Theosophical University Press Online Edition
The Only Way Out
Where Two or Three Are Gathered
The Direct Road to Wisdom
What Is Old Age?
Work Out Your Own Salvation
The Touchstone of Truth
To Those Who Mourn
The Giving of the Self
Why Not Laugh at Yourself?
The Guardian Angel
Strength through Exercise
Modern men and women, both older and younger, form a generation which we can, I believe, adequately describe as a lost generation; and the cause of it, the reason for our mental wanderings and emotional gropings, is the loss of our understanding and hold of a common or universally accepted ethical and intellectual standard. This is shown by the babel of voices surrounding us everywhere, by the hungry human hearts, and even by the eager human minds searching for truth and not knowing where to find it, nor its guidance: human minds searching for a sufficient and satisfying inner light, for something that will guide us in solving the problems facing us. We are, indeed, a lost generation, and it is not the youth only who are "lost"; in fact it is the elders who are even more perplexed than are the youth of today. Our whole generation is blind, walking in darkness, not knowing whither to turn for the longed-for light; and the babel of voices that arises from the immense human crowd is something frightening and significant in its clamor and confused insistence upon panaceas and nostrums of various kinds, political and otherwise.
One hearkens vainly while lending an ear to this turbulent babel, which too often is mere babble, in order to find constructive suggestions which are of universal application. It is rare indeed to hear voices speaking with the authority of knowledge; and I will venture to suggest the reason of it all.
If there is a common struggle or fight in progress and you go down into the arena of turmoil intending to fight those already fighting there and to outshout them, the chances are small that what you have to say will receive attention; the probability is that you are going to be hurt. This is because the would-be reformer simply descends to the level of the shouting squabblers. Such is not the manner by which to bring about anything that is universally and definitely constructive in idea, or attractively new or helpful, or that will explain and solve the problems causing the universal disturbance. You are simply descending into the battle yourself, trying to overcome violence with violence, force with force; and this procedure never has succeeded, and it never will.
This does not mean to imply that force is always to be ignored in human relations. Sometimes it is necessary wisely albeit kindly to use force, but always without violence, and in order to overcome an evil. Such employment of force or power should always be a merely temporary event or procedure, and should never be used save in an impersonal and upright manner, and for a good cause, and for the common weal. Justice to all is never gained by descending into the arena of battle and "fighting it out" there. Justice is rarely gathered into pockets, so to say; and very rarely indeed is it wholly on one side of a question.
Our generation is lost, intellectually and morally, because it has lost its vision. Without a vision the people perish — an old Hebrew saying based on a comprehensive view of human psychology as demonstrated in history, and therefore a saying which is full with truth. It is invariably a vision or an idea, or a body of ideas, which guides men upwards to glory or downwards to the pit. Plato was fully right: it is ideas which make or unmake civilizations, build up or overthrow established institutions; and it is grandly universal ideas, and the will to follow them — ideas and ideals which all men feel to be true — which men today lack. It is just because we today lack vision, an inner knowledge of the right thing to do, of a clear way out of our troubles, that as nations we are where we now are.
We are presently at the end of one form of civilization which, like the Roman Empire in its time, has reached its term, its breaking up, and we are facing the opening measures of the cosmic drama which is now coming in. It will depend upon the innate wisdom and sense of high justice inherent in men's hearts and minds, whether our present civilization will go down in blood and despair, or whether it will take breath and time in order to recover itself; whether, with the dawning of a new intellectual and moral perception of justice and reason, it will stop its descent down the declivity and begin to rise to new heights overtopping the finest that as yet racially we have attained. This latter can be done; and it is man's higher nature only, his intuitions and instincts for justice and reason, nothing else, that will bring it to pass with surety: man's innate sense of justice and of right, and the common recognition that reason and not violence is the way out — and upwards to safety, peace, and progress.
History with its silent but tremendously powerful voice shows us that there is absolutely no other way out for us; that there is no other complete solution, nor one which will be satisfactory to all types of minds, to all types of human character. Freedom for all; each people seeking its own salvation on its own lines, but in ethical directions accompanied by reason and a desire to do justice. Even an enlightened self-interest, with its always keen eye for individual advantage, must see the universal benefits and securities of such a plan. All stable institutions are founded on these intuitions and instincts, and upon naught else; for were it otherwise, then our sense of order and law, our very respect for our courts of law, international or national, were collectively a monstrous deception, and an ignominious and miserable farce; and all sane men realize that our laws are based on the rules of justice and impartial reason, tempered with impersonal mercy.
I am not one of those gloomy pessimists who say that man is but a poor worm, with instincts born of his association with dust, and intuitions that are unfounded in fact, and that therefore he cannot solve his problems adequately. He can solve them if he has the will to do so. We are indeed approaching the end of our civilization, and are fascinated and hold our breath as we watch the phenomena of its breaking up; but all too often we forget that this has been a civilization of matter almost wholly, where things of matter often counted as the only ones permanently worth while. There are no longer new lands to which we may send our young people to colonize, for they all have been preempted or taken. The rule of force and of material values has prevailed almost universally, rather than the rules of international justice and common human rights. For eighteen hundred years, more or less, it has been the rule: let everyone grab what he may; let everyone hold what he can. The conduct of the peoples of the earth has been largely based on this purely materialistic and selfish foundation. We sowed the wind; we are now as a body of spiritually bankrupt peoples reaping the whirlwind.
