|OUTLINE OF THEOSOPHICAL TEACHINGS
|THE CONSTITUTION OF MAN
|GROWTH THROUGH MANY LIVES
|DEATH AND SLEEP
|THE LAW OF KARMA
|THE PATH TO PERFECTION
|PSYCHIC EXPERIENCE AND SPIRITUAL POWERS
|THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY AND ITS WORK
THE THREE OBJECTS OF THE SOCIETY,
ITS AIMS AND THE WORK OF MEMBERS
|READING LISTS AND QUESTIONS
A Study and Training Committee was appointed by the National Council of The Theosophical Society in England in 1946, and amongst activities it prepared an elementary study course in Theosophy for new members, which was circulated to them in single lessons. The series has been so well received that it is now being issued in book form.
The members of the committee were the General Secretary, ex officio, Mrs. A.L.Berry, Mr. W.V.Slater, Miss C.G.Trew and Mrs. Adelaide Gardner who co-ordinated the material and later redrafted it for publication.
Doris Groves, General Secretary
The Theosophical Society in England.
London, June 1948
teachings known as Theosophy in our day have been known
by other names and have existed from prehistoric times. They
are sometimes called the 'mystery tradition', since they
formed the background for instruction given in many of the
mystery schools of the past. It is stated that originally
they were revealed to prehistoric races by superhuman teachers,
and that since then they have been guarded by trained students
who not only believed in the tradition but also were able
to verify parts of it, as they developed their higher human
faculties. The validity of the traditional teachings is thus
claimed to rest not only on an authoritative revelation,
in forgotten times, but likewise, as in the case of many
scientific statements, on repeated tests and verifications
by generations of trained investigators. Madame Blavatsky
puts the matter thus:
'This assertion (that there is life in other planets than the earth) is made on the cumulative testimony of endless series of Seers who have testified to this fact. Their spiritual visions, real explorations by, and through, physical and spiritual senses untrammelled by blind flesh, were systematically checked and compared one with the other, and their [Page 2] nature sifted. All that was not corroborated by unanimous and collective experience was rejected, while that only was recorded as established truth which, in various ages, under different climes, and throughout an untold series of incessant observations, was found to agree and receive constantly further corroboration.
The methods used by our scholars and students of the psycho-spiritual sciences do not differ from those of students of the natural and physical sciences. Only our fields of research are on two different planes, and our (Theosophical) instruments are made by no human hands, for which reason, perchance, they are only the more reliable. [ Key to Theosophy]
The Theosophical tradition presents a vast scheme of physical and spiritual evolution, taking place within our solar system; explains man's composite nature and his place in the universe; and gives instructions that, if followed, enable human beings to evolve latent spiritual faculties and so to fulfil their human task more effectively. A brief outline will first be given with fuller particulars in following chapters. The detail will be better understood if viewed in relation to the whole, for the teachings are not isolated ideas; each forms a logical part of a general theory concerning the nature and purpose of our solar system.
The universe is viewed as a living and organic whole, infused in every part by a vitalising spiritual Principle, usually called the Divine Life, or the one Life. Every being and every form has its ultimate and common root in this one spiritual Essence.
In manifestation, as the First Cause, this Life or Essence [Page 3] polarizes. The result is a duality that gives rise to all the 'pairs of opposites' which abound in the universe: attraction and repulsion, spirit and matter, good and evil, light and shadow, sound and silence, male and female, etc. Wherever found these pairs are aspects of the One, which is dual when in manifestation. There is also, and inevitably, a third or balancing factor, the field of interaction between the opposites. It is through this third factor that the apparent disharmony of the opposing pairs is continually resolved. These three aspects of the One can be found everywhere in nature, at all levels, and they are recognized as the Trinity of many religious faiths.
After polarization, the One becomes the many, and at once gives birth to hosts of divine Intelligences, variously called angelic orders, hierarchies, devas. These subtle intelligences carry out the will of the One automatically, without question, and through their joyous co-operation . the worlds and all the kingdoms of nature are shaped.
There are states of matter other than the physical, and of a subtler nature than the world of our physical senses. As far as the human mind can penetrate, matter of some sort is said to exist, though it is so subtle in its rarer conditions that it responds to the impulses not only of feeling and of thought but of will and of the purest condition of being. However tenuous, it is still matter. The first work of the Intelligences, hierarchies and devas is to bring into being the substance of all levels of experience. Then the earlier kingdoms of physical nature — mineral, vegetable and animal — grow under the care of these same unseen helpers, who continue to exist in the subtler worlds at all [Page 4] levels, building form after form, through which Life can play with great diversity.
The method of growth that arises from the interplay of Life with its many forms is both progressive and cyclic. Life uses denser and denser forms until the physical world is produced. Life then repeatedly expresses itself in physical forms, which grow more sensitized by such use. Thus by recurring experiment, with the help of the Intelligences, hierarchies and devas, more responsive forms are evoked until, through refinement, the bodies at last permit the subtle spiritual Essence to remain conscious, even when clothed in a dense physical form.
It is in the animal kingdom that the mechanism of sensory experience is developed, and then a mere germ of conscious thought at the mental level is linked to an animal brain. After that the animal mind can begin to grow at the mental level, for the brain provides the necessary link between the mental world and physical sensory experience. When the mental link grows stronger and more responsive, the divine nature can be still more fully expressed in a physical form. At a suitable moment there flashes into the receptive structure of the animal mind a ray of Creative Intelligence from the highest level of Life itself. This brings to birth, at the mental level, a human individual, who is thereafter capable of self-awareness and of self-direction. A human being is thus a spiritual entity, linking the highest spirit with the material world. Although the ordinary man or woman is usually unaware of the fact, the centre of individual consciousness lies in the spiritual world beyond the range of ordinary thought. The ray or [Page 5] spark of the Divine Life that sustains each individualized spiritual centre, likewise endows each human being with latent powers — the power of choice, the gift of insight, and a direct, though deeply hidden contact with the Divine Life itself.
Humanity is thus of a different order of beings from the earlier kingdoms, for man is capable of conscious thought and of initiative. During a long period of further evolution the human individual uses the method employed by the unindividualized Life — repeated incarnation in a physical form, for the sake of continually extending experience. The task ahead is to bring down into the physical brain some measure of spiritual awareness, so that man may express himself as spirit while using a fully developed physical body. To achieve this, the possibilities of the body must first be evoked and then refined, in order safely to release within it the flashing light of spiritual power and vision.
The human kingdom, our varied and scattered humanity, is a fuller expression of Life than any of the younger kingdoms, but it evokes its great potentialities slowly. Each individual has to reincarnate many times. He meets old friends and old enemies, and faces the results of past wisdom and past mistakes, under the law of equal action and reaction. When applied to human life this is called the law of justice, or the law of karma. Sooner or later the action of this law brings back to every man, by natural reaction, the exact result of his thought, his emotion and his actions. As human beings individually become more intelligent and more sensitive they can understand [Page 6] the working of this and other laws, and can develop greater self-control in order to co-operate with nature. In the end each will 'conquer nature through obedience' to her unchanging law. He is then able to comprehend at last the working of divine law at all levels, and to become a voluntary co-worker with the one Life, of which each is a part. Man can then know the bliss and the completeness of that Life. Achieving this, he becomes a superman, and enters a higher natural order of superhuman quality.
Perfected men exist who have actually attained this goal. Some have chosen to remain with humanity as its teachers, while others have joined the higher orders of invisible workers.
It is claimed by those who have studied the theosophical teaching deeply that the evolutionary scheme outlined here in no way conflicts with deeper scientific knowledge, but on the contrary that it illumines points that are still mysterious to the scientists and so far unfathomed by orthodox scientific investigation.
Methods of training exist by which those eager to test the validity of the teachings may fit themselves to do so, provided that they are also eager to assist the evolution of their fellows. The training makes possible a short cut across the long and winding pathway of human evolution, and has been called the narrow way, and the path of holiness.
It involves the deliberate disciplining of body, emotion and mind, so that these may more fully reflect the life of the spirit and so carry out the will of the One on earth as it is done in the unseen by the hidden Intelligences.
Instruction concerning the path of self-training can be [Page 7] found in many religions and under many forms. In the East it is called raja yoga, the kingly discipline. Theosophy leads its students to follow this way as an expression of man's spiritual brotherhood. The path has its very real dangers but those who travel it are well protected if they use all they learn for the service of their fellows.
the theory of reincarnation provides a satisfactory explanation
of many human problems, it is not altogether simple.
It needs, as a background, some understanding of man's
nature and constitution.
In the long course of evolution the physical form develops the degree of perfection shown in the higher animals. These have a complicated system of physical organs, highly sensitized during the animal phase of existence, and very closely linked with automatic emotional reactions of fear, sexual excitement, care of offspring, and so on. The higher animals have also a cerebro-spinal nervous system, alert senses, and the simple animal brain, all of which make possible clear sense perceptions and rudimentary thought, such as is expressed in acts of self-preservation, defence of the young, stalking quarry, and the like. All this animal equipment is most carefully built up by the devas and unseen workers not only at the physical level but also at the levels of mental and of emotional matter with which this organism is so closely linked. The invisible workers have charge of all such automatic or unconscious growth — and this means all the growth that takes place in the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. Nearly [Page 9] all animal experience takes place at the instinctual level, not by reason or by will power; the processes go on without choice or thought in an inevitable sequence.
It is this animal equipment that later becomes man's inheritance. It is three-fold, though the third element is certainly embryonic. There is the physical body, with its vital sheath, and all that makes for health or, when disturbed, for disease. Then there is the range of experience known as desire and emotion, with its appropriate nervous, vital and emotional mechanisms. These are fairly simple in the animal, but usually mixed with many thought images in the human being. With difficulty the animal achieves a thought. For example by training it can be made to relate a command to an action. A normal human being can do this very quickly. This is man's third level of awareness and therefore of conscious experience, where objects and ideas can be consciously observed and related to each other, Man, for himself, and in his own private mind, can build up pictures of the world as it appears to him.
