Yes, the teacher has said: Forgive when forgiveness means calling forth the strength in you. Love when there is a mean and selfish impulse upon you to hate, because loving means strength and grandeur within you. The way of the spirit is the way of light, of peace. Practice love and forgiveness, and the holy presence will be in you every moment of life: with you day and night, the living companion of your silent hours, and the Warrior Invincible, always fighting within you and for you in your hours of activity.
-- G. de Purucker, IN THE TEMPLE, page 44.
By E.A. Neresheimer
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1915, pages 273-76.]
Man is free to choose between many ways of action in all circumstances; yet there is a plan of nature, conformable to which he is obliged to move. Whichever course he adopts from personal motive, whether good or bad, there will subsequently be corresponding reaction upon him, a reaction known as karma, the law of cause and effect.
Through want of compassion and lack of knowledge he oft chooses wrongly, inconsiderately, selfishly; in consequence, the rebound which follows as effect, though the thought or deed has long been forgotten, is sometimes considered being personal adversity and hardship.
The theosophic premise is that the law embodies the highest justice and intelligence, devoid of emotion and unerring in its compensation. Among the many pleasing incidents experienced in life, divers other things befall mankind: sickness, poverty, disappointments, loss of loved ones, miscarriage of plans, thwarted ambition, worry, discouragement, pain, misfortune, and various tribulations.
All these are, in a sense, states of mind largely susceptible of gratifying amelioration by a proper mental attitude when one is inclined to think seriously about the possible connection involved between the occurrence of events and the orderly progression of sequences obtaining throughout the great economy of sentient life and nature.
Adverse conditions may remain quite what they are, but our mental relation to them can be altered in a moment or by degrees; if we succeed in so doing the aspect of an affliction will modify itself in its effect upon us and often completely change.
Physical injury, loss of organ or limb, calamities and misfortunes, strange to say, are seen to be borne contentedly after a time, and are looked at from a viewpoint much different from the first dreaded anticipation of them.
Who has not seen a maimed person more resigned to his fate than we imagine we would be? In numerous cases wonderful resourcefulness has been shown under stern trials. It is all an experience of life, generally wholesome and disciplinary, pulling up a person, so to speak, to a new view of himself; forcing introspection and a seeking for causes, broadening sympathy for others, and generally culminating in a state which is none the less happy than the former.
Severe visitations come only to those already strong. No greater burden is put on one than he can carry, and he could carry more if he were to summon his natural powers. And behold what a stroke of fortune it sometimes is in the unfoldment of unexpected mentality and moral incentive! It is a veritable forthcoming of latent, godly powers, besides the strengthening of Will, and the finding of firmness, patience, and fortitude.
Do we not sometimes witness absurdly morbid states of mind on the part of average persons, when they meet merely slight reverses, such as are not worse than those borne by thousands who are happy despite them? Taken by surprise they act as though dumbfounded and stunned. Being so unprepared for small mutability, how can they evoke resistances out of which great deeds are born?
Do not these NEED just such gentle impacts from the benign illusion-destroyer -- Mother Nature? Others again firmly pull themselves together in manly fashion, striving for a more reasonable accommodation to the new circumstances. Nine out of ten of them rise out of the trial stronger, and perchance discover within themselves some unexpected reservoir of consciousness and strength.
The soul is the doer of things, also the enjoyer and sufferer. In the course of its descent from spiritual estate, it has fallen under the seductions of matter, forsaking the while the domain of its pristine divinity.
Time was, before the middle period of the Great Life-Cycle was reached, when the evolutionary pilgrim was serenely carried on the wave of nature's sole responsibility. The acme of consolidation and perfection of physical form is reached; henceforth man, the creature of the Path, must become the Path itself. Matter and the vestures of the soul becoming more refined on the return arc, the human entity has entered upon the cycle of individual responsibility.
Nature will no longer be in our debt for the mere act of living. She may no longer compensate with molding the fairest possible forms out of a promiscuous mixture of good and evil; the true relation of earthly beauty and eternal truth depending from this time forward upon man's conscious efforts in one direction only, that is to say, a life in harmony with the cosmic plan.
The Law is Compassion Absolute! Karma is its method. Reincarnation is its Instrument.
It has been a long journey of the spirit downward in order to obtain contact with matter in its many phases. Many have been the experiences in this vast labyrinth of sentiency, waking and sleeping, activity and rest, joy and sorrow, enlightenment and darkness, heaven and hell, over and over again, for ages upon ages.
In the cycles to come when man shall have spontaneously ranged himself on the side of the Higher Law in his appointed cooperative work with nature, the tyranny of personal desire shall cease, the thralldom of illusion end, and man regain his spiritual estate.
To guide mankind aright in its spiritual destiny, the teachings of the eternal Esoteric Doctrine and Wisdom-Religion have once more been and are being benignly enunciated by the messengers of the gods -- the Leaders of Theosophy.
The forcible reactions provided by kindly nature, which bring home to every individual his due share of retribution, are not alone in rousing mankind from the lethargy of sensuous dreamland. Without sign, guide, and example, men are reluctant to move, and though the world has never been entirely without the Esoteric Doctrine and Divine Teachers, yet humanity at Large heeded not, but chose to tarry in bondage of matter.
The advancing cycle demands imperative change, and the Theosophic Movement, founded forty years ago, is now spreading its beneficent activities over the wide earth. Its Founders and Leaders have built wisely, effectively, permanently. The Teachers treading the consecrated Path of Compassion have been and are at hand, for love of their fellow-men, sacrificing all else in leading the way.
The human unit is an integral and absolutely indispensable part of the scheme of the Universe. Strange to say, even this tenet is quite a new one to most men and women of today. In consequence they flounder from emotion into despair over troubles actual or imagined, are in fear of death, of god and man, and afraid of adversity, as if any of these things were of the "least" or "utmost" importance.
It is quite another thing to have anchorage on at least a fragment of truth and reality; one then knows that to our ESSENTIAL nature, most of the objects of dread are but temporary, disciplinary, often wholesome, from which one is expected to learn priceless lessons necessary in development.
The certainty that nothing whatever can happen that could in the least affect or destroy one's individual integrity as a permanent unit and inseparable part of the universal economy should inspire us with great confidence in our spiritual stability.
Be it said that the whole Universe would sooner fall to pieces than that destruction should overtake one single unit. No! We are of much more importance than that. And our troubles? On another plane of consciousness, the plane of the soul, they are non-existent, except in the sense of a mere incident, just as one single letter might stand for an incident in a volume which contained many, many subjects.
No great philosophy is needed to train our minds to dwell on the inward life, whence, after no long time, a serene state is born to us, and a widening of our outlook and consciousness, and in consequence there arises a natural inner stimulus, even an urge toward contemplation of the deeper resources of our being.
Hold to some lofty impersonal subject which appeals to us as an unquestioned truth: Brotherhood is a fact in nature; the latent Divinity of man; the unity of Cosmos; and similar verities of great number and profound import suggested in Theosophic teachings; rise with them in the morning, letting them penetrate into us during the day, and retire with them, holding them as the last thing before sleep. Never fail in the performance of the least duty to the fullest extent of ability, resigning all PERSONAL interest in it, being content in the mere correct discharge of any act as DUTY.
Cease day-dreaming or letting the mind wander aimlessly into the past, or into anticipation of the future, instead, live consciously alert to the smallest thing connected with every thought and act, at the same time being discriminately positive as to what is proper and what not. Doing this with pronounced intent, firmly fixed will and good cheer, will soon crowd out "gloomy streaks," and having made a disciplined instrument of one's mind, adversities will soon be found to have assumed an entirely different aspect.
There is no universal prescription for meeting or brushing aside things that happen; whatever occurs has to be met somehow, and therefore our mental relations to the circumstances determine the quality of the effect the happenings shall have upon us. If a broad enough view is taken, we may extract from adversities a salutary and valuable lesson.
It is unwise to complain, or to mope or pray for better fortune instead of making effort to fathom their meaning. Nothing ever occurs for which adequate causes are not in existence in man's atmosphere, whether generated in the remote past or in the present life. Through many links uniting a long chain of events, these causes come to fruition as effects. The conditions which bring them to a focus having not arrived.
The source of trouble must be looked for within ourselves and consolation sought in the fact that the experience is a means to progress. To calmly and courageously looking on new conditions as opportunities for growth will promote individual self-reliance and heighten our trust in Divine Justice.
By A Student
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1916, pages 333-35.]
The problem of the freedom of the will appears to present to many minds difficulties that are perhaps not altogether necessary; and often we find the question dismissed in quite a dogmatic way as being something that we can never know. Such a dogmatic pronouncement, however, merely whets the curiosity of eager minds and tempts them to explore.
Locke and other philosophers have argued that, if we carefully examine the functions of the human understanding, and define what lies within its power of comprehension and what lies without, we shall thereby avoid all ground for an arrogant assumption of omniscience or for an attitude of helpless resignation to the unknowable.
We must neither try to formulate the problem in narrow clear-cut lines, nor should we petulantly dismiss it as insoluble because of our inability so to formulate it. But, recognizing that the path of knowledge consists of infinite stages, we should expect to be able to pass from stage to stage, and preserve the faith that what lies beyond, though as yet unattained, is still attainable.
Again, many problems which cannot be solved theoretically are solved in practice with the utmost facility: as, for example, the celebrated problem of "What is motion?" -- which is solved "ambulando" -- by the simple act of walking. Do we propose to enunciate the doctrine that that which is indefinable does not exist?
Even the most pessimistic philosopher must admit that man possesses SOME power of choice; and even though it is argued that, in exercising that power of choice, he is but yielding to some yet more powerful impulse, nevertheless, the fact suffices to prove a RELATIVE freedom of the will.
