LANGUAGE is certainly coeval with reason, and could never have been developed before men became one with the informing principles in them -- those who fructified and awoke to life the manasic element dormant in primitive man ... But language, proceeding in cycles, is not always adequate to express SPIRITUAL thoughts.
-- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, page 199 fn.
By Kenneth Morris
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January 1918, page 68.]
God is in this gray, pensive rain; It is his mystic, inmost mood: He has some old, sweet thought to brood, Too curious for joy or pain. Keep your heart hushed; you'll get no gain Of anxious prayers and strivings crude While God is busy with the rain.
Some secrecy, occult, arcane, Holds its swift drifting multitude, It hurries through the quietude Whispering so silvery. It's plain To me, God's roaming in the rain, His inmost, most mysterious mood.
By John Algeo
A review for THEOSOPHY WORLD of REFLECTIONS ON AN AGELESS WISDOM: A COMMENTARY ON "THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT." By Joy Mills. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2010. Pp. xx + 543 + index.
Some thirty or more years ago, the Atlanta (Georgia) Theosophical Lodge was in the midst of a members-meeting study of the MAHATMA LETTERS, which consisted of members sitting in a circle and taking turns to read passages of the letters aloud, haltingly and often without understanding their content. The Lodge was about half way through the volume and determined to soldier on to the end, which (to their credit) they eventually did. It was a form of study that engaged the participation of all the members who attended it, at least on a superficial level, but not one likely to inspire enthusiasm for its subject.
During that period, I first went to Krotona (in Ojai, California), where I heard Joy Mills lecturing on THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT. Her great enthusiasm for and her deep knowledge of the letters were a revelation that inspired me to reconsider the value of studying them. Joy's lecture series on the MAHATMA LETTERS continued for years and, I have no doubt, was potentially infinite, as her own understanding seemed to grow as she talked about the letters, their background, and their importance in the Theosophical philosophy. Several of us over the years urged Joy to put her ML lectures into publishable form for the benefit of those who could not hear them directly from her lips. She has done that in the volume under review.
REFLECTIONS ON AN AGELESS WISDOM: A COMMENTARY ON "THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT" is no dry-as-dust, fusty old exposition of the letters. It is a vibrant, even chattily colloquial, exposition of what the letters are about and of why they are relevant to our time, despite those letters having been written about five generations ago and for a highly specific readership and purpose. For those who have heard Joy talk, her voice comes through the printed words in this book unmistakably and authentically. And in those words we hear, not just the sound of her voice, but its articulation of her profound grasp of the content of the letters and of their relevance for us and indeed for all times.
Although the mahatmas' letters were written in a particular cultural context and for particular recipients with special, individual needs, the letter speak to us, as well. The words of a mahatma are so charged with meaning and so relevant to the human situation that they rise above the limitations of time and space to become apply everywhere and always. Joy's book points out how remarkably prescient the writers of those letters were and exactly how they speak to us as well as they did to their addressees all those years ago.
Every Theosophist needs to be familiar with THE MAHATMA LETTERS, and every serious student of those letters can benefit from Joy Mills's commentary, REFLECTIONS ON AN AGELESS WISDOM. For those who lack much familiarity with THE MAHATMA LETTERS, this is the book to begin with. For those who have a long-standing acquaintance with the letters, this is a book that can open new doors and point to the contemporary relevance of those wonderful old epistles. Although she would doubtless shy away from the honor, Joy Mills has clear claim to the status of grand dame of Theosophy. This book provides eloquent support for that claim. We are deeply indebted to her for producing it and thereby sharing her own understanding and appreciation of those marvelous letters with all of us.
By Henry Travers Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, May 1918, pages 425-30.]
Science has accustomed us to the idea that law and order prevail in the workings of Nature; and we all rely fully on the justice and immutability of the laws of Nature. There are many things which we nowadays, in our greater enlightenment, recognize as coming under this reign of law, but which at one time were regarded as mysterious visitations, to be deprecated but not avoided.
Of these things, one of the most striking is infectious disease; for, whereas our ancestors did not generally know what caused the disease or what promoted its diffusion, bowed helpless before it, and could but vainly supplicate whatever Gods there be in earth or heaven, we take heed to sanitation and infection and are enabled by our knowledge and by our confidence in the scientific use of the laws of Nature to defy the plague.
In morals, we are learning more and more to look to natural law for guidance rather than to a mysterious allotment of fate or an inscrutable dispensation of providence. This has made us more reasonable and merciful in the treatment of the mentally infirm and the criminal, for we realize better that their infirmities are so much the outcome of causes that can be traced and remedied.
Yet, though we are now so much better equipped for the understanding of the prevalence of law throughout the universe, we still fall far behind the ideal in many respects. For the domain of science has so far been very much restricted, and it does not trench upon that region which has been occupied by religious authority -- the region of our moral and spiritual concerns. In this domain we are still in a state of chaos and darkness.
It is true that persons strong in faith and not overburdened with that intellectual inquisitiveness which brings doubts, find themselves able to trust in God as the representative of unerring justice, and that this trust is a lamp unto their footsteps throughout life.
This is not the case with a majority of people, in whom the reasoning faculties are more strongly developed than the simple trust; and of course it is a want of the knowledge of reincarnation that presents the chief difficulty in the way of accepting the universal reign of law.
In addition to this lack of knowledge, we also labor under a great limitation of knowledge as to the way in which the events of life are brought about. These events we call casual or accidental, because we do not know any better word by which to describe them; but it is merely a word that covers or denotes our ignorance.
If we had the true scientific attitude, we should be obliged to admit that there can be no such thing as an effect without a cause, and that it must be possible to trace every event that happens to us to some cause, however apparently casual and unrelated to anything else such event may be.
Now Theosophy declares that there IS a connection between our destiny and our conduct, and that nothing happens to us except what we have ourselves incurred by our own conduct; so that our destiny is always perfectly just. This is known as the law of Karma, or cause and effect on the moral plane.
Theosophy does not stop short with a mere statement, which, if left thus, would amount to a mere dogma. Theosophy always follows up its statements by pointing out the way in which the student may approach to a confirmation of them, so that his faith may become conviction, his intellectual belief an item of actual knowledge.
In this case, Theosophy declares that a student of life, by accepting with faith the principle of universal law, and keeping it in his mind as a key to the problems with which he meets, will surely find daily proofs of the truth of the principle. Thus he will be enabled to verify it for himself; not all at once, but step by step, so that his knowledge and trust will gradually grow.
When we try to reconcile our faith in the justice and goodness of providence with our very limited ideas of the scope of human life, we may be driven to the fear that providence does not know what it is about, or that it is indifferent to our fate, or that its decisions are cruel and arbitrary.
The great Teachers, of whom Christ was one, have always bidden man to KNOW; Christ was always telling his disciples to seek the light of knowledge within themselves and to look for the illumination of the divine spirit; and so taught Plato and the sages of antiquity.
It is only man himself who, in his weakness, has travestied the original teachings of the great religious founders, and has invented dogmas which shut him out from the light and teach him that knowledge is shut out from him and that it is impious to try and understand the ways of God.
Such a doctrine is the very reverse of what Christ and the other Teachers really taught. Therefore, when confronted with what seems like injustice or indifference on the part of providence, we should put it down to our own ignorance, and should endeavor to enlarge our knowledge, so that we may be able to consent to the ways of providence not in blind trust but in sure knowledge.
When providence sends us some great affliction, we may say that it is doubtless all for our good, and that "he has willed it in his inscrutable wisdom." After that, we may either rest content in that faith or else we may angrily rebel and even seek refuge in doubt and despair.
In the light of a wider knowledge, we should feel that eternal justice has but given us what is our exact due; and instead of rebelling against the decree or giving up all attempt to solve the riddle, we should go on living in the continual expectation of arriving at its solution someday.
Theosophy sets a man on the road that leads to the solution of such problems. It opens his eyes on a new prospect, shows him which way to look, and consequently he begins to see things that he never saw before.
As just said, we all recognize the law of cause and effect so far as its workings lie within the range observed by science; why not try to extend this range? Does the law of cause and effect prevail over but a part of nature and not over all? Does it stop short anywhere, and, if so, at what point?
I know that I must not sit with wet feet, or indulge in excess in eating and drinking, or go into a house where there is infection. But it is not to any arbitrary decree of providence that I bow in these cases, it is to a law of nature -- or, if you prefer, I bow to the will of providence as the representative and dispenser of eternal justice. Nor do I cavil against the law or seek to evade it; on the contrary, I accept it willingly and seek but to cooperate with it.
Why should I stop short at merely physical concerns like disease and health? Why not extend my studies into the realm of conduct and morals, and find there also a like certainty of knowledge, an equal glad acceptance of the justice of the law?
Sometimes we rise in the morning feeling thoroughly out of tune, and with a premonition that throughout the day we shall run atilt against things in general, quarrel with our fellows, upset things, cut our face, and spill our coffee.
In ignorance we might attribute all these disasters to 'chance' or to providence or to the devil or to Puck, or whatever we might happen to believe in. But a closer observation of ourself would reveal that the real cause of them all is simply ourself
We were out of tune; we had quarreled with ourself; there was an internal commotion going on when we arose, due to some mistake of the previous day, or to lying too long abed. We got up in a state of discordant vibration, and we imparted the discord to everything and everybody we contacted.
People would perhaps even quarrel with us before we said or did anything to them, because they instinctively and unguardedly reacted to our own discordant mood; yet it was we more than they that were to blame! And we might perhaps fall down and hurt ourself because of the disharmony in our body; and this would not be an arbitrary decree of providence, but simply the consequence of our own unguarded state.
