Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Man in a Just and Ordered Universe
Where Can Truth Be Found?
Win with Gentleness and Kindness
The Hill of Discernment
Three Aspects of Karma
How Easter Became a Christian Festival
Time, Duration, and the Eternal Now
Nature's Way after Death
Wine as a Mystic Symbol
The Four Yugas
Being whole, and being healed or well — in other words, being whole and in health, or "wholth" — mean the same thing; the two words, health and wholeness, come from the same root.
"Thy knowledge hath made thee whole." Pistis is usually translated "faith" — a word which has been so badly understood: it means the inner conviction of cosmic verities, knowledge of things unseen; and when a man knows, he needs no further proof. Proof is the bringing of conviction to the mind. When you have it, you look upon proof as superfluous.
When a man is whole, he is well, he is healed; and this more than anything else is the work of the Theosophical Society, spiritually, morally, and intellectually speaking: to make men whole, to make every one of the seven principles in the constitution of the normal human being active, so that there shall be a divine fire running through the man, through the spiritual and intellectual and psychical and astral and physical — and best of all for us humans, the moral, the child of the spiritual. Then we are whole, we are in health, for our whole being is in harmony.
Thus, then, the work of the Theosophical Society is so to change the hearts and minds of men that their lives shall be changed, and therefore the lives of the peoples of the earth. What is this but healing at its roots instead of healing the symptoms? The god-wisdom goes to the very root of the disease, and cuts it; and the successful theosophist is not he who can preach the most and say the most in the most fascinating way, but he who lives his theosophy. "Theosophist is who Theosophy does."
You remember — I speak of the New Testament because it is so familiar to Westerners — you remember the accounts therein given of acts of healing done by the avatara Jesus. You will find exactly similar tales in all the different religions or philosophies of the world, ancient and modern. Even among the pagans in the temples of Aesculapius there were patients who came and slept there for a night, and were healed, healed in the morning. The common report said: "healed by the God." The actual truth was, "healed by the conversion within," not the conversion of the brain-mind thoughts but the conversion of a life: a life turned upwards instead of turned downwards. And the grateful sufferers now healed of their troubles put up ex voto offerings on the walls of the temples of Aesculapius, with carven or engraven images of the part or parts cured — a head, a leg, an arm, a liver, a heart, or whatnot, as mute witnesses or testimonials — I am healed." Such things happen, have always happened, and everywhere. This is the case of those who heal themselves by becoming whole, this one thing.
When we speak of the work of healers working upon others, that is different; and that healing which is done by the transference of vitality from a healthy, clean body, from a man or woman with a healthy, clean mind, is good and right, and there is no harm in it. As the New Testament has it, the Master Jesus said: "Virtue hath gone out of me." "Virtue" — the Greek word here is dunamis and means strength or power — while etymologically fairly correct as giving the same sense, in its modern connotation utterly fails to convey the notion of the strength or power leaving Jesus, i.e., life force, vitality. From this Greek word dunamis, we have the many words in modern European tongues, like dynamic, dynamo, dynamite. "Virtue is gone out of me" — the vitality, the sympathy, passed over; and the teacher felt the loss. A healer can heal only by giving of himself; and see how wonderfully the old truth applies even here: by giving of yourself to others.
I have heard it said by those whose hearts are harder than their heads: "Lo, behold, a theosophist and ill, sick, ailing, wretched, cannot even do a full man's work in the world. His karma, let him work it out!" Of course, but you are not the person to tell any other person when the karma is worked out. Your duty is to help, and leave to nature the healing processes, and it is an awful cruelty to say of any other — theosophist or not — that because he is ill and suffering, his sin has found him out. True, but it is not for us to sit in judgment. Let us again remember the words of the Master Jesus, after healing by transferring abundant spiritual vitality: "Go thou and sin no more" — for thy sin wrought thy disease upon thee.
Because we suffer now is no proof that in this life we have done the sin that has brought it upon us. It may have been ages in the past, and only in this life when the man or woman needs more than ever before the vitality and the strength and the health to go forwards, his sin hath found him out, and taken this form. Learn the moral in this, for your sin will find you out in this or in some later life; and better to have the disease out at once than to dam it back to come out in some future life when you would wish then that you had suffered from, had got rid of, the poison in the former life, and had done with it.
Yes, I for one — I speak for myself — had liefer die when the disease is coming out, if it cannot be healed, than to dam it back by black magic and store it up for some future day when I shall need every ounce of my power and strength and health to achieve. It is not for us to judge another, and to say his sin hath found him out. That is no way to help him. It is not encouraging, it is not kindly, it is not generous, and for all we know from our viewpoint it may not be true. Abstractly it is.
Here is another thought. A chela does not become a chela because of his body. He becomes a chela because of the rapidly evolving inner man, the emotional, mental, and spiritual parts of him. The genius, an ordinary genius in human life, is not a genius because his body is spiritually evolved, a relatively perfect physical frame. As a matter of fact, look at the annals of history and you will find the almost astounding fact that the majority of geniuses have been born in enfeebled bodies, often sickly ones, sometimes actually decrepit, cripples. But the flaming fire of genius within — it was that which actually crippled the body, deprived it of the life forces which would have built it up, which were gathered up into the soul to feed the soul.
Sometimes gross, robust physical health is actually a deterrent to inner growth, because the physical forces of life are so strong they act as a heavy veil around the soul.
