We believe in no hell or paradise as localities; in no objective hell-fires and worms that never die, nor in any Jerusalems with streets paved with sapphires and diamonds. What we believe in is a POST-MORTEM STATE or mental condition, such as we are in during a vivid dream.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, "On the Reward and Punishment ofy the Ego."
By William Q. Judge
[From THE PATH, January 1890, pages 319-21, under the pen name William Brehon, reprinted in ECHOES OF THE ORIENT, I, pages 123-24.]
It is often asked: How should I or my friend study theosophy?
In beginning this study, a series of "don'ts" should first engage the student's attention. Don't imagine that you know everything, or that any man in scientific circles has uttered the last word on any subject; don't suppose that the present day is the best, or that the ancients were superstitious, with no knowledge of natural laws.
Don't forget that arts, sciences, and metaphysics did not have their rise with European civilization; and don't forget that the influence of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle of ancient Greece is still imposed upon the modern mind. Don't think that our astronomers would have made anything but a mess of the zodiac if the old Chaldeans had not left us the one we use. Don't forget that it is easy to prove that civilization of the highest order has periodically rolled around this globe and left traces great and small behind. Don't confuse Buddhism with Brahmanism, or imagine that the Hindus are Buddhists; and don't take the word of English or German Sanskrit scholars in explanation of the writings and scriptures of eastern nations whose thoughts are as foreign in their form to ours as our countries are to them. One should first be prepared to examine with a clear and unbiased mind.
But suppose the enquirer is disposed at the outset to take the word of theosophical writers; then caution is just as necessary, for theosophical literature does not bear the stamp of authority. We should all be able to give a reason for the hope that is within us, and we cannot do that if we have swallowed without study the words of others.
But what is study? It is not the mere reading of books, but rather long, earnest, careful thought upon that which we have taken up. If a student accepts reincarnation and karma as true doctrines, the work is but begun. Many theosophists accept doctrines of that name, but are not able to say what it is they have accepted. They do not pause to find out what reincarnates, or how, when, or why karma has its effects, and often do not know what the word means.
Some at first think that when they die they will reincarnate, without reflecting that it is the lower personal I they mean, which cannot be born again in a body. Others think that karma is -- well, karma, with no clear idea of classes of karma, or whether or not it is punishment or reward or both. Hence a careful learning from one or two books of the statement of the doctrines, and then a more careful study of them, are absolutely necessary.
There is too little of such right study among theosophists, and too much reading of new books. No student can tell whether Mr. Sinnett in ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, writes reasonably unless his book is learned and not merely skimmed. Although his style is clear, the matter treated is difficult, needing firm lodgment in the mind, followed by careful thought. A proper use of this book, as well as THE SECRET DOCTRINE, THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, and all other matter writer upon the constitution of man, leads to an acquaintance with the doctrines as to the being most concerned, and only when that acquaintance is obtained is one fitted to understand the rest.
Another branch of study is that pursued by natural devotees, those who desire to enter into the work itself for the good of humanity. Those should study all branches of theosophical literature all the harder, in order to be able to clearly explain it to others, for a weak reasoner or an apparently credulous believer has not much weight with others.
Western theosophists need patience, determination, discrimination, and memory if they ever intend to seize and hold the attention of the world for the doctrines they disseminate.
By H.D. Bhattacharya
[From THE ARYAN PATH, June 1948, pages 242-47.]
It, would be idle to deny that Philosophy is still regarded in many quarters as equivalent to obscurantism, undue optimism or else calm resignation, flight from reality, impracticality (sometimes to a ludicrous extent), and indifference to worldly happenings. Coupled with these in the popular concept are the ungainly features of intellectual conceit, social aloofness or shyness, excessive introversion and incapacity to understand and appreciate the beauties of nature and the values of social existence.
With his head always in the clouds and dabbling in things unseen, the philosopher has no eye for the events that constitute the process of the universe or the elements that go to the making of nature and its variegated show. Unnecessarily skeptical about matters of fact and unduly dogmatic about things supersensible, cautious and critical to a degree, raising a dust and then complaining that he cannot see, a philosopher is an object of pity, if not of scorn. Where a robust faith would have been a blessing and enabled him to adjust himself to his physical and social environment, the canker of doubt and disbelief saps his strength of mind and makes him hesitant and ineffective.
All these limitations follow -- it is urged -- from a mistaken sense of personal capacity. A wholesome conviction that there are limits to human knowledge and even to human presumption would have curbed much useless thinking and needless speculation. If philosophers had possessed the humility of Socrates and taken pride, not in their ability to know all things, but in their knowledge that they did not know, they would have been spared much futile thought and they would have concentrated more on the practical side of human existence and devoted themselves to social good.
To be an IGNORAMUS (not knowing) does not mean to be an IGNORABIMUS (never to know). To try to gain the utmost knowledge within permissible limits may involve a tacit belief that certain spheres are beyond the boundaries of knowledge but it does not necessarily betoken an attitude of despair regarding the possibility of knowing anything at all. Just as a child knows much less than an adult and yet knows something, so also we may gain greater insight into the nature of things as we advance in civilization; but to this we must tag on a proviso that human capacity has its limits and omniscience is forever denied to man. When, therefore, the philosopher claims to be the spectator of all times and places and arrogates to himself absolute knowledge, he is forgetting his own finitude. With that initial ignorance he is attempting to pose as omniscient. A salutary sense of human limitation is the only corrective of that supercilious attitude which is responsible for the contempt into which philosophy has been brought by its professors.
It is indeed true that a distinction can be drawn in this regard between those who make extravagant claims on behalf of human capacity and those who acknowledge its limitations. Those that thought that men were only a little lower than the angels and were made in the image of God naturally extolled their reasoning capacity and believed that the gate of all knowledge was open to the persistent knocker. According to them, mysteries existed only to be solved.
The classic taste refused to admit that Reality was not rationally articulated or that human reason was not governed by the principles that ruled the articulations of Reality. Once, therefore, we got an insight into the nature of the operation of our own reason, we should know the nature of things absolutely, for both were identical in their essential character. Man was himself a sample of reality -- he could find within himself all the information he wanted regarding the nature of reality.
No wonder, therefore, that some philosophers should have built up a world-system by a close analysis of their own thought system. Ignoring Bacon's warning that Nature was to be interpreted and not anticipated, they laid down certain a priori rules which they were confident Reality would follow in its evolution and articulation. They thus went to the length of enunciating a philosophy of nature based on a priori speculations in the fond hope that since Reality was governed by rational principles, it was bound to conform to the laws of human thinking.
Unfortunately for them, Reality refused to follow their neat scheme, the contingent and the irrational claimed equal share with the necessary and the rational in its operation, and the obvious limitations of human knowledge were forcibly brought to the cognizance of philosophers. Poetry has its own place in the scheme of human learning, but it cannot take the place of science which deals with hard facts. So also the philosophies of Plato and Spinoza, Shankara and Hegel are delightful in their daring characterization of the nature of the Ultimate; but to hope that they would tally with facts as observed by us or enable us to guide our lives in this stern world of facts would be fatuous.
The other class of philosophers, therefore, attempt to keep closer to facts and start with the assumption that men are a little above the beasts, and that just as in animals the element of reason is very much at a discount, so also in men sense is far more important than reason in determining the nature of things. Woe unto him who forsakes the sensible in favor of the supersensible! There would have been much less bickering and much less bootless quest of truth if philosophers had been more modest and recognized their affinity with the beasts which live by their senses and are guided by their instincts and impulses. Let us confess that the only essences of things are their character-complexes -- the groups of qualities revealed to our senses, and let us not pry into the hidden nature of things which is forever beyond our gaze.
Plato complained of worldly people as only playing with shadows -- let us confess that these shadows are the only substances that we can know. Let us take pride in the fact that, starting as animals, we are able to look before and after, to conserve our past and to anticipate our future. That we have been able to go beyond biological heredity and establish a social heritage is an achievement of which we, as human beings, can be legitimately proud.
By discovering laws, forming concepts, and planning ideals, man has outstripped the entire animal creation and in a way conquered the ravages of time. But in this he has not pretended to go beyond experience in any true sense, nor has he claimed to have reached the stage of finality or necessity in any of his conclusions. Probability is still the guide of his conduct and harmonious living the ideal of his existence. The adjustment of internal relations to external ones is, as Spencer pointed out long ago, the objective of all knowledge and action. It is obvious that there is scope for relativity in this procedure, for the environment may change and the animal may evolve new powers -- in both cases a reorientation would be needed to regain the lost harmony. Life has to be run on pragmatic considerations though the instrument of adjustment will naturally vary according to the stage of evolution and the kind of environment to which adjustment is desired.