Now it is but a further step in knowledge to arrive at the conviction that EVERY event in our life is related in some way, however remote, to our own conduct.
The bare fact that we do not at present see the connection is no valid reason against the belief. We cannot expect to know everything at once; there must be some gaps in our knowledge. We do not see how or why such an event as a sudden terrible bereavement should befall us at a particular time; and we have to label this event as casual or fortuitous, or as a mysterious dispensation of providence.
Is it extravagant to suggest that someday we may attain knowledge sufficient to show us the exact cause and justice of even such events as this? Can man never learn to understand the divine will? Theosophy answers that man, having the divine breath in him, can advance in knowledge so as to be able to consent, in the light of a greater knowledge, to the decrees of eternal justice.
A person smitten with blindness in the prime of life, and condemned to spend the rest of his days in a strange world of darkness, may well be at a loss to understand and reconcile himself with the decree of his destiny. Yet, as such a calamity is part of the inevitable contingencies of life, the only course is to seek to fathom its meaning, so that we may be enabled to accept the experience without cavil and profit by it.
We accept the principle that the afflicted person has somehow, some when, carved out for himself a path in life that leads inevitably up to that catastrophe. The incarnating Soul chose a destiny that included that particular event. That experience was somehow due to that man at that time; it was what he had incurred, what he most needed. A debt was to be paid off, an account balanced. Somewhere in that man's past, could we scan it, we should find the other side of that account, the incurring of the debt. Possibly it was in his present life, being due to some cause whose connection with the effect we do not discern. Or perhaps it was in a past life; for it is necessary to take past lives into the calculation.
Every man is born with a character and with a destiny. These have been acquired. The incarnating Soul brings them over and they attach themselves to the developing child, and, like seeds, grow to maturity in after life. The details of these processes are beyond our present ken but not beyond our possibility of knowledge.
In Theosophical writings, in THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, by H.P. Blavatsky, for instance, are found some valuable hints; and by studying these, we can at least gain a prospective view of the ground to be traveled by an aspirant to that knowledge.
Science does not tell us anything about the laws which determine the kind of heredity a child shall be born with; but we refuse to be satisfied with a mere negative.
I find myself equipped with a bodily and mental instrument having certain advantages and certain disadvantages; I can trace these largely to my parentage and to the way in which I was brought up; but I demand to know why I should have incurred this particular heredity and upbringing, while other people have incurred another kind.
To answer such a question, we must look back beyond the epoch of our birth into this life. I can realize that I have run to excess in the development of some sides of my character, and have starved other sides; and that now I am trying to even up my character. But I did not start the thing in this life; I already had the tendencies when I entered life. My parents and teachers did not mold my character as much as might be thought; it was myself who, to a great extent, molded their behavior. I entered the world with a strong and definite character, which made demands upon people and called for certain treatment.
By reflections such as these, we learn to regard our life as a symmetrical pattern, as a web which we are weaving; and we acquire more reliance on the value of our own efforts. We feel a greater confidence in our power to control our fortunes; we are no longer so helpless.
The great moral laws, which we all intuitively accept, now appear to us in the form of laws of nature, which are inviolably just and will return to us whatever our actions may call for. We feel that it is worthwhile to be conscientious, because this must necessarily bring us a blessing; just as it is worthwhile to live cleanly because this will secure our health.
If we will but watch our lives intelligently, we shall soon find proof of this. We confide in a fountain of equity and purity at the center of man's nature, which will restore all discord to harmony.
We feel that we have knowledge at our command, for knowledge is not withheld from him who has merited it. Knowledge is not given or withheld by some external power, but it comes from within; and the reason why we stay ignorant is that we have not been sufficiently confident in our own power to attain to knowledge.
After all, this trusting in the law is a truly scientific attitude; and by contrast, the attitude of those who do not acknowledge such a law is quite feeble. When people have not self-confidence, something else usually takes its place and even borrows its name -- to wit, vanity.
But there is all the difference between assertion of the personality and reliance on the individuality; for the latter is the real man within. A man should have confidence in his true Self, the source of light from within; a very different attitude from that described by a celebrated historian, who says:
The wisest of the heathens never understood that the true dignity of human nature consists in its submission to a higher Existence; that its only hope for the future is in the consciousness of its imperfection and weakness and responsibility here.
What he means by 'responsibility' is not easy to see; the word 'irresponsibility' would seem to fit the context better. Theosophy says that a man may and should submit to the God within; but that this should not make him cringe in weakness, but should inspire him to self-reliance and noble effort.
The example of that benighted heathen, Socrates, is worth study in this respect. This man trusted in the power of principle, if anybody did; he had the courage of his opinions. His words and deeds show that he relied fully on a righteous law; yet he was a heathen, and accused of atheism even by his fellow heathens. Marcus Aurelius is another of these poor pagans who relied on eternal justice and found the policy successful
Theosophy asks people today to do the same; adding too that many of these benighted heathen were more or less initiated into the sacred Mysteries, and so had actual knowledge about many things in nature which are mysteries to us.
It was the earnest endeavor of many potentates, both secular and otherwise, to blot out the records of those mysteries in order to make way for arbitrary and dogmatic systems. Be it ours to recover hidden knowledge.
Theosophy is truly a great step towards such a revival; it leads man to a threshold whence his further advance through the portals depends on his own efforts.
By Dara Eklund
[From THEOSOPHIA, Winter 1971-72, pages 14-16.]
Any action, the thought which ignites it and the motive which fires the thought, are bound up with the Actor. True virtue lies in transforming the inner nature and that nature is the causative factor. If a man wishes to establish true character it is the inner nature which he must rejuvenate first. The virtues of harmlessness and contentment, for instance, are engendered spontaneously by the man of few desires. The GITA states (in chapter five):
The Lord of the world creates neither the faculty of acting, nor actions, nor the connection between action and its fruits; but nature prevaileth in these. The Lord receives no man's deeds, be they sinful or full of merit.
The body certainly feels the results of our actions. The feelings too, in terms of pleasure, boredom, or pain. Yet above these reactions to acute and limited conditions, the Mind, as that which envisions wide realms of thought, can free us. If we don't bind down the thoughts by giving way to regret, anxiety, ambition or envy, they may become our airy messengers, lit up from within.
How do we go about it, since regret, anxiety, ambition or envy seem to be mentally charged by our thoughts of the past? Perhaps we could think of these tendencies as energies set in motion once, maybe many times by the chooser within. They seem to rise up as patterns of behavior terrible to transform, because formerly inspired by US, given OUR power. But that was Strong Will, blinded by desire, not Free will.
In an interesting discussion of this on p. 40 of THE OCCULT WAY, P.G. Bowen quotes, "Strong Will Achieves conquest through conflict, but Free Will remains at peace in a stronghold that cannot be assailed."
We must then change the current. The will call become FREE in proportion that it works with a Divine Harmony which proceeds regardless of human foibles, and is recognized Karmically by all impersonal poise in meeting all the events of daily life. We might change regret for courage, saying, "This is my own come back to me. The law is expressing itself in my personal Karma, let the debt be paid."
Anxiety might be conquered by asserting: "the causes have been set in motion, the law will handle the result. I may not be wise enough to foresee those results, but I call be the observer and learn how 'nature prevaileth in these'."
Ambition is more subtle. Only a childlike heart call be wrapped in sweet inspiration and aspire harmlessly by guarding the mind from the intrusion of all the world holds dear. The aspiration to truth shall make us fearless enough to withstand any circumstances, full-knowing that Truth may at times need us to step aside and "let the best man win." And envy, the most dire of all, blights the lower mind and throws up to shadow even the sincere aspirant -- how do we still its voice? By the realization that all life, that each man, serves a purpose.
The so-called "little" wills of men reflect lack of vigilance, a sad groan of nature needing intelligent direction. They seem to combat for attention, and we, tossed in the sea of life, are influenced by these currents. This is the time to board a raft, to skim over these grim qualities, with a mind made content through charitable and generous actions, seeding the tide with truthful words to gentle the anxieties of another towards us. How can another combat with us if there is no combative spirit in us?
True virtue lies in returning to our root-nature, ever free from pride, attachment and longing. Intuition is awakened at the root of Life and bonds of sympathy align us with all men. Linked with Universal Mind we cannot but act by our highest principles, for that is the only Nature through which they can be expressed.
Some philosophers define virtue as wisdom or balance in action. This wisdom wells up in a heart eager to serve humanity. In time the love which inspires such a desire is schooled not to rush in where another's duty lies. He may at times need to sacrifice the desire to help, even stand aside and watch suffering take its course. Never must he hasten the orderly process of growth. If his duties are already plainly laid out, his virtuous way is to attend to those lying nearest him.
Why restate these old truths? Because man needs them still.
An ancient Chinese scripture rendered by Manly P. Hall in THE QUIET WAY teaches the following:
Those who live the Quiet Way should benefit all peoples, and the word ALL implies both the many and the one. To serve all peoples is a glorious career, but to serve one person may have the appearance of drudgery. Heaven in its wisdom has provided to each the privilege of service. To some is given the opportunity to serve many, and to others the opportunity to serve a few. Yet the quality of service is the same. Those who serve a few wisely and lovingly earn for themselves a larger opportunity and a greater responsibility. This does not mean, however, that we advance from one to many; rather that we enlarge the one into many. If we obey heaven, we shall never be impelled to serve so many that it is necessary for us to neglect the few. Public service does not relieve us from private duty. Heaven is not so concerned with all its creatures that it neglects the least of them. In the Quiet Way we extend our consciousness so that it becomes more and more inclusive. No matter how many it includes, it never excludes.
