Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered August 24, 1930)
CONTENTS: Vision is the fundamental of every great world religion. — The clear calm visioning of the spirit. — Distorted visions of the psychics. The adamantine wall around their beliefs. — The misleading visions of the would-be teachers. — The Saptadarsana or "Seven Visions": — the seven schools of archaic Hindu philosophy. — Dean Inge and the problem of suicides. Does he understand karmic consequences? — The after-state of the suicide hinted at. — Are the arts of the Christians superior to others? — The glory of ancient art. — Music lives apart from religious belief. — The effects of selfish gratification. — Did the science of the stars originate on the plains of Babylonia? — Archaic records of the Hindus, Chinese, and ancient Americans. — Does theosophy foster a sense of separateness? — The "broad-minded" follower of no beliefs. Where does he stand? — A definite, clear-cut policy is necessary. — "Come to heaven" with the theosophists!
Seeing visions! We all see visions. In fact whenever we think, which is continuously, we are seeing visions, because thinking is visioning; and thus it is that even in the current speech of everyday existence, you will find men saying: "What is his outlook on life?" This is vision. "What are his views?" This is vision also. "What do you see in it?" This also refers to vision.
All thought is vision: all the mental processes, all the wondrous fabric of imagery that imagination builds up, is vision. The poet, the religious seer, the philosopher, the scientist — all who think, which means all men — see visions. Some visions are long in duration. They may last even for a lifetime; and all the man's consciousness is circumscribed by that one long vision. But other visions are short, brief, transitory, and such are the visions that come sometimes like flashes of illumination; and then the man, or the woman, says: I see!
Great men see great visions, men of smaller capacity see visions which are not so great, but all of us continuously see visions. Try to get this idea clear in your minds, and then you will understand much of what lies at the bottom of the great religions and philosophies of the past. For they are actually visions, seen by the titanic spiritual seers of the race; and therefore at the bottom of every such world religion and world philosophy there lies truth, wondrous truth, because these greater visions are simply the interpretations of the forces and energies and substances of universal being which flow through man, the child of the universe, and imprint their characteristics on his consciousness; and then he says: I have seen! I have light! I have the vision of truth! Therefore at the bottom, as the fundamental, of all the great world religions and world philosophies, there lies this fundamental truth which today we call theosophy.
Yes, and how many visions there are of other kinds! Good men see good visions, as I have already said; but bad men see evil visions, and that is hell — misunderstood, misconstrued — because really hell means unhappiness, and it arises out of the workings of the lower, circumscribed personal individual who cannot expand his consciousness to universal reaches. Hell is limitation, hell is concentration around the insignificant personality, instead of being the cosmic love which takes within the compass of its sweep all that is, and therefore, being universal, there are no contradictions in details in it, there is no contrariety in it, there is nothing of opposition in it; all therein is harmony and peace.
Therefore good men see good visions because they are in tune with the universe — "in tune with the infinite" to use a rather ludicrous but popular expression of the day; and therefore also for the same reason evil men see evil visions because such visions are small and circumscribed, limited and imperfect. All the doing of crime is a distorted vision. All acts of heroism and greatness are high and lofty visions of some spiritual reality leading to self-forgetfulness. Indeed, all thought is vision, and our consciousness is the fountain of our visions. Every invention is a vision; every act of noble statecraft is a vision; every deed done well is born in a vision; every deed left undone or evilly done arises out of a distorted vision. Every scientist who discovers some new law of universal being, "law" to use ordinary human terms, does so because he sees a vision. The truth comes to him like a flash of light from within, from within his own understanding, not from without; and he sees this vision because he has raised himself up so that his ordinary brain-mind is at one with his own spiritual being where truth abides in fullness, and thus he becomes at one at least temporarily with his inner god. He sees a vision and thenceforwards his life is changed for the better.
So it is with us all: and when men make mistakes, it is simply because they have seen awry. The fundamental of every human being is good, for every man inwardly longs for beauty, longs for high thought, for clean thought, for inner harmony; but then comes in the working of imagination, the image-making power within us, moving according to our own suggesting faculty within, and if the imagination be inharmonious, it stirs up and roils the sweet and clear picture that the spirit within presents to the conscious mind; and evildoing is often the result.
Abandon your own small personal wishes, and ye shall have peace. Live for the eternal, and ye shall become like unto the eternal — calm, tranquil, clear visioning, at utter peace, and immensely strong — and then your visions will be those of great genius. You will then become a true spiritual leader and a true guide of your fellow men, because you will see truth, and seeing, you yourself will follow, and your fellow men will recognize that, and oh how gladly will they follow you.
