The very inaccessibility of the Masters is an advantage to all those who wish to acquire knowledge, because in the effort to come near them, to get any communion with them, one insensibly prepares in himself the conditions of spiritual growth, and it is when we are thrown upon our own resources that we are enabled to bring out the powers latent in our characters.
-- Henry S. Olcott, OLD DIARY LEAVES, page 320
By Christmas Humphreys
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, July 1932, pages 76-77.]
From every child of earth a pleading cry, The ceaseless burden of our conscious need, Uprises to the graven Gods to feed The hunger of our insufficiency. And they, responsive to our proven will, Furnish a Heaven sumptuously endued With all imaginable plenitude Wherein the soul may joyfully fulfill Life's unattained dreams.
For here Delight Dwells perfected, and Beauty's self unveiled, And all the distant dim Ideals that failed In their fulfillment; Wrong is merged in Right, And Purity, new purged of every stain Irradiates the heart, and here the Truth Bereft of error, smiles on Love and Youth In perfect bliss united once again.
There is a nobler Heaven. There are those More gloriously horizoned, who enview Their own Reality, a land anew, Unvisioned to the eye, where joys and woes Alike are sepulchered. Here Life is Death, And Death, Life's other hand, and here the night, Conceived of darkness, falls upon the sight As day. Here dwell no far extremes, no breath Of cool comparison, where every sound Indrawn to silence, knows no echoing And every virtue stands with folded wing And evil for its heart. Here truth is drowned In falsehood and the false is true, and there The face of love is curtained with disdain, The while the pendulum of pleasure-pain Falls drowsily to rest, and every pair Is blended in the arms of unity.
Yet this is not the end, the final goal. What of the Self, the quintessential Whole, The Emptiness that is alone Reality? Here only in the silence dwells the Word, The potency of Life, for here alone The Namelessness, the womb of all things known, Rests on the wings of the Immortal Bird. Here nothing is, nor is not, nor the face Of change; nor time is here, nor timelessness. Here only is a Circle centerless, A rhythmic breathing in the heart of Space.
Here dwells the virgin Be-ness unalloyed Which only those can see whose eyes are blind; Here only dwells the Essence of Pure Mind, The all-pervading Perfume of the Void.
By G. de Purucker
[From STUDIES IN OCCULT PHILOSOPHY, pages 302-5.]
For countless generations hath the adept built a fane of imperishable rocks, a giant's Tower of INFINITE THOUGHT, wherein the Titan dwelt, and will yet, if need be, dwell alone, emerging from it but at the end of every cycle, to invite the elect of mankind to cooperate with him and help in his turn enlighten superstitious man. And we will go on in that periodical work of ours; we will not allow ourselves to be baffled in our philanthropic attempts until that day when the foundations of a new continent of thought are so firmly built that no amount of opposition and ignorant malice guided by the Brethren of the Shadow will be found to prevail.
-- THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, Letter IX, page 51
These are the words of a Master of Wisdom, and I want you to hearken to them and try to get the inner meaning of them, for they are really godlike. A great intellect composed them.
What is this Tower of Infinite Thought? It is the general Cosmic Intelligence, here particularized as the hierarchies of the Dhyani-Chohans, the Cosmic Spirits, the Lords of Meditation and Cosmic Wisdom. We call them the hierarchies of the Sons of Light, representing the consciousness-side of the universe. They are innumerable, extending from even below man up through countless hierarchies, stretching indeed to Infinity.
This is the Tower of Infinite Thought, in which the cosmic Titans dwell and think and live and plan. These cosmic Titans are the aggregate of the cosmic logoi, the cosmic spirits, an army of the suns of light and life. And from this inexhaustible fount of all perfect wisdom and perfect love, from time to time there issue forth great souls who take embodiment among men, and guide and lead and help and aid and inspire, and raise not only us superstitious and fallible men, but all beings less than they, for Nature is one organic unity.
What is above in the highest is shadowed in the lowest, for there is but one cosmic law, because there is but one cosmic intelligence and one cosmic life; and therefore that law, that life, that intelligence, prevails throughout. So that, as you see, what is here below, is but a shadow or a copy from a pattern of what is above; and the whole secret of life, and the whole secret of living, is to become at one in consciousness and in feeling, in spirit and in soul, with that pattern of Infinite Thought.
No grander words I should think have ever issued from human lips. No more sublime conceptions have ever been penned, than those contained in the extracts from the Master's communication that have been read to you. They are a new gospel of thought and of love, a new dispensation of human effort; and a man must be blind who fails to sense and to feel the immense import, the grand content, enwrapped in these human words.
When the times are not propitious, or the times are not right, then the adepts -- never indeed abandon mankind to its hopeless fate; there remain on earth at least the Brotherhood of the Mahatmas or Masters of Wisdom and Compassion. They inspire and instill intimations of wonder and of grandeur in sensitive and receptive human souls. But if the times are not right for a larger spreading of the Wisdom of the Gods, then for the time being they retire upwards and inwards into this Tower of Infinite Thought, and await there until the time is ripening once more so that they may once again work publicly, or semi-publicly, among us.
We too, even now in our smallness and weakness, inhabit this Tower of Infinite Thought. And precisely as the Masters do when the times are not propitious or not ripe for a new installment of the God-Wisdom of Infinitude, we too, although our hand is always outstretched ready to impart what little we ourselves have taken by strength of the Kingdom of Heaven, when the times are not ripe, precisely like our own Teachers, we retire into the higher consciousness, and to outward appearance may seem to have retired into silence and quiet. But that only so to the outer seems.
The Masters of Wisdom, the Adepts, simply retire when the times are not ripe for them to do their greatest work among men. They do what they can, and what human karma or destiny will allow them to do; but to a certain extent, they ascend, vanish from the outer seeming, to become only the more active and the grander in works of beneficence on the inner planes. And when the times become ripe, when men through suffering and sorrow, pain and racking care, once more find their hearts yearning for a greater light, and for the comfort that is never gained by egoisms, but given only by the spirit -- when men then make the inner call, soundless yet ringing unto the very spheres of light, then Those, hitherto silent but watching and waiting in the Tower of Infinite Thought, from their azure thrones, so to speak, bend a listening ear; and if the call is strong enough, if it be pure enough, impersonal enough, they leave the portals of the inner invisible realms to enter these portals of our universe, and appear amongst us and guide and teach and comfort and solace and bring peace.
How great is the inspiration to be derived from this teaching of the God-Wisdom that we today call Theosophy: that the universe is not chaotic nor insane, but is an organism guided and controlled from within outwards, not only by infinite and omniscient cosmic intelligence -- intelligences rather -- but also by cosmic love. For love is the cement of the universe and accounts for the orderliness of the universe, and its harmony and unity that everyone who has the Seeing Eye may discern in all around him. Scientists speak of this orderliness as the laws of nature, as manifested in the cosmic bodies and their inhabitants, as manifested in their times and places and regularities.
How wonderful likewise is the feeling that the man who trains himself for it may enter into touch, into communication, with these grander ones in evolution above him, above him only now, because some day he shall evolve to become like unto them, divine as they are; and they themselves shall have passed upwards and onwards to divinities still more remote to us. There is a path that is steep, which is thorny, but it leads to the very heart of the universe.
Anyone, any child of nature, may climb this path. Anyone who ventures to try to find it may take the first steps upon it; and these first steps may be followed by others. What a blessing to know this! What an inspiration for the future that our destiny lies in our hands! Naught shall stay, naught can prevent, and neither outer god nor inner can stem the inspiration welling up from the deepest recesses of the human spirit, because that human spirit is but a spark of the cosmic divine.
How beautiful, how inspiring, how simply pregnant with as yet undisclosed significance, is this phrase: the Tower of Infinite Thought! It is a god-like phrase, and only a semi-god-man or a god-man could have so worded his sublime conceiving. What magic vistas of inner realms of fairy, true fairy, do these wonderful words suggest to reverent minds? This Tower of Infinite Thought is likewise the Tower of Infinite Love, for it is infilled with love, and its inhabitants are the exponents of love.
From time to time, its portals open and Teachers from these inner realms come amongst us. Such was the Lord Gautama, the Buddha; such was the Avatar Jesus; such was Krishna; such were a multitude of others whose names are known even in the Occident to every educated man. No wonder a grateful humanity has called them Sons of God, or children of the gods -- a phrase that I prefer; for such indeed they are, just as we humans likewise are offsprings of the gods, our forebears and forerunners on the evolutionary path, leading upwards and inwards forever to divinity.
These Teachers of men have themselves been worshiped as gods by men who forgot the injunctions to take the message and worship it, but not to worship the bringer. Therein is found grandeur; for it is, after all, the thought of a man whom is powerful, not the mouth through which the thought pours forth. It is the love in a man's heart that makes him sublime, not the mouth that declares it. I think that one of the proofs that these Great Ones who have lived amongst us and who will come again and again and again -- I think one of the proofs of their divinity is precisely the fact that they accepted naught for themselves, but called attention to their teachings only.
How beautiful to the hearts of men are they that come bringing tidings of great joy. Their faces are suffused with the dawn of a newer, a grander, and a more beautiful age. For they are its prophets and its heralds, harbingers of a new time to come, when instead of enlarging quarrel and war, men shall learn that the ways of peace are the ways of strength and of power and of wisdom and of plenty and of riches.
