Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Plato on Two World-Souls
The Mystery of the Pratyeka-Buddha
The North Polar Continent
The Writing of the Four Gospels
Suggestion and Autosuggestion
Man Made in His Own Image
Soul The Intermediate Principle
The Doctrine of the Trinity
Learning Through Suffering
Would you be good enough to explain what Plato meant by the much disputed passage in the LAWS, in which he refers to two world-souls, one the author of good, the other of evil. The passage is as follows:
Athenian: And as the soul orders and inhabits all things that move, however moving, must we not say that she orders also the heavens?
Clenias: Of course.
Athenian: One soul or more? More than one — I will answer for you; at any rate we must not suppose that there are less than two, one the author of good, the other of evil. — Laws, x, 896
Taken in conjunction with the remainder of the Platonic philosophy and its constant reference to divine beings in the Universe, the explanation of this passage becomes immediately clear enough: i.e., that there is a spiritual Universe as well as what we moderns call a material universe, the two of course working together and under the general governance or superiority of the World-Spirit which moves to and works for 'good,' while the other is that part of the world or universe composed of inferior or less evolved beings, which therefore by comparison with the superior World-Soul can be called collectively the author of imperfection, or what; men today call 'evil.'
I will repeat the answer in other words now. The Universe is a vast aggregate Hierarchy or Cosmic Family composed of beings in all grades or stages of evolution, from the Hierarch or topmost point of divinity of the Hierarchy, down to the most material beings composing the Hierarchy; and these latter are of course the least evolved of all the entities in the Hierarchy and therefore form the material world. The Hierarch or spiritual entity of the Hierarchy is therefore the source of all law, order, love, peace, harmony, beauty, compassion, pity, and active intelligence in the Hierarchy; and all the inferior beings in this Hierarchy derive what they have of harmony and beauty and peace, etc., from their supreme Chief, the Hierarch.
Thus you see there are what Plato, in order to save words, very briefly calls two 'souls' — one the author of good, and one the author of evil; i.e., one the source of law and beauty and harmony, and the other the great material aspect of life, which, because it is material is imperfectly evolved, and therefore can abstractly be called the 'author of evil.'
But now, mark you, any such Hierarchy is but one of countless multitudes of other similar Hierarchies alike unto it, scattered through the infinite fields of Boundless Being; so that, therefore, 'World-Souls' are literally infinite in number. I point this fact out with some particularity so that my answer will not seem to contain the 'Supreme Personal God' idea.
This, therefore, is the real meaning of Plato in the passage which you quote, and which Christians find it extremely difficult to understand, because of their education and mental bias along Christian lines. Plato of course was a Polytheist, or a believer in a Universe filled full with divinities and beings less than divinity, forming a Cosmic Family, just as we Theosophists teach. In fact, Plato was a Theosophist.
In regard to the statement, as quoted in 'The Mystery of the Pratyeka-Buddha' (LUCIFER, August, 1934), that the path of the Pratyeka-Buddha is "a noble path in a way . . . nevertheless essentially a selfish path, etc.," a correspondent asks if the path of the Pratyeka-Buddha, being both noble and selfish, thus makes really a third or middle path -so to speak a 'gray path,' lying in between the utterly selfish path of the Black Magician and the utterly selfless white path of a Buddha of Compassion.
In answer to this question, it may be observed that it is possible for the sake of mere categorical convenience to speak of the path of the Pratyeka-Buddhas as being a third path, or what the questioner calls a 'gray path,' lying between the black path of the Black Magician and the white path of the Buddha of Compassion; but such a distinction is rather an arbitrarily convenient one than true to Nature. The very fact that the Pratyeka-Buddhas are Buddhas of a kind, shows that theirs is a 'white path,' to follow the metaphor that the questioner used. But it is a white path which is nevertheless a negative or passive path, instead of being an actively compassionate and beneficent white path, which is what the Buddhas of Compassion follow.
We have thus the path of matter followed by the Brothers of the Shadow or the Black Magicians, which goes downwards; we have also the white path which goes upwards. In the middle, so to speak, of this white path we find the Buddhas of Compassion steadily pressing forwards, but nevertheless deliberately and compassionately keeping in touch with and helping all beings trailing along behind that it is possible to help: the Buddhas of Compassion thus acting as world-leaders and world-guides, and doing so with deliberately compassionate intent; whereas, on the sides, so to speak, of the same white path we find individuals who, their eyes fixed on the glory of the vision before them, are blinded by it and, as it were, forget the suffering thousands of millions of beings trailing along behind.