Every spiritual seer is a seer because he sees. He visions. The noblest of them see the vision sublime, which is truth. There are deceptive visions also, as I have just pointed out. Some of these deceptive visions belong to what is today so popular in the Occident, to psychism as it is popularly called, and these are deceptive visions because most people who follow these so-called psychic practices do so because they desire gain for themselves, for the mere "me," all of which is selfish, limiting, circumscribing, condensing, shutting out the light, and a narrowing of the consciousness instead of its expansion.
The psychics see visions. Of course they do, but these are distorted ones, and therefore false visions; yet it is a vision of its kind, because it is a seeing. The practice of psychism is easy; so is wrongdoing. But the fruits of it are bitter, because they mislead. Yet the spiritual part of you, linked with divinity, your own inner god, is immortal, and there lies all that makes a man great — there real, inner, spiritual vision and real strength lie. That is where light comes from, from the inner spiritual sun. It never leads astray; it illuminates the pathway not only for yourself but for all with whom you live and work as fellow human beings; and the marvel and beauty of it all, my Brothers, is that you can see the visions that you will. You have willpower, you have choice, and precisely because you have free will and choice and can choose your pathway does responsibility lie upon you. You must also abide by the pathway that you have chosen, and what comes to you comes to you because you have followed a certain pathway in life.
You can change your pathway. You can change your visions. Each one of you in the core of the core of your being is a divine entity, a god, that is the spiritual sun within you. This is what the mystical Christians of today call the immanent Christ, the Christ living within each man; and it is what the Buddhists for instance call the inner Buddha, or the Brahmanists speak of as the inner Brahma. The name by which we call it matters not at all. Oh, what powers lie within the constitution of man, in most cases utterly ignored! Most men do not believe that they have these powers lying latent within them, and not believing, they have not the vision, they do not see; but you can see. You can have the vision.
Speak about these matters to the average psychic today, and try to transpierce the mental barriers that his mind has set up around itself, and you will find this to be very difficult because this wall which the average psychic builds around his beliefs is adamantine, diamond-hard, and yet so fragile. But there is one method which always wins, and that method is the way of love. It penetrates all things; naught can shut it out; and the magic of it all is that once the tender ray of love reaches into the stoniest human heart, it there begins to glow and to set on fire with its holy flame all responsive material, and when this is done, then the man without answers to the call, so that the man is captured from within his own heart, in the core of his being, and thenceforwards he is your man, saved by you for noble ends.
Love will always win, and this is not mawkish sentimentality at all, but real, impersonal, self-forgetful love. There is a still small voice within which will tell you always when you are on the right path, and you can cultivate this voice, make it a living reality in your life. It is a voice which is not a voice, but only called a voice in order to employ some human word that gives an idea of what it is. It is a vision. It is the life within. It is the voice of the silence, the voiceless urge which, when you cultivate it and become one with it — for it is your own inner spiritual being — is like the tones of thunder in your heart and mind.
Yet people are like little children in these matters, at least most of them. I have said this before, and I have been asked afterwards questions somewhat like the following one: "Well, is it really a voice? How do you hear it?" I said: "Listen!" "Well, I have hearkened, but I have not heard anything." "Well," I said, "feel." "Well, I have tried to feel but I have not got any feeling." "Well," I answered, "wait, and in time, if you aspire faithfully, you will both hear and feel, and very clearly too."
All this reminds me very much of a humorous little story that was sent in to me today. I am going to read it to you. I like to read innocently comic things. I have a strong sense of humor, and I also like sometimes to poke fun, innocent fun, at some of the human Sobersides that I occasionally meet; but innocently humorous things are always pleasing to me. Do you want to hear about a little child who listened to the voice of God? I don't know where this bit of humor came from, but it is really clever and good:
Mama was trying to teach her four-year-old daughter the difference between right and wrong. She said, "Listen, baby, and you will hear a little voice in your heart, which will tell you what God wants you to do."
A few days later, having some disturbance in digestion, and hearing a rumbling noise within herself, she called to her mother, "Mama, mama, come quick; God is talking to me in my stomach."
There are people who are just like this little girl, grownups who, because they do indeed see a vision, but a distorted one — who, because they have not cultivated the spiritual part of their being which is truth and vision of reality — when getting an idea or a whim or a notion, which are all visions but distorted ones, set themselves up for teachers, and teach. Some of these are the erratic psychics that I have before spoken of, who stand on platforms and lecture upon their favorite topic. Don't you realize, my Brothers, that there is a heavy moral responsibility in implanting seeds of thought and of feeling in others' minds, and that you become thereafter responsible insofar as you have changed the character, through the thought and the feelings, of those who have heard you?
