The Divine Laws are greater than the human laws; they are permanent and eternal and there is no change in them; political systems do not touch them, nor sectarian influences corrupt. Right thought and action can lift us for the time being, always, on to the plane of the Soul; and when we are there, we are raising the whole human race towards the level of its rights, possibilities, and spiritual heritage.
-- Katherine Tingley, THE GODS AWAIT, page 64.
By B.P. Wadia
[From LIVING THE LIFE, pages 72-74.]
In its practical bearing, Theosophy is purely DIVINE ETHICS.
-- THE THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY, "Theosophia"
All that was great, generous, heroic, was, in days of old, not only talked about and preached from pulpits as in our own time, but also ACTED UPON sometimes by whole nations.
-- THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, page 226
In numerous places, HPB emphasizes the importance of the practice of Theosophical ethics by students. Theosophical ethics are not something unique and special -- they are ancient, like the metaphysical and philosophical doctrines of Theosophy.
"These ethics are the soul of the Wisdom-Religion, and were once the common property of the initiates of all nations," wrote HPB. Not only did Gautama and Jesus preach the ancient ethics, but also with every attempt at Theosophizing any race or civilization -- e.g., the movement founded by Ammonius Saccas -- these old ethical principles were promulgated. The modern Movement founded by HPB in 1875 follows the ancient pattern in this as in all things. In THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, she points out that "Theosophy has to inculcate ethics," and in presenting moral teachings, she uses the same principle as in offering philosophical teachings. Just as she synthesized the teachings of every ancient school of philosophy, she also did so in the sphere of ethics. She declared:
[The second of the Three Objects of the Society was] the serious study of the ancient world-religions for purposes of comparison and the selection therefrom of universal ethics.
-- THE THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY, "Theosophical Society"
The exercise of these ethics in daily living unfolds "the latent DIVINE powers in man" referred to by HPB in formulating the Third Object.
In her KEY TO THEOSOPHY, she explains:
They are the essence and cream of the world's ethics, gathered from the teachings of all the world's great reformers. Therefore, you will find represented therein Confucius and Zoroaster, Lao-tzu, and THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, the precepts of Gautama Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth, of Hillel and his school, as of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and their schools.
The Moral Philosophy of the Wisdom Religion, like its living science and its universal metaphysics, is the time-honored expression of the Great Kosmos. The Kosmos is not only visible and material but also is energetic and moral. If man's mind derives from the Divine Mind, his soul is a ray of the Universal Soul and lives by Moral Laws that manifest as Virtues.
In her FIVE MESSAGES TO THE AMERICAN THEOSOPHISTS, HPB states:
The essence of Theosophy is the perfect harmonizing of the divine with the human in man, the adjustment of his god-like qualities and aspirations, and their sway over the terrestrial or animal passions in him.
-- page 6
In promulgating Theosophy, it is necessary to bear this in mind:
The function of Theosophists is to open men's hearts and understandings to charity, justice, and generosity, attributes which belong specifically to the human kingdom and are natural to man when he has developed the qualities of a human being.
-- FIVE MESSAGES TO THE AMERICAN THEOSOPHISTS, page 9
So we have the task of unfolding our humanity and helping our fellow men to do likewise. That this mission is not something chimerical is explained thus:
The life of altruism is not so much a high ideal as a matter of practice. Naturally, then, Theosophy finds a home in many hearts and minds, and strikes a resounding harmony as soon as it reaches the ears of those who are ready to listen. There, then, is part of your work: to lift high the torch of Liberty of the Soul of Truth that all may see it and benefit by its light.
Therefore, it is that the Ethics of Theosophy are even more necessary to mankind than the scientific aspects of the psychic facts of nature and man.
-- FIVE MESSAGES TO THE AMERICAN THEOSOPHISTS, page 12
How is this task different from what every church pulpit and every social-service program is trying to accomplish? First, ours is not a creedal or organizational appeal. Other institutions refer to Christian ethics and Hindu morality, and sometimes mix up religious ritualism and social customs with moral principles. How can churches preach Universal Ethics any more than can a political party? They are like business houses with their chants, exploiting the self-interest of their adherents for sectarian purposes. The practice of the Law of Universal Brotherhood is not encouraged.
Secondly, while it is true that good conduct is stressed and ethical values are discussed, the pure first principles of morality rooted in the soil of universal philosophy are unknown. TRUE philosophy is absent where salaried priests are present. In the scientific researcher, too, altruism, pure and genuine, is absent. It has taken our civilization over half a century to recognize what Mahatma K.H. taught in 1880:
Exact experimental science has nothing to do with morality, virtue, philanthropy -- therefore, can make no claim upon our help until it blends itself with metaphysics.
-- ULT Pamphlet No. 29, page 6
The use of the atom bomb to destroy two Japanese cities shocked the conscience of almost the entire world and demonstrated man's inhumanity to man, which the researches of modern science encourage. Even today, the secrecy enveloping the progress of the manufacture of destructive bombs remains unbroken. This is not a manifestation of Universal Brotherhood founded on Universal Ethics. Where are the scientists and where is the nation that will break this black secrecy and compel the destruction of this dark, destructive use of weapons? Will our India do it -- refusing to use the knowledge gained by its researchers in the newly established research institutes, for nefarious, destructive purposes? Will its scientists use their knowledge openly for the constructive development of a peace-loving civilization -- not national but international?
Not knowledge but heart enlightenment of a large number of men and women will compel the national States to stop the destructive use of the discoveries of modern science, and a similar phenomenon must follow in the sphere of organized, creedal religions.
The emergence of the international State implies international citizenship. This must not be along politico-economic lines only, but fundamentally along moral and spiritual lines. Politics and economics will continue to be nationalistic unless the real significance of Universal Brotherhood is perceived. For its full perception, some practice of Divine Ethics is necessary. Human beings must aspire to feel the Divinity within and begin to act like shining gods, not as political animals.
[From THE PATH, December 1891, pages 275-78.]
A friend of mine who claims to be an earnest Theosophist, but is, in fact, a rather criticizing, faultfinding, and uncharitable fellow, is nevertheless very dear, and very near, to me. This chap writes a funny letter to me concerning our public meetings, a letter that I will read to you because the object of his disaffection is also our own adversary, and we thus have common cause with him this time.
"Dear brother," he writes, "what you say concerning your meetings is very familiar to me. We have ours in good running order and well attended now, but we had to go through the same experiences as you have to at present. Your meetings will never thrive until you have found the method to get rid of their never-tiring enemy who is the same everywhere.
The Colorado-bug is the plague of the potato, tomato, and eggplants, even kills the young settlings at once, and has not met yet his conqueror. In like manner, public meetings of whatever kind have a foe that is apt to kill the tender and young ones among them, so that sometimes they have to be set anew, if possible. This monster is the Crank. I have given some study to this loathsome creature and discovered that it exists in three distinct species, which I am going to describe scientifically for the instruction and warning of the unwary meeting-culturer.
The three species have these common properties. First, they belong as members to no society. Second, they are recklessly selfish. Third, they invade whatever meeting gives opportunity for questions and remarks from the audience. The reason why they do not belong to any communities of their own is their murderous loquacity that drives everyone away from them, that they are too conceited to agree or work in sympathy with anybody, or that they are too stingy to make any sacrifice, or all three reasons together.
The least harmful of the three species of the meeting-killer is the one I called Mr. Shallow simple. The elemental that runs him only wants his tongue to have a good time a couple of hours every week, wherever there is an opportunity, irrespective of any other consideration whatever. Shallow is everywhere but at home at meeting-hours in the city.
In such hours, Shallow goeth around as a roaring lion wagging his tongue and seeking whom he may devour. No meeting is safe. Some new society -- for instance, the Presbyterian Old Men's Progressive Union, advertise their inauguration meeting, and you are very glad of the opportunity, and do NOT go there, for you are sure that Shallow will.
He knows by long experience that his water is too shallow to be swallowed by the audience to any length of time satisfactory to himself; he also feels that he has nothing refreshing and healthful to soul and mind to give them. Therefore, he flavors his speech with the sulfuric acid of opposition and irritation, and thinks they will take it for lemonade.
"My dear friends," he says to the Reformers, in the tone of the most fatherly benevolence, "why are you so dissatisfied with your conditions? Your wages are not so bad. Why do you not, each of you, save, say, a quarter a day for the rainy day? Wouldn't you have eighty dollars in a year, and eight thousand dollars, each of you, in a hundred years? Would not each of you be a capitalist?"
"Shut up! Sit down! Who is that fool," they shout, and poor Shallow has again to leave the floor.
Another time he tries his luck in the young Abheachabhrahyana Branch of the Theosophical Society, and, imagining that they are Buddhists, thus addresses them with the already-mentioned fatherliness, "My dear friends! Why will you go back into the darkness of the bygone ages, and dig up the dead teachings and sayings of Paganism? This is no progress, friends; it is retrogression! If you want to improve the ethical conditions of mankind, why not study and expound the sublime doctrines of our Christian Gospel? Is not our entire grand civilization based just on this moral code of Christianity? What other age can boast of such glorious attainments as ours in all departments? Have under the ethical teachings of the Hindus such things been seen as the steam engine, locomotive, steamship, telegraph, telephone, phonograph, gunpowder, printing press, dynamite, firearms, breach loaders, ironclads; and all those charitable institutions as hospitals, poorhouses, almshouses, workhouses, Sunday morning breakfast and Saturday evening soup associations, houses of refuge, penitentiaries, and lunatic asylums?"
Here the chair ventures to state that the gentleman's mind is wandering, that he is off the subject and had better retire.
Now, overall, Mr. Shallow does not so much harm; you can be done with him in about ten minutes.
