Questions We All Ask by G. de Purucker
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

No. 14 (December 31, 1929)


(Lecture delivered September 15, 1929)

I was told the other day that every time I came before you, I should come with a smile. I have been trying to do so. I don't know why I should have received this request, but as I shall have to read to you this afternoon something that might be called a criticism — and an unfair criticism also — it might be better to preface it with a smile in order to show the humorous aspect of the matter that I see. This criticism is addressed to "The Theosophical Society, Point Loma." It is an anonymous communication.

As a rule I pay no attention to anonymous communications; but as this one was evidently intended to be a criticism of us, no matter how wrong and mistaken, I thought I would let you have a share in it. Here it is:

"You are like millionaires — got comfort and all you want without a thought for others. Whenever and wherever I have seen you, it has been on a pedestal to make an exhibition of yourselves."

The last word is in the plural — yourselves, please understand — therefore I let you, my kindly audience, take part in this amusing communication.

I wonder how this atrabilious hearer or friend (because it is those who criticize us who are really our friends) got the idea that we theosophists at our Headquarters are like millionaires. Immortal gods! I wish we were millionaires! Practically every penny we get goes into the humanitarian activities of the Theosophical Society. I suppose that I and my devoted officers and comrades here do not spend on ourselves at our Headquarters, even for our necessities, one-hundredth part of what we spend on others.

As an instance of our theosophical work in its humanitarian aspect, under the theosophical administration of my great predecessor, Katherine Tingley (and please note that this is just one example), we have supported free of charge in our Raja-Yoga School and Academy, for more than a quarter of a century last past, about thirty-five percent of all the pupils who have come to us — fed them, clothed them, doctored them, given them dentist's attention, cared for them in all respects, paid all their bills, and have sent them out into the world intellectually and morally equipped to fight life's battles. That is just one example of our humanitarian work; and every dollar that we can get (and we are constantly trying to lay our hands on more dollars in order to carry out a larger measure of our theosophical activities) will go into the theosophical work.

So far as the City of San Diego alone is concerned, our Society spends about $150,000 a year there in the purchasing of various kinds of supplies.

I could continue and recite a number of instances of our humanitarian work similar in character, for the number of children we have provided and cared for — all of which shows how like we are to the popular conception of millionaires!

If we "stand on a pedestal," it is in order to show you a great light. We are people with a message for humanity. We are doing the noblest work that it is possible for human beings to do. We are trying to lift the spiritual and intellectual level of humanity; and if you can picture to yourselves a nobler work than that, I wish you would tell me about it.

We have no dogmas; we are entirely unsectarian; we are wholly non-political; we gain nothing for ourselves; we give up our lives to this holy cause; we give all and take nothing — except all the dollars that we can honestly get in order to carry on our work; and we are proud of it, because we direct these funds into channels of noble activity. We may truthfully say that we spend all we get for the benefit of others. We most certainly don't put it into our bank account. Hence I say that I am glad to stand on a pedestal of that type.

So far as "making an exhibition of ourselves" goes, well, that may be perhaps; but what kind of an exhibition? Let me tell you (and this will serve as a preface to another question that I am going to answer) that such work as the Salvation Army does is a noble, good, and beautiful work; but I believe that while it is a high and noble thing to bring physical comfort to humanity, it is a far nobler and higher thing to bring comfort and solace to their souls, to give them light, to give them hope, to show them the true pathway of life, to elevate the soul and spirit of our fellow men. Thereby we teach them nobly to live, high to strive; and doing this, we set their feet upon the solid earth of fact and show them the dazzling panorama of a spiritual future; and understanding this, thereafter they can walk alone. Is not that a noble thing to do?

The only prerequisite to membership in The Theosophical Society is a belief, an earnest and sincere belief, in universal brotherhood; and as you have heard in the announcement read to you this afternoon, we are a nucleus of an actual brotherhood of mankind.

I hope that the kind friend who has criticized us is here this afternoon so that he may hear me tell him or her, how glad I am to receive honest criticisms of any kind. Honest criticisms are helpful.

Here is the next question:

"We frequently hear of Oriental swamis coming to California [and other places] to teach Vedanta and alleged philosophies derived from East Indian Sages. Some of them seem to be quite theosophical in their ideas. Does the Theosophical Society approve or sympathize with their efforts?"

