Food, sexual relations, drink, are all natural necessities of life; yet excess in them brings on disease, misery, suffering, mental and physical, and the latter are transmitted as the greatest evils to future generations, the progeny of the culprits. Ambition, the desire of securing happiness and comfort for those we love, by obtaining honors and riches, are praiseworthy natural feelings, but when they transform man into an ambitious cruel tyrant, a miser, a selfish egotist they bring untold misery on those around him; on nations as well as on individuals.
-- Mahatma K.H., Letter 10, from THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT.
By Neville Braybrooke
[From THE ARYAN PATH, November 1966, pages 494-98.]
Descriptions of Teilhard de Chardin have spread like fire. Some have called him a mystic, a philosopher, a poet, a scientist, a seer, and a seed-gatherer. Others have coined longer phrases: a broadcaster of ideas, a naturalist of the open air, and a scholar of bones. He himself referred to his life as that of a wanderer, and on many occasions admitted: "I am a pilgrim of the future on the way back from a journey made entirely in the past."
The pioneer must take risks, and Teilhard, whose maxim was "We must dare all," was no exception. Among his co-religionists there were many who eyed his activities with grave mistrust, a mistrust that frequently bordered on fear. "He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous ..." Before now this has caused others to be regarded with suspicion by Rome -- and yet a thinker can never abdicate. "If I didn't write," Teilhard once told a fellow Jesuit, "I should be a traitor."
So, although his religious superiors might prevent his books from being published, they could not prevent them from being written. For can a pilgrim of the future grieve unduly if his books appear posthumously, since, no matter how much an author may enjoy the praise that his work receives during his lifetime, he knows that what really counts in the long run is the judgment of posterity? In one sense, authors must always remain optimistic, so continuously must they be sending their words out into the future.
In Teilhard's case, now that death has freed his books from the ban imposed upon them while he lived, the question to be asked is what has brought them such an immediate and wide response. On publication in Paris, THE PHENOMENON OF MAN sold over seventy thousand copies, and, although its inside story may have attracted some anticlerical buyers, it scarcely explains the enormous sales that have met this and other books of his in France and elsewhere, An author's work that comes out in both French and English may well be accessible to nearly every educated person in nearly every part of the globe, but Teilhard's ideas have quite literally been transmitted even to those countries where the exceptions occur. His famous account of a soldier's vision of Christ (which appeared as an appendix to his essay called "The Heart of the Matter") is a thinly disguised piece of autobiography. (See PILGRIM OF THE FUTURE.) None the less it was successfully broadcast to Eastern Europe and Russia in 1962. Other writings of his have also been successfully broadcast and published there.
This success, both far and near, stems from his vision of unity, vision which has synchronized with a general desire throughout the world for unity. To him Neanderthal man is no more than a distant cousin, just as in his view he accepted "thirty thousand years ... [as] a mere second for evolution."
Pope John XXIII's short but charged reign introduced a new spirit of good will in a world of differing beliefs where at long last it was recognized that the similarities between most religions are far greater, and much more important, than the differences. In this vision, shared by pontiff and priest alike, charity unites, because charity leads towards understanding and is a foretaste of eternity or what Teilhard calls the Omega-point, that final focal point of his where the material and the spiritual will converge.
In May 1881, Marie-Joseph-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was born at the Chateau de Sarcenat in the Puy-de-Dome. In this part of France the scenery is dramatic and mountainous, as if the fires of the local volcanoes had burnt themselves into the rock. There is about the landscape a rightness that matches the mood of a child who was later to say:
During every moment that I have lived, the world has gradually been taking on light and fire for me, until it has come to envelop me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within.
Teilhard saw fire as the symbol of all other forces. It might be the FLASHES of artillery in the trenches; the SPARKS of his own evolutionary quest fanned in his mind by his "dear sainted maman," or the FLAMES in Hanoi, burning a forest to the ground, so that the Chinese might develop it as arable land.
This of course was to see fire in several ways on both a literal and a metaphorical level, or perhaps it would be truer to say on both a literal and a mystical level, since for those who can see far enough the first kind of seeing is, if there is sufficient faith, but a preparation for the second. That is why Teilhard has been called a poet and mystic as well as a scientist. He saw as all three.
The whole of life -- if not in end, at least in essence -- lies in the verb SEEING, he points out in the foreword to THE PHENOMENON OF MAN, and it was out of his own particular way of seeing that his vision was born. When a pioneer-thinker shares his vision with others, people have a habit of saying afterwards: "I can't imagine why I didn't understand that before. But now I see."
Understanding, on all levels, is largely a matter of seeing through things, of penetrating the different layers of existence. When a poet uses words, they have layers of meaning, so that sometimes his lines will be saying several different things at one and the same time. Fire may serve him as a symbol of love or destruction, or serve him as a paradox since the same fire that burns can also cleanse. For the mystic, fire may serve as a reflection of Divine Love, or as a reminder of the Burning Bush that Moses saw in the desert -- although no sharp division can be drawn between the poet's and the mystic's calling since the two often overlap.
Likewise, when Teilhard writes that at the antipodes of the fire that unites as love there is the fire that destroys in isolation, and then adds that the whole process out of which the New Earth is gradually born is an AGGREGATION underlain by SEGREGATION, he is writing shorthand that is at once poetic, mystical, and scientific. It is a triple approach which emphasizes the unity of poetic, mystical, and scientific truth, and is a risk in daring that only the pioneer-thinker of genius can afford to take. For as the poet and the mystic see heaven reflected in the earth -- the intensity of their vision being in proportion to the degree that by penetrating the layers of the one they can interpret the other, so Teilhard, sharing their vision, sees the whole of creation as a growing state in which a "biosphere" and a "noosphere" are imposed upon the barysphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.
"Biosphere" and "noosphere" are words that he coins to convey a layer of living things and a layer of thinking things -- envelopes, as it were, that will gradually enfold the world just as the atmosphere holds the earth in a kind of envelope. In this process he does not see man (who is a thinking being) as a static center of the universe, but as an axis or spearhead of evolution. He is the unfinished product of past evolution and the agent of evolution still to follow, and for this reason, in terms of consciousness and understanding man has a great deal more to unfold and learn about the future. The greatest achievements may yet be things to come -- in terms of space discovery (a quite realistic project now) and in terms, for example, of the fresh communication that extra-sensory perception may make possible between men.
The problem in grasping many of his ideas is their apparent newness. But then new ideas present their own paradox, because since the Creation nothing is new, and every seed is begotten by the fruit of another. This may be taken for granted at an agricultural level, but when Teilhard the seed-gatherer faces the modern logician in the university, the paradox arises about the nature of such newness and his vision of God.
For Teilhard, God is the supreme conscious personality in whom all other conscious personalities will achieve union and harmony. He is the God of the future of whom this priest is both a pilgrim and a trailblazer. And yet at the same time, he knows that this God of the future has been there from the beginning. To speak of reconciling these two views is to beg the question: only what is separate, or at odds, needs reconciling, whereas for the man whose vision will let him look far enough ahead, there is a unity to be found and worked out.
Teilhard's attempts at seeing frequently took him beyond the range of his contemporary scientists and theologians. The originality of his pioneer thinking drew fire on both sides, so that there were times when he was quite isolated and solitary. Lesser men might have given up or become dispirited. Indeed often he must have had to accept his vision as its own reward -- something which it is so much easier to theorize about than practice.
Logically, easy enough as it may be for the believer to accept the truth that the more a man extends his awareness of his place in the universe, the more his adoration of God will grow in depth, running parallel with this acceptance will be the knowledge of those spiritual troughs of despair in which any man of prayer may be caught. Nobody can come away from reading either Teilhard's letters or journals without realizing the tremendous inner struggles that must have taken place. Some writers create a spiritual hush in the mind -- and there are many passages in Teilhard's books that do this. After reading them, there comes a feeling that life can never be interpreted in quite the same terms again.
This experience is the mark of a classic in any sphere, and the diversity of commentary that follows such work is often a tribute to the diversity of its nature. It is worth remarking on the enormous number of different types of books in which T.S. Eliot's name is listed in indexes; it is a sign of his range of influence (there has been no abatement since his death), and something similar, only in this case posthumously, seems to be happening with Teilhard. Neither italics nor inverted commas are necessary for the term the wasteland, so much a part of accepted speech has it become. Maybe the same acceptance now awaits the term "noosphere."
Teilhard no more wanted to force his life into a series of separate compartments than he wanted to force all men into one mould, or to regard science and religion as unrelated facts of experience. Nor did he accept the conventional dichotomy between mind and matter, since in his view matter and consciousness were the outward-facing and inward-facing facets of the same reality. Moreover, he believed that the inwardness of reality had been asserting its independence of the outwardness, and that the world was slowly groping its way, as promised, towards the communion of saints. Yet he accepted the promise not merely as scriptural, but because he also saw it as the logical outcome of his own scientific research. No wonder then that he thought of all research as adoration, thus bringing out, incidentally, a fresh meaning from the old Latin tag, Laborare est Orare (to work is to pray).
