Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Karma: Pleasant and Unpleasant
Young People and Theosophy
The Lost Cause of Materialism
The Virgin Birth
Let the Christ-Child Live
The Exoteric and Esoteric H. P. B
The title of this brief note on karma well represents, I believe, the manner in which people who are acquainted with this majestic doctrine look upon it: that karma is something which in itself is pleasant to us or unpleasant to us. Of course, as a matter of psychological fact, the viewpoint is natural because we all feel when karma impinges upon us that its blows are hard and unpleasant, or gentle and soothing or what we call pleasant.
Yet is it not rather the truth that karma in all its actions, inner and outer, general or particular, is considered by us to be pleasant or unpleasant because of our own reactions and attitude towards what destiny lays upon us? In reality, the laws of nature, of which karma is one of the most recondite, the most mysterious, and indeed the most comforting, are all of them absolutely impersonal, and in them there is neither variation nor variability nor any shadow of turning.
It is just in this perfect reliance on the fundamental justice in universal nature herself, that we find or discover happiness, peace of mind and, far more important than these, our indomitable resolves so to conform to nature's spiritual harmonies that our lives shall be lived in accordance therewith, and that thus we may become cooperators with nature, intelligent companions with her. When we advance into grander human spheres of activity able to become such willing collaborators with nature's plans, we shall then take our places by the side of the masters, and the gods of the Hierarchy of Light, who have become in their various evolutionary degrees instruments, conscious and willing, of the lipikas or "scribes."
Now these lipikas are extremely mysterious and occult entities in universal nature's structural harmonies, and indeed in the carpentry of the cosmos itself. Little has been publicly said of the lipikas, and yet the place they occupy in the universe is clear enough. They are in fact dhyani-chohans of the very highest rank in the arupa worlds so called; indeed, because they are the first channels or vehicles through which cosmic ideation manifests itself or flows, they become thereby the highest and most powerful instruments of karma originating from seeds held within the structure of cosmic ideation itself. Thus they are called the agents of karma; and furthermore, because they not only distribute cosmic ideas downwards to lower hierarchies, but carry karmic results upwards in order to deposit them so to speak in the treasury of cosmic ideation itself, they are, and mainly for the latter reason, called the scribes or recorders of karma, etc.
Essentially, karma is but a name we give to the operations or to the processes of the universal cosmic harmony seeking readjustments, moral and otherwise, that is to say, cosmic equilibriums throughout the universal structure.
From the foregoing we may easily deduce the highly important and significant fact that what we call our karma — whether we qualify it as pleasant or unpleasant — is actually results of manifold types or characters coming to us out of the past from what we and others around us, hierarchically speaking, have thought and felt and done in that past; and that in a precisely similar way our future karma and that of those around us, hierarchically speaking, will be what we are now, through our thoughts and feelings and actions, building as our future destiny.
Thus, as H. P. Blavatsky points out, it is not karma which arbitrarily compensates or punishes us in what we call the rewards or retributions of destiny, but it is we ourselves and those around us who have made ourselves in the past what now we are, and who are now making ourselves to be what we shall in future become. It is merely our present reactions to karmic destiny or circumstance which make us qualify karma as pleasant or unpleasant.
As a final thought, let me say plainly in connection with karma, that the karmic strokes of destiny that we call unpleasant, or perhaps harsh, as often as not turn out to be very blessings of the gods coming to us in the guise and habiliments which for the nonce we regard with distaste, and it may be with fear. After all, it is but a truism to say that too much prosperity, too much happiness, can weaken the fiber of the best of us; but that when we find ourselves obliged to struggle or are driven to take action, often perhaps against our wish, we develop thereby not only willpower but intellectual and moral fiber because of the innate faculties and latent powers called forth and given exercise.
Karma in whatever guise it may come is a blessing, and let us never forget it.
It has been my experience that the younger people take to theosophy quicker than we older folk do, with our sophisticated minds, often full of claptrap, of miseducation, full of wrong thoughts. It is these inner mental darknesses that keep light out. We are heavy with the fogs of centuries, lifetimes, of wrong feeling and wrong thinking; and this sophistication comes upon us as the body grows to maturity; we have built up an actual inner cloud of consciousness, a psychology, to which we unfortunately fall heir.
I have found, in the work for younger people in the T. S., that as frequently as not they recognize more quickly divine truths than do the older folk; and if people do not have success in interesting youth in theosophy, it is because the approach is wrong — the same principle exactly which brings about lack of success in approaching adults. You have to talk to people in a language they understand, if you wish comprehension on their part. You have to touch their hearts and minds, and you have to awaken something there. If a man, for instance, is tremendously interested in astronomy and you talk to him about folklore, he does not see the connection. He will after a time. But talk to him in his own tongue, and before you part you have made a friend and a brother in thought. It is the same with children. Their minds are unsophisticated, ready, clear, limpid. As a matter of fact, they usually have more intuition of the great things in life than we grownups have, with our blindness and sophistication.
Really the great man in life is the man who can refuse to be drawn into that mental miasma of thought which for each generation is its Zeitgeist, the "spirit of the age," the heavy astral-physical and quasi-spiritual atmosphere made up of the wrong, distorted, inaccurate thoughts, passing current for truth. No wonder children rebel, and younger folk also. I remember how I had rebelled with all my soul — not at the elders, not at the universe and its wonderful mysteries — I felt it keenly when I was sent to school and was almost forced to learn things that my soul hated, and that later on as a young man I found put into the discard. If there is any trouble or fault in teaching theosophy to the younger people, it is because our approach is wrong. We talk to them sophisticatedly.