A human being is 'born' when a ray of Divine Life flashes into a prepared animal mind (of course at the mental level), the animal having been stimulated to its highest pitch by some intense experience. The marriage of a Divine Spark to an animal mind that has a well-established connection with a physical brain and the senses, makes self-awareness possible. It also endows the newly-formed human soul with latent creative powers, as well as with the capacity for self-direction. But the human soul thus formed experiences within itself the war within its members' of which St. Paul and other great spiritual teachers before [Page 10] and after him have spoken. The human spirit, with its potential gifts of a divine order, is linked to the whole of the animal inheritance, and this naturally causes the 'war'. It is the task of the human being to bring under the control of the spirit the bodies which humanity inherits from the younger kingdoms, and still employs, although they have been deeply altered by the use our humanity has made of them. [The statements made here must be considered as a rough outline only, and will be modified after deeper study. The scheme of evolution is not a cut and dried affair, but has many variations and many overlapping conditions. For example, the forms used by the mammalia on our earth are those discarded by the earliest humanity on our globe, and seized upon eagerly by the uprushing life of the next lower kingdom. (The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky. Third Edition, Vol. 2, page 190.) Yet the statement made in the text is true in relation to the actual process of individualization, the point of change from the animal to the human consciousness. ]
The subordination of the animal instincts and nature to the spirit, using the human form, is a long task. The work of the angelic hosts has been done well, and the bodies are very elaborate and interesting. For a long time man is lost in his delight in them, and learns many useful lessons through the close identification of his purely human consciousness with sensation, feeling and thinking. In time, however, he tires of this and seeks to uncover the hidden powers of the spirit.
Just as the animal nature is triple — body, feelings and thought — so is the spirit triple in its powers. Latent in each human being lies the power of abstract and creative thought, the power that can envisage an ideal and create its image in the physical world. The spirit is also gifted [Page 11] with an awareness of the underlying unity of the Life, expressed in compassion for all beings, sensed as part of the one Life that is the common source of all. Furthermore, the spirit has the power of will, a deep and potent gift. Will enables a man to do difficult things, which in the accomplishment enrich his experience, because he has to evoke the action of his spiritual nature to carry them through.
Man's nature is that of a three-fold spirit, thrice clothed in the material of thought, feeling and action, with bodies that are meant to do the bidding of the spirit, but that need training for this purpose by the individual who uses them.
Certain terms are used in many theosophical books which are of great value to a serious student of these teachings. For example, there are Sanskrit nouns for which there is no exact equivalent in English. These words have clear and definite meanings. They convey precise conceptions to the reader or hearer, once they have been learnt and their applications understood. This makes it possible for theosophists all over the world to understand each other immediately when discussing these subjects. For example, the divine spark, or spirit in man, is known as the monad or the jiva; the three-fold higher self of will, wisdom-compassion and insight as atma-buddhi-manas, sometimes likewise termed the ego, and sometimes the soul; and the triad of objective mind, emotions and physical body is called the personality.
Every school of thought has its own terminology of this nature, for each uses special words to indicate special teachings. Among theosophical students, however, there [Page 12] is no dogma, no rigid standard by which an interpretation may be said to be 'right' or 'wrong'. Sometimes there appears to be a contradictory use of terms, and apparently contradictory statements have been made by very wise people. From the beginning it is advisable to get used to observing such differences in the use of words. After noting the problem, one may take what is helpful from any source and leave obscure passages, or things one 'does not like', to be sorted out more clearly later. [Page 13]
Man, the real human being, is a spiritual entity with latent
spiritual powers, who repeatedly incarnates in human form
on earth in order to unfold those powers in full waking consciousness
at the physical level of experience. During the long ages
necessary for this process, many bodies are taken and discarded.
Intervals between incarnations are employed in assimilating
experience gained while using the physical form.
When the time comes to take a new physical body the attention of the spiritual man turns outward. The re-focusing of his attention towards the worlds of ordinary human life sets into vibration his individual notes, the chord of his personal life. This chord in turn attracts familiar material — mental, emotional and physical — material fit to express the powers and habits developed in the past. A mental form takes shape, familiar emotional currents flow through it. The physical body is actually built by angel helpers, or devas, working through the parents, but the ego of the child is present before birth, attracting suitable material by his presence and interest. In this trio — child, parents and devas — it is the unseen workers who select from the parents and from the environment [Page 14] the material necessary to express the nature of the human being about to be born, material that will also teach him the lesson he most needs to learn. In doing this, they work under the law of karma, being permitted to use only those potentialities or factors which that particular entity has attached to himself in his past lives. The new body is handicapped by lack of certain qualities, or gifted in other directions, according to past behaviour and its possibilities 'to date'. It is well known that children of the same parents are surprisingly different. Inequalities of mental power in members of the same race, and especially of the same family, as also the possession of widely divergent artistic or social gifts, may be understood through the study of the inner laws governing human evolution.
The ego, or 'I', recapitulates its past as the physical body grows up. As the inner bodies of feeling and thought slowly mature, the 'I' takes charge of each in succession. Seven, fourteen and twenty-one are the average ages at which the physical, emotional and mental vestures are sufficiently developed for the Self to take charge of them. But children differ very widely indeed in the rate at which they 'grow up', or become able to take reasonable charge of their own lives. Some people with adult bodies are intellectually immature, children as it were. They have not incarnated often enough to be able to handle all their vestures with skill. They remain, therefore, younger members of the human family and should not have too much responsibility thrust on them.
Karma, the law of equal action and reaction, holds good in human experience as it does in physical science. Under [Page 15] this law, as each human being comes back to earth again he meets the results of the past, the reactions of earlier lives. The law works at all levels of experience: habits of thought build character; desires create opportunities for satisfaction; actions change environment. Each life brings its special opportunities, and as these are used or missed the spiritual man expresses more or less of his real Self. (See Chapter 5)
At death the physical body falls away and the attention of the soul is focused for a while at the emotional level and then in the mental world. During this time it slowly assimilates the experiences of the life just ended, until once more its personal powers are stored up in a condition somewhat like that of a seed in winter time, when the whole life of a plant lies latent in a tiny particle. (See Chapter 4)
For a while the individual rests, once more the true self, a spiritual being. Then another incarnation cycle is begun, in order to learn more about the laws of nature and the use of human and spiritual powers. In certain eastern scriptures it is said that the soul incarnates 'for the sake of dissipating its ignorance'.
In the world today there are people at all stages of development, as educationalists and psychologists have proved. The theory of reincarnation explains this, even while it emphasises the importance of each person having the best opportunities possible for self-development.
Primitive peoples need conditions that keep the senses active and awaken capacities for sustained effort, good [Page 16] judgment, and a sense of responsibility for others. Agricultural life is therefore normal for them, and for all others in whom the more complicated mental processes are still un-aroused. Such people live very near to the animal consciousness, with a rich and native instinct concerning natural phenomena. More than half the population of the world is still at this stage of development, though the proportions vary in different countries, and also as between East and West. After many incarnations of this type, reasoning, as contrasted with instinctual thought, develops more fully and then needs stimulus of a different kind. All honest forms of industry, business and trade give suitable opportunities for rapid growth at this stage — a stage much in evidence in the West at the present period of the world's history. The objective mind, dealing with concrete matters, is stimulated by that type of civilization, but values are likely to be over-materialistic, unless there is inspired spiritual leadership.
After the growth of the objective mind in the individual, and in the race, the subtler powers of the mind unfold and the mental vesture itself comes under the control of the spiritual man. Men and women who have their higher mental faculties aroused are able to understand abstract principles, to estimate even personal matters with some degree of impersonality, and to comprehend something of the general trends underlying national, religious and racial differences. Obviously these are the people best equipped to govern, to practice law, medicine and the other professions. Their capacity to take a wider view than the merely personal makes them the ideal public servants. [Page 17]
Because of the tendency of each individual to recapitulate all that has happened before, the richer powers of abstract thought and of the purer forms of reasoning do not usually appear until the later years. In less developed persons they do not appear at all. An active minority of our human race has now awakened the higher mental faculties, so there is some hope of having a less chaotic world.
In the last stage of growth, after many human lives, the spirit dominates the whole personality. Man then becomes super-man and leaves the human kingdom, having learned its human lessons. The perfecting of human consciousness is the reason for rebirth again and again on earth. The great Teachers of humanity, such as Gautama the Buddha, Sri Krishna, and Jesus the Christ, were and are such perfected human beings, in truth our elder brothers. Their way of life and the powers they use are beyond our present comprehension, although we can study the way they travelled, the path of holiness that leads to the perfecting of human nature. [Page 18]
In the cycle of human reincarnation the long period between
lives is an essential element, for important processes of change
and assimilation take place between incarnations. All the great
religions have some teaching concerning life after death, although
it is often vague, and sometimes confused or misleading.
At the beginning of each incarnation period, as the soul turns its attention earthwards again, material for the mental form is assembled first, the emotional life is then woven into that, and finally the physical embryo develops and is gradually taken over, after birth, by the human spirit. At death this process is reversed: the physical vesture is discarded first, then the emotional life fades, and after that the mental, the human spirit returning at the end of each cycle to its pure condition as a spiritual entity. It is during the successive dropping away of the personal vestures that the experience enjoyed through the possession of each of them in the life just finished is gradually assimilated and becomes part of the total experience of the Self.
Immediately after the death of the physical body there is usually a period of unconsciousness, long or short according [Page 19] to individual character, experience, and mode of death. To understand the change that takes place during this pause, it is necessary to examine the relationship of human consciousness to the physical body during waking life.
Throughout incarnation the physical body provides the spiritual man with a central focus, on which the other personal vestures are dependent for their most intense experience. In younger souls, without a clear mentality, it gives them their sense of separateness and of coherence. The emotional nature is linked to the physical body chiefly through the sympathetic nervous system; the mind is linked to it through the brain and the central nervous system. Even when a human being is asleep and his consciousness is no longer working through the cells of the physical brain, a vital link between the soul and the physical form always remains, giving a good physical anchorage to the soul in its 'sleeping' condition. This is needed to enable the man to wake up again in the physical world with full memory of his previous waking experience in that body. When that vital link is broken, the physical body dies.
