Every human being contains within himself vast potentialities, and it is the duty of the adepts to surround the would-be chela with circumstances which shall enable him to take the "right- hand path," -- if he have the ability in him. We are no more at liberty to withhold the chance from a postulant than we are to guide and direct him into the proper course ... We allow our candidates TO BE TEMPTED in a thousand various ways, so as to draw out the whole of their inner nature and allow it the chance of remaining conqueror either one way of the other.
-- K.H., Letter 54, THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT
By B.P. Wadia
[From THE BUILDING OF THE HOME, pages 46-53.]
Do what thou hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice, and give thyself relief from all other thoughts. And thou wilt give thyself relief if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to thee. Thou seest how few the things are, the which if a man lays hold of, he is able to live a life which flows in quiet, and is like the existence of the gods; for the gods on their part will require nothing more from him who observes these things.
-- Marcus Aurelius
Nothing was too trivial for the Hindu lawgiver, however offensive it may be to modern taste. He teaches how to eat, drink, cohabit, void excrement and urine, and the like, elevating what is mean, and does not falsely excuse himself by calling these things trifles.
One of the tasks of the Theosophical practitioner is to see order in what appears to be chaos in the whole of Nature. Human progress can well be measured by man's capacity to perceive that all manifestation takes place in design and rhythm, to hear the music of the marching orbs, to see the pattern that the drop of dew and the flake of snow make as they fall; to appreciate that Nature PLANS movement. Extending the idea to our own psychological nature, we have to learn to see that our failings and fallings also take place following a design, and that we rise from our dying or dead selves to a higher order of living also after a pattern.
Immutable and indestructible Law is at work everywhere, and every tyro in Theosophy knows that it is "an undeviating and unerring tendency in the universe to restore equilibrium."
It maketh and unmaketh, mending all; What it hath wrought is better than had been; Slow grows the splendid pattern that it plans Its wistful hands between.
Perfected Men servilely copy Nature in all They do. The aspirants who have resolved to follow Them should learn to do likewise, doing in their own restricted sphere as the Holy Ones do in the vast expanse which is Their Home. They "the blessed workers have received the Thyan-Kam, in the eternity" -- say THE APHORISMS OF TSONG-KAHH-PA, and HPB explains that "Thyan-Kam is the power or knowledge of guiding the impulses of cosmic energy in the right direction." All men, all women, are moved onwards on the path of progression by the mighty sweep of this cosmic energy; when his own moral perception leads a man to swim with its tide, bliss fills his heart; when he in ignorance thwarts the ceaseless motion onwards, confusion enters his head and loss of breath weakens his being; soon or late he finds out that the Law of Motion cannot be thwarted. Seeking knowledge, he hears the truth:
Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance.
The Theosophical practitioner must utilize his opportunities morning, noon, and night to see that the inner rhythm of his consciousness is not disturbed and that it helps him to remove every type of disorder in his outer environment. To make the crooked straight; to brush away the dust of disorder; to tidy up the pell-mell; to smooth the sharp corners; to weed out one's plot and prepare it for neat noetic action; these -- in and through the small plain duties of life. "There is an occult meaning to everything, and all things work together for good to those who love the Lord (Law)," wrote Robert Crosbie.
Physical nourishment created in an enlightened kitchen will not produce real good health unless mental rhythm and moral order are made to guide the home. For this purpose, men and women of the world should be taught the necessity of individual study and of the observation of silence, as well as of pleasant conversation which entertains and of serious discussion which enlightens.
Art and literature, philosophy and politics, and other subjects are not worthless. The Theosophical family, however small, can and should benefit itself by absorbing ideas to be found outside the realm of Theosophical books, rejecting with discrimination those that are false, lighting up those which are true with Theosophical interpretation.
World events, great or small, tragic or pleasant, have a different meaning when examined in the light of Theosophy, and the Grihastha has the duty of understanding and of interpreting them to his kin as well as to his companions. Therefore every family needs an intellectual kitchen -- a corner for a library; a single shelf of books and periodicals yields much cream for the discerning reader touched by the dynamic power of Theosophy. In this a Theosophical home should set an example.
But even more necessary than a corner for a library is a spot where silence is observed, where the heart becomes steady and the mind is elevated to heights of devotion. Man's heart is the Holy of Holies and his body is the Temple; but he needs a spot for the body to sit on, and his heart and his mind need protection from the gales which blow from the astral light. The silent repetition of sacred texts, the attentive reading of Holy Writ, these develop the soul in man, and from that spot reserved for such work comes the power which develops the Soul of the family.
The soul of the family should energize every member. All servants and menials are such under the Law of Brotherhood which the Theosophical student is bound to honor. Just as, by paying right attention, the Human Ego affords to each organ of the body, and to the cells which make that organ, due facilities for developing in health and in strength, so should the soul of the family give to all adults and children, masters and servants, adequate opportunity to labor and to learn, to work and to grow.
If the application of the Law of Brotherhood be properly made in the handling of servants, enabling them to love their duties and to take pleasure in performing them, the master and the mistress of the house, as well as others, will gain benefit. Every employer is also an employee -- recognizable as such or otherwise; the peon serves the clerk, the clerk the manager, the manager his superiors; the Chela serves his Guru, and the Great Ones call Themselves the Servants of Humanity.
What the lives of the body are to the Soul, the servant-class is to the employing master in the social fabric. An employer is not a slave-owner; an employee should feel not only economically but also morally and spiritually dependent on the employer. This implies a relationship similar to that which subsists between the young Chela and his Great Guru. There is willing obedience, cheerful cooperation, a brotherliness of a particular kind. In India, through the institution of the servant, great good can be achieved. In this also the Theosophical student can and should increase in power.
IN HIS EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS (VI, 5-6), the Initiate Paul gave some wise directions to parents and children, to masters and servants:
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
Such ideas applied to vocations and toils in the world beyond the family would not only remove many of the existing difficulties but would in course of time usher in the International State of Peace with Justice to all.
Beneficent influences radiating from a home through the channel of its ideals and practices is one aspect; there is the other -- the home should attract to itself the benign forces of its neighborhood, of its guests, of its friends. A Theosophical home should be a centre of study and of work towards which higher influences stream forth, to which people seeking comfort for heart and clarity for mind, desiring energization or inspiration, would come, and besides -- companions wishing to share their knowledge, their plans, their hopes, their achievements.
Sometimes students raise the question -- what about finances? Occultism accepts the philosophy implicit in the adage -- "Cut your coat according to the cloth." Poverty has its advantages, as wealth has its obstacles. But the principle to be observed is this: whatever we possess, little or much, is not really ours; our body is nothing else but an object of trust; our sundry possessions are objects of trust; whatever cash or stock we have we hold in trust for the great Cause and for the service of human souls. Thrift and frugality are virtues to be practiced by the student who may be rolling in wealth, as generous sharing of what we have with others can and should be practiced by those who are poor.
The Law of Necessity is another name for Karma. Nature never works unnecessarily. That which is not necessary should be avoided. Nature is bountiful, profusely so, but her economy is marvelously profound. The great Mother provides for every necessity of every son; her home, the Earth, has never been struck with poverty; men and women in their great selfishness spoil the labor of her love and produce war in place of peace, passion in place of compassion.
In his life the Theosophical aspirant should observe this law of necessity and many of his difficulties would vanish -- they never existed. Thus he will find time to apply remedies to those which do exist, and also time for the unfoldment of inner soul-powers, till he is able to wear the jewels of the paramitas. In every sphere of life with the unnecessary removed, we serve the ever-increasing wealth of Nature.
But all of us are children of the Kali-Yuga, and to the best of us come inheritances of body and psyche pertaining to the cycle. Disappointment and despair, mental anguish and bodily aches, losses of many kinds often overtake us. The Dark Age devours millions who do not or will not learn to use it by acquiring the knowledge by which it can be devoured.
That knowledge is Theosophy and its votary can benefit himself, lighting up the darkness of the Yuga. He should be prepared: temptation will test him at every turn; life has for him a lesson in every event. If he would follow the Wisdom-Teaching let him learn to perceive the radiance behind every phenomenon of the Dark Age. Thankful that the sun, the moon, the stars, and man-made lamps help him to walk onwards, he should convince himself that his destiny is to become a Self-luminous being. The World of Divine Astral Light radiates, even though passions hard as iron makes this earth impervious to its benign influence, enveloping it in black darkness.
How can the Theosophical practitioner attempt to catch the light which shines in darkness? It is by a constant effort to read the meaning of every event which is a symbol. Events are emblems. Every phenomenon has its noumenon. By educating himself, the practitioner can come to decipher the stable Reality behind and within the mighty magic of Prakriti.
All the mundane acts of life's routine are symbols -- each with a meaning and a message. The act of waking every morning is analogous to the soul's preparing itself for a new incarnation. If he is wise, the student will use one noble thought in place of the prospective vision of the ego in Devachan. The act of bathing is a baptism -- cleansing the body for the soul to dwell in. To remember great ideas, to repeat holy words, is to invite the Inner Ego to guide our conduct. This is symbolized in the Sacred Thread ceremony of the Hindu or the Parsi. To breakfast is a symbol; to go to work is a symbol; to seek recreation is a symbol; to return home to one's kin is a symbol; to retire is a symbol. Birthday is a symbol, funeral is a symbol, marriage is a symbol -- the uniting of the personal to the individual self. Life becomes sacred because all its acts and events are looked upon as sacraments.
The Home of the Theosophist is a temple where minds worship to gain enlightenment; where hearts feel peace and bliss; where hands are active to create beauty of form as of feeling; where amity energizes all to better and nobler living. All these constitute an Ideal. But every ideal is realizable. Let us try to realize the ideal Theosophy holds aloft for the Grihastha -- the Gentle Man.
By Katherine Tingley
[A talk given in Nurnberg, Germany on May 23, 1922 which appeared in THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, September 1922, pages 210-17.]
Friends, I deeply regret my inability to speak your beautiful language; but in spite of this obstacle I wanted to do something for the people of your country; and so, in my enthusiasm, I have come to Germany in my present lecture-tour through America and Europe. My object is to bring to you a message of encouragement and good cheer.
As you know, the American nation is made up of people from many different countries; yet there still remains in America the old American spirit of fair play and love of justice; and I am not ready to say that those in my country who believe in brotherhood and justice, encouraged the idea of sending over our American soldiers to Europe. I myself am a peace-maker; so are the members of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, which I represent; I carry the strain of the suffering of all countries. Particularly is my sympathy with yours now, when the discouraging aspects of the treaty are before you.