The Theosophical Society is not a person, not an individual, and therefore can hardly be said to sympathize as a person would in anything. I suppose the questioner meant: Do theosophists sympathize with, or approve of, the work of these Oriental swamis? I cannot answer for others. Answering for myself, I will tell you what I think. I think that some of these Oriental swamis coming to Occidental countries have a message to bring to the Occident which unfortunately they deliver for a price, as a rule, but nevertheless deliver; and this message on the whole is a good one. It is the introducing of some of the noble Oriental philosophical and religious thought to the Occident.

But I cannot say that I approve it. I have the same sympathy with it that I have with any effort that teaches men to think and to look up: to look upwards, away from earth. But I would like it much better if they came and went as the Buddha did, or as the Christ came and went. No true spiritual teaching is ever sold for a price. The theosophist is horrified at the idea of charging a price for passing on the light. He comes whole-handedly and gives freely: and what he gives is as free as the air that we breathe.

The Theosophical Society is an organization. It requires money to keep it going, and it is something well worth being kept going. It is the medium by which our noble philosophy is communicated to men. Union is strength; therefore theosophists unite in a Society, and they propagate their wonderful teachings all over the world; but this takes money to accomplish. We have, however, no lecturers at all going over the world and teaching for a price, charging admission to their lectures and then going home with a fat bank account.

Therefore I wish that these Oriental swamis, some of them good men I doubt not, would do as the Buddha did or as Jesus called the Christ did. I think that you understand me. I might add this: that The Theosophical Society teaches all that these Oriental swamis of whatever religion or philosophy can possibly bring to the Occidental world, and indeed that it teaches vastly more. The Oriental religions and philosophies are indeed majestic, sublime in their inner reaches; but these inner reaches are secret, are esoteric, and there is modernly no key to this esotericism in India, just as there is in the Occident no key to esoteric Christianity, which nevertheless at one time existed; and it is this esoteric side, this inner doctrine, this mystery-thought, which The Theosophical Society was founded to give to men.

Here is another question:

"One sometimes hears a statement like the following: 'He knows French so well that he thinks in French.' Does one think in language, or are the mental processes carried on in thought, and only reduced to words for the purpose of communication with others?"

The latter, I think. I cannot imagine thought to be the offspring of words. To me words are the children of thought; words are but a means of communicating thought; and if you examine your own mental processes, if you look into the recesses of your mind, if you examine your own thinking, in other words, you will find that your thoughts take similar form. It is rather a picturization, a visualization; and many of these visualizations are inexpressible in words, because they are too high, too lofty, too deep, too holy, to put into words.

I have been a linguist by profession, and therefore I can speak with some degree of knowledge; and I think it is true, that while thought per se is wordless, the lower mental processes are verbal. I mean that when I, for instance, think in my mere brain-mind, that is to say when the thought takes verbal expression, the brain-mind consciously seeks the proper words to express the thoughts of which that brain-mind is the vehicle, and often consciously chooses the proper and best words. In this sense it is quite true to say that one may think in this or that or another language.

Nevertheless this verbal picturization belongs to the brain-mind alone, whereas it is the higher mind in which resides thought per se, which is far above merely verbal forms and which deals alone with ideas, images, pictures. Of these images, pictures, and ideas, the brain-mind, in other words the lower part of the mentality, has but slight idea and receives these images or pictures as mental impulses, if I may so express myself.

On many an occasion when I speak French or German or Italian, or some other tongue, I pause an instant and try to find the best words in order to express the thoughts which I have. This in itself is a proof that thought comes first, then comes the word. Therefore, if a man 'thinks in French,' I am inclined to say that he does not know French very well. The man who knows a language does not have to put it consciously into chosen words before he speaks, for that would show a mental labor in itself, signifying lack of facility. One who is perfectly conversant with a tongue never stops to think what words he may use, unless to make a deliberate attempt to choose the best among a number that occur to him; and this latter fact occurs to everybody even in his mother-tongue.

"It is said: No great soldier ever really conquered anything. His victories are all illusions. Soldiers' empires, if they rest on nothing more substantial than the sword, swiftly fall to pieces. In the end they must repudiate force and resort to justice and reason or their empires crumble. The beast of prey, whether he is brute or human, is solitary, hopeless, and helpless, irrevocably doomed, for gentleness is the real strength. [That is true.] It is the lion with all of the lion's attributes except the taste for blood; and slowly all life is coming beneath its all-conquering rule. Does theosophy endorse this dynamic fragment of philosophy?"

