You will observe, Ladies and Gentlemen, from what precedes, that the Library we are now founding is neither meant to be a mere repository of books, nor a training school for human parrots who, like some modern Pandits, mechanically learn their thousands of verses and lacs of lines without being able to explain, or perhaps ever understand, the meaning; nor an agency to promote the particular interests of some one faith or sectarian subdivision of the same; or as a vehicle for the vain display of literary proficiency. Its object is to help to revive Oriental literature; to reestablish the dignity of the true Pandit, Mobed, Bhikshu, and Maulvi; to win the regard of educated men, especially that of the rising generation for the sages of old, their teachings, their wisdom, their noble example; to assist, as far as may be, in bring about a more intimate relation, a better mutual appreciation, between the literary workers of the two hemispheres.
-- Henry S. Olcott, OLD DIARY LEAVES, III, page 409 (speaking about the founding of the Adyar Library)
By B.P. Wadia
[From LIVING THE LIFE, pages 123-29.]
The Theosophical neophyte values THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE as a book of divine discipline. What type of discipline is divine discipline? It may be defined as archetypal discipline. It includes the discipline of the body and the sensorium, of the mind and the heart. It is the discipline of the whole of the personal man: of what he should eat and how he should study, of when he should put his body to sleep, of the why of dreams, of the way of waking, and of the how of doing things. This discipline affects his motives as well as his methods.
Who is the Disciplinarian?
(a) The Inner Self beyond the personal man.
(b) The Esoteric Philosophy or the Science of Occultism.
(c) The Instructor, representing the Guruparampara.
The Inner Self is divine in essence as well as in substance. The Esoteric Philosophy is also divine in origin and content. The real Chain of Teachers is made up of links, each a possessor of Divine Wisdom, whose realization of the truths of the World of the Spirit is genuine and deep enough to enable him to pour out Compassion in the shape of instruction for the benefit of others.
There are worldly, ambitious, and moneymaking gurus. There is worldly and false knowledge. But there are many good and earnest men who desire to learn, to grow in power. The shadow of divine discipline is mundane discipline.
In THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, there are two golden precepts -- sounds enshrined in words -- whose reverberations must be heard if their real meaning and import are to be osmosed:
O Disciple, unless the flesh is passive, head cool, the Soul as firm and pure as flaming diamond, the radiance will not reach the CHAMBER, its sunlight will not warm the heart, nor will the mystic sounds of the Akasic heights reach the ear, however eager, at the initial stage.
Both action and inaction may find room in thee; thy body agitated, thy mind tranquil, thy Soul as limpid as a mountain lake.
The radiance of the Spiritual Sun, the Light of the Logos, warms not the hearts of men; it reaches not the chamber or cave of the heart; and naturally, therefore, its radiance and voice are of no avail to the man of the world. The divine discipline is the training of the personal man so that the Hidden Light and the Soundless Sound are known. For this, a prescription is given in the two verses quoted above.
However, something more than eagerness is demanded to attain divine discipline. Both action and inaction must find room in the learner; he must learn to act without caring for the fruits of action; he must act and yet feel within himself that he is not acting, i.e., that he is not the actor.
"The path of action is obscure," says the Gita (IV, 17). "Even sages have been deluded as to what is action and what inaction." He who learns to see "inaction in action and action in inaction" is described as a wise man.
The neophyte finds himself fettered by self-made fate; these fetters cannot be broken or done away with; they have to be faced and transmuted. Each and every fetter represents an effect, and care and knowledge are required in handling it. The right technique consists in examining our duties. The so-called conflict of duties can and should be resolved by every neophyte at the initial stage. Duty spells necessity; that which is necessary must be done; on the other hand, that which is unnecessary should not be done. Practice of this rule of divine discipline takes us a long step towards freeing ourselves from the fetters of fate.
In deciding what is necessary and what unnecessary, we must not succumb to the demanding or persuasive voice of desires, or to the machinating and plausible pleading of the mind; we must seek guidance from that in us which is unaffected by the desires arising from the sensorium and from the mind. Within us is the Guide, Philosopher, and Friend called the Higher Manas. But he is far distant from Kama-Manas that is ever busy with the senses and the organs, with the flesh and the devil. Therefore, we must seek aid from without, from the Divine Teachings we can obtain help readily and easily.
No one can become a neophyte without aspirations; no one can become an aspirant without knowledge. To become a learner, study is the first step; knowledge purifies and elevates spiritual aspirations; Soul aspirations lead to the actual living of the higher life, and thus the neophyte is born.
The performance of necessary duties and the strict avoidance of all unnecessary actions develop both discrimination and detachment. Soon the neophyte is led to perceive that his new knowledge points to a higher necessity -- the doing of deeds that are not only personal duties or karmas. The Divine Virtues of Charity and Sacrifice call for deeds and not only for words, for actions and not only for thoughts and feelings. Divine discipline requires that ideation and imagination be used in speech and deeds, and harmony be established between words and acts so that no further room is left for Karmic action.
Bearing all this in mind, let us return to the prescriptions offered in the verses quoted above about the discipline of body, mind, and Soul.
(a) The flesh to be passive; the body to be agitated.
(b) The head to be cool; the mind to be tranquil.
(c) The Soul to be firm and pure as a flaming diamond; the Soul to be as limpid as a mountain lake.
The flesh represents sensuous cravings, e.g., gluttony. The worldly indulge the bodily appetites. The activity of the flesh and the titillation of the senses produce bodily ailments, and even the signal of disease is not heeded. Bodily health is necessary for discipleship. Therefore, the neophyte has to learn to distinguish between two types of corporeal agitation. Even modern science recognizes that the body may be thrown into agitation under a wave of strong feeling. Thus, attractions of personal affection that make people cling to life in the body, aversion to or fear of death, and all other likes and dislikes agitate the brain and the body.
However, desires of the sensuous nature and aspirations of the Soul produce two distinct kinds of agitation. Agitation in and of the body can be engendered (a) by the without -- by the cravings aroused by the sights, sounds, etc., of the world of objects; and ( b) by the response of our higher nature to our aspirations which are built around our ideation and imagination. The first type of agitation of the body is a great hindrance in the living of the higher life. Therefore the neophyte is told to make the flesh passive -- i.e., inactive, to prepare it to be receptive. The corpus must be made ready to be a receptacle. The second type of agitation has to be inducted into the brain and thus into the whole sensorium. It is this second type of bodily agitation that is referred to when we are asked to make our "body agitated."
Next: Hot heads can never succeed in the neophyte's life. In page 106 of LETTERS THAT HAVE HELPED ME, Mr. Judge makes pointed reference to the heating and cooling influences and to the excitement and calmness of the mind and of the body. In the neophyte's discipline, the mind plays the most important part. The starting point is the handling of the desire-mind. The head in the human body is the organ par excellence of the lower mind, and the mind made tranquil becomes the channel of the Soul.
The complexities of the lower mind or Kama-Manas are many. THE SECRET DOCTRINE points out that "Mind is a name given to the sum of the states of Consciousness grouped under Thought, Will, and Feeling." (I, 38) The part played by ideation and by memory is also referred to. THE SECRET DOCTRINE contains also an important statement of practical significance to the neophyte: "The ordinary man has no experience of any state of consciousness other than that to which the physical senses link him." (II, 701)
The neophyte must come out from among them who are "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd, bound in" by their senses. He must recognize the Manasic nature of his being and perceive the necessity of disciplining the senses for which a prior disciplining of the mind is essential. A quiet reflection on the two statements of THE SECRET DOCTRINE will bring him to the realization that "matter, after all, is nothing else than the sequence of our own states of consciousness, and Spirit an idea of psychic intuition" (I, 542). Kama-Manas, Manas freed from Kama, and lower mind influenced and guided by the human Soul, the Higher Mind, are three distinct states of consciousness, in each of which thought, will, and feeling function.
The mind cannot become tranquil when swayed by doubts and fears, attractions and aversions. Our disposition must be free from the taint of sensuousness, agreeably inclined to pure reason based on philosophical principles, and the will must be steadfastly resolute to follow the dictates of our divine conscience. A tranquil mind is not a passive mind; it is concentrated and is receptive to the influences and impresses of the Human Soul, the Ego, the Inner Ruler -- a ray of the Divine Mind.
Theosophy teaches that the intimacy between the Divine Ego and the human personality is not established in the man of flesh until the neophyte learns to evoke by purity, sacrifice, and control the power and the radiance of that Divinity.
When the mind is freed from desire and then is trained to unfold its inherent latent powers, it becomes firm and pure under the benign influence of the Divine Man; it reflects the firmness of the diamond and sparkles steadily with the colors of the Akashic heights. The second image shows that the personal soul becomes like unto a mountain lake, limpid and translucent.
In the calm of the Soul lies real knowledge. Experience of holy, celestial Joy is the real sign of true spiritual life.
The mountain symbolizes the far-sightedness of Prometheus himself reflected in the purified waters of the astral personality that is capable of responding to the Wisdom of the Great Lord who dwells on the high altitude of the plane of Spirit.
Just as the worldly man reflects in his deeds and words worldly illusions and delusions, so the neophyte begins to reflect, in his actions and speech, the sacrifices and wisdom of the Divine Man. The goal of the neophyte is to become divine here, in his present embodied state, purified of the dross and dregs of Kama, and shining with the Power of the Immortal and the Eternal.
By A. Trevor Barker
[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, pages 61-64.]
You have just heard it stated that our philosophy teaches us not to look for results, an idea that is very much laid down in the Bhagavad-Gita. Nevertheless, like all good things, there is sometimes a hidden danger if we do not understand the import of what is there written. I do think that as Theosophists we have the duty to recognize that we are not looking for results or fruit of a personal kind, or for personal advantage, or good results to our own karma.