From the experiences that I have had in Berlin, I feel that it will be only a little while before something splendid will happen to relieve your anxiety; that in some unexpected way, as though the light had forced itself through the dark horizon of your present condition, justice will be done you.
My heart is very much attuned to the suffering of the people; I feel that the message of Theosophy is so optimistic, so convincing, so encouraging, so uplifting, and so inspiring that even though you do not understand my language you will know that I am very much in earnest and that I am absolutely satisfied that Theosophy is the saving power of the world. Without Theosophy there is no way of solving the crying problems of the present hour.
During the war I can vouch for the fact that thousands of people in all countries found it impossible to feel that they could call upon the accepted, orthodox, personal God and pray for the success of any one of the contending nations. We Theosophists realize that the divine laws are immutable and infinite; we believe in the Supreme, in Deity, in the Omnipresent, All-powerful, All-compassionate, Infinite, and Unknowable Source of Light and Life.
Without Theosophy there is no way in the world that you can settle in your own mind and to the satisfaction of your own reason why you are here, whence you came, and whither you go. To a very large degree you are unacquainted with the splendid potentialities of the spiritual man. You know so little about him, because all down the ages you have been psychologized with fear. You have been taught that you were born in sin, and you have also been taught that life on earth is limited to seventy-five or a hundred years. You have been given no grand vision of the possibilities of man -- of his dignity and the potential qualities of the spiritual man. But Theosophy gives these to you.
So the message that I hope will warm your hearts tonight is this: Build up a new courage in your minds and in your hearts. I know you have your longings and your yearnings; there are many noble people everywhere; there are thousands who would sacrifice their lives for their country; but I say, it is better for you to live for your country than to die for it.
Theosophy teaches that man is something more than he seems, that he is immortal, that he has a grand and superb future, and that in order to avail himself of this future, in order to bring out the divinity of his own nature, he must have the light ahead to show him the path. Theosophy can be that light; but each man makes his own path. Each man can make of his life a blessing or a blasphemy. Each man is his own savior and the controller of his own destiny.
Theosophy teaches that man must evolve through his own efforts, through the inspiration of his own divine nature, through the light of his soul, through the knowledge that he has gained by self-conquest and by trust in the infinite law. Thus, through the study of Theosophy, will man find that after all, life is joy, in spite of the distressing circumstances that surround him.
But when I say that life is joy, I refer to the real life, the spiritual life, truly, the Theosophical life. It is not the life of the senses that will bring this happiness. How many people are there in the world today, outside of Theosophists, who believe in the potentiality of their own higher natures, in the power of their soul, in the dignity of the royal manhood that belongs to the race through self-evolution? Alas, I say, there are very, very few. To be sure, the world has its culture, the reasoning faculties and the intellectual qualities are splendidly cultivated on many lines, but when the human race, individually or collectively, attempts to work out the mysteries of life by depending solely on cold reason, humanity finds itself in the shadows of uncertainty, unacquainted with itself and afraid of the future.
So I say to you that no matter from what standpoint you look at life, the only hope for yourselves, your country, humanity, and particularly your children is Theosophy. But in order that Theosophy should bring you the fulfillment of your hope, you must not only study it, you must live it, become splendid examples of right action, of pure living; and thus, by the power and dignity of your own souls and the cultivation of your conscience which is a part of your spiritual nature, you can evolve a power of perception and discernment that will enable you to look beyond the shadows of today into a brighter tomorrow. I declare to you, though I am not a prophetess, that the immutable, divine laws work towards justice; they are justice itself, and justice shall yet bring your country out of the shadows. How soon this will be, I cannot tell, but it is in my heart, it is in my mind, and I dare to look ahead and to say that for you.
The very condition that humanity is in today, each country grasping for territory, each man striving for power, conquering nations imposing unnecessary and cruel suffering on a conquered nation, is against the laws of justice, the laws of compassion, and the laws of God.
There is a simple way of doing everything. Your country which is so famous for its wonderful composers -- its rare, classical music -- did not evolve your Mozarts and your Beethovens without years of study and practice. And so it must be with Theosophy; you must first begin to find yourselves, to challenge yourselves, to believe that you are something more than you have thought you were. You must know that you are governed by the spiritual as well as by the physical laws of life; you must realize that it is the lower part of your nature, the physical, mortal part, with its passions, its selfishness and its personal desires, that makes you discouraged or disconsolate, or that permits you to make mistakes and indulge in vices.
These things come not from the soul; the divine, infinite laws do not support them. So first of all, man must know himself. Jesus, as well as the Greek philosophers, taught that. Did not the Nazarene promise you that you would find the Kingdom of Heaven within? Theosophy accentuates this teaching and makes it clear. You remember also that when his disciples wondered at the marvels that he did, Jesus said to them: Greater things than these shall ye do. Thus he admitted that the divine laws control man, acknowledged the soul life in all, and showed that man must evolve through his own will and learn the power of self-control.
In pursuing this line of thought, we find within ourselves two natures in one: the higher, nobler nature, and the lower, undeveloped, animal nature -- the higher the immortal, the lower the mortal. And when the time comes that you have finished your earth-life and meet the change that is named death, Theosophy says that you do not die; that your real self, the Ego, is released from the body, the worn out and tired physical coat or house you have lived in. It goes to dust with its vices, its mistakes, its weaknesses, and its despair; but the immortal soul is released and goes to its own condition; and at the proper time and under the proper circumstances, returns to earth and takes up another life in order to evolve the perfect man. This is called the doctrine of reincarnation.
Fifty years ago if I had taught these ideas or called them to the attention of the public, even in free America I am sure I would have been hissed off the stage. But today the most advanced minds, the most thoughtful, the most scientific, are taking up the study of Reincarnation and accepting it.
Theosophy rejects the old ideas of heaven and hell. It teaches that man, with his willpower and his desire for self-evolution and vision of the possibilities of life cannot in seventy or a hundred years do justice to himself or to the higher law. He leaves the earth with his aspirations, with his loves, with his hopes, and he returns; and these aspirations, loves, and hopes do not die. They are attributes of the soul. So in the truest, deepest sense, even though our loved ones seem to die, they do not. The essence of their love lives on, and though we do not hear from them, as many good spiritists think, yet on the inner plane, in the deepest recesses of the heart, glorious, superb, inspiring, and immortal love holds true. And just as far as man is attuned in his thoughts to these higher things, just so far can he realize within himself that those he loves have simply gone on before; and that while there may be spiritual communion, it is a mistake to look for verbal communications, for there is nothing in the higher law that will permit the retrogression of a liberated soul.
The true spiritual communion is not in words; it is nothing to be spoken about; it is a benediction that will come to us in the moments of aspiration and touch the soul with its silent power -- ingrain itself so deeply into the mind and the life that while it cannot see, it cannot hear, it cannot touch, yet the inner man, the higher man, has found something that no words can describe. He lives in the thought of those who have passed on before and are carrying out their mission. According to the higher law that we cannot fully explain, by working with it, man finds his own place.
If every individual in Germany could have the conviction that I have today, something would happen to your country that would astonish you. There would be an aggregation of optimistic thought that would bind you together in such harmony and unity that it would be an indescribable blessing to you; it would strengthen in you the spirit of brotherhood; it would bind your hearts together in the love of these eternal verities, the love of right and justice. I am as convinced of this as I am that I shall be here tomorrow.
Since having Theosophy to bind my heart to the world's needs, since finding that it enlarges my conception of life and my compassion for all that lives, since it brings sunshine into my life and the lives of those whom I have helped, I feel that in offering you Theosophy I have given you a message that is of more value to you than millions of dollars. Many others of course have the disposition to help in other ways; all I can do is to attune my heart and my thought to your heartaches and your disappointment and to try to leave with you something of my better self, something of my higher self, something of that wonderful science, philosophy, and religion known as Theosophy.
In the limited time at my disposal I can but touch the surface of the Theosophical teachings -- give a hint here and there that may stir your hearts and minds and move you to look into Theosophy for yourselves. Do not be afraid of it; do not lose your courage or your interest because people in this city, or other cities in Germany or other countries, have been offering you a so-called Theosophy with no life in it, no example of spirituality behind it, and in many respects the very antithesis of true Theosophy -- wild, weird, and uncanny, nothing practical, a perfect imposition.
Theosophy is so simple that a child can understand it; it is nothing that you have to pay for; all you have to do is to have courage to believe that there is something more in the world to learn than you have yet learned. The key to the whole situation begins with the idea: "I will try to believe in the spirituality of my own nature." You must clear your mind of your prejudices, of its limitations; you must forget all the wrongs that have been done you; you must learn to love your neighbor as yourself; you must forgive your enemies and aim to set a superb example for better things for the whole world.
True, Theosophy may appear to you at first to be an enigma, a mystery, just as your music was when you first began to study. But after a while, by concentrated study and practice, you will believe that out in the great big world there is justice in spite of the things that you see today. Rejoice in the friendship of the trees and the flowers, and all the sweet things that nature has given you; look into the wonderful eyes of your children, who come to you from somewhere -- you know not where. You may be able to explain a little of their physical development before birth, but you cannot explain the mystery of that wonderful inside self, the soul.
Mothers and fathers may think these children belong to them entirely; but if the mothers and fathers have Theosophy, if they have prepared themselves for the responsibilities of parenthood and look upon their children as treasures of the gods, the little ones can soon be taught to realize that their responsibilities begin when they are born.
There must be fashioned and impressed into the mind of the child something of the higher nature of father and mother. To accomplish this needs no logic, no explanations, no books; it only needs the heart-urge and trust in all that I have referred to. You will begin to teach them the power of self-control. It takes only a few years for a boy to grow into manhood. I wonder, when you think of the criminals behind the bars, do you ever go back to the time when they were in the arms of the loving mothers? I am always pleading for the so-called criminals; I believe in abolishing the death penalty.
"Criminal" is not the right word for them; they are mental and moral invalids, and their troubles began in their childhood, in their little uncontrolled tempers, their ugly moods and selfish ways. The seeds of their difficulties were then being sown; but they appeared so dear and so sweet and so innocent, that their weaknesses were overlooked -- sometimes even encouraged. Mother indulges them and father indulges them. They think their children are the greatest in the world. They forget that there is a law working in the lives of those little ones that cannot be interfered with.
