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THEOSOPHY WORLD ------------------------------------ August, 2010
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.)
"A Rondel of Lomaland: A Morning in January," by Kenneth Morris
"The Mahatma Letters for Our Times," by John Algeo
"Trusting in the Law," by Henry T. Edge
"Virtue in Action," by Dara Eklund
"The Grand Old Simple Truths," by T. Henry
"Places of Power," by Stefan Carey
"The Commonsense of Theosophy," Part I, by Frank Knoche
"Magdalen," by Grace Knoche
"Why do We Suffer," by Lydia Ross
> LANGUAGE is certainly coeval with reason, and could never have
> been developed before men became one with the informing
> principles in them -- those who fructified and awoke to life the
> manasic element dormant in primitive man . . . But language,
> proceeding in cycles, is not always adequate to express SPIRITUAL
> -- THE SECRET DOCTRINE, II, page 199 fn.
A RONDEL OF LOMALAND: A MORNING IN JANUARY
By Kenneth Morris
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January 1918, page 68.]
God is in this gray, pensive rain;
It is his mystic, inmost mood:
He has some old, sweet thought to brood,
Too curious for joy or pain.
Keep your heart hushed; you'll get no gain
Of anxious prayers and strivings crude
While God is busy with the rain.
Some secrecy, occult, arcane,
Holds its swift drifting multitude,
It hurries through the quietude
Whispering so silvery. It's plain
To me, God's roaming in the rain,
His inmost, most mysterious mood.
THE MAHATMA LETTERS FOR OUR TIMES
By John Algeo
A review for THEOSOPHY WORLD of REFLECTIONS ON AN AGELESS WISDOM:
A COMMENTARY ON "THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT." By Joy
Mills. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books,
2010. Pp. xx + 543 + index.
Some thirty or more years ago, the Atlanta (Georgia) Theosophical
Lodge was in the midst of a members-meeting study of the MAHATMA
LETTERS, which consisted of members sitting in a circle and
taking turns to read passages of the letters aloud, haltingly and
often without understanding their content. The Lodge was about
half way through the volume and determined to soldier on to the
end, which (to their credit) they eventually did. It was a form
of study that engaged the participation of all the members who
attended it, at least on a superficial level, but not one likely
to inspire enthusiasm for its subject.
During that period, I first went to Krotona (in Ojai,
California), where I heard Joy Mills lecturing on THE MAHATMA
LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT. Her great enthusiasm for and her
deep knowledge of the letters were a revelation that inspired me
to reconsider the value of studying them. Joy's lecture series
on the MAHATMA LETTERS continued for years and, I have no doubt,
was potentially infinite, as her own understanding seemed to grow
as she talked about the letters, their background, and their
importance in the Theosophical philosophy. Several of us over
the years urged Joy to put her ML lectures into publishable form
for the benefit of those who could not hear them directly from
her lips. She has done that in the volume under review.
REFLECTIONS ON AN AGELESS WISDOM: A COMMENTARY ON "THE MAHATMA
LETTERS TO A. P. SINNETT" is no dry-as-dust, fusty old
exposition of the letters. It is a vibrant, even chattily
colloquial, exposition of what the letters are about and of why
they are relevant to our time, despite those letters having been
written about five generations ago and for a highly specific
readership and purpose. For those who have heard Joy talk, her
voice comes through the printed words in this book unmistakably
and authentically. And in those words we hear, not just the
sound of her voice, but its articulation of her profound grasp of
the content of the letters and of their relevance for us and
indeed for all times.
Although the mahatmas' letters were written in a particular
cultural context and for particular recipients with special,
individual needs, the letter speak to us, as well. The words of
a mahatma are so charged with meaning and so relevant to the
human situation that they rise above the limitations of time and
space to become apply everywhere and always. Joy's book points
out how remarkably prescient the writers of those letters were
and exactly how they speak to us as well as they did to their
addressees all those years ago.
Every Theosophist needs to be familiar with THE MAHATMA LETTERS,
and every serious student of those letters can benefit from Joy
Mills's commentary, REFLECTIONS ON AN AGELESS WISDOM. For those
who lack much familiarity with THE MAHATMA LETTERS, this is the
book to begin with. For those who have a long-standing
acquaintance with the letters, this is a book that can open new
doors and point to the contemporary relevance of those wonderful
old epistles. Although she would doubtless shy away from the
honor, Joy Mills has clear claim to the status of grand dame of
Theosophy. This book provides eloquent support for that claim.
We are deeply indebted to her for producing it and thereby
sharing her own understanding and appreciation of those marvelous
letters with all of us.
TRUSTING IN THE LAW
By Henry T. Edge
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, May 1918, pages 425-30.]
Science has accustomed us to the idea that law and order prevail
in the workings of Nature; and we all rely fully on the justice
and immutability of the laws of Nature. There are many things
which we nowadays, in our greater enlightenment, recognize as
coming under this reign of law, but which at one time were
regarded as mysterious visitations, to be deprecated but not
Of these things, one of the most striking is infectious disease;
for, whereas our ancestors did not generally know what caused the
disease or what promoted its diffusion, bowed helpless before it,
and could but vainly supplicate whatever Gods there be in earth
or heaven, we take heed to sanitation and infection and are
enabled by our knowledge and by our confidence in the scientific
use of the laws of Nature to defy the plague.
In morals, we are learning more and more to look to natural law
for guidance rather than to a mysterious allotment of fate or an
inscrutable dispensation of providence. This has made us more
reasonable and merciful in the treatment of the mentally infirm
and the criminal, for we realize better that their infirmities
are so much the outcome of causes that can be traced and
Yet, though we are now so much better equipped for the
understanding of the prevalence of law throughout the universe,
we still fall far behind the ideal in many respects. For the
domain of science has so far been very much restricted, and it
does not trench upon that region which has been occupied by
religious authority -- the region of our moral and spiritual
concerns. In this domain we are still in a state of chaos and
It is true that persons strong in faith and not overburdened with
that intellectual inquisitiveness which brings doubts, find
themselves able to trust in God as the representative of unerring
justice, and that this trust is a lamp unto their footsteps
This is not the case with a majority of people, in whom the
reasoning faculties are more strongly developed than the simple
trust; and of course it is a want of the knowledge of
reincarnation that presents the chief difficulty in the way of
accepting the universal reign of law.
In addition to this lack of knowledge, we also labor under a
great limitation of knowledge as to the way in which the events
of life are brought about. These events we call casual or
accidental, because we do not know any better word by which to
describe them; but it is merely a word that covers or denotes our
If we had the true scientific attitude, we should be obliged to
admit that there can be no such thing as an effect without a
cause, and that it must be possible to trace every event that
happens to us to some cause, however apparently casual and
unrelated to anything else such event may be.
Now Theosophy declares that there IS a connection between our
destiny and our conduct, and that nothing happens to us except
what we have ourselves incurred by our own conduct; so that our
destiny is always perfectly just. This is known as the law of
Karma, or cause and effect on the moral plane.
Theosophy does not stop short with a mere statement, which, if
left thus, would amount to a mere dogma. Theosophy always
follows up its statements by pointing out the way in which the
student may approach to a confirmation of them, so that his faith
may become conviction, his intellectual belief an item of actual
In this case, Theosophy declares that a student of life, by
accepting with faith the principle of universal law, and keeping
it in his mind as a key to the problems with which he meets, will
surely find daily proofs of the truth of the principle. Thus he
will be enabled to verify it for himself; not all at once, but
step by step, so that his knowledge and trust will gradually
When we try to reconcile our faith in the justice and goodness of
providence with our very limited ideas of the scope of human
life, we may be driven to the fear that providence does not know
what it is about, or that it is indifferent to our fate, or that
its decisions are cruel and arbitrary.
The great Teachers, of whom Christ was one, have always bidden
man to KNOW; Christ was always telling his disciples to seek the
light of knowledge within themselves and to look for the
illumination of the divine spirit; and so taught Plato and the
sages of antiquity.
It is only man himself who, in his weakness, has travestied the
original teachings of the great religious founders, and has
invented dogmas which shut him out from the light and teach him
that knowledge is shut out from him and that it is impious to try
and understand the ways of God.
Such a doctrine is the very reverse of what Christ and the other
Teachers really taught. Therefore, when confronted with what
seems like injustice or indifference on the part of providence,
we should put it down to our own ignorance, and should endeavor
to enlarge our knowledge, so that we may be able to consent to
the ways of providence not in blind trust but in sure knowledge.
When providence sends us some great affliction, we may say that
it is doubtless all for our good, and that "he has willed it in
his inscrutable wisdom." After that, we may either rest content
in that faith or else we may angrily rebel and even seek refuge
in doubt and despair.
In the light of a wider knowledge, we should feel that eternal
justice has but given us what is our exact due; and instead of
rebelling against the decree or giving up all attempt to solve
the riddle, we should go on living in the continual expectation
of arriving at its solution someday.
Theosophy sets a man on the road that leads to the solution of
such problems. It opens his eyes on a new prospect, shows him
which way to look, and consequently he begins to see things that
he never saw before.
As just said, we all recognize the law of cause and effect so far
as its workings lie within the range observed by science; why not
try to extend this range? Does the law of cause and effect
prevail over but a part of nature and not over all? Does it stop
short anywhere, and, if so, at what point?
I know that I must not sit with wet feet, or indulge in excess in
eating and drinking, or go into a house where there is infection.
But it is not to any arbitrary decree of providence that I bow in
these cases, it is to a law of nature -- or, if you prefer, I bow
to the will of providence as the representative and dispenser of
eternal justice. Nor do I cavil against the law or seek to evade
it; on the contrary, I accept it willingly and seek but to
cooperate with it.
Why should I stop short at merely physical concerns like disease
and health? Why not extend my studies into the realm of conduct
and morals, and find there also a like certainty of knowledge, an
equal glad acceptance of the justice of the law?
Sometimes we rise in the morning feeling thoroughly out of tune,
and with a premonition that throughout the day we shall run atilt
against things in general, quarrel with our fellows, upset
things, cut our face, and spill our coffee.
