Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered May 25, 1930)
CONTENTS: Man's only oracle the voice of his inner god. How to let that voice speak through us. — A way to translate Nature's greatest mysteries. — A spiritual brotherhood of theosophists, not a political federation. Who dare oppose the call of the spirit? — H. P. Blavatsky's centennial. World-convention of theosophists at Point Loma proposed. The real date of H. P. Blavatsky's birth. — The phrase "infinite personal God" a contradiction. — The pathway of evolution beginningless and endless. — Karma the antithesis of predestination. — A shaft at psychological complexes. — The mysteries of memory. — A "continuous John Smith" not desirable. — Past lives recorded in character. — Look to the glorious future! A rousing work to the pessimist. — A messenger from the Brotherhood of the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion.
I like to speak to a crowded hall, because I have something great and fine to tell you; and I think that I shall adopt the suggestion of one of the great sages and seers, of going out into the byways and highways and inviting those whom I meet to come in to the Feast. Theosophists here in Lomaland have a reputation of being very proud, very exclusive, very reserved. It is not so. Do I look proud and exclusive and reserved, as if I didn't want you to come? I am very glad to see you indeed, and I am glad because I have a Mmessage to give to you, a message which is not mine, but his who sent me, the same as was said by Saint John of the Christians: "This teaching is not mine, but his who sent me"; and in my case it is the teaching of the wisdom-religion of mankind, which no body of men originated, which no individual gave birth to, which is not the product of cogitations in the light of the midnight oil, nor of cogitations brought forth after much reading; but is, as I have so often told you, the fruitage of the visioning of great spiritual sages and seers of what takes place behind the veil of the outward seeming; in other words, a formulation in human language of the nature, structure, operations, and laws, of universal nature.
So it is nobody's message in particular, but is yours as well as mine; it is the message of every one who understands something of it, and he is therefore in duty bound to give it to others who know it not. It is not from any modicum of pride, of spiritual pride, that a theosophical lecturer, teacher, writer, will tell you that the message which he is attempting to give to you is not his, but theirs who sent him, who taught him. He simply states the truth.
I have been speaking from this platform for 47weeks last past, on my present subject, and this is the 48th week; and during these weeks I have been answering questions that have been sent in to me — questions of all kinds, on all subjects: questions scientific, philosophical, religious, and whatnot — and I think that I shall speak for two Sundays more on this same subject entitled Questions That We All Ask — that some of us ask at least — and try to give to you the theosophical answers to them, as I see these answers — not in verbis magistri, that is, with the authority of a judge, but with the authority of the Lodge of the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion behind me insofar as I can truly construe and understand and therefore truly give what I myself have received.
We have no infallible oracle in The Theosophical Society, except that inner voice or light which vibrates strong and clear in the soul of every normal man and woman on earth; and the only problem is how to let that voice speak through us and not have it obscured by the workings of our ever active and imperfect brain-minds. There is the problem. It can be done by raising one's inner nature ever higher and more high, until it enters into self-conscious communion with the god within, with what the mystical Christians of modern times call the immanent Christ, and the Buddhists of the Orient call the inner Buddha, and the Brahmanists speak of as the ever-living Brahman, residing in the seven- or nine-gated city within, which the early Christians would have called the temple of the holy spirit.
If men and women only knew, as I tell you again and again, what they have within them: if they only knew the undeveloped and unevolved — largely because unrecognized — powers and faculties that each one of us has within: if men knew this, I repeat, then without any exaggeration I can say that in my judgment all the problems of the world would be solved — problems political, problems social, problems of the family — all problems, of the individual as well as of the race. Then there would be an easy and certain solution of them all, for I tell you that knowledge of the existence and reality of this inner divinity is a pathway to wisdom and peace.
Such wisdom and peace are not brain-mind stuff that is inserted into your mind which you have to accept because some religious or scientific bigwig tells you so to do. Such attainment is a becoming, it is an inner growth; and as you grow, as you become, you see the vision sublime on the mountains of the Mystic East, and you can interpret that vision for your fellow men. That vision is knowledge: certain, sure, not subject to doubt, and when you have it the brain-mind is stilled. Argumentation then ceases, because you know. And how do you know? Because of your being rooted in the universe, children of it, inseparable parts of it; each one of you having this divine being within you, which is the very core of the core of your being, and therefore by joining yourself — your human conscious self — with this god within, you become at one with the spiritual powers of the universe, and can translate into human tongue nature's greatest mysteries. All knowledge is there within you. There also is the seat of intuition; there is the seat of genius; there is the seat of wisdom and of knowledge and of almighty love which knows no barriers of space or time, which overleaps all frontiers and which allies us to the gods immortal who control and govern the universe.
