Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered September 22, 1929)
As I have said to you on many other occasions, I have a message to give to you, a Message which has brought peace and consolation and happiness to many millions of human beings in the ages of the past and in the present and will do so in the ages of the future. This message is a message from the soul of one to the soul of others; and the soul of one has given it as an inestimable treasure beyond all measurement of price. This Message is freighted with a burden of wisdom and consciousness that produces in the minds of its hearers tranquility and gives to them a heart at ease. There is nothing that can bring such peace and solace to men as a mind which is at ease and is not disturbed and shaken and troubled by doubt; for the heart hungers for truth, which hunger all human beings have and which, alas, so few can satisfy because they don't know where to find the food wherewith to feed their souls.
I now take up this afternoon the series of questions that have been sent in to me, and here is the first one of them:
"Is rigidity of thought, feeling or opinion, a barrier to true spiritual progress? Truly to advance must one cultivate a plastic mind open to new and wider perceptions along all lines of life?"
Yes, I certainly think that rigidity of thought, rigidity of feeling, rigidity of opinions, are barriers to true spiritual progress, because they signify dogmatism, they signify the blinds of self-satisfaction; they actually mean, to change the metaphor, the closing of the doors of the mind to the entrance of a new truth, because men are never rigid and inelastic, so to say, in their souls: they are never rigid and inelastic in their minds — unless they are self-satisfied; and there is nothing that blinds one's inner vision so greatly to truth as does self-satisfaction. Let us remember also that most human beings are self-satisfied for a little while, but not for long.
I don't think, however, that the possession of a merely plastic mind is enough to insure spiritual progress. I can readily conceive how a merely plastic mind may be so molded that it becomes a barrier to spiritual progress, an actual bar against farther spiritual and intellectual advancement. I should say on the contrary, that an open mind, an eager intellect, the desire to have an unveiled spiritual perception, a readiness to receive truth and to give it to others from the full-flowing sympathy of one's own heart, I should say that these, which every normal human being may have if he will, insure true spiritual progress and are thus the answering signs of some advancement along the pathway of spiritual evolution.
Avoid, therefore, rigidity. Let your mind be open; let your intellect be eager to seize any new aspect of truth that may present itself to you. An unveiled spiritual perception is merely the loss of personality in opinions, in views, and of self-satisfaction. Seeing the impersonal — that is having an unveiled spiritual perception. The main thing that closes the doors against the entrance of light is the feeling that may be expressed in the words: "I have all that I need to know." Egoism! This feeling arises out of pure egoism. The opposite of egoism is impersonal vision of spiritual truths working in your soul and thus molding it to receive impersonal universal impressions. It is just as easy to have spiritual truths as it is to allow yourself to fall under the baneful sway of personal egoisms. If you don't believe this, then I ask you to try it, and to learn for yourselves.
Here is another question:
"How can the Leader and Official Head not like cats? I thought when one reached such a point of evolution, one loved everything that lives."
How would you answer a question like that? In the first place, it is really kind of this good friend to put me on such a pedestal of completed evolution as this question suggests. Personally, I have never made any such claim; but according to the question I think that on one or two occasions here, in this our Temple of Peace, in discussing various matters, I did say that I did not particularly care for the cat tribe. But that is not saying that I hate cats, cats of any kind. It is true that I prefer animals of another kind; but in an abstract way I love cats too. However, my love for cats is not as strong as my love for certain other animals.
I really believe that I love everything that is, and I think that most normal human beings do. We have our prejudices and our likes and our dislikes; but when it comes to a matter of principle, I don't think that any normal human being would injure, wilfully and consciously, any living thing. I am not fond of cats as companions; I would not like to have a cat in my home; but I would not hate a cat if it happened to stray to my door. I think that I should simply shoo it out. But I love cats in an abstract sort of way — at a distance!
There are nobler things to love than cats. I love my fellow man. Oh! I see such beauty in my fellows of the human race: such splendor, such glory, such wisdom, such capacity — such possibilities; and when I look into the eyes of a fellow human being, oh, what treasures do I see there! These things I truly, truly love; and I think that human affection is in large degree wasted when we place it upon cats when there is so much of a nobler expression of divinity around us, in our own common humanity.
