always smooth for us, then it is NOT the Path of Woe. Each one on the Path gets his share of woe, and it is an equal share; for all those who are aspirants to Wisdom, who have resolved to tread the Path, have to learn the initial lesson that there is but one melting-pot of Karma in which all the Karma, good, bad, and indifferent of every true aspirant is thrown. To "stand alone and isolated" but at the same time to "kill out all sense of separateness" is a truth to be PRACTICED, and this is not grasped.
If at the very beginning the above is understood, many unnecessary heart-burnings will be avoided. The way IS difficult -- the Path is the Path of Woe. We need not take it if we do not desire. "None else compels." Each one in his freedom of choice elects to tread it, and it would be the part of wisdom to recognize that henceforth woes are our lot, that when we have conquered our own woes, we have got to help others to conquer theirs, and that under the Law of Brotherhood the individual weal is dependent on the common weal and in proportion as we overcome our woes others are helped to overcome theirs.
Thus, we learn so to behave that the quantity and quality of Karma in the great melting pot of aspirant-ship may react to the benefit and advantage of all, including ourselves. In this connection let us remember the admonition in the Gospel of St. Matthew (xviii: 7), "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" We often approach the problem of Karma from an individualistic point of view and find it an appalling prospect. We gain a new confidence when we see that there is a common woe and a common weal, that we affect and are affected by comrades as weak as ourselves and as virtuous, too. We are united by the bonds of brotherhood and the woes are our common property.
Thus, spiritual life begins at once to unfold its basic Law -- Brotherhood. As we practice yoga, union, with the energy and activity of that Law we succeed. The moment we give up the practice, we are thrown out of the Occult world into the visible world. "Come out of your world into ours," said a Master once. Here is the first step -- Recognition of the Law of Brotherhood as it touches the woes of devotees, sacrificers, warriors for the Kingdom of the Spirit.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 93-95.]
On many occasions, I have spoken of those Great Ones who are fully ensouled men, and spoken of the majority of men and women who are yet soulless. By this latter term, I do not mean lost souls. When you understand what ensouling is, you understand the Chela path. A Chela is one who is ensouling himself. The Master is a fully ensouled man. The Buddha is a Master with the light of the Spirit illuminating his soul, one in whom the Spirit with its refulgent glory increases the already great splendor of the ensouled man.
The path of Chelaship is a process of ensouling soulless people. Such soulless people fill our cities, towns, hamlets, and homes. Every one of us, in those moments when no longer a "soul" but rather only living in the four lower principles of his being, is for the time soulless. That is the meaning of it. The Human Monad is no longer active in him. A lost soul, on the other hand, is one who no longer has even the possibility of reunion with the divine, the Spirit, the Buddha, or the Christ within himself. A lost soul drops to the Pit.
When the great Syrian Sage Jesus said, "He who gives up his life for my sake" -- for the sake of the Buddha, the Christ, within himself, within each of us -- "shall find his life," he meant that even in the most ordinary, feebly in the beginning, lives the Christ within, continuing to live as an inmost being. As time passes and the man draws nearer to the inmost center of his being, he becomes gradually ensouled, a leader, and then a Buddha. Upon the Buddhas shines the light of eternity. It is as simple as that.
Soulless people are not wicked. They are just drifting, sleeping, and unawakened. They live more or less in the four lower principles of the constitution. The Chela is the man who begins by will, effort, thought, devotion, and love for all that is, great and small, to ensoul himself. He rises along the Chela path precisely in the ratio in which he ensouls himself ever more greatly.
I use the term "ensouling" because it is simple and amenable to understanding. I have deliberately avoided using a term that might require lengthy explanatory comment. The desire is to suggest rather than to give an explicit teaching.
I will try to give you what to me at least seems to be a graphic illustration of what ensouling means. We human beings are composite entities. We have a divine, spiritual, human, and beastly side to us, as well as the wretched physical body that suffers so often unjustly because of the crimes committed upon it by our erratic, vagrant, wandering, passionate, lower human aspect: the lower emotional and mental principles in us. These four lower principles are the HUMAN animal.
Pause a moment in thought. Being a HUMAN animal, it is superior to the beast-animal, because throughout the former there is an instinct of humanity. Nevertheless, this human animal, when the man lives as a man, should be ensouled by the humanity of the man. When a man lives solely in his four lower principles, he is less than a true man. He merely vegetates. He exists. He has no chance for immortality, none whatsoever, because there is nothing immortal in the four lower principles of us. The Human Monad, the vehicle of the Spiritual Monad, or to put it otherwise, the Human Soul, the vehicle of the Spiritual Soul, has a great chance for conscious immortality.
When a man lives in his Human Monad, the four lower principles are ensouled. Then he is a full man, consciously living and happily living in such fashion as to bring no bitter regrets. There is the test. It does not mean a man who is perfect, or that the man has no temptations. This is certainly not true. We are all human. The four-principled man succumbs to temptation usually because he is not ensouled by the humanity of himself. The human part of us, to use easily understood language, the Human Monad, HAS MORE CHANCE OF CONQUERING TEMPTATION THAN OF SUCCUMBING TO IT; and when I say temptation, I do not mean physical passion only; I mean all kinds of temptation. Overweening ambition, only to be gratified at others' cost, is one common vice today; selfishness in any of its manifold forms; egoism, a hydra-headed thing; uncontrolled anger -- all these things are less than human, but are the lower human; less than the higher human, less than the truly human.
So then, ensouling means living those things that we intuitively and instinctively sense belong to the better part of us. That is all there is to it: living in the Human Soul instead of in the human animal soul: to speak technically, living in the Buddhi-Manas instead of in the Kama-Manas.
Our streets are packed with soulless beings in this sense, vacillating in character like the winds of heaven, without firmness of will, without even convictions, moral convictions especially, changeable as weather-cocks, pulled hither and yon by every passing gust of temptation of any kind. They are less than human. They are soulless -- which does not mean that they have no soul; but it means that the soul within them is not operative; it is not active; it does not manifest itself. Look into the eyes of these people: there lacks the wonderful shine of the soul that, once seen, you will always recognize.
Every kindly act you do mark you as by that much ensouled, if springing from the heart and not merely an egoistic wish to show off. Every time you conquer a temptation, which if yielded to you know perfectly well will debase you in your own eyes, even if your fellows do not know of your fall: every time you CONQUER it, you live in the human soul, you are by so much ensouling yourself. Every time you conquer an impulse to do a selfish act, a deed with selfish thought for your own benefit, then you are by so much ensouling yourself.
We shall be fully human, fully ensouled, in the Fifth Round. At the present time, we can be so by effort and aspiration. The vast majority of humanity is soulless in the technical sense that we understand. The soul is there but they will not live in it; they will not make it themselves. They prefer to live in the animal. Mark you, the animal does not only mean sex. That is only one side of it and a relatively unimportant side. The animal means the grasping, acquisitive, selfish, appetitive, and indulgent part of us, running after this and running after that, without stability of character, in other words without soul.
Set about ensouling yourself with the soul that is YOU; that is the Chela path. The man who succeeds in doing so is a Chela. The path is the same for all men, yet distinctive for each individual. Find it.
By James H. Connelly
[From THE PATH, September 1894, pages 169-74.]
Many Theosophists are accustomed to accept as authoritative such instruction as they believe has been imparted by the beings known as Mahatmas, in whose existence they have good reason for belief, and whom they regard as the teachers and guides of our race in all that tends toward its evolution from the material plane to spirituality.
This confidence is not shared by those whose habits of life and education have trained them to look only upon the materialistic side of everything -- generally with the dominant, if not the sole, idea of seeing "how much there is in it" in the way of financial profit.
Pseudo-scientists, whose mental vision is bounded by the limitations of the microscope and spectroscope, deny the existence of the Mahatmas; and shallow, indifferent ignorance echoes, with added jibes and jeers, their interested repudiation. Of course, when "science" and "religion" agree upon anything, the majority of mankind -- too much "civilized" to do any thinking for themselves -- contentedly accept such conclusion as right, without taking the trouble of independent consideration as to whether both "science" and "religion" may not both be wrong.
But there really are very good reasons for confidence in the existence of the Mahatmas, reasons not at all based upon sentiment or fancy, but upon sound philosophy. It is perfectly well understood that they are not another order of beings, but have been, and are, simply men. That does not necessarily imply that they have corporeal bodies. The real man is not the form that was born, is liable to cold, hunger, sickness, wounds, and death.