Having established this much, where are we to stop? If the savage's will is freer than the bird's, and mine is freer than yours, and yours than mine, what is to prevent there being other grades of men, with wills more and more independent? Or why, if we get so far in our reasoning, should we balk because we find ourselves confronting an infinite series -- since we confront such infinitudes wherever we go? Leaving aside, for the present, the question of ABSOLUTE freedom let us be content for the moment to have established the fact of RELATIVE freedom and the logical assurance of indefinite gradations of such relative freedom; this is at least enough for practical purposes.
Suppose that, at a moment when your "resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," and you find yourself involved, hopelessly, as it seems, in the eddies of conflicting desires and fears, like a swimmer in a drift with no anchorage -- suppose a magician were to place a hand upon your head and thereby instantly change your whole consciousness, so that you would be lifted out of yourself, and would seem now to stand aloof from body and mind alike, viewing the erstwhile whirlwinds of thought and emotion as a spectator contemplating from a distance a drama wherein he is interested but not involved. You would then have achieved an initiation into the knowledge of a new state of independence.
If you later acquired the power to transport yourself at will to this state at any time, it would grow familiar; and by degrees you might discover that, while in it, you possessed a new power to direct the actions of the bodily and mental machine, with all the ease and freedom of an overseer who sits in a chair and directs the operations of other people.
This picture is meant to show how there can be a real Self that stands detached behind the shifting scenes of mind and emotion, and directs our life -- with a wisdom and certainty impossible to the bewildered and passion-torn mentality.
If a man is the slave of his impulses, it is possible to foretell his actions, the question being merely one of complexity, requiring skill for its solution. But how can we foretell the actions of a man who can call in the aid of a power extraneous to the ordinary mentality?
Good and evil are relative words whose value varies with circumstances. What is good for a bird is not necessarily good for a fish. For man, that is good which is conformable to his nature; and the fact that he has a mixed nature will complicate the problem of determining what is good. But any standard set up by the lower nature must in the end give way to the standard of the higher nature, because the latter is the essential and enduring part of man.
The choice between what is good and evil for the real man can only be made by the real man -- that is, by the Soul itself when its vision is unclouded by the illusions of the lower mind. It chooses in accordance with its own nature, as a flower chooses the sun; and it is a ray from the Divine that which makes man what he is. It is that in man which is unborn and uncreate, the "Eternal Pilgrim."
So for Theosophists the statement that the will is free is seen to mean that the essential man is not bound by the imaginings and desires of the lower man, but is free to choose that which is in accordance with his own (Divine) nature. In eastern philosophy the network of causes and effects which bind men's actions together, even throughout successive incarnations, is called karma; and it is taught that man is not bound by karma, if and when he raises himself above its operation by recognizing the true Self.
The apparent difficulty of reconciling the free-will of man with the omnipotence of God is of course due to the limitation of our ideas both of man and of God. There have been narrow minds, so bent on having everything cut-and-dried that they have considered it necessary to deny man's free-will in order to allow God his omnipotence; and others who, because God did not "act" in the way they thought proper, have denied God any existence at all. But most people have faith enough to realize that the full solution of this problem must be one of those that lie beyond the reach of our present normal comprehension; and that such difficulties may be expected to be cleared up step by step as we advance in knowledge.
Various kinds of philosophers, who have studied various systems and schemes, have sought to interpret man and his fate in terms of those systems and schemes; but all have been obliged to recognize the existence of an indeterminate factor not amenable to such analysis.
The phrenologist, while forecasting your character from the conformation of your skull, yet advises you to cultivate certain qualities in which you are deficient; and when you come again, he finds that you have done so and that the shape of your skull is accordingly changed. If he had been a consistent materialist, he should have told you to alter the shape of your head by surgical means, instead of using your will.
The materialistic biologist may try to prove that our disposition and conduct are entirely at the mercy of physiological functions such as come within his ken; and in so doing he puts himself outside his own system as a kind of God presiding over a universe.
There is a magician in man who is independent of all the inferior powers. But indeed we know little of man's nature in these days; it is as though we lived only in the ground floor of our abode and were ignorant of the mansions above. Taking the sevenfold analysis of man's nature, as presented by Theosophy, we find that beyond the Lower Manas, which represents our normal mind at present, stand Manas and Buddhi, functions which may be described as unknown worlds to present-day philosophy. What we can glean of ancient lore from symbol, mythos, and record, shows that ancient races have not been so ignorant. And the record is there, on stone and parchment.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, October 1917, pages 341-45.]
The path of self-knowledge is still open to all men, now as ever. The scientific spirit proclaims an emancipation of the mind from superstition and imposed beliefs, and relies on knowledge obtained by studying nature by means of our faculties. The same spirit prevails in the quest for self-knowledge. But in this case, both the field of investigation and the faculties used are wider in range than those of physical science.
This last statement is not dogmatic, but an inference from the generally accepted principles of evolution. Admitting, for argument's sake, the truth of any given evolutionary theory which holds that the human mind has reached its present level by gradual development from lowlier types, we feel bound to infer that evolution will accomplish still greater development of the human mind in the future. Hence the future possibility of higher faculties in man is scientifically valid.
It would be unscientific to suppose that all men will arrive at these higher stages simultaneously; for, on the contrary, everything favors the belief that some men will arrive before others. The conclusion that there may be now, and may have been in bygone times, men in advance of the normal evolution of the race, is irresistible.
Theosophy teaches that the path of self-knowledge has been known to mankind in the past; and an acceptance of this teaching gives the key to much of the mystic literature of the past. Theosophy does not teach this as a dogma, but adduces evidence in its favor. (See ISIS UNVEILED and THE SECRET DOCTRINE by H.P. Blavatsky.)
Scientific inquiry, having been limited to the investigation of external phenomena, has not satisfied the need for essential knowledge; hence it has not been able to avert catastrophe. For remedy we have to look elsewhere; nor, in the many lay-sermons that are preached, do we find much appeal to ordinary religious beliefs; on the contrary, these themselves are in the position of inquirers rather than teachers. Common sense, intuitive knowledge, are appealed to; in which appeal we discern the tacit assumption that man does in fact possess the power to answer his own questions.
In nature we everywhere find desire accompanied by the power to satisfy it; and man cannot be alone in possessing a desire -- the desire for knowledge -- which he cannot satisfy. It becomes a necessity for man, at a certain stage of his development, to have knowledge concerning the meaning of his life.
He cannot get it from scientific observations and theories that deal only with physical perceptions and conceptions; nor can he get it from dogmatic statements which he cannot verify. He can only get it for himself by the use of his own faculties and by accepting such aid as may be obtainable from people knowing more than he does. This latter aid must not rest on claims or authority, but must be judged by its own merits. Anybody who can make us see what we did not see before, or answer our questions, is our teacher to that extent for the time being.
In obtaining self-knowledge, the first step is to desire it; and, as these remarks are addressed only to those who do, this step may be assumed. The next step is to convince oneself that self-knowledge is within one's reach. The evolution of humanity can be greatly helped by simply inducing people to look within and recognize that divine-human nature which is as much a fact as is the animal-human nature. The world is in its present condition because so many people are looking on the ground, wearing blinkers, refusing to recognize the divine part of their nature, and trusting to laws which, while they suffice for animals, are not sufficient for man.
We cannot ignore the laws of nature, but must perforce accommodate ourselves to them. If we do not accommodate ourselves intelligently, we shall have to do so blindly and be buffeted about. It is just the same with those higher laws that control the moral and spiritual life of man. The laws are there, the facts are there, and they will exact from us a due conformity, whether willing and intelligent or blind and reluctant. Because we have permitted uncontrolled desires and inadequate theories to lead us along paths that conflict with these higher laws, compensation has been exacted in ways that terrify us.
In the life of the individual, it is the same. His life is controlled by a higher law, which he does not understand or perhaps even recognize; and he takes refuge in resignation or indifference or cynicism or some strange philosophy. But it is possible for him to study the laws that control his life, and thus to attain to a state of intelligent acquiescence in his lot.
The laws of our bodily health claim our observance; and if we try to contravene them, they exact painful compensation. There are laws of moral and spiritual health, felt through conscience and the sense of honor, compassion, etc.
A man should be true to himself. He should have due self-respect -- not a vain over-confidence in his personality, but faith in his higher nature. He should feel that there are higher laws in the universe as inviolable as those which science recognizes; and that faithful conduct will bring its recompense in an inner peace and light. The greater the number of citizens of this sort in the world, the better will be the body politic. Such people, at peace with their own hearts, would be a power among men.
The higher evolution of man is a reality; but it is not to be looked for as something sensational. It means the stepping-out from the customary sphere of mind into a larger sphere lighted by a fuller knowledge. It is impossible to say at what point any given individual might achieve this step.
Having achieved it, even in small measure only, he would at once become an influence for good -- a man ready to give rather than receive, one anxious to help rather than expecting to receive help. He would not, perhaps, become a conspicuous figure, for he would have achieved humbleness along with his strength; and he would neither desire nor receive the praise of others.
It is declared in all wise teachings that selfishness is the great obstacle to knowledge; and experience demonstrates the truth of the saying. The selfish man dwells in an ever-contracting sphere. And there are many forms of selfishness. Life is not meant for the glorification of any man's personality; but it takes us long to find this out; yet everybody must find it out some time.
When we do find it out, we have verified a law of nature. The man who has found it out ceases to make self-satisfaction the aim of his actions. He realizes that he has no permanent existence, save as part of a whole, and his effort henceforth is to perform his proper function in that capacity.
But the point is that, along with this liberation from the delusion of selfishness, comes knowledge. Just as the selfish man makes his life narrower and narrower, so the unselfish man continually widens his sphere. This is matter of common experience, but Theosophy contemplates a great extension of the principle. It sets no limits to the possibilities of human attainment in knowledge by the road of emancipation from the thralldom of selfishness.
