Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered April 20, 1930)
CONTENTS: Eastertime and the risen Christ. — Is there such a thing as the resurrection of the body? — Was Jesus Christ really crucified? — Galaxies of genius at various periods in history. — Is the cell a living creature, or merely its habitation? — Humility vs. impersonality. — The meaning of "Isis" in the title Isis Unveiled. — Do theosophists believe in healing by prayer; in casting horoscopes; in cremation? — The Messiah within each one of us. — Set him free!
Friends, you look sympathetic — with me of course! It is as if you had come to hear a lovely Easter sermon. But why should you expect an Easter sermon from a theosophical speaker? Because on Easter Sunday, perhaps, you are accustomed to hearing about "He was crucified, dead, buried, and on the third day he rose again from the dead"; or because in going to church and hearing the beautiful music and seeing the flowers and looking at each other's gowns or faces, you perhaps expect to find the risen Christ among you. Have you so found?
I think that you will indeed find something of that kind here; and I am going to give you an Easter talk, theosophically speaking, something that I hope will give you food for thought, no matter what you may think about it at present; but I want to cast seeds of thought into your minds which will take root there, and after you have left us, perhaps a week or a month or a year hence, each one of these seeds will grow into something within you, stirring, expanding, and breaking the bonds of the lower selfhood, so that you will realize that the truth regarding the risen Christ is a spiritual and not a physical one; and will realize that to look upon this Christian myth, this beautiful legend, as a story of a physical resurrection is a degradation of a sublime spiritual reality.
A dead god-man or man-god is an anomaly in the world of truly spiritual thinking. Theosophists do not believe in that; but we do believe that behind this esoteric mythos or legend there is a beautiful explanation, which is well worth hearing and understanding. In modern days mystical Christians will talk to you about the immanent Christ, the spiritual nature of each human being, lying in the tomb of the personal selfhood, from which only death — according to their belief — frees it. This immanent Christos is no new thought belonging to the Occident, but verily one of the most ancient of the teachings of the esoteric philosophy, of the ancient wisdom-religion of humanity.
Its meaning is this, that within each one of you is a divine being, a living god, prevented from manifesting its transcendent powers only by the cramping bonds of our personal selfhood — our prejudices, our whims, our small petty hates and loves; and that when a man can conquer these lower things — conquer them in the sense of making them servants of the god within, fit instruments and tools for self-expression — then you will see man walking the earth as a human god, because manifesting the transcendent powers of the god within him, of the immanent Christ, of the inner Buddha, as the Buddhists put it.
This last is the phrase that I love, because it is so much more expressive than the Occidental phrase, the immanent Christ, simply because this Occidental phrase is so colored with medieval theological thought and conceptions of various kinds. The thing is the same, the idea is the same, but I prefer the phrase which best expresses the truth.
Now, why cannot each one of us on at least one day in the year let this inner god of us show itself, manifest even though poorly? Oh, what a heaven the earth would be if we could do that daily! Could we do it, then we would bring about the resurrection of the Christ-spirit within the tomb of the body, or rather of the personal self.
This is not religion merely. There is a deeply scientific aspect about it, a highly philosophical background to this. All evolution is but the ever larger and greater self-expression of this inner divinity; and the physical body follows suit. As these inner powers and energies and faculties become more and more liberated and freed in the human soul, in the human mind and soul, the body follows suit slavishly and becomes ever nobler and more beautiful, ever more fit to express what is within. Can evolution bring forth something which is not within the evolving entity? Of course not. Evolution merely brings out what is within. It cannot bring forth something which is not within. The evolving entity, in other words, can manifest only itself — its nobler self, the self within, the locked-up part.
Just pursue that thought more and more in the realms of your higher mind and imagination and you will readily see that when the transcendent powers of the inner god come forth and manifest — as they will in all the human race in the far-distant future — even in our time, when that happens you have a Christ walking the earth, teaching his fellow men the same old doctrines of the wisdom-religion of antiquity — nature's truth; or you have a Buddha; or you have one of the great sages and seers, who stand in the annals of human history like flaming fires guiding their fellow men ever onwards and upwards. Let the Christ come forth! Resurrect the Christ within you!