More dangerous is the second species that I call Mr. Hobbyrider. This one is very often the Elijah or Jesus of the new dispensation, one of the bashful kind, namely of those who try to keep their mission secret, -- in vain, however, for it oozes out everywhere, especially in their countenances. But usually Hobbyrider is an ordinary mortal who only labors with a philosophy of his own, because he has no chair to teach it from. His system is based on some idea that any average thinker might conceive and entertain for a while, but then would either discard as wrong, or file somewhere in his memory as an old matter of inferior order. But Hobbyrider is in love with this idea and wants his bride to be recognized.
If the world of ours were ruled halfway by such a thing as reason, he would be a professor of metaphysics at one of our universities. Under the actual circumstances, however, he has to hunt for an audience where he can get it; and it is a hard job too, indeed! The old societies are too smart and too much on their guard against starved tongues. They know they might as easily stop a waterfall as his flow of speech once let loose. They therefore use all kinds of tricks and have special contrivances to keep him off their rostrums. That is why he has set his eyes on innocent and inexperienced young Branches, whom he captures and then taps at an awful rate, once he has them in his grip.
The third and most insidious form of the meeting-bug is the one I called the Man with the Puzzle. Suppose he is attending at the Metaphysical Society's Weekly Meditating Meeting. He has taken note of the subject of the introductory paper that is to be read, and provided himself with a dozen of puzzling questions for all cases.
He says, for instance, "The gentlemen who read the paper used the word 'nature' several times. What do you understand by the term nature?"
Someone answers as best he can. But, satisfactory or not, the Man with the Puzzle has a definition of his own, and politely begs leave to give it, -- which cannot be properly denied. Now -- he has you! He is the one who defines the things before he talks of them! In order to define "nature," he defines half a dozen other terms. He takes his time. This being done, he also TALKS about nature and the six other things, -- under three heads and two subheads each.
Now those of the attendants who are theosophists of old standing know at once what to do in such an emergency. Whilst apparently listening to the Man with the Puzzle, they seize with rapture the grand opportunity of subduing, by taking position in the higher ego, the flames of impatience, indignation, and anger that are arising from the depths of their Kama Manas; and they are very successful in this exercise. What of the rest of the audience who know nothing of this theosophical stratagem? They are ablaze with rage at the lamb-like meekness of the chair and the members of the society, and mentally swear by Mars and Saturn never to attend any more.
Everything ends in this world of change. The chair looks at her watch and discovers that the hour has struck for adjournment, under useless attempts of Mr. Hobbyrider "to make a few remarks." The Man with the Puzzle is triumphant, but the former cannot go home of course in this explosive condition, and gives vent to it in a private controversy with some of the leading members; the result of which is an epistle received by the secretary on the next day in which the whole Society is taxed with ignorance, dogmatism, and Blavatsky-worship. And this end is speedy and fortunate enough; but sometimes these fellows have much perseverance, cunning, and moderation, and then they kill you! In such contingencies, you have to suspend the right of questioning entirely, until the last crank is starved out.
Now although aware of the danger that a crank is to a theosophical branch, I always felt attracted to some of them, understanding by the term simply a man who insists upon his own philosophy in spite of any other. Perhaps the hope of bringing them round was at the bottom of my intercourse with them. If it was, it was a mistake. Such a man will read himself through ISIS UNVEILED, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, and a dozen other books to find whether they do not teach anything concerning his hobby. If they do not, as they in fact do not, he scornfully rejects them as chaff. Therefore, since I feel the value of time more keenly now than before, I make it a rule to head off each bore as quickly as possible, and to warn new Branches of the dangers that beset them.
-- K. W.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 116-19.]
The Christmas festival, and the teachings that have gone with it from early Christian days, are not at all Christian in origin. They never were invented by early Christian theologians or by Christian devotees, but were all based upon current Pagan ideas of the sanctuary. And this, very far from being an unusual event in Christian history, was a very common thing, for the Christians took over from the very philosophies and religions of the day that later they scorned and rejected, the great bulk of the ideas that in later times became what was known as Christian theology.
The early Christians were brought up in the Pagan world where it was an acknowledged fact that there was an exoteric religion or series of such religions, and a secret teaching kept only for those who had proved themselves fit and worthy to receive the teachings of the Mystery Schools, the secret things of the Divine. All the exoteric faiths hid something wonderful, sublimely majestic, taught within the sanctuary.
Get this fact clear, because it is history; and early Christian historians always blurred over or forgot or passed by that idea, without even a mere hint, and yet that is the atmosphere in which Christianity was born. If you get this key and hold it in your mind, you will have something by which you may unlock what has been so difficult even to Christian theologians themselves not merely to understand but to explain.
As regards the Virgin Birth, this is not anything original with Christianity. The conception has been common over the face of the earth from immemorial time. Many peoples in the archaic days taught of virgins giving birth to great sages and seers, and you may read this same story of Jesus the Avatara in other tongues and after other ways, but having essentially the same fundamental truth of a great man achieving manly divinity by a new birth. So common was this idea that it was even popular exoteric language of the streets and of the mart.
The Hindus spoke of a Dwija, a twice-born, the idea being that of physical birth, born of the mother, as all sons of men are, but when ready after training, receiving inner birth, inner enlightenment, which was the second birth of the man, a new birth into the light of the spirit. You see how grand this thing is once we throw the light of Theosophy upon it. Yet it becomes no longer Christian but universal. See how it appeals to the human heart and to the human mind. How grand indeed shines the light of truth upon the face of the man whose heart is enlightened by the sense of his oneness with all! What pathos there is when the sense of separateness drives him away from his oneness with other men!
What did this teaching mean in the early days of Christianity? Precisely what it meant in all the other great Pagan countries. It represented scenes passed in the sanctuary where the neophyte or disciple after long training had so developed his inner being, his inner perceptions, that he was on the verge of becoming Christos, a Christ, or as the wonderful Mahayana Buddhism has it, a Bodhisattva. The next step would be that of Buddhahood. Even in exoteric writings, this wonderful truth from the sanctuary was spoken of as virgin birth, a second birth.
All the saviors of man in whatever country, of whatever clime, and of whatever day, all the great ones, the sages and seers, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of highest rank, the greatest, were all born of the Mother, the Holy Spirit within. How beautiful, how true! It appeals to us instantly, and it is in strict accord with even the little that modern scientific research is beginning to tell us of what they call psychology. We all recognize it when a man's life is improved and raised by his own efforts and strivings to become greater. It is the first faint dawn in the mystic east, the beginning as it were of the holy birth pangs whereby a man becomes super-man.
In time, he becomes an incarnate god, the god within. He thereafter manifests through the Christ-child, and the man of flesh becomes responsive to the inner flame, the inner light, the inner fire. See you not what dignity this lends to us human beings? What hope for the future for those who dare, who strive, and who keep silent!
Here is a very significant thing in early Christian writings. If Mary were virgin, how could she give birth to children? In early Christian scripture, there occurs a remarkable passage in the Greek Christian writings. Rendered into English, it means: My Mother, the Holy Spirit -- for the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, amongst primitive Christians was always feminine, never masculine as it became afterwards -- my Mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by the hair of my head and brought me to the holy Mount Athor. Do you get it? Here is the spirit in me, the Holy Spirit, my Mother from whom I was born, born anew, no longer born of the flesh but born of the spirit: born first of water according to the flesh, then born of fire according to the spirit: the first birth and the second birth.
This is indeed the virgin birth; for the spirit of man, a ray from the divine, from the ineffable, is eternally virgin, and yet eternally fecund, eternally productive. The cosmic Christ is born of the cosmic Spirit, feminine also in ancient time, and in the same way is the spiritual man feminine, and in the holiness of achievement gives birth to the Bodhisattva, the Christ-child, and from then on, the man is infilled with the holiness of the spirit pouring through him from the source divine.
What connection has all this with the Sun? From immemorial time, Father Sun was looked upon with reverence: not necessarily the physical globe clothed with beauty, light, splendor, and vital energy, the giver of light unto his own kingdom, but the divinity within and above and behind that sun as of all other stars. Our sun was an emblem of the cosmic spirit, for through that sun poured these floods of vital splendor and life and light: light for the mind and love for the heart, without which no man is man.
Even the Christians used to sing hymns to the sun, record of which is still extant, outside of other references, in a communication by Pliny, governor of Bithynia and Pontus, to the Emperor Trajan in Rome. He said that in his jurisdiction, the Christians seemed to be innocent and harmless folk, for they assembled every morning at rise of the sun and sang hymns to that divinity. And in a collection of old Christian hymns, we have one of those hymns to the sun still extant, something I have often quoted.
In English, it can be translated thus: "Oh thou true sun, shine on forever, glittering with perpetual light. (Now hearken to this.) Image of the holy spirit (not merely a creation of holy spirit but its image), image of the holy spirit, infill us full." No Farsi or so-called Sun worshiper ever created a more typical hymn to the sun than these early Christians did. These earliest Christians knew what they meant; they did not worship the physical sun, it was the divine light, teaching what the sun stood for. The sun was the emblem, the image, of the Cosmic Christ, not a creation of god, but the image of the Divine. Oh thou true sun -- and the most common expression among the Christians was to liken their Savior Jesus the Avatara to the Sun.
I would that I had the time and could tell you more of the recondite mysteries of this teaching, but I will merely say this: that in man's constitution there is a solar element. Could it be otherwise? There is a lunar element, and an element derivative from every one of the planets. Even modern science tells us today that we not merely share in the cosmic light, and as they say the cosmic heat, that reaches us from Father Sun, but that the very heat we get from the coal that we burn or the wood that we burn, originally came from the sun. The atoms that compose it are the same that passed through us; the solar body reaches not merely the earth but all the other planets. Of course, there is in us a solar element, a lunar element, and an element from each of the planets. Otherwise, we should be incomplete. Man has everything within himself that the Universe has!
