Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Lnks to Letters | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |
My Dear Jasper:
Now let me elevate a signal. Do not think much of me, please. Think kindly of me; but oh, my friend, direct your thoughts to the Eternal Truth. I am, like you, struggling on the road. Perhaps a veil might in an instant fall down from your spirit, and you would be long ahead of us all. The reason you have had help is that in other lives you gave it to others. In every effort you made to lighten another mind and open it to Truth, you were helped yourself. Those pearls you found for another and gave to him, you really retained for yourself in the act of benevolence. For when one lives thus to help others, he is thereby putting in practice the rule to try and "kill out all sense of separateness," and thus gets little by little in possession of the true light.
Never lose, then, that attitude of mind. Hold fast in silence to all that is your own, for you will need it in the fight; but never, never desire to get knowledge or power for any other purpose than to give it on the altar, for thus alone can it be saved to you.
So many are there around me who are ardent desirers and seekers, devotees; but they are doing it because the possession seems valuable. Perhaps I see in you -- I hope I mistake not -- a pure desire to seek Knowledge for its own sake, and that all others may be benefitted. So I would point out to you the only royal road, the one vehicle. Do all those acts, physical, mental, moral, for the reason that they must be done, instantly resigning all interest in them, offering them up upon the altar. What altar? Why, the great spiritual altar, which is, if one desires it, in the heart. Yet still use earthly discrimination, prudence, and wisdom.
It is not that you must rush madly or boldly out to do, to do. Do what you find to do. Desire ardently to do it, and even when you shall not have succeeded in carrying anything out but some small duties, some words of warning, your strong desire will strike like Vulcan upon other hearts in the world, and suddenly you will find that done which you had longed to be the doer of. Then rejoice that another had been so fortunate as to make such a meritorious Karma. Thus, like the rivers running into the unswelling, passive ocean, will your desires enter into your heart.
I find all your remarks just; and besides, there seems to be a real spirit behind them. Do not fear nor fail because you feel dark and heavy. The very rage you feel will break the shrine that covers the mystery after a while. No one can really help you. No one can open your doors. You locked them up, and only you can open them. When you open any door, beyond it you find others standing there who had passed you long ago, but now, unable to proceed, they are there waiting; others are there waiting for you. Then you come, and, opening a door, those waiting disciples perhaps may pass on; thus on and on. What a privilege this, to reflect that we may perhaps be able to help those who seemed greater than ourselves!
O, what a groan Nature gives to see the heavy Karma which man has piled upon himself and all the creatures of the three worlds! That deep sigh pierces through my heart. How can the load be lifted? Am I to stand for myself, while the few strong hands of Blessed Masters and Their friends hold back the awful cloud? Such a vow I registered ages ago to help them, and I must. Would to great Karma I could do more! And you! do what you can.
Place your only faith, reliance, and trust on Karma. -- Z.
My Dear Brother:
Your last long letter came duly to hand and has been read with much pleasure. It is quite rare to find one willing to enter this movement on the basis you have laid down for yourself, and my previous letter was written in order to see what your attitude really was, and also because I then felt from your writing that you were really in earnest. And before yours of today, I fell to thinking about you and wondering whether a future of power, a brilliancy of knowledge, was not your aspiration, and what effect certain occurrences would have upon that.
Judge, then, my pleasure in reading your words exactly answering my mental inquiries of yesterday and placing you in the right position.
It is true, we must aspire ardently, and blessed is the one who, after the first aspiration, is wise enough to see the Truth.
Three qualities forever encompass us: Satwa (truth and stability), Rajas (action, war, aspiration, ambition), Tamas (indifference, ignorance, darkness).
None may be ignored. So the path lies from Tamas, up through war, ambition, and aspiration, to Satwa, or truth and stability. We are now in Rajasika regions, sometimes lifting our fingers up to the hem of the garment of Satwa, ever aspiring, ever trying to purify our thoughts and free ourselves from the attachment to action and objects. So, of course, the ardent student naturally aspires for power. This is wise. But he must soon begin to see what he must do for real progress. For continual aspiration for power merely is sure to sow for us the giant weed of self, which is the giant spoken of in Light on the Path.
As to the Theosophical Society, all should be admitted, for we can refuse no one. If this is a Universal Brotherhood, we can make no distinctions; but we can put ourselves right in the beginning by seeing that people do not enter with mistaken notions of what we have. And yet with all our precautions, how often we find persons who are not really sincere themselves judging us by their standard, unbelieving in our sincerity. They enter; they find that each must study for himself and that no guides are told off to reach one; then they are disgusted. They forget that "the kingdom of heaven must be taken by violence." We have also had to suffer from our friends. People who have joined us in secret like Nicodemus; they have stood idly by, waiting for the Cause to get strong or to get fashionable, and leaving all the hard fighting to be done by a few earnest men who defied the hosts of Materialism and of Conventionality. Had they spoken for their Cause, more earnest people would long ago have heard of the movement, instead of being kept away until now, like yourself, for want of knowledge that it existed.
You will find that other members care for nothing but Theosophy, and are yet forced by circumstances to work in other fields as well. What moments they have left are devoted to the Cause, and in consequence they have no unoccupied hours; each moment, day and evening, is filled up, and therefore they are happy. Yet they are unhappy that they cannot give their entire working time to the Cause in which some have been from the beginning. They feel, like Claude St. Martin, a burning desire within them to get these truths to the ears of all men. They are truths, and you are in the right path. In America it is as easy to find the Light of Lights as in India, but all around you are those who do not know these things, who never heard of them, and yet many of our fellow members are only anxious to study for their own benefit. Sometimes, if it were not for my reliance on those Great Beings who beckon me ever on, I would faint, and, leaving these people to themselves, rush off into the forest. So many people like Theosophy, and yet they at once wish to make it select and of high tone. It is for all men. It is for the common people, who are ever with us. Others, again, come in and wait like young birds for food to be put into them: they will not think, and ages must pass before they will progress.