The Philosopher's case is that this admission is to be pushed relentlessly to its end. Scientists have slavishly followed the empirical or experiential method of enquiry. Even admitting that things sensible form the touchstone of reality, scientists themselves have been impelled by the necessities of their own logical thinking to transcend the sensible and to discuss things supersensible. Our astronomical beliefs are not in line with our sense-experiences. The size, position, and date of the luminaries of heaven are astronomically, not visibly, fixed. Things in the gross seldom give an accurate idea of the ultimate constitution of the universe; in any case they are not self-explanatory.
Mathematics is playing an increasingly important role in the determination of the nature of things, even though it has meant a jettisoning of much in them that is of great human value. Sound, color, taste, smell, temperature, and all the other secondary qualities that make up the enjoyable aspects of nature disappear in the process of mathematical treatment, and even touch has no meaning in the subatomic, or even the atomic, world, though extension is supposed to persist somehow as an assumption or a presupposition.
Science is not interested in or capable of discussing what space is in itself. That also leaves a case for philosophy. Time that makes process possible and similarity of configuration, without which no comparison or generalization could have been made and no laws of any being established, are taken for granted, or as a matter of course, by the scientist. The WHY of these things is beyond the scope of his enquiry. Similarly, the WHENCE and the WHITHER of things do not interest him. He is interested merely in the HOW of the world process. As for the WHAT, he takes the seeming of things at their face value until forced by the necessities of thought to enquire into their being. To him appearances and essences are identical and substantiality can be reduced without remainder into its qualities, and qualities are dependent upon relations; e.g., the rose appearing as red to the eye, soft to the touch, fragrant to the nose, etc., of a being endowed with sense-organs similar to those of men.
What relations are in themselves, how and why things get related or whether they were always related and if so why, and whether being related they become something other than themselves are rather recondite questions. Similarly difficult is the problem of the constant grouping of qualities which leads us to postulate an underlying substance holding them together.
As usual, the scientist quietly assumes these facts without caring to explain them. The fact of knowledge, for instance, causes no headache to him although philosophers have been sorely exercised over the problem as to how mind can know matter and what exactly is revealed of matter when we have a sensation. They have even gone to the length of suggesting that perhaps in the last analysis mind and matter are not two opposed substances facing each other but opposite poles into which an aboriginal experience, which is neither mental nor physical, breaks itself. The philosopher has attempted to establish an organic connection between different types and orders of experience and to explain their etiology.
The philosopher has done something more. Seeing that in every field the sensible fails to be self-explanatory, the philosopher has been obliged to assume the existence of the supersensible, not in the sense in which scientists understand the term but in the sense of some ultimate principle, which gives the sensible its meaning and existence. If the botanist or the zoologist feels that the physicochemical forces do not sufficiently explain the phenomena of life, he has to assume that life is a different category from matter. If he finds later that life at its higher stages begins to be accompanied by mind, he admits the independent character of mind.
But why matter should be transcended by life and life by mind and whether matter without an impulse towards life and mind ever existed in reality or whether an imminent or pervasive presence is pushing things towards a better organized and more valuable system the scientist, if he restricts himself to the domain of science, does not feel impelled to ask. Is the world process an aimless wandering of material elements in the course of which integrations and disintegrations take place but no end is aimed at or achieved? Or do all changes and movements imply an imperfection in the world-order to be remedied in time by better organization, surer guidance, and pursuit of an ultimate objective?
It is obvious that these philosophic quests supervene upon scientific endeavors and light upon unexpected problems. Why being rather than non-being? Why becoming rather than mere being? Why evolution rather than mere becoming or change? Who will answer all these obstinate questionings of the soul? It is not claimed that the answers that the philosophers have given to many of the problems raised by them have been either uniform or satisfactory; but in philosophy the raising of a problem where none seemed possible or necessary is a greater achievement than the finding of an answer.
Whether the world could be reduced to mere ideas or even to illusions, or whether space, time, causality, substance, etc. could be regarded as impositions of the human mind upon the manifold of sensibility, or whether Space and Time could be hyphenated into a single Space-Time, or whether the world could be claimed to be necessary in the life of God as God in that of the world -- these and kindred speculations certainly challenge the complacent attitude of the ordinary man, and the scientist is similarly startled to learn that "conservation of energy" is an a priori category of thought depending upon the inability of the mind to bring being and non-being into agreement by supposing that being could cease to be and that non-being could pass into being, or that no transmission of energy is possible from one object to another, as that would involve keeping energy without a support for an infinitesimal point of time as it jumps from one object to another, which is impossible, or that the ultimates of science are only fictions or postulates of the mind, and not realities at all.
But there is not only an intellectual but also an emotional significance in the philosophic approach to a problem. We are more interested in individuals than in groups, more in groups than in communities, more in communities than in humanity at large, and more in mankind than in animal creation. The greater the range of our sympathy the more dispassionate do we become in our valuations of the immediate and the individual.
Things get valued against the background of the whole and against the whole of space and time, and thus a revaluation or even a trans-valuation of all values takes place in the philosophic mind. As the emotional entropy reaches its maximum and all things become equal to the philosopher, he becomes detached; thus he gains equanimity and detachment through sameness of attitude to all things. He is not elated by success or depressed by failure; to him misery in one part of the world is equivalent to that in any other part, including his immediate neighborhood.
The renunciation that the Yatis (wandering mendicants) practiced was born of detachment from localities and personalities. The stoical indifference to personal pleasure and pain, the endeavor to go beyond good and evil and extreme sensitiveness to the misery of any creature both proceed from the spirit of detachment from and sameness with all creatures, including oneself.
The first person singular number has been the greatest obstacle in the way of realizing impartiality and indifference -- to know this self and its failings, to cultivate the art of self-discipline, to practice self-expansion on a cosmic scale through sympathy and service, and to make others, with whom the self is identified, understand themselves through precept are some of the objectives of a philosophic mind.
To discover and disseminate life's meaning and life's ideals in the context of the whole and to present a blueprint of reality on which men might plan their lives may be said to sum up the philosophic approach to the universe.
By James A. Long
[From EXPANDING HORIZONS, pages 59-61.]
The strong souls coming to birth these days are storming the barriers of doctrinal theology. Many of them will join the great number of the "unchurched" who, while not adhering to any denominational regimen, are yet not to be classed as "atheists," but rather as those who prefer to find their God in the quiet of their own souls. For out of the heart come the issues of life, and when men and women everywhere seriously try to penetrate to the roots of spiritual issues, the quality of their faith will outdistance the patterned 'faith' of creeds. Despite diversities, we all share a common heritage, as instanced in the universal expression of the Golden Rule -- a spiritual courtesy whose guidance could greatly diminish the ills of our civilization:
Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.
In five ways should a clansman minister to his friends and familiars -- by generosity, courtesy, benevolence, by treating them as he treats himself, and by being as good as his word.
All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
"Is there any one word," asked Tzu Kung, "which could be adopted as a lifelong rule of conduct?"
The Master replied: "Is not Sympathy the word? Do not do to others what you would not like yourself."
Do not do to others what you would not wish to suffer yourself.
Treat your friends as you would want them to treat you.
One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of duty (dharma). All else results from selfish desire.
No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: ... but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.
When a sufficient number of liberated thinkers give open expression to their innermost beliefs, we shall find that the brotherhood of thought now in process will provide such a bulwark of spiritual strength that no storms of national differences will prevail, and emancipation from separatism will be assured.
By H. Travers
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1920, pages 321-25.]
As to the derivation of the word 'religion,' two rival opinions dispute the field, each claiming authority among both ancient and modern scholars. According to one view, it comes from a verb meaning to ponder or meditate; according to the other, from a verb meaning to bind. But whether, in its origin, it signifies meditation or obligation does not much matter, since there can be but little doubt as to the present significance of the word. When we come down to the precision of dictionary definitions, we usually find that a single word has more than one meaning; a fact not duly appreciated in the looseness of ordinary discourse. But it will not require a great mental effort to distinguish the two senses of the word 'religion' in which it means (1) religion in general and in the abstract, and (2) some particular creed or system of faith. In the latter sense it is usually preceded by the indefinite article -- 'a religion.'
