Thou hast to reach that fixity of mind in which no breeze, however strong, can waft an earthly thought within. Thus purified, the shrine must of all action, sound, or earthly light be void; e'en as the butterfly, o'ertaken by the frost, falls lifeless at the threshold -- so must all earthly thoughts fall dead before the fane.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE
By Eldon B. Tucker
When we first become self-aware of ourselves as being in life and doing things, we wonder why we are here. Just what is going on? Is there a greater purpose to things? Can we rise above our self-absorption in day-to-day events and get a higher perspective on what is happening with us?
We are told that we have been drifting through life like a boat floating about on the sea without direction, getting nowhere, subject to external influences, without purpose or direction. Our lives may be chaotic in a random way, where we are led about by our desires, putting us at the mercy of external events.
Then we hear of the Path, a process whereby we can free ourselves from the person that we have trapped ourselves into being. We learn about self-directed efforts to change our lives, to grow and evolve, to act rather than react to things. The Path is described as a process where we learn to live our lives with one-pointed purpose, that of self-perfection which involves the perfect cultivation of love and wisdom.
At first, this makes perfect sense to us. If life is confusing, if we have too many choices, if we want too many things and cannot let go, what could sound better than to control the mind, to reign in the desires, to cultivate our personalities like one would weed and cultivate an unruly garden? But the process is not quite that simple.
The idea of controlled, planned steps to improve ourselves is too tidy, too mechanical, too simply lifeless and dead to actually represent the living, vibrant, raw thirst for a glorious life. Such ordered to do lists of steps on the spiritual path are really but carvings on the tombstones of dead religions.
The Path involves a dynamic relationship with the archetypes. It is followed by maintaining a healthy degree of interaction with them, not getting too close where one is burned, nor too distanced where one loses the sparkle and magic of their coloring of life.
Consider the process of concentration, the learning to focus the mind on an object of contemplation. The goal is not achieved from the forcefulness of will, not by a strong "push" straining ourselves to stay focused. No. It comes from a "pull" from the object, and that comes from setting our desire on it, making the object attractive, compelling, and alluring.
The mind does not need to be chained to an object, not permitted to wander, held prisoner like a dog chained to a post. It has no problem beholding beauty, magic, the adorable. It wanders when the life has departed the object, but where did the life in the object come from? We put it there. It's a projection where we see something of ourselves in the image before us, yet it is also something more.
The power to focus our minds depends upon our bringing our interest, desire, and fascination onto something. No so-called will power is necessary. There is no brute force used. But the object only comes alive to us when we see the life in it. We are not considering a static mental image, a statue, a fixed concept. We are interacting with something that is alive. The difference here is as between our talking to a stone versus talking to a close friend. One is a concrete, static, unchanging thing. The other is a living being that interacts with us and has something to say. We don't own the object. We have a relationship with it.
What constitutes mental development? We cultivate a conscious awareness of what is happening, which replaces dreaminess. We get better at choosing when to change direction in what we do. We are not adrift on a stream of consciousness without any direction. Being aware of the flow, we can influence it, like holding the rudder to a boat affects its direction in the waters.
We cultivate the regular habits like meditation, self-reflection and review of the day's activities, constant efforts at acts of kindness, gestures of friendship, and acts of charity. All this helps us soothe the turbulent nature of our lives.
The scattered nature of the mind is brought into an ordered state. But the mind is fluidic, ever changing, and mercurial. This order is not a static state of our simply holding to a certain thought. It is not a freezing the mind into a single thought. Rather, it is like slowing down the heartbeat but not stopping it. It is a calming of the mind sometimes, but it could also be an agitation or excitation of mind on a particular theme.
We make a dynamic connection with a particular object, theme, or symbol where there is a give and take, a creative exchange, a learning of new things. The single-focused nature of the mind is on this particular other, this one archetype that we are interacting with. Other archetypal voices are silenced. We relate to one and not others for the moment, but that relating may not necessarily be calm, quiet, and ordered. It would be a wild burst of creative energy.
We do not hope for specific results. The creative exchanges and the resulting growth are not necessarily predictable. When the process is engaged, effects will show up in our lives, but how and where in the physical world they manifest themselves to us may be completely unpredictable.
Do we perfect the mind as a tool? No, the mind is not a "thing" that can be modified. It is a dynamic process, a living thing, a voice of awareness that rises out of creative chaos.
What we do is to strike up friendships with symbols behind which are the archetypes. We cultivate those relationships. Some may turn into love and be key elements in our lives. Others may play minor roles in one's experience of life.
There are two radically different types of changes that are possible in our lives. With growth, we go through the normal progress on a timeline from birth through old age and death, like an acorn becoming a green shoot, a twiglet, and eventually a towering tree. Phase of life changes are normal, natural, instinctual, and we go though them with wonder and joy. But even so, we're still us, unchanged, going with the flow of things.
The second type of changes involve evolution. We mutate, deviate from the normal changes and timeline to our lives, and respond to influences that most people are unaware of. We radically change, becoming leaders or outcastes, on the fringe of society rather than in the mainstream. When we evolve enough, we're no longer like other people, and our lives are never the same.
Growth is a natural process. We do it in every lifetime, going through phase-of-life changes like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly. We do it over and over again, living similar lives, being who we are and nothing more.
Evolution means deviating from that pattern. We are broken or different or unpredictable in new ways. We may fail and be worse off for a time, but in the long run, we rise above what we were, and become a new class of person on our way to godhood. We can also be pioneers in new thought and insights. So don't just grow, connect directly to archetypal truths and change in new and different ways that aren't to be found in anybody's spiritual rule books.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, May 1914, pages 328-32.]
We notice in a contemporary a brief report of an address delivered before the Alchemical Society in London by Professor Herbert Chatle of the Tangshan Engineering College on Alchemy in China. The lecturer pointed out that views like those held by the medieval alchemists of Europe had been current in China since 500 B.C. or even earlier. Among other views, the Chinese alchemists:
These are indeed remarkable analogies, and we have no doubt the said society has, in the course of its lectures, brought to light more such analogies drawn from sources neither European nor Chinese. For alchemy was indeed a branch of ancient knowledge and as such is to be found widely spread among the nations that at the present day represent the results of the scattering and confusion of races that took place in olden times.
These facts would certainly seem to invalidate certain theories of which we shall find elaborated at considerable length, if we turn to the learned repositories of universal information in search of knowledge about alchemy.
Whether such authorities do or do not know anything about it need not be argued, as it is never necessary to prove a self-evident proposition. The fact that we close the volume with confusion superadded to our previous darkness is enough. Possibly a bigger proportion of facts and a smaller modicum of speculation would have conduced a more enlightening result.
Alchemy came to Europe from the East, so it is not surprising that it should be found to have flourished in the quarter whence it came. Did it come originally from China, or did it go to China from some other source?
The problem is similar to that concerning many other ancient things such as chess and cards, creation and deluge myths, geometrical symbols, etc. It is a question of historical research aided by an unprejudiced mind and unhampered by a desire to establish any particular historical, scientific, or theological theory.
Had not Diocletian burned the esoteric works of the Egyptians in 296, together with their books on alchemy; Caesar 700,000 rolls at Alexandria, and Leo Isaurus 300,000 at Constantinople (8th century); and the Mohammedans all they could lay their sacrilegious hands on -- the world might know more today of Atlantis than it does. For Alchemy had its birthplace in Atlantis during the Fourth Race, and had only its RENAISSANCE in Egypt.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, page 763 fn.
It is from the Fourth Race that the Aryans inherited their most valuable science of the hidden virtues of precious and other stones, of chemistry, or rather alchemy, of mineralogy, geology, physics, and astronomy.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, page 427
The Fourth Race had passed through its seven cycles and bequeathed its knowledge to the nascent Fifth Race, our ancestors. But knowledge may, under certain conditions, be lost for awhile. History tells us clearly enough how often man, choosing glory or self-indulgence, has shut in his own face the door of knowledge and preferred to establish systems built on physical force and systemized belief.
The instances of willful destruction of manuscripts given above are the merest samples of a process by which ancient lore has time and again been hounded from the earth. In seeking to regain knowledge, it is our own efforts that we have to undo.
To those who WANT to think that there is nothing in alchemy, we can only say, "Sure, by all means," smile, and turn away. But those who want to know what there is in it must seek that knowledge along the lines just indicated. Alchemy was part of the Secret Doctrine, and as such must be studied. Its symbols ramify in all directions so that we must be prepared to study ancient teachings in mathematics, astronomy, symbolism, and other subjects.
Alchemy is said by some wiseacres to be a primitive attempt at chemistry. This seems to be on a par with the idea that Pythagoras, in attaching so much importance to right-angled triangles, was making feeble attempts at Euclidean geometry, or that myths about Atlas were early attempts at cosmic science. (See THEOREM DES PYTHAGORAS by H.A. Naber, Haarlem, 1908.)
There WERE medieval alchemists who lost their way by paying too much attention to the physical aspect of their science and forgetting its spiritual import. No doubt their efforts paved the way for modern chemistry. But is no account to be taken of the symbolical aspect of alchemy, by many alchemists regarded as by far the most important part?
