WHAT IS THEOSOPHY?  ΔΔ

by New York Herald of August 18, 1889
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as published in Theosophical Siftings - Volume 2 for the year 1889

by The Theosophical Society, Adyar, Chennai [Madras], India 600 020

An investigation into the doctrines of Esoteric Buddhism, as laid out and presented in the "Secret Doctrine", and other Theosophical works, by the New York Herald of August 18, 1889
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[The able reviewer begins with a table of contents, which is headed with the title "Spread of the New Religion". As Theosophy is not a religion, this is the only fundamental, though almost, universal mistake made by the outsiders. Otherwise, and in all respects, this is the best, the fairest, and most serious review that has ever yet appeared in a daily paper. Editor T.P.S.]


SPREAD OF THE NEW Religion

Theosophy, or, as it is termed by its later devotees, Esoteric Buddhism, is spreading among the better educated people of the world with a rapidity unequalled by any other modern cult or religion except Mormonism or Spiritualism. It has its parent society and its branch organizations in India, Russia, England, the United States, and elsewhere. While its peculiar tenets date back to a remote antiquity and include, as expounders, seers and the philosophers of the ancients, the alchemists of the Middle Ages, and the metaphysicians of the Renaissance, it has received such an impetus in more recent times, and particularly in the present century, as to have become, in fact, an entirely new dispensation.

As Buddhism was the repudiation of sacerdotal and ritualistic Brahmanism, and Protestantism a revolution against Romanism, so the existing Esoteric Buddhism is an upheaval against the prevailing materialism of this day and generation. It is one of the most astonishing events in history, this reaction toward occultism and mysticism, in the face of the most practical and mechanical age that history records. In the present paper the Herald will endeavour to throw some light upon the peculiar tenets of this novel theology.


MYSTICAL UTTERANCES PROM ANTIQUITY

The very first steps in the direction of the explanation of Theosophy are obstructed by all the tangles which it has been possible for colossal intelligences to cast about its hidden laws and secret prophetic utterances. One who appeals to the recognized authorities for information is met by such incoherent and unintelligible language as is found in the following citations. Meanwhile, the foremost living exponents of these doctrines we are about to examine are the well known Madame H.P. Blavatsky, author of "Isis Unveiled" and "The Secret Doctrine," and Mr. A. P.. Sinnett, whose "Esoteric Buddhism", "Karma", and other works, are the primers of this recondite study. The names of Professor Elliott Coues and Colonel Henry S. Olcott will also occur to the well-informed American reader in this connection; the former a naturalist of distinction, the latter a former official in the Comptroller's office of the city of New York, and now president of the parent Theosophical Society
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From a very ancient secret work, a translation of which has been but recently made known, are quoted the following selections:

" The external parent, wrapped in her invisible robes, had slumbered once again for seventeen eternities.

" Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration.

" Universal mind was not, for there were no Ah-Hi to contain it.

" The seven ways to bliss were not. The great causes of misery were not, for there was no one to produce and get ensnared by them.

" Darkness alone filled the boundless All, for Father, Mother, and Son were once more One, and the Son had not awakened yet for the new wheel, and his pilgrimage thereon.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

" This is thy present Wheel, said the Flame to the Spark. Thou art myself, my image and my shadow. I have clothed myself in thee, and thou art my Vahan to the day 'Be with Us' when thou shall become myself and others, thyself and me. Then the builders, having donned their first clothing, descend on radiate Earth, and reign over Men who are themselves."

It will doubtless be generally admitted that there is nothing in this that is specially encouraging to the neophyte in Esoteric Buddhism, Now, listen to what Sir Edwin Arnold says in his " Light of Asia," the beautiful metrical version of the life of Gautama Buddha:—

Many a house of life hath held me — seeking ever him who wrought
These prisons of the senses, sorrow fraught; sore was my ceaseless strife;
But now,
Thou builder of this tabernacle — thou !
I know thee ! Never shalt thou build again these walls of pain.
Nor raise the roof tree of deceits, nor lay fresh rafters on the clay;
Broken thy house is, and the ridge pole split!
Delusion fashioned it ! Safe pass I thence — deliverance to obtain.
The above being the concentrated wisdom accumulated from his studies of Buddhism by one of the most learned among Sanskrit scholars, it is to be accepted as a fair statement of Buddhist theology. Still, it does offer certain difficulties to the uninitiated. But all hitherto quoted is simplicity itself compared to what is to follow.

From the " Oracles of Zoroaster" known as "The Chaldean Oracles", and from a Greek translation of the same, and so into English, by Thomas Stanley, these passages are quoted: —

"Where the Paternal Monad is The Monad is enlarged and generates Two, for the Duad sits beside him and glitters with intellectual sections, both to govern all things and to order everything not ordered, for on the whole world shineth the Triad, in which the Monad rules.

"This order is the beginning of all section. For the Mind of the Father said that all things be cut into Three, whose will assented, and then all things were divided.

"For the Paternal self-begotten Mind, understanding his work, sowed in all the fiery bond of Love, that all things might continue loving for ever.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"For the Paternal Mind hath sowed symbols through the world. Which understandeth intelligibles and beautifieth ineffables — wholly division and indivisible.