Knowledge is not a mere accumulation, which a man carries about with him in his memory; it is the ability to know what is desired. The difference between knowledge and mere learning is the same as the difference between the man who HAS and the man who CAN. Hence it is not surprising that the path of knowledge consists largely of unloading previous accumulations.
Be humble, if thou wouldst attain knowledge: be humbler still, when knowledge thou hast attained.
The reason why we have so much so-called knowledge that is futile and leads to nothing is that it is not accompanied by discipline. In other words, it is not accompanied by realization; it is left in the theoretical and unapplied stage.
The word 'genius' is often applied to individuals who have developed themselves in a lop-sided manner, by trying to attain knowledge without having made any progress in overcoming the obstacles in their own character.
When we attempt to apply our knowledge to the overcoming of these obstacles, the struggle begins. A man's enemies are they of his own household. The most difficult obstacles are the little personal faults that are so near, the little failings of temper and self-restraint, the self-love or anger or sloth, to which we so often yield.
So long as these remain rooted in the soil, our efforts in larger fields are rendered futile. With these removed, we are not only free from them ourselves, but able to overcome them in the world at large, so that we become a power for good; and the forces which once were turned against us are now our servants.
It has often been said that Occultism consists in dealing rightly with the present moment. Great things are mastered in their small beginnings. The application of this maxim is in boldly confronting the weaknesses in our nature, in the faith that their conquest will lead us to the next step on our path.
Many people are learning by suffering. The French mystic, Eliphas Levi, says:
To suffer is to labor. A great misfortune properly endured is a progress accomplished. Those who suffer much live more truly than those who undergo no trials.
What a great consolation! Though we may find it hard to realize this while we are actually in the throes, yet in the calm moments that intervene we can draw strength from the thought. If we have no philosophy, suffering seems a cruel and useless thing, and a horrible sardonic despair may seize us. But if we can manage to realize that the pain comes because we are climbing a hill in our life's journey, then we become reconciled with our lot.
Pleasure and pain are great teachers. The more we develop (throughout successive reincarnations), the more sensitive do we become to pain and pleasure. At last the vibration from one to the other becomes too keen for endurance, and we seek a position of independence and poise, free from the disturbing action of the oscillations. It is said that the first step on the path of knowledge consists in finding our feet, getting our balance.
It is certain that a man takes a great step forward when he first succeeds in grasping the truth of reincarnation and karma and in viewing his life as that of an immortal Soul enacting one of a series of scenes in the great drama. He takes a step, because he has established a link between his intellect and that fuller knowledge that is within him. The formation of this link will enable the Soul to shed more of its light into the mind. The recognition of these truths constitutes, in fact, a sort of initiation, and life can never after be quite the same as before. Henceforth he will learn more deeply and more quickly from the experiences of life.
In the case of many people, merely to direct their attention to the truths of Theosophy is enough to give them an inner conviction; and this even though the mind, trammeled by its habits of thought, may at first oppose. Hence the diffusion of knowledge of Theosophy is the means of starting many on the road to self-knowledge.
It is dissatisfaction with the ordinary life that leads people to search for that which lies beyond -- for a fuller self-realization. At first they are likely to make the mistake of seeking satisfaction in a mere intensification of sensation, in a mere enlargement of the ordinary experiences. But this only increases the source of discontent. With keener pleasure comes sharper pain. Thus they are driven to seek peace in a different path, and to make something else than personal satisfaction the object of life.
Since the higher evolution of man is contemplated by the scientific ideas as to evolution, it is but reasonable that we should stand ready for it. Already we have forced on our material civilization to a point where former standards of behavior no longer suffice to control the forces at our disposal. Unless we are to be torn to pieces by the powers we have invoked, and civilization is to go down in a catastrophe, the moral nature of man must be developed in equal measure. One way in which this is already happening is in the substitution of an international for a national commonweal.
Besides going wider, we must go deeper -- deeper into our own nature -- there to discover greater powers of self-control, heretofore latent. But let it be borne in mind that the future is an unfolding of what has existed in germ in the past; that --
Man was and will rebecome God.
-- H.P. Blavatsky
Man can become a God because he has been that (in potentiality) from the beginning. We must contemplate the future unfoldment of our latent divinity, both as individuals and as a race; for anticipation precedes realization. Each man finds the way for himself, but can obtain help and encouragement from teachers and teachings, in so far as these point to facts and do not dogmatize. And it is Self-knowledge that is the kind of knowledge to be sought. Man, know thyself, for otherwise thou canst really know nothing else. This is an ancient maxim.
By Iverson L. Harris
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January, 1917, pages 52-62.]
An inquirer once asked what were the PRINCIPAL teachings of Theosophy which gave its students such boundless confidence in it; and the answer was what Shakespeare's beautiful Rosalind said to Orlando in reply to a very different question: "There were none principal; they were all like one another, as halfpence."
It is impossible to say that one measure of a Beethoven symphony is more important than another; so is it impossible to say that any Theosophical doctrine is more essential than another. Each measure in the symphony is necessary for the whole, and each tenet of Theosophy is but one link in the great thought-chain which the disciple does not completely fashion until he has attained to self-knowledge.
But just as in the great Master's "Pastoral Symphony" there is one beautiful theme that forever suggests the whole, and reminds one always of moving lightly along a placid stream with the blue sky overhead, green trees on either shore, and Nature's feathered songsters singing to the accompaniment of the lapping wavelets, so there is one theme in the great Theosophic Symphony which is perpetually echoing in the disciple's mind as he moves along the stream of life. And this is the teaching of the duality of human nature.
For an adequate comprehension of this teaching, it is necessary to understand the Theosophical doctrine of the seven principles of man, which may be found clearly and simply explained on page 89 of the Point Loma Edition of The Key to Theosophy, by H.P. Blavatsky.
Briefly, Theosophy teaches that man is made up of two natures, variously described as the higher and the lower, the god and the beast, the immortal and the mortal, the angel and the demon, the incorruptible and the corruptible, the spiritual and the animal, etc.
The higher nature is divided into three principles and the lower into four; and between this higher triad and the lower quaternary does our center of consciousness forever hover -- now aspiring towards the god-like qualities of the higher nature, and now yielding to the seductions of the animal soul.
Thus the mind of man is at one time the mirror that reflects the "Image of God," and at another time the "playground of the senses," which delude, corrupt, and may eventually destroy that which makes us different from merely ratiocinating animals.
Once gain a clear understanding of this teaching of the duality of human nature, and season your understanding with a knowledge of the doctrines of karma and reincarnation, etc., and all the contradictions in human nature seen in the history of great and small men of the past, and in the lives of your contemporaries, and best of all in your own life, will disappear.
In THE BHAGAVAD-GITA or "Book of Devotion," as translated by William Q. Judge, the second great Theosophical Teacher of modern times, and dedicated by him "to those who truly love their fellowmen," we find that Chapter XVI treats of "Devotion through Discrimination between Godlike and Demoniacal Natures."
Here we read:
Fearlessness, sincerity, assiduity in devotion, generosity, self-restraint, piety, and alms-giving, study, mortification and rectitude; harmlessness, veracity, and freedom from anger, resignation, equanimity, and not speaking of the faults of others, universal compassion, modesty and mildness; patience, power, fortitude and purity, discretion, dignity, unrevengefulness and freedom from conceit -- these are the marks of him whose virtues are of a godlike character ... Those ... who are born with demoniacal dispositions are marked by hypocrisy, pride, anger, presumption, harshness of speech, and ignorance ... There are two kinds of natures in beings in this world, that which is godlike, and the other which is demoniacal; the godlike hath been fully declared, hear now from me ... what the demoniacal is.
Those who are born with the demoniacal disposition ... know not purity or right behavior, they possess no truthfulness. They deny that the universe has any truth in it, saying it is not governed by law, declaring that it hath no Spirit; they say creatures are produced alone through the union of the sexes, and that all is for enjoyment only.
Maintaining this view, their souls being ruined, their minds contracted, with natures perverted, enemies of the world, they are born to destroy. They indulge insatiable desires, are full of hypocrisy, fast-fixed in false beliefs through their delusions. They indulge in unlimited reflections which end only in annihilation, convinced until death that the enjoyment of the objects of their desires is the supreme good.
Fast-bound by the hundred chords of desire, prone to lust and anger, they seek by injustice and the accumulation of wealth for the gratification of their own lusts and appetites. "This today hath been acquired by me, and that object of my heart I shall obtain; this wealth I have, and that also shall be mine. This foe have I already slain, and others will I forthwith vanquish; I am the lord, I am powerful, and I am happy. I am rich and with precedence among men; where is there another like unto me? I shall make sacrifices, give alms, and enjoy."
In this manner, do those speak who are deluded. Confounded by all manner of desires, entangled in the net of delusion, firmly attached to the gratification of their desires, they descend into hell. Esteeming themselves very highly, self-willed, full of pride and ever in pursuit of riches, they perform worship with hypocrisy ... only for outward show.
In studying the present condition of the world, especially of Europe, after "discriminating between the godlike and demoniacal natures," one is made painfully conscious of the fact that there has not been much evidence of the godlike nature in this titanic struggle. Indeed, is there much evidence of the godlike nature anywhere? Not MUCH -- but heaven be praised, there is still SOME! Else had the world been little better than a shambles or foul dumping-ground for the fallen angels who were not fit to inhabit more celestial regions.
We are taught that the divine nature in man, if given half a chance to manifest as lord of the body and mind (and it is a question of personal choice in each individual), can redeem this old world of ours. Our Leaders have repeated over and over again that in the application of Theosophical principles to the daily life of humanity lies the solution of all the problems that confront us. And this assertion every earnest student of Theosophy is ready to echo, for the reason that he has found it so in his own life and in his own circle -- however limited that circle may outwardly appear.