In ignorance we might attribute all these disasters to 'chance'
or to providence or to the devil or to Puck, or whatever we might
happen to believe in. But a closer observation of ourself would
reveal that the real cause of them all is simply ourself
We were out of tune; we had quarreled with ourself; there was an
internal commotion going on when we arose, due to some mistake of
the previous day, or to lying too long abed. We got up in a
state of discordant vibration, and we imparted the discord to
everything and everybody we contacted.
People would perhaps even quarrel with us before we said or did
anything to them, because they instinctively and unguardedly
reacted to our own discordant mood; yet it was we more than they
that were to blame! And we might perhaps fall down and hurt
ourself because of the disharmony in our body; and this would not
be an arbitrary decree of providence, but simply the consequence
of our own unguarded state.
Now it is but a further step in knowledge to arrive at the
conviction that EVERY event in our life is related in some way,
however remote, to our own conduct.
The bare fact that we do not at present see the connection is no
valid reason against the belief. We cannot expect to know
everything at once; there must be some gaps in our knowledge. We
do not see how or why such an event as a sudden terrible
bereavement should befall us at a particular time; and we have to
label this event as casual or fortuitous, or as a mysterious
dispensation of providence.
Is it extravagant to suggest that someday we may attain knowledge
sufficient to show us the exact cause and justice of even such
events as this? Can man never learn to understand the divine
will? Theosophy answers that man, having the divine breath in
him, can advance in knowledge so as to be able to consent, in the
light of a greater knowledge, to the decrees of eternal justice.
A person smitten with blindness in the prime of life, and
condemned to spend the rest of his days in a strange world of
darkness, may well be at a loss to understand and reconcile
himself with the decree of his destiny. Yet, as such a calamity
is part of the inevitable contingencies of life, the only course
is to seek to fathom its meaning, so that we may be enabled to
accept the experience without cavil and profit by it.
We accept the principle that the afflicted person has somehow,
some when, carved out for himself a path in life that leads
inevitably up to that catastrophe. The incarnating Soul chose a
destiny that included that particular event. That experience was
somehow due to that man at that time; it was what he had
incurred, what he most needed. A debt was to be paid off, an
account balanced. Somewhere in that man's past, could we scan
it, we should find the other side of that account, the incurring
of the debt. Possibly it was in his present life, being due to
some cause whose connection with the effect we do not discern.
Or perhaps it was in a past life; for it is necessary to take
past lives into the calculation.
Every man is born with a character and with a destiny. These
have been acquired. The incarnating Soul brings them over and
they attach themselves to the developing child, and, like seeds,
grow to maturity in after life. The details of these processes
are beyond our present ken but not beyond our possibility of
In Theosophical writings, in THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, by H.P.
Blavatsky, for instance, are found some valuable hints; and by
studying these, we can at least gain a prospective view of the
ground to be traveled by an aspirant to that knowledge.
Science does not tell us anything about the laws which determine
the kind of heredity a child shall be born with; but we refuse to
be satisfied with a mere negative.
I find myself equipped with a bodily and mental instrument having
certain advantages and certain disadvantages; I can trace these
largely to my parentage and to the way in which I was brought up;
but I demand to know why I should have incurred this particular
heredity and upbringing, while other people have incurred another
To answer such a question, we must look back beyond the epoch of
our birth into this life. I can realize that I have run to
excess in the development of some sides of my character, and have
starved other sides; and that now I am trying to even up my
character. But I did not start the thing in this life; I already
had the tendencies when I entered life. My parents and teachers
did not mold my character as much as might be thought; it was
myself who, to a great extent, molded their behavior. I entered
the world with a strong and definite character, which made
demands upon people and called for certain treatment.
By reflections such as these, we learn to regard our life as a
symmetrical pattern, as a web which we are weaving; and we
acquire more reliance on the value of our own efforts. We feel a
greater confidence in our power to control our fortunes; we are
no longer so helpless.
The great moral laws, which we all intuitively accept, now appear
to us in the form of laws of nature, which are inviolably just
and will return to us whatever our actions may call for. We feel
that it is worthwhile to be conscientious, because this must
necessarily bring us a blessing; just as it is worthwhile to live
cleanly because this will secure our health.
If we will but watch our lives intelligently, we shall soon find
proof of this. We confide in a fountain of equity and purity at
the center of man's nature, which will restore all discord to
We feel that we have knowledge at our command, for knowledge is
not withheld from him who has merited it. Knowledge is not given
or withheld by some external power, but it comes from within; and
the reason why we stay ignorant is that we have not been
sufficiently confident in our own power to attain to knowledge.
After all, this trusting in the law is a truly scientific
attitude; and by contrast, the attitude of those who do not
acknowledge such a law is quite feeble. When people have not
self-confidence, something else usually takes its place and even
borrows its name -- to wit, vanity.
But there is all the difference between assertion of the
personality and reliance on the individuality; for the latter is
the real man within. A man should have confidence in his true
Self, the source of light from within; a very different attitude
from that described by a celebrated historian, who says:
> The wisest of the heathens never understood that the true dignity
> of human nature consists in its submission to a higher Existence;
> that its only hope for the future is in the consciousness of its
> imperfection and weakness and responsibility here.
What he means by 'responsibility' is not easy to see; the word
'irresponsibility' would seem to fit the context better.
Theosophy says that a man may and should submit to the God
within; but that this should not make him cringe in weakness, but
should inspire him to self-reliance and noble effort.
The example of that benighted heathen, Socrates, is worth study
in this respect. This man trusted in the power of principle, if
anybody did; he had the courage of his opinions. His words and
deeds show that he relied fully on a righteous law; yet he was a
heathen, and accused of atheism even by his fellow heathens.
Marcus Aurelius is another of these poor pagans who relied on
eternal justice and found the policy successful
Theosophy asks people today to do the same; adding too that many
of these benighted heathen were more or less initiated into the
sacred Mysteries, and so had actual knowledge about many things
in nature which are mysteries to us.
It was the earnest endeavor of many potentates, both secular and
otherwise, to blot out the records of those mysteries in order to
make way for arbitrary and dogmatic systems. Be it ours to
recover hidden knowledge.
Theosophy is truly a great step towards such a revival; it leads
man to a threshold whence his further advance through the portals
depends on his own efforts.
VIRTUE IN ACTION
By Dara Eklund
[From THEOSOPHIA, Winter 1971-72, pages 14-16.]
Any action, the thought which ignites it and the motive which
fires the thought, are bound up with the Actor. True virtue lies
in transforming the inner nature and that nature is the causative
factor. If a man wishes to establish true character it is the
inner nature which he must rejuvenate first. The virtues of
harmlessness and contentment, for instance, are engendered
spontaneously by the man of few desires. The GITA states (in
> The Lord of the world creates neither the faculty of acting, nor
> actions, nor the connection between action and its fruits; but
> nature prevaileth in these. The Lord receives no man's deeds, be
> they sinful or full of merit.
The body certainly feels the results of our actions. The
feelings too, in terms of pleasure, boredom, or pain. Yet above
these reactions to acute and limited conditions, the Mind, as
that which envisions wide realms of thought, can free us. If we
don't bind down the thoughts by giving way to regret, anxiety,
ambition or envy, they may become our airy messengers, lit up
How do we go about it, since regret, anxiety, ambition or envy
seem to be mentally charged by our thoughts of the past? Perhaps
we could think of these tendencies as energies set in motion
once, maybe many times by the chooser within. They seem to rise
up as patterns of behavior terrible to transform, because
formerly inspired by US, given OUR power. But that was Strong
Will, blinded by desire, not Free will.
In an interesting discussion of this on p. 40 of THE OCCULT WAY,
P.G. Bowen quotes, "Strong Will Achieves conquest through
conflict, but Free Will remains at peace in a stronghold that
cannot be assailed."
We must then change the current. The will call become FREE in
proportion that it works with a Divine Harmony which proceeds
regardless of human foibles, and is recognized Karmically by all
impersonal poise in meeting all the events of daily life. We
might change regret for courage, saying, "This is my own come
back to me. The law is expressing itself in my personal Karma,
let the debt be paid."
Anxiety might be conquered by asserting: "the causes have been
set in motion, the law will handle the result. I may not be wise
enough to foresee those results, but I call be the observer and
learn how 'nature prevaileth in these'."
Ambition is more subtle. Only a childlike heart call be wrapped
in sweet inspiration and aspire harmlessly by guarding the mind
from the intrusion of all the world holds dear. The aspiration
to truth shall make us fearless enough to withstand any
circumstances, full-knowing that Truth may at times need us to
step aside and "let the best man win." And envy, the most dire of
all, blights the lower mind and throws up to shadow even the
sincere aspirant - how do we still its voice? By the realization
that all life, that each man, serves a purpose.
The so-called "little" wills of men reflect lack of vigilance, a
sad groan of nature needing intelligent direction. They seem to
combat for attention, and we, tossed in the sea of life, are
influenced by these currents. This is the time to board a raft,
to skim over these grim qualities, with a mind made content
through charitable and generous actions, seeding the tide with
truthful words to gentle the anxieties of another towards us.
How can another combat with us if there is no combative spirit in
True virtue lies in returning to our root-nature, ever free from
pride, attachment and longing. Intuition is awakened at the root
of Life and bonds of sympathy align us with all men. Linked with
Universal Mind we cannot but act by our highest principles, for
that is the only Nature through which they can be expressed.
Some philosophers define virtue as wisdom or balance in action.
This wisdom wells up in a heart eager to serve humanity. In time
the love which inspires such a desire is schooled not to rush in
where another's duty lies. He may at times need to sacrifice the
desire to help, even stand aside and watch suffering take its
course. Never must he hasten the orderly process of growth. If
his duties are already plainly laid out, his virtuous way is to
attend to those lying nearest him.
Why restate these old truths? Because man needs them still.