True Virtue is the Quiet Way.
By T. Henry
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, November 1915, pages 345-48.]
In European papers commenting on the war, people are saying that now "we are up against the realities of life"; and that, instead of learning anything new and abstruse, we are only having enforced on us the grand old simple truths.
One of these truths is that selfishness is the cause of woe. Self-seeking has been practiced on a large scale, even given the sanction of science and economic philosophy. The result has been as predicted. Theosophists would say that present sufferings are an illustration of the law of karma, which brings to all their just meed of weal or woe. And here we see the operation of karma on a large scale -- national and even racial.
Humanity has to be considered collectively as well as individually; it was as a body that we erred, and it is as a body that we suffer. Our individual lots are thrown in with the common lot, for profit or loss, for the sowing as for the harvesting.
Our reward lies in the immense opportunity now offered; for it will be our part to do our share in the common work of sowing better seed for the future. Everyone feels this, but the ordinary beliefs and theories of life do not give much encouragement. The laws of karma and of its twin-doctrine of reincarnation are not understood. The facts of life make short work of our poor theories and dogmas.
A man who has been bereft does not see why he should thus stiffer for he can but attribute it to the inscrutable will of a deity, or evade the question by talking about chance and fate. But in his Soul, he knows and understands. Perhaps his bitter experience may be the means of awakening within him a deeper, truer life, the Heart-life, and ridding him of much of his selfishness, so that he may become a real power in bringing consolation to others and sowing good seed for the future.
Anything that makes a man come closer to the realities of life and be more sincere and earnest in his living, is to that extent a blessing to him; and though the war is a great and lamentable catastrophe, we are not forbidden to learn from it as much as may be learnt.
For long years we have been privy to an order of society that visits with grave injustice the lives of multitudes of our fellow-beings; and many noble and well-meaning people have been forced, by the existence of this complicated system of society, to take an indirect part in its manifold injustices. Consequently they are equally involved in the consequences, now that the system has produced its fruit. For the future we shall know that it is not safe for anyone to live in disregard of the welfare of his fellow-man.
In talking about karma, students of Theosophy have often unwittingly allowed a selfish attitude of mind to creep into their philosophizing, and have reflected only on the personal aspect of the question. But crises like the present show that the merits and demerits of one particular personality look small beside the question of the destinies of millions.
It is equally true that karma acts unerringly on the smallest scale as on the largest, and that the fate of each individual is equitably adjusted to his deserts. But it is neither very wise nor very conducive to self-respect to regard oneself as CASTIGATED by one's destiny. A far better attitude is that of the man who realizes that he is merely working out the results of his own acts. Just as adventurers willingly encounter privations that they may make discoveries, so strong Souls incur sufferings in the pursuance of great and far-reaching purposes. We must try to understand life better and to view things on a larger and grander scale.
The still small voice of the Soul never ceases to whisper to man in the silence, bidding him shake off the fetters of the narrow life he is living, and perhaps a shock may be necessary to induce him to do this.
It may well be that the reason why we suffer is that the Soul within us has deliberately encountered this suffering for the purpose of gaining some great prize worth fighting for. For if the heart really loves an ideal, it will willingly suffer for that ideal, even counting that suffering as an essential part of the tribute that must be paid to that great ideal. It is paid as a means of expression, as it were, whereby the Soul strives to strengthen itself so as to the worthy of the ideal which it loves.
Another simple old truth that is being brought home to us is that human life must be based on the Divinity of man, whose law is the law of conscience and justice and mercy. Materialistic doctrines which deny this Divinity and the reality of conscience are the worst foes of the human race. But here again the popular theories and dogmas do not help along, and we need to return to the grand old truths which Theosophy has proclaimed.
Men have not been taught to rely on their inner essential Divinity, though it would seem as though religion teaches them to do so. But religion is a thing that can be tinkered at, and there are always influences at work trying to take away man's reliance on his Divinity and make him rely on something else.
If we had been taught this simple truth from the cradle up, how different would be our attitude toward life today! But we have been taught quite otherwise, and so now we do not know on what to rely. We are not accustomed to invoke that central source of strength and guidance.
Men are supposed to have self-confidence, but this is usually mere physical wellbeing, or pride, or vanity, and it does not stand the strain. When the strain comes, they find themselves despondent and diffident; but that is the very time when their real strength should show to best advantage.
It is so easy to be bold when the foe is not present; and it is so easy to talk about the great virtues of heroes. But those heroes did not view their difficulties from a safe and romantic distance as we view those difficulties; it was all present-day work for them. And so with us: the time to be heroic is when we are under stress. Hence such occasions are opportunities.
This advice may not be so easy to take as it is to give; but the point is that it will grow easier and easier the more we accustom ourselves to rely on our interior strength. And if we have the right understanding about man's Divinity, then, though we may bow before the blast, while it is blowing, yet when it is over we can stand erect again and say that we are glad to have had the experience. This we could not do if we had a false philosophy of life.
This has been an age of worship of the gross material forces, and we have ceased to have faith in the efficacy of Spiritual forces, such as those which proceed from a pure and lofty resolve and a good conscience. We do not think that the mere fact of one man living honestly and truly to himself can make any difference to the world around him. But it is a fact nevertheless, for Spiritual forces are realities.
However materialistic a man may be in his beliefs, he has to recognize the power of personal influence, for it is one of the greatest factors in life. Spiritual powers act on unseen planes of nature, affecting men through their thoughts, giving them inspiration; and who can tell whence these inspirations come? Our thoughts are more and less powerful according to the level on which they act; and the Spiritual ones are the most potent.
Undoubtedly we are in the midst of a struggle between Spiritual forces and materialistic forces; but what nation can presume to claim for itself that IT represents the HIGHER FORCES, and ITS ENEMIES the LOWER FORCES? None. Both forces are evident throughout the nations, and the fight is one that is always going on in some form or other. When the war is over, the two forces will still be opposed to each other, and the battle between harmony and selfishness will still be waging.
Selfishness is a disease that encroaches on human nature, an excrescence that does not belong to the sound tissue of human life. We have to fight this disease in ourselves.
It is said that in business there is far more of the spirit of unselfishness, of sharing between employer and employees, and of regard for the rights of both, than there used to be a few years ago. This is a move in the right direction provided it does not degenerate into an "enlightened selfishness."
Some of the grand old simple truths have been lost sight of, and we need reminding of them. That man has an Individuality and a personality, and that the former is immortal, living on throughout many successive lives on earth, a new personality being developed in each life while the Individuality remains the same -- this, the law of Rebirth, is one of the grand old truths that has been neglected. But without it we can never make sense of the problem of life.
Because of his lack of knowledge of his immortal Self, man lives in a state of continual fear, and clutches the perishable things of this life. Because he has no foothold outside the swirling eddies of circumstance, he is involved and drifted about by the currents; whereas, if he realized his immortality and his divine strength, he would have the poise and the power necessary to enable him to master his circumstances.
The law of karma is another grand old truth, without which life seems a cruel farce, but in the light of which we regain our confidence in the reign of universal law and realize that we ourselves are the makers of our destiny. How can people regulate their lives, whether individually or socially, if they believe that life is a chaos without law and order?
Are we living for the purpose of making ourselves as comfortable as possible, and pushing unpleasant reflections out of our heads as much as possible, until death delivers us? Or are we living to fulfill the grand and far-reaching purposes of the Soul which extend far and away beyond the limits of birth and death?
By Stefan Carey
[From the August 2010 issue of THEOSOPHY DOWNUNDER at
on the website of the Australasian Section of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena).]
I feel that we owe it to ourselves as city dwellers, to know and have our own special places of power, because city life robs us of that special connection with place, our at-oneness with nature.
In this article I'll look at:
Sometimes our places of power are far away, high in the mountains, the ocean or the desert. Sometimes they are closer than that, a local park perhaps, or even in the backyard. Sometimes all it takes is for us to be alone for a while in our gardens or some other private place. But why, have most of us in daily life, lost our connection with nature, the special feeling we are at one, that we are a part of your surroundings?
It's not surprising. We live so much of life in a hurry, our behavior patterns are under pressure to speed up. Technology is just contributor to what has been called the "hurry disease." Computers and mobile phones work so quickly we end up thinking faster and faster. We are so used to being able to multitask, we have not noticed how our concentration has been fractured, probably the cause of so much recently diagnosed adult attention deficit syndrome, and why I can no longer easily read a book.
What this distracted state of awareness has done is to put a large barrier between us and our capacity to be in the here and now. And as another consequence, all the communication tools, the social networking sites such as Facebook, for example, have not strengthened our relationships in an enduring way, they just multiply them manifold, and they seem to weaken them in some way at the same time. It's as though we have watered-down something important for the price of being instantly and everlastingly connected.
A personal anecdote might help us answer the question of why we so easily lose the connection with nature and inner selves. The phone company rang me the other day to say how wonderful it was we're still their customer (actually it's because I am already on information overload!), but they also wanted to know what communication devices we have in our home. I told them. We have a fax, an answering machine, three computers, three telephone handsets, and two mobile phones.
Thinking about what's on the list, I'm surprised we don't have a direct line to an inner or outer God, but sadly the phone company can't offer this as their latest product! Thankfully, they'll never be able to. But my real point is, when I answered I saw we'd gathered lots of machines to make communication with each other easy, but at the same time I've forgotten to look after another more important kind of communication, the one I have with nature. One for which the phone company can't supply a special account or gadget.
