OUR CHELAS ARE HELPED BUT WHEN THEY ARE INNOCENT OF THE CAUSES THAT LEAD THEM INTO TROUBLE; when such causes are generated by foreign, outside influences. Life and the struggle for adeptship would be too easy, had we all scavengers behind us to sweep away the EFFECTS we have generated through our own rashness and presumption.
-- Mahatma K.H., THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, Letter No. 54, page 305.
By B.P. Wadia
[From LIVING THE LIFE, pages 140-45.]
Disciples may be likened to the strings of the soul-echoing Vina;
Mankind, unto its sounding board;
The hand that sweeps it to the tuneful breath of the GREAT WORLD-SOUL.
The string that fails to answer 'neath the Master's touch in dulcet harmony with all the others, breaks -- and is cast away. So the collective minds of Lanoo Shravakas. They have to be attuned to the Upadhyaya's mind -- one with the Over-Soul -- or, break away.
Among the Blessed Works of HPB, unique importance attaches to the proclamation she made in the first sentence of the first volume of her first book, and the achievement that enabled her to give to the world THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, "Dedicated to the Few."
The old, forgotten Path in the jungle of this civilization was cleared by her so that the aspirant might walk it. But that aspirant has to unfold true Devotion to Wisdom, to the Sages who are its Custodians, and to all who are its students and pupils and whom he must recognize as his companions.
The above quotation from the BOOK OF THE GOLDEN PRECEPTS enshrines a vital instruction for all would-be Chelas. Those who have attained the sweet fruits of Discipleship have done so by the actual practice of the truth contained in these lines.
The Path to which HPB pointed can be trodden by the would-be disciples of this cycle. The inspiration of the Esoteric Philosophy she taught culminates in the learner's heart as a concentrated aspiration to walk that Way. The strength and loyalty with which a learner adheres to his resolve express his inner faith and vision. The depth of that faith and the purity of that vision are tested by the Power of Time; in the life of the devotee that Power flows, testing and trying, and it does not belong to the past, the present, or the future, but rather to the Eternal Now. Chelaship is a continuous development toward Immortality and may be called an Immortal Process.
It is taught that Chelaship begins with the inner attitude of mind: what one thinks and feels is of greater importance than outer acts, though outer behavior has to conform to the inner perceptions; and the first task of the aspiring devotee is to cultivate his perception by the study of right knowledge and the practice of right discipline.
In the measure in which he overcomes the five hindrances -- (I) lust, (2) ill-will, (3) torpor and languor, (4) restlessness and mental worry, and (5) doubt -- does he achieve the success to which the first statement of the above quotation points. A would-be Chela is but a string, capable of echoing (there is an important idea in this word "echoing") the Soul. In this world of personalities and persons, the aspirant devotee has to become the echo of his own Soul, of the Divine Singer within himself.
To become such an echo is not a negative but rather a positive process. How to achieve the wonderful position of the true echo of the Soul-Singer in this noisy, bragging, boastful, angry, and greedy civilization of the dark cycle and the iron age? In one place, the Mahatma K.H. has said these words that are exactly applicable to the stage in Discipleship of which we are speaking:
No men living are freer than we when we have once passed out of the stage of pupilage. Docile and obedient but never slaves during that time we must be; otherwise, and if we passed our time in arguing, we never would learn anything at all.
Next, our echoed song is for mankind. Once again in the measure of our assimilation of the Divine Song of the Higher Manas can we enable the voice of our personal self to influence mankind. The service of humanity is therefore an early sine qua non in the devotee's daily life.
In this quotation is stressed the idea of a special type of unity between the minds of Lanoo Shravakas -- learner listeners. Unless there is dulcet harmony between co-students who are learning to listen and then to echo, the voice of the solitary individual will be a voice lost in the wilderness of civilization. It is a condition of Chelaship that each aspirant learns to be devoted to the interests and welfare of co-aspirants, co-students, and co-servers. It is the collective minds of the learners that have to be attuned to the Master's mind. All the strings of the soul-echoing Vina must be tightened to produce the song for the help and service of mankind.
All tests and trials of the would-be Chela are directly related to his inner attitude, which reflects itself in his outer behavior. The neophyte's first privilege is to be tried in the searching fire made up of his lower non-spiritual attributes. He is tested on the psychological side of his nature -- especially by "Doubt, Skepticism, Scorn, Ridicule, Envy, and finally Temptation -- especially the latter," said the Master K.H. The agents employed in this testing are "the jealous Lhamayin in endless space."
These trials and tests have the effect of bringing out the evils of the lower man, which coalesce to fight the effort of the would-be Chela to oust them. They make a deadly hard weapon of iron smelted by the Lhamayin, who wield it against the erect integrity of the neophyte. Asks the Master -- "Why is it that doubts and foul suspicions seem to beset every aspirant for chelaship?" The answers to this question are numerous, but of fundamental importance is this one: In the strife between the Living and the Dead, on the Battlefield of Dharma, the neophyte must see, face, fight, and conquer the conglomerate evil.
This produces a two-sided experience. As water develops the heat of caustic lime, so the honest and sustained endeavor of the neophyte brings into fierce action every unsuspected potentiality latent in him. At the same time, his vivid and vital, moral and intellectual forces are set free for his constructive use. Every test passed, every trial faced, is a step forward on the Path in the direction of the Master, which, one of them says, "forces us to make one towards him."
This battle of the living portion of the personal man against his dead aspects with their nefarious, deadening effects produces despondency and despair, and Arjuna-like the neophyte wants to withdraw, does not desire to fight out the field. It is very necessary to remember that the first chapter of the Gita that deals with this first real experience in Chela-life is designated as a type of Yoga -- "Vishad-Yoga." Does it not imply "making union with despondency?" What does it mean? Does it mean that we should hug despair to our bosom and bolt from the field of battle, refusing to engage in the greatest of all wars? Or, Arjuna-like, should the neophyte make union with despondency with the purpose of taking a good look at that fear-causing demon, of understanding its demonic nature, of seeking the explanation about it from the Teachings and the Teachers? Real union with despondency implies mastering and using the demonic in the service of the Divine.
Which virtue will enable the neophyte to continue to live his life aright? Vishad -- despondency -- brings one to Vairagya, detachment -- detachment from the self of matter, from the pairs of opposites. Illusion has to be conquered if Truth is to be perceived. Indifference to pleasure and to pain implies freedom from "thirst for perceptible and scriptural enjoyments," says Patanjali.
Vairagya, indifference, desirelessness, or detachment is the very first Paramita that the aspiring and devoted neophyte should unfold. It involves a mental abnegation to begin with, and this is not agreeable to our modern mind; but it must be acquired if discipleship is to be successful. This Paramita leads to the flowering of the higher Resignation that has dauntless energy-prana as its heart and patience sweet that naught can ruffle as its head.
There are two suggestive sayings by two Zen teachers:
Gettan used to say:
There are three kinds of disciples: those who impart Zen to others, those who maintain the temples and shrines, and then there are the rice bags and the clothes-hangers.
Gasan, the victorious disciple of Tekisui, remained when weaker fellows ran away. Gasan remembered:
A poor disciple utilizes a teacher's influence.
A fair disciple admires a teacher's kindness.
A good disciple grows strong under a teacher's discipline.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 210-15.]
The question has been asked as to what I think is the angel in us, what the human part of us, and what the so-called demon. We Theosophists use these terms -- angel and demon -- not in their old Christian significance as actually implying that an angel from heaven has taken up its abode in the human constitution, or that a demon from outside of nature has taken up its abode in us, or in each one of us. The highest part of man is a spiritual being overshadowed by divinity; and we at times speak of this as an 'angel' because the term is well known in the West, due to Christian thought. We Theosophists speak of the demon as the animal part of us, a very real entity, which the human part of us, the central part of our constitution, usually converts into a demon.
The animals occupy their place in the universe, and their lives are remarkable in many ways, fascinatingly interesting. They have a certain amount of developed individuality. No one would say that a dog is a cat, a cat is an elephant, or a pig is a horse. These are different kinds of animals, each with its own individuality, and each kind having its own virtues.
In the ordinary course of nature, these virtues of the animal lives are predominant and interest us humans. It is when men spoil the unfortunate beasts that we find them departing from the innocent and natural life that nature has endowed them with. Most of the beasts have noble virtues, instinctively such, unless man betrays their unconscious trust in him and distorts their instincts. Look at the fidelity of the dog, the horse, even of the house-cat! It is we who cause them to lead unnatural lives, distorted lives, lives bent or twisted out of their natural current; and it is just this that the human part of us does upon and in the animal part of ourselves.
Let me make my meaning clear. I do not believe it is a good thing to suppress the natural innocent animal in a man, but to control it. Why, he is but part human. He is only part man. Man, as we understand him, consists first of an inner god. Call it an inner Buddha, an inner Christ, the source of all his being. To this part of human nature, the Greeks gave the name Nous, the noetic part, the source of all our highest, the center of consciousness, and of conscience, the center of discrimination, of compassion, of pity, of wisdom, of comprehension of other things in the universe, of intuition, of sympathy, sympathy for the souls of men and of all things. This is the highest part of us, our spiritual part.