Having been a student of Katherine Tingley's from childhood, the writer feels perfectly confident that, in the universal application of the teachings of Theosophy, as demonstrated by Katherine Tingley in her Raja-Yoga School and College, lies the only PERMANENT cure for all disharmony and misery in the world -- national or international, personal or general. Any system of compromise or force will never PERMANENTLY stop bloodshed and strife. Any system which is not built on the sure foundation of spiritual knowledge and a reliance on the divine nature in man will at best be but a temporary palliative; it cannot permanently cure. It will be dealing with EFFECTS and not with CAUSES. Thus have we been taught by Katherine Tingley.
The world is in chains in the truest sense. Tom Paine said:
What are the iron chains that HANDS have wrought? The hardest chain to break is made of THOUGHT.
How shall we break these chains? Learn to think rightly. Who will teach us? Carlyle says somewhere in his lecture on "The Hero as King," that if Cromwell had been supported by millions instead of only by tens and hundreds, all England might have become a Christian land! The sincere Theosophist is firmly convinced that if Katherine Tingley were supported by millions and millions, as she is by hundreds and thousands, there could be no war in Europe today, and the terrible incubus of so-called "preparedness," of distrust and brutality, would be lifted. How do we know this? Because she does not waste her precious time meddling with EFFECTS and REMEDIES: she gets down to fundamental CAUSES, and applies the old adage that "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
What is the principal cause of the present conflict and separateness in the human family? One of the Greek Sages said that nothing but the body and its desires was the cause of all disharmony in the world. The present war in Europe the result of bodily desires? -- Not DIRECTLY, perhaps; but INDIRECTLY, most certainly. Listen to this from THE BHAGAVAD-GITA, and trace the connection between the body and its desires and all the wrong in the world:
ARJUNA: By what ... is man propelled to commit offenses; seemingly against his will and as if constrained by some secret force?
KRISHNA: It is lust which instigates him. It is passion ... insatiable, and full of sin. Know this to be the enemy of man on earth ... By this -- the constant enemy of the wise man, formed from desire which rageth like fire and is never to be appeased -- is discriminative knowledge surrounded. Its empire is over the senses and organs, the thinking principle and the discriminating faculty also; by means of these it cloudeth discrimination and deludeth the Lord of the body. Therefore ... thou shouldst conquer this sin which is the destroyer of knowledge and of spiritual discernment.
Thus it is evident that, while the desires of the body may not be the IMMEDIATE promptings which lead to all strife and conflict, yet it is the gratification of these desires in one form or another which "cloudeth discrimination and deludeth the Lord of the body," and which is "the destroyer of knowledge and of spiritual discernment." And without knowledge and spiritual discernment, how can we hope to avoid strife and conflict? Thus the old Greek Sage was quite right.
H.P. Blavatsky, our first Teacher, wrote: "The one terrible and only cause of the disturbance of harmony is selfishness." This in no sense contradicts the words of the Greek Sage. It is more explanatory than antithetical. It is only the lower nature of man which is selfish. The higher nature is always unselfish, compassionate, and just; for it is always conscious of being at one with the spiritual side, the higher nature, of every other being.
It should be remembered that the brain-mind of man, unless illuminated by the light of the Higher Self, is, according to Theosophy, just as much a part of the lower, animal, personal self as are the purely animal functions such as eating and sleeping, breathing and reproduction, living and dying. Hence the great error of our modern educational methods in placing intellectual achievements on a pedestal as the final goal. "Even ignorance," we are taught in Theosophy, "is better than head-learning with no soul-wisdom to illuminate and guide it."
The selfish man never can hope to attain soul-wisdom, which really means self-knowledge; for "self-knowledge is of loving deeds the child." Neither can the selfish man ever hope to become the Lord of his own body; for his very selfishness is a part of that body, and "self-preservation is the first law of nature" -- or of the lower aspect of nature, we should prefer to say.
It is always well to turn to original sources for information; and so to illustrate this point further, I will quote again from H.P. Blavatsky's writings:
Every human organ and each cell in the latter has a keyboard of its own, like that of a piano, only that it registers and emits sensations instead of sounds. Every key contains the potentiality of good or bad, of producing harmony or disharmony. This depends on the impulse given and the combinations produced ... If the impulse comes from the "Wisdom above," the Force applied being noetic or spiritual, the results will be actions worthy of the divine propeller; if from the "terrestrial, devilish wisdom" (psychic power), man's activities will be selfish, based solely on the exigencies of his physical, hence animal, nature. The above may sound to the average reader as pure nonsense; but every Theosophist must understand when told that ... the cells of his body answer to both physical and spiritual impulses.
Verily that body, so desecrated by Materialism and man himself, is the temple of the Holy Grail, the Adytum of the grandest, nay, of all, the mysteries of nature in our solar universe. That body is an Aeolian harp, chorded with two sets of strings, one made of pure silver, the other of catgut. When the breath from the divine Fiat brushes softly over the former, man becomes like unto HIS God -- but the other set feels it not. It needs the breeze of a strong terrestrial wind, impregnated with animal effluvia, to set its animal chords vibrating.
It is the function of the physical, lower mind to act upon the physical organs and their cells; but, it is the higher mind ALONE which can influence the atoms interacting in those cells, which interaction is alone capable of exciting the brain ... to a mental representation of spiritual ideas far beyond any objects on this material plane.
This dual aspect of man will explain the shocking contradictions in the lives of some of the world's greatest geniuses; and we believe that the main distinction between a mere genius and a true spiritual Teacher is that the mind of the latter responds ONLY to the "breath of the divine Fiat," whereas the mere genius SOMETIMES responds to the "strong terrestrial wind, impregnated with animal effluvia." Many men -- alas! -- seem rarely to respond to anything else!
We do not believe that it was the "breath of the divine Fiat ... brushing softly over the strings of pure silver" of Poe's Aeolian harp, when he wrote THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, ANNABEL LEE, or THE RAVEN. Music there is, to be sure; but it is of the catgut variety.
The divine breath is not to be found in charnel houses or "tombs by the sea." It is always present in the sunshine, on the mountain heights, or under Heaven's lightning, if you will; but it has naught to do with ravens and trained gorilla cut-throats.
Most of Poe's word-pictures seem to be the echoes in a great intellect of the animal chords vibrating in anything but a wholesome manner. The same may be found in Dean Swift, as in that terrible MODEST PROPOSAL of his; and it is running all through Byron.
Poor Byron! Is there a more pitiful spectacle in all literature? Cursed with a terrible heredity, revolting against cant, hut without the self-control necessary to the true reformer, he plunged into excesses that were almost as disgusting as the hypocrisy which he abhorred. And yet the Divine did speak in him at times, as when he wrote:
What signifies SELF? ... The mere selfish calculation ought never to be made on such occasions; and, at present, it shall not be computed by me ... I should almost regret that my own affairs went well, when those of nations are in peril.
And then, what a self-revelation is here, what an acknowledgment of the duality of human nature!
Like the Chaldaean, he could watch the stars, Till he had peopled them with beings bright As their own beams; and earth, and earth-born jars, And human frailties were forgotten quite: Could he have kept his spirit to that flight He had been happy; but this clay will sink Its spark immortal, envying it the light To which it mounts, as if to break the link That keeps us from yon heaven which woos us to its brink.
What if poor Byron had had a Teacher like Katherine Tingley, whom he could forever love and honor, and who, with the tenderness of a mother and the wisdom of a Seer could have saved him from breaking "the link that keeps us from yon heaven which woos us to its brink." Does he not feel the need of such a Teacher, when he cries in bitterness, but at the same time with the courage of the hero?
And thus, untaught in youth my heart to tame, My springs of life were poison'd. 'Tis too late! Yet I am changed; though still enough the same In strength to bear what time can not abate, And feed on bitter fruits without accusing Fate.
Byron's life is to me one of the greatest lessons in the duality of human nature I have ever studied. Untaught in his youth his heart to tame, the springs of his life were poisoned, till it was too late! And he failed -- or at best only partially succeeded in fulfilling his mission. Hypocrisy in his own country spurned him on account of his excesses -- and yet read his pictures of vice in DON JUAN with as much relish as they ate their juicy roast-beef! And Byron spat on hypocrisy, but neglected to purify himself. So of course he failed!
What might not a Teacher like Katherine Tingley have done for such a character as Byron, with a nature which was so strong in both directions? We can only speculate; but inasmuch as we are all miniature Byrons, we can tell what she has done for us. I believe the first lesson she would have taught him, would have been something that is as old as the ages -- as indeed is Theosophy itself -- but which in the light of the present discussion becomes something more than a mere figure of speech; to wit, that the body is the temple of the living Christ; or, as Novalis expresses it, "Every created man is a revelation in the flesh."
It is by teaching men so to live that they continually regard the body as the temple of the living Christ, that Katherine Tingley lays the foundation for a regenerated humanity. And with the student who has sincerely striven to profit by her teachings, this is not a mere theory -- it is an ever-present consciousness; and one who so regards his body would no more think of allowing his appetites and selfish desires to run riot in his adytum, than the priestess of the temple of Apollo would permit her sanctuary to be desecrated by the degenerate bacchanalia or the wild frenzies of the Maenads.
In this connection I am reminded of a warning given by H.P. Blavatsky to her students as to the delusions that often beset the path of those who seek spiritual knowledge half-heartedly. She writes:
There are those whose reasoning powers have been so distorted by foreign influences that they imagine that animal passions can be so sublimated and elevated that their fury, force, and fire can, so to speak, be turned inwards; that they can be stored and shut up in one's breast, until their energy is, not expanded, but turned toward higher and more holy purposes; namely, until their collective and unexpended strength enables their possessor to enter the true Sanctuary of the Soul and stand therein in the presence of the HIGHER SELF!