It is the immortal spiritual soul, with such associate principles as are necessary to establish its individuality, which constitutes the man, even during normal earth-life. The strength and worth of that soul are what determine the true value of the man, not the density of his body. And the power he exercises over his fellowman, upon material things, and in shaping his own destiny, lies in the forces of his soul, not in the energy with which he can strike a physical blow or the distance he can kick.
The Mahatmas are simply "Great Souls" ("maha" meaning great and "atma" soul) who have become great by their wondrous attainments of higher knowledge than is possessed by other men. Command over all the secrets of matter is but a small part of their wisdom. They have gained mastery over the mighty mystery of death, and that yet greater mystery, life; and in so doing have learned how, in their own persons, to rise superior to the laws of matter bounding the existence of our race.
Capable of carrying their consciousness to planes of being infinitely beyond the material, they have won clear perception of the tremendous scheme of evolution that is the sustaining principle of the universe and all it contains, attained comprehension of its laws, and become possessors of the power to follow its course, with lucid apprehension of all its details, not only through ages past, and with all-comprehending knowledge of the present, but through eons yet to come made themselves partakers of the divine consciousness. Yet, with all this, they have not ceased to be men, "the elder brothers" of our race, as they have been well characterized by those privileged to know them.
Whether they temporarily assume corporeal bodies, or clothe their individualities with less gross matter, is wholly dependent upon their own will; but in neither case would their presence necessarily challenge the observation of any except those to whom they might choose to reveal themselves, since as corporeal men they would appear just like other men, and if embodied in more tenuous matter would be invisible.
Though their influence is constantly felt in every upward movement of humanity, they rarely mingle among men. Keenly susceptible as they have become to the high vibrations of the mental plane, the life of the 1890's, thrilling with selfishness and sensuality, full of base ambitions, vicious impulses, and material energies, would be not only offensive but positively painful to them.
One may imagine with what disgust and distressful pity a man would be filled who, in moving amid a throng of his fellow-creatures, should be intensely conscious of their respective real physical conditions, their disorders, pains, defects, and rottenness, the secrets they carefully hide from all eyes but their own and the doctor's. Well, carry that fancy from the physical to the mental plane, and, in so doing, intensify it an hundredfold, and it will afford some idea of what a being gifted with the Mahatma's powers would experience in personal contact with the naked minds of men engaged in the "struggle for survival of the fittest."
It is well for men that the Mahatmas are not in more familiar association and contact with them, for those beings are centers and transmitters of tremendous forces belonging to other planes than ours, liable to impel exceedingly dangerous vibrations in human organisms, except under the rare conditions when an "elder brother" voluntarily undergoes the martyrdom of another reincarnation that he may move among men as one of them, the more effectively to act directly as their teacher and spiritual guide or "Savior" at a cyclic period when such manifestation is the most practicable aid that may be given.
In all races and in all ages since recorded time began, the knowledge has existed that there lived and moved upon this earth such beings as the Mahatmas. They have been variously known as wise men, Adepts, serpents of wisdom, magicians, prophets, masters, Rishis, demigods, Avatars, elder brothers, Christs, and by many other titles, all expressive of super-human greatness. And the same characteristics and powers have always been ascribed to them.
They possessed what was regarded as supernatural command over the forces of nature, and were able to hold communion with disembodied spirits, angels, and demons, exercising control over the latter; generally they secluded themselves from their fellowmen, living lives of isolation and indifference to what other men regarded as the desirable things of life; at the same time, they were ever ready and powerful, when sought, to bestow benefits, and their influence was always exerted for good. They knew the future, and recognized personalities among them were known to have been unchanged by lapse of time long as even tradition ran through ages past, in many instances.
There were understood to be gradations among them, he who was wisest and best ranking highest. They were at once loved and feared. Sometimes they were known to lay down the burden of mortal life, but more often they simply suddenly disappeared, and, in either case, superstitious folks said the devil had no doubt taken them.
This consensus of belief respecting those beings, so agreeing in all its essentials, cannot be intelligently regarded as merely a common delusion. It is cumulative testimony to a fact that cannot be gainsaid and that only the unwise will undervalue. More, it speaks an inherent recognition by man of the perfectibility of being, of the evolution of humanity from the low level of its animal life, and the not much higher standpoint of the hedonist, step by step upward to divinity.
We cannot help seeing about us personalities whom -- without any egotism -- we must recognize as lower in mind and morals than ourselves; and others to whom we cannot in justice deny attainments far beyond us, mental and spiritual. No two human beings, indeed, stand upon exactly the same level, and is it reasonably supposable that these gradations stop at a certain point within the limit of acquirement in a single human lie, even under the best imaginable auspices? Certainly not. Huxley pronounced it impertinent to assume that human beings do not exist as much higher in intellectuality than the most cultured minds of Europe as those are above a black beetle.
By those to whom the Mahatmas are personally known -- and there are such today in India, Europe, and America -- it is recognized that there is not an equality of development among those exalted beings, the greater wisdom and spirituality of some elevating them to higher planes and endowing them with greater powers than those attained by others, and that such progression extends far beyond the range of normal human comprehension to where the most advanced mingle with orders of beings yet higher who are their "elder brothers," and even beyond those to who can say what -- to us unimaginable -- heights, ever approaching yet without attaining to the perfect wisdom of the inscrutable and inconceivable "Source and Container of All."
Our race would be infinitely richer than it is today, even in the domain of material science, had it not rejected the wisdom freely offered many centuries ago by these "elder brothers," who taught in full much that modern scientists are now pluming themselves upon suspecting. The atomic theory, the genesis of worlds, the impermanence yet indestructibility of matter, a true astronomy, the septenary composition of man, the powers of mind and will -- with their demonstrations now known under the names of hypnotism, telepathy, etc. -- the control of natural forces (some of them still unknown to our modern science), were all set forth in the ancient books of the Masters thousands of years before Atlantis sank beneath the sea, together with infinitely much more, the least of which the Inquisition would have burned a man for knowing, or would today make a scientist famous by its supposed discovery.
At a time so remote that the records were written in a language not the common speech of men anywhere within profane historic knowledge, the Mahatmas of that period predicted accurately, for this present time, the conditions existent in the world today. Looking with clear vision down the long vista of coming centuries, they beheld the collective Karma the human race would make for itself and saw when and how the awful debt would have to be paid.
The psychic disturbances and mental perturbations now agitating the world; the mighty achievements of material science; the culmination of man's long-continued oppression of his fellowman in unjust legislation, unequal and injurious class conditions of society, contending interests between the powerful few and the suffering many, and the consequent poverty, recklessness, aggression, violent reprisals, savage acts of authoritative repression, and the alarming increase of insanity and crime at this point of the Kali Yuga, all were foretold by the Masters.
They also predicted, at the same time, that which in the light of their sublime philosophy is seen as a direct product of the operation of such evil mental forces among the sons of men effecting reactive vibrations on the material plane of Nature, however modern science may now rail at the idea of such connection or relation. They foresaw the tremendous meteorological and seismic disturbances that, during several years past, have been steadily increasing in numbers, magnitude, and terrible effects, and are destined to become still more appalling until the end of the cycle.
Even if it be contended that those prophecies were not by men, but by higher intelligences that used particular men as their messengers, it must still be admitted that such intermediaries certainly possessed qualifications other than those common to their race, which brought them nearer to those intelligences and more directly under their influence. Such specialization could not have been by accident. The one thing that does not exist in the entire vast universe and is not even within the power of the highest gods to cause is chance.
Men who rise to the sublime height of the Mahatmas do so by their own "Will and Endeavor." Only by many successive lives entirely devoted to cultivation of the higher powers of the soul and renunciation of Self is the goal attained. The soul so prepared has to reach a point where it has by proven merit conquered the right to enter at once an eternity of rest and ineffable bliss, and must there possess the strength of self-sacrifice to voluntarily renounce that boon in order to devote itself to the advancement of the human race, encouraging and aiding humanity to follow the path that leads eventually to liberation from the bonds of sorrow and death.
At stated times these self-sacrificing ones, wearing mortal forms, appear among men as leaders and teachers, in such characters leaving their impress upon succeeding ages, as have Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ, and other "Saviors" who preceded them, teaching the same lessons they taught. More often they apply their energy and power, unseen, to the control of forces that, in harmony with Karmic influence, sway the mental and moral energies and consequently the destiny of the race. In so operating they do not necessarily come into contact with human beings, except such as have by their self-advancement upon the path raised to capability of service as their immediate messengers or agents.