I will just close with this thought. Even though a man have all knowledge and have not love in his heart, it profiteth him nothing; for it is simply a declaration that the man is incomplete, unevolved, because, being a part of the Universe, he does not show forth or manifest all that is in the Universe, everything that the whole has. I might have all the truth in the world, but I cannot understand it properly. I can reason and think about it, but I do not get the coherency of the reality because the heart is not yet awake within me. The magic key of love flames not yet in my breast.
Just ask yourself this question: Two men you know. One has all the knowledge in the world, but he is heartless; and the other is a simple-minded man, is not sophisticated, but his heart is great with love's universal, all-comprehensive sympathy. Which of the twain would you choose for a companion, and one to whom you can turn in time of trouble?
By Emmanuel Ikan Astillero
[This poem comes from a member of the Vidya Lodge of the Theosophical Society in the Philippines.]
Thou art God thou know it not. I am Spirit, clothed in man; The clothing I see, but my "Self" not. I act the clothing, I live the clothes That cover me, and see it not.
I am Atman within and Brahman without, The two are one, but know it not. Willy-nilly, I play the games, Enjoy the world, but know it not.
This body I call "me," when it dies, I think "I" die, but know it not. In cycles live I -- a lifetime -- a day; Many days gone, many yet to come, I know it not.
So crave I for worldly life, Prolong it well, but know it not. That I am Spirit, and if I knew -- I would be free, but know it not.
That while weighed by this cloth, I cannot fly, but know it not. In fleshy cloth, its tight embrace, I lost my wings, and know it not.
Imprisoned in this cloth -- A slave of senses wild, but know it not. In ignorance, I crave amusements -- People, places, gossip -- and know it not.
Gather sparkling stones, houses, Gadgets, friends and relations, and know it not. These to be left behind As I cross to carry them not, they matter not.
When will I learn, when will I know, That of this world, all these are not? That power and fame, bangles and laces, Are decors, I need them not?
That I am Spirit, cares for none, Owns none and needs none, is it not? That I, traveler of stars, have baggage none, Will travel light, for I must fly?
To the brilliant sun I must return, The journey's long, my home Is far -- here, it is not.
By Dara Eklund
A beautiful anthology has come our way that expresses the heart and voice of Compassion, "viewed through the prism of Theosophy." Chris Bartzokas, the editor and compiler, has released the book through his new publishing firm, Philaletheians, meaning the seekers of truth since the Third Century A.D. (Bartzokas, M.D., Dr. C.A., editor. COMPASSION: THE TRUTH AT THE HEART OF OUR UNIVERSE (Wales, United Kingdom: Philaletheians, 2005), 356 pages, hardback.)
The threads of thought upon altruism, virtue, sacrifice, and truth which run throughout make this text splendidly unique. A number of quotations are woven together from Theosophical sources, Plato, the Gnostics, Eastern and Western literary classics, which require considerable pondering. Thoughts about the Logos are culled from diverse origins, such as THE KORAN, T. Subba Row, Cicero, THE POIMANDRES, and THE SECRET DOCTRINE. An instance of astute parallels is HPB's long quote comparing the Hindu Yogi who isolates himself in an impenetrable forest with a Christian hermit in the desert. It is followed by Emerson's quote from his essay, "Self Reliance:"
It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
Elsewhere, Plotinus' ideas on emotions are compared with the Koran's "sweet and salty seas." Quotes upon charity are chosen from a dozen various sources such as Kant, Thomas Hobbes, Shakespeare, Seneca, John Bunyan, and THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY. It is the way they are woven together that strikes the observant reader. Generally, these quotations are synopsized with bold type captions to the left margin, while the main text is a clear typeface legible even to elderly readers. For instance, passages from THE BHAGAVAD GITA, are compared to similar verses in Narada's BHAKTI-SUTRAS in two separate columns. Likewise, passages (less convincingly but provocatively) are paralleled from LIGHT ON THE PATH and THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE.)
The book's design is superb, with its enhanced cover photo of the Sun (courtesy of the Sola and Heliospheric Observatory [SOHO Spacecraft]), with an interior quotation from THE SECRET DOCTRINE that fits it perfectly. For such a hefty volume, it opens easily from any page, leaving the reader free to browse and reflect. Dr. Bartzokas offers the reader extensive footnotes to find a number of Greek and Latin quotes in their originals.
The lengthy Appendices include a brief glossary, as well as extensive definitions of individual metaphysical terms such as Alaya, Parabrahman, Mulaprakiti, and Fohat. The Logos is compared to Demiurgos and Ishvara. The Logos is also expressed in Gnostic Systems, POIMANDRES, PHILOSOPHY OF THE BHAGAVAD GITA, and of course THE SECRET DOCTRINE. The bibliographic references include selected editions of THE BHAGAVAD GITA, although the main text employs W.Q. Judge's translation. Other Bhakti-Sutras are also listed. In table form, symbolisms of the three letters in AUM are explored according to diverse traditions. Selected articles in THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY are keynoted. The Index is limited to chief terms, except under "Humanity" where many helpful subheadings reside.
If you wish a desktop or bedside companion to inspire your day, this may well be prescribed.
[To request a free PDF version of the book or buy a copy of the hardback, write the author at email@example.com or:]
PHILALETHEIANS Ty Ucha Hafod Road Gwernymynydd Mold CH7 5JS UNITED KINGDOM
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
[From THE PATH, January 1892, pages 307-10.]
Theosophy is undoubtedly the religion of the future. Human intellects are growing away from creed-cumbered Christianity as it is taught in most of the churches.
Fifty years ago, only an occasional daring soul was brave enough to question the truth of the Trinity, or doubt the efficacy of a vicarious atonement. Today hundreds of strong, upreaching minds express their dissatisfaction with such a creed, and demand something more in keeping with the progress of human intelligence. Every thinking mind must realize that the ultimate spiritual development of man can only be retarded by a belief that a deathbed confession of Christ, as the Son of God, can atone for a life of sin and selfishness.
It would be a poor method of making a young man industrious to tell him that whatever debts he might incur, or whatever extravagances he indulged in, a devoted relative would assume his liabilities. The sooner the young man learns that he must toil and suffer to pay for his excesses, the sooner he will reform his ways.
The Chinese merchant is not allowed to continue in business unless every debt he owes is paid at the New Year; as a consequence, the Chinese merchant is the most honorable in the world, and bankruptcy is seldom heard of there. It is the same with spiritual bankruptcy. Fully impress upon a child's mind that he must pay here and hereafter for every selfish and sinful act. Then he will attain a higher degree of morality than one who believes that his deeds can be washed away in Christ's blood or paid for by generous gifts to the Church, and that he can by sudden repentance finally be taken among Heaven's honored hosts.
Theosophy teaches the necessity of an unselfish life, in thought as well as in deed. It tells us that we are responsible for each word, act, and thought, and that by these words, acts, and thoughts we are daily building ourselves perishable or permanent mansions. We cannot put bad and poor material into our soul-house today, and tomorrow say "Lord, I repent," and have the slothful deed remedied.
The bad bricks must remain, but they may serve as warnings to us in the future. It teaches us that we are part of one supreme system, and that we are surrounded by illimitable spaces, filled with godlike forces and powers, who will aid us to any height or attainment if we put ourselves in harmony with them. It teaches us that within ourselves lie undreamed-of and superhuman powers that render us godlike in strength if we choose to develop them. It teaches us that selfishness is the root of evil, and only in subjugation of self can peace be attained.
"Why," exclaims the Christian, "all this is what Christianity is at the core!"
Ah, yes, my dear Christian, all religions are the same at the core, for the core is the essence of God's love. Christianity, like many other religions, has grown away from the core, to a very tough rind of creeds and dogmas.
"Do as you would be done by" is the core of Christianity, as of Theosophy. I can count upon the fingers of one hand the church members of my acquaintance who place this phrase higher than any portion of the catechism or creed of their denomination, and who regard its obedience to be of more import than the strict observance of Sunday, or partaking of Communion, or a belief in the Trinity.
Few of our prominent divines follow this motto to the extent of avoiding narrow prejudices and belittling quarrels over dogmas and creeds. The recent Church wrangles that disturbed the spiritual nerve centers of the United States were sufficient to turn devout natures away from modern Christianity, in search of something more elevating and strengthening.
Theosophy has received many converts, owing to the undignified quarrels of Christian clergymen, but alas! Theosophy has other than true followers as well as Christianity, and already its ranks need weeding. Fad-lovers, seekers after the marvelous, restless souls who desire change, and sensational people who desire to astound the world, are all crowding into the broad aisles of Theosophy.
The man who today says, "I am a Theosophist," needs watching.
One of the founders of Theosophical Branches in America retarded my early desires for investigation by his pretense of occult knowledge of my personal affairs, which I know he had learned by quizzing a mutual friend. This was followed by an exhibition of petty jealousy and vanity that made many doubt, for a time, the worth of a religion that could produce such leaders. This man is no longer regarded as a Theosophist, however, although he undoubtedly is a magician of some power.
A man who claims to be an advanced Theosophist, and who is writing a book upon the subject, was endeavoring to enlighten me on some intricate points of its mechanism recently. I was interested in his assertion of having visited a friend's house in the astral body that day, and in his description of the various forms, he saw surrounding different people. When I detected in him a vein of intense selfishness in the small daily matters of life, and saw him display uncharitableness and discourtesy, I lost my interest in his occult powers. This man cared only for the phenomena of Theosophy, evidently, and pursued his studies with a desire to startle, not to benefit, his kind.
It seems an unfortunate fact that such a man can develop his occult powers to a great degree, without living up to the higher spiritual demands of Theosophy. Yet such is the case. Without doubt, this man could project his astral body to a distance, and could behold mysterious forms; yet he certainly does not walk in the noble eight-fold path to Truth, for this journey demands among other things Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Endeavor, Right Meditation, and Right Doctrine.