The particularly human part of us is what we call the higher psuche, the psyche; and what we call the animal we can otherwise call the natural part of man, and this is not his body. People who have not looked into and studied this question all make that silly mistake. They blame the body for man's faults and sins. If the body sinned, there would be signs of it. You know perfectly well if you examine yourselves that your body sins only because emotions and low thinking impel it to do certain things.
I think it is altogether wrong to teach killing out the animal. On the contrary, we want to refine, lift, and raise the animal. In other words, we ensoul it with our humanity instead of allowing it to control our human essence; that is what so many men and women do. They allow the animal in them to run them. Yet what would a man be without his animal nature? He would be but part human. Do you think that I, G. de P., a human being, could ever want to drop the animal part of me? Not on your sweet lives! It gives me an opportunity to manifest on this plane. It is my duty, my job, to make that animal a decent animal, a human animal, to humanize it so that I, the ego, can work through it.
Sin actually with us humans does not reside in the body or in the animal part of us. It resides in the human part of us, in our emotions, in our willful, selfish thoughts that stimulate the animal in us, rousing the wrong side, impelling it to do things that carry the body with it. No, I want to be a full man, a complete man: spirit, soul, controlled-and-refined animal, and human body. Then if I misuse part of my being, from health I shall obtain ill health, from decency I shall become indecent, from human I shall have become animalized.
Those people who talk about killing out desire and killing out the animal, to me are just plumb stupid. They lack psychological penetration. A man to do his work in this world of ours needs to be a complete septenary being. If he wants to be a god, he dies, and for the time being, he is a god, or a demigod. As long as he is on earth, it is his duty to be a full, complete man. His duty is to act like a man, not like a degraded human run by the animal part of him, but rather to use the animal as a vehicle through which to work and manifest. He brings out the finest qualities of the human animal in him, the devotion such as the dog has, the affection such as the horse has, and the animal instinct of remembrance such as the elephant has. He does this to manifest humanly through them. That is the way for a man to live and finally to die.
This animal is in his charge. This part of his constitution, in indefinite future ages, will itself become a human being. The spiritual part of us -- the Christ or Buddha within -- was a man in past but now has become Bodhisattva-like or Christ-like through evolution, through growth from within. Just so are us humans, the central part of our constitution, striving or should strive to rise towards the Bodhisattva-like part of us, the Christ-like part of us.
Do you think a man would be as lovable, as approachable, who was only part human if he had only part of his present constitution? It is a peculiar paradox and a beautiful one in some ways in our human understanding of each other, that what we love most in each other are not the cold, exquisitely beautiful crystalline virtues, but those things that we sense as fellow feelings, the common humanity amongst us. Think over that.
That does not mean that the beautiful, holy, starry, pure, crystalline virtues are not the highest part of us. They are. They are our ideal and our lodestar. We are evolving towards them, and the greatest man is precisely he who has developed them most greatly. But if they have not instruments to work through -- a receptive understanding human consciousness to work through, which in turn can inspire and control the animal part of us, so that we shall become fully human all along the line -- then we have a man, outwardly complete, who because of what is modernly called an inferiority complex will run off and shut himself away from the world because he dare not face it.
The Theosophists' conception of the ideal man is not the washed out, pallid ascetic who abandons his duty to humanity and to the world merely in order to cultivate his own intermediate constitution. Our ideal is the full man, the complete man, a man like the Buddha, a man like the Christ, a man like the Masters, a man who lives in the human animal, but controls, governs, and makes it a fine instrument for himself, transmuting it into harmony and beauty. He must be a full seven-principled human being as the normal man is, but with every one of the principles at work and all working in noble harmony for the universal good. That is our ideal.
What is the use of flagellations, whipping the body, macerating its flesh, or starving or abusing its health? All these things show weakness, weakness of understanding and training, and an utterly wrong psychology. If you are afraid of yourselves, it is because your human part is as it is, weak, vacillating, untrained, unreliable, an imperfect vehicle for the light from above.
We do not, moreover, look upon as living an ideal life the man who, for the sake of inner individual salvation, trying to attain Nirvana by the back stairs, or by denying himself the right to do his duty as a man in the world, macerates and flagellates the body and kills it sometimes in the totally mistaken idea that wrong and evil and sin arise in the body itself. The body is but the passing instrument of the mind. It is the mind where wrong is born, in evil thoughts. It is a wicked thing, in my judgment, to abuse the gift that nature has given to us all, the gift of a healthy body, and do our best to ruin it and make it unworthy for the duty for which nature has intended it. The Christ did not that. The Buddha did not that. The Masters do not that. It is only the selfish monastics, the so-called yogins, fakirs, who follow that parade of their virtue before the world, or at best choose the Hatha-yoga way, so that they may have peace from worldly responsibilities and duties. That is not the Masters' way.
Do not imagine for an instant that I am preaching animalism. If you do, you do not have my thought at all. My meaning is a direct opposite of that. The true human is never animalistic. He is essentially human, tender, compassionate, pitiful, intelligent, self-sacrificing, full of sympathy, with a fellow feeling for others; and because he himself has a lower part, the animal part of him, he has sympathy, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness for the failings of others. Our eyes should always be turned upwards, heavenwards, because if we keep our eyes turned downwards, earthwards, then the human is lost in the animal -- and we all know the degenerate results of this!
The old Greeks, in fact all the ancient peoples, understood the psychological composition of the human being very clearly -- something that modern psychology is just beginning to discover anew. This knowledge of man's constitution and nature is as old as thinking humanity. First in order is the divine or the spiritual within him, the source of all the highest, the source of all the rest of him, his consciousness coming down like a stream from the god within, passing through every part of him, glorifying, enlightening, and illuminating until it reaches the lowest part and his brain is touched. This is the nous, the noetic part.
Then comes the merely human, the vehicle of the former, the higher psyche, then the psychic, the seat of our emotions and ordinary thoughts, you and me as ordinary human beings. Then comes the animal part of us by which we perform certain functions in life, very necessary indeed, and that also helps us to understand each other largely; in fact, without which we could not manifest on this earth-plane. Then there comes the poor unfortunate body. The body is a mere tool, an instrument that follows the feelings and thoughts we have. That is where the trouble is, in our feelings and thoughts, not in the unfortunate body. Sin is born in the mind, in thought, in feeling. If you want to eradicate sin, go to your self, the human part.
The point is, friends, let the angel, the higher part of us, be dominant, not recessive. Let the animal have its own; let it be innocently instinctual, but always under control. Let it be clean. Simply let the flow from above, from the human, drop like healing dew into the animal soul or animal mind, enlighten it, and guide it instead of distorting it, as happens so often today. Then you will have a fine man, a gentleman in the old sense of the word, a man who instinctively loves the right, understands self-sacrifice, and is determined to follow that law no matter at what cost to himself. That is the gentleman. Because that is our human being, when the spirit within us, the spiritual light, fills our human part and passes the radiance on down to the animal, it is beautiful. Then you have a man who in his higher part is a hero, in his human part is a true leader, a true chief of men, a guiding teacher, who in his human part is sympathetic, faithful, affectionate, and true; and the body will show all these fine things.
By Gertrude W. van Pelt
[From THE DOCTRINE OF KARMA: CHANCE OR JUSTICE, pages 55-58.]
Our civilization is being shaken to its foundations. Many have said that its fate is hanging in the balance. The feeling of instability and uncertainty as to the future is widespread. Earnest people are asking what can restore normal conditions, and are answering the question by a growing recognition of the fact that men's hearts must be changed before radical reforms can become effective.
The Great Teachers, two of whom initiated the Theosophical Movement, having foreseen these conditions, sent their Messenger, H.P. Blavatsky, to form a nucleus for a Universal Brotherhood, and as a necessary preliminary to this, they restated through her the ancient truths that give the basis for ethics. Men are not going to do right unless they see a reason for it; unless their minds are molded in harmony with the facts of Nature. Fed as the Western nations have been, on unpleasant fairy-tales about life, present and future, they are at sea for a rational explanation. Current religious misinterpretations of the original teachings given to every race, have outraged man's sense of justice; in the groping after truth, a confusion of sects, good, bad, and indifferent, has arisen worse than the Babel of tongues. It is the Ancient Wisdom Religion, the fountain-head of all the Great Religions and Philosophies of all times, the source of knowledge in Science and Arts -- it is this alone that, in its universality and power to coordinate every faculty of the mind, can restore harmony and sanity to our world and evoke the true dignity of human nature.
An honest and whole-hearted belief in the law of Karma in its relation to life as a whole, would alone completely change the character of our civilization. This may, perhaps, seem an extravagant claim to those not understanding its deep meaning. Yet the mere broadening of the present-day outlook would, in itself, be a wonderful thing. The race-mind is now concentrated on one physical incarnation, a mere wink of the eye in the soul's history, and all events contained in it assume an undue importance in one way and a lack of importance in another. The sense of proportion and perspective is absolutely lost, and can only be regained by lifting the veil and revealing the illimitable vistas beyond. Simple common sense would then call into play the faculties of reflection and judgment, to say nothing of the awakening in the spiritual nature.