I love young folk, because the human heart is perennially young. It never ages. It is our minds which age and grow crystallized, hard, so that we lack sympathy and do not understand the appeal in the eyes of the child and the youth. We try to interpret it with eyes blinded with wrong thinking and vibrations that absolutely put up a wall. When I speak to younger folk, I treat them as my peers. I don't embarrass a youth or a girl by speaking to him or her from on high as a learned elder. And why? Because my heart is akin to youth, and so is yours. Every normal man's or woman's heart is just the same. We approach most closely to truth when we can abandon the wrong sophistication with which our minds are filled, and approach simplicity, the child heart.
"Suffer little children to come unto me," said the avatara Jesus, for they can learn. That does not mean years. The man, the woman, whose heart is that of a little child, simple, open, ready to receive and to pass on, who has conquered, thrown out, sophistication — those are the ones you can talk to and who will understand. Therefore treat younger people with the courtesy with which you treat your own compeers in age. How quickly they respond! Dignify your intercourse with younger folk by speaking to them of the things that you love. You will always find response.
No one need ever tell me that youth has no interest in the universe, in science, in the wondrous discoveries that are taking place continuously. They are the keenest in research, the readiest to understand. It is the older ones who have to unlearn what they have been taught about these things, who find it more difficult to accept and understand than the younger, because of preconceptions.
My approach to young folk is to treat them with courteous decorum, and with the understanding that you give to those of your own age. I have not found it to fail. Naturally they lack a sophistication that the older ones have, but in some ways that is a blessing, for many of our sophistications we learn, and later unlearn after we have suffered from them; although of course on the other hand, our sophistications in the better sense are the things which enable us to support ourselves, to make a high and honorable mark in the world, at least to a certain extent, and to achieve and to dare to achieve better things. But this is only when the sophistication is enlightened from above by the simple, clear light from the spiritual sun within. It is not sophistication itself that is wrong, but it is allowing our minds to become slaves to it, for this last is verily our own creation and that of the world around us.
Interest young people by giving them theosophy on scientific lines, and note how quickly they grasp it, and how readily they hold it. You can present these thoughts to a young man (who is not just frivolous and pre-sophisticated before the proper age) and you will have made a brother and a friend: tell him that he himself is the pathway to the divine, that his highest life is the life of the divine, always unattainable in fullness because infinite, yet ever expanding and with a constant increase in understanding, in growth, in expansion, to something glorious within him. Name it not; that is sophisticating his mind. Get the intuition of it, the thought: something, some part of him, is a droplet, a sparklet of the divine. Therefore he is it. Just as science tells us that the chemical elements which compose our bodies are the same which compose these flowers, and the wood of this floor, the air which we breathe, the stones we crush under our feet as we tread our homeward way; the same that compose the stars.
How many times have I seen the flash of understanding come into the eyes of some younger person with whom I have conversed; and how many times have I not also received strange thoughts that have come to my mind from the mind of some youth, unspoiled intuitions before the mind has become crystallized, hard, with wrong thinking. Verily, we can at times learn something even from the little ones if we have the wit to receive, the openheartedness to receive, and we can rise above our sophisticated intellects.
I do not believe it is ever wrong to make an honest mistake. Infinitely better for a man to have his motive right, to wish to do right, to render justice, to do grandly, and to make a mistake because he cannot see fully just the right way to take, than it is for a man who is all atremble lest he make a mistake; and because of his lack of inner strength, immediately proceeds blindly to make mistakes. That man will never easily rise. Better to make a mistake and learn by it and to bear the consequences manfully and be more of a man afterwards.
Improve your faculties by exercising them. Do not be afraid of making honest mistakes. Only let your motive be right, and then your mistakes won't injure others and you will soon correct them. You will be stronger, grow more keenly. Let your heart be filled with compassion for the mistakes of others, and the wish to do right, and you will never go far wrong. And each repetitive instance of exercising your inner power of judgment will be more sure, more certain, clearer. The light will be brighter. Then you are a man, a real man.
The origin of the Theosophical movement began not in arbitrary decisions by the powers that be, but because of conditions of cyclic necessity. Thus, when H. P. Blavatsky came, she came because of a need to keep alive in men their spiritual intuitions, and by so keeping them alive, prevent humanity from falling under the sway of a world ruled by brute force, in which might was considered right and in which the only justice was the booty of the strongest. She knew that the will of brutal power would govern mankind unless checked and stayed by those innate rules of right residing in the souls of men.
How came about this situation in our world? Because of two things: a religion which had become thoroughly materialistic, thoroughly; so much so that people no longer believed that this universe was run by spiritual powers enforcing the rule of right; and therefore that they could act pretty much as they pleased if they but rendered lip homage to an ecclesiastical setup. This idea coming from the religious side of man's knowledge, education, and social contacts, was more than strengthened by an equivalently evil power emanating from the ranks of modern scientists. And this latter power had incomparably more influence on men's minds than the dicta of the church and its hierarchy. Why? Because men had begun to believe that the noble research into nature undertaken by science gave us truth; and they were justified in so believing, for that is the real work of scientists: the investigation of facts and the collating of them into a comprehensive philosophic mold. A great many scientists do work most earnestly and with energy and most praiseworthy perseverance to that noble end. But it is a very different thing when men, who themselves had already lost all belief in a spiritual control of the universe, began to theorize and lay down laws of theoretic speculation regarding the origin of the universe and the origin of man, the working of the universe and the continuation of man therein, and the future of the universe and man's future in it. These were not scientific facts discovered by research. They were theories, speculations, hypotheses only, derived from the imagination of men who had lost a belief in a spiritual control of the universe. Sincere efforts these were, of course, but they were based on no spiritual belief, and therefore these scientists could not render into a comprehensive whole, a philosophic whole, the facts in nature which they had discovered.