In speaking to me of a lady acquaintance, he said, "Although so young, she is a full fledged Theosophist." The young lady modestly assented to this, and assured me she could feel a person's "aura" the moment she entered a room. Within a week, however, I detected her in jealous backbiting and malicious gossip concerning a rival who had never harmed her in any way. It seemed a misfortune that this young lady could not detect her own aura and improve upon it. She seemed better fitted for Church sewing-societies than for Theosophy.
Hartmann says, "There is nothing more productive of a tendency to develop selfishness than the development of a high degree of intellectuality without any accompanying growth of spirituality."
I can only account for the remarkable evidences of selfishness among some Theosophists in this way. Those who study it with the brain only, and pursue it as a Science, are able to develop certain hidden powers that they possess, but they also develop intense selfishness with these powers. Such people are far more dangerous to the progress of humanity to a higher goal than is the creed-bound Church member, and just in the proportion as they are stronger. It requires no strength to accept the idea of the vicarious atonement. It requires only passive inactivity of mind. The creed-crammed Christian mind is not progressive, and not dangerous; but the intellectual Theosophist who has neglected his spiritual development is a dangerous character.
I once met a pronounced Theosophist of this order, who would not kill a mosquito because he did not believe it right to take life. Yet he did not hesitate to take credit that belonged to others, in a petty spirit of wanting all the glory in his vicinity. Such a man, and the woman who disseminates scandal, are mere pretenders in the Courts of Theosophy; however much they may have developed their occult or intellectual powers, they should not be allowed to represent the religion.
A research into Theosophy can bring harmful knowledge alone, unless the spirit is developed with the mind, and made to crave the highest good, which means the extinction of self for selfish purposes. The true Theosophist cares little about phenomena, and does not boast of his powers in that direction; his life is open to the most scrutinizing investigation, and his influence is as inspiring and comforting as the sunlight. He is a "spiritual power for good," and delights in giving pleasure and help, and asks no reward save his own consciousness of being an instrument of the Powers of good.
It is impossible for the true Theosophist to feel jealousy or envy, he holds himself responsible for every thought, because he knows far better than any other does the power of thought. He knows that by rigid control of his thoughts and their right direction he can bring himself into harmony with all the forces of the Universe and develop the God within him.
Christ was a perfect Theosophist, and the miracles he performed were the achievements of his spirit, which was wholly in league with the forces of beauty, light, goodness, and truth.
There is a Christ in each one of us, and the way to the true Christ is through Theosophy.
[From BECAUSE -- FOR THE CHILDREN WHO ASK WHY, pages 3-10.]
One Sunday morning Milton ran into Aunt Eleanor from the yard where he and Dorothy had been playing "catch." Chester, the boy next door, had called out to them, "You'd better stop playing ball on Sunday. God doesn't want you to. It's bad -- and he'll punish you, if you do."
Milton had replied, "Well, who's God? Is he a policeman?"
"Bigger'n that," said Chester. "And he made the whole world and everything."
"H'm -- well, who made God?" was Milton's question.
Chester said, "I've got to go now."
As he turned toward the house, Milton whispered to Dorothy, "I just think I'll go ask Aunt Eleanor about this God man of Chester's."
Dorothy said, "I guess there must be SOME God, anyway. I heard Papa and Mamma talking about God one day, and they said they didn't want to tell us about the kind of a God they had had taught to them, and we'd better find out about such things for ourselves."
"Well, I guess it must be time to find out now, sister. Do YOU believe it's wrong to play 'catch' on Sunday because somebody says so? Aunt Eleanor will know, if anybody does."
Aunt Eleanor was reading when he came in, but she put her book down when she saw Milton's face all one eager question mark.
"What is it now, son?" she smiled at him.
"Why, Aunt Eleanor, Chester says God will punish us if we play ball on Sunday. Please, IS it wrong to play ball on Sunday -- and who is God, anyway?"
"One at a time," laughed Aunt Eleanor. "Especially as your last question might be answered forever and not be done. But now, let's see -- before we answer your first question, can't we find out what IS doing right -- and what IS doing wrong?
"That is really a big question in itself, Milton. It is easy to say -- what is true -- that what harms no one in the world cannot be wrong; and to say that what helps and serves all others -- oneself included -- must be right. But, in the end, everyone has to decide for himself what his own actions must be, and, often what would be quite wrong for one person in his place would be quite right for another in his. So, it can't be the matter of a DAY, Sunday or any other day, that makes right or wrong, can it?"
"No, I see that, Auntie. But, why does Chester pick out Sunday to be so 'specially good in?"
"Well, it is supposed by most so-called 'Christian' people that there was a great Being who made the world in six days, and rested on the seventh. And so they, too, spent the seventh day in rest, or rather in worshipping this Being whom they called God. Believing this, the wickedest people have been known to cease from their particular sins at twelve o'clock Saturday night, and return to them again promptly twenty-four hours after, because of their fear of punishment by 'God,' if they practiced this sin on the Sabbath!
"But, as a matter of fact, no one Being created our wonderful earth, out of NOTHING, as some people think. The earth is made up of myriads of beings of many kinds and degrees; besides, there are the human beings who people it. And it took all these beings together millions and billions of years to make the earth as we see it; or, we might say, for the earth to become -- to GROW as it is. In all these many years of becoming, there were times, like ours of day and night -- now, when there was much action going on, as by day, and, following it, a time of EQUAL LENGTH, like our night, when no action went on. Sabbath means, really, a period of rest equal to the day of action before it. So, if we were doing strictly as the Bible indicates, we should work seven days and rest another seven! The people who worshipped this 'God,' such as Chester's is, simply misunderstood the Bible story, and felt they were doing after God's example to take the seventh day for rest and worship. Some day, I must surely tell you more of how worlds are made, for it is a wonderful story.
"The one day taken for rest out of all the seven, however, is a great help to all of us. Thousands of people do nothing but drudge except for that one day. And it is wise to do then things not done the rest of the week. So, we get a change, and freshened up for the ordinary daily round of duties. But, any act, done any day, for the good of all others, is right; while doing it on Sunday makes it neither more right nor more wrong. Only, see, when we come back to Chester! If Chester played ball on Sunday, when he thinks it is wrong, when it would be a cause of disturbance to his parents who also think it wrong -- why, of course, he would be doing wrong to play. The same act would not be wrong for you in your place, because you know it does not annoy those who are taking care of you, and who even prefer that you should take that exercise."
"Then God doesn't have the say of what's right or wrong, Auntie?"
"Well, now, you see, we have to know what God is. I said each one must decide for himself what is right or wrong. Each one must think for himself. Each one really IS a Thinker -- a Perceiver -- looking on all things, yet himself the same Perceiver, the same one who thinks. That is the only God we can ever know, who can ever punish us. It's not a God outside. We ourselves -- those Perceivers -- are really God. We punish ourselves -- we reward ourselves -- whether we realize it or not -- and we cannot escape either the reward or the punishment. Especially must we never forget that it's the same God in every person we know or meet or hear of."
"But is it always there, Aunt Eleanor? Did I have it when I was a baby, and will I have it next year just the same as now?"
"It IS always and always, dear. You don't have it, because it's really what you ARE. Aren't you Milton, just the same now that you were when you were a baby? And next year, you won't be anyone else but Milton, will you? You'll know more then than you do now, of course, but the Milton who knows the more is just the same Milton who can know ten times as much and still be the same Milton."
"But I'll be taller then, Aunt Eleanor, and stronger?"
"Your body will, dear child. But I'm trying to tell you that YOU are not that body. Don't you see, you can't be, because if you were, you would be somebody else when you got into long trousers? And in fact, there won't be a bit of your body as it is now in the body you will have when that time comes."
"But why does my body change so?"
"Well, dear, do you know there is nothing under the sun that does not change excepting that one thing which you ARE -- that one thing Dorothy is -- the one thing I am -- and everyone else is. I say, it is the Perceiver. And there is another name others call it -- Consciousness -- God, indeed; only you see, it is not at all the large-sized man-God that Chester thinks. It is really this God -- this Consciousness -- this Perceiver -- this Inner part of ours that makes the changes in our bodies. We do not realize it -- but it is That which causes everything to be done."
"Does That tell us what is the right thing to eat? Is it -- when we want something so awfully our mouths water -- THAT tells us?"
"Exactly. If our tastes are not dulled by artificial foods. And our bodies are made from the food we eat. It is really a wonderful story -- how the little thinkers all through our bodies set about their work and do it for us. People call them cells, and membranes, and tissues, and many other things, but they, too, are Thinkers in their way."
"Oh, Auntie, do you mean EVERYTHING is a Thinker?"
"Everything, dear, in the wide, wide world. Only there are different kinds of thinking. The stone doesn't think as much as the plant, you see. The plant doesn't think as much as the animal 'thinks,' and not even the most intelligent animal thinks as you do, dear, because it doesn't know it is thinking. It doesn't know, for instance, even that it IS an animal and that you are a boy."
"But won't he sometime ever know?"
"Not 'HE,' for, you see, there isn't any 'he' there! A 'he' could say, 'I am'; and if it could say, 'I am an animal,' it wouldn't be an animal!"
"Oh, my, then, Aunt Eleanor, what IS an animal, anyway?"
"That is a deeper question than many people suppose, Milton. But let us take it this way: we all live in a universe of Life, and there is, indeed, no better word for 'God' than Life. In this universe of Life are many grades, just as in a school, and calling the mineral kingdom the first grade, there are even forms of life not yet able to enter that grade; calling human beings the last grade, there are beings who have gone even beyond that! In between the first and last grades comes the animal grade, that is, there is Life moving and acting in animal forms. And, sometime, the Life in the animal forms will enter the human grade; though the animal GRADE will be there just the same, into which the Life may advance from the vegetable grade. So, when we say animal, I think we mean a form of life, with all the intelligence of the lower grades, and the additional power of being able to MOVE where it wants. The stone doesn't move of itself, you know, and the plant must stay by its root, but the animal is not confined in its motion."
