ON THE PATH OF OCCULTISM
Volume -1- A Commentary on
AT THE FEET OF THE MASTER
by Annie Besant and C.W.Leadbeater
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PART II – DESIRELESSNESS
THE REMOVAL OF DESIRE
[Page 163] A.B. — We come now to the second qualification, which in the Sanskrit is vairagya, for which, speaking in English, the Master uses the word desirelessness. That is a very accurate translation. In the past I have used the word dispassion, but henceforth I shall translate the term as the Master does.
There are many for whom the qualification of Desirelessness is a difficult one, for they feel that they are their desires — that if their distinctive desires, their likings and dis-likings, are taken away from them, there will be no self left.
A.B. — Practically
all those who sincerely desire to tread the Path feel the
truth of the first sentence, in which the Master says that
the qualification of desirelessness is a difficult one.
The difficulty arises because people identify themselves
with their desires. So long as a desire which is not gratified
makes you unhappy, so long are you identifying yourself
with your desires. It is well to recognize this, admit
it to yourself; for it is quite easy to think that you
have separated yourself [Page
your desires, when in reality you have not done so. Very
many people like to think that they have conquered the
desire nature, when their whole life, their every act shows
that it is not so. It is far better to recognize the fact,
if you have not yet done so, and then you are prepared
to adopt the remedy.
The first step that should be taken is to dwell on the idea: “I am not my desires”. Here you can call to your aid what I have already explained with regard to moods; your desires, like your moods, are changing, and anything that changes is not the Self, who is not subject to fluctuations. For instance, I have known people who think one day: “How delightful it is to be at Adyar; how beautiful to think of all the great things that are going to happen”; and the next day they feel depressed, discouraged. Now, neither of these changing moods, neither the enthusiasm nor the depression is yourself; both are merely passing vibrations of the astral body, roused by some contact from the outside.
It is for this reason that people are advised to meditate every day; for you cannot meditate properly until your desires are quiescent. If you meditate regularly and faithfully, you will little by little realize a Self behind your desires, and as you go on meditating, and also during the day practise the attitude required, you begin to realize that Self all the time. Then you will no longer identify yourself with your desires, and constantly feel: “I want; I wish; I desire”; but will think: “It is not I; it is the lower self”. [Page 165]
This is the first great lesson which the Master gives about the second qualification. You are not required to have a desirelessness perfectly before Initiation, but what the Master does expect is that you should have it to a great extent, and what He expects is law. All the swinging between the two poles of depression and elation must go before you can reach Initiation.
C.W.L. — Large
numbers of people make no effort to distinguish between
their desires and themselves, but say: “I am as God has made me. If I have a bad
temper, or a weak will, He gave it to me. If I am not strong enough
to resist temptation, that is how I was made”.
They do not understand that they have made themselves
by their past lives, but they are in the habit of taking their character
as a sort of inalienable something which is given to them, as one may
be born blind or
with a lame leg. They do not realize that it is their business to change
a nature which is undesirable in its character. They do not know
that they can, and furthermore, often they do not particularly see
why they should.
There is usually no adequate reason held up to the average man why be should take all the very great trouble necessary to change his character. Some may say that unless he does so he will not go to heaven, but many reply that the conventional heaven would bore them inexpressibly, and they are hoping for something different. It is obvious, in fact, that though teaching concerning the heaven-life has been widely spread, it has had little practical influence on most people's character, [Page 166] probably because it is so lacking in verisimilitude. The only theory that I have ever heard that seems to me adequate as an inducement to effort is that of Theosophy. It shows what is worth doing, and shows us that there is every opportunity and sufficient time for complete success. If a man understands God's plan, and seeks to co-operate with Him, he has the strongest possible motive to throw himself into the work of evolution, and to fit himself for it. He sees then that it is possible to make the most fundamental changes in his character and disposition, and that success is absolutely assured.
The never-changing desire of the ego is for progress, for the unfoldment of the higher self, and the bringing of the lower vehicles into tune as its instruments. Whenever we find other desires which are not part of that, and do not agree with it, we know that those are not from the soul, and so we do not say, “I desire this”, but, “my desire-elemental is moving again; he wants so-and-so; but I, the ego, wish to progress; I wish to co-operate in the divine plan. These changing moods and desires are not mine”. As long as an ungratified desire can cause unhappiness, a man may know that he is still identifying himself with the desires of the elemental.
But these are only they who have not seen the Master; in the light of His holy Presence all desire dies but the desire to be like Him. Yet before you have the happiness of meeting Him face to face, you may attain desirelessness if you will.
167] A.B. — This
recalls once more the verse in the Bhagavad
“The objects of sense, but not the
relish for them, turn away from an abstemious
dweller in the body; and even relish turneth
away from him after the Supreme is seen”.
All desire dies when a glimpse of the one
desirable object has been obtained. Hence
to realize the presence of the Master will
rid you not of desires only, but of desire
itself. Desire is a root that sends forth
many shoots; you may lop off the shoots,
but while the root remains it will send forth
new ones. But union with the Master will
finally rid you of the root of all desires.
Even before that, however, the Master says you may attain desirelessness if you will. Those three words, “if you will”, are specially important. They show us where the difficulty lies. It is not the ability, it is nearly always the will to do a thing, which is lacking. If you could put into your work on the path the same amount of will that you put into your worldly work, your progress would be rapid indeed.
C.W.L. — We
have here one of the specially beautiful sentences in this very beautiful
book. It is true that when you see the Master and realize what He is,
all lower desires are simply not there any more; your whole being is
filled with something higher.
Many people speak of their wish to attain desirelessness, and are yet all the time hugging the objects of desire and would be unhappy without them. They do not in reality wish for this desirelessness; they only think they do; on the surface they do, but deeper down [Page 168] in the personality they do not. It is well to question ourselves on this matter, to search deeply and see whether we have really got rid of all these lower desires. A Theosophist often thinks that he has, and thinks that it is merely an elementary matter; but a great many of these elementary things go very deep. Superficially one gets rid of them, but they crop up again in different forms, and it is hard to be sure that one has really disposed of them. Fortunately, it is not expected of us that we shall be utterly free from them at this stage. Initiation may be attained with the roots of some of these things still within us, but after that, one must weed them out entirely. Still, it is better to root them out utterly even now, so that our progress may be smoother and more rapid. It is practicable, for the Master never suggests to us anything that we cannot do, though He does set before us many things which will tax our endurance or moral strength, because that has to be done if we want to get on rapidly.
Discrimination has already shown you that the things which most men desire. such as wealth and power, are not worth having; when this is really felt, not merely said, all desire for them ceases.
A.B. — Desires
for wealth and power clothe themselves in a variety of
ways, not only in connection with money and social or political
influence. Wealth is the thing which most people want above
all others; but it is not in itself a good thing to have,
for it only fosters desires, and does not give happiness,
as may be seen by looking [Page
rich people, who are by no means a happy class of beings.
It is the same with power, social or political; it is all
dross and tinsel, not gold. The
Gitâ says that the wise man is content with
whatsoever cometh — which
means that he will cheerfully make use of what is available,
and not waste his time and energy in craving for something
Few people attain high social or political positions, but the temptation of power is often present without that. Power includes all wish to control other people, to interfere with them and tell them what to do, instead of minding one's own business. Though there may not be much desire for social or political power, there still is frequently an unhealthy desire to make others do what we think they ought to do. That must go if we mean to make progress. Those who mean business will soon find out, as many of us have done, that we have quite enough to do to manage our own lower selves, without trying to interfere with anybody else. The Self in others is the same as the Self in us, and the way in which it chooses to manifest in them is their business, not ours. Therefore all tendencies to interference must be weeded out.
You have no right to interfere except when it is your duty, and that is only when you have a certain limited control over a person who is placed under you by Nature, as in the case of your own children, or by karma, as in the case of servants or workmen. Your control of a child should be protective control, exercised when and as long as there is weakness which needs protection; [Page 170] and it must gradually disappear as the ego inside becomes able to take possession of his own vehicles. With your equals — I use the word in a wide sense – you clearly have no right of interference.
C. W.L. — People often want to interfere with others only because they think they can manage affairs better than those others can; but after all they do not know that. The divine power is working through each man; we had better let it do so in its own way. Remember how the Christ reminded the Jews that their scriptures told them: “Ye are Gods”, and that they were all children of the Most High. It may be that the other man is not doing his work in the very best way, or possibly that he is making some mistakes, but so long as he is honestly and earnestly doing his best it is well. Let him have his innings, even if he is not so good a batsman as you are. Sometimes one may very tactfully, very respectfully and delicately, offer advice, but there are many cases where even that would be an impertinence; one should never under any circumstances attempt to force an opinion on anyone. Our first care should be that our own affairs are well managed, for each man is responsible to himself.(S. John, 10, 34, and Psalm, 82, 6.)
THE ONE GOOD DESIRE
[Page 171] C.W.L.— The desire for personal liberation from rebirth is found chiefly in India, because most of the people there believe in reincarnation. To the average Christian, heaven is also a release from earth. These instructions were given to an Indian boy; therefore first of all and most of all they refer to Indian conditions, though the ideas can be applied to our western world as well. We Theosophists are not particularly likely to make violent efforts in order to gain the happiness of the heaven-world, in which men spend hundreds and even thousands of years between incarnations. Many of us would prefer to avoid it altogether and return quickly to work upon earth, and that is possible to those who really desire it. That does need a certain amount of strength, however, as we must then carry the same mental and astral bodies over into the new physical body. [Page 172]
Thus far all is simple; it needs only that you should understand. But there are some who forsake the pursuit of earthly aims only in order to gain heaven, or to attain personal liberation from rebirth; into this error you must not fall.
is not that the astral body and the mental body are capable
of fatigue, like the physical brain. There is however
another consideration: the astral and mental bodies
that we have in this life are the expression of ourselves
as we were at the end of the last incarnation. As we
go on through life we modify them considerably, but
that cannot be done beyond a certain point. There is
a limit to which, for example, a motor-car is susceptible
to repair or improvement, and very often it is better
to buy a new car than to try to bring the old one up
to date. It is somewhat the same with the astral and
mental bodies. A radical change in them would take a great
deal of time, and might perhaps be only partially accomplished
after all. If a man's capacities in this life have
greatly increased, it might be better for his progress
that he should get a new astral and mental body in which
to express himself, instead of trying to patch up and
alter the old one. Therefore quick reincarnation is
not always quite a practicable thing. Yet we may take
it, as things are now – with the special need of workers
on account of the coming of the World Teacher – that
any person who has worked well in this life and is earnestly
desirous of taking an immediate incarnation in order to
continue in service, may be able to achieve his desires.
There is an ordinary course of life after death for all men, and for those who pass through it there is no need to make any special arrangement; but if a man wishes to depart from that he has to make what amounts to an application, or it has to be made for him. It has to be submitted to a higher authority, who can give [Page 173] permission if He thinks it desirable; but He would quite certainly refuse it if He did not think it to be in the best interests of the person. I think those who have anxiety on this subject may set their minds at rest, however, for those who have worked well now will certainly have further opportunities of continuing that work. A man who wishes rapid reincarnation must make himself indispensable, so that he will be known as one who would be useful if he did come back at once. That also, incidentally, is the best way to bring the mental and astral bodies into the required condition.
If you have forgotten self altogether, you cannot be thinking when that self should be set free, or what kind of heaven it shall have. Remember that all selfish desire binds, however high may be its object and until you have got rid of it you are not wholly free to devote yourself to the work of the Master.
A.B. — We must remember that the astral and mental planes are material, though they are made up of subtler matter than the physical. They also are objective, and full of objects of desire. The desire for heaven, which is in the lower mental plane, is therefore just as much a desire of the lower self as is the desire for earth – only it is further off and more impalpable. The advantage of the former desire over the latter is that it gives a check to the desire-nature, because it cannot be gratified at once; so it helps the man to get rid of desire in general, and at the same time it causes him to select [Page 174] more refined pleasures, and to dwell upon those in his thought rather than the coarser ones. There are many men to whom it would obviously be useless to say, “Kill out desire”. If you want to help a man who is addicted to the pleasures of eating and drinking and sex, you may put before him the desire for heaven, in order to help him to starve out the lower desires. Therefore it is that all religions make so much of the teaching of heaven and hell. Even the Lord Buddha spoke of these when he was addressing the ordinary people.
who wish to tread the Path must give up not only desire for heaven, but also
that for personal liberation from the round of births and deaths, that is,
for moksha. The reason is quite simple, and the Master gives it here. If
you have forgotten yourself altogether, you cannot be thinking of those things
which affect yourself. You must be free from desire for those things, if
you mean to devote yourself to the work of the Master.
There are many people who wish to serve, in one way or in another, but the disciple must wish to serve the Master in the way He wills, and where He requires the service. Such unconditional service is not possible while the heart is bound up in anything. As one of the Upanishads says – “Until the bonds of the heart are broken, man cannot attain immortality”. That sounds a hard thing to say, if we think of the bonds of the heart as including the qualities of love, to which we attach the greatest value. It does not say, however, that the heart must be broken, but that the bonds must be broken [Page 175] so that the heart's love may be boundless. Do not misunderstand me, and think that I have said that to love is not desirable. It is not the love which binds, but the elements of selfishness which are too often mixed with it.The love of the Self in one man for the Self in another is in its very nature everlasting; we could not change that even if we would, but when love for the Self is mixed with love for the form, it begins to bind, and thus even love itself may become a bondage.
There is no way to reach the condition that makes you free for the Master's work but by constant effort to break every bond that restricts you. If you find in your love anything which can cause you pain, there is selfishness in it, which must be eliminated. Get rid of it, and your love will remain, stronger, nobler, purer; and such love can never interfere with the Master's work. Suppose you have a wish to go to a certain place because there is a particular person there with whom you like to be; well, give up the idea of going. That is just one instance of the way in which you may deliberately break the bonds that tie you by selfishness to special persons and things. Break off such ties.
I say this only for those who are in dead earnest – not for those who wish to go gently and quietly along the road of progress. There is no blame attached to this latter course, mind; each is free to go forward slowly or swiftly as he chooses. But I am speaking now for those who mean business, for those who are wholly in earnest. The Master is always looking out for this earnestness, and does not find too much of it. Once [Page 176] more I am speaking from my own experience, for I have had difficulty in this way, Then I began to train myself, and when I found that I had a great wish to be with some one, I would try to keep away from that person, if you have tact and strength, you can often untie yourself inside, so to say, without showing others that you are doing it. You remain just as loving as before, and your outward manner shows no alteration, but you are loosening the personal bond inside your own heart. It is by thus clearly seeing what ought to be done and then deliberately doing it that some of us have made more progress than most people. You will find such an effort easier if you keep in mind the fact that you cannot devote yourself entirely to the work of the Master until nothing remains that can bind you.
W .L. — This
passage shows us that desire for heaven belongs to the personality,
It is not, however, by any means a bad thing at an earlier
stage of development than that of the disciple, It has its
place in the evolutionary scheme, The primitive man is full
of thoughts about eating and drinking, and similar pleasures.
It would be quite useless to talk to him about desirelessness,
as he must first pass through a stage of higher and more
refined desire. The utmost we can say to him is: “Try to
refine your desires; there are other and grander things than these
of which you are thinking, and you cannot rise to those in the future
unless you are prepared to check the out-rush of your feeling”.
Men can rise only step by step, and only the strongest can
climb the great heights of the Path rapidly. Yet those [Page
177] who read the words of this book, and wish to do as
Alcyone has done, must resolve at once to get rid of all selfish desire,
because it binds. As I have said, even love itself is a bond of the
heart if there is in it a grain of selfishness, but when it is utterly
free from any thought of selfishness it is a power of the heart. Until
the bonds are broken, until the selfishness is weeded out, even love
itself may be a hindrance as well as a help.
There has been much misunderstanding in India and elsewhere on this subject, on account of the confusion of love (which is unselfish) with desire (which is selfish). Some philosophers try to harden them selves so as to be indifferent to what happens, to escape suffering by avoiding love. But that is the wrong way; it produces men half-developed, intellectual but unemotional. We must have the power to express even great surges of feeling, but they must be reflections of the higher emotions of the Self, strictly under control, not astral waves sweeping us along at the will of the desire-elemental. To control emotion by killing it is something like that other idea of trying to avoid bad karma by doing nothing at all. The Master's way for us is that we should become increasingly useful to humanity through our actions, emotions and thoughts, and the more we can do in all three ways the better it will be for all concerned. [Page 178]
When all desires for self are gone, there may still be a desire to see the result of your work. If you help anybody you want to see how much you have helped him; perhaps even you want him to see it too, and to be grateful. But this is still desire, and also want of trust.
A.B. — This is what the Bhagavad Gītā calls not working for fruit. The result is the fruit. If you are really working you have no time to notice results, no time to stop and look at a piece of work which is finished. As soon as one thing is done there is something else at hand to be done. You are wasting time if you are looking at the results; if you are thinking of what you have already done, how are you to carry on the next piece of work ? And when it comes to personal help, which is the pleasantest of all to give, because there is personal love at the back of it, do not look to see if the person whom you have helped appreciates what you have done. That is like running after one to whom you have made a present, in order to see if he is grateful, and to claim thanks. One who acts like that has not given; he has sold. It is barter; so much help for so much gratitude. You must not barter here! Remember how the Christ drove from the temple those who were selling, although they were selling things for sacrifice, saying to them: “Make not my Father's house an house of merchandise”. (S. John, 2, 16.)
C.W.L. — No one is busier than the occultist. The moment he finishes one thing he goes on with another, and he does not stand gazing to see what has resulted from what he did before. Suppose you were acting as a [Page 179] nurse or a helper on the battle-field; you would have to do the best you could for one case, and instantly turn to another; you could not stop to watch for half an-hour to see exactly what was going to be the final effect; you could not even stop to see whether the man was likely to recover or not. It is just the same with the Master's work; we have not time to stop and think about the ultimate results, and above all we have no time to think about ourselves in connection with those results. It is but human to desire that our efforts should meet with success, and to be elated when it comes, but we must rise above such human frailties, because the goal at which we aim is superhuman. If a thing is well done, we may rejoice in the fact, but we must feel just as glad if the success is another's as if it were our own.
It speaks here of sometimes wanting the man you have helped to see it too, and be grateful. If one has any feeling of that sort he is not giving at all, but selling. The only giving which is recognized in occultism is giving as God gives, pouring out love as the sun pours out life.
When you pour out your strength to help, there must be a result, whether you can see it or not; if you know the Law you know this must be so.
A.B. — In
the book Of the Imitation of Christ it is asked: “Who
will serve God for naught?” The disciple must work
for the sake of the work,
not for seeing the result, and even without the happiness
and satisfaction of thinking, “I am
serving”. He must give [Page
180] himself to the world because he loves it.
There must be a result, of course, because we live in a
world of law; that is why we need not make it our concern.
Very often the nature of our work is such as not to bring
about immediate results on the physical plane, but to bring
something nearer to accomplishment; some one else will
put the finishing touches to the work, but without those
who have toiled and seen no results the thing could not
possibly have been done.
You cannot do important work without trusting the law, because all great work is slow work. Consider, for example, the work of a Manu: thousands upon thousands of years go by before anything you would call a result is seen. Even in building a big house the same rule holds good, for deep foundations are necessary. Our work is largely the laying of foundations, which are not seen; later some one will come along and put a row of bricks above the surface; those will at once be seen. Are the foundations useless, then ?
Results are inevitable. Therefore work in a quiet, scientific way, and you will never be disappointed. All disappointment is due to a desire for fruit. You may go on working strenuously for a long time without seeing any consequences, and one day the result will flash into sight. A chemist making a saturated solution goes on dropping a salt into the water, and for some time the liquid remains to all appearance unaffected; then the last grain is added, and the whole suddenly turns solid. So it is with our work; suddenly it will be manifest complete. We are preparing for the coming of the [Page 181] Great Teacher. We must put all our force into this work, quietly, confidently, patiently; sacrificing ourselves wholly to the work. When the Lord Maitreya comes, He will take up all that we have done, and the result of it will then be manifest to the world.