Thus, then, these Pratyeka-Buddhas press forwards along the white path, doing indeed no harm to anyone, but completely absorbed in their own 'salvation' as the Christians phrase it. They will finally reach their destination where they will rest for aeons. Meanwhile, the general course of evolution, led by the Buddhas of Compassion, will in time pass them by, so that when the Pratyeka-Buddhas finally awaken to their new period of evolution, they will then discover, themselves in the rear, although still on the white path. Remember that the Pratyeka-Buddhas are not actively evil, quite the contrary. They are even a negative or passive kind of spiritual influence in the world; but yet their course is what one can truly and faithfully describe as a sort of spiritual selfishness, yet not an evil kind of selfishness as is the path of the Black Brothers. The Pratyekas must lead pure lives and keep their minds constantly on the celestial vision ahead and do no harm to anyone; but their whole attention is centered on their own 'salvation,' and they progress oblivious of the sufferings and stumbling steps of the uncounted millions behind them.
This is so beautifully and succinctly stated by H. P. B. in The Voice of the Silence:
The rugged Path of four-fold Dhyana winds on uphill. Thrice great is he who climbs the lofty top.
The Paramita heights are crossed by a still steeper path.
These Paramita heights are the heights upon which the Buddhas of Compassion fix their gaze, for theirs is a still steeper path leading to heights far greater than those attained by the Pratyeka-Buddhas.
Thus these latter are vegetatively or passively good, instead of actively good as are the Compassionate Buddhas. The difference is somewhat like that which we so often find as between two men, both of them fairly good men, both of them on the whole desirous of doing good; but one man of the twain longs to do good because his heart is mightily moved by pity, and he thus goes out of his way in order to do good to others; whereas the other man of the twain merely dreams of doing good, but is still more interested in his own progress forwards and in the matters that pertain to his own advancement. The former man opens his ears to every cry for help, and obeys the instincts and dictates of pity; the latter man likewise may or may not hear the cries as the case may be, but is so involved in his own purposes for self-progress and self-advancement that he forgets, and finally by force of habit becomes selfishly oblivious of, Nature's first mandate — helping where help is needed.
In Volume II of THE SECRET DOCTRINE, page 401, is the following statement:
If, then, the teaching is understood correctly, the first continent which came into existence capped over the whole North Pole like one unbroken crust, and remains so to this day, beyond that inland sea which seemed like an unreachable mirage to the few arctic travelers who perceived it.
Also on page 400, Note No. 857, the same statement is made, followed by the following:
All the central continents and lands will emerge from the sea bottom many times in turn, but this land will never change.
These statements seem to be a direct contradiction of the discoveries made in recent years by Admiral Byrd and others. In a recent article by the Admiral he states that there is a polar sea over the North Pole about 10,000 feet deep and a continental plateau over the South Pole about 10,000 feet above sea level.
How are these two statements reconciled?
We must never forget that H. P. Blavatsky was not permitted in many cases fully to give out all she knew, but could only make statements which sufficed to arouse the intuition of her students and to start them on new lines of inquiry. Notice that she begins the statement first quoted by the questioner with the word if. "If, then, the teaching is understood correctly . . . ." As Shakespeare says, there is much virtue in an if!
We must remember that the discoveries of Peary and Byrd (the latter to a large extent based upon Peary's findings, at least as regards conclusions) while seemingly accurate enough, need further confirmation. Next, that according to the teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy, the physical land-mass around the North Pole is mystically called the sacred imperishable land, which does not fundamentally change from the beginning of a manvantara — a Round — until its end. This by no means signifies that this land-mass remains untouched by and immune from the natural secular forces which prevail over the entire globe. On the contrary, the Polar Regions, just as much as other regions, are subject to changes of various kinds, minor subsidences, minor elevations. In this manner, just as occur in other regions, constant variations in the topography, so to speak, take place in the oceanic land-massif which surrounds the North Pole and its vicinity in all directions.
The meaning of this should be sufficiently clear. The North Polar continental massif is never, from the beginning of the Round to its end, subject to the complete and continental elevations and submersions that all the other land-massifs undergo during the long ages comprehended in a Round. The Second or Hyperborean continent, and Lemuria, Atlantis, and our own Fifth continent, have either already disappeared or will in the future. The ocean's turbulent waters are now rolling, or will roll, where once those archaic land-masses existed, or still exist in the case of our present continental system. Here is the difference between all those continental regions, past or future — each one the continental system of a Root-Race, past or to come — and the sacred 'imperishable' land-system surrounding the North Pole.