"Why, their bodies can move around just as our bodies do, can't they?"
"Yes, but their 'minds' can't move about as our minds can. They can't think, for instance, of doing something next week, or of what they did last month."
"Then it's the MIND-motion that makes us different from animals? Then the 'God' in us is just the same God or Life as in the animals, only in us It knows it knows?"
"Yes, that is the whole story of Life, dear -- the EVER-GROWING, the EVER-BECOMING something bigger and better and wiser. But enough 'mind-motion' on such deep things for this time, son. Now, run and play. Boys and girls need to keep their 'animal' motion going, too, if they would be happy and healthy and wise."
By John Middleton Murry
[From THE ARYAN PATH, November 1932, pages 738-44.]
With William Blake, we must take a plunge: the quicker the better. So I take the plunge from his four most famous lines. They have for their title -- and their title is important -- "Auguries of Innocence."
To see a World in a grain of sand And a Heaven in a wild flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.
The lines are familiar, even fashionable. But how does one see "a World in a grain of sand?"
The problem is simple. Is Blake asking us to see something that is in a grain of sand or something that is not in it? The answer to the problem is equally simple, and emphatic. We are required to see something that actually is in a grain of sand.
Blake would have agreed that it did not always happen. Many days, he could not see it himself. For instance,
When you are under the dominion of a jealous Female Unpermanent for ever because of Love and Jealousy You shall want all the Minute Particulars of Life.
"Minute Particulars." Blake was very keen about them above all at the time -- in his old age -- when he was composing "Jerusalem," from which these words are taken. "Minute Particulars." Change but a syllable, and you have "minute particles" -- almost exactly "grains of sand."
There is no deception. Blake himself shall speak -- from "Jerusalem" again on page 31. Los, who is the Imagination, looks upon the Fallen Man, Albion. Los and Albion are not two persons. They are the regenerative and unregenerated parts of the one Universal Man. Los explores the fallen Man of whom he is himself the imaginative part.
Los took his globe of fire to search the interiors of Albion's Bosom, in all the Terrors of friendship entering the caves ... And saw every Minute Particular of Albion degraded and murdered But saw not by whom; they were hidden within in the minute particulars Of which they had possessed Themselves ... But Los Search'd in vain; closed from the minutia, he walked difficult.
Imagination finds the going hard except through the Minute Particulars, and these have been possessed, degraded, and murdered by an unknown power. Now remember that Albion -- the Eternal Man in his fallen state -- is also England: not really England, but England serves as a symbol to articulate The Fallen Man. So
Los came down from Highgate through Hackney and Holloway towards London Till he came to old Stratford and thence to Stepney and the isle Of Leutha's dogs, thence through the narrows of the River's side And saw every minute particular: the jewels of Albion running down The kennels of the streets and lanes as if they were abhorr'd Every Universal Form was become barren mountains of moral Virtue, and every Minute Particular harden'd into grains of sand And all the tendernesses of the soul cast forth as filth and mire.
The immediate point of my quotation is to show in what, for Blake, the fall of the Fallen Man consists: first, in his Universal Forms becoming barren mountains of moral virtue and second in "his Minute Particulars hardening into grains of sand." This was the fall of the Fallen Man.
The Fall consists in the Minute Particulars being hardened, by some malignant agency, into grains of sand. So we have a clue, at least, to the real meaning of the first Augury of Innocence.
To see a World in a grain of sand.
This is the Redemption: the changing back of the grain of sand into the Minute Particular that it really is. When that happens, we have the first Augury of Innocence. So we begin to see why the word "Augury" is used. It is a harbinger of Innocence to come. And that is very important. Blake is not speaking as he is almost always supposed to be speaking, of the actual innocence of the child in these famous lines; he is speaking of the regained Innocence of the Fallen Man. He is saying: "When you can see a world in a grain of sand -- the world that is actually in it; when you can see a heaven in a wild flower -- the heaven that is actually there to see -- then you know that your Redemption is nigh. You are regaining Innocence." And as we could have corroborated the heaven in a wild flower by "Behold the lilies of the field" -- so we corroborate the meaning of Auguries of Innocence by "Except ye become as little children ye shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
Of course, Jesus, like Blake, was talking to grown men. He was speaking of a second Innocence: redemption of the Fallen Man. And of course, like Blake, he was speaking of it as something that happens here and now -- not at some far-off time, in some far-off Kingdom -- but now, at this moment, here.
And Blake's final symbolism for this redemption from the Fall, this rebirth into Innocence, is intimately connected with his vision of Minute Particulars. For him, the Fall of Man consists in his losing this vision of the Minute Particulars; the Redemption consists in his regaining the vision. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is the total message of Blake. He enforces it through a thousand forms of recondite imagery, but it all comes back to this simple and mysterious happening.
Now when Blake says that the Fall of Man consists in his losing the vision of the Minute Particulars, does he mean that Man has actually LOST that vision? Does he mean that at some time in his actual life, Man possessed that vision, and now it is gone? The answer is "Yes," and "No." And that is the true answer, which distinguishes Blake, like Keats from Wordsworth, for whom the vision splendid fades as we enter further into the life of the world, and can only be recaptured in fitful evanescent moments. But Wordsworth could never rid himself of the thought of Annette, or overcome his own sense of sin. He could not attain, as Blake did, that level of experience from which a man can see his past with naked eyes and accept it and know ALL experience as good; that spiritual condition in which even one's own Minute Particulars can be known and loved.
For the doctrine of Minute Particulars applies not merely to the world out there, the objective world, but also to the world in here, the subjective world. We have to be able to see a world in OUR grains of sand -- the separate experiences of our lives. That is Blake's meaning in the passage quoted.
Every Universal Form was become barren mountains of moral virtue And every Minute Particular harden'd into grains of sand And all the tendernesses of the soul cast forth as filth and mire.
"All the tendernesses of the soul cast forth as filth and mire." That is what Blake would have said to Wordsworth striving to cast the memory of Annette, as a foul thing, from his soul.
Blake's religion of the Minute Particulars is a terribly subversive religion. It takes us clean beyond "good and evil." It is indeed aimed directly against the religion of "good and evil." It begins indeed, in Blake's own words, "with a marriage of Heaven and Hell." Now when that great discovery fell upon him, and his eyes were opened, he did what Nietzsche did at a like moment, he nakedly proclaimed an absolute reversal of values.
Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence. From these contraries spring what the religions call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.
The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when he wrote of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.
So, the true Poet -- which is Blake's name for the man of creative genius -- is necessarily "evil," what Goethe called the "demonic" man. Thus, to take the instance that was of decisive importance to Blake himself -- the instance of Jesus -- the last thing it is generally desired to remember about him was what a profoundly revolutionary spirit he was. He was, within the most completely religious society in the world in his lifetime, a complete rebel: a complete criminal. That, we say to ourselves, or others say to us, is because the Jews were an evil and adulterous generation, which is, of course, ridiculous nonsense. In fact, the Jews of his day were a more religious society than we English are.
In what did the rebellion -- the creative newness -- of Jesus consist? Blake was quite clear in his own mind about this: it is the theme of "The Everlasting Gospel."
If moral virtue was Christianity Christ's pretensions were all vanity; And Caiaphas and Pilate men Praiseworthy ...
That is how it begins. And if this is true, it follows that the Churches have turned Christianity into the very thing that Jesus fought. And that was Blake's conviction. He came to be absolutely convinced that he understood the true teaching of Jesus, and the moment he was convinced of that, he absolutely devoted himself, in body and soul, to propagating the true gospel. Unless this be grasped, the whole of "Milton," the whole of "Jerusalem," all the lovely visions of the Book of Job, will be meaningless.
It is remarkable that there are no less than six substantial versions of "The Everlasting Gospel." I do not suppose Blake was satisfied with any of them. Perhaps he was attempting the impossible -- to give a complete description of the Jesus who was real to him. The two things he wishes to stress are perfectly clear: The first of them is this: that Jesus was a rebel -- that he was imbued not with the Reason that is Good, but with the Energy that is Evil.
Was Jesus born of a Virgin pure With narrow soul and looks demure? If He intended to take on Sin The Mother should an harlot been ... Or what was it which He took on That He might bring salvation? A Body subject to be tempted From neither pain nor grief exempted? Or such a body as might not feel The passions that with sinners deal? Yes, but they say He never fell. Ask Caiaphas, for he can tell.
He mock'd the Sabbath, and He mock'd The Sabbath's God, and He unlock'd The evil spirits from their shrines And turn'd Fishermen to divines; O'erturned the tent of secret sins And its Golden cords and pins ... "Obey your parents!" -- What says He? "Woman, what have I to do with thee? No earthly parents I, confess: I am doing My Father's business." He scorn'd Earth's parents, scorned Earth's God, And mock'd the one and the other's Rod; His seventy Disciples sent Against Religion and Government ... He left His Father's trade to roam A wand'ring vagrant without home; And thus He others' labour stole That He might live above control. The publicans and harlots He Selected for His company, And from the Adulteress turn'd away God's righteous law, that lost its prey.
But the supreme offence -- this is the second of the two points that is stressed in every version of "The Everlasting Gospel" -- is that Jesus utterly abolished the Law.
The Moral Virtues in their pride Did o'er the world triumphant ride In Wars and Sacrifice for sin, And souls to Hell ran trooping in ... The Accuser, Holy God of All THIS Pharisaic Worldly Ball Amidst them in his Glory Beams Upon the Rivers and the Streams Then Jesus rose and said to me: "Thy Sins are all forgiven Thee" Loud Pilate Howl'd, loud Caiaphas yell'd When they the Gospel Light beheld. It was when Jesus said to me "Thy sins are all forgiven Thee."