In the course of time, the seeds of indulgence sown in their tender years will spring up, and through the failure to learn the secret of self-control, under an impulse which was allowed in childhood, fevered and allured by the outer things of life, the crime or the mistake is committed. And then we railroad the offender off to prison! We put him behind iron bars! We shut out the sunlight from his life and we close our hearts against the teachings of Jesus who enjoined forgiveness and brotherly love!
When you have found Theosophy and it has become a part of your daily life, the mind attunes itself to the wee small voice of conscience, and after awhile you will find music in life, joy in life, peace in life, and love for all men. Can you not see that my enthusiasm is born of the knowledge of these things? Could you conceive that I could come across the waters, travel through Europe with my workers, asking nothing in return, unless I had a very high motive? There is no price on Theosophy. I beg of you, I urge you, and I pray for you in my own Theosophical way not to let a day pass until you have found a way to interpret what I have said; because when man reaches a point, through the study and application of Theosophy, where he can find through the power of his spiritual will, which is immortal, that he can say as Jesus said, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" he shall conquer his weaknesses, his deceits, his idiosyncrasies, his greed, his selfishness.
Cannot you believe, is it not easy to believe, is it not best to believe that happiness can be found on earth, and that instead of having nation against nation, religion against religion, brother against brother, we shall find a wonderful, sweeping, pulsating, inspiring power of unity? That is what your country needs, and you have it to a large degree. I know how you love your fatherland, and it is very beautiful. I think you are very courageous. But I have so much respect for you and I am so convinced that you are on the right path that I know you do not want war. I am determined in my conviction that you have the power to adjust the difficulties of your own nation by putting your mental houses in order, your moral houses in order, by living with the vision or the picture of the possibilities of your country.
Forget the past. Forgive your enemies. Close the doors on the dark shadows that have surrounded you, and look forward with a new hope. Search for the deeper meaning of life. And out of the busy life you lead in solving the bread-and-butter question, you can at least take fifteen or twenty minutes a day to find out something of Theosophy.
Theosophy is as old as the ages. It was known and lived centuries before the time of Jesus. It is called the Wisdom-Religion. Madame Blavatsky was really the good angel who brought it into modern life. She declared it was not hers but that she had garnered the essential truths of all religions. In her deep and profound study, with the same kind of urge that I have -- a burning love for humanity -- she found the secret of life, which has ever been a living power, because truth cannot die. But truth has been overshadowed by the centuries of wrong education -- by man having been taught the literal meaning of life instead of the spiritual.
Did you ever think what hypocrites some religions have made of men? When a man who can feel at his best moments that he is something more than he seems, has to go through life bowing and bending his knees in trembling fear and accepting the idea that he was born in sin, and declaring that he believes, when he cannot live the life -- hypocrisy is the result. Theosophy does not accept the idea that man was born in sin, but simply that he is born imperfect -- a ray of the great central source of all, buried in the flesh and trying to bring about the perfection of man life after life. I cannot believe that Beethoven and Mozart came to this earth and did what they did just in one life and then went to glory. Not I!
The great composers who can give us the music that Beethoven and Mozart and the others have given, had something in them of the immortal fire, of the immortal life; and just as far as the human mind could grasp it, they gave it to us. We cannot but believe that they are still working; and if we had our ears attuned to spiritual things, we might catch some of the grand symphonies that our souls long for when we hear the best music.
In order to have my audience love me just a little bit so as to be willing to listen, I always desire to lift it up to a picture of the glory and beneficence of these infinite laws. They are everywhere around us; they are serving us all the time, and all we have to do is to turn our backs on the past and to stand face to face with the possibilities of a larger and a fuller and a richer life.
One never can evolve, one never can find any satisfaction in the heart, and there will never be any certainty in life until man has realized that he possesses the divine power of self-control. No matter how old you are, you can begin tomorrow to study Theosophy and in a year or two you may know just as much perhaps as some of the great composers knew in their moments of inspiration. Where spiritual aspiration exists and the mind is attuned to a belief in man's higher possibilities, the immortal soul opens the door of imagination, and in the course of his experiences on earth, man may become a god through self-evolution. I thank you.
By K.S. Venkatararnani
[From THE ARYAN PATH, May 1948, pages 216-21]
What is Life? What is Art? What is Criticism? These are questions that go to the roots of Life and Art. A careful and detached exploration of these processes will give us the very mystery of life, the pearl-like drop of dew that a blade of grass gives us in the morning sun. We know not how. Nonetheless it is there to reflect in prismatic splendor the glory of the sun and the universe and the life that it bedecks.
If Life be the play called forth by the primal urge of evolution, Art is the great mirror that reflects this play of life and imprisons for joy and study the evanescent flow of life in its immortal mood. Art helps you in the same way in which a mirror helps you -- enabling you to see yourself truly and well till you see All. Art and Criticism make the mirror to each other so that Life and Truth may be truly reflected and the Soul of Man led on proper flights to the footstool of God. So some of our greatest queries are centered round this grand inquiry into what Life, Art, and Criticism are.
Let us first see what Art is, to know what Life is. Art, like Life, has one common messenger of God: Sound or Rhythm, the spoken or the written word. Even where the word is not the medium, Rhythm, the Soul of Sound, is the medium of all Arts. This Rhythm lies imbedded in Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Music, as well as Literature -- as the Soul of Beauty. So Rhythm serves as the universal voice of all Arts and of Life.
Every Art has its own peculiar instruments of expression, through which the Rhythm is assembled and created. Architecture and sculpture work out the universal soul through hard and unyielding stones; painting, through fastidious colors; music through flimsy instruments or the difficult and taxing human voice; and literature through half-baked or hard-baked, overloaded, and overused words. Literature has always to earn its life by the alchemic touch of the artist's own personality, changing the copper into gold and reminting the words.
Words either spoken or printed ultimately rely on the quality of sound and associative ideas for their suggestive appeal to the mind and their literary quality. Sound, Vibration, is the original value as the source of creation, and the master craftsman in letters seeks to capture this rhythm through the sound value of words and the allusive enrichment they bring forth. The noblest passages of Shakespeare or Valmiki derive their vitality and suggestion of infinity mainly through the intricate or simple rhythm. The pure meaning of words in their individual or collective capacity plays but a very subordinate part.
Words, by birth, ancestry, and tradition are as hard as marble and become smooth and shining only in the hands of a master craftsman. It is the problem of the personality of the creative artist to render this opaque material glowing and transparent by the transmuting touch of his own sincerity. Then only he liberates the imprisoned soul of the word and the soul of humanity.
But what is sincerity? Feeling is its mother, and its transmutation into another form at higher levels is thought. But, by a strange irony of fate, every time such conversion and storage take place in the intricate economy of human nature, the less powerful becomes the original impulse and the capacity to convert, in equal measure and with the same purity, feeling into thought. You become either a hardened cynic or a weakened sentimentalist.
By his inborn yogic power and advanced still further no doubt by his own tapas, the creative artist gains this magic power which is creative Art, to keep the feeling forever fresh and unimpaired. Sublime thought is vision, like the flame that bursts from the fuel, and it gives one a glimpse of the rhythmic beats of cosmic life; the ultimate nature of reality, a glimpse of Satyam or God, the feeling of utter advaitic kinship with all life, the sense of perfect oneness. Pray remember that through all this intricate process of ascent of consciousness, feeling is never extinguished. Once feeling is extinguished, the movement deadens, art languishes, and words lose their magic touch and significance.
Let us then enquire why to man alone this strange gift of speech is given, why this choice blessing of words. Without it the animal kingdom lives a satisfied life, expressing in faultless style, though within a limited range, its own aims, passions, and appetites. It is in order that man may lead a higher life. That he may widen the range as well as the quality of his consciousness, keep alive his receptivity, receive every kind of message in sunshine and in storm and, by sublimating his mode of experience, extend his consciousness till he knows the nature of reality.
The gift of speech is an august step in evolution towards self-realization. The whole of life, from amoeba to man, has been striving for this joy and craving for a perfect voice. For in its inmost heart, it knows that vibration is life, that sound is Brahman. To realize and to communicate however faintly that Ananda, there can be no more apt instrument than the human voice. For words widen the range of Swa-anubhava and experience, create and involve the mind in a greater knowledge of itself. Hence it surrenders to the churning mind a subtler rhythm, a deeper vision of the Atman, of what is Satyam and imperishable. Feeling and sincerity carry this healing, renovating touch.
Let us now explore "words" from the point of view of authentic literary critics of the West. Sir Walter Raleigh in his famed essay on "Style" says: "A word is an operative symbol of a relation between two minds." This is hardly a complete definition, as it expresses only the objective relationship of the personality to the environment, and, as I will tell you later on, a great creative artist thinks of no audience; his Self, his inner Self, is the sole audience, and he writes for its joy and satisfaction. A word is as much a symbol of relationship between the Artist and his Atman.
How does this symbol operate? By associative memory, no doubt. But associative memory relies on conjuring up the reality behind a word only through the medium of sound vibration. Strictly speaking, every word suffers a kind of death every time it is used. And it is the problem of personality of the creative writer, or the literary artist, to change this ancient load of inheritance and uses into a golden symbol of something new, fresh, and originating. That is possible only when there is some authentic experience in which the creative artist rejoices; he has to express that joy by charging this power into, and reissuing the old word with, a new stamp like a new king who has just ascended the throne.
Let us next explore what "Style" is. Just as a wall emerges out of bricks, style is the result of words. Buffon's definition, "that the style is the man" has all the merits which suggestive brevity always carries with it, especially when it is the nearest approach to Truth. It destroys the dual conception that is so fatal to a proper understanding of style and reveals the mode of critical approach to it, emphasizing the oneness of style with its matter. This definition keeps words in immediate touch with reality. Thoreau says: --
Literary gentlemen, editors, and critics think that they know how to write because they have studied grammar and rhetoric; but they are egregiously mistaken. The art of composition is as simple as the discharge of a bullet from a rifle and its masterpieces imply an infinitely greater force behind them.
To Thoreau, style is an indivisible whole. Walter Pater says the same thing: "As a quality of style, soul is the fact," and truly the old idea that "Soul is form" is the key to the solution of the problem of style.
Sir Walter Raleigh says: "It is not what a word means but what it means to you that is of the deepest import." That is true. Surely the vitality of a word depends on the degree of strength which you are able to project into it by your own personality. For purposes of trade and commerce and the inanities of daily life, every word has no doubt a meaning attached to it almost as if it were by a statute. But it is really dead weight in the atmosphere of art unless the creative artist by his magic touch raises the dead and makes the word live by reflecting his soul.
