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THEOSOPHY WORLD --------------------------------- September, 2005
An Internet Magazine Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy
And its Practical Application in the Modern World
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(Please note that the materials presented in THEOSOPHY WORLD are
the intellectual property of their respective authors and may not
be reposted or otherwise republished without prior permission.)
"The World of Shells and of Soul," by B.P. Wadia
"Religion in Theosophy," by N.A. Lewis
"Predestination," by G. de Purucker
"Was He Mad," Part I, by Charles E. Benham
"Tao-te Ching: Its Practical Philosophy," by Lionel Giles
"What It Is in Man Than Reincarnates," by Leoline L. Wright
"More About After-Death Consciousness," by G. de Purucker
"Paracelsus," by Geoffrey West
"Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and the Big Questions Surrounding
Natural Disasters," by Clare Goldsberry
> Forms and creeds and dogmas can but obscure the light within; and
> as long as the mind is led by them, so long -- no matter how high
> the principles they may seem to inculcate -- it cannot but miss
> seeing at least one half of the meaning of life: it cannot but be
> put off with half-truths, and be deaf to the Inner Voice; there
> can be no glory nor inspiration in the life; the Soul like a
> lonely wanderer will go on seeking to touch the mind to growth,
> and the life to nobler standards of character; it will go on
> seeking to flood the conscious self, the whole personality, with
> the fullness and grandeur of its power; -- and seeking in vain.
> -- Katherine Tingley, THE GODS AWAIT, page 23.
THE WORLD OF SHELLS AND OF SOUL
By B.P. Wadia
[From LIVING THE LIFE, pages 60-64.]
> Heat what the Voices of the Silence say --
> All joys are yours if you put forth your claim.
> Once let the spiritual laws be understood,
> Material things must answer and obey.
While the swinging between pleasures and pains is allowed to go
on, experiences are gone through but the lessons are not learnt.
The Esoteric Philosophy teaches that pain comes after pleasure
and then virtue should follow. This happens only when pain has
led to honest inquiry as to its cause and to a sincere search for
it. Ignorance and illusion, low-mindedness and delusion are
creators of pain. Only when pain's educative value is sought do
we hear the message of the God of Pain. This is the initial step
on the Path of Practice.
The pain that the neophyte undergoes is an experience on a
particular curve of the ascending spiral of soul evolution. It
begins in the personal Karma of the psychic nature. The
probationer Chela of today is tested on the psychological side of
his nature. This test begins when personal Karma precipitates
the forces of accumulated destiny. The would-be Chela has to
learn that no Karma of his, emerging from the near or the distant
past and whether good, bad, or indifferent, is useless to him.
When he proclaims that all life is probationary, he soon comes,
if he is earnest, to assume the position: "I am willing to be
tested." Immediately this statement of THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE
takes on a new meaning: "'Great Sifter' is the name of the 'Heart
Doctrine,' Oh Disciple." Who and what will help him? If his
earnestness deepens his sincerity, he will find this answer: The
Esoteric Philosophy and the true Instructors will help. The
probationer has turned into a neophyte on the Path and he
recognizes the place and the power of the Hierophant. He need
not depend on his own ingenuity to overcome his self-made
destiny. In fact, he should not. He has to acquire the art of
seeking guidance at every turn from his Discipline, his Rules,
and Precepts. Nothing else will aid him to Victory.
At this stage, his personal Karma takes a new shape: he sees it
not only as revealing defects to be deplored but also as
affording avenues to quicker progress. The powers of virtues and
of knowledge come thick and fast and begin to function within
him, producing changes on the psychological and physiological
side of his personal constitution. This necessitates the giving
up of some of his past habits, mannerisms, and customs and the
adopting of some practices of real soul and mind asceticism. The
Holy War is waged according to plan and deliberately. Most of
the time, most of the neophytes under tests and trials do not see
that the forces that bring varied afflictions on their whole
personal being are good and beneficial powers. "Why does only
the evil come?" each cries. If he were to inquire and to insist
upon an answer, he would learn that he is able to perceive
afflictions and weaknesses because of his inner growth.
At this stage of soul evolution, the Guru and the Hierophant
teach the Antahkaranic being in him, not his Kama-Manasic being.
The Manasic Being or the Inner Ego brooding over that
Antahkaranic being stirs up in him the muddy waters of Kama Loka.
Unwisely he identifies himself with his egotism and pride, his
selfish ambitions, and -- alas! -- He knows not that he is making
the task of his Inner Ego doubly difficult. Unconsciously to
himself, he spurns the aid near at hand, looking in the opposite
direction for succor and solace. This is the very first lesson
that the neophyte who has DEDICATED himself to the treading of
the Path must learn. (There are probationers who have not
dedicated themselves; such are cleaving to mundane existence in
The Esoteric Philosophy teaches the dedicated ones to cease to
worry and be anxious about their bad Karmic precipitations, and
to identify themselves with that which is beneficently powerful
on the causal plane within. That which comes down and out is of
the past -- so much of the dregs of matter, useless for building
health, useful only as an indicator of our present inner state of
aspiration to build a center of strength, calm, and dispassion.
How can we know that such a center is emerging in our
Antahkaranic being? By observing what dirt, dust, and filth is
being thrown out, causing no doubt pain and shame to us. One of
the temptations of this stage is, "Let me change my environment."
At this stage, there is no question of deserting the Path of the
Masters, of giving up the accepted Discipline, but the temptation
is, "Let me change my environment!" -- as if we were not going to
carry along with us our Kama-Manasic forces and as if these were
not going to continue to throw out our dregs of matter!
The fight of the neophyte in this stage is not in the outer
sphere of environment; it is between his Kama-Manas and his
Antahkaranic being on which the radiation of his Inner God and
his Guru is focused. He is that being, and not the Kamic
tendencies, propensities, and impulses. Whatever the nature of
his moods and ebullitions, they are not caused by anyone or
anything outside. Outer persons and events are not even the real
agents of his probationary testing. These outer persons and
things do not try him. The inner Kamic forces of the Elemental
world are the primary and the real agents of his testing. This
inner process is so complicated that it takes a long period to
fathom the meaning of the process, to get over the ensuing evil.
In this stage, the neophyte is learning to discern, not yet even
to endure. The test of endurance will follow only when he has
learnt that his foes are within, are of his own household, and
that it is of no use to blame secondary causes.
How unequivocal and emphatic is:
> Think not that breaking bone, that rending flesh and muscle,
> unites thee to thy "Silent Self." Think not that when the sins of
> thy gross form are conquered, Oh Victim of thy Shadows, thy duty
> is accomplished by nature and by man.
> -- H.P. Blavatsky, THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE, pages 32-33
Pertinent is the distinction made between the inner and the
outer. Sins of the body are effects of the sins of the
Kama-Manasic being. The destruction of the outer sins is not to
be achieved by seeking a new environment but by fighting the
Tanhaic Elementals and the Skandhaic Lives that are within.
These produce the sins of the gross body.
In this stage, we must learn the art of being present at our own
funeral -- a very important stage in the developing life of the
neophyte. When he dies the death as a Kama-Manasic being and
witnesses that funeral, he knows something profoundly
fundamental. To be present and watchful at that funeral, he must
focus his sight on the corpse, and as a spectator, he must
witness the death of his papa-purusha, his form of former sins.
It is the calm, courageous, persistent identification with the
God within that enables him to discern that his enemy is not
created by Mother Earth but by his own Kamic actions. Among the
mourners, he will not find his companions but a vast concourse of
living Kamarupic beings. His companions will rejoice at his
freedom from bondage to the lower and his attaining the light of
the Higher. He surveys the Kingdom of the Dead from the altitude
of the Kingdom of the Quickened, on his way upwards to the
Kingdom of the Living.
RELIGION IN THEOSOPHY
By N.A. Lewis
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, May 1947, pages 276-80.]
According to THE CENTURY DICTIONARY, religion is
> 1. Recognition of and allegiance in manner of life to a
> superhuman power or superhuman powers to whom allegiance and
> service are regarded as justly due.
> 2. The healthful development and right life of the spiritual
> nature, as contrasted with that of the more intellectual and
> social powers.
> 3. Any system of faith in and worship of a divine Being or
> beings: as, the Christian RELIGION; the RELIGION of the Jews,
> Greeks, Hindus, or Mohammedans.
> 4. The rites or services of religion; the practice of sacred
> rites and ceremonies.
> 5. The state of life of a professed member of a regular monastic
> order: as, to enter RELIGION.
Theosophy, in its synthesis of Philosophy, Science, and Religion,
certainly contains a religious element, although it is not always
easy to discern the exact nature and function of it as distinct
from those of the other two elements.
In the study of Theosophy, we usually "lead" with either the
philosophical or the scientific interest. It is rare that a
Theosophist approaches his study primarily from the religious
point of view. If, however, the religious factor does not enter
the student's assimilative processes at all, the philosophical
effort will achieve mere philosophy, the scientific effort will
reach mere science. That would be all very well, but something
less of a boon than that which Theosophy has to offer.
Yes, there is more to it! It is the religious aspect of Theosophy
that will cause the philosopher to question his concepts, to
demand of his mind-images, "Have you reality, have you dimension,
do you exist anywhere but in a glossary of philosophical terms?"
-- and cause the scientist to follow the lines of analogy,
compatibility, and rationality in his pursuit of facts, asking of
his theories, "Are you intelligent, true to the nature I know and
feel, are you alive with the life I know so well, or are you an
isolated gimcrack of the world of the false and the obvious?"
Would it not be fair to say that the very first step in Theosophy
is a mystical one? A belief in the principle of Universal
Brotherhood is, in itself, a religious realization; in it we can
recognize a form of the "superhuman power" mentioned in the first
definition of religion given above, an entity that stands above
or beyond the individual or group understanding as a source of
inspiration, or as a focus of faith. This belief in the
principle of Universal Brotherhood is the primary requirement for
admission into the Theosophical Society. It has, however, like
many a Theosophical tenet, nothing of the dubious and delicate
about it, as have some matters of faith, where wording is so
much, and the image so important.
Let us turn, then, to the "Elder Brothers of the Race," as they
are called, the wonderful and kindly Masters, next above us in a
natural hierarchy -- a hierarchy, by the way, which has nothing
of politics or accident in its formation, but one of distinctions
such as exist between the nature of a Sun and that of a Planet.