That sounds innocuous, and almost Orthodox. But Blake happens to be speaking not of something that happened long ago, or something that will happen hereafter. He is speaking of the here and now -- of "all THIS Pharisaic Worldly Ball," where Moral Virtue and the Law reign supreme. And what is more, he is identifying himself with Jesus. Pilate and Caiaphas are HIS judges; Satan, the great Accuser, is the Holy God.
Who then is the Jesus who acquits Blake, accused by the Christian God of moral virtue, who is Satan? If Blake has identified himself with Jesus, then who is the Jesus who declares that his sins are forgiven? The answer is the inevitable one. It is Blake himself. But not Blake in his own ego. For it is not merely presumption, but a downright spiritual impossibility for a man in his own ego to forgive himself. The Eternal Man in Blake himself who forgives his own sins, and Blake's name for this Eternal Man, in himself and other men, is Jesus.
But far more important to Blake, as it was probably far more important to Jesus himself, was the fact that this Eternal Man was Everyman. He was, so to speak, a condition that every man could attain to -- the condition wherein, in Tchehov's words, "all things are forgiven, and it would be strange not to forgive." And this condition is an impersonal condition. Jesus himself never said, "I forgive you." He said, "You are forgiven." For the profound and simple fact is that "forgiveness" is not of the ego, not of the self, at all. Where the condition of "forgiveness" is, there the ego is not. And this profound and simple fact is the reason why Jesus, who discovered this condition of "forgiveness" in himself, or rather through himself, was compelled to attribute it to God. For Jesus, this condition WAS God.
Now, manifestly, if the condition of "forgiveness," the condition of the Eternal Man, is one that negates the condition of the "ego," then it follows that the way to achieve it is by an annihilation of the "ego," or the self, as Blake calls it. The self is the home of Good and Evil; it is that which makes judgments of Good and Evil. And Blake's particular name for the self is the Specter -- he calls it the Specter because the act of judgment is deadly and because it can be exorcised or made to vanish away, because the act of judgment is only a Negation. It denies this, as evil, and asserts that, as good. Now perhaps we can understand what Blake is trying to say in "Milton" (page 46):
All that can be annihilated must be annihilated That the Children of Jerusalem may be redeemed from slavery. There is a Negation, and there is a Contrary: The Negation must be destroy'd to redeem the Contraries. The Negation is the Spectre, the Reasoning Power in Man: This is a false body, an Incrustation over my Immortal Spirit, a Selfhood which must be put off and annihilated always. To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by self-examination To bathe in the waters of Life, to wash off the Not Human, I come in Self-annihilation and the grandeur of Inspiration.
It is nominally Milton who speaks, but it is Milton's spirit that has descended from Eternity and entered into Blake. In fact, it is simply the Eternal Man who speaks. Blake has created this Milton: he has, by his own participation in the Eternal Man, "redeemed" Milton.
The Contraries are Good and Evil, and the Negation is that which judges them as Good and Evil. Annihilate the Negation, and the Contraries are "redeemed." Good and Evil become both positive, in the sense that "Without Contraries there is no Progression" -- no Life. Good and Evil, and the Negation (or the Specter) which maintains them in that deadly fixation: -- these constitute the threefold, or Sexual, Man. And, as Blake says on the fourth page of Milton, "The Sexual is Threefold, the Human is Fourfold." And the Human is Fourfold, because it has become the home of the Eternal Man, who is born first by the annihilation of the Specter, and the consequent redemption of the Contraries.
When the Contraries are redeemed, the Specter that has been annihilated is also redeemed, and once redeemed, there is no longer any harm in it, for it is recognized simply as an inevitable and necessary condition of existence in time. Though annihilated, it still exists, and the Eternal Man serenely acknowledges and accepts it.
But, as Goethe said, we conquer our eternity from day to day. The mere fact that we must live in a world of Good and Evil, where incessant judgments of Good and Evil are a condition of life, makes it necessary that the fourfold Human should ever be on his guard against any partial "incrustation of the Immortal Spirit by the False Body of the Selfhood."
This is what Blake means when he says that this False Body of the Selfhood "must be put off and annihilated ALWAYS." No REAL relapse into the Threefold Sexual is ever again possible, once the Specter has been annihilated, and restored by the Spirit into a disciplined and harmonious existence: nevertheless, the supremacy of the Spirit has to be asserted continuously in life, paradoxical though that may sound. And this conflict in time between the Threefold Sexual and the Fourfold Human, this usurpation of the place of the Spirit by the Specter, is precisely the happening in which, for Blake, consists the Fall of Man regarded as an eternal event.
In his symbolism, Urthona is Spirit, Urizen the Specter or Reason, and the rebellion of Urizen against Urthona and the usurpation of Urthona's rightful throne by Urizen is the great drama of the soul to which Blake in his prophetic books constantly returns. Thus, the Fall of Man consists in the disruption of the fourfold Human, and the consequent degeneration into the threefold Sexual. The Negation is established, and the Contraries become sterile opposites. This, in Blake's view, is the condition of human beings until they are regenerated.
But -- this is important -- this Fall of Man is not an event in time. As far as I can see, Blake did not at any time really believe that the individual had been fourfold and Human, and had fallen -- whether at birth, or at the end of age of childish innocence -- into the threefold sexual. In other words, the regeneration of the threefold into the fourfold Man was not a return to any former condition, it was the achievement of a creatively new condition. But this condition was so manifestly the goal of human life, that it seemed to Blake that it must be the essence, the fundamental reality of human life. As essence, it was eternal. Therefore, it could be symbolically represented as the condition from which Man fell.
This brings us, hard and sharp, against the mystery of the relation of Eternity to Time. And I am glad to say, it brings us up against it from the right direction -- from the only direction in which the mystery of Time and Eternity appears the pregnant mystery it veritably is and not a barren intellectual paradox. Actual experience is the only solution of that mystery; and to actual experience, it simply ceases to be mysterious.
Any one who knows at first hand the condition of the Fourfold Human is perfectly clear about the relation between Time and Eternity; and no one else can be. Such a man will know without my telling him that Eternity is in the here and now: and he will know that since it is always the discovery of an individual experience, there are as many ways of expressing it as there are people who discover it. Thus, when Blake says, simply and beautifully, "Eternity is in love with the productions of Time," he is saying precisely what Spinoza said with equal simplicity and beauty when he said that "sub specie aeternitatis omnis existentia est perfectio," or again precisely what Keats said:
Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty, that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
By Alexander Fullerton
[From THE PATH, January 1894, pages 306-10.]
One of the first experiences of a new Theosophist just acquainted with the doctrine of Masters is a desire to be brought into contact with Them. Yet there can be no fitness, no claim, and the desire is born rather of curiosity or a natural ambition for a rare privilege. As acquaintance with real Theosophy expands, the desire abates, for the fact is perceived both that the privilege has not been earned and that its bestowal would be premature.
Then with clearer views as to the actual functions of Masters and as to the immediate duty before the aspirant, comes full conviction that ample resources of ordinary kind exist for present light and strength, as also that relations will arise when, and only when, Masters discern both the need and the right. It may even be said that the fitter the preparation the less the desire, since increasing humility from sense of shortcoming averts the supposition that relations can be yet possible.
In a previous article there were stated the class to whom Masters vouchsafe proof of Their existence, and also Their object in so doing. The class is of those who have been zealous, faithful servants in Masters' Cause, and the object was needed help, sympathy, encouragement, or stimulus. What degree of service warrants the manifestation is of course a question for the donors alone to decide. No one else, the recipients least of all, is in position to conjecture.
Evidently relations may be, as to the workers, conscious or unconscious. The former would exist, in minor form, wherever a Master, by whatever method of communication He might be pleased to adopt, made clear the fact that He had observed the worker, had approved his devotion, and felt for him interest and care. Such an assurance would demonstrate several things; -- that earnest service was certain to attract attention; that it would, when of sufficient amount to justify notice, receive it; that the interest would never cease while the service was maintained; and that it would be sure to manifest whenever circumstances called for help, sympathy, or active sustentation.
At a more advanced stage -- Chelaship, the connection would be of course distinctly avowed and the Chela is admitted to closer union, but how the avowal would be made, and what terms exacted, and what rules prescribed, must be unknown to us who are without this experience.
But unconscious relations may be just as real. They probably exist in every case where a human soul senses the value of spiritual things and feels an impulse to secure them, for the first flutter of spiritual life must be instantly discerned and welcomed by Those whose mission it is to disseminate such life throughout humanity and to foster its progress. Hence, every aspiration connects with Masters and ensures responsive aid. When it so far asserts itself as to lead to active philanthropic work, particularly if in the Society that Masters have established as Their special agency for the spread of the Wisdom Religion at this era, the subject of it is brought more directly (as it is termed) within Their "ray," and thus is affected by the forceful warmth that streams along that.
Ideas arise from time to time within his mind that seem quite normal to its usual workings, but which really have been sown there by a Superior; impulses start from no obvious cause, yet the actual cause is not suspected; affairs prosper, but are accounted for on ordinary grounds of energy and persistence. That a Master may be tracing out the course and facilitating its pursuance does not occur to the pilgrim. Yet all the time that influence may be at work, and, if it is unopposed by counter ones, may lead on to a stage of service and of merit where the unconscious help may be revealed to consciousness. Thus, as in evolution universally, there is the incipience of life, the gradual invigoration of that life, its emergence into active function, its efflorescence in visibility, its recognition as a fact.
But let us suppose that spiritual vitality, accompanied with that unselfish effort for others that is its evidence and test, has so far progressed that recognition of it is appropriate. Still there needs an occasion not less so. A superfluous demonstration would be counter to that wise law of economy ruling here as elsewhere in Nature. Masters, we are told, are "readjusters," not continual interferers at every point and allowing no play to spontaneous movement or to maturing character, but wise overseers who interpose only when interposition is needful to avoid costly loss, to prevent serious mistake, to correct error, to recover from depression, to confer necessary strength, to give encouragement, to assuage doubt, to suggest duty, to arouse assurance.