The spread of the Theosophic movement, all over the world, in a few years, with such depth of interest as it has evoked, such responsive welcome as it has won from the hearts of men, and such powerful influence as it has already exerted upon thought and literature, is the latest evidence of the continued application of the forces at command of the Masters -- or Mahatmas -- for the benefit of humanity.
By Auriga P. Starr
[From THE PATH, May 1892, pages 33-36.]
It has been my good or evil fortune to hear some members of the Society say on this wise:
If the Masters who are said to have founded the Society and now watch over it also engage in other works and movements among men, why do Theosophists oppose other developments of thought, such, for instance, as Metaphysical Healing, Christianity, and so on?
The question at the end is a misconception.
Some accuse H.P. Blavatsky of great violence against Christianity, but a careful reader of her books knows that her opposition was directed to dogmatism and not to the true teachings of the founder of that now extinct religion. She tried to explain, to revive the truth, since, as she declared, it was her opinion that but one truth lies under all religions. Indeed, the series of papers that gained for her the Subba Row medal in India was entitled "The Esotericism of the, Gospels." This is also true with the writers in THE PATH whom I have read on Metaphysical Healing. They deal with explanations in the course of which some unwarranted assumptions are demolished.
This is not opposition, although sometimes if you disagree with the Metaphysical Healer or dogmatic Christian on points of logic and history, you are said to oppose.
In the sense that one is not on exactly the same side, he might be said to be in opposition, just as the moon is often in opposition to the sun. But some devotees of the various Mind Cures, holding up before themselves the optimism that first declares all things are good, making a weak play on the English word "God," and then decides that a continually flourishing health is the most important of the good, dislike logical explanations or the pointing out of disagreeable facts, and call it opposition.
Theosophy opposes nothing but dogmatism, cant, and evil action. It is a foe, open or declared, to the dogmatism that has chased Christianity away, but it explains to the sincere where the truth is hidden. So it points out in the Old and New Testaments the same truths taught by other religions that borrowed naught from us. Thus while it may in that process dispose of the claim for exclusive revelation asserted for the Christian books, it shows all nations as not deserted by a jealous God, but all alike possessing several forms of the one thing. It is not Jewish, Presbyterian, Hindu, nor Mohammedan, but simply the one system of scientific religion called Theosophy.
Theosophy, then, draws all philosophical and religious ideas to a focus by its synthesis of all. Embracing all, it throws the concentrated light obtained by thus bringing all together, upon the many cherished forms and rituals that obscure reality beneath.
The Theosophical Society should never have a creed. It is only within the pale of a creedless body that investigation of religions will reveal the truth. If it were a Buddhist or Hindu Society, then every effort of its members would run on those lines. The former would only seek revivals of Buddhism; the later would only spread present-day Hinduism.
If even it had adopted Reincarnation as its creed, to cause us all to be called "Reincarnationists," no right progress could ensue. As Reincarnationists, we could not all fully agree with Karma, and, indeed, many varieties of reincarnation would be insisted on. Our body being without a creed, any man who is not a fierce dogmatist may join to help the work that cooperation always enlarges and accentuates.
So our history and present composition declare against a creed. We had Brahmins from the first, with several Parsees. Mr. Judge told me that among the first diplomas he sent to foreign lands in the early days were several to Parsecs in Bombay and to Hindus elsewhere, with a few to some Greeks in Europe. Today the rolls in the different sections disclose the names of Hindus, Buddhists, Mohammedans, Christians, and agnostics.
Some entertain the desire for a large membership. A few years ago, a member, in changing the rules to have no dues, thought thereby to call in everybody, but soon found that small fees bring no one in and large dues keep few out.
We are a leavening movement, and, like leaven, we act silently but surely upon the whole mass. Human nature will not permit us to hope that men will abandon the fame of a congregation and an expensive church to become members of a Society whose ideals necessarily destroy separate distinction and increase general good by rooting out selfishness. The small speck of leaven disturbs the whole mass of dough, and the tiny fungus can lift the heavy stone. In the same way, the small band of devoted Theosophists, though never growing much in numbers, has power to keep the thought of the day turned in such a direction that the prospect of causing a union in the search for truth increases.
The mind of this and next century is evolving more and more, demanding answers to the questions that present theology fails to solve, and in Theosophy only is the final solution. If, then, the small band of true devotees ever persists, and each hour increases the ability of each to explain the simple theosophic system, our Society can be content to remain a force that is mighty for effect though small in appearance.
Some ask if there is idolatry of HPB. The intense respect some have for the words of our deceased friend comes within the charge. Such people generally do not think for themselves. They live on the thoughts of others. As a whole, it is otherwise. More members can be found who do not make an idol of HPB than the other kind.
Especially about occult subjects, HPB's words command respect. This is in the same way that a student of astronomy would give room in his thoughts for the views of a great astronomer when the vague opinions of an unlettered person ought to be rejected. This is not idolatry. HPB herself spoke against such worship, yet that does not mean we are to give no attention to her writings or to listen to her detractors.
I have heard much eulogy of her wonderful work, learning, research, and occult insight, but little up of idolatry. The charge seems to arise from the known love, respect, and admiration entertained for our departed leader by several well-known Theosophists. Repeatedly, I have myself heard these same persons assert the right of others to reject HPB if they please on questions of theosophic interest.
Is one to give up his respect, admiration, and love for HPB merely because other people fear that idolatry among weak brethren will result? I think not. As the fear has been expressed, all we have to do is to continue to use HPB as guide and friend, seeing to it meanwhile that idolatry does not creep in. It can be kept out by commonsense.
By William Kingsland
[From THE ARYAN PATH, July 1931, pages 438-43.]
For the student of Theosophy -- the Ancient Wisdom, not the modern psychic perversions -- both the Old and the New Testament writings bear on their face the hallmark of their origin in the carefully guarded secrets of the Hierarchy of Initiates who have preserved the esoteric or Gnostic teachings from time immemorial. Thus, Philo writes in the first century A.D.:
Most excellent contemplators of nature and all things therein, they [the ancient sages] scrutinize earth and sea, and air and heaven, and the natures therein ... They have their bodies, indeed, planted on earth below; but for their souls, they have made them wings, so that they speed through ether and gaze on every side upon the powers above, as though they were the true world-citizens, most excellent, who dwell in cosmos as their city; such citizens as Wisdom hath as her associates, inscribed upon the roll of Virtue, who hath in charge the supervising of the common weal ... Such men, though (in comparison) few in number, keep alive the covered spark of Wisdom secretly, throughout the cities (of the world), in order that Virtue may not be absolutely quenched and vanish from our human kind.
Philo expounded the Logos doctrine, and even uses the term "Only Begotten Son." (See Max Muller, THEOSOPHY OR PSYCHOLOGICAL RELIGION, page 412.) He makes no mention of Jesus with whom he was contemporary.
The Old and the New Testament documents as we have them today also bear on their face sad evidences of mutilation, perversions, and additions. This happened at the hands of those who never had the key to their inner esoteric interpretation. They endeavored to historicize the narrative and materialize the doctrine. Their success is evident in the darkness, superstition, and cruelty in the name of "Christianity" that closed in on the Western World after the second and third centuries, surviving even today in numberless "Christian" communities.
The fanaticism of the early Christians is well known. The ancient monuments of Egypt bear sad witness to the effort to destroy every trace of the origin of the Christian doctrines in the earlier religions and myths, whilst the destruction of thousands of documents that would have given us the now much desired evidence in that direction is also on record.
The student of Theosophy is not so much concerned with historical evidences as are some of our scholars and apologists. The evidences for the derivation of the Biblical records from earlier sources are gradually emerging, and may be left to take care of themselves. Possibly their complete disclosure would be too great a shock for the many sincere and devout Christians whose whole outlook on life, both here and hereafter, is bound up with the literal historical narrative and the traditional doctrines.
The narratives of the Doctrine are its cloak. The simple look only at the garment, that is, upon the narratives of the Doctrine; more they know not. The instructed, however, see not merely the cloak, but what the cloak covers.
Note that only the "instructed" recognize the inner esoteric meaning of the narrative. Who are the instructed? Where and how did they obtain that instruction? Obviously not from the Church, unless in those times the Church had a real "Esoteric Section;" for the traditional doctrines of the Church are based on the literal narrative. The history of the Christian Church, indeed, is one long record of the persecution of those who endeavored to teach the inner doctrine. These were the "heretics," and we all know the cruel record of the Church in its dealings with them. We all know how bitter even today is the feeling of the upholders of the literal narrative against those who in any way dispute its veracity.