According to our teaching of karma, what you sow you shall reap, now or at a later date, and the sowing of seeds of thought or of feeling is something which carries with it a heavy load of moral responsibility. By nature's fundamental laws of harmony and inseparable union, you become connected, linked, with those whom you have misled, and this moral connection remains until you have undone the wrong which your words brought about when they were cast as seeds into the minds of your fellows, or into their hearts.
I feel very strongly about this matter. Before I come over to this our Temple of Peace in order to speak to you, I tell you that I cast out of both my heart and my mind, to the utmost of my power, everything that I can find within me that is personal, so that I may deliver unto you the message of which I am the bearer, which message is not my own but is a repetition of the message of truth as given to mankind by the titanic spiritual and intellectual seers of the ages. That message is theosophy. Even then the responsibility lying on me is a heavy one. Yet what happiness there is also for me in the thought that if I can awaken the dormant soul, break stony human hearts, give light to darkened minds, through sowing seeds of thought and hope and love and peace and harmony and compassion and pity, I then can feel that I have done some good, at least, and have accomplished part of the mission which I was sent to fulfill, however imperfectly and inadequately my work may be done. Yes, I call upon you to see the vision sublime.
So well is the fact known by all thinking men that thought is visioning, that references to this fact recur constantly in the language of everyday life, and to this I have alluded in opening my lecture today. In archaic India the ancient philosophers, in recognition of this psychological truth, gave in accordance therewith the graphic title to the seven schools of philosophy that the Hindu genius had brought forth, and which these Schools collectively bore, and this title was Saptadarsana meaning the "Seven Visions." It is obvious that every religion is a vision, good, bad, or indifferent. It is obvious that every philosophical system is a vision, good, bad, or indifferent. It is obvious that every idea in your mind is a vision. It may be to you good; it may be to you bad; it may be indifferent to you. Why then, having free will and choice and understanding now somewhat of what you have within you, why will ye not follow the pathway leading within you and ultimately conducting you unto the gods?
Ye are gods in your inmost, and when the writer of the Christian scriptures said thus much, he said truth. Most men pollute the temple of the divinity, the living god within, as well as the mind and the heart and the body, with visions from below, and with the acts flowing forth from those visions of the nether realms; and nature will require them to pay for this to the uttermost farthing. The reason of this is that ye have changed nature's harmonious courses in one way or in some other by doing so. Ye have used energy, ye have chosen a path, and thereafter have begun to carve your way; and you have inbuilt, consequently, into your character, a certain fabric, a certain shapeliness or a certain distorted form, which will remain with you and govern your life, now and in the future, until you change the ugliness to beauty and the distortion to harmonious symmetry.
Therefore, try always to see the vision sublime. This is permanently within you; and if you want to know how to see the vision sublime, in other words how to put your feet upon the pathway leading you to see that vision sublime on the mountain peaks of the Mystic East within you, then come, and I will show you where that path begins. Study the sublime wisdom-religion of mankind, today called theosophy, and you will find therein the keys which you yourself will insert one after the other into the portals of the temple enshrining the god within you. You yourself will unlock the doors of your own inner being and, passing the thresholds, enter into a light growing greater in each new chamber of consciousness into which you penetrate. Love will guide your way, will lighten this path, but only if you permit it to do so. Love is clairvoyant, it is strengthening, it is harmony, it is peace, it is invigorating, it is all-penetrating. Nothing can bar its passage; and having impersonal love shining in your heart — a love which is impersonal utterly, kindly, pure, and clean — you become it, and then even your physical manhood will manifest the transcendent powers of the holy thing within you.
LOVE by CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
It takes great love to stir a human heart,
To live beyond the others and apart,
A love that is not shallow, is not small,
Is not for one, or two, but for them all.
Love that can wound love, for its higher need;
Love that can leave love, tho' the heart may bleed;
Love that can lose love, family and friend,
Yet steadfastly live, loving to the end.
A love that knows no answer, that can live
Moved by one burning, deathless force — to give
Love, strength, and courage — courage, strength, and love;
The heroes of all time are built thereof.
This is the love of which I speak — cosmic, universal, divine. Here is a question that I was asked to answer:
On August 21st, last week, one of the daily papers published a comment of yours on Dean Inge's statement of approval of suicide under certain conditions. As your paragraph was short, would you mind enlarging upon your views in your next lecture? I was surprised to see that several other San Diegans were quoted approving, to a degree, Dean Inge's views. (By the way, does Dean Inge know anything about karmic consequences brought over from previous lives, etc., etc.?)