If I had time this afternoon to give you the full theosophical interpretation of the actual and original meaning of Easter and the Easter festival, you would find it truly fascinating!
There is a great truth in the Easter doctrine and in the Easter idea. It is a truth regarding the mysteries of initiation. The ancients had their initiation ceremonies, and the fruits of the initiation chamber were these great men who came forth and founded this great religion or that, this great philosophy or that — men who swayed the destinies of empires, because they swayed human hearts and human minds. They were men of power because highly evolved men.
Easter was one such initiation period, just as the period of the winter solstice was, just as the period of the summer solstice was, just as the period of the autumnal equinox was; and the initiation period of Easter, of the spring equinox, was that one in which a man — a great man — after training, after discipline, left his personality behind, dropped it as a garment faded and soiled and cast aside, rose from the tomb of the personal selfhood into spiritual impersonality, became one with his own inner god or "ascended to heaven," as the mystical expression went — became more than man, because he then became a god-man or a man-god.
Three days were required on the average for this initiation. The aspirant, already far advanced along the initiatory path, was taken into the initiation chamber, laid on a couch of cruciform figure — shaped like a cross -— not nailed, not bound, but he lay in a trance while the inner part of him went down into the Underworld, and then took on the wings of his own spirit a journey to the portals of the sun, and therefrom came back glorified, and rose from the cruciform couch a savior of his fellow men, utterly impersonal, manifesting the powers of the god within him — a Buddha, a Christ!
Oh! what a pity that the religion of that great-hearted and noble-minded Syrian sage, Jesus, lost the explanation of the meaning of these things, so that in aftertimes men sincerely and honestly took the mere words of the story, instead of realizing that they were mystical sayings, descriptive by metaphor of what took place in the initiation chamber!
Jesus was only one of the great sages and seers who have taught the human race. He taught nothing new. Had he taught something new, then he would have been open to the charge of founding a religion of his own in the sense of gaining a mere following. He taught Truth which is old as the universe, and yet ever new to the hearts of each new generation of men.
There is one truth in the universe, which, when expressed in human language, is a formulation in philosophical phraseology of the structure, operations, principles, laws, of the cosmos; and it is this same truth which all the great sages and seers of the world have ever taught, in different languages, under different forms, in different times; but in all cases it remains the same fundamental system of reality — of real things.
If you examine the heart-meaning, the heart-doctrine, as contrasted with the eye-doctrine — the rites and ceremonies and so forth: if you look to the heart-doctrine, which is the fundamental meaning of every one of the great world religions and world philosophies, you will find this same fundamental truth there — the same teachings, the same thoughts, and the same invigorating call: Come up higher! Come out of the mire. Be men. Be more than men. Be the god within you.
The whole system of philosophical and scientific teachings regarding nature lies in that background; and this system we today call theosophy. It is not ours, it is also yours. We are not Theosophists because we have invented something, or found something. We are theosophists because we believe in theosophy and follow its teachings. We have studied; we have examined. We have not anything new to present to you. Our teachings are as old as thinking man. There is not a single new thing in the theosophical system. If there were, I, for one, would scan it narrowly. I would feel like saying, as has been said before, that what is new in any religion is not true, and that what is true is not new. Truth is old as the ages.
I am supposed to answer questions this afternoon. I have quite a bunch of them here, and in this connection I have received three or four urgent requests asking me to answer certain questions this afternoon without fail. I do not know that I shall be able to do so in all cases. Some of these questions are not altogether of a type which some of you, brought up in Christian churches, might think to belong to Eastertide. But is Easter something apart and different from truth? Is it something that we should think about only once in a year, and forget it on the other 364 days? No; because the truth lying at the back of the Easter festival, in other words, the meaning of the Easter festival, is a part of the system of philosophical and scientific and religious thought which is the grand system of which I have spoken to you.