For this purpose they will not struggle with their passions nor slay them. They will simply, by a strong effort of will, put down the fierce flames and keep them at bay within their natures, allowing the fire to smolder under a thin layer of ashes. They submit joyfully to the torture of the Spartan boy who allowed the fox to devour his entrails rather than part with it. Oh, poor, blind visionaries!
As well hope that a band of drunken chimney-sweeps, hot and greasy from their work, may be shut up in a Sanctuary hung with pure white linen, and that instead of soiling and turning it by their presence into a heap of dirty shreds, they will become masters in and of the sacred recess, and finally emerge from it as immaculate as that recess.
Many people imagine that it is difficult to be a good Theosophist. They have a strange distorted notion that one must "give up" so much! The only things that I know of that a true Theosophist must give up, are those things which he is better off without. He must give up the "flesh-pots of Egypt," of course; but in giving them up he gets in return, without seeking it, what the whole world is looking for and rarely finds -- health, peace, and happiness.
Theosophy requires nothing of any man except that he be what a man who is conscious of his divinity, of being something more than a thinking animal, OUGHT to be. And any man who fails to be a Theosophist -- even though he never heard of the name -- pays the penalty for his transgression by that very transgression; for "as ye sow, so must ye also reap."
William Q. Judge tells us:
The true road is plain and easy to find; it is so easy that very many would-be students miss it, because they cannot believe it to be so simple.
And H.P. Blavatsky says:
It is easy to become a Theosophist. Any person of average intellectual capacities, and a leaning toward the metaphysical; of pure, unselfish life, who finds more joy in helping his neighbor than in receiving help himself; one who is ever ready to sacrifice his own pleasures for the sake of other people; and who loves Truth, Goodness, and Wisdom for their own sake, not for the benefit they may confer -- is a Theosophist.
And yet Theosophists are comparatively few; for the reason that none save him who endeavors to square his life to the above definition can properly be called a Theosophist. The strength of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society lies not in the number of its members, but in their earnestness and sincerity; for our three great Teachers have ever insisted that we do not make the great mistake of the majority of mankind in regarding moral precepts and practice as the least important element in their religion. Theosophy itself is synonymous with everlasting truth, and therefore imperishable; and "Theosophist is, who Theosophy does," said H.P. Blavatsky.
Theosophy teaches that it is in the mind that the great battle of life must be fought by every sincere disciple. The old axiom that "Two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time" is in constant use by our teachers in urging us to keep our minds ever filled with images of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Hence it is that good music and high-class drama are such important factors in the Raja-Yoga education, as indeed are all the humanities.
They are something more than the means of relaxation or than mere accomplishments. They serve to keep the mind filled with those thoughts and aspirations which give the higher nature a freer hand, if one may use such an expression, to rule this little kingdom of ours. One cannot very well imagine that a man whose mind was largely occupied with debating whether he would have pig's feet or tenderloin for dinner could very well appreciate this beautiful fragment from LYCIDAS:
Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies, The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine, The white pink, and the pansy freak'd with jet, The glowing violet, The musk-rose, and the well-attired woodbine, With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head, And every flower that sad embroidery wears: Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed, And daffadillies fill their cups with tears, To strew the laureat herse where Lycid lies.
And yet, how many people are there whose minds are continuously occupied with those things in life which tend to lift us from animalism and sordidness into spirituality and noble ideals? Not very many, I fear.
Though they would perhaps be ashamed to admit it, it is none the less true that a goodly percentage of humanity have not advanced very far in their notions of worldly happiness from that described in the medieval legends as existing in the land of Cockayne, where the houses were made of cake and the shingles of pie-crust; where roasted geese turned themselves on the streets for the gourmands and buttered larks fell from the heavens with garlic in their bills to season themselves for the epicures! I suppose to bring it up to date to suit the taste of an American, we would have to add that the beds were made of peanuts and popcorn, and the stairways of chewing-gum!
We still have to be reminded sometimes that we eat to live, and not live to eat. I am ashamed to confess it, but I can well remember when, as a child, I was invited to a party, and because there was no icecream and cake, when I got home I told my mother, when she asked me if I had enjoyed the party: "Why, Mama, they didn't have any party!"
I have been a Raja-Yoga student for fifteen years since then, and I hope I have learned better! And yet we must eat; there is no doubt about that. Indeed, I might say that perhaps the dietary system in vogue at the Point Loma institution is one of the greatest secrets of the remarkable standard of health -- both mental and physical -- which prevails in Lomaland.
In September 1913 Madame Tingley returned from a trip to Europe, whither she had gone to direct the International Theosophical Peace Congress at Visingso, Sweden, and to take part in the Twentieth World's Peace Congress at The Hague. Accompanying her were a group of students from the Raja-Yoga College and Academy.
At Boston Madame Tingley consented to give an interview to Miss Gertrude Stevenson, a staff reporter of the Boston TRAVELER and HERALD. This little lady, like all pure-minded and honest people, loved Madame Tingley at first sight, and let her heart out in a very appreciative account of her interview in the papers she represented. In the Boston TRAVELER of September 15, 1913, appeared this interview, from which I quote the following:
If the twenty-eight pupils who are Mrs. Tingley's companions are typical of the Raja-Yoga students, the Theosophical Leader has much to her credit. Never have I seen a finer group of young men and women in my life. Their carriage, their glowing health, their straightforward, direct gaze, and their serene countenances can hardly be duplicated in any college group in the country. At the same time they are as husky, red-blooded specimens of humanity as any student of eugenics could require.
A day or two later, quite by accident, Miss Stevenson met this same group of Raja-Yoga students on the train. Among other things, she said: "In talking with Madame Tingley the other day, she said that she had a special system of dieting. Can you give me any further details on this matter? You know everybody is interested in 'eats.'"
She was informed that Madame Tingley did not dogmatize on what we should eat and what we should not eat, more than she did on other subjects; that in the Raja-Yoga College no eating was allowed between meals, and the students soon found that they did not care to eat between meals: that the meals were served regularly and consisted of the most wholesome and nutritious food, cooked by volunteer workers under the most sanitary conditions, under the supervision of the head physician of the institution.
In fact we eat, in the right quantity, that food which is described in THE BHAGAVAD-GITA as attractive to the wise man; to wit:
The food which increases the length of days, vigor and strength, which keeps one free from sickness, of tranquil mind, and contented, and which is savory, nourishing, of permanent benefit and congenial to the body.
"Do the Theosophists at Point Loma eat meat?" is a question often asked by interested inquirers. Some do and some do not -- it is a matter of individual choice and evolution. But there are many Theosophists who feel that it is unethical to kill animals for food, especially when it is not absolutely essential to the restoration of health. And these Theosophists find it difficult to believe that anything which is unethical can, in the long run, be hygienic.
We do not go to extremes in this matter and make a dogma of it. We believe that if we do our full duty by our fellowmen and strive to follow the golden rule, matters of diet and outward practices are of secondary Importance; or, perhaps we should say, are more a means than an end in themselves.
There are many Theosophists who believe that we become like what we feed upon, and who also know from personal experience that the eating of flesh or of rich foods of any kind, tends to strengthen the animal propensities and makes the path of self-conquest more difficult.
Many a man who spends sleepless nights and is cross and disagreeable the following day, blind to the beauties of nature, and indifferent to the nobler promptings of his heart might trace back his insomnia and his bearishness to the well-garnished beefsteak and the heavy puddings he ate for supper the night before.
If we feed ourselves like hogs, the chances are that we shall grow porcine in our tendencies; if we bolt our food like dogs, we are apt to be currish in other ways; if we are excessive meat-eaters, we need not be surprised to find ourselves growing more and more like the carnivora in other respects.
There seems to be nothing very illogical in believing this to be so, though it is not well to dogmatize on such matters; for there are no doubt times when a good physician -- even a good theosophical physician -- will recommend a meat diet as essential to the restoration of health; and, until we have evolved to a condition far superior to that in which most of us now find ourselves, let us by all means do as good doctors tell us to do.
By Jefferson D. Malvern
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, August 1916, pages 142-50.]
King Carvan, son of Irith, had been journeying all day: on horseback across the plain and through the forest, and now on foot up the pass that lies between Mount Wandelosse and the Beacon. By nightfall he would have been king for a night and a day; and already he was taking such a step, venturing into such regions as, in plain truth, had not been tempted before, except by Cian and Conan, his brothers, during the history of ten thousand years, or since the passing of Wandelosse the Mighty. For these Mountains of the Sun were inviolate, impassable, and terror-haunted. They bounded the empire eastward, and had done so since the empire began. No king had been as foolhardy and ambitious as to lead armies into their fastnesses; no discoverer so enamored of the wild as to look on them with longing eyes.
One knew only that beyond Mount Wandelosse, beyond the Beacon, there were vast slopes and precipices upsweeping: lonely green places, and then places craggy with granite where no greenness was; and so on and up by wave on wave of mountain, to peaks covered with eternal snow, and peaks vaster and more terrific beyond; haunts where the wolf-packs howled, heights where the eagles soared; desolations where presences abode that were more terrible than either; -- more beneficent, perhaps, but more terrible certainly; for one can make some sort of fight against natural things, even against a wolf-pack; but gods, whether they be hostile or loving -- there is no opposing them.
Human feet had, indeed, trodden this pass and these two nearest peaks; or so legend would have it, and none disbelieved. But that was ten thousand years ago: in a titanic and traditional time, long before history was written.
Wandelosse the Mighty, Father of Gods and men, it was said, after he had led the people into that land, and after he had built the great city, Karaltwen, and reigned in it a hundred years, had caused a chamber to be hewn out upon the very peak of his mountain, and a cairn to be raised over it; and having bidden his people farewell, had gone up there alone; to sleep, perchance, or to watch there through certain ages; not to die. And he would come again, it was said, singing his ancient song for victory, if ever the national need were supreme, and called for him -- and if the king then reigning should know how to invoke his aid.
