March 2007

2007-03 Quote

By Magazine

So old a mesmerist as I could never be blind to the possible efficacy of any well conducted ceremony by the priest or lay exorcist of any religion or school of occultism whatsoever, however small might be my belief in the interference of superhuman entities for the profit of any given faith. So, with benevolent tolerance, I let whoever likes make whatever puja he chooses, from the Brahmin to the Yakkada and the ignorant fishermen of the Adyar river, my friends and proteges.

-- Henry S. Olcott, OLD DIARY LEAVES, IV, pages 238-39.


Where the Masters Work

By G. de Purucker

[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 49-50.]

Do the Masters help and inspire others than Theosophists, than the Theosophical Society? Well you know, I should be very ashamed of any Theosophist who could not answer that question instantly. Of course they do! Why, it is one of our a-b-c thoughts, teachings, that the Masters help and inspire anywhere where there is an open door to their entrance, in other words, where the soul is not surrounded with impassable frontiers, keeping the light out, the help away. Why of course! If the Masters' influence were not felt in other organizations than the Theosophical Society, as indeed it may be felt, it would be in this case because they had lost touch with the Masters, they had enclosed themselves with the impassable barriers of the frontiers of thought and feelings. The truth is that the Masters work ANYWHERE where the doors are opened to their entrance and where the conditions propitious for their work exist.

Just take one thought that has been one of the dreams of my life from childhood. If the Christian Church or Churches could go back to the ORIGINAL teachings of their great Master, to primitive Christianity, the blessed Masters would be working through them as one of the greatest channels in the West today to help men. If they don't so work therein, it will be because the help is barred out by frontiers of thought and feeling.

The Theosophical Society -- as I have often pointed out, it will depend upon us, Brothers and Friends, us members of the Theosophical Society, whether the Masters continue to work through it as an instrument as now they are doing, or abandon it. They will never abandon us as long as we keep our hearts and minds open; but if we begin to put frontiers around our consciousness, then we do the work of exclusion, not they. The gods visit, said the old Greeks, the houses of those who open doors to them. Think what that means. Why not try to entertain divine and divinely human guests? You can do it.

The whole trouble with us and with civilization is that we build these frontiers around us. They are not placed there by Nature. They are built by us, frontiers of exclusion in thought, feeling, tradition, and everything. What happens to the man who shuts himself up in a cell and lives there? Who loses? The world or the foolish man? Such a cell is a frontier of consciousness. The man (or the civilization) is great precisely in proportion as he can break through and throw aside the barriers or frontiers with which habit and custom and he himself have surrounded himself, and move out to ever loftier houses of consciousness, ever receding frontiers of consciousness.

What makes a religion successful? The building around itself of frontiers of thought, frontiers, barriers of exclusion? Why of course not. The answer is obvious. Destroy the barriers, and the door is open to all.


The Mystery of All Time

By Anonymous

[From LUCIFER, September 15, 1887, pages 46-48.]

The inner light that guides men to greatness and makes them noble is a mystery through all time and must remain so while Time lasts for us. There come moments, even in the midst of ordinary life, when Time has no hold upon us, and then all the circumstance of outward existence falls away, and we find ourselves face to face with the mystery beyond. In great trouble, in great joy, in keen excitement, in serious illness, these moments come. Afterwards, they seem very wonderful, looking back upon them.

What is this mystery, and why is it so veiled, are the burning questions for anyone who has begun to realize its existence. Trouble most often rouses men to the consciousness of it, and forces them to ask these questions when those, whom one has loved better than oneself, are taken away into the formless abyss of the unknown by death, or are changed, by the experiences of life, till they are no longer recognizable as the same. Then the wild hunger for knowledge comes. Why is it so? What is it that surrounds us with a great dim cloud into which all loved things plunge in time and are lost to us, obliterated, utterly taken from us? This makes life so unbearable to the emotional natures and develops selfishness in narrow hearts. If there is no certainty and no permanence in life, then it seems to the Egotist that there is no reasonable course but to attend to one's own affairs and be content with the happiness of the first person singular.

Many are sufficiently generous in temperament to wish others were happy also, and who if they saw any way to do it, would gladly redress some of the existing ills -- the misery of the poor, the social evil, the sufferings of the diseased, the sorrow of those made desolate by death -- these things the sentimental philanthropist shudders to think of. He does not act because he can do so little. Shall he take one miserable child and give it comfort when millions will be enduring the same fate when that one is dead?

The inexorable cruelty of life continues on its giant course, and those who are born rich and healthy live in pleasant places, afraid to think of the horrors life holds within it. Loss, despair, and unutterable pain come at last, and the one who has hitherto been fortunate is on a level with those to whom misery has been familiarized by a lifetime of experience. Trouble bites hardest when it springs on a new victim. Of course, there are profoundly selfish natures that do not suffer in this sense, which look only for personal comfort, and are content with the small horizon visible to one person's sight. For these, there is but little trouble in the world, there is none of the passionate pain that exists in sensitive and poetic natures.

The born artist is aware of pain as soon as he is aware of pleasure; he recognizes sadness as a part of human life before it has touched on his own. He has an innate consciousness of the mystery of the ages, that thing stirring within man's soul and that enables him to outlive pain and become great, which leads him on the road to the divine life. This gives him enthusiasm, a superb heroism indifferent to calamity. If he is a poet, he will write his heart out, even for a generation that has no eyes or ears for him. If he desires to help others personally, he is capable of giving his very life to save one wretched child from out a million of miserable ones. For it is not his puny personal effort in the world that he considers -- not his little show of labor done.

What he is conscious of is the over-mastering desire to work with the beneficent forces of super-nature, to become one with the divine mystery, and when he can forget time and circumstances, he is face to face with that mystery. Many have fancied they must reach it by death, but none have come back to tell us that this is so. We have no proof that man is not as blind beyond the grave as he is on this side of it. Has he entered the eternal thought? If not, the mystery is a mystery still.

To one who is entering occultism in earnest, all the trouble of the world seems suddenly apparent. There is a point of experience when father and mother or wife and child become indistinguishable, and when they seem no more familiar or friendly than a company of strangers. The one dearest of all may be close at hand and unchanged, and yet is as far as if death had come between.

Then all distinction between pleasure and pain, love and hate, have vanished. Melancholy overshadows the soul, keener than that felt by a man in his first fierce experience of grief, the pain of the struggle to break the shell in which man has imprisoned himself.

Once broken, then there is no more pain; all ties are severed, all personal demands are silenced forever. The man has forced himself to face the great mystery, which is now a mystery no longer, for he has become part of it. It is essentially the mystery of the ages, and these have no longer any meaning for him to whom time, space, and all other limitations are but passing experiences. It has become to him a reality, profound, indeed, because it is bottomless, wide, indeed, because it is limitless. He has touched on the greatness of life, which is sublime in its impartiality and effortless generosity. He is friend and lover to all those living beings that come within his consciousness, not to the one or two chosen ones only -- which is indeed only an enlarged selfishness.

While a man retains his humanity, it is certain that one or two chosen ones will give him more pleasure by contact than all the rest of the beings in the Universe and the entire heavenly host, but he has to remember and recognize what this preference is. It is not a selfish thing that has to be crushed out, if the love is the love that gives; freedom from attachments is not a meritorious condition in itself. The freedom needed is not from those who cling to you, but rather from those to whom you cling. The familiar phrase of the lover "I cannot live without you" must be words that cannot be uttered, to the occultist. If he has but one anchor, the great tides will sweep him away into nothingness. The natural preference that must exist in every man for a few persons is one form of the lessons of Life. By contact with these other souls, he has other channels by which to penetrate to the great mystery. For every soul touches it, even the darkest.

Solitude is a great teacher, but society is even greater. It is so hard to find and take the highest part of those we love that in the very difficulty of the search there is a serious education. When making that effort far more clearly, we realize what it is that creates the mystery in which we live and makes us so ignorant. It is the swaying, vibrating, never-resting desires of the animal soul in man. The life of this part of man's nature is so vigorous and strongly developed from the ages during which he has dwelt in it that it is almost impossible to still it to obtain contact with the noble spirit.

This constant and confusing life, this ceaseless occupation with the trifles of the hour, this readiness in surface emotion, this quickness to be pleased, amused, or distressed is what baffles our sight and dulls our inner senses. Until we can use these, the mystery remains in its Sphinx-like silence.


Choice and Value

By G. Srinivasan

[From THE ARYAN PATH, March 1968, pages 120-24.]

Man's basic choice is to choose between choice and the lack of it. This statement remains enigmatic unless it is elaborated and clarified. It expresses fundamentally the kind of basic freedom of which man is capable; he is FREE to choose either choice or the lack of it. Choosing choice and choosing the lack of choice are not logical propositions but existential truths. Hence, it will be unfair to dismiss the former as tautologous and the latter as contradictory.

