We, old Theosophists, are like people standing on a rocky cliff and watching the waves dashing against its foot; the waves, in our case, are the assults of the impotent critics of the Ancient Wisdom, that living rock of philosophy which stands firm and unshaken from age to age amid the fugitive changes of dogmatic theology.
Henry S. Olcott, OLD DIARY LEAVES, V, page 128.
By William Q. Judge
[From THE PATH, December 1891, pages 268-70, under the penname Eusebio Urban, reprinted in ECHOES OF THE ORIENT, I, pages 203-4.]
There are some members of the Theosophical Society who expose themselves to the charge of indulging in hypocrisy or being ignorant about their own failings and shortcomings. They are those who, having studied the literature of the movement and accepted most of its doctrines, then talk either to fellow-members or to outsiders as if the goal of renunciation and universal knowledge had been reached in their case, when a very slight observation reveals them as quite ordinary human beings.
If one accepts the doctrine of Universal Brotherhood, which is based on the essential unity of all human beings, there is a long distance yet intervening between that acceptation and its realization, even in those who have adopted the doctrine. It is just the difference between intellectual assent to a moral, philosophical, or occult law, and its perfect development in one's being so that it has become an actual part of us. So when we hear a Theosophist say that he could see his children, wife, or parents die and not feel anything whatever, we must infer that there is a hypocritical pretension or very great ignorance. There is one other conclusion left, which is that we have before us a monster that is incapable of any feeling whatever, selfishness being over-dominant.
The doctrines of Theosophy do not ask for nor lead to the cutting out of the human heart of every human feeling. Indeed, that is impossibility, one would think, seeing that the feelings are an integral part of the constitution of man, for in the principle called Kama -- the desires and feelings -- we have the basis of all our emotions, and if it is prematurely cut out of any being, death or worse must result. It is very true that Theosophy, as well as all ethical systems, demands that the being who has conscience and will, such as are found in man, shall control this principle of Kama and not be carried away by it nor be under its sway. This is self-control, mastery of the human body, steadiness in the face of affliction, but it is not extirpation of the feelings which one has to control.
If any Theosophical book deals with this subject, it is THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, and in that Krishna is constantly engaged in enforcing the doctrine that all the emotions are to be controlled, that one is not to grieve over the inevitable -- such as death, nor to be unduly elated at success, nor to be cast down by failure, but to maintain an equal mind in every event, whatever it may be, satisfied and assured that the qualities move in the body in their own sphere. In no place does he say that we are to attempt the impossible task of cutting out of the inner man an integral part of himself.
But, unlike most other systems of ethics, Theosophy is scientific as well, and this science is not attained just when one approaching it for the first time in this incarnation hears of and intellectually agrees to these high doctrines. For one cannot pretend to have reached the perfection and detachment from human affairs involved in the pretentious statement referred to, when even as the words are uttered the hearer perceives remaining in the speaker all the peculiarities of family, not to speak of those pertaining to nation, including education, and to the race in which he was born.
This scientific part of Theosophy, beginning and ending with universal brotherhood, insists upon such an intense and ever-present thought upon the subject, coupled with a constant watch over all faults of mind and speech, that in time an actual change is produced in the material person, as well as in the immaterial one within whom is the mediator or way between the purely corporal lower man and his Higher divine self. This change, it is very obvious, cannot come about at once nor in the course of years of effort.
The charge of pretension and ignorance is more grave still in the case of those Theosophists guilty of the fault, who happen to believe -- as so many do -- that even in those disciples whose duties in the world are nil from the very beginning, and who have devoted themselves to self-renunciation and self-study so long that they are immeasurably beyond the members of our Society, the defects due to family, tribal, and national inheritance are now and then observable.
It seems to be time, then, that no Theosophist shall ever be guilty of making pretension to any one that he or she has attained to the high place which now and then some assume to have reached. Much better is it to be conscious of our defects and weaknesses, always ready to acknowledge the truth that, being human, we are not able to always or quickly reach the goal of effort.
By Dallas TenBroeck
[From an email to Theosophy Company dated April 17, 2002 and also sent to friends for wider distribution. Internet links have been updated.]
I am taking advantage of a response I received to the posting of two of Mr. Judge's "Stories" to say, and make inquiry of you, of an idea I had to widen and deepen the impact of Theosophical doctrines and truths in the world.
I wrote to a friend who had taken notice of the posting, and want to share the answer with you for your consideration and possible response to me.
"I am tempted by your kind answer and notice to place on record the work that we all as serious students who have profited from Theosophy can now do for others, known and unknown. There has been an expansion of opportunity in my esteem.
The lines of force that can cover the world by communication are wider, and now, are almost instantaneously reactive.
If we wish to, we can make use of the INTERNET to place Theosophy before many others as a coherent series of practical and truthful answers to the puzzles and circumstances that create difficulties in our lives and in our minds.
There are several places on the Internet where Theosophy is the basis for the exchange of questions and the encouragement of learning.
Can we broaden our contacts? Can we widen out to help the world, and many other inquirers and students with what we have learned from Theosophy? I think we have an opportunity at hand like we have never had before. Imagine what HPB would have done if the Internet had been available in her days.
But even with our poor best, we can do something for the great Cause. Let us take stock. We have:
Blavatsky Net provides references and monitored discussion group forum to members:
Theos-Talk (email@example.com) provides unmonitored discussion exchange of ideas and questions:
Wisdom World (firstname.lastname@example.org) provides references to THEOSOPHY MAGAZINE articles. It has amassed many valuable articles from the older issues useful for reference.
Rudy's Page (email@example.com) provides monthly reprints of The THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT (Bombay)
The Aquarian Theosophist (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a monthly E-mail Magazine.
Theosophy World (email@example.com) is a monthly magazine on the Internet (with many Theosophical contributors):
Theos-l provides unmonitored discussion exchange for members.
This is a small list and possibly I have omitted some important locations and activities, and would be glad to hear if there are more valuable ones that could be contacted.
Since there are many students (who belong to many "Theosophical" bodies or to none) on the Internet whom we can contact, I put them (the W.Q. Judge stories) online so we could use them and show to others how Theosophical doctrines have wider applications. I will try and put more of them online.
If we go to Blavatsky Net, we find available almost all the ORIGINAL TEACHINGS. Those can be read or down-loaded for our ready reference and use in corresponding with newcomers and old students. [This includes THE SECRET DOCTRINE, ISIS UNVEILED, HPB Articles, W.Q. Judge Articles, and many more of the shorter books including THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, and THE BHAGAVAD GITA. The Glossary available there is partially drawn from HPB's THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY and partly from other sources.
In this way, if many students of Theosophy can actively help, we can "fill the air with Theosophy."
Perhaps this is the new wave, where we will be able to make Theosophy live and breathe for many others' sake. Certainly this will counteract the falloff in local attendance at some centers -- we find a new way of reaching out to the wider audience. And, we can stimulate older students to renewed interest and study -- not only for themselves, but for the sake of those who will carry Theosophy on into the next centuries. Also the monthly magazines will be available to a wider audience.
I find these stories by Mr. Judge illustrate graphically some of the important doctrines concerning the astral and psychic plane; and he makes plain the fact that all beings on earth, humanity, and those of other worlds and systems are on a gigantic educational mission. It is in fact the process of the Universe and implemented on every world and planet. We might consider: from the MONADIC ESSENCE (SD, I, 619), through the various stages of evolution (SD, I, 632), to the utterly practical Spiritual eminence of the full MAHATMA , the BUDDHA and the DHYAN CHOHANS (SD, I, 634-43), there is a continuous line supported by the immortal Ego -- the Higher Self -- the Divine MONADS.
We have the Three Fundamentals. (SD, 14-19)
Then the seven principles (SD, I, 157 and II, 596) human and Kosmic [also in KEY TO THEOSOPHY (HPB) pages 91-2, 135-6, 195-6 (original Edition)]
On page 233 (231 Indian Ed.) of THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, HPB gives us the four golden links of the chain that "should bind humanity into one family, one universal Brotherhood."
1. Universal Unity and Causation,
2. Human Solidarity,
3. The Law of Karma, and
This is enough to use and to repeat again and again. We have THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY and THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY to draw on for illustrations and simple statements -- and for those who are familiar with The SECRET DOCTRINE and ISIS UNVEILED there are good INDEXES that can be used to handle details and more difficult questions.
Of special value is HPB's THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY.I have checked almost every reference and have found that these were culled from statements she made in The SECRET DOCTRINE, or ISIS UNVEILED, or her so many articles and letters. It is reliable and can be used.
Additionally for the serious students, we have all the most important articles of HPB and W.Q. Judge brought together in printed form in the series issued by Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, and there is an excellent index at the end of each set which enables us to find key references.
So each of us has the tools needed to start working on putting Theosophical ideas into circulation.
I see that THEOSOPHY MAGAZINE and The THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT magazine are now placed monthly on Internet
We need to put Mr. Crosbie's writings "on line" -- both the FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER and the ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS AT AN INFORMAL "OCEAN" CLASS. They have to be scanned. Also some of HPB's and W.Q. Judge's articles remain to be scanned and added to Blavatsky Net lists for ready access. This is a TO DO list.