Is it not time that the more farseeing and superior minds of the world should see to it that calmness and reason and impartial justice shall henceforth prevail? Is there any other and better way out of our troubles and difficulties than by solving them wisely? If men deliberately refuse to listen to reason, if men deliberately refuse to wish or to will to do justice, then it seems certain that down we shall go, and our civilization, our great cities and the manifold works and labors of millions of hands through the years, shall be dust and ruined heaps. No god will step into the arena of human pain and willful ignorance and pull us wretched mortals out of the world mess that we have created for ourselves, mostly through rabid self-interest and through our willful turning away from the paths of justice and peace. We alone must save ourselves; and when we begin to do this in the manner pleasing to the higher powers, then we shall make an undeniable appeal for their aid and guidance; and we shall receive it. Hercules helps the wagoner, indeed; but only when the wagoner begins to help himself — and in the right way.
It is the sheerest foolishness and the most blatant of all ethical and intellectual poppycock to aver that man's destiny, now that the waste places of the earth have been taken, is blocked; that there is no future for those who were not in at the beginning. Such an attitude is contradicted by every page in the annals of universal history. We must remember that no thing, no institution, is unchangeable, eternally the same; and that the shifting and continuously varying scenes of human history in the past a certain fact of truth — promise that the future will be as full as the past has been with the shifting of cosmic scenery, and the changing of human interests and fields of activity. The greatest peoples of the earth have not been those possessing the greatest extent of territory, but precisely those who have been foremost in the reception of ideas and in the application of progressive ideas to the upbuilding of human institutions based on and usually proclaiming, if not, alas, always following, the ideals of impersonal justice and trained reason; for these are spiritual qualities — which in fact are universal.
Let us fill our hearts with eternal gratitude to the watching though silent cosmic powers, that the horizons now before us in all parts of the earth, and without distinction of race or creed, are spiritual and intellectual horizons, beyond which there are for us unknown regions of infinitely vast extent waiting conquest by human genius, when we shall give rein to the instincts and intuitions of the soul. Look then at what lies before us if we will to bring justice unmotivated by self-interest and the love of honor and truth to work amongst us!
One of the main causes, and perhaps the foremost, of our troubles both national and international is that men commonly — with many grand exceptions — are still holding to the belief in force, in violence, as being the way to solve our troubles. Such procedure never has succeeded permanently, and never will. Violence breeds violence; violence grows by violence. Hatred breeds hatred; selfishness breeds other selfishness.
It is one of the objectives, let me say duties, of the Theosophical movement to show men the simple precepts of reason; that life should be governed by the grand ethical instincts of the human soul, which are based on no human conventions but on the orderliness of nature's own structure and processes. Out of these ethical instincts spring the directing precepts of reason and our will to do justice, teaching us that the way out lies within ourselves: not in our armies or in our navies, or in all the dreadful methods of mutual destruction which man's evil genius has invented. These last are not even temporary remedies and bring no satisfactory adjusting of troubles. At best, the machinery of defense should be used as police machines; for then their use becomes justified, because then they would be employed in the cause of justice and used with reason only.
Our problems will never be solved by our mad rush in competitive armament, bringing about universal distrust, fear, anxiety, and crushing the peoples with taxation which threatens to grow beyond their power to meet, and almost making them hate the conditions under which they live their lives. It is the old folly, now recognized by all, to argue that by piling up armaments and inventing new devices of horrible destruction, and by increasing the use of violent force, by and by war will become so horrible that men will shrink in fearsome terror from it. Of all the fallacies and stupid arguments, this is the worst that has ever been inflicted on the suffering minds of mankind.
You will never succeed in stopping war by organizing yourselves into associations or societies swearing to refuse service to your government, and defying it in case of war. That procedure, in my judgment, is abominably wrong. We may admire the idealistic courage and ideal thoughts of the young men and women who, it seems, are doing this. But they overlook the fact that they are merely announcing their declaration to declare war of a kind upon their own government and country, if war should come, thereby introducing disorder and strife among themselves.
Let the youth of the different peoples of whatever country set the example of fidelity and loyalty, each youth to his own government, thus proving the strength and worth of the moral ideal of citizenship; yet, on the other hand, as the world badly needs the idealisms and chivalry resident in the younger generation, let youth express these likewise by raising its voice loud and insistent, powerfully declaring itself for universal justice and reason, and do so by the measures of established law. In this manner, the voice of the world's youth will penetrate into all places, closed and open; for their insistence upon their rights as the coming generation soon to shoulder the burden of the older, will reach sympathetic ears too numerous to count. Novus ordo seclorum!
I should like to see complete disarmament of the peoples take place, by mutual compact and convention, to be replaced by an international navy, officered and manned by men drawn in rotation from the different maritime or even inland peoples of the globe, and trained for this purpose. I should like to see the armies of the world reduced to relatively small national police forces solely. The duties of the international navy would be the policing of the seas, the repressing of piracy, and the making of the high seas and coastal waterways safe for the commerce of the peoples of the world. There is not one thing to prevent this double achievement of constructive genius except a psychology which everyone detests and all fear: a psychology that has merely grown up to be a habit of human thinking.
