Ancient Sources of Knowledge
What is the source of the knowledge which is thus both revealed and concealed beneath the veil of allegory and symbol in the scriptures of the world? Throughout the ages there have been aspiring men and women who have sought to solve the mysteries of life and death. There have also been illumined men and women who, having solved those mysteries, have given their solutions to certain carefully selected disciples. These disciples in their turn have delivered a portion of this knowledge to the world. In the East it is called Brahma Vidya, the wisdom of Brahma, the Supreme Deity. Greek philosophers of the Neoplatonic schools, notably Ammonius Saccus and his disciples, referred to this knowledge as Theosophia, divine wisdom. It was also known as â€œgnosis,â€ meaning directly perceived spiritual knowledge, and those who had entered into first-hand experience of it were known as Gnostics or knowers. In English it is known as Theosophy, the Ancient Wisdom, the Ageless Wisdom and the Wisdom Religion.
Certain power-bestowing teachings were regarded as potentially dangerous and were, therefore, either withheld or veiled. As general knowledge has since advanced, some of these teachings have become public knowledge. Nevertheless direct experience of them still remains an interior secret, an esotericism, which can be personally realized but never fully conveyed to others. The way to such knowledge is also both revealed and concealed in the scriptures and mythologies of human culture. This â€œnarrow wayâ€ has from the earliest period of human occupation of the Earth been followed by a small number of spiritually awakened human beings. Guidance concerning this spiritual way of life and descriptions of experiences through which the Soul passes and of the tests, ordeals and triumphs of the neophyte, run like a silver thread through the tapestry woven by the inspired authors of the scriptures and mythologies of ancient peoples. In one interpretation of themâ€”the initiatoryâ€”the great figures, heroes, prophets, apostles, saviors and their adversaries, represent followers of the ancient way at various stages of attainment or failure. The accounts of the lives of such people as Jacob and his twelve sons, the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve disciples of Christ, and Hercules and his twelve labors have proved extremely instructive to those who can pierce the veil of allegory beneath which the secrets of discipleship and initiation are concealed.
The teachings of the Ageless Wisdom are thus to be found at the heart of the great world faiths as a group of central doctrines common to them all. The Ancient Wisdom is indeed the oldest of all religions, having from the first included the highest and noblest conceptions of the Soul of humanity which have ever been presented to or recognized by the human mind and knowledge of the nature of the divinity within. Theosophia is the wisdom of divine beings and carries with it the idea that divine wisdom has been and can be attained by human beings as the natural and legitimate goal of evolution.
This universality is revealed by an examination of the sacred books of various religions and the original sayings of the worldâ€™s greatest teachers, for singular uniformity is found in them all. One might readily suspect that this uniformity is something more than a coincidence, apart even from the consideration that there can only be one truth. The highest and best teaching must always approximate to this and therefore present a considerable amount of similarity when we strip it of all merely fortuitous differences in the modes of its presentation. The Ancient Wisdom provides an actual basis for this parallelism by disclosing the existence of a hierarchy of initiates and Adepts, who preserve from age to age and transmit the esoteric teachings which otherwise might have been entirely lost.
There are several considerations which would point to the existence of such a hierarchy and to its being the original source from which all great teachers have derived their knowledge. The theory that there does exist a unifying truth, an esoteric knowledge or Theosophia, within the reach of every member of the human family, its attainment being the natural goal of its development, carries with it the idea that such relatively secret knowledge must have its living representatives. As H. P. Blavatsky stated:
The Secret Doctrine (or Theosophy) is the accumulated wisdom of the ages and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate of all systemsâ€”the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshall, set down and explainâ€”are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated to the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane observer, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. The Secret Doctrine is an uninterrupted record, covering thousands of generations of seers, whose respective experiences were made to test and verify the traditions, passed on orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted Beings who watched over the childhood of humanity . . . They did this by checking, testing and verifying, in every department of nature, the traditions of old, by the independent visions of great Adepts; that is to say, men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one Adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visionsâ€”so obtained as to stand as independent evidenceâ€”of other Adepts, and by centuries of experience (SD 1:316).