You misunderstood a little the words "Do not think much of me." Underline "much," but not "think." You'll please think all the thoughts you will of me, but do not place me on any pinnacle: that's all I meant.
A constant endeavor towards perfecting the mere mortal machine is folly. Thereby we sometimes fail to live up to our own intuitions. This habit goes on for some time, but will get weaker as other senses (inner ones) begin to appear. Yet know the new fully before being off with the old.
Inasmuch as we learn almost solely from each other -- as we are all here for each other -- the question of the effect of affinities upon our acts and thoughts is enormous and wide. It anon saves us, and anon damns. For we may meet in our lives a person who has a remarkable effect, either for good or ill, because of the affinities engendered in past lives. And now our eyes are open, we act today for the future.
That you may pass beyond the sea of darkness, I offer you my life and help. -- Z.
Say, Brother Jasper, are you tired? I am. Not tired of fate or of the great "Leaders of the World," but with all these people who gape and gape and are (excuse me) so Americanly "independent," as if men were ever independent of each other.
You ask about the "moment of choice." It is made up of all moments. It is not in space or time, but is the aggregation of those moments flying by us each instant. It is referred to in Esoteric Buddhism as a period not yet arrived for the race, when it will as a whole be compelled to make choice for good or evil. But any single individual can bring on the period for himself. When it will or has come, the uninstructed cannot tell. For the student of occultism it may come in the next instant, or it may come one hundred lives after. But it cannot come this instant unless all the previous lives have led up to it. Yet as regards the student, even if it be presented to him and he refuse, he will be brought to the choice in future existences, with the whole body of his race. Race influences are insidious and powerful. For instance, my race has its peculiarities deeply seated and inherited from an extraordinary past. I must be under their influence in this body as a necessary part of my experience. In another life I might have been a prosaic Hottentot, or an Englishman, and in a succeeding one I might be under the influence of other race peculiarities. Those influences are, then, guiding me every moment, and each thought I have adds to them now, for either my own future use or for some other person who will come under the power of part of the force generated now by me.
As to the sub-conscious mind. It is difficult to explain. I find constantly that I have ideas that internally I thoroughly understand, and yet can find no language for them. Call it sub-conscious if you like. It is there and can be affected; indeed, it is affected every moment. It is a nearness to the universal mind. So if I desire to influence -- say your mind -- I do not formulate your sub-conscious plane, but firmly and kindly think of you and think of the subject I wish you to think of. This must reach you. If I am selfish, then it has more difficulty to get there; but if it be brotherly, then it gets there more easily, being in harmony with the universal mind and the Law. The Psychical Society speaks of it, and says that the influence "emerges into the lower mind" by one or more of the channels. But they do not know what those "channels" are, or even if they do exist. In fact, the whole subject of mind is only faintly understood in the West. They say "mind," meaning the vast range and departments of that which they call mind, whereas there must be a need for the names of those departments. When the true ideas are grasped, the names will follow. Meanwhile we must be satisfied with "mind" as including the whole thing. But it does not. Certainly it is not ordinary mental motion -- ratiocination -- to grasp in an instant a whole subject, premises and conclusions, without stopping to reason. It cannot be called a picture, for with some it comes as an idea, and not as a picture. Memory. What is that? Is it brain-impression; or similarity of vibration, recognized upon being repeated and then producing a picture? If so, then the power to recognize the vibration as the same as before is separate from the matter which vibrates. And if the power inhere in the brain cells, how is it possible, when we know they are constantly being changed? Yet memory is perfect, no matter what happens. That it is above brain is clear, because a man may be killed by having his brain blown to atoms, and yet his "shell" can give all the incidents of his life, and they are not taken from the brain, for that is dead. Where, then, is the sub-conscious mind? And where are the channels, and how are they connected? I think through the heart, and that the heart is the key to it all, and that the brain is only the servant of the heart, (1) for remember that there is in it the "small dwarf who sits at the centre." Think it out on that line now for yourself -- or any other line that you may choose, but think. As ever, Z.
Dear Sir and Brother:
In cogitating lately I thought of you in respect to some of my own thoughts. I was reading a book and looking around within myself to see how I could enlarge my idea of brotherhood. Practice in benevolence will not give it its full growth. I had to find some means of reaching further, and struck on this, which is as old as old age.
I am not separate from anything. "I am that which is." That is, I am Brahma, and Brahma is everything. But being in an illusionary world, I am surrounded by certain appearances that seem to make me separate. So I will proceed to mentally state and accept that I am all these illusions. I am my friends, -- and then I went to them in general and in particular. I am my enemies; then I felt them all. I am the poor and the wicked; I am the ignorant. Those moments of intellectual gloom are the moments when I am influenced by those ignorant ones who are myself. All this in my nation. But there are many nations, and to those I go in mind; I feel and I am them all, with what they hold of superstition or of wisdom or evil. All, all is myself. Unwisely, I was then about to stop, but the whole is Brahma, so I went to the Devas and Asuras (2): the elemental world, that too is myself. After pursuing this course awhile I found it easier to return to a contemplation of all men as myself. It is a good method and ought to be pursued, for it is a step toward getting into contemplation of the All. I tried last night to reach up to Brahma, but darkness is about his pavilion.
Now what does all this insanity sound like? I'll tell you what: if it were not for this insanity I would go insane. But shall I not take heart, even when a dear friend deserts me and stabs me deep, when I know that he is myself? NAMASTAE! -- Z.
I found the above letter still more valuable when I remembered that Brahma is "the universal expansive force of Nature" -- from Brih, to expand; and so stated in an article by H. P. Blavatsky in Five Years of Theosophy. In the Dhammapada we are told to think ourselves to be the sun and stars, the wet and dry, heat and cold; in short, to feel all experience, for we can live all out in the mind. -- J. N.
I wish I could answer your letter as you ought to have it done. But I feel my inability. However, our duty is to never consider our ability, but to do what comes to be done in whatever way we can, no matter how inadequate the work appears to others. When we stop to consider our weakness, we think, by comparison, of how another would do it. Our only right is in the act itself. The consequences are in the great Brahm. So I will just say what comes.
