ON THE PATH OF OCCULTISM
Volume -1- A Commentary on
AT THE FEET OF THE MASTER
by Annie Besant and C.W.Leadbeater
is section -1- of - 3 -
With a view to facilitate convenience in handling, we have split the book -
Talks on the Path of Occultism - into three parts and these are issued separately. A new Index has been prepared for each volume separetely according to the new pagination
Theosophical Publishing House,
Adyar, Madras 20, India
First edition 1926, Second 1930, Third 1947, Fourth 1954
book is merely a record of talks by Mr. C. W. Leadbeater
and myself on three famous books — books small in
size but great in contents. We both hope that they will
prove useful to aspirants, and even to those above that
stage, since the talkers were older than the listeners,
and had more experience in the life of discipleship.
The talks were not given at one place only; we chatted to our friends at different times and places, chiefly at Adyar, London and Sydney. A vast quantity of notes were taken by the listeners. All that were available of these were collected and arranged. They were then condensed, and repetitions were eliminated.
Unhappily there were found to be very few notes on The Voice of the Silence, Fragment I, so we have utilized notes made at a class held by our good colleague, Mr. Ernest Wood, in Sydney, and incorporated these into Bishop Leadbeater's talks in that section. No notes of my own talks on this book viii were available; though I have spoken much upon it, those talks are not recoverable.
None of these talks have been published before, except some of Bishop Leadbeater's addresses to selected students on At the Feet of the Master. A book entitled Talks on “At the Feet of the Master” was published a few years ago, containing imperfect reports of some of these talks of his. That book will not be reprinted; the essential material in it finds its place here, carefully condensed and edited. May this book help some of our younger brothers to understand more of these priceless teachings. The more they are studied and lived, the more will be found in them.
|1||The Occult Path and the Interests of the World||3|
|2||Initiation and the Approach thereto||13|
|3||How the Book came to be written||25|
|4||The Preliminary Prayer||27|
|5||The Spirit of the Pupil||34|
|6||The Four Introductory Paths||42|
|7||The Four Qualifications||47|
|1||True and False Aims||55|
|2||The Life of the Bodies||75|
|3||Right and Wrong||107|
|4||Be True all Through||124|
|5||Unselfishness and the Divine Life||151|
|1||The Removal of Desire||163|
|2||The One Good Desire||171|
|5||Mind Your Own Business||212|
|Part 4:||Good Conduct||225|
|1||Control of Mind||227|
|2||Self-Control in Action||272|
|1||Liberation, Nirvãna and Moksha||363|
|2||Love in Daily Life||389|
THE OCCULT PATH AND THE INTERESTS OF THE WORLD
3] C. W.L. — At
the Feet of the Master is one of
three books — the
other two being The Voice
of the Silence and The
Light on the Path – especially intended to help people
to set their feet upon the Path. It is most valuable for us, at the moment,
of its extreme simplicity, and because it bears especially the stamp
and approval of the World-Teacher, who is so soon to come. It consists
given by his Master to the young disciple J. Krishnamurti (called Alcyone
in the series of his past lives recently published) ( The Lives of
Adyar, 1924) in the year 1909, when he was a boy of thirteen. His knowledge
of English was not then perfect, and since the instruction was given
in that tongue both the teaching and the language had to be made especially
clear. The Master Kuthumi, with His marvellous power of adaptability,
put all what was necessary for the attainment of the First Initiation
into that wonderfully simple style which is one of the great recommendations
of this little book.
The Light on the Path appeared in 1885 and TheVoice of the Silence in 1889. Each of these books, of [Page 4] ethics has its own characteristics. Both the older ones; are more poetical than At the Feet of the Master,although in it also there are some very beautiful expressions; it could not be otherwise, since it comes from the Master Kūthūmi. The Light on the Path, we were told by Swami T. Subba Row, has several depths of meaning, one behind another, the most profound relating to the Initiation at the Mahāchohan level, a stage beyond where even our Masters now stand. The Voice of the Silence carries us as far as the Arhat Initiation. At the Feet of the Master applies especially to the First Initiation, so we will comment upon it first.
have all heard often about the qualifications for the Path, but we shall
continue to hear of them until we have succeeded in putting into practice
everything that is written in such books as this. There is no difficulty
in knowing exactly what ought to be done, and there is no obstacle in
our path which is not of our own making, yet comparatively few people succeed
in following these directions, because they have personalities which
get in the way. What is written in these books must be definitely applied
by each person to himself. The teacher can explain and illustrate what
ought to be done in various ways, but everyone must tread the Path for
himself. It is like training for a race or taking up physical culture;
there may be a trainer who can give careful directions, but the candidate
must exercise his own muscles; nobody else can by any possibility do
that for him.
Millions of people around us are supposed to be living according to the precepts of their respective religions, [Page 5] but very few actually do so. Even those who live good and holy lives do not usually strictly follow all the precepts laid down for them. In some cases the teachings of exoteric religions are unessential or inappropriate, but in occultism no unnecessary precept is given; an exact adherence to all of them is required. This does not mean that we must have all of these qualifications in absolute perfection before we can be received by a Master – that would be the attainment of Adeptship but they must be possessed to a reasonable extent, and they must be real, not merely polite fictions. When a professor of chemistry tells us that if we compound certain chemicals in a specified way we shall obtain certain results, we know that those results will follow, and that if the proportions are altered we shall not get what we expect, but something else. In religious matters people seem to think that a sort of vague approximation to the instructions given is quite sufficient, but in occultism that will not do at all; it must be taken as a science; and although we have heard so often about these qualifications, it is to be hoped that by going through them carefully and endeavouring to understand and follow with scientific precision exactly what is required, many who have not yet succeeded may be able to set their feet upon the Path.
These inner things are not far away and uncertain. Up to a few years ago they seemed more remote, because so few whom we knew had come into direct touch with the Masters; and a student might have thought to himself: “Yes, two or three men specially gifted, or in some [Page 6] way specially fortunate; have succeeded, but it does not seem to be for ordinary people”. But now that a number have come into direct touch with Them, one may reasonably say to himself: “If these others have reached this, why not I ? ” The cause for non-success must be in ourselves, not in anything outside. It is certainly not the fault of the Masters, who are always there when the pupil is ready. In some there is one defect that bars; in others it may be only a general lack of development; but if there were not some deficiency we should all have succeeded. It is worth while to make a definite effort to find out what is the matter — what is lacking — and to remedy the defect.
There is a real inner world which surpasses in importance all this outer world, which is so incessant in its pressure upon us. Everywhere there are people who think themselves so busy and so wise in following their respective lines, and yet the truth is that all of them are working in the unreal and the outer, and few have realized that there is an inner and spiritual world which is of enormously more importance in every way than that which is external.
On the Path we have to play our parts in the world, but we do so only because of the true life inside. An actor plays on a stage because he has another life to live – a life which is consecutive and coherent. He may take various parts at different times, just as we come back in other incarnations and wear other kinds of bodies; but all the time the actor has his real life as a man and as an artist as well, and because there is that [Page 7] real life he wants to play his part well in the temporary life of the stage. Similarly, we wish to do well in our temporary physical life here, because of the great reality behind, of which it is but a very small part. If that is clear we shall see what is the relative importance of this outer life; that its only value to us is that we shall play our part well, whatever that part may be; what kind of part it is, and what happens to us in this mimic existence — these things matter little. It may be an actor's business to go through all sorts of pretended sorrows and difficulties; but these do not trouble him in the least.He may have, for example, to be killed every night in a duel; what does the feigned death matter to him ? The only thing that concerns him is that he should acquit himself well.
It should not be hard to realize that the world about us is a mimic world, and that it really does not matter what experiences may come to us. All the things that happen to people from the outside are the result of their karma. The causes were set going long ago in other lives, and cannot now be altered. Therefore it is useless to worry about the things that happen. They come as the result of the past, and should be borne philosophically. Many people bear them foolishly and allow them to cause a vast amount of pain, suffering and worry. The right attitude is always to try to learn the lesson that they bring, and then to put them out of the mind as far as possible — like the bee and the flower, as our Indian brothers say. The way in which these things are borne moulds our character for the future, which is the only [Page 8] important thing. One should use karma to develop courage, endurance and various other good qualities, and then dismiss it from the mind.
This outlook is hard to reach because we are surrounded by thousands of people who are all taking the play as serious – as the only real life. What they say and do to us hinders to some extent, but a far greater obstacle in our way (though we never think of it) is the immense and incessant pressure of public opinion. That is simply stupendous, for there are many thousands who are ignorant to each one who knows the truth. They are thinking “We must make haste to gain possessions and riches; what other people think of us is everything in life”.
great deal of thought is also poured out by those who want to gain positions
and honours, to obtain invitations to certain dinners and balls, to get
a duke or an earl on their visiting list, and so on. In religious matters
too, there is a vast sea of delusion beating around us, for there are
few who are liberal and millions who are not. Social delusions also abound,
as for instance the prudery of England, where it is considered improper
ever to speak of the sex side of things, so that for want of some small
fragments of simple knowledge the young grow up in peril and sometimes
fall into unexpected disaster, for there is a river of vice always running,
into which it is easy for the ignorant to fall. People look upon the
manners of the classical times of Greece and. Rome as in many ways indecent,
from memory of those times I am bound to say that they were far less
impure in thought than Europe is today. [Page 9]
We who understand more of the inner side of things have to stand against these really tremendous odds, and say to ourselves:“No this is not so, all this is unreal, and we pray to be led from the unreal to the real”. The real is the underlying life, the life which persists, the life which, as the Scripture puts it, is “ hid with Christ in God”. To live in that realization all the time and to regard the outer as not of essential importance is not easy, but that is exactly what has to be done. One of our Masters has said: “ He who wishes to follow us must come out of your world into ours”. This does not mean that one must give up one's daily life and live as a hermit – it implies that even more than before we perform heartily all the duties that are ours in this strange play of life — but it does mean that the aspirant must abandon his ordinary attitude and adopt that of the Masters.
Those who succeed in these efforts will some day find themselves accepted pupils of one or other of the Masters. When the man's thought becomes part of that of his Teacher the pupil can test his own thought by that of the Master, which is never affected by the crowd, and can see exactly what He thinks on any subject. Then he will soon get into the way of that and will understand His point of view; though at first he will be constantly meeting with unexpected shocks. Things that seemed of vast importance before do not now matter at all, and other things which he had passed by as comparatively unimportant, stand out as of great significance, because in some way, great or small, they affect our usefulness, [Page 10] and whatever affects our usefulness is important, because there we touch upon the real thing.
The pressure that comes upon the mind from all around in the mental and astral planes is not from on high at all. The ears must be closed to that, and open only to the sound from above, to the voice and thought of the Master. It is little wonder that in older days in India and other countries, whenever men set themselves to live the spiritual life, the first thing they did was to get out of ordinary life and go away and camp in a cave or jungle by themselves. They gained the advantage of escape from this pressure of ignorant opinion, and were freer then to follow their own way. Many of the Christian Saints also retired from the active world and became hermits and monks or associated themselves with people who were thinking on the same lines.
This advantage of retirement is still further increased! for those who have the privilege of being in the aura of the Master or of one of His more advanced pupils. The vibrations of that aura are constantly acting upon the bodies of the pupil, tuning them up, shaking out unsuitable grades of matter and feeding them with what is required. The pupil should be always trying to develop some virtue — let us say love, for example. If left to himself he does so intermittently, for he constantly forgets about it; but the aura of his superior holds him to the higher standard of thought and feeling that he wants to establish permanently in himself. The effect is not unlike that aimed at in the treatment of the malformed limb of a child. when it is put into splints until it grows. [Page 11] into proper shape. While in the aura of the Master the pupil feels that he could not think a wrong thought, even if he wanted to, which then seems to him impossible; In that position, we look smilingly down at our thoughts of yesterday, and say: “I never can have that feeling again; it has vanished like a dream.“But tomorrow” when we are away from the Master, we may find ourselves struggling hard to maintain the higher attitude which we thought so easy when in His presence.
the present time those who are reaching towards the
Path must try to achieve the same condition while they
remain in active life, because it is intended
that they shall help the world, not by meditation and
thought alone — as no doubt the hermit and the
monk did — but by mingling in its various activities.
It is a very beautiful idea and a great privilege, but
it is hard, very
hard, to do.
The result of that difficulty has been that few have really achieved. Most have been content to take the Theosophical teaching much as the average Christian takes his religion; regarding it as very nice to talk about on Sunday, but not at all the thing to carry out every day and all day long. The earnest student of the inner life cannot be thus unreal; he must be consistent and practical, and must apply his ideals constantly to every day life. To attain this constancy is difficult. It is not that people are unwilling to make some great effort for the Theosophical idea. If they could help a Master, could do some piece of work directly for Him, they would do it, though it cost them life itself. Remember what S. Augustine said: “ Many there are who will die for Christ, but few [Page 12] there are who will live for Him”. To become a martyr sounds magnificent, heroic; it is a great deed. But the martyr who does it has the feeling that he is making a mighty effort, and the consciousness of that bears him up and supports him through pain and suffering. He is keyed up for the moment to this great act of heroism.What has to be done now is much harder than that. It is not possible to keep oneself always strung to that pitch of heroism, amid the little daily troubles that are perpetually coming up. It is very difficult to keep the same equanimity of mind when dealing day after day with the same wearisome people, who will not do the things one thinks they should do. Living for Christ in all the small things — that is hard to do; and it is just because these things seems comparatively small that there is so much difficulty in following the Path.
Let us take these three books, let us follow their instructions, and see how far it is possible to apply them. Others have done it, and have succeeded in reaching the Path; why should not we ? Success means the conquest of the self; it means that we take ourselves in hand and face the facts and, where there are weeds, pull them up. It does not matter how deeply they are rooted, or how much suffering it entails; up with them! Hard work, indeed; but those who have already entered on some of the higher stages tell us that it is very well worth while, infinitely worth while, to make any effort, great or small whether it be once for all or many times.[Page 13]
INITIATION AND THE APPROACH THERETO
C.W.L. — The name of this book was chosen by our President, out of thirty or forty which were suggested, and she is also responsible for the dedication :
To Those Who Knock
the symbolism of which is obvious: Knock and it shall be opened unto you; seek and ye shall find”. In her preface Dr. Besant says :
The privilege is given to me, as an elder, to pen a word of introduction to this little book, the first written by a younger Brother; young in body verily, but not in Soul.
is a point of great importance. In ordinary life thinking only of this
world and this one incarnation, we judge a person's age by the physical
body; but in occult progress we consider the age of the ego, of the soul
within. One must beware of judging by externals only, though almost everyone
in the world does it. The soul grows steadily, and when it is highly
developed it often begins to exhibit signs of its advancement in intelligence,
and occult power, even while the physical body [Page
14] is still young. Alcyone certainly showed this to be so
in his case by the extreme rapidity of his progress. He responded to
the teaching so
that he was able to attain in a few months what would usually take many
years, because for most it would mean a fundamental change in character.
Cases of this kind will be increasingly numerous in these days, because of the near approach of the World Teacher. His principal disciples must be people in the prime of life and strength, most of them probably not much older than Himself in the physical body, and since He is to come soon those who are to be in that position then must be young now. It is exceedingly probable that some of those who are children now among us may in the future be prominent in the work, for it is likely that many of those who are destined for such good fortune will be born where they can have the teaching that will fit them for it, that is, in Theosophical families.
We should, therefore, watch for such possibilities, and see that any children that come in our way are told about the advent of the World-Teacher, so that they may know the possibility which is open to them. It must be left to them to grasp the opportunity, but at least it should be given. It would be very sad if any parent should hear from his son or daughter the reproach: “ If you had told me about these things when I was young, I might have taken the opportunity, but you let me grow up without knowing anything about them; you let me grow into the worldly life, and therefore, when the opportunity offered,” I did not take it”. We must give [Page 15] the opportunity, but when we have done that, our duty is over, because it is not for us to try to force anyone into any line, or even to “map out a future” and expect these other and possibly greater souls to adhere to it.
The teachings contained in it were given to him by his Master in preparing him for Initiation.The word Initiation has often been used in a very general way; but here it has a definite technical significance. Madame Blavatsky herself in the earlier days employed it somewhat loosely, but as our terminology has become more settled, the meaning of the word ought to be confined to the great Initiations, the five steps on the Path Proper, to use the old term. In the older writings we spoke of the Probationary Path, the Path Proper, and the Official Period as three stages in the advanced development of man. The Probationary Path means the period of probation for Initiation, the Path Proper is the Path of Holiness which begins with the first of the great Initiations (that in which a man “enters upon the stream“) and ends with the attainment of Adeptship. Forty years ago we used to talk about “initiation into the Theosophical Society”, and the word is used in connection with Masonic and other ceremonies; we must take care not to confuse those ideas with the great Initiations of the occult Path.
First Initiation is that step which makes a man a
member of the Great White Brotherhood. Before that
he is not really on the Path at all, but is training
himself in preparation for it. It is not conferred
arbitrarily, but in recognition of his attainment
of a certain stage of evolution — what
used to be called the union of the higher and lower
self, the joining of the ego and the personality.
A man who wishes to put himself forward as a candidate
for the First Great Initiation must acquire the qualifications
described in this book, and make his personality
an expression of the ego; there must be no lower
personality left to thrust itself forward, and to
have desires of its own in opposition to those of the
The change that then takes place is shown in the illustrations given in Man, Visible and Invisible. The astral body of the savage is full of colours which indicate all sorts of lower passions, and is irregular in outline, because the man has no control over it; and the causal and mental bodies show no relation to one another. The [Page 18] causal is apparently blank; the mental has a little development, but it has not much connection with the astral body. In the astral body of the savage there are all sorts of emotion's and passions that have nothing to do with the mind. He does not think about them; he does not know how to think; they are simply there, and they run away with him.
In the advanced man, however, all those vehicles are closely linked. The causal body is full instead of being empty; all the different colours expressive of the higher virtues are developed in it, and it is already beginning to pour itself out in various directions for the helping of others.The mental body contains the same colours, somewhat denser, but still the finest of their kind, and they represent the causal body on the lower level. The astral body is in turn a mirror of the mental — there are the same colours, only just a little darker and denser, because a plane lower.
The self in the savage expresses itself in all kinds of different emotions and passions of which the ego could not possibly approve, but in the developed man there are no emotions but such as he chooses to have. Instead of being swayed by his emotions and carried off his feet, he simply selects them. He says: “Love is a good thing, I will allow myself to feel love; devotion is a good thing, I will allow myself to feel devotion; sympathy — that is beautiful, I will allow myself to feel sympathy”. And he does this with his eyes open, intentionally. The emotions are thus under the dominion of the mind, and that mind is an expression of the causal body, so we are coming [Page 19] very near to the condition of complete unity of the higher and lower self.
It should not be imagined that there are two entities in man. There never is any lower self as a separate being, but the ego puts down a tiny fragment of himself into the personality in order to experience the vibrations of the lower planes. The personality then becomes much more vividly alive than the ego, because it is at a stage where it can respond to those vibrations; consequently it forgets that it belongs to the ego, and sets up in the business of life on its own account, and tries to go as it would rather than as the ego would. In the course of many incarnations, however, the ego grows strong, and then the man can recognize that the personality is nothing but an expression of himself, the reincarnating ego, and that whenever it tries to be master instead of servant it is going wrong and needs to be controlled. It is our business so to order the personality that it shall express the ego, and nothing else. That is what Mr. Sinnett called giving allegiance to the higher self. In The Voice of the Silence we are told that the disciple should slay the lunar form. This refers to the astral body. It does not mean that you should commit an astral murder; it means that your astral body should have no existence but as an expression of the higher, that instead of having its own passions and emotions it shall reflect only what the ego chooses.
condition must be attained before one can be presented
for the First Initiation. The man must have control
of his physical, astral and mental bodies. All
[Page 20] these
must be servants of the ego. To gain that mastery
would mean a very great deal
ordinary person, and many people would say: “ I
cannot do that; it is no use talking about it”.
It is altogether too high an ideal to set before
them all at once, but it ought not to be so serious
a demand to make
upon those who have been meditating and thinking
on these matters for many years.
Truly it is not easy to tread down one by one all
sorts of passions and desires, to curb the astral
and mental bodies; these things are hard,
but they are splendidly well worth doing, and the
result attained thereby is
quite out of all proportion to even the great efforts
required. The thought of making ourselves capable
of greater usefulness to the World-Teacher is an
additional incentive and encouragement in this arduous
undertaking. Those who take these Initiations do
not do it for themselves, in order to escape from
the sorrow and the suffering of the world, but that
they may be of use in the mighty Plan.