To others pursuing this path that he blazed, it would be foolish to maintain that he succeeded in uniting all the facts of evolution with the supernatural elements in Christianity, since a great deal more remains to be done. Nevertheless a gallant clearing has been made, and Teilhard would have resisted exaggerated claims for his achievement. He himself, for instance, always referred to his books as "essays." On four occasions he uses the term in THE PHENOMENON OF MAN, and his spiritual masterpiece LE MILIEU DIVIN, he called "an essay on the interior life."
This kind of modesty is the true mark of the pioneer-thinker.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1934, pages 151-58.]
Yes, Theosophists are Pagans, but this means no reproach to Theosophists, for I intend to show that the word 'Pagan' is a term of reproach, one of those words used by people to depreciate and misrepresent what they regard as opposed to them. On Good Friday the Episcopal Church prays God's mercy for all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics; and the well-known missionary hymn speaks of the heathen in his blindness bowing down to wood and stone. Similar misrepresentations can be made against Christianity, as indeed they are by some anti-Christian bigots even in Christian countries.
A Pagan means originally a country-dweller, an outsider; as does also the word 'heathen,' but it has come to mean anyone who does not hold our own views as regards religion. When I use the word 'Pagan' here, I imply a title of respect; for I am using it as synonymous with a believer in that ancient and universal Wisdom-Religion or Secret Doctrine, which, as Theosophy teaches, is the original and common source of all religions.
What the growing Christian Church called Paganism in the times of the Roman emperors was the last surviving relics of knowledge of this ancient Wisdom-Religion. The Christian Church grew up in an age of declining spirituality and of increasing materialism; the ancient beliefs had themselves decayed and lost their hold on the people. The Roman Empire was a melting-pot in which seethed a medley of faiths; and Christianity is the resultant effect of many contrary influences -- Pagan, Jewish, Eastern, etc. -- welded together by political influences and crystallized into a formal creed. Christianity, in fact, is the offshoot of Paganism, and Pagan beliefs and practices can be traced in it throughout. Let us consider the most important contrasts between the Wisdom-Religion and Christianity (as the latter is usually understood).
MONOTHEISM AND POLYTHEISM
Christianity teaches one supreme God that is separate from the universe, which he has created, presumably out of nothing. But polytheism teaches that, between the supreme deity and the world as we see it, there must be hierarchies of intermediate and descending powers. Such a teaching was familiar to the early Christian Church, but it was gradually eliminated under the influence of warring sects, ecclesiastical councils, and political policies, until now its only survival is to be found in a few passages in the Bible referring to principalities and powers and thrones and dominions and angels and archangels.
Originally these names referred to the hierarchies of celestial powers just mentioned, and the system is to be found in full in the teachings of those Gnostic and Neo-Platonist Christians who were afterwards expelled as heretics -- another word of reproach. The doctrine was that the Divine Power descends through a series of emanations of celestial powers, of ever inferior degree, until it reaches our visible earth, so that the earth is itself divinely informed by virtue of its derivation and direct descent from the highest divinity.
This gives the key to the real meaning of polytheism. It does not mean a mere multiplication of supreme personal gods, such as the god of monotheistic religion. It means that the ancients recognized that the Supreme Deity is present throughout the universe, and that the universe itself is but an aggregation of divine and creative and intelligent powers, ruling and inspiring every part. And since there could be no such thing as a blind unintelligent force, all these powers must be living, conscious, and intelligent. Therefore we find them represented by names such as those of the Greek and Roman pantheons, or those of India or ancient Scandinavia.
In the history of religions, polytheism is the rule and monotheism the exception; and in this day we have largely outgrown the foolish pride which allowed us to think that we were competent to look down from a height of superior wisdom upon the whole of antiquity and the vast majority of mankind. To support this false view we have belittled and misrepresented polytheism, turning the word into a label of reproach; but the signs of the times show that a reconsideration of our views and a reinstatement of ancient beliefs is due and will be welcome.
RESTRICTION OF THE SCOPE OF RELIGION
The above leads directly to what here follows; for, owing to the influence of monotheism, the field of interest and inquiry covered by religion has become confined to a very small part of life. What religion teaches us about ourselves and the world we live in is so meager that, to satisfy the craving for knowledge, there have grown up other fields of inquiry, distinct from religion and often hostile to it -- science, philosophy, and a miscellaneous assortment of social and political speculative doctrines which form no part of religion and do not take it into account unless as a partner.
But the ancient idea of religion was that it included the whole field of inquiry and inspired alike every human interest. Under our present system a large part of the field of knowledge has been left unprovided for; since religion tells us nothing about the constitution of ourselves or of the universe, science confines itself to a particular outward aspect of these things, and philosophy can hardly be said to have a practical bearing. We must mention what is now vaguely called 'psychology,' a name for various experimental and speculative cults, sadly in need of some guiding principle, and having but a dubious bearing upon the question of beneficial results.
All this, then, shows that religion has neglected a vital part of its duty. And here it may perhaps be conceded that, for purposes of argument, in the dark ages that preceded us, Christianity may have assumed the form best suited to the needs of the people. This we do not affirm, and our point is that Christianity does not satisfy the needs of today, and is in need of restatement if it is to meet the demands of the inquiring mind of our times.
THE ESSENTIAL DIVINITY OF MAN
Christian teachers of today take very enlightened views in many cases, and there is no reproach, but on the contrary commendation for them; but it will not be going far wrong if we state what might be called the characteristic Christian view briefly as follows. Man, originally created pure and innocent, FALLS, succumbing to the seduction of the evil deity, and becomes thereby sinful and doomed to destruction; but is saved by the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus, the son of God, who takes upon himself the sins of the world. Man therefore is represented as being 'born in sin,' incapable of salvation by his own efforts, and requiring the intercession of this Savior.
The ancients taught man that he was essentially divine, being in truth an emanation from deity and therefore containing within himself all the potentialities of deity. Salvation was to be achieved by the exercise of man's own aspiration, will, and intelligence, enabling him to attach his self-conscious essence to the Spiritual part of his nature, and to save it from being carried down to destruction by the desires and lusts of the lower world.
It is highly important that this nobler view of our own nature should prevail, since religion has fostered a view so contrary in its nature and import; and science is abetting the process by its teachings as to the purely animal origin of man. Self-respect is needed and cannot be dispensed with; it will save us alike from despair and from vanity; for along with man's skepticism about his spiritual nature comes a puffed-up self-conceit about his lower nature and his prowess in material concerns.
THE LAW OF CONSEQUENCES
Science has accustomed us to expect order and sequence in the realms of Nature which it studies; but science does not concern itself with the moral world, nor does religion give us any definite teachings as to the law of consequences in our lives. For the orderly working of natural intelligences has been substituted the will of God; although religious people actually talk a great deal about Nature, as though Nature were a rival deity.
Theosophy, in its presentation of the ancient Wisdom-Religion (Paganism), recognizes the harmonious operation of cause and effect everywhere. Nothing happens either by chance (an idle word) or by arbitrary decree, but every experience is the natural consequence of precedent causes. The causes are set in motion by the being that experiences the result. This is called the law of karma.
This great principle is violated by the doctrine that the consequences of our evil deeds and mistakes can be evaded or transferred to another being. Further, such a doctrine takes no account of the effects which our evil deeds may produce upon others; nor does the ordinary doctrinal view provide for the due fulfillment of man's unrealized efforts for good.
Such philosophical questions are proper to religion in its true sense, though they seem to have been eliminated from it during the dark ages. It is time that religion was reinstated in this respect. But it is impossible to make any sense out of human life, so long as we regard man as living but a brief period on earth, without either a past behind him or a corresponding future ahead of him. The pattern of a life is not discerned by viewing so small a fragment thereof. The lost doctrine of reincarnation needs to be brought back, in order that we may view life as a whole and have scope to demonstrate the perfectly just workings of the law of consequences and responsibility for all our acts.
How can man learn the mysteries of his own nature, the secrets of life and death? How can he become conscious of his spiritual nature and learn to exercise the powers to which that fact entitles him? Not from religion as it is known today; not from a science too exclusively concerned with interpreting the physical universe; nor from a materialistic biology, or experimental dabbling in what is called 'psychology,' nor yet from the lessons of psychic quacks and self-styled teachers of oriental mysticism. It can only be done by reviving knowledge of that ancient and universal Wisdom-Religion or Secret Doctrine whereof Theosophy is the modern presentation.
The symbolism of ancient cults (called Pagan) shows us that knowledge of the existence of such a system was once universally diffused. But the evolutionary progress of mankind includes dark cycles; and it is during one of these that our present fragmentary knowledge has grown up; so that today, in place of one all-embracing gnosis, we have a number of separate departments -- religion, science, and philosophy -- each fatally handicapped by its separation from the others.