I also think we need many more active students who can give a few minutes each day, or each weekend, and contribute answers and quotations based on the ORIGINAL TEACHINGS by HPB and W.Q. Judge so that students and theosophists and all the many people who use the Internet are encouraged to reach out and make the tenets and doctrines of theosophy present in more minds than a few Lodges and Study Groups alone encompass in their local areas.
Our Lodge and our Study Group is world-wide, when we look at it this way.
All those who are able and willing can help in this. Consider it a wider application of Crosbie's dream for a UNIVERSAL UNITED LODGE OF THEOSOPHISTS, one that is world-wide.
Best wishes, and thanks for the encouragement. Do let me have your reaction and perhaps some additional ideas for promulgation and work can be offered. Most of the second half of the second volume of Mr. Judge's Articles published by Theosophy Company contain his ideas about expanding and improving Theosophical work. If one wants still more than the THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS in Pasadena has published more of Mr. Judges' letters under the title PRACTICAL OCCULTISM. It is a most valuable book.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 236-39.]
I Believe there is no possible written or oral communication between those who have passed on and those who are here on earth; and there are a thousand reasons why this should be so, reasons based on nature's laws of harmony. If you will read our Theosophical books wherein these things are elaborated, you will get the reasons for it.
But there is one exception to this rule: it is the cases of those who are dying or who have just died. At that instant an idea held in the mind of the dying person has something of a powerful magnetic intellectual force behind it, and it will cast itself through the invisible waves of the ether to the one thought of; and there will be a kind of appearance, a shining presentment of the dying one striving to do something to the one held in mind. Sometimes the thought passes over, often not. These are the only occasions where the dying man or the one just dead can communicate orally or in writing, with those on earth.
The spiritualists have evolved their various ideas in a period of time slightly less than 100 years, and they themselves have been trying to digest, to make a kind of philosophy out of, the various messages they thought they received from their dead friends; and the contradictions in doing so have been tremendously numerous. These contradictions prove to us that there is no revelation coming to us in the body by such means from the outside. On the other hand, the entire consensus of mankind, civilized and uncivilized, from immemorial time has been telling us, teaching us, the exact opposite of what our brothers the spiritists have themselves been trying to understand and explain with the few facts that they have.
All the great men of antiquity in whatever sphere of human thought, in whatever sphere of life, have always called this intercourse between the living and those who have passed on by one word, Necromancy, and have unhesitatingly condemned it while at the same time explaining it. I do not state these things harshly, but to recall to your minds certain facts of history.
Have these revelations, these communications, this intercourse, ever given to the human race one fact of nature, one scientific, religious, or philosophic truth? On the other hand, examine these communications. With the exception of a very few, they are what in sheer honesty must be called amiable drivel: "Dear father, dear wife, dear daughter, dear son, I am happy, I am in the spiritland. My guide tells me you are waiting. Please be happy. Give my love to little Janie. I must go now. More next time."
Pathetic! There is infinite pathos in these things. We Theosophists never condemn our brothers, the spiritists, for believing these things. The hunger of their hearts has been to have some proof, as they call it, of survival. But our point is this: Yes brothers, but the only thing that will persuade you of a truth of nature is reason, the preponderance of evidence, something that will sway your minds; in other words facts, not theories.
Now it is right to accept the honest testimony of a single mind, and it is just that due weight should be given to what a single honest man has to say. I believe in the courts of law the testimony of an honest man is accepted. The testimony of two is much stronger, of three is supposed to be almost conclusive. But when we place against this one, two, three, or four the unchanging witness of all mankind since immemorial time to the contrary, must we not give to the testimony of the greatest minds who have ever lived in the past, or who live in the present, as much weight as we give to a few enthusiasts, however honest? Enthusiasm and sincerity by no means spell truth. They spell honesty but not truth.
Pause a brief moment in reflection and look at this thought from a different angle. Suppose that when we die we are conscious of what happens on this earth. Suppose that nature allowed what we call the dying to know what happens on earth after they pass out. What kind of merciless hell would that be for those who have passed out! Would there be peace, repose, happiness, in the dreadful vision of earth's misery and sorrows? Would any one of you be happy dying tired and wishing for peace and rest which you are entitled to by nature's laws, as she gives you your sleep at night to rest the tired body -- would any one of you be happy dying as even now and seeing what will take place on earth in the next 10, 20, 50 years?
Nature makes no such mistakes as these. Even when she causes us to fall ill because of our own foolishnesses and weaknesses, often, perhaps always, there is a dulling of the nerves of the body, often the gentle balm of oblivion steals over the suffering man. Nature is built on harmony and compassion. She does not treat her children in that way.
When we die we are just unconscious, utterly so, mercifully so; there is no suffering, there is the unconsciousness of a brief, perfect, dreamless sleep. Then for the average man -- I am not now speaking of extremes, the very good and the very bad -- for the average millions, the next thing the consciousness is aware of is as it were an awakening in what we call the Devachan, to unspeakable happiness and bliss. It is a dream, if you will, but like a dream which rests the whole being, the tired mind, the tired heart, all resting and recuperating. We call it the Devachan.
What is this Devachan? It is the flowering into activity of all those beautiful and lovely things which on earth we built up into our minds and could not find expression for. And when the body dies, the free mind automatically recalls to itself, sets into motion, these lovely ideals and aspirations, everything that was most glorious and beautiful and high, and the mind dwells on these, and it experiences peace and bliss and happiness and rest. All misery and horrors of the lower plane are forgotten.
Nature cares for her children better than we do, infinitely more carefully and more lovingly than the most doting parents know how to care for their children, protecting their little ones. Do you doubt this? Let me put a question to you. Do you realize that this instant and all your lives you have been surrounded by the most virulent disease-germs, which would kill you off in no time unless there were a protective apparatus working in your body? What does this? Mother Nature. You don't know it, but Nature protects you and guards you against perils you wit not of.
It is only man's own insanity, evil-doing, the wickedness sometimes of his heart, his own weaknesses, which make the hells upon earth which we know. It is not Nature that does that, and any man who tries to shift his moral responsibility by saying it is Nature, in his heart knows that he lies. It is himself.
Nature protects if we allow it, and protects us as the parent tries to protect his or her child against that child's own ignorance. Nature, aye, Nature governed by divine law, will even attempt to heal the bodies which we with relentless and sometimes voracious lust for evil-doing constantly attempt to weaken and corrupt. Nature heals, forgives, gives us another chance and one more and one more still, and allows our bodies to live on, weakened it may be, but healed. What damage was caused, was caused by us.
Thus the heart of Nature is infinite love and compassion and harmony, and we see manifestations of it around us all the time. Nature cares for her children. She protects them and helps them. The trouble with us is that we are continually fighting against our Mother, the only utterly compassionate, utterly wise mother the human race will ever know. So therefore comes the doctrine: Help Nature and work on with her and Nature will regard thee as one of her Masters and make obeisance.
By F.S. Darrow
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, August 1914, pages 110-16.]
That life offers the noblest possibilities is proved by the throb of expectation and of aspiration, which attends the cradle of the newborn child, by the fond dreams for that infant's future, dreams woven by the imagination of its loved ones; by the true poetry and art of all ages; and by the reiterated teachings of humanity's Helpers. Most conclusive proof of all: the magnitude of our opportunities is attested by the "still, small voice" which sings the Song of Life deep within our hearts. During his highest and noblest moments who has not at one time or another thrilled with the enthusiasm of unselfish yearning? At such moments we KNOW that life is worth living. Pessimism and melancholy are the pall-bearers attending the bier of admitted defeat and of cowardly abandonment -- pall-bearers who hang their heads in shame and slink away abashed in the presence of strength and of courage. Fortunately for man, these are and doubtless will ever be abnormal and only temporary states of consciousness. Although long, long ago, selfish and personal curiosity caused the human soul, the Pandora of Greek myth, to lose many of the blessings bestowed by heaven upon man, nevertheless there has still remained locked up within the chest of his nature, that precious inheritance, Hope.
Take heart! the Master builds again. A charmed life old Goodness hath! The tares may perish, but the grain Is not for death.
-- J.G. Whittier
Progress is the law of life, man is not man as yet.
-- Robert Browning
I, too, rest in faith That man's perfection is the crowning flower, Towards which the urgent sap in life's great tree Is pressing, seen in puny blossoms now, But in the World's great morrow to expand With broadest petal and with deepest glow.
-- George Eliot
The possibilities of life, how glorious the prospect spread before aspiration's glance! Those fields of noble endeavor in which the world's helpers and teachers have reaped the grain of Wisdom primeval. Yet despite this vision of the nearness of the Promised Land, how many pass through life without reaching it. How many failures mock the Pilgrim as he treads the pathways! What is the explanation? Theosophy holds the key. Each and every one of us is a composite of two natures, one a Lapsed God, the other an evolved animal, the lower nature selfish and petty; the higher, noble and unselfish.
Said the Roman philosopher, Seneca:
God is nigh thee. He is with thee, He is within thee. This, I tell thee, Lucilius! a sacred Spirit is resident in us, an observer and guardian both of what is good and what is evil in us and in like manner as we use Him so He useth us. There is no good man but hath a God within him.
Success in life is not to be gaged by the number and quantity of acquisitions and acquirements, but by the amount of self-discipline and self-control incorporated in our daily living. Ostentation and the outward appearances of success are deadly narcotics and often serve only temporarily to lull into slumber the lions, the tigers, and the hyaenas of the lower nature. But strip off the outward conventions and the inward rottenness lies revealed.
