Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered August 4, 1929)
Questions that we all ask; and I myself this afternoon feel in a very questioning mood. I am wondering whether it might not be better to talk to you from my heart this afternoon instead of attempting to answer the questions that have been sent in to me; because these days with us at the International Theosophical Headquarters here are very beautiful ones: days fraught with a sublime message which has come into our hearts and minds more particularly since the passing of my great predecessor Katherine Tingley.
I am in that mood: Shall I ask you questions, or shall I appeal to your hearts and to your minds? And I wonder which I shall do. I have some twelve or thirteen questions here, questions which I shall try to answer, however, which have been sent in by friends, and I know that they are waiting for such answers as I shall be able to give to them — answers on a variety of subjects. I am now inclined to think — remembering one or two of these questions — that I shall answer them, because in answering some of these questions, I shall be able to talk to you from my heart at the same time.
I know you will be interested in what a theosophical leader and teacher has to say in answer to a few at least of these questions. The first one therefore that I have on the list before me is:
"What is to be your policy as the new Leader and Official Head of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society as regards the conduct of that organization?"
I confess that I feel a bit nonplussed. This is a big question to answer: "What is your policy?" I have a very definite policy — a clear-cut one, which is not my own, in a sense, but which has been put upon me as a sacred trust to carry out, and which I have taken into my heart and mind and will carry out; and therefore in that sense it is my own. Who put it upon me? Katherine Tingley. You may know that we have a line of successorship in the Theosophical Society which is different perhaps from anything else in the world. Christianity in its early years had somewhat the same idea, which it called the Apostolic Succession, that is to say, that teacher succeeded teacher, or leader succeeded leader; but the spiritual aspect of this true system died out very quickly in the Christian Church and in the very early centuries of the history of that ecclesiastical society.
But it has not died out among us, and may the immortal gods prevent that it ever die out, because it is based on a spiritual fact or operation of nature. The light of the holy sages is transmitted from messenger to messenger down the ages; and certain ones, certain human beings, can be trained to transmit that light in purity and in fulness, and it is their duty and their joy to transmit it.
This chain of succession in teachers is what is often spoken of in Greek historical tradition as the Hermetic Chain or the Golden Chain, as it is sometimes called, and was considered among Greek philosophical mystics as reaching from Father Zeus through a series of spiritual and then noble human beings down to ordinary men. This was a teaching of the Mysteries where it was fully explained; and I may tell you here and now that it is a true teaching because it represents distinctly and clearly a true operation of nature. More or less faint copies of this Hermetic Chain or Golden Chain or succession of teachers was taken over by various later formal and exoteric sects, such as the Christian Church wherein it was called the Apostolic Succession.
Of course when the Apostolic Succession, as actually took place in the Christian Church, became a mere form, a mere matter of election to the office of teacher, or mere appointment, the light, or what there was of the divine light, was gone; and consequently, the Apostolic Succession in the Christian Church is but a whited sepulcher filled with the ideals of men long dead, ideals which have left, as it were, but their aroma in the whited sepulcher. This is no criticism of the good people of the Christian Church. I am simply stating a historical and an esoteric, occult fact.
In all the great Mystery Schools of antiquity there was this succession of teacher following teacher; or, as the world would put it, of leader following leader, each one passing on the light to his successor as he himself had received it from his predecessor; and as long as this transmission of light was a reality, it was a spiritual thing. Therefore all such movements lived, flourished, and did great good in the world.
These teachers were the messengers to men from what we theosophists call the Great White Lodge of the Masters of Wisdom. It is time that the public knew something of these things — the truth about them; because these, our ancient theosophical teachings, have already been more or less distorted; and there are some fantastic ideas abroad about what we believe and do not believe.
So then, the cornerstone of my policy is the handing on of the light: undimmed, pure, and brilliant as I have received it. As I have received it, so shall I pass it on.
As regards the details of my policy, I will let you into a little secret which only recently I have communicated to my trusted officials here, and it is this: that my great predecessor, Katherine Tingley, hid in her heart the policy which she told me to carry out after she had gone. She said: "G. de P., you must do what I have been unable to do, because none was ready; but you can do it; you can work with trained helpers and officials, which I did not have to work with in the beginning. I have spent my life, I have given all I am and all I have, to train the membership of the Society to understand; because understanding they might receive, and receiving they in turn could give."