Oh, these hungry human hearts! There is a tragical aspect to this thought. They need consolation; they need help; they need pity, compassion, love; they need recognition. Have your cats; have your dogs; have your white mice; have what you like for pets; but love your fellow men! It will help you very greatly also. Love is not only evocative of love in other hearts, but it is very elevating to yourselves. It brings out not solely the beautiful things in the souls of those whom you love, but it develops your own faculties and powers. It is attractive: for love, true love, impersonal love, universal love, frontierless and without bounds, is clairvoyant in the true sense of the word. It sees, and therefore knows. Love and intuition are the two sides of the character of the developed sage and seer. He sees because he loves. He loves because he sees. Love is attractive; love is stimulating; love is helpful; love is all-forgetful and all-forgiving. Love evokes the manhood sleeping in the deeps of a man's heart, or it evokes equally the womanhood in the hearts of women.
Here is another question:
"In your new theosophical activities you appear to be very enthusiastic over the possibilities of the modern youth, and very encouraging in your appeal to them. May I ask what is the cause of your confidence in the young people of the present day? We hear from all sides about the degeneracy and lack of moral qualities in the young, and that 'young people are not what they used to be.'
"I must say that I think your attitude will bring forth better results!"
My confidence in the young people of the present day is because of what is in their hearts and souls, seeking expression; but I see no more possibilities in the young people of the present day than I saw in those of twenty years ago or, I am sure, than I should have seen in the young people of fifty thousand years gone by. If we are not mossbacks (and we are not), we can always see good in everything if we look for it; and that very hunting for good in others is not only an appeal to them to bring it forth, but the young people to whom you look thus soon see that you are expecting something high and beautiful from them, and they respond in kind.
Have you ever known sympathy and kindliness to evoke in the end anything but sympathy and kindliness and trust? That is what I have found in the young people of the present day; that is what I found in the young people of twenty years ago; and I believe that the young people, when we are dead and gone and turned to dust, will be just the same in possibilities as the young people of the present day. I don't think that the latter are worse than other beings; I don't think on the other hand, that they are better than other beings have been.
You may talk about evolution — yes, of course. But evolution does not make such marvelous changes in human character in so short a time. It is true that great changes can take place in the lapse of a period of ten million years; but ten years or even one thousand years is as nothing by comparison. I don't think that the young people of the present day, are worse than the young people of our fathers' day; and I don't think that they are better.
Times change and people change with them; but I believe in the young people of the present day. I trust them, as I have always trusted old people of the present day and for the same reason: I don't trust them because they are young, but because they are incarnate souls. You make an appeal to that, and your response will be immediate, certain, and satisfying. There are disappointments in individual instances, always; but why should we charge the young people only with disappointing us? How about the older people who disappoint us?
I have here four questions from one querent, all dealing with Christianity. I am going to answer them, indeed, but first I want to say, if you please, that the theosophist never attacks the religion of any other man. I think that is a despicable thing to do. Nevertheless every theosophist reserves his right to criticize the foundations of belief of every religion, of every philosophy, of every system of scientific thought. That is part of the purposes, indeed one of the objects, for which The Theosophical Society was founded.
It is one thing to study sympathetically and with a kindly spirit of understanding, which is what theosophists do, the religions and philosophies of other men; and, on the other hand, to study them with the intent of picking flaws, to hurt trusting hearts, and with a view to mockery. That theosophists never do. If we find a truth, we gladly accept it; nor are we averse from taking beautiful thoughts or suggestions from other religions and systems of thought, because in our Theosophical philosophy we are taught that all the world philosophies and world religions were originally founded by one of our own great sages and seers, a Master of Wisdom in each case; and therefore every such world religion or world philosophy has at its core the same fundamental ancient wisdom that theosophy has. Looking into these world systems and world religions, the intelligent theosophical student can therefore find much that is beautiful in the way of understanding our own majestic theosophy. Therefore, if we find in these other religions and systems of thought some truth which the proponents and upholders of such systems themselves, at the present day, wit not of, we gladly publish the results of our studies and do we not do well in so doing? Can such work really be called unkindly criticism or an attack on other people's beliefs? No.
The first question therefore of the four questions that I have spoken of, is:
"Can you give us esoteric information re the founder of Christianity?"
I can indeed; but here would not be the place to do it. But if the kind friend who asked this question is present, in order not to send him away disappointed I might make some few general observations regarding the great Syrian sage commonly known as Jesus. Nothing is really known about him, or about his origin, lifework, and death, historically or otherwise. All that is supposed to be known about him is found in the so-called Christian scriptures, written no one knows when, no one knows by whom. There is no proof of any kind extant that any such person as Jesus called the Christos ever lived. There is no proof, therefore, as is obvious, that he ever did any of the things that these Christian scriptures relate of him.
