Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Theosophists and Prayer
Strength and Balance in Occultism
Fear, the Great Destroyer
Soul Loss and Insincerity
The Relation of the Finite to the Infinite
Misuse of the Free Will
"Lead Us Not into Temptation"
Help from the Gods
Pray not to the gods, for hearing they may not act; for the gods themselves are held within the bonds of cosmic law from which they may not vary. Our prayers spring from our ignorance and weakness: ignorance of our own most real needs, and weakness because we want others to do things for us that we lack courage or will to begin to do for ourselves.
I pity those poor hearts who in their simplicity think that by praying to Almighty God their prayers will be answered. Just think it over. What is the reason that so many people like to pray? They really know by experience that their prayers are unanswered. But this is why they like to pray: because it brings peace, because it brings a sense of throwing their burdens upon some other; likewise because it strengthens the ineradicable feeling of the human heart that there are spiritual powers of enormous — what may I say? — enormous constant activity in the world, and that by thinking towards these beings, we come in touch with them.
Yes, it is thus far true. And were every prayer a yearning to come into closer contact with these spiritual powers, it would be beautiful. But change the picture: two armies meet for mutual slaughter, destruction, each side sending petitions to Almighty God for victory for its own army. Don't you see something horribly blasphemous in this, an utter lack of understanding of the divine character of the governance of the universe?
It is the petitionary prayer that theosophists disbelieve in: the asking God Almighty for physical and other benefits which the petitioner is either too lazy or too indifferent to his duties to endeavor to secure for himself. Such prayers are often down-right immoral, secretly or even openly; as when one prays to God Almighty for selfish advantages over one's fellows.
But how the human heart longs for compassion, for sympathy, for beauty, for the understanding handclasp of someone else; and from our studies and our intuitions we keenly realize the living reality of great spiritual powers in the universe surrounding us constantly, and our infinitely faithful allies and helpers when we strive to raise ourselves spiritually and intellectually towards them. Indeed, we humans have something so much more beautiful and noble than prayers to nonhearing divinities — something incomparably closer to our hearts and souls, something wondrously beautiful, gentle, compassionate, always listening, always helping: the Brotherhood of Compassion and Wisdom. This Brotherhood extends upwards from us humans in an unbroken chain to the chelas and the masters, and on to the very heights of the ethery spaces. I know not how high the Hierarchy runs, certainly as high as the highest peaks of our own galaxy; and it is along this stairway that the chela, the disciple, climbs up, up, up forever more. And marvelous tale of occult meaning, he climbs most fast, most quickly, whose hand of compassion is extended backwards in help to those behind himself. Isn't that a strange marvel?
It is these helpers of humanity, the masters and their chelas, and those above the masters, who extend to us constantly the help of their always pitiful hearts, their strength, marvelous as it is, yet given to us freely. They are very wise in their giving, for the help they give is rarely known. "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." I could tell you some of the things that the Helpers do for men, unseen, unknown, even by the recipients of their compassionate bounty and benevolence: lives saved in many a way, disasters prevented in many a way; those disasters which cannot be prevented, because invoked by man's own egoism and evildoing, softened so that their asperities and harshnesses hurt men less. Things like these are done constantly, and we men know little or naught of it. We simply see the results. This is why this Hierarchy of Compassion is called the guardian wall around humanity.
The selfish and lazy who make no efforts to regenerate their own lives do not climb the stairway leading to the Hierarchy of Compassion. Paradoxically, it is those asking the most who as a rule give the least. What gift is greater than a man's heart, than himself? Show me something nobler than that, something more practical, something that will bring about results more quickly. What is the matter with the world today? Men and women are distracted because of their own weaknesses; they have not willpower even to pursue a single path for a week at a time, or a month, still less a year. Their wills are asleep, their minds are weakened from lack of exercise and from depending upon help from without; their spirit within them has no chance to spread its wings and soar.
To say that theosophists disbelieve in prayer is a misunderstanding of the theosophical attitude. But most prayer, unfortunately, is petitionary, disguised or open, and prayer in this sense weakens the character. If I were the Christian God Almighty, I would say to the one who prays thus: "Son, you have the truth enshrined in your own heart. You have been taught it. Get upon your feet and be." The most beautiful prayer is aspiration transmuted into action. Then you have the real man, the real woman. No theosophists through the ages have ever objected to prayer if it consist in inner aspiration, the will towards self-regeneration to spiritual things, and the transmuting of this inner attitude of the soul into positive action on earth. Where you have this prayer-in-action then the whole life becomes filled with the prayer of the avatara Jesus: "Not my will, but thine be done."
The holy mysteries are never publicized — never. You have to earn them and fit yourselves for them. It is obvious that if you are not fit to receive them, they never come to you. It would be a crime to attempt to do otherwise. It is the easiest thing in the world for a man or a woman to incur loss of the soul by following any other method of occult training than that of the masters, taught as they themselves in their turn are by the dhyani-chohans, the bright and blessed gods. I mean it. If you want truth you must come to the temple for it, and you must come in the proper spirit; you must work upon yourself so that you will train yourself to be fit to learn, to be receptive. Otherwise you just can't receive it. You won't take it in. You can't take it in until you make an opening in which to put it — to use very plain, simple language. If your mind is set against it, like a closed door, it does not open to receive. You must train yourselves first. But if you do train yourselves and "live the life," there is absolutely no barrier which can or will prevent your going indefinitely forwards. It is exactly like a growing child. He cannot take in even the wisdom of this world until his mind has developed to the point where it can receive it and retain it; until it is trained to do it. It is exactly the same with occultism, with esotericism, with the Mysteries. They are indeed in the Theosophical movement, both the Greater and the Less. They can be had by anyone, but such a one must prepare himself, train himself, must be in deadly earnest. Then he can receive them.