Nevertheless, as agents, unconscious, semi-conscious, or fully conscious of that great Brotherhood of holy men who stand behind the work of the Theosophical Society, we have to recognize that if we want to achieve the objective that is set before us as workers in the great Theosophical field, we must learn how to calculate and use the forces, the instruments, and our tools of work in such a way that we get the results for which we strive. No mere philosophical reasoning to the effect that "we are not looking for results" will compensate for our lack of choosing those methods that will get results.
One of the great Masters once wrote these words:
The degrees of success or failure are the landmarks we shall have to follow, as they will constitute the barriers placed with your own hands between yourselves and those whom you have asked to be your teachers. The nearer you approach to the goal contemplated, the shorter the distance between the student and the Master.
In other words, they judge by results.
Whilst there is truth in the other statement, let us not have it in the back of our minds as a justification to ourselves that after all, we have done what we could, and if nothing has come of it, well, we must not "look for results." I do not believe that is the highest Theosophical philosophy. It is rather to take the view that if we have not got results, we must accept the responsibility for it ourselves, and recognize that there must be something that we have not learned, perhaps don't know how to do.
Remember that the last and final key, and the first key to any successful work, is something in our own hearts and minds. If we are not successful, anyone of us individually, in presenting Theosophy to the public in such a way that it attracts them, holds their interest, and leads them in their turn to go to work to dig in the mines of the Archaic Teaching so that they can win the treasure that therein lies, win it, and incorporate it into the very fabric of their being, and then give it out to others -- we have done nothing, indeed less than nothing! It is not just coming to listen to a speaker or a lecturer that is the beginning and end-all of being a member of the Theosophical Society. No. To quote the Leader's own words, "Every one of us militant Theosophists has got to become a Leader himself," in the sense that we must find the key within our own hearts that will literally make us leaders of the thought-life of our age.
I have often thought of the illustration of the man who was compelled by a peculiar will of a deceased relative to go down on to the Thames Embankment in London, without a penny in his pocket, and not having eaten anything for a long number of hours. He was struck with his total inability to relieve the dire distress and misery that he found on that riverbank. Any individual who wants to labor in the illimitably vast field of the Theosophical Movement to bring spiritual light to men is in the position of that man, if he has not himself made a certain amount at least of the Theosophical truths and principles a part of his life and a part of his being. He can relieve the suffering of others with that spiritual gold.
Therefore, it is our first job, and not our last, to go into the workshop of our own Nature, and take up the tools that belong to our craft. You know what they are: the material in which we have to labor is the sevenfold constitution of man and of nature of which he is a part, and the tools of his craft are placed in his hands by the Great Teachers of the human race. They are the sublime teachings of the archaic Wisdom-Religion of humanity, the rules of life and conduct.
We have to take up these things, and not merely gaze on them from afar like a famished man gazing upon a spread banquet that he dare not eat. But we must walk to the feast that is laid upon the Masters' table and ourselves partake of it; go to work on the battlefield of our own being, like Arjuna on the field of Kurukshetra. First, we must slay the armies and hosts of those lower forces that course through our own lower nature; for each of us has to learn to vanquish himself, however many times we ourselves may be vanquished in the process.
The Theosophist takes as his shield and buckler the saying of the great Buddha: "Greater than the conqueror of armies is the disciple (the man, the student, and the neophyte), the aspirant, in every age, who learns to conquer himself." After all, that is the entrance door into the Theosophical life.
The Theosophical Movement, Brothers and Friends, means nothing at all if it has not the power to awaken the divine fire in our own hearts, and in the hearts of all who come into the Movement. Why is it that the Theosophical Movement right down the ages has had and does have today the power to change men's lives? Have you ever reflected upon it? Why is it? It is a fundamental that lies right at the basis of the whole of our work, and it is something that, alas, is very little understood even among the ranks of Theosophists. Many people believe that a mere concourse of students, all more or less of the same level of development, makes a Theosophical Society, and the truth is that it does not. Why? This is the reason, as I understand it: The Theosophical Society itself is the outer court of the inner circles, the esoteric circles, of the human race; the outer court-way, through which we may enter into direct touch and communion with the Great Teachers.
The point that I want to make at this moment is that in order for us to leave the ranks of what in old times they called "the profane," the living dead, the spiritually unawakened portion of humanity, we need the help of CONSCIOUS beings. I mean fully conscious in comparison with us -- ordinary men and women -- who are most of the time semi-conscious or unconscious because of the mechanical way in which our consciousness works. It is nothing but that spiritual stream of conscious energy that flows into the world through the Theosophical Movement itself, through individual envoys, agents, and messengers, conscious envoys who are capable of becoming the channels of that spiritual power, which has the capacity to awaken the sleeping germ in the hearts of those who have it only potentially. As HPB once herself said or wrote:
"If Sun thou canst not be, then be the humble Planet," says the BOOK OF THE GOLDEN PRECEPTS. And if even that is beyond our reach, then let us at least endeavor to keep within the ray of some lesser star, so that its silvery light may penetrate the murky darkness, through which the stony path of life trends onward; for without this divine radiance we risk losing more than we imagine.
She meant just that. If you enter into a Fellowship in which the very life-blood flows in a stream from the ashrams of the holy Masters, then you will have something that if you yourselves work in the right way will help you to change your whole nature from the ground up, and make you leaders of men in your turn.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, May 1916, pages 417-23.]
The vast death roll of the war has turned our minds with unwonted seriousness to thoughts of death, the meaning of life, and the question of immortality; and there are arguments between deists and agnostics as to the present status of religion and belief in God. We need not go over these arguments; it is sufficient to see what Theosophy can contribute.
The point is this: that Theosophy makes man's immortality a thing of the HERE AND NOW. Conventional views represent immortality as something belonging to after-death and try to tack eternity on to the end of time and immortality on to the end of mortality. Theosophy declares that we are immortal NOW and that the Soul "never was not, never shall cease to be."
Our nature is dual -- part mortal, part immortal. In addition to consciousness, which the animals have, we have self-consciousness. This latter is not a product of the upward evolution from the lower kingdoms of nature; it is the special characteristic of man. The existence of this divine spark causes the horror when we try to imagine ourselves as coming utterly to an end at death, for the Soul is aware of its own immortality.
Our lower mind rebels against our intuition, because we have failed to distinguish sufficiently between the mortal and the immortal parts of our nature. That which, in Theosophy, is called the "personality" consists of what has been put together during the years since birth -- a mass of memories and habits that did not exist before birth and cannot survive death. Nevertheless, this statement must be qualified, because that personality is built up around a central kernel that is imperishable and that existed before birth.
THE PRACTICAL PART OF THIS QUESTION is that we must endeavor to reach to the immortal part of our nature here and now and not wait until death. That is the road to knowledge. Our horror and affliction over death are the measure of our ignorance, but they are the measure of our knowledge because if we had not the intuition of immortality, we should be no more afflicted or puzzled over the question than the animals are.
The greater part of our make-up is subject to continual death and rebirth throughout the years of our life; but a personal identity survives throughout life. In the same way, there is a still deeper Self, called in Theosophy the Individuality, which survives death. That Individuality is with us now, back of our mind; we are immortal now.
Mankind is ACTUALLY one and united, as far as the Immortal part is concerned; and our APPARENT separateness lies in our external nature. Brotherhood and solidarity mean much more than an agreement of mutual toleration; they mean the recognition of the fact that we actually are one and united. Brotherhood can only be truly realized by people who rise to the level where they are aware of their non-separateness.
People are everywhere trying to plan schemes for social betterment after the war. But suppose a number of musicians were to pass a law that every instrumentalist should be allowed full freedom to play what he liked, so long as he did not interfere with the liberty of others to play what they liked. Would this constitute an orchestra? The illustration shows that more than legislation and agreements are required. Some agnostic educators hope they will be able to inculcate virtues in the young by argument, but this will not suffice, for we should then have the passions arrayed on one side against mere argument on the other. The virtues need a better sanction; they need to be based on knowledge of the laws of nature.
The vital center of man's being is his HIGHER nature; and this is the fact that has to be recognized by the true scientist of life. If we make the personality the center of man's being, we pave the way for conflicting interests.
Man is immortal, and mankind is one; these are the two truths of Theosophy competent to shed light on the problems of life and death.
Death is the rest of the Soul, a greater sleep. The coming of death is as much more welcome than the coming of sleep as death is greater than sleep. There is no need to fear death. It is the most familiar event in life, and comes to all; it is a thing of which no one can deprive us. Bereavement is hard to bear; but has to be borne, whatever theory we may hold. It is a fact, and the best we can do is to try to understand it. Our lost ones have passed through the initiation of death; and though they can frame no language that our mortal ears can hear, their true Love and their Spirit is with us, urging us on towards the Light wherein they dwell. We cannot drag them down to where we are, but we can aspire to where they dwell. The bereaved seek consolation in high resolve. In achievement, they find it, for thus do they enter into sacred interior communion with great Souls. Thus, they honor the departed.
Theosophy has a great mission to prevent the decay of faith, hope, and charity from the world amid a chaos of despair and cynical doubt; and deeply do Theosophists feel the urgency of the duty. Skeptics and materialists seize hold of the weaknesses and fallacies in religious ideas and seem to make out a case for their own dark doubting.
Listen to the song of life. Look for it and listen to it first in your own heart. At first, you may say it is not there; when I search, I find only discord. Look deeper. If again you are disappointed, pause and look deeper again. There is a natural melody, an obscure fount in every human heart. It may be hidden over and utterly concealed and silenced, but it is there. At the very base of your nature, you will find faith, hope, and love ... Underneath all life is the strong current that cannot be checked; the great waters are there in reality. Find them, and you will perceive that none, not the most wretched of creatures, but is a part of it, however he blind himself to the fact and build up for himself a phantasmal outer form of horror.