This suggests the question was alchemy literal or figurative? It was both. The doctrine of correspondences holds that one plan runs throughout all nature, both without and within, and that what is true of the spiritual world is true of the physical.
Physical gold can be made free from base metals by a process analogous to that by which the gold of wisdom can be made from the base elements in our make-up. Very possibly the physical process cannot be consummated except by one who has mastered the spiritual process.
Mercury, sulfur, and salt symbolized body, soul, and spirit. It is interesting to note that salt crystallizes in cubes -- the characteristic geometrical form for the physical world; sulfur crystallizes in needles and double pyramids -- the number three and the triangular form corresponding to soul as contrasted with body; mercury takes a globular form -- that of the sphere, which corresponds to the number One.
Among metals, mercury stands for the mind, which is volatile and very mobile and easily contaminated by base metals such as lead, which last symbolizes the dull earthly quality in our nature.
Bright silver, used for mirror and photography, associated in its ores with lead, readily tarnished by sulfur, is the imagination. The astrological correspondence is the moon, the radiance of which is turned alternately to the sun and to the earth, and which throws upon us a pale and transformed reflection of the solar light.
The purification by fire in the crucible is an undying symbol, so true to life, as all know who have learned anything through suffering. One might go on indefinitely commenting on the symbolism in this manner.
The eternal Quest has been symbolized by agriculture (NABATHEAN AGRICULTURE, by Chwolsohn), the labors of Hercules, the winning of the Golden Fleece, and many a legend of Knight and Dragon. Alchemy is only one of the ways. The Master Science includes mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, physics, and music -- all.
How is it that people who study these ancient mysteries generally get lost in a perfect maze of erudition and find themselves further and further away from any definite knowledge or useful result? Is it not because they lack some personal quality, some mental power, whose possession is indispensable?
There are scholars gifted with marvelous powers of literary research and phenomenal memories who can tell you all that anybody ever thought or wrote upon a given subject. They have arrived at no conclusion whatever, their minds being still quite blank. Others seem to digest and turn to account every atom of the very little they have gleaned. The former have the greater mentality; the latter the more intuition. It is the difference between learning and knowledge.
It is the difference between the craftsman who has elaborate tools but no skill, and the craftsman who knows he can rely on his skill but needs few appliances. We have acquired a radioactive method which tends to lead us away from the simple truth into endless unprofitable details. It is this which so hampers our attainment.
Indeed, if such an imaginary Chemist happened to be intuitional, and would for a moment step out of the habitual groove of strictly 'Exact Science,' as the Alchemists of old did, he might be repaid for his audacity.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 144 fn.
How can we regain the necessary altitude? By never forgetting that knowledge is sacred, and that like nobility, it confers obligation. If we have any other motive, then we must remain content with something less than knowledge. This is no arbitrary condition, but a law of nature. We cannot see with our eyes shut. If the presence of certain motives in us has the effect of closing our eyes and clouding our vision, we must remove those defects before we can see.
He who desires to share the thoughts of another must first win the confidence of that other. To go to him with prying eye or searching question would be to seal his lips. With nature, it is not otherwise. True, there are those who believe nature is a clod or a machine. For them, she remains just that and nothing more. But we address those who think otherwise.
If only we can learn to use aright the knowledge which we have perhaps we shall find other knowledge pouring in upon us as fast as we can use it. Perhaps may have to pray to be spared more knowledge lest we be singed by the light.
"Asceticism" was mentioned as a necessary condition for the alchemist, but the word is to be avoided on account of its associations. It does not mean that the alchemist must stand on a pillar like Simon Stylites, walk barefoot in the grass before breakfast, or wear a hair shirt and look miserable.
This is not abstinence, but the vain mockery thereof. It means that the alchemist must pull off from certain things that are pulling him back. This is but common sense. Whether any particular pleasures or habits are right is one question. Whether or not they interfere with the objects which the alchemist sets before himself is another and distinct question. He may find it necessary to give up one in order to get the other.
An chemist is properly one who aspires to learn the secrets of life. And how can he expect to find such knowledge along the ordinary tracks of study, which do not conduct thither? Clearly he must follow another track. This kind of knowledge was taught in symbols -- mathematical, numerical, astronomical, chemical, etc.
By Kenneth Morris
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1914, pages 83-84.]
Welsh Air -- Lili Lon. I Buttercups and bee-loved clover, Harebells, daffodils and heather -- There's a Flower no lark sings over, Quite outshines you all together: Who shall breathe her dear name? Who shall sound her deep fame? She that kindles up the uplands With her blooms of dream and flame. Cuckoo-flower by Tybie's Fountain, Meadowsweet beside the river, There's a Flower upon the Mountain Makes the lone blue midnight quiver. In the violet glow and gloom Where the twilight mountains loom, There the heavens behold enraptured The white glamor of her bloom. Rose of all the roses blowing, Pansy -- purplest, darkest, deepest -- Not such loveliness art knowing, Not such heart-deep sweetness keepest! For her scent was snow and fire For the starry bardic choir, Glyndwr's and Llewelyn's glory, Arthur's sword, and Ceiriog's lyre. II Maidens in the hay-rich meadow, Morfydd, Olwen, Nest, Elonwy -- Eyes of starlight, sunlight, shadow -- Glad the sky that looketh on ye -- What are ye, though so fair, Crowned with brown clouds of hair, Throats endowed with blackbird sweetness, Pride of mien and queenly air -- What are ye, that hearts should hunger For your ripplings forth of laughter? There's a Maid that's fairer, younger, Whoso sees shall follow after Till the stars fade away, And the pearl-rimmed turquoise, Day, And Night's gemmed and somber dragon Topple headlong in decay. There's a Maid amidst the Mountains, Ageless through the hoary ages, And her star-eyes were the fountains Of the lore of druid sages; And her speech was snow and fire For the starry bardic choir, Glyndwr's and Llewelyn's glory, Arthur's sword, and Ceiriog's lyre.
By Oscar Ljungstrom
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, March 1914, pages 199-203.]
Every Swede knows Lake Vattern: the wide clear inland sea, a diamond among lakes. All have certainly heard of Visingso, the pearl of Vattern. But perhaps all do not know that in olden times the royal residence of Sweden was situated here on this beautiful island, which was the seat of several of our old kings, chief among whom was Magnus "lock the barn" Ladulus.
In these times, when legend changed into history, the metropolis of the North was situated at the southern end of the island. In remote antiquity, however, when legend was true and history unwritten, the metropolitan center even then was in the island, though at its northern point.
One summer I journeyed Visingso and turned my steps to the old fragments of the walls in the south, which are all that is left of the royal castle. Antiquarians and their helpers were busy digging, and had brought the immense walls to the light.
On the outside, they found the barbs of decayed arrows that had been shot against the castle when it was stormed by hostile forces. Inside they found charred wood remnants dating from the day when enemies had set the castle on fire. In front of a niche in the tower-chamber, a small ornamented bronze key was found. Maybe it once belonged to the jewelbox in which the diadem of the royal bride was kept.
From the south, I turned my steps to the place of memories in the north. I wandered in dreams through immense oak-woods out into pine-regions where the tall trunks reminded me of columns in a fairy temple. As in an old church one treads on gravestone after gravestone all the way to the altar, so the ground below the crowns of pines was strewn with barrow on barrow in their hundreds. The people of the saga had found here the path that leads through the underworld over the Gjallar-bridge and Bifrost up to Valhalla.
Half-way to the place in view, I passed a stately view, surrounded by gigantic ramparts and ditches -- Earl Brahe's Visingsborg. The castle was burnt one Christmas Eve in the time of Carolus XII, being set on fire by captive Muscovites. Now lofty trees covered with leaves were to be seen growing from the ground up through the hall of knights, forming vaults from wall to wall. Though not following the plan of the architect, yet they were in keeping with the whole, conforming to its style -- a ruin style!
At the extreme north, a memorial stone is standing which was erected by Earl Brahe: "Here our forefathers had a castle in olden days," it says. Dark forces, however, try to destroy such memories and turn them over to oblivion. Storm-waves dig and dig until the stone falls down the steep and becomes buried. Several times it has been erected anew, and each time at a greater distance inland from the shore.
But this is not the true memorial stone. One hundred fathoms from the shore, deep down you must seek the "Borga-stone" -- this stone of which the legend speaks. Some of its words still live in the legends of the people and in ancient chronicle -- they give some scattered features.
When listening to the temple-song of the wind in the pine-wood among the barrows; when standing on the shore with the clear little wavelets whispering at my feet; when rocking in the billows on the way to the Borga-stone -- then my mind was filled by the echoes of bygone days. My soul heard the legend that has been handed down in a trustworthy manner from generation to generation, though now it is half-forgotten.
Thus it runs:
In ancient times Vattern did not exist. Where its cool waters now extend, there was a wide, fertile valley -- a whole country covered by houses, fields, and woods. This was long, long ago, before the time of discord, and then all men were happy. Thus joy and peace reigned in the valley, and as king, there ruled a wise old king who still remembered the days when Heimdall wandered among men. The king's name is not known in our time. He had two sons, Vise and Vatte.
