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

No. 33 (May 13, 1930)


(Lecture delivered February 2, 1930)

"The Dawn is here," the spiritual dawn! As a messenger of glad tidings I speak to you this afternoon, for there is truth in the world, truth which you may have, truth which you can find; and the finding of this truth is seeing the spiritual dawn on the mountaintops of the Mystic East. This Mystical East is not a geographical locality, but is in your own heart, as a reflection of the universe.

The spiritual sun within you, your own inner god, which enlighteneth every man who cometh into the world, sends its rays down into your brain-minds, and gives to you what we human beings call inspiration, and peace — that peace which passeth ordinary understanding — and the love and sense of beauty, and the streams of genius, and the stimulation of the moving of the human heart in those noble outflowings which we men call compassion and pity; and, supereminent over all really, the root of them all for it is the very core of our being, is almighty love: impersonal, divine, deathless, for it knows no frontiers of time or of space; and the man must be either insane or degenerate who does not feel stirring within himself these things of which I speak.

Examine yourselves; realize that there is divinity within you, call it by what name you please — whether you be religionist or agnostic matters not at all; for these divisions of men into schools of thought and opinion are of the brain-mind only and vanish when the body dies. Examine your own inner movements of consciousness, and you will know that these things of glory are in you. They are the working in you of your inner god, your spiritual inner sun.

This is the message of the great sages and seers of all the ages to their fellowmen and brothers, and whenever such a message comes anew to mankind in times of materialistic darkness, then we say, and truly say: the sawn is here.

The Theosophical Movement was founded above all else to promulgate among men these noble teachings, which not merely arise in the spiritual nature of man, but are also the formulation in human language of the qualities and energies of the universe as they exist in that universe and in man as an inseparable portion of that universe. Therefore theosophists say: The Theosophical Society has brought to you once again the same old doctrine of peace and of bliss and of wisdom and of brotherhood that has been taught for long ages in the past — no political nostrum which is interpreted according to man's opinions — but the doctrine of that living fire of consciousness within your breast which tells you of your oneness with all that is, and of your kinship with everything that is; for verily you are akin to the gods who are the rulers and counselors and governors of the universe.

To put the matter in briefer and simpler language: one of the purposes for the founding of The Theosophical Society in our age was to save men from committing spiritual suicide: to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions; to call forth from the sons of men courageous hearts, quick, alert minds who could seize this message and deliver it to their fellows, without hesitation and without fear, breasting the strong adverse current of materialistic thought which was threatening, when The Theosophical Society was founded, to submerge mankind in the morasses of materialistic superstitions — superstitions because contrary to truth and natural fact. For so far had human beings become involved in the opinions and theories of the age, that they had even forgotten to examine themselves, had even forgotten to realize what was within them, had even forgotten that the only voice that the human being can understand, is the voice of the silence of his own inner nature, call it by what name you like: the voice of the soul, the voice of the spirit, or, as we theosophists call it, the inspiration of the inner god. The name by which we speak of it matters not at all. Try to grasp the idea, and you will gain something of great and permanent value.

The men who have realized this great idea and have cultivated their spiritual nature, who are they? They are the great sages and seers of the human race, the titanic intellects who have swayed men powerfully because they have given to men ideas and therefore have made and unmade civilizations. Where do these ideas arise? In the sky? In the sun? In the winds? They arise in the understanding and heart of man. In the measure that these ideas are great and sublime do we say that they are the manifestation of the spiritual fountain within, an ever-flowing fountain; and all such streams of energy manifesting themselves in the outstanding works of genius and inspiration produced by the great sages are impersonal, therefore universal. They copy the majestic operations of supreme nature herself, in that they are impersonal, unvarying, sure, enduring, and will be as true ten billion years from now as they were true ten billion years in the past.

When a man does not believe that he has anything spiritual within him, that he is naught but a physical body, then he is a spiritual suicide; for man's will is supreme. He can cut himself off from his own higher nature, if he will. You know it; you have experienced it in minor degrees in the ordinary operations of your day-to-day consciousness. You can choose: you can take; you can leave.