Sleep and death are alike and yet different. When we fall asleep we literally slip out of the physical vesture and live in the soul vesture (kama-manas), a world of vivid images and confused thought and feeling, as the analysis of dreams has shown. The scientific study of dreams has proved that people remain vaguely conscious when asleep. Clairvoyant investigators state that they usually remain just outside the physical body. It is quite possible for one who is asleep to use the emotional-mental (kama-manasic) vesture in [Page 20] much the same way as he uses the physical body when awake, but he is not at all likely to handle it so expertly. He is not accustomed to dealing directly with thought and feeling in an objective manner, so his dreams are confused and vague; and if frightened he will rush back along the vital link, waking the physical brain with a sense of shock.
When the physical body dies, the vital link is severed. Then, during the pause after death, the forces of the subtler worlds — over which most people have as yet no control — assert themselves. The material of the emotional and mental vestures tends to rearrange itself according to its own nature, that is in layers, with the densest and most resistant material on the outside. The soul is just the same soul as it was during the earth life, but when the readjustment of the material of the personal bodies has taken place after death, the focus of attention is strictly limited; at any given time the person can only experience the contacts of the layer that is outermost. This happens because he has lost the clear control of attention that comes through the possession of the physical senses and brain, and has not yet gained full control of his emotions and his mind, with which he is now directly concerned in the after death state.
Living in one layer of the emotional nature at a time may limit experience, but it sharpens its focus. The result at times can be painful. Gross appetites that have been too freely indulged during earth life make a person hungry for further satisfaction, but now he is without the physical means of satisfying this craving. He can, and presumably does, promptly build vivid counterparts of his pleasures from the [Page 21] responsive material of the inner worlds, but they lack the quality inherent in the physical form that satisfied his craving. From such experiences arise the stories of the hells, of the plates of food that look luscious but are tasteless, of images that vanish when touched, and so on, which are current in all descriptions of the after life.
After death most people wake up in a very ordinary world of their own making which reflects their favourite environment, or the things they have very much feared! Although it arises entirely from their own experience, from their own thought-feeling images, such an environment can appear very real indeed. All experiences of the afterlife are creations of the individual himself, who meets what he has built within his own mental-emotional world — his desires, fears, loves and thoughts of others, plans and hopes. Thus he finds himself happy or suffering according to his temperament. After death each person meets himself, as in the just-past earth-life he shaped himself to be, and has to live with that creation until the vesture that expresses it is worn out through lack of further interest, or through normal disintegration. This process is long or short, according to the knowledge, purity, and general development of the person concerned.
It is not, however, necessary for every human being automatically to go through the various purgatorial stages, although the great majority continue to do so. If in waking consciousness, while on earth, a man becomes aware of his thought and of his emotional reactions and, while embodied, establishes conscious control over them from the level of the individual spirit, the power of control remains both in [Page 22] sleep and after death. As this control is a spiritual power, it can be used either in or out of the physical body, although it is more difficult to use it when the clear focus provided by a well-trained physical body drops away at death. A person who had developed this power, even while still embodied would be able to look about him when he was 'asleep'. He could then very probably see what was going on in the inner worlds, and even make contacts with the so-called dead. But genuine communication with those on the other side is not always easy; there are many possibilities of mistaken identity and self-deception. The subject will be mentioned again in Chapter 8, when psychic faculties are discussed.
All descriptions of the after-life given by clairvoyants and by tradition agree that there is a progressive withdrawal from the past, ending in a period of bliss, or heaven. During this period each enjoys whatever of heaven he has created within himself while on earth. Idealism, unselfish love, devotion to a cause or to artistic creation — all have their reward in a period of blissful assimilation, often of great length, since goodness, truth and beauty are timeless.
When all that is best of the past has been assimilated , in the heavenly state, individual gifts and personal faculties are once more in a state of latency, like a seed in winter. It is said that the spirit has a brief vision of its whole past, and of the future, and turns outwards towards incarnation again because it feels the incompleteness of its experience. It has much more to learn before it can remain forever in the world of pure spirit. [Page 23]
In the course of these studies the word karma has been used
to indicate the law by which the exact result of every action,
feeling and thought is in the end returned to the individual
who first set the impulse moving. The application of this
law to human consciousness has such a deep effect on personal
life that it needs further consideration.
In physics the fact that action and reaction are equal and opposite has long been known. In theosophical teachings the interplay of action and reaction is considered to be universal, and an expression of the great pairs of opposites.
When the One first polarizes and becomes dual, the pairs of opposites are born (see Chapter I) and the principle of polarity, of tension and interplay between opposites, runs through all the kingdoms of nature. It affects the materials of man's environment, the cells of his body, the food he eats. It affects also his psychological life, for desire and dislike, hunger and satiety, ambition and inertia, etc., drive man back and forth from one extreme to another. This law governs all social activities, all relationships with other people.
Thus the law of karma is an expression of the tendency of [Page 24] opposites to pull against each other, with a trend towards ultimate balance. In its essence it is neither moral nor personal: it is just the way that nature, including man, behaves. Its' goodness', or merciful element, arises because the inevitable reaction of nature to any push or pull of human consciousness draws attention, by pain or pleasure, to the way that nature works. If the reaction is painful, the one who suffers tends to avoid the mistake next time. If he believes it to be pleasant, he will repeat the experience and find out more about it, and so in the end he can learn a way of behaviour that brings abiding satisfaction.
When a man becomes able to understand the way that nature works in the worlds in which he lives, the action of the pairs of opposites within himself can be gradually transcended. Self-control (the spirit acting as the human will) enables man to make a deliberate choice of what he will or will not do, so that he need not drift or just follow current opinion. Insight (buddhi) illumines his power of choice with compassion and a profound sense of unity with others. Creative imagination (the subtler element in manas) can counteract mistakes and misconceptions, and create fresh situations and opportunities. The ultimate state, enjoyed for a fleeting instant between each incarnation, is a condition of serene equilibrium, in which the swing of action and reaction is balanced by wisdom. In this the spirit exists in its true nature, completely harmonized.
That such a state of pure and blissful being is both difficult to understand and also — if we are quite frank — not very attractive to most people, explains why, after a momentary taste of it between incarnation cycles, human [Page 25] beings return again and again to earth. Here they meet with the more familiar condition, in which action and reaction thrust against each other at each and every moment.
In ordinary life what a person thinks creates a reaction in the world of mind, and also gradually changes his mental capacities, enlarging or lessening them, as the case may be. What he feels influences the emotions of others, as well as gradually altering his own emotional capacity. The way he acts affects his family, his neighbours, his physical surroundings. The last is the easiest to understand.
It is obvious that people do not usually distinguish between thought and feeling, and many act on emotional impulse, so that action, too, is blurred by its charge of feeling. Through such confusions the working of the law of action and reaction is obscured, and understanding of it can only arise when its elements are disentangled and studied separately.
A useful general principle to remember is that the motive that generates any activity determines the level at which the major reaction will occur. For example, a man who deliberately works hard to make money, in order to give his children a good education, will have a different karmic reaction from the one who makes money because he is avaricious. A child, who in play sticks a piece of metal into the joint of a rail, and causes an accident and loss of life through forgetting to remove it, will have a different situation to meet later on, perhaps in another incarnation, from that which will confront a terrorist who has deliberately derailed a train for political purposes. Each of these incidents is complicated, and each will have a threefold [Page 26] result, both immediate and remote, in the worlds of action, feeling and thinking. The major reaction, according to the principle stated above, will take place at the level of the motive. Unselfishness and greed, forgetfulness and the will to injure, ignorance and devotion to a cause, will each in after life work out major consequences for the different actors according to the quality of the impulse that set 'the wheel of action and reaction' spinning.
There is a further threefold classification regarding karmic law which is useful, because it shows how each person is free to build his future within the working of the law itself. There is (A) 'ripe' karma, ready to show itself as inevitable events in the present life; (B) the karma of character, showing itself in tendencies that are the outcome of the accumulated experiences of many lives, but which are capable of being modified by individual initiative, the same power that created them in the past; and (C) the karma that is at any instant in the making. It is the last that gives rise to future events and to future character. One of the most common errors is that of imagining all karma to be fixed, unalterable. The above analysis shows that it is only A, the karma of the past, that is really fixed. At every moment of life we are altering B, and determining our future by our immediate reaction, C, to the situation in which we find ourselves.
The karma that awaits anyone in the future — of his own making, of course — often waits for many lives before it is precipitated and has to be dealt with fully. Suppose M has killed X in anger or jealousy. The act affects M's character, as it has arisen from his nature. He suffers, [Page 27] therefore, an immediate return from the feelings aroused by the act, in the shape of an increase or decrease in those same feelings. This is B above and the reaction is always present, each action altering the actor automatically for better or for worse, although deliberately chosen action has a far deeper affect than any other. M may not meet X again for many lives, and meanwhile may have changed his character considerably. If for the better, then when they meet again M might give his life voluntarily to save X from danger. If his capacity for jealousy has remained unaltered he might even kill X again, and for less reason. But always there is the possibility that the relationship can be bettered, for each has it in his own hands to make a better adjustment (C above) when the old circumstances recur.
The idea that each human being is the arbiter of his own fate, the maker of his present and of his future lives on earth, as well as of his own heavens and hells between lives, is sometimes resented by those who cherish the idea of an all-loving Providence to whom they can turn for succour and protection. Karma is said to be a hard doctrine that denies the love of God, and so on. Yet, in fact, it is an expression not only of divine wisdom, but also of divine compassion. It is a just and tender means of teaching man that he himself is creative and divine. Man has to outgrow his ignorance of divine law. It is only when he has become both wise and compassionate that he will make the world beautiful and happy for those around him. Careful thought will bring conviction that only by coming face to face continually with the precise results of his own nature and behaviour can man develop accurate knowledge [Page 28] of psychological and spiritual law, and of the powers latent in the human constitution.
