Theosophical University Press Online Edition
How Can You Prove Reincarnation?
The Invincible Fire of Spirit
Knowledge Brings Responsibility
The Christmas Tree
The Living Buddhas in Tibet
Thoughts on Karma
The Ancient Doctrine of Vicarious Atonement
The Golden Chain of Platonic Succession
Lost Continents and Our Atlantean Heritage
How can you prove reincarnation to be a fact? This is one of the commonest questions that we are asked, and I always wonder how such a question could be asked. Do you expect to prove after the manner of the laboratory something that does not belong there?
What is proof? The bringing of conviction that a thing is true to the thoughtful mind. That is proof — so stated in courts of law, and properly so stated. Now, if by the adduction of evidence the mind is not swayed into the belief that a thing is true, that thing has not been proved, even though it may be true. Don't you see that the only way to get proof of a thing is by thinking it through to the end? Then you are convinced; and while you may be entirely wrong, still that is the only possible way for thinking human beings to get proof. But don't mistake evidence for proof. I have a receipt which shows that a certain sum of one thousand dollars has been paid. Does that prove that the money has been paid? Any lawyer will tell you it is not proof. It is evidence tending to substantiate a possible fact that a thousand dollars has been paid by so and so to so and so; but it may be a forgery; that receipt may not be an actual receipt. But if an individual hearing detailed circumstances about a thing, sifting and analyzing the evidence laid before his thinking mind, is convinced that X has paid Z a thousand dollars, then that evidence substantiates the conviction brought to the mind, making the conviction more strong.
Now then, how can you prove reimbodiment to anyone? By bringing conviction to the impartial and thoughtful mind that it is the only possible and satisfying explanation of the existence of human beings. And how is such evidence of proof adduced? By thinking. Thus: we are here. We are not all alike. We vary as amongst ourselves more than the leaves on the trillions of trees on the surface of the earth do. Each man is a unit. How came that thinking, feeling unit on this earth? Created by God? Prove to me first that such a creating God exists.
How much simpler and more reasonable is the supposition as it seems at first — that here we have a thinking, feeling, self-conscious entity, which we now in this one life find amongst us. We find this entity at one stage of what is evidently an incomparably long journey of evolution. That is the first thought. We are here. We were not created by a marvel — some extracosmic God of infinite injustice, making some men almost godlike and others heavily, woefully, afflicted. You can cheat the mind by saying, "These are things which belong to Divine Mercy and are beyond our power"; but that is no answer and no proof to the thinking mind. It is sidestepping the question.
What we are faced with is the fact that we exist, that we differ greatly amongst ourselves; that we show in ourselves the evidence of growth. And where can you get all this needful growth in one short life on earth? How about the poor infants who are born and die before they have a chance to grow? Haven't they another chance to come back — a chance to try again? We have to take things as they are. I never would be one to accuse this spirit, whose attributes are harmony and cosmic justice, of acting with injustice and partiality — never!
Another thought: Who are we — we human egos, with our wonderful powers and feelings? Whence our ethical instincts? A thought that obliged the German philosopher Kant to admit of there being divine justice, because these ethical instincts often act contrary, so it seems to us, to the merely selfish, personal man; as, for instance, when a man gives up his life for some grand ideal or for someone whom he loves. There is divinity in that. We show divinity in our very composition. Does not this tell us that we are essentially sons of God, as the Christian would say; sparks of the divine flame which keeps the universe in orderly progression — sparks of that divine harmony and intelligence which makes the manifold marvels around us in the heavens or on earth? We are in this universe because we are intrinsic parts of it. We cannot ever leave it. We belong to it. It is we and we are it in essence. And what does this mean, this being formed of its stuff, of its essence? As it is eternal, so are we eternal. We are coeval with the universe, and we perdure as it does. It is but we in essence.
Let us carry our thought a step farther. As there is no chance action anywhere, no fortuity, naught but ineluctable procedures of cosmic law, therefore we humans, one small hierarchy in that cosmos, are not here by chance, therefore our being here has a meaning, and that meaning is rooted in the cosmic life, in the cosmic intelligence, in the cosmic law. It would be utterly meaningless if we simply appeared on this earth for one short earth life and then vanished and no good came of it, or mayhap no retribution for our evil doings.
Why are we here on this earth? Why are we here now? Why were men living in other ages, or what about the men who will follow us in future ages? Why will they then be? These things are matters of cosmic law. Now pray follow the reasoning, because we are advancing from link to link of thought. Being here by law, and one life being utterly insufficient to produce the purposes of cosmic mind, it is obvious that our being here once is a proof of reincarnation. Otherwise what brought us here? What cosmic mind put us here instead of on some other planet in some solar system, either ours or outside of ours? We are here because we have been here before, because here we sowed seeds of destiny, and we come back on this earth to reap those seeds which we sowed. This universe, governed by cosmic law, will not allow us to sow corn or wheat in San Diego County, and three or four months afterwards travel into Arizona or Nevada and attempt to reap the corn and wheat there. Where we sowed the seeds, there shall we reap the harvest. It is obvious. Our very being here, to the man who can think clearly and logically from step to step, or thought to thought, is a proof of reincarnation. Otherwise we must say cosmic law put us here by chance. And who believes that? If fortuity governed this world we would see the stars in their courses and all the planets running helter skelter all over the cosmic spaces without law, without reason, without order, without intelligence, without system.