C.W.L. — It often takes the work of a number of people, following one another, to achieve some great result. When there is a great reform to be introduced in the world, it usually happens that one man, or one group of men, will see the need and begin to talk and write about it. He or they will be ridiculed, and it will seem that their work is without result, but they will convert a few people to their cause, and these will carry it on, until at last society accepts the reform. What was done by the later men would have been impossible without the apparently result-less work of the pioneers.
often it may be the nature of our work to bring something
near to its accomplishment. Somebody else will step in
and put the final touch to the work; his efforts will
then be recognized, and he will be considered as having
done the whole thing. Never mind; we must care nothing
whatever about getting the credit, but be happy to be
allowed to do the work. One must not think: “ That
is rather hard on me”. Our karma will take care of
what we have done, and it does not matter what the world
does or says about it at the present time. One who works
scientifically, understandingly, without a thought of the
result, except that somehow, somewhere, all good work must
do good, will never know disappointment. [Page 182]
When the Lord comes He will take up all our work, carry it on and complete it; and so it will appear that it is all His work. In a sense it all is His, as we have been inspired by Him; yet a great deal of it will have been made possible by the unseen, or apparently profitless work done by a number of humble people before-hand. That we should have a chance of being among those people is assuredly the very greatest privilege we could desire.
In all cases, when one knows the laws of Nature one can use them. This is as true of all the work that we are constantly doing on the inner planes, as of that in which we are engaged on the physical plane. Every thought of ours makes a form on the astral or mental plane, and this goes to the person or thing of which we are thinking, and hovers around or discharges itself for good or ill according to its nature and quality. It is no more trouble to make a helpful thought-form than a harmful one. It all depends upon the attitude of the mind. One may think: “My attitude of mind matters only to me, and only just now”. But it matters to others as well, and also it will matter to you the next day, the next month, or even the next year, because it generates thoughts which react upon you. Every thought intensifies itself, by calling up repetitions of itself. It rests, with us to make forms which will be beneficial in every way; for though they be invisible to ordinary sight they infallibly do their work. [Page 183]
So you must do right for the sake of the right, not in the hope of reward; you must work for the sake of the work, not in the hope of seeing the result; you must give yourself to the service of the world because you love it, and cannot help giving yourself to it.
C.W.L. — Love
is indeed the greatest of all motives. All through the teaching of this book,
and of some later ones which have been moulded to a large extent upon it,
it will be observed how strong and constantly repeated is this need of love
as the motive in life, as the explanation of everything, and as the remedy
for all ills. It is because that will be the key-note of the teaching of
the World Teacher Himself when He comes, that it is already so strongly foreshadowed
in that of those who are trying in their small way to prepare for Him.
Another thing the student will note is that all through this book the Master takes it for granted that we are all utterly in earnest, and that the work is the one thing for us. That is certainly the very best way of bringing us into that frame of mind, if there are still some lingering fragments of other ideas hanging about us. The fact that in His mind there is clearly no thought of anything but service, is the greatest incentive for us to make ourselves what He desires.
We often get in our own way; we have to stand aside and give the Self in us a chance to work, for as long as we have some reservations, as long as there is something which we are not prepared to give up for the sake of the Master's service, we are standing in our own way. It is a rare thing to find one who has no reservations [Page 184] whatever, who will give himself utterly to the service of the Master, who will stop at nothing, but give all. It is rare, but the man who has that quality will go far and very fast.
[Page 185] A.B. — The term “psychic powers” properly includes all the manifestations of the powers of consciousness through organized matter, in the physical body, or the astral, or the mental. All powers of the intellect are therefore psychic powers. The distinction which has grown up between the ordinary powers of the mind shown through the brain, and the various kinds of clairvoyance and similar powers, is an unfortunate one. One hears many people speaking against the acquisition of psychic powers, while they themselves are using them all the time through the physical body. They denounce astral vision while they are using physical sight. It is illogical to denounce astral sight, unless you are prepared to take up the logical position of some of the Indian yogis, who regard the use of both physical and superphysical senses equally as a hindrance. These men are quite rational; they do not value any of the senses, because they consider that these only bring them into [Page 186] closer touch with the worlds of illusion from which they wish to escape. I do not agree with those people. I think that it is better to be healthy and to have the use of one's faculties on all planes; but unless their thorough-going attitude is adopted a good deal of the talk against psychic powers is foolish.
Have no desire for psychic powers; they will come when the Master knows that it is best for you to have them.
is true is that in the early exercise of one's astral
senses there is always a possibility of being misled.
But one's physical senses also may deceive one. Certain
sight-illusions, for example, are due to bad digestion
and liver disorders, though I would not include in
this category many things which the average doctor
does which are in reality instances of etheric or
astral sight. The commonest illustration of the way
in which our senses deceive us is that of the rising
of the sun; you know that the sun does not rise,
but you see it doing so.
The senses have always to be corrected by the reason which is higher than all sense perceptions. Your astral vision constantly deceives you, when you begin to exercise it. That is why anyone who is being trained by a Master is put through a definite and thorough course of practice. He is asked what he sees, and his replies at first are mostly wrong; then his mistakes are pointed out to him, and explanations are given.
Suppose that a person who is not being trained by a Master awakens that sight. This frequently happens for in the normal course of evolution the astral senses are unfolding, so that many people are beginning to possess them.Such a person is in the same position on the astral plane that a baby is in here. You know how [Page 187] a baby will stretch out its hand to grasp a lighted candle which is at the other end of a room. The baby's mistakes get corrected naturally by his elders; he will find out that certain objects that attract him are at a distance, by being carried to them. So our astral body — as we may call the person newly functioning with his astral senses — makes many mistakes, which would not matter in the least if he were in the midst of his elders. Neither would they matter so much if only people would have common sense. But unfortunately the person who receives an astral communication, or sees an astral vision, too often thinks himself distinguished from all the rest of the world by being vouchsafed a special revelation. They are thus not in a position to learn from their elders in this sort of knowledge, as a baby is willing to be taught by grown-up people, and so a good deal of trouble arises.
who become pupils of the Masters are put through a
long course of training with regard to this matter
of higher sight and higher impressions generally.
I suppose that to many that training would be very
wearisome. An elder pupil will take the younger
and pass before him a number of different objects
and ask him what he sees. The young pupil is generally
quite wrong at first, because he has got the thing
out of focus. He does not know the difference between
the astral body of a dead man and of a living man,
nor that between the man himself and a thought-form
made by some friend. In these and many other ways
the untrained observer is liable to deception.
Patiently the teacher [Page
188] will show him these things again and again, and show
him how to recognize them, pointing out the minute differences.
No one should think that because this training is necessary the astral senses are especially unreliable. All senses are unreliable until they are trained, and even then when they are not used along with the rational intelligence. Every morning in fine weather, if we are up in time, we may see the sun rise; we know perfectly well that it does not rise and yet we see it doing so. Sometimes illogical people say with regard to things a little outside the range of most people's experience that they will not believe in what they cannot see, but if they see they will believe. Some go further and say that they will be convinced if they can touch the thing. A simple test will show the fallacy of this. Take three bowls and put into them water at different temperatures; very hot, icy cold, and of temperate degree. Put one hand into the hot and the other into the cold water; let them remain there for a few minutes, then move them both into the temperate water. The hand that has been in the hot water will tell you that this bowl of water is very cold, and the other hand will tell you that it is very hot. This demonstrates that the senses are not always to be implicitly relied upon. Their testimony must be checked by the use of reason, and this has to be done just as much with the astral and mental senses as with the physical.
If a man wishes for psychic powers he must work at their development and it is often a matter of years before [Page 189] the man is perfectly certain of his accuracy in all cases. It is difficult to realize the extent of the area over which this clairvoyant vision extends. Take one example only: in the astral plane there are two thousand four hundred and one different varieties of what is called elemental essence, and if one wishes to be reliable and to do his work well and quickly, he must learn to distinguish one from another, and know when they are to be used. The work can be done without any of this knowledge, but wastefully — on the principle of emptying a bucket of water over a man to wash his little finger.
We are told, however, that waste of energy is precisely one of the things we must avoid. Energy is capital, and we are bound to make the most of it. We are responsible for any waste of it, just as we should be if we let it lie idle and did nothing with it.
It would be of no use for a pupil of the Master to say: “I know already”. That is not the spirit in which we approach these things. We are always eager and anxious to acquire further information, but always that we may serve the better. in order that we may be more useful. That is the idea, and most assuredly there is no knowledge which comes amiss in the work we have to do. Everything he knows enables the occultist to illustrate points, and often to understand points which otherwise might not be clear to him. They say at the end of this evolution we shall attain all knowledge; we shall get rid of ignorance. All our work is tending in that direction, and we shall certainly need to be most wonderfully well informed to do the higher [Page 190] work well when our turn comes. Meantime, it is wisdom to use to the full the powers one has, and to have no desire for psychic powers until the Master sees fit that we should develop them.
To force them too soon often brings in its train much trouble; often their possessor is misled by deceitful nature-spirits, or becomes conceited and thinks he cannot make a mistake; and in any case the time and strength that it takes to gain them might be spent in work for others.
C.W.L. — The
deceitful nature-spirits, of which there are many different
kinds, are a very real feature in the case. Most of them
are rather small creatures, and they think it is very amusing
if they can make a great big man do what they say, when
they order him about. They do that very often merely by
pretending to be Julius Cesar, Napoleon Bonaparte or any
great and well known personage whose name happens to occur
to them, and it is great fun for them to see big people
who belong to a higher stage of evolution than their own
doing what they suggest. It is perhaps a little hard on
the people, but they should have brought their reason and
common sense to bear on their visions.
If you hear an astral voice sometimes, do not immediately jump to the conclusion that it is that of the Master or of a great Archangel. Dead people often manage to communicate and offer advice, and nature-spirits play their little tricks frequently, so it is more likely in most cases to be one of these. So, take the [Page 191] voice quite calmly; it is an interesting phenomenon, not necessarily because of what you may get out of it, but because anything a little out of the ordinary is in itself interesting, and there is generally something to be learned in connection with it. But do not start by denying that there is a communication — that again is an unwise thing to do. One may think of a thing as improbable, but it is not safe to say it is impossible. Listen respectfully to the revelation, but, unless you have good reason to do so, do not let it affect your conduct in any way. Action should be the consequence of one's decision, following upon one's own reasoned thought, not of something said by somebody else, one does not know who.
A great number of people have revelations which they think are going to remodel the world. Though they are usually quite good, there is generally nothing very striking about them, and they are apt to be somewhat indefinite in outline, and vague in their teaching. As far as they go they are generally an improvement upon the very limited and cramped orthodox theories. They are nearly always along Theosophical or New Thought lines – Theosophy and water, the water predominating. They are usually given out with perfectly good intentions, by some dead man, who has now realized certain broad facts of life which he wishes to impress upon those whom he has left behind. He thinks that if these higher ideas were accepted the world would be a much better place, and he tries to impress them upon the people on the general theory of Dives in the parable, that if some one [Page 192] came to the people from the dead they would repent forgetting, of course, the sage answer of Abraham; “If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead”. ( S. Luke, 16, 31.)
Such a man forgets that he himself paid no attention whatever to spirit messages when alive. If such come our way — they are sure to, more or less, if we are what is called psychic — we should receive them quite respectfully, but at the same time without undue excitement. Many of those who receive the message think that they are going to revolutionize the planet, but that is not easily done. When they are brought to our notice, we apply to them, if necessary, certain means of testing the truth and validity of such communications. Most people have not those means immediately at their disposal, but if they will just apply plain common sense to their superphysical experiences they will get along very well in regard to most of them. There are two attitudes which are adopted by most people; either they receive them blindly or else they scoff and say it is ridiculous. Both these extremes are silly. Everyone who has studied these things knows that they do come, but for the most part only from people who can tell us nothing new and accurate. A dead man, if he is wise enough to do it may learn certain things which as a living man he could not get to know, but nearly all the dead neglect this opportunity, and go on contentedly with the limitations and prejudices they had on earth.[Page 193]
Experiences of the superphysical are now on the increase, because the time of the coming of the World-Teacher is drawing near, and that fact is widely known on all the planes. In the physical world there is a strong expectation of His coming, quite outside the Theosophical ranks. There are many people who feel the nearness of His approach, and consequently are more likely than before to be the recipients of such communications. They invite them by their attitude of expectancy. Therefore it is quite certain that there will be a great deal of information and misinformation spread abroad with regard to the coming of the Lord. He Himself said a long time ago that there would be many false Christs who would come. The average Christian probably thinks of the false Christs as anti-Christs deliberately deceiving the people. But most of them will be entirely well-meaning people, who have really persuaded themselves that they are overshadowed by the Christ, and the very fact that they are well-meaning will render them more dangerous, because people will feel their earnestness, and be carried away by that.
Theosophical attitude about false Christs may be expressed
somewhat thus: it is a pity that people should be misled
into thinking that some one who is very ordinary is the
World Teacher. Nevertheless, if the teachings are good
and the people follow them heartily and nobly, their lives
will be improved. The fact that they have wrong impressions
on certain points will not prevent them from receiving
the karma of their good lives. It would be better that
they should see the truth [Page
but we must not make the mistake of thinking that people
who are in error with regard to a certain important truth
are necessarily wrong in every other respect — because
they are not.
I hope, however, that we who are students of Theosophy shall be free from this particular error, because we are expecting the coming with a clearness and a definiteness which most of the sects have not. As the time draws nearer more than ever shall we have to use our own common sense, never denying the possibility of anything, but exercising judgment and reason always. We may adopt the attitude of Gamaliel: “If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God”. (Acts, 5. 38-39.) Let us take whatever comes of good, from any source whatever .
Masters influence many people, and care nothing about whether the instruments
that They use know Them or not; therefore we must be prepared to find that
quite outside Theosophical organizations other forces are working towards
the same great goal. And while we follow our line and serve our own Society
firmly, strongly, faithfully, loyally, keeping to that because it is obviously
the way for us, yet we should be careful not to condemn or to speak against
any other forms of manifestation outside it, which may be tending in the
same general direction, and we must not expect such manifestations to be
all pure or perfect. In all sorts of ways [Page
195] spiritual power will be outpoured from
now on to the time of the coming. The
Hierarchy itself is pouring upon the world floods of influence
which may perhaps touch but little the man who is entirely
wrapt up in worldly matters, but which mean a great deal
to those who are sensitive; to those who are ready to profit
by it, it will mean the making of a new heaven and a new
That there will be unusual happenings is certain. The Light of Asia, which is a very faithful transcript of the Buddhist books, referring to the life of the Lord Buddha, relates again and again how various non-human entities knew of His coming and rejoiced in it, and how devas and nature-spirits everywhere felt His wonderful magnetic influence and gathered round when anything specially great was going to happen — at the time of His birth when He was about to attain Buddhahood, and at the time of His first sermon. There is much truth in that idea. Whenever any great manifestation of the higher power is taking place, the other and more sensitive evolutions feel it much more than humanity does. Because men have given themselves largely to the development of the lower mind, and for a long time have neglected the hidden side of things and been so entirely wrapped up in themselves, they are generally at present less sensitive than some of the lower creatures. I have known cats and dogs that were more sensitive to higher influences than human beings — not that they could get so much from them, but they were aware of them when human beings were not. [Page 196]
When the Lord comes He will no doubt take up the experiments made by those who have prepared for Him and carry them through to a successful conclusion, so probably He will leave the world in all sorts of ways different from the condition in which He will have found it. He will not only preach His religion but it may well be that all sorts of other reforms as well may be introduced as a consequence of His teaching. One cannot say definitely, of course, because there will probably be opposition this time, as there was before.
I do not think we can assume that He will carry the world before Him. Probably many teachers will have to come before His pure doctrine wins the allegiance of the world in general. When He came two thousand years ago men barely heard of Him. We must expect the life of the Teacher and those around Him to be anything but easy. The world at large is always ready to take up and circulate evil reports, so we may as well be prepared for a vast amount of petty annoyance and discomfort, if nothing worse. All sorts of vested interests will obviously find the changes which He may propose unpalatable to them. The vested interests murdered Him last time after only three years of teaching. How it will be this time we cannot know, but we hope that at least a nucleus of people will exist in every country, who may be able to make it profitable for Him to stay and work with us longer than three years. The Order of the Star in the East has definitely set itself the work of preparing for Him, with a full knowledge of what it means and what lines His teaching is likely to follow. [Page 197] There may well be also other individuals and organizations inspired to work in the same way, often without any means of obtaining such knowledge as we are privileged to have. We hope that our service will make possible what was not possible before. We hope, but we cannot say. We can only do our best.
Those who are destined by karma to work with the great Lord of Love are now of necessity coming into incarnation. We often hear, therefore, of the birth of extraordinary children. They must come now, in order to be in the prime of life when the Lord arrives. It is likely that they will differ in certain ways from other children, so do not be surprised when you hear of young people who remember previous births, or have other superphysical experiences of their own; all these things are quite natural and to be expected, because of the special time in which we live. Dr. Besant once gave directions as to how people should treat such cases as came within their ken. She said: “Do not be excited with regard to any such things, and do not recount alleged identifications of such children too readily, for very few people know who they were in previous births. Remember that all such children are unusually sensitive, therefore you must be very kind and very gentle in your dealings with them. There must never be a harsh word or gesture of any sort; you must never startle or alarm them, for they feel much more acutely than other children. You must guard them from crowds or from the neighbourhood of undesirable people. You should let them know but few people, and should surround them with [Page 198] harmonious magnetism, which should not be changed too often. You should not send them to school, but you should surround them with a specially loving home atmosphere”.
A.B. — Here
the Master adds a further reason why on should not desire
to obtain psychic powers: the time and strength that it
takes to gain them might be spent in work for others. Notice
how constantly the advice that the Master gives has for
its aim service and the getting rid of selfishness in every
form. Instead of using time and strength to acquire psychic
power for yourself, give them to the service of those around
you. If the Master sees that you are thus using every power
you already have in the service of others, so that more
can be entrusted to you because it is certain that you
will also use those unselfishly, then He will step in.
If you can honestly say that you are using every faculty
you have, be sure you are on the threshold of having fresh
powers entrusted to you. But there are very few who can
say it, and if you are not one of those you had better
set to work to attain this condition.
This is the meaning of the parable of the talents — the name is equally applicable whether you take the word talent in its modern meaning or in its original one of a certain measure or weight of money. A man went away on a journey, entrusting some money to his servants; one had five talents given to him, another two, another one. On the employer's return, he asked how the talents had been used. Those who had five and two talents respectively had traded with them, and were able to return [Page 199] them with interest. But the servant with one talent only had hidden it away, and now he brought it and handed it back. Then the lord took it away from him; while the other servants who had been faithful in small things he made rulers over many things. And he said: “Unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath”. ( S. Matthew, 25, 29.) It seems paradoxical, but the occult meaning of the words is clear. He who uses his powers to the full shall be entrusted with more; he who does not use his powers, and who therefore from the occult standpoint does not possess them, shall lose even the possibility of using them; they will atrophy.
No one should complain that he is not receiving from the Masters all the help to which he thinks himself entitled. There is only one way in which to satisfy your wish to come into touch with the great Teachers, and that is to be useful to your fellow-men. That is the only claim which the Masters recognize; they look not at the capacity of a person, but at his usefulness. I came into touch with the Master in this life when I did not know of His existence, and so was obviously not thinking of reaching Him. It is true that I had been His disciple for many lives, but it was not that which caused Him to reveal Himself to me; He did so because I was straining every nerve to help the people about me — the poor, the miserable, the down-trodden — because it was worth while for Him to pour His strength into me, when it was passed on to thousands. [Page 200]
So, instead of crying out to the Master in your meditation, asking Him to reveal Himself to you, see what good work there is that ought to be done in your town or village, and go and do it. It does not matter to the Master whether or not His instrument knows that He is using it. There are many great helpers scattered throughout the world who are assisted and inspired by the Master. Many outside the Theosophical Society are so inspired.
They will come in the course of development – they must come; and if the Master sees that it would be useful for YOU to have them sooner. He will tell you how to unfold them safely. Until then you are better without them.
C.W.L. — People
often say: “I hear of these wonderful powers which make their possessors
so much more useful. I want to be useful. I should like to have them too”.
