The distinguishing characteristic of that evil side of magic which has usually been called "black" is that its object is entirely selfish. There are many cases in which it is nothing more than this -- in which its object is not to do evil for evil's sake, but to obtain for the possessor of the powers whatever he may happen to desire at the moment.
-- C.W. Leadbeater, SOME GLIMPSES OF OCCULTISM, page 206.
By B.P. Wadia
[From LIVING THE LIFE, pages 79-83.]
THE BOOK OF THE GOLDEN PRECEPTS advises the aspiring devotee to "search for the Paths." The Inner Life begins with enquiry and search (see the Bhagavad-Gita, IV, 34). The roads of a city like all material ways lead outwards, and the rotundity of our earth brings the wayfarer back to the place he started from. The religious pilgrim bound for Kashi or Mecca also returns to his home to continue the routine of his former living.
The Esoteric Philosophy confirms the intuition of the mystic that the Path to Soul-life is an Inner Path. Sages have taught in allegories that the Inner Ways exist, and that there are milestones in the inner world as in the outer.
THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE refers to the Path of Liberation and of Renunciation; also to the Paramita Path and the Aryahata Path. The would-be Chela is asked to begin the "search for the Paths," but there are conditions for the search:
Search for the Paths. But, Oh Lanoo, be of clean heart before thou startest on thy journey. Before thou takest thy first step, learn to discern the real from the false, the ever fleeting from the everlasting. Learn above all to separate Head learning from Soul wisdom, the "Eye" from the "Heart" doctrine.
Preparation for the Inner Pilgrimage should not begin unless we have cleansed our heart in needful measure. The "heart" of the embodied soul is his "discerning power," which is tamasic, dull and befogged, obscure and mistaken; or rajasic, incapable of deciding what should be eschewed and what accepted; or sattvic, having knowledge of what to do and how, and also of how to hold fast and how to set the soul free. Therefore, the cleansing of the heart consists in purifying our perceptions, in acquiring the pure and true power of discernment.
Now our passage names three pairs: (1) the real and the false; (2) the ever fleeting and the everlasting; and (3) Head learning and Soul wisdom, or the "Eye" and the "Heart" Doctrine.
To overcome the limitations of worldly perception and to unfold higher discernment is the preliminary task; this preparation for the journey is necessary before the first step is taken on the Path that winds uphill all the way. This preliminary task involves the discarding of useless belongings that would make the journey almost impossible, and the making ready of our mental luggage.
Self-purification depends upon Discrimination, Viveka, which is the first necessary mental quality named by the great Shankara in his CREST-JEWEL OF WISDOM. What is the Real? The Changeless is the Real. Truth is changeless; it is everlasting; it does not pertain to the past, the present, or the future, but rather to timeless duration, the Eternal Now.
There are two types of knowledge, designated as Head learning and Soul wisdom. The former is called the "Eye" Doctrine, for the personal man uses his mind depending upon the data his senses supply. Soul wisdom is called the "Heart" Doctrine, for it is in the Heart that the inner Wisdom of the Soul, the Silent Thinker and Watcher, springs up spontaneously. The Man "for whom the hour shall never strike ... KNOWS, for it is knowledge." The great Meister Eckhart's statement is illuminating in this context:
Hearing draws in more, seeing leads out more, the very act of seeing. In eternal life, we are far more happy in our ability to hear than in our power to see, because the act of hearing the eternal Word is in me, whereas the act of seeing goes forth from me: hearing, I am receptive; seeing, I am active.
Ignorance is a hindrance and a handicap for the mundane man who desires to get on in this world. To compete and win the race in ordinary life -- that is his objective. Correspondentially, Head learning is a handicap for the aspirant who strives to obtain Soul wisdom, to retreat within to the cave of the Heart.
An ignorant man can get at his innate ideas and divine intuitions, but a man of Head learning cannot do so. His false knowledge, relative knowledge, partial knowledge, is different in kind from Soul-knowledge. The latter is not an extension of Head learning. Head learning hinders the aspirant; for him, it is worse than ignorance. There is one aspect of relative knowledge that may aid the mind seeking Soul wisdom. The latter can act as a guide and an illuminator by showing what is true in relative knowledge.
The seeds of Wisdom cannot sprout and grow in airless space. To live and reap experience, the mind needs breadth and depth and points to draw it towards the Diamond Soul. Seek not those points in Maya's realm; but soar beyond illusions, search the eternal and the changeless SAT, mistrusting fancy's false suggestions.
The unified wisdom is registered in Akasha, the Divine Astral. Its beams reflected on earth are the seeds of Wisdom. Every human mind is a ray of the Soul, and in every incarnated existence, that mind carries within itself the seeds of Wisdom. The weeds of passions, prides, and prejudices prevent their sprouting. The atmosphere necessary for the action of the seminal principle in the seed is absent. Men and women do not live; they only exist and go through life; they pass through numerous experiences but fail to learn the lessons. The mind requires the breadth of vision resulting from the assimilation of universal ideas. It also requires the depth and the insight born of noble feelings that are impersonal. Thirdly, the mind needs the beneficent influence of the Magnetic Star of the World of Spirit.
The navigator using his compass is aided by the polestar; the incarnated soul must learn to use the Spiritual Firmament -- Akasha or the Divine Astral -- which moves majestically and infallibly round the Spiritual Magnetic Pole, the Logos, Verbum, Shabda Brahman. There flow to humanity on earth from the Akashic firmament rays of Wisdom Light that issue from the Diamond Soul, "the Lord of all Mysteries."
These rays may well be called Lines of Force. Just as from the sun innumerable beams stream forth, so from the Diamond Soul rays of Wisdom radiate. Their collective manifestation is Akasha.
The human mind is compared to a mirror. It is a ray of the Shining Soul. The mirror would reflect the light, but the dust of false knowledge, the dirt of passions, and the ashes of moral death are allowed to cover the mirror. Nothing but knowledge of the Occult Science or the Esoteric Philosophy enables a man to brush away the dust and wash away the dirt, and the earnest neophyte can use the very ashes of death to polish the mirror and make it reflect the True.
The beginner is advised to seek the process that will enable him to blend his Mind and Soul. In this process, the exercise of self-examination plays an important part. It is said that "one looking at his face reflected in a dirty mirror becomes anxious and opines, 'I am he.'" When in self-examination, we see our ugliness, viciousness, and falsehoods, have we the courage born of intellectual honesty and moral probity to face them? If we have not, we shall fail. But if we say, "Out of this ugliness, beauty shall be created; out of this viciousness, moral power shall arise; out of these falsehoods, the voice of truth will be heard," then the day of our redemption draweth nigh.
Theosophy is instinct with the grand Power of Masters' Ideation; in the recorded writings of H. P. Blavatsky, William Quan Judge, and Robert Crosbie is to be found that Power, easily available for the men and women of this cycle. In these writings, we must not merely seek information, or even instruction; we must try to tap the Power of the Great Ones enshrined in the records. Then we shall be able to appreciate the heart-pouring of the devoted disciple:
When I was blinded by the dark fiend of ignorance, Thou, Oh Lord! opened my eyes with the collyrium stick of Wisdom. Salutations to Thee, Oh Master.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 245-48.]
How can you prove reincarnation to be a fact? This is one of the commonest questions that we Theosophists are asked, and I always wonder how such a question could be asked. Do you expect to prove after the manner of the laboratory something that does not belong there?
What is proof? It is the bringing of conviction that a thing is true to the thoughtful mind. That is proof -- so stated in courts of law, and properly so stated. Now, if by the adduction of evidence the mind is not swayed into the belief that a thing is true, that thing has not been proved even though it may be true. Don't you see that the only way to get proof of a thing is by thinking it through to the end? Then you are convinced; and while you may be entirely wrong, still that is the only possible way for thinking human beings to get proof.
But don't mistake evidence for proof. I have a receipt that shows that a certain sum of one thousand dollars has been paid. Does that prove that the money has been paid? Any lawyer will tell you it is not proof. It is evidence tending to substantiate a possible fact that a thousand dollars has been paid by so and so to so and so; but it may be a forgery; that receipt may not be an actual receipt. But if an individual hearing detailed circumstances about a thing, sifting and analyzing the evidence laid before his thinking mind, is convinced that X has paid Z a thousand dollars, then that evidence substantiates the conviction brought to the mind, making the conviction stronger.
Now then, how can you prove reembodiment to anyone? It is by bringing conviction to the impartial and thoughtful mind that it is the only possible and satisfying explanation of the existence of human beings. And how is such evidence of proof adduced? By thinking. We are here. We are not all alike. We vary as amongst ourselves more than the leaves on the trillions of trees on the surface of the earth do. Each man is a unit. How came that thinking, feeling unit on this earth? Created by God? Prove to me first that such a creating God exists.
How much simpler and more reasonable is the supposition -- as it seems at first -- that here we have a thinking, feeling, self-conscious entity, which we now in this one life find amongst us. We find this entity at one stage of what is evidently an incomparably long journey of evolution. That is the first thought. We are here. We were not created by a marvel -- some extra-cosmic God of infinite injustice, making some men almost godlike and others heavily, woefully, afflicted. You can cheat the mind by saying, "These are things that belong to Divine Mercy and are beyond our power." You see, that is no answer and that is no proof to the thinking mind. It is sidestepping the question.