There you have your proof. Just think about it, reason it out, advance step by step in logical thinking. We are here on this earth because we have sown seeds of destiny, of life here, and we come back to reap them: to undo the wrongs we did in the past, to reap the rewards that we sowed in the past. And that is why we will come back to reimbodiment in the future. We are now making ourselves to be what we shall in the future become. We are now preparing our destiny for our next life on earth. I am not now speaking of the intermediate phases of life between life on earth and life on earth. That itself is a wonder-story. I am now merely pointing out that in the universal law things move lawfully, causatively and effectively, every cause produces an effect which cannot be escaped. If you distort your soul by evil thinking and feeling, you will not become by such action an angel of pity. You will become ugly and distorted within, and you will reap the reward and the retribution of what you yourself have done unto yourself.
The universe is ensouled, and that soul is to the universe what man's soul is to him. The physical universe we see around us is but the body of the universe, as man's body is but the body of his soul; and both the physical universe and the body of man express but very imperfectly the divine and spiritual and intellectual and psychic and astral and all the higher laws and powers and energies and forces and substances that are the invisible worlds in space.
Don't you see how from step to step, by reason, instinct, careful thinking a thing through, we are led to the belief that we are not only in our inmost essence very children, offspring of the divine fire, but that, being such sparks from the divine flame, we are in evolutionary cyclic growth constantly advancing from lower to higher things, just exactly as the child is born and from unthinking childhood grows to be a thinking, feeling man with ethical instincts?
So, pursue these ways of reasoning, and then you will never ask anyone: prove to me that reincarnation is or exists. You will have the proof of it yourself.
Beautiful indeed and wonderful is it that the things of the spirit override and rise above the things of the mind and of the body. There is where we humans are invincible — in the fire of the spirit and in the flame of that fire which burns in all our hearts. No matter what a man's belief may be, no matter what his brain-mind thinking or convictions may be, within, as the inmost part of himself, there burns forever that soul-light of union with the divine, which means union with all brothers of the human race.
Remember this: behind all clouds is the golden sunlight, a sunlight which is inner as well as outer; the sunlight of vision, of conviction, of hope, and of what the early Christians called pistis or faith, which is the essence of things unseen but known.
A man is great in proportion to his thinking, and by naught else. Shall I add, his feeling? It may not be required, because deep thought is likewise deep feeling.
It is never true that the adept or initiate, or one who knows, is allowed to follow and practice the left-hand path. Never! That is always wrong; if we believed that, we should simply descend to the level of those who say: the end justifies the means. What is true is that the strong helps the weak, the powerful extends the helping hand, the one who knows instructs the ignorant. The followers of the left-hand path are always weaklings, always in the dark — a synonym of the left-hand path whereas those on the right hand are strong, illuminated, and have the light with them.
Knowledge brings responsibility as well as power and obligates those who possess it to use it for all, irrespective of right-hand path or left. If the treader of the right-hand path could misuse his knowledge, his wisdom, his power, even against one of the left, he would belong not to the right, but to the left. The White Magician helps even the Brother of the Shadow not to go down, but to come up! He uses power and wisdom for purposes of beneficence, but never by following the left-hand path, which would be not merely degradation, but retrogression, backward going. So that from the practitioner of the works of the right, from the follower of the right-hand path, more is expected than from the follower of the left, because he knows more, has more strength; and knowledge and strength clothe one with responsibility.
Do not let the idea ever insinuate itself for a single instant into your mind, that because you have knowledge and power you are entitled to misuse it, or that less is expected of you than of those who have it not; in other words, that license is permitted to you. It means that you are entitled to employ it only for good, and that does not mean sickly sentimentalism. Sometimes you have to use your strong right hand. Sometimes the policeman is just as necessary as the nurse; and we can qualify the proper use of both as belonging to the right hand. Misuse of any or either belongs to the left. Strength contains obligations of honor. Knowledge entails honorable obligation. Noblesse oblige — a fine old French proverb, which does not mean nobility is obliging, but nobility obligates. The mark of gentility is the willingness to sacrifice self and to carry responsibilities for others — the carrier of the load, the helper. No man even today has a right to call himself a gentleman if he puts his own interests first. That is not the mark of the gentleman.