In fact, the hierarchy of which we speak numbers Suns and Planets
among its members. This is that same hierarchy that to all life
in all ages, places, and possible situations, has, since the
beginningless start of Forever, been pouring downward through
infinite channels its wisdom and help, and lifting upward an
infinite number of striving and evolving beings. There has never
been, in the primeval remoteness of eternity, a time in which
this hierarchy was not at work, for it is life itself, it is the
very nature of the Cosmic Self. It is to such a tremendous
concept as this that we have attached our faith in Universal
Surely, this concept is religious, if any ever was. It has
strength undreamed of in its power of transformation and
"redemption" of humanity. What man, once realizing this Great
Fact with more than a "matter-of-fact" attention, could ever
forget it, or undo its searching work upon his soul? What man
could pretend to deny it? What man could believe him if he did
pretend? Where is the man whose personal concerns or immediate
convenience can outweigh this colossal actuality of the larger
life of the All?
Armed with all the puny powers of seventy-odd possible years of
manhood or womanhood, with a range of vision of something around
180 degrees, and with a frivolous conviction that many things are
true that are not, the unfortunates stand forth to meet this
great compassionate giant of the universe. "The unfortunates" is
a term including practically all of humanity. They would somehow
outwit, outfence, or otherwise trick the great cosmic entity that
not only knows all the answers, but also IS all the answers.
Alas, alas, this giant has no proper respect for bodies, or even
minds; it is too wise to care for the precious little totems of
the would-be adversaries. Its great imagination is at work on
loftier themes, and more exalted forms than these did! It is too
kind, too loving, and too generous to allow the little ones their
wished-for triumphs! It kindly has a sense of humor larger than
their seriousness, a certainty larger than their hope.
Such is the background of the Theosophist's studies. He is free
to deny loud and long if he likes. But the Fact is there, and
his recognizing or not recognizing it in no wise alters the
situation. This is a common human error: to imagine that one's
belief, or the belief of many, many men, can have an effect on
the religious truth. How sadly ridiculous this is, each man
must, perhaps, experience for himself.
Theosophy is not dogmatic, professedly, or admittedly. We may
agree or disagree with this; BUT THE COSMOS IS DOGMATIC.
Although it is true that there are many truths relative to many
planes and modes of being, still THE WHOLE TRUTH IS ONE TRUTH.
No system or mode of worship holds a corner on THAT truth -- let
us have no doubts about that! And therefore, no system has any
right to dogmatism. But the seeker is looking for that larger
dogmatism that is the unalterable law of the Whole Truth. He
wants it, and is not interested in the mechanical wonderland of
conditional alternatives, and endless modes of categorization.
He does not want the artificial achievement of special and
meaningless languages, but the truth that can be communicated by
language or without it, the indestructible truth.
However, we may occupy ourselves in life, in works that are in
larger sense mere hobbies, the mystical quest really stands
behind all our other apparent goals, waiting for us to take it
up. It lies in wait beyond the apparent utility of science and
the apparent significance of philosophy. It lies in wait, too,
beyond the conventional stupidities and clutter-headed muttering
of much that is considered "devotional," and pious, and
religious, and reverent. Where is the true reverence in the
narrowness that would brand as a barbarian obscenity the honest
facing of the Great Fact of the Universe? For there are certainly
men in the world, who, while admitting the existence of a greater
whole, still would deny the right of any man to live and act in
"recognition of and allegiance" to his realization of the All.
To them, religion must remain pathetically a matter of "mere
intellectual and social powers."
In the ultimate form of Theosophy, perhaps the student can regard
all life as a religious observance, and the whole universe as a
monastery, or monastic order, for the larger implications of
religious experience transcend the furthest reaches of all other
modes and kinds of life and living. Here is a conception of
religion that includes sciences, philosophies, and even arts and
crafts . . . a sense of the soul's destiny that surpasses the
desires for all other fates and occurrences. This monastic order
is housed in the whole Solar System, and its "rituals" are as old
as anything old can be.
But we need not go into false trances and states; we need not
behave in a sentimental or unnatural way to be fellows in this
order: we belong by nature, and all that is required of us is
that we face our experience honestly. This is truly a large
order, but not impossible, unlike some of the outlandish means of
salvation envisioned by the falsely religious, the insincerely
Our bodies move in the plane of manifestation of millions of
eternal beings, and we participate in God and Gods with every
second. Yes, Theosophy does indeed have a religious aspect!
The Theosophist has, if he is AWARE, legitimate cause for deep,
honest reverence, and a most complete dedication; and he may, by
the God's Grace of his own inner strivings, become aware.
By G. de Purucker
[From WIND OF THE SPIRIT, pages 184-89.]
Do we Theosophists have any doctrine similar to the Christian
theological doctrine of predestination? Do we say as the
Calvinist Christians, and as many Romanist theologians believe in
their hearts, that the Divine foreknew everything before it came
into being, and predestinated all and each thing before it
The Divine Ideation of the Monas Monadum, of the Monad of Monads,
let us say the Hierarch of our Solar System, or if you wish the
Hierarch of our galaxy: the Divine Ideation foresaw, foreknew,
knew before, knew ahead, the ways of the working of karma for the
Manvantara to begin, to unfold. But this was the knowledge not
of an extra-cosmic God creating things and stamping upon these
entities and things an irrevocable decree of fate, but merely the
forevision of divinity of what the multitudes of monads forming
the hierarchies within that universe would, each individual in
its own measure of free will, do in the Manvantara beginning to
unroll. In the same way, perhaps as a parent or as a Master
might do: the parent for its little child, knowing the child's
character, will say, I must watch out for this tendency or bias.
Or as a Master may say of his disciple, I see in him this
leaning. I will be more watchful and helpful in that direction.
The Divine Ideation saw all that would happen; all that was
present in the Divine Mind, all that would happen during the
forthcoming Manvantara, all that its children would do, how every
one of those children would act according to its free will, and
according to the divine urge or karma that it itself had effected
in the preceding Cosmic Manvantara. In fact, Divine Ideation has
not merely foreknowledge of macrocosmic and microcosmic events to
be unfolded in accordance with that very Divine Ideation itself,
which is the supreme law of the universe to come into being; but
that Divine Ideation is the very Architect's Plan of the future
universe to be and of all in it up to the end of that universe.
This is a 'Plan' in the sense that the Great Breath that will
build the universe is guided and controlled in all its structural
or building-activity by the ideal outline contained in the Cosmic
Ideation. This Divine or Cosmic Ideation, philosophically
speaking, is at once the Past, the Present, and the Future in the
sense of an Eternal NOW. The futurity of the universe, as well
as its past, is therefore present in the Divine Ideation, and
unrolls itself at the beginning of a Manvantara along the lines
of karma, guided by the Lipika working under the ideal compulsion
of the Cosmic Ideation. This last containing all futurity, by
the fact contains everything that ever shall be in the universe
presently to come into being, from the beat of a mosquito's wing
to the coming of the Pralaya of a Solar System.
While our destiny is indeed written for us not only in the stars,
but likewise in the Cosmic Mind, seeing past, present, and
future; yet every monad being a child of that Cosmic Mind, a
portion of its own essence, has its corresponding portion of free
will, and uses it. The misuse thereof instantly awakens the
retributive action of karma; the cooperative use thereof
instantly awakens the compensatory blessings of karma. "Help
Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one
of her creators and make obeisance." (THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE,
Thus while there is destiny, there is no fate, for every monad at
its heart contains its portion as its own of the divine Will and
Intelligence, and is free to use these as it pleases.
Each monad of the multitudes to spring into activity when
Manvantara opens, being in its essence a part of the Divine Life,
and therefore an instrument of the Divine Ideation, acts
according to its own inmost impulses, in the last analysis,
through all the evolutionary pilgrimage in the University of
Life. Hence drawing its own free will from the Divine Life, its
own proportion thereof (and when all is said, acting in
accordance with the Divine Ideation, because acting contrary to
it is impossible) we see therefore that there is no fatalism in
this, and no predestined fate, i.e., the mandate of a power
superior to the evolving Hosts of Monads.
Each monad acts out its own destiny in accordance with its own
inmost swabhava or character; but nevertheless must obey the
Architectural Plan of the Divine Ideation itself. Being,
however, a spark of the Divine Life of which the Divine Ideation
itself is but a manifestation, we have a picture, immensely
grandiose and sublime, of all monads actually becoming
cooperators in the divine plan, and acting contrary thereto only
at their cost in suffering and misery. There is absolutely in
this no blind destiny, no infallible Kismet, no inescapable Fate.
When a Manvantara ends, all monads end as it were with a trial
balance. As the Mohammedans phrase it rather poetically, a man's
destiny is written in the Book of Destiny. His future is written
in the Book by his own previous lives. And the Divine Ideation
knew all this because that Divine Ideation -- what is it? -- is
the All-comprehending Hierarch, of whom we are sparks.
Thus we teach no predestination in the Christian theological
sense, but we most emphatically teach destiny that each man is
weaving for himself by his intelligence, and his will, from life
to life, aye -- from year to year, from day to day, with every
thought, with every feeling, registering itself not only in his
character and changing it, but in the Astral Light where molds
are left, photographs are made.
As a spider weaves its web, so does a man weave around himself
his own web of destiny. Often and often we human beings suffer
for things for which we ourselves are not fully responsible.
Think! Are you, am I, responsible for the wars that take place
throughout the whole world? In one sense we are, as being part of
the human race; our thoughts in the past have helped to build up
the astral molds in the Astral Light. But as individuals, none
of us made the bold strokes that lead nations into war. Yet
these wars react on us, react on the unhappy peoples today living
in fear and sadness. It was their own karma. They wove it in
past lives to be in the midst of things. But as individuals, not
one of them is wholly responsible.
This sounds subtle; it is simple if we follow it. A war, so
closely is mankind knitted together, in any part of the world
affects the whole world today. Prices rise, expenses rise,
foods, luxuries are perhaps beyond the means of the majority or
are prohibited. Positions are lost, anxiety and fear rule
everywhere. Did I do it, because I suffer from it? No; did my
Karma put me here by my own acts? Yes, and hence to some extent I
am responsible. There are a great many things happening to us
that we ourselves as men living in our quaternary -- the lower
part of us, the earth-child, the human soul -- are not fully
karmically responsible for. Yet there is a part of us that IS
responsible, and this is the Dhyani-Chohan within us, the
Reincarnating Ego. So there is no essential injustice in this.
In other words, I will try to phrase it in this way. The
spiritual part of us is wholly responsible for all that happens
to us, for everything that happens to us, for it is the
Reembodying Ego, and has lived thousands of lives; but this human
ego, this earth-child, the ordinary human soul, is not
responsible for many things that the spiritual ego makes it
suffer; and therefore so far as it is concerned undergoes
unmerited suffering. Strange paradox!