What I want to do is to awaken you. I want to see some resurrections here. I cannot resurrect you. You must resurrect yourselves. Therefore I want to cast a few seeds of thought into your minds, so that these seeds of thought will take root and become spiritual plants, and grow, and finally split the hard and stony lower selfhood so that the life in the new spiritual plant will wax great within your souls; and then one day you will realize the truth and will exclaim to yourself: My God! That thought and I are one!
Here is the first question, or rather the question first in order:
How does theosophy account for the appearance of groups of men of genius at various historical periods? For example, the poetical geniuses of the Elizabethan period — Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spenser, Raleigh, etc. — or the brilliant array of scientific men in our own time in almost every country of the world. It seems as if mankind developed now one side, now another, of the marvelous powers and faculties inherent in its nature. Perhaps your answer would also throw some light upon the much-debated question of what constitutes genius.
It is quite true. There are certain periods in the history of the human race, as its annals show, when constellations of human genius appear, produce what they came to bring, produce it forth, and leave it as an heirloom for following generations. Look at the marvelous luminaries of the Periclean period in Greece, and of the three or four hundred years that followed. Such a constellation of human genius the Occidental world has possibly never elsewhere seen. The works of those great Greeks are studied today in the universities of every civilized country — studied and analyzed; books are written about them; men strive to understand them. These men remain in thought as the exemplars, as patterns, for later generations to follow. Dead languages are studied industriously in order that the inner meaning of what those great men have taught may be better understood.
Why is it that these constellations appear? And why is it that there are periods, not only in the history of any one individual race, but in that of the world apparently — periods of spiritual barrenness as Plato put it, in which nothing of value seems to be produced at all, when men live more or less in the physical selfhood, run therein little rounds, run circles around themselves so to say, but bring forth nothing of outstanding value?
Our theosophical teaching with regard to this problem is simple enough. A race is like a man in this respect. The man has years in which his mind and heart are productive, bring forth from within what is there, in as large a measure as the man may express it, and after that his powers seem to fade, his faculties seem to die, and he subsides into what someone has humorously called "innocuous desuetude."
A race usually brings forth its best at the culmination of its own racial power. Then the great men appear; and you will also note, if you study carefully, that just about the same time appear the seeds of the new race which is to follow that race in history.
Men in the Occident have lost the key to understanding themselves. They think that they get things of value from without themselves. But occasionally a man lives who brings forth something of outstanding value from within himself, and thus becomes a living proof of our statement that everything of value comes forth from within. You will never educate a man to be a genius. You can never instruct a man to be a Christ; you can never train a man to be a Buddha. It is all development from within. Did I not tell you a moment agone that everything of value that the human race produces comes from within, from the faculties and powers of the inner god thus manifesting themselves? Does any one of you think perhaps that this is a subtle appeal to your personal vanity? You will never be a genius if you think that. Vanity is its own retributive punishment. Selfishness digs its own grave. It is impersonality, it is impersonal love, it is all the great and surpassing qualities which the human soul brings forth, which produce the works of genius.
How can you succeed in doing anything successfully which you do not love? Therefore I tell you: Love spiritual beauty, love love, love brotherhood — the common feeling of our human kinship; and it is but a slight step farther to realize that we are kin with the gods immortal whose children we actually are. Then when you get that feeling, your whole being is fired. You cannot contain the flow of inspiration within you. Out it comes; and in proportion as you become a mediator, a channel for manifesting the powers of your own god within, will you yourself produce works of greatness. Resurrect out of the tomb of your own lower selfhood the Christ within you.
And genius — what is genius? Genius is just what I have told you: the efflorescence, the flowering, of what the man is within, in his higher nature. And do you know, friends — and I am going to talk to you plainly — you people of the Occident are breeding up, at the present moment, a teaching in your midst which if not speedily cast into the limbo of forgotten superstitions will produce a race of degenerates and imbeciles, a teaching which tells you: Come down here, wallow with the beasts in the mud. And the reason is that you have forgotten the call of the god within you.