Our refusal to deal with facts instead of mere words, our fear of handling ungloved our own personal nature is the reason why despite the many good intentions, despite the many aspirations, the failures of life are so numerous. A man cannot serve two masters, either the higher nature must subjugate the lower or vice versa. If the possibilities of life are glorious in their opportunities, the reverse is equally true. If the lower nature is uncontrolled, it can and will drag a being clothed in human form to an inconceivable depth of degradation.
Therefore, we ought to give close heed to the following warning, which is quoted from THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE:
Beware, lest in forgetting Self, thy Soul lose o'er its trembling mind control, and forfeit thus the due fruition of its conquests ...
Prepare, and be forewarned in time. If thou hast tried and failed, 0 dauntless fighter, yet lose not courage! fight on and to the charge return again, and yet again.
The fearless warrior, his precious life-blood oozing from his wide and gaping wounds, will still attack the foe, drive him from out his stronghold, vanquish him, ere he himself expires. Act then, all ye who fail and suffer, act like him; and from the stronghold of your Soul chase all your foes away -- ambition, anger, hatred, e'en to the shadow of desire, when even you have failed ...
Remember, thou that fightest for man's liberation, each failure is success, and each sincere attempt wins its reward in time. The holy germs that sprout and grow unseen in the disciple's soul, their stalks wax strong at each new trial, they bend like reeds but never break, nor can they e'er be lost. But when the hour has struck they blossom forth ...
The Possibilities of Life! How extensive are they? History answers the query. What were they to an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? The Possibilities of Life! What were they to a Nero, a Catherine dei Medici, or a Philip II? What opportunities did life offer to a George Washington, a Thomas Paine, or an Abraham Lincoln; to a Plato, a Gautama, or a Jesus?
Truly the possibilities are limitless for good or for evil. Life is colorless only when the action of the two natures neutralizes one the other. In proportion to the decisiveness of the victory gained either by the higher or by the lower self is the extent and the number of the possibilities broadened. Therefore it is a recognized fact that the study of Theosophy linked with an earnest endeavor to apply its teachings to life results in bringing to the student's attention, as never before, his own character in all its strength and in all its weakness. This is because Theosophy emphasizes in no uncertain tones the necessity of self-study. "Man, know thyself!" and this forming of an intimate acquaintance with one's own nature is one of the secrets which explain the wonderful success that has been achieved by the Raja-Yoga education, founded and established by Madame Katherine Tingley.
We moderns of today, perhaps even more than ever before, fritter away our time in scanning outward forms and appearances instead of devoting our attention to the inward realities. If we could only gain the place of peace and silence, our own innermost sanctuary and if we would still the hubbub and jar of the world of friction, then how petty much would appear, for which at present we are not merely willing but anxious to spend our life's blood, so vital it appears in the present false perspective.
Happy will we be if we can sum up our life's purpose as Socrates did his and say, when the sunset comes:
I have sought to persuade every man among you that he must look to himself and to seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and to look to the state before he looks to the interests of the state and that this should be the order he observes in all his actions ... I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties but first, chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money but that from virtue come money and every good of man, public as well as private.
-- APOLOGY OF SOCRATES by Plato
The mind is the battleground on which is waged the continual conflict between the higher and the lower nature, and if we are to attain to real success in life, it is of vital importance that the brain and its thoughts be under the control and subject to the discipline of the "God-Within," "the Light which lighteth every man who cometh into the world." Both mind and will must be won, conquered and garrisoned by the soldiers who march under the command of that Light. And woe unto us as human beings if it is in the power of the attendants of the animal without instead of the "God-Within!" If the lower nature is in control, the depths to which it can and surely will drag the dual composite being called man are fearful.
Steady, earnest pursuance of duty, a constant and unremittent endeavor and aspiration, these are the simple, everyday tools by whose aid we can succeed in clearing our path through the snares and jungles, which so frequently impede and trip up the Pilgrims treading life's highways. Inconstancy, half-heartedness, unwise enthusiasm, and emotionalism are among the most efficient of the allies of the lower nature, and if we are not constantly on guard, some suggestions of these foes of man will seem so plausible that their real inner ugliness may be quite forgotten for the moment at least. "To him who hath shall be given, but to him who hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."
There is no time and place for neutrality. "He who is not with us, is against us." To drift through life is to invite disaster and will certainly sooner or later lead to shipwreck for it is to play fast and loose with honor, duty, and with the other virtues which make life worth living. Exercise and continual endeavor, physical, mental, and moral, are productive of character and muscle, physical, mental, and moral, while their absence leads to inevitable bankruptcy and weakness.
Failures and sorrows can be most efficient captains when marshaled by the will in the ranks of the allies of the "God-Within." Mere outward prosperity and apparent success much more frequently entice to misfortune. Failures can be used as stepping-stones and as beacons of light. Indomitable perseverance and fearlessness are the qualities which dissipate or surmount the illusions and obstacles, which at times seem to loom so large. Man must raise the animal by the "God-Within" and not suffer the "God" to be lowered by the animal.
Look backward, how much has been won! Look round, how much is yet to win! The watches of the Night are done! The watches of the Day begin.
-- Samuel Longfellow
Although our lower nature tries to persuade the will and the mind that its conflict with the "God-within" is inevitable and unavoidable, this is but one of the many falsehoods used by the animal to insure its hold on the mind and on the will, for the Higher Self is really the friend of the lower, at least in the case of the man who is self- conquered.
What then is the message which Theosophy has to offer in regard to the possibilities of life? Theosophy teaches that the possibilities of life are exactly what we ourselves make them. Man is the weaver of his own destiny. So it is stated in THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE:
Thou canst create this "day" thy chances for thy "morrow." In the "Great Journey," causes sown each hour bear each its harvest of effects, for rigid Justice rules the World. With mighty sweep of never-erring action it brings to mortals lives of weal or woe, the karmic progeny of all our former thoughts and deeds.
The possibilities of life for one and all are virtually limitless for good or for evil.
Says Katherine Tingley:
The knowledge that we are divine gives the power to overcome all obstacles and to dare to do right.
If we make a good and wise use of the present, we can trust the future to take care of itself. The possibilities of life! "Act thou for them 'today' and they will act for thee 'tomorrow.'" No failure is irremediable, no success sufficiently decisive, to permit of subsequent inaction. My own will come to me, for
The Books say well, my brothers, each man's life the outcome of his former living is.
Individual responsibility is the key to real success. The shouldering of responsibility makes moral athletes, its shifting makes cowards and slaves. If man is a free and morally responsible being and the possibilities of life are limitless and ever recede into infinity, just as the horizon ever spreads before the advancing traveler, what is the logical inference? The perfectibility of man, and therefore said Jesus, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect," or, heed the dictates of the "God within" and be at one with your own Higher Self.
No condition is too hopeless to permit reform. No attainment is too lofty to prevent the possibility of a fall. No one so degraded but that by self-exertion he may rise; no one so exalted but that by self-debasement he may stumble. Truly, like man himself, the possibilities of life are dual. No success which permits the abandonment of caution, no failure sufficient to warrant despair.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way, But to act, that each tomorrow Find us farther than today. . . . . . . . In the world's broad field of battle, In the bivouac of life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle, Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, how'er pleasant. Let the dead Past bury its dead. Act -- act in the living Present. Heart within, and God o'erhead.
Lives of great men, all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time.
The innate divinity of man, his absolute individual responsibility and accountability for what he makes out of life, and his inherent perfectibility -- these constitute an important part of Theosophy's Gospel, its good news and its challenge, world-old but ever new. The opportunities for advancement will ever increase and multiply exactly in proportion to the success with which we grasp the present possibilities.
With wider view comes loftier goal, With broader light, more good to see. With freedom, more of self-control, With knowledge, deeper reverence be!
-- Samuel Longfellow
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, As the swift seasons roll. Leave thy low-vaulted past. Let each new temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free, Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea.
Therefore, Theosophy's message in regard to the possibilities of life is thus voiced by Katherine Tingley:
This need not remain the age of darkness, nor need you wait till another age arrives before you can work at your best. It is only an age of darkness for those who cannot see the light, but the light itself has never faded and never will. It is yours if you will turn to it, live in it; yours, today, this hour even, if you will hear what is said with ears that understand. Arise, then, fear nothing, and taking that which is your own and all men's, abide with it in peace for evermore.
By G. de Purucker
[A letter to Theosophists of the Los Angeles District assembled on White Lotus Day, May 8, 1934, appearing later in MESSAGES TO CONVENTIONS, pages 117-19.]
It is with profound and living sympathy that I am sending this brief message of fraternal good-will and fellowship to you all, on the occasion of your celebrating on May 8th of this year the anniversary of the passing of our Masters' first Envoy to the western world.
These gatherings have never been mere formal assemblies of well-meaning people desirous of paying at least a modicum of respect to one whom we all recognize as a Theosophical worker of unsurpassed ability and endless devotion. White Lotus Day, it seems to me, should be an annual event of real importance in our common Theosophical labor; where, if nothing else can be accomplished, or received by way of individual or collective inspiration, we can at least feel that Theosophists of various shades of belief may meet together on a ground of fervid sympathy, mutual understanding, and organizational peace.
