Theosophical University Press Online Edition
What Is Truth?
We Have No Dogmas
Help from the Teachers
Encouragement on the Path
Nature in Silent Prayer
Two Ways of Viewing Reality
Oracles of the Ancients
Duty and the Moral Balance
One Life — One Law
The Theosophy of China
Responsibility of Scientists
Angel and Demon
How may we find truth, or distinguish as among different teachings calling themselves truth, as to which is the proper or the best? What is truth? Do you remember Pontius Pilate, when he was examining Jesus, putting the question: what is truth? I ask you the same: what is truth? Do you think that any one of you can have all truth within the small compass of your mind? Don't you see what a preposterous question this is? All we can know of truth is partial cognizance of the laws of the universe, an ever-growing cognizance, an ever-increasing range of consciousness and feeling, a growth in wisdom and inner power. But if any man could encompass the whole truth within the small compass of his mind, of his brain, what a sad outlook for all the future there would lie before him. He has ended, he has finished, he has it all! He has infinite truth — all of which is fortunately impossible.
Truth is relative, because what men call truth is just so much as each individual man can understand, take in, receive and digest, of the laws of the universe around us; and by that I mean the spiritual universe even more than the gross physical one that gives us our bodies. Truth is relative, I repeat, which means in the simplest way of speaking, that what is truth to Jack may be false to John. Charles may see where Jack fails and where John fails, and have a vision of a still higher truth; and some other man with a vision and a penetrating power of intellect larger than that of Charles, may see more and feel more.
Be therefore generous in your feelings towards others. Learn to respect true convictions, if they are indeed convictions; and learn to understand mere opinions for the paltry value that most of them have, opinions that are as changeable and uncertain as the moonlight.
Truth per se is infinite wisdom, and what man has it? Even the gods themselves have only portions, but portions vastly greater than we have. So you see how futile such a question is after all, and how distressing it is that questions like this have given rise to so much human ill feeling among men, not only in religion but in every aspect of human life. Instead of having kindliness and sympathy towards others, and an endeavor to understand your brother's viewpoint, there is a constant clash of opinions and warring of words, leading to unhappiness at the least, and to desperate misery at the worst — all very foolish and, indeed, childish, because unnecessary. The old simple rule of brotherhood and kindliness solves all these problems. Remember that your own growth in wisdom is steady, your own growth in understanding is constant. Learn then to be charitable to others.
Of course, on the other hand, some systems of thought have much more of truth than others. This is obvious, because some men are more evolved than others, are wiser, have a more penetrating mind, and see farther. Learn therefore to be charitable, but to be always ready to receive a new truth and to follow a teacher whom you believe to have that truth, thus recognizing that it is possible for someone else to know a little more than yourself. It takes a big man to follow some other man; and I don't mean blind slavery or servile obedience. I abhor them. I mean an honest conviction in your heart that someone else in the world knows more than you do; such a conviction dignifies a man, clothes him with manly dignity.
Truth dwells within, in you and in me. There is a secret fountain of truth and consequent wisdom within every son of man, at which he may drink; and this secret fountain is his own inmost being, his link with the divinity which is the heart of our universe, for that same heart is his heart, for we are of its substance, of its life we are children, of its thought we are offspring. The very physical atoms which compose my body are mere guests therein, and I am their host. They come to me from the farthest ranges of the galaxy, dwell a while in my body, and give it form, and pass on. And I, alas, perhaps dirty their faces when they come to me in trust, or mayhap, peradventure, I cleanse their faces. But whatever happens, those same atoms will return to me some day in the infinite whirling of the wheel of life, continuous throughout eternity.
The big wheels move by the grace of God;
The little wheels move also!
You know the old Negro spiritual — a wonderful truth in that fact!
So then, truth is merely as much as the spiritual being within you can take in from your study, from your intuitions, from your living with your fellowmen, and above all from your inner inspiration. Does truth dwell in science? Does truth dwell in the churches? The answer is obvious, isn't it! Does truth dwell in the philosophical lecture halls of our universities? The same answer. You will find in church and lecture hall and in scientific laboratory only as much as individual men bring there; and these individual men know only as much as they have evolved from within themselves.
You see how futile this question is as among the different sects and societies. Where may truth be found, and how may we know when we find it? Here is the touchstone: within; because there is truth within the heart, within the core of your being, the divine center which is identical with the divine center of the universe, for we are children of it, of its essence; and just in proportion as a man comes to know and to become this divine spark burning within his own being, does his grasp of truth grow greater. The more he can vibrate in unison with the vibrations of that spiritual sun within himself, that spark which is the light from the divinity of the galaxy, just in proportion does he know truth.
But in a practical way be kindly to those who differ from you, recognizing that your own understanding is limited also. Do not resort to sarcasms, a sure mark of small minds. Use irony if you like, but not unkind sarcasms. When a man resorts to sarcasm, it simply means that he cannot think of anything more clever to say. Be kindly towards others; respect others' convictions; and seek continually that fountain of wisdom within yourself where in its inmost we may indeed say that truth abides in fullness.
We have no dogmas or creeds in the Theosophical Society nor in its work; and thus it is that we have Hindu theosophists, Buddhist theosophists, Christian theosophists, Mohammedan theosophists, and Jewish theosophists, as well as other theosophists who belong to no religion — except to theosophy as the religion of religions. Hence it is our bounden duty to cultivate in our hearts the spirit of brotherly love towards all, however much they may differ from us in philosophical and religious or scientific opinions; but while we are thus absolutely free as members in our choice of religion and philosophy, we all hold to the primeval prerequisite of a theosophist, which is a belief in universal brotherhood and an adherence to the sublime ethics which theosophy teaches.
