[Page V] Since I believe that the teachings contained in this book can be of very great value to those who are able to accept them, it gives me great pleasure to introduce and recommend this first publication by Eunice and Felix Layton.
As devoted Theosophists and as husband and wife, they have dedicated their lives to the service of the Theosophical Society and humanity. Without thought of reward, for many years they have traveled throughout North America as lecturers for the Theosophical Society in America spreading Theosophy wherever they have gone. Large numbers of people have received from them the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom which form the subject matter of all their addresses. I feel sure that this book which is based upon some of these talks will give to its readers the same sense of inspiration, upliftment and peace of heart and mind which so many have received who have heard and met them in the course of their work and their world travels.
As a student myself, I find certain basic ideas of Theosophy correctly conceived and clearly [Page VI] expressed in this book. I am grateful to these two valued friends of mine for this opportunity to share in this their first book, to wish it Godspeed and to express the hope that it will be followed by many others, also written in the clear and concise manner in which they think and speak and write.
Adyar December, 1959
This book contains four talks on basic concepts of Theosophy. They were first given to American audiences unfamiliar with Theosophy and the Theosophical Society. They developed further while lecturing in New Zealand, Australia and other countries.
The concepts outlined here are the principles of the Ancient Wisdom, taught by the wise men of all nations and ages. These timeless laws are here revealed behind the events and experiences of everyday life in the twentieth century. In this fact lies the element of originality which has made the talks popular.
No claim is made that these talks represent the basic concepts of theosophy. We present such ideas as we have discovered in our study of the great classic literature of the Theosophical Society and in our search for the deeper meanings of life.
We wish to emphasise that the Theosophical Society is a body of seekers for truth who are united by their belief in the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity. There is no dogma or creed limiting [Page VIII] the thought of the members in any other way than is implied in the principles of the belief in brotherhood and the acceptance of the ideal of the search for truth. When, therefore, we send forth these ideas on Theosophy, we simply offer them for the consideration of our fellow seekers for truth in the hope that they may help them, as they have helped us, in forming, each for himself, a more complete understanding of life. Seekers everywhere have been helped by the great concepts of the Ancient Wisdom proclaimed by the Theosophical Society as its branches and literature have spread throughout the world. This volume is now offered in response to numerous requests, and in the hope that it may add its contribution to the noble and spiritual thought sent into the world by the Theosophical Society.
EUNICE S. LAYTON
Adyar December, 1959
|1||Divine Plan in a Chaotic World||Felix Layton||
|2||Know Thy Real Self||Eunice S. Layton||
|4||Does Justice Rule the World?||Eunice S Layton||
[Page 2] ALL thoughtful people, at some period in their lives, ask themselves great sweeping questions, such as: " What is the nature of this universe ? ". " What is Man? " . " What essentially am I? " and " What is the purpose towards which all manifestation is working? " At all times and in all countries people have asked such searching questions, turning to the wise men of their nation and time for help in finding answers. They did so in ancient Greece, Egypt, Persia, India, China and Peru. And today also, thoughtful people everywhere turn to the wise men of our day for aid in solving these great problems, and the sages seek to give the benefit of their wisdom to the seekers. These wise men of today are mainly of two great classes; the wise men of religion and the wise men of science. Unfortunately, however', the answers of the men of science, on the one hand, often seem in conflict with those of the, men of religion on the other and seekers are left more confused than ever. Dean Sinnott, of Harvard University, in The Biology of the Spirit (Viking Press), describes the dilemma in these words:
Thoughtful people have thus been forced to lead double lives, one adapted to the practical affairs of the [Page 2] mechanistic world and the other to those deeper intuitive and emotional feelings which speak with such commanding inner authority.
This apparent conflict causes much distress to the earnest seeker; but it should not, for in reality there is no conflict but only two complementary viewpoints, an understanding of both of which is necessary in order to come closer to a complete understanding of life and its mysteries. Religion and science only work in opposite directions like the first finger and the thumb when they grasp an object, and just as the first finger or the thumb alone can only hold an object uncertainly, so an understanding of life's problems based on science or on religion alone is uncertain, whereas a problem grasped simultaneously from the opposite approaches of religion and science, can be firmly grasped and understood.
Such a firm grasp by the two opposing movements of the fingers is only possible because both are parts of a larger unit, the hand. And the firm grip on a problem which comes through using the approaches of religion and science is only possible when they are seen to be part of a greater unity which is the Ancient Wisdom. This Ancient Wisdom has been known under different names in different cultures. In India it has been and still is known as Brahma Vidyã (Wisdom of Brahma), the Neo-Platonists called it Theo Sophia (God Wisdom), and in modern days Theosophy presents the [Page 3] same great basic ideas, which unite men's seeking along the lines of religion, science, art, philosophy and all other lines of man's search for truth. Let us try to see how the ideas and ideals of the Ancient Wisdom can bring the opposing approaches of religion and science to work as a unity for the answering of life's greatest questions.
Let us first look at the scientific approach and see how it uses its methods to answer these great questions and to tell the story of Creation. Two important facts stand out in the scientific approach and answers. The first is the method and field of investigation used by science. Science voluntarily limits itself to a consideration of the objective universe of matter. In its basic approach it starts from an examination of the world of matter, the almost endless number of different forms and combinations of properties in the world around us which we contact with our physical senses. Its understanding is gained by examining this bewildering diversity of form and seeking ever more and more fundamental laws which will unite objects and phenomena. The second important fact in the scientific presentation is the existence of three great gaps or mysteries which the scientific approach can neither bridge nor solve.
First, there is a gap between that blank or darkness, or " nothingness", before manifestation began, and the time when science begins its story. Science begins on the assumption that there are [Page 4] already in existence, either distributed throughout the universe, or concentrated at its point of origin, large numbers of atoms or sub-atomic particles, the building blocks of the universe. Science assumes that they are there, but cannot explain their ultimate origin.
we pass this mystery by, and take for granted that these
building blocks are present, then, the story which science
tells, beginning beyond this realm of the unknown, unfolds
in a fascinating way. This story describes how, in this
area of our solar system there was first a faintly glowing,
gaseous nebula. Gradually as time went on, this chaotic,
disorganized system began to rotate. Then over further
vast periods of time, a nucleus began to form in the center,
later to become the sun. Around this sun matter began to
collect in rings which gradually condensed into the planets. [A
theory which science has alternately accepted and rejected
cut currently seems to accept]. Finally, from this
originally chaotic and completely disorganized system,
there emerged the highly organized solar system, with the
sun at its center and each planet at its allotted distance,
moving in its orbit, which can be calculated and predicted
with the very greatest of accuracy far into the past and
future. Thus in this first chapter which science tells
in astronomy and cosmology, there is the change from the
original apparent chaos into a highly organized system.[Page
The next chapter of the scientific story of Creation is told on our earth and it begins when the planet has cooled so that the dense clouds of vapor have begun to condense and form the oceans, but before this chapter can be told a second gap or mystery in scientific knowledge has to be passed. Somewhere in those warm oceans, atoms and molecules were brought together in peculiar combinations of great complexity, and in these microscopic, yet highly complex particles, a new element appeared which we call "consciousness". It holds the materials together and directs their life-activities while it is present. When it is withdrawn, at what is called death, the particles separate and disintegrate. The source, the nature and the origin of this "consciousness" is the second great gap in science's story of Creation. But, granted that consciousness has appeared, then, the second chapter unfolds with fascinating detail in the story of the evolution of living forms in the animal and plant kingdoms.
Over millions of years, science tells us, to meet the changes in environment, changes took place in the structures of these organisms and gradually the seemingly endless variety of living forms of the plant and animal kingdoms were produced, each having its position, either on the main trunk or on :some side branch or twig of that mighty tree of evolution. Thus science shows, in its theory of evolution, a vast ordered system of steady [Page 6] unfoldment, from the simple to the more complex forms of living things.
Then comes another gap or mystery, to be bridged before the third chapter in science's fascinating story can be told. This particular gap is so openly recognized that it is referred to as " the missing link", the link between the animal and the human kingdoms. The origin and nature of the human element is a mystery, but, granted that the first human beings have appeared on earth, then the story proceeds. Man, at first, we are told, was primitive and crude, living to satisfy his individual needs and urges, often completely without: regard for others. As vast periods of time passed, those God-like qualities within him led him to form clans, tribes and nations, and to build up civilizations, while the human weaknesses and ignorance in him weakened these structures so that they crumbled or were destroyed. There was thus a rise and fall of civilizations, yet, through it all there was a slow steady upward movement, a rhythmic progress, which led man from his primitive, cave-dwelling existence, to his present state. Thus, in this third chapter, as in the other two, science's, story of Creation shows in the world of man a steady growth from a primitive disorganization to a highly organized system.
As we consider this story, told by science, in its efforts to answer the great fundamental questions of the universe, three things stand out. First, the [Page 7] story is limited to the world of matter, or to causes which produce results in the world of matter. Second, in the detailed presentation of its three chapters it shows change from simple, apparently chaotic conditions of no organization, to complex and highly organized systems, and it shows this process repeating itself at successively higher levels like the successively higher rounds of a spiral. Third, the story has three great gaps in it, namely: the nature and origin of the sub-atomic particles of which the matter of the universe is built; the nature and origin of consciousness which inhabits all living forms; and the nature and origin of man.
Let us now turn to the approach of religion to these fundamental questions, not to the ideas of any one religion, but to those ideas which are common to Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and the great religions of all times, the ideas which represent the essence of the religious approach. Religion approaches these great basic questions from a point of view in many ways the exact opposite of that of science. It approaches them from the aspect of Spirit rather than of matter, from an original unity rather than an existing diversity, and from a formless world rather than from an objective world. Behind all the bewildering details of scriptural story and precept the great religions proclaim certain fundamental principles:
First - There exists one Supreme FIRST CAUSE from which all manifestation comes [Page 8] forth and to which it will return. It is Eternal, Causeless, Still. It is said that " only its laws endure".
Second - A fragment of the Divine Self is enshrined in the heart of every living thing, seeking to unfold its Divine Self through the lower nature in the world of matter. This has been called "The Inner Ruler Immortal, seated in the heart of all beings”.
These concepts are examples of those "deeper intuitive and emotional feelings which speak with such commanding inner authority " of which Dean Sinnott spoke. Unfortunately, however, as time has passed, man-made superstitions and fears have so heavily covered these great principles with the dust and grime of human weaknesses that it is frequently difficult to perceive the great realities. But they exist in all the great scriptures of the world.
there is a great gap between the spiritual truths presented by religion,
and the objective facts described in detail by science. Leading thinkers
are trying to bridge this gap and show these two as part of a greater unity.
For example, Dr. Albert Einstein said that science without religion is lame.
Religion without science is blind. He also said that he felt reverence for
the illimitably superior Intelligence who reveals himself in the few details
we are able to perceive.[Page
The playwright, Robert Sherwood, approaching from the opposite side of the gap wrote:
The most important statement in the recorded history of man is: " God created man in His own image" . . . '[This Divine Source] has impelled man out of the jungles and along the ascending path that leads to the stars .... his perhaps blind, but persistent faith in his God-like qualities has enabled man to defy all scientific proof that he is frail, physically and morally — that he is in a word, mortal. He has gone out on his own and found ways to make himself immortal.