Gradually self-discipline would grow, beginning, perhaps, in self-interest, but merging by degrees into something greater, until the character is radically altered. Self-pity and whining would be stamped out when the realization came that misfortunes had been self-induced, and courage, will, and endurance would be evoked. There would be less condemnation and uncharitable criticism, and more kindness, more patience with the failings of others, if a deeper understanding of the difficulties as well as the possibilities in human nature were in the race-mind. We all know that among the subtle poisons of our life is the tendency to criticize others, to judge them unkindly, to impute to them unworthy motives, etc. And we also know how this takes the edge off every pleasure, and on the contrary, how fresh and clear the air is when suspicion is absent and an atmosphere of healthy sympathy exists.
The knowledge that one is master of his own destiny, would remove the fear that at any time, out of the blue, an avalanche of misfortune might be precipitated, once that the old records are cleaned up. The knowledge that these old records themselves can be softened in their results or even sometimes neutralized by the force of will intelligently directed, would arouse courage.
The easy-going irresponsible, the indifferent, would gradually awaken if the truth of Karma were in the minds of the majority, for, by degrees, these sleepers would feel revitalized by a new and invigorating mental atmosphere. Further, when the teaching of Karma is realized, people will not seek to get something for nothing, or envy those who have more than themselves. They will know that time and the rolling cycles adjust all wrongs; that the only way to gain life's treasures is to concentrate on the duty in hand and leave the results to the Law.
By Joan N Burnett
[From THE ARYAN PATH, October 1969, 428-33.]
Prometheus stole fire from the gods and brought it to earth for man. This, at first, seems a meritorious act. Surely, it is not for humanity to use its benefactor's name in any derogatory sense. Shelley, in his great poem, "Prometheus Unbound," sees him as man's helper against a tyrant-deity, who took revenge by having Prometheus nailed to a rock in the Caucasus and sending a vulture to prey daily on his vitals.
Before Shelley, there was Aeschylus. Aeschylus' "Prometheus Bound" was the first play in a trilogy, and in it he so depicts Prometheus "as the personification of the spirit ready to suffer for the good he has done" that inevitably "our sympathies and even our ethical judgments are mainly with him against Zeus." (C.M. Bowra, ANCIENT GREEK LITERATURE) The writer quoted then suggests that in the third play, "Prometheus Delivered," which was lost, it seems likely that Aeschylus reconciled Zeus and Prometheus, since "the conflict depicted was between two right causes, the betterment of humanity and the necessity of order."
How to evaluate these two right causes? Is not that the great problem of our day, one that concerns -- no, not simply "the whole world." From 20 July 1969, it concerns the entire cosmos. Two days previously, with the astronauts still halfway from their target, "far-sighted" businessmen were already discussing the possibility of bringing down the vast quantities of valuable metals scientists believe to be on the moon, and the BBC, London, quoted their eager question -- "How would this affect investments?"
From Prometheus to the Stock Exchange seems rather a dizzy drop, but it is an apt, even a frightful, example of the predominant view in this century of what constitutes "the betterment of humanity." To how many of the three thousand pressmen at the rocket-launch at Cape Kennedy, or of the millions glued spellbound to their television screen or radio set, did "the necessity of order" being preserved throughout the cosmos come home with equal force?
Let us keep to earth, though, and not be sidetracked by the monocot. It was for the earth-dwellers that Prometheus braved the gods. A different interpretation of what he did for them than either the Greek dramatist's or the English poet's is found in a sentence of M. Jacques Albert-Cuttat's, his wise and valuable little book, THE SPIRITUAL DIALOGUE OF EAST AND WEST.
If [he says] the conquest of nature is divorced from its spiritual finality, and becomes an end instead of a means to glorify God by conforming the world to God's creative call ... then the human domination of things becomes Promethean, i.e., ungodly and therefore inhuman.
For "God" we may use our own thought-term, whatever signifies to us that great Causative Principle of which we and the universe we live in are the outward manifestation, which sustains all, being the One Reality throughout, which is the source of cosmic law. Even the most hardheaded young technocrat brooding over the latest gadgets in his laboratory must confirm that such law exists. Only through knowledge and observance of it did Apollo 11 itself come into being and achieve its end successfully.
Then why the stupidity, the evil, arrogant stupidity, of flouting it elsewhere? Can so perfect a system be broken at any one point without disaster following? That disaster does follow we know all too well; the proofs are everywhere around us. Vegetation destroyed by insecticides (which the insects themselves can now withstand!); birds and fish killed in millions by oil or chemical discharge; soil made barren, climates altered, by indiscriminate tree-felling; rivers polluted with factory waste, as the atmosphere with fumes -- not to mention radioactive dust. The list is endless, and all these penalties, please note, are but the outward and immediate ones. What the inner and long-term ones will be, who can say? If in proportion to the crime, appalling, surely. For the crime is against THE UNITY OF LIFE.
Can these be classed as Promethean acts? If we adopt M. Albert-Cuttat's use of the term, yes. They are "human domination of things" for no creative end, but for material profit only. For this, and for this alone, man is exploiting both his innocent fellow creatures and his living environment, nature, in which, above all, "the necessity of order" is vital to him if he is to continue to inhabit this planet earth in health and comfort.
Every one of the above abuses could be shown to have dire effects on health, which has to be maintained nowadays by commercialized drugs, anti-depression pills, and tranquillizers, twenty million doctor's prescriptions for the last two being issued in Britain in one year. Against the conquest of space put such defeat in simply living! And remember that it may be a Promethean act to disallow "the necessity of order" to one's body. According to the Ancient Wisdom, a human birth is none too easily obtained; it is the crown of long upward striving and the body entered into is the vehicle for further progress. As such, it calls for respect and care. Similar treatment to that which is lavished upon a spacecraft!
Order reigns naturally in a healthy body, every part functioning harmoniously with every other. More, it is a body suited -- some would say allotted -- to the indwelling ego. Theosophy teaches that the cells that compose it were brought together by no mere chance; they bear the imprint of former lives and have to be "redeemed," if need be, and their evolution furthered by the ego.
So all, from within outwards, are closely related each to each; there is a deep foundational interdependence and unity. This is proved in some degree by the need to match blood group with blood group before giving a transfusion, though of course the "alchemy" that blends the cells with the psyche goes far beyond physical chemistry. Transfusion is a most dubious innovation and, when it is forced on sick persons "for their good" against their known wishes, should certainly count as a Promethean act, a violation of the inner "order" which the dweller in that body deems "necessity," preferring death if need be.
Now come the far more frightful transplants of organs, with all the gruesome possibilities opened up to us recently of medical and legal uncertainty as to when a donor is actually dead. "Donor," by the way, is a sickly euphemism. Donors have been rushed from their deathbeds through the city traffic to hospital and laid on the operating-table still breathing but quite impotent voluntarily to donate. Of course, one cannot pronounce on this for all. To some the prolongation of bodily life, their own or another's, will seem justifiable, even praiseworthy, by any means. They will demand only a perfecting of technique. Doctors themselves are divided on the subject. But the fact remains: means exist and are in use for disrupting the basic elements that make up a human being, by introducing strange blood, a strange heart, even -- the latest repulsive aim -- strange sex organs, with what ultimate effect on that wretched being no man knows, since all this is as yet in its early stages.
Nor do these experiments stop short with the physical envelope. Drugs can be used without the recipient's knowledge. Some paralyze or totally alter their brain functions. Some produce sterility. Some destroy their moral judgment. All this power, once the prerogative of "Zeus," rests now in the hands of those modern Titans, the scientists, and in so far as it subserves only EARTHLY man and promotes his material good solely (and through the torture of millions of helpless animals at that), it must be called a Promethean act.
Let us not be deceived by talk of "the betterment of humanity." Granted, science HAS done much in certain ways for that. But one suspects, nay, one knows, for they avow it, that another motive is gaining fast upon our technocrats -- unholy curiosity. Witness the Cambridge professor who recently deprived twelve chaffinches of their hearing and said openly that his reason was curiosity as to how they would behave when deaf, and that only! Twelve of the sweetest little songsters in the bird-world! He was "criticized" (!) for it but the matter petered out. And there again we see the shameful attitude to nature, once the Magna Mater approached with reverence and humility, now outraged, exploited, her creatures abused, her pure waters and skies defiled. "Holy earth," says Hesiod, writing of the birth of Zeus in Crete, "took him in her arms. Holy earth hid him." In sharp contrast spoke Sir Bernard Lovell of Jodrell Bank Observatory, exulting in the triumphant flight to the moon. "Man is about to free himself from the constraints of earth. We have lived these millions of years in a dark cell."
Surely the darkness is rather in the type of mind that can so see the lovely globe we live on -- Keats's "Fair world ... fair paradise of Nature's light" -- and spurn it so scornfully, whatever wonders may lie ahead among its sister planets. And the danger is that that darkness may deepen, even as in the days of Atlantis, when men "degraded spiritual things and turned mighty powers over nature to base uses," (W.Q. Judge, ECHOES FROM THE ORIENT) unless a strong effort is made to counter it by those who have a better wisdom than our glib, assertive technocrats do.
In his play "The Persians," Aeschylus shows the proud ruler, Xerxes, not only trying to conquer his neighbors by force of arms but also trying "to bend nature to his will more than it is right for mortal man to do," by throwing a bridge across the Hellespont. This may seem a small thing to us nowadays, far from ranking as a Promethean act, but to a true Greek like Aeschylus it was Hubris, which meant any kind of forwardness and excess, and after Hubris came, inevitably, Nemesis, a lesson the Greeks never failed to stress.
