These articles first appeared in the series H. P. Blavatsky: The Mystery in The Theosophical Path in 1929 and 1930.
Part I. The Great Sages and Seers
Graduated scale of beings in Universe divided into seven stages of evolution from First Elemental Kingdom to Gods. In seven-principled Man the psychological and spiritual unite. The Mahatmas are perfected men. The evolutionary idea caught from the invisible thought-reservoir of the planet by Lamarck, Darwin, and others. H. P. Blavatsky, quoting from vast area of world's literatures in support of Theosophy, aroused animosity of critics.
Part II. The Great Sages and Seers (Continued)
The Fine Flower of the Human Race called the 'Guardian Wall' of protection around humanity; their task. The value of myth and legend. The Theosophist the most truly religious, scientific, philosophic, and also freest-thinking type of mind.
Part III. The Great Sages and Seers (Continued)
Why the Great Teachers do not appear openly before the world. Gautama Buddha and Jesus cited as Great Teachers. All Teachers face ridicule and even hatred. H.P.B. did not 'invent' existence of the Masters.
In considering a universal view of the great world of beings which surrounds us, one is struck with a very interesting fact, which is, that if we place Man as being the highest known entity on earth -- highest, that is, with regard to faculty and the use of faculty and the self-conscious perception and enjoyment of faculty -- we find that as our survey leaves him and travels backwards along the descending scale of evolutionary development, our attention is caught away from the individual and particular towards composites. It has been said, and probably said with perfect truth, that no two leaves in a forest are exactly the same; for if they were, they would not be two leaves but the same leaf. With how much greater force can this be said of so highly individualized a being as Man! And, despite the formal individualities even of the leaves in a forest of trees, they are as a single entity when compared with the marvelous development of what is popularly called individuality as found in Man.
It would seem as if the whole purpose of Nature, or the whole trend of development, were the bringing out, the rolling forth (which is of course the etymological meaning of the word 'evolution'), or the unfolding, of characteristics lying latent in the invisible, as well as visible, fabric of living beings. An English scientific writer, Bateson, some years ago expressed this very neatly when he spoke of the "unpacking of an original complex" as representing the evolutionary process. We must regard the evolutionary processes working in Nature as being the effects of a concatenation of causes working in living beings, and leading such beings into constantly extending paths of individual development. This is the 'tendency' in the living things of Nature to advance towards individuality and away from the perfect communism of the lowest forms of animal life, and from the simple unism of the rocks.
But this is looking at the matter on its merely material side. How our ideas expand as we study the mental and spiritual activities of mankind! Here we observe the 'struggle' to reconcile duty with desire; right with justice. In employing the word 'struggle' here, we are using the ordinary phraseology of modern quasi-philosophical biology in order to be understood easily; but actually the struggle is purely imaginary, for the entire field of human effort is in the individual himself, and only relatively and in small degree does any such imaginary struggle along these lines arise from man's relations with the surrounding sphere of circumstance, or with his fellows. The so-called 'struggle' is simply the conflict in man's own mind; and as all men have this conflict, they imagine that it exists outside of themselves. Once the realization comes home to him that all Nature is a unity, and that he himself forms but one small wheel in the cosmic macrocosm, directed and inspired by a unifying spiritual force, man finds his freedom, sees his so-called 'struggle' to be what it is, his own illusion, and attains peace and liberation from the bonds of desire arising out of the thraldom of the personal self to the desires which that personal self gives birth to.
One of the great virtues of the teachings which H. P. Blavatsky brought anew to the western world lies in grasping this idea, for she showed to Occidentals the pathway out of this stifling morass of personality into the golden sunlight of spiritual freedom. In doing so she merely put in philosophic and religious form the teachings of the Sages of all the ages, that true and real freedom lies in abandoning the thraldom of selfish personal desires, and in realizing one's absolute fundamental oneness with the great motivating and causal impulses of Universal Nature which thrill through us and really make us what we are.
These great motivating energies in Nature show to any observant eye what is popularly called the evolutionary 'tendency' in man; and this tendency, at man's present stage of development -- a tendency which will grow constantly in strength -- is to re-combine, to reunite with his fellows, and to see and to find in them other parts of himself, as it were. All the foundations of morals repose on this so-called 'tendency.' We instinctively know a man from his thoughts and acts, in other words from his character, from the workings in him of those forces which predominate over other forces; for in all human beings certain psycho-mental energies are dominant over others, which latter are recessive; and it is these dominant energies of a psycho-mental type, which show forth in man's character.
Indeed, when we say 'good' man, we mean one conscious of duties to other beings, who carries these duties out regardless of any temporary loss to himself, if such take place. This is, of course, a declaration of the fundamental or spiritual unity of all beings; of what Theosophists so truly but inadequately express when they speak of Universal Brotherhood as a fact in Nature.
What man can fail to see the difference which exists between a man and a tiger, for instance, or between a man and a fish? Or between these, and the unself-conscious existence of the stone? And yet all these beings, and all the multitudinous hosts of beings existing in all-various grades of development which are both invisible and visible, all are offsprings of the same fundamental spiritual-divine Source; all are beings working their various ways upwards, each along the particular path outlined for it by its own impelling energies of higher consciousness, and some of which beings are far along the path of evolution, while others have as yet hardly done more than begin their journey. What man is rash enough to say that these entities are separate in origin, separate in being, separate in destiny? We have the contrary proved to us by every glance of our eyes, by every object that our eyes rest upon; for all Nature proclaims the coherent aggregate of beings as indissolubly interrelated and interlocked both in activity and in destiny. Yet how enormous are the differences that separate the highest from the lowest, the Man from the Stone, or the Man from the Fish, or from the Tiger. We see everywhere stirring around us in the lives, in the emotions, in the instincts, and impulses, of the humbler things that environ us the same forces that stir in our own breasts: love, affection, fear, passion, sympathy, remembrance, hatreds, and many more. Still, Man stands supreme over all that are beneath him. He has attained a post whence he surveys the beings below him with fascinated interest; and he turns his eyes in the other direction, and he is subtilly conscious that farther along the way and ahead of him, there must be beings greater than he, beings in comparison with whom he is as are the animals now to him, beings who in ages, aeons long since past, were in their turn where he now stands.
Man's logical sense obliges him to accept this graduated scale of beings in evolutionary development; for he is utterly incapable of pointing to a beginning or of finding an end. Such imaginary breaks are obviously mere fantasies of the imagination.
An important point here is not merely that beings superior to men exist -- for rigid logic compels us to admit their existence -- but that if such beings ahead of man do not exist, the anomaly of the graduated scale of beings beneath man would require an explanation that no one yet has succeeded in giving.