In recent years I've had little time to visit my places of power to commune with nature, and get in touch somehow with what I think is my inner self and nature. You could also call it universal mind, or God, or the soul, eternal essence, energy or spirit -- or whatever. I've lost the connection to nature via my places of power, the places where I feel empowered, where I feel deeply connected to something, right at home. But so much for having lost the connection, what is the connection? What am I talking about when I use this word?
Let's hear about the oneness with nature from others, Henrietta Mann is a PhD, a Southern Cheyenne Elder American Indian. Her comments are published in the book, Native Wisdom for White Minds with comments by Anne Wilson Schaff:
Nature is God's greatest teacher. Man must learn to attune his higher spiritual consciousness to the harmonious flow of nature and the throbbing heartbeat of the man [in heaven] who created it for lasting duration in order to realize his oneness with nature and with God.
And the author's observation on the Southern Cheyenne Elder Henrietta's comment is:
Nature is my greatest teacher. When I take the time to go into nature it takes me a while to adjust to the rhythm of my surroundings. Initially what I hear is the rushing of my own heart and the pounding of my brain. It takes me a while to leave my culture behind me and begin to attune to a harmonious flow of nature. God's messages in nature do not just enter the brain; they enter the whole being and move into a flow of consciousness that assures us of the oneness of all things with the creator. Only when the mind and the body slow down enough do I have the possibility to know oneness.
Just listen to those words: It takes time to get to feel the rhythm of nature. Another way to say this is that it takes time to feel the rhythm of universal mind, or that which is nameless without form but with form. A quick jaunt to the country is helpful, but one cannot really appreciate nature without taking the time. My experience is it takes about three days to wind down and relax from normal city-paced living.
It also seems to take nature time to adjust to us. A city dweller writing for Time Life books describes a first night out in the dunes of the Sahara:
The air was sharp and cold, and life was starting in the dunes after the dead heat of the day. I went for a short walk and surprised a fennec, a small desert fox with large ears, sitting patiently in ambush at a Jerboa's hole. He was dazzled for a moment by the light, and his eyes glowed brightly. Then he bounded away up the side of the dune, a pale shape with its own moon shadow. I saw nothing else this first night; the dunes were not going to deliver up their secrets easily to a day visitor from the civilized world.
-- page 17
And here's a good question. Why would not the Sahara not deliver her secrets to a day visitor from the civilized world? Why can't you as a day-visitor, read nature's secrets? My theory is that as we no longer live in the cathedral of nature, the trivial thoughts and exasperations of daily life smother our awareness of our oneness with nature. To always be in a hurry. Multi-tasking madness!
The city dwellers divine occupation and privilege is to fight the peak hour traffic, like David against Goliath, but with bad aim caused by an overdose of morning news and rising interest rates. Add to this the disruptive energies of other people, sent just a little bit crazier than us, by their over-sensitivity to modern city living. For example, I have a workmate, Pierre, a devout Buddhist, who seems to be nearing nervous collapse, trying to please too many other people in his struggle for perfection. Sadly, his stressed out condition gets on our nerves. All these influences we do not control, but have to adjust to, can be at the expense of realizing and knowing our inner life, our connection with nature and other people. Ask anyone who lives in the country and they will usually say city people are quite mad. They might be right!
But what drives these influences that propel us in the direction of haste? I think it is important to understand this. For many of us, it's the daily struggle to accumulate more possessions, comforts and experiences than somebody else. The author of the excellent book, Clutter Busting, Brooks Palmer, says we are already complete in ourselves, but marketers and advertisers have seduced us to think we are somehow incomplete, that's why we buy more and more stuff to fill a void -- and one does not even exist! Collecting 'stuff' also harnesses the natural human urge of competition. Car makers, for example, know our egos are weak. We're also hooked on creature comforts; as is the appliance maker who now supplies remote controls for microwave ovens. Some city dwellers like to collect experiences in the same way as possessions. I've often heard people say they will 'do' Europe or they will 'do' Asia as though they were on some kind of a trophy hunt.
The frenzy of modern life has turned the city to a place of spiritual emptiness and powerlessness for many individuals with little connection to others. It's a rootless existence, lived in a borderless and endless urban tract. More so, when they keep moving from suburb to suburb in search of more impressive houses and supposedly better lifestyles. What this creates is a large group of people sensing they belong to nothing, no personal history of place, and cut off from nature and even themselves and each other. Sometimes they turn on each other in frustration.
Road rage is an extreme example of pent up frustrations and anger, fuelled of the feeling of powerlessness and discontentedness; it's a strange permission to let-fly provided by the seeming anonymity of the car. To continue in my harsh insight into modern living and the city as a place of spiritual powerlessness, modern life also offers so little inner satisfaction and communication with the inner life, and so much frustration, that addictions of all kinds are common. They are symptomatic of a life spent in a state of denial of our authentic selves. Do I exaggerate? Look at the statistics for mental illness and prescriptions for anti-depressants, the rate of heroin abuse and teenage suicide -- they are increasing. All these are symptoms of unhappiness and inner discomfort on the increase, when outer comfort increases.
Yet supposedly we are living in paradise, "relaxed and comfortable" as a past Australian Prime Minister said some time ago. So what is my solution to all this angst? When possible I go to my places of power.
Here is the story of how I discovered the first when I was seven or eight years old. On a heavily overcast humid, warm spring morning, I stood alone in the schoolyard. A warm wind swept the long grass. For some minutes I was the breeze, and the grass and the grey clouds above, floating across the schoolyard, waving the tassels of the ripe grasses. Sometimes I can still feel this moment of awakening to Mother Nature or Universal Mind.
For many years I lost this feeling of being connected to the elements, of oneness, until I rediscovered it through renewed contact with nature outside the city. I guess that early schoolyard experience was a sign for me for the need for a close future relationship with nature. The outdoors would be important. There would always be the quest for the special feeling of being alive in a different way. To get away from the city entombed in concrete, to find the subtle shift of the breeze, the scent of the bush after rain away from the city, and the pure, cold air carrying the scent of snow in the mountains.
Today my places of power are the river and mountain and forest. I get to them when I can, or when I am driven to them by some inner urge. The first and most important is the river. The river gives me the strongest sense of connectedness most quickly. Why? Because I find the quickest way to get in touch with natural forces and rhythms is by being on and in the river, paddling a kayak. A kayak allows me to float with the current, ride the rapids and basically feel alive again. In a kayak one is with the movements and energies of the river, there is really no other choice. One cannot think about work or anything else but being there. If you do think about other things, you lose focus and capsize. It can be very cold and sometimes dangerous. If there's a strong current or lots of rapids, the need to focus on the natural forces outside you is even stronger.
In the space of an hour I become the river, my body is an extension of the river, no longer fighting, but working with it. Mentally you must concentrate and read the rocks and the current. This then is a sacred place, a sacred connection between human and natural energy, a place of moving power, because you've forgotten yourself and the trifles and troubles that occupy the anxious and worried, uptight, tense, nervous, stressed, annoyed, angry irritated.
But if there is one place where I am awakening to an even stronger special energy it is the mountains. It takes me by surprise every time. Before my eyes is a feeling of place where I somehow feel I have always been -- a place of feeling "infinite and unforeseen" as the singer KD Lang says. This is my connection point with the heavens.
The first time I realized the power of altitude, was on a New Zealand mountain, in the Mt. Cook range, 7,000 feet high, overlooking a glacial valley (see the picture opposite). A strange feeling washed over me. (Hit me is probably a better description!) I was in my element. I felt all powerful, confident, expansive, and at home. Perhaps it was the magnetic forces of earth or as the followers of Feng Shui might say, 'Tiger energy,' concentrated at the peaks and summits that caught me unawares. Perhaps it was the concentration of negative ions. Whatever the explanation no other place had offered this unique feeling. Even so it was a slightly dangerous place to stay -- the mountaineers' hut I stayed in that night had once been blown off the mountain by a freak gust of wind, with several people in it.
Years later the feeling returned. Atop a higher peak, Mount Santis, in the Swiss Alps, with the sound of three fine female yodelers at the cafeteria, I looked across an endless armada of grey peaks all the way to Italy. Small circles of color drifted in the far distance -- hot air balloons in the far distance enjoying the clear weather. Once again I got the feeling of being in a place of intense energy, a place, stirring intense emotions, a place of power. It seemed as familiar as home, as familiar as your suburban backyard does to you. I felt in tune, as though it were my special playground, my private kingdom. I don't get to the high altitudes often enough.
Others have been strongly affected by their connection with nature too. On the ocean, the first man to sail solo around the world, in 1898, Joshua Slocum in his book SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD said this:
During these days a feeling of awe swept over me. My memory worked with startling power. The ominous, the insignificant, the great, the small, the wonderful, the commonplace -- all appeared before my mental vision in magical succession. Pages of my history were recalled which had been so long forgotten that they seemed to belong to a previous existence. I heard all the voices of the past laughing, crying, telling what I had heard them tell in many corners of the earth.
-- page 51
If we have no place for peace and contemplation, we have no place, we have no sacred site where we can see and feel the true nature of our lives; places where we may contemplate, and where the soul and the body might sing quietly or loudly in unison. Do you know your place of power? Perhaps you have a vague recollection you like the sea or the mountains. Perhaps your place of power is near a waterfall where the earth's energies are more conducive to your own special thoughts and feelings seldom felt at other times. Perhaps your place is in the desert, perhaps in a She-Oak forest, with its magical quality of soft foliage and bark on rocky slopes, with the breeze whispering all about you in the desert air.