There are men abroad today, doubtless good and sincere men after their fashion, but spiritually ignorant and unwise, who say that all the outstanding marks of the striving of the human spirit towards genius are the proofs of the working in men of misunderstood and repressed bestial desire. This is a teaching of hell — of the hell of the beastliness in human nature which, alas, unfortunately does exist. Any one of you who believes that his love for country, his love for truth, his love for beauty, his love for honor, his love for justice, his admiration for pity and compassion, his love for altruistic and impersonal service, and other things like these, are the fruits of repressed sexual desires is in a parlous and pitiful mental condition.
You men have even forgotten, you of the Occident, that you are the expression of an inner divinity, in obeying whose call you have genius at your command; perhaps not immediately, for nothing grows to perfection overnight. You gain it step by step, but you earn what you gain. That is nature's law. But which of the twain do you prefer: To be children of the gods as you actually are, to recognize the godlike faculties within you — or to listen to the call of the pit? I mean every word of this. I think that the teachings to which I here briefly allude are beastly — beastly and untrue.
Show me any repressed animal desire which has ever eventuated in the colossal geniuses of the world, in the great and outstanding works of human-spiritual productivity. The two things hang not together. They used to say that the Athenians of old were always searching for some new thing; and those who said this doubtless likewise had the thought in the back of their mind: How foolish! We are not like that. Aren't you? You of our own beloved United States especially, hanker and hunger after every new thing that the newspapers talk about, or that appears, or is heard of, on the lecture platforms of your universities. You read some new thing in a book; and perforce to you it is therefore true! Is it? I say it is not necessarily true. In practically every instance it is some man's opinion based on some popular fad whether in science, religion, or philosophy.
A theosophist acknowledges no truth except nature's own operations; and when a man tells me, no matter how sincere he is — this sincerity matters not at all, for it merely relieves him of the charge of intentional evildoing — when a man tells me that all the noble aspirations of my heart and all the finest and most impersonal thoughts of my mind are merely the results of repressed desires, I think he is mad. He evidently has never experienced what I have, nor does he know what I know.
Do you think that the actions of a dirty little boy or of a dirty little girl will eventuate in developing a Christ? Will produce a sublime Buddha? Will bring forth a Plato, an Apollonius of Tyana, a Pythagoras, a Lao-tse, a Confucius, a Sankaracharya, and all the starry host of human genius which the world has known? Think! If you are human beings, as you are, blessed with judgment, discrimination, thought — then think for yourselves.
Here is a question of quite a different kind.
If my memory does not fail, you made the statement once in your wonderful Questions We All Ask that the cell is universally alike: the same in a sequoia, in the algae, in the mountain, and in the human being. On the other hand, Mr. Judge in The Ocean of Theosophy tells us that the cell is a mere phantom, made by the "fiery lives" as temporal structures, like bricks in a building, forming and unforming in the course of the cyclic laws governing the activities of the "fiery lives." Is the cell a creature or a structure — the thing itself, or a mere ephemeral habitation?
In the first place, I do not think that I spoke of a cell. I think that the words I used were atom and molecule; but the statement then made I now repeat. There is no difference between the chemical elements of your body and the chemical elements forming the substance of the rocks of some noble hill. Your own flesh, the flesh of the ox, or the physical fabric of some beautiful flower, or the wood of the platform on which I stand, so far as chemical elements go, are all one. Yet one is a flower, and one is wood; one is an ox, and one is a man. Yet what a difference there is between the ox and the man or the man and the wood, formed of the same chemical elements; all such entities are at once structures and creatures — things in themselves and yet mere ephemeral habitations of the indwelling individuality.
So it is with a cell also. It is both a structure as man's physical body is, and an entity as man's physical body is. Physiologically speaking, your physical body is an entity. Structurally speaking, it is a structure, housing something nobler than himself, a house, a "bone-house," as the old Anglo-Saxons put it, a house of flesh — such is the human body. So is the body of the ox, so is the noble sequoia, so is the mountain, so is the vast sea or anything else.
The atoms and the molecules, insofar as the chemical elements go, are the same in all beings more or less. And all cells are more or less formed of the same fundamental chemical atoms. Every cell therefore is both structure and entity, a thing-in-itself and an ephemeral habitation, just as the human physical body is composed of myriads of cells. The physical body is an entity as a physical man. It is a structure when you consider that it is composed of molecules and atoms: a structure which houses the god within, working through your mind — what is popularly called the soul, that wonderful mystery which thinks, which feels, which acts with will.