Middleton Murry says that "a strong and decisive original emotion is the source of style." This would be true if not applied to the mode in which a writer assimilates his experience and returns it in art productions, but confined only to his choice of subjects. A decisive original emotion is valuable in selecting a particular subject and laying the plot and the foundations as best suits his experience. The decisive original emotion really decides only the choice of a subject and the birth of an idea in the vaguest forms of ecstasy like a racing cloud in the monsoon sky. It will not yield us the secrets of creative art.
Gustave Flaubert says: "It is impossible to detach the form from the idea for the idea only exists by virtue of the form." This is testimony indeed from one of the greatest and most fastidious and conscientious of artists. To a particular mode of experience as sensed and revealed by a creative artist, every idea has only one word to convey it correctly, and that is the unique word of Flaubert. It is not that the word is the same for all artists for all time. But to that personality, for every idea there is only one word, the unique word, to reveal the idea in its ultimate reality. So perfect is the fusion then between idea and form that it results in a perfect rhythm.
It is clear to my mind that the search for the word, the unique word of Flaubert, understood as above, is in essence the search for the vision of Truth. It is a search for reality, for Satyam. So sincerity eventually equates with Truth.
Creative art and Criticism are ONE.
To sum up finally: In any true view of great art, there is no audience except the artist himself. A master craftsman in his infinite absorption in his work, in his highest and loneliest hours of communion, never thinks of the audience. There is a complete annihilation of duality in the transcendental joy of Swa-anubhava, or self-experience and self-expression. The artist's soul is the audience as well as the auditor. Auditor and audience merge into one in the God-intoxicated, inspired artist. Matter and form become one. Sound and sense become one, as Kalidasa formulates the basic rule of literature and art in the opening stanza of "Raghuvamsa." If these great conditions of art are not satisfied, the result is not creative art or literature, but mere commercial production, coming at its best under De Quincey's classification of "literature of knowledge" and not of POWER.
Literary composition, all great art indeed, is one of the authentic modes of self-realization, releasing the flow of mind energy in rhythmic patterns, thus infusing greater tranquility in human affairs. Art needs no ritual or ceremony but a profound sincerity of thought and feeling that detaches the gross body at the golden end of the pen and liberates the inner spirit of man to survey and comprehend to the full, and to compose the endless diversities and conflicts of life in this mysterious universe.
The great South Indian Sanskrit poet and statesman and Advaiti, Neelakanta Deekshatar's definition of the functions of art is the best to my mind and is quite in keeping with our own authentic traditions of Art and Life, always inseparable.
He says that "Kavithai itself is conceived as a yoga-sadhana." Self-expression in art is an authentic mode of self-realization -- a yoga that transforms the mind energy into its higher forms till Ananda is realized, a state where work is still dynamic but rhythmic, where the mind loses its lower accents and tones and acquires the higher. The restless, the predatory, the acquisitive, and the selfish instincts of the mind are transformed into the peaceful, the non-predatory, non-acquisitive, and selfless spontaneities of the soul and usher in a state and a society where the policeman is the individual.
Art conceived and executed as yoga-sadhana and not as shapely products for the gains of commerce, kills the asura qualities in man and liberates the imprisoned Atma gunas as outlined in THE BHAGAVAT-GITA, thus slowly transforming the human into the divine in the ever-ascending spiral of human consciousness.
Art as yoga destroys the duality that erects the conflicting barriers and limitations of life and enables you to see the unity in diversity, the oneness of all life from amoeba to man. This "vision splendid" is reached only when the restless and unsteady mind is slowly sublimated through rhythm, through the immersion of the mind in Nadha-Brahmam or rhythmic sound.
What is rhythm? Rhythm is the basic wand of creation. Rhythm is as creative as an atom bomb is destructive. The quest of all artists -- the architect, the sculptor, the painter, the poet, and the composer-musician -- is to contact on bended knees this goddess of Rhythm and have a glimpse through her of the nature of Reality or of God. For rhythm is vital to perception and vision. Rhythm gives the yogic mind, the mind without attachment, but still active in the wake of its duties; the mind which works but still desires not the fruits of action, the mind which does nishkamya karma spontaneously.
Pray, remember that Sound is the firstborn of creation and Rhythm the firstborn of Sound. Rhythm is the cornerstone of cosmic life. It is the root source of all constructive energy which, in the leela or play of creation, interlocks itself into the rhythmic pattern and the till now impregnable fortress of the atom and the molecule, the vivid crystallization of energy into matter. Science, in the innocence of its ignorance of the true cosmic process, is seeking light and knowledge by the back staircase, knowledge of creation through destruction. But we are releasing this imprisoned energy in the atom through the wrong way.
Flood water, if canalized, irrigates; otherwise it inundates and destroys. Atomic energy as released through science is destructive; released thorough art as a yoga-sadhana, it divinizes the ascent of man and the whole of life.
In conclusion -- Rhythm is as creative as the atom bomb is destructive. It is an enrichment of the totality of consciousness and not a mere accumulation of cyclopedic knowledge. Creative art is a yoga-sadhana whose highest fulfillment is in the Path that it shows towards self-realization. Self-expression based on rhythm and Swa-anubhava gently takes you on to self-realization, like the river to the sea, for all her lazy windings. That is why rhythmic activity based on self-experience is so vital to the individual. It never destroys, but integrates. So, truly, Kavithai is a yoga-sadhana; and the test is that it should take you to the footstool of God -- give you Brahma-Gnayanam, self-realization, the Highest Knowledge. Otherwise it is not creative art.
Art and Criticism, under this selective conception of a great ideal, become the noblest striving of man, work that is worship at the most exalted level, seeking Divine Grace and Joy in a dynamic daily surrender.
I already see the faint streaks of the day struggling against the heavier darkness of early dawn. I feel sure that we will soon learn to release the atomic energy in rhythmic patterns of love, spreading over the diverse races of the world now in conflict, chaos, sorrow, and suffering -- but not without the help of a free India, the cradle-land of religions and civilizations. The world will learn the way to true peace and love only when India takes her rightful place among the nations and assumes once again her cultural and spiritual leadership in human affairs. Atomic energy released by the poet and the yogi and not by the scientist will save the world.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 16-24.]
What ails the world? Can its ills be cured by shifting politics, changing forms of government which change themselves with time, or by a change of mind and heart which actually will produce effectual results that every normal man today feels are needed -- if for nothing else than to divert into harmless channels the psychic energy gathering for the crisis which all, clearly or vaguely, feel impending? But what about politics? Had we naught but politics to depend upon, I for one feel that the case would pass from being desperate to being hopeless. Fortunately there is a way out.
I have always felt that the Theosophist, as an individual man, could and should follow what politics he pleases -- if indeed he cares to follow any; but I have likewise felt that ethics, individual and collective, are an incomparably more practical and interesting phase of human life.
Political theories change and vary from century to century, or oftener; and what one age thinks is the proper way in which to conduct the affairs of the world is usually rejected in the next age. That is one reason why we Theosophists do not touch upon politics in our private or public gatherings. They are strictly banned therefrom because of the obvious fact that men usually fight like Kilkenny cats about politics, and fight as foolishly; but all men agree upon the fundamental verities of morals or ethics -- and the grand lessons taught by philosophy, and the inspiration of religion as contrasted with religions, are, both of them, of unsurpassed importance in their sway over human thought and imagination.
As a rule it is only when men have lost confidence in religious matters, or have come to look upon philosophy as a dry-as-dust system of empty speculation without practical value, that they turn to politics in order to find what seems to them an interesting and sometimes, alas, a lucrative pursuit and outlet for latent energy.
As regards politics, we hold that what individuals want to think or believe or practice as political theory is a matter for each individual to decide for himself. We simply do not concern ourselves, as an organization, with politics, and as such we are traditionally and rigidly non-political in every sense of the word. Personally I consider politics as being too futile a waste of time. Even in any one era, like our own, what one part of the world believes to be the political salvation of mankind, another part of the world rejects perhaps with contempt and holds in odium.
You cannot get men to come together into bonds of genuine brotherhood on a political platform of any kind. Political unions are proverbially loose and unstable; and the obvious reason is that politics do not reach into and touch the deeper strings of man's heart that are common to all men, nor fascinate the higher reaches of his mind. In other words, politics are not interesting enough. We Theosophists, I repeat, as an organization do not bother with these things; but, as individuals, our members think, and can think, and do think, whatever they please, and they act in accordance with their opinions and conscience -- at least as far as I know.
Now, as regards the sometimes mooted question of the individual ownership of money and property, I myself, as a follower and student of the ancient and traditional path of discipleship, believe that no permanent, no enduring, no genuine happiness can be found merely in the ownership of material things at any time. In other words I might even be said to believe in and to accept the old statement found in the Christian New Testament, summarized somewhat as follows: "Except ye leave father and mother, wife or child, and property, and follow me, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of the gods."
Obviously, this stern mandate applies only so far as the man is concerned who is desirous of becoming one with that sublime Brotherhood of noble-hearted Men whose whole life is devoted to the betterment of the human race as a whole; for if such individual disciple have family-attachments or property-attachments, he is thereby bound to them, and his energies and interests are more or less diffused and dissipated thereby.
This, however, in its application to mankind as a majority in no wise signifies that a man should neglect any smallest duty if he has already assumed it; nor should he leave father or mother, or wife or child, or even property, until he has made proper, equitable, and generous provision in all senses of the word for those depending upon him, and taken proper care for the administration of the property which every true man must realize he holds in trust for the happiness of others.
Remember that a man's future destiny depends upon that which his heart most loves now. If his heart is set solely upon acquiring personal property for himself and for those associated with him, how indeed can he free himself from the bonds of personal ties, from the bonds which hold him fast in the worldly life? That of course is not politics; but it is ethics and religion and philosophy and true science, because when properly understood its meaning is this: Love not these things; set not your heart upon them so that your heart thereby becomes enchained, becomes bound, becomes shackled. Use them, however, as you use all other good things of earth; but use them as a master of them, not as a slave to them.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me say here once for all, that I have absolutely no patience with, nor sympathy for, the actions of the man who abandons those who are dependent upon him merely for the sake of pursuing his own career, even if it be a spiritual career. A man cannot fulfill a greater duty if he willfully and cruelly neglects or ignores the smaller duty. A man who does at all times and in all places even his worldly duties is the man who is on the right path.