Following the teachings of the great Sages and Seers of the ages, brought anew to the Western World by H. P. Blavatsky, we are enabled for purposes of convenient illustration, to divide this graduated scale into seven (or even into ten) stages of evolution, somewhat after the following fashion:
a. First Elemental Kingdom --
Fluidic in type, with unmanifest and unindividualized monadic corpuscles posessing a common vital organic existence.
b. Second Elemental Kingdom --
Separation into droplets, so to say, of quasi-particularized entities held together by the same vital wave.
c. Third Elemental Kingdom --
More highly particularized beings, although still bound together by, and functioning in, a common vital organic existence.
1. The Mineral Kingdom --
Quasi-individualized corpuscles, or particulars, functioning in organic unity. Simple unism.
2. Vegetable Kingdom --
Simple communism. The pressure towards individualism increases.
3. The Beast Kingdom --
Dawning of individualized existence.
4. The Human Kingdom --
Efflorescence of individuality. Dawning of a common or general consciousness.
5. The Great Ones --
Full grown individuality. Self-conscious realization of a unifying general consciousness.
6. Quasi-Divine Beings or Lower Gods --
Perfected individuality merging, without diminution, into a general consciousness. Dawning of cosmical consciousness.
7. Gods --
Emergence into conscious realization of cosmical consciousness, without loss of a perfected impersonal individuality.
The mind pauses in wonder and awe in contemplation of the utterly sublime reaches of self-conscious existences thus spread out before the inner eye. It would indeed be an anomaly in Nature if Man were the highest possible reach of consciousness in the Universal Life! Great as he is, nothing shows his greatness more than the ability to recognize greatness elsewhere; and how clearly has H. P. Blavatsky not shown forth and proved with inimitable philosophical logic this fact!
As we ponder over the spectacle that our mind spreads before us, we realize at length that the essential difference between Man and the beings beneath him in evolutionary development lies in his self-conscious mind. Here also we have the link binding us to the higher realms of being, the bridge over which the consciousness passes to and fro between Matter and Spirit, one the pole of the other; and as we study the lower beings, we also realize the fact that they too have minds of their own, of their own type and kind belonging to their own respective classes: centers of consciousness, in other words, but not of reflective or indirect consciousness, such as man has.
Here, then, in Man it is that we perceive the union of another and higher plane of being with this plane of being. The spiritual and the material have, so to say, effected a union; or perhaps it would be better to say that in man's case the sensitive and the psychological and the spiritual have united; and the product of this union is seven-principled Man. Heaven and earth have kissed, as the quaint ancient saying has it, and their offspring is the human race.
No one is blind enough not to see the enormous, indeed apparently almost impassable, gulf which separates the self-conscious mind of Man from the direct sensitive mind of the lower creatures. Man may truly be called a god inshrined within a tabernacle -- the psycho-material framework of his lower nature. It is the destiny of the god within him to raise up to its own level of power, beauty, wisdom, and strength, the struggling, falling, aspiring center which man usually calls himself. This is achieved through evolution, which we must always keep in mind is evolution in the Theosophical sense, of the flowing outwards into ever-increasing and more perfect manifestation of the inlocked, infolded, or in other words, the native capacities, abilities, powers, faculties, of the inner god.
As man grows towards a fuller union with his inner god, pari passu he grows into greatness of understanding and sympathy with all that is. He realizes with ever-enlarging comprehension his essential oneness with the Universal Nature from which he sprang in the beginning of this period of Cosmic Evolution and towards which he is now again journeying. He left it in 'eternities' past, an unself-conscious god-spark, and he shall in a future aeon rebecome one with it again, but as a fully self-conscious divinity. The cycle of evolution, of development, shall have then closed for him until he again begins another and a new pilgrimage in the cosmic spaces, both invisible and visible, but on heights at present inconceivable to the human soul.
The lesson that we learn from all this is the lesson of fundamental unity, of inseparable interests, and of unbreakable bonds between all that is, and everything that is. We begin to understand why all the greatest figures that the human race has ever produced, the Master-Minds of the ages, the great Sages and Seers, have taught one Truth, one fundamental Reality, one Universal Life, of which we all -- human beings and those below us, and those above us -- are, as it were, the sparks; and this Essential Reality, the Universal Life, underlies all the manifold Mysteries of Being.
It should be amply clear from what we have said that the existence and living reality of the perfected Men whom Theosophists commonly call Teachers, Elder Brothers, Masters, Sages, Seers, Mahatmas, is founded on no vague and imaginary hypothesis, but conversely, that their existence is imperatively called for by the rigid logic and the inescapable deductions that flow from our study of Nature itself. These observations lay the foundation for what we may call our argument -- in Nature itself. On no other grounds of reality is the existence of such perfected men properly to be proved. They are, as much as anything else is, the Children of the Universal Life; they are men, just as we are men; born of human mothers by wholly natural and usual methods; they think as we think, they breathe, smile, walk, speak in human tongues, and are as other men are -- except (and this exception is of course a great difference between them and other men) that they are greater in all things than average men are.
It is of the utmost importance to have this statement of their human and yet sublimely human nature and characteristics clear in the mind, because those great-souled beings -- 'Great Soul' or 'Great Self' is the Sanskrit meaning of the Word 'Mahatma' -- are sometimes spoken of, by those who do not understand anything of them, as quasi-'supernatural,' 'superhuman,' 'gods,' or, most foolishly, as 'returning spirits,' and what not. They are not 'supernatural' because there is no such thing as the 'supernatural.' Nothing can be outside of or above Nature, the Universal Mother, the Universal Origin; and what most people ignorantly mean when they use this term is what we Theosophists express by such words as 'inner,' 'occult,' 'hid forces of Nature,' etc., etc. We attach no sensible meaning whatsoever to the word 'supernatural,' if used in any other signification. Our souls, our spirits, the invisible and unknown forces and energies and substances of Nature, the HeavenWorlds -- planes or spheres of being wholly outside of our physical ken and belonging to what is popularly called 'the Spiritual World' -- all these and much more are included in what the Theosophist means when he uses the word 'Nature' without accompanying qualification.
The idea that Nature is merely our gross, visible, physical world, and that all that is outside of it (and the marvelous and daily growing achievements of modern science have taught us to realize that what is hid and invisible is incomparably vaster and greater than what is visible) is 'supernatural,' with the implied idea of something contrary to Nature is the result of centuries of miseducation with regard to the Mysteries of Being.
We Theosophists do not recognize the 'supernatural' in the popular sense, as having any existence at all. Like the possibility of 'miracles,' if by this word we mean the working of marvels contrary to natural law, or by the suspension of natural law, we reject it as unphilosophical, unnatural, and therefore unscientific, as well as irreligious, and as springing from ignorance of the inner constitution of the interlocking, interrelated, and interblending worlds of Spirit and of Matter.
Of course we not only recognize but emphatically teach -- and in all this we follow strictly and faithfully the tenets of the Ancient Wisdom, the Wisdom-Religion of the archaic ages as brought anew to the Western world by H. P. Blavatsky -- the existence of hid mysteries in Nature, of little known and of as yet entirely unknown forces in Nature; that these mysteries and forces nevertheless have been known in past ages and are known today by these perfected Men themselves. They know of them not through favor or by chance, but because they are beyond us in evolutionary development and therefore naturally know more than we do of Nature's mystic and wonderful secrets. This is why these Teachers seem 'mysterious' to many.