I feel the sadness in your letter, but know that you will rebound from that. Do not let the sadness of knowledge create despair; that sadness is less than the joy of Truth. Abstract Truth, even, has necessarily in it all the mercy there is in the whole. Its sternness is only a reflection from our own imperfections, which make us recognize the stern aspect alone. We are not the only ones to suffer upon the Path. Like ourselves, Masters have wept, though They do not now weep. One of them wrote some years ago: "Do you suppose we have not passed through many times worse trials than you now think you are in?" The Master often seems to reject and to hide his (spiritual) face, in order that the disciple may try. On the doors and walls of the temple the word "TRY" is written. ("The Brothers" is a better designation than Mahatmas or Masters.)
Along the path of the true student is sadness, but also there is great joy and hope. Sadness comes from a more just appreciation of the difficulties in one's way, and of the great wickedness of the individual and collective heart of man. But look at the great fountain of hope and of joy in the consideration that the Brothers exist, that They were men too; They had to fight the fight; They triumphed, and They work for those left after Them. Then beyond Them are "the Fathers," that is, the spirits of "just men made perfect," those Who lived and worked for humanity ages ago and Who are now out of our sphere, but Who nevertheless still influence us in that Their spiritual forces flow down upon this earth for all pure souls. Their immediate influence is felt by Masters, and by us through the latter.
Now, as you say, it is all Faith; but what is Faith? It is the intuitional feeling -- "that is true." So formulate to yourself certain things as true that you feel to be true, and then increase your faith in them.
Don't be anxious. Don't get "maddened." Because in the fact that you are "maddened" (of course in the metaphorical sense) is found the proof that you are anxious. In a worldly sense it is perhaps well to be anxious about a highly important matter, but in occultism it is different, for the Law takes no account of our projects and objects, or our desire to be ahead or behind. So, if we are anxious, we raise a barrier against progress, by perturbation and straining harshly. You wrote to B. that what is his, is his. Then the converse is true; what is not, is not. Why don't you take your own medicine?
It is a great advance that you hear the bells, which few hear, and evidence that you are where you can hear them; that is a great deal indeed. Do not look for the voice of the bells, but regard the ideas which thereupon come into the head, and apply to them the touchstone of your own Soul, just as you advised B. The fact that you feel "dead" is something you should not worry about. It is likely that you are under the operation of a law which prevails in nature, that you will find referred to in an article in Path Magazine for April, '86, page 14. It is that the soul goes to a new place or new surroundings and becomes silent there awhile -- what you call "dead" -- and draws strength there, begins to get accustomed to its new surroundings, after which it begins to move about. This is seen in ordinary life in the bashfulness of a boy. That is, the bashfulness is the shyness felt in new surroundings, and is just what happens when the soul goes to a new place or into new surroundings. There can be no loss or detriment to our efforts. Every aspiration higher brightens up the road connecting the higher and lower self. No doubt of that. It is not what is done, but the spirit in which the least thing is done that is counted. Hear the word of the Master.
"He who does the best he knows how and that he can do, does enough for us."
The mere fact that a man appreciates these truths and feels these aspirations is proof that he is on the right road. It is well to tread it now. We will not always live. Death must come. How much better, then, to embrace death while thus at work than to swerve off only to be brought up with suddenness in after lives. Immediate rebirth is for those who are always working with their hearts on Master's work and free from self interest.
The one Spirit is in all, is the property of each, therefore It is always there, always with us, and, by reflecting on that, little room is left for sorrow or delusion. If we believe that the soul of all is measured by the whole of Time and not by a part, then we care not for these moments which relate alone to our body. If we live in our hearts we soon prove that space and time exist not. Nothing foreign to Master enters there; our faults are not there. The heart reaches Him always, and no doubt He replies. He does I know. He helps us while He leaves us to ourselves. He needs not to stoop to see our devotion, for that is of a supernal quality and reaches anywhere.
No, I do not say nor have I said that you ought to do something other than you do. We each do what we can. None of us can be the judge of any creature existing; so I do not judge you in the least respect. Your life may in the great sum total be greater than any life I ever led or that any one has led. Whether you are in America, Europe, or India makes no difference. This is seeking conditions. I have come to understand that Masters themselves must have worked themselves up out of much worse conditions than we are in. No matter where we are, the same spirit pervades all and is accessible. What need, then, to change places? We do not change ourselves by moving the body to another locus. We only put it under a different influence. And in order to change we must have got to dislike the place we moved from. That is attachment by opposites, and that will produce detriment, as does all that disturbs the equilibrium of the soul. You know the same result is produced by two exact opposites, and thus extremes meet.
That hot flame you speak of is one of the experiences, as are also the sounds. There are so many, many of these things. Often they result from extreme tension or vibration in the aura of an aspirant of pure devotion. They are himself, and he should be on his guard against taking them for wonders. Often they are "apparitions of Brahm." They are like new lights and sights to a mariner on an unfamiliar coast. They will go on, or alter, or stop. You are only to carefully note them, and "do not exhibit wonder nor form association."
I cannot say more. All help you extend to any other soul is help to yourself. It is our duty to help all, and we must begin on those nearest to us, for to run abroad to souls we might possibly help we again forsake our present duty. It is better to die in our own duty, however mean, than to try another one. So lift your head and look around upon the hulks of past imagined faults. They were means and teachers. Cast all doubt, all fear, all regret aside, and freely take of truth what you may contain right on every step. It will thus be well. Eternal Truth is one and indivisible, and we may get from the Fathers (Pitris) flashes now and then of what is true.
Words are things. With me and in fact. Upon the lower plane of social intercourse they are things, but soulless and dead because that convention in which they have their birth has made abortions of them. But when we step away from that conventionality they become alive in proportion to the reality of the thought -- and its purity -- that is behind them. So in communication between two students they are things, and those students must be careful that the ground of intercourse is fully understood. Let us use with care those living messengers called words.