-- LIGHT ON THE PATH
Theosophy means wisdom concerning the divine nature of man, and a way of life whereby knowledge of that divine nature may be attained. A nucleus of believers has been established, right in the heart of occidental materialism, helping to keep faith alive in the human heart. To it men are turning, as wanderers towards a beacon. They feel something REAL that emanates from that body of people. These people believe that in duty and service can be found the road to knowledge and peace; and that the meaning of life can be realized, and its mysteries solved thereby.
The great truth of reincarnation calls for mention here; it tells us that we have lived before. Not the personal "I," for that is a thing that was built up during this life; it has no recollection of having lived before because it has not lived before. Nevertheless something in us has lived before, though it seems wrong to use such terms as "before" and "after" in this connection. Who knows what would become of that which we call "time," if our personal consciousness were blotted out?
Reincarnation also means that the Self in us will live again. Life would seem absurd and useless if we really believed that this brief span of seventy years or less is the whole. True, humanity goes on existing in any case; that is not destroyed; but then why should I have my consciousness? For what purpose is that? It is impossible to think of a human Ego being created at a point in time and disappearing at another point. "Life is a dream," says an ancient adage; then who is the dreamer? The analogy is very useful, and indeed, it is much more than a mere analogy. It is possible for man to reach a stage where death and life will be but alternating phases in his existence. This it is to conquer death.
In thinking about future life, we must not forget to think also about past life; the two are essentially connected. The fact that we cannot bring to recollection anything preceding this life helps to explain our ignorance about what follows death. It is as hard to imagine that you never existed in the past as that you will not exist in the future. In reading the account of events that happened in the middle of last century, it may suddenly occur to you: "When that happened, I did not exist!" A curious thought; and yet the world wagged as usual.
It is inconceivable that the world can continue to wag and you have nor part nor lot in it; the mind rebels from the thought, and the soul shudders. The mere ability to pose the question seems to imply an affirmative answer. If I have enough self-consciousness to ask such a question, then I must surely have enough self-consciousness to persist beyond the gates of death. Is not human consciousness ESSENTIALLY immortal -- NECESSARILY immortal? Does it not contain, in addition to its temporal qualities, an eternal quality, such that, regarding it, we are entitled to say -- nay, MUST say -- "This is deathless?"
And about the one that is gone from us: had we been able, while he was with us, to recognize the deathless essence in him, perchance we should not miss it now that the presence that we knew is withdrawn. This is a difficult subject to touch on, because of the delusions of fantasy, leading to morbid self-deceptions in the minds of those so predisposed.
The state of the liberated Soul after death is one of unalloyed happiness, from which all recollection of the woes of earth is banished, and wherein all the unfulfilled ideals and hopes are realized. Pure love is a power that lives beyond the grave and can bless the living; and it can lead to reunion in other lives.
The horror of this war is with the living and not with the dead; THEY are at rest; theirs is the bliss of the liberated Soul. But the effect of the carnage on the world and those who still dwell therein is terrible.
A well-known philosopher has recently written a book in which he says that nothing enters so deeply into our souls as the sudden changes from life to death; daily long lists of dead confront us, and from thousands of tongues questions are asked about the value and meaning of human life, about eternity, and about the immortality of the soul. This is true; but the conclusions he draws are quite absurd; the war, he says, has reduced the doctrine of providence to an absurdity.
In view of the deaths of such masses of people, carried away by blind chance in open battle, in trenches, in airships, in submarines, the illusion that the destinies of men are in the care of an omnipotent intelligence with carefully arranged plans is an idea that cannot be entertained for a moment, he says. And he adds that the war proves the absurdity of the Christian principle of loving one's neighbor. Surely, it proves the exact opposite, by showing what comes of disobeying the rule.
As to what he says about God, it may perhaps stand as an argument against certain narrow views with which some people satisfy themselves in comparatively easy times; but we cannot explain away the facts about this terrible calamity, and must either find an explanation or leave them unexplained. Is it not impossible to entertain the idea of a universe that is ruled by reckless and purposeless powers, and that yet at the same time is peopled by so intelligent and conscientious a being as Man; the said alleged reckless Powers being utterly indifferent to Man's welfare? To all well-balanced minds, the universe appears as ruled by intelligent and beneficent Powers. What we ought to do is to expand our ideas about the nature of deity and the meaning of life, and the laws of the cosmos.
Even this philosopher worships a deity of his own, which he calls the religion of reason. He preaches the beauty and satisfying nature of resignation, recommending brave devotion to the unavoidable and the knowledge and recognition of the eternity and indestructibility of the cosmos and of the courses of nature, in which the individual unceasingly appears and disappears in order to make place for new forms and new modes of unending substance. Thus, he gives with one hand what he takes away with the other. But there is something in me that might be called "interest" or "love," which binds me indissolubly with the fate of that universe; I feel that I cannot be obliterated, my ultimate essence cannot be obliterated whatever may become of my present outfit of personal prejudices and memories.
Man sometimes seems to forget that, in moments of pride, he claims the divine gift of free will. His religions declare that he has been endowed with this gift. It follows that, if he is to use this gift, he must be left to his own guidance, and that he will make mistakes. How else can free will be governed and still remain free? We are calling upon God to save us from the consequences of our own willfulness; and God's answer is, "Obey the eternal laws; choose right instead of wrong; study nature and learn its true laws."
Is the attitude of pride consistent with the attitude of supplication? If we shrink horrified at the thought of machines dropping dynamite from the sky, and all the other horrors with which we are now so familiar, let us remember past years of arrogance. And let us think of the generations of smug commonplace well-to-do-ness, or foolish extravagance, or ruthless exploiting of our fellow man that have preceded this volcanic outbreak. How much worse might it not have been if not for the protection of supernal powers?
However natural and merciful death may be, this carnage is an utter horror; and it is consolation, and not palliation of misdeeds, that we must see in the release of death. The fact that death, when it comes, comes with a welcome, does not excuse us for killing.
In regarding human history, we have to remember that this is the Iron Age, whose entry was announced by the departure of the Gods, last among them the goddess of purity, daughter of justice. But the goddess is to return with a new golden age, when man has learned his lesson. How does this bear upon the present topic? Because part of the knowledge which man lost was concerned with death, and the darkness to which he was condemned by his own folly included the meaning of life and death. Fear of death was henceforth his lot, and bereavement and separation.
The unity and the eternity of life have to be learned over again; and over again man has to learn that justice and purity are essential conditions to knowledge and to happiness. He has to learn that the immortal part of his nature stands with him now, waiting for recognition and communion; and that, even while living, it is possible to pass forever beyond the gates of death, and to enter a realm where partings are no more.
By Margaret Smith
[From THE ARYAN PATH, January 1943, pages 10-15.]
While the more orthodox Sunni Muslims and most of the Sufi mystics rejected the doctrine of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, the conception found much more acceptance among the Shiites of Persia and among Muslim sects that were reckoned as heretical by the orthodox.
The belief is found in two forms, one being the view that the soul passes through a series of lives, by rebirth each time in a different body, the other the view that the Divine Spirit, in a special sense, is reincarnated in a human body, from time to time -- the belief of the Imamites. In Iraq and in Persia, Muslim thought was affected by Neo-Pythagorean and Gnostic theories and probably by Buddhism, too.
The sect of the Mutazilites, some of whom accepted the doctrine, owed their origin to a Persian, Wasil b. Ma Al Ghazzal (ob. 748 A.D.), a disciple of the theologian and ascetic Hasan of Basra, whom the Sufis claimed as one of their number. They taught the doctrine of the Unity and the Justice of God, and therefore held that a man had freewill and was morally responsible for his good or evil deeds. Their belief in reincarnation was the logical consequence of their belief in the Divine Justice, which required an exact retribution for sin, but also demanded a means whereby man could attain to salvation. Those who had sinned, they believed, could, in successive lives, purify themselves and, by obeying the Divine Law, free themselves from the necessity of rebirth and become fit to enter Paradise.
The doctrine was also accepted by many among the Shiites, who believe in the spiritual succession of the Imams, their religious leaders, and could not accept the idea of their election by human choice, as the Arabs had done. The Persians had held firmly to the Divine Right of Kings in the Sassanian Period and this may have influenced their attitude towards the Imam. They held that he was the earthly incarnation of the Divine Spirit and that the Spirit was transmitted intact from one Imam to another. With this was combined the belief in a Mandi, Sahib-i-Zaman (Master of the Age), who would reappear when the hour came for his manifestation. The last of the Imams accepted by the Shiites disappeared in the ninth century. His followers held that while the Imam was withdrawn for a time, he would return to destroy the powers of evil and to bring in the Golden Age of justice and truth. This idea that the last of the Imams will be reincarnated as a Mandi or a Messiah is still widely held.
Several Shiite sects, such as the Ismailis, the Qarmatites, and the Nusayris, believed also that ordinary individuals would reincarnate until they had learnt to recognize the Imam and had acquired the knowledge to overcome the evil within them, thus obtaining freedom from rebirth. The Nusayris divided time into seven cycles, each of which had its own manifestation of Deity. They also taught that from God, the Light of lights, emanated a light, the nur-Muhammad, which was dispersed into luminous particles, the stars, but these, as a punishment for their pride, were degraded into souls imprisoned in human bodies. The soul, after passing through various cycles of transmigration, might reascend to its former sphere if, while on earth, it recognized the Divine incarnations and accepted their teaching. If not, it must continue to submit to rebirth, perhaps as a Christian or a Muslim, until its expiation was complete. This sect still exists in Western Asia.