By K.J. Fielding
[From THE ARYAN PATH, May 1962, pages 210-14.]
In his own day, Dickens was more than once denounced as the sort of man to whom religion is "a system of mild and sentimental prettiness." Much more recently there have been critics who have repeated that he used religion as a form of emotional self-indulgence, and that he "had absolutely no conception of sanctity." It has been said that his own faith was both cut off from tradition and lacking in consistency. Yet this would never have been recognized by Dickens himself; it is strongly contradicted by the experience of many who read him; and though it may be that there is sometimes a certain technical superficiality in his art as a novelist in expressing his faith, it is evident that he came to have a deeper concern with the spiritual view of life than many of his more critical readers allow.
It is a concern that deepened with experience; yet just because he was not communicative about his inner life, this is something that has seldom been recognized. Biographers are rather naturally attracted by the outward incidents of his private life, his public appearances, and his separation from his wife and love for another woman. His own concern with these things, as Dickens recognized, was bound up with the nature of his life as a writer of fiction who perpetually seeks "realities in unrealities," and whose mind finds a "dangerous comfort in the perpetual escape from the disappointment of heart around it." But he was never a superficial writer, and as he passed his fortieth year, the very practice of his art as a novelist led him to become more and more concerned with the nature of personality and the purpose of life.
It began to show in BLEAK HOUSE, which in one way can be read (like all his novels) as a satire on his times, and in another way as the writer's vision of a world that is purposeless, disordered, and ugly. Only in connection with its central character who tells the story, the young girl Esther Summerson, are we given glimpses of a beneficent world in which prayer may bring strength from a Providence that has not entirely deserted Man. For others, clarification comes only at the point of their leaving life: Richard Carstone sees his mistakes and understands that his life has been "a troubled dream."
It is only at the death of Jo the crossing-sweeper that light breaks at last (says Dickens) "upon that dark benighted way." Yet, even in BLEAK HOUSE, we are left with the impression of a fictional world, the apparent realities of which seem very different to different men; and its author-creator does not finally commit himself as agreeing that the true view of this world is necessarily the one taken by those of his characters who have most faith.
BLEAK HOUSE was followed by HARD TIMES. This was, again, closely concerned with contemporary happenings. Yet the essence of the novel is not simply the contrast depicted between the soulless and soul-destroying industrial world of Coketown and any society in which men are bound together by respect and affection. Though this was what Dickens wrote of best, the message of his novel is also partly conveyed in the words of the wronged and self-sacrificing Stephen Blackpool, who dies gazing at a star that he thinks of as the same as the one that guided the wise men to the birthplace of Christ, and who dies praying that all men in the world may come together at last and understand each other better.
Even so, it might not be unreasonable to suggest that in such accounts as the death of Jo in BLEAK HOUSE or of Stephen Blackpool in HARD TIMES, Dickens was simply giving his public what it wanted, not what he genuinely believed. Against this must be set the fact that this strain in his novels continued to deepen, and that we happen to know from notes and jottings he made in preparation for his next book that he was thinking of it more and more. For it was just at this time that he began keeping a notebook in which one can trace his preoccupation with the themes that he was to take up in his next novel, LITTLE DORRIT.
A few entries in the notebook seem to reflect what he had come to think of as his own predicament: he thinks of himself as,
[The man] always, as it were, playing hide-and-seek with the world and never finding what Fortune seems to have hidden when he was born;
And he writes of
The man who is incapable of his own happiness. Or who is always in pursuit of happiness. Result, where is happiness to be found then. Surely not everywhere? ... Is THIS my experience?
He was anxious to escape from self-preoccupation or attachment, and writes with contempt of
the man whose vista is always stopped up by the image of Himself ... Looks down a long walk and can't see round himself ... Would be such a good thing for him, if he could knock himself down.
He dreams of a novel he might write called "Time" or "The Great Wheel," or "Fallen Leaves"; and he seems to contrast himself with the figure of the Ferryman on "a peaceful river," who never leaves his post but grows old by the unchanging river, while "the same tune is played by the rippling water against the prow." Such thoughts as these were closely linked with his next work.
Everyone who reads LITTLE DORRIT recognizes that the central theme of the novel is imprisonment. The central character is a young woman born in a prison to which her ruined father had been consigned for debt. She knows no other life, but remains unspoilt by this. He, on the other hand, adopts a new way of life in prison, and becomes morally as well as financially bankrupt. Even when wealth comes to the old man and he is released from prison, he is never spiritually free. We are shown, moreover, that he comes out into a world in which politics, society, finance, and even religion are all part of the prison that men make for themselves. Two of the chief characters are Miss Wade, a "self-tormentor," who is bound within a tight circle of hatred for herself and everyone else, and Mrs. Clennam, who has shut herself up in one room -- for more than twenty years -- and has confined herself to a faith dominated by a belief in punishment.
So far, one might read all this only as if it were another of Dickens's novels in which he questions the values of contemporary society and shows his scorn for all who turn themselves away from "the light of day" and "a thousand natural and healing influences." Yet it is not simply left to the reader to allegorize the story, or to try to read into it, bearing Dickens's notebook jottings in mind. Explicitly as can be, Dickens says at one point (Part II, Ch. 30) that as the rising sun slants its "long bright rays" across the awakening city, they were "bars of the prison of this lower world." There is another world, in other words, but in this one we are shut out from it even by the brightness of the sun. Dickens's "shades of the prison house" were thus conceived by him as of the same kind as in Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality."
Read in this way, the toil of the world as shown in the working of the government Circumlocution Office, the suffering we see in Bleeding Heart Yard, and the strange passing and repassing of the numerous characters who are "restless travelers on the pilgrimage of life" that are duly contracted with the foreshadowed scene at the ferry, all have a new and deeper significance. It is by the ferry that Clennam has a vision of the meeting of the two worlds, "fraught with solemn mystery of life and death," and sees that as "between the real landscape and its shadow in the water, there was no division." It is only as old Dorrit dies that we see the two worlds meet again.
[As] quietly, quietly, the ruled and cross-ruled countenance ... became fair and blank. Quietly, quietly, the reflected marks of the prison bars and of the zigzag iron on the wall-top, faded away.
For years the old man has selfishly sacrificed his daughter, Little Dorrit, and scorned his broken but patient brother. That night, the brother also dies, after blessing his niece; and the two brothers are then "before their Father; far beyond the twilight judgments of this world; high above its mists and obscurities."
These were not entirely new themes and insights for Dickens, but they had come more to take the central place in his novels. As he grew older, he had come to have a greater sense of eternity on looking back in time. So now, Dickens turned to another idea prefigured in his notebook -- a novel that might have been called TIME (as he proposed) instead of A TALE OF TWO CITIES (as it became), and that has as a central character the person he forenamed in his notes as "Memory Carton."
A TALE OF TWO CITIES is the story of two men, Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay, who are associated only by chance but who happen to be astonishingly alike. Beneath the surface they appear to differ chiefly in that each shows the other what (under different circumstances, either for good or for evil) he might have become. They both love Lucy Manette. Once again, images of prison-life dominate the novel. Lucy's father has been shut in the Bastille for half his life; and her husband is saved from imprisonment and execution only by the intervention and self-sacrifice of Sidney Carton, who takes his place at the guillotine.
It is not a mere melodrama, as it has become on the stage and screen; for running through the whole of the latter part of the book are references and phrases recalling the reader to thoughts of the resurrection and to understanding that the sacrifice that had been shown to be made by Little Dorrit in serving her father might become a demand for the sacrifice of life itself. At death, Carton too has a vision of the man and woman for whose peace he has died, as they may be when they come to die themselves, and he knows that each will not be "more honored and held sacred in the other's soul, than I was in the souls of both."
It is a work with a richer and more intricate meaning than can easily be shown or seen; and so too is the novel that follows, GREAT EXPECTATIONS. This is the story of a boy who befriends an escaped convict, and who is aghast to discover (many years later) that it is the convict who has been his lifelong, secret benefactor. As in the other novels, a truer understanding of himself, and of Magwitch the convict, comes only when the latter dies in the prison hospital, clasping the young man's hand. It is his final release.
Similar themes inform his two last novels, OUR MUTUAL FRIEND and the unfinished MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD. They seem to have been forced into Dickens's consciousness by dissatisfaction with all the circumstances of his life at the very height of his success: it was then that he wrote to a friend that "Nothing can put THEM right until we are all dead, buried, and risen." Such efforts as he made were, in fact, unsuccessful. But, in publicly pleading the cause of his art, in 1858, he spoke in words that can justly he applied to his own work as a novelist:
Knowledge [he said], as all followers of it must know, has a very limited power indeed when it informs the head alone; but when it informs the head and heart too, it has power over life and death, the body and the soul, and dominates the universe.
By S.W. Stanley
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1927, pages 169-72.]
A white bird fluttered from the outer darkness into a brightly lighted room. It hovered a few moments in the dazzling light, then with quivering silver wings, it turned and vanished into the night.
Hardly less brief a spell on earth is ours than is this momentary hovering; as brief in the relation of the known to the unknown, and as dazzling in the change from darkness to the light of birth, and from the light again to the darkness of death; a few short years of noise and effort, and then the great and all-embracing Silence.
Such an inexplicable prolog to an endless vista of subsequent bodiless inactivity would seem wanton and without meaning if this were indeed the only life of a man on earth. Thrown amid the marvels of nature on this wonderful planet, given merely seventy to eighty years in which to know it all! Well, reptiles live longer!