Resolutions are valuable precisely because of the training that we get from them if we are sincere. A man breaks a resolution and, sensing truth in his heart, he immediately says: What use is a resolution? But another man of somewhat more experience behind him realizes that it is the constant re-resoluting, to coin a term, which makes a man over anew. Rome was not built in a day. A god never became such in one single cosmic cycle. But it is the constant effort of the will, the constant, new resolving, which changes character and turns humanity into godhood.
There is the value of resolutions. True, we are weak and do not carry them out, but if you argue like that, you have the brains of a child, because that is the way a child might reason. But the grown man who has experience, realizes that he grows strong precisely by the exercise of the powers that are within himself; and there is something magical about a resolution at the beginning of the year, no matter how often you may violate it. There is the remembrance of a hope, a hope springing from an inner intuition that one has the capacity for grand thinking, and that it is his own fault if he does not follow out that thinking; and following it out becomes easier with every new repetitive assertion of his own power to change his life.
There is the value of resolve; the repetition of the resolve which finally molds character correspondentially. It is so simple. By and by the resolve becomes a habit of mind, and a habit of mind controls your actions, and your actions control your destiny.
I think resolving is grand and very beautiful, for there is no other way to change character; and if you are satisfied with yourself as now you are, you are less than human, for there is an inextinguishable immortal hunger in the human heart for better and grander and greater things; and every normal man feels this, and the more than normal man allows himself to be guided by it. Once get that conception clear in your mind and then your resolves will not only become New Year resolutions; they will become resolves with the dawn of every month, ay, with every sunrise.
The teachers never refuse any earnest human soul, never. As soon as the cry for help issues from one, be it only in the silence of one's private chamber at night, when lying in bed, be it elsewhere, where the human need is greatest and the cry for help springs forth from a sincere human heart, that cry reaches its objective along those wonderful power currents that we call the akasa, and every such call is investigated — every one. The results depend upon whether the teachers see in the human heart even the faintest gleam of the buddhic splendor: that is, a self-forgetful yearning for greater things. But the call must be not for oneself alone: "Me and my wife, my son John and his wife, us four and no more." That is no call to the universe, that is merely personal; that call does not go out, there is no splendor there. But when there is a true call for help and light, there is a touch of the buddhic splendor, a touch of the light coming to us from the gods; and the masters watch this, foster this touch of heavenly brilliance burning in that human heart, watch it carefully and foster it and help it as best they may. They help and guide by all proper means, without affecting the man's will or choice, throwing chances in his way to come up higher; perhaps putting books in his way that will help him. He is carefully watched, watched over and helped and, if the man fails, this is his own fault and not that of the teachers.
No human being is without trouble of some kind, and let us remember that it is the sorrows and the troubles of life which are our true friends — friends because they strengthen our character; they give us a feeling of sympathy with those who suffer and are in pain. Also they enable us, by the strength of the moral fiber that they build into us, to carry our own burdens with a lighter and a more joyous heart so that in time, when the suffering has wrought its magical work upon us, the suffering no longer seems to us to be suffering, but we see it with quiet and luminous eyes, and a glad heart, as being the mysterious working of the very gods.
It is through suffering and yearning for light that we advance; and, when the light comes, then also come the great peace and the great wisdom, and our hearts are at rest.
So keep these thoughts in mind when your troubles come upon you, and try to cultivate beautiful, calm, sweet inner peace, and a love for your fellows; and you will discover that these bring happiness and success in all things worth while.
Remember that the karma of suffering is never eternal, and is usually short, although it may seem long at the time; and once this karma has worked itself out, exhausted itself, then it ends, and gives birth to a new and better cycle.
Now, I will try to answer your question regarding your lack of time to make a regular study of the deeper theosophical teachings. I know what your situation is, and I know how you long to devote more time to getting a knowledge of technical theosophy. This indeed is very, very important; but, on the other hand, may I not point out to you that even greater and even nobler than having a knowledge of technical theosophy is the devoting of one's life to Masters' cause, and this is what you are doing. This latter makes a karma even nobler than the spending of one's life in study of technical theosophy.
Your situation reminds me of that of some chelas whose hearts yearn to pass more time in technical study of the wisdom of the gods, but who are called upon to sacrifice their wish and to go forth into the world as messengers and envoys in order to give to others what they have already acquired. Don't you see that your case is somewhat like that of these chelas, who, in giving up their own heart's wish for more light, are growing spiritually, and actually gaining more interiorly than they would gain if they neglected a duty laid upon them by their teachers?
Therefore take comfort in this thought. You are progressing spiritually and intellectually. You are also growing morally because you are living a noble life in service to our sacred cause, giving all you can without thought of reward; and the masters ask no more than this even from their highest disciples.
Therefore, do not feel sad, and do not be discouraged. You have asked for my frank opinion, and for my advice, and I am now giving these to you; and I tell you again that you are growing spiritually and intellectually faster in what you are now doing than you would if you sat down somewhere alone in luxurious ease and devoted your life to study for yourself alone. Remember that the chela's path begins in self-sacrifice for the world, and ends in self-sacrifice for the world — if indeed there be an ending, which is not the case. It is thus that the great masters of wisdom and compassion and peace are evolved. It is thus that the buddhas are developed.