The chief or fundamental rule of this training or discipline is the becoming receptive to the inner and higher part of one's own constitution, whose whisperings of truth and intimations of cosmic verities find no lodgment in minds willfully or ignorantly closed against their entrance. There is the whole, or at least the fundamental, rule of occult teaching and learning in a nutshell, and the reason for all the safeguards that have been thrown around it. I have myself known hapless students of theosophy who have literally gone crazy, temporarily at least, but nevertheless have been crazed, from an unwise and unguided study of some of the more recondite teachings. It is pathetic; the pathos lies in their yearning to learn and to become greater than their lower selves. The pathos likewise lies in the fact that they tried to scale the peaks before they had disciplined themselves to traverse the foothills of morals, of learning, and self-control. It is one of the perils that the masters and H. P. Blavatsky have had to watch out for, and to contend with. It is a very difficult situation. I have known men and women barely escaping the loss of health in merely brain-mind overstudy without the healing, saving power of selfless devotion: a most beautiful thing in a way; one's heart warms to them in admiration for their courage, for their insistence on getting truth; but it has been unwisely done. That is why we insist upon the all-round, balanced growth, a wise, shapely growing into knowledge and wisdom, instead of the distortions and ungainly malformations, mentally and even psychically, that come from unwise study of occult things.
It is for this reason that in our T. S. the inner, the secret, the occult, the esoteric, is so very carefully guarded and watched over and never publicized. The masters have no desire to have their students incur risks of soul loss, or mind loss, or even of physical deterioration, or any other human tragedy. Otherwise, having stated these things, just remember how beautiful and simple the rules of occultism are. Nothing in the deeper and more occult studies will ever interfere with your family duties, never, for those duties are duties; and it is one of the first obligations of a theosophist to fulfill every duty. He is no occultist if he neglects one, no matter what his temptations are. No matter if he tries to grasp the sun, if he neglects a duty he is a coward by that much. Being a coward and a weakling, he is no occultist. No injury should ever be done to another. If you do it you are beginning to descend, and you may walk into black magic. But there is a way and a chance to rescue yourself and to return to the strait and beautiful path. For it is a truly glorious path, and it brings a sense of the realization that man is akin to the gods and that the gods are present amongst us. Yes, I mean it: the gods even now walk the earth. But few are the sons of men who have trained themselves to realize it.
Now, the gods will associate with us, self-consciously to us, when we shall have learned first to know that they are there; then to make their approach to us mutually desirable. Let it, however, suffice for the main thought to carry home that the gods walk amongst us even now, as they did in far past ages, in the childhood of man, when he was still innocent and not so sophisticated that he thought he contained all the knowledge of the universe in his puny, little brain.
Let us, then, make ourselves presentable, and let us make our lives so attractive and interesting to the divinities, that they in their turn may be glad and happy to associate with us, self-consciously. There is a place, a geographical place on this earth, where not only is it common for the highest men that the race has produced to associate with the gods companionably, freely, friendly; but where the same relations of teachers and taught exist between gods and men, that exist today in our schools of learning. I wonder if you grasp what that means.
And at the heart — like this omphalos, or navel, or center, in the temple — in the holiest place there, the sanctum sanctorum, there is an invisible presence, the highest spiritual presence of this earth. Make of it what you can.
The great destroyer is fear, horror, apprehension of what is going to happen to me. Fear is destructive because it is based on egoism. Think how true this is. If a man utterly forgets himself, fear vanishes because he no longer thinks of the effect that anything may have upon himself. Fear is a concentration of attention upon oneself in an expectancy of disaster happening to one. Lose track of yourself, forget yourself, and fear will vanish.
Fear is often said to be a protection, but a protection only to the weak whose second nature is to fear; it is never a protection to the strong. It is horribly destructive. Of what? Of self-composure, self-confidence. It undermines will. It often makes one cruel in one's treatment of others. Fear is crippling. It stops the life forces; it makes one shrink and tremble, for, harboring it, one no longer has the daring, the vigor, the strength, and the power to go forth. Yet the timid man is always in far greater danger than the man who has no fear. Fear actually attracts danger. Your chances of safety are infinitely greater if you have no fear. Think it over.
Who would like to live in fear of his life, fearing everything that is going to happen, always slinking around the corner and running into cellars, and trying to go up, and yet afraid to go up for fear he will fall? All his life would be a continuous horror. Whereas the man who has love in his heart, who recks not of what is going to happen to himself, how happy and joyful he is; and he is strong and affects others with his self-confidence. If fear ever comes into his soul, it is because for the time being love is not there.
Forget yourself, and fear will vanish. Do you know the royal way to the forgetting of the self — utterly losing track of the thought of self in your life? It is to love all things both great and small; for perfect love casteth out all fear. Do you fear the things you love? Never. You want them, you long for them, you yearn for them. Learn therefore to love, and fear will go; and you become strong, for love is a mighty power enchained in the human breast.