That was Katherine Tingley's dearest wish; and the direction in which this line of policy shall be followed is a return to the original lines of thought and teaching which H. P. Blavatsky, the main founder of the Theosophical Society in modern times, laid down. Why weren't they followed before? Because they could not be. They were too esoteric, too difficult, for the membership even of the Theosophical Movement to understand and to follow, and therefore did my great predecessor give up all her life in her leadership to training, teaching, raising the thought and understanding of the membership of the Society so that when the time came for the deliverance into their hearts and minds of the most sacred truths of the esoteric teachings of the ancient wisdom, they could receive them because then they would be enabled to understand them.
You see what I mean when I state that the keystone of my policy is such-and-such and that to me it is a sacred trust. In telling you this I can let out my heart to you, talk to you frankly — to those of you who are interested, and even to those of you who have come merely to hear what a theosophical lecturer could have to say.
Realize, friends, that all such movements as the Theosophical Society are historical movements; and those of you who understand some of our teachings and of the history of the Theosophical Movement likewise know that it is in no wise different from similar movements in the past; and that all these different movements, considered as bodies, have one common teaching, one core of doctrine, and that heart-doctrine is the ancient wisdom-religion of the ages, transmitted in ancient times, for instance, in countries bordering the inland sea of Europe through what were there called the Mystery Schools.
The teachings given in these schools of the ancient Mysteries lay at the foundation of all the great religions and philosophies of the past, and from them all these great religions and philosophies have today more or less degenerated. If I may indeed make one single exception, however, an exception which I make with one single reservation, and this exception is the great Buddhist religion. I make this exception simply in justice. Theosophists are not Buddhists, but that great religion founded by the noblest seer and sage that the earth has seen for thousands of centuries — not years — has the least degenerated from the original teachings of the ancient wisdom.
But here comes in the reservation I speak of: the above exception does not mean that the Buddhist teachings as they exist today in the Buddhist scriptures are technically theosophical: for this reason, that even those noble Buddhist teachings were framed by the great founder of Buddhism in more or less enigmatic and parabolic form — in the form of parables — so that to understand even Buddhism, you must understand theosophy which is the master-key opening the secret meaning of all these ancient religions and philosophies.
The sacred trust that I have received is to bring back to the hearts of men hope, the promise of a bright future, by delivering into their hearts and minds the doctrines, tenets, teachings, of the ancient wisdom-religion of mankind. And what is the nature of my policy I shall answer more fully in answering another question which I have before me.
"I saw in yesterday's San Diego Union the report of an interview with you at your office at Point Loma. Is it your intention to work exactly as your predecessor Katherine Tingley worked? Or are you going to make changes which she would not herself have made? In other words, is the conduct of the Society under your direction to be the same as hers, or different from hers?"
I cannot answer that question by a simple yes or a simple no. If I said it was to be different, I would not be telling you truth. If I said it was the same, I would not be telling you truth either. That very remarkable genius, Katherine Tingley, hid her policy, the secret objective, the aim, of all her theosophical work, deep in her heart and communicated it to a chosen few only, and in fulness only to me.
But the methods which she pursued were different from the methods which it is now my bounden duty to pursue. Our policy, the secret policy, that which she and I and our two great predecessors aimed at, is precisely the same. The policy in its essentials, in the heart of it, has not varied and will not vary an iota. But the methods, of necessity, must vary with changed times. The time has come for drawing the curtain, for showing some of the ancient arcana; and that is what Katherine Tingley worked for; and she prepared the foundations sure and everlasting for the superstructure which is now in building, of which the building has now begun.
Which is the more important — the everlasting foundation or the superstructure? Neither. One cannot exist without the other. Therefore the policy which is the secret policy of Katherine Tingley is mine. The methods of teaching, methods of propaganda, are likewise what Katherine Tingley most earnestly desired to be carried out, as the wish of her very heart; and I shall carry them out. And this wish was what she called a return to the methods of the great founder of the Theosophical. Society Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.
Is this the so-called Back to Blavatsky movement? Not on your life! Actually that idea signifies that the Theosophical Movement has wandered from Blavatsky, the messenger of the sages, the first messenger in modern times of the great Masters of Wisdom to men. So far as those people who belong to the Blavatsky Movement are concerned, they no doubt tell the truth when they say they want to go "Back to Blavatsky" because they have wandered from her, but such is not the case with us. We admit not that the Theosophical Society has ever swerved from that direct line originating in H. P. Blavatsky and running, as to the pole star, up to the present day.
But it does mean that our membership has been trained, and can now carry on the work which H. P. Blavatsky herself could not fully carry on because the times then were not ripe and — the members were even less ready to receive than they were to receive the wish of Katherine Tingley's heart, and the heart of her predecessor, Mr. Judge.