Examine those early days of complete materialism beginning about the time of Voltaire and others. I use Voltaire as an example, not because he was the originator of this era, but because he was one of its earliest products and one of its noblest. He was a fighter against dogmatism of any kind. More glory to him! But his work likewise destroyed belief in a spiritual universe.
What were these scientific theories on the one hand, and religious theories on the other hand? That this universe runs itself, that there is no spiritual power in it controlling it or guiding it, and that things happen by chance, not by law. This was uttered out of one side of the mouth of scientists and out of the other side came the equally fervent statement: the universe is caused by the laws of nature. With one side of the mouth they preached fortuity and chance and with the other side they preached laws. It never seemed to strike them that these two preachments were mutually destructive.
What, then, were the factors that Darwin stated made evolution, or what were the conditions under which evolution took place; or again, what caused evolution? It was a struggle a struggle in which the fittest survived, not the best, not the noblest, but the strongest. This was thought of as a law of nature. There was not a word in Darwin or in Lamarck or in Haeckel or in Huxley, or in any of these great men so called, of the last century, about this world's being ruled by intrinsic moral sanctions, not a hint of it. It was a rule of brute force in which the strongest, the fittest survived, and the fittest meant the most brutally strong, not the best. Thus, a man and a shark in the ocean — which is the more fit to survive in case a conflict should arise between them? The shark will survive because it is in its element. He is the fitter in that element and he will kill the man. Yet the man is the nobler creature, the better, the more evolved.
That is what Darwinism is: chance action by nature in a desperate struggle to survive, in which the weak are eaten or go to the wall and brutal strength only is the cause of victory. These ideas are destructive of the soul-life of mankind, whether they are born from theology or science. Get these facts clear, and examine the lapses from logic in our scientific works, the lapses in the reasoning of our scientists.
It was into a world governed by a belief in brutality as nature's sole way of functioning that came the god-wisdom through H. P. Blavatksy, and, as she proclaimed, her first work was to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions, so that he would react against this "rule" so called and miscalled, this "accident" in nature, this rule of brutal force. Look at the actions of the peoples of the earth during the last three or four hundred years. Look at the world today. The result of soul loss, of the stifling of the spiritual instincts of the human being. Indeed, theosophists have reacted with power against these teachings, whether from the theologic or the scientific side. We have faced the scorn and the ridicule of a day when even to speak of the human soul meant loss of caste.
Look what H. P. Blavatsky did. Almost alone and singlehanded she challenged the thought-life of the world and brought about by her courage and her teachings the founding of the Theosophical Society, proclaiming aloud and to all and sundry that the world was ruled by moral law and that he who infringed that law, whether under the hypocritical guise of virtue or whether openly and desperately as the criminal does — that he who breaks that law shall pay. Today the world no longer believes that. It believes that the only way to make what they think is a criminal pay is to use greater brutal power than anyone else does. They no longer believe in the rule of spiritual law. They no longer believe that this universe of ours is governed by moral sanctions. They take the law into their own hands.
Is this the truth? Is this religion? Is this philosophy? Is this science? It is not religion, it is not philosophy, it is not science. All these three in their essence proclaim the rule of law in nature; that this law is spiritual and therefore moral; that there is cause and there is effect emanating from that cause, and that these effects are ineluctable and cannot ever be avoided. They should, can, and will haunt your footsteps as the cart follows the foot of the ox which draws it — a magnificent old Buddhist statement of the Dhammapada written in a day when men believed that the universe was ruled by spiritual and moral sanctions.
Do an evil deed and, sure as the cart follows the foot of the ox which draws it, that evil deed will haunt you and find you out in this life or in a future one. This is religion, this is philosophy, this is science; especially science, teaching as this last does its doctrine of cause and effect, its doctrine that effect follows cause and is alike unto its parent cause. The world no longer believes in these things. The peoples no longer believe in them. Only those fine spirits whose intuition flames brighter than in the majority of our fellow human beings have disbelief in these teachings of materialism now dying: dying in religion, dying in philosophy, dying in science, but whose maleficent consequences afflict us like Atlantean karma even today weighing heavily upon us.
So it is important to support in the science of our time all those elements which uphold the belief in a spiritual governance of the world. It is important for us to support in philosophy those elements, those philosophic elements, which teach that the universe is controlled by intrinsically moral sanctions. It is important for us to support with deepest sympathy and understanding those elements in religion which, casting aside the materialism of the last 1800 years more or less, teach that divinity filleth all vessels, whether vessels of honor or vessels of dishonor; for to divinity neither the one nor the other is dishonorable. That divinity is the spirit universal out of the womb of which come all beings and things, and back into which celestial haven in due course of the revolving ages all things and all beings shall one day return.
The most needed thing for us today is to do our utmost to bring about a renascence, a rebirth, in the minds of men of the truth that this universe of ours is under the most strict cosmical moral law, in other words, of harmony; for what in the universe is harmony, in the human soul we call the ethical instinct. Remember that the man who is sincerely convinced that his thoughts and feelings are going to result in action and that he is responsible for this action, will take thought, and long and searching thought, before he acts. There you are. Just that simple law, a belief by us men that this universe of ours is not the product of chance; that it is infilled with moral power and that this moral force resides in the human soul and that this moral force in the human soul should be our guide in our daily conduct. If men followed just that simple rule our life here on earth would be a heaven when compared with what it now is. All too long has thinking man been under the illusion or maya that he could take nature's laws into his own hands and in his feeble manner with his weak and shaky intellect attempt to administer cosmic justice.
How the gods must laugh at us! And if they weep, as some say they do, how at times their celestial eyes must be filled with the tears of divine pity for man!