Why is love so great a protection, outside of the fact that it casts out fear? Because its vibrations are infinitely harmonious; and fear is always shaken, distorted vibrations. The divine is perfect harmony, and all beneath it can arise to that. But fear is inharmony; trembling, shattering, undermining vitality. Look at the picture of a thoroughly frightened beast or man. You say to yourself. Where is the love in that man's heart which would give him peace, strength, and utter composure? He has lost it, he has forgotten it; if it were there, there would be no fear. And what is this perfect love which casteth out all fear? Why, it is simply living in that part of our own self which is universal. It is becoming allied with the divine. Therein lies perfect peace, perfect harmony.
There is a kind of suicide which is rightly but infrequently so called, and yet it is a very real thing, and in world states like our own today, a danger, a grave danger. It is the soul loss — an idea which strikes the Occidental mind harshly, as being something unkind and cruel; for the Occidental mind in its ignorance supposes from wrong education that some divine power put us here, for our own good or for our ill, and that no matter what we do, we are to live forever and forever and forever. But there is absolutely no basis or reality in this idea, and this is shown by the very fact that the common sense of mankind has already rejected it in the land where it was born, in the West.
Now mark you, the soul is not the same as the monad. The monad is eternal for it is as it were a part of infinitude, of the cosmic ocean of life, inseparable therefrom. But the soul is the vehicle which it has built up for expressing itself on these our planes. If this soul be adequate and conformable to its divine prototype, you have a god-man on earth, and the soul may thereafter partake of the immortality of that divine prototype, because it becomes at one therewith, allies itself therewith. And we have a soul which has become not only the vehicle of the monad, of the divine spirit at the heart of man, but the very expression of it.
Take the contrary case where the soul is so distorted, so imperfect a vehicle, so imperfectly evolved, that even the terrific power of the spirit can hardly penetrate the density of its stuff, penetrate through the fogs of mind, through the whirlpools of feeling and of thought. The soul is here useless or virtually so, and is ultimately cast off, rejected, and a new soul has to be evolved through the ages. But this is not done solely on the part of the monad. It is the soul itself in which lies the choice, in the human soul. It can commit slow suicide by life after life of a deliberate choice of evil for the sake of evil, falling in love with evil for the sake of it. And when the point is reached where the rebellion of the soul against the divine ray streaming from above has become more powerful than the capacity or power of that ray to rule the rebel soul, we have the case of what we call moral suicide. A soul is lost.
This is a very real thing, and is not just words; and I think it is high time that theosophists talk straight from the shoulder about this. We have received our warning from immemorial time. All the greatest teachers the world has ever known have taught this same truth. "Live the life and you will know the doctrine." Live the life and you may be immortal. If you refuse to run with nature, refuse to obey her mandates, set yourself up in rebellion against her laws, it ends in soul loss — and the first steps thereof are so easy. Facilis descensus Averno: "the easy slide to Avernus." At first it is so easy. Why, we are all risking it every day of our lives: insincerity, failure to do our duty, to keep our promises, above all things failure to keep faith, failure to be trustworthy when we are trusted. We all know the inner reactions of the man who knows himself to be faithless, insincere. His very soul is becoming corrupt. In the worst cases I would say that the soul of a man like that is honeycombed with ethical rottenness. This is the way soul loss begins. Suicide, moral suicide, soul loss, begins in the little things. But grand is the man or woman who will keep faith, who is sincere and truehearted. There is grandeur in these things because the spirit abideth there.
A man is grand who will keep his word, who will be sincere at no matter what cost to himself — and this does not mean cruelty to others, it means being sincere with one's own heart, courageous in it. Thereby is self-respect born and inner peace and the respect of those one loves.
It is so easy to begin to slip. From insincerity is born falsehood, and then when the heart is false the tongue becomes false, and lies slip out easily. With each such step downwards the recovery is harder to achieve, and the next step downwards is easier to take. Do not flatter yourselves for an instant that you are safe. As long as we have our intermediate nature, what we call the soul, we must watch ourselves. Man has it within his own hands to make a god of himself, or if not so grand as that, to make of himself a man that others will look up to and have trust in; and what grander thing can be said of a man than that: he can be trusted! just because we may rise, for the same reasons we may fall.
It is very difficult to give rules of conduct by which a man or woman may know whether he or she at least is on the upward path, extremely hard to give formal rules for these things; yet I do think that if you will honestly examine yourself, and after this scrutiny can say of yourself: "No matter what my mistakes have been, no matter how much I have stumbled on the path, I have kept faith; my tongue has not been polluted with falsehoods; I have not betrayed a trust; I have been true in my engagements to others and to myself" — if a man can say these things of himself, then he may feel that he is fairly safe. But if there enters into the heart upon such scrutiny the slightest feeling of self-satisfaction or the tendency to condone oneself and one's actions, when the heart knows that they have been twisted — look out!
I think the Egyptians in their hieroglyphic paintings of the heart weighed against the feather of truth, light as a feather yet almighty in its power to weigh truly and justly, had the right idea. I wonder how many of us, when our hearts are weighed, will find that the heart will weigh in the balance rightly. We too often think that the man is led astray by his brain — poor instrument. Here is where the demon works, here in the heart; and here is where the god lies also. The brain is used by the evil man to find excuses for the imaginations of a corrupt heart to injure others, scheming, scheming, scheming. But the impulses arise in the heart. The brain becomes merely the tool. I feel very strongly about this. I know that I myself in my job have forgiven betrayals many, many times, and I will tell you why. First because it is grand to forgive, and second because I saw that had I been in this or that person's place, in the betrayer's place, I might have done worse. And I have found the discipline of forgiveness good and helpful.