There is no chance anywhere in infinitude. Just apply your reasoning faculty to that statement, and see how far afield it will carry you. The first deduction is this: there being no chance anywhere, therefore no fortuity, everything that happens is a link in a chain of causation — cause, effect — the effect immediately becoming a new cause producing its effect, which in turn becomes a new cause producing its effect. This is what we call karma.
Everything that happens is therefore caused by law, which is just another word for cosmic vitality plus intelligence, plus what we call the ethical instinct, order; and these things are precisely what our studies of the universe show that it exhibits to our inquiring gaze. Everywhere we see order, law, procedures acting according to causational and effectual relations. If there were chance in but one atom of infinitude, there would be chance throughout, for then infinitude were not infinitude, but an atom short of infinitude, which is an absurdity.
Now with all you know of the teaching of modern science, and all you know of the god-wisdom, carry your thought on logically a step farther: since whatever happens is causative and effectual, it is therefore justified in infinitude.
We discern, in our investigations or researches into nature two things: an all-embracing, all-encompassing orderliness, or what we call the laws of nature; and within this, embraced by this universal law, an infinitude of individuals or individualities, each one an entity, working under the mandate, as it were, of cosmic law — no entity can do otherwise. We have therefore unity, divine unity, working through virtually infinite multiplicity. Among these multiplicities are we human beings. There are also the gods, angels or dhyani-chohans, the plants, the animals, the atoms, etc., etc. They are all individuals working in and under and subject to the mandate of this fundamental background of cosmic orderliness. You see how these thoughts are rigidly logical, carrying us step by step from point to point, until we reach not only new conclusions, but conclusions that are always in accord with everything that we know of universal nature. The point is to apply these to our lives, which means likewise to our thoughts and our feelings.
When a man realizes that there is no chance in the universe, that he is but one unit in a hierarchy and that these hierarchies are virtually infinite in number, and that so far as we human beings know they are endless, like the bodies in space, children of the infinite life as we are — when a man realizes all this, several things happen to him. When he thinks these thoughts and becomes through reflection upon them convinced of their inevitable force, first he loses all fear of death. He realizes secondly that he is responsible for what he does, which means for what he thinks and for what he feels, and that there is no escape from the result of his thinking and feeling and acting; and that just in that impossibility of escaping the retribution or the reward of cosmic law lies mankind's highest and noblest hope.
To phrase the thought popularly, in the old-fashioned language of the Christian, he can escape neither heaven nor hell. He cannot escape reward, that will come unto him somewhen, somewhere, for the good that he has done in the world. It will seek him out wherever he may be, and brighten and cheer his life and give him renewed hope and renewed courage. For the evil that he has wrought, the injustices, the crimes, the unfairnesses that he has committed, equally will these consequences in the chain of causation seek him out; and though he hide in the cleft of the mountain or the deep of the bottomless abyss, he cannot escape a just retribution, for eternal and universal nature is on his track.
There is no chance in infinitude. See the immense weight of these thoughts as moral motors upon us. We see the reason for all the ethical, all the moral teaching of the greatest sages that the human race has ever produced, and we see the reason why their teaching is the greatest hope that mankind has.
And a third reflection: we on this little earth of ours, so big to us, so small when compared with the giants of even our own solar system, should remember that each one of us, as an inseparable part of the cosmic structure is equally weighty in importance to the cosmic law, so to speak, as is the mightiest giant of the stellar host. The New Testament alludes to this in its teaching, strange to so many: Know ye not that the hairs of your head are counted? And that no sparrow droppeth unless it be in accordance with divine law? There is the same thought: that we are not merely the children of the gods, but embryo gods ourselves, for we are the very offspring of the divine life, the divine stuff in the universe. Otherwise what are we? Can you deny it, and say, "We are not; we don't belong to the universe, we are not in it; we don't come forth from it"? That is absurd.
Our divine origin makes us kin with every thing and every being that is, for not only are all mankind kin, but all beings and things that are are our other selves. All spring from the same universal ocean which holds us forever — the Mother Eternal, the Father-Mother. It is a wonderful thought.
The next time you pluck a flower, remember you are touching a younger brother; and that perhaps in the way we look upon these buds of beauty, young embryo souls as it were, or monads in a young state on this plane, expressing their life and beauty and fragrance to us, so do the higher gods look upon us. I have often wondered how often do the gods pluck us because mayhap in their spheres we shed beauty and fragrance and they love us: Those whom the gods love die young. A whole mystery lies behind just that one thought. Death is no accident. Birth none. Yet never think for a moment that this chain of causation is the old scientific dead soulless determinism of the days of our grandfathers, when the idea was that everything moved like a soulless machine, and never stopped. Did they not forget that to have a machine there had to be a machinist to build it and run it? They just used words then and were happy. It is not of that soulless determinism that I speak, but of the structure of the universe arising in hierarchies of imbodied consciousnesses providing the cosmic variety, and the innumerable families of beings, and all enclosed in the encompassing, sheltering, protecting, guiding and guarding, vastly great hierarch, of whom we in common with all other things are the children — that hierarch, which is not different from our inner self, but we, as it were, are sparks from it, the central flame of our universe.
I love to see breadth of vision, richness of thought, instead of narrow-minded, dogmatic, bigoted framing of thought in a framework to which human genius must conform or be considered outcast. The world sadly needs it today, believe me, when the Middle Ages seem to be flowing back upon us with intolerance and with less and less respect for human rights, and less and less conception of the larger human duties of men to men, duties even nobler than rights.