I do not know whether Dean Inge knows anything of the theosophical doctrine of karmic consequences. I presume that he does have some literary knowledge of it, but I fear that if so, he does not understand it from lack of sufficient study of it. Dean Inge is a courageous man, a forward-seeing man, a man with a vision — such as it is; a man who has shown the fine stuff that he is made of in the various stands that he has taken time and time again on different subjects. But when asked if I approve of Dean Inge's views regarding suicide, of physical self-destruction, then I say No. What do you think of a man or a woman who, in any circumstances whatsoever, weakly bows the head before the adverse storms of destiny and circumstances? Your faces show me what you think, and that's what I think, too. My answer therefore is No! Stand up! Face the fight! You brought it upon yourself: therefore face it like a man, no matter what it is. There is nothing in the universe that can conquer the spiritual you, conquer your indomitable spiritual will. Your mental and psychical self may go down time and time again; but stand up again each time and go to the battlefront anew, and each time ye will be stronger than before, braver, more clearly visioning the end, which is the conquest of adversity — and self-conquest first.
Suicide is cowardly and foolish. We see before us, for instance, a miserable wretch broken in body and mind and without a friend in the world — what can be done? Have we the picture, the vision, making us say, "Kill him. Put poison within his reach so he can kill himself"? To what good, I ask? What is that animate body there for? By accident? If you believe in accident, then I have nought else to say to you except I don't. There is no chance in the universe; everything runs according to what men call law and order, harmony; and this unfortunate and miserable wretch, however much the picture of his misery and suffering may tear our hearts, brought himself to this pass and none but he can bring himself out of it. What matters if he die by nature's own processes? Nought. He will come back again and begin life anew; he will have his other chances again and again and again.
But it matters a great deal if, in a spirit of cowardice, bowing the head in weak submission to what he himself has brought upon him himself, he drinks the potion or takes the revolver or casts himself into the sea. Such an act is merely one more crime added to the long list which have brought him to this terrible pass. And furthermore, I don't know a single case which cannot be helped. Do you mean to say that you, as human beings, if you had a chance to help some miserable wretch like this, would weakly and cowardly pass the sufferer by, unheeding the wail of pain or the cry for help? No, you would certainly do something; it would be your duty. Furthermore, there are our splendid public and private institutions established for helping cases just like this.
Why does the wretch take his own life? It is cowardice, fear, weak will and a weaker moral sense, lack of moral stamina — lack of real manhood or real womanhood. Mine is what you might call the view of the spiritual surgeon who, on the battlefield, will amputate a limb in order to save the life, and he does aright. But this does not mean that, because we recognize this fact, we should pass the sufferer by in stony-hearted indifference. It is our duty to help. But you cannot permanently help a man like that unless you arouse in him the spirit of self-help. Therefore restore the man's self-respect. Try to do that. Do you say that it is difficult? Yes, verily it is a problem; but there it is and it has to be faced. It is one of the problems of life, it is indeed not at all an easy thing to solve; but there the problem is and must be solved. To urge this mental and physical weakling to commit another crime, suicide, which is the worst of all, and so to say, call to him: "Act like a coward, you beast: kill yourself!" is simply urging a fellow human being to become more cowardly still and to be a participant in the ugliest of spiritual and natural offenses. Thus analyzed, we see clearly what it really is that these misguided and unfortunate injunctions to self-destruction in such circumstances mean.
Forgive me if my language seems strong, but I feel strongly about it. In a great many people there is the feeling: "It is a good way to be rid of these creatures." Ah, my Brothers, think of your own loved ones, and pause! We owe a debt to each other, a debt which has no end; and how beautiful life would be if this fact were realized: each to all and all to everyone owes a debt of help, a duty of comradely feeling. There in this realization is the solution of the problem.
Give new ideas to the world; change men's hearts; instill active self-respect into them instead of injunctions to cowardice, and you will be a worker of magical good among your fellow men. I could talk to you for half a day on what happens to the poor wretches who suicide. Their condition is ultimately a thousand times worse than what it was before the frenzied act. Someday I will talk to you about what happens in the after-state to those who destroy themselves willfully from cowardice, from fear, from false pride; and the cause of suicide is found in these and similar intellectual and moral weaknesses.
But don't confuse such cases with the man who may even seem to throw away his life in order to rescue the life of some one else. This is not suicide, it is heroism; it is grand, it is sublime. Or, take again the case of one who gives even his life to some great and surpassingly lofty cause: this too is beautiful, grand, manly, heroic, godlike. Thus you see the difference between the coward and the great man. "Greater love hath no man than this: that he give up his life for his brother."
Why is it that the personality of Jesus has been the source of the greatest music (vocal) ever written, and similarly in poetry, and painting? Christianity is the only religion I know that inspires songs of praise and thanksgiving in the hearts of its followers.