When men or societies went too far, either in dominating other men and societies, or in exploiting the resources of nature to their own advantage, this overweening exhibition of pride had to be paid for. In a word, Hubris invited Nemesis ... Today our technological idolaters seem to imagine that they can have all the advantages of an immensely elaborate industrial civilization without having to pay for them.
So wrote Aldous Huxley a good many years ago. But VEDANTA FOR THE WESTERN WORLD may not please the "idolaters" as a textbook.
To say that the West wholly lacks reverence is to make ourselves laughable: only weak fools, sentimentalists, claim reverence for anything, be it art or sex or country peace or old age or the soil or the animal world or what is wrongfully called "mere" matter! Matter may be accounted low in the scale of creation, but a perceptive eye will see it for what it is, "the most remote effect of the emanative energy of the Deity." (H.P. Blavatsky) As for the cry of sentimentalism, so popular with cheap critics as an easy form of dismissal of whatever runs counter to their own cocksure opinions, the dictionary defines "sentimental" as "tinctured with sentiment," and what is sentiment but one of man's best attributes, feeling? We need far more of it as a counter to soulless efficiency. Feeling is sympathy, compassion, and ahimsa, a concern for all that lives. It should mark our attitude to the cosmos itself.
One last view of the Promethean act, always remembering that we have used this phrase in a special sense throughout, seeing it as a breaking-in upon the lawful order of things simply for man's material benefit. It is, in essence, disruption. (Perhaps the H-bomb is a grimly apt symbol of it.) It is "man's dominion," as the poet Burns saw, breaking "nature's social union." But the same act has, in fact, broken man himself, disrupting the harmony between the human and divine elements in him. Unless the spirit in him triumphs and effects reintegration, he will find no lasting good, either through a new heart in his failing body, or a new vision of "reality" derived from some hallucinatory drug, or through all the copper and uranium that may lie awaiting him on the moon.
There are few better analysts of and guides to the slow process of reintegration than the late Hugh I'Anson Fausset, that Western mystic who lived and wrote by the clear light of Eastern wisdom. He writes, in one of his finest, most intuitive books, FRUITS OF SILENCE:
The law that on every level maintains the order and structure of the universe cannot be disregarded. It embodies the principle by which creation is made effective. Yoga teaches that to transgress this order, this dharma inherent in the heart of man as in the universe at large, and by which, as he becomes individually conscious, he can distinguish between right and wrong action, is to disturb the balance of the cosmos and to invite chaos to come again. It is also, by the ineluctable law of Karma, of cause and effect, to incur a debt against life that will have to be paid, and not only by the individual transgressor, before the balance can be restored ...
Few today recognize as their essential vocation the bending of their human faculties to the task of infusing spiritual meaning into the physical world from which their bodies are sprung. Yet this is our distinctive role in the creative drama in which we play, here on earth, a central part. And even when we perform that role perversely, exploiting or manipulating the powers of nature for our own delusive advantage, we only prove how impossible it is to escape our responsibility. For there is no power in life but spirit and to possess it consciously endows man with as awesome a capacity for unlimited destruction as for divine creation.
Scientific knowledge alone, he adds, will never restore to us our "inherent sense of oneness with the Cosmos."
[Only] when the mind consents to be the intelligence within the heart is it no longer the enemy of the real. And the ideas that are generated within a heart so enlightened are spiritual forces that descend into the sick body of life, charged with the radiations of a higher wisdom and a creative love.
In that last sentence, we find the true solution of the conflict between the "two right causes" underlying the Promethean act. For in fact, they are not two, but one. The necessity of order and the betterment of humanity are indivisible. Only -- the concept of that betterment must be spiritual.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, December 1919, pages 559-63.]
All our capacity for happiness and usefulness depends on the view we take of ourselves. We have our moods of dejection and self-depreciation, when we say, "What's the use?" and sink into apathy, seeking consolation in the doctrine, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." We know the terrible strength of such moods and what harm they work.
Is this the voice of the animal nature in us? Nay, it is worse than that, for what animal indulges in self-depreciation? It is an abuse of our gift of Mind, a perversion of our human nature. We actually use our divine prerogative for denying our divine freedom and power. The very power to enunciate such a doctrine of despair confutes that doctrine, for it is only in virtue of our intellect that we can enunciate it. Hence the preposterous inconsistency of the attitude, and hence therefore the self-deception we must practice in order to maintain it.
"Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels," says the Psalmist; and more recent voices have declared, "Thou hast made him a little higher than the apes." The "angels" are, in the Hebrew original, the Elohim, which means the creative powers that built cosmos out of chaos and were the Divine Instructors of Man.
Theosophy came at a time when the doctrine that man is a little higher than the apes was fastening itself upon our mental and moral atmosphere and threatening strangulation. It came to restore the old teaching, the forgotten truth, that man was made a little lower than the Elohim. It came to emphasize the dual nature of man.
The true key to human evolution is given, as far as possible, in H.P. Blavatsky's writings; and it is most important to bear it in mind, as a counteractive of the doctrines of despair bred by materialism in science and in religion. But even if man has evolved upwards from the animal kingdom, the thoughtful mind will ask what is the nature and origin of that power by which he has so evolved. And though science may choose to ignore anything beyond the material aspect of evolution, it cannot justifiably deny other inquirers the right to consider the other aspects. Of what nature and whence the self-conscious Mind of man and all its marvelous attributes of freewill and self-determination? The practical person will conclude that, whether the power of evolution resides in the original cell or atom, or whether it came from elsewhere, it is a most wonderful power, and its origin and nature demands inquiry.
Our "Progenitors" had, in the course of eternal evolution, to become GODS before they became men.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 349
Universal tradition shows primitive man living for ages together with his Creators and first instructors -- the Elohim -- in the World's "Garden of Eden," or "Delight."
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, 349
Man is dual. He is compounded of a rudiment that sprang from the lower orders of creation, and a rudiment that is Divine and from above.
This is one key, and quite enough to go for a long way. And it is but a reinstatement of familiar truths that have been preserved, but obscured, in religion. The dual creation of man is found in confused form in the biblical Genesis, where it is stated that the Elohim breathed into the "living soul" of man their Divine essence, thus making him intelligent and immortal. The words 'living soul,' in the above, it should be stated, are better rendered 'animal soul,' being the Hebrew nephesh. This man was formed out of the dust of the ground. But the other account describes how the Elohim made man in their own image. And this is of course the basis of ordinary Christian doctrine, though all the life has been taken out of it, and we now find even preachers of high degree speculating, and that openly, whether there is any truth in what they have been teaching all this time from their pulpits!
Another key of evolution is that history moves forward in cycles. The ancient Greeks intended the zodiacal sign Libra or the Balance:
To imply that when the course of evolution had taken the worlds to the lowest point of grossness, where the earths and their products were coarsest, and their inhabitants most brutish, the turning point had been reached -- the forces were at an even balance. At the lowest point, the still lingering divine spark of spirit within began to convey the upward impulse.
-- ISIS UNVEILED, II, 457
The history of human races shows them gradually descending from spirituality to materiality, and then reascending. This is also the story of man the individual.
Our Higher Self is a poor pilgrim on his way to regain that which he has lost.
-- H.P. Blavatsky
Hence, the history of humanity is epitomized in each man. However much it may amuse us to study our biological and zoological affinities, it is more practical to remember our Divine parentage and ancestry. The Eternal Pilgrim is there, seeking to express himself through the earthly instrument. The Light within the shrine still burns, however much obscured by the veils and colored windows of the mind and senses.
It was the aim of H.P. Blavatsky, by her writings and teachings, to show that universal tradition as to man's Divine and heroic ancestors is not mere childish fancy, but fact, faithfully preserved, though often obscured; and that it refers to events that have actually taken place on this earth. The cycles of time are indicated by the geological record.
Thus, modern geologists have unearthed an important item of knowledge. They have discovered the periodical changes of upheaval, depression, etc., that mark off the earth's history into larger and smaller cycles. They have mapped out the history of the lower forms of life during these ages. They have not yet done the same for human history, but we must give them time. The period covered by what is generally accepted as human history is absurdly small and insignificant in comparison, and is an altogether too slender basis on which to build conclusions as to human origin and destiny.
Once rid ourselves of the preconceived dogma that humanity gets more primitive and savage as we go back, and we shall be able to estimate at their proper value the facts. These show that the beginnings of civilization can nowhere be discovered, but instead of them the ruins of empires and cultures. To buttress their preconceived theories as to the 'primitive man,' theorists point to the unburied remains of degraded specimens, and say that these represent the humanity of the past.
People talk of immortality as though it concerned the mysterious after-life alone, and consent to remain DEAD all through their present lifetime, in the hope that they will come to life after their decease! But the important point is that we should be alive here and now; and that is just what most of us are not. Eternity is usually conceived of as being a very great deal of time, tacked on to the end of the time we spend on earth. But eternity is not time at all. We enter this state when we transcend the illusions of time. Immortality is a condition we can and should endue while on earth; for the Higher Self, the God within, knows neither birth nor death.
