And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. -- Matt., 3:10, 11, 13
Everyone with an inquiring mind who has read the foregoing passage from the book of Matthew, as well as many other mystical passages in the Bible, must have wondered at some time or another just why there is so much in religion and in the sacred literature of ancient peoples that is veiled in mystery; why there are so many 'dark sayings,' as they have been called, to which no satisfactory explanations have been given. Not so many years ago we were told that these things were not for us to know. The centuries were supposed to have woven a sort of hallowed protection about these mystical passages of scripture which forbade inquiry and investigation, and it was considered more or less of a sacrilege when inquiring minds sought an explanation. The general feeling was that the men of long ago who wrote, them knew perfectly well their meaning and import, but for some strange reason, human intelligence was supposed to be on the down-grade and men of our present age lacked the intellectual and spiritual qualifications to comprehend these ancient truths. We were supposed to accept them in simple faith and let it go at that. These writings, many of which nobody professed to understand or attempted to explain, had been treasured and preserved for centuries merely for the sake of passing them along to future generations who likewise would have no understanding of them.
This particular text has been chosen for the reason that it is one of those passages which is rarely, if ever, elaborated upon, and deals with that inner aspect of the Christian teachings where Theosophy and Christianity find a common meeting-ground, in contradistinction to the various and ofttimes contradictory theological doctrines which have grown up with the passing centuries and found embodiment in present-day religion.
Theosophists are interested in the fundamental teachings of the great sages rather than the interpretations which have been put upon them and the opinions which have been expressed about them in later years by men who, however well-meaning their intentions may have been, were nevertheless fallible and subject to error in their opinions and conclusions. They probably followed the best light they had in an age when the intellectual and spiritual perceptions of men were at a very low ebb, but sincerity is no guarantee against mistake and error. While the letter of the teachings has been preserved, with due allowances for misinterpretation and interpolations, it cannot be denied that some things of inestimable value were mislaid and forgotten with the passing of time and the ever-changing trend of human thought.
THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY TEACHINGS
The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven! How meaningless the very words fall upon twentieth century ears! Words of mere poetic fancy re-echoed down through the turbulent centuries! Approach the average man of today, yes, even those who have been brought up in the Christian faith, on such a topic, and in all probability you will be told that such fanciful ideas may have appealed to the simple-minded fishermen of Galilee, but not to intelligent minds of the twentieth century! We are now living in a more enlightened and civilized age! Give us something practical in the way of religion; something we can understand!
Yet, in those few cryptic but little understood words of the Christian Master lies the key, not only to basic Christianity, but to the underlying doctrine of every genuine spiritual impulse which has been initiated from age to age -- the formulation in human language of those profound and deeper truths regarding man and the universe which have been preserved by the great teachers known as Elder Brothers since "the foundation of the world," as Jesus expressed it, and which have been given to those who would lend willing ears, and who were morally and intellectually fit to receive them.
The purpose of Theosophy and the aim of Theosophists is again to revive interest in these fundamental truths of religion which lie beneath the ritual and external forms, the picturesque and man-made garments with which they have been clothed. Unfortunately, there still are a few very sincere and well-meaning, but nevertheless mistaken, people who view Theosophy as something inimical and diametrically opposed to Christianity.
The difficulty lies in the fact that these good people do not discriminate between Christianity per se, and the theological super-structure which has been erected upon it. The word 'Theosophy' itself is of Christian parentage and origin, and was first used by one of the early Christian teachers, Ammonius Saccas, a Christian Gnostic and Theosophist of the celebrated Alexandrian school, which probably was the foremost center of Christian learning and philosophy during the dawn of the Christian Era. It is a compound Greek word Theo-Sophia -- meaning "divine wisdom," and was used to designate the Christian mystery-teachings which were preserved for a time, at least in part, by the early Christian mystics, a fact which is confirmed by the writings of the early Church Fathers. The word Theosophy was adopted by the society of modern times bearing that name as being the best word in the English language for the purpose intended, and was borrowed or appropriated much in the same manner as the early Christians borrowed the term 'Christos' from the Greek mystery-teachings and applied it to their own mysteries and ceremonies of initiation. Much that is fine in every religion has been taken from older systems and passed along from one religion to another in new guise and raiment. World-religions are so closely interwoven in their origins that it is utterly impossible to put any one in an air-tight compartment of thought and label it 'original.' This fact is clearly set forth by St. Augustine, who stated:
The Christian religion, which to know and to follow is the most sure and certain health, called according to that name, but not according to the thing itself, of which it is the name, for the thing itself, which is now called the Christian religion, really was known to the ancients nor was wanting at any time from the beginning of the human race, until the time when Christ came in the flesh; from whence the true religion, which had previously existed, began to be called Christian; and this in our days is the Christian religion, not as having been wanting in former times, but as having in later times received this name.