In the former case, man chooses a life of personal decisions and responsible actions and thereby actualizes his basic freedom, which otherwise remains "abstract" and nominal. In the latter case, he subordinates his basic freedom or choice to an authority other than himself, and thereby neglects and conceals it. The former is man's authentic existence, and the latter is his inauthentic existence. Man's freedom chooses itself and sustains itself in his authentic existence, whereas it denies itself in his inauthentic existence. The common presupposition of both, however, is man's freedom to choose between them.

The exercise of choice is the core of authentic human existence, and in it, man becomes intensely aware of his own personal existence. This is the mode of his being-oneself as against being-lost in the choice-less inauthentic existence. This formal analysis of choice rightly emphasizes its role as a subjective act in authentic existence: but a subjective act of choice is never complete in itself and is always related to WHAT is chosen. Choice comes to be exercised only in a concrete setting that presents different alternatives, and the alternative chosen in preference to others is the value to which choice is related. Value is thus the objective counterpart of the subjective choice and both are to be equally affirmed as constitutive of authentic existence. WHAT is chosen is as much contributive to authentic existence as THAT it is chosen, and authentic existence is a co-affirmation of both. This truth seems simple on the face of it but conceals a paradox within.

Whether value is subjective or objective is a crucial question. If value is taken to be subjective, it will have no objective validity of its own. It will not be obligatory that I should choose one particular value in preference to others: I will be FREE to choose any value I like, and in so choosing it, I will be "creating" it, for anything BECOMES a value to ME BECAUSE I CHOOSE IT. I do not choose it because it is a value. If such is the case, my authentic existence will consist purely in my subjective act of choice and not in WHAT I choose. My existence will be authentic, provided THAT I choose, no matter WHAT I choose. I may always choose what is conducive to my self-interest and hence there will be nothing to distinguish morality from the pursuit of self-interest on this view. Thus, the belief in the subjectivity of values, pushed to its logical end, results in a form of gross hedonism and any real distinction between morality and immorality disappears on this view, since it reduces the one to the other.

Values, therefore, should be accepted as objective and having a validity of their own. The criterion of their objective validity is their universal applicability. If the value that I choose may as well be chosen by everyone else without being detrimental to anyone, then it must be considered a value worthy of my pursuit. In that case, values are not "created" by me but are only accepted and adopted by me in my conscious ethical activity. What is a value to ALL becomes a value to ME as well, and its validity is, in this sense, objective and universal. It is not a value because I choose it, but I choose it because it is a value.

This insistence on the objective validity of values marks a shift of emphasis from the subjective ACT of choice to the choice of universally valid values in authentic existence. In other words, man's authentic existence would consist not merely of his subjective act of choice but also of his choice of objective and universal values, for to choose their contraries would make his existence as inauthentic as not to choose them. Objective and universal values thus become imperatives of authentic human existence and not mere options, and anyone who has committed himself to authentic existence has no option but to choose them. Values being objective and universal, he is no longer their "creator" but rather has to subordinate his ethical life to them. Subordination of ethical life to objective and universal values thus becomes the core of authentic human existence, and the subjective act of choosing them is only a matter of accepting and adopting them.

The above analysis of the question of values brings us to a dilemma: if values are subjective, morality becomes "relative" to each individual and indistinguishable from the pursuit of self-interest. If on the other hand values are objective, human freedom suffers an utter limitation, and morality becomes a matter of subordination of ethical activity to "external" imperatives. Values are either subjective or objective, and hence the inevitable conclusion that morality is either pursuit of self-interest or submission to certain "external" standards or imperatives.

However unsatisfactory these two alternatives may seem to be, still they could capture human imagination and find acceptance at certain periods in the evolution of ethical thought. The former of these alternatives was characteristic of the ethics of the Sophists, as very well expressed in the controversial statement of Protagoras, "Man is the measure of all things." The latter was clearly emphasized later by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who regarded the moral "good" as a categorical imperative and called upon each man to follow it without any desire for a personal reward. These two are extreme alternatives and each repudiates the other.

In contemporary philosophy, the paradox of choice and value has disclosed itself most conspicuously in the atheistic existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre's existentialism is founded on his basic commitment to the view that existence precedes essence. (EXISTENTIALISM, trs. Bernard Frechtman, page 15) He repeatedly affirms that human existence has no fixed content or predetermined essence. It is inherently nothing but pure intentional activity. As such, it is freedom, and in freedom, it "creates" essences or values.

Values thus presuppose human freedom and are the products of its "creation." They are neither eternal essences nor creations of God. In fact, God is a self-contradictory concept and is hence unreal in Sartre's philosophy. Since God does not exist, man is free in "creating" values and has to take the sole responsibility for them; otherwise, there will be no values at all. Sartre assumes that the universe is in itself meaningless or purposeless, and that it is up to man to give it a meaning or purpose. Man does so by "inventing" certain values that he pursues in his life. Values are thus of subjective origin and relative to human existence.

Sartre's view of the subjectivity of values has the merit of emphasizing the importance of human freedom or choice to the utmost in all ethical matters. But its chief drawback seems to be that it makes values relative to each individual and the result will be moral anarchy. Sartre is as much eager to avoid this undesirable consequence as anyone else. He, therefore, insists that, while each individual "creates" values, he must create them not only for himself but for all others as well.

He must choose such values and act in such a manner that others may be guided through his choice and activity. The whole of mankind thus comes to be involved in his individual choice and activity. He must act with a sense of responsibility for the whole of mankind (EXISTENTIALISM, pages 21-22) and the values he "creates" and pursues must have universal applicability. Hence, the persistent question that a man should ask in his ethical life is what would happen if all others were to choose the same values and act in the same manner as he does.

Only when he is convinced that the values of his choice may likewise be chosen and pursued by others without undesirable consequences to anyone that he must choose and pursue them. But the man who neither asks this ethical question nor seeks an answer to it, Sartre tells us, is a man with an "uneasy conscience." (EXISTENTIALISM, page 22) Conscience is thus made the touchstone of moral life in Sartre's atheistic philosophy, and man is answerable to his own conscience ultimately. Conscience is the most intimate moral guide of man, which directs his subjective act of choice towards universally applicable values and cautions him against others.

But the acceptance of conscience as the highest authority in moral matters does not intellectually meet the question: Why should a man choose only the universally applicable values and not others? Hence, there is also an attempt in Sartre's philosophy to answer this question intellectually. He points out that man can be freest in a society of free persons, and hence in choosing his own freedom, he must choose the freedom of others as well; this can be done only when he chooses and pursues such values as may be chosen and pursued by everyone.

Sartre thus tries to link up the subjective act of freedom with the necessity of choosing universal values, and maintains that the two are inseparable in man's authentic existence. The universal values are to be sustained constantly by a man's subjective act of choice, and hence when the latter disappears, as at his death, the former also disappear FOR HIM. Thus, while pleading for universal values, Sartre still emphasizes the significance of human choice as their sole basis, and this gives to his philosophy an "inner consistency" that it otherwise lacks.

This "inner consistency" leaves a fundamental question unanswered. For the question that lingers all through the philosophy of Sartre is why a man should prefer universal values to others even when the others are conducive to his self-interest if all values are likewise going to be annihilated in death and if there is no "reward" beyond it. This question falls beyond the scope of the atheistic and non-metaphysical philosophy of Sartre and cannot be answered adequately within its limits.

A metaphysical approach to this question may throw more light on the paradox of choice and value, and this is the approach adopted by many Indian philosophers. They point out that man's essential nature consists in his eternal spiritual freedom, and his authentic existence in the world is a process of realizing it fully. The universal values that he chooses and pursues are not external imperatives but only means to realize his spiritual freedom. The objective and universal values thus come to be integrated with the individual's intra-subjective spiritual freedom, the realization of which is his supreme goal or value. There is no external check or restriction put on man's ethical choice since any restriction that he puts on himself in not choosing the values detrimental to the realization of his spiritual freedom is a restriction that he imposes on himself in accordance with his basic nature, spiritual freedom, and as oriented towards it.

What man seeks in the exercise of his subjective ethical choice is his own intra-subjective spiritual freedom and the objective and universal values that he pursues are integral to this spiritual endeavor. Subjective choice and objective values are thus both subsumed under a higher spiritual unity that overcomes their apparent discrepancy.


Religion and Reform From a Theosophical Viewpoint

By William Q. Judge

[From ECHOES OF THE ORIENT, II, pages 160-64. First appearing in "Twentieth Century," March 12, 1891.]

Two great shadowy shapes remain fixed in the attention of the mind of the day, threatening to become in the twentieth century more formidable and engrossing than ever. They are religion and reform, and in their sweep, they include every question of pressing human need. The first arises through the introspective experience of the race out of its aspirations toward the unknown and the ever-present desire to solve the questions whence and why, while the second has its birth in the conditions surrounding the bodies of the questioners of fate who struggle helplessly in the ocean of material existence.