I think that I shall deliver two more lectures on my present subject, Questions We All Ask, and then I shall take up one question on each Sunday and make that the theme of my afternoon's discourse, and endeavor to answer that one question more or less in full, because I realize that answering so many questions on one afternoon makes the present lectures imperfect in fullness of exposition. I have not time to develop any one particular theme.
Furthermore, I want to become better known by theosophists belonging to other Theosophical Societies. I want them to know me and to understand us, in order that there may be peace, peace and the feeling of mutual brotherhood, among us. Lack of knowledge breeds suspicion; lack of understanding breeds hatred. When people understand each other, then disputes largely stop. Such disputes as may arise are superficial, even at the worst.
Do you know what I have in mind? I am dreaming a dream, I see a vision, and that dream, that vision, is a unification of all theosophical hearts, is a uniting, a reuniting, of all theosophists in one common spiritual brotherhood of the world, for only human weaknesses and lack of mutual understanding have kept us apart from uniting under that one single banner of theosophical brotherhood in order to do our common sublime work for mankind. Union is our duty and we shall fail wretchedly unless we achieve it.
Thoughts like these, endeavors like these, ideals such as these, take no account of disputes. Past history is as water that has flowed under the bridge of the present into the ocean of the past, into the ocean of oblivion. Let us look to the future. Let us work together; let us be one. Who dare oppose the call of the spirit? The one who refrains, the one who refuses, the one who steps aside, the one who will not listen and aid, places himself where he belongs, not rightly under our Masters' direction in the Movement for Brotherhood. Let each of the various Theosophical Societies continue, if it so please, along its own path, continue to do its own especial work, continue to do its own labor among men; but let us at least unite on fundamentals and work together for common peace, for brotherhood, and thus help each other in working out our common destiny.
I want to destroy no other society. I want to help them in all things that are good and theosophically true and noble. That is my pledge; and just as I cling to principle with a will that is adamantine, not budging an inch from what I feel and know to be right, so also I recognize that in others this spirit exists; and I know that time, the great solver of all problems, will make all things clear and straight.
I have no fear; I know what we have in The Theosophical Society; I know what my own training has been; and I know somewhat of the difficulties that the other Theosophical Societies have to face and to overcome. In these respects my sympathy goes out to them wholeheartedly. But as long as we look to the difficulties and refrain from looking to the future, we have a veil before our eyes; and we are not doing our duty.
Let us overleap the difficulties; let us rend this blinding veil, and see the light of the immortal spirit streaming from the spiritual heighths. We can do it. That is what I am going to work for; and my invitation is a challenge, and I venture to say that no one who prizes his or her standing in the world of theosophical thought and activity will dare to say Nay when the test comes. My heart is filled with understanding and sympathy, not with reproof.
Do you hear the doves of peace murmuring in our dome? Isn't that beautifully symbolic?
The first question, friends, that I have to answer this afternoon, is the following:
Dear Dr. de Purucker: I hear that your society is taking an active interest in preparing an appropriate celebration of the centennial of H. P. Blavatsky's birth, next year. Being a theosophist, or trying to be one [that is wise!], but not attached to your Society, I am not familiar with what may have been already published by your organization on this subject. As our party is leaving San Diego this week, we would very much appreciate knowing something of your plans, if you are ready to make them public, on Sunday, May 25th, when we expect to be present at your lecture in the Temple of Peace.
It is a little premature to speak of just what our plans are. But I want to take advantage of this question, friends, in regard to one matter which is very important, I believe. Next year is the one hundredth year since the birthday — the hundredth anniversary of the birth — of H. P. Blavatsky, who founded the modern Theosophical Society; and I want to choose this year in order to make it memorable in the annals of the Theosophical Movement — of our own Society and of all other Theosophical Societies also, I hope and pray.
I have an idea that it would be a splendid thing to call a world convention of theosophists of whatever affiliation to meet here at Point Loma in our Greek Theater and in our Temple of Peace, celebrating the anniversary of the birthday of H. P. Blavatsky; and to extend an invitation to all the Theosophical Societies of the world [Applause] to meet on common theosophical grounds of brotherhood and understanding, in an attempt, not merely to come together, to get together as the vernacular has it, but to meet each other and to expose, each to all and all to each, our common problems, and thus to see if we cannot arrive at an understanding which will enable us to work together, and wholly, and fully, and properly, to fulfil our Theosophical duty to the world.