Is there then none today who can instruct us in the inner doctrine? Assuredly there are; but the individual must have cast aside all his prepossessions as to the narrative before their instruction can appeal to him; and he must seek, and seek earnestly, before he can obtain "the pearl of great price," the pearl of spiritual truth.
It is hardly possible to recognize "what the cloak covers" by a mere examination of the "cloak," however closely it may be studied. We must interpret the narrative in the light of a wider and deeper knowledge derived from other sources. Take for example the first two chapters of Genesis. Suppose that we had nothing else than this narrative to instruct us as to the origin of the material world and of humanity. Suppose that we knew of no other similar narratives of an earlier date than that of Genesis. Suppose that we had no scientific evidence as to the processes of nature, or the age of Man on the Earth: -- how then could we interpret the narrative otherwise than literally? But such was practically the state of affairs up to the commencement of the nineteenth century, when geology began to challenge the Genesis narrative. It was only in the middle of that century that biology also issued its challenge as to the origin of Man.
Even so, the challenge was only in relation to physical facts, and hardly touched the spiritual aspects of the question apart from theological dogmas.
We find humanity imperfect, debased, evil, and sinful, yet it struggles and aspires to reach a spiritual perfection. We may use the term "spiritual" to cover the effort to achieve perfection of truth, goodness, and beauty, and not in any special theological sense. Man is conscious of his imperfection; conscious also of a possibility of perfection; and, indeed, is not without historical examples of those who have attained to it in a marked degree. Among such was Jesus of Nazareth.
Here in fact is the great problem of Humanity. It lies in the vast difference in the degree of attainment of a spiritual quality of life between individuals or between races or communities. Why is one individual an ignorant savage, another a Confucius or a Plato, a Buddha or a Christ?
For Christianity, which only grants to the individual one life on earth, and no pre-existence -- although an eternity of post-existence -- the problem is insoluble. It must necessarily fall back on "the Will of God." The only teaching that offers any solution is that of Reincarnation and Karma; or briefly the evolution of the individual through a natural law of cause and effect operating in the spiritual as well as in the material world, and the interaction of the two.
For evolution, we must have a driving power; and we are undoubtedly conscious that that driving power is within ourselves. We are conscious of a power within ourselves that is a potentiality for a higher and still higher degree of attainment in truth, goodness, and beauty.
These are spiritual qualities; moreover, they are, insofar as they are desired in and for themselves, absolute values; that is to say, being desired solely for themselves, they have no relational value. We consider that they are impure if we give them any relational value. The man who only tells the truth because it is expedient to do so, has no spiritual quality of truth in him. The man who is "good," i.e., moral, merely because the community demands it of him, has not necessarily any spiritual quality of goodness in him. Christian teaching is sadly lacking in this matter. It countenances killing for "sport." The man who goes out to kill for sport may be a good man in the Christian conventional sense, but he is not a good man spiritually. He has not taken to heart the maxim, "Thou shalt not hinder the meanest creature upon its upward path." Probably he never heard of such a maxim, for it belongs to a higher code than that of conventional Christian ethics.
There is confusion in the Christian Church between morality, expediency, and the spiritual quality of goodness, illustrated in the conditional countenancing of contraception by the late Lambeth Congress of Bishops.
As regards beauty, it is more clearly recognized that our aesthetic sense has an absolute value. Although "art for art's sake" may possibly sometimes degenerate into a shibboleth, at root it is recognition of the spiritual and absolute quality of beauty.
What, then, is the source and origin of this spiritual quality in our nature that is ever seeking a fuller expression? We may consider it quite apart from any theological speculations or teachings. We undoubtedly, as individuals, have this spiritual quality in greater or lesser degree. It is a constant inner urge to attain to a higher and still higher perfection, unless, indeed, we "quench the spirit." Is it not evident that we seek a realization of ourselves? We are seeking self-knowledge, self-expansion, and self-expression, being urged to that, not by force of outward circumstances, but rather by an inner urge that exceeds mere expediency.
This is not to deny the pressure that environment undoubtedly exercises; and of which, in the earlier stages, it is possibly the predominant factor. To be compelled to do right because of community values, has at least a restraining as well as a directing influence towards the higher values of truth, goodness, and beauty for their own sakes; but they can never in themselves give the motive for the pure and absolute value of the thing in itself.
This inner impulse towards a realization of spiritual values lies, then, in the impulse of our own higher spiritual nature. We strive to realize ourselves in an ever-increasing degree of perfection.
To realize ourselves thus is to realize our oneness with God -- if we must use that term for the Root and Source of All. The ancient writers of the Upanishads realized it when they wrote:
What that subtle Being is, of which this whole Universe is composed, that is the Real, that is the Soul, "That art Thou."
Gautama the Buddha (the Enlightened) realized it when he preached the liberation of Nirvana -- the full return in consciousness to that spiritual Source from which we went out, but from which we have never separated. Jesus the Christ (the Anointed) realized it when he claimed his divine Sonship -- and ours.
If man has a physical body, it is because there is a cosmic physical world. If man has a mental nature, it is because there is a Cosmic Mind; though this is not so clearly or universally recognized. Professor Eddington has recently made some approach to it in his work THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD by suggesting that the ultimate Substance of the Universe may be "Mind-Stuff." Possibly "Mind-Stuff" may be the ultimate Substance considered as possibility of object or phenomenon as distinguished from subject or Self; but it cannot be that subject or Self, for Mind is just as clearly an instrument of the Self as is the physical body. That Cosmic Self we do not call Mind, but Spirit -- or God considered as the Absolute.
If Man, then, has a spiritual nature, it is because there is a Cosmic Spirit. The root fact is that nothing can appear or manifest in the individual that is not in the first instance cosmic in its nature. The individual is only a particular example of the universal.
The Gnostic and mystical character of the Fourth Gospel can hardly be disputed. In that Gospel, Jesus speaks as the Logos, just as Krishna does in the Hindu Gospel, the Bhagavad Gita. Theology would have us believe that the claim of Jesus to be the "Son" of God was a unique claim; not even recognizing that the use of the terms "Father" and "Son" are concessions to the poverty of human conceptions. They are purely anthropomorphic conceptions. Moreover, it leaves out the "Mother" of the divine Trinity, Father-Mother-Son; but to make up for this, it introduces the "Holy Ghost" and deifies the earthly physical Mother of Jesus.
As regards the oneness of Jesus with that Cosmic Spiritual Principle of the Universe commonly called "God," we have seen that the writers of the Upanishads had already arrived at the conception of that oneness, and it is contained in many other pre-Christian documents.
If for weaker minds the conception of a heavenly Father who personally superintends every detail of their lives is necessary, it was perhaps part of the method of Jesus to supply that need, even as Paul found it necessary.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ ... Howbeit we speak wisdom among the full-grown ... God's Wisdom in a mystery.
Paul's central doctrine was the indwelling Christ, the Cosmic spiritual principle, even as it has been the teaching of the Initiates of all ages. "Christ in you," the Cosmic Logos, the "divine spark," the "light that lighteth every man coming into the world," if the man would but fan it into a divine flame. It is the innermost divine nature of every individual -- nay, of every atom; for in its ultimate nature -- or shall we not rather say, in reality -- there is nothing that is not the very Substance of "that Subtle Being of which this whole Universe is composed."
In appearance, i.e., in our consciousness, things appear to be individual and separate. The trouble with man is that he has lost the consciousness of his spiritual divine nature, albeit he is painfully struggling back to that consciousness. It is a consciousness that he possessed before his "Fall." It is the loss of it that constitutes the "Fall." As that fine Theosophist Jacob Bohme says, it has "faded" with his fall into physical generation. Thereby hangs an esoteric anthropology that is far beyond anything that modern science can disclose, or that traditional theology can accept. Yet it is plainly there in the Bible when you are "instructed." It is not in the Bible merely, but in the writings and sayings of mystics and initiates in all ages. It is the ancient Wisdom Religion or Theosophy.
The historical Jesus, then, we say, was a man like us, but one who had realized his divine nature in a supreme degree. So for us, if we call ourselves Christians, it would be in the sense that we endeavor to do the same thing, and take Christ as our example. Religion is not the worship of or dependence on a manmade concept of a transcendental personal Being, but it is the effort to attain to an ever-increasing consciousness of our own inner and essentially divine nature in its unity, with the ultimate Cosmic Principle -- about which human speculation in terms of the formal mind is futile. As we attain to that fuller consciousness of unity, our powers for action in this world increase, even to the extent of so-called miracle; though anything of that nature consciously performed is merely a deeper knowledge of natural law. Spirit is omnipotent, and can accomplish "miracles" of healing as well as in other directions.