Do you ask: Is there any foundation of fact regarding Jesus in these Christian scriptures? My answer is, Yes. The Christian scriptures, that is the Christian New Testament, taken all together, are an esoteric manual: a secret manual of instruction and of edification for the earliest Christians, for the earliest adherents of the primitive Christian Church; and these secrets tell in allegorical, in mythological (if you look into the old Greek sense of the word) form what any great seer or sage, any world savior, any great and noble-hearted man who gave up his life for his fellows, underwent in the schools of mystical training.
In other words, they form that particular manual of initiation in true but symbolic imagery in the initiatory cycle as it was followed in Palestine, in Syria, and in the countries of the Hither Orient.
The theosophist furthermore says that a man later called Jesus did indeed live; that he was one of the great seers and sages; that all of the earliest data that was written about him is mystically allegorical, which last remark is a proof of his high mission, because he was chosen as the exemplar and type to head this initiatory manual. He was indeed a great sage and seer, a savior of men. The Buddha was another such; Sankaracharya was another. Many such great sages and seers have lived in the past, they and others are living now, and they and others will live in the future.
This same manual of initiation, if you knew how to read it aright, and knowing how to read it, if you knew how rightly to construe it, could apply to any one of these great sages and seers as he passed from mystical infancy through mystical youth to mystical manhood. Do you understand my meaning? All this is esoteric, both in subject matter and in teaching, but I tell you it now because our Society will very soon publish certain matters which hitherto we have kept strictly secret, certain teachings which soon we shall give to the world. A new cycle of instruction has opened for men; and even as the so-called exoteric teachings of The Theosophical Society today were esoteric until they were openly published by the founder of The Theosophical Society in 1875 when a cycle opened, so today at the opening of the present new cycle will the same method be followed by publishing what hitherto have been esoteric doctrines.
"Was Jesus a true avatara?"
Avatara is a Sanskrit word. It means the descent of a divine being, not into human flesh but, as it were, towards incarnation in human flesh. It means the overshadowing or, more correctly speaking, the over-illuminating — of some great and noble man by a divinity, by a god. So that, to use ordinary language, an avatara is an incarnate god because the noble human so chosen expresses through himself some more or less large part of the over-illumination: the faculties and powers of the divine Over-illuminator. The description of the fact that I have just given to you is inaccurate only in the sense that it is incomplete, but sufficiently accurate to give to you some idea of what is meant by an avatara in theosophy.
Jesus was an avatara, a manifestation through the form of a human being, of a god, of a divinity, — one of the spiritual beings controlling our part of the stellar universe.
It is one of the objectives of The Theosophical Society to lead men, the thinking men and women of today, back to the sublime esoteric teachings of the wisdom-religion of antiquity. Here in what I have just said of the nature and characteristics of an avatara, you have one of the clues to that wisdom-religion. The seed put into your minds today will take root, will send its roots into the soil of your souls, and being a psychological energy will grow into a hunger, so to speak, for more truth. Where can you find or receive that larger measure of truth? Come to us, and you will receive it free. Knock, and the doors shall be opened unto you.
"Did Jesus come in cyclical sequence, historical sequence, following other great sages and seers?"
He did, for the annals of history show, if you read them aright, if you know how to read them, that these great sages and seers appear in the world at cyclical periods, at definite points in the history of the human race. They succeed each other one after the other, and they will so succeed each other throughout endless time. Read your books of history; read about the various founders of the great religions and philosophies of the past. Who founded these last? In each case a great sage and seer appeared among men and taught, founded one of these great religious or philosophical systems, and then, when his work was done, disappeared from among men, to return again when the cycle shall have rounded its course.
And Jesus, called the Christos, was one such.
"How do you account for the fact that the coming of the Christian era was the start of a cycle of decadence?"
May I venture to say that this question presupposes that it was the Christian religion which brought about the cycle of decadence. Now, I am not a Christian, because that religion, as has been the case with most other religions, has degenerated from the sublime maxims, teachings, and examples set before his followers by its founder, that sublime sage known to later ages as Jesus. But nevertheless, while not a Christian, I don't believe that it was Christianity itself and alone which brought about the era of decadence introducing to men in European countries the later so-called Dark Ages. I don't think that such an allegation would be fair; and a true theosophist is fair even to his bitterest foes. I don't think that it would be fair to make any such statement.
Here is the truth about the matter. Events, human events as well as other things, move in cycles — human history, therefore, as much as every other thing. There are cycles, as the great Greek philosopher Plato taught, of spiritual barrenness and cycles of spiritual fructification. These succeed each other in time one after the other and are sections of the wheel of destiny. Men rise and attain an acme of civilization and progress, only to sink as the wheel of life moves forward in its majestic course. Men touch the lowest point only to rise again on the ascending cycle, to attain, let us hope, and as is usually the case, a nobler pinnacle of achievement, a higher point than was the best of the ascending cycle which preceded.