Absolutely yes. Generally speaking, wholly so. But I don't like the metaphor of the lion at all. I am not fond of cats. That is the reason, perhaps, why I have this instinctive prejudice against considering the lion as an exemplar of gentleness and bravery. I know that the lion in English literature is often used as a symbol of bravery and magnanimity, and so forth, and I have at times searched in my mind to find out why it is so, and I have not found a satisfactory reason yet; but I am inclined to think it rather a national English notion than a fact of nature. I have never noticed anything particularly gentle or magnanimous about a lion, or a lioness either, and it is the lioness who usually is the killer. But it is certainly true that gentleness, kindliness, compassion, are the great and controlling forces in human life.

Show me an empire built on force that has ever long endured. Why, the very nature of its constitution will cause it ultimately to crumble to pieces! It is the influence of gentleness: it is the nature of love which is the cement of the universe, that attract sympathy, that make one sympathetic. Love, gentleness, affection, are mighty powers and faculties and these are the foundation stones upon which anything enduring and lasting is builded. Impersonal love, as I have said, is a mighty power, for it is, so to speak, the cement of the universe, and in it lies the secret harmony of things.

Here is another question:

"Has not the Salvation Army rather the best of it? While we spend much time and mental energy inquiring into abstruse philosophical questions as to the whyness or the thusness of this, that, and the other, the Salvation Army are scouring the highways and the byways of the world, seeking the lame, the halt, the blind, widows and orphans, the outcast, the hungry, and the unfortunate; and finding them, take them by the hand and like ministering angels encourage them to carry on."

Eloquent and true, in large degree true. I find this note at the bottom of the page which contained the question that I have just read:

"We would not have you think for one moment that we do not realize that it is far easier to ask a question than to answer it satisfactorily to many and varied minds."

Very true. I am now going to tell you something. In these lectures I do not try to answer questions merely to satisfy my audience — no indeed! I am answering these questions in such fashion as may at least in some degree satisfy myself. When I am satisfied or fairly satisfied, then I know that the chances are that you also will be satisfied, or fairly satisfied. A man who comes before an audience and attempts to satisfy a hundred different minds, or a thousand different minds, with the same set of words, is to be pitied. But if he goes before an audience with a message in his heart, and gives utterance to that message with sincerity and all the simplicity that he can command, then every heart that hears him will catch fire from the sincerity of the speaker and will itself find an answer to the questions.

That is a bit of real theosophical occultism. Be yourself sincere, and you will evoke sincerity in others. You yourself love, and love will come leaping towards you from others' hearts. Have a message to give to others, and the very winds will carry it to the hearts of men.

Yes indeed, the Salvation Army does a noble work, a good work, a necessary work; but I will tell you frankly, friends, that even higher and nobler than helping men's bodies is the feeding of their hungry souls. Give them comfort; give them light; give them vision; teach men to think; teach them to feel heartfully; teach them how to love, how to forgive. Then the defects of character of the unfortunates which make them what they are — such that the Salvation Army, that good instrument of pity, feels a need to reach out and help them — will be corrected by these unfortunates themselves, and the Salvation Army will then no longer be needed, nor the great and good work done by other humanitarian institutions, be they whatsoever they may be.

Great and noble is the helping of men and the feeding of their bodies, but far nobler, far greater, is the feeding of their hungry minds and hearts. That is our Theosophical work; but the other, the humanitarian and charitable work, we do also. But our great labor is teaching men to think, helping men to love, showing men the vision sublime; for we know that when men gain this all the rest will be added unto them.

This course of lectures is delivered with real humanitarian impulses in my heart which drive me to find the best answers to questions which are kindly sent in to me. And when I say best answers I mean those which will most easily and quickly appeal to your minds and hearts. I certainly don't labor a moment in the mistaken illusion that I am here to tell you what you ought to think; but I am here to tell you what representative theosophists have to say in answer to the questions that puzzle and perplex thoughtful and earnest hearts. That is what I am here for.