The Christmas festival, and the teachings which have gone with it from early Christian days, are not at all Christian in origin. They never were invented by Christian theologians or devotees, but were all based upon current pagan ideas of the Sanctuary. And this, very far from being an unusual event in Christian history, was a very common thing, for the Christians took over from the very philosophies and religions of the day which later they scorned and rejected — the great bulk of the ideas that in later times became what was known as Christian theology.
The early Christians were brought up in the pagan world where it was an acknowledged fact that there was an exoteric religion or series of such religions, and a secret teaching kept only for those who had proved themselves to be fit and worthy to receive the teachings of the Mystery Schools, the secret things of the divine. All the exoteric faiths hid something wonderful, sublimely majestic, taught within the Sanctuary. Get this fact clear, because it is history; and early Christian historians always blurred over or forgot or passed by that idea, without even a mere hint, and yet that is the atmosphere in which Christianity was born. If you get this key and hold it in your mind, you will have something by which you may unlock what has been so difficult to Christian theologians not merely to understand but to explain.
As regards the virgin birth, this is not original with Christianity. The conception has been common over the face of the earth from immemorial time. Many peoples in the archaic days taught of virgins giving birth to great sages and seers, and you may read this same story of Jesus the Avatara in other tongues and after other ways, but having essentially the same fundamental truth of a great man achieving manly divinity by a new birth. So common was this idea that it was even popular exoteric language of the streets and of the mart.
The Hindus spoke of a dvija, a "twice born," the idea being that of physical birth, born of the mother as all sons of men are, but when ready after training, receiving inner birth, inner enlightenment, which was the second birth of the man, a new birth into the light of the spirit. You see how grand this thing is once we throw the light of theosophy upon it. It becomes no longer Christian but universal, and see how it appeals to the human heart and to the human mind. How grand indeed shines the light of truth upon the face of the man whose heart is enlightened by the sense of his oneness with all; and what pathos there is when the sense of separateness drives him away from his oneness with others.
What did this teaching mean in the early days of Christianity? Precisely what it meant in all the other great pagan countries. It represented scenes passed in the Sanctuary where the neophyte or disciple after long training had so developed his inner being, his inner perceptions, that he was on the verge of becoming Christos, a Christ, or as Mahayana Buddhism has it, a bodhisattva. The next step would be that of buddhahood. Even in exoteric writings this wonderful truth from the Sanctuary was spoken of as virgin birth, a second birth; and all the saviors of man in whatever country, of whatever clime, and of whatever day, all the great ones, the sages and seers, the buddhas and bodhisattvas of highest rank, the greatest, were all born of the Mother, the holy spirit within. How beautiful, how true! It appeals to us instantly, and it is in strict accord with even the little that modern scientific research is beginning to tell us of what they call psychology. We all recognize it when a man's life is improved and raised by his own efforts and strivings to become greater. It is the first faint dawn in the Mystic East, the beginning as it were of the holy birth pangs whereby a man becomes superman. In time he becomes an incarnate god, the god within, and he thereafter manifests through the Christ-child, and the man of flesh becomes responsive to the inner flame, the inner light, the inner fire. See you not what dignity this lends to us human beings? What hope for the future for those who dare, who strive, who keep silent!
Here is a very significant thing in early Christian writings: if Mary were virgin, how could she give birth to children? In early Christian scripture there occurs a remarkable passage in the Greek Christian writings, and rendered into English it means: "My Mother, the Holy Spirit (for the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, amongst primitive Christians was always feminine, never masculine as it became afterwards) my Mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by the hair of my head and brought me to the holy Mount Athor." Do you get it? Here is the spirit in me, the Holy Spirit, my Mother from whom I was born, born anew, no longer born of the flesh but born of the spirit: born first of water according to the flesh, then born of fire according to the spirit — the first birth and the second birth. This is indeed the virgin birth; for the spirit of man, a ray from the divine, from the ineffable, is eternally virgin, and yet eternally fecund, eternally productive. The cosmic Christ is born of the cosmic Spirit, feminine also in ancient time, and in the same way is the spiritual man feminine, and in the holiness of achievement gives birth to the bodhisattva, the Christ-child, and from then on the man is infilled with the holiness of the spirit pouring through him from the source divine.
What connection has all this with the sun? From immemorial time, Father Sun was looked upon with reverence — not necessarily the physical globe clothed with beauty and light and splendor and vital energy, the giver of light unto his own kingdom, but the divinity within and above and behind that sun as of all other stars. Our sun was an emblem of the cosmic spirit, for through that sun poured these floods of vital splendor and life and light: light for the mind and love for the heart, without which no man is man.
The Christians used to sing hymns to the sun, record of which is still extant, outside of other references, in a communication by Pliny, governor of Bithynia and Pontus, to the emperor Trajan in Rome. He said that in his jurisdiction the Christians seemed to be innocent and harmless folk, for they assembled every morning at the rise of the sun and sang hymns to that divinity. And in a collection of old Christian hymns we have one to the sun still extant, something I have often quoted. In English it can be translated thus:
O thou true sun
Shining with perpetual light,
Image of the holy spirit
[not merely a creation of holy spirit but its image]
Infill us full.
No Parsi or so-called sun worshiper ever created a more typical hymn to the sun than these early Christians did. These earliest Christians knew what they meant; they did not worship the physical sun, it was the divine light, teaching what the sun stood for. The sun was the emblem, the image, of the cosmic Christ, not a creation of god, but the image of the divine. O thou true sun — and the most common expression among the Christians was to liken their savior, Jesus the avatara, to the sun.