I call the attention of readers to HPB's own words on this matter
of unmerited suffering that will be found in her THE KEY TO
THEOSOPHY, original edition, republished at Point Loma in 1939,
on pages 161-162 -- especially perhaps page 162. It is in these
two pages that HPB in her incomparable style points out that
while the Reincarnating Ego is responsible for all that happens
to a man, good, bad and indifferent, the earth-child or the
merely reembodied man, often undergoes what to him is unmerited
suffering; but as HPB points out on page 162, at the moment of
death for a short moment, the PERSONAL man becomes one with the
spiritual INDIVIDUALITY, sees and understands himself as he is,
unadorned by flattery or self-deception.
> He reads his life, remaining as a spectator looking down into the
> arena he is quitting; he feels and knows the justice of all the
> suffering that has overtaken him.
Thus, while the personal man, the earth-child, the lower
quaternary, does indeed undergo unmerited suffering in this life,
for causes sown in previous lives, and thus gets its recompense
in the bliss of devachan, yet the Reincarnating Ego or the true
Actor in Life's drama, IS responsible because the carrier of
karma; and thus when the PERSONAL man is united at the moment of
death with the reincarnating spiritual ego, even the personal man
then sees the perfect justice of all that has happened --
suffering unmerited by the man of this life, but karmically the
consequence of the actions of the ego in past lives.
So you see, one part of us is responsible for what the lower
innocent part is not responsible for. And it is this lower part
of us that after death gets its recompense in the Devachan for
all the unmerited suffering, sadness, sorrow, and hurt that it
has experienced in life; in other words, the things that it
itself in that life had not willingly brought about, but were
brought upon it because the Reincarnating Ego unlike its child,
the lower man, IS responsible.
No wonder the Masters tell us that one of the greatest things in
human life is the cultivation of the spirit of compassion, of
pity, of sympathy, sympathy for the souls of men. When we have
it, we rise out of our earth-child soul still higher. If I
dared, I would even go this far, although it is not a teaching
that I should mention in public, but I can hint at it. The
spiritual part of us sometimes leads us into sorrow, suffering,
and trouble for our own good. It itself becomes responsible.
I say to you, Companions, do not be so ready to blame others, do
not be so ready to say, Oh, it is his karma! Precisely that is
just your chance to give a helping hand. Inactive in a deed of
mercy, you become active in a cardinal sin, as HPB so nobly
declares. And you will be held to account. And this lesson does
not mean doing things blindly and rushing around in a wild
emotion of compassion. It means using your brains.
There are plenty of crooks in the world, and they are making a
terrible karma in the world. But when one does know that someone
needs the helping hand, it is a criminal act if we withhold it,
and we shall suffer karmic retribution for our inaction. Think
what it means to us when we in desperate need feel the warm clasp
of a helping hand. The courage that flows back to us, the
feeling that we are not alone in the world; that there is at
least one person who has given us a kindly thought. One touch of
the divine heals and strengthens the whole world.
So in answer to the question, does Theosophy teach
Predestination, the answer is an emphatic negative. No. But we
do indeed teach destiny, which every man weaves for himself,
around himself, and from which there is no escape, for it is the
fruiting of the seeds sown by our own volition or choice. We do
teach the doctrine, sublime and grand, as already stated, of
man's free will, relatively so at least, dependent upon his
evolutionary status, and of the inescapable Destiny that dogs the
footsteps of the evil-doer, and showers blessings upon the doer
of good. The one, retribution, is as inescapable as the other,
compensation for the good that we have sown.
It is a marvelous thought to reflect that the Divine Ideation at
the opening of the Manvantara has, as it were, a Plan of all the
future time of that Manvantara, predestinating nothing,
reprobating nothing, but, as the Silent Watcher sees it in his
glorious wisdom, what its children in that Manvantara will unroll
from themselves: the destiny woven in the past. It is very
largely in order to carry out the Plan immanent in the Divine
Ideation that the Avataras of the gods from time to time come
amongst us to direct our vision towards the Laws of Being, and in
doing so to guide as well as comfort and aid us human pilgrims.
WAS HE MAD?
By Charles E. Benham
[From LUCIFER, November 15, 1888, pages 212-17.]
"The senses," said the Professor as we were sitting over the fire
one evening, "are of course our only messengers from the world of
existence. They five are the only travelers on whose accounts we
have to rely for our information concerning the Is-ness of the
Universe. And they five are each acquainted with a different
aspect of the Universe. Just as different facts and observations
impress variously different voyagers to new lands, so each of
these our five messengers comes to us rendering his peculiar
version. If there had been one less of these messengers, we
should have had a very different notion of things. Now the most
important of the senses is of course . . ."
"The sense of sight," I interposed.
"Certainly not," he said. "No, the most important undoubtedly is
the sense of touch. This is not only because all the senses are
but modes or forms of the sensation of touch, but for other
reasons. The sense of sight is the sense of touch awakened by
the impinging of a wave of ether, just as hearing is the touch of
a wave of air. Taste and smell too are the results of touch in
the glands and tissues and nerves of the body itself. But the
importance -- the super-importance of touch is more apparent when
we consider that by it we become aware of the three dimensions of
matter. I am speaking of touch in its ordinary sense now, apart
from its operation in sight, hearing, taste, and smell. Were it
possible to imagine ourselves bereft of the power of touch while
retaining our other senses, we should imagine ourselves in a
condition in which we could not possibly have any evidence of
such a thing as we now call thickness. It would not enter into
our experience, nor consequently into our imagination."
"Stay a moment," I said. "Surely you are going a little too far.
I follow you when you say it would not enter into our experience
-- at least, I think I follow you, though it is exceedingly
difficult to clear one's mind of this notion of the three
dimensions of space, after being from the dawn of consciousness
accustomed to it. It is, I say, very difficult to imagine
oneself without it. You might as well try to rid your mind of
the idea of time, and then conjecture what manner of ideas would
then remain in the mind. It cannot be done without long and deep
thought. But even granting that you are right and that all our
ideas of perspective and of the threefold dimensions of matter
are not due to the stereoscopic effect of our binocular vision,
but that they accompany that stereoscopic effect as associations
of the results of experiments in the sense of touch, I am still
at a loss to understand how that can preclude imagination from
picturing to itself so extremely simple a condition of matter as
a cube. Nay, I can hardly think imagination could avoid falling
into the idea, for space itself must have three dimensions -- no
more and no less -- to fill it."
"We had better stop there," said the Professor, as I was just
about to explain myself at further length, "as you are already
slipping into a good many fallacies. Let us look at this matter
a little more closely before our ideas become more complicated
and therefore confused. You do not see why imagination cannot
picture things that are not stored in memory by experience. This
is your fundamental fallacy. Very little thought would show you
clearly that imagination could only combine and arrange in fresh
forms the materials that it finds in the memory. Can you imagine
a color not in the solar spectrum? Why surely all the shades of
which this compound color is made up exist in the rainbow. No; I
say, tell me if you can picture in your mind a new tint
altogether -- a simple color not compounded of nor resembling any
tint you ever saw? You cannot; no, certainly not; of course not.
Not because there are no such colors, for it happens there are,
but because there are none in your memory. Blind from birth, a
man can imagine neither light nor color because they are not in
his experience. The fact that imagination arranges and does not
originate thoughts -- analyses, synthesizes, classifies,
sub-divides, re-combines and so forth, the various materials in
the storehouse of the memory, but creates them not, is well known
to every beginner in philosophy. It is almost an axiomatic
"This is true enough," I said, as I felt myself getting wedged
into a corner, though I thought I could still see a loophole of
exit. "But you cannot deny that many things have been imagined
that have never had any existence in experience at all, or how
could a novelist or a dramatist originate such characters as a
Hamlet or a Touchstone or even a Pickwick or a Sam Weller?"
I saw the absurdity of my remark as I spoke. How often has it
happened to me that the very utterance of a false argument seems
to invoke the spirit of its refutation? Especially has this been
the case in my talks with the Professor. Often enough when I
have laid before him difficulties that I have puzzled over all my
life, the solution has burst forth upon me while I spoke -- like
a lightning flash darting across the cloud of my doubt. I fancy
the explanation so uppermost in the Professor's mind that its
"sphere," as he calls it, extends into my understanding even
before he utters it forth in language. And on this very
occasion, I felt my argument answered by a silent forerunner of
the Professor's reply.
"Surely," he said, "these very instances that you quote are as
good witnesses as could be selected for the truth of what I was
just saying. Shakespeare and Dickens were above their fellows in
two things; they observed better and could put their observations
more aptly into language than others."
Still I was unwilling to allow myself to be completely
"But how about Shakespeare's Julius Caesar," I said. "You cannot
pretend that he observed the doings of a man who died centuries
"Why not?" replied the professor, and in a moment I again felt
within me the mysterious precursor of his reproof.
"Can we not observe the dead," he continued, "when we have their
lives and actions before us in black and white? Can we not . . ."
"Enough!" I cried. "You are right, and my whole interruption was
uncalled for. Proceed. You were telling me, and I see it now,
that but for the power of touch we should not, even in
imagination, conceive of a third dimension."
"No, we should not," he said. "I am glad that is quite clear,
because that is the fundamental statement on which rests all that
I am about to remark. If, indeed, some one among us, or some man
in past times, or some being of superior intelligence, were to
give us an account of a third dimension of space, which with our
four senses (supposing we had only four) we could not of
ourselves have discovered, we should still find ourselves unable
to attach any very clear meaning to his words. We should but be
like men, blind from their birth, listening to an account of the
wonders of light. We could take it on faith, and if we had
reasons for giving credit to the revealer of this unknown and
unimaginable dimension of matter, we should probably do well to
trust him for this declaration of a third dimension, although we
should not be able to understand. It would be faith -- not
knowledge. Now what I want to arrive at is this: If the addition
of one sense provides us with such a different aspect of the
whole universe, is it not a little more than probable that, were
yet another superimposed upon the five, we should have an
altogether fresh view compared with which the cube itself would
be but a superficies?"
"Now," said I, "you are beyond my depth. That I cannot at all
comprehend. The cube fills up all space as it seems to me, and
compare it with what you will, it cannot appear to be a
"I see," he remarked, in a tone of evident disappointment, "that
you have missed the purport of all that I have been trying to
He was wrong, for I saw more than I pretended to see. But I
disliked metaphysical theories about a possible fourth dimension,
and did not wish to drift off into surmising about the
Unknowable, a course that has always seemed to me unscientific
"How can I put it to you in a clearer light," he added presently,
after pausing for a while and looking intently into the fire.