Thankfully in Australia we have vast empty spaces, much envied by overseas visitors, and not so difficult to journey to.
I'd like to end this short paper with a true-life account of a world-famous person's first encounter with his place of power, the ocean. The ocean frightens me, Jacques Cousteau, co-inventor of the modern aqualung, found the ocean was his place of power. Quite by surprise, in fact. Jacques Cousteau suddenly realized, on his first dive with swimming goggles, that the quiet enchanted world with its "incommunicable beauty", so close to a busy street in the Mediterranean, yet so far removed from everyday life, was his place of power:
One Sunday morning in 1936 at Le Mourillon, near Toulon, France, I waded into the Mediterranean and looked into it through (Fernez) goggles. I was a regular navy gunner, a good swimmer interested only in perfecting my crawl style. The sea was merely a salty obstacle that burned my eyes. I was astounded by what I saw in the shallow shingle at Le Mourillon -- rocks covered with green, brown and silver algae and fishes unknown to me, swimming in crystal clear water. Standing up to breath I saw a trolley bus, people, and electric streetlights. I put my eyes under again and civilization vanished with one last bow. I was in a jungle never seen by those who floated on the opaque roof. Sometimes we are lucky enough to know our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new and run headlong down an immutable course. It happened to me on that summer's day at Le Mourillon, when my eyes were opened on the sea.
As they say the rest is history!
Since I wrote the article, I found simply concentrating on my breath, dropping my shoulders and saying to myself "enjoy this day" several times a day work well to bringing me back to the here and now. So, even though our special places affect us deeply, shifting our attention to the present may well be our most precious place of power.
By Frank Knoche
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1918, pages 134-47.]
If this were a sermon, the following would be my text. It is taken from the writings of Katherine Tingley, whose great effort is to the end that men and women shall take a commonsense position with regard to themselves, their duties, and their relations with their fellowmen.
Universal Brotherhood has no creeds or dogmas; it is built on the basis of commonsense ... Let us cast aside creeds and dogmas, then, and unite as brothers, each working to improve the condition of the other, and all working for the common good of humanity ... [for] the old order of things passes away and we are brought face to face with the great and grand possibilities of the new.
The great value of Theosophy to the world today, with all humanity rushing helter-skelter, pell-mell, none can tell you whither: few with time to be quiet, few who care to be calm, and half the world strangling in a sea of agony and blood, is the fact that it gives the inquirer a rational, commonsense answer to his questions. For who is not an inquirer today? Everyone who meets you has a question, either in his heart or on his lips, perhaps only one, but that one, for all his search, still unanswered.
As William Q. Judge so well expresses it in one of his little-known articles:
Within the mind and heart of every thoughtful individual there exists some vital question unanswered. Some subject is uppermost, and asserts itself obtrusively with greater persistency because he is obliged to deal with it without a visible prospect of a solution of the problem. As the center in a circle, so is every individual with regard to his environment. At times it seems impossible for him to pass beyond the circle owing to one unanswered question.
With most of us, more than one question occurs to the mind with such persistency that we look here and there for the answer. Who am I? What am I? Whence did I come, and whither do I go? What is the purpose of life, or has it no purpose at all? Is there any solution to the riddle of existence?
Modern science can give us everything, seemingly, except an answer that satisfies the heart; the five-hundred and odd religious sects have so far failed to give us an answer that satisfies the mind.
The materialist says, "Why trouble about the matter at all? Life is merely the result of certain chemical combinations and interactions; ergo, when these are dissolved, life ends: and why worry about a future that we shan't be there to see?"
The religionist says, "These questions are not to be solved. The thing is to have faith, and let the answers go."
But the live man of today, facing as he does live issues, is not so willing to let the answers go. He could not run his business on such a plan and succeed, and he is not willing to run his life so.
Man is a Thinker, first of all: so say the Ancient Books, and so say reason and experience both, and he has more than the animal brain. The man who cultivates only the material side of his nature, however, shutting off the channels of spiritual inquiry, is no more than a high type of animal. Such are indeed rare, though many do pass through periods of spiritual obscuration when the heart-life is shut away for a time.
Far below the surface waters are the deep tides of Soul, and in the inner chambers of every heart, there dwells a memory that makes man more than he seems. This is why, so fortunately, most men have not lost all sense of their spiritual heritage, even though they may not be able to analyze the intuitions that urge them on to solve the great mysteries of duty and of life.
Most men want to know what life means and what it holds at its very core. Most men want to find a basis for that brotherly relationship with their fellows that is so satisfying and so rational and brings such splendid results. Most men want more knowledge of themselves, too, and it is this inner urge that causes them to inquire with such earnestness into questions of a future state: that borne beyond which we are ushered, without will or sanction of our own too often, by the mysterious hand of death.
As corollaries to these main questions are others. Why is one person born in the lap of fortune, while another, equally intelligent, equally good, is born with everything acting to hold him down? Why is one hampered with a frail or diseased body and a weakened mind, while another is vigorous physically and alert mentally? Why is one a moral weakling from his birth and another a tower of moral strength and spiritual illumination? Then, too, why are there such undependable qualities in men, so that it is often a throw of the dice whether the man whom we elect to a position of trust will meet our expectations or disgrace his high office?
How came it that Nero, for instance, after a promising, seemingly blameless youth, suddenly developed hideous and cruel traits of character?
How came it that Joan of Arc, a simple shepherdess, unlearned in the ways of the world, unable to read even the simplest book or to write a letter, stepped suddenly from the pastures of Domremy into a career of unparalleled military success? She could teach, and she did teach in their special science, the greatest generals of her time.
Surely there is a mystery here! But is there not mystery in every life? Indeed, who can think for even a moment of the supreme mystery of human nature and not find question after question lining up before him with the demand that some commonsense answer be found?
Now, leaving for the time being the consideration of questions relating to individuals, let us turn to those that touch whole nations.
How can we account in a commonsense way -- for commonsense is not to be satisfied with anything short of real justice -- for the great catastrophes that engulf large parts of the world, in nature, in government, in man's relations with his fellow man?
These things cannot be accidents -- one's commonsense revolts at the idea. It is no accident that my field produces wheat and my neighbor's corn: I planted wheat, and he corn -- that is all.
It is surely not rational to hold that only the little portion of this globe that is under my immediate gaze is ruled by law, and that things for which I cannot see the cause are therefore causeless, accidental, due to the caprice of some Deity who says that he has spells of being jealous.
No, this will not do; and so the questions line up. There is, for instance, this uncomfortable Antiquity, about which we are hearing so much today. As our archaeologists are cataloguing discovery after discovery, we see a complete upsetting of our old ideas, the claim of materialistic science, as to man having evolved in a STRAIGHT line from animalism up. We find that there were epochs in the remote past, and many of them, when humanity was far more cultured and stood far higher spiritually than anywhere on earth today, and that the Dark Ages, when man's spirituality was at its lowest ebb, came AFTER great periods of Light.
That looks as though we had been going backwards, and naturally the thinking man feels that if there is any way of reconciling the undeniable facts of history with theories of evolution and the peace of one's own heart, it would be a satisfaction to find it. For we must have some part in all this, some very close relation to the world as a whole and not merely to someone little corner of it, or these things would not concern us so. And indeed we have.
Let us consider, for a moment, the whole world as though suddenly depopulated, left without a living human being on its surface: every village a deserted village, every State a waste. What would logically result? Have you ever observed what happens to a house that is left untenanted for any length of time? It begins to deteriorate at once, and continues to do so much more rapidly than when occupied, even though it was subjected to the hardest use.
Can we not imagine from this what a deserted world -- one that Nature had intended as a 'man-bearing planet' -- would be like after about a hundred years? It would be like a body with the breath of life withdrawn, or like a living person with the mind clouded or gone.
One who follows up this line of thought will soon come to the conclusion that the moving spirit, the guiding power in Evolution, is Man himself -- not material man, nor merely intellectual man, but Spiritual Man. Indeed, as the old Sages taught, it is for the Soul's experience and emancipation that the universe exists. And that Soul -- What is it? Whence came it? What is its mission, its destiny, its home? So that here we are again, back to the first question of all, the great question that includes all lesser questions within it. And Theosophy contains the answer.
In her first great work, ISIS UNVEILED, H.P. Blavatsky gives us a glimpse of the questionings of her great mind and compassionate heart, and of the source from which she brought back to humanity the Ancient Light:
When, years ago, we first travelled over the East, exploring the penetralia of its deserted sanctuaries, two saddening and ever-recurring questions oppressed our thoughts: Where, WHO, WHAT, is GOD? Who ever saw the IMMORTAL SPIRIT of man, so as to be able to assure himself of man's immortality?
It was while most anxious to solve these perplexing problems that we came in contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the Sages of the Orient.
To their instructions we lent a ready ear. They showed us that by combining science with religion, the existence of God and the immortality of man's spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid.
For the first time we received the assurance that the Oriental philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and immovable faith in the omnipotence of man's own immortal self.
We were taught that this omnipotence comes from the kinship of man's spirit with the Universal Soul -- God! The latter, they said, can never be demonstrated but by the former. Man-spirit proves God-spirit, as the one drop of water proves the source from which it must have come.