"By Mind he contains the intelligibles, but introduceth sense into the worlds.

"By Mind he contains the intelligibles, but introduceth Soul into the worlds."

One does not seem to have advanced greatly by collision with these gems of Zoroastrian inspiration. Here is what Plato has to offer on this important subject :—

"To that which is divinely generated", says Plato (Republic, chap. 3, book viii.)," there is a period which is comprehended by the perfect number, whereas to that generated by man there is one, in which the augmentations, both surpassing and surpassed, after having received three separations and four boundaries of things, similar and dissimilar, increasing and decreasing, will render all things correspondent and rational; of which the sesquiternean root conjoined with the pentad, and thrice increased, affords two harmonies — one of these, the equally equal, just a hundred times as much, while the other, of equal length indeed, but of oblong shape, is of a hundred numbers from effable diameters of the pentad, each wanting one, two of which are irrational and of a hundred cubes of the triad."

This passage has been the despair of all translators of Plato and of all commentators, though efforts have been made to explain its hidden signification. It is in effect one expression (the numerical) of the most hidden mysteries of the secret doctrine.

Finally, in the way of illustrating the merely verbal difficulties involved in the study of Esoteric Buddhism, it is proper to give a quotation from the latest translation (by Isaac Myer, LL.B.) of the "Book of Zohar", the sum total of the Esoteric doctrines, according to the Hebrew kabbalists. The "Zohar" is a running mystical commentary on the Pentateuch, and is about of the twelfth century, so far as its publication to the world is concerned, though it is believed to have been originally compiled by the Rabbis as early as the second century B.C. As sample quotations we give the following: —

"The Ancient of the Ancients, the Unknown of the Unknown, has a form, yet also has not any form. It has a form through which the universe is maintained. It also has not any form, as it cannot be comprehended. When it first took this form it permitted to proceed from it (Kether) nine brilliant lights, which, illuminating through it (Kether), spread upon all sides a brilliant light. Let us think of a light which is elevated and which spreads its rays in all directions. If we desire to grasp these rays it will be impossible, as we will perceive they all proceed from the one light.

"Just so the holy ancient is an elevated (absolute) light, but completely hidden and incomprehensible in itself, and we can conceive it only through its manifestation in these diffusing lights (the Sephiroth), which are, however, on the one side only partly visible, and yet on the other side are partly concealed. These (in their totality) constitute the holy name Yhvh."

From another version of the "Zohar", entitled "The Kabbalah Unveiled", translated by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, we extract the following :

"This is the tradition. When the White Head (Kether) propounded unto himself to superadd ornament unto his own adornment, he constituted, prepared, and produced one single spark from his intense splendour of light. He fanned it and condensed it (or conformed it)

"And he developed his thought, and extended it in three hundred and seventy directions.

" And the spark subsisted, and waited until the pure air went forth, which involved it around, and an ultimate extension having been made, he produced a certain hard skull (bounded) on four sides.

" And in that pure subtle air was the spark absorbed and comprehended and included therein.

" Dost thou not think therein? Truly, it is hidden therein.

And therefore is that skull expanded in its sides, and that air is the most concealed of the ancient of days.

ANTIQUITY OF MAN

Sufficient has been given from extant authorities to show the drift of the "Secret Doctrine" and to illustrate the difficulties with which its study has ever been designedly surrounded by those who were its priests or prophets, or who had succeeded in gaining access to the inner temple of its mysteries. The reason for all this secrecy is variously given, by some being considered as an essential part of the instruction afforded by the adept to his pupil; by others merely as a means for gaining and retaining priestly power over the masses. But so deeply implanted in the breasts of novices and adepts alike has been this clement of secrecy that nowhere does there exist such an explanation of the hidden meaning of the Esoteric doctrines as could be acquired by any one at all uninitiated — nor even approximately without a very long period passed in the most earnest and concentrated study. This fact, however, has not prevented the formation of secret societies for the pursuit of the study from time immemorial. This accounts for the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Mysteries of Isis, the Society of the Essences, the Rosicrucians, and, indeed, very much of Freemasonry itself.

Among the Egyptians the secret doctrine appears to have been well known. The Hebrews gathered their acquaintance with it during the Egyptian slavery and the Babylonian captivity. The records appear in Sanscrit, in Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions on tablets, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Its origin is lost in the mists of antiquity, and one of its most startling tenets covers traditions with regard to the age of this world and the origin of man, running back to a period of not thousands, nor tens nor hundreds of thousands, but tens of millions of years.

While the "Secret Doctrine" contradicts and derides science where they disagree, it has no hesitation in using it to support assertions of the antiquity of man. Thus, geology and paleontology are brought into court as witnesses in this direction, thus archaeology, and thus the science of numbers. And so far as this goes, science docs sustain the figures of nearly the most remote antiquity claimed for the earth by Theosophists. But where the two sides part company is on the assertion on the part of the Theosophists that we are living in the decay of man, who, with brief periods of progress, has been sinking lower and lower in intellect, morally and physically, for many ages.