When the old king went away, he left the kingdom to his sons. They should rule it together, so he decided; but Vise, as the oldest and wisest, should have the highest power. Vise was to give the counsel and Vatte to respect it. At the THING, Vatte might speak, but Vise was to have the judgment when judgment was difficult.
Now Vise built his castle on a high hill in the midst of the valley, and Vatte his down in the valley. Vise's castle was beautiful to behold, with arcades, vaults, and domes; and it stood there as a token of the happiness and joy of the land, visible to all around. Its splendor was mirrored in a small clear lake at the foot of the hill, while beautiful groves surrounded the castle.
In the midst of the courtyard stood a mighty THING-stone. Often it happened that when Vise mounted the stone, crowds of people in festal attire came to hear his laws and listen to his words. Mighty and wonderful sounded his voice, and deep wisdom flowed from his lips, seeming to emanate from his whole being. It penetrated the hearts of the listeners, and many minds returned to manly and noble acts.
King Vatte was a great warrior, and at the head of his army, he defended the borders of the country. When he rode in his shining armor to King Vise's castle to take advice of his brother, he was stately to behold, and many a maiden followed him with loving eyes.
In the lake, a sea-maid had her dwelling. Hidden in the reeds with love in her heart, she had often seen the bold warrior passing up the hill, and this was the cause of the sighs that rose from out the water as Vatte passed. But he who becomes subject to the love of a sea-maid and hears her sighs can never more be happy in company of men.
As long as Vatte continued to ride to his brother and followed his wise counsels, everything was well in the valley. But Vatte's heart was unreliable, and falsehood slumbered in its depths. His mind was dulled by the sighing of the sea-maiden. In his heart, jealousy began to rankle. He could no longer be satisfied with conditions which his brother had greater power and dignity.
One day, Vise brought home as his bride a lovely maid, and a sweeter queen never had been seen. But Vatte's jealousy turned to hatred, and his thoughts ever centered themselves on the queen. Wild with passion, he decided to dethrone Vise, capture his bride and make himself the sole sovereign of the country.
A time when Vise went far away to another country to give his good laws and wise rules to its people. With words from the heart, he desired to fill the minds of listening crowds with knowledge. The castle he entrusted to the care of a faithful servant whose name was Bard. Further, he invited the sea-maid to the castle to solace his young bride with her wonderful songs. Bard too was a master of music, and there was a remedy for her longing in the sea-maid's song and in the play of the harp.
Vatte now thought it was the right time to carry out his infamous design. He gathered together his sworn champions and rode to the hill. Bard saw the dark warriors at a great distance. He knew secretly of Vatte's jealousy and guessed what would happen. With great dispatch, he took the queen out of the castle, saddled the horses, and dashed off with her to where he knew King Vise was.
When Vatte arrived, it was an easy thing for him to take the castle. In the keep, he found the sea-maid. As everyone knows, a sea-maid can easily change shape, and now she had taken the shape of the queen in order to meet the desire of Vatte. Being himself false, Vatte could not readily see the falsehood of others, and thus he was gratified in having attained his goal. We can imagine that the sea-maid most willingly followed Vatte to his castle in the valley.
Soon the thought came to Vatte that he ought to destroy the castle of Vise, so that the latter might not have a stronghold when he came back again. Thus he rode once more to the hill with his champions, but nowhere could he find the castle. The Vana-gods of the underworld had taken Vise's castle under their protection. Only the great THING-stone was still visible, and it became from this time a memorial for future generations, standing on the site where the castle once had been.
King Vatte now ruled the whole kingdom, but the golden age had passed away. The dark king did not rule in peace. At his castle in the valley, he lived with his sea-maid. Years rolled by, and in time, she began to long for her old servants and playmates, the billows of her home -- the clear little lake at the foot of the hill.
Once when she was singing her wonderful songs, her longings grew with a strange force. It was carried by the magic power of its tones out over the valley, and the billows of the little lake began to tremble when they felt the urge of their queen. They had no choice; they must obey her secret call, and so one after another, they glided over the brink of their home. Soon thousands of waves rose from the hidden spring in the depths of the lake and followed their comrades out into the valley, which finally they wholly embraced in their arms.
We name the valley Vattern because it is the land of Vatte, and the hill above the water, Visingso -- the remnant of Vise's land -- the land of old, where the people were ruled by a king filled with the wisdom which Heimdall once brought to the races of men.
King Vatte and his queen still live in their castle at the bottom of the sea. When the sea-maid is singing her charming songs, the surface of the lake is quiet and beaming. The clear little waves touch the shore with melodious sounds.
Vatte is a king full of wrath, and his raging champions, following his command, storm against the shore in the dark blue storm-waves. Full of rage for not having been able to destroy King Vise's castle, he sends them against the island to dig and dig until the whole hill shall be swept away in the depths. Thus it is his hope to destroy the castle that must be found within the hill.
If you take a boat along the strange rocky shore of the island, you can sometimes see parts of the sunken castle, laid bare by the washing billows -- here a stair, there a gate or column. In time they become undermined by the waves, and one after the other falls into the depth, down into the kingdom of King Vatte. Even the mighty stone on the courtyard from which Vise used to teach the people is now partly covered by the water.
However, as long as it is still visible above the water, King Vise can come back.
They who have received the legend as a heritage from their fathers and who faithfully tell it to the next generation are hoping he will reappear some day. Then shall the castle of the saga once more rise above the crest of the hill. Over clear shimmering waves, its golden domes and high arcades shall be seen from the distant shores of the mainland. The ancient THING-stone shall then be brought to its right place, and once more inspired crowds from afar and near shall listen to the wisdom of primeval times.
By Osvald Siren
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, March 1914, pages 158-65.]
If one should ask me the question: What is the essential in Theosophy? I should without hesitation reply: "The Life." Theosophy is not, in respect to its essential nature, a new system, but it is a practical thing, an ethical movement, a positive force, which does not come to mankind saying: "You shall believe," but saying: "You shall BE. You shall LIVE."
Theosophy does not tear down anything true and good. It does not oppose honorable and sane conditions which in any way might be employed to elevate and ennoble individual life. Theosophy is not in the ordinary sense a religious form, but it is religion for the reason that it is life.
Religion, or more correctly, the several church creeds which by slow stages become established, consists, generally, of a small kernel of life enclosed in a shell of theological formulas which are considered necessary, in order, as far as possible, to distinguish one church from the other churches.
It is incorrect to refer to Theosophy as being heathenism or as being Christianity, because either a heathen or a Christian can be a Theosophist if he is conscious of the divine essence in his own heart and faithfully tries to follow its promptings; or, to quote the noble heathen in THE LOST ATHENIAN, "the difference between what is holy for thee and what is holy for me refers only to the form, not to the spirit."
Since Christ's efforts were chiefly devoted to arousing mankind and teaching mankind that they were all God's children -- that is to say, that each possesses a higher divine nature -- it must be that his real successors are rightly called Theosophists, their lives, their fidelity to the divine Self, is what makes them Theosophists. To the Theosophist, human brotherhood is a fact in nature and the divine is a living reality in his heart.
In theological and philosophical questions, a Theosophist may entertain whatever opinions he chooses, provided only that in thought, word, and act he cultivate his inner divine nature -- the imperishable in man, which survives and is mightier than all creeds, that which is in all and which gathers together the whole of humanity into one great family.
It is erroneous to think that Theosophy signifies or enforces any one creed. It signifies only an appeal to reflection, to sincerity, to courage to follow the highest persuasions, the cleanest motives of which we are capable. To him who loyally listens to such an appeal is unfolded also the Christ spirit. For him no longer does the value of religion lie in mythological or theological conclusions; his conclusions are not affected by those who tear down or build up only with words.
It is now perhaps easier to realize why it is that the essential in Theosophy is life, or more accurately stated, something which can only be expressed through life. It is this which constitutes the foundation for all high moral conduct, and which, popularly stated, takes the form of brotherhood. It is the antithesis of selfishness and egotism. We assert that brotherhood is a fact in nature, therefore that a common divine life permeates the whole of nature, that in which "we live and move and have our being." In this at least, there is nothing foreign to Christianity. Let us take an example.
When do we consider that a human being reaches the highest? When does he most clearly and entirely express the noblest characteristics of human nature? Is it not when he forgets himself for something greater, when through self-conquest, through courage and devotion, he becomes a hero in the trials of peace or of war, when he sacrifices himself (his lower personality) for an inspiring cause, when he goes to his death, perhaps for his country or a fellow man?
We bestow on such a man our applause and our honors independently of what creeds or what views of life he may have entertained. His example becomes a support and an incentive to others. Such a man has, through firm resolution, by long-continued loyal work, or through profound devotion reached forward to the point where life's lower inclinations no longer enchain him. The indwelling higher power is able to act untrammeled and raise him to the heroic deed.
When we see this in life and deeds, we call it honor and heroism, and we are forced to admit that human nature is not so utterly ruined as certain theologians and pessimists teach.
There is evidently something, let us call it heart-force, which breaks through all forms of belief and mental dogmas. It is a creative power whose expression is action and whose essence is life. At core it is the same power which enlightens the artist in his noblest creations, which blossoms in the verse which springs from the poet's heart. Whether this fruition is the result of a momentary flaming transport or is the consequence of a long loyal life strife, in either event, it is in essence life, an uplifting, inspiring power.