Tell one who had never seen water that there is an ocean of water, and he must accept it on faith or reject it altogether. But let one drop fall upon his hand, and he then has the fact from which all the rest may be inferred. After that he could by degrees understand that a boundless and fathomless ocean of water existed.
Blind faith would no longer be necessary; he would have supplanted it with KNOWLEDGE. When one sees mortal man displaying tremendous capabilities, controlling the forces of nature and opening up to view the world of spirit, the reflective mind is overwhelmed with the conviction that if one man's spiritual Ego can do this much, the capabilities of the FATHER SPIRIT must be relatively as much vaster as the whole ocean surpasses the single drop in volume and potency. Ex nihilo nihil fit; prove the soul of man by its wondrous powers and you have proved God!
It was from these Sages that H.P. Blavatsky received the teachings of the Archaic Wisdom-Religion, fragments of which she gave to the world as Theosophy, that synthesis of religion, science, and philosophy which Katherine Tingley, her Successor, is now, through the School of Antiquity, proving to be absolutely practical as applied to daily life, and which contains the answers for man's perplexing inner questions.
So many have the idea that Theosophy is abstruse and incomprehensible that before going on we can do no better than quote this brief definition of it from the writings of William Quan Judge, the Second Leader of the Theosophical Movement, whose heroic defense of the principles for which Madame Blavatsky gave her life, made it possible for the School of Antiquity on Point Loma to be established.
It cannot be quoted too often:
Theosophy is that ocean of knowledge which spreads from shore to shore of the evolution of sentient beings; unfathomable in its deepest parts, it gives the greatest minds their fullest scope, yet, shallow enough at its shores, it will not overwhelm the understanding of a child ... And just as the Ancients taught, so does Theosophy; THAT THE COURSE OF EVOLUTION IS THE DRAMA OF THE SOUL AND THAT NATURE EXISTS FOR NO OTHER PURPOSE THAN THE SOUL'S EXPERIENCE.
There is a story somewhere of a man who found himself a prisoner in a black and dreary room. Year after year he pined and fretted there, when one day a brilliant thought occurred to him: he opened the door and walked out!
He was evidently a stupid man, with a good part of his brain set aside and preserved from use, but that very fact is what gives the story its point for us here, and it is certainly material to the theme: commonsense.
Moreover, the application is plain, for no thinking mind can deny that humanity at the present time is behaving with the acme of stupidity with regard to many of its major affairs. The result is that we are traveling in a vicious circle, the very remedies we are pottering with, in the hope of getting ourselves out, acting only to keep us in.
The commonsense man would say, "Why not stop pottering and tinkering, and smash an opening in that circle? Then walk out!" That is exactly what Theosophy gives one the power to do, and that is why it is the preeminent court of appeal for the commonsense man.
When Alexander cut the knot of Gordius, he gave us an example of commonsense treatment of a seemingly hopeless affair. When a bird wishes to be free of swamp odors or noisome vapors, it does not organize a committee, or write an essay on the evil ways of the world, or settle down on the swamp surface to stay there, it simply flies up and away! And we can always do as wisely if we will use our commonsense, remembering that man is a Soul, and that the Soul has wings!
The question may be simply one of opening the door so that the Soul can use its wings, or, it may be, of taking off the chains of conceit, prejudice, bigotry, false pride, cynicism, ignorance, and all purely brain-mind ideas, so that the Soul is free to rise.
So here we are at last, with man definitely placed before us as a Dual Being: both soul and body, both animal and divine, the God and the lower human harnessed together by the Higher Law and destined to struggle on in harness until the God shall triumph over the other or depart, to leave the obstinate lower mind to follow its course alone.
(to be continued)
By Grace F. Knoche
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January 1918, pages 63-68.]
Behold the Hosts of Souls. Watch how they hover o'er the stormy sea of human life, and how, exhausted, bleeding, broken-winged, they drop one after other on the swelling waves. Tossed by the fierce winds, chased by the gale, they drift into eddies and disappear within the first great vortex.
-- From an archaic text translated by H.P. Blavatsky.
If the drama is a powerful teacher, it is equally a powerful reflector of the customs and the interests of an age, and in these days of unsolved social problems the unfortunate woman is naturally a frequent central theme.
To a student of human nature in the light of Theosophy, she is seldom understandingly portrayed. There is need of the dramatic interpreter who possesses a certain cosmic greatness of soul, a rare and fine perception of human nature IN ITS DUALITY, without which the Magdalen cannot be portrayed as she really is -- a creature Divine as well as human, bound to the rock of Karmic fate by chains of her own making, helpless, hopeless, and enmeshed, yet, urged by the Divinity within her, struggling and suffering on.
In drama, as in fiction, there is often an accentuation of the vice-fascination with a corresponding obscuration of the divine possibilities that are latent in every soul, however debased, often waiting only the touch of brotherliness, the warm sunlight of a true compassion, to blossom into loveliness and redemption.
In LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS, long since translated into every tongue in which romances are known and in its dramatized form known in English as CAMILLE, Alexandre Dumas wonderfully approaches a Theosophic interpretation of the age-old Magdalen-type.
Its key-episode is one that only Reincarnation can explain, while it plainly holds a brief for Brotherhood as a fact in Nature, for the Duality of mankind, for Compassion as the 'Law of Laws,' and for Love as the great unfolding power in human life.
The picture that Dumas paints for us: of poor anguished Marguerite, gay indeed but "with a mirth that is sadder than sorrow," falling at last, "exhausted, bleeding, broken-winged," first into Life's great vortex and then, freed from that, held like a wolf in a trap, to be submerged and drowned in the foul waters of the world's hypocrisy and sham -- it is a picture to warn and to purify both.
By their central test, the old Greeks would have written this down as a supreme tragedy -- structurally, at least -- for it is a minister of purification to every heart honest enough to open to its pathos, and intelligent enough to grasp its appeal. Pity and terror: let us arouse these emotions in the spectator's soul, said the old dramatists who knew, and there ensues a purification of the whole nature.
He passes through a baptism of the spirit, a real initiation. That used to happen in the old, old days, before the Mysteries were dead and while the drama was yet part of their expression. It happens today -- as in Shakespeare's greater works and in a few tragedies written by others -- though only now and then, indeed, rarely. But in Dumas' faithful picture of LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS, this old test is faithfully met.
The story of Marguerite Gautier, which is an actual life-history, not only inspires one with terror -- terror of self-indulgence, of sin, and of the fruits of broken law -- but it leaves one inoculate with the spirit of true reform, alive with righteous indignation against the cold hypocrisy of society, living in glass houses all the time and yet so eager to cast the first stone.
No, whatever she may do or may become, the fallen one can never rise again. The world is inflexible.
So Marguerite in the play. Yet such compassion suffuses Dumas' presentation that in spite of itself, conservatism is swept away on the tide of it, out into new oceans of perception and of love, on and on to shores where new ideals rise up to greet one and words are almost out of place.
Renunciation is the rock on which spiritual growth really rests, taken in the last analysis, and it is so proclaimed by all the Scriptures of the world, wherein no greater love is pictured than that which layeth down its life for a friend. "Tis from the bud of Renunciation of the self that springeth the sweet fruit of final Liberation," says the ancient text from which is taken also the quotation at the head of this article.
More to the point, it is declared supreme by every atom of one's finer, more heroic self, and it is the wheel upon which the Magdalen of Dumas' conception is broken -- yet spiritually made whole. It is lightly touched upon through the varied modulations and dissonances of the building up of the story, but it rings out supreme in the symphonic climax:
O fear nothing, nothing! HE WILL HATE ME!
The words alone are as little and plain as Macbeth's equally tense, "Thou canst not say I did it!" when the shade of Banquo stalks in with its silent challenge. But we cannot mistake the meaning of that tense note in either one, and each, though ringing out from opposite poles of consciousness, marks, structurally, the ridge-pole of the play.
Up to that point everything rises, builds, accrues: after it, everything totters, falls, and vanishes. Macbeth renounced soul for personality, and reaped the "wages of sin." Marguerite renounced personality for soul and drank of the bitter draught which "in the beginning is as poison and in the end as the water of life."
Up to the moment of her renunciation, little by little, sweet dream added to dream as stone might be placed on stone, the outward structure of the nobler life, for which this poor soul had longed with an intensity of longing that the conventionally good woman can never possibly know, has been a-building.
And why not? Its builder, in the baptism of the first unselfish love that had ever come into her life, had become a transformed, indeed transfigured being. This is not a sentimental opinion. She proves it by many acts, though we have words from her as well.
My past self separates itself so entirely from myself of today that I seem to be two different women, and the second barely remembers the first ... I have spent more money in bouquets than would serve to feed an honest family for a year; and now, ah, now one little flower, such as this which was given me this morning, makes the whole day sweet ...
She refuses marriage, which women of her class commonly clutch at like vultures (and surely we are not to blame them, if they do). She will not even seem to profit by a step which she thinks at some time in the future will embarrass another -- for her code of honor is high.
"No, if I wished to marry, Armand would marry me tomorrow. But I shall never consent to take his name," she says to her friend Erminia, adding, "You see, dear, THERE ARE SOME THINGS A WOMAN CAN NEVER WIPE OUT OF HER LIFE."
She rejoices later in the marriage of this friend, an unfortunate girl like herself, without a trace of jealousy or repining. Secretly, lest it humiliate the one whose beautiful faith in her has transformed her whole life, she sells her house, jewels, and belongings, that she might begin her new life far from Paris and free from the tentacles of the old.