Had H. P. Blavatsky taught what she wanted to teach and which she knew in time would be taught, it would have been a sowing of seed in stony places, and the hot sun would have come up and scorched and killed the seed, and the whole Theosophical Movement would have been a futile effort. She trained and taught her members. So did Katherine Tingley. And now, please, please understand, I am the servant of the Law; my duty is clear-cut, and I shall follow it to the end; and for me it is a happy and a joyful duty.
Here I have another question:
"Do you have to be rich to join the Theosophical Society?"
I can tell you no, most emphatically no. You know what somebody is alleged to have said in early Christian times; that it is easier — how does it run? — for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
But that is a mystic saying. It would be an extraordinary fact if a man, because he has the fortune or the misfortune to be wealthy, knew nothing of human sorrow, knew nothing of compassion or of love or of hope or of aspiration: that his riches so crippled his soul that he never aspired to better and nobler things. Who believe that? Why should we of the Theosophical Society forbid or prevent the entrance into the Theosophical Movement of a man merely because he has a large bank account? We never say to anybody: Friend, sell all that thou hast and then come to me. We never say this to any rich man for the simple reason that we understand the meaning of this mystical saying ascribed to Jesus; for with regard to its various phases of sense the very least important is that it has reference to physical wealth.
On the contrary, if a rich man came to me and said to me: "Brother I am a rich man, I want to join your Society. May I?" I would say to him: "The Gods bless you, Brother, come in. You can make use of your riches here. Avenues by which you may help us are many; we are proud of what we are doing; it is the bringing of light to the human race, and we need your help." That is what I would tell him.
I might ask you: Can a poor man join the Theosophical Society? Most decidedly he can.
"What are the qualifications or requisites that one has to have in order to join your Society?"
The question is a bit vague. If it means the formal prerequisites, there is only one that I know of: that a man shall believe in the principle of universal brotherhood. If the question means the actual intellectual, moral, and spiritual qualifications, then I should say that these are they which will lead a man to desire to join the Theosophical Society: sympathy with its objects, a desire to join hands and throw his strength and power in with others who are working for noble ends. It is really all a simple thing. Love of the good and the beautiful and the true; living a decent life; and a desire to help your fellows. That is all. There are no creedal obligations; you don't have to sign anything to the effect that you will or that you won't believe in this or that or the other. You simply state your honest belief in the principle of universal brotherhood, and your application blank thus signed will be accepted.
After that it depends upon yourself as regards the progress that you make — upwards perhaps into the Second Section of the Theosophical Movement, what we call the Esoteric Section where the deeper teachings are given; and then, if you are one of the fortunate few — and by fortunate, I mean fortunate in having the necessary spiritual and intellectual and moral qualifications, in other words, if your own soul and heart are ready — you have a chance to enter into the Third Section.
"Are theosophy and occultism the same thing, or different things?"
Some of these questions are difficult to answer. I know just what should be said, but I am so afraid of giving an answer that will in turn give to you a misleading impression. I am not a gifted speaker, and the consequence is, as I have said before, that I feel on occasions a positive alarm when I try to answer these questions; and all that I can do is to take my courage in my hands and go to it.
Theosophy and occultism are in one sense the same thing. In another sense they are different things. Let me try to illustrate that point. Do not the Christians, for instance, say that the teachings of Christ and the Christian theology are the same, yet different? They claim that the theological doctrines originated in the teachings of Jesus Christ, but that the actual teachings which Jesus Christ gave in his day were not — and it is true — the theological doctrines of later times.
So theosophy is the ancient wisdom-religion in an all-inclusive sense. These wonderful and sublime doctrines were originally given to mankind on this planet by spiritual beings from other spheres, gods among men, and have descended in the care of this great association of the Masters of Wisdom down to us even unto this day, and are given out from time to time, from age to age, when the world needs a spiritual rejuvenation. That body of teachings, of doctrine, is theosophy, the wisdom of the gods, the key, the master-key, to all the great religions and sciences and philosophies of the past.
But occultism is that part of theosophy which treats of the deeper, hid, mystic, esoteric, side of nature and of man. It is theosophy indeed, but that portion of theosophy which the average man cannot "eat" — to use the figure of the New Testament, the metaphor of the Christian scriptures — because he is still a little child. He needs must be fed the milk — to use again the figure of the New Testament — that is to say, to begin with the simpler teachings.
Discipline precedes the Mysteries. Occultism, therefore, is that branch of the general theosophical philosophy which treats of these operations of nature and the secret laws of nature and of man. These two are one and the same fundamentally, and yet that same thing, as it were, is two branches: one for the esoterics; and the other is the all-inclusive source from which streams the current of the teachings for the exoterics.