At the end of the last century H. P. Blavatsky made a statement which showed the basic plan of such a bridge when she said:" Wherever there is an atom or a particle of matter there is life in it". This idea, that there is a life, and a form aspect, to all, is a concept that can link science and religion.
in this thought is one of the great basic ideas which are so beautifully
presented in the classic literature of Theosophy. It gives a key to a deeper
understanding of Life's great questions. It is the concept that all manifestation
is dual, that it has two aspects, the aspects of spirit and matter, or life
and form, and that in order to understand nature we must appreciate both
aspects of the picture she paints. We must see both the life and the form
side of all things. From this point of view the facts of science are seen
to be only one side of the picture, the form side. We must look at the other,
or life side, as well.[Page
In the first chapter of science's story of Creation, we saw in the world of form the emergence of a solar system from a chaotic, gaseous, nebula. This is a wonderful description of the form side of the picture, vast changes in the world of matter. Walt Whitman, in his poem "When I Heard the Learned Astronomer". describes the far deeper understanding which comes by appreciating, not only the development and changes of form described by astronomy, but the life side as well. He describes how, tired of the charts, facts and figures, he left the learned lecturer on astronomy and went outside, alone, and stood looking up at the stars, in perfect silence. One who has thus stood alone looking at the stars in perfect silence, knows that in the cosmos, in addition to the material universe, a life-force throbs through space seeking to express itself ever more and more fully as the matter becomes more and more responsive to the great life-forces of the universe.
In the second chapter, the lowly forms of the plant kingdom, such as the algae, lichen and mosses are very inadequate channels for the expression of the life within, but as the higher stages, are reached it expresses itself more and more fully until it is most fully seen in the grandeur and majesty of a great tree or the beauty of a flower. Similarly, in the animal kingdom: the life can only express itself feebly in the simpler forms of the mollusc and jelly-fish. The forms of the fishes, [Page 11] amphibians, reptiles and mammals become more and more suitable channels for the Divine Life until it reaches its highest expression in the grace and beauty of a deer, and the loyalty, devotion and intelligence of some of our domestic animals and pets, such as the dog, the horse and the cat.
In man also, very incompletely were the life and form drawn together in the primitive human, but as time has passed a stage of advancement has been reached where that Divine Life expresses itself somewhat more fully in so called civilized man: a creature who is still far from perfect. Here and there, however, as we read the history of the world, we find instances in which a human being has lived who has so moulded the matter of his personality that it has become an almost perfect channel for the expression of the life within, as he or she has lived as a great leader of humanity, a great sage or a saint.
Thus, each chapter of science's story repeats the same theme, of life descending to express itself more fully through the form and the form becoming ever more complex and better adapted to express the life within. It is as though the world of form sought slowly to mould itself into a chalice to receive the outpouring of the Divine Life. This process repeats itself at successively higher levels of the spiral of evolution.
This key-idea of the duality of the great processes of manifestation gives added meaning and [Page 12] significance to our study of the great processes of the macrocosm, but what about individual man ? How does this knowledge affect him? The connection becomes apparent when we think of the great "Principle of Correspondences" which states that the great cosmic processes of the universe reflect themselves, in miniature, in the processes of individuals. The principle, as it relates to man was stated by Swedenborg when he said that the entire creation is only a titanic man, and we are made in the image and likeness of the universe. The Chinese philosopher Lao-tze said: "The universe is a man on a large scale". The converse of this is: " Man is the universe on a small scale". Tennyson stated this idea in poetic form when he said of the flower:
.......but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
The same great principle was expressed by Dr. Alfred Taylor of Texas University in a lecture on cell life in which he repeated over and over ...again, "The whole is in the part", meaning that, in the structure and action of each cell, is to be found the history and principles of all cell life. Man, then, reflects in his microcosmic world, these same great macrocosmic principles we have been discussing. One of the finest definitions of man is that of H. P. Blavatsky who used this principle when she said that man is that point in evolution [Page 13] where highest Spirit is united to densest matter by the bridge of intelligence. Slowly the life and form in each of us draw together, the matter of the personality becoming more responsive to the Divine Life within and that Divine Self learning to express itself more and more fully through the limitations of the personality.
As we consider this glorious concept of ourselves, however, and then look at our daily lives, most of us will recognize that a large share of the activities of daily life are the semi-automatic responses of the lower nature to stimuli from without, to the necessity of providing food, clothing and shelter for the physical body and for getting along with our neighbors. Apparently, in the physical world we are largely unconscious of the Divine Self.
Yet each of us has had moments of inspiration when we have transcended this personality and become aware of this Divine Nature. Such moments may have come from a deep appreciation of the beauties of Nature. Perhaps as we have watched the beauty of a sunset, we have known in our inmost hearts the reality of the life that pulses through this beauty and have felt a yearning to be one with it. At such a moment we have felt our inmost nature. These moments of inspiration and true Self-knowledge may have come in various ways. Perhaps they came in some great religious experience, in appreciating or creating a work of art or music. Perhaps they came in a feeling of deep [Page 14] pure love, either for all humanity or for one individual. Perhaps they came in the pure joy which follows after having performed an act of service for another, without any selfish motive and at cost of real sacrifice on our part. However they may have arisen, each of us has such recollections in his own experience, and these are the moments when we have known the Divine Self, the " Inner Ruler Immortal, seated in the heart of all beings".
When we think of our true spiritual nature, and the joy which comes when we are aware of it, and compare this with the life of daily routine, in which this spiritual consciousness is largely covered over by the automatic responses of the lower personality, we may well compare man with the symbol of the crucifix and the story of the crucifixion. In that symbol, the cross, with its four arms, represents matter; resistant, unyielding matter. Nailed to it, so that all the glory of His life is destroyed, is the most spiritual being of whom His followers can conceive, the Christ. In that symbol, matter seems to be completely triumphant, to have completely destroyed the Spiritual Self which is "crucified, dead and buried". But the story goes on to tell that, though at that stage, the Life seems to be completely overcome by matter, this is only apparently so, for after he had thus descended He "rose from the dead" and, because of His descent into matter, He gained the capacity to serve humanity, to teach, to heal and to bless as never before. This is the story of [Page 15] the descent of the Divine into every human life, its apparent death and burial there at the hands of the material world and its inevitable final triumphant resurrection. In all the great religions of the world the same story is repeated in different forms. It was told in ancient Egypt in the death of the great God Osiris and his final triumphant resurrection. It is depicted symbolically in the ceremonies of the Masonic Orders, and it was told in Greece in the descent of Orpheus into the underworld. A beautiful new symbolic representation of the same idea is found in the meditation room in the United Nations Building. Here, where some have wisely thought it good to provide a special room where delegates may escape from the war of tongues and have "a center of stillness surrounded by silence", a problem arose as to what to put in the room, since the symbol of any religion might be inspiring to one and objectionable to another. This was solved by placing in the center a solid block of iron ore, symbol of matter, with a single bright light, symbol of Spirit, shining on it from above. The meaning of this is explained as the light of Spirit shining on matter and drawing forth the life in it. An interesting summary of the whole idea is the statement of Henri Bergson that " the Universe is a machine for making Gods ".
Each human life is divine in its essential nature. That Divine Self, the true man, is veiled in successively denser layers of matter, each with its separate [Page 16] characteristics and consciousness. The ultimate purpose of life for man is to let this Divine Self within, unfold and express its divine powers through these lower veils of matter — to let the beauty of the spiritual Self unfold and open, like the bud of a beautiful flower, and expose its beauty and shed its fragrance on all around. This, many believe, is the real purpose and ultimate goal of man's life. Yet as we look at the world we see millions of children growing up, passing through youth and maturity, to old age and death, without achieving this goal. Their efforts appear largely to be lost. Many feel that the teachings of religion alone are inadequate to explain this. However, when we add the teachings of science to those of religion we find great concepts which remove the difficulties.
First, science teaches that the process of the growth and unfoldment of the potentialities of life and form is vastly deliberate and magnificently slow. It takes millions of years for major changes in evolution to develop and come to maturity. From. this point of view, then, the individual who expects this great goal of the unfoldment of man's spiritual powers in the world of form, to be achieved in a life-time, is, to quote a Chinese saying, like the individual who, "looks at an egg and expects to hear it crow"! Vast periods of time are required for the attainment of such great goals. But the thoughtful man will then ask how such vast periods of time are to [Page 17] be made available since man has only one life-time in which to achieve and only in very rare cases does this life-time extend to a hundred years. The answer to this is found in science's second great concept, that, wherever life and form are united, that is, wherever there is a living thing, rhythms of various frequencies are necessary to link life and form or, as we would say, to " maintain life ". There are the extremely rapid vibrations such as electrical impulses in the " brain waves " investigated in encephalography and similar studies, the slower vibrations of the beating of the heart and breathing, far slower still, the endless rhythm of eating, digesting and feeling hunger; and the rhythm of fully conscious activity during the day followed by a period of withdrawal of consciousness or sleep, at night. The stopping of any of these rhythmic processes may cause "death". These are only some of the more rapid vibrations. There are far longer and deeper vibrations which are lost sight of because of man's preoccupation with this brief, but to him, all-important, period of time between birth and death, which he calls life.
Many people feel that the growth of the Immortal Self in man, towards its goal of Self-expression in form, is by vast rhythmic processes. Just as the personality moves towards its major goals in life through many days of working and experiencing, followed by nights of rest; so on a vaster scale the Immortal Self in man moves [Page 18] towards its great goal by its " days " of activity, which we call lives, followed by nights of rest which are the periods between these lives.
Thus, over vast periods of time, commensurate with those postulated by science, for the attainment of the goals of evolution, the Immortal Self unfolds its spiritual powers in the world of form. This rhythmic process of the unfoldment of man's divine powers has been openly avowed by great thinkers of the world when the intellectual climate allowed it, and been hinted at, or spoken of in more veiled terms when religious orthodoxy denied it.
Yet a third principle from the world of science must be applied to the teachings of religion to make them more deeply significant, this is the principle that we live in a world of law and that Nature is conquered by obedience to Nature's laws. Thus this whole great process of the unfoldment of man's divine powers in these lower worlds of form, takes place by a process of learning Nature's laws of the physical, emotional and mental worlds and living in accordance with them. When we have found these laws and built our lives in accordance with them, the whole of life becomes a song of happiness for ourselves and all around us, and life expresses itself freely, beautifully and joyously in all our actions. Thus the existence of completely inviolable, natural law provides the means whereby, through vast rhythmic processes, [Page 19] over great periods of time, the spiritual Self in man expresses itself ever more fully.
This stupendous concept, of the steady growth into unity and harmonious expression of the life and form of man, until, so far as human evolution is concerned, perfection is reached, gives meaning to the words of the Christ: " Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect " (Matt., V. 48) and to those of Saint Paul: " Till we all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph IV. 13). Here are definite statements of the goal towards which all humanity is moving. It is the same goal, which is described in all the religions of the world. The steps and the obstacles on this path have been pictured over and over again, in allegory, in the great myths and legends of the world. In these we often find, man, symbolized by a hero, who has a God for his father and a mortal for his mother, so that he is half-mortal and half-divine, which is a true description of man. The stories tell how this hero sets out on his great quest and how he meets obstacles and overcomes them. All of this symbolizes obstacles we meet on the path and sources of difficulty and help within us and around us.
In reality this path is threefold, as man's true nature, being made in the Divine Image, is threefold. There are three major branches along any [Page 20] one of which a man may move towards the great goal of human perfection. These correspond to the development of the three divine attributes of Will, Intelligence and Love. There follows a sketch of the characteristics of each.
THE PATH OF WILL
This is the path of him " Who moulds his image in the likeness of the Will of God".. On this path the Power aspect of the threefold divine nature is dominant.
In the early stages of his great rhythmic growth towards perfection, this strength aspect will reflect itself powerfully in the personality of the seeker. But, because the personality is ignorant of the great laws of the worlds of form, this will and strength are directed largely to the gaining of selfish ends. This individual therefore, in the early stages of his great pilgrimage through these worlds of matter uses his strength to gain what he wants by force and personal will, often satisfying his desires regardless of the consequences to others. This makes him frequently the center of quarrels and fights as his growing strength brings him into repeated conflicts. He becomes a petty leader, gathering followers around him, who, while respecting him for his power, nevertheless follow him primarily for what they can gain by working with him.