It is shameful that the Theosophical Movement of all movements existing in the world today should be split into factions and sections; it is wrong; and every true theosophist must feel his heart sink with shame if this condition continues. I am pondering deeply over this and I have not yet decided as to the psychological moment when to send out the invitations to the heads of other Theosophical Societies. I think it might be better to wait a few weeks or a few months perhaps, in order that the officials and members of the other Theosophical Societies may understand me better and realize that I am not an agent of destruction trying to undermine their splendid work, but will realize that I ask for their co-operation and actual brotherhood; that I want their help even as I can give them mine; and when I say mine, I speak as the Leader of The Theosophical Society — our help. Surely we can unite on spiritual grounds of brotherhood and thus most wonderfully help each other in mutual theosophical service.
I was asked the other day: Well, your plan is a beautiful one; but does it simply mean that you are trying to undermine the other societies and gather their membership into your membership so as to grow at the expense of others? And I said: Not at all. That is not what I want. I hope that The Theosophical Society, in taking the lead in this movement on spiritual grounds, on grounds of altruistic theosophical principles, will be enabled to gather under its majestic wings the other Theosophical Societies, but not in order to annihilate them, to wipe them out of existence. That runs diametrically contrary to my idea.
But while I realize that this is a beautiful ideal to work towards, as I have said, I recognize the existence of problems in the other Theosophical Societies; and furthermore to destroy those Theosophical Societies is the very last thing I would wish to do. I want to help them to grow, to become strong, especially those Theosophical Societies which have clung more or less closely to the sublime message of theosophy, the message of the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion. But I want to help them all. I want them to grow, I want them to wax strong; in accordance with the vision I have in mind of which I have just spoken, I am working to achieve what I desire from within their own ranks. I have received many sympathetic responses from members of these other societies who tell me in all heartiness of feeling and in all sincerity that they are going to present the matter to their own officials, to lay the matter before these latter and thus see what can be done to help me and themselves also.
Now, that spirit is grand; that is the beautiful, right, proper, theosophic thing to do, and I am grateful. I am working from within these other societies as well as with our own beloved Theosophical Society. I have nothing to hide either in purpose and objective or in motive. I am absolutely sincere and straightforward. I want to help them all, as I have said. But I do not disguise the truth from you. I am looking forwards as our common ideal objective to one Theosophical Society of the world, and if anyone can show me some one else who has more of the truth than I have, I shall recognize my duty and will follow. But on the other hand, I know what I have been trained for, during many long years; I know what I have been sent to do. I know what I have come for; I know what my duty is; but I recognize that our brotherhood, our other theosophic brothers, also have a duty to perform in the world.
The first step, therefore, I hope will be the uniting of all our Theosophical Societies into a common spiritual brotherhood, one in fact and not merely in name, not a mere quasi-political federation. Oh! for heaven's sake, let us avoid mere political forms — and strive to attain one common spiritual brotherhood consisting of these different Theosophical Societies, each society if it so chooses working along its own pathway, the officials of each society remaining at the helm of their respective societies, and the members remaining true to their own respective societies, each one to each one. If I cannot immediately attain the formation of one common Theosophical Society into which all the others shall be gathered, at least I can attain the next best thing, and that is a spiritual brotherhood, a brotherhood of the heart as well as of the mind.
I want, as I have said before, no hypocrites and no traitors in The Theosophical Society. I want helpers, brothers, comrades. The reunion I look for will come! How beautiful a thing it is for men to dwell together in peace and unity!
H. P. Blavatsky was born in Russia on July 31st at about a quarter of two o'clock in the morning of that day — that is, according to the old style of the Julian Calendar; and the reformed or Gregorian Calendar, which prevails today in the countries of the West, was then eleven calendar days ahead of that date. So therefore, the celebration of the anniversary of the birthday of H. P. Blavatsky should be held on August 11th, and I am thinking of this day in 1931 for the opening of our Convention of all theosophists to be assembled here at our International Theosophical Headquarters at Point Loma. I see great hope in this — the one hundredth anniversary of the birthday of the greatest theosophist of modern times: the greatest in one sense, that H. P. Blavatsky was the chosen one sent by the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion into the world to organize and to be the first to conduct the modern Theosophical Movement.
That is one of the things that we shall celebrate at the Centennial next year; but to me it is one of the most important things, and I speak of it now because my heart is full of it.