For what, I ask you, could or would please our grand HPB more than this -- the practical demonstration among ourselves of the brotherhood which we preach to others as a rule of conduct in human life, and as being, we all hope, the basis on which the nations of the earth in some happier future time will meet in a similar spirit of amity, comity, good-will, and mutual understanding.
Is it not possible to make of our White Lotus Day celebrations, coming once a year, regular occasions of inter-organizational fraternization, wherein differences of viewpoint are laid aside, differences of feeling are at least temporarily forgotten, and on which occasions our hearts can combine as one in reverence and sincere homage to the great woman who gave up all for the sake of the world, thereby exemplifying the first rule of genuine chelaship?
In many countries such inter-organizational Theosophical fraternization gatherings are taking place; and it is my very sincere hope that by thus coming to know each other better, Theosophists of differing opinions and feelings may come to respect the good in each other, and to learn to lay aside these very differences of opinion which have, alas, too long kept us apart in our common grand work of the dissemination of the teachings of the Wisdom-Religion among men.
Argumentation is worthless. Arguments are usually futile, because they commonly persuade one's interlocutor that he is right, and you are wrong. But common ideals and objectives, mutually recognized, and recognition of each others' good qualities, and forgetfulness of the points of difference, are universally recognized among thoughtful people as being the basis on which a common labor can be undertaken in harmony, in peace, in mutual respect, and in that spirit of impersonal devotion towards which, I believe, true Theosophists of all Societies aspire.
If it ever be not possible to hold our White Lotus Day celebrations as inter-organizational Theosophical gatherings, members of our own beloved Theosophical Society can meet in precisely the same spirit of good-will to all the world, to all that lives and breathes, to gods and men, as the Lord Buddha said; and as such an attitude, and as such a feeling, and as such an outlook, combine to form a genuine spiritual exercise of the greatest value, these White Lotus Day meetings should sow, therefore, seeds of thought in the soil of our hearts and minds, blossoming, let us hope, at a later day into their natural bloom, and furnishing throughout the remaining months of the year one strong source of inspiration to which we can look back with the elevation of mind and heart which such gatherings will certainly evoke and indeed sustain.
Above everything else, let us strive to make of our White Lotus Day celebrations gatherings or assemblies where we may all of us of whatever Theosophical Society or clique, learn to lay aside the narrow and confining spirit of sectarianism. These White Lotus Day celebrations above everything else should never degenerate into mutual admiration tea-parties, in which our own impeccable virtues are elevated to the skies, and the motes in the eyes of our brothers are exaggerated into unwieldy beams.
It is in this mood that we should assemble, in my judgment, at these noble White Lotus Day celebrations; for if we do, then in candor I must say that I feel that the spirit which worked through HPB from the Great Lodge will be present amongst us, amongst you, my Brothers, amongst all others who assemble in the same atmosphere of good-will, brotherhood, love to all beings, and in the spirit of justice and magnanimity towards those who differ most strongly from us.
Now, let no one imagine that the words which I have just previously written imply that we should in any wise neglect the principles which we ourselves hold so dear, principles of conduct in the Theosophical Society, and principles of conduct in our individual lives. Sympathy and brotherhood, mutual respect and peace, must be based upon honesty, sincerity, and purity of motive, otherwise we shall be mere emotionalists with our heads in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land.
It is precisely because we of Point Loma love our own Theosophical Society and its traditional principles and rules of conduct so truly, that we feel that we can understand Brother-Theosophists, comprehend their difficulties and divergences of opinion, and have towards them, and, indeed, towards all, a spirit of genuine good-will and understanding.
When HPB, shortly before her passing, requested that after her death the day should be celebrated as an anniversary, it was not merely that her name should be passed from mouth to mouth in parrot-like fashion; but that our thoughts should unite upon the work which she did for the Masters who were behind her; and also that we should give to the principles which guided her own life so nobly, the same allegiance which she gave to them.
White Lotus Day celebrations should be among us serious and heart-searching annual events, partaking in more than one sense of the word of that spirit of utter reverence and impersonality which graced the rites of the Mysteries of ancient times. Forerunners of the future as we are, in our sublime philosophy and in the principles of conduct which we believe in and profess, we should ever see to it that we follow these principles to the end, and become living exemplars of the Wisdom-Faith that is ours. In so doing, we render unto our beloved HPB the reverence of our minds and the homage of our hearts, in the manner that would please her best.
With my affectionate greetings to you all, I am, my Fellow-Workers in the Theosophical Cause,
Fraternally and faithfully yours.
By William Q. Judge
[From FORUM ANSWERS, pages 34-39.]
Has a mother a right to use her will-power in throwing off disease and the painful results of accidents from her and children? Please draw the line clearly between white and black magic in such work, occult work.
It is not clear from the question whether the querent means to ask about the use of the will pure and simple or about the practice of mind-cure, as it is called, or spiritual healing. In respect to the use of the will considered alone, the editor of FORUM has replied sufficiently, I think, especially pointing out that the use of that power is not well understood; and it would seem that the questioner does not understand it.
There is a remarkable absence of treatment of the question of the will in such books as the YOGA APHORISMS and the like, the very books where one would expect to see something about it if it is a thing that can be treated of separately. But we may see the reason for this when we remember the old saying of the Kabalists, that "Behind Will Stands Desire." And by considering men as we see them, this saying appears to be a true one, for in everyday life and in every act we perceive that the prime mover is desire, and that the question of weak will or strong will depends on that in nearly every case.
The wicked are of strong will because they have strong desires, and the weak person will be found to act with the most powerful will when the desire is strong. Their appearance of being weak rises from the fact that they are pulled about every moment by contrary wishes, not being concentrated enough to have definite wishes of their own.
It is here that the distinction between White and Black Magic can be easily found, for if the desired object be a selfish one or against the general good, then the act performed will be of the nature of Black Magic. The will is only used as an agent to carry out the desire. So in the case of an actual adept of either school, will is at his disposition no matter what be his object.
Now if the question put is in view of the practices of the so-called metaphysical healing schools, then a very different set of questions arises of mixed nature, some including moral aspects and some not, but everyone raising a doubt about the claims made of curative power, as also about the way in which any cures that do take place have been accomplished.
The editor has pointed out that a well balanced and centered mind will conduce to health, as has been held for ages; even savages know this and act accordingly. And if one finds from actual experience that the fact of his or her being of a cheerful, happy, contented, charitable, loving, faithful, sunny disposition will always have the effect of giving health to those about in the family or elsewhere, and then there can surely be nothing wrong or inexpedient in such a state. And that, in my opinion, is the right limit for the practice of metaphysical healing.
If one goes beyond that, and, following the rules of these schools, proceeds to send his thoughts out to another with the object of taking hold of that other's mind, then there is the greatest danger and also Black Magic. For no one has the right to take the mind of another, for any purpose, into his possession. If such be done, then the other ceases to be a free agent. And this is true as much in the case of one's child as that of any other person. Moral wrong attaches here because one is acting on another. But in the event of acting on oneself there can only be a question of expediency, and that is a very wide and important one, since momentous consequences may flow to us and to others from the tendencies we set up in ourselves.
Bodily ailments may be roughly divided for the purposes of the present into two classes, one being those that are acute or due to the imagination or the reaction of the imagination on the processes in the bodily economy; the other being those due to strong physical Karma showing out in diseases in the mortal envelope, and being entirely beyond the reach of the imagination and not due to reactions from the mind of the sufferer. These last are of the greater number; we see them in small children as well as in adults, and also in savages and the semi-savages of our own civilization who compose what some people call a lower element in the social body. In the first class the physical troubles from reaction will of course disappear as soon as the person trains himself to look at life cheerfully and to grow into a more independent frame of mind.
The cures are not due to the causes assumed in the schools we refer to. They come about as a natural result of the new state of mind withdrawing from the nerves and fluids of the body the old strain and oppression. When those are removed the actual state of health at the bottom comes to the surface. And the result would be the same in the instance of the most degraded savage who might be induced by accident or by the words of his medicine man to fix his mind in another direction. Obviously there it would not be due to a system of philosophy. And additional proof of this is to be had in the very schools we speak of. In those we see widely different systems; one requires faith in the Bible and in Jesus, and the other does not, and yet each makes equal claim to success. H.P. Blavatsky says:
This is all the secret. Half, if not two-thirds, of all our ailings and diseases are the fruit of our imagination and fears. Destroy the latter and GIVE ANOTHER BENT TO THE FORMER, AND NATURE WILL DO THE REST.
-- Lucifer, Vol. 7
In the second class of diseases, it is quite true, as has been often said by the metaphysical healer, that the disease comes from thought, but the error is in supposing it to be present thought had in this body. The thoughts are those of a past life, and have passed altogether from the mind plane into the realm of causes for dynamic disturbance, or of the tendency, that are quite beyond the reach of the present imagining power, but sure to result in the course of time in visible difficulty suddenly appearing, or resulting from our going into situations that bring to us the germs of disease.
Karma acts on us not only in inherited troubles but also in accord with the tendencies we have set up in ourselves in a previous life. Those latter impel us to go to places or to mix with such people as that the inevitable result will be to cause effects on our mind or body that otherwise would not be felt. As in the case of one who set up in a previous life a tendency to consort with good and cultured people; this will come out and lead to a similar line of action with very different results from the case of one whose tendencies were in the opposite direction.