Nevertheless, technical study is very, very important, and I am so glad that you speak of this so frequently, because it shows that you have the exactly right view. But I know too that you are gaining a great deal of technical knowledge just by throwing yourself so wholeheartedly into the theosophical work. You are absorbing it without perhaps realizing it. You are imbibing it from the theosophical atmosphere; and all that I have read that you have written shows me that you are gaining a great deal of the technical understanding. It is an actual truth of white magic, that a man learns more by self-forgetful service in our cause than he does by thinking only of his own advancement and devoting his whole time to merely personal development. The latter, after all, and in the last analysis, is selfish, and closes the doors of both heart and mind to the entrance of the spiritual light; and therefore, although the desire for self-progress is de facto a noble one, yet when it is followed selfishly, the selfish desire actually prevents the attainment of the objective which such a man longs for.
You have nothing to fear in this respect. Your life of beautiful service in our sacred cause is placing you in a position spiritually and intellectually where you are really learning more, as I have said, perhaps without realizing it now, than you could in any other wise.
— Extracts from a Letter
Has it ever occurred to you that man's religious instinct, perhaps the profoundest and most subtle and in one sense the highest of all his being, is his because he partakes of it in common with all the universe? That awe and reverence so dignify man because he loses his petty personality when he is in these states, and that even the awe and reverence which are in him when he is even a little awake are in nature? Do you get the reflections that you yourselves are bound to draw? To me even from my boyhood, these thoughts were familiar, very familiar; and I used to go out at nighttime, and look at the glorious stars. I used to climb in the mountains in the daytime, lying back on the greensward, and study the changing clouds, and I saw reverence and awe everywhere.
It seemed to me in those days, to express it in the thoughts of my boyhood, as if all nature were in silent prayer. I saw majesty, ineffable wisdom, everywhere because I felt it within me, undeveloped of course, but the germ was in me because I am a child of the gods. They are in me because they are in it. To me nature, in the highest sense of the word religious, has always been a religious structure: her orderliness, her stateliness, her sympathy, measure her ineffable power, her wisdom seen everywhere and in everything. They have always bespoken to me the presence of what in me, so small, lies as yet scarcely awake, beginning to express itself.
How reverential should we not be in our attitude towards our fellow human beings, for having these thoughts lending their great dignity to us as men, when we put our hands out and touch a fellow human being, as the poet said, we sense that we touch a god. There is something grand in that. Man's consciousness has risen above the light and petty and small and mean and imperfect, to the great fundamental measures of the universe and life.
Just think: nature, even our little solar system as one of the infinitude of entities in boundless space, is a religious entity. Its measures show reverence and awe and orderliness. Why? Because of the indwelling cosmic soul, as Emerson says, the indwelling spirit drawn from the Boundless. Child of space as you and I, we are likewise children of the Boundless.
The real, the reality, Sat, or more accurately, Asat, Tat, is that which is during cosmic maha-pralaya; and all the manifested universes are dreamed forth when Brahman falls asleep during what we call manvantara.
It is to be noted that just here there is a divergence not of knowledge, but of expression, even among the occultists themselves. The more common way in ancient times was to speak and I will now use the Hindu terms — of Brahman awaking, becoming Brahma and the manifested universe with all in it. In other words Brahman awakes when manvantara begins, and falls asleep when pralaya comes. This is quite correct if you want to look at it from this standpoint and, I might add, was a familiar notion to Greek and Latin philosophic thought, as in the statement attributed to the Stoic philosopher Cleanthes which has been rendered into Latin, although he was a Greek, in the following words: Quodcumque audiveris, quodcumque videris, est Juppiter, "Whatsoever thou mayest hear, whatsoever thou mayest see, is Jupiter" — a thought very familiar in ancient Hindustan where Brahma is said to evolve forth the universe from itself, in other words, Brahma is the universe and all of it, and yet transcendent to it. Which reminds one of the statement attributed to Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita: "I establish all this universe from a portion of myself, and yet remain transcendent."
But the other manner of viewing this matter and equally correct — and I will frankly say that sometimes as I ponder the matter, perhaps more spiritual, perhaps more correct than the former, but more difficult of understanding by us humans — is to think that Brahman awakes when maha-pralaya begins; for then Reality, so to speak, recommences its flow of lives. The phenomenal universes have been swept out of their existences until the next manvantara, and disappear like autumn leaves when the autumn ends and winter begins. Driven along, as it were, by the winds of pralaya, all manifested life is swept out of existence as manifested life. Everything that is real is withdrawn inwards and upwards to its parent Reality, and then divinity is in its own. This is paranirvana. It is then awake and dreams no more until the next manvantara.
Those in ancient times who grasped this other manner of viewing, of making Reality come into its own when manifested or phenomenal things pass away into pralaya, have stated the matter after various tropes or figures of speech, the favorite one being this: all the manifested worlds are but the dreams of Brahman. Brahman sleeps and dreams karmic dreams, dreams brought about by karma. These dreams are the worlds of manifestation and all that is in them. When the dream ends and the universe vanishes, when the dreams end and the universes vanish, then Brahman awakes. It is coming into itself once more.
I think both views are correct. Yet, as I say, I have often wondered in my own mind whether the second way of viewing it be not somewhat loftier, closer to the ineffable truth than is the more popular way that is more easily understood. We have analogies in our own lives. When we awaken in the morning, we go about our daily duties and we do them and they are karmic. But it is when we fall asleep at night and the things of physical matter and the lower mental plane vanish away, that we come closer to the divinity within us. We rise upwards, closer to the god within us, towards the abstract and away from the concrete.