One, and perhaps the greatest, of the objects of The Theosophical Society is to save men from becoming spiritual suicides, to keep alive in them their spiritual intuitions, to give them hope, to give them vision. We Theosophists gain nothing at all except the unspeakable bliss of doing good to our fellowmen; and there is no happiness known to men like that.

I came to the Temple this afternoon in order to answer questions, and I will do so: and, perhaps, I have already answered many questions in what I have just said, if even only by allusion, by hint, by pointing to where you may find a fuller explanation than what I have said, if you want to find it. If you want to understand life, if you want vision, if you want happiness, if you want mental peace, if you want to feel that you are a full and complete man, exercising every faculty within you, then you must realize that you have these fountains of inspiration and wisdom and knowledge within you, and that you are something vastly more than a mere physical body.

The first question:

"How many aeons of deep study and varied experience must a poor mortal endure before he arrives at a point where he can conceive of anything that had no beginning? Any question involving the mystery of the First Great Cause is usually dismissed with an airy gesture coupled with the assurance that it was or is beginningless."

My sympathies are with the questioner. Has it ever struck you what a strange idea it was — the old-fashioned opinion of our fathers and grandfathers, and back of them for several hundred years — to talk about a First Cause which never had a beginning? How can man, with ordinary reasoning powers and intelligence, believe such a thing?

Theosophists, on grounds of intuition and logic both, as well as from the knowledge of physical nature that modern science gives to us, do not believe in a First Great Cause. What preceded this First Great Cause? If it had a beginning, which is to be assumed because it is called First, how can it be infinite? How can a stick have a beginning and an infinite extension — have only one end, in other words? No. That is what theosophists mean, and that is what I meant on last Sunday, when I said I do not believe in an infinite personal god called a First Great Cause. I am not going to limit infinitude by saying that it is a cause, and that it was first.

What preceded the "first"? In what does this first exist or inhere? How and why did it begin? If it is infinitude, it cannot be a cause, because then you would have an infinite cause, which is impossible as implying activity in finite relations; and again, if it is infinitude, it cannot be first, because then it would have a beginning. A cause, or the first of a series, implies relation, limitation, something which produces something else. Infinity, eternity — when did "time" begin?

Now, just think. We theosophists say that time never had a beginning except in its finite aspects. Time, more properly speaking, is our human understanding of endless duration; and this is both beginningless and endless. If time had a beginning, what existed before time? And how could that "what" exist if there was no time in which to exist?

Theosophists say that ultimately — that is radically, going to the roots of things — nothing that is ever had a beginning except as a form, as a shape, as an event. Can you conceive of something which had no existence before it began to exist? I cannot. I cannot conceive of infinity — which can work only, if it does work at all, in infinite space — producing a limited thing. This is the old argument of the polytheists against the people who believed in one infinite, personal God. They said: If your God is infinite and all-good, therefore it cannot produce evil, nor can it produce finite things, because it cannot be different from itself, and produce things different from itself. Therefore, what produced evil, and whence came things, both of which are finite and therefore limited?

Were it possible, they added, for infinity, an utter infinite goodness, to produce anything, it could produce only itself — infinite and utterly good. But as good is a human word and implies a human relation, therefore even what men call good — is a limited thing.

This is high philosophy; this is high religion. But I ask you: are you going to let someone else do your thinking for you, or are you going to think for yourselves about these subjects? Are you going to let someone else think for you and give you your religion with a spoon, so to say? If so, then you might as well resign your spiritual and intellectual manhood.

We theosophists do not do that kind of thing. Our appeal is to the divine-spiritual within each human being. We call upon you to think for yourselves, to follow your own conscience, to ally yourselves with your own spiritual being, with this fountain of illumination within of which I spoke, and to abide honestly by the results that you arrive at. These results may be imperfect, invariably they will be imperfect, because you are still imperfect; but you will grow spiritually and intellectually greater by the exercise of your own faculties; and in time you will give birth to something nobler still, for you will have advanced in development; whereas, if you want to go to sleep — spiritual suicide literally — cutting yourself off from the fountains or streams of glory and splendor that you are in your inmost being, then refuse to recognize the spiritual and intellectual faculties which form the best and noblest part of you. In your hearts you know it just as well as I do.