Such need had never arisen, until now. The history of Karaltwen recorded no grand disaster of plague or dearth; and had there been invasion at any time, it was easily repelled. This was not an ambitious or a restless people, to bring trouble on others, and so presently on themselves.
A decade ago, and their ships were on the seven seas, their scholars honored at a hundred courts; their rich dwelling in piety and peace, and even their poorest sleek with content. Ten years ago; and it seemed a Golden Age aeons distant. For there had been nine years of plague, pestilence, and famine since, and one of battle, murder, and sudden death; and now let the Gods ward off destruction if they would, for it was beyond the power of man.
With one in every three dead of the Yellow Death, and the rest feeble with hunger, what fight could be made when the blonde giants came out of the north, killing, plundering, and burning everywhere? What wonder if the invading horde swept away such puny armies as could be raised to oppose them, and was already within striking distance of the sacred city?
It was at that point that the druids came to the king -- not Carvan, but Cian -- and bade him ride forth on to the mountain to invoke the help of Wandelosse the Mighty. It was then, for the first time in all history, that the archdruid gave up the secret of invocation that had been handed down to him, whispering it in the ear of King Cian as he mounted his horse to ride forth.
Cian the Politic -- who had schemed so long and so wisely for the well-being of his people; whose reign, until the years of disaster, had been so wisely ordered, so wonderfully prosperous -- had sat in his saddle for a minute, two, in thought; then called for his chief minister, and for Conan his brother and heir; had taken the golden torque of his sovereignty from his neck, and given it to Conan, saying: "You are to wear it, unless I return by tomorrow evening." He had not returned; and on the morrow, in the evening, Conan the Bold had been proclaimed king.
In the morning, Conan too received the secret and rode forth wearing the torque. He returned in the evening of the second day, solemn, even anxious of visage; and with little to say but that he would go against the invaders in the morning. He had gone against them, and fallen; and left as heir to his kingdom none but this Carvan, the youngest of the brothers: Carvan the Fool, or the Bard, as some few called him -- of whom no one would expect much in such troublous times as these.
For Carvan had never looked to be king; would rather have dreaded the possibility, had it occurred to him. One or other of his brothers would marry and have children, and he would be left in peace, he thought, to dream in the forest, to watch the changes of the sky above the mountains, and fathom with childlike-soaring mind the life of the Gods who haunted them.
A gentle dreamer was Carvan, for whom the wildwood flowers were more than all the glories of king-craft; and the children of the poor dearer than cargoed ships on the sea, or fields golden with increase, or treaties of alliance with powerful kings.
It may be supposed, then, that there was consternation everywhere when news came of Conan's heroic death; what kind of help should be from Carvan the Fool? -- Whose good deeds, even, betrayed the lack of an organizing mind; since he had not the wit to set others doing them, but must needs get about them secretly himself.
It was whispered hopelessly in street and palace; and but for the archdruid, I think, the true succession would have been passed over; and some minister with a head for statecraft, or captain fitted for war, would have been chosen.
Hoova was old and gifted with wisdom more than worldly, and by virtue of his office had the last word. He knew Carvan well, and the ways of the Immortals better, and was as adamant: this was not the time, he said, to offend the Gods by turning from the line of Wandelosse the Mighty. So in his turn Carvan had heard the secret, and ridden forth from a despairing sullen capital, up towards the mountains of the Gods.
Over the cultivated lands, and into the forest that he loved: the shadow-world of green umbrage, shot with golden light-flecks above, and beautiful below with the dark light of a myriad bluebells in bloom. He heard the blackbird singing; he heard the noonday chanting of the thrush, and the sweet wandering shout of the cuckoo.
Why should he think of war and disaster, when the lyricism of these proclaimed the nearness of dear and sacred Beings; when immortality rippled over the green fern leagues, and every acorn brooded upon druid secrets of the Gods? In your hands, 0 Mighty Ones! Your keeping, 0 Everlasting Law! And he too, was he not a quivering center of sentience, of divinity, in the midst of this ocean of delight: a soul to perceive, to know, to adore?
So he came to the foot of the pass and the beginning of the hallowed region, and went forward in exceeding great joy. Here no foot had ever trodden, save those of his two brothers, and of the great God himself, in all the ages of the race. He drew deep breaths as he went; the mountain air was pure joy tingling through his being.
It was, after all, no sorrow or burden, as he had thought, but a privilege, to be king -- in these miserable times at least: since not otherwise might one make the momentous and sublime journey, nor confront the Immortals in their darling haunts.
He remembered how Cian's face had changed when Hoova whispered the secret to him; seeming to age suddenly, and the determination with which he had struggled hoping against hope, through the last ten years, going out from it in a resigned heroic despair. He remembered how Conan's warlike features had lighted with a gleam of fierce, desperate joy; and how he, too, had ridden forth a changed man.
How terrible the secret must have been, he had thought, to work changes so great on such men as Cian and Conan! And yet, how simple a thing it was, when he in his turn heard it! What had they elected to give, he wondered.
An intuition told him: Cian belike had offered his kinghood, so infinitely dear to him: the daily planning and scheming and governance of things, which was the work and inward nourishment of his being. That was why Cian had not returned: he would not take back the gift he had offered, even though it was unaccepted. And Conan the Brave would have offered his life itself; and so had deliberately lost it yesterday on the battlefield.
Tears filled Carvan's eyes, of pride in his brothers, and grief for their sorrow. Dear, heroic Conan! Kind, wise, all-ordering Cian! Why had their great gifts, their supreme sacrifice, availed nothing?
As for himself, the problem presented itself to him not as what should he sacrifice but as what did he value most? Let him find out that, and the rest would take care of itself; to know it was what mattered; to sacrifice it would be the natural thing, and of course.
The kinghood had not been enough, as from Cian who loved it; it would be an insult to the God if offered by himself, who held it at a straw's price -- indeed, but for this one privilege it conferred on him, rather as a distasteful thing and a burden.
Better to follow Conan, and offer his life -- and with what joy -- to save the women in the little homes of the land, the men toiling in the fields, and the children of the poor from slavery and sorrow and dishonor! But death for Conan had meant an end, at least for ages, to facing the perils that he loved; it was the greatest sacrifice Conan knew how to make, and yet had not availed. Whereas for him it would mean to ride untrammeled on the winds above the tops of the forest below there; to go unforbidden where he would among these august mountains of the Gods.
Ah Death, that many feared, how lovely a thing wast thou: that freed the soul of mortality and partial knowledge; that discovered to it the secrets of the pine tree and the larch tree, of golden sunlight and purple shadow, of the immense blue empyrean where the winds and lightning sported! To have the myriad-changing and adorable universe for throne and couch and playground and workshop; to claim kindred with the Mighty Ones among the mountains, who watch and toil and revel and are not afflicted, and neither change nor pass nor die!
Carvan the Bard knew that if he gave his life, the gift would be useless. It was something, indeed, that he was very happy to possess; but it was something he would be still happier without. And the arch-druid had said: that which most thou valuest.
He was high up in the pass now, on a road that in winter would be a roaring torrent, but now made traveling sometimes difficult, but nowhere impossible. The heat of the day was over, and on the tops of the pines and the larches the sunlight fell with a golden and mellow glow. The silence of the place was altogether wonderful and lovely.
On either hand steep, tree-covered banks soared up as high above him, almost, as a lark will fly from her nest; so that only occasionally, when the valley widened or the precipice was broken on this side or that, was there seeing the giant shoulder of the Beacon, purple in heather, on his left, or the giant peak of Wandelosse on his right. Now the shadow of an eagle, or a hawk, sailing far in the blue; now a glimpse of a wild goat poised aloft there on the crag head; here the hum of wild bees, the flitting of many-colored butterflies' wings, or the sudden scatter of a rabbit, and silence, and golden light, and the sacred spirit of the mountains. What was the thing he valued most?
The sun was near setting by the time he left the pass, and came out into the larchwoods of a high upland valley. There, as he knew, he must turn to the right, and upward through the trees; then to the right again, or westward, and out over the wild northern slopes of Wandelosse to reach the path which, according to tradition, the Father of the Race had traversed of old.
Through the fairy gloom of the trees he went, and over the carpet of brown needles. As the green darkness above him was broken, now and again, by a golden shaft flashing on the blue iridescence, more luminous than jewels, of a jay's wing: so his mood, that had passed into quiet awe and wonder, would be kindled momentarily by thought-flashes almost agonizing in their beauty. In the murmur of the wind in the branches, he heard the voice of the eternal silence; and his soul within him glowed lofty, august, and eternal as that.
In the twilight he came out from the woods, through little trees that stood apart in the midst of the greenest of grasses, over-silvered now; and beheld immense skies westward still glorious with the shadowy flame of the sunset's afterglow.
Now indeed he was in the Holiest of Holies, and his whole being cried out and quivered in ecstatic joy. He stood on the open slope of the mountain of the Immortals, drew near to the dear and awful presence of the Father of Gods and men. He went on, the path clearly and marvelously marked before him, westward still and upward, the soul in him pulsating with superhuman gladness: come to its own, knowing itself, one with the Gods, with eternal and boundless life.
Himself, and not himself: an eternal glory of which he, Carvan, was but the evanescent shadow.
He knew what thing he valued most. It was his soul, the Soul.
The slope of Wandelosse rises very gradually at this point. There are a thousand yards or more of almost level thicket and bogland between the lip of the chasm, up which he had come, and the upward sweep of heather and granite that ends in the peak and cairn.