Precisely so does the chemist, expert in his science, know vastly more about certain of Nature's secrets than the unlettered savage, and is therefore able to work with a knowledge of Nature's laws which enables him to produce what seem to be 'miracles' to the simple-minded wild man. Does the astronomer work 'miracles' when he predicts eclipses? Does the geometer work 'miracles' when he tells the wild man the exact height of a pole or of a cliff by taking the measure of the distance from the foot of the pole or of the cliff, to a designated spot, and the tangent of the angle between the horizontal and the line joining the eye with the top of the pole or cliff? Does not the phonograph appear to be a 'miracle' to the mind of the unlettered barbarian, when he hears his chief's voice reproduced with fidelity and recognizes the very words spoken into the record?
A most stupid impression existed, and still exists, that the work of the Great Teachers and the powers they manifest have wholly to do with what is called the supernatural. It was indeed thought that the Theosophical Movement was founded upon what people call 'phenomena', and that the main objective of the Theosophical Movement was, during H. P. Blavatsky's lifetime, and more or less still is, to found societies for occult or magical practices, or for the working of phenomenal wonders. No idea could be more grotesque. No idea could wander farther from the truth. It is the philosophy of the great Sages and Seers which H. P. Blavatsky brought anew to the Western world which forms the totality of her teachings, and which it was and still is the objective of the Theosophical Movement to disseminate among men.
In fact, so far were 'phenomena' so called from having anything to do with the Theosophical Movement per se, that in the very beginning Theosophical students were repeatedly warned, and with unceasing reiteration, that the founding of a nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of mankind, combined with the dissemination of the archaic Wisdom-Religion, were the aims of the modern Theosophical Movement, and that for such purposes alone had it been founded.
This the world in general found it difficult to believe. The movement was launched in an intensely materialistic age, and as was only natural, in one sense, that which was a priori denied as possible, and which was falsely supposed to be proclaimed by the Theosophical Leaders as their purpose, aroused both the interest and the antagonism of most people of a conservative bent of mind.
Now, these Great Men, these Sages and Seers, possess knowledge of the laws of Being because such knowledge, first of all, springs up readily and wholly naturally in them, from experience gained and stored in the mystic volume of Memory in past lives (for reincarnation, or repeated imbodiment in bodies, of human flesh, is the manner after which and according to which natural evolutionary law works upon the human species in urging the latter towards perfection).
Second, they owe their wisdom and knowledge also to the fact that, composing a Society, an Order, or Brotherhood among themselves from immemorial time, they possess the means and the power not only to aid the development of wisdom and knowledge in themselves by association with their fellow Great Ones, but also to assist the growth of wisdom and knowledge in such men as they have found to be fit and worthy recipients of such aid.
We have already given answer to the question: Why do not these Great Teachers come openly before the world and declare themselves? And we repeat: Why should they? Of what benefit would it be, either to the human race or to themselves, for the work in which they are engaged, to do so? Obviously it can be argued with telling logic that if they could work with larger results and more easily behind the veil of invisibility, so to say, and unknown to the multitude -- and this is just what is claimed -- of what possible benefit either to themselves or to others would it be to come out publicly and preach? It would surely be folly to cripple their efforts by a concentration of attention on purely personal and unimportant details which would assuredly follow from such action.
The truth is that these Great Teachers are just as much subject to the laws that govern Universal Nature, as is the humblest animate thing that is, except that their vast knowledge of Nature and of her laws and processes and secrets, and their relatively perfect self-identity with those laws, give them powers and faculties undreamed of by the average human being. But it should be noted also in passing, that knowledge carries with it responsibilities of the loftiest moral character in the hearts of these Great Ones. Furthermore, were they to come out and stand before the public, that public would probably straightway begin to worship them as gods -- or, indeed, that public would persecute them, if it were possible, in the usual spirit of distrust that average men always show to what they do not understand, and therefore fear.
However, it is a matter of historical fact, that at certain critical periods in world-history, one or more of these Great Teachers, either themselves come out from their seclusion, and teach more or less publicly, or send a Messenger to do so; and the latter was the case of H. P. Blavatsky.
Realizing, therefore, that these Teachers or Mahatmas are human beings like other men, except that they are farther advanced along the path of evolution than the majority, it is easy enough to begin to understand something of their nature as individuals, and as a corporate body, and of their capacities, and of their vast knowledge of Nature. It is perfectly true that they possess knowledge of Nature's secret processes and of hid mysteries which to the average man may seem to be little short of the marvelous; but after all, this mere fact is of relatively small importance in comparison with the far greater and more profoundly moving aspects of their nature and life-work. It is more important to realize that their knowledge of the spiritual side of Universal Nature and of human life is the foundation for the reverence that unspoiled human hearts and unprejudiced minds instinctively give to these Superior Men.
It is because of this spiritual knowledge which they possess, and on account of their highly developed spiritual and intellectual power, that they are so often called in the Orient by the term Mahatmas. They are also called Elder Brothers, because they are older in experience than the average of men; because they are of ripe understanding, perfected through lives of labor and self-conquest in past ages, and because they stand in much the same relation to the majority of men that an elder brother does to his younger brothers.
Especially are they called Teachers because they are occupied in the noble duty of instructing mankind in inspiring elevating thoughts, and in instilling impulses of forgetfulness of self into the hearts of man. Also are they sometimes called the Guardians, because they are, in very truth, the Guardians of the Race and of the records -- natural, racial, national -- of past ages, portions of which they give out from time to time as fragments of a long-forgotten Wisdom, when the world is ready to listen to them; and they do this in order to advance the Cause of Truth and of Civilization.
It must be apparent also that there must exist different grades of these relatively perfected men, different stages of advancement as among themselves. This is what Theosophy teaches as a matter of natural necessity and law. Nothing can be more accordant with what we already know of the varying grades in natural existence; and a moment's consideration will at once show that, granted the existence of these Great Men, differences of degree in evolutionary advancement among them are inevitable.
The more we penetrate in our study into the natural procedures of the Environing Life, the greater is the degree of individuality found in the beings occupying the innumerable steps of Nature's scale the higher those beings stand thereon. In other words, the farther the being has progressed, the greater is his individuality; but we also see that the higher the degree of development, the greater is the sense of unity among the beings occupying these higher stages; but this is conscious unity, the spiritual and intellectual realization of the oneness with all that is.
Starting on its evolutionary journey, the Monad or spiritual Spark through its radiant Light by almost incredibly slow stages creeps out of the stone into the plant, and from plant into the beast, and from the beast it yearns upwards to higher things, until finally the urging spirit within the evolving entity has brought it to the point where it is enabled to understand self-consciously its fundamental unity with the universe -- the Environing Life -- and here the human, Man, appears, child of heaven and of earth in very truth, with the lower nature brought under ever-increasing control.