There is an old Spanish proverb which runs thus: La verdad no se casa con nadie: "truth is not married to any one being." You will find truth everywhere, wherever human genius has flowered, wherever human effort for the attainment of truth has succeeded in grasping at least some of the cosmic realities, not merely from outside, from the environment, but, I venture to state, more especially from within. For it is within the secret resources of the human heart, of the human spirit, that truest truth, most real reality, is to be found. And why? Because this inmost essence of us all, where truth abides in its fullness, is of the very essence and stuff of cosmic life, of cosmic intelligence, of cosmic space, for we verily are the children of Space.
Truth can be found in every one of the religions of the world. Every one of the great religions and philosophies in the past has ultimately sprung from the Theosophical movement of its age, or has been founded by an envoy coming from mahatmas sent out to do so, sent out once more to strike the keynotes of truth which live in every human heart when that heart is not asleep, to awaken human hearts, to pluck the strings of harmony that every human heart contains within itself, so that there springs within men a new hope, and a new vision comes to them. Once again they see and they have confidence because inwardly they know. The strings of the intuition or the heart have been touched.
I pray only that our Theosophical Society proves true to the work which it was given to us to do. It is a heavy charge, and it depends upon us, and upon brothers and friends who are with us in heart, so to guide the Theosophical Society and its workers that more and more as the years pass by human souls will be attracted to us. If we fail, it will be our own fault. Let us see that we do not. Remember that the Theosophical Society is but one hierarchy working within an encompassing sphere, the vital life, the vital sphere of another, greater hierarchy. We can call it the hierarchy of the Sons of Light. It matters not much what names we use. We may call these hierarchies of the Sons of Light as the early Christians did by the name of Angels and Archangels, Virtues and Principalities and Powers, Cherubim and Seraphim. The thing is to get the thought behind those words. We call them generally dhyan-chohans, a beautiful phrase when it is understood: lords of meditation in wisdom — so expressive.
No human soul, no matter where it may be, has ever had an utterly unselfish and worthy aspiration unanswered. Never. This world is ruled by spirit, by intelligences so high that ours are like the minds of little children. The symbol of the Buddha with the long ears is but a symbol of the master who hears the cries from whatever part of the world they may come. Those great ears which so often cause amusement in the West, with which buddhas are picturated, symbolize that the buddha-part hears the cry from afar, no matter whence it comes, and aids it, always in silence, except when the knock is very, very strong; and then discipleship enters into the life.
One of the tragedies of the West is that men and women have lost the knowledge that the affairs of this world are regular, not chaotic, that behind all there are governing intelligences, hearts cosmic in their sympathies. It is but the smaller ones like us that bring confusion into the picture. With our hot tempers, our fevered desires, we bring disharmony where harmony should be. But it is comforting to remember that all nature is harmonic; and the way to attain entrance into that harmony of nature, that cosmic harmony, is to bring harmony into our own heart. That is the knock.
I have never enjoyed breaking idols, for I believe in the divine instinct in the human heart which at some past time brought those idols into being as works of love and understanding. It is we who do not understand what they represent and mean. It is rather we who are at fault than the Great Ones who gave birth to those works of past ages which have comforted millions century after century; and I do not enjoy breaking idols and crushing ideals in human hearts. Much better is it to teach, to show, to win with gentleness and kindness: "Search this out, Brother, here is something I have found to be supremely grand and good. Try it yourself. Subject it to your own closest inspection, and if you find it good, come and help to give to others what you and I have found."
Smashing idols is easy work, and has persisted for too long in my judgment, beyond its appointed place in the history of mankind. Oh, indeed, you can say that an idol contains a precious stone, and in order to get it by all means let us smash. But there are other ways. If that idol contains a precious stone, it was put there by very wise men, and there is a way to get that precious stone out without crushing the idol which thereafter becomes useless and is discarded.
And what are some of these idols? I do not mean brass and stone or wood only. I mean generally those idols which men worship and which they carry around in their minds and in their hearts. Don't you realize that sometimes by intemperate iconoclastic action you can actually set human hearts backwards, discourage them, throw them off the path? It is easy to be an idol-smasher. It is easy to smash; it is easy to crush; it is easy to overthrow — and it is often popular. But there is grander work for true men than that.
All truths are like diamonds. When cut and polished they have facets, each one such reflecting what is before it. For truth is comprehensive, not exclusive; it is a spiritual thing, and the spirit comprehendeth all. It is only the smaller things of us humans, and of beings lower than the great cosmic spirits, which are bounded by frontiers because of the imperfection of the evolutionary vehicles through which these great entities work. We should bear this fact in mind, for it makes us reverent, and humble in the nobler sense, when we realize that others than ourselves may have a vision sublime of reality.
How great and how good and how noble a thing it is for men to dwell together in brotherhood. Each man is a revelation unto all of his fellowmen, for each one is a marvelous mystery, a child of eternity and of the infinite; and despite the imperfections of human evolutionary development, when we see the vision from the "hill of discernment," we penetrate beneath the veils of the merely seeming into wonders ineffable which the human heart contains.
In my own life it was a revelation when this great truth came back into my human consciousness of this imbodiment, and from that moment I looked upon my fellow human beings no longer just as men, but as wonder-beings from whom I could learn, learning from the least as from the greatest. And what I learned in brooding over this wonderful thought, taught me to seek truth everywhere: as much indeed, had we the eyes to see it, in the plant or in the stones or in the circling orbs of heaven, as when we look deep into the eyes of a fellow human being and see marvels there.