Where I see you mistaken I will speak, to warn my Brother who temporarily knows not. For did I not call on the bugle, perhaps other things might switch him off to where perhaps for the time he would be pleased, but would again be sorry, and then when his mistake was plain he would justly sigh to me across dark centuries of separation that I had been false to my duty of warning.
As ever, Z.
The new plane to which the soul may go, referred to in this letter, is the astral plane. It is the plane next above the material one, and consists of a subtile order of matter. When a student turns his attention to the higher life and desires intensely to find the way, his soul has begun to awaken and to speak. It has heard the voice of the spirit. Then the inner senses begin to unfold, at first ever so gently, so tenderly, we scarce hear their report. But the soul has then turned its attention to the astral plane, that being the next one to be learned on the way upward; its energy is transferred from the material plane to this one, and we have an influx of many confused dreams and strange experiences, awake and asleep. These may or may not continue; all depends upon the individual soul and upon Karma. It is a most confusing plane, and, generally speaking, we may say that those students are more fortunate who make a marked degree of progress in spiritual things without having any conscious experience of the astral plane. For then they can later on learn it from above, instead of from below, and with far less danger to themselves. The whole must be known, but we may progress in various ways, even by discontinuous degrees, only then we must go back later on, to what we passed by. Such a going back does not imply detriment or loss of degree, for such cannot be lost when once gained in reality.
With regard to the astral plane's being a more subtile order of matter, this truth is often denied by clairvoyants and untrained seers. They do not distinguish between the psychic senses and the spiritual. They can see through gross matter, such as a wall, the human body, and so forth, as if it were glass, but they cannot see through astral substance, and hence they believe its forms and all the pictures and shapes in the astral light to be real. Only the adept sees through these illusions, which are far more powerful because composed of a subtile order of matter: subtile energies, fine forces have a highly increased rate of power over grosser ones. The adept has at his command the rate of vibration which dispels them or drives them asunder. In speaking of the astral plane, I mean the lower soul plane, and not that higher and purified quality which the author of Light on the Path calls the "divine astral."
By anxiety we exert the constrictive power of egoism, which densifies and perturbs our magnetic sphere, rendering us less permeable to the efflux from above. -- J. N.
I have your letter, Comrade, in which you say how much you wish there were some Adepts sent to the United States to help all true students. Yet you know well They do not need to come here in person, in order to help. By going carefully over your letter there appears to be the possibility of the seed of doubt in your heart as to the wise ordering of all things, for all are under the Law, and Masters first of all. Mind, I only say the "possibility of the seed of doubt." For I judge from my own experience. Well do I remember when I thought as you say, how much better 'twould be if some one were there.
If that is allowed to remain it will metamorphose itself into a seed and afterward a plant of doubt. Cast it right out! It does not now show as a seed of doubt, but it will be a case of metamorphosis, and the change would be so great as to deceive you into thinking it were never from the same root. The best stand to take is that it is all right as it is now, and when the time comes for it to be better it will be so. Meanwhile we have a duty to see that we do all we can in our own place as we see best, undisturbed and undismayed by aught.
How much I have in years gone away said and thought those very words of yours and to no profit! Why do you care what becomes of a million human beings? Are not millions going to death daily with no one to tell them of all this? But did you suppose that all this was not provided for? "And heavenly death itself is also well provided for." Now, then, you and I must learn to look on the deaths or the famishing of millions of beings with unfaltering heart. Else we had better give it all up now. Consider that at this moment are so many persons in various far distant places who cannot ever hear these truths. Do you grieve for them? Do you realize their state? No; you realize only partially the same thing among those with whom it was your present lot to be born -- I mean the nation. Do you want to do more than your best? Do you covet the work of another? No; you do not. You will sit calmly where you are, then, and, with an unaffected heart, picture to yourself the moral and physical deaths and famines which are now without the possibility of prevention or amelioration. Your faith will know that all is provided for.
I do not say that you must attain to that calm now or give up seeking the Way; but I do say that you must admit that such an attainment must be absolutely tried for. For of such is the trial, and why should we care? We must some day be able to stand any shock, and to get ready for that time we must be now triumphant over some smaller things. Among others is the very position you and I are now in; that is, standing our ground and feeling ourselves so much and so awfully alone. But we know that They have left us a commandment. That we keep, although now and then objects, senses, men, and time conspire to show us that Masters laugh at us. It is all a delusion. It is only one consequence of our past Karma now burning itself out before our eyes. The whole phantasmagoria is only a picture thrown up against the Screen of Time by the mighty magic of Prakriti (Nature). But you and I are superior to Nature. Why, then, mind these pictures? Part of that very screen, however, being our own mortal bodies, we can't help the sensation derived therefrom through our connection with the body. It is only another form of cold or heat; and what are they? They are vibrations; they are felt; they do not really exist in themselves. So we can calmly look on the picture as it passes fragmentarily through those few square feet contained within the superficial boundaries of our elementary frame. We must do so, for it is a copy of the greater, of the universal form. For we otherwise will never be able to understand the greater picture. Now, then, is there not many a cubic inch of your own body which is entitled to know and to be the Truth in greater measure than now? And yet you grieve for the ignorance of so many other human beings! Grieve on; and I grieve too. Do not imagine that I am what is there written. Not so. I am grieving just the same outwardly, but inwardly trying what I have just told you. And what a dream all this is. Here I am writing you so seriously, and now I see that you know it all quite well and much better than I do.