Eventually, after long periods of struggle to control his surroundings and bring to his little [Page 21] personality what it wants, there dawns a growing dissatisfaction. He begins to realize that his ceaseless search for happiness and security, by taking by force that which he wants, does not give lasting happiness or joy but only leads to further struggle and conflict. Then, inwardly, begins the great search for a deeper meaning, for that which will give lasting peace and bliss. This inner discontent may slowly grow, through many lives, while he seeks deeper and deeper for the answers to life's most fundamental problems.
Eventually the light begins to dawn for this man of will. He begins to recognize that behind the chaotic turmoil, there exists One Will, which is the Supreme Will, and he realizes slowly that the only way in which he can find true happiness is by putting his little will into complete harmony with the One Will and saying: "Not my will, but Thy Will be done".
This is now, for him, the great goal in life. It involves the complete changing of the motives for every feeling, thought and action, and therefore it involves deep inner struggle. He faces this task in the manner typical of the man of will. He passes the whole of his lower nature before him in review, much as a General preparing for battle might review his forces. He looks at his own personality directly and fearlessly, seeing what is good and must be used and strengthened, and what is wrong and must be altered or discarded. Then begins the internal [Page 22] conflict as he effects these changes, and violent and intense is the inner struggle, for this is the man in whom the conscious patterns of reaction have been strengthened by long effort far beyond the similar efforts of other men. However, he will find that though the resistance to be overcome is greater, so also is the power within him greater arid, as he is able to say: "Not my will but Thy Will be done", he invokes an irresistible force.
Slowly the personality is thus moulded to become a vehicle for the
expression of the One Will. He again emerges as a leader in the world of
form but now he is a leader in great movements for the progress of the
race and for the uplifting of humanity. He becomes the great
reformer, the great champion of the downtrodden, the mistreated, and the
victims of social injustice. He now becomes the great leader who inspires
others to follow him, not by rousing the hope of selfish gain but by helping
them to know and to feel the One Life in all and to work in harmony with
that and for its service.
For each great path there is an invocation which seems particularly to call on the power which is its keynote. An invocation helpful to the follower of this path might be:
More radiant than the Sun,
Purer than the snow,
Subtler than the ether,
Is the Self, the Spirit within my heart.
I am that Self. That Self am I. [Page 23]
THE PATH OF WISDOM
This is the path of him "Who moulds his image in the likeness of the Wisdom of God". Before he realizes that his purpose in life is to shed the light of the Wisdom of God around him, the man who follows this path is at work in the realms of knowledge for his own ends. Cleverness and even cunning are prominent characteristics, and he will take great pains to examine, analyze and dissect and thus he will develop highly the powers of mind. The cunning lawyer and the crooked salesman are early types of those who will progress along this line. The time will come when this man will realize that all this search for knowledge, with himself as the center, with analysis as the method, and personal gain as the object, does not bring happiness.
Darkness and light have always been the symbols of ignorance and wisdom, and this man now takes Light as the object of his search. The finding and spreading of the Light will become the central purpose of his life. He now examines himself to see where the veils of superstition and prejudice have wound themselves through his mind and heart, blocking the Light. He seeks to tear down these veils and to find the Light of the Temple of Wisdom within himself. His first step is to raise his objectives from the seeking of mere knowledge to the seeking of Wisdom. To do this he must leave the restless [Page 24] prodding and searching for details and learn to hear the unity of Nature's song. He hears this ever more fully as he learns to sense the beauty and the unity of God's plan in the world and finds himself not only a part of that unity but one with it. He finds deep within himself the same light of God's Wisdom which shines through all. Henceforth all his seeking and painstaking thought will be directed to finding the one Light, the Divine Light, within himself, and in all Nature. No longer will he be destructive in his search for knowledge, for now he will look directly and invoke the Light of Divine Wisdom within himself to shine through the darkness of the outer forms and show him the Divine Light in that which he seeks to understand.
the search for the Light begins to achieve success he can
return to his books and the details of his worldly work
and shed a wonderful new light on the problems he now
considers. But he must dedicate his work utterly to the
service of humanity and of the Light otherwise, the pride
of the lower self, the great danger to the man of this
temperament, will block the shining of the Light and
turn him from the path he has chosen, changing his Light
to darkness. If he holds fast to his ideals, attacks
will only intensify his search until he becomes as a
Light shining in the darkness, shedding the Light of
God's Wisdom on the world and calling to men to rend
the veils of prejudice and superstition which shroud
the Light within. [Page
An invocation suitable for the man who seeks to tread the path of Wisdom might be:
From the unreal, lead me to the Real,
From darkness, lead me to Light,
From death, lead me to Immortality.
THE PATH OF LOVE
This is the path of him "Who moulds his image in the likeness of the Love of God". In the early stages his activities are largely dominated by the emotional nature, by its ever-changing likes and dislikes, in the worlds of form. As time passes, through the experience of many lives, the emotional power becomes strong and dominates the mind and the physical body. Its desires are basically selfish and degrade both himself and the object of his affections. Finally comes the realization that lasting happiness will never come by gratifying the desires of the personality. Like those on the other paths, he also enters the period of inner search, seeking a deeper goal and a deeper meaning for life. His answer comes as he learns the universality of the Life behind and within all forms, and determines to see it and serve it within his own heart and in all forms around him, no matter how evil he or it may appear on the surface.
Like the others, this man then passes his personality in review, examining his strong points [Page 26] and his weaknesses and seeking to make his personality an instrument for serving the one life within and without. The method by which he proceeds is that of recognizing, even in his faults, the seeds of virtues, and then giving all his attention and life-giving energy to strengthening these seeds which will grow and blossom, while, from lack of attention, the outer husk of the vice falls lifeless away and there stands in its place the beauty of the noble virtue.
As the aspirant learns to see behind the forms, to the One Life, a change takes place within his own nature and he learns to live in constant inner communion with the One Life within his own heart which steadily radiates an impersonal love on all around, untroubled by the passing waves of personal feeling which no longer disturb that eternal peace. Thus he passes to his goal.
An invocation of particular help to him who seeks to move along the path of Love might be:
O Hidden Life! vibrant in every atom;
O Hidden Light! shining in every creature;
O Hidden Love! embracing all in oneness;
May each, who feels himself as one with thee,
Know he is also one with every other.
It is well for each person to decide for himself which of these three paths is the path he will tread and to begin consciously to develop the qualities of that path now. But each should also realize that: [Page 27] the strong development of one of these aspects of his nature will necessitate a development of the other aspects, and the final goal of perfected humanity will only be reached when each man has developed all three aspects to perfection. [Page 28]
THE SEARCH FOR THE SELF
modern man needs to know one thing more than anything else,
it is something about his own nature. Isn't it amazing
that the last thing man discovers is himself ? As one of
our military leaders said recently, "
We know so much about killing and so little about living .
. . We know so much about things and so little about ourselves
. . . We are a nation of nuclear giants and ethical infants". If
we look at modern knowledge and see some of the vast strides
that have been taken in various fields we will see that this
is true. In the fields of astronomy and physics — the
macrocosm for example, scientists are continually making new
discoveries. Our concepts of the universe and space
and time, etc have changed tremendously in the last hundred
years. At the opposite end of the scale — look at the
world of matter, the atom, the microcosm. Our ideas about matter
have been revolutionized in the last century. We are getting
much closer to the truth of what matter and the atom really
are. How our material lives [Page
29] are being
changed in this nuclear era! Even as far as living things
are concerned, we have made some progress. Through our studies
of the plant and animal kingdoms, we are now able to raise
a better ear of corn, a more beautiful flower, a more productive
fruit tree, and more highly bred animals. But what about man
? Most men are not only a mystery to themselves but they are
even unaware that there is a mystery and of course wecannot
do much about solving a problem until we at least realize
there is a problem to be solved. If we were to ask the first
man we met on the street what he really is — what happens
when he acts and feels and thinks — what
is the constant urge or driving force that makes him continue
on through life; he would not only be unable to answer, but
the very question would seem strange to him. Yet what can be
more strange than that we travel the weary road from birth
to death with all of its problems and difficulties and never
stop to question "why". Suppose we saw an individual struggling
up the mountain side carrying a heavy burden and, when we stopped
him to ask where he was going with such a heavy load, he were
to answer that the question had never occurred to him. We would
certainly think there was something wrong with that individual,
would we not? Isn't that what men are doing when they go through
this life, with all of its ups and downs, and never ask "why"? [Page
However, the time does come for every individual, in this long pilgrimage from birth to perfection, when he does begin to question. Such times usually come when we have experienced some great suffering, or difficulty or problem — some experience that strips some of the superficiality from us and brings us face to face with ourselves — circumstances that break through these outer shells we all build around our real selves. It is very interesting that we never question all the good fortune that comes to us. We are sure we deserve anything good that comes our way — we take it all for granted; but when trouble comes, that is a different story. Clergymen, doctors, psychiatrists, and others consulted by people in trouble, will tell you that the commonest question asked by those who come for help is " Why should this happen to me?" So I sometimes feel that these great difficulties, these so-called evils, are in reality great blessings because they do force us deeper within ourselves, for the answers to life. One philosopher has put it this way: "Pain makes man think; thinking makes man wise; wisdom makes life endurable". However, I would change that last phrase to read: "Real wisdom makes life a great joy".
Now let us think through this question together and see if we cannot come to a little deeper understanding of what we really are. When we look at an individual, the first thing we are usually [Page 31] conscious of is the physical body — this thing we see in the mirror. Many people think they are just a physical body and that physical existence is the only existence; so they spend their entire lifetime feeding and indulging the physical body — providing it with every comfort, adorning it with costly jewels and expensive clothing, catering to its every whim. These are the kinds of individuals who "live to eat", instead of "eating to live". Their philosophy is "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die". Such individuals have as their greatest goal in life that of gaining enough wealth to provide them with every possible physical luxury and care so that they will no longer have to turn a hand for themselves unless they feel like it. But surely a little thought on the subject will convince us that we are more than merely a physical body. In the first place, physiologists tell us that the material of which our physical bodies are composed is constantly changing and that within a very short time we have a completely new physical body — not one single cell of the old one is left. Yet, we feel we are the same individual do we not — with the same likes and dislikes, the same capacities and characteristics? Also, we can control our physical body — we can make it move when we want it to move, we can train it in skills; such as playing the piano, or typing, or swimming, or in doing various other things. Well, if I can control this physical body then I must be [Page 32] something more than just the physical body. Who, then, is this "I" that controls it?
Just as we have different gradations of physical matter; the solids and liquids that are visible, and air and further gradations of ether that are invisible, so this gradation of matter continues and we have what we might call emotional matter because it is subtle enough to respond to those more rapid rates of vibration which we call emotion. This matter makes up our emotional body, sometimes called our desire body, because it is the driving force of our nature that impels us to go after the things we desire. I think it is fairly easy to prove the existence of our emotional body to ourselves if we can be objective about it. The next time you have occasion to visit a funeral parlor, a hospital, a great cathedral, a football game, or an exciting movie, for example, observe yourself and see how difficult it is, when you are in such intense emotional atmospheres, not to let your own emotional body respond to it, and become affected by that concentrated, emotional atmosphere. It is very difficult to stay in such a highly charged atmosphere without beginning to respond, and feel that same type of emotion. Also, you probably have had the experience at some time in your life of being carried completely away by your emotional body — perhaps in a fit of anger or fear or excitement — until you lost control of yourself entirely and didn't know what you were doing. However, we can control [Page 33] our emotions. So, who is the " I " who controls them?