What we are faced with is the fact that we exist, that we differ greatly amongst ourselves; that we show in ourselves the evidence of growth. And where can you get all this needful growth in one short life on earth? How about the poor infants who are born and die before they have a chance to grow? Haven't they another chance to come back -- a chance to try again? We have to take things as they are. I never would be one to accuse this spirit whose attributes are harmony and cosmic justice, of acting with injustice and partiality -- never !
Consider another thought. Who are we -- we human egos, with our wonderful powers and feelings? Whence our ethical instincts? A thought that obliged the German philosopher Kant to admit there being divine justice, because these ethical instincts often act contrary, so it seems to us, to the merely selfish, personal man; as, for instance, when a man gives up his life for some grand ideal or for someone whom he loves.
There is divinity in that. We show divinity in our very composition. Does not this tell us that we are essentially sons of God, as the Christian would say; sparks of the Divine Flame that keeps the Universe in orderly progression -- sparks of that Divine Harmony and Intelligence that makes the manifold marvels around us in the heavens or on earth?
We are in this Universe because we are intrinsic, inherent parts of it. We cannot ever leave it. We belong to it. It is we and we are it in essence. And what does this mean, this being formed of its stuff, of its essence? As it is eternal, so are we eternal. We are coeval with the Universe. It is but we in essence. Think!
Let us carry our thought a step farther. As there is no chance action anywhere, no fortuity, naught but ineluctable procedures of cosmic law, therefore we men, one small hierarchy in that cosmos, are not here by chance, therefore our being here has a meaning, and that meaning is rooted in the cosmic life, in the cosmic intelligence, in the cosmic law. It would be utterly meaningless if we simply appeared on this earth for one short earth-life and then vanished and no good came of it, or mayhap no retribution for our evil doings.
Why are we here on this earth? Why are we here now? Why were men living in other ages, or what about the men who will follow us in future ages? Why will they then be? These things are matters of cosmic law. Now pray follow the reasoning, because we are advancing from link to link of thought. Being here by law, and one life being insufficient to produce the purposes of cosmic mind, it is obvious that our being here once is a proof of reincarnation. Otherwise, what brought us here? What cosmic mind put us here instead of on some other planet in some solar system?
We are here because we have been here before, because here we sowed seeds of destiny, and we come back on this earth to reap those seeds that we sowed. This universe, governed by cosmic law, will not allow us to sow corn or wheat in San Diego County and three or four months afterwards travel into Arizona or Nevada and attempt to reap the corn and wheat there. Where we sowed the seeds, there shall we reap the harvest. It is obvious. Our very being here, to the man who can think clearly and logically from step to step, or thought to thought, is a proof of reincarnation. Otherwise, we must say cosmic law put us here by chance. And who believes that? If fortuity governed this world we would, see the stars in their courses and all the planets running helter-skelter all over the cosmic Spaces without law, without reason, without order, without intelligence, and without system.
There you have your proof. Just think about it, reason it out, advance step by step in logical thinking. We are here on this earth because we have sown seeds of destiny, of life here, and we come back to reap them, to undo the wrongs we did in the past, to reap the rewards that we sowed in the past. That is why we will come back to reembodiment in the future. We are now making ourselves to be what we shall in the future become. We are now preparing our destiny for our next life on earth. I am not now speaking of the intermediate phases of life between life on earth and life on earth. That itself is a wonder-story. I am now merely pointing out that in the universal law things move lawfully, causatively, and effectively. Every cause produces an inescapable effect. If you distort your soul by evil thinking and feeling, you will not become by such action an angel of pity. You will become ugly and distorted within, and you will reap the reward and the retribution of what you yourself have done unto yourself.
The Universe is ensouled, and that soul is to the universe what man's soul is to him. The physical universe we see around us is but the body of the universe, as man's body is but the body of his soul. Both the physical universe and the body of man express but very imperfectly the divine, spiritual, intellectual, psychic, and astral and all the higher laws and powers and energies and forces and substances that ARE the invisible worlds in Space.
From step to step, by reason, instinct, and careful thinking a thing through, we are led to the belief that we are in our inmost essence very children, offspring of the Divine Fire. Even more, being such sparks from the Divine Flame, we are in evolutionary cyclic growth constantly advancing from lower to higher things, exactly as the child is born and from unthinking childhood grows to be a thinking, feeling man with ethical instincts.
Pursue these ways of reasoning, and then you will never ask anyone, "Prove to me that reincarnation is or exists." You will have the proof of it yourself.
By A. Trevor Barker
[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, pages 276-80.]
Mr. Sidney King (a member of the Phoenix Lodge of the Theosophical Society) at our White Lotus Day celebration the other night made the statement that the teachings of HPB could be understood as a kind of algebraic formula, which, rightly understood, could be applied to the understanding of any problem of life. We are to consider tonight the subject of what in Theosophy is called the Real Man. Let us apply the proper algebraic formula to an understanding of what is meant by this term. The Real Man signifies that there is something else besides reality in man.
If you turn to HPB's statements of fundamental principles of the Oriental philosophy, you find her laying it down that man is not his objective body, but that there is within him this something that she calls the Real Man, which is an indwelling and energizing principle. This Inner Man is ever striving, acting, thinking, feeling, on this evolutionary journey through earth-life, upwards to that ever-brooding Divinity that is at once its parent and its inspirer.
We understand our algebraic formula to suggest that man divided into the simplest terms for easiest comprehension may be considered as spiritual, intellectual, and vehicular. In other words, there are conjoined in man at any one time three actual streams of evolution. I do not know whether you have brooded upon this question. "Three streams of evolution" seems to suggest that there are entities evolving on all three levels of man's constitution.
Now then, this question of the Real Man will not be comprehensible unless we succeed in showing that that which we call reality in man is something eternal and indestructible. The permanent individuality in man is actually rooted in the spiritual pole of his being, which is in itself dual in character. You notice that HPB in the Fundamental Propositions of the Secret Doctrine lays it down that duality pervades the manifested universe directly you drop in thought from the highest metaphysical Triad, of which Eternal Duration, Space, and Motion are the three symbolic terms.
We need not be surprised when we find that man in his highest spiritual part is dual. Even his Monadic Essence could not express itself did it not do so in two streams or parts: one spiritual and having the aspect of consciousness, and the other, having the aspect of substance, the vehicle side of spiritual conscious life: and these two together make the dual Atma-Buddhic Monad. This is the highest entity evolving in that septenary Cosmos that we call the human being. That entity is performing an evolutionary journey -- a long one; and because it is doing so, it may be said that it actually expresses the highest of the three evolutionary streams that are combined in man.
Let us drop in thought to the next part of our being, which HPB in a generalizing way calls the Real Man. This also is dual. According to the septenary classification, you get Manas and Kama. Here you have the center of what is called the Human Ego, and this Human Ego passes actually from life to life. The Reincarnating Ego is the higher part of this kama-manasic dual entity, and during life, the consciousness is centered mostly in the lower part of it. But the Real Man is centered in the higher part; and it is this higher part of the dual Human Ego that owes the permanence of its individuality to the spiritual brooding presence of the Monadic Essence above it.
Therefore, as you would expect, after death there comes a division that cuts in twain this dual Human Ego that HPB calls the Real Man. That is why this division of man into a threefold entity, consisting of two duads and a triad, is a very good one, because it shows us how the different workings of man's nature, during life and after death, actually take place. After death there occurs a division between the Manas and the Kama, and the higher part of it is drawn upwards until becoming permanently grafted by a process of interior disruption, as it were, on that eternal principle that is represented by man's spiritual nature.
You gain immediately the conception that the transient beings are WE MEN LIVING HERE in earth-life. There is an eternal Pilgrim within the heart of every man, which is here not once but many times, expressing itself through bodies of flesh, but relatively remaining untouched -- that is to say no more touched than the actor is by playing the successive roles that fall to his lot.
This immediately suggests a thought to us. Since most of us are necessarily absorbed and identified largely with the material pursuits of life, the struggle for existence and what not, there is an urgent necessity to find a means of refreshing our objective daily consciousness. It is that part of our being that not only suffers fatigue, but is overburdened with the cares of this world; that suffers fears and anxieties and what not -- which are but a symbol of the unreal man, but a symbol of the transient personality.
Theosophy, if it does anything at all, attracts men's attention to that higher part of their being where in the midst of storm and material difficulties the Real Man may be like a Master Mariner with his hand upon the helm of the ship of life. He may provide, as it were, for the harassed human soul the port that is always calm, and into which the lower man can enter, if he will, at any time -- whether it be while he is at work, or whether he deliberately enters into a state of spiritual meditation. It is because the Real Man is a fact that, if we go about it in the right way, we can raise our consciousness and fix it in that higher state from which balance, discrimination, and pure and compassionate judgment flow.
Now another thought immediately occurs. This permanent individuality lasts for an almost inconceivably long period. It actually incarnates on this planet -- let alone the other planets and globes of the planetary chain -- I do not know, and should be afraid to say, how many times, how many incarnations it has to go through; but eventually this Human Ego wins what is called its Immortality. If you have studied the question, you will know that mankind as they are -- average men and women -- are at best but conditionally immortal: in other words, the human part of them is not sufficiently united to, not sufficiently illuminated by, the higher part of their being, to be able to claim that they are immortal entities. To be an immortal entity is the supreme achievement of evolution -- not as ordinarily understood, but understood in terms of occult science.