One may pray and hope that the prominent men in the world today, those who hold the destinies of the peoples more or less in their hands, will hearken to the heartbeat, the unexpressed and growing will of the peoples for a permanent solving of their troubles. If they do so, these men will go down in history; they will be remembered not so much by statues and monuments in stone, but their names will be emblazoned in perpetuity in the perduring fabric of human hearts. Their memory shall remain for ages to come as the fire of love and gratitude burning in human hearts.
Again I repeat: a brotherhood of the peoples based on reason and justice and functioning for the common good, for the progress of all, is both practicable and practical, and will some day be seen to be inevitable. Why not therefore lay the foundations of it NOW!
There is an old saying that where two or three are gathered together in my name, that is, in the company of the spirit, the spirit is present with these two or three.
There is a great occult truth in this, and if you will multiply the two or three fiftyfold or one hundredfold, and realize, or try to realize, that the force of a unified spiritual will and understanding can do much good in the world, and keep this before you as an ideal of help and comfort, then I think you will feel with me that it is not merely for ourselves that we gather together in theosophical meetings for consolation and comfort and light, but that wherever these meetings are held we gather together as aspirants to join the highest elements of the human race.
In these words there lies more perhaps than may appear on the surface.
Just what is the direct road to wisdom? I think that this is the most important topic of thought that can be addressed today. Is anyone able clearly to define what this direct road to wisdom is, as contrasted with what I may call the indirect road?
The indirect road may otherwise be described as the road leading into our consciousness from outside of ourselves: the road of instruction, the usual way of the churches and the lecture halls; helpful perhaps, stimulating it may be, to certain minds at times; but can we really define this road or path as the road to wisdom?
The direct road to wisdom is the road or path of inner light, understanding, arising from inner striving and experience; and it has been outlined, at least briefly, by every one of the great teachers of the human race. It might otherwise be described in mystical phrasing as achieved when the man himself becomes at one — more or less in fullness — with the god within himself. This is the direct road.
What ails the world today? What is the cause of its manifold inner troubles, of its hesitancies, of its loss of confidence? The answer lies in the fact that men are largely inwardly empty; they are, as multitudes and as individuals, relatively empty vessels: there is no inner fullness from which to give to others, no inner and filled richness of understanding through and by which we may receive and solve the problems confronting humanity, and thus wisely help ourselves and others. Instead of the unity and understanding of action which would accrue from such inner richness, there is opposition, strife, quarreling, and the inevitable consequent wretchedness combined with galling poverty and keen pain. Hence I say that the inner spiritual richness arising in an inner unity of life is the direct path to wisdom, for all that makes life worth while and grand is there.
Most men and women are unensouled, or relatively so. This does not mean that they have no souls, or that they are "lost souls." It means rather that the soul within is not showing through us and in our lives its transcendent powers. Keep ever in mind that the spiritual soul is within-above us, attempting always to inspire and to infill our lives and thus make them rich and strong and full and beautiful. But most people are not thus ensouled. "We elbow soulless people at every turn," as H. P. Blavatsky pointed out. More than anything else it is the duty, the high and lofty labor and privilege, of the Theosophical Society to help to recall to thinking men and women the realization and the assurance of the fact that they are and should be ensouled beings.
How this, if achieved in multitudes of our fellows, would change the face of the earth! Everything would change. Happiness would come to replace unhappiness; peace would replace strife, understanding and mutual consideration would replace the hatreds and contempts which now disgrace us all. For men would be infilled with the inner light, with the inner power, bringing understanding and mutual sympathy and kindliness and instinctive brotherhood; and there would be a universal yearning for peace and goodwill.
The majority of men and women today, being unensouled, are empty vessels, instead of filled ones — filled with inner power and light. Instead of being guided by the spirit within, and by its irresistible mandates, they follow brain-mind schemes of selfish considerations. It is always: "Number one, and the devil take the hindmost."
Now the indirect way to wisdom does help no doubt to change these conditions. To be just, one must say that it is perhaps helpful to certain weak and stumbling ones. But it is devious and roundabout. It lies in trying to receive things of spiritual and intellectual value from outside of us alone, without the attempt to arouse them in ourselves. We treasure these gifts from without perhaps; and this is good. Yet they are but feeble staves in the hands of us pilgrims. The staves are not strong. But once the inner life, once the emptiness within, is filled with the richness and holy power of the spiritual Reality within us, then we have wisdom: we know.
It is said of H. P. Blavatsky that once when she returned from taking exercise after her morning's work, she had tears streaming down her face and walked the floor of her room in a perfect torture of inner agony. The reason of it came out afterwards: "Oh, they are unensouled, these multitudes. In their faces are emptiness, prejudice, ignorance, lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom. They yearn, they hunt for truth, they cry in vain, they attempt to fill the aching void from outside instead of from the perennial springs of inspiration within their hearts! "
To do our utmost to fill this emptiness in human hearts, more than anything else I believe to be our duty: to teach men the direct path to wisdom, to make the inner emptiness a filled richness, a richness of wisdom and of quick and understanding sympathy, so that by it their lives may become grand and strong and true. Then we shall work justice, and gentle reason will preside in all our doings. Much if not all of human ignorance will then have fled; the light of wisdom will guide our steps.
What is old age, the scientific rationale of old age? Disease as everyone knows is disobedience to the laws of nature, the laws of health, of which disobedience we are all guilty more or less. And death is simply the withdrawal of the finer powers from this physical plane in order that the peregrinating ego may journey on in its egoic fullness to other adventures when the call and attraction of this earth have temporarily ceased. Books could be written on just these two points. But, after all, what is old age?