The next question before me is an odd one, and I don't quite understand it, but nevertheless I think that I grasp the main idea:
Does the general belief in a personal God forecast a merging or imbodiment of universal mind into one divine being to express the intelligence of mind, who will be looked upon as God?
Well, in the first place, I do not think that belief in an infinite personal God is general. It has been general in the West for many centuries, but my studies have not shown me that the idea of an infinite personal God, one infinite, supreme person — what a contradiction in terms! — has been universal at all. On the contrary, the idea is local, belonging to the theology of the Occident only. All the great seers and sages of the great religions and philosophies of ancient times, of the Orient, and of the Mediterranean countries — that is the countries surrounding the European Inland Sea — taught, on the contrary, a supreme god of their pantheon, whether he was called Zeus or Jupiter, or called by some other name; but beyond this supreme deity there was the Boundless and the Inexpressible, that which theosophists call by the generic term parabrahman, or, "beyond Brahman," which is not a single infinite entity, but which is just the contrary: the boundless and frontierless infinitudes the boundless All, filled full with universes like ours, concrete of, compact of, composed of, hierarchies innumerable, interpenetrating, interblending, interlocking, and forming the inexpressible vastness of parabrahman — boundless and frontierless ALL.
At the head of each such hierarchy there is its supreme hierarch, which is the origin of it, and also its ultimate destiny or goal. You may call it a supreme god if you like, but supreme only for its own hierarchy; and the word supreme is merely a human expression. You may say, if you love your Occidental human terms, that this supreme hierarch is a "personal" god; but by using that totally erroneous expression you are painting an imaginary divinity in the colors of your mind, and furthermore express thereby your own smallness of understanding by ascribing to so vastly great and sublime an entity the attributes of humanity.
No, the consensus of the most illuminated religious and philosophical opinion of mankind has always been to the contrary of the existence of an infinite personal god, and is just what I have tried to point out to you in a few words: that the universe is filled full with gods in all degrees of development or evolutionary progress. You may call these divine entities by some other name than gods; call them cosmic spirits if you like; it matters not what the name is because the name signifies nothing much, but try to get the idea and to understand that these gods, these cosmic spirits, exist: each hierarchy of them, each class of them, each range of them, existing in realms or spheres or planes or worlds, appropriate to them and for them, just as we human beings exist in this realm or sphere or plane or world appropriate to us — or rather we humans have bodies appropriate to such plane or world or realm or sphere.
We humans are expressing ourselves — our powers and facilities and energies — on this plane or in this world; and when one speaks, as this thoughtful but I believe not sufficiently thoughtful questioner does, of "an imbodiment of universal mind into one divine being, to express the intelligence of mind, who will be looked upon or regarded as God," does he realize what he is saying? There is an attempt to limit, to make of abstract divinity a being of personal limited character, however great or vast the mind of the questioner may imagine such divinity to be.
On the contrary our teaching is that there are beings innumerable, endless hierarchies of them, endless ranges of them: greatest — and only greatest because we must use some word — intermediate, and least — and only least because we must use some human word in order to convey our idea. Yes, the hierarchies of these beings are endless in number, and for purposes of convenience we speak of them as gods; and oh! how much greater and more sublime this conception is than any other, for it signifies an open pathway of evolution for every evolving entity and thing, and this pathway is beginningless and endless, and exposes to our vision distant horizons which, as we approach them, recede into the farther distance; and thus we understand, begin to have some adumbration of understanding, that growth is endless, that evolution has no frontiers.
This is the third question that I have before me:
What is the relationship (if any) between predestination and karma?
Karma, as of course you know, is one of our theosophical terms. It is a Sanskrit word, which very briefly and adequately expresses what is popularly called the law of cause and effect, and which I more accurately define perhaps, as the law of consequences, to wit, that every thought and action produces a consequence, an effect, which instantly becomes a new cause producing some other effect, and so on forever.
Predestination — as I suppose it is taken to mean in the Occidental theological sense of the word — means something which is foreordained by "Almighty God" to take place, whether those things or entities which themselves are foreordained will it or nill it. It really is a form of Occidental theological fatalism.
Consequently, the answer to the question is: between predestination and karma there is no analogy whatsoever. Karma is founded in the exercise of free will from beginning to end; karma is founded on self-choice, signifying that as ye sow — what ye think now, what ye do now — ye shall reap, for ye are the sowers. The seeds ye sow become your character. You sow a thought: the thought becomes an act; you sow that act, the act becomes a habit; you sow that habit, that habit becomes a character; and in sowing that character, you make for yourself a destiny.