Should it happen to a man -- and this is one of those rare, exceedingly rare cases -- that he is called to follow the path of chelaship, i.e., of discipleship, he cannot make a proper beginning in following this path if he plays the part of a coward by ignoring the duties he has already assumed. These duties he must either first fulfill and then become free in an honorable and upright and kindly way and by mutual understanding with those depending upon him, and after providing for them; or, if they are already provided for, then by mutual agreement that after a time at least, he shall be free to follow the dictates of his soul.
The Theosophist above everything is not a non-social being; the Theosophist recognizes his social obligations as keenly as anyone, and perhaps more keenly than the vast majority. The Theosophist believes in marriage; he believes in being a good citizen, for he cannot be a good Theosophist unless he is a good husband and father, son and brother, and does his duty by the state under whose protection he lives. And this applies to all, irrespective of who they are.
The Theosophist as a believer in and teacher of brotherhood and peace, which includes amelioration and betterment in human relations of all kinds, is de facto a believer in law and order, and an upholder of established authority; and as a good citizen he therefore recognizes his duty to his country and obedience to the laws under which he lives. He realizes that believing in brotherhood as a universal fact of being, he should therefore first exemplify it in his actions and conduct by becoming in himself a living example of order, good will, and willing acquiescence in the laws of the country where he lives; the while always seeking in every lawful and proper way for an improvement in the social structure, for the changing of imperfect or bad laws into better ones; and in doing what good he can as an individual to his fellow-men.
What I am trying to say in these brief and rather aphoristic sentences is that we, not only as Theosophists but as earnest men and women, should strive at all times to weaken the merely personal and selfish bonds which cramp the winging flight of our souls into higher regions, and which, because of the action of such selfish desires and bonds, cause by conflict and friction, both with ourselves and with others who hold the same views and who act similarly, the larger part of the human misery and moral degradation in the world.
It is not money per se that is the root of all evil; it is the selfish love of it. Money in the hands of a noble and a wise and a good man, can be a most useful instrument for helping mankind. It is in the selfish love of these things for oneself alone, or for the sake of those immediately associated with one to the detriment of others not so closely associated, that lies the evil and the consequent wrongdoing; the wrong is not in the property or in the money itself.
This is what Jesus the Avatar meant, and what all the great Sages and Seers of all the ages have meant and have taught: Tie not your heart unto the things of earth, but enter into the profound deeps of the spirit within you, and there you will find utter freedom and immense peace and ineffable happiness.
The wise man is he who lives in the world and uses the things of the world -- never in a merely worldly way, but with wisdom and kindliness and due regard for the rights of others, yet with his heart free from all attachment to these worldly things, and free from all love thereof. This is the Chela path; this is the path of the disciple -- at least in the beginning of it.
This is the reason why I have answered the question which has been more than once asked of me: "G. de P., if someone gave to you ten million dollars, would you accept it? And if so, what would you do with this money?" My answer has been immediate: "Gladly would I accept it, and devote it all to works of usefulness and beneficence for mankind. For myself, not one penny; I am pledged to personal poverty; yet I am no idiot, I know the power of a good instrument in the Master's hand; and money can be an instrument for good; property should be an instrument for good. It is not these things themselves that injure; it is our selfish reaction to their influence which is injurious -- not only to ourselves but to others." Do you catch the thought?
Consequently, though the Theosophical Society as a Society shuns politics -- and personally I look upon them as pestiferous, though I know that this statement means treading upon a great many sensitive toes -- yet every individual member of the Theosophical Society holds and practices such politics as he pleases. I think the world is approaching the time when it will realize that the only way in which men can "save themselves," to use an old-fashioned term, and "save the world," is by BEING, and not by preaching -- whether it be preaching politics or philosophy or religion.
Politics, at least such as we understand them today, will vanish away as an illusion, and I believe a pestiferous illusion, once men realize what riches lie in the human heart, the great secret mysteries that lie there: love and brotherhood, compassion and peace, the love of a man to be a man, and to grow, to improve himself, i.e., his mind and his morals, and his yearning to allow his instincts for right and justice towards all full play and activity.
These are the great things that should come into the world, for the world's universal benefit; and I believe that someday a great man will appear with an idea, or a series of ideas, of a spiritual and intellectual character, which will show the present tottering civilization the sure way to safety, human concord, and peace; and bring about, not a crash as some wrongly suppose, but, to change the figure of speech a bit, a new superstructure of thought and ideals on a nobly strengthened social foundation.
It is, after all, ideas that rule the world; and it is precisely because people misthink and wrongly suppose that money is a thing in itself, and that politics is a thing in itself having intrinsic value, and that property is a thing in itself of absolute value, that these last feeble instruments and products of human endeavor have their grip on mankind and wield their sway over human hearts.
Men make politics, men make money, men make things, men make property, and men make civilizations. It is ideas that rule the world, and it is likewise from men that ideas come. Let us then change our ideas, and follow ideas which are composite of good, ideas based on universal brotherhood, ideas of intrinsic moral beauty, ideas of spiritual and intellectual grandeur, ideas which in time will bring about a confraternity not only of the people of the earth, but of all the smaller social units that go to make up a nation. Then, with these ideas permeating our consciousness, we shall not need to bother about petty politics and the rights or non-rights of private property, or what not. The world of humans will then run as easily and smoothly as a well-ordered mechanism; and we shall have happiness and peace all over our globe.
This is not the pipe-dream of a vaguely visioning and idealistic dreamer. It is an actuality which can be put into practical operation simply by a reorienting of our thinking and of our feeling into new standards of human conduct; and in such a new world men will be judged not only by what they do or produce, but by what they think, because thoughts of brotherly and humane benevolence will then be carried into constructive action. They will then not be judged by what they have or what they own. Property will not be the standard of righteousness nor of the proprieties, nor again of respectability.
We must shift our moral center of gravity to ethics, where it rightly and truly belongs, and away from property where it has been falsely placed during the last few thousand years because of unfortunate contributing historical causes. It is easier far to make such shift of values to their natural, proper, and therefore legitimate sphere, than it is to continue being involved through centuries of the future in the horrible struggles of an international or internecine character with their bitter animosities and remembered hatreds, their dislocations of social and political life, and the consequent misery weighing so heavily upon us all.
There is not a single logical or reasonable argument to be urged against it -- this shifting of our center of consciousness -- except ignorance, prejudice, and dense human stupidity, due to the inertia brought about by moral somnolence, and empty disbelief in our own powers to carve our destiny shapely.
It would seem to be undoubtedly true that unless there come upon the world a new outlook and a change of our habit, mental and psychical, of envisaging events through the distorted lenses of our present-day sense of values, our already badly shaken civilization runs a danger of sliding down into a welter of confusion, despair, and human misery, such as the annals of known history have not yet chronicled.
The peoples of the earth gathered into nations must learn to look upon each other, and to treat each other, with the same decorum, high sense of honor, and instinct for mutual service, that it is customary to find among gentlemen; instead of continuing to follow courses of conduct based upon the very shaky foundations of opportunism, expediency, and convenience, that have so often governed and disgraced international relations in the past, thus presenting a picture of international morals probably far beneath even the standard held by the average man in the street.
The case is by no means hopeless however, for the remedy is simple indeed, practical and practicable, and lies merely in a shifting of our center of gravity of consciousness from politics and profit to morals and mutual service. The average intelligent business man today has come to realize that a successful enterprise must be founded upon honesty and service; otherwise he is doomed to failure; and there is no ostensible, indeed no actual, reason why nations should follow courses which even the average man would consider disgraceful in his own case. The whole secret lies in a change of outlook, in a change of vision; and then the apparent difficulties will be understood for what they are, illusions; and they will be gladly cast aside for the standards prevailing along the pathway of safety, progress, happiness, and peace.
I certainly and most emphatically do not wish to give the impression, when speaking of the loss in recent centuries of a sense of ethical values, which arose in a translation therefrom of our center of gravity of consciousness to property as the pivot around which our national and individual interest revolves, that the Theosophist is in any wise blind to, unconscious of, or indifferent to, the really great and sometimes harrowing misery that exists in the world in individual cases because of a lack of proper resources or support.
It is very much to the contrary. The philosophical Theosophist can point to such conditions with emphatic finger as an illustration in proof of the power which material possessions have gained over both human heart and mind; for the insane race for wealth and the desire for acquisition for the individual himself, even to the detriment of his fellows, have blinded him to one of the primal human duties: a brotherly regard for, consideration of, and in needful cases proper care of, one's fellow-men less fortunately placed by karma -- or destiny -- than he himself is.
It is good indeed to note that during recent times the whole tendency of the best men in the various countries of the world is towards doing everything possible, both through the state and by the individual, to ameliorate the condition of the needy, combined with the growing realization that essential values lie not in property but in human beneficence, and in that universal brotherhood which is inherent in any properly organized and enduring social structure.
Some of the noblest men who have ever lived have suffered all the pangs of personal humiliation, as well as the great disadvantages of dire poverty, while it is a commonplace of history that great riches have often lain at the disposition of the unworthy or of the incompetent. The world is rapidly moving towards a time -- provided its course be not interrupted or broken by some catastrophe -- when it will be recognized far more keenly than now it is that every human being has an inherent right, in the words of our National Constitution, to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and that it is one of the noblest duties of an enlightened State not merely to provide equal opportunities for all, but actively to aid those who, from one cause or another, often greatly to their credit, are not accumulators of property. Such things as the need of old-age pensions, free education, and the providing of work for every willing hand, have become commonplaces of conversation, and rightly so.
Yet, admitting all this, and much more, and after stating that the tendency above alluded to is all to the good, I take occasion to point out that the root of all the world's troubles in the past has lain in the wrong centering of our human sense of permanent values as in property rather than as inherently residing in human beings themselves. The natural and inevitable consequence has found its culmination in the present-day worldwide unrest, conflict, endless arguments, and a talk about rights ad nauseam; but we discover very little talk about the duty which a man owes to his fellowmen.
Once our center of gravity of moral consciousness is taken from property as the pivot of civilization, and placed in man himself as the center of all greatest and primal values, then 99 percent of the world's constantly recurring paroxysms of agitation, perturbation, and violence will vanish; and human relations of whatever kind, international, national, social, or political, will automatically adjust themselves to and for the common good. Universal Brotherhood -- as we understand it, not as merely vague sentimentalism, but as recognition of human solidarity based on Nature's own laws -- is after all, as the Theosophist has always taught, the keynote of any true civilization, and without it no civilization can ever endure.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, September 1922, pages 217-21.]