No human being is unconditionally immortal, none. You are immortal only if you ally yourselves with immortality, the immortality within you. Otherwise you are mortal, for you will have allied yourselves with the mortality within yourselves. So examine yourselves before it is too late, and if you find that in your heart you have been injuring others and doing so by translating the evil impulses of your heart into acts, stop it. Make amends. If you find in your heart that you are deceitful, deceptive, because you want to get something, or to prevent something, stop it, for you are going downwards.
Be always kindly; do not think for a moment that by being sincere you must be brutal, brutally frank to others. That is sheer cruelty. Sometimes silence is infinitely kindlier than speech. Sometimes you can tell more truth in silence, in remaining silent, than by speech. But whether in speech or in silence, keep faith always. Guard against insincerity as you would guard against all the demons of hell.
Question: What is the relation between the infinite mind and the finite mind according to theosophy? The trouble is if you say the finite mind is a part of the infinite mind, you must also ascribe to the infinite mind the vices of the finite. But if you say it is not a part of the infinite mind, then the infinite cannot be infinite.
Answer: The gentleman has asked a question which has been debated in all ages, among all races of men. It is the same problem which has vexed and harassed theologians, for it is obvious from the standpoint of theology, if God is infinite, and is nevertheless a creator, then everything that infinity creates must be infinite; but we see ourselves surrounded by an infinitude of finite things. How comes this? This is the same problem in theology that you, my dear sir, have spoken of as existing in philosophy. Now I don't know anything that can answer this question except the god-wisdom which today we call theosophy, and you will understand it is not so easy to answer, because one must be trained in esoteric thought before complete conviction comes of the full adequacy of the answer. Yet I will try to state the facts in simple language.
I have always looked upon the idea that the infinite is an actor as utterly wrong, for infinitude cannot be an actor, because an actor is a limited entity. Infinitude does not act as a being, for a being is a limited entity. We can only say therefore that infinity is action per se, life per se, not a life — that is limitation, that is finity. You take me as a man, you as a man, a celestial body like the sun or a planet or a beast, a plant, any limited entity: this limited entity, a finite being, in its physical expression lives and moves and has its existence in infinitude; it cannot be outside of it because infinitude has no frontiers, no boundaries, and no beyond. Therefore, that finite entity somewhere, somehow, in some part of it, has roots in infinity, infinity washes it through, so to speak, as the sea washes through all that its waves encompass, although of course infinity is a frontierless sea, so to speak.
Thus I, as a man, have my roots in the divine, that divine surrounds me everywhere, and permeates me throughout, in all my parts, in all my being. I cannot ever leave it. Therefore am I a child of it. Yet here am I, a man, in a weak, small, limited, physical body, with a weak, small, physical, limited brain as compared with the gods, a weak, small life, with a heart as we say, an ethical instinct, and whatnot. Yet I am a man. I have divine thoughts, I feel my unity with all that is. How? Why? That is the problem.
I will now hint at what esoteric theosophy says on this point. There is an infinity of finites, a strange paradox. In other words, these entities or beings which we call finite are infinite in number. I wonder if you catch that point. Thus the atoms of boundless space are bound by no frontiers, each one is a finite entity, and yet they exist in infinite numbers. We can conceive of no end because if our thought once says, there infinity ends, this is a limitation of the infinitude which has produced finites here, and we say, with perfect justice, why should, how could, infinity limit itself in any way? This thought is repellent, we cannot accept it. It is the infinite whispering of infinitude within me which enables my consciousness to catch this thread of understanding; this limited brain finds difficulty in holding within its small bounds an infinite idea. But I get an intuition, something within whispers, that is so. That is the infinitude breathing through me, washing through me.
Thus, there is an infinitude of finite entities, gathered together in distinct aggregated masses, whatever they may be — men, planets, suns, stars, stones, or whatnot — call them atoms, because all these things are formed of atoms, or things smaller than atoms like electrons and protons, etc. Indeed, all cosmic phenomena in the great or in the small follow the same general cosmic rule or pattern; and these are the phenomena of the universe as contrasted with the hid noumena or secret causes.
We see thus that Occidental philosophy has made a capital error in its philosophical researches in saying that infinity is around us, but that the finite is radically or essentially different from it. Strange paradox! Just because the finities are limitless, infinite numerically, therefore collectively as an infinitude they are a part of infinitude — indeed, in a sense the garments of infinity. They are it. In other words, we must change our out look on the universe before we can understand why the infinite breathes in time as it does, in what we humans call boundless space. There is a manner in which even a human thought is infinite because it is one of an infinite number of thoughts, energies, living in the heart of nature, and never able to leave infinitude.
If you catch this very subtle, difficult thought, you will have precisely what the esoteric philosophy teaches, as also, for instance, the Vedanta, the Adwaita-Vedanta of India. What does it, as well as the sage of the Vedas, teach its disciples? This: Tat twam asi: "That — the Boundless — thou art." Because if That, thou, are different, then the thou is outside infinity, which is absurd, and infinity immediately becomes finite because there is something beyond it, which means that it is bounded, therefore limited, therefore noninfinite. Therefore that limited entity, that finity in this wondrous way is washed through with infinity, because in its heart, in its essence, it is of the substance of infinity.