Oh, it is important that man should preserve the center of his vitality and not allow himself to decay like a rotten tree. Living, as he does, in his petty personality, he makes for himself a prison. In this prison, he chafes and frets, cursing the powers that be and yielding to despondency and indifference. Yet he has the key to the door of his prison within his possession. The way of escape is in recognizing that that personality is an illusion, a dream, a dogma, to which he has chained himself.
The "Heart-Life" is a word often used with force by Theosophists, to denote that real deep full life that lies beyond the small life of the senses and personal desires. The Heart-Life must be kept alive in humanity. For want of it, humanity has come to a pretty pass. Humanity is longing to find again what it has lost.
With this in mind, we can better understand the inspiration of H.P. Blavatsky, a Messenger who had tasted of these waters of immortality, who knew of her own experience what Life really is, and who dared all in order to come forth into the world and prepare the way for a coming regeneration. We can better appreciate the difficulties of her task and the constancy with which she confronted them. Through this constancy, and that of others who lit their torch at hers, the Theosophical Society was preserved through many dangers, and still lives to carry out the plans that its Founder devised. In the life at Lomaland, and in the Raja-Yoga education established there, we see the foundations being laid for a future state of humanity wherein the Heart-Life shall reign again.
Faith is the great power that is needed to keep alive our hopes and our efforts; for the world and the weakness of human nature offer many discouragements. But those students of Theosophy who have stood faithful through the years to its lofty principles, and whose intuition has been grounded on loyalty to those principles, are still working in deep inward joy for the cause that they know must triumph so long as there are faithful souls to support it. To them, the Divine nature of man is no mere speculation, but a reality. They have lived to see the Divine Spark triumphant over many and terrible snares laid for it by mountains of selfishness that past Karma has accumulated for them.
Reincarnation is an invaluable truth, but we must not let it become a dead letter and a mere dogma of a vague futurity. It must be, and can be, a thing of daily life, of the present moment. For I die and am born again every time I achieve a victory of the Spirit over the dark pessimism and despondency of the passion-agitated mind. Hence, I can always take a new lease of life, and have in truth discovered the secret of perpetual youth. And all this because I have faith in the real teachings about the nature of Man, and have sought to make those teachings a reality in my life and a basis of conduct.
This realizing of the true nature of man does not mean a vain puffing up of the personality. If that were so, how could the workers at Lomaland get along together at all? Would there not be continual personal frictions and factions? No; the enlargement of the personality does not make for unity, but quite the reverse. To realize the true self-respect, it is necessary to subordinate the personality. This is of course a painful task, but the pain is undertaken willingly and as a necessary process in the self-purification for which the student is striving.
It is wonderful to see people striving to get knowledge by reading a great many books, while all the time neglecting the means by which knowledge could be made to pour in upon them in measure as much as they could bear. By opening the channels of intuition, we can broach the sources of infinite knowledge, for we live in an ocean of it. But that can only be done by paring away the cataracts from our eyes and loosening the bonds that fetter our faculties. To know the ultimate mysteries of the universe would be of little use to us, if we could not apply any of that knowledge. What does concern us is to see the signposts of conduct, to know how to steer our way through the life that is before us and all around us. And it is here that the intuition comes in.
For man, having once been a God -- being NOW a God in the clay -- has an unlimited fount of knowledge accessible. To approach it, he has to arouse that mysterious power of INSIGHT.
What is Man? The answer depends on the point of view. Man may look small on the dissecting table, under the microscope. He may look small if we are scrutinizing his defects or criticizing his clothes. We look very small to ourselves when we candidly consider our weaknesses and foibles. That is not Man, that is not ourselves. Look deeper and you will fail to find any end to the possibilities of Man. He is an infinite being. What belittles him is the delusion of personality. Let him therefore realize that he is here to take his share in a stupendous and glorious work, and then the burden of personality will lighten, and he will place his feet on a spot whence he can deal with his limitations.
By Reginald W. Machell
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, September 1916, pages 223-27.]
How is it possible to avoid the conclusion that symbolism is essential to art, when we find all creation characterized by symbolism? For a symbol is but the outer form produced by the interplay of invisible forces in conflict with the limitations of matter, or inertia.
All form is produced in this way, and so may be said to be the natural expression of inherent force balanced by the inertia of matter, and this form is a symbol of that which produced it. Thus all nature is symbolism, and symbolism is natural; it is indeed unavoidable. But beyond this kind of inevitable symbolism there is a form of symbolism in art that is distinguished from other forms by the deliberate use of analogy in preference to the more direct method of actual representation.
The difference between realism and symbolism in art would appear to be that the realist aims at the reproduction of the actual appearance of natural objects as an end in itself, while the symbolist uses the representation of objects as a means of suggesting ideas that are not capable of direct presentation in art. Thus a flower might be used to express purity, a lion to represent courage, and so on. These are simple forms of symbolism, which to some minds appear as arbitrarily selected substitutes for ideas, while to others they seem to be natural emblems, in which the spiritual principle has expressed itself as fully as the limitations of matter will allow.
It would seem as if the materialist, or realist, looked upon natural objects as ends in themselves, whereas the symbolist sees in them but a limited expression of the inherent idea. To the latter the idea is the reality, and the visible object is but an image that conceals the reality while suggesting in its form the underlying forces that produced it.
To such a one the use of symbolism in art will appear inevitable: while the realist who looks on the visible world as the reality will necessarily consider symbolism as an attempt to suggest the existence of that which is but a matter of belief or speculation, by the unnatural use of natural objects.
But this crude way of stating the case does not cover the ground. Man is complex. Man is not aware of the complexity of his own nature. Man is a mystery, and his life is full of paradox. So it is natural to find the most determined realist displaying a tendency to symbolism, which to a spiritually minded man must appear as an involuntary testimony to the existence of a soul in the one who would himself deny its presence; and this symbolism of the realist is perhaps a protest that his own soul makes against the tyranny of his mind, which tries to limit by theories the free range of spiritual expression. For the soul is dependent on symbolism for language. Without symbolism the soul is silent on the plane of matter and mind.
I know well that there are those who try to make the word "mind" include the soul; but this is, to my thinking, but a trick to blind the mind to its own natural limitations. Self-deception seems to be a condition of life on the plane of intellect.
But mind is matter, and the Soul incarnate in material form must use the mind as its interpreter. So the mind has to play a double part, being the link between the more material and the next higher plane of consciousness.
In this way it may happen that a man who has accepted without close consideration the ordinary theories of materialism, may believe himself to be a realist in the ordinary acceptance of the term, while in fact he is keenly, or only faintly, perhaps, aware of the inner life of things that gives their outer forms significance. It may be this inner reality -- the character of that which he represents, the soul of things -- that charms his imagination and makes their outer forms so intensely interesting.
He studies nature with all his heart and strives to reproduce the charm of it by the most faithful representation of natural objects. And he is not wrongly styled a realist, because he does indeed pursue reality, even if he fails to understand the working of his own soul. But he is in fact a symbolist, for he is all the time seeking to give expression to qualities in nature which his Soul feels, but which no eyes can see, excepting in so far as they are symbolized by visible forms.
And on the other hand the avowed symbolist may be the crudest kind of intellectual materialist, and never know it. He may have wit enough to see the correspondences that exist between certain natural objects and certain abstract ideas, and he may find intellectual diversion in toying with these things as a child plays with a puzzle-game.
There are painters also who are solely preoccupied with the sensuous charm of decorative arrangements of form and color, and who seek to give added interest to their designs by the use of figures and forms, the symbolical significance of which has been popularized by symbolic painters or poets. In this way vast numbers of ecclesiastical paintings have been produced, the real theme of which was some decorative arrangement of forms and colors, but which pass for symbolical because of the use of familiar motifs as a basis for their artistic embroidery. This repetition of conventionalized ideas has naturally made the general public skeptical as to the real value of true symbolism.
Conventionality is the crystallization of a form which originally embodied an idea. I say originally with intention and with no reference to time; the ancients were no nearer to originality than the moderns. All alike live and act and think in the present moment -- they cannot do otherwise. The ancients were modern in their day, and the moderns will be the ancients of the future. Originality is the recognition of the origin of things, which is in the eternal. It is the perception of eternal truth and beauty in the temporary and evanescent form. Art is concerned with both the contemplation of the eternal verity, or the essential nature of things, and with the creation of temporary forms through which the eternal may become manifest. Art is in this sense a revelation of the eternal in the present moment.
That is why there is such similarity of purpose and aim, and even of method, in the greatest works of the great artists of antiquity and of our own day. The most marked difference between ancient and modern art is caused also by a similarity, or indeed an identity, of purpose in those painters who sought then as now to reach fame and recognition by skill and ingenuity in the manipulation of conventionalized forms and crystallized symbols. They are the materialists of all ages, even when the forms they use are intended to suggest spiritual ideas; because there is no real conviction behind the symbol, which is borrowed, but which is not an expression of the artist's own soul-life.
Having no root in eternal reality, their works reflect the temporary fashions of their day, as well as the traditions of their school, which change from age to age, and which have but one element of the eternal in them, the element of ceaseless change. So the works of these, the majority in all ages, are subject to classifications according to schools and periods, nationality or religion: whereas the works of the exceptional men of true genius have a most remarkable fundamental likeness, that seems to assert itself above all the peculiarities of their school or age. Their works bear the stamp of temporary conditions, no doubt, but that which makes them remarkable is the element of the eternal verity, which is beauty. This is what lifts a work above temporary fame and makes it "classic."