Never mind the name you give to this inner entity. Never mind what you call it. Never mind where it is, whether within or above. Exactness in these matters pertains to our more profound theosophical doctrines. But whatever you may call it, and wherever you may place this wonderful entity, within or above, it is the real man.
When you once catch the idea that there are more subtle planes of existence than this physical world, then the dispute about the soul stops, as Ralph Waldo Emerson truly says, because you know. Therefore I say to you: Examine yourselves. Think. Think! Think and feel; and that is what few people in the Occident really ever do.
I have heard theosophists say that, in their opinion, Jesus called the Christ did not suffer death by crucifixion, as related in the New Testament story. Someone by the name of Jesus, they say, may very likely have been crucified at the time described, but not Jesus Christ the avatara.
Does the reason for this assumption lie in the fact of Christ's avataraship, and that the overshadowing or inhabiting spiritual being or god would be able, through his divinely developed powers, to ward off danger and prevent violence being done to the body it inhabited?
Are there any instances on record or in myth of one of the higher spiritual Teachers (Avataras of Buddhas) having met death (to the body) by violence?
What a complexity of questions are here! I cannot tell you what other theosophists may teach or think about Jesus. I can tell you what I think and what I have taught. I am not the keeper of the consciences, as Leader of The Theosophical Society, of members of The Theosophical Society. They believe as they please. Nevertheless as a teacher I have my duty to do in the world. I have a message to bring to my fellow man; and the following is what I have taught about the Christ story, the Jesus story.
A man, call him a Jew if you like — it does not matter at all — who was later known by the name of Jesus, and still later known by the name of Jesus the Christ, lived in Palestine, lived and taught there. He was one of the great sages and seers. He was one whom theosophists call an avatara, that is to say a manifestation, as a man, of a divine being — the divine being within, if you like — more or less fully expressing itself, and therefore, to use popular language, such a man is what human beings call a god-man. He was one who followed all the esoteric teaching of his time in his youth; he was initiated in the Mystery schools of Syria, of the Hither East, in his early manhood. He was one who was laid on the cruciform couch of which I have spoken to you, and who successfully passed the dread test; and after three days he rose from the ones "who were dead," which is the real meaning of the phrase "from the dead" — not from death — as a Christ, just as I have already briefly explained it to you this afternoon.
The Christ within him was then manifest. This last and supreme initiation brought forth the inner god, so that he taught his fellow man as one having authority, because he spoke from the fountain of truth welling up within himself. Do you know what that fountain of truth is? It is the path of the spiritual selfhood, which is your link with the universe: that path leading ever more and more inwards, more and more, inwards and inwards, until the very heart of the universe is realized to be one with yourself.
Every human being in his spiritual nature is an inseparable part of the universe, its child: so to say bone of its bone, and flesh of its flesh, blood of its blood, life of its life. How can it be otherwise? You cannot live outside of the universe. You are a part of it. And this is what the ancient sages of Hindustan taught, when they spoke of the atman or spiritual-divine self. They said: Atmanam atmana pasya. They said: "See the Self by means of the self;" that is to say, understand divinity by and through the divinity within you; for there is no other way of understanding divinity than through your own divine part. Does the swine understand the man his keeper? No, because the swine has not reached humanhood. But man understands man; and man by means of the god within can understand divinity by the same rule. Greatness recognizes greatness. Genius responds to the call of genius. Divinity recognizes divinity.
Oh, I tell you, once you have followed this inner path, this spiritual selfhood, to your own divine essence, and then grow to realize that your nature is of the very fabric of the universe, then you will feel that all things are yours because they are you. Infinity and eternity are but words; but within, you will have the actual realization of your oneness with the frontierless, boundless All, in frontierless boundless duration.