The whence and whither of the surviving part of a man seems to be ordinarily of less real consideration to him than are the needs of his mere body in life. This, of course, is 'natural,' as the physical faculties serve to rivet the attention to the environment.
In her material aspect alone, the fraction known by us about Nature is admittedly greatly less than the unknown; the difference being even greater on leaving behind the mortal, and approaching the immortal aspects of consciousness, soul, and spirit.
"Has life any purpose at all," asks the ignorant but truth-hungry wayfarer.
"Can it be demonstrated," counters science.
"If not, then we had better not speculate," and orthodox religion raises a forbidding hand.
Never obvious, it needed seeking; a mystery -- yes. Yet there are those always ready to enlighten the seeker. Such a precious and beautiful thing may not be exposed to ill usage and abuse at the hands of the profane.
For many people, Jesus Christ was a very real man and bore a very real message; Gautama-Buddha is real indeed to the millions in the East who make his ethics the mainspring of their lives. There are, of course, other men and women with characters of outstanding compassion and power -- characters that gleam like first-magnitude stars in the firmament of the world's history.
In the eyes of Theosophists, these rare and noble souls were one and all bearers to humanity of the Wisdom that would make men free. They gave their all, they gave their lives, and they sacrificed their bodies on the altar of their heroic endeavor. They were reviled; they often suffered every conceivable indignity and persecution yet did not draw back. Their selfless love for humanity carried them through all that men could do to them, and the Message was given. History repeats itself down to our own day.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the bearer of the Secret Knowledge of the archaic ages to the western world, under the name of Theosophy, shared the fate of her predecessors. Her mantle fell on W.Q. Judge, who bore it nobly until moral persecution brought his early death. Thence in a direct line has the duty of keeping alive the precious flame of truth descended to Katherine Tingley, the guardian and teacher of the present day.
Thus the heroic struggle goes on, and on, throughout the ages. When the light burns dim and moral and spiritual darkness threaten the world, a Teacher arises to hold the light high. After many ages, it sinks again, and then again arises one who bears it courageously in sight of all. Such were today our three Leaders, H.P. Blavatsky, W.Q. Judge, and now Katherine Tingley, and their message, even as was Jesus Christ's, is human brotherhood, universal love, and the Ancient Wisdom.
This is a message which involves the whole life, as a moment's consideration must show. It is worthless if but the mere stringing together of words; there is little more virtue in a beautiful tenet than in a bag of wind, unless it is LIVED; mere ideals without action cut no paths through the jungle of life. But regarded as laws of conduct, the Theosophical teachings are priceless.
There are those who deny any purpose in existence, who hold the Universe and the wonders of Nature to be of unknowable origin and the sport, merely, of chance, and that no beneficent and just law governs human life. In the hearts of such, the verities of Theosophy will hardly find responsive echo, and to them life must prove a meaningless affliction, or a selfish indulgence. Theosophy throws an all-penetrating light into this spiritual obscurity. Putting the nightmare-dream of chance aside, it declares and proves the whole orchestration of being to be under the direction of unalterable spiritual laws.
This speck of cosmic dust that we call Earth is but a mere point in the framework of Being. Astronomically, in this sense, we are almost negligible; similarly, our very solar system is negligible. Is it conceivable that Space ends with the limit of vision of our telescopes?
It is known that inviolable processes called laws govern the movements of the planets around the sun and of the solar family around its greater sun; and imagination allied with logic conceives a yet mightier spatial center with the greater sun as its satellite.
Where is the evidence of chance here? And is the evidence less, for example, in the rhythmic birth, growth, and propagation of a simple plant? The alternation of night and day; of the seasons; the rise and fall of nations, and much more: -- can sanity attribute it all to accident? Where then is the bar to the acceptance of an equally profound and powerful purpose in human life?
Viewed in the larger sense, is there anything more outstandingly improbable in the rhythmic return again and again of a human soul to earth-life, after alternating periods of sleep known to us as death, than in the ordered swinging of the earth in its orbit round the sun, and the inevitable alternation of night and day? Is, for instance, the concept of individual human responsibility for individual actions, and the subsequent balance of effect with cause, incompatible with the perfect balance preserved in Nature, if one thinks of oneself as part of nature's great plan, as one logically must think? These are two of the cornerstone teachings of Theosophy. The first is Reincarnation; the second is Karma.
A third concept, and foremost, is that of the essential divinity of man who is the hub on Earth of this majestic cycle of cosmic life.
Could the planets wheel so unerringly about the Sun haphazard and without a reason? Man, the thinker, is inescapably involved in that reason, for he is an intrinsic part of it. Back must he come to this sorrowing earth, in a new garb of flesh and with a new stock of life, again and again, until he has purged it of its foulness and made it clean and sweet. Until the poison of hatred and fear and greed is burnt out of his heart by the kindled fire of his own essential godhood, and he comes to regard all his fellowmen as truly his brothers, spiritual co-rays of the Universal Life.
The pilgrimage into incarnation must go on until man has repaid to the uttermost farthing the debts in thought and word and act incurred in previous lives, restoring the balance disturbed by himself. This would seem to be the greater justice, the only justice.
In the depths of the spiritual consciousness of man is stored the wisdom that he needs, the fruit of former lives, his birthright.
If you seek the purpose of life, look well and truly into the secret places of the heart. Tune the life to a spiritually constructive note and live as becomes an essentially Divine Being, a potential Master of Nature and arbiter of his own destiny.
By William Q. Judge
[A paper read before the Aryan Theosophical Society, June 6, 1890, later published in ECHOES OF THE ORIENT, III, pages 80-86.]
This sentence in THE BHAGAVAD GITA [VI, 5] has been often passed over as being either meaningless or mysterious; on one hand worthless to consider, and on the other hand impossible. Some students have, however, made good use of the teaching contained in it. It is a verse that bears directly upon Theosophy as applied to our daily life, and therefore may well be scrutinized tonight.
It indicates two selves, one the enemy and also the friend of the other. Evidently, without the suggestions found in Theosophy, two selves in one person cannot seem otherwise than meaningless, except in those cases, admitted by Science, where there is an aberration of the intellect, where one lobe of the brain refuses to work with the other, or where there is some cerebral derangement. But after a little study of the constitution of man -- material and spiritual -- as we find it outlined in the Wisdom-Religion, we easily see that the higher and the lower self are meant.
The next injunction, to "raise the self by the self," clearly points to this; for, as a thing cannot raise itself without a fulcrum, the self that will raise us must be the higher one, and that which is to be raised is the lower.
In order to accomplish this task, we must gain an acquaintance with the self that is to be raised. The greater and more accurate that acquaintance is the quicker the work will proceed of elevating the being who attempts it.
Let us for a moment look at the obstacles in the way, the reasons why, with so many, their understanding of themselves is so plainly deficient.
Everyone knows that he can see the defects in the actions and character of other men better than his own. Some, of course, there are who do not allow that they have defects.
St. James says that a man looketh in a glass and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he is. While I have often doubted this, yet it is true in respect to that looking-glass that is often by others held up to us to see ourselves in. We see for a moment our appearance, and then forget it.
There are some things, however, as to which it is often impossible for us to know ourselves. Such of our tones as are harsh or disagreeable we often cannot hear as others do. There is hardly anything so difficult as to really hear our own voice in its entirety of tone and accent. We are so accustomed to it that we cannot tell whether it be pleasing or repellent, musical or discordant. We have to rely upon the statements of those who hear it.
I doubt seriously if anyone can ever fully hear, in the way those to whom we speak do, the tones of his voice, because it is conveyed to us not only through the medium of the outer ear that receives the vibrations made without us, but we receive it in addition through the vibrations made within all through the skull, and hence it must ever be a different voice for ourselves. So it would not be profitable to pay too much attention to the sound of our voice if we do so to the exclusion of that inner attitude that nearly always determines the tone in which we speak; for if our feelings be kind and charitable, it is more than likely that the vocal expression of them will correspond. The cultivation of the voice, so far as it is possible, can safely be left to those teachers who aim to soften and polish it.
By taking a few examples from among the many about us and assuming that they represent possible defects and peculiarities of our own, we may arrive at something useful in our Theosophical life.
Here is one who will constantly tell you that several others are always very fond of talking of themselves and their affairs, and appear to take no interest in the conversation unless it has them for center. And after thus depicting the failing of the others, this person -- man or woman -- immediately proceeds to show that that is his own particular fault, for from that moment the burden of the conversation is "I" or "my" affairs.
Our next subject is one who talks a great deal about altruism and brotherhood, but would not give a dollar to any good cause. Not perhaps from intentional niggardliness, but from sheer habit of not giving and not helping.
Here is another who exemplifies the prominent defect of the century, inattention. He listens to you, but only hears a part, and then, when repeating what he says he heard you say, he gives a version entirely at variance with yours. Or, listening to an argument or discussion, he only attends to that part that being familiar to him strikes him favorably.
Next we have the bigot who, while exalting freedom of thought and the unity of all men, displays most frightful bigotry.
Then there is another who illustrates a variety of the first to which I referred; -- the man who wishes apparently only to impose his own views upon you, and is careless about knowing what your opinions may be.
Here is the partisan who favors such a school or set. Nothing can be said against them, no defect may be pointed out. Partisanship clouds it all.