I would that I had the time and could tell you more of the recondite mysteries of this teaching, but I will merely say this: that in man's constitution there is a solar element. Could it be otherwise? There is a lunar element, and an element derivative from every one of the planets. Even science tells us that we not only share in the cosmic light that reaches us from Father Sun, but also that the very heat we get from the coal or the wood which we burn originally derived from the sun, that the atoms which compose it are the same which passed through us, and that the solar body reaches not merely the earth but all the other planets. Of course there is a solar element in us and a lunar element and an element from each one of the planets. Otherwise we should be incomplete. Man has everything within himself that the universe has.
Even though a man have all knowledge and have not love in his heart, it profiteth him nothing; for it is simply a declaration that the man is incomplete, unevolved, because, being a part of the universe, he does not show forth or manifest all that is in the universe, everything that the whole has. I might have all the truth in the world, but I cannot understand it properly. I can reason and think about it, but I do not get the coherency of the reality because the heart is not yet awake within me. The magic key of love flames not yet in my breast.
Just ask yourself this question: two men you know. One has all the knowledge in the world, but he is heartless; and the other is a simpleminded man, is not sophisticated, but his heart is great with love's universal, all-comprehensive sympathy. Which of the twain would you choose for a companion and one to whom you can turn in time of trouble?
Theosophists look upon Christmas in two ways: first, as the record of a sublime fact in occult history and life, a sublime fact that every son of man some day in his own spiritual history will repeat, if he climb successfully. And the other way is even more dear to me, that there is an unborn Christ in the soul of every one of us, the Christos, the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Love. As the cycling days bring the Christmas season around and the Christian world celebrates the supposed birth of the physical body of its Prince, its Chief, its Savior, we may take the words of the avatara, the Christ, in their higher sense: that we humans are the "sons of god," of the divine, and that the spirit of love and consciousness of the most high dwelleth in the sanctuary of every man's heart — which means that there is a Christ-child in my heart, in your heart. Certain Orientals call it the Buddha, the Celestial Buddha in our hearts, but the idea is the same, if the words are not.
So when the Christmas season comes around it is a good time to let the Christ-child in our hearts speak, to attempt to understand it; nay more, to become at one with it so that with each new Christmas we may become more Christ-like, more Buddha-like, more spiritual, nobler exemplars of the Christ which lives in the heart of each one of us, so that one day, at the proper occult time, the Christ-child may be born as a Christman. Then the sun of healing will have arisen with health, with wholeness, in its wings, healing our sorrows, healing our troubles, effacing our woes, wiping the tears of grief from our eyes; simply because we as individuals shall have become at one with the spirit of the universe of which a ray, a bright ray, lives at the heart of each one of us. This is what we understand by the true birth of the Christ — quite outside of the other facts of the case.
Let the Christ-child live. Do you know, we have not ever tried it? We talk about it and dream it and debate it, but how few of us men and women live it, live it, come under its celestial influence? The one who does so is ten times the man he was before, keener of intellect, quicker of wit, larger of mind; for he is inspired by the very forces that hold the universe in order, in proportion as he becomes the Christ-child in his heart.
Instead of talking to you about what H. P. Blavatsky's work was, and what she has done, it might be interesting to try to give you a few important thoughts regarding H.P.B. herself: who she was, what she was, and why she came; and I shall try briefly to do this.
First, then, I shall talk to you on the exoteric H. P. B. There were two in one in that great woman — an outside which met the world and had to face the conditions of the world into which she came to work; and an inside, a living flame of love and intelligence, a flame of inspiration and holy light, and this latter was the esoteric side of H.P.B.
As you look at her face and study it, and consider the Russian features, the lineaments which proclaim the steppes of Great Russia: if you pause on these alone you will see little but a face in which there is not much of merely human beauty. Yet those who have eyes to see and who look behind the veil of the physical personality, indeed can see something else. They can see beauty, they can see intense pathos and a great sadness — not the sadness, not the pathos, of one who had a great work to do and who could not or did not do it, but the yearning, the pathos, the sorrow, that have always been connected with the figure called in the Occident the Christ. Just so! For behind these outer lineaments which some artists have actually called ugly, we see an ethereal beauty which no words will easily describe, but which every heart can sense, and which every eye which is spiritually opened can also see. There is inspiration in that face which is beautiful to look upon; there is self-dedication; there are thoughts divine because there is truth, and truth is nature's own divine heart. It is these spiritual qualities which shine out of the face of H. P. B. when we look at her picture, and which proclaim to us that behind the outer person there was the inner living esoteric fire.
Does anyone who has studied the wisdom-religion of antiquity imagine for a moment that H. P. Blavatsky came to the Occidental world by chance, outside of nature's laws and rigid concatenation of cause and effect which produce everything in due order? Does anyone imagine therefore that whatever is, has not its ordered and concerted place in the cosmic harmony? Of course not. This therefore means that she came in obedience to a law, one of nature's laws about which the ignorant West knows all too little, and therefore doubts, and because of doubting is blind — for doubt always veils the inner vision.
H.P.B. came because it was time for her to come. She was one of the series of teachers which human history shows us to come at certain stated periods throughout the ages, one teacher after the other, and always when the time is right and ripe, and never by chance. She was one of the links in what the ancient Greek initiates called the Living Chain of Hermes, the Golden Chain, in connection with the passing on of mystic and esoteric light and truth, and she came in regular serial succession to the teachers who had preceded her, each one of them sent forth from the great association of sages and seers, variously called mahatmas, the elder brothers of mankind, and by other names. These teachers, these leaders and guides of mankind, come and teach according to law, esoteric and natural law, when the time calls for their coming; otherwise how logically explain their serial existence?
The ages pass, and each age has a new generation, and each generation receives light from the generations which preceded it, from its fathers. But generations rise and they fall, physically in civilization as well as spiritually in light, and in the intellectual, the ethical, and mental courses which men follow in producing the civilizing influences of human life. And in these generations which follow each other, there is always need for guiding minds, for a light given anew from age to age, for a new lighting, phoenixlike, of the old fires. It is these passers-on of the light who compose the Golden Chain of Hermes.