In the study of natural science it is well-known that, although variations must always be allowed for, there are certain basic statements of behaviour, or laws, that hold good in all circumstances. It is because these laws can be relied on in this way that modern machinery of exquisite precision can be made, or that tall buildings remain upright. So with the law of equilibrium, or action and reaction in human affairs: it can be relied on to work in a given way. When a man understands how it works he can in the end direct his own life. By meeting the exact result of his own behaviour, life after life, and in between lives as well, man can finally be brought to understand the laws governing human consciousness. Through such knowledge he can not only master his own personal characteristics, but can evoke from his spiritual centre latent faculties not yet even dreamed of by most people.
Moreover, the deeper one penetrates into the study of the working of the law of karma, the more one sees that it is well adapted to the needs and processes of human growth. In the earlier stages, for example, much can be learned and suffered as group experience; benefits may come that are not yet personally earned. Then, as individual members of the group become independent and stand out from the mass, they have far more individual effect upon their environment. In the end, each learns that all life is one, and gladly offers himself as the servant of the whole so that whatever merit he may develop shall benefit his fellows.
The idea of group or social karma should thus be added [Page 29] to all the other ideas of karma that have been suggested. It is not always equally operative, but it tends to draw the same group of people together again and again, to meet the results of their common activity in the past. People are bound to each other by the strong ties of personal love and hate, but they likewise share and are bound by a common responsibility for good or evil done by their social group, and for harm or benefit arising from any common activity of their families, their business associates, their nations. To those who say of another who is in trouble; 'Well, that is his karma! we can do nothing', the answer is that it may be within the immediate karma of those present to redress some old wrong, or to right an old social injury of which in this life, the brain is unaware. The Good Law offers, in just such ways, opportunities of social action that can be in the deepest sense a fair payment of an old debt. [Page 30]
The vast scheme of evolution pictured in theosophical teachings
concerns not only the past of our humanity, but its future
as well. Ahead lies the superhuman kingdom, where limitations
of human thought and feeling are transcended. In this kingdom
the spiritual man reaches conscious unity with the one Life,
and he constantly trains whatever bodies he may be using
to co-operate freely with the will of the One.
The change from ordinary human experience to this very lofty existence takes place slowly, although it is more rapid in the later phases of human growth than in the earlier. Through reincarnation in many races and lands, and in widely differing circumstances, the human being gradually learns that he is not merely a physical body, nor even a reincarnating soul, but that his source and centre is pure spirit. This knowledge comes only after long experiment, during which fulfilment is sought in one type of experience after another — in sensational excitement; through family life, affection and the pursuit of wealth; and through the admiration of others, called fame. But, at last, an incarnation arrives during which the individual becomes aware of his true spiritual nature and realises that its goal and [Page 31] happiness lie in co-operation with the will of the One. The awakening often takes place in terms of the religion of the time, though it may be assisted by some acute experience of privation or of personal suffering.
The purpose of every religion is to keep always before men's minds their spiritual nature and goal, and in periods of spiritual enlightenment this task has been very successfully performed. But when, in any period, religious leaders lose sight of the esoteric teachings of their faith, a general immersion in materialism results, and a very heavy drag is laid on human evolution. Human beings need to have the light of truth always before their eyes, or else they tend to lose their sense of direction and to wander about aimlessly, trying to find peace and happiness in ways that lead neither to peace of heart nor to general well-being.
Once a man has realised the inner purpose of life, he is likely to ask himself what he should do about achieving it more rapidly. The comparative study of religion shows that the methods of spiritual training are alike in all faiths. Recently the great psychologist Jung outlined the steps by which, during the process of analysis, an individual gradually becomes 'free' or self-directed. They prove to be the same stages as the early steps on the path of holiness. Jung calls them confession, understanding, education or re-education, and transformation. The Hindu terms are discernment, dispassion, control of conduct, and release or liberation. In Christian mysticism they are purgation, illumination and union.[ The commentary on the four phases given in At the Feet of the Master, by Krishnamurti, is based on occult tradition, is without special religious bias, and is one of the most complete simple guides that exist at present for those who wish to train for the life of the spirit.] [Page 32]
It may be asked: why is it important to take such training? Is it not better to do something immediately to help others? The answer is that until one knows a little, both through study and experiment, of the basic laws of human behaviour and of the principles that govern evolution, one's well-meant effort can easily do as much harm as good, and one is likely, at the very least, to waste a good deal of time and energy over matters that are not fundamentally important. For example, one of the first things required in real occult training is tolerance towards those with whom one disagrees. This broadens the mind, permits freedom of thought for all, and makes persecution impossible. Loving service, without interference with other people's business, is an essential part of occult training.
He who follows the discipline of thought, feeling and action outlined for the student of the occult teachings learns slowly, year by year, or even life after life, to harmonize the difference between apparent oppositions by emphasizing the real and always underlying unity. Then he must learn to act for the sake of truth, goodness and beauty, and not because he wants this or that for himself, or because he desires change, or to maintain the 'things that always have been'. He learns to control his thought, both through the regular practice of meditation and by concentration on his daily tasks. He becomes simpler and more contented, while steadfastly giving sympathy and understanding to others. Slowly he clears away the mists that in the past have shrouded his mind and feelings, and at last he sees some vision of reality that makes him forever certain that the only thing in all the world that really matters is that the [Page 33] will of the Compassionate One shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven.
By the time a sincere student has had this experience he has been known for many lives to his Elders, those who long ago walked this path before him. They help him in their own way. They rarely make things easy for him, for he has to meet the karma of his past ignorance and his consequent mistakes, but they may guide him to meet people who need his help, or who can teach him something, or they may lead him to do special work that will give him practice in what he next needs to learn. This period is known as the Probationary Path.
Descriptions of the more advanced stages of the Path, and of the great initiations that mark its phases, have now been made public and may be read elsewhere. At one period of the higher training, psychic and interior faculties are awakened, because the inner bodies are then under control and the spirit is strong enough to use all faculties wisely. The Elders do not consider psychic powers to be anything very unusual: they are the awakened senses of the inner bodies and, like the physical senses, may be valuable when properly trained and handled, but are misleading if inexpertly used. At the present time there is much public talk about them, and since they are really dangerous to the individual if developed too soon, or if misdirected, they are discussed in the next chapter.
The work of the Elder Brothers lies chiefly in the inner worlds. They act freely and in full consciousness in the unseen realms of thought, of feeling and beyond, with suitable bodies which they train to work at any level needed. [Page 34] There are many branches of activity, such as those that deal with the evolution of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, and with the elemental forces of nature and the currents on the surface of the earth. Then there are departments dealing with human activity, wherever help can usefully be given to human development. A great deal of unseen help is given to national and international governments, to educational work, art and science, to social and industrial experiments. There is likewise the direction of hosts of invisible beings who help the unfortunate as well as the newly dead and those about to die. There are also many who work under the Lords of Karma, those mighty beings who have in charge the detailed carrying out of the Good Law. In our blindness we think that we are left alone to face this or that issue, but all the while the hosts of workers are there.
The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.
All that we have mentioned, and many other lines of work, are under the direction of a group of superhuman beings, called in our literature the Inner Government of the World, or sometimes the Great White Lodge, or the Hierarchy. The Head of this Inner Government is called the Lord of the World. The organization of the group is hierarchical, based purely on merit, the wisest having the greatest responsibility. It is a mystical fact, as well as a practical one, that there is only one will in the Hierarchy. [Page 35]
Each of its members recognises, and to a greater or less extent understands the universal laws, and each exists only to carry out the will of the One, whose representative on our earth is the Lord of the World.
After the last human initiation, man passes into the superhuman kingdom. He then no longer needs a physical body and has the right to leave this world, if he prefers to serve elsewhere in the cosmos. There is life in worlds other than ours, and joyous service can be rendered in connection with any one of them. Those who remain near to our earth, often retaining physical bodies although necessarily living under somewhat special conditions, are called Masters. It is a few of these who, as part of their work for humanity, take pupils for training. [Page 36]
The theosophical view of life provides an excellent background
for the study of psychic and supernormal experiences, because
it explains both the nature of the field in which they take
place and the different faculties used.
The field of psychic experience is the inner and invisible worlds and these are considered to be spatial, objects in them having material form and existing in three dimensions. But the subtle matter of the inner worlds behaves very differently from physical matter, being far less cohesive and far more responsive to human impacts than the weightier physical material.
Those who experience psychic contacts are essentially of the same nature as others: all are spiritual entities, using vestures built of the subtle material of the inner levels as well as a physical body. Moreover, everyone has rudimentary organs of perception and of action in his subtle vestures. When these are developed he can touch, taste, smell, move about and observe what goes on in these worlds, if and when he acquires the necessary skill. So it is natural enough that many people, at times, have had [Page 37] experiences other than those that are wholly dependent on the physical sense organs.
Such psychic experiences, which cover a very wide range, and the means used to link the inner perceptions with the waking consciousness, constitute a complicated subject of study. Here we shall deal with underlying principles, since these are useful as a background for more detailed investigation.
A key to the understanding of many psychic phenomena will be found in the nature and function of etheric matter, the subtle counterpart of all dense physical forms. The etheric level is the name given to the four finest divisions of physical matter, normally linked and intermingled with the solids, liquids and gases that are the recognised states of physical matter.[Each plane or level of experience has seven sub-divisions. The seven of the physical plane are solids, liquids, gases, ether 4, ether 3, ether 2, ether 1. Ether 1 is called the atomic etheric, and is the subtlest division of physical matter. Present day scientists would probably call the etheric matter of the four etheric sub-planes, that flows in and around a living physical form, the electro-static field in which biochemical activities associated with the body take place. ] In the human physical body etheric matter is woven delicately in and out of every cell and organ. It carries a vital charge and forms an active network, spreading vitality throughout the entire body. This network is so subtle that it responds to changes in the inner worlds, reflecting conditions of thought and feeling and relaying these to the brain and nervous systems and to certain centres, called chakras, near the ductless glands.[A full description of the vital body is given in Some Unrecognized Factors in Medicine, Chapter II, issued by the Theosophical Research Centre ] Thus man's etheric body, or vital body, as it is often called, acts [Page 38] as a bridge between his unseen vestures and his outer and visible physical body.
