President of the Theosophical Society
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PSYCHISM AND SPIRITUALITY
THE PLACE OF MASTERS IN RELIGIONS
THEOSOPHY AND THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
THE PLACE OF PHENOMENA IN THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
SPIRITUAL AND TEMPORAL AUTHORITY
THE RELATION OF THE MASTERS TO THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
THE FUTURE OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
THE VALUE OF THEOSOPHY IN THE WORLD OF THOUGHT
THE FIELD OF WORK OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
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Psychism and Spirituality
The Place of Masters in Religions
Theosophy and the Theosophical Society
Three public Lectures delivered in the smaller Queen's Hall, London, on 16th, 23rd, and 30th June 1907.
Psychism and Spirituality
Our subject to-night consists of two words: psychism—spirituality. I am going to speak to you on the subjects denoted by these two words, because there is so much confusion about them in ordinary conversation, in ordinary literature, and out of that confusion much of harm arises. People think of one thing and use the name of the other, and so continually fall into blunders and mislead others with whom they talk. I want to-night to draw a sharp and intelligible division between psychism and spirituality; if possible, to explain very clearly what each of them means; so that, thoroughly understanding the meaning of the things, people may choose for themselves which of the two they desire to evolve, or unfold, within themselves. For if a person, desiring to unfold the spiritual nature, uses the means which are only adapted for developing the psychic nature, disappointment, possibly danger, will result; while, on the other hand, if a person desires to develop the psychic nature, and thinks that he will reach that development quickly by unfolding his spiritual powers, he also is equally doomed to disappointment; but in the second case, only to disappointment for a time. For while it is not true that the great psychic is necessarily a spiritual person, it is true that the great spiritual person is inevitably a psychic. All the powers of Nature are subject to the Spirit, and hence, when a man has truly unfolded his spiritual nature, there is nothing in the lower world which is not open to him and obedient to his will. In that sense, then, the man who follows the spiritual path will not ultimately be disappointed if he is seeking psychic development, but the very seeking for it will, on the spiritual path, act as a certain barrier. I shall return to the point again presently, and show you in what sense, and why, it is true that the development of the psychic powers may hinder the unfolding of the spiritual.
Now, to distinguish clearly between the two, I will begin with two brief definitions. They will be expanded naturally in the course of the lecture, but I will define each of these two words in a single sentence so as to make the definition clear and brief. Spirituality is the Self-realisation of the One; psychism is the manifestation of the powers of consciousness through organised matter. Each word of that definition has its own value. We are far too apt, in our ordinary thought and talking, to limit the words "psychical," "psychic," or "psychism" in a quite illegitimate way, and the popular use of the term is illegitimate. It is generally used amongst us to mean unusual manifestations of the powers of consciousness, whereas, properly speaking, the word ought to cover every outer manifestation of consciousness, whether on the physical, on the astral, on the mental, or on the buddhic plane. It does not matter in what world you are moving, in what matter your consciousness is acting; so long as it is utilising organised matter for its own expression so long are those manifestations psychic, and are properly included under the term psychism. You may perhaps wonder why I lay stress on this. You will see it at once if I remind you that unless we keep this definition in mind—accurate, legitimate as it is—we shall be making a division between the manifestation of the consciousness on the physical and on the astral and mental planes, between its manifestation in the physical and those in the astral and mental bodies; and if we do that the whole of our thought will be on mistaken lines. You need practically to be pressed back to what you know of consciousness on the physical plane, before you can thoroughly follow its manifestations on the astral and on the mental. If you try to separate off manifestations which are the same in kind though differing in degree, according to the fineness of the matter which is employed, if you try to separate them off, you will always regard what you call psychism—that is, astral and mental manifestations in the subtler bodies—in an artificial and unwise manner. If, on the other hand, you realise that consciousness is one, that its manifestation on any plane is conditioned by the matter of the plane, that it is one in essence, only varying in degree according to the lessening or the increase of the resistance of the matter of the planes, then you will not be inclined to take up exaggerated views with regard to what people are so fond of calling psychism. You will not denounce it in the foolish way of many people, because in denouncing it you will know that you denounce all intellectual manifestations, an absurdity of which very few people are likely to be guilty; if you take your intellectual manifestations in the physical world as admirable things, to be always encouraged, strengthened, developed, then you will be compelled, by parity of reasoning, to understand that the manifestations of the same consciousness in finer matter, astral or mental, are equally worthy, and no more worthy, of development, of consideration. You will not find yourself in the absurdly illogical position of declaring it a good thing to train the physical plane consciousness, while it is dangerous to cultivate the astral and mental plane consciousness. You will understand that all psychism is of the same kind, that on each plane the development of psychism has its own laws; but that it is absurd to admire the working of consciousness on the lower plane, and shrink from it as something dangerous, almost diabolical, when it appears on a plane higher than the physical.
It is this rational and common-sense view which I want to impress upon you to-night, to get you out of the region of mystery, marvel, wonder, and fear, which to so many people surround what is called psychism; to make you understand that you are unfolding consciousness, showing out your powers on one plane after another according to the organisation and the fineness of the bodies in which your consciousness is working; and that if you will only keep your common sense and reason, if you will only not allow yourself to be terrified by what at present is unusual, you may then walk along the psychic pathway in the astral or mental world, as resolutely, and with as great an absence of hysteria, as you walk along the psychic pathway in the physical world. That is the general idea; and, of course, this is the meaning in which, after all, the word is often used down here. When you say "psychology" you do not mean only the workings of consciousness in astral and mental bodies; you mean the whole consciousness of the man, the workings of the mind, wherever the mind is active; the whole of that you include under "psychology." Why, then, when you change its form, should you narrow it down, as though that which is mind on one plane is not also mind on all planes on which the mind is able to function?
Now let us consider for a moment the workings of the mind on the physical plane: they are familiar. There is, however, one important point about them. In the materialistic science of the last century you had very widely spread, amongst scientific men, the view that thought was only the result of certain kinds of vibration in certain kinds of matter. I need not dwell on that. But you are aware that both in England, and more especially in France and Germany, most elaborate disquisitions were written to prove that thought was only the product of nervous matter. You rarely, I think never, now find a well-trained scientist prepared to commit himself to that position. Those who survive as representatives of that same school may do so, but they are literally survivals. The mass of psychologists of to-day admit that the manifestations of mind cannot any longer be regarded as the results of vibrations in the physical brain, that at least we must go beyond these limitations when dealing with the results of the study of consciousness, as it is now studied amongst scientific men. They will no longer, then, regard thought as the product of matter. They certainly will not be prepared to go as far as I now propose to go, and say that the thinking organism is the production of thought—the very antithesis, you will agree, of the other position, but which is vital to the understanding of the unfolding of the powers of consciousness through matter. It is recognised in ordinary biology that the function appears before the organ. There I am on safe scientific ground. It is recognised that the exercise of the function gradually builds up the organ. All the researches into the simpler forms of organisms go to prove that. It is also recognised that when the exercise of the function has built the organ in a very simple form, the exercise of the function continually improves the organ which originally it builded. So far we are hand in hand with ordinary science. I think I shall not go too far in saying that a large number of the more scientific psychologists of to-day will at least agree that the brain as you find it in the adult man is very largely the result of the exercise of thinking through the earlier years of life. I do not think they would go so far as to say that thinking has literally produced it. They would, however, judging by very many things that have been said, be willing to admit that by hard thinking we can improve our apparatus of thought. That is one reason for thinking hard—in order to think better. And the harder you think, the more will your thinking instrument improve.