There is nothing wrong in that only one had better follow
the advice which is given here, and wait until they come
naturally, or until the Master Himself tells one how to
open them. Is He likely to do that ? Yes; when you are
ready. My own experience tells me that. I had none of these
powers, and was not thinking about them, because we thought
in the early days of our movement that they could be developed
only by those who were born with a certain amount of psychic
faculty to begin with, and I had none. One day, however,
the Master Himself, when visiting Adyar, gave me a hint
in that direction. He advised me to try a certain sort
of [Page 201] meditation,
and said: “I think you will get good results from it”.
I tried it and got the results. The same thing will be
said to everyone who works for the Master, when the right
time comes. We may take that as quite certain. In what
form He will signify His wish cannot be foretold, but He
will do it in some way.
The best way to make oneself fit for such an effort is unquestionably to use for service to the fullest possible extent all the powers one has. Any person who is doing that without thought of self is likely to receive some new powers.
It is the old parable of the talents again. You remember those who made good use of their talents were able to go on, and were given charge of far greater work. It was said to them, “Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord”. (S. Matthew, 25, 21, 23.) Very few people stop to think what that means — the joy of the Logos, the joy of the Masters. It is not vague pleasure or bliss, or entry into heaven. The making of the worlds is joy to Him; it is the play of Bacchus in the Greek Mysteries, and of Shri Krishna among the Hindus. The Logos has chosen to throw Himself into this mighty work of evolution; that is the joy of our Lord, the joy of carrying out this splendid plan of pouring out His love through the universe; and if we are to enter into the joy of the Lord we must take part in that work and the bliss which it brings. If we are not using all the powers that we have, the Master will not help us to obtain others. [Page 202] He will wait until He sees that we are making full use of what we already have. People do not always understand that. They want to become invisible helpers; we tell them always, “You must be visible helpers first. If your whole life is full of helpfulness on the physical plane where you are fully conscious, then quite certainly you will be useful also in the other planes”.
[Page 203] C.W.L. — Most people rather like to appear clever, to appear to the best advantage. But no man who has met the Master face to face could ever think about shining himself. When he has seen that glory he realizes in a moment that any light he can show is as a farthing rushlight compared to the sun. Therefore the idea does not occur to him, or if it was there before it is now dissolved. The man who thinks that his tiny light is going to make a vast impression in the world is the one who has not yet seen the higher lights, and therefore has not the means to compare.
You must guard, too, against certain small desires which are common in daily life. Never wish to shine, or to appear clever.
Have no desire to speak. It is well to speak little; better still to say nothing, unless you are quite sure that what you wish to say is true, kind and helpful. Before speaking think carefully whether what you are going to say has those three qualities; if it has not, do not say it.
A.B. — People
who want constantly to talk have not enough to say to be able always to talk
sensibly, and so they say things which are not worth hearing, and thus add
to the tremendous stream of gossip which there is in the world. Thus they
do incalculable harm, if they allow the tongue to be their master, instead
of themselves mastering the tongue. Then comes a teaching which I have often
heard from the Master: think before you speak whether what you are going
to say is true, kind and helpful, and if it has not those three qualities
do not say it. This will make you slow in conversation, so that gradually
you will find that you talk less, and that will be a good thing.
Talkative people fritter away their energies, which ought to be employed in useful action. The person who talks a great deal is generally a poor worker. You may think, perhaps, that these remarks about speaking might [Page 205] very well be applied to myself, as I am constantly lecturing. But I do not speak much outside my work. I have lost the capacity for small talk, so that people often find fault with me for my silence. In the West I have often to force myself to talk, because silence is frequently mistaken for moroseness or pride, or a disinclination to make oneself agreeable. Naturally, then, my facility of speech is not great unless I have something definite and useful to say. Speak, by all means, when you have good cause to speak, when you have something to say that is worth saying, when it is done out of kindness to others. It is not such speech, but useless talking, that must be stopped. Every useless word is another brick built into the wall which separates you from the Master, and that is a serious consideration for those who want to reach Him.
He who speaks much cannot be truthful. I do not mean that he is consciously and wilfully untruthful, but he cannot always be accurate, and inaccuracy is untruth. There is scarcely anything worse than to have around you an atmosphere of untruthfulness, such as is always created by inaccurate speech. I often receive letters, for example, which are a mass of verbiage, with perhaps a little kernel of fact in the middle of it all. In all the ordinary affairs of life we learn to discount exaggeration; so also, when I receive a letter containing a complaint against somebody else – and there are many such – I judge how much ground there is for it largely by my knowledge of the writer's character and also by sensing the mood in which he was when he wrote it.[Page 206]
Manu said that he who had mastered the tongue had mastered
all; and a Christian teacher said: “The tongue is
a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold how
great a matter a little fire kindleth ! And the tongue
is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among
our members, that it defileth the whole body”. (James,
3, 5-6.) To master the tongue is to master the lower nature.
The small troubles which people have are mostly the result
of their idle words; the reaction from them. Little headaches,
indispositions, depressions and so forth arise in this
way. If people who have these would learn silence, they
would soon improve their physical health, partly because
they would no longer lose all the nerve-energy which now
trickles away in talk, and partly because they would not
have constantly to pay the little karmic debts which result
from their idle words.It
will be remembered that Pythagoras imposed two years silence
on his pupils; that fact should weigh with us, because
he was the Master whom we now know as Kuthumi, the teacher
of Alcyone and also of C.W. Leadbeater.
In India there are many yogis who are called munis; they have taken a vow of silence, as their name implies. The value of that has always been recognized in this country. I know one man who has carried out this vow for ten years, and it has given him great peace and dignity; because of it he is leading a far more spiritual life than he could have done without it. Of course most of us cannot take such a vow when we are living [Page 207] in the world and have all kinds of work to do in it; but we can and should follow the spirit of it, keeping silent whenever it is possible to do so without giving offence.
The need of constantly watching and judging is also valuable as a training in greater self-recollectedness. You must say something, but you have to determine not to say more than will fulfil the occult rule as to kindness and usefulness. It is a good practice to make a resolution on this point for one day at a time; determine in the morning that you will speak no idle word during the day – that will be one day to the good, at least. Our Jain brethren make use of similar exercises in order to learn watchfulness and self-recollectedness; they determine in the morning that during that day they will not do a certain thing — which may be quite unimportant in itself and they do not do it, and the habit of watchfulness thus engendered does away with carelessness. The Lord Buddha also spoke very strongly on the subject of carelessness, the lack of thoughtfulness which leads men into so many blunders.
W .L. — People
who are all the time chattering cannot always be
speaking sensibly or profitably; further more, they
cannot be truthful. If people are always talking
loosely, quite certainly some of the things they
say will not be true, though not intentionally false.
They make all sorts of inaccurate statements, and
afterwards say: “I did not mean to be
inaccurate, so it does not matter”. It is not
what you mean, but what you do that produces
results. If you do a foolish thing, the fact that
your intention was good does not alter its character,
208] relieve you from the karma of it.
The good intention, if definite, will be beneficial
to you, but the foolish thing will bring you bad
physical karma. A man will say something, and later
correct himself: “I see I was wrong; it is
not quite like that.“He
has told a falsehood: he did not mean it, but he
has made an assertion which is not. true. To say
that he did not mean it is like the plea of a man
who happens to shoot some one by accident: “I
did not know the gun was loaded”. He ought
to have presumed that it was loaded until he knew
it was not.
It would be a good thing if we set ourselves just for one day to make quite sure that we spoke nothing that was not true, kind, and helpful. It would be rather a silent day, but perhaps the world would not lose much and it would be very good for us. Of course, it would be impossible to carry on a rapid and animated conversation because we should have to stop and think. These rules are based upon the laws of the higher life. If a man wants to make more rapid progress. he must try to. keep these higher rules. He must change himself to suit them, even when they seem to bring him into conflict with ordinary life and its methods. That may appear hard, perhaps; but if, after carefully thinking it over, he feels that the demands of the higher life are too hard for him, let him wait a life or two before trying to make real progress. We cannot do the two things: have an easy life without any effect and exertion, and have the rapid progress; but we can do either one, and there is no blame attached to the man who feels that as yet he is not equal to the strain. [Page 209]
It is well to get used even now to thinking carefully before speaking; for when you reach Initiation you must watch every word, lest you should tell what must not be told.
C.W.L. — That might possibly be misleading if one did not understand the facts with regard to Initiation. If anyone thought of divulging the real secrets of Initiation, before he uttered the words he would have forgotten that there was anything to betray. Therefore the real secrets are perfectly safe; they have never leaked out, and they can never do so. Still, there is great danger for the Initiate who may become careless. He may put himself in a very awkward position indeed. I myself am possessed of certain information of various kinds, as to which I cannot see that any particular harm would be one if it were published in the daily newspapers; but I was told not to repeat it so I do not; I do not know why. A promise is a promise, and must be kept as a sacred thing. If there are any who do not feel that way about it, they had better give up at once all thought of occult progress.
Much common talk is unnecessary and foolish; when it is gossip, it is wicked.
C. W .L. — Often what we must call unnecessary talk is nevertheless spoken with intent to help to pass the time pleasantly for some one. It is, perhaps, the unfortunate custom of our period to spend a great deal of time in talking which really might be employed much more profitably in thinking. There must be times when we say [Page 210] things which are not absolutely necessary, just in order to please other people who would misunderstand us if we were persistently silent. Yet outside that there is a great deal of unnecessary talking which does not fall under that head at all, done apparently just for the sake of saying something. That is a mistake. Real friends can be silent and yet enjoy one another's company, and realize a close community of thought; but if people are in a condition where they are afraid of gaps in the conversation and must keep on talking, then unfortunately there will be a great deal said which would be much better not said. Garrulous people are not the wisest, and are not, as a rule, notable for thought.
So be accustomed to listen rather than to talk; do not offer opinions unless directly asked for them.
C. W. L. — Some people cannot hear a statement made which they think to be wrong or incomplete without instantly contradicting it and creating disharmony and argument. We must realize that it is not our business to correct opinions, or to try to put right everybody who is wrong. It is our business to go about helping people as much as we can in a quiet sort of way, and if our opinion is asked on the subject to state it very calmly and temperately, and not in a spirit of opposition. We need not assume that our opinion is of great interest to anybody else; sometimes it is not, and then it is wrong to thrust it upon people. A man may be quite sure that the fact is so-and-so, and we may know very well that it is not so, but it is better to let him talk; it probably [Page 211] pleases him and does not do us any harm. He may choose to believe that the earth is flat or that the sun goes round it – it is his own affair. If one were in the position of a schoolmaster and were appointed to teach certain boys, then one would gently and quietly correct them, because that would be one's duty; but no one is appointed as a schoolmaster to the general public.
Of course, if we heard some one's character being taken away it would be our duty to say, “Excuse me you are not quite right; that is not true” and as far as possible put the thing right before people. That would be a case of a helpless person being attacked – then it is one's duty to defend him.
One statement of the Qualifications gives them thus: To know, to dare, to will, and to be silent; and the last of the four is the hardest of them all.
C. W .L. — The Rosicrucians held that he who would make occult progress must resolve to know, dare, will and be silent. We must know the truths of nature, and dare to use them. To use the great powers that become ours on this Path we must have a strong will that can control them, and control ourselves too. Then, when these things are done, we must know enough to be silent about them. [Page 212]
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS
Another common desire which you must sternly repress is the wish to meddle in other men's business. What another man does or says or believes is no affair of yours, and you must learn to let him, absolutely alone. He has full right to free thought and speech and action, so long as he does not interfere with anyone else. You yourself claim the freedom to do what you think proper; you must allow the same freedom to him, and when he exercises it you have no right to talk about him.
W .L — One
should not interfere with other people's beliefs and actions, as long
as their actions are not obviously to the common harm in any way. If
a man comports himself so as to be a nuisance to his neighbours, it
may sometimes be our duty to suggest something; but even in such cases
it is often best to go away and let things quietly right themselves.
We of the Anglo-Saxon race boast much of freedom, but we are not in the least free really, for we are hide-bound by custom to an almost inconceivable extent. We cannot dress as we like, or go about as we choose. [Page 213] A man might prefer the ancient Greek – it is probably one of the most beautiful costumes in the world – but if he put it on and walked down the street he would probably have a crowd of people round him, and might be arrested for blocking the traffic. In any land of liberty he would be quite free to dress and act as he liked, so long as he did not make himself a nuisance to others. But there is no real freedom at all; we cannot depart from the line which other people take, or at least only very slightly, otherwise a great deal of trouble and disturbance is caused. It is a pity, because real freedom would be so very much better for all concerned, especially for those who want to interfere with others.
A.B. – I
suppose that most of us who are earnest and enthusiastic are so sure of the
value of what we have learned, so convinced, and rightly so, of its supreme
importance, that we want other people to feel the same; and sometimes we
should almost like to force them to see as we do. That is a fault of almost
every enthusiastic nature. But a man can only receive gladly what he already
knows inside, though he does not yet know it in the brain and therefore cannot
yet articulate it to himself. Until that preliminary stage has been reached
be is not in a position to accept a truth presented to him from the outside,
and to try and force it upon him does far more harm than good.
In the same way conscience cannot be created from the outside; it is only the fruit of past experiences. Therefore the acceptance of all teaching and advice implies that the outer presentation has stirred knowledge [Page 214] already possessed by the man inside, and it has then flashed down into the brain. All that the teacher can do along these lines, therefore, is to bring to a man's physical-plane knowledge that which he already knows on other planes. One of the great Teachers has pointed out that many people are taught much Theosophical knowledge while out of their bodies during sleep. The real man then learns, and the knowledge that is thus acquired can then be re-given to him by a physical-plane teacher, whose words help the man to bring it down into his brain. That is all that the physical-plane teacher can do.
We have all to learn by repeated disappointments that we cannot help a man along the way which he is not yet ready to tread. Thus we become much quieter – ready to help when help can be useful, also ready to stand aside and wait when our help would be no help at all, that is, when the person could not profit by what we could tell him. This attitude often gives the ignorant the idea that we are indifferent, whereas the truth is that the person who is more advanced knows exactly where he can help and where he cannot.
For those who cannot see exactly where help can be given the policy ought to be tentative. Suggest a thought; if it is met with indifference or is repelled, you see that you cannot help the person whom you are addressing along that particular line. Then you must wait or try some other way, as the case may be. That is much better than forcing upon him all that you know; do not drown or choke the person mentally by pouring; [Page 215] all your knowledge out upon him or trying to ram it into him. People are often very willing to claim freedom for themselves but extraordinarily reluctant to give it to others. That is a serious fault, for other people have fully as much right to their views and to the expression of them as we have.
Sometimes the fault is the other way. Do not run into the other extreme of thinking that you must accept other people's opinions. You have the fullest right to disagree. You may say quite frankly, “No, I do not agree with that”, or you may keep silent; but what you must not do is to attack another for holding his own opinion. When you hear a person making some statement, use your own common sense first of all; always exercise your reason on every statement you hear. Leave other people free, but do not enslave yourself.
If you think he is doing wrong, and you can contrive an opportunity of privately and very politely telling him why you think so, it is possible that you may convince him; but there are many cases in which even that would be an improper interference. On no account must you go and gossip to some third person about the matter, for that is an extremely wicked action.
A.B. — You
may sometimes be able to help a person whom you know to
be morally doing wrong, but here great circumspection
is required, since it is so easy to do more harm than
good in such cases. Help so given must certainly be offered
only in the private and utterly [Page 216] friendly
way which the Master indicates. If the person is self-opinionated we can
but leave him to learn by experience, which fortunately is a great teacher
If a person has got hold of some mistaken idea, and he comes and expresses it to you, it is not necessary to say that it is wrong, unless you are sure that he has more confidence in your judgment than in his own, or at least is willing to consider seriously what you say; in many cases, he is bound to find out the error for himself and then it is better to let him do so. People often come to me and make some great announcement of what is going to happen, according to their belief; generally I listen quietly and politely and do not express an opinion. When the prophecy fails of its fulfilment, the person who made it sees that he made a mistake, but one leaves him to draw the conclusion for himself. It is inevitable that such things should happen when many people are coming into touch with occultism. Sometimes they become confused, because many of their former standards of judgement are swept away, and they wonder how many of their criteria are going to fall to pieces among all the earthquakes that are taking place. The only thing to do under these circumstances is not to hurry, but to keep calm and cool and steady; gradually things will become clear, that which is false and mistaken will pass, and the real things will remain. [Page 217]
A.B. — In the case of cruelty to a child or an animal interference is a duty, because strength is taking advantage of weakness, which it ought always to protect, because weakness cannot protect itself. Whenever, therefore, a child or an animal is being ill-treated, the duty of one who is stronger is to step in between and not allow an infringement of its rights, nor permit the liberty of another to be taken away. So whenever you see a case of cruelty to a child you should interfere, and try to make your interference effective.
If you see a case of cruelty to a child or an animal, it is your duty to interfere.
If you see anyone breaking the law of the country, you should inform the authorities.C. W.L. — A great deal has been said about that passage, and various people have taken exception to it. This is curious because, as a matter of fact, if you conceal a crime you become an accessory to that crime, before the fact or after the fact as the case may be, and you are so regarded by the law. People say, “But are we to spy upon others to see whether they are breaking the law?” Certainly not; you are not constituted a detective to go and find people breaking the law.
A.B. — It is the duty of every citizen, whenever he sees the law being broken to put a stop to the wrong. [Page 219] This is one of the elementary duties of citizenship. Yet the other day an objection was raised to this teaching. A student came to me and said that here was a thing in the book which he could not accept; it seemed to him to suggest a general prying about, a spying into other people's affairs. Of course, it intends nothing of the kind; but when you see the law broken you must interfere, because the law is what gives cohesion to a country, establishing and preserving order, and binding its people together. It is the duty of every citizen therefore to uphold it; no one has the right to conceal a crime which he knows is going to be committed, and if he does so he becomes a partaker in it. This is so generally recognized that a person who knows of the crime and fails to report it is held legally to be an accessory to it and is punishable by law. I could only suppose that my objector had not considered what he was saying, for a country whose citizens do not recognize this simple duty and act accordingly goes down, because of the lack of public spirit.
C.W.L. — That is obvious. A child, a pupil, or a servant is placed in our charge because we are older and wiser. If we do not tell him of any faults which he commits he is losing the advantage of our wisdom and experience; therefore we should be so far failing in our duty towards him, neglecting to do that which we are placed there to do. [Page 220]
If you are placed in charge of another person in order to teach him, it may become your duty gently to tell him of his faults.
Except in such cases, mind your own business, and learn the virtue of silence.
A.B. — Think how different society would be if this were practised! Instead of being constantly on guard against his neighbours, a man could live his own life freely and openly, for people would leave one another alone to act as each might think best, and mutual tolerance and goodwill would replace interference and criticism. Our fifth race, which dominates the world today, is aggressive, combative and critical, but we have to try to live the life of the future, that of the sixth root-race, which is to be reached by tolerance and active goodwill. This will lead on to the general idea of brotherhood, on which the sixth race will be established.
C.W.L. — It
does not seem difficult to mind one's own business, but
very few people do it. What is meant here is that a general
attitude of tolerance and goodwill should replace what
is so painfully common at present — the spirit of
interference and criticism. If a person does something
quite unusual I am afraid many people fly to the conclusion
that he has some nefarious reason for so doing. It does
not at all follow; he may have his own private reason,
and anyhow, unless he is doing something clearly wrong
or interfering with others, we should let him go his way
and do what he will.
Like some of the other common present-day faults, this springs largely from an excess of our fifth race and fifth sub-race qualities. Our race is developing the critical faculties of the lower mind, and that carried to [Page 221] excess makes us liable to be aggressive, combative and argumentative. Those who aim at occult progress are supposed, however, to develop the next quality — buddhi, the unifying quality, that which gives synthesis rather than analysis, and tries to see the points of contact rather than those of difference. The development of that will be the business of the sixth root-race, and also, in a subsidiary way, of the sixth sub-race, which is now dawning in America, Australia and some other places.
the Theosophical Society we uphold the idea of brotherhood,
and this is a way of practicing it — find something
not to blame but to praise. Something to praise as well
as something to blame can be found in everybody and in
everything, if you look for it: and there is every reason
why we should concentrate our attention on the good qualities,
not on the blameworthy things. We might try thus to bring
down the side of the balance a little. We can afford
to leave the fault-finding to the rest of the world,
who are certain to continue to attend to the business
of blaming, and will do it with more gusto than we possibly
could. It is a valuable exercise to pick out the good
things, because until we begin to look for them we do
not really understand how many good things there are
in everybody. When we do this, we shall begin to find
all kinds of beautiful qualities in people whom we have
been regarding very unfairly. It is easy to form an opinion
of people whom we do not know well, based on only one
or two things: we saw them looking angry, and therefore
think of them as irritable
people; or we saw them one day looking [Page
222] discontented, and so put them down as usually
that sort of people. Probably
we have simply stumbled upon them just at an awkward moment,
and their life in general may not be at all coloured as we
conceive it to be.