How often one is arrested by the inexplicable attraction of some familiar feature in the surrounding landscape or maybe in one's own room, perhaps a bunch of flowers in a vase. Even now there stands before me a group of roses that seem to be trying to express their joy in their own beauty and their gratitude to the loving hand that led them to the society of others as beautiful as themselves, and so arranged them that the harmony of the association made each more fully conscious of its own deep joy of life. And in their inexpressible purity there seems to be a soul that seeks to symbolize its own emotion in visible form spontaneously, as a child smiles at its mother. There is a presence in the roses as of a stately lady from some celestial court who honors the chamber with her ethereal presence for a little while, and when she goes, the flowers will droop and gently fade into insignificance.
The essence of symbolism is significance. The secret of significance is the presence of the Soul.
The soul can only find expression in material form when all the elements of form are perfectly harmonious with the fashion of the soul. The ordering of this harmony is Art. The end is symbolism.
This is a practical age, we are told, and people have not much use for symbols. They prefer photography to art because they want the real thing, so they say. You may be shown a photograph of a cat and everyone may agree that the picture is lifelike, true to nature, and not a symbol in any sense at all. It is accepted as a real reproduction of nature. But is it so? The photograph is small perhaps and flat and smooth and no thicker than a piece of paper, in fact it is from some points of view quite like a piece of paper. Does a cat look like that? Does it feel like that? Can you put a cat in your scrapbook like that? In what way is it like a cat? Obviously it is but a symbol that suggests a cat, and not really a reproduction of the creature.
The ordinary person who has no use for symbolism and suggestion thinks that photography is so true to nature, that it is entirely free from the taint of symbolism. But the fact is, all creation is pure symbolism, because all creation is but the expression of the invisible Soul of Things in outward and visible form. It is only possible to deny the universal symbolism of nature by refusing to look beyond the outer form of things, and the deliberate acceptance of that outer form as the ultimate reality, the thing in itself. But even so, it is hard to see how a work of art, a picture, or even a photograph can be regarded as anything else than a symbol. What then is to be understood by the term when used to distinguish one kind of art from another? What is the difference between realistic and symbolic art if both are symbolic?
The answer is that in the one case the painter looks upon each object in nature as a reality in itself, and the purpose of art he takes to be the reproduction of such things, or the suggestion of their appearance in the most convincing manner possible. The symbolist on the other hand is supposed to use his power of representation in such a way as to suggest thoughts and ideas that are not inherent in the things he reproduces. He is supposed to use his imagination to make natural objects appear to be endowed with an inner life or significance that is not really theirs.
I need hardly say that to a true artist such an aim would appear inartistic to the last degree. True symbolism in art is not an intellectual process for the creation of mental acrostics, but it is an expression of the soul of things that reveals itself to the soul of the painter, as an inner reality inherent in the outer form.
To such a man all things are symbols; all living beings are the ever-changing images of the soul's striving for expression in the universe of matter. The whole of life to his imagination is pure symbolism, and in his art he seeks to utter truth that is living and comprehensible to the higher part of his intelligence. He is at no pains to manufacture allegories, all life to him is allegorical and he only seeks to simplify and to select some theme of allegory detachable from the complexity of those countless pictures wrought by the hearts of men into the tapestry of human history that they weave eternally upon the loom of time.
We are all symbolists, whether we will or not; we are all weaving at the loom of time strange pictures on the invisible tapestry of history, invisible perhaps only to our normal vision, but seen in part by the mysterious vision that we call imagination, hardly knowing what we really mean by that, or we may call our inner perception of these pictures intuition. Call them as you will, I think that they are actual realities and constitute the world's memory, its astral library, in whose archives are recorded all the thoughts and deeds of men. Each man is a recording angel and writes his doom each moment in the world's book of destiny. This is the symbolism from which no soul is free until it attains the ultimate illumination of the Spirit. The ultimate Truth is Light and Liberation: all else is Symbolism.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, March 1914, pages 182-87.]
If society is to be saved from the confusion of thought under which it suffers, man must regain the sense of his own essential Divinity. All fixed standards seem to be vanishing, and people have lost their bearings amid the multitudinous deceptive lights that flash up through the fog for a moment and are lost again. It is universally understood that CHARACTER is the only pilot that can steer us, and that all systems collapse unless founded on a firm basis of individual character. But no one seems to know how to restore character and give man back his lost sureness and dignity. There is one thing for certain that will NOT do this, and that is the philosophy that exalts above everything else the ANIMAL nature of man. Man HAS an animal nature and various animal functions; but he has a self-conscious mind that can either be controlled by these animal functions or else can control them. What is right and safe in the animal may be wrong and destructive in man if he prostitutes his higher faculties to lower forces. Are we to change all the laws that govern human relationships, in order that animal man may have room to display these emotionalized propensities?
We are even being taught to revere these propensities as some sacred endowment from nature, but even the people who teach this draw the line somewhere; they would not have man eating like a hog or behaving in certain other ways in which various animals behave. So it may be taken for granted that all agree that man must restrain his animal propensities to some extent. The point of difference is -- to WHAT extent?
According to some evolutionists the animal propensities developed the intellect -- developed the intellect that is to restrain them; and even the moral sense is supposed to have evolved out of such passions as selfishness and fear. This seems a curious reversal of the order of precedence.
We find in ourselves plenty of proof of our animal affinities but we also find plenty of proof of our Divine nature. In fact, we find in man the evidences of his affinity with all the kingdoms; he is mineral, vegetable, animal, and divine. From the mineral kingdom, he has derived the solid substance of his body and the lesser laws that govern mineral atoms in their chemical and physical properties. From the vegetable kingdom, again, man has derived certain other and higher attributes; and from the animal kingdom, he has derived a large and complex set of physiological organs, with their appropriate functions and the desires that reside in them. But he has derived much more than this. Man is a storehouse of evolutionary products, a synthesis of universal forces and qualities. From which kingdom did he derive his self-conscious mind, his reflective and introspective intellect? From which, again, did he derive his moral sense? It was certainly not from the animal kingdom, which has these not. From the animal kingdom, he derived that which it has.
The Divine Intelligence has existed from all time; or rather is beyond all time. It is present everywhere in the universe, and the tiniest atom manifests it in some degree. But man's mind is its highest vehicle on our earth. This intelligence cannot ensoul the animals, because they have not the vehicle for its manifestation as such. But man is endowed with a faculty that enables him to reflect the Divine Light to an unlimited degree. He has the power of self-development. He can consciously invoke the Divine. This supreme faculty places him far above all the lower creation and can make him absolute lord over all the animal propensities in him, however violent or however colored up by specious philosophy and high-flown sentiment.
Possibly this may seem dogmatic to some people; but if man really wants to control himself, there is no other way than by acknowledging his Divinity. So there is the choice. There would be no great harm -- or danger -- after all, in assuming as a rule of life that man has a Divine nature.
Of course, the Divine nature is not that which makes a man puff himself up, put on airs, and preach about "higher powers." That is only his lower nature over again. For with his animal nature man has acquired a large collection of animal peculiarities, among them those of the peacock and the parrot. Only, whereas these propensities, when exercised by the animal, are simply its little best, in man they are follies. A peacock probably wishes to please his mate, and knows no better way than to exhibit his plumage; but a man knows better. The Divine nature is sufficiently well expressed in the familiar words:
"Charity" suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.
But perhaps it is better expressed by certain words not as familiar to piety as to chivalry: Honor, Loyalty, Fealty, Chastity, Fidelity, Courage, and the like. They are the very backbone of human life. Whether we got them from the monkeys or from God or wherever else, we MUST foster them or we shall decay individually and collectively.
There are certain forces, always at work, whose influence is hostile to humanity. Their effect is to destroy, if possible, man's faith in himself. This is the only way in which humanity can be destroyed. These forces are very subtle, for they sometimes lurk unsuspected behind what are apparently lofty and beneficent teachings. They work through human agents, some of whom are conscious vehicles, others unconscious; some single workers, others banded together. There is no need to point the finger at anybody or any society or institution; the forces are recognizable by their tendency and effects. We must beware these forces, forces that tend to make us believe we are powerless or corrupt, helpless or depraved. If we are depraved, we need not stay so. If we are weak, we can become strong.
Humanity looks for a Savior to help it out of its difficulties. Some expect a Messiah to come in the flesh; others fondly hope that a spiritual outpouring of some kind will take place; and others think the great God evolution will produce something out of the melting-pot of human fatuities. But the true Savior is ever present in his ancient temple -- the human heart; and it is difficult to see how he is to help humanity without humanity's helping itself.
We may often see sermons like this in the Sunday corners of periodicals and elsewhere, but they amount to little because there is no definite teaching behind them, and also because they are inconsistent with currently accepted theories of life. But Theosophy can do much more than preach moral sermons, for it has its teachings to back up its precepts. Wordsworth could feel his intimations of immortality and preexistence, and give them utterance in poetry; and so have many other intuitive souls. But they have always been hindered by their limitations. For the fact is that the ordinary theories of human life and destiny do not consist with the intuitions of truth that we obtain from the Soul within. Also, many have complained that life seems a cruel and meaningless farce. But these contrarieties disappear in the light of the ancient wisdom now called Theosophy. It is the Divine man that is the liver of the life; his are the purposes, and they do not fail. If the fond delusions and desires, engendered of our composite nature, do not fructify, it is because they are not in accordance with our real Will or our real interests. Pious people have often said, "It is Thy Will" or "Thy will be done." In saying this, they have always thought of an external power, not of their own true Self.