I think that the kind questioner is wrong all along the line. There is of course no doubt that people who are, or who have called themselves Christians, have written some beautiful musical compositions, vocal or instrumental as the case may be; and also that European poets of high standing and European artists of equivalent inspiration have respectively produced great works. There is no doubt of it. But the European musicians, poets, and painters are not the only ones who have ever lived in the world. With the single exception of Buddhism perhaps — and that only because it is so loftily spiritual that the whole inner constitution of man seeks expression on a plane far higher than that of merely physical expression of harmony and symmetry of form — I do not know a single great religion which omits or has omitted music, poetry, and painting from its ceremony or ritualistic observances, and this applies both to ancient times and to the present; and to say that Christianity has been the producer of the greatest music, the loftiest poetry, and the most suggestive art is in my judgment exaggerating the case preposterously.
From time immemorial, and with every new decade that passes, research is proving the truth of this more clearly. Poetry and art have occupied a place in the religious and emotional life of the human race which perhaps was greater and more inclusive than that which these two phases of the activity of the human spirit have occupied in the last two thousand years of European history — two short millennia in the long annals of the history of the world. How about the marvelous development of art of the Greeks from whom even today modern artists draw their finest inspirations, merely because the Greek art is best known to us; and even today some of our noblest buildings, national, municipal, and private, are more or less copied after the ruined temples and other structures of the great Mediterranean peoples. How about the poetry of Homer, of Ennius, of Vergil, not to speak of the religious and epic poetry of the sages of Hindustan, expressed for instance in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana?
Every scholar knows that the ancient peoples of the world all chose poetry as the fittest medium in which to enshrine their loftiest conceptions, not merely of religion but also of philosophy, and likewise to record the great deeds of past generations.
Again, the stories that have been related about the marvelous painting of some of the Greek artists, we have no reason to doubt. Anyone who has examined the pictures copied from the temple walls and other great buildings of Persia, Assyria, Egypt, the temples of Hindustan, the Angkor Wat of Cambodia, and again the monumental pile of Boro-budur in Java, where practically every square foot of space is filled with delicate carven tracery and harmonious form, will realize how great a part pictorial art played in the lives of these ancient peoples. The Egyptian temples and pylons are carven with poems in stone which if we had the artistic eye to appreciate them would seem to us at least as noteworthy as the best of medieval European paintings with the latter's utter disregard in so many cases of the rules of background and foreshortening and whatnot.
All over the world, man from time immemorial has let his heart out in song and praise either of nature or of the gods, and merely because we have, as regards the ancient peoples, in many instances merely literary records of their greatest work, why should we jump to the conclusion that their work was inferior to our own? All such deductions seem to be not only preposterously biased, but betray a lamentable ignorance. The temple music, as well as the civic or other choral music, of the ancient peoples seems to have occupied as large a place in their life as it does in ours, and perhaps a larger part, because the ancients were far more religious than the Europeans have ever been, if indeed less bigoted and narrow-minded; and the presumption therefore is that their music was on a higher plane than ours, and occupied at least as large a part in the heart-life of those bygone races as medieval music did in the ritual services of European Christianity.
Of course one can only point to the music of the Hebrews, or to the music of the Greeks as instances, existing in literary records, because their literatures are full of references to musical instruments and to songs of praise and thanksgiving. We don't know much about it all today, but the literatures do tell us a good deal. Also Persia, Babylonia, Egypt, Hindustan, where do we not find a people whose whole soul has not been more or less enwrapped in musical expression in matters of religious service?
The view of the questioner, of course, is an Occidental view, the view of one brought up in the Christian Church, I suppose; and therefore it is the usual Occidental view, in this present case kindly, but nevertheless greatly limited. It is not a great view, not a great vision to have, and amply demonstrates the usual Western racial egoism. It is a circumscribed view, limited by habit, by the customary way of viewing things.
Furthermore, I might call your attention to the fact that some of the noblest music ever written is not by any means church music — not by any means; and if you have heard, as I have often heard, choruses of European peasants, for instance, singing some of their folksongs, with chest dilated with enthusiasm, so that the sound rolls forth like thunder, you would soon realize that music springs from the human heart itself, quite irrespective of any race's religious belief.
But there is something beyond and nobler than audible music, lovely and inspiring as good audible music is, and that is the music of the heart — the music of the silences, surging through the corridors of our consciousness and of our memory; and when one has heard this inner melody of which the outer is merely a feeble reproduction and interpretation, all other music loses much of the hold that it has had upon us. This is the music of the soul, the music of the spirit. Call it by what name you will, it remains the music of the heart which springs from the light within.
Everything — this is literally so — everything that moves emits sound. Every atom therefore sings, and every electron in every atom has its own characteristic musical note. As I have told you before, the music of the spheres of the Pythagoreans is an actual truth, and we cannot hear it simply because our gross senses cannot take it in, as Shakespeare also so grandly saw. Every celestial orb, as it swings along its pathway, sings its own majestic paean, and everything on earth or elsewhere, animate or so-called inanimate, being a collection of atoms, is therefore a symphonic melody, a symphony, the aggregated volume of sound being composed of the notes of each and every singing entity, and every atom thereof is a singing entity, so that our physical bodies themselves are imbodied song.
