Forms and creeds and dogmas can but obscure the light within; and as long as the mind is led by them, so long -- no matter how high the principles they may seem to inculcate -- it cannot but miss seeing at least one half of the meaning of life: it cannot but be put off with half-truths, and be deaf to the Inner Voice; there can be no glory nor inspiration in the life; the Soul like a lonely wanderer will go on seeking to touch the mind to growth, and the life to nobler standards of character; it will go on seeking to flood the conscious self, the whole personality, with the fullness and grandeur of its power; -- and seeking in vain.
-- Katherine Tingley, THE GODS AWAIT, page 23.
By B.P. Wadia
[From LIVING THE LIFE, pages 60-64.]
Heat what the Voices of the Silence say -- All joys are yours if you put forth your claim. Once let the spiritual laws be understood, Material things must answer and obey.
While the swinging between pleasures and pains is allowed to go on, experiences are gone through but the lessons are not learnt. The Esoteric Philosophy teaches that pain comes after pleasure and then virtue should follow. This happens only when pain has led to honest inquiry as to its cause and to a sincere search for it. Ignorance and illusion, low-mindedness and delusion are creators of pain. Only when pain's educative value is sought do we hear the message of the God of Pain. This is the initial step on the Path of Practice.
The pain that the neophyte undergoes is an experience on a particular curve of the ascending spiral of soul evolution. It begins in the personal Karma of the psychic nature. The probationer Chela of today is tested on the psychological side of his nature. This test begins when personal Karma precipitates the forces of accumulated destiny. The would-be Chela has to learn that no Karma of his, emerging from the near or the distant past and whether good, bad, or indifferent, is useless to him.
When he proclaims that all life is probationary, he soon comes, if he is earnest, to assume the position: "I am willing to be tested." Immediately this statement of THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE takes on a new meaning: "'Great Sifter' is the name of the 'Heart Doctrine,' Oh Disciple." Who and what will help him? If his earnestness deepens his sincerity, he will find this answer: The Esoteric Philosophy and the true Instructors will help. The probationer has turned into a neophyte on the Path and he recognizes the place and the power of the Hierophant. He need not depend on his own ingenuity to overcome his self-made destiny. In fact, he should not. He has to acquire the art of seeking guidance at every turn from his Discipline, his Rules, and Precepts. Nothing else will aid him to Victory.
At this stage, his personal Karma takes a new shape: he sees it not only as revealing defects to be deplored but also as affording avenues to quicker progress. The powers of virtues and of knowledge come thick and fast and begin to function within him, producing changes on the psychological and physiological side of his personal constitution. This necessitates the giving up of some of his past habits, mannerisms, and customs and the adopting of some practices of real soul and mind asceticism. The Holy War is waged according to plan and deliberately. Most of the time, most of the neophytes under tests and trials do not see that the forces that bring varied afflictions on their whole personal being are good and beneficial powers. "Why does only the evil come?" each cries. If he were to inquire and to insist upon an answer, he would learn that he is able to perceive afflictions and weaknesses because of his inner growth.
At this stage of soul evolution, the Guru and the Hierophant teach the Antahkaranic being in him, not his Kama-Manasic being. The Manasic Being or the Inner Ego brooding over that Antahkaranic being stirs up in him the muddy waters of Kama Loka. Unwisely he identifies himself with his egotism and pride, his selfish ambitions, and -- alas! -- He knows not that he is making the task of his Inner Ego doubly difficult. Unconsciously to himself, he spurns the aid near at hand, looking in the opposite direction for succor and solace. This is the very first lesson that the neophyte who has DEDICATED himself to the treading of the Path must learn. (There are probationers who have not dedicated themselves; such are cleaving to mundane existence in varying degrees.)
The Esoteric Philosophy teaches the dedicated ones to cease to worry and be anxious about their bad Karmic precipitations, and to identify themselves with that which is beneficently powerful on the causal plane within. That which comes down and out is of the past -- so much of the dregs of matter, useless for building health, useful only as an indicator of our present inner state of aspiration to build a center of strength, calm, and dispassion.
How can we know that such a center is emerging in our Antahkaranic being? By observing what dirt, dust, and filth is being thrown out, causing no doubt pain and shame to us. One of the temptations of this stage is, "Let me change my environment." At this stage, there is no question of deserting the Path of the Masters, of giving up the accepted Discipline, but the temptation is, "Let me change my environment!" -- as if we were not going to carry along with us our Kama-Manasic forces and as if these were not going to continue to throw out our dregs of matter!
The fight of the neophyte in this stage is not in the outer sphere of environment; it is between his Kama-Manas and his Antahkaranic being on which the radiation of his Inner God and his Guru is focused. He is that being, and not the Kamic tendencies, propensities, and impulses. Whatever the nature of his moods and ebullitions, they are not caused by anyone or anything outside. Outer persons and events are not even the real agents of his probationary testing. These outer persons and things do not try him. The inner Kamic forces of the Elemental world are the primary and the real agents of his testing. This inner process is so complicated that it takes a long period to fathom the meaning of the process, to get over the ensuing evil. In this stage, the neophyte is learning to discern, not yet even to endure. The test of endurance will follow only when he has learnt that his foes are within, are of his own household, and that it is of no use to blame secondary causes.
How unequivocal and emphatic is:
Think not that breaking bone, that rending flesh and muscle, unites thee to thy "Silent Self." Think not that when the sins of thy gross form are conquered, Oh Victim of thy Shadows, thy duty is accomplished by nature and by man.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, pages 32-33
Pertinent is the distinction made between the inner and the outer. Sins of the body are effects of the sins of the Kama-Manasic being. The destruction of the outer sins is not to be achieved by seeking a new environment but by fighting the Tanhaic Elementals and the Skandhaic Lives that are within. These produce the sins of the gross body.
In this stage, we must learn the art of being present at our own funeral -- a very important stage in the developing life of the neophyte. When he dies the death as a Kama-Manasic being and witnesses that funeral, he knows something profoundly fundamental. To be present and watchful at that funeral, he must focus his sight on the corpse, and as a spectator, he must witness the death of his papa-purusha, his form of former sins. It is the calm, courageous, persistent identification with the God within that enables him to discern that his enemy is not created by Mother Earth but by his own Kamic actions. Among the mourners, he will not find his companions but a vast concourse of living Kamarupic beings. His companions will rejoice at his freedom from bondage to the lower and his attaining the light of the Higher. He surveys the Kingdom of the Dead from the altitude of the Kingdom of the Quickened, on his way upwards to the Kingdom of the Living.
By N.A. Lewis
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, May 1947, pages 276-80.]
According to THE CENTURY DICTIONARY, religion is
1. Recognition of and allegiance in manner of life to a superhuman power or superhuman powers to whom allegiance and service are regarded as justly due.
2. The healthful development and right life of the spiritual nature, as contrasted with that of the more intellectual and social powers.
3. Any system of faith in and worship of a divine Being or beings: as, the Christian RELIGION; the RELIGION of the Jews, Greeks, Hindus, or Mohammedans.
4. The rites or services of religion; the practice of sacred rites and ceremonies.
5. The state of life of a professed member of a regular monastic order: as, to enter RELIGION.
Theosophy, in its synthesis of Philosophy, Science, and Religion, certainly contains a religious element, although it is not always easy to discern the exact nature and function of it as distinct from those of the other two elements.
In the study of Theosophy, we usually "lead" with either the philosophical or the scientific interest. It is rare that a Theosophist approaches his study primarily from the religious point of view. If, however, the religious factor does not enter the student's assimilative processes at all, the philosophical effort will achieve mere philosophy, the scientific effort will reach mere science. That would be all very well, but something less of a boon than that which Theosophy has to offer.
Yes, there is more to it! It is the religious aspect of Theosophy that will cause the philosopher to question his concepts, to demand of his mind-images, "Have you reality, have you dimension, do you exist anywhere but in a glossary of philosophical terms?" -- and cause the scientist to follow the lines of analogy, compatibility, and rationality in his pursuit of facts, asking of his theories, "Are you intelligent, true to the nature I know and feel, are you alive with the life I know so well, or are you an isolated gimcrack of the world of the false and the obvious?"
Would it not be fair to say that the very first step in Theosophy is a mystical one? A belief in the principle of Universal Brotherhood is, in itself, a religious realization; in it we can recognize a form of the "superhuman power" mentioned in the first definition of religion given above, an entity that stands above or beyond the individual or group understanding as a source of inspiration, or as a focus of faith. This belief in the principle of Universal Brotherhood is the primary requirement for admission into the Theosophical Society. It has, however, like many a Theosophical tenet, nothing of the dubious and delicate about it, as have some matters of faith, where wording is so much, and the image so important.
Let us turn, then, to the "Elder Brothers of the Race," as they are called, the wonderful and kindly Masters, next above us in a natural hierarchy -- a hierarchy, by the way, which has nothing of politics or accident in its formation, but one of distinctions such as exist between the nature of a Sun and that of a Planet. In fact, the hierarchy of which we speak numbers Suns and Planets among its members. This is that same hierarchy that to all life in all ages, places, and possible situations, has, since the beginningless start of Forever, been pouring downward through infinite channels its wisdom and help, and lifting upward an infinite number of striving and evolving beings. There has never been, in the primeval remoteness of eternity, a time in which this hierarchy was not at work, for it is life itself, it is the very nature of the Cosmic Self. It is to such a tremendous concept as this that we have attached our faith in Universal Brotherhood.
Surely, this concept is religious, if any ever was. It has strength undreamed of in its power of transformation and "redemption" of humanity. What man, once realizing this Great Fact with more than a "matter-of-fact" attention, could ever forget it, or undo its searching work upon his soul? What man could pretend to deny it? What man could believe him if he did pretend? Where is the man whose personal concerns or immediate convenience can outweigh this colossal actuality of the larger life of the All?