When this power is liberated, the human being first truly begins his career as a god-illumined being. It is for such enfranchisement that Theosophy strives, but the work can only be wrought through the agency of our conduct.
In doing this, education is the first great factor. A true knowledge of human nature is of the most momentous consequence. Much of such knowledge is overlooked in the (in large part) materialistic intellectuality of the period. Theosophy seeks to restore this neglected education by emphasizing the essential truths which are to be found in the great world-religions, and to be found also in many of the greatest thinkers of the ages. And, quite naturally, we find it in the Christian teachings.
Jesus has often in metaphor alluded to this inner power, which, as I have said, Theosophy is striving to awaken into activity. He calls it "the Father's Will," or "God's Will."
Because everyone who does the will of my Father which is in heaven is my brother, my sister, my mother.
This is a distinct reference to the spiritual unity which binds mankind into a single family. St. Paul calls it
the Spirit of God which dwells in you, ... for as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God ... and if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
-- Romans, viii, 14, 17.
If this spiritual power is a fact -- a proof of God's existence in the widest sense -- let us not dwell on profitless speculations as to whence it came or on its ultimate definition (if such a definition is indeed possible), but let us rather agree that this power is inexhaustible and that it is intended for our use in the sense that we are able to manifest it.
When human beings create the gods, they always create them after their own image however much they may afterwards seek to adorn and idealize them. The human conception works out the Supreme in outline: ideas are as little able as art to exist without a personal form.
When mankind meditates on God or on God's existence, or the like, it is only about the forms of thought that the battle wages. Life itself, which lies behind, which upholds all, which flows through the human heart, is not reached by words and precise definition. It can only be symbolically stated. In a sense, the Theosophist also speaks of God, but he knows that so soon as he defines God, God no longer corresponds to the Reality. Ideas stand in the same relation to the divine principle as do garments to the person: they are outgrown or burst asunder simply from the force of the life within.
We outrage patience and peace in our speculations about the universe and It which is omnipresent therein and thereover. We ought to study our own inner natures more. All light comes from within; from without only other people's opinions reach us. Each one who deeply meditates is conscious of a presence within beyond the reach of thought, of a power for good which speaks with the voice of knowledge and commands to nobler effort. This power has its source in our divine primeval Self, the divine Ego, the true Self. The divine Self rises above all conceptions of God because these last-named are no more than the highest ideas which the power of thought can reach, and they bear traces of the imperfections which inhere in the originator's mind. If it is possible for a man to become so ennobled as to raise himself above thought into a higher and clearer consciousness, it would be for him a revelation which would cause all speculation over the divine nature to seem paltry and foolish.
-- Theosophical Manual Number Four
I have already, in the introduction, emphasized the fact that Theosophy cannot be considered as a "confession of faith." (It has no ecclesiastical dogmas. It has no churches or priesthood. Membership in the society requires only an earnest effort to live according to the principles of brotherhood.) It cannot be considered as a form of religion, but rather as a manifestation of the religion of the human heart. This also indicates that the essence of Theosophy is life.
Religion is derived from RELIGARE, to bind together, and almost certainly signifies the binding together of humanity or the uniting with the divine. This is, popularly expressed, religion's purpose. Religion would show the way or the means by which we may reach a union with the higher consciousness.
To reach this point, can the theological definitions of God's attributes and of the nature of God be of any help? For those who sincerely seek a union with the divine, or according to the Bible form of expression seek to live with God, must this (God) finally cease to be something lying outside -- a more or less sharply-defined personality -- it must by degrees become an inner reality which can be perceived in moments of deep introspection or when we are subjected to the severest trials.
It must be something which we can evoke at will to our help. "In short, we may say that the divine human ego is a ray from the universal spirit. Through this divine ego, it is that man may reach the spirit and win knowledge and light." In THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, this is stated in the familiar words:
In every creature's heart, O Arjuna, dwelleth the Master -- Ishvara -- who through his magic power holds all things and all beings in action on time's eternal circling wheel; take refuge in him with all thy soul, O son of Bharata; through him shalt thou win the highest felicity, the eternal place of rest.
In the New Testament, the divine human ego is called "the Son" and the Universal Spirit "the Father." The Galilean Initiate has several times described the birth of the Christos: how it can be won by each human being as certainly as that Christ -- in the real sense (the sense in which the word is generally employed in allegory) -- lives in every human heart. It is present as a potentiality, a spark, a ray from the divine source of light.
This spiritual, helping, saving power, according to Theosophy, has entered as a voluntary sacrifice on the part of certain more highly developed beings. This stands in easy consistency with the symbolical representation of the redemption-idea as recited in the Bible. Let us, however, not interpret this in a too materialistic fashion. Let us not seek to limit the light to a form when its essential nature requires that it freely glow in order to warm and enlighten.
This living Christ is in essence also one with the Holy Ghost. It is the power which finds expression in and through the "Son of Man," that is to say, through every true human being. Jesus clearly refers to this difference when, among other similar statements, he says: "And whoever shall curse the Son of Man it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall sin against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him either in this world or in the world to come."
St. Paul often speaks of "the Christ" in man, thereby implying the divine radiation which dwells in each human heart. This is the only form in which we directly and immediately may learn to know the divine -- God. All other efforts to present it become metaphors or fancies, fetishes or idols; perhaps lower reflections from the divine, the old nature-spirits and human heroes which are worshiped and get the name of Gods.
The hierarchies in the divine world-system are endlessly numerous, but the divine Self is one and universal, the essential foundation of all that lives. Its most general expression is life, and nature is the Great Law which, in part, we recognize in our hearts and conscience as responsibility, brotherhood. In fact, we perceive it as the building, leading, compensating power in life which surrounds us.
Through the "Great Law," life is regulated. We reap what we sow. We get the experience and the lessons which are necessary in order to go forward in life's school. So, little by little, the character is strengthened, the dross of the lower nature is burned out, and the pure gold in the soul's rich mine shines out more beautifully.
This comes about slowly and through persistent effort. We must first attain self-knowledge, afterwards self-control and self-reliance, before we can really expect to make the right use of the highest possibilities of our natures.
When you pray go into your closet and shut to the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who is in secret will reward you openly; and when you pray you should not be many-worded as the heathen are, for they think they shall be heard on account of their many words; but do not like them because your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
It is in the heart's innermost chambers, in the deepest silence that we must seek the Father who dwells in secret (the divine spirit, of which each of us is a ray), and we must close the door. That is, we must shut out the disturbing pictures which the restless mind, the desires, and all the conditions which the surface life induces.
It is no longer the many words, but uprightness and the trust in the justice of the Great Compassionate Law that is essential in prayer. Neither our desires nor our prayers can move the Law. It takes its course despite us. It knows what we need before we ask. The sincere effort in the Silence attains to the deepest insight into the processes of the Divine Law and procures consolation.
The truest prayer therefore runs, "Not my will but thine be done," this followed by corresponding action. Such an attitude involves a complete surrender of the selfish personal will to the Divine Law.
Generally prayer is only a formulated desire of a more or less personal nature; but the desires are many and conflicting, and so at other times the petitioner is in the grasp of other restless desires which more or less cancel and obliterate the force of the former; and so it goes with the next petitioner.
The kind of prayer which is nothing other than an act of desire most necessarily calls forth a great many conflicting streams of energy with like conflicting consequences. This is particularly manifest when two armies pray to the same God, each for victory for itself and defeat for its antagonist. Even God cannot answer both prayers favorably. A prayer for a definite object cannot but imply an interference with the plans of providence.
It seems logically, therefore, that it is foolish and vain to pray for a particular thing; but we can seek to bring our lives, our wills, and our thoughts into harmony with the divine Law. It is said in one of the Theosophical Manuals:
Action is also in such a case better than words; we need not pray for an opportunity to do this or that, but we should immediately take hold of the thing at hand, "for a good beginning is a work half done."
Should we wait and pray for what, a savior's intercession or for deliverance from our own responsibilities? Is this worthy of the god-born beings whom Jesus directed to strive for perfection? No time should be lost, no energy should be wasted in pitiful acknowledgment of sinfulness and helplessness. It is when we lose faith in Christianity's central truth of the inborn human divinity that we begin to call upon outside powers and to have recourse to selfish prayer which weakens moral fiber. Therefore wrote Tegner in CHURCH ORDINATIONS. "Bow down and pray? No! Stand up and love."
Know then he shineth for thee in the Sun, Ripens the harvest, cools thee with the spring, And moves above thee in the tops of groves. Each time for thee a flash of higher thought Strikes on the mind, dispelling all the gloom; Each time a purer, deeper feeling comes Than those of daily life with its mean cares, Entering thy heart, and bringing with it wings Which lift thee from the earth that thou mayest stand To drink in heaven and walk upon the clouds Submerged in bliss -- thou wishest then to press Each fellow mortal to thy faithful breast: Know thou it is his might which moves thee so; It is his spirit near and over thee, His glory seest thou, it is his voice -- Not from without he comes -- but from thyself.
By H. Travers
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, June 1914, pages 370-74.]