Then comes the bolt from the blue -- Karma, Karma! Society makes a call upon her and speaks its mind -- in the person of Duval pere were a gentleman and a man of heart, but so gripped by social hypocrisy that he fancies its opinion to be his own.
He comes to treat with Marguerite Gautier as a creature beneath him and apart. He remains, to appeal to the noblest qualities of the human soul as the only possible way of reaching one whom he absolutely respects.
Marguerite, gripped by the same conventions, only in another way, is too honest to appeal from his decision. She feels again the icy wall which marks her off from the great human lot, and the old sad hopelessness reasserts itself. She must reap as she has sown, however ignorant, however thoughtless, the sowing may have been.
"No, the fallen one can never rise. The world is inflexible ... It IS JUSTICE," she says. But a single moan escapes her.
It is very good of you to speak to me of your daughter, M. Duval. Yes; and someday will you tell this pure and beautiful girl -- whom I never saw but for whom I give up all my happiness -- tell her that there was once a woman who had but one hope, one thought, one dream in all the world, and who yet, at the invocation of her name, renounced it all, crushed her heart between her hands, and died of it -- for I shall die of it.
And then she meets the challenge, the most supreme that can be offered any soul -- for what more can be demanded than ALL ONE HAS, and society demanded of this woman the utmost, the highest thing that, at that step in her growth, she could comprehend.
She rose to the demand, and with more than the courage of an Alcestis, for not only must she renounce this great dream, this transmuting, wonderful love, but by her own deliberate act, she must turn its sweetness into gall.
There is no other way, such is Armand's faith in her, as she knows. And this she does. Not once, but even a second time, tempted, baited, tried by more than fire, she deliberately lifts her hand again to shatter all that she had once created with so much love and care.
At last human strength can bear no more, the frail body sinks under the pressure, and the soul demands release. But why did she do all this, you question.
She did not have to. No one had the power to enforce the demand thus made. With a single word, she could have won to her side an irresistible support. Yet she did not speak that word. This 'fallen one' held to a higher code of honor than the world accepts even as a theory.
One truly needs Theosophical light and understanding before such a type-creation as Marguerite Gautier can be brought out in all its subtle nuances of character, in its wonderful chiaroscuro of light and dark, dark and light, and with its spiritual possibilities fully unveiled.
There are other demands in dramatic interpretation than those of the unities or the classic construction of a plot, and there is need of Theosophical insight on the stage itself.
How many times has this play been presented with apparently no perception whatever of its significance as the battleground of the soul, or of the great universal laws invoked by every such struggle between the personal will and the Divine, between the leadings of desire and the summons of the Soul, between man's harsh, cruet judgment and the compassion of the Higher Law.
Not always, however, for one great figure comes to mind as an exception: that of Eleonora Duse, who transfigured the whole theme with the spirituality of a great, an awakened, woman.
Nor did she err in thus suffusing the play with a something more of fire than of earth, for Marguerite is introduced to us in the first place as one who had already taken a stand against the fevered life, and her subsequent lapses seem to be simply forced by the ghosts of old cynicism and hopelessness that in no life will down at once.
William Q. Judge once wrote the following, and we commend it to those reformers who tell you that the unfortunate woman is likely 'to slip back,' and in general 'cannot be reformed.'
Just as in your material world during vast, shadowy periods, intermediate types float about until the habit of nature has changed, so in each daily life, or moral life, the intermediate forms remain until YOUR habit has totally altered. They then disappear forever.
Duse was sublime in her portrayal of this pathetic character because of her great compassion. Her own nature is of that cosmic and elemental largeness that can understand and solve a problem as large as humanity itself, and as old -- shall we glibly repeat here the current phrase, 'as the oldest profession in the world'?
Oldest! What an exposure of spiritual ignorance that such an expression, such a lie, should weave its way in and out of history, literature, art, even philosophy, so-called, during age after age, unchallenged!
Duse's grandeur comes out of the fact that something in her woman's heart told her better than this. She pictures faithfully this woman IN HER DUALITY, but her portrayal, essentially, is that of the Spiritual Woman, the Eternal Woman, whose profession is far older than that of the erring one.
This, in our opinion, is why she rises to such nobility of conception and such miracle of art in her every recital of the triumph of a soul. She is great enough to understand that a woman who had passed through an Inferno of sin and pain and yet had risen above the hell and heat of it unscarred, unsoiled, burned clean, was not only capable of perceiving the highest moral principles, but could not have done otherwise than make them a living power in her life.
By such an act, the 'fallen one' takes her place in what actually is, so far as woman is concerned, 'the oldest profession in the world': that of the sharer of Spiritual Knowledge, the Custodian of Spiritual Light.
Who was it served, in the very dawn-mist time of things, as the link between unevolved humanity and the Elohim, the bright Gods, of whom radiant Lucifer was one? Modestly we say it, but yet it is time it were said: was it not woman?
Whose hand was the first to receive the Torch of Reason, Spiritual Intelligence, the 'Light of Mind,' by which mankind, receiving it in turn, should be even as the bright Gods themselves, knowing good and evil? Who never thought of herself, but hastened to share this supreme gift, without which mankind would be no more than animal even yet? The old scripts tell us it was woman, who, H.P. Blavatsky tells us in addition, in one of her earlier signed articles, "had she been let alone and allowed to do what she intended, would have led man to the Tree of Life." This drama, in its denouement, suggests the citation.
That mankind boggled the great opportunity, and fell and suffered and wandered and is wandering yet, has nothing to do with the issue right here, which is whether or not 'the oldest profession in the world' with which woman had to do is that of the destroyer or the Spiritual Teacher in short, and Initiator.
However we may have boggled translations, or misread allegory and symbol, or dragged the Elohim themselves through the slough of theological upside-downness, at least this much of the tale is left in more than one World Scripture, and so clearly that he who runs may read.
In her great renunciation Marguerite Gautier actually took her soul's primal place in the truly 'oldest profession in the world,' that of Teacher. Hers was the hand that, as the denouement shows, passed on the torch. Duval pere can never be the social puppet again, for he was reborn through the power of this woman's sacrifice.
This great spiritual issue is one that the great Italian actress intuitively understood. The author, too, perceived spiritually, because Theosophically, and thus wrote more truthfully than he knew. That is why the play, in structure so very simple and direct, is something more than the usual counterpointing of plot and counterplot, emotion and emotion, outward bravado and inward recoil.
Moving along beside the outer form of it, pari passu with its measured progression to climax and then catastrophe, music-wise, there is also a spiritual, melodic thread -- creation, rather -- progressing in CONTRARY MOTION, so that when the crash comes and outward things are shattered, a lofty temple of spiritual beauty towers sublimely over all. How few plays have this inner, hidden resource!
Could anything do more good today, with the social problem more than ever at the fore and good folk still summary and harsh, than a fresh, new presentation of this truly spiritual theme, revived under the direction of one who knows Theosophy, who knows human nature in its duality and therefore loves it in its need, who has faith in the Divinity of mankind and whose object would be, first of all, to teach? We do not believe so.
Such a play is thaumaturgic in the quality of its appeal. If it is a tender brief for the unfortunate woman, it is a nobler one for the Divinity in all humankind. As Dumas wrote at the conclusion of his history of Marie Duplessis, the actual Marguerite of the play:
I am not an apostle of vice, but I will make myself the echo of a nobly borne misfortune whenever I hear its voice raised in supplication.
By Lydia Ross
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January 1918, pages 37-42.]
Were we as anxious to know the real cause of suffering as we are to know how to escape it, we should understand the mystery of life.
Madame Blavatsky said that "almost every individual life is, in its full development, a sorrow." Evidently, then, suffering must have a distinct place and purpose in the human drama. Moreover, something deep within man's nature must consciously work to fulfill the great purpose which lies back of the pain in human life. But for this subconscious will and willingness to live and endure, the race, long since, would have come to an end, unable to support 'The misery of existence.'
The impulse to live is so natural and inherent that the current of human affairs flows steadily on with the majority, day after day. Few stop to question what it is that keeps up their interest and their desire to go on playing a part which is rarely satisfactory.
There are always thousands who are cramped and dulled and wearied with a monotonous daily routine: but they long for a change and a broader field of activity, rather than wish for the end to come. Even the pious people who feel sure of a place in heaven are in no hurry to leave the earth.
The story is told of a bishop asking the captain of a ship on which he was a passenger, during a severe storm, if there was any danger. On hearing the captain's reply that "if this storm does not moderate, we shall all be in heaven in half an hour," the Bishop exclaimed, "God forbid!"
The pleasure seekers are anxious to prolong their days also. Even those who have the means and leisure to exhaust every enjoyment and sensation, and are bored and satiated without a single resource of lasting satisfaction, are not eager to try another world.
This clinging to life is no less strong in many who are utterly wretched and hopeless. In the public hospitals and in miserable homes, there are always men and women who are poor, sick, unloved and helpless, racked with pain, anxiety and hopeless misery, which yet cling to life tenaciously. Something within their nature seems able to know the purpose of it all, and to remain untouched by troubles.
There is no question that Death is pushed back at times of acute crisis in sickness, or chronic illness, by the strong will to live. Other patients, seemingly not so ill, negatively drift away because they lack the desire to live.
To the courageous there is compensation in suffering which gives them something finer than it takes away.
It is noteworthy that the modern increase in suicide is not mainly among the poor and wretched. He who runs may read in the daily papers of these tragedies among those whose financial and social position leaves nothing to be desired, in externals.