Now turning to theology, this is just the reason why theosophists cannot accept Christian theology, although we accept the teachings of the avatara Jesus. We look upon him as one of the greatest of theosophists; but the theology of Christianity was built up by smaller men later in time who had lost the secret of the teachings of their great master. And when Christian theology says that God is a creator, that "He" created the world out of nothing at a certain time in infinity, we say that is impossible, that limits "God. " Infinity is no creator, it is not a maker, not a demiurge — to use the philosophical term demiourgos of the Greeks; just as the sage of the Vedas, as the Adwaita-Vedanta, of India and as the esoteric philosophy say, it is That. We give to it no concrete name, for such a name implies limitation. We simply say it is nameless, That. "That" is not a title, it is not a name; it is just an attempt of the human mind not to label infinity, or to give it a name, or to put a ticket on it, but just to use this term That as a means of reference in conversation.
And lastly, the esoteric philosophy teaches therefore, following these lines of subtle thinking, that even what we call the physical universe is infinite because composed of an infinite number of units, finities. And it is so from eternity — never had a beginning, never will have an ending. Because infinity has no beginning, has no ending. Infinity does not create and produce these finities. Therefore they are always from infinite past to infinite future, and are parts of infinitude. Strange philosophical paradox. Marvelous intuitions of the archaic sages!
I sometimes think that while it is noble of us to investigate these recondite and difficult thoughts, because they raise us to higher levels of thinking and enlarge our minds, I must agree with the ancient sage who said that the answer, the most real answer to such problems is found in the silence. How true that is! It is words that mislead us, words which entangle us and lead our thoughts astray. Yet we must use words to communicate with each other. If this gentleman is a professor or teacher in one of the universities I sympathize with him, because I know the difficulty he has in giving thought so subtle sometimes to other minds. And yet he does so, teachers do so, because they know there is something in the learners, in the pupils, which can grasp at least an intuition of Reality.
I sometimes think that Western philosophy has lived under great disadvantages. It has suffered under a heavy handicap, and it is this, that Western philosophical thought has not had a real opportunity to develop and free itself from theological dogmatism. I know this perhaps is a ticklish subject to touch upon, yet it is one of outstanding importance for the freedom of human thought. Philosophy in the Orient has not been laboring for thousands of years under this handicap. The thoughts of Oriental philosophers and of the archaic Mystery Schools have had the freedom to grow and to develop; and I will now show you just what I mean.
In the esoteric wisdom, as likewise in the philosophical and religious thought of the Orient — a direct descendant and child of occultism, of theosophy — the Infinite or Boundless or That is not good, nor is it bad. These are human limitations, and can apply only by contrasts to limited beings. It is a man or an angel or a god or a deva who is good or bad. A spirit of good and a spirit of evil? This is a blind intuition which Christian theology has had. What actually is, is that in the bosom of infinity, out of it as from an eternal womb, come pouring forth hierarchies of lives, of monads as Leibniz would say, all spiritual beings in various grades and degrees of what we today call evolutionary unfoldment. Thus, for instance, we have the highest of the highest of the highest gods, and beneath them the highest of the highest, and beneath them the highest, and then the gods, and then the dhyani-chohans, and then beings below them, until we reach us humans, and then beings below us on other ranges of hierarchies of entities, like the beasts and the plants and the elementals, all marching upward on their evolutionary way, higher and higher. Indeed, it is in this world in which we live that we find good and evil, and we see how beautiful good is, for it is harmony and love and peace and progress and development, evolution, expanding, and growth. We likewise see what evil is, restriction, constriction, suffering, pain, inadequacies, ignorance; in other words, imperfection in development often involving retrogressions or going downwards towards larger imperfections, until the lesson is learned by habit, and the entity begins the upward march. This is what the evil man does. He is going downwards and backwards for the time being, for the duration of his evil doing. So it is in the manifested things of the universe that we find beauteous good and the best, and horrid evil and the worst.
This entire series of thoughts involving the productions of the hosts of hierarchies of finite beings and things was called in ancient philosophy the doctrine of emanations, which Christian theology has condemned and scorned and mocked at, and which Western philosophy has never had a chance to understand because its teachers have been crippled. They have not been truly free, for they have not had the chance that the philosophers of the Orient have. I know. I have been through it.
So we cannot say that the infinite is good, because that is a limited term belonging solely to beings of emanated hierarchies; and when in the lower grades of these, we find them with less of the divine light. Then, as the Gnostics said — one school of ancient philosophy in early Christian times — they live in darkness, they are limited, they cannot see clearly, and that is evil, what we call evil, limitation.
So it is all wrong to talk about infinitude as being good, because if infinitude is good, how are we going to explain evil in the world? And there is lots of it! No, good and evil belong to the vast range of hierarchies existing in infinity, coming forth into manifestation in one great life-wave in some part of the universe, living their times, advancing and progressing; and when they have reached the culmination or highest point of their growth in that time period, then returning into the bosom of the divine for rest, at some future time to come forth again on higher planes, in loftier spheres. A process that we see in nature all around us, like the tree coming forth in the spring, bringing forth its leaves and shedding them in the autumn; just as we see a human being for instance, reimbody, part in the divine world and part in the physical, life after life, back and forth along the swing of the pendulum which is nature's law. We see it around us. There is the great book which we should study: nature, the things that are. And when I say nature, I don't mean physical nature alone, but all nature in the esoteric sense, the nature of the divine, the nature of the spiritual, the nature of the intellectual worlds, the nature of the physical worlds, the nature of the worlds beneath the physical. Who can, who dare, set bounds to the life in infinity and of it?