H.P. BLAVATSKY states:
[The man who follows the law of his higher nature] leads in reality a spiritual and permanent existence, a life with no breaks of continuity, no gaps, no interludes, not even during those periods which are the halting-places of the long pilgrimage of purely spiritual life. All the phenomena of the lower human mind disappear like the curtain of a proscenium, allowing him to live in the region beyond it, the plane of the noumenal, the one reality. If man, by suppressing, if not destroying, his selfishness and personality, only succeeds in knowing himself as he is behind the veil of physical Maya, he will soon stand beyond all pain, all misery, and beyond all the wear and tear of change, which is the chief originator of pain. Such a man will be physically of matter, he will move surrounded by matter, and yet he will live beyond and outside it. His body will be subject to change, but he himself will be entirely without it, and will experience everlasting life, even while in temporary bodies of short duration.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE
What is this but the old teaching of Jesus, restated in different words and with a special appeal to modern ears? The doctrine of eternal life! But how the meaning of that phrase has become reduced! For most of us it now means, if it means anything at all, a vague misty vision of a life beyond the grave. How came it about that the intervening centuries of history so pruned and pared away the truth that it has thus lost its reality and its power of appeal?
To be able to answer this question, we must know more about history than we do. Something must have happened to the teachings of Jesus after he had withdrawn, whereby they were converted step by step into a sort of religious basis for materialistic civilizations.
Since that time, the spirit of his teachings has descended side by side with the formal systems thus created, the two ever struggling together. The GNOSIS, his esoteric teachings, seems to have disappeared altogether.
Centuries of dogmatism and disputation have talked all the life out of the gospel. Human life, as a whole, has been animalistic; for we must take into account the fact that culture and refinement have never been general and that the numerical majority of civilized mankind has always lived a life of privation.
Though it is possible for a few people to fence themselves off physically and mentally from the mass, and thus to achieve a certain culture, it is not possible for them to fence themselves off spiritually. Spiritually, mankind is one. Hence the spiritual life of all has suffered.
Is it not time that the buried teachings of Jesus were resurrected? And is not this destined to come about through the resurrection of man's own buried spirit of Compassion? Never was such a time as the present for a universal stirring of the heart of Compassion; sympathy is striving everywhere to express itself. Verily sympathy must be the coming world-force. It will unseal our eyes and we shall see the truth once more.
An eternal life! A life that is eternal while we are in the body, as while we are without it. With no breaks of continuity during lie periods of death. It is possible to realize this, possible so to refine our nature that we may be conscious while in the flesh of an eternal existence. We can feel as though the body were but a garment which we assume and discard, as indeed it is. This is Knowledge.
Jesus came to teach this Knowledge. The Buddha came. Many have come and will come. But what matters how the message comes, so long as we have it? It is not a dogma. The knowledge of it is there in our hearts. We only need reminders. And see what H.P. Blavatsky adds about the means of attaining to Knowledge:
All this may be achieved by the development of unselfish universal love of Humanity, and the suppression of personality, or SELFISHNESS, which is cause of all sin, and consequently of all human sorrow.
-- H.P. Blavatsky, THE SECRET DOCTRINE
Again the old message, the truth which all the Teachers have taught: solidarity is the gate to Knowledge, and selfishness its bar. H.P. Blavatsky, as we have said, makes a special appeal to our own times. In Theosophy we shall find restated many ancient teachings which have somehow during the ages of history dropped out of sight, so that the gospel as we have it now is but a mutilated book.
We do not know what Jesus taught his disciples apart, though we have some of his public teachings to the multitude. There can be little doubt that he must have taught them the mysteries of man's complex nature and given them detailed instructions as to how to study and master their own nature.
Compassion was one of the keynotes of his gospel, as it has been of all the great Teachers, and compassion is essential for helping humanity. But how can even compassion enable us to help our brother, unless it equips us with the KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM to help him? What has become of the WISDOM which Jesus must have imparted to his faithful disciples -- those who took (to their own Higher Selves) the vow of devotion to compassion?
Compassion is not only a duty. It is the condition essential to the attainment of Knowledge. And the elimination of selfishness is also a necessary condition, an essential process in the attaining of Knowledge.
In the passage above quoted, the words PERSONALITY and SELFISHNESS are twice used interchangeably. We have not to try to destroy our individuality or identity, but merely to eradicate the fault or disease of selfishness. That done, our true Self will have a chance to show itself. Until it is done, we abide in varying states of delusion, mistaking a shadow for our Self.
The "veil of physical Maya" refers to the ordinary mental state of a man living the ordinary physical life of the world. It all seems very real and solid, yet it is only a picture on a screen. It hides the reality behind.
Maya, in Sanskrit, is often translated "delusion," but connotes much more than this. In metaphysical language, it might be called the principle of objectivity -- that power or quality which "bodies forth" and makes tangible what else would remain but spiritual and ideal. Of such a kind is the imagination; it represents and bodies forth our ideas, and at the same time deludes us with its images.
The greatest delusion of Maya is that notion that our existence is separate from that of our fellows. This delusion causes us to act as though it were true. Hence arises imaginary self-interest, and hence the conflict in mankind.
Intellectual penetration and Compassion are the mighty powers that must be invoked. But alas! Under its other name -- love -- this latter power often runs off in narrow molds.
Lifted for a moment within view of heaven, we are bewildered by the light and fall back again under the dominion of Maya. Having mistaken our ideal, we seek it where it is not to be found and lapse into the commonplace. But this is not the fault of love. If that power is to help anybody -- ourselves or anybody else -- it must be kept free from anything which might hinder it.
We all feel the contrast between our desire to know and our knowledge. It cannot be that man has this desire to know, without also having the power to satisfy it. The Teachers have told us that man has this knowledge, but that it is veiled from him by his limitations. These limitations he can overcome by the force of that very desire for knowledge.
Possibly some will say that this is "transcendentalism" or some other -ism. But this, though it may satisfy the ambitions of some, or serve as an excuse for dismissing the subject to the wastepaper basket, hardly disposes of the matter for those who feel an interest in it. Is it true?
Those who think they can pursue the path of knowledge without the password of Compassion will only spin for themselves denser webs of illusion, deceived by the vanity and cupidity which they have failed to remove from their path.
The "noumenal" referred to in the quotation means that which is in contrast with the "phenomenal." The latter is the world of appearances, the former the world of realities. Behind every phenomenon lies its corresponding noumenon.
Scientific minds often confuse themselves with hopeless attempts to comprehend the noumena behind phenomena -- or rather, to apprehend them in the same way as they apprehend the phenomena. But to comprehend the noumena, we must get beyond the senses, for these present an APPEARANCE, a phenomenon -- in short, a delusion (Maya).
In the same way that which we call our self is an image thrown on a screen. Behind it stands the real Self, the spectator of the scene. Man is so absorbed in the contemplation of this fictitious self that he has lost consciousness of his real identity. The path to knowledge, therefore, lies in finding the imagination of fictitious pictures and erroneous ideas. The force of personal desire being the all-fruitful cause of such false notions, this force has first to be mastered.
The promise that the awakened man shall stand beyond all pain, misery, and the wear and tear of change is a healing balm to the spirit. "Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended."
This does not mean, however, that the man will live a cotton-wool existence in a hothouse; for if he has any manliness in him, he will be ready to take whatever may come to him in the performance of his duty or in the fulfillment of his compassionate work among men. But it does mean that he will have found the peace that passeth all understanding.
If we believe in the eternal life, we must believe that it is attainable in earthly life, that it is there all the time behind the curtain of our lower self, and that we have (as it were) to awake from a dream to full consciousness.
How the ancient path to Knowledge can be trodden, Theosophy reminds us. The world is at a crisis, and we all feel that new things are being born. We can better realize now how the Teachers chose the right moment.
The confusion of men's minds seems to be coming to a head, as though precipitated in a mass by the working of the purifying process in the crucible. Never was such a Babel of tongues. Every possible fad seems struggling to get itself expressed before is too late. Or again, it is like the coming Spring, which brings up everything that is in the ground, weeds and all. But it is the same old pattern -- the path of Self-Knowledge.
What a difference would knowledge of these facts make to our methods of educating, treating, or curing people! The real Man behind the outer. Our politicians appeal to the outer man, the man of senses and desires, and all kinds of philosophers and would-be reformers preach as though human life were merely a matter of satisfying personal pleasures and ambitions.
The disintegrative forces in mankind are fostered instead of the constructive forces. Seldom, if ever, is an appeal made to the higher nature, yet there be no doubt that such an appeal would meet with response, for people's higher natures are starved.
In view of the changelessness of the life within, it is evident that our opportunities are as great at one period of our lifetime as at another; they are merely different in kind. The oldest man may make new starts (as indeed, in defiance of mental beliefs, he often does). For Death is but a passing sleep.
By Cranstone Woodhead
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1914, pages 84-86.]
In THE CREST JEWEL OF WISDOM, written by the great teacher Shankaracharya about a century after the death of Gautama the Buddha occurs the following passage:
Self-assertion is to be known as the cause of this false attribution of selfhood, as doer and enjoyer.
When sensuous things have affinity with it, it is happy; when the contrary, unhappy. So happiness and unhappiness are properties of this, and not of the Self which is perpetual bliss.