It is very interesting to me to see how many people are interested in what some branches of religio-philosophy have named the "Adversary," and I believe that this is largely caused by the fact that outside of dogma from which the life has fled, there abides a residuum of reality even in these exoteric teachings of the outer instead of the inner time. The human heart realizes that at the bottom of all these various theological doctrines there is a fact of deep meaning, and this accounts, I believe, for the reason that the Christian church and Christians struggled so long to overthrow the gross anthropomorphic and really ridiculous ideas that had clustered around this central core of pure reality.
What is this central core? There is in the universe opposition — there is the keynote of the meaning of the Hebrew word satan, "adversary," "opponent"; or of the Greek and Latin word diabolos, from which we have the German Teufel, the French diable, the Italian diavolo, and the English devil. These variations of spelling and pronunciation on the original term were the products of different peoples, the original term from which they all derived, as stated, having been the Greek word diabolos, meaning the"accuser," and hence the "adversary." How grossly this wonderful philosophic and religious idea of an adversary has been distorted to become a mere anthropomorphic or humanlike personification of opposition in nature — opposition which in truth may be and indeed is most beneficial and helpful, or opposition, on the other hand, which may be malign and evil.
That is the keynote of the doctrine; and hence, using words to explain a great cosmic reality, the Hebrew said the "opponent," the "adversary," and the nimble-minded Greek spoke of the "accuser." Why? This is explained in the theosophical teaching that there is no such actual cosmic individual acting as an opponent or adversary of men or of the gods; for the accuser, adversary, or opponent is in actual fact, so far as humans are concerned, our own weaknesses, evildoings, evil thoughts, evil emotions which some day sooner or later karmically spring up in our path to face us, and facing us, accuse us, as it were, point us out as the evildoer. They, our own former selves, have now become the adversaries and accusers of the present self. In nature and in human nature, the early Christians personified this and spoke of the diabolos or Satan, for to them it was a very real thing.
But mark how amazingly and marvelously every truth becomes capable of teaching us wondrous things, for the adversary, as should appear clearly enough from the foregoing remarks, becomes in reality a most valuable teacher; we learn by the faults of the past, not only to avoid them in the future, but to become stronger than they in the future. The karmic adversary therefore becomes the instructor; the faults learned and overcome and surmounted thus prove themselves to be our guides and teachers — former stumbling blocks when surmounted become stepping stones to higher things.
Following this idea in one more but parallel significant meaning, it was always stated by the ancient mystics and occultists, by theosophists of ancient lore, that the name of the teacher, of the guru, of the instructor, of the savior, is the adversary. He will not allow the neophyte to pass upwards until that neophyte has proved his worth, until he has learned the key words, the passwords which mean primarily, self-conquest, and future safety. See how wondrously this thought, this key doctrine, shifts from one explanation to a parallel one, and yet seems so difficult. Thus were the ancient teachers always called nagas, "serpents" of wisdom. Thus was likewise the opposing power in nature, whether divine or malign, spoken of as a naga, a serpent in the Garden of Eden or a serpent of wisdom.
A Christian teaching in the New Testament, coming from supposedly inspired intelligences, tells us to worship the serpent. Look how graphic is the injunction: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." For such are all the grand adepts, all the Buddhas and Christs, the pitiful, sorrowing ones, sorrowing for mankind's ignorance.
We learn from our weaknesses to mount to higher things. Our weaknesses themselves become our teachers; and once we have learned their lessons, it is no longer needful to turn to them for instruction. So we say then that they become evil instructors, for we have already learned much and mounted higher through their help. We are not only wasting time, but we are doing wrong to be affected by the thoughts and feelings and counter-emotions of the past. It is our duty to pass to higher things, to challenge the new opponents, the new accusers. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Do you catch the thought? The door opens. The adversary, the opponent for the nonce says, "Who are you?" If you give the right answer you pass; the wrong answer, the door is closed against you, because it is so in reality. You cannot take a step onwards and upwards until you know the passwords which are parts of yourself, in other words until you have the will and the intelligence to do right. You yourself then, in such instance, become the adversary, the so-called Satan. You must conquer yourself, this part of yourself, in order to go higher. Therefore we learn on the stepping-stones of our former selves to become new selves. Our best selves are an ideal before us, to mount upon and to build with. Our present selves in their turn some day will pass and we shall meet the spirit, the divine self of the future, and it too will ask us: "Who art thou? Give the password." And the password is knowledge, is wisdom, is altruism, the great treasury of long past spiritual experience. Be ye wise as the serpent, but innocent and harmless as the dove. This is a most beautiful and profound allegory. No wonder it has been adopted by race after race of humankind in different parts of the world. Climb on our dead selves to higher things.
One aspect of the adversary is our present self, marvelous thought. Shall we overcome the present self, the adversary which prevents our going higher because it is not higher, it is simply a self? If we do, then we have given the password and we ascend, we pass the portals of wisdom. The adversary is no longer a tyrant. No longer is the initiator examining our spiritual and intellectual and moral credentials, our own self, our own inspiration. The adversary becomes the divine friend, the savior of all men, the serpent of wisdom.