An ancient Chinese scripture rendered by Manly P. Hall in THE
QUIET WAY teaches the following:
> Those who live the Quiet Way should benefit all peoples, and the
> word ALL implies both the many and the one. To serve all peoples
> is a glorious career, but to serve one person may have the
> appearance of drudgery. Heaven in its wisdom has provided to
> each the privilege of service. To some is given the opportunity
> to serve many, and to others the opportunity to serve a few. Yet
> the quality of service is the same. Those who serve a few wisely
> and lovingly earn for themselves a larger opportunity and a
> greater responsibility. This does not mean, however, that we
> advance from one to many; rather that we enlarge the one into
> many. If we obey heaven, we shall never be impelled to serve so
> many that it is necessary for us to neglect the few. Public
> service does not relieve us from private duty. Heaven is not so
> concerned with all its creatures that it neglects the least of
> them. In the Quiet Way we extend our consciousness so that it
> becomes more and more inclusive. No matter how many it includes,
> it never excludes.
True Virtue is the Quiet Way.
THE GRAND OLD SIMPLE TRUTHS
By T. Henry
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, November 1915, pages 345-48.]
In European papers commenting on the war, people are saying that
now "we are up against the realities of life"; and that, instead
of learning anything new and abstruse, we are only having
enforced on us the grand old simple truths.
One of these truths is that selfishness is the cause of woe.
Self-seeking has been practiced on a large scale, even given the
sanction of science and economic philosophy. The result has been
as predicted. Theosophists would say that present sufferings are
an illustration of the law of karma, which brings to all their
just meed of weal or woe. And here we see the operation of karma
on a large scale -- national and even racial.
Humanity has to be considered collectively as well as
individually; it was as a body that we erred, and it is as a body
that we suffer. Our individual lots are thrown in with the
common lot, for profit or loss, for the sowing as for the
Our reward lies in the immense opportunity now offered; for it
will be our part to do our share in the common work of sowing
better seed for the future. Everyone feels this, but the
ordinary beliefs and theories of life do not give much
encouragement. The laws of karma and of its twin-doctrine of
reincarnation are not understood. The facts of life make short
work of our poor theories and dogmas.
A man who has been bereft does not see why he should thus stiffer
for he can but attribute it to the inscrutable will of a deity,
or evade the question by talking about chance and fate. But in
his Soul, he knows and understands. Perhaps his bitter
experience may be the means of awakening within him a deeper,
truer life, the Heart-life, and ridding him of much of his
selfishness, so that he may become a real power in bringing
consolation to others and sowing good seed for the future.
Anything that makes a man come closer to the realities of life
and be more sincere and earnest in his living, is to that extent
a blessing to him; and though the war is a great and lamentable
catastrophe, we are not forbidden to learn from it as much as may
For long years we have been privy to an order of society that
visits with grave injustice the lives of multitudes of our
fellow-beings; and many noble and well-meaning people have been
forced, by the existence of this complicated system of society,
to take an indirect part in its manifold injustices.
Consequently they are equally involved in the consequences, now
that the system has produced its fruit. For the future we shall
know that it is not safe for anyone to live in disregard of the
welfare of his fellow-man.
In talking about karma, students of Theosophy have often
unwittingly allowed a selfish attitude of mind to creep into
their philosophizing, and have reflected only on the personal
aspect of the question. But crises like the present show that
the merits and demerits of one particular personality look small
beside the question of the destinies of millions.
It is equally true that karma acts unerringly on the smallest
scale as on the largest, and that the fate of each individual is
equitably adjusted to his deserts. But it is neither very wise
nor very conducive to self-respect to regard oneself as
CASTIGATED by one's destiny. A far better attitude is that of
the man who realizes that he is merely working out the results of
his own acts. Just as adventurers willingly encounter privations
that they may make discoveries, so strong Souls incur sufferings
in the pursuance of great and far-reaching purposes. We must try
to understand life better and to view things on a larger and
The still small voice of the Soul never ceases to whisper to man
in the silence, bidding him shake off the fetters of the narrow
life he is living, and perhaps a shock may be necessary to induce
him to do this.
It may well be that the reason why we suffer is that the Soul
within us has deliberately encountered this suffering for the
purpose of gaining some great prize worth fighting for. For if
the heart really loves an ideal, it will willingly suffer for
that ideal, even counting that suffering as an essential part of
the tribute that must be paid to that great ideal. It is paid as
a means of expression, as it were, whereby the Soul strives to
strengthen itself so as to the worthy of the ideal which it
Another simple old truth that is being brought home to us is that
human life must be based on the Divinity of man, whose law is the
law of conscience and justice and mercy. Materialistic doctrines
which deny this Divinity and the reality of conscience are the
worst foes of the human race. But here again the popular
theories and dogmas do not help along, and we need to return to
the grand old truths which Theosophy has proclaimed.
Men have not been taught to rely on their inner essential
Divinity, though it would seem as though religion teaches them to
do so. But religion is a thing that can be tinkered at, and
there are always influences at work trying to take away man's
reliance on his Divinity and make him rely on something else.
If we had been taught this simple truth from the cradle up, how
different would be our attitude toward life today! But we have
been taught quite otherwise, and so now we do not know on what to
rely. We are not accustomed to invoke that central source of
strength and guidance.
Men are supposed to have self-confidence, but this is usually
mere physical wellbeing, or pride, or vanity, and it does not
stand the strain. When the strain comes, they find themselves
despondent and diffident; but that is the very time when their
real strength should show to best advantage.
It is so easy to be bold when the foe is not present; and it is
so easy to talk about the great virtues of heroes. But those
heroes did not view their difficulties from a safe and romantic
distance as we view those difficulties; it was all present-day
work for them. And so with us: the time to be heroic is when we
are under stress. Hence such occasions are opportunities.
This advice may not be so easy to take as it is to give; but the
point is that it will grow easier and easier the more we accustom
ourselves to rely on our interior strength. And if we have the
right understanding about man's Divinity, then, though we may bow
before the blast, while it is blowing, yet when it is over we can
stand erect again and say that we are glad to have had the
experience. This we could not do if we had a false philosophy of
This has been an age of worship of the gross material forces, and
we have ceased to have faith in the efficacy of Spiritual forces,
such as those which proceed from a pure and lofty resolve and a
good conscience. We do not think that the mere fact of one man
living honestly and truly to himself can make any difference to
the world around him. But it is a fact nevertheless, for
Spiritual forces are realities.
However materialistic a man may be in his beliefs, he has to
recognize the power of personal influence, for it is one of the
greatest factors in life. Spiritual powers act on unseen planes
of nature, affecting men through their thoughts, giving them
inspiration; and who can tell whence these inspirations come? Our
thoughts are more and less powerful according to the level on
which they act; and the Spiritual ones are the most potent.
Undoubtedly we are in the midst of a struggle between Spiritual
forces and materialistic forces; but what nation can presume to
claim for itself that IT represents the HIGHER FORCES, and ITS
ENEMIES the LOWER FORCES? None. Both forces are evident
throughout the nations, and the fight is one that is always going
on in some form or other. When the war is over, the two forces
will still be opposed to each other, and the battle between
harmony and selfishness will still be waging.
Selfishness is a disease that encroaches on human nature, an
excrescence that does not belong to the sound tissue of human
life. We have to fight this disease in ourselves.
It is said that in business there is far more of the spirit of
unselfishness, of sharing between employer and employees, and of
regard for the rights of both, than there used to be a few years
ago. This is a move in the right direction provided it does not
degenerate into an "enlightened selfishness."
Some of the grand old simple truths have been lost sight of, and
we need reminding of them. That man has an Individuality and a
personality, and that the former is immortal, living on
throughout many successive lives on earth, a new personality
being developed in each life while the Individuality remains the
same -- this, the law of Rebirth, is one of the grand old truths
that has been neglected. But without it we can never make sense
of the problem of life.
Because of his lack of knowledge of his immortal Self, man lives
in a state of continual fear, and clutches the perishable things
of this life. Because he has no foothold outside the swirling
eddies of circumstance, he is involved and drifted about by the
currents; whereas, if he realized his immortality and his divine
strength, he would have the poise and the power necessary to
enable him to master his circumstances.
The law of karma is another grand old truth, without which life
seems a cruel farce, but in the light of which we regain our
confidence in the reign of universal law and realize that we
ourselves are the makers of our destiny. How can people regulate
their lives, whether individually or socially, if they believe
that life is a chaos without law and order?
Are we living for the purpose of making ourselves as comfortable
as possible, and pushing unpleasant reflections out of our heads
as much as possible, until death delivers us? Or are we living to
fulfill the grand and far-reaching purposes of the Soul which
extend far and away beyond the limits of birth and death?
PLACES OF POWER
By Stefan Carey
[From the August 2010 issue of THEOSOPHY DOWNUNDER at
on the website of the Australasian Section of the Theosophical
I feel that we owe it to ourselves as city dwellers, to know and
have our own special places of power, because city life robs us
of that special connection with place, our at-oneness with
In this article I'll look at:
* what some others have said about their feeling of oneness with
* how modern city life and our new culture of distraction takes
away our feeling of oneness.
* some of my personal places of power.
* what others have said when they found their place of power.
Sometimes our places of power are far away, high in the
mountains, the ocean or the desert. Sometimes they are closer
than that, a local park perhaps, or even in the backyard.
Sometimes all it takes is for us to be alone for a while in our
gardens or some other private place. But why, have most of us in
daily life, lost our connection with nature, the special feeling
we are at one, that we are a part of your surroundings?
It's not surprising. We live so much of life in a hurry, our
behavior patterns are under pressure to speed up. Technology is
just contributor to what has been called the "hurry disease."
Computers and mobile phones work so quickly we end up thinking
faster and faster. We are so used to being able to multitask, we
have not noticed how our concentration has been fractured,
probably the cause of so much recently diagnosed adult attention
deficit syndrome, and why I can no longer easily read a book.
What this distracted state of awareness has done is to put a
large barrier between us and our capacity to be in the here and
now. And as another consequence, all the communication tools,
the social networking sites such as Facebook, for example, have
not strengthened our relationships in an enduring way, they just
multiply them manifold, and they seem to weaken them in some way
at the same time. It's as though we have watered-down something
important for the price of being instantly and everlastingly
A personal anecdote might help us answer the question of why we
so easily lose the connection with nature and inner selves. The
phone company rang me the other day to say how wonderful it was
we're still their customer (actually it's because I am already on
information overload!), but they also wanted to know what
communication devices we have in our home. I told them. We have
a fax, an answering machine, three computers, three telephone
handsets, and two mobile phones.