For not only were there "giants in those days" in stature, but giants in intellect as well. Esoteric Buddhism asserts that the lifetime of this world has been and will be made up of vast cycles of growth and decay; that in the beginning the world was peopled with demi-gods; that from these were created what it calls the "mind born" and the "sweat born" beings, called into existence by a mere effort of will; that the first race of beings were sexless, the second androgynous, and that it was depravity and deterioration that brought about a division of the sexes.

Esoteric Buddhism asserts that demons once peopled this fair earth; that, again, there were monsters in semi-human form who were capable of contending on equal terms with the Saurians, the Mammoth, the Mastodon, and all the gigantic forms of animal and reptile life, known to us only by their fossil remains. Esoteric Buddhism alleges that once in about twenty-five thousand years the polar axis of the earth changes, bringing about a re-distribution of land and water, and that at other periods the habitable globe is destroyed by fire (earthquakes and volcanic eruptions). It holds that the mythical Lemuria and Atlantis were actual continents, existing under conditions of civilization far more elevated than anything that history records. It holds to the Biblical doctrine that (while these catastrophes occur periodically) man's sins are the cause of man's destruction. It claims that with each of such physical catastrophes man's arts and attainments are lost, and that there then begins a new struggle of savagery for existence, and a slow progress toward re-civilizing, always accompanied by the downward tendency of sin, in which the latter always gets the upper hand, to the encouragement of a new destruction.

Of course, a knowledge of vast periods of human or superhuman existence is essential to the theories of Esoteric Buddhism, which claim acquaintance with the actual processes of creation, since geology itself throws the world's existence back to a period of hundreds of thousands, and, as is conceded by some geologists, millions of years away. In order to bridge a distance in time of which accepted history makes no record, Esoteric Buddhism has recourse partly to tradition, and partly to alleged existing documents of a very remote period, themselves the record of traditional statements, handed down from generation to generation. But the Theosophists, still further to fortify themselves against the arguments of unbelievers, concede the necessity at certain periods for the appearance of beings, divinely inspired, from whom, they assert, have been obtained many of the facts of which they claim to be in possession with regard to the antiquity and the earliest history of the world, and even concerning the modus operandi of Creation itself. Such beings were Gautama Buddha and Christ and such also were Moses and Zoroaster, St. Paul and St. John the Evangelist. It is asserted that besides the teachings of these seers and prophets which have come down to us, being open to all the world, they taught also the esoteric or hidden doctrine, communicated only to initiates, of whom a certain number have existed in all ages of the world's history. But the most extraordinary statement as to the foundation of the modern knowledge of the hidden doctrines is with regard to the alleged existence of written records thereof. It is asserted that in Thibet, and elsewhere in Asia, there are subterranean depositories of manuscripts containing "the sum total of sacred and philosophical works — all the works, in fact, that have ever been written, in whatever language or characters, since the art of writing began; from the ideographic hieroglyphs down to the alphabet of Cadmus." The history of Theosophy states that after the destruction of the Alexandrian Library " every work of a character that might have led the profane to the ultimate discovery and comprehension of some of the mysteries of the secret science was, owing to the combined efforts of the members of the brotherhoods, diligently searched for. It is added, moreover, by those who know, that, once found, save three copies left and stored safely away, such works were all destroyed. In India the last of the precious manuscripts were secured and hidden during the reign of the Emperor Akbar " (sixteenth century).

It has long been well known that the Buddhist monasteries of Thibet are the Mecca of the Theosophist. Thither the neophyte of whatever nation wends his way to study at the feet of some pundit who is himself an initiate or "Mahatma" — one to whom the secret doctrine has been laid bare — at least, so far as it is deemed judicious to inform in this day and generation those who, in their turn, are to become "teachers of men". That this should be the case is not remarkable when one recognises the belief, prevalent among Theosophists the world over, that "the secret doctrine was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and pre-historic world. Proofs of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teachings of all its great adepts, exist to this day in the secret crypts of libraries belonging to the occult fraternity". Here, it is claimed, are concealed the written records of the pre-historic philosophy of China, the ancient parchments saved from destruction with the Alexandrian Library, the thousands of Sanscrit works which disappeared from India in the reign of Akbar, the vast sacred and occult literature of Babylon, the keys which alone can unlock the mysteries of the Egyptian hieroglyphic records, and finally, the secret commentaries which make the Pedic literature intelligible.


THE CORE OF THE SECRET DOCTRINE

Two reasons have been given, as already stated, for the extraordinary secretiveness observed from the most ancient times down to the present regarding the exposure of the occult theories of what is now termed Esoteric Buddhism; these reasons were: first, the very fact of such secrecy having been inculcated from the beginning as a necessary part of occult teaching; and second, the self-aggrandisement of the priesthood and the accumulation by them of influence over the ignorant masses, by reason of their alleged occult powers, obtained through a knowledge of the secrets of Nature. With regard to these powers, it is stated as a part of the doctrine that man, through his "sevenfold" nature, is closely allied with planetary and cosmic forces, tremendous in their capabilities for good or evil; and that, if a clue to these occult powers were obtained by any but those who had been purified through a long novitiate of abstinence from sensual indulgence, their abuse might cause incalculable evil to humanity. With regard to these occult powers, material and immaterial, more will be told in the course of the present paper.