Armed with all the puny powers of seventy-odd possible years of manhood or womanhood, with a range of vision of something around 180 degrees, and with a frivolous conviction that many things are true that are not, the unfortunates stand forth to meet this great compassionate giant of the universe. "The unfortunates" is a term including practically all of humanity. They would somehow outwit, outfence, or otherwise trick the great cosmic entity that not only knows all the answers, but also IS all the answers. Alas, alas, this giant has no proper respect for bodies, or even minds; it is too wise to care for the precious little totems of the would-be adversaries. Its great imagination is at work on loftier themes, and more exalted forms than these did! It is too kind, too loving, and too generous to allow the little ones their wished-for triumphs! It kindly has a sense of humor larger than their seriousness, a certainty larger than their hope.
Such is the background of the Theosophist's studies. He is free to deny loud and long if he likes. But the Fact is there, and his recognizing or not recognizing it in no wise alters the situation. This is a common human error: to imagine that one's belief, or the belief of many, many men, can have an effect on the religious truth. How sadly ridiculous this is, each man must, perhaps, experience for himself.
Theosophy is not dogmatic, professedly, or admittedly. We may agree or disagree with this; BUT THE COSMOS IS DOGMATIC. Although it is true that there are many truths relative to many planes and modes of being, still THE WHOLE TRUTH IS ONE TRUTH. No system or mode of worship holds a corner on THAT truth -- let us have no doubts about that! And therefore, no system has any right to dogmatism. But the seeker is looking for that larger dogmatism that is the unalterable law of the Whole Truth. He wants it, and is not interested in the mechanical wonderland of conditional alternatives, and endless modes of categorization. He does not want the artificial achievement of special and meaningless languages, but the truth that can be communicated by language or without it, the indestructible truth.
However, we may occupy ourselves in life, in works that are in larger sense mere hobbies, the mystical quest really stands behind all our other apparent goals, waiting for us to take it up. It lies in wait beyond the apparent utility of science and the apparent significance of philosophy. It lies in wait, too, beyond the conventional stupidities and clutter-headed muttering of much that is considered "devotional," and pious, and religious, and reverent. Where is the true reverence in the narrowness that would brand as a barbarian obscenity the honest facing of the Great Fact of the Universe? For there are certainly men in the world, who, while admitting the existence of a greater whole, still would deny the right of any man to live and act in "recognition of and allegiance" to his realization of the All. To them, religion must remain pathetically a matter of "mere intellectual and social powers."
In the ultimate form of Theosophy, perhaps the student can regard all life as a religious observance, and the whole universe as a monastery, or monastic order, for the larger implications of religious experience transcend the furthest reaches of all other modes and kinds of life and living. Here is a conception of religion that includes sciences, philosophies, and even arts and crafts ... a sense of the soul's destiny that surpasses the desires for all other fates and occurrences. This monastic order is housed in the whole Solar System, and its "rituals" are as old as anything old can be.
But we need not go into false trances and states; we need not behave in a sentimental or unnatural way to be fellows in this order: we belong by nature, and all that is required of us is that we face our experience honestly. This is truly a large order, but not impossible, unlike some of the outlandish means of salvation envisioned by the falsely religious, the insincerely reverent.
Our bodies move in the plane of manifestation of millions of eternal beings, and we participate in God and Gods with every second. Yes, Theosophy does indeed have a religious aspect!
The Theosophist has, if he is AWARE, legitimate cause for deep, honest reverence, and a most complete dedication; and he may, by the God's Grace of his own inner strivings, become aware.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 184-89.]
Do we Theosophists have any doctrine similar to the Christian theological doctrine of predestination? Do we say as the Calvinist Christians, and as many Romanist theologians believe in their hearts, that the Divine foreknew everything before it came into being, and predestinated all and each thing before it happened?
The Divine Ideation of the Monas Monadum, of the Monad of Monads, let us say the Hierarch of our Solar System, or if you wish the Hierarch of our galaxy: the Divine Ideation foresaw, foreknew, knew before, knew ahead, the ways of the working of karma for the Manvantara to begin, to unfold. But this was the knowledge not of an extra-cosmic God creating things and stamping upon these entities and things an irrevocable decree of fate, but merely the forevision of divinity of what the multitudes of monads forming the hierarchies within that universe would, each individual in its own measure of free will, do in the Manvantara beginning to unroll. In the same way, perhaps as a parent or as a Master might do: the parent for its little child, knowing the child's character, will say, I must watch out for this tendency or bias. Or as a Master may say of his disciple, I see in him this leaning. I will be more watchful and helpful in that direction.
The Divine Ideation saw all that would happen; all that was present in the Divine Mind, all that would happen during the forthcoming Manvantara, all that its children would do, how every one of those children would act according to its free will, and according to the divine urge or karma that it itself had effected in the preceding Cosmic Manvantara. In fact, Divine Ideation has not merely foreknowledge of macrocosmic and microcosmic events to be unfolded in accordance with that very Divine Ideation itself, which is the supreme law of the universe to come into being; but that Divine Ideation is the very Architect's Plan of the future universe to be and of all in it up to the end of that universe.
This is a 'Plan' in the sense that the Great Breath that will build the universe is guided and controlled in all its structural or building-activity by the ideal outline contained in the Cosmic Ideation. This Divine or Cosmic Ideation, philosophically speaking, is at once the Past, the Present, and the Future in the sense of an Eternal NOW. The futurity of the universe, as well as its past, is therefore present in the Divine Ideation, and unrolls itself at the beginning of a Manvantara along the lines of karma, guided by the Lipika working under the ideal compulsion of the Cosmic Ideation. This last containing all futurity, by the fact contains everything that ever shall be in the universe presently to come into being, from the beat of a mosquito's wing to the coming of the Pralaya of a Solar System.
While our destiny is indeed written for us not only in the stars, but likewise in the Cosmic Mind, seeing past, present, and future; yet every monad being a child of that Cosmic Mind, a portion of its own essence, has its corresponding portion of free will, and uses it. The misuse thereof instantly awakens the retributive action of karma; the cooperative use thereof instantly awakens the compensatory blessings of karma. "Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance." (THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, page 14)
Thus while there is destiny, there is no fate, for every monad at its heart contains its portion as its own of the divine Will and Intelligence, and is free to use these as it pleases.
Each monad of the multitudes to spring into activity when Manvantara opens, being in its essence a part of the Divine Life, and therefore an instrument of the Divine Ideation, acts according to its own inmost impulses, in the last analysis, through all the evolutionary pilgrimage in the University of Life. Hence drawing its own free will from the Divine Life, its own proportion thereof (and when all is said, acting in accordance with the Divine Ideation, because acting contrary to it is impossible) we see therefore that there is no fatalism in this, and no predestined fate, i.e., the mandate of a power superior to the evolving Hosts of Monads.
Each monad acts out its own destiny in accordance with its own inmost swabhava or character; but nevertheless must obey the Architectural Plan of the Divine Ideation itself. Being, however, a spark of the Divine Life of which the Divine Ideation itself is but a manifestation, we have a picture, immensely grandiose and sublime, of all monads actually becoming cooperators in the divine plan, and acting contrary thereto only at their cost in suffering and misery. There is absolutely in this no blind destiny, no infallible Kismet, no inescapable Fate.
When a Manvantara ends, all monads end as it were with a trial balance. As the Mohammedans phrase it rather poetically, a man's destiny is written in the Book of Destiny. His future is written in the Book by his own previous lives. And the Divine Ideation knew all this because that Divine Ideation -- what is it? -- is the All-comprehending Hierarch, of whom we are sparks.
Thus we teach no predestination in the Christian theological sense, but we most emphatically teach destiny that each man is weaving for himself by his intelligence, and his will, from life to life, aye -- from year to year, from day to day, with every thought, with every feeling, registering itself not only in his character and changing it, but in the Astral Light where molds are left, photographs are made.
As a spider weaves its web, so does a man weave around himself his own web of destiny. Often and often we human beings suffer for things for which we ourselves are not fully responsible. Think! Are you, am I, responsible for the wars that take place throughout the whole world? In one sense we are, as being part of the human race; our thoughts in the past have helped to build up the astral molds in the Astral Light. But as individuals, none of us made the bold strokes that lead nations into war. Yet these wars react on us, react on the unhappy peoples today living in fear and sadness. It was their own karma. They wove it in past lives to be in the midst of things. But as individuals, not one of them is wholly responsible.
This sounds subtle; it is simple if we follow it. A war, so closely is mankind knitted together, in any part of the world affects the whole world today. Prices rise, expenses rise, foods, luxuries are perhaps beyond the means of the majority or are prohibited. Positions are lost, anxiety and fear rule everywhere. Did I do it, because I suffer from it? No; did my Karma put me here by my own acts? Yes, and hence to some extent I am responsible. There are a great many things happening to us that we ourselves as men living in our quaternary -- the lower part of us, the earth-child, the human soul -- are not fully karmically responsible for. Yet there is a part of us that IS responsible, and this is the Dhyani-Chohan within us, the Reincarnating Ego. So there is no essential injustice in this.
In other words, I will try to phrase it in this way. The spiritual part of us is wholly responsible for all that happens to us, for everything that happens to us, for it is the Reembodying Ego, and has lived thousands of lives; but this human ego, this earth-child, the ordinary human soul, is not responsible for many things that the spiritual ego makes it suffer; and therefore so far as it is concerned undergoes unmerited suffering. Strange paradox!
I call the attention of readers to HPB's own words on this matter of unmerited suffering that will be found in her THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, original edition, republished at Point Loma in 1939, on pages 161-162 -- especially perhaps page 162. It is in these two pages that HPB in her incomparable style points out that while the Reincarnating Ego is responsible for all that happens to a man, good, bad and indifferent, the earth-child or the merely reembodied man, often undergoes what to him is unmerited suffering; but as HPB points out on page 162, at the moment of death for a short moment, the PERSONAL man becomes one with the spiritual INDIVIDUALITY, sees and understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception.
