Even the worst of persons may come into our movement, and, whether unconsciously or not, contribute to its prosperity. How curious all this is to the student of karmic law; and how it shows that if a wicked person yields to even a momentary good impulse, he may engender good Karma that will go towards balancing his acount of moral responsibility.
-- Henry S. Olcott, OLD DIARY LEAVES, IV, page 516
By B.P. Wadia
[From THE BUILDING OF THE HOME, pages 23-27.]
Occultism, through its great Seers, perceives an innumerable Host of operative Beings: Cosmic Dhyan-Chohans, Entities, whose essence, in its DUAL nature, is the Cause of all terrestrial phenomena. For that essence is co-substantial with the universal Electric Ocean, which is LIFE; and being dual, as said -- positive and negative -- it is the emanations of that duality that act now on earth under the name of "modes of motion," even Force having now become objectionable as a word, for fear it should lead someone, even in thought, to separate it from matter! It is, as Occultism says, the dual EFFECTS of that dual essence, which have now been called centripetal and centrifugal forces, negative and positive poles, or polarity, heat and cold, light and darkness, etc., etc.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 604.
The Astral Light, or ANIMA MUNDI, is dual and bisexual. The male part of it is purely divine and spiritual; it is the Wisdom; while the female portion (the spiritus of the Nazarenes) is tainted, in one sense, with matter, and therefore is evil already.
-- ISIS UNVEILED, I, 301
"Educated people," so-called, deride the idea of Sylphs, Salamanders, Undines, and Gnomes; the men of science regard as an insult any mention of such superstitions; and with a contempt of logic and common good sense, that is often the prerogative of "accepted authority," they allow those, whom it is their duty to instruct, to labor under the absurd impression that in the whole Kosmos, or at any rate in our own atmosphere; there are no other conscious, intelligent beings, save ourselves. Any other humanity (composed of distinct HUMAN beings) than a mankind with two legs, two arms, and a head with man's features on it, would not be called human; though the etymology of the word would seem to have little to do with the general appearance of a creature. Thus, while Science sternly rejects even the possibility of there being such (to us, generally) invisible creatures, Society, while believing in it all SECRETLY, is made to deride the idea openly. It hails with mirth such works as the COUNT DE GABALIS, and fails to understand that OPEN SATIRE IS THE SECUREST MASK.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 606.
The Great Invisible is not all Spirit; nor is all of the visible mere matter. Light and darkness are omnipresent; good and evil are the centripetal and centrifugal forces of the moral universe.
As above, so below; lust as in the invisible there are Beings of Light and Shades of Darkness; just as there are Brothers of Radiance, who cast no shadow, and Brothers of the Shadow who are without shine; just as there are Nirmanakayas of Good and Nirmanakayas of Evil; just as there are Self-Conscious Lords and non-self-conscious intelligences; so also in the visible there are the human kingdom, in which the state of self-consciousness is attained, and the other kingdoms, each with its consciousness and intelligence, but without the power to determine and to choose between right and wrong; and in the human kingdom there are good men and bad, wise men and fools, self-determining minds and mediumistic brains.
Human morality is different inasmuch as infallible Nature does not fully and wholly impel man as she does the non-human kingdoms of animals, vegetables, minerals, and elementals. Self-conscious man has the power to choose and determine, and so all the lower kingdoms are influenced by him for better or worse. Only the Superior Kingdom of those Intelligences who, having passed through the human stage, are more than mortals remains unswayed by man's actions. But man can, by right use of Wisdom, gain the cooperation and the help of that Superior Kingdom. Man is equidistant from Spirit and Matter; his is a critical state. His progress towards the higher depends upon his effort to raise the lower.
Understanding such knowledge, the Home-Builder must recognize that if he desires to create a center of light, he must feed the kingdoms dependent upon him with right nourishment. Also, that he should manufacture an astral magnet which would attract to his home blessed influences from the infinitudes of space and from Those who form the Guardian Wall.
It is taught that the accumulated efforts of long generations of Yogis, Saints, and Adepts, especially of the NIRMANAKAYAS, have created, so to say, a wall of protection around mankind, which wall shields mankind invisibly from still worse evils.
These Beings are "unthanked and unperceived by men;" but shall they not be thanked and perceived by students of Theosophy?
The recognition of the higher leads the students to enquire as to how these Beings can be thanked, and how Their aid can be invoked. Not by supplicatory prayers, not by propitiatory rites, not by chants and ceremonies, but by evoking within ourselves the qualities and the virtues which are Theirs can They be invoked. Compassion born of deep knowledge makes Them sacrifice Their immortality for the sake of the unemancipated and the involved. In the core of man's soul, an imperishable impact is made by the Fathers of the Human Race, and its response from the first has been -- Devotion. This supreme quality will guide us at every turn, enabling us to avoid pitfalls and to take the right road.
But that Devotion, now tarnished by egotism, has become a thoughtless feeling, an emotion which impels many to a mistaken way of life. Devotion means devotion to the interests of another, implying right action towards that other; that other may be a man or a god, a sinner or a saint, a sage or an elemental. From his balance position man must learn not only to look heavenwards, but also around him -- and below where abide intelligences which look up to him as he looks up to the Blessed Ones.
Therefore the GRIHASTHA must learn to serve the invisible hosts -- some of whom are superior to him, while others are inferior; and what is true of the invisible is equally true of the visible. In the LAWS OF MANU and in similar texts of other creeds, the householder is called upon to perform five sacrifices every day; these, Theosophically interpreted, imply remembrance of, and seeking and giving cooperation to (1) the Teachers and Their Teachings, the Gurus and Their Gnyan; (2) the Devas and Dhyan-Chohans and Nirmanakayas -- a vast and graded host of superhuman intelligences living in the infinitudes of space; (3) the two classes of Pitris -- givers of the principles which form the bases of our personalities and our individualities; (4) our fellow-men now constituting the human kingdom; and (5) the Elemental Kingdoms -- Gnomes, Undines, Sylphs, and Salamanders -- which are intimately concerned in the progress and the prosperity of the mineral, the vegetable, and the animal kingdoms, now evolving on earth side by side with men.
This is not the place to detail practices and exercises; and in fact, no rites and ceremonies are recommended, neither are they needed. Man's thought-will-feeling, his master-faculty of imagination and a clear conscience are his best organs and utensils. A clean body and pure Kama-Manas are the two prerequisites. ("A sound and pure mind requires a sound and pure body," is an Occult aphorism.) With these, while adequately utilizing our Theosophical literature, the aspirant should seek for instruction, remembering that all forces in Nature are dual, that each has its light and its dark side, and also that each in contacting particular human temperaments produces varied results -- the peace-giving potion of one becoming poison for another. There are hints which should be taken as warnings, e.g., "Those who fall off from our LIVING human Mahatmas to fall into the SAPTARISHI -- the Star Rishis, are no Theosophists." (THE FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER, page 184.)
Between the fear of, but respect for, the invisible which makes a student impotent, and the forceful pushing of himself in without proper comprehension of its dangers, which injures him seriously if it does not kill him spiritually speaking, there is the middle course. Acquiring knowledge which kills fear and engenders courage, unfolding sympathy for and appreciation of the whole of Nature, the student prepares himself to proceed from the known to the unknown, from the visible to the invisible. He who conjectures that the visible matters not, that outer things are unimportant, and so on, implies that objects are lifeless, that pen and paper, pots and pans, have no astral lives. He will then err, as do thousands of "fakirs" and "sannyasis" who disregard the body -- the Living Temple of the Living Soul. It is through "the small plain duties of life" properly performed that the Ego is often attracted to stream forth its radiance; "It is the little things the work is done through." Therefore, Home-Building provides a most excellent playground for our spiritual and psychic muscles. And so we must now turn to the consideration of some of the routines of home life through which the Light of Heaven can be made to shine forth.
By Ken Small
[This open letter of December 1, 2007, addressed to "Friends," is entitled "Point Loma Theosophical Archive, Literature and Art Preservation Project, Light-Stream House, Holland."]
The Point Loma Theosophical Community (1897-1942) remains a symbolic source of spiritual-intellectual energies. It is both an historic time and place and more significantly an internal way of enlightened living and source of spiritual teachings.
With these two aspects of "Point Loma" in mind, a new center has been started by ISIS Foundation (part of the Theosophical Society Point Loma--The Hague) 20 minutes north of Amsterdam, just behind the dunes of the beautiful North Sea coast.
In this center -- the Lume-house -- Point Loma Publications has loaned for study and preservation books, archives, and more than 50 original paintings from artists that lived at Point Loma. This material has already been transported to the Netherlands, and during the next months will be prepared for public access and exhibition, with availability summer 2008.