To unify the field of knowledge must be our aim; and this is to be done, not by attempting to patch together the fragments, but by restoring their original unity. Man, being essentially divine, and endowed with the power of self-conscious choice, must save himself by his own efforts, assisted however by his natural guides and instructors, namely, those who stand ahead of him in evolution, just as a parent teaches a child, or an expert teaches a neophyte.
The expression 'Secret Doctrine' merely records the fact that the Wisdom-Religion is not generally known in dark cycles of the world's history; but it is not secret to those who are fit to unlock its mysteries. Knowledge of any kind is taught in schools, by professors, to pupils; and it is not otherwise with the knowledge of which we are now speaking.
IS RELIGION HOSTILE TO KNOWLEDGE?
It would be idle to say that Theosophists are seeking to impose upon people a new belief, for Theosophy so evidently answers the questions which are everywhere being asked. The foundations of belief are being overhauled today as never before; but the unaided efforts of thoughtful and inquisitive minds are in great need of coordination and of a definite direction. These needs are supplied by Theosophists, whose purpose is to show the foundations of belief, and to reveal in the ancient mythologies that Wisdom-Religion which is the parent of all religions.
Theosophy may be said to be the champion of Christianity, since it aims to show Christians what a sublime thing their religion really is, and to rescue that faith from the condition into which it has degenerated. It has been a standing reproach against religion that it has so often found itself in conflict with the desire for knowledge; and it is needless here to air the familiar theme of the religious persecution of great innovators in the realm of inquiry.
The desire to know has often been represented as impious. Knowledge confers newfound freedom upon its possessor, which may not suit the view of those who are anxious to keep his footsteps in the narrow way and the beaten path; nor will the plea that this freedom is often abused suffice for a wholesale condemnation of intellectual inquiry in general.
It is a paramount teaching of the Wisdom-Religion that man, at a particular stage of his evolutionary progress, acquired the faculty of self-conscious mind, the power of free choice, the ability to distinguish between good and evil. This power was derived by man from certain divine beings who were themselves men in a former cycle of evolution whose duty it is now to become the teachers and inspirers of their younger brothers.
We find this teaching conveyed in symbolic form in the early chapters of the Bible, where man is at first an innocent being dwelling in Eden. But knowledge is awakened in him by the 'Serpent,' who gives him the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This teaching has been perverted, so that man's teacher has been represented as his would-be destroyer, and the Serpent has become the Devil.
We find the same doctrine in the old Greek story of Prometheus, who brings to mankind fire from heaven, thus quickening their intelligence and endowing them with useful arts. Countless variants of this story are to be found scattered throughout the religious myths of the world, and all to the same effect. Man, formerly incapable of good or evil and without self-consciousness and free will, is awakened and quickened by the influence of beings higher than him; and the result is that man becomes a pilgrim, learning through his mistakes. He goes far astray, but in the end is saved by the very same power which first inspired him.
Knowledge can never be the enemy of man's soul. The real enemy is selfishness, which causes him to turn his knowledge to destructive uses. If people are forbidden the legitimate use of a thing, they will resort to illegitimate means. It is a poor religion which feels itself obliged to prohibit inquiry, or sees in inquiry a foe. Today we see eminent divines upholding the doctrines of science and seeking ways to harmonize them with the teachings of religion. This proves that the undying spirit of man is asserting itself, and justifies Theosophists in claiming that they are responding to a need.
THE HERITAGE OF THE PAST
The doctrine of evolution refers to a general principle, and modern science has been studying the physical aspect of it; but it needs to be studied as a whole. For evolution applies not merely to visible organisms but to the invisible lives which animate them; and the evolution of man concerns his spiritual, mental, emotional, and psychic nature, besides the physical.
The progress of evolution is cyclical or spiral, so that it carries the evolving being (whether man or any other being) through downward and upward curves, though always forward. Humanity, having attained its greatest materiality at an epoch now in the past, is at present ascending an upward curve. This means that we return to the same level as that which we had reached on the downward curve; and therefore are recovering some of the knowledge which was ours before. Hence the importance of a study of the records of the ancient Wisdom-Religion, as preserved in myth and symbol; a study which is giving the very clues of which humanity today is in search. If this be called a return to Paganism, the expression must be used in a different sense from the derogatory one usually intended.
It is generally admitted that recent experiences have given a blow to our self-satisfaction, causing us to question the stability of standards which have served us so long. But this does not mean that we are going all to pieces; it means that we must dig deeper. Archaeologists can reconstruct the splendor of ancient architecture by uncovering its ruins; and in the same way, the mighty knowledge of our ancestors has been buried beneath its ruins and can be disinterred and reconstructed.
If charges of superstition are to be brought, they lie rather against those who advocate the customary and orthodox views, whether in religion, or in science, or in rationalism. Those who make so much fuss about evidence and proof are accustomed to misinterpret historical evidence to suit their own foregone conclusions, while the plain laws as to the credibility of human testimony are stretched to the limit in either direction in support of predetermined conclusions.
Theosophists are not seeking to superimpose a sort of occult world on the top of a real world; that so-called real world is getting shaky, and Theosophy endeavors to make it more real. Pagans may be accused of introducing gods into a dead world of Nature, actuated by blind forces and moving without purpose or end; but actually they are interpreting Nature in a better way than our science has been able to do, and they are rapidly converting science to their view.
By Shri Y.S.R. Chandran
[From THE ARYAN PATH, August 1963, pages 356-60.]
Pearls of Wisdom are scattered by the great sage in conversational homely style; scriptural truths of the utmost value and the highest subtlety are made to sink straight into the heart by the method of simile and parable adopted by him in preference to the barren method of logical and learned exposition. Ramakrishna, in this respect, continues the hoary tradition of India, that of a preceptor educating the masses as much by the influence of his life as by the clarity of the teachings born out of the maturity of experience and the glow of Realization. The bees go to the full-blown rose and not the rose to the bees; the multitudes, hearing about the success that attended his God-quest, thronged to him. How blessed they were to have tasted of the manna of his thought!
Ramakrishna worshipped the Mother and later Aurobindo also worshipped God as the Mother. This may be jarring to the Western mind, which is acquainted only with the term "Fatherhood of God," but the explanation given by the Paramahamsa (Divine Swan) should be most convincing: if the child is most free in the company of his mother, the devotee, to give himself the same freedom, may conceive of God as mother.
He never accepted the Western theory that man is a sinner. On the contrary, he held that man is God in embryo; life itself is an opportunity given him to become full-fledged God; life is a Kalpavriksha, sitting under which man can become whatever he desires and struggles to become.
The rich wardrobe of a washerman is after all not his; the moment the clothes are put to the wash the wardrobe becomes empty; men who do not have original thoughts are in the same perilous state. Books may contain useful directions; they may be replete with virtuous sayings; but a mere study would not make us virtuous even as squeezing the Hindu Almanac, because it contains predictions of annual rainfall, will not produce a drop of rain. Trying to know or have an idea of God by mere book-learning is as foolish as trying to know sacred Banaras by referring to a map.
The views of Ramakrishna should help to lay to rest permanently the hot controversy regarding the personal and the impersonal God; they are as inextricable and indistinguishable as the milk and its whiteness or the gem and its brightness; discussion about those aspects, which appear different but are one and the same, is as interminable as the dispute about the colors of the chameleon.
Out of the same substance of gold different ornaments could be made; out of the same clay various pots could be made; ice may float for some time, being congealed, on the water, but the rays of the sun of knowledge may melt it into the water again, the form thus becoming formless. The jug, when immersed in water, will be full of water both inside and outside and so the real Jnanin or Knower sees God within and without. Like the sound of a bell, God is with and without form; when there is a continued ding-dong, there is no shape, but when there are individual strokes, there is suggested a distinct shape for each.
Ramakrishna gives us a verbal picture of the worldly man. He may put on the airs of a devotee and parrot-like repeat the name of the Lord, but in a moment of crisis, even like the parrot in the paws of a cat, crying "Kaw, Kaw," he too shows his real nature. A spring cushion is pressed down under the weight of the persons sitting on it, but quickly resumes its usual shape when they rise; so, too, the worldly man may make a number of pious resolutions, in the heat of the moment, but they are soon forgotten in the stress and the preoccupations of his contact with the world. The iron which is red-hot in the glowing fire resumes its natural color when it is exposed; so too the worldly man resumes his petty normal self, laying aside the exaltation gained in a moment.