Now what do these teachers bring to mankind? Doctrines contrary and antagonistic and opposite to the doctrines and teachings of those who had preceded them? Never, never, when their teachings are properly understood. Examine the teachings of all the great sages and seers who have appeared among men. You will find them essentially one, although expressed in different languages, expressed in different forms and formulations of thought appropriate to the respective ages in which each of the messengers appeared. Although clad in various garments, clothed in differing habiliments, the body of truth that they taught and teach is one.
Now what these sages brought, H. P. Blavatsky also brought. Examine, test, this statement, prove it for yourselves — and the literatures of the world lie before you enabling you to do this. If she taught anything that the great seers who preceded her did not teach, it will be to me a wonder if you can find it, and I believe that you cannot. You remember what Confucius said in effect: "I teach nothing new. I teach what my predecessors have taught. I love the ancients, therefore I teach what they taught." Details of the teaching differ, the clothing of the teaching varies of necessity, but the teaching itself is the truth of and about nature, about nature's own being, its structure, its operations, its carpentry, its characteristics, its laws. When the theosophist says nature without further qualification, he never limits this word to the physical world alone. He means universal Being, including divine nature, spiritual nature, intellectual nature, physical nature, astral nature — all the spiritual and ethereal realms and spheres and worlds and planes which compose what the great thinkers of both the Occident and the Orient have called the spirit and soul and body of the universe.
That is what she taught. That is what the great sages and seers taught: an open or outer teaching and an inner or hid teaching; an exoteric doctrine for the public, and an esoteric doctrine for those who had proved themselves capable of understanding it and ready in their understanding to hold it secret and sacred. For if it were proper to give this esoteric teaching to the public, it would be so given. Remember that the archaic wisdom-religion of the ages is man's natural heritage, and belongs to him by right; but we as individuals have no right to our heritage until we come of age, until we become mature of mind and are no longer spiritual and intellectual infants, ready to abuse what is indeed ours by right, but which nature and the gods and the masters in compassion and love and wisdom withhold from erring men, until they shall have learned to control themselves. Then men will be able to control what belongs to them by natural right. There will then no longer be a danger of misapplication or of misuse.
Grand and sublime ethics were the basis of what this noble messenger of the masters, H.P.B., taught. She showed us that ethics, that morals, are based on the very structure and laws of nature herself, that ethics and morals are no mere human convention, that right is eternally right no matter how men may argue about the details, and that wrong is eternally wrong. Right is harmony, and wrong is disharmony. Harmony is nature's heart of love and music and peace, for it is equilibrium; and disharmony is discord, lack of peace, unmusical discords in nature and throughout human life; for all nature is ensouled just as man is, and this doctrine of ethics is one of the noblest of the teachings which she brought. She taught us of our inseparable oneness, of our unity, with the heart of Being, so that death no longer is seen as a grizzly phantom, but as the grandest adventure that it is possible for a human being to undertake, a sublime and magnificent initiation into other worlds, into a nobler, a grander, and a greater life.
One of a serial succession of teachers, she came in the rhythmical order of the laws which control our planet. She came indeed at the beginning of one Messianic cycle of 2,160 years and at the end of the preceding cycle of the same term. She was the messenger for her age, that is, for the age to come the one who was to sound a new keynote, which yet, mystically speaking, is as old as the ages, and in a certain very true but little known sense, she was an avatara — an avatara of a certain type or kind, for there are different kinds of avataras. Every teacher who comes to teach comprises not only his or her body and an unusually received psychological apparatus, but is likewise at times infilled with the holy fire of a greater soul, and therefore is de facto an avatara of a kind. Just as Jesus called the Christ was an avatara of one kind for his age, so was H. P. Blavatsky an avatara of another kind for her age.
It is usual among modern Occidentals, especially artists, to portray Jesus called of Nazareth as a man of wonderful physical beauty, of outstanding manliness, and of fascinating appearance; but was he really so? Is this picture true to fact? It is an idea or ideal of the Middle Ages and of our own times. Do you not know that the Christian Church Fathers often took pride in proclaiming the idea aloud to the world that Jesus was a man of mean appearance, insignificant in body and in physical form? Yet what has that, true or false, to do with the flame within, the flame of the spirit which shines through the mortal clay, so that the latter like a lamp becomes luminous and glows and gives light to those around? That is where the true spiritual entity is — within.
I will tell you the reason why H.P.B. — this present avatara of the particular kind I speak of — had the form of one whose physical appearance is unhandsome. With her the causative reason has thus far succeeded wonderfully well. With Jesus, the Syrian avatara, the same reason failed of effect in succeeding ages. What was and is this reason? This: an endeavor was made by the teachers, is indeed made at each new appearance of a messenger, to have that messenger make his spiritual and intellectual mark on the world solely by the fire of the genius within, only by the fire of divinity within, and to prevent later generations from falling down and worshiping, through instinctive love of beauty, the physical body. It is against the instincts of the human heart to adore ugliness, to pray to that which is unhandsome. In the case of Jesus, in later times blind faith and foolish adoration prevailed. In the case of H.P.B., the woman unhandsome has saved us and her thus far from that fate. No man or woman is drawn to worship ugliness, and this in itself is right, in a sense; it is not wrong, because it is an instinct of the human soul to know that inner beauty will produce outer beauty, perhaps not so much in form, but in appearance. There will be the beauty of manly and womanly dignity, the beauty of the inner light shining forth in love and wisdom, kindliness and gentleness. I do hope that you understand what I mean in making these few short observations.