I think this second view, though perhaps no more true than the first way of viewing the matter, makes what they call mahamaya, cosmic maya, somewhat more understandable to us.
At the end of Brahma's life, when even the Days and Nights of Brahma pass away into the utterly Real, the Reality at the heart of the Real, when all is swept out and away or indrawn and withdrawn upwards: I wonder if in this last thought we do not have a striking confirmation of the statement that perhaps the second way of viewing Brahma awake and Brahma asleep is not the more real. For at the end of Brahma's life, when Brahma rebecomes Brahman, not only do all manifested things pass out of existence as so much dissolving mist, but even cosmic Mahat is indrawn or vanishes. Maha-buddhi disappears and naught remains but Brahman. For an infinity, as it would seem to us, hundreds of trillions of years, Brahma is awake, itself no longer dreaming dreams of karmic universes but, as we are forced to express it, sunken in Reality in the inexpressible deeps of Brahman's own essence. All has vanished except Brahman; the dreams are ended. Then when the new life, when Brahma rather, imbodies itself again, then the galaxy reawakens, but Brahman begins again to dream, dreaming the worlds, dreaming the universes into existence, dreaming the karmic dreams of destiny. Then the One becomes the many: the armies, the hosts, the multitudes, begin to issue forth from the consciousness of the Ineffable. Abstract space is once more filled with suns and solar systems and whirling worlds.
We see therefore that Brahman and Brahma, the offspring of Brahman, may have reference not merely to a planetary chain, but to a solar system or to a galaxy, and on a still more magnificent scale to a supergalaxy including many galaxies in the womb of endless space. In other words, Brahman and its offspring Brahma may apply to any one or to all of these different ranges on an increasing scale of grandeur. Brahman dreams karmic dreams of destiny and the universes flash into being; they appear like seeds of life or the spawn of Mother Space, and this we call manvantara or maha-manvantara. Conversely, when Brahman's dreaming ends, the worlds are swept out of existence and Brahman awakens as Brahman's Self
Let us also remember as a final thought, that when we speak of frontierless infinitude, or of the beginningless and endless or boundless, we call this Tat, from the Sanskrit word meaning That; and that innumerable Brahmans greater and smaller, in countless numbers, are comprised within the boundless Tat.
Never directly did the oracles answer Yea or Nay. They spoke only in figures of speech. Always their language was involved in such fashion as to place upon the inquirer of the Oracle the necessity of making his own choice, thus using his own free will and intelligence. Otherwise — and you see the ethical meaning of this — man's free will in times of stress and strain, which are exactly the times when a man should choose from within, would have been interfered with. His pathway would have been made so smooth for him by showing him the way to safety and peace and success, that his karma would not have been readily worked out, the man would have been morally injured. An evil man asking a question of the Oracle: "Shall I succeed if I do so-and-so?" and the god saying "Yes" — that would have been pointing the way by the divinity to the Pit.
Example: Croesus, King of Lydia, was a powerful ruler in his day, ambitious, with an overweening hate of the foes surrounding him; and the time came when the Persians disputed some of his actions. King Croesus doubted whether he should war upon the Persians or not. So, desiring to obtain divine authority for his act, he sent his representatives to Delphi, to ask the God Apollo: "Shall King Croesus make war upon the Persians?" The Oracle's answer came: "If King Croesus makes war upon the Persians, King Croesus will destroy a mighty empire." Croesus in his folly and selfishness thought that this was a divine promise of success to his selfish ambition. He made war upon Persia — and lost his powerful kingdom! He destroyed an empire which he had built up. Do you see the ethical background?
It is only the knowledge of blessed karma with its infinitely just measures of harmony which saves the man of mind and heart from being utterly discouraged. It is this key, to the man of the world when he understands it, which leads him up gentle gradations, upwards with an expanding vision, until finally he sees Reality, as much of it as his mind can contain; and he knows that, despite all his suffering in the world due to karmic necessity, fundamentally all is well.
Let no man harden his heart at this and think that he need not bestir himself to help others or to extend a helping hand or to give a draught of cooling water to the thirsty. Remember the old law that H. P. Blavatsky taught: Inaction in a deed of pity becomes an action in a sin full of fate for you.
I wonder how many of us forget our fundamental teaching of universal brotherhood. Such simple words! They seem so trite, and yet they contain the doctrine of the gods. They, these words, Universal Brotherbood, contain all the Law and all the Prophets. Remember that knowledge brings not only power but responsibility. What might be excused unto you when you are ignorant, will be counted against you when you know the Law. This is just one of the reasons the masters keep the higher teachings of theosophy, the occult doctrines — one of the reasons at least — so strictly secret. Much is excused of a man who does not know. Little is excused the man who knows and who remains inactive. Nothing is excused the man who knows, who has power to act, and who lacks the urge to act. He is guilty of a crime against nature; and the only thing we have to watch, as students of the ancient wisdom, is this: let us never so act that we offend a brother or injure him. It matters not how right we may think we may be. It matters not how wrong we are convinced our brother is. Your duty, my duty, is to care for our own dharma. Forgetting our own dharma or duty, and presuming to judge a brother and thereupon acting against him, offending him, is full of danger. The duty, the dharma, of another for you is dangerous. Therefore do not criticize.