Before some of the chief tenets of the Ageless Wisdom are presented, the theme of this work may usefully be enlarged upon. This theme, as previously stated, is that certain of these teachings, if thoroughly grasped, can prove to be sources of magical power. To preserve and convey this power-giving knowledge, a peculiar language was invented by its discoverers. By means of pseudohistory, allegory and symbol, this information is at the same time both revealed and concealed. Humanityâ€™s unawareness of spiritual and esoteric teachings is due, however, not only to their protective concealment within scripture and mythology, but also to its lack of interest in them. Humanity at this phase of its evolution is, not unnaturally, more interested in the material world, its pleasures and rewards than in the quest for interior enlightenment, the attainment of which, it may be added, demands a measure of renunciation. Sports, gambling, indulgence in alcohol and sex and the attainment of money and power, tend to absorb many peopleâ€™s interest, inevitably leaving little room for the higher culture and for aspiration to spiritual unfoldment.
When, however, a person seriously turns from worldly things to a real quest for knowledge, that knowledge is always to be found. Even then, full perception cannot be reached without due preparation. Just as one cannot take electricity out of the air and immediately use it, so spiritual enlightenment demands self-education and training before it can be discovered, harnessed and used. While certain aspects of esoteric lore are admittedly reserved because they are a source of great power which could be harmfully employed, the majority of people remain uninformed because they have neither seriously sought spiritual understanding nor proved ready to undergo the training necessary for its attainment.
In order more fully to understand the reasons for the universal practice of veiling certain ideas in allegory and symbol, it is necessary to know both the true nature of human beings and their capabilities. Concerning human nature, the apostle Paulâ€™s definition conforms to the most ancient teachings: â€œKnow ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?â€ (1 Cor. 3:16) and â€œye are the temple of the living Godâ€ ( Cor. 6:16 ). The living God, the pure Spirit in human beings, is not a separate individuality but a ray of the one infinite ocean of light, the universal Godhead. This knowledge places great power within reach of its possessor, for if the divine ray within human beings becomes an active influence in their physical individuality, it endows individuals with God-like powers (Gen. 3:5 ) . â€œThe highest revelation,â€ declares Emerson, â€œis that God is in every man.â€ Such, briefly, is a human beingâ€”pure spirit enshrined in a physical body and operating through a human mind. â€œThe first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. . . . Behold, I show you a mysteryâ€ ( Cor. 15:47â€“51 ).
An individualâ€™s capabilities include the ability to bring about the manifestation in the outer self of the purely spiritual aspect of human nature. The human being then becomes endowed with superhuman powers, including those of almost irresistible will, supersensory faculties and supernormal physical capacities. Used for the benefit of others, these can be of value. Misused for personal or national gain at the cost of others, they can be extremely harmful. A wonderful possibility and a very grave danger are, however, associated with these enhanced powers. The possibility is that an individual may use them to gain still greater knowledge which can be placed at the service of others. The danger is that, blinded by egoism and a passion for domination, the person may be tempted to use his or her increased faculties for destructive purposes. In order that the danger may be reduced to a minimum and the power-giving knowledge be preserved and made available to humankind, it is formulated and delivered in a very ancient language composed of allegory, parable, imagery and symbol.
What, then, was discovered and taught directly to disciples and in parables to non-disciples? What is the â€œmystery of the kingdom of Godâ€ (Mark 4:11 ) , ultimately to be known directly by the sincere seeker? The answer can be offered here only in the merest outlineâ€”a digest, as it were, of certain central ideas to be found in world religions, philosophies and mythologies, however deeply veiled. Theosophia is all-inclusive, and some of its more universal ideas are presented later in this work, more particularly in the chapter on the parable of the Prodigal Son. Full knowledge of human natureâ€”the complete anatomyâ€”is contained within the age old teachings, together with a very practical philosophy of life consistent with the scientific method of thought andâ€”all importantâ€”a description of the means by which that knowledge may become direct, personal experience.
The ancient sages taught, and their successors still teach, that the individual is sevenfold in makeup, being a threefold immortal, spiritual being incarnated in four mortal, material bodies. The three parts of a personâ€™s spiritual nature are reproductions or reflections of the will, the wisdom and the intelligence of the Supreme Deity. In their vesture of light, these three aspects of the divine in human beings are called individuality, inner Self or spiritual Soul and, more technically, Ego in the causal body. (Ego is used throughout this work to denote the unfolding spiritual Self of human beings in which the attribute of individuality inheres. The adjective egoic refers to the Ego in this meaning.) The pertinent teaching concerning both the Deity and the individual is that they are threefold. God the Trinity is reproduced as the threefold spiritual Self or Soul of every human being.