He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him.
Thus, while the personal man, the earth-child, the lower quaternary, does indeed undergo unmerited suffering in this life, for causes sown in previous lives, and thus gets its recompense in the bliss of devachan, yet the Reincarnating Ego or the true Actor in Life's drama, IS responsible because the carrier of karma; and thus when the PERSONAL man is united at the moment of death with the reincarnating spiritual ego, even the personal man then sees the perfect justice of all that has happened -- suffering unmerited by the man of this life, but karmically the consequence of the actions of the ego in past lives.
So you see, one part of us is responsible for what the lower innocent part is not responsible for. And it is this lower part of us that after death gets its recompense in the Devachan for all the unmerited suffering, sadness, sorrow, and hurt that it has experienced in life; in other words, the things that it itself in that life had not willingly brought about, but were brought upon it because the Reincarnating Ego unlike its child, the lower man, IS responsible.
No wonder the Masters tell us that one of the greatest things in human life is the cultivation of the spirit of compassion, of pity, of sympathy, sympathy for the souls of men. When we have it, we rise out of our earth-child soul still higher. If I dared, I would even go this far, although it is not a teaching that I should mention in public, but I can hint at it. The spiritual part of us sometimes leads us into sorrow, suffering, and trouble for our own good. It itself becomes responsible.
I say to you, Companions, do not be so ready to blame others, do not be so ready to say, Oh, it is his karma! Precisely that is just your chance to give a helping hand. Inactive in a deed of mercy, you become active in a cardinal sin, as HPB so nobly declares. And you will be held to account. And this lesson does not mean doing things blindly and rushing around in a wild emotion of compassion. It means using your brains.
There are plenty of crooks in the world, and they are making a terrible karma in the world. But when one does know that someone needs the helping hand, it is a criminal act if we withhold it, and we shall suffer karmic retribution for our inaction. Think what it means to us when we in desperate need feel the warm clasp of a helping hand. The courage that flows back to us, the feeling that we are not alone in the world; that there is at least one person who has given us a kindly thought. One touch of the divine heals and strengthens the whole world.
So in answer to the question, does Theosophy teach Predestination, the answer is an emphatic negative. No. But we do indeed teach destiny, which every man weaves for himself, around himself, and from which there is no escape, for it is the fruiting of the seeds sown by our own volition or choice. We do teach the doctrine, sublime and grand, as already stated, of man's free will, relatively so at least, dependent upon his evolutionary status, and of the inescapable Destiny that dogs the footsteps of the evil-doer, and showers blessings upon the doer of good. The one, retribution, is as inescapable as the other, compensation for the good that we have sown.
It is a marvelous thought to reflect that the Divine Ideation at the opening of the Manvantara has, as it were, a Plan of all the future time of that Manvantara, predestinating nothing, reprobating nothing, but, as the Silent Watcher sees it in his glorious wisdom, what its children in that Manvantara will unroll from themselves: the destiny woven in the past. It is very largely in order to carry out the Plan immanent in the Divine Ideation that the Avataras of the gods from time to time come amongst us to direct our vision towards the Laws of Being, and in doing so to guide as well as comfort and aid us human pilgrims.
By Charles E. Benham
[From LUCIFER, November 15, 1888, pages 212-17.]
"The senses," said the Professor as we were sitting over the fire one evening, "are of course our only messengers from the world of existence. They five are the only travelers on whose accounts we have to rely for our information concerning the Is-ness of the Universe. And they five are each acquainted with a different aspect of the Universe. Just as different facts and observations impress variously different voyagers to new lands, so each of these our five messengers comes to us rendering his peculiar version. If there had been one less of these messengers, we should have had a very different notion of things. Now the most important of the senses is of course ..."
"The sense of sight," I interposed.
"Certainly not," he said. "No, the most important undoubtedly is the sense of touch. This is not only because all the senses are but modes or forms of the sensation of touch, but for other reasons. The sense of sight is the sense of touch awakened by the impinging of a wave of ether, just as hearing is the touch of a wave of air. Taste and smell too are the results of touch in the glands and tissues and nerves of the body itself. But the importance -- the super-importance of touch is more apparent when we consider that by it we become aware of the three dimensions of matter. I am speaking of touch in its ordinary sense now, apart from its operation in sight, hearing, taste, and smell. Were it possible to imagine ourselves bereft of the power of touch while retaining our other senses, we should imagine ourselves in a condition in which we could not possibly have any evidence of such a thing as we now call thickness. It would not enter into our experience, nor consequently into our imagination."
"Stay a moment," I said. "Surely you are going a little too far. I follow you when you say it would not enter into our experience -- at least, I think I follow you, though it is exceedingly difficult to clear one's mind of this notion of the three dimensions of space, after being from the dawn of consciousness accustomed to it. It is, I say, very difficult to imagine oneself without it. You might as well try to rid your mind of the idea of time, and then conjecture what manner of ideas would then remain in the mind. It cannot be done without long and deep thought. But even granting that you are right and that all our ideas of perspective and of the threefold dimensions of matter are not due to the stereoscopic effect of our binocular vision, but that they accompany that stereoscopic effect as associations of the results of experiments in the sense of touch, I am still at a loss to understand how that can preclude imagination from picturing to itself so extremely simple a condition of matter as a cube. Nay, I can hardly think imagination could avoid falling into the idea, for space itself must have three dimensions -- no more and no less -- to fill it."
"We had better stop there," said the Professor, as I was just about to explain myself at further length, "as you are already slipping into a good many fallacies. Let us look at this matter a little more closely before our ideas become more complicated and therefore confused. You do not see why imagination cannot picture things that are not stored in memory by experience. This is your fundamental fallacy. Very little thought would show you clearly that imagination could only combine and arrange in fresh forms the materials that it finds in the memory. Can you imagine a color not in the solar spectrum? Why surely all the shades of which this compound color is made up exist in the rainbow. No; I say, tell me if you can picture in your mind a new tint altogether -- a simple color not compounded of nor resembling any tint you ever saw? You cannot; no, certainly not; of course not. Not because there are no such colors, for it happens there are, but because there are none in your memory. Blind from birth, a man can imagine neither light nor color because they are not in his experience. The fact that imagination arranges and does not originate thoughts -- analyses, synthesizes, classifies, sub-divides, re-combines and so forth, the various materials in the storehouse of the memory, but creates them not, is well known to every beginner in philosophy. It is almost an axiomatic doctrine."
"This is true enough," I said, as I felt myself getting wedged into a corner, though I thought I could still see a loophole of exit. "But you cannot deny that many things have been imagined that have never had any existence in experience at all, or how could a novelist or a dramatist originate such characters as a Hamlet or a Touchstone or even a Pickwick or a Sam Weller?"
I saw the absurdity of my remark as I spoke. How often has it happened to me that the very utterance of a false argument seems to invoke the spirit of its refutation? Especially has this been the case in my talks with the Professor. Often enough when I have laid before him difficulties that I have puzzled over all my life, the solution has burst forth upon me while I spoke -- like a lightning flash darting across the cloud of my doubt. I fancy the explanation so uppermost in the Professor's mind that its "sphere," as he calls it, extends into my understanding even before he utters it forth in language. And on this very occasion, I felt my argument answered by a silent forerunner of the Professor's reply.
"Surely," he said, "these very instances that you quote are as good witnesses as could be selected for the truth of what I was just saying. Shakespeare and Dickens were above their fellows in two things; they observed better and could put their observations more aptly into language than others."
Still I was unwilling to allow myself to be completely vanquished.
"But how about Shakespeare's Julius Caesar," I said. "You cannot pretend that he observed the doings of a man who died centuries before?"
"Why not?" replied the professor, and in a moment I again felt within me the mysterious precursor of his reproof.
"Can we not observe the dead," he continued, "when we have their lives and actions before us in black and white? Can we not ..."
"Enough!" I cried. "You are right, and my whole interruption was uncalled for. Proceed. You were telling me, and I see it now, that but for the power of touch we should not, even in imagination, conceive of a third dimension."
"No, we should not," he said. "I am glad that is quite clear, because that is the fundamental statement on which rests all that I am about to remark. If, indeed, some one among us, or some man in past times, or some being of superior intelligence, were to give us an account of a third dimension of space, which with our four senses (supposing we had only four) we could not of ourselves have discovered, we should still find ourselves unable to attach any very clear meaning to his words. We should but be like men, blind from their birth, listening to an account of the wonders of light. We could take it on faith, and if we had reasons for giving credit to the revealer of this unknown and unimaginable dimension of matter, we should probably do well to trust him for this declaration of a third dimension, although we should not be able to understand. It would be faith -- not knowledge. Now what I want to arrive at is this: If the addition of one sense provides us with such a different aspect of the whole universe, is it not a little more than probable that, were yet another superimposed upon the five, we should have an altogether fresh view compared with which the cube itself would be but a superficies?"
"Now," said I, "you are beyond my depth. That I cannot at all comprehend. The cube fills up all space as it seems to me, and compare it with what you will, it cannot appear to be a superficies."
"I see," he remarked, in a tone of evident disappointment, "that you have missed the purport of all that I have been trying to say."
He was wrong, for I saw more than I pretended to see. But I disliked metaphysical theories about a possible fourth dimension, and did not wish to drift off into surmising about the Unknowable, a course that has always seemed to me unscientific and unprogressive.
"How can I put it to you in a clearer light," he added presently, after pausing for a while and looking intently into the fire. "Look here," he exclaimed, as though he had suddenly found the key to my understanding. "Do you believe that there is a Spiritual World?"
"Yes," I said slowly, wondering into what corner this admission would drive me. "Yes, I don't think physical phenomena are at all explicable without some sort of postulated metaphysical."
"Good expression," he said in a satisfied way, which made me think I had really said a clever thing. "You think," he continued, "that a spiritual world exists, but of its nature you know nothing."
"Exactly," I answered.