It is a beautiful allegory pregnant with meaning. Even the poets of relatively modern times have caught the idea; they caught it from recollections of previous lives on earth when they were taught it. Milton, the English poet, for instance, describes the fall of Satan or Lucifer, according to Christian theory one of the highest of the angels who "fell." The same idea with a new angle of vision to it, a new twist of thought. The angel climbs upward within the celestial spheres, self-redeemed. The self, the main adversary, whether it be of god or of man or one of the innumerable hierarchies of living beings in human nature, for each one there is an adversary, itself or himself. And yet, marvelous wonder, so compassionately is nature constructed, that out of our faults we learn better things. From ugliness we learn beauty. From weakness surmounted is born our new strength. From the unholy do we advance to holiness. What was once the opposition, the opposer, the adversary, when we challenge it with courage and take the kingdom of heaven with strength, becomes the savior, the initiator.
So with our own selves. Have you ever thought that a fault overcome becomes a new strength in your character; that a temptation surmounted has given you more power, for you have done it through exercise of your will? Your will has become stronger. The pity for others within you has become keener. Your vision becomes more luminous, a far-seeing clairvoyance. It is experience which makes us think. It is experience which gives us growth. It is this experience which is the adversary, the accuser.
All peoples have taught of opposition in the universe, and they taught beautifully of it. But as far as I know it is only the very savage tribes and later Christianity which have ever personified or humanized this cosmic principle into an angelic entity, in Christianity of demoniac type. The essential idea is the same over the earth. So when we look upon this opposer, under whatever multitude of guises we meet it, whether of divine character or of malign, the principle behind all is the same. To us humans it becomes demoniac and malign if we weakly succumb. We have forgotten the challenge of our own soul. On the other hand, when we use our will to achieve and take our selves in hand for training, we become strong because we become more universal. Our vision is no longer restricted to ourselves, and therefore raises itself proportionately towards the divine. That is why the divine is always spoken of as being divine, and the immensely restricted and constricted and therefore selfish as always being evil, because the small thinks but for itself and opposes the world to gain a tiny kingdom of the lower self, setting its power against the universe and thereby becoming so much evil, like the seeds of a disease in the human body. When that seed of disturbance is cast out, as happily it may be, health, universal peace, in the body, returns. There is the idea. The more we become universal, the higher we are. Phrase it otherwise: the closer we approach the divine which is universal, the higher we are. To quote again a Christian thought of great depth and to me of wondrous beauty: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" There you have the companionship of the divine, if you will take it by your inner strength, for here within us is its tabernacle, its temple, in the human heart.
There in just these simple thoughts is a whole cosmic philosophy, in the study of which you will find illumination which is life, comfort, immense intellectual activity of the highest type, and last but not least, peace, that inner peace which passeth all understanding, but which can be known.
The Christmas tree, dotted with lights and bright with tinsel that reflects those lights and multiplies them manifold, is an old pre-Christian symbol used by the peoples of northern Europe at the time of the winter solstice; and here is the inner significance of it:
Have you never heard of the World Tree with its roots in the realms of spirit and whose branches are the great suns and systems of suns? This World Tree began in the beginning of this cosmic age to bring forth all the stellar hosts. Now the winter solstice is the beginning of the cosmic New Year, and so these northern peoples, knowing some of the ancient truths, celebrated this cosmic event with the Christmas tree. It symbolizes the World Tree, and the lights are the suns that bestrew the deeps of space, hinting to us the message from the divinities who constantly give us the light of love, the light of mind, the light of hope eternal. But so far have we fallen from the wisdom of our forefathers that now the Christmas tree has become merely a sign of festivity, except for the few who preserve its significance in their hearts.
The giving of gifts on the Christmas tree was emblematic of the self-dedication of the gods so that the worlds might come into being. "Here is my gift. It is born from myself."
Regarding the so-called living Buddhas in Tibet, I think that the Occidental world is too apt to build frameworks of thought constructed in the Occident around Oriental doctrines and teachings which we in the West only vaguely understand. The Occidental idea that the Tibetans believe that these living Buddhas are the imbodiment of Gautama the Buddha is radically wrong. The idea is this: that there is a cosmic Buddha, just as now some thoughtful Christians are beginning to intuit that there is a cosmic Christ of whom Christlike men, who have lived or who may live now or in the future on earth, are exemplars, rays, imbodied representations. Jesus so called was one such. That likewise is the ancient Tibetan teaching regarding the living Buddhas of Tibet: that there is this cosmic Buddha identical with what these few forward-thinking Christians call the cosmic Christ, the Christ immanent in the universe and therefore immanent in man's consciousness. The Tibetans call this in their beautiful teaching the Celestial Buddha of whom all human beings are rays; in other words, every human being has a ray from this cosmic Buddha which is his inmost being, his inmost self; and that when a man raises his consciousness to become at one with this flame of divinity burning in his heart, a ray from the Celestial Buddha, that ray coming as from the sun into this man's heart and firing him with inspiration and wisdom and love, makes of that man a living human Buddha. Gautama the Buddha was one such, but an outstanding and remarkable example.