What is this hill of discernment? It is one of the oldest thoughts that human genius has ever given birth to. In all the great philosophies and religions of the past, you will always find this wondrous figure of speech, this trope, this metaphor, this climbing the hill of vision; whether, as the Jews had it, the hill of Zion, or after some other way of speech, the thought is the same. The noblest expression that comes to my mind, the most graphic and the most profound, is that passage in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett that A. Trevor Barker published, in which the mahatmic writer speaks of the "Tower of Infinite Thought" from which truth is seen.
What, then, is this hill of discernment? Confessedly it is a metaphor; but what is it really so far as we human beings are concerned if not that wonderful organ within man's own constitution which theosophists call the buddhi principle, the organ of understanding, of discernment, of discrimination, of cognition of reality without argumentation? This organ of understanding for a man is the man himself in his highest, his link with the divine. That is the hill of discernment within each of us.
The burden of all the teaching of the archaic wisdom is simply that: recognize yourself as an instrument of reality, as one of its vehicles; ascend out of the miasmas and the fogs and the clouds of these lower planes upwards and inwards to rejoin in consciousness the divinity within, the atma-buddhi; and then all knowledge, all vision of reality, is yours at will. For this is the organ clothed with no vehicle dimming its power. It sees reality as it were face to face, because itself is the reality. It is, as said, our link with divinity, which is reality, which is truth, which is all wisdom and all love and all knowledge.
So this hill of discernment is within man himself; and while it is the same for all of us, for each one it is in a sense different. It is like the pathway to truth: one for all, and yet differentiated into the wayfarers on that path, who are themselves both the wayfarer and the path itself. Man has no other means of attaining reality except through his own power, through his own organ, through his own being. He can and does receive help from outside, help which is wonderful; and it is our duty to give and receive help. But the receiving is merely the outward stimulus to awaken the inner organ of the receiver. This inner organ is not the deceptive organ of physical vision. Remember the story told in Hindu philosophy: A man returning home at night sees a serpent coiled in the path and jumps aside, and in the morning he sees it was but a coil of rope. So deceptive are all our physical sense-organs! The blind man cannot see the wonders of the dawning east. But even the blind man has an organ within him which if he can reach it needs not the deceptive organs of physical vision to see reality.
This buddhi principle which is in us and which we may use, if we will, knows no deceits. It cannot be blinded; it cannot be deceived. Its vision is instant and direct; for it is on the same plane as reality, and by opening up the intermediate channels between this our highest and our mere brain-mind, we inspire, breathe in, receive inspiration, and then we become like the gods.
That is the hill of discernment, of vision, and therefore of wisdom and knowledge and love, perhaps the three most glorious attributes of human consciousness: to be lost in cosmic love, to be lost in the vision sublime which is wisdom, to be lost in the higher interpretation of the vision which is knowledge — religion, philosophy, science, three in one and one in three; and this is not a theological trinity, but unitary truth.
The Greeks had a most interesting and indeed profound way of describing karma. They spoke of Destiny — often called by the Latins the "Fates" — sometimes as unitary, and sometimes as threefold or the three Moirai — much as we speak of karma as being unitary or as being threefold and separated over the three great time periods: past, present, and future.
So the three destinies, or the three Spinners of Destiny, said the ancient Greeks, were three in one and one in three, and were respectively named Atropos which means that which cannot be changed or set aside; Klotho, the spinner; Lachesis, that which happens to us out of the past.
Atropos was the future, that which is inevitably coming. It was connected with the sun; mystically it was connected with our spiritual-intellectual parts, or the treasury of destiny imbodied in the manasaputra. In art, it was expressed as a grave maiden pointing to a sundial, signifying what is waiting in the womb of time as the flowing hours bring it closer to us.
Klotho was the Spinner, that which is taking place now, that which we are now spinning or weaving in our minds and in our feelings. Called the present, it was represented in art as a grave maiden holding a spindle, spinning the thread of present destiny to become the future. It was linked in significance with our psycho-personal nature, what we call our mind, having intimate mystical and historical connection with the moon, the shadow of the sun as it were, the reflection, the reflected light.
Lachesis was connected with the earth and represented the past which we are now working out, and was depicted in art as a grave maiden holding a staff pointing to a horoscope: that which you have built in the past is now yours.
Atropos, the future, the sun, the manasaputric intelligence; Klotho the Spinner, the present, the moon, the active present mind; Lachesis, the past, which we are now working out, in this body, on this earth. Don't you think this Greek conception is rather a marvelous way of envisioning karma as at once unitary and triple? The more I think of the subtle Greek mind having thought this out, the three in one and the one in three, the more I admire the conception. Karma is divisible by such methods into three paths of destiny: past, present, future, one in three.
So a man predestines himself, has done so in the past; what he now is on earth is the fruit: with his mind or lunar part he is now weaving his destiny which, when he unravels it, will find lodgment as garnered knowledge in the solar part of him, in the sun, in the manasaputric treasury of destiny, some day to become the present, and shortly thereafter the past.