The etheric field in and around every human being, his vital body, can be loosely made or well-knit, fine or coarse, depending on the nature of the individual and the type of material he attracts. There is, however, a fine veil of the subtlest physical matter (ether 1) that automatically shuts off the objective impacts of the psychic worlds from the waking consciousness, although it permits subjective material to pass through. This means that it shuts out psychic visions and impressions received from outside oneself, but allows one's own feelings and thoughts to register in the brain. The etheric veil grows stronger as the intellect develops. This is one reason why psychic children frequently outgrow their gift during adolescence, and also why primitive people tend to be more psychic than races in which the critical mind is highly stimulated.
Before the etheric veil is fully formed, many persons are 'natural' or involuntary psychics, reflecting automatically the psychic contacts with which their inner bodies are surrounded. They do not like to question their experiences, for critical examination tends to break them up. They are sensitive to atmospheres, and may easily fall into dissociated states, semi-trance, etc. Similar conditions can arise from damage to the etheric veil, even when it has been strongly built, and this occurs through the taking of certain drugs, shock or extreme fatigue. Hypnosis can bring it about, and modern 'shock therapy. Damage to the etheric web needs very careful treatment, chiefly rest and the right kind of mental exercises. Its results can be easily confused with certain types of insanity. [Page 39]
In primitive peoples, in children when they are recapitulating the primitive phase of development, and in the case of many sensitive people, there is normally a close psychic contact between themselves and nature, with those they love and with their close associates. But by no means all children have psychic contact with their environment, and those who do possess it fortunately tend to outgrow it under the normal mental discipline of school. In the same way the primitive person tends to lose his involuntary psychic faculties as, life after life, his mental body grows stronger and the growing sense of individuality strengthens the isolating veil of etheric matter.
Because of this veil also, and for other reasons, most people are turned in on themselves in the inner worlds, and know little or nothing except that which goes on inside their own subtle bodies. Psychologists would say that they are concerned with their own private or subjective experience. But when feeling and thought are brought under the control of the spiritual man, and slowly impersonalized, attention begins to turn outward at the inner levels. The individual then 'wakes up' in the inner worlds, and can see what goes on there as objective fact. This is a similar process, in those worlds, to that which takes place on the physical plane when a baby first learns to distinguish between his own fingers and toes and the objects that he can touch or handle with them.
People can be very active in the inner worlds, particularly at night, without remembering it in waking life. It is when any kind of inner experience is brought through to the physical brain in waking consciousness that people are said to be psychic, or to have psychic experiences. [Page 40]
Although the involuntary type of psychism tends to disappear as mentality develops, conscious and voluntary psychic powers may later be achieved by the deliberate practice of certain exercises that sensitive areas in the etheric veil, and so permit impressions from the inner worlds to register in waking consciousness. The technique is one that hastens normal processes, for in the far future all mankind is expected to use the subtle vestures with full control and awareness. First, the inner bodies of thought and feeling are brought under the control of the spiritual man and aligned so that thought and feeling work smoothly together. When the personal life is thus harmonized and co-ordinated, it is safe once more to open the door between the subtle and the physical worlds. The individual is then protected by the control he has established over his own nature: he can select what he wishes to 'see' or to admit to his experience, and turn away from the undesirable.
Many people have in their past lives been taught to break through the etheric veil before they were really ready. From time to time, in the temples of ancient faiths, training was given in all kinds of psychism — some of it good and some of it definitely harmful. Psychic children were sometimes exploited by unscrupulous priests, used as mediums and for fraudulent purposes. Even in the best of temples, where the seers and seeresses were carefully guarded and trained to listen for the voice of the local deity, they often used practices that loosened their own etheric sheath unduly. The normal growth of the seer at that time might well have demanded the cultivation of stronger and more precise control over all his vestures. Instead, his control was weakened and the result in later lives may be an [Page 41] ill-co-ordinated etheric body, and troublesome psychic sensitivity.
In our time every kind of psychic exists — the natural 'child' type; the trance medium who is able to give off etheric matter for trance phenomena, etc.; those producing all grades of automatic writing, table turning, and the rest; as well as many conscious psychics with more or less trained capacities for clairvoyance, clairaudience, or general psychic awareness. They may have this or that gift, with or without mental development. Many are below normal in mental capacity, but the finer psychics are usually highly intelligent.
Conscious clairaudience and clairvoyance may usefully be compared with physical sensory experience. Impressions made on the eyes, ears, nose, etc., by physical objects are all reported to the brain and thence to the mental consciousness. It is in the mental consciousness, not in the brain, that the sensory impressions are interpreted and built up into images, the forms and pictures we name memories, plans and ideas. The mind body is full of these thought forms, and the mind body of a cultured western person is a very individual affair. People tend to live in their own private worlds, each built of personal thoughts and personal associations. This is why discussions are often so barren of good results. In most discussions misunderstandings continually arise because the automatic reactions and associations occurring in one person's mind are vastly different from the equally automatic reactions taking place in the minds of every other member of the group.
All the above also holds good for psychic perception and [Page 42] communications. An individual gifted with clairvoyance, who looks out from his own bodies and observes the psychic world around him, and around those also who cannot 'see' as he can, brings the impressions through to his waking consciousness. But he has to use his own mind body to co-ordinate his impressions, and that mind body is full of own ideas and associations. It is by no means unprejudiced, or perfectly accurate in its judgments. Naturally he can misinterpret his psychic contacts, or even misjudge the things that he sees, just as he might do at the level of the physical senses. A psychic, for example, can easily mistake a thought-form, built by concentrated thought about a certain individual, for the psychic counterpart of the individual himself. Or he may have difficulty in making out the exact nature of a quickly shifting object, and call it by the wrong name.
In spite of all these problems and pitfalls, psychic gifts of the voluntary and conscious type can be of great service to humanity. The distinction should be made always, between those psychic practices that tend to loosen too early the protective etheric veil, and so lay the psychic open to too great pressure from the unseen, and those that develop a healthy and self-critical use of a supernormal gift. For the person capable of using psychic sensitivity in the latter fashion, and willing to train himself as any artist trains to develop his technique, wide fields of social usefulness and investigation are opening at the present time. in the best days of ancient Atlantis and of Egypt, and probably in many other lands, trained seers were used for diagnosis and for healing, for water divining and assisting in agriculture, in the detection of crime and in various other [Page 43] ways. Modern examples of the same sort of work are given in some of the references cited.
The fact of the existence of extra-ordinary means of perception is now so well established that several universities, both in Europe and in America, have departments devoted to the study of 'paranormal cognition', or psychic sensitivity. They employ a technical vocabulary that claims to be able to define terms precisely. In some of the references for this chapter in the appendix such terms as extra-sensory perception and the psi-function, etc., appear. Those who wish to read further on scientific lines will find it necessary to master the new vocabulary.
Spiritual gifts or powers are of a very different order from the psychic. The spiritual gifts unfold naturally as the aspirant trains himself to live the life of the spirit and subordinates his personal vestures to the life of the Self by cultivating in them habits of impersonality and self-control. As the will is evoked to cleanse and simplify personal habits, it becomes a power in itself, potent to give strength and protection to those in need. As the mind seeks to understand more about the hidden laws of nature, and life is lived in accordance with those laws, nature is 'conquered by obedience', and the aspirant may even find that he can work 'miracles' — that is produce unusual effects through exceptional knowledge of natural law. The immense potency of such spiritual powers arises from conscious unity with the all embracing Life. Those who live in tune with the one Life can draw on its power.
Our spiritual Elders rarely display their exceptional [Page 44] attainments, although certain phenomena were permitted in the middle of the nineteenth century, some of them in connection with the founding of the Theosophical Society. This was permitted at that time in order to combat materialism and to draw attention to laws of nature deeper than any then recognised by science. Those who possess and make display of strange gifts to draw attention to themselves, or to make money, travel a very dangerous path. The genuine Masters of the Wisdom never use such endowments for personal advantage or advertisement: their wisdom, their strength and their spiritual faculties are exercised only for the benefit and service of the world.
Many who are attracted by the grandeur of
the ancient teachings wish to pursue their study further,
but at the same. time they are not yet ready to undertake
the hard and exacting discipline of the Path of Perfection.
For such people the study of thought control and its regular
practice may be a useful next step. To develop control
over one's thought makes a person happier and more effective
in his own life, and can lead him to be more discerning
in his attempts to help others. Carried to its logical
conclusion it becomes an important initial step on the
true path, so in all ways it is desirable.
According to the ancient teachings, the universe was first shaped by the power we now know as thought. In the divine mind lie all the archetypes, the great patterns of evolution, for all kingdoms and all forms, and from the level of the divine mind those patterns influence the development of the whole solar system. The value of a pattern or plan is well known in daily life. It is obvious that nothing is created consciously unless a pattern is first envisaged in the mind. This is as true of a cook's recipe as of plans for a building. It is characteristic of human consciousness that it can, like the divine mind [Page 46] itself, create a pattern in advance, and then bring a reflection of that pattern down to earth by fitting into it the most suitable physical material available. This is conscious, creative activity, and it is an activity in which man 'acts in the image of his creator'. Thought, then, is one of the fundamental forces in nature, and there are thought patterns, thought currents, centres of thought everywhere. But thought also is a human power, capable of direction by individual human beings, both for their own advantage and for helping or hindering each other.