"How does reincarnation explain the fact of the constant increase in the world's population?"

There is an assumption here, of course, that the world's population is steadily increasing — quite a common idea; but I don't know that it is true. Our historians as a rule make assumptions regarding the population of European countries three or four hundred years ago, from the imperfect data that they have; and they take it for granted that all the rest of the world was then in just the same state as regards the birthrate that European countries were; but this is an utterly foolish assumption, because even as regards European countries the birthrate is by no means the same in all.

Then again, how about the teeming millions of Asia? When the Asiatics were in the heyday of their glory and splendor many centuries ago, our ancestors in European countries were not yet truly civilized, if civilization means the manifestation in human life and in human relations of the noblest and finest parts of human understanding.

The population of a country increases, as a rule, when the civilization of the country is on the upward grade towards its culmination in greatness. The reason is that souls are then incarnating more numerously in that country; and conversely the birthrate falls, as a rule, when a country is passing through a downward phase of its vital evolutionary course — a phase which does not necessarily last for a very long time. The country may take another upward rise. The different circumstances and conditions all depend upon what theosophists call the karma of the country — the fruitage or consequences of what that portion of the human race has done in the past. Nevertheless, I do personally think that the population of the world today is greater than it has been for the last two thousand or three thousand years.

Reincarnation explains very easily both increases and decreases in the world's population, or in the population of any one country. It is our theosophical teaching, as of course you know, that a man is more than the body in which he lives. The body is but the garment or veil of him. There is an inner part of him which produces the splendid phenomena of genius, those works of genius of which I have already spoken. You may call this superior or inner part soul, or spirit, or the inner man, or give to it some other name. The name does not matter at all. But the real man is there: that fountain of energies, that bundle of faculties, which man is. Call it, for purposes of convenience, the ego. No human being, unless he be a congenital idiot, lacks himself. There could not be a baby born unless there were something within guiding and urging the coming into being, the growth, of that baby; and this something is the reincarnating ego.

Consequently, when more babies are born than at other times, it means that the inflow of reincarnating egos is then in larger measure than before. As I have already pointed out, the populations of the respective countries increase when a race or a people is on the upward grade, marching upward in civilization, increasing, going from its better to its still better, towards its best. Whereas in countries or peoples or nations where the population is decreasing, there the reincarnating egos are not drawn in so large a number to incarnate in those countries or races or peoples.

Consequently, the increase in the world's population simply means that a time has arrived when the reincarnating egos which exist in the invisible realms, in hosts, waiting their chance to enter physical bodies, are attracted more strongly into the bodies which are to be theirs, and they are drawn by psychomagnetic attraction, thus to incarnate together. It is like an increased flow in a river of life, the drops of which are the reincarnating egos of men.

I will add this: Just as a people, a race, has its periods of increase of population, and its periods of decrease — because it sometimes is on the upward grade, and sometimes on the downward grade — just so the whole earth at times is more numerously populated than at other times, because the whole earth, just as in our own time, is then passing through a more intensive phase of increase in civilization.

Civilization is now spreading all over the world; the most backward peoples in our own time are beginning to feel the call. Men — races, peoples — are not so separate as they used to be; everything is awakening, growing, increasing; but this cycle will pass in its turn. Just as individual man has his day in which he works, and his night in which he rests, so do peoples have their day in which they work on the stage of life, make their gestures, perform their antics, and then retire into the silence — and sometimes I feel like saying: Thank the heavens!

"Are new souls being constantly created?"

No. In the first place, theosophists do not believe, and therefore of course we do not teach, that human souls are 'created.' That is the old Christian idea. A human spirit is a deathless entity; it is a part of the very fabric of the life universal in its inmost parts; and this spirit of man, this inner being, call it for convenience his spiritual soul if you like — the name matters not — this spiritual soul is pursuing an eternal pilgrimage in space, infinite in space and eternal in time. It passes from mansion to mansion of life, sojourning now here, now there, learning everywhere. The earth is one such mansion, in fact. Every sphere, every orb, in the celestial spaces is another mansion of life.