If we must err now and then, let it be on the good side; give a person credit for a little bit more than his due – that will not hurt him or us. A Master once said, “In everyone there is good, and in everyone there is evil”. Beware of thinking of a person as bad; for you may expect him to act badly, and then, when he does not do so, you may be disappointed, because it shows that you were wrong in your judgment. It is much better to think too well of hundreds of people than to think too badly of even one. Let us live the buddhic life at least to the extent that we look for the things which are good and not for the things which are evil not only in the interests of truth and justice, but because we know that our thoughts are powerful, that to think of another as bad tends to make him so, but to see the good in him diminishes the evil and helps that good to grow.
of the chief things we have to learn is not to let the lower mind run away
with us and make us attribute unworthy motives to other people. Our experience
of human nature has shown us that it is a fallible thing, that people are
not always swayed by unselfish considerations; therefore the natural tendency
is to look for something selfish in the way of a motive, rather than for
something high. But we must not allow ourselves to be [Page
223] dragged down to that level of suspicion
and unkindness; not only for our own sakes, but for the
welfare of others it is necessary that we should look first
for the highest motive, and, even when we do not see it,
should give the person credit for meaning well. When we
think of a bad motive we are intensifying it by our thought,
for the mind is very receptive. If a man has slipped back
a little, and we give him the credit of meaning well, he
will soon become ashamed of the lower motive and will replace
it by the higher. Besides, in attributing the best possible
all our friends we are sure to be right in nine cases out
of ten. Of course, the outer world in its cynical way will
say to the man who does this.“You
are a simple fellow”. It is better to be the simple
fellow who does good in this way than the clever one who
cannot think well of anybody.
Practically no one is intentionally wicked. One should therefore avoid the common mistake of thinking that those who do what we should call wrong, do so through wicked motives. We must guard against doing injustice by supposing, for instance, that those who eat meat think anything about it, and are doing what they know to be wrong. They are not usually acting against their better feelings; they are following the custom without thinking about it. Such people are quite good; indeed, good people burnt one another in the middle ages, with no more thought. But. one of the Masters said: '“Our object is not to make good people, but to make mighty spiritual powers for good”. [Page 224- 227]
PART IV– GOOD CONDUCT
CONTROL OF MIND
The six points of Conduct which are specially required are given by the Master as :
Self-control as to the Mind.
2. Self-control in Action.
[I know some of these are often translated differently, as are the names of the Qualifications; but in all cases I am using the names which the Master Himself employed when explaining them to me.]
A.B. — As
Alcyone says, the Master's translation of some of these
qualifications is a little different from that to which
we have been accustomed. The first three are not unlike
the translations that I have been using for a great many
years, but the last three are somewhat dissimilar, though
of course the essential meanings are unaltered. The third
of these points of good conduct [Page
228] I have
always translated “tolerance”, as
the Master does here, but that rendering is not acceptable,
I know to a good many people. The Sanskrit word is uparati,
which means literally “cessation”. We
take the cessation as referring to qualities like criticism
and discontent, and the positive side of this virtue
is therefore tolerance.
The fourth, titiksha, I have always called endurance; of course, the idea of cheerfulness is the same, for a person who has endurance will necessarily be cheerful. Here the Master, who is – if I may venture to use the word – particularly sunny, gives the translation that emphasizes this aspect of the quality, and it is well that all should meditate upon it. Then comes one-pointedness; that is the Sanskrit samādhāna which I have given as balance – and again the idea is the same, for the one-pointed person is balanced, and vice versa. Lastly comes shraddhā, which I have always called faith. Here it is confidence; but once more the meaning is unchanged, because I have always defined faith as utter belief in the God within and in the Master. It is well to note the differences as well as the likenesses, because these help us to grasp the meaning better. [Page 229]
I. Self-control as to the Mind. — The Qualification of Desirelessness shows that the astral body must be controlled; this shows the same thing as to the mental body. It means control of temper so that you may feel no anger or impatience; of the mind itself, so that the thought may always be calm and unruffled; and (through the mind) of the nerves, so that they may be as little irritable as possible.
W .L. – Control
of temper is precisely one of the “things
which are difficult for us, because we are trying the
new experiment of raising ourselves in evolution (which
means much refining all our vehicles and making them
more and more sensitive) while remaining in the midst
of the life of the world. Our victory is so much the
greater because of these difficulties, the overcoming
of which shows that we have progressed further in strength
of will than has the monk or the hermit.
Sometimes people succeed in weeding out the angry feeling, and yet find it difficult to control the outer vehicles entirely; there may still be a movement of impatience when really the feeling which used to be behind it has absolutely gone. It is not so bad as having the feeling and not showing it, but we must get rid even of that, because it misleads other people. If you look clairvoyantly at the astral body of the average man in the street, you will see that the whole thing is a swirling mass, and instead of having definite striations, and colours clearly marked and circulating as they should be, it has on the surface fifty or sixty little vortices or whirlpools in violent agitation, each of which, because of the rapidity of its motion, makes a hard knot resembling a wart.If you examine these vortices you will find that they all arose in the little outbursts of temper, or small worries, or feelings of offence, jealousy, envy [Page 230] and perhaps even hatred, which the man has had some time, within the last forty-eight hours. Larger vortices lasting much longer, are made when the man renews a number of times the same kind of thought about the same person.
While a man is in that state it is quite impossible for him to think with the clearness and definiteness that might otherwise be his; if he wants to think or write on any subject, his views are bound to be coloured and distorted by these vortices, even though he has forgotten the feelings which caused them. Men forget their feelings of annoyance, and do not realize that the effect is still there; most of them keep up their stock of vortices at much the same level.
Prejudice shows itself in this way very clearly to astral and mental clairvoyance. The matter of the mental body ought to be in rapid circulation; not all over it, but in certain zones or areas. Broadly speaking, it tends to arrange itself according to its density, so that the coarser matter, while circulating to some extent all over the body, tends to gravitate towards the lower part of the ovoid, so that people who have preponderance of selfish thought and feeling look like eggs standing on their larger ends. while those who are notably unselfish or occultly developed resemble eggs standing on their smaller ends. There are four zones or slices in the mental body, just as there are departments in the brain which deal with particular types of thought.
Imagine a man who is very illiberal in his religious thought. The mental matter, instead of flowing freely [Page 231] in that particular department, piles up until it actually projects and becomes a heap, and begins to fester and decay. As his thought on religious subjects must pass through this division of the mental body, it can never be true, because its vibrations are overcome by what is literally the mental disease that has fastened upon it. His view is bound to be prejudiced, until he sets to work and cures himself by deliberate control and purification of the mind. Only then may he learn to think truly — that is, to see things as does the Deity, who knows absolutely the whole of His system exactly as it is.
Prejudices are not necessarily against persons or things; quite often they are in favour. Even so, they are a form of untruth, and they show the same corruption in the aura. One of the commonest cases is that of the mother who cannot believe that there ever before was such a baby as hers since the world began. Another example is that of the artist who is incapable of seeing good in any other school of art than his own.
All those things, from the point of view of psychic force, are like open sores, through which the will-power of the man is leaking away all the time. That being the condition of the average man, when you get a person who is by nature a worrier, you have naturally a still worse case – a person who is all one sore, and has no force left, for all is spent. If we want to conserve our energies and do good work with them, as must be the case if we are to be occultists, the first thing to do is to check all these sources of waste. Suppose we want to a put out a fire; we must have a jet of water. It must be [Page 232] pumped at high pressure, and there must be absolutely no leak in the water cylinders and pipes. That means for us calmness and control of mind.
The average man seems to have little or no will-power; when trouble comes he simply lies down under it and groans and complains, instead of directing his will to deal definitely with it. There are two reasons for this weakness. The degree of power that comes down into any man varies according to his realization of the true Self — the extent to which the One Self, the Deity, is unfolded within him. In essential nature we are all of equal strength, but men differ in the extent to which they have unfolded the divine strength in themselves. The ordinary man has not developed much of that, and even what he has he is wasting.
Many among us would like to realize more fully the presence of the Master, and to bring various other good influences from the higher planes down into the physical brain. Such influences must come down through these different vehicles — must be reflected from one to another. Look at the reflection of a group of trees on the surface of a lake or river. If it is quite calm we get a perfect picture, in which every leaf is clearly seen; but the least ripple distorts the picture altogether. If there is a storm, it is completely destroyed. That is exactly true with regard to the astral and mental bodies. They must be kept calm and held still if through them any true or valuable influences are to come from above. People constantly ask, “Why don't we remember all that we do in our sleep?” That is one of the reasons — because [Page 233] their vehicles are not quiet enough. Now and again they may become calm enough to bring something through, but even then the impression is usually somewhat distorted, because the medium is not perfectly clear. It is like looking at something through cheap bottle-glass instead of good plate-glass; it altogether alters the proportions of things.
When we have become calm we can work in the midst of disturbance and trouble, but of course it is always a strain to hold the bodies calm under these conditions. It is so great a strain that some people cannot do it at all; but they must gradually acquire strength.
The occultist learns through self-control to work on two planes at once, that is, to be partly out of his body at the same time that he is working on the physical plane; so that while he is writing or speaking he may be doing other things with his astral body. I have heard it said, for example, that when I have been lecturing various people in the audience have seen astral entities standing on the platform and coming up and speaking to me. That is correctly seen so far; it is often the case that they come up in that way, desiring answers to questions or wanting something done, while the lecture still goes on. That is only a small and passing example, but often there are much more serious pieces of work to be done, in which the occultist uses his consciousness in that complicated way.
This double concentration is performed to some extent quite frequently in ordinary life also. Many ladies can knit and go on talking, because the knitting is a [Page 234] mechanical action to them. I had much to do once with one of the great banks in London, and I have seen there men, who were used to it, rapidly and steadily adding up long columns of figures, and at the same time singing a song for the entertainment of their fellows. I must admit that would be impossible to me, but I have seen it done over and over again.
A.B. — In the section on desirelessness the Master has dealt with the control of the astral body and its numerous forms of desire, and in the section on discrimination. He spoke much about truth, which involves the purification of the mental body. Now He deals further with control of the mind, and also of the emotions; an emotion is a combination of thought and desire. Emotions are desires which are penetrated by the thought-element. In other words, emotion is desire mingled with thought. When the Master speaks here of control of temper, He is speaking of emotion, because impatience and similar feelings proceed partly from the desire-body and partly from the mental body. The would-be occultist must certainly not let himself be carried away by temper, for until the control of that is gained, so that his emotions cannot be upset, he will not be able to see definitely or clearly. The vibrations of emotion will arouse corresponding excitement in purely mental matter, and all the man's thoughts will be disturbed and distorted, so that he will not be able to see things correctly.
Master then says that the thought itself must be calm and unruffled;
this is necessary because only in such conditions can influences be thrown
into the [Page 235] lower
mind from the higher. I think it is in The
Occult World that
Mr. Sinnett quoted a letter from the same Teacher in which He told him
that if he wanted to write usefully
he must keep the mind calm, and then thoughts from the higher mind would
reflect themselves in it, as mountains in a calm lake.
It is a good plan, if you want to write a letter on a serious subject — about Theosophy, for instance – or to produce an article, to sit quiet for some minutes, steadying yourself before you begin to work. This is not a waste of time, for when you begin writing you will then find that your thought will flow quietly and without effort, and you will not have to pause in the middle and consider how you are to go on. This will be so because the higher mind is being reflected in the mirror of the lower. This practice is especially important for those who cannot yet shut off the outer things at all.
One may make use of outer disturbances to practise concentration. As a child I was made to learn my lessons in a room where other children were being taught different things, so gradually I acquired the power to work at a task of my own while all sorts of other activities were going on around me. In consequence I have now the power to work undisturbed by what may be happening near by, though I must admit that I find it difficult to perform calculations under those circumstances. I have always felt grateful to my teacher, Miss Marryat, for this. The power comes with practice, and is then useful in a variety of ways. I found, for example, that I could also use it when partly [Page 236] out of my body, as when I was writing one of the lives of Alcyone.
In the Indian household this faculty is developed as a matter of course, because there it is customary for people to do different things in the same room, and there are generally children running about and numerous other small happenings. In the village school, and in the home too, a number of children are taught a variety of things at the same time, all reading aloud, each his own special subject, while their teacher follows it all, and corrects their mistakes as they are made. I do not think it is an ideal method of teaching any particular subject, but the children are learning how to concentrate, and that will be very useful to them afterwards.
If you can get that power of concentration so much the better; hence, if you have to live amid noise, do not complain of it but profit by it. That is the way in which the student of occultism works. I mention this especially, because it is by such means that occultists are made. To learn to work under difficult conditions means progress. That is one of the reasons why some of us have made progress, and others not so much. I personally have always tried to take everything as it came, instead of complaining. By this means one seizes every opportunity.[Page 237]
This last is difficult, because when you try to prepare yourself for the Path, you cannot help making your body more sensitive, so that its nerves are easily disturbed by a sound or a shock, and feel any pressure acutely; but you must do your best.
A.B. — The
Master says that it is difficult to control the nerves. That is so because
the physical body is that over which thought has the least power. You can
affect your astral and mental bodies comparatively easily, because they
are made of finer matter, more affected by thought; but the heavier physical
matter is much less responsive and therefore harder to control. Yet it
must be mastered in time.
The pupil must be sensitive, and yet have the body and nerves completely under control. The greater the sensitiveness becomes, the more difficult is the task; there are many noises which pass unheeded by an ordinary person which are torture to one who is sensitive. There are certain diseases which produce excessive sensibility of the nerves; in such a case the bark of a dog may throw a person into convulsions. That example is sufficient to show how acutely sensitive the nerves may become.
The nerves of an occult student are not diseased – if they were, he would not be under training – but he is like a tense string, vibrating to the least touch. His nerves thus become so sensitive that he has to use great force of will in order to prevent irritability. The strain on the body under these circumstances may become so great that in some cases, like Madame Blavatsky's, it may sometimes be wiser to let go, to allow the body to go on as it likes at times, lest it should go to pieces [Page 238] altogether. It was necessary that she should keep her body for the work that she had to do, so she could not allow the strain on it to reach the breaking point. This, however, was an exceptional case; the aspirant who wants to follow the Master's teaching must do as He says here, and try as hard as he can to gain control over his nerves. He may fail again and again – that does not matter. The Master's last words on the subject are: “You must do your best”. That is all that He asks, so do not let failures discourage you, but go on doing your best.
Sometimes a similar disturbed condition is set up from within, because of an exaggeration of scrupulousness and conscientiousness, into which the most earnest students are liable to fall. There are two tendencies among aspirants; one is to be careless, the other to torment oneself. In the second case conscience may reach a point when its condition is like that of the over-strained nerve. Thus it often happens to the best class of students to make too much fuss over little failures. Do not sit down and brood over such things till they have grown to the dimensions of a serious crime. Make your path between these two extremes. You cannot be too scrupulous before the event, but you may easily make yourself too unhappy afterwards. Do not brood over your faults and failures. Only look at them to see the reason why you failed, and then try again. So doing, you will starve out the tendencies which led you into them; whereas thinking about them only gives them new strength. [Page 239]
W .L. — The
physical body is that over which the will has the
least power. People say, “Oh yes, you can learn to do a thing
with your physical body, you may even control your feelings but it
is a much harder thing to control your thoughts”.
I know it is a popular idea that of all things that
is the most difficult. In one way it is; because
the mental matter is finer and more active, there
is much more to control in the way of motion and
of initiative. On the other hand, the mental body
is much nearer to the ego within, and therefore more
under his control; he has greater forces with which
to grasp the mental matter and deal with it, than
he has down here in the physical plane; and also
the physical matter is less responsive. People think
it easier, because they are in the habit of controlling
the physical body, but not the mental body.
It is often said that you can control pain on the physical plane, but cannot ignore mental suffering. Really, exactly the contrary is true. The mental or emotional suffering ceases to exist if one grasps it and just puts it away from oneself, but actual severe physical pain is most difficult to ignore, though it can be very largely diminished by removing from it the mental element. The Christian Scientist does that by declaring that there is no pain; he leaves only the physical side of it, and that is comparatively small.
We should learn to control the mind so that the mental part of physical suffering is eliminated, because as pupils of the Masters we have to make ourselves exceedingly sensitive. Then it becomes painful to sit near a man [Page 240] who drinks alcohol, smokes tobacco and eats meat. It is positive torture to go about in a city, along a business street, with its tremendous roar of all sorts of hideous noises. It goes all through the physical body and makes it shiver, but if one thinks about it, that makes it much worse; whereas if no notice is taken at least one feels it less. The pupil who is trying to reach the higher planes has to learn to eliminate the mental part of it and not import into it any thought that makes it stronger.
Those who are practicing meditation will find that they are more sensitive than the people who do not meditate, and because of that the strain on the physical body is sometimes enormous. One frequently hears it said that Madame Blavatsky used sometimes to have outbursts of temper. There was a very good reason for that, certainly, as she had a very unfortunate physical body; there was probably never an hour when she had not some acute physical suffering. The body was old, broken down and worn out, but it was the only body available for the particular work she had to do, and she had to keep it; she could not throw it away, as many of us might do. The opportunity was once offered to her to do that, but she said: “No, I will hold it till I have finished "The Secret Doctrine” — the work in which she was engaged. That meant that the physical body was in a condition of terrible strain, and sometimes for relief she let it do what it liked. Of course, many people did not understand, but we around her came to know that these things did not mean much. We had many curious instances of that. For example, she would be [Page 241] in a wild tirade, apparently quite angry about some trifling thing, but while the newer people who did not know shrank away from her in fear, we discovered that if in the middle of that excitement some one suddenly asked her a philosophical question, the whole thing dropped away, was cut off as you might cut a thread with a pair of scissors; immediately the rage disappeared and she proceeded to answer the question. A person in an ordinary rage could not have done that. Many people misunderstood her and turned away, but I know quite well that she had sometimes to let go or her body would have gone to pieces.
The calm mind means also courage, so that you may face without fear the trials and difficulties of the Path.
A.B. — Courage
is a quality upon which immense stress is laid in the Hindu Scriptures.
It has its root in a recognition of the unity of the Self. “ What
fear, what delusion
is there for one who has seen the Self ? “it is asked; and the phrase
is used: “the fearless Brahman”. In the Outer Court I
recommended students to meditate upon the ideal character,
using the list of qualities given by Shri Krishna at
the beginning of the sixteenth chapter of the Gītā.
The first quality that He mentions there is abhayam, fearlessness
Courage grows out of the realization that you are the divine Self within, and not your outer vehicles, which are the only part of you that can be hurt. All differences [Page 242] of power between people arise from the degrees of strength which the Self within has unfolded. Essentially we are all equally strong, but there are stages of evolution. When you realize that you are yourself divine, you know that your weakness or power depends upon the amount of unfolded strength of the Self within you; so your refuge, when you feel fear, is to call out the power from within.
This realization of yourself as the Self is one of the things that ought to come to you through your meditation. Those who do morning meditation should include in it an effort to realize the Self; some of the strength they gain through that effort should then remain with them throughout the day. That will help to give them the courage that is needed for progress upon the Path. On it there are many difficulties which call for fortitude and endurance, if they are to be met and overcome, and these qualities are forms of courage. There is a novelty in things on the Path which also calls for courage. I know of no way of acquiring this quality except by realizing the Self.
C.W.L. — Much
stress is laid upon the necessity of courage in all
systems of occult training. If a man enters upon the Path
he will have to face misrepresentation, calumny
and misunderstanding. That has always been the lot
of those who try to raise themselves above their fellows.
Moral strength is necessary to meet that, and to
enable a man to maintain his position and do what he
thinks right, whatever those around him may think or say
or do. Such strength is required to carry out the [Page
as given in this book — and plenty of fortitude
and determination as well.