Thinking about what's on the list, I'm surprised we don't have a
direct line to an inner or outer God, but sadly the phone company
can't offer this as their latest product! Thankfully, they'll
never be able to. But my real point is, when I answered I saw
we'd gathered lots of machines to make communication with each
other easy, but at the same time I've forgotten to look after
another more important kind of communication, the one I have with
nature. One for which the phone company can't supply a special
account or gadget.
In recent years I've had little time to visit my places of power
to commune with nature, and get in touch somehow with what I
think is my inner self and nature. You could also call it
universal mind, or God, or the soul, eternal essence, energy or
spirit - or whatever. I've lost the connection to nature via my
places of power, the places where I feel empowered, where I feel
deeply connected to something, right at home. But so much for
having lost the connection, what is the connection? What am I
talking about when I use this word?
Let's hear about the oneness with nature from others, Henrietta
Mann is a PhD, a Southern Cheyenne Elder American Indian. Her
comments are published in the book, Native Wisdom for White Minds
with comments by Anne Wilson Schaff:
> Nature is God's greatest teacher. Man must learn to attune his
> higher spiritual consciousness to the harmonious flow of nature
> and the throbbing heartbeat of the man [in heaven] who created it
> for lasting duration in order to realize his oneness with nature
> and with God.
And the author's observation on the Southern Cheyenne Elder
Henrietta's comment is:
> Nature is my greatest teacher. When I take the time to go into
> nature it takes me a while to adjust to the rhythm of my
> surroundings. Initially what I hear is the rushing of my own
> heart and the pounding of my brain. It takes me a while to leave
> my culture behind me and begin to attune to a harmonious flow of
> nature. God's messages in nature do not just enter the brain;
> they enter the whole being and move into a flow of consciousness
> that assures us of the oneness of all things with the creator.
> Only when the mind and the body slow down enough do I have the
> possibility to know oneness.
Just listen to those words: It takes time to get to feel the
rhythm of nature. Another way to say this is that it takes time
to feel the rhythm of universal mind, or that which is nameless
without form but with form. A quick jaunt to the country is
helpful, but one cannot really appreciate nature without taking
the time. My experience is it takes about three days to wind
down and relax from normal city-paced living.
It also seems to take nature time to adjust to us. A city
dweller writing for Time Life books describes a first night out
in the dunes of the Sahara:
> The air was sharp and cold, and life was starting in the dunes
> after the dead heat of the day. I went for a short walk and
> surprised a fennec, a small desert fox with large ears, sitting
> patiently in ambush at a Jerboa's hole. He was dazzled for a
> moment by the light, and his eyes glowed brightly. Then he
> bounded away up the side of the dune, a pale shape with its own
> moon shadow. I saw nothing else this first night; the dunes were
> not going to deliver up their secrets easily to a day visitor
> from the civilized world.
> -- page 17
And here's a good question. Why would not the Sahara not deliver
her secrets to a day visitor from the civilized world? Why can't
you as a day-visitor, read nature's secrets? My theory is that as
we no longer live in the cathedral of nature, the trivial
thoughts and exasperations of daily life smother our awareness of
our oneness with nature. To always be in a hurry. Multi-tasking
The city dwellers divine occupation and privilege is to fight the
peak hour traffic, like David against Goliath, but with bad aim
caused by an overdose of morning news and rising interest rates.
Add to this the disruptive energies of other people, sent just a
little bit crazier than us, by their over-sensitivity to modern
city living. For example, I have a workmate, Pierre, a devout
Buddhist, who seems to be nearing nervous collapse, trying to
please too many other people in his struggle for perfection.
Sadly, his stressed out condition gets on our nerves. All these
influences we do not control, but have to adjust to, can be at
the expense of realizing and knowing our inner life, our
connection with nature and other people. Ask anyone who lives in
the country and they will usually say city people are quite mad.
They might be right!
But what drives these influences that propel us in the direction
of haste? I think it is important to understand this. For many
of us, it's the daily struggle to accumulate more possessions,
comforts and experiences than somebody else. The author of the
excellent book, Clutter Busting, Brooks Palmer, says we are
already complete in ourselves, but marketers and advertisers have
seduced us to think we are somehow incomplete, that's why we buy
more and more stuff to fill a void -- and one does not even
exist! Collecting 'stuff' also harnesses the natural human urge
of competition. Car makers, for example, know our egos are weak.
We're also hooked on creature comforts; as is the appliance maker
who now supplies remote controls for microwave ovens. Some city
dwellers like to collect experiences in the same way as
possessions. I've often heard people say they will 'do' Europe
or they will 'do' Asia as though they were on some kind of a
The frenzy of modern life has turned the city to a place of
spiritual emptiness and powerlessness for many individuals with
little connection to others. It's a rootless existence, lived in
a borderless and endless urban tract. More so, when they keep
moving from suburb to suburb in search of more impressive houses
and supposedly better lifestyles. What this creates is a large
group of people sensing they belong to nothing, no personal
history of place, and cut off from nature and even themselves and
each other. Sometimes they turn on each other in frustration.
Road rage is an extreme example of pent up frustrations and
anger, fuelled of the feeling of powerlessness and
discontentedness; it's a strange permission to let-fly provided
by the seeming anonymity of the car. To continue in my harsh
insight into modern living and the city as a place of spiritual
powerlessness, modern life also offers so little inner
satisfaction and communication with the inner life, and so much
frustration, that addictions of all kinds are common. They are
symptomatic of a life spent in a state of denial of our authentic
selves. Do I exaggerate? Look at the statistics for mental
illness and prescriptions for anti-depressants, the rate of
heroin abuse and teenage suicide -- they are increasing. All
these are symptoms of unhappiness and inner discomfort on the
increase, when outer comfort increases.
Yet supposedly we are living in paradise, "relaxed and
comfortable" as a past Australian Prime Minister said some time
ago. So what is my solution to all this angst? When possible I
go to my places of power.
Here is the story of how I discovered the first when I was seven
or eight years old. On a heavily overcast humid, warm spring
morning, I stood alone in the schoolyard. A warm wind swept the
long grass. For some minutes I was the breeze, and the grass and
the grey clouds above, floating across the schoolyard, waving the
tassels of the ripe grasses. Sometimes I can still feel this
moment of awakening to Mother Nature or Universal Mind.
For many years I lost this feeling of being connected to the
elements, of oneness, until I rediscovered it through renewed
contact with nature outside the city. I guess that early
schoolyard experience was a sign for me for the need for a close
future relationship with nature. The outdoors would be
important. There would always be the quest for the special
feeling of being alive in a different way. To get away from the
city entombed in concrete, to find the subtle shift of the
breeze, the scent of the bush after rain away from the city, and
the pure, cold air carrying the scent of snow in the mountains.
Today my places of power are the river and mountain and forest.
I get to them when I can, or when I am driven to them by some
inner urge. The first and most important is the river. The
river gives me the strongest sense of connectedness most quickly.
Why? Because I find the quickest way to get in touch with natural
forces and rhythms is by being on and in the river, paddling a
kayak. A kayak allows me to float with the current, ride the
rapids and basically feel alive again. In a kayak one is with
the movements and energies of the river, there is really no other
choice. One cannot think about work or anything else but being
there. If you do think about other things, you lose focus and
capsize. It can be very cold and sometimes dangerous. If
there's a strong current or lots of rapids, the need to focus on
the natural forces outside you is even stronger.
In the space of an hour I become the river, my body is an
extension of the river, no longer fighting, but working with it.
Mentally you must concentrate and read the rocks and the current.
This then is a sacred place, a sacred connection between human
and natural energy, a place of moving power, because you've
forgotten yourself and the trifles and troubles that occupy the
anxious and worried, uptight, tense, nervous, stressed, annoyed,
But if there is one place where I am awakening to an even
stronger special energy it is the mountains. It takes me by
surprise every time. Before my eyes is a feeling of place where
I somehow feel I have always been -- a place of feeling "infinite
and unforeseen" as the singer KD Lang says. This is my
connection point with the heavens.
The first time I realized the power of altitude, was on a New
Zealand mountain, in the Mt. Cook range, 7,000 feet high,
overlooking a glacial valley (see the picture opposite). A
strange feeling washed over me. (Hit me is probably a better
description!) I was in my element. I felt all powerful,
confident, expansive, and at home. Perhaps it was the magnetic
forces of earth or as the followers of Feng Shui might say,
'Tiger energy,' concentrated at the peaks and summits that caught
me unawares. Perhaps it was the concentration of negative ions.
Whatever the explanation no other place had offered this unique
feeling. Even so it was a slightly dangerous place to stay --
the mountaineers' hut I stayed in that night had once been blown
off the mountain by a freak gust of wind, with several people in
Years later the feeling returned. Atop a higher peak, Mount
Santis, in the Swiss Alps, with the sound of three fine female
yodelers at the cafeteria, I looked across an endless armada of
grey peaks all the way to Italy. Small circles of color drifted
in the far distance -- hot air balloons in the far distance
enjoying the clear weather. Once again I got the feeling of
being in a place of intense energy, a place, stirring intense
emotions, a place of power. It seemed as familiar as home, as
familiar as your suburban backyard does to you. I felt in tune,
as though it were my special playground, my private kingdom. I
don't get to the high altitudes often enough.
Others have been strongly affected by their connection with
nature too. On the ocean, the first man to sail solo around the
world, in 1898, Joshua Slocum in his book SAILING ALONE AROUND
THE WORLD said this:
> During these days a feeling of awe swept over me. My memory
> worked with startling power. The ominous, the insignificant, the
> great, the small, the wonderful, the commonplace -- all appeared
> before my mental vision in magical succession. Pages of my
> history were recalled which had been so long forgotten that they
> seemed to belong to a previous existence. I heard all the voices
> of the past laughing, crying, telling what I had heard them tell
> in many corners of the earth.