What is Easter, this age-old festival time? To theosophists Easter is a very holy time indeed, one of the four main holy seasons of the year. The word Easter is not only used in English but is in use in other languages. It was taken over originally from the Anglo-Saxons and was adopted by the English folk. In other countries they used a word derived through the Greek from the ancient Hebrew. The Greek was pascha, and the Hebrew pesahh, meaning "to step over," "to jump over," and hence "to pass over" — from the ancient Jewish Biblical story that when the Lord God led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, on the night before they began their journey the exterminating Angel of Jehovah passed over Egypt slaying all of the firstborn of the Egyptians, and skipping over, passing over, the houses of the Jews because they had been instructed by Jehovah to put a smear of the blood of a lamb on the door. A quaint old tale, and it was accepted, as it happens, by most Jews and Christians literally, and is calculated to induce disrespect if not contempt for what ought to be a truly beautiful and holy tale.
The Passover was adopted by the Christians from the Jews. The Christians, while adopting this Jewish festival celebrated by the Jews at a certain date, did not like to have it exactly as the Jews had it. Though borrowing a great deal from the Jews, these new Christians like to have things a little their own way, so they changed the date somewhat. They accepted, took over, the Jewish Passover festival, but gave it Christian coloring and a Christian twist. The Jews celebrated their Passover on the 14th day or the full moon day of their month Nisan, originally called 'Abib, when spring begins to come to fruitful earth, when the buds and the trees begin to burgeon. 'Abib and Nisan meant the first month of spring, and spring meant the beginning.
Now the Jews, as I stated, celebrated their Passover on the full moon day of the month of Nisan, that is, 14 days after the new moon. So did the Christians, but they wanted a distinction from the day the Jews had it; and perhaps from ignorance, perhaps from other reasons, and after disputes lasting for centuries — and very bitter indeed in the second, third, and fourth centuries — they finally decided upon this rule: Easter, the time of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ shall hereafter fall upon the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. Note the entrance of an archaic cosmic thought there. First find the spring equinox, then find the first full moon after that, then find the first Sunday after the full moon, and that is Easter. But the original Jewish way and also pagan way was to celebrate the whole festival of Passover on the full moon day of the Spring — of Abib or Nisan.
Easter is not a local festival, or rather a Christian festival alone. It is a festival of cosmic significance, depending upon the seasons and mainly on the date upon which the spring equinox falls. There is the key to the original holy festival. It had not anything to do whatsoever with Jesus Christ. But they chose it as the date of his so-called resurrection for an excellent reason. They knew something of what took place in the adytum of the Sanctuary. They knew something about the four sacred seasons of the year, which, as the great pagan philosopher Plato pointed out, make a cross in nature, the two solstices opposite each other, the two equinoxes opposite each other: the so-called Greek cross; and during all initiations the candidate was laid upon a cruciform couch or bed, a bed in the form of a cross, and there he passed his trance.
Now then, this lying down, this beginning of the torture, of the trial, of the test, of the struggle, was on the new moon day in every one of the four sacred seasons. The beginning was always at the new moon time; and when the new moon coincided with the equinox or solstice, it was considered, and indeed was, especially holy.
Do you know that there is a Christian fact, known by a few, ignored by most of the Christian clergy, that Passion Sunday, considered to be the beginning of the Passion or agony of their Lord Jesus, is the 14th day before Easter?
Why did Jesus as a type, this holy teacher, avatara, become connected with the lamb, and undoubtedly with the teaching concerning the zodiac? For this reason: that the Christians in every way wanted to connect their teacher with the promised messiah of the Jews. They could succeed in doing so, with even a coloring of truth, only by adopting the old Jewish stories. The Jews celebrated their Passover by eating a meal of lamb killed and baked in an oven on the day of their Passover. They were making a ritual, a ceremonial, as all the other ancient nations did, caught by the esoteric wisdom of what were in nature herself cosmic laws and cosmic events.
The main thing to remember about time is this: that it exists, but is not in the absolute sense. That which is in the absolute sense is duration. What is the distinction between time and duration? Time like all things in manifestation is relative and is divisible. Time has past, has present, has future, and these three are distinct each from the other twain. Duration has no divisibility. It has no past, it has no future, and consequently there is no distinctive time present. But there is what we in our feeble language call an eternal Now. Oh, how difficult it is to describe this, and yet it is so simple to catch the thought.
For instance, the Romans lived and suffered and joyed and died and strutted their little ways upon the stage of life in their time, as Shakespeare said. But they are now gone. That is ended. Yet in duration those Romans are just as much alive now as they were then, for all exists in an etenal Now. Similarly with us of the present; and we look to the future as something that is coming. Time in our consciousness has an effect of distance, which it has because our minds are relative. But in duration that future is here now.
For instance, if my mind, if my thought, if my consciousness, were now at the present instant functioning in duration, I would not see people, such as the Romans of the past, dead, gone forever; then ourselves here now, and something unknown to come in the future. But functioning in duration all beings and things would be present in my consciousness with me now: what we call past, what we call future, what we call present, would be with me now, and not only those things, but all the Now of infinite space, and endless, frontierless duration.
Time exists most emphatically, it is an illusion, a maya, which merely means we find it very difficult to understand it and do not perceive it exactly as it should be understood; but that is not time's fault, that is our fault. Our understanding is too weak to grasp it as it is, as it exists. Therefore, we call it a maya to us, an "illusion." But illusion does not mean something that does not exist. If it did not exist, obviously it would not be an illusion. It means something which deludes our understanding, an illusion or a delusion to us.