Let us therefore not attach too much importance to mere names and labels. The important thing is to look beyond externals and ascertain just what are the fundamentals of religion.
THE ELDER BROTHERS
If one will study impartially what the great religious founders themselves have taught, in so far as their teachings have been given to the world at large, and these more or less imperfectly transmitted to us, it will be found that the teachings of one verify those, of another; that all have taught essentially the same doctrine, clothed perhaps in different language and terminology due to the respective times in which they lived and taught, but teaching in essence the same age-old Theosophical truths which are to be found in every great religion which has been given to mankind.
This corroboration, made by a long line of spiritual teachers and sages whom we call Elder Brothers, and extending into the dim past far beyond the annals of popular history -- this verification detracts nothing from the spiritual grandeur of any particular teacher, but on the contrary, gives added weight and support to the truth and universality of their respective messages.
When the spiritual impulse of one teacher has expended itself and the particular movement inaugurated by him has been dissipated into innumerable and conflicting sects, a fate which inevitably befalls every religion and is to a greater or less degree due to human misunderstanding; when dead-letter interpretation becomes the accepted and crystallized belief of the day, and knowledge of man's divine ancestry has become garbled and forgotten; at such times you will find that another regenerating cycle occurs; a spiritual renascence follows; another teacher appears among men. There are two doctrines which he promulgates. There are the parables which embody high moral and ethical precepts which are given to the many, while to a few chosen disciples are given more profound truths under the seal of silence. In the words attributed to Jesus it is clearly stated that two separate and distinct methods of teaching were used, a practice which has been followed universally by all the great teachers of the race. We likewise find Buddha teaching 'the doctrine of the eye' to the multitude, while to the few, his immediate disciples, he taught 'the doctrine of the heart.'
There is nothing at all strange or unusual in such a procedure when we consider that men vary greatly in the powers of perception and understanding, and that some are capable of grasping a greater degree of truth than others, whether it be in the field of religion, philosophy, science, or any other school of thought.
Some rather uncomplimentary language has been attributed to Jesus regarding the mystery-teachings when he warned of the folly of casting pearls before swine and giving things which were holy unto dogs. It is very doubtful if a teacher of his status ever used these unkind terms, which in all probability were taken from the jargon of the Mystery schools of Asia Minor by early Christian writers. Whatever terms he may have used, he merely was following the ancient law which has governed the dissemination of the esoteric doctrine in all ages, which latter never has been divulged to the masses, the unthinking portion of mankind, who give little or no thought to spiritual things, and who, as time repeatedly has proven, invariably garble and mutilate spiritual truths which are, beyond their comprehension and understanding. They are those whom Pythagoras called "the living dead," meaning that they are not yet spiritually awakened. On the face of it, such a reference may seem unkind, but it is a simple statement of fact, and we have but to look at world-conditions today for verification.
Men will not abide by the simple moral and ethical teachings of religion which have been re-echoed down through the corridors of time, much less being qualified to receive those of a more profound nature. History is but the monotonous rise and fall of civilizations, which having reached the apex of material, and even cultural and intellectual grandeur, have crumbled into dust for the want of a spiritual counterbalance.
THE NEED OF RELIGION
The great battleground of human progress is not within the council-chambers of statecraft and secret diplomacy, or on the drenched fields where unnumbered hosts have fallen at the whim of some power-drunk despot; nor is it in the great mechanical superstructure which modern civilization has created, but in the religious and philosophical thought-world of men; in the silent places of the human heart where the divine in man ever tries to lift its voice above the selfish desires of human nature.
The aim of Theosophy, as it was stated by one who sought to elevate the race, is "to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the universe; to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all spring." Unfortunately, man's interpretation of religion has not always assigned to him a position which would tend to elevate and bring forth his divine potentialities. The 'born in sin -- worm of the dust' idea, which for so long permeated religious concepts and relegated the divine possibilities of the human soul and a realization of the kingdom of heaven to some future state only, gave little dignity to human life, nor did it offer a spiritual incentive for man to seek closer communion with the inner god, "the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." That erroneous doctrine has been tried all too long and found wanting, and today we are reaping the results of that mistaken theory. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
Theosophists are not alone in the belief that greater truths are yet to be given to the world when it is ready to receive them. Western scholars who have pursued an entirely independent line of research and who have had no connection with the Theosophical Society of modern times have long suspected that somewhere in the world there exists, if it could but be found, a comprehensive interpretation of life, based upon something more than the ever-changing theories of modern science, or conflicting religious opinions. I would like to quote you a passage from the published writings of Albert Pike, who, in all probability, is conceded to have been the greatest Masonic scholar of modern times. He states:
Through the veil of all the hieratic and mystic allegories of the ancient dogmas, under the seal of all the sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the worn stones of the ancient temples, and on the blackened face of the Sphinx of Assyria or Egypt, in the monstrous or marvelous pictures which the sacred pages of the Vedas translate for the believers of India, in the strange emblems of our old books of alchemy, in the ceremonies of reception practised by all of the mysterious Societies, we find traces of a doctrine. everywhere the same, and everywhere carefully concealed. The occult philosophy seems to have been the god-mother or nurse of all religions, the secret lever of all the intellectual forces, the key of all divine obscurities.