So long as men are fallible they are liable to exhibit fallibility, but thorough devotion gives Karmic claim to help against the fallibility's becoming disastrous and impairing the devotion. At the point where weakness threatens disaster and where Karmic right entitles to assistance, is an epoch justifying a disclosure from Masters. If everything is going well and if no adequate capital of merit has been accumulated, there is no reason for manifestation: in the converse condition, the reason is ample.
How, at such a point, is the manifestation made? Assuredly, no one can presume to enumerate all modes, or even apparently fix limits to the action of Masters. There must be many means of which no one short of Mastership can conjecture. Yet in published Theosophical works, and in confidential utterances to others from Theosophists thus honored, it is certain that among those modes there must be (a) a message sent through an equally zealous member with an organism psychically fitted for receiving and transmitting it; (b) a written communication from a member already in relations with Masters and receiving direction to write it; (c) a written communication through and by an actual Chela acting under orders; (d) a direct message given by a known Chela and avowedly as message from a Master; (e) a precipitated paper effectuated directly by a Master or by a High Chela thus instructed; (f) vocal utterances through the physical body of a proper subject temporarily overshadowed or even fully occupied by a Master; (g) a communication by a Master himself to the interior being of the recipient, it being seized by intuition and by use of inner faculties. There is of course still another case (h), that where a Master personally appears and speaks; but as this is known only in exceptional instances or where Chelaship actually exists, it has no place in the matter now considered.
To describe tests of genuineness in any or all the above modes must here be impracticable. Much depends upon what the recipient antecedently knows of the transcriber or writer; much upon the circumstances of the specific case; much upon the intuition of the recipient; very much upon the character of the communication. The present treatment is only of cases where genuineness is amply evidenced to the one concerned.
The immediate effect of such a message is a mixture of humbleness and encouragement: humbleness that so much imperfection still survives in one so honored, encouragement at the knowledge that a Master has deemed him worthy of His notice. The avowal of the notice is an avowal that relations exist, but as they only exist because of the worthiness thus indicated, the succeeding perception is first, that they will exist only so long as the worthiness is maintained, second, that they will be annulled whenever that worthiness sinks below the necessary level. Hence follows the conviction that the relations are henceforth on the responsibility solely of the disciple, the Master having already signified His readiness to continue them and the disciple being therefore the one to determine whether his conduct shall make possible the continuance. He has been invested with a privilege: it is for him to preserve or to forfeit it.
Succedent thereupon is a two-fold condition within. There is a new sense of the reality of Masters as a working factor in Theosophical life, and a very deep and heart-touching realization that the recipient's course has been upon the right path, imbued with the right motive, and thus far successful in its purport. His impulses have not been misguided, nor his aspirations visionary, nor his work deficient: all have been endorsed by an authority abundantly capable. Distrust would be both groundless and disrespectful; even uncertainty may be thrown away as unjust. The other conviction is of profound resolution that the course that has received such endorsement shall be pursued, that the relations it has evoked shall be maintained. And thus the effect of a conscious tie to Masters is a union of encouragement with determination.
As conscious relation with Masters is far more than a valued honor, being really of incalculable importance in spiritual progression, the question of its extension and strengthening has enormous moment. Obviously, anything that is incongruous with it, whether of interest, memory, imagination, desire, thought, whether in habits, pursuits, speech, action, needs abandonment as setting up vibrations not concordant and therefore hostile.
Men are not perfect beings: if they were, they would not be here: and Masters do not expect a perfection that is necessarily nonexistent. But they do expect at least an honest effort to correct all vibrations that antagonize Their presence and Their influence, even though human weakness ensures occasional slips. And in this correction, as otherwise, Their help is pledged to each such effort. Furthermore, the strengthening of the tie is greatly aided by frequent meditation upon Them and an attempt to sense vividly Their nearness, for this actualizes Them in the mind, gives Them reality as living presences around and within, makes the tie more close and palpable. Thought, as Theosophy ever emphasizes, is a most potent agent, creating forms, vivifying them, perpetuating them. And when exercised upon existing entities such as Masters, it gives them interior reality, force, influence. Daily the hindrances to their aid abate, the relation becomes habitual, the consciousness of it normal.
How shall relations with Masters be attained? Simply through the performance of duty. There is no other recipe for any good. But duty is a highly inclusive term. It means all that is owed to oneself and one's Higher Nature, all of self-discipline and purification and advance; and it means all that is owed to others, to generous help of the race, to the work of the Theosophical Society. It covers all obligations, but its fulfillment secures all blessings.
Are relations with Masters to be avowed? Certainly never for self-satisfaction, even less for pride or glory. Such a state of mind would vitiate them at once. It cannot be said that at no time, in no circumstances, for no purpose, may this be done, for ESOTERIC BUDDHISM and not a few other Theosophical publications have had of necessity their groundwork in such relations, but for ordinary Theosophists, not called by obvious duty to proffer personal experience in support of doctrine, there is a silence that is golden. It is no hardship, since the more sacred of life's chapters are not opened on the highway; it is not useless, since it avoids cavil by the jealous and the scoffing; and it is not unwarranted, since the most richly endowed of men are the least assertive or proclamatory, -- the very Masters Themselves.
By Leoline L. Wright
[From REINCARNATION: A LOST CHORD IN MODERN THOUGHT, pages 51-63.]
A survey of our world of today suggests that the keynote of these times might be appropriately regarded as irresponsible individualism. Anything, almost, which contributes to the "free development of personality" would appear to be allowable. And the results, as we see them recorded in the daily press or meet them in our vain efforts at moral and social reform, are deplorable.
We need a new basis for the ethical education of the individual. Churches, educational institutions, social service measures, prison reform, all are useful: they serve to keep things going. But until the individual CHILD can be trained from infancy to a rational, heart-satisfying philosophy of life, growing out of the facts of Nature itself, there will be no constructive, lasting improvement in the moral character of our civilization.
Such a rational and well-nigh irresistible basis for education and living is offered in Theosophy. Reincarnation is but one of the many comprehensive and searching truths that it contains. Every one of the laws it points out anew to man is grounded in Nature, and evidence for the existence of these laws is drawn from our experiences of the life around us. There is no science or philosophy in the Western world today, outside of Theosophy, which can explain life itself or show an inevitable basis in Nature for morals and ethics. Theosophy, if one will study it conscientiously and fairly as one would study chemistry or music in the hope of mastering either, will solve our every problem. It will give a purpose to all living and an individual objective both satisfactory and inspiring.
Reincarnation -- which, as already said, means the periodic rebirth of the Reincarnating ego as a human being on this earth until it has exhausted the earth's evolutionary possibilities for it -- is but one aspect of the general law of reembodiment. Reembodiment itself is an expression of the universal rhythm of life -- that "law" or HABIT of cyclic progression in the Universe that we see manifested everywhere as ebb and flow, night and day, sleeping and waking, life and death, the rise and fall of the seasons, the birth, growth, and decay of nations.
Let us now examine what a belief in Reincarnation ethically implies. First, it changes a man's idea of himself. Probably he will think first of his own past. He accepts the idea that he has lived many times and thus must have had a share -- no matter how important or even how obscure it may have been -- in building some of the great civilizations of Earth. This gives him a sense of spaciousness, of really being somebody, which our modern standardized living and the "born in sin" teaching had almost crushed out of him. Perhaps he has lost faith in religion. But Theosophy will give him a deep, inner vision of the Heart of the Universe, that glorious Sun of Universal Being of which every creature is a ray in its inmost essence. He will come gradually to feel his oneness with this Universal Life; and so the religious instinct will be reborn in his heart and he will be consoled and uplifted by a sense of union with the Heart of Divinity.
Later he will look around at his environment in this new light, realizing now that it is just what he prepared for himself in a former life. And a feeling of creative moral energy is born. WHY NOT CHANGE IT, BETTER IT, SINCE HE HAS THE POWER? Initiative springs up in him, and the beginning of a regenerated activity. Next, he will turn to his relationships: his friends and -- his enemies. Who are these people? Mere casual attachments? Why, no; of course not. They are his associates of eternity! Even this man he so heartily dislikes -- that is because he has disliked him before in past lives, and the dislike has been growing, until now it fairly darkens his pleasure in life. Is this to go on increasing through all his future lives, leading to what dark ending no one can divine? Thinking like this, he will begin to see the matter as his own problem rather than one of environment, and nine men out of ten will put all their moral ingenuity into solving it. And he will enjoy working it out. It is quite likely that he will end in understanding and loving the one who is now a mere thorn in the flesh; and far from wishing to see the last of him he will be added to the number of those who are to pass onward and upward with him to the next stage of evolution.
Marriage appears, under the pressure of modern conditions, to be growing more complicated and difficult with every decade. There is a sense of impermanence about it. Young people have no teaching that shows them any way to connect sex-life with ethical law. Sex is one of the facts of human existence that seems always to have defied moral law; so much so that many who are sound at heart have given up in despair before the contradictions involved in this problem. Nowhere else, perhaps, do we drift as helplessly as in this one relation.
But young people who accept reincarnation come to realize that sex inheres only in the impermanent and perishable part of them, the lower personality; and that happiness that is permanent, which lasts in its essentials for always, belongs to the divine, imperishable Reincarnating Ego. They will be led to test this teaching by study in history and biography, by observation in the lives of those around them; by trying it out in thought and action in their own difficulties. In doing this they will make wonderful discoveries concerning the more enduring aspects of companionship and love that, could they be assured to the youth of the world, would revolutionize society.