In my next step, however, I cannot by any stretching of ordinary science persuade it to accompany me, or give me a foundation; for the point is that your consciousness, working on the next plane above the one on which the organ of consciousness is being built, is the shaper of that mechanism. To put it concretely: your physical brain is built up from the astral plane, and it is your consciousness working in matter finer than the physical which builds up the brain in the forming child within the limits laid down by karma. Now, that is a general law for healthy evolution. You will see the importance of this law a little further on. Every body which we possess—physical, astral, mental, buddhic—is always built up by consciousness working in the plane next above it; the next plane, or world, is a world very much more "next" than you are next each other sitting here—not far away beyond the stars, removed by great spaces. It is interpenetrating you in every portion of your being. It is only "next" in the sense that the solids, liquids, and gases of your bodies are next each other in the body—not far away, but here. So that the working is of the closest and most intimate kind. Some of you who are students of Theosophical literature will remember that H.P.B. has spoken of all of us as working in the astral consciousness. You will see that you are not working with a physical consciousness in the literal sense of the term, if you think for a moment. How much do you know of the consciousness working in the various cells and tissues of your physical body? Practically nothing, except when you are ill. Only when the body is disorganised do you become conscious of that working. Normally, the motion of your blood, the building up by assimilation of your muscles and nerves, the life of your cells, the protective action of some of the living cells in your body—the "devourers," as they are called—go on without your knowledge, without your thought, without your giving one moment's conscious attention to them. In the Perfect Man, the consciousness of all this is ever present, but in us, imperfect, it is not; we are not yet sufficiently vitalised and unfolded to carry on the whole of our consciousness, with full awareness of all its activities. We are only able to manage a very small part of it, and so have let go the consciousness that keeps at work the physical body, to concentrate ourselves in a higher world, and utilise the nervous mechanism as the apparatus of our thinking. That law obtains, then, all through. If you want to organise and build up your astral body, you can only do it from the mental plane. You must raise your thought to a higher power by concentration, by regular meditation, by deliberately working on the consciousness, before you can raise it to that power from which it shall be able to organise your astral body, as it has already organised your physical body. That is the reason why meditation is necessary in all these things; because without the creative power of thought we cannot organise the body in the world which is nearest to the physical.
Now, supposing that we recognise that our consciousness working in the physical brain, the instrument over which we have complete control, is continually at work contacting the outer world, using the brain as an instrument on which it can play, and continually bringing down from higher worlds impressions which it transmits more or less perfectly to the physical plane, we need not dwell upon our ordinary thinking. Let us take thinking a little more unusual, where the finer part of the brain, its etheric matter, is being more largely vitalised, more definitely used. The powers of the imagination—the creative power—the artistic powers, all creative in their nature, these utilise most the ethers of the brain, and, by working in those, bring into activity the lower and coarser matter of the dense brain. Now, the thought passes from the consciousness through vehicle after vehicle to find its clear expression here. But do you not have many mental impressions that are not clear, not well defined, and yet which impress you deeply, and of which you feel sure? They are of many kinds, and reach you in many ways. What is important to you is simply this for the moment: that being surrounded by the astral and mental worlds, contacts from these are continually touching you, continually causing changes in your consciousness. If your astral body were thoroughly organised like your physical, the impressions made would be clear and sharp like the physical. If your mental body were well organised, the impressions of that plane, the heavenly plane, would be clear and sharp like the physical. But as the astral and mental bodies at this stage of evolution are not well organised, the impressions received by them, causing changes in the consciousness, are vague and indeterminate, and it is these which are generally called "psychic." And when you have a Psychical Research Society, it is not dealing with the ordinary processes of thought, but with those which are not ordinary; and all those things to which it gives many strange names are all workings of the consciousness, in sheaths or bodies of which it has not yet gained the mastery, which it has not yet definitely organised for its purposes. Slowly and gradually they become organised, and strenuous thinking is the method for the astral body, and the working of the pure reason is the method for the mental body. Let us consider with regard to this, whether there is any other way of bringing the astral body and mental body into activity. For you may have noticed that I used the word "normal" evolution, orderly evolution on the lines of natural evolution, always from above. But you may stimulate it from below. It is possible to stimulate the astral body, at least, from the physical plane, but you do it at the cost of higher evolution a little later on, and the reason you can do it is simple enough. In the astral body are all the centres of your senses. You know how after death a man's desires are the same as they were during his physical life. You know how in dreams your desires resemble desires that you may have in your waking consciousness. The centre of all your psychic powers, of your conscious powers, the centres of these are in the astral, and if (especially with your senses, each of which has its own centre in the astral body) you overstrain the physical senses down here, you will get an action on the astral plane, but an unhealthy, because disorderly one, one not going along the line of evolution but trying to create from below instead of from above. None the less, you may have some results, and in the two famous Indian systems for developing the powers of the consciousness, and for unfolding the consciousness itself, you have this recognised, and you read of Raja Yoga and of Hatha Yoga, of the Kingly Yoga and of the Yoga of Effort. The Yoga of Effort is Hatha Yoga, and is practised by physical means and followed by physical effects. The eye is stimulated in certain ways, and the effect of straining the physical eye is to bring about a certain limited kind of clairvoyance. You can gain it in that way by gazing into crystals, and so on. They do stimulate the centre of physical sight, but not the astral; and that is why they cannot go very far. You can get a certain amount of clairvoyance by these means, but you are only expanding your physical sight, and working on centres of the astral body connected with the physical organ of vision, the eye. The true astral sight is an entirely different thing. That comes from a centre of its own in the astral body. It has to be created from the mental body, as the organ of the physical was from the astral. The centre of that sight will be in the mental body and not in the astral, and only the organ of it in the astral body. The method of the Kingly, the Raja Yoga, is always by thought—concentrate, meditate, contemplate, think: by that means, in a healthy, normal, natural way you will inevitably develop the powers of sight on the astral, as in the course of Nature the powers of sight were developed on the physical plane. And if you realise that your consciousness is one, building its bodies for its fuller and more complete expression, that you are here in order to become masters of matter instead of its slaves, to become lords of matter, using every organ of matter for knowledge of the world to which that matter belongs, and not to be blinded by it, as we are for so long a time in our climb upwards, then you will see that this natural development of astral powers is inevitable in the course of evolution, and all that you can do is to quicken it, following the line which Nature has traced. As Nature slowly will evolve in every human being the power of using the astral body as freely as you use the physical body now, so can you quicken the coming of that day for yourselves by understanding the powers of thought and turning them to the object you desire to obtain. There are many ways in which this may be done, and many rules you may learn for your guidance. Those rules may be summed up under two heads: clear and strenuous thinking, discipline for the bodies that you are trying to evolve; and also, I should add, for the body below them in evolution. Those are the two great laws for the safe evolution of these so-called psychic powers, what I call the powers of the consciousness on the astral and mental planes. There must be a discipline for the bodies, for you have to choose the material which will serve you best in the work you are doing out of the innumerable combinations of matter with which Nature presents you. You must choose the combinations that will serve your purpose, which you can utilise in the building of the organs