This is a very old teaching: the doctrine of the slowly developing powers and faculties of the evolving entity by reason of the invigorating and inspiriting urge of the Monad or spiritual Spark or consciousness-Center working outwards and upwards, into continuously more perfected self-expressions of its native or innate powers and faculties. It is an evolution beginning in the darkest or most material portion of the evolving entity's cyclic journey, until it is self-consciously united with its inner god. This teaching lies at the bottom of all the great philosophies and religions of the archaic world.
The astonishing spread of the evolutionary idea fired the minds and imagination of men in Europe. Men like Lamarck and Darwin and their followers caught from the invisible thought-reservoir of the planet the idea of a progressive growth, however imperfectly and materialistically they may have taught. This in itself was a proof of the appeal that the idea of evolution per se can make to man. Not that we Theosophists accept either Lamarckism or Darwinism as being identical with the teachings of Theosophy as regards evolution; for we do not, and this for the reason that both of these schemes are incomplete in conception and largely wrong in detail; but we do most decidedly accept and teach the general doctrine of a slow and steady evolutionary growth from within outwards, or, as it would probably be phrased today, from pre-existent faculty to subsequent organ.
We also teach that this steady evolutionary process consists in bringing out, through what we may call self-expression, the intrinsic, native, latent, dormant powers or faculties inherent in and urging on the evolving entity; and, furthermore, that this process is at certain cyclic intervals marked by noteworthy spurts or increases of evolutionary intensity, followed as surely by periods of quiescence or dormancy, and even occasionally by apparent, but not real, retrogression. Such periods are, respectively, the epoch of racial manifestation in civilization reaching a culmination of power and brilliance, and then sinking back into barbarism: the evolutionary height reached in the one case, and the following depth of retrogression in the other case, varying with many other factors contained in the problem.
This remarkable system is sketched with masterly hand, in all its main features, in the books written by H. P. Blavatsky, and especially in The Secret Doctrine. And if she had done nothing more than this, had given nothing more to the world than this outline of a scheme of spiritual, intellectual, psychological, and astral-vital evolution, she would have merited the gratitude of all thoughtful men.
So far as our own earth is concerned, Man stands at the midway point of the evolutionary ladder. Below him are the hosts of beings less than he is; above him are other hosts greater than he is only because older in experience, riper in wisdom, stronger in spiritual and in intellectual fiber and power; because of greater evolutionary unfoldment of their inherent faculties and powers immanent in the individuality of the inner god -- the ever-living, inner, individualized spirit.
As man is to the creatures below him, so are other beings in Nature unto man. As man himself is split up into different stages of progress, or, to put it in another way, as the human race is composed of families differing among themselves in mental, psychical, and spiritual power, even so do we find the same wonderful phenomenon of diversity among the creatures lower than man. Even so our majestic Theosophical doctrines tell us, may we also find the beings above man different among themselves in power, wisdom, and expansion of consciousness.
Is not all this just as it should be and just as it must be in Nature's wondrous fields, bringing individualized experience? Do we find anywhere in Nature a dreary uniformity of universal sameness, and uninspiring identity among the beings that are? Nowhere indeed; but everywhere we see diversity, change, movement, progress, with all that the word implies as regards scale and difference and growth.
Of course all this manifold diversity, springing from the hierarchical unity of Nature herself, makes for, and actually is, the explanation of the fascination of the study of Nature, including under that word, as we must do, all that is; for as the Theosophist always implies, when he uses the word Nature without qualification, he means not merely the gross, physical nature which our imperfect senses of report tell us of, but more particularly inner and invisible Nature, and especially the invisible and spiritual realms which verily are the Heart of Nature.
Who can deny these obvious truths? Who even would wish to deny them? Yet if you do not deny them, you tacitly admit all of the argument, and you need only to follow the logical sequence of your admission to see, ay, and to accept on your own initiative, all that our Theosophical doctrines set forth regarding the existence and nature and powers and faculties of the Order of Perfected Men already spoken of, who are the great Teachers of mankind.
There is an absurd, logical dilemma in which anyone must necessarily entangle himself who should attempt to deny what is so obviously true, so transparently logical. Men do or they do not differ among themselves in body, psychological power, intellect, consciousness, and moral sense. Now, we know that they do. No fact is of more universal acceptance; and this being so, common knowledge of mankind likewise recognizes that these differences are of many kinds. They exist not only in such obvious instances as in the complexion of the skin, or in the muscular proportions of the body, or in the shape of the head; but also in the mental, psychological, and moral factors of his being. And it is these very factors which most remarkably distinguish the different families of men from each other.
If men therefore differ among themselves as they do, as regards racial families or so-called racial stocks, probably few students of Ethnology and of Anthropology -- indeed, no really observing eye can fail to note that men as individuals vary far more widely than do the families of men one from another. The evolutionary differences among men are vastly more profound and of greater psychological reach than the differences between races, as for instance, the differences as regards a Homer, a Dante, a Goethe, a Shakespeare. Such men stand head and shoulders, in their own particular line, above the average of the race, for it is readily seen that no race of Homers, of Dantes, of Goethes, of Shakespeares, is known on the globe. Such men are geniuses, and so are other men whose natural aptitudes pursue other lines of activity, such as an Edison, a Tesla, a Marconi. And yet these geniuses stand in evolutionary development as children to Others far greater than they.
These Others of course are the great World-Teachers, men whose names are household words, at least in most instances, in every home that is above the level of the savage's hut; and it is these other and greater men who have sent forth into the world Messengers of such power and spiritual vitality that their Messages persist, even though stifled, as the ages pass, under the cloaks and by the gags of fear, superstition, and hatred. These Other Men are in very truth, the Fine Flowers of the human race. So great are they, that succeeding generations of men invented marvelous tales concerning them, sometimes founded upon more or less of truth and fact, but often the mere products of pious and reverent fantasy. They were given a divine birth, a divine origin, 'miracles,' so called, attended their steps in life, and sometimes they were worshiped by the unthinking as incarnate gods, which, indeed, considered merely as a fact, they were in more senses than one; but not in the sense that unguided reverence and unilluminated piety have felt.
Such legends also tell us that celestial spirits or angels, or the inferior gods, according to the race in which they appeared, announced their conception or their birth, or that swans sang a dulcet melody, that all Nature trembled in joy at their coming, while the Great Mother of Men herself, the mighty Earth, moved with feeling. During their lives they were also sometimes said to have been tempted by evil powers, and to have conquered them. They passed their existence on earth in works of benevolence and labors of compassion, teaching their fellowmen a lofty doctrine, and in anticipation of their death training disciples to spread abroad the glad tidings.
Legends also tell us sometimes how they 'raised the dead,' healed the sick, comforted the afflicted and heartbroken, and stayed the hand of vengeance and cruelty; and finally how they passed out of this life in different ways, but usually in a so-called 'miraculous' manner. The legends tell us in some cases that at their respective deaths Nature again was in travail.