These causes for disease then being in the mind plane from the last life, and having become mechanical causes in this, are now on THEIR WAY OUT of the system in the proper channel, and that channel is a physical, mechanical one. They are leaving us by the way of the body, are on the way down, and should not be stopped and sent back to the mind plane again. They should be treated by the ordinary methods of hygiene, of medicine, of surgery, of food. Hygiene and food furnish the right conditions for adjustment, and make no new present cause for trouble; medicine helps nature in her mechanical acts of purging and alteration; and surgery replaces dislocations, removes dead tissues, or puts bones that are broken into position for proper joining.
No one would be so foolish as to say that thinking will remove from the brain the pressure of a fractured bone that is making the patient mad, or that imagination will set a dislocated shoulder. And if rotting food in the stomach is affecting the head and the whole system, it is certainly wiser to get rid of the offending substance as quickly as possible, supplying the body with good food in its place, than to let the evil stay to be absorbed as evil into the tissues while one busies himself by calling on the higher powers of mind to make him think he is not disturbed while nature is going on with her cure. In many cases this latter is all that happens, for any strong-minded person can resolve to endure great pain during the process of rectification of internal trouble by ordinary change of tissue and fluids. So a disciple of the schools in question may be so full of the notion that mind, or God, or Christ is curing him that he endures until the vis medicatrix naturae has done its work.
Granting that these causes are on their way down and out, the effect of calling with a powerful will on the same plane of power is that the cause may be sent back to the inner mind and disappear from the body. But this is no cure: it is something like one's cutting off his hair because the flies walk in it, it is planting once more in our deathless body disease that will surely come out again in another life as disease, or as madness in that one or presently in this. And in the life of many a practitioner nowadays this has happened. For wherever one is very sensitive the practices enjoined create abnormal states that have resulted in dementia.
But a still more pressing danger lies in the half-truth of the practices. They are, divested of all pretension to systematic and right philosophy, partially correct yoga practices.
As soon as they are begun, they set up in the astral currents in the practitioner definite changes that at once begin to react on the humors and fluids in the body and are strong enough to bring about definite alteration in the physical envelope. This has been known of and has been treated for ages by the older Hindus. But they have always been careful to say that they ought not to be gone on with in the absence of a guide who is competent to know every symptom, to note every effect, and to give the right corrective.
These correctives were not purely mental either, for many of them have to be physical, since the rapidity of the changes and the effects of the practices far outrun any application of mental correction in many instances. And this knowledge did not mean a mere following of a definite rule, but included an ability to see the peculiarities of each person as he proceeded. For as such is under a different set of laws peculiar to himself, the strict following of a general rule would lead to the greatest danger.
But what do the "metaphysical healers" know of this?
Nothing but the vague rule of the doctors that one must watch the patient and know, if possible, something of his medical record. Outside of that they are at sea with no pilot. They are inviting the explosion of forces they know nothing about, and when the difficulty arises they are powerless. From actual experiment I know the facts to be as stated.
The pulse may be lowered or increased, or the first symptoms of paralysis produced, or fainting brought on, singing in the ears and mist before the eyes made to show themselves; but where is the corrective? Unknown, for the simple reason that when we are dealing with such forces as these, we are out of the realm of general rules for correction and must be able to at once see the exact inner state of the person and to select unerringly out of the vast range of possible cures the right one so that it shall work without any mistake.
What, then, shall the querent do for herself and her children, as she asks? Use her best judgment, follow the best rules for the cure of diseases, train her children to be self-reliant and careful so that they shall have few accidents, teach them to avoid evil and danger, and keep their minds and bodies in right condition, and Karma will take care of the rest. And if they are hurt or really sick, then send for a good physician.
By Rajani Kant Brahmachari
[From FIVE YEARS OF THEOSOPHY, pages 470-72.]
At the time I left home for the Himalayas in search of the Supreme Being, having adopted Brahma-charya-shrama (religious mendicancy), I was quite ignorant of the fact that there was any such philosophical sect as the Theosophists existing in India, who believed in the existence of the Mahatmas or "superior persons." This and other facts connected with my journey are perfectly correct as already published, and so need not be repeated or contradicted. Now I beg to give a fuller account of my interview with the Mahatmas.
Before and after I met the so-called Mahatma Koothum-pa, I had the good fortune of seeing in person several other Mahatmas of note, a detailed account of whom, I hope, should time allow, to write to you by-and-by. Here I wish to say something about Koothum-pa only.
When I was on my way to Almora from Mansarowar and Kailas, one day I had nothing with me to eat. I was quite at a loss how to get on without food. There being no human habitation in that part of the country, I could expect no help, but pray to God, and take my way patiently on.
Between Mansarowar and Taklakhal, by the side of a road, I observed a tent pitched and several Sadhus (holy men), called Chohans, sitting outside it who numbered about seventeen in all. As to their dress, etc, what Babu M.M. Chatterji says is quite correct.
When I went to them, they entertained me very kindly, and saluted me by uttering, "Ram Ram." Returning their salutations, I sat down with them, and they entered upon conversation with me on different subjects, asking me first the place I was coming from and whither I was going.
There was a chief of them sitting inside the tent, and engaged in reading a book. I inquired about his name and the book he was reading from, one of his Chelas, who answered me in rather a serious tone, saying that his name was Guru Koothum-pa, and the book he was reading was Rig Veda.
Long before, I had been told by some Pundits of Bengal that the Tibetan Lamas were well-acquainted with the Rig Veda. This proved what they had told me. After a short time, when his reading was over, he called me in by one of his Chelas, and I went to him.
He, also bidding me "Ram Ram," received me very gently and courteously, and began to talk with me mildly in pure Hindi. He addressed me in words such as follows: "You should remain here for some time and see the fair at Mansarowar, which is to come off shortly. Here you will have plenty of time and suitable retreats for meditation, etc. I will help you in whatever I can."
He spoke as above for some time, and I replied that what he said was right, and that I would gladly have stayed, but there was some reason which prevented me. He understood my object immediately, and then, having given me some private advice as to my spiritual progress, bade me farewell.
Before this he had come to know that I was hungry, and so wished me to take some food. He ordered one of his Chelas to supply me with food, which he did immediately. In order to get hot water ready for my ablutions, he prepared fire by blowing into a cow-dung cake, which burst into flames at once. This is a common practice among the Himalayan Lamas. It is also fully explained by M.M. Chatterji, and so need not be repeated.
As long as I was there with the said Lama, he never persuaded me to accept Buddhism or any other religion, but only said, "Hinduism is the best religion; you should believe in the Lord Mahadeva -- he will do good to you. You are still quite a young man -- do not be enticed away by the necromancy of anybody." Having had a conversation with the Mahatma as described above for about three hours, I at last took leave and resumed my journey.
I am neither a Theosophist nor a sectarian, but I am the worshipper of the only OM. As regards the Mahatma I personally saw, I dare say that he is a great Mahatma. By the fulfillment of certain of his prophecies, I am quite convinced of his excellence. Of all the Himalayan Mahatmas with whom I had an interview, I never met a better Hindi speaker than he. As to his birthplace and the place of his residence, I did not ask him any question. Neither can I say if be is the Mahatma of the Theosophists. As to the age of the Mahatma Koothum-pa, as I told Babu M.M. Chatterji and others, he was an elderly looking man.
By G. de Purucker
[From GOLDEN PRECEPTS, pages 63-68.]
Guard well your thoughts, and even as carefully guard what you say. Speak little, but when you do speak, speak with deliberate recollection of your responsibility.
What is a thought? A thought is a thing; it is a living entity. All the vast and diversified phenomena of Nature, so far as differentiations are concerned, are founded upon the one fact that at the heart of each such entity there exists a thought divine, a seed of the Divine, which is destined to grow through the eons, until the inherent life, individuality, power, and faculty, in such a seed shall find itself flowing forth into more or less perfect manifestation. It is thus that such a god-seed or Monad becomes in its turn a divine entity, a self-conscious god, a child of the Cosmic Divine, its parent.
Thoughts are things, because thoughts are substantial. Thoughts are substantial entities -- not composed of the substance of our physical world, but of ethereal substance, etheric substance.
Man is a focus of creative powers; he is a focus of energies, constantly throwing forth from himself innumerable streams, rivers, of little lives. Through his physical emanations, these atomic lives, these life-atoms, leave him. Through his mind they leave him likewise, and in his mind they are thoughts, which are thus cast into the thought-atmosphere of the world; furthermore, each thought is an entity because obviously it could not exist for a fraction of a second if it did not have an individuality of some kind inhering in it and composing its essence that holds it as an entity in individualized form.
These streams of emanations from the creative center that man is -- from this focus of life that man is -- pass into the invisible realms also as his physical emanations; but the invisible ones: the thoughts good, bad, indifferent, highly colored, almost colorless, highly emotional, cold, hot, clean, sweet, infamous, and what not -- all kinds of energies -- leave the focus of life that man is; and it is these life-atoms, leaving man, which begin to evolve thenceforth on their own account, and in time become the intermediate nature of animals as they so evolve.