Here and there are alders many, and sloe-bushes, and tangles of bramble with crimson sprawling limbs; dog-roses to make autumn wistful with their scarlet and orange-colored hips; whitethorn to breathe out sweetness upon May, and to bear haws of dark flame in the midst of October's delicate yellowness and mists.
From here you can see, often, the shoulder of the Beacon beyond the pass, when the peak of Wandelosse itself is quite hidden from you, either by the near thicket, or by intervening knolls and juttings on the vast mountainside itself.
Through this thicket he pressed on, the way growing more and more difficult as he went; then out on to the western slope, and on and up, until long after night had come up over the wild regions eastward, and the sky was wholly strewn with mirific hosts of stars. Oh, beautiful over the mountains beautiful beyond telling in God's sacred place.
No, not the life, but the Soul. What would it be, to be without that -- to be, and be soulless? Well, that beauty existed: there was the sky, the wind, the mountains.
"Son, what gift art thou prepared to give?"
"Father, I give thee what I can. Not my kinghood, since it is nothing either to me or to thee. Not my life, for I value it at nothing. Take thou my Soul."
The shadowy flame form towered up over the peak above, awful in its golden and violet beauty, into the starry vastness ... And Carvan the son of Irith sank down on the mountainside -- asleep?
It was the next evening, as history relates, that Carvan the Mighty rode into Karaltwen. Somehow, the city went mad with joy as soon as the watchman heard his horse's hoofs, and proclaimed the news of his coming. Men swore that he had added a foot to his stature since he went out, and that his face and form shone with the light of godhood.
Out he rode again the same night; out with the strangest army that ever followed leader through the city gates: just the rabble that met him in the streets and that followed because the glory and beauty of him impelled them to follow.
How they came by arms at all it were a mystery to tell. A hundred, two hundred, perhaps five hundred there were of them: the ragtag and bobtail of the place: the poor and the maimed and the halt and the blind; they heard him singing the Song of Wandelosse the Mighty, the war song of all immortal war-songs, and followed.
And he fell upon the foe at the dawn of the morning, and singing, made slaughter of them; he himself, they say, slaying his thousands as he sang; even as none had fought and slain and sung since Wandelosse the Mighty.
The rabble that followed him, made giants by his virtue, heroes by his heroic song, were better than the tens of thousands of veterans that were against them; and they broke the blonde invaders, and scattered them; and followed them up, and broke them again and again, until in all the land there was none left of them alive.
Ever as he led his men in victory, Carvan the Mighty sang the Song of Wandelosse, the song that had been forgotten through the ages; and his men, hearing him, became not as men, but as Gods battling; and it seemed to all the people that a God was their king, and that the Father of Gods and men had come into the flesh to lead them.
Sweet prosperity followed upon triumph, and gentle peace and wisdom upon war; and once more it was even as it had been, according to the songs and traditions of the bards, when Wandelosse the Mighty reigned, in the ancient days and in the dawn of time.
By H. Travers
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, August 1915, pages 101-9.]
One of the chief Theosophical teachings is that of the law of karma, the law in accordance with which every man reaps that which he has sown. Every experience which we meet is a consequence of causes which we ourselves set in motion at some time in the past; and our present acts and thoughts will give rise to other consequences in the future. This law thus secures perfect equity of fortune for every man, and no circumstance is either casual or arbitrarily inflicted.
The doctrine, however, cannot be understood without knowledge of reincarnation; for the period of a single life on earth does not comprise enough time to manifest all the workings of karma. It is obvious that many of the experiences we are now meeting were not caused by anything we did in this life; and in such cases, the causes were set in motion in a previous life or lives.
In the expression, "law of karma," the word "law" is used to denote a rule of nature; in the same sense, in fact, as that in which the word is used in science. Thus the law of karma is as much a natural fact as the law of gravitation. The existence of this law is demonstrated to our mind by means of study and observation. But our neglect of the fact of reincarnation has naturally blinded our eyes.
It will be observed that this law is quite similar to certain scientific generalizations such as the "conservation of energy," but that it is on a far larger scale than these scientific generalizations.
Science, with its love of truth and method, its readiness to generalize and bring things under a uniform rule, should welcome the doctrine of karma. And it has already made considerable steps in that direction; for it is owing to science that we nowadays recognize the causes of so many things that once were attributed to the "will of God" or to mere "fate."
We know now that epidemics are due to carelessness and dirt, and that no God will save us from the natural consequences of our own negligence in such concerns. May it not be the same with many other of our experiences, perhaps even ALL our experiences? Theosophy answers: Yes.
In some cases the workings of karma can readily be traced; as, for instance, when a decrepit old age succeeds an intemperate youth. In that case we can trace the connection between cause and effect, link by link. Likewise, if a man incurs enmity by his own ill-nature, we can trace the injuries he incurs at the hands of other people to the injurious character of his own past actions. And many other such cases can be easily imagined. But in other cases the connection between cause and effect is not so apparent. Yet all that is needed, in order that we may trace out the connection, even in these cases, is more study and more knowledge.
Accidents are not always easy to trace to their cause; yet we may go a little way in the direction of a solution without much trouble. We are normally protected from accidents by the alert instinctive senses of our organism; but sometimes we get up in the morning with our nerves so out of tune that these instincts do not play their due part, and we consequently cut ourselves with our razor, take the skin off our knuckles against the door, and bring various other parts of our anatomy into conflicting juxtaposition with sundry portions of inert matter. The matter might even go to the length of throwing us under a streetcar; and in these cases we have traced accident to carelessness, or rather to a certain disordered condition set up in ourself by our own negligence.
This may supply a hint as to the workings of karma. May it not be that the seeds which generate events are lurking somewhere in our own being, ready to sprout into manifestation when occasion offers suitable conditions?
A new-born child is like a seed, fraught with latent germs that will unfold into character, and these seeds are the fruitage of prior experience. But it is not only CHARACTER that is thus carried over from life to life, but also DESTINY. This much an astrologer might willingly admit, claiming, as he does, to be able to read in the planetary configurations at birth not the character alone but the destiny as well.
It is evident that, when we begin talking about such a thing as the seed of an event, we are entering a domain where our knowledge is defined mostly by its gaps. Nevertheless this is not superstition or guesswork, but something that can be known and worked out.
If any critic should say that the Theosophical explanation is speculative, we might at least answer that so are all other explanations, and that Theosophy, with its law of karma, is but offering an explanation where none other exists to dispute the field. But we do not have to stop short at mere speculation.
Let us take some simple case and examine the ordinary theories about it. Supposing a man has a railroad accident; how would current theories set about explaining that? We might imagine a few devout people satisfying themselves with the reflection that such was the will of Deity, and seeking no further. We might imagine a very large number of people simply accepting the fact without the slightest attempt at explanation. And we might imagine that a scientist or philosopher, if questioned, would put us off with the remark that the occurrence was "purely fortuitous." In the last case we have gotten a fine phrase indeed but nothing more. So the situation can be summed up by saying that ordinary knowledge provides us with no explanation whatever, leaving the field open to anyone who may have an explanation to offer.
Here it must be admitted that even many Theosophists leave us nearly as badly off as before when they tell us that the accident was "our karma" -- an explanation which will strike many as being merely a substitution of the word "karma" for the word "God."
One would like to go a little deeper than this if possible. But first let us pause to consider some other things which we do not know. Take that familiar illustration of "chance," the tossing of a coin. What is the cause that determines whether it shall fall heads or tails? Or, if you choose, take the cards and tell me what determines the order of their dealing. It cannot be that here we have effects without causes; and yet, if these are effects, and if all effects have causes, these effects must have causes. Then what are those causes? This is the field we have to explore.
Perhaps the ancient art of divination, in its numerous forms, some of them now being revived, might help us a little. Those who tell fortunes by the fall of the cards, or by marks made "casually" in the sand, or the grounds in a teacup, or the movements of birds, must evidently think that these apparently casual happenings are in some way connected with future events. Perhaps there have been ancient magicians who did not merely think this but KNEW it.
So-called casual events, then, such as those consulted in the various kinds of divination and in observing and interpreting omens, are mysteriously connected with other events; and by interpreting the one, we may be able to forecast the other. This conclusion may be arrived at either inductively by actual observation and experience, or deductively by applying certain known principles. The first is a question of experience, the second a question of philosophy or science.
The conclusion that all events are interwoven with each other seems inevitable to a scientific mind, and the contrary conclusion is rejected as something offensive to our ideas of the orderliness of the universe.
The fact that we do not happen to discern the connection between one set of events and another should not militate against the above foregone conclusion. For one thing, such ignorance is only to be expected; for, unless our knowledge is complete, there must be gaps in it. And here are some of the gaps; but the prospect of filling them up is by no means hopeless; indeed it is certain that we can fill some of them up, and there is no ground for setting any limit to the extent of possible knowledge in that direction.
It is useful to point out how far we have already advanced in the casual interpretation of events through our later discoveries in science. Science has connected together a vast mass of phenomena, dependent on each other through the working of sundry laws of nature that have been studied.
Such events, at one time called fortuitous, for want of a better explanation, are now assigned to their proper causes. In other cases, where we know that there is a causal relation, but cannot perceive its mechanism, we postulate some "medium," such as the "ether," to supply this place. The appearance of disturbances in the luminous atmosphere of the sun is found to coincide with magnetic storms on this earth; and to explain this we devise a theory of the ether, electrons, and what not.
Astrologers are fond of pointing out that it is but a step further to suppose a connection between the movements of the planets and the happenings on earth; that magnetic storms are probably but a particular effect of an alteration in some subtler atmosphere of the earth, which alteration likewise affects men's minds, thus causing waves of emotion and states of mind in the human family.
To connect with each other events that seem widely dissimilar in character and unrelated, we need a whole universe of new mediums like the ether, unseen beings, unknown forces, and so forth; and if we had this completer knowledge of the contents of the universe, it might be quite easy to trace the connection between, say, a malicious thought and a broken leg, or to find out just what change in a man's internal economy is necessary in order to make him lose all his money or go down in a sea-disaster.