How immensely it would simplify all our "Christianity" if this were universally recognized. Is it not in fact the Gospel of the future: "Christ in you?" But theology stands in the way with its doctrines of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Atonement on the Cross, the physical Resurrection, and what not: all derived from the acceptance of the literal narrative from Genesis to Revelation.
All these theological concepts were formulated at a time and in a community when knowledge and concepts of the Cosmos and of Man's nature were exceedingly primitive. They survive today, but are exceedingly in question, and, indeed, are rapidly being overpassed. They certainly cannot survive for many more generations notwithstanding our modern "Fundamentalists."
With a reformed Christianity, there may possibly be the chance of a reformed world and an end to crime and war.
Finally, and as regards other religions, we may take to heart the words of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, where he speaks also as the Logos, the universal or cosmic active spiritual principle.
"In whatever form a devotee desires with faith to worship, it is I alone who inspire him with constancy therein."
Call it Christ or Krishna, which you will; but it is the Cosmic Spiritual Principle that is the innermost nature of every one of us -- did we but realize it in some practical degree.
A general recognition of this would mean an end to all religious strife and hatred.
By Lily A. Long
[From THE PATH, May 1892, pages 40-43 and June 1892, pages 82-86.]
In a certain country there once lived a youth whose name was Ernest. The mountains closed about the little village that was his home, and the beauty and mystery that dwell on the mountains had folded him in from his childhood. When the sun rose, he knew it first by the pale gleam that grew into light on the highest peaks, and when it set at the day's end, it wrapped those peaks again in purple and violet mists through which the level rays pierced like spears of gold.
Far below lay the valley, where the herdsmen took their droves in wintertime and beyond that again laid the great world of cities, ships, and palaces. Sometimes travelers, crossing the mountain, would bring some word of how life went in that other world. Now it was a war, now it was a famine, and now it was a great rejoicing or a wonderful triumph.
Ernest listened and wondered, until wild longings came into his heart to share in that keener life, and then the rock-bound steeps of his home seemed like prison walls to him. Chiefly he loved to hear the tales that came with others of how some man had arisen to right the wrongs of the people or to sacrifice himself for the salvation of his country.
"Who was the man? What is his name?"
The answer was always the same.
"He was one of the Brothers of the Silence. We did not know his name."
"But who are the Brothers of the Silence? Tell me more of them."
The answer was always:
"No one knows who they are unless he is one of them. They keep their secret bond. It is said that men about the king, in the very heart of the court, belong to the Brotherhood, but no one knows who they may be. It is certain that humble artisans are of the Brotherhood also, and are scholars, travelers, artists, and men who toil with their hands. They work together for a common end, but they work in secret and each in his own way. Only this marks them all, that they work not for themselves. They have vast wealth, but it is used for the furtherance of their common aim; and great learning, but no display is made of it; and power greater than a monarch's, yet it is never shown save when there is need."
"But why are they unknown, and why do they work in secret?"
"Because they work against the king," was the guarded answer. "The king does not rule righteously. Evil is done and suffered, and wrong is uppermost. Those who serve the king seek to break their power. Therefore, they have banded themselves together in secret and do their work so no man knows it. A time will come when the king will learn his weakness and the people will learn their friends. They can wait as well as work.''
Ernest would wander off into the solitary places of the mountains and look out over the level land that stretched away before him. His heart was so full of passionate ardor to share the work of those unknown men that he could not put it into words.
The travelers came less often with their tales, for the mountain pass was dangerous and most chose to take the long way leading past the foothills. In the gorge above, the village ran a swift stream that had never been bridged. More than one adventurer, essaying the passage in the rude skiffs of the mountaineers, had been caught in the fierce current and carried down helplessly over the precipice below. Often the villagers talked together of throwing a bridge across the torrent, but they were men of many little cares, and each season was too full of its own work to leave room for a larger task.
One spring, when the melting fields of snow upon the mountains had made the gorge impassable for weeks, they agreed that they should no longer delay the work. Each man must bring his share of timber, and Ernest, who was skilful and strong, would construe the bridge. Soon tall trees were hewn to solid beams and lay ready piled on either bank. Pins for fastening, planks, and framework were made ready. One day, as Ernest worked, a stranger stood beside him. It was long since he had seen a man from the outer world, and he questioned him eagerly.
"What of the king? Does evil still have power in his kingdom?"
"It still has power, alas."
"Tell me of the Brotherhood, the men who live for the good of their fellows. Do they still work?"
"Yes, and ever will while there is need."
"I dreamed once of joining them," Ernest said wistfully.
The stranger gave him a kindly glance.
"Well, why not?"
"But no one knows where to find them."
The stranger smiled oddly.
"They are never far. One of them was even today at the foot of this mountain of yours."
He waved his hand in farewell, but long after he had passed out of sight, the youth sat pondering over his words. One of the Brothers had been at the foot of the mountain that day! Then he could not yet be far away. Ernest flung his axe to the ground and took the path towards the valley from which the stranger had come.
He wandered far and long. Wherever he went, there were rumors of the men he sought, but nothing more. One who might have been of the Brotherhood was here a fortnight since. It was said another was even now in the next village. Nay, they had all gone to the war on the borders, or the king had discovered their secret meeting places, and they had all been scattered or buried in dungeons. Well, it was not so certain that they had ever existed. There had been much talk, but who could make proof? The rumors flew, and Ernest's seal blew hot and cold as he listened.
It would have been well worth living, truly, if one might have lived and worked as one of such a brotherhood, but if the Brotherhood were chimerical, -- why, it was worth living still in a world that held such wonders as the palaces, pageants, and festivals he saw. The months came and went, and ever as he traveled, some new wonder put the last out of mind. The first object of his search had almost been forgotten when one day a stranger accosted him in the streets of a city.
"You have traveled far."
"I do not recollect you," Ernest said.
"A year ago you were building a bridge over a dangerous gorge in the mountains. You asked about the Silent Brothers then."
"True. And I left the mountains to seek them."
"Have you found them?"
"No. Tales fly about, but many are idle, some are false, and all are fugitive. It is impossible to find the Brothers."
"It is not impossible," said the stranger, with a searching glance, "but vague desires bear no fruit unless they grow into will and blossom into action." He lingered a moment as though he would have added more, then turned and was lost in the crowd.
But his words had vividly recalled to Ernest the hopes and purposes with which he had left his home, and in a rush of passionate self-reproach, he blamed himself for losing sight of that aim in the allurements of novelty. Faithless and vacillating, how could he hope to be trusted with the work of those who first were faithful and steadfast?
Someone touched him on the shoulder.
"Well, will you join us?"
"Who are you," Ernest asked, drawing back in astonishment.
"Do you not know? We know you. We are men who work to overthrow the power of the king. Will you join us?"
"Are you then the Brothers of Silence," Ernest demanded eagerly.
"Who knows anything of them? Have you found them?"
"Yet you have been seeking a whole year! You are a fool if you trust such shadows. There must be a revolution. It will be a thousand years before the Brothers bring it about with their cautious measures. We know a shorter way. We shall bring it to pass ourselves, and then we shall govern instead. Come, are you with us?"
"Yes," cried Ernest. "Why should I wait?"
He plunged at once into a labyrinth of plots and conspiracies that grew day by day more inextricable. There were secret meetings and goings back and forth and mysterious ambassadors on mysterious errands, all of which at first seemed the signs of a most ardent activity in the cause he had at heart.
Gradually, as he became more familiar with the details, an uncomfortable doubt came into his mind and lodged there. It was a revolution they contemplated, -- true; and the government was evil. Was the object of the conspirators to establish a better rule? Little by little, he came to see with fatal clearness that they only sought to overthrow the established order to place themselves in power. Not for the sake of their country, not for the sake of better laws or for the good of the oppressed people were they banded together, but only that they might drain their country of wealth for themselves and make laws that would protect them in their rapine and oppress the people still more bitterly.
It grew upon him like a horror, and as he came to feel himself bound with them, entangled in their plots, and smirched with their baseness, he loathed himself and hated all who had had part in leading him into these underground ways. A year had gone by when one day the stranger whom he had met twice before sought him out.
"You have allowed yourself to be deluded," the stranger said with grave directness. "You must free yourself once and forever from these entanglements if you hope to ever share in the work pursued by the Brothers of the Silence."
"The Brothers of the Silence," Ernest exclaimed bitterly. "It is because I sought them that I am where I am now."