There are certain definite changes which outweigh all others in a man's existence. The first of these is when he individualizes and enters the human kingdom — when he comes forth from the animal stage and begins his career as an ego. His attainment of Adeptship at the Fifth Initiation is another; it marks his departure from the human kingdom, because then he enters a super-human state. That is the goal which is set before all humanity; it is the point which we are to endeavour to attain in this chain of worlds. At the end of this period the man who has done what God has willed for mankind, who has carried out to the utmost the divine design for [Page 21] himself, will thus pass out of the human kingdom; and many of us may do it long before the end.
In between these two comes another point of quite as great importance, the definite “entry on the stream”, at the First great Initiation. The words used in admitting the candidate to the Brotherhood include this statement; “You are now safe for ever; you have entered upon the stream; may you soon reach the further shore”. The Christian calls him the man who is “saved” or “safe“. That means that he is quite sure to go on in this present stream of evolution, that he is certain not to drop out at the day of judgment in the next round, like a child in school who is too backward to go on with the rest of his class.
The Initiate has to pass the Second, Third and Fourth Initiations before he reaches Adeptship, which is the Fifth, but when he gains that stage he unites the Monad and the ego just as before he had united the ego and the personality. When the man has achieved the union of the higher and the lower self, his personality no longer exists except as an expression of the ego; he has now to begin that process over again, as it were, and make that ego an expression of the Monad. Whether beyond that there lies another stage of the same kind we do not know, but it is at least certain that when we attain Adeptship we shall find opening before us a still more glorious vista of progress.
People often ask what will be the end of this evolution which we see outstretched before us. I personally do not know whether there is any end or not. A great [Page 22] philosopher once said, “It is equally inconceivable that there should be an end or that there should be no end; yet one of those two must be true”. Some speak of absorption into the Supreme; but of that we know nothing. We know that our consciousness continues to widen; that before it lies grade after grade above and beyond our own. We know that it is possible to touch the buddhic level, and thus attain an enormous expansion of consciousness, so that besides being oneself one is also other and greater people.
In this we do not feel that we have lost individuality at all, but that we have so widened it that we are able to feel through others as well as through ourselves. All who can do this in meditation should continue the practice, and expand until more and more is included in the consciousness — not only those far above, but those below as well, although those above come first because they are so much stronger, so much more tremendous in their power. Such expansion takes place gradually and one wins one's way through subplane after subplane of buddhic consciousness, until presently he learns to develop a buddhic vehicle — a body which he can use at that stupendous height where all the spheres seem as one, and he can traverse space without actually passing through it in our sense of the word at all.
Now, since that is in the experience of a number of us, we are justified in assuming that the further extension of that consciousness will be somewhat of the same kind. We have attained that unity without losing our sense of individuality in the very least, without [Page 23] feeling ourselves merged in a shining sea, as the poet puts it, but feeling instead that the shining sea has been poured into the drop.
Paradoxical as it may sound, that is the sensation; the consciousness of the drop widens into the consciousness of the sea. That being so, so far as we know it, we are surely justified in assuming that there will not be any sudden change in the method. We cannot conceive of being merged into something else and losing that consciousness which we have taken so long to develop. I believe it will widen so that we may become one with God, but only in the sense in which Christ put it when He said: “Ye are gods; ye are all the children of the Most High”.
We can look far back in evolution and can also see far forward. We can be sure of a future extending over millions of years of useful activity, on splendid levels whose glory and power and love and development are inconceivable down here; but what lies beyond that we do not know. If we consider the matter from a common sense point of view, we can hardly expect to know. If the final end of it were something that we could now understand, it would be a very poor kind of ending, altogether out of proportion to all the stages which lead up to it.
Our intellect is a narrow thing — how limited no man realizes until he comes into touch with its higher developments, when he begins to see that the intellect about which we have boasted so much is in reality a poor affair, a beginning only, a seed of a future tree. In [Page 24] comparison to that of the future, men have now only a child intellect, though it is that of a hopeful child, for it has done much already, and shows promise of more. But compared with the intellect of the Great Ones it is still that of a very little child. Therefore it cannot yet reach great heights and depths, and we cannot expect to understand either the beginning or the end. I, at least am more than willing to admit quite frankly that I do not know what goal the Supreme has in His mind; I do not know anything about the Supreme, except that He is.
The metaphysician and the philosopher speculate on these things, and gain from the effort considerable development of the mind and the causal body. Those who love such imaginations do no harm in indulging in them, but I think they should clearly understand that they are imaginations. The philosopher should not develop his theories into a system and expect us to accept it, for he is quite likely to be leaving out of account some of the most important factors. For myself, I do not speculate. I feel that the splendour and glory that unquestionably lie ahead of us are far more than sufficient to satisfy all our aspirations. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him”. That is true now, as it was two thousand years ago.[Page 25]
HOW THE BOOK CAME TO BE WRITTEN
C.W.L. — Dr. Besant's Preface (which is dated December, 1910) then goes on to explain how Alcyone wrote the book.
And were written down by him from memory — slowly and laboriously, for his English last year was far less fluent than it is now. The greater part is a reproduction of the Master's own words; that which is not such a verbal reproduction is the Master's thought clothed in His pupil's words. Two omitted sentences were supplied by the Master. In two other cases an omitted word has been added. Beyond this, it is entirely Alcyone’s own, his first gift to the world.The following is my own account of what happened, as given in The Masters and the Path :
The story of how this little book came to be written is comparatively simple. Every night I had to take this boy in his astral body to the house of the Master, that instruction might be given him. The Master devoted perhaps fifteen minutes each night to talking to him but at the end of each talk He always gathered up the main points of what He had said into a single sentence, or a few sentences, thus making an easy little summary which was repeated to the boy, so that he learnt it by heart. He remembered that summary in the morning and wrote it down. [Page 26] The book consists of these sentences, of the epitome of the Master's teaching, made by Himself, and in His words. The boy wrote them down somewhat laboriously, because his English was not then very good. He knew all these things by heart and did not trouble particularly about the notes that he had made. A little later he went up to Benares with our President. While there he wrote to me, I being down at Adyar, and asked me to collect and send to him all the notes that he had made of what the Master had said. I arranged his notes as well as I could, and typed them all out.
Then it seemed to me that as these were mainly the Master's words I had better make sure that there was no mistake in recording them. Therefore I took the typewritten copy which I had made to the Master Kūthūmi and asked Him to be so kind as to read it over. He read it, altered a word or two here and there, added some connecting and explanatory notes and a few other sentences which I remembered having heard Him speak to Mr. Krishnamurti. Then He said “Yes, that seems correct; that will do”; but He added, “Let us show it to the Lord Maitreya”.And so we went together, He taking the manuscript, and it was shown to the World-Teacher Himself, who read it and approved. It was He who said: “You should make a nice little book of this to introduce Alcyone to the world”. We had not meant to introduce him to the world; we had not considered it desirable that a mass of thought should be concentrated on a boy of thirteen, who still had his education before him. But in the occult world we do what we are told, and so this book was put into the printer's hands as soon as possible.
All the inconveniences which we expected from premature publicity came about; but still the Lord Maitreya was right and we were wrong; for the good that has been done by that book far outweighs the trouble it brought to us. Numbers of people, literally thousands, have written to say how their whole lives have been changed by it, how everything has become different to them because they have read it. It has been translated into twenty-seven languages. There have been some forty editions of it or more, and over a hundred thousand copies have been printed. Even now an edition of a million copies is being prepared in America. A wonderful work has been done by it. Above all, it bears that special imprimatur of the coming World-Teacher, and that is the thing that makes it most valuable — the fact that it shows us, to a certain extent, what His teaching is to be. ( Op. cit. , pp. 76-78. Second Edition, 1927) [Page 27]
THE PRELIMINARY PRAYER
C. W .L . — Dr. Besant concludes with a good wish for all of us :
May it help others as the spoken teaching helped him — such is the hope with which he gives it. But the teaching can only be fruitful if it is lived, as he has lived it since it fell from his Master's lips. If the example be followed as well as the precept, then for the reader, as for the writer, shall the great Portal swing open, and his feet be set on the Path.
reviewing this book, Dr. Besant said: “Very rarely are such words as
these given to men; teaching so direct, so philosophical, and so beautifully
put”. Therefore assuredly every word of it is worth our most careful
At the beginning of the book, before we enter even upon the Foreword of Alcyone, is set the old prayer. translated from the Sanskrit:
From the unreal lead me to the Real.
From darkness lead me to Light.
From death lead me to Immortality.
use of the word “real” in this case may sometimes prove
a little misleading. When we say “real” , and “unreal”,
the idea conveyed to our minds is that one thing has a definite existence
and the other has not. The unreal is to us purely imaginary. But that
quite what the Hindu understands by this sentence. Perhaps we should
come a little nearer to his meaning if we said, “ From the impermanent
lead me to the permanent”.
The statement that the lower planes, physical, astral and mental, are unreal, often leads to serious misunderstanding. They are not unreal at their own level, and while they last. Physical objects seem perfectly real while we are on the physical plane, but when the body falls asleep and we use our astral consciousness instead of the physical, those objects are no longer visible to us because we have passed into a higher plane. Therefore people sometimes say they are unreal. But there is just as much reason to say that the astral plane is unreal because we do not see its objects when on the physical plane. Both physical and astral objects are there all the time; they remain visible to those whose consciousness is on the respective planes.
far as we know all manifestation is impermanent; only the Unmanifested
is absolutely and always the same. All manifestation, even that of
the highest planes, will
one day pass again into the changeless, so the difference between what
we commonly call the impermanent and those higher planes is only a matter
of time, which in comparison to eternity can be as nothing. The [Page
29] physical plane, then, is just as real as the nirvanic, and just as truly
an expression of the Deity, and so we must not form the idea that one
of these things is real and the other mere dream or phantasmagoria.
Another very commonly held theory is that matter is evil; but that is not so at all. Matter is an expression of the Divine just as much as spirit; both are one in Him — two sides of Him. Matter often operates to hinder us in our progress, but only when it is so used as to delay us on our way; as well might a man who happens to cut himself with a knife say that knives are evil things. Considering the flexibility of the Sanskrit words we might equally translate the first line as, “ From the false lead me to the true”. “True”,– “permanent”,– “real“ – these words seem all of them to be included in the meaning; so what we are asking is rather that from the outer, where the illusion is greater, we may be lead to the inner, which is nearer to the absolute truth.
The second petition is, “From darkness lead me to Light”, — that is, of course, from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. The prayer is addressed to the Master; we ask Him to enlighten us by His wisdom. There is also a secondary meaning attached to that in India, for in these words one is also supposed to be asking Him to lead one to the knowledge of the higher planes, and there comes in a rather beautiful thought which will be found in some of those old books, that the light of the lower plane is the darkness of the plane above it. That is wonderfully true. What is thought of here as light is dim and murky, compared [Page 30] to the light of the astral world, and that in turn is poor in comparison with that of the mental. It is very difficult to put these distinctions into words, because each time you rise one plane in your consciousness you get the impression of something quite stupendously greater than you have ever known before — greater power, greater light, greater bliss
a man makes a definite advance in consciousness, he thinks: “Now
for the first time I know what life really means, what bliss is, and
how splendid all these things are”. So each plane is quite out
of all proportion superior to the one below it, so that, for instance,
even from the astral, the very next plane, into the physical is like
coming out of the sunlight into a dark dungeon. When a man can function
on the mental he finds an expansion in many directions absolutely beyond
that which he knows on the astral. When he can touch the buddhic consciousness,
for the first time he feels a very little of how God sees things. One
is then coming into touch with Divinity, and beginning to know how
is in all, feels through all. It is said that – “In Him
we live and move and have our being”, and that – “Of
Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom., XI. 36.)
; and all that is not merely a beautiful and poetic expression, but
represents an actual fact. There is a glorious unity – not brotherhood
alone, but actual unity – and when the lowest fringe of that
can be touched one begins for the first time very dimly to understand
when He looks on His [Page 31] universe
and says: “It is good”. And so from the darkness of the lower
planes we ask to be led to the light of the higher consciousness – and
it is light
as compared with darkness. No
phraseology could be more apt; no expression could give more exactly
what one feels.
Then we say: “From death lead me to Immortality”. That does not mean what at first sight the ordinary religious person would take it to mean, because the Theosophist's attitude towards death should be very different from that of the man who has not studied these things — quite the reverse, in fact. Death is not a horror, not a king of terrors, but rather an angel bearing a golden key to open the door into a higher and fuller life. Of course we always regret those who pass away; but the regret is for “the touch of the vanished hand and the sound of the voice that is still”. And when we ask to be led from death to immortality we do not at all mean what a Christian would have in mind: that he “should live for all eternity in his present personality in some form or other. We have, however, a very definite wish to escape from death, and its inseparable companion, birth. What lies before men is the round which the Buddhist calls the sansāra, the wheel of life. The prayer here is: from this cycle of birth and death, lead us to immortality – to the life which lies above birth and death, which no longer needs to dip into the lower planes, because its human evolution is finished and it has gained all that matter had to teach it.
people never seem to see it that idea is prominent in the Christian
scriptures also. Modern [Page 32] Christianity
suffers from certain obsessions – I do not think
we can call them by any other name – and one of them is the terrible
idea of an eternal hell. That belief has cast a cloud of misunderstanding
over a number of other
doctrines, too. The whole theory of salvation has come to mean salvation
from this non-existent, eternal hell, whereas it does not mean that
at all, and all the passages which are supposed to refer to that, which
seem so incomprehensible, become clear and luminous when it is understood
it really is the birth of the Christ in the heart that saves the man.
The Christ often spoke to the people of the broad road which led to death or destruction, and the many who followed it. His disciples came to Him once and asked: “ Lord, are there few that be saved ? ” Then He said: “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”. Men have actually taken those very beautiful and perfectly true words, and interpreted them to mean that the majority of mankind will be cast into eternal hell, that very few indeed will succeed in attaining heaven; but it is absolutely ridiculous to attribute the idea to the Christ. What He meant was perfectly clear. The disciples were asking how many people enter the path of Initiation, and He said, “ Few”, which is as true in our day as it was then. When He said: “ Broad is the road that leadeth to death, and many there be that follow it”, He referred to the road that leads to the cycle of death and birth. Of course, it is true that, that road is broad and easy; there is no trouble at all about following that line [Page 33] of development, and those who so do will attain the goal easily enough, somewhere about the end of the seventh round.
But straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to Initiation, to the kingdom of heaven. When Christ speaks of the kingdom of heaven He never means the heaven-world, the state after death, devachan, but always the body of the saved, the company of the elect, that is to say, the Great Brotherhood. When He refers to the conditions of life between death and rebirth, we find a very different set of words. Remember the passage written by S. John: “And lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds and peoples and tongues, stood before the Throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands”. When they spoke of that condition they told of a vast multitude which no man could number, not of a few who found their way with difficulty. [Page 34]
THE SPIRIT OF THE PUPIL
C.W.L. — We come now to the Foreword of Alcyone himself :
These are not my words; they are the words of the Master Who taught me. Without Him I could have done nothing; but through His help I have set my feet upon the Path.
He, plainly attributes all his progress to the influence and the help of his Master. We have much of the help that he then received, because we have the words of this book, which are the Master's words; but the enormous help of His presence and personal guidance is also ready and waiting for everyone of us, too. That must sink into our minds as a reality; we may be confident of it as an absolutely certain fact. As Alcyone was helped, so will all be aided who choose to make themselves ready for it.
You also desire to enter the same Path so the words which He spoke to me will help you also if you will obey them. It is not enough to say that they are true and beautiful; a man who wishes to succeed must do exactly what is said. To look at food and say that ,it is good will not satisfy a starving man; he must put forth his hand and eat. So to hear the Master's words is not enough; you must do what He says, attending to every word, taking every hint.
[Page 35] It is not enough to say: “I will do all that is written in the book“ ; its teaching must be made to permeate every part of one's life, one must be on the watch for opportunities. There is a little bit of poetry at the end of the book which expresses this very well:
Waiting the word of the Master,
Watching the Hidden Light;
Listening to catch His orders
In the very midst of the fight;
Seeing His slightest signal
Across the heads of the throng;
Hearing His faintest whisper
Above earth’s loudest song.
In the midst of all the noise, the whirl and excitement of the fight of life, one must listen all the while if one aspires to become a pupil of the Master. One must be eagerly looking out for opportunities to put into practice any of the teachings. This is not, after all, really difficult, because it is largely a matter of habit. Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute. ( It is only the first step that costs). When one has taken that, and has set up the habit, it is just as easy to be watching keenly all the time for this, as it is for the [Page 36] business man who is looking for opportunities to make money. It is right that the man should keep up such constant watchfulness, for while he is doing business it is his duty to do it well. But if he can be eager about the temporary things, surely he might well be equally earnest about these things of the higher life.
is very important that those who wish to reach the feet of the Master should
understand His attitude. It is the same as that which is induced by Theosophical
study. But the attitude is really what the study aims at, for Theosophy is
a life to be lived, not merely a system to be learned. We must try, therefore,
to bring our views into harmony with His, yet without forcing them at all.
It would not be the wisest thing for any of us to adopt a point of view merely
because it is the Master's, without understanding how He arrived at it. We
should be quite safe in adopting it because He knows so much more than we
do, but He would not wish it. Our intellect must be convinced, not merely
our feelings influenced, by His thought.
The great requirement is to have it certain in one's mind that these things are the more real and permanent and important. The average Christian certainly says, that the unseen things are more important, that, that which is seen is temporary; but he does not act at all as though he believed it. Why ? Because he is not certain of it. He is quite sure on the physical plane that money would be a good thing, and that the more he can get of it the better it will be for him; but he is not equally convinced that the spiritual things are real. [Page 37] They belong to the group of subjects which he labels 'religion', and there is not, somehow, the certainty and the practicality and the matter- of- factness about those things to him that there is in the affairs of ordinary life. We who are trying to make progress along these lines must introduce just precisely that matter- of- factness, that absolute and definite certainty into these realms of the unseen. Mr. Sinnett said in his first Theosophical book; “These things must be as real to you as Charing Cross”; that is true; they must be as familiar as the things we see every day.
They may become so for us, through reasoning about them, or through intuition, or best of all through direct experience. When we have completely convinced ourselves intellectually that a thing must be so, it grows into a fact for us. That is probably one of the advantages, which the older students have over the newer ones. However enthusiastic the new ones may be, the older ones have had time to live into this thing and to make it, bit by bit, grain by grain, so to speak, part of themselves. Knowledge grows, from more to more, as the poet puts it. There are some who as soon as they hear of the higher facts, spring at once into the state of absolute certainty about them, by a happy intuition, which is really their good karma from past lives. But for most of us, whose karma has riot been quite so good as that, the steady growth tell very much. Of course a person may be a member of the Society for thirty years and, know no more at the end of the time than at the beginning. That is sad, because it is a [Page 38] waste of opportunity .But for those who have constantly thought about Theosophy and lived it, there is a feeling of certainty which has gradually grown. The experiences of life and thought on these things have accumulated for us proof after proof, until we see that they must be so.
many cases the Theosophical ideas have appeared intricate and difficult at
first, but later on simple and easy. They have become part of yourself. A
child copies out a page of writing, and is very proud of it if there are
no mistakes, but later on he will do the same thing without thinking of it – it
has become a power. So long as we are making efforts to understand we have
not yet realized the value of Theosophical truths; later on they will be
a power in our lives.
Easier and more rapid is the path of the man who gets some personal experience. Few of us are entirely without that, and even one little bit of direct knowledge of that sort shows us — not, perhaps, that all the rest is true, but — that the rest is eminently probable. We have seen for ourselves that a part of what we have learnt is so; we recognize that the rest is probably so, since the entire philosophy is coherent; and this probability is so strong that it becomes for us practically a certainty.
If a hint is not taken, if a word is missed, it is lost forever; for He does not speak twice.
A.B. – Many people fail to understand that those who hear these things again and again are worse off, not better off, than the people in the outer world who have not heard this message, if they do not try to carry [Page 39] them out. I do not say, it will be noticed, if they do not carry them out, but if they do not try to carry them out. It is the strenuous endeavour that is necessary, and it is this that is too often forgotten amongst us. It is true that the Master does not speak twice; He makes a suggestion; if it is not used, He lets it go; He does not repeat what He has said. Only His disciples, meeting the conditions of the world, repeat again and again the things that they have to say, until they produce an impression. If you were accepted disciples, your Master would not tell you to do a thing if it were not possible. If you did not take a piece of advice which He offered, He would not give it you any more. This is not because He is unkind, but because He cannot afford to waste any time; He has far too much to do. All this teaching was given to Alcyone, because he worked hard all the time. It is only those who are strenuously in earnest who can thus come into touch with the Master. I know that it is just this strenuous, unremitting effort which many of you find so difficult, but it is that which is needed, and without it you cannot enter upon the Path.