> -- page 51
If we have no place for peace and contemplation, we have no
place, we have no sacred site where we can see and feel the true
nature of our lives; places where we may contemplate, and where
the soul and the body might sing quietly or loudly in unison. Do
you know your place of power? Perhaps you have a vague
recollection you like the sea or the mountains. Perhaps your
place of power is near a waterfall where the earth's energies are
more conducive to your own special thoughts and feelings seldom
felt at other times. Perhaps your place is in the desert,
perhaps in a She-Oak forest, with its magical quality of soft
foliage and bark on rocky slopes, with the breeze whispering all
about you in the desert air.
Thankfully in Australia we have vast empty spaces, much envied by
overseas visitors, and not so difficult to journey to.
I'd like to end this short paper with a true-life account of a
world-famous person's first encounter with his place of power,
the ocean. The ocean frightens me, Jacques Cousteau, co-inventor
of the modern aqualung, found the ocean was his place of power.
Quite by surprise, in fact. Jacques Cousteau suddenly realized,
on his first dive with swimming goggles, that the quiet enchanted
world with its "incommunicable beauty", so close to a busy street
in the Mediterranean, yet so far removed from everyday life, was
his place of power:
> One Sunday morning in 1936 at Le Mourillon, near Toulon, France,
> I waded into the Mediterranean and looked into it through
> (Fernez) goggles. I was a regular navy gunner, a good swimmer
> interested only in perfecting my crawl style. The sea was merely
> a salty obstacle that burned my eyes. I was astounded by what I
> saw in the shallow shingle at Le Mourillon -- rocks covered with
> green, brown and silver algae and fishes unknown to me, swimming
> in crystal clear water. Standing up to breath I saw a trolley
> bus, people, and electric streetlights. I put my eyes under
> again and civilization vanished with one last bow. I was in a
> jungle never seen by those who floated on the opaque roof.
> Sometimes we are lucky enough to know our lives have been
> changed, to discard the old, embrace the new and run headlong
> down an immutable course. It happened to me on that summer's day
> at Le Mourillon, when my eyes were opened on the sea.
As they say the rest is history!
Since I wrote the article, I found simply concentrating on my
breath, dropping my shoulders and saying to myself "enjoy this
day" several times a day work well to bringing me back to the
here and now. So, even though our special places affect us
deeply, shifting our attention to the present may well be our
most precious place of power.
THE COMMONSENSE OF THEOSOPHY, Part I
By Frank Knoche
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1918, pages 134-47.]
If this were a sermon, the following would be my text. It is
taken from the writings of Katherine Tingley, whose great effort
is to the end that men and women shall take a commonsense
position with regard to themselves, their duties, and their
relations with their fellowmen.
> Universal Brotherhood has no creeds or dogmas; it is built on the
> basis of commonsense . . . Let us cast aside creeds and
> dogmas, then, and unite as brothers, each working to improve the
> condition of the other, and all working for the common good of
> humanity . . . [for] the old order of things passes away and
> we are brought face to face with the great and grand
> possibilities of the new.
The great value of Theosophy to the world today, with all
humanity rushing helter-skelter, pell-mell, none can tell you
whither: few with time to be quiet, few who care to be calm, and
half the world strangling in a sea of agony and blood, is the
fact that it gives the inquirer a rational, commonsense answer to
his questions. For who is not an inquirer today? Everyone who
meets you has a question, either in his heart or on his lips,
perhaps only one, but that one, for all his search, still
As William Quan Judge so well expresses it in one of his
> Within the mind and heart of every thoughtful individual there
> exists some vital question unanswered. Some subject is
> uppermost, and asserts itself obtrusively with greater
> persistency because he is obliged to deal with it without a
> visible prospect of a solution of the problem. As the center in
> a circle, so is every individual with regard to his environment.
> At times it seems impossible for him to pass beyond the circle
> owing to one unanswered question.
With most of us, more than one question occurs to the mind with
such persistency that we look here and there for the answer. Who
am I? What am I? Whence did I come, and whither do I go? What is
the purpose of life, or has it no purpose at all? Is there any
solution to the riddle of existence?
Modern science can give us everything, seemingly, except an
answer that satisfies the heart; the five-hundred and odd
religious sects have so far failed to give us an answer that
satisfies the mind.
The materialist says, "Why trouble about the matter at all? Life
is merely the result of certain chemical combinations and
interactions; ergo, when these are dissolved, life ends: and why
worry about a future that we shan't be there to see?"
The religionist says, "These questions are not to be solved. The
thing is to have faith, and let the answers go."
But the live man of today, facing as he does live issues, is not
so willing to let the answers go. He could not run his business
on such a plan and succeed, and he is not willing to run his life
Man is a Thinker, first of all: so say the Ancient Books, and so
say reason and experience both, and he has more than the animal
brain. The man who cultivates only the material side of his
nature, however, shutting off the channels of spiritual inquiry,
is no more than a high type of animal. Such are indeed rare,
though many do pass through periods of spiritual obscuration when
the heart-life is shut away for a time.
Far below the surface waters are the deep tides of Soul, and in
the inner chambers of every heart, there dwells a memory that
makes man more than he seems. This is why, so fortunately, most
men have not lost all sense of their spiritual heritage, even
though they may not be able to analyze the intuitions that urge
them on to solve the great mysteries of duty and of life.
Most men want to know what life means and what it holds at its
very core. Most men want to find a basis for that brotherly
relationship with their fellows that is so satisfying and so
rational and brings such splendid results. Most men want more
knowledge of themselves, too, and it is this inner urge that
causes them to inquire with such earnestness into questions of a
future state: that borne beyond which we are ushered, without
will or sanction of our own too often, by the mysterious hand of
As corollaries to these main questions are others. Why is one
person born in the lap of fortune, while another, equally
intelligent, equally good, is born with everything acting to hold
him down? Why is one hampered with a frail or diseased body and a
weakened mind, while another is vigorous physically and alert
mentally? Why is one a moral weakling from his birth and another
a tower of moral strength and spiritual illumination? Then, too,
why are there such undependable qualities in men, so that it is
often a throw of the dice whether the man whom we elect to a
position of trust will meet our expectations or disgrace his high
How came it that Nero, for instance, after a promising, seemingly
blameless youth, suddenly developed hideous and cruel traits of
How came it that Joan of Arc, a simple shepherdess, unlearned in
the ways of the world, unable to read even the simplest book or
to write a letter, stepped suddenly from the pastures of Domremy
into a career of unparalleled military success? She could teach,
and she did teach in their special science, the greatest generals
of her time.
Surely there is a mystery here! But is there not mystery in every
life? Indeed, who can think for even a moment of the supreme
mystery of human nature and not find question after question
lining up before him with the demand that some commonsense answer
Now, leaving for the time being the consideration of questions
relating to individuals, let us turn to those that touch whole
How can we account in a commonsense way -- for commonsense is not
to be satisfied with anything short of real justice -- for the
great catastrophes that engulf large parts of the world, in
nature, in government, in man's relations with his fellow man?
These things cannot be accidents -- one's commonsense revolts at
the idea. It is no accident that my field produces wheat and my
neighbor's corn: I planted wheat, and he corn -- that is all.
It is surely not rational to hold that only the little portion of
this globe that is under my immediate gaze is ruled by law, and
that things for which I cannot see the cause are therefore
causeless, accidental, due to the caprice of some Deity who says
that he has spells of being jealous.
No, this will not do; and so the questions line up. There is,
for instance, this uncomfortable Antiquity, about which we are
hearing so much today. As our archaeologists are cataloguing
discovery after discovery, we see a complete upsetting of our old
ideas, the claim of materialistic science, as to man having
evolved in a STRAIGHT line from animalism up. We find that there
were epochs in the remote past, and many of them, when humanity
was far more cultured and stood far higher spiritually than
anywhere on earth today, and that the Dark Ages, when man's
spirituality was at its lowest ebb, came AFTER great periods of
That looks as though we had been going backwards, and naturally
the thinking man feels that if there is any way of reconciling
the undeniable facts of history with theories of evolution and
the peace of one's own heart, it would be a satisfaction to find
it. For we must have some part in all this, some very close
relation to the world as a whole and not merely to someone little
corner of it, or these things would not concern us so. And
indeed we have.
Let us consider, for a moment, the whole world as though suddenly
depopulated, left without a living human being on its surface:
every village a deserted village, every State a waste. What
would logically result? Have you ever observed what happens to a
house that is left untenanted for any length of time? It begins
to deteriorate at once, and continues to do so much more rapidly
than when occupied, even though it was subjected to the hardest
Can we not imagine from this what a deserted world -- one that
Nature had intended as a 'man-bearing planet' -- would be like
after about a hundred years? It would be like a body with the
breath of life withdrawn, or like a living person with the mind
clouded or gone.
One who follows up this line of thought will soon come to the
conclusion that the moving spirit, the guiding power in
Evolution, is Man himself -- not material man, nor merely
intellectual man, but Spiritual Man. Indeed, as the old Sages
taught, it is for the Soul's experience and emancipation that the
universe exists. And that Soul -- What is it? Whence came it?
What is its mission, its destiny, its home? So that here we are
again, back to the first question of all, the great question that
includes all lesser questions within it. And Theosophy contains
In her first great work, ISIS UNVEILED, H.P. Blavatsky gives us
a glimpse of the questionings of her great mind and compassionate
heart, and of the source from which she brought back to humanity
the Ancient Light:
> When, years ago, we first travelled over the East, exploring the
> penetralia of its deserted sanctuaries, two saddening and
> ever-recurring questions oppressed our thoughts: Where, WHO,
> WHAT, is GOD? Who ever saw the IMMORTAL SPIRIT of man, so as to
> be able to assure himself of man's immortality?
> It was while most anxious to solve these perplexing problems that
> we came in contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious
> powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate
> them as the Sages of the Orient.
> To their instructions we lent a ready ear. They showed us that
> by combining science with religion, the existence of God and the
> immortality of man's spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of
> For the first time we received the assurance that the Oriental
> philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and
> immovable faith in the omnipotence of man's own immortal self.