This gradation of matter goes on to finer, subtler and rarer matter capable of responding to the even more rapid vibrations which we call thought, and we have what we might call a mental body made up of this mental matter — mind stuff — so subtle and so rare that it is able to respond to thought waves. You are probably all familiar with the work that great scientists are doing to prove scientifically the existence of this mental matter and thought waves and the effects these have on us. Men like Dr J B Rhine of Duke University, in experimenting with telepathy, and many others working in the field of parapsychology are moving in this direction. But, here again, I feel we can prove to some extent for ourselves the existence of this mental body. How often, for example, do two people think of the same thing at the same time — especially if those two individuals are very close to each other. Husband and wife, or two close friends who have built up a strong rapport with each other often demonstrate this. One may have been thinking of something else entirely and all of a sudden both say the same thing at the same time. Or you may have had the experience, that many of us have had, of attending a lecture or class in which a professor was expounding some very profound and difficult subject, and while you were there, listening to him, you seemed to comprehend the whole subject. Later, when [Page 34] you got home, however, and tried to explain it to someone else, you found that when you had only your own mental body and thought power to turn on the subject you were not capable of reproducing that kind of thinking — that you were only able to understand because of the intense mental atmosphere created by that professor and the other students in the group that were following the discussion. Also, we can control our minds. We can concentrate on this particular problem, or turn it to another subject, or hold it so still that the brain brings through no thought images. If we can control our mind, then, we must be something more than mind. Who, then, is this " I" that controls ?
I would like to suggest that these three bodies: the physical, composed of physical matter capable of responding to physical stimuli, the emotional, formed of finer matter capable of responding to the more rapid vibrations of emotion, and the mental body made of still subtler and more rarified matter capable of responding to the much more rapid vibrations of thought — these three bodies make up our personality. Here I would like to call your attention to the origin and meaning of the word "personality". It comes from the Latin word persona, meaning a mask. That is exactly what the personality is, a mask of the Real Self — simply three cloaks or vehicles we wear in order to experience or respond to stimuli in the three worlds of matter [Page 35] — physical, emotional and mental. If we did not have these cloaks or vehicles we could not respond to these worlds. It is very much as if you put on a fine silk coat (the mental body), and on top of that a heavier topcoat (the emotional body), and on top of that a huge bulky cloak (the physical body). Each one of them limits you. Each one of them hides the Real You. Each one of them makes it more difficult for you to express yourself as you really are. It also makes it more difficult for others to know the Real You.
Now the really great tragedy occurs when we become so limited, so encased within these cloaks, or vehicles, or masks, that we begin identifying ourselves with them: when we say "I am hungry". "I am tired" and think we are really hungry and tired instead of realizing it is only the physical body that is hungry and tired and certainly we must see that it gets proper care, but is not indulged. We are even getting to the point these days of identifying ourselves with our automobiles. We hear people say " I need gas", or "I have a flat tire", or "My brakes need relining", etc.. Well, of course, we don't need gas or have a flat tire; it is our car, and certainly we need to take proper care of it as it won't run very well without gas and proper tires. The same thing is true of the body. We are no more our bodies than we are our car. Both are vehicles we use. We make the same mistake of identifying ourselves with our [Page 36] emotions. We say, "I am angry", or "I am sad". You never get angry or sad — your emotional body may, but not you. This may also be applied to the world of thought or mind.
An individual may use a car if he is going to travel on land and may change to a ship to travel the seas and a plane to travel by air. It is the same individual traveling, he simply uses a different vehicle depending on the matter on or through which he wishes to travel. He is not the car or the ship or the plane, they are simply the vehicles, without which he could not travel in that particular element. In just the same way we require vehicles or bodies, in order to act in the three worlds of matter. All are transient — our instruments, wearing out and being renewed according to our needs. Well then, who am I?
I would like to suggest that in order to understand what we really are and what our true destiny is, we need to gain a greater perspective — we need to build a larger framework into which we can fit all of life and see our relationship to it. Science gives us some partial answers, philosophy gives us some partial answers, religion and psychology give us partial answers but very often the answer of the scientist seems to be in conflict with that of the philosopher and that of the religionist doesn't agree with that of the psychologist. Trying to fit all of these fragments of truth together is, to me, like trying to add one-third, one-fourth, and one-fifth. [Page 37] How are you going to add one-third, one-fourth, and one-fifth ? It can never be done as long as they remain in this form — fractions with differing denominators. They can only be added when you supply a common denominator, which will be larger than any single denominator, but which will contain them all, in this case sixty. To me that larger denominator into which we can fit all of the fragments of truth is Theosophy — the Ancient Wisdom.
would like, very briefly and sketchily, to build a framework
of Theosophy large enough to contain all of life so that
we may see our relationship to it. Now, when I say "briefly and sketchily" you will understand something of
what I mean when I tell you that the word "Theosophy" means " Divine
Wisdom" which, of course, I do not pretend to have, in anything
approximating its completion. All the Theosophy written so far is only a
fragment of a fragment of that Divine Wisdom. Even to try to comprehend
that which has been expressed in books takes a lifetime of study and I am
going to try to build this framework in ten or fifteen minutes, so it will be
sketchy with many gaps — just the framework or scaffolding from which you
will have to erect your own edifice. Also, may I reiterate that these are
simply ideas and concepts for your consideration and never dogmas for
your belief — possible hypotheses that you may want to
think about and try out for yourself. [Page
Let us try to push back in our imagination to the time when there was no universe — a time when there is no life on this planet — no planet — no universe —- just an Absolute, Perfect, Unmanifest Deity, Causeless Cause, Logos, God, or simply That, as the Hindus call It. Of this state it is said: "Time was not for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of Duration. . . . Alone the one form of existence stretched, boundless, infinite, causeless in dreamless sleep. . . . The visible that was, and the invisible that is, rested in Eternal Non-Being the One Being". I am aware it is impossible for us to imagine the infinite with a finite mind so let us begin with manifestation which is also finite. Even this will seem beyond the furthest stretch of our imagination but as we must begin somewhere, let us try this.
To me it
is much easier to try to understand these tremendous abstract
concepts with the help of diagrams and charts. I have reproduced
a diagram which is often used by Theosophists to present
these concepts of the creation of the Universe. While I explain
it I would like you to keep in mind that it is a diagrammatic
representation. Although the diagram depicts layers of matter,
one on top of another, all these are in reality right here,
interpenetrating; not in layers at all. This gradation of
matter could be just as truly represented if I had placed
a point in the center of concentric circles as might form
if I were to drop a stone in a [Page 39]
[Page 40] quiet pool, circles radiating from the point where the stone hit the water. All types of matter interpenetrate at any point, but they have been separated in layers in this diagram in order to help us understand more easily.
You will notice that at the top of the diagram there are three circles which represent the three Aspects of the Divine. In our Christian terminology we refer to them as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In ancient Egypt these were referred to as Osiris, Horus and Isis. In Hinduism they are called Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Because we are probably all more familiar with the Christian terminology we will use that. Let us keep in mind here, too, that all is one — One First Cause — One God — the Three Aspects are one, but we have separated them to help us understand.
Manifestation begins with the Third Aspect — the Holy Spirit Aspect — the Divine Creative Power, Energy or Intelligence. We find a reference to this in the Bible when it says, " And the Spirit of God Moved on the Face of the Waters". This is the Aspect of God which creates matter, the atoms, at all levels, thus preparing the Field in which all manifestation is to take place. It creates atoms and holds them together in molecules or elements, which become ever denser and denser as the Energy is slowed down to slower and slower rates of vibration. At last it is so slowed down, so crystallized, that it appears to us as physical matter—dense, solid [Page 41] matter (so-called). It is extremely interesting that our modern physicists now tell us that matter is energy. They don't quite say " God's Energy slowed down" yet, but they have at least discovered it is energy.
the field of manifestation has been created, or prepared
the Second Aspect, the God the Son Aspect which is the
life or consciousness aspect, takes that matter — atoms — builds
it into forms and ensouls the forms. It is impossible
for us to conceive what the forms might be like at these
higher levels of existence; certainly they would not
be objective, concrete forms such as we know at the
physical level, but rather the archetypes or abstractions,
capable of being developed into infinite multiplicities — every
conceivable form that we know as physical forms. Perhaps
we might get some concept of this if we try to think
of the abstract idea of "tree"; a tree idea that would
contain every tree that has ever been or ever might
be — "treeness" we might
say; or the abstract idea of triangle, capable of containing
within itself every conceivable triangle. This Second
Aspect — the God the
Son Aspect — begins as a Divine Spark or Seed, with
everything latent or germinal. The initial process in manifestation
of this Second Aspect is a process of the life or consciousness — the
Divine Seed — involving
itself into denser and denser matter — forms — before
it can begin this long process of evolving itself back up,
out of matter. [Page
Now some people may ask, " What is the purpose of all this? If life is already Divine, why go through all of this in order to reach the Divine again?" I suppose it is hardly our province to question the Deity and His purposes, but it may be helpful in understanding this whole process to use the law of correspondences that was described in the talk on the " Plan ". Let us consider the acorn and the oak tree and let the oak tree correspond to the Divine — the Whole or One — and the acorn correspond to the Divine Spark or Seed. Picture in your imagination a perfect oak tree, complete with acorns, which are, of course, part of it; they are part of the perfect oak tree. Now we could just leave it at that and the acorns could remain as part of the perfect tree. But what happens ? The acorn drops from the oak tree, descends into matter — the earth — gets itself buried in dense matter for a period of time in order that it may evolve out of matter again, to become itself a perfect oak tree, complete with acorns capable of producing other oak trees, which in their turn can repeat the same process. This is a process of Unconscious Perfection, moving to Conscious Imperfection (as the Divine Seed involves itself in matter), and finally through evolution to Self-Conscious Perfection. The life or consciousness begins, then, as a Divine Spark and the first process is involution into denser and denser forms until it finally involves itself" [Page 43] in the densest physical matter — the mineral kingdom.
us consider what life must be like in the mineral. In this
densest of physical matter we have life most limited or
restricted because of the germinal or seed-like nature
of that life and because the dense matter in which it is
involved provides the most rigid form. It takes an extreme
outside stimulus to call forth any response whatsoever
from the sleeping life within. So what do we find going
on at the mineral level? Tremendous, devastating upheavals — earthquakes,
volcanic eruptions, extreme heat, extreme
cold, unbelievable pressures, deluges producing violent floods,
etc. I never think of this process of the evolution of
life in the mineral kingdom without being reminded of Walt
Disney's Fantasia. In one episode
he depicts his concept of the formation of the universe. In
his inimitable way he vividly portrays these great upheavals,
these ceaseless cataclysmic displays of nature's irresistible
forces calling forth some faint response from the sleeping
life within the mineral. Eventually, and we must remember
that what I am presenting in ten minutes took place over
a period of millions and millions of years, eventually
the involved life does begin to respond and the matter
does begin to be a little more plastic and we finally have
what we might call the "kings" of the mineral kingdom in the
jewels and crystals of that kingdom. [Page
Certainly anyone who has ever studied crystallography has been filled with awe and wonder by the beauty, symmetry and precise formations of those crystals. One great crystallographer, who had been illustrating the process of the formation of crystals with pictures, concluded his lecture with these words: "Atom is thus added to atom, and molecule to molecule, not boisterously or fortuitously, but silently and symmetrically, and in accordance with laws more rigid than those which guide a human builder when he places his bricks and stones together ... It runs, as if alive, into the most beautiful symmetric forms". I think if we could sum up the experience gained by the life in the mineral kingdom we might say that it learns to respond to outside stimuli and learns to build according to the laws of symmetry. The very rigidity of the matter in which it builds, forces it to build according to the laws of symmetry.
There are no great leaps in nature and scientists have difficulty drawing a fine line of demarcation between what can be classified as mineral crystal forms and some plant forms which seem to be almost mineral; also between some plant forms that seem to have characteristics of the animal kingdom. So this life that has evolved through the mineral kingdom moves on to begin experience in the plant kingdom. Now it is much more responsive to outside stimuli, plants being decidedly more sensitive than minerals. They still build according to the laws of [Page 45] symmetry but now in matter that is much more plastic and we find the myriads of beautiful symmetric forms which make up the entire plant kingdom. In addition, as the life moves on into the vegetable kingdom it begins to develop that power of consciousness which we call sensation, the ability to feel and react. In this kingdom we see responses to pleasure and pain, attraction and repulsion. Thus the life is gradually evolving or moving up into the realms shown on the chart as the emotional plane. Plants will go out to the things they like and withdraw from the things they do not like. Plants that like sun will reach out in the direction of the sun; those that like water send their roots out in the direction of water. Those that do not like salt will withdraw their roots from the ground where salt has been sprinkled and send them out in the opposite direction. We may not be able to say that plants actually have emotions or feelings but certainly there are indications that the consciousness in them is evolving through matter in that direction. Finally we come to what we might call the kings of the plant kingdom in the great majestic trees and beautiful flowers and again the life or consciousness graduates from this kingdom and moves on for experience to the animal kingdom.