Yet, my dear Jasper, now and then I feel -- not Doubt of Masters who hear any heartbeat in the right direction, but -- a terrible Despair of these people. Oh, my God! The age is black as hell, hard as iron. It is iron, it is Kali Yuga. Kali is always painted black. Yet Kali Yuga by its very nature, and terrible, swift momentum, permits one to do more with his energies in a shorter time than in any other Yuga. But heavens, what a combat! Demons from all the spheres; waving clouds of smoky Karma; dreadful shapes; stupefying exhalations from every side. Exposed at each turn to new dangers. Imagine a friend walking with you who you see is in the same road, but all at once he is permeated by these things of death and shows a disposition to obstruct your path, the path of himself. Yes; the gods are asleep for awhile. But noble hearts still walk here, fighting over again the ancient fight. They seek each other, so as to be of mutual help. We will not fail them. To fail would be nothing, but to stop working for Humanity and Brotherhood would be awful. We cannot: we will not. Yet we have not a clear road. No, it is not clear. I am content if I can see the next step in advance only. You seek The Warrior. He is here, somewhere. No one can find him for you. You must do that. Still He fights on. No doubt He sees you and tries to make you see Him. Still He fights on and on.
How plainly the lines are drawn, how easily the bands are seen. Some want a certificate, or an uttered pledge, or a secret meeting, or a declaration, but without any of that I see those who -- up to this hour -- I find are my "companions." They need no such folly. They are there; they hear and understand the battle-cry, they recognize the sign. Now where are the rest? Many have I halted, and spoken the exact words to them, have exposed to them my real heart, and they heard nothing; they thought that heart was something else. I sigh to think how many. Perhaps I overlooked some; perhaps some did not belong to me. There are some who partly understood the words and the sign, but they are not sure of themselves; they know that they partake of the nature, but are still held back.
Do you not see, Jasper, that your place in the ranks is well known? You need no assurances because they are within you. Now what a dreadful letter; but it is all true.
A student of occultism after a while gets into what we may call a psychic whirl, or a vortex of occultism. At first he is affected by the feelings and influences of those about him. That begins to be pushed off and he passes into the whirl caused by the mighty effort of his Higher Self to make him remember his past lives. Then those past lives affect him. They become like clouds throwing shadows on his path. Now they seem tangible and then fade away, only a cloud. Then they begin to affect his impulse to action in many various ways. Today he has vague calling longings to do something, and, critically regarding himself, he cannot see in this life any cause. It is the bugle note of a past life blown almost in his face. It startles him; it may throw him down. Then it starts before him, a phantom, or, like a person behind you as you look at a mirror, it looks over his shoulder. Although dead and past they yet have a power. He gets too a power and a choice. If all his previous past lives were full of good, then irresistible is the force for his benefit. But all alike marshal up in front, and he hastens their coming by his effort. Into this vortex about him others are drawn, and their germs for good or ill ripen with activity. This is a phase of the operation of Karmic stamina. The choice is this. These events arrive one after the other and, as it were, offer themselves. If he chooses wrong, then hard is the fight. The one chosen attracts old ones like itself perhaps, for all have a life of their own. Do you wonder that sometimes in the case of those who rush unprepared into the "circle of ascetics" and before the ripe moment, insanity sometimes results? But then that insanity is their safety for the next life, or for their return to sanity.
Receive my brotherly assurances, my constant desire to help you. -- Z.
In respect to Karmic action it is well to recall the statement of Patanjali that "works exist only in the shape of mental deposits" (Book 2, Aph. 12, A). By "works" is here meant Karma, the stock of works, or Action. Its results remain as mental deposits or potential energies in the higher part of the fifth principle, and when it reincarnates those seeds are there to "ripen on the tablets of the mind" whenever they are exposed to favoring circumstances. Sometimes they remain dormant for want of something to arouse them, as in the case of children. "The mental deposits of works, collected from time without beginning in the ground of the mind, as they by degrees arrive at maturation, so do they, existing in lesser or greater measure (the sum of merit being less than that of demerit, or conversely) lead to their effects in the shape of rank, raised or lowered, . . . or experience of good or ill" (Book 2, Aph. 13, B). The mind energizes and impels us to fresh action. The impulse lies within, in germ, and may be ripened by interior or exterior suggestion. Can we, then, be too careful to guard the ground of the mind, to keep close watch over our thoughts? These thoughts are dynamic. Each one as it leaves the mind has a vis viva of its own, proportionate to the intensity with which it was propelled. As the force or work done, of a moving body, is proportionate to the square of its velocity, so we may say that the force of thoughts is to be measured by the square or quadrupled power of their spirituality, so greatly do these finer forces increase by activity. The spiritual force, being impersonal, fluidic, not bound to any constricting center, acts with unimaginable swiftness. A thought, on its departure from the mind, is said to associate itself with an elemental; it is attracted wherever there is a similar vibration, or, let us say, a suitable soil, just as the winged thistle-seed floats off and sows itself in this spot and not in that, in the soil of its natural selection. Thus the man of virtue, by admitting a material or sensual thought into his mind, even though he expels it, sends it forth to swell the evil impulses of the man of vice from whom he imagines himself separated by a wide gulf, and to whom he may have just given a fresh impulse to sin. Many men are like sponges, porous and bibulous, ready to suck up every element of the order preferred by their nature. We all have more or less of this quality: we attract what we love, and we may derive a greater strength from the vitality of thoughts infused from without than from those self-reproduced within us at a time when our nervous vitality is exhausted. It is a solemn thought, this, of our responsibility for the impulse of another. We live in one another, and our widely different deeds have often a common source. The occultist cannot go far upon his way without realizing to what a great extent he is "his brother's keeper." Our affinities are ourselves, in whatever ground they may live and ripen. J. N.
I seize a few moments to acknowledge your letter. This is a period of waiting, of silence. Nothing seems alive. All oracles are silent. But the great clock of the Universe still goes on, unheeding. On Sunday I engaged in Meditation and received some benefit. I wished I could see you to speak of it. Yet these things are too high for words, and when we approach the subjects we are not able to give expression to our thoughts. We do not live up to our highest soul possibilities. All that prevents our reaching up to the high thoughts of the far past is our own weakness, and not the work of any other. How petty seem the cares of this earth when we indulge in deep reflection; they are then seen for what they are, and later on they are obliterated. It is true that the road to the gods is dark and difficult, and, as you say, we get nothing from them at first call: we have to call often. But we can on the way stop to look ahead, for no matter how sombre or howsoever weak ourselves, the Spectator sees it all and beckons to us, and whispers, "Be of good courage, for I have prepared a place for you where you will be with me forever." He is the Great Self; He is ourselves.