Of course, too, young people who believe that they have been together before in other lives and that their present difficulties are the outcome of mistakes in the past on earth; and that is they slide out of the situation now it will only be postponing the settlement -- aggravated the next time by compound karmic interest -- such young people will have the common sense instinct to tackle the problem at once and work it out to a happy ending. As for the harmonious marriages we need only observe that in all human relationships and all forms of enduring love, the teaching of reincarnation throws a yet more beautiful and sacred light upon the reality of any true partnership in the higher purposes of evolution. But to make marriage real the love upon which it is built must have its source in the spiritual nature. So it is seen that a belief in reincarnation, when truly studied and understood, puts an end to all drifting, which is such a prevailing moral weakness of today.
Then how differently do the parents who believe in reincarnation regard their children, from the usual parent, who thinks either that his children "belong" to him or looks upon them merely as the chance-born product of animal evolution. For Theosophy brings into the home the beautiful light of the essential Divinity of man. The birth of a child in the home of those who so believe is not a mere "occurrence"; it is a divine event. The being about to reincarnate is returning from the Heaven-world and brings the atmosphere of a holier and purer sphere into the lives of those to whom it is entrusted. Both mother and father share in one of the deepest and most sacred mysteries of life. So they will not only prepare themselves to give their children the highest possible vehicles for their reentry into this earth-life, but they will undertake with joy that wider preparation for wise and sympathetic guidance of their children through their karmic problems inherited from their past incarnations, of which they are themselves such an important part. How much they can do for their children's and their own evolution in this spirit can easily be seen by the thoughtful inquirer. And one need not do much thinking to understand what such an attitude can mean in the lives of both parents and children. These ideas have been most wonderfully expressed by Katherine Tingley in THE WINE OF LIFE:
A home established on these lines would have within it indeed the Kingdom of Heaven. Storms might rage without: trials, poverty, struggles, tragedies, disappointments of all kinds, might assail its peace from without; but no matter how many or how great they might be, they could not daunt the builders of this home; who have within, heaven, reflected in a home-life that is the expression of the Higher Law. Their children would be born into the wonder of the new happiness with which its atmosphere would be filled. Before the birth of each, they would prepare for it in much more than the ordinary sense. They married understandingly, this couple; with knowledge of the laws of life; they were companions, and not merely lovers. A child is born to them, but their states of mind were fashioning its character before it saw the light; the influence of all the harmony, peace, hope, courage that they have brought into their lives was preparing for it a larger, broader path than is common, and an environment fit for a soul to live in; so that it finds itself after birth not exiled in this world, but at once at home in its surroundings.
We understand, when looking into the fundamental laws from which reincarnation springs, that evolution is a moral -- a spiritual, rather than a mere physical process. Physical evolution is but the outermost and least important side of the matter. Of what use ultimately, a healthy and beautiful body if used for evil ends? And how many invalids, and even people who are perhaps outwardly unattractive have contributed treasures of inspiration to the world's need! We have only to recall Socrates or Dante to see the fallacy of the popular point of view. It is indeed a well-known fact that physical perfection has never been necessary and seldom present in cases of moral and intellectual genius. On the other hand, how frequently it happens that physical beauty is a source of misfortune or moral backsliding. Character is the spiritual fabric woven by evolution. It is the only thing we can take out of life when we go: it is what we bring back as our heritage from the past when we return to incarnation on earth.
The whole modern philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die, has grown out of the loss of realization that we are imperishable spiritual beings in our innermost. Materialistic science has educated the present generation to regard themselves largely as highly developed offshoots of the ape-family. The demoralizing effect of this teaching found nothing in religion with the authority of life and nature back of it that could counteract its degenerative influence. That was one of the main reasons why the Mahatmas started the Theosophical Society through H.P. Blavatsky when this materialistic influence was approaching its apex in the last century. Theosophy has been steadily at work now for a century. Not only its published teaching but also its potent invisible thought-influence has united with the spiritual instincts of humanity to free us gradually from this nightmare reaction against the superstitions of the past.
Theosophy shows the true spiritual ideal of evolution and its practical working out in all sides of life -- spiritual, intellectual, moral, and physical. In reincarnation, the ethical side of evolution is seen to be paramount, for here justice, moral consequences, and growth in spiritual power are the decisive influences. None can develop the best within himself unless he grows spiritually. A power gained through lives of effort and used merely for selfish gratification withers, for it will be checked in later lives by the effects in suffering and difficulties of environment consequent upon that very selfishness. And the teaching of reincarnation makes it clear that the best way to make genius and character permanent and divine is to consecrate them to the service of humanity. It is in such wise that the great Saviors of history have been able to sway the minds and hearts of whole races of men.
We must not leave this subject without noticing another important ethical effect of this belief, and that is in the lives of old people. The great majority look with dread upon the coming of old age for, to most, if it does not mean either feebleness or actual physical and mental deterioration, at least it entails being "put upon the shelf." But Theosophy shows why it is that old age should be a most important part of life, as the following helps us to understand:
The Reincarnating Ego or "soul" is not really fully incarnated until some rather short time before the physical body dies; which means that there is a constant and unceasing possibility for physical, mental, and spiritual development almost to the time of the dissolution of the physical body. In other words, ... old age is not, as is sometimes foolishly supposed, incapable of learning, and merely a distressing period in human existence where all the best is past and the future holds no hope except the bliss of dying. The exact reverse of this is true, for, theoretically at least, up to a short time before physical dissolution a man SHOULD progress steadily in both spiritual and intellectual power and faculty.
-- G. de Purucker, THE ESOTERIC TRADITION, 894
These words bring indeed a new and heartening message for us all. The wise ancients recognized this truth in maintaining that young men were for action and the old for counsel. One of the tragedies of modern life is the disproportion between the roles of youth and even of middle age -- but the truth of reincarnation as presented in the passage above restores the balance. This is yet another case where the teachings of Theosophy give back hope, dignity, and happiness to discouraged humanity.
We must however not overlook the fact that to realize at its best this ideal for old age it is necessary to live so in harmony with the divine in youth and middle age that old age may be the perfect harvest of this earlier spiritual development. Yet even so, an aging man or woman, meeting Theosophy for the first time, will find the practice of its teachings a wonderful creative power to restore purpose and energy and stimulate spiritual advancement in the years that remain.
Above all else, reincarnation demonstrates that Brotherhood is the great reality of the universe. It is the basic and the supreme fact of nature. It governs all things in both their essence and their evolution. The first of all the elementary propositions of the Ancient Wisdom, Theosophy, stresses this universal essential unity. The most fundamental error that can be made is to deny either directly in thought or word or indirectly in action this truth of the utter oneness in essence of all beings. It is, we might almost say, to deny the Divine Source in which we all live, move, and have our being. In THE SECRET DOCTRINE H.P. Blavatsky has given us the foundation in spiritual Nature of this truth. She establishes
The fundamental unity of all souls with the Universal Oversoul ... and the obligatory pilgrimage for every soul -- a spark of the former -- through the Cycle of Necessity, in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic Law ... The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric Philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations. (Metempsychosis is a word of wider meaning than reincarnation. It refers to the reembodiment of the Spiritual Ego in other spheres than that of earth -- in the inner, spiritual worlds.)
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 17
We thus see that all creatures have the same origin in the Universal One Life. Man at present is working out the purpose of his evolution through the Cycle of Necessity called on this earth reincarnation. In these facts, we see the basic equality of all beings in origin, growth, and destiny. For at the very heart of everyone, of whatever grade or degree of evolution, there dwells a god-spark, a beam of the Oversoul, or the Universal Life. In the kingdoms below man, this god-spark burns with but a feeble, instinctual light. In man, it has increased and thrown out a self-conscious ray that lights his path clearly when he will let it and makes of him a responsible moral being. In the Mahatmas, this god-spark has expanded into the light of semi-godhood, self-conscious union with the One Life; and in those Beings beyond and above the Mahatmas the spark has gloriously flamed out into pure godhood. So on and up the mighty Stairway of Being that mounts out of the reach of our present spiritual vision and disappears into the glory of the invisible worlds.
The most beautiful side of this teaching lies in the essential responsibility of the higher for those less evolved. The gods brood over all planes of being, shedding inspiration and life upon the whole. The Mahatmas, their self-evolved servants, are first of all Helpers and Elder Brothers of humanity, and although they have graduated from human life and its lessons and might pass on to higher spheres of evolution if they wished, they choose to remain near humanity to foster its spiritual development, helping the gods in their protection and guidance of men. From time to time, as already said, the Mahatmas send out Messengers to teach in a new form the ancient truths of the Universe that during the course of ages have become distorted or forgotten. H.P. Blavatsky was such a Messenger and the Theosophical Society is the channel through which the Ancient Wisdom, Theosophy, after having been lost to the Western world for almost twenty centuries, is again restored to mankind.
A further development of this aspect of Universal Brotherhood in connection with reincarnation lies in man's own individual responsibility to the kingdoms next beneath him in evolution. In reference to the constant change and flux among the atoms forming our bodies, and in their dissolution and transmigration after man's physical death, the following is related to the above idea:
Man's emanations thus build up the animal world; the animals feed on these life-atoms of many kinds; physical, vital, astral, mental, and what not ... These life-streams issuing from him give life and evolutionary impulse and characteristics to the entities of the kingdoms below the human, because these subhuman kingdoms are the evolved productions of the thoughts and vital emanations of the human race.
-- G. de Purucker, GOLDEN PRECEPTS
Brotherhood, then, is not merely an ideal or just a sentiment, but is a living fact. And all of our collective miseries can be traced to ignorance that brotherhood actually is a law of our being. Not understanding this we are forever disturbing, by selfishness of all kinds, the harmonious development of ourselves and of the race. It is through reincarnation, checked and guided by karma and helped by our Elder Brothers and those above them, that humanity at last learns the supreme lesson of human evolution -- that only through selflessness and impersonal love can man achieve freedom, happiness, and power.