Many men wielding small or weighty pens have wrestled with these questions, attacking them in ways as various as the minds of those who have taken them up for consideration, but it still remains for the theosophist to bring forward his views and obtain a hearing. This he should always do as a matter of duty, and not from the pride of fame or the self-assertion that would see itself proclaimed before men. For he knows that, even if he should not speak or could not get a hearing, the march of that evolution in which he thoroughly believes will force these views upon humanity, even if that has to be accomplished by suffering endured by every human unit.

The theosophist can see no possibility of reform in existing abuses, in politics or social relations, unless the plan of reform is one that grows out of a true religion, and he does not think that any of the prevailing religions of the Occident are true or adequate. They do not go to the root of the evil that causes the pain and sorrow that call for reform or alleviation. In his opinion, Theosophy -- the essence or concentrated virtue of every religion -- alone has power to offer and bring about the cure.

None of the present attempts at reform will meet success so long as they are devoid of the true doctrine as to man, his nature, and destiny, and respecting the universe, its origin, and future course. Every one of these essays leaves man where it finds him, neglecting the lessons to be drawn from the cycles in their never-ceasing revolution.

While efforts are made to improve his mere physical condition, the real mover, the man within, is left without a guide, and is therefore certain to produce from no matter how good a system the same evils that are designed to be destroyed. At every change, he once more proceeds to vitiate the effect of any new regimen by the very defects in human nature that cannot be reached by legislation or by dogmatic creeds and impossible hells, because they are beyond the reach of everything except the power of his own thought. Nationalism, Socialism, Liberalism, Conservatism, Communism, and Anarchism are each and all ineffective in the end.

The beautiful dream depicted by Nationalism cannot be made a physical fact, since it has no binding inward sanction; Communism could not stand, because in time, the Communist would react back into the holder of individual rights and protector of property that his human nature would demand ought not to be dissipated among others less worthy. The continuance of the present system, in which the amasser of wealth is allowed to retain and dispose of what he has acquired, will ultimately result in the very riot and bloodshed that legislation is meant to prevent and suppress.

Indeed, the great popular right of universal suffrage, instead of bringing about the true reign of liberty and law, will be the very engine through which the crash will come, unless with it the Theosophic doctrines are inculcated. We have seen the suffrage gradually extended to be universal in the United States, but the people are used to demagogues and the suffrage is wasted. Meanwhile, the struggle between capital and labor grows more intense, and in time will rage with such fury that the poor and unlearned, feeling the gad of poverty strike deeper, will cast their votes for measures respecting property in land or chattels, so revolutionary that capital will combine to right the supposed invasion by sword and bullet. It all tends towards that end toward, and none of the reforms so sincerely put forward will avert it for one hour after the causes have been sufficiently fixed and crystallized. This final formation of efficient causes has not yet complete but is rapidly approaching the point where no cure will be possible.

It is true that the cold acquirements of science give us magnificent physical results, but they fail like creeds and reforms by legislative acts in the end. Using her own methods and instruments, she fails to find the soul and denies its existence; while the churches assert a soul but cannot explain it, and at the same time shock human reason by postulating the incineration by material fire of that which they admit is immortal. As a means of escape from this dilemma, nothing is offered save a vicarious atonement and a retreat behind a blind acceptance of incongruities and injustice in a God who is supposed by all to be infinitely merciful and just.

Thus, on the one hand, science has no terrors and no reformatory force for the wicked and the selfish; on the other, the creeds, losing their hold in consequence of the inroads of knowledge, grow less and less useful and respected every year. The people seem to be approaching an era of wild unbelief. Just such a state of thought prevailed before the French revolution of 1793.

Theosophy here suggests the reconciliation of science and religion by showing a common foundation for all religions and that the soul exists with all the psychic forces proceeding therefrom. As to the universe, Theosophy teaches a never-ending evolution and involution. Evolution begins when the Great Breath -- Herbert Spencer's "Unknowable" that manifests as universal energy -- goes forth, and involution, or the disappearance of the universe, obtains when the same breath returns to itself. This coming forth lasts millions upon millions of years, and involution prevails for an equal length of time.

As soon as the breath goes forth, universal mind together with universal basic matter appears. In the ancient system, this mind is called Mahat, and matter Prakriti. Mahat has the plan of evolution that it impresses upon Prakriti, causing it to proceed ceaselessly with the evolution of forms and the perfecting of the units composing the cosmos. The crown of this perfection is man, and he contains in himself the whole plan of the universe copied in miniature but universally potential.

This brings us to ourselves, surrounded as we are by an environment that appears to us to cause pain and sorrow, no matter where we turn. As the immutable laws of cause and effect brought about our own evolution, the same laws become our saviors from the miseries of existence. The two great laws postulated by Theosophy for the world's reform are those of Karma and Reincarnation. Karma is the law of action that decrees that man must suffer and enjoy solely through his own thoughts and acts. His thoughts, being the smaller copy of the universal mind, lie at the root of every act and constitute the force that brings about the particular body he may inhabit.

Reincarnation in an earthly body is as necessary for him as the ceaseless reincarnation of the universal mind in evolution after evolution is needful for it. As no man is a unit separate from the others in the Cosmos, he must think and act in such a way that he produces no discord in the great universal stream of evolution. The disturbance of this harmony alone brings on the miseries of life, whether that is of a single man or of the whole nation. As he has acted in his last life or lives, so will he be acted upon in succeeding ones. This is why the rich are often unworthy, and the unworthy so frequently poor and afflicted. All appeals to force are useless as they only create new causes sure to react upon us in future lives as well as in the present.

If all men believed in this just and comprehensive law of Karma, knowing well that whatever they do will be punished or rewarded in this or other new lives, the evils of existence would begin to disappear. The rich would know that they are only trustees for the wealth they have and are bound to use it for the good of their fellows. The poor, satisfied that their lot is the just desert for prior acts and aided by the more fortunate, would work out old bad Karma and sow the seeds of only that which is good and harmonious.

National misery, such as that of Whitechapel in London (to be imitated ere long in New York), is the result of national Karma, which in its turn is composed of the aggregation of not only the Karma of the individuals concerned, but also of that belonging to the rest of the nation. Experience demonstrates that ordinary reforms, whether by law or otherwise, will not succeed.

Given that the ruling and richer classes believe in Karma and Reincarnation, a universal widespread effort would at once be made by those favorites of fortune toward not only present alleviation of miserable conditions, but also in the line of educating the vulgar who now consider themselves oppressed as well by their superiors as by fate.

The opposite is now the case, for we cannot call individual sporadic or sectarian efforts of beneficence a national or universal attempt. Just now, we have the General of the Salvation Army proposing a huge scheme of colonization that is denounced by a master of science, Prof. Huxley, as utopian, inefficient, and full of menace for the future. He, in the course of his comment, candidly admits the great danger to be feared from the criminal and dissatisfied classes. But if the poorer and less discriminating see the richer and the learned offering physical assistance and intelligent explanations of the apparent injustice of life -- which can be found only in Theosophy -- there would soon arise a possibility of making effective the fine laws and regulations that many are ready to add to those already proposed.

Without such Theosophic philosophy and religion, the constantly increasing concessions made to the clamor of the uneducated, democracy's demands will only end in inflating the actual majority with an undue sense of their real power, and thus precipitate the convulsion that might be averted by the other course.

This is a general statement of the only panacea, for if once believed in -- even from a selfish motive -- it will compel, by a force that works from within all men, the endeavor to escape from future unhappiness that is inevitable if they violate the laws inhering in the universal mind.


Why 360 Degrees?

By L. Gordon Plummer

[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January 1934.]

The division of the circle into 360 equal parts called 'degrees' is very ancient. The early astronomers and mathematicians who divided it thus knew well what they were about, and if we embark upon a short excursion into the mystic Land of Numbers, we shall soon learn that there are wonderful correspondences between cycles of time and geometrical form. Let us first study the interesting astronomical cycle known as the Precession of the Equinoxes.

Those who have studied astronomy will recall that the points on the Earth's orbit where it is crossed by the plane of the celestial equator, move slowly westward, making the complete circle in nearly 26,000 years. The number as reckoned by the ancients is 25,920 years. This cycle is known as the Precessional Cycle because the points of intersection above referred to are the points on the Earth's orbit where the planet is at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. These equinoctial points move very slowly in the clockwise direction, while the Earth travels once around its orbit counterclockwise every year. In other words, the time of equinox 'precedes' that of the year before, and hence the word 'precession.'

The ecliptic is the great celestial circle in whose plane the Earth moves in its orbit. As the other planets move in orbits whose planes are nearly identical with that of the Earth, these other planets actually, and the Sun apparently, move in the ecliptic. As we move along this circle or track in one year, the Sun appears to pass across twelve great constellations called the Constellations of the Zodiac. The ecliptic is divided into twelve equal areas, which take their names from these twelve constellations, and therefore, these divisions are called the Signs of the Zodiac.