The Leaders of the world are always trying to aid us. May we pass the clouds and see them ever. All our obstructions are of our own making. All our power is the storage of the past. That store we all must have; who in this life feels it near is he who has in this life directed his thoughts to the proper channel. That others do not feel it is because they have lived but blindly. That you do not feel it and see it more is because you have not yet directed all your mental energies to it. This great root of Karmic energy can be drawn upon by directing the fire of our minds in that direction. Towards Love of course is the right way; the Love of the Divine and of all beings. If we feel that after all we are not yet "Great Souls" who participate in the totality of those "Souls who wait upon the gods," it need not cast us down: we arc waiting our hour in hope. Let us wait patiently, in the silence which follows all effort, knowing that thus Nature works, for in her periods of obscuration she does naught where that obscuration lies, while doubtless she and we too are then at work on other spheres.
That described by you is not the soul; it is only a partial experience. Did you know the Soul, then could you yourself reply to all those questions, for all knowledge is there. In the soul is every creature and every thought alike. That sinking down of your thoughts to the center is practice. It can be done and we cannot explain it; we can only say "do it." Still do not hunger to do these things. The first step in becoming is resignation. Resignation is the sure, true, and royal road. Our subtle motives, ever changing, elude us when we seek it. You are near to it; it needs a great care. But while the body may be requiring time to feel its full results, we can instantly change the attitude of the mind. After Resignation, follow (in their own order) Satisfaction, Contentment, Knowledge. Anxiety to do these things is an obscurant and deterrent. So try to acquire patient Resignation. The lesson intended by the Karma of your present life is the higher patience. I can tell you nothing on this head; it is a matter for self and practice. Throw away every wish to get the power, and seek only for understanding of thyself. Insist on carelessness. Assert to yourself that it is not of the slightest consequence what you were yesterday, but in every moment strive for that moment; the results will follow of themselves.
The Past! What is it? Nothing. Gone! Dismiss it. You are the past of yourself. Therefore it concerns you not as such. It only concerns you as you now are. In you, as now you exist, lies all the past. So follow the Hindu maxim: "Regret nothing; never be sorry; and cut all doubts with the sword of spiritual knowledge." Regret is productive only of error. I care not what I was, or what any one was. I only look for what I am each moment. For as each moment is and at once is not, it must follow that if we think of the past we forget the present, and while we forget, the moments fly by us, making more past. Then regret nothing, not even the greatest follies of your life, for they are gone, and you are to work in the present which is both past and future at once. So then, with that absolute knowledge that all your limitations are due to Karma, past or in this life, and with a firm reliance ever now upon Karma as the only judge, who will be good or bad as you make it yourself, you can stand anything that may happen and feel serene despite the occasional despondencies which all feel, but which the light of Truth always dispels. This verse always settles everything: --
"In him who knows that all spiritual beings are the same in kind with the Supreme Being, what room can there be for delusion and what room for sorrow when he reflects upon the unity of spirit?"
In all these inner experiences there are tides as well as in the ocean. We rise and fall. Anon the gods descend, and then they return to heaven. Do not think of getting them to descend, but strive to raise yourself higher on the road down which they periodically return, and thus get nearer to them, so that you shall in fact receive their influences sooner than before.
Adios. May you ever feel the surge of the vast deeps that lie beyond the heart's small ebb. Perhaps our comrades are coming nearer. Who knows? But even if not, then we will wait; the sun must burst some day from the clouds. This will keep us strong while, in the company of the Dweller of the Threshold, we have perforce to stare and sham awhile. -- Z.
The "higher patience" alluded to also requires a care. It is the fine line between pride and humility. Both are extremes and mistakes; oscillations from one to the other are only a trifle better. How shall we be proud when we are so small? How dare we be humble when we are so great? In both we blaspheme. But there is that firm spot between the two which is the place "neither too high nor too low" on which Krishna told Arjuna to sit; a spot of his own. It is the firm place which our faith has won from the world. On it we are always to stand calmly, not overshadowed by any man however great, because each of us contains the potentialities of every other. "Not overshadowed" does not mean that we are not to show reverence to those through whom the soul speaks. It is the great soul we reverence, and not the mortal clay. We are to examine thoughtfully all that comes to us from such persons, and all that comes to us from any source wearing the aspect of truth, and try faithfully to see wherein it may be true, laying it aside, if we fall, as fruit not ripe for us yet. We are not to yield up our intuitions to any being, while we may largely doubt our judgment at all times. We are not to act without the inner asseveration, but we must not remain ignorant of the serious difficulty of separating this intuitive voice from the babble and prattle of fancy, desire, or pride. If we are just to ourselves we shall hold the balance evenly. How can we be just to any other who are not just to ourselves? In the Law a man suffers as much from injustice to himself as to another; it matters not in whose interests he has opposed the universal currents -- the Law only knows that he has tried to deflect them by an injustice. It takes no account of persons nor even of ignorance of the Law. It is an impartial, impersonal force, only to be understood by the aid of the higher patience, which at once dares all and endures all.
"Never regret anything." Regret is a thought, hence an energy. If we turn its tide upon the past, it plays upon the seeds of that past and vivifies them; it causes them to sprout and grow in the ground of the mind: from thence to expression in action is but a step. A child once said to me when I used the word "Ghosts," "Hush! Don't think of them. What we think of always happens." There are no impartial observers like children when they think away from themselves. -- J. N.