Now all of these are only samples; but in some degree every one of us has them all, perhaps slightly, but still there. They are all the result of the predominance of the lower self, for they all show a disposition to put the personal "I" to the front. They are the present triumph of the lower self over the efforts of the higher. They may be abated in some degree by attention to their outer expression, but no real progress will be gained unless work upon the hidden plane is begun.
Such a defect as that one of not listening long to another man's views, but hurrying to tell him what you think yourself, is one that affects the acquiring of new ideas. If you constantly tell others what you think, you are gaining nothing. For your experience and views are your own, well known to you. The repeated expression of them only serves to imprint them more strongly on your mind. You do not receive any of the new lights that other minds might cast upon your philosophy if you gave them the opportunity.
There are other factors in our constitution that are powerful for the production of faults. Every man has two lines of descent. One is that which comes through his parents and has to do with his mental and physical make-up. This line may run back into the most strange and peculiar places, and be found winding in and out among manners and minds not suspected by us. Suppose your physical line of descent comes through Danes or Norwegians and mine through the French. There will be to some extent a want of sympathy and appreciation on the mental plane between us. Of course this effect will not be apparent if the period of time is long since our blood ran in those bodies, but still there will be left some trace of it. There will be a tendency always for the physical, including the brain, to show the characteristics that result from the preponderance of inherited faculties and dispositions. These characteristics belong wholly to the physical plane, and are carried down from the centuries past by inheritance, affecting the particular body you may inhabit in any one incarnation. It is your Karma to have that sort of physical environment about your inner self.
Now the obstacles to the perception of truth and to the acquirement of knowledge of self that are in consequence of the physical inheritance are difficult to perceive, involving much study and self-examination for bringing them to light. But they are there, and the serious Theosophist will search for them. These differences in the physical body, which we will call for the time differences in inheritance, are of the highest importance. They resemble the differences between telescopes or microscopes made by different opticians, and tend to cause us to see truth clearly or blurred, or surrounded by many-colored mists. What we most desire to have is a mental telescope that is not only powerful, but also devoid of the colors that achromatic quality only will dispel.
The second line of descent is that one that belongs purely to the inner man; that is, the psychical line. It is obscure, and, indeed, can only be discovered and defined by an adept or a trained seer whose clairvoyance permits him to see that intangible yet powerful thread that has so much to do with our character. It is just as important as the physical descent, in fact more so, because it has to do with the ever-living man, whereas the physical tenement is selected by or follows upon the actions that the inner man compelled the former body to perform. So it may be altered at any time with ease if we live in obedience to the higher law.
Passing from the broad line of descent in a nation, we find each individual governed also by the family peculiarities and faults, and they are not as easy to define as those that are national, since few men are in possession of any facts sufficient to ascertain the general family tendencies.
Coming down now to us, it is almost axiomatic that each one's mind acts in a way PECULIAR TO ITSELF. There is a tendency that daily grows stronger after our earlier years for the mind to get into a rut, its own rut or mode of looking at things and ideas. This is of great importance. For the man who has freed his mind so that it is capable of easily entering into the methods of other minds is more likely to see truth quicker than he who is fixed in his own ways.
We must then at once constitute ourselves our own critics and adversaries, for it is not often that anyone else is either willing or capable to take that part for us.
Our first step and the most difficult -- for some, indeed, impossible -- is to shock ourselves in such a manner that we may quickly be able to get out of, or rather understand, our own mental methods. I do not mean that we must abandon all our previous training and education, but that we shall so analyze all our mental operations as to know with certainty, to easily perceive, the actual difference in method between ourselves and any other person. This is a thing seldom undertaken or accomplished by men nowadays. Each one is enamored of his mental habits, and disinclined to admit that any other one can be better. When we have become acquainted with this mental path of ours, we are then in position to see whether in any particular case our view is false.
This is the psychological and metaphysical equivalent of that scientific process that classifies and compares so as to arrive at distinguishing differences in things in order that physical laws may be discovered. For while we remain in ignorance of the method and path of our mind's action, there is no way in which we can compare with other minds. We can compare views and opinions, but not the actual mechanics of the thought. We can hear doctrines, but are unable to say whether we accept or reject from right reasoning or because our peculiar slant on the mental plane compels us to ratiocinate wholly in accordance with a mental obliquity acquired by many years of hurried life.
The value of thus understanding our own mental bias so that we can give it up at will and enter into the bias of another's mind is seen when we consider that each of us is able to perceive but one of the many sides that truth presents. If we remain in the rut that is natural, we pass through an entire life viewing nature and the field of thought through but one sort of instrument. But by the other practice we may obtain as many different views of truth as the number of the minds we meet. When another human being brings his thoughts before us, we may not only examine them in our way, but also take his method, and adopting his bias for the time as our own, we see just that much more.
It is very easy to illustrate this from ordinary life. The novelist sees in the drawing-rooms of society and the hovels of the poor only the material that may serve as the basis for a new book, while the social schemer drives thought of hovels away and sees in society only the means of gratifying pride and ambition, yet the artist can only think of the play of color and arrangement of figures, the harmony that delights his artistic sense.
The plain man of affairs is not attracted by the complex events of every day that have no relation to his business, whereas the student of Occultism knows that very obscure events point to other things yet in the future. In every stratum of society and every art or profession, we constantly have it brought home to us that each man looks at any subject from but one or two standpoints, and when a well-balanced mind is found looking at events and men and thoughts freely from all sides, everyone sees at once a superiority in the person, albeit they may not be able to explain it.
But it is in Theosophical study especially that it is wise for us to constitute ourselves our own critics and to adopt as far as possible the practice of leaving our own mental road and taking up some other. The truth is simple and not so difficult to arrive at if we will follow the advice of the Hindu Upanishad and cut away error. Error grows largely out of notions and preconceptions educated into us by our teachers and our lives.
The influence of these preconceptions is seen every day among those Theosophists who are seeking for more books to read upon Theosophy. Their minds are so full of old notions that are not violently expelled, that truth cannot be easily perceived. But if they read fewer new books and spent more time in re-reading those first attempted, meanwhile studiously endeavoring to enter into all of the author's thought, much more progress would be gained.
Take for instance THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY. It is full of all the main doctrines of the Wisdom-Religion, and of hints towards others. Many persons have read the book and then sought another. They say that they have mastered it. Yet if you put to them some questions or listen to their own, it is apparent that only that part of the work that in some way coincides with their own previous training and line of thought has been grasped.
Now this is just the part they need not have dwelt upon, because, being like to themselves, it may at any time be understood. But if one will ever stand as one's own critic, then those parts that seem obscure will be attacked, and being viewed from all sides, may be soon turned into a possession. And just because such has not been the practice, it has come to be the fact that some extremely valuable presentations of doctrine and philosophy remain buried in earlier Theosophical books and magazines, while those who once read them have gone feverishly on to other works and forgotten that which might have enlightened them.
The Theosophist who delights to call himself practical and logical, an abhorrer of mysticism, should try to see what the mystical Theosophist means, and the mystic one should read carefully the words of the practical member to the end that he may counterbalance himself. A wholly practical or entirely mystical mind is not well balanced. And as long as the logical and practical man in our ranks scouts mysticism and never reads it, so long will he remain deformed and unbalanced in the eyes of those who see both sides, because he is wrapped up in ideas and methods that are only right in their own domain. The attitude of mind proposed is not to be observed only toward our literature and the philosophy studied; it is to be that of every hour and applicable to our dealings with our fellow-men. It will lead us to discern the common failing of refusing to consider the thoughts expressed by another because his or her personality is disagreeable to us.
Often in our ranks we can find those who never pay any attention to certain other members who they have decided cannot reason properly or talk clearly. Now aside from all considerations of charity and politeness, there is an occult law much lost sight of, and that is that everyone is led insensibly by Karmic law to address others on these topics and to afford an opportunity to the person addressed of taking a leap, so to say, out of his own favorite way and considering life as seen through the eyes of another. This is often brought about, if we permit it, through the endeavor to control the irritation or dullness caused by the way in which the other person presents the thought in his mind. But if we refuse to use the opportunity, either by absolutely running away or by covering our minds with a hard coat of indifference, the new and bright idea just trembling into the field of our consciousness is thrown back and lost in the dark recesses of the mental plane.
Taking another view, we may under Karmic law be the one and only person just then fitted to elucidate our brother's idea, and we remain still the debtor to him if we do not accept the opportunity. On either hand the result is demerit.
Let us, then, conquer self in the field indicated, and thus turn the inward insidious enemy and deceiver into the friend and constant guide.
By Katherine Tingley
[From THE GODS AWAIT, pages 80-90.]
A prophet is without honor in his own country; and William Q. Judge suffered persecution, and his life was shortened by it; but I wonder whether, if he had come from the Far East in the white robes of a swami, two-thirds of the American people would not have been on their knees to him.
It was he who first gave me glimpses of the power of thought and made me realize what it will do to build or ruin the destiny of a human being; and in doing so, he showed me how to find in Theosophy solution of all the problems that had vexed me: how it points the way to the right treatment of the downtrodden and outcast of humanity, and to the real remedies for poverty, vice, and crime.