The boastful detachment of the householder is well brought out in an appropriate illustration. The husband decides to give a rupee to the beggar; he confers with his wife about the charity intended; she conveniently scales it down to two annas; and so his detachment is a glorified name for his hen-pecked condition. The stone is impenetrable for water; the hide of the alligator is sword-proof; and the worldly man is equally impervious to spiritual precepts or counsels. His hankering for the dung-hill of materialism forcefully brought out by the example of the fisherwoman. To escape being drenched in rain, she takes shelter in a florist's shop; the smell of the flowers is too much for her; and she can fall asleep only with her basket with its smell of fish under her head.
Ramakrishna administers a sound warning about egoism. Egohood dies hard; it is like the smell of garlic which does not leave the bottle even after its being emptied. Even the sage Narada was not free from it. He considered himself the greatest devotee. The Lord, to save him from the fall which goes with pride, advised him to make acquaintance with another devotee, a farmer. But Narada with undiminished pride came back and reported that the farmer was not a devotee at all since the farmer chanted the name of the Lord once to begin the day with and concluded with another chant of his name, while Narada chanted His name incessantly. But the sage was humbled when he was asked to go round the world without spilling a drop of oil from a cup he had to carry on his head, and when he had to confess that he could not remember the Lord ever once in his anxiety for the cup. Egoism therefore is something that one should guard himself against; it may lead to the downfall even of one within an ace of realization.
Intellectual argumentation will not lead to realization. The rationalist would make much of his study of the trunk, the branches, and the foliage of the mango tree; but the man of vision would make friends with the gardener and actually know the mango by tasting its juice. The book-learned are compared to the bee which makes much noise being outside the petals of the lotus. The moment it is within, it is silent, drinking in the honey; the man who has obtained Vision enjoys the ecstasy and discards argumentation altogether. An empty vessel when it is being filled makes a bubbling noise; the moment it is full there is not the slightest whisper; the Jnanin is similarly lost in contemplation and does not associate himself with any wordy wrangles.
Ramakrishna warns us against the pseudo-Sadhus who are easily distinguished by their use of medicines, intoxicants, and display of psychic powers. These hypocrites are exposed the moment they are rubbed against the touchstone of adversity. Certain psychic powers may lie as baits on the way, and a devotee on the quest of God should resist them and go his way; a certain disciple went to his teacher and boasted of his acquisition, by dint of hard penance for twelve years, of a miraculous power to walk on the waters. The teacher derided the pupil for having wasted a precious period on doing something which the ferryman could help him in, for a trifle, in a few minutes.
He extols humility as the jewel among virtues. The tree laden with fruit is always bent; the heavier scale sinks low while the lighter one shoots up; and the man of realization is always humble and meek.
Ritual by itself may be as useless as the husk on rice; but the grain within the husk can be the seed for paddy: it may help to gather the wandering thought to a focal point of concentration. The mind must be attuned, made single-pointed, before it can penetrate the great mystery, even as the fine-pointed thread the eye of the needle; the scattered mustard seed can be picked up only with much difficulty. The ritual connected with worship may be viewed as a preventive measure against the dispersal of thought.
The slightest stain on a piece of white cloth will be conspicuous and the smallest lapse or failing may invite an unenviable prominence.
Good society is compared to the warmth supplied by fire to the moist wood; latent good impulses which may be waning away may be kindled into activity by the spark of ennobling company.
The bark of the human mind keeps floating or tossing in all directions on the waves of learning or passion or reason, unless it is steadied by the buoy or the anchor of faith. There is a story of a holy man cursing his son to become an outcast for the wavering or doubtful faith shown by him in his advice to the king that he should repeat the name of the Lord twice to wash off his sin of homicide. The utility of faith is illustrated by the story of the well-digger, who went on shifting the scene of his operations in impatience after digging a few feet and not noticing a drop of water; if he had concentrated at a single spot, with the same effort he would have been rewarded for his labor. Ramakrishna cites the answer of Mahadeva to Parvati's question regarding the root of eternal bliss: "Faith."
Among the birds the swan alone can separate the milk from the water and among men it is only the perfect man that can see God distinct from Maya. The life he leads is one unblemished; he remains unaffected by the impurities of the world around him even as the wind by the good and the bad scent it carries. He carries on just enough work even after obtaining contact with God to keep body and soul together; but that is an activity which does not bind him, as the rope which is burnt will not bind though apparently retaining its shape yet.
The man who has seen God is little attracted to the fleeting vanity fair of the world. The young girl is absorbed in domestic duties soon after marriage, but the birth of a child breeds an indifference to what was of absorbing interest formerly; similarly the man whose divine sight is opened finds little fascination in worldly pleasures. Totapuri tells his disciples that a prayer every morning keeps the soul bright even as a daily rinsing a brass vessel, but Ramakrishna says that such scrubbing is not necessary for a gold vessel. The difference between the pine trees and the grass will be striking, seen from the plane of the earth; but the difference vanishes when seen from the mountain top: when the divine sight is opened such differences as high and low vanish.
The real Sadhu, though he moves in the world, is like a boat in the water; the boat may be in the water but water should not be in the boat! He is as unattached; his activities may continue for a time. When milk is converted into butter, it floats in water, does not mix with it; the man who has attained Godhood may remain similarly unaffected by any company he may be thrown in.
We conclude with a story told by Ramakrishna: a kite with a fish in its beak is pursued by several of its companions; it flies on with the treasure, gets tired, and finally drops the fish. Then the relentless pursuit of the enemies ends. An ascetic accepts this kite as the Guru and concludes that the peace of mind necessary for contemplation can come only when one rids himself of one's worldly burdens.
By Kenneth Morris
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, April 1935, pages 464-67.]
As long as you believe in a 'God' who created the conditions in which you find yourself, or by whose will such conditions exist, you will not better them; all your riches will be a supreme excuse for your inertia. The belief in 'God' has made western humanity shuffle off all its responsibilities and brought it drifting passively to the brink of cataclysm. If it had been a true belief, it would have led us to blissful conditions. When you know the science of a thing, the Way it Is, and work with that knowledge in your consciousness, you succeed; but we have not succeeded; we set out to build a civilization; and if you think we have built one, I wish you joy of your belief!
Spengler shows that each cycle of civilization is started off by, or with, a religious impulse; that in time that religious impulse dies down and a scientific one takes its place; but that the scientific impulse is not by any means different from the religious impulse, of which it is simply the reaction, on the same plane. Our western civilization set out with the impulse of Christianity: the Gothic Cathedral was its symbol. See how every tower, spire, arch, and pinnacle leaps away from the earth, points outward into space, proclaiming the outsideness and farness away of the Thing-to-be-Sought: 'God.'
The temples of earlier architectures seem as if they had grown out of the earth, and were made by Nature, like the trees and mountains; they grace their landscapes and harmonize with them. But the Gothic cathedral rises most fitly and awe-inspiringly from the midst of city slums; directing the gaze of the slum-dwellers away from their appalling conditions, away and away -- into or towards what? The emptiness of space, and the Big Man they are to imagine enthroned in it, whose will is not their will and not controllable by them; who made them to be slum-dwellers, and against whom it is impious to struggle.
The worse kind of human tyrant loves to be flattered and is good to his flatterers; this is but a Bigger Sort of Big Man, the Universal Tyrant: lard him with flattery then! Abase yourself; grovel in the mire of your sins and impotence: something may come of it! It is a Man alike yourself that, made in your own image, you must cajole into helping you; of yourself, you can do nothing.
Personal, and outside yourself; and omnipotent. Well -- and now it is the stronger sort speaking -- at least one can imitate and model oneself on him. How? By getting for one's personal being what one can of money and power, and playing the tyrant on earth as he in the universe?
Someone has pointed out that all the world-shaking conquerors and great blood-spillers of history have been believers in a personal Emperor of the Universe: they build themselves up on their conception of their deity, and imagine themselves his agents on earth to punish mankind. Indeed it is probable that all tyrants, bullies, and megalomaniacs everywhere have their spiritual disease rooted in this concept; and we can see why the enemies of mankind make it always their first business to instill the belief in a personal god; why that belief creeps in with the decline of movements started to ingeminate truth; whose interest it is to make it creep in.
Megalomania comes of it, and still more generally, the disappearance of self-reliance; and, that which rules our destiny being thought to be out of our control, and accessible to flattery and self-abasement, a servile and deceitful turn of mind. Individual men are often better than their creeds, and you get noble souls among the personal-god-worshipers; but that is because will he nil he there is a real god in man, that will not be utterly silenced in any age. But the tendency of a false Weltanschauung, a false view of the universe or philosophy of life, is to mold the masses to ignobility, or to falsehood: for what falsehood is among doctrines, so is ignobility among human characteristics.
The religion that inspired the start of our cycle of western civilization having as its main theme or motif that 'God,' 'Salvation' and truth were things to be sought and found outside ourselves, it was but the natural reaction that science, when it came, should seek its objectives in the same direction, and imagine truth discoverable by physical means. Now in whatever direction you approach Nature, you will make discoveries; and science, driving outwards and away from the one place where truth abides, made discoveries in plenty. But if we keep the fact well in mind that truth corresponds with nobility, and therefore leads to happiness: it hardly needs saying that all unhappiness grows out of ignobility: we see at once that science has looked in the wrong direction for truth.