In this kingdom we find still greater response to outside stimuli, the life continues to build according to the laws of symmetry and the consciousness of [Page 46] sensation and pleasure and pain is much more highly developed. In fact animals run the gamut of all the lower emotions and when we get to our most highly evolved domestic animals — those which we might think of as the "kings" of the animal kingdom, such as highly bred dogs, horses, or cats — we find at least an attempt at thought. I don't know that we could actually say that animals think, but I am sure that any of you who have had fine pets know that they make great attempts at times and try their very best to understand what you are trying to say or do for them. At least we see a reaching up towards the level of mind, shown on our chart as the mental plane.
Now I would like you to try to concentrate carefully as I make this next point because it is a step which is most often misunderstood. When we try to express this great scheme of life evolving through all the forms of nature in this vast sweep of evolution, people sometimes say, "you are trying to tell me I have been an animal", or that "if I don't live this life as I should, I will come back as a butterfly or worm or something of the sort". Now if you will follow this next step closely you will see that such a thing is just as impossible as it would be for the hen to become the egg again. Something else has to happen. Up to this point in evolution, the summit of the animal kingdom, we have only two Aspects of God's Nature in manifestation — the Divine [Page 47] Creative Energy or Holy Spirit Aspect, which has created matter, and the Life or consciousness Aspect, God the Son Aspect, which has taken that matter and built it into forms which it has ensouled; first in the mineral, then in the plant, and finally in the animal kingdoms. It first involved itself in matter and then evolved up through matter to the point of reaching toward mind, where the triangle is placed on our diagram, and that is as far as it can go. Then, as if sensing its own incompleteness, it reaches up for fulfilment, for something more to be added. We sometimes see this happen, I think, when we see animals make great sacrifices or perform acts of heroism, love, and devotion; when a dog, for example, gives everything for its master in some supreme effort, as if reaching up to something higher or more, sacrificing the lesser to the greater. The life thus reaching up forms, as it were, a chalice into which, in response to this great upsurge, the God the Father Aspect — Pure Spirit, uninvolved in matter in any way whatever, flashes down and a human soul is created. This individualization process has been compared to a carbon arc lamp, with one positive pole and one negative. When the two are near enough to each other the resistance of the air is overcome, the current jumps from one pole to the other, the arc is formed and the light blazes. Now we have Pure Spirit which is Divine Will, Divine Love and Divine Intelligence, added to these other two [Page 48] Aspects of God that have been manifesting up to this point. Then — and only then — is a human soul created. This new born soul now has latent within it all Divine qualities, however germinal or seed-like — he is a God in the becoming. This evolutionary process continues through human evolution and on to superhuman levels and on and on to levels beyond our capacity to comprehend until complete perfection is reached.
The first talk spoke of three great gaps in the scheme of evolution, as painted by science. A possible solution to those gaps, or mysteries, I might suggest, can be seen in the diagram. The first gap was the unanswered question, " Where does matter come from? Where do the atoms or sub-atomic particles come from that start the creation of a universe? " I would like to suggest that the Third Aspect, the Holy Spirit or Divine, Creative Energy Aspect of God's Nature brings into being the necessary matter, shown as the central column of the diagram. The second gap was the unanswered question, " Where does the consciousness of living things come from? What about the first living cell?" Might I suggest this comes from the God the Son Aspect which ensouls all forms and is represented by the left descending curve . and its rise to the triangle on the chart. The third unanswered question was, " Where does the first human come from, the missing link in this evolutionary process of science? " I would like to suggest [Page 49] that the human soul or individual is only created after the response of the God the Father Aspect — Pure Spirit — has been added, which is represented by the meeting of forces at the triangle at the lower right of the diagram.
But we set out to discover what we really are and how we fit into the scheme of things. So for a few minutes now let us consider human evolution. I would like you to try in your imagination to picture standing beside you the most primitive human of whom you can conceive; some savage of the dark jungles of Africa, or a cave man perhaps. Then, on the other side of you, picture the most perfect human being of whom you can conceive; some great Sage, or Saint, or Spiritual King. Now compare the two. Compare them physically — this crude, hulky, unresponsive physical body contrasted with this delicately formed, beautiful, sensitive, physical body. Compare them emotionally. Compare them mentally.
I am always reminded of the story told of the British Government, concerned with the welfare of a group of Australian Aborigines, who then provided them with blankets during some very cold weather. The primitives were very happy to wrap themselves in the blankets at night but in the morning, when the sun came out and it warmed up, they just left their blankets or traded them for food — incapable of creating a single mental process without outside stimuli. It is said that the first real step in the [Page 50] use of the human mind is taken when we can generate one thought within ourselves lacking outside stimuli — when an individual can remember. "It was cold last night " and reason that " it may be cold tonight and I had better save the blanket". Now, compare that situation with that of the great Sage or Saint you have just imagined. Compare them morally. Compare them spiritually and every other way. How can you say to these two individuals, " Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect", and expect that to occur in one lifetime? It may happen to the great being you have pictured, but surely it is impossible for the primitive one, is it not? How are you going to change the primitive being into the great being?
I would like to suggest that it is accomplished in very much the same way that you change an infant into a mature adult. The infant contains within itself the full potential of the adult, but that potential is latent — it is germinal. It needs time and experience and proper environment in which to unfold the adult capacity. In just the same way the savage contains within himself the full potential of the Saint, he is simply younger, with the capacity latent instead of in full flower. How, then, does the infant progress to adulthood? The child spends approximately (and these figures are very approximate and flexible) the first seven years of his life, developing and learning to control and use the physical body — learning to walk, learning to talk, [Page 51] to move his arms and get his balance, learning to hold or grasp things, and many other physical skills. He eats, sleeps and plays and this constitutes life at this age. He spends approximately the next seven years having a wonderful time of activity with these newly acquired skills of the physical body; any who have had contact with such children, know the tremendous physical activity of this age. It is at this time the child begins the struggle of developing the emotions. This is the adolescent age which many find so difficult. For approximately the next seven years they experience these great emotional expansions — falling in love, "getting religion", discovering the beauties of nature, or art or music, etc.. It is during this time that unfoldment of the mind begins. They now reach the age when they know so much that father can tell them nothing, teacher can tell them nothing — they just know it all and there is nothing anyone can tell them. Finally they develop the mind and become mature adults who will eventually develop a little wisdom, we hope.
Now look at the great family of humanity and see if there are not individuals at each of these levels. There are still some infants — young souls — who are fully occupied with developing at the physical level. They are interested simply in eating and sleeping and doing a little physical work or activity — responding to physical stimuli — and this is the extent of life for them. Perhaps most of humanity is at the adolescent level. Look at [Page 52] humanity and see if the main interests of the mass of people do not lie at this emotional level. What do people turn to or want as soon as the pressure of earning a living lets up? What do people do when they have leisure? What is the first thing they think of? Is it not having fun, experiencing a new thrill or emotional excitement of some kind ? We find a few of humanity, in comparison with the whole, at the next level — the level of developing the mind. They know so much and are so proud and confident of what they know that no one can tell them anything — very characteristic of this lower mind level of development. Here and there we come across those rare individuals who are the mature adults of humanity, who have developed a little real wisdom. Now, just as the child must go through the elementary grades and then to high school and on to college and as he spends a period in a chemistry laboratory to learn chemistry, in an art studio to learn art and on an athletic field to learn sports; so on a far larger scale the growing human soul has a whole lifetime which is just one day in the world school, first in one culture and then another, in one nation and then another, in this religion and then that, in different races, different sexes, at different social levels in order to develop all capacities and learn all the lessons in this world school.
As you think of the perfected human being you will realize that he has, balanced within [Page 53] himself all capacities. He has those we think of as masculine and those we think of as feminine qualities, those we think of as Eastern and those we think of as Western, etc. He could respond to all peoples, be at home in all circumstances, in any environment, because he has completed life's school, learned all its lessons and unfolded all his capacities.
Just as we begin tomorrow where we leave off tonight, so in this world school whatever capacity we unfold in one life is ours for all time. As we live this life today, so we face its consequences tomorrow or on some other tomorrow. We progress in a world of absolute law, absolute order and absolute justice according to good common sense and reason, until we have completed life's school. We find, if we look around, that we ourselves, and everyone else, stand somewhere between the primitive savage and the perfected being. The savage has within himself all that the saint has. He is simply younger. It is no discredit to him that he is primitive any more than it is to the child that he is in the first grade while another is graduating from the university. He simply started later, that is all; he will one day reach that status when he has had the time to unfold and the same is true of the savage also.
Now, how does this larger framework of Theosophy — this viewing of life from the mountain top in its true perspective — this seeing all of life through [Page 54] the eyes of the Real Self change our attitude or approach to living ? It seems to me it is revolutionary in its effect. It is like changing our center of awareness from the circumference or periphery of the wheel to the hub or center.
First of all, a person with such a viewpoint realizes that there is a Supreme Power, which is all-wise and all-loving, directing the Universe; that there is a Divine Plan which is evolution or growth and progress for all life; that that Plan is working for good regardless of the apparent chaos on the surface, and that the final attainment will be unimaginable glory for every human being. He knows that he is part of that Divine Life and Plan — there is nothing else outside of God — with all capacity latent within himself waiting to be unfolded. He knows for a fact that all life is one great brotherhood. For him brotherhood is not sentimental nonsense or an impractical ideal, it is a reality and only that which is good for the whole can be really good for any single individual. He therefore ceases selfish effort for personal gain and devotes his life to the service of all.
Next he realizes that the life of the True Self is the only life worth living and devotes all of his energies to that life. He ceases to identify himself with his bodies — his masks — and therefore gradually gains control of them, so that they become a perfect channel for expressing the Divine Life within. He regards all troubles or problems, all so-called evils, [Page 55] simply as outside stimuli, the resisting force, which helps to call the True Self into full bloom and develop all of his latent capacities. He knows that whatever comes to him is for his own good, regardless of how much his personality may feel otherwise, that there is no such thing as chance. He is aware that he is in the exact circumstances he has created and which provide the means or opportunity by which he may take the next step forward, so he uses them instead of longing for different circumstances.
He knows death as a recurring and natural event in growth and so has no fear of such an event but discards the worn-out body much as he would a worn-out coat. He looks on one life-time simply as one day in the world school in which he learns the lessons of human evolution and he tries to apply himself and learn his lessons well that he may pass on and graduate and be more helpful to others. He knows that he wakes up each morning with the same capacities with which he went to bed; that no miracle happens overnight to change him from a third-grader to an eighth-grader and that neither will he wake up tomorrow or begin his new incarnation as a bootblack if he has developed the capacities of a great scientist or musician.
From such a vantage point all of life becomes a great adventure, a great drama in which we each have a part to play; a great symphony which will only be completed when we sound forth our own [Page 56] individual note in perfection to complete the One Perfect Harmony. Then will we truly know our Real Self which is Divine and our True Destiny which is the attainment of Absolute Bliss. [Page 57]
E. S. L.
FROM time to time, in the growth of the civilization of the west, a great new idea has dawned on man's understanding. As this master concept has been grasped, first by one man, then by a few, then by more and more, with it has come a greatly increased understanding of the nature of the objective forms of the universe which surrounds us, and of the subjective nature and significance of man in relation to these forms.
One such master concept for example, which first dawned on man's understanding several hundred years ago was the idea that the earth on which we live is not flat but is round. As this idea was grasped, first by a few, then by more and more until finally it came to be generally accepted, with it came a clearer objective picture of the nature of this earth on which we live, then of its position in the Solar System and the Universe, and of man's subjective relation to it.