This teaching is by no means confined to the Theosophical Society. In the early nineteenth century great interest was taken in the eastern scriptures, which emphasize the creative power of thought. Groups and individuals discussed the creative power of mind. In the United States, Emerson and a group called the Transcendentalists spread the ideas of the eastern philosophy very widely, and from them and similar sources Unity Movements and Higher Thought Societies sprang into being. Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy became interested in the effect of thought on health, and, as the founder of Christian Science, gave wide publicity to the creative power of right thinking. Nowadays innumerable Practical Psychology clubs and similar organizations all teach much the same ideas: that man can control his health, his temperament and his circumstances, by judicious use of thought control and auto-suggestion.
The difference between the teaching and practice of such groups and those of the Theosophical Movement is that most of the former emphasize the importance of being successful, earning big salaries and so on, and are willing to encourage people to use thought power to obtain 'what [Page 47] they want'; whereas the theosophical technique is based on the idea that "we are still rather ignorant as to what is and what is not really good for us in any one life, and that the first use to be made of knowledge concerning the power latent in human thought is to train the mind so that it may become more discerning as to what is and what is not of real value.
The law of karma explains how each person is responsible for his own character, habits and environment, these having come into being through his own actions, thoughts, and feelings in the past. If this is so, then most people will want to begin at once to make changes for the better, and in theosophical teachings emphasis is laid on the causal effect of character. What a man is brings to him, in the end, happiness or grief, opportunity or frustration. He may improve his health by auto-suggestion; he may even obtain wealth by being interested in it; he may become important if he seeks other people's good opinion, but 'these are for one life only' and the wise man soon learns that other things have more lasting value and bring deeper satisfaction. Health and well being that arise from inward harmony are stable and sustain themselves without constant attention.
When one wishes to use the great power of thought consciously, how does one begin? There are many excellent books on this subject, some of which are named in the appendix. Here only an outline of the technique will be given. This is usually divided into four phases, though some books will give three and others five or even seven.
(1) The first necessity is to become aware of how one's own thought actually works. This means observing oneself, [Page 48] challenging habitual reactions and so provoking new experiences, and then being as honest as possible about the results of the experiments. It is particularly 'important to see the influence of personal feelings on thought, both in oneself and in others, since thought and feeling tend to interlock, and personal thought is usually so much influenced by feeling that it is rarely impersonal or accurate. Many suggestions for carrying out this investigation will be found in the literature listed. It needs a little courage — sometimes a great deal — not only to make the experiments, but to look honestly at the results, and to face the fact that one is lacking in this or that desirable quality, the lack hampering one's own happiness and one's usefulness to others. This phase is for clearing the ground and for becoming aware of what one has to build with, and of what one most lacks. It can be very painful but it is essential. No new building can safely be started until the foundations have been examined: these may themselves need reconstruction.
(2) The next phase is to select some quality that is evidently needed and to begin to cultivate it from within oneself by daily effort. The selection is not always easy. A modicum of good arises from the cultivation of any virtue, but it is more effective to work on one that will directly counteract undesirable characteristics. The true opposite of shyness, for example, is probably forgetfulness of self, although some would try courage. If a deep fear of life and of the unexpected exists, with consequent nervous mannerisms, and so on, then deep breathing and affirmations regarding the beauty and goodness of God are often suggested, but unless the cause of the fear or [Page 49] nervousness is understood, such affirmations can merely build a false facade that breaks under pressure. It is said that continued meditation on brotherly love and the constant expression of goodwill in all relationships will cast out fear. The effort will certainly help. If kindliness or patience are lacking, here also it will be worth while to seek out the quality that, in each particular case, will most deeply undermine the tendency one wishes to eliminate.
(3) The third phase is two-fold. It consists in study or meditation, together with regular practice in daily life of the qualities on which one meditates. Textbooks give a variety of suggestions as to methods of creating in the mind, in daily meditation, a clear and appealing image of the virtue desired. This is of little use unless during the rest of the day there is an attempt to express that same virtue in feeling and action.
This phase is progressive, and is the test as to whether any individual will or will not succeed in learning to control his thought. Many drop the effort after a little because they do not see immediate results. Those who persist will find that the early efforts to live differently are the most discouraging, for although a quick reaction sometimes comes, almost immediately, and brings great encouragement, after that the old difficulties will appear to be worse than ever. This is really a good sign. It shows that the failure has now become conscious, even if uncontrolled. With further perseverance, improvement will ultimately follow; at times mastery will be gained over the old habit, although lapses are likely to occur for a long time. [Page 50]
Still later, although the old habit may persist, it gradually weakens, and other ways of thought and feeling take its place. Deeply rooted habits, such as ingrained fears, intensely critical thought, and certain types of over-sensitivity, will probably not be completely eradicated in one life. For many lives, perhaps, they have been imbedded in the personal nature, and it is wonderful that they can be altered so soon, or so readily, as is actually possible. One must be content to let them die out gradually, without lessening effort in the opposite direction. Constant endeavour in the new ways of thought and behaviour brings freedom in the end. The essentials are a high standard of achievement and perseverance, and the latter is easier to maintain if the theory underlying the practices employed is clearly understood.
(4) Meditation is the daily practice of thinking about a constructive ideal. It changes the character first merely by quieting and steadying the mind. But gradually it will change the vibratory note of the whole personal nature, for it brings to that also increased quiet and balance. Various methods of quieting the mind are recommended (see references, page 71). The aim is to eliminate the shifting images stimulated by outside events, so that the mind may be stilled at will, and turned receptively, like a mirror with a clear surface, to the inner world of the ideal, the true, the beautiful. By dwelling in thought on true and creative ideals, both reflecting on them and trying to express them in daily practice, one can become an artist in life itself, a person who expresses something of beauty and of reality in the life of every day.
Dangers exist in this, as in all other methods of training [Page 51] for special work. There is the danger of artificiality, of making a superficial picture of what one would like to be, but not living it. There is the danger of becoming interested only in oneself, or of using increasing control of thought for one's own interest instead of for the service of others. The chief reasons why people do not succeed in altering themselves radically and why they do not find happiness in such exercises are, first, failure to continue the practices after the first interest has worn off and the exercises have become a 'duty'; and secondly, failure to appreciate the necessary elements involved in the simple technique. For example, there may not be a sufficiently clear or constructive purpose, so that the effort lacks driving power; or the selections of material for daily thought may be frivolous or unsuitable. No great change of character, for example, will result from meditation on roses, however beautiful the mental images built may be. So, too, the shifty-minded person who meditates on courage, rather than on honesty, may become a little more courageous, but will not cease to be shifty-minded.
The above is a slight outline of a most important subject. It merely directs attention to a field of useful study and experiment. It is worth while developing conscious thought control, as we have said, in order to alter one's character for the better, with all that this implies. When a little discernment has been developed, the power may be used to help the sick, to protect the weak and the wronged. Finally, thought control enables the mind to reflect more clearly the patterns in the divine mind, and so to bring these nearer to the world. The first need is to become aware of present thought habits; then to quiet the mind and direct [Page 52] thought from within oneself. Instead of making personally distorted mental images of nature and of human life, the mind then becomes clear and truth and right relationships can be perceived, and the power of clear perception, can these be used to help others ? [Page 53]
It is said that for the past five hundred years, towards
the end of each century, the Inner Government of the World
has sent individuals or special groups into incarnation to
spread the teachings that were most necessary for that particular
period of the evolutionary scheme. Looking back one can trace
these movements: the Alchemical and Rosicrucian teachings
in the fifteenth century; the Renaissance in the sixteenth;
scientific impulses that changed the scientific viewpoint
in the seventeenth; philosophical humanism in the eighteenth;
and, in the nineteenth century the growth of interest in
oriental philosophy that culminated in the founding of the
Theosophical Society. These movements are considered to be
not haphazard developments, but planned. Each played a part
in the evolution of human consciousness during a special
period, and was under the direction of one or more members
of the Hierarchy.
The intention behind the most recent of these movements, the Theosophical Society, was to counteract the increasingly materialistic trend of world thought. This was to be accomplished by drawing together a group of people for the study of the ancient wisdom. They were themselves to investigate the inner laws of nature, and apply what they learned to daily life, thus giving to the West fresh evidence [Page 54] of the realities of the unseen worlds. Such a group would inevitably affirm the spiritual nature of man as the basis of an all-inclusive human brotherhood. Another objective, with the same end in view, was that this group should use and emphasize the value of the comparative method of study, till then very little recognised, whereby the truth behind religions, philosophies and scientific teachings, as well as in racial myths and customs, might be sifted out and shown to be different aspects of one great whole. The comparative method of study necessitates the use of the higher or subtler element in the mind. The higher mind is synthetic and unifying, as compared with the contentiousness of the analytical mind, used for ordinary objective thinking, which is separative in its action.
It was important thus to stimulate the higher mind of man at the end of the nineteenth century, for the cyclic law was bringing near a great change in human consciousness, and a new racial type was to be developed. Two of the Masters, known as the Master Morya and the Master Koot Hoomi, friends and co-workers through many lives, were to be in charge of this new type, called a new root race. [Humanity on oar globe has developed five such root races. Of two of them no evidence remains, the bodies used being much less solid than at present, and leaving no traces. Members of the third root race, called the Lemurian, had large strong bodies and black skins. The negro races are the remains of this type. The fourth root race, the Atlantean, is yellow, red, or brown skinned and numerically still constitutes the largest part of humanity. The fifth root race, the white, is just reaching the zenith of its influence, and has great achievements ahead of it. The sixth is a new type that is beginning to appear sporadically in various parts of the world. Its members are tall, fair haired, with wide-set eyes, and have an impersonal and idealistic outlook on life ] Partly for the reasons given above, and partly to [Page 55] prepare a training ground for the new race type, these two Masters shouldered the heavy responsibility of founding in the West a society that would publicly promulgate the hitherto hidden teachings of the Mystery Schools, known previously in Egypt, Greece and elsewhere as Theosophy, the Divine Wisdom.