C.W.L. — We
who follow the Master, and try to do some of His work in the outer
world, have to speak twice constantly; we have to say over and over again
various things which are committed to us, because people are heedless
and inattentive; but when one comes into touch with the Master Himself,
is not expected to be heedless any more; then a single hint should
be sufficient, and certainly if it is not taken it will not be repeated,
Master [Page 40] is a proud
Teacher, but because the pupil is not ready.
The method used by the Masters in training Their pupils should be understood. It is very rarely indeed that They issue any direct order. When I myself was taken on probation many years ago, almost my first question was, “ What can I do ? “ The Master said in reply: “That is for you to discover”. Then He explained: “I know quite well that if I tell you to do anything, of course you will do it at once. But in that case you will have only the karma of prompt and instant obedience; I shall have the karma of the deed. I want you to have it; I want you, for yourself, to do good things and to make good karma. It must be you who originate the idea, not I”. The Great Ones very rarely give direct commands; but often from something that a Master says, or even from the glance of His eye, one forms the opinion as, to whether He approves or disapproves of a certain thing; and those who stand round Him, more especially in the case of the Master Kūthūmi, learn very readily to note these things; they are always on the watch for any sort of hint.
The Master Morya was a King in the earlier part of his present incarnation, and He speaks with the command of a King. He more often gives direct orders, and if He disapproves of something, He generally says so clearly. The Master Kūthūmi has hardly ever expressed disapproval. His pupils have learnt to interpret His look, for He rarely says any word of blame. So it comes that they watch very carefully for anything whatever in the nature [Page 41] of a hint. When it is given they endeavour to take it, because they know that if it is missed that particular hint will not be given again. Nothing could possibly follow in the nature of blame or loss from not taking it, except to the pupil, who would be less likely to receive a hint on another occasion.
In The Masters and the Path it has been explained that the different Masters train their pupils in different ways, according to the Rays to which they belong and the lines of work which they are destined to pursue. On the line of the Manu and Master Morya are people of the kshattriya kind — men of the governing type, judges, lawyers, soldiers, statesmen. On the line of the Bodhisattva and the Master Kūthūmi are those of the Brãhmana type-teachers, preachers, reformers. In addition to these there are five other great Rays, with their special characteristics. A Chohan, who has passed at least the Sixth Initiation, stands at the head of each type, while under Him there are several Masters. Thus, on the second Ray, for example, a pupil need not necessarily belong to the Master Küthümi; he might be attached to the Master DjwälKül. [Page 42]
THE FOUR INTRODUCTORY PATHS
C. W.L. — They tell us in the Eastern books that there are four main roads by which men may be brought to the beginning of the Probationary Path. They say that the most frequent method of such turning is through the companionship of those already on the Path. That makes them see its glory and beauty, and the necessity for following it. The influence of an advanced disciple is not limited to the words he speaks; it is the vibration of the life radiating from such a person that is so powerful. This fact is fully recognized in India, where there are many teachers of different sorts standing at different levels, of varying degrees of power, who are there called gurus. Each has his own set of followers, and teaches them his own ideas upon philosophy, and sometimes gives them mantras to recite, forms of meditation, and yoga practices to do. But it is not by any means mainly through these things that he helps them. The more important thing is that they shall be with him. If he is a peripatetic, wandering from place to place, they go about with him, just as the disciples of Jesus travelled with Him through Palestine. If he lives in one place these disciples gather round him, sit at his feet and [Page 43] listen to any words of wisdom which he may drop. but the benefit they gain is not so much from what he teaches as from the influence of his presence.
process is entirely scientific. The higher vehicles of the guru are
keyed up to a higher rate of vibration than those of his pupils who have
more recently than he out of the worldly life, where the vibrations
are at a lower level. They are not entirely withdrawn from the selfish side
of things as he is. They must take themselves in hand; realize their
and resolve to get rid of them and develop certain virtues, in brief,
change their own characters, and that is usually a slow and tedious
business. They can be quite immensely assisted in that process by being in
contact with the guru who has developed these virtues and extinguished
those vices in himself. The pressure of the higher vibration is constant.
whether they wake or sleep, and they are absorbing it and being attuned
to it all the time. The principle of this is well known in physics:
if you put close to each other two timepieces which are not moving
together in harmony, the stronger one will gradually bring the weaker
into agreement with itself, or stop it altogether.
The second way of entering the Probationary Path is the hearing or reading of teaching upon the subject. A man who is interested in the matter gets hold of some teaching along these higher lines; it commends itself to his intuition and immediately he seeks to satisfy his desire to find out more about it. This was my own experience. I came across The Occult World, and at [Page 44] once made up my mind: “ If that be so – and it is so evidently – if there be these Greater People, and if They are willing to accept service from us, and to give us in return something of Their priceless knowledge – then I am going to be one of those who serve Them. I am going to pick up whatever crumbs I can, and the only thing worth doing from now on is to set to work to get into that position somehow”. Of course there are many thousands who hear and read the teaching, and yet do not receive any impulse from it. That is a question of the man's experience in other lives. Only if he has already come into contact with the truth, and has convinced himself of its beauty and reality in a previous life, does he instantly feel it to be true when it comes before him in this life.
It seems to many of us amazing that everyone who gets hold of a Theosophical book is not converted. Theosophy is a wonderful teaching, and it solves a great many problems, and yet you know quite well when you try to lend Theosophical books to friends, half of them return them, and say “ Yes, no doubt it is very interesting”. but they have not really understood it at all.One's present understanding is the good karma of having studied it before; the more one has known of a thing before, the more he will see in it now. That is our experience with any good book that we may have read, say, twenty years ago. Read it again now, and see how very much more you will find in it than you did then. You are able to see in it that which you bring the power to see. [Page 45]
The third mode by which men are sometimes brought to the beginning of the Probationary Path is by what is called in the Indian books, ' enlightened reflection '. That means that by sheer hard thinking a man may come to see that there must be a plan of evolution, that there must be Those who know all about it – the evolved and perfected Men – and that there must be a Path by which They may be reached. The man who by such thinking comes to that decision then sets out to look for the Path; but those who travel by this road are probably few.
In some ways the most remarkable is the fourth way — the practice of virtue. That is an idea which would quite commend itself to the average Christian, because he often believes that all that is necessary is to be good. But the Theosophist recollects that in the early days of Christianity the purification, or saintship, which they now set before themselves as their goal, was considered to be only the first step. S. Clement says of it quite boldly that purity is merely a negative virtue, valuable chiefly as a condition of insight. Having achieved that, you are then fit to learn, to prepare for illumination, which was the second stage, and after that to pass into the third stage, called perfection. You will remember how S. Paul speaks of that. He says: “ We speak wisdom among them that are perfect”, but not to others.
This virtue leads to the beginning of the Path because, though the man who leads a good life through many incarnations may not thereby develop intellect, he will presently acquire sufficient intuition to carry him into the presence of the people who do know, to bring him in [Page 46] fact to the feet of some one who is a servant of the Master. It is admitted, however, that, that method takes thousands of years and many lives. The man who practises virtue and does not develop his mind will reach the Path eventually, but it is a slow process. It would save him much time if he followed S. Peter's advice and aimed at knowledge as well. [Page 47] .
THE FOUR QUALIFICATIONS
Four Qualifications there are for this pathway:
C. W .L. — These qualifications have been stated over and over again in the various religions, but this translation differs slightly from any that have been given previously. In the case of the first, discrimination, there has been little variation. I have already explained the words used for this by the Hindus and Buddhists, how they mean the same thing as conversion among the Christians, and how the pupil must unite the ego and the personality. On the Path proper the process has to be repeated between the Monad and the ego. The ego is a fragment of the Monad put down as far as the higher part of the mental plane; it also comes down for the collection of experience, to learn to receive and respond to vibrations such as cannot be sensed by the Monad at his own level. So the ego in turn has to learn that he is a part of the Monad, that he exists only for [Page 48] that Monad, and when that in turn is fully realized, the man is ready to take the Fifth Initiation and so become an Adept.
are the actual definitions of readiness for the two Initiations; for the
First, that the higher and the lower self shall have been unified, that there
shall be nothing but the ego working in this personality; and for the Fifth
Initiation that there shall be nothing in the ego that is not approved or
inspired by the Monad. Whenever the Monad touches our lives down here he
comes in as a god from above. In all cases of Initiation he flashes down,
and for a moment becomes one with the ego, just as they will be permanently
one when Adeptship is gained. At certain other times also the Monad comes
down, as in the case mentioned in The Lives of Alcyone, when Alcyone
took a pledge to the Lord Buddha.
By one or other of the foregoing means the man is led to discrimination — this knowledge of what is worth following and what is not worth following. Then he finds he has to develop the second qualification, to which the Master here gives the name of desirelessness. Dr. Besant previously translated it dispassion or indifference. This is the Hindu vairāgya which means indifference to the result of one's actions. The Lord Buddha's statement of that is just a little different. For this second stage He uses the Pāli word parikamma, Karma or kamma always means doing or acting, and parikamma means preparation for action; so He calls that second stage preparation for action, the grade in [Page 49] which the emphasis is laid on learning to do right for right's sake, not for the sake of anything the man may gain from it in any way for himself. This must not be misunderstood. Many people say that indifference to the fruit of action means that one must perform duty without taking into account the effect on anyone else. As this book tells us later on that which is right you must do, that which is wrong you must not do, whatever the consequences may be; but it does not mean that people should go on doing just what they like without thinking how their action will affect others. In fact, it is that very effect which determines whether the action is right or wrong. The pupil of the Master does not think of the effect upon himself, but he does most emphatically think of that on others.
third qualification, which is called Good Conduct, includes the six rules
which the Hindus name shatsampatti. In the Pāli form,
as given by the Lord Buddha, that qualification is called upachāro,
which means “attention” rather than “conduct “ — one
is to pay attention to conduct in the ways prescribed by those six jewels,
as they are called. We shall come to the Master Kūthūmi's
rendering of them presently, as we go through this book. By the Buddha they
were given as samo, “quietude”,
that is, control of mind; then dāmo, “subjugation”,
that is, control of the body; then uparati, titikkhā,
samãdhāna, and saddhā, literally “cessation, endurance,
intentness, and faith”. I took the trouble to have all these words
looked up in the principal dictionaries, and got these translations from [Page
50] the High Priest Hikkaduwe Sumangala Thero, who was then Head
of the Southern Buddhist Church. The words also represent the current belief
of that Church.
These are a little different from the translations which are given in this book. What is here called “cessation” , is translated “tolerance”, because the cessation meant is from bigotry and superstition, the putting aside altogether of any idea that your way is better than anybody else's way, and the idea that any rite or ceremony is necessary. Endurance is simply cheerfulness in another form. Intentness is one-pointedness and balance, bringing all one's .life to the focus of one's aim, and therefore also steadiness; and faith is confidence in one's Master and oneself. The qualifications are the same exactly in both cases, but the Lord Buddha spoke of them specially from the point of view of the necessity for wisdom and the Lord Maitreya and the Master Kūthūmi are emphasizing more the necessity for love. In teaching Alcyone the Master also aimed more at giving the practical meaning than literally translating the old words.
The last qualification is called Love. It is in Sanskrit mumukshatva, which means “ the intense desire for liberation from the round of births and deaths and for union with the Supreme”. The Lord Buddha in His scheme called that anuloma, which means “direct order” or succession. His meaning is that when the man has developed the other qualifications, he must desire to escape from the lower limitations and [Page 51] to become one with the Supreme in order that be may help.
Alcyone then goes on to say:
What the Master has said to me on each of these
I shall try to tell you. And then begins the book proper. [Page 52]
TRUE AND FALSE AIMS
C.W.L. — [Page 55] We now come to Section I of the book itself.
The first of these Qualifications is Discrimination; and this is usually taken as the discrimination between the real and the unreal which leads men to enter the Path. It is this, but it is also much more; and it is to be practised, not only at the beginning of the Path, but at every step of it every day until the end.
last few words show precisely the difficulties which stand in the way of
most of those who see the glory and the beauty of the Path, and intend to
enter upon it and come to the feet of the Master. They are all good, earnest,
painstaking people, but the personality is wayward, and they have to face
the great pressure of public opinion, as I have already explained. In addition
there is also the fact that humanity is now but a little past the middle
of the fourth round, and they are trying to do in it that which will be very
easy to do at the end of the seventh round. Those who go on to that time [Page
56] will have, in their physical, astral and mental vehicles,
matter far more fully developed than we have now, with all its spirillae
in activity instead of only about half, and all the forces surrounding them
will be helpful and not hindering as they are now.
The Masters are on our side and Their forces help us.The force of evolution, slow as it is, also is on our side, and the future is with us; but the present is a very hard time to do anything of this sort. In the middle of the fifth round all the people whose influence is now bearing hard against us in an opposite direction will have been shunted out, and there will be none left but those who are going our way. In the seventh round things will therefore be wonderfully easy. One may then live in the outer world with all the advantages that can now be found only in a monastery under the direction of a spiritually developed man. Some might think: “ Why then should we not wait for the seventh round ? ” Many among us have been drifting along comfortably and happily enough during the last twenty or thirty thousand years, and those who have not a keen desire from within to progress or to help the world may go on for another million years in just the same old time, and no doubt it will be very much easier in the end; but those who go through the difficulties now will have the enormous privilege of ,helping forward evolution, and they will wear the crown of the helper. Remember the old Christian hymn which tells how a man went to heaven and, looking round, found himself somehow different . from all the rest, and wondered what was the matter.[Page 57]
At last he met the Christ, and asked Him why this was so, and the Christ said in reply:
I know thou hast believed in Me
And life through Me is thine.
But where are all those glorious stars
Which in thy crown should shine ?
Thou seest yonder joyous throng
With gems on every brow,
For every soul they led to Me
They wear a jewel now.
In the Christian Scripture it is said that they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, as the light of the clear sky; but they that turn many to righteousness shall be as the stars for ever and ever – great glowing suns, sending out light and warmth and strength to thousands of other lives. That is the difference between doing the work now, and waiting to drift in with the current in the seventh round.
You enter the Path because you have learnt that on it alone can be found those things which are worth gaining. Men who do not know, work to gain wealth and power, but these are at most for one life only, and therefore unreal. There are greater things than these things which are real and lasting; when you have once seen these, you desire those others no more.
A.B. – The
question of the real and the unreal is a deeply metaphysical one, but we
are not really concerned with that here, because the Master was teaching
quite a young boy, and further the teaching was given on the astral plane.
In such cases the Master is [Page 58] speaking
to the lower mind as well as to the ego, and on this
occasion he gave His teaching in a form suitable for the lower mind of a
boy which had by no means reached its full development. However old the ego
may be, the three bodies were young, so the teaching was expressed very simply,
that on returning to his body the pupil might understand it in his waking
The unreal is here taken to be everything which is not divine, everything that is passing in the phenomenal world, everything belonging to the personal self, including even the higher things for which men work for the sake of a material goal. Following the Master's thought, we may say that everything is unreal except that which is part of the will of God. Those who discriminate know the real things, so they work as agents of God, doing His will, He being the real doer. There is no suggestion that they should neglect material activity. Men should do their work better, not worse, because they are the agents of God, executing His actions in the outer world. “Yoga is skill in action”, says the Gītā, and yoga is union with the Divine. Action must be skillful in the case of the man who has this union, for it is not he who does the work, but God in him. When Arjuna was asking Shri Krishna about fighting, the Lord replied that He Himself had already killed the enemy, and He added: “Therefore fight, O Arjuna”.
When the higher things have been seen, said the Master, the others are desired no more. That idea is familiar to students of the Gītā in which it is said: “ The objects of sense, but not the taste for them, turn, [Page 59] away from the abstemious dweller in the body; and even taste turneth away from him after the Supreme is seen”; When a man has seen the One, the very desire for the things of the senses dies out in him.
W .L. — It is a fact that when the greater things
have once been seen, one no longer has a taste for the lower things, but
it must be
absolutely that fact that induces one to refrain from following the latter.
Very often people confound cause and effect, and think that to pretend
not to care for the lower things — which, though quite good in their way,
are yet so called in contradistinction to higher and spiritual things – at
once puts a man on a high level. Of course it does not. It is another form
of the very common delusion with regard to asceticism. A great many people
follow what they call
asceticism as an end in itself, and wrongly think that to avoid all the ordinary
pleasures of life, to make oneself uncomfortable in various ways, is highly
meritorious. That is a relic of the puritan idea which at one time dominated
England and a good deal of Europe. It was distinctly of the essence of that
puritanism that to be
good you must be as uncomfortable as possible. Whenever a man was in any
sort of way happy he was surely infringing some of the divine laws, as he
was not in the least meant to be happy down here; his body was a vile thing
which had to be repressed in all sorts of ways, and if at any time delighted
in anything he was doing, he might be certain that that thing was wrong. That
is all nonsense, but it does come from a perversion of the truth, and the
truth is that those things [Page 60] which
most people in the world enjoy and regard as great pleasures cease to be
thought of as such by the man who, rising to higher level, has altogether
higher pleasures in view, which far more than take their place.
People in the world take great pleasure in all sorts of things which do not interest those who aspire higher – in horse-racing, for example, and drinking and gambling, and also in various forms of amusements such as dancing and card-playing, which are not necessarily harmful, but are rather like children's toys. As a little child grows up he abandons his toys. At the age of three or four he likes to play with bricks and dolls; when he gets a little older he takes to toy soldiers, kites, tops and marbles; when he gets again a little bit older he no longer cares for any of these things, but plays cricket or football, or some game of that sort which requires a great deal of outdoor exertion. All these are stages through which the child passes, and each is quite proper in its turn. As he grows still older he abandons those things he had previously enjoyed, not because he thinks he ought to do so, but simply because they have ceased to interest him; he has found something which is more appropriate to his stage of development. But you can see at once that a little child of three would not become a big boy by choosing to ignore all the things of early childhood, and wanting to play cricket or football.
The highly advanced man does not care for a great many things which ordinary people think necessary, and the man of the world would probably find the life of the disciple intolerably wearisome, if he tried to live as many [Page 61] of us do, with no real interest outside Theosophy and the deeper problems of life. The average worldling would say that such people are always doing the one thing, and that they do not seem to know or care for anything else — which is quite true, because that includes all the rest. But he would not become an advanced man by pretending not to care for his own things, while all the time in his heart he really desired them.
In all the world there are only two kinds of people — those who know, and those who do not know; and this knowledge is the thing which matters. What religion a man holds, to what race he belongs — these things are not important.
A.B. – The Master draws here a very luminous distinction. He divides men into two classes — those who know and those who do not know. That is the great division from the occult standpoint, and each should ask himself to which class he belongs. Both classes include many varieties of people, for outer distinctions and differences are things that do not matter. Those who do not know, work for what exists for one life only; but he who has once clearly seen the real things, is filled with the sole desire to work for the Logos, to fall in with His mighty plan and help in however small a way to carry it out. We can test our own knowledge to see whether it bears on that work or not. The mere brain knowledge which enables one to talk very intelligently, perhaps, and to teach others, is all unreal; the real knowledge is only that which is worked into one's life. There are [Page 62] very many people who make it their custom to sit quietly for a little time every night before going to bed, and review their day's work. That is a very useful thing, but if you do it, ask yourself not merely what you have done, what you have felt, and what you have thought, but what has been your attitude. If you have been submerged in the things you have done, the time has been largely lost; but if you had done the same things as part of the divine work — as acts of sacrifice — they would have helped and not hindered you.
The really important thing is this knowledge – the knowledge of God's plan for men. For God has a plan, and that plan is evolution. When once a man has seen that and really knows it, he cannot help working for it and making himself one with it, because it is so glorious, so beautiful.
C.W.L. — The
spirit which makes men join political and temperance associations of various
sorts which they think will help the world, is called forth in its very highest
aspect the moment a man sees the real plan of the Logos for His system. He
sees that it will be carried out one day, and that the time when that desirable
consummation will be reached depends upon the number of people who are ready
to work for it. If the whole world could be induced, in a few weeks or years,
to see and to co-operate with it, everything that the Logos desires for His
people would be very rapidly achieved. It is just because men are not yet
sufficiently developed to see it that we fall short so sadly, and so [Page
63] many sorrows and wrongs and wickednesses remain in the face of the sun.