Such a cycle of spiritual barrenness began to come to pass at about the time of the beginning of the Christian era; and therefore Christianity was not the cause of the ensuing cycle of darkness, but was merely one of the symptoms, so to say, one of the marks, one of the markers, that showed what the coming years were to bring forth — and also showed what had been lost to mankind through the immediately preceding cycle of the wheel of life on its descending arc. Do you understand me?
It may also interest you to know that our theosophical teaching is that we are now, at the present period, entering upon a rising cycle. In fact, we have already entered upon it. Some three or four hundred years ago the lowest point of the rounding wheel of life in that cycle had been touched and from that moment the ascending cycle began. We have, therefore, already ascended some little way along the cycle now in course.
But here is another point of thought which I must allude to in order to round out the idea, although it may be a little complex at first sight. There are wheels within wheels: smaller cycles within greater ones. Every great cycle itself is composed of minor whirls; so that while the greater cycle is ascending, there are in that very movement of ascent minor whirls of smaller cycles, rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and falling. Wheels within wheels. So that evolution is not a steady marching forward in one direction, but a series of ascents and descents which mark the course of the onward rolling wheel of life. This is a fascinating theme for our moments of quiet thought and meditation.
I would like to spend an entire hour talking to you about our theosophical doctrine of cyclical progression, but if I did I should have no time left to deal with the other questions that I have before me and which are in their own way as interesting as the one of which I am now speaking.
"I have heard some of your members suggest that a pet dog of theirs which had died, might be recognized by them in another body by means of its peculiar traits and habits.
"Is there anything approaching a definite entity which reincarnates — a thread-soul — among the higher animals?"
Yes, but nothing like the definite, entitized, unitary center which the human spiritual soul is. The animal has not evolved forth that unitary center as yet; and evolution as taught in theosophy, please remember, as I have so often said before, means the unfolding, the unwrapping, the outflowing, of that which is infolded, inwrapped, held back, until the environment opens the way; and then out it comes, a pouring flood of life, this outpouring being slow or rapid as the case may be.
We theosophists are evolutionists, but we don't teach transformism, as it is taught in Darwinism, for instance. We teach that the principles and beginnings of all things exist within the entity; and that as these principles are thrown outward, so to say, much as the tree burgeons and throws forth its leaves when the environment is appropriate; so the human evolving entity — or any other evolving entity — unwraps, unfolds, throws forth, through the ages, what it has in principle and in potency in its inmost essence, thus bringing about an ever greater degree of evolutionary perfection, for all the treasures and mysteries of eternity lie within; in the heart of the heart of all evolving creatures.
The kingdom of heaven, to use the Christian phraseology, is within. All the secret powers, all the secret faculties: indeed, everything in the universe — is within you; for within you, in the core of the core of your being, indeed that very core of the core of your being, is a living divinity, a spark of the Eternal; and evolution is merely the progressive manifestation in ever greater degree of this inner splendor, of this inner light, of this inner life.
Therefore a man has thrown forth, or unwrapped, or unfolded, more than the beast has, more than the dog of this question has, of this inner splendor, and has arrived at the point where he has full egoic individuality, subject however to still greater perfection, subject to still greater growth; whereas the beast has not yet thrown forth or thrown out from the heart of its heart, from the core of the core of its being, these spiritual treasures. Consequently, the beast has no specifically reincarnating ego, as a man has.
But a monad overshadows the beast, even as a monad overshadows the human, otherwise there could be no individualized entities at all. It is so also with the tree. It is so also with the mineral world as expressed in the different chemical elements. Every atom is the outward manifestation or expression of an indwelling, involved monad or spirit.
Nevertheless, some of the higher animals have evolved sufficiently far, have thrown out enough of the inner spiritual individuality, to show certain individualized traits of character, if I may so say; and these are easily recognized. One knows his own pet dog, for instance, or his own pet cat, from other pet dogs or other pet cats. And you know these traits so well that even were that dog soul or cat soul to be in another dog body or cat body these particular traits you would recognize and remember.
So, therefore, it is possible in minor degree that an animal may have evolved sufficiently to show forth certain little traits of character which are loved and which could therefore be recognized. I realize that this is perhaps a long answer to a rather unimportant question; but I could not make my meaning clear without going into some details.
"What does one have to believe in order to become a sincere member of The Theosophical Society?"