The duality of human nature is often mentioned in Theosophical writings; but it cannot be mentioned too much; for its importance is supreme. Yet one is apt to undervalue its importance, because, like other profound truths, it sounds so simple. To borrow a familiar simile, we may compare it to the ocean, which is shallow enough at its shores for a child to play in; while in its depths it could swallow all earth's mountains. And so the duality of human nature manifests itself in simple and familiar forms to the dullest observation; and yet this great truth can be applied as a key to solve the deepest problems touching human nature.
Let us take, for example, the question of immortality. Our judgment will not consent to the idea that our present earthly personality, in all its imperfection, is immortally preserved; nor, on the other hand, can we brook the notion that we shall be wholly extinguished. The teaching as to the duality of man enables us to understand how one part of our soul may be mortal, and the other part immortal.
The personal self or personal ego, which we call "I" is not the real Self, but only a sort of reflection thereof. In explaining this, H.P. Blavatsky has used the simile of a lamp throwing its light on a wall. The lamp represents the real Self; the light on the wall, the fictitious self; and the wall, the body. The real Self, which in its one sphere is single, becomes dual at reincarnation. A portion of it attaches itself to the brain of the nascent child, and becomes the seat of the personal ego for that incarnation. Around it grow up impressions received through the bodily senses from the outer world. Its source and origin is forgotten, and it wakes up (as it were) in the new world of its terrestrial life. But above and beyond this personal ego is the other part of the real Self, which has no direct connection with the body.
In Theosophical terminology the real Self is called Manas, which is a Sanskrit term meaning the Thinker; and to the personal ego is given the name lower Manas. In many ancient allegories the Self is said to sacrifice himself and to take on the sins of the lower self. He is also said to redeem the lower self. The meaning of this is that it is man's destiny to "raise the self by the Self," as THE BHAGAVAD-GITA says; it is his destiny consciously to accomplish his own evolution by raising the personal ego in aspiration towards its divine counterpart, the Higher Ego.
This teaching constitutes the essence of all religions and of all the great practical philosophies of life. We find it abundantly in the Bible. John refers to it in his frequent mention of the "Father" and the "Son." The Son is sent by God into the world to save it; the Son shall make you free; he that hath the Son hath life; and so on. Paul is full of the doctrine in his teachings about the natural man and the spiritual man. Jesus' interview with Nicodemus, an inquirer who came to him for instruction, deals with the same topic; he speaks of the second birth; of how a man is first born naturally, and then takes a further step like a spiritual birth.
It would of course be possible to give instances from a great number of other sources, sufficient to fill volumes. This has been done in Theosophical writings, especially by H.P. Blavatsky. As a familiar example we may mention the myth of the heavenly twins -- Castor and Pollux -- separated while the one is on earth, and otherwise united; they stand for the Higher Manas and the lower Manas.
We are all "Sons of God," though this term applies in a special sense to those Teachers and Initiates who have attained to conscious union between the higher and lower Manas. The records of Jesus would indicate that he was one of those Masters of Wisdom and that his object was to lead his disciples on the Path which he himself had trod.
The word "Path" brings us to the next point: that between Manas and its lower earthly counterpart there is a bridge or link, often referred to mystically as the Path or Way. It is this that makes it possible for man to achieve his salvation, to accomplish his higher evolution. The Self, by its incarnation in a body, and by its connection with terrestrial life, is able to garner a harvest of experiences that can only be attained in earthly life and to assimilate these experiences to itself. From the personal life on earth, the real Self gleans the aroma of all the best and purest and noblest and finest aspirations and deeds.
This will make it clear that, even in our earthly make-up, there are many elements that are immortal; and also that the degree of our immortality depends on the use we make of our present opportunities. For we may either concentrate our affections and energies on the perishable things of this life, or raise our thoughts to what is imperishable. But mark, this is not to be taken in a sour ascetic sense -- that we should eschew the harmonies and graces of life, and fix our sad thoughts on death and heaven. It is nothing of the kind; it means that we should wean ourselves from all that is narrow, sordid, and selfish and espouse those things that are generous and spacious and unselfish.
Death does not mean the destruction of Individuality. What it does mean is that that fleeting image, the personal self, will fade out, leaving the true Self shining like the unclouded sun. And it means further that the Soul, which has been released, carries with it riches that it has garnered from the best thoughts of its earthly life. In this we find a glimpse of the eternity of true Love. Passions are evanescent, but in a pure genuine love, that has outlived all mere attraction and is rooted deep in well-tried experiences, we feel there is an eternal quality.
It also becomes evident that the simulacrum evoked in seance-rooms is not the real man, but an image made up of not yet decayed remnants of the deceased personality, or perhaps merely an impersonation by some of the non-human denizens of the astral plane. The Soul cannot be evoked or dragged down to earth. Rather than try to drag it into our murky atmosphere, we should strive to raise ourselves to the plane on which it rests.
The world at the present time is full of strange theories and new crazes, and people are trying to find some new anchorage to replace that which they have lost in the recent upheaval. But this doctrine that we are explaining here is no new theory, no passing fad. It is simply a very ancient and well-known teaching, which however has been lost sight of during dark cycles of human history, from which we have not yet emerged.
The human intellect is a grand thing, but it has spent its energies too much in one narrow channel. It has been occupied in trying to trace the heredity of man back to primitive animal types. And whether its conclusions in this respect are true or false, in either case it has practically ignored the higher nature of man. Nevertheless this higher nature is a fact, and this fact cannot safely be ignored any more than any other fact. If men do not learn anything about the nature of this marvelous intelligence with which they are endowed, they will be at the mercy of fads and superstitions.
That part of Manas which is shut up in the human brain acquires a marvelously acute intelligence, but it is of a one-sided character. It is competent to systematize and organize knowledge and to fit us to cope with the conditions of the physical world. But it is unable to solve questions concerning the deeper problems of life. It cannot deal with ultimates. Its function is to doubt rather than to discover. It evolves agnostic and materialistic systems, and does not inspire that faith and certainty which is so essential to our well-being. Hence we need light from another source. Now, bearing in mind that there is a higher aspect of our mind, about which science tells us nothing, and which even religions generally ignore, we begin to realize that the power to KNOW lies within our reach.
There are doubtless some who find satisfaction in simple faith in religion; but it has to be admitted that their number is comparatively few, and that a majority of people live in a state of darkness as regards the meaning of life. They do not know what man is or why he is here or what power rules a universe that seems blind and ruthless and without law. But this state of affairs is not right, and it need not be so. The ways of God are not inscrutable; it is possible for man to enter on a path that leads ever nearer and nearer to light and liberation.
This path is the old one, taught in all the great philosophies: to rescue Manas from its imprisonment and to bring it into closer union with its spiritual prototype.
The importance of educational work, especially in its earliest stages, is paramount. It is in the young child that Mind takes its first lessons in the new life that is before it. How important that these first steps should be directed aright! The ignorance or heedlessness of parents pampers the instinctual animal selfishness, because at that tender age its manifestations seem so harmless and pretty. But it takes root and waxes strong, until in after years it has become the tyrant of the life. A little knowledge, a little loving self-sacrifice, on the part of the parent, would have enabled him or her to discriminate between the good and evil natures of the child, and to help the one while restraining the other. The child should be taught early to regard the Higher Self as the true seat of wisdom and authority, and how to summon his own will to the conquest of his own weaknesses.
Many materialistic philosophers cannot separate the mind from the brain. The reason is that they are not aware of the duality of Mind. They are studying only its lower aspect -- that part of it which is lodged in the brain. But a truer philosophy has for ages been aware of the duality of Manas.
The conditions which we call life and death are nothing more than changes of state. Neither of them is true life and neither true death. For true life is a "conscious existence in Spirit, not Matter" (H.P. Blavatsky); and real death is the total loss of this. Hence the attainment of real life is seen to be independent of those alternating states which we call life and death. How this alters the whole question as to immortality! "I will give you eternal life." This has been construed to mean a promise of perpetual existence in heaven. What it really means is a promise of attaining to Spiritual consciousness, both during life and during the periods when we are supposed to be dead.
It will not of course be thought by reasonable people that we are attempting to show any short cut to bliss. Theosophy has nothing to do with false methods of so-called self-development or meditation which promise ecstatic states or personal advantages of any kind. Such things may be left to the quacks and cranks. What Theosophy does is to point out the true goal of humanity. However far ahead may be the realization of our ideals of perfection, it is necessary that we should have those ideals right, and keep our eyes fixed on them. Men will have ideals of one sort or another; if not right, then wrong. It is enough to know that people who are in darkness and almost despair, through their loss of faith in life and in themselves, can regain their hope and confidence.
It has been said that, if you cannot see anything good in yourself or in others, it is because you have not searched deep enough. Search deeper and you will find that there is a fountain of faith, hope, and charity in your own heart as in those of others. For the basic laws of the universe are righteous, and the evil is superficial and impermanent. As long as we hypnotize ourselves with the notion of our own impotence, we can do naught; but once we get the idea that the Path is to be found by those who earnestly seek it, we have already raised ourselves many degrees out of our despondency.
Manas is a principle which becomes dual during incarnation, because it is attracted both by the divine and spiritual from above, and by the animal from below. The soul of man may be said to be threefold: spiritual soul, human soul, and animal soul. This last is a pure animal, full of instinct and concerned with its own wants. If it gets the predominance, the man becomes a low and sensual type; his Manas has been made the servant of the animal. The mind should be united with its divine prototype and then the God rules and the animal becomes the servant. To conclude with a quotation from H.P. Blavatsky:
The "harvest of life" consists of the finest spiritual thoughts, of the memory of the noblest and most unselfish deeds of the personality, and the constant presence during its bliss after death of all those it loved with divine spiritual devotion. Remember the teaching: The human soul, lower Manas, is the only and direct mediator between the personality and the divine Ego. That which goes to make up on this earth the PERSONALITY, miscalled INDIVIDUALITY by the majority, is the sum of all its mental, physical, and spiritual characteristics, which, being impressed on the human soul, produces the MAN. Now, of all these characteristics, it is the purified thoughts alone which can be impressed on the higher immortal Ego. This is done by the human soul merging again, in its essence, into its parent source, commingling with its divine Ego during life, and reuniting itself entirely with it after the death of the physical man.
By Winfrid von Hahn
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, December 1929, pages 692-700.]
The spiritual Ego of the man moves in eternity like a pendulum between the hours of life and death, but if these hours, the periods of life terrestrial and life posthumous, are limited in their continuation, and even the very number of such breaks in eternity between sleep and waking, between illusion and reality, have their beginning as well as their end, the spiritual Pilgrim himself is eternal. Therefore the hours of his posthumous life, when unveiled he stands face to face with truth and the short-lived mirages of his terrestrial existences are far from him, compose or make up, in our ideas, the only reality.