Imagine now the ecliptic (in which the Earth's orbit lies) to be a great wheel revolving slowly in the heavens. The point on the Earth's orbit -- and hence on the ecliptic -- where the Earth passes through the vernal, or spring, equinox marks the beginning of the first of the twelve divisions, and they are reckoned counter-clockwise, or eastward. Since, as we have observed, the point of the vernal -- and consequently of the autumnal -- equinox moves westward, we may consider that it carries the ecliptic along with it.

The great circle turns round and round in the heavens, and requires 25,920 years to make one revolution. The Signs of the Zodiac then move with it because they are a part of it. Thus, the Sign of Aries, which begins at the spring equinoctial point and the ecliptic, and which once occupied a position in the sky identical with the constellation Aries, has shifted, and is now entering the constellation Aquarius. That is to say, the Sun is now in the Constellation Aquarius at the time of the spring equinox, whereas it was once in the constellation Aries at the same equinox.

Since the first point in the sign of Aries -- usually called the 'first point of Aries' -- takes 25,920 years to pass around the Zodiac, or across the twelve constellations, it will take one-twelfth of that time or 2,160 years to pass through one constellation, assuming for the moment that all the constellations occupy equal portions of the sky. This number, 2,160 years, is extremely important, because it is a basic factor in computing the ages of the Earth and the Rounds and Races, and also in counting the numbers of degrees in the geometrical solids. Further, the length of the Messianic Cycle or Cycle of certain Avataras is 2,160 years. A point of great interest is that the cube, which was anciently held to symbolize Man, has for the sum of its plane angles, 2,160. The cube unfolded into a plane surface becomes a cross. At the commencement of the Avataric Cycle of 2,160 years, a candidate for the highest Initiation is placed upon a cruciform couch. While his body remains there, his spirit soars through the inner realms of the spiritual world, reaching at last the 'Heart of the Sun.' When he arises from the couch, he does so as a glorified Adept, a Teacher of Men.

We have digressed somewhat from the purpose in view, which is to find out why the circle is divided into 360 degrees. So let us note that the number 2,160 is ten times the cube of six. Now the cube of six is equal to the sum of the cubes of three, four, and five. Among the important numbers, the numbers three, four, and five play a leading part in the building of form. The five regular polyhedrons, held so sacred by the ancients, are built upon the three, four, and five.

There are five regular solids in geometry: (1) the icosahedron, having 30 edges, 20 equilateral triangular faces, and twelve vertices; (2) the dodecahedron, having also 30 edges, but twelve pentagonal faces, and 20 vertices; (3) the cube, with twelve edges, six quadrilateral faces, and eight vertices; (4) the octahedron, having also twelve edges, but eight triangular faces, and six vertices; and (5) the tetrahedron, or triangular pyramid, having six edges, four triangular faces, and four vertices.

The numbers three, four, five, and six play a very important part in the building of these figures, both as to the numbers of faces, vertices, or edges in them, and as to the numbers of degrees in their angles. These figures are the working out in geometrical form of the same principles that are behind the manifested universe, which, before manifestation, may be represented by the circle.

A circle may be divided into three equal arcs, each of these into fourths, each resulting 12th part into fifths, and the resulting 60ths, into six equal parts each, and the whole will be then divided into 360 equal parts, or degrees. Now the product of three, four, five, and six, or 360, divided by their sum, or 18, gives us 20, a number suggestive of the icosahedron, the most complex of the geometrical solids. Lines may be drawn, joining interiorly all the points of the icosahedron, and we shall find that within it we have a new figure, the dodecahedron. The dodecahedron, having 30 edges as well as the icosahedron, we have now 60 lines. (Note that 60 is the product of three, four, and five.) The dodecahedron was considered to represent the solar system -- the twelve faces, symbolic of the twelve Signs of the Zodiac -- and the icosahedron, the outer stars.

Suppose, now, that we take a circle, and divide the circumference into ten equal arcs, suggestive of the ten planes of consciousness join each point with every other point, and we have drawn the icosahedron surrounding the dodecahedron! The point at the center of the circle where some of the lines cross becomes in reality two points, coinciding and forming the north and south poles of the icosahedron.

Now the circle here represents the Unmanifest, which, however, as soon as manifestation takes place, becomes ten Cosmic planes. These Cosmic planes we have learned to divide into sub-planes, ten in each, as follows: (1) three subjective or formless planes; (2) four intermediate planes, upon which the globe-chains that belong to that particular cosmic plane manifest; and (3) three lower planes of a substance and energy lower in vibration even than the lowest of the seven globes of the planetary chains occupying the four intermediate planes. Thus, the planes can be numbered, three, four, and three. (Incidentally, the number 343 is the cube of seven, the number of manifestation.) These sub-planes are not to be considered as layers in a cake but rather as interpenetrating.

Suppose, then, we divide in this fashion each of the ten arcs of our circle: first, into three equal parts, each of which will be one-thirtieth of the whole, each of these into 4ths, making 120ths, then each of these into thirds again, and we have our circle divided once more into 360 equal parts, or degrees.

To sum up, then, we find that the numbers three, four, five, and six and the number ten considered as the sum of three, four, and three are of especial interest and importance in connection with the number of degrees in the circle, because they represent active agents in the constructive side of Nature. The number twelve (the sum of three, four, and five) has a particular function that will require further consideration. But it may here be said that the numbers eleven and twelve represent the zenith and the nadir of any hierarchy of ten planes, because they represent the higher and lower connecting-points, as it were, between that hierarchy and the ones above and below it. The relations between the numbers are as intricate, apparently, as are the lines of the geometrical figure here illustrated, yet when we have a bird's-eye view of the whole subject, we can see clearly the part that each number has to play.

We have but touched the shores of the mystic Land of Numbers. We shall set sail again and find out more about the geometrical solids. Wonderful are the lessons we can learn about Nature and her majestic laws, and sublime is the inspiration that will come to us if we approach her with eager hearts and a love of Truth, free from personal desires.


Hillerman Novels

By Jake Jaqua

Tony Hillerman came out at the end of '06 with about his twentieth novel situated in Navajo country in the four-corners area of the United States. THE SHAPE SHIFTER was on the best sellers now and will be again when the paperback comes out. Hillerman is in his 80's, so this could be his last novel, but hopefully he will get out a few more.

What I like about Hillerman, beyond just being a good writer, is his mixing in of Traditional Navajo religion and philosophy in the plot of his mysteries. It is truly a beautiful philosophy, aimed at becoming in-tune or harmony with Nature and appreciation of its beauty. (In the desert, rocks, mountains and big sky of the U.S. Southwest, one always has this reminder of the beauty of Nature around one.) The Traditional Navajos call this state of harmony with Nature "hozho" or "hozro," the kingpin around which the rest of the religion spins.

In Traditional Navajo culture (disappeared or disappearing now) there is no such thing as punishment for crime. If someone gets out of harmony with the rest of "the people" or "dineh," he is attempted to be brought back into harmony with a large variety or "sings" or ceremonies, which can last for anywhere from one day to nine or ten days. There is a different "sing" or ceremony for every type of illness or crime, many such sings now being forgotten or having no "hatali," singer, or medicine-man which can perform them. These sings are composed of recitation of various myths of in their religious fables, sand paintings, and ceremony to bring the person back into harmony. It is a community event.

In SHAPE SHIFTER, Hillerman relates one of the origins -- myths that we are held to be in the "fourth world" now, after the destruction of the first three worlds. In the first three worlds, we were not fully human, which we become in the fourth world. This might be analogous with the fourth round we are in now in Theosophical teachings, or the fourth Race (American Indians are held in Theosophy to be a fourth root-race people, like the Chinese, Mongolians, etc.) There is also a myth for the separation of the sexes.

The only person in Navajo philosophy who cannot be brought back into harmony is the "witch" or shape-shifter. He is seen as being committed to evil and selfishness as a principle. A sure sign of a witch is someone who is rich while his relatives are poor. Greed and money-grubbing is one of the big crimes in Traditional philosophy.

Another Navajo belief that tallies with Theosophy is about the "chindi." The chindi is the spook or bhut (Hindu) that a person leaves behind when he dies, the "shell." In some places Hillerman says that the Navajos believe in no after-life, but in "Shape Shifter" and later novels he says that the chindi is only the part left behind, that cannot go on to the soul's other after-death great adventures -- which is the Theosophical idea. If a person dies inside the hogan, traditionally, the hogan is abandoned, and a hole is knocked in the wall in one direction, so that the spook can leave. A person is always taken outside to die.

Hillerman went to an Indian school for years when young, so is not just an outsider, and also made a long effort to understand Navajo culture, so you might get a better picture of Navajo philosophy in his novels than in the dry-dust anthropological texts.


Psychic Phenomena, Part II

By A. Trevor Barker

[From THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, pages 335-44.]