On all these subjects, the first word of Theosophy is this: He who would enter upon the path that leads to truth must put new interpretations on the failings and mistakes of his fellowmen. He must come to understand the Law of Eternal Justice, Karma, that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," and to know the necessity it implies for an unconquerable compassion, because those who fail and fall short do so always through ignorance. Crime is always the result of ignorance, and there can be no cure for it until this is recognized.
What, for example, does the criminal know about the God within him, or his responsibility as a human being, or the large scope of life? What does he know of the power of the Immortal Self? It is because these unfortunates are wholly ignorant of the difference between the brain-mind and the divine life -- between the Angel and the demon within themselves -- that they have moved on blindly down and out of the better life.
Their criminality, if the truth were known, has grown up upon the idea that dread of punishment is the proper, natural, and only effective deterrent of crime and the one reasonable motive for avoiding wrongdoing; and what is this but the natural corollary of the old mistaken teachings? Consequently, once a man has fallen into error -- once he has made his primal mistake and taken the first step downward, braved the thing and broken through the glamour, so to speak -- though it were but by the stealing of a loaf to appease his hunger, he becomes, in all probability, a formidable menace to society. And is it not ignorance that makes him so? Ignorance: that false, pernicious fear of forces or powers -- a deity -- outside of himself, that lack of the sovereign knowledge of the God Within?
How then dare we condemn any man? How do we know what we ourselves might have done if placed as they had been, in other lives long since forgotten? Even the best of us may have made mistakes as grave as those of any convict in the prisons. How do we know? The road to crime is the road of ignorance; he, who would have assurance that his own feet shall never tread it, let him cultivate a large toleration for all and a grand compassion for the erring.
Let him beware of harsh judgment, lest the taint of it should follow him through many lives! The Soul is judged by the Divine Law, not by man. The moment we condemn our neighbor, that moment we doom ourselves. For we are all part and parcel one of another: Brotherhood is indeed a fact in nature -- a truth which would be obvious, but that we go through life masked in these personalities or false selves of ours, and are unaware of the Real Selves within which are divine.
What is needed is that we should do away with the idea of punishment altogether, and in its place put correction, redemption. I would have the word "crime" erased from the dictionaries and from human speech. Crime is a disease; and calls not for punishment, but for cure. We must deal firmly and mercifully with those afflicted. They need hospital treatment -- brotherly, educative, karmic, -- wisely administered and not prisons and cells and scaffolds.
We ought not to dare to be content or indifferent when we hear of a man imprisoned. One so suffering through his ignorance and errors should become our charge: not in such a way as to pauperize him or increase his weaknesses, but to put him in the road to overcome them. One who has strayed into the wrong path, even so grievously as to have taken human life -- should become our charge, that we may reform him and make him a useful citizen. He is an invalid and should be treated as such.
He has been infected with the psychological influences of the age; he is a victim of its ignorance, bowed down under the pressure of its conditions, and burdened and hopeless with the weight of his own mistakes; and yet he is susceptible to curative treatment. He might be made of value to the race. Somewhere in the nature even of the most wretched, spiritual life is still pulsating; a ray from the great Eternal still shines. A man lost to society, as the saying goes, degraded utterly in his own and the world's estimation, can still be lifted up and put on his feet. The Higher Nature can still be aroused in him.
Study the development of the minds and characters of the so-called criminals, and in the course of time, you will discover that it is the agony of the battle going on in their lives -- with the consciousness of the Higher Self pleading strongly and working to redeem them from the temptations of the lower -- which has unstrung them and made them abnormal.
Inquire into the inner history of the boy with the morphine habit, and you will find, often and often, that he took to the drug to quiet his conscience. That is at the root of the trouble with these drink and drug addicts in all cases except those caused by heredity. Conscience, that light out of Eternity which is a part of every human life, is so strong and powerful in them, and so works upon their lives, making them miserable, that they must do something to escape from it. They would kill themselves, but very fortunately for themselves have not the courage; and so they take to the dreadful panacea and the habit grows.
There is no man who commits a crime but he is, in respect to that action, abnormal, insane. Every boy and girl, and every man or woman behind the bars is irresponsible. They do not understand the laws of life; they are at the mercy of their own ignorance.
How can we doubt that the moment a man feels murder in his heart he has stepped beyond the borders of sanity? When the lower nature is fired with resentment, hatred, or fear to the degree that it is ready to kill, the real man has lost all control of the mind. The impulses of the demon-self when it is fired to a certain point become uncontrollable: the mind is distorted and disarranged: the man is insane.
When a man is charged with a crime, and brought into court to be tried and to receive sentence: how much do we know -- how much do judge and jury know: of the environment he has grown up in; of his prenatal conditions, heredity, and physical disabilities; of his education or lack of education? How much do those who condemn him know about his life, inner and outer?
A diseased body may easily cause mental and moral disease. A man's heredity may be such that, though his purposes normally are high and his intentions of the cleanest, he may drift and go wrong through lack of self-understanding. The mark was put on him before he was born; the very vehicle that produced him may have carried the family taint.
Yet constantly we brand such men criminals, and impose on them punishments instead of correctives. It is always punishment: severe punishment; isolation, and to be locked in a cell for months or years according to the nature of his misdoing and the decision of a judge who knows no more about the man he is sentencing, really, than he does about the atoms in the deepest parts of the sea; -- who does not so much as know himself, nor has ever discovered or analyzed his own possibilities, divine or demoniacal; and therefore cannot fall back upon those sublime resources in his own being which would enable him to do real justice to his fellowmen.
Then too, let the best of us examine himself and say truly whether so great a gulf divides him from the prisoner behind the bars. A man may be essentially mean and selfish in his character, and yet go through life a model of respectability, because he has been too inert and forceless or too cowardly to break the laws: it is not the worst men that we hang or imprison by any means. With many criminals, the very force that went into their crimes would make them fine servants of humanity if their crime-insanity were cured.
A man may be today a hero and a saint; and tomorrow, under the impulse of his lower nature, he may be brought quite down by some remarkable temptation. The wavering mind is in the light today, and tomorrow in the shadows: it may drop below the level of the soul-life, at any time, and do disastrous things.
Here is the divine overshadowing, the illumination, the high endeavor and the purpose: and yet upon a sudden urge, in a moment -- for a bagatelle, a nothing -- the Greater Self may be shut away and banished, that the mortal and the animal self may have sway and power.
I remember an orator, with the wisdom of the Gods, you would say, in his speech; yet nestling in hidden places in his nature were lurking demons that he had suppressed but had not conquered; and he had not theretofore been subjected to any really great temptation; and in his egoism and foolish pride, he had hugged to his heart the idea that he was on the right lines of evolution; but all the time, these insidious hidden foes in the passionate and selfish side of his nature were eating like canker-worms into the fiber of his being; and when the great temptation came -- as come it must in all such cases -- the intellect was overpowered and the heart lost sight of; and the passion of the man, which had been but a half-desire a few weeks before, became the dominant power in his life, and the spiritual will was set aside; and what was left of him was a brute -- a moral wreck and a complete inversion of the man the world had known.
He who yesterday was the admired of the world; who perhaps was trying to do right: tomorrow may be behind the bars and awaiting in the dreadful silence of the condemned cell the steps of the dreary procession that will lead him forth to be hanged: and for no more strange or improbable reason than that there was unbalance in his character; unbalance in his education: overdoing on one line, neglect on another.
There is, in truth, but one kind of crime which is committed by sound and disposing minds, and it is that form of murder which is called capital punishment.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 46-48.]
HPB wrote grandly of the Secret Doctrine of the ages, and she pointed out that this Secret Doctrine has come down to us from time immemorial in the guardianship of our great Teachers in all their various grades. She showed that this Wisdom of the Gods was originally handed to the first human protoplasts by beings from other spheres, by spiritual beings from other planes, to use our jargon, which we have popularized. But it seemed to me that with all the grandeur of her teaching and the high plane of thought to which she led us, there still remained something to be given that should guard the student against the intrusion into his mind of false ideas, false teachings, and doctrines leading him away from the Central Fire. In other words, men lacked, Theosophists lacked, a standard, a touchstone, against which they could lay a teaching presented to them and find out whether the teaching were pure gold or only tinsel, brass.
What is this really infallible touchstone, this instrument that you can use if you recognize it? It is universality. Any teaching presented to you that cannot stand that test, which can be shown to be only a purported communication from other spheres, and which has no basis in the great philosophies and religions and sciences of the past given to mankind by Masters of Wisdom -- any such teaching is fraudulent and has no right, no place, in court, in the court of our conscience. The gods taught men in the beginning, man in his childhood, and led him on, and bred him up, enlightened his mind, so that it could receive and understand and pass on IN SECRET AND OPEN TRADITION the archaic God-Wisdom, our god-teachings, the Secret Doctrine.
In getting this idea, this conception that truth, reality, has been communicated to mankind, that it is now on earth ready for us when we prove ourselves ready for it and worthy of it, we understand that it is traditional, that it has been given forth in larger or smaller measure and in varying manners from age to age by the greatest men, the titan intellects, of the human race; and therefore that this tradition, this Qabbalah, this Brahma-Vidya, can be found in all the great religions and philosophies of the ages.
In accepting this view, you lose sight of the mere author of whatever book may be in your hands. You forget the personality, the individuality of the Teacher, and you look to what he brings. IF HE IS GENUINE, you find not the vague frontiers upon which structures of falsity may be erected by scheming minds, but rather you understand that here is a glorious and mighty Tradition coming down to us from the Universe, from the heart of Divinity, and that its appearances as communicated to men are in the great religions and philosophies of the ages.