Scientific discovery tends to disintegrate human life and civilization. War had difficulty of old in exterminating populations; it was mostly an affair of a few thousand or hundred-thousand men, and what territory they could, on foot or on horseback, cover and ravage; now when war is being waged, no one on earth can be happy. Science has supported every antisocial force, and dealt out most of the trumps to crime. This could not be if science had not imagined a vain thing when she went truth-seeking outward into matter.
Wrong ideas or doctrines have brought to being the miseries of the world. Put your 'God' outside your Self, and you will not look within yourself and discover the noble elements. You will take yourself just on face value and develop a terribly low conception of the nature and value of man. Outwardly, yes, you are a worm, a sinner, a miserable offender; man is all that in his lower nature; and it was because religion was so intent on looking outward for 'God' that it never discovered anything in man but the outermost part of him; denying the existence of the Higher Nature in him, you may say it did its best to stamp that Higher Nature out. And that being the stance of religion, science in its turn never dreamed that there was an inward direction or anything to be discovered there.
There are many things: generosity, magnanimity, courage, compassion; the loving of one's neighbor as oneself -- that is, recognition that one's neighbor -- humanity -- is oneself. And who is such a fool as not to know that it is precisely these things which could cure our human ills? Apply them to the problems of capital and labor, of nation and nation; and -- what of the problematic would be left?
These poison and disease-generating bodies of ours are the outermost husks of us; then if you believe in an outside 'God,' you will believe somewhat religiously in that outermost of yourself; it will catch the infection of your belief, so to say; so of course heaven would not be heaven without it; you had to believe the Resurrection of the Body.
So the seeds of any future are to be found in the religious inspirations of any present you may be considering; the seeds of our future now, speaking as nations or a civilization, are to be found in what religious inspirations are in being today. If there is one such that directs men to look for God-ness -- not goodness, but God-ness -- for the Divine, for Truth and salvation, for all the objectives of Religion, inwards into the deep innermost and root of human consciousness, then such inspiration will assuredly be the seed of a happier future. There is of course such an inspiration: we call it Theosophy.
Just to get that one Noble Truth into the thought-atmosphere of the world -- that would be something worth living for! -- The Truth that the Divine is within ourselves, something that we could use and be and put through our being to sweeten the life of the world and antidote its poison. That is a concept it does not take scholars to understand; it is something to inject into the thought-life of the masses.
The Divine is not approachable by prayer; we go away from it when we flog ourselves with remorse and repentance. We insult it when we wail, "Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!" But it is approachable and easily approachable; go into the part of you that is generous, magnanimous, brave, and compassionate, and you have drawn near to it in the most practical manner.
You need help; your difficulties are appalling; then go into that part of yourself and you will find, not help from outside, but power from within to meet and overcome your troubles. If that part of you, so far as you are aware, does not exist, set to and imagine that it does exist; imagine it into being and place yourself within it. It is a spiritual impossibility to have troubles that cannot be met and overcome by that Divine Power within you; it is omnipotent. Thought for others and life for others can make a man omnipotent so far as his own need for help is concerned.
For the Churches, it is simply a matter of 'Back to Jesus' -- back to what he believed and taught, and away from legends made up about him which have hidden from the world all that he considered important. The churches are fighting for their life now; thousands of ministers perceive quite clearly that the old scheme of salvation is gone, and yet know that the world needs religion; as it most emphatically does. So they grope and give out what light they can, eager to combat materialism and what they call 'paganism' -- living for self and pleasure alone.
The idea that Jesus died to save us from the consequences of our sins is revolting to the noblest in us; it was a house built on the sands of selfishness and ignorance, and the waves of time are washing it away. But the idea of Jesus, that whatsoever a man reapeth, that has he sown, and whatsoever he soweth he shall reap. With whatsoever measure ye mete, it shall be meted to you again: that is unassailable. Science could never be more scientific; every single discovery of science merely reaffirms the truth of it.
Self-reliance comes of that as it does of his teaching as to 'God.' The kingdom of heaven is within you, said he; and Our Father which art in heaven. That 'Father' is within us, then, according to Jesus. And he defined the 'Father' and told us what He is: "God is love." Put impersonal love, delight in and desire to help all beings, through your mind, and then you are using and being 'God.'
By Alexander Fullerton
[From THE PATH, April 1890, pages 2-7.]
We Theosophists can prosecute our work far more intelligently and hopefully if we understand just what we have to do, just how we ought to do it, and just what results we have a right to expect. Theosophical effort, like every other effort, is ineffective if it defies facts or laws, and, conversely, bears fruit in proportion as all such facts or laws are heeded. Theosophical truth, like every other truth, is wasted if cast on soil unfitted to receive it; and Theosophical hope, like every other hope, must wither from disappointment if it is irrational or rootless. Only as we perceive the conditions of the problem, and then conform to them, are we justified in looking for success.
The great public work which Theosophists at this era have to do is to disseminate knowledge of Theosophy. In our hemisphere it is a new system; old, older than anything else, as it really is, here it has the interest, as also the opprobrium, of entire novelty. On the side of its interest, we have to aid us the insatiate thirst of the present day for all that is fresh or strange or promising, together with the vigorous rivalry of the press to furnish draughts of each; and on the side of its opprobrium, we see the host of those who are indifferent or contemptuous to any system of spiritual vigor, backed-up by the churches and religionists who cherish petrifaction as heirlooms and who are horrified and embittered when Truth appears as a sprightly youth, rather than as a palsied centenarian with one book chained to his waist.
A great preparatory step is gained when either the freethinking are caused to inspect Theosophy from curiosity, or the orthodox to attack it from dislike, for in each case it secures publicity and notice. But there is also a third class -- those who desire satisfaction for the higher instincts in man, who cannot find it in the artificial theologies of the sects, who distrust anything bearing conventional or worn-out names, and who have an open mind for a teaching which gives intelligent solution to the questions of life and adequate answer to its aspirations. As we have no means of discerning the members of this third class and of communicating solely with them, our only course is to scatter Theosophy broadcast through the land, fill the air with it, and make it as familiar a word as Christianity or Spiritualism.
When the whole social atmosphere is suffused with it, it will come in contact with every nature fitted to receive it, and so there will be no hungry soul unfed, no ready recipient unsupplied. When the secular press expounds it and the religious press analyzes it, and when its terms are understood and its distinctive marks perceived, joining the Theosophical Society will be as easy a thing as now is joining a church, and Branches will be as numerous as, and far more cooperative than, the very churches themselves.
As has been said, there is only one way to make this happen: to spread everywhere knowledge of what Theosophy is. In the simple form of elementary tracts, in the fuller statement of pamphlet or document, in the copious exposition of detailed treatise, all phases of the topic are presented, all queries duly met, all degrees of intelligence provided for. There is absolutely no limit to the possible literature of Theosophy, for it embraces every department of being and has the promise of a continuous revelation from its Adept teachers.
As fast as Their present teachings are popularized and absorbed, new and richer ones will be given. The peculiar duty of the day is to give the utmost clearness to what is known, to make it intelligible and attractive to the masses, to promote its circulation with energy -- prodigality even, to ensure that it shall be a theme for conversation, perusal, research, and study. One hardly overstates the case when one avers that the one preeminent work of Theosophists at this era is to sow Theosophical seed in every quarter and with abundant measure.
But there were two other questions raised at the beginning of this paper -- just how we ought to work, and just what results we have a right to expect. They may be called the Method and the Rationale of our mission.
The essential principle in the Method of Theosophical work, I take to be the avoidance of controversy. This is not merely because argument is a battle in which passions are roused and the desire to conquer overcomes the desire to learn, or even because the consequent inflammation unfits the mind for such a topic as Theosophy, but because, as all experience shows, of the futility of argument in changing conviction.
Nothing in literature is deader than the patristic and scholastic controversies, whereas the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius will have perennial life. And it would seem that what is needed in Theosophy is a perspicuous exhibition of its tenets, supported, indeed, by all props from reasoning and analogy, but free from conflict with opposing faiths, and set forth rather as a suggestive and plausible explanation of facts than as a dogmatic system vying with others.
This holds equally of the verbal statements Theosophists are constantly called upon to make. If their tone is that of infallible assurance, of a combative readiness to defend, to attack, and to impugn, a like spirit will be evoked in the questioner; whereas, if they are given as the solutions found satisfactory by the holder, though in no way obligatory on any other thinker, if they are commended as interesting rather than urged as final, the spirit of antagonism is disarmed at the outset, and the genial influence of a gentle unobtrusiveness extends itself from speaker to hearer.