The Druses, called after the Persian mystic Hamza Al Duruzi, who taught a secret gnosis, arose in the eleventh century, but still exist in considerable numbers and still adhere to an esoteric religion, which includes belief in reincarnation. They teach that God is One, Ineffable, Passionless, in Himself beyond the comprehension of men but making Himself manifest to men by successive incarnations. The material, multiform world is an emanation from the Divine Spirit, which it reflects as in a mirror. The Druses hold that the number of human beings is fixed, neither increasing nor decreasing and that souls are continually being reborn in fresh incarnations. The souls of those in whom good predominates over evil, pass after the death of the body into fresh incarnations of ever greater perfection, until they reach a state of purity in which they can be reabsorbed into the One, but those in whom evil is allowed to have the ascendancy fall lower still, even to sub-human levels. The Druses maintain the freedom of man's will, so that man's salvation depends upon his own efforts, helped by the Divine illumination given through the Imam.
In certain of the Persian poets, we find a belief in evolution, which includes not only the evolution of the human being, but also the spiritual evolution of the soul and may well have included some belief in the doctrine of reincarnation. The poet Abdallah Ansari (1005-1085 A.D.) of whom it was said that he was born a Gnostic and had not to seek knowledge and to discover it anew, writes of how he came from the sphere of the unmanifest into the phenomenal world, how he passed through the stages of inanimate organizations to life and thence,
Leaving the brutes behind, I rose again: Within the crystal shell of human soul The drop of self became a precious pearl.
Seeking to worship God as others did, he found himself still unsatisfied:
I followed then the road that leads to Him And so became a bond-slave at His gate. No longer was I separate from Him, From Him I came, to Him I had returned.
Here there is the belief in the continuance of the same Ego through different successive existences, always ascending until it attains to reunion with its Source.
It was stated of Umar Khayyam, the Persian mathematician and astronomer, who lived in the eleventh century and was famed for his quatrains, that he believed in reincarnation and as he was a student of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) who also accepted the doctrine, he may have derived it from him.
Much of the teaching contained in his verses is consistent with this view. The soul, he taught, was in its essence Divine, created in purity, and while in the body, the soul was a captive that must seek to shake off its fetters and regain its former freedom.
O soul! from earthly taint when purified As spirit free, thou shalt toward heaven ride, Thy home the Empyrean! Shame on thee Who dost in this clay tenement abide.
-- Translation by J.M. Rodwell
By renunciation of this world and its vanities, the soul may free itself from the bondage of the senses and the self, but the service of others is part of this discipline: eternal happiness will not be won by one oblivious of the happiness of others:
Whate'er thou doest, never grieve thy brother Nor kindle flames of wrath his peace to smother. Dost thou desire to taste eternal bliss? Vex thine own heart, but never vex another.
-- Translation by E.H. Whinfield
When the lower self has been completely annihilated, then the mystic can pass into the life with God:
The more I die to self, I live the more, The more abase myself, the higher soar.
And at the last, the mystic can say:
My being is of Thee and Thou art mine And I am Thine, since I am lost in Thee.
-- Translation by E.H. Whinfield
The great Persian mystic Shihab Al Din Suhrawardi (ob. 1191 A.D.), who suffered death for his adherence to Sufism, accepted the doctrine of reincarnation for those who had not made sufficient progress towards the goal of spiritual perfection. He held that all souls were journeying towards God and that when, by effort and self-discipline, they were perfected, they would find their rest in Him.
There are indications in the writings of the mystic poet Farid Al Din Attar (ob. c. 1229 A.D.) that he accepted the doctrine of reincarnation, especially in his MANTIQ AL TAYR. Therein, he symbolizes the ascent of the soul as the journey made by a company of birds to find their King, in the course of which they had to pass through the Seven Valleys of Search, Love, Knowledge, Detachment, Unification, Bewilderment, and Annihilation, enduring hardships, privations, suffering, until they attained their end. When purified and freed from all earthly elements, they were enlightened by the Eternal Sun and their souls were transformed into its light. That this attainment is reached after many existences is suggested by this passage:
When a hundred thousand ages beyond all time, before or after, had passed, then these mortal birds delivered themselves over joyfully to total annihilation ... and attained, after annihilation, to immortality ... Whilst thou art in existence or non-existence how canst thou set foot in this place? But when thou art no more hindered by existence or non-existence, then thou seest what took place at the beginning and at the end, and when thou knowest the end, behold the gain of it! A germ of life is nourished in order that it may become an intelligent and active being ... he is given the knowledge of his own existence. Then Death comes to efface all ... Man has turned again into the dust of the way and has been annihilated again and again. But in the midst of his annihilation, he has learnt a hundred different kinds of mysteries, of which he knew not hitherto. Then he has been given complete immortality and has attained to glory.
Attar tells, too, the story of the Phoenix, which is an allegory of reincarnation, of how it lives a thousand years and when the time of its death is at hand, it heaps up fuel, places itself on the funeral-pyre, and itself kindles the flames that consume it.
Soon both pyre and bird become a glowing red-hot mass. When it is reduced to ashes and but one spark remains, then, from the ashes, a new Phoenix arises into life.
So, though one body perishes, the spark, which is the immortal soul, remains and entering into a new body, lives again.
The idea of the evolution of the self through successive existences is found in the poetry of the great Sufi Jalal Al Din Rang (1207-1273 A.D.), who teaches that every visible form has its archetype in the invisible world and that, though the form perishes, the original remains. What seems to perish is immortal: the stream that seems to be merged in the ocean has come from a spring, the waters of which never cease to flow. That eternal fountain is the Universal Soul, whence all created things come forth as flowing streams and will do so forever. From the time that the soul entered this material world, it was given an opportunity to make its escape. First, it passed through the inanimate, then came to the animate, and then became possessed of knowledge, reason, and faith. From humanity, it may ascend again until it takes upon itself the sinless nature of the angels. Then at last it is fit to shake off the trammels of earthly life within a material body and to pass into the Divine life, the drop merged in the ocean, the part become one with the Whole. (DIWAN SHAMS-I-TABRIZ, No. XII)
The same idea of the continuance of the Ego through countless rebirths is found in his great MATHNAWI:
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying? Yet once more I shall die as man, to soar With angels blest: but even from angelhood I must pass on: all except God doth perish. When I have sacrificed my angel soul, I shall become what no man e'er conceived. Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence Proclaims in organ tones, "To Him we shall return."
-- MATHNAWI, Book III, IS. 3901 FF., Translation by R.A. Nicholson
The modern Zoroastrians appear also to hold this doctrine, believing that if after death the good deeds of a man outweigh the evil, he is forthwith admitted to Paradise, which is understood in a spiritual sense, as indicating a state rather than a place. But if a man's evil deeds outweigh the good, he must, for a further period of probation, suffer rebirth in this world, which represents Hell, also understood as a condition, not a place.
The doctrine of reincarnation is accepted by the Baha'is of modern Persia, the successors of the Babis, originally a Shiite sect, who teach that God is Pure Essence, the Source of all things, which are mirrors reflecting His glory. The universe exists in order to individualize the One Eternal Essence.
Forms or bodies perish, but renovation follows dissolution: reincarnation is the means by which the spirit can develop and be made perfect through successive associations with bodies. The thoughts and the characteristics of the individual are not dispersed after death, but tend to reappear in association with each other, when opportunity offers, in another human individual. The Baha'is, however, do not believe that there is a continuance of self-consciousness from one life to another; they hold that the results of each individual life-experience enrich humanity generally.
Each human soul, they believe, is a ray of the Divine Love, and, just as many lamps may be kindled from one flame, so the spirits of countless men may be illumined by the One World Spirit. Life in this world is imprisonment for the soul; it is a place full of hardships, afflictions, suffering; but the soul must look to its true home in the invisible world and strive to attain thereto. As matter has evolved from the lowest to the highest form, which is the human body, so the spirit must advance to its perfection, when ignorance and darkness will be changed into Divine Illumination. Man has control over his own destiny, but most men are blinded by ignorance and selfishness and it is to arouse them to effort and to discipline that God, from time to time, has sent Messengers and Teachers, who have reached spiritual perfection and are true mirrors of the Divine. Love is the light by which man is guided when in darkness and the means of growth for all who are enlightened; love to God and to fellow men. "Ye are all the fruit of one tree," said Bahaullah, "and the leaves of one branch." Therefore, men should live in sympathy, love, and fellowship one with another.
Successive acts build up the character, for good or ill, and so men are the arbiters of their own fate. Salvation means the conscious realization of God in this life: the soul then knows itself and knows that it is one with the Infinite and Eternal Essence. But those whose search has not attained its object, or who have not had the opportunity of hearing the teaching of the Messenger of God, are reincarnated so that they may continue their search, until at last, by Divine grace, they attain to illumination and to the knowledge of their oneness with the Absolute Reality.
By G. de Purucker
[From GOLDEN PRECEPTS, pages 40-47.]
What of Death, the third of the woes that beset humanity? Death is the Opener, the One giving Vision: Death is the greatest and loveliest change that the heart of Nature has in store for us.
There is no death, if by that term we mean a perfect and complete, an utter and absolute cessation of all that is. Death is change, even as birth through reincarnation that is death to the soul is change; there is no difference between death, so-called, and life, so-called, for they are one. The change is into another PHASE OF LIFE. Death is a phase of life even as life is a phase of death. It is not something to be feared.
Man's physical body must sleep for a certain period in order to recuperate its forces, its powers; so must the psychical constitution of man have its rest-time -- in Devachan.
Death is as natural, death is as simple, death itself is as painless, and death itself is as beautiful as the growth of a lovely flower. It is the portal through which the pilgrim enters the stage higher.
Exactly the same succession of events takes place in Death that ensues when we lay ourselves in bed at night and drop off into that wonderland of consciousness we call Sleep. When we awaken rested, composed, refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready for the fray and problems of the daily life again, we find that we are the identical persons that we were before the sleep began. In sleep, we have a break of consciousness; in death also, there is a break of consciousness. In sleep we have dreams, or a greater or less unconsciousness; and in death we have dreams; blissful, wondrous, spiritual -- or blank unconsciousness. As we awaken from sleep, so do we return to earth again in the next incarnation in order to take up the tasks of our karmic life in a new human body.