"No, it is because you sought them in the wrong way."
"Tell me, then, do they exist?"
"Yes. I am one of them."
"Then why did you not set me right?"
"Because each member must earn his own entrance."
"I may be misled again."
"Why? The test is a very simple one. The Brothers do not work for self-interest, but for the good of humanity. That is the beginning and the end of their mission. Yet each one has a task of his own to perform, and each must find it by searching his own heart. Use your clearest judgment, your highest ideals, and the best of your faculties, for the work deserves all. In a year, I will seek you again."
The year went by. Ernest had cut himself free from his old associations and joined the army that was fighting on the frontier. He had fought bravely, for the words of his unknown guide remained with him, and the thought that in serving his country he was surely doing the work of the Brothers gave him courage. He had a hope too that his probation might at last be done, for had he not won distinction as a soldier and more than once saved the field from disaster? All the land was ringing with his praise. He waited impatiently for the day when his friend had promised to return. It came.
"Have I won entrance yet," Ernest demanded confidently. He could hardly credit the gravely spoken answer.
"Why? Is not the work I have done good?"
"It is good work and deserves a reward. You will have it, but you have not won entrance to the Brotherhood. That does not come to those who seek it for themselves, even though they seek it by the path of service. There may be selfish ambition even in self-sacrifice, and the Brothers, remember always, are not concerned with the advancement of themselves, but with the good of the whole. Yet, take courage for another trial!"
The reward came, for the king was graciously pleased to recognize Ernest's heroism on the battlefield by making him governor over a small province. He entered upon his duties with high hopes. Here at last was a fitting opportunity! He would govern his people so well that poverty, ignorance, and wrongdoing should be banished from his province, and the Brothers should know that in one corner of the country at least there was no need for their oversight.
He found that the task was harder than he had thought. There had been bad governors before him, and the abuses could not all be corrected at once. The people were ignorant and cunning, and thwarted his efforts for their own welfare. He was inexperienced, and measures that he designed for good sometimes proved so ill advised that their effect was worse than the old were. When the end of the year came, he looked back at the great things he had planned and the small things he had accomplished. It seemed to him that his work had been all a failure. He stood with downcast eyes when the stranger who had grown his watchful friend found him again.
"What of the year past," the Brother asked, his voice kinder than before.
"You know," said Ernest moodily. "At least you know what I have done. You cannot know what I meant to do."
"Why have you failed?"
"Because of my own ignorance, largely," he said at last. "I did not know how to deal with the conditions I had to meet. I see it now."
"Then do you see, too, why you have not yet gained entrance to the Brotherhood," he asked gently. "In their work, a mistake may be fatal. Well-intentioned effort is not enough. It must be wisely directed."
"Yes, I see" Ernest said patiently. "Well, I will study and wait."
His friend smiled as though well content.
Ernest gave up the governorship of his province to plunge into study. With a mind disciplined and strengthened by the work of the last ardent years, he applied himself to assimilating the knowledge that is stored in the wise books of the world. He studied with humility, for his errors had revealed to him his own lack of wisdom, and he worked with ardor, for he felt that a greater undertaking awaited him when he should be fit. In the outside world, the old throbbing life beat on, and ever and anon calls came to him to join in it as before. Some upbraided him with indifference in thus shutting himself apart, but he knew the scope of the task before him and followed it without pause or faltering.
One morning, when the first rays of the sun put out the light of his lamp, he lifted his eyes from his books and remembered that the year of study he had set for himself had gone by. What had he gained? He now had new ideas of life in many ways, new ideals, firmer judgment, and deeper reverence for the men who in the past had thought their way into the deep places of nature. It was strange that so few should come to share it! Strange that the world should go on and men live and die as though this legacy of wisdom from the greatest of earth's sons had been forgotten of all!
"Knowledge stored away and unused is like grain sealed in a granary," said his friend, who, unseen, had come to stand beside him. "The millions on the plain outside may starve for lack of it, and the grain itself will mildew -- if it be not unsealed."
"I understand," said Ernest with a smile. "That, then, shall be my further task."
He shut up his books, left his room, and returned to the world, this time as a teacher. Here a disappointment awaited him at the outset, for the people, busy with their own interests and quite content with their own ideas, were not as eager to listen as he to teach. Some laughed and some doubted, and of all that heard, few heeded, but the burden of speech was laid upon him and he dared not keep silence. Sometimes the children listened, and in their earnest eyes, he read a reassurance that the coming years might see the fruit from the seed he planted. Sometimes a youth who reminded him of what he had been in earlier years came, listened, and went away with a new purpose. Sometimes old eyes, ready to close wearily upon a world that had yielded many cares and little content, brightened with a gleam of comprehension as he spoke. "Ah, that then was the meaning of the riddle!"
When the year had gone by the results seemed meager.
"I had hoped to bring to all men the truths I had found," he said to the friend who came as before, "but they do not heed them."
"They will in time, and your efforts will bring the time nearer," was the serene answer. "One who works for humanity must never lose faith in the ultimate triumph of good. Yet he may not cease to work as though the salvation of all rested with him alone."
"Am I fitted yet to do the work of the Brothers," Ernest asked after a pause.
The other gave him a kindly look.
"One task remains. I leave you to find it."
Six years had gone by since, an eager boy, he left his home in the mountains, and a yearning came into his man's heart to rest again in the high, pure solitudes where he had dreamed as a child. All places are alike to him who holds himself ready for service, so he turned toward the mountains. Steadfast and tranquil as of old, the white peaks lifted themselves above the purple mists as he had always seen them in memory. The dawn softened but could not melt them; the sunset illumined but could not stain them. Down the gorge as of old, the mountain torrent tumbled in foamy wrath, and the little village beside it was no older than on the day he had turned his back upon it to seek the world.
He went to the pass above where the bridge was to have been. The hewn timbers lay heaped on either bank just as he had left them, only that a creeping vine with gay blossoms had twined about the beams that were gray with the weather and green with moss. His unfinished work reproached him, and with a blush for the impatient boy that he had been, he set himself to complete it. Since the villagers were busy as of old, he worked alone.
Through fair weather and foul, he kept to the task, planting the foundations deep and making each part strong and true. The summer went by while the work was yet unfinished. The winter fettered the wild stream, and on the ice, he crossed from shore to shore, still carrying the work forward. The spring came, and he had finished. When the freshets came down from the ice fields above, the bridge stood firm and unshaken above the whirlpool. In the absorption of his work, he had forgotten what day it was until all at once he saw the stranger of that old spring morning standing on the bank, the guide and friend of all the years between.
"You found the task."
"It was yours. No other could do it."
They stood in silence a moment gazing at it, and then the Brother spoke again.
"Do you see now how the way has led through all the years? First, steadfastness came, for without that no effort can avail. Then was clearness of vision, to prove all things and hold to the good. Then came the conquering of passion, and the devotion of all faculties to the service of man and the training of self to the end that others may be enlightened. Lastly, to crown all, the simple duty that lay at your hand at the beginning."
"Is it done," asked Ernest, doubtingly? "Am I worthy to become one of you?"
The smile of the other was an illumination.
"You ARE one of us."
By G. de Purucker
[From THE ESOTERIC OR ORIENTAL SCHOOL: STEPS IN THE INITIATORY CYCLE, pages 37-46.]
Anyone at any time can be a Chela. It matters not the stage of his progress. Whether he can remain Chela is another question entirely, for the path of Chelaship is a very serious matter indeed both for the disciple and for the Teacher. As HPB wrote in 1888, the year in which she inaugurated our present E. S.:
It is easy to become a Theosophist. Any person of average intellectual capacities, and a leaning toward the metaphysical; of pure, unselfish life, who finds more joy in helping his neighbor than in receiving help himself; one who is ever ready to sacrifice his own pleasures for the sake of other people; and who loves Truth, Goodness, and Wisdom for their own sake, not for the benefit they may confer -- is a Theosophist.
But it is quite another matter to put oneself upon the path that leads to the knowledge of what is good to do, as to the right discrimination of good from evil; a path that also leads a man to that power through which he can do the good he desires, often without even apparently lifting a finger.
Moreover, there is one important fact with which the student should be made acquainted. Namely, the enormous, almost limitless, responsibility assumed by the teacher for the sake of the pupil ... From the moment they begin REALLY to teach, from the instant they confer ANY power -- whether psychic, mental, or physical -- on their pupils, they take upon themselves ALL the sins of that pupil, in connection with the Occult Sciences, whether of omission or commission, until the moment when initiation makes the pupil a Master and responsible in his turn ... Thus it is clear why the "Teachers" are so reticent, and why "Chelas" are required to serve a seven years probation to prove their fitness, and develop the qualities necessary to the security of both Master and pupil.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, "Practical Occultism," LUCIFER, April 1888.