Beliefs can hardly be ARGUED away. They may crumble or melt under the quiet effect of more potent considerations, or they may simply fade out as better ones come to view, just as the pictures of a dioptric lantern grow less vivid and disappear when their successors are disclosed, but they will gain obstinate rigidity through any attempt to displace them with violence. The tactful presentation of Theosophy therefore means that each written or spoken word should be pacific, uncombative, gently proffering an idea rather than pronouncing a dictum, letting the hearer himself contrast the opulence of Occult Science with the penury of Christian isms, seeking no rebuttal, inviting no contest, striving for no victory.
The other question -- the Rationale of our mission -- goes to the root of the whole matter of that mission. If Theosophy is to be promulgated in every direction and through every channel, if a very large part of the community is indifferent to it or hostile, and if controversy is to be foresworn, what gains may we really expect to make?
Fitness to receive Theosophy is preeminently a case of Evolution. As the wave of life has passed through the several kingdoms of nature, lifting to various heights of development the different individuals in them, effecting an infinite diversity in progress from the shell-fish to the anthropoid ape, so the Spiritual wave exhibits in the countless multitudes of men the equally countless degrees with which it has been received.
There are human beings in whom hardly a trace of spiritual feeling can be detected; there are innumerable graduations in which it expands from a feeble sentiment to a ruling principle; and there is a small but exalted class in which it has overmastered and overcome every other impulse and desire. Intelligence, too, has like differentiations, and when this and the spiritual principle are united in every possible combination of degree, intensity, and power, we see the infinitude of variety, the measureless complexity, exhibited in the status of men.
Now while Theosophy is truly a system of the highest intellectuality, feeding the loftiest minds produced in the race, this is not its primary function. That function is the supply of spiritual pabulum, the furnishing to aspiration a justification, a method, an assurance. Its note is responded to by the devout and the ardent, unheard or unheeded as it may be by the clever.
So it comes to pass that no small part of the members of the Theosophical Society are very poor in intellectual gifts, little competent to seize much more than the elements of the system, powerless to analyze or to combine or to express its truths, a feeble folk as to brain or tongue, and yet sound in purpose and in conviction, resolute in aim and life, clear of vision into the eternal realities. They feel far more than they can state; they are strong, gigantic even, in a conscientiousness which knows no paltering, and a devotion which knows no sleep. And to this they have come through incarnation after incarnation.
Precisely what stage of spiritual evolution must be reached before Theosophy is acceptable? Who can say? Yet evidently there is needed some real, even if vague, conviction of the greater value of the unseen, and some decided, even if flexible, desire for its attainment. If there is neither, Theosophy is a meaningless babble, a sound without import or significance. To SOME point the spiritual principle must have been evolved, the spiritual interest grown. Before that, there could be no comprehension and no response.
In respect to this, receptivity to the Theosophical idea is exactly like receptivity to any other idea; it is an affair of evolved readiness. If you tell a young man in his teens that the loftiest reach of human happiness is not in converse with an undeveloped girl, and that insipid talks and unfledged affections are only the contents of a stage and a class, he will probably smile at your little knowledge of life and your little ability to comprehend it. And yet the mature man, rich in experiences of varied tenderness, knows how faint and flimsy are the sentiments of such youths.
Each attitude is proper to its time. You could not expect sage discrimination in a boy, or appreciation of other things which are in advance of his period. If you speak to a small tradesman of the forces governing international commerce, and of the happy day when an understanding of them shall sweep away every obstacle raised by ignorant cupidity, his eye will glaze and his mouth open. If, forgetting your hearer in your topic, you discourse to a commonplace person on the mental triumphs of the century, and how intelligent thought is asserting itself in civic ideals and in legislation; you will soon perceive his incapacity to understand you.
I once travelled in Italy with an acquaintance that gave no eye to its architecture, galleries, or scenery, but was alert for horses, dogs, and women. All these things mean simply that the individual has not reached the point where higher themes become conceivable. To present them is to appeal to a blank; the faculty is not there. Give the topic appropriate to the development, and you have response at once. It could not be otherwise. Men are what they ARE, not what they will be. To expect perception of things out of sight or to blame for devotion to those only which are perceived is to be unphilosophical and unpractical.
And so it is in Theosophy. Exhibit it to the sectarian, the conventionalist, the mere businessman, the gourmet, and its broad doctrines and high impulsions seem but fanatical raving. Tell its principle of unselfishness to the monopolist who seeks for opulence through oppression, or the religionist who hopes for glory through gore, and you might as well speak in Arabic or Hindi. In fact, any one of its spiritual sides is unintelligible to the man who has not within him a counterpart to that side. If the faculty has not evolved, it obviously cannot act. And this, too, is another reason why one should not attempt to argue or persuade into Theosophy. To do so implies the presence of an interest or an aspiration which argument or persuasion can arouse, whereas it is the absence of them which makes the attempt hopeless.
Sketching the area of human evolution, we may say that each human being passes through successive stages of thought, conviction, and emotion, and that certain habits are appropriate to each. To whatever the dominant interest of the life may be, there are topics and practices which match it. These are natural. They may not be elevating or elevated, but at least they are fit. One need not marvel to find obtuseness as to spiritual things any more than as to art or literature or science. The whole question is set to rest by the simple explanation that the individual is still on a lower plane. There is no use in worrying over it, for the matter is beyond all other remedy than that of limitless time, which will in its course bring about through many incarnations the stage of spiritual interest. THEN Theosophy will attract.
These facts show what the philosophy of Theosophical missionary effort is. The method has been stated to be the widest possible circulation of Theosophical information, the filling the atmosphere with Theosophical truths and ideas. Why? Not because it is supposed that to any considerable proportion of the community they will be either intelligible or welcome. Not because their intrinsic value can be perceived by souls which as yet are not percipient. Not because that any cogency of argument or felicity of diction will evoke interest or gain adhesion. Not because they hold out inducements which, like Sunday School picnics or Church socials, may avail to entice outsiders. Not at all because it is believed that more than perhaps one out of many hundreds is ripe for a welcome to them.
Then there is that one. He has risen in former embodiments through eras of struggle and solicitude, and stands now ready, open-eared for the note of Theosophy. He may be a member of some great family in the metropolis and come in touch with Theosophy through the gilded libraries which are ever open to him. He may be a journeyman in a factory and stumble on a paragraph of revelation in the only newspaper he sees. He may be a merchant in a far-off city, or a doctor in as country town, or a blacksmith in an inland village. He may be a miner in Colorado or a herdsman in Texas or a pioneer in a Western hamlet; but if prepared in past incarnations for Theosophy in this, it needs but a line to transmute him into a Theosophist. Perhaps yours may be the hand which has guided it to him, Karma conferring on you the privilege and on him the benefit of adding another to the ranks of the illuminated.
What if scores of editorials and hundreds of editorial items and thousands of circulars die straightway and fruitless! Who can say, indeed, that they do? But if they did, there is always the one upon whom we may count, the one who has a right to our treasures, the one who will spread them in his turn, the one who will be the nucleus for further strength coming from the unseen powers. Nor must we forget the stimulus which a diffused knowledge of Theosophy has upon forming, growing souls. They are not ripe for it yet, but acquaintance with it helps to make them so. A seed may be lodged in thought which will grow no less surely than do the seeds scattered by the sects about us, and, as they expect fruitage in years to come, so may we in incarnations to come.
Probably we shall not need to wait so long. There are indications that every effort now has promise of a soon result. The very name "Theosophy" was strange but a few years ago; now it is a common sound. The topics collateral to it and which point to it were formerly in disrepute; now they are investigated as legitimate studies. Once a "fad" or a "craze," Theosophy has now established itself as a recognized form of religious belief, and, while the Society disclaims being a "Church," it will very likely in time receive all the distinction of such.
We may not be covetous of that; we may not even gauge our progress by the membership we can show; but we can certainly do our very utmost that Theosophical truth shall be sped throughout the land and pervade the thought of the age. We shall not expect to make "converts" or to pillage on the preserves of sect or Church; we shall not look for accretions through any process of argument or persuasion or teasing; but we shall enjoy the right to make the positions of Theosophy everywhere clear and understood, and the certainty of believing that no intelligent effort to enlighten and stimulate the human conscience can be, will be, a failure.
By William Q. Judge
[Under the pen name Eusebio Urban. Subtitled Jagrat, Svapna, Sushupti: Waking, Dreaming, Dreamless Sleep. From THE PATH, III, pages 147-99, reprinted in ECHOES OF THE ORIENT, I, pages 73-76.]
I speak of ordinary men. The Adept, the Master, the Yogi, the Mahatma, the Buddha, each lives in more than three states while incarnated upon this world, and they are fully conscious of them all, while the ordinary man is only conscious of the first -- the waking-life, as the word conscious is now understood.
Every theosophist who is in earnest ought to know the importance of these three states, and especially how essential it is that one should not lose in Svapna the memory of experiences in Sushupti, nor in Jagrat those of Svapna, and vice versa.