Regarding the strictly theological portion of the esoteric philosophy it may be well to make a plain statement here, derived from the highest modern authority, before going on to a summary of existing theosophic belief concerning human history. As formulated by the authority in question, " esoteric philosophy reconciles all religions, strips every one of its outward human garments, and shows the root of each to be identical with that of every other great religion. It proves the necessity of an absolute divine principle in Nature. It denies Deity no more than it does the sun. Esoteric philosophy has never rejected God in Nature, nor Deity as the absolute and abstract eus. It only refuses to accept any of the gods of the so-called monotheistic religions — gods created by man in his own image and likeness, a blasphemous and sorry caricature of the "Ever Unknowable".

It will be observed that it is in its antagonism to the anthropomorphic god of so-called "revealed religion" that theosophy is in opposition to Christianity, Excepting this position it will be found to be in harmony with the teachings of the Scriptures in every important particular, while in relation to the accepted theories of the Almighty, as preached from texts chosen from those Scriptures, theosophy simply holds that it is a case of "the blind leading the blind" — an uninformed priesthood presenting a perverted doctrine.

"There was neither day nor night, nor sky nor earth, nor darkness nor light, nor any other thing save only One, unapprehensible by intellect, or that which is Brahma and spirit and crude matter."

The above quotation is from a translation of the "Vishnu IPurana" and is the Hindoo presentment of the condition prior to the creation. Of such creations it is alleged there were then seven — First, the Universal Soul; second, elemental creation or universal substance; third, organic evolution; fourth, inanimate bodies; fifth, animals; sixth, divinities; seventh, man. This theory of creation passes from generals to particulars, from higher to lower, from the abstract to the concrete. It is evolutionary to a certain extent, but stops short of Darwinism by the proposition that man, instead of being a higher organism evolved from a lower, is a descent from beings of a semi-divine nature, an occurrence caused by the degradation into sex of the previous sexless, and then androgynous, races. According to this philosophy, such creations as have been enumerated are periodical, the periods being vast beyond computation; and between these periods there is a lifeless and deathless sleep of further ages, after which the creative power awakes to a new and similar effort of septenary creation. According to Theosophy, there was warfare among the spiritual beings of the early creation and sin; and thence originated man. But man himself was originally endowed with powers which would be now deemed superhuman, and has only lost these through successive generations of decay and demoralization through sin. Among these powers one is novel in its statement, and certainly remarkable.


LOST RACES AND LOST POWERS

The Occultists believe, and their secret writings set forth, that not only were the early progenitors of existing man giants, but that they possessed a third eye. "There were four-armed human creatures in those early days of the male-females (androgynes), with one head, yet three eyes. They could see before them and behind them." This eye was also a sixth, or spiritual sense, and became petrified by the degeneracy of that race. Science is called upon to sanction this claim in describing the "pineal gland", a small, pea-like mass of grey nervous matter attached to the back of the brain, and for which no use has been discovered by the physiologists. As an evidence that the existence of four-armed and three-eyed men was known to the ancients, the legends and traditions of the Cyclops are pointed out, and attention is directed to the Hindoo statues of gods having an eye in the middle of the forehead and endowed with four arms, as these are still to be seen in the Buddhist temples of India. The loss or atrophy of the third eye is attributed by the Occult authorities to the progress of sensuality. Meanwhile science, in the person of the great naturalist, Ernst Haeckel, says: " Deeply placed within the head, covered by thick skin and muscles, true eyes that cannot see are found in certain animals, blind moles and field mice, blind snakes and lizards. They shun daylight, dwelling under the ground. They were not originally blind, but have evolved from ancestors that lived in the light and had well-developed eyes. The atrophied eye beneath the opaque skin may be found in these blind beings in every stage — of reversion.'' The occultist pertinently asks, "If two eyes could become so atrophied in lower animals, why not one eye the pineal gland in man ?"

The importance of this "third eye" in Theosophy becomes apparent, as the student is instructed in the mysterious belief in "Karma", the Nemesis of the Esoteric Buddhist. As in Buddhism, the Theosophist believes in the three essentials: "Maya", or illusion; "Karma", or fate; and "Nirvana", the condition of rest, which is neither sleep nor death, but is the longed-for conclusion to all the chances and changes of Life. Coincident with this belief is that of "Reincarnation", by which each new life is but the entrance upon existence of a spiritual entity which has passed through many other lives, and whose conduct in each of these and in all of them is, in fact, its "Karma" self-created, the doom which it inaugurates and works out for itself — according as it is or is not in harmony with the Divine Will and the law of its own structure. Thus is heredity accounted for; thus reappearance of physical of moral likeness, sometimes generations apart; thus atavism and the recurrence of original types in new species.

Says an authority on this subject: "It is only the knowledge of the constant rebirths of one and the same individuality throughout the life cycle, the assurance that the same monads among whom are many of the gods themselves — have to pass through the cycle of necessity, rewarded or punished by such rebirth for the suffering endured or crimes committed in the former life; that these very monads are the same who are now among us — nay, ourselves perchance — it is only this doctrine that can explain to us the mysterious problem of good and evil and reconcile man to the terrible apparent injustice of life."