Actual physical courage is needed, too. There are many dangers and difficulties on the Path not by any means symbolical, or on higher planes only; tests of bravery and endurance do come to us in the course of our progress, and we must be prepared for them. A man who is faint-hearted will not make progress on this Path, where is required, not merely goodness, but strength of character that cannot be shaken by the unaccustomed or the alarming.
I knew an occult society in England which tried for many weeks with various invocations to raise certain kinds of spooks, and at last they did raise something; but nobody stayed long enough to see what it was. Similarly, people try to obtain results on higher planes, but as soon as they get them they are afraid. The first time a man goes out of his body in waking consciousness, he may feel a little alarmed and may have a passing wonder whether he will get back again or not. He must realize that it does not much matter whether he does or not. He is used to certain limitations, and when those suddenly drop away, he is quite likely to feel that there is no certain base left to stand upon. We shall find as we go further on, that courage — plain, straightforward bravery — is a thing which is very much needed. All sorts of forces have to be encountered; it is not
When we realize and remember that we are one with the Divine, we fear nothing; but sometimes when [Page 244] sudden danger arises, men forget that and shrink back. The Self within is utterly unaffected, utterly uninjured, by any of the passing things, so if we can realize that we are that Self and not the outer vehicles, we shall have no fear. If ever fear of any sort is felt, the thing to do is to call up more power from within, not to appeal for help from some one from without. The common Christian teaching on that subject has been very unfortunate. They tell people always to take refuge in prayer, which literally means asking, and should not be applied to the highest form of aspiration, as it so often is. The word prayer comes from the Latin precari, which means to ask nothing but that. If we hold that God is all-good, we should follow the advice of the Lord Buddha: “Do not complain and cry and pray, but open your eyes and see.The light is all about you, if you will only take the bandages from your eyes and look. And it is so wonderful, so beautiful, so far beyond anything man could think of or pray for, and it is for ever and ever”.
I know that many people have the habit of calling upon the Master for help when they find themselves in difficulties. We may be sure that the Master's thought. is always near, and assuredly He can be reached; but why should we trouble Him for something that we ought to be able to do ourselves ? It is true that we may call upon Him if we wish; but surely if we can call upon the God within, and bring out more of that, we shall thus draw nearer to the Master than we could by calling feebly on Him for help. One does not question [Page 245] man's right to do that; but knowing how the Master is always occupied in work for the world, surely we should not wish to call upon Him while there was any possible resource left to us whereby we could, by any means, do the thing for ourselves. To fail in doing it is to fail in faith; it is a want of confidence not in ourselves only, but in the divine power.
The practice of meditation also ought to prepare one to meet emergencies, so as not to be upset by them. Those who have grasped the inner laws should remain calm and composed whatever may come, realizing that to do so is a necessary condition of real progress, and that the shock and upsetting which result from an hysterical outburst will leave their scars on the sensitive vehicles of a pupil for a long time afterwards.
It means also steadiness, so that you may make light of the troubles which come into everyone's life, and avoid the incessant worry over little things in which many people spend most of their time.
A.B. — Steadiness
is the next requirement mentioned by the Master; it is the quality that
is necessary so that the pupil may not be blown about by every wind that
comes. Such a dependence upon outside things gives rise to endless worry
because the man is then not in control of his own affairs, and so cannot
decide upon a definite line of work. It is worry that wears people out,
not work. Worry is the going over and over again of a certain painful
sequence of thought. It is difficult for a [Page 246] timorous person to prevent himself from falling into this habit in one
or other of its different forms.
In some cases there is a tendency of the mind to dramatize, and then to live in its self-created drama. It is a thing I used to do to some extent myself. I am mentioning this and similar personal experiences because I think they will make what I have to tell you more living and useful than merely abstract thought would be. Most aspirants have probably done some such mental dramatization, for we are all made up in much the same way. I used to imagine that some friend of mine must have been hurt by some word or action of mine; I then imagined my next meeting with that person — the first words, the whole ensuing conversation. When we actually did meet the whole thing failed to work out as I had anticipated, because the first remark of my friend was always something quite different from what I had imagined. Sometimes people conjure up in this way an unpleasant scene, and imagine how they will act in the trying conditions they have invented; and at last they arrive at a painful condition of mind upon which they expend much feeling and emotion. Nothing of all this has as yet taken place, and probably none of it ever will; it has all been a pure waste of force.
All this sort of thing is merely unnecessary trouble, and it weakens the mental and emotional nature. The only way to get rid of this habit is to make yourself stand outside the scene, and observe whether the first thought in the series is a thing over which you have any control or not. If you have, then control it; if you [Page 247] have not, it is of no use to think about it till it comes, and this, after all, it may never do. It is useless to let your mind brood over possible happenings in the future. It is equally useless to let it run over and over the things which have happened; you cannot alter past events, so it is palpably useless to worry about them.
Many good people make their lives a burden by brooding over the past, thinking; “Perhaps if I had, or had not, done so and so, this trouble would never have happened”.Suppose that is true, the thing is done, and no thinking will change the past. People lie awake at night and worry all day over unalterable past things or possible future eventualities. This action of the mind is like the racing of an engine or of the heart when normal resistance is lacking, which injures both heart and engine much more than work does. Recognize the futility and the positive harmfulness of such mental racing, and you will stop it, and learn to put out your strength effectively instead. It is pure silliness; it comes down to that. It is a thing which nearly everybody does, but ought not to do, and the would-be disciple simply must not do it.
W .L. — Of
all mental difficulties, worry is the worst to deal with. It is an
absolute bar to anything like proper progress.
is impossible in that condition to bring oneself into the state of
mind for meditation. Some people worry about the past, others about
and by the time they have dropped one worry they have picked up another
to take its place, and so [Page 248] they
are never in a state of calm, and cannot hope to meditate
with any prospect of success.
The best cure for it is to replace the trouble by a thought of the Master, but it takes unusual strength to do that. Suddenly to try to impose calmness on an astral body or a mental body in that condition is like trying to press down with a board the waves of the sea during a storm. Often the best thing to do is to get up and do something physical – weed the garden or go for a bicycle ride. There can be no permanent calm until the vehicles move rhythmically together; then all these other practices may be undertaken with some reasonable chance of success.
Often people worry over their own defects. Everyone finds himself falling into faults and failings now and then; it would be better not to do so, but that is hardly to be expected yet, for if we had no faults and failings we should all be Adepts. It is, of course, wrong to be careless about these things and think they do not matter but it is also equally wrong to worry unnecessarily about them. In worry the mind races madly round and round, to no purpose. If you have been on board a steamer in rough weather you may remember that now and then the screw rises out of the water and races madly in the air. It is just a matter of mechanics that, that does for more harm to the machinery than a great amount of regular work. That is exactly like worry.
Periodically troubles arise in our Society. I have seen a good many of them in my time. I remember very well the excitement over the Coulomb affair in [Page 249] 1884, and how many Theosophists were greatly disturbed and worried over that, and their faith in Theosophy was in some cases quite destroyed, because they supposed that Madame Blavatsky had been playing tricks upon them. That really, had nothing to do with the case. Our faith in Theosophy does not rest upon the statements of Madame Blavatsky or anyone else, but upon the fact that it is a perfect and satisfactory system which has been given to us, and that remains true even if it had been the case that Madame Blavatsky had deceived them – which was not so, of course. If people rest their belief on personal grounds, it can easily be shaken, but if our belief is based upon principles which we understand, it would remain unshaken even if a trusted leader did suddenly fail us.
The Master teaches that it does not matter in the least what happens to a man from the outside: sorrows, troubles, sicknesses, losses – all these must be as nothing to him, and must not be allowed to affect the calmness of his mind. They are the result of past actions, and when they come you must bear them cheerfully, remembering that all evil is transitory, and that your duty is to remain always joyous and serene. They belong to your previous lives, not to this; you cannot alter them, so it is useless to trouble about them.
A.B. — Here
the Master gives a reason for not worrying which, I
fear, many people will not appreciate. He says that it
does not in the least matter what happens
to [Page 250] a
man from the outside. The things which come to us in this way are quite
beyond our control, because we ourselves made them in the past; they
are our karma.
This does not mean, however, that there is nothing that we can now do in the matter. On the contrary, we can do much; we can meet them in the right way, and thus enormously modify their effect upon us. To do this is like changing a direct blow, which has force enough to knock one down, into a glancing blow, which is comparatively unimportant. It all depends upon changing the angle at which you meet to blow. If you meet every affliction that comes to you with the feeling: “This is only the payment of a debt; it is well to clear it off”, then the sorrow will weigh upon you but lightly. A man who knows how to meet life will be calm and happy in the midst of difficulties, while one who does not know may be crushed by troubles that are half imagination.
much of the trouble and pain that you feel is really caused by the mind,
you can test for yourself when you are suffering physically; if you will
then stand outside it all, as it were, you will find that the suffering
will diminish very much. This fact can be realized in another way, by
considering the state of the animals. An animal that has broken its leg will
comfortably, dragging its wounded leg behind it. Now, that is a thing
which a man could not do, yet a horse will do it, and the horse, so physiologists
tell us, has an even more delicate nervous system than man has, so that
its [Page 251] nerves are
more sensitive to pain than his. Do not misunderstand me, and think that
animals do not suffer, or that their sufferings do not matter. Quite
But man intensifies his own suffering and prolongs it, because of the
way in which he dwells upon it in his mind.
If you learn to check the effects of pain on your astral body, you will know how to diminish the pain itself very greatly. Those who call themselves Christian Scientists thus reduce pain very much, because they take away the mental element that usually mingles with it and increases it. I have had also some experience of the same thing, when I have had to lecture while suffering acutely physically; the result has been that during the time of lecturing I did not feel the pain. Why ? Simply because my mind was entirely engrossed by my lecture. If you could completely withdraw your mind from paying attention to the physical body, as you would do perforce were you lecturing, any physical hurt which you might have been feeling would disappear to a large extent. If you have complete control over your mind you can do that, and so leave the outside things to affect only the outside body. People often do it under sufficient stimulus. Sometimes the soldier on the battlefield does not feel his wound until the excitement of fighting is over; and certainly some of the religious martyrs did not feel the flames around them, on account of the ecstasy that they felt in suffering for their Lord. Similarly, if a child meets with an accident, its mother will forget all about any pain that she herself may be [Page 252] suffering, as she rushes forward to rescue and help her child.
It is possible to learn this sort of control without the stimulus, and then you can largely neutralize the effect of any pain upon your astral and mental bodies. I do not say that it is easy to do this, but that it can be done. Personally, I do not think it is worth while to use a great deal of force, or make a very special effort, to obtain so little result as the stopping of a mere physical pain. Instead of turning your mind to the service of the body, as most people do, it is better to turn it away and occupy it with something profitable. If you take up the right attitude to life you will see that these outside things do not matter, and you will leave them alone to have their effect only on the outside of yourself. They have to be gone through, and their only value lies in the strength which you gain through them. By looking at them in this way you will gain great peace of mind.
All evil is transitory. You will realize that this is so if you look at the larger cycle of your life, and realize your past, not in detail, for details do not matter, but in its general sweep and trend. If one realizes how often before one has been through these things that grieve and trouble one – friends taken away by death, sicknesses, losses, troubles of all sorts – they sink into something approaching their true relative insignificance. It is important to make this effort, because the present is so insistent that it blocks out with its petty anxieties the deeper knowledge. The realization of your own long past [Page 253] will make you stronger, and then when some misfortune occurs you will think, “Why trouble? It will pass!”
I feel sure that I could not lead my present life at all if I did not refuse to bother, and to react to circumstances. Troubles of all sorts come pouring in daily, and if I reacted to them I should be dead in a week. In the past I have come through many movements of the kind with which I am now connected, and have found that they are always accompanied by turmoil. It is better not to anticipate trouble, but to attend to it when it comes, and afterwards to put aside and forget all about it.
Your duty, says the Master, is to remain always joyous and serene. A warning was once given against casting dross into the crucible of discipleship. The evil and danger of doing so is carried to an extreme point at a place such as Adyar, where any dross – any form of trouble, suspicion, anxiety, doubt and the like – acquires much more force than that of the person who sent it out. If sometimes you cannot at once rid yourself of depression, vexation, or any other undesirable feeling that you may have, then at least keep it to yourself. Do not let it pour out and infect the atmosphere, and make things harder for others. After training yourself in this way you will look back with surprise at your former condition, and wonder how such trifles could ever have troubled you as they did.
C.W.L. — The
man who knows remains calm and happy even in the midst of what would
be very serious trouble to other people. The man who does not know [Page
254] is very often crushed by the trouble, because
of his own attitude with regard to it. There is a vast
deal of imagination at the back of our
sufferings. The real amount of payment exacted by karma
is often small; but by taking
it wrongly people frequently double their necessary
suffering or even multiply it by ten; it is not fair to
charge that to ancient karma, for it is the
karma of the present foolish action — what Mr. Sinnett called “ready-money
The amount of the debt to be paid cannot be altered – the karma which comes calls for a certain amount of suffering on our part; but as it can be increased, so it can be decreased. By an effort of our own we can apply new force, and change what would be the effect of a direct blow into one that glances off, as our President has expressed it, so that it will be much less felt. Every such putting forth of strength is the introduction of a new force into the case; therefore there is in it no sort of injustice, or interference with karma. That force which otherwise would have been spent in some other way is now spent in modifying the blow.
All evil is necessarily transitory. There was a Persian king who took as his motto: “Even this will pass away”. It is a good motto, because it applies equally to pleasure, to suffering, and to good or evil fortune, whichever may be dominant at the time. The only things that do not pass are the real progress and the bliss which come from within — those remain for ever. Whatever is our suffering now, it will pass; we have had suffering before in other lives and have passed [Page 255] through it. If this can be realized it will help very much. Things that troubled us early in life seem quite unimportant now. We say: “Dear me, those things were not of any importance; I wonder why I worried so much about them?” The wise man learns from looking back. He says: “Here are these other things which are worrying me now, surely they are just as unimportant”. Of course they are, but it takes a wise man to make that deduction.
Think rather of what you are doing now which will make the events of your next life, for that you can alter.
W .L. — Your
next life will depend very largely upon the karma
you make in this. More than that – the World
Teacher will come soon; things are moving fast now;
the force which is being outpoured is tremendous,
and because all that plays round us to some extent,
we who are trying to prepare for His coming may modify
not only our next
life but the remaining part of this.
The karma of the pupil engaged in this work is more intense than that of most other people. There are probably many things which the man of the world does constantly and may do without much harm resulting in any way; but if these things were done by those who are nearing the Path, they would be very decidedly harmful. In the case of a disciple, whatever happens to him happens to the Master, because He has made him part of Himself. “No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself”; this is true of everyone, but [Page 256] those who are drawn to the feet of the great Masters must be doubly careful. Especially anything whatever which puts difficulties in the way of a fellow-student in occult matters is a thing which makes serious karma.
Never allow yourself to feel sad or depressed. Depression is wrong, because it infects others and makes their lives harder, which you have no right to do. Therefore if ever it comes to you, throw it off at once.
C. W .L. — Anybody who suffers from serious depression will probably shake his head and say: “That is very good advice, if one could only take it”. But, as I said before, a thought of its effect upon others will give a man strength to throw it off when nothing else would. Depression is wrong, because it affects one's fellow-students and other people, and makes their way harder. Nothing can affect us that does not come from ourselves — from our own past lives, through our own karma. One may learn from that to be very careful that no one else shall be hurt by us. If someone has said or done something not quite creditable, we should think: “ I will not pass this on; I will not do or say anything myself which will make the day harder for some one else”. We can also determine not to be the instrument whereby the bad karma of others works itself out. If one hurts or offends some one, it is true that one is only the instrument of that other's karma; but it is a very ungenerous role to play. We should be the instruments of the good karma, in helping people [Page 257] and bringing them blessing and comfort; the evil karma must work itself out through other channels, not through us.
In yet another way you must control your thought; you must not let it wander. Whatever you are doing, fix your thought upon it that it may be perfectly done.
C.W.L. — It
ought to be a simple matter to fix our thought upon whatever we are doing,
so that it may be perfectly done. If we are writing a letter, for example,
we can concentrate on that and see that it is what the letter of an occultist
should be. An ordinary man writes his letters in a rather careless or
slipshod way; he says what he has to say without making any special effort
that it is well done. It appears to be quite a new idea to some people
that ordinary little matters like that ought to be well done. I receive
a number of letters, and I must say that many of them are not such as
I should think of sending out myself. Frequently they are faulty in expression,
and often so badly written that they waste a good deal of my time.
This sort of carelessness matters very much for those who are occultists or endeavouring to become such. The letter of an occultist should be carefully expressed, and well written or typed, as the case may be. It should be a nice thing to look at; a pleasure to the person who receives it. Whatever we do, it is emphatically our duty to do it decently well. I do not mean to say that one can always spare the time to write everything like [Page 258] copper-plate, or to make of every letter a finished work of art; that cannot be done in these days. But even outside of occultism, as a matter of common politeness to a correspondent, one should write clearly and legibly. If you write hurriedly and badly to save a few moments of your own time, remember that it is done at the sacrifice of, perhaps, four times the amount of the other persons time. We have no right to do that sort of thing.
Every letter that we send out should be a messenger; we should make it a message of the Master. It may be about business or any ordinary subject, but it should be charged with good feeling. This can be done in a moment; as we are writing the letter we should have in mind strong kindly feeling; that will affect the letter without any further action on our part but when we are signing it we should take a moment to send into it a current of good feeling of some sort. If one is writing to a friend, one should pour affection into the letter, so that when he opens it there shall rush out at him the feeling of brotherly affection. If the letter be to a brother Theosophist, put into it a thought of higher things and of the Master, so that it will recall to him the higher thought which Theosophists always desire to cherish. If we are writing to some person whom we know to be in want of a particular quality, we should pour that quality into the letter, taking the opportunity to give what is needed. So let us see that each letter is well written, and also that it has a soul.
The same service may be rendered when we meet others directly. Some of us come into contact with [Page 259] many people during the day; we have to speak to them, and sometimes to shake hands with them. We can take advantage of that direct physical contact to pour in a rush of vitality or nerve force or affection or higher thought, or whatever may seem most suitable. One should never shake hands with anybody without leaving something of that nature behind – it is an opportunity. Our business, if we aspire to become pupils of the Master, is to watch for such opportunities to serve. A man who is not in some way or other being useful to his fellow-men is not on the road to being accepted. I suppose it is doing no injustice to the average man to say that his idea in making a new acquaintance is very largely: “What shall I get out of this man in some way or other?” It may not be in money; it may be in amusement, or social benefits; but at any rate he thinks about getting something. Our attitude must be exactly the reverse: “Here is a new opportunity for me, what can I give?” If I am introduced to a stranger I look him over and throw out something or other in the shape of a good thought; it will stick there and penetrate when its time comes. The pupils of the Master do that as they are walking about the streets or riding on the trams and ferries. They watch for cases where they see a good thought is needed, and they give it — a hundred times perhaps in the course of a single morning's or afternoon's journey.
When a greeting is given to anyone it should be a reality, not merely a form of words. The greetings into which the name of God comes, and which invoke His [Page 260] blessing, such as are customary among the Muhammadans, for example, are sometimes only formal, but sometimes they are hearty good wishes, and the thought of God is really there. We say, “Good-bye”. Few people know that this is a contraction of “God be with you”, but we should know it and mean it. These seem small things, but it is the small things in everyday life that make the difference. They show character and they shape character, and if we do all these small everyday things carefully and well, we shall soon develop in ourselves a character which will be careful and self controlled and accurate about all sorts of things, great as well as small. One cannot have a character that is careful in great things and careless in small things. It is inevitable in that case that we shall sometimes forget and be careless at the wrong time, but we must learn to be careful altogether. Again, many small things taken together mount up to a big thing, and with a little practice one may learn to give not a small, but a very large amount of help to a person by the touch of a hand or the writing of a letter.