It is this Tradition, this Secret Doctrine, which gave to HPB the title of her masterpiece; and it was for this same reason that I chose these actual words, "The Esoteric Tradition," as the title of my latest book. It is esoteric because few have as yet understood it. It is traditional because it has been handed down from immemorial time. Thus, THE ESOTERIC TRADITION is an attempt, feeble it may be, but very honest and sincere, to do what our Teachers are trying to do with us: to instill into our hearts and minds a reverence for and a worship of the truth before us; to awaken in our hearts the divine Fire of love for all that is, which becomes constricted and restricted and usually degraded when it is fastened solely on an individual accepted as a Teacher.
The suggestion in the title of this book is that a Teacher should receive reverence, but only in so far as his teaching is truth. In losing sight of the man, you see the Message. Was there not need -- is there not need, of just this touchstone, particularly in the Theosophical Movement today? Is it not absolutely accordant with all that dear HPB taught us: to look within, to look up, to forget yet to revere the hand that gives; to take the Message? Inspect it. Take from it what you find good; reject the balance if you wish. You may make a mistake in so doing, but you are exercising your prerogative of choice, of discrimination, of intuition. And by so exercising it, you give it strength; and as time passes, it will grow very powerful, and you will then take back the corner-stone that you rejected. In so doing, you will receive the Teacher with the teaching in your hearts and in the proper way.
One lesson I have learned: that it is the teaching and its magic working upon me that counts; for when the teaching enters my heart, my reverence for the communicator grows. Is not your reverence for our Masters infinitely greater when you realize that they awaken in us the noblest and best? It is just this noblest and best in us that, when awakened, enables us to see them. And that is what they want: not to have us see them, but to have us awake, our hearts beating in steady rhythm with the heartbeat of the universal heart, and our minds fired with the truth that they communicate to us and that we value precisely in proportion as it is impersonal.
I think the Theosophical Movement will suffer from no more fakers, no more false teachers, now or in the future, provided we can remember that the touchstone of anything that may be offered to us for a teaching is universality, and the appeal to the conscience, the appeal to the voice within.
By W. Emmett Small
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1927, pages 172-75.]
I was toiling along the road as I had been toiling along it many a day when I beheld a tall figure with his back to the great dropping Sun; and I marveled that one should thus wantonly turn his eyes from such glory, nor desire his soul to seek repose among the heaven-flocks that roamed in the sunset-pastures of the West. And I hailed him, having in mind the oddness of this:
"Who are you?"
"I am 1926. I am wise; tarry here with me, for I have lived long and know much and can tell you all the secrets you wish to know."
I looked on his face and thought it old and wisdom-tired. And so I held further parley and sought to know why he did not move on but stood statue-struck in the middle of the road.
"Look!" I urged, "There are great sunny stretches yonder where the grassy prairie-lands laugh in the sunshine beneath the brooding purple mountains; and already the pageantry of Evening is ascending from beyond the sea-rim, and soon Night will come riding in. Come on with me; for I'll be hitting the onward road!"
"Ah, child!" he murmured, "you dream; and what you say is words I have heard on the lips of other child-men caught in the webs of Dream. There is nothing beyond me. I stand with my back to a great wall and all beyond is a depthless abyss. Stand here and face with me the things that have been, for I am the end of all! I am wise, tarry here with me!"
The while he spoke, I looked on him, but his eyes seemed always to be fixed on things beyond me as though I was of equal importance with the turnstile I had passed a mile behind. His gaze was always on the past. And I, coming out of the past, had had enough of it and wished to move on; for I could see the great fields ahead running out and stretching their arms to the in-dancing sea.
Yet I thought that his face was good and old and wise. Surely I would be wrong not to heed his words ... And he had said that there was nothing beyond him ... And so my perplexity was such that I sought to see things as he did, and I turned round and put my shoulder to his and saw the whole of 1926.
In this great backward sweep, I beheld terrible, pitiful, degrading things; things that could only have been born in the shadow of the Lost Self. And as they flashed by, it was as though all the Winds of Heaven had been exiled and were keening for their wandering souls.
Of what I watched, I remember this: I saw a boy steal; and he was not the soul of one, but the shadow of a million. And I saw him shut in a dark big house, and I saw Revenge press through the bars and sup with him; and presently they stalked out together: and then I beheld Murder, and it was not the murder of one, but the murder of a million. And I saw Death clutch a million lives and beheld the weariness of despair on the worn-out bodies of them all. And I saw War slip in to the home of a family and sear its heart-ties with the fire of Ambition and Jealousy; and it was not the hearth of one home but the hearth of a million that fell in the flames that leaped up.
I heard the words of the Old Year again: "I am wise: tarry here with me!" I shuddered that such sights should have fed the wisdom of 1926.
Then I beheld things that were splendidly and royally performed, things that could only have been done under the aegis of the Higher Self, and they were as the breath of whole fields of lavender and the lutings of a great company of lutists. And of these, I remember an Artist at his canvas; and here too, it was not the soul of one that spoke through his brush-strokes, but the soul of Many. But sorrow came over me when I saw his picture finished and placed in a great gallery. For one of fame and importance in the world went by and stared and did not understand; and it was not the Soul of one that could not understand but the Ignorance of Many. And so I beheld the Musician and the Educator, the Poet -- but I dared not probe too far, for I had a fear of their passing by unrecognized as well.
I stood there a while shoulder to shoulder with 1926; but I could not feel that the Past was all: that it held the key to Peace. For as I stood there, I had entered into the hearts of a million people as they had pressed on towards the last day of the year; and I found that those that looked only backward -- no matter whether it was with pride or pleasure or sorrow or joy or disgust or anger or gratified ambition or even aspiration to a degree realized -- I found that those that looked only backward were glutted with their own self-importance, though some called it atonement, this which was really a gloating over the Good-Evil of past actions.
Enough of the Past! I was sick of it! A great nausea swept over me, and I could have kicked over the Old Fellow into the abyss of nothingness he prated of as the All there was behind him. Out of my way! Let me but taste of the Future and drink in great draughts of its gold and sunshine. The Future -- and I visioned the promise of nectared moments that would glide unnoticeably into the Cup of Eternity and my lips clinging to its rim, sipping and sipping.
Swinging out -- Oh, the Beauty and Glory I shall draw into my heart! -- I stumbled, and the pale clay road reeled up to meet me as I fell, knocking over the tall backward-looking figure of 1926. Together we spun through Space, and the dizziness of a billion stars flooded us. I knew not whether it was a moment or an eon before cluster by cluster, one by one blinked themselves out, and I swam up to Day again. The air was all music-strewn, and I caught the lilt of light laughter. One leaning from out the Unseen whispered:
There is no Past but what is as a dream of the Night, picturing battles and struggles, victories and defeats, and there is naught of Good in it but what you fashion pure-flamed at the Forge of the Present.
There is no Future but what is as a dream of the Day, visioning the Peace of utter perfectibility, and there is naught of Truth in it but what you weave with the shuttle of the Soul at the Loom of the Present.
But in the arms of Today lies the glow of endless Pasts, the gleam of eternal Futures. Awake to the EVER-PRESENT!
The whisper rippled into light laughter again that lilted upward yet lingered half a pulse-beat ere it paled into the pearl pavilions of Dawn.
Was I still balance-drunk and visioning clay roads like swords lightning-winged darting about me? Was it truly an awakening?
I marveled I know not how long, till I awoke to an awareness of my Companion. He was standing there as before, but facing forward now in the same direction I had been traveling.
"Who was that," I queried. "What was that laughter? Whose was that voice?"
"I do not know," he answered.
Marveling still more, I looked up and cried out. Was this the face that had stayed me but a few moments before, weighed down by its victories and weighed down by its defeats, full-blown with its self-importance and deeming much a failure that was in reality a success and giving a false value to what he in his poor perspective deemed advancement: a blurred-eyed and tired old man with no vision but a backward stare? Was this the same, he who had boasted, "I am wise?" I looked again, and indeed it was a face of youth and radiance. Perhaps, perhaps ...
"Who are you," I demanded, neither sorry nor glad, but longing for even just a little stick to hold on to.
The tall figure laughed. "I do not know. I am just born. I know nothing. But look how the dew has dropped into the heart of this little wayside flower and is sparkling and trembling there. What happiness they share!"
So with the birds singing and both of us but half-guessing the trick that had been turned; but glorying in the Simplicity of each Moment -- unknowing yet reborn -- we started down the road together.
By E.A. Neresheimer
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, November 1925, pages 429-34.]
The whole Universe of Action is comprehended in Spiritual Knowledge ... As blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, so the fire of knowledge turns all action into ashes.
-- THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, chapter IV, verses 33, 37
What a wonderful being is Man! Himself a pure spiritual essence, the Eternal and Changeless Law causes him to enter the stream of conditioned existence -- for the sake of experience to sink into ignorance in the realms of Matter, -- thus abandoning his original purity.
It has taken conscious effort on his part, along countless different lines, through untold ages, to establish an adequate physical vehicle; wherein he at last finds himself in possession of a moderately useful instrument for his further progress. The evolving soul has gathered the while a fair amount of information with respect to the material world, and its own physical tabernacle, which houses in an interminable sequence of birth and rebirth, life after life, his unfolding consciousness.
