by Thomas Williams

as published in "Theosophical Siftings" Volume 6 - of 1893-1894

THUS in their shadow we, the students of Theosophy, find that which glorifies man and the world, and links both to celestial spheres; for wisdom, as the Ophites say, is but the shadow of light. And casting back through our late Teacher's work, we find what she has written resolves itself into a science, the science of life taught from a spiritual point of view. Man as a centre of life is looked upon as a soul evolving and using to its evolution a physical body. This solid world we live upon is likewise held to be a spiritual centre, whirling with natural energies, born in the invisible depths of a vast cosmic consciousness which loses its limits in the silence which subtends eternal space. The forms of natural life which cumber it are the external aspects of the world's spiritual evolution, and because man also lives upon these same interior planes of soul life, he is brought more or less closely into direct relation with the interior Soul Life of the World. The interaction of the World Soul on the soul of man has, so Theosophy teaches us, the ultimate effect of refining and of organising what science calls inorganic matter.

What is the soul of man ? It is known to us in its visible manifestation in physical matter as the mind manifesting through the brain. To quote Mrs. Besant: "The mind is the soul embodied in the human form — not the soul in its own nature, not the soul in its own sphere. It is the soul as it is seen and manifested in the brain as intellect, judgment, reason, memory; all these characteristics of the mind are qualities of the soul as the soul works through the brain".

Turning from man to the world, we find it also has a mind, for its very existence as a more or less solid fact, its evolution from the golden fire mist which lit up the dawn of macro-cosmic life, are all due to the sequential action of a synthesis of laws whose aggregation forms a thought-world as the cause and counterpart of the world of forms and solid facts. Here, then, upon this mental plane, common to both the human soul and the World Soul, the laws of nature and the will of man are always interacting. The Soul of the World works as mentality within the forms and objects of earth life when guiding by laws the molecules of matter to chemical combination, but there is this fundamental difference between it and the soul of man, in that the human soul has developed personal individuality, whereas that of the world has not, and is simply conscious existence as a unit of cosmic will, sustaining phenomenal manifestation.

The soul of man in its own sphere works in matter of a much subtler kind than when manifesting as mind in the brain, and there each thought is a thing. To quote again from Mrs. Besant: "Every thought is a form, every thought has a shape in the subtler matter which is the matter of the soul sphere". And this is true for both the world and for man. The minerals and the elements of chemistry, the trees and plants of the vegetable kingdom, and the animals of the animal kingdom are all thought forms on the soul plane of the world, made physically material to us by being clothed in the coarse garments of physical matter. This clothing of subtle thought form is a process of transmutation, which under many disguises was studied and taught by the alchemists of old.

In man these subtle thought forms, thrown off by the human mind into the mental atmosphere of our own earth, become living things, capable of influencing other people and of forming part of the common stock of thoughts of the world. Here they represent effective energy thrown out into the soul plane of the world, the realm of natural law, and have each its due effect on the evolutionary forces at work evolving the interior processes of nature into the visible forms of things we see and feel around us; and this is how the various kingdoms of nature and man mutually adjust themselves to each other's requirements.

Now this connection between the soul and its manifestation as mind in man and the soul and the mind of the world makes it pretty evident that between them there are many other interior ties than those with which the scientific investigation of our time occupies itself. And, as a necessary consequence, there are different conditions of matter appropriate to these more interior manifestations of mental and spiritual activity. Theosophy in fact has divided these different states of matter into seven distinct planes or conditions of being, on each of which both life and matter possess distinctive characteristics. As the basis of life is consciousness, we say that both in man and the world life exists in seven different states of conscious being, beginning with a purely spiritual state and ending with a physical condition. The understanding of these seven planes, the theoretical appreciation of the necessity for, and nature of their existence, and later on the endeavour to penetrate the inner planes of being and to explore them, are definite branches of theosophic study.

As regards the intimate relation existing between one mind and another, we have seen that thought forms given off by one brain affect other brains, and that they will also become active in Nature on the thought plane of the world, that is to say in the realm of natural law. Therefore every human unit is bound to every other human unit by ties thrown from soul to soul through the medium of the soul's manifestor, the human mind and the World's Mind. And we maintain that by a proper study of these ties [Page 16] existing between man and man, and man and nature, on the plane of the soul, the student can prove to himself that the Brotherhood of Man is not merely a beautiful ideal but an actual fact existing as a universal law. Then we begin to realise that no individual progress can be carried beyond that of the general mass of humanity, and that even in those cases where man has forced his way onward and upward beyond the level of the attainments of his fellowmen, so that he appears almost divine, his progress cannot be permanent unless he turns back and employs all his powers to bring less developed units of the human race up to the level he himself has reached. For of what use at all is the solitary grandeur of perfect knowledge but to feed vanity and breed disdain and all uncharitableness; what pleasure or profit to a man can lie in knowledge and power which, by centering around the Self and glorifying it, divides a man off from his fellowmen.