Jagrat, our waking state, is the one in which we must be regenerated; where we must come to a full consciousness of the Self within, for in no other is salvation possible.
When a man dies he goes either to the Supreme Condition from which no return against his will is possible, or to other states -- heaven, hell, avichi, devachan, what not -- from which return to incarnation is inevitable. But he cannot go to the Supreme State unless he has perfected and regenerated himself, unless the wonderful and shining heights on which the Masters stand have been reached while he is in a body. This consummation, so devoutly desired, cannot be secured unless at some period in his evolution the being takes the steps that lead to the final attainment. These steps can and must be taken. In the very first is contained the possibility of the last, for causes once put in motion eternally produce their natural results.
Among those steps are an acquaintance with and understanding of the three states first spoken of.
Jagrat acts on Svapna, producing dreams and suggestions, and either disturbs the instructions that come down from the higher state or aids the person through waking calmness and concentration, which tend to lessen the distortions of the mental experiences of dream life. Svapna again in its turn acts on the waking state (Jagrat) by the good or bad suggestions made to him in dreams. All experience and all religions are full of proofs of this. In the fabled Garden of Eden the wily serpent whispered in the ear of the sleeping mortal to the end that when awake he should violate the command.
In Job it is said that God instructeth man in sleep, in dreams, and in visions of the night. And the common introspective and dream life of the most ordinary people needs no proof. There are many cases are within my knowledge where the man was led to commit acts against which his better nature rebelled, the suggestion for the act coming to him in dream. It was because the unholy state of his waking thoughts infected his dreams, and laid him open to evil influences. By natural action and reaction he poisoned both Jagrat and Svapna.
It is therefore our duty to purify and keep clear these two planes.
The third state common to all is Sushupti, which has been translated "dreamless sleep." The translation is inadequate, for, while it is dreamless, it is also a state in which even criminals commune through the higher nature with spiritual beings and enter into the spiritual plane. It is the great spiritual reservoir by means of which the tremendous momentum toward evil living is held in check. And because it is involuntary with them, it is constantly salutary in its effect.
In order to understand the subject better, it is well to consider a little in detail what happens when one falls asleep, has dreams, and then enters Sushupti. As his outer senses are dulled the brain begins to throw up images, the reproductions of waking acts and thoughts, and soon he is asleep. He has then entered a plane of experience which is as real as that just quit only that it is of a different sort.
We may roughly divide this from the waking life by an imaginary partition on the one side, and from Sushupti by another partition on the other. In this region he wanders until he begins to rise beyond it into the higher. There no disturbances come from the brain action, and the being is a partaker to the extent his nature permits of the "banquet of the gods." But he has to return to waking state, and he can get back by no other road than the one he came upon, for, as Sushupti extends in every direction and Svapna under it also in every direction, there is no possibility of emerging at once from Sushupti into Jagrat. And this is true even though on returning no memory of any dream is retained.
Now the ordinary non-concentrated man, by reason of the want of focus due to multitudinous and confused thought, has put his Svapna field or state into confusion, and in passing through it the useful and elevating experiences of Sushupti become mixed up and distorted, not resulting in the benefit to him as a waking person which is his right as well as his duty to have. Here again is seen the lasting effect, either prejudicial or the opposite, of the conduct and thoughts when awake.
So it appears, then, that what he should try to accomplish is such a clearing up and vivification of the Svapna state as shall result in removing the confusion and distortion existing there, in order that upon emerging into waking life he may retain a wider and brighter memory of what occurred in Sushupti. This is done by an increase of concentration upon high thoughts, upon noble purposes, upon all that is best and most spiritual in him while awake. The best result cannot be accomplished in a week or a year, perhaps not in a life, but once began, it will lead to the perfection of spiritual cultivation in some incarnation hereafter.
By this course a center of attraction is set up in him while awake, and to that all his energies flow, so that it may be figured to us as a focus in the waking man. To this focal point -- looking at it from that plane -- the rays from the whole waking man converge toward Svapna, carrying him into dream-state with greater clearness. By reaction this creates another focus in Svapna, through which he can emerge into Sushupti in a collected condition. Returning he goes by means of these points through Svapna, and there, the confusion being lessened, he enters into his usual waking state the possessor, to some extent at least, of the benefits and knowledge of Sushupti.
The difference between the man who is not concentrated and the one who is, consists in this, that the first passes from one state to the other through the imaginary partitions postulated above, just as sand does through a sieve; while the concentrated man passes from one to the other similarly to water through a pipe or the rays of the sun through a lens. In the first case each stream of sand is a different experience, a different set of confused and irregular thoughts, whereas the collected man goes and returns the owner of regular and clear experience.
These thoughts are not intended to be exhaustive, but so far as they go it is believed they are correct. The subject is one of enormous extent as well as great importance, and theosophists are urged to purify, elevate, and concentrate the thoughts and acts of their waking hours so that they shall not continually and aimlessly, night after night and day succeeding day, go into and return from these natural and wisely appointed states, no wiser, no better able to help their fellow men. For by this way, as by the spider's small thread, we may gain the free space of spiritual life.
By G. de Purucker
[From STUDIES IN OCCULT PHILOSOPHY, pages 350-56, referencing Mahatma Letter #XXc.]
One of the things people are most interested in is death: What is going to happen to me when I die? And we have to show men how so to live in the present as to fit themselves for the future, for death, and for the next life. How you live now will determine what happens to you after death, and what your next life will be. The Buddhists phrased this beautifully: every man's future is the result of his present living. A man's present life is the result of his past living. So to me really the question of how to live our present life is but another way of saying what is going to happen to us when we die, and what our next life is going to be.
You have the answer to this in the one word, karma, the doctrine of consequences, the doctrine that consequences or effects follow causes inevitably and the effect is sequential upon the previous cause. If the preceding cause be good, the effect will be good. If the preceding cause be evil, the effect will be evil. Just as much as it is nature's law that if you put your hand in the fire it will be burned; it will not be frozen. That is simply what karma means: what you sow you reap, NOT SOMETHING ELSE. What your present living is determines your state of consciousness after death and what you will be in your next life and succeeding lives.
Now as regards the last moments after death, it is so simple really. A man's life is the result of his past, not of a part of it, not of portions of it, but of it all. Can you omit any part of your past? Can you cut it out of the memory of nature? Can you efface a part of your character which you built to be your character in your past lives? The answer is obviously no. Therefore we are treasuries of the past. We are built of thought from the past, which means the past life and the past lives, and all of them. Thus a grown man is the result of every year since he was born, and of every month and of every week and of every day and of every hour, and of every minute and of every second. You cannot wipe out a day or a year or a month of that past. It is all built into you in your present.
Now apply this rule of nature, this law of karmic consequences. It simply means that what the major force in your past life has been is going to be the major thought-force in your consciousness when you die. Because it is obvious that ten is greater than six or five or four, and a hundred is greater than ten, and that a strong force will prevail over a weak. Therefore what your predominating thought-current, thought-impulse, feelings, emotions, have been in your past, are going to be the ones which by force of weight, by their energy, by their predominant power, will prevail as your last consciousness flickers on this plane. Isn't that simple?
The meaning is not that the vagrant thoughts that may tramp through our minds when we die are going magically to govern and shape our future existences. That is an absurdity because it is against logic and against the way nature builds. It simply means that before the balance of power of all your years before your death hour comes, the prevailing energy in other words, is going to be felt just at your moment of death.
In other words, your character is going to be seen by you in the pre-dying panorama, the panoramic vision which takes place for everyone. The last thoughts of a dying man are simply like the indicator of a machine, for instance a thermometer or barometer. The indicator points to the temperature of the moment when you look at it. The barometer points to the change of pressure, meaning fair weather or foul, when you look at it. Now that indicator is not the magic agent which is going to give your bad weather or your fair weather. It merely tells you what the weather is and probably will be.
It is so with character. What your character is will give you certain thoughts just as you die. Your consciousness will have reached a certain state just as you die, and by those last moments of consciousness, of thinking, you know what your character is, therefore probably what your after-death state of consciousness will be, therefore probably what your next life will be. And as character is an exceedingly complex thing, it is naturally swayed this way and that, backwards and forwards, or upwards and downwards, whichever form of speech you may please.
It seems so simple and so logical to me. The prevailing power of thought in your life is going to be the one which will be the prevailing thought or thoughts at the moment of death, because it is the dominant, the powerful thing in your character. It won't be the weak things that will come out. They have not the strength, the energy. It will be the strong that will come to the fore.