Whereas predestination is quite a different thing. You are created nolens volens according to the theological theory by God Almighty; you are placed by divine power in a certain sphere of life; all that happens to you is foreordained, although you are nevertheless supposed to have free will. How can you exercise that free will? I never could reconcile this perfect contradiction. And furthermore you die when at your creation you were foreordained to die.
I don't mean to be unkind, but this idea of foreordination, or predestination, to me seems to make of human beings simple marionettes on the stage of life, and therefore it is a most hopeless and despairful teaching; but our theosophical doctrine of karma runs wholly to the contrary, and therefore it is a teaching of hope. What ye sow ye shall reap. You have the choice. Sow good seed, and reap good in abundance. Sow evil, and reap unhappiness and pain, bitterness and sorrow. That is our teaching.
Ye are gods, says the Christian scripture, which is also our teaching, for the inmost of the inmost of every one of you is a divine being, as I have already told you this afternoon. You are, in the inmost of the inmost of you, a god; you are children of the higher gods who control and guide the universe. Your nature possesses free will as a part of its essential being.
That is the teaching of karma; it is the exact antithesis of fatalism or predestination; karma or free will is a godlike quality. Pray get the thought clearly. You are the makers of yourselves, you are the makers of your own destiny; you are your own children today. You are now what you have made yourselves to be in the past. You are the eventuation, you are the fruitage, you are the consequences, the results, the effect, of what you have made yourselves to be. Begin now therefore, and make yourself better than now you are, grander, nobler; let the energies, powers, faculties, of the god within you, appear, come out, prevail, and thus will you grow. Be what you are within! That is true evolution, for thus you unfold, unwrap, develop, your inner faculties and powers. Be in actuality in the future what you are even now in your inmost essence — sons of the Sun.
What is the cause of the present great unrest? Is there a new (to us) leaven working? Has every past age hid its period of unrest?
Of course. Why should our age be exceptional? Our age is merely the child of past ages. We are the resultants, the consequences, of what has preceded us. What happens now is merely a copy, therefore, with necessary changes, of what took place in the past. Every age had its beginning, its culmination in glory and in splendor, and then came its decay and fall. And in growth there are always periods of unrest: there is not merely one period of unrest in every racial cycle, but many such periods.
Look at the small periods of unrest that recur constantly, even in social and political affairs: periods of depression some people call them, periods of expansion other people call them. But periods of unrest are times in which more easily to grow; they are times of change. Do you know really what these periods of unrest are? They occur at the points of changing cycles, when the old gives way to the new. There was a great period of unrest at the time of the downfall of the Roman Empire, which lasted for two or three or more hundreds of years; and as every one of you may know by reading Greek and Roman history, you will find therein smaller periods of unrest, and so it is today.
We are at present passing through a period of unrest, simply because cycles are changing. We are leaving the past behind; we see new doors before us, new opportunities are coming, because a new cycle is opening. Let us be on the ascending arc of progress. Do you want to be with your faces turned to the past, with your back to the light? No, look into the future!
My kind friends ask me all sorts of questions. As I have said before, I sometimes feel as if I were a perambulating encyclopedia.
The next question is an example of one of quite a different type:
Psychologists claim that the memory of the past is the only way we can bridge over the gaps in consciousness caused by sleep and prove to ourselves that we are continuing entities. As the ordinary man recollects nothing of any existence previous to this terrestrial life, does not this failure of memory strongly militate against the doctrine of reincarnation?
Why? Why? Have you a strong memory? Will you then please tell me all that you did yesterday? What did you do on the 6th of January ten years ago? Do you remember it? You don't. Well then, you did not live on the 6th of January ten years ago, if you follow this foolish argument. There you are! This idea, that because you do not remember things, you then were not alive, is obviously foolish. Why don't these psychologists think a little bit more, and theorize a little less! I have very little patience with these psychologists, I tell you frankly. I have found their theory out, and I mean this too!
In these days you can work wonders with this word psychology. Whenever you don't know what an answer to a condition is, you can say that it is a psychological complex, and then people will think that you have said a whole mouthful! Well, but have you? Have you said anything of value at all? Now, please answer me. I don't want to be unkind to anybody, but I crave an answer to this question. Do you understand your problem a bit better merely by calling it a psychological complex? I think that the man who reasons like that indeed has or is afflicted with a psychological complex!