Perhaps it was the sun which was shorn of its light, so that darkness fell upon all the earth; or there was a mighty earthquake; or the sheeted dead walked the streets; indeed, many are the various phenomena of wonderment that have been believed in.
One need not accept any of these legends; the thoughtful and reverent mind has no need of them in order to understand the greatness of the Great Men in whose honor simple piety and unthinking worship gave birth to 'miracle.' Indeed, to the reverent mind, such things often work a detriment, and distract the thought away from the essentials of the life and of the teachings of these Great Ones. Still, it is perhaps only fair to say that probably most of these legendary tales have some basis of distorted natural fact in them, some misunderstood or half-forgotten memory of incidents which have been warped by later minds out of any accurate semblance to the reality.
The only real value of these legends lies in the testimony that they bear to the lofty spiritual and intellectual stature of the Great Men who have lived. This it is which it is desirable here to bring sharply to the reader's attention, brushing aside once for all, all the glittering fabric of imagery that faith, unguided by knowledge, has woven around these sublimely beautiful Flowers of Mankind.
We must realize more clearly that only titanic genius, indeed titanic capacity immeasurably over-topping mere genius, could have so stupendously affected the minds of the generations in which the Great Men appeared, and the numerous generations of men who followed them in time. Such men of titanic capacity stand like gigantic figures before the mind's eye, their proportions striking us properly only as we note the environing circumstances. Probably not one of them was welcomed by his fellows when openly and deliberately he came into the world in order to guide them and to teach. Virtually always we find the same tale of bitter opposition, and sometimes of bitterer hatred on the part of those whose interests seemed -- and only seemed -- to be menaced. So true is this that it has become a proverbial saying that a true prophet is not honored in his own time or country.
However much myth, legend, worship, and pious, reverent fancy, may have inwrapped them in the garments of fantasy; however much their true lineaments may be thus hid from our scrutiny, so that in trying to observe the truth clearly about them, we seem to be walking in enchanted realms of romance and of faery, yet behind it all we sense their presence, and know them to some extent for what they really were -- Great Souls, titanic figures, truly Masters of their ages, Teachers, Leaders and Guides, Elder Brothers of the humanity among whom they appeared.
No capable student of history, indeed no sane man, doubts this fact; no capable reasoner has two thoughts about it, whatever he may think of the later accretions of story and of song that have almost hid their real figures from our gaze. This fact admits virtually all that we Theosophists claim; only we go logically to the end, and point out that what has once been can again be, indeed must again be: and, as the race moves farther onwards towards the distant but splendid goals of the future, such figures must reappear more frequently than before, due to the ever enlarging perfection of faculty and understanding appearing in and through all manifested beings, and in the human race in particular. The same figures reappear except that the ranks of them are growing in number as others at one time less developed evolve into the spiritual and intellectual stature of their former teachers.
Is not this, then, a noble teaching? Does it not appeal with wonderful force to every faculty in us? Is it not consistent with all the facts of Nature as we know them, and furthermore does it not offer the best, the most reasonable, explanation of the facts of Nature and of human history as far as these latter are known?
These Great Men differ among themselves; yet they can in perfect truth be called an Order of Perfected Men, using the word 'perfected' in a relative sense, because there is no such thing as absolute perfection, and the sooner this is realized the better. Absolute perfection would mean a stopping, a ceasing, of all possible growth and future development; and the idea is truly an untrue and idiotic one. There are no limits placed for advancing souls, no barriers beyond which they cannot or may not pass; but instead there is constant growth in an ever-widening consciousness and in an ever-deepening love.
Do these Great Souls spend a single earth-life among their fellows, thereafter to vanish away forever into other spheres? How can that be? Our Theosophical doctrine of Karma, old as thinking humanity, the doctrine of 'consequences' as it may rightly be called, of 'cause and effect' as it is usually called, steps here into the argument and shows us that even as they came among us because they were men, so must they continue to incarnate again and again and again and again, as long as the present cycle of manifestation lasts. In each life they set in motion karmic causes (although these karmic causes are of a far higher and more subtil kind than is the karmic chain of causation working in ordinary men), because they live to benefit mankind, and thus of their own choice deliberately incur these bonds and relations of karmic destiny. In other words, they make new chains of causation, while working out those of other lives, albeit this is done for the sole benefit of their fellow-men; and as one short human life is obviously insufficient for the full evolution of all the effects necessarily flowing forth from these precedent causes, therefore must they return to the sphere -- our Earth -- where those precedent causes were initiated and set in movement along the courses of destiny. Doubtless the greater they are the more subtil become the karmic links of causation, but such links connecting them with human life there must be, for otherwise never would they reappear among us, as Leaders, Teachers, and Guides.
This noble doctrine of Karma declares, further, that there comes a time in the evolution of man wherein he reaches such a point of moral strength, and will-power, and understanding, and of universal sympathy also, that he becomes not indeed superior to death (which is inevitable sooner or later to all composite beings and things), but that he becomes able to control the forces of Nature to some extent as he pleases; so that he can, within certain defined limits, stave off the time of physical dissolution, thus attaining twice or thrice the normal length of life in one physical human body that the ordinary man can attain. The cases of unusual longevity known among ourselves support this as showing that there is nothing of the 'miraculous' in it, but that human flesh, under certain circumstances, can last in health and strength beyond the common bounds of human life. Yet this is, relatively speaking, a very small thing. Far greater in fact is the power which these progressed men have of leaving at will one worn-out body, and of entering another fresh and strong from Nature's hands, to carry on with scarcely a break in consciousness the Sublime Work to which their lives are wholly consecrated.
Never -- such is the teaching -- since the human race first attained self-consciousness, has this Order or Association or Brotherhood of Exalted Men been without its representatives on our earth; and further, it is increasing in numbers constantly, as new recruits become ready, by inner growth, to share the high duties and responsibilities of their former Teachers, and although this increase is necessarily slow, first, because such men are of necessity the rare Flowers of the Race, few and far between, and second, because it also happens that the time comes when some who have been members of this Order are called upon to take up loftier duties elsewhere than on this earth; yet the number of them is, for all that, slowly but steadily growing.
It is for good reasons that these Great Men have been called the 'Guardian-Wall,' for they form in fact a living, spiritual and intellectual, wall of protection around mankind, guarding it against whatever evils these men are unable to neutralize, in view of the dominant Karma of humanity; for against this, the racial Karma, they can no more work than against any one, or against all, of the other 'laws' of Nature. They help, they inspire, they protect, they succor, whenever they can, and in such fashion as their profound knowledge of the karmic chain of cause and effect permits them to do, the humanity over which they stand as Elder Brothers and Guides. This is their Great Work; this is their sublime duty.