Sensuous things are dear for the sake of the self, and not for their own sake; and therefore the Self itself is dearest of all.
Hence the Self itself is perpetual bliss; not its, are happiness and unhappiness; as in dreamless life, where are no sensuous things, the Self that is bliss -- is enjoyed, so in waking life, it is enjoyed through the word, through intuition, teaching and deduction.
In these words of the great teacher Shankaracharya, one seems to see outlined the whole philosophy of altruism. So great is the world-glamour, the illusion in which we live, that it is with difficulty we can trace the beginnings of that Reality which is the Eternal. And yet we know that this is the real Occultism towards the realization of which we are all striving more or less consciously. It is the path pursued by every human soul, whether under the Law or by individual volition, or both.
Again and again we find reiterated in all the sacred texts the statement that there is no real separateness amongst existing beings; that all is one; that behind every appearance is a reality which is independent of all else, includes all else, and is eternally the same.
This is that which is spoken of in the sacred books of the East as utterly indescribable, yet the very essence of Being, Consciousness, Bliss, the Higher Self.
In the passage quoted, Shankaracharya shows how these qualities of the Supreme Self produce illusion in the reflected selfhood of the human lower self. A man falsely imagines himself to be a separate BEING with a separate CONSCIOUSNESS of his own and a HAPPINESS which depends upon his own separated selfhood. The sensuous things which are of the body are pleasing to this reflected and incomplete selfhood. They produce a pleasure which is a reflection of the harmony of the Higher Self.
Do we not know how temporary and unsatisfying are these experiences of the lower self? They disappear and give place to pain and disappointment. The events of life teach us that the lower self is of no account. Then, if we are wise, we learn our lesson. Says Shankara:
Self-assertion is to be known as the cause of this false attribution of selfhood as doer and enjoyer.
When sensuous things have affinity with it, it is happy; when the contrary, unhappy. So happiness and unhappiness are properties of this, and not of the Self which is perpetual bliss.
Then he goes on to say:
Sensuous things are dear for the sake of the self and not for their own sake, and therefore the Self itself is dearest of all.
If we ponder over this statement of the great sage, it seems to imply that every sort of happiness is due to the feeling of self-consciousness, and so, that the false self-consciousness of reflected self-assertion is the cause of all the misery and unhappiness in the world, from its unstable and illusive character, and from the contrasts of temporary pleasure and pain that we suffer when we allow our self-consciousness to limit itself to the four walls of our personality.
And when Shankara says that "the Self itself is dearest of all," he implies that the highest peace, contentment, and happiness are to be found in fixing our gaze upon that which is forever outside our ken, but towards which we are ever advancing on the path to perfection. And he thus concludes:
Hence the Self itself is perpetual bliss -- not its, are happiness and unhappiness; as in dreamless life where are no sensuous things, the Self that is bliss is enjoyed, so in waking life it is enjoyed through the word, through intuition, teaching and deduction.
Sooner or later, therefore, we must realize and be entirely convinced that there is actually no separateness in the world, except, as H.P. Blavatsky said "IN MOTIVE."
The false self-assertion that is the cause of so much misery and sorrow, choking up the avenues of wisdom and darkening the Sun which gives life and light -- this false self-assertion also leads us to misinterpret and misuse the Law which would otherwise reveal the Truth. For as said by H.P. Blavatsky,
In the active laws of Karma -- absolute Equity -- based on the Universal Harmony, there is neither foresight nor desire. It is our own actions, thoughts, and deeds which GUIDE THAT LAW instead of being guided by it.
If then we would find true harmony and peace within ourselves, we must follow the Law of Harmony, which is the expression in action of the Universal Self. If on the other hand by self-assertion we make a law unto ourselves, we must take the consequences -- for "whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap," that harmony may be restored.
But [says Shankara] he who goes onward through the word of the good Teacher, who is friendly to all beings, and himself well controlled, he gains the fruit and the reward, and his reward is the Real.
If the love of freedom is yours, then put sensuous things far away from you like poison. But love as the food of the gods, serenity, pity, pardon, rectitude, peacefulness, and self-control, love them and honor them forever.
By Kenneth Morris
[From THE THEOSOPHCIAL PATH, March 1914, pages 171-82.]
"No doubt but we are the people, and wisdom began with us." This is certainly a most comfortable doctrine for a fool. But if it is a decent self-respect that we need, and not the blind, bumptious egotism so characteristic of our age and civilization, we should do well to exalt humanity, and not merely our own little section of it. We should seek for godhood wherever we come on the human, and take pride in belonging to the line whose fount and origin was divinity and whose destiny it is to become again divine.
You know the story of the farmer in the Middle West who was contemplating the sky one night at the time of the presidential election?
"Say," he said, "Is it true that all those millions of stars up there are suns like our own?"
"Yes," said the astronomer, "they are suns, and many of them a thousand times vaster than our sun."
"And every one of them is the center of a solar system with worlds like ours?"
"Every one of them has its planets."
"And the planets -- are they inhabited worlds?"
"Undoubtedly," said the other. "Thousands of them must be inhabited worlds."
"Say," said the farmer, "I don't see that it matters so much after all whether Taft or Wilson becomes president."
We have our cities, states, and nations, our business and politics, science, inventions, and money -- everlastingly our money; and all these things so crowd our consciousness that we forget the universe we live in.
There are mountains, the sky, the stars, the solitary places of the ocean, the two vast defiant desolations of the North and South Poles; old Earth herself and the consciousness that animates her; the abounding life in the vegetable world.
What are all these things to us? We are cut off from them by our petty concerns, and make no excursions into the largeness of life. Our passions, our greed, our miserable personal thinking and feeling hedge us round from the Infinite and keep us from our heritage of divine life.
Sons of this mighty and divine universe, how mighty, how divine might we not be, were the mess of pottage not always more tempting to us than our birthright of divinity! For we live in a vast sea of life, and its waters wash us through and through, and there is extension infinite on all sides of us; and within, inward and inward, there is infinite extension too -- distances that stretch from here, from the next little thought that comes unbidden into your mind, right up to the Central Spiritual Sun; right up, in theological language, to the Throne of God. Whatever consciousness exists, even to omniscience and infinity, that too we might come to share in.
Up from earth's center through the seventh gate I rose, and on the throne of Saturn sate, And many a knot unraveled on the road, But not the Master Knot of Human Fate.
There was the door to which I found no key, There was the veil through which I might not see; Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee There was, and then no more of Thee and Me.
Then of the Thee in Me who works behind The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find A lamp amid the darkness, and I heard As from without: "The Me within thee blind."
-- RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM, xxxi-xxxiv
And there Omar found the key to the door, and vision through the veil: blind the ME, the personal self within thee; stifle the voices of the flesh; still the insistent clamor of the brain-mind, the personality, the sense of separate selfhood, and the path to the divine is made known to you. The world of the Gods is open before you. The greater Self, which is the Self of the Universe, becomes the only self of you.
When we speak of the ancients, we mean commonly the humanity that lived in pre-Christian times. The term brings before our mental vision indistinct pictures of Greek and Roman vices and corruption, as if we had no vices and corruption of our own, Egyptian "superstition," as we are pleased to call it, as if we ourselves were freed from all ignorance and erroneous belief, and of Gothic and Northern savagery, as if we had long since quite abolished war.
We ought to remember that the race of man is old, old, old: that Egypt had her millenniums where Europe has had but her centuries; and that there were long civilizations before Egypt, and other long civilizations before them.
Egyptian religion, which now we connote with divine crocodiles and mummified cats, had fallen to decay many times, and had many times been renewed, before Cambyses came. There were, indeed, many religions there, rising one after another, and in their turn withering and falling. To speak of the religion of ancient Egypt would be like speaking of the religion of Europe, including under that term modern Christianity, and Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Gothic Paganism.
In Greece, successive waves of religion rose and fell before the coming of Christianity. Homer stands not at the dawn, but in the twilight of Greek glory. Before him were the great ages of Crete and Mycenae, compared with which the Hellas of history was but a bagatelle, a waning splendor, the sunset flush of a long day.
Orpheus is a name perhaps almost as remote and mysterious to the Athenian mob of the days of Pericles and Cleon as to ourselves. It stands not only for a Teacher, but for a whole vast hierarchy and literature. Before Homer and Hesiod had recorded the Olympic mythologies, he had established the Mysteries of an older and purer religion. That religion had grown ancient, its origin wrapped in myth.
In Rome, the old Religion of Numa, the pure, antique Italian religion, had practically vanished, except in remote places, before Christianity had made any great headway. Paganism gave place everywhere to Christianity because it had lost its hold on the people. It no longer taught vital truth; it had grown old, senile, and corrupt, and it had to combat with a force that was young and vigorous.
We do a huge injustice to antiquity when we confound the thought and aspiration of all its ages with the cynical, frivolous systems of its declining years; or when we judge Paganism not by its Plato, Socrates, Julian, or Marcus Aurelius, who sought to restore its purity, by such men as Alcibiades, Nero, Vitellius, and their like, who hastened its fall.