Here then is one difference between sleep and death, but a difference of circumstance and by no means of kind: after sleep, we return to the same body; after death we take upon ourselves a new body. We incarnate, we reincarnate, every day when we wake from sleep; because what has happened to us, what has ensued, while the physical body is asleep, is identical, but of very short term, with what takes place, with what ensues, when and after we die.
Death is an absolute sleep, a perfect sleep, a perfect rest; sleep is an incomplete death, an imperfect death, and often troubled with fevered and uneasy dreams because of the imperfection of the conscious entity -- call it soul, if you like -- which the human Ego is. Death and Sleep are brothers. What happens in sleep takes place in death -- but imperfectly so. We incarnate anew every time we awake, because awaking means that the entity that temporarily has left the body during sleep -- the brain-mind, the astral-physical consciousness -- returns into that body, incarnates itself anew, and thus the body awakens with the psychical fire again invigorating the blood and the tissues and the nerves.
In going to your bed and in lying down and losing consciousness, have you ever feared? No. It is so natural; it is so happy an occurrence; it is so restful. Nature rests and the tired brain reposes; and the inner constitution, the SOUL if you like so to call it, is temporarily withdrawn during the sleeping period into the higher consciousness of the human being -- the ray, so to speak, so absorbed back into the inner spiritual sun.
Just exactly the same thing takes place at death; but in death the worn-out garment is cast aside; the repose also is long, utterly beautiful, utterly blissful, filled with glorious and magnificent dreams, and with hopes unrealized, which now are realized in the consciousness of the spiritual being. This dreaming condition is a panorama of the fulfillment of all our noblest hopes and all our dreams of unrealized spiritual yearnings. It is a fulfillment of them all in glory and bliss and perfect completion and plenitude.
During sleep, the silver chain of vitality still links the peregrinating entity to the body that it has left, so that it returns to that body along this psycho-magnetic chain of communication. When death comes, that silver cord of vitality is snapped, quick as a flash of lightning -- Nature is very merciful in this case -- and the peregrinating entity returns to its cast-off body no more. This complete departure of the inner consciousness means the snapping of that silver cord of vitality; and the body then is cast aside as a garment that is worn out and useless. The experience of the peregrinating consciousness, the peregrinating entity or soul, is the same as what happened to it during sleep, but it is now on a cosmic scale. The consciousness passes, and before it returns to earth again as a reincarnating ego, it goes from sphere to sphere, from realm to realm, from mansion to mansion (following the wording of the Christian scriptures) which are in the Father's house.
Nevertheless, in a sense it is also resting in utter bliss, in utter peace. During this resting-time, it digests and assimilates the experiences of the last life and builds these experiences into its being as character, just as during sleep the resting body digests and assimilates the food it has taken in during the daytime, and throws off the wastes, and builds up the tissues anew; and when the reawakening comes, it is refreshed. So is the reincarnating ego refreshed when it returns to earth.
In sleep when the withdrawal of the inner entity is complete, the sleep is relatively perfect and there is relatively perfect unconsciousness -- the sweetest sleep of all. For then the body is undisturbed, rests peacefully and quietly, and rebuilds in its system what was torn down during the hours of active work or play.
If the withdrawal of the inner entity is incomplete or partial, then dreams occur; for the inner entity feels the attraction of the physical part of itself, the physical man, still feels that physical man working in it psycho-magnetically, as it were; and the unconsciousness of sleep is disturbed by the vibrations of the physical man, of the animate body. This produces evil dreams, bad dreams, fevered dreams, strange dreams, and unhappy dreams. If the withdrawal is somewhat more complete than in this last case, but not yet wholly complete, then there are happy dreams, dreams of peace.
When the sleep is what is called unconscious sleep, it is so because the inner entity is the least affected by the psycho-magnetic vibrations of the body and of the brain in particular. In itself, this consciousness or mind is in a doze, resting, but with a certain amount of its consciousness remaining, which the brain, however, cannot register as a dream, because the separation between the body and the consciousness that has left it is too complete. But while this consciousness is thus half-awake, so to speak, half-resting, it is in that particular world, invisible to human eyes, to which its feelings and thoughts have directed it in the previous moments and hours. It is there as a visitant, perfectly well protected, perfectly guarded, and nothing will or can in all probability harm it -- unless, indeed, the man's essential nature is so corrupted that the shield of spirituality ordinarily flowing around this inner entity is worn so thin that antagonistic influences may penetrate to it.
By Gertrude W. van Pelt
[From THE DOCTRINE OF KARMA: CHANCE OR JUSTICE, pages 41-54.]
It knows not wrath nor pardon; utter-true It measures mete, its faultless balance weight, Times are as naught, tomorrow it will judge, Or after many days.
-- THE LIGHT OF ASIA
The sense of justice is deeply rooted in the human mind, because mind is part of the Cosmos, all of whose actions and reactions are based upon justice. There is nothing a child so keenly resents, nothing that so embitters an adult, as a feeling that he has been unjustly treated. People will accept misfortunes, at least without bitterness, if they KNOW they deserve them. Unfortunately, in the confused and distorted mental outlook of today, with selfishness so rife and the 'every man for himself' doctrine so commonly practiced, there is in Western lands no confidence in the justice of things. How could there be, after centuries of false teachings and counterstrokes of revenge all down the ages, until few can be found who are not in the tangle?
Nothing but a true philosophy of life can possibly make men face the facts. There must be a broader outlook than the one-life theory offers. Some chance to harmonize with justice the frequent sight of good punished and bad rewarded must be given men, before they can clean their hearts of bitterness, turn suspicion into trust, and shake off the deceiving lenses that have disguised every brother as an alien. Theosophy alone, which can restore order to the human mind and thus reveal the order and beautiful harmony that Nature is forever working towards, can save us from ourselves.
It is more particularly in Christian lands that the perception of justice in the Universe has been so completely lost sight of. In Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Vedantism, Taoism, the teaching of Karma has not been lost, and even though the countries under these religions are in their dark cycles, crime is not as rampant as with us. In 1889, H.P. Blavatsky said:
According to the last census in Ceylon and India, in the comparative table of crimes committed by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Eurasians, Buddhists, etc., etc., on two millions of population taken at random from each, and covering the misdemeanors of several years, the proportion of crimes committed by the Christian stands at 15 to 4 as against those committed by the Buddhist population.
-- THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, pages 73-4.
In LUCIFER, April 1888, H.P. Blavatsky writes editorially:
This is what one reads in the TABLET, the leading organ of Roman Catholic Englishmen, about Creeds and Criminality. I underline the most remarkable statements.
"The official statement as to the moral and material progress of India, which has recently been published, supplies a very interesting contribution to the controversy on the missionary question. It appears from these figures that while we effect A VERY MARKED MORAL DETERIORATION IN THE NATIVES BY CONVERTING THEM TO OUR CREED, THEIR NATURAL STANDARD OF MORALITY IS SO HIGH that, however much we Christianize them, WE CANNOT SUCCEED IN MAKING THEM ALTOGETHER AS BAD AS OURSELVES."
The following quotation from may suggest an explanation of these facts:
Buddhists believe that every act, word, or thought has its consequence, which will appear sooner or later in the present or in the future state. Evil acts will produce evil consequences, good acts will produce good consequences?
-- THE WHEEL OF THE LAW, page 57
Theosophy teaches that justice does not call for punishment from us. Karma will take care of this more efficiently than we can possibly do, and bring to all JUST what they deserve. Why should any seek to add to this? OUR sole care should be to help men to meet their deserts bravely. What might we not accomplish if our prison system were based on still further educative rather than punitive measures! The wisest and best minds of our civilization in increasing numbers are realizing this in considering the most outstanding violation of the duty of one to another, namely, legalized murder, which is a stigma upon our age. Future citizens of our Republic will certainly look back with horror to the barbarous custom of Capital Punishment.
The Karma of thwarting Nature's plan in this way must be heavy for the nations who have permitted it. Society must, of course, be protected against malefactors, but in such a way that the latter are redeemed, not made worse. When one's moral sense is shocked, it is safe to assume that there is always a philosophic basis for this in the facts. Theosophy has given very specific teachings in regard to the sin of taking the life of another, which seems, in a way, to be magnified when the State is the murderer, because so many are involved in the crime.
Without attempting to explain in detail here the teaching as to the reaction upon society, it may be said that one who is violently deprived of his body, does not really die. That is, it does not leave this earth atmosphere, but rather remains on the astral plane, more at liberty in a way than behind the prison bars, until his natural life-term has expired. Here he can and does freely influence the weak-minded to commit crime and inject his feeling of hate against society, which has so ill-treated him, into the minds of living men. Think of the terrible Karma this brings to all concerned and contrast that with the results that would follow an intelligent and sincere effort to help the criminal out of the mire he is in. Certainly, in this country, at present, we manufacture criminals.
Resist not evil, and render good for evil, are Buddhist precepts, and were first preached in view of the implacability of Karmic law. For man to take the law into his own hands is anyhow a sacrilegious presumption. Human Law may use restrictive not punitive measures; but a man who, believing in Karma, still revenges himself and refuses to forgive every injury, thereby rendering good for evil, is a criminal and only hurts himself. As Karma is sure to punish the man who wronged him, by seeking to inflict an additional punishment on his enemy, he, who instead of leaving that punishment to the great Law adds to it his own mite, only begets thereby a cause for the future reward of his own enemy and a future punishment for himself.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, 200 (orig. ed.)
Theosophy also states something that may further complicate the reading of the Law. Besides the so-called misfortunes that come unwittingly and unasked to the majority, there are those who have surpassed this majority in the School of Life, and whose egos sometimes take up deliberately what is called bad karma for the sake of discipline, to overcome defects, and to gain fortitude. Or they may assume difficult and unpleasant tasks, such as voluntary living in the slums or our prisons, solely for the sake of helping our brothers. There will occur to the mind many other such examples, which are happily becoming more and more frequent and form many a bright picture against the black background of our civilization.