of sense on plane after plane. Just as really as the man who is a drunkard will injure his nervous system by his excesses, and by supplying coarse and over-active compounds will injure the physical body, so making it a less useful instrument for the man—as any excess, not only drunkenness, but gluttony, profligacy, and so on—as these injure the physical body as an instrument of consciousness, and to have full and perfect consciousness here we must train, discipline, build up our body with knowledge and with self-control, so also is that true on the higher planes. A regimen is necessary when you are dealing with the organisation of the subtler matter of the astral and mental worlds, for you cannot build up your physical body out of the coarser combinations of matter on the physical, and have finer combinations on the astral and mental. The bodies have to match each other. They have to correspond with each other; and as you find all sorts of combinations related the one to the other on every plane, you must choose your combinations on the physical if you desire to choose them also on the astral and mental. You cannot make your physical body coarse, and organise the astral and mental bodies for the finer purposes of the man; and you must settle that in your minds if you wish to try to develop these higher powers of consciousness. Not only because if you gather together the coarser materials of the astral world, you will find yourself hampered by them in the higher expression of consciousness, but also because the presence of these combinations in you exposes you to a number of dangers on the astral plane. The purer the elements of your astral body, the safer you are in your earlier wanderings on that plane. It is important to mention this, because in some of the schools of thought which are trying only to develop astral powers, you will find that they deliberately use other methods in order to make their astral body active. Many schools of the "left hand path" in India will use spirits, wines, meats of all sorts, in order to bring about a certain astral condition, and they succeed, because by these means they attract to themselves, and for a time govern, the elemental powers of those lower planes—the elementals of the lower astral worlds. So that you may find that an Indian, who knows a little of this and wants to use it for his own purposes, will deliberately use these things which are attractive to the elementals of those lower worlds, and gather them around him and use them. But he does it knowing what he does, and aiming at that which he desires to conquer. But amongst those who practise black magic of the higher kinds—of the mental kinds—you have an asceticism as stern and rigid as has ever been used by those who are trying to develop their higher bodies for nobler ends. It is a mistake to think that the brothers of the dark side are, as a rule, licentious and indifferent to what you call morality. On the contrary, they are exceedingly strict. Their faults are the faults of the mind, not the faults of the lower desires, of the organs of the different bodies which may gratify them. Their faults are the more dangerous faults of mental powers misused for personal ends. But they realise very well that if they want the mental powers and the higher ranges of those powers, they must be as rigid in the discipline of the lower bodies as any pupil of the White Lodge could be. Take it, then, that to develop in this way, a regimen for the bodies, as well as the strict working and training of the mind, is absolutely necessary. But with these the result is sure. You cannot set a time for the result, for it depends where the worker is beginning in his present life. In all these matters Nature's laws will not permit of what is called miraculous growth, and if you find persons developing psychic powers very rapidly, when perhaps they have been meditating only a few months, it is because in a previous life they have cultivated these powers and are taking up their lessons again in a more advanced class of evolution, and not in the infant class, as many do in the present life. So that there are differences. Some now beginning are not likely to succeed in their present incarnation; but if that discourages them, one can only say: "If you do not do it now, you will have to begin again next life, and so on and on and on. For Nature's laws cannot be violated, and Nature knows no favoritism and no partiality. Some time or other you have to begin, and the sooner you begin the sooner will you succeed."
Now the whole of this, you will remark, is the training, the organising of bodies. And psychism implies that. You must train, purify, organise, in order that the powers of the consciousness may show forth. You will see very fully now why at the beginning I urged you to realise that the whole of these manifestations are similar in kind, so that when you find someone saying to you: "Oh! So-and-so is a psychic," as though that were to condemn the person; "Such-and-such a person is a mere clairvoyant," and so on, as though the fact of possessing clairvoyance were a disadvantage rather than an advantage; then the proper answer is: "Are you prepared to go the whole way with that?" Many Indians do so (it is the point to which I said I would return); they say that the siddhis, the powers of consciousness manifested on the lower planes, are hindrances to the spiritual life. And so they are in a sense. The spiritual life goes inwards: all psychic powers go outwards. It is the same Self in either case—the Self turning inwards on Itself, or the Self going outwards to the world of objects. But it does not make one scrap of difference whether it goes out to physical, astral, or mental objects: it is all the objective consciousness, and therefore the very reverse of the spiritual. But the Indian does not shrink from that as ordinarily the man in the West does. He is perfectly honest. He says: "Yes, the powers of the intellect applied to the objects of the world are a hindrance in the spiritual life. We do not want them, do not care to think about it. We give up all the objects of the physical plane when seeking the Self." And if you are prepared to say that, then by all means turn aside from psychism, but do not at one and the same time encourage intellectuality on the physical plane and denounce what you call psychism on the others, because that is mere folly. If it is better to be blind here than to see—and the Indian will tell you it often is, because it shuts out all the distracting objects of the physical plane—if you are prepared to say that, and say: "Yes, I would rather be blind than see," then you may go on to denounce seeing on the astral plane. But if you value your physical sight, why not value the astral sight—it is a stage higher—as well? and the mental sight—which is a stage higher yet—as well? Why denounce astral and mental, and praise up the physical? Why admire the power of sight of the painter, who sees more shades than you can see, and denounce the sight of the clairvoyant, who sees very much more than the cleverest painter? They all belong to the object world; they all lead the Self away from the realisation of himself, and they are all exactly on the same level. It seems strange when one sees the same person exalting the psychic on the physical plane and denouncing it on the astral and mental.
But now let us turn to "spirituality" and see what that means. "The Self-realisation of the One"; not the declaring that all men are one, that all men are brothers: we can all do that. Anyone who has reached a certain stage of intellectual knowledge will recognise the unity of mankind; will say, with the writer in the Christian book, that God has made all men of one blood—quoted again from what is called a Pagan book. That intellectual recognition of the unity is practically universal among educated people; but very few are prepared to carry out the intellectual recognition into practical life and practical training. Now for the development of what are called psychic faculties some amount of retirement from the world is very useful. For the development of the spiritual consciousness no such retirement is necessary. In fact, for the most part, except in the earlier stages perhaps, seclusion is a mistake; for the world is the best place for the unfolding of the sense of unity, and best amongst men and women and children can we call out the powers of the spiritual life. And that for a simple reason. In the lower world the Spirit shows itself out by love, by sympathy; and the more we can love, the more we can sympathise, the greater will be the unfolding of the consciousness of the Self within. It was a true word of the early Christian Initiate, that if a man loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen? And if the perfection of the spiritual consciousness be that vision of the Supreme, the consciousness which knows itself to be one with God, then the way to the realisation will be by the partial realisation of loving sympathy, for which the world is the most fitting field, and our brethren around us the natural stimulus. Love, sacrifice, these are the manifestations of the Spirit on the physical plane, as is right knowledge also. For the Spirit is not a one-sided thing, but a Trinity, and knowledge is as necessary as love. The special value of love lies in its unifying power, and in the fact that it makes what the world calls sacrifice natural and delightful. You know it in your own experience. Just in proportion as you love another is it a joy and not a sorrow to give up things in order that the happiness of the other may be increased. It is no sacrifice for a mother to give up personal enjoyment for the sake of giving it to her children. A deeper