"Well, what is the difference between believing in a spiritual world -- a postulated metaphysical, as you neatly express it -- and in believing that the three dimensions are not the all in all of being?"
I paused, feeling confused and uncertain and hardly knowing where we were. "Do you mean that," I said hesitatingly, "a spiritual world and the fourth dimension are identical?"
"Why not," asked the Professor, with extraordinary emphasis and earnestness.
"What a strange fancy," I said, "But it pleases me, I must confess; and though the idea is so new to me that I cannot on the moment pronounce any definite opinion upon it, yet certainly I think I have never heard any theory of spiritual existence that seems more possible and more reasonable. The notion is nevertheless enshrouded in vague clouds of doubt that prevent me from accepting it at once, but it is full of suggestions of its own truth."
"Think it over," said the Professor, looking at me steadfastly as he rose to take his departure, "and if when I next call you are confirmed in the opinion, I shall make you my confident for strange disclosures." With a firm grasp of the hand, he bade me good night and left.
For more than an hour after he departed, I sat over the dying embers of the fire reflecting deeply upon this singular idea; and the more I thought it out the more reasonable and the more possible it appeared, and something made me feel it must be true.
It was two weeks before the Professor and I again found an occasion for a quiet chat alone, though we met once a few days after at the house of a friend. It was a singular fact, which I had often noted with surprise, that the Professor would never enter into a philosophic vein of talk except when we were alone together.
We frequently met socially, but no matter how small and select our circle, he would never rise above the most commonplace conversation in the presence of a third person. Indeed, he would always appear a man with very little to say for himself, for it was his maxim that people should argue on general matters only occasionally, on political matters very rarely, and on religious matters never.
With channels of converse barred and philosophy vanished, there was little opportunity left for him to show the real depth and fertility of his intellectual nature. If anyone introduced any abstruse subject, he would turn the drift of conversation promptly and skillfully, edging off the deeper question as though it were something too sacred to be allowed in the social circle. To me, of course, who knew him more intimately, he was a very different being; in fact, I might say I knew, or seemed to know two Professors -- one the learned metaphysician, and the other the easy-going, inoffensive sine qua non of certain dinner parties. I once asked him -- the metaphysical one -- why he kept up this dual nature, allowing himself to be so needlessly underestimated by all except myself.
"I have a purpose to serve," he answered, "in making you my Elisha, and the real fact is that I have no special desire for unnecessary confinement in a madhouse, which might be my lot were I to say publicly some things that I know. Of course, I might guard my most advanced and difficult utterances, but when certain mysteries are daily present to me, it is not easy in speaking of them, to keep within bounds, and I should run the risk of my supposed insanity being certified by the infallible decrees of orthodox medical science. Even if I were not actually made to suffer physical restraint, there is little doubt I should be branded as a harmless lunatic, a consummation I naturally object to, not only personally, but because it would be a serious blow to my mission in the world."
This reply it was that first roused my suspicions, not, indeed, as to the Professor's sanity. I knew him too well not to be fully convinced that his mental faculties were of the highest order, but as to what his "mission" might be, and I began to fancy he had some discovery or secret with which he was thinking of entrusting me. And I was not altogether wrong.
On November 7, 1886, just a fortnight after the conversation narrated in the first chapter, I was alone with him again, sitting as before over my fire. It was about eleven o'clock at night, and after a rather dreary pause, he again referred to his anxiety that the world should not be permitted to ridicule and misjudge his advanced notions.
"Now, candidly," he said, "what do you yourself suppose an ordinary businessman would think of such a conversation as we had a fortnight ago?"
"I should expect him to smile, and put us down as two rather over-inoculated patients of M. Pasteur," I said.
"Good," he answered, laughing. "That is to say, they would suppose that we had taken into our systems such a lot of his hellish virus that we had gone stark, staring mad."
"That puts it more plainly still," said I. "We should no doubt be reckoned mad -- harmless madmen. In fact, it was but the other day I was speaking to a friend of mine -- one of the shrewdest men I know, and he began talking about the very matter that we were speaking of -- a possible fourth dimension of space. How such a subject crept up in our conversation I forget, but I know his remark was that he always considered that a man who could believe in such damned nonsense as that must have a tile loose."
The Professor turned impatiently in his chair, and gave the fire a vigorous and vindictive dig with the poker.
"The shrewdest man you know," he exclaimed sarcastically. "And you -- what did you say to this shrewdest man?"
"Well, I hardly knew what I ought to say. I could not find courage to confess that I was at least half a believer in this very folly that he was deriding. Moreover, I felt that I knew so little about the matter that I certainly could not give any lucid reason for the half-faith that I held. Therefore, though I blush to say it, I gave way to a strong temptation that beset me to change the subject, and no doubt my friend believes at this moment that I have as much contempt as he for such wild notions."
"There is no need to blush because you carried out the scriptural precept not to cast your pearls before swine," said the Professor. "Your shrewd man was not the kind of man to be able to comprehend the possibility of anything existing that could not be made manifest to his five senses. Because his five fingers each touched one point of the great universe, there was no room for a sixth point. That would be his style of logic! What end, then, could be served by talking to such a man of things that were as far beyond the scope of his mind as heaven is above earth? Your silence was commendable. But enough of him. Let us now have a little serious talk. I have some remarkable disclosures to make to you if I find you in a due state of receptivity -- as I have reason to suppose I shall find."
I wondered what he could mean.
Presently he went on. "I have made up my mind," he said, "to show you some very wonderful experiments that I cannot demonstrate to the world at large, simply because, like your 'shrewd' friend, people would only think me mad, and would not believe even if I showed them the experiments before their own eyes. For the generality of men do not believe a thing because it is shown to be true, unless it is orthodox -- unless any of the rulers have believed in it, and, above all, unless it is what they want to believe. But first of all you must make up your mind that nothing that I am about to show you shall alarm you, however strange and unusual it may be. And now look here!"
By Lionel Giles
[From THE ARYAN PATH, July 1940, pages 339-42.]
The title that has been chosen for this article may seem strangely inapt, if not self-contradictory. For practical philosophy, if it means anything, is philosophy applied to active purposes, and we know what Lao-Tzu thought of action in a general way.
Practice inaction. Occupy yourself with doing nothing ... Attain complete vacuity, and sedulously preserve a state of repose ... The Empire has ever been won by letting things take their course. He who must always be doing is unfit to obtain the Empire.
However, we may evade this initial difficulty by interpreting the words less strictly as "philosophy applied to the general conduct of life." How far, then, is it possible or desirable to carry out Lao-Tzu's precepts in daily life? An answer suggests itself at once. Inasmuch as these precepts are mostly negative in character, all that is necessary is to abstain from doing things, and one cannot go far wrong.
Taoism is not quite so simple as that. In the first place, one soon discovers that the injunction to do nothing is not one that can be obeyed to the letter. Not only is it impossible to live without action, but life itself is in a certain sense synonymous with activity, while perpetual quiescence amounts to nothing else than death. Lao-Tzu was fond of coining paradoxes, but we cannot suppose he meant these to stand as universal rules of conduct. To insist on treating them as such and to go to absurd extremes in an effort to conform to the doctrine of inaction would have appeared to him just as forced and unnatural as the opposite course and therefore contrary to Tao. For, professing to base itself on the laws of Nature, Taoism must maintain an equipoise that prevents it from going too far in any direction.
What seems to have impressed Lao-Tzu most forcibly when he contrasted human activities with the operation of natural laws was the excess of positive endeavor and the dearth of what Wordsworth calls "wise passiveness" in every department of life. He saw that the heavenly bodies completed their revolutions, night followed day, the moon waxed and waned, and plants flourished and decayed in their due seasons without visible effort of any kind. The underlying motive power never showed itself, yet everything ran its appointed course smoothly, steadily, and quietly.
In human affairs, what a difference! On every hand, violence was rife. Evil men were grasping at power and holding it by main force. Harsh laws extorted money from the people and kept them in hopeless subjection. The death penalty was inflicted for trifling offences, while starvation and misery stalked through the land. Even if the worst forms of cruelty were avoided, the lives of the poor were made intolerable by prying and meddling from above.
All this, to Lao-Tzu's thinking, sprang from man's itch to be doing something at all costs. If, as he almost came to believe, all doing was practically equivalent to wrongdoing, how much better to do nothing. If the complex machinery of civilized life and social relations could produce only widespread unhappiness, why not scrap it altogether? Away with so-called civilization! Let mankind revert to its primitive state of simplicity, following natural instincts rather than artificial laws. Government could then be reduced to a minimum, yet there need not be anarchy. So, far from being eliminated entirely, the ruler plays an important part in Lao-Tzu's scheme; but he must be nothing less than a Sage, whose wisdom will largely consist in keeping himself in the background and refraining from vexatious interference.
In the highest antiquity, the people did not know that they had rulers. In the next age, they loved and praised them. In the next, they feared them. In the next, they despised them ... So long as I do nothing (says the ruler), the people will work out their own reformation. So long as I love calm, the people will right themselves. If only I keep from meddling, the people will grow rich. If only I am free from desire, the people will come naturally back to simplicity.
Here we have the fundamental belief in the force of example that is so deeply ingrained in Chinese ethics, and that Lao-Tzu appears to have held with the same almost pathetic intensity of conviction as Confucius himself. Although the notion may have been overstressed by them, there is much more truth in it than is usually admitted by our modern theorists. It is certain, at any rate, that good government cannot in the end be expected from bad men. Self-mastery must be attained by one who wishes to control others; self-cultivation by one who wishes to teach others.
Of course, in speaking of rulers and their subjects, Lao-Tzu had in mind much smaller communities than the great and populous countries of today. China as he knew it had long ceased to be a unified empire; it was a congeries of more or less independent states, living uneasily side by side, and constantly encroaching on their neighbors' rights and territories. Lao-Tzu's own ideal was "a little State with a small population, and not more than a hundred men available as soldiers." This clearly indicates little more than a village.