Newton, as they now try to point out, had an idea that time was an absolute entity, like space and matter; and that time as an absolute entity was in actual movement, flowing was the word, flowing out from the past into the present into the future. The scientific philosophers of today have rejected that idea. They say it is all very well to look upon past, present, and future, as easy, convenient ways of doing our daily tasks, of understanding the life around us; but it is an unreal thing. Time is not an absolute entity. You ask then, what is the absolute entity? They will say it is the space-time continuum in which there is a lot of truth, for they have at last welded together in one, space and what we call time; and both of these are what we call duration. For duration is space, and all its manifestations are time, in time, of time.
Many illustrations come readily to mind to show us how time is illusory to our understanding. When you are happy, time passes quickly. When you are a child, time passes very quickly, or terribly slowly, depending upon the mood of the child. As you grow older, time just flows by, or drags, depending upon your mood. Therefore what is time itself? It is the functioning of consciousness, in the present case our human consciousness, and our human consciousness is an attribute of what we call the space-time continuum of cosmic infinitude.
Now I wonder if you are much wiser after all this philosophical discussion! I can tell you this though. There is a way of becoming conscious of duration per se when the consciousness seems to be taken right out of time. It is something you cannot describe. You have to be it for the time being to understand it. Yet I wonder how many of you have not had that experience, at the instant between dreaming and waking, or just before failing asleep, or perhaps during a fainting-fit or just before or after it, when all the attributes of time suddenly have vanished and you are conscious only of utter immensity, utter reality, and timelessness, and everything has vanished that is comprehensible to the brain-mind. Very understandable, however, by the intuition, and this raised to the nth degree, i.e., into the pure unadulterate consciousness of the spirit within where all wisdom and knowledge and vision are, is what the Hindu yogins mean when they talk about sambuddhi-samadhi, or simply samadhi sometimes. When the consciousness is fixed in this state, the Buddhists call it nirvana — nirvana means "blown out." Do you know why? Because of just what I have described. All the lower attributes of the personal ego have sunken into latency, have gone, or have been surmounted. Your consciousness is for the time coextensive with the universe. Therein there is no consciousness of the movements and changes of things combined with the psychological interplay of attributes, with these together producing division or sense of time; the procession of events has passed out of the picture, for the consciousness has risen above these events of manifestation, and you are now in timeless duration.
As a mere illustration of how illusory time is — and please remember that such an illusion does not mean that it is nonexistent, for if it were nonexistent there would be no argument about it — I would recall to those of you who have had dreams, vivid or vague, how curiously time and its phenomena seem to change in these dreams. It is a well-known fact of psychology that in dreams, or even under the influence of some drug, the events of a lifetime seem to be condensed within a few moments; or contrariwise, what would in waking, feeling life take but a few moments, can in these sub- or super-normal states be so stretched out as to cover years. It is the same consciousness which experiences these extraordinary visionings, and thus "time" in any of these states or in the normal or waking-state seems to the experiencing consciousness just as "real" as any other of its experiences in and with time.
These facts lead the reflective mind almost instantly to see that it is the experiencing consciousness which really is the time-maker, weaving time out of the stuff of timeless duration, which in a true sense is identical with the essence of consciousness itself. Many a drowning but later resuscitated man has had all the events of his lifetime pass in a rapid panoramic vision before his consciousness; the whole procession of events which originally took years to experience now flashes before the mind's eye in a few moments of clock time, and yet the experiencing consciousness is cognizant of no incongruity.
Time, therefore, when compared with duration, is something like extension when compared with space. Time is a phenomenon of duration, just as extension is a phenomenon of space, and in both cases duration and space are realities or noumena, and time and extensions are the phenomena or illusions — maya in each case.
Remember also that there are collective mayas, such as we human beings ordinarily experience as when all human beings on earth have the same time-consciousness of day or night, or a group of men and women will have the same consciousness of an hour passed for instance in a theater, or on a picnic, or in a train, or a week at sea.
I believe there is no possible written or oral communication between those who have passed on and those who are here on earth; and there are a thousand reasons why this should be so, reasons based on nature's laws of harmony.
But there is one exception to this rule: it is the cases of those who are dying or have just died. At that instant an idea held in the mind of the dying person has something of a powerful magnetic intellectual force behind it, and it will cast itself through the invisible waves of the ether to the one thought of; and there will be a kind of appearance, a shining presentment of the dying one striving to do something to the one held in mind. Sometimes the thought passes over, often not. These are the only occasions where the dying man or the one just dead can communicate orally, or in writing, with those on earth.
The Spiritualists have evolved their various ideas in a period of time slightly less than 100 years, and they themselves have been trying to digest, to make a kind of philosophy out of, the various messages they thought they received from their dead friends; and the contradictions in doing so have been tremendously numerous. These contradictions prove to us that there is no revelation coming to us in the body by such means from the outside. On the other hand, the entire consensus of mankind, civilized and uncivilized, from immemorial time has been telling us, teaching us, the exact opposite of what our brothers the spiritists have themselves been trying to understand and explain with the few facts that they have. All the great men of antiquity in whatever sphere of human thought, in whatever sphere of life, have always called this intercourse between the living and those who have passed on by one word, necromancy, and have unhesitatingly condemned it while at the same time explaining it. I do not state these things harshly, but to recall to your minds certain facts of history.