The gist of the answer to the question asked is, therefore, the following: every unit of the limitless number of finite beings, or of things living in and of infinitude, every such unit, I say, is in its highest, in its essence or fundamental substance, an identity with the substance of infinitude; but these points of infinite substance or monadic centers in their several expressions as cosmic phenomena are, or become, or appear, or show themselves forth as, the finite units spoken of in the question. Thus, every unit is in its essential substance of the very stuff of infinity, but all in their manifestations or emanated expressions are, or become, the discrete or "separated" units in their countless armies or hierarchies.
I have often had it asked of me how it is that divinity is in and behind all things, and yet, at the same time there are all the horrible things that take place even in human life: wars, earthquakes, whatnot. These things are but proofs of cosmic activity. It is not the cosmic activity that is to blame; it is we, the channels through whom the cosmic forces travel and work, misdirected by us, by our free will — relatively free at least by our choice, our choosings: sweet bells jangling out of tune, but they are bells just the same.
Everyone knows that a man who abuses his body will pay for it in suffering and disease. These things exist; and the disease and illness and sufferings are born from the original harmonies, if you please, otherwise there would be no contrast. They do not disprove the cosmic harmony; rather they prove that somewhere along the line somebody, something, has abused the god-given privilege of cooperation with the divine harmonies. When a man so cooperates in fullness, then he is what we call a Buddha, a Christ, or an avatara. But when a man does not so cooperate and persistently uses his free will, born of the divine itself, to make disharmonies where it is his duty to preserve and perpetuate harmonies, what happens? It depends upon the plane where his mind is at work. In any case, if instead of following the upward path he chooses the downward, he goes down and down and down to the Pit. And this simply means the following: just as by continual abuse of your health you can ruin it and get a body which will be diseased, perhaps for more than one incarnation on earth, so with your mind, and so with your will. If you persistently fill your soul with thoughts of disharmony, hatred, evil, you will corrupt the inner fabric of that soul, and it will take on the pattern of your thoughts. You will be a workman shaping your inner self, making your future life to be according to the pattern your thoughts and feelings have given to yourself. The result is that as evil is always constrictive, the inner fabric of you, your free will, becomes less and less competent, more and more inharmonious with itself, weaker and weaker in power and energy, even in imagination and in feeling, because you are constantly becoming more and more constricted instead of widening and becoming universal. The result is that if you persist on this path downwards you will become as low as the beasts. You will have lost your humanity. Nobody will be to blame except you yourself. That is what we mean when we speak of dropping into the Pit.
The opposite of this is a continuous growth in faculty and power, by inclusiveness, by expansion, until we become finally divine, cosmic in our minds, in the reaches of our intellect, cosmic in our sympathies, widening with the universe.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." When the avatara Jesus made this beautiful statement to his disciples, he made it to help them. If you read the New Testament, you will there see that this prayer, as the Christians call it, was given to them for use. Therefore the entire prayer is based on psychology and must be read from the standpoint of psychology. I don't mean the psychology of the present age, which is little more than a kind of sublimated physiology; but I mean the psychology of the great seers, the titan intellects of all times, in other words, the science of the human soul, the intermediate part of man; not the spirit, not the body, but the soul.
The point is a subtle one: do you know that when you wish to avoid doing something that you realize is not good for you, one of the best things is not merely to face the fact, but to state it clearly through your own mind? Often the ugliness of the thought or of the action repels. The temptation is seen in its proper outlines. Thus it is never the higher self or the god within, what the Christians call God, which ever leads one into temptation. But the higher parts of our being, the spirit within, the god within us, is exercising upon us constantly the inner urge to do better, to be more, to strike out, to awake, to cast off the slumber and be and do. And often this wonderful brain-mind, which is not, however, as yet fully evolved, cannot get the true import of the inspiration from above, and therefore it distorts.
Remembering these facts which you have been taught, this is the import of the avatara's speech. The very fact that you will say to yourselves in an uprush of aspiration: lead me not to follow paths which appear holy or which are veiled in the illusory colors or glory of what I want; lead me not to be tempted to what seems to be high, but deliver me from these things. These very thoughts in the mind make the temptation to lose all its seduction. The outline is seen for what it is.
You know the old fable about stripping off the garment which deceived the knight. He sees coming towards him the yearning of his heart — he is on trial, a knightly course of trial. Will he succumb to the temptation which seems to be the very yearning of his heart? Nobody knows. He is on trial, the trial of the knight. He steps up to the seductive illusion, pulls aside the enchanting veils and sees the death's head. This is the meaning.
The very fact that Jesus warned his disciples to take this as their aspiration every day showed that it had a psychological veritable protection for his disciples; in other words, they were to build up what modern psychologists call a framework or wall of thought around the mind.
Modern psychology has struck one truth, and it is that temptations come to us because of what modern psychologists have called schizophrenia, a long, ugly Greek word which simply means the good old-fashioned statement that a man's nature is often divided against itself. Schizophrenia means split mind, split personality. The good old saying was, a mind is often divided against itself, or, we are in two minds about it.
Now what is the psychology behind this? It is this: weld your mind together again into one and you won't succumb. Every decent man knows the truth of this if he examines himself. We fall into temptation because we allow our mind to become split, one part of the mind to bemean the other and then we scheme. "Can we not get away with it?" In other words, don't try to ride two horses.
Once the god within bathes our mind, our brain, with its holy light, with its love, schizophrenia becomes a horror of the past. Refusing to allow this mental division within ourselves, we become single-minded; we sense the inner divinity; and when this is possessed in extreme degree we have a Christ or a Buddha. These have appeared among us. There is no reason why they should not appear today.