-- H.P. BLAVATSKY, LUCIFER, XI, page 103
To understand what happens to Man after death, knowledge is required of what Man is, of what he is not, and of what is meant by "death." To the crass materialist "man" is the physical body, "death" the disintegration of it, "the hereafter" a meaningless term. The thoughtless Christian divides man into body, which perishes at death, and something -- indifferently called "soul" or "spirit" and generally defined as that which is not body -- which presumably survives. If, by analogy, we were to regard the physical body as composed of bone and blood, and define blood as that which is not bone, we would see how far this kind of division can take us. Paul's tripartite classification into body, soul, and spirit is reasonable enough, yet inadequate to explain many of the phenomena of life. Alone, the age-old septenary division of Ancient Wisdom provides the key to the true understanding of man's being and of the states through which he passes after the dissolution of the physical frame he temporarily dwelt in and acted through.
As viewed by the Esoteric Philosophy, Man consists of a perishable Quaternary and an Immortal Triad, forming together the seven "principles" of his entire constitution, which "principles" should not be regarded as entirely separate things, like the coats of an onion, but rather as interpenetrating and interdependent manifestations of the ONE LIFE, by means of which it mirrors itself in every atom of the septenary Cosmos, and descends from plane to plane to ascend again, having attained to self-consciousness.
The perishable Quaternary is composed of:
1. Sthula-Sharira or physical body, the visible, tangible outer form, built up of various tissues -- the domain of physiological science.
2. Linga-Sharira or the ethereal counterpart of the physical body, the astral double or eidolon, the model around which the physical frame is gradually molded during gestation.
3. Prana or vitality, the integrating energy that coordinates the astral and physical atoms and keeps them together -- a drop from the boundless ocean of Life Universal.
4. Kama the aggregate energies of passions, emotions, desires, and appetites.
The Immortal Triad consists of:
1. Manas or Mind-Principle, the Thinker in us; in its higher part the Reincarnating Entity, the central pivot of man's constitution, the Human Soul.
2. Buddhi or Spiritual Soul, the vehicle of
3. Atma, the Spirit, a ray of the Universal and One Self.
The link between the Immortal Triad and the mortal Quaternary is Manas, which, during the period of incarnation, is dual, and functions as Lower and Higher Manas. The Higher Manas sends forth, as it were, a ray, the Lower Manas which functions through the brain as brain-consciousness, the ratiocinating intelligence, and the brain-mind. This lower aspect of Manas mingles with the Kama or passional nature, forming what may be termed Kama-Manas; this is the battleground, during life, of the Higher and Lower natures of Man, the perishable and the imperishable elements in his constitution.
According to H.P. Blavatsky (THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, page 172), Atma the God above (more than within) us, is the HIGHER SELF; Buddhi or the Spiritual Soul, in close union with Manas -- without which the former is only the vehicle of Atma -- is the Spiritual Divine Ego; Manas, the fifth "principle," independently of Buddhi, is the Ego (it is the Spiritual Ego only when merged into Buddhi), the permanent Individuality, the reincarnating Ego; the physical man in conjunction with the lower self -- animal instincts, passions, desires, etc., -- in other words, the Lower Manas combined with Kama and operating through the physical body and the astral double, is the Lower Personal Ego.
The remaining "principle," Prana, or "Life," is strictly speaking, the radiating force or energy of Atma -- as the Universal Life and the ONE SELF -- ITS lower, or rather (in its effects), more physical, because manifesting, aspect. Prana, or Life, permeates the whole being of the objective Universe, and is called a "principle" only because it is an indispensable factor and the deux ex machina of the living man.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, page 173
The above sevenfold constitution of Man may perhaps become clearer if we say that ONE LIFE on seven planes pervades the Universe, and on every plane shows itself in a different way. It breathes throughout the boundless expansion of the Cosmos. The ONE LIFE manifests as Atma and Buddhi in its higher stages, as Manas on the plane of thought, as Kama on the plane of emotion, as Prana in the sphere of physical vitality, as attraction, repulsion, cohesion, electricity, etc., on the lowest plane of manifestation; and the "principles" are but vortices of force, endowed with consciousness and set in motion by the ripples of the ONE LIFE viewed in its most abstract aspect.
What is the physical body? Biological science has conclusively demonstrated that it is a vast congeries of animate cells, almost all tissues being of cellular structure and constantly undergoing a process of decay and reconstruction. Each of the myriads of cells has a life and death independent of the life and death of the creature into which it is built. With every instant minute, particles -- whether cells, molecules, or atoms -- are passing away from the body, others are streaming in to replace the loss.
From the time of its fashioning around the astral model in the womb, the human body is continuously built up by the insetting of fresh material, and the out-going stream is scattered abroad, to enter some other vortex of animal, vegetable, or mineral life, the physical basis of which is the same.
Man's body is the least permanent of all his "principles," for, owing to the constant state of flux in its constituent parts, it never remains in the same condition even for a minute; it could be compared to a river which, though permanently existing as an Ideal Form, is yet in a state of ceaseless change both as regards the material of its bed and the rushing masses of water.
Recognizing a life-force as permeating the countless cells of the body, modern science has not yet dared to endow with life the molecules, atoms, and electrons at which it has arrived. Here it shows itself inconsistent and, unconsciously, gives the right of way to Esoteric Philosophy which, at this precise point, steps into the arena and shows that far beyond the individual cells, the molecules, and even the atoms, the whole of the human tabernacle is built up of countless lives, all conscious on their own plane.
Science teaches us that the living, as well as the dead organisms of both man and animal, is swarming with bacteria of a hundred various kinds ... But Science never yet went so far as to assert with the Occult Doctrine that our bodies, as well as those of animals, plants, and stones are themselves altogether built up of such beings, which, except larger species, no microscope can detect ... The physical and chemical constituents of all being found to be identical, chemical Science may well say that there is no difference between the matter which composes the ox and that which forms man. But the Occult Doctrine is far more explicit. It says: Not only the chemical compounds are the same, but the same infinitesimal INVISIBLE LIVES compose the atoms of the bodies of the mountain and the daisy, of man and the ant, of the elephant and of the tree which shelters him from the sun. Each particle -- whether you call it organic or inorganic -- is a life.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, pages 260-61
These countless lives in the aggregate form the atoms, molecules, and cells of the physical frame, and, streaming in and out, build a bridge between man and his environment. Controlling them are higher lives which constrain them to work harmoniously, and direct their activity. The Universe in all its realms is formed of hierarchies of beings, the higher guiding the lower, the lower reaching up to the higher. And so it is with the physical body, for analogy is the Great Law.
Prana, the active energy, the vital solar force animating all things, permeates likewise the physical frame and resides at the very core of the invisible lives. During life the body is polarized oppositely to it, and in accordance with electromagnetic laws, a normal interplay is established between the two. The Pranic energy is accumulating steadily during the day, and its positive flood overpowers our negative forces by bedtime. Sleep restores the balance and prevents our being killed by an excess of life. In death, however, we are utterly conquered by the Pranic forces, their tremendous onrush during life having gradually undermined the resistive capacity of cells, the result being inability to withstand the pressure.
When we awake we are in equilibrium as to our organs and life; when we fall asleep we are yet fuller of energy than in the morning; it has exhausted us; it finally kills the body. Such a contest could not be waged forever, since the whole solar system's weight of life is pitted against the power to resist focused in one small human frame.
-- W.Q. Judge, THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY, pages 50-51
In the life of every man, therefore, a time collies when the disintegrating tendency reaches a maximum and the body gives up the fight against the natural pressure of the Solar System, the existence of this cyclic period of breaking-up being derived from the past and being largely due to hereditary causes. (Karmic causes are too profound to be touched upon in this study; needless to say, they are the mainspring behind everything which pertains to the phenomena of life and so-called "death.")
Blending together the teachings of Ancient Wisdom and the investigations of biological science, it is possible to distinguish three kinds of death: the molecular or cellular death, which finds its expression in the constant tearing down of cellular and chemical structures in the body, and is as constantly followed by the integrating process of new formation; the somatic death -- from the Greek soma, the body -- which is the more or less sudden final change of the entire complex organism of a living entity; and the so-called "second death" of Theosophical writers, to be reviewed later on.
It is almost needless to point out that somatic death results from the failure of one of the three great vital, internal systems: the heart and circulatory system, the respiratory organs, and the brain with the spinal cord and nervous system. This is really the domain of physiological science and need not be entered upon more fully. By whichever path death approaches the body, a rapid cessation of the action of the three great vital centers occurs, one after the other. But death is not instantaneous as some have believed, and no physician would be able, on purely scientific data, to fix the actual moment of the change from life to death. The ebb of the life-wave is a mysterious and secret process.
From the earliest records of opinion and belief which have come down to us, and throughout the ages, a general idea has prevailed that the stage of so-called "death" is marked by a mental panoramic perception of the experiences of the life just about to end. Esoteric Philosophy accepts the accuracy of this belief and teaches that at the moment of the final transition, the vision of life passes before the inner eye of the Ego, and the man, appreciating his own conduct, realizes the meaning and the value of the incarnation about to close.
At the solemn moment of death every man, even when death is sudden, sees the whole of his past life marshaled before him, in its minutest details. For one short instant the PERSONAL becomes one with the INDIVIDUAL and all-knowing Ego. But this instant is enough to show to him the whole chain of causes which have been at work during his life. He sees and now understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception. He reads his life, remaining as a spectator, looking down into the arena he is quitting. He feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, page 160
This is the time when the thought-images of the passing incarnation interweave themselves into a complex picture and are impressed in their totality on the Astral Light. The Ego reads the Karmic record of its life; it is the first Judgment -- a moment of sacred solemnity indeed, during which utmost peace and silence should reign around the departing, aye, the departed as far as medical certificate goes. A Master has written:
At the last moment the whole life is reflected in our memory, and emerges from all the forgotten nooks and corners, picture after picture, one event after another ... The man may often appear dead, yet from the last pulsation, from and between the last throbbing of his heart and the moment when the last spark of animal heat leaves the body, THE BRAIN THINKS, and the Ego lives over in those few brief seconds his whole life. Speak in whispers, ye who assist at a deathbed, and find yourselves in the solemn presence of death. Especially have ye to keep quiet just after death has laid his clammy hand upon the body. Speak in whispers, I say, lest you disturb the quiet ripple of thought, and hinder the busy work of the past, casting its reflection upon the veil of the future.