Many students of Theosophy know something of the Plan. I do not say they have seen it yet, but they have been in contact with those who have, and know, therefore, what it is, and in what direction one must move if he would associate himself with it. But when the time of absolutely seeing it comes, it will be found that all that is said here of the enthusiasm is true. In the world, people often take up good causes and reforms with enthusiasm and vigour, but unless they know something of the larger plan of evolution, and, see where their own work fits into it, mistakes may easily be made. They attach themselves to certain causes because they are impressed with their urgency and utility. Such is, for example, the cause of temperance, which they espouse because they have seen the tremendous evil caused by the drinking habit, and have realized in how very many ways the world would be quite infinitely better if that evil could be removed. They try to remove it, not by inducing men to give up the foolishness and wickedness of drink, but by prohibiting its sale, and so forcing the people into sobriety; a plan which by no means weeds out the desire, but only renders it impossible to gratify it. I am not for a moment speaking against the prohibition scheme; there is very much to be said in its favour. If we think it wise to place a restriction on the sale of arsenic or prussic acid, why should not the same be done in the case of a poison which is responsible for far more harm [Page 64] than both of them together ? I am only pointing out that this remedy does not strike at the root of the evil; it tries to reform people by compulsion, not by persuasion.
Just in the same way people who have realized the awful suffering of the submerged tenth seek in all directions for a remedy for this great and crying shame; but unfortunately some think they have found it in extreme radicalism or even in anarchism. One cannot blame people for prosecuting unselfishly a line which they think will bring relief to their fellows. It is their heads which are at fault in such cases as this, not their hearts, which drive them to great personal loss and sacrifice in order, as they hope, to relieve the trouble of their fellow-men. They have to realize that there is a plan for human evolution, and to give themselves to its study, that their actions may become wise as well as unselfish. It is discrimination that is lacking; they see only one side of the difficulty, and so they plunge themselves into something which will lead to worse trouble than that which they are trying to assuage.
So, because he knows he is on God's side, standing for good and resisting evil, working for evolution and not for selfishness.
W .L. – That is the touchstone by which we may
recognize the people who know — it is not in the least by their religion
or their race,
but by the one and only fact that they stand for good and against evil.
Wherever we find a man who is loyal to the highest that he knows, is standing
for what seems to him to be good and [Page
65] resisting what seems to him to be evil, we must see in him
a brother working on God's side, even though some of the work he does is
hardly such as we
could approve, or think of as being pleasing to God. There are numbers
of people who are utterly good and loyal to their convictions and yet have
most crushing limitations. These earnest, devoted persons actually sacrifice
their energy, their whole time, and everything they have, to bring other
souls to Christ, as they would put it; yet they have the most limited and
bigoted conceptions. They show in some cases a feeling of bitter opposition,
practically amounting to hatred, for those whose belief is a little different
in certain ways from their own.
One of the most striking features of the work of the great Hierarchy is that in every such case its members extract the good and put aside the evil. They take up the force which that devotion and earnestness generates, and use every ounce of it, putting aside all the evil which, on this plane at any rate, so largely prevents the good from showing itself. There are many Christian communities where the bigotry so overshadows the loving-kindness that all the outward impression one gets is of its bitterness. The Brothers of the Hierarchy deplore the bigotry and see the evil done by it even more than others can, but nevertheless They draw out from it all the force of loving-kindness and devotion and good intention, utilize it, and give credit to those who pour it out; and everyone of those people will get all the benefit that follows from his goodness, although at the same time for his anger and his bigotry there [Page 66] will also be exactly the karmic law.
Wherefore it behoves us to be charitable in dealing with these other people and to try in all cases to fix our thoughts on the good things, to “ pounce upon the pearls”, as the Master said, instead of everlastingly flying at the flaws, as so many people do.
If he is on God's side he is one of us, and it does not matter in the least whether he calls himself a Hindu, or a Buddhist, a Christian or a Muhammadan, whether he is an Indian or an Englishman, a Chinaman or a Russian.
A.B. – This
is a thing that aspirants to the Path should never forget, for unless it
is lived, you are still very far from the Portal. There no one will ask what
your race is, or your creed, but only what you have added to your character
in the way of qualities. All of us pass through different races in turn.
We find ourselves now in a particular sub-race of a particular root-race
because we need to acquire the good qualities in which
it specializes, and which it can therefore give to us, whatever they may
be; yet at the same time many people are busy developing the weaknesses of
that particular sub-race as well. It would probably be quite right to say: “ No
other race would be so suitable for me just now, to remove my defects and
fill in my character”, but it is not intended that we should take up, say,
English methods and glorify them to the exclusion of all others, and feel
that none can be as good as those. Each [Page
67] race has its part to play in the harmony; each contributes
its share to the mighty whole. In whatever race you happen to be, the part
of the harmony
which is played by that race offers for the moment the easiest and most natural
work for you. But you will pass through that and learn to play some other
part later. If
people understood this, they would be less prone to foolish pride of race,
and criticism of other races.
When I hear some one complaining of some one else with the implication that the fault of the other exists because he is an Englishman or an Indian, it shows me at once that the speaker is still deluded by the unreal. The same thing occurs when a person excuses his own shortcomings by saying that they are those of his sub-race. You must try to acquire the best qualities of your race and sub-race, not its deficiencies. The Indian, for example, should try to acquire spirituality, harmlessness, tolerance, and capacity for action with non-attachment – for these are the qualities that the first family of the Aryan race was meant to show out.
Yet sometimes we find that non-attachment is accompanied by carelessness and slipshod work, rising from the wrong idea that because one should be indifferent to the fruits of action the action is unimportant. But what is really wanted is perfection of action with indifference to the fruits of action. With the Englishman, it is often quite the reverse. He is generally competent and careful in action; but is apt to get excited about the fruits of it, because he often lacks the quality of indifference. [Page 68] It is the business of each to try to acquire what he lacks; the Indian should try to practise action, the Englishman indifference, without loss of the qualities which are already theirs. If this were done differences of race would work for the enrichment of all races for each could learn from the other what he himself lacked.
C. W .L. — To be patriotic, to admire your own race, to feel that you owe something to it, and to be ready to serve it, are all good things;. But take great care lest you show your admiration by depreciating the others. Our permanent relation is to humanity as a whole. We are citizens of the world, not of anyone race. Yet patriotism is good, just as family love is good. In both cases, however, we must not let ourselves carry our virtue to such extremes as to put evil in the place of good. Truly family affection is a splendid thing, but that of the robber barons of the Middle Ages, which led them to murder other people, for the sake of enriching their own families, was certainly a virtue carried to an excess, and became a vice. In exactly the same way patriotism is good, but if it leads to aggression against other races, it becomes bad. But if you can do something for your race, without injuring others, if you can show yourself to be a worthy member of it, so that it shall be the better for your passing through it, you may then have some cause for satisfaction. It is precisely the same with religion. We have all been through many of the great religions. Each one emphasizes certain virtues, but all are necessary for the progress of mankind. [Page 69]
Those who are on His side know why they are here and what they should do, and they are trying to do it; all the others do not yet know what they should do, and so they often act foolishly.
W .L. — Here
is a touch of the teaching of the Lord Gautama Buddha that all evil comes
from ignorance. The fact that those who do not
know often act foolishly makes it true that the wicked man is always to
be pitied, not to be disliked or hated. What impresses itself most upon
people generally is that he is acting in selfishness for
his own interests, as he thinks — and they are a little apt to forget his
ignorance of the facts. To take an instance — there have been certain great
millionaires who won their way to temporary prosperity by throwing out of
business a number of smaller people and beggaring them. They are regarded
with execration by those people whose livelihood they have taken away, and
everyone says how utterly selfish and brutal these people are.
Yes, but when they are so it is because they are ignorant. Such a man is doing exactly what he set out to do: to crush out those other people because he thinks he can do all that business better. Perhaps he can turn out better results, and make a fortune for himself at the same time, but he would never have set out to do it had he known that he was doing far more harm to himself than to any of the other people, that he was making for his own future a karma that would be quite infinitely worse than that of those men whom he crushed. Instead [Page 70] of execrating that man for his selfishness the wiser part would be to pity him for his ignorance.
And try to invent ways for themselves which they think will be pleasant for themselves, not understanding that all are one, and that therefore only what the One wills can ever be really pleasant for anyone.
W .L. – It is a great motto of utilitarianism to
pursue the greatest good of the greatest number. It is a great improvement
previous idea that the good of only
a few should be considered, and that the others were a negligible quantity.
But the minority cannot be ignored; indeed everyone must be taken into account
because all are one. This cannot be understood until the consciousness of
the buddhic plane has been developed to some extent, and even then only by
slow degrees can one learn how utterly all are one. We think of it. as a
sort of religious duty to believe it to be so, or as a sort of pious aspiration
that some day all will become one. We say: “We have all come forth
from the same great Father, and therefore we are all brothers, and we are
all one”. We do not, however, understand the reality and the depth of that
until we experience it in buddhic consciousness.
Some suggestion of it may be given, nevertheless, if we say that all consciousnesses are one, that all the world is one, that all the love in it is the one Divine Love, that all the beauty in it is the one Divine Beauty, and all the holiness of the world is the one Holiness of God. [Page 71] Christ expressed that when a man came to Him and called Him “ good Master”. He said: “ Why callest though Me good ? There is none good but One and that is God”. The goodness of each man is the goodness of God showing itself forth in him, and all the beauty and glory of the world, as we see it, in the earth and sea and sky, is nothing but part of the one Divine Beauty; and as we rise to different sub-planes, from level to level, more and more we see that beauty opening itself out before us, until we learn to see all beauty through each beautiful thing. It is all one.
When that is learned, the glory of the Divine will be seen in and through everything, and all its other glories through each of those, so that when a beautiful landscape opens before us, it will not be merely the scene which we shall admire, but all that it suggests — the infinite whole of which it is only a tiny part. Then life will become wonderfully happy for us, and full of love. Through that happiness we shall experience something of the Eternal Bliss, and through that love we shall realize the Eternal Love. It is only in that way that great advancement can come, only when we realize that we ourselves are nothing but a point in the whole; then our consciousness is in a condition to merge into His, so that through us He may see all this beauty, and we, as in Him, may see it and realize it too.[Page 72]
They are following the unreal instead of the real.Until they learn to distinguish between these two, they have not ranged themselves on God's side, and ,so this discrimination is the first step.
But even when the choice is made, you must still remember that of the real and the unreal there aremany varieties; and discrimination must still be made between the right and the wrong, the important and the unimportant, the useful and the useless, the true and the false, the selfish and the unselfish.
C. W .L. – Those are all subdivisions of the great distinction between the real and the unreal, and their enumeration shows us how discrimination must ramify down into the smallest affairs of life, if we are to tread this Path. Little points are constantly arising which we have to decide this way or that way, so always we have to bear the idea of discrimination in mind, and keep constantly watchful. To stop and think all the time is wearisome. Many good people get tired when they try it; the perpetual strain of it is too great for them. That is very natural, but those who give in fail to achieve; therefore however wearisome it may be, we must continue the life of recollectedness.
Between right and wrong it should not be difficult to choose, for those who wish to follow the Master have already decided to take the right at all costs.
A.B. – If anyone hesitates between right and wrong he does not really wish to follow the Master. Those who [Page 73] decide to do so must make up their minds to take the right at all costs on all occasions, small and great, no matter what the consequences may be. In the Yoga Sutras it is said of the five great qualities called yama, which include harmlessness, truth, honesty, and other virtues, which are prescribed at the very beginning of the Path, that “these are called the great vows, being universal”, which means that they are to be kept under all circumstances, that no gain for himself or others could justify the disciple in breaking one of them. The man who has attained this position will never tell, or act, an untruth, however great may be the apparent advantage of so doing. This will be so not only in money matters but in everything; he will never take any more credit than belongs to him, for example. You must ask yourself whether you always choose the truth instinctively, for until this is so you are far from the first Portal. On this subject the Master does not think it worth while to say any more; it is so clear, so palpable..
W .L. — This idea refers not only to the question
of conduct, but also to the fact that there are right and wrong ways to
go about any
piece of work that has to be done. He who is not strict in following this
rule does not really desire success deep down inside. People sometimes
say: “ How I wish I were clairvoyant; how I wish I could see astrally,
how must I begin ? What is the first step ? ” The first step is to purify
all the vehicles; you must be careful that the physical body takes no food
but the most suitable. Many would like [Page 74] astral sight, but when it comes to the point they prefer what they call
a good dinner. They feel that they must have that, because they are used
to it, and for the time they forget all about their desire for astral sight.
The feeling, however, is simply due to habit, and when we know about this
peculiarity of the body, we can proceed with confidence in the wearisome
task of wearing down the old bad or unsuitable habits, and setting up new
is encouraging that the principle of habit can be made a powerful ally in
our work, although it is a hindrance in the beginning; for when once we have
established good habits, they will go on automatically and we can forget
them, and give our attention to other things.
In conduct there is no question as to choosing between right and wrong. Anyone who is likely to be interested in this book, or who wants to reach the Master's feet, will not hesitate in choosing the right when he sees it. Let us hope that none of us would try to cheat a fellow -creature — I hope we have got past that – or be guilty of the slightest untruthfulness, even to do apparent good. We should probably not be obtaining a living in any objectionable way, such as by the slaughter of animals, nor be of the number of those who wear articles of dress or adornment which can only be obtained by the killing of animals, – sometimes by the slaughter of, say, the mother-bird under peculiarly revolting circumstances. All people who continue to wear such things do not really desire to follow the Master; they prefer to follow the fashion. [Page 75]
THE LIFE OF THE BODIES
But the body and the man are two, and the man's will is not always what the body wishes. When your body wishes something, stop and think whether you really wish it.
A.B.– Here the Master gives His pupil the decided order that when his body wishes something, he must stop and consider whether he himself really wishes it. Many people will find that stopping and thinking every day and all day long is very difficult and irksome; but the fact must be faced that it is an important part of the preparation. It is very difficult, I know, and therefore many aspirants get tired of making the effort.
Those who give up because they are tired do not achieve, that is all. The effort to do this must be great and prolonged – it all means such a regulated life, in which there shall be no hasty action, no hasty speech, not even hasty thinking, but all the pupil's activities, physical, emotional and mental, must be entirely under control.
C.W.L. — If
one wants really to do his best in this matter of progress it is worth his
while to make a careful [Page 76] study
of his different vehicles and see exactly what they are. Here it is said
quite clearly that the physical body wishes for things that the man does
not wish for, and that is equally true of the astral and mental bodies. If
the constitution of these vehicles is understood, one can see that what they
are likely to want would be undesirable for the man. We are speaking of them
almost as though they were separate persons, and in a way they are. Each
of these bodies is built of living matter, and the life in them joins itself
together, and acquires a kind of corporate consciousness.
In the astral body that forms what we sometimes call the desire-elemental, who is practically an entity composed of the joint life of all the astral cells that make up that body. Each cell by itself is a small, only partly conscious life, struggling on its upward way — or, rather, its downward way, because evolution for it is to pass down into the mineral kingdom. When these lives find themselves all joined together in an astral body, they do to a certain extent practically club together and act as though they were a unit, and you get the effect of an astral body that has strong instincts of its own, so strong, in fact, that you could almost say that it has a will of its own. The way for it to evolve is to get stronger and coarser vibrations, connected with all those feelings and emotions which we do not want to develop, such as envy, jealousy and selfishness; that is why its interests are so often opposed to ours. The far more delicate, more rapid and really more powerful vibrations of love, sympathy and devotion, all belong to a higher [Page 77] part of the astral body, consequently they are of the type that the body itself does not want, though we do.
People of unregulated life, who want to be free, as they often call it, to say and do what they wish, are really slaves to their astral bodies. We must not blame the astral body for this, nor regard it, as the medieval Christians did, as a tempting demon. It does not know anything about us or our existence; and it is not tempting us at all, but is simply trying to find expression for itself, to evolve, in its own way, just as all other creatures are doing.
People have sometimes asked the question, “Ought not we to give this elemental a chance for its evolution; ought we not to let it have its coarse vibrations? ” No, that is mistaken philanthropy, and could not be done thoroughly anyhow. The kindest thing one can do with the coarser matter – which is in our astral bodies because in some previous lives we have allowed the lower emotions to play strongly through us – is to shake it out, and let it fasten itself upon some savage, or a dog or a cow, where its vibrations can act with no harm to anybody.
desire-elemental is in its way quite cunning. We cannot quite put ourselves
in its place and realize consciousness at so very low a stage, but evidently
it feels that it is surrounded by something finer than itself – the
mental matter – and appears to find out by experiment that if it can
get that to vibrate along with its matter, it obtains a much more intense
vibration, and more of it than it otherwise could. If it can make the man
think [Page 78] that he wants
what it wants, it is much more likely to get it, so it tries to stir up that
If it can thus induce an impure thought, for example, it will presently get
the impure emotions that it likes, or if it can arouse a jealous thought
there will presently be a feeling of jealousy rankling, which is what it
wants; not however, because it is evil, for to it is nothing but a very strong
coarse vibration such as it enjoys. In this way the elemental often proves
more than a match for the human being, though it is very low in the scale
of evolution. It is rather humiliating, when you think of it, to realize
that you are being overcome and used as a tool by something that is not yet
even a mineral. We
have to face it and purify the astral body against its will by changing any
bad habits that may be ours from the past, and putting in their places good
emotions for the future.
There is a mental elemental and a physical elemental as well. The latter is engaged in the building up of tissue and looking after the body generally. If one gets a scratch, a cut or a wound, it is the physical elemental that at once hurries the white corpuscles to the spot, to try to build together new cells. There is a great deal that is very interesting about the work of this elemental in the physical body; some of its activities are eminently useful to us, but at the same time it is liable to having impulses which are not for our good. [Page 79]
For you are God, and you will only what God wills; but you must dig deep down into yourself to find the God within you, and listen to His voice, which is your voice.
W.L. — The idea of our unity with the One Self is difficult
to realize. I will tell you how it was first brought definitely home to
me, though it was not by a method that I can recommend to others. I was
at the time trying to concentrate the whole of my power in the atomic part
of the mental plane, in order to discover how far one could utilize what
we call the short cuts which run between the atomic sub-planes of the different
planes. In rising through the planes one can travel up the physical plane
from subplane to subplane to the atomic, from that to the lowest astral,
and on by degrees to the astral atomic, and then to the lowest mental,
and so on. Or one can take a short cut from the atomic physical to the
atomic astral, and from that to the atomic mental.
I had heard, among higher pupils, of another kind of short cut, at right angles, as it were, to that. They said that if one's consciousness were focused in one of our atomic sub-planes one could get a line of communication open to the corresponding cosmic plane. Therefore, by focusing oneself entirely in the atomic mental, there would be a possibility of coming into touch with the mental division of an entirely new set of planes (that is to say, the cosmic mental plane) altogether above all the planes that we know.
I had not, of course, any hope of reaching such a plane as that, but there was a possibility of communication. I tried, and found that I was able to see — I cannot describe [Page 80] it, I am afraid — the corresponding subplane in the cosmic mental, two whole sets of planes above where we are, I could not actually reach it in any sort of way – I do not think even an Adept could do that – but I could see it. It was as though I were at the bottom of a well and were looking up at a star – but I could see that higher consciousness. The one thing that was then borne upon me, with an intensity which I cannot describe, was the fact that if before I had supposed that I had a will, that I had an intellect, that I had emotions, they were not mine, they were His; it was His will, His feeling, not mine at all. I have never forgotten the experience, as it impressed that fact upon me with a certainty that I cannot describe.
That certainty that the Divine is within us can be gained also through the buddhic consciousness, as I have already explained. As soon as we achieve that, we find the sea of consciousness opening round us, and we know that we are part of it, and yet at the same time many others are in it and share it along with us; and presently, in addition to that feeling, we come to realize that this is all one consciousness, penetrating us and all others – that we are God. That realization gives one a sense of the utmost safety and confidence, the most tremendous impulse and stimulus of which one could possibly think. Yet I can quite imagine that at first it might alarm some people, because they might feel that they were losing themselves. They are not, of course; but remember what Christ said, “He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it”. Christ represents the buddhic [Page 81] principle, and is saying: “ He who for My sake — for the Christ development within him — will put aside the causal body in which he has been living for so long, will find himself, will find the far grander and higher life”.It needs some courage to do it, and it is a startling experience the first time that one is wholly in the buddhic vehicle and finds that his causal body, upon which he has been depending for thousands of years, has vanished. When anyone has one or other of the experiences I have described, he will know with absolute certainty that the Self is one. The idea cannot be conveyed, but it will be known when the thing is experienced. and nothing will ever again shake that certainty.