It is a marvelous teaching, for mark you the endless hope in it, the undying inspiration in it, that each one of us, all of us, has as his inmost self this celestial fire; and that we as human beings can become at one with it if we will, and if we live the life and pursue the course of study so that it will become manifest in our lives, imagine ourselves in it, vision it. Make your vision filled with grandeur and beauty, and your human life will begin to manifest it likewise, for you are imbodying a cosmic Buddha in which you think and feel and therefore are.
That is the very essence of the Tibetan doctrine of the living Buddha, for when this cosmic glory takes up its residence in human hearts and minds, then such men become what the Tibetans call living Buddhas, Christs on earth. It may be in small degree — it depends upon the response of those themselves who feel the inrushing of the divine fire. But in so far as we increase it, or rather open ourselves to the influx from within-above, our Buddha-stage or Christ-state is by so much the more increased, made so much the greater.
Here is a question that I have often been asked: Does karma imply exact reaction in detail? That is, if I injure someone, does that individual have to injure me in the identical manner in which I injured him?
We do not teach a scientific determinism; we teach the exact opposite, although it is true that the god-wisdom teaches a universe of ineluctable law. That is the main foundation stone of all the structure of hope, of religion and philosophy and science that theosophy is. But here is the point: If I, for instance, cheat a friend and break his heart, is that friend going in some future life to cheat me and break my heart in identically the same way with all the same details reproduced? The answer is No, not in all the details. But my friend whom I cheated, despite his own will, driven by destiny, and myself attracting the retribution to me which is my due, will so act in some future life closely along the lines of the way I cheated him, but not in identical details. He too perhaps against his will may break my heart.
If I kill a human being deliberately, if I murder him will that same human being murder me in some future life? Personally I am inclined to say Yes. The details are not the same, but the general foundation of the structure of destiny will bring it about. Mark you this, the teaching of all the titan seers and sages of all the ages: That which ye sow, that shall ye reap, not something else. This is a Christian saying and a grand one.
Now notice the immense moral effect this teaching, once sincerely believed, has on a man, not only for his own protection in the future, but because of the revolution in feeling and in thought it works upon his character. He will watch very carefully lest he ever injure a fellow human being. Think what this one doctrine alone would mean for the safety and happiness of mankind if it were commonly accepted as once upon a time it was all over the world. If I sow good, I strengthen and beautify my own character, the thinking of good makes my own character symmetrical. The feeling that I am doing good strengthens me to greater goodness in doing. This is simply karma. If I think evil and feel evil, and wreak evil upon my fellows, outside of the wrong that I am doing to them, running up a retribution for my own future lives, see what I am doing to my own mind and my own feelings. I am distorting, I am making them ugly, twisted, gross. This too is karma. You cannot think these thoughts without feeling the repercussions of your own thinking apparatus. Evil is ugly. Thinking ugly things will make that apparatus ugly. Feeling ugliness will make you feel uglier the next day.
Now what is reincarnation but a carrying out of this same law of destiny? We have lived on this earth almost innumerable times in the past. We are here today because we are attracted back here. Familiar scenes attract us, just as the traveler traveling away from home looks forward to the time when he will return. The familiar scenes, the happy home, the fireside, the gentle, beautiful, even perhaps lovely remembrances of that home all call him back. And that is what reimbodiment is anywhere; reincarnation, coming back to familiar scenes on this earth. And we have familiar scenes on other planets also — but that is another story.
We humans are pilgrims of destiny, children of the divine wandering purposefully, and purposefully driven by karma, driven by destiny. We are children of the divine, therefore having a spark of the divine intelligence and of the will of the divine. Therefore we ourselves can face the universe and all its impacting horror, for within us, unconquerable and deathless, is this divine spark. By following its mandates we have free will, the free will of the universe, that all the power of the universe coming upon us at once cannot ever overthrow, for we are children of the divine and that universe is we ourselves and we are it. Its heart and our hearts are one and call to each other. Abyss of destiny calls to abyss of destiny, and we understand each other.
Every man having a modicum of free will, despite the irrevocable past, can at any moment, once the idea comes to him, change his destiny for the future. Eradicate the past we cannot ever, for that is destiny and must be worked out. It is built into ourselves. But we can change, modify, make ourselves more shapely for the future by exercising our divine prerogative of thought and free will in the present, taking destiny in our own hands and making it more shapely for the future. In this as in other things we humans are akin to the gods, our parents.