(The center's name honors a woman named "Lume" since it occupies the house inherited from her. "Lume" comes from the Latin with the meaning of light stream: in physics it is the IS the unit (lumen) for light stream emitted from a source. We see here the function of the spiritual source which streams into the outer world.)
On Oct 21, 2007, a large wildfire in San Diego County consumed significant Point Loma Publications book inventory and library and archival materials. Opportunities for greater cooperation and expansion of Theosophical effort have arisen in response to the current crisis. (Read more about the fire at the Point Loma Publications website, www.wisdomtraditions.com.)
Our wish is to be able to share and make available the wonderful theosophical source teachings to a wider global audience. To this end, we are establishing this historic collection at the Lume-house for a five year project of making available for study and public display, as well as conserving and digitally preserving this unique heritage. (See Greenwalt's history work, CALIFORNIA UTOPIA -- 1897-1942, available from Pont Loma Publications.)
Your continuing support in this effort is appreciated. Additionally the library loss from the fire is being re-created as far as possible. A listing of book titles being sought will be posted on the PLP website as well. On that site, we will list ways that "Friends of Point Loma Theosophical Heritage" can assist in the growth and development of the new library and educational center.
Specific book titles, art work by Point Loma artists, and letters to and from Point Loma Theosophists are being requested to be either donated or copied to enhance the Point Loma heritage whenever possible. A quarterly e-magazine will begin next Spring-Summer 2008 listing art, books, and archive available in the collection.
It is our hope and intention that this cooperative venture may open doors for further unified activity between Theosophical groups to collaborate and create a complete digital archive of Theosophical literature. There is a great need to have a complete archive of our literature in multiple locations globally in our dynamic times. Your support and cooperation toward achieving this goal to benefit the Theosophical Movement is appreciated.
Herman C. Vermeulen ISIS Foundation Blavatskyhouse De Ruijterstraat 74 2518 AV The Hague The Netherlands www.blavatskyhouse.org
Ken Small Point Loma Publications, Inc. Wisdom Traditions Institute 4060 Adams Ave. San Diego, Ca. 92116 www.wisdomtraditions.com
By Phillip A. Malpas
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1917, pages 363-68.]
Who was Tiphaigne de la Roche?
About the middle of the seventeenth century, several books appeared in Paris written by an author of this name, and considering the really remarkable knowledge he showed, it is surprising that he is not better known to literary fame.
Under the disguise of a playful satire on society as constituted in those days, this author wrote the book GIPHANTIE, an anagram of his own name. It was published in 1760, a date which is important for those who might suspect that it was written after the event. In accordance with the custom of the time, he makes a somewhat ponderous title page which is none the less interesting for that.
GIPHANTIE OR A VIEW OF WHAT HAS PASSED WHAT IS NOW PASSING AND, DURING THE PRESENT CENTURY WHAT WILL PASS IN THE WORLD.
The introduction describes the writer's great inclination for traveling. He says:
I considered the whole earth as my country, and all mankind my brethren, and therefore thought it incumbent upon me to travel through the earth and visit my brethren. I have often found great folly among the nations that pass for the most civilized and sometimes as great wisdom among those that are counted the most savage. I have seen small states supported by virtue, and mighty empires shaken by vice, whilst a mistaken policy has been employed to enrich the subjects, without any endeavor to render them virtuous.
After having gone over the whole world and visited all the inhabitants, I find it does not answer the pains I have taken. I have just been reviewing my memoirs concerning the several nations, their prejudices, their customs and manners, their politics, their laws, their religion, and their history, and I have thrown them all into the fire. It grieves me to record such a monstrous mixture of humanity and barbarism, of grandeur and meanness, of reason and folly.
The small part, I have preserved, is what I am now publishing. If it has no other merit, certainly it has novelty to recommend it.
Describing a vast desert in Guinea, the traveler felt an intense desire to explore it, and in spite of the danger, penetrated far into the sandy waste. Then a sandstorm arose that but for the protection of a "benevolent Being" would have proved his death. The storm subsides and he sleeps peacefully through the night.
On awaking, he finds himself within sight of a green oasis which grows the more luxuriantly as he advances into the interior. Even the plants in that wonderful land seemed to possess consciousness, and their variety, as well as that of the birds, beasts, and fishes, was wonderful to behold. Trees "coeval with the world" form an immense amphitheatre which majestically displays itself to the eyes of the traveler and proclaims that such a habitation is not made for mortals.
Wondering that he had not seen any inhabitants in these gardens of delight, the traveler heard a voice: "Stop and look steadfastly before thee; behold him who has inspired thee to undertake so dangerous a voyage."
"I looked a good while and saw nothing; at last I perceived a sort of spot, a kind of shade fixed in the air, a few paces from me," says the narrator. "I continued to look at it more attentively, and fancied, I saw a human form with a countenance so mild and engaging that instead of being terrified, the sight was to me a fresh motive of joy."
The benevolent shade declares himself to be the Prefect of the Island, who had been prepossessed in favor of the wanderer by his inclination to philosophy, and had defended him from the hurricane. He explains:
This Solitude ... is an island surrounded with inaccessible deserts, which no mortal can pass without supernatural aid. Its name is Giphantie. It was given to the elementary spirits, the day before the Garden of Eden was allotted to the parent of Mankind. Not that the spirits spend their time here in ease and sloth. What would ye do, 0 ye feeble mortals, if dispersed in the air, in the sea, in the bowels of the earth, in the sphere of fire, they did not incessantly watch for your welfare? Without our care, the unbridled elements would long since have effaced all remains of the human kind? Why cannot we preserve you entirely from their disorderly sallies? Alas! Our power extends not so far. We cannot totally screen you from all the evils that surround you. We can only prevent your utter destruction.
It is here the elementary spirits come to refresh themselves after their labors; it is here they hold their assemblies and concert the best measures for the administration of the elements.
In Giphantie, Nature has an opportunity of doing many things which would be impossible in the outer world. One of her works there is the constant endeavor to increase the numerous tribes of Vegetables and Animals and to produce new kinds. She works with admirable skill, but does not always succeed in perpetuating them, in which case they return forever into nothing. The Guardians of the Island cherish them with the utmost care, and when they are sufficiently organized to produce their kind, plant them out in the earth. Hence the new plants sometimes discovered by naturalists and the sudden disappearance of certain exotics, which meeting an unfavorable climate, decay and are lost as a species. The Prefect speaks of many plants he has which can produce marvelous effects in medicine -- such as one for fixing the human mind, only in fifty years of Babylon (Paris) he has never observed a mood worth fixing.
[Here nature] incessantly repeats her labors, still endeavoring to give her works that degree of perfection which she never attains. Flowers she endeavors to make still more beautiful. Animals she tries to make still more dexterous. Mankind she endeavors to render still more perfect, but in this is not so successful.
Indeed one would think that mankind does all in their power to remain in a much lower rank than nature designs them! And they seldom fail to turn to their hurt the dispositions she gives them for their good.
The nature of the elementary spirits was originally pure, consisting as to their material substance of fire, or air, or of their unmixed elements. But by mixture with earthly impurities, their pure essence becomes spoiled and some have even become so degraded through the mixture of various elements that they have been visible to men. People have seen them in the fire and called them salamanders, and Cyclopes; they have seen them in the air and called them sylphs, spheres, Aquilons; they have seen them in the water and called them sea-nymphs, Naiads, Nereids, Tritons; they have seen them in caverns, deserts, woods, and have called them Gnomes, Sylvans, Fauns, Satyrs, and so forth.
From the astonishment caused by these apparitions, men sank into fear and fear begot superstition. To these -- Creatures like themselves -- they erected altars which belong only to the Creator. Their imagination magnifying what they had seen, they soon formed a Hierarchy of Chimerical Deities. The sun appeared to them a luminous chariot guided by Apollo through the celestial planes; thunder, a fiery bolt darted by Jupiter at the heads of the guilty: the ocean a vast empire where Neptune ruled the waves: the bowels of the earth, the gloomy residence of Pluto where he gave laws to the pale and tremulous ghosts. In a word, they filled the world with gods and goddesses. The earth itself became a Deity.
When the elementary spirits perceived how apt their apparitions were to lead men into error, they took measures to be no longer visible. They devised a sort of refiner by which they got rid of all extraneous matter. Thenceforward, no mortal has seen the least glimpse of these spirits.
The great column or refiner is shown and many spirits are seen ascending after purification like exhalations from the sun. It is explained that their visibility is artificially produced by the adoption of a very thin surface partaking of the nature of the spirits who assume them, much as looks describe a man. Human beings use these surfaces very much and thus it is that a "Babylonian would rather be nothing and appear everything than be everything and appear nothing." All is one gigantic sham in society.