Dear Sir and Brother:
Tell your friend and inquirer this. No one was ever converted into Theosophy. Each one who really comes into it does so because it is only "an extension of previous beliefs." This will show you that Karma is a true thing. For no idea we get is any more than an extension of previous ones. That is, they are cause and effect in endless succession. Each one is the producer of the next and inheres in that successor. Thus we are all different and some similar. My ideas of today and yours are tinged with those of youth, and we will thus forever proceed on the inevitable line we have marked out in the beginning. We of course alter a little always, but never until our old ideas are extended. Those false ideas now and then discarded are not to be counted; yet they give a shadow here and there. But through Brotherhood we receive the knowledge of others, which we consider until (if it fits us) it is ours. As far as your private conclusions are concerned, use your discrimination always. Do not adopt any conclusions merely because they are uttered by one in whom you have confidence, but adopt them when they coincide with your intuition. To be even unconsciously deluded by the influence of another is to have a counterfeit faith.
Spiritual knowledge includes every action. Inquirers ought to read the Bhagavad-Gita. It will give them food for centuries if they read with spiritual eyes at all. Underneath its shell is the living spirit that will light us all. I read it ten times before I saw things that I did not see at first. In the night the ideas contained in it are digested and returned partly next day to the mind. It is the study of adepts.
Let no man be unaware that while there is a great joy in this belief there is also a great sorrow. Being true, being the Law, all the great forces are set in motion by the student. He now thinks he has given up ambition and comfort. The ambition and comfort he has given up are those of the lower plane, the mere reflections of the great ambitions and comforts of a larger life. The rays of truth burn up the covers time has placed upon those seeds, and then the seeds begin to sprout and cause new struggles. Do not leave any earnest inquirer in ignorance of this. It has cost others many years and tears of blood to self-learn it.
How difficult the path of action is! I see the future dimly, and unconsciously in such case one makes efforts either for or against it. Then Karma results. I could almost wish I did not hear these whispers. But he who conquers himself is greater than the conquerors of worlds.
Perhaps you see more clearly now how Karma operates. If one directs himself to eliminating all old Karma, the struggle very often becomes tremendous, for the whole load of ancient sin rushes to the front on a man and the events succeed each other rapidly; the strain is terrific, and the whole life fabric groans and rocks. As is said in the East, you may go through the appointed course in 700 births, in seven years, or in seven minutes.
The sentence in Light on the Path referred to by so many students is not so difficult as some others. One answer will do for all. The book is written on the basis of Reincarnation, and when it says the soiled garment will fall again on you, it means that this will happen in some other life, not necessarily in this, though that may be too. To "turn away in horror" is not detachment. Before we can hope to prevent any particular state of mind or events reaching us in this or in another life, we must in fact be detached from these things. Now we are not our bodies or mere minds, but the real part of us in which Karma inheres. Karma brings everything about. It attaches to our real inner selves by attachment and repulsion. That is, if we love vice or anything, it seizes on us by attachment thereto; if we hate anything, it seizes on our inner selves by reason of the strong horror we feel for it. In order to prevent a thing we must understand it; we cannot understand while we fear or hate it. We are not to love vice, but are to recognize that it is a part of the whole, and, trying to understand it, we thus get above it. This is the "doctrine of opposites" spoken of in Bhagavad-Gita. So if we turn in horror now (we may feel sad and charitable, though) from the bad, the future life will feel that horror and develop it by reaction into a reincarnation in a body and place where we must in material life go through the very thing we hate now. As we are striving to reach God, we must learn to be as near like Him as possible. He loves and hates not; so we must strive to regard the greatest vice as being something we must not hate while we will not engage in it, and then we may approach that state where we will know the greater love that takes in good and evil men and things alike.
Good and Evil are only the two poles of the one thing. In the Absolute, Evil is the same thing in this way. One with absolute knowledge can see both good and evil, but he does not feel Evil to be a thing to flee from, and thus he has to call it merely the other pole. We say Good or Evil as certain events seem pleasant or unpleasant to us or our present civilization. And so we have coined those two words. They are bad words to use. For in the Absolute one is just as necessary as the other, and often what seem evil and "pain" are not absolutely so, but only necessary adjustments in the progress of the soul. Read Bhagavad-Gita as to how the self seems to suffer pain. What is Evil now? Loss of friends? No; if you are self-centered. Slander? Not if you rely on Karma. There is only evil when you rebel against immutable decrees that must be worked out. You know that there must be these balancings which we call Good and Evil. Just imagine one man who really was a high soul, now living as a miser and enjoying it. You call it an evil; he a good. Who is right? You say "Evil" because you are speaking out of the True; but the True did know that he could never have passed some one certain point unless he had that experience, and so we see him now in an evil state. Experience we must have, and if we accept it at our own hands we are wise. That is, while striving to do our whole duty to the world and ourselves, we will not live the past over again by vain and hurtful regrets, nor condemn any man, whatever his deeds, since we cannot know their true cause. We are not Karma, we are not the Law, and it is a species of that hypocrisy so deeply condemned by It for us to condemn any man. That the Law lets a man live is proof that he is not yet judged by that higher power. Still we must and will keep our discriminating power at all times.
As to rising above Good and Evil, that does not mean to do evil, of course. But, in fact, there can be no real Evil or Good; if our aim is right our acts cannot be evil. Now all acts are dead when done; it is in the heart that they are conceived and are already there done; the mere bodily carrying out of them is a dead thing in itself. So we may do a supposed good act and that shall outwardly appear good, and yet as our motive perhaps is wrong the act is naught, but the motive counts.
The great God did all, good and bad alike. Among the rest are what appear Evil things, yet he must be unaffected. So if we follow Bhagavad-Gita, second chapter, we must do only those acts we believe right for the sake of God and not for ourselves, and if we are regardless of the consequences we are not concerned if they appear to be Good or Evil. As the heart and mind are the real planes of error, it follows that we must look to it that we do all acts merely because they are there to be done. It then becomes difficult only to separate ourselves from the act.
We can never as human beings rise above being the instruments through which that which is called Good and Evil comes to pass, but as that Good and Evil are the result of comparison and are not in themselves absolute, it must follow that we (the real "we") must learn to rise internally to a place where these occurrences appear to us merely as changes in a life of change. Even in the worldly man this sometimes happens.