Menes is reputed the first king of Egypt, and heaven knows what vast antiquity must be assigned to him, but we find one of his successors speaking of him as having been the first corrupter of Egyptian manners, the initiator of decadence of Egypt, after the long ages of her grandeur and truth and simplicity. Again we find Plato blaming Homer for obscuring the ancient truths about the Gods of Greece, where we consider him almost as the creator of those Gods.
Supposing that in some far distant age people were to treat us and our Christianity as we now treat vanished Paganism. Supposing someone were to write, in that that the Christians were evidently immersed in the grossest superstition, worshipers of animals, adoring in their churches the lamb and the dove; while at the same time, such was the inconsistent nature of their "civilization," there was evidence that they esteemed the flesh of one of their gods as an article of diet, while the shooting of the other was among their favorite sports.
We know how unfair and ridiculous such a statement would be, because we know that the lamb and the dove are but symbols, chosen for their beauty to express certain divine ideas. How could that future critic, supposing him to be inspired, as we are, by an infinite conceit of his own age -- how could he fail to light on such a tidbit and appetizer for his vanity, our hymn-books were open to his inspection? We should do unto antiquity as we would be done by posterity.
We should be just and sympathetic, trying to understand and get at the facts -- for our own sake, because pride comes before a fall; because the lofty attitude of superiority that we take towards the ancients is just a part and nourisher of the great disease of the age: unbrotherliness, egotism; because by fostering our own conceit, we do but shut the door of true progress in our own faces.
The bright goal that shines before us now is the realization of the oneness of the whole human family. It is unbecoming in a man to vaunt himself as against other men, in a race or nation to vaunt itself as against other races and nations, or in an age to vaunt itself as against other ages. It is our glory to be human and to share in all the achievements of humanity -- past, present and to come.
Again, supposing some cultured person was to come to you from China, or from Kamchatka, or from Mars for that matter and make inquire as to the religion of our race and age, Christianity. To what would you refer him?
At first thought you answer, perhaps: to your own particular church or chapel. But after further consideration, that would seem too limited and partial a view, and you say: to Christendom as a whole.
"What!" he replies, "Your religion is then responsible for the slums, vice, and armaments of the age? For the Balkan War and the Mexican situation?"
"No," you answer. "You must not think that the religion which is responsible for these things is Christianity, for Christianity you must go to the Gospels. You must read the life of the Founder of our religion and his teachings. The evils of the day are not to be attributed to Christianity, but to the decline and decadence of Christianity. It is because people no longer believe in the teachings of Christ that these things happen."
And you would be right. Believe me, in the decay of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, the vices and corruption that we read of were not due to Paganism, not to the religion of the Gods, but to the fact that people no longer held to Paganism. They no longer understood, as once they had understood, the great bright Gods of the Ancient World.
It was for lack of Paganism, the sublime Paganism of her Mysteries, the Wisdom of the ages, that Egypt fell under the heels of the priests, the Persians, the Macedonians, and the Romans. It was for lack of Paganism -- the old, bright, luminous, beautiful Paganism of her Orpheus and her Plato, her pre-Homeric poets and pre-Phidian sculptors -- that Greece became ridden with graft, treachery, and foul vices. It was for lack of her austere, duty-worshiping Paganism, so closely in touch with the forces of nature and the wide, free life of the universe, that Rome went down in an orgy of debauchery, the easy prey of the barbarians.
Everywhere, in order to understand Paganism and reap the harvest of its glorious ideas, you must treat it as you would have Christianity treated. You must go back and back, seeking its origins. You must realize that it began as the expression of certain eternal truths, just as Christianity did, just as all religions do. It was first proclaimed by men who had insight into -- nay, sure knowledge of -- the hidden things of this universe, the mysteries of life and death and eternity. Its mission was as that of Christianity was at its inception to bring mankind nearer to the heart of things, to make human life after the fashion of and very close to divine life.
Or, as the grand old Pagans would have said, to bring men nearer to the Gods.
That is a conception that we have lost, that of the Gods; and I think it has been a loss indeed. For now we consecrate Sunday to divine things; but then, each day in the week was sacred to its God, to its aspect of divinity: the Sun's day; the Moon's day; Mars' day; Mercury's day; Jove's day; Venus' day; Saturn's day.
Now we consecrate religion alone, of all the departments and activities of our life, to the divine; but then, every department, every activity, was linked on to divinity by its presiding God.
The man who painted a picture, or who carved a statue, wrote a drama, a poem, or a history; the merchant, the husbandman, the soldier or the sailor; each, in engaging on his own duty, entered thereby into the service of a God as surely as the priest did, and consecrated himself and his work to the divine.
Where we see the sea, the mountains, or the trees and flowers, they saw the palaces of grand, mysterious, and beautiful beings, aspects again of the divine: the primrose on the river's brim, that to us a simple primrose and nothing more, was to them a gateway into the dwelling-place of God.
Beauty, that divine thing, that Star of Bethlehem to lead us to the birthplace of the Eternal, our religion has too often and too easily banned and banished; but theirs made it the aroma and exhalation of the Gods, a potent incentive, a mainspring of human progress.
Art and music, that to us are luxuries and the ministers of our pleasure, to them were a religion and the ministers of the Supreme.
Commerce, which we have made the servant of and panderer to our greed, they made an act of service to the Divinity, and therefore to humanity.
Agriculture was religion; and this old, green, beautiful Earth, to whose voices we are so deaf, whose pleadings we so pitilessly ignore, was for them instinct with living fire, divine, conscious, linked with humanity by the closest community of interests.
Try to imagine the richness and fullness of such a life. Contrast it with the barren poverty of our own.
Were they not justified? Who of you is mountain-born and nurtured, and after long dwelling in the plains and the cities, comes again among the mountains; does there not rise up something within you, indefinable but most potent, an emotion too deep to be called emotion merely? Is it a mere bringing back to memory of old times, of the joys of your childhood?
Here is what the Pagan would have said: In me too is a spark and seed of Godhood: a fragment of the life of those Divine Ones, whose body and outward being are yonder mountains. That which rises within me now is consciousness of that exalted kinship.
I think it was Huxley who said -- whoever it was, he said it very truly -- that if evolution be a truth, then there must be beings in this universe, as far evolved above man, as man is above the humble bacillus or the black beetle of our kitchens. In this statement you have the scientific justification of the Pagan Gods.
Evolution is a truth; but a far more mighty truth than our scientists and Darwinians imagine. You must not dream for an instant that Theosophy indorses exoteric paganism or any exoteric religion. But it does uphold truth everywhere. It does proclaim the Divine everywhere, and the soul of man, and the spiritual nature of the universe, and that the universe exists for divine purposes, and is the field of an eternal progress towards divinity, an eternal warfare of the Hosts of Light against Chaos and Darkness and Evil.
Evolution is a truth, but it is not merely matter and our bodies that evolve. Spirit also breathes itself down into matter, informing it, acquiring experience and self-consciousness in it. It is this involution, this coming in of spirit and consciousness to mold and work upon material forms, that is the cause of evolution.
Your materialist fondly imagines that when he has said Evolution, Natural Selection, Survival of the Fittest, and the like, he has conveniently explained the universe and left no place in it for God or Gods or the Soul of Man.
"Here is your amoeba," the scientist tells us. "There is your man. Evolution has done it, et voila!"
"Here is your war-canoe," we'd reply. "There is your Super dreadnaught. Here is your coracle. There is your Mauretania. Evolution has done it, and it would be absurd to suppose that there are such things as men, dockyards, shipbuilders, or arsenals."
Evolution is the name of a law, a method of working; and we know very well that Laws do not build houses or navies. They do not write books or make men. Has a law hands and feet, that it should go here and do this? Has it a tongue in its head, that it should speak? Men, working under the laws of architecture, of naval construction, of literature, do these things. Without agents, no law could accomplish anything.
The ancients saw that the universe was under the reign of Law. Being a thousand times more logical and careful in their thinking than we are, they posited Agents of the Law. They beheld the marvelous architecture of the universe, and they knew there would be a great Architect. They knew very well that it is not the Architect who mixes the mortar, and carries the bricks on a hod, or chips the stones to shape and lays them in their places. There would be builders.
In the Law, they recognized the Universal Will, as we say, the Will of God, but they held that there would be agents to carry out that Will. So under the Great Architect of the Universe, they posited the Gods: beings of all grades of divinity and power from the fairy of the daffodil bloom to the Cosmocratores and Regents of the Stars. They beheld divinity everywhere, divine law and order everywhere.
They did not imagine omnipotence as a quality of their Gods. They saw evil and oppression in the world and were logical. Oh, no doubt in the exoteric tales of the later mythologies, truth was confounded, and the Gods were represented as living apart, selfish and sensual, letting the world go hang so they should have their own pleasures.
I am speaking of the original, the esoteric side of Paganism, of the spiritual basis and rationale of it, if you prefer it put that way. We must remember that those very exoteric tales of the mythologies began by having their inward meaning. They were symbolic just as our pictures of the Lamb of God, the Dove, and the Paraclete are symbolic. Search deeply into them and find the portrayal of recondite laws, the images of truths concerning the natural and spiritual worlds.
When men forgot to look for these inner meanings, made light of the concealed truth, and lived no longer by the law, paganism grew corrupt and ceased to be an efficient aid to human evolution.