For this purpose several devoted pupils of the Masters were already in incarnation, among them Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott. Madame Blavatsky was brought to Tibet and carefully trained, and then sent westward to meet Colonel Olcott, with whom she had worked under these same Masters in other lives. The two met in the United States, apparently by chance, during an investigation into spiritualistic phenomena which were then startling the world. They worked together on these phenomena, and the Theosophical Society was founded by them in New York City on November 17, 1875.
Madame Blavatsky was a Russian lady of great distinction, whose life had been full of adventure and travel; Colonel Olcott was a lawyer and writer, retired from the American army, where he had done intelligence work for the Government. During the first ten years of the society's existence these two founders transferred the headquarters of the movement from New York to Bombay, and thence to Madras [now Chennai], where they purchased part of the present headquarters estate, at the mouth of the Adyar River on the Bay of Bengal. They lectured, inaugurated the journal of the society, The Theosophist, wrote books and toured the world. They roused interest in the study of the hidden laws of nature, in the study of comparative religion, [Page 56] philosophy and science, and discussed the ancient teachings known as Theosophy.
This first ten years is in some ways the most colourful period in the life of the society, for Madame Blavatsky was equipped with exceptional powers which, because of the state of the world mind, she was for a short time permitted to use publicly. During this period she demonstrated her knowledge of unusual aspects of nature by producing, consciously and at will, phenomena such as materializations, astral sounds, and so on. These phenomena were investigated by many scientific people, notably Mr. (later Sir) William Crookes, and other members of the newly-formed Society for Psychical Research. But in 1884 a charge of fraud was brought against her, and was apparently so well substantiated that a Mr. R. Hodgson of the Society for Psychical Research went out to India to investigate. Although in later life, after a much wider experience, he came to accept many such phenomena as genuine, they were then very startling, and his report was unfavourable. Those who knew Madame Blavatsky personally could only laugh at the notion of her being a fraud; they never had any doubt as to her integrity. But many were less fortunate and resigned from the Society.
There was a great stir, since Madame Blavatsky had been front page news for the journals, both in the East and in the West. She suffered acutely, and left India for her health's sake. Colonel Olcott carried on, lecturing all over the world, while Madame Blavatsky lived and worked in Europe, writing, and training students. The good name of the movement was by degrees largely re-established but, from [Page 57] then on, public phenomena — so easily misunderstood and misrepresented — were no longer permitted. Instead came insistence on the basic teachings, and the effort to re-awaken spirituality in all branches of religion. The second period of ten years, until about 1895, saw the spread of the society from Japan to Australia, from Ireland to the Philippines. It also saw the publication of Madame Blavatsky's greatest work, The Secret Doctrine, her death in 1891, and the entrance of Mrs. Besant into the movement.
Mrs. Besant went to India in 1893. On Colonel Olcott's death in 1907 she was elected President in his place. She was already world famous as a fearless thinker and an orator; she had a long association with social reform in all its phases, having been one of the early members of the Fabian group in London; and she carried over, from other incarnations, deep, well-tried links with the Masters, to whose immediate service, with characteristic single-mindedness, she had now rededicated herself. She had many distinguished students, eastern and western, as her collaborators, and she soon re-awakened her own occult powers. She was supported by C. W. Leadbeater, a remarkable seer, and a co-worker of hers in many former lives.
Further details of the society's history may be read in books given in Appendix A. In the East the society was largely responsible for a great and far-reaching revival of interest in the esoteric interpretations of the great faiths, which had been dying from lack of inspiration. It stimulated ideals of religious tolerance and of the scientific understanding of the practices of yoga. Mrs. Besant worked for Home Rule in India, for education on Indian lines for [Page 58] the Indian people, and in the West inspired the founding of various international bodies. She joined, and immensely expanded, a masonic organization, known as International Co- Freemasonry (Le Droit Humain), which admits women on equal terms with men, and she encouraged the interpretation of the masonic tradition on the lines of the Mystery Teachings. She assisted in the establishment of the Liberal Catholic Church, a Christian movement with wide tolerance for differences in belief, though using the full ceremonial of catholic Christianity. She likewise gave considerable impulse to the founding of the New Education Fellowship, a world-wide body that has since done immense work for new educational methods and for international culture. Constantly she stimulated research among theosophical students, so that there would always be those who could bear witness from within themselves to the truth of the occult tradition.
Between 1910 and 1930 Mr. Krishnamurti came to the fore. As a child he had been the ward of Mrs. Besant, and over him a much publicized court case took place, decided in the end by the final English authority, the House of Lords, in Mrs. Besant's favour. Mr. Krishnamurti was an .exceptional person, and was confidently expected by many to be a channel for a great outpouring of spiritual inspiration. Soon after 1925, when he began to speak in public, he cut his connection with the Theosophical Movement, challenging the value of all organizations for spiritual purposes. Doubt and controversy resulted, and again many members resigned. Dr. Besant — her honorary doctorate had been given to her by the Central Hindu College which she had helped to found — was beginning [Page 59] to fail in health, and the membership of the society declined from its peak of 45,000 members to about 33,000 in 1939. It will need far more time then has yet elapsed to give any verdict on the ultimate importance of Mr. Krishnamurti's work.
On Dr. Besant's death in 1934, Dr. George Arundale became President and held that office for twelve years. On his death Mr. C. Jinarajadasa was elected President. Both had served the society devotedly under Dr. Besant's leadership. They each carried the work forward by the same methods — touring the world, lecturing, writing, encouraging educational and social reforms everywhere and making wide international contacts. Mrs. Arundale (Srimati Rukmini Devi) has built up a centre of Indian and international culture at Kalakshetra (the School of Arts) near the Adyar Compound of the society, and Dr. Maria Montessori, to whom Dr. Arundale offered sanctuary at Adyar between 1939 and 1945, is closely connected with this international educational work.
The organization of the society remains much as it has been since the early days. Local groups are called Lodges and consist of seven or more members. They are autonomous in their own affairs, but when there are seven or more Lodges in any one country they usually form a National Section. Before 1939 there were forty-five such Sections, most of which are now again active. Membership since the close of the war has been rapidly increasing.
Sections are likewise autonomous within their own areas, except that their rules must conform to the rules of the [Page 60] International Society. The government of the whole society is vested in its officers and in a General Council that meets once a year in India. This Council is composed of the President and certain other international officers, ex-officio: the General Secretaries of all the Sections, who are usually elected by the members of the Sections and who change from time to time; together with twelve members-at-large, elected by the Council itself. Since many of the General Secretaries cannot travel to India each year, important matters are voted on by postal ballot. The President and his Executive Committee attend to details and to administration.
The three Objects of the Theosophical Society were formulated in the early days in New York, and with certain verbal changes have remained unaltered. An official statement defining the complete freedom of belief allowed, and the tolerance demanded from members, has been drawn up by the General Council and is given in full in Appendix A. The acceptance of the three Objects is all that is required for membership in the society. 'Tolerance is its watchword, truth its aim.'
It is hard to carry one's thoughts back to the state of the world mind in 1875, and to see how much that world mind I has since changed. Ideas that this society alone then presented for consideration are now widely disseminated. Many organizations are now teaching the ancient truths, some of them dissentients from the original theosophical movement, others arising from parallel sources. Has the Theosophical Society today any unique reason for its existence? [Page 61]
The absolute tolerance of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, is still unique, and reflects the realization of unity that is the background of the work of the Hierarchy. No one is attacked, no one is excluded, anyone can join the society and attend Lodge and other meetings, if willing to practise towards others the same tolerance that he will himself receive.
The present work of the society may be summed up as (1) the practice of an all-inclusive brotherhood (First Object) thereby forming in the world a living nucleus of those who acknowledge the spiritual unity of all mankind as the basis of society; and (2) the continued study and dissemination of the truths of the Ancient Wisdom (Second and Third Objects) thereby restoring to the individual and to society a sense of purpose and direction in life.
The recognition of man as a spiritual being, and of his inherent unity with all his fellows is to be the keynote of the new root race civilization mentioned at the beginning of his chapter. Therefore those who study and practice the teachings of the society are helping to create here and now a new world unity — the only permanent solution of present world difficulties. They are also preparing themselves to take part in the next great human adventure, that of establishing, in a few hundred years' time, a new type of world civilization, in which at least a part of man's persistent dream of practising human brotherhood here on earth will be realized. [Page 62]
The Theosophical Society was formed at New York, 17 November
1875, and incorporated at Madras, 3 April 1905. It is an absolutely
unsectarian body of seekers after Truth, striving to serve
humanity on spiritual lines, and therefore endeavouring to
check materialism and revive the religious tendency. Its three
declared objects are:
(1) To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
(2) To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.
(3) To investigate the unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.
The Theosophical Society is composed of students, belonging to any religion in the world or to none, who are united by their approval of the above objects, by their wish to remove religious antagonisms and to draw together men of good will whatsoever their religious opinions, and by their desire to study religious truths and to share the results of their studies with others. Their bond of union is not the profession of a common belief, but a common search and aspiration for Truth. They hold that Truth should be sought by study, by reflection, by purity of life, by devotion to high ideals, and they regard Truth as a prize to be striven for, not as a dogma to be imposed by authority. They consider that belief should be the result of individual study or intuition, and not its antecedent, and should rest on knowledge, not on assertion. They extend tolerance to all, even to the intolerant, not as a privilege they bestow but as a duty they perform, and they seek to remove ignorance, not to punish it. They see every religion as an expression of the Divine Wisdom and prefer its study to its condemnation, and its practice to proselytism. Peace is their watchword, as Truth is their aim.[Page 63]
Theosophy is the body of truths which forms the basis of all religions, and which cannot be claimed as the exclusive possession of any. It offers a philosophy which renders life intelligible.and which demonstrates the justice and the love which guide its evolution. It puts death in its rightful place, as a recurring incident in an endless life, opening the gateway to a fuller and more radiant existence. It restores to the world the Science of the Spirit, teaching man to know the Spirit as himself and the mind and body as his servants. It illuminates the scriptures and doctrines of religions by unveiling their hidden meanings, and thus justifying them at the bar of intelligence, as they are ever justified in the eyes of intuition.