Not a few men of ability and with congenial ties, reach the goal of their ambition by strenuous efforts limited to the material world of affairs. Then without apparent reason, they commit suicide. They have been so unconscious that life was for all-round development of the nature, that they recklessly end the unsatisfying round.
The successful, prosperous materialist, who reaches the limit of resources in his own world, and ends his life because it has nothing more to offer, is a bankrupt and a failure in the conscious sense that does not measure itself by mere things around it. He is worse off in soul power and riches than his miserable fellowmen who blindly live out their experiences.
Though the unhappy pauper's brain-mind may think he is a weakling and a failure in gaining possessions, his unseen soul may be learning how its greatness shall yet dominate all things. Each man's experience becomes a part of himself; and a lifetime of blind suffering may be a preparation to see things more clearly in future lives.
In the light of reincarnation, the larger purpose of growth which links the lives together is a satisfying clue to the present. In the grand sweep of this truth, no experience is felt to be either fatal or final. The present is always an incident and an outcome of our own karma, and so can it be made the starting point of better future conditions.
Having made the present what it is, we are making the future what it shall be. As the creator of our own conditions, we can plan to escape many of the old evils by learning wherein we have failed before. It is indeed true that we 'are not punished for our sins but by them.' And it is equally true that we are not rewarded for our virtues but by them.
Had the old theology taught man that he was a soul, this knowledge of his essential divinity would have ingrained into humanity a broader, nobler, and more courageous view of life. Instead of his present uncertainty and vague fear of the unknown, he would confidently respond to the challenge of any test of endurance which life had to offer. Trouble would be recognized as an opportunity to develop latent ability to meet and control difficulties. With each experience he would take on a fresh sense of freedom, finding himself the master not the slave of conditions. Suffering would not find him already half conquered by his fear of it, he would count on finding that his pain was less than his gain would be.
A man must believe that he is a soul to call forth the soul power, which theology has shrouded with so much doubt and fear. Nothing less than a conscious knowledge that he is divine can overcome the belittling fear, which, for ages, had cramped and crippled the expression of the higher nature. A realizing sense that they are souls makes gods and heroes of mere men. Amiel has well said: "Heroism is the overcoming by the soul of the Fear of Suffering and Isolation."
People complain as bitterly of loneliness and lack of sympathy as they do of physical pain: and few escape them. The actual experience is often easier to bear than the fear of it, because fear belongs to the lesser nature. The deepest sorrow may brush aside the superficial things in a nature, and show the riches of unsounded depths of unselfish feeling.
The pampered child that is hurt or lost is at the mercy of pain and loneliness. Fear intensifies his sufferings. His training has taught him to look to others for help and he has no clue to his own resources. His devoted friends and relatives, in trying to protect him from ordinary discomforts have left him defenseless and exposed to greater trouble and danger.
A self-reliant child, in the same place, is aroused to meet and withstand the pain, and to confidently explore the unknown places. He feels that he is still the center of his world of things, and shall presently find his lost friends, or new ones.
It is the same with the older children of men. The pampered lesser nature shrinks from a hard or unpleasant situation or from anything new that may not yield to it the old indulgence. It prefers its old domain of sensations and desires, and the familiar touch of old limitations, rather than to lose its power in a larger freedom for the real man. With its own tears and lamentations, it grows blind and deaf to the truth before it. It blames everything but itself for the troubles that come: and selfishly reaches out to grasp relief and reassurance from someone else. It is afraid to step out into a strange silence and find how small and mean it is alone. It is afraid of pain; but it would rather be in the old pain than not to be at all. And it instinctively knows that once man has found the satisfying peace and freedom of his higher nature, he will not live content in the changing pains and pleasures of his emotions and desires.
The lesser self must suffer in the process which transmutes its power to higher use. There are literal death pangs for it when the man gives up his lesser life that he may more truly live. But he looks upon his own suffering calmly, when he knows himself as a soul, working to perfect the man of flesh. He knows that as he pays the price, he will receive the compensation. He will be, in fact, his own compensation.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
He did not say that the glory should be revealed TO us but IN us, showing that he knew the truth of man's perfectibility. He pointed out an example of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, in the perfected man Jesus. Of this teacher, he said:
For it became him for who are all things and by who are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.
Paul also saw that:
[The progress of a soul in an animal body made the conscious man a paradox] as sorrowful yet always rejoicing: as poor yet making rich: as having nothing yet possessing all things.
He clearly believed that suffering should be turned to account, when he wrote that "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
Not the least source of suffering is ignorance of the dual nature of humanity. Until that fact is known and understood, there is no way to detect the subtle play of the lower nature.
Selfishness is not most dangerous when it is frankly gross and cruel, or quarrelsome and stupid. It can use all the powers of mind, and the grace and skill of the body to gain its ends. The way in which children get their own way by wheedling their parents into yielding consent, is an instance well known to all but the parents. The charm of a pleased child and the unpleasant tempers which parents dread often results in yielding against their better judgment, because they can neither understand nor control them.
Parental love and parental ignorance of human nature are often played upon with such subtle instinct that the child becomes master of the situation. This is especially true of the restless, precocious, undisciplined American child of today. They neither give happiness or comfort to others nor really satisfy themselves.
It requires no stretch of imagination to see the suffering that these uncontrolled natures will invoke for all concerned, as they mature into more insistent desires, and the larger freedom to indulge them.
The same unworthy play of the subtle lower nature is to be seen in other ties, of family and friends. It may be an indulgent husband or a devoted wife catering to the vanity, extravagance, selfish impulses, or dishonorable dealings of the other, without realizing the trouble they are indorsing and must share. These couples do not always lack conscience so much as they lack consciousness that both are being played by the lower nature. While they dance to its tune, they must pay the fiddler his unhappy price.
It is this pitiful ignorance of the forces in human nature which deceives and victimizes the individual and those he loves the best. The nearest ties of family and friends are often strong in mutual weaknesses, perhaps fostered by the association of other lives. The few points of real unity and understanding in close ties show how strong and lasting love is between those whose natures have met and overcome something in common.
Who can question that genuine unselfish love is an immortal something that made life sweet in the long forgotten past, and that will grow stronger throughout future ages? Its deep and sacred power hints at the ideal fellowship which will come when the whole nature is expressed at its best.
The faults in our friends are often our own weak points in another guise. Perhaps life after life, we have feared to face ourselves and to live through the painful experience of overcoming these very failings.
It may require all the heroism of the soul to overcome the fear of suffering and the isolation of this unknown step now. It may be also that the maturing of the whole character waits upon this one thing to be rounded out. But the continued effort to do it, as a soul, will strike a keynote of courage for every near tie. And the isolation necessary to find the true self, will react into that real unity which outlasts life itself.
When Mme. Blavatsky was asked why there was need for rebirths, since no one secured a permanent peace, she replied:
Because the final goal cannot be reached in any way but through life experiences, and because the bulk of these consist in pain and suffering, it is only through the latter that we can learn. Joys and pleasures teach us little; they are evanescent, and can only in the long run bring satiety. Moreover our constant failure to find any permanent satisfaction in life which would meet the wants of our higher nature shows us plainly that those wants can be met only on their own plane -- to wit, the spiritual ... Further, we maintain that all pain and suffering are results of want of Harmony and that the one terrible and only cause of the disturbance of Harmony is Selfishness in some form or other.
Everything points out the fact that the world is not merely a playground and that life is serious business. Since whether as sinner or saint, suffer we must, we may as well claim the compensation earned by our experience and suffer to a conscious purpose. Pain is a necessary protection and danger signal, a safeguard against going still further wrong and against repeating old errors.
There is a sacred responsibility in all experiences, but especially in those where the truth is sharply defined by pain. The ignorant suffer ignorantly; but the more conscious suffer according to their light, however cleverly they seek to escape. Did not Jesus say to the lame man, cured after his thirty-eight years of infirmity, "Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
The great law of justice, working through the purpose of pain, shows even in the quality of disease, whether the prevailing wrongs of an age are done more or less consciously.
The plagues which devastated Europe in the middle ages were ignorantly ascribed to a mysterious Providence by a superstitious age, that believed men were only miserable sinners, and not responsible for what happened.
It is clear enough to this sanitary age that the awful pests were the creation of medieval uncleanliness. Man, not Providence, made the plague conditions; but it took hundreds of years to learn the cause of that medieval suffering. By modern sanitation, man masters the plague and is decreasing all contagions due to faulty hygiene in his surroundings. But the more conscious brain and more highly organized nervous system of today shows the wrongs of this age in a host of puzzling nervous disorders, and in greater frequency and more incurable types of insanity.
Now the prevalent diseases are related to the consciousness rather than to material conditions. The organization of industry and of society show moral plague spots of slums and degeneracy and vice and crime, undreamed of by existing primitive peoples. No savage could conceive of the depths of degeneracy and the mental and moral suffering to be found in any city. Meantime the medical profession usually refuse to see that mental and moral wrongs must react upon the body; and they have no remedy to offer for the malignant and degenerate diseases that grow more numerous and more difficult to treat. It might be well to reread that old prescription which Jesus gave his patient in the temple:
Sin no more lest a worse thing come unto thee.
The study of Theosophy shows the interrelation of all the elements in human make-up, and it goes to the root of modern wrongs. H.P. Blavatsky said in the early days of the society:
Theosophy's aims are several: but the most important are those which are likely to lead to the relief of human suffering under any or every form, moral as well as physical. And we believe the former to be far more important than the latter. Theosophy has to inculcate ethics: it has to purify the soul, if it would relieve the physical body, whose ailments, save in case of accidents, are all hereditary.