How wonderful is the vision that the sensitive heart and quick mind have the power to see, bringing light everywhere, therefore a sense of perfect security, a sense of perfect justice, a sense of perfect peace. Sometimes we feel that our own past destiny is too hard for us to bear and we cry out in our anguish: O God, may this cup pass from me: yet not my will but thine be done! But if I must drink I will drink. Instead of this let me remember that I am a child of the divine and, drinking that cup of destiny which I myself have brewed by my own acts in the past for good or for evil, I now begin to build for the future. Within that future, now that the revelation has come, I see beauty unspeakable, holiness ineffable, peace ever-increasing, an expanding love with its richness of life, and understanding without bounds which makes me loving to others.
The Vicarious Atonement doctrine, as it is today understood by Christians, has indeed stood in the way of their acceptance of the doctrine of reimbodiment. But it was not so in the beginning: the earliest Christians accepted reincarnation. What took place then? We find evidences that the doctrine of the Vicarious Atonement prevailed in the very origins of Christianity, but there took place a slow changing of the understanding of this doctrine to one of words instead of spiritual occult meaning. So that when it became a mere theological dogma, it was a great stumbling block, a closed door rather, preventing the true follower of the Christ, today and in past centuries, from accepting this doctrine of hope, of great hope — human reincarnation.
In the earliest days of Christianity, the primitive Christians — being the Theosophical Society of that time for that portion of the earth — knew, were taught, that every man born into this life is a son of the divine in his highest part — not as a physical man — his spirit, his soul, was a spark of the cosmic All, a breathing, living flame of fire from the heart of Being. He called this the Christos spirit, even as some Christians have intuitively grasped this holy teaching of the immanent Christ in man. That was the primitive Christian thought, and it is taught today in theosophy as it has always been taught by theosophy in the different ages.
So it is the spiritual part of us, this flame from the divine, which is the deathless essence of our being. It is the anchor of our life, and of our growth, and of our progress, from imbodiment to imbodiment, carrying from each life on earth all the spiritual aroma of the good deeds, beautiful thoughts, noble ideals, fostered in the heart and mind, carrying these over from life to life. We call this inner spiritual part the monad. It is the inner Buddha in us, the inner Christ in us.
Thus it is that this monad is enchained by us, by our weaknesses and feeblenesses and mistakes — aye, and by our good thoughts and deeds, to carry us from life to life as a spiritual "plank of salvation," as H. P. Blavatsky says, meaning the inner Christ chained to the cross of matter, our light, our hope, our origin, our destiny. And because it suffers for us enchained in these spheres, according to the ancient doctrine, and carries our burden for us — our own being, mind you, our own inmost spiritual essence, the Christ within us — we can say, not in the theological sense but in the theosophical sense, it atones for us and endures through all, just because it is our spiritual self. The process is vicarious only in the sense that the divine part of us carries the weight, the burden, of what we, the lower parts, have thought and felt and done: dealing us perfect justice in life after life, making us what we are and what we shall become. In this manner was the doctrine of Vicarious Atonement first understood: that the mere man of flesh is naught, but that the lower, unevolved, imperfect side of man had this plank of salvation in his own spark of divinity, in his own immanent Buddha, his immanent Christ, the god within him.
This ancient doctrine likewise tells us that as a man grows and evolves from age to age and learns in life after life, more and more does this truly spiritual part of his being come to manifestation and express itself through the mind, the lower mind, the ordinary human being. When this is done with relative perfection we have one of the great seers and sages, one of the imbodied divinities, one of the imbodied Buddhas or Christs, one who expresses through himself as a human being the godhead, the godhood, which is his own link of selfhood with the divine, an imbodied Christ, an imbodied Buddha.
Nevertheless, it is perfectly true that when this inner meaning of the immanent Christ was lost sight of in Christianity, the words of the teaching took the place of its occult meaning; men lost the teaching that they themselves were the Christs within, sons of the divine, and that by thinking and feeling and living in the Christlike way it was their most glorious privilege and duty from life to life to express this inner godhood ever more and more, growing from humanity to mahatmahood, to masterhood, until finally the goal is achieved, and we can cry: "O god of me, how thou dost glorify me!" — the true rendering of the Hebrew words alleged to have been uttered by Jesus on the Cross: 'Eli,'eli, lamah shabahhtani. As the words stand translated in the gospels they are wrong, for "to forsake," or "to abandon," is in Hebrew azab; and "to glorify" or "to make perfect" is shabahh; and the word in the gospels is shabahhtani, "thou dost glorify me," "thou dost make me perfect."
The Christ within the man spoke; nor is this an exterior Christ except in the sense that the Christ within the man is a spark of the cosmic Christ. The Buddha within the man is the representative in him as an individual spark or ray of the cosmic Buddha, the Adi-buddha — use what terms you will.
Thus it came about that one of the most beautiful, helpful, and consoling doctrines of primitive Christianity became an illogical theological dogma — a shell of words from which the spirit of their meaning had fled.
It was Homer who first in Greek thought spoke of the Golden Chain between Father Zeus and men, his children, and that it was this Golden Chain of sympathy and feeling linking the gods with men by which we humans could climb to the divine stars where Zeus the father of gods and men is. But it was Plato who popularized this magnificent Homeric idea so much that from his day scholars often spoke of it as the Platonic Chain.