Do not mistake your bodies for yourself — neither the physical body, nor the astral, nor the mental. Each one of them will pretend to be the Self, in order to gain what it wants. But you must know them all, and know yourself as their master.
C. W .L. — The Master speaks of these bodies quite definitely as though they were separate persons, referring, of course, to the elementals which we have already considered. Their empire is absolutely unchecked for most people in the world! who not only make no effort to throw off their dominion, but do not even know that there is any yoke to throw off. They do not separate themselves from their bodies. The disastrous teaching about man having a soul is responsible for much harm in this direction. If people could only realize that man is a soul and has bodies, at once they would begin to [Page 82] disentangle things a little. So long as a man has the idea that the soul is something vague floating above him, there is very little hope of doing good. When we find the elementals rising in us, we should say: “ This emotion is a vibration in my astral body, and I will vibrate as I choose. I am the centre for the time being of this set of bodies, and I will use them as I want”.
When there is work that must be done, the physical body wants to rest, to go out walking, to eat and drink; and the man who does not know says to himself: “I want to do these things, and I must do them”. But the man who knows says: “This that wants is not I, and it must wait awhile”.
C. W .L. — You will notice that very strongly in the case of children. If a child wants to do a thing, it is heaven and earth to him; he must do it then and there in a moment, and if he cannot he thinks the universe is falling round him. Savages also are like that – creatures of impulse, which is so strong that just to do some trifling thing they will sometimes kill a man. The civilized man would say: “ I will wait and consider what will happen”. The child dashes off and plays, and far too often we who are older blame and scold him, not understanding the child nature. He says, “ I did not remember”. That is absolutely true, but we doubt it because we know that we should remember. We have forgotten our own childhood and that of the race. We ought to say, “ I know you have an impulse, but really you must not do that just now. It will upset the [Page 83] arrangements of a great many other people. You shall do it some other time”. That is the way education progresses. It is the same with the savage, who in course of time learns that certain impulses must not be followed. It takes him several births to do so, and he generally gets killed in the process, but gradually he becomes a little less savage and more civilized. But the advanced man is dealing with the body as a separate entity, as a thing he can manage.
Often when there is an opportunity to help someone, the body feels: “How much trouble it will be for me; let some one else do it”. But the man replies to his body: “You shall not hinder me in doing good work”.
C.W.L. – Dr. Besant remarked with regard to this that there are very many cases where there is obviously a good piece of work to be done, but most people look at it and say: “ Yes, that is a thing that must be done. Some one will do it some day; why should I bother about it ? ” but the person who is really in earnest says: “ There is a piece of work that ought to be done; why should not I do it ? ” and he will plunge in and do it at once.
The body is your animal – the horse upon which you ride. Therefore you must treat it well, and take good care of it; you must not overwork it, you must feed it properly on pure food and drink only, and keep it strictly clean always, even from the minutest speck of dirt.
W.L. — The
idea that the body is an animal is really very useful; it sounds so obvious,
and yet the more closely the simile is followed,
the nearer we shall be to doing what is required. Suppose you keep a horse – I
am taking it for granted that you are a reasonable and kindly person, and
that while you want your work done, at the same time you want your horse
to be as happy and comfortable as possible, and in good health. First of
all, then, you want to make friends with him, to get to know the creature,
and get him to know you and to feel that you are kindly disposed towards
him. Then you find out what kind of food suits him best, and how much of
it he needs, and give to him. You take care that he shall have enough,
but you do not give him the things that will be bad for him. At the same
time you work him, because that is the object of having a horse; yet you
do not overwork him in any way. You find out what he can do, and set him
to do it. You have taught him to trust you so that he will obey you, and
when you suggest anything he will follow what you want, knowing that all
will be well with him, and then he will trust you even when he is frightened. So
you get the most work out of him with the least possible trouble. A bad trainer
will sometimes terrorize a horse; but never after that will he get really
good work out of him. You do not want that; you want to have a friendly arrangement
with the creatures.
The body is exactly like that horse. We ought to find out the best way to deal with it. It is a great mistake to apply severe Hatha Yoga methods. We must be kind [Page 85] to it, and get out of it as much as we comfortably can, but never overwork it, for one may do harm in an hour that it will take years to repair. There is great strain and stress in modern life. Men constantly say in business: “ I really must do a little more” ; but very often that little over-strains the mechanism, and that which is over-strained does not return to its normal condition. It is very easy to do this harm, because the body is such a very delicate piece of machinery – a living piece of machinery. It is wonderfully recuperative, and in many cases what we know as “ a good body ” will stand a great deal of ill-usage. But the fact that it survives the ill usage, and that the man lives through it, does not by any means prove that no harm has been done. On the contrary, very often a slight overstrain leaves a permanent mark. Therefore I would caution any who are attempting anything in the way of occult development to be very careful, and to realize fully that, as our President has said, what we have not time to do is not our work.
Then comes the question of nourishment. The theory that anybody can live on anything is not one that commends itself to the practical man. People differ enormously in their dispositions and capacities. It is an old proverb that what is one man's meat is another man's poison, and that is true in this matter of food values. I know there is a tendency to think that people who pay much attention to food are worrying themselves unnecessarily about purely physical things. Certainly I would say do not overdo it, but take the middle path and [Page 86] be wise. Each one owes it to his body to find out what it can take and amount of that suits it best. Within reason we should give the body what it wants and likes, but never things which are bad for it, like alcohol or meat. Never try to force anything, but always aim at what is wanted with understanding of what you are dealing with, and thus gain the co-operation of such intelligence as the creature may have.
very often have trouble in changing to vegetarianism from a meat diet. In
England when people begin to be vegetarians they often misunderstand the
whole matter; they have been living principally on meat, with cabbage and
potato. Their idea of being vegetarians is to give up the meat and try to
live on cabbage and potato. Now potato is practically all starch and cabbage
is mostly water. A man cannot live on starch and water; other elements are
needed — foods that will form flesh, bone and blood — and there are many
different kinds of them, so assuredly one can with a little trouble find
suit his body best, and then live principally on those. If anyone has trouble
with digestion he is probably taking the wrong things; he should try others,
for there is always a way out, unless he is hopelessly diseased. When little
children keep caterpillars in order to see them turn into butterflies they
take a good deal of trouble to find what kind of a leaf the caterpillar will
eat — they
know that only one kind; of leaf will suit it. Surely
we might take as much trouble over the animal which is to serve us for so
many years, and feed it probably on pure food and drink only.[Page
Very great care must be taken about cleanliness. There are various reasons for it — not only for health, not simply because it is the refined thing to do, but also because the Master particularly uses those who are in close relation with Him as channels for the outpouring of His force. That is generally confined to His pupils, who are in close touch with Him, but any person who is seriously trying to live by the principles laid down in such books as this, is under His eye, and therefore it is not impossible that such an one might be needed, and, might be used as a channel for force. It might well happen that in any given place there was no pupil quite suitable for some kind of outpouring; but there might be some other person who, though not so far advanced, was suitable for that particular purpose. In such a case the Master would want to use him.
Many varieties of force are poured out by the Master for different purposes; sometimes one person is suitable as a channel and sometimes another. Watching the case of two pupils side by side, one sees that one is used always for one type of force and the other for another type. This outpouring is physical as well as astral, mental, and buddhic, and on the physical plane it issues mainly through the hands and feet. If, then, the physical body of the person selected failed him for a moment in this most important matter of cleanliness, the Master could not utilize it, because the man would not be a suitable channel. It would be like pouring pure water through a dirty pipe — it would be fouled on the way. Therefore those who are in close relation with [Page 88] the Master are exceedingly careful about perfect bodily cleanliness. Let us take care, then, that we shall be fit in this respect if we should be needed.
Another point about which we need to be careful if we wish to be of use is to avoid distortion, especially of the feet. Not long ago I stayed for a few weeks in a community where it is the custom to walk barefooted, and I was horrified to see the twisted and crippled appearance of the feet of many of the students, and to observe how seriously this deformity interfered with their usefulness as channels for the Master's force. The natural course for that force under ordinary conditions is to fill the whole body of the pupil and rush out through the extremities; but in cases where unhygienic foot-gear had produced permanent malformation the Adept could utilize only the upper half of the body; and as that imposed upon Him the additional trouble of constructing each time a sort of temporary dam or barrier in the neighbourhood of the diaphragm of the pupil, it inevitably followed that others who were free from this disfigurement were employed far more frequently.
For without a perfectly clean and healthy body you cannot do the arduous work of preparation, you cannot bear its ceaseless strain.
C.W.L. — Under present circumstances preparation for the Path is truly arduous, and if it is hurried it is a ceaseless strain, which we cannot bear unless all our bodies, including the physical, are in good order. Therefore perfect health is a necessity for rapid progress, and [Page 89] wherever it fails there is a delay at once. Those who are in charge of the progress of any pupil always watch most carefully to see that there is no overstrain, and they will not put the least extra work upon one under their care until they see that he is perfectly able to bear it with a suitable margin.
But it must always be you who control that body, not it that controls you. The astral body has its desires – dozens of them; it wants you to be angry, to say sharp words, to feel jealous, to be greedy for money, to envy other people their possessions, to yield yourself to depression. All these things it wants, and many more, not because it wishes to harm you, but because it likes violent vibrations, and likes to change them constantly. But you want none of these things, and therefore you must discriminate between your wants and your body's.
A.B. — I
suppose that most thinking people clearly realize that they are not their
physical bodies, but the examples that the Master gives here show how continually
they identify themselves with their astral bodies. You may sometimes find
yourself saying, “ I am angry or irritable.” Even those who do not
like to think of themselves as the lower emotions often still confuse them
with the higher. Probably they will not say, “ I am jealous,” when
they become conscious of the feeling of jealousy within them; for though
men may identify themselves with their feelings they try to veil the lower [Page
90] ones, and in this case
they deceive themselves into believing that their feeling is not jealousy,
am hurt because so and so, whom I love, loves some one else better than me”.
Love is such a far-reaching, all-embracing virtue, that men like to shelter under it, and they manage to attribute to it all sorts of things with which it has nothing whatever to do. It is far better for us to examine our feelings honestly, and not to play with these serious matters and deceive ourselves with pretty words. In the case under consideration, you are not hurt because you love your friend, but because you desire to appropriate that friend to yourself. Whenever there is this feeling of being hurt it springs from selfishness, which is the opposite pole to love. You – the real Self – cannot feel jealous, but your astral body can; nor can you be angry or irritable; these are all moods of the astral body.
The Master also mentions further examples — greed, envy and depression. Aspirants for the Path are not so likely to yield to the first two of these as to the third. Often people are less careful about depression than about their other feelings because they are under the delusion that it affects only themselves. They think: “ If I feel sad or low, after all it is only my business, and it concerns no one else”. But that is not true; it does injure other people. The mechanism of this process is well known to all students of occultism. The vibrations of depression spread around, and affect the astral bodies and even the mental bodies of other people. This is a far more evil thing than is generally realized, because [Page 91] many of the people whom your thought may touch may be of a less-developed type, and may also be in circumstances in which they are exposed to conditions that tend to crime.
who are familiar with the history and statistics of crime know that a large
number of crimes, especially such as murder and suicide, are committed after
a period of deep depression. The prisoner in the dock often says : “An
overwhelming feeling of despair came over me; I felt I could not help myself”. There
are many people in the lower stages of evolution who may be affected in this
way; and some may suffer imprisonment and death, who yet were not really
responsible, or only partly so for the crime committed by their hands. We
are living in a world where few people understand these inner laws and very
imperfect justice is rendered in our courts for want of simple knowledge
of the rudiments of psychology.
Perhaps I feel this all the more keenly because I used to be subject myself to moods of great elation, and then of equally great depression when the pendulum swung back. Many people have the same temperament; one day the world seems full of happiness, the sunshine is bright, Nature is beautiful, all things are joyful and fair. Then follows the inevitable reaction; a feeling of great sadness comes over you, and the whole world seems darkened. If you look at the matter quietly, you will realize that the outer causes to which you may attribute your changes of mood are not sufficient to account for such large results. Still, this temperament has some advantages. I certainly could not speak so effectively [Page 92]. I had not brought it into the world with me; it is part of the orator's temperament to know these extremes of feeling. But, like every other temperament, it has its drawbacks as well as its uses. One must not yield to these violent alternations of feeling.
I doubt whether one can get rid of this defect by merely saying to oneself: “I ought not to feel depressed”; but even the worst cases can be overcome if one remembers that one ought not to yield to it because of its deplorably bad effect on other people. Do not therefore simply try to drive it away, but replace it with a strong thought of courage and cheerfulness, to which should be added the warmth of your unselfish feeling.
The astral body does not wish to do any harm, as the Master points out. It acts as it does simply because it is made up of elemental essence which is on the downward arc, and is evolving by violent and constantly changing vibrations. This constant desire of the astral body for violent changes is a thing that should help the student to realize that it is not himself, but something that brings about moods for no apparent cause, and not approved by the reason, because they are independent activities of the astral body. One must realize this, and not allow oneself to be the playground of all these hanging moods. Study your own astral nature, and find out what are the undesirable things that it particularly desires. Then quietly determine that you will not allow it to have them. That done, do not think any more about them; do not brood over them. Pick out the opposite moods, and practise them all day long. If [Page 93] your astral body wants to be impatient, set your mind on patience; think patience in your morning meditation and practise it throughout the whole of the day. If your astral body wants you to feel jealous, simply observe the fact, and then do not think any more about jealousy, but think of unselfishness and practise it hard, and then there will be no room for jealousy. Your mind cannot be filled with two opposing things at the same time.
Remember that all difficulties constitute opportunities for the would-be occultist. It is no credit for the disciple to show out love when all around are kind, or gentleness when all are considerate. The most ordinary person does that. Those who wish to be disciples must show out right emotion when the wrong is being shown to them; otherwise they are just like all the rest. This should be remembered in difficulty and temptation; the aspirant should spring forward to meet them as opportunities for the payment of debts. To a disciple, every trying person and circumstance he meets is not a temptation, but an opportunity. It is when he is returning good emotions for evil ones that the disciple resembles his Master; it is then that he is showing forth the Master's qualities.
Think, then, in your morning meditations, of the qualities that you want; if you are irritable, for example, think of patience. Then, when you meet an irritable or tiresome person during the day, you will at first respond to him with irritability through force of habit, but a moment after you have made the mistake you will think of patience. The next time you will think of patience [Page 94] while you are making the mistake; a little more practice and you will think of it the moment before, and then you will feel the irritability, but will not show it; at last you will not even feel irritable. The first of those stages shows that your meditation is beginning to bear fruit.
I know many people who have set themselves to do this and have kept it up for a few days or weeks and then said: “I will not meditate along these lines any more; I am getting no results. My meditation is doing me no good. I am not making progress”. It is exactly the same as if a person started on a three days journey to some place, and after an hour or two sat down saying: “I t is no use my walking; I do not seem to be getting there”. Everybody can see how silly such conduct would be down here in the physical world; the other is not a bit less foolish. Meditation must produce results, just as walking must carry you over the ground. It is as certain as that. Scientific rules act at all times and every force you set going must produce results. If you do not at once gain what you are aiming at, it is because there is still more to be overcome, and the force is going into that, to neutralize it and then to conquer it completely. Do not think of the question of results. Just direct the thought to the quality of patience, or whatever it is that you are going to develop, and the results will take care of themselves.
C.W.L. — It is not, after all, very difficult with a little practice to realize that we are not this physical body that it is only an overcoat, but the astral body — our emotions and desires — presents more difficulty, because it [Page 95] seems often to be a very intimate part of ourselves. One finds people in every-day life everywhere who feel themselves to be their emotions and desires; some are so full of them that if you could imagine these taken away there would seem to be nothing left – the whole person is desire and emotion. It would be very difficult for such an one to separate himself from his astral body, and yet that is what has to be done. The fact that the astral body is constantly changing its moods ought to help people to realize that it is not the Self, the' I '. As soul one is not changing; one wishes always the same thing – advancement to be able to help others to walk alone the Path intended by oar Masters. Surely, therefore, it is clear that this emotional body is not the Self.
The astral elemental gains a certain continuity because the permanent atoms attract round them just the kind of matter we possessed in our previous life. It is therefore difficult to turn round suddenly and check this to discover by careful examination along what lines of undesirable activity one's astral body wants to run. Each person has his own difficulties. One perhaps is nervous and irritable or prone to jealousy, or is greedy for money. When he finds out, he must quietly set himself to check that particular thing. Suppose it is irritability, which is very common under the horrible conditions and the noise of modern life. The person should make ap his mind that he will not be irritable. It is a good thing to take it as a subject for meditation; yet in that one should not set to work to combat the [Page 96] vice, but rather to meditate upon the opposite quality of patience. Never think of the evil thing and of fighting against it, because that stirs it up the more.
same method must be applied also when you are trying to help others by your
thought. If you are helping some one who has this fault, instead of dwelling
upon his irritability and what a pity it is, and thereby intensifying it,
you should think: “ I should like him to be calm and patient”. Then all the
strength of your thought goes in the direction of making him so.
At first, when we meet an irritating person we shall probably be irritable, because we are in the habit of it and afterwards we shall remember, “ I did not mean to do that”. It is something even to remember afterwards like that. Perhaps the next time, or the twentieth time, we shall remember at the moment, instead of just afterwards. In the third stage, we shall remember just before we say the irritable thing; the feeling of irritability is there, but we shall not show it. The next step is that we shall not feel the irritability at all, and then it is conquered and we shall have no more trouble with it in this life or other lives to come.
It is also necessary for the mastery of the astral nature that we should have no personal feelings at all that can be hurt or offended. The better feelings, such as sympathy and love, we may and must have to the uttermost. But it must be impossible for us to have our feelings hurt, to be offended. He whose feelings can be hurt is thinking about himself, and that we have no right to do if we have given ourselves to the Master. It may be [Page 97] that there are some people so thick headed that they cannot see an insult — that is not desirable; but when you do see it, be wise enough to take no notice of it, which is always the better way. If people say nasty things about you, never mind; people have been saying nasty things about other people ever since the world began and until we are all well on the way to Adeptship they will continue to do so. And after all it does not matter what another person says. It is a passing vibration of the air, and it is no more than that unless we allow it to be so. If a person says something about you which is unpleasant, if you do not hear it, it does not hurt you in the least. If you do happen to hear it and get into a fume of anger and horror and despair and all the rest of it, that is not the doing of the original sinner; you are hurting yourself. Take it quite philosophically. Say, “Poor creature, that is all she knows about it! ” Be quite gentle and kindly about it. What other people say is of very little importance, because they never know Remember “the heart knoweth its own bitterness ”. In each case a man has his own reasons for what he says and does and thinks; from the outside you never know the whole of his reasons because you are looking at them superficially, and usually quite wrongly. Until you reach the buddhic plane therefore, give him the benefit of the doubt, or more wisely still do not attempt to attribute motives to anyone. If you feel that a person's action is wrong the kindest thing is to say: “ I should not do that; to me it seems to be wrong; but I assume that that person has his reasons, though I do not know what they may be”. [Page 98]
When a person is rude, it is often because something has gone wrong, and the result is that he feels all out of tune — and you happen to be the next person who speaks to him. He is not really angry with you. Something else has upset him; perhaps he had not a good dinner. We have to learn to make allowances for other people and say: “Poor fellow, I suppose he cannot always feel as perfectly amiable and agreeable as I always am! ” Probably that person will be rather sorry afterwards that he spoke a little rudely, or else he will not even realize that anything out of the common has been said. Any feeling of being offended or hurt must spring from a thought of self. If we were not thinking of ourselves we could not feel hurt or offended. This thought of self is precisely what we must weed out and cast away. Wherever there is a case of jealousy, there is also this thought of self. If the person were thinking only how much he loved the other, it could not matter to him how much that other loved some one else. The delusion of the separate self is at the back of nearly all our troubles.
The selfish man is now an anachronism — still carrying on what was useful and necessary for him twenty years ago, but it is not useful and necessary for him now, and he is simply behind the time. Our business is to be up to date. We are living for and thinking of the future that the great World-Teacher will make for us; and because of that we must brush away all these antiquated ideas.