There might still be boats and carriages, but no one would have occasion to ride in them. There might be weapons and armor, but no one would need to use them. I would have them return to the use of knotted cords (as an aid to memory, instead of writing). They should find their plain food sweet, their rough garments fine. They should be content with their homes, and happy in their simple ways.
Such a state of Arcadian innocence has been the dream of reformers and philosophers in every age, and Lao-Tzu may have seen something not unlike it in the more remote village communities of China. But for the vast majority of the world's inhabitants, it cannot ever have been a practicable mode of life, and every day, as time goes on, it becomes more hopeless to think of any such return to a mythical Golden Age.
It is fairly obvious, then, that the Tao-te Ching can provide us with no exact model for the conduct of life. No man can be a Taoist in the strictest sense, nor can a State be administered on purely Taoist principles. To a lesser degree, this is true of most other systems of philosophy or religion; but Taoism seems to be peculiarly at variance with the facts and necessities of ordinary life. Pushed to its logical conclusion, it can but lead to stagnation more or less complete, to a paralysis of human faculties, to intellectual death. But the Chinese are remarkable for their robust common sense, and in adopting it as one of their "three religions," they never seriously contemplated the erection of a State system of quietism and laisser-faire. Syncretism is in their blood, and they were well content to be Confucianists, Buddhists, and Taoists all at the same time. Certainly they felt that much of Lao-Tzu's thought was too valuable to be allowed to perish.
With the gradual transformation of Taoism into a popular religion, we are not concerned here. Alchemy and the quest for immortality, the practice of divination and the control of evil spirits, the canonization and worship of innumerable divinities, even the development of medical science (always closely associated with Taoism) -- these things are remote indeed from the austere utterances of the Tao-te Ching. In spite of the growth of superstition, this treatise still remained a source of inspiration to which men might return again and again. If it did not provide a code of morals and social behavior complete in itself, it was useful as a corrective, or an emollient, of other systems more adapted to the stern realities of a workaday world. It supplied an element of idealism, even of poetry and romance, which was not to be found in Confucian writings, while its outlook on life was more carefree and joyous than that of Buddhism, with its insistence on suffering as the keynote of all existence.
In the course of time, Taoism tended to become identified in the popular imagination with hermits who had withdrawn from the troubles of the world to a life of stark simplicity in the mountains, or with bohemian coteries of artists and poets who, in the true Horatian spirit, filled the fleeting hours with wine and revelry. But the message of the Tao-te Ching was not merely to these few. It was addressed to all who had ears to hear, and more especially to those in a position of authority. Thus, the ruler of a state is constantly reminded of his true place in the order of things. He must "make humility his base" and "wishing to be above the people, he must by his words put himself below them. For in this way, the people will not feel his weight." He must eschew luxury and self-indulgence and make every effort to lighten his subjects' burden.
Where the palaces are very splendid, there the fields will be very waste, and the granaries very empty ... The people starve because those above them devour too many taxes; they are difficult to govern because those above them are meddlesome; they are indifferent to death because those above them are too grossly absorbed in the pursuit of life.
The death-penalty is expressly condemned in these striking words:
There is always a Power that presides over the infliction of death. He who would take the place of this Power and himself inflict death is like a novice using the tools of a master-carpenter. Of those who use the tools of a master-carpenter, there are few who will not cut their own hands.
Lao-Tzu lived in a period known to historians as that of "The Fighting States." His attitude to war is again uncompromising.
Weapons, however beautiful, are instruments of ill omen, hateful to all creatures. Therefore he who has Tao will have nothing to do with them ... There is no greater calamity than lightly engaging in war ... Where troops have been quartered, brambles and thorns spring up. In the track of great armies, there must follow lean years.
The final injunction to the ruler who successfully carries out this teaching is to seek no recognition for what he has done. "When your task is completed and fame has been achieved, then retire into the background; for this is the way of Heaven." After he has conferred prosperity on the people, the means he has used should remain undivulged, so that they may say, "We have come to be as we are, naturally and of ourselves."
What of the plain man who holds no official post but needs guidance too in his everyday life? He will find in the Tao-te Ching many sensible words of advice that he can accept without question, some also that may seem a little strange.
Be sparing of speech, and things will come right of themselves ... Keep the mouth shut, close the gateways of sense, and as long as you live, you will have no trouble. Open your lips and push your affairs, and you will not be safe to the end of your days ... Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.
We see that Lao-Tzu anticipated Carlyle in preaching the gospel of silence. He also set great store by the virtues of gentleness and humility.
Gentleness brings victory to him who attacks, and safety to him who defends. Those whom Heaven would save, it fences round with gentleness ... There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, yet for attacking things that are hard and strong, there is nothing that surpasses it ... The soft overcomes the hard, the weak overcomes the strong. There is no one in the world but knows this truth, and no one who can put it into practice ... Keep behind, and you shall be put in front ... He that humbles himself shall be preserved entire ... Goodness strives not, and therefore it is not rebuked.
But it is in dealing with the problem of evil, and especially in his reaction to wickedness in other men, that Lao-Tzu broke entirely new ground and must have incurred sharp criticism from his contemporaries. "Even if a man is bad," he said, "how can it be right to cast him off? ... Requite injury with kindness." And again, "To the good I would be good; to the not-good I would also be good, in order to make them good." In another saying, one of the most arresting in the whole of the Tao-te Ching, he enlarges upon the same theme.
Among men, reject none; among things, reject nothing. This is called comprehensive intelligence. The good man is the bad man's teacher; the bad man is the material upon which the good man works. If the one does not value his teacher, if the other does not love his material, then despite their sagacity, they must go far astray. This is a mystery of great import.
It is hard to realize that such words were spoken several centuries before the Christian era.
By Leoline L. Wright
[From REINCARNATION: A LOST CHORD IN MODERN THOUGHT, pages 13-18.]
Insofar as we have gone, we discover that man is a composite being. We have already observed three elements in his constitution: a personality known to friends as John Smith or Mary Brown, and back of that a deeper reservoir of consciousness expressed in the ideal desires of the nature. Lowest of all there is the animal consciousness, including the body, the vehicle of these two higher aspects in human life.
These three elements can still further be resolved until we see man as a sevenfold being. In restricting our study now to the subject of reincarnation it will be necessary to regard him only in the threefold division above indicated. This corresponds to St. Paul's description of man as body, soul, and spirit. Christian theologians, however, have persistently ignored this division because they have no conception of the nature of Spirit. In making this threefold division, St. Paul proved himself familiar with the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, today known as Theosophy.
It is the higher, ideal nature above referred to which reincarnates. The technical name used in Theosophy for this higher part of our consciousness is MANAS. This is a Sanskrit word and means 'the thinker,' so we may call the Reincarnating Ego the Thinker in man. It is the origin of our SELF-consciousness, of the faculty of introspection, and of self-realization. Through it, we relate ourselves to life, understand what we are learning, and so build into ourselves in the shape of character and propensities the lessons derived from evolution.
Without this center of permanent individual consciousness in which the results of evolution can be preserved, the fruit of experience would be dissipated at death and no progressive evolution would be possible. Through this spiritual part of us comes also the voice of conscience. From it, we draw high inspiration, unselfish love, intimations and intuitions of the divine, and all impulses to impersonal, magnanimous thought and action.
Thus, two selves exist within us: the Self of the Ego, or Thinker, which persists through all our reincarnations; and the self of the personality, which is mortal and breaks up at death. It is the play of consciousness between these two that is the great mystery of life. Both of these selves, as yet contradictory in desire and purpose, make us what we are. How familiar everyone is with the duel between them, which is constantly going forward within us! The voice of selfish temptation and the call of incorruptible conscience -- each striving against the other for mastery.
The struggle is of a depth and complexity unsuspected until we start out in earnest to conquer some habitual fault, like a bad temper, or a weakness of some kind, or an ingrained selfishness. How quickly then we find all the forces within and without us arrayed either on one side or the other! The victory in such deep-seated, essential strife as this between the two natures of man, is far too many-sided and involves too wide a range of influences to be completely secured in one short life of limited experience. The struggle must be met under myriad conditions and attained by means of many experiences in life after life until at last complete mastery remains with the higher nature.
What is the origin of this duality within us? Why should man be both noble and ignoble? Theosophy describes how the external, animal vehicle of man was built up in long past ages of evolution on our globe by the lower, instinctual forces of Nature. Slowly it was shaped under the action of evolutionary law as a vehicle for the Reincarnating Ego.
When this vehicle of body and animal consciousness was ready, the Spiritual Ego took it in charge, incarnating there to overshadow and guide its further development. The presence of the Ego now began dynamically to change, to mold, this vehicle for experience in human life. The spiritual fire of the Thinker through life after life stimulated and developed the growth of the animal man, so that gradually it unfolded or evolved under this creative influence a semi-independent personal consciousness of its own.
This personal consciousness, expanding slowly, slowly through ages of incarnation under the inspiration of its overshadowing Ego, became the human personality. And now not only is it an instrument through which the Ego may manifest its own divine powers, but gradually by its own struggles and victories under the urge of conscience -- the personality itself is evolving. It unfolds and expands, and rising out of the limited personal consciousness, achieves thereby its own immortality.
By subjecting our lower selfish natures to the influence and guidance of the higher, we enable the Ego to express its light on this plane and thus exercise and expand its own divine potencies. On the other hand, gradually raising our personal consciousness, we lift it at last onto the plane of the Spiritual Ego, and so the human transmutes into the immortal man. Thus, the whole nature in all its elements has passed upward into a more advanced stage of consciousness. Dr. G. de Purucker gives a graphic statement of this lifting of the whole being in all its parts.
The work of evolution is ... the raising of the personal into the Impersonal; the raising of the mortal to put on the garments of Immortality, the raising of the beast to become a man; the raising of a man to become a god; and the raising of a god to become still more largely divine.