Such simple truths, so logical, so clear, so appealing! Our earth would be a heaven if men and women would but follow them. And yet today they flatter themselves, and they flatter those in high public posts, for the same evil: thinking that struggle, punishment, hate, become a moral duty. Show me one passage by the Saviors of the world that endorses this, one single passage. You will not find it. The secret is to do your own duty wherever you are and at any time. You have a duty to yourself, to your soul. The first duty of all that a man has is to think uprightly, to think cleanly, to live rightly, never to hurt a brother. Then comes the duty to his family, then the duty to his country; and to certain rare ones there comes a duty to the gods, or demigods. This is all included, however, in the one statement of a man's universal duty to mankind which includes all.
Do not for a moment imagine that I have uttered contradictions, that there will ever be a struggle between your sense of right to Y or your sense of right to X. There never will be. Impossible! If there is a conflict in your mind, it shows that your mind is not yet clear, that you are hanging on to something. When your mind is crystal clear to the spiritual inspiration, you will have no doubts. Duty will always be clear before you; and duty never calls for injuring someone else. The difficulty for us is sometimes in moments of distress, when we are striving hard to know what is right, to know what is right. That comes of our imperfect spiritual and intellectual growth, and all we can do at such times is to do our best, keeping the principles of the rules before us: never injure another; be loyal to your word, be faithful to your pledge. Be honest, be cleanly in all things; be upright and harmless; wise as serpents, which means adepts; innocent or harmless as doves. The dove was in ancient times an emblem of the chela.
A great European once, when asked what he thought to be the most important in a conflict of duties, answered briefly: Do the duty which is first at hand; then all others will find their proper places. Thus, a man who is true to himself will be true to his family; he will be true to his country; and with the enlarging vision that this rule brings, he will be true to all mankind.
How marvelously does the ancient god-wisdom of mankind reduce all the phenomena of nature to a majestic generalization, so that all things fall within the compass of a single law understandable to human beings: for the god-wisdom shows us that just as we are born and live our little sphere of life and die, so do the worlds likewise, and the suns in those worlds, and the planets and the various kingdoms of the different suns, and the atoms which compose all things, and the electrons in the atoms. All are periodic, not only in the sense of being cyclic but in the sense of having periods: beginnings, culminations, endings and, rounding out the cycle of the worlds invisible, beginning a new beginning, a second culmination, a subsequent passing merely to vanish again into the worlds invisible, there to experience new and vastly greater adventures than those that our smaller solar system can give to us.
All things function alike because nature has one law, one fundamental law which is at its source, a divine source, all energy; and habits, courses, procedures, all are governed by the same cosmic powers and intelligence, which simply means that all things follow these fundamental laws in similar manners, all under the governance of the cosmic life, ringing all the possible changes that nature so lavishly provides for our admiration and utmost reverence. For while all things, all beings, follow the same fundamental laws and courses, every unit, precisely because it is a unit and an individual, has its own modicum of will — call it free will if you wish — and therefore can more or less change, modify, its own courses, but always within the encompassing energy of the universe.
This means that while all beings follow these general rules or analogical procedures — analogy being therefore the master key of life — yet all beings, precisely because they are beings, by their own innate power drawn from the cosmic source, more or less modify the details of the procedures and movements. Thus the sun is born as a child is born, but the details are different. Details are not so important as the main fact. The birth, the growth, the death, the invisible worlds, the new adventures, the coming again to a new imbodiment, a new culmination on a plane somewhat higher, a new death to be succeeded by the same round on the wheel of life — but always advancing, always growing, always enlarging. Step by step all things progress.
Thus actually, as occultism, the god-wisdom, points out, if you wish to know the destiny, the birth, the origin, and the temporary ending of a sun, study a man from birth to death. And if you can, study him after death in his adventures, and you will see what the solar divinity undergoes, but of course on enlarged and higher planes in the worlds invisible. Why, this visible world of ours is but a shell, is but the body, the exterior carapace, the skin of things. The life, the individuality, the power, the will, the thought, the real entity, is not this outer shell. Whether a man, or sun, or solar system, or galaxy, or an entire universe: the reality is within; and the body more or less expresses, although feebly, what the inner powers produce on this outer plane.
Those of you who have followed the experiments undertaken in scientific ways will understand this more clearly than those who have not studied them. But all of you, if you think a moment, will know that you shed your strength from hour to hour, physical strength and mental strength. The man who produces a great thought shakes the foundations of civilization. The man who produces a majestic system of cosmic philosophy and definitely guides mankind — does not his vitality move men? These are facts. The only difference between a sun and a man is in the details, some of them majestic, admittedly majestic; but it is only in the details that the procedure differs. The main principle of fundamental law is the same for all. Every man in fact is but an embryo sun, a sun in the making for the distant future — not his body, for that is not the man. His body is but the skin of him, the clothing of skins spoken of in Genesis. A man is the power within, the spirit or the monad; and it is this energy or power which makes the man be the same from birth till death, which makes the sun retain its form and follow its functions from its birth to its death. An atom, a flower, a tree, or a beast — all are subject to the same cosmic law of similarities if not positive identities. It is but the detail that changes.
The wisest and greatest men of antiquity pointed out that Father Sun was indeed Father Sun, but likewise our elder brother; our parent and yet our brother. The beast and the plant are in a sense our children because they look up to us as we look up to the gods. They are, in a sense, our children and they follow in our footsteps towards mankind, towards the status and stature of humanity. The beasts are slowly crawling up towards us, as we look unto the gods, our parents and grandparents; and when we find our souls infilled and inspirited with their life force and a spark of their shining intelligence, then we become on this earth like god-men, because our thoughts are godlike, and our feelings are godlike, and our actions following our thoughts and feelings become godlike too.