In this particular cyclic point in the world's history, we are engaged in a general process of unification, of breaking down barriers, and of seeking common factors between diverse quantities; a process rendered necessary by the universal facility of intercommunication and the widespread commingling of human interests that has been brought about by the development of applied science, travel, printing, etc. It would be easy to enumerate instances: a common language is sought, to act as the common instrument of intercourse between peoples of diverse tongues; a common basis of self-government, to be employed between sundered nations; a pooling of commercial interests; and so on. And those engaged in speculative enterprise are likewise occupied in seeking for common origins and roots in their several fields of inquiry.
The question of a common religion, both in its speculative and practical aspect, is therefore one that commands and deserves attention.
Many earnest and intelligent people, perceiving the local and temporary nature of creeds and formulas, disgusted with the insincerities and futilities of conventional religious life, have sought for some basis whereon to rest a common faith for all mankind. They have pared away all definite articles of creed; but unfortunately, in the process, they have removed so much and left so little that the remainder seems devoid both of definiteness and of vitality sufficient for the practical purposes for which it was designed. Their new religion is vague and forceless; it has no appeal.
The question, therefore, seems to be how we can get rid of dogma and sect without impairing the quality and force of religion.
It would appear that the process should be one of addition rather than subtraction. To use an illustration: the process known as composite photography aims to secure a typical human face by the method of superimposing a number of negatives of different faces successively upon one piece of photographic printing paper. For instance, the members of the President's cabinet might all be photographed one over the other, thus producing a composite portrait of the whole group. The result is, however, that all the distinguishing features of each face are suppressed, while only what is common to all remains; and we obtain a face without character, a mere man in fact. This suggests what happens when we try to find a common religion by shaking together, as it were, various creeds and filtering off whatever is not precipitated. We obtain a weak and colorless fluid, neither acid nor alkaline. It is harmless indeed but entirely without vigour.
If religion is in a bad way, it is clearly not enough to bleed the patient for the purpose of removing the impure blood; new and vital blood must be imported. If, instead of the temple, we find only its ruins, it will not suffice to cart away the ruins; the original temple must be rebuilt. Religion itself must be reconstituted, recalled to life.
It is becoming a perfectly familiar idea that religion is not any one creed, nor confined to any one creed, but is a state of the mind and heart. It is faith in the eternal verities and in their efficacy. It is an understanding of the inviolable laws of super-nature, a trust in those laws, and a loyalty in conduct thereto. In this sense any man is religious who believes that truth, honor, compassion, purity, justice, and the like are imperative obligations; and that a due loyalty to these ideals, both in thought and deed, is the only condition on which he can live a happy and worthy life.
Many earnest people cherish such ideas; but we feel that there is some vital element yet lacking. It would seem that one essential of religion is unity and coherence. It is for this reason that creeds are formulated and churches organized. Obedient to the same need, we find efforts being made to unite and coordinate various non-sectarian movements into one body. But again we have to say that the proposed bond of union is too often negative rather than positive. The several bodies have more points of difference than of unanimity. It is not a union of disbelief, but a union of belief that is called for.
Beneath all true religion there must be knowledge and the possibility of attaining knowledge. In the East there is a name for an ancient and comprehensive science, Atma-Vidya, the supreme Wisdom-Knowledge, the key to all the mysteries of life. This has always been cherished as an object of possible attainment for man. This supreme knowledge, under various names, has been recognized in all ages, and has been an object of veneration and quest among the wise and zealous in every land. Only in eras when materialism becomes intensified do men turn aside from this ideal to pursue lower aims; and thus, developing the lower side of their nature, they lose faith in themselves and fall into sectarian strife and unbelief.
It was the avowed purpose of H.P. Blavatsky, in founding the Theosophical Society, to bring back to man's recollection the fact of this supreme and eternal Wisdom-Knowledge, and to inspire him with the enthusiasm to follow its noble precepts.
The important point here seems to be that the achievements of humanity in the past are to be counted on. Instead of proceeding as if we were the first who ever tried to find a common basis for religions, we must recognize that the thing has been done before. Or rather, it was not that separate religions were united, but that (contrariwise) the separate religions have all sprung from an original unity. It is this original unity that we have to seek and to restore. There is, and always has been, a fundamental Root-religion, the common parent of all religions; and this is the Secret Doctrine, about which Theosophy teaches. This constitutes a POSITIVE basis of unity, not a mere negative one; and Theosophy is not a watery residue of religions, but their very life-blood.
Thus Religion is indeed a state of mind and heart, but it is also a great body of knowledge and wisdom; it includes all that is understood by the word science in the widest sense of that word. And when we say knowledge and science, we do not mean MERELY knowledge of the mysteries of nature, but (what is so much more important) an understanding of the laws of human life and conduct, which is what the world so much needs today. If a great Teacher happened to know all about how to liberate the colossal forces locked within the atom, it would be his interest to keep that knowledge back, rather than to make a free present of it to the nations, so that they could destroy each other in the name of liberty; or rather than to give it to criminals to use against society. This shows what we mean by useful knowledge as contrasted with mere learning.
We must reestablish RELIGIO in the hearts of men, both individually and socially, all are agreed -- but how? We do this by science by stating the laws of nature and familiarizing people with them. Not by teaching them how many electrons there are in an atom, but by explaining to them the composition of Nature, of human nature and how they are governed. That is what we mean by science. And for this we must revive the ancient Wisdom-Religion. See what Theosophy has to say about the sevenfold nature of beings, about Karma, and about Reincarnation. Then you will have the basis of a new psychology, better than all the complicated theories of "complexes" and "reflexes," of "subconscious" and "unconscious," of "auto-suggestion" and so forth. Existing psychology appears to deal exclusively with the relation of the lower or animal man with the body; but WE NEED A PSYCHOLOGY THAT SHALL REVEAL THE CONNECTION OF THE HIGHER OR DIVINE MAN WITH THE LOWER MAN.
Theosophy has done much to restore forgotten ideals as to the divine nature of man, the universal sway of the law of justice, and the eternal life of the Soul throughout successive incarnations. Yet even these ideals would remain valueless if not put into practice. Therefore we shall find that the policy of the Theosophical Society has always been to make conduct run in equal steps with knowledge. Contrast with this policy the doings of those who wish to make Theosophy a mere intellectual pursuit; their efforts will merely add to the already too great number of barren philosophies before the world. One who accepts the belief that the Soul is the real man lays upon himself an obligation to rule his conduct in accordance with his belief, or otherwise his faith must be barren and at bottom insincere. How much faith can a man have in a belief which he is not willing to rely upon as a rule of conduct?
The Theosophical teachings, made real by practice, will afford the definite basis of union required to unite people of various creeds and races in one body. The Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society can demonstrate that it is able to refashion the lives of people in a way that nothing else can; and so people will turn to its teachings as their best resource when other things fail them.
By Kenneth Morris
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1920, pages 325-26.]
Put him to death! -- He was but wrought Through myriad years of upward strife, And intermingling death and life, Action and action, thought and thought. What part hath pity here to play? What part? -- 'Tis but the Voice Divine, The Spirit's seal and countersign That makes man Human. On and slay! It is not meet you turn aside To counsel with that human part Which plays the angel in man's heart Here in this hell of lust and pride. It is not meet that you should heed Aught but your stern and man-made law, Which hath in it, perchance, no flaw 'Gainst which the God in man might plead. Who sinned shall suffer? -- Yea, in sooth! Go you, that know no sin nor shame, Blot from the Book of Life his name; Blot from your hearts the human ruth! Do that you never can repair; Undo the work that God hath done: 'Tis but some human mother's son, Some human hope turned to despair. You know not why he came to earth, Commissioned whence, nor to fulfill What fate, -- to meet what destined ill Enambushed round the gates of birth. You know not what fair hope might rise Yet in his God-allotted time To undo in him what wrought the crime, And the unmanned thing re-humanize. A human tiger? -- What! the clay You kill, -- or that which dwells within? Think you your hangman cures the sin Purges the ill thing done away? Is there no dignity in Man, No beauty and power in love, in thought, That you should suddenly bring to naught One fragment of the Eternal Plan? Think! he is human: somewhere deep Within his being, all o'ercast, The unremembered human past, Its pathos and its splendors, sleep! Human! O God, what pity and pride, -- What immemorial heights to win, -- What gods oblivioned o'er with sin, -- What Sons of Mary crucified, -- What Maid of Orleans' funeral flame, -- What Titan bound and vulture-torn, -- What proud and fallen Stars of Morn Are symboled 'neath the human name! But you -- let loose the source of ill: The tiger hate that rends his soul You set beyond your law's control; 'Tis but the human thing you kill. That only! -- In yourselves, in us, In all mankind, the Christ is slain On this World-Golgotha again When you insult the Eternal thus! Because you mar the sacred plan Of God and Time! Because you offend That which is God till Time shall end, -- The holy Humanness of Man.