Assuredly the gods do help us. They are watching us as it were from their azure thrones, to help, and watching continuously; but does anyone think for a single instant that the gods are going to help in the work of destruction? Or contrariwise that you are going to receive divine aid or divine assistance, unless you yourself are a channel of divinity? Use your brains and your minds. Do not be led astray by religious propaganda talk. In order to obtain truth for yourself, strive to become godlike, thus becoming a fit channel for the godlike influences to pour through you; and you will not only be protected and helped, but you will do a divine work in the world. Think of these things. Be godlike, if you wish to have the gods help you, because you want to do godlike things. But you must be like unto the gods if you want that help. If you turn your back upon them, and do demoniac and diabolic things, particularly clothed with the habiliments of hypocrisy, that is not godlike, and you will get no help from the gods. Am I telling you truth, or am I telling you falsehoods? Am I telling you things that endure for aye, or things that are transitory and forgotten in five years?
What is your standard of conduct? Have you principles or have you not? You have your answer. Don't cheat yourselves by thinking that the gods are helping you, because you will persist in running along your narrow human grooves, and then when disaster comes, raise impotent hands to the divinities, and say: "Why did this happen to me; what have I done?" Don't come to me and talk to me about being on the side of the gods unless you are, and working as gods, and doing godlike works, and keeping to the principles which you revere. Then you are on the side of the gods, and you will get the help. Otherwise you won't. Take the avatara Jesus: look what his answer was with the money-changers in the temple and with the hypocrites.
Do theoeophists have any doctrine similar to the Christian theological doctrine of predestination? Do we say as the Calvinists, and as many Romanist theologians believe in their hearts, that the divine foreknew everything before it came into being, and predestinated all and each and every thing before it happened? My answer is this:
The divine ideation of the Monas monadum, "the Monad of monads," let us say the hierarch of our solar system or, if you wish, the hierarch of our galaxy: the divine ideation foresaw, foreknew, knew before, knew ahead, the ways of the working of karma for the manvantara to begin, to unfold. But this was the knowledge not of an extracosmic God creating things and stamping upon these entities and things an irrevocable decree of fate, but merely the forevision of divinity of what the multitudes of monads forming the hierarchies within that universe would, each individual in its own measure of free will, do in the manvantara beginning to unroll. In the same way, perhaps as a parent or as a master might do: the parent for its little child, knowing the child's character, will say: I must watch out for this, this tendency or bias. Or as a master may say of his disciple, I see in him this leaning. I will be more watchful and helpful in that direction.
The divine ideation saw all that would happen; all that was present in the divine mind, all that would happen during the forthcoming manvantara, all that its children would do, how every one of those children would act according to its free will, and according to the divine urge or karma which it itself had effected in the preceding cosmic manvantara. In fact, divine ideation has not merely foreknowledge of macrocosmic and microcosmic events to be unfolded in accordance with that very divine ideation itself, which is the supreme law of the universe to come into being; but that divine ideation was (is), as it were, the very Architect's Plan* of the future universe to be, and of all in it up to the end of that universe; albeit each monad of the multitudes to spring into activity when manvantara opens, being in its essence a part of the divine life, and therefore an instrument of the divine ideation, acts according to its own inmost impulses, in the last analysis, through all the evolutionary pilgrimage in the university of life. Hence drawing its own free will from the divine life, its own proportion thereof — and when all is said, acting in accordance with the divine ideation, because acting contrary to it is impossible — we see therefore that there is no fatalism in this, and no predestined fate, i.e., the mandate of a power superior to the evolving hosts of monads. Each monad, in other words, acts out its destiny in accordance with its own inmost svabhava or character, but nevertheless must obey the architectural plan of the divine ideation itself. Being, however, a spark of the divine life of which the divine ideation itself is but a manifestation, we have a picture, immensely grandiose and sublime, of all monads actually becoming cooperators in the divine plan, and acting contrary thereto only at their cost in suffering and misery. There is absolutely in this no blind destiny, no infallible kismet, no inescapable fate.
All monads when a manvantara ends, end as it were with a trial balance. As the Mohammedans phrase it rather poetically, a man's destiny is written in the Book of Destiny. His future is written in the Book by his own previous lives. And the divine ideation knew all this because that divine ideation — what is it? — is the all-comprehending hierarch, of whom we are sparks.
Thus we teach no predestination in the Christian theological sense, but we most emphatically teach destiny which each man is weaving for himself by his intelligence, and his will, from life to life, aye — from year to year, from day to day, with every thought, with every feeling, registering itself not only in his character and changing it, but in the astral light where molds are left, photographs are made.
As a spider weaves its web, so does a man weave around himself his own web of destiny. Often and often we human beings suffer for things for which we ourselves are not fully responsible. Think! Are you, am I, responsible for the wars that take place throughout the whole world? In one sense we are, as being part of the human race. Our thoughts in the past have helped to build up the astral molds in the astral light, but as individuals none of us made the bold strokes that lead nations into war. Yet these wars react on us, react on the unhappy peoples today living in fear and sadness. It was their own karma. They wove it in past lives to be in the midst of things. But as individuals not one of them is wholly responsible. This sounds subtle; it is really simple if we follow it. A war in any part of the world affects the whole world today — so closely is mankind knitted together. Prices rise, expenses rise, foods, luxuries are perhaps beyond the means of the majority or are prohibited. Positions are lost, anxiety, fear, rule everywhere. Did I do it, because I suffer from it? No; did my karma put me here by my own acts? Yes, and hence to some extent I am responsible. There are a great many things happening to us that we ourselves as men living in our quaternary — the lower part of us, the earth-child, the human soul — are not fully karmically responsible for. Yet there is a part of us that is responsible, and this is the dhyan-chohan within us, the reincarnating ego. So there is no essential injustice in this.