When a Mahatma reaches the end of the first five steps on the initiatory Pathway, he enters into an indissoluble state of union between the human Ego and the God within him. It is to this first part or beginning of the process that all Theosophists are striving; otherwise, our endeavors have no meaning at all. Step by step, we are learning to raise this Human Ego, this reincarnating entity, to a recognition that there is that eternal reality in the depths of our being, from which we may get hurried away by the affairs of life, by the domination of what the Bhagavad-Gita calls the objects of the senses. These things serve to becloud man's vision. The Real Man identifies himself with the lower man and he forgets the reality not only of his Divine origin but also of his permanent home: and then such a man loses his calm. He loses his perspective. He is unable to concentrate and do those things that a spiritual man is able to do.
The Real Man is actually composed of all the inherent characteristics or character of the individual. In other words, it is Karma. Karma is that moral kernel of the individual that is indestructible, but at the same time that can only be modified from within without -- by growth. Therefore, if we want to change our destiny, our Karma, and therefore our character, we simply have to recognize that it is our whole being that has to alter. Whatever we are today is simply an expression of that inherent, essential keynote of our being that has been sounding down through all the ages as we incarnated here. It is always sounding out a similar kind of note, until step by step we learn to clarify, to purify, and to raise the tone pitch and the key, until finally we ourselves become convinced that the Real Man is a fact. We strive from that point forward to realize its presence in our lives from day to day.
By Leoline L. Wright
[From REINCARNATION: A LOST CHORD IN MODERN THOUGHT, pages 75-81.]
Our modern point of view about any new proposition might perhaps be summed up in the often-heard query, "Where will it get me?" And characteristically, every inquirer will naturally wish to know what the individual goal is toward which this evolution of character through many lives is leading us.
One of the first changes that a study of Theosophy makes in one's outlook is that there are no absolute beginnings and no final endings to evolution or to ourselves. There are only relative beginnings and temporary endings. Everything develops by stages and it is only the forms through which these stages of evolution are accomplished that pass away. Evolution itself is periodic, as heretofore frequently noted. There is an interval of activity followed by a time of rest and then another period of activity with its consequent period of rest. Thus onward and upward for ever.
At the beginning of our period of evolution as men took place on this planet, the animal soul or vesture and its physical body came, first built by the lower, instinctively structural energies of Nature following the karmic lines of our planetary organism. At a certain point in this process of early development, when the animal vehicle had at last been made ready, the latent fire of mind was awakened therein by those higher Beings who had been men in a former great period of evolution.
As one candle-flame will light many others while remaining itself undiminished, so was man's mentality mystically enkindled by our more advanced, divine Brothers. Symbolically we can regard the prepared animal-physical vehicle of man as the candle, and this aggregated host of higher Beings as a great Spiritual Flame. Descending to earth, this host of divine Beings who had once been men brought MYSTICALLY to the waiting vehicles the flame of Divine Mind. The latent faculties of the animal-man were kindled into the first feeble spark of intellect. The race then became truly human -- men -- thinkers, and self-conscious. They were then first able to relate themselves self-consciously to their environment. In each one awakened that particular kind of self-awareness that feels, "I am I, and no one else."
From that time onward, men became morally responsible for themselves, and their evolution passed from the overlordship of Nature into their own hands. Henceforth what their bodies became, in what direction their evolution proceeded, was a matter of self-directed effort. But these newly awakened men, who were really only just starting on their evolution as full human beings, were not abandoned to their own devices. They were watched over and guided and protected for many ages by the same Great Beings who had initiated their birth as men, as is fully explained by H.P. Blavatsky in Volume II of THE SECRET DOCTRINE.
We must not forget however that all this happened, not by chance or in any haphazard fashion. Our earth is the direct reembodiment -- after its own appropriate period of rest -- of a world that preceded it, and of which it is the exact consequence or karmic result. All these processes of building up and kindling of mind proceeded on lines inevitably resulting from the past period of evolution.
In this way, we started on our evolutionary course through the channels of reincarnation, through the Cycle of Necessity. The "Cycle of Necessity," like many similar phrases, is a poetic yet also literally descriptive name. It has been given to that span of evolution through which every unit of consciousness in the Universe must pass. It is entered upon by the uni-selfi-conscious god-spark at the beginning of a Manvantara, or great period of evolution, throughout which it advances through reembodiment in ever more evolved forms and ranges of unfolding consciousness to its final achievement of self-conscious godhood at the end. Of this great spiral, human reincarnation forms some of the most important rounds.
Now, upon having become a self-conscious thinker and evolved forth the beginnings of his innate powers, man began to build civilizations. A certain number of those great Beings -- gods they may well be called -- who had been men in past worlds and remained as above said to guide the young humanity then incarnated among them. They became their divine instructors in the fundamental principles and concepts of religion, art, law, science, philosophy, and the conduct of life. Following its cyclic trend the human race gradually became more deeply involved in material conditions.
The personality, under the stimulating presence of the developing egoic consciousness, grew in strength. It developed a feeling of limitation and of separateness from all other beings, with passion, selfish desire, self-interest, and will-power used against others. Then disharmony arose with the great universal ends of evolution. Man set his selfish will against the spiritual laws of the Universe. So 'sin' was born. Nature, the essence of which is balance and impersonal harmony, reacted upon him. Sorrow, struggle, and pain were the unavoidable results. War and crime came into the world and the moral atmosphere of our globe became so poisoned that the beneficent gods could no longer breathe the same air with us. They did not desert their karmic charge.
A race of demigods and heroes succeeded them, beings half-divine and partly compounded of the lower elements that earth was developing. They continued to lead the different races as long as they were listened to and followed. Later, as we pursued the downward karmic spiral, the Shadowy Arc of evolution, these semi-divine leaders were succeeded by the Mystery Schools that they themselves established -- great seats of occult learning where the lessening number of spiritual aspirants might still be taught, and initiated into, the Divine Wisdom of the Universe. Finally, religion became materialized, corrupt, and bigoted, these Mystery Schools themselves deteriorated and were finally extinguished.
Still today in certain pure and inaccessible places on our globe there are, we are told, centers of learning where the Mahatmas, our Elder Brothers, and the Successors of these earlier spiritual Guides to mankind, keep alight the fires of Wisdom and preserve the divine teachings of Theosophy, the Light of the Ages.
This brief glimpse into our history will prepare us for an outlook upon our destiny, which is in harmony with it. For the goal of our evolution is nothing less than godhood. In some remote period of the future we who are now men shall ourselves be Great Beings (provided we are successful in the great spiritual race we are now running), gods, returning to our reembodied planet as helpers and instructors to guide our brothers of the lower kingdoms who are now mounting the evolutionary stairway towards humanhood.
We are at present engaged in developing our equipment, so to speak, for that supremely important task, not only by self-mastery, but by ourselves doing the same thing to all our atoms and to all inferior creatures in our own small way. And if you stop to think about it, how could any other destiny be so natural or so inspiring?
It may be interesting to consider just here what such a destiny implies in happiness and divine self-expression for each of us. By means of reincarnation, leading the learning Ego through self-knowledge, self-discipline, and self-directed evolution, man's human consciousness gradually expands from merely human and limited boundaries, up through spiritual and divine reaches, to a sphere finally of cosmic sweep and power. The following passage will afford us a brief glimpse into what reincarnation has in store for the human being:
Each one is an incarnate god: each one of you is an embodied divinity: kin with the immortals who guide and protect the universal spheres; and you can find how self-consciously to become this inner god of you, which you yourself are in your inmost. Become it in your daily life little by little, every day a little more. Yearn to be it; yearn to become it; feel it; think of it; ponder upon it. Even the rewards that come from this discipline and this training are past ordinary comprehension.
Pause a moment in thought and realize what it means to have your consciousness virtually of cosmic reach, attaining the outermost limits of our Solar System, and this not only in the physical sphere but very much more so in the invisible worlds; try for an instant to realize what it is to send your consciousness behind the veils of the physical universe -- deep, deep, deeper still, into the very heart of being; and there to learn, by becoming it, what is there, by experiencing all that is there in your own perceiving consciousness; and then, holiest thing of all, perhaps, feeling so strongly your oneness with the Boundless Universe that instinctively and with all the impulses of your life you consecrate yourself to its service -- a godlike activity.
-- G. de Purucker, QUESTIONS WE ALL ASK
By G. de Purucker
[A term from OCCULT GLOSSARY.]
"Immortality" signifies continuous existence or being; but this understanding of the term is profoundly illogical and contrary to Nature, for there is nothing throughout Nature's endless and multifarious realms of being and existence which remains for two consecutive instants of time the same. Consequently, immortality is a mere figment of the imagination, an illusory phantom of reality.
When the student of the Esoteric Wisdom once realizes that continuous progress, i.e., continuous change in advancement, is Nature's fundamental procedure, he recognizes instantly that continuous remaining in an unchanging or immutable state of consciousness or being is not only impossible, but in the last analysis is the last thing that is either desirable or comforting.
Fancy continuing immortal in a state of imperfection such as we human beings exemplify -- which is exactly what the usual acceptance of this term "immortality" means. The "highest god in highest heaven," although seemingly "immortal" to us imperfect human beings, is nevertheless an evolving, growing, progressing entity in its own sublime realms or spheres, and therefore as the ages pass leaves one condition or state to assume a succeeding condition or state of a nobler and higher type; precisely as the preceding condition or state had been the successor of another state before it.