There is a description of something like a telephone. A vast globe is ingeniously erected by the utmost skill of the spirits. By minute tubes to all parts of the earth, sound is conveyed to the globe, and the current which had grown weak in the imperceptible pipes is reinforced on its entry into the globe in such a way that all the joy and sorrow of the world is heard with every kind of sound in a confused disagreeable murmur. By the placing of a rod on any point of the mapped surface of the globe, any particular speech or sound can be detached from the rest -- a sort of universal telephone central. With the addition of a mirror, anything can be seen at the same time; it is in the seer's power to "view the habitations of every mortal."
The traveler uses the mirror and the rod and sees and hears much.
I beheld wise nations rejoice at the birth of their children and deplore the death of their relations and friends; I beheld others more wise stand round the newborn babe, and weep bitterly at the thoughts of the storms he was to undergo in the course of his life. They reserved their rejoicings for funerals and congratulated the deceased upon their being delivered from the miseries of this world.
And so the book goes on, describing the wonders of this 'Island' in the midst of an impassable desert. Of the many ideas given, perhaps the strangest for the time (1760) are those on the constitution of man. Discussing the principles, there occur some paragraphs of no little interest.
The rational soul is united to the human body the instant the motion essential to life is settled there. It is separated the instant that motion is destroyed; and once separated, it is known to return no more, it departs forever; and enters into a state of which there is to be no end.
The universal soul is united and separated in the same circumstances. But it is not always separated forever. Let, in any person, the motion essential to life, after having totally ceased, come to be renewed (a thing which every physician knows to be very possible), and what will be the consequence? The rational soul, which departed upon the ceasing of the vital motion, cannot return; but the universal soul, always present, cannot fail of reuniting with the organized body set in motion again. The man is dead, for his soul is separated from his body. He preserves, however, the air of a living man; because the universal soul is resettled in his brain, which it directs tolerably well.
Such to you appears a person perfectly recovered from an apoplectic fit, who is but half come to life; his soul is flown; there remains only the universal spirit. Excess of joy, or of grief, any sudden opposition may occasion death, and does occasion it, in fact, oftener than is imagined. Let a fit of jealousy or passion affect you to a certain degree, your soul, too strongly shocked, quits its habitation forever. And, let your friends say what they please or say what you will yourself, you are dead, positively dead. However, you are not buried. The universal soul acts your part to the deception of the whole world and even of yourself. Do not complain, therefore, that a relation forgets you, that a friend forsakes you, and that a wife betrays you. Alas! Perhaps it is a good while since you had a wife, or relations, or friends; they are dead. Their images only remain.
How many deaths of this kind have I seen at Babylon? ...
I shall now speak of the signs by which the living may be distinguished from the dead. And, doubtless, the reader sees already what these signs may be. To behold wickedness with unconcern; to be unmoved by virtue; to mind only self-interest; and without remorse to be carried away with the torrent of the age are signs of death. Be assured, no rational soul inhabits such abandoned machines. What numbers of dead amongst us, you will say. What numbers of dead amongst us, will I answer ...
I will conclude with opening a door to new reflections. Suppose a man like so many others vegetates only and is reduced to the universal soul. I demand whether the race of such a man is not in the same state. If so, I pity our posterity. Rational souls were scarce among our forefathers; they are still more so among us; surely there will be none left among our offspring. All are degenerating, and we are very near the last stage.
The interest in the above account for those who remember the Theosophical division of the human constitution into seven principles lies in the distinct indication of such principles. The whole chapter is too long to copy, but we are told "there are in us two contrary Beings, which oppose one another," as is "manifest by the clashing between the passions and the reason." The universal soul is described as everywhere present and homogeneous, like a sea in which fishes swim, one may say. The animal soul is clearly distinguished from the higher, manly, rational soul. Matter is described as something separate. The universal soul may be present everywhere in the solar system or even farther, but it has its bounds, it is God alone that fills immensity. The motion essential to life is distinguished. Here are five principles described by a Parisian in 1760, and in other places he shows that he does not limit his principles to these five alone.
Among the wealth of ideas put forward in this remarkable little book, the famous description of the photographic process, or as some describe it the cinematograph, has always been a stumbling block for scientists and critics of every hue. Facts are pitchforks, but this pitchfork has no handle visible. The best that science can do with the matter is to relegate the thing to the storehouse of literary curiosities, and not to keep it too closely under observation. For it was PUBLISHED forty years before the first glimmerings of photography dawned on the scientific mind, and yet today, more than a hundred and fifty years afterwards, it describes our most modern development of the art. The mocking omission of chemical details is disconcerting to say the least, for without such details, how can we tell just how much he did not know?
Here is the chapter, in its entirety:
Some paces from the noisy globe, the earth is hollowed, and there appears a descent of forty or fifty steps of turf at the foot of which there is a beaten subterraneous path. We went in; and my guide, after leading me through several dark turnings, brought me at last to the light again.
He conducted me into a hall of middling size, and not much adorned, where I was struck with a sight that raised my astonishment. I saw, out of a window, a sea which seemed to me to be about a quarter of a mile distant. The air, full of clouds, transmitted only that pale light which forebodes a storm: the raging sea ran mountains high, and the shore was whitened with the foam of the billows which broke on the beach.
By what miracle (said I to myself) has the air, serene a moment ago, been so suddenly obscured? By what miracle do I see the ocean in the center of Africa? Upon saying these words, I hastily ran to convince my eyes of so improbable a thing. But in trying to put my head out of the window, I knocked it against something that felt like a wall. Stunned with the blow, and still more with so many mysteries, I drew back a few paces.
Thy hurry (said the Prefect) occasions thy mistake. That window, that vast horizon, those thick clouds, and that raging sea are all but a picture.
From one astonishment, I fell into another. I drew near with fresh haste; my eyes were still deceived, and my hand could hardly convince me that a picture should have caused such an illusion.
The elementary spirits (continued the Prefect) are not so able painters as naturalists; thou shalt judge by their way of working. Thou knowest that the rays of light, reflected from different bodies, make a picture and paint the bodies upon all polished surfaces, on the retina of the eve, for instance, on water, on glass. The elementary spirits have studied to fix these transient images. They have composed a most subtle matter very viscous and proper to harden and dry by the help of which, a picture is made in the twinkle of the eye. They do over with this matter a piece of canvas and hold it before the objects they have a mind to paint.
The first effect of the canvas is that of a mirror. There are seen upon it all bodies far and near whose image the light can transmit. But what the glass cannot do, the canvas, by means of the viscous matter, retains the images. The mirror shows the objects exactly, but keeps none. Our canvases show them with the same exactness and retain them all. This impression of the images is made the first instant they are received on the canvas, which is immediately carried away into some dark place; an hour after, the subtle matter dries, and you have a picture so much the more valuable, as it cannot be imitated by art nor damaged by time. We take, in their purest source, in the luminous bodies, the colors which painters extract from different materials and which time never fails to alter.
The justness of the design, the truth of the expression, the gradation of the shades, the stronger or weaker strokes, the rules of perspective, all these we leave to nature, who with a sure and never-erring hand draws upon our canvases images which deceive the eye and make reason to doubt whether what are called real objects are not phantoms which impose upon the sight, the hearing, the feeling, and all the senses at once.
The Prefect then entered into some physical discussions, first, on the nature of the glutinous substance which intercepted and retained the rays; secondly, upon the difficulties of preparing and using it; thirdly, upon the struggle between the rays of light and the dried substance; three problems, which I propose to the naturalists of our days, and leave to their sagacity.
Meanwhile, I could not take off my eyes from the picture. A sensible spectator, who from the shore beholds a tempestuous sea, feels no more lively impressions. Such images are equivalent to the things themselves.
The Prefect interrupted my ecstasy. I keep you too long (says he) upon this storm, by which the elementary spirits designed to express allegorically the troublesome state of this world, and mankind's stormy passage through the same; turn thy eyes, and behold what will feed thy curiosity and increase thy admiration.
[From THE ARYAN PATH, June 1957, pages 255-57.]
A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.
We can be thankful to a friend for a few acres or a little money; and yet for the freedom and command of the whole earth, and for the great benefits of our being, our life, health, and reason, we look upon ourselves as under no obligation.
I hate ingratitude more in man Than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, Or any taint of vice whose strong corruption Inhabits our frail blood.
Gratitude is a virtue most extolled and yet most departed from. In Occultism its lack is counted not merely a defect, but a crime. The Master-Custodians of the Secret Wisdom have declared that ingratitude is not one of Their vices.