Two thousand one hundred and sixty years before H. P. Blavatsky's birth the particular Messianic cycle began which, as its centuries followed one the other, plunged European countries into the darkness of the Middle Ages. Today, more or less 2,160 years afterwards, a new cycle opened when she was born, a rising cycle which should bring light, peace, knowledge, wisdom, to men; and it is the duty of theosophists, as common members of the Theosophical movement, to see to it that the message which she brought and gave into our hands as a holy charge shall be kept pure and unadulterated, and shall be passed on to our descendants of succeeding generations just as we have received it. As I have received it, thus must I pass it on, not otherwise. Iti maya srutam — "Thus have I heard."
I think that the greatest tribute that our hearts and minds can give to H.P.B. is to know her exactly as she was, exactly as she was in truth, not merely according to what anybody says about her. The best way to see her as she was is to study her, and her books which indeed are she. Then you will know the real H.P.B., for you will use the test of your intelligence and of your heart, to judge her by what she herself was and by what she produced, not by what someone else may say about her. Let us carry on the torch of light that she gave into our hands.
H. P. Blavatsky came to a world which was in the throes of a veritable "dance of death," a danse macabre, in which might be heard, according to this medieval idea, the clattering of the bones of the dead, the hooting of the owls of despair, and where one might sense dank, evil-smelling odors of the graveyard wherein men had buried their hopes. That was the world to which she came and the time in which she spoke: a time when men had lost virtually all faith in recognizing that there could be a knowledge of spiritual things, a time when even to speak of divinity, of a lasting hope, and of things spiritual, was considered to be a mark of intellectual imbecility. The very word soul was tabu.
Single-handed, that mighty woman wrought a change in human thinking by the power of her spiritual knowledge which enabled her to work on human spirits and human souls, and in so doing she cast seeds of thought into human minds, which seeds swept like sparks of flame through human understanding. By the tremendous energy of her intellect she taught men and women to think of life and nature in a new way, for she showed to them that the doctrines of the dying materialism, which were then so fashionable and to which they had given the confidence of their hearts, were hollow-sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, and that they were not only foolishly burying their noblest hopes in the graveyard of material existence, but likewise were fashioning themselves inwardly to become like unto the graveyard towards which their feet were carrying them.
A mighty power came into the world and worked and wrought, and the weaving of the web which she wrought has played a great part in producing the better conditions we find among us today. The world today is beginning to think theosophy, to think in a theosophical way, and hence the macabrian dance of her times has been stopped — that dance of death, that giddy, soulless, thoughtless, dance of death in the graveyard of human hopes — that has ceased!
There is a psychological wonder, a mystery, in H.P.B., for H.P.B. was a mystery. Since she came and taught, what do we find our greatest scientific researchers and thinkers telling us today? Adumbrations of many of the doctrines that she taught: doctrines, so far as these scientific researchers are concerned, which are based upon deductions made from the researches into physical nature that those scientists are following. Before the scientist found the facts, she taught these facts, and she taught them in the face of ridicule and scorn and opposition from the church on the one hand and from science on the other hand, and from the established privileges and prerogatives of all kinds — social, religious, philosophical, scientific — which surrounded her.
In her there was strength, spiritual strength, for she set men's souls aflame; in her there was intellectual power, for she taught men to think and to have a new vision; and in her also there was psychological power, for she smashed the mayavi psychological wall which man in his folly had built around his consciousness.
Now reflect upon what all this means. Could you have done it? Would you have had the courage to dare it? Could you, single-handed, face the world in a similar manner today? There is a cause and a reason for the work that she wrought. We today see the effects, we know the historical phenomenon of her life and work; but what was the nournenal cause? It was the living spiritual and intellectual fires within her. It was the esoteric side of H. P. Blavatsky which enabled her to do what she did.
Do you think for a moment that H.P.B. was only an ordinary woman? Do you think that the stories that have been told about her, such as Mr. Sinnett's Incidents in the Life of H. P. Blavatsky, contain all the real facts about her life, and do you suppose that even the statements that are therein narrated contain in themselves a full explanation of her? Don't believe it! The facts in themselves are against such a belief. Such a woman as Sinnett describes in his Incidents could never have moved the world as H.P.B. did. Do you think that the Russian girl that he describes, and that the Russian priestess, so called, that Solovyoff, her quondam friend and later her bitter foe, tried to portray, could have done it? Do you think that a hypocrite, that a false heart 'joined with an ordinary mind, could have gathered around her the intellectual and often highly ethical people whom she did? Of course not.
Take into consideration the facts in H. P. Blavatsky's life. Don't let your minds be swayed by the tales that have been told about her. Think them over for yourself, because thoughtful reflection is one of the first duties of a theosophist, and then draw your own conclusions. Indeed, the stories that have been told about H.P.B. interest us simply as a psychological phenomenon of the weakness of human thinking, because they describe the incapacities of the men and women who try to explain her. You might as well try to put the ocean into a teacup as to encompass the character, the constitution, of H.P.B. in the yarns professing to be biographical that have been written about her. At the best they contain certain facts gathered in random fashion from her own family — who understood her perhaps less than her theosophical friends did, and who said so — gathered together and strung along a certain thread of narrative. Is the reading of such tales the pathway to understanding one who did what she did?
H. P. Blavatsky was of course a woman in body, remember that; and invigorating and inflaming this body with its brain-mind was the inner divine Sun, the inner Buddha, the living Christ within as the mystical Christians of today say. But between this divine fire and the receptive and mystically-trained and educated brain of the woman, there was a psychological apparatus, commonly spoken of in Western parlance as the human soul, which in the case of her — for she was an initiate of the Order of the Buddhas of Compassion and Peace — could at times step aside and allow the entrance into the vacancy thus left of a human soul loftier by far than even hers.