I tell you, Companions, that when a deliberate, loyal, and actual choice is made with all the strength of your being, you kindle a light within, and this is the Buddhic Splendor; and it is sensed understandingly, watched, and cared for by the Teachers, and thus you are an accepted Chela. How long will you remain one? There are no perambulating magicians wandering the world, selecting whom they may think to be proper material.
The choice is in you; you choose your path; you make your resolve; and if the Buddhic Light is seen, be it even so much as a spark of it, you are accepted, although it may be unknown to yourself for the time being. You have made the choice, and thereafter all depends upon you, whether you succeed or fail -- fall by the wayside.
Chelaship is self-renunciation for all, the renunciation of self in order to gain the Self, the renunciation of the limited, small, and particular for the general and the universal. You attain Chelaship at any instant by your own choice. Whether you remain one depends upon your own will. A certain stage of progression is of course necessary before one can make such a choice; but every normal human being can make such a choice, because in him spirit and matter have attained a more or less stable equilibrium.
Chelaship may be undertaken at any stage by anyone who can arouse the Buddhic Splendor or the Buddhic Light, called in your Occident the Christ-light, in his mind and heart. It matters little at what stage of human evolution he may stand. If he can make the choice; if he can concentrate his will and his consciousness on the one point of Chelaship -- of succeeding as a disciple -- he is by so much a Chela de facto and will be accepted as such. In the beginning, he often does not know of his acceptance. Even so, he is accepted. His resignation of the lower selfhood on the altar of truth it is that counts; and I tell you, Companions, no human cry for help ever passes unheard, if that cry be impersonal for light, more light. The test is impersonality.
No Teacher would even think of refusing to impart light, when he sees the spark of the Buddhic Splendor. Why should he? It is a duty to live to benefit humanity; and the noblest benefit that humanity can receive is spiritual teaching; for such teaching changes men's hearts; it ameliorates their minds and thereby changes their destiny, and in smaller degree, therefore, the destiny of all surrounding the one so changed. To live to benefit humanity has as its very first obligation to teach others.
One naturally follows the school of the Teacher that one has chosen. But likewise, at any instant of time, the Chela, the neophyte, has the power of choosing, has choice, whether he will, or whether he nill, longer follow his teacher, his guru. In the higher degrees, each neophyte must discover his own especial Teacher. In the lower degrees, this is very much less important, for the teachings are general rather than specific.
In future eons, the disciple must choose whether he will become one of the Buddhas of Compassion or one of the Pratyeka-Buddhas. Companions, mark you, when the choice comes, it will come as the karmic resultant of lives previously lived. It results from the bent of your character, the spiritual faculties aroused, the will made to be alert, ready, responsive to command: all these things will govern the choice and in fact make the choice when the time for choosing comes. Therefore, the training of the Chela, of the disciple, begins at the beginning. Becoming great in small things, he learns to become great in great things.
The relation between Teacher and pupil is a holy one. It is the Teacher's duty to penetrate behind the veils of selfhood of his pupil. The pupil offers himself for this, otherwise the Teacher would have no right to study him, to penetrate behind the veil of reserve, would have no right to sound his character so intimately or gaze into and past the outermost delimitations of the Auric Egg. It is the Teacher's duty to study his pupil, so that he may know, not merely to what degree that pupil belongs, but what that pupil's soul is. He has no right to teach him otherwise. Man is something more than a brain-mind, receiving knowledge by words or by figures or otherwise.
Of course, a Teacher would need to be an incarnate god, one of the highest of the Buddhas, to be able to tell at a glance just where a pupil stood in his karmic evolution, as signified by characteristics of conduct and appearances arising out of the mental deposits; for Man is a Mystery. Under the surface and behind the veil there is a mystery, the mystery of selfhood, of individuality, a career stretching into distant eternity.
Man is essentially a god-like energy; and the Teacher senses this when in the presence of his pupil. He realizes that he is confabulating with a god enshrouded by veils. However thick these enshrouding veils may be, no Teacher looks merely to the aura. That is mere child's play. It is too risky. Too much is involved.
The Teacher needs to study his pupil; for the mere coloring of the aura, its scintillations and crisping nuances of shadow and of light, are expressive merely of the passing phases of thought and of emotion; and it is only the subtle background of tinted harmony that to the trained eye gives the general and permanent character.
I fancy no true Teacher would attempt to judge of a fellow-human being at first sight. Such knowledge is possible; it may come in a flash to the Teacher, intuitively, if you like; but very few Teachers even then would act permanently upon such quick recognition because it would be but recognition of the outermost veil of the student.
It is true that the Teacher with his experience, with his training, with his trained intuition and his trained insight, can make a very good average judgment off-hand of what a pupil is capable of and of the position, mystically speaking, where he stands; but no true Teacher would depend in his judgment solely upon this. He is bound to know his pupil before he attempts even to teach him; because teaching -- and pray, pray, remember this -- in our Holy Order is not merely the passing of intelligence by words, which is comparatively easy; but in the higher degrees is the directing of the life of the pupil, guiding his feet.
Although the pupil must himself walk and choose his direction at every instant, forever, there is the Teacher standing pointing, as it were in silence, in the direction that the pupil should follow. It remains with the pupil to look and to go ahead or to fail. Pupils differ among themselves, just as all other men differ among themselves in intelligence, character, and kind of evolution. It becomes clear that the duties of a Teacher are very onerous and responsible. Pointing the direction in which lies the destiny of an immortal spirit-soul is no light and easy labor.
In our exoteric literature, I have written extensively of the Kosmic Picture Gallery, i.e., the records in the astral light wherein are preserved an indelible imprint or impression of every thing, of every entity, that ever has been, is now, or -- as human beings say -- ever will be. (See THE ESOTERIC TRADITION, pages 1012 et seq. and OCCULT GLOSSARY, pages 20-21.) They exist in the eternal present. For Parabrahman or the Boundless Infinitude knows neither past nor future; for it ever IS.
In a more restricted sense, and turning to individuals, there is what might be described as a picture-gallery, not referring to a building in particular, but to a state or to a condition in the astral light, in which the Teacher may see, as in a passing panoramic show, every condition or state of the Chelas or pupils under him. He can watch as one might watch a cinematographic picture, see every passing phase of thought, emotion, and consciousness. This record, however, no Teacher ever desires to refer to at length.
Every pupil is very intimately connected with his Teacher. There are channels, currents, and streams that continuously pass backwards and forwards between Teacher and pupil, and pupil and Teacher. In fact, the Teacher, by throwing one aspect of his consciousness into such a stream or current, flowing between himself and any one Chela, or pupil, can sense instantly by repercussion upon his own consciousness, the exact emotional or mental status or state or temporary condition in which the pupil happens to be. He is also able to judge there from just about what evolutionary stage or progress to which the pupil has gained or attained.
The imprint or impression will not become distinctly individual until a member becomes an accepted Chela. Then the status of individual and concentrated attention and consideration is given to the accepted Chela. He deserves it in such case. He has gained it. There is no favoritism about it. He has proved himself, standing at the door and knocking. "Behold," as the Syrian Sage said, "I stand at the door and knock," for just as the pupil knocks at the doors of the Teacher's heart, so does the Teacher knock at the doors of the pupil's heart.
Under ordinary circumstances, the quickest and best way by which to know another man is by letting him have his way. This is the greatest test that a man can undergo and come successfully through it. A reader of the hearts of men never imposes orders upon them, unless it is in E. S. work. He lets him show his own heart and mind in his actions; "gives him rope," to use the common phrasing; and it is thus that a man shows himself, or a woman declares herself.
Now, why does the present Leader do this? Is it merely in order to know his devoted men and women? No; that is not the point; for he knows them pretty well and he loves them; but it is to teach esotericism in the outward ranks of the Society by exoteric methods with an esoteric objective. The policy is the same old policy, which Katherine Tingley kept in our heart of hearts. Our methods change, but the policy changes not.
It is to enable you, in part at least, to have the privilege of taking, in time to come, direct esoteric orders. Do you think your Leader, your Teacher, your Outer Head, would give such an order unless he had tested as far as he humanly could, every fiber in the being of the one in whom he confides? The test comes, not by probing, not by spying, not by ungenerously catching one's students off guard and unawares -- all of which is horrible: but by telling or allowing them to understand:
Here is a certain situation. This is what I suggest. Now, what do you think? Do you think thus and so? Do you like that way -- your way -- better than my suggestion? Very well, Brother, then follow your own way. Take the responsibility upon your own shoulders. Develop your own powers as you will.