Thus the atoms of the body, and the molecules and protons and electrons that make up the physical stuff of the body, are in a sense its children, and they feel the impact of our thought and of our feeling. They suffer for our sins in proportion, and they are raised by our virtues, so closely are all things knitted together, a web of life of which each strand is a production of spiritual magic.
We are responsible for the very atoms which compose our bodies, whether we dirty their faces or cleanse them. Some day, if we dirty the faces of the atoms composing us, they will return to us to be washed, washed clean of the sin we put upon them. And so with all the interior realms of man's constitution, the vehicles of his mind and of his feeling and of his thought.
Birth and death: what are these changes? A birth in the body is a death to the soul, for it leaves its own inner spheres, its own inner arrangements of its life there, and as it were descends or falls like a star to earth, and is born in the physical body of a helpless human babe, tasting for the time being the karmic retribution for all its past. And when we die, then are we released, then we spring forth and upwards and onwards on the wings of our soul, those strong pinions carrying us through all the planetary habitations to the very throne of Father Sun. It is rebirth to the soul, as rebirth on this earth is death to the soul. So with the sun, so with the worlds which are born and which die. The sun when it imbodies on this plane is shorn of much of its splendor. When the sun's hour shall strike and it passes from this plane, it will spring like a divine thought right into the invisible realms, taking off into grandeurs only very dimly imagined by us. The flower expressing its soul in scent and beauty but repeats the same cosmic law in its birth from the seed. Little brothers of human beings are the flowers. Some of them are to us venomous. In some way in past time we envenomed them. Now in karmic retribution they envenom us.
The birth of a man from ordinary manhood into mahatmahood is an interior birth. The growth of the mahatma into buddhahood or bodhisattvahood or, as the Vedantists say, the becoming one with the atman: this growth is in your hands to achieve, and in the hands of none else. You have it in your power to become god-men on this earth; or, every one of us has it in his power so to ruin and blast his life that he shall become like the fury-driven victim of Greek legendary story, driven by unspeakable remorse and haunted by the feeling: I have played my play and I have lost. Too late, it is too late! But theosophy says: never too late. If you have played your game awry, reassemble your cards and play like a man, play with the devil for the salvation of your own soul, the devil of your own lower self, and win! If you win, divinity lies ahead of you. Over the peaks of that mystic east, the east in the heart of every human being, dawns the sun of truth which carries healing in its bosom. The truth shall make you free!
You have heard today, from one who is a lover of the sages of China, something of the theosophy of that ancient land. You have, in fact, been listening to bits of the archaic wisdom-thought of ancient Atlantis carried down and still preserved in China; for the Chinese even today, although mixed with other bloodstreams of the human race, are the strongest and most faithful, so to speak, remnant of ancient Atlantis. The Chinese psychology is even yet typically esoteric Atlantean in character, in svabhava, and it is set forth preeminently well in the teachings of Confucius and Lao-tse, the former teaching virtue, respect for law and order, eminently Atlantean thought at its highest; and the latter, Lao-tse, teaching that quaint seductive mysticism of the human soul which fascinates the humanity of us and leads it upwards. The teaching of sages — both. And into this dual thought of archaic China came growing the newer spirituality of our own fifth root-race, as found imbodied in the teachings of Gautama the Buddha — the essence of whose doctrine was universal love and compassion without distinction or bonds, and spiritualized intellectuality — the characteristic of us at our best. Actually, when analyzed, the teachings of Jesus called the Christ and of Gautama the Buddha called the Awakened, the Buddha, are one: different clothing in each case, different embroidery in each case. The same fundamental fifth root-race thought at its best — theosophy in both.
I am going to be bold with you, but I trust not overbold, and I am going to venture upon the paraphrasing of the meaning of the title of the only great thought of Lao-tse that has survived to our time: the Tao Teh Ching. King, or Ching, means "book," "work," "treasure." Learning was so revered in ancient China that even the printed or manuscript book, because it contained thought, was revered from this fact. No true Chinese — coolie, mandarin, emperor, or whatnot — of Old China would ever degrade a printed page by putting it to foul, obscene, or evil use. A Chinese seeing a book or written leaf on the ground at the mercy of the wandering breezes would pick it up reverently to give it safety. Thus it was that from ancient times in China learning was so revered for itself and for the discipline it gave to the mind that it was considered virtually the sole and most proper preparation and training for statesmanship. How, they said, could an unlearned man govern a people, an untrained mind, not knowing even his fellowmen, not knowing history, not knowing thought, not knowing the effects of thought? How could such a man, they argued, an unlearned, an unawakened man, learn to govern himself or his fellowmen? Native genius they recognized, yes; but, they said, in our land where the Child of Heaven rules, anyone may put native genius to its proper use, which is developed for the purpose of gaining learning, for the purpose of serving the State. King, or Ching, therefore, means "book" and, because imbodying wisdom, the word likewise signified "treasure." It is not a translation, it is a paraphrase.