By William Ewart Walker
[From THE ARYAN PATH, May 1947, pages 207-11.]
Man is a stream whose source is hidden. Always our being is descending into us from we know not whence.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is that which men call mysticism but which the mystic himself never so labels. Mysticism is unshackled by shibboleth or doctrine. Its quality is interior and the utterance it inspires is in affirmations only. It has therefore a surpassing interest for those desirous of understanding the whole man.
Inasmuch as the mystic is the whole man, mysticism may be the unconscious aim of everyone. But as conscious preoccupation, it is the aim of very few. The conception of wholeness itself requires elucidation. It is not merely wholeness of thought. For, while thought is capable of anticipating a state of wholeness, its realization is contingent upon many factors. Neither is this wholeness merely the sound mind in the sound body of the good life. Nor again is it experience of a mere general kind; for experience in ordinary is but limited realization. It is as the fulfillment of all experience that the mystic state occurs; it is the summation of all possible achievement and apprehension.
It is doubtless because of the summative nature of the mystic state that very few writers concern themselves with it, and why, in most incidental references to mysticism, ignorance of its meaning is betrayed. Most critical writers have their perceptions more or less rigidly harnessed to inhibiting concepts. Hence, from much critical as well as from popular writing and from one's immediate social contacts, one may receive the impression that the mystic state is a pale, lifeless affair, a delusive vanity or false piety, or a timorous running away from reality; a rejection of the tasks demanded by social change and a willful reaction from the main stream of events into some backwater of yesterday.
This, however, is vitally to misconceive the truth, for it is neither the inert man, nor the egoist, nor the reactionary, nor the escapist who becomes the mystic. Of all these, he is the opposite. The inert man is insensible to change; the mystic apprehends all change. The egoist is arrogant as to his personal identity; the mystic submerges or renounces his. The reactionary turns his back on proved values; the mystic sublimates all value. The escapist reduces his world to an island or a garden-fortress; the mystic enlarges his into a universe.
Nor, it should be added, is the mystic state a pathological condition. It is false to write down the mystic as a neurotic, a mere solitary, or a victim of insanity. That the bias of his nature is towards withdrawal is not denied. But this withdrawal is not due to fear or to irresponsibility or to lack of sympathy and understanding. It is a refusal to be mentally hedged about by the petty and the ordinary; only, however, that the soul may brace itself for the pursuit of the greatest of all enterprises open to the human spirit.
The general does not think of strategy in the terms of the private, since he must plan on the largest scale possible. It is similarly with the mystic as compared with the rest. He peers beyond the horizon and draws upon depths normally unplumbed, that he may receive from beyond the larger gift. But in common activity, he is as the average citizen, distinguished only by a serenity which radiates from the inner equilibrium produced by the deeper discipline. For the most part, the serenity is a silent rapture, and when it finds voice in those mystics who declare themselves, it often clothes itself in a language far stranger than that used by the majority of writers. The reason is the paradox that the mystic vision is at once universal and unique.
Many there are who call the mystic mad, just as it is common to say of the genius that he is mad. But the madness of either is something outside the purview of the Commissioners in Lunacy, True, on the way to genius or the mystic state, one might have to go through readjustment of the system. Catharsis may be a spiritual as well as a moral and physical necessity. And disturbances of the physical man may be part of the tribulation of the "dark night" of the mystic. One may, for instance, imagine the cry as of one stricken, in Blake's outburst, "For light doth seize my brain with magic pain." Yet the stricken one is as a wounded angel. And the light which strikes is a fierce shaft beating down directly from the zenith. But, again, the fierceness of the light is in its inrush only, as if the creative spirit were pouring the sacred fire too rapidly into its chosen vessel. After that the fierceness passes and the light becomes spread out into the evenness of a new revelation and communion. Is it not thus with any baptism? First, is there a sensation of arrest and next a sense of passing on to some new plane of experience? How long or with what intermissions to remain so transformed are not the present question.
But the fact of physical disturbance in the evolution of the mystic might be no more than a possibility. It is from first to last the way of light, not of power, and in this respect, Eastern philosophy, so markedly appreciative of the mystic state, teaches the gradualness of attainment through a long process of enlightenment. Of Western interpreters, Dean Inge should be heeded when he affirms that mysticism is the most scientific form of religion.
The fact of Being -- call it God -- looms large in our study. Pure mysticism, says Von Hugel, is pantheism. For the mystic has penetrated to the meaning and reality of PRESENCE as the pervasive principle of all things.
All mystics make this grand discovery of Presence, this innerness of life itself, because they are fully mature souls. They see things in simultaneity, and therefore unity. To them, law is one with life, thought with event, all history with the present, the beginning with the end, and God with man. In one sense, theirs is the antithesis of the dramatic view, in another, the inmost core of it, for of this nature is Presence itself. In contact with a commanding personality, one feels, coincidently, sufficiency for one's need and an indication of infinite future possibility. In such a condition, it is feeling which predominates. One enjoys spiritual satisfaction.
Such is Presence. In it there is a transcendence of intellection and mere rationalization, just as in the essentially divine there is that which is beyond the limits of both human and demoniac power. Hence there is the necessity to use the term "Divine Presence" to denote that which is both deeper and broader than the measure of our intellectual thinking and beyond the capacity of our normal sensibility. Hence, also, there is the justification for saying that the mystic consciousness is pregnant with a sense of the divine. For it would be utterly inadequate to say of the mystic that he believes in God. He is ALIVE with God, absorbed in him. God is Life, its plenty and its dynamism in one.
The mystic is not absorbed by God as is water by a sponge, vapor by the atmosphere, or as humus by the soil. For all these processes are divorced from the creative spirituality which cannot be dissociated from the human personality realizing its union with God. If, therefore, the mystic be consumed in God, it is not as a thing destroyed but as one who is added to by an act of perfect union. Not that out of such union other mystics may be produced, as are children by procreation, because on the plane of perfection the mystic remains a son, enjoying in childlike rapture the indivisible life of the entire universe. Once more it may be said: the mystic is absorbed into God as is a LIVING HUMAN ENERGY into a greater, the greatest possible -- the all-sufficient and the all-radiating. If thereby he may be said to be annihilated, he is not extinguished, he does not enter into death, but into more aliveness.
It was said that in the mystic state feeling predominates. The condition of the mystic is the last in the psychological series, and it is noteworthy that the first of the series is also one of feeling. Man as creature originates in a world of feeling; he is born of desire. And for the time that he remains the offspring of desire, i.e., during childhood, he exists in the twilight consciousness which reflects the felicity of the desire which preceded it. Afterwards, with the coming of self-consciousness and the parallel experience of social contacts, he realizes himself as an individual in the worlds of action and of thought; coming to rest meanwhile, as these fields prove from time to time too exacting or insufficient for his need, in the world which ever awaits him with some kind of compensation for his lack of understanding or failure to achieve.
The waters of consolation flow through the life of every man and people; without them the most ponderous intellectual as well as the most task-ridden laborer would die of spiritual thirst. And this world of compensations and consolation -- now vast like the ocean, now fugitive and trickling like the mountain stream -- this indispensable, inalienable world, is in its essence feeling.
To say that this feeling is emotion would be inadequate. Emotion can never be more than human, even when creative of man's highest raptures. Feeling may be extra-human. It comprises the positivity of emotion and the universal sentiency out of which emotion springs and to which it returns. Man's thinking and doing are not finally satisfying to him. There thus comes the moment or the crisis when he needs the liquefaction, as it were, of speculation, contention, and care, and this is brought about in the feeling nature. Intellectual and manual interests alike leave rough edges to our natures, which can only be resolved into pattern by some solution. Such is feeling.
Feeling is the solvent of imperfection on whatever scale. And this is why the major solvents of our imperfections -- art and religion -- must be the outcome of feeling, and also the choicest of vessels to contain it. It is also why the mystic, having journeyed through all the worlds possible to man, beginning with the first world of feeling, has finally succeeded in resolving life's contraries and opposites in transcendent feeling -- love or sublimated reason. From having been the child of desire, he has become the child of election.
The mystic state is pulsant, vibrant, and even vivid. The mystic, looking wholly upon God, surrenders himself to him. In their union is consummated the grand, the almost unutterable companionship. If it be correct to say of the idealist that he is THE individual among men, then it must be said of the mystic that he is THE individual PLUS. He is human and must always remain so, yet touched with a supernormal humanness; he is not out of the battle, yet above it; he is still an inhabitant of the body, communicating with his fellow-men according to the bodily senses, yet expansively free, expressing himself through a sixth or even a seventh sense.