Have these revelations, these communications, this intercourse, ever given to the human race one fact of nature, one scientific, religious, or philosophic truth? On the other hand, examine these communications. With the exception of a very few, they are what in sheer honesty must be called amiable drivel: "Dear father, dear wife, dear daughter, dear son, I am happy, I am in the spiritland. My guide tells me you are waiting. Please be happy. Give my love to little Janie. I must go now. More next time."
There is infinite pathos in this. We should never condemn the spiritists for believing these things. The hunger of their hearts has been to have some proof, as they call it, of survival. But our point is this: Brothers, the only thing that will persuade you of a truth of nature is reason, the preponderance of evidence, something that will sway your minds; in other words, facts, not theories.
Now it is right to accept the honest testimony of a single mind, and it is just that due weight should be given to what a single honest man has to say. I believe that in the courts of law the testimony of an honest man is accepted. The testimony of two is much stronger, of three is supposed to be almost conclusive. But when we place against this one, two, three or four, the unchanging witness of all mankind since immemorial time to the contrary, must we not give to the testimony of the greatest minds who have ever lived in the past, or who live in the present, as much weight as we give to a few enthusiasts, however honest? Enthusiasm and sincerity by no means spell truth. They spell honesty but not truth.
Furthermore, pause a brief moment in reflection and look at this thought from a different angle. Suppose that when we die we are conscious of what happens on this earth. Suppose that nature allowed what we call the dying to know what happens on earth after they pass out. What kind of merciless hell would that be for those who have passed out! Would there be peace, repose, happiness, in the dreadful vision of earth's misery and sorrows? Would any one of you be happy dying, tired and wishing for peace and rest which you are entitled to by nature's laws, as she gives you your sleep at night to rest the tired body — would any one of you be happy dying now, and seeing what will take place on earth in the next 10, 20, 50 years? Nature makes no such mistakes as these. She does not treat her children in that way. Even when she causes us to fall ill because of our own foolishnesses and weaknesses, often, perhaps always, there is a dulling of the nerves of the body and the gentle balm of oblivion steals over the suffering man. Nature is built on harmony and compassion. When we die we are just unconscious, utterly so, mercifully so; there is no suffering, there is the unconsciousness of a brief, perfect, dreamless sleep. Then for the average man — I am not now speaking of extremes, the very good and the very bad — for the average millions, the next thing the consciousness is aware of is as it were an awakening in what we call the devachan, to unspeakable happiness and bliss. It is a dream, if you will, but like a dream which rests the whole being, the tired mind, the tired heart, all resting and recuperating.
What is this devachan? It is the flowering into activity of all those beautiful and lovely things which on earth we built up into our minds and could not find expression for. And when the body dies, the free mind automatically recalls to itself, sets into motion, these lovely ideals and aspirations, everything that was most glorious and beautiful and high, and the mind dwells on these, and it experiences peace and bliss and happiness and rest. All misery and horrors of the lower plane are forgotten.
Nature cares for her children better than we do, infinitely more carefully and more lovingly than the most doting parents know how to care for their children, protecting their little ones. Do you doubt this? Let me put a question to you. Do you realize that this instant and all your lives you have been surrounded by the most virulent disease germs, which would kill you off in no time unless there were a protective apparatus working in your body? What does this? Mother Nature. You don't know it, but nature protects you and guards you against perils you wit not of; and it is only man's own insanity, evildoing, the wickedness sometimes of his heart, his own weaknesses, which make the hells upon earth which we know. It is not nature that does that; and any man who tries to shift his moral responsibility by saying it is nature, in his heart knows that he lies. It is himself Nature protects if we will allow it, and protects us as the parent tries to protect his or her child against that child's own ignorance. Nature, governed by divine law, will even attempt to heal the bodies which we with relentless and sometimes voracious lust for evildoing constantly attempt to weaken and corrupt. Nature heals, forgives, gives us another chance and one more and one more still, and allows our bodies to live on, weakened it may be, but healed. What damage was caused, was caused by us.
Thus the heart of nature is infinite love and compassion and harmony, and we see manifestations of it around us all the time. Nature cares for her children. She protects them and helps them. The trouble with us is that we are continually fighting against our mother, the only utterly compassionate, utterly wise mother the human race will ever know. So therefore comes the doctrine: help nature and work on with her and nature will regard thee as one of her masters and make obeisance.
Among many peoples wine and the drinking of wine has been used as a mystical symbol. If we understand this one fact we shall understand many otherwise inexplicable situations in the alleged lives of great occultists. How about the charge of drunkenness in connection with Paracelsus? Any supposed occultist who drinks is not an occultist; and that fact has been known since the beginning of thinking man. No one has ever proved that Paracelsus ever drank, ever was an habituary of the taverns or the inns. Hasn't it ever occurred to scholars that it is wise to put ideas together when they are stating something? How about the well-known habit of mystical thinkers the world over to speak of the wine, and the spirit of the wine, of God. The very word "spirit" even today attached to alcoholic drinks shows the early idea. Not that alcoholic drinks in themselves are good, but that just as grape juice can develop alcohol in itself and give forth as vapor what medievalists called "spirit" which is inflammable and can be lighted, so from this and other ideas connected therewith grew up the idea, the thought, of the idealist philosophers that wine is a good symbol of the spirit — the wine of God, the wine of Life.