Another interesting question is: what is the form in which the seeds of destiny are brought over from a past incarnation, attach themselves to the growing child, and afterwards unfold into character and events? But this is clearly a large and complex question and one that we can hardly expect to answer except on the basis of a greatly improved knowledge of nature's laws.
It would be possible here to throw out many suggestive hints, the fruit of long reflection and study, but there is more than one reason for refraining. For one thing, space lacks for giving the information which a student ordinarily gleans for himself from a study of Theosophical books and reflecting thereon. For another thing, a logical pursuance of the trains of thought suggested would lead one to the discussion of invisible beings, such as Elementaries and Nature-Spirits, higher forms of matter, latent powers in man, and various other things which have to be dealt with in a guarded manner.
This of course explains why H.P. Blavatsky leaves so many chains of thought uncompleted and confines herself so often to suggestive hints and partial information. Hers was the delicate task of saying enough to show people the reality of the supreme Science, and yet not saying enough to disclose things better not known to the world at large.
Enough has probably been said to show that this doctrine of karma is not mere speculation, nor matter for unquestioning belief, but a thing that can be studied and understood; and that there is a profound scientific background to it.
The ethical value of the doctrine of karma is of course strongly emphasized by Theosophical writers on the subject. To understand that our destinies are regulated by unerring law, as merciful as it is just, and not left to capricious fate or arbitrary will, is to become reconciled to our destiny.
It is satisfying to realize that there is an unerring law that deals to each man his exact meed of weal or woe. And a new hope and purpose is given to life when we understand that, by our present sowing, we are making our future harvest, and that not the smallest effort can fail of fruitage.
It may be useful to say a few words about a certain too narrow and commercial view of karma that is sometimes taken. It is only a mind lacking in imagination and expansiveness that can depict to itself a kind of Recording Angel (only with a Sanskrit name this time) sitting up aloft, or possibly somewhere inside, with a ledger wherein are entered the debit and credit accounts of the highly important Mr. Me, and doling out from time to time, with apparent arbitrariness, drafts of good luck or bad in accordance with the state of the balance on the books. Such an idea amounts to little more than exchanging the arbitrary providence for a scrupulously honest financial providence with a love of fair-play hut devoid of all emotion.
Whatever truth there may be in such a view, whatever watchful intelligences may be concerned in the carrying out of universal law, it is possible to overdo this aspect of the matter and to belittle and commercialize the idea of karma. After all, our distinctions between good and bad luck are very artificial; they are regulated by our tastes and our wants and our preferences, and such distinctions cannot be of much account in the eternal scheme of things.
The welfare of the Soul surely counts for more than the nature of the external circumstances, and we know that a character may be starved amid abundance and may grow in grace amid adversity -- or perchance the other way round.
It is not well, in speaking of karma, to lay too much stress on the difference between weal and woe, or good and bad karma. If there is an important difference, it lies in the nature of the karma as regards the welfare of the Soul, good karma being that which assists progress, and bad karma that which tends to destroy the Soul-life in a man.
The pattern of an individual life must be very complex, when we consider the elements that enter into it. An immortal Soul has entered upon a period of earth-life, bringing with it a store of seeds or mental deposits that will afterwards unfold as character and destiny or perhaps be carried on to a still later period of earth-life.
The nature of the Soul's karma has determined the kind of heredity it will choose or be attracted towards, and the kind of entourage it will be born into. But, as it is not within the bounds of probability that the Soul will find conditions exactly suited in every detail to its requirements -- or, in other words, will secure a perfect fit -- there must be a certain amount of ill-adjustment, a certain amount of undeserved experiences, both good and ill. So the karma of the Soul, the characters of the parents and ancestry, the country, surroundings, and other circumstances are all woven together in the formation of a complex pattern.
If we look into our own motives, we find that they too are complex, varying, and inconstant, likely to lead us along a crooked path, somewhat like that of a cow being driven to market and stopping by the wayside to investigate the pleasures and pursuits offered by the pasturage on the borders. But the real purpose of the life is known to the liver of the life, that is to the Soul. We shall understand that purpose better the more closely we can identify ourself with that Soul, or in other words, realize our true Self.
Besides individual karma, there are of course various kinds of collective karma, for example national karma and racial karma. Nations as a whole, and races as a whole, can commit actions and thus set in motion the laws of karma; and consequently they can experience the natural results thereof.
Of this we have, in the present European troubles, a striking instance. Individual men and women are involved in the karma of their nations and in that of the whole race. If anyone should be disposed for a moment to reflect on the equity of this circumstance, let him remember that we must either cast our lot with our fellows for good and for ill, or else make the fruitless attempt to live in isolation from all society. On the small scale we all accept such conditions, by the voluntary associations which we form with each other, accepting, over and above our individual deserts, such fortune as may befall the body to which we belong.
Collective karma will of course move on a slower and heavier scale. It may be easier, too, to trace its workings, for humanity as a whole never dies and so there is no gap of death to be bridged in this case. It is interesting to trace out the causes of the present trouble in the mistakes of the past. And among other things is impressed on us the important lesson that those who merely sin by omission become involved in the retribution.
It is sometimes considered difficult to reconcile the idea of karma with that of free will, but the difficulty is due to confusion of thought. People may argue that causes and effects will go on generating one another in an endless chain, leaving the individual no chance of escape. Yet experience shows that people do escape from such chains of circumstance.
The fact that one debauch generates the desire for another does not mean that we cannot escape from the habit. There are fortunately always means for escaping from habits. Just as a man who is caught in a vortex may lift himself out of it, so that its whirling no longer affect him, so may a man raise himself out of these Karmic entanglements.
The principle is that he should plant his feet on higher and firmer ground. We have the power of resisting impulses, thereby tending to exhaust the effect of karma and refraining from generating more of the same kind.
A free will is, for all practical purposes, a will that is free to choose a higher law in place of a lower; and to that extent at least, the human will is free. Any further discussion of the question of free will is apt to carry the philosopher so far ahead of present experience and needs that he loses himself in the mists of abstract thought.
Our thoughts and emotions are creative powers that tend to produce acts and physical results; so that our future destinies are in our own hands. It is one of the ironies of life that our desires often produce their fruits at a time when we have abandoned those desires and desire something else. This accounts for many misfits and much discontent.
It should be remembered that we have to face the facts of life, whatever our religion or philosophy may be; so that, whether we believe in karma or not, we shall incur good and evil fortune and be obliged to live out our life in the body which we have and with the various other endowments and circumstances that are ours.
If the teaching as to karma helps us to understand life better and to confront our destiny with more confidence and success, then we should do well to study those teachings. For instance, suppose you are born with a weak and nervous constitution, which has hampered you all through life and is likely to continue doing so; it is no use repining; you can only make the best of the facts.
It helps you greatly to know how and why you have that particular kind of a constitution and how to avoid generating any more karma of the same sort. A study of your character convinces you that you abused the laws of health at some time in the past, that your will was weak and your proclivities strong; and you see that your present weak physique has given you the opportunity of learning patience, self-control, and sobriety.
Karma explains many things which seem hopeless puzzles without it. What could seem more iniquitous than the fate of a drug fiend who has acquired the habit through using narcotics to deaden pain, and whose fearful fate seems all out of proportion to any guilt he may have incurred? How are we to explain why one man has such a fate and another not? And bear in mind that the facts are so, whether explained or not. The sufferings are the karma of past acts, and the difficulty of seeing this is due to the fact that the consequence is so far removed from the cause.
Looking at the question from another side, we see that men are committing acts which do not produce any consequences at present, and that they die without ever reaping the consequences of those acts.
Put the two cases together and they explain each other. The man has gradually acquired a powerful tendency to self-indulgence, and this is its culmination; in the drug habit we see self-indulgence carried to its bitter end, and all its folly revealed. But the karma of self-indulgence, a fault of long standing, acquired in past lives, was suspended for a part of the man's life.
Why was this? Because other kinds of karma were operating, or because the cyclic moment for the incidence of the self-indulgence karma had not arrived. For all things work in cycles; there are definite periods between the sowing of seeds and their fruitage, and causes are separated from their effects by various intervals, just as a ball thrown up will return sooner or later according to the force with which it was thrown.
In considering karma we must try and free our minds from the fashion of regarding ourselves as victims of fate or recipients of chastisement and favor. We should rather take the position of responsible beings engaged in the working out of practical problems in experience.
A man who really repents of a wrong he has done to another is not only willing but glad to suffer himself, in the hope of expiating the wrong. A conscientious man is willing and eager to pay off debts and settle old scores. And so with the Soul in its wisdom, even though the deluded mind may not understand.
A strong resolve to live aright will very likely bring down some old unsettled scores for the man to settle; and thus may be explained the unexpected obstacles that confront one who has made such a resolve. But if we invoke the law of justice, we must be willing to abide by its decrees.
The karma of past acts cannot be avoided, but it can be allowed to exhaust itself in such a way that no fresh karma of that kind is generated. It is the thoughts that start the evil; the body merely repeats the impressions that have been made upon it by the mind. If the thoughts are guarded and purified, the ill-consequences will gradually expend themselves. Meanwhile the seeds of better conditions for the future can be sown.
It is a matter of observation that old people, or people soon to die, continue to take an interest in life and to start new enterprises; which would be folly if their actions came to an end at death. The truth is that their actions are inspired by knowledge greater than that of the present life; for the knowledge of karma and reincarnation is intuitive.
The subject of karma is practically inexhaustible, and any cursory treatment of it must necessarily be discursive; but a few hints, though fragmentary, will serve to start many lines of thought in the intelligent reader; in which case the purpose of these notes is fulfilled.