Somehow -- surely by a super-confidence in God as perceived reality? -- He has gathered up the several natures in man into one, resolved on their harmony; and for this he has received the abundant reward not only for himself but for the rest of mankind also. It is for others to see if unto him has been given the seamless robe of divine understanding and affiliation wherein to clothe himself. The mystic does not preach to them, or make pretension that they are misguided or sinful in comparison with himself. When he speaks, if speak he must, he directs their thought to the absolute good, to that which is beyond limiting interests and conceptions, beyond station and calling; to the non-separative, indivisible something that for correspondence to a term already used, we may call life PLUS.
The mystic may reveal the pettiness of human divisions, while showing such incompleteness in the most human light possible, enhancing to the fullest the virtue of tolerance. The mystic is at war with none -- only with the impurity in himself and the evil which would cast a shadow across the universal good. And when, as the outcome of his conflict, he enters the borne of "the Alone with the Alone," he is superbly happy above all other men. That he does not endeavour to harden his vision into a mundane system, or seek to be the organizer or dictator of his fellows, is a sign at once of the purest humility and of the greatest strength.
By G. de Purucker
[From Supplement to KTMG Papers No. 33 reprinted in THE DIALOGUES OF G. DE PURUCKER, III, pages 160-62.]
Hierarchies within Infinitude come and go like flashes like sparks of light. Each such spark is an ending of itself as a manifestation, but those manifestations continue forever progressing. There are no absolute ends, but there are relative ends.
Boundless Infinitude, however, has no attributes of change, nor of time, nor of extension of Space. It simply is from eternity unto eternity, and that is all that our minds can grasp of it. But any manifested universe arising in the bosom of Infinity, be this universe great, be it small, precisely because it is delimited by individuality, because it is a being is by that same token and by so much a limited part of the Boundless.
Now then, a universe is therefore obviously not Boundless Infinitude which is not even One -- one being the beginning of enumeration of manifestation -- but Boundless Infinitude we must consider to be zero represented in symbol as a circle. The One signifies the universe, any universe, our universe, all the universes outside of our universe, which has a beginning, passes through its various phases or stages of emanational evolution and development, and after this is ended, retires again, as Pythagoras said speaking of the Cosmic Monad, into the utter Silence and Darkness of Infinitude -- Silence and Darkness TO US. Following this line of thought, the Infinite, that is the Boundless, the frontierless essence of all universal Being, has no beginning, has no end, has no manifestation of itself, but forever and forever is.
Consider for a moment in the fields of Boundless Space universes arising here and there like sparks of light. As they arise and begin their evolutionary unfolding, other universes are disappearing, unfolding and vanishing, in due time to reappear. Consider therefore, not one or two do this, but innumerable such over the fields of Boundless Space, so that we have the picture of Infinity, eternally as it is, evolving forth and evolving back into its countless universes and systems of universes and super-systems builded of systems.
But Infinity itself: you cannot speak of Infinity as the One. You cannot speak of Infinity as manifesting. It is only beings or things, monads, however small, however great, which undertake these stages or periods of evolutionary unfolding, and then involving or enfolding. Infinitude undergoes no modifications of itself. If it did, it would not be Infinity. It is only MANIFESTED beings and things which clothe themselves in the garments or veils of Maya; and while some 'portions' of Infinitude are in their progressive unfolding into veils of Maya, other portions here and there scattered over the limitless fields of space are involving and rising out of Maya back into the bosom of the deep, only to come forth again in good time.
I wonder if you catch this thought. It is an exceedingly important one. Infinitude does not evolve as Infinitude. If it did, then Infinitude could change, and to speak of Infinity which changes is to speak absurdity, because it is only things or beings which undergo modifications of themselves, and hence are subject to change.
The thought is important because out of misunderstanding of this fact that the universe is forever and throughout Boundless Duration in continual action and activity around us, through misunderstanding this thought rose originally the idea of a God, of a being who created and who acted and who did things. Now Infinity does not create, nor does it act, nor does it do, because all these are limited operations, and Infinity as Infinity has no activity because no limitations. It forever is itself. It is only things which are active. If Infinity acted, it would have to have an enclosing space greater than infinity in which to act, which is obviously absurd because then it no longer would be infinity.
The universes in the Boundless fields of space are numberless. They are literally and actually forever and forever appearing and vanishing, some higher, some lower, and there is no ending to the high nor ending to the low, because these very terms are terms of Maya, terms of manifestation. But Infinity as Infinity is, we can only describe as Motion itself, not anything which moves, but Motion per se. Consciousness itself, not any one consciousness, but consciousness as consciousness, Intelligence itself, not any one intelligence, but intelligence as intelligence.
By Elizabeth Cross
[From THE ARYAN PATH, March 1947, pages 111-13.]
Faith is a convenient commodity, from the ruler's point of view. Sometimes it is necessary to have faith in one or other god, sometimes in the leader, sometimes in a more abstract power. Indeed, like the kind of obedience required from dogs and very young children, to safeguard them from traffic perils, faith is useful and efficient. But, as in the case of the growing child, faith or obedience is not enough! We cannot always be with our children to give them the correct, safeguarding orders, so we try to teach them to use their own judgment and growing intelligence. In the same way any democratic way of life requires each person to develop his own judgment. Judgment and intelligence are, it would seem, the enemies of faith.
"Have faith in the government," cry the firm party men. "Don't criticize, don't question. They know best. All you need to do is to work and obey."
The faithful heed the advice and the government goes ahead, happily confident in its own ability. Sooner or later something happens that is too obviously mistaken to be hidden and the faithful get a nasty shock. Had they been a little less faithful, a little more questioning and critical, things might, possibly, have been managed better. Again they might not, for the critics may have as little professional knowledge of complex problems as the present rulers.
What is most serious, however, is the pathetic belief held in so many countries, that a democracy has achieved a greater and more reasonable wisdom than has been achieved by other systems. Or, more accurately, that democracy has been achieved at all. What is the fact, in most cases, is that an imitation democracy is at work. Instead of an educated body of voters capable of forming their own judgments, we have an emotional mass that can be worked upon by cheap oratory. Such a mass is good material for appeals to faith.
What is needed today is not this type of blind faith in God or the government but a determination to develop a more critical attitude. This is not easy; it means work and study. What is more, it means a farewell to day-dreaming and a more energetic outlook in general. The faithful, of whatever religion, could rest in the assurance that, whatever evils surrounded them in the present would be bright if only they had a sufficiency of faith the future.
This attitude seems to be dangerous in that it stifles effort, gives an excuse for ignoring evils, and prevents real improvement both of the self and of the environment. In fact, faith in some outside power, spiritual or temporal, may destroy the necessary faith in one's own abilities and capacity for effort.
It is an ironic fact that the Christian religion has developed this "faithful" attitude, often requiring a completely unquestioning belief on the part of church members, whereas the fundamental teaching of Christ may well be that of effort reinforced by faith in supernatural power. Possibly this idea is too mystical and highly developed to appeal to the majority of the conventionally religious and so they cling to the idea of unquestioning faith and a consequent lessening of their own capacities.
Blind faith is, undoubtedly, a characteristic that has been encouraged by all rulers. Witness the title of the King of England as "Defender of the Faith" (and therefore of the faithful), while Mohammedans have also the title of "The Faithful," and Roman Catholics are also in possession of the "true faith." Christianity suffers very considerably from differences of opinion as to what IS the true faith, although practically all religions have been fruitful of heresy.
What makes it so difficult to come to terms with those who cling to a blind type of faith is that they find it impossible to believe in the goodwill or morality of the "unfaithful." In spite of ample evidence to the contrary, they cannot believe that those who do not share their particular faith (either in religion or in politics) can possibly do good works. The Christian is convinced, deep in his unconscious mind, that other folk are all potential thieves, robbers, liars and adulterers, while many an earnest Communist has the same attitude towards those of a different political theory. It would seem that unless ye do it in the name of the Father (or Karl Marx), it shall not be counted unto you for virtue.
The "faithful" number countless millions of well-intentioned folk, and it is the greatest tragedy that their faith has brought the sword rather than peace. To the normal, kindhearted skeptic, it seems impossible to believe that the cruelties practiced in the name of religion (and in religion we must include some of the modern State-worship which has a religious, emotional tone) are entirely due to the fact that the devotees believe that death is the only way of saving souls. It would seem that some of this faith is merely a convenient cover for the expression of less respectable instinctive tendencies.