Can Theosophy restore the faded ideals of Honor, Loyalty, Truth, etc? Yes, because it can bring about the conditions necessary to their existence. Civilized humanity has to a great degree mastered the idea of a collective interest in hygiene. We realize that our health is interdependent, and that each one of us has duties with regard to the community; and we take steps to insure that these duties shall be performed, and we ourselves are glad to perform them. We have begun to develop a sense of unity in this respect. But it is so in morals also. If every man realized that his acts and thoughts perfume or pollute the atmosphere that his fellows breathe, he would thereby acquire an unselfish interest in being pure. Theosophy, with its teachings about man and nature, could render this a tangible fact.
Theosophy may be said to be demonstrating its teachings about the essential Divinity of man by the success of the Raja-Yoga method of education, founded by Katherine Tingley on lines also laid down by H. P. Blavatsky; as well as by the effects that it produces among the grown-up residents at the International Headquarters, and upon all who embrace it. The children are taught to rely upon their own inner strength from earliest years; which is a very different thing from teaching them to rely on their personal will. The great Law of helping and giving is impressed upon them, and they respond readily for children are, as the poet has sung, fresh from the Divine, and only need to be guarded and kept from being educated in the way of selfishness.
Is it right to permit children to grow up in ignorance of their Divine nature, and to send them out into the world thus crippled by ignorance?
Theosophy answers the call of those who yearn for something better than the ordinary ideals of life and who cherish impersonal aspirations. It shows us how to call forth latent powers and qualities that may be used impersonally and for the good of all. Its limitless horizon of knowledge prevents it from being a mere system of quietism, as is the case with so many consolations that are offered; nor need it postpone its promised boon to realms beyond the grave. And after all, what has eternity to do with time, that we should so crudely imagine that the one begins where the other ends? An eternal Now is no more related to the future than it is to the present.
Sometimes people imagine that their Higher Self is but an extension of their personality -- so deeply ingrained is the sense of personal possession. But surely it is not right to lay so much stress on the salvation of individual souls or the development of separate personalities? The path of light and liberation does not consist in a climax of egotism. What is needed is to get away from that overwrought sense of separate personality, that prison that shuts us up each in his own little sanctum. For this, there is nothing like impersonal work, solidarity. For though Theosophy does not teach annihilation or absorption into the universal, but on the contrary maintains that the Individuality (not the personality) of man remains the same throughout the cycle of rebirths, yet the consciousness of the Higher Self cannot be limited like that of the personality, nor can there be any such feeling of separateness from other creatures as we feel in our habitual state. So perhaps we may approach the Divine by this way of forgetting the personality in impersonal work. No one will deny that life grows smaller and narrower for the selfish man; and the converse is true -- that for the unselfish man it grows greater.
One day in the future, humanity in the mass will have reached the point of definite and final choice between two paths; it will be the day when humanity wins its triumph and fulfils its real destiny. But before an aggregate of humanity can reach this point, individuals may reach it. We must all reach it eventually, for it is an inevitable stage in the destiny of man, the Divine Pilgrim. It is as though he grew up, reached maturity, passed a crisis, and was reborn. Jesus, in his private conversation with Nicodemus, the man who came to him for instruction, says that man is born a second time: the first time of the flesh, the second time of the Spirit. Thus is the history of the race repeated in the individual for man had "two creations:" the first of the flesh, the second of the Spirit.
But moments of choice occur to us every day, when we may follow either path. And it is important, in this age of sophistication, to have the facts clearly before us. Then we may know that there is something in us even more sacred than those desires that bewildered philosophicules would have us reverence; and that a true Man may be willing even to deny himself "self-realization," for the sake of a greater Self-realization.
It is indeed high time that the Divinity of man was taught anew and with stronger appeal, if we are to withstand the "divinity" of man's intellectualized passions (what a misuse of the word "intellect"). Only Theosophy can make this ancient truth a living reality. How drab and dreary does our modern life seem by comparison with what it might be if the glory of humanity were restored. What pigmies we are. Nothing sublime can flourish in such surroundings, but either fizzles away in mawkish sentiment or is buried in cynicism. The Divinity of man cannot manifest itself in an atmosphere of selfishness, and the only condition of attaining to beautiful ideals is that we should not seek to make them into personal possessions or private enjoyments, as men usually try to do.
By G. de Purucker
From GOLDEN PRECEPTS, pages 47-53.]
Rebirth, the awakening from the rest between earth-lives, is the result of destiny, the destiny that you have made for yourself in past lives. You have built yourself to come back here to earth; and that is why you are here now, because in other lives you built yourself to reincarnate. You are your own parents; you are your own children; because you are yourself. You are simply the result, as a character, as a human being, of what you built yourself to be in the past; and your future destiny -- effect of necessity following cause -- will be just the result, the karma, of what you are now building yourself to be.
Here are the secret causes of rebirth: Men hunger for light and know not where to look for it. The instincts of men tell them the truth, but they know not how to interpret them. Their minds or intellects are distorted through the teachings brought to them by those who have sought for light in the material world alone. To seek for light is a noble occupation indeed! But to search the material world alone for it proves the searchers to have lost the key to the grander WITHIN of which the material Universe is but the shell, the clothing, the garment, the body -- the outer carapace.
This is one of the secret causes of rebirth, the rebirth of the human soul. An essential part of the Universe, man is one with its very heart, in his heart of hearts and indeed in all his being. He must obey the cosmic law of reembodiment; birth, then growth, then youth, then maturity, then expansion of faculty and power, then decay, then the coming of the Great Peace -- sleep, rest; and then the coming forth anew into manifested existence. Even so do universes reembody themselves. Even so does a celestial body reembody itself -- star, sun, and planet. Each one is a body such as you are in the lowest part of yourself. Each one is an inseparable portion of the boundless Universe, as much as you are. Each one springs forth from the womb of boundless Space as its child, just as you do. One universal cosmic law runs through and permeates all; so that what happens to one, great or small, advanced or unadvanced, evolved or unevolved, happens to everyone, to all.
You carve your own destiny; you make yourself what you are; what you are now is precisely what in past lives you have made yourself now to be, and what you will in the future be, you are now making yourself to become. You have will, and you exercise this will for your weal or for your woe, as you live your lives on earth and later in the invisible realms of the spaces of Space. This is one more, and the second, of the secret causes of rebirth.
There is a third secret cause, and perhaps it is the most materially effective; and this third cause resides in the bosom of each one of us. It is the thirst for material life, thirst for life on earth, hunger for the pastures and fields wherein once we wandered and which are familiar to us, which brings us back to earth repeatedly and repeatedly. It is this trishna, this tanha, this thirst to return to familiar scenes that brings us back to earth -- more effectual as an individual cause, perhaps, than all else.
The excarnate entity after death and before the return to rebirth on earth goes whither its sum total of yearnings, emotions, aspirations, direct it to go. It is the same even in human life on earth. A man will do his best to follow that career towards which he yearns or aspires; and when we cast off this physical body or garment that has outworn its usefulness, we are attracted to those inner spheres and places that during the life on earth last lived towards which we had yearnings and aspirations. That is why we come back to this earth to bodies of flesh. It is the same rule but working in the opposite direction. We had material yearnings, material hungers and thirsts, latent as seeds in our character after death; and they finally bring us back to earth.
After death, the nobler, brighter, purer, sweeter, seeds of character, the fruitage, the consequence, of our yearnings for beauty and for harmony and for peace, carry us into the realms where harmony, beauty, and peace abide. These realms are spheres just as earth is, but far more ethereal and far more beautiful; for the veils of matter are thinner, the sheaths of material substance there are not so thick as here. The eye of the spirit sees more clearly. Death releases us from one world, and we pass through the portals of change into another world, precisely as the inverse takes place when the incarnating soul leaves the realms of fine ether to come down to our own grosser and material earth-life into the heavy body of physical matter.
The inner worlds to the entity passing through them, as it has passed through this world, are as real -- more real in fact -- than ours is, because it is nearer to them. They are more ethereal, and therefore are nearer to the ethereality of the eternal pilgrim passing through another stage on its everlasting journey towards perfection. These changes take place one after another, before the next incarnation on the returning wheel of the cycle. The pilgrim passing from one sphere to another through the revolving centuries, ever going higher, to superior realms, until reaching the topmost point of the cycle of that particular pilgrim's journey.
Therefore, fear not at all. All is well; for the heart of you is the Universe, and the core of you is the heart of the Universe. As our glorious daystar sends forth in all directions its streams of rays, so does this heart of the Universe, which is everywhere because nowhere in particular, constantly radiate forth streams of rays; and these rays are the entities that fill the Universe full.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, December 1913, pages 369-74]
The recent presidential address at the British Association annual meeting has aroused new interest in the discussion as to whether there is continuity of existence -- in other words, life after death; and many are the comments and lay sermons that have appeared in the papers on this topic. The idea of continuity of existence hinges on to the idea that there is in man a deeper consciousness -- a soul or spirit -- which does not share in the mortality of his body and of his personal make-up.