Continuous or unending immutability of any condition or state of an evolving entity is obviously an impossibility in Nature; and when once pondered over, it becomes clear that the ordinary acceptance of immortality involves an impossibility. All Nature is an unending series of changes, which means all the hosts or multitudes of beings composing Nature, for every individual unit of these hosts is growing, evolving, i.e., continuously changing, therefore never "immortal."
Immortality and evolution are contradictions in terms. An evolving entity means a changing entity, signifying a continuous progress towards better things; and evolution therefore is a succession of state of consciousness and being succeeding a state of consciousness and being, and thus throughout Duration. The Occidental idea of static immortality or even mutable immortality is thus seen to be both repellant and impossible.
This doctrine is so difficult for the average Occidental easily to understand that it may be advisable once and for all to point out without mincing of words that just as complete death, that is to say, entire annihilation of consciousness, is an impossibility in Nature, just so is continuous and unchanging consciousness in any one stage or phase of evolution likewise an impossibility, because progress, movement, or growth is continuous throughout eternity. There are, however, periods more or less long of continuance in any stage or phase of consciousness that may be attained by an evolving entity; and the higher the being is in evolution, the more its spiritual and intellectual faculties have been evolved or evoked, the longer do these periods of continuous individual, or perhaps personal, "quasi-immortality" continue. There is, therefore, what may be called "relative immortality," although this phrase is confessedly a misnomer.
Master K. H. in THE MAHATMA LETTERS, on pages 128, 129, and 130, uses the phrase "panaeonic immortality" to signify this same thing that I have just called "relative immortality," an "immortality" -- falsely so-called, however -- which lasts in the cases of certain highly evolved monadic egos for the entire period of a Manvantara, but which of necessity ends with the succeeding Pralaya of the solar system. Such a period of continuous self-consciousness of so highly evolved a monadic entity is to us humans actually a "relative immortality," but strictly and logically speaking, it is no more "immortality" than is the ephemeral existence of a butterfly.
When the Solar Manvantara comes to an end and the Solar Pralaya begins, even such highly evolved monadic entities, full-blown gods, are swept out of manifested self-conscious existence like the sere and dried leaves at the end of the autumn. The divine entities thus passing out enter into still higher realms of super-divine activity, to reappear at the end of the Pralaya and at the dawn of the next or succeeding Solar Manvantara.
The entire matter is, therefore, a highly relative one. What seems "immortal" to us humans would seem to be but as a wink of the eye to the vision of super-kosmic entities; while, on the other hand, the span of the average human life would seem to be "immortal" to a self-conscious entity inhabiting one of the electrons of an atom of the human physical body.
The thing to remember in this series of observations is the wondrous fact that consciousness from eternity to eternity is uninterrupted, although by the very nature of things undergoing continuous and unceasing change of phases in realization throughout endless duration. What men call "unconsciousness" is merely a form of consciousness which is too subtle for our gross brain-minds to perceive, sense, or grasp; and secondly, strictly speaking, what men call death, whether of a universe or of their own physical bodies, is but the breaking up of worn-out vehicles and the transference of consciousness to a higher plane. The student is earnestly requested to attempt to seize the spirit of this marvelous teaching, and not to allow his imperfect brain-mind to quibble over words, or to pause or hesitate at difficult terms.
By Jas. M Pryse
[A paper read before the Aryan Theosophical Society of New York, published in THE PATH, March 1890, pages 377-79.]
The inquiry so frequently made in the Theosophical Society as to what constitutes the duty of a Theosophist in any particular instance, as, for example, when he encounters the victims of poverty and suffering, shows a peculiar lack of apprehension of the higher Theosophical teachings. A call for a simple rule of action that may be applied in every case at once shows that the person from whom the call emanates has not grasped the fundamental teaching of Occultism, that everything in the manifested world is necessarily dual in its nature. A unitary rule of conduct is no more possible than a stick with only one end. In all things, we perceive duality, the "pairs of opposites" as the Hindus say; thus we speak of subject and object, cause and effect, pleasure and pain, light and darkness, spirit and matter, good and evil, etc.
In seeking by any intellectual process to resolve even the most abstruse philosophical or ethical questions into their ultimates, we can go no farther than the "pairs of opposites." Take, for an instance, the doctrine of karma. It includes both free-will and predestination, the "pairs of opposites" for that subject. For were each individual to reap only the effects of causes set in motion by himself, and thus may create his own future, he evidently has perfect freedom of will, and his destiny is held in his own hands. But, again, since each thought and motive he has is the result of preceding thoughts and motives, and these again of others, he is evidently proceeding inevitably upon a line marked out in the beginning.
If we inquire when this beginning was, we come to a consideration of time and eternity -- another "pair of opposites." Could we penetrate this duality and realize the underlying unity of nature, we would thereby escape the curse of reincarnation and pass from the world of illusion into the realm of reality. So long as we are Baddhas, souls in the bondage of illusion, and not Jivanmuktas, souls emancipated, this duality forever confronts us, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the subject under discussion this evening -- the application of Theosophy to daily life.
No system of thought attaches less importance to physical existence than does Theosophy, which declares it only a passing illusion, a shadow thrown upon a screen. The Neoplatonists spoke of their bodies as "images," and the Theosophists of the present century attach far less importance to the physical organism and the actions of the material plane than they do to the mental attitude and intellectual activities. As said in a private letter of HPB,
To yield to personal PHYSICAL weaknesses and passions is a lesser crime in Occultism than to yield to mental and intellectual weaknesses. To prostitute one's body is to desecrate only an old rag, an evanescent principle. To prostitute ONE'S THOUGHT, even the LOWER Manas, connected with and emanating from the Higher Manas or Ego, is to pollute THAT WHICH IS IMMORTAL.
Constantly we are urged to estrange ourselves from the objects of sense, and to attain to such freedom from all worldly desires that they will awaken in us only a feeling akin to disgust.
To attempt to put in practice these teachings only, disconnecting them from the whole body of Theosophical doctrines, would result disastrously ; and for a majority of any race to do so would bring about an era of ignorance, filthiness, laziness, and depravity such as Europe was plunged into during the Dark Ages from the same Cause. For, mark well, this is but one of the "pairs of opposites," and the other is even more distinctly inculcated in Theosophical teachings, which insist rigorously upon the performance of every worldly duty, upon active participation in the world's work, and upon the most scrupulous moral and physical purity.
Theosophy holds out no hopes of advancement to those who do not work for the cause of Humanity right here in this work-a-day world. It regards as a species of imbecility the mental condition of those who seek "interior illumination," or "soul unfoldment" as they term it, by abandoning their worldly duties and devoting themselves to psychic rhapsodies and visionary speculations, yielding, in fact, to their mental and intellectual weaknesses, and thereby, as HPB declares, polluting immortal THOUGHT.
It is no contradiction that in theosophical doctrines that all things are declared illusory, unreal, and yet a course of action insisted upon seemingly making this the world of reality. Recognize the duality of manifested life, the polarity of existence or being. Further recognize the fact that it is not by following either pole alone that we can pass beyond the confines of duality and illusion to the realm of unity and truth. By diligently considering both poles of existence, we may make of the duad a unit, pass from time to eternity, from mortal to immortal, from being into be-ness.
Consequent upon this duality, the life of a man is a process of unfoldment from within, and also of enfoldment, or adjustment, from without. No unitary rule of action can be framed for a being who is himself a duad; for, being thus dual in his nature, he must follow a dual course, and in a question of action he must while acting remain inactive. One part of his nature acts, the other remains inactive; and when the lower and higher nature of man become one, then action and inaction must also become one.
Says the Bhagavad-Gita, "He who perceives action in inaction, and inaction in action, is wise among mankind." That old book is equilibrium of opposites, so profound in its simplicity, homely in its grandeur, and ancient in its newness, and it is as applicable to the care-worn Western man of modern times as it was to the quiet Eastern people of olden days. Therein we find no single rule of action, but this dual course of action presented clearly and with exactness. Perform conscientiously every duty encountered in this busy world, but have no interest in the results, leaving them to the Supreme; as said in Christian Scriptures, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's."
The more a man separates the two worlds -- the material from the spiritual -- the more closely they come together, tending to merge into one. The light of the spiritual shines down into the material so that even in the personality of the man may be seen a shimmering of the divine light that is making his every action nobler and truer. Another ignorantly seeks to confound the two worlds, rendering unto God that which is Caesar's, and unto Caesar that which is God's. Say that he heals his body through the powers of his soul as some do in this age or tortures his body as a sacrifice to his soul as do some Eastern zealots; such a one finds the two worlds grow wider and wider apart. This is no contradiction; it is the necessary polarity and duality of manifested life.
[From a rare leaflet in circulation around March 1888.]
This circular does not apply to the cases of those who may have acquired the desire to try for Chelaship, as that concerns the esoteric work of the Society alone, and is not within the purview of an exoteric official.
HOW TO JOIN THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
Membership is in either a Local Branch or "at large." By joining either way, one thus becomes a member of the whole Society. When a Branch exists in an applicant's town, it is usually better to join it, as he then more effectually aids the Cause, and has the advantages of larger intercourse with members, of attending the meetings, and of using the Library if there is one. When distant from any Branch, or for good reason indisposed to join one, he should become a Member-at-large.