I will try to phrase it in this way. The spiritual part of us is wholly responsible for everything that happens to us, for it is the reimbodying ego and has lived thousands of lives; but this human ego, this earth-child, the ordinary human soul, is not responsible for many things that the spiritual ego makes it suffer; and therefore so far as it is concerned undergoes unmerited suffering. Strange paradox! I call the attention of readers to H. P. Blavatsky's own words on this matter of unmerited suffering which will be found in her The Key to Theosophy, original edition, on pages 161-2 — especially perhaps page 162. It is in these two pages that H. P. Blavatsky in her incomparable style points out that while the reincarnating ego is responsible for all that happens to a man, good, bad, and indifferent, the earth-child or the merely reimbodied man, often undergoes what to him is unmerited suffering; but as she states on page 162, at the moment of death for a short instant the personal man becomes one with the spiritual individuality, sees and understands himself as he is, unadorned by flattery or self-deception.
He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into the arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him.
While the personal man, the earth-child, the lower quaternary, does indeed undergo unmerited sufferings in this life for causes sown in previous lives, and thus gets its recompense in the bliss of devachan, yet the reincarnating ego or the true actor in life's drama is responsible because the carrier of karma. Thus when the personal man is united at the moment of death with the reincarnating spiritual ego, even the personal man then sees the perfect justice of all that has happened — suffering unmerited by the man of this life, but karmically the consequence of the actions of the ego in past lives.
So you see, one part of us is responsible for what the lower innocent part is not responsible for. It is this lower part of us that after death gets its recompense in the devachan for all the unmerited sufferings and sadnesses and sorrows and hurts that it has had, or experienced, in life; in other words, the things that it itself in that life had not willingly brought about, but were brought upon it because the reincarnating ego unlike its child, the lower man, is responsible.
No wonder the masters tell us that one of the greatest things in human life is the cultivation of the spirit of compassion, of pity, of sympathy, sympathy for the souls of men. When we have it we rise out of our earth-child soul still higher. The spiritual part of us sometimes leads us into sorrow and suffering and trouble for our own good. It itself becomes responsible. So, do not be so ready to blame others, do not be so ready to say, Oh, it is his karma! Precisely that is just your chance to give a helping hand. Inactive in a deed of mercy, you become active in a cardinal sin, as H. P. Blavatsky nobly declares. And you will be held to account. This lesson does not mean doing things blindly and rushing around in a wild emotion of compassion. It means using your brains. There are plenty of crooks in the world, and they are making a terrible karma in the world. But when one does know that someone needs the helping hand, it is a criminal act if we withhold it, and we shall suffer karmic retribution for our inaction. Think what it means to us when we in desperate need feel the warm clasp of a helping hand. The courage that flows back to us, the feeling that we are not alone in the world; that there is at least one person who has given us a kindly thought. One touch of the divine heals and strengthens the whole world.
So in answer to the question, does theosophy teach predestination? the answer is an emphatic negative. But we do indeed teach destiny, which every man weaves for himself, around himself, and from which there is no escape, for it is the fruiting of the seeds sown by our own volition or choice. We do teach the doctrine, sublime and grand, as already stated, of man's free will, relatively so at least, dependent upon his evolutionary status, and of the inescapable destiny that dogs the footsteps of the evildoer, and showers blessings upon the doer of good. The one, retribution, is as inescapable as the other, compensation for the good that we have sown.
It is a marvelous thought to reflect that the divine ideation at the opening of the manvantara has, as it were, a plan of all the future time of that manvantara, predestinating nothing, reprobating nothing, but, as the Silent Watcher sees it in his glorious wisdom, what its children in that manvantara will unroll from themselves: the destiny woven in the past. It is very largely in order to carry out the plan immanent in the divine ideation that the avataras of the gods from time to time come amongst us to direct our vision towards the laws of Being, and in doing so to guide as well as comfort and aid us human pilgrims.
* Plan in the sense that the Great Breath which will build the universe is guided and controlled in all its structural or building activity by the ideal outline contained in the cosmic ideation. This divine or cosmic ideation, philosophically speaking, is at once the past, the present, and the future, in the sense of an eternal Now. The futurity of the universe, as well of course as its past, is therefore present in the divine ideation, and unrolls itself at the beginning of a manvantara along the lines of karma, guided by the lipikas working under the ideal compulsion of the cosmic ideation. This last of course contains all futurity, by the fact that it contains everything that ever shall be in the universe presently to come into being, from the beat of a mosquito's wing to the coming of the pralaya of a solar system. Thus while our destiny is indeed written for us not only in the stars, but likewise in the cosmic mind, seeing past, present, and future, yet every monad being a child of that cosmic mind, a portion of its own essence, has its corresponding portion of free will, and uses it. The misuse thereof instantly awakens the retributive action of karma; the cooperative use thereof instantly awakens the compensatory blessings of karma. "Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance" (The Voice of the Silence).
Thus while there is destiny, there is no fate, for every monad at its heart contains its portion as its own of the divine will and intelligence, and is free to use these as it pleases. (return to text)