Another such idea which dawned on man's understanding in the last century was the master concept of evolution, the great theory which shows that there is a scheme, which links together the [Page 58] forms of every living thing found on earth today or which ever has lived. This concept places every plant and creature somewhere on the main trunk, or on one of the branches of this great, ever unfolding tree of evolution. As this idea was grasped, man saw the relationship of the objective forms of all living things to each other and something of his own relationship to them.
I believe that a third such idea, which is emerging into the world of man's understanding in the occidental world today, is the idea of Reincarnation, which shows man as a pilgrim; soul, moving forward rhythmically, over vast periods of time, to the unfoldment of his spiritual powers. As men grasp this master concept they gain a vastly increased understanding of the objective nature and position of man in this; world of form, and of his subjective and spiritual relation to matter.
A strange thing about these ideas is that they are all ideas which were known in the ancient cultures and had spread into the Mediterranean civilizations, which were the advance guards of modern western culture. They were swept aside and lost when the barbarian invaders wiped out those civilizations, and plunged Europe into the Dark Ages. Very slowly at first, and then more rapidly, man has rediscovered them for himself. By thus rediscovering them, however, he has found them in a form unencumbered by the encrustations of superstition [Page 59] and time which have degraded, or sometimes almost completely buried them in older cultures.
A very natural reaction, and perhaps a purifying force, has been the opposition which has greeted these ideas as they have been presented by their champions. This opposition is natural, for the ideas fundamentally change men's views on life and upset widely accepted ideas. The opposition to the idea that the earth is round was at first very strong, but it has gradually crumbled and the idea is now almost universally accepted. Remnants of the old way of thinking still linger on, however, and are championed by a small group of people who call themselves the Flat Earthists and insist that the earth is flat. The idea of Evolution is more recent and so the opposition to it, though steadily diminishing, is still quite strong and is represented by a considerable group who might be called the " Anti-evolutionists ", and who generally maintain that every living thing was spontaneously created. The idea of Reincarnation is still only accepted by a minority of the western world, and the opposition largely confines itself to ridicule, but it is gaining adherents at an ever increasing pace.
Schopenhauer said that when a new truth is presented to the world it passes through three phases. First, it is met with scorn and ridicule. Second it is violently and forcefully attacked. Finally it is accepted as a self-evident truth. These [Page 60] three stages may perhaps be seen in the reaction to these three ideas.
One of the great battle cries of the opponents of these master concepts has always been that they are unspiritual, that they degrade and belittle man. This opposition comes from a misunderstanding of their true nature for when rightly understood, they cause man to stand in awe before the majesty and vastness of the laws which they reveal as governing the universe.
One of the greatest contributions which the Theosophical Society has made in the last eighty years, is to present Reincarnation as the great spiritual idea which it is; proclaiming it as a new master concept in the west and re-proclaiming its spiritual significance in the Orient. Reincarnation is here presented as the majestic method by which the Divine Spark in each human being moves steadily forward towards the expression of its divine nature in the world of form. It is presented unencumbered by superstitions such as that which speaks of men reincarnating as animals and plants. Such changes are as impossible as it is impossible for a hen to become an egg again.
One of the simplest methods of explaining Reincarnation is by answering the questions a man might ask who was meeting the idea for the first time. This method will be used here, answering the following questions:
1. What is Reincarnation?
2. What Reincarnates? [Page 61]
3. Who believes in Reincarnation ?
4. What is the evidence for Reincarnation ?
5. Is Reincarnation a Christian teaching?
6. Why do we not remember our past lives?
7. How does a belief in Reincarnation affect our outlook on life?
WHAT IS REINCARNATION?
The first question an enquirer might ask is "What is Reincarnation?" One definition is; Reincarnation is the vast rhythmic process by which the spiritual self in man unfolds its spiritual powers in the world of form. This process takes vast periods of time, commensurate with the periods of time which science sees as necessary for the evolution of the forms of living things.
Rhythmic motion seems to be a basic property of matter and of all living things. There are the characteristic rhythms or vibrations of every chemical element, which identify it for us in the light of stars; there are rhythms of sound waves, heart beats, breathing; rhythms of day and night and the human rhythm of waking and sleeping which keeps pace with it; there are rhythms of the phases of the moon, of the seasons, vaster rhythms of ice-ages followed by temperate periods, the majestic rhythm of the precession of the equinoxes which requires 25,000 years for one complete rhythmic swing and, vastest of all science's rhythmic concepts, the idea [Page 62] that we may live in a " Pulsating Universe " where one complete cycle, or pulsation, will take several thousands of millions of years.
Reincarnation is one of the greater rhythmic processes of which our lifetime is one part of one pulsation. In the complete life cycle of a normal human being, we see the lowest part of one such vast pulsation of expression and withdrawal. Life begins by manifesting feebly through the infant body, hardly able to control its environment at all. Through childhood and youth this life learns to use its instruments and to express itself more effectively while rushing forth for new experiences, eager to try everything and to conquer the world. It then passes on through maturity and gradually becomes more reflective and contemplative as it approaches old age. The desire for exciting new experiences fades and the withdrawal of life is complete at death.
Many thinkers considering the forthgoing and return phases of human life have thought them to be the lower portion of a far greater rhythmic motion. The first phase is the descent of the soul, from its sublime, free, spiritual realms to inhabit .a baby form, and to learn to express itself through that form. The second phase begins somewhere around the middle of life and continues after death in a process of withdrawal from the physical plane and assimilation, at successively higher levels, of the experiences on earth. Finally, having completely [Page 63] withdrawn and cast off all instruments of personal experience, it stands again in its spiritual and formless nature, ready to begin its next rhythmic manifestation and to descend into matter and to unfold more powers.
From such a view point, which covers vast periods of time, what we call a lifetime is as a day in the life of the true spiritual man, which moves forward on a vast pilgrimage to the complete unfoldment of his spiritual powers, every lifetime bringing him closer to his great goal of complete self-expression.
During the Dark Ages man's concept of time was limited to a few thousand years at most. Science broke this limitation for the physical world of nature and the concept of reincarnation similarly breaks it for man himself showing him as an immortal being moving rhythmically forward in vast eras of time.
An analogy which some people have found helpful in trying to understand Reincarnation is to compare the soul of man to an eagle, perched in its erie high above a lake. From time to time the eagle leaves its nest, dives into the lake, catches a fish and returns to its nest where it eats, digests and assimilates the fish and after some time once again becomes hungry and dives into the water for more food. This descent into the water corresponds to the taking of a human body, catching the fish may be compared to the gathering of experience in the [Page 64] world of flesh and the time of digestion and assimilation to the time of digesting and assimilating of experiences during the periods between lives. This is of course only an analogy and must not be carried too far; it does however help in answering the question " How long is the period between lives? " The periods between the descents of the eagle depend in a general way on the size of the fish caught and the periods between the descent of the soul into incarnation depend in a general way on the amount of experience gathered. However, a short life can be very rich in deep and significant experiences and a long life can run smoothly with few deeply stirring events. Also, the individual may still be unable to deeply understand and assimilate his experiences and thus to learn their lessons fully. In general however, a longer life would be followed by a longer period between lives and a person with a spiritual and philanthropic outlook on life and its deeper meanings would pass a far longer period absorbing experiences between lives than would the simple savage. The periods, seem to range from a few years to two thousand years or even more in exceptional cases.
The question "What reincarnates?" is perhaps one of the most difficult to answer for in our language we have words for all the phenomena of matter, space and time, but that which reincarnates is the [Page 65] part of man which belongs to the formless non-material and timeless worlds. It is probably the impossibility of answering this question objectively which has led to the development of the idea that only the qualities of an individual reincarnate, not the man himself. The physical body and all of its characteristics of height, strength, complexion etc will not reincarnate. The emotional nature, with all its personal likes and dislikes will not reincarnate. The mental nature, with its accumulated knowledge and its habits of thinking will not reincarnate. That which is above all these aspects of the personality of man, is that which reincarnates.
In normal daily life we are not aware of this inmost self, "The Inner Ruler Immortal". In our moments of great inspiration, however, we transcend the limitations of form and time to a certain extent and feel the wonder and beauty of the life behind all forms around us. In these moments we are aware of our inmost self and we then know that which reincarnates.
The word 'body' comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word 'Bodig' which means a dwelling place. The word 'abode' also comes from the same root. This is what our bodies really are — the temporary abode or abiding place of the immortal Self which reincarnates.
It is said of that which reincarnates that it is immortal, and " Its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendor have no limits". [Page 66]
WHO BELIEVES IN REINCARNATION?
who ask the question " Who believes in Reincarnation?" are
sometimes startled to be told that most people believe in Reincarnation,
but it is undoubtedly true that if all human beings were
questioned on their belief, most of mankind would assert
its belief in a great rhythmic process in which the spiritual
self in man descends into incarnation again and again.
There would be great differences of mass opinion in different
areas and among different racial and religious groups,
the idea being very widely accepted in India and many oriental
countries but being accepted by only a minority in Europe
and America. As regards the prevalence of the idea in the
west the only figures I can give are those of Dr. Margaret
Meade, who quoted a London Sunday Times poll as showing
that in England one person in eight, or about twelve and
a half percent, believed in Reincarnation, The idea is
becoming more and more generally accepted in Europe and
America. In addition to this type of answer, however, people
who ask this question usually want to know the names of people,
whose opinions are respected, who have openly stated their
belief in this great principle of rhythmic growth of an
immortal self in man by repeated descent into incarnation.
Here then is a very brief and incomplete list to indicate
the type of people who hold such a belief: [Page
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Leslie Wetherhead (Rev.)
A listener once commented that this list was composed entirely of artists, philosophers, poets and men of religion and said that practical men do not believe in Reincarnation. Here are the names of a few practical men who have stated their belief in it:
I like to quote Benjamin Franklin's statement of Reincarnation because he lived at a time when the idea was almost unknown in America and would have been considered shocking by most people, yet he had such a delightful way of stating new ideas in a whimsical, humorous way, that was so amusing that it raised no objection. Here is his epitaph, proclaiming his belief in the great principle of rhythmic manifestation. It is inscribed on a brass plate beside his grave in Philadelphia:[Page 68]
The body of Benjamin Franklin, printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding, lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be lost, for it will, as he believed, appear once more, in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the author.
WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE FOR REINCARNATION?
When enquirers ask for evidence of reincarnation, they usually first ask for the evidence of individuals who can remember past lives clearly and in detail. Such evidence is not nearly so valuable as the enquirer expects because it depends on the capacity of the individual to observe accurately without being misled or misleading others. This is a most difficult thing to do, even in material things, but when the observation is largely subjective, as in such cases, the difficulties increase greatly. Such evidence is available, notably in the writings of C. W. Leadbeater and others. Each enquirer must decide for himself how much credence he will put in these observers' statements and so this evidence will not be considered here.
The next type of evidence, which periodically arouses much popular interest, is that of the statements of a subject in a hypnotic trance, who is made to recall successively the events of his youth, childhood, and infancy. An effort is then made to have the subject transcend the barrier of death and recall his previous lives. An account of such an attempt, which created much interest, was published in the book The Search for Bridey Murphy. But this [Page 69] evidence is unsatisfactory also, for even if a subject described what he called his previous life, and subsequent investigations showed that the individual described had really lived, and the details were correctly described, and even if it was found impossible that he could have read or been told about that individual's life, the matter would still not be proved. There are other possible explanations for such phenomena which the sceptic will accept; telepathy, clairvoyance, influencing by a deceased spirit. Dr J B Rhine, of Duke University, one of the outstanding authorities on the scientific evaluation of objective evidence in support of facts relating to non-material phenomena, stated emphatically that such evidence would not be at all acceptable as scientific proof of Reincarnation.