MEMBERSHIP IN A BRANCH
The applicant should write to the President or Secretary, stating his desire for membership and enclosing a stamp for reply. He will receive a blank Form of Application, to be filled in and signed by himself, and a statement of the entrance fee and dues established by the Branch. The Form is to be countersigned by two members of the Branch, but if the applicant is unacquainted with any, he can always secure a personal interview with the President or Secretary, and steps be arranged for references, inquiry, and subsequent signatures. The Form thus completed, the applicant should deposit with it the entrance-fee (which includes 50 cents for diploma), and such portion of the annual dues as the Branch rules require. All Branches fix their own entrance-fee, or have none, as they see fit. He then, upon election, is entitled to initiation, and, after initiation, is a full member of the Theosophical Society and of the particular Branch.
The applicant can communicate with any Branch President, but, for convenience of records, etc., it is better to address directly the General Secretary, William Q. Judge, P.O. Box 2659, New York City, enclosing stamp. The blank Form of Application will at once be forwarded, and should be filled up and signed. With it should be enclosed $2 for entrance fee, 50 cents for diploma, and $1 for annual dues.
If the applicant knows no members whose counter-signatures may be obtained, he should refer the General Secretary to two citizens of his (the applicant's) neighborhood, by whom his character may be vouched for. Their testimony will justify the General Secretary in securing the signatures of two members of the Society. These being affixed, the General Secretary will himself admit and enroll the applicant as a Member-at-large. He then becomes entitled to initiation from the General Secretary or from any Branch President, whenever his presence in their neighborhood makes it possible, and, should he remove to a town containing a Branch, is eligible to election to membership therein, should that Branch also desire it.
Two points deserve explanation.
The Theosophical Society is not a secret organization, but, for proving membership, a confidential system of significant passwords, etc., has been instituted. It is these to which the pledge of secrecy, to be signed by the applicant, refers, and to any confidential or personal communication made at Branch meetings. Nor is the Society mercenary. But the large expenses of printing, postage, and (in some cases) room-rent have to be met, as well as a contribution made towards the maintenance of the Headquarters at Adyar, Madras, India. Towards the last object go all diploma fees, half of the annual dues of members-at-large and 50 cents from the annual dues of each Branch-member, as well as all charter-fees.
A copy of the Constitution of the Theosophical Society in America will be mailed to anyone forwarding five cents in stamps to the General Secretary.
A list of Branches, with the address of the President or Secretary, is given below.
The Theosophical Society welcomes to membership all who cordially embrace the doctrine of Universal Brotherhood and are interested in the study of Theosophy. To such it recommends membership. First, each additional member strengthens the whole, contributes to the sustentation and expansion of the Cause, and helps to justify the original foundation of the Society and the continued interest and protection of the Masters. Second, membership enables the individual to share the organic life of the Body, to invigorate his own spiritual nature, and to vivify his interest in Theosophic advance. This Circular is issued to facilitate the joining of such as are so disposed, and to spare the General Secretary the time and labor of repeatedly writing the same facts.
ADDRESSES OF BRANCH OFFICERS
By Aryan Theosophical Society
[From a rare leaftet.]
ABRIDGEMENTS OF DISCUSSIONS, UPON THEOSOPHICAL SUBJECTS, HELD AT MEETINGS OF BRANCHES OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN THE UNITED STATES.
ARYAN THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, NEW YORK.
A mingled discussion on Karma and Self-Culture had place.
The purification of the individual character would seem to embrace all the Society's aims. For in the realization of Universal Brotherhood as a fact, comes a realization of spiritual unity as its essence; and a grasp of the truth of spirit involves in time knowledge of its nature and workings and power. Given such sense of pervasive spirit as leads to the broadest beneficence and the loftiest endeavor, you have the germ of the principle that, in full growth, ripens to knowledge of philosophy and religion, and to the acquisition of the psychic and other powers now latent in us. Hence, I take it, the first of the Society's three aims is the greatest, as virtually including the information and the powers referred to in the others.
Self-culture, as an aim, seems open to the same charge of selfishness as any other aim referring to self. As a mere personal attainment, does it differ essentially from the striving to be rich, learned, or influential? On the other hand, is it possible for any one to seek self-culture only as a means to benefiting the race? If self in every form is to be discarded as a hindrance to progress, how can it be retained in the most intense of all forms, -- the expansion of personal gifts and powers? This seems to me a contradiction in the Theosophic scheme.
I do not so see it. The very aim of such culture is to rid the person of narrow views or interests, and to enable him, not only to apprehend universal interests, but also to lose himself in them. The broader the range of his sympathies and aspirations, the narrower his purely individual concerns. Besides, the spirit in which all acts are done, specially acts of charity, is a love of or homage to the Supreme, or whatever is our highest ideal, and this excludes selfishness.
This does not at all express my idea of charity. When I see a fellow being suffer and the wish to relieve him comes into my heart, the wish is to do away with his pain, to make him happy, and I want no other, especially no more remote, motive. Why is not the motive I have good enough in itself? If I desire to take away sorrow or confer pleasure, without any reference to myself and only for the good of another person, is not that a just and proper feeling of itself? I can't see how it would be bettered by turning away my thought from the present sufferer to a distant God and persuading myself that I am doing a kindness because of Him.
I am suspicious of people who don't say simply that they do a right act because they want to, but say they do it for the glory of God or from thought of Him. The best proof of a Godlike spirit is in Godlike acts. If I have and exhibit real sympathy and helpfulness, it is because some measure of the Divine is in me, -- though I may not talk of it.
E.D. Mac P.
I am not clear on this point: How far is the production of good karma a proper motive to good acts? If I give money or time to a charity in order that I may lay up treasure in heaven, is not this an investment just as truly as one in Wall Street?
I think so. There seems no difference in principle between investing in karma and investing in bonds. But CAN good karma be thus produced? Occult writers teach that the ending of all karma is the adept's aim, and that this is only accomplished as the causes generating it are made to end, -- that is, the self-seeking, interests, desires which bind to and renew earth-lives. When these die out and the adept's wishes and will are merged in the Universal life, karma, as a cause of rebirth, has nothing to sustain it and disappears. The desire for good karma is a desire for SOME karma, whereas the highest aim is to get rid of the necessity for any.
One may say that goodness, rather than the being good, is the goal. Charity as an investment would not lead to either. Nor would any act, right in itself, if its object was reward. The production of good karma is the result of good acts, but is not a motive for them. The motive may be two-fold, -- internal, as seeking the formation of noble and Godlike character; external, as effecting benefit to others. Both may combine, the one producing a sympathetic nature, the other a useful life. From these good karma will arise naturally; less so, if at all, when sought for itself.
Let me read you a passage from the Vishisht-adwaita Philosophy. [Reads]. This states, as does Patanjali, that there are three kinds of karma, -- that which is now inoperative because thwarted by karma of an opposite kind, that which is now operating, and that which will operate hereafter when formed. Over the first and second, we have no control, but the third is largely within our molding power.
Now what produces a good karma? Evidently, a good life. But what produces a good life? As evidently, a good motive. But what produces a good motive? Analyze one, and you will see that it springs from two things: true conception and a strong aspiration. We first see the validity and beauty of spiritual truth; then we desire to assimilate and exemplify it; from this double experience of the soul comes the motive towards good. Towards GOOD, observe; not towards reward or happiness or self-aggrandizement in any form.
Now what maintains this motive? I should again say, Two things. First, the steadily increasing sense of the richness of spiritual attainment as contrasted with all other; second, the formation of the habit of offering all acts, even the most trifling, as voluntary sacrifices on the altar of life. This is a matter of growth, slow growth, but a sincere student will find the growth possible. For if he understands that the real value of deeds is measured by the spirit prompting them, and not the results they accomplish, he will see that a small duty discloses that spirit as truly as a large one, and the Bhagavad-Gita says that one's own duty, however small, is that which we should perform.
Further, this habit is helped by fixing in the memory some pregnant sentence from the Sacred Books. Here is one from the Upanishads:
Unveil, O Thou who givest sustenance to the worlds, that face of the true sun which is now hidden by a vase of golden light! so that we may see the truth and know our whole duty."
If you will memorize this, you will find it an invaluable aid to self-culture. It contains matter for profound thought and the stimulus to the highest life.
Still another thing. We need to recall the incessant caution of the Bhagavad-Gita against action with a view to consequences. We are to concern ourselves with the quality of action, not with its results.
Once more, the first of the Society's three aims seems most important because most enduring. Merely intellectual acquisitions cease with death; psychic powers do not go beyond the astral plane, and are not a permanent possession of the individuality; but any spiritual gain or power, spirit being indestructible, continues unimpaired from one incarnation to another.
I agree with Dr. M. that he who FULLY grasps the first aim has really all. Adepts acquire their vast domination over physical and astral forces as an incident in their spiritual course. It is not sought either in or for itself, but comes naturally, and is picked up, so to speak, on their way to the higher peaks of knowledge. It is not well to strive for the lesser good, but for the greater, which includes the less. All our acts, therefore, must be done without our having an interest in the result.