But it is observed that "Karma" is absolute justice, absolute impersonality, White expressed, in one sense, by the Nemesis of the Greeks, it leaves out of the question all idea of vengeance, and is rather the " Kismet " (fate) of the Turk; without its blind character, and with the peculiar significance in Buddhism that it is the creation, in a previous state of existence, of the being who is under its influence. Briefly, " Karma " is the effect of the sum of the past — upon the present
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To return to the connection with this potent influence of the third eye, the "eye of Siva", as it is designated, the following statement best elucidates it: — "The 'eye of Siva' did not become entirely atrophied before the close of the fourth root race" (there are said to be seven root races, and we are in the fifth), "when spirituality and all the divine powers and attributes of the deva man of the third had been made the handmaidens of the newly awakened physiological and psychic passions of the physical man, instead of the reverse, the eye lost its powers. But such was the law of evolution, and it was in strict accuracy no fall. The sin was not in using those newly-developed powers, but in misusing them; in making of the Tabernacle designed to contain a god the fane of every spiritual iniquity.

"And if we say sin, it is merely that everyone should understand our meaning; as the term 'Karma' would be the right one to use in this case, while the reader, who would feel perplexed at the term 'spiritual' instead of 'physical iniquity', is reminded of the fact that there can be no physical iniquity. The body is simply the irresponsible organ, the tool of the psychic, and not of the 'spiritual man'.

And not only did man lose the powers of the "eye of Siva" through his misuse of the splendid attributes conferred upon him, but he parted also with control over those chemical and physical as well as psychic forces, the possession of which made him the demi-god he is believed by Theosophists to have been. In this connection it is interesting to recall those works by eminent authors which have exhibited an imagination employed in the very direction of those supernatural forces with which Theosophy would endow the giant natures of remote ages. The late Lord Bulwer-Lytton, in his " A Strange Story", "The Coming Race," and "The Haunted and the Haunters, or the House and the Brain," has shown himself under the influence of an imagination akin to these theories. The whole range of the literature of demonology and witchcraft, of fairies, ghosts, and hobgoblins, of mythology and angelology, is but the record of man's intuitive, though vague, perception of a possible relationship of a possible hierarchy to superior beings.


THE HARMONY OF CREATION

"The universe", says the "Secret Doctrine", "is called, with everything in it, Maya, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a firefly to that of the sun, compared to the eternal immutability of the One, and the changelessness of that principle, the universe with its evanescent, ever-changing forms, must be, necessarily, in the mind of the philosopher, no better than a will-o-the-wisp. Yet the universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which arc as unreal as it is itself.

"Everything in the universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious — i.e. endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. We men must remember that because we do not perceive any signs — which we can recognise — of consciousness — say, in stones — we have no right to say that no consciousness exists there. There is no such thing as either 'dead' or 'blind' matter, as there is no 'blind' or 'unconscious' law.

"The universe is worked and guided from within outward. As above, so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm is the living witness to this universal law and to the mode of its action. We see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or mind. As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man's external body can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse, given through one of the three functions named; so with the external or manifested universe. The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who are 'messengers' in the sense that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic laws. They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence, and to call them all pure spirits without any of the earthly alloy 'which time is wont to prey upon' is only to indulge in poetical fancy. For each of these Beings either was or prepares to become, a man, if not in the present, then in a past or coming cycle They are perfected, when not incipient men, and differ morally from the terrestrial human beings on their higher (less material) spheres, only in that they are devoid of the feeling of personality and of the human emotional nature — two purely earthly characteristics."

Again, in regard to the doctrine of "Karma" : — "This is not superstition, least of all is it fatalism. The latter implies a blind course of some still blinder power, and man is a free agent during his stay on earth. He cannot escape his ruling destiny, but he has the choice of two paths that lead him in that direction, and he can reach the goal of misery — if such is decreed to him — either in the snowy white robes of the martyr or in the soiled garments of a volunteer in the iniquitous course; for there are external and internal conditions which affect the determination of our will upon our actions, and it is in our power to follow either of the two. Those who believe in 'Karma' have to believe in destiny, which, from birth to death, every man is weaving thread by thread around himself, as a spider does his cobweb; and this destiny is guided either by the heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us, or by our more intimate astral, or inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the embodied entity called man. Both these lead on the outward man, but one of them must prevail, and from the very beginning of the invisible affray the stern and implacable law of compensation steps in and takes its course, faithfully following the fluctuations. When the last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the network of his own doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made destiny. It then either fixes him like the inert shell against the immovable rock, or carries him away like a feather in a whirlwind, raised by his own actions, and this is 'Karma' ".