The crusades, sometimes led by genuine believers, attracted to their prosecution hordes of self-seekers and sadists, as did the Spanish Inquisition. We have had similar unhappy examples within very recent times and, no doubt, will continue to do so while faith and unreason are encouraged rather than a less emotional attitude.
Faith, properly, should belong to childhood, to the childhood of the individual when he should be surrounded by those kinder, wiser, and more capable than himself and so worthy of trust, and also belong to the childhood of civilizations. As we grow up, we must be led from the attitude of faith in persons and in powers to an examination and critical appraisal of life in general so that we may grow in judgment and self-reliance. Any appeal to faith today seems a step backwards, unless this appeal is to a faith in some body which is willing to give evidence and proof of its value. In the same way no government or individual has any right to ask or require a trusting attitude on the part of followers except on similar terms. This need not be unpractical, for, although it would be impossible to publish the expert evidence collected for every action, yet certain frankness is possible and should become still greater as education improves. What is more, it is often possible to make many matters clear by careful teaching or by the use of modern diagrammatic figures that have, in the past, been obscured by vague, large-sounding words and phrases.
We may not feel that the unquestioning faith of the old religious times is any danger today, but may it not be that a similar attitude is growing up in relation to present-day scientists? Are we not in danger of accepting their dicta, merely because we have not the specialized knowledge to question them? And may not the last state be worse than the first?
By G. de Purucker
[From STUDIES IN OCCULT PHILOSOPHY, pages 370-74.]
It may be at first very confusing to the mind of the student to hear so much in our philosophy about so many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and Wondrous Watchers and what not. But this is merely because the student is embarking upon what is for him a new expansion of consciousness; he is entering into a new field of intellectual and spiritual activity; and it is natural enough that for the first steps upon this field he may be temporarily bewildered. But the bewilderment soon passes when he discovers that things fall into their proper places, as his studies progress, with amazing quickness and mental ease.
It is all so simple if we remember the fundamental law of all study in occultism -- the law of analogy. What takes place, as Hermes so nobly said, in the interior and upper spheres, likewise takes place here below in our material realm and in the world of man. The only requisite for getting a proper understanding is making the requisite changes, because of the transfer from plane to plane of consciousness and the surrounding material, and events pertaining to each. Conversely, what takes place here on earth and in our world of men, takes place on a grander and more subtle and spiritual scale in the higher and less material planes where the gods abide.
Remove the old idea out of your minds that the gods are one family of beings, and men are some other and quite distinct and different family. We are children of the gods, literally. Each man is, in his inmost being, a divinity, son of Father-Sun; and the only reason we are not manifest gods now is because we have not as yet evolved forth the god within. But this will come in the future. We are embryo-gods; and the gods who now are, were once men. What the Dhyani-Buddhas are in their relation with the Dhyani-Bodhisattvas, that the human Buddhas are on this plane in their relation with the human Bodhisattvas. The rule in both cases is the same, on the law of analogical reasoning. To understand it properly merely means a transfer of incidents and facts and living beings from above downwards to our plane, or conversely.
Every Dhyani-Buddha or Buddha of Contemplation or Meditation has his 'mind-born sons,' so to speak, his spiritual offspring if you like, who are the Dhyani-Bodhisattvas. Let me illustrate: When a Teacher arouses the soul in a man so that the man can then understand what the Teacher says, and leads that now understanding man to a greater, nobler life, so that he follow in the footsteps of his Teacher, that man or pupil is then a Bodhisattva of his Teacher; and that Teacher has transplanted into that disciple's life a portion of his own life-essence, a part of his own mind, thus awakening the Manasaputric spiritual and intellectual fires within the disciple. This is what the Dhyani-Buddhas do to other high entities on their own plane, thus bringing about the coming into being of the Dhyani-Bodhisattvas, and, later, the human or Manushya-Buddhas. These Dhyani-Buddhas on their own plane have their pupils or disciples in whom they arouse the Bodhisattvic faculty, the Buddhic Splendor.
On the human plane, it is similarly so. When the Manushya-Buddhas find proper human disciples, they inspire them, infill them with holy spiritual and intellectual fires, so that thus these men-pupils, when themselves successful in the race and relatively complete in spirituality, become Manushya-Bodhisattvas, on their way to becoming Manushya-Buddhas; and this is so because the Buddha-light is awakened within these men-pupils: each one feels the inner god within himself; and from that moment he knows neither pause nor rest until he himself attains human Buddhahood.
Take the case of Gautama-Shakyamuni, a Manushya-Buddha. In him as a man there were three or four different elements, and every one functioning: the ordinary human being who was a great and splendid man, but still a human being in the ordinary sense of the word; inspiring this human being was the incarnate Bodhisattva; yet the Manasaputric essence within the human being -- which belonged to that human being as a monad per se -- had not yet been fully awakened in that human being, although, as said above, he was a grand man. And thirdly, inspiring and over-enlightening this Bodhisattva within Gautama- Shakyamuni, was the Buddha; and lastly over-inspiring and enlightening that Buddha -- a spiritual flame working through the Bodhisattva in the man -- was the Dhyani-Buddha of our Round, working of course through the Dhyani-Bodhisattva of this Globe D.
Now all this seems very complicated at first glance; but it really is not. We have, first, a spiritually evolved human being in whom the native Manasaputric essence was awakening, or partially awakened, thus providing a fit field of consciousness for its individualization as the incarnate Bodhisattva. Then the Monadic Essence working through this incarnate Bodhisattva was individualized as the Buddha, these elements just specified forming the various monadic centers mainly active in Shakyamuni. In addition to this and because the incarnate Bodhisattva allowed the ray from the inner Buddha to manifest itself, there was the reception even into the human consciousness of the still more spiritual ray from the Round Dhyani-Buddha, in its turn traveling to the human Buddha by means of the Globe Dhyani-Bodhisattva.
This Dhyani-Buddha working through the Globe Dhyani-Bodhisattva might be described as the 'outside' spiritual influence working through the human Buddha. The Buddha, Bodhisattva, and partially awakened Manasaputric essence form the triad in the constitution of Gautama-Shakyamuni acting to produce the Manushya-Buddha. One should always remember, in studying these recondite and difficult subjects of spiritual psychology, the basic fact that the human constitution is a composite or compound thing.
When Gautama, whose personal name was Siddhartha, left his home, according to the beautiful story so well known, and went out in his search of light, i.e., for the attaining of human Buddhahood for the sake of the 'salvation of gods and men,' in time he brought first into relatively full activity the Bodhisattva within himself. The ordinary man of him, the vehicle, grand as that ordinary man was, was nevertheless utterly subordinated -- to be a perfect human instrument thenceforth through which the Bodhisattva working within him could manifest itself and express its noble faculties, over-enlightened by the Buddhic ray. Yet this becoming at one with the Buddha himself, lofty as the state was, was still not enough for the purpose in mind, because this particular human incarnation -- that of the man called Siddhartha -- was to be the vehicle of the minor Racial Buddha.
Thus it was that finally, after striving in self-imposed discipline and spiritual yearning and inner conquest, and then teaching, under the sacred Bodhi tree, the Tree of Wisdom, the Manushya-Bodhisattva called Gautama-Shakyamuni, as the legend runs, attained Buddhahood, which means that in its turn the incarnate Bodhisattva became the willing and perfect psycho-spiritual instrument through which the inner Buddha of him could express itself.
Thus, then, when the Buddha-state HAD been attained, we find (1) the Buddha, (2) working through the Bodhisattva, (3) working through the awakened Man, thus exemplifying the activity in a human constitution of the three higher monads thereof, to wit, (1) the spiritual, (2) the Bodhisattva or Manasaputric, and (3) the evolved human; and this is exactly what each one of us humans someday will have the lofty privilege and the exquisite joy to become -- always provided that we run the race successfully. Everyone of you already is a feeble incarnation of an inner Buddha -- and you know it not!
Now, here is another important point of thought that I must come to. When the Buddha waxed in age, and the body which had served him so well became feeble with the passing of the years so that it was no longer so perfect an instrument as formerly -- a formerly perfect instrument now becoming worn -- according to the exoteric teaching the Buddha 'died' at the age of eighty years. The truth of this matter was that in his eightieth year the Buddha in Gautama-Shakyamuni entered Nirvana, i.e., entered into the nirvanic state or condition, nevertheless leaving the Bodhisattva still active and working through the then aged and enfeebled physical frame. The Buddha-part of him in human speech, had 'died' to, or passed out of, the world, i.e., had done its work and had passed into the Nirvana, therein to await its next task at the end of this Fifth Root-Race, at which time that same Buddha-spirit, that same Buddha-element, would again over-enlighten a new Bodhisattva-man.