First, have you ever wondered about a very simple fact, that most human beings die more or less within a certain framework or cadre of years? Barring disease and accident, the average life span is pretty much the same all over the world: we don't live to be a thousand years old, and unless we are taken away to the other spheres by accident or disease of some kind, we live more than ten days or one hundred days. Why is it that the average life span for the average human being is something between fifty years and eighty; let us say one hundred, if you will? It is still so short. Now why is it? Are we just like sheep that we accept a fact because it happens and don't think about it and ask ourselves why it is? Why should the turtle or tortoise live to be nearly two hundred years, and we human beings are commonly reaped by the Angel of Death before we attain our one hundredth year? So rare is it for a man to go beyond the hundredth year in physical life, that they keep records of those exceptional cases where human beings have attained 105, or 130 or 140 years.
I will tell you what it is — it is habit: the habit that we have of acting and reacting in the evolutionary stage in which the human race finds itself at the present time. We talk about the planets and how they govern the life span of man. Perfectly true; but how is it that the planets allow a man to pass what might be called the critical period and continue living, and only take him when he may pass it again? He may have happened to pass it several times previously in a life. Why does it catch him at a certain time? These are facts, fascinating, interesting, and I ask you why. My answer is: it is a habit of nature due to our past karma, feelings, thoughts, our past thinking. We have framed for ourselves a framework of psychic and intellectual habit which causes the Angel of Death to call for us more or less within this short span of between one and seventy or a hundred years.
How did this habit arise? Was this habit always so? Will it ever be just the same? In other words, did our forebears of let us say 120 millions of years ago live to be only 50 or 60 or 70 years and then die? They did not. They lived to be several hundred years old; and you have records of this in all the scriptures of antiquity, as for instance in the Jewish Bible when Methuselah lived to be 900 odd. Now I think that is an exaggeration, but it is an illustration and we can let it pass. And then the days of men were shortened on the earth because they sought evil and loved evil and its hot and fetid breath; and as evil is an increase of the vital tempo, the vital reservoir is exhausted before its normal time. So the lives of men were shortened. It is a true explanation, and when the human race through millions of years acquires a psychic habit, the very atoms of man's body respond to that habit, obey it. So it is with all kinds of habits, such as waking every morning at a certain hour. One can get a habit of overfeeding or starving himself. He can get all sorts of habits; and every thoughtful physician knows perfectly well the physiological habits that the body automatically follows in birth, in healing, even in disease.
However, that does not still quite answer the question: why is it that man lives a life of only 80 to 100 years, which is so short compared with endless time? Just a brief flash, and gone! Look at the stars, consider even the other creatures on the earth, many of them much more long-lived than we humans are. Why should it be just so? Now here is some occultism which, whatever you may think of it, happens to be true. This habit was acquired not only because of our past karma, which means the things we did and the thoughts we had and the feelings we underwent and followed, or did not follow, in all our past series of lives; but it also means that the human race in its evolutionary journey towards a far greater perfection than that which now it has, is only at about the middle point of this evolutionary journey of what theosophists call our planetary chain. In other words, it has reached in its series of seven rounds just a little past the central point which is the point farthest down in matter. The call of physical stuff is therefore the strongest.
Now then, if you watch old age you will notice several things: that in the cases of those whose old age is the most beautiful, they never lose their powers until within a few days or a week or so of death. Their powers remain intact, not the bodily ones because the body is aging rapidly, but the real powers which make a man man. Merely to have a physically strong body is not the mark of a true man. Sometimes gross animals have bodies that are far stronger than those of the highly intellectual civilized human. It is the powers within that make us human beings, and it is these powers that the finest old age retains, because these men and women are the finest, the most evolved at the present time. It is as if, because of this fineness of evolutionary status even at the present time, they took tentative steps ahead of the race into the future and its greater glory, and could retain this evolutionary forerunning until death came — forerunners, as it were, of the racial habit.
We are at present in what we call the fourth round, just about at its central and lowest point. When we have reached the fifth round, death then will not come so quickly; the human life span will be far longer than the three score years and ten which the Hebrew Bible gives us as the normal span of human life. When we shall have reached the sixth round, the life span will be still longer. When we shall have reached the seventh and last round for this planetary imbodiment, the span of life will then be at its longest, there will be no old age, there will be no future for that particular planetary chain, no best men as it were who could step a little ahead of the norm, for all men will retain their faculties until death comes. During this seventh round the human race will have become relatively a race of Buddhas or Christs. Death, as the Christian system has it, the last enemy to overcome, will then have been conquered, disease will be nonexistent, for human beings then will live by a habit that is absolutely in accordance with the laws of nature; and what we call death will be simply a falling asleep, to awaken in higher realms. I mean just that — no wrench as at present, whether the wrench be kindly or harsh, but simply a falling asleep.