But furthermore, how about the very frequent cases of amnesia? I was reading in this morning's paper — I think it was in this morning's paper — about a man who could not remember who he was. He was reported as passing his time in muttering a couple of names, and the police of New York were trying to trace who he was and where he came from. Well, according to this idea of lack of recollection that the question imbodies, this man does not exist, because he does not remember himself.
Memory has many mysteries. We constantly forget. Because we forget things, are we therefore to understand that those things did not exist, or that we did not exist when they happened, or that they did not happen? To me this argument of lack of memory is positively foolish. I don't believe any one of you remembers what you did on the 6th of January last, five months ago. I do not. If something happened on that 6th of January which hurt me or which overjoyed me so that it burnt itself into my mind, doubtless I could remember. Had it been something most unusual which stirred the very fabric of my being then doubtless I would now remember it. In such case memory of the event is so strongly impressed on the tablets of the physical brain-mind that recollection is easy.
"Continuing entities"! Now, there is what is to me another foolish remark. People think that they want to be continuing entities forever the same. They think that this means to be always conscious as now they are conscious. Well, just pause and think a little bit about this. Do not so easily take things for granted that you hear as being true, or because the psychologists talk to you in long and awkward words, and you are thereby impressed to think that they mean something. Continuing entities! The idea is but a repetition of the old Christian theological idea, or doctrine, of an immortal soul which is never going to change essentially. John Smith dies, and John Smith remains forever John Smith. Immortal gods! I don't want to be a continuous John Smith; I want to grow to be something greater and nobler, which means to change and therefore not be a continuing entity.
Continuing entities! In other words, this means that a man at twenty-five years, or thirty-five years, or forty-five years, wants to be forever just as he then is; he wants to be a continuing entity, always the same, perhaps knowing a little more, but forgetting it. I don't want to be a 'continuing entity' in that sense of the word. I want to grow, to find my consciousness change, to find it expanding, so that in the aeons of the future my consciousness will from being personal become divine, will in fact be divine, therefore cosmic, embracing the universe in its sweep. As a man, I cannot be that, and hence I cannot forever be a continuing human entity. Do I want to be forever a continuing man, as I am now, all the time, with my feeble faculties? How absurd! Pray think, think a little about this!
You see the stupidity of these psychological arguments. Because we cannot remember what happened some time ago, and as memory is the only "proof" that we have of being a "continuing entity," therefore because we don't remember, we are not continuing entities, and we did not exist before. Marvelous! How can you remember your past lives, when you cannot remember the past part even of today? You have not the same physical brain now, nor the same physical body, that you had in your last life. You have changed; you have grown. You are not the 'continuing entity' of the last life, the John Smith or Mary Brown that then was. You become better always because you evolve. I hope so, at least! I am sorry for you if you are not growing, and if you are growing then you are not a continuing entity, which means fixture in a certain condition of consciousness and with certain personal attributes.
I am now going to say something that offhand may sound contradictory to you, and yet it is the holy truth. You do actually and indeed remember your past lives. And do you know how? Because you are yourself! You remember it all as character, as the stream of consciousness that is yours. That remark is not so terribly abstract. All your hopes and aspirations are actually recollections of the hopes and aspirations of the former life and of your former lives. Your character is but the present consequence or product or result of that former life and of those former lives. You pass from life to life, not as a physical body, not as carrying with you all the incidents that happened to you, and which you forget an hour afterwards, but you pass from life to life as a character; changing, growing, expanding, and not two consecutive seconds of time the same; and therefore you are not a "continuing entity"; and thank the gods immortal that it is so.
Think! How many perfectly horrible things has not each one of you done in the past? Do you want to be a continuing entity in those things? Nature is more merciful than man even wants her to be. Before each reincarnation, the reincarnating ego drinks of the River of Lethe, of the River of Forgetfulness. What a horrible thing, what a nightmare and mental and spiritual torture, it would be if we could remember our past lives and realize the horrors of all kinds that we then did and then suffered! Consider this thought. Even in your present life — and the very fact that you are in a theosophical auditorium shows that you are a superior kind of people — even in your present lives, as superior men, and superior women of course, would you like to have the perpetually burnt-in realization always present before your vision of what you have done in the past? You can bless your almighty stars that it is not so! Have you ever thought of the ghastly record that must be in the past of most people in former states of interior evolution to that which they are in now?