No, this sage, this Syrian seer, was not crucified, literally and physically. A crucified god is an anomaly in human thought. But a crucified neophyte or aspirant: yes, in the sense in which I have tried to set the matter forth. And there is such a thing as a mystical use of the term crucifixion: a man may be crucified on the cross of his own mean and ugly lower selfhood, crucified by his own passions, torn and rent instead of standing like a man, free, a free man. That is a very real and yet mystical crucifixion; and when you know somewhat of the inner Christ, you shall attain freedom; and all the boundless universe shall be your playground, not merely in thought, not merely in imagination, not by sitting in your armchair or lying on your couch and thinking that it is so and so, but by actual experience; for I tell you that a man can loosen his spirit and go forth with it even to and passing beyond the portals of the sun.
I have never heard of an avatara of a Buddha having been done to death by violence. Do not forget, however, that the ancient Mysteries were guarded with extreme care, and that when any reference was made to them — the penalties for betrayal of the secrets of initiation being extremely severe — any reference to them was made in trope, by metaphor, by figure of speech, by fairy tale, by myths, by a story. Nothing was so disguised that another initiate could not read it. The truth was said there, but only those who had the key to this mystic language could understand it. To those who had not this key the reference or the recital seemed to be a mere myth or strange legend. Do you see what I mean?
"Crucified, dead, buried, rose from the dead on the third day, and ascended to his Father in Heaven." Every word of this recital is taken literatim, literally, from the language of the initiation chamber. It is an example of the use of the mystical tongue to which I have alluded. Study theosophy, and then you will understand these things better.
Why was deep humility the outstanding quality of the great teachers of the past? Was it more effective than pomp?
I am not fond of humble people. I am always a little afraid of them, a little suspicious. A man comes to me and is so awfully humble that he nearly crawls like a worm — I grow fidgety. He makes me feel thus. I want to walk away from him. How much better acts a man who will come to me and speak the truth boldly — say what is on his mind, what is on his heart, openly, like a man; and no matter what my own reaction is, no matter whether I agree or disagree with him, I can respect him, simply because such a man acts like a man and thinks like a man — but these humble people, wow!
I think that this kind friend should have used the word "impersonality" instead of humility. I think impersonality is really what is meant in this question. Every great seer and sage is marked, above everything else, by lofty impersonality. He thinks of himself the last, of others the first. His views of things are impersonal, and are therefore true, and are therefore unbiased, unswayed and unaffected by the personal equation. His mind, because of his impersonality, is so clear and keen that it is like the smooth mountain tarn reflecting every ray from the stars above.
He is so because he is impersonal; whereas the personal man is always so frenzied and fretted with his worries and troubles and his trials and his wants and his hates and his loves, and this and that and the other thing, that his mind is in a perfect frenzy and fever all the time; and how can truth enter into such a mind?
That is the main trouble of us ordinary men. We live a frenzied personal life almost all the time, and we actually pride ourselves upon it. We don't know what peace is, what impersonality is; we do not know where wisdom lies. Nevertheless men do know in some parts of the world; and theosophists are taught to be impersonal, however poorly we may succeed in being it. We are taught to strive to be impersonal, which does not mean to be 'humble.' I suppose the ordinary mythological legends about the humble Jesus, and so forth, have so stultified the minds of the Occident that they probably think that every spiritually-minded being must go through life acting like a worm or a rabbit. No, friends, that is not my ideal. Give me a man, an upstanding man! Indeed, even if you examine the Christ story of the Christian New Testament, you will find that Jesus was fully a man. How about the temple and the money-changers, and the lash? How about his interview, according to the story, with Pontius Pilate? There was a man indeed. Nothing humble about him there. Nothing of the Uriah Heep stuff!
Look at the Buddha, the very incarnation of wisdom and love, in whose name has never a drop of human blood been shed. He has brought hope and comfort to more human hearts than any other one of the great sages and seers of the human race in recorded history. He was a man, a man among men. Compassion and love were his dominating characteristics, and wisdom. Nothing "humble" about him. But he was impersonal to the highest degree.
A Mason asked: Have you initiation here?
My answer is, Yes.
A judge asked: Do you believe in the resurrection of the body? I do not — he added.