In this connection it is not uninteresting to refer to something from Thomas Carlyle, extracted from "Sartor Resartus" : —" So that this so solid-seeming world, after all, were but an air image, our me the only reality, and nature, with its thousandfold production and destruction, but the reflex of our own inward force, the 'phantasy of our dream,' or what the earth spirit in ' Faust' names it — the living visible garment of God :

In being's flood, in action's storm,
I walk and work, above, beneath;
Work and weave in endless motion !
Birth and death,
An infinite ocean;
A seizing and giving
The fire of the living:
'Tis thus at the roaring loom of time I ply,
And weave for God the garment thou seest Him by.

"An occultist or a philosopher will not speak of the goodness or cruelty of Providence; but, identifying it with Karma -Nemesis, he will teach that, nevertheless, it guards the good and watches over them in this as in future lives, and that it punishes the evil-doer — aye, even to his seventh re-birth; so long, in short, as the effect of his having thrown into perturbation even the smallest atom in the infinite world of harmony has not been finally readjusted. For the only decree of Karma - an eternal and immutable decree — is absolute harmony in the world of matter as it is in the world of spirit. It is not, therefore, Karma who rewards or punishes, but it is we who reward and punish ourselves, according to whether we work with, through, and along with Nature, abiding by the laws on which that harmony depends, or break them".


SUBMERGED CONTINENTS

Reference has been made to the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis. There is, perhaps, no other event hinted at in history or tradition so startling and terrible as is considered in the slight information afforded concerning the catastrophes which are supposed to have resulted in the destruction, many thousands of years ago, of vast tracks of thickly populated territory, with great cities, whose people conducted an enormous commerce, and whose elevation in civilization has been stated to be far more lofty than anything that it known to the human race of history. Occult teaching has the following terse statement in regard to these phenomena, cited from one of the secret writings heretofore quoted in the present paper:—

"When the wheel runs at the usual rate, its extremities (the poles) agree with its middle circle (the equator); when it runs slower and tilts in every direction, there is a great disturbance on the face of the earth. The waters flow toward the two ends, and new lands arise in the middle belt, while those at the ends are subject to submersion."

According to similar sources of information, Lemuria was a territory which began at the foot of the Himalayas, where it bordered on an inland sea, now occupied by Thibet, Mongolia, and the great desert of Gobi. It stretched south across Southern India, Ceylon and Sumatra, embraced Madagascar on its right hand and Australia on its left, and extended to within a few degrees of the Antarctic circle and far into the Pacific Ocean — in fact, beyond Easter Island, which is believed to have been part of it.

Easter Island, by the way (latitude 27 deg. 20 min. south, longitude, 109 deg. 30 min. west), rises 1,200 feet out of the water, is thirty miles in circumference, and is peopled by about two thousand wretched savages. Yet on this insignificant and isolated point in the Pacific are to be found multitudes of stone statues, some of them of colossal size, standing on long platforms of Cyclopean masonry. The present inhabitants, whose language is radically the same as that of Tahiti have no tradition of the race that made them. Says " Chambers' Cyclopedia" : —"The existence of these sculptures is thought to strengthen the conclusion arrived at on other grounds, that the Polynesian Islands are relics of a submerged continent".

Still another submerged continent included Greenland, and what is now Behring Straits on one side, and on the other a tract extending from Spitzbergen to the Straits of Dover. This is believed to have been raised simultaneously with the disappearance of Lemuria, presumably destroyed by earthquakes and volcanic fires.

But the instance most frequently alluded to in literature as illustrating the possible periodical recurrence of catastrophes resulting in the disappearance and reappearance of continents on the face of the earth is found in the story of the lost continent of Atlantis. As to this phenomenon all the records have been searched and the evidences collected in "Atlantis, the Antediluvian World", a work by Ignatius Donnelly, to which the reader is referred for fuller information. In the space allowed here it is only possible to give the statement of Plato on the subject, which has originated whatever study has been made in this direction as being the only authoritative assertion regarding it. Plato's account of it is found in the "Timaeus", and is briefly to this effect: —

Solon, the Greek lawgiver, and one of the "Seven Wise Men" (638 B.C. ), in the latter years of his life, traveled much abroad, and particularly in Egypt. At Sais, the Egyptian capital under Amasis, was a temple in Neith or Isis, in which was the celebrated inscription, " I am past, present and future; no one has lifted my veil; the fruit I have brought forth is the sun." A priest of this temple told Solon that in their sacred records was recorded the history of a mighty people which had occupied a vast continent extending west from the pillars of Hercules (at the entrance to the Mediterranean), and which "was larger than Libya and Asia put together." (Libya was all of Africa except Egypt.) Here a powerful league of kings held sway, and they had subjugated all of Libya to Egypt and a great part of Europe. Subsequently, he said, this entire continent had, through violent earthquakes and deluges, been plunged beneath the sea and entirely disappeared. The priest further said to Solon: "You are all youths in intelligence, for you hold no ancient opinions derived from remote tradition, or any system of discipline that can boast of a hoary old age — and the cause of this is the multitude and variety of destruction that have been and will be undergone by the human race, the greater indeed arising from fire and water, others of less importance from ten thousand other contingencies. The story, for instance, that is current among you, that Phaeton, the offspring of the Sun, once attempting to drive his father's chariot, and not being able to keep the track observed by his parent, burnt up the surface of the earth, and perished himself, blasted by lightning, is generally regarded as fabulous, but in point of fact it refers to a declination (or parallax) of the heavenly bodies revolving round the earth, and indicates that at certain long intervals of time the earth's surface is destroyed by mighty fires. When this occurs, then those who dwell either on mountains or in lofty and dry places perish in greater numbers than those dwelling near rivers or on the seashore, whereas to us the Nile is not only our safeguard from all other troubles, but liberates and preserves us also from this in particular; and, again, when the gods, to purify the earth, deluge its surface with water, then the herdsmen and shepherds on the mountains are preserved in safety, while the inhabitants of your cities are hurried away to the sea by the impetuosity of the rivers. In this our country, on the other hand, the waters neither then fell nor ever have fallen from above upon the plains, but, on the contrary, are naturally driven upward from the earth's interior, and to these causes it is owing that the most ancient things are said to be here preserved."