> We were taught that this omnipotence comes from the kinship of
> man's spirit with the Universal Soul -- God! The latter, they
> said, can never be demonstrated but by the former. Man-spirit
> proves God-spirit, as the one drop of water proves the source
> from which it must have come.
> Tell one who had never seen water that there is an ocean of
> water, and he must accept it on faith or reject it altogether.
> But let one drop fall upon his hand, and he then has the fact
> from which all the rest may be inferred. After that he could by
> degrees understand that a boundless and fathomless ocean of water
> Blind faith would no longer be necessary; he would have
> supplanted it with KNOWLEDGE. When one sees mortal man
> displaying tremendous capabilities, controlling the forces of
> nature and opening up to view the world of spirit, the reflective
> mind is overwhelmed with the conviction that if one man's
> spiritual Ego can do this much, the capabilities of the FATHER
> SPIRIT must be relatively as much vaster as the whole ocean
> surpasses the single drop in volume and potency. Ex nihilo nihil
> fit; prove the soul of man by its wondrous powers and you have
> proved God!
It was from these Sages that H.P. Blavatsky received the
teachings of the Archaic Wisdom-Religion, fragments of which she
gave to the world as Theosophy, that synthesis of religion,
science, and philosophy which Katherine Tingley, her Successor,
is now, through the School of Antiquity, proving to be absolutely
practical as applied to daily life, and which contains the
answers for man's perplexing inner questions.
So many have the idea that Theosophy is abstruse and
incomprehensible that before going on we can do no better than
quote this brief definition of it from the writings of William
Quan Judge, the Second Leader of the Theosophical Movement, whose
heroic defense of the principles for which Madame Blavatsky gave
her life, made it possible for the School of Antiquity on Point
Loma to be established.
It cannot be quoted too often:
> Theosophy is that ocean of knowledge which spreads from shore to
> shore of the evolution of sentient beings; unfathomable in its
> deepest parts, it gives the greatest minds their fullest scope,
> yet, shallow enough at its shores, it will not overwhelm the
> understanding of a child . . . And just as the Ancients
> taught, so does Theosophy; THAT THE COURSE OF EVOLUTION IS THE
> DRAMA OF THE SOUL AND THAT NATURE EXISTS FOR NO OTHER PURPOSE
> THAN THE SOUL'S EXPERIENCE.
There is a story somewhere of a man who found himself a prisoner
in a black and dreary room. Year after year he pined and fretted
there, when one day a brilliant thought occurred to him: he
opened the door and walked out!
He was evidently a stupid man, with a good part of his brain set
aside and preserved from use, but that very fact is what gives
the story its point for us here, and it is certainly material to
the theme: commonsense.
Moreover, the application is plain, for no thinking mind can deny
that humanity at the present time is behaving with the acme of
stupidity with regard to many of its major affairs. The result
is that we are traveling in a vicious circle, the very remedies
we are pottering with, in the hope of getting ourselves out,
acting only to keep us in.
The commonsense man would say, "Why not stop pottering and
tinkering, and smash an opening in that circle? Then walk out!"
That is exactly what Theosophy gives one the power to do, and
that is why it is the preeminent court of appeal for the
When Alexander cut the knot of Gordius, he gave us an example of
commonsense treatment of a seemingly hopeless affair. When a
bird wishes to be free of swamp odors or noisome vapors, it does
not organize a committee, or write an essay on the evil ways of
the world, or settle down on the swamp surface to stay there, it
simply flies up and away! And we can always do as wisely if we
will use our commonsense, remembering that man is a Soul, and
that the Soul has wings!
The question may be simply one of opening the door so that the
Soul can use its wings, or, it may be, of taking off the chains
of conceit, prejudice, bigotry, false pride, cynicism, ignorance,
and all purely brain-mind ideas, so that the Soul is free to
So here we are at last, with man definitely placed before us as a
Dual Being: both soul and body, both animal and divine, the God
and the lower human harnessed together by the Higher Law and
destined to struggle on in harness until the God shall triumph
over the other or depart, to leave the obstinate lower mind to
follow its course alone.
(to be continued)
By Grace Knoche
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January 1918, pages 63-68.]
> Behold the Hosts of Souls. Watch how they hover o'er the stormy
> sea of human life, and how, exhausted, bleeding, broken-winged,
> they drop one after other on the swelling waves. Tossed by the
> fierce winds, chased by the gale, they drift into eddies and
> disappear within the first great vortex.
> -- From an archaic text translated by H.P. Blavatsky.
If the drama is a powerful teacher, it is equally a powerful
reflector of the customs and the interests of an age, and in
these days of unsolved social problems the unfortunate woman is
naturally a frequent central theme.
To a student of human nature in the light of Theosophy, she is
seldom understandingly portrayed. There is need of the dramatic
interpreter who possesses a certain cosmic greatness of soul, a
rare and fine perception of human nature IN ITS DUALITY, without
which the Magdalen cannot be portrayed as she really is -- a
creature Divine as well as human, bound to the rock of Karmic
fate by chains of her own making, helpless, hopeless, and
enmeshed, yet, urged by the Divinity within her, struggling and
In drama, as in fiction, there is often an accentuation of the
vice-fascination with a corresponding obscuration of the divine
possibilities that are latent in every soul, however debased,
often waiting only the touch of brotherliness, the warm sunlight
of a true compassion, to blossom into loveliness and redemption.
In LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS, long since translated into every tongue
in which romances are known and in its dramatized form known in
English as CAMILLE, Alexandre Dumas wonderfully approaches a
Theosophic interpretation of the age-old Magdalen-type.
Its key-episode is one that only Reincarnation can explain, while
it plainly holds a brief for Brotherhood as a fact in Nature, for
the Duality of mankind, for Compassion as the 'Law of Laws,' and
for Love as the great unfolding power in human life.
The picture that Dumas paints for us: of poor anguished
Marguerite, gay indeed but "with a mirth that is sadder than
sorrow," falling at last, "exhausted, bleeding, broken-winged,"
first into Life's great vortex and then, freed from that, held
like a wolf in a trap, to be submerged and drowned in the foul
waters of the world's hypocrisy and sham -- it is a picture to
warn and to purify both.
By their central test, the old Greeks would have written this
down as a supreme tragedy -- structurally, at least -- for it is
a minister of purification to every heart honest enough to open
to its pathos, and intelligent enough to grasp its appeal. Pity
and terror: let us arouse these emotions in the spectator's soul,
said the old dramatists who knew, and there ensues a purification
of the whole nature.
He passes through a baptism of the spirit, a real initiation.
That used to happen in the old, old days, before the Mysteries
were dead and while the drama was yet part of their expression.
It happens today -- as in Shakespeare's greater works and in a
few tragedies written by others -- though only now and then,
indeed, rarely. But in Dumas' faithful picture of LA DAME AUX
CAMELIAS, this old test is faithfully met.
The story of Marguerite Gautier, which is an actual life-history,
not only inspires one with terror -- terror of self-indulgence,
of sin, and of the fruits of broken law -- but it leaves one
inoculate with the spirit of true reform, alive with righteous
indignation against the cold hypocrisy of society, living in
glass houses all the time and yet so eager to cast the first
> No, whatever she may do or may become, the fallen one can never
> rise again. The world is inflexible.
So Marguerite in the play. Yet such compassion suffuses Dumas'
presentation that in spite of itself, conservatism is swept away
on the tide of it, out into new oceans of perception and of love,
on and on to shores where new ideals rise up to greet one and
words are almost out of place.
Renunciation is the rock on which spiritual growth really rests,
taken in the last analysis, and it is so proclaimed by all the
Scriptures of the world, wherein no greater love is pictured than
that which layeth down its life for a friend. "Tis from the bud
of Renunciation of the self that springeth the sweet fruit of
final Liberation," says the ancient text from which is taken also
the quotation at the head of this article.
More to the point, it is declared supreme by every atom of one's
finer, more heroic self, and it is the wheel upon which the
Magdalen of Dumas' conception is broken -- yet spiritually made
whole. It is lightly touched upon through the varied modulations
and dissonances of the building up of the story, but it rings out
supreme in the symphonic climax:
> O fear nothing, nothing! HE WILL HATE ME!
The words alone are as little and plain as Macbeth's equally
tense, "Thou canst not say I did it!" when the shade of Banquo
stalks in with its silent challenge. But we cannot mistake the
meaning of that tense note in either one, and each, though
ringing out from opposite poles of consciousness, marks,
structurally, the ridge-pole of the play.
Up to that point everything rises, builds, accrues: after it,
everything totters, falls, and vanishes. Macbeth renounced soul
for personality, and reaped the "wages of sin." Marguerite
renounced personality for soul and drank of the bitter draught
which "in the beginning is as poison and in the end as the water
Up to the moment of her renunciation, little by little, sweet
dream added to dream as stone might be placed on stone, the
outward structure of the nobler life, for which this poor soul
had longed with an intensity of longing that the conventionally
good woman can never possibly know, has been a-building.
And why not? Its builder, in the baptism of the first unselfish
love that had ever come into her life, had become a transformed,
indeed transfigured being. This is not a sentimental opinion.
She proves it by many acts, though we have words from her as
> My past self separates itself so entirely from myself of today
> that I seem to be two different women, and the second barely
> remembers the first . . . I have spent more money in bouquets
> than would serve to feed an honest family for a year; and now,
> ah, now one little flower, such as this which was given me this
> morning, makes the whole day sweet. . .
She refuses marriage, which women of her class commonly clutch at
like vultures (and surely we are not to blame them, if they do).
She will not even seem to profit by a step which she thinks at
some time in the future will embarrass another -- for her code of
honor is high.
"No, if I wished to marry, Armand would marry me tomorrow. But I
shall never consent to take his name," she says to her friend
Erminia, adding, "You see, dear, THERE ARE SOME THINGS A WOMAN
CAN NEVER WIPE OUT OF HER LIFE."
She rejoices later in the marriage of this friend, an unfortunate
girl like herself, without a trace of jealousy or repining.