What is it that those Ancient Teachers of the race have to say upon this whole question of psychic phenomena? We said that we should have to limit ourselves this evening to a very brief consideration of the phenomena attending a Spiritualistic seance; and in order to understand the problem I want, by a series of comparisons if possible, to make the Ancient Teaching clear to you simply for your consideration, to show that is more reasonable. Every psychic phenomenon that I have ever heard of is certainly susceptible of two explanations: one according to the accepted Spiritualistic theories, and the other the teaching of the Arcane Knowledge upon that particular fact in Nature. And get this one point clear: that no Theosophist, no occultist, no mystic, would ever deny the facts of Spiritualistic phenomena. He knows for a certainty that they happen, that they do exist.

You can go to the Queen's Hall, to the Grotrian Hall, you can go to a dozen places this very evening, and see demonstrations of these psychical happenings; and, now, in order to understand the comparisons that will be drawn, in a few moments let us very briefly consider what happens to man after the death of his physical body; because after all, friends, it all turns upon that.

If there is any reliable source of information to which we can go to find out what actually is the Law of Nature operating at the time of the death of the physical body, we can learn a lot and save ourselves a great number of mistakes; we can save our feet from wandering from the spiritual path altogether; and that teaching very briefly is this: in the case of the average normal individual who lives an ordinary, everyday life -- neither very good nor very bad -- such an individual comes to the natural term of his life, say around about sixty or seventy years of age, and passes on. The body dies, and immediately the body, the framework upon which it was built, and the life that energized it, begin to fall to pieces. The body is either burnt under cremation, or it goes into the grave and begins to disintegrate. So much for the body.

Do you remember that a little earlier this evening it was mentioned that man consists not only of that body, but also of his emotional and passional nature, his lower thoughts and desires? Everybody has that constitution to a greater or less degree. Then you have the higher thoughts, the higher spiritual emotions and aspirations that go to make man what he is as a human being with a human soul: and over and above you have the immortal brooding Spirit. It is the human being in the man, the thinker, the conscious entity that we all love, that we have affection and reverence for. I think that you will all agree with me that it is not the animal part of our friend that we have any affection for. We say to ourselves, "Well, we are all human," and we just accept that as a necessary evil; but it is really the truly human-divine qualities that show through the outer casing that go to make up what we love in any human being; and therefore it will come as no shock to us at all when we realize that the animal nature is destined to immediate disintegration after the close of the earth-life.

As long as life persisted, the emotions, the passions, the lower thoughts, were all in a state of constant flux; but directly the life is closed, that inner, real man falls into a state of unconsciousness. Gradually that human soul is separated from its animal nature, and directly that separation is complete, the individual begins to regain his consciousness and wakes up to the ineffable bliss of that spiritual world wherein he will reap fruition of all those causes of a spiritual kind that he generated in the life that has just closed. Take that as a broad idea for the general run of humanity.

There are certain exceptions, and we cannot touch upon them more than to say that the exceptions concern those who have been shot forth from this life as a result of accident, suicide, murder, or something of that kind -- anything that cuts short the life so that there is a premature death. Then the individuals concerned go into the Great Beyond in a state that is not really death. They retain their consciousness in a way that the average individual does not.

Now think just for a moment: you have that inner, real man in the ineffable bliss of that heaven that in the language of the Ancient Knowledge is spoken of as Devachan; you have in the region of what the Roman Catholics call Purgatory (the region of Kamaloka as they call it in the East) the material remnants of the being that was, disintegrating, but still for a considerable period hanging together -- remnants or characteristics of the material man that was, in life. This is a tremendously important thing to remember, because in terms of the gross living of the departed entity will be the persistence and longevity of the remnants of his material life in the shape of his passions, his desires and his lower thoughts.

Let us turn to an examination, very briefly, of the phenomena that take place at the Spiritualistic seances. You get a tremendous number of supposed messages from the individuals whom you have known who have departed this life. According to the Ancient Teaching, it is quite impossible for a normal average human being to communicate with this earth's sphere once he has passed into the state of unconsciousness and entered the bliss of that period that lasts between earth-lives, and it is impossible for a particular, definite, and beneficent reason. It is mechanically impossible from a psychical point of view; but look at it from the moral point of view.

Which, friends, do you consider is wiser, grander, more just in every way, to the being that was? He has done his day's work, has he not? He has passed through the tribulations of earth-life. He has 'done his job,' and of necessity that human soul needs rest, needs peace, needs spiritual refreshment before taking up the toil of earth-life again. What kind of rest would it be to you if you were forced to look down from a purely mythical heaven and see the sorrows, the trials and tribulations of those that you had left behind -- if the bonds of sympathy and love were very great? I do not need to pile illustration upon illustration, but I think that you can recognize for yourselves that it certainly would not be a period of unalloyed rest and bliss; and this is quite a sufficient reason to understand that Nature in her great mercy does not permit such a disturbance of the peace of the soul that has passed on.

Actually where do these messages emanate from? They are sufficiently genuine, they are sufficiently accurate, they bear what is called 'evidential value' of their source; so much so that if you have ever attended a Spiritualistic seance, you will always find a number of people who will immediately testify to the fact that what the clairvoyant or the medium has told them -- the description that has been given them of their father, or their mother, or their sweetheart, or something of that kind -- is perfectly just and accurate; that moreover the medium described characteristics that were so peculiar to that individual that they could not possibly doubt. Then where have these come from?

The mediums have a faculty, by virtue of their peculiar constitution, of doing a number of interesting things; and one of the faculties of the mediumistic nature is that they have a power of attracting the remnants, the left-off clothing if you like to call it so, of the emotional nature of the beings that were -- to attract them: that is all. They can get it, so to speak, into the sphere of their own magnetic influence.

Having done so, that bundle of memories, of thoughts and feelings, of emotions, is galvanized into a state of activity, very much as a gramophone record is made to play an old tune, and the tune it will play will be in accordance with the particular memories evoked by the thoughts and memories in the mind of the individual in the audience at a seance with whom they are connected. Therefore, since those molecules and atoms that compose those bodies contain a complete record or memory of all the incidents that happened in that past life, they are able to say a whole lot of things that only that person knows about.

One of the peculiar characteristics of the evidence that they always advance is: "It was such a remarkable thing that that medium said to me, because I had never been there before, she did not know who I was, and yet she said that particular thing that I knew about." Precisely, that was why the medium was able to tell them.

Friends, not only does Nature herself have a great and marvelous record and memory, a great picture-gallery preserving the record of every event that ever was; but each individual one of us has what is called an 'atmosphere' -- a surrounding aura or sphere in which is recorded every slight thought and feeling and action that we have ever done. Is it not natural that those we have loved -- ay, and those we have hated, too -- will have left a clear imprint and picture, not only in our own atmosphere but also in the corresponding memory of Nature? Again, the mental and emotional relics that we leave behind us when we pass on will also bear that same connection with the memory of Nature and with the magnetic sphere surrounding our friends that we have left behind.

It is a fact that a competent, good medium is able to read the magnetic sphere that surrounds us all. He is able to read there all that took place between you and the departed entity, tell you the names, give you an accurate description, because they are all in front of the medium -- he can see them there.

Do not think that by that statement I mean to suggest that the medium is in any way deceiving you. Not at all. Mediums do not know how they get their results, and one of the most curious, phenomena is that of the photograph -- of what is called a 'spirit-photograph,' when an extra face appears upon the photographic plate in the background. You have all heard or seen illustrations of it. It is a very interesting fact. What is called a 'photographic medium' gets to work and takes your photograph, and sure enough there on the plate you have a picture of somebody you have lost.

Lady Conan Doyle in today's SUNDAY DISPATCH gives a description of how a scientific friend went to the British College of Psychic Science -- and he went with a perfectly open mind to see what he could find out about the 'spirit-photograph,' as they call it. The medium was leaving the hall when he arrived, but he asked him to come back and take a photograph for him and he did, and to his (the friend's) great delight, he found a perfectly accurate representation of a daughter he had lost, a far better photograph than had been done in life.

Well, friends, where did it come from? You can understand that anybody who had not knowledge of the ancient teachings, the ancient laws inherent in Nature itself, would be deceived by such a phenomenon. He would say, "That girl is alive, conscious, and I have not lost her at all; survival is a fact," never dreaming that it was possible by means of that peculiar characteristic of mediumship to evoke from the memory of Nature or from the memory of the individual, or however you like to put it, the exact image, to densify that image and produce what is tantamount to a materialization that it is possible to photograph; but that is the process.

Do they question it? Not at all. They are mediums. It 'just happens,' from their point of view. For them it is a wonderful power, and it is a remarkable faculty -- you cannot get away from it -- and to them it is a very spiritual and significant event in their lives.

