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

No. 25 (March 18, 1930)


(Lecture delivered December 1, 1929)

It seems a shame to talk after hearing music such as we have just heard. I dislike to spoil the atmosphere by speaking. Sometimes when one hears music, one does not feel like talking at all. All that could have been said, the music has already told us; and I have a notion that people sitting as an audience and listening to beautiful harmonies, ask questions which only the music can answer.

However, I am here to answer questions. I have a number of questions here, not one of which is very solemn; all are profound, all are interesting. And I now take up the first (and in this question you will hear somewhat of the music of the heart, the voice of the soul of a poet, speaking):

"Why is theosophy so complicated? Truth in its essence is gloriously, delightfully, superbly and devoutly, simple. I wonder if it is the simplicity of the flowers that gives them their beauty and fragrance; their innate strength which, despite their apparent frailty, reveals them, at sunrise, after a night of storm, smiling through glistening raindrops that hang like pendant jewels from leaf and blossom?"

What a beautiful question! And yet, a man with a heart like that can ask why theosophy is so "complicated," and why a flower is so "simple"! Where is the simplicity in the flower? I look into the heart of a flower, and what do I see? I see beauty, harmony, grace, impersonality, selflessness, and the workings of almighty love. I see infinitude in the bosom of a flower. Are all these things simple?

I tell you that a flower, or indeed any other thing, if seen with seeing eyes, holds the secrets of eternity in itself. Only the poet sees these at first, but even the pragmatical-minded scientist realizes the wondrous mystery in the bosom of a flower — in its shape, in its fragrance, in its grace, in its impersonality; and he wonders how it all came about, and he searches with his inquiring mind, seeking the solution of the mystery of it all. The deeper he goes into what he sees, the more does he realize how vast are the horizons of the unknown. And yet you talk about the simplicity of a flower! Look into the eye of a fellow human being, you who have a percipient mind and an understanding heart: can you understand the mystery in the limpid depths of the human eye?

Why, we humans take things too much for granted! We don't realize that all nature is full of mystery and wonder; and then this kind heart, this poetic soul, comes to me and asks: "Why is theosophy so complicated?" You yourselves know what the answer is, do you not? Theosophy is the formulation of the laws of the universe in human tongue, and how can such formulation be otherwise than vast in its reaches and intricate in its structure? It is complicated indeed to the beginner, yet its principles are very simple: so simple that, as Mr. William Q. Judge, the second Leader of the Theosophical Movement, said: the study of its fundamental principles will not overwhelm the understanding of a child.

Theosophy is complicated only to those who have not penetrated beyond the frontiers of the teaching as it is given in the exoteric books. But with the study of it comes a realization that its complexity so called is really its profundity; and that you never can reach an ultimate in its study, for there is always something more to learn, something more to see and to find; and that the seeing and finding will come to you as you grow in understanding of it. How happy this makes the student's heart, that he never can reach an ultimate where he must stop and say: I now know it all!

Remember that the difference between a flower with all its wondrous mystery, and the human being with his still more wondrous mysteries, is simply one of evolution. Theosophy in its elements is very simple indeed, but its field of thought grows under the perceiving eye as that eye penetrates beneath the superficial teachings; and soon the student realizes that here at last, after the heart-burnings and searchings of years, perhaps, he has found the key unlocking the riddles of the universe.

Great sages, great seers, of the past, have sent their spirit behind the veil, behind the veils, of material existence — beyond and behind the seeming, into the deeps of great Mother Nature — and have brought back what they have seen, and have put it into human formulations, into human language. And this is the ancient wisdom-religion of the archaic ages, today called theosophy. The greater you are, the more you will find in theosophy. That is a statement of fact.

Some people do not like the name theosophy. I don't know why. Perhaps they think that some English name should have been given to it; but had that been done, I suppose that Frenchmen, or Germans, or Italians, or others, would have found material for argumentation. Why should it not have been given a German or a French or an Italian or a Swedish name? "Theosophy" is as good a name as any other. It is a Greek word, and it means 'the Wisdom of the Gods,' divine wisdom, and it was well selected as a name by which to call the teachings of The Theosophical Society. It might indeed have been christened in modern times with a Sanskrit name; but it would have been the same philosophy. Yet it would not have sounded quite so well to Occidental ears on account of unfamiliarity.