Nor do we theosophists, in the Christian sense of the word. And yet, when you realize that the very atoms of your body do not come to you by chance, that they are the same atoms which you used in your last incarnation on earth, then you quickly see that there is a resurrection of the physical man in that sense of the word: i. e., that when you return to earth in the next reincarnation, the atoms in which you live in this present body, will automatically fly to that new body, will be psychomagnetically drawn to you, for they are your physical, astral, and ethereal children.
But the resurrection of the body in the Christian idea, theosophists do not believe in. Nor do I think that Christians believe in it any more. I have not heard of that doctrine being preached for quite a long number of years. I hope they don't preach it, because I am afraid they may be disappointed.
A gentleman asked: What is the significance of the word "Isis" in the title Isis Unveiled?
The significance of the word Isis in the title of this book is the Great Mother of us all, universal nature. Isis Unveiled means the unveiling of nature's structure, operations, constitution, origin, and destiny. Isis Unveiled, therefore, construed properly, means an unveiling of esoteric truth. Isis of course, as you know, was one of the goddesses of the ancient Egyptians. But that is not here nor is it there, in the answer to this question.
A lady asked: Do you believe in healing by your prayers? When you are sick, what do you do?
I go to a doctor, or the doctor comes to me, which is about the same thing. I am not overfond of doctors either; but I do not try to heal myself by lip-prayer. There is a whole philosophy in that indeed. I have little respect for those people who think that they can do what they like, and then heal themselves by praying to be well again. I can understand their human ideas about it all. I have sympathy for them as unfortunate human beings; but I have no sympathy for the idea. I feel like saying to them: Go, and sin no more; and after a while your sins — that is your troubles, your diseases — will be "forgiven," which means that they will have worked themselves out; and your sinning no more means that they will not recur.
Now theosophists do not pray, if that means going down on your marrowbones and putting up your hands, and telling Somebody what you think you ought to get. What an idea such simple-minded people must have of that Somebody! Does he know his business or does he not? Theosophists do not pray in that sense of the word; and yet I tell you, friends, that a Theosophist prays in another sense of the word; and his whole life, if he be sincere, is one long prayer.
Prayer with theosophists is aspiration; it is a constant raising of ourselves from day to day, trying each day to go a little higher towards the god within. This means harmony, inner harmony which means peace. Therefore, having harmony and peace within you, in your mind, in your heart, that state of mind and heart will reflect itself in your physical body, and your body will function harmoniously, which means that it will function in health.
A gentleman asked: Do theosophists cast horoscopes or believe in the practice of astrology?
Now, there it is again! Trying to make me responsible for what all theosophists believe and do! I am not a Jesus. I don't want people's thought and sins and virtues to be cast on my shoulders. I am carrying enough of my own — and besides this, nature does not permit transference of karmic consequences to some other person. If that were possible, nature would be in a constant state of jangle and chaos.
I don't know and I don't care what other theosophists honestly think or believe. If they subscribe to the Constitution of The Theosophical Society and live a decent life, they can believe whatever they like, or disbelieve whatever they like. I do not keep the consciences of my F.T.S. — Fellows of The Theosophical Society. If you ask me what I personally believe about this matter, I will gladly tell you: I believe in astrology, but not in that tawdry and tattered remnant which exists in the Occident today, and which is advertised in the newspapers, and by which you can get your horoscope cast for a price. Occidental astrology is just a remnant, tawdry and tattered and soiled, of the ancient Oriental astrological science; and in real astrology, which is the soul of what you Occidentals call astronomy: the higher teachings of astronomy as I understand it: in it I do believe. I think this esoteric astrology is one of the most wonderful parts of the study of nature's laws and structure and operations; and our theosophical teachings set forth that the universe is one vast organism, that every part, every entity, is interlocked and interlinked and interblended with every other part and with every other entity; and that such a thing as an absolute separation of part from part, or of entity from entity, or of the destiny of one from the destiny of others, or of the origin of one from the origin of all others, is a natural impossibility.
What I have just said is the fundamental basis of spiritual astrology in all its ancient grandeur, and it is a sublime science; it is also a religion; it is also a philosophy: it is these three which in their essence are one but only appear as three distinct fields of thought and of investigation.