Members of The Theosophical Society study these truths, and Theosophists endeavour to live them. Everyone willing to study, to be tolerant, to aim high, and to work perseveringly, is welcomed as a member, and it rests with the member to become a true Theosophist.
Resolution passed by the General Council of the Theosophical
Society on 23 December 1924
As the Theosophical Society has spread far and wide over the civilized world, and as members of all religions have become members of it without surrendering the special dogmas, teachings and beliefs of their respective faiths, it is thought desirable to emphasize the fact that there is no doctrine, no opinion, by whomsoever taught or held, that is in any way binding on any member of the Society, none which any member is not free to accept or reject. Approval of its three Objects is the sole condition of membership. No teacher or writer, from H. P. Blavatsky downwards, has any authority to impose his teachings or opinions on members. Every member has an equal right to attach himself to any teacher or to any school of thought which he may choose, but has no right to force his choice on any other. Neither a candidate for any office, nor any voter, can be rendered ineligible to stand or to vote, because of any opinion he may hold, or because of membership in any school of thought to which he may belong. Opinions or beliefs neither bestow privileges nor inflict penalties. The Members of the General Council earnestly request every member of The Theosophical Society to maintain, defend and act upon these fundamental principles of the Society, and also fearlessly to exercise his own right of liberty of thought and of expression thereof, within the limits of courtesy and consideration for others. [Page 64]
This book was first issued in separate chapters as a study
course, each section including a list of reference books
and questions for discussion. In order that the book in its
present form may be used for the sane purpose, references
and questions are given below, under chapter headings.
Those wishing to study the book either individually or in a group would do well to secure the small pamphlet Hints on Study , issued by the Theosophical Society in England, 50 Gloucester Place, London, W.I.
GENERAL READING FOR THE WHOLE SUBJECT
Textbook of Theosophy — C. W. Leadbeater
The Ancient Wisdom — A. Besant
First Principles of Theosophy — C. Jinarajadasa
Elementary Theosophy — L. W. Rogers
CHAPTER - I - : OUTLINE OF THEOSOPHICAL TEACHINGS
Outline of Theosophy — C. W. Leadbeater
Theosophy Simplified — I. S. Cooper
Religion for Beginners — F. W. Pigott
Key to Theosophy (more advanced) — H. P. Blavatsky
Questions for consideration or discussion with Others
(1) What does the word Theosophy mean to you?
(2) Does Theosophy mean the same thing to all people? If it means something different, is this because each one sees only a part of Theosophy and may see that part truly, or because he has not seen it correctly at all?
(3) Can you give any evidence from everyday experience that tends to confirm the teachings of Theosophy?
(4) Is Theosophy a subject to be learned, or a way of life? [Page 65]
CHAPTER - 2 - : CONSTITUTION OF MAN
References to Textbooks for the Course
Textbook of Theosophy — Chapter V.
The Ancient Wisdom — Chapter I.
The First Principles of Theosophy — Chapter VI.
Elementary Theosophy — Chapter VI.
Gods in Exile — J.J.Van Der Leeuw
Man Visible and Invisible — C.W.Leadbeater
Seven Principles of Man - A.Besant
(1) What are the characteristics that differentiate man from the animal?
(2) What is the difference between desire and will?
(3) What is the difference between creative thought and animal thought?
(4) Why is it valuable to have alert senses?
(5) How do we know that man's nature is dual?
(6) If the personality is transitory, what is its function?
(7) What is the use of the dense physical body to the Self? [Page 66]
CHAPTER - 3- : GROWTH THROUGH MANY LIVES
Textbook of Theosophy — Chapters 4, 7, 9
The Ancient Wisdom — Chapters 7, 8, 9
First Principles of Theosophy — Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4
Elementary Theosophy — Chapter 9
Reincarnation — I.S.Cooper
Study in Karma — A.Besant
The Evolution of Man — J.Hawlizczek and J.Marcault
Next Step in Evolution — J.Hawlizczek and J.Marcault
(1) What is the purpose of rebirth, and why arc repeated incarnations necessary to fulfil that purpose?
(2) What is it that reincarnates?
(3) Describe the four stages of human growth.
(4) How does reincarnation explain genius?
(5) Does the reincarnating spirit ever regress from a more to a less suitable bodily form?
(6) Why do we not remember past Jives?
(7) How do pain and pleasure affect the process of evolution? [Page 67]
CHAPTER - 4 - : DEATH AND SLEEP
Textbook of Theosophy — Chapter 6
The Ancient Wisdom — Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
First Principles of Theosophy — Chapters 5, 6
Elementary Theosophy — Chapters 6, 8
This World and the Next — E. L. Gardner
Death and After — A. Besant
Transition — C. W. Hampton
The Other Side of Death — C. W. Leadbeater
The Astral Plane — C. W. Leadbeater
The Devachanic Plane — C W. Leadbeater
(1) When a man dies, what is it that determines the condition in which he will first awaken?
(2) What determines the nature of each person's experience after death?
(3) What is the value of the period of unconsciousness immediately after the death of the physical body?
(4) What is the difference between sleep and death, and how are they alike?
(5) Is it reasonable to expect that after death we shall again meet those we love?
(6) What kind of work can be done in the unseen worlds by people still living in the physical world?
(7) What happens to the vital body on the death of the physical?
(8) Have the teachings of purgatory and hell any confirmation in Theosophy? [Page 68]
CHAPTER - 5 - : THE LAW OF KARMA
The Ancient Wisdom — Chapter 9
First Principles of Theosophy — Chapter 4.
Elementary Theosophy — Chapters 10, 11, 14
Study in Karma — A. Besant
Theosophy and Modern Thought — C. Jinarajadasa - Chapter I—
Karma-lessness — C. Jinarajadasa
Karma (Theosophical Manual, No. 4) — A. Besant
Karma (Essay in Light on the Path) — M. Collins
(1) What does Theosophy teach about fate and the inequalities of life?
(2) Does karma bind or free the soul? Can the will alter the effects of karma?
(3) What light do the teachings of reincarnation and karma throw on the scientific theories of heredity?
(4) In what way is the operation of karma merciful?
(5) What is meant by motive for action? Why is it so important? Give your own examples of the same action with differing motives behind it.
(6) Show how the law of karma works out in a three-fold pattern.
(7) What is meant by group karma? How is it made and how can it be resolved? Give examples. [Page 69]
CHAPTER - 6 -: THE PATH OF PERFECTION
Textbook of Theosophy — Chapter 2
The Ancient Wisdom — Chapter 11
First Principles of Theosophy — Chapters 12, 14
Elementary Theosophy — Chapter 15
At the Feet of the Master — J.Krishnamurti
The Masters as Facts and Ideals — A.Besant
In the Outer Court — A.Besant
The Path of Discipleship —A.Besant
The Masters and the Path — C.W.Leadbeater
(1) Why is moral training the preliminary discipline for the higher spiritual evolution?
(2) What is the difference between self-discipline and compulsion?
(3) Name the four qualifications for discipleship. Give them the names usual in Christianity, and in other religions if possible.
(4) Why is the Probationary Path not made easy for the aspirant?
(5) What is meant by the superhuman kingdom?
(6) Describe some of the work of our elders. Why cannot they live in the ordinary world as examples for ordinary people? [Page 70]
CHAPTER - 7- : PSYCHIC EXPERIENCE AND SPIRITUAL POWERS
Elementary Theosophy - Chapter 4
Varieties of Psychism — J. I. Wedgwood
Clairvoyance — C. W. Leadbeater
The Personality of Man — G. N. M. Tyrrell
Science of Seership — G. Hodson
The Psychic Sense — L. J. Bendit
Paranormal Cognition — L. J. Bendit
(1) What is the general function of the etheric or vital body in relation to psychic experience?
What is meant by the etheric veil?
(2) What is the difference between natural and voluntary psychism? Give examples of each type.
How is the difference likely to affect the etheric body?
(3) Name some differences between objective and subjective experience at the physical level.
Does the distinction hold good for psychic experience?
(4) Why is it important to gain control of the mind and of the emotions before conscious psychic powers are awakened?
(5) Name some dangers and problems inherent in the possession of psychic gifts.
Do dangers vary with the type of psychism?
(6) What is the difference between psychic capacities and spiritual powers? [Page 71]
CHAPTER - 8- : THOUGHT POWER
Thought Power, Its Control and Culture — Annie Besant
Mind and Memory Training — Ernest Wood
Meditation for Beginners — J. I. Wedgwood
Thought —the Creator — Clara Codd
Practical Mysticism — Evelyn Underhill
(1) Why is thought called a power?
(2) Discuss the reasons for and against using thought power for one's own personal advantage, i.e., affirming wealth or success. Why is it forbidden to the candidate for initiation?
(3) Name the stages in developing a controlled mind. Which are, to you, the most difficult?
(4) Must we wait for perfection to help others?
(5) Why is the mind called 'the slayer of the real?' Does it always act in this capacity?
(6) What are the advantages of a tranquil mind?
(7) What is it in each of us that can control the mind? [Page 72]
CHAPTER - 9 -: THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY AND ITS WORK
Theosophy and the Theosophical Society (pamphlet) — A. Besant
The Theosophical Society and the Occult Hierarchy — A. Besant
The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society — C. Jinarajadasa
A Short History of the Theosophical Society — J. Ransom
(1) Who are the recognised founders of the Society? Where is the present Headquarters? What are the three Objects?
(2) Describe the organisation of the society, local, national, international.
(3) Name the great movements of earlier centuries that proceeded the society. Why were the three Objects important in 1875-1885?
(4) Why is the production of phenomena no longer used to attract attention to the movements?
(5) Describe what you know of Dr. Besant's work. Who succeeded her in the Presidency?
(6) Discuss the relation of theosophical teachings to the present needs of the world.
(7) What constitutes the uniqueness of the Theosophical Society?
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