I once asked an accomplished student what he judged the best and simplest prescription for Theosophic culture. He replied, "I believe the best to be that a man should read every morning LIGHT ON THE PATH, and carry out its precepts during the day." He added that a great assistance to the aspirant was to embody in a word or phrase the particular aim he had before him, and to recall it at each moment of temptation or weakness or needed endeavor. It might be "purity," "patience," "content," perhaps even "Chelaship," -- whatever best expressed his need or purpose as he clearly saw it.
The caution against action with a view to consequences seems to require explanation of "consequences." Are they the logical consequences of the action, or the consequences to which the action makes himself liable? The latter should of course be disregarded, as one is to do what is right, no matter at what cost. But the logical consequences of any action are really part of the problem, and one must include them in forming judgment of its desirability. Theosophy would hardly recommend rashness, or thoughtlessness, or lack of foresight.
No; but I mean an adhesion to such action as, according to our lights, ON THE WHOLE seems best, and then freedom from anxiety as to all the possible results. Every act has numberless sequences of which only the nearest can be foreseen. When these are considered wisely and the decision made, we should cease worry over possible or any effects whatever.
We are taught that each person must develop in his own way and on his own lines. There is no one path for progress, as there is no one mold for character. But more than this, I much doubt if anyone can advance faster than at a rate which all the conditions of his being make normal.
Tastes, likes and dislikes, personal, preferences, desires, and habits are part of each man's makeup, whether coming down from prior incarnations or an incident of this. We can outgrow them when the time comes, but can we shrivel them up or extirpate them, and, indeed, should we? The child loses interest in his toy as he becomes older, and another interest arises, fitted to his next time of life. The snake sheds its skin when the proper season arrives, and the man sheds his aims with successive stages of development.
Can these changes be forced, and if so would they be healthful? Is not each taste or desire natural to the man when it exists, and, being natural, proper? And will it not become effete and drop away when, and only when, his general development advances beyond it? In brief, is any artificial system better than the normal one? If better, is it practicable?
These considerations are strengthened by our doctrine that each man must pass through all experiences. If he curtails or mutilates any (I exclude, of course, such as are sinful or injurious to others), he lessens that experience and may have to repeat it. Surely, the great experience cannot be self-mutilation.
There are many replies to this, -- more than space admits. It is true that Nature, and therefore Occult Science, does nothing by leaps. Yet it is also true that Nature is often aided by science, and thus effects in less time and more perfectly what would otherwise require years. Plants are grafted, manured, and pruned. Breeds of animals are advantageously crossed. Men's characters may be improved by discipline and applied will. The lessons would, no doubt, be in time driven in by repeated sufferings, but no one would recommend so slow and painful a process in preference to intelligent reflection and a consequent effort after self-control.
All education, as distinguished from book-study, is based upon the belief that we can, and should, work into betterment, and not merely drift into it. Theosophic Culture has the same basis. It holds that development through effort is right, and that it produces a finer and stronger character, and in shorter time, than does a life without purpose; and it holds also that one may well sacrifice an inferior or transient good to a superior or permanent one. A child may give up a toy for a book, and a man may give up a pleasure for a principle. Whether either CAN do so depends upon the power of his motive. He certainly WILL not do so until the motive has grown to the needed degree of power, and in that sense, it may be said that nothing can occur before its proper time; but here again comes in the doctrine of growth through effort, for motive may be developed thus.
I should say that the question before anyone with conscious aspirations is. Whether he thinks the reasons for a vigorous Theosophic life more cogent than those for the "normal" human course, and, if so, whether he is ready to sacrifice to the greater aim the desires and habits consonant with the lesser aim.
I should say also, as to experiences, that it is hardly meant that each man must pass through all. That is inconceivable. What is meant, I think, is that he must pass through each type, or class, of experiences. One may have to be a physician in some incarnation, but not necessarily an Allopath in one, a Homeopath in another, and a surgeon in a third. One may learn the nature of rulership without being successively a Rajah, a President, and a Queen. So in the matters of art ands emotion.
I do not see that we are to be in turn poets, painters, sculptors, and musicians, though at some time we must learn the principles of all art; nor that we have to experience every shade of taste, desire, passion, but only the general quality common to all. It may very well be, then, that a time may come to each when he thinks that he has had enough of emotional interest, and would prefer, even if not without effort, to reach out after interests less perturbing and more satisfactory.
Question from California
Does the doctrine of karma give, through our circumstances in this life, any reliable clue to the circumstances of the preceding life or lives? In other words, can we at all conjecture what we were before being what we are?
I always insist that there is anyhow one such clue. The very fact that our eyes have been opened to the truths of Theosophy proves that we have somehow or somewhere acquired the right to so great a privilege. We observe that an enormous majority of people are absorbed in purely secular interests. OF the minority interested in super-sensual truth, most misconceive it or hold it in combination with belittling or misguiding error. In our hemisphere, the number of sincere students of Theosophy is minute as compared with the secularists or the ordinary religionists. Therefore, we can hardly ascribe our being of that number to accident or to present merit. Occult Science extrudes the conception of accident, and we often find theosophic aspirations disassociated from rank, high intelligence, large culture, or strong character.
The remaining explanation is that they are karmically connected with a creditable past. They imply some degree of spiritual instinct or affinity, and this so contrasts with the materialism around as to almost demand reference to an antecedent source.
My contention, then, is that real interest in Theosophy is to be accounted for by good karma in a preceding incarnation. Moreover, I think this one of the most inspiring and exhilarating of thoughts. For, if my interest in the Great Truth is thus to be traced back, two things follow. First, I have behind me some certain mass of good karma, and have probably ended many experiences in evil which I should be sorry to repeat. Second, I am encouraged to believe that I am now truly on the Path, and that there is hope that my efforts will neither die down nor fail. The effect is inspiriting, whether I look backward or forward.
This view of previous karma has special value to beginners in Theosophy, who are disheartened by isolation, or by confused thought, or by the apparent futility of conflict with self. Let them understand that their interest comes from a past of good karma, and they freshen up to cheeriness and to renewed effort.
But does not such a view arouse pride? If I am now a Theosophist because hitherto a good man and a better man than my neighbors were, the elation from the fact may ruin me.
Not at all. It applies to what you were, not to what you are. What you are and what you will be depend on yourself, and you may misuse a spiritual endowment just as you may misuse any other, -- beauty, talent, and so on.
Besides, the abuse of a doctrine is no argument against its use. If the doctrine is true and is precious, we can't give it up because somebody may pervert it.
We should always remember what the Bhagavad-Gita says in the Second Chapter that, "there is no loss or detriment to our efforts in study," and, in another place, that we "take up the thread of good karma on each return." But I conceive it an unwise and profitless thing to try to determine the circumstances of previous lives.
[From THE ARYAN PATH, November 1937, pages 485-90.]
How have the different kingdoms of physical nature come into existence? Are there secrets of that nature beyond human consciousness as at present constituted? Still beyond our knowledge, our memory, our imagination, does all-containing Space hold inexhaustible potencies of creation, preservation, destruction, and regeneration?
When one puts to himself, as each one must, such questions as these, something of true perspective is attained, the purely relative nature of human consciousness is seen, and the Soul is for the time freed from all conceptions of finality. Only in this way can such grandiose ideas as are represented by the words "spiritualism" and "materialism" be themselves regarded for what they are -- the extremes in the limitations of human consciousness: the two poles of what the ancient psychologists called "the five modifications of the human mind." The mind itself they regarded as the sixth of "the seven azure transparent spheres." And the seventh?
The seventh they denominated the Atman, the Self or real Being, whether of the individual unit or of that Unity of units that is, in the words of the Upanishads, "the Producer of this production." Perhaps no more graphic rendition exists in English of what is implicit in all Vedic literature than is contained in the late Professor Max Muller's CHIPS FROM A GERMAN WORKSHOP. This work, the first volume of which was published in 1867, when Muller was 44, contains a passage as foreign to all his prior and subsequent monumental erudition as to compel the inference that it came from intuition, not from reasoning.
We have in it [the "Veda"] a period in the intellectual life of man to which there is no parallel in any other part of the world. In the hymns of the Veda, we see man left to himself to solve the riddle of this world ... He invokes them [the gods around him], he praises them, he worships them. But still with all these gods ... beneath him and above him, the early poet seems ill at rest within himself. There, too, in his own breast, he has discovered a power that is never mute when he prays, never absent when he fears and trembles. It seems to inspire his prayers and yet to listen to them; it seems to live in him, and yet to support him and all around him. The only name he can find for this mysterious power is "Brahman;" for Brahman meant originally force, will, wish, and the propulsive power of creation. But this impersonal Brahman, too, as soon as it is named, grows into something strange and divine. It ends by being one of many gods, one of the great triad, worshipped to the present day. Still the thought within him has no real name; that power that is nothing but itself, which supports the gods, the heavens, and every living being, floats before his mind, conceived but not expressed. At last he calls it "Atman," for atman, originally breath or spirit, comes to mean Self, and Self alone; Self, whether divine or human, Self, whether creating or suffering, Self, whether one or all; but always Self, independent and free. "Who has seen the first born," says the poet, "when he who had no bones (i.e., form) bore him that had bones? Where was the life, the blood, the Self of the world? Who went to ask this from any that knew it?" This idea of a divine Self, once expressed, everything else must acknowledge its supremacy, "Self is the Lord of all things, Self is the King of all things. As all the spokes of a wheel are contained in the nave and the circumference, all things are contained in this Self. Brahman itself is but Self."