The importance of this alleged record of the disaster to Atlantis (as this submerged continent has been called) lies in the fact that it apparently sustains the belief of the Theosophists, that the present race of men descends from one much higher in power and civilization; while it also illustrates and accredits their oft-repeated assertion of the existence of records of the most remote periods in the far East. And in this connection it is interesting to refer to the Scriptures (Luke, xvii. 26, etc.): =

"And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man.

"They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Nor entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.


"Even thus shall it be in the clay when the Son of man is revealed.

"In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away, and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back," etc. (And also Luke xxi 25, etc.) :

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

"Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."


Here it may be observed that the Theosophists are firm believers in the concealed records alleged to exist in the measurements of the Pyramid of Ghizeh (or Cheops), which has become the foundation of a cult of its own. It is held by pyramid students that its measurements are closely symbolical of the relations of the planets, the earth's mean distance from the sun, and other important scientific facts. It is curious that this pyramid, with all its occult teachings, should have been placed in a spot, as the priest of Isis informed Solon, peculiar in its exemption from the conflagrations and deluges which periodically destroy such a large portion of the earth's surface. This is the more significant that the very word "pyramid" comes from a root which, both in Egyptian and Greek, means fire, while its position on the banks of the Nile (noted for its annual flood or overflow) would suggest water. It might be, therefore, that the true meaning of this monument, whose purpose has so long baffled Egyptologists, was an intimation of cataclysms and conflagrations at periods — possibly set forth in the hidden numbers of its own measurement.

Geologists, besides to a certain extent conceding the possible existence and submergence of the Continent of Atlantis, admit the fact (as heretofore stated) that Scandinavia and the British Islands were once united to the mainland, the Straits of Dover being a comparatively recent break. So, also, the shallow North Sea and the passages between Norway and Sweden and Denmark were once a part of the Continent. Now, one of the most interesting incidents known to natural history points to the existence of submerged land then connected with Scandinavia, and also affords one of the most astonishing cases of atavism (inherited tendency) ever enumerated.

This incident is the migration of the lemming, or " Norway rat".

Once in ten years myriads of these little animals congregate together from throughout Norway and proceed from north-east to south-west in a migration which becomes absolutely formidable in its numbers. Whatever their purpose, their tendency is always towards the Atlantic Ocean, and to reach that destination they swim rivers, encounter all conceivable obstacles, turn not aside for any danger or interruption, and when at last they have reached the coast, plunge into the ocean and perish miserably.

Their number is said to be millions. They start all together, as by a preconcerted arrangement, and they never stop — and no power has been able to make them stop — until the end. As to this wonderful phenomenon an authority upon the " Secret Doctrine" says: — "At certain periods, we learn, multitudes of these animals swim to sea and perish. Coining, as they do, from all parts of Norway, the powerful instinct which survives throughout ages as an inheritance from their progenitors, impels them to seek a continent once existing, but now submerged beneath the ocean, and to court a watery grave."


THE POWERS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS

The Theosophists believe that Atlantis and the other submerged lands of the earth have been engulfed, not once, but many times. They believe (so informed by the traditions and ancient records of the East) that millions of years ago, when man was not as we know him, the then existing Atlantis was peopled by a race of sorcerers who employed the powers of darkness in the pursuit of evil, and who were at length destroyed off the face of the earth. Says the authority: — " What was the religion of the third and fourth races (' it was the fourth race only which was the first completely human species, however much larger in size than we are now'). In the common acceptation of the term, neither the Lemurians nor yet their progeny, the lemuro-Atlanteans, had any, as they knew no dogma nor had they to believe on faith. No sooner had the mental eye of man been open to understanding, than the Third Race felt itself one with the ever present as the ever to be unknown and invisible All, the One Universal Deity. Endowed with divine powers and feeling in himself his inner God, each felt he was a Man God in his nature though an animal in his physical Self. The struggle between the two began from the very day they tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Wisdom; a struggle for life between the spiritual and the psychic, the psychic and the physical. Those who conquered the lower principles by obtaining mastery over the body joined the 'Sons of Light' Those who fell victims to their lower natures became the slaves of Matter. From 'Sons of Light and Wisdom' they ended by becoming the 'Sons of Darkness'. They had fallen in the battle of mortal life with Life immortal, and all those so fallen became the seed of the future generations of Atlanteans."