I will give you one other illustration that Lady Conan Doyle gives in this same journal. It shows this more clearly yet. As you know, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died some considerable time ago -- I do not know when: possibly it was not so very long ago -- and since then, they have been holding Spiritualistic seances, and Lady Conan Doyle is completely satisfied and convinced that her husband is communicating with her definitely and in fact. She gives one illustration that she says is a very homely one, but she considers it very comforting. I will tell you what it is, and you shall judge for yourself what this thing is, stripped of its sentimental value.

These were the facts: just before her husband died she had put into their country-house a new sort of glass in the windows. It was that particular kind of glass that does not interfere with the ultraviolet rays of the sun. She did it as a gift to him, hoping it would strengthen him when he went down there in the summer. He never lived to see what she had done; he never knew anything about it in fact. Now they had a communication from an excellent medium. She said the late departed Sir Arthur took control of the medium and had communication, and among other things said that he was constantly in the house and benefiting from the ultraviolet rays that came through the windows! Now she said, "The critical will say 'How trivial,' but," she adds, "it is very comforting to think that he knew about it."

Well, friends, what is the explanation, the interpretation, from the Theosophical point of view, from the point of view of facts in Nature? That had made a very great impression on Lady Conan Doyle's mind, the record was there in her own mentality; and it was the simplest thing in the world, and perfectly natural, for that medium quite unconsciously to reflect that fact from her consciousness, and it appears in conjunction with the literary remains of Sir Conan Doyle in the form of a 'spirit message' that to her is very convincing. But, friends, has it any real spiritual value at all? I think we must admit, since we have no sentimental connection with this case, that it has no value at all. It is a very interesting psychic happening, and that is about all you can say for it.

Every one of the different psychic phenomena that occur -- I do not care what they are -- is susceptible of a different interpretation from the one that is put upon it. I am not going to take time to illustrate for you the innumerable instances that have occurred in the fifty years since the coming of Madame H.P. Blavatsky. They are almost endless, but if anything you have heard has stimulated your interest to the point of realizing that after all there may be another side to the question, then, friends, I say, go to work with a book and learn for yourselves what are these laws in Nature, and you will develop a background of knowledge for your investigation of the hidden powers of Nature that you will never get in any of your Spiritualistic seances.

I want to leave one main idea with you, and it is this: in going to work in the particular way that the Spiritualist does, he actually denies himself the power of direct spiritual perception. He denies to himself the grand realities of the priceless knowledge of himself as he essentially and divinely is in his own innermost nature. Try to get at the meaning of that state, because Spiritualists are people who in the majority of cases are tremendously sincere; they want something more than they can materially contact and get from the materialistic point of view, and because of their past karma, if you will, perhaps owing to a slight development of mediumistic faculties in past lives -- I do not know what it might be -- they are led to believe that the next stage in their spiritual development is to open that back door of their consciousness into these unseen realms of Nature.

Remember that they are opening the door into the realms of the emotional and the passional nature, the realms inhabited by nature-spirits, by elementaries, by spooks, by ghosts, by the relics of all that we have loved and lost, as we think. By stepping aside from the conscious control of their own mechanism of consciousness, they are actually turning their back upon the light that lighteth every man in the world if he will only look for it in the right place.

That is a very terrible thing. It is a mighty serious one, too, believe me, friends, because an increasing number of human souls are being drawn into the vortex of mediumship and psychism.

The whole object of the Theosophical Movement, and the work that we are doing here, is to state over and over again, in different ways, in differing aspects, that at the heart of every living thing the Divine Light exists, pulsing, burning brightly, and if you look and search into the innermost depths of your being it is possible to discover that Light. Not only that, but in the discovery, provided your motive is selfless, true, and sincere, you will find that those Great Beings who have passed along the path of human evolution ahead of us, are there waiting, watching, for every single one of us who lights the Divine flame in his own heart by that search for truth, by sincerity, and by his desire to place his whole being, his whole nature, at the service of the human race, once he has discovered that Light and that it is a matter for him of conscious knowledge.

Have no fear; once the Light is seen by those distant watchers, friends, it will not be allowed to go out -- it might flicker but it will not be allowed to go out. It will be tended and helped and made to burn steadily and more brightly according as we act in terms of that higher nature within us, and provided we do not abdicate to any agency outside of ourselves. That is the message of Theosophy upon this great subject.


Immanuel Kant and Universal Mind

By Henry Travers Edge

[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, June 1916, pages 521-27.]

Our age being one of facile publication, public print reflects the studies of inexperienced, unread, and perfunctory thinkers; and consequently a new lease of life is given to doctrines that could never stand the test of criticism in the light of an acquaintance with the work of philosophers. As an example of the confusion that reigns, we may refer to a supposed antagonism between duty and freedom, between morality and liberty; a fallacy that has induced the supposed necessity for throwing over duty and morality in the interests of what is imagined to be liberty.

That great philosopher, Immanuel Kant, shows that the "ought" IMPLIES liberty. Without freedom, there can be no "ought," for a man acting under compulsion is neither free nor conscientious.

Since without freedom there is no "ought," that is, no moral law would be possible, there is ground of knowledge (or rather of certainty) of freedom, and it, again, is a real ground of the moral law ... The certainty that freedom is, is purely subjective, comes to us from the fact that we "ought."

-- J.E. Erdmann, HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY, II, page 399

Recognizing the duality of the human mind, Kant shows the man as both lawgiver and subject of the law (as in the relationship of noumenon and phenomenon), and thus the law both fills us with awe and inspires us with confidence, and the feeling of reverence unites in itself both compulsion and freedom. How much more adequate is this explanation than those hasty sophisms of speculation which see only the compulsory element in law, thus recognizing only man the slave -- that is, the lower man -- and ignoring the fact that Man is also the lawgiver!

Kant always attributes to the moral law the character of autonomy, and combats every form of heteronomy in morals.


For Kant, as so well known, moral obligation was an unconditioned (or "categorical") imperative; in other words, it is the decrees of our own higher intelligence, which discerns at once the actual conditions of our life and the necessity for acting in conformity therewith. Morality is the recognition of those actually existing laws of nature that pertain to the human self-conscious mind (or Manas, in the Theosophical terminology), and the will to abide by those laws.

The further problem arises as to how these higher laws, thus recognized and willed, are to be reconciled with the lower nature of man, whence proceed various inclinations of an antagonistic character. For Kant,

[The whole business of our life consists in] the action of our innate faculties on the conceptions that come to us from without ... The idea of good and bad is a necessary condition, an original basis of morals, which is supposed in every one of our moral reflections and not obtained by experience.


Man is at once a sense nature and a rational nature, and these are opposed to one another. Part of our knowledge is original and independent of experience; part based on experience; and in connection with the former, he uses his expression "pure reason."

Pure reason is the faculty to understand by a priori principles, and the discussion of the possibility of these principles, and the delimitation of this faculty, constitutes the critique of pure reason.


Some students of nature have professed to see in it only the working of a concatenation of causes and effects, with no large and preconceived purpose behind it; and they have scoffed at those who regard nature as fulfilling great designs. The word "teleology," implying the existence of such purposes, has in particular stuck in their throat.

We find Kant saying, in THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON, that

The systematic union of ends in this world of intelligences, which, although as mere nature it is to be called only the world of sense, can yet as a system of freedom be called an intelligible, i.e., moral world, leads inevitably to the teleological unity of all things which constitute this great whole according to universal natural laws, just as the unity of the former is according to universal and necessary moral laws, and unites the practical with the speculative reason.

The world must be represented as having originated from an idea, if it is to harmonize with that use of reason without which we should hold ourselves unworthy of reason -- namely the moral use, which rests entirely on the idea of the supreme good. Hence, all natural research tends towards the form of a system of ends, and in its highest development would be a physico-theology. But this, since it arises from the moral order as a unity grounded in the very essence of freedom and not accidentally instituted by external commands, establishes the teleology of nature on grounds which a priori must be inseparably connected with the inner possibility of things.

The teleology of nature is thus made to rest on a transcendental theology, which takes the ideal of supreme ontological perfection as a principle of systematic unity, a principle that connects all things according to universal and necessary natural laws, since they all have their origin in the absolute necessity of a single primal being.

In this fruitful passage, he speaks of the world as a world of intelligences; says that it can be regarded both as a world of sense and as a system of freedom (in which latter aspect it is a moral world), and contemplates a systematic unifying of conflicting purposes, which leads to the teleological unity of all things. The union of the practical with the speculative reason is also mentioned. The only right use of reason is the moral use; and all natural research tends to the form of a system of ends.

Kant was an eighteenth-century philosopher, so his writings cannot be brought under the head of "Victorian teleological fustian" -- the phrase used by Professor Bateson in his deprecation of the belief in ends and purposes in nature. (British Association Address, 1914) The moral order is defined as being of the very essence of freedom; a sufficient answer to those who seek to define it as a mere convention agreed upon by men and changing from time to time according to circumstances.