But what passes in the Occident today under the name of astrology, as I have already told you, is something that I don't care to have anything to do with, although I do not want to say anything against it that would hurt the feelings of sincere believers in it. I am not a man given to strictures against other peoples' beliefs and feelings; but I do not follow or study Occidental astrology so called. I have no real belief in it, simply because those otherwise honest men and women who advertise the casting of astrological horoscope know very little about real astrology. It is mostly guesswork on their part, and in some few cases is based on a studying of the books of the ancients, all which books were written in a mystical cipher which modern astrological students cannot properly read at all.
An average man asked: My father was cremated. He wanted it. None in our family had been cremated. I feel disturbed. Do you believe in cremation? If so, why?
Yes, I do believe in cremation. I do not see why anybody should feel disturbed because the physical human body is resolved into its chemical elements. That will also happen so in the grave, or if you put the body in quicklime, or do something else to it besides burning it up. People seem to think that when they are alive, because they put a finger in the flame and it hurts, and because the flesh is scorched and burnt, that a similar feeling is going to be experienced by the dead body when it is cremated. Nothing of the kind, and indeed a great deal more than that happens to the dead body. It is simply dissolved into its chemical elements, which are thus separated, freed. It is quick work, as compared with dissolution or decay as it occurs in burial, and it is horrible to think of this last.
Cremation is cleanly, it is sanitary, it is healthful; and esoterically speaking it is a much better thing, because it more quickly releases what theosophists call the astral body — not the human spirit-soul which has already passed to spiritual spheres — which astral body clings to the physical corpse as long as that corpse has any semblance of the life of a human being. And this is not a good state of things to exist.
Cremation is a good thing. I have no time to develop the matter this afternoon, however. If you are interested in the subject, then study our theosophical books.
A lady asked: I wish to know what it is that keeps you together. Can I find it in your literature?
I think you can, in part; but I will tell you briefly what it really is that keeps us together. The thing that binds theosophists so straitly together, inseparably, is the wisdom-religion which we study. It tells us our common origin and our common destiny; it shows to us our utter kinship; it gives to us all the same body of doctrine, the same hopes, the same aspirations, the same explanations of life and being. It is a wonderful system of thought. Consequently we theosophists all have the same heart-feelings and the same beliefs. That is what keeps us together.
I am going to close my lecture this afternoon with answering the question I now hold in my hand. It has a Christian tinge of thought, and I have kept it till the last. It was sent in to me as a quotation from Clemenceau, and I understand that he is the Clemenceau of wartime, who recently died. At any rate, here is the quotation that is ascribed to Clemenceau:
"Our fathers awaited the Messiah. The Messiah is within us. The problem is to set him free."
Question: What would the result be if the Messiah in every human heart was set free?
I will tell you. This is a noble quotation from this man Clemenceau; and its thought is exactly parallel with what I have told you myself this afternoon, and Clemenceau's words show how our theosophical thoughts are permeating the thought-atmosphere of the world. Men are picking these theosophical thoughts out of the air, without knowing where they come from.
The quotation is wholly true. When a man has become cognizant of the god within, has set this god free, so to speak, by giving up the petty personality of ordinary life — the man's own personal selfhood — and thus has broken the bonds fettering and binding the transcendent powers of the god within, then the Messiah, the risen Christ, the savior of each one of you, can manifest its sublime faculties and powers. Listen to the still small voice of the god within.
When every man becomes a Christ risen from the tomb of the lower selfhood, resurrected from manhood into divinity — as all men will be in the future on this earth, in future races — what a heaven human life will be! Think of it! No more wars, no more suffering caused by man upon man, no more striving of man with man; but brotherhood and peace and harmony, and mutual love and pity and compassion will prevail, each man for each other man, and each for all, and all for one.
It is so easy to do this; it could be done today, done tomorrow, if men would only see the ultimate and sublimest truth in human life, which is that each one of you is an incarnate god, a Christ as yet unrisen. Set the Christ free. Resurrect him from the tomb of the lower selfhood.
Vol 1, No 45