Holding as they do that the Esoteric meaning of the Bible bears reference, not to time, but to eternity, the Theosophists point, for indorsement of this position, to such passages as this (Ephesians, vi. 12) :—

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

But the "Secret Doctrine" holds also that the supernatural powers which were controlled by all beings in the early ages of creation, and which were distorted and turned to sinful uses in those of the fallen creatures referred to above, are still accessible to those who hold the keys to their employment. And this, they claim, is the case with the adepts of their faith, the Yogis, Arhats, and Mahatmas, as they are termed, who are the connecting link , between the human nature of our time and those superhumanly endowed beings who preceded humanity. They believe in "Kriyasakti", " the mysterious power of thought which enables it to produce external, perceptible, phenomenal results by its own inherent energy. The ancients held that any idea will manifest itself externally it one's attention (and will) is deeply concentrated upon it; similarly, an intense volition will be followed by the desired result. A Yogi generally performs his wonders by means of Itchasakti (will power) and Kriyasakti. The reader will here be reminded of Schopenhauer's demonstration of "The World as Will and Idea," though Schopenhauer and Von Hartmann and the whole pessimistic school are opposed by the Theosophists.

As influences suggestive of the power just named, the mind recalls at once intuition, prevision, and premonition (the myth of Prometheus), mind reading, psychology, animal magnetism, or "Mesmerism", hypnotism and other faculties or mental forces, which have at various times occupied the attention of communities, as evincing the capacity to produce abnormal phenomena by an effort of the will, combined with various methods of manipulation. The material and semi-material phenomena, alleged to have been produced by Spiritualism, for instance, are all (when genuine) — say the Theosophists — brought about by the employment of means well known to their "Masters" and "Mahatmas". That these phenomena are copied and reproduced by mere jugglery or sleight of hand, in many instances, does not in the least, say they, impugn the veracity or the occult knowledge of the professors of the "Secret Doctrine". Certainly it is a fact that the tendency to copy or counterfeit any good or attractive thing is as old as Creation itself. Nature is a marvel to the human intelligence in its aptitude at precisely this art. So that the similarities to be traced between man and the lower animals, and between natural and artificial objects — where the latter are not copies of the former — are world-wide in occurrence. And this which occurs in Nature naturally is brought about by man artificially, and for the purpose of deception. So that, say the Theosophists, there is no good reason for doubting the possibility or the fact of the production of so-called supernatural phenomena by natural means, because corrupt imitations and counterfeits of them are produced by artificial means.

Thus the Spiritualists complain that they are under a cloud because of the tricks of false "mediums" who perform pretended miracles for money. The celebrated "cabinet trick" of the Spiritualists and their imitators, the phenomena of "impersonation" and "materialization", so often represented in bad counterfeits, and as often publicly exposed, the extraordinary " Ievitation act " of Daniel Douglass Home, are all alleged to be within the actual powers of the Mahatmas and Arhats of India and Thibet. The legitimate work of the Indian jugglers is all claimed to be performed through their knowledge of occult forces, gained through lives of asceticism. Such are the basket and snow trick, the " mysterious disappearance", the "miraculous pear tree", and finally the great "burial" act, which has been tried and attested hundreds of times in India, before witnesses innumerable. In India, too, have been performed, in times past, the most difficult and dangerous operations in surgery under the influence and through the power of animal magnetism. And not in India alone, but in England and in this country, and even in the city of New York, witnesses are not wanting to give their testimony to miraculous performances and occult productions — quite equal in mystery and wonder to any heretofore mentioned.

To recapitulate: — Theosophy asserts the age of man and his human and semi-human and demi-god ancestry, in this world, to be many millions of years. It alleges that his remote ancestry had control of the hidden powers of Nature, and that this control, being lost, through misuse, to succeeding generations, is now held only by certain favoured ones, whose lives have been chaste and whose time has been passed in study of the occult.

Theosophy declares that all religions arc alike in their essence and foundation, but denies the anthropomorphic God of Christianity, accepting, however, much of the Scriptures as the esoteric wisdom of the "Secret Doctrine". It adopts the theory of periodical catastrophes — changing the face of the world and destroying entire races of men. It declares the present race to be in its decadency, through the fall into materialism, and intimates that the next periodical cataclysm or conflagration is near at hand. It holds to the belief in the doctrine of metempsychosis to the extent of assuming frequent reincarnation to be a part of the life of man. It believes in " Karma" or abstract retributive justice, and that for the operation of this law man is himself responsible, being, in fact, his own "Nemesis". Theosophy believes in the necessity for good and evil; in free will so far as the details of this life is concerned, and in the appearance, from time to time, of "Avatars", or redeemers — of which Gautama Buddha was one and Christ Jesus another.

The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 —

1. To form the nucleus of a universal brotherhood of man, without distinction of race, colour, sex, or creed.

2. To promote the study of Aryan and other Eastern literatures, regions, and sciences.

3. A third object — pursued only by a portion of the members of the society — is to investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the psychical powers of man.

The " Theosophical Society" has headquarters in Madras, London, and New York.


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