If during your lifetime, suppose for sixty years you have led a grand and noble life, and then for four or five or ten years more you have suddenly gone crazy and lived an evil life -- which is going to be the dominant force when you die, the dominant note of consciousness? It is the strongest. If sixty years of a noble life is going to be overcome by four or five or ten of an evil life, then it will be the evil thoughts that will be predominant when you die, because it will mean you have led a terrifically evil life in ten years, overthrowing, overpowering, the sixty years of good. But that is almost impossible. The sixty years in continuous thinking and feeling will make themselves felt; though the evil life will likewise never be forgotten, but will be imprinted on your character. Some day it will produce itself. But at the moment of death, this evil is not the prevailing powerful thing. The good in you, the sixty years of high living and high thinking, will come stealing in and the evil will slink away, and the sixty years of good will make the man die in peace and happiness. Thus you see the importance of living in the present.
These are practical, hard facts that we should learn and follow. They are the primordial rule of conduct, and please do not forget it. That is the teaching of all the great sages and seers the world has ever known. What you do you yourself are responsible for and will be held accountable for. What you think likewise, what you feel likewise. Therefore let every moment be a change for the better, a seed of finer and greater and grander things, bringing finer and greater and more beautiful fruitage for the future.
So the present is very important, and I think one reason why people are so anxious about death -- and I say this with all kindness and respect for my fellow-men -- is that they know from what they already have been taught, they know inwardly, even if they cannot perhaps intellectually state it to others, that evil thoughts make an evil character.
We are taught by our mothers that, even from the cradle, good thoughts build up a symmetrical and beautiful and strong character, and so they think of themselves: I am no longer a child. I am an adult. Death may come to me tomorrow. I may meet it in an automobile accident, in a train accident, in an airplane. I may meet it in almost any way. My time of accounting may come to me before I draw the next ten breaths. My heart may suddenly give up. What is going to happen? Isn't there an answer to the riddle of the future? And we Theosophists say there is no riddle of the future; that is an idea that has come from the materialistic teaching of the last eighty or one hundred years in the West.
No such question would ever occur to an Oriental. It is not logical. It is not sensible when you really think about it. For you have the teaching: As ye live ye make yourselves. Good thoughts make good men. Good clean thoughts make good clean conduct. Evil thoughts, hatred, make evil and hateful men and unhappiness. For can you think of anything more dreadful and horrible than a man to be locked in the sphere of his own consciousness, his only companion the hatred of his own heart, a hatred which grows apace and develops talons which tear his vitals out, his own offspring, his own brood? Sometimes we call it the pangs of remorse.
None of us has led a spotless, perfect life. We would be gods were that the case; and naturally therefore, men wonder, because they do not know the holy truth, what am I? What shall I be after death? What is going to happen? The churches can tell me nothing. They just teach me to hope and to rely on a God. But something in me tells me the Divine has placed an inextinguishable hope in my heart, an inextinguishable intuition that there is truth in this world, and it can be had by us men, AND I WILL HAVE IT. Life is tawdry and not worth living without it. That is what they hope, that is what they think, and that is why they are interested in death. They do not want to die. They have not learned enough yet to know that this very plane of earth to which they cling so desperately is the plane of suffering and sorrow and pain and disappointment and wretchedness and misery. Yes, and it is our School of Experience as well.
And this brings me to my next point. People talk of immortality. Do you know what they mean in the West? And this is what the Masters had in mind in the passage quoted, which was the subject of study this evening. They were answering these questions to Hume and Sinnett, and they talked to them as you or I would talk to a young untutored child. They did not overburden their minds with what we now know from our studies and our readings and the teachings we have received.
So when these men asked about immortality, the Masters knew perfectly well what Hume and Sinnett had in their minds, because they had no faint conception of immortality. They thought it meant to continue as Hume forever and continue as Sinnett forever; and can you imagine a worse immortality than that, a worse hell, never advancing, never changing, never growing, always Hume, and forever Sinnett, no matter how much he learned, no matter how much he grew, always Hume, always Sinnett?
To us Theosophists that would be a consciousness in hell. Show me anything in universal nature that continues unchanged for the fraction of one second: the growing plant, the changes in health, the movements of the planets, the vibrations of the atoms and the electrons and what not, and the changes in growth, the changes in everything, everything changed from what it was a million years ago or ten thousand years ago, a thousand, or a year, or a minute or a second ago, to something new; and, as we see, to something better. Always a movement in evolution and progression forwards.
The historical studies, the geological researches that our scientists have made, show in fact that in very truth there is such an evolutionary advancement if only of form, a form of life. But we say there can be no evolution unless there are evolving beings. Otherwise evolution is just an empty abstraction. The only evolution we know is that of evolving beings, who evolve, who progress, and who move. Evolution therefore is merely a name we give to these processes of growth. It is not something that exists somewhere out in the absolute or in the abstract and which pushes things or punches them or moves them. Evolution means growing beings.
Now then, Immortality. Would you like to be forever and forever and forever and forever endlessly what you are? The Gods save me from such a hell! And the answer of the Masters was simply this. They said to themselves: Brother Sinnett, Brother Hume, we understand you, if you understand us not. We know you are speaking of what you think is immortality, in other words your body or at least your soul never changing, always you. Never changing your egoity, always you. Very well, we will give you an answer such as your untutored minds, uninstructed in the archaic wisdom, can comprehend. Yes, there is an immortality of the spiritual ego, and we call it pan-aeonic immortality, an immortality which endures, that is for all the eons of the maha-manvantara. And those who have evolved or who have advanced spiritually, who have trained and disciplined themselves to ally themselves with the spirit even now, because of that alliance with the spirit can carry on pretty much as now they are, as great Mahatmas enjoying pan-aeonic immortality to the end of the manvantara. But then that immortality ends, my brothers. And then they said: Don't you see my brothers that an immortality which has an ending is not immortality, because it is death? No matter how long it lasts, if it ends sometime, it is not truly immortal.
Now we know that although the jivanmukta, a high adept, growing in wisdom and experience all the time, might self-consciously endure as an ego to the very end of the manvantara -- when that end comes what we call the prakritika pralaya sets in, in which the whole solar system vanishes; its end has come, and it dies. Its atoms disappear.
This is brought about because what we may call the spirit or soul of the solar system goes to higher things. The body dies, the body of the solar system dies, the spirit advances to higher things, repeating in the solar system what a man does when he dies. We men, children of the solar system, die because it is also the destiny of the solar system when its time comes to die.
Nature has one law -- not one law for the sun, and another law for man, another law for the beast or the plant. Nature has one law throughout, and this one law is as it were a body of laws which we call the laws of nature. So that what takes place in the great, is of necessity copied in the small because the small is a part of the great; and if the small could free itself from the dominance of the great, it would no longer be less than the great, but greater than the great, which is absurd. The part follows the whole. Isn't that clear?
So then, what is immortality? The only immortal things in the Theosophical sense of the word are spirit and matter -- matter I mean as mulaprakriti, or primordial stuff, which is but the shadow of spirit. And even here there are times when I ask myself, can it be said that spirit, that even god-stuff, is eternal? In its essence, yes, everything in its essence is eternal even on this plane. But there are times when I ask myself, is not even purusha, is not even Brahma non-immortal in the absolute sense? And my answer to myself, the whisperings of my intuition to my own soul tell me, ay, even the gods themselves are but immortal for their own lifetime as we men are on our plane.
What a blessing this is. Have we not just discussed together the hell that it would be if I was always I, and never could change to something grander than I? Oh no, no such immortality for me. I want it not. I want to advance. I want to change to better things. I want my ego to become grander and greater, and if it changes even by a fraction of consciousness, in other words if it grows and develops, it is no longer the same ego, and therefore is not immortal. Cannot you see it? Cannot you see the enormous, the wonderful promise, the beauty of it all, that we are not immortal, not changeless -- always forever me?
People want to live on this plane and be immortal on this plane. It reminds me of the fevered dreaming of children who dream of finally quaffing the chalice of immortality and living in a body that never dies. They love it so. They want to eat and drink and be merry, ay, and to see diseases around them and to have earthquakes and electric storms, perhaps to be struck by lightning, blasted by it, or their bodies burned and rendered corrupt and rotten by some loathsome disease. Why, they want to be immortal as they are.
Wretched life! Horrible! No such immortality for me. I want to advance to grander and greater things. A son of the sun am I, an offspring of the cosmic spirit. There is my home. I am here on this earth because my thoughts and my actions and my character in other spheres have brought evil karma upon me, and I am but a man. I want to grow out of a man to be a god, to lose my manhood, to merge into godhood; and when I become a god, I shall still have, I hope, this yearning, this unsatisfied hunger for something grander and greater still than godhood, always marching upwards and onwards, into ever larger, into ever enlarging, spheres and grander consciousness, deeper appreciation of beauty and of holiness and of peace and of justice and of love and of right -- weak human terms but which yet represent a gospel of conduct which gives us hope.
No immortality for me! Let me advance through unceasing change from less to ever greater things. Let me grow greater, let me leave my low-vaulted past and come out into the sunlight, into the very air, into the freedom, into the majesty of the eternal.