"Look here," he exclaimed, as though he had suddenly found the
key to my understanding. "Do you believe that there is a
"Yes," I said slowly, wondering into what corner this admission
would drive me. "Yes, I don't think physical phenomena are at
all explicable without some sort of postulated metaphysical."
"Good expression," he said in a satisfied way, which made me
think I had really said a clever thing. "You think," he
continued, "that a spiritual world exists, but of its nature you
"Exactly," I answered.
"Well, what is the difference between believing in a spiritual
world -- a postulated metaphysical, as you neatly express it --
and in believing that the three dimensions are not the all in all
I paused, feeling confused and uncertain and hardly knowing where
we were. "Do you mean that," I said hesitatingly, "a spiritual
world and the fourth dimension are identical?"
"Why not," asked the Professor, with extraordinary emphasis and
"What a strange fancy," I said, "But it pleases me, I must
confess; and though the idea is so new to me that I cannot on the
moment pronounce any definite opinion upon it, yet certainly I
think I have never heard any theory of spiritual existence that
seems more possible and more reasonable. The notion is
nevertheless enshrouded in vague clouds of doubt that prevent me
from accepting it at once, but it is full of suggestions of its
"Think it over," said the Professor, looking at me steadfastly as
he rose to take his departure, "and if when I next call you are
confirmed in the opinion, I shall make you my confident for
strange disclosures." With a firm grasp of the hand, he bade me
good night and left.
For more than an hour after he departed, I sat over the dying
embers of the fire reflecting deeply upon this singular idea; and
the more I thought it out the more reasonable and the more
possible it appeared, and something made me feel it must be true.
It was two weeks before the Professor and I again found an
occasion for a quiet chat alone, though we met once a few days
after at the house of a friend. It was a singular fact, which I
had often noted with surprise, that the Professor would never
enter into a philosophic vein of talk except when we were alone
We frequently met socially, but no matter how small and select
our circle, he would never rise above the most commonplace
conversation in the presence of a third person. Indeed, he would
always appear a man with very little to say for himself, for it
was his maxim that people should argue on general matters only
occasionally, on political matters very rarely, and on religious
With channels of converse barred and philosophy vanished, there
was little opportunity left for him to show the real depth and
fertility of his intellectual nature. If anyone introduced any
abstruse subject, he would turn the drift of conversation
promptly and skillfully, edging off the deeper question as though
it were something too sacred to be allowed in the social circle.
To me, of course, who knew him more intimately, he was a very
different being; in fact, I might say I knew, or seemed to know
two Professors -- one the learned metaphysician, and the other
the easy-going, inoffensive sine qua non of certain dinner
parties. I once asked him -- the metaphysical one -- why he kept
up this dual nature, allowing himself to be so needlessly
underestimated by all except myself.
"I have a purpose to serve," he answered, "in making you my
Elisha, and the real fact is that I have no special desire for
unnecessary confinement in a madhouse, which might be my lot were
I to say publicly some things that I know. Of course, I might
guard my most advanced and difficult utterances, but when certain
mysteries are daily present to me, it is not easy in speaking of
them, to keep within bounds, and I should run the risk of my
supposed insanity being certified by the infallible decrees of
orthodox medical science. Even if I were not actually made to
suffer physical restraint, there is little doubt I should be
branded as a harmless lunatic, a consummation I naturally object
to, not only personally, but because it would be a serious blow
to my mission in the world."
This reply it was that first roused my suspicions, not, indeed,
as to the Professor's sanity. I knew him too well not to be
fully convinced that his mental faculties were of the highest
order, but as to what his "mission" might be, and I began to
fancy he had some discovery or secret with which he was thinking
of entrusting me. And I was not altogether wrong.
On November 7, 1886, just a fortnight after the conversation
narrated in the first chapter, I was alone with him again,
sitting as before over my fire. It was about eleven o'clock at
night, and after a rather dreary pause, he again referred to his
anxiety that the world should not be permitted to ridicule and
misjudge his advanced notions.
"Now, candidly," he said, "what do you yourself suppose an
ordinary businessman would think of such a conversation as we had
a fortnight ago?"
"I should expect him to smile, and put us down as two rather
over-inoculated patients of M. Pasteur," I said.
"Good," he answered, laughing. "That is to say, they would
suppose that we had taken into our systems such a lot of his
hellish virus that we had gone stark, staring mad."
"That puts it more plainly still," said I. "We should no doubt
be reckoned mad -- harmless madmen. In fact, it was but the
other day I was speaking to a friend of mine -- one of the
shrewdest men I know, and he began talking about the very matter
that we were speaking of -- a possible fourth dimension of space.
How such a subject crept up in our conversation I forget, but I
know his remark was that he always considered that a man who
could believe in such damned nonsense as that must have a tile
The Professor turned impatiently in his chair, and gave the fire
a vigorous and vindictive dig with the poker.
"The shrewdest man you know," he exclaimed sarcastically. "And
you -- what did you say to this shrewdest man?"
"Well, I hardly knew what I ought to say. I could not find
courage to confess that I was at least half a believer in this
very folly that he was deriding. Moreover, I felt that I knew so
little about the matter that I certainly could not give any lucid
reason for the half-faith that I held. Therefore, though I blush
to say it, I gave way to a strong temptation that beset me to
change the subject, and no doubt my friend believes at this
moment that I have as much contempt as he for such wild notions."
"There is no need to blush because you carried out the scriptural
precept not to cast your pearls before swine," said the
Professor. "Your shrewd man was not the kind of man to be able
to comprehend the possibility of anything existing that could not
be made manifest to his five senses. Because his five fingers
each touched one point of the great universe, there was no room
for a sixth point. That would be his style of logic! What end,
then, could be served by talking to such a man of things that
were as far beyond the scope of his mind as heaven is above
earth? Your silence was commendable. But enough of him. Let us
now have a little serious talk. I have some remarkable
disclosures to make to you if I find you in a due state of
receptivity -- as I have reason to suppose I shall find."
I wondered what he could mean.
Presently he went on. "I have made up my mind," he said, "to
show you some very wonderful experiments that I cannot
demonstrate to the world at large, simply because, like your
'shrewd' friend, people would only think me mad, and would not
believe even if I showed them the experiments before their own
eyes. For the generality of men do not believe a thing because
it is shown to be true, unless it is orthodox -- unless any of
the rulers have believed in it, and, above all, unless it is what
they want to believe. But first of all you must make up your
mind that nothing that I am about to show you shall alarm you,
however strange and unusual it may be. And now look here!"
[To be concluded]
TAO-TE CHING: ITS PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY
By Lionel Giles
[From THE ARYAN PATH, July 1940, pages 339-42.]
The title that has been chosen for this article may seem
strangely inapt, if not self-contradictory. For practical
philosophy, if it means anything, is philosophy applied to active
purposes, and we know what Lao-Tzu thought of action in a general
> Practice inaction. Occupy yourself with doing nothing . . .
> Attain complete vacuity, and sedulously preserve a state of
> repose . . . The Empire has ever been won by letting things
> take their course. He who must always be doing is unfit to
> obtain the Empire.
However, we may evade this initial difficulty by interpreting the
words less strictly as "philosophy applied to the general conduct
of life." How far, then, is it possible or desirable to carry out
Lao-Tzu's precepts in daily life? An answer suggests itself at
once. Inasmuch as these precepts are mostly negative in
character, all that is necessary is to abstain from doing things,
and one cannot go far wrong.
Taoism is not quite so simple as that. In the first place, one
soon discovers that the injunction to do nothing is not one that
can be obeyed to the letter. Not only is it impossible to live
without action, but life itself is in a certain sense synonymous
with activity, while perpetual quiescence amounts to nothing else
than death. Lao-Tzu was fond of coining paradoxes, but we cannot
suppose he meant these to stand as universal rules of conduct.
To insist on treating them as such and to go to absurd extremes
in an effort to conform to the doctrine of inaction would have
appeared to him just as forced and unnatural as the opposite
course and therefore contrary to Tao. For, professing to base
itself on the laws of Nature, Taoism must maintain an equipoise
that prevents it from going too far in any direction.
What seems to have impressed Lao-Tzu most forcibly when he
contrasted human activities with the operation of natural laws
was the excess of positive endeavor and the dearth of what
Wordsworth calls "wise passiveness" in every department of life.
He saw that the heavenly bodies completed their revolutions,
night followed day, the moon waxed and waned, and plants
flourished and decayed in their due seasons without visible
effort of any kind. The underlying motive power never showed
itself, yet everything ran its appointed course smoothly,
steadily, and quietly.
In human affairs, what a difference! On every hand, violence was
rife. Evil men were grasping at power and holding it by main
force. Harsh laws extorted money from the people and kept them
in hopeless subjection. The death penalty was inflicted for
trifling offences, while starvation and misery stalked through
the land. Even if the worst forms of cruelty were avoided, the
lives of the poor were made intolerable by prying and meddling
All this, to Lao-Tzu's thinking, sprang from man's itch to be
doing something at all costs. If, as he almost came to believe,
all doing was practically equivalent to wrongdoing, how much
better to do nothing. If the complex machinery of civilized life
and social relations could produce only widespread unhappiness,
why not scrap it altogether? Away with so-called civilization!
Let mankind revert to its primitive state of simplicity,
following natural instincts rather than artificial laws.
Government could then be reduced to a minimum, yet there need not
be anarchy. So, far from being eliminated entirely, the ruler
plays an important part in Lao-Tzu's scheme; but he must be
nothing less than a Sage, whose wisdom will largely consist in
keeping himself in the background and refraining from vexatious
> In the highest antiquity, the people did not know that they had
> rulers. In the next age, they loved and praised them. In the
> next, they feared them. In the next, they despised them . . .
> So long as I do nothing (says the ruler), the people will work
> out their own reformation. So long as I love calm, the people
> will right themselves. If only I keep from meddling, the people
> will grow rich. If only I am free from desire, the people will
> come naturally back to simplicity.
Here we have the fundamental belief in the force of example that
is so deeply ingrained in Chinese ethics, and that Lao-Tzu
appears to have held with the same almost pathetic intensity of
conviction as Confucius himself. Although the notion may have
been overstressed by them, there is much more truth in it than is
usually admitted by our modern theorists. It is certain, at any
rate, that good government cannot in the end be expected from bad
men. Self-mastery must be attained by one who wishes to control
others; self-cultivation by one who wishes to teach others.