But for the most part, those who discuss the problem omit to sufficiently eliminate the idea of TIME. Immortality is always spoken of as if it came AFTER mortal life, the two being joined end-on and lying separate from each other. But why should this be so? Are we not, in thus reasoning, putting into the problem too much of our narrow conventional notions? If there be an immortal substratum in man, must it not be existent at all times, both during and after life?
If this be so, then the question of immortality becomes a question of the present and not of the future alone or particularly. And see the bearing that this consideration has on the question of attempts to communicate with the souls of the departed. Why should we expect to be able to communicate with a disembodied soul better than we can communicate with an embodied soul? What do we know or apprehend of the immortal part of those now living? And if we cannot recognize or discern the soul of a living person, how could we fare any better in the case of a deceased person?
It would seem likely that the so-called evidences of immortality, derived from experiments in spiritism and psychic research, have little if any bearing on the problem, and that all these experiments have proved is the existence of certain phenomena or properties of nature that have no particular connection with the question of immortality. To be searching about in postmortem regions for evidence of the existence in man of an immortal Self seems after all a misdirected and futile attempt; and we are more likely there to find what in fact we do often find -- evidences of the temporary and partial survival of some of his mortal vestures.
Again, we carry into these researches the same mental limitations with which we are accustomed to approach problems concerning mundane and physical affairs; and consequently we make the same mistakes. Instead of looking for evidence of an immortal life, we expect evidence of a continuation of mortal life; as though the disembodied and emancipated soul lived the same kind of life as the imprisoned ego lives while on earth.
To solve the question of immortality, we must evidently pursue a different line. We must pursue the line of clarifying, enlarging, and elevating our understanding. We must aim rather to approach to knowledge of the immortal Self while in the body, than look for traces of it after death. Nor can we solve such a question by itself alone; for it is intimately mixed up with many other questions, all of which are comprised under the general head of Self-Knowledge.
It is said in newspaper comment that "occultism is everywhere and stares us in the face wherever we turn." But what kind of occultism is this? It merely reflects the real hunger for knowledge that lies deep in the common heart. People really do desire definite knowledge about the mysteries of their own nature and the meaning of life, and are weary of statements, hypotheses, and assertions. But there is a plentiful scum of folly and superstition to be waded through. Yet the march of current thought slowly but surely follows the lines long before marked out by the pioneers; and such events as the aforesaid presidential address mark a definite wave-front of current opinion.
In speaking of the possibility of man's attaining greater knowledge while on earth, we broach the subject of SELF-DEVELOPMENT -- an idea prominently in the public mind, and the subject of much folly and futility. In speaking of immortality, we cannot avoid speaking of self-development.
The most important thing to remember in this connection, as Theosophists from H.P. Blavatsky onwards have so often said, is the distinction between self and Self, between the real, enduring Self in man and the numerous and varying personal selves that he creates by his thoughts and desires. What self do we propose to develop? If we are to develop any personal self, then the meaning is that we shall simply intensify vanity, self-love, ambition, desire, or some such undesirable and woe-bringing force. But the teaching of the Wisdom of the Ages is that no such personal factor is permanent or a possible source of happiness.
However strong a delusion may become, however fondly it may be cherished and however enduring it may be, it has not the quality of immortality and it must end in disillusionment and beginning again. Hence the true self-development cannot mean the developing of any mere personal desire whatever. Yet is not this personal development the very thing that many popular teachings aim directly at?
To dispel the illusion that there is any value in this kind of self-development, it is only necessary to think of other people. The desires of different people do not harmonize, and the individual hopes and wishes of any particular person count very small indeed beside the interests of humanity or even those of any considerable section of humanity. How, then, can the development of personality make for harmony and wisdom?
True, a man may argue that the interests of humanity are too large for him and that he will therefore restrict his efforts to a more contracted sphere. But then, in that case, he must also limit his intellectual ambitions and be content to remain in ignorance and perplexity as regards many problems. In short, Wisdom is not to be had for the mere asking, but must be won. There is no bar to man's attainment of knowledge, except the barriers that he makes himself; but he cannot expect to remain in a lower sphere and at the same time to possess the knowledge belonging to a higher sphere. In other words, if he desires knowledge about immortality, he must WIN it, EARN it.
Of course it is our mental limitations that keep knowledge from us. And what are these? First of all, there is the limitation of personalism, which every religion teaches is the great cause of ignorance. Personalism, we are assured, is an illusion; that is, it is a false notion, a temporary state of mind, which must disappear before the light of truth. And experience teaches us how uncertain and fluctuating the mere person is. It is evident that so long as we fail to grasp the great mystery of the difference between "I" and "Thou" -- the difference between my own self and other selves -- we stand helpless before a fundamental problem. In view of this helplessness, it is not wonderful that we fail to solve other problems. This question of immortality and of the existence in man of an immortal Self must be involved in the mystery of selfhood.
Personalism has been very strongly accentuated in the present order of civilization, and consequently there is a corresponding difficulty in grasping essential problems of life. The problems we aspire to solve are to a great extent concerned with the life of Man as a race, not with the life of units.
If there were not such a strongly developed personalism among us, we should not be so much impressed with the supposed importance of our own particular existence, or so much troubled about our fate after death. We should be more conscious of the oneness of life; we should feel more that we cannot die. This feeling gains the predominance in moments of exaltation when people act "heroically" -- or shall we say "naturally?" Now consider this point: May it not be possible that the light that now comes only in rare moments of exaltation could be with us all the time? In that case, we should be able to act NATURALLY on ordinary occasions; that is to say, we should be able to act in accordance with the actual facts of our existence, instead of under the influence of false notions.
The question, "Shall I live after death?" or the similar questions, "Have I lived before?" and "Shall I be born again?" cannot be even stated or formulated so long as we have failed to find a definition of the words "I" and "self." It will be admitted that most questions are stated vaguely and without proper definition of the terms, and that this is the usual reason why they lead to fruitless verbal quarrels. It will be admitted too that the prudent man insists on having his question accurately stated. Many go so far as to say that a question accurately stated is its own answer. This certainly seems as if it might be true in the present case. Could I define to myself the word "I," the whole question of immortality might be solved without further inquiry?
SOMETHING lives again, but what? The meaning of human life seems incomprehensible except on the hypothesis that man is a union of permanent and impermanent elements. The problem he solved answers which are the impermanent elements, and what is left over after these have been subtracted?
The answer to this question is not left to the decision of our fond desires or imperfect conception of what is desirable and just. In our innermost Self, we are wise and undeluded. Our habitual consciousness knows not the end and purport of our life; and its little plans, not being in harmony with the real purpose of that life, "gang aft agley." No doubt we think it would be very desirable that our precious personality should persist, in its present habiliments, purified perhaps from the grief and pain and a few of the more inconvenient sins, but in full enjoyment of the pleasanter weaknesses. Yet we should think far otherwise, could we in a moment of awakening become aware of the fatuity and feebleness of that precious personality when seen in the light of a ray from the Wisdom within. We pray to be washed clean when we die, but what do we expect when we offer that prayer?
The passage of the Soul from life on earth to its state of liberation after decease must be of the nature of a bright awakening from a troubled dream. That gaining of light, about which we sometimes talk when we say that at death we shall know all -- what does it mean? We know that in our present state we could not bear such an illumination, we could not understand a revelation, should it be vouchsafed. We must first pass to a larger sphere of consciousness. Death is liberation from the illusions of embodied life, the chief of which is the person -- a necessary limitation, doubtless, necessary for our evolution, but still a bar to the knowledge toward which we aspire.
And those friends who have gone beyond our ken -- died, as we say -- we knew them not when they were here, else perchance we should know them now. It was only the outer man that our dim eyes discerned, and that has faded from our vision. The mystery of bereavement should serve to lift us nearer the light of knowledge.
Theosophy comes to tell men they need not dwell forever in the mists of ignorance, for they possess the light within them and need but to seek it. This has always been the teaching of the Helpers; but men have made for themselves formal religions with doctrines that obscure the light. The Saviors say that man can save himself by acknowledging his own Divinity; but after them come other teachers who tell man that he is a helpless sinner. It is upon man thus weakened that the trickster then plays, deluding him with bogus philosophies and freak religions. And it is not surprising that there is much doubt and confusion in the world and that people cannot tell the true from the false.
The world will not realize for a long time what a priceless boon was conferred on it by H.P. Blavatsky, the restorer of lost ideals, which the world so cherishes, but which were in danger of being stifled under a load of despair and cynicism. To her efforts is due the great awakening that is now stirring the world in its uneasy slumbers. It is as though a new spirit had been infused. People talk of coming Christs and do not discern the signs going on around them. Mankind is awakening to a fuller consciousness. And we all know that its watchword is "Brotherhood," and that nothing that cannot give this password will pass muster. Here then is the way to distinguish the true from the false. Who is working for humanity and who not? Or which teachings make for Brotherhood and which not?
Immortality is an ideal to be sought after in the present -- not longed for after death. We should aspire to reach that in us that is immortal. And this we can achieve in proportion as we can get away from our selfish limitations.