The North Polar land, as said above, is subject to the same secular variations of topographical outline as those of other portions of the Earth, but these are of minor character: small portions sink, other small portions arise. The geographic center of the Earth at the North Pole may or may not be at any one time under water, but surrounding it there is still the same slightly shifting, slightly changing continental system which in one age presents more water than land, and in another more land than water, but which, as a continental system, never undergoes those major and universal subsidences to which all other portions of the Earth's surface are subject in the course of the cycling ages — excepting the two "ends of the Earth." The same general observations apply to the South Pole.
Here, then, we have the explanation of what is mistakenly called a riddle only because certain statements have been too literally construed, and the matter has not been sufficiently studied. Consider a hypothetical case nearer the equator. Such a case could never actually occur, but it will illustrate my point. Take the Australian massif, including Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and the surrounding archipelagoes. Imagine that this vast continental system is never completely submerged, but is nevertheless subject to minor or partial cataclysms which entirely change the topographical outlines of the massif. Never does it vanish as a whole, but its outline is constantly changing because of the inroads of the sea in certain parts, and the elevations above the sea of hitherto sunken portions of this vast continental tract. This, as said, cannot happen except at the Poles, but it is precisely what has happened there, and will continue to do so to the very end of the present Round-manvantara. Though at first a continuous system or massif, the northern continent changes throughout the ages but never completely vanishes. It is subject to continuous secular variations in its topography due to sinkings and risings of portions thereof. The actual geographical center at the Pole may be either above or below the water, but the surrounding system of islands, large and small, peninsulas, etc., will remain, despite all minor changes, from the Round-manvantara's beginning to its end. It never finds as a whole a watery grave in the abysmal deeps of the ocean's floor.
What is KNOWN in regard to the time when the Gospels of the New Testament were written?
Nothing at all is definitely known as to the exact time when the four Gospels of the New Testament were originally written. The first three are called by Christians the 'Synoptic Gospels' from a Greek word meaning 'seeing together,' the idea being that they give a general view of the alleged incidents in the life of Jesus in pretty much the same way — which they don't! Nobody knows, not even the ablest Christian or skeptical scholars, when a single one of the four Gospels was written, although Christian apologists have tried to set tentative dates. Skeptical scholars, on the other hand, who are not under the Christian sway of thought or bias, are pretty well of the common conclusion, or of the one idea, that all these Gospels were written in Alexandria probably between the first and third centuries of the Christian Era. These same scholars are likewise pretty well of the common opinion that not a single one of the Gospels was written by the Apostle whose name it bears: Matthew did not write Matthew, Luke did not write Luke, Mark did not write Mark, nor John, The Gospel according to St. John; and they say that this is shown by the fact that the very titles of these four Greek Gospels are 'The Gospel according to' — the Greek word being kata, which means 'according to' or 'after the views of.'
It is commonly supposed, or at least supposed by a great many scholars of independent thinking, that the oldest of the four Gospels is The Gospel according to St. Matthew — but some say that of Mark. Most scholars think that, as there are strong similarities but yet strong differences even amounting to contradictions, as among the four Gospels, they were written by different people at different times during the first three centuries of the Christian Era, and possibly the first two; i.e., The Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Mark were written after the pattern of an original and quasi-mythical earlier scripture, called 'The Gospel according to the Hebrews,' of which, however, no traces remain at the present time.
One might add that the Fourth Gospel, The Gospel according to St. John, bears, especially in its opening paragraphs, strong evidence of having been written by a Christian of Platonic leanings.
How (i.e., by what method) were the present books of the New Testament selected from a great number of others and proclaimed as being 'the Word of God'?
This, too, is a very difficult question to answer, because opinions differ so greatly. Older orthodox Christians, especially the clergy among them, stated that each Gospel was written by the Apostle whose name it bears; but modern scholarship has utterly rejected and disproved this. The four 'Canonical,' or Gospels presently accepted as being orthodox, are the four which most successfully survived the times of extremely critical and embittered controversy among the Christian sects during the first centuries of the Christian Era — in the time of what is called the primitive Church. Nobody knows why these particular four happened to survive — but guesses have been many.
There are many other 'Gospels' which have still survived, and they are now called 'Apocryphal,' which in modern meaning signifies gospels of doubtful or rejected authenticity, which some branches of the Christian Church allow to be read for interest or for edification but not for doctrine. These Apocryphal Gospels — a score or more of them, I believe — have most of them been translated into English by an Englishman called Hone. The Apocryphal Gospels, it should be stated, are all of them much less sober in content, much less reserved in narrative, much more full of wonder and miracle, than are the present so-called four Canonical Gospels.