Of course, in speaking of rulers and their subjects, Lao-Tzu had
in mind much smaller communities than the great and populous
countries of today. China as he knew it had long ceased to be a
unified empire; it was a congeries of more or less independent
states, living uneasily side by side, and constantly encroaching
on their neighbors' rights and territories. Lao-Tzu's own ideal
was "a little State with a small population, and not more than a
hundred men available as soldiers." This clearly indicates little
more than a village.
> There might still be boats and carriages, but no one would have
> occasion to ride in them. There might be weapons and armor, but
> no one would need to use them. I would have them return to the
> use of knotted cords (as an aid to memory, instead of writing).
> They should find their plain food sweet, their rough garments
> fine. They should be content with their homes, and happy in
> their simple ways.
Such a state of Arcadian innocence has been the dream of
reformers and philosophers in every age, and Lao-Tzu may have
seen something not unlike it in the more remote village
communities of China. But for the vast majority of the world's
inhabitants, it cannot ever have been a practicable mode of life,
and every day, as time goes on, it becomes more hopeless to think
of any such return to a mythical Golden Age.
It is fairly obvious, then, that the Tao-te Ching can provide us
with no exact model for the conduct of life. No man can be a
Taoist in the strictest sense, nor can a State be administered on
purely Taoist principles. To a lesser degree, this is true of
most other systems of philosophy or religion; but Taoism seems to
be peculiarly at variance with the facts and necessities of
ordinary life. Pushed to its logical conclusion, it can but lead
to stagnation more or less complete, to a paralysis of human
faculties, to intellectual death. But the Chinese are remarkable
for their robust common sense, and in adopting it as one of their
"three religions," they never seriously contemplated the erection
of a State system of quietism and laisser-faire. Syncretism is
in their blood, and they were well content to be Confucianists,
Buddhists, and Taoists all at the same time. Certainly they felt
that much of Lao-Tzu's thought was too valuable to be allowed to
With the gradual transformation of Taoism into a popular
religion, we are not concerned here. Alchemy and the quest for
immortality, the practice of divination and the control of evil
spirits, the canonization and worship of innumerable divinities,
even the development of medical science (always closely
associated with Taoism) -- these things are remote indeed from
the austere utterances of the Tao-te Ching. In spite of the
growth of superstition, this treatise still remained a source of
inspiration to which men might return again and again. If it did
not provide a code of morals and social behavior complete in
itself, it was useful as a corrective, or an emollient, of other
systems more adapted to the stern realities of a workaday world.
It supplied an element of idealism, even of poetry and romance,
which was not to be found in Confucian writings, while its
outlook on life was more carefree and joyous than that of
Buddhism, with its insistence on suffering as the keynote of all
In the course of time, Taoism tended to become identified in the
popular imagination with hermits who had withdrawn from the
troubles of the world to a life of stark simplicity in the
mountains, or with bohemian coteries of artists and poets who, in
the true Horatian spirit, filled the fleeting hours with wine and
revelry. But the message of the Tao-te Ching was not merely to
these few. It was addressed to all who had ears to hear, and
more especially to those in a position of authority. Thus, the
ruler of a state is constantly reminded of his true place in the
order of things. He must "make humility his base" and "wishing
to be above the people, he must by his words put himself below
them. For in this way, the people will not feel his weight." He
must eschew luxury and self-indulgence and make every effort to
lighten his subjects' burden.
> Where the palaces are very splendid, there the fields will be
> very waste, and the granaries very empty . . . The people
> starve because those above them devour too many taxes; they are
> difficult to govern because those above them are meddlesome; they
> are indifferent to death because those above them are too grossly
> absorbed in the pursuit of life.
The death-penalty is expressly condemned in these striking words:
> There is always a Power that presides over the infliction of
> death. He who would take the place of this Power and himself
> inflict death is like a novice using the tools of a
> master-carpenter. Of those who use the tools of a
> master-carpenter, there are few who will not cut their own hands.
Lao-Tzu lived in a period known to historians as that of "The
Fighting States." His attitude to war is again uncompromising.
> Weapons, however beautiful, are instruments of ill omen, hateful
> to all creatures. Therefore he who has Tao will have nothing to
> do with them . . . There is no greater calamity than lightly
> engaging in war . . . Where troops have been quartered,
> brambles and thorns spring up. In the track of great armies,
> there must follow lean years.
The final injunction to the ruler who successfully carries out
this teaching is to seek no recognition for what he has done.
"When your task is completed and fame has been achieved, then
retire into the background; for this is the way of Heaven." After
he has conferred prosperity on the people, the means he has used
should remain undivulged, so that they may say, "We have come to
be as we are, naturally and of ourselves."
What of the plain man who holds no official post but needs
guidance too in his everyday life? He will find in the Tao-te
Ching many sensible words of advice that he can accept without
question, some also that may seem a little strange.
> Be sparing of speech, and things will come right of themselves
> . . . Keep the mouth shut, close the gateways of sense, and as
> long as you live, you will have no trouble. Open your lips and
> push your affairs, and you will not be safe to the end of your
> days . . . Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not
We see that Lao-Tzu anticipated Carlyle in preaching the gospel
of silence. He also set great store by the virtues of gentleness
> Gentleness brings victory to him who attacks, and safety to him
> who defends. Those whom Heaven would save, it fences round with
> gentleness . . . There is nothing in the world more soft and
> weak than water, yet for attacking things that are hard and
> strong, there is nothing that surpasses it . . . The soft
> overcomes the hard, the weak overcomes the strong. There is no
> one in the world but knows this truth, and no one who can put it
> into practice . . . Keep behind, and you shall be put in front
> . . . He that humbles himself shall be preserved entire . . .
> Goodness strives not, and therefore it is not rebuked.
But it is in dealing with the problem of evil, and especially in
his reaction to wickedness in other men, that Lao-Tzu broke
entirely new ground and must have incurred sharp criticism from
his contemporaries. "Even if a man is bad," he said, "how can it
be right to cast him off? . . . Requite injury with kindness."
And again, "To the good I would be good; to the not-good I would
also be good, in order to make them good." In another saying, one
of the most arresting in the whole of the Tao-te Ching, he
enlarges upon the same theme.
> Among men, reject none; among things, reject nothing. This is
> called comprehensive intelligence. The good man is the bad man's
> teacher; the bad man is the material upon which the good man
> works. If the one does not value his teacher, if the other does
> not love his material, then despite their sagacity, they must go
> far astray. This is a mystery of great import.
It is hard to realize that such words were spoken several
centuries before the Christian era.
WHAT IT IS IN MAN THAT REINCARNATES
By Leoline L. Wright
[From REINCARNATION: A LOST CHORD IN MODERN THOUGHT, pages
Insofar as we have gone, we discover that man is a composite
being. We have already observed three elements in his
constitution: a personality known to friends as John Smith or
Mary Brown, and back of that a deeper reservoir of consciousness
expressed in the ideal desires of the nature. Lowest of all
there is the animal consciousness, including the body, the
vehicle of these two higher aspects in human life.
These three elements can still further be resolved until we see
man as a sevenfold being. In restricting our study now to the
subject of reincarnation it will be necessary to regard him only
in the threefold division above indicated. This corresponds to
St. Paul's description of man as body, soul, and spirit.
Christian theologians, however, have persistently ignored this
division because they have no conception of the nature of Spirit.
In making this threefold division, St. Paul proved himself
familiar with the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, today known as
It is the higher, ideal nature above referred to which
reincarnates. The technical name used in Theosophy for this
higher part of our consciousness is MANAS. This is a Sanskrit
word and means 'the thinker,' so we may call the Reincarnating
Ego the Thinker in man. It is the origin of our
SELF-consciousness, of the faculty of introspection, and of
self-realization. Through it, we relate ourselves to life,
understand what we are learning, and so build into ourselves in
the shape of character and propensities the lessons derived from
Without this center of permanent individual consciousness in
which the results of evolution can be preserved, the fruit of
experience would be dissipated at death and no progressive
evolution would be possible. Through this spiritual part of us
comes also the voice of conscience. From it, we draw high
inspiration, unselfish love, intimations and intuitions of the
divine, and all impulses to impersonal, magnanimous thought and
Thus, two selves exist within us: the Self of the Ego, or
Thinker, which persists through all our reincarnations; and the
self of the personality, which is mortal and breaks up at death.
It is the play of consciousness between these two that is the
great mystery of life. Both of these selves, as yet
contradictory in desire and purpose, make us what we are. How
familiar everyone is with the duel between them, which is
constantly going forward within us! The voice of selfish
temptation and the call of incorruptible conscience -- each
striving against the other for mastery.
The struggle is of a depth and complexity unsuspected until we
start out in earnest to conquer some habitual fault, like a bad
temper, or a weakness of some kind, or an ingrained selfishness.
How quickly then we find all the forces within and without us
arrayed either on one side or the other! The victory in such
deep-seated, essential strife as this between the two natures of
man, is far too many-sided and involves too wide a range of
influences to be completely secured in one short life of limited
experience. The struggle must be met under myriad conditions and
attained by means of many experiences in life after life until at
last complete mastery remains with the higher nature.
What is the origin of this duality within us? Why should man be
both noble and ignoble? Theosophy describes how the external,
animal vehicle of man was built up in long past ages of evolution
on our globe by the lower, instinctual forces of Nature. Slowly
it was shaped under the action of evolutionary law as a vehicle
for the Reincarnating Ego.
When this vehicle of body and animal consciousness was ready, the
Spiritual Ego took it in charge, incarnating there to overshadow
and guide its further development. The presence of the Ego now
began dynamically to change, to mold, this vehicle for experience
in human life. The spiritual fire of the Thinker through life
after life stimulated and developed the growth of the animal man,
so that gradually it unfolded or evolved under this creative
influence a semi-independent personal consciousness of its own.
This personal consciousness, expanding slowly, slowly through
ages of incarnation under the inspiration of its overshadowing
Ego, became the human personality. And now not only is it an
instrument through which the Ego may manifest its own divine
powers, but gradually by its own struggles and victories under
the urge of conscience -- the personality itself is evolving. It
unfolds and expands, and rising out of the limited personal
consciousness, achieves thereby its own immortality.
By subjecting our lower selfish natures to the influence and
guidance of the higher, we enable the Ego to express its light on
this plane and thus exercise and expand its own divine potencies.
On the other hand, gradually raising our personal consciousness,
we lift it at last onto the plane of the Spiritual Ego, and so
the human transmutes into the immortal man. Thus, the whole
nature in all its elements has passed upward into a more advanced
stage of consciousness. Dr. G. de Purucker gives a graphic
statement of this lifting of the whole being in all its parts.