Man's emanations thus build up the animal world; the animals feed on these life-atoms of many kinds; physical, vital, astral, mental, and what not. As man thus emanates streams of life-atoms, so does the sun pour forth its vital essence in space, giving life and energy and ethereal substance to all that its invigorating rays touch, as well as its own atoms, its electrons, and what not belonging to the physical sphere.
Thus does man continually pour forth his vitality. These life-streams issuing from him give life and evolutionary impulse and characteristics to the entities of the kingdoms below the human, because these sub-human kingdoms are the evolved productions of the thoughts and vital emanations of the human race.
Man's thoughts of hate and antagonism, his often beastly passions and the various energies of an ignoble type that flow forth from him, are the roots of the things and entities in the sub-human kingdoms that man considers to be inimical and antagonistic to his own kingdom; while, on the other hand, human vital and mental emanations of a different type: of aspiring, harmonious, kindly, amiable, symmetrical, character: act in a similar way in providing the intermediate or psychical principles of the non-venomous, harmless, and shapely beasts, as well as the large range of plants and flowers of beauty and usefulness in the vegetable kingdom.
Since Nature is one vast organism, everything is connected with everything else; therefore you cannot breathe, you cannot think, without setting in motion energies, forces, which ultimately will reach to the very uttermost limits of our Home Universe, and pass beyond those limits to the frontiers of other universes.
Therefore, even a thought about a star touches that star in due course of time, with infinitesimal effect, to be sure; but nevertheless this fact instances a wonderful truth. Furthermore it is a truth that makes one reflect.
Yes, the stars are perturbed even by your thought. And as regards those whose inner vision is more opened and who realize that the glorious luminaries scattered over the blue vault of night are but the physical garments of an inner and brilliant flame of consciousness, manifesting as the splendor of these cosmic suns -- even as your consciousness manifests through you as a human being -- as regards those who are thus beginning to be Seers, their thought reaches the suns and the stars. Every one is a child of a sun, therefore an atom of spiritual energy; and what father does not know his child, and respond to its feeble cry?
By Shrimati Lila Ray
[From THE ARYAN PATH, July 1950, pages 294-302.]
Freedom for man has meant freedom from the authority of those who abuse it. In seeking this freedom men have invariably invoked an authority higher than the one they set at naught, the King against the feudal lord, the parliament against the King, the people against the parliament, and God against them all. Several hundred years ago there was no appeal against the authority of the feudal landlord.
Abuses of power led to changes that gave absolute authority to the King; there was then no appeal against him. Abuses again led to changes which gave absolute authority to the electorate of the national state, put constitutions into writing, and separated the legislative, executive, and judicial powers through which authority at all times functions. It became possible to throw any controversial issue open to the verdict of the vote, and the individual was assured a fair and open trial by jury with the right of appeal to a higher court. If injustice occurred, public indignation could be roused to the point of affecting election results.
But elections are expensive and cannot be held often. Parliaments are run on the party system and ruled by party caucuses. An unscrupulous party can so dominate them as to usurp the entire authority of the people. Such a thing has happened in recent times, most spectacularly in Germany and Italy. Theories of authority had little or no meaning for the wretch in Belsen. All these developments were as though they had not been. He was as helpless before the criminal whim of Hitler as were the slaves whom the elder Cato used to slay with his own hand.
What, then, is authority? In the Oxford Dictionary, it is defined as the power or right to enforce obedience. Webster says it is the right to command or act, as legal and rightful power, power due to opinion or esteem, influence of character, station, mental, or moral superiority. Maclver in THE WEB OF GOVERNMENT writes:
By authority we mean the established RIGHT within any social order, to determine policies, to pronounce judgments on relevant issues, and to settle controversies or, more broadly, to act as leader or guide to other men.
The power to enforce obedience as distinct from the right to do so means the big stick, the assumption behind which is the fundamental badness of human nature, the idea of original sin, the cynicism that sees the atom bomb as the only security against chaos and crime. It regards fear as the primary emotion and fosters the belief that every man has his price, assessing men accordingly. Heraclitus and Machiavelli, Alexander and Hitler, Ku Klux Klanners, and modern power philosophers like Fichte and Nietzsche are some of its exponents. It is a tradition of long standing and has its ramifications in the psychology of each of us. Its motto is: Might is right.
Webster and MacIver both mention only the RIGHT to command or act and enforce obedience. For them the big stick is a usurping and precarious power. MacIver takes pains to show that it alone has never been enough to establish authority or maintain it for long. The right to command or to act and enforce obedience is something quite different. Such a right may be derived from the law, from social status, from mental, moral, or spiritual superiority and the esteem they bring, but the big stick does not confer it.
Laws are rules like the rules of football or cricket. Their object is to keep life pleasant and profitable. They exist in the way of life of a people, in its customs and traditions, long before they are codified. Laws are, in effect, crystallizations of public opinion. Social status is closely associated with them. Hobhouse imagined people living before the reign of law in incessant turbulence. Anthropological evidence is to the contrary. Life is bigger than law, and law derives from life, not life from law. Some jurists limit the function of law to the definition of legality, not of right or wrong. Almost any government can give its acts a semblance of legality.
Laws may give expression to the highest moral principles -- and they may not. Moral right is something quite distinct from legal right. What is morally right may even be illegal at times, as was the manufacture of salt at Dandi. On a number of notable historical occasions, the divergence between moral and legal right has been glaring. Nor are laws always more effective when they do give expression to a moral principle for, as we all know, much good law is badly enforced and some doubtful law is enforced perfectly. Enforcement is not inherent in the law. Codes of law and constitutions are, at their best, barricades against relapses into barbarism, but they can be mere historical relics. Hanfeitse of China sought to devise a system of administration so mechanically perfect that the personnel could be a matter of indifference, but men can never be indifferent to their rulers without disastrous consequences. For, though the rule of law is, as Aristotle said, the rule of reason, its agents are men, and the human factor is always an incalculable one.
If the first source of authority is the subhuman brute force of the big stick, the second source is human, being the opinion of a people as expressed in its laws and customs. It is a delegated authority which is temporary and revocable.
This brings us to the authority attendant upon mental, moral, and spiritual superiority. The mental superiority of an Einstein or a Galileo, the moral superiority of a Gandhi, the spiritual superiority of Christ and Buddha has given these men an authority that will last as long as men are men. There is likewise the authority of great books like the Upanishads, standing supreme in their own glory, and there are the great anonymous myths, the strange similarities of which can only be accounted for as evidence that men everywhere are much the same. Pride goes before a fall as surely in Japan as in Iceland; greed and envy are universally abhorred; courage is always courage; cowardice is cowardice; wisdom is wise, and the sinner sinful.
MacIver, in his illuminating study of the part myths play in government, points out that a myth postulates a fact relative to a value and in this way ratifies values, attaching them to reality. A myth of authority, he says, is at the core of every myth structure, and the manner in which these modify men's social nature makes it possible to rule them. These myths are the molds for the psychological patterns of our race. When older bases of authority dissolve with changing circumstances, they have to be revised and adapted to new worlds. They are dateless either because they convey an undying truth or because they most aptly express the fundamental needs of human nature.
The myth of nationality is at the core of the myth structure of our own day. It is losing its force. Our old values are dissolving and we find our new ones still in an amorphous state. We know that they must come from an expanding sense of larger and more universal relationships but competitive nationalisms, competitive racialisms, and competitive interests of various kinds still obscure our vision with the dust of combat. In the interlude, modern society has fallen back on the brute power of the big stick to silence and crush what it cannot reconcile with its outworn ideology.
It is not that new ideologies are not ready for us; they are, but they are so radical that we are not yet ready for them. Discarded historical forms also tend to reappear in such twilight times, cropping out like geological strata laid bare by some cataclysm. Both the Nazi and Fascist creeds were cultural recrudescences. There is a parallel development in India. The ideology of Gandhi has not been accepted wholeheartedly; neither has the alternative creed of Marx. Neo-Hinduism and Neo-Islam are the only substitutes, and both are cultural throwbacks to a time when theocracy had not been discredited. So Gandhiji was assassinated by a fanatic Brahmin and Pakistan is a theocracy. So is Israel.
Lastly, we have to consider the authority of that handyman of the human household, God. "Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you," said Socrates at his trial.
To the King who condemns her to be buried alive, Sophocles makes Antigone say:
I heard it not from Heaven, nor came it forth from Justice ... They too have published to mankind a law. Nor thought I thy command of such might that one who is mortal thus could overbear the infallible, unwritten laws of Heaven ... I would not, I, for any terror of a man's resolve, incur the God-inflicted penalty of doing them wrong.
Jesus answered with a counter question those who questioned his authority: "The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or of men?" And Gandhiji wrote in his message to the Congress in 1909:
The sons of Hindustan who are in the Transvaal ... hold that loyalty to an earthly sovereign or an earthly constitution is subordinate to God and His Constitution. In interpreting God's Constitution through their conscience, they admit that they may possibly be wrong ... they accept with resignation the penalties provided and trust to the working of time and to the best in human nature to make good their position.
The authority of the Pope, in theory and in practice, rests on the assumption of delegated divinity. Manu is supposed to have been the son of Brahma and Hammurabi claimed that his code of laws came from the Sun god. The divine right of Christian and pagan kings and the aristocratic inheritors of their blue blood has reddened as many pages of history as it has ennobled. So we find that divine, or at least supernatural, sanction has been sought alike by ruler and ruled, oppressor and oppressed, conservative and rebel, ancient and modern, man and woman, Greek, Hindu, Christian, Shinto. The enormous number of gods the human race has fashioned reflects the variety and degree of the sanctions men have required.