Should the Gods be worshiped? No, not in any sense that we give to the word nowadays. Honored, aided in their grand mission, communed with, and brought into men's lives -- there you have the inward objective of the old Pagan rituals, before they were defiled. We must think what the philosopher would mean, when he made sacrifice to this deity or that. He described spiritual potency in the sun; he knew of a light, beautiful with flashing and gentle colors, that might illumine the soul, and run a flame of inspiration through the imagination.
Dwelling upon and evoking this light, he paid his tribute to Apollo. He knew of a Warrior and heroic quality within the heart, one sworded and invincible against evil, who let it be awakened into activity in our consciousness, and made us invulnerable to all temptation. Intent upon so awakening this Warrior, he made his sacrifice to Mars.
He held that there was an outer and an inner side to every action. All the duties of life were sacramental, an outward and visible sign, and an inward and spiritual grace.
You might go to your seed sowing, or your following the plow; and according to what was in your heart and mind at the time, so would the harvest be merely material, or there would be certain elements in it to nourish the spiritual sanity and wellbeing of the people. If the sower and the plowman sacrificed to Ceres or to Proserpine, it was that they might go spiritually to their work, evoking the divine side of things in it; doing it, as we say, as unto the Lord.
Ah me! the richness that might come into a life so nourished, so deflected from personal, trumpery, and selfish ends, to a consideration perpetual of the beautiful, the grandiose, the divine and quickening! Would the harvest be no better -- dare you say it would be no better?
Dare you say that the life of the people would be inspired by no diviner ichor, were the plowman to follow his oxen, not dully brooding on his dinner, his gains, his desires indifferent or bad; but alert with a consciousness of flaming and beautiful being in the air that he breathed, in the sky over his head; of Apollo shining upon him, of Proserpine and august Ceres breathing up through the broken clods that his plowshare might be cleaving?
Shall we do evil in the Temple of the Lord? We stand before the Burning Bush, and concern ourselves with the pride of the eye, the sinful lusts of the flesh? Take off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place where on thou standest is holy ground. There you have the attitude of the Pagan: the dome of whose place of worship was the infinite blue; and its floor, the continents and islanded seas of the world.
There is a divine quality in and beyond human consciousness called heroism. Bring that into your life, and you are worshiping the Immortals. You are invoking an Immortal. You are making sacrifice to that God who is the Heartener of Heroes.
There is compassion. Let your heart flame with it, and you cannot choose but be invoking that brooding, mother-hearted divinity, that quality, that conscious quality of Godhood. Why, how shall you doubt that these be the Immortals?
Consider Joan of Arc at the stake, the flames leaping up around her; and she suddenly concerned and anxious -- for what? For her soul's safety? No, but lest the priest, holding up the cross to her, should be hurt by the flame. She is to die. She cannot die. She is immortal. She is united with the Immortals through that compassion, that care for others that flames up in her to light immortal ages, a thousand times more brilliant than the flame that is to destroy her bodily form.
Consider the patriot of the Italian War of Independence, the Garibaldian taken prisoner. He is on the gallows, the rope about his neck, the Austrian soldiers and executioners and priests are around him. What is his word for the priest who is bothering him about his soul? For the soldiers, the executioners, the hushed, mourning crowd in the little square? Just this: Viva Italia! Good heavens, what's Italy to him, or he to Italy -- he that, as you believe, is either to be a senseless clod in a minute or two, or to have parted company with Earth and her nations forever?
This is what Italy is to him: the Goddess, the Immortality to which, in his devotion, in his utter forgetfulness of self at that supreme moment, he has united himself. He is attaining immortality, attaining god-being, because making himself, his personal consciousness, one with the divine consciousness that was always within him. That is always within every one of us, but commonly slumbering -- commonly obscured beneath the turmoil and fuss of our personal thinking. So death is nothing to him. He is already immortal and lives on in the life of his race.
The Japanese recognize this principle in a very beautiful way. When a man like Togo or Ito, or like the late Emperor, a great patriot and benefactor of the nation, dies, they make no bones about it, but declare him a God forthwith, and pay him divine honors; devoting Christmas Day, I believe, to the memory of all such men become Gods.
Wrap not about you the mantle of your Pharisedism. Forget to thank God that you are not as these heathen. They are, in effect, exceedingly rational beings. They do wisely and very well. We must give up our notions of the heathen in his blindness bowing down to wood and stone. I tell you that there is wood in this world and stone too that are a thousand times better than the vulgar gold that we bow down to so assiduously. Heathen and heathen there are, no doubt, and some of them worse than ourselves, but in this case, the "blindness" is a very real spiritual vision.
The heathen are simply recognizing the fact that there is a God, a divine part, in every one of us, that it may be brought to dominate our whole being, to overshine all our doings, and to make what remains so unimportant that when death carries away the body, the memory that is left of the man is actually the memory of a God: a bright, divine incident history, a star and luminous example for our future, a note in the symphony of our national life that somehow trembled up to divinity and made us aware our divine possibilities.
We too honor our Lincolns and Washingtons. How do such men make themselves immortal? By service, by so loving the race that their personal being extends and loses itself in impersonality, they become the symbols of the highest that is in the nation, our most sacred hopes, aspirations, and memories. So in dying, they live.
I think that the best and truest conception the ancient world had of its Gods was that they were the grand captains in the eternal warfare against evil, chaos, and night. Here in this world, we men participate blindly and stumblingly in that warfare, now allying ourselves with right, now, and more commonly with wrong.
In their world, behind the veil of the seen and the seeming, the Gods wage their war perpetually to guard the world of men. Camped out against Chaos on the Borders of Space, they repel forever the onslaught of the hosts of evil, lest the world of men should be inundated by untimely sin.
Whoever of us will join ranks with them, shall not he too slay the mortality within him, cast the chrysalis of his humanity and imperfection, and emerge winded and flaming, one of the Immortals? Though you shall pass him in the street and see nothing but the common clay of mortality, yet you are to know that he has his commission in the army of the Gods. He rides out splendid against Chaos. He breaks the battle of the hellions on the borders of Space.
This is an old druidic conception, held in ancient times by the bards of Wales. They taught that at the dawn of the world the Host of Souls, Sons of Gods and Morning Stars of Glory, wake in World of Bliss at the sound of the Chanted Name of God, which called the Universe from sleep and latency into manifested being.
Then those Blessed Ones, as they were called -- those Blessed Ones who were ourselves -- looked forth over the vast deep of Chaos and beheld afar beyond that howling darkness the Peaks of White Infinity and the dwelling-place of the Lone One, the Eternal.
They said evil upon us if we remain content with less than that. Their Chieftains sounded the Hai Atton upon their horns, the bugle-call of the gathering of the Immortals. They rode forth singing in their chariots of fire to take Infinity by storm, to batter down the Gates of the Cast of God, and dwell therein forever, united with absolute Deity.
Before they could come to that consummation, they had to conquer the Chaos that lay between. They had to wage vast warfare through the abysm of night. Until the whole waste of matter was conquered, they could not go on to the heights.
In the passage of that deep, they could not withstand the foes that assailed them. They fell, succumbing to the dreadful snares and temptations of the material world. They fell into incarnation: passing through slow ages through the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds until at last, they reached the state of humanity.
Gaining self-consciousness and the knowledge of good and evil, they have the opportunity of remembering again their ancient mission and purpose of sounding again the Hai Atton on of the Gods and taking arms mightily against Chaos and evil.
But there were some that did not fall, and never ceased to remember; or if they fell, they were swift to rise again. They carried on their struggle perpetually. They never let go of their purpose nor allowed the battle of the ages to cease for a moment. Either they never lost it or they quickly or slowly regained their divine nature.
They are the Gods, our Brothers, whose labor is to gain auxiliaries for the eternal warfare from among the ranks of men. They, said the Bards, are our protectors, our allies, our captains and generals against evil.
Call not upon them for help, but rather seek to help them, for the weight of the universe rests upon them. They are the vanguard of our battle and take the blows and fury of Hell upon their shields. They protect humanity that should be and one day will certainly be their effective ally but now is dreaming or playing traitor.
And it is when we shall have awakened and joined ranks with them; when Chaos at last shall have been conquered, and the whole dominion of evil mastered by us, transformed and added to the Empire of God; when in all our ranks there shall be no one left unconscious of his divinity or less than lord of himself; it is then that our great army, Gods and men, but all Gods then, shall ride forward again in triumph, and enter in, gay, triumphant, singing, through the Gates of Peace.
We wandered in Bliss in the World's Golden Morning, The bardic, lone Stars sang hymns in our praise; The insignia of Gods were our proud brows adorning, And dark Chaos glowed as we went on our ways. What though while through Hell's self our war-way we winged on, In ages oblivion -- o'erladen, we fell? It was heaven that we deemed too inglorious a kingdom, It was we that made choice to build new heavens in Hell. There were some that o'ercame when the deep rose to slay them, And flame against flame, they waged high war with Night; Dark Chaos and hell had no power to dismay them, Nor Night had no spell to dim their proud sight. The ranks of the Warward Gods shine with their glory, They turn from delight to their stern, agelong war, Lest the brightness at heart of the ages grow hoary, And the spirit's sun rise o'er the world-brink no more.