If you had awakened the power of the inner spiritual ear, my Brothers, as I have told you on other occasions, you would hear as a song the opening of the rosebud, and you could hear the green grass blade grow. You could hear every hair on your head as it lengthens in growth, for growth is movement. The growth of a little child you would hear as a prolonged chorus of singing atomic entities. Here, then, is the real natural music, nature's own orchestras, the orchestrations of nature's own ever-beating heart.
A soul born of wealthy parents lives its life after the conventional way of rich people — self-indulgence, no thought or sympathy for the poor or unfortunate, or any conscientious sense of morality. Is not such a one sowing seed-thoughts of a return to the same conditions in other incarnations? As a parallel suggestion, take a life diametrically the opposite.
No, such a one as the former is more likely sowing seeds for mental and physical degradation, for he has deliberately been imbibing the opiate, the psychic drug, of selfish gratification through a long lifetime perhaps; and nature will take him at his own act — and in the next life, or the one following it, nature will render to him a mind and body corresponding to his former weaknesses, a body which he himself will have made for himself because he has built into the very fabric of his being the distortions of character and weaknesses of will arising out of self-gratification and self-indulgence. It is thus that a man strengthens his character or weakens his character; and nature in the next or in some future life or perhaps in this same life will make the body follow the lead of the improved or enfeebled character.
But do not make the common mistake that this kindly querent does, to wit: that all the rich are selfish, and all the rich are self-indulgent. It is not so. There are among the wealthy those who are blessed, so called, with this world's goods, who have as noble impulses and as fine feelings as anyone. It is not wealth that places the real man. Man places himself, and the true man can be a true man when born in the lap of luxury just as well as when born in the peasant's hut. It is the man who should be taken into account; and it is therefore wrong to say that because a man is rich, he is self-indulgent, he is evil, he is weak. That is plain bunkum; just as much as it would be to say that because a man is born poor, he is therefore a paragon of all the virtues.
Men are just as you find them, and there are good men who are rich men, and evil men who are poor men, and evil men who are rich men, and good men who are poor men.
Modern astronomers say that astronomy "originated" on the plains of Babylonia. Is this true? Were the Babylonians so highly evolved that they could originate such an intricate science, or did they themselves get it from some other peoples?
This is not so easy a question to answer as it seems, although it is the usual or popular view. It is the view that you will find in the encyclopedias, and because people see it there they think that of course it must be true. "I have read it in print!" But is it true? This view simply signifies that the modern scientific researchers have not been able to trace the origin of modern astronomy farther back than the remarkable achievements in astronomical lore of the Chaldeans. That is all it means; and when men read this statement in the encyclopedias, then they couple it with the old, worn-out but still prevalent idea that thinking man, in his evolution from the ape — which is another worn-out but more or less prevalent falsehood — is some ten thousand or fifteen thousand or possibly twenty thousand years old.
Now, I will tell you a little about the origin of the sublime science of the stars as theosophy explains it. In ancient times this sublime science was called astrology, which does not mean the unreliable tattered remnant of that ancient starry science which goes by that name today; but in those archaic days it was a starry science in very truth, the science which looked upon universal being as animate, as alive, and upon the celestial orbs as being merely the physical bodies or garments each one of an indwelling divinity, just as man, physical man, is merely the outward garment, the outermost garment, of an indwelling divine entity.
Consequently, the great seers and sages of the ages, who know how to do it — who were taught how to do it through initiation — sent the spirit of themselves behind the veil of the outward seeming into the deep abysses of invisible nature, into the inner realms and worlds, and found therein the causes of things, and having found the causes of things brought the knowledge of it back and told this knowledge to their fellow men in formulated systems of thought. As much as could be told to the average man was told, and this part that was told publicly formed the astrological part of the ancient religions and philosophies; and the part that could not be told to all, because all men were not trained to understand it, was kept sacred and secret, and was taught in the Mystery schools to those who came for light and instruction and who in coming gave the "right knock" at the portals of the temple.
Astronomy therefore, as astrology, as the starry science of the living orbs of the heavens, originated according to the theosophical teachings some eighteen million years ago, according to our records, among a human stock who at the time were emerging from intellectual unconsciousness into intellectual activity; and it was taught as the inner explanation of the living universe, including therefore man's constitution also as an inseparable part of that living universe; and thereafter this starry science descended through the long, long ages to race after race of men, until finally it reached our own times.