The idea of God must be pursued to its source in the human mind if we are to arrive at the final source of authority. For this it is not necessary to become involved in theological controversy. If we accept Laski's definition of conscience, we can safely substitute it for the word God and thus clear our minds of confusing associations. Laski writes,
It [conscience] is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself, but it is a messenger from Him who, in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil.
This should be acceptable to all, even to Marxists, for Lenin and his great teacher were conscientious men. So it is from our conscience that we derive our intuitions of right and wrong and the criterion of good which is the ultimate arbiter of our conduct. In it lies that peculiar magnificence of the human spirit which Whitman has described as that
Something a man is (last precious consolation of the drudging poor), standing apart from all else, divine in his own right, and a woman in hers, sole and untouchable by any canons of authority, or by any rule derived from precedent, state safety, the acts of legislatures, or even what is called religion, modesty, or art ... the simple idea that the last best dependence is to be on humanity itself, and its own inherent full-grown qualities without any superstitious support whatever. The idea of perfect individualism.
This is the idea of man as fundamentally good, an idea that has come down to us as the noblest human tradition through a long line of great thinkers of whom Rousseau and Locke, Ruskin and Tolstoy, Marx and Gandhi are only a few. It is the idea of love as the primary emotion and holds that responsibility breeds reliability and independence develops intelligence. It seeks to create, not to break, men.
THE CONSCIENCE HAS ITS OWN SEPARATE AND RATHER MYSTERIOUS GUARANTEES, FOR IT IS THE ARCANUM OF THE SOUL. IT IS UNPREDICTABLE AND UNAMENABLE TO REASON. IT FUMBLES ALONG INARTICULATELY ONLY TO FLASH OUT IN BLAZING REVELATION AT AN UNEXPECTED MOMENT. AT SUCH TIMES THE CONSCIENCE OF A SINGLE MAN MAY ILLUMINATE THE ENTIRE LANDSCAPE OF AN EPOCH.
This central fact makes human association an adventure of the spirit more thrilling and dangerous than any exploratory expedition into an unknown part of the earth.
People of a dogmatic turn of mind who like security and comfort have always found conscience, particularly the conscience of others, unsettling and exasperating. With remorseless logic they have sought to tame and control, oppress and eliminate it. No priest, no patriarch, no king, no law, no tyrant, no mob has ever succeeded wholly. From the beginning of the seventeenth century, the national state has demanded the whole of men's allegiance, exalting itself into a sort of godhead. When the Pope attempted to make the boundaries of his authority commensurate with the bounds of men's minds, he did the same thing. As a consequence the Church ceased to be human and ceased also to be humane. Then came Luther. If the state, as Laski contends, has become what it is as the result of the slowly accumulating experience of mankind, surely the men of our generation have had enough experience of the abuse of authority by national states to convince them that absolute authority can no longer safely be left in their hands!
This has indeed received recognition in the recent adoption of the Charter of Human Rights for the people of Europe by the European Assembly of the U.N.O. In it, provision is made for the setting up of a European Commission of Human Rights to which private citizens or corporate bodies of member states can bring allegations of violation of the Charter. Thus private persons, for the first time in history, are to have, theoretically at least, the right to arraign their states before an international court. This, limited as it is, is no doubt the thin edge of the wedge of progress.
Some men have always found it possible to trust a limited number of other men. History records a long series of compromises, involving the reluctant extension of this trust to a larger and larger number of men as new categories have forced themselves upon the attention of the privileged and made their way into their charmed circles. For the present this right of appeal against one's state is confined to Europe and perhaps to paper, for national states are still powerful enough to harass and frustrate in a thousand ways any of their members desirous of making such an appeal. The international court itself may fail, as other supreme authorities have failed, to guarantee justice. Democratic machinery is always clumsy and slow. If immunity for appellants is not secured, the right may have no practical value. Yet a point from which expansion is possible has been indicated and a step forward taken.
For the common man the problem of authority is the problem of its abuse. It is not that men have never found the conditions conducive to the flowering of their latent greatness under any of the various kinds of rule. If they had not we should have no common human heritage. It is only when abuse of authority sets in that a form of government becomes intolerable. Unfortunately, no system of government, domestic or foreign, has yet been devised which maleficent men have not been able to pervert. For upwards of 2,000 years, men have dutifully sat in solemn assemblies, devising ever more elaborate and ingenious safeguards; yet we are nowhere near a solution.
Plato said that the state should be so ordered that men who understood that neither an individual nor a society could be made happy by making them richer or more powerful than their neighbors, should be in effective control. Laski speaks of the duty so to organize the character and processes of authority as to make it, in the widest aspect, the servant of right and freedom. Carlyle felt that it was a matter of personalities. If the right man was put in authority, he said in effect, all good things would follow as a matter of course. Without him no institution, however well organized, could do effective good. Acton pointed out that even the initially good and disinterested are corrupted by power. Bertrand Russell states the problem in modern terms when he asks how, in a planned economy, adequate democratic control over experts and planners can be provided. How can present concentrations of economic power be broken up and new concentrations of a similar character prevented?
Socialists would solve the problem by giving more and more power to the state but, unless the state itself is brought under control, that is no solution. In granting greater and greater powers to higher and higher institutional bodies, do we not expose ourselves to an even greater peril, the peril that an ambitious abuser of authority may seize them? May not these powers themselves get out of control? Few things have been easier than for an efficient and energetic government, willing to pay the price, to bribe and bully a whole people into slavery. A time when it will be possible to bribe and bully a whole world into slavery is not inconceivable, for, as we have seen, enforcement is not inherent in the state and its machinery or the U.N.O. and its machinery. It is impossible to make constitutional provision for all eventualities. Today once more we are confronted with the failure of the traditional checks and counter-checks. They were of no avail to the man in Belsen.
Mill concluded that eternal vigilance was the only safeguard. Where public vigilance flags, then liberty is soon lost. Who is to be vigilant? The public. Men and women. The individual and the group. So we are driven, as Gandhi was driven, back to the last and best dependence, dependence on humanity itself. It will be a dark age indeed in which some men and some women will not follow the demands of their conscience in the last resort and, like Socrates and Antigone before them, prefer death to submission from fear of some man's resolve.
Vigilance must be followed by protest if it is to fulfill its function. Confronted with flagrant abuse of authority, the individual has two alternative courses of action. He may submit or refuse to submit. Submission is obedience, refusal to submit is disobedience. Obedience, wrote Edmund Burke, is what makes a government and not the name by which it is called. Thoreau added the corollary that disobedience unmakes it. Numbers, even to the point of unanimity, make no difference. They may justify political action, but they provide no guarantee of its rightness. Those convicted in the Nuremberg trials were guilty of crimes against humanity, not against the state. Humanity alone can lay claim to the whole of our allegiance.
It remained for Gandhi to realize the originality of this approach to the problem of authority through obedience and disobedience. In his life he worked out a technique of disobedience which he used as an effective alternative to revolution. No consideration of authority can be complete, therefore, without a study of obedience for, although authority is not the handmaid of obedience, its immediate presence or absence is indicated by the presence or absence of obedience. Disobedience dissolves the sovereignty of the authority disobeyed. Authority is the first thing to be lost by a government in decline. It is then forced to abdicate its functions, for its orders are no longer carried out. The last thing to be relinquished is power.
Disobedience is an effective remedy against all forms of government. It restores to men their sense of human dignity where oppression has debased them. It checks the subtle undermining of the human mind brought on by a helpless sense of succumbing to an uncontrollable power, which may or may not be baleful. It shows people how to do something about the present and future state of things and thus restores their interest in life, freshens their sense of right and wrong, and revives their faith in the inherent goodness of man -- a faith that Gandhi had in full measure -- whether the man be lettered or ignorant, wealthy or poor, of high station or low, black or white.
Obedience and disobedience make government possible or impossible. Neither is a simple act. Even in its crudest form, a large measure of muscular coordination is implied. Certain responses must be chosen while others are forgone. The responses must also be in some sort of order. Orderliness implies discipline. The setting in order of the personality and the disciplining of the mind is the act of education. Its art lies in the judicious combination of authoritative guidance and freedom. Not until full maturity is a person able to discover and obey the authority of his own conscience. That is why the right to vote is given at the age of twenty-one and not at the age of ten.
The human being matures slowly, and throughout his period of growth he needs the protective shelter of an external authority which provides and organizes for him his means of growth. Without it he feels lonely and exposed; the strain of having to choose for himself his faith, his vocation, his opinions, and his acts before he is ready to do so results in moral confusion and may eventuate in nervous collapse. On the other hand, an excess of external authority during the period of growth stunts and deforms, permanently arresting, instead of fostering, development. The relief and pleasure felt by so many people when war or some similar emergency makes authoritarianism more than usually general is a measure of how widespread arrested development actually is.