But of the soul itself man has, with the exception of what knowledge reaches him through the ancient religious philosophies of the world, but little concrete understanding, though there are great multitudes of people who are hungry for enlightenment such as might help them to regulate their actions, and give them an understanding of the strong urge within themselves that comes from their innately religious nature.
The physical body alone may, to a degree, be called a veritable epitome of the past history of man. We have but to hear his voice, which emits sounds, and formulated speech that comes out from the silent depths of his past conscious existence; suggesting for those who can 'see,' a connected succession of events and of the various stages of progress that are simply the sequel of vast amounts of experience gained in former lives.
The evolving soul or 'self' of man cannot as yet absorb knowledge very quickly, for the conscious impulse, by means of which this might take place, is not strong enough. Possessed of individual will, in a sea of Nature's fascinating attractions, man sometimes does, but still more often does not, extract knowledge from his experiences and other opportunities; as may be seen by observing two or more people subject to the same circumstances. Certainly these do not all equally profit by their opportunities, for it requires the exercise of reason, concentration, and discrimination combined to determine the relation of things to each other, and not many are by any means prepared to put these into practice.
We are not faced by a single proposition or event in life that is not at the same time related to many others; the most important to be considered being those connected with the conscious personal self, which is after all the greatest factor concerned. It is when the conjunction of a proposition and our consciousness takes place, blending these into one, that we draw conclusions as to real values; but we all too often negatively allow a subject or an occurrence to pass us by without fixing our attention upon it, and so no subsequent assimilation can take place, and we miss the opportunity of acquiring knowledge that these offer us.
A mere accumulation of memorized information or facts does not constitute knowledge until we have digested these and made them part and parcel of our being, in the same way that food must be assimilated into the blood and tissues of the body before we can say that we have gotten the benefit and nourishment from them that we should. It is a qualitative assimilation of the essence of observed facts and acquired information, rather than a quantitative accumulation of the same that is needed, and this can be done only when we concentrate the mind and seek to penetrate deeply into the soul of things. The attitude of mind must be alert, receptive, and flexible, ever ready to change with respect to a new aspect of a subject under consideration; for with every forward step, our judgment continually changes. A conclusion that we have accepted as true, must finally be verifiable also by other thoughtful minds capable and willing to consider it seriously and without prejudice.
Real knowledge is certainly not obtainable from the study and contemplation of either material objects or personal experience alone. For this richest of all treasures, everyone must seek within himself, and he will find that finally it "is alike" in every man, and can be acquired only through the divine discriminative faculty, by means of which synthetic deductions are made, and the unvarnished truth, which needs no argument, is directly perceived without any external assistance. Toward this final reality, all things converge, there to become one and the same thing to all. Hence no one can claim especial knowledge of anything of which others must forever remain ignorant. Universal applicability alone is an unfailing proof of the truth of any postulate, and that which is not thus verifiable can neither stand the test of logic, nor be in accord with fact at every point. The perception of the truth is the highest good obtainable to man; such truth as can under no circumstances be controverted.
It is being generally more and more recognized that all men are religious by nature, even those who go to great lengths in order to deny that this is a fact as far as they themselves are concerned. It is undeniable also that a strong ethical trend pervades the whole human race, and not a single mortal draws breath who does not feel the 'moral spark' that illumines his conscience.
We find, broadly speaking, four different types of human beings, each of which in their search to realize their inner yearning for the realities of life, is influenced by one of these four characteristic trends of mind. First there are those whose aim it is to find happiness in and through work and in the performance of duty, while others have leanings towards metaphysical speculation and contemplation; some again are especially inclined to analyze and to reason; while a fourth class of people incline to pure devotion, unquestioning faith, and mysticism.
These divisions are all strongly sustained by enthusiasm, and as ideals, each represents a different stage of natural mental and moral unfoldment. Each of these paths, when pursued to its utmost limit, naturally merges and expands into the next one, until for the Illuminated Sage, the four paths appear but as aspects of the One Path, encompassing the perfect moral characteristics of them all: Right Action, Right Contemplation, Right Knowledge, and Pure Devotion.
In order to realize that to which man aspires, he must have faith that the truth he seeks exists, and then in addition to enthusiasm he must have the courage to some extent to delve into the Unknown, which no one can explore for him, which he can realize only by his own efforts. Those who have already passed the 'Gates of Gold' have left us many a hint to illumine our darkness, and sufficient suggestions to kindle our faith, so that with the aid of our latent possibilities, it may eventually burst forth into a blaze of radiant illuminating light.
In the garden of our ideals, a plant grows that, when well tended by means of practical ethics, bears rich fruit. Consciously or unconsciously we are urged on to new effort in order that we may realize something of that beauty that is, as yet, but barely formulated in our consciousness. Faith is the precursor of progress and success even in the smallest thing that we may initiate, and when we cultivate our garden rightly, the seeds we sow will come to harvest, and we shall in time reap the truth.
Ideals differ widely among men, but all have one aim alone, i.e., the realization of the object our soul aims for. Everything that is initiated has first to be conceived in faith, and much of its ultimate success depends upon the strength and constancy of trust by means of which all vague aspirations in time become more or less concrete realities. What at one time may appear a far-off vision thus becomes an actuality; even some of the most perplexing circumstances that baffle all ordinary attempts at solution. They also finally yield to persistent faith and automatically become changed by its magic spell.
The words "thy faith shall make thee whole" is a real truism and not mere sentimental vagary. To one who is wise, it signifies deep religious feeling founded on the highest concept of the ultimate harmony of the universal order of things, and it is worthy of the most scrutinizing discrimination, aided by intuitional and reasoned circumspection. All peoples have at one time based their faith upon the God depicted by one or another of the great world-religions, instituted for the benefit of those who have not yet found the Divinity within themselves. Faith is implanted in the heart of every man; it is a form of innate trust in the Divine Law that results in an urge to seek knowledge of the same and a persistent endurance in the endeavor to achieve this end.
Quite often emotionalism and sentimentality are mistaken for faith, and when not balanced by discrimination, these are apt to lead to unbalance. Remembering that every thought and act is subjected to a mass of contradictory impressions, we find that, if the mind is not restrained from going off on flights of fancy, and is allowed to dwell on side issues, the full exercise of our faculties is impeded and our energy and judgment are dissipated. But if the mind is checked up by the reasoning faculty and by discrimination, on every occasion, then the dreamy notions that result from unreasoning faith will be dispelled; in which case not only will there be no fear of entanglements, resulting from flight of fancy, but also a positive confidence will be established and a deposit of valuable knowledge will remain in the mind forever.
KNOWLEDGE, REAL AND UNREAL
The object of knowledge is, in the first place, to remove ignorance, which throws a veil over verifiable facts and conditions, and their relations to Nature and to man himself. Outside of Nature there are no actual facts and conditions, and even these only exist for us inasmuch as we have cognizance of them. We cannot say that we, at the present time, know very much more than the outer shell of her hidden principles, and when it comes to a consideration of our own relation to these, then the mystery deepens still more. We here find ourselves confronted with infinite complexities of cause and effect produced by our attitude towards them, such as attention, receptivity, and our own conduct. The knowledge of the relation of facts to the self determines their intrinsic value; that is to say, their fitness depends upon their conformity to the standard of ethics and ideals of our HIGHEST SELF, whereby the degree of their permanency and reality may be determined.
Relatively permanent knowledge is realized by enlightened comprehension and stored away automatically in the consciousness as an accessible asset to be drawn upon whenever needed. All that man really POSSESSES, that is to say, all that which no power whatsoever can take away from him, is knowledge that he has assimilated and made a very part of his soul. It must, however, be remembered that all possible standards continually change, until at last the unmanifested Source of All Consciousness and Life itself is reached, when Truth is no longer perceived -- but IS.
However, all knowledge is true to the perceiver so long as he remains in, and is limited by, a state of consciousness wherein he cannot go beyond a certain standard of recognition. It can be called real to the extent that all knowledge that is once assimilated is self-perpetuating; that is to say, the soul, when it once accepts a new and higher standard, adjusts all previous knowledge to that standard, and so on forever. Hence the things that at one time seemed true are no longer considered so at a later time; the measure of truth perceived increases and is merged into an expanded state of consciousness in the self of man.
'Unreal knowledge' is the unassimilated information that comes and goes in a continuously moving stream of changing emotions, deductions, notions, scholarship, and experiences. It becomes a valuable asset only if translated into character, when we have made it a part of ourselves for the present life, or for many lives to come, according to the degree of its harmony with the laws of life, and then also with our own higher nature. Every accession of real knowledge, be it ever so little, contributes in a degree to the building up of ever finer vehicles. We are not precisely conscious where it inheres, or exactly when and how it prompts us to further conquest, but it acts as a self-perpetuating seed.
Nothing is more conducive to success of any kind than real love for knowledge, an open mind, strenuous effort supported by an unwavering perseverance that resolutely rejects the fatal influences of indolence, arrogance, pride, vanity, and selfishness. To this end we must have enthusiasm and faith in our quest. These are the weapons with which we can conquer the archenemy ignorance that bars the realization of our ideals.
Treading the path of knowledge does not lead to a SUDDEN solution of ultimate problems, but rather to an early possibility for reaching a position where we can help ourselves by rational inquiry and the pursuance of that which recommends itself to us as the best means for gradual development and progression -- not after death but right here and now in this workaday world of ours.