Gratitude or devotion -- the one cannot be conceived of without the other -- is an emotion innate in the heart of each human being. It is a child's first instinctive feeling for its mother and nurse; the first and foremost motor in man's nature. As the child grows -- and if it is a normal and sound growth -- gratitude to others should become as habitual as the reception of benefits is constant. But, although every normal person recognizes it to be a moral requisite, its wider significance and deeper import is often overlooked.
The dictionary defines "gratitude" as "recognition of benefits received ... appreciation of the kindness of a benefactor and inclination to return it." Recognition and appreciation call for the interplay of heart and mind. Gratitude is not only the memory but the homage of the heart. Why need there be thankfulness upon receiving what we consider to be our "due?" Does not the answer lie in the fact that nothing can come of itself? Life is ever sustained on the principles of unity and interdependence. Life is, or should be, a constant exchange of benefits. Without widespread cooperation and brotherly assistance from all directions and from many remote places, we could hardly live! Are not all those who serve us in one way or another entitled to recognition and appreciation of "benefits received?"
It is customary among some people to say grace at meals; but most of us rarely feel gratitude for the many other blessings of life. In his essay "Grace Before Meat," Charles Lamb wrote with characteristic humor:
It is not ... easy to be understood, why the blessing of food -- the act of eating -- should have had a particular expression of thanksgiving annexed to it, distinct from that implied and silent gratitude with which we are expected to enter upon the enjoyment of the many other various gifts and good things of existence.
I own that I am disposed to say grace upon twenty other occasions in the course of the day besides my dinner. I want a form for setting out upon a pleasant walk, for a moon-light ramble, for a friendly meeting, or a solved problem. Why have we none for books, those spiritual repasts -- a grace before Milton -- a grace before Shakespeare -- a devotional exercise proper to be said before reading the Fairy Queen?
Gratitude should find expression in three directions: towards those above us, towards those below us, and towards our equals.
Above us are our Elder Brothers, those Great and Peaceful Ones, those Super-Men infinitely superior to us in wisdom, peace, and power; they ever strive to alleviate the sum of human misery. They "live regenerating the world like the coming of spring." Having crossed the ocean of embodied existence, They help us deluded mortals, out of boundless pity and compassion that seeks no return, to cross it.
Is not silent gratitude the least thing we can do for Them? What better expression of gratefulness can there be towards a Buddha, a Christ, a Krishna -- to name but a few of Those who have come out in the public world and whose life and teachings have uplifted the level of consciousness of millions upon millions all through the ages -- than energizing ourselves to live up to Their message and passing on to those who know still less than we do the Gift of Knowledge? What can be a better "outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" than our effort to live to benefit mankind?
Then below us are our younger brothers, beings in need of help and support -- not only human beings, but all the kingdoms below the human from whom we receive benefits and whom we ought to help in return by becoming co-workers with Nature. The life-giving sun and the beneficent rain, the productive earth and the invigorating air, are all gifts which Nature like a true Mother bestows on us. Bountiful Nature has much more to give, which is ours for the taking. If we had but eyes to see and ears to hear, we would find "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything." Fruits and vegetables give sustenance to the body; flowers and trees bring joy and beauty into life with color and perfume and shade. The animal kingdom too has its usefulness to man.
Surely sincere gratitude is due for everything used and enjoyed! So the Gita enjoins that there be mutual nourishing between man and the "gods" who minister to his needs, stating: "He who enjoyeth what hath been given unto him by them, and offereth not a portion unto them, is even as a thief." Instead of helping Nature and working on with her, man in his ingratitude exploits and robs her and breaks her laws. Have we any cause for complaint when Nature rebels and earthquakes, floods, famines, droughts, diseases, and the like visit the people of the earth?
Among our equals, our brothers of the human family, many, many serve us in the manifold walks of life and are entitled to all the help and guidance we can give them. The countless human agencies involved in providing for us the necessities and comforts of life, all those who have helped us grow in body and mind, the generations of men who have gone before us and have left us a legacy of knowledge and skills of various kinds and whose accumulated experience we are availing ourselves of today -- all these should evoke our gratitude, gratitude for being able to give as well as to receive. But the weed of ingratitude, the outcome of the seeds of envy, egotism, pride, and covetousness, takes root in many a human heart, and instead of striving to repay our fellow brothers for the benefits received from them, far too often we try to grab as many of the good things of life as we can for ourselves, depriving others of their rightful due.
If all human hearts were grateful hearts, would we have competition and rivalry, strife, and bloodshed, in the family of man? Would people be plundered and exploited on all sides, often by appeal to their nobler traits, not only in the sphere of commerce and industry, but also in the name of religion or of science, of patriotism and what not?
Let us reflect on the fact that we can claim nothing as "our own." There is not a thing we use or enjoy but is a gift. Our bodies are gifts; our minds too are gifts. Life itself is a gift. He who receives gifts and offers nothing in return has aptly been called "creation's blot, creation's blank." Life often brings us seeming misfortune or affliction, but let us be thankful even for this, for it offers us opportunity for building stamina and strengthening virtue, and serves to brighten all our future days. To have a heart replete with thankfulness is to be both good and happy; for such a one, life is ever a contest of smiles.
By Maria Siren
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, April 1932, pages 345-52.]
Speaking of Theosophy, we must remember that it is not a religious system with fixed dogmas, but that its outer form has changed throughout the ages. Theosophy is called "the mother of religions." It is the inner kernel in all religions, and as the essence of religion is to get closer to the divine, it follows that every thinker with a broad mind and high ideals in some measure reveals Theosophical truths. On the other hand, it is clear that Theosophical ideas given out in some remote time, and colored by the views and means of expression of that time, can hardly be accepted by us in their entirety. This explains, for instance, why we feel the strangeness in Jacob Bohme's Theosophy.
Certain trends of idea reappear very strongly after long intervals. The Greek spirit was revived by the Renaissance which gave new life to art; at the end of the eighteenth century, Platonic idealism permeated the entire Western civilization and has had beneficent influence upon philosophy, religion, and literature. The literary school called forth by this influence, known as Romanticism, is defined broadly as an idealistic effort to view the world as one whole living organism. The ideas of Plato, Pythagoras, and Plotinus are found in Swedish romantic writings, as in Elgstrom, Atterbom, Stagnelius, and others.
In our Swedish Hymnal, we have a genuine thought of Plotinus in Wallin's beautiful hymn:
Oh, when there is so much beauty In every pulsation of the life, How beautiful the source itself must be, In its eternal clearness.
The romantic writers are generally familiar with Bohme's Theosophy. They believe that the divine, the World-Soul, lives in everything; that the spirit is imprisoned in matter, and that in death, it is free to return to its rightful abode; that ideas are the souls of things, the things themselves being the bodies of the ideas, the world emanating from the infinite and returning to it. These thoughts are brought forth by them all. Thus Elgstrom:
When Psyche from her source Sank into the heavy folds of matter, She forgot her former life, When a higher world she experienced, In which eternal archetypes were mirrored ...
Atterbom speaks plainly of his religion as Theosophy in PHOSPHORUS. He defines three distinct ages for art, the first being that of mythology, the second that of religion, and the third, which was about to appear, that of Theosophy, the fundamental characteristic of which was to be the blending of religion, philosophy, and poetry. Atterbom predicts a northern era of highest culture, which indeed had been spoken of already in the ancient northern Sagas in the mythology which in religious and philosophic profundity is surpassed only by the mythology of India, whose step-daughter he considers it to be. The new civilization is to be a synthesis of the Greek and the Christian, of materialism and spiritualism.
His poem "Urania" is a hymn to the World-Soul. Urania in the night is looking down towards us who live on the stars, trying to lift our inner being to where she herself is dwelling. Atterbom dreams of blending with the soul of the great whole. He looks at the descent of the soul into the world of matter as a fall, and he sees the end of the soul's effort in the reunion with the real essence, after being freed from the material garb at death. The soul becomes one with the world-mother Urania and lives her eternal life. The emanation of life from God and its reunion with God as the river, tired of its wandering, longs to unite itself with the ocean, is a theme that often appears in Atterbom's poems.
The same is true about Stagnelius. However, there is a great difference between Elgstrom and Atterbom on one hand and Stagnelius on the other. While the former regard matter as a divine principle in which they everywhere perceive traces of the divine goodness and beauty, Stagnelius regards matter as fallen and urges us to fight against nature and matter as an evil which we should learn to renounce by our free will, a thesis beautifully expressed in his poem "The Mystery of the Sighs:"
Man! Wouldst thou learn the wisdom of life, Listen to me! Two laws govern This life. The power to ask Is the first; the necessity of renunciation Is the second. Ennoble this necessity By freedom, and sanctified and atoned Thou shalt enter the portals of divine life High above the whirling Planets of matter.