The writer in the Ninth and subsequent editions of the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA says, in explaining Kant's philosophy:

The moral law, or reason as practical, prescribes the realization of the highest good, and such realization implies a higher order than that of nature. We must therefore regard the supreme cause as a moral cause, and nature as so ordered that realization of the moral end is in it possible. The final conception of the Kantian philosophy is therefore that of ethical teleology ...

The realization of duty is impossible for any being that is not thought as free, that is, capable of self-determination. Freedom, it is true, is theoretically not an object of cognition, but its impossibility is not thereby demonstrated ... The supreme end prescribed by reason, in its practical aspect, namely, the complete subordination of the empirical side of nature to the precepts of morality, demands, as conditions of its possible realization, the permanence of ethical progress in the moral agent, the certainty of freedom in self-determination, and the necessary harmonizing of the spheres of sense and reason through the intelligent author or ground of both.

Kant's touchstone of morality, "Act as thou wouldst wish that all should act," may be recommended to the advocates of "new" schools of ethics, especially to such as elevate an inclination to the rank of a divine necessity on no better ground than that it is very strong and in their eyes beautiful. Would they wish all men to obey such incentives?

Another interesting quotation is as follows:

Self-consciousness cannot be regarded as merely a mechanically determined result. Free reflection upon the whole system of knowledge is sufficient to indicate that the sphere of intuition with its rational principles does not exhaust conscious experience. There remains, over and above the realm of nature, the realm of free, self-conscious spirit; and, within this sphere, it may be anticipated that the ideas will acquire significance richer and deeper than the merely regulative import that they possess in reference to cognition.


(Intuition here means direct cognition, and the writer is referring to the Kantian threefold division of our faculties for acquiring knowledge, namely, sense, understanding, and reason. The sphere of direct perception and the sphere of principles derived by reasoning thereupon do not together exhaust conscious experience. The object of this note is to distinguish this use of the word "intuition" from certain other familiar uses of the word.)

The universal will is not what all will but what all rational beings should will, says Kant repeatedly.

In these citations, we see how Kant presents the truth that the Cosmic scheme is the working of Spirit in Matter, a process that culminates, insofar as we can discern, in man. The plan of evolution shows us a primordial and undifferentiated Matter, upon which Spirit, the Divine Breath, acts, producing in it various successive modifications, which are the manifestations in Matter of the potencies in Spirit. Hence the various kingdoms of nature, the various grades of matter, and all the innumerable forms of manifestation, some known and others not known to us. The Divine Idea, in its work of ensouling Matter, reached a critical stage in the animal kingdom; and further progress in the evolution was impossible without the entry of a new principle -- that of self-conscious mind, the faculty characteristic of man.

It is this principle, called in the Theosophical nomenclature Manas, which we have been discussing. It forms the connecting link between the animal together with all lower kingdoms, and the realms of Spiritual intelligence above. As H.P. Blavatsky says, the Spiritual Monad of a Newton, grafted on that of the greatest saint on earth, and incarnated in the perfect physical body, would only produce an idiot, if the combination lacked this connecting link. (THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, page 242) This makes of Man a triad, for three universal principles are represented in his constitution, namely, Spirit, Mind, and Matter. As to the lower kingdoms of nature, though they contain the Spiritual Monad, it cannot manifest its higher potentialities in them, as they do not possess Manas or the self-conscious mind as a vehicle.

Now when Manas becomes incarnate in Man, its nature thereby becomes dual, for one-half unites with the Spiritual Monad, and the other gravitates towards the animal instinctual principles. Thus arises Man's dual nature; he has two egos, the lower of them being temporary and fictitious like the part played by an actor. But there is only one real Man, says H.P. Blavatsky in expounding the teachings; but one real man, enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence, if not in form, and this is Manas, the mind-man or embodied consciousness. (THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, Chapter VI)

Theosophy gives us a new light on Kant's philosophy, supplying some missing links in the thought; and especially in connection with the fact of reincarnation, which the philosopher could only imply. Morality is seen to be the law of the higher nature with which man has contact by means of Manas. In the present usual stage of his development, however, the knowledge so derived is partial and hence appears as a moral imperative proceeding from an undiscerned source, and put into form by the faculty called conscience. From Theosophy too, we get definite promise of the possibility of further development, in the course of which the union between Manas and the Spiritual Monad will become closer during life on earth, thus enabling man to replace faith by knowledge in relation to many important matters that now cause him such perplexity.

The animals follow the laws of their several natures without friction, but Man is a being of a higher order. His self-consciousness and his power of changing his own character make a difference between him and the animal kingdom that is at least as great as that between the animal and the plant, and many would think it is greater. What is the law of Man's nature? At present, he wavers between two laws, for he has not yet unified his nature. It is the destiny of Man to unite the upward and downward evolutions, thus making a complete being, combining all the potencies of the universe; and when that has been fully achieved, the laws of the lower natures in Man will be subordinate to the law of his higher nature and conflict will cease.

The relationship between European philosophy in general and the teachings of Theosophy is an interesting topic. It will be some time before the many realize what the few do now, the importance of the step that was taken when H.P. Blavatsky introduced the ancient philosophy -- sometimes spoken of as that of the Orient, but more properly designated the UNIVERSAL philosophy of antiquity -- to the West. It is true that we had already had translations of the Upanishads and other oriental philosophies, with commentaries thereon. But it was H.P. Blavatsky, and her successor, William Q. Judge, who first illuminated these books with the light of a true understanding and commented on them from the standpoint of teachers expounding the textbooks of knowledge wherein they were independently versed. It is since their day that this field of study has gained its chief vogue. It was they too who translated the ancient systems into their nearest modern equivalents, showing the relation between ancient and modern ideas.

This question of the dual nature of the human mind is one that receives a new and most practical light from the teachings of Theosophy. Nor can we refrain from mentioning the flood of light poured upon many of the intuitions of our poets and the conclusions of our philosophers by the doctrine of Reincarnation, which completes the thought that so many thinkers, because of inherited dogmas, had to leave unfinished.

The present cycle of evolution shows Man on this planet in possession of the Lower Manas, with a partial and sporadic development of the Higher Manas; and at a further stage, yet far in the future for the mass of mankind, the human race will have reached the point where it will have to choose consciously between two paths. At present, the crisis is not reached except in individual instances, and mankind is engaged in cultivating both sides of its nature.

It is one thing to have analysed the mind philosophically and thus to have arrived at the conclusion that it is dual, and another thing to be able to use definite terms like the higher and lower Manas in defining this duality. We are then able to take the further step of conceiving of the higher Manas as being immortal. In conjunction with Buddhi and Atman, the sixth and seventh principles of the human septenate, it constitutes the reincarnating Ego; and this Ego takes to itself also the best part of the lower Manas -- or, in other words, the aroma of all that was best in the earth-lives.

For the Theosophist, the immortal Soul is not regarded as an affair of after-death exclusively, but as being existent all the time and therefore during life on earth. Hence, we have this source of light and power within us, and it is possible to invoke its aid -- which of course is done by purifying the nature from selfishness, passion, and other infirmities. The Truth does indeed make us free, as the gospel says; for, as shown above in the words of the philosopher, the moral man alone is free, being bound only by his conscience that interprets for him the law of his higher nature.


The Great Heresy of Separateness

By G. de Purucker

[From GOLDEN PRECEPTS, Chapter four.]

The Law of Laws of the universe is self-forgetfulness, not concentration of attention upon one's personal freedom, not even upon one's individuality. The primal law of the universe is living unto all things, not the doctrine that each must live for himself in order to develop for himself the spiritual powers within. The latter is true enough as a bald and imperfect statement; but it is also misleading, dangerous, unwise, and therefore unholy as a statement of esoteric training, unless properly qualified -- always qualified with the accompanying doctrine: Give up thy life if thou wouldst find it. Live to benefit mankind, for this is the first step.

The Great Heresy and the only real heresy is the idea that anything is separate, distinct, and different essentially, from other things. That is a wandering from natural fact and law, for Nature is nothing if not coordination, cooperation, mutual helpfulness; and the rule of fundamental unity is perfectly universal: everything in the Universe lives for everything else.

It is this sense of separateness that is the cause and root of all evil. It brings forth the craving for ME: I WANT, I AM, MINE. And it is the sense of personal separateness, imagining that one is utterly separate from all others, utterly different, that prevents one from becoming the god within. For by becoming that inner god you become consciously at one with the Universe of which you are a child, an inseparable part.

Selfishness is restrictive; it is the foundation of all degeneration, of all moral decay, of all mental and physical weakness; it is crippling; it binds you in and leaves you no room to expand and to grow. Selfishness is the root of evil and therefore of weakness of mind, of lack of faculty, of lack of power, of lack of judgment, of lack of discrimination, of lack of a feeling heart. Selfishness is therefore the fertile cause of all misfortune and pain.