joy is felt in the happiness of the child than could possibly have been felt in the enjoyment of the thing by herself; a sweeter, finer, profounder happiness is the enjoyment of the happiness of the beloved. And that a little widens out the consciousness, and hence family life is one of the best schools for spiritual unfolding; for in the continual sacrifices of the family life, springing from love and rendered joyful by affection, the Self feels itself a larger Self, and reaches the sense of unity with those immediately around. And after the family the public life, the life of the community, the life of the nation: these also are schools for the unfolding of the spiritual consciousness. For the man who is a good citizen of the community feels the life of the community as his own life, and so becomes conscious of a larger Self than the narrow self of the family. And the man who loves his nation, his Self widens out to the boundaries of the nation, and he is conscious of a larger Self than the self of the family, or the community within the State. And just in proportion as the love widening does not grow superficial and shallow (for if you have only a certain amount of water and you make your dish wider and wider, the water will become shallower and shallower) does it approach spiritual love. Too often love becomes unreal with those who try to love the far-off when they do not love the near. But if you avoid the temptation, and remembering that the Spirit has no limitations, and that you can draw and draw and draw on the love within you and never find the bottom of the source of love; if you are strong enough to do that, then the love of the family, of the community, of the State, will widen out into the love of humanity, and you shall know yourself as one with all, and not only with your family, or your community, or your nation. All these local loves are schoolmasters to bring us to the wider love of man. But do not blunder in the idea that you can have the wider unless you have gone through the narrower; for the bad husband, the bad citizen, the bad patriot, will never make a real lover of humanity. He must learn his alphabet before he can read in this book of love, and must spell out the letters before he may pronounce the word. None the less, these successive stages are all stages towards the spiritual life, and prepare the man for the consciously spiritual realisation. And if you would really train yourself for the unfolding of this life within you, practise it on those who are nearest to you by meeting them with love and sympathy in the daily paths of life. Not only those whom you like, but those you care not for as well; not with those who love you only, but with those who dislike you also. Remember that you have to break down barriers—barriers of the bodies that bar you out from your fellow Selves in the worlds around you, and that breaking down of the barriers is part of the training in the spiritual life. Only as barrier after barrier is broken down, only as wall after wall is levelled to the ground, will the freedom of the Spirit become possible in manifestation on every plane and in every world. The Spirit is ever free in his own nature and his own life, but, confined within the barriers of the body, he has to learn to transcend them, before, on these planes of matter, he can realise the divine freedom which is his eternal birthright. So long as you feel yourself separate from others, so long are you shut out from the realisation of the unity; so long as you say "my" and "mine," so long the realisation of the Spirit is not yet possible for you. Love of individual possessions, not only physical but moral and mental, not the vulgar pride of physical wealth only, but moral pride, intellectual pride, everything that says "I" as against "you," and does not realise that I and you are one—all this is against the spiritual life. Hardest of all lessons when brought down to practical life; most difficult of all attainments when effort is made to realise it, and not only to talk about it and imagine it. It is best practised by continual renunciation of the individual possessions on every plane, and the constant thought of unity. When you are trying to live the life of the Spirit, you will try to be pure. You do well, but why? In order that you may be pure, and leave your impure brethren in their impurity? Oh no! You must try to be pure, in order that there may be more purity in the world to share amongst all men, because you are pure. You are not wanting to be purer than others, but only gathering purity that you may spread it in every direction, and most joyous when your own purity lifts someone from the mire, who is trampled into it under the feet of the world. You want to be wise. You do well; for wisdom is a splendid possession. But why? In order that you may look down on the ignorant and say: "I am wiser than thou," as the pure man might say: "I am holier than thou"? Oh no! but in order that the wisdom that you gather may enlighten the ignorant, and become theirs and not only yours. Otherwise it is no spiritual thing; for spirituality does not know "myself" and "others"; it only knows the One Self, of whom all forms are manifestations.
We dare not call ourselves spiritual until we have reached that point which none of us as yet has reached, for to reach it means to become a Christ. When, looking at the lowest and basest and most ignorant and vilest, we can say: "That is myself, in such-and-such a garb," and say it feeling it, rejoicing in it—because if there are two of you, and one is pure and the other impure, and the two are one, then neither is perfect, but both are raised above the level of the lowest—that is the true atonement, the real work of the Christ; and the birth of Christ within you means the willingness to throw down all walls of separation, and the stature of Christ within you means that you have accomplished it.
For the most part we claim our unity above; we do not take pride in claiming our unity below; we are glad to say, "Yes, I also am Divine; I am a Christ in the making; I am one with Him." Harder to say: "I am one with the lowest of my brethren, sharing with them the same Divine life." Yet our Divinity is only realised as we recognise that same Divinity in others. You may remember that exquisite story of Olive Schreiner, breathing the very essence first of the unspiritual, and then of the spiritual life. In the first case a woman, pure and spotless, her garments shining with whiteness, and her feet shod as with snow, went up to the Gates of Heaven and trod the golden streets. And as she trod them in her shining robes the angels shuddered back, and said: "See, her garments are blood-spotted, and her sandals are stained with mire and blood." From the throne the Christ asked: "Daughter, how is it that your garments are blood-spotted and your sandals stained?" And she answered: "Lord, I was walking in miry ways, and I saw a woman there down in the mire, and I stepped upon her that I might keep my sandals clean." The Christ and the angels vanished, and the woman fell from heaven, and wandered again in the miry ways of earth. Once again she came to the heavenly portal and trod the golden streets, and this time she was not alone. Another woman was with her, and the garments of both were blood-flecked, and the sandals of both were stained with the mire and blood of earth. But the angels seeing them pass by, cried out: "See how whitely their garments shine! And see how white are their feet!" And the Christ, when they came before the throne, said: "How come ye here in garments that are soiled?" And the answer came: "I saw this my sister trampled upon, and I bent down to lift her up, and in the picking of her up my garments were soiled, but I have brought her with me to Thy presence." And the Christ smiled and lifted them up beside Him, and the angels sang for joy. For it is not the sin and the shame that are shared that soil the garments of the Spirit, and leave upon it the mire of earth.
If, then, you would lead the spiritual life, go downwards as well as upwards. Feel your unity with the sinner as well as with the saint. For the only thing that makes you divine is the Spirit that lives in every human heart alike, in all equally dwelling, and there is no difference in the divinity of the Spirit, but only in the stage of its manifestation. And just as you and I climb upwards and show more of the spiritual life in the lower worlds, should we raise our brethren with us, and know the joy of the redeemer, and the power of the life that saves. For Those whom we call Masters, Those who are the Christs of the world, Those are reverenced and beloved, because to Them there is no difference, but the sinner is as beloved as the saint—nay, sometimes more, because compassion flows out to the weaker more than to the strong.
Such is the spiritual life; such the goal that every man who would become spiritual must place before his eyes. Very different from the psychic, and not to be confused with it—the unfolding of the divinity in man, and not the purification and the organisation of the vehicles. Both are good, both necessary, and I finish with the words with which I began, that while to be psychic is no proof of spirituality, to be spiritual is to possess every power in heaven and on earth. Choose ye each your road. Tread whichever you will, but beware that by the growth of your powers here, in separation, you do not delay the growth of the spirituality which is the realisation of the unity of the Self. For everything which divides becomes evil, by the very fact of its dividing; every power which is shared is a wing to carry us upwards, but every power that is kept for the lower self is a clog that holds us down to earth.