Thus much for the Buddha-element in Shakyamuni; and it was therefore truly stated that the Buddha 'died' at the age of eighty years, simply because the Buddha-element had passed out of direct concern in human affairs. Yet for twenty years more the Bodhisattva, working through the noble man Gautama-Shakyamuni, lived and taught his inner Group or School, as what we Theosophists could and probably would call a Master. We do so advisedly, because it is that composite constitution that still remained and worked which is precisely what the Mahatmas or Masters are: Bodhisattva-men, men of the 'essence of Buddha,' i.e., of Wisdom and of Love -- just what in the West is often intended by mystics in their usage of the word 'Christ.' Of course it should be remembered that the Masters themselves exist in differing grades of evolutionary perfection, there being stages of advancement among them just as there are among all other classes of beings.
Then finally in his hundredth year, the Lord Gautama laid down his aged body; he cast it off, for it was finished with, since it was too old to serve any more in the manner that was still required of it. He cast it off, as Krishna says in the Gita, as we cast aside 'a worn out garment,' and he who was known on earth first as Siddhartha, Prince of Kapilavastu, then as Shakyamuni, thenceforward lived as a Nirmanakaya, a complete man minus only the physical body and the accompanying Linga-Sharira which goes with the physical body.
How much more could be said about even this one theme of our thought! What mysteries could one not point to that lie latent in the constitution of every human being, offspring of heaven and earth truly, child of the gods and of man? The human constitution is a mystery of mysteries, a wonder of wonders. The ancient statement of the Delphic Oracle: "Man, know thyself!" contains almost infinitely more than the rather trite and platitudinous significance that is usually given to this archaic Greek injunction. Every great religious philosophy or philosophical religion that the world has ever known has, through its teachings pointed directly to man's constitution as containing not only all the mysteries in the Universe, but as containing likewise the master-key unlocking those mysteries themselves. In proportion, I say, as man learns to know himself, does he become able to unlock the mysteries of the Universe around him, which in his ignorance and folly he imagines to be outside of himself.
One of the greatest objectives of the Theosophical Society, and of our teaching, both esoteric and exoteric, is to awaken man to know himself; what he is, what is in him, what his duty in the world is, and how to live his life not merely nobly and grandly, but how so to live it that he may bring out from within himself the more than human qualities, i.e., the Buddhic Splendor, meaning essential Wisdom and essential Love, humanly and feebly spoken of as 'intellect' and 'heart'; yea, more than this, to teach him to live so that his fellowmen will look upon him as a helper, as a guide, rather than as a human scourge to his fellows, which, alas, so many millions of human beings are!
By Reginald W. Machell
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1920, pages 314-21.]
It is probable that in all ages men have feared death, and have protested against the imputation. Men speak perhaps scornfully of death, as if they had no fear of it: but still they count it a courageous act to brave its terrors. But if there is no fear to overcome, where is the courage in the deed? Some people profess to believe that the after-death state of the blessed is vastly more desirable than this earth-life; and yet they take every possible precaution to avoid the risk of prematurely entering that state of bliss. A funeral will be carried out with every evidence of woe, of mourning for the deceased, and lamentation for the untimely ending of a life, and then the gravestone of the defunct will bear some declaration of the superior bliss and blessedness of the new life to which the lamented one has gone. Can we believe that the woe and mourning were other than an evidence of the fear of death?
In some countries the wailing and mourning for the dead is carried to extraordinary lengths: and a study of history would lead us to suppose that death has always been regarded with awe, which is strangely akin to fear. Exceptions are to be found, no doubt; but I think that they were exceptions distinguishing those few who welcomed death joyfully from the general masses of mankind, who frankly feared and hated death as much as they loved and desired life.
I do not know if there is any historical record of a people on this earth who were entirely free from the fear of death -- of death as the enemy of life, if not as the enemy of man. So too the conquering of death has been regarded as a superhuman achievement, that has been accomplished only by beings of at least a semi-divine nature.
But also it would appear from the fragmentary teachings of great sages, as well as from the fully recorded doctrines of more modern philosophers and religious teachers, that the fear of death was considered by the wise as unworthy of enlightened men. Nor did these sages regard death as an enemy: some even have looked upon the messenger of release as a friend of man, who comes to liberate him from a bad dream by awakening him to a true state of spiritual life.
Even those who have looked on death as the enemy of life, have taught that its advent should be accepted as inevitable, and therefore not as a disaster to be feared.
Perhaps the strangest phenomenon of human thinking is the attitude of mind that regards death, at any time, as a disaster, as something that might have been avoided, and which seems to assume that if it were not for accident or misfortune life in the body, would be eternal -- although all know that they and others will die. It is the one thing in life that they can count on with certainty; yet the majority seems to look upon its advent as the most appalling catastrophe that can befall a human being.
Those who are sensible enough to accept the inevitable, still consider it a duty to maintain life in the body as long as possible, and a crime to hasten the inevitable end.
Now the explanation of this fear of death is to be found in the generally accepted idea that death ends life. A natural supposition, certainly, to a mind that is wholly concerned with affairs of the body, and that does not recognize its own spiritual essence and origin. Of course this common error of the materialist, or of the wholly unspiritual mind, is not shared by those who are convinced that life is continuous, and eternal, though death may destroy the connection between the spiritual soul and its temporary body.
It is almost sure that certain enlightened people have been free from this gross error in all ages; but it would seem that such enlightenment was limited to a small minority. Historical records of past ages are very scanty; and even the little that remains is perforce only very imperfectly translated, and is unavoidably colored in the translation by the preconceptions and prejudices of our own time. So that it may well be that there was a time when the world was more highly enlightened on spiritual matters, and when men looked on death as but a gateway in the house of life through which they passed willingly to a new state of existence, by a natural process, as un-alarming as the act of going to sleep is now.
There are traditions of immortal beings, who were by some regarded as human gods and by others as divine men, who were reputed to have lived on earth, but to have had access to the regions inhabited by the immortals, who were their kin. These legends occur in many lands; and they point to a belief in the continuity of life that is hard to account for if there be no fact in nature to support it, or to support the teaching from which the legends sprang.
While the fear of death is naturally more intense among the ignorant, the ignorance from which it springs is spread throughout the most civilized countries of the world, and is perhaps as deeply rooted in the wealthy classes as among the poor. This results from the entirely materialistic character of the education that passes current in the civilized world today. The continuity of life is not taught: and the belief that death is the end of life follows as a natural consequence.
The religions that have spread most widely during the last two thousand years seem to have tried to combat the fear of death by the promise of a future life more attractive than the present one, but the greed for happiness that caused the acceptance of this promise of an eternity of bliss as a compensation for a temporary unpleasantness also aroused intellectual revolt against an untenable proposition and brought about a deeper skepticism and materialism than before. It is probable that millions of nominal adherents of these religions actually have no real conviction of a future life of any kind beyond the grave. It is also certain that the doubtful prospect of an eternity of compulsory beatitude does not appear to be sufficient compensation for loss of the emotions and sensations of physical life here on earth. For it is undeniable that the majority of avowedly religious people cling to their present life with a tenacity that denotes small faith in the promised bliss beyond the grave, and the fear of death is manifestly common among the professed devotees of all the great religions.
The natural conclusion is that these religious systems have not so far succeeded in reconciling their adherents to the inevitable calamity we call death. In what respect have they fallen short of requirements?
The only reasonable remedy for this unreasonable distrust of natural law is to be found in a serious conviction that the real self of man is not deprived of life by the death of the body. So long as the soul is regarded as an appurtenance or as an appendage of the body, the individual may naturally enough feel some doubts as to its future, and indeed as to its present reality. Besides which, the individual is more interested in his own immediate existence than in the salvation or damnation of a soul which he habitually speaks of as his own, but which he does not exactly identify with himself. One who believes that he HAS a soul must necessarily feel that he himself, as owner of that soul, is more or less separate: but, if he had learned to look upon himself as a soul inhabiting a body, he would never have had any doubt as to the continuity of his existence, and he would not have come to look upon death as an end of life, a calamity to be dreaded and delayed at any cost.