There is a story of old date, probably reaching back fifteen hundred years or more to the early ages of the Christian Church, and recorded by a writer of small value, named Pappus, who tells a curious and interesting yarn about many Gospels having been gathered together in a Church at one of the Councils; and as the Christian theologians — bishops and others — then and there assembled, could not decide which ones were 'the Word of God,' all the Gospels were placed over night in the Chancel or Holy of Holies of the said church — the doors were then locked and everybody left. In the morning, so the yam runs, all the Gospels except the four now accepted, were found on the floor, and these four were found on the altar, and in consequence they were then and there considered to have been placed there by God's angels, and hence were to be accepted as the Canonical Scriptures. This yarn, of course, is quite without substantiated authority, and is universally rejected by Christians. Probably the present books of the New Testament, which include Acts, Epistles, etc., were finally selected or recognised to be orthodox as the result of much dispute and argument during the early centuries of the Christian Church. This is the only possible answer to give, because history is silent on the subject.
That hypnotism is dangerous, I know full well; is autosuggestion dangerous as well? I have understood that it is so — but then Christian Science must be a very dangerous creed indeed!
Autosuggestion can be used for very noble purposes, and it can be used for beastly purposes, as is perfectly obvious. Autosuggestion simply means suggesting thoughts and therefore actions to oneself; and isn't it obvious that you can dream about evil-doing or beastliness in the same way in which one can dream about noble doings and holiness? It depends upon what the suggestion is, whether it be holy or unholy.
As regards Christian Science, this is merely the belief of a modern society of 'deniers,' whose philosophy, if we can call it by that name, although containing many elements of good, as is only to be expected, is nevertheless in my judgment neither really Christian nor really scientific. It is a species of idealistic doctrine to the effect that matter does not exist, and that only the lower consciousness, which they call 'mortal mind,' produces the evil in the world — a proposition which, put baldly like that, no one would probably deny; with the single exception that Theosophists claim that matter and evil do 'exist,' otherwise they would not need to be denied. Neither matter nor evil have absolute being, but they exist. In other words, this is what we Theosophists call maya, or the illusory nature of the existing material universe. Both Theosophists and Christian Scientists, however, agree in the obvious proposition that good is harmony and evil is disharmony, and that it is our bounden duty to try to ally ourselves with the spiritual elements within us and to refuse to place ourselves under the sway of the ignoble elements of our being.
Answering the first part of the question, I would point out that hypnotism can be exceedingly dangerous, and that psychologization especially in its form of suggestion is not only extremely perilous for ignorant minds to dabble with, but even for those who have studied the matter, to undertake to practise; for one would need the wisdom of a Buddha or of a Jesus, and the heart of a Buddha or of a Jesus, in order to know just how far to go and when to stop.
Suggestion, on the whole, is one of the most subtil and ill-understood powers of the human mind, although it is none the less practised daily and constantly and often ignorantly in all ranks of human society. In this connexion we must not forget the doctrine of Karman with its rigid action which makes a man responsible for whatever he does, responsible for his thoughts and for his feelings, and therefore for his acts, and that Nature will hold him to the strictest kind of accounting, "to the last farthing" as the saying goes, for whatever he makes himself responsible for by his thoughts and by his feelings, and therefore by his acts.
Page 268, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Vol. I, bottom, says: ". . . the Pilgrim, having struggled through and suffered in every form of life and being, is only at the bottom of the valley of matter, and half through his cycle, when he has identified himself with collective Humanity. This, he has made in his own image. What does this last sentence mean? How "in his own image"?
A man reproduces himself on earth from his own inner self, from the elements of his own inner being. A man cannot be anything other than what he himself is, obviously; and as his inner nature evolves, so will he reproduce in his physical and astral and vital parts ever-improved and more perfect instruments and fitter vehicles for expressing the spiritual and intellectual and psychical nature within him. A man thus is his own father or progenitor, and a man in future lives will be his own child — or children; I mean that a man makes himself in this life to be what he will be in the next life and in future lives. A man is a composite entity formed of a divine, of a spiritual, of an intellectual, of a psychical, and of a vital-astral-physical part. The lower parts of him flow forth from the higher parts of himself, much as the oak-tree flows forth from the life and matter-elements within the acorn.