Where do they live, it may be asked? The answer is simple, for the teaching about them in this respect is that they live wherever they please; but that when not actually mixing with men -- a rare occurrence -- and unknown as a general rule to these latter, they find it best and most convenient and in harmonious accord with their duties, to select spots on certain lands of the earth which are usually far away from the hurly-burly of human activities such as our great cities are, or the thickly inhabited lands. There are associations of them in Asia Minor and in Egypt, in America, and elsewhere; but the chief Seat, it is said, of the greatest among them, is in a certain district of the less known part and least inhabited portion of Tibet. There, far from the stifling atmosphere and the bustle of the heavy material life of our cities and thickly populated districts, they live, when not in actual physical intercourse with other men, for the working out of their sublime and self-appointed task.
This task is the teaching of their fellows in an unceasing and never interrupted effort to raise the level of humanity constantly higher; and secondarily to take unto themselves as disciples for direct instruction and training the noblest individuals chosen from out the vast multitude of the human host.
Few doctrines have ever been taught which are so pregnant with thought and suggestion as this of the existence and living reality of these great Seers and Sages; none perhaps which appeals more to the reflective mind. It is so consistent with what we know of ourselves and of our aspirations, with what we know of Nature herself and with the lessons of history, that the man must indeed be dull of wit and slow of understanding and without the fire of spiritual imagination who does not feel its force and sense the appealing charm that it holds.
Yet we should emphasize again that we Theosophists have no dogmas 'necessary to salvation' in our Society; no man among us is called upon to sign a formal creed or a creed of any kind, or to accept any merely authoritative exposition of belief. Our doctrines, when once understood, are seen to be as certain and sure in fundamentals as are the principles of mathematics; so that one is led on by trains of thought from one to another, just as in the latter science; they are wholly self-consistent, and their proofs are found in themselves.
As this is equivalent to saying found in Nature, it is therefore readily perceived that Theosophy is in fact 'ordered knowledge,' in other words, science per se, and we frequently speak of it as 'the synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy.' It merits well that definition.
This is also the definition that H. P. Blavatsky printed on the title-page of her greatest work, The Secret Doctrine; and it is what may be called a popular definition rather than a technical one. The meaning which she tried here to set forth was not that Theosophy, as a system, was a mere syncretism or collection of various religious and philosophic and scientific ideas gathered in many or several quarters and more or less successfully woven into a consistent whole; but, on the contrary, that Theosophy was that single system or systematic formulation of the facts of visible and invisible Nature, which, as expressed through the human mind, takes the apparently separate forms of science and of philosophy and of religion.
Our meaning should be clear. These three departments of human thought are not naturally separate things, but merely three forms by which the human mind aspires to attain an understanding of invisible and visible Nature, and the methods by which human reasoning follows those three forms. Religion, Philosophy, and Science, are but three sides of the triangle of Truth; and in the Theosophical view, it is as impossible to separate one from the other two, as it would be to separate away one of the three sides of a triangle and to claim that the two remaining sides form the Euclidian figure called a triangle.
Human religion is the expression of that aspect of man's consciousness which is intuitional, aspirational, and mystical. Philosophy is that aspect of the human consciousness which is correlative, and which seeks the bonds of union among things, and exposes them, when found, as existing in the manifold and diverse forms of natural processes and so-called laws which demonstrate their existence; while Science, the third aspect of human thinking, is the activity of the mentality in its inquisitive, researching, and classifying, functions.
Man's consciousness is the root of all three, and this conception alone does infinite credit to the penetrating power of H. P. Blavatsky's strength of intellect. It is at once seen, then, that the notion that there could be a conflict between Science and Religion, or between Science and Philosophy, or between Religion and Philosophy, is absurd on the face of it; and any such apparent conflict arises solely out of the untoward and wholly mistaken idea that the so-called 'soul' of man is a radically separate function, or is a radically different thing from that of his philosophic intellect, or of his researching and ratiocinative brain-mind mentality.
Any outline-sketch of the facts and laws of Being, or any formulated system of thinking which departs in any degree from this essential truth of the fundamental unity of all things and faculties, is, de facto, an imperfect and therefore in proportionate measure, a false system. No system can be true which does not take in the entirety of things as they are, and of all planes of interpretative human consciousness. Now, this universality of conception and exposition is precisely what characterizes Theosophy, and for this reason the Theosophist so frequently speaks of the Ancient Wisdom as wholly based on Nature -- using the word Nature in the sense that has hereinbefore been set forth as including not merely physical nature which is but the outward shell of things, but all that is visible and invisible, past, present, and future.
In his moments of quiet reflection it must have struck every thoughtful individual that the rigidly coordinated phenomena of Nature must be subject to a thoroughly logical and wholly inclusive explanation of what things are -- in other words, of what life is. Things are, and this is only saying that there is an explanation of them, and of all other phenomena, could we grasp it; and this all-inclusive explanation is what is claimed for Theosophy.
Those people, relatively few in number nowadays but in H. P. Blavatsky's time more numerous than now they are, who proclaim as a discovery of their own that 'Theosophy is nothing new,' are simply, but unconsciously to themselves, telling the holy truth, and are but showing what we Theosophists have been voicing from the housetops ever since the foundation of the Theosophical Society in 1875. Indeed, most emphatically it is not new; it is the oldest human system of thinking on earth; it has existed in all lands and in all times; and its Guardians are those Great Men of whom we have spoken.
In Theosophy we have no dogmas whatsoever. Should anybody honestly refuse to accept a part, or, indeed, the whole, of our teachings, that is his own affair; nevertheless -- and we say this as a matter of simple information, and as a matter of justice -- those of us who have been in the work of the Theosophical Movement for many years, and who have spent our lives -- some of us -- in the study of these grand verities, know that the man who thus refuses or rejects, because of ingrown personal predilections, any part of our teachings, thereby amputates from his own consciousness, intuitions which we may truly call 'keys' to the various mysteries of Nature, both cosmic and human. These mysteries would become clear to him, and open up for him vast fields of fascinating thought, did he but open his mind to receive these intuitions, or keys, or did he but realize that truth, if anything, must be one unitary whole: not diverse, nor builded of conflicting parts, nor mingled with error.
Thus we see that the Theosophist is at once the most truly religious, scientific, and philosophic, as well as the freest-thinking type of mind, probably, that could be found anywhere. He stands for law and order without reserve, on the one hand; but is at all times searching to improve himself and all his faculties, and this, on the other hand, makes him as powerful and energetic a supporter of progress as it would be possible to find in any civilized land. He derides the religion of no man, but as one of the main objects of our Society is the study of ancient and modern religions, arts, sciences, and philosophies, he retains his right as an individual to subject to the most rigid criticism and searching investigation any form of belief that may interest him, and, of course, to publish the results of his study if such seems desirable and wise.
Truth is what he is searching for, the goal upon which his eyes are fixed, and the ideal to which he has given his heart; and he considers nothing of greater value than an increase in human knowledge and wisdom, which is Light, and the resurrection in the human heart of those divine impulses of self-forgetfulness which spring from that fountain of truth within us, one's own inner god.