Now these two divisions, friends, are not arbitrary. It all depends upon the applicant. "You cannot keep a good man down" is an old saying; and the man who comes to our doors and knocks and gives the right knock — we know what the right knock is — enters.
"Are the teachings of theosophy and spiritism the same or are they different?"
Here is another question which came to me this morning:
"In case a person is born with some occult power, clairvoyance for example, without any definite knowledge of the power or its correct use, what should he or she do? I understand from my studies thus far that such a person is in a very dangerous position."
Well, I think that it depends upon the individual whether he be in a dangerous position or not. If there are moral weaknesses or bias or "yellow streaks" in his character, to use the vernacular, it is a very dangerous, perhaps a fatal, gift to possess. In any case, it is not a high gift. Clairvoyance is nothing spiritual; it is what theosophists call an astral faculty, and ranks but little higher than the ordinary instinct of the beasts. I do not think that clairvoyance, or any other so-called occult power, and perhaps miscalled occult, is a dangerous thing for a really good man or woman to have; but I should never suggest that it be cultivated, that it be increased, that an attempt be made to develop it.
I have known men who could wriggle their scalps and make their ears to wiggle, but I never considered that this was a particularly spiritual or intellectual pastime; and as compared with the great spiritual gifts — they which are universal, which link you with the seers and give you direct knowledge of truth — compared with these, I repeat, the so-called gift (the immortal gods save the word!) — this so-called gift of clairvoyance is too often like a robe of Nessus which will do you no good. Just think about it!
Cultivate spiritual gifts, those parts of your nature, in other words, which link you with the Heart of the universe, which make you become at one in thought and in feeling, in aspiration and in hope and in love, with the god within you, which is a celestial, a bright luminary, a real entity, not a mere poetic figure of speech, not a figment of the imagination, but is that which, when it manifests in a man, makes of him what the Occidental world calls a Christ, because he is filled with the Christ-light; and which the Oriental world, seeing it in a man, at least the Buddhists, call the buddhic glory or the buddhic splendor.
These are the links which link you to the heart of the universe. Developing these you are engaged in that great labor which the ancients and the seers and sages through willpower and self-directed evolution, as Katherine Tingley always taught in one of her marvelously epigrammatic sayings, have developed the power to follow within themselves.
Here is another question:
"What is intuition? Father and I both have it, what is it?"
I have just told you. It is one of the spiritual faculties: it is direct vision of truth. 'Vision' however is but a word. It is a direct sense of truth. Sense again is but a word. It is direct cognition of truth: direct and immediate knowledge of the heart of things — truth. Intuition is one of the spiritual faculties and powers of which I have just spoken when discussing the question of astral clairvoyance. Think what it means to have this inner vision, this inner eye open — intuition. Whether you be scientist or philosopher or religionist or businessman, husband or wife — you who have it, know. No one can help you to attain it except yourself. The inner god, however, is forever within you, surrounding you, overshadowing you, waiting for you, waiting, waiting, waiting, brought out into manifestation only through the aeons, as the aeons pass by into the ocean of the past, through self-directed evolution, which is the development of the inner man into manifestation through the outer man.
And remember in this connection what evolution is in the theosophical sense, as I have often told you here in our Temple of Peace. It is not something added from outside, but is an unfolding, a flowing out, of what you are in the core of the core of your being; it is your self, your spiritual self, coming into manifestation. In other words, the theosophical teaching of evolution is strictly according to the etymological meaning of this Latin word, signifying the unfolding, or outfolding, or flowing forth, of what you yourselves are in your inmost hearts.
Here is a question of another sort. This is from some kind friend quite unknown to me, who signs his name in full, as some of those who send to me questions don't do. This is an odd question:
"What of the Aquarian Age which the seers assert we have already entered on? How would it differ from the age that has immediately preceded it? How shall we best meet its newer problems and responsibilities, how make straight the path for the passage of a wider consciousness of brotherhood and humanitarianism?"
I had ignored this question had it hot been for the noble note of theosophic altruism sounded here in its latter part. That note raised the question immediately into significance. This is a question which belongs to what is popularly called astrological thought. According to astrologers, we have entered, or are just about to enter, into the astrological constellation of Aquarius, the Water-bearer, after having finished or left the preceding astrological constellation of Pisces or the Fishes.
I admit that the astrological entrance into each one of the twelve zodiacal constellations brings with it a new cosmic force into operation, not merely on our earth generally speaking, but throughout our own individual lives. I will also add that the entering into this present astrological era will inaugurate the development in a certain line of powers to come in the human races that will be nobler than they of the last astrological era.