Thus does a student learn and thus does a man or woman show his heart, in other words what is in him. This is no secret but is an esoteric way of acting. I have voiced it openly repeatedly, and thus have given you fair warning.
Mark you, mark you well; there is no similarity between bringing to the attention and knowledge of the disciple his faults, the evil side of his nature, in order that he may overcome them, and the bringing out of these faults for self-indulgence: there is no similarity at all between these two. Let no one twist my statement. Let no one distort it. The truth is, the disciple must win in the battle with his lower nature, must prevail, or fail. He must kill these things in himself, or they will kill him. This is literally true.
You have read somewhat of what takes place in two of the mysteries of initiation, in two of the initiatory-ceremonies. You have read in symbolic speech, in image-phraseology, somewhat of what the disciple must undergo; and all that is more or less true. The trouble is that these suggestions and hints that you have probably read in literature of trials to face and overcome are not imaginary exactly, but are usually statements symbolic in form of what the disciple has to face; and they should not be construed too literally.
Do not you know that thoughts actually are mental things, mental entities: that, being things, they therefore have form; that, being entities, they have form and therefore have strength and power of their own even as you have? Do you realize yourself that you yourself are the thought of your inner god? You are a poor, an imperfect reflection of that inner splendor, a child of the thoughts so to say of your own inner god, even as thoughts of evolving human beings are entities, living entities, embryo-souls developing and marching forward on the pathway of evolutionary growth.
I dare go no farther in this degree, in explanation, Companions, with regard to these matters. I have given to you the necessary hint; and all I can now say is this: that the disciple's duty is to follow his Teacher's suggestions, and the disciple's own will should be with these suggestions. If not, the disciple either is dropped by the Teacher or pursues his own path with at best the Teacher's good wishes. A part of the Teacher's duty is to show the disciple the evil in the latter's nature: to show him how to overcome that evil, how to transmute it after it is overcome. How can you transmute something that you have not mastered? Again I say to you, overcome the evil side of your nature or it will overcome you.
Whatever happens is the resultant or effect of the strongest of the many karmic elements or energies working to find expression in a life, the strongest finding egress or ingress, as you will. The strongest come into manifestation in your life -- first; and the less strong are not prevented or turned aside but are dammed back, so to say, and await their turn. Everything is like this in life: growth, learning, whatever it may be; it is always the strongest energy that appears first.
In certain very rare conditions and circumstances, it is possible, however, for a Teacher with the full consent of his pupil to prevent the appearance of the strongest karmic energy first, or so to smooth its action that other karmic energies or elements can appear almost simultaneously. These rare cases or instances are always for the benefit either of the pupil or for some great and impersonal work for humanity, and actually can only take place in circumstances and in conditions that are actually within a higher karma of the one so submitting him to the destiny as thus modified. Even here, the karma so modified will find its expression just the same and with its exactly normal condition of power and with precisely normal results.
All pain and suffering are due to karma; everything is karmic. Evolution is not a painful process; evolution is growth. Is growth painful? Is expansion of faculty painful? Is growth in understanding painful? Is growth in the ability to love, to be, to know, and to recognize? Are these things painful? It is human folly, human stupidity, human selfishness, which inject the so-called pain into human life. Nature provides for it even there, so merciful and kindly is she in her operations; for her heart is compassion and she arranges things automatically. It is Nature's law that pain and suffering are our own doing, and are actually our greatest teachers. Forget yourself!
One reservation, however, you should make here. In our own esoteric training, a rapidly accelerated growth -- in other words esoteric training done under a wise teacher -- is often painful, for it means doing rapidly and vigorously what in Nature's ordinary courses would take many, many tens of thousands of years, millions, perhaps. It is painful because, instead of slowly growing to see the beauty and harmony of life everywhere, you must learn to conquer yourself with an iron will, learn to forget yourself, learn to serve in self-forgetfulness, seeing the beauty, happiness, and peace of these. You must learn to give up yourself for the Universal Self. You must learn to die daily, so that you can live the cosmic life. Do you understand? This evolution through training in a way is painful; but oh, how beneficent a blessing it is!
Consider the difference between the refining, purifying, and calming influences of the spirit, and the hot, physical, animal impulses of the lower man. The one, the former, is always selfless, kindly, gentle, loving, forgiving, and impersonal above all else. The other, the latter, is always for the lower self, selfish, egoistic, self-seeking, limited, and mean.
Examine the quality of these influences. Whatever leads you to self-forgetful service for others is always holy, always from the inner swabhava of the monadic essence; whatever is impersonal is always holy; an evil thing cannot be impersonal, no matter how general and wide reaching it may be. Does this then mean that everything that is personal is evil? No, but it means that the personal belongs to the personal sphere, and that fact should be enough for anybody. It is not high. It is not rooted in the Light of Eternity. As you have been often told and urged to do, follow the god within rather than your human and animal impulses. The former method is incomparably easier than the latter. Its fruits are always lasting. They decay not, nor do they poison.
Do not kill the personality; use it; elevate it; change the direction of its evolutionary tendencies; make it become from a personality into individuality. Train the "I am I" so that its whole tendency of thought and the currents of its vitality flow into the "I am." If suppression of the personality is this, then it is a highly commendable thing to do, and it is the training of our School, the main object of this Degree of our Holy Order: self-forgetfulness in service for others, which is the method of attaining the consciousness universal. This path leads to light and peace that endure forever.
It is a very marvelous thing, a fascinating thing to think over, to ponder upon, that just in proportion as individuality increases and personality decreases, do we rise on the Ladder of Life, towards a more intimate individual union with the cosmic divinity at the heart of our own solar system. This applies to all the vast multitude of the human host. Why to the human host only? Any other entity of equivalent evolutionary advancement, any other host of entities possessing self-consciousness, and the other attributes that make man, man, belong to the same category.
We human beings are personal, precisely in the degree that we are not our Self -- strange paradox! Just in proportion as the spiritual individuality is frittered away in rays, so to speak -- in the rays of the lower and lowest part of the human constitution -- just by so much are we not our Self. When we lose personality, it means loosing the hold that these lower parts of us have upon our essential being. It means a gathering together of the hitherto scattered and frittered rays -- the rays dissipated into the various atomic entities of our lower constitution. It means gathering them together into the sheaf of Selfhood, and thus becoming again our essential Self. You see, thus, the explanation of this wonderful paradox, that just in proportion as our personality vanishes, does our individuality increase, and vice versa.
Strive at every moment to be self-forgetful, which means forgetting personal wants. The needed things it is a duty to attend to, but these usually are not personally crippling to the spirit. Also, strive to become impersonal at every moment of your life, for this means entering into the universal consciousness. How grand, how glorious, that is! Also, learn how to love, which means self-forgetfulness, because the first step in loving is to learn how to forgive. There, in these few sentences, you have the entire secret and the essence of the esoteric training in Chelaship.
Practice these and the holy presence will be in your every moment of life. It will be with you day and night, the shining Companion of your silent hours, and the Warrior Invincible always fighting within you and for you in your hours of activity. Cultivating these glorious virtues means success, it means peace, it means happiness, it means perfecting yourself in all great and noble things -- and this is evolution. I tell you that ethics or morals are not conventions; they are founded in the very heart of Nature.
The Masters are watching always for the first sign of the Buddhic Splendor. A ray of it is even now in every one of you, otherwise you would not rightfully be disciples in the Oriental School. When they see this first faint glimmer of the Buddhic Splendor, when they sense it within you, then they foster it. Unknown to you, they watch over you and protect you; stimulate the growth of this tiny flame of the inner divinity. Oh my Brothers, why not help them in their sublime labor?
Carry with you the realization that although you may have taken only the first step on that Pathway that you have heard me speak of, and that I have so often written of, yet you can pursue that Pathway to its glorious culmination, and that even now you are in training for that end. Consider yourselves, each one of you, a disciple of our blessed Masters, for such in truth every genuine E. S. student is. Live a life in accordance therewith, and there in the distance of time, over the peaks of the Mystic East, you will see the rising Sun of spiritual splendor. It will shine directly into your lives, illuminate your minds, and inflame your hearts. There is no recompense in human life equal to the feeling that a man has become cognizant of his kinship with the gods, and that the gods are working with him.