I will go somewhat farther than this: I will tell you that I am a Fisher of Men. That is my high and noble duty, and it is my hope that until the day comes when I shall lie down for the last time in this life in my bed, I shall be a Fisher for the Souls of Men. You will have some understanding of my meaning if you will regard certain similar passages in the Christian New Testament which I doubt not all of you know.

Here is another question:

"It has been said that the Mysteries of antiquity were annually celebrated in Greece in September for seven days, beginning about the middle of the month. As we are now in the middle of September the question seems opportune to ask: First: Just what were these Mysteries, i.e., how did they originate? Second: What form did the seven days' celebration take?"

What confidence this questioner has in supposing that any lecturer would be able to answer two such questions in the few short moments that I am enabled to give to them! I would have to write two large encyclopedias full of articles in order to answer these two questions properly. I can give but a brief outline here. In the first place, the Mysteries of antiquity in Greece were not celebrated in September alone, in the month of Boedromion, but also in the month of Anthesterion, in the spring-time when the trees began to burgeon, when the paths and roadways were lined with blossoming flowers. The Mysteries celebrated in the spring, were called the Smaller Mysteries, and the Mysteries celebrated in the autumn were called the Greater Mysteries. Furthermore, the Greater, celebrated in the autumn, did not last for seven days, but for ten.

I have already told my audiences on several other occasions just what the Mysteries of antiquity were, and how they came into being, and I will repeat briefly here what I have before said. The Mysteries were originally the secret schools founded by the great seers and sages of the human race. The national sages and seers, one or more in each country, founded each his own school in which he taught not merely esoteric law, and discipline, and many of the arts and sciences, but also taught men how to live, and how to receive the vision sublime. That was the origin of the Mysteries; and the teachings of theosophy today are the doctrines expressed in modern formulation, in modern language, of the tenets then taught and lived. The fundamental teachings of all these Mystery Schools all over the world were the same: that great doctrine which we call the wisdom-religion of antiquity, the ancient wisdom today called theosophy.

These Mysteries, even in their original form, which was indeed kept to the very end of their existence, were taught in two ways — by dramatic expression, by symbolic expression in the form of ritual and ceremony, or symbolism in the form of ritual and ceremony of certain natural secrets; and by mouth-to-ear communication of holy truths. Both the Small and the Great Mysteries of antiquity as they were about the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, had preserved even to that day more or less all of the inferior part of the teachings, those given in dramatic form; and somewhat of the same idea of ritualism and ceremonial observances still prevails in Occidental countries in certain secret organizations, — secret and fraternal if you wish; but at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, that is to say at the time when Christianity began to extend widely, the deeper teachings, the mouth-to-ear communication of high truths, were withdrawn.

As to the form that the ten days' celebration of the Greater Mysteries took each year, I have just told you somewhat. These rituals and ceremonies were dramatic or symbolic in form. I might make a brief picture of them in words without going too far in speech, because I will tell you frankly that these same Mysteries are celebrated today, but in their fullness, and with all the ancient possibilities of achievement in initiation among us theosophists today.

I will give you a picture. It is a picture in the form of dramatic symbology. The seed must die before the offspring, which is of itself, comes into being; and the raising of the new out of the old is symbolic of the birth of the inner god in the neophyte. You may read, and it is very interesting reading too, in some of the rather mystical treatises of the Christian literary cycle, of the Christ-sun, of the sun-Christ, alluding not to the man Jesus but to the Christ-light in the core of the core of every human being; and when the Christ in the heart of a man, or as a Buddhist would say, the Buddha in the heart of a human being, is enabled to express himself fully through the outer man, you there have the birth of the Christ-sun, following the Christian symbological phraseology, or the birth of the buddhic splendor, following the phrasing of the Buddhist. The spiritual sun-god is born. Then indeed, in the mystical wording of the early Christians, can the witnesses of this sublime rite chant: "All Hail to the risen Christ" out of the gloom of matter and the bondage of the lower selfhood.

Think over these beautiful symbolical things; for although expressed in symbolical form, they are facts in initiation. I assure you they contain wondrous truths of life: they contain wondrous truths of science in the modern understanding of that word as classified knowledge, as well as of religion and of philosophy.

"Those who have ears to hear, let them hear." I, the present Leader of the Theosophical Movement, am a Fisher for the Souls of Men, and a more sublime duty I cannot conceive: to bring to men light, to bring to men hope, to bring to men joy, to bring to men wisdom, and knowledge, and peace, is the work of the Masters of Wisdom and of their messengers, as these latter appear at stated periods through history.