But listen: the greatest lessons are learned in the invisible worlds, for this physical world that we see, despite its physical splendor, its illusory and magical interest, is but the shell, the garment, the body, the exterior; and just as from the interior of man flow forth all his thoughts, all his inspiration, all his genius, all his powers and energies, into the physical, and express themselves in the works that man does, so precisely all the manifestations that we see in the physical universe are but the expressions of the indwelling energies and faculties and powers and forces within that universe.

This eternal pilgrimage of the spiritual soul of man is not only in this cross-section of the physical universe which our imperfect eyes can see but most especially in the invisible realms — in what men call the spiritual worlds, in the plural please; for there are grades upon grades upon grades of them, higher and higher and higher and higher. I desire to leave the thought without frontiers, signifying that there are no jumping-off places, no ultimates, beyond which nothing is.

But this god within, an eternal pilgrim, learns eternally, going higher and higher and higher; and like human races on earth which, after reaching their culmination of splendor in civilizations, fall to rise again: so does the Monad, the god, our spiritual soul, pass from the spiritual worlds down into ethereal matter, learning in each, and rising again out of it in order to reach a still higher peak of destiny; then down into the ethereal material realms again; then another rise to something still more lofty and sublime — and so on forever.

Therefore is our earth a sojourning place, an inn of life. We are not children of earth. Think! Let your intuitions work! Just ask yourself: Well, isn't that truth? Is it true? Does it appeal to me? Is it clear? Therefore, I say, think about it. You will gain enormously if the idea has struck home to you. You will be a new man, you will be a new woman. You will have a vision that nothing else in the universe can give to you, for it is truth. Examine it. Test it. Prove it; and if it is good, grip it to your soul with hooks of love and conviction.

No spiritual soul is ever created. It comes out of the eternity of the past; in its majestic evolutionary sweep it passes to earth as it were, and then finishing here, pursues its journey; cycles back again along its own rounds on higher planes; reaches earth again, and finishing here, goes still higher; for everything has its own evolutionary sweep, which is constantly increasing not only in diameter, so to say, but it lasts throughout eternal duration. The sweep becomes ever longer and wider and grander, for there is in man a divine spark. That spark must find fields for the exercise of its faculties, and it cannot free itself from any one mansion of life until it feels itself exercising the faculties within itself. There is a divine dissatisfaction in the human heart which is one of the noblest things that the human heart contains.

Oh, may the immortal gods help us, should we, as a human race, ever think that we have reached perfect, absolute truth, and then begin to sleep! Then would we be committing spiritual suicide. Give me the divine hunger for light and truth! Give me more of that hunger for truth and light — the divine dissatisfaction that I speak of — anything rather than the spiritual death of immovable matter.

The following is a beautiful thing that was sent to me. I get some very interesting questions, questions that are interestingly phrased, and some are very thoughtful. It is as much a pleasure to me to read them and to think over them, as it is to have the opportunity of answering them here. I might say, in passing, that one of the most interesting things that I have noticed about these questions is this: they are keen, most of them. They show that men are awakened, that they are hungering; and this hunger within their souls is breaking down the barriers of prejudice and convention, mental prejudice and convention I mean. Men are beginning to take a free breath, to breathe deeply and long, as free men should breathe mentally and spiritually, for such breathings free them from cramps and bonds, free them from spiritual death. That is the only death that I know — the smug self-satisfaction of the man who thinks that he knows it all.

This is the first lesson that you learn in theosophy, to wit: to realize that you are a learning entity in a most marvelous universe in which going to school is a most wonderful experience, for it is the school of life. You learn that you are akin to the gods, yes, and akin to the humblest material thing, so that love and pity and compassion and understanding fill your heart and mind, and give you the sympathetic vision to read the hearts and minds of your fellows, so that you can see good in other men, good everywhere indeed.