Now what does this mean really, the idea of this wondrous Greek conception of hope, filled as it is with the majesty of the divine? It means that there is a way for human beings to walk to reach divinity, that this chain in reality is but a pathway which we may tread if we will. It is called golden because it leads to the golden heart of Father Sun and thence onwards, to the very heart of divine Being where the gods are; and that all along this ladder between gods and men, there are posted gods, teachers, showing us, the wayfarers, the farers on the upward climb, where we should look, which turn we should take, how to go upwards and onwards forever. On each such link of this wondrous golden chain there stands a teacher whose whole and sole duty is to help those below to stand where he is. In other words, there is a hierarchy of teachers between us men, learners alike, and the divinities towards whom we aspire, and this hierarchy exists to help all those below.
There is a way, as the teachers have reminded us, steep and thorny, but it is still a way, and it leads upwards and inwards, to the very heart of divine Being. We are treading that way, we are farers on that path even now, although most of us, alas, know it not, and we stumble alone; but the way is there, and along this way, could we but see it, could we but realize it, are companions ahead of us, marching steadily upwards and forwards through the ages of the past and into the ages of the future; and we humans are amongst this marvelous army of farers on the way. Some of us are not happy to be stumblers always, nor to be laggards on the path, but desire to move more quickly forwards and upwards, to train ourselves, teach ourselves, take ourselves in hand, and let the inner and higher part of us rule our lives. That is advancing in quicker time.
There I think is the inner meaning of this wonderful Greek teaching of the Golden Chain between men and the gods, a marvelous doctrine!
The actual evidence for the existence in prehistoric and former geologic times of now sunken continental land massifs is simply enormous. Items of proof have been brought together by clever researchers and writers, not theosophists alone, but eminent scientists and other investigators; and all in an attempt to solve the mystery: How on earth did the flora and fauna of the land massifs, as they now exist, ever pass from one to the other over hundreds, maybe thousands of leagues of rolling, stormy oceans?
An attempt was made during long years to explain the presence of similar and identic flora by means of migrating birds. Birds eat seeds and drop them, and perchance by the time the birds drop the seeds another land is reached, and the seeds take root. Or perhaps things float on the waves of the ocean, and after weeks and months, it may be years, are thrown up on some sandy coast and there take root! But common sense prevailed after a while. It was soon seen that these labored efforts at explaining the similarity if not identity of the vegetation and animals in widely separated continents, required something firmer and more concrete than speculative evidence of that type.
So it was the scientists themselves who, long preceding theosophists, began to ponder the existence or the possibility of formerly existing lands where now the oceans roll their stormy waves in the Atlantic and in the Pacific and elsewhere. Certain scientists collected data to prove that something like that must have existed during some former period in geologic history, in order to account for these things. And when geology and its discoveries brought further proofs of the existence in these widely separated continents of flora and fauna in the Old World similar to if not identic with types in the New World, and discovered these in the Eocene, the Miocene, and Pliocene deposits, they said to themselves: surely there must have been land connections between the Old World and the New, somewhen, somewhere. Those facts remain still unexplained.
Scientists themselves for decades now have granted the existence in former geologic times of a great continental land massif in the Pacific Ocean. Sclater called it Lemuria, from a little monkey-like animal called Lemur. Later a similar continental land massif was imagined and called by some scientists Gondwanaland to explain puzzles in distribution of flora and fauna in the Pacific and elsewhere that without these supposed land connections could not be explained. And they have not yet been explained.
The reluctance of the scientists to accept the evidence of their own eyes is remarkable. They themselves brought the question forward, brought the proper answer forward, and in the case of the Atlantic continental land massif, it is still, as they say, possible, even probable, but not proved. I don't know why. They have accepted it for the case of the vast Pacific Ocean lying to the west of us here, but not for the other ocean as yet; and yet the proofs are there.
Now then, I think one of the reasons for the reluctance of so many thousands to accept what must be the case arises in idea of what these former geologic land massifs an erroneous were. They seem to have got the idea that Atlantis, an immense stretch of land, exactly similar in type to our own present system of ocean and land, all sank in a night; and out of the then existing oceans came the new land, which is now ours. This is an absurdity. It is one of the commonest facts known to all even today, that land is slowly sinking, or rapidly sinking, all over the world; and that other lands not only are with slowness, but with equal regularity, rising. This process of submergence and emergence through long and short geologic periods is what took place first in Lemuria and ages and ages later in Atlantis. It took hundreds of thousands of years for the main portions of the great Atlantis-system of continents, big islands, small islands, and seas, even notably to change places — the land sinking, the oceans overwhelming the lands which sank, and other new lands rising to take their places. This has continued through all geologic time, is continuing now, and will continue into the future. Yet there have been cases where islands even fairly large have sunken or risen rapidly, even in our short human view — cataclysms, as in the case of Plato's Poseidonis, an actual event of European prehistory as we now know history, which sank in a day and a night, some eleven or twelve thousand years ago, after fearful earthquakes and tidal waves. Poseidonis was an island the size of Ireland or less, which lay a good distance in the ocean off what is now the Straits of Gibraltar. But that was one of the last island remnants of the great Atlantic continent, just a headland, as it were, which remained until it finally also sank.