Another evidence that the sense of justice is obscured is found in the belief in prayer to an external deity. This does not refer to aspiration, to the effort to reach to the god within -- which should be ever in the background of consciousness when not in the foreground -- but to the begging for personal benefits. H.P. Blavatsky calls this foolish and useless unless accompanied with will-power; when so accompanied it becomes black magic. Impersonally regard the spectacle of two armies sent forth to murder each other, each side appealing piously to God to bring it victory! If sincere, prayer for personal favors is weakening and degrading; if not sincere, it is pure CANT. How much more healthy, virile, stimulating and elevating is the teaching of Karma! How it evokes the innate dignity in man to know that he is master of his destiny; that as he sows, so shall he reap; that there is no chance in the Universe; that privileged beings do not exist, but that the unlimited treasures of Nature are open to all who meet the conditions.
There is a gentler aspect to the justice dealt to all that should not pass notice. After the life of struggle, of discipline, of perhaps pain and disappointment, there comes the beautiful Devachan -- a wonderful compensation of bliss and rest, a glorious preparation for the new day.
By Edward Thornton
[From THE ARYAN PATH, April 1964, pages 159-63.]
When considering the comparative attributes of the Vedanta and the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung, I should like it to be understood from the outset that Jung was a Doctor of Medicine and a psychiatrist. Of all the reviews I have read of Jung's recently published autobiography, the one from the pen of Kathleen Raine was very much to the point. The article called Jung a "sent Man" and concluded by saying that he was essentially an Aesculapian.
Whenever Jung was accused of permitting himself to encroach upon the domains of theology and philosophy, he stressed time and time again that he was an empiricist, and consequently had to abide by the facts presented to him and would never allow himself to indulge in metaphysical speculation. He was a doctor and had to speak strictly from his clinical experience. This being the case, Jung's vocation was concerned with suffering -- spiritual, and mental, as well as physical -- we can therefore understand his continual refusal to introduce the Vedanta and other Eastern traditions in his essential clinical work, although it is evident to all that he possessed a most profound veneration for those traditions.
If therefore this difference is comprehended between Jung's psychology and the sublime system of monist Vedanta, we can proceed with the study of the comparative attributes of both, and for my introduction to this theme, I have chosen the great Commentary of Shankara on the Mandukya Upanishad. This is one of the shortest of all the Upanishads and is concerned with the meaning and nature of the most sacred of all Sanskrit syllables (mantras), OM.
The first sloka of the Upanishad instructs us that
All this is verily Brahman. The Atman is Brahman. This Atman has four quarters.
It is pointed out that this Atman appears to be divided into four parts, namely the Waking State (Vaishwanara), the Dream State (Taijasa), the State of Dreamless Sleep (Prajna), and the state of transcendental Super-consciousness (Turiya), which is identical with Brahman or Atman.
The first three quarters correspond to the three letters (matras) that constitute the sacred syllable, namely A-U-M, and the assumption into itself of all three marks the transcendent fourth, which has no corresponding letter or sound (is amatra). This silence or Atman is equivalent with the fourth quarter called Turiya.
This first quarter is Vaishwanara whose sphere (of activity) is the waking state, who is conscious of external objects, who has seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and whose experience consists of gross (material) objects.
The Second quarter is the Taijasa whose sphere (of activity) is the dream, who is conscious of internal objects, who has seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and who experiences subtle objects.
That is the state of deep sleep wherein the sleeper does not desire any objects nor does he see any dream. The third quarter is the Prajna whose sphere is deep sleep, in whom all experiences become unified or undifferentiated, who is verily a mass of consciousness entire, who is full of bliss, and who is the path leading to the knowledge (of the other two states).
This is the Lord of all; this is the controller within; this is the source of all; and this is that from which all things originate and into which they finally disappear.
This last is the experience of the very few illumined beings that point the way of all human existence, and have bequeathed to humanity the facts of their experience in the realm of supra-personal God-consciousness, whether the saint be of the Eastern or Western traditions. Such a being was Shankara, and it is understandable that as a monist (advaitin), he was concerned fundamentally with the end experience, although he left invaluable instructions and advice for those aspirants whose destiny was to be chiefly in the realm of the dualistic approach to the Divine.
It is perhaps for all these reasons that Shankara paid little attention to the waking and dream states as such, for he regarded both as illusory from the standpoint of the supreme experience of Turiya. Nevertheless, he stressed in all his writings that the phenomenal world as well as the dream world are real and must not be disregarded or rejected so long as a person has not attained to the state of Turiya, which, in the Vedanta, is said to be experienced in Nirvikalpa Samadhi (Contentless Super-consciousness). Now this Nirvikalpa Samadhi is the end-result of all contemplative experience and consequently demands the practice of spiritual austerities, which MUST include the practice of meditation, culminating with contemplation in the sense of concentration in complete inner absorption. That this sublime spiritual vocation is not meant for everybody was revealed by that great spiritual genius Sri Ramakrishna in the following story:
Once, finding it difficult to reconcile the contradictory doctrines of man's free will and God's grace, two disciples of the Master went to him for a solution of the same.
The Master said, "Why do you talk of free will? Everything is dependent on the Lord's will. Our will is tied to the Lord's like the cow to its tether. No doubt we have a certain amount of freedom even as the cow has, within a prescribed circle. So man thinks that his will is free. But know that his will is dependent on the Lord's."
DISCIPLES: "Is there then no necessity of practicing penance, meditation, and the rest? For one can as well sit quiet and say, 'It is all God's will; whatever is done, is done at His will.' "
SRI RAMAKRISHNA: "Oh, to what effect, if you simply say that in so many words? Any amount of your verbal denial of thorns can never save you from their painful prick when you place your hand on them. Had it been entirely with man to do spiritual practices according to his will, everybody would have done so. But no; everyone can't do it, and why? But there is one thing: If you don't utilize properly the amount of strength He has given you, He never gives you more. That is why self-exertion is necessary. And so everyone has to struggle hard even to become fit for the grace of God. By such endeavor and through His grace the sufferings of many lives can be worked out in one life. But some self-effort is absolutely necessary."
It will be apparent that such a fulfillment of human perfection is given to but very few; yet all these agree in all essentials and are therefore the greatest teachers of humanity, for they prefigure the ultimate fulfillment of the human race. As has been said, Shankara was by no means forgetful of mankind as a whole, and his dissertations on the dualistic approach should therefore be heeded with our greatest attention.
It is fundamentally in this realm of experience that the ideas of Jung come very close to those of Shankara, but it must be borne in mind that Jung was concerned with the treatment of neuroses and psychoses, and not with a philosophical system. In his treatment of the psychologically and spiritually sick, Jung found that the dream state (Taijasa, as it is called in our Upanishad) produced phenomena in the shape of dreams that had a compensatory nature opposite to that of the waking state (Vaishwanara).
Often it was found by him that the narrowness of the waking state -- or consciousness, as he called it -- produced a mental attitude to reality that was far too inadequate for the individual concerned, the consequence being that the person succumbed to neurotic illness. A careful attention to his dreams, however, would give a compensatory stress from the unconscious (Taijasa), so that assimilation of the material would lead to a greater wholeness of the patient concerned, and a consequent disappearance of the neurotic symptom.
Similarly, the modern so-called "enlightened" individual, who finds the origin of his orientation to life in the rationalistic philosophy of Descartes, would experience compensation to his inadequate conscious attitude from the deep chthonic strata of the unconscious psyche. This would stress his need for the acceptance of his spiritual roots, which manifest themselves in his own line of cultural heritage, often going back into very deep experience of extremely archaic connotation.
It was with regard to this great number of "scientifically" educated men and women that Jung had to occupy himself so enormously. Jung showed that although the clarity of so many Oriental philosophies is so helpful, one cannot jump out of one's karmic obligations; indeed, before one could veritably occupy oneself with the higher flights of yoga (Raja-Yoga), one had to come to terms with one's own nature. Lord Jesus said something of the kind when he maintained that one would not be released until the uttermost farthing had been paid.
In a brief article of this nature, it is of course impossible to go into the details of either the psychological technique or the nature of dream interpretation. Suffice it' to say that for the latter, a knowledge of comparative religions, mythology, and the nature of symbolism is indispensable; consequently, the layman often finds himself unequal to such an undertaking.
According to Jung, the psyche is the totality of all conscious and unconscious processes. One cannot but be reminded of the close similarity of his terminology with that contained in the Mandukya Upanishad, but as has already been stated, Jung's swa-dharma (sacred vocation) was that of an Aesculapian, and not of a spiritual teacher in the strict meaning of that term. It was for this reason that he constantly insisted on pinning himself and his pupils down to empirical facts that emerged in the course of his OWN and his clinical work.
The compensatory nature of the unconscious psyche to that of consciousness reveals an active matrix inherent in the psyche. It is the realm from whence prefigurations, prescience, and often-prophetic insights are derived; hence, it is a realm of the psyche, a knowledge and experience of which are indispensable to modern psychotherapy. In his vast research and practice, Jung indeed found something in an empirical way that is highly relevant to our subject. He ascertained, namely, two things that belong here:
(1) That the human psyche possesses an autochthonous religious function, and (2) That he never cured a patient who found himself in the second half of life, without the patient having found access to this genuine religious function.
Concerning the third quarter referred to in our Upanishad, namely the state of dreamless sleep (Prajna), note that it is called "a mass of consciousness, entire, who is full of bliss, and who experiences bliss." Now this state of bliss, from the point of view of the contemplative, would represent the unconscious nature of the fifth body or Kosha of Vedantic tradition, namely the Anandamayakosha (the body of bliss). In contemplative practice, this becomes consciously experienced in a dynamic positive sense. This is essentially the experience of the religious adept; hence scarcely likely to become the subject of the psychotherapist's scrutiny.