Everything that cripples the native faculties of the human constitution arises out of selfishness. It brings about a deplorable and evil-working view restricted to your own little circle of thought. You are then imprisoned in your own selfishness, and therefore you are fearfully crippled in life's noblest battles. Selfishness makes you a prisoner -- and your prison is your lower self! There is a feeling of freedom, of true manhood, when you leave the prison of the lower self hood and feel your oneness with the All.

It is selfishness and ignorance that cause men to differ and quarrel among themselves; for in self-seeking men use the forces of Nature for personal and selfish ends -- sometimes deliberately, sometimes half-consciously. This is done by the free will, which is in itself, nevertheless, a divine power or quality.


We have wills; they are free. We are part of the energies of the Universe, for we are inseparable from it; we use our wills sometimes aright and sometimes awry; and when we use them aright we see the wondrous mysteries in the hearts and faces of our fellows and recognize greatness in their innermost being; for greatness is also in us, and greatness always recognizes greatness. When we use these forces wrongly, unrightly, or awry, we employ the colorless forces of the Universe, but do so evilly, seeking profit for self. Having free wills we use these energies; and we do it in ignorance of the law -- the law of Nature.

Ignorance is a bane to man. If we knew what we were doing; if we knew that we were throwing into disarray the forces of the Universe, arousing evil passions in ourselves and in other men; could we but realize this fundamental truth of Nature -- that all things have a common root in ceaseless peace and harmony -- no sane man would then tolerate discord and evil in himself but would work to enlighten and aid his brothers.

Ignorance is the greatest foe of man. And the fruits of ignorance are unhappiness, sorrow, pain, disease, and suffering.

Selfishness is ignoble. It is also very unwise because it cripples you, mires your feet in the slough of the lower selfhood. The road to success is the quenching of personality, the becoming impersonal, so that your feet are not mired by the mud of material existence. The Law is the same for all: Be impersonal, be self-forgetful!

A man who thinks of naught but self -- ME, MY plans, MY property, MY wishes, MY thoughts -- makes a perfect cocoon of imperfect and ugly selfhood around himself, through which nothing can shine. He builds an adamantine wall around him more hard and durable than steel.


We are surrounded by barriers of our own making, of our own construction, of our own thought-fabric; and our worst barriers are within us. As man's consciousness grows, it bursts the bonds hemming it in, breaks down the barriers preventing its expression, and the inner splendor shines forth.

Rigidity of thought, rigidity of opinions, are barriers to true spiritual progress, because they signify dogmatism, they signify the blinds of self-satisfaction; they actually mean, to change the metaphor, the closing of the doors of the mind to the entrance of a new truth, because men are never rigid and inelastic, so to say, in their souls; they are never rigid and inelastic in their minds UNLESS THEY ARE SELF-SATISFIED; and there is nothing that blinds one's inner vision so greatly to truth as does self-satisfaction. Remember also that most human beings are self-satisfied for a little while, but not for long.

On the contrary, an open mind, an eager intellect, the desire to have an unveiled spiritual perception, a readiness to receive truth and to give it to others from the full-flowing sympathy of one's own heart -- these, we have already seen, insure true spiritual progress and are thus the answering signs of some advancement along the pathway of spiritual evolution.

Avoid, therefore, rigidity. Let your mind be open; let your intellect be eager to seize any new aspect of truth that may present itself to you. An unveiled spiritual perception is merely the loss of personality in opinions, in views, and the loss of self-satisfaction. Seeing the impersonal: that is having an unveiled spiritual perception.

The main thing that closes the doors against the entrance of Light is the feeling that may be expressed in the words: "I have all that I need to know." This feeling arises out of pure egoism. The opposite is impersonal vision of spiritual truths working in your soul and thus molding it to receive impersonal, universal impressions.


Anything will aid you in your spiritual growth that will take you away from your animal-self, that will cause you to forget your personal being and take you out into the great breadth of Nature and give you thoughts of compassionate, impersonal service. What comfort, what hope, what solace, what peace, in forgetting oneself!

Anything that takes you away from yourself with its small circle of personal limitations, selfish ideas and idiosyncrasies, egoistic thoughts and emotions, into impersonal service, into tending something, mothering something if you like, in self-forgetful work for others, greatly helps you spiritually.

Tending a tree, tending a flower, looking after the interests of some human being, busy with your book, with your writing, with your machine, with your tools, whatever it may be: anything that will cause you to forget the personal self helps you in spiritual growth and self-forgetfulness. What reward comes to the man or woman who does this! That is the secret of the call of the religions. It enables a man or a woman to forget the lower personal self. And you can achieve exactly the same results by giving full field to the spiritual powers within your breast in any kind of impersonal work.


Sweet are the fruits of self-forgetfulness -- the complete oblivion of your personality in something so beautiful and impersonal that human tongue cannot describe it! For self-forgetfulness, pity, compassion, and peace are the fruits of the Cosmic Harmony, which is the very heart of the Universe. When you begin to realize this fact, then within your soul there begins the growth of something that cannot be expressed in words, but which is at once light and life and peace and wisdom and almighty Love -- impersonal, universal; so that everything that is, everywhere, has a fascination for you, for you love it.

And yet the whole exterior universe is but the garment or shadow of something invisible, of the inner Life, of which each human being, and indeed every entity, is an inseparable part; for all entities and things are rooted in this inner Life, and therefore whatever any one of us may do reacts with corresponding force upon all other entities and things.

Each one is his brother's keeper. We are all inseparably bound together by unbreakable bonds of origin and of destiny. Fundamentally, we are all one. Every son of man is the keeper of his brothers, in the sense that he acts upon them, and their minds and hearts react against what he says to them. And his responsibility becomes consciously, self-consciously, the heavier just in proportion as his own evolution is the more advanced.

We make ourselves to be exactly what we are; and we are, at the same time, our brothers' keepers, because each one of us, EACH ONE OF US, is responsible for an aeonic chain of causation. There is law in this Universe; things are not ruled by chance; and a man cannot think, speak, or act without affecting other beings, to their weal or to their woe.


Sow an act, and you will reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you will reap a destiny, because habits build character. This is the sequence: an act, a habit, a character, and a destiny. You are the creator of yourself. What you make yourself to be now, you will be in the future. What you are now is precisely what you have made yourself to be in the past. What you sow you shall reap.

If you sow for yourself, for purely selfish ends only, you will reap accordingly. The man who has such small love for the intrinsic beauty of right action as to say to himself: I am going to be good merely in order that I shall get something: a better fortune, a better future, a better body: has his good sowing already spoiled with a whole handful of tares -- his selfish desire. There is nothing so belittling as personality, nothing will so diminish your soul in its strength as concentration on your own selfish personal affairs, and a forgetting of the welfare of others.

The man who thinks of others before himself is already great. The man who gives up his life that others may live is already great. The man who forgets himself in impersonal service to humanity is the greatest of all; and such a man reaps a destiny -- because he has built a corresponding character -- which is godlike.


Nature demands of all human beings cooperation, brotherhood, kindly feeling, love, self-forgetfulness, working for others. The selfish man or woman always, sooner or later, goes to the wall. The wicked may flourish like the green bay-tree for a little while, but not for long.

Selfishness is shriveling; it means cold, it means the opposite of the expansive, warm power of love. The human being who seeks self-preferment unremittingly, without surcease, ends in that far-distant country of the 'Mystic West,' the Land of Forgotten Hopes, the land of spiritual decay; for Nature will have none of him for long. He has set his puny, undeveloped will against the mighty currents of the Cosmos, and sooner or later he is washed onto some sandbank of the River of Life, where he decays. Nature will not tolerate persistent and inveterate selfishness.

Look at a tree. Look at our bodies. Each is built up of hosts of minor things, of minor entities, all working together and composing one thing, in which they all live and move and have their being; and therein they partake of the common life.

When a man acts harmoniously he acts in accordance with the universal scheme and law; and harmony in consciousness and thought and therefore in action is what men understand by the term ETHICS. Ethics are not a convention; morals are not a convention; they are rooted in the harmony, in the central laws, of Being; they are based on the very structural harmony of the Universe.

This instinct of ethics springs out from within your inner constitution. It comes forth from your spiritual being recognizing harmony, order, the stateliness and majesty of beauty -- beauty in thought, beauty in aspiration and feeling, beauty in action.

Knowledge is of loving deeds the child. This is one of the most sublime of truths. Of the mysteries, of the higher mysteries, you can not have knowledge timeless your heart is filled with love and overflowing with it; and knowledge comes from the exercise of the spiritual powers within you. This exercise is most easily achieved in doing deeds of loving kindness, in feeling and practicing brotherhood, in helping others and sharing with them the blessings that you have.

Oh, how noble it is, how grand it is, for men to feel their common kinship with each other, to feel almighty Love stirring in the heart, to sense the feeling of our common brotherhood, and to live to benefit mankind!


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