"Pat said: 'Have ye christened the new baby yet?'
"Mike: 'We have.'
"Pat: 'An' phwat did ye call it?'
"Mike: 'Hazel.'
"Pat: 'Sure, bad cess to ye! With 233 Saints to name the kid afther, ye had to go and name it afther a nut!' "

However, this is by way of humor. The Theosophical Society was not named "afther a nut."

Here is another question. It begins with a quotation from Walt Whitman:

" 'I never walk under great trees but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me.' Question: Does the planting of a tree, tending it and 'mothering' it until it be sturdy enough to make its own way upwards, also aid one's spiritual unfoldment?"

Yes; not only a tree, but a flower; anything that will take you away from your animal selves, that will cause you to forget your personal beings and take you out into the great breadth of nature and give you thoughts in compassionate, impersonal service, will aid you in your spiritual growth. What comfort, what hope, what solace, what peace, in forgetting oneself! Anything that takes you away from yourself with its small circle of personal limitations, selfish ideas and idiosyncrasies, egoistic thoughts and emotions, into impersonal service, into tending something, "mothering" something if you like, in self-forgetful work for others, greatly helps you spiritually.

Is it not obvious? Tending a tree, tending a flower, looking after the interests of some human being, busy with your book, with your writing, with your machine, with your tools, whatever it may be — anything that will cause you to forget the personal self — helps you in spiritual growth, self-forgetfulness. What reward does there not come to the man or woman who does this! That is the secret of the call of the religions. It enables a man or a woman to forget the lower personal self. And you can achieve exactly the same results by giving full field to the spiritual powers within your breast in any kind of impersonal work.

Just as one instance: I tell you that the astronomer with his eye at the eyepiece of his telescope studying the wonders of interstellar space, is a more religious man than the money-grabber on his knees in church praying for the forgiveness of his sins — a million times more religious; for his whole soul, the whole soul of the man, is raised; and the other prays from fear — and to what?

"Sir Oliver Lodge says he has proofs that the individuality of a person survives intact after death and can be communicated with. Is this so?"

A theosophists would answer this, Yes and No: it is a fact that the individuality of the human being survives intact after death, but it cannot he communicated with. The individuality is the spirit, its realm is the spiritual world; and once death releases it from its enchainment in the body, once the golden cord of life is snapped, like a winged spark of divinity it takes its rise into the spaces and has no more contact with earth — particularly not with the sensuous minds of human beings — than it had before it entered a human body in the last incarnation, drawn back by what we call karma.

All that survives the physical body and that can be communicated with is what we call the spook, the astral remnants of the man that was: all the lower part of his intermediate constitution, all that is material and sensuous and small and materialistic, remains in the atmosphere of the earth, where it undergoes slow decay, just as the body in the grave does, unless it be cremated.

But the spirit wherein resides the individuality is deathless, is immortal, is unstained and cannot be touched. There is the outline of our theosophical teaching, and you can have the whole matter developed, if you are interested in this point of study, by reading our theosophical books.

I do not want to hurt anybody's feelings — I have had many good friends among the spiritists — but I am not here to refrain from telling you what the theosophical teaching is; that is my present duty. Communications occasionally do come from something. Read them; and if you think that any eternal, immortal, deathless spirit can give utterance to such claptrap, then in my opinion you certainly lack in judgment. Most of it is plain piffle that would shame the average human incarnated being to duplicate. Read these so-called communications; mark their lack of intellectual force, their utter lack of spiritual impersonality: they are simply like squirrel wheels, so to say, going the rounds over and over again of everything that the human did and knew on earth, which remain impressed on the astral eidolon or image as astral impulses. These poor astral remnants are automatic; they can do nothing else than to repeat like phonographs that which was impressed on the astral substance of the astral being which remains in the astral world.