The radiant light which streams forth from that immortal center or core of our inmost being, which we have called our inner god, lightens the pathway of each one of us. It is from this light that we obtain ideal conceptions; and it is by this radiant light in our hearts that we can guide our feet towards an ever larger fulfilling in daily life of the beautiful conceptions which we dimly perceive.
But a man is not great merely because he thinks lofty thoughts, or has sublime ideas, or is a preacher of beautiful phrases. He is great only in proportion as these, through his own deliberate will, show themselves in his life. The greatest claim that the Seers and Sages of the ages have upon our gratitude is not that they have been merely Teachers of men, but that they have been Teachers and Ennoblers of men's souls; and they are Ennoblers because they are Doers, because they put into example -- themselves first of all -- the sublime spiritual ethic which is at the heart of their Message.
And this is precisely what H. P. Blavatsky, the Messenger in our age of the Great Ones, did. History, far better than the present time, will unveil in even larger degree the record of her uninterrupted life of work, of doing practical occultism. She never faltered, and therefore she never failed; she never stopped working, and therefore she accomplished; she never stopped teaching and proving her teachings by her own life, and therefore she gathered around her the large body of earnest men and women who, after she passed, have kept burning the light that she brought to men.
It is perhaps one of the saddest reflections that the philosophical historian draws from his studies of men's minds and temperaments, as expressed in the past, that all great men, whatever may be their stage of evolutionary development, are invariably misunderstood at first, often violently persecuted, usually derided and scorned, and occasionally even made victims of the public's hatred of innovations. How often has this already happened in history is a question which contains its own answer.
Further, that same public, after having done away with some great man, as a certain few instances of history show, after the passage of a few years begins to elevate him to the rank of the deities, to worship him perhaps, or to bow down to him as a god; in doing so usually losing sight of the noble Message that he brought to the world. Such is the fervor of personal adoration, and most assuredly this is not what the Great Teachers desire.
They come, as just said, at certain cyclical periods, when the currents of the spiritual life are running low, and usually when a wave of materialism is threatening to ingulf men's spiritual intuitions and to stifle the cry for help and light uttered by wounded human hearts. At such periods, publicly appear they must and do, if they are to strike successfully the new keynote, successfully to set the new currents of spiritual aspiration and thought in action, and successfully to direct the thoughts of men towards higher goals.
Consider for a moment two bright stars of life and thought which appeared at an interval of half a millennium or so: the great Sakyamuni, Gautama-Buddha; and the great Syrian Sage called Jesus by his later followers. In the latter case his devotees have actually turned their noble Master not only into a god, but into the actual figure of the second person of their Trinity; and even in the former case, that of Gautama the Buddha, although due to the majestic intellect and wisdom of the Buddha in stating his doctrine and wonderful ethics no such extraordinary apotheosis has taken place, yet even he is regarded in some, but not in all, parts of the world which recognize him as their Master, with a fervor of devotion which, while perhaps ennobling in the self-forgetfulness that it evokes, must yet be by no means fully in line with the goal which the great Indian had in mind when, leaving the Bodhi-tree, he began to preach his sublime doctrine of self-control, duty, and universal love.
These two examples, when reflected upon are alone sufficient to provide all the explanation that critics seem to think is needed, as regards the attitude of Theosophists towards this fact of the great Sages and Seers. No, merely personal devotion and personal fervor directed to a human personality, however noble and great, are not what are wanted. As a dog will follow his master to the ends of the earth with a self-abnegation that lacks something of the divine only because so limited to one object, and not universal, so men have a quite similar way of devoting themselves to and loving only that one of the world's Great Teachers in whose family, so to say, they happen to be born.
If anything, the Theosophist learns universality, and this comes only when a man learns of his own essential divinity and tries to follow its mandates. Theosophy teaches us that while we should certainly do our whole duty all the time by those nearest to us, and do what we have to do as it comes to hand, yet we should strive continually to increase the sphere of our sympathies, to enlarge the scope of our hearts and of our minds; and in religious matters to learn to respect, ay, even to love, the greatness of soul that exists in other places among other men and which has existed in other times.
We should know from our studies, as well as from the intuitions of our hearts, that the different Messages brought to mankind by all the great World-Teachers, whether we belong to their time or not, and whether we belong to their race or not, have a profound meaning for us also (because these Messages are of universal import), which is ours by our human birthright, and that we greatly lose by not knowing it and accepting it as our own common human heritage.
What horrible and needless wars might have been prevented had this noble teaching of universality of thought and endeavor and aspiration and sympathy, always been followed! What pitiful suffering and mental and physical agony might have been avoided had men known better, and knowing better, had acted more wisely!
Then again, how can one whose ideas of religion and of human brotherhood are limited by racial bonds, or by merely artificial geographical frontiers, know the mighty surge of sympathy, the warm flow of pity and compassion, the keen intellectual delights and strengthening of mental and moral fiber, that accrue to him whose mind reaches out eagerly towards other human minds and souls now living in other parts of the world, or who have lived and have left us the fine flowers of their lives? It is this universality of sympathy with other human beings all over the world and with those who have lived in previous ages, which is one of the greatest blessings which Theosophy brings to us. Such an understanding of the powers and innate beauty of the human soul which this sympathetic outlook on life gives to us, is in itself a potent factor in the process of evolutionary development.
Human minds and hearts are usually conceived as being very soft and plastic things; but actually there is probably nothing in the universe that is so steely hard at times, so adamantine and inflexible in substance. It is a mere truism to say that men detest renouncing their pet prejudices or beloved predilections in favor of established custom or familiar views for something new and strange, however noble the new may be. And this observation applies very forcibly in questions of philosophical outlook or of religious belief. In these fields men's minds and hearts are at times almost immovable; and, paradoxically enough, this is likewise the case when philosophical opinions and religious beliefs are outworn and outlived, leaving behind little except an aching void and the brain-mind egoism which prefers the aching void to the entrance of a new truth.
It is in these well-known facts that we see the reason for the disinclination of a people, among whom a Messenger may appear, to receive the Message thus brought to them. Human nature is a curious mass of contradictions. It calls eagerly for more light, but it must have the light shaped after its own pattern, and the pattern is its own prejudices and predilections. It calls for help, but it insults and rejects the helper when he comes, unless the aid be extended after the manner that is considered customary in substance or in form. The progress of civilization is but a series of conquests over obstacles needlessly thrown in the way of human advancement. It is but a succession of truths rejected in the first instance almost invariably, and later recovered and taken to heart as being the lessons of the gods.
Every great Sage and Seer that has appeared among men in order to help them: every great Messenger sent out from the Association of Sages and Seers when the cyclic period calls for such sending, all, we say, meet with the same difficulties in helping those whom they came to help. They will not be heard; they will not be received; they are mocked at; they are derided; they are scorned; they are persecuted often; and in certain rare cases attempts have even been made to do them foully to death.