Tao-Teh cannot be translated word for word. There would be about forty words for Tao and forty words for Teh, but the essential meaning, as I have always understood, is something like this: The Book or Treasure of the Strong and Beautiful Doing and Being of the Reality of All — Tao, that reality comprising all law and order and love and wisdom and intelligence and power. Tao is the way, and the wayfarer, and the goal: all of them. It is exactly what is found in the New Testament in words ascribed to the avatara Jesus: I, the Christ — not the man but the Christ-spirit, the avatara, which is in you likewise, in every one of you — I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the wayfarer, the doer of truth, and the one who lives to do. I am the liver of the life and the life is the goal. Now that, as I understand it, is the essence of the meaning of Tao. That goal is not outside, it is within and outside, for it is everywhere. Every man is the wayfarer, and every man in himself is the way; and the way and the goal are one. That is Tao.
For the sake of our common humanity which is at present passing through one of the dark periods in its history, when the wisest of men are bewildered and uncertain whither to look to find help, what is more needed than anything else is a conviction of the reality of spiritual and moral values, not only in the world of men, but in the general world of nature, of which after all men are but undetached portions or parts. Restoring to man his spiritual intuitions and his realization that nature is conscious both in the whole and in its parts, and furthermore conscious in various degrees from the spiritual down to the physical, will compensate for the tragic loss of the sense of responsibility which the materialism, the mechanism, dead and soulless, in past science has been largely responsible for, to say nothing of the materialism and dogmatism of formally organized ecclesiasticism.
It is for these general reasons that theosophists so greatly value pronouncements from eminent scientific men which, to those who look unto scientists as their guides, point the way forwards to a spiritual and intellectual rejuvenation of the human race. A heavy responsibility rests upon the shoulders of scientific men, precisely because the public believes in them as guides. The scientists of the future in my judgment will, if they remain honest and true to their sublime work, become the high priests of nature, whose temple will be the universe, whose altar will be the altar of truth, and whose ministry will be spiritual and intellectual, as well as physical, service to mankind.
The question has been asked what I think is the angel in us, what the human part of us, and what the so-called demon. Theosophists use these terms, angel and demon, not in their old Christian significance as actually implying that an angel from heaven has taken up its abode in the human constitution, or that a demon from outside of nature has taken up its abode in us. The highest part of man is a spiritual being overshadowed by divinity; and we at times speak of this as an "angel" because the term is well known in the West due to Christian thought. What we mean when we speak of the demon I myself would describe as the animal part of us, a very real entity, which the human part of us, the central part of our constitution, usually converts into a demon.
The animals occupy their place in the universe, and their lives are remarkable in many ways, fascinatingly interesting; and they have a certain amount — what can I say? — a certain development of individuality. No one would say that a dog is a cat, or that a cat is an elephant, or that a pig is a horse. These are different kinds of animals, each with its own individuality, and each kind having its own virtues; and in the ordinary course of nature it is these virtues of the animal lives which are predominant and interest us humans. It is when men spoil the unfortunate beasts that we find them departing from the innocent and natural life which nature has endowed them with. Most of the beasts have noble virtues, instinctively such, unless man betrays their unconscious trust in him and distorts their instincts. Look at the fidelity of the dog, the horse, even of the house cat! It is we who cause them to lead unnatural lives, distorted lives, lives bent or twisted out of their natural current; and it is just this that the human part of us does upon and in the animal part of ourselves.
Let me make my meaning clear. I don't believe it is a good thing to suppress the natural innocent animal in a man, but to control it. Why, he is but part human. He is only part man. Man, as we understand him, consists first of an inner god, call it an inner Buddha, an inner Christ, the source of all his being; and to this part of human nature the Greeks gave the name nous, the noetic part, the source of all our highest, the center of consciousness and of conscience, the center of discrimination, of compassion, of pity, of wisdom, of comprehension of other things in the universe, of intuition, of sympathy, sympathy for the souls of men and of all things. This is the highest part of us, our spiritual part.
The particularly human part of us is what we call the higher psuche, the psyche; and what we call the animal we can otherwise call the natural part of man, and this is not his body. That is a silly mistake that people who have not looked into and studied this question all make. They blame the body for man's faults and sins. Don't you see that if it were the body which sinned there would be signs of it? You know perfectly well if you examine yourselves that your body sins only because it is impelled or impulsed by emotions and low thinking to be the instrument to do certain things.
I think it is altogether wrong to teach — kill out the animal. On the contrary, we want to refine and lift, raise the animal, in other words ensoul it with our humanity instead of allowing it to control our human essence — and that is what so many men and women do. They allow the animal in them to run them. Yet what would a man be without his animal nature? He would be but part human. Do you think that I, G. de P., a human being, could ever want to drop the animal part of me? Not on your sweet lives! It gives me an opportunity to manifest on this plane. It is my duty, my job, to make that animal a decent animal, a human animal, to humanize it so that I, the ego, can work through it.
Sin with us humans actually does not reside in the body, nor in the animal part of us. It resides in the human parts of us, in our emotions, in our willful, selfish thoughts which stimulate the animal in us, rousing up the wrong side and impelling it to do things which carry the body with it. No, I want to be a full man, a complete man: spirit, soul, controlled and refined animal, and human body. Then if I misuse part of my being, from health I shall obtain ill health, from decency I shall become indecent, from human I shall have become animalized.
Those people who talk about killing out desire and killing out the animal to me are just plumb stupid. They lack psychological penetration. A man to do his work in this world of ours needs to be a complete septenary being. If he wants to be a god, he dies, and for the time being he is a god, or a demigod. But as long as he is on earth, it is his duty to be a full, complete man, and to act like a man, not like a degraded human run by the animal part of him; but to use the animal as a vehicle through which to work and manifest, bringing out the finest qualities of the human animal in him, the devotion such as the dog has, the affection such as the horse has, the animal instinct of remembrance such as the elephant has: to use these in order to manifest humanly through them. That is the way for a man to live and finally to die.