But there is a more serious aspect of the case which will ever force those proud ambitious souls whose pride it is to soar above the so-called vulgar herd to bitterly regret the selfish impulses which drove them on to try the upward path of human evolution for self alone; and that is the ever increasing backward pull of the dead weight of humanity thus left behind. The mental ties, which form a subtle network of living active thoughts, cling ever closer round the advancing soul clamouring for recognition. Therefore we say "Woe to him who seeks knowledge only for selfish "purposes", for the point of resistance will in time be reached, when humanity will make itself irresistibly felt and the intrepid enthusiast will be dragged back into the mad vortex of human passion his immense selfishness has roused to action.

But if, on the other hand, he seeks to know, and dares to do, from pure and unselfish motives, these living things, these clinging, thought forms offshoots from that great orphan Humanity, will cease to impede, or at any rate may be evaded for as long as the desire is there to satisfy their needs. Therefore we say that Brotherliness is all essential, not only for personal comfort but for any personal progress of real and permanent value.

We do not war on creeds, neither have we one to offer, though much of our theosophic teaching, forming as it does a connected system of Philosophy, and satisfying as it can the religious aspiration which every human being has more or less strong within him, — this teaching of ours I repeat has often been mistaken for a creed. What is a creed ? Is it not that which must be accepted in faith, that which is based on authority, and to doubt and to investigate which were almost a crime and certainly unnecessary. In Theosophy on the contrary all that it teaches must be accepted by reason and not on authority; investigation is insisted upon as essential to the full appreciation of the theosophical position, nor do we [Page 17] value Theosophists who believe because others believe; for such belief betokens personal indolence, and the work of the world is done by hard thinking and the practical application of our thoughts to the social problems of the day and to their spiritual needs. Well then, although we have no creed to offer, we can give methods by which each one may penetrate the veil of his own religion, a veil drawn across the Light of the Central Spiritual Sun by priestcraft, to suit the. needs and aspirations of undeveloped minds, and painted across with the words "Divine Revelation to be accepted but not understood". In these days, however, of general enlightenment, of biblical, philosophical, and scientific criticism, Theosophy does not necessarily find itself in antagonism with the priestly caste of whatever denomination, while there should be a strong bond of union in our common belief in the innate spirituality of man and the universe. Nay more — Theosophy asserts that all religions are one in essence, differing in form to suit the characteristics of different climes and races. H. B. Blavatsky has written her monumental works Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine to prove this unity, and we Theosophists, with varying knowledge and capacity born of a ready purpose to be brotherly in all things, endeavour to add our tiny mite to the thought impulse thus set in motion which, when successful, will do away for ever with religious persecution and religious feuds.

Let us now glance briefly at the two great teachings of Theosophy known by the names of Karma and Reincarnation. Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning action, and it is used in this sense to denote the action of a Universal Law of justice and equilibrium whereby effects are adjusted to their causes.

Thus every action I make sets in motion a sequence of causes and effects mutually adjusted by the Law of Karma, so that they may have effects for me of unerring justness of proportion. This law acts as surely on the mental and spiritual planes of our being as on the physical, so that a thought thrown off sets up consequences just as inevitable in their effect on the thinker as do actions performed on the physical plane. Therefore we say that it behoves us to be as careful of our thoughts as our deeds. It will be apparent from a moment's consideration that man must shortly involve himself in a web of consequences of his own weaving, the full results of which cannot by any possibility be completely worked out in one earth life. Therefore we live under the imperative control of the law of Reincarnation, by which a soul is reborn on this earth into surroundings prepared by it in former lives in order to carry on the evolutionary sequences it has set in motion by its deeds and thoughts of previous earth lives. If you doubt that man leaves behind him an incomplete roll list of desires and aspirations, if you doubt that he leaves behind him when he dies life actions, the full effects of which he has not had time to feel, then take [Page 18] a larger or more general view of his case. Man is a reasonable being and as such aims at perfection. His life, as far as he has governed it by reason, has been directed to this end. Does Death find him perfect ? Are his endeavours in this direction complete? Hardly! Then either his reason is irrational or in justice to himself as a reasonable being he must have the opportunity to carry out his attempt to its logical conclusion. Since one life has not sufficed for it, he must live again, and Karma as the agent of Justice in this respect draws him back again and again to earth and places him each time among the centres of thought and action which were his in the previous life, until the logic of events has been accomplished and his goal has been attained. Then will he have evolved from an erring man into a God. And not himself alone, but as we have seen his soul life is intimately connected with the Soul Life of the World, and thus, as the human race advances, the World changes, and man by spiritualising him self spiritualises the earth. You may thus let your fancy roam over the whole Universe and pierce the starry depths of heaven, and find that there as here upon this trivial speck of dirt we call a world, the same process is going on, the soul work, evolving the stars to brighter spiritual brilliance, filling the Universe with subtler forces all rolling onward to perfection under the guidance of Evolving Souls.


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