People who have more freedom than they are capable of handling feel bewildered and "lost." They suffer from anxiety states and, because of their inability to distinguish right from wrong, become the prey of any masterful charlatan who happens along. On the other hand, people for whom too much is done, whose lives are arranged for them from the cradle to the grave, become incapable of taking any initiative or of making an independent decision. They follow custom, law, tradition, and opinion blindly. Where accident or wisdom provides authority and freedom in due proportions, a perfect individual results. Such men show us what we are meant to be, what we can be, and what we should be. It is from such men that we learn what sort of world we need to build and for whom.
Herbert Spencer well describes the process of education in his definition of civilization. "Civilization," he writes, "is a progress from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity toward a definite, coherent heterogeneity." It is a progress from masshood to manhood. A person truly educated takes on definiteness, clarity, outline, emerging like a sculptured figure from a shapeless lump of clay. The association of a number of such persons is a federation of free individuals. They can successfully engage in the search for right that is the only true sovereign power, a search that the members of a state must undertake separately, via their consciences.
The traditional constitutional safeguards failed the man in Belsen. Brute force failed Hitler. Violent revolution brings in its wake counterrevolution. There remain only the methods of Gandhi. In the opinion of some these have not won a conclusive and spectacular victory. At least they have not failed. The only certain check on authority is, in the last analysis, revolt or the threat of revolt, individual or general, nonviolent or violent. Only free individuals acting singly and in groups can set a limit to authority.
In "Poorna Swaraj," Gandhiji sums up the subject thus:
Real Swaraj will not come by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is abused. In other words, Swaraj is to be obtained by educating the masses to a sense of their capacity to regulate and control authority.
By W. Emmett Small
[From a paper read at the William Q. Judge Theosophical Club, November 13, 1925, reprinted in THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January 1926, pages 82-86.]
There are no doubt many ways to view a sunset; but I have found but two that appeal to me as proper; and as this is one of Nature's marvels that shall not cease of itself in quick time nor yet of man's legislation, but shall come every night and glory the heavens for those eyes so blessed with opportunity for the sight of it, perhaps it may be of some benefit to see what these two ways are.
But first we cannot forget Wei Ch'iu-tsong's words -- which Mr. Morris speaks of in his article on evolution in the October THEOSOPHICAL PATH -- that "to fix one's gaze rightly on the mountains and the waters -- this is called introspection. To meditate upon the God in one's heart -- this is called admiring the beauties of Nature." -- And so it is with the sunsets: there is much therein to read of the heart of Man and the nature of his destiny.
Now the first way -- when the west is all a glory with color -- is to get some house or hill or tree fretted against the magic of it all. That brings it down to you, straight to your heart. There is a wonder-nearness in it all, and you are tense with an ache to draw it all in; for you feel that out there in those fire tapestries woven over the sea, are seats of Truth and Beauty and man's highest aspirations. And so near, so near, it seems as though the wisdom held in those reds and golds and purples and yellows comes riding out of the leaves or around the corner of the house, or from out the side of the hill. To view it this way, you see, one knocks hearts with heaven's and is reminded that all this wonder and glory that seems so far away is but an outward showing of what is in our hearts, and which stands revealed to us when the higher part in us is king -- brother flames of the light of Divinity.
But the other way is good too; for then you stand on some lone out-jutting crag, and below you is the downward slant of all the hills and the graying blue sea, and above, all that the Soul of Man can cry for of Wonder and Beauty. And this way you do not draw the heaven dwellers down to earth; you must rise to their abode, and leave all of this world behind; you must cast off your selves and pursue your way into a purer, more magnificent, more spiritual realm; span the bridge and delve into that ruby and crimson and vermilion and orange and carmine; and mount among the rolling purples and pale lavenders, and just above the sea-line into the lemon yellow, and higher, the chrome, cinnamon, and gamboge, and pale soft green.
What lies not there! What giant fashionings are forward, what enchantments and secret druidries abrew, what feastings the Valkyries attend there! What mysteries and rites and ceremonies, what holy initiations, what earth-shaping and heaven-shaping and life of Delight is there, there! -- ah, we can but lift our hearts to it all and let our souls fling out from these old encasements and glimpse a flash of the Beyond -- the almost Unutterable!
-- All imagination, the garbled fancy of a moon-walker; and better unsaid in this matter-meshed world of ours! Yes? -- and yet it is less a dream, less a butterfly-fancy than the drear dailies we sweat over and call the realities of existence. And it is not sentimentalism, not emotionalism -- that belongs to the lower nature; and when one is watching the sunset with his soul-eyes there is no place for the 'Hyde' in him to manifest. I warrant that at such a time he is never so far away. No it is not that. It is a calling to man's true nature to awake, an invocation to what is Highest, an answered prayer for Beauty to show us some secret of life out and beyond what we allow generally to hedge us. Oh, this so practical age that truckles to all that is so unpractical and touches not what will live forever!
-- I speak of these nature-things because they are part of man's being (as above we learned from Ch'iu-tsong) and their meaning of serious import if not in this then in eventual lives; they are the outward manifestation of the intangible innerness of man -- the only outer manifestation of religion we have besides the still greater one of a worthy life of service. There is more truth, more joy, more wisdom to be found out there in the glory-filled curtain flung down in the west, than in all the canons of all the churches that, however well intentioned, have clogged since the AD's the respiratory organs of this world and made its health a thing to be pitifully and almost despondently asked for. And so in studying what is before us here, watchfully, eyes alert and seeing, reverently and lovingly, one studies that which is as old as the ages and which will endure for the ages, and shall always be the first lesson in the beginningless and endless book of Initiation -- the inner nature of man and his fight for self-mastery.
And then gazing on that sunset from atop my bush-clad hill, I thought of History and that a nation or race should die as the sunset colors die -- gradually, placidly, gently, so that there be no sudden fall from greatness into nonentity, which would be a degradation; but only a sinking to rest, to an earned pralaya, such as the sun shows in its setting: quietly, dignifiedly lessening his activities to a somber peaceful gray, but full of untold mystery and soul life.
And then there is what we call Death; but the sunset knows it not. And thinking thus I left the crest of the hill and ran down its length and across a field and paused a few yards from the cliff where some green prickly growth hedged its rim. Before me was the sun but a few-seeming lengths from the sea-line; above, the rolling gray all touched with orange flare; and almost to my feet a straight path of gold, pure red gold, like burnished copper, not yellow as it so often is.
I watched this for a long time: how it was broken by the near-shore waves which rising, their troughs dark mystery purple and crests snow-white foamed, shut out light for some distance in front, and then as they uncurled, let it in all red and following so quickly on its unfurling that it seemed to chase it, like fire riding in on its back; and then the fire-flooded path clear again on the lapping water; and then a wave disturbing it and once more unfolding and bringing in its golden fire-burden. And to the south the sea, all gray and purple-shadowed by the cloud-bastions above; and to the north the water gray and silver, and the gray meeting the dark cloister-robed out-thrusted headland.
And a squad of cormorants went flapping by; and a seagull from the north flashed against the heart of the sun, so that I could scarce see it, my eyes being dazzled, as it winged out against the gray; and then one from the south -- silent, and above the sun, so that I could watch its wingless flight as it steered away, its white lost against the white of the wave-crests, its gray one with the stretch of sea and sky.
And so I faced the setting sun again; and it dipped behind a low cloud that rode on the sea's face; and lower it fell, and the path it threw grew a paler red; and then still lower, falling till only it flamed the hem of that ambush cloud; and the light paled and the red changed to orange; and its path fled; and the sea became all gray and purple and silver; and deep in a shadow out in the gloom beyond the kelp, a little boat rode.
The sun had set; and so our lives set; but Death? Oh, as Fiona McLeod has said, "there is no Death, which is but as a child's dream in a weary night." Death died long ago to all who are awake; it never was born to Theosophists. To them it is but a time of serenity and peace and silence and aloofness from things unnecessary to real life. One scarce dares or wishes to speak of it: one can look at those sunset colors and see and feel it all: a great peace, a sacred initiation, and the Gods tiptoeing down to the earth to bear away that which is to live forever from this tired body, and in their footsteps springing the daffodils and roses and cyclamen and heliotrope that still flush pale the west when they have passed over the brim of the sky.
These lessons we learn, and would we but cleanse our eyes of prejudice and, open-hearted, go to its schooling with the faith of children, Nature would hold still more for us in her ever bounteous expressions. No doubt it sounds a little off the beaten track of practical aids; but I know of none better. For what greater help can one have than to be called out of himself that he may view the doings of his inner nature with unbiased focus and just perspective?
Of course there be opposite depths within us; there be things within ourselves that mock us and laugh at our vain attempts to overthrow them; there be unbeautiful spots in our natures that stare us in the face and cry out, "I am arid, I am desert: give me water and make me green;" there be hard knockings against the twisted and disagreeable and times when in our unwisdom we think ourselves right; there be moments when in that crass hurry that marks our western civilization we are all unhumored, and cannot see clear and straight, and are fed with impatience; there be times when we think we should justify ourselves against the thoughts and actions our neighbor holds towards us and the world; there be times when we are the fool, or mayhap the devil.
These are the times we should seek Truth deep within our hearts or from that magic distilled in the sun-gloried west, and I think guidance and courage shall come riding out to meet us, and wisdom shall companion us in our fight to conquer ourselves and master all difficulties; not in the end that we may selfishly hug this wisdom; but that we may in truth make it a part of ourselves, that we may help others by our example and light.