Stagnelius regards selfish love as the cause of the descent of the soul from the ideal world to the material world. As long as man is filled by it, he takes illusion for reality and is hunting restlessly after shadows. He forgets the idea for its symbols; memories of the primeval home disappear, after having followed him during the innocence of childhood -- which is in itself a picture of life in the paradise of the ideal world.
Bohme also considered the fall of man as a result of selfish longing, and H.P. Blavatsky has written along that line in THE SECRET DOCTRINE. With her, Stagnelius condemns head-learning without the wisdom of the soul and the heart, in one of his poems, unfinished, which speaks of Theosophy as divine wisdom in contrast to the illusive arts of alchemy.
Not learning alone Ever leads thee out of the grave of the spiritual, Love alone can unite thee With Him who gave thee life. Become pure as the blue ether of space, Calm as the mirrored moon in the spring. Then let thy soul be initiated Into mysteries of Light. Not in the crucible of curiosity Found the searcher his longed-for gold, If virtue does not guide thy search for wisdom, Only smoke and mist will envelop thee.
In his commentary on this, Book says that "Stagnelius in the vain search for the gold saw a symbol of the inadequacy and ineffectiveness of human research when not pursued in the spirit of virtue, love, and religion."
In his "Theses," Stagnelius gives what he considers to be the esoteric kernel of Christianity. He believes, as do others of the Romantic School, that the human race originally had a divine revelation, secretly handed down through the ages. In all the traditions and artworks of ancient races were found fragments of the original tradition.
Many Pythagorean ideas are to be found in Stagnelius's writings, as for instance the mystical numbers and the idea of the breath as an expression of kosmic law. The whole universe is a living being which is breathing in a constant inflow and outflow. The poet uses water as a symbol of the physical world, the world of illusion.
In a long dramatic poem, Stagnelius makes Orpheus the spokesman of his Theosophical conception. For instance:
We worship the same Deity, though with different names. . . . . . . . Believe me: There is but one God: he may be called Apollo, Dionysus, or the thunder-god Zeus.
Thus he considers the various religions as different symbols of the same esoteric idea.
Albert Nilsson tells us that:
[Stagnelius's system is] an Orphism purified from cult and doctrines where only the esoteric kernel has been kept. Life is regarded as a trial. Only suffering in patience, pious resignation, and divine harmony can liberate the soul and make it worthy to be united after death with its divine original.
Elgstrom proposed that the Aurora Society take the name of Orphists. "We would then," he said, "revive an ancient philosophic sect, whose philosophy and religion was poetical, which should preserve the ancient teachings of god and the world, treasuring wider knowledge and more sacred mysteries." His suggestion was not followed, but the Swedish Romantic School started, at all events, and the picture on their magazine showed Orpheus playing on the shore for the rising morning star.
Turning now to the poet of sun and light -- Tegner -- we note how he sings about the sun in many of his poems. The Romantic School generally regards nature as a form of revelation of the Deity and the sun as a symbol of the majesty of the Deity. One of Tegner's fondest ideas is that the Divine Being, in itself One, appears in the physical world under many forms, as light is broken up into many colors.
Measure not heaven with the narrow And false scale of thy knowledge The forms of mortal dust are many, The divine is One.
The light of divine revelation appears, according to Tegner, in many forms also, and in many colors. It is by no means found only in Christianity, but wherever the divine shines forth, there we find a revelation of God. In one of his speeches, Tegner asks: "What is revelation?" and gives the answer:
There is a revelation in every age. Christ gave one: but before and after his time it was. Its source will never dry out as long as God is, as long as springtime appears in its fresh green, as long as mind is searching and traditions speak to us. The scientists tell us that light in itself is One and without color, but as such, it cannot be understood by any human sense. It must be broken up, in the sky and in the earth, before it can be sensed by us in its rich play of color. The same is true of the light of revelation. It always carries the colors and speaks with the tongue of its age. It is a curious concept indeed that there should have been just one single revelation, coming bare and naked from heaven, like the shields which the Roman tales speak of as through a miracle falling down.
Tegner also speaks of the teaching of preexistence. The human soul is a guest here on earth. It has left its real home and is longing to return. Religious aspiration is described in one of his poems as the longing of the soul for home. The human soul is a son of God, fallen from heaven. Nobody can entirely forget his origin, though most of us only dimly remember it. "The poet, the thinker, and the hero" represent to Tegner the three ideas: "the beautiful, the true, and the right," and they are in the service of the eternal.
The Atonement he views differently from the Church. According to Tegner, the Atonement is liberation from this finite world and reunion with divinity. Albert Nilsson shows that this is the basic idea in his sublime "Hymn to the Sun," where he applies the myth of Lucifer to the Sun. Nathan Soderblom says that "Tegner's ideas of salvation are not Christian but Platonic; he looks at the Christian dogmas as being symbols." This is true according to Theosophy. In "Frithiof's Saga," Balder's priest says:
On earth the atoner is called death. All time is from beginning turbid eternity, All earthly life is a falling away from the throne of God. To atone is to return there purified. . . . . . . . The crowd sacrifices to the Asa-gods. It is a symbol with deep meaning, because blood Is the rosy dawn of a Day of Atonement. But the symbol is not the thing itself, it atones not. Wherein you have transgressed, none will atone for you. The dead are atoned for in the bosom of All-father, The living may atone within their own breast.
When man conquers his lower self, his hatred, his passions, and everything that ties him to the material, then the Eternal in him is liberated and he atones. Thus Frithiof's atonement lies in conquering his hatred towards Helge.
In one of his speeches, Tegner says:
It is a childish and narrow idea, which one frequently hears, however, that piety and devotion were brought to the world by the Christian teachings. There was much Christianity before Christ; Christianity is only a name later given to that spirit.
Like Atterbom and Stagnelius, Tegner calls Spirit "the divine World-Soul," which inspires the entire creation from the lowest to the highest forms. He says:
The spirit makes life, but what spirit? Whence does it come? How does it act? It penetrates the world; it is the life of the world. In reality it does not MAKE it, Life IS life; what is without Spirit is dead. Look around, you will find it everywhere in living Nature ... Further up on the ladder it appears, though still dimly, in the animal -- perceiving, feeling, enjoying, and suffering. In man it looks around fully awake, seeing itself, perceiving right and wrong, judging and thinking, groping forward to its origin, to the spirit of Spirit, to God.
Of the poets mentioned above, none has directly treated the doctrine of Reincarnation, the rising from lower to higher forms of life, through rebirth, unless the poem of Stagnelius, "The Rose in the Garden of the Prince of the World," may be interpreted in such a light. According to Book, this poem treats of the "migration of souls" as he calls it, but others are of a different opinion. In short it says:
Behold the flower! On the emerald ground She is shining, innocent and pure; A soul tied in the fetters of dust, A morning dream of Psyche. . . . . . . . Soon you shall wake from your slumber, Soon on the desert paths you shall be, Where no wind will cool you, Where no sister souls will smile to you. In dwelling of dragons you shall pitch your tent for rest. In lions' dens you shall be a guest, With leopards you shall go.
The soul, fettered in the flower, thus will take up various animal forms, finally to become a human soul. There are many allegoric terms: "the demiurge," interpreted by Book as the incarnation of sensuality. The twelve stars in his turban are the twelve zodiacal signs. The five princesses are the human senses. At this point in its evolution, the soul has its trial by fire, deciding whether it shall regain its primeval purity.
A poet who does not lose himself in dreams of a spiritual reality, but like Tegner from his consciousness of it gains inspiration for ideal work, is Viktor Rydberg. He and Tegner stand, therefore, very close to us as representatives of the practical application of Theosophy in life. Though later than the others, Rydberg comes close to them in his ideas. He was a pupil of the philosopher Bostrom, who declared that morality did not mean killing out the lower nature but rather the reformation of it, and that man's real task was to realize the spiritual in the physical life. To Rydberg genuine Christianity was in full harmony with the best in the Hellenic spirit, and even he dreamed of a third age when antiquity and Christianity should blend harmoniously. This he expressed most forcefully in his work, "The Last Athenian."
In this book there is a beautiful interpretation of the Narcissus myth, which is interesting as differing from other interpretations. Plotinus had regarded water as a symbol of physical existence, the world of illusions. We often take this illusion for reality and meet the same fate as Narcissus, who in trying to embrace his image in the water was dragged down into the depths. In order to perceive soul-beauty, Plotinus says, we must close our physical eyes and use the inner vision.
The same theme and interpretation Stagnelius used in "Idealism," in which it is a flower that mirrors itself in the clear water and dies, thus emphasizing the truth that what we perceive here is only a reflection of true Being.