This is the question that I spoke of. It is preceded by this preamble:

"During the last preceding cycle it was the accepted thing to look without for all causes — the air that one breathed, the food partaken of, the flowers that brought gladness, the skies; the suns and stars, those 'flashing gems that deck the purple robe of night'; mighty mountain peaks, deep woods, crystal streams and tumbling waterfalls with joyous laughter mantling impeding rocks with living lace.
"Observing all this, man learned to look without for Deity, and for physical and spiritual sustenance. Today the world echoes the mandate 'look within' for all that is worth while. Even 'Lo, the poor Indian whose untutored mind sees God in clouds and hears Him in the wind' with one eye on his favorite cloud is trying to 'look within' and at the same time carefully avoiding the pitfall of self-worship.
"Question (excuse the preamble!): At the beginning of the next cycle will man be looking within, without, or — ?"

Now, that is a beautiful thing, beautifully phrased, and there is much about the thought herein contained that every beat of my own heart is attuned to; nevertheless the idea that "looking within" is a recent achievement of mankind is utterly untrue. It is the oldest spiritual lesson ever taught to man, and it lies at the very heart of every great religious philosophy, of every great philosophical religion. "Man, know thyself," said the ancient Greek Oracle, the voice of the god Apollo; and in the ancient scriptures of Hindustan you will find repeated over and over and over again, as the very keynote of learning and of evolution: Search within yourself for truth. That is the same message that The Theosophical Society today gives to you: Look within for truth, for as you are a god in your inmost parts, a spark of the universal Fire, so to say, rooted in infinitude and in eternity an inseparable portion, particle, of the kosmic whole, therefore you have abiding and flowing in you, active or inactive, all that the universe has, active or inactive, manifested or unmanifested.

Consequently, seek for light where light is to be found — within! Seek for truth where truth is to be found — within, in your spiritual nature, for that is the pathway to divinity. You are inseparable, in your inner spiritual nature, from the boundless universe. Therefore, knowing yourself, your spiritual nature, the spiritual reaches of you, you will know in time, which means throughout infinity, that universe which is truth, and you will have an ever-growing realization that you will never reach an end, for you will be passing to ever grander illumination, seeing before you always a sublimer peak to climb; and even when ye, as sons of the Sun, enter the portals of the solar orb, ye shall not have then reached the ultimate.

Think! Life is endless. Time is beginningless and frontierless. The universe is all there is: it never had a beginning, it never had an end; and you are its child: bone of its bone, blood of its blood, flesh of its flesh, energy of its energy, life of its life. Do you see the vision? Do you begin to catch a glimpse of the vision sublime? Do you see the hope in it? It is indeed wonderful. This is what I meant when first speaking to you this afternoon I called attention to the Mystic East and to the god within you.

So consequently, answering the question: "At the beginning of the next cycle" — I do not quite know what that means, because it is our theosophical teaching that cycle succeeds cycle for ever, and also that there are small cycles and great ones, but the presumption is that the questioner means the beginning of the next great human cycle — "will man be looking within, without, or — ?", I may say: Undoubtedly he will be doing as we humans are now doing, but also will he be wiser, looking more within than we do, because he will be farther along the evolutionary path of development.

Do you know what evolution is? Evolution is the bringing out of what is within. It is the unwrapping of what is wrapped up, the unrolling of interior faculty and power, of energy. Having this inner god within you, which is a fountain of spiritual energy, therefore illumination, intellect, everything appearing in evolution, is naught but a progressive bringing forth of what is inwrapped within the evolving entity. Otherwise how could anything evolve if it did not have the capacity to evolve?

Now, we are evolutionists through and through, but we are not Darwinists. Do not misunderstand me in that respect. But true evolutionists — yes, for evolution is growth, it is expansion. As the acorn has in its heart all the oak, but not yet expressed, not yet unwrapped, unrolled, so has every other thing in itself a vast number of faculties and powers — possibilities men call them; and time and environment offer the opportunity for growth, and growth is evolution, that is to say bringing out what is within. You could not be anything unless you had the germ of it within you. It would be impossible. Do you see the idea?

Hence the men of the future will look more within than we are accustomed to do. They will be greater men than we are, grander.