It is blasphemous to suppose that the deathless individuality, the spiritual man of us, is subject to the call and interference of human beings after this individuality has left our sphere. Think the matter over; think of the philosophic, think of the ethical, aspect of the thing.

Now, our spiritistic friends are in most cases sincere and kindhearted people, earnestly and devoutly believing that they have the truth. But, immortal gods! sincerity and devotion and an aching heart are not enough to insure proofs of post-mortem communication. People are all too ready to accept what they want to believe. We love the memory of our dead, and in the cases of many lonely human hearts, when words come to us and claims reach us from somewhere (we know not where) that so-and-so is "on the line," unless we know better and have time to think and to analyze, how the heart of us jumps, leaps in gladness, and we say: Proofs of immortality!

Immortality? Immortal gods! Give me annihilation if such stuff comes from an immortal being! Liefer to pass out in utter annihilation as a man than to live, after the physical body is dead and broken up, uttering such unspeakable trash! Never has a thing of value been so communicated. Sometimes there are not even the first elements of grammar in these communications thus received. The mental squirrel wheel of the man that was, the lower, personal brain-mind impressions in these communications, are run like a phonographic record.

Forgive me if my words seem a bit strong. You know that I don't want to hurt any heart that believes it has the truth. But I am here to do my duty, friends, to tell what my own studies have shown me to be the truth, and I here leave the matter with you.

Examine the matter along the lines that I have pointed out, and if you are satisfied, it is your choice. As regards proofs, what is proof? Proof exists according to the facutly of your own intelligence, its power of weighing evidence and its ability to abide by a preponderance thereof; but another man will take the same factors in the equation that you have studied, and will withdraw therefrom an utterly different answer. In the one case it is proof to you; in the other case the diametrically opposite deduction is proof to him.

Proof is merely what you believe to be a preponderance of evidence, as you interpret it. What we theosophists want is not proof: we want truth: something which does not depend upon the judgment of the brain-mind resting on a so-called preponderance of evidence, but that quick and instant intuition of the human soul, of the human heart, that this or that is truth, and having this, then we test it by the experience of time.

"Who originated the idea of a few moments of silent meditation at the end of your services? Was it Katherine Tingley, or does it come from some religion of the East? I used to belong to the Christian Church, but though we had times of silent prayer, I never got the inspiration out of it that I do out of your silent moments here."

These few moments of silent thought, of quiet meditation, with which we close our services in our Temple of Peace, were introduced by my great-hearted predecessor Katherine Tingley, but were not originated in any religion of either East or West. It is something taken out of what we theosophists call our esoteric meetings, where the deeper teachings of theosophy are taught. We close all such meetings in quiet thought, and we do so because this has been the habit and custom of the great seers and sages of the ages. We are not copyists, friends, we are originators, and we claim — non-understandable perhaps as it may sound to you at first — we claim that all the great religions of the past, and all the great world philosophies, originated in the Theosophical Societies of those respective times of the far distant past. The teachings of these Theosophical Societies became mere religions when they had degenerated from being theosophical.

You can prove this by studying our theosophical literature and comparing it with the literatures of these world religions and world philosophies, and you will find that while these religions and philosophies vary in form, in ceremonial, in ritual, nevertheless at the heart of them all, back of them all, as their essence, is one great system of truth, one great system of teachings, if you like. And this system is identical with the theosophical teachings that are given today.

"Why is it that the duty of another is full of danger? When I was young I was told that if I was too curious about other people's business I would grow a very long nose. But I had my childish doubts about the matter, because I had observed that the African race had short noses; and our colored servant, who had an extra short nose, was consumed by curiosity. But if the danger does not lie in the extension of one's nose, where does it lie?"

Well, the common idea, you know, all over the world, apparently is that long-nosed folk are rather given to prying into other people's affairs. I don't think that this idea is quite fair or true. When I read this question I began squinting down my own nose to see if I had a long nose. When I found I had not, I was immediately consumed with curiosity to see if another person whom I knew to be interested in things that did not belong to him, had a long nose. I began to study him, and I found that he did not have a long nose! I don't think a long nose is necessarily indicative of improper curiosity.