There, then, is the keynote of the explanation, which is very mystical, but very beautiful and very profound; and thus it is that the 'pilgrim,' which here in H. P. B.'s language represents the collective army of evolving monads, reproduces, when it reaches the human stage, humanity, and in its own image. Man is thus brought about through evolution as an imperfect image of the indwelling or inner god; and the god meant here is the inner spiritual divinity, the immanent Christ, the inner god, or the inner Buddha. At the heart of every being is a fountain of energy which reproduces 'shadows' or 'images' of itself in the material worlds. These 'shadows' or 'images' of itself are its various bodies, and being shadows of itself are obviously images of itself. Therefore the 'pilgrim' — a name used by H. P. B. in this passage for the collective army of monads — reproduces Humanity — which is the name for the collective host of men in its own image or images.
Why, if the soul as I have understood it, is omnipotent, should it need to manifest in the material worlds?
The soul is not omnipotent, the Spirit is but not the soul. Man is composed of a divine part, a spiritual part, an intellectual part, a passional part, and a vital-astral-physical part, coming downwards. Man is composed of all the essences in the universe, from the highest to the lowest. The highest part in man is omnipotent, at least we can say omnipotent in this universe, but not the soul. The soul is the intermediate part, the part between the Spirit and the body; and it is the soul which is learning, evolving. It is the soul which says: 'I am I'; but it is the Spirit which says: 'I am.' Do you see the difference? 'I am,' is the same all over the universe. Every creature everywhere feels 'I am.' But the soul with its reflected consciousness — as the moon reflects the sun — does not realize that it is the same in essence as the universe, and makes a distinction or a separation between other souls and itself, and says 'I am I,' and 'you are you.' Now that is not very high. It is like a man who says: I am a Swede, I am an Englishman, I am a German. It is good as far as it goes, but it is not the highest. The noblest part of us says: I am a son of the Divine, my home is the Universe, I am at home everywhere. All are my brothers because all come from the same source whence I come. The Universe is my home.
It is the Spirit which is universal, which is relatively omnipotent; but the soul, the human soul, is a learning creature; it has not yet fully evolved.
From where did the early Christians derive their doctrine of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
The early Christians derived the essentials — I do not mean all the later theological squabblings about the Trinity, but the essentials of the teaching — from the early Pagans, especially from the great nations of the Hither East, such as Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Syria, etc. Many or all of these ancient nations had a wonderful mystical Theology which taught the existence of a Cosmic Life-Intelligence, which for purposes of easy description they often called the 'Father.' And because the Universe evolved or came into manifestation, the first and most spiritual period of this manifestation was called the 'Son' of the Cosmic Father, or Cosmic Intelligence-Life, and in ancient Greece was often mystically spoken of as the Logos, or Reason or Word of the Father, which was exactly the term that the Christians adopted for their Divine 'Son,' whom they most curiously tangled up in a web of contradictions with the otherwise beautiful and noble character called Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost, said these ancient mystical theologians, was the spirit of love and harmony and peace pervading or permeating the Universe; and we must remember that the phrase 'Holy Ghost' is but another form of the phrase 'Holy Spirit.'
We see, then, that this triad can be considered as a trinity, and was adopted by the Christians, at least in its essentials, to wit, the Cosmic fundamental Essence often spoken of as Life-Intelligence-Substance, permeated with the spirit of love and order and law and harmony, called the 'Holy Ghost'; and there was always the 'Son' or Logos, who was the actual intelligent creative power.
Would you suggest that Theosophy teaches that pain and suffering were part of the original program?
This question is not so easy to answer as might appear at first sight, because, can I say off-hand without qualification that it is necessary for human beings to pass through sorrow and pain and suffering and wretchedness — must I add sin and evil-doing? — and thereby preach a doctrine of evil? Therefore I will phrase my answer in this wise, and I will use the well-known phrase: It must needs be that evil be upon the Earth, but woe unto the evil-doer! Do you catch the thought? It is a very profound one. Imperfect beings actually do learn through suffering and pain because they do evil things. They learn by it. See how beautiful and kindly Mother Nature is. She lets us learn even when we break her commandments or laws. But when we do so, we reap pain, we reap sorrow, our hearts are broken by the misery that we ourselves have sown. Strange but true paradox! We learn through the evil we do. But, merciful heaven, how we suffer from it, and it need not be. So merciful is Nature that we can learn even from the evil that we do do, from the evil things that we commit. But we can learn without doing evil, and then we suffer not, nor do we undergo pain.
I would say in brief then: Yes, we learn through suffering and pain, but we need not so. There are other ways of learning. There are other ways, for instance, for a child to learn that fire burns besides the risky one and painful one of putting a finger into the flame. We have our mind, our intellect, our intuition, the keen percipient consciousness.