Secretly, lest it humiliate the one whose beautiful faith in her
has transformed her whole life, she sells her house, jewels, and
belongings, that she might begin her new life far from Paris and
free from the tentacles of the old.
Then comes the bolt from the blue -- Karma, Karma! Society makes
a call upon her and speaks its mind -- in the person of Duval
pere were a gentleman and a man of heart, but so gripped by
social hypocrisy that he fancies its opinion to be his own.
He comes to treat with Marguerite Gautier as a creature beneath
him and apart. He remains, to appeal to the noblest qualities of
the human soul as the only possible way of reaching one whom he
Marguerite, gripped by the same conventions, only in another way,
is too honest to appeal from his decision. She feels again the
icy wall which marks her off from the great human lot, and the
old sad hopelessness reasserts itself. She must reap as she has
sown, however ignorant, however thoughtless, the sowing may have
"No, the fallen one can never rise. The world is inflexible
. . . It IS JUSTICE," she says. But a single moan escapes her.
> It is very good of you to speak to me of your daughter, M.
> Duval. Yes; and someday will you tell this pure and beautiful
> girl -- whom I never saw but for whom I give up all my happiness
> -- tell her that there was once a woman who had but one hope, one
> thought, one dream in all the world, and who yet, at the
> invocation of her name, renounced it all, crushed her heart
> between her hands, and died of it -- for I shall die of it.
And then she meets the challenge, the most supreme that can be
offered any soul -- for what more can be demanded than ALL ONE
HAS, and society demanded of this woman the utmost, the highest
thing that, at that step in her growth, she could comprehend.
She rose to the demand, and with more than the courage of an
Alcestis, for not only must she renounce this great dream, this
transmuting, wonderful love, but by her own deliberate act, she
must turn its sweetness into gall.
There is no other way, such is Armand's faith in her, as she
knows. And this she does. Not once, but even a second time,
tempted, baited, tried by more than fire, she deliberately lifts
her hand again to shatter all that she had once created with so
much love and care.
At last human strength can bear no more, the frail body sinks
under the pressure, and the soul demands release. But why did
she do all this, you question.
She did not have to. No one had the power to enforce the demand
thus made. With a single word, she could have won to her side an
irresistible support. Yet she did not speak that word. This
'fallen one' held to a higher code of honor than the world
accepts even as a theory.
One truly needs Theosophical light and understanding before such
a type-creation as Marguerite Gautier can be brought out in all
its subtle nuances of character, in its wonderful chiaroscuro of
light and dark, dark and light, and with its spiritual
possibilities fully unveiled.
There are other demands in dramatic interpretation than those of
the unities or the classic construction of a plot, and there is
need of Theosophical insight on the stage itself.
How many times has this play been presented with apparently no
perception whatever of its significance as the battleground of
the soul, or of the great universal laws invoked by every such
struggle between the personal will and the Divine, between the
leadings of desire and the summons of the Soul, between man's
harsh, cruet judgment and the compassion of the Higher Law.
Not always, however, for one great figure comes to mind as an
exception: that of Eleonora Duse, who transfigured the whole
theme with the spirituality of a great, an awakened, woman.
Nor did she err in thus suffusing the play with a something more
of fire than of earth, for Marguerite is introduced to us in the
first place as one who had already taken a stand against the
fevered life, and her subsequent lapses seem to be simply forced
by the ghosts of old cynicism and hopelessness that in no life
will down at once.
William Quan Judge once wrote the following, and we commend it to
those reformers who tell you that the unfortunate woman is likely
'to slip back,' and in general 'cannot be reformed.'
> Just as in your material world during vast, shadowy periods,
> intermediate types float about until the habit of nature has
> changed, so in each daily life, or moral life, the intermediate
> forms remain until YOUR habit has totally altered. They then
> disappear forever.
Duse was sublime in her portrayal of this pathetic character
because of her great compassion. Her own nature is of that
cosmic and elemental largeness that can understand and solve a
problem as large as humanity itself, and as old -- shall we
glibly repeat here the current phrase, 'as the oldest profession
in the world'?
Oldest! What an exposure of spiritual ignorance that such an
expression, such a lie, should weave its way in and out of
history, literature, art, even philosophy, so-called, during age
after age, unchallenged!
Duse's grandeur comes out of the fact that something in her
woman's heart told her better than this. She pictures faithfully
this woman IN HER DUALITY, but her portrayal, essentially, is
that of the Spiritual Woman, the Eternal Woman, whose profession
is far older than that of the erring one.
This, in our opinion, is why she rises to such nobility of
conception and such miracle of art in her every recital of the
triumph of a soul. She is great enough to understand that a
woman who had passed through an Inferno of sin and pain and yet
had risen above the hell and heat of it unscarred, unsoiled,
burned clean, was not only capable of perceiving the highest
moral principles, but could not have done otherwise than make
them a living power in her life.
By such an act, the 'fallen one' takes her place in what actually
is, so far as woman is concerned, 'the oldest profession in the
world': that of the sharer of Spiritual Knowledge, the Custodian
of Spiritual Light.
Who was it served, in the very dawn-mist time of things, as the
link between unevolved humanity and the Elohim, the bright Gods,
of whom radiant Lucifer was one? Modestly we say it, but yet it
is time it were said: was it not woman?
Whose hand was the first to receive the Torch of Reason,
Spiritual Intelligence, the 'Light of Mind,' by which mankind,
receiving it in turn, should be even as the bright Gods
themselves, knowing good and evil? Who never thought of herself,
but hastened to share this supreme gift, without which mankind
would be no more than animal even yet? The old scripts tell us it
was woman, who, H.P. Blavatsky tells us in addition, in one of
her earlier signed articles, "had she been let alone and allowed
to do what she intended, would have led man to the Tree of Life."
This drama, in its denouement, suggests the citation.
That mankind boggled the great opportunity, and fell and suffered
and wandered and is wandering yet, has nothing to do with the
issue right here, which is whether or not 'the oldest profession
in the world' with which woman had to do is that of the destroyer
or the Spiritual Teacher in short, and Initiator.
However we may have boggled translations, or misread allegory and
symbol, or dragged the Elohim themselves through the slough of
theological upside-downness, at least this much of the tale is
left in more than one World Scripture, and so clearly that he who
runs may read.
In her great renunciation Marguerite Gautier actually took her
soul's primal place in the truly 'oldest profession in the
world,' that of Teacher. Hers was the hand that, as the
denouement shows, passed on the torch. Duval pere can never be
the social puppet again, for he was reborn through the power of
this woman's sacrifice.
This great spiritual issue is one that the great Italian actress
intuitively understood. The author, too, perceived spiritually,
because Theosophically, and thus wrote more truthfully than he
knew. That is why the play, in structure so very simple and
direct, is something more than the usual counterpointing of plot
and counterplot, emotion and emotion, outward bravado and inward
Moving along beside the outer form of it, pari passu with its
measured progression to climax and then catastrophe, music-wise,
there is also a spiritual, melodic thread -- creation, rather --
progressing in CONTRARY MOTION, so that when the crash comes and
outward things are shattered, a lofty temple of spiritual beauty
towers sublimely over all. How few plays have this inner, hidden
Could anything do more good today, with the social problem more
than ever at the fore and good folk still summary and harsh, than
a fresh, new presentation of this truly spiritual theme, revived
under the direction of one who knows Theosophy, who knows human
nature in its duality and therefore loves it in its need, who has
faith in the Divinity of mankind and whose object would be, first
of all, to teach? We do not believe so.
Such a play is thaumaturgic in the quality of its appeal. If it
is a tender brief for the unfortunate woman, it is a nobler one
for the Divinity in all humankind. As Dumas wrote at the
conclusion of his history of Marie Duplessis, the actual
Marguerite of the play:
> I am not an apostle of vice, but I will make myself the echo of a
> nobly borne misfortune whenever I hear its voice raised in
WHY DO WE SUFFER?
By Lydia Ross
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, January 1918, pages 37-42.]
Were we as anxious to know the real cause of suffering as we are
to know how to escape it, we should understand the mystery of
Madame Blavatsky said that "almost every individual life is, in
its full development, a sorrow." Evidently, then, suffering must
have a distinct place and purpose in the human drama. Moreover,
something deep within man's nature must consciously work to
fulfill the great purpose which lies back of the pain in human
life. But for this subconscious will and willingness to live and
endure, the race, long since, would have come to an end, unable
to support 'The misery of existence.'
The impulse to live is so natural and inherent that the current
of human affairs flows steadily on with the majority, day after
day. Few stop to question what it is that keeps up their
interest and their desire to go on playing a part which is rarely
There are always thousands who are cramped and dulled and wearied
with a monotonous daily routine: but they long for a change and a
broader field of activity, rather than wish for the end to come.
Even the pious people who feel sure of a place in heaven are in
no hurry to leave the earth.
The story is told of a bishop asking the captain of a ship on
which he was a passenger, during a severe storm, if there was any
danger. On hearing the captain's reply that "if this storm does
not moderate, we shall all be in heaven in half an hour," the
Bishop exclaimed, "God forbid!"
The pleasure seekers are anxious to prolong their days also.
Even those who have the means and leisure to exhaust every
enjoyment and sensation, and are bored and satiated without a
single resource of lasting satisfaction, are not eager to try
This clinging to life is no less strong in many who are utterly
wretched and hopeless. In the public hospitals and in miserable
homes, there are always men and women who are poor, sick, unloved
and helpless, racked with pain, anxiety and hopeless misery,
which yet cling to life tenaciously. Something within their
nature seems able to know the purpose of it all, and to remain
untouched by troubles.
There is no question that Death is pushed back at times of acute
crisis in sickness, or chronic illness, by the strong will to
live. Other patients, seemingly not so ill, negatively drift
away because they lack the desire to live.
To the courageous there is compensation in suffering which gives
them something finer than it takes away.
It is noteworthy that the modern increase in suicide is not
mainly among the poor and wretched. He who runs may read in the
daily papers of these tragedies among those whose financial and
social position leaves nothing to be desired, in externals.