As, say Bismarck, used to moving large bodies of men and perhaps for a good end, can easily rise above the transient Evil, looking to a greater result. Or the physician is able to rise above pain to a patient, and only consider the good, or rather the result, that is to follow from a painful operation. The patient himself does the same.
So the student comes to see that he is not to do either "Good" or "Evil," but to do any certain number of acts set before him, and meanwhile not ever to regard much his line of conduct, but rather his line of motive, for his conduct follows necessarily from his motive. Take the soldier. For him there is nothing better than lawful war. Query. Does he do wrong in warring or not, even if war unlawful? He does not unless he mixes his motive. They who go into war for gain or revenge do wrong, but not he who goes at his superior's orders, because it is his present duty.
Let us, then, extend help to all who come our way. This will be true progress; the veils that come over our souls fall away when we work for others. Let that be the real motive, and the quality of work done makes no difference. -- Z.
It would seem that Good and Evil are not inherent in things themselves, but in the uses to which those things are put by us. They are conditions of manifestation. Many things commonly called immoral are consequences of the unjust laws of man, of egotistic social institutions: such things are not immoral per se, but relatively so. They are only immoral in point of time. There are others whose evil consists in the base use to which higher forces are put, or to which Life -- which is sacred -- is put, so that here also evil does not inhere in them, but in ourselves; in our misuse of noble instruments in lower work. Nor does evil inhere in us, but in our ignorance; it is one of the great illusions of Nature. All these illusions cause the soul to experience in matter until it has consciously learned every part: then it must learn to know the whole and all at once, which it can only do by and through re-union with Spirit; or with the Supreme, with the Deity.
If we take, with all due reverence, so much of the standpoint of the Supreme as our finite minds or our dawning intuition may permit, we feel that he stands above unmoved by either Good or Evil. Our good is relative, and evil is only the limitation of the soul by matter. From the material essence of the Deity all the myriad differentiations of Nature (Prakriti, cosmic substance), all the worlds and their correlations are evolved. They assist the cyclic experience of the soul as it passes from state to state. How, then, shall we say that any state is evil in an absolute sense? Take murder. It seems an evil. True, we cannot really take life, but we can destroy a vehicle of the divine Principle of Life and impede the course of a soul using that vehicle. But we are more injured by the deed than any other. It is the fruit of a certain unhealthy state of the soul. The deed sends us to hell, as it were, for one or more incarnations; to a condition of misery. The shock, the natural retribution, our own resultant Karma, both the penalties imposed by man and that exacted by occult law, chasten and soften the soul. It is passed through a most solemn experience which had become necessary to its growth and which in the end is the cause of its additional purification. In view of this result, was the deed evil? It was a necessary consequence of the limitations of matter; for had the soul remained celestial and in free Being, it could not have committed murder. Nor has the immortal soul, the spectator, any share in the wrong; it is only the personality, the elementary part of the soul, which has sinned. All that keeps the soul confined to material existence is evil, and so we cannot discriminate either. The only ultimate good is Unity, and in reality nothing but that exists. Hence our judgments are in time only. Nor have we the right to exact a life for a life. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord (Law); I will repay." We become abetters of murder in making such human laws. I do not say that every experience must be gone through bodily, because some are lived out in the mind. Nor do I seek to justify any. The only justification is in the Law.
The innocent man unjustly murdered is rewarded by Karma in a future life. Indeed, any man murdered is reimbursed, so to say; for while that misfortune sprang from his Karma, occult law does not admit of the taking of life. Some men are the weapons of Karma in their wrong-doing, but they themselves have appointed this place to themselves in their past.
The Great Soul needed just that body, whatever the errors of its nature or its physical environment, and to disappoint the soul is a fearful deed for a man. For it is only man, only the lower nature under the influence of Tamas (the quality of darkness), which feels the impulse to take life, whether in human justice, for revenge, for protection, or so on. "The soul neither kills nor is killed." What we know as ourselves is only the natural man, the lower principles and mind, presided over by the false consciousness. Of the soul we have but brief and partial glimpses -- in conscience or intuition -- in our ordinary state. There are, of course, psychic and spiritual states in which more is known. Thus nature wars against nature, always for the purpose of bringing about the purification and evolution of the soul. Nature exists only for the purpose of the soul. If we think out the subject upon these lines, we can at least see how rash we should be to conclude that any deed was unmixed evil, or that these distinctions exist in the Absolute. It alone is; all else is phenomenal and transitory -- these differences disappear as we proceed upward. Meanwhile we are to avoid all these immoral things and many others not so regarded by the crowd at all, but which are just as much so because we know to what increased ignorance and darkness they give rise through the ferment which they cause in the nature, and that this impedes the entrance of the clear rays of Truth.
I doubt that the soul knows the moral or immoral. For just consider for a moment the case of a disembodied soul. What is sin to it when freed from that shell -- the body? What does it know then of human laws or moralities, or the rules and forms of matter? Does it even see them? What lewdness can it commit? So I say that these moralities are of this plane only, to be heeded and obeyed there, but not to be postulated as final or used as a balance to weigh the soul which has other laws. The free soul has to do with essences and powers all impersonal; the strife of matter is left behind. Still higher and above as within all, the passionless, deathless spirit looks down, knowing well that, when the natural has once again subsided into its spiritual source, all this struggle and play of force and will, this waxing and waning of forms, this progression of consciousness, which throw up coming clouds and fumes of illusion before the eye of the soul, will have come to an end. Even now, while we cannot master these high themes, we can have a patient trust in the processes of evolution and the Law, blaming and judging no man, but living up to our highest intuitions ourselves. The real test of a man is his motive, which we do not see, nor do his acts always represent it. -- J. N.
Letters 10-15 (vol. 1)
1. Not the physical heart, but the real centre of life in man. -- J. N. (return to text)
2. Gods and demons. -- J. N. (return to text)