This animal is in his charge, it is part of his constitution which in indefinite future ages will itself be a human being. Just as the spiritual part of us today, the Christ within us, the Buddha within us, was formerly in past ages a man, but has now become bodhisattva-like, Christ-like, through evolution, which means growth from within; just so we humans today, the central part of our constitution, are striving or should strive to rise towards the bodhisattva-like part of us, the Christ-like part of us.
Do you think a man would be as lovable, as approachable, who was only part human; if he had only part of his present constitution? It is a peculiar paradox and a beautiful one in some ways in our human understanding of each other, that what we love most in each other are not the cold, exquisitely beautiful crystalline virtues, but those things which we sense as fellow feelings, the common humanity amongst us. Think over that. That does not mean that the beautiful, holy, starry, pure, crystalline virtues are not the highest part of us. They are. They are our ideal and our lodestar. We are evolving towards them; and the greatest man is precisely he who has developed them most greatly. But if they have not instruments to work through — a receptive understanding human consciousness to work through, which in turn can inspire and control the animal part of us, so that we shall become fully human all along the line — then we have a man, outwardly complete, who because of what is modernly called an inferiority complex will run off and shut himself away from the world because he dare not face it.
The theosophists' conception of the ideal man is not the washed out, pallid ascetic who abandons his duty to mankind and to the world merely in order to cultivate his own intermediate constitution. Our ideal is the full man, the complete man, a man like the Buddha, a man like the Christ, a man like the masters, a man who lives in the human animal, but controls it, and governs it, and makes it a fine instrument for himself, transmuting it into harmony and beauty. He must be a full seven-principled human being as the normal man is, but with every one of the principles at work and all working in noble harmony for the universal good. That is the ideal.
What is the use of flagellations, whipping the body, macerating its flesh, or starving or abusing its health? All these things show weakness, weakness of understanding and training, and an utterly wrong psychology. If you are afraid of yourselves, it is because your human part is as it is, weak, vacillating, untrained, unreliable, an imperfect vehicle for the light from above.
We do not, moreover, look upon as living an ideal life the man who, for the sake of inner individual salvation, trying to attain nirvana by the backstairs, or by denying himself the right to do his duty as a man in the world, macerates and flagellates the body and kills it sometimes in the totally mistaken idea that wrong and evil and sin arise in the body itself. The body is but the passing instrument of the mind. It is the mind where wrong is born, in evil thoughts. It is a wicked thing, in my judgment, to abuse the gift which nature has given to us all, the gift of a healthy body, and do our best to ruin it and make it unworthy for the duty for which nature has intended it. The Christ did not that. The Buddha did not that. The masters do not that. It is only the selfish monastics, the so-called yogins, fakirs, who follow that parade of their virtue before the world, or at best choose the hatha-yoga way, so that they may have peace from worldly responsibilities and duties. That is not the masters'way.
Don't imagine for an instant that I am preaching animalism. If you do you have not got my thought at all. My meaning is the direct opposite of that. The true human is never animalistic. He is essentially human, tender, compassionate, pitiful, intelligent, self-sacrificing, full of sympathy, with a fellow feeling for others; and because he himself has a lower part, the animal part of him, he has sympathy and compassion and understanding and forgiveness for the failings of others. But our eyes should always be turned upwards, heavenwards; because if we keep our eyes turned downwards, earthwards, then the human is lost in the animal — and we all know the degenerate results of this.
The old Greeks, in fact all the ancient peoples, understood the psychological composition of the human being very clearly — something which modern psychology is beginning to discover anew. This knowledge of man's constitution and nature is as old as thinking mankind. First in order is the divine or the spiritual within him, the source of all the highest, the source of all the rest of him, his consciousness coming down like a stream from the god within, passing through every part of him, glorifying, enlightening and illuminating until it reaches the lowest part and his brain is touched. This is the nous, the noetic part. Then comes the merely human, the vehicle of the former, the higher psuche, then the psychic, the seat of our emotions and ordinary thoughts, you and I as ordinary human beings. Then comes the animal part of us by which we perform certain functions in life, very necessary indeed, and which also helps us to understand each other to a large extent; in fact, without which we could not manifest on this earth plane. Then comes the poor unfortunate body. The body is a mere tool, an instrument which follows the feelings and thoughts we have. That is where the trouble is, in our feelings and thoughts, not in the unfortunate body. Sin is born in the mind, in thought, in feeling. If you want to eradicate sin, go to your self, the human part.
The point is, friends, let the angel, the higher part of us, be dominant, not recessive. Let the animal have its own; let it be innocently instinctual, but always under control. Let it be clean. Simply let the flow from above, from the human, drop like healing dew into the animal soul or animal mind and enlighten it and guide it instead of distorting it, as happens so often today. Then you will have a fine man, a gentleman in the old sense of the word, and a man who instinctively loves the right, understands self-sacrifice, and is determined to follow that law no matter at what cost to himself. That is the gentleman; and because that is our human being, when the spirit within us, the spiritual light, fills our human part and passes the radiance on down to the animal, it is beautiful. Then you have a man who in his higher part is a hero, in his human part is a true leader, a true chief of men, a guiding teacher, who in his human part is sympathetic, faithful, affectionate and true; and the body will show all these fine things.