Theosophists frequently hear it stated that we are trying to give the world a new religion, If such were the case, there would be indeed grounds for well-founded mistrust, for in all probability there is nothing more fatal to human solidarity, universal religious understanding, and the realization of brotherhood among men than the perennial and ever-flowing spring of 'new religions.' You cannot unite men in a common purpose by giving them a thousand and one more or less contradictory religions and conflicting philosophies of life. The last thing we would want to do would be to inflict another religion upon a troubled world which is already over-blessed with a superabundance of creeds and sects; and for sixty years [in 1936] Theosophists have been working and endeavoring to do what lay within their power, without remuneration or the hope of reward, to eradicate this religious and philosophical absurdity, not by giving the world another religion, but by endeavoring to clarify the already existing ones, and by showing, as H. P. Blavatsky stated in her introduction to The Secret Doctrine, that "The Esoteric philosophy [Theosophy] reconciles all religions, strips every one of its outward human garments, and shows the root of each to be identical with that of every other great religion." What is needed is not a new religion such as many are searching for today -- some magic formula and cure-all by which we suddenly may find our poor and imperfectly evolved personalities in a bed of roses, so to speak -- but a correct interpretation of the great religious impulses which have been but half digested, and the re-establishment in the consciousness of men of the profounder truths which underlie them, enabling us intelligently and courageously to meet the problems and trials which we are destined to face as learning, growing entities in this great School of Life. There is a law in nature which insists that man digest his own food, and this is as true of spiritual food as it is of physical nourishment. No one can think for us; no one can grow for us, and it is the destiny of every human soul to hew its own way to the temple of divine wisdom. In the words of Jesus, we must take the kingdom of heaven by force, or through our own efforts,
The founder of the modern Theosophical Society made no claim of divine or supernatural revelation, nor did she in any sense present its teachings as her own, but as the re-statement, once again, of ancient truths which are as old as thinking man, and which it was her privilege to receive from two of the great teachers of modern times, Elder Brothers of our present age, at whose instigation the modern Theosophical Society came into being.
In the past, superstition and religious emotionalism have made of these great teachers supernatural beings, figures of imagination far beyond their own claims or desires. They are men like ourselves, but through unselfish living and constant aspiration to the 'god within,' they have outstripped the mass of mankind in spiritual evolution, and have become the guides and spiritual torch-bearers for their less enlightened brothers. They presage the high destiny which awaits the race as a whole when the course of human evolution shall have been run in this particular school or mansion of life.
Such a Brother was the initiate whom we know of as Jesus of Nazareth, around whose life the mists of time have woven a seemingly impenetrable veil of mystery. He left no written word, and unfortunately, contemporary history tells us almost nothing of his life. The year and date of his birth are unknown, and were arbitrarily fixed at approximately the time of the winter solstice, a season of the year which has been considered particularly sacred from time immemorial.
The teachings which have been attributed to him by early Christian writers and which are found in the canonical books of the New Testament, stand upon their own intrinsic worth and value, regardless of supernatural revelation. A teacher of spiritual mysteries, he sought to show that all men were essentially divine, and that the 'Father' and 'the kingdom of heaven' were within; that beyond the portals of mere personality and the selfish desires of the vacillating, evanescent, and mortal man lies the pathway to the spiritual selfhood, that spark of divinity from the reservoir of universal consciousness which men call God. Take from religion this mystical element of inner growth and aspiration toward the 'god within' and you have left but an empty and crystallized shell of fixed opinions and beliefs. Who dare say truth ends 'here' or 'there,' or that 'this' or 'that' is the last word of divine wisdom? Whatever heights the soul of man may attain as he slowly ascends the ladder of life from mansion to mansion, greater mysteries will ever lie beyond, for boundless infinitude is his home.
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, / As the swift seasons roll! / Leave thy low-vaulted past! / Let each new temple, nobler than the last, / Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, / Till thou at length art free, / Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!
(The 'Gayatri,' one of the hymns of the Rig-Veda, is regarded as one of the most sacred passages of scripture of ancient Hindustan. Its age has been estimated at 30,000 years, possibly much more. From immemorial time it has been considered with almost divine reverence in that ancient land.)
"O thou golden sun of most excellent splendor, illumine our hearts and fill our minds, so that we, recognizing our oneness with the divinity which is the heart of the universe, may see the pathway before our feet, and tread it to those distant goals of perfection, stimulated by thine own radiant light."
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