No, I for one turn my back on the past. I look to the future. I look to the rising sun; I look to growth; I want to become greater than now I am, and I am growing; but the past has made me my present character, and I know myself to have been in the past the original of all that I am now. Recollection is stamped and engraved upon the fabric of your being, as your present character. That is where memory inheres; and how often has it not happened, surely at least once to all of you, to me it has happened many times: sometimes you may pass a street corner, or walk under a tree, or see a face, or enter a room, or hear a clock strike, or see a cloud passing over the face of the moon: I know not how, I know not why, but instantly recognition comes with the feeling "this has happened before! 'I feel the skirts of familiar things trailing at my side,' " — as the poet Whittier, I believe, phrases it.
Recollection, remembrance, memory! Yes, you remember everything of the past because it is stamped in your character. And I will finish this question by turning to a phase of it that I have not hitherto desired to touch upon; but in order to complete my answer, I now speak of it. There will come a time in your evolutionary growth when you will consciously remember the past. You won't be able to avoid it. As the tree grows from the seed, does it not pass through all its phases? Is not every one of them stamped into the very fabric, shape, and substance of that growing tree? So also is your character builded. Everything that you have thought, every emotion that you have had, every impulse of your soul, laid its mark indelibly on the fabric of your constitution; and one day in the far distant future, when growth shall have opened your inner eyes and the scales of blindness shall have fallen away from your vision, then you will see; and I can tell you that nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand you will turn your faces from the picture, preferring to look into the future where there is greater hope and a more glorious outlook, and forget what will then be to you the sad and often sorry pictures of the past.
Do you now see the idea? To say that because you don't remember a thing, therefore this lack of remembrance is a proof against our doctrine of reincarnation, is simply saying a thing which is stupid because it is untrue.
How far reaches the power of our thoughts? When we have lost a person who is very dear to us, and we think of him with all our love, will our thoughts reach him after his death? And when he is far away, would it help a person when we send helpful and loving thoughts to him?
Yes, indeed. Love knows no barriers either of space or of time, for it is the very cement of the universe, which holds things together, and therefore is nature's fundamental activity, nature's fundamental law, and it is the universal bond of union among all things. Love is all-penetrating. It will not only eat away the obstinacy of the stoniest of human hearts, and dissolve the substance of the most adamantine of human minds, but it will slowly infuse its life-giving warmth everywhere. Nothing can bar its passage, for it is the very life-essence of the universe, and no one, however proud in his own vanity he may be, is proof against the working of almighty love.
Love, impersonal love, will reach even the dead, that is to say the nobler part of those who have passed on, and will help them in the sense of comforting them. It will surround them with a bulwark; it will give them peace. Love is protective; love is puissant; it is all-penetrating; and the more impersonal it is, the higher it is and the more powerful.
I will answer two more questions. The first is in the nature of a communication. I think it is a criticism, and therefore I take pleasure in reading it to you:
Dear Sir: I have attended your lectures on several occasions, and am indebted to you for your thoughtful exposition of many aspects of life. May I summarize my general impressions and ask your comment on the result?
When I consider the forceful efforts you make to modify the minds of your audiences, and (am I not right?) the general consciousness of a still wider audience of human mentality upon which your earnest thought must impinge, I confess to a sense of the futility of your effort.
The very facts which you advance undermine the hopes you have of improving the status of humanity. The many outstanding figures of history of whom you speak — Lao-tse, Gautama the Buddha, Apollonius of Tyana, Jesus the Syrian age, and the others — are so vastly above the average of humanity that they dwarf the rank and file into a hopeless mediocrity.
Would you maintain that these great ones were ever of the ordinary human type? I cannot avoid the feeling that we average mortals are of a fixed type, possibly due after long, long aeons of evolution to blossom into something different, but at present just human, plain human, mediocrity, made to look the more sadly deficient by the presence amongst us at times of godlike beings, from what source I know not.
You speak of a process of initiation through which men may join the ranks of these great ones. I do not presume to criticize what I do not understand; but even if it is possible, by great effort, for one of the average human type to be transformed into a higher type, then I still question whether a change in the general status has been accomplished.
Personally, I like my kind — I like to like people, and I like them to like me — but the sense of our general lack — a deficiency, a futility — presses at times very heavily, and is only accentuated by the bright pictures you paint, without, so far as I can see, giving a definite means of making some radical change.
Hoping I have not been obscure in my thought, I remain — Yours, etc.
Here is a man trying to make a pessimist out of me! He thinks that because I preach a gospel of hope and joy and peace and brotherhood, everybody is so wholly and completely mediocre that there is no hope for anybody becoming greater than before. Well, look at me; look at yourself! In surveying us thus, you will find your whole answer there. "Man, know thyself," said the ancient Greek oracle, for in so doing, he comes to know the boundless universe, for he is rooted in it, its child, and everything in that universe is in him, active or dormant as the case may be.