Thus was she an avatara of her kind. It was this buddhic splendor which thus infilled the vacancy that she so gladly left for use, which in large part wrought the works of wonder that H.P.B. wrought. You may remember that in her writings she often makes a distinction between what she calls H.P.B. and H. P. Blavatsky. H. P. Blavatsky was the woman, the chela, the aspiring, learning, splendid, noble, courageous chela. But H.P.B. was the master's mind speaking through her. Body and spirit, one entity; then the intermediate psychological apparatus, commonly called the soul, temporarily removable at will. In fact, when H.P.B. was sent as the messenger, that psychological apparatus in large part remained behind. This fact accounts for the so-called contrarieties and contradictions of her character that the people who attempted to write about her saw — and saw very plainly, because they could not help seeing — but which they did not understand, and by which they often misjudged her and misunderstood her. But when the holy flame had infilled this vacancy, then there was H.P.B. the teacher, the sage, the seer, the teacher of great natural scientific truths which science today is but beginning to show to be true, the teacher of a great hope to mankind, the giver of a vision to men, the framer and former of a new philosophy-religion-science for men.
Shall we look upon H. P. Blavatsky merely as a Russian gentlewoman? If so, a most marvelous gentlewoman was she! The simple theory will not fit the facts — a Russian woman who had no education, technically speaking: no education in science, no education in religion, no education to speak of in philosophy, but who was educated in mystical lines; and yet the H.P.B. who lived and taught was an adept, and in her teachings was a master in all these lines of human knowledge!
Shall we look upon her as an incarnate mahatma? The facts are against that, all against it, just as they are all against the former theory. Let us take H. P. Blavatsky exactly as she was, not as she is misrepresented to be. Let us take her as we know her to be. Let us take her as we find her in her books. Let us take the facts, and no man's theories about her; and if you are wise enough you will see, you will understand, who and what she was.
There were times in her social life when she was the charming hostess, a grande dame. There were other times when she was a pianist of admirable and most exceptional ability. Again at other times she charmed people with her brilliant conversational powers, and she would fascinate a whole room, hold her audience spellbound. Men of learning, the laborer, the noble, prince and peasant, gathered to hear her. There were still other times, in her home, when things were quiet and her disciples gathered around her, when she taught some truths drawn from the Great Mysteries of the wisdom-religion of the past. There were other times when she sat at her desk, and wrote and wrote and wrote from morning until night, and then would lie down, and, as she herself said, for a little while went "home." She then had rest!
There were other times when she would hold her at homes, her receptions, during which she would receive scientists, philosophers, thinkers, controversialists of various kinds, philosophical, scientific, religious; chat with them; and they would leave her in amazement. "Whence comes to this woman," they said, "her marvelous understanding? How is it that she can tell me secrets of my own profession which I knew not before? Whence comes to her the ability to show me that this is so?" All these moods, these sides of her character, were indeed there, and every one must be taken into account. Only the explanation of the facts themselves will enable you to understand her. At times she was the woman, and was tender and compassionate, with a woman's love of rings, of sweet perfumes, and of kindly friends. At another time she was the teacher and sage. At another time she was strong and virile, so that, as her friends said, it seemed verily as if man incarnate were manifesting through her — not any one man, but Man.
Now you have it: the body, the woman, the gentlewoman, well-trained, well-bred, ill-educated; the divine flame within her that occasionally seized her brain as it were — and then she spoke like a pythoness, like a prophetess, like an oracle at Delphi; and similarly so at other times, when she was infilled, as the avatara, with the holy flame of one of the Great Ones. Then she was the sage and seer, and wrote her books, foreshadowing in these books what later has come to pass, and pointing out to men the dangers of a belief divorced from ethical rules.
Let us recognize H. P. Blavatsky for what she was; and mind you, my friends: we who have studied H.P.B. love her, are faithful to her in heart and mind, yet we shall set our faces like flint, like stone, against any attempt to worship her, to make a new Jesus out of her. You know what the Great Ones have told us: more than anything else do we desire a brotherhood among men, a brotherhood which will save mankind from the catastrophes which are facing it, brought about by its own folly. The catastrophes, the cataclysms, moral and even physical, which are even now facing us, will surely come upon us unless men and women change their habits of thought and, in consequence, their acts, their conduct. We shall set our faces like stone against any attempt to introduce a new religion, which our great teachers have already pointed out is one of the greatest curses and banes afflicting mankind at the present time: belief in an outside savior instead of fidelity to the divine spirit within. For there within indeed lie all truth, all harmony, all wisdom, all love, all peace. The inner god within each one of you as an individual is of the very heart of the heart of the universe, and concerning that heart of the universe, each one of you is It.
H.P.B. was indeed a mystery, but while she was a mystery, this does not mean a mystery in the sense in which this word is commonly used in the Occident. She was a mystery in the sense of the ancient Greeks, when they spoke of the ancient Mysteries and the ancient Mystery Schools — something which is hid, but can be known, something that is occult and holy, but which can be communicated.
H.P.B. can be understood; and when we understand her, we love her the more; the more we understand her, the greater grows our love, our veneration, for her. Let it never happen, therefore, that theosophists become so false to the trust which she gave to us that we shall turn our backs to the Mystic East, towards which she always pointed, and worship the avatara. Let us be faithful to our trust. We can love, we can venerate, we can copy the example of magnificent courage and sublime hope that she gave to us. We can try to become like unto this great woman, and unto many others like her who have appeared in the past, who will appear in the future, others far greater than she, but let us never set her on a pinnacle as was done, alas! in the case of one of the teachers in the early years of Christianity.
No greater tribute could we render to our beloved H.P.B. than by continuing faithfully, and in our love of her, the work which she so grandly began.