When you examine yourself to find the faults that you in tend to overcome, beware of being upset by delusions [Page 99] about remorse and repentance. Remember the story of Lot's wife, and do not look back — that is a very profitless occupation. You may say quite calmly when you have made some bad mistake: “ That was a foolish thing to do; I will never do it again”. Talleyrand is reported to have said: “Any man may make a mistake — we all make mistakes — but the man who makes the same mistake twice is a fool”.! A Master once remarked: “The only repentance which is worth anything is the resolve not to do it again.“ Remember”. The man who never made a mistake never made anything at all.” You do not worry about what you did in past lives; why then worry about yesterday ? Both are equally past. Remorse is a waste of time and energy — worse than that, for it is a form of selfishness.
It is easy to be loving and kindly to those who are so to us, but if we have made any real progress we shall pour out love even when we meet with the lack of it. The Christ said: “ If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye ? do not even the publicans do the same ? ” ( S. Matthew, v, 46.) His command was to love your enemies?, and pray for them which despitefully use you”. ( S. Luke, VI, 27-29) That is the time when a disciple of the Master can show his true value; when he can do what the Master would do; when, although people speak ill of him, and ill-treat him, he still thinks of them kindly and Iovingly, and makes excuses and allowances for their foolishness. That is what we have to do, It is not enough to return love and kindliness; we [Page 100] must be able to pour it out upon people who as yet scarcely know what it means. It was said of the Christ that when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. ( Peter, II, 23.)We are all wronged and misjudged and misunderstood sometimes. No one need worry about it, for karma will see that all is put right. “ Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”. ( Romans, XII, 19.) Leave it to Him. Justice will always be done and all that is wrong will some day come right, and those who now misunderstand will some day realize their error and be sorry that they misunderstood. No injustice will be done; the total will come out as it should.
Your mental body wishes to think itself proudly separate, to think much of itself and little of others.C.W.L. — Here again we must differentiate between what the mental body desires and what we ourselves desire, and realize that we are not the mind. We are in the habit of saying, “I think so-and-so”, but about nine times out of ten the fact is not “ I think”, but the mind thinks. Many of us have been trying to control and [Page 101] train our thoughts, yet if we review them we shall see how few are worthy to be attributed to us — to the Self — and how many belong merely to the lower mind.
[Page 104] A.B. — The thing which has perhaps struck me most in this teaching of the Master is that it invariably centres round and returns to the idea of one thought, one will, one work. It seems to radiate that unity so strongly, that you feel that the Master can have only the one thought, that he has blended Himself so perfectly with the One that He could not think of anything else, that He could not forget it, whatever might be occupying His attention. That is the ideal for the disciple. He must think always of the Master's work and of helping others; that one idea must dominate all else. If it is otherwise, then it is your mind which is thinking, not you. But if you have that idea, you have everything else. Suppose you think of a virtue in meditation; why do you want it — to be admired, or to bring yourself nearer to initiation ? Or do you want it in order to be a better instrument for the Master's work ? That is the test by which you may now whether it is your mind or you which is thinking.
Even when you have turned it away from worldly things, it still tries to calculate for self, to make you think of your own progress, instead of thinking of the Master's work and of helping others.
C. W .L. — The Master's work must dominate all else in our minds. If we find any other thought than that, any other reason coming forward for doing anything, then that which is putting forward a reason is the mind, not the ego – an important distinction to make. The mind is indeed proud and separate, and when it has quite given up all the earthly kinds of pride, its next stage will be to try to make us proud of our progress, of our position in relation to the great Masters, or something of that kind. When we have trodden that down, and are rid of any pride in these things, it will try to make us proud of not being proud. Do not blame the subtle mental elemental; it has no idea of you, but it is simply trying to get the varieties and kinds of vibrations which it needs for its own evolution. [Page 106]
When you meditate, it will try to make you think of the many different things which it wants instead of the one thing which you want. You are not this mind, but it is yours to use; so here again discrimination is necessary. You must watch unceasingly, or you will fail.
C. W .L. — They say in India that the mind is the rãja, or king, of senses, and that of all parts of our nature it is the most difficult to control. In that respect we in the West are perhaps even worse off than the Indian, because we have been especially developing this lower mind, and have prided ourselves on the rapidity with which it can change from one subject to another.
However, by patient effort you may bring to bear upon this elemental the mighty power of the force of habit; you may get it into a groove, and induce it to understand that you, the ego, intend to preserve your dominant idea all the time, but that in connection with that idea there are infinite ramifications, for there is nothing that cannot be brought into the service of the Master. Then presently this curious unmanageable elemental will come to understand that, on the whole, it gets more by working with you, whom it does not understand, than by working against you; and afterwards it will work pleasantly and harmoniously along with you.[Page 107]
RIGHT AND WRONG
Between right and wrong Occultism knows no compromise. At whatever apparent cost, that which is right you must do, that which is wrong you must not do, no matter what the ignorant may think or say. You must study deeply the hidden Iaws of Nature, and when you know them arrange your life according to them using always reason and common sense.
you look honestly at it you will find that ordinary life is a series of compromises.
Men are constantly doing a little less than what they know to be right in
order to meet that deadliest of questions: “ What will people say ? ” Knowing
quite well in a given case what is best to do, they shift it a little. I
tamper with it, fall short of it, in order to make the way smoother for
themselves. This fear of the opinions of others is partly due to a weakness
amiable at its root — the desire to please. This desire is very common in
India, but if you want to tread the occult path properly, you must never
be led by it into compromises, where principles or matters of importance
[Page 108] are concerned, such
as in the big religious and social questions. Take, for example, the case
marriage. There are many cases in which these marriages are consummated too
early. I have spoken again and again on the public platform about the cruelty
of making a girl a mother before she is full-grown, and of the injury that
such a practice does to the vitality of the race. Many a man knows that it
is wrong, and openly says so; he asks why other people marry their children
too young, and yet he still does it himself, because of what people would
say if he did not. Out
of such material as this you cannot make the occultists.
Putting aside for a moment the great questions on which the future of a nation largely depends, let us turn to the small matters of everyday life. Here also there must be no compromise. You must make up your mind as to what is right, and then keep firmly to it. I know that you cannot carry out your highest ideals immediately any more than you can get from the bottom of a mountain to the top by taking one step. But if you mean to scale your mountain, every step must be taken with a view to reaching the summit, every step must bring you nearer to it. Never lower your ideal; that is fatal. As the Upanishad says: “..One thing is the right, the pleasant another; right unto pleasant the wise man preferreth”.
Try in little things to do what your conscience thinks right. You are not responsible for what another person's conscience thinks, nor for whether he follows his own conscience; but you are responsible for following your [Page 109] own, at whatever apparent cost. It is only apparent cost, mind you; you cannot lose by doing what you believe to be right. Of course, care must be taken not to identify your whims, prejudices and fancies with the right; as to that the Master gives a warning here, when he says: “Study deeply the hidden laws of nature.“ First find out what is right, and then live according to your knowledge.
The Master adds the important suggestion in the last few words of this passage: “Using always reason and common sense”. Always consider the feelings of other people, but never let them interfere between you and what you know to be right. If you have to choose between hurting people's feelings and compromising with your own conscience, then choose the former. An occultist will always discriminate, in dealing with people, between the real person and the prejudices of his various bodies. He will never hurt a person, but he will hurt his prejudices rather than do wrong. Still, he will not hurt even his prejudices unnecessarily; but if he must do so, he will at the same time know that really the person is being helped, not hurt, and that he himself is being used as an instrument for breaking down a limitation which is cramping the man inside. Even in that case, his action will be gently and considerately carried out. Many people find this difficult. It is much harder to do a thing with quiet reason; a rush of emotion makes it easier. The emotion, be it good or bad, Supplies an impulse which carries a man through without further effort on his part. If you would be an occultist [Page 110] you must not act through impulse, as ordinary men do; you must develop reason, power of discrimination, and in this effort you will begin unconsciously to unfold the buddhi.
C.W.L. — People
usually have their prejudices — plenty of them; and they identify these with
the right. Having been brought up along some particular line, it has never
occurred to them to question it, so they are liable to think that the man
not fall in with their particular method is wrong, especially when it is
followed by the majority. Popular prejudices are usually very unreasonable,
and therefore we cannot allow them to influence us in matters of right and
wrong. I do not say that there are not often some grounds of reason to be
found behind a popular prejudice, if we dig down deep to it – not probably
the reason that people are alleging at all, but some other reason. But usually
that fragment of truth is distorted and misapplied on account of the mass
of error in which it is swathed.
The occultist never allows himself to he forced to do a wrong thing for fear of hurting other people's prejudices, but he will never offend those prejudices unnecessarily. Reason and common sense must rule in all things. There is something, let us say, that you want to do because you know it is a good thing, and important. Very well, but do not charge at it like a bull at a gate. He possibly gets through, but at the cost of considerable damage to himself and the gate. One should always show sweet reasonableness in all that is done. If we let ourselves become stirred up and angry [Page 111] about a thing there is a wave of emotion that carries us through; but to do the thing gently and quietly, without and feeling against those who oppose, is much more difficult; yet that is quite obviously the right way to do it.
One must not act on impulse, as most people do. They cannot bear this and that; they do not understand, and do not want to take the trouble to understand; they just drive ahead and take it for granted that they are in the right; but we have to consider others – to take into account their feelings, and to think, too, of the possibility that they may be in the right, and we in the wrong, in a particular case.
You must discriminate between the important and the unimportant. Firm as a rock where right and wrong are concerned, yield always to others in things which do not matter. For you must be always gentle and kindly, reasonable and accommodating, leaving to others the same full liberty which you need for yourself.
is a very tender and beautiful passage, and it balances the previous one,
which, taken by itself, might sound rather hard. Now, as the things for which
people generally care most are those which do not matter the occultist can
afford to let them have their own way, in many cases. What is important to
him is a certain thing that has to be done; he points his will to the one
thing in the middle that really matters, and with regard to the rest he lets
people do exactly as they like. As he [Page
112] yields to them in those things, they realize what a delightful
person he is to work with; and they gradually follow him quite happily on
point, hardly conscious that they are following at all. In the world this
quality is called tact. In occultism it is called discrimination.
It is this quality that the fanatic overlooks, and therefore he does not succeed, while the occultist always succeeds. The fanatic never knows the difference between the important and the unimportant, so he will not yield even in things which do not matter; therefore he rubs people's fur up all the wrong way, and then they will not follow him, however much he may be in the right, and however important his main object may be. If, instead of that, you smooth their fur down, they purr and come along after you. This is based upon a universal fact in Nature. In both men and animals it is an instinct to pull in opposition to anyone who is trying to pull them. I saw a little instance of this fact the other day. A man was trying to pull a calf along, and, of course, the calf had planted its four feet firmly into the ground, stuck its tail out, and was pulling against the man for all it was worth. If that man had been sensible he would have stopped pulling, and then the animal would have stopped pulling against him, and with a little patting and coaxing he could have got it to follow him willingly.
There was a valuable lesson in that. If people will not do what you want, look for the fault in yourself; you will generally find that it is something in your way [Page 113] of acting that sets them against you. I follow this plan myself. When there is friction and trouble connected with my work in any place, I sit down and think it over, and try to find out what I am doing that produces these difficulties, and to discover some other way of doing the work. This is far better than trying to make people follow your way. You can force them to a certain extent, no doubt, but that is wrong in principle, and also in practice it only creates opposition and trouble. It shows a great lack of the qualities of leadership — a faculty which the Masters will want in us in the future. The Masters will want you to know how to lead, so that you may help people on, instead of hammering them along.
W .L. — Some seven hundred years from now many
of us will have the opportunity of working in the development of the Sixth
and in the meantime we shall have much to do with preparing the world for
the coming of the World-Teacher. Some of us will be alive when He comes,
and we shall work under Him; therefore we shall have to develop the qualities
of leadership. The first necessity of a leader is tact.
Because the occultist never gives up in any work of importance, he always succeeds in the end, though he may meet with a check, and be thrown back for the time. The French Revolution was an instance of this sort. Those who stood at the back of the movement towards liberty in France were unable to control the mad passions of the people, so that terrible carnage and crime ensued, and the Star set in blood for the time. Never think for a moment that They approved of the madness, of the [Page 114] devilish lust for slaughter, of the unspeakable filth and cruelty, of the treachery and terrorism, of all the indescribable loathsomeness of that awful time. The power passed into the hands of a rabble, maddened by abominable tyranny and oppression, who showed themselves far lower than the beasts of the field. Never imagine that their incredible atrocities were countenanced by Those who were working towards civilization. But later on They managed to gain Their end in some other way, and at the present day that country and many others have all the freedom for which those people were struggling.That is so with all other great reforms that They introduce, and all the other work that They take up – They succeed in the long run, though not always just at first.
We shall have to do just precisely that – never accept defeat, always go on with the work – but to do it well we must acquire the art of helping skilfully. A great many good people want to drive everybody. But that is not the way – we must show others the delight and joy and glory of man's future and the Masters' work, and then they will come along with us of their own accord. If you cannot get on with certain people, look for the defect in yourself. Do not bother about their faults, although no doubt they have plenty, but see what it is in you that prevents you from getting on with them. You will probably find something if you look closely enough. [Page 115]
Try to see what is worth doing; and remember that you must not judge by the size of the thing. A small thing which is directly useful in the Master's work is far better worth doing than a large thing which the world would call good. You must distinguish not only the useful from the useless, but the more useful from the less useful.
A.B. — As
I have already said, the things which are worth doing from the standpoint
of the real are those about. which people usually care nothing at all. They
are interested in unimportant things. The disciple is required therefore
to practise this kind of discrimination, and must not waste his time in all
the useless occupations which fill the days of worldly people.
Then comes a subtler point; you must not judge the value of a thing by its size. The acts of a statesman which are looming large in the eyes of the world may possibly be quite unimportant from the Master's standpoint – mere dust on the wheel. Some small thing done by an unnoticed person may be infinitely more important if it is exactly in line with the Master's work.
Then comes a still more subtle distinction – that between the more and the less useful. You cannot do everything, so you must do what in your own judgment will serve the Master best. Everything which helps the world is useful for the Master's work, but as your time and energy are limited you must take the more useful, whenever the choice is open to you. The Master gives a typical illustration of this in the next two sentences, when He speaks of feeding the souls of men in preference to their bodies. By helping the soul you are [Page 116] striking at the root of all the evils in the world, for without exception they grow out of ignorance and selfishness.
To feed the poor is a good and noble and useful work; yet to feed their souls is nobler and more useful than to feed their bodies. Any rich man can feed the body, but only those who know can feed the soul.
C.W.L. — It has sometimes been brought as a reproach against the Theosophical Society that it does not engage itself in active philanthropic work such as the distribution of food and clothing to the poor. Some of our Lodges have done a good deal in that way, but it is not their principal work. Any man who is rich and kindly disposed could do that, but there is much work which only those who know can do. It may perhaps seem to some that we are rather conceited to arrogate to ourselves the title of “ those who know ”. But we are not really praising ourselves in doing that. We can quite clearly see that there are plenty of good people who have nothing whatever to do with Theosophy who are intellectually far in advance of many of us; but it has been our karma to study these subjects, and because of that we know more about them than all those excellent people who have not studied them. There are many among those people of greater intellect, spirituality or devotion, who will go rapidly ahead when they acquire this knowledge that we have of the way in which our forces ought to be directed. They will pass us on the way, perhaps, but we on our part shall welcome them [Page 117] and rejoice to see it, for there is no jealously on this path and everyone on it hails the advance of a brother.
this Theosophical knowledge is the great talent which is put into our hands
for use. If we did nothing for others with it, but simply hugged it to ourselves
and enjoyed all that it brings us in the way of freedom from worry and trouble,
comprehension of difficult problems, and so on, we should be exactly like
the man in the Bible who buried his talent. But if we do our best to spread
the light that comes to us and to help in every possible way, then at least
we are putting our talent out to interest. 'One who knows' can feed the
souls of the poor and the rich alike with his knowledge. This is in no way
less practical than the other work, even from a material point of view.
What is the cause of all the poverty and suffering in the world ? Ignorance
and selfishness. If we attack the ignorance and the selfishness by trying
to put before men knowledge of the laws of life, and to show them why they
must necessarily be unselfish, we are doing more even from the most material
point of view to bring about the welfare and happiness of people on the physical
plane than we should do by merely distributing food. Not
for a moment would one say that, that is not good and necessary, that it
should not be done. The need of the moment must be met; but it is a greater
service to remove the cause of all the trouble. We are doing what the purely
physical plane helper could not do.
Wherever there has been any wisdom, any knowledge at all on these lines, those who know have been set free [Page 118] from the other work in order that they may teach. You may read, for example, in the Acts of the Apostles, how in the early Christian Church, they had community of goods, and when there was some trouble about the distribution of the food supply, the Apostles were requested to settle the dispute – to deal with it themselves, in fact. They said: “ It is not reasonable that we should leave the word of God to serve tables”, and told the other people to elect from among themselves those who would do that work, and abide by their decision, but not to expect them, whose business it was to expound the word, to devote themselves to the purely physical side of things. It was not that those things were to be neglected, but that the proper people to attend to them were those who could do that but could not do the other work.
A.B. — We in the Society have knowledge which those outside have not, and therefore the spreading of Theosophy is the one thing we ought to do. Those in the Society who are not yet ready for that work – for lecturing or, writing or teaching in some other way – should do other kinds of work while they are preparing themselves. I established the Order of Service for those who cannot teach, so that everyone who joins the Society may find something to do. The one thing that a person in the Society should not do is to be idle. All members should be active in the Master's work.
C.W.L. — It is hard to realize how many people are reasonably near the position where they might make rapid progress if only could be awakened to it.[Page 119] I have myself, I suppose, seen it most among the young, because my work generally lies there. I see boys and girls by the score in almost any county who could make good progress along Theosophical lines, if the matter could only be put before them. But it is not, and they plunge off into the work-a-day world, and become very good people of the ordinary type. They will go on in that way for twenty or thirty incarnations, or more, though they are capable of taking up Theosophy and would be interested in it, if it were properly put before them. Surely that state of affairs throws a serious responsibility upon those who possess this knowledge. It is therefore our business to be capable and ready to put Theosophy forward whenever there is a suitable opportunity. There are plenty of people who might just as well enter upon Theosophical development now, as in twenty lives time. It is, of course, a question of their karma, but it is our karma to give them the opportunity, to put the matter before them — whether they take it or not is their affair. Until we have done our best we do not know whether it is their karma to be helped or not. [Page 120]
If you know, it is your duty to help others to know. However wise you may be already, on this Path you have much to learn; so much that here also there must be discrimination, and you must think carefully what is worth learning. All knowledge is useful, and one day you will have all knowledge; but while you have only part, take care that it is the most useful part. God is Wisdom as well as Love; and the more wisdom you have the more you can manifest of Him. Study then, but study first that which will most help you to help others.
C.W.L. — The Master here advises study, but He tells his pupil to choose so far as he can what will help him to help others. I take it that, that means that one should try to understand Theosophy thoroughly and first of all, but should in addition acquire the knowledge and education of the time that make a cultured man. I know that there are many in the Theosophical Society who find themselves, for various reasons, uneducated, but yet are very earnest and devoted, who say: “Why should we bother ourselves about the details of education ? We want to get at the reality of the thing, and to present the truths somehow.” Yes, but the uneducated man is likely to present them in a form that will probably at once estrange and repel the educated and cultured. I have heard people say that an intuitional man who hears the thing badly put will rise above the form to the truth that lies behind; but unfortunately most men are not intuitional and we have no right, on account of our own laziness, to put an additional obstacle in the way of anyone who might otherwise be induced to take an interest in the subject. It is distinctly and emphatically our duty to make our presentation as nearly perfect as we can. [Page 121]
Work patiently at your studies, not that men may think you wise, not even that you may have the happiness of being wise, but because only the wise man can be wisely helpful. However much you wish to help, if you are ignorant you may do more harm than good.
A.B. — Here
is advice especially important for our younger members. I often come across
young men at college who are touched by the new spirit; they are very eager
to help, and often want to put aside their studies, “What is the use
of these studies to us ? ” they ask. The advice I always give in such a case
is: “Continue your studies and become an educated man. Although there may
be many things among those you learn
which have not much importance, the training of the intelligence is all important.
That is where the use of your studies lies; they render your mind logical
and accurate. If you do not go through this mental discipline, afterwards
you will be badly hampered in your work”.
It is not enough to be able to recognize Theosophic truths; if you want to help others to know, you must have that intellectual training which enables you to present them properly. If a person is uneducated, one sees it at once in the way he presents a subject. There is no part of my own training which I am more glad to have gone through than the scientific part. First of all it has helped me to put things in a rational, logical way, which gains a hearing from intellectual and cultured people; and secondly, it supplies me with many illustrations, which appeal to the mind because [Page 122] they are drawn from subjects which can be definitely proved.