So you see, we look forward to the future millions and millions and millions of years hence, when man's life will again be several hundreds of years long, when health will be his in relative perfection, because all the laws of nature will become automatically obeyed by mankind. And death when it comes will come like a gentle sleep when there is release into the inner worlds; or, if you wish, in those days human beings will step out of their bodies at will, leave them behind if they are tired, and take a new body at will, or go on into other spheres, for we then shall be conquerors of death. There will be no death as we understand it. That is what evolution has for us in the future a wondrous picture! Then, instead of old age, men will be in fullest possession of their faculties, not merely physical powers such as they have at, let us say, forty-five; but their intellect, their spirituality, their vision and their mind, will be at their highest. That happens even today occasionally amongst the finest exemplars of the human race, those who are a little ahead of their evolving brothers trailing along behind them. They intuit, they have intuitions, as it were, like a child taking tentative steps towards something still unknown. Nature pushes them ahead so that their old age is a picture of what the future will be for all men, visions of the future casting their shadows back to us here.
We approach old age now as we do because of our pasts; but in those far distant aeons we can say the older a man grows, the stronger and more powerful he becomes in everything about him, even his body. But we have not reached that yet! Our old age is a copying in us in the small, of all that the race has attained up to the present time. It has become a racial habit.
I will point out something else: mere physical old age is by no means something to long for. When you think what the old age of so many millions of human beings is, it is pitiful — the loss of intellectual power, the loss of spirituality, the loss of course of the physical powers, the loss of the psychological insights, and the loss of the mind to a large extent; and yet they live on because the physical vitality is so strong. Who wants that? The ideal old age, which we can strive for even now and gain in proportion to our effort, is to face death when it comes with joy, for it is the beginning of a marvelous adventure; and from birth until the time of its coming so to live, so to think and to feel and to aspire, that while the body inevitably will become more or less enfeebled as old age comes upon us, the mind remains unimpaired, spirituality grows and glorifies what is so inadequately called the sunset years. This is the ideal of old age: a man increasing in inner power, in inner vision, in mind power, in intellect, in spirituality; so that up to even a few hours of his death, he is with every advancing day a bigger man than he was the day before or the year before. It is no impossible ideal. Live aright. The guerdon is such.
Yet there are karmic things in the lives of many people which bring about disease, disease which can be traced back far into past lives. Therefore in these things we should do wisely to remember the fine old rule: Judge not your brother lest you be judged. You never know but what your brother may be going through some terrific retribution in this life for a misdeed let us say ten lives back which, like a seed of trouble lying hid, is now blossoming. judge him not, he may be far ahead of you when once this life is ended he may have a new body and a new karma far better than anything you could look forward to.
We have many mountain ranges of experiences still to climb, but what joy there is in all this wonderful adventure. Look at the future imbodiments in all kinds of races, and in all kinds of lands, some of them to come up above the surface of the waters, as ours then will have sunken or be submerged: new lands, new languages, new experiences, new adventures, and always going onwards and upwards, and always growing better.
But here is a consolation for present conditions: that the race as a whole has passed the central point. From now on it will go no longer downwards into matter, but will be on the slow climb upwards to the very end of time for this earth. Death will be no more, and this evolutionary habit which the human race is in at the present time and which limits the life span to its ridiculously small number of years will have changed. Death will have vanished, birth will be brought about in other ways. Human genius will confabulate with the gods. Inspiration will be the common heritage of all men. There will then be no more poverty, no more suffering, no more sorrow; for the sun of truth will have risen in men's hearts with healing in its wings!
This is the teaching of the great sages and seers of all the ages: work out your own salvation. Exercise the powers within you with which you are endowed. Does the fact that we are bewildered and often troubled with questions of conscience signify that we have been left without guidance? Don't you see that this very fact is a call to us by nature to exercise the powers latent within us? By the exercise of judgment and discrimination, judgment and discrimination grow stronger. If we do not exercise our own godlike right of spiritual and intellectual judgment we grow weaker and weaker. It is by this exercise that we evolve, bring forth ever more the godlike powers within us.
Look at the great, the magnificent examples of human spirituality and genius with which the annals of human history are built. These are indeed glorious and give us courage and show us how, since others have attained, so may we. These are signposts along that mystic path leading to the mountains of the spirit. But it is we ourselves who must tread that path, and we ourselves who must make our own judgments and abide by them. Just there is their great beauty.
As ye sow, ye shall reap — not something else than what you have sown. Think what this means. When men become convinced of this, their judgment will be broadened; they won't leap to points of conclusion, they will not lean negatively on others and thereby weaken their own judgment because no call is made upon it. They will accept the magnificent examples of human history as encouragements. "What he has done as a son of man, that also may I do by exercising within me the same powers that that grand figure of human history exercised." Their lives are a perennial example for us. But it is we ourselves who must grow, and by exercising our powers we do grow; and with each exercise the discrimination becomes more keen, the judgment becomes more sure, the light brighter. Then when the test comes we know which way to go.
How can you know any facts about the after-death state? Too often in a question like this there lies latent the supposition that knowledge of things which are not visible cannot be had — not visible, not attainable. Of all the follies that the human mind is unfortunately addicted to! If you study the history of religion, of philosophy, of science, you will discover that a frequent disinclination to recognize facts is one of the saddest traits of human nature. Think a moment: the things which you can touch and see are precisely the things which are the most misleading because first you have your senses with their imperfections to contend with — touch, sight, hearing, etc. — and then from these imperfect organs of report to the mind, the mind itself is not a perfect instrument of judgment when it has to make deductions.
But there is something in the human being which can know at first hand. Call it the spirit, call it the intuition, call it by whatever name you like. The fact remains that the only knowledge you can ever trust is not in what you can touch and see, but what comes to you from within. You do not know anything except that. Other things you have ideas about, or you read the ideas of other men.