The duty of another is full of danger, as is obvious, because it is not something that belongs to you to do. You are meddling with something that does not concern you; and that is always a dangerous, as well as an unfair, thing to do.

If you were theosophists I would tell you that there is a reason, a stronger reason, for the saying quoted by the questioner, and it is this: that whatever you do you become responsible for, in so far as the results flowing out of your acts have to be accounted for. What you sow, you shall reap. And if you meddle with other people's affairs, you are tying yourself up with those other people, you are involving your own karma with theirs, and you will have to work it out — that is to say, pay for it — to the utmost farthing, for nature is just, and we are creatures of our own destiny.

We are collaborators with the divinities which ensoul, and therefore guide, the Universe. We have choice; we have creative power, both of will and of mind; and if we misuse or abuse our native facilities, we make an effect, unfortunate for us, on the universe. We alter the direction of destiny in accordance with our own powers and our own strength — not only the destiny of ourselves, but of others; and we become responsible, and therefore we shall pay. In other words, we have to re-establish the equilibrium which we have disturbed. Don't meddle in other people's affairs. It is dangerous. The duty of another is indeed full of danger!

Theosophists have another saying which Katherine Tingle gave: "Helping and sharing is what brotherhood means"; but there is no contradiction between these two. It is our duty to help others where we see that they are in danger or in pain or need help. It is our duty to share what we have of the beautiful and of the good with others. This is simply decently human; we follow simply our higher human instincts in doing this, but that is not meddling. That is not forcing ourselves into the affairs of other people, often against the will of these others.

"In answer to a question pertaining to crime during your lecture on Sunday the 24th ult., you stated that you 'do not know of any criminal planets.' Why is the planet Earth referred to so frequently in occult literature as the 'dark planet'?"

I do not know that our earth is referred to very frequently under that term. It is sometimes called the planet of sorrow. It truly is a dark planet. Occasionally I have heard this term dark used. But there are other planets which could also be called dark. Our planet is not the only one; but darkness is not necessarily criminal. It refers to the fact that darkness is used as a synonym of substantial existence, of material existence, as contrasted with existence in the light of the spirit. Our planet is very material. Therefore could it be, and indeed it is, sometimes called the dark planet.

Now, friends, my illusion to the fact that I know of no criminal planets, meant that I know of no planets which, as planets, have deliberately chosen a course of evildoing. I do not know of a criminal sun, or of an criminal planet, or of a criminal comet, or of a criminal nebula. The word does not apply to these things.

Crime is human, or applies to beings possessing the same status, spiritual and intellectual, that humans have, such status as pertains to the inhabitants of some of the other planets. But I have never known of a planet, or I have never heard of a planet, which could be called a criminal planet, one that had become bad as a planet.

There are planets — such is the teaching of theosophy — vastly more material than is our earth, existing in realms and worlds of matter far more gross than our own physical realm or sphere or world or plane. But even these planets darker than ours could not be called criminal. Crime implies an act or a series of acts dictated by a distorted or perverted mind.

I could tell you much more about this, and I will if you will undertake to pursue a certain course of study. I would be delighted to tell you much more, things that would fascinate you. Knock, and it will be opened to you.

"Please interpret the following quotation:
Comets importing change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,
And with them scourge the bad revolting stars
That have consented unto Henry's death!'

This is from Shakespeare, from King Henry the Sixth, I, Act 1, Scene 1. The quotation of course has reference to the general astrological ideas of the time when Shakespeare wrote this. The stars had "consented unto King Henry's death," and the poet makes one of his characters ask the comets to scourge the bad, revolting stars. This is a figure of speech, but it does not tell an astronomical truth. It is a beautiful poetical passage, but it is very bad astronomy, and very bad astrology.

But yet, in spite of Shakespeare's astrological inaccuracy and imperfection of astronomical knowledge, there is some truth behind it all. The wonderful science of astrology, as taught by theosophy, explains what this modicum of truth is. This does not mean that the tattered remnants of archaic astrology that pass under that name today are in any sense a real science; but I refer here to the real astrology of the ancients, which then meant the science of the souls of the stars.