Of course it is also quite true that this indisposition to receive new thoughts and new ideas has, in a certain sense, a distinct value, because it prevents the too ready reception of impostors, and the too easy acceptance of what the impostors may say; and to certain degree this instinctive prudence or caution on the part of those to whom the true Teachers may come, is a good thing. It is a knowledge of this fact which has unquestionably worked very largely in governing the form and method of presentation of the Message brought at different times by these Seers to the world. They are, all of them, peerless psychologists, and undoubtedly know beforehand, in general if not in fullest detail, just about what they will have to meet, and what will be the reception accorded to them when once they begin to deliver their Message to the usually unwilling ears of men.
It is evident enough, of course, that these reflections in themselves constitute a perfectly sufficient and telling answer to the criticism that might be made by some, in saying that the reception accorded to H. P. Blavatsky when she came as the Messenger of the Great Ones was a proof (proof forsooth!) that she was not what Theosophists claim her to have been. For if she had been the Messenger of such great Sages and Seers, this foolish argument runs, then she would have appeared in the midst of wonders and marvels: she would have shaken established institutions to their foundations with the splendor of what she said, and perhaps with the mighty power accompanying her; and this argument has been accompanied with a raised finger pointing with a gesture of significant emphasis to other great World-Figures who have appeared, and of whom legend records a working of marvels and the exercising of mighty spiritual powers, such as those of the Buddha and of Jesus. These critics are wise in their own generation, but only in their own generation! Their criticism shows them as believing more in the legends which they themselves repudiate, than as having the instinctive spiritual intuition of what constitutes the individuality and work of a World-Teacher. They set themselves up as judges and jury at the same time, and seeing things as their prejudices and predilections urge them to see, they judge the case without giving the unfortunate accused even an opportunity of an impartial hearing. All this is absurd.
Is it not a truth that every great man who has appeared in the world with a new Message to mankind has had to face ridicule; hatred on the part of the upholders and supporters of established institutions; persecution also at the hands of those to whom he came? And when his Message has been given, and the tremendous power of his character has broken through the stone walls of human prejudice and ignorance, and he has disappeared from among men, then ensues the second phase, like the first arising out of human ignorance and stupidity: he is usually worshiped!
Right here the question could well be asked: Did the work of the Great Sages and Seers die with their disappearance? The answer is obviously No. Further, having given to the world their message, did these Great Ones then cease forever to exist? The Buddha, Jesus, Lao-Tse, Pythagoras, Plato, Orpheus, Olen, Musaeus, Apollonius of Tyana, Krishna, Confucius, and all the other brilliant Stars of human spiritual and intellectual power that shone so brightly in the firmament of our spiritual, moral, and intellectual life -- are they no more? With their withdrawal or physical disappearance has life and activity and their spiritual influence ceased? The critic might well concede their onetime physical existence; but the claim that they are still alive today he would be inclined to deny. Very well then, where, pray, are these Great Men? In 'heaven' forsooth? The Theosophist has as much right to deny that (because it is a mere hypothesis), and indeed more right, than the critic has to deny a doctrine which is based on sound philosophical and scientific grounds. The theory of 'heaven,' or again, the other theory of non-entity (that of the pure materialists), are both of them theories without other basis of fact than what value one may choose to place upon his ignorance of the nature of life, human and cosmic.
In our general Theosophical literature, any such captious critic will find an abundance of detailed reasoning set forth, with the following object in view: to show the philosophically and scientifically necessary grounds on which the Theosophical teachings repose, and this particular one among them. After all is said, what is really wonderful is not that a man once existing shall exist again, but if he never shall exist again, that he existed at all!
To conjure such a complex and wonderful entity as one of these Great Men, or, indeed, an ordinary man, out of nothingness, throw him into the midst of a world whose every movement proclaims an endless and inescapable chain of cause and effect, then launch him loose from this chain of causes in order to cast him again into a supposititious nothingness, or into an inadequate and irresponsive 'heaven' -- this theory or complex of theories (and it is nothing else) makes such an immense demand upon one's belief and upon one's sense of logical consequence and of natural law, that it exceeds the capacity of a man of averagely developed mentality to accept it.
The Theosophical teachings state that man is bound into this endless chain of causes and effects because he himself in fact is intrinsically a part of that chain of living events, and that there is just precisely one thing he cannot do, and that is to go out of it. Nor is man the only one who is bound into this chain of causation, which is the work of his own individuality, the fruitage of his own thoughts and emotions and actions, the consequence, in other words, of what he has thought and done. But it may be said that the highest god in highest heaven, to use a rather vague phrase, is as much bound by the karma or chain of causation appropriate to that sphere of being, as is the humble ant climbing up a sand-bank very laboriously, only to go tumbling down again. Nor is this pessimism in any sense. It is simply an expression of the fact that the Universe is either consistent with itself -- that is to say, that it is what is called governed by law and order -- or else it is lawless, a helter-skelter universe without sequence in action, causative continuity in being, or consistency in natural character; and this is just what Theosophy, as well as the common knowledge of intuitive mankind, knows the universe not to be.
So there the matter lies, the argument being, as every open-minded searcher for truth may see, entirely for the Theosophical view, which is that of law, orderliness, consistency, universal harmony, and causation, which is but another way of saying inevitable consequence. The argument therefore is obviously admitted; for if the Universe is what Theosophy proclaims it to be anywhere, it must be so in every smallest part.
Let us ask a frank and honest question: What is there about this Theosophical doctrine of the living reality of these great Sages and Seers, as composing an Association existing from immemorial time and also in the present, which is repugnant either to common sense or to historical records, or to the intuitions of the human heart, or to the reasonings of the human intellect? Is there any sensible argument that can be urged against it, whether they be many or one; or is there in fact none? And the answer comes back: None. It is simply the molds of our minds, set and crystallized, which prevent the acceptance of so reasonable a doctrine, one of such intrinsic beauty and containing such high hope.
Let us remember that the Seers and Sages are what they are because they have more or less come into self-conscious union with the inner divinity. This self-conscious union, temporary or of longer duration, with one's own inner god, lies at the back of one of the most sublime initiatory phases of the Ancient Mysteries.
During those initiatory periods the initiant became, as it were, transfigured, translated out of the common life into self-conscious understanding of a reality surpassing ordinary human imagination. Mystic records which the ancient Greeks, for instance, have left us in certain portion of their literature enable the student very easily to get some more or less clear idea of what took place at such times. It was said of those who succeeded in passing the severe tests which were imposed upon all aspirants, that the face shone with supernal light, that the body was surrounded with a halo of glory, and that, for the time being, the man was so suffused with the inner splendor that, as the ancient expression ran, he was 'clothed with the sun.' The great Seers and Sages are, then, simply they who have been through this experience, at least once, and who have 'kept the link unbroken,' although perhaps manifesting in less power and with less transcendency in daily life kept the link unbroken, we say, with the god within. There, in that supreme fountain of our being, lie all wisdom and knowledge and faculty and power; and the Great Ones in proportion as they are evolved, draw upon this Source as they may, and more or less when they will.
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