Those among us who are older can be of much use to the younger with whom they have opportunities of dealing if they will, without damping their enthusiasm, explain in a kind and sensible way the importance of their making themselves what the world calls educated. When one has the higher things, one is apt to be a little impatient with these lower studies. Therefore the Master says to His young disciple, who had still much of his intellectual training to go through: “Work patiently at your studies”.
C. W .L. — History emphatically supports this counsel. Many good people, with the best intentions, have blundered in the most terrible manner, and have injured their cause, whatever it may have been, far more than any outside attack could have done. Theosophical work has frequently suffered from faulty or negligent presentation. We do not wish that Theosophy should be spoken ill of because of our personal defects or disabilities. If you are set to do work for the Society and do not do it satisfactorily, then go to work and learn to do it satisfactorily. If you are asked to read something and cannot do it, learn how to do it properly. If you cannot lecture – presently, when you know enough and take the trouble to prepare, you will learn to do that. But, at any rate, be doing something and try to do it well. It is our duty as Theosophists to master the correct grammar and the correct expression which will enable us to put these things acceptably before the [Page 123] people that we wish to reach. Any truth, however glorious, may be eclipsed, if clumsily and wrongly put. It is our duty to do our best in this matter. We must be educated if we are to present these truths properly. [Page 124]
BE TRUE ALL THROUGH
You must distinguish between truth and falsehood; you must learn to be true all through, in thought and word and deed.
A.B. – One might wonder, if one were not following the Master's thought as well as His words, why this point comes where it does. Discrimination between truth and falsehood — surely this should have come first ! The Master places it later because it is a very difficult thing. You must be true all through, He says, and it is not easy to make oneself so in thought and word and deed. You will notice that thought comes first; this is the regular occult order, which puts thought first, then speech and action. The Lord Buddha also gave them in this order, as right thought, right speech and right action.
In thought first; and that is not easy, for there are in the world many untrue thoughts, many foolish superstitions, and no one who is enslaved by them can make progress.
C.W.L. — We think in Theosophy that we are absolutely free from superstition; I am not sure that [Page 125] that is always true. There is a possibility, it seems to me, of a Theosophical superstition. The man who believes a thing because “ it is written in the Bible ” is no doubt superstitious to that extent, because he has no good basis for that belief. Still, it is only one step forward from that superstition to say, “ Thus saith Madame Blavatsky ” or, “It is written in The Secret Doctrine”. It is a step, because there is a great deal more evidence that Madame Blavatsky knew what she was talking about, than that, let us say S. Paul did, or any of the older writers; but the thing is no more our own because Madame Blavatsky said it, than because it is attributed to S. James or S. Peter. We must understand a thing and make it part of ourselves, grow into it and let it grow into us. So long as we are only reading things parrot-wise those things are superstitions. The very belief in the truth may be a superstition, if it has no better basis for us than that it is written here or there. When it becomes part of our mental system, we can say, “ It is part of me and it is mine; I know why I believe it, and therefore my belief is an intelligent belief and not merely superstition”. I am afraid there is a great deal of un-intelligent belief even in the truth, in many cases.
A.B. — It
is so difficult for a person to free himself from superstition, from taking
the unessential for the essential (for this is the essence of superstition)
that he is not expected wholly to do so until after the First Initiation.
This shows that it is a deep and subtle thing, which works into the very
nature of the man. No one [Page 126] who
is enslaved by it, says the Master, can make progress. That is a sweeping
statement, but we must observe the word enslaved. He does not say that
no one who is in any degree superstitious can make progress, but that no
one who is a slave to superstition can do so. Superstition is a great thing
for holding people back. How many religious people one knows who are good,
pious, philanthropic, who lead beautiful and earnest lives, but are superstitious!
They think that their ceremonies, their formulae, their ways of doing things,
matter. But they do not matter a bit.
Let us take as an example the performance of a particular function, that intended to help the dead. The Roman Catholic celebrates the Mass for the dead; the Hindu performs the Shrãddha ceremonies for the same purpose. Both ceremonies are inspired by the same wish to help those who have passed over, and both effect their purpose, though they are widely different in form. Yet a Hindu or a Catholic in clinging to these forms would be superstitious. The goodwill and the earnestness that they put into it, the love that they pour out towards the departed — these are the real things, and they produce the result. The good wish matters very much, but the specific character of the outer form does not, for the garment of their wish is local and unimportant. That outward form depends on where you happen to be born, for you are born into a religion as into a race and country. Of all the superstitious belief in rites and ceremonies, in the efficacy of mere outward forms, you must rid yourselves. For a long time this [Page 127] belief was very important, a good thing, because it is the only thing which can get people out of sloth, carelessness and indifference. These outward things are crutches; they are necessary for those who cannot yet walk alone, but when once you can walk without them you must cast them aside.
Therefore you must not hold a thought just because many other people hold it, nor because it has been believed for centuries. nor because it is written in some book which men think sacred; you must think of the matter for yourself, and judge for yourself whether it is reasonable.
C. W .L. — Those are the words of the Master Küthümi. They were also, twenty-five hundred years ago, the words of the Lord Gautama Buddha, when men came to Him asking: “There are so many teachers and so many doctrines put before us, and they all seem good; how are we to know which is the best; how can we decide among them? ”His reply to that question is given as follows in the Kãlãma Sutta of the Anguttara Nikāya :
Our Lord Buddha has said that we must not believe in a thing said merely because it is said; nor in traditions because they have been handed down from antiquity; nor rumours, as such; nor writings by sages, because sages wrote them; nor fancies that we may suspect to have been inspired in us by a deva [that is, in presumed spiritual inspiration] ; nor from inferences drawn from some haphazard assumption we may have made; nor because of what seems an analogical necessity; nor on the mere authority of our teachers or masters. But we are to believe when the writing, doctrine, or saying is corroborated by our own reason and consciousness. “For this”, says He in concluding, “ I taught you — not to believe merely because you have heard, but when you believed of your own consciousness, then to act accordingly and abundantly.” ( See A Buddhist Catechism, by H. S. Olcott, question 131) [Page 128]One of the exercises set by the Masters for Their pupils is to find out how much they really know and how much they only believe. It is a good practice to observe how much of our mental furniture we can definitely claim as belonging to ourselves, how much is ours because we have thoroughly understood and assented to it, and how much we have accepted from others almost without having thought about it. In every case people are born into religions as they are into countries. It is the same with a great number of customs. For example, when you go out to dinner you must wear a certain dress. It is the custom, and one does not want to go against custom in a matter which is of no importance, in which there is no question of right or wrong.
A.B.— It is a very useful exercise to examine the contents of the mind from time to time, and observe, first, how many things you believe simply because many other people believe them; second, how many things you believe only because they are old beliefs; third, how many things you believe because they are written in some sacred book. And when you have swept out these three classes of belief, notice how much remains, and these will show you what real basis you have for your beliefs. That is one advantage of going through the Free thought experience, as I did. No one who has not been through it can quite understand, I think, what it means to have to give up one's religious beliefs if they have been really sincerely held; what the final crash is like, when the foundations that you have been standing upon give way. It very nearly killed me; I was [Page 129] physically prostrate for weeks. But when once you have done it thoroughly like that, you need not do it over again. So, when I came into touch with Theosophy, although I felt sure of it with a perfect inward conviction, I tested it all with my mind as I received it.
Remember that though a thousand men agree upon a subject, if they know nothing about that subject their opinion is of no value.
C.W.L. – That is a matter which is very hard for the modern world to realize. People, seem to think nowadays that, if you only pile up enough ignorance you will somehow get knowledge out of it. But you do not. The ignorant must have those who know to direct them.
A.B. — In one way, the multitude of books that we have at the present day is a disadvantage. It induces reading without thinking, which produces superficiality and fickleness of thought. That is why I always advise people to read a little and then reproduce what they have read, not by memory, but out of the clear grasp of the subject that they have obtained. Only what you have thought out is really yours, and only by thinking over and understanding what you read and hear, can you make it your own. Otherwise, the more you read the more superstitious you become. You go on adding more beliefs to those that you already have, none of which has any sure foundation.
I once employed a man who kept accounts very badly. Whenever he got his accounts into a muddle, he began a new account book, and hoped in that way to get them [Page 130] straight again. In the same way, people nowadays, always want something new because they have not gained any real satisfaction out of their superficial acquaintance with what they already have. Those among our members who quote Bishop Leadbeater's books and mine all over the place are also superstitious. However true the statements they quote may be, they are not true to them; for if they had grasped them they would not need to fall back upon us as authorities. If they quote what we say at all, they should only quote our words as opinions, and not try to force them on anyone. There is only one authority in the world, and that is wisdom.
He who would walk upon the Path must learn to think for himself, for superstition is one of the greatest evils in the world, one of the fetters from which you must utterly free yourself.
C. W .L. — That superstition is a very big and subtle thing is evident from the fact that it is the third of the fetters which men must cast off on the Path after the First Initiation. The Pālī name for it is sīlabbata-parāmāsa, “ belief in the efficacy of rites or ceremonies of any kind ”
Your thought about others must be true; you must not think of them what you do not know.
C.W.L. — If we think of other people what we only suppose about them, the thought is probably the merest speculation. We really know remarkably little even about those who are very near to us, still less about [Page 131] casual acquaintances; and yet there is constantly much profitless babble about the doings and sayings and supposed thoughts of other people, and most of it, fortunately, is hopelessly untrue.
A.B. — Opinions about other people are mostly untrue. We can only think truly of another when we really know him, when we can see his thought and understand it. That knowledge is impracticable to most people, yet they have very definite opinions about others; they constantly judge them and think unkindly of them.
A little further on the Master says: “ Never attribute motives to another”. That is an enormously important piece of advice which, if carried out in the world, would do away with at least half the trouble that exists. If a person does a thing which you do not understand, leave it at that; do not invent possible motives. A person does something, for what reason you cannot know; but you hunt round for a possible motive, generally an unworthy one, and fasten it on to the act; then you blame him for what you have thought and done yourself. By thus attributing motives men add to any evil force that may possibly exist in the mind of the person criticized, or they supply it if it is not already there. Christ said: “ Resist not evil ” ; this is a case where that applies; it is not our business to search in people's minds for evil to battle against; leave the thing alone and it will die.
Do not suppose that they are always thinking of you [Page 132]
C. W .L. — This happens perpetually: whatever some other person says or does is taken as referring to ourselves. Because we are always thinking of ourselves we imagine that other people must be thinking of us also; but if we are always thinking of ourselves, it seems more sensible to assume that other people are probably thinking about themselves, not that they are thinking about us. They make themselves the centre of their own circle, round which all their thoughts and emotions revolve, and they think of everything as it affects them. They are running round themselves in a circle all the time, and because they are running round themselves they think everyone else must be running round them, too. But they are not. Each man is in his own circle — an equally vicious one, no doubt. Probably nine-tenths of the cases in which people take offence at what others do and say, are rooted in this idea.
If a man does something which you think will harm you, or says something which you think applies to you, do not think at once: “He meant to injure me”. Most probably he never thought of you at all, for each soul has its own troubles and its thoughts turn chiefly around itself. If a man speak angrily to you, do not think: “He hates me, he wishes to wound me”. Probably some one or something else has made him angry, and because he happens to meet you he turns his anger upon you. He is acting foolishly, for all anger is foolish, but you must not therefore think untruly of him.
[Page 133] C.W..L. — That is plain commonsense, but how very few people ever practise it! When I was a priest in the Church of England I once preached a sermon about some ordinary trial or temptation which I thought might come in the way of the farmers and labourers who were my congregation. I explained how a man might get into trouble along a certain line. After the service a farmer came into the vestry in a towering rage, and asked me what I meant by preaching a sermon directed at him. Of course, poor man, he gave himself hopelessly away. I had never before supposed that he was guilty of this particular thing, but evidently it was a sore point, and my remarks had gone home to him. I have no doubt that to this day that man really thinks I singled him out, and preached about him.
In this crowded life which we are all living, it is inevitable that there should be a certain amount of friction, which need not be taken seriously, or regarded as of great importance. As we walk along the streets of any great city thousands of people, each full of his own business, are pushing ahead and not thinking in the least of others. Inevitably it happens that people jostle each other, but it never occurs to anyone to take it seriously as an insult; that would be ridiculous. The same thing is bound to happen mentally and emotionally. Where there are great crowds there is inevitably a certain amount of mental and emotional jostling. [Page 134] We ought to take that in exactly the same spirit, realizing that the man who happens to tread on our mental corns did not mean to do so in the very least but that he was following his own line of business and not thinking of us. We must not take all such little frictions as serious things, any more than we do the daily jostling in the street.
At the same time, while we hold that attitude with regard to the absorption of other people in their business, it is our duty to see that we in turn are not so absorbed in ours as to forget the little courtesies that make life go so much more smoothly.
The Theosophist ought to be distinguished from the rest of the world by his courtesy. and by his calm and unchanging cheerfulness. Be gentle, be patient; there is always time to be friendly and gentle, however much, one may be hurried. One should decline to be swept off one's feet by the waves of irritability which come from over-strained nerves, which are so common in these crowded times.
A.B. — The suggestion that the Master makes here is very wise. Do not suppose that everybody is thinking about you, because you are thinking about yourself. The other people are also thinking about themselves and not of you; they are concerned with their own affairs just as you are with yours. It would add greatly to the happiness of nations if people would only take up this idea and put it into practice. When some one jolts up against you in the bustle and hurry of life do not think that he means to injure you, or that he has any personal [Page 135] intention at all. Unless you are sure that a person meant to harm you, it is much better to think the reverse.
Suppose a man speaks angrily to you. If you would remember then not to attribute wrong motives to him, and not to get angry also, you would make very rapid progress in self control. Generally people remember this afterwards. If a man is self-controlled he will not show irritation, but if he is perfectly self controlled he will not even feel it. Even if the other man is at fault, it is, after all but a weakness of his, and he who would be an occultist must remember to be charitable to the weaknesses of others. One must also remember that the angry speech, or the hasty and irritable answer, very often means that the person who makes it is under a great tension arising from some trouble or anxiety, and is not quite strong enough to bear the strain and show no signs of it; his nerves are highly strung; that is why he acts as he does.
It is true, of course, that he acts foolishly, as the Master says. But we must make allowances. Most of the little difficulties that people have arise in this way. A heavy strain on a person will cause him to take offence at almost anything. Think how many troubles there are in the world – troubles of all kinds constantly pressing on people and worrying at them. We do not know the troubles of all those around us, of course, because no sensible person goes about proclaiming his difficulties. Ordinary dignity forbids that. But if we would remember that they exist, and make allowance for them, we [Page 136] should obtain that perfect peace which the Master is aiming at in this teaching .
When you become a pupil of the Master, you may always try the truth of your thought by laying it beside His. For the pupil is one with his Master, and he needs only to put back his thought into the Master's thought to see at once whether it agrees. If it does not, it is wrong, and he changes it instantly, for the Master's thought is perfect, because He knows all.
A.B. — An accepted pupil can always test his thought by laying it beside that of the Master. If he feels a jar he knows that the thought is wrong. To use a physical analogy, it is like a false note in music, The pupil does not need to call the Master's attention; he simply puts his thought beside the Master's, and if it does not ring true, he casts it out at once, and sets to work immediately to bring his thought into harmony with that of the Master. He does not argue about it, nor try to make out that his thought may be right after all, because if it is faulty, its error at once becomes apparent. Those who are not accepted pupils cannot quite do this, and that presents a difficulty to many aspirants. As the consciousness of the pupil is one with that of the Master, the latter will not accept anyone against whose thought He would afterwards find it necessary to build a wall.
C.W.L.— It is said that the pupil is one with his Master. That is true in a sense which only the Master knows perfectly. The pupil knows it too, but less [Page 137] perfectly. Those who have not yet entered into that relation cannot understand the intensity of that unity. The pupil becomes an outlying section of his Master's thought, belonging to Him in a way not at all unlike that in which the personality belongs to the ego. The ego puts down a small piece of itself – that is not quite correct, but it is more accurate than the idea of reflection would be – into the conditions of the lower planes, where even the best of physical, astral and mental bodies, can give only a very imperfect expression of him. That ought to be a comfort to us when we feel depressed at our own various weaknesses down here. One may say to oneself: “At any rate the ego knows better than that; therefore I need not despair. It is only needful for me to bring more of myself down into this lower manifestation to make it a purer expression of what I really am up above, and then my defects will become less”.
In the same sort of way the pupil not merely represents the Master; he is the Master in a very real sense, but the Master under tremendous limitations – the limitations not only of the lower planes, but also of the personality of the pupil, which is by no means perfectly transcended. If the disciple's ego had gained perfect control of its lower vehicles, so that they were nothing but reflections or expressions of the higher, he would be able to express the Master far more perfectly than he does now, but even then there would be a limitation of what must be called the size of him, because the pupil is a smaller ego than the Master whom he follows, and therefore can be only an incomplete representative of [Page 138] Him. Still, whatever thoughts the pupil has, those are in the Master's mental and astral bodies also. Partly for that reason all pupils have to pass through a period of probation, during which the living image of the probationary pupil is constantly before the eye of the Master. The Master wants to know exactly what are the thoughts and feelings of His prospective pupil, because otherwise He might find constantly obtruded into His own astral and mental bodies thoughts and emotions which were out of harmony with the work He is doing all the time. It is only after He has seen for some considerable time that such thoughts and emotions as would not harmonize are very rare in the pupil, that He accepts him, and makes him a part of Himself.
Even then the Master still retains the power to interpose a veil between His consciousness and that of His pupil. It is the latter's earnest desire not to be shut off, but still we are fallible people down here on the physical plane, and it may often happen that some thought or feeling comes to us which should not. The Master does not want that, so He shuts it quietly away from Him. There is, it is true, a later period at which the Master renounces even the power to do that — when He accepts the pupil as His ‘son', but that comes only when He is quite sure that there will be nothing that needs to be excluded.
On account of this intimate association with his Teacher's consciousness the pupil is able to lay His thought by the side of the Master's thought. It is not [Page 139] necessary to call the Master's attention at all; he is not seeking His opinion on the question in hand. He is simply going back along the line of that oneness to discover what is the idea in the Master's mind with regard to this particular question. “How” you may ask – “ would the pupil do it ? ” There are various ways, according to the extent to which he has realized the unity. He would make a vivid image of His Master he would raise himself into it with all his force, and then would think his thought and see whether there was the slightest jar or disharmony, and if there were he would, of course, alter his own thought at once.
There is here a great difference between the occult and the worldly point of view. In the world if there is a difference of opinion between yourself and another man, you at once proceed to argue in favour of your opinion, or try to justify it. In occultism we never argue; we know that the man who stands on the higher level knows better, and we simply accept his view. It would ever occur to us for one moment to set up our own opinion against that of the Master, because we know (it is not a matter of opinion; but of actual knowledge) that He has access to all kinds and sources of information that we have not; therefore He knows what He is talking about. His opinion is based on far greater knowledge than our own. Afterwards we may try to find the reasons which gave rise to it – that is quite another matter – but in the meantime we do not oppose it, and we should never think of doing so. When the pupil lays his thought beside the Master's he does not [Page 140] argue. When you have an instrument out of tune you do not argue that perhaps that is a better pitch; you tune it up.
In the occult world we never criticize, we take it for granted that every man who is working for the Hierarchy is doing his utmost; and if he is doing his best, then to his own Master he stands or falls — not to us. Of course it may sometimes be possible, if we see failure in some direction, to make a little suggestion in the most delicate way we can: “If so-and-so were done, do you not think that things might perhaps be a little better ? “ The way in which people recklessly criticize others of whose troubles and difficulties they know nothing whatever is entirely foreign to occultists or those who aspire to become such. We simply do not go that way at all, we should consider it wrong.
Those who are really in earnest about getting on the Path would do well to follow the custom of the Masters' pupils in this matter. We should not plunge into criticism of people who are doing their work; most people are doing the best they can from their point of view. We may possibly have a much higher point of view, but at any rate they can work only according to their own light, not according to ours. When an official is appointed, for example, to do something in our Society, we should give him his chance; if he does not do the work satisfactorily, then we may in due course give the work to some one else, but in the meantime we should not hamper the man. He should be given a chance to show what he is made of, to try the ideas [Page 141] which are in his mind. It is a bad thing to be always interfering.