Where then are we to seek for evidence of Reincarnation ? I suggest that we should proceed as a scientist proceeds, when seeking the principle underlying a set of phenomena. He first observes as many examples of the phenomena as he can. Then he thinks over these examples and takes, as a hypothesis, or possible explanation, some idea which may explain them all. This he then tries to apply to all his observations. If it does not fit he discards it. If it fits and appears to apply in all cases, he will become more sure of its truth and may begin to call it a theory, and finally after very widespread corroboration he may announce it as a law. Each individual considering the idea of Reincarnation [Page 70] should first take it as a hypothesis and try to apply it to human life around him. He will then be able to decide whether, in his understanding of life. Reincarnation should be accepted as a theory, or a law, or whether it should be discarded as not fitting the observed facts. He should not make the mistake of rejecting the obvious influences on human character of heredity, environment and psychological blocks, but neither should he accept the assumption that they explain all. The efforts to explain human capacity and behavior by these factors alone sometimes lead to the most solemn pronouncements of the most fantastic explanations which strain human credulity to the limit. Let us then, consider some phenomena, such as we meet in our everyday world, and see how simple and logical is their explanation when Reincarnation is taken as an additional hypothesis to the factors of heredity, environment, and psychological disturbances.
First there is the fact that, from time to time, child prodigies appear such as the great musician Mozart. Mozart, at the age of six was able to play so beautifully that he toured Europe, charming his listeners in all the courts. He was already a composer at the same early age. How did a child gain the capacity to put such beauty and depth of feeling into his music, a capacity which many adults have failed to achieve after a life-time of study ? The explanation of Reincarnation is that here is one who, in his previous life, or lives, has [Page 71] worked at the task of making music a channel for the expression of beauty and spiritual truths. In this life he had a musical heredity, a musical environment from birth and he was probably reborn very rapidly after his previous incarnation. Thus he, found in this life a clear channel through which this capacity re-expressed itself immediately.
Such outstanding prodigies are rare and we seldom meet them in daily life but in any group of children you will find that each comes with a certain aptitude or natural capacity for some line of activity, while there are other lines for which he seems to have little or no such aptitude. The explanation of reincarnation is that these natural capacities are the results of work and training in previous lives and the skills for which they must now work so hard are those on which little effort has been spent in the past. The limiting factors of physical heredity, environmental pressures and psychological strains must be recognized as real factors, but they do not begin to give a full explanation of these facts for many thinking people.
All evidence for Reincarnation depends ultimately on memory, although the facts are not always recognized as memory. What we have considered here is the memory of capacity or skill.
Let us now consider our relations with people around us. In our daily lives many of us meet hundreds of people, and with most of these the [Page 72] contact is purely superficial, but, perhaps once in a lifetime or perhaps more often, we may have met someone with whom we quickly felt completely at home and felt that there was a deep mutual understanding. With him we felt a complete rapport and we knew that we could talk of the ideas and thoughts closest to our inmost nature, ideas seldom discussed lest they be misunderstood.
After discounting such experiences for the attraction of the opposite sex and for the fascination of a pleasing social personality, the explanation of Reincarnation is that here we are meeting again someone with whom we have worked, perhaps many times, and in various relationships, in previous lives and though we have never before met in this life, yet soul instantly recognizes soul and the understanding from that level pervades the personality. Such sudden friendships, for those fortunate enough to have them, are striking verifications of the hypothesis of Reincarnation, through memories of friends from the past.
A third set of facts to which to apply the hypothesis of reincarnation is that dealing with our personal memories. Very few people can remember even isolated scenes from another incarnation; even fewer can review at will any or all of their previous lives, although this capacity will one day unfold in all of us. Many people, however, with no clairvoyant faculties whatever, have vague and nebulous memories of previous lives, which are, [Page 73] nevertheless, memories. These express themselves in a vague interest and a feeling of familiarity towards a certain nation, a certain religion or a certain period of history. Perhaps the art work, the sculpture or the ruins of some nation seem strangely familiar and fascinating. Some of these findings, after discounting for similarity with earlier environments etc, are explainable only by Reincarnation as the vague and blurred memories of experiences among these things in previous lives.
Another kind of memory of experiences is that of the emotional impact of events in a previous life which made a deep impression: difficulties which, in that life were never overcome. Such memories are frequently awakened by events in this life which have elements of similarity. For example, the horror and despair which resulted from being imprisoned in a previous life may be re-awakened by a childhood experience of being shut up in a dark place. Perhaps only the emotions of fear and despair are recalled while the details of the terrible experience which originally caused them are forgotten. These deep, painful emotions may then exert a crippling influence on the personality in this life. This is frequently the case in unexplainable fears such as fear of water, fear of heights or fear of explosions and noises which may recall disasters in previous lives caused by drowning, falls or death on a battlefield. Recently fear of the noise of an airplane motor may be added to such [Page 74] lists. Psychiatrists and others who trace back emotional blocks to outwardly insignificant events of childhood often get only to the outer circumstances of this life which reawakened the deep emotions connected with those major experiences of previous lives. But this discovery is important to the psychiatrist, who then works, quite correctly, on healing the emotional disturbance associated with these events. These are some of the verifications of Reincarnation from our memories of previous events and places.
As we progress towards the unfoldment of the powers of the spiritual self in the world of form, we have to unfold those virtues which we associate with noble men, such as courage, strength and mental power and we also have to unfold those virtues which we associate with noble women such as patience, gentleness and compassion. The perfect man or woman has all of these, unfolded to the full. As we progress towards this goal it may well happen that we may have a series of lives in one sex and then transfer to the opposite sex. The first life after the change is apt to be difficult and to be one in which we appear in the unfortunate role of the effeminate man or the masculine woman. There are other reasons for this phenomena but the hypothesis of Reincarnation here gives a valuable key and shows why such individuals need our sympathy and help.
The beautiful harmonious relationship between the majestic rhythm of Reincarnation and the [Page 75] absolute certainty of natural law shows to the seeker for understanding, a magnificent scheme unfolding with perfect justice for every individual. This moral and ethical vindication of Reincarnation is a most important piece of evidence but it will not be discussed here as it is fully developed in the next talk titled Divine Justice.
Here then are some of the factors to be considered by the thoughtful person who is willing to take reincarnation as a hypothesis and apply it, together with the facts of heredity, environment and psychological disturbances to the circumstances of life around him. He will then be able to decide for himself if Reincarnation is a correct hypothesis.
IS IT A CHRISTIAN TEACHING?
The Christian Church does not yet openly preach a belief in Reincarnation, although I personally know several clergymen of different denominations who firmly believe in it. But it was a current belief among many of the peoples of Palestine at the time of the Christ. There are several references in the Bible to the general acceptance of this idea. There is, for example, the well known instance in which the Christ asked his disciples the question:
"Whom say the people that I am ?" The answers show that the question was understood to mean " Of whom do the people think that I am a Reincarnation? " for they said that " Some say John the Baptist; but some say Elias and others, Jeremias. [Page 76] or, one of the prophets" (Math 16. 13-14). One unmistakable reference, in the words of the Christ Himself, is His statement with regard to John the Baptist: " If ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come" (Matt. 11, 13-15). Reincarnation gradually dropped from the outer teaching of the early Christian Church although fragments of it appear in the doctrine of the resurrection.
The idea of the resurrection of the bodies of all men is obviously a scientific impossibility, even if all the atoms in one man's body could be brought together again. Unquestionably many of the atoms used in his body have been used again in those of other men, and all bodies could not therefore be resurrected simultaneously. The idea of the resurrection "of the body" may well be the result of interpretation and translation of those who failed to see the true meaning of the phrase. Perhaps it should be rendered as the resurrection "in a body". In spite of the fact that Reincarnation is not one of the accepted teachings of the Christian Church today there is a steadily increasing number of clergymen who believe in it and a smaller, and also steadily growing number who preach the spiritual ideal of Reincarnation.
WHY DO WE NOT REMEMBER OUR PAST LIVES?
The questioner who asks " Why do we not remember our past lives?" is under a misapprehension, for unquestionably the Real Self, that [Page 77] which reincarnates, does remember. However, the questioner usually means " Why do we not remember the details of previous lives such as names and physical appearances, occupations and adventures, home life and family relationships?" In order to answer this question let us first see what we remember and what we forget of our present incarnation. Most of us have learned to read and write in this life. We probably acquired these skills by attending classes in primary school for some years. If today we were asked to describe in detail the lesson on a specific day, most of us would be unable to answer such simple questions as: " Who was the teacher and what did he say ? " What was the lesson you learned and who were all the other students in the class?" We have forgotten this mass of unimportant detail connected with the learning but we remember the essence of those many experiences and use it whenever we read and write. So it is with memory of past lives, the details of experiences in previous lives are forgotten but we carry with us, and use constantly, the essence of those experiences in our daily lives. In a similar way the personality of this life remembers past lives. First, as was discussed under evidences there are the memories of skills and accomplishments which express themselves in natural aptitudes in this life. Then there are the memories of people, occasionally expressing themselves in sudden and deep friendships; memories appearing as fascination [Page 78] for certain countries, cultures and art work, and memories showing themselves as unreasonable fears.
But the most important memory is that which appears as conscience. In previous lives we have all made decisions, performed actions of far-reaching consequences, bringing sorrow or happiness in their wake. The details of those decisions and consequences are all forgotten, but their essence is remembered and guides and directs us in this life when we have similar problems to face, similar decisions to make. It speaks to us as "the still small voice", the voice of conscience, which is the memory of our past experiences. The existence of such individual conscience, explains why some men, even though they have been taught otherwise by parents, schools and religious teachers, will rob a man if they can get him at a disadvantage, and think they can avoid capture. Others, who sometimes have had little advantage of moral instruction in this life, nevertheless feel, in their inmost being, that such action is wrong and will have none of it. In such ways as these we remember our previous lives.
HOW DOES A BELIEF IN REINCARNATION
AFFECT OUR OUTLOOK ON LIFE?
One who believes in Reincarnation realizes that his body and personality, which are usually mistaken for the man, form only the temporary outer [Page 79] husk of the real man, the soul within. From this point of view it is wrong to say "Man has a soul" if by man we mean the outer form of flesh and blood and the personality that goes with it, for these are temporary things which will disintegrate at the end of the earthly life. Such a mortal creature cannot possess something which is immortal and spiritual. The statement should be reversed and it should be said " Man is a soul and has a body." He has it for the period of a lifetime and then discards it as we discard worn out clothes. Looked at from this point of view, things, such as prestige, power, wealth and fame, which we gain or lose for one life-time only, are relatively insignificant. The significant things are the qualities we are building into our immortal characters, the future opportunities we are preparing by our actions and the human links of all kinds which we are making that will determine our future contacts. This outlook gives the believer in Reincarnation a completely different standard by which to judge himself and others, to evaluate events and to plan his actions.
When one with an understanding of Reincarnation sees a child, he knows that he is seeing one whose mind is not like a blank slate, on which teachers and parents can write what character and capacities they choose. He knows that he is looking at the instrument of a soul who is seeking to express more fully, capacities already partly developed in the [Page 80] past and to develop new qualities and powers in this life. Parents and teachers have a great privilege and responsibility to train the new body and personality to be healthy, pure and alert, to be self-controlled and free from fear. They can provide the healthy environment in which the shoots of future qualities and powers may develop into buds which will later blossom forth as the expressions of the beauty of the soul within.
Such a believer sees all humanity as forming a great life wave, moving steadily forward to a magnificent goal. No matter how high or how low one may stand, he sees some who are ahead of him, from whom he can learn, some who stand at his own level, with whom he can work side by side, and others behind him who need his help. Thus he learns the great law that progress for one can only be made by helping others. The individual who thus sees the great spiritual reality behind the law of Reincarnation feels awe as he contemplates the majesty of the steady forward movement of all mankind and is filled with reverence for the Great Law which controls and directs this stupendous scheme. [Page 81]
THERE comes a time in the life of nearly all of us when we begin to question the justice of life. Sometimes this questioning comes because of circumstances in which we find ourselves; sometimes because of something that has happened to those near and dear to us; sometimes because of injustices we see happening to the larger family of humanity. We cannot look anywhere about us without observing every kind of inequality, apparent injustice and undeserved suffering until it is no wonder many people begin to question whether there is a God at all and, if so, whether He is a just God.