Do you realize that practically every great discovery that has ever been made, in science or out of it, in any field of human endeavor, has come from some man who has been thus inspired? And when he gives this wondrous gift to the race, the race is elevated. Every such gift has been brought forth by man's inner genius. Every great invention has been a flash of inspiration first; first the idea, and then perhaps years of work in bringing it forth and in persuading others to understand it.
You can know truth by that power within. But if you want to find that power then you will indeed have to do a lot of hard work.
The beautiful message that theosophy has to give to those who mourn, those who sorrow, applies not only to death and those left behind by the passing ones, but just as much to those who are not yet touched by death, to all those who have to live on this earth where there is more of sorrow and trouble and weariness of spirit than of happiness and real peace. For I wonder if any tender-hearted man or woman can really be happy in a world like ours, when we see surrounding us on all sides the most awful proofs of man's inhumanity to his fellowmen. How can we retire into our watertight or spirit-tight or heart-tight compartments of life when we know what is going on around us, not only among humanity, but among the helpless beasts: suffering and pain and sorrow, and on every side the cry of these martyrs raised to heaven!
We talk about those who mourn and restrict it, each one of us, to our individual selves. How then? Do we not love the hand of kindliness extended in sympathy and understanding to others, who sorrow in loneliness? Death itself is nothing to grieve over. We have been through death a thousand times and more on this earth. We know it well. It is an old experience; and here we are back again. But we feel for those who mourn while they live: mourn for the loss of beloved ones; mourn for the loss of fortune, so that they are in difficulties to give even the physical bread to the bodies of those they love; mourn over the difficulties to find work so that they may work like men and women and feed the mouths of their hungry children; mourn because they have lost friendship, lost love, lost hope and, perhaps most awful of all, lost trust in their fellowmen.
Every son and daughter of man mourns, or he or she is heartless. The man who cannot mourn and who does not mourn to my mind is inhuman; and so great and wonderfully is nature built that it is precisely this divine capacity for mourning that gives us sympathy for others, and to the mourners the hearts of understanding; and, strange magic of the human spirit, mourning, sorrow, suffering is our wisest friend. How these enrich our hearts! What priceless treasury is the expansion of consciousness that comes when mourning sets its often burning but always healing hand on our hearts. We sacrifice; but in this sacrifice is purification, is the awakening to the greater life. It is in sorrow, it is in mourning, it is in the evocation by these of pity, of compassion, that we learn truly to live. Even little children know what sorrow is, and how blessed it is for them that they may learn life's greatest thing: to learn and become enlarged by it, made grander by it.
How pitiful is the man who cannot feel for others and is enwrapped solely in the small prison of his minuscule self. Where in him is grandeur? You seek for it and find it not. But the man who has suffered feels for all the world. On his heart each cry of mourning falls like a scalding tear, and he is made grand by it. Nature here works a magic, for in this process is born rosy hope, a starlighted inspiration that comes from the enlarged consciousness.
Blessed peace, the most exquisite and happiness that human hearts and minds can bear, is the spiritual heritage of those whose hearts have been softened by suffering. They who never suffer are the hardhearted ones, unripe in their own restricted consciousness. The man who has never suffered knows not what peace is. He has never entered into it. The man who has never experienced sorrow knows not the surcease nor the blessedness that comes when quiet comes.
It is to those who mourn — which comprise really all the human race — that theosophy brings its ineffable doctrine of hope and peace, and this because it teaches us to understand. The French have a proverb: Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner, the meaning of which is: if you fully understand you forgive all.
Isn't it clear to us that inner grandeur comes from enlargement, and that enlargement of our consciousness, of our understanding, and of our heart, comes from suffering? Joy too can bring the smile to our lips and the light of happiness to our eyes; but isn't it a mere truism that all of life's ordinary joys turn to ashes in the mouth? Isn't it also true that the joys of life all too often make us selfish? We grab the joys to us, afraid lest we lose them. These commonplace joys often narrow us. But fellow feeling, sympathy brought about by suffering, make the whole world kin. The man who has known naught but joy in life perhaps does not mind inflicting sorrow upon a fellow. He is not awakened. He does not understand. He is misled. He is ignorant. But the man or woman who has suffered, who has mourned, these are they who are great in their gentleness, who are great in their understanding because they comprehend, take in; they are enlarged, they are magnified. And the extreme of this is glorification in its true original sense: they become glorified, the next thing to god-men on earth.
So our blessed message to those who mourn is this: fear not the bright and holy flame. It will make you men and women, not mere males and females. What is the great and outstanding characteristic mark of the god-men who have come among us from time to time? It has been the understanding heart, so that they could speak to the woman in trouble and help; to the man in ignorance and bring him succor and peace; to the little children and bring understanding. For the great man's own simple heart speaks to the simple direct heart of the child before it has been sophisticated, spoiled by the falsities which it all too often learns as it grows up and has to unlearn in order to be truly a man, truly a woman.
To those who mourn comes the blessed gospel: let the holy flame enter into your hearts as a visiting god. Treat it very friendly. Welcome it. Receive it as a guest; and that guest, sorrow-clad, will cast off the habiliments of mourning, and you will realize that you have been entertaining unawares a god. And that god is you. Then you have entered into your own.