Similarly so with Lemuria, the home, as theosophists say, of the third root-race. It was not just one big land. It was a system of continents, great islands, small islands, oceans and seas, just as we have them now. As a matter of fact, there are some remnants of Lemuria still remaining above the waters of the ocean, and also of Atlantis. Talk about scientific proof! Why, the call for such land connection is so tremendous that it is not for proof of such existence we should ask, but for proof that it has not existed. That is a perfectly justifiable and even a strong argument. I repeat it: even today, and during the Eocene and Miocene and Pliocene ages, the flora and the fauna were and are still so similar in so many respects in widely separated localities or lands, that some land connection at some time as among these separated lands is imperatively called for. The only alternate thing to say is that in those now far past geologic ages there must have existed an immensely civilized, powerful body of races of men, who, with mechanical devices equal to or greater and finer than ours, could transplant the vegetable life and the animal life from continent to continent in proportion with their own migrations and colonizations, and that comes to the same thing.
When we know that land is sinking and land is rising, and has been throughout geologic time, as proven by the geologic record, and that it is going on secularly, progressively, through the millennia, actually through millions of years, what is the answer? Prove to me that Atlantis did not exist. Why, one could talk for a day and a night simply about the almost innumerable data that have been collected by scholars of all kinds along this line. Books, scores of them, have been written on just these themes.
Now then, my other thought is this: the Atlanteans were a great body of races, just as we are today, a great body of races with different colored skins, different kind of hair, different past histories from ours, but all human or semihuman. Some of them were good. But most of them, when judged by abstract standards of right and wrong, were evil — even more so than we are. And we cannot throw stones! Heaven knows, we are bad enough. But we are an improvement upon our Atlantean progenitors. For there, although there were millions, throughout the millions of years that Atlantis endured, who worshiped the divine and the spirit in preference to matter and selfish power, the majority in those days were worshipers of brute power, of strength, of matter, of influence for the self. Selfishness was the dominant keynote in the Atlantean race, just as it is even yet in ours; but in ours we have reached the point where we no longer glorify it, but recognize it and are ashamed of it. It shows that spirituality is entering, although slowly, into our consciousness; and even among crooks, honor and right and reason and justice are the key words with which to charm the hearts and minds. With the Atlanteans it was power and strength, stuff, substance, wealth. But not so with all. There were millions and millions who in their hearts worshiped the divine and right and justice, and these were the elect, and from these elect were formed the Mystery Schools which have endured to this day, out of which schools have come all the great religions and philosophies and sciences of human history, for the saving of men from worse things, for the helping, the raising, the softening and refining of men and women, and therefore of civilization.
Just as the Theosophical Society today came therefrom, so in past ages came the theosophical societies of other times, our own lineage. There they originated in far distant Atlantis: those who loved right and honor and justice and truth and reason and pity more than strength and power and selfish privilege. They were what we call the sons of the divine, the sons of God; and they gathered together, collected together, and formed the first Mystery Schools in which the spirit of truth was worshiped, revered, and taught, instead of the spirit of power and dark self-interest. Just think how these thoughts sway human minds. Look even at our world today, and see how a thought of selfish profit or advantage, an egoism, can lead men astray. We have the old Atlantean spirit back amongst us, even yet, and this was what H. P. Blavatsky meant by saying that the karma of Atlantis still weighs heavily on us, on our souls, on our minds. We are still under its influence, but we are struggling out of it, out of its embrace.
In this connection a final word: there are certain groups today who in speaking of theosophy, say, "That is very fine, but that is the Eastern tradition. We follow the Western tradition." To speak of the Theosophical Society as the tradition of the East is nonsense, for it is the parent of them all. It is neither Eastern nor Western, Northern nor Southern, it includes them all, for from it they all have come forth. Theosophy is the source of them. It recognizes its children in these various guises. Therefore it is the great reconciler, the great harmonizer, the comforter, the spiritual parent.
How true it is that we even today yearn for truth with all our hearts and souls, and that the mark of a great man, or a great thinker, is service and learning. Do you know that the proudest thing that one can say is that he is a learner, a student of the god-wisdom, learning from others in good fellowship, charitable to others, seeing good in what another has to present, looking only for candor, honesty, purity, decency of mind and heart. This is the open sesame to human hearts. Let the Atlantean spirit die. Let it molder into the dead bones of the past. Hatred, dislike, enmity, unreason, injustice, are all its products. Smallness and pettiness of mind are its children.