It would be a very much worse thing to be always in a critical frame of mind — constantly looking for holes always trying to find weak spots. That is not the way in occultism. We often hear people say, “ I cannot help criticizing; that is my nature”. If that is your nature it is a very bad nature, and you had better try to transcend it. When you say a thing is natural, human, you mean it is what the average man would do; but if a man has really taken himself in hand he is trying to be a little more than the average. We are here to change our natures. There need be no pride in this; the aspirant is seeking to raise himself above the average in order that he may be able to advance that average – which he could not do if he were on the same level or below. Anyone who wills to do so can give up the bad habit of criticism.
Sometimes one would like to say to people, “ Do get out of the way of your higher self and give him a chance to do what he can. You are letting the lower personality stand in the way of what the higher would and could do quite easily”. No one should ever say, “ I cannot”. If you take that line, you have already prejudged the case, and foredoomed yourself to failure. Set up rather the thought-form. “ I can do this thing, and I will do it”, – then it is already half done. People often fail in their efforts; that is very natural. While they continually try, however, force is being accumulated, and this will presently bring success. We must not [Page 142] think when a failure comes that everything is lost; for the force which has been gained, though it may not be enough to bring immediate success, is all the same a substantial gain, and if we go on putting more and more to it the time will come when success will crown our efforts.
There is a vast gulf between these two attitudes: to sit down and despair, and to get up and do something. It has been said that the world is divided into two parts : the people who go and do something, and the people who sit still and say: “ Why was it not done some other way ? ” We ought to be among the former, and not mind in the least what is said by the other kind of people who never move a hand to do it themselves.
Those who are not yet accepted by Him cannot do quite this; but they may greatly help themselves by stopping often to think: “What would the Master think about this ? What would the Master say or do under these circumstances ? “ For you must never do or say or think what you cannot imagine the Master as doing or saying or thinking. You must be true in speech too – accurate and without exaggeration.
C. W .L. — If we could keep that always in mind, never to think or say or do anything that the Master would not think or say or do, there would not be much need of correction in our lives. We might make some errors, perhaps, as to what we thought He might think or say or do, but on the whole ours would be a life wonderfully [Page 143] pure and near to Him. No doubt many people may feel: “ If I had to stop and think that, I should never say anything”. The world would probably not be greatly the poorer if they did not, for most of what is said is not particularly useful. If a man each time before he speaks really seriously sets himself to think: “ Would the Master say what I am going to say ? ” he will speak a great deal less. The process of referring to the thought of the Master may be slow at first; but presently it becomes a habit, and then it takes place like a flash.
Thought moves with the rapidity of light, probably even faster, and if, as the physicists tell us, light travels about 186,000 miles per second, your thought of England, for example, which is 12,500 miles away, would be there like a flash of light. The speed of thought is one of the questions of occult physics amidst which we are only stumbling as yet. We are trying all the time to learn new facts about occult science, and are making experiments blunderingly, much as did the old alchemists, but of whose effort emerged the beginnings of chemistry which has slowly evolved into a great science comprising many thousands of facts. I believe that out of the stumbling experiments which are now being made by only a few people, there will arise, as the years roll on, development of occult science generally which will be of great importance to the world. Usually our thoughts do not move as fast as they might, because we have not practised using them apart from speech and action to any great extent. It is one [Page 144] of the fruits of meditation that it trains us to use thought apart from these other things. From success in that one obtains really wonderful results. Dr. Besant has made a study of this.
I have heard her say that when she is giving a lecture in public, while she is speaking one sentence, the next comes before her thought in three or four different forms, and she deliberately selects that one which she thinks will be most effective, while she is speaking the previous sentence. Very few people could do that. It is a matter of using thought altogether apart from action, and with a rapidity which would be hard to calculate – but it shows what may be done. It is quite worth while to try to practise using thought as thought. The pupil, following out the excellent practice of thinking before he speaks or acts, will find it not only fruitful in bringing his life into harmony with that of his Master but also a useful training in swift thought.
Never attribute motives to another; only his Master knows his thoughts, and he may be acting from reasons which have never entered your mind.
C. W .L . — Every man is an enigma even to those who are nearest and dearest to him, and if sometimes, long afterwards, you do get at his reasons for having done something, they are usually surprising — something which would never have occurred to you has been the controlling influence in his mind. I have seen that many times more, perhaps, in India than anywhere else, because the Indian mind differs greatly from ours in many ways, and most of our Hindu brothers are moved to action by ideas [Page 145] that never would have occurred to an Englishman. Their mind is infinitely more subtle, and its activities are based upon a set of traditions foreign to our way of thought. If, therefore, even in our own race it is never advisable to supply a motive to anyone for what he or she says or does, it is far less safe in a foreign country, where you are dealing with another civilization altogether. Hopeless misunderstandings occur because we supply motives, and we must not do it. It is not our business to know why a certain thing was done. We need not trouble about it.
If you hear a story against anyone, do not repeat it; it may not be true, and even if it is, it is kinder to say nothing.
A.B. – If, having heard this, you go and tell a story against some one, you are disobeying the Master's direct command, because it has been passed on to you, and so is directed to you personally. It is easy enough to hold your tongue; it may be difficult to control your thought, but surely you can control your body! The story that you tell may not matter much, but if it is untrue and you repeat it, you are telling a lie, and that matters very much for those who are striving to prepare themselves for Initiation. It sounds hard to call it lying, perhaps, but it is a fact, and we have to face facts.
It is obvious that we cannot spend our lives in enquiring into the truth of such stories, so the only safe course is never to repeat them at all. Quite apart from the question of injuring ourselves and our own prospects [Page 146] and even supposing you know such a story to be true, it is kinder to say nothing. Why should you wish to harm any person ? Why should you wish to repeat anything which shows another in an unfavorable light?
Of course, if we happen to find out that a man is a rogue or a swindler and is bent upon doing injury to unsuspecting persons, it is our duty to expose him, or at least to warn those who are in danger from him; but that is a matter altogether different from those which form the pabulum of common gossip. This is, however, a duty which should be exercised only with the greatest care and forethought, and certainly without the slightest ill-feeling or indignation.
Think well before speaking, lest you should fall into inaccuracy.
C. W .L .— This has been preached for many years and yet even our own people go on making inaccurate statements. People sometimes talk in a most exaggerated way. If a thing is a hundred yards away they say it is “miles off”. If a day comes that is hotter than usual, they say it is “boiling”. Our command of English is poor if we are not able to find words to express different gradations of thought without plunging into these wild, meaningless superfluities. It is a lack of education as well as of accuracy, and I do not think we ought to be careless about this matter. Not without significance the Christ is reputed to have said that for every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account in the day of judgment. [Page 147]
Be true in action; never pretend to be other than you are, for all pretence is a hindrance to the pure light of truth, which should shine through you as sunlight shines through clear glass.
A.B. — Truth in action is a very difficult thing to carry out. It means never to do a thing before people in order to impress them with a high opinion of you, and never to do when you are alone anything of which you would be ashamed in the company of others; but to be perfectly honest always. Let people see you just as you are, and do not pretend to be anything else. Most of us have a kind of ideal of what we should like other people to think us to be; consequently there are all sorts of small things which we do when we are alone, but would not do if others were present, because they are not quite the things that we feel they would expect of us.
Whenever you are inclined not to do a thing because somebody is there, check the feeling: if it is right, never mind other people's opinion about it; if it is not, never do it at all. I know the feeling well, for I used to have it. I used to feel that I must behave before people as they would expect an author and lecturer and all the rest of it to behave. In the past, I sometimes found that this feeling came up about some quite harmless thing. To give an example: on board ship, where I never feel well, I was at one time in the habit of playing patience – a most harmless recreation, I consider. It came into my mind one day to wonder what the passengers would think when seeing me play it on a [Page 148] Sunday, knowing I was a teacher of occultism – whether it would shock them. Then I thought: “ It does not matter whether people see me or not. If wrong it ought to be dropped; if right, their opinions do not alter the fact. Madame Blavatsky was remarkable in this way. She always did what she wanted, and cared not in the least what people thought about it. If people thought. her behavior was not what they considered that of an occultist. should be, what on earth did it matter ? They knew nothing whatever about it, anyway.
An occultist does not go about with a grave and solemn face, taking care to do things in a very dignified manner, though that is the notion which many people have of him. The popular views are entirely false on the subject. An occultist is supremely natural. I think one reason why it is important, at the present time, to lead a perfectly true and frank life, is that it may serve in a small degree to prepare the way for the great Teacher who is coming; it may make His path a little bit smoother. For the Great Ones are not always what the people expect them to be. They do not run in moulds prepared for them, but They come to reform the world, generally to alter radically the popular outlook; and while They are very considerate of people's feelings They are not always so of their prejudices. We, by living frankly and openly, may help to prepare the people's minds, so that when the Lord Maitreya comes they will already have loosened some of their prejudices and there will be a chance of their being less offended than might otherwise have been the case. Let us, then [Page 149] lead a perfectly open life, always provided that we do not fall below our ideal. We must not make the mistake of thinking that it does not matter how we act before people; but we must be equally careful and honest in private and in public.
C.W.L. – It is quite true that we should never pretend, that there is a falsity about any kind of pretension, but take care that in the effort to avoid it you do not run into the opposite extreme. Sometimes people say, “ I want to show myself just as I am naturally”, and then they proceed to show the worst and coarsest and most vulgar part of themselves. They are not showing themselves naturally, but a very low and poor and degraded copy of what they should be. That in man which is highest and best and noblest is nearest to the real self; therefore, to be natural we should be at our best.
Sanctimoniousness is a form of untruth. If you find a person giving himself out as an occultist, and at the same time talking very largely about his own loftiness and tolerance, hinting at his great powers, and trying to win the admiration of credulous people, like the hypocrites of old who “ love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” and the scribes and Pharisees who “for a pretence make long prayer”, ( S. Matthew, vi, 5, and xxiii, 14.) you may know that he is not a real occultist. The genuine occultist is never sanctimonious, though he is determined to live far above the standard of what is usually called the “natural” man. [Page 150]
People often fail to recognize a Master because they have a rigid idea of what a Master must be, and the real, living Master may not be like that at all. He does not adapt Himself to our prejudices and ideas; He is that which He is on His own plane, and if we are hidebound by our own prejudices we may not know Him when He appears. Some have already made up their minds as to what the World Teacher will do and say, and how He will carry Himself. Do not risk shutting yourself off from Him by preconceptions. We know that He will teach the doctrine of love, but the manner and detail of it will be settled entirely by Him. Let us recognize Him to the full, and be ready to follow wheresoever He will lead. [Page 151]
UNSELFISHNESS AND THE DIVINE LIFE
You must discriminate between the selfish and the unselfish. For selfishness has many forms, and when you think you have finally killed it in one of them, it arises in another as strongly as ever. But by degrees you will become so full of thought for the helping of others that there will be no room, no time, for any thought about yourself.
A.B. — The Master here describes what is I believe the only way to become perfectly unselfish. It is possible to get rid of one particular form of selfishness, certainly, if we turn our efforts to its eradication, but, as the Master says, it comes up in another form. Working in this way, you may spend a long time in killing one form of selfishness, and then find yourself like Hercules when he was killing the hydra – as soon as he had cut off one head, another grew. But the way that is recommended here goes straight to the root of the matter.
One of the valuable results of devotion lies here – I am inclined to think, the greatest of all: the thought of another person, who is the object of devotion, occupies [Page 152] the whole mind and the man becomes unselfish without any special effort. That is the proper way of growth, to “ grow as the flower grows, unconsciously, opening its heart to the sun”. Efforts are all signs of weakness: if you can find clever ways of getting round yourself, as it were, it is a great advantage. You circumvent your thoughts and turn your force into a good channel, and the undesirable quality gets starved out. This is the best way of getting over one's faults; for thinking of them, even regretfully, strengthens them.
Be full of thought for others, and then, as the Master says, there will be no room, no time, for thinking about yourself. Then, too, you will be happy. I have found that this is true in my own case. If ever I found myself inclined to grieve, to feel the least regret about anything which affected me personally (I do not think that I am ever inclined to do so now, but at one time I was) I filled my mind at once with the thought of helping and of working for others. Grieving over things which affect oneself is selfish, and it only serves to make one unhappy. Yet it is what many people do. They sit down and say: “Oh, how sad it is. How hard it is. This thing is very hard on me. That person does not care for me, does not look after me, does not love me”, — and so on indefinitely.
All that is selfishness. The remedy, both for your own grief and the selfishness, is to go at once and do something for someone else. Go and work. Your mind cannot be filled with two things at once, and the moment you cease to think of yourself you begin to be happy. [Page 153] When you can say: “I do not want anything from anybody around; I love them and need nothing in return” — then you will be happy. What people generally call love is a little love underneath with a great coating of selfishness over it. The moment that there is pain through love, it means that selfishness is also there.
That is a hard lesson for the warm-hearted and the affectionate to learn, I know, but it has to be learned; and when learned it brings happiness and peace. I speak to you from my own experience. Learn to love all, without asking anything in return, and when you do that you will find plenty of people to love you; but so long as you keep on grabbing, their natural instinct is to draw back. A hard lesson it is, but once learned it brings a peace that nothing can shake, not even when a person you love dearly is for the time being disagreeable. What does it matter ? You know he will come round again some day, and in the meantime you go on pouring out your love on him just the same. If you suffer, just make up your mind not to trouble about it. Say to yourself: “ I do not mind how much my lower nature suffers”. What are we – our lower selves at any rate – that we should care if we suffer, or that we should claim to be loved ? By taking up this attitude towards your suffering you will overcome it.
C. W .L . – To think about a fault is to strengthen it. That is the mistake often made in the Christian system, where men are urged to repent of their faults and to feel remorse for them. The more sorry one feels and [Page 154] the more he turns his fault over in his mind the stronger it grows. But if one goes ahead and does some work for someone else, the thought-form is not intensified; it dies a natural death, drops away, and is forgotten. Morbid introspection often magnifies small failings into great sins. It reminds one of little children who constantly pull up their plants by the roots, to see how they are growing. Thus, a person eagerly takes up some good and noble work, then begins to doubt himself, and says:” I am not sure that my motive was pure; I must have done it because I was inwardly proud”, or, if he relieves suffering, he thinks: “ It was not really unselfish; I could not bear to see the suffering, and so I relieved it”. In the Church of England they say: “Lord, have mercy upon us miserable sinners”. We may be sinners, but we need not aggravate the offence by being miserable about it, and so making others miserable too. Never brood over the past, but set to work to do better in the future. It is useless to wish that you had not done so-and-so; much better to say:”I did that; it is a pity; never mind, this is the present condition of affairs, and I must see what I can do to make the best of it”. I do not say that it may not be possible at some exalted level to alter the past, but it certainly is not practical for us to take that into consideration.
In the Lord Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path, the last step but one was Right Remembrance. He said to His people: “You must be very careful what you allow yourselves to remember. If you say you cannot help [Page 155] remembering everything, then you have no control over your memory, over the mind which is a part of yourself. It is as though you went along the street gathering up all the rubbish which came in your way; you are sweeping into your memory all kinds of useless and undesirable things. You should remember the right things and be particularly careful to forget the others”. Then He enumerates elaborately and definitely the things that people should forget, and among these He mentions all unkind words spoken to them, all fancied slights and injuries. Those are among the things which one should permanently and absolutely forget, whereas, among the things one should remember are all the kind words that ever have been spoken to one, all the kindly deeds, and all the good qualities one has ever seen in one's neighbours.
We must learn to love all whom we contact. I do not say all alike; that is not expected. The Lord Buddha Himself had His favourite disciple, Ananda, whom He loved more than the others, and the Christ had His beloved disciple, S. John, who leaned upon His breast at the Last Supper. We are not expected to love people all alike, to feel towards everyone the same love that is felt for father or mother, wife or child, but to hold the attitude of active goodwill or love towards all, and of hate to none. We are to hold this attitude also without asking any return for it; the moment one begins to make demands he sets up a claim; he is introducing the factor of desire again, and once more thinking of himself, not of those he loves. To pour out love and not expect any [Page 156] return is the only thing that deserves to be called love. Without that unselfishness people get entangled with jealousies, envyings and many other desires, and their love, instead of showing the pure glorious rose-colour, is seen as a sort of brownish-crimson, a poor-looking thing, and unpleasant also in form, because instead of outraying like sunlight, it is hooked and grasping, and makes a closed curve, often affecting no one but the sender.
The worlds are moved by the divine unselfish love that pours out in great open curves, and never returns and does not mean to return. It is poured out in other dimensions and other planes, to do the work of God in God's own way. This is the lesson to be learned – it is hard because it means the destruction of the lower nature, but it is the path to peace.
You must discriminate in yet another way. Learn to distinguish the God in everyone and everything, no matter how evil he or it may appear on the surface. You can help your brother through that which you have in common with him, and that is the Divine Life; learn how to arouse that in him, learn how to appeal to that in him; so shall you save your brother from wrong.
A.B. — This is the final lesson in discriminating between the real and the unreal. However evil a thing is from the outside, God is there, for it could not exist at all if God were not at its heart. This truth is told again and again in the Hindu scriptures. “ I am the [Page 157] gambling of the cheat”, says the Lord in the Bhagavad Gitā. That statement sometimes shocks people dreadfully; but it is true, because the cheat has something to learn in that way which he is refusing to learn in a better way. If a person cannot learn quietly by precept, he must learn from experience of natural Iaws. What We call the laws of Nature are the most material expression of the Divine Mind.
The laws of Nature stand there like rocks; if a man goes and bruises himself against them the pain that results teaches him to avoid a similar mistake in the future. When a person will not learn by precept or example (and there are plenty of both of these in the world) he must do so through the pain that comes from breaking the law. He must be carried on at all hazards towards unity, for the divine will is for evolution, and his own innermost will is one with the divine. I think that is the meaning which underlies also the words of the Hebrew singer: “ If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there”. So far it is plain; we all know God is in heaven, but then: “ If I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there also”. ( Psalm, cxxxix, 8. )
See therefore the divine in everything around you; the rest does not concern you. In that way, and in that way only, you can help your brother, for the one thing you have in common is the divine life; all the rest is different, but in that you are at one, and you can use that as a lever for helping him in all ways. When you want to help a man to overcome a fault, remember that [Page 158] he is just as anxious as you can be to get rid of the wrong thing in him; it injures him, and if you can only reach the real man inside, you will find that he wants to be rid of it. This is the right way to help; the inside way never hurts or offends anybody.
C. W .L . — All that exists on this plane, as much as on any other, is a manifestation of the divine Life; and therefore all of it — the good and the evil alike — must be an expression of God. Nothing can exist of which God Himself is not the heart and root. That fact is emphasized in all the scriptures. We have it in the Christian Scriptures: “ I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things”. (Isaiah, 45, 7. ). People cannot understand how all that men commonly call evil can somehow be also divine, yet we must face the fact. There are black magicians and evil people of all sorts and kinds, but the life in those people is the Divine Life, because there is no other life.
If a man introduces evil into his life by his own stupidity, by his wrong-headedness, out of it good will nevertheless come; it is the only way to evolve that particular man. The cheat will cheat; he has it in his mind to do that. He is under the Divine Law still, and although he is doing wrong, out of it good for him will come, because he will learn by doing that, and by failure, to step into the right path. It is, as it were, the last resort, but it is a resort, and therefore we must acknowledge it to be within the Divine Plan. [Page 159]
There is a sense in which everything absolutely is God. Still it is not exactly in that sense that these words are written; it is the divine spirit in everyone which makes him man. If you can see through the personality which is so warped, which has gone so far wrong, and get at the divine life in the man, you can appeal to that. We must remember that the “ evil ” man, as a soul, wishes to make progress just as much as we do. He wishes to get rid of the evil which is haunting and obsessing and troubling his personality, and therefore if we can get back to that soul through all this outer crust of hardness and evil, he will rush forward to help us in our endeavour to assist the personality.
I have been a priest and lay-helper most of my life, and have worked in some of the very worst parts of England. I have seen many men whom one would think hopeless criminals; but I have never seen one who had not some spark of good in him somewhere.
It might be his love for a child, or his love for a dog, that seemed to be the only human touch in what was otherwise a brute, and a dangerous brute; but there is the One Life stirring in him somewhere, and if one can get into touch with him at that point there is just a chance that he may be helped upward through an appeal to that one thing.
A.B. — The Master's last words on the subject are: “So shall you save your brother from wrong”. Here He makes the strongest appeal; it is to that which is the very object and end of life to the disciple, for his one aim is to become a saviour of the world. Far stronger [Page 160] is it than any appeal to the disciple for his own personal advantage could possibly be. The Master lives only to help the world; and the more we can bring service into our lives the more we shall reflect in them the beauty of His. [Page 161]
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