The Place of Masters in Religions
Everyone of us who belongs to any special religion can trace back along the line of his religion further and further into the past, until he comes to its beginning, its first Teacher. And round that Teacher is usually a group of men and women who to the Founder of the religion are disciples, but to those who accept the religion later are teachers, apostles. And this is invariably true. The Hebrew, if you ask him, will trace back his religion to the time of the great legislator Moses, and behind Him to a yet more heroic figure, Abraham, the "friend of God." Look back to some yet older faith, the faith of Egypt, of Chaldea, of Persia, of China, of India, and you will find exactly the same thing is true. The Parsi, representative of a splendid tradition, but whose religion, as it now, is, as has been well said, "a religion of fragments" only—he will trace back his religion to his own great Prophet, the Prophet of the Fire, who led the exodus from the centre of Asia and guided His people into what we now call the land of Persia. Egypt, if you ask her story, will show you heroic figures of her past, and amongst them that great King and Priest, Osiris, who, slain, as the old legend tells us, rises again, as Lord and Judge of His people. Buddhism, spread in the far East, will trace back its story to the Buddha, and will declare in addition to that, that not only is the Buddha the Teacher of that particular faith, but that a living person still exists on the earth as Teacher, as Protector, whom they call the Bodhisattva, the wise and the pure. India will tell you of a great group of teachers gathered round their Manu, the tradition of whose laws is still preserved, and is still used as the basis of the social legislation administered now by the English rulers. And round that great Lawgiver of the past, wise men are gathered whose names are known throughout the land, each of them standing at the head of some noble Indian family, that traces its ancestry backward and backward till it ends in the Sage, the Teacher. And this is equally true of more modern religions. Take the Christian religion, and the Christian traces his religion back until it finds its source in the personality of the Prophet of Judea, of Jesus the Christ. And it is interesting, as one of those strange parallels which meet us often in the comparative study of religions, that just as the Buddhist has his Buddha and also his Bodhisattva, so the Christian has the two names: Christ, representing the living Spirit, a stage in the spiritual unfolding, the name representing a stage, an office, rather than a special man, and joined to that the individual name of Jesus, in order to mark the intimate connection, as some would say the identity, between the two. But just as among the Buddhists the distinction is drawn, so among the early Christians you will find a similar distinction was made between the man Jesus and the spiritual Christ. So that in those early days many of those who were called "Gnostics" divided the two in a similar fashion, although uniting them at a certain stage of the teaching, of the ministry. And if you take the latest born of the religions, the Mussulman, the religion of Islam, that again is traced backward to a Prophet, the Prophet Muhammad, the great Prophet of Arabia. Universally this is true, that the religion traces itself back to a single mighty figure, whom some call a "God-man," a man too divine to be regarded as wholly like those amongst whom he lived and moved and taught; above them and yet of them, closely bound to them by a common humanity, although raised above them by a manifestation of the God within, mightier, more complete, more compelling, than the manifestation in the ordinary men and women around Him. So with all religions, and in that thought of the divine figure, the Founder of every faith, you have the fullest, the truest, the most perfect conception of that which we Theosophists call the ideal of the Master. All such mighty beings by the Theosophist would be given the name of Master. And not by the Theosophist alone, for that word in other religions has been applied to the Founder, the Chief of the faith. Nay, to the Christian it should come with special force, with special significance, for it was the name that Christ the Teacher chose as best expressing His own relationship to those who believed on Him, to those who followed Him. "Neither be ye called masters," He said; "for one is your Master, even Christ." And so again you may remember that, in speaking to His disciples, He said: "Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am." So that to the Christian heart the name Master should be above all other names sacred and beloved, since it was the chosen name of their own Teacher, the name that He claimed from His disciples, that name that He used as representing His relation to them. So this idea of a Master in religion certainly should be one which comes with no alien sound, no foreign significance, among those who look up to the Master Christ. And exactly the same idea is that of a Master in any great religion; it is a common idea—it signifies the Founder, the Teacher, divine and yet human. To that point I will return later.
Let us study the central idea of these Masters a little more closely, and see what are the special characteristics which mark Them in the religions of the past. If you go back very, very far, you will always find that the Master wears a double character: ruler, law-giver, on the one side; teacher upon the other. In all the old civilisations this is characteristic; for in those days the idea had not arisen of sacred and secular, or sacred and profane, as we say in the modern world. To the old civilisations there was no such thing as sacred history and profane history; no division was made between sacred science and secular science; all history was sacred, all science was divine. And so much was that the case that, when you find an ancient pupil asking of an ancient teacher as to divine science, the answer was given: "There are two forms of divine science, the higher and the lower." And the lower divine science was made up of all the things that now you call literature, science, and art; all those were run over by name, and summed up under the heading of the lower divine science. The higher, supreme Science was that knowledge of God, to which accurately the word Wisdom ought only to be applied. So that to their thought Deity was everywhere, and there was only variety in the manifestations of Deity. All Nature was sacred. God expressed Himself in every object, in every form. All that could be said was that through one form more of His glory came than through another. The form might be more or less transparent, but the inner radiant light was the same in all. And it was natural, inevitable, with such a conception of Nature and of God, that the Master, the Founder, of a religion should unite in His sole person the office alike of the Priest and of the King. And so you find it. The only likeness in modern days is not now a very fortunate one in the eyes of many—the King-Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. For so ill had the duties of the King been performed in that high seat, that the people lost the sense of the divinity, and revolted against it, and cast it off, and left that Pontiff shorn of his royal character. But far back in the old civilisations, in the one person the two offices were united. The Pharaoh of Egypt was truly the Lord of the triple diadem, but also the supreme Priest in every temple of his land. So also in Chaldea, in India, and in many another land; and wherever that is the case you find a certain outline given to the civilisation, differing in detail, but marvellously similar in the broad touches of that sketch. You find that in those days the Priest-King, the Ruler of the land and the supreme Teacher of his people, shaped the polity of the nation as he shaped the doctrines taught in the temples of the religion. Both the religion and the polity have the keynote of duty. And always with increasing power there came greater weight of responsibility, heavier burden of duty; and the freest in those civilisations were the poorest. Those who were regarded as the children of the national household were ever cared for with extremest care. The very fact that they were the lowest in development gave them the greatest claim on the divine Man who ruled, so that all through the note of those civilisations is the note which to-day would be called socialistic—with one enormous difference, that the most wise ruled. The result, in a sense, would be the result that the Socialist dreams of, the absence of poverty, the universality of some form of work done for the State as a whole, a duty of each man to bear a share of the burden; but the burden grew lighter and lighter as it came downwards to the younger members of the family, of the nation; the duty the most burdensome was placed on the highest. And you will find that, while still the tradition remained, it was very difficult sometimes to get rulers and governors of large States and small. It comes out in the Chinese books. The Emperor sends down word that So-and-so is to be governor of a State, and So-and-so, in those degenerate days, generally tried to escape from it, because of the tremendous burden that the governorship imposed. For in the case of the old Rulers, in the days when the divine Kings were the Kings and Priests of the people, anything that was wrong in the nation was related to the Ruler, and not to the people at large. Remember the words of one great Teacher of later days, Confucius, when a King turned to him and said: "Master, why is there robbery, why is there murder in my land? How shall I stop it?" His stern answer was: "If you, O King, did not steal and murder, there would be no robbery and no murder in your land." Always the highest with the weight of responsibility; the younger with the right to enjoy, to be happy, to be cared for. Where food was short, they were the last to starve, and the King the first; where anything went short of material things, they were the first to be given their share, and the King the last. Such was the outline of the social organisation. Slight traces of it remain even to the present day. You can see traces of it in the civilisation that was destroyed in Peru by the conquerors, the Spanish conquerors, of that land. Some traces of it still remain in India, although degraded and decayed. The note is always the same: the higher, the more burdened; the higher, the harder the life; the higher, the greater the duty. For that is the type of the Master, and the idea ran through the whole of the civilisation. He, the Priest-King, mighty in knowledge and in power, must bear upon his broad shoulders the burden that would crush a weaker man. And so downwards through all the degrees of ruler, in proportion to the power and its expansion, so in proportion the weight and the responsibility.
They passed away from earth as humanity grew out of its infant stage. My phrase is too strong—I should not have said: "They passed away from earth." They passed away into silence, not from earth; thereon many of Them still remain. But They drew back from the outer position, from outer power, and became the great company of Elder Brothers of humanity, only some of whom remained in close touch with the race.