Rydberg, however, says:
Narcissus in his thirst is the human soul longing for knowledge and light. Narcissus bending over the well is man in whose soul Ideas are revealed. The well, which is not disturbed by any shepherd, by any herds, by any falling leaves, is Wisdom. The reflected image is the ideal in its divine, incorruptible beauty, revealed to the eye of the mortal. It bears his own features because the divine cannot be rendered apprehensible to the senses except in human form ... because the divine is inherent in the human, IS the inner man who through struggle and suffering is developed. The soul perceives itself and is seized by infinite pain and infinite joy, in finding how high is the goal, how perfect it could and ought to be. The ideal is so close and yet so inconceivable. The soul meets the cold wave of reality when it wishes to seize this ideal. It does not find it until the heavenly yearning has consumed all that is earthly in its nature.
Atterbom in his optimism regarded the physical world as a revelation of the divine beauty; Stagnelius in his pessimism saw the distance between the physical and the ideal. Rydberg sometimes follows the former, sometimes the latter. To Rydberg the conscience is that in which God directly reveals himself: it is the lever for the moral evolution of society. As Narcissus reaches the ideal only when yearning has consumed the lower elements in his nature, Rydberg's "Antinous" finds the answer to the riddle of existence only by sacrificing his own being.
Thus we find how differently the same myths may be interpreted, both interpretations being beautiful, true, and elevating -- different aspects of life, revealed in the same exterior form. Only when the form becomes a purpose, a dogma, and a ritual is the result empty and worthless. Lessing once said that if God offered him the truth in his right hand and the yearning for truth in his left, he would choose the left. To Rydberg the effort is the essential thing, for upon that evolution depends. Tegner expresses it also:
Although we cannot reach it all, the effort is beautiful, For in life, aspiration itself elevates and inspires.
By Reginald W. Machell
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1919, pages 351-57.]
There is a word of infinite virtue in education and also in government -- for government and education are both concerned with ordering the forces of life in accordance with the fitness of things. That word is the subject of this paper, Prevention.
The old saying that "Prevention is better than cure," is one that usually commands a certain amount of approbation but that excites very little enthusiasm; and which also arouses a certain amount of unexpressed opposition, due to alarm.
The alarm is instinctual. It is caused by an intuitive recognition of the presence of a power capable of assuming control over the liberty of the individual in the gratification of his wishes.
These wishes include all sorts of personal desires, ambitions, and appetites the indulgence of which is politely called the rights of man or some such euphemism. A human being of average intelligence knows that all human woes spring from the uncontrolled indulgence of such desires, appetites, and ambitions. And, knowing this, the individual fears that sooner or later other people will want to protect themselves from the evil consequences of his indulgence or of the unrestricted exercise of his rights.
So that while all intelligent people admit that prevention is better than cure, they also in silence agree that prevention should be used on other people and cure be provided for themselves.
But, as no one can be dishonest in his own eyes, so this perversion of moral law has to be camouflaged by the theory that, while other people's troubles may be due to their transgressions, the misfortunes that afflict themselves are caused by social conditions, injustice, tyranny, etc., or perhaps by heredity. And, as the evils of the moment are those that require immediate attention, there is no need for prevention until the desired cure is effected. So, as practical philanthropists or legislators, they can honestly confine their attention to palliation or remedy of the effects, without attempting to prevent or correct the causes of the evils that all deplore.
But common sense has no pity for such quibbling, and it forces us to realize that the evils in life will continue as long as the causes remain uncontrolled. And if these causes are inherent in all individuals, they must be controlled by those in whom they arise. So that common sense will tell us that prevention begins at home, for it consists in self-control first and self-governance ultimately.
Many idealists have seen a vision of a world that was entirely self-governed and have read the picture in terms of their own desires and called it Freedom. Then, being entirely ignorant of self-control, they have interpreted this picture of freedom as a state of absolute license or the free gratification of all desires -- a stupidity that would be inconceivable, if it were not so amazingly general.
Some of these enthusiasts are intelligent enough to see that self-control in itself is no ultimate remedy; but when they refuse to take that first step on the path of progress and emancipation from the ills of life, they make the next step doubly difficult if not wholly impossible. Self-control is but the first step in self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is the key to all knowledge and all power for it leads to the identification of the will of the individual with the will of the Universe. That state is one of harmony and understanding that ends the sense of wrong and leads to true Liberty.
There can be little doubt that self-control is the first word in education, for education consists in DRAWING OUT the inner possibilities; and this work must be accomplished by the student. The teacher can help, can show the way, can set the example, can explain the method, can establish favorable conditions, can create an atmosphere; but the actual work must be done by the student himself. The teacher can encourage the student to believe in his own possibilities, can inspire him with self-confidence and help him to keep his mind fixed on the goal. But the student must become his own master and must assert his authority over his lower nature from the very start or no true progress will be made.
That this view of education is not more generally accepted is perhaps the reason for the failure of the modern school systems to establish the moral character of the student on a sure basis. Boards of education have not shown themselves always capable of choosing teachers qualified to draw out the higher side of their students, or able to give the scholars any rational explanation of the problems that are met by every youth and which must be dealt with understandingly if the pupil is to arrive at anything like self-mastery.
That education in general is not accomplishing this result at present is proved by the increase of crime, of disease, and of insanity. Were these becoming rarer, we might safely argue that preventive work was being accomplished in our public schools and colleges. But on the contrary, we find the reports of charitable organizations showing an enormous increase in donations to institutions wholly devoted to moderating evils that are not prevented and to curing diseases that should not have arisen, while the same institutions base their appeals for increased support upon the fact that the evils themselves are constantly increasing. Prevention is needed.
But Prevention itself is also misunderstood by some of those who are most anxious for its establishment. This misunderstanding is of course due to a false philosophy of life, and to the persistence of an old idea that force is an efficient substitute for morality, and that a well-organized police force is a proof of an enlightened civilization. A police force can only deal with evils when they have produced results, and so it is never really preventive. Prevention is the elimination of a cause of evil, or its conversion into a beneficent force. This must be done in the individual before it has produced results, and this is the work of education.
We come back to the rule that civilization begins at home, and prevention must be practiced by each individual in himself. This means self-mastery the first step towards which is self-control -- a practice that is not popular, because the nature of self is not generally understood. To remove this objection and to show how desirable is such an achievement, right education is necessary, and this education must begin early, and must be conducted by teachers who themselves have mastered this great science in some appreciable degree, and who themselves have learned that it is a path of joy.
Perhaps the most serious obstacle to the general acceptance of this ideal is to be found in the fear that it will entail a sacrifice of things desirable, a renunciation of happiness. This is an altogether mistaken view, for that which is to be renounced is that which is most undesirable and the most potent cause of unhappiness. This delusion is the root of human woe.
If this is the path of joy, we may be asked why the old books should speak of it as a path of woe. The answer may be found in the opening passage of THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, by H. P. Blavatsky, which runs thus:
These instructions are for those ignorant of the dangers of the lower Iddhi," and in the notes we are told that Iddhis or Siddhis are psychic faculties or abnormal powers in man, "one group of which embraces the lower, coarse, psychic, and mental energies; the other exacts the highest training of spiritual powers.
Thus we see that the object of these teachings is to warn the rash investigator who would seek pleasure or excitement by forcing his way into the inner world for which he is unqualified by lack of discipline and in which his weaknesses would lay him open to great dangers.
The path of renunciation is described as seen from the standpoint of such a one. And it is certain that so long as the things he clings to as sources of enjoyment still can deceive him, so long must the path of pure joy be to him a path of renunciation and of woe, for he has identified himself with his lower nature. When the disciple has realized that these delusive delights are the real causes of his misery, then he will rejoice to be free from his old slavery and will look forward to liberation from his old joys as to an awakening to happiness.
An arctic explorer engaging a crew and company for a long expedition will not minimize the hardships of the voyage, nor will he accept as a companion one who is not fully prepared to find joy in the attempt and in the endurance of the greatest hardship. But to those who know all that such a journey implies, there is no question of woe or sacrifice. There is but joy, hope, and dreams of great accomplishment. The dangers are known, recognized, and carefully prepared for in advance, and those who have wasted their energies and ruined their health by past indulgences are not accepted, for the whole attempt might be a failure if the whole party were not qualified to meet the inevitable difficulties of the task.
Therefore the teachers sometimes warn disciples against hasty undertaking of great enterprises, and recommend them to follow rather the lower path of preparation. The entrance to the mysteries of old was guarded by long preparation. The disciple was told that "discipline precedes instruction."
The modern enthusiast too often thinks that he can dispense with discipline and can ignore instruction while going straight to the goal. There are times in life when a great goal appears quite close. The enthusiast leaps forward to attain it only to find that a chasm intervenes between the ground he stands on and the vision that allures him. Such long-sighted visionaries are dangerous leaders, for they bring their followers to inevitable disaster and shake the faith of men in the reality of the goal that is within the reach of all who follow the path of wisdom wisely.