You don't have to believe in anything in the way of dogmas. We have no dogmas, we have no creeds. The only prerequisite to membership in The Theosophical Society is an honest acceptance of the philosophical, religious, and scientific principle of universal brotherhood. That is the only prerequisite; but you don't have to believe anything in the shape of formal creeds or dogmatic teachings.
"Have animals souls?"
Most decidedly they have. What makes the different kinds of animals differ from each other? How is it that there are so many of them? Why, the theosophist says that each beast is the expression of an indwelling entity, a monad in the spiritual realms, and a young, learning beast soul in the lower realms, which works through the poor imperfect beast body. Otherwise the beast could not be there, for there would be no individualizing center around which even the physical body could form. There would not be a central thread of beast essence around which the matter of the physical body could collect. But it is an entity, even the beast, and that is the result of the concreting and individualizing work of the inner soul, the beast soul.
But when we theosophists say that a beast has a soul, we mean souls after their kind. We do not mean that a beast has a human soul. Nature makes no such idiotic mistakes as that idea suggests. A dog has a dog soul, and a cat has a cat soul, and an elephant has an elephant soul, and a human being has a human soul, and the rose has a rose soul which differentiates it from the soul manifesting in the delicate violet, or the ruddy carnation, or in some other flower.
And there are also vegetable souls. Why not call them souls? They indeed are souls — souls after their kind, after their own families, as the human soul is a soul after its kind. For souls exist in all degrees of evolution in the universe, from what human beings call the lowest, yea, up to the very highest that human imagination can conceive of, and higher, indefinitely along the rising scales of the ladder of life; and also in the inverse direction lower, to what we humans call the realms beneath us.
"Are other planets inhabited?"
Why, yes. Is this planet inhabited? Yes. If other planets are not, why should this planet be? Do you see the point? If you can give an explanation why this our earth should be the only inhabited celestial body in the boundless spaces of the boundless universe, I wish you would tell me it.
One last question:
"Are animals undeveloped men or, in other words, are men developed animals?"
I wish I had two beads like the ancient Roman god Janus. With one mouth I would say Yes, and with the other mouth I would say No. Well, the fact is that this question seems very simple, but to the theosophist it is very complex. If the question implies that men are merely the evolved bodies of beasts, and that there is nothing more to a man than a physical body, then my answer is most emphatically that men are not evolved beasts. Men have not developed from the physical bodies of beasts.
Now in 1928, on this platform, during all the summer time and part of the autumn, I delivered a long series of lectures on the topic of evolution. If anyone of you cares to read those lectures, you may procure them from our publishing company. I cannot go into the matter now. The subject is too long. I have already told you in brief what evolution is from the theosophical standpoint. It is a throwing forth, a throwing out, an unwrapping, an unfolding, of what is within. The greater evolution means the greater manifestation or throwing out of these involved faculties and powers within you, all of which in the last analysis originate in your inner god.
What makes the change in the physical body from a less to a greater degree of perfection, is the reaction upon physical matter of these indwelling and interworking energies and powers, molding matter more perfectly to correspond to and to express what is within, the higher and sublimer energies and power and faculties coming forth into manifestations.
So then, to say that men are evolved beasts is not true. To say that men were much inferior in far bygone days to what they are now is true. Theosophists say, furthermore, that from the original primitive human stock, the original stocks of the present beasts sprang. Thus we take precisely the opposite view to the view that is popular in modern scientific circles today; and while theirs is guesswork, we have proofs of the truth of our position in the very facts brought forward by the scientists themselves. I invite you to read the printed lectures that I spoke of. There you will find the proofs of the teachings of evolution as embodied in the theosophical philosophy. [See Man in Evolution]
Now, friends, we part for this afternoon. I want to call your attention, before I leave you, to something that our beloved Katherine Tingley before she passed away asked me to bring to the attention of the audiences here in our Temple of Peace as often as I could. It is this: Men are incarnate gods. There is in each one of you a spiritual sun, a divine splendor, which while it may and can express itself through the undeveloped human vehicle, nevertheless manifests itself as exemplified in those outstanding figures of human genius whose mark on the annals of human history is like a blazing flame of light.
Every great teacher, every seer and sage, has urged the mankind of his time to try to ally themselves with this inner god; for there lie wisdom and knowledge, power and faculty, love, compassion, pity, sympathy, understanding, and an illuminated intellect such as the ordinary mentality knows little of. When this union is accomplished in relative fullness, you have the great, outstanding spiritual figures of history, the titanic intellects, the majestic spiritual leaders of mankind — the Buddha, the Christ, and all the other hosts of the illuminated ones. You can be the same, if you will.
Vol 1, No 16