> The work of evolution is . . . the raising of the personal
> into the Impersonal; the raising of the mortal to put on the
> garments of Immortality, the raising of the beast to become a
> man; the raising of a man to become a god; and the raising of a
> god to become still more largely divine.
> -- G. de Purucker, FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, 287
But indeed, the personal part of us is only on the evolutionary
road to such perfection. We are yet far from the goal. The
whole race is held in the grip of its ignorance of the spiritual,
in the grip of suffering and confusion of mind and heart, because
we have not yet learned to center our consciousness in the
permanent and real part of us -- the Spiritual Ego. We are
immersed almost altogether in the personal interests of our
nature. And this personality is mixed, a mentality, combined
with passion, with emotional qualities, with physical traits and
At different times, any one of these may hold the mastery. At
one moment, the individual may be calculating with keen and
absorbed mind, at another time swept from his moorings by a gust
of violent anger. Again, physical pain or illness may turn him
into a creature of ailing impotence. But seldom is any one of us
for long the same. We pass from mood to mood and our outlook on
life changes perpetually and is never stable. And like all
composite things this unstable personality must break up when the
time comes for the dissolution of the different energies and
classes of life-atoms of which it is composed. For only
homogeneous natures are immortal.
This bundle of personal energies, when it is broken up at the
withdrawal of the Spiritual Ego into its own sphere, in other
words at death -- leaves behind it what in Theosophy are called
SKANDHAS. When a plant withers and dies, it drops into the earth
the seeds that are the fruit of its little round of growth and
development. From these seeds, other plants will grow up when
the cycle of the seasons has brought back the conditions
necessary for their germination. If it was a fragrant violet,
its seeds will produce their lovely kind. If it was a ragweed,
more ragweed will appear.
So it is too with the psychological-animal organism of man. When
it dies and fades out it deposits in Nature's psychological soil
or reservoir those invisible seeds of energy that its own growth
has produced. Theosophists call these seeds or effects SKANDHAS,
using the Sanskrit because there is in English no word that can
exactly describe these inner consequences of a life's experience.
And it is these seeds or SKANDHAS, or attributes of character,
which shape the new personality when the Ego returns to
incarnation, making it the exact result of what it thought and
acted and built up of character in the last life.
That in man that reincarnates, then, is the Spiritual Ego, the
higher part of our human constitution.
MORE ABOUT AFTER-DEATH CONSCIOUSNESS
By G. de Purucker
[From THE DIALOGUES OF G. DE PURUCKER, III, pages 426-31.]
Please remember that nirvana, devachan, kamaloka, and avichi, are
all conditions of consciousness, and it does not matter two pins
where that consciousness is because the locality, if an entity is
in a state of consciousness, cannot affect that state at all. A
man may be in nirvana although he is living upon the planet Mara,
which to us human beings is like a hell. A man living on one of
the higher planetary chains of our own solar system may be in a
kamaloka in that chain, or in the avichi belonging to that
particular globe of that chain. Each chain has its own globes,
each globe has its own inhabitants, and these inhabitants are in
a certain specific evolutionary stage.
Being in this specific evolutionary stage they will have
conditions of consciousness corresponding to it, so that what we
call nirvana, devachan, the so-called conditions in kamaloka and
the avichi are not absolute, each one identical for all possible
planes of the universe, but are all relative. As should be
obvious, the nirvana of one living on the highest cosmic plane is
incomparably higher than the nirvana of one living on the lowest
cosmic plane, and exactly so for any other state of
consciousness, whether of devachan, kamaloka, or avichi, which
can be repetitively reproduced on higher or lower planes.
To revert to us human beings: when we speak of the devachan as
being spiritual -- highly spiritual, I venture to enter a caveat,
a word of warning. I know I myself have used that identical
phrase and have regretted it. It is true in a vague way, but it
is the conditions of the nirvana, when we come right down to
brass tacks, which are spiritual. The conditions in the devachan
are mental. Mind you, I am not saying high or low, or
intermediate. I leave that for your own intuition to determine.
It is easy.
The entity in the kamaloka is in the kama-manasic state, the
lower mentality manas, with emotions, feelings, what not; and
likewise the same goes for the conditions of consciousness of
entities in the avichi. Spirituality is for the nirvani; high
mentality, a spiritualized mentality, for the devachani;
emotional and lower mentality for one in kamaloka; and intense
mental suffering and emotional stress and storm for the one in
Live a life striving towards the gods, your death will be
peaceful, your kamaloka will be nil, because no kamalokic seeds
have come into your life. Your devachan will be relatively high
and very short, or very long, depending upon your karma,
depending upon the longing of your heart.
In connection with all these thoughts, there are exceptions,
there are things to remember, which would change individual
cases. Take for instance a Chela. Now if we did not know of the
teaching, we would say: Oh, a Chela, a very lofty man or woman --
surely that means a long, long, long devachan of rest and
happiness and peace; won't it be beautiful for him when he dies!
But you see that is not what the Chela wants. He is striving to
reduce his devachan. He is striving to become spiritualized
rather than merely loftily intellectualized; he is striving to
come back to earth to help. His heart is filled not with
kamalokic instincts, nor with devachanic instincts, nor even with
nirvanic instincts that he resigns. But his whole being is
filled with the love of everything around him. He wants to come
back, he wants to help, and he wants to give himself. His whole
being is spiritualized. The result is that in him there is very
little of the making of the devachani. Do you follow the
psychological thought there?
Now a baby of course has no devachan, for obvious reasons. It
has not had thought and feeling enough to make a devachan.
Likewise, a baby has no nirvana, and it has no kamaloka, no
avichi, for the same reason. But a grown man can easily be in a
devachanic state because he is cultivating it while living. This
is still another aspect of the teaching. He may actually have
cut his devachan short, and have in his auric egg a psychological
urge or impulse to go back to the devachan and rest like a most
tired man rising from his bed before his body is fully
recuperated. At the least temptation, he wants to sit back in
his chair, relax, and go to sleep, so that from a number of
causes men can be in the devachan while embodied.
I still am not satisfied, Mr. Chairman and Companions, and
confess to a very wee, very wee feeling of irritability. I trust
you will forgive me if I speak with a certain amount of undue
energy. This matter really is so simple. For fifty years, the
teaching has been given, turned, and twisted, turned inside out
almost. Questions by the thousand have been answered, and yet
some of our most devoted members with their high powers of
understanding do not seem to have grasped the simplest thing
about the devachan.
It is simply that it is a state of consciousness in which a man
or a woman enters after death, or during life perhaps, simply as
the karmic result of the sum total of the workings of that
consciousness while the man was alive. That is all there is to
the devachan. If you live a life that is productive of a
devachan, then you are going to get it, because that is in your
stream of consciousness; that is you. That seems so simple. If
you live a life while in the body that is passionate -- and
passion means many things, please remember: anger, hatred,
detestation, and prejudice, etc. -- you are simply building for
yourself a vivid kamaloka. Inevitably, because it is yourself;
and when you die you simply carry on as yourself.
All the other details of the teaching about the various bodies,
and the throwing off of the kama-rupa, and all that, are merely
the exoteric fringe of the teaching. The real teaching lies in
understanding the fact that man is a stream or center of
consciousness undergoing various phases, and that he can control
these phases, or become subject to them. He can master them or
he can become enslaved to them. If he finally masters them, he
becomes a mahatma. If he becomes enslaved to them, he becomes a
slave to his lower self. That is all. You are going to get
exactly, precisely nothing else but exactly and precisely what
the sum total of your thoughts and feelings during life has been.
Let us take the case of the good man who is beginning to lose the
love of himself, who is beginning to take an interest in others,
in the stars, and in the sun, and in the beauties of nature. He
is becoming impersonal. This cuts the root of that which
produces devachan. Impersonality. Probably his death will be as
peaceful as the dropping of a leaf from a tree. He will not know
when he dies. There will be no kamaloka. There has not been
anything in his life to produce a kamaloka; the Second Death will
come almost -- oh, we cannot say immediately, it depends upon the
individual -- but quite soon relatively speaking, and he won't
realize that it has taken place. The kama-rupa will just drop
away, and being of high astral substance will disintegrate
quickly. Then the entity simply passes right through the lower
devachanic regions; it is not attracted by them as there is not
anything of the lower devachan in his being. He simply rises
right up to higher levels of the devachan, perhaps even touches
the fringes or enters into the nirvana-condition.
Therefore, the time comes when a man is embodied in life after
life until his evolution is so far progressed that he passes
beyond the devachan. He does not need it as there is not the
need for rest and recuperation. The ego is not tired, it is not
weary, there has been nothing in the past life to produce the
devachan, he is a mahatma, in the highest conditions a Buddha,
and can enter the nirvana even when alive, and rest there.
Thus spirituality is the mark of the nirvani; high or
spiritualized intellectuality is the mark of the devachani;
emotional enslavement particularly if connected with instability,
and mental enslavement, one's likes and dislikes, hatreds and
loves, are the typical seeds producing the kamaloka, whereas the
avichi stands in a class by itself again.
The average man and woman is entirely too weak to enter the
avichi -- fortunately. The avichi, as states of consciousness
(for the avichi comprises many states), is entered or undergone
by those beings who are more or less high in spiritual
wickedness, in other words, men and women with high native
talents who deliberately prostituted these to the use of evil.
That produces the avichi. A true individual in the avichi is
beyond all ordinary human temptations, ordinary human passions.
He is above them, or below them. I hardly know how to phrase it.
They do not touch him; they are too gross.
The avichi is a kind of inverted spirituality. One belonging
there has no love for life on earth, no more so than has the
typical nirvani. His love, his hope, his life, is in a desperate
alliance with evil, if you can conceive of this thing. Human
beings can be in certain of the higher states of avichi, which
means for us the feebler states, while embodied. I have seen men
and women in an avichi state. They had no realization of it.
They were perfectly convinced that they were doing just the right
thing; and yet they had chosen with deliberation at that time to
do an evil thing because they liked it. They liked the evil for
its own sake. They did not want to hurt anybody. But evil
itself attracted them. I wonder if you understand this. There
are human beings like that.
By Geoffrey West
[From THE ARYAN PATH, February 1934, pages 75-79.]
The modern study of Theosophy, for the West at least, begins, and
in a sense ends, in the work of H.P. Blavatsky. To those
teachers who went before her, she has done more than anyone to
draw our attention has. She has had, yet, no successor.