The Theosophic doctrine of reincarnation, which had almost dropped out of the remembrance of the modern civilized western world before the revival of the old Wisdom-Religion by H.P. Blavatsky, affords such a rational explanation of the problem of continued existence that it must almost of necessity remove one great cause of the fear of death: for he who accepts the Theosophic teaching on the subject feels an assurance that his evolution will not be broken off at death, nor will be interfered with by the loss of his physical body; because he will feel that the end of a life is no more than the end of a day's work to be taken up next lifetime after a long night's rest with a new body and a new brain with a reserve fund of acquired experience that has been converted into what we call character. That character will be just what he has made it in past lives, and can be further improved or damaged by his present mode of life; but it cannot be arbitrarily taken from him by death. For death is but a doorway in the house of life, and in that house are many mansions.
The acceptance of this doctrine is easy to one who knows that his true self is not his perishable personality, but his spiritual soul, which lives on eternally. This conviction comes to many, who may not put word to their feelings in the terms I am using, and who may not be professors of any particular religion; but who FEEL that the self within is superior to all the events of life and death, a spectator as it were of a drama in which body and mind are actors on the stage of worldly life.
It is an undoubted fact that many people fear the darkness without being able to explain why. But such fear may generally be traced, I think, to bad teaching in childhood. It is probable that the fear of the dark was in most cases deliberately put into the child's mind as a means of punishing or disciplining the infant. Bad education relies upon bribery and intimidation for the establishment of authority. The result is destruction of true morality and the loss of self-respect, as well as of self-control.
Fear is a degrading state of mind, which weakens the will and destroys self-reliance. Deliberately to plant fear in a human mind is to commit a grave sin against the indwelling soul, which thereby is deprived of its rightful influence over the mind. Fear confuses the sense of right and wrong, and substitutes an instinct of self-defense for a calm assertion of conscious right and a right contempt for self-interest. It is fear that makes men cruel. It seems to justify cruelty. The fearless man is not troubled about self-protection. The darkness is like death to the ignorant; it represents the great unknown, which is furnished and peopled by imagination. Fear creates terrors and peoples the darkness with monsters.
The enlightened man finds light in his own heart. His imagination peoples the darkness with beautiful visions, which are but the natural expression of his own interior condition. But few are the enlightened; and for the majority the darkness is filled with horrors, or with unpleasantness, because it acts as a screen on which the restless mind flashes moving pictures filmed on the brain by the automatic memory recording the emotions, passions, and desires of the lower nature as well as the aspirations of the higher. So the dark may be terrible to many who have not the courage to face their own thoughts and the strength to conquer them.
Fear is the creative power of imagination distorted by moral disease. It creates terrors and monsters, and the greatest monster of its creation is the bogy called death. The monstrosity is man-made: the reality is no terror. It is but the passing through an open door, the entering upon a new day of life or perhaps upon a dream that may fill the sleeping-time between two lives. But a dream is in itself a miniature lifetime. While it lasts, it is real to the dreamer, though it may be regarded as a delusion when it is past. But, waking or sleeping, life goes on continuously; and we may lie down to die as calmly as we lie down to sleep, in the assurance of the continuity of our life.
This is the hope that Theosophy reveals to the student, for without the continuity of the deeper consciousness, there could be no true progress possible, no hope of happiness to compensate for life's present woes; no release from the tyranny of fear; no chance to redeem our past mistakes.
Life means all this and more if life is continuous; if not, it is but a spasm of emotion or pain, meaningless, purposeless, and useless. If our earth-life is the only life, it is a mockery indeed. If it is not, then it must be but an incident in a great scheme of life, in which the individuals may attain to full self-consciousness, which would be equivalent to illumination of the lower mind by the wisdom of the soul: it would mean that the individual would eventually become aware of his true relation to the Universal. It would mean escape from ignorance and egotism to a state of universal consciousness, in which the meaning of self would be revealed as a sense of oneness, or Universal Brotherhood; which is the reflection in the mind of man of the spiritual light of the Universal Soul.
That light must shine eternally, of course, but so does the sun: yet the night may be dark and clouds may obscure the sunlight by day. So too in life; emotions, passions, and desires may create clouds that shut the sunlight of true life out from the mind. And when the night of death has come, the spiritual sun still shines, and the spiritual soul is not in darkness while the lower soul sleeps and dreams its dream of heaven or hell. The night is not eternal, but day and night alternate.
If we believed the sinking of the sun denoted the end of the last and only day of life, then night would naturally be a terror. But when night comes even the most timorous will lie down to sleep with a hope of tomorrow's awakening that is so sure as to resemble a conviction more than a hope. And I think that when death actually comes, the dying realize the fact that they are immortal, and the fear of death is gone.
But there is no need to wait for death to free us from our foolish fear of the great release. The hope of life is natural to man, because life is eternal, and the soul knows its immortality even though the mind may be clouded by ignorance and deformed by false training and false learning. The fear of death is not natural, nor is the hope of life a fancy. Rather it is the mental echo of a truth known to the soul.
Man's nature is so complex that his life is full of problems that appear insoluble to him as long as he is ignorant of his own complexity. When he can realize that there is a marked duality in him, a higher and a lower nature, and that he fluctuates between strange opposites all the time, then a great many problems can be easily solved, and the path can be opened to a fuller understanding of the mystery of life, which like all other mysteries is only mysterious by reason of our ignorance.
The knowledge of Theosophy is like an open door in the wall of human ignorance. The sunlight of Truth is shining all the time outside, and that truth is what we call Theosophy, the Divine Wisdom, according to one reading of the word. The knowledge of the existence of this divine wisdom is alone enough to remove the fear of death: and the hope of life must follow.
Without hope of some sort, life would be hardly bearable: it would hardly be life, even though the body was not dead. Hope is essential to human happiness, and indeed it is essential to sanity. Without it man's pessimism would be no better than madness. Without hope man becomes lower than an animal, in which instinct provides a substitute for reason and imagination. Without hope man is an irredeemable degenerate, and there are many such: and our social system is continually engaged in making more of them by taking away the hope of rehabilitation from the convicted criminal. Of course this is not done intentionally. It is done in self-defense, which is nearly always a blundering expression of an unreasoning fear due to a black ignorance of human nature.
Theosophy gives a man hope, it shows him that no mistake is final, that his inner and true self is not degraded by the mistakes of the lower man, though the higher must suffer for it. It teaches him that even if his present life seems utterly wrecked, he can be working to improve his character for the next life in which his past mistakes may be redeemed and past disgraces be forgotten. The doctrine of Reincarnation is an expression of the hope that life holds for all.
We cannot speak of it too often, for there are so many who have lost hope, even among the most prosperous. Many who have succeeded in business have beggared themselves of hope and faith in human nature and know their lives have proved a failure in spite of the wealth they have accumulated. For no wealth can compensate for loss of hope, and when a man has grown thoroughly cynical, he has lost hope, seeing alone the dark side of human nature and not realizing that there is a bright side, which is more real though it may seem a fancy to his deadened imagination.
The loss of hope is the greatest tragedy in life, and the severest penalty for the sin against the soul that is called selfishness. That sin is so common as to be almost universal, and unhappiness is just as general for it follows inevitably. Carried to its extreme limit, it is recognized as insanity. The separation of self from the Universal is the abuse of self, the denial of the true self, and the extinction of the light of the Higher Self. To understand the mystery of self, man must forget himself in work for others and so find his real relation to the world in which he lives, as well as his relation to the spiritual world from which he comes and to which he must return continually for renewal of his spiritual vitality. The Universal Soul is like the Sun which was invoked in the old formula known as the Gayatri:
Oh thou, that givest light and sustenance unto the Universe, Thou, from whom all doth proceed, and to whom all must return: Unveil the face of the true Sun, now hidden by a veil of golden light; that we may know the truth, and do our whole duty, as we journey towards thy sacred seat!
The hope of life is life itself, true life, the life of the true self in man, the active presence of the spiritual soul. In that alone resides the power that can redeem man's ignorance and dispel his doubts. Theosophy is the science of the Soul, the revelation of the meaning of human life; profound as life itself, and yet as simple and intelligible. For life's problems are proportioned to the understanding of each individual. Each man is the maker of his own mystery, and he must unravel the mystery he has made.
The only death that man need fear is soul-death. The death of the body is as certain as the death of any tree or plant; a change of domicile for the soul, which may sometimes occur inopportunely but which has nothing in it to inspire fear.
The fear of death is artificial and is wholly unnecessary. The hope of life is an intuitive perception of the fact that the real inmost self of man is undying, and that life is continuous through birth and death; the soul of man evolving through all experience of life on earth to full self-conscious spirituality, in which the individual attains to conscious union with the Universal. For life and consciousness are co-eternal; and death is but the passing through a doorway in the house of life.