I often wonder, in standing here, whether my audience imagines for a mere fraction of an instant that the theosophical philosophy has been invented by anybody. I tell you that it has not. Or does anyone imagine that theosophy is a mere syncretistic system, to use a word of the scholar, that is to say, a system taken piecemeal from different religions and philosophies of the past, and put together more or less neatly and symmetrically? It is not that at all.

Theosophy is in the background of every great world religion and world philosophy, and you will find it there if you look for it. This is a statement of fact. Look for theosophy there, and you will find it; and it is there because it is the primal religion of mankind; and these various world religions and world philosophies have been given to men by the great seers and sages of past ages, who learned their wisdom in the secret retreats of our Holy Order from that compassionate band of sages whom we call the Masters of Wisdom.

From this Order individuals at different times came into the world, were sent into the world, and founded this religion or that religion, or this philosophy or that philosophy; but in all cases they drew from the theosophical philosophy, and made it the basis of all their religious or philosophical teaching.

What is this theosophical philosophy? Whence came it? How did men first know about it, as it was neither invented nor a mere patchwork? Where did it come from, and when did it first appear among men? I will tell you just what our teaching is, and some day perhaps I will talk to you at length about it. But here are the facts.

Truth, as men see it, is an expression of the operations and facts of the Universe, formulated in human tongue by men. Man being a god in his inmost parts, is rooted in the Universe because he is an inseparable part of that Universe. Therefore if he follows the pathway of his consciousness, ever upwards and inwards, he finally comes, with his perceptive consciousness, to that god within, that inner god. This inner god may also be conceived of as one of the divine particles of the Heart of the Universe, of the Fountain of cosmic light and order.

Consequently man, having this spiritual consciousness, which is rooted in the spiritual consciousness of the Universe, has a divine vision, and therefore sees with this spiritual consciousness; and he comes back from this pathway of following his consciousness ever inwards: he returns from this sublimest of human adventures, which is done through initiation; and gives his message to men in so far as the men of his day can understand it, not overloading their minds with too much glory, but giving them as much as they can at the time take in and understand. And behold, a new religion is founded, a new world philosophy is born.

The heart of the teaching of these great world religions and philosophies — that teaching in which they all agree, that body of doctrine lying at the background of the religions and philosophies, that which is the same in them all, as taught by these great initiated sages and seers — that is theosophy.

I am going to close now, because I desire to leave the present atmosphere in our Temple undisturbed. I do not want to change it by answering other questions that I have here, although they are very interesting questions indeed. I desire to leave this atmosphere just as it is, undisturbed.

No theosophist, teacher or student (and we are all students — the highest among us is a student of life, subject to correction by the greater wisdom that he will acquire in time), no theosophist ever will tell you that theosophy is dogmatic, because it is not. You do not have to accept any creeds when you join The Theosophical Society; you do not have to abandon even your own particular religion, if you prefer to keep it. Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, atheist, agnostic — it matters not what — if you believe in our one principle that men are brothers with a common spiritual origin, the doors of The Theosophical Society stand wide open to you.

The only prerequisite to membership in The Theosophical Society is a sincere belief in universal brotherhood. You do not have to accept a single doctrine of our majestic philosophy, which, as I have told you, is a formulation of the truths of the universe, unless you desire to. It is laid before you in book and by speech; and we say to you: "Come, here are these Pierian Springs, which have given us such ineffable peace. Come, taste, drink; for they are the waters of life. A god lives in you, in each one of you. It is a reality; it is the source of all that you are in the best of your manhood and womanhood; it is the source of your noblest thoughts and aspirations."

Men have not realized one-millionth part of what they have within them; and belief that you have these faculties and powers as yet undeveloped within you is the first step towards acquiring the consciousness of them. You cannot see if you willfully turn your eyes away. But once the thought becomes familiar, its attraction is so powerful that you will be led on step by step, and rapidly, to be your noblest self.

In future ages, when you shall have expressed more or less perfectly these powers and faculties locked up within, of which you at present receive but adumbrations, intuitions, flashes, glimpses — which men call genius — in the future ages, when you as individuals shall have arrived at the full consciousness of what you are, then you will be, each one of you, an awakened Buddha, a Christ risen out of the darkness of ignorance into light.

Vol 1, No 34