Thus, while in essence Theosophy is universal beyond
localization, it comes to us in a specifically Eastern form, and,
as such, one that the average, even the average intelligent,
European finds so intensely disturbing to his whole mode of
thought that his inclination is to reject it out of hand. True,
there are increasing signs today of a widespread change or
development of outlook. The existence and power of psychic and
spiritual factors, the validity of a knowledge and wisdom
anterior to Francis Bacon and even Aristotle, are no longer
denied with nineteenth-century confidence even by the so-called
These tendencies must develop far before anything approaching the
Theosophical standpoint becomes widely acceptable, and meanwhile
it is inevitable that the casual observer should tend to attach
doubt if not downright disbelief to almost all its most eminent
exponents through the ages. For every one of them, regarded from
the strictly Western point of view, was odd, dabbled in the
marvelous, taught the incredible, performed the impossible.
These trailing clouds of glory, warrants of power for him who
believes, the skeptic deems but the dubious clammy cobwebs of
impostorship. Yet, somehow, the conviction persists of their
understanding, insight, achievement, and knowledge. Self-assured
investigators may "expose" them repeatedly -- and still they
stand, to demand, and to receive, attention.
Regarding the universe as it is depicted to him by the modern
astronomers and physicists, man shrinks to a bewildered atom amid
these cold immensities, stoical or whimpering in his fearful
loneliness. He seems to bear the burden of all time and space,
indeed of eternity, upon his single shoulders. Western science
proffers him no key. In its confessed failure to describe the
photon, we have the analogue of its failure to describe being.
Certain factors (speed) can be given only by omitting other
factors (mass) -- or vice versa. Analysis, in the last resort,
must always fall short. What then, one asks, and turns to find
Theosophy whispering of a key whose essence is knowledge not of
the intellect but of the being. It is an act not of a partial
but a total perception, suggesting that it is the saint rather
than the scientist who is the ultimate "seer" of the true nature
of reality, for he alone is fully attuned AS AN ORGANISM to
perceive organically the object of attention whatever it may be.
We ask were these Theosophical teachers, bearing the reputation
and seeming at first glance impostors, really of this higher
caliber? Not only, what did they teach, but also what were THEY
that we should listen to them? Let us take a few, some
half-dozen, not wholly at random and yet without any attempt at a
complete conspectus; say -- Paracelsus, called the Father of
European Occultism; four such diverse eighteenth-century
personages as the Comte de Saint-Germain, Mesmer, Louis Claude de
Saint-Martin, and Cagliostro; and last, and inevitably, H.P.
Blavatsky. Let us seek to see them in some sort as they truly
were, with Western and yet with understanding eyes; and, having
regarded them one by one, to see what significance they hold for
us, the West, today, and for the future development of Theosophy
in the West.
Paracelsus -- Why and how justly was he termed the Father of
European Occultism? Wide factors are involved in the answering of
such a question. Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim -- he
adopted the name of Paracelsus at the age of seventeen -- was
born at a critical, in fact decisive, moment of the world's
historical and spiritual development. The Renaissance was
spreading its ferment over Europe, with the wave of the
Reformation close behind. New discoveries, new curiosities, new
ideas were active in every field of thought and action. The
modern world was dawning after the long night of the Dark Ages.
The previous thousand years had been dark indeed. The bright
illuminations of Alexandria and the East -- of Rome even -- had
been stifled persistently and ruthlessly by an all-powerful
Church whose lust for temporal power had blinded its spiritual
understanding. The torch of Neo-Platonism raised by Ammonius
Saccas in the third century was extinguished in Alexandria with
the mob-murder of Hypatia in 415, and before the end of the sixth
century, its last reflection seemed dead in the wider world.
Simply, it vanished, for over nine hundred years.
Suddenly, we find it in revival, even before Paracelsus. How had
it survived to emerge after all these centuries? What ark had
borne it safely across this protracted flood? For answer, we must
look to the persistence of the specifically Kabbalist knowledge.
It is Jewish in form but of a more ancient and wider origin,
which remained a national possession, a traditional wisdom
passing from teacher to student, initiate to initiate, "face to
face and mouth to ear," in Palestine, in Egypt, in the Near East,
then more and more widely over Europe as the Jews were scattered
westward. From the twelfth century forward, there were known to
be Kabbalist schools in Spain, Italy, and Germany at least. It
was thus that the essential hermetic knowledge, directly deriving
from the teaching of Simeon ben Yohai but clearly allied both to
that of Ammonius AND to the Gnosticism of Simon Magus, was never
lost, though often distorted, misunderstood, and misapplied.
In the strict sense, Paracelsus taught nothing new; but very
little study of the "alchemistical philosophers" who preceded him
is necessary to realize that. Practically without exception, his
main principles were the common possession of the other
outstanding occult initiates of his own day. On the face of the
facts, there is no particular reason why his teacher Johannes
Trithemius, or Cornelius Agrippa, his fellow-pupil under
Trithemius, should not have achieved as he did. Madame Blavatsky
has declared Trithemius to be the greatest Kabbalist of his day,
and he was a master of the arts of magnetism, telepathy, magic,
and alchemy. Agrippa too had both wisdom and great energy.
Paracelsus, unlike either of them, was primarily neither scholar
nor mystic but physician. He lived and died -- whether the
latter by violence or disease -- a doctor. Perpetually questing,
in Browning's words, "to comprehend the works of God, and God
himself, and all God's intercourse with the human mind," he
applied his knowledge, as he won it, primarily to the art of
healing. His purpose and his task led him into many strange
paths, but he forsook neither.
His comparatively brief life -- he died at forty-eight -- falls
into three periods, the first of youth's dedication to an aim,
the second of conscious pupilage culminating in attainment of
understanding, the third of the master, the man of knowledge
speaking with authority, demonstrating his powers in action and
teaching with tongue and pen. In each phase, he was a wanderer,
without -- once boyhood passed -- a home, poor in friends though
with, alas, no lack of the harsh coin of others' hatred.
He was born in 1493 near Zurich in Switzerland, but was only nine
when his father, the distinguished doctor Wilhelm Bombast von
Hohenheim, was appointed town-physician at Villach in Carinthia,
whither the two of them, for Theophrastus was an only child, and
his mother was already dead, went to live. There he had his
first schooling, but when sixteen returned to Switzerland to the
University at Basle. Later he studied at Wurzburg as the pupil
of Trithemius, and then in the laboratories of Sigismund Fugger,
a noted alchemist, at Schwatz in the Tyrol, where he wrote his
Clearly, his transcendent aim was fixed, but, it soon appeared,
he had to follow it in his own way. In boyhood, he had been his
father's constant companion, accompanying him upon his medical
visits and learning from him both theory and practice of
chemistry, alchemy, surgery, and medicine generally. Having thus
had his first lessons in the world, he never took kindly to the
study. Scholastic methods he found pedantic, unprofitable. He
was never a reader of books, save "the great open book of nature,
written with the finger of God." Like all the great figures of
the Renaissance, he relied upon his own living perceptions: while
he could recognize the profound qualities of such a teacher as
Trithemius, the world was, first and last, his ultimate
In this assurance, in 1516, aged twenty-three, he deliberately
set forth as a pilgrim upon the roads of Europe, of which, in the
next five years he left little unvisited, traveling unburdened,
learning as life might teach, and despising no knowledge whatever
its source. He passed in turn through Vienna, Cologne, Paris,
Montpellier (the very stronghold of orthodox medical opinion),
Italy, Spain, England, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia,
Bohemia, Poland, Transylvania, Wallachia, Croatia, and the
Balkans, whence he entered Russia, penetrating as far as Moscow.
In Russia, he became acquainted, as either prisoner or guest,
with the Tartar ruler, and accompanied his son to Constantinople
in 1521. There he is said to have lived for some months in the
house of a great occultist, under whose tuition he received "the
Philosopher's Stone" -- his final initiation into that higher
occult and spiritual understanding that thenceforward he owned in
higher degree than any other Western student of his age has.
Who was this instructing occultist? Some would say Solomon
Trismosinus, a reputed initiate whose very existence, however,
some well-informed students of the period would deny. It has
also been declared that Paracelsus himself penetrated to India
and even Tibet, but he himself stated explicitly, "I visited
neither Asia nor Africa, although it has been so reported."
Presumably, the basis of the legend is the extent of his
knowledge, and its consonance with Eastern teachings, but he had
his teachers, and -- truth knows no geographical limitations. He
did in fact say that, "all Wisdom comes from the East; from the
West we can expect nothing good," but H.P. Blavatsky on the
other hand suggests that identical teachings do not necessarily
derive one from another, "for an eternal truth may as well be
recognized by one seer as by another."
He was now a master, in the realms alike of occult knowledge and
medical practice -- the one implied the other. His wanderings
were no more ended, and one might almost say that his troubles
were only beginning. All not simply blinded by prejudice could
not but recognize him as a truly distinguished physician. His
powers were manifest in his seemingly almost miraculous cures,
but these very things roused professional jealousy against him
wherever he went. He could not long settle in any place, to draw
about him a circle of student disciples, before his very life was
threatened and he was forced to fly. (Admittedly, his vigor and
bluntness in controversy, or in denouncing the laziness and
ignorance of the doctors as a whole, and his quite evident
contempt, did nothing to allay their resentment!) He had thus to
leave Bohemia, Poland, Wurttemberg, Strassburg, Basle (where he
had been appointed town physician and professor of medicine in
the University), Nuremberg, and other places.
For a while, he was reduced to absolute poverty, possibly
relieved in 1537 by receiving some property from his father who
had died in 1534. Not until the spring of 1541 did he find, at
Salzburg where he was welcomed by the Duke Ernst of Bavaria,
another occult student, what might have been a home. But his
rest was brief, for he died in the following September, murdered
at last, some have said, by his old enemies, though other
evidence suggests a natural death from an incurable disease
contracted in the course of his wanderings.
EARTHQUAKES, TSUNAMIS, AND
THE BIG QUESTIONS SURROUNDING NATURAL DISASTERS
By Clare Goldsberry
By now, we've all been inundated with the televised visual images
of the horrific destruction caused by the massive 9.0 earthquake
in the Indian Ocean that triggered the tsunami resulting in what
officials are now estimating at over 200,000 deaths. The images
are heart-rending: children left as orphans and parents without
their children; homes and livelihoods ripped out to sea by a wall
of water unimaginable to most of us. People all over the world
are asking why, even as they compassionately donate money, goods
and time to relief efforts.
Some in the Evangelical and Christian fundamentalist churches are
excitedly viewing this event as one more proof that the Book of
Revelation is coming to pass; that God is reaping destruction
upon the heathens of the world who have not yet accepted Jesus
Christ as their Savior. Those readers of Timothy LeHaye's "Left
Behind" series, which details the "Rapture" of good Christians
from the face of the earth, are starting to believe LeHaye's
works are non-fiction rather than fiction; that the end-times are
indeed upon us.