The Master says: “Whatever you are doing, fix your mind upon it”. This applies even to the things we do in order to rest our minds, such as the reading of novels or magazines. The best kind of rest, apart from deliberate relaxation and sleep, is generally some other form of exercise, so even when people are reading something for the sake of amusement or rest, the mind should be their servant, not they its slave. If you are reading a story, fix your mind upon it and try to understand it, to [Page 261] see what the author meant by it. Often people read so vaguely that by the time they reach the end of the story they have forgotten the beginning; they are so utterly vague that they could not give you a sketch of the plot, nor say what it is meant to teach. But if we want to train our minds when we are reading for pleasure or recreation we ought to do it well. Similarly, when we are resting. There are actually millions of people in the world who do not know how to lie down and rest themselves properly. They have not learned that ten minutes of relaxation is worth two hours of lying down in a tense and strained condition. Quiet control of the mind is necessary even for success in resting. Such control forms a habit like everything else, and those who practise it presently find that they cannot do things in the old slipshod way; if they rest, they must rest properly.
Do not let your mind be idle, but keep good thoughts always in the background of it, ready to come forward the moment it is free.
A.B. — That
ought to be a very easy thing for the ordinary Hindu
to do, because he has been taught from childhood to repeat
good sentences in unoccupied moments. Even the quite uneducated
people in India do so. You may often hear some
man who has finished his work suddenly begin to repeat,
..Ram, Ram, Ram, Sitaram, Sitaram, Sitaram”, over
and over again — just the sacred name
and nothing else. Some people may think that, that
is a senseless thing to
do; but it is not, [Page
a very real effect upon the person who is reciting;
it steadies his
unoccupied mind on a soothing and elevating thought.
That is infinitely better than allowing the mind to
roam as it will, occupying itself most likely with
the affairs of its owner's neighbours, and
so leading to gossip and all the untold harm that,
that does. Of course, if you can control
your mind without any outward repetition, it is all
the better; but many people do neither the one nor
It is a good plan, which you will find recommended in many religions, to choose in the morning some phrase – which you then learn by heart. It will come up of itself in the mind during the day, and will drive away other less worthy thoughts at times when the mind is unoccupied. You can select a phrase or sentence from any good book, and the repetition of it a few times in the morning (perhaps while you are dressing) with your thoughts fixed upon it, will make it come up its own accord during the day. One can see how easy such automatic repetition becomes to the mind when one remembers how a chance piece of music, a catching tune, will impress itself upon the mind, will take possession of it and be repeated by it over and over again. For many years I have kept the thought of the Masters in the background of my mind, and now it is always there, so that the moment my mind is released from a piece of work it reverts naturally to Them.
C.W.L. — Thoughts
of the Master should be always present in the background of our mind,
so that they come forward when it is not occupied by other work. If [Page
is reading or writing a letter or doing some physical
work, one is not necessarily thinking actively about the
Master; but the resolution is made at the beginning: “I will do this well for the sake of the Master”.
Having one that, one is thinking of the work, not of Him,
but as soon as the work is finished, the thought of the
Master returns into the foreground of the
mind. Such a thought not only ensures that the mind
shall be well occupied, but it also causes our thinking
on other subjects to be clearer and stronger than it otherwise
Sometimes people practise the repetition of the names of God, in order to form such a background for the mind. In India you often find people muttering to themselves as they stand waiting for a train or walk along the road, and sometimes you hear them saying a sacred name over and over again. One of the special criticisms which missionaries have always made against the “heathen” is that they are “given to vain repetitions”.The Muhammadan goes about reciting texts; he always has the name of Allah upon his lips. It may be that sometimes he does not think much of Him, but often it does mean something to him. It is true that a man may say things of that sort merely as a matter of habit, and give no thought to it: a Christian may repeat his prayers, and his thoughts may be wandering somewhere else all the time. Even a priest may go through his hours of prayer without necessarily concentrating much thought on them, because he knows the whole thing by heart; he may utter his “Ave Marias” and Paternosters, without ever thinking of Our Lady or [Page 264] our Father in heaven. In any religion it is possible to be a formalist, to retain the outer shell, having lost most of its inner spirit; but that is not done more in Hinduism and in Buddhism than it is in Christianity – I should be inclined to say not nearly so much. It is a fact that the repetition of names like “Rama, Rama, Rama”, does help to keep the thought of the Deity in the minds of people, and when it does that assuredly it is good. If we can think equally readily and fruitfully of the Master without needing the repetition of His name, that is a still better thing; but it is infinitely better to do the physical repetition than not to have the thought.
There is a certain rate of vibration in the mental body which is appropriate to these devotional feelings; in time that rate becomes a habit, so that devotion easily arises and is built into the character. This habit also serves to keep out evil thoughts. If the mind is vacant, any passing thought can enter and influence it, and such a thought is more likely to be bad, or at any rate useless, than useful. It comes from the vast quantities of thought floating round us, representing the average level of the country, but we are aiming at something higher. We want to be in a position to lift our average brother, and we cannot do that until we first attain a higher level ourselves
Use your thought-power every day for good purposes; be a force in the direction of evolution.
C.W.L.— We have been educated on a namby-pamby sort of theory that the one thing necessary is to be good; but it is not enough to be pious and to abstain from [Page 265] doing evil things; we must go ahead and do something with our goodness and piety. Why are we on earth at all ? Why should we encumber the ground, unless we can do something ? To sit down and be good (though it is better than sitting down and being bad, of course !) is simply a negative state. We are here to be channels for the divine Force. We, the Monad, came forth from God long ago as a glowing spark of the divine Fire. Truly, as The Secret Doctrine says: “The spark burns low ” — very low, in many cases — but we must rekindle it with the fervour of our enthusiasm and faith and love, and make that spark into a living flame that will warm other people.
Think each day of some one whom you know to be in sorrow, or suffering, or in need of help, and pour out loving thought upon him.
C.W.L. — Thought-force
is just as real and definite a thing as money, or as the water we pour
out of a jug into a glass. If we send a definite stream of it to anybody,
we may be absolutely certain that it will get there, though we may not
see it. Most of us know somebody in sorrow and suffering, who could be
greatly helped by the stream of thought that we may send. Even if it
should happen at any time that we know of no one in particular who is in
need, we can send out our thought in a more general way, and it will
find some one among the many who are in trouble.
If one knows of a person who is in touch (as is Annie Besant, for example) with a great many people who [Page 266] are in need and sorrow, one may send thoughts of devotion and strength to her, so that she will have a little more to pour out. It is the same with the Masters. When anyone pours out a thought of devotion to Them, it calls down upon him the answering thought of the Master, which is in the nature of a blessing. But besides that, a little more is added to the Master's store of force, and He uses that for the good of others.
A.B. — I
must say that until I read this it had not occurred
to me to make such a definite and regular practice of
this mental helping of others. It is certainly a very
good thing. Decide in the morning upon some person whom
you will help during the day in your odd moments – there
are always plenty of people needing help, unfortunately.
Then, whenever during the course of the day your mind
is free, instead of letting it be used as a kind of
hotel for the most casual visitors, engage it in sending
thoughts of strength, comfort, happiness, or whatever
it is that he most needs. This practice is a stage
beyond that of the repetition of a good sentence.
In one way or another you should close your mind against undesirable thoughts, until it is so strong that these helps are not needed. The thought of the Master should always be in mind; it is one that always goes out in help, and it does not prevent any of the higher activities of the mind. It does not exclude other ways of helping, but throws greater force into them. After a time it will fill the whole of your mental horizon, and [Page 267] then all that you do will be better and more strongly done because of it.
Hold back your mind from pride, for pride comes only from ignorance.
C.W.L. — There is a great deal of subtle pride amongst students of occultism. They cannot help realizing that they know a little more of the real facts of life than do people who have not studied these things. It would be foolish not to recognize the fact, but they must take care lest they have a feeling of despising the ordinary man who does not know these things as yet. In this particular respect students of occultism are ahead of the ordinary man, but there may well be other matters in which the ordinary man is far ahead of them. The man who knows, literature, science, or art thoroughly, for example, has spent very much more time and trouble in learning that than many of us have in studying Theosophy, and surely he deserves credit for the work he has done, and the amount of selfless labour that he has put into it. It is not the mark of a wise man to despise the work of another, but to realize that all alike are progressing.Many people have what is called a good conceit of themselves; they like to think of themselves as always light, as very good persons, and so on. But the points on which they admire themselves are generally not at all what the ego would acknowledge. In the ego, so far as any quality is developed, it is pure. If, for example, affection is there, it is utterly untainted with jealousy [Page 268] envy, or selfishness. It is a mirror of the divine love in so far as he can reproduce it at his level. Sometimes we pride ourselves on progressing fairly well. That is very like a little child of four years priding himself on the fact that he is getting on very well. So he may be for that age – but it will be different with the man of twenty-one. Our powers of intellect, devotion, affection, sympathy – exist in us but in a small degree, as compared with what they will be. Instead, therefore of stopping to pat ourselves on the back, we must press on and try to gain more of such qualities.
this work, meditation is a great help. If a man really
sets himself to develop affection, meditates upon it and
works to try to feel it, he will be surprised at the strength
of the quality evoked in himself in a short time.
Pride, the Master says, comes always from ignorance. The more a man knows the less likely he is to be proud, because the more he is able to see that he does not know. Most especially is this true if it be his good fortune to come into touch with one of our great Masters. Such a man will never feel proud again, not even proud of that fact, because whenever he thinks he can do anything, or that he possesses any quality, it cannot but come into his mind: “But I have seen that quality in the Master, and what is mine beside His? “
The virtues in Them are so magnificently developed that to know one of Them is an absolute and instantaneous cure for anything like pride. Yet discouragement never comes from the Master. In ordinary life you think you can do a little bit of something, but when you come [Page 269] into the presence of an expert in that line, you see at once how little you can do compared with the great man, and you feel rather crushed and hopeless. But that is not the feeling one gets in the presence of the Master. You realize your own incompetence and insignificance acutely, but at the same time in His presence you realize your own potentiality. Instead of feeling that there is an abysmal gulf which can never be passed, one feels, “ I can do this; I am going to set myself to imitate that”; that is the stimulus which any touch with the Master always gives. In His presence one feels very much what the Apostle says: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”. (Philippians, 4. 13.) Because of this strength of the Master, a person thinks at the time: “I shall never again be depressed; I can never again feel sorry; I can never again fall into the silly mistake of irritability which I committed yesterday. I look back and see that some things worried me. How ridiculous; why should anything ever worry me?” It may be that, later on, having passed out of the direct rays of that divine influence, we do fall back, forgetting that it can reach us just as well when the rays are not visible and direct, that we may live always in the Master's aura if we choose to do so.
[Page 270] A.B. — Here we have a great lesson of the Gītā . It is the one will that works through us all. All work is done by the whole, not by the parts; and the most that any of us can do is to make ourselves good organs for the one divine activity to work through. It is as foolish for us to boast as it would be for one of the fingers of our hands to do so. Make yourselves healthy organs of the divine will; then you will find that the one Actor is using you, because you are convenient for use.
The man who does not know thinks that he is great, that he has done this or that great thing; the wise man knows that only God is great, that all good work is done by God alone.
C. W .L. — God is in everyone, and whatever goodness or greatness there is in any man is the God in him shining through. All that we do, He does through us. This may appear strange. You may say that it seems to destroy the feeling of individuality, but that is only because our physical brains cannot grasp the real relationship. Not without reason the medieval Christians used to say: “To God be the glory”. For one of us to be proud of anything that he has done is just as though, when one is playing a piece on the piano, one of his fingers should say: “How well I struck that note! It was I who made that tune so beautiful!” After all, all the other fingers did their part, and they all acted, not with separate volition, but as instruments of the [Page 271] brain behind. We are all fingers of His Hand, manifestations of His power. I know quite well that it is practically impossible for us fully to realize that; but the more we develop the higher consciousness the more acutely we feel it, and sometimes in meditation, in moments of high exaltation, we get a momentary grasp of that unity.[Page 272]
CHAPTER 2SELF-CONTROL IN ACTION
Self-control in Action. — If your thought is what it should be, you will have little trouble with your action.
A.B. — This
sentence emphasizes the fact, with which every occult student is familiar,
that thought is more important than action. This is exactly the reverse
of the ordinary point of view; but it is true, because thought always
precedes action. There can be what is called spontaneous action; but that
that to find the preceding thought you must go further back, perhaps
even to a former life.
When sufficient thought-force has been accumulated in the mind in any given direction, and then an occasion presents itself for the expression of that particular kind of thought, it inevitably overflows into action. Every thought along a given line acts as a little added impulse, until at last the stored-up force of the impulses carries you over into action along that line. The Hindu quite rightly looks upon action, or karma, as made up of the three parts — thought, desire and act. It is true; so you may have in any life an act which is unpremeditated so [Page 273] far as the immediate past is concerned, an act committed on the spur of the moment. Those are cases in which the thinking having been completed, the act – that is the last part of the whole action – must follow, as being the net impulse along that line. Thus it may happen that on any line of thinking you may exhaust your power of selection, and then, even when you have exerted to the full your power of control, on the first occasion that presents itself your thought will manifest in action. It may lie latent for a long time, if opportunity for expression be lacking, but as soon as ever the circumstances permit the action will be done.
Hence the great importance of understanding the working of thought. Guard your thought and lead it along good lines, for you cannot tell when the moment will be reached and your next thought will be embodied in action. This is one reason for the stress laid on the importance of thought by all the great Teachers of the world, and here in this book the student is reminded of it again. It may be well to remember at this point that manas, the mind, is itself activity. You have in the Monad the three aspects of will, wisdom and activity, and these embody themselves in atma, buddhi and manas. Here you have the recognition that thought embodies itself in action.
C.W.L. — It
is a truism to say that thought precedes action. There are occasions
on which we act, as we say, without thinking, but even so it is the result
of previous thought – we have a habit of thought
on certain subjects or along a certain line, and we
act instinctively [Page
274] in agreement with that. A man does
a thing, and then explains: “I could
not help doing it; I did not think”. But the
fact is that he is carrying out thought belonging,
perhaps, to previous incarnations. Although a man has
not usually the same mental body now as in his last
has the same mental unit, which is the nucleus of that
body and is to a great extent a kind of epitome of
it, and that carries from life to life
the impressions of the type of thought to which the
man has been accustomed.
It has often been pointed out that a man can take over from life to life, in his causal body, only his good qualities. That is quite true. The causal body is constructed from the matter of the higher sub-planes of the mental plane — the first, second and third – and matter of those levels cannot vibrate in response to any of the lower or less desirable qualities. Therefore a man can actually build into himself only good, which is very fortunate for us, because otherwise we should all have built in a great deal that is not good, which would retard our evolution instead of helping it. But he carries over with him the permanent atoms belonging to the different planes – mental, astral and physical – and so the vibrations which belong to them come up as inherent qualities in his new vehicles.
In this way one brings over the possibilities of qualities, rather than actual qualities. Madame Blavatsky used to call these, among other things, “privations of matter”, that is, forces which would operate when the matter was there for them to work in, but were suspended [Page 275] until it gathered round the ego again. So when a man acts “without thinking” he does so according to the momentum of those old thoughts. That is one of the reasons why we should so carefully guard our thoughts; we never know when they will overflow into action. The man who yields himself to some evil thought, thinking that he will never allow himself to act upon it, may some time find it translated into action almost before he is aware of it.
Great use can be made of this knowledge for the helping of children. When the ego takes up his new vehicles, parents and friends can do very much to help him by encouraging the good qualities as they show themselves, and giving the bad ones no opportunities to manifest. We give the greatest help to the child when we get the good qualities into action, and make them into a habit before those which are bad can assert themselves. The latter will sooner or later manifest, probably because the outer world will stir them up, but if there is already a strong momentum in favour of the good qualities, those which are evil will find it very difficult to make any impression. The whole will of the ego is then acting through his vehicles against their impacts, and in such a case they will probably be entirely weeded out in the course of that life-period, so that in the following incarnation the ego will come in without any trace of them at all.
[Page 276] A.B. — Here is a very important reminder — thought to be useful must result in action. That is a point on which many of us are defective; we have in our minds thoughts which do not result in action, and all such are sources of weakness. The Master Morya once said that a good thought not acted upon acts like a cancer in the mind. That is a graphic simile, which should help us to realize that such a thought is not merely negative, but positively harmful. We should not enfeeble our moral fibre by good resolutions not carried out, which act as an obstacle and make it more difficult to carry out the same thought into action when it arises again. Do not delay, therefore. Do not put things off; do not leave them undone. Many of us stultify our growth by good resolutions not put into practice. An English proverb says that the way to hell is paved with good intentions.
Yet remember that, to be useful to mankind, thought must result in action. There must be no laziness, but constant activity in good work.
But it must be your own duty that you do – not another man's, unless with his permission and by way of helping him. Leave every man to do his own work in his own way; be always ready to offer help where it is needed, but never interfere. For many people the most difficult thing in the world to learn is to mind their own business; but that is exactly what you must do.
A.B. – A
warning is now given which is needed by those who have a very active – a
rajasic-nature. We have to consider now the other side
of the razor-path; laziness must be shunned on the
one hand, but interference must be avoided on the other.
Very active [Page 278] people
are prone to want, as the saying is, a finger in every pie. But other
people's pies are their own pies,. and you ought not to put your
fingers into them. You may remember how often in the Bhagavad-Gita,
which is a gospel of activity – for its constant burden is, “act, act!” – the
warning is given against wrong activity. The duty of
another, it says, is full of danger.
The reason is clear. If you, with your own line of thought-activity behind you, mix yourself in the action of another person, who similarly has his own line of thought-activity behind him — which is a different one from yours – you are sure to spoil what he is doing. His action is the logical outcome of his thought-activity; it is not, and could not be the right and proper outcome of yours. The energetic type of person must learn that he only creates confusion by mixing himself in another person's action. I used to want to set other people right, according to what was my view of what was right for them, which was my own right, of course; but I learned in the course of discipleship that, that was not the way to work.
Even if another person's way is not the best way from the abstract standpoint, it may yet be the best for him. It has the force of both his faults and his virtues behind it, and it marks the line of evolution proper for him. Suppose that a man holds his pen in some particular way that is not the best one, when he is writing; if you interfere and induce him to hold it in a different way, you will make him write worse, not better. He will, lose all the advantage of his long practice in the old [Page 279] method, and it will cost him a great deal of time and trouble to make that good. Of course, if he himself wants to change his way of writing because he is convinced that another way is better, and he asks your help in this, the case is different; he has a right to do as he pleases, and he will then have the force of his own will behind his action.
It is clear that a strong person can easily dominate another for a time. History affords many examples of great men who dominated all around them while they lived, but whose work fell to pieces when they died. They forgot that they were mortal and should therefore have provided for the gap that their death would leave; the unfortunate karma of their error, their self-centredness, lay in that result of things tumbling to pieces as soon as they were gone. That shows at once that those men did not understand the conditions of successful activity. They did not realize that a worker and leader should gather fit people together and trust them, and leave them independent in their own part of the work – independent along their own lines – that one should not try to look after every detail oneself; moreover, it cannot be done.
world is made up of a great variety with an underlying
unity. The lower types in the world obey law, because,
unknowing of the fact themselves, they are compelled
to do so. But man is left comparatively free – free
within a great circle of laws outside which he cannot
get, but inside which he may do as he pleases. In doing
his work in his own way lies his development. [Page 280] The
divine plan is such that more and more liberty is bestowed on man as
to use it wisely; so that bit by bit, step by step, we come to perfect
freedom. The animal, at the lower end of the scale, obeys perfectly,
unconsciously; the Master at the upper end of it obeys perfectly, consciously;
all stand somewhere between those two.
We must remember too, that interference extends to the mind, and non-interference has also to do with the previous qualification, that of self-control as to the mind. Interference by thought is very potent. Take for example such a case as the following. One of us has a particular difficulty which he is trying to overcome; perhaps it arises from some weakness in his character, perhaps it is an undesirable way of thinking or acting, along which from force of old habit he is inclined to go. Whatever it is, he is doing his best to overcome it. Then someone comes along and suspects him of that particular line of weakness or difficulty – suspects, and goes on his way, never thinking that he has done any particular harm.
That second person does not realize that he has given a little push to his brother, which may just determine the latter's action and send it along the wrong line. The two forces of habit and effort were perhaps trembling in the balance, and the suspicious thought turned the scale. That is why suspicion is so wrong. It is always wrong. If unfortunately it is true, it only gives the man suspected an additional push in the wrong direction; if it be untrue, it may make it a little easier for [Page 281] him to go wrong in that particular way at some other time. In any case it is sending out an evil thought against him; so it is wrong either way. We ought always to think well of people, even if our thought of them is better than their practice; thus we throw out to them a thought which will work only for their good.