I have quite a number of questions remaining on the list before me, and although the time for my speaking this afternoon is almost at an end, I will endeavor to answer a few questions more. Here is the first question.

"I have read in your literature about an E.S. Society. What is this E.S. Society? Is it the same as The Theosophical Society?"

It is not. It has no official connection with The Theosophical Society. The E.S., as we call it, may be explained either as the Eastern School or the Esoteric School, or the Esoteric Section; but it has no official connection with The Theosophical Society. You can belong to The Theosophical Society and believe in any creed that you may choose to believe in, if you accept the one prerequisite to membership in The Theosophical Society, which is a sincere belief in the natural principle of universal brotherhood; but the E.S. is a voluntary association of theosophists who have united to study the deeper mysteries of the Theosophical philosophy which is the same as saying the mysteries of nature, and who have undertaken to try to live a life sincerely in accordance with the high ethics taught in the E.S. The inner head of the E.S. is a teacher, one of the Masters of Wisdom whom I have spoken about; and the present outer head or representative of this teacher is the present Leader of The Theosophical Society.

Here is the next question:

"Is the Leader of The Theosophical Society a theosophical pope?"

How would you answer this curious question — very evidently asked by one who knows nothing of our Theosophical Society? All I can say is that from all points of view the Leader of The Theosophical Society most emphatically is not a theosophical pope. I have less power officially or otherwise (and if I had more I would not exercise it) than most men who are the heads of successful commercial organizations — less actual official power; and I am proud of that fact because it shows that the members of The Theosophical Society follow the policies and accept the leadership of the theosophical head on grounds of love and impersonal devotion and not on any other grounds.

Let me tell you that in the Theosophical Society, which is fundamentally a spiritual association of human hearts, the Leader does not need much official power because his administration is based upon the appeal, spiritually, intellectually and morally, that he makes to the members of The Theosophical Society. His leadership and standing in the Society are based upon love, confidence, truth, and all the other high and noble qualities which attach men to other men and bind them firmly together in the bonds of everlasting friendship.

It would be folly for the Leader of The Theosophical Society to try to wield any merely political power, when the greatest power that a man can wield is that arising out of the love and trust reposed in him by others. I am not a pope, and I would not be one. If my members ever tried to make me a pope I would run so fast away from the suggestion that they would never be able to catch up with me.

Here is the last question that I will deal with this afternoon:

"Do you worship the sun as a god?"

When I received and read this question, for a moment or two I felt a little astonished. I don't know whether the questioner directed his question to me personally or whether he had theosophists in general in his mind in framing this question. I think, however, that he meant the members of The Theosophical Society in general. Speaking for myself, I may say that personally I have no objection to anybody worshiping the sun as a god if he so wishes, but I do not do so. I don't worship any god — imaginary or idol — whether that idol be a mental or a physical-natural one. A god myself in my inmost parts, being in both mind and flesh the reflection of a divinity which is my inmost being, or the god within me, which is the same as the inner Christ or the inner Buddha, why should I worship something exterior and extraneous to the cosmic Divinity of which I am the offspring in my inmost parts as a spiritual ray thereof? What I do is to try so to live in this outer expression of the splendor within, which outer expression is my manhood, that the divine beauty of my inner parts, of the inner sun of me, my inner god, may shed its radiance through and into my life, and thus help and stimulate and inspire those whom I meet and know.

Nevertheless, the sun is an expression of the Divinity at the core of myself, just as a man, for instance, is the outer expression of the divinity in the heart of the heart of himself. Pause a moment in thought over this. Even as each individual of you is a spark of the Divine, an offspring of the universal spirit; even as every little flower growing in the cranny of a wall is expressing as best it can and may the inner urge of the divinity at the heart of things, and is on its upward way, as we human beings are; so likewise is every speck, every spot, every atom in the boundless universe the vehicle for the expression of the Divinity at the heart of things; for each such atom is the manifestation of a ray of this Cosmic Divinity; and therefore the sun is such an expression, just as is everything else. But should I worship the sun, I should worship the physical expression of this inner spiritual fire instead of turning my reverence and thought to the inner Divinity at the heart of things.

Vol 1, No 15