And that is the next point in the idea of the Master. Those who founded a religion were bound to remain wearing the body of man, fixed to the earth, bound to the outward semblance of humanity, so long as the religion lived upon earth which They had given to it. That was the rule: no liberation for the Man who founded a religion until all who belonged to that religion had themselves passed out of it, into liberation, or into another faith, and the religion was dead. The death of a religion is the liberation from all bondage of the Master who gave it to the world. He in a very real sense is incarnate in the religion that He bestows. While that religion lives and teaches, while men still find in it the expression of their thought, so long that divine Man must remain, and guide and protect and help the religion which He gave to earth. Such is the law. No Master may leave our humanity while that which He started as a human school is still existing upon earth. Some have passed away, and would no longer be spoken of as Masters—the name given to Them in the occult world is different—but Those who have passed away have passed away because Their religions are dead: the Masters of ancient Egypt, of ancient Chaldea, have gone from this earth into the mighty company of Those who no longer bear the burden of the flesh. But the Masters of every living religion live on earth, and are the links, for the people of that religion, between God and man; the Master is the divine Man, one with his brothers, who look to him for help, one with the God around and above, and through Him the spiritual life is ever flowing. The word "mediator," applied in the Christian scriptures to the Christ, signifies a real and living relation. There are such mediators between God and man, and they are all God-men, true Christs. Such links between the God without and the God within us are necessary for the helping by the one, and for the manifestation of the other. The God within us, unfolding his powers, answers to the God without us, and the link is the God-man who shares the manifested nature of divinity, and yet remains one with His brethren in the flesh. A bondage, yes. But a voluntary bondage—a bondage assumed in the day in which the Messenger came forth from the great White Lodge to bring a new revelation, to found a new divine kingdom upon earth. Heavy the responsibility of a divine Man who takes upon Himself the tremendous burden of speaking out to the world a new Word in the divine revelation. All that grows out of it makes the heavy burden of His destiny. Everything which happens within that communion of which He is the centre must react upon Him, and He is ultimately responsible; and as that divine Word is always spoken in a community of men and women imperfect, sinning, ignorant, that Word is bound to be distorted and twisted, because of the medium in which it works. That is why every such Teacher is called a "sacrifice"—Himself at once the sacrificer and the sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice that man may make to man, a sacrifice so mighty that none in whom Deity is not unfolded to the greatest height compatible with human limitation is strong enough to make it, is strong enough to endure it. That is the true sacrifice of the Christ; not a few hours' agony in dying, but century after century of crucifixion on the cross of matter, until salvation has been won for the people who bear His name, or until they have passed under some other Lord. Hence is that road always called "the Way of the Cross." Long before Christianity came to birth, the "Way of the Cross" was known to every Initiate, and Those were said to tread it who volunteered for the mighty service of proclaiming the old message again in the ears of the world of the time. A sacrifice: for none may tell, who volunteers for the service, what lies before the religion that He founds, what shall be the deeds of the community that He begins on earth. And every sin and crime of that religion, or that Church, falls into the scales of Karma stamped with the name of the Founder. He is responsible for it, and bearing that responsibility is the mighty sacrifice He makes; and the result is inevitable; for in a world imperfect no perfection can be perfectly mirrored. As the sun-ray falling upon water is twisted and distorted, so is it with the rays of a perfect truth falling in amongst a community of imperfect men; and no action down here can be a perfect action, for "action," it is written in an ancient book, "is surrounded with evil as a fire is surrounded with smoke." The imperfection of the medium makes the smoke round every Word of Fire, every Word of Truth. And the Founder must endure the pungency of the smoke, if He would speak the Word of Fire. The realisation of that, however dimly, however imperfectly, makes the passion of gratitude in the human heart to those Men who bear their infirmities and open up the way to God for man. It is that which in some forms of popular Christianity has been distorted in speaking of the sacrifice of the Christ, when it has been made a sacrifice, not for man, sinful and foolish, but to the Father of all perfection, who needs no sacrifice of suffering in order to reconcile Him to the children sprung from His life. That is one of the distortions of the ignorance of man; that the falsification which has been spoken in the name of religion and has obscured the perfect love of God—for every divine Man who comes out is a manifestation of the divine heart, and a revelation of God to man. And how could it be that the Master of Compassion, who wins human hearts by the tenderness of His love, could be a Revealer of God, if there were not in God a compassion mightier than His own, and profounder than His humanity, as God is greater than man? But the splendor of the truth dazzled the eyes of those to whom it was presented, and their own ignorance, and fear, and limitation, imposed upon that perfect sacrifice the terrible aspect of a sacrifice to God—an aspect which it assumed, not only in Christianity, but in other faiths as well. For the most part, not always, in the elder religions they understood that the story of the life and death was an allegory, a "myth," as they called it, revealing a deeper truth. And so they avoided the pain and the sense of revulsion which has roused the conscience of civilised man to revolt against the cruder presentments of the doctrine; the great truth of the sacrifice is true, but it is not a legal, a contract, sacrifice, made between man's representative and God; but the effort of the divine to make itself understood, and the voluntary binding of the sacrifice to the cross of matter until His people are set free. And then, as I said, He passes on into other worlds, to other work, and is no longer called a Master of the Wisdom.
Now, looking at this idea, let us ask: "What is the work of these Masters in the religions of the world, and why is it that this thought of the Masters has been so revived in the modern world, and made so much more living, in a sense, than it has been for many a long year?" In the early days of Christianity, as I said, you find the idea; but it has largely vanished from the Churches as a living truth, and they think of Jesus, the Christian Master, as risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. And the materialising spirit of ignorance has made the ascent a going away, and the Man has gone, although the God remains. But that is only a materialisation of the older truth; for, according to the truth, heaven is not a faraway place to which people go. No one goes there; they only open their eyes and see it on every side around them. For heaven is a state of the psychic life which is realised in the higher bodies, the bodies of the mental plane, and it does not need to go hither and thither, North, South, East, or West, to find it; for, as the great Teacher said: "Behold, the Kingdom of Heaven is within you"—not far away, beyond the sun or moon or stars. And the ascension of Jesus to heaven, as the Church of England puts it—in words that sound very strange in modern ears, because they have lost their mystic meaning and are only taken in what S. Paul used to call the "carnal" interpretation—in the fourth article of the Church of England, was that He ascended into heaven, taking with Him His "flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature." Now when you take that in the literal and crude signification, naturally the thoughtful man revolts against it. What is this about a physical body and physical bones going up through the air into the sky? And where has it gone to? The modern man cannot believe it in that sense, and so he loses the spiritual verity enshrined in words of symbolism and of allegory. For the fact that Jesus the Master went away, but still dwells on earth in the flesh, that is the truth which the article tries to indicate; and not that He is gone far away into a far-off heaven to sit at the right hand of God, whence He shall come again to judge. He lives in the body, and also lives in the midst of the Church, which is His true mystical body; and so long as that Church exists, so long as that Church is found on earth, so long its Master shall live within it, and shall dwell in a human body. He is not gone away, He has not ascended anywhere in the literal sense, but is permeating the whole of His Communion, and living upon earth until the last Christian has passed away to liberation, or is born into some other faith. That is the inner meaning. He lives and may be reached. And if the teachings of the Theosophical Society have any value for the Christian Church, it is because they are bringing back to live in Christian hearts this living truth of the bodily ever-presence of the Christ amongst them. Theosophists who are Christians, and remain within the limits of the Christian Church, have gained a vivid view of this real humanity of Jesus. They learn that He may be reached as truly now as when He walked near the sea of Galilee, or taught in the streets of Jerusalem, that they may know Him with as real a sense of His presence, may learn from Him as truly as any apostle or disciple in the past, that it is a living and real presence—not only, as the Roman Catholic Church says, in the Sacrament of the altar, but in the experience of the Christian heart. And it has never been left without a witness. Look all through the history of the Christian Church, and see how one after another has come into living touch with the Master Jesus. Every great saint has proclaimed his own experience as regards his contact with his Lord. And only in comparatively modern days, and in parts only of the Christian Church, has that great and vivifying truth been lost sight of. The Greek Church has never lost it; the Roman Catholic Church has never lost it. The testimony of the saints in those ancient communions bears witness to the continuing connection between the Christian and the Christ. You find it in some of the extreme Protestant communities also, where they bear a living testimony to the reality of the personal communion. Not through books and churches only, but within the living heart of man, visible sometimes even to physical eyes, shining out in the vision of the saint, speaking in the rapture of the prophet—it has never quite passed away from Christianity. It is coming back more strongly year after year, coming back with increased vitality, with more reality and strength behind it; coming back because the Christ within the Church, finding that forgetfulness was coming over the modern mind, has, as in the olden days, used a scourge of whipcord instead of only the voice of love. For inasmuch as the voice of love was not listened to, and the reality of His presence was being forgotten, He has used the whip of what is called the Higher Criticism to drive men out of books back to the living Master of the Christian faith. When you build the house of your faith on books and manuscripts, on councils and traditions, you are building on the sand, and the storm has come—the storm of criticism, of investigation, of scholarship, and the house of faith totters, because it is founded on the sand. But build the house of your faith on the rock of human experience, on the one rock on which every true Church is founded, the individual touch between the human Spirit and the divine, the personal experience of the human man on earth with the divine Man in the heaven, beside and around him, and you build the house of your faith on a rock that nothing can shake nor destroy, and it will shelter you, no matter what storms may rage outside. And so, as in the temple, the whip has been used in order that men may learn what they would not learn by the gentle instruction spoken only in the words of the friend. The enemy has been used for it, the foe, the assailant, who has made sharp his weapons, and has cut many of the old manuscripts in pieces; and the result of that is that the Christian Church is thrown back upon the Christ Himself, no longer seen dimly through history, but in vivid reality before the eyes of the heart of the Christian, and that He will give to Christianity a new life. The mystic belief will come back, and the literal interpretations will fall away. And when that is done, then Christianity shall have renewed its youth and its power, and shall know that the Master is living in His Church, and is still the Master of life and death, as in the olden days.