It is also important to remember these facts, because a mass of evil thought is sooner or later directed by the dark forces against every person who is advancing rapidly on the Path. Because you are having a mass of evil thrown against yourself, tending to push you into wrong actions, you should realize the harmful way in which suspicion works, and should be extra careful of your own thoughts and actions. You should think of what is happening to yourself merely with a dry recognition of the facts, without any feeling of anger or resentment, and whenever you come across a great outburst of hatred, remember that you ought, to use the Biblical phrase, to gird up the loins of your mind, and simply bring to bear upon the situation an added force of a contrary nature to neutralize the evil one. Do that, and the mass of evil thought directed against you will not harm you; on the contrary, you will draw advantage from it, as it will help you to see what are your weak points; it will bring them into the light when otherwise they might have remained hidden from you. Also your very resolution in the face of attack will strengthen you, and lead you onwards to the time when all these things will beat against you with small effect [Page 282]
Therefore you should do your own work perfectly, and leave the work of other people alone unless they ask you for help. Do your own work to the utmost of your ability, and leave other people's work alone to the extent of your ability.
C.W.L. — A good deal of interference with others is due to religious misconceptions. Orthodox Christianity makes it its business to interfere with everybody. It starts out to save other people's souls, instead of recognizing that each man's business is to let his soul save him. Most assuredly no one has a right to interfere between the lower and the higher self of another under any circumstances whatever. The torturers of the Inquisition thought it right to do any frightful thing with a man's body in order to save his soul, by making the body say this or that. It was never even suggested, so far as I can understand, that you could make him believe it, but if you could make his body say that it believed a certain thing, that statement, even if false, somehow or other saved the soul. If those people really believed that (I wonder whether anybody ever did really believe so monstrous a lie !) they could actually justify all the horrible things they did: for whatever the horrors to which you subjected the unfortunate body for a few hours or days, they would be as nothing compared with the frightful pain lasting for all eternity from which you were saving his soul. The torture of your neighbour under those circumstances becomes quite a laudable action. It is difficult for us to believe that anyone could take up this position, yet it appears to have been held [Page 283] by great numbers of people – even after allowing for those who were using the power of the Church for political purposes.
Because you try to take up higher work, you must not forget your ordinary duties, for until they are done you are not free, for other service. You should undertake no new worldly duties; but those which you have already taken upon you, you must perfectly fulfil — all clear and reasonable duties which you yourself recognize, that is — not imaginary duties which others try to impose upon you. If you are to be His, you must do ordinary work better than others, not worse; because you must do that also for His sake.
A.B. — We
sometimes find that when a person comes into occultism he begins to do
his ordinary work worse, not better than before. That is altogether wrong.
His great outburst of enthusiasm for his new studies and his effort to
reach the higher things have their danger as well as their advantage;
and the danger is precisely that the worldly duty appears unimportant.
is truth in the idea, and it is in the truth that the danger lies; all
errors are dangerous only on account of the truth that lies at the base
of them. It is the little bit of truth in an error that gives it its
strength, not the great wrapping of falsehood that overlies the scrap of
The perfect carrying out of the duties that have to be done in the world is what shows that the force coming down from the higher planes is being turned in the right [Page 284] direction. “Yoga is skill in action”. [Bhagavad-Gītā, II, 50] If a man is disciplined on the higher planes his lower plane activities will be good; but if he is undisciplined they will not be good. Even this last, however, is very much better than not to care about the higher things at all. The unwise activities of a man in this plight may work much temporary harm, but not permanent harm, because the motive power behind them is good.
The disciple must try to carry out physical plane duties better than other people. Very often, when he acts unwisely, a Master may have to step in order to balance up his unwise activities. That is one reason why a Master puts a chela on probation, and the long time that the probation often lasts is sometimes due to this. Generally people need a fairly long time to balance up their enthusiasm and activity with wise moderation and forethought.
The first test of discipleship is usefulness to others. The aspirant should never think that his esoteric work is more important than his exoteric work. If, being a Theosophist, he neglects his Lodge and his work for the Society for the sake of his own progress in esoteric matters, he is blundering. If he neglects outside work for the sake of study, to take another example, he is doing quite wrong. Study is good, but it should subserve usefulness; you should study in order to be more useful, not cease to be useful for the sake of studying. And whenever a conflict arises between outer duties and such studies, the outer ought to take precedence. [Page 285]
In all such matters as these, we must never forget that the path of occultism is narrow as the edge of a razor. It would be quite possible to give almost every moment of one's waking time to small services for others, but in such case many of them could not be well chosen and most of them would not be well done. Just as one must spend time in sleeping and eating, in order to have strength to work the rest of the time, so must one spend time in meditation and study, and in considering what work should be done and how it should be done. This aspect of the matter was dealt with by the Master in the section on discrimination. Every portion of His teaching directs the pupil back into the middle path; if he follows any piece of advice to excess, he will only fall over again. It has been said that the track of the best ship is not a straight line, but is made up of thousands of tracks, now to one side, now to the other. The life of the disciple is similar to that; the captain on the bridge is the Master, who points out the stars by which he can guide himself, and assists him to keep as close as, possible to the direct line. One meets so many people who fasten on to one good idea, and then let it ride them to death.
The master tells his pupil that he should undertake no new worldly duties. The man who has pledged himself to the Master's work should know the importance of being always ready to serve Him in any way and anywhere that He needs him. I can give you a striking example of this out of my own experience. When I was young my children were taken away from me against I my will. I fought against the separation by every [Page 286] means that the law allowed, but lost my case; the law broke the tie, took away from me the duty of protection which a mother has to her children. My daughter came back to me as soon as she was free to do so; for ten years I had not seen or written to her, but my influence held and she came straight back to me. I was then living with Madame Blavatsky, and she warned me: “Take care that you do not re-knit the ties which karma broke for you”. If I had taken up my old life again then, after I had taken my pledge to the Master, I should have done wrong. It did not mean, of course, that I was to neglect the girl – she came and lived with us, and stayed with us till she married, but she had to come second, not first. You are responsible for the duties which you have to fulfil, not anybody else; you are responsible to your Master and not to anybody else. If people try to force upon you what they imagine to be your duty, and you see that it is not so, you must simply disagree with them – good-temperedly, but firmly. You must decide. You may do so rightly or wrongly, and if wrongly you will suffer, but the decision must be yours. That responsibility of an individual to himself and to his Master must not be interfered with by anyone. To your own Master you are responsible, and you must do your ordinary work better than other people do, for His sake.
C. W .L. — This principle that the occultist should do ordinary work well was understood in the old religions. In the story of the youth of Prince Siddhartha, who afterwards became the Lord Buddha, for example, it is [Page 287] related that he devoted himself very much to study and meditation, but when it became necessary that he should win his bride by skill in various manly sports, he showed that when he wished he could excel in those as well as the higher things. In the Bhagavad Gītā it is said that yoga is skill in action; it is doing the right thing carefully, tactfully and courteously. Disciples of the Masters have therefore to learn balance in their lives, to know when the lower may safely be put aside and when it should not be put aside.
man who has pledged himself and his time and strength
to the Master's service ought not to undertake anything
new which is not actually His work. He
must not let people force upon him duties which he
does not recognize as his. I can quite imagine, for example,
that people might sometimes expect members of the Theosophical
Society to attend various social functions. A member might
say, “I am willing to give up a reasonable amount
of time for the sake of friendliness”, but he is
quite justified' in reserving most of his time for any
work that he has taken up for the Society.
This instruction concerning duties had special reference to Alcyone's life at Adyar, while the Master was teaching him. In one special case, for example, he was being pressed to devote a whole day to some ceremony in connection with a distant relation. The matter was submitted to his Master, and He said: “Yes, for the sake of the rest of the family who might be shocked or troubled, you may go down for an hour at such and such a time, but be very careful that, during that time, you repeat [Page 288] nothing whatever which you do not understand, that you in no case repeat things blindly after the priest, and that you do not allow anything to be done for you that you can do for yourself – that is, in the way of ceremonies and blessings”. [Page 289]
CHAPTER 3 TOLERANCE
3 — Tolerance. — You must feel perfect tolerance for all, and a hearty interest in the beliefs of those of another religion, just as much as in your own. For their religion is a path to the highest, just as yours is. And to help all, you must understand all.
A.B. — I
suppose tolerance is one of the virtues most talked about at the present
day, but one of the least practised. It is one of the most difficult
virtues to acquire, for where a belief is strongly held and highly valued
not unnaturally tend to try to push it on others. Out of that aggressiveness
all religious persecutions and wars. both public and private, have grown;
but even that aggressiveness is better than indifference, which is so often
confused with tolerance. Indifference is not tolerance, and should
never be mistaken for it.
Nowadays there is very little State persecution. but there is still much social and family persecution. Some State persecution of religion does still exist in certain countries. where the free-thought party has the upper hand. Free-thinkers were so much persecuted that the [Page 290] temptation to retaliate has been too strong, though of course they are acting in direct violation of their own principles. I hope it is only the reaction of the persecution that the religious party meted out to them, and that it will soon cease.
There still exists in the world much of the spirit out of which all persecution grows, and sometimes the State finds it necessary to impose forbearance, as in India, for fear of disturbances and troubles arising. The sufferance that we find existing between members of different creeds in countries where various religions are more or less evenly balanced is largely due to mutual fear. Thus what tolerance there is springs generally from some motive that is more or less unworthy.
The occult student must aim at the kindly feeling which grows out of the recognition that the Self in each finds his own road. This is the only right attitude, and nothing less than recognition of it will make tolerance a widespread virtue. We must recognize that each man has his own way of searching for the highest. and must be left absolutely free to follow it. This implies not only that you will not try to draw a person into your own religion, but that you will not try to force arguments and opinions upon him, will not try to shake his beliefs which he finds helpful. Such perfect forbearance is the object at which you have to aim. It is far as the poles are apart from what men of the world often think to be tolerance – semi-contemptuous feeling that religious things do not very much matter, but are useful merely as a kind of police force to keep people in order. But a [Page 291] man's religion must be sacred to you, because it is sacred to him. The White Lodge will not allow anyone to come into its Brotherhood who has not developed this attitude to a considerable extent.
C. W .L. — There is perhaps in the present day more tolerance than there has been since the time of the great Roman Empire, and it is very much like that which then existed. We hear curious things of the way in which the Romans are supposed to have treated the early Christians. Careful research shows that the greatest of the persecutions about which so much has been said never happened at all; but it is true that the Christians frequently got themselves into trouble. I do not mean to say that the conditions were not in some ways barbarous; but the early Christians seem to have been an anarchical set of people, and when they came into collision with the authorities it was not on account of their religion, but because of the things they said and did. The Romans did not welcome the kind of brotherhood that the early Christians preached. It was far too much like: “Sois mon frère ou je te tuerai”. (“Be my brother or I will kill you”). In some cases they would not perform small ceremonies which were considered matters of loyalty; they would not throw a pinch of incense on the altar or pour out a drop of wine to the Emperor — actions more or less equivalent to taking off one's hat in London when the King passes. The Roman Empire was the most tolerant in the world about other religions. They did not care in the very least what god anybody worshipped, because they did [Page 292] not believe there were any gods. They had a huge pantheon, where they set up temples to all the gods, and when they realized that the Christ was being worshipped they promptly set up a statue to Him. Their tolerance really amounted to indifference.
Many of those ancient Romans are incarnated in the English race. There are many people now who are tolerant to all forms of belief, just because they themselves do not believe in anything. They look on religion as a pleasant fable to amuse the ladies, but of course for a man it is not a serious matter. That is not the kind of tolerance at which we are aiming. Ours must come from a recognition that the beliefs of others are also ways to the highest. When one goes into a temple or church of some form of religion which is not one's own, one who is really tolerant conforms to the customs of the place, not simply because it is the custom, but because he respects those people who are different from himself, and that religion which is different from his own. There are people who go into a church and then refuse to bow to the altar and even make a point of turning their backs upon it. I have known people who tried to go into a mosque without taking off their shoes. One has no business in the church or the temple of another faith if one is not prepared to behave so as not to hurt the feelings of the worshippers. If you think it is wrong to genuflect before the altar of a Catholic church you can always stay outside, and if you feel it would be wicked to take your shoes off you need not go inside the mosque. [Page 293]
All men are manifestations of the One Self, so the form another's aspiration takes is to be respected. Often childish manifestations appear, but no good man would make fun of them, or try to turn people against them, for the less developed intellect cannot be expected to take the view that appeals to one much more advanced. Tolerance will always direct us to say, with the old Romans, “Since I am a man, nothing human is foreign to me”, and try to understand the other man's point of view; even as an exercise for oneself that method would soon show us at how many different angles the rays of truth may be reflected by the human mind. The world would be monotonous if all things were done in one way only. It would be like a prison, where everything is done at the same time each day, and in the same way.
There are certain broad divisions, such as you find, for example, in the minds of the Catholic and the Protestant. Each of them approaches Christianity from his own point of view, and many on both sides are quite incapable of understanding the other. The Catholic takes the view that a great deal of ceremony should appear in his ritual, that it should be made in every way as beautiful as it can be, in order that it may glorify the God whom he worships, and that it may appeal to the people. He feels keenly that the ritual and the ceremony and all these beautiful surroundings are of the greatest help to him in his devotions. The Protestant, on the other hand, thinks all that to be very wicked and dreadful, because it distracts the mind from the inner meaning. The Protestant's mind is, perhaps, such that if he [Page 294] had to attend to all these ceremonies he would not at the same time be able to keep before him the inner things. What appeals so strongly to the Catholic type of man would be to him rather a nuisance, a disturbance – something which interferes with his inner devotion.
There are many people who feel their devotion and aspiration to be vague and uncertain when only subjective methods of worship are employed. To them the outer form gives great comfort and help; why should they not have it ? Those who find the ceremony, the statue, the picture, the physical-plane manifestation, an intense satisfaction and inspiration, belong definitely to one of the seven great rays of life, one of the seven great lines of human endeavour that lead to the throne of God. Those who wish for none of these things, who find them rather troublesome and distracting are also following their own different line; let them enjoy it; why should we trouble them ?
As each one of us has his own language, in which he was born, so he has what might be called his religious language — a way in which his thoughts and feelings and aspirations most readily express themselves. It would be in the highest degree foolish to despise a Frenchman because his language is different from our own, and equally so to despise anyone because his religion is different from ours. A Frenchman says “maison” instead of “house”: it means exactly the same thing; it would be absurd to argue that one is a better word than the other. One recalls the celebrated Mr. Lillyvick, a character in Nicholas Nickelby, who, after hearing that [Page 295] l'eau meant “water” in French, decided that it was a poor language. There is also a story about an old woman in the time of the Napoleonic wars who prayed to God that the English might be successful, and when some one reminded her that probably people on the other side were praying for the success of the French, she replied, “what does that matter; how can God understand them when they speak such nonsense?”
There can be no possible reason why each man should not follow the way which he finds to be best for himself, in the path to God which seems to him the most direct. All that is needed for peace and harmony is that both should recognize that fact. Each should say, “I prefer my path, but I am perfectly willing that every other man should have the same privilege, that he also, should take the path which seems best to him”. That does not seem much to ask, yet few will concede it. Each feels that what is best for him must be best for others. The larger mind sees that there are many paths, that they all lead equally to the summit of the mountain, and that each man should be left to take that which can most inspire him.
confess that there is one disposition I personally
find it hard to understand – the
very gushing type of religious devotion, which applies
to the Deity all sorts of endearing terms collected out
of love-poetry and novels. It gives me a shock, and an
impression of irreverence though I know perfectly well
that it is sincere and well-meant. Probably those who
like it think me cold and [Page 296] expressionless,
because my disposition is to take a common-sense view of everything and
reason about it and understand it.
The devotional books written for the higher type of people in every religion are remarkably similar. If one compares, for example, those familiar to the Roman Catholic with those used by the followers of Shri Rāmanujāchārya, one finds the closest resemblance. The life, too, of a good Christian is the same as that of a good Hindu, or Buddhist, or Muhammadan, or indeed a good man of any religion. The same virtues are practised by all; the same objects are striven for; the same evils are shunned.
But in order to gain this perfect tolerance you must yourself first be free from bigotry and superstition.
A.B. — The
bigot is the man who considers only his own opinions, and
not those of anyone else. I was once told by a very good
lady – but also a very
bigoted one, of the straitest sect of the evangelicals – that I
ought never to read a book which was not written exactly from my own
standpoint. That is the position of the bigot – never
read another view lest it may shake your own. It is the very
opposite of that of the seeker after truth, the man who wants
to lead the higher life. He tries to read all round a subject,
in order to see at how many different angles the rays of
truth have struck the human mind and been refracted by it.
If you would teach the truth, you must study all these different
views [Page 297] and opinions,
and then assimilate what little, or great, truth they may contain.
It is well also to study people's superstitions for; as the great phrase in the Upanishad says: “Truth alone conquers, not falsehood”. Superstitions derive their strength from the little bit of truth which they contain. You should find that fragment of truth. The bigot, of course, will see only the falsehood in them, but you ought to know something of all religions; not studying them in the spirit of the missionary, but sympathetically. And the same plan should also be followed in political and social questions.
You must also destroy superstition, which is characterized later in this book as one of the three great sins which do most harm in the world, because it is a sin against love. Religion and superstition have been so muddled together in the world that it is necessary to separate them in our minds by careful definition. My favourite definition of superstition – though it does not cover the whole ground – is the taking of the unessential for the essential, the mistaking of a side issue for one of importance. In religious controversies people fight over some unessential matter, and each side as a rule represents a different misunderstanding of the truth.
Another definition of superstition – which also does not cover the whole ground – is that it is a belief which has no rational foundation. Thus, many truths are superstitions to the people who hold them, because they have no good and sound reason for doing so. The Lord Buddha said that the only right ground for believing a [Page 298] thing is that it commends itself to your reason and common sense, so that you may be said to know it yourself. If we apply that test, the greater part of most people's religion comes under the heading of superstition. For them that does not really matter, but for those who are trying to reach the Path all that cannot justify itself to the intuition and reason should be put aside for a time. As that higher sense in you which knows truth at sight gradually unfolds, you will be able to take in more and more of the truth. Then there will grow up in you a deep inner conviction, and when a truth is presented to you, you will know it is true. This sense corresponds to eyesight on the physical plane. It is the faculty of buddhi, pure reason. We should all try our beliefs by this test, for we inherit a great many of them which are only superstitions to us. As we do so, and to the degree that this attitude of mind becomes habitual to us, shall we get rid of superstition and develop tolerance.
C. W .L. — Superstition has often a very strong hold indeed on the minds of men, so that sometimes it has been said that it is impossible to have religion without it. It is true that there is much confusion in religious thought, and much of it is unreasonable, but whenever there is a belief that has a very wide hold, there is probably a fragment of truth somewhere behind it. Generally speaking, superstitions are not mere inventions, but distortions or exaggerations of facts. Our President once cited a celebrated Indian instance of superstition. There was once a holy man who had a pet cat which was so fond of him that when he wanted to perform his [Page 299] religious ceremonies he found it necessary to keep it quiet by tethering it to the leg of his bed. People seeing this thought the tying up of the cat was a necessary part of the ceremony, and in course of time the rest of the ceremony fell away, and the only part that remained of the devotion was the tradition that a cat should be tethered to the leg of a bed.The scribes and Pharisees, whom Christ denounced as hypocrites, and likened unto whitened sepulchres, showed a similar form of superstition. They paid tithes, He said, of mint and anise and cummin; because they were ordered to pay a tithe of all they had, they took into account most punctiliously the little things corresponding to our pepper and salt; but they entirely forgot the weightier matters of the law-justice, mercy and faith.
The superstition of Sunday is a serious trouble in some parts of Great Britain, especially in Scotland, where the day is made unutterably tedious. The idea was to minimize the amount of ordinary work that must be done on that day, and make it a day that could be devoted to spiritual things. However, the divine service aspect has dropped very much into the background, and there is more drunkenness and general looseness in other ways on Sunday than on other days – certainly an instance of taking the non-essential for the essential. Because there is one day at least on which people are supposed to be religious, men often seem to have the feeling that on other days it does not matter seriously if one fails to observe religious precepts and ideals. I have noticed that the people who do not keep Sunday – [Page 300] Hindus, Buddhists and others – have religion permeating their lives in a way that is not found among Christians. I do not say that they are all good people, any more than the Christians are, but religion means more to them than it does to the average Christian, who often thinks that if he attends service one day a week he has discharged all his religious obligations.