In the Occident, because the Occident has lost the keys to this ancient starry truth, we have what is modernly called astronomy, divided into two parts: astrometry, dealing with the dimensions, the forms and the movements, of the celestial bodies; and physical astronomy, dealing with the physical composition of the celestial bodies.
There were greater astronomers in ancient Hindustan, for instance, than any whom Europe has given birth to yet. There was in existence in Hindustan, and also on the plains of Babylonia, and likewise in Egypt and in Persia and in the ancient Americas also, a great and beautiful science which today would be called astronomy. The Surya-Siddhanta, for instance, of ancient Hindustan, claims for itself an origin more than two million years ago; and some of our Occidental astronomers are studying this Hindu work even today, and are finding the study interesting. They can understand the Surya-Siddhanta better than some of the other ancient astronomical and astrological works because it is more like what is today called astronomy, and because it is not so astrological as some of the other works are.
No, Astronomy most emphatically did not 'originate' on the Babylonian plains, although the Greeks derived virtually all they knew about Astronomy, at least in the earlier part of Greek civilization, from Babylonia and Egypt. Ancient China knew Astronomy before even the ancient Babylonians did, and recorded eclipses, recorded various conjunctions of the heavenly bodies, and recorded what not else; and our modern European and American astronomers are just beginning to understand better the ancient records. There are in European and American museums clay tablets taken from old Chaldean ruins, which are today commonly called astrological works, and many of these have not yet been read or properly understood, and perhaps when they are properly understood, our recognition of the great antiquity of Astronomy will be more common than it is today.
I will answer one more question before I leave you this afternoon:
Dear Sir: I attended your lecture for the first time last Sunday afternoon, August 17, and I was entirely in sympathy with all that you said; but there is one question I should like to ask you, as I understand you receive questions from any and all who care to send them in.
My question is this: Why do you label what you teach "theosophy"? Why limit your philosophy by any name at all? I have met many broad-minded and progressive people who in almost all points think as you do, but who are unwilling to group their ideas of philosophy and life under any one name, as they feel that doing this would immediately draw a circle around them thus excluding thousands of others whose beliefs differ but slightly from their own.
It seems to me that your calling your philosophy "theosophy" fosters a sense of separateness between you and the rest of the world. Are we not all working towards one great truth, which no one has as yet arrived at, but which, through the efforts of us all, will be the possession of the human race at some time in the future? [Yes, I will answer affirmatively this point at once.]
I cannot help but think that if theosophists (among whom I doubt not are many fine and progressive people), would join hands with the rest of us in their and our efforts to find out the truth about man and nature, we should all be nearer to the realization of that Universal Brotherhood of which you spoke so forcibly on Sunday last.
Very sincerely yours.
Isn't this questioner kind! In the first place, theosophy is not an invention. Nobody invented it and gave to it a name, as a man might invent a new kind of buzz saw and give to it a trade name, or a new kind of pigs-in-clover puzzle and give to it a new name.
Suppose that the suggestion of this kind friend were adopted by us, what then could we do? Suppose I were to ask the question: "How do you call your teaching?" It has no name. "What name do your beliefs go by?" Oh, they have no name. "Well, don't you call yourselves by some kind of name?" No, we haven't any name. We don't want any name. We are so broad and universal that we take in the whole universe. We are, let me say, Roman Catholics and Protestants and Jews and Brahmanists and Buddhists and the inhabitants of Venus, and we don't require a name. We are IT. We are so perfectly universal and well known by everybody that we don't need a name. We are just like the sunlight shining in our brilliance upon everyone.
Now, such a mental attitude looks very pretty at first sight, and people who adopt it may perhaps flatter themselves that they are wonderfully broad-minded. But such an attitude of mind has its great disadvantages. Personally, I think it is uncommonly fierce egoism. That is my private opinion about any such attitude. Now, I have heard of people — and the woods are full of them today — who think they are so broad and generous-minded and perfectly universal and so assured of their own superiority, that they don't want to ally themselves with anybody or anything. They just want to be superior to any attachments, spiritual, intellectual, ethical, or social — being such superior people you see — and the consequence is that they are just as colorless and diffuse as the air is. They have not much individuality; they have not much force of character; they have no definite beliefs; they are just most wonderfully diffuse and characterless.
You cannot accomplish anything in life that is of worth by following such a fallacy. You must have one-pointedness, a directed will, a definite policy, a system, order, coordinated thought, if you are to accomplish any kind of work that is worthwhile in the world; nevertheless, we theosophists don't follow theosophy merely because we look upon it as a circumscribed and restricted thing, which it most emphatically is not. We Theosophists don't say to anybody: "If you don't believe as we do, then get out. This is our circle here and in it we live and move and have our being, and it is for us alone." Never do theosophists talk in that way. Our platform is so broad and yet so profound that the only prerequisite to fellowship in The Theosophical Society is an honest belief in universal brotherhood. Now, if that isn't broad enough for anybody, I would like the objector to show me something better. Nevertheless, the theosophical teachings are a formulated system of thought originated by great spiritual seers and sages depicting and explaining the structure, operations, nature, origin, and destiny of the universe and therefore of man who is an inseparable part of that universe.