Knowledge, in the ordinarily accepted sense, is the accumulation of information acquired by means of experience, inquiry, and the study of external facts; but REAL KNOWLEDGE, assimilated knowledge, is a self-reproductive and rejuvenating power that relates all information to the self, the consciously evolving entity, which is the representative of the Ego or Inner Man on this earth-plane. Such knowledge eventually must become manifest in the 'evolving ' personal self, for Real Knowledge and Right Ethics are inseparable; that is to say, moral conduct that conforms with our highest standard of noble living. Of this standard, only our own conscience can be the arbiter. That standard has no written code of laws; it is based on the Universal Law, uncreate and eternal, which is the Law of the Inner God of every man; to be known by each through identification with his own Divine Ego, in the 'Kingdom of Heaven within.'
By G. de Purucker
[From GOLDEN PRECEPTS, pages 109-122.]
Love shows the Way and lights the Path; Love is the flowing forth of the permeate light, the Buddhic Splendor -- the Christ-light -- at the heart of the Universe: that love that, working in gods and men, teaches us to know beauty when we see it, especially inner beauty, to recognize greatness and splendor in others, from knowing the greatness and splendor in our own inmost being.
Love is the cement of the Universe; it holds all things in place and in eternal keeping; its very nature is celestial Peace; its very characteristic is cosmic Harmony, permeating all things, boundless, deathless, infinite, and eternal. It is everywhere, and is the very heart of the heart of all that is.
Love is the most beauteous, the holiest thing known to human beings. It gives to man hope; it holds his heart in aspiration; it stimulates the noblest qualities of the human being, such as the sacrifice of self for others; it brings about self-forgetfulness; it brings also peace and joy that know no bounds. It is the noblest thing in the Universe.
"Love ye one another" -- a beautiful saying this; for it is an appeal to the very core of your nature, to the divine within you, to the inner god, whose essence is a celestial splendor. The essential light of you is almighty Love.
Love is protective; love is puissant; it is all-penetrating; and the more impersonal it is, the higher it is and the more powerful. It knows no barriers either of space or of time, for it is Nature's fundamental activity, Nature's fundamental law, and its the universal bond of union among all things. It will not only eat away the obstinacy of the stoniest of human hearts, and dissolve the substance of the most adamantine of human minds, but it will slowly infuse its life-giving warmth everywhere. Nothing can bar its passage, for it is the very life-essence of the Universe. For all beings and things are one, ultimately, all rooted in the one life, and through all flows the steady, uninterrupted current of almighty Love.
Love is the great attractive power that links thing to thing, human heart to human heart; and the higher one goes in evolution, the closer does love enwrap its tendrils through all the fiber of one's being; or, to change the figure of speech, the more does the human heart expand with love, until finally it embraces in its folds all the Universe, so that one comes to love all things both great and small, without distinction of place or time. Oh, the blessedness of this feeling, of this realization! Love, impersonal love, is divine.
Personal love is but a reflection of it; and personal love is fallible, because the ray is so feeble: the veils of personality begin to thicken before the inner eye, because personal desire collects and thickens into one's aura -- the surrounding psychic atmosphere -- and condenses it, and this it is that causes the thickening of the psychic veils, obscuring the inner vision and understanding. The essence of true love is self-forgetfulness, and to this rule there are no exceptions.
If a man's heart and mind are filled solely with a personal love, then he loves this but he does not love that; he loves something over there, but he does not love some other thing here, or VICE VERSA -- in other words his love is limited in direct ratio with its personal character. That is the kind of love that is not wholly true, that is limited. Yet the love of one human being for another is a faint reflection of impersonal love -- very faint it is, but it is at least the beginning of self-forgetfulness. But once the soul is illuminated with impersonal love's holy splendor, then one truly lives.
Impersonal love is lovely, beautiful, and has no trace of the things we all dislike. It is always kindly to everything and to everybody -- to beings and things both great and small. It is intuitive and it asks no reward; it gives all and therefore gives itself. It illuminates the heart; it broadens the mind, it fills the soul with a sense of oneness with all that is; so that you could no more injure a fellow-creature than you could do a wrong deliberately and willfully to the thing or to the individual that personally you love best on earth.
Responsibility, trust, confidence, love -- these indeed bring happiness, strength, and joy. Cultivate them indeed! But you will not understand these grand qualities nor truly feel them if your heart is filled with purely personal limited feelings and thoughts. Your heart will not have a place for them; it will not contain them if it is filled with merely personal things. For personal love has no sense of responsibility. It cannot trust; it cannot truly confide; it cannot utterly give, because the I is there in strength all the time and its one thought is: for me, for me, FOR ME. Anything that has as its motivating cause the desire for personal benefit is not true love.
Love is a mighty power. Perfect love casteth out all fear. He whose heart is filled with love and pity never knows what fear is; there is no room for it in his heart. You will never fear anything in proportion as your heart is filled with love and understanding. Love all that lives and you then ally yourself with invincible cosmic powers and you become strong and spiritually and intellectually clairvoyant.
You can overcome fear by visualizing to yourself actions and thoughts of high and noble courage. Think of yourself as doing courageous actions. Study and admire courageous actions in others. Study and admire courageous thought in others. Grow to love courage, so that you follow it. Then you become it and fear will vanish away like the mists of the night before the rising sun. There lies the secret of overcoming fear: it is to use the creative imagination.
These are practical rules of ethics, practical rules of human conduct; and oh, the pity that mankind has lost sight of them! Men will be ruled by fear just as long as they love themselves; for then they will be afraid of everything that is going to happen -- afraid to venture, afraid to act, to do, to think, for fear lest they lose. And they will then lose. "That which I feared has come upon me!" It is always so.
It is the great men who do not fear, who venture, who act, who do: they are the doers, and they are the thinkers of the world. They love the things that they do; therefore they have no fear.
The strong man is he who loves, not he who hates. The weak man hates because he is limited and small. He can neither see nor feel the other's pain and sorrow, nor even sense so easy a thing as the other's viewpoint. But the man who loves recognizes his kinship with all things. His whole nature shines with the beauty within him, expands with the inner fire that flames itself forth in beautiful and symmetrical thoughts, and therefore in beautiful and kindly acts. His very features will soften and become kindly; he will not be feared; he will not be hated.
Impersonal love is magical; it works marvels; it will break even stony human hearts. Nothing, not even hate, can withstand its passage. Follow the ancient law: Hate not. Conquer hatred by love. Requite never hate with hate, for thus you but add fuel to an unholy flame. Requite hatred with compassion and justice. Give justice when you receive injustice. Thus you ally yourself with Nature's own spiritual procedures and you become a child of the cosmic life, which thereafter will beat in your own heart with its undying pulses.
Be yourself, and expand your sympathies; touch with the tendrils of your consciousness the hearts of other human beings. Oh, what delight to feel, as it were, the inner electrical quiver that your own soul experiences when you have touched the heart of a fellow human being!
Another step that leads to the pathway of Divine Love is Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the movement of the heart that will lead you to make the first step on the Upward Way; it is in truth one of the steps to Divine Love. True forgiveness requires strength of character, real manhood, real discrimination, and intellectual power; it is the refusing to bear resentment, to nourish a grudge, to cultivate hatred; and forgiveness means also to cleanse your own heart of these vile and degrading impulses.
Here is the illustration: you have been wronged; which of these twain will you do: nourish resentment, cultivate hatred, abide the time when you may pay back in the same coin, thereby increasing the trouble and heart-agony of the world by double? Or will you say: No, I will forgive! I myself have laid the way open for this, for I myself in the past have brought this pain upon me. Unhappy man who harms me! I will forgive him.
The evil-doer knows not what he is doing. He is weak. He is blind. Whereas he with a forgiving heart sees and is strong; for love forgives all things, and the reason that it does so is because it sympathizes, it understands. Understanding brings insight.
Learn to forgive; and forgive when forgiving is needed. Not the mere lip-forgiving, when there is no temptation upon you to hate; but forgive when forgiveness means calling forth the strength in you. Love when there is a mean and selfish impulse upon you to hate, because loving then shows spiritual exercise that means strength and grandeur within you.
This is very strengthening for you in your inner constitution. The effort and the result pacify disputes, allay distress, stimulate trust and kindly feeling; and to him who sincerely and successfully forgives there come a peace and a consciousness of strength that nothing else ever can bring.
Forgive and love your fellows, and let that love that fills your heart with its holy light and illumines your mind with its divine splendor, let it go out to all that lives, without bounding it, without laying frontiers for it; and your reward will be very great. Love is not only evocative of love in other hearts, but also is very elevating to yourself. It brings out not solely the beautiful things in the souls of those whom you love, but it develops your own faculties and powers.
Forgive and love; and you thereby place your feet on the pathway that will lead you direct to the spiritual Sun that rises eternally with healing in its wings. Forgive and love; and before you know it, you will feel the sweet influence of the Buddhic Splendor -- the Christ-spirit -- stealing all through your being. You will then become a beneficent power on earth, not merely beloved of your fellow-men, but a blessing to all beings. You will then be making a beginning in the proper use of the sublime faculties and powers native to the god within you; you will understand all things, because Love is truly clairvoyant and is a mighty power.
Learn to forgive, for it is sublime; learn to love, for it is divine.