According to this, as interpreted by theosophy, everything that happens in the world happens according to law — everything that is is interlocked, interrelated, bound up, with every other happening — nothing exists unto itself and absolutely apart from other things; but the universe in its lowest or physical aspect is a most wondrously constructed mechanism, with spiritual mechanicians guiding and controlling it; and these spiritual mechanicians are gods, semi-gods, angels, call them what you will. Consequently, everything that takes place, takes place because it is, so to say — to use a mechanical metaphor — a cogwheel event in the march of events along the course of destiny.

Therefore, the appearance of a comet is one of these cogwheel events marking time on the dial-face of the cosmic clock. It comes at its appointed times, and signifies the concurrence of other events in making, in doing, in preparing — about to take place: not that the influence of the comets themselves is such that they can sway the worlds or the destinies of nations and men: but that the comets are markers on the timepiece of the universe.

There is a great deal of interesting thought that I might develop for you here, had I the time to do so.

"There must have been a time in the infinitude of the past when the present man functioned as does the mineral kingdom now. That is, he had the universal consciousness flowing through him, but not the consciousness of selfhood. What then gave him or exerted upon him the particular pressure or leaning with his first glimmering of self-consciousness to progress in particular directions — one man as a genius, another a dolt, that which we all know constitutes the diversity in men, the differentiation of one man from another, the differences of character, and so gave each man as you theosophists say, his particular karma? I trust that I have not hopelessly entangled this query."

In other words, the questioner seems to ask: When did individuality and development of character begin? The answer is obvious: it began at the beginning. Now, when was the beginning? When would you want it to begin? Nothing has been created; nothing has sprung like Athena from the brain of Zeus, full-fledged. There is no beginning of evolution, for such is the inherent law of the universe acting in eternity, which is beginningless and endless.

But things began, so far as they are events: shapes, conditions, qualities. All these are temporary: they begin, reach their climax, and pass, and are succeeded by some other events. It is the teaching of theosophy that, so far as man's evolution is concerned, he came as a life-host to this planet out of the infinitude of the past, bearing with him a karmic load formed of all that he did in the past: his character in other words, what he was builded to be by himself in the past. He came to this planet, which was then in its formative stage, bearing this load of karmic tendencies. Karma, you understand, means cause and effect — that what you sow you reap. But he did come as a man, he came as a monad or spiritual life out of the past.

This earth being a new planet, the monad began at the beginning of this new earth-event; but this karmic load, which is the character within, which the monad brought over from some past life-cycle, that monad has ever since been working off or out from itself, and it is still working out, and it manifests today in humanity as human character; and this working off or out of that karma and the forming of new will continue in the future.

Humanity began its life course on this planet in a lowly way, and grew through evolution to be what now it is; and through evolution, or by means of evolution, humanity will grow to be something much greater than now it is. Mankind thus began in a simple and lowly way of life, but will grow to be grand, and will then grow in a grand way.

From an unself-conscious god-spark, the individual human monad during the course of its evolutionary development reached this planet, began its evolution in lowly habitats of life, evolved forth from within itself its native faculties and powers, improving the vehicles or bodies in which it worked and lived, until manhood was reached; and this process of evolution, which means unrolling, unwrapping, unfolding, what is within — the innate powers and faculties, or character in other words — will continue forever; but before humanity leaves this planet as a life-host, it shall have attained human godhood or divinity.

Remember that evolution as taught in theosophy is not Darwinism nor Lamarckism, nor neo-Darwinism nor neo-Lamarckism. Evolution, in theosophy is the unfolding, the unwrapping, the bringing forth, of what is within — in other words, the evolving entity itself. Evolution, therefore, is self-expression, growth. That is evolution as we theosophists teach it — a logical, complete, and satisfying, doctrine, comprehending all human faculties: explaining the past, prophesying the future.

"It has been stated that from the very earliest times known to us, all the important developments in world history — Christianity included — have originated in the meeting, friendly or hostile, of Orient and Occident. However that may be, the interpenetration of East and West that is now taking place is profoundly altering the attitude and relations of nations to one another the world over. What light does theosophy throw upon these momentous changes; and do you not think that they are favorable to the spread of theosophy?"