Superstition has also been defined by our President as the bolding of any belief without a reasonable foundation. It is quite rational to believe in the rotation of the earth, in the existence of foreign countries which we have not seen, in the reality of atoms and electrons which are beyond physical sight altogether, because we have good reason to believe all these things. But many popular beliefs are not in this class. The ordinary belief of the Christian in eternal fire and everlasting punishment is nothing but a peculiarly pernicious superstition. There is no rational basis whatever for it, yet if you told that to the average Christian he would say that you were an atheist and that you were making a mock of his religion. The first man who taught it may or may not have believed it, but millions of people have done so since, thereby most assuredly yielding themselves to superstition.
The only thing which from the Christian point of view ought to be of importance in connection with it is what the Christ Himself said on the subject. There are, I think, eight passages in which He is supposed to mention this eternal punishment; and everyone of those can be quite plainly shown to have nothing to do with the popular idea which is attributed to them. There is a [Page 301] very valuable book on this subject called Salvator Mundi, written by a Christian clergyman, the Rev. Samuel Cox; he very carefully goes into the original Greek of what the Christ is alleged to have said, and shows at once and conclusively that there is no scriptural basis for the belief in everlasting punishment. There certainly is no rational basis, for if God is a loving Father it is absolutely impossible.
One would have expected modern Christians to have outgrown that horrible superstition, which works enormous evil in this world, but millions of them have not done so, and it is still being taught. I saw not long ago a Roman Catholic catechism for children, and in that the old ideas of hell as a place of everlasting torment were set forth in the same old foolish way. We might be still living in the most brutal part of the Middle Ages as far as the teaching given to little children is concerned. It is a very sad thing. There are many Christian sects which have risen above that, but the oldest and largest of them still clings to its medieval teachings. There are individual priests who explain the whole thing away very much as we might do, but the printed word which they teach to little children is an utterly horrible and blasphemous thing, because it starts them in life with an altogether wrong idea of God, filling their lives and minds with fear and cruelty, to the serious detriment of their character and evolution.
The teaching of the Lord Buddha about belief and reason, which I have already quoted, was very fine. At the council called after His death to determine which of [Page 302] the many reports current should be accepted as His sayings, the very first rule they laid down was: “That which is contrary to reason and common sense is not the teaching of the Buddha”. They ruled out everything that did not satisfy them from that point of view, saying: “This is obviously not common sense; He could not have said it”. They may perhaps have cast aside one or two good things which they did not understand, but they saved their religion from a vast amount of superstition. The Founders of the great religions, with the exception of Muhammad, did not give Their teachings to the world in written form. It is said, however, that the Lord Buddha wrote a book, which is kept by the Adepts, not published to the world. Usually, three or four generations have elapsed before the teachings have taken written form, and then those writings have been compounded from many sources. For example, in the Book of Isaiah, scholars have found eight different layers of tradition – three Isaiahs, one after another, then a committee, and so on. There is deterioration in the religion when people write down not what they know but that they have been told, and then quarrel about minutiae.
There is also another source of confusion in the fact that when a new religion is launched it spreads like a wave of conquest over the existing ones, but does not obliterate them. A wise general, conquering a new country, tries to adapt his rules to the people, so as to minimize trouble; so have the religions become adapted to the various communities who adopted them. Thus the Chinese and Japanese still reverence their ancestors, [Page 303] and follow the ancient way, the Shinto, but they have added thereto the Buddhist ethics; while in Ceylon, they hold a materialistic form of the religion, and will tell you that nothing of a man passes on from life to life but his karma, yet they speak of their previous lives and their hope to reach nirvâna in a future life. The Christians also adopted the festivals of the nations among which the religion spread, but conveniently found names of Christian saints by which to call those days.
of the old traditions are thus found everywhere devil
in Ceylon, the Kâlî cult in India, and so on – and
these are sometimes taken for the real thing, and thus
form a prolific source of superstition.
One may sometimes know a thing to be true without being able to reason it out – that is the other side of the question. The ego knows, and has good reason for his knowledge; but sometimes he cannot impress his reasons on the physical brain, though the fact comes through that he knows. So, when a new truth is presented to us, we know at once whether we can accept it or not. That is not superstition, but an intense inner conviction. I do not think anybody will ever be found with that intense inner conviction about hell. They believe that they will be burnt for ever because they have been so taught. This sounds, perhaps, a little like abandoning reason in favour of intuition, but then it must be remembered that, that very buddhi which we translate “intuition” is known in India as “pure reason”. It is the reason of the ego, which is of a higher type than that which we have in lower planes. [Page 304]
The Master goes on to give instances with regard to this question of superstition:
You must learn that no ceremonies are necessary; else you will think yourself somehow better than those who do not perform them. Yet you must not condemn others who still cling to ceremonies. Let them do as they will; only they must not interfere with you who know the truth — they must not try to force upon you that which you have outgrown. Make allowance for everything; be kindly towards everything.
C.W.L. — The
Master spoke so strongly about ceremonies perhaps because
the life of the youth of the high Brahmana caste to which
Alcyone belonged begins to be
very full of them at about the age which he had then reached.
There is a tendency at that time for a boy to consider
himself very important on account of them, for he is quite
the centre of a great deal of attention which surrounds
the upanayana or initiation of a boy into his
full caste privileges. The life of an orthodox Brāhmana
is full of ceremonial; there are gestures to be made and
texts to be recited at the time of rising, bathing, eating
and almost every other action. Some
people round Alcyone were probably trying to make him do
these very fully, because they feared that modern education
and the European friends he had made might possibly divert
him from the old cult of his people; so the Master guarded
His pupil by saying that they were not absolutely necessary
and that when doing them or when giving them up [Page 305] he
must take care not to fall into the error and folly of thinking himself
Christian ceremonials differ from those of the Hindus and Buddhists in being generally done by a number of people together. Worship is nearly always individual among the latter, but in Christendom it is mainly collective. Though all these ceremonials are not necessary (except for the people whose temperament is so strongly in favour of them that they cannot really be happy without them), they are nevertheless a form of science, dealing with natural forces of the inner planes in perfectly definite ways.
There are many ways in which spiritual force can be poured out upon the world. That which we find in the ceremony of the Mass, the Holy Communion or the Holy Eucharist. is one instituted by the Founder of Christianity Himself, for the distribution through His Church of what is commonly called the divine grace – certain spiritual forces of the higher planes, which are, of course, not supernatural, but superphysical. He arranged it so that the priest, whatever his nature might be, doing the ceremony would be a channel for the distribution of this force. It would be all the better that the priest should be a really good man, full of thoughts of devotion and service, but it has been arranged that the ceremonial shall be effective in any case, for the benefit of the people. The general Christian scheme is that there shall be Churches dotted over the land, so that the outpouring may radiate out and reach everybody. This ceremony does enormous good to millions of people, [Page 306] but to say that it is necessary for salvation would be superstition.
Various forces are tapped by different ceremonies, They all, no matter how spiritual, work under the laws of nature, and if, therefore, the benefit of them is to be felt in the physical world there must be a physical mechanism through which they can work. It is the same in the case of electricity; the force exists all about us all the time and is always in activity: but if you want it to perform a particular work in a particular way in a particular place you must provide certain physical machinery through which it can operate.
A.B. — The
Master says that no ceremonies are necessary, and all the
religions recognize this truth. In India, the man who is
highest and most respected of all is the sannyāsi,
who performs no ceremonies at all. He breaks and throws
away the sacred thread, which was his most important
possession, put upon him when as a boy he was
initiated into his caste, and worn throughout life as his
most sacred symbol, until he became a sannyāsi.
Ceremonies are only necessary so long as a man has not reached realization and true knowledge, so long as they help to give him right emotions, quiet thoughts and noble aspirations. The great majority of people are still undeveloped and need all the help that can be given them in any way. Therefore no wise man will condemn ceremonies, though they are not necessary for him. The Bhagavad Gitā is the gospel of the sannyāsi, yet it is there written: “Let no wise man unsettle the minds of the ignorant, attached to action, but acting in harmony [Page 307] with Me, let him render all action attractive”. (Op. cit., 111, 26.) The child who is learning to walk catches hold of anything that is firm enough to help him to sustain himself on his feet – chairs, table-legs and walls. So ceremonies are supports, intended for the man who is not strong enough to support himself. As a man develops, his ceremonies become more refined, more beautiful and symbolical, and at last he arrives at a stage when they are no longer of any use to him and he lets them go. There are two kinds of people who do not perform ceremonies – those who are above them, and those who are beneath them.
The responsibility of choosing the point when he shall abandon ceremonies rests entirely with the man concerned; each must decide for himself. None can take the responsibility of saying when a man should become a yogi. So also with ceremonies; none must criticize when a man decides to give them up, or chooses to retain them. Sometimes a man may still feel bound to attend them after he feels that he no longer needs them himself, on account of his position in the community. He alone is responsible for his choice, so we must not condemn those who perform ceremonies, nor those who do not perform them.
Ceremonies may be dangerous as well as helpful. In ancient Hinduism there was a strict rule forbidding the utterance of certain formula in a crowd; it was not made in order to withhold any benefit from the people, as nowadays is sometimes ignorantly supposed, but to avoid the harm that certain vibrations might do to some [Page 308] people. It was on this account that Manu laid down the law that only Brahmanas who were learned and of good life should be invited to the shrāddha ceremonies. A person who has some power but does not understand when he should use it and when he should withhold it might possibly, if he assisted at certain ceremonies, put strength into the formula which might injure the people present; for that reason one who has begun to gain such power might do well to keep away. I found, for example, when I attended some shrāddha ceremonies at Gayā, that had I added my force to them, I might have injured the priests, for, some of the mantras which they were reciting were exceedingly powerful. They, however, did not bring out the power, since they were ignorant and not very clean-living men. Madame Blavatsky advised students of occultism not to go into a crowd unless they were in perfect sympathy with it, not merely because of any effect it might have on their own auras, but because their force might do more harm than good. In such cases, a man with knowledge might find it better sometimes not to take part in certain ceremonies, while another who did not understand how to say the formula in such a way as to bring out the power which is really in it, might attend with perfect safety to the people around him, no matter what kind of people they might be. [Page 309]
Now that your eyes are opened, some of your old beliefs, your old ceremonies, may seem to you absurd; perhaps, indeed, they really are so. Yet though you can no longer take part in them respect them for the sake of those good souls to whom they are still important. They have their place, they have their use; they are like those double lines which guided you as a child to write straight and evenly, until you learnt to write far better and more freely without them. There was a time when you needed them; but now that time is past.
A.B. — Inevitably,
as we grow older and wiser, some things in which we used
to believe take on an aspect of non-reality and even absurdity;
yet we can look at them kindly and sympathetically, as
we can look on a child nursing a bundle of rags which she
makes believe to be a doll. From one point of view the
child's action is somewhat grotesque, but it is doing her
a real service, for it develops the mother instinct in
the little girl – she
does not see the rags: she sees a child; and as she fondles
and comforts her imaginary child she practises maternal
tenderness and protection, and care of the weak and helpless.
So, when we smile at that little child, our smile is
a very tender and gentle one. It is the same with our
old beliefs and ceremonies; they had their place; they
had their use.
If one finds a savage tribe performing ceremonies which to us seem quite absurd, or when we see, as we frequently do in India, a rag tied to a village tree as an offering, we should not despise the poor outer expression of the savage's or villager's devotion – we ought to look [Page 310] at the feeling underlying it. Their humble offerings may mean as much to them as the costliest one could mean to us; the same spirit is underneath.
All outer offerings are unnecessary; the only acceptable one is the offering of the heart, and where that accompanies the gift the poorest gift becomes acceptable. Therefore it says in the Gitā that even a leaf, a flower. a fruit or a little water, if offered with devotion, is acceptable to the Supreme. (Op. cit., IX, 26.) It would be a hard and unbrotherly act to discourage these things – to tear away the rag from the tree, for instance, as has sometimes been done – it would show a complete lack of the feeling of unity.
W.L. — Always
be gentle and kindly towards childhood – that
of the children, and the general childhood of the
human race at its present stage as well. Our President
has spoken of a little child nursing a bundle
of rags and pretending that it is a doll. That is
a superstition, of course, but at the same time it
does not occur to anyone indignantly to scold the
child for it. On the physical plane it is a bundle
of rags, but in the child's imagination it is perhaps
almost a living thing, with
all sorts of qualities. One cannot disturb the idea
in the child's mind without injuring the development
of good feelings that are being aroused.
She has also mentioned the practice of the common people of India, who sometimes tie a piece of rag on a tree as an offering to the deity. The average Christian missionary would come along and be very angry about [Page 311] it, thereby showing his own ignorance, because the offering is made in all good faith. The comparatively primitive and childlike soul meant it well, and the thing should be taken like the child's rag doll, for what it means. They pour out a little water as a libation, or they offer a flower — a very small offering truly, but why should it be despised ? The Christ Himself said that those who gave even a cup of cold water in His Name and for His sake should by no means lose their reward. It must be remembered, too, that probably no people, not even the most primitive, think of the statue or the form as a reality, but all have some sense of the Deity behind it.
A great Teacher once wrote: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things”. Yet he who has forgotten his childhood and lost sympathy with the children is not the man who can teach them or help them. So look kindly, gently, tolerantly upon all; but upon all alike, Buddhist or Hindu, Jain or Jew, Christian or Muhammadan.
A.B. — You
have there an exact description of the occultist; he
is the man who has not forgotten his childhood. He has
grown to manhood. but he remembers what he has passed through,
and so he can help all. In order to train ourselves in
this power of sympathy for all and help towards all, it
is a good practice
to translate [Page
religious thoughts into the language of some particular
exoteric religion, to put
your thought into its formula. We all have one particular
language of our own, in which we express things to
ourselves, until we reach the stage when we have a
common language in which we can speak to anybody. The
student will do well to study some language or form
other than his own. Those who have been brought up
as Christians might practise speaking and thinking
in terms of Hinduism; then they would learn to see
things from the Hindu standpoint, and would be quite
astonished to see how different they looked from what
they had imagined them to be. Hindus might similarly
learn to speak and think in terms used in Christianity.Shri
Rāmakrisha Paramahamsa, the guru
of Swāmi Vivekānanda,
trained himself in that way. He took several religions
in turn, and for the time being followed their methods
and practices. He took up Christianity: prayed in the
Christian way, thought in Christian terms, and even
dressed in Christian dress; and thus he went through
one religion after another, learning to identify himself
with each. He used every outside help that he could
contrive in order to help himself in this effort. When
he was trying to realize the mother side of Nature
that which is represented by the Virgin Mary in the
West, by the Shaktīs
in Hinduism, he dressed himself as a woman and thought
of himself as a woman. Certainly the result of these
practices in his case was very beautiful,
for aIl outer religious differences ceased entirely
to affect him. [Page
How different is this line from that which most people pursue! Yet it is only by learning to identify oneself with all around that one can fit oneself for discipleship. Shri Rāmakrishna was fundamentally a bhakta, a devotee, and he learned through emotion in this way.
aspirant should try for a time, then, to think of himself
as a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a woman – something which he is not. How few men
ever try to think or feel as a woman does, to see things as she sees them
I suppose, too, that not many women really try to see things from a man's
standpoint; but it is more marked in men – a man always wants to
feel himself “he”. Even among Theosophists
it seems to me that the fact of our brotherhood being
without distinction of sex is sometimes overlooked.
Learn also to understand how things would appear to you if coming to you through some particular atmosphere to which you are not accustomed. You have to cure yourself of the habit of looking at things exclusively from your own standpoint — that is contrary to occultism. Do this, and in the world you will be blamed; your impartiality and sympathy will be called indifference. That does not in the least matter. I have been accused of being “too Hindu” in the West, and of being “too Christian”, in the East; because in the West I speak in Western terms and the people in India do not like it, and in the East I speak in Eastern terms and the people in the West do not like, it. My answer to such complaints always is that I speak to the people in the language which they understand. [Page 314]
occultist belongs to no religion or to all religions,
according to the way you life to put it – to none
exclusively, to all inclusively. Nothing less than that
is tolerance. The reason why it is good to keep out of
controversies is that for the time one may become intolerant;
it is difficult to be quite impartial, if one is to
be effective, when controverting
a one sided presentment. [Page
315] Always put the truth from the standpoint
of unity, not from that of difference; then only will
you be able to help all, and all alike. Then only will
be able to see the good in each and all, overlooking
and looking through that which is defective.
C. W .L. — The Theosophist aims at brotherhood without distinction of race, creed, caste, sex or colour. That brotherhood can best be lived when we are able to enter into the feelings and thoughts of those of other races and creeds. and of the other sex. A man forgets the fact that he has had many births in feminine form; a woman also forgets that she has had many incarnations in masculine bodies. Though not easy to do, it is an exceedingly good exercise for the man to try to put himself in thought in the woman's place and to understand her way of looking on life; and so also for a woman to try to see how a man envisages things. The two points of view are surprisingly different in various ways. One who can identify his consciousness with that of the opposite sex has already taken a step towards a brotherhood which transcends the idea of sex. Having tried to understand the point of view of his sisters or mother or wife, a man may then extend this practice to people of other religions and races than his own. It is a most helpful exercise, because when anyone can really understand and thoroughly sympathize with another person's point of view, he has widened his own outlook by just that much.
tolerance there is a good story in the Talmud, about Abraham, when once
a traveller came to [Page 316] him,
and he was about to give him food and drink, as is
the custom of the desert.
Abraham called upon his visitor to praise God before
eating; but when he refused and said he did not know
anything about God, Abraham rose in anger and turned
him out of his tent, and would not give him anything
at all. Then the Lord came along, as apparently He
used to do in those days, and said: “Why did you send him away ?”Abraham replied,
with great indignation, “Lord, He refused to recognize Thy Name; he
is an infidel of the worst type”. “ Yes”, God said, “but
I have borne with Him for sixty years; surely you might
bear with him for one hour”.
Some of us who are Theosophists still have an outward religion to which we cling, yet I think we ought to be able to say that we belong to no religion exclusively, but to all of them inclusively. I myself, for example, am a Christian Bishop, but I am also a Buddhist, because I took the vows and obligations by which I accepted the Lord Buddha as my guide. In that, I was not asked to renounce any other religion. Buddhism is perhaps the widest of all religions in that respect – they do not ask you what you believe, but whether you will follow the teaching of the Lord Buddha and live so far as you can the life He commends. A Christian, Muhammadan or follower of any other religion might say, “The teaching is good teaching, I will undertake to follow it”, and thereby become a Buddhist, without leaving his previous religion. Theosophy is the truth which lies behind all these religions. We study comparative religion, not [Page 317] merely to see that the Theosophical truths do appear in all religions, but also that we may understand the different presentations of truth and be able to help along all these lines.
Our President shows us the value of this. She speaks as a Hindu to the Hindus; she quotes from their Scriptures in support of what she says, using some of their own Sanskrit terms – and that appeals to them just as the sonorous Latin appeals to a Roman Catholic. When she speaks to the Buddhists she says exactly the same things, but quotes the sayings of the Lord Buddha, and uses the terminology of Buddhism. In the Western world you will hear her speak to Christians in their own terms, not in the least changing her own belief or religion, but simply speaking their language. She is, of course, learned in all those religions. When we know the truth behind all religions, even though we cannot begin to compare with her in knowledge and skill of utterance, many of us can by a little study of a primer of any particular religion, understand it well and become able to present the truth in its terms, and to explain the meaning of much that is obscure to others. I have heard Colonel Olcott do it again and again. He was not a man of the student or scholar-type, but he was an exceedingly good practical lecturer. He would speak effectively to audiences of Hindus, Parsis and Buddhists, and learned men of all those faiths agreed in saying that he had given them new light on their respective religions. That shows how Theosophy is the master key to all the religions. At the great conventions of our Society at Adyar the same fact [Page 318] appears in another way, for people of many different religions and races, gather together, and no one who attends can fail to be deeply impressed with not merely the tolerance, but the active affectionate brotherhood that is shown there. [Page 319]
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