There is no freedom so great, no happiness so large, so wide-reaching, as the giving of self in service. It is the hero who gives himself. If he did not give himself utterly, there would be no heroism in it. It is the giving which is heroic.
So is it with love. Where there is questioning about it — not uncertainty because uncertainty is always very natural in these things; one wishes to be sure — but where there is a question about the values involved, where there is a selfish searching of "what I want," there is no heroism, no love, no self-giving. There is not the ghost of a shadow of a chance there for the godlike, heroic quality of self-renunciation.
When the year begins, when it opens, the one mantram I always make to sound in my own heart and mind is this: a new year is opening. Can I give myself a little more than last year? I pity from my soul the man or woman who has not learned the exquisite joy of giving of the self. There is not anything on earth that equals it in beauty, in grandeur, in sublimity, and in the peace and richness it brings to both heart and mind.
Many people talk about the heroism of self-conquest — something with which we all agree; but I sometimes wonder if our ideas of heroic battling with ourselves are not just a wee bit hysteriac, even foolish! I do not mean the heroism part of it, but this lower self of us, poor little thing! It plays havoc with us all the time, simply because we identify ourselves with it and always try to fight it and make it as big as we are. Is it heroic to fight a ghost of our own making?
How about wise old Lao-tse? If you want to conquer your lower self, make it ashamed of itself, make it look ridiculous. Laugh at it; laugh at yourself. So long as you pay attention to something, you dignify it and put it on your own level; and then when you attempt to fight it you are actually fighting another part of yourself which really could be enormously useful.
I have heard it said: kill out the lower self. Well, suppose we could do that? We should then be most unfortunate beings; in fact, we should not be here. This lower self when kept in order is a good little beastie. It helps us. Our duty is simply to keep it in order. Now when a man has a fractious dog or a horse or a cat, or some other pet, whatever it may be, he does not kick it and beat it and hit it on the head in order to make it good. He would be apt to make it rebellious, cowardly, and vicious; he would be degrading it. Thus the lower self should be neither degraded nor clothed with the false dignity of an adversary erroneously raised to the position of the spiritual self. It should be kept in its place and treated with kindness, consideration, and courtesy, but always with a firm and governing hand. When the lower self begins to presume, then put it in its proper place, but neither by brutality nor by dignifying it nor by fighting it. Ridicule your lower self, and you will soon see the lower self reassuming its proper position because full of temporary shame and loss of dignity — loss of face, as the Chinese say.
Just so with the dog. Have you ever seen a dog stick its tail between its legs when you laugh at it? Dogs know when they are laughed at and it is one of the finest ways of handling a beast.
I do believe Lao-tse of China was wise in his statement which runs to the effect that one of the best ways of conquering a foe is to make him look ridiculous.
Now that does not work as between man and man, because it is often very harsh and cruel, the two being on the same level. You can hurt a human being horribly and unjustly by placing him in a false position through ridicule. No; but try it on yourself. The next time the lower self wants to tell you what to do, laugh at it; don't dignify it; don't give it position and power and strength by fighting it; on the other hand, do not abuse it or make it weak and vicious and cowardly. Put it in its proper place by ridicule and, indeed at times, a gentle contempt. Learn the greater heroism. Laugh at the thing which bothers you!
The role a sense of humor plays in life, which means in human thought and feeling and consequent conduct, and the role that humor plays in spiritual things is all too often overlooked. We may define a sense of humor as seeing the harmonious relations between apparently incongruous things, the congruities as among incongruities, arousing a sense of the funny in us.
The ability to see humor in what happens to ourselves is a spiritual attribute. After all, humor is at the very root of the universe; and I think that one of the greatest tragedies of individual existence has been the lack of the ability to see the funny side of things when troubles come. When disasters befall you, just try to see the funny side, and you not only save yourself in all likelihood a lot of trouble, but likewise you get a great kick out of it.
I remember the great kick I got out of a discussion between myself and my dear old father when I was a boy. My father had read an article in a theological magazine by some eminent Christian clergyman who pleaded for the existence of a sense of humor "in Almighty God." I said this was simply grand; because although our sense of humor is human, small because we are small, yet is it possible for a part, a human being, to have something which the almighty whole, which the divine, lacks? So of course if divinity has a sense of humor, I said, it is a sense of divine humor, but it is humor all the same.
There is a great deal of sound science and philosophy in the old Hindu idea that Brahman brought forth the universe in play, in fun. The words are different from those of the Christian clergyman, but the idea is the same. In other words, the bringing forth of all things was not a tragedy; there was beauty in it, there was harmony in it; there was humor in it; and those who are in this universe can see the humor in it if they will.
Look at the religious wars and squabbles that never would have occurred if people had had a sense of humor. If people nowadays would see the funny side of things, then they would begin to live together, to love together, to laugh together, and to take counsel together instead of distrusting each other.
I ask your very reverent attention to a profound and beautiful fact of nature. To me this thought is one of the most beautiful of the theosophical doctrines. It is that of the "angels" guarding us, or what the Christians call guardian angels; but this wonderful doctrine, which is such a comfort and help to men in time of stress and trouble, is no longer understood by the Christians of this day, because they have lost the original meaning of it. They seem to think that it is an angel outside of oneself deputed by Almighty God to be a kind of protecting parent over the child; and some Christians seem to think that when the child attains adulthood the guardian angel departs. This doctrine of protective and guiding spiritual influences in the world is a very old doctrine of the wisdom-religion. It was taught in Persia, India, Egypt, amongst the Druids; in fact, as far as I know, everywhere.