-- G. de Purucker, FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, 287
But indeed, the personal part of us is only on the evolutionary road to such perfection. We are yet far from the goal. The whole race is held in the grip of its ignorance of the spiritual, in the grip of suffering and confusion of mind and heart, because we have not yet learned to center our consciousness in the permanent and real part of us -- the Spiritual Ego. We are immersed almost altogether in the personal interests of our nature. And this personality is mixed, a mentality, combined with passion, with emotional qualities, with physical traits and appetites.
At different times, any one of these may hold the mastery. At one moment, the individual may be calculating with keen and absorbed mind, at another time swept from his moorings by a gust of violent anger. Again, physical pain or illness may turn him into a creature of ailing impotence. But seldom is any one of us for long the same. We pass from mood to mood and our outlook on life changes perpetually and is never stable. And like all composite things this unstable personality must break up when the time comes for the dissolution of the different energies and classes of life-atoms of which it is composed. For only homogeneous natures are immortal.
This bundle of personal energies, when it is broken up at the withdrawal of the Spiritual Ego into its own sphere, in other words at death -- leaves behind it what in Theosophy are called SKANDHAS. When a plant withers and dies, it drops into the earth the seeds that are the fruit of its little round of growth and development. From these seeds, other plants will grow up when the cycle of the seasons has brought back the conditions necessary for their germination. If it was a fragrant violet, its seeds will produce their lovely kind. If it was a ragweed, more ragweed will appear.
So it is too with the psychological-animal organism of man. When it dies and fades out it deposits in Nature's psychological soil or reservoir those invisible seeds of energy that its own growth has produced. Theosophists call these seeds or effects SKANDHAS, using the Sanskrit because there is in English no word that can exactly describe these inner consequences of a life's experience. And it is these seeds or SKANDHAS, or attributes of character, which shape the new personality when the Ego returns to incarnation, making it the exact result of what it thought and acted and built up of character in the last life.
That in man that reincarnates, then, is the Spiritual Ego, the higher part of our human constitution.
By G. de Purucker
[From THE DIALOGUES OF G. DE PURUCKER, III, pages 426-31.]
Please remember that nirvana, devachan, kamaloka, and avichi, are all conditions of consciousness, and it does not matter two pins where that consciousness is because the locality, if an entity is in a state of consciousness, cannot affect that state at all. A man may be in nirvana although he is living upon the planet Mara, which to us human beings is like a hell. A man living on one of the higher planetary chains of our own solar system may be in a kamaloka in that chain, or in the avichi belonging to that particular globe of that chain. Each chain has its own globes, each globe has its own inhabitants, and these inhabitants are in a certain specific evolutionary stage.
Being in this specific evolutionary stage they will have conditions of consciousness corresponding to it, so that what we call nirvana, devachan, the so-called conditions in kamaloka and the avichi are not absolute, each one identical for all possible planes of the universe, but are all relative. As should be obvious, the nirvana of one living on the highest cosmic plane is incomparably higher than the nirvana of one living on the lowest cosmic plane, and exactly so for any other state of consciousness, whether of devachan, kamaloka, or avichi, which can be repetitively reproduced on higher or lower planes.
To revert to us human beings: when we speak of the devachan as being spiritual -- highly spiritual, I venture to enter a caveat, a word of warning. I know I myself have used that identical phrase and have regretted it. It is true in a vague way, but it is the conditions of the nirvana, when we come right down to brass tacks, which are spiritual. The conditions in the devachan are mental. Mind you, I am not saying high or low, or intermediate. I leave that for your own intuition to determine. It is easy.
The entity in the kamaloka is in the kama-manasic state, the lower mentality manas, with emotions, feelings, what not; and likewise the same goes for the conditions of consciousness of entities in the avichi. Spirituality is for the nirvani; high mentality, a spiritualized mentality, for the devachani; emotional and lower mentality for one in kamaloka; and intense mental suffering and emotional stress and storm for the one in the avichi.
Live a life striving towards the gods, your death will be peaceful, your kamaloka will be nil, because no kamalokic seeds have come into your life. Your devachan will be relatively high and very short, or very long, depending upon your karma, depending upon the longing of your heart.
In connection with all these thoughts, there are exceptions, there are things to remember, which would change individual cases. Take for instance a Chela. Now if we did not know of the teaching, we would say: Oh, a Chela, a very lofty man or woman -- surely that means a long, long, long devachan of rest and happiness and peace; won't it be beautiful for him when he dies! But you see that is not what the Chela wants. He is striving to reduce his devachan. He is striving to become spiritualized rather than merely loftily intellectualized; he is striving to come back to earth to help. His heart is filled not with kamalokic instincts, nor with devachanic instincts, nor even with nirvanic instincts that he resigns. But his whole being is filled with the love of everything around him. He wants to come back, he wants to help, and he wants to give himself. His whole being is spiritualized. The result is that in him there is very little of the making of the devachani. Do you follow the psychological thought there?
Now a baby of course has no devachan, for obvious reasons. It has not had thought and feeling enough to make a devachan. Likewise, a baby has no nirvana, and it has no kamaloka, no avichi, for the same reason. But a grown man can easily be in a devachanic state because he is cultivating it while living. This is still another aspect of the teaching. He may actually have cut his devachan short, and have in his auric egg a psychological urge or impulse to go back to the devachan and rest like a most tired man rising from his bed before his body is fully recuperated. At the least temptation, he wants to sit back in his chair, relax, and go to sleep, so that from a number of causes men can be in the devachan while embodied.
I still am not satisfied, Mr. Chairman and Companions, and confess to a very wee, very wee feeling of irritability. I trust you will forgive me if I speak with a certain amount of undue energy. This matter really is so simple. For fifty years, the teaching has been given, turned, and twisted, turned inside out almost. Questions by the thousand have been answered, and yet some of our most devoted members with their high powers of understanding do not seem to have grasped the simplest thing about the devachan.
It is simply that it is a state of consciousness in which a man or a woman enters after death, or during life perhaps, simply as the karmic result of the sum total of the workings of that consciousness while the man was alive. That is all there is to the devachan. If you live a life that is productive of a devachan, then you are going to get it, because that is in your stream of consciousness; that is you. That seems so simple. If you live a life while in the body that is passionate -- and passion means many things, please remember: anger, hatred, detestation, and prejudice, etc. -- you are simply building for yourself a vivid kamaloka. Inevitably, because it is yourself; and when you die you simply carry on as yourself.
All the other details of the teaching about the various bodies, and the throwing off of the kama-rupa, and all that, are merely the exoteric fringe of the teaching. The real teaching lies in understanding the fact that man is a stream or center of consciousness undergoing various phases, and that he can control these phases, or become subject to them. He can master them or he can become enslaved to them. If he finally masters them, he becomes a mahatma. If he becomes enslaved to them, he becomes a slave to his lower self. That is all. You are going to get exactly, precisely nothing else but exactly and precisely what the sum total of your thoughts and feelings during life has been.
Let us take the case of the good man who is beginning to lose the love of himself, who is beginning to take an interest in others, in the stars, and in the sun, and in the beauties of nature. He is becoming impersonal. This cuts the root of that which produces devachan. Impersonality. Probably his death will be as peaceful as the dropping of a leaf from a tree. He will not know when he dies. There will be no kamaloka. There has not been anything in his life to produce a kamaloka; the Second Death will come almost -- oh, we cannot say immediately, it depends upon the individual -- but quite soon relatively speaking, and he won't realize that it has taken place. The kama-rupa will just drop away, and being of high astral substance will disintegrate quickly. Then the entity simply passes right through the lower devachanic regions; it is not attracted by them as there is not anything of the lower devachan in his being. He simply rises right up to higher levels of the devachan, perhaps even touches the fringes or enters into the nirvana-condition.
Therefore, the time comes when a man is embodied in life after life until his evolution is so far progressed that he passes beyond the devachan. He does not need it as there is not the need for rest and recuperation. The ego is not tired, it is not weary, there has been nothing in the past life to produce the devachan, he is a mahatma, in the highest conditions a Buddha, and can enter the nirvana even when alive, and rest there.
Thus spirituality is the mark of the nirvani; high or spiritualized intellectuality is the mark of the devachani; emotional enslavement particularly if connected with instability, and mental enslavement, one's likes and dislikes, hatreds and loves, are the typical seeds producing the kamaloka, whereas the avichi stands in a class by itself again.
The average man and woman is entirely too weak to enter the avichi -- fortunately. The avichi, as states of consciousness (for the avichi comprises many states), is entered or undergone by those beings who are more or less high in spiritual wickedness, in other words, men and women with high native talents who deliberately prostituted these to the use of evil. That produces the avichi. A true individual in the avichi is beyond all ordinary human temptations, ordinary human passions. He is above them, or below them. I hardly know how to phrase it. They do not touch him; they are too gross.
The avichi is a kind of inverted spirituality. One belonging there has no love for life on earth, no more so than has the typical nirvani. His love, his hope, his life, is in a desperate alliance with evil, if you can conceive of this thing. Human beings can be in certain of the higher states of avichi, which means for us the feebler states, while embodied. I have seen men and women in an avichi state. They had no realization of it. They were perfectly convinced that they were doing just the right thing; and yet they had chosen with deliberation at that time to do an evil thing because they liked it. They liked the evil for its own sake. They did not want to hurt anybody. But evil itself attracted them. I wonder if you understand this. There are human beings like that.
By Geoffrey West
[From THE ARYAN PATH, February 1934, pages 75-79.]
The modern study of Theosophy, for the West at least, begins, and in a sense ends, in the work of H.P. Blavatsky. To those teachers who went before her, she has done more than anyone to draw our attention has. She has had, yet, no successor.
Thus, while in essence Theosophy is universal beyond localization, it comes to us in a specifically Eastern form, and, as such, one that the average, even the average intelligent, European finds so intensely disturbing to his whole mode of thought that his inclination is to reject it out of hand. True, there are increasing signs today of a widespread change or development of outlook. The existence and power of psychic and spiritual factors, the validity of a knowledge and wisdom anterior to Francis Bacon and even Aristotle, are no longer denied with nineteenth-century confidence even by the so-called trained scientist.