True Teachers are more anxious to show their disciples the next step and to help them to reach it than to dazzle them with visions of the goal that is as yet far away. Each step safely taken brings the goal nearer, but a plunge into the abyss means a fall back to depths from which the people are but now emerging.
The most brilliant prospect may lead to retrogression, and the slow path of preparation proves the royal road to progress. This is so obvious that we ignore it as a truism that is negligible because unavoidable. But surely this present age is a time when the world has need of common sense in order to test those theories of life that are the substitutes for knowledge that the blind world has latterly accepted as the laws of life.
The world must recognize that world-events are not the work of single individuals, however active they may have been in helping on disasters. It must be realized that great results flow from adequate causes, and that those causes were seeds sown by many hands in many lands and in many ages, and that the world that reaps the harvest is the same world of men that sowed the seed. Furthermore, it must be realized that the plants that sprang from that seed have been fostered by those whose share in the responsibility for the ultimate harvest may not be so easily traced, and that the quality of the crop might have been altered at any time in the past just as the harvests of the future may be altered now even though the seed is sown.
The evils that have torn the world so recently were of long growth and of ancient origin, but they might have been prevented. That is the point. No disaster can be called inevitable till it happens: for even when it is too late to avert the disaster, it is never too late to transmute into beneficent forces the energies let loose. New causes may be set going at any moment, and it lies with men to do it. We are the makers of the world's destiny. We can prevent the evils that we have perhaps accepted in the past as irredeemably ordained by destiny or Nature's law. We are the agents of the law and its administrators. And, though the knowledge of these laws has been forgotten by the world at large, the ancient science is not lost. Man may at any time reclaim his heritage and know that he is a ray from the Divinity, himself divine in essence and powerful to make or mar the happiness of his kind.
That which is needed is right education. The secret knowledge is within and may be drawn out by education, but it cannot be attained by book-learning alone. It is a growth, an evolution of the inner man, coincident with the growth and training of the outer physical body, which must be purified and strengthened by right discipline in order that the inner wisdom, when attained, may be expressed correctly and intelligibly in right conduct as well as in right words. So, right education is the most urgent need of humanity today.
Even now, when the bare problem of existence seems to obscure all other considerations, it is most urgent that education be placed before all other considerations in the state, as affecting every individual today and the whole course of evolution in the future. But it must be right education, which takes note of the whole complex nature of man, and is not limited to a cultivation of the memory and brain-mind.
All the faculties must be united and controlled by the higher will according to the simple laws of life, the chief of which is Brotherhood -- chief, because it is the expression of man's spiritual unity with the Soul of the Universe, and because it is the law of life that alone can be called Preventive. The happiness of man depends on Universal Brotherhood; the responsibility of men springs from the same great fact. The apparent simplicity of this law blinds men to its importance, while they go hunting remedies for the woes of life in palliative measures that leave the cause untouched.
Probably there is but one school actually and intelligently founded on this principle, successfully putting this great law into practical application. That school is the Raja-Yoga College and Academy at Point Loma, founded and directed by Katherine Tingley. In the nineteen years of its existence, it has proved the possibility of establishing preventive education, which is also curative.
No one who knows the power of heredity will hope to prevent the whole results of past causes, or completely to eradicate hereditary tendencies. But the prevention of future results by the elimination of present causes is shown to be effective in the highest degree, and curative results are accomplished that seem marvelous to those who have become pessimistic from experience of ordinary efforts in that direction.
It is true that many people are beginning to see their only hope for the future in the establishment of such a system of education, but they are often daunted by the difficulty of finding teachers qualified to obtain the desired results; that is to say, teachers who can stand as examples of the principles they profess to inculcate. This difficulty is due to the same law of Nature that makes all the get-rich-quick schemes so disastrous to the society in which they are adopted.
There is a wise old saying that "the longest way round may prove the shortest way home." And in reform this rule seems to be an absolute law, as absolute as the axiom that "no one can give what he has not got." Teachers to whom the principles of Raja Yoga, as practiced in this school under Katherine Tingley's direction, are but theories, will get but theoretical results; and all attempts to establish a system of true education on any get-results-quick system will get precisely the results that are now being obtained from schools equipped with everything that money can buy and lacking only the one thing necessary to success.
And yet there is no need to abandon hope because the goal is far away. The first step in the right direction is the first thing necessary. This step consists in recognizing the overwhelming importance of right education and the serious responsibility that devolves upon all who have the appointment, selection, or supervision of teachers in their hands. And the fitting provision for their support must not be neglected. These points concern the public, and the public means you and me and the rest.
When the first step is taken, the next will become more apparent. And this first step does not require long training or preparation. It requires the use of common sense and strong will to bring about a better condition in the schools and in the teaching body.
Some of the evils of the present system are so apparent that an improvement could be effected immediately if the public where alive to the urgent need of action in the matter. But this action must be generous and comprehensive, free from sectarianism or parochialism; it must be inspired by a conviction that humanity has rights and responsibilities, among which the right to a good education is first. This right implies responsibility. Rights and responsibilities are inseparable. The next generation will reap a bitter harvest of results from the causes that this generation has let loose. It is the duty of those who recognize this fact to urge the necessity for preventive action now, action that may modify the terrible evils that will otherwise overwhelm the human race. Preventive action means right education. Schools like the Raja Yoga School of Katherine Tingley are preventive, and will make prisons and lunatic asylums and the like unnecessary. "Prevention is better than Cure."
By Peter Malekin
[From THE ARYAN PATH, August 1957, pages 358-63.]
Not many people have heard of William Law. Only one of his works, A SERIOUS CALL TO A DEVOUT AND HOLY LIFE, is at all well known, and that is neither his best nor his most typical book.
William Law was a clergyman of the Church of England. Born in 1686, he was educated at Cambridge where he became a Fellow of Emmanuel. In 1714, however, he gave up his fellowship and all hope of a career in the Church by refusing to abjure the rights of the exiled Stuart Kings. For a while he played some part in the affairs of the non-juring Church, but spent most of his time at Putney, where he acted as tutor to Edward Gibbon, the father of the historian. In 1740 he retired to King's Cliffe, his native Northamptonshire village, and set up house with two ladies, Elizabeth Hutcheson and Hester Gibbon. The three regularly attended the services of the local parish church. Their large income, once their immediate needs were satisfied, was distributed among the poor; much of it they gave with their own hands in the form of food and clothing. They themselves lived in frugal comfort. At King's Cliffe, Law remained until his death in 1761.
As will be seen, the external circumstances of Law's life were hardly exciting. His real adventures were adventures of the mind and heart.
In 1717 Law was a High Churchman. His first publication was a series of letters against the Bishop of Bangor in which he defended High Church principles. These and his other early controversial writings are masterpieces of their kind; the best of them is his answer to a book called THE FABLE OF THE BEES.
It has often been stated, particularly by Canon Overton in his biography of Law, that Law remained a churchman to the end of his life, but this is untrue. Law later quite abandoned his first legalistic conceptions.
In his next phase, Law wrote as a moralist. It was in 1728, towards the end of this period, that THE SERIOUS CALL appeared.
At some time a little before 1737, Law began to study Boehme. From then until the end of his life he devoted his extraordinary gifts as a writer to the exposition of Boehme's philosophy. Law had one of the finest of all English styles and his mind was unusually clear. He was therefore in many ways an ideal eighteenth-century champion for Boehme, but perhaps his greatest qualification was that Jacob Boehme's mysticism became a way of life and a psychological experience for him.
After contacting Boehme, Law no longer writes as a commentator on matters fathomable by reason alone. Rather he writes as one born in a blind world that has caught a glimpse of light, who KNOWS that it exists and that its wonders can be made manifest to man. He pleads with all the power of his earnest nature that others too should use their eyes and see. He repeats again and again that all he or Boehme can do is to persuade others to see for themselves. Unless the truth of Boehme's great philosophy is experienced as a birth of the Christ principle in man's soul, says Law, it must remain a merely rational notion and cannot become a spiritual benefit.
Two other great changes occurred in Law's writings after 1737. The first was that instead of attacking others with brilliant polemics, Law contented himself with presenting Boehme's philosophy for those who desired it. The second change was in Law's style, which became full of the warmth of compassion.
Law's Boehmenist writings divide into two periods. The first group of books appeared from 1737 to 1740. These show the immediate impact of Boehme. In them Law developed his exposition of Boehme's philosophy, culminating with a fairly full statement of it in his APPEAL TO ALL THAT DOUBT AND DISBELIEVE THE TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL. He here abandoned his old churchmanship, saying that no sect has the whole truth, and that external ceremonies are only of use as they forward the birth of Christ in the soul; however, he honors the good intentions of organized religion and advocates the performance of religious duties in a non-sectarian spirit.