And by a very real instinct you will find that the most earnest Christians cling to the humanity of Jesus, and that is the value of the Master to us, when inside our hearts is written the truth of His existence. If there were only such men as we, and God, the gulf would be too vast, the difference too terrible—nothing to encourage us to believe that Divinity was within us. We seem so trivial, so foolish, so childish, that we hardly dare sometimes to believe that we are truly God. It seems impossible for us in our modern life, with all the follies in which we spend ourselves, with all the childish ambitions and terrors with which we amuse or frighten ourselves. This little modern life seems so petty and so vulgar that we scarcely dare to believe ourselves divine. We speak of the old heroic days, and think that if we had lived then, we too should have been heroic, as the heroes and martyrs and saints of earlier times. But in truth humanity is just as divine to-day, as it ever was in the past. And if the divine were manifested in us as it was in the great ones of the past, we should be heroic as they were; it is not circumstances that make the difference, but only that the God within us is more in the stage of childhood than in those mighty ones of the past, in which He had risen to the stature of divine manhood. And when we think of the Masters and realise that They are; still more, perhaps, when in some happy moment we catch a glimpse of such divine Men, or feel Their presence closer than that of a human friend, ah! then it is that the inspiration which flows from Them, as from a ceaseless source, encourages and vivifies the life within. For we realise that it was not so very, very long ago that They were as we are, plunged down in the trivialities of earth; that They have climbed above them by the unfolding of the God within. And what They have done, you and I may also do. They are a constant inspiration and encouragement for humanity. They are men, and only God as we are God; the only difference being that They have God more manifest in Them than He is in us. They also in Their day were weak and foolish; They also strove and struggled, as we strive and struggle now; They also failed, as we are failing now; They also blundered, as we are blundering now; and They have risen above it all, strength after strength revealed in Them, wisdom and power and love growing ever more and more divine. And what They have done, you and I can do. For They are truly but the first fruits of humanity, the promise of the harvest, and not something strange, miraculous, and far away. The Christian clings to the manhood of Jesus for the reason that as "He hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted." And it is a true instinct, a wise faith, for it is by coming into touch with such links between humanity and God, that you and I in time will become divine. In Him that divine seed of Spirit has unfolded into flower and fruit. When you sow a seed in the soil of your garden, you sow it in the full belief that it will grow, that it will become a plant with leaf and flower and fruit. And you believe it by all the promise of the past, which has proved that out of such seeds grow such flowers; all that is behind you to make your faith a reasonable faith; and when you plant that trivial thing, a little larger than a pin's head, and hide it in the darkness of the ground out of sight, you have a living faith within you that out of that seed shall grow the perfect flower. Have the same faith for the seed of divinity that is planted within you, though it be planted in the darkness of your heart. Even if at present the first little shoot has not come up above the darkness of the soil in which it is buried, none the less the seed is there; it will grow and ripen into the perfect fruit. It must be so. There are no failures for the divine Husbandman, no seed which is not living, which falls from His hands into the ground. And near us the Masters stand ever, the living truth of what man can be—nay, what he shall be in the centuries to come. They are proofs of what you and I shall be, the finished copies of the statues which lie as yet so rough, so unhewn, in the marble of our humanity. That is Their value for all men, and part of Their work is to help us to become what They are, to foster in us every shoot of the spiritual life, to strengthen in us every effort and struggle towards the light. Theirs the glorious work, not only of building up mighty faiths, but of living in them, and pouring out spiritual life on the heart of each who enters within the portals of those faiths. That is Their splendid work; and if Theosophy is doing much in all the religions of the world to make them more real to their adherents, and give to them fresh vitality and strength and vigor, it is only because it is the latest impulse from the Masters of the WISDOM, and so is the most convenient channel through which that life may be poured into all the religions of the world. Only the latest of the impulses. All religions have been born out of such an impulse, and the only difference between this and the earlier impulses is that while they each founded a religion and round that religion a wall was built, so that there were believers inside the wall and unbelievers outside, round this spiritual forthstreaming no walls are to be built, but the waters are to spread everywhere without limitation, without exception. That is the specialty in the message of Theosophy. It belongs to all alike. As much yours, though you do not call it by that name, perhaps, as it is theirs who call it by that name. It is only living, because it lives in every religion; it is only true, because it comes from the same Masters of the eternal WISDOM, belongs equally to all, to every religion that cares to take any of the truth that it has re-proclaimed. And all over the world the glad message is going. There is not one religion which is now living, amongst whose adherents Theosophy is not spreading, and making them better members of their religions than they were before. For there is many a man and woman, in East and West alike, who had gone away from the religion into which they were born, because the mystic element had vanished and the literal sense of the doctrines was in truth the letter which killeth, while the spirit that was life seemed to have escaped. Many such men and women, in East and West, have come back with joy to the religion in which they were born, in realising that it is only an expression of the one divine WISDOM, and that the Masters of the WISDOM live and move amongst us.
And it may be that if the world grows more spiritual, it may be that if Spirit again becomes triumphant over matter, after passing through the darkness which was necessary in order that the intellect might be thoroughly developed and might learn its powers and its limitations; it may be that, in days to come, when the world is more spiritualised than to-day, climbing as it is again the upward arc, these living Masters of the world's religions will come amongst us again visibly as in the earlier days. It is not They who keep back in silence. It is we who shut Them out, and make Their presence a danger rather than an encouragement and an inspiration. And every one of you—no matter what your faith may be, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Theosophist, what matters it?—every one of you who makes the Master of your own faith a living reality, part of your life, nearer than friend and brother, every such believer and worker is hastening the day of joy when the world shall be ready for the open reception of the Masters, that They may move visibly amongst humanity once more. That it may be so, open your heart to every breath of truth; that it may be so, open your eyes to every ray from the one eternal Sun. In the past the world would have none of the Masters. They slew the Christ; they made the prophets outcasts. And until in our heart the love of the Master awakens, until with passionate longing, with continual insistence, we call to the divine Men the welcome, without which They may not come, They must remain hidden. Only when there comes up from heart after heart one vast chant of devotion and appeal, only then will They come to the many as They have already come to the few, and show out the visible splendor of Their manhood, as the glory of Their divinity has ever been upon the earth.