In his clinical work, Jung would always ask himself, "What could possibly be the meaning of a psychosis?" Understand that the use of the term "meaning" in this connection has the same significance as "function," namely, the function of a breakthrough of predominantly collective unconscious material into consciousness. The question of meaning is also concerned with the possibility of a cure and consequently of a possible therapy. This latter would mean the same as the constructive employment of the hitherto destructive demons, and would produce a totally changed situation as compared with the pre-morbid starting situation.
"Meaning" has to do here with telos (goal) and to a great extent is therefore identical with the question of a causa finalis (final cause). Jung made the proposal that schizophrenic illnesses are to be understood as a "gigantic attempt at compensation" by the unconscious, compensation for narrowness of consciousness, or, as he said once, of the Weltanschauung of the individual concerned.
All these processes of the human psyche, Jung confirmed in all his greater writings, and showed that these point towards a goal (telos). Out of his therapeutic experience, he never tired of drawing attention to the fact that the psyche's possessing the same attributes in all traditions confirms this eternal process within the human soul in the nature of mandala formations, all of which incline towards a center of the personality that Jung called the Self.
He was unfamiliar with the static Center of Self (Turiya) of the Vedantic tradition in his therapeutic work, but maintained that the psyche, being of immense age, showed indisputable verification of the fact that it was proceeding to the sublime consummation (entelechie). Hence, his empirical findings would imply that last sloka of our Upanishad:
This is the source of all, and this is that from which all things originate and in which they finally disappear.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 159-61.]
One of the most interesting things in the human constitution is what we call the consciousness, and it is a curious paradox that it is just about consciousness that the least is known. Everybody talks about it; everybody says consciousness, consciousness, and consciousness; but when you ask a man: What do you mean by those words, he begins to hem and to haw. Shall we say it is awareness? Yes, that is one of the functions of consciousness. The only thing we can say is that it is, and we all know what it is.
It does not need to be described. As soon as you begin to try to define it, you tangle yourself up in words, and you actually lose all intuition, all feel of what it is. Your consciousness goes as it were from your central consciousness into the low small consciousness of words. We all know of men who so entangle themselves in explanations that they forget about what they are talking, their consciousness just will not fit into details and words. They have lost grip of the main thing.
Now human consciousness is unitary and integral, that is to say there are not two, three, or more kinds of consciousness in the human constitution. But it is a unitary consciousness that comes down into our brain minds or into our ordinary consciousness from the spirit of us, the divine center where the truth abides in fullness. This human center of us cannot transmit this celestial visitant fully because this human part of us is beclouded, heavy, and thick with the sheaths of the lower consciousness. Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions rise around us like a thick thundercloud under the sun. But behind the cloud is the one sunlight. So it is with consciousness.
Theosophical seers for many ages and belonging to different religions and philosophies have classified human consciousness for purposes of convenient understanding into four divisions. There are Jagrat, the waking state, Swapna, the sleeping state, Sushupti, the utter dreamless sleep, the state of death for most men, and Turiya, the state of the divine, which god-men and the great seers and sages have told us of, because these last to a certain extent experience it.
It is all one consciousness. Jagrat is the state in which we all here are now -- unless there is someone asleep in the audience, and if he is, he will be in the Swapna state, the sleeping state in which he is more or less dreaming. Sometimes people are half dreaming when they are in the Jagrat state. We call it daydreaming. I do not mean creative dreaming of thought; I mean just the lazy dreaming where the thought wanders. It is part Swapna in the Jagrat state. Next is the Sushupti, as we call it, which in sleep is dreamless. It is the state of most human souls after death: perfect sweet undreaming consciousness, in which a thousand days are as a day, and time exists not because the consciousness is not in these lower realms of time, measured by clocks, watches, movements of the celestial spheres. Consciousness there is not in the time-state. Then we have the highest of this same unitary consciousness, the source of our consciousness, Turiya. The Buddhists call it the nirvana. The Hindus call it Mukti or Moksa. We use these terms also for they are so definitely descriptive. It is the pure consciousness of the spirit of man, a ray from the divine, or a spark from the divine.
Now then, here is the deduction, the moral to be drawn from these facts. All of us have this one state of consciousness manifesting to most of us in these three terms: physical waking, sleeping with dreams, dreamless sleep, or the death-state for most people until they embody themselves. Do you know what this means? It means that we men are not alert to what is in us and what we can do. There is the key to the mysteries of initiation. First learn to be fully awake when you are in the Jagrat state as we are now, physical awakening. Learn to be fully awake. Next, learn to carry that state of self-consciousness when you sleep, so that you will be as self-conscious when you sleep as you are, or think you are, when you are awake. Third and next, the highest: learn to be self-consciously awake after death. For it is one consciousness working through all three states, and every one of us has it; and every one of us is subject to these three lower conditions or states of this one unitary consciousness.
Think what this means for our future evolutionary progress. Why should we not begin now? I remember a story that was told of the Founder of the Theosophical Society, H P. Blavatsky.
One of her pupils came to her one day and said, "HPB, you know I am awfully tired; I have been working all day long."
"So sorry," said HPB, "you had better go and rest. By the way, do you sleep when you sleep, truly sleep? Well, you are doing better than I do. I am working while I am sleeping."
She had reached that point where she could keep conscious, in self-conscious awareness, while other men slept; in other words, she could be self-consciously aware when most people go to sleep.
The third stage, as I have said, is to be self-consciously aware after death. When you have attained that, then the next is the state of the god-men, or the men-gods, whom the human race has known, the Buddhas and Christs, men like Shankaracharya, Tsongkhapa, and Apollonius. When you reach that stage, you have to be conscious all the time, waking, sleeping, after death, and until you return, for you will then have found yourself.
Have you never asked yourself why is it that after dreamless sleep or dreaming sleep, you awaken the same man? It is so common and so ordinary that it slips the attention of the average man, showing that you are not fully aware, not fully awake. But the genius sees this, and he recognizes that this most common phenomenon is precisely one that has never been explained by science, and yet the explanation is with us all the time. We return because we never have left. We have rebecome our self-conscious selves again because we were never anything other. Consciousness is continuity. We have not taught ourselves to be self-consciously awake when we sleep, self-consciously awake when we die. But the power is in you. It is yours for the asking. You remember that Pythagoras called those who were sleeping this life and death away, the living dead. How long are you going to stand that for yourselves?
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1933, pages 161-67.]
The entire nature of man may be variously divided, and the Theosophical teachings often speak of the sevenfold nature of man. They say that man has seven principles, and these they enumerate and describe. But here we propose to consider man as a threefold being; for it is evident that seven principles may be made into three by grouping some of them together. We say, then, that man can be considered as composed of three main parts, though these divisions may, when necessary, be subdivided. This division into three parts will be simpler for a beginner and will suffice for our present purpose; but at the same time, it may be found convenient to refer occasionally to minor subdivisions of the three main divisions.
Now what are our three main divisions? What shall we call them? Names are somewhat vague, and not usually accurately descriptive; but a very good nomenclature is that of Body, Soul, and Spirit. Only we must be careful to say just what we mean by these words, especially the last two, as they have such vague and variable senses in common parlance.
The strictly materialistic view, as we know, takes into account only the body; but that view has now largely been abandoned. What then of the middle principle in our threefold classification? What of the soul, or, to use the appropriate adjective, what of the PSYCHIC nature of man? This question brings us to the most important point that we have to make in this article -- the absolute necessity for distinguishing between this intermediate or psychic nature and the spiritual nature that comes above it. For it is a great mistake to suppose that when we have given up the belief that the body is all, when we have relinquished the strictly materialistic view, we have thereby escaped from all the consequences of materialism.
When we have passed beyond the physical body of man, we do not straightway enter the regions of spiritual perfection; we have not by any means risen beyond the lower nature of man, beyond his selfish instincts, his dangerous lusts and passions. Selfishness, and the delusions arising from it, cling also to parts of man's nature that are not physical. His psychic nature may, like his body, be under the influence of selfishness and delusion, and his psychic powers and faculties may be misused, to his own detriment and to the harm of others, just as his physical powers may be so used.
This is highly important; because people so often confuse the psychic with the spiritual; they perhaps do not know there is any such distinction. What is nowadays called psychology is based almost entirely on the psychic or intermediate nature of man. This psychology is being used as a basis for the study of character and moral questions; methods of treatment for children and invalids are being based on it. The results of this ignorance of the facts are likely to be disastrous; and it is fortunate that our natural common sense often serves as an antidote to some of the conclusions reached by these psychologists and to the methods they propose.
The psychic nature of man is intermediate between his spiritual and his vital-physical nature. When we explore it, we are on middle ground. The psychic nature of man includes mental faculties and emotional faculties, and the will operates therein; but all of these are neutral in themselves and may be the instrument of selfish or unselfish purposes, or be colored by right or wrong notions.
There is a most important article in LUCIFER written by H.P. Blavatsky called "Psychic and Noetic Action," which makes this point very clear. The author goes into the psychological aspects of the question, showing what connection there is between various bodily organs and functions -- brain, heart, nervous system, etc. -- and the psychic and noetic nature of man respectively. Now what is the meaning of this word noetic? This is easily answered by a reference to Platonic philosophy, where man is shown to be a divine and immortal being who is passing through necessary experience by being shut into a body. This body is equipped with the vital and psychic qualities of the animal nature. The immortal, radiant, divine soul in man is called Nous, the vital animal soul is called Psyche. Hence, psychic means that which pertains to the psyche, and noetic means that which pertains to the nous.
Now what does modern psychology or psychoanalysis know of this distinction? Too often, we find that only the psychic nature of man is analysed, with the result of representing man as a bundle of instincts and propensities. The noetic principle, with its clear vision, its noble and unselfish motives, its free and untrammeled will, is not discovered. This sort of analysis, this sort of psychology, therefore, fixes man's attention on his weaknesses while failing to reveal to him his strength.