After the last breath is expired, the inner man, reviewing his life, remains for a while concentrated in the deepest centers of the brain, probably unconscious of the body he is leaving; and as his vision sweeps backwards from the solemn present to his childhood days, it is possible that the moment of incarnation coincides with REAL death.
While the retrospect of the past is taking place, and the real man gradually withdraws from the physical body, the bodily form begins to break up under the pressure of a change in polarity.
When a body dies it passes into the same polarity as its male [positive] energy, and repels therefore, the active agent, which, losing hold of the whole fastens on the parts or molecules, the action being called chemical.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, page 526fn.
During incarnated life, while the human form still retains the other principles which make it into a perfect whole, the countless lives are restrained in their activity, are grouped into definite combinations for special purposes, and are marshaled as an army, in regular order and under a supreme command. But as soon as the informing, indwelling power has begun to withdraw, they become a disorderly crowd, a rioting and tumultuous mob, rushing hither and thither, with no common object or recognized authority. A process of complete disintegration sets in and the physical frame is gradually transformed into the solids, fluids, and gases which entered into its chemical combinations.
This chemical activity of dissolution (and occasional reconstruction of other complex chemical structures, for temporary purposes) is one of the manifestations of the life-principle and is, of course, governed by intelligent forces, though by different ones from those present during the period of incarnated existence. THE BODY IS NEVER MORE ALIVE THAN WHEN IT IS "DEAD," paradoxical as it may sound. It is alive in its units, dead in its totality; alive as a congeries, dead as an organism.
Science regards man as an aggregation of atoms temporarily united by a mysterious force called the life-principle. To the Materialist, the only difference between a living and a dead body is that in the one case that force is active, in the other latent. When it is extinct or entirely latent, the molecules obey a superior attraction, which draws them asunder and scatters them through space. This dispersion must be Death, if it is possible to conceive such a thing as Death, where the very molecules of the dead body manifest an intense vital energy ... Says Eliphas Levi: "Change attests movement, and movement only reveals life. The corpse would not decompose if it were dead; all the molecules which compose it are living and struggle to separate."
-- H.P. Blavatsky, ISIS UNVEILED, I, page 480
It is the Linga-Sharira, or astral double, the vehicle of vitality, that exercises the controlling and coordinating force on the countless lives of the physical body, of course, under the guidance of the inner man; after the latter has withdrawn from its tabernacle of clay, he gradually disengages himself also from the astral form which for a time remains attached to the disintegrating physical body by a delicate magnetic cord.
The final snapping of the thread which connects the astral with the physical body means the breaking of the last magnetic link between the latter and the higher principles of man. Man is now a six-principled entity, and very soon, after his withdrawal from the astral envelop, and the dissipation of the life-principle, a four-principled one, which he will remain for a certain time.
Death, truly, is a process of repeated disrobing or unsheathing. The immortal Pilgrim, casting off one outer casing after another, gradually emerges, like the butterfly from its chrysalis, into a higher and wider state of consciousness.
The disintegration of the Astral Double goes on pari passu with the dissolution of the physical frame. The first is an astral corpse as much as the latter is a physical one. The Linga-Sharira, formed, like the physical body, of atoms, although of much more subtle ones, meets the same fate, gradually dissipating on its own respective plane. It is probable indeed that the astral form is not entirely dissipated until the last stage of decomposition is attained by the physical body. One of the main advantages of cremation lies in the almost immediate restoration to Nature of the material elements which constitute the physical frame, and the acceleration in the decomposition of the astral form which follows. Needless to say, all dealings with the astral double of a dead person belong distinctly to Black Magic.
Prana, the vital energy, inhering in the astral form, is but a drop from the shoreless ocean of Universal Life, and when death supervenes it re-becomes the ocean, "the dewdrop slips into the shining sea," and the Inner Man, still wrapped in his emotional elements, the Kamic nature, passes into the dreamy semi-consciousness of Kama-loka.
When the man dies his three lower principles leave him forever; i.e., body, life, and the vehicle of the latter, the astral body, or the double of the LIVING man. And then his four principles -- the central or middle principle (the animal soul or Kama-Rupa, with what it has assimilated from the lower Manas) and the Higher Triad -- find themselves in Kama-loka.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, page 142
Loka is a Sanskrit word meaning place, world, region, so that Kama-loka is really the world of Kama, of that part of the human constitution which is made up of desires, emotions, and appetites.
[It is] an astral locality, the Limbus of scholastic theology, the Hades of the ancients, and, strictly speaking, a LOCALITY only in a relative sense. It has neither a definite area nor boundary but exists WITHIN subjective space, i.e., is beyond our sensuous perceptions. Still it exists, and it is there that the astral eidolons of all the beings that have lived, animals included, await their SECOND DEATH. For the animals it comes with the disintegration and the entire fading out of their astral particles to the last. For the human eidolon it begins when the Ata.-Buddhi-Manasic Triad is said to "separate" itself from its lower principles or the reflection of the EX-PERSONALITY, by falling into the Devachanic state.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, page 142
We should bear in mind that H.P. Blavatsky uses here the words "astral" and "eidolon" for a much subtler matter than the almost physical astral, which perishes pari passu with the dissolution of the physical body.
The Kamic element of man contains the will to live, the instinct of self-preservation, the animal passions and propensities; it is the sentient agent, translating vibration into sensation. During life it has no independent vehicle, but after death it builds around itself a rupa or form which encloses the Immortal Triad within its ethereal folds.
The second death, then, is the passage of the Immortal Triad, the Pilgrim, the real Man, from Kama-loka into the higher state of peace and bliss, called by Esoteric Philosophy "Devachan," the "land of the gods." The processes of the "second death" must necessarily differ with the inherent characteristics of man's emotional nature, and his stay in Kama-loka varies accordingly, so that no description can be given of something which changes with every man, except that a general outline of the average case may be attempted.
The Kama-Rupa is the subjective being (from the terrestrial standpoint, of course) composed of the whole of the passional nature of man, and the Higher Ego cannot immediately withdraw from it the Lower Manas, that emanation of itself which, during earthly existence, became entangled with the Kamic element and hence the delay.
If a person has led a pure life, and has aspired to higher things rather than identified himself with the lower ones, the passional element in him is comparatively weak and will not assert itself to any appreciable degree in Kama-loka. The Manas may have controlled Kama to a great extent, and the link between them is now but slight, the aspirations of the Lower Mind being towards its parent-source, the Higher Manas.
Gradually, therefore, the Immortal Triad, the true Man, draws in all its forces, the memories of the life just ended, its loves, its hopes, and aspirations, and by degrees frees itself from the last chains which bind it to the material spheres. It leaves behind, in Kama-loka, the Kamic form, to disintegrate sooner or later in its entirety, except for the seeds of future action -- seeds that have been sown in life and that will come to fruition in some later incarnation.
[Kama-Rupa, metaphysically,] is the subjective form created through the mental and physical desires and thoughts in connection with things of matter, by all sentient beings, a form which survives the death of their bodies ... the pale copy of the man that was, vegetates for a period of time, the duration of which is determined by the past life of the defunct. Bereft as it is of its higher mind, spirit, and physical senses, if left alone to its own senseless devices, it will gradually fade out and disintegrate. But, if forcibly drawn back into the terrestrial sphere, whether by the passionate desires and appeals of the surviving friends or by regular necromantic practices -- one of the most pernicious of which is mediumship -- the "spook" may prevail for a period greatly exceeding the span of the natural life of its body.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY, page 172
With the disentanglement from the meshes of the Kamic principle, after a period of "gestation" and unconsciousness, the Immortal Man enters the final state of his postmortem journey, the Heavenly World or Devachan. Volumes could be written in an attempt to describe in words the indescribable, to picture in human speech that which nothing but actual experience of that particular state of consciousness can ever make clear. And so we will limit this part of the subject by merely saying that Devachan is the highest, purest, most peaceful state between two incarnations, a state of temporary release from the bonds of personality, a complete rest for the real Man after the trials of earth-life, when he assimilates the experiences of the past and transmutes them into innate faculties, tendencies, and germs for future incarnations. For the ordinary mortal, his bliss in Devachan is complete.
It is an ABSOLUTE oblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow in the past incarnation, and even oblivion of the fact that such things as pain or sorrow exist at all. The Devachani lives ... surrounded by everything it had aspired to in vain and in the companionship of everyone it loved on earth. It has reached the fulfillment of all its soul-yearnings. And thus it lives throughout long centuries an existence of UNALLOYED happiness, which is the reward for its sufferings in earth-life. In short, it bathes in a sea of uninterrupted felicity spanned only by events of still greater felicity in degree.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, page 147
What is called "death" cannot touch the higher consciousness of Man; it can separate those who love each other only as far as their physical vehicles are concerned, but for the Devachani "there is no such thing as Death at all," for he has passed beyond the limitations of matter.
When the causes that brought the Ego into Devachan are exhausted, the experiences assimilated, Man begins to feel once more the thirst for sentient life which can be assuaged on the terrestrial plane only. The Ego then returns to earth in a gradual descent, meeting on his way downwards the seeds of evil sown in his preceding life.
These seeds have remained in a state of suspended animation during his stay in Devachan; they awaken to life as the new personality is slowly fashioned for the incarnation that is to begin; the burden of the past is taken by the Ego, to be lightened or made still heavier, as the case may be.
These seeds are what the Buddhists call Skandhas and are sensations, abstract ideas, tendencies, material qualities, the aroma of which has been assimilated by the Ego while on his way to Devachan. They are woven into the new "man of flesh" into which the Immortal Pilgrim is soon imprisoned again. Such is the Wheel of Life, the Cycle of Necessity, "which none at last can turn aside or stay."
Death is the "great adventure." It is the portal through which passes the Immortal Pilgrim on its way to freedom, light, peace. It is the birth of Man into spheres of unspeakable glory, into realms of Universal Life. What but dead-letter dogmas could ever have disguised death so as to make it appear as a Black Phantom to be dreaded by man? Nature is a compassionate Mother, a Friend to be respected and loved. She provides for us all the rest we need between our days, the peace we yearn for between our lives. There is a continuity of life everywhere in Nature; and the glorious transition which comes to us all at the end of earthly existence is but the starting-point of another and fuller state of being, an opening of the secret flower of our Soul, though for the present we miscall this by the inadequate name of "death."