Those great ones whom I have so often held up in picture to you, I have held up to you as examples of what you may become yourselves if you will, and this is done by developing the god within you. That is all there is to say about it.
It would be horrible, unspeakably awful, if I were to say that it is nature's truth that you are just helpless worms of the dust, destined to perish, and all of you to perish everlastingly when you die, and that there is nothing in the future for you except utter and complete annihilation of you as spiritual entities. This is the grotesque doctrine of extreme materialism; and what hope on earth would that nightmare of thought give to you?
But I tell you that the core of the core of every one of you is a divine being, is a god, and you manifest its transcendent powers, although ill, although poorly; and my message to you on every Sunday afternoon is to be as much as you can in your present state that god within. Let its divine powers come out and thus you as human beings will grow and expand in both wisdom and knowledge of life. My urge to you is to do it now, to begin now. I show you a pathway of evolutionary growth, and I tell you of a gospel of hope — of hope everlasting, of growth infinite, beginningless and without an end forever.
You are, each one of you, in the core of the core of your being, divine; a divine entity is the source of all your inner faculties. Evolution brings these faculties out; and oh! how I pity the man or woman whose mind is so stilted in the petty lessons of earth that it has learned, and whose heart is so enfolded within the cramping bonds of egoism, that it cannot even feel the truth which its own divine self whispers to it night and day. Your own intimations of glory, the whisperings of your own soul, are of splendor. Why not listen and follow and be — be the Christ latent within you, as the Christians of the modern time say. Be the Buddha within: a child of the sun, glorious, radiant in your inmost being.
Or, if you prefer to think that you are but an overgrown ape, destined to die and become senseless dust — well, what can I do for you? I suppose that it takes all kinds of people to make a world! For my part, I prefer to recognize the gods who are my kin. A god myself in my inmost being, I challenge the god within you to awaken!
Here is the last question:
You have often said in your lectures that you have been sent to give a message. Who sent you? Will you tell us about this who or these whos who sent you?
Now, isn't that a little pointed? Suppose that this matter is a secret that belongs to me alone? But the question is fair enough: I have made the statement and I put my heart in it. As I have made the statement, you have a right to ask me questions about it. I will therefore answer briefly.
It was the great ones of the human race, our elder brothers, who sent me, the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion who trained me to deliver this message. The message is not mine. Were I capable of adding one syllable out of my own chief, my own head, I were not worthy to stand and talk to you. Every good and noble man of the past and of the future, may say the same thing, if he has this message to give to his fellows, and every good and noble man or woman of the past and of the future in a certain sense may say the same thing that I have just told you.
The greatest master of all for each individual is his own inner god; and when you make an alliance and become at one with this inner god, you have thereafter neither rest nor peace in a personal sense any more. You have no more time for selfish leisure, but you are driven with an urge that will not be denied to go forth and tell your fellow men the message with which your mind and heart are filled.
But a theosophical Leader, a theosophical teacher, is indeed somewhat different, because in this case — and I will now answer the question, it is in my case — he is sent by the Brotherhood to teach. I know that the world is filled with prophets of many kinds and with false prophets, all proclaiming great things, and often making claims which are without foundation of fact. I have for these no word of condemnation or censure. I know only that I was sent to deliver the message that I was sent to deliver, and I try to do this as best I can. I have nothing but love to give to my fellow men. I ask for your sympathetic hearing in giving that message. I ask for cooperation in trying to give it to the world. I never harbor hate or blame for others, although my heart is filled at times with pity and sadness.
Such then are they who sent me; and this I know: that every one of you, if his gaze is turned upwards, upwards to the spirit within him, to the core of his being, will instinctively recognize truth when he hears it, and will recognize sincerity and honesty when he sees it; for each one of you human beings has an infallible guide, an infallible leader, who never betrays, and by whom you may always test what you see and hear. This is within you; and the many who have recently been coming in to The Theosophical Society who formerly were members of other societies, have, in many instances, told me — and these I take into the Society because they are not abandoning their own society and their own teacher, but have been free and were seeking for help and comfort, and thus come to me, and I give to them what I can — they have told me that they recognize at last, after many days, that they have come "Home." These men and women are not traitors; such as these men and women are not hypocrites; they were those who, for one reason or another reason, were homeless and wanderers on the face of the earth. They are now at peace!
Vol 1, No 49