One may well turn from this noble transcription of the most enduring of all known spiritual ideas as preserved in classic Sanskrit Scriptures to the many fragmentary remains of the Hermetic wisdom of the Egyptians. A service somewhat similar to Professor Muller's life labor was rendered by Dr. Anna Bonus Kingsford in her several translations of some of those undated shards, on which are recorded primeval transmissions in the midst of later accretions already themselves dim with age long before the Christian era. We reproduce a few sentences from one and another "Hermes Trismegistus" -- for there were as many Hermeses as there were Zoroasters and other legendary gods and demigods in human form.
That universal Being, which contains all, and is all, woke into activity the Soul and the World -- all that Nature comprises. In the manifold unity of universal life, the innumerable units, distinguished by their variations, are, nevertheless, coherent in such manner that the whole is one. Everything issues from Unity.
The Deity is not a mind, but the cause that the Mind is; not a spirit, but the cause that the Spirit is; not a light, but the cause that the Light is.
The Ideal Light was before light, self-luminous Intelligence before intelligence. To speak of the Deity is impossible. The form cannot express the Formless. That which is no form, no appearance, which is no body, no matter, cannot be apprehended by sense. That which it is impossible to define -- that is Deity.
Professor Muller was not omniscient; no more than any other conditioned being, however learned or inspired, could he see beyond his own sphere of vision and its containment. No religion, no philosophy, no science, no seer, whether ancient or modern, but embodies error as well as truth -- for "these two, LIGHT and DARKNESS, are the world's eternal ways," as the Bhagavad-Gita and all other Scriptures recite, and as every man knows by his own experiences. So, in what is the youngest of all the great religions, Judaism, one finds the same ideas in Genesis, in Ecclesiastes, in St. John's Gospel, in St. Paul's Letters to the early Churches, in the closing Book of the Bible -- "The Revelation of St. John the Divine."
They are present and discernible in the pagan philosophers and among the great scholastic minds of the mediaeval period as among the immortal Arabians of the same epoch. Nor are they lacking in the writings of the great figures since the Renaissance, nor absent from the consciousness of the foremost men of our own immediate times, Western or Eastern, whatever the degree of their spiritualism or materialism.
The long ages of earliest Aryan civilization and civilizations wrestled with the same mysteries, the same problems, as ourselves. Under the theorem of Unity, of Continuity, of change and its consequences serial and cumulative, is it too much to suggest that these Ancients were ourselves, ourselves still more enmeshed, perchance, in materialism now than we then were in spiritualism -- forgetful then, forgetful now, of the eternal Trinity, the Duality in the midst of Unity? This is the doctrine of Karma and Reincarnation, not as a creed, but as the mathematics of all conditioned, manifested existence and existences.
With this in mind, though as yet but an assumption, nothing can prevent and everything invites the discovery that within one's own self are implicit all the great spiritual ideas, all the accretions of relative truth and error, all the obscurities and darkness pictured in the lights and shadows of human existence. Within each man is the Trinity: perceiver, creator, creature. As perceiver, each unit of the Unity is single and simple; as creator, dual but relative; as a triad, the experiencer of his own alternating roles -- but as the INCARNATED Self, he is the quarternary, "the three in one." Because he does not yet know himself, even theoretically, while in "the BONDS of Karma," he is ceaselessly at war with the elements of his own being, ceaselessly at war with others and with all nature. This is the man we are practically acquainted with, this the race -- man the Thinker, irrespective of the basis, the character, the nature, the objective of his thinking, as of the quality of the conclusions presently held as "finalities."
On this, as on the whole gamut in the great octave of human existence, Madame Blavatsky has written, illuminatingly as inspiringly, to every searcher for Truth. In her SECRET DOCTRINE, she says:
Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached "reality;" but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya.
One of the almost immediate fruits of this stance of the Soul is the direct recognition that Reality is capable neither of addition, subtraction, multiplication, nor division. Hence, all change is but an alternation of state, of form, of condition -- Self-created, Self-maintained, Self-dissolved, Self-reformed, by the Unity and by the units, whether in full Consciousness, full unconsciousness, or in any of the intermediate zones of existence, the psychic world and worlds.
These intermediate spheres of being are what is meant by Maya, by "astral" life, light, and matter. This is the world or plane within which the material universe is holden, in which it is conceived, gestated, disintegrated, and recombined into new forms of physical existence. In itself, it is the electric or magnetic state of polarization rather than the principle or power or property we name polarity. We know some of the processes of polarization for what they are, some others are constantly being employed by us without recognition of the fact, and many others -- the most part -- are misconceived or are beyond our memory and imagination. Who dreams, for example, that these two -- memory and imagination -- are but poles or polarizations produced by us or induced in us, via our astral or psychic principles or elements; and the same as to our thought, will, and feeling?
It may be helpful to some, in trying to picture to themselves these ideas of the whole ancient world as represented in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky, to "block in," artist fashion, the relatively cardinal points, the rough dimensions, the FRAMEWORK of the secret doctrines that each must study and learn for himself, if he would REALIZE as well as BE.
First, then, let us endeavor to gain clean and clear conceptions and perceptions of familiar terms, seeking to IDENTIFY, not to define or describe -- to mark our compass of thought instead of to "box" it before we are in possession of our own means of orientation.
Take the word spirit to represent the most transcendental state possible to be imagined, matter to signify the opposite, mind to include all intervening conditions -- and the Trinity in man is recognizable even though not as yet understood. Identify spirit as the Seer, matter as the Seen, and mind as the alternating current between the two.
Next, as to the mind itself: what are the five modifications of which it is capable or to which it is subject? These are called by Sanskrit terms of which "correct cognition," "misconception," "fancy," "sleep," and "memory" are as good renditions as the English language permits. Each of these words, it should be noted, is cognate to many others, but none of them, nor all of them combined, are to be esteemed comprehensive, for the simple reason that our minds are not in the same "modification" as those who devised these original statements of the principles and elements of the psychic world, and the psychic nature. They may be rendered in familiar words -- thought, will, feeling, memory, and imagination -- provided one recognizes them as present, even if partly or "in abeyance," whether he is awake or sleeping or dreaming, and whether he is on the planes of perception and action of the embodied or those of the disembodied Souls called Man generically.
The order and nature of the modifications change, from state to state, from plane to plane, from form to form, and these changes may be due to "Will and Yoga" or to the influence of external and internal conditions. In this latter event, they are still due to "Yoga," but it is "Hatha," "induced," or "passive" Yoga, not the sole sovereignty of will and wisdom made one, as in the case of the Perfected Man. How far we are from such sovereignty each human being knows for himself, even as related merely to the five modifications.
For it must not be overlooked or ignored that they are but modifications, not the mind itself, any more than the five fingers can be said to be the hand, which also is but a member, or than the familiar five senses are to be confused with their astral counterparts. The psychology of the Mystery Schools deals with the senses, the modifications of the mind, the mind, and above all with the Soul itself, in a way of which only designed ideas are ever permitted to reach mankind at large.
The reason must be apparent, even to the dullest wit, once it is stated. The Masters of Wisdom, their School and disciples, have no wish to gratify curiosity, encourage the propensity of the precocious, or instruct in Occult arts and sciences those, no matter whom, who neglect or misuse their present powers and possessions, great or small. They leave such policies to the charlatan and "the Brothers of the Shadow." True Occultism divulges few of its most important vital mysteries. It drops them like precious pearls, one by one, far and wide apart, and only when forced to do so by the evolutionary tidal wave that carries on humanity slowly, silently, but steadily toward the dawn of a new state of consciousness, that of the Higher Mind. For once out of their safe-keeping, these mysteries cease to be occult: they fall into the public domain and have to run the risk of becoming in the hands of the selfish, curses more often than blessings.
Can anyone who surveys world-conditions and the world-outlook doubt the Wisdom that prescribes such a course? Nevertheless, whenever individuals, men with peculiar psychic and mental capacities are born, they are generally and more frequently helped than allowed going unassisted, groping on their way, very soon, if left to their own resources, falling victims to martyrdom and unscrupulous speculators. Only, they are helped on the condition that they should not become, whether consciously or unconsciously, an additional peril to their age: a danger to the poor, now offered in daily holocaust by the less wealthy to the very wealthy. One has but to use his own power of perception, retrospectively, in the present, or prospectively, to find the evidences of the verisimilitude of these statements.
There are four planes of perception and action in the cycle of a single personal or human existence of the Reincarnating Ego or Soul called Man. Mind is the instrumentality of the Self on all these four planes, but in attempting to identify them, it is needful to regard the dual nature of the mind itself, both from the ordinary and the Occult viewpoint. In his own experience and conception, each man is aware that his mind is capable of receiving, storing, and discharging impressions from both a personal and an impersonal use by the inhabiting Soul. This is also the Occult teaching -- that each man has a Higher and a Lower mind. But here the two conceptions part company. Not only that, but also one is essentially antithetical to the other -- the ancient to the modern theory.