Our teachings are definite, clear-cut, well-defined, and satisfy both the heart and mind of man. We are obliged to call ourselves by some name. Everything that exists must be verbally defined if we are to allude to it definitely either in thought or in speech. We must give to the Universe a name, but everybody recognizes that this is a name. Infinitude must be defined by some human word if men are to allude to it in human speech.
The ancient wisdom-religion of mankind, my Brothers, however, was not called by the name theosophy in all other ages. That is the name given to it today, simply in order to give people some idea of what it is and to have some name to call it by. Being merely a name, of course it does not adequately characterize and explain this ancient wisdom-religion of the human race which has existed in all times, among all peoples, and has been given different names in different ages.
If theosophy were merely a new way of explaining science or one of the already known great religions or great philosophies, the question of the querent might have good sense in it; but theosophy contains doctrines and teachings which are utterly unknown in the Occident today or nearly so, as well as the teachings which of course are found in all the great world religions and world philosophies. It gives a grand, a magnificent, an imposing, outlook or vision on the universe and on human life and explains this vision both in general and in particular; and thus you see it is something which stands by itself, although theosophists claim, and claim with positiveness, that it is universal, that it is all-inclusive, that it covers all the fields of every activity of the human consciousness. It is obvious, therefore, that we must give it a name, and if it is, as I have just shown you it is, something so different from anything else that men are ordinarily accustomed to, we are obliged to give it a name in order to allude to it when speaking of it. It seems to me — and I say this without any wish to give offense to the thoughtful questioner — that not enough thought has been devoted to this question, because it is juvenile in its restricted and narrow views.
Furthermore, I tell you that theosophists have a work to do in the world. That work is what we are doing, or trying to do. You come here, I suppose, to learn something about what theosophy teaches. Suppose that we were to advertise: "Come to Point Loma every Sunday afternoon at three o'clock to hear Dr. de Purucker talk on nothing at all — or what is the same thing — talk on everything." Such an advertisement, to me, would be a madman's advertisement.
I don't think that this question shows very deep thought. There are so many people in the world today — oh, the woods are just full of them, and I have met many of them — who don't want to belong to anything or to believe anything definite. They merely want to be spiritual and intellectual dreamers. I have sometimes said to people like these: "You have just said that you don't want to belong to anything. Haven't you any idea of order, of system, of one-pointedness of thought and work? Do you know how things are accomplished in the world? Theosophists have a work to do. We must have a mental and psychological plowpoint. You cannot plow a field by waving your arm over it. That may be a beautiful gesture, and it is easy, but it does not accomplish anything. It does not mean honest-to-goodness work, the exercise of willpower, the use of your intelligence. If you want to do anything, you must set for yourselves a program, you must outline your policy; you must define your field of thought or work, and then go to it."
Study theosophy, my friends, and if you find that it is circumscribed or limited or shuts anybody out, anything out, then come and tell me, and I will take your hand in thankfulness for what you have shown to me. But some unfortunate people are narrow-minded, and they don't know it, and consider themselves exceedingly broad-minded. They are actually so narrow-minded that they want even heaven for themselves alone — although I have never heard them say that they wanted the other place for themselves alone! All this really originates in the fact that these people have lacked training in concentrated thought, and therefore are actually impatient at people who don't accept their own vague diffuseness of ideas.
I am going to read to you a funny little poem that was sent in to me as quoted in The O. E. [Oriental] Library Critic, an interesting periodical edited and published by the theosophical modern Juvenal or satirist, Dr. H. N. Stokes of Washington, D.C., a man of trenchant wit, whose favorite occupation in life seems to be pricking bubbles of fantasy and bursting bladders of pretension and perforating shams. The four lines of this selection are as follows:
We are the sweet elected few;
May all the rest be damned;
There's room enough in hell for you;
We won't have heaven crammed!
Now, theosophists don't think in that way. We want you to "come to heaven" with us. And that is why I always appeal to you to awaken the inner god within you; and when that inner divinity is awakened and you then begin to see the vision sublime in your own heart and mind, my Brothers, then you are hooked. A fisher of men I am, and my bait is truth; and I catch my fish by awakening their own inner beings and thus giving them light and the grand consciousness of a living, immortal love. Love is the captor, and those who love are the captives.
Vol 2, No 10