Not a few men of ability and with congenial ties, reach the goal
of their ambition by strenuous efforts limited to the material
world of affairs. Then without apparent reason, they commit
suicide. They have been so unconscious that life was for
all-round development of the nature, that they recklessly end the
The successful, prosperous materialist, who reaches the limit of
resources in his own world, and ends his life because it has
nothing more to offer, is a bankrupt and a failure in the
conscious sense that does not measure itself by mere things
around it. He is worse off in soul power and riches than his
miserable fellowmen who blindly live out their experiences.
Though the unhappy pauper's brain-mind may think he is a weakling
and a failure in gaining possessions, his unseen soul may be
learning how its greatness shall yet dominate all things. Each
man's experience becomes a part of himself; and a lifetime of
blind suffering may be a preparation to see things more clearly
in future lives.
In the light of reincarnation, the larger purpose of growth which
links the lives together is a satisfying clue to the present. In
the grand sweep of this truth, no experience is felt to be either
fatal or final. The present is always an incident and an outcome
of our own karma, and so can it be made the starting point of
better future conditions.
Having made the present what it is, we are making the future what
it shall be. As the creator of our own conditions, we can plan
to escape many of the old evils by learning wherein we have
failed before. It is indeed true that we 'are not punished for
our sins but by them.' And it is equally true that we are not
rewarded for our virtues but by them.
Had the old theology taught man that he was a soul, this
knowledge of his essential divinity would have ingrained into
humanity a broader, nobler, and more courageous view of life.
Instead of his present uncertainty and vague fear of the unknown,
he would confidently respond to the challenge of any test of
endurance which life had to offer. Trouble would be recognized
as an opportunity to develop latent ability to meet and control
difficulties. With each experience he would take on a fresh
sense of freedom, finding himself the master not the slave of
conditions. Suffering would not find him already half conquered
by his fear of it, he would count on finding that his pain was
less than his gain would be.
A man must believe that he is a soul to call forth the soul
power, which theology has shrouded with so much doubt and fear.
Nothing less than a conscious knowledge that he is divine can
overcome the belittling fear, which, for ages, had cramped and
crippled the expression of the higher nature. A realizing sense
that they are souls makes gods and heroes of mere men. Amiel has
well said: "Heroism is the overcoming by the soul of the Fear of
Suffering and Isolation."
People complain as bitterly of loneliness and lack of sympathy as
they do of physical pain: and few escape them. The actual
experience is often easier to bear than the fear of it, because
fear belongs to the lesser nature. The deepest sorrow may brush
aside the superficial things in a nature, and show the riches of
unsounded depths of unselfish feeling.
The pampered child that is hurt or lost is at the mercy of pain
and loneliness. Fear intensifies his sufferings. His training
has taught him to look to others for help and he has no clue to
his own resources. His devoted friends and relatives, in trying
to protect him from ordinary discomforts have left him
defenseless and exposed to greater trouble and danger.
A self-reliant child, in the same place, is aroused to meet and
withstand the pain, and to confidently explore the unknown
places. He feels that he is still the center of his world of
things, and shall presently find his lost friends, or new ones.
It is the same with the older children of men. The pampered
lesser nature shrinks from a hard or unpleasant situation or from
anything new that may not yield to it the old indulgence. It
prefers its old domain of sensations and desires, and the
familiar touch of old limitations, rather than to lose its power
in a larger freedom for the real man. With its own tears and
lamentations, it grows blind and deaf to the truth before it. It
blames everything but itself for the troubles that come: and
selfishly reaches out to grasp relief and reassurance from
someone else. It is afraid to step out into a strange silence
and find how small and mean it is alone. It is afraid of pain;
but it would rather be in the old pain than not to be at all.
And it instinctively knows that once man has found the satisfying
peace and freedom of his higher nature, he will not live content
in the changing pains and pleasures of his emotions and desires.
The lesser self must suffer in the process which transmutes its
power to higher use. There are literal death pangs for it when
the man gives up his lesser life that he may more truly live.
But he looks upon his own suffering calmly, when he knows himself
as a soul, working to perfect the man of flesh. He knows that as
he pays the price, he will receive the compensation. He will be,
in fact, his own compensation.
> For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not to
> be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
He did not say that the glory should be revealed TO us but IN us,
showing that he knew the truth of man's perfectibility. He
pointed out an example of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, in
the perfected man Jesus. Of this teacher, he said:
> For it became him for who are all things and by who are all
> things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of
> their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he who
> sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which
> cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.
Paul also saw that:
> [The progress of a soul in an animal body made the conscious man
> a paradox] as sorrowful yet always rejoicing: as poor yet making
> rich: as having nothing yet possessing all things.
He clearly believed that suffering should be turned to account,
when he wrote that "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation
not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh
Not the least source of suffering is ignorance of the dual nature
of humanity. Until that fact is known and understood, there is
no way to detect the subtle play of the lower nature.
Selfishness is not most dangerous when it is frankly gross and
cruel, or quarrelsome and stupid. It can use all the powers of
mind, and the grace and skill of the body to gain its ends. The
way in which children get their own way by wheedling their
parents into yielding consent, is an instance well known to all
but the parents. The charm of a pleased child and the unpleasant
tempers which parents dread often results in yielding against
their better judgment, because they can neither understand nor
Parental love and parental ignorance of human nature are often
played upon with such subtle instinct that the child becomes
master of the situation. This is especially true of the
restless, precocious, undisciplined American child of today.
They neither give happiness or comfort to others nor really
It requires no stretch of imagination to see the suffering that
these uncontrolled natures will invoke for all concerned, as they
mature into more insistent desires, and the larger freedom to
The same unworthy play of the subtle lower nature is to be seen
in other ties, of family and friends. It may be an indulgent
husband or a devoted wife catering to the vanity, extravagance,
selfish impulses, or dishonorable dealings of the other, without
realizing the trouble they are indorsing and must share. These
couples do not always lack conscience so much as they lack
consciousness that both are being played by the lower nature.
While they dance to its tune, they must pay the fiddler his
It is this pitiful ignorance of the forces in human nature which
deceives and victimizes the individual and those he loves the
best. The nearest ties of family and friends are often strong in
mutual weaknesses, perhaps fostered by the association of other
lives. The few points of real unity and understanding in close
ties show how strong and lasting love is between those whose
natures have met and overcome something in common.
Who can question that genuine unselfish love is an immortal
something that made life sweet in the long forgotten past, and
that will grow stronger throughout future ages? Its deep and
sacred power hints at the ideal fellowship which will come when
the whole nature is expressed at its best.
The faults in our friends are often our own weak points in
another guise. Perhaps life after life, we have feared to face
ourselves and to live through the painful experience of
overcoming these very failings.
It may require all the heroism of the soul to overcome the fear
of suffering and the isolation of this unknown step now. It may
be also that the maturing of the whole character waits upon this
one thing to be rounded out. But the continued effort to do it,
as a soul, will strike a keynote of courage for every near tie.
And the isolation necessary to find the true self, will react
into that real unity which outlasts life itself.
When Mme. Blavatsky was asked why there was need for rebirths,
since no one secured a permanent peace, she replied:
> Because the final goal cannot be reached in any way but through
> life experiences, and because the bulk of these consist in pain
> and suffering, it is only through the latter that we can learn.
> Joys and pleasures teach us little; they are evanescent, and can
> only in the long run bring satiety. Moreover our constant
> failure to find any permanent satisfaction in life which would
> meet the wants of our higher nature shows us plainly that those
> wants can be met only on their own plane -- to wit, the spiritual
> . . . Further, we maintain that all pain and suffering are
> results of want of Harmony and that the one terrible and only
> cause of the disturbance of Harmony is Selfishness in some form
> or other.
Everything points out the fact that the world is not merely a
playground and that life is serious business. Since whether as
sinner or saint, suffer we must, we may as well claim the
compensation earned by our experience and suffer to a conscious
purpose. Pain is a necessary protection and danger signal, a
safeguard against going still further wrong and against repeating
There is a sacred responsibility in all experiences, but
especially in those where the truth is sharply defined by pain.
The ignorant suffer ignorantly; but the more conscious suffer
according to their light, however cleverly they seek to escape.
Did not Jesus say to the lame man, cured after his thirty-eight
years of infirmity, "Behold thou art made whole: sin no more,
lest a worse thing come unto thee."
The great law of justice, working through the purpose of pain,
shows even in the quality of disease, whether the prevailing
wrongs of an age are done more or less consciously.
The plagues which devastated Europe in the middle ages were
ignorantly ascribed to a mysterious Providence by a superstitious
age, that believed men were only miserable sinners, and not
responsible for what happened.
It is clear enough to this sanitary age that the awful pests were
the creation of medieval uncleanliness. Man, not Providence,
made the plague conditions; but it took hundreds of years to
learn the cause of that medieval suffering. By modern
sanitation, man masters the plague and is decreasing all
contagions due to faulty hygiene in his surroundings. But the
more conscious brain and more highly organized nervous system of
today shows the wrongs of this age in a host of puzzling nervous
disorders, and in greater frequency and more incurable types of
Now the prevalent diseases are related to the consciousness
rather than to material conditions. The organization of industry
and of society show moral plague spots of slums and degeneracy
and vice and crime, undreamed of by existing primitive peoples.
No savage could conceive of the depths of degeneracy and the
mental and moral suffering to be found in any city. Meantime the
medical profession usually refuse to see that mental and moral
wrongs must react upon the body; and they have no remedy to offer
for the malignant and degenerate diseases that grow more numerous
and more difficult to treat. It might be well to reread that old
prescription which Jesus gave his patient in the temple:
> Sin no more lest a worse thing come unto thee.
The study of Theosophy shows the interrelation of all the
elements in human make-up, and it goes to the root of modern
wrongs. H.P. Blavatsky said in the early days of the society:
> Theosophy's aims are several: but the most important are those
> which are likely to lead to the relief of human suffering under
> any or every form, moral as well as physical. And we believe the
> former to be far more important than the latter. Theosophy has
> to inculcate ethics: it has to purify the soul, if it would
> relieve the physical body, whose ailments, save in case of
> accidents. are all hereditary.
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application