How about the Christian church with its early communion, with wine as the emblem of the very blood-stuff of their savior? This is no longer a mere theory; the idea is no longer used merely mystically; it is the very blood of their savior. The Latin phrase is vere et realiter. The idea is of course credal, and yet it is based on a sublime and beautiful thought — that partaking of wine in the communion of the spirit was partaking of the spirit of Christ. And this was the earliest idea of the so-called pagan Greeks in their mystical communion in the rite of Bacchus.
How about the Sufis? They are among the most mystical of folk who used the symbol of the wine cup, the flowing wine, the flowing bowl, as symbol of the fullness of the heart which has been lighted, which has been filled with the light of the spirit. When a man was in communion with the divine within him, he was said to be drunken with the god, drunken with the spirit; in other words, illuminated. See how beautiful thoughts can be degraded; and the more beautiful they are the worse can become their degradation!
The quatrains of Omar Khayyam should tell anyone when the Sufis wrote of the tavern and the inn and the flowing bowl what they meant. The Sufis were notoriously sober. The orthodox among them probably never touched alcohol in any form; and yet their poetry is couched in the vein of thought just stated, in order to hide it, to make the thing innocent-appearing when danger was abroad. It was the way by which the persecuted mystics spoke in confidence to each other.
Cycles should interest every intelligent human being because they are the functioning of nature itself. They are not extraneous thereto, imposed upon the universe by some outside power, for that universe is infinite and in its evolutionary changes eternal; and, being so, it must be the true expression of the indwelling divine powers which form all the invisible sides of universal being. Precisely as in the small, man's body is but the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual entity, so it is with nature. Man merely copies nature in the small, for he cannot do otherwise, there being but one fundamental law, one fundamental cosmic reason, one fundamental cosmic plan. Therefore every entity, be it small or great, within the cosmic whole, must function according to that cosmic whole, not only in action but in substance and in plan.
Therefore the cycles that pertain to the cosmic bodies, the celestial bodies, be they suns or planets or comets or nebulae, are but in substance the grander cosmic laws of which indeed these smaller things, however grand and great they may be, are faithful copies. Being in subjection to the cosmic law, they follow this law, they follow those schemes of action, they follow the cosmic plan, they cannot do otherwise, because if they did otherwise they would be following a plan contrary to the cosmic plan and to the cosmic intelligence and the cosmic powers, and that is impossible.
So cycles are but repetitions in the small of the parts of the divine plan, and to ask whether cycles are causes of evolution or effects of evolution, is merely to miss the point. They are both. Cycles are merely the functioning of nature, and therefore they are at one and the same time causes and effects. You cannot break the chain of nature, you cannot break the chain of destiny. The precedaneous cause produces a child, an effect, a consequence like unto itself; and that effect is but a link in the cosmic chain of life, becoming instantly another cause producing its child, and so forth forever. These effects are nature's procedures, nature's workings. It cannot be otherwise. Therefore make the simple and inevitable deduction and logical consequences of that in your own minds. Whatever is is cyclic. So when we speak of the doctrine of cycles, we are not enunciating anything new which no human being ever thought of before. We are simply stating a fact of nature, a cosmic fact. Look at the course of fevers, diseases, epidemics, look at the constant turnings of the sun and planets, the cyclical and sequential movements of nature everywhere, day and night, summer and winter, cold and heat, wet and dry.
I would say also in a sense that cycles not only are the functioning of Mother Nature herself, but from a slightly different viewpoint are evolution, the way that strange law which we call the evolutionary progress towards an ever increasing perfection works.
A good old Hindu saying has it that every great age or root-race is composed of four cycles, four smaller ages, and that in the first of these called the satya — a Sanskrit word meaning "truth" — truth stands as it were on four legs; and that in the next, the second called the treta yuga, meaning the "third" counting from the bottom up, truth stands on only three feet. It does not mean that the fourth foot has been lost, but the meaning is that the fourth foot has been forgotten to a certain extent, seemingly atrophied or paralyzed and temporarily useless, not wholly so but largely so. Then in the third age which is called the dvapara yuga, the "second" counting from the bottom up, truth stands on two legs. Two legs have become nonfunctional to a large degree; and in the fourth age, the present age, the kali yuga, the Age of Iron, the "black age," truth hops along on one leg only, not meaning that the other three feet have been lost, but that to a large extent their use has been forgotten.
Now the meaning of this very interesting Hindu parable is simply this: there are four main or principal qualities in nature — there are seven as a matter of fact, but in the present period of evolution only four are apparent to us, being, as we are, in what we call the fourth round. These four ages are respectively spiritual, intellectual, psychical, and physical: they are the four supports of nature, the four legs on which truth stands, as it were. The first age is marked especially by spirituality, but having the other three qualities functioning under the aegis of spirituality. In the second age, spirituality has become dim but is there, and intellectuality has become predominant, although the other three are there. In the third age, the psychical instincts in the human being and in nature are predominant, and the spiritual and the intellectual are there indeed and doing their part, but are not recognized by men as the dominant powers in their living. When we reach the fourth age, the kali yuga, the present age, when truth hops along on one leg only, this is the leg of matter, the leg of physical nature. Spirituality is still with us, intellectuality and the psychical part of us are functioning; but we dream about them now as ideals instead of their being the dominant powers in our lives, and we see only matter. Our dreams are of matter and of power and of force and of violence. Truth indeed hops along on one leg only.
When this cycle is ended, then the new cycle will begin, and for the duration of that cycle truth will have again its part to play as the dominant in our lives. Human beings will then reason and think and feel and act mainly in accordance with spiritual attraction.