Why are there so many apparently unearned gifts and opportunities and so much seemingly undeserved suffering? Why should one child be born in the slums, unwanted, unloved, surrounded by disease and poverty, with no opportunities, and another be born with loving and intelligent parents who provide him with every possible opportunity ? Why is one particular child struck down and crippled for life by a careless driver ? Did that innocent child do anything to deserve such a life of handicaps and suffering or is it all just chance ? Why [Page 82] was it that child instead of you or me ? If there is justice in the world why should some men be born with strong healthy bodies and others weak, diseased, deformed, handicapped and sickly? Why are some endowed with brains of great intellectual capacity and some born imbeciles ? What has the new-born child done to deserve such heritage?
Turn where we will, the world is full of inequalities, apparent injustices and moral chaos. And yet, while there seems to be no pervading law of justice governing our moral or intangible world, when we turn to the laws of nature and the physical world we find the complete opposite. Our entire modern material civilization rests on the dependability and immutability of natural law. Nature is synonymous with law. Fire does not burn today and freeze tomorrow. Have you ever stopped to think how we depend on these laws and what would happen if they suddenly ceased to work? Consider the laws of electricity. If you press the switch and the light does not go on you do not ask if the laws governing the flow of electricity have suddenly changed; rather, you wonder what is wrong with the man-made equipment, whether a fuse is blown or the power turned off, but you rely on the laws of electricity being unchanged. All of our modern manufacturing is made possible because of the dependability and immutability of the laws of chemistry and physics. The making of everything from a paper bag to a giant steel bridge is only [Page 83] possible because natural processes are predictable, being controlled by immutable natural laws, laws which have been discovered and used by man. Do we have to guess when we put an acorn in the ground whether we will get an apple tree, or a rosebush or an oak tree? The law is always the same, it always works and for this reason man can learn the law and learn to use it. Man's knowledge and understanding of these laws may change but the laws themselves remain exact, dependable and immutable whether we are considering astronomy and the laws that govern the heavens or the law of gravity as it affects our earth. They always work—we can always rely on them, and so we discover them and live in accordance with them.
One such law which is well known to every scientist is Newton's Third Law of Motion: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". We understand this law in the physics laboratory, working with inorganic matter, because we can control the experiments there and see just how this law works. However, until we study Theosophy, most of us do not seem to realize that this law applies just as thoroughly to human beings; not only in our physical actions, but also at the emotional, mental and moral levels of being. The law is just as exact, immutable and dependable on these levels as it is on the physical. One reason for our inability to understand the application of this law to human existence is that we are yet not able to [Page 84] see enough of our pilgrimage through this human evolutionary process. We are unable to trace all of the effects we are experiencing at present back to their original causes; nor can we follow all of our present actions through to the completion of their reactions in the future. Sometimes this action and reaction is immediate and perceivable. If you put your hand in the fire you get burned and that is fairly immediate, is it not? Sometimes the reaction takes a longer period of time to occur. Suppose you neglect the laws of dental hygiene; it may take ten years before that reaction catches up with you and you have to suffer it out in the dentist's chair. Sometimes an even longer period of time is needed for it to become apparent that the law works. If this element of time is a factor then as we limit our concept of time we will increase the inequalities and apparent injustices in just the same proportion. Let us experiment with this element of time a little and see what happens.
For a few moments, let us try in imagination to limit our world to a twenty-four hour existence, instead of one lifetime of eighty or one hundred years by which we ordinarily view and judge events, Remember now we can know nothing of life except what we can observe in a twenty-four hour existence — we know nothing of yesterday's actions or tomorrow's reactions. What would we find ? Would we see any further injustices or chaos ? Perhaps the first thing that would strike us would be the [Page 85] tremendous differences between human bodies. We may think they are unequal with our present concept of time but what would be our thoughts if we judged them on a twenty-four hour basis? We would see little, weak, helpless bodies that had to be cared for and fed — had to have everything done for them and did nothing in return but sleep or cry for more food and attention. We would see other bodies, big and strong and well-formed, capable and efficient, doing all the work and caring for these weak, helpless bodies. What would be our reaction ? Equality ? Justice ? Nothing could be further from the truth with only a twenty-four hour perspective on such a situation . " What", we might ask, "has this individual done to deserve a lifetime of struggle and helplessness in such a body?" We would have no way of knowing that this was a baby, that the parents had once been helpless babies and were cared for by other parents in turn, that the infant would, given time, grow into an independent, capable adult. In fact we would have no way of even knowing that they were babies or young bodies as we viewed life with this twenty-four hour time limitation. We would simply see these completely unequal human beings and think how unjust it was and wonder how there could be .a Divine Intelligence when such chaos exists. Further, considering only those adults in the prime of life whose physical and mental capacities appeared more equal, what would we discover ? Here also, [Page 86] we would find complete injustice, inequality and chaos. God has favored one with a great gift — a skillful body that can produce beautiful music while his brother, who appears to have the same kind of body, cannot play a note. "What", we would ask, "has this one done to earn such a gift?" Certainly nothing as far as we could see. We would have no way of knowing that the musician had spent years of effort and energy studying and training that body to become musical and that in his youth he had no more skill or ability than his brother, who refused to study and practice. What might we think of the individual suffering from the effects of an alcoholic spree the night before ? How terrible! Through no fault of his own he has an entire life of suffering — his misery begins with the beginning of his life and lasts to the end. We would have no way of knowing what had gone on the night before to cause the suffering — neither would we have any way of knowing that tomorrow he probably would be completely recovered and a little wiser, perhaps, for the experience. All we would see would be a life of suffering, apparently entirely undeserved as far as his observable actions were concerned.
So we could go on in our imagination picturing many other situations that would make such a world unjust, unequal and completely incomprehensible as far as the law of cause and effect or justice was-concerned. Think of the individual having his. [Page 87] "day off" — a complete life of leisure as far as we could see — maybe that is the only day he ever had off and he works all the others, but we would not know this. Think of the individual putting his money in the bank while others are collecting — the one planting his crops while others are reaping a harvest — the student struggling in school while his professor seems to have been born with all knowledge, and so on. Everywhere we would see complete injustice and chaos. Just as the beginning of time and life would occur as the sun came up and the day began, so all would end when the sun set and the world became cold and dark; everyone would go to sleep, all life and activity would cease and that would be the end of existence. We would have no way of knowing that after a rest, the sun would rise again and the whole process would continue. Each would begin the next day exactly where he left off the night before, not only as far as worldly possessions and physical things are concerned, but with the same problems, dispositions, characteristics and capacities; the same loves, the same hates and the same hopes and fears. A man who had been a ditch-digger or boot-black would not wake up the following day a chemist or statesman, neither would a great surgeon or artist awaken with merely the ability to sell newspapers.
It is easy enough for us to understand this twenty-four hour cycle when we use our enlarged vision of a whole life-time, but in just the same way we need [Page 88] to expand our vision to include our entire human pilgrimage in order to understand this one life-time. We begin this incarnation with exactly what we had of credits and debits at the end of the last life. Every strength or virtue of character which we build or unfold is ours for all time. We are the creators of our own destinies. "Each man is his own absolute lawgiver, the dispenser of glory or gloom to himself". The chains that bind him are of his own forging and he can file them away or rivet them more strongly.
It is not a question of reward or punishment. The laws of nature are not commands which say we must do this or do that. They are simply statements of certain successions or sequences. Fire produces heat — that is the law. What we do with that law is our own affair — we can use that heat to keep us warm, to heat our homes, or cook our food, or we can use it to destroy life and property. If one man plants flowers and another plants weeds we do not blame God and say He is punishing the man by giving him weeds instead of flowers. If he wants flowers he must plant flowers. If one cook chooses ingredients and combines them to get porridge we don't say God is unjust because she got porridge instead of pie. Maybe she wants porridge — but if she wants pie all she has to do is combine the ingredients according to the laws of cookery and she will get pie. If we want happiness all we have to do is sow the seeds of happiness according to natural [Page 89] laws which are just as exact and just as immutable as any other law of nature. "Nature is conquered by obedience". We learn through a study of Theosophy that nothing merely happens in moral law any more than in physical law — all are natural laws but sometimes we need to expand our limited concept of time to find the causes of some of the present effects or circumstances.
The environment or circumstances in which we find ourselves at the present time are the result of our past actions. As we give happiness or misery to others so we reap it in return — sometimes it is immediate and sometimes it takes longer periods of time — sometimes the period of time has to be extended over many life-times in order to see the complete process. Our present opportunities are the result of our past desires. The strongest force in the universe is this force of attraction and repulsion (the repulsion being of course just the negative aspect of this force) We should be very careful what we desire. There is nothing more sure than that the person or thing you really want or desire will be attracted to you through this force, although it may take a long period of time for it to happen. Often as time passes we change our minds — we change our ideas of what we want or desire and then we find ourselves tied to the result of our former desires. Be very careful what you long for or desire; be sure it is what you really want. Our present character is the result of our past thoughts. [Page 90] The one creative force in the whole universe is Divine Thought — Divine Creative Intelligence — a fragment of which is in each one of us. Dr. Besant said concerning this, " God's thought makes Universes; your thought makes yourself; it is the one creative force by which you shape, mould and build your character". If we do not like ourselves the way we are, the only thing that is ever going to change us is changing our thinking.
There is one other aspect that I feel we need to keep in mind as we study and try to understand this great law of justice. We are not only in the exact circumstances we ourselves have created but we are also in the best possible place to unfold, our next spiritual capacity. The law is entirely beneficent regardless of how we may think otherwise at times. We can usually see this when we look back on situations and circumstances. We are not here by chance. It is no accident that we happen to be here instead of China or the South Sea Islands or somewhere else. When we learn our lesson, when we unfold that next capacity that circumstances and life are trying to teach us, when we take our next step forward, then we will find our circumstances have a miraculous way of changing. It is not the world that needs changing; it is ourselves. We make the world what it is by being what we are.
The wise man does not blame God, nor his neighbor, nor fate but learns the laws of life and [Page 91] lives in accordance with them. For, as we are told in the Bible, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". And this law holds true not only in sowing seeds in the earth but also in sowing seeds in our minds and in our hearts. [Page 93]
E. S. L
THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
THE Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 by a little group of men and women seeking an understanding of the deeper mysteries of life. From that small beginning it has spread until today it has organized branches in about 60 nations and has members in most of the countries of the world. Its International Headquarters are located at Adyar, Chennai [Madras] 600 020 , India. Its objects are:
1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinctions of race, creed, sex, caste or color.
2. To encourage the study of comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.
3. To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.
The Theosophical Society is composed of students belonging to any religion or race in the world, who are united by their approval of the Society's objects, by their wish to remove antagonisms and to draw together men of goodwill whatsoever their opinions, and by their desire to seek for truth and to share the results of their search with others. Their bond of union is not the [Page 94] profession of a common belief, but a common search for truth. They hold that truth is a prize to be striven for, not a dogma to be imposed by authority. They consider that belief should be the result of individual study or intuition, and not its antecedent, and should rest on knowledge, not on assertion. They extend tolerance to all, even the intolerant, not as a privilege they bestow but as a duty they perform, and they seek to remove ignorance not to punish it. They see every religion as an expression of the Divine Wisdom and prefer its study to its condemnation, and its practice to its proselytism. Peace is their watchword as truth is their aim.
Members of the Theosophical Society study the truths of the Ancient
Wisdom and Theosophists endeavor to live them. Everyone willing to
study, and to be tolerant, is welcomed as a member, and it rests with the
member to aim high and to work perseveringly, and thus to become a true
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