Theosophy and the Theosophical Society
I want to put before you clearly and plainly what Theosophy means, and what is the function of the Theosophical Society. For we notice very often, especially with regard to the Society, that there is a good deal of misconception touching it, and that people do not realise the object with which it exists, the work that it is intended to perform. It is very often looked upon as the expression of some new religion, as though people in becoming Theosophists must leave the religious community to which he or she may happen to belong. And so a profound misconception arises, and many people imagine that in some way or other it is hostile to the religion which they profess. Now Theosophy, looked at historically or practically, belongs to all the religions of the world, and every religion has an equal claim to it, has an equal right to say that Theosophy exists within it. For Theosophy, as the name implies, the Divine WISDOM, the WISDOM of God, clearly cannot be appropriated by any body of people, by any Society, not even by the greatest of the religions of the world. It is a common property, as free to everyone as the sunlight and the air. No one can claim it as his, save by virtue of his common humanity; no one can deny it to his brother, save at the peril of destroying his own claim thereto. Now the meaning of this word, both historically and practically, the WISDOM, the Divine WISDOM, is a very definite and clear meaning; it asserts the possibility of the knowledge of God. That is the point that the student ought to grasp; this knowledge of God, not the belief in Him, not the faith in Him, not only vague idea concerning Him, but the knowledge of Him, is possible to man. That is the affirmation of Theosophy, that is its root-meaning and its essence.
And we find, looking back historically, that this has been asserted in the various great religions of the world. They all claim that man can know, not only that man can believe. Only in some of the more modern faiths, in their own modern days, the knowledge has slipped into the background, and the belief, the faith, looms very large in the mind of the believer. Go back as far as you will in the history of the past, and you will find the most ancient of religions affirming this possibility of knowledge. In India, for instance, with its antique civilisation, you find that the very central idea of Hinduism is this supreme knowledge, the knowledge of God. As I pointed out to you the other day with regard to this old Eastern religion, all knowledge is regarded in a higher or a lower degree as the knowledge of God; for there is no division, as you know, in that ancient faith, between the secular and the sacred. That division is a modern division, and was unknown in the ancient world. But they did make a division in knowledge between the higher and the lower; and the lower knowledge, or the lower science, called the "lower divine science," was that which you will call "science" nowadays, the study of the external world. But it also included all that here we speak of as Literature, as Art, as Craft—everything, in fact, which the human brain can study and the human fingers can accomplish—the whole of that, in one grand generalisation, was called "Divine Wisdom," but it was the lower divine Wisdom, the inferior knowledge of God. Then, beside, or rather above that, came the Supreme Knowledge, the higher, the superior, that beyond which there was no knowledge, which was the crown of all. Now, that supreme knowledge is declared to be "the knowledge of Him by Whom all things are known"—a phrase indicating the Supreme Deity. It was that which was called the supreme knowledge, or, par excellence, the Divine Knowledge, and that old Hindu thought is exactly the same as you have indicated by the name Theosophy.
So, again, classical students may remember that among the Greeks and the early Christians there was what was called the Gnosis, the knowledge, the definite article pointing to that which, above all else, was to be regarded as knowledge or wisdom. And when you find among the Neo-Platonists this word Gnosis used, it always means, and is defined to mean, "the knowledge of God," and the "Gnostic" is "a man who knows God." So, again, among the early Christians. Take such a man as Origen. He uses the same word in exactly the same sense; for when Origen is declaring that the Church has medicine for the sinner, and that Christ is the Good Physician who heals the diseases of men, he goes on to say that the Church has also the Gnosis for the wise, and that you cannot build the Church out of sinners; you must build it out of Gnostics. These are the men who know, who have the power to help and to teach; and there can be no medicine for the diseased, no upholder of the weak, unless, within the limits of the religion, the Gnostic is to be found. And so Origen lays immense stress on the Gnostic, and devotes page after page to a description of him: what he is, what he thinks, what he does; and to the mind of that great Christian teacher, the Gnostic was the strength of the Church, the pillar, the buttress of the faith. And so, coming down through the centuries, since the Christian time, you will find the word Gnostic used every now and again, but more often the term "Theosophist" and "Theosophy"; for this term came into use in the later school, the Neo-Platonists, and became the commonly accepted word for those who claimed this possibility of knowledge, or even claimed to know. And a phrase regarding this is to be found in the mystic Fourth Gospel, that of S. John, where into the mouth of the Christ the words are put, that the "knowledge of God is eternal life"—not the faith, nor the thought, but the knowledge—again declaring the possibility of this Gnosis. And the same idea is found along the line of the Hermetic Science, or Hermetic Philosophy, partly derived from Greece and partly from Egypt. The Hermetic philosopher also claimed to know, and claimed that in man was this divine faculty of knowledge, above the reason, higher than the intellect. And whenever, among the thoughtful and the learned, you find reference made to "faith," as where, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is said to be "the evidence of things not seen," the same idea comes out, and Faith, the real Faith, is only this intense conviction which grows out of the inner spiritual being of man, the Self, the Spirit, which justifies to the intellect, to the senses, that there is God, that God truly exists. And this is so strongly felt in the East that no one there wants to argue about the existence of God; it is declared that that existence cannot be proved by argument. "Not by argument," it is written, "not by reasoning, not by thinking, can the Supreme Self be known." The only proof of Him is "the conviction in the Spirit, in the Self." And thus Theosophy, then, historically, as you see, always makes the affirmation that man can know; and after that supreme affirmation that God may be known, then there comes the secondary affirmation, implied really in that, and in the fact of man's identity of nature with the Supreme, that all things in the universe can be known—things visible and invisible, subtle and gross. That is, so to speak, a secondary affirmation, drawn out of the first; for clearly if in man resides the faculty to know God as God, then every manifestation of God may be known by the faculty which recognises the identity of the human Spirit with the Supreme Spirit that permeates the universe at large. So in dictionaries and in encyclopedias you will sometimes find Theosophy defined as the idea that God, and angels, and spirits, may hold direct communication with men; or sometimes, in the reverse form, that men can hold communication with spirits, and angels, and even with God Himself; and although that definition be not the best that can be given, it has its own truth, for that is the result of the knowledge of God, the inevitable outcome of it, the manifestation of it. The man who knows God, and knows all things in Him, is evidently able to communicate with any form of living being, to come into relation with anything in the universe of which the One Life is God.
In modern days, and among scientific people, the affirmation which is the reverse of this became at one time popular, widely accepted—not Gnostic but "Agnostic," "without the Gnosis"; that was the position taken up by Huxley and by many men of his own time of the same school of thought. He chose the name because of its precise signification; he was far too scientific a man to crudely deny, far too scientific to be willing to speak positively of that of which he knew nothing; and so, instead of taking up the position that there is nothing beyond man, and man's reason, and man's senses, he took up the position that man was without possibility of knowledge of what there might be, that his only means of knowledge were the senses for the material universe, the reason for the world of thought. Man, by his reason, could conquer everything in the realm of thought, might become mighty in intellect, and hold as his own domain everything that the intellect could grasp at its highest point of growth, its highest possibility of attainment. That splendid avenue of progress Huxley, and men like Huxley, placed before humanity as the road along which it might hope to walk, full of the certainty of ultimate achievement. But outside that, beyond the reason in the world of thought and the senses in the material world, Huxley, and those who thought like him, declared that man was unable to pierce—hence "Agnostic," "without the Gnosis," without the possibility of plunging deeply into the ocean of Being, for there the intellect had no plummet. Such, according to science at one time, was man; and whatever man might hope for, whatever man might strive for, on, as it were, the portal of the spiritual universe was written the legend "without knowledge." Thither man might not hope to penetrate, thither man's faculties might never hope to soar; for when you have defined man as a reasoning being, you have given the highest definition that science was able to accept, and across the spiritual nature was written: "imagination, dream, and phantasy."