As to how we shall meet the new problems and responsibilities of the era now opening, all I can say is that they must be met as great-hearted men and noble-hearted women meet all responsibilities: by thought and impersonal care for duties, by aspiration, by developing the higher and therefore the more internal parts of our inner being: by aspiration, by hope, by love, by trust — these qualities never fail us. They last forever; they are builders of qualities which strengthen and cement not merely human hearts together, but they are also the very foundation-stones, so to speak, of the universe, for cosmic love which is one aspect of the buddhic splendor is the cement of the universe.
"How can a man really come to know truth? Merely accepting the teachings of others who have lived before, or who live at the present time, to me does not seem to put a man actually in the position of knowing things. Of course thus he merely accepts the opinions of others which he himself believes to be well founded as regards natural truth. In other words, my meaning is: is there a method or is there some way by which a man can, so to say, come in contact with truth personally, and know it immediately when he sees it or feels it or senses it?"
Most assuredly there is. Go into the silent places of your heart; enter into the chambers, so quiet and still, of your inner being. Practice makes perfect. Soon you will learn to knock at the doors of your own heart. Practice makes perfect. Intuition will then come to you. You will have knowledge immediately; you will know truth instantly. That is the way, that is the teaching of all the seers and sages of all the ages. They tell us not to listen credulously to others who may talk to you: not to listen thoughtlessly to lecturers: not to accept the say-so's of any other man or men unless these appeal to one's own conscience, to one's own instinct, that what is said is truth.
Then be bold but not over-bold; be brave but not rash. Accept the truth and hold it until you know some nobler truth, and hold it until some greater light from the East strikes upon your vision.
"Is your Society something new in the history of the world, or does it belong to the same line of teachings that the ancient Mysteries of antiquity followed; and if the latter, do you believe in the necessity of having a teacher whose main duty it is to teach natural truths; or is it possible for a Society to live and exist without a teacher, the members merely trying to get hold of such natural facts as they can?"
Well, after what I have just been telling you, it seems to me that this question allows me to make a very ready and appropriate answer. Our Society is most emphatically not new in the history of the world. It has always existed, but at intervals it has disappeared as a public organization and has been preserved in the secret places of the earth. Our Society follows precisely the same line of teaching that the ancient Mysteries followed, not merely of Greece and of Rome and of ancient Hindustan and the ancient countries of the Americas, for the same wisdom-religion of the archaic ages was and is identic in all.
We theosophists believe not as some people who merely call themselves theosophists believe; but we of the original Society, accepting the teachings of our predecessors — the teachings of the Masters of Wisdom — believe that to have a true teacher, to follow a true teacher, is the best and simplest way of learning and the quickest. Do not accept any teacher, however, in whom you have not trust. Refuse. But when you do give your trust, are you man enough or woman enough to accept that teacher honestly and courageously and to follow him? I am, for I have learned the wisdom of it. We theosophists most certainly believe in teachers. We most certainly believe in the successorship of which I spoke in the beginning of my talk to you this afternoon.
I myself have been a faithful servant and disciple under my predecessors. I gave them my heart-trust and all my life. I put all that I had and all that I am in their spiritual keeping, and I have never regretted it. I have learned, and I have a peace in my heart and happiness in my mind which are beyond all understanding of anyone but myself; because I know.
Here are two more questions:
"Do you believe in love as one of the methods of softening human relations as between man and man, and international relations as between nation and nation, or do you believe in strict, cold, impartial justice?"
Well, friends, of course I know that this distinction between love on the one hand and justice on the other is a very common one; it is a distinction often made, but I do not believe that this supposed antinomy of thought or of principle actually exists. I believe that the very soul of justice is love, real justice; and it is only the feebleness of men's hearts and — forgive me — the weaknesses of our minds, which prevent us from seeing that even as nature is infallibly just, it is so because she loves without bounds and without measure.
"In your view, what do you think is the most beautiful thing in the world?
I could answer this question in various ways, in many ways. But precipitating my thoughts and examining the precipitate, I am inclined to believe that the most beautiful thing in the world is love, that love which keeps the stars in their courses, true, steady, unvarying: that love which is the very cement of the universe, as I have before said, because it is the flowing forth of the permeant light, the Christ-light or buddhic splendor at the heart of the universe; that love which, working in gods and men, teaches us to know beauty when we see it, especially inner beauty, to recognize greatness and splendor in others, from knowing the greatness and splendor in our own inmost being. Only greatness can understand greatness. Love, which teaches self-sacrifice — and self-sacrifice is perhaps the second most beautiful thing in the world — love, I say, is the holiest thing in the universe.
Vol 1, No 9