On the first day of this New Year, a friend who lives in Oak
Ridge, Tennessee, called to wish me "happy new year." However,
our conversation soon turned to the tsunami disaster. "Vic [her
husband] and I were talking about it earlier and were wondering,
did God do this or did Satan? What do you think?" she asked me.
What a dilemma! Did God do this to punish people, as he is often
depicted doing in the Old Testament? Or, was it Satan? Suddenly,
I felt like Church Lady in a Saturday Night Live script! If God
didn't do this, then who did? Satan, maybe!
Someone has to be responsible for this massively destructive
event, so depending on one's life philosophy or theology, either
God or Satan is the logical choice, particularly for the
Judeo-Christian segment of the global population. For others,
the massive changes in the earth's atmosphere, tectonic plate
shifts, etc. must be caused by man's failure to tend the earth's
environment properly. Someone is to blame! Someone must be
On the evening news of January 6th, a reporter asked a Jewish
Rabbi how one should understand this disaster. He replied that
it is "God punishing the wicked, and unfortunately many good
people get in the way." Now, wouldn't you think if God in
omnipotent he could be more accurate when zapping bad people!
An Evangelical Christian minister said much the same thing. A
mainline Protestant minister said that sometimes we don't know.
"Stuff just happens and it's not up to us question it." The
reporter then asked a Buddhist monk whether God was responsible
for the tsunami, and of course, since Buddhists don't believe in
God, he replied, "No, natural disasters just happen. It is only
that and nothing more." How Should Theosophists Look at Natural
I told my friend that Satan couldn't have caused the disaster
because I don't believe in Satan. And because the Divine entity
I believe in is not an anthropomorphic God, it couldn't have been
him/her either! Those statements pretty much ended that
What most people fail to understand is that we live on a very
unstable little planet that is a speck in the Universe. This
little rock has undergone major geological transformations over
its billions of years of history, and will continue to undergo
transformation. Just because we are living here and now in this
consciousness, it does not mean we can suspend Earth's
transformative energy. We cannot stop earthquakes. We cannot
stop floods. We cannot stop the erosion of coastlines just
because people have built multi-million dollar homes or resort
hotels overlooking the oceans. We cannot stop future ice ages
any more than we could have stopped past ice ages.
HPB tells us in THE SECRET DOCTRINE that everything comes and
goes in cycles. ". . . to show that evolution in general,
events, mankind, and everything else in Nature, proceeds in
cycles." (SD, II, 443) She also writes,
> Climates will, and have already begun, to change, each tropical
> year after the other dropping one sub-race, but only to beget
> another higher race on the ascending cycle; while a series of
> other less favored groups -- the failures of nature -- will, like
> some individual men, vanish from the human family without even
> leaving a trace behind.
> -- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, page 446
In ISIS UNVEILED, HPB says,
> Do not the relics we treasure in our museums -- do they not
> prove, over and over again, that nations and continents that have
> passed away have buried along with them arts and sciences, which
> neither the first crucible ever heated in a mediaeval cloister,
> nor the lst cracked by a modern chemist, have revived, no one
> will -- at least in the present century.
> -- ISIS UNVEILED, I, pages 239-40
In fact, HPB talks extensively about the changing of the earth,
the separation of the land from the water, the rising of the
continents and the inundation of other continents throughout the
ages. Scientists say the recent earthquake shook the earth so
violently that the Earth's axis is now off by one degree and that
some islands might have completely disappeared. This information
shouldn't be of any surprise to Theosophists. HPB says that:
> [There were] four such axial disturbances; when the old
> continents -- save the first one -- were sucked in by the oceans,
> other lands appeared, and huge mountain chains arose where there
> had been none before. The face of the Globe was completely
> changed each time; the survival of the fittest nations and races
> was secured through timely help; and the unfit ones -- the
> failures -- were disposed of by being swept off the earth.
> -- ISIS UNVEILED, II, page 330
On the same page, she continues,
> Every Sidereal Year (equal to 25,868 of our solar years) the
> tropics recede from the pole four degrees in each revolution from
> the equinoctial points, as the equator rounds through the
> Zodiacal constellations. Now, as every astronomer knows, at
> present the tropic is only twenty-three degrees and a fraction
> less than half a degree from the equator. Hence it has still 2 1/2
> degrees to run before the end of the Sidereal Year; which gives
> humanity in general and our civilized races in particular, a
> reprieve of about 16,000 years.
Also speaking about the shifting of the Earth's axis, HPB says,
> But they represented also the poles inverted, in consequence of
> the great inclination of the axis, bringing each time as a result
> the displacement of the Oceans, the submersion of the polar
> lands, and the consequent upheaval of new continents in the
> equatorial regions, and vice versa.
> -- ISIS UNVEILED, II, page 360
She points out that there have been four such axial shifts of the
earth and will be more.
And so the question we as Theosophists must ask is, "Who are we
to think that just because we are here now, the Earth will cease
its shifting and changing?" Indeed, who are we to think that
everything must remain constant just because we like the Earth
just the way it is? Isn't our goal non-attachment, and embracing
all things and events as those intended by the Universe?
In the January/February 2005 issue of QUEST, Radha Burnier writes
> Spiritually what a person deems to be trouble may be an
> opportunity, even a sort of grace. From the material point of
> view, the good appears to consist of certain things that happen
> at the physical level, but from the spiritual point of view,
> these things may have little significance.
> -- THE QUEST, "All is for Good," pages 30-31
In THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE commentary from the National Lodge
studies, we read about the concept of "wu-wei" or "do nothing,"
or better interpreted as "desireless action or action without
concern for the results." In Buddhism that is often referred to
as "non-attachment to outcomes." Want nothing and you will
receive every needful thing is also a universal truth taught by
both Christianity and Buddhism.
"The idea is that, if we do not try to impose our will on events,
but 'go with the flow' we can accomplish great things," says the
commentary. Embrace all things. Life is what it is! Isn't all
that happens to us in our lives for our own good, even though we
may not recognize it at the time?
Also, as Theosophists, we believe in karma, which has much to do
with world events, even natural disasters. In the January 4th
issue of the Wall Street Journal, there was an interesting
article about the devastation of the Banda Aceh region of
Indonesia -- the scene of some of the worst destruction. The
article told of how difficult life has been there over the past
couple of decades because of the reign of many anti-government
Muslim terrorist groups. The little newspaper in Banda Aceh, the
only voice the people had by which to hear of the truth of the
political climate there, suffered greatly: "its reporters
kidnapped, its delivery trucks hijacked and torched, and its
executives threatened by both the Indonesian Army and the
separatist rebels who have been fighting here since 1976."
This region was also the area in which just three weeks prior to
the earthquake, an article in the Wall Street Journal told of how
the Indonesian Army had captured a Muslim terrorist cell, and
decoded their computers in which they uncovered a plot to bomb
the tourist resort hotels along the beaches in Indonesia and
Thailand. Now, if we think about our lessons on vibratory energy
-- how our thoughts can become a reality -- then we can see that
perhaps this event was brought on by the horrible vibrations of
people who were plotting death and destruction on their own.
Nature beat them to the punch, so to speak, and completed the
task for them!
Consider karma. Do we see this disaster as a fluke of nature? Or
is it perhaps a karmic event? Who are we to say these people did
not deserve this event in some karmic kind of way? Isn't all of
life about karma? Aren't we all here because of karma? So,
perhaps we need to watch "the movie," help in ways we can help
the survivors (compassion is key to our personal enlightenment),
but be non-judgmental, non-attached to the event or the outcome
of the event.
Natural disasters have often been seen by certain religions as
God's raining down His wrath upon those who are evil. Sodom and
Gomorrah are mentioned in our commentary, as an example of God's
decision to destroy these wicked cities. However, God cut a deal
with Lot to spare him and his family. Lot's wife however wasn't
spared, but was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back and
longing for the past. Plagues of locusts, floods, famines all
have been natural disasters that have been blamed on God as
punishment for wickedness. Man's attempt to find a
rationalization for obeying the deities has resulted in a God who
punishes the wicked and blesses the good.
But, we must keep in mind that "bad" things happen to "good"
people, as Rabbi Harold Kushner reminds us in his book of that
title. Now, how can we rationalize that one? Well, we as
Theosophists understand karma so we understand why things happen
to all of us. Events are not good or bad, events are just
events. Without judgment we embrace these events, asking our
guides "what does this mean for me?", "what lesson do I need to
learn?", or "what karmic debt must I pay?" Then, we receive
answers. These are not easy answers to be sure, but answers
It is not God or Satan that brings about these natural disasters,
these cataclysmic changes in the Earth, but a natural consequence
of the state of things. The Earth will continue to evolve and
change; its axis will continue to be altered; its environment
will continue to shift; species will continue to evolve, change,
die out and new species arise. "Life forms on earth are
constantly being created and eliminated," notes one scientist in
a Wall Street Journal editorial. "It has been estimated that 98%
of the life that existed on the planet is extinct, including the
dinosaurs, the smallpox virus, and the 1918 influenza virus. New
species are constantly being created." [Richard Hardy, Seattle]
Ergo, the shape of the coasts of Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri
Lanka has been altered by the tsunami; several islands no longer
exist. But, new islands will continue to appear and new waters
rise, notes Blavatsky. It is the way of things. The natural
order of the Universe is one of continual change that we mere
mortals inhabiting these temporary bodies in our myriad lifetimes
on this planet (and perhaps others!) cannot stop.
So, what must be our response? We always offer compassion for
those who are suffering because of this natural disaster. We can
help as we are each able in the form of monetary aid. More
importantly, we can add our gifts of prayer and meditation,
holding these people in our thoughts, and bringing them light,
and love. As good thoughts offset the negativity of those who
wish to do harm to their fellow beings, we can quiet the
vibrations that would cause disharmony and improve those harmonic
vibrations that would bring calm to all nature.
Radha Burnier reminds us well ". . . the Enlightened Ones will
not interfere with karma, even though they have the power to do
so. They scrupulously follow the Law, because they know that the
laws of the universe bring about what is spiritually good."
Thus, we must take all that happens, as Radha Burnier notes, as
for the good of humanity. We must believe that. It makes life
easier when we embrace it all and not pick and choose what to
embrace as "good" and what to reject as "bad." Or, as the
mythologist Joseph Campbell has stated, "Say a resounding 'yes!'
to everything in your life and you will find the adventure a
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application