From 1740 to 1749 Law remained silent. He learnt German and studied Boehme constantly. After 1749 he wrote a series of great mystical works, THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER, THE WAY TO DIVINE KNOWLEDGE, and THE SPIRIT OF LOVE.
Law's exposition of Boehme's thought takes the following form. He utterly repudiates the idea of creation out of nothing as a logical absurdity. The universe exists as an emanation from God. God is threefold. The father is a hidden Fire or Will to Manifestation, which begets the Son or Light or Desire, the outspoken Word or Logos of the Deity. From Fire and Light proceeds the Holy Spirit or Love. These three are inseparable in the Deity, and this "process" of generating and proceeding is an eternal one. From the triune God emanates Eternal nature, also known as the Glory of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the world of archetypal unity, a condition to which our world aspires in an inferior degree.
The Fire of the Father has a dual aspect. This duality passes into the Son, into the Holy Spirit, and into Eternal Nature. In all these it is a duality in unity, each aspect finding its fulfillment in the other. This duality, once manifest, may be analyzed into a trinity, and yet again into seven "forms" or "properties." In Eternal Nature these seven forms are one. In temporal nature they underlie all phenomena from the movement of the planets to the psychological processes of man.
Eternal Nature is perfect and copies the "process" of Deity, i.e., the hidden fire in it generates light in it, and from them proceeds love.
From Eternal Nature came temporal nature. Eternal Nature was peopled by angels, who were not created directly by God, for God creates nothing directly, but were born out of Eternal Nature. The will of these creatures was a spark of the Divine Will and therefore free. Some of them desired to know the source of manifested power, which source was one of the two aspects of the fire in Eternal Nature. The two aspects were a dark hellish fire known as the fire of God's wrath, and a bright heavenly fire, known as the fire of God's love; in union the bright fire drew strength from the dark fire and transmuted its wrathful nature, thus generating light and love and causing perfection.
Evil can occur in manifestation only through a separation of the two aspects, for all qualities as combined in God are perfect and necessary to one another. The effect of the angels' willing was to manifest the dark fire in isolation, which created hell, and into it fell those angels who had willed to know it. Through the manifestation of the dark center in themselves, they became devils and the Eternal Nature about them underwent a similar change, becoming dark and hellish.
To counteract this change, the Light and Love of God immediately began to manifest themselves as far as was possible in the falling Eternal Nature. The result was the temporal nature in which we live. Here the physical sun represents the Divine Light and Love, and its influence checks the manifestation of the dark fire. Within temporal nature in its first paradisiacal state, the dark angels were trapped and their activity quite inhibited, for they can act only in a medium akin to themselves.
Man, the microcosm, was breathed forth for this new world. He was a new creature, but the "essences of his soul" came out of God and never were not; hence all knowledge is present within the soul. Adam, the first man, shared the nature of heaven, of hell, and of the temporal world.
Man's purpose was to raise fallen temporal nature to its original state by manifesting within it his eternal nature. He also, however, fell by willing to know the good and evil of temporal nature. His fall was gradual and as it continued, Adam, originally androgynous, lost his power to procreate by his will and imagination; in consequence, his "Eve was taken out of him," and the sexes divided.
Man's falling caused a falling in nature and a partial restoration of the devil's power to act. The devil's temptation of man completed the Fall.
Once more, however, the Light and Love of God manifested themselves in a fallen creature as far as was possible. Into the fallen soul of man was breathed the "seed" or Christ principle through which man could regain his former state as an angel of power and glory. This seed is a divine spark in the souls of all men.
Regeneration is the bringing to birth of the Christ principle in the soul. The controlling factors in the process are the human will and desire. These can be directed towards the dark fire center, towards temporal nature, or towards the divine center in the soul. If a man desires the first, he becomes a devil. If he desires the second, then during life he is open to the divine influence of the sun, but at death, he falls into the dark center of his own nature. If he desires the divine, he becomes an angel. The desire for the divine within is faith, for faith is a hunger and thirst for God in the soul and not the assent of the reason to a set of propositions; hence any man of any race, time, or religion may have faith and become a Christian, i.e., a regenerate man.
The Christ principle was peculiarly incarnate in Jesus, whose life not only typified the process of regeneration, but made it possible for others to become regenerate; for the Christ in Jesus overcame both temporal and hellish nature, thus making possible a restoration of the divine harmony.
Law says a little about man's position in fallen temporal nature. The universe is a unity bound together by magnetic force. Each part of it is linked to the microcosm, man, who affects the world about him by his thought and feeling and is responsible for the disharmony in his environment. Man's physical body is a mere shell which came to him as a result of the Fall; within it he has an inner body and inner senses. Physical nature likewise has an inner causative principle.
Man's will and thinking power derive from the Divine Will and Thought and are therefore free and potent. The thinking power is not, however, reason, but is above reason. The human will is a magical force, for it stems from the Divine Will which caused the magical birth of all things. Man's temporal environment strives to regain its eternal state in which the four elements of this world were only one. It does this by the fire in nature trying to generate the Son and Holy Spirit in it (compare the tamas, rajas, and sattva of THE BHAGAVAD-GITA), but it can only do this in a temporal way, which is why the world is subject to decay. At the end of the world, physical nature will be swept away by a purifying fire and the light and love of Eternal Nature will again manifest in its place.
Prayer was important for Law, but he used the word in Boehme's sense, i.e., as a fervent direction of the will and desire towards the birth of Christ in the soul; to ask for anything else was not prayer in Law's eyes. Prayers in words asking for this birth were good, but the highest kind of prayer was an abiding desire pervading the whole of a man's life. Man's desire had to be single, for to desire the divine meant taking the desire away from everything else.
Law's opinion as to whether the devils could regain their first state changed; his final belief was in universal redemption.
Law was an ardent pacifist and wrote with great feeling against the killing of so many young men who, had they lived, might have come to seek the divine life.
Law's God may be called personal or impersonal, provided one is clear about the meaning given to the terms. God was, for Law, fixed beyond all change as a source of love which streamed into the whole of manifestation as light streamed from the sun. Only those did not receive it were who willed not to have it.
Law's system has similarities to Plato's. Eternal Nature is like Plato's world of archetypal Ideas. Their explanations of beauty are also similar, e.g., Law says that a jewel is beautiful since its clarity is the nearest earthly approach to the translucence of Eternal Nature. Another similarity is their suspicion of art, for Law thought art dangerous because it diverted the attention from the birth of Christ in the soul.
There are certain aspects of Boehme that Law does not mention. He never elaborates the nature of the seven properties except in so far as they relate to the first psychological stages of regeneration; he does no more than mention man's inner body; he does not deal with Boehme's astrology; above all he does not mention a cardinal doctrine with Boehme and many other German mystics, that of the "Abyss." The Father is with Boehme a kind of unmanifested Logos which knows itself in the Son. Behind the Father is the "Ungrund," the "Abyss" or "Bottomless," which, like the Father, cannot be known by man. The "Ungrund" is the Absolute, and the Father the first Will to manifestation which arises in the Absolute.
It has been claimed by Mr. Stephen Hobhouse that Law's silences indicate modifications of Boehme's thought. I believe this to be a mistaken interpretation. Boehme often says that he will write on some point in such a way that the profane cannot understand him, although his fellow students of the mysteries of divinity will understand him well enough. Law was most impressed by the fact that reason was not the faculty to be used in understanding the mysteries Boehme wrote of, and equally by the fact that divine understanding could only become active through unswerving devotion to the Christ within. Hence much of Boehme's system was not for the many.
Some doctrines were too deep, while others would mislead the worldly in a pursuit of selfish power and hidden knowledge. Therefore Law was silent about certain things; but to those ready for Boehme he gives directions as to which books and chapters are the best to read first. Boehme was for Law not a man who held certain opinions but "the heavenly Illuminated, and blessed Jacob Behmen" as he calls him in THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER.
Law at one time intended to translate Boehme, but never did so. There is a translation in his name, but it is not his; it is a reprint of a seventeenth-century translation published by some of Law's admirers many years after his death.
Law's later writings have influenced individuals without ever starting a "movement." Parts of them have been republished recently by Mr. S. Hobhouse with a commentary; the book is in a form most suited to a Christian audience. Parts of them have also been republished in Mr. Aldous Huxley's THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, a work of more general interest. Among others, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin read Law, and THE WAY TO DIVINE KNOWLEDGE was translated into French by one of Saint-Martin's friends under the title of LA VOIE DE LA SCIENCE DIVINE.