If we ask what is the matter with the world, it may surely be answered that it is lack of knowledge of the right kind. Our numerous theorists, with their various fads and panaceas for improving the race and adjusting social inequalities, are building on a wrong foundation. This the common sense of the people tells them; and it is well that people should have logical reasoning to back their instinctive perception of right and wrong, and to enable them to confute these blind leaders.
Or take education. How many theories of education take into account these vital facts about human nature? For they are facts, and any theory that fails to reckon with them is sure to go wrong. With all that is done for the physical nature of the child, and for his intellectual nature, what is done for this noetic or spiritual part? It is this part that is the true seat of self-control. Yet we hear of systems that propose to withdraw discipline and the protection that it gives, and to abandon the child, all untrained, to the mercies of his own instincts. Does not common sense say that we should first give the child the power to cope with those propensities? Yet how can we do this when we do not even understand our own nature, let alone the child's?
We often hear of systems of education, or of particular schools, based on the idea of leaving the pupil free to his own devices; and great success is claimed. But it may well be asked whether the success is due to the method, or whether it is gained by the superior personal qualities of the teacher. It is also to be borne in mind that temporary success may be gained at the cost of subsequent disadvantage. However this may be, it is certain that our failure to solve the question of discipline versus liberty in education is due to our lack of understanding of human nature; and that, given this understanding, we should be able to meet that difficulty. In short, it is necessary to distinguish between what is psychic and what is noetic, and not to abandon the child to his own devices until we are sure that he has the power to control his own impulses.
At this point, we may quote with advantage from "Psychic and Noetic Action,"
The whole conclave of psycho-physiologists may be challenged to correctly define Consciousness, and they are sure to fail, because Self-consciousness belongs alone to man and proceeds from the SELF, the higher Manas. Only, whereas the psychic element (or Kama Manas) is common to both the animal and human being -- the far higher degree of its development in the latter resting merely on the greater perfection and sensitiveness of his cerebral cells -- no physiologist, not even the cleverest, will ever be able to solve the mystery of the human mind, in its highest spiritual manifestation, or in its dual aspect of the psychic and the noetic (or the manasic) or even to comprehend the intricacies of the former on the purely material plane -- unless he knows something of, and is prepared to admit the presence of, this dual element. This means that he would have to admit a lower (animal), and a higher (or divine) mind in man, or what is known in Occultism as the 'personal' and the 'impersonal' Egos. For, between the psychic and the noetic, between the Personality and the Individuality, there exists the same abyss as between a "Jack the Ripper" and a holy Buddha. Unless the physiologist accepts all this, we say, he will ever be led into a quagmire.
-- LUCIFER, October, 1890, page 91
Observe in the above that the psychic element is far more highly developed in man than in the animal; but that this does not constitute the difference between man and animal. This is a most important point, because man has so often been represented as merely a higher animal, as a being differing from the animal in degree only and not in kind. But we see here that the real difference between man and the animal is that man has the noetic element, which is not manifest in the animal. (It is present in germ or in potency in the animal, just as it is in every other living being, even the mineral atom; but this general truth, stated for the sake of accuracy, does not affect our present argument.)
On this distinction rests the question of free will, about which H.P. Blavatsky next speaks. A study of the physical and psychic natures only, with ignorance of the noetic principle, or at least failure to reckon with it, may well lead to the conclusion that man is a mechanism, the victim of a chain of causes and effects. Such a conclusion is at direct variance with hourly experience and common sense; yet it is true that people are capable of holding in their minds theories that are thus at variance with experience, and that these theories injuriously influence their ideals and consequently their conduct.
False ideals, if largely held, can poison our common mental atmosphere and stifle the breath of a healthy life. We hear of brainy people asserting that no man is responsible for his actions, and yet in the same breath praising a man for his goodness. If men are not responsible for their actions, they merit not praise any more than blame. Free will and responsibility are recognized as facts in our daily experience; so we may take our choice between a philosophy that gives the lie to experience and one that explains experience.
Now as to free will, it may be that in some dry philosophic sense no will can be free, inasmuch as it must be conditioned by a motive of some kind. But such a meaning does not concern us when considering practical affairs. It is enough to know that our will is not a slave to the complex of influences that compose our mental and psychic nature. Experience tells us that varying degrees of freedom obtain among men; some being driven by their desires or drifting easily in a current, while others are able to resist such influences and to steer a course that they have set themselves. There is no limit to the extent to which a human will may liberate itself from the tangle of thoughts and desires, in order that it may carry out high ideals. At the heart of all beings is infinity, eternity, godhood; and the particular being called Man has reached the stage of evolution where he is able to will his own progress self-consciously toward infinite heights.
It is important to notice that, in our day, metaphysics, philosophy, and psychology have been separated from religion and pursued as independent studies; while natural science again has been regarded as independent. Such a sundering of the field of inquiry is bound to be disastrous to the quest for truth. The search for truth should recognize no such departments. The great practical maxim of religion and philosophy alike is that truth is revealed to the cleansed mind, to the liberated heart. The gospel of Love, claimed by some religions as their peculiar prerogative, but actually the common property of religions, simply means that the aspirant to knowledge must abandon the personal and acquisitive motive that is the essence of ordinary human life, and replace it by a far higher and broader motive, for which the word "Love" is but one of many inadequate epithets. We must evoke the noetic side of our nature.
In the terminology used by Theosophy, Manas, "mind," the center of self-consciousness in man, is subject to two attractions, one from below, the other from above.
The lower influence is Kama, or passional and instinctual desire; the higher influence is Buddhi, the spiritual center in man. Man's mind oscillates between these two influences, and this is the source of his tribulations. If it fall under the influence of Kama, he becomes worse than a beast, because desire, which in animals is limited to harmless naturalness, is in man intensified by its alliance with self-consciousness and intellect. But if Manas be allied with Buddhi, the great At-One-ment is achieved, and man becomes a conscious god.
Theosophy is preeminently scientific and recognizes facts; nor seeks to hustle them out of sight in order to preserve the integrity of some world-view based on physical science. Theosophy interprets human nature as we find it. How much better to have a philosophy that interprets life instead of being at variance with it; which encourages our best instincts instead of denying them!
H.P. Blavatsky, in the article referred to, next proceeds to define the difference between noetic and psychic mental functions; a difference usually ignored, to the great confusion of ideas.
To describe, as the physiologists do, the human Soul in its relations to senses and appetites, desires and passions, common to man and the brute, and then endow it with Godlike intellect, with spiritual and rational faculties that can take their source but in a SUPERSENSIBLE world, is to throw forever the veil of an impenetrable mystery over the subject. Yet in modern science, "psychology" and "psychism" relate only to conditions of the nervous system, mental phenomena being traced solely to molecular action. The higher noetic character of the Mind-Principle is entirely ignored, and even rejected as a "superstition" by both physiologists and psychologists.
Man can thus be truly said to have two selves: his real Self and its mortal ever-changing reflection. The Higher Self is ever the same throughout incarnations, but the lower self, manifesting through our organic system, changes with each incarnation. It imagines itself to be the real Self, thus falling into what Buddhist philosophy calls the 'heresy of separateness.' To the real Self is given the name of Individuality, by contrast with Personality, which is a name for the lower self. From the Higher Self proceed the noetic impulses; from the lower self proceed the psychic, animal, passional impulses.
The Higher Self cannot act directly on the body, but the lower self does. The Higher Self acts indirectly on the body through the mediation of the lower self; for the latter, by its power of choice, can gravitate towards the animal nature, or aspire to the divine nature.
The body of man is compared by H.P. Blavatsky to:
An Aeolian harp, chorded with two sets of strings, one made of pure silver, the other of catgut. When the breath from the divine Fiat brushes softly over the former, man becomes like unto HIS God -- but the other set feels it not. It needs the breeze of a strong terrestrial wind, impregnated with animal effluvia, to set its animal chords vibrating. It is the function of the physical, lower mind to act upon the physical organs and their cells; but it is the higher mind ALONE that can influence the atoms interacting in those cells, which interaction is alone capable of exciting the brain, VIA THE SPINAL "CENTER" CORD, to a mental representation of spiritual ideas far beyond any objects on this material plane. The phenomena of divine consciousness have to be regarded as activities of our mind on another and a higher plane, working through something less substantial than the moving molecules of the brain.
This shows the difference between the pure noetic visions of real seership and the psychic visions of mediumship. The former can only be attained after the impulses of the lower passional and personal nature have been entirely subdued -- nay, when even the very memory of them has been obliterated; and this requires a long course of training in unselfish devotion and instruction under the guidance of a Teacher. Without this, any light that may come from above will be tinged with reflections from the personal nature and will mislead. Though we may not be advanced enough to have these pure visions, still anybody, even the humblest, may obtain light from the central core of his nature, in the form of those intuitions that prompt us to right action. Such guidance may be recognized by its being always on the side of impersonality and unselfishness, and by its being free from emotional disturbance, however lofty the latter may seem.
The influences of the spiritual planes are formless, so beware of figures and voices. How many visionaries have pointed in evidence to the very signs that should have served to warn them and us! The fact of a vision, of a voice, is sure evidence that the communication is not from the highest source. Again, what seems so sacred to the recipient is by no means so convincing to others; and each such visionary has his own special message, different from those of others, sufficient only to gather around him a small body of followers, if even that. Sure proofs, these, of the terrestrial, of the personal, quality of the visions.
Never was more need than today of the distinction between the celestial and the terrestrial in 'supernormal' mental phenomena, a day when people are running after every new and strange thing. Pitiful that a real hunger should be fed on such husks! And how urgent that the pure sacred teachings of the Ancient Wisdom should be spread!