These tendencies must develop far before anything approaching the Theosophical standpoint becomes widely acceptable, and meanwhile it is inevitable that the casual observer should tend to attach doubt if not downright disbelief to almost all its most eminent exponents through the ages. For every one of them, regarded from the strictly Western point of view, was odd, dabbled in the marvelous, taught the incredible, performed the impossible. These trailing clouds of glory, warrants of power for him who believes, the skeptic deems but the dubious clammy cobwebs of impostorship. Yet, somehow, the conviction persists of their understanding, insight, achievement, and knowledge. Self-assured investigators may "expose" them repeatedly -- and still they stand, to demand, and to receive, attention.
Regarding the universe as it is depicted to him by the modern astronomers and physicists, man shrinks to a bewildered atom amid these cold immensities, stoical or whimpering in his fearful loneliness. He seems to bear the burden of all time and space, indeed of eternity, upon his single shoulders. Western science proffers him no key. In its confessed failure to describe the photon, we have the analogue of its failure to describe being. Certain factors (speed) can be given only by omitting other factors (mass) -- or vice versa. Analysis, in the last resort, must always fall short. What then, one asks, and turns to find Theosophy whispering of a key whose essence is knowledge not of the intellect but of the being. It is an act not of a partial but a total perception, suggesting that it is the saint rather than the scientist who is the ultimate "seer" of the true nature of reality, for he alone is fully attuned AS AN ORGANISM to perceive organically the object of attention whatever it may be.
We ask were these Theosophical teachers, bearing the reputation and seeming at first glance impostors, really of this higher caliber? Not only, what did they teach, but also what were THEY that we should listen to them? Let us take a few, some half-dozen, not wholly at random and yet without any attempt at a complete conspectus; say -- Paracelsus, called the Father of European Occultism; four such diverse eighteenth-century personages as the Comte de Saint-Germain, Mesmer, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, and Cagliostro; and last, and inevitably, H.P. Blavatsky. Let us seek to see them in some sort as they truly were, with Western and yet with understanding eyes; and, having regarded them one by one, to see what significance they hold for us, the West, today, and for the future development of Theosophy in the West.
Paracelsus -- Why and how justly was he termed the Father of European Occultism? Wide factors are involved in the answering of such a question. Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim -- he adopted the name of Paracelsus at the age of seventeen -- was born at a critical, in fact decisive, moment of the world's historical and spiritual development. The Renaissance was spreading its ferment over Europe, with the wave of the Reformation close behind. New discoveries, new curiosities, new ideas were active in every field of thought and action. The modern world was dawning after the long night of the Dark Ages.
The previous thousand years had been dark indeed. The bright illuminations of Alexandria and the East -- of Rome even -- had been stifled persistently and ruthlessly by an all-powerful Church whose lust for temporal power had blinded its spiritual understanding. The torch of Neo-Platonism raised by Ammonius Saccas in the third century was extinguished in Alexandria with the mob-murder of Hypatia in 415, and before the end of the sixth century, its last reflection seemed dead in the wider world. Simply, it vanished, for over nine hundred years.
Suddenly, we find it in revival, even before Paracelsus. How had it survived to emerge after all these centuries? What ark had borne it safely across this protracted flood? For answer, we must look to the persistence of the specifically Kabbalist knowledge. It is Jewish in form but of a more ancient and wider origin, which remained a national possession, a traditional wisdom passing from teacher to student, initiate to initiate, "face to face and mouth to ear," in Palestine, in Egypt, in the Near East, then more and more widely over Europe as the Jews were scattered westward. From the twelfth century forward, there were known to be Kabbalist schools in Spain, Italy, and Germany at least. It was thus that the essential hermetic knowledge, directly deriving from the teaching of Simeon ben Yohai but clearly allied both to that of Ammonius AND to the Gnosticism of Simon Magus, was never lost, though often distorted, misunderstood, and misapplied.
In the strict sense, Paracelsus taught nothing new; but very little study of the "alchemistical philosophers" who preceded him is necessary to realize that. Practically without exception, his main principles were the common possession of the other outstanding occult initiates of his own day. On the face of the facts, there is no particular reason why his teacher Johannes Trithemius, or Cornelius Agrippa, his fellow-pupil under Trithemius, should not have achieved as he did. Madame Blavatsky has declared Trithemius to be the greatest Kabbalist of his day, and he was a master of the arts of magnetism, telepathy, magic, and alchemy. Agrippa too had both wisdom and great energy.
Paracelsus, unlike either of them, was primarily neither scholar nor mystic but physician. He lived and died -- whether the latter by violence or disease -- a doctor. Perpetually questing, in Browning's words, "to comprehend the works of God, and God himself, and all God's intercourse with the human mind," he applied his knowledge, as he won it, primarily to the art of healing. His purpose and his task led him into many strange paths, but he forsook neither.
His comparatively brief life -- he died at forty-eight -- falls into three periods, the first of youth's dedication to an aim, the second of conscious pupilage culminating in attainment of understanding, the third of the master, the man of knowledge speaking with authority, demonstrating his powers in action and teaching with tongue and pen. In each phase, he was a wanderer, without -- once boyhood passed -- a home, poor in friends though with, alas, no lack of the harsh coin of others' hatred.
He was born in 1493 near Zurich in Switzerland, but was only nine when his father, the distinguished doctor Wilhelm Bombast von Hohenheim, was appointed town-physician at Villach in Carinthia, whither the two of them, for Theophrastus was an only child, and his mother was already dead, went to live. There he had his first schooling, but when sixteen returned to Switzerland to the University at Basle. Later he studied at Wurzburg as the pupil of Trithemius, and then in the laboratories of Sigismund Fugger, a noted alchemist, at Schwatz in the Tyrol, where he wrote his earliest work.
Clearly, his transcendent aim was fixed, but, it soon appeared, he had to follow it in his own way. In boyhood, he had been his father's constant companion, accompanying him upon his medical visits and learning from him both theory and practice of chemistry, alchemy, surgery, and medicine generally. Having thus had his first lessons in the world, he never took kindly to the study. Scholastic methods he found pedantic, unprofitable. He was never a reader of books, save "the great open book of nature, written with the finger of God." Like all the great figures of the Renaissance, he relied upon his own living perceptions: while he could recognize the profound qualities of such a teacher as Trithemius, the world was, first and last, his ultimate laboratory.
In this assurance, in 1516, aged twenty-three, he deliberately set forth as a pilgrim upon the roads of Europe, of which, in the next five years he left little unvisited, traveling unburdened, learning as life might teach, and despising no knowledge whatever its source. He passed in turn through Vienna, Cologne, Paris, Montpellier (the very stronghold of orthodox medical opinion), Italy, Spain, England, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, Bohemia, Poland, Transylvania, Wallachia, Croatia, and the Balkans, whence he entered Russia, penetrating as far as Moscow.
In Russia, he became acquainted, as either prisoner or guest, with the Tartar ruler, and accompanied his son to Constantinople in 1521. There he is said to have lived for some months in the house of a great occultist, under whose tuition he received "the Philosopher's Stone" -- his final initiation into that higher occult and spiritual understanding that thenceforward he owned in higher degree than any other Western student of his age has.
Who was this instructing occultist? Some would say Solomon Trismosinus, a reputed initiate whose very existence, however, some well-informed students of the period would deny. It has also been declared that Paracelsus himself penetrated to India and even Tibet, but he himself stated explicitly, "I visited neither Asia nor Africa, although it has been so reported." Presumably, the basis of the legend is the extent of his knowledge, and its consonance with Eastern teachings, but he had his teachers, and -- truth knows no geographical limitations. He did in fact say that, "all Wisdom comes from the East; from the West we can expect nothing good," but H.P. Blavatsky on the other hand suggests that identical teachings do not necessarily derive one from another, "for an eternal truth may as well be recognized by one seer as by another."
He was now a master, in the realms alike of occult knowledge and medical practice -- the one implied the other. His wanderings were no more ended, and one might almost say that his troubles were only beginning. All not simply blinded by prejudice could not but recognize him as a truly distinguished physician. His powers were manifest in his seemingly almost miraculous cures, but these very things roused professional jealousy against him wherever he went. He could not long settle in any place, to draw about him a circle of student disciples, before his very life was threatened and he was forced to fly. (Admittedly, his vigor and bluntness in controversy, or in denouncing the laziness and ignorance of the doctors as a whole, and his quite evident contempt, did nothing to allay their resentment!) He had thus to leave Bohemia, Poland, Wurttemberg, Strassburg, Basle (where he had been appointed town physician and professor of medicine in the University), Nuremberg, and other places.
For a while, he was reduced to absolute poverty, possibly relieved in 1537 by receiving some property from his father who had died in 1534. Not until the spring of 1541 did he find, at Salzburg where he was welcomed by the Duke Ernst of Bavaria, another occult student, what might have been a home. But his rest was brief, for he died in the following September, murdered at last, some have said, by his old enemies, though other evidence suggests a natural death from an incurable disease contracted in the course of his wanderings.
By Clare Goldsberry
By now, we've all been inundated with the televised visual images of the horrific destruction caused by the massive 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean that triggered the tsunami resulting in what officials are now estimating at over 200,000 deaths. The images are heart-rending: children left as orphans and parents without their children; homes and livelihoods ripped out to sea by a wall of water unimaginable to most of us. People all over the world are asking why, even as they compassionately donate money, goods and time to relief efforts.
Some in the Evangelical and Christian fundamentalist churches are excitedly viewing this event as one more proof that the Book of Revelation is coming to pass; that God is reaping destruction upon the heathens of the world who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Those readers of Timothy LeHaye's "Left Behind" series, which details the "Rapture" of good Christians from the face of the earth, are starting to believe LeHaye's works are non-fiction rather than fiction; that the end-times are indeed upon us.