Yes, I do, indeed, and theosophy throws a brilliant light upon these matters, this light showing that human events move in cyclic courses. Everything in nature has a beginning, if it be an event — which all things human are — reaches its culmination or its climax, descends with the wheel of change until the lowest point of the cycle is reached, then rises again on a larger round; and so on forever — and this is the famous theosophical doctrine of cycles.

Things move in cycles, human events as well as other things. The march of civilization is from East to West, and from West the civilizing wave returns to the East. These happenings are not chanceful, they are not fortuitous; they don't "just happen"; they have a cause and a reason. But the procedure is cyclical.

Instead of saying that "Westward the course of empire takes its way," we should say with much more truth, that westward the course of life pursues its path. The Orient gave us light, so that it has become a proverb in the Occident: Ex oriente lux — "out of the East, light."

But now, when the Orient for ages past has been resting in the lowest part of its cyclical round, and we Occidentals have been coming to the climax of our own material civilization, we are rising along the more spiritual arc and are returning to the Orient the light that once we received therefrom; and the Orient in its turn is beginning to stir uneasily in its age-long sleep. Men and women living today will see marvels come to pass before they die.

China, hoary with age and experience, has but begun to awaken from an age of rest; and I tell you, Heaven help the pink-skinned man, who calls himself the white man, when once the Orient is on its feet, if we Occidentals at present having the responsibility in our hands do not change the courses of our action. The time has now come for us to instill into the Orient the light that once we took therefrom — lessons of self-forgetfulness, of forgiveness, of love, of peace, of justice; or, having sown the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind. I tell you this as a truth.

There is a curious and interesting teaching in theosophy, and it is to this effect: that not only does the course of civilization pass continuously and endlessly round the earth from East to West, but also that the reincarnating egos follow that wave; that is to say, that the highest class of reincarnating egos, the most advanced, incarnate in countries wherein the climax of spiritual civilization is reached.

All men are brothers ultimately. If we go far back enough in time, we shall find that the same blood, the same life fluid, flows in the veins of all of us; and it is high time that we began teaching the truth that is in our hearts. I warn you again: we have sown the wind in the East, and at present, as things now stand, we are marching forward to reap the whirlwind.

My time to close for today has come. There is one question more that I desire to answer briefly before we part this afternoon. It is this:

"Who or what is the object of worship among theosophists, and what do they understand by worship?"

We have no object of worship. In order to make my meaning clear, let me briefly explain two words: "adoration" and "worship." Worship is an old English word originally having the form "worthship," things held as of worth, things considered worthy, valuable, worthy of reverence. Adoration is a Latin word signifying "prayer to." This questioner has in his mind confused these two words, but the meaning of his question is clear.

We theosophists adore nothing and no one. We never pray in that sense. Such prayer is a selfish petition, and usually takes the form "I want, I want; give me, give me." The theosophist raise's his heart constantly, continuously — raises his mind towards those things, entities, realities, truth, which he considers worthy of reverence and devotion.

There is no more devoted and spiritually-minded body of people in the world than theosophical students. But we never utter any selfish petitions to an outside, cosmic power. In other words, we never "adore." We worship indeed, if that means, as it once rightfully did, to hold certain ideals as worthy of reverence. To the great cosmic mystery beyond all human imagination, beyond all human conception, beyond the utmost reaches of even the thought of the gods, which cosmic mystery we reverentially call That, not attempting even to give to it a name, to belittle it by naming it: the theosophist gives the worthship of a devoted and reverent heart.

And to this mystery of the universal life-consciousness, if we may presume so to call it, towards this the theosophist's attitude is one of reference day and night, unceasingly; for out of its cosmic bosom we came as sparks of the Central Fire, and back into its bosom we shall return, but then no longer as unself-conscious god-sparks, but as fully self-conscious gods. Ye are gods in your inmost parts. Remember it. Dream, think, aspire, to be your own divine self.

Vol 1, No 26