It is simply this: that there is in and over man a spirit or power guiding him, instilling hope and comfort and peace and righteousness into his mind and heart; and that he who is ready to receive this and does receive it will guide himself by the inner mandates, and do so openly. He will be more or less conscious of the companionship of the guardian angel, be conscious of this companionship as a helper, with him day and night, never failing, always guiding, teaching him to save himself. But the mind and heart must be ready to receive, otherwise the brain does not catch the guidance and the inspiration.
What is this guardian angel? You may call it a dhyani-chohan. Our own particular name for it is Sanskrit: chitkara: "thoughtworker. " You remember it was stated of the great Greek philosopher, Socrates, that he was guided by his inner daimon, his constant companion, which in his case strangely enough never told him what to do, but always warned him what not to do. It is stated of him that frequently when he was undecided as to what course to pursue, he would go apart and close his eyes and remain quiet, trying to free his mind from all the debris, claptrap, noise, and hurly-burly of tramping thoughts in other words, cleansing and emptying the brain so that the guardian angel inside could penetrate into the brain-stuff. Such in his case was the guardian angel.
Again, what is this guardian angel? Is it outside of man? It is a part of man's spirit, pertinent to his pneumatology; not the human part but a part of his spiritual being. You can call it the higher self, but I prefer to call it the spiritual self, because the phrase "higher self" in theosophy has a meaning containing certain restricted ideas. Thus, man's inmost entity, the guardian angel, this spiritual self, is like a god compared with the man of flesh, the man of this brain. Compared with his knowledge it has omniscience; compared with his vision it has vision of the past, the present, and the future, which three really are but one eternal NOW in the ever present.
This guardian angel will always strive and is incessantly striving to guide its willful errant child, the man of flesh. If you can make your mind pervious to this inner monitor, and follow its mandates, your life will be safe and happy and prosperous. Of course, you have to go through whatever your karma has for you, that is, whatever you have wrought in the past; it will have to work itself out. If you put your finger in the fire, it will be burned. If you catch your foot in the machine it will be crushed. But the inner warrior, the guardian angel, once you come into its fellowship, in time will prevent your putting your finger into the fire, or placing your foot where it could be crushed. As for myself, my own life has been saved six times by this. I only blame myself for not having begun sooner as a younger man to try to cultivate and to try to bring about an even closer consciousness or self-realization of this wonderful guide, this divine spark, this spiritual self in me: the very stuff of divinity. Compared to me my guardian is an angel, a god.
The only difference between the ordinary man and the Christ-man and the Buddha-man is this: that we ordinary men have not succeeded in becoming absolutely at one with the guardian angel within, and the Buddhas and the Christs have. The Buddha or Christ is one who has made himself, his whole being, his heart, so pervious to the entrance of the guardian angel within him that that guardian angel has actually imbodied in him so that the lower man is scarcely any longer there: it is then the guardian angel that speaks with the lips of flesh, it is the bodhisattva, the inner Christ.
These are some of the forgotten values in human life, and I know no values greater than these two. First, you are one with the universe, one with divinity, inseparable from it. Then it does not much matter what happens to you. Whatever comes is a part of the universal destiny. You become filled with courage and hope and peace. And the other forgotten value is what I have just called chitkara: let that guardian angel live in you, and speak through you, and as soon as may be. I speak what I know, not only with regard to saving from trouble and from peril, but from dangers of all kinds. It will instill peace and comfort and happiness and wisdom and love, for all these are its nature. These things are especially needed in the world today by poor mankind, most of humanity feeling that all the trouble in the world has happened by chance, that there is no way out except by a lucky fluke of fate. That is all tommyrot. This world is a world of law and order, and if we break these rules of law and order we suffer.
Oh, that man would realize these simple verities of universal nature! They are so helpful. They give meaning to life and inject a marvelous purpose into it. They give incentive to do our jobs and to do them like men. They make us love our fellowmen, and that is ennobling. The man who loves none but himself is constricting his consciousness into a little knot, and there is no expansion or grandeur in him; whereas the man who loves his fellowmen and thereby begins to love all things, both great and small — his consciousness goes out, begins to embrace, comprehend, to take in all. It becomes finally universal feeling, universal sympathy, universal understanding. This is grand, and this is godlike.
Our destiny lies in our own hands, and we can make or mar ourselves. No god forbids, no god imposes; we are children of the divine, and therefore partakers of the divine freedom of will; and in our own feeble way as only partly evolved souls, we work out our destiny. As we shape our lives, so those lives shall become good, bad, shapely, distorted, beautiful, or ugly. We make them such. There is no fatalism in this. All nature surrounding us is not only aiding us but, at the same time strangely enough, to a certain degree restricting us so that it gives us an opportunity to exercise our strength against opposition, which is the only way to develop a good pair of biceps!
Exercise brings out strength. If nature gave us no chance to prove the god within us, we should never grow. Therefore nature is not only a beauteous, helpful mother, but also a stern nurse watching over us with an infinitely compassionate eye, and insisting by her operations and reactions to what we do or follow with our own will, that this will shall grow in strength through exercise; that our understanding shall become brighter and keener through use.