On the first day of this New Year, a friend who lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, called to wish me "happy new year." However, our conversation soon turned to the tsunami disaster. "Vic [her husband] and I were talking about it earlier and were wondering, did God do this or did Satan? What do you think?" she asked me.
What a dilemma! Did God do this to punish people, as he is often depicted doing in the Old Testament? Or, was it Satan? Suddenly, I felt like Church Lady in a Saturday Night Live script! If God didn't do this, then who did? Satan, maybe!
Someone has to be responsible for this massively destructive event, so depending on one's life philosophy or theology, either God or Satan is the logical choice, particularly for the Judeo-Christian segment of the global population. For others, the massive changes in the earth's atmosphere, tectonic plate shifts, etc. must be caused by man's failure to tend the earth's environment properly. Someone is to blame! Someone must be responsible!
On the evening news of January 6th, a reporter asked a Jewish Rabbi how one should understand this disaster. He replied that it is "God punishing the wicked, and unfortunately many good people get in the way." Now, wouldn't you think if God in omnipotent he could be more accurate when zapping bad people!
An Evangelical Christian minister said much the same thing. A mainline Protestant minister said that sometimes we don't know. "Stuff just happens and it's not up to us question it." The reporter then asked a Buddhist monk whether God was responsible for the tsunami, and of course, since Buddhists don't believe in God, he replied, "No, natural disasters just happen. It is only that and nothing more." How Should Theosophists Look at Natural Disasters?
I told my friend that Satan couldn't have caused the disaster because I don't believe in Satan. And because the Divine entity I believe in is not an anthropomorphic God, it couldn't have been him/her either! Those statements pretty much ended that conversation.
What most people fail to understand is that we live on a very unstable little planet that is a speck in the Universe. This little rock has undergone major geological transformations over its billions of years of history, and will continue to undergo transformation. Just because we are living here and now in this consciousness, it does not mean we can suspend Earth's transformative energy. We cannot stop earthquakes. We cannot stop floods. We cannot stop the erosion of coastlines just because people have built multi-million dollar homes or resort hotels overlooking the oceans. We cannot stop future ice ages any more than we could have stopped past ice ages.
HPB tells us in THE SECRET DOCTRINE that everything comes and goes in cycles. "... to show that evolution in general, events, mankind, and everything else in Nature, proceeds in cycles." (SD, II, 443) She also writes,
Climates will, and have already begun, to change, each tropical year after the other dropping one sub-race, but only to beget another higher race on the ascending cycle; while a series of other less favored groups -- the failures of nature -- will, like some individual men, vanish from the human family without even leaving a trace behind.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, page 446
In ISIS UNVEILED, HPB says,
Do not the relics we treasure in our museums -- do they not prove, over and over again, that nations and continents that have passed away have buried along with them arts and sciences, which neither the first crucible ever heated in a mediaeval cloister, nor the lst cracked by a modern chemist, have revived, no one will -- at least in the present century.
-- ISIS UNVEILED, I, pages 239-40
In fact, HPB talks extensively about the changing of the earth, the separation of the land from the water, the rising of the continents and the inundation of other continents throughout the ages. Scientists say the recent earthquake shook the earth so violently that the Earth's axis is now off by one degree and that some islands might have completely disappeared. This information shouldn't be of any surprise to Theosophists. HPB says that:
[There were] four such axial disturbances; when the old continents -- save the first one -- were sucked in by the oceans, other lands appeared, and huge mountain chains arose where there had been none before. The face of the Globe was completely changed each time; the survival of the fittest nations and races was secured through timely help; and the unfit ones -- the failures -- were disposed of by being swept off the earth.
-- ISIS UNVEILED, II, page 330
On the same page, she continues,
Every Sidereal Year (equal to 25,868 of our solar years) the tropics recede from the pole four degrees in each revolution from the equinoctial points, as the equator rounds through the Zodiacal constellations. Now, as every astronomer knows, at present the tropic is only twenty-three degrees and a fraction less than half a degree from the equator. Hence it has still 2 1/2 degrees to run before the end of the Sidereal Year; which gives humanity in general and our civilized races in particular, a reprieve of about 16,000 years.
Also speaking about the shifting of the Earth's axis, HPB says,
But they represented also the poles inverted, in consequence of the great inclination of the axis, bringing each time as a result the displacement of the Oceans, the submersion of the polar lands, and the consequent upheaval of new continents in the equatorial regions, and vice versa.
-- ISIS UNVEILED, II, page 360
She points out that there have been four such axial shifts of the earth and will be more.
And so the question we as Theosophists must ask is, "Who are we to think that just because we are here now, the Earth will cease its shifting and changing?" Indeed, who are we to think that everything must remain constant just because we like the Earth just the way it is? Isn't our goal non-attachment, and embracing all things and events as those intended by the Universe?
In the January/February 2005 issue of QUEST, Radha Burnier writes so appropriately,
Spiritually what a person deems to be trouble may be an opportunity, even a sort of grace. From the material point of view, the good appears to consist of certain things that happen at the physical level, but from the spiritual point of view, these things may have little significance.
-- THE QUEST, "All is for Good," pages 30-31
In THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE commentary from the National Lodge studies, we read about the concept of "wu-wei" or "do nothing," or better interpreted as "desireless action or action without concern for the results." In Buddhism that is often referred to as "non-attachment to outcomes." Want nothing and you will receive every needful thing is also a universal truth taught by both Christianity and Buddhism.
"The idea is that, if we do not try to impose our will on events, but 'go with the flow' we can accomplish great things," says the commentary. Embrace all things. Life is what it is! Isn't all that happens to us in our lives for our own good, even though we may not recognize it at the time?
Also, as Theosophists, we believe in karma, which has much to do with world events, even natural disasters. In the January 4th issue of the Wall Street Journal, there was an interesting article about the devastation of the Banda Aceh region of Indonesia -- the scene of some of the worst destruction. The article told of how difficult life has been there over the past couple of decades because of the reign of many anti-government Muslim terrorist groups. The little newspaper in Banda Aceh, the only voice the people had by which to hear of the truth of the political climate there, suffered greatly: "its reporters kidnapped, its delivery trucks hijacked and torched, and its executives threatened by both the Indonesian Army and the separatist rebels who have been fighting here since 1976."
This region was also the area in which just three weeks prior to the earthquake, an article in the Wall Street Journal told of how the Indonesian Army had captured a Muslim terrorist cell, and decoded their computers in which they uncovered a plot to bomb the tourist resort hotels along the beaches in Indonesia and Thailand. Now, if we think about our lessons on vibratory energy -- how our thoughts can become a reality -- then we can see that perhaps this event was brought on by the horrible vibrations of people who were plotting death and destruction on their own. Nature beat them to the punch, so to speak, and completed the task for them!
Consider karma. Do we see this disaster as a fluke of nature? Or is it perhaps a karmic event? Who are we to say these people did not deserve this event in some karmic kind of way? Isn't all of life about karma? Aren't we all here because of karma? So, perhaps we need to watch "the movie," help in ways we can help the survivors (compassion is key to our personal enlightenment), but be non-judgmental, non-attached to the event or the outcome of the event.
Natural disasters have often been seen by certain religions as God's raining down His wrath upon those who are evil. Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in our commentary, as an example of God's decision to destroy these wicked cities. However, God cut a deal with Lot to spare him and his family. Lot's wife however wasn't spared, but was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back and longing for the past. Plagues of locusts, floods, famines all have been natural disasters that have been blamed on God as punishment for wickedness. Man's attempt to find a rationalization for obeying the deities has resulted in a God who punishes the wicked and blesses the good.
But, we must keep in mind that "bad" things happen to "good" people, as Rabbi Harold Kushner reminds us in his book of that title. Now, how can we rationalize that one? Well, we as Theosophists understand karma so we understand why things happen to all of us. Events are not good or bad, events are just events. Without judgment we embrace these events, asking our guides "what does this mean for me?", "what lesson do I need to learn?", or "what karmic debt must I pay?" Then, we receive answers. These are not easy answers to be sure, but answers nonetheless.
It is not God or Satan that brings about these natural disasters, these cataclysmic changes in the Earth, but a natural consequence of the state of things. The Earth will continue to evolve and change; its axis will continue to be altered; its environment will continue to shift; species will continue to evolve, change, die out and new species arise. "Life forms on earth are constantly being created and eliminated," notes one scientist in a Wall Street Journal editorial. "It has been estimated that 98% of the life that existed on the planet is extinct, including the dinosaurs, the smallpox virus, and the 1918 influenza virus. New species are constantly being created." [Richard Hardy, Seattle]
Ergo, the shape of the coasts of Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka has been altered by the tsunami; several islands no longer exist. But, new islands will continue to appear and new waters rise, notes Blavatsky. It is the way of things. The natural order of the Universe is one of continual change that we mere mortals inhabiting these temporary bodies in our myriad lifetimes on this planet (and perhaps others!) cannot stop.
So, what must be our response? We always offer compassion for those who are suffering because of this natural disaster. We can help as we are each able in the form of monetary aid. More importantly, we can add our gifts of prayer and meditation, holding these people in our thoughts, and bringing them light, and love. As good thoughts offset the negativity of those who wish to do harm to their fellow beings, we can quiet the vibrations that would cause disharmony and improve those harmonic vibrations that would bring calm to all nature.
Radha Burnier reminds us well "... the Enlightened Ones will not interfere with karma, even though they have the power to do so. They scrupulously follow the Law, because they know that the laws of the universe bring about what is spiritually good."
Thus, we must take all that happens, as Radha Burnier notes, as for the good of humanity. We must believe that. It makes life easier when we embrace it all and not pick and choose what to embrace as "good" and what to reject as "bad." Or, as the mythologist Joseph Campbell has stated, "Say a resounding 'yes!' to everything in your life and you will find the adventure a wonderful experience."