To illustrate: In the Occult views of man and Nature, the physical body and senses, the astral body and ITS senses, the spiritual form and ITS senses, and their source counterparts in "Nature," -- each represents a distinct line of "evolution," "creation," or, to employ the Occult term, "ever-becoming." In Man, the incarnate human being, these three separate schemes are inextricably interwoven and interblended at every point. In the Mahatma, the Great Soul or perfected Man, the Master of Wisdom, the three constituent and convergent lines of progression are unified, while in the ordinary man, even the greatest, wisest, best among us, they are still in process of development. All three lines are, from the standpoint of the absolute Consciousness, the finite aspects or the reflections on the field of Cosmic Maya or illusion, of Atma, the seventh, the One Reality. Two brief citations may be of assistance in grasping the outlines of this most important of all the Occult teachings accessible to anyone who cares to search. The first is from THE SECRET DOCTRINE, and reads:
NOTHING IS CREATED, BUT IS ONLY TRANSFORMED. Nothing can manifest itself in this universe -- from a globe down to a vague, rapid thought -- that was not in the universe already; everything on the subjective plane is an eternal IS; as everything on the objective plane is an EVER-BECOMING -- because transitory.
The other statement is that of the great Vedanta teacher, Sankaracharya, whose actual date was almost contemporaneous with that of Pythagoras:
Atma alone remains after the SUBTRACTION (dissolution) of the sheaths. It is the ONLY WITNESS or synthesized Unity.
Besides this, the Occult teachings regard the mind as a power as well as a product, and furthermore in speaking of it as a power, the mind is called the "thinking principle" on every plane, Monadic or spiritual, Intellectual or psychic, Astral or physical, or all of these combined as in the living human being. Nor do these Teachings regard the mind as RECEIVING impressions, but as REACHING OUT for them.
The nature of the mind as thus indicated, the four planes of its functioning, or the FOUR STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS thus lumped indiscriminately together in an amorphous sum-total -- all this requires further consideration.
By Katherine Tingley
[From THE TRAVAIL OF THE SOUL, pages 179-88.]
All humanity needs an awakening now. Something tremendously powerful and impelling must come to us, if we as a people are to begin to find our true places before we make the Great Change. The old teaching of the one earth-life is deadening, blinding, and misleading.
We must have a larger view of the great scheme of life and of evolution. We must become acquainted with our real inner Selves -- the part of us that thinks, and loves, and seeks to become, not the part that is fashioned according to the customs and the moods of the hour or the age; but the real Being, who lives and thinks within, and who knows something of the grandeur and beauty of life. No power on earth can change its vision.
Now if one, two, a thousand, or even a million can have this larger view, why cannot the whole race have it? Why must humanity pray, study, think, hope, doubt, and in the end lose faith? The fact is that people are unacquainted with themselves; and they cannot be familiar with the inner and Divine Laws of life until they are "up and doing." The life of men with its attractions and its duties is so very little in comparison with what it might be for each living soul.
In the face of death, the real Theosophist can smile, while many despair. He can rejoice, while others are sad, because he knows that life is eternal, while the great majority merely hopes.
How much do you know of what was before you were born, or what is to come after you have passed on? How much knowledge have you of yourself and of the laws governing your inner life? How much can you explain of the great mysteries of life and death -- or rebirth?
You may be very learned, very proficient, with no end of erudition; you may be one of the brightest lights on the horizon of intellectual achievements; but alas, there is still something missing. What humanity needs today is to take the simple path to the Truth in order to gain real Knowledge.
What have you in your knowledge of the future that will recompense you for being born on earth, for living and suffering here? This is the great question that Theosophy answers.
The true Theosophist is one who looks at life rationally, accepts broader views thereof, moves out into the great silent world of Thought, and finds himself aspiring to reach the mountaintops, where the sunlight of Truth dispels the darkness of ignorance. It is the simple facts of man's inner spiritual life that he must know before he can do justice to himself, to his neighbor, and to his country.
No matter how much good a man may do, if he has not the basic idea of the eternity of life, of its abundance, of the glory and the grandeur of it, it is a wonder to me how he lives at all.
The comfort in the teachings of Theosophy is that they bring to humanity the knowledge of its spiritual heritage -- of that which belongs to it by divine right, that spiritual knowledge that should be ours from birth, through childhood, up to manhood and womanhood, and onwards. This spiritual knowledge, working in harmony and in consonance with one's general knowledge of life gained through observation and experience, will illuminate the pathway of evolution.
When death comes, the majority of people look upon it with fear and terror or with questioning and doubt. But to the Theosophist, death means real life -- rebirth.
In order to understand the doctrine of Reincarnation, we must view human life and evolution in a broader and deeper sense than most people are accustomed to. We must know something of the majestic Divine Laws that hold us in their keeping. We must know something of whence we came and whither we go, and what is the purpose of life.
If the human race as a whole actually had any confidence in the reality of life, in the great inner, sacred truths there would be found the knowledge necessary to meet many of the difficulties we cannot overcome now. There would then be no differences among individuals or nations. There would be no wars.
Man, being essentially divine, has within his own inner nature all the godlike qualities that can be evoked and can be lived; and indeed are being lived by a certain class of people, though of course very imperfectly yet.
When people, either educated or uneducated, can look upon life as optimistically as do the Theosophists, then we may have some hope for humanity. We must have such hope; we must believe in ourselves; we must believe in our godlike natures; we must believe that brotherhood is a fact in nature; and that the world that most of us live in is a very small world in comparison with the great one that we have next to know.
Because we are still half-asleep. Because we are so held down by the ignorance of the age and by the despotism of mere intellectualism, we have not yet found ourselves out in the great blue of life. We have not the courage to go to the top of the mountains. We have not confidence enough in ourselves to differ from others in order that the truth may be made plain to all. Thus, we may ultimately work for the great human family, understandingly and harmoniously.
The question of death requires deep thought as well as a rational view of eternal life. It would be absurd to talk of Reincarnation, of our souls living on through eternity, moving on through different states and conditions until they reach perfection -- it would be far-fetched and laughable to the man who has no conception of the greatness of life and of the Divine Laws, nor of the mercy and splendor and grandeur to be found in even his daily experiences; but when one has the higher intelligence and spiritual knowledge united with what he has acquired through study and observation, it is all so simple and clear!
To most people, death is gloomy; but to the Theosophist, death is very beautiful. For before death comes, we have learned through the teachings of Theosophy -- the Ancient Wisdom, -- that the real man, the spiritual soul, is eternal.
How can even the smallest mind that thinks at all limit man's evolution and his aspirations to one short earth-life? Such a limited conception is both a tragedy and a comedy. I cannot see how one can move away from the teaching of Reincarnation, once it has been clearly explained to him.
It is not susceptible of proof to one who is determined in advance not to accept it; but how little we should know, if we threw aside everything that we could not immediately prove!
Why, no one, with all his knowledge, and all his hopes and dreams, can explain what real love is. And yet we know it exists. When we have grown wiser, and better understand the great truths of Theosophy, true love will have such a mighty meaning that it will be the message of all ages for humanity. For real love is eternal; we know it is so; and how can it be eternal, if we have only seventy-five or one hundred years in which to live and express it?
The reason we know so little about these spiritual things, is that we keep too much away from them. We do not go close enough to the secrets of our own inner natures. We do not search our own hearts enough. We have not faith enough in ourselves. Our vision is not broad enough.
The beauty of life is in the knowledge gained from experience. But one must work for this knowledge. If he does not work for it, he does not get it. And when the work of one lifetime is done, he is ready for another life-experience. I do not see why anyone should have trouble in accepting this idea. It is vastly easier to accept than many teachings that the world has accepted -- not to its benefit.
Death is rebirth. We Theosophists are as confident that the soul lives on as we are that the sun will shine tomorrow. I know that my mother lives; and I know it in the deepest and truest sense; and I know that the same path that she trod -- if I choose to make the effort that she did -- I shall find also.
There can be no separation in true spiritual love. Consequently, at fitting periods in our evolution from one life to another, there must be renewed associations on some spiritual plane, which we cannot talk about, but which we know exist.
How little we know, and how much is at hand to know! It is ours to find within our own hearts.
There is no death in the truest sense. The joy that I have in the thought of eternal life compels me to speak of it with great gladness and much intensity. I do not wish anyone to miss the glories of the great Central Source of All -- of the Divine, and of the mercy and the justice of the Higher Law.
If we had the right conception of this Higher Law, we should better understand the meaning of the apparent injustices of life, and half our difficulties would be passed over, for we would have the knowledge how to meet them.
And if we could find men and women so imbued with confidence in themselves -- not in egoism, or anything of that sort -- but with confidence in their own essential divinity and in the mercy of the Higher Law, they would understand that death is simply a change. It is just a vacation from the school of earth-life for a time; and that eventually that which belongs to us by divine right will be ours. We cannot lose it. Nothing is lost in the economy of nature.
Each one can find within himself the great secret of life and know that the spiritual soul of man is immortal; there is no death; love is eternal, and the Divine is all embracing and infinite, and therefore impersonal.
What is most needed is knowledge of the self. Know yourselves, trust yourselves, be growing all the time, ever advancing, climbing ever upwards! Then when death takes your loved ones, you will have smiles instead of shadows; you will have joy in your eyes instead of tears because your souls will have told you that, man being immortal, the Divine love unlimited, and the Higher Law divinely just, all is well for humanity.
It is the duty of all to apply spiritual knowledge to the daily life and to make this cleaner than ever before, ever purer, more optimistic, more courageous, more affectionate, of greater service, and nearer to the simple and beautiful truth of love.