The apostle Paul states this truth more plainly, perhaps, than any other biblical writer in such utterances as: â€œYe are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their Godâ€ (2 Cor. 6:16 ) and â€œknow ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? . . . therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are Godâ€™sâ€ (1 Cor. 6:19â€“20 ). Directly stated, human-spirit and God-spirit are one spirit.
When once this knowledge becomes personal experience, it provides a key to almost unlimited power. Cosmic forces and intelligences are then contacted and can be invoked and employed mentally and physically in any manner that may be decided upon. As has already been stated, since this tremendous power is susceptible of misuse, the true and full significance of such statements was veiled by the ancient writers. One outstanding example is the story of the stilling of the tempest by the previously sleeping Jesus Christ, who personifies Godâ€™s Spirit and presence within the individual.
In this spiritual aspect of nature, the individualâ€”sometimes called the microcosmâ€”is regarded as one with the Divine, the macrocosm. That Supreme Spirit, who is the â€œimmortal and eternal god who forever reigneth serene above the water floods,â€ and the Spirit of the human being are one. In Hinduism, because of its paramount importance, this truth is referred to as the sovereign secret, or the royal secret. The Deity is neither external to nor different from the individual being. God and human beings are one and indivisible throughout all eternity. This is the supreme truth taught directly in all mystery schools and in the esoteric aspects of all religions. In Hinduism the spirit in the individual is described as â€œthe Inner Ruler Immortal seated in the heart of all beingsâ€ and as â€œthe one Godhead hidden in all creatures, the Inmost Soul of all.â€ In Christianity the Deity within the individual is the â€œChrist in you, the hope of gloryâ€ (Col. 1:27 ) , the â€œGod which worketh in youâ€ (Phil. 2:13 ) â€”the living God for which the body is a temple.
The stories of Adam, Eve, the tempting serpent and the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden; Abraham ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on a mountain; Elijah and the still small voice; Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments; Joshua making the sun and moon stand still; Jonah in the belly of the whale; the Nativity of the Lord Christ in a stable; his withering of the fig tree; his stilling of the tempest; his healings and raising of people from the dead; his Resurrection and his Ascensionâ€”these all reveal in allegory the secret of power. This aspect of the universal wisdom is also revealed in such non-biblical stories as those relating the labors of Hercules; the voyage of the Argonauts to gain the serpent-guarded Golden Fleece at Colchis; Osiris slain and Osiris risen; and the birth in prison of the Lord Shri Krishna and his victory over many evil beings, including the black serpent Kaliya.
The distinction between the Logos of a universe and the Deity in the individual being lies neither in their location nor in their essential nature, but only in the degree in which their triune powers are made manifest. In God these are manifested fully, but in human beings, in a gradually increasing degree of fullness as oneâ€™s evolution proceeds. Ultimately the inherent divine powers will be fully expressed by the spiritual Self of everyone, as they are now by the Deity. In this teaching the destiny of the individual is revealed: a God-in-the-becoming, a pilgrim God. Both the Lord Christ and the apostle Paul affirmed this fact in such words as: â€œYe shall be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfectâ€ (Matt. 5:48 ) and â€œTill we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christâ€ (Eph. 4:13 ). Such, as revealed in the Ageless Wisdom, is the threefold, immortal, spiritual Self of the individual sometimes referred to as the Higher Triad, and such is the sublime purpose of human existence.
The four more densely material vehiclesâ€”sometimes referred to as the lower quaternaryâ€”in the order of their deepening density, are the mental, the emotional, the etheric and the physical bodies. The mental body, the most tenuous of the four, is composed of mental matter or mind-stuff and is the vehicle of analytical, logical thought. The emotional body, the vehicle of feeling and desire, is composed of material which is denser than mind-stuff but finer than the physical ether. The vital or etheric body is composed of etheric substance, which is finer than the gaseous and functions as the conserving principle of the bodily vital forces and the connecting link between the superphysical and physical bodies. The corporeal body is composed of solid, liquid and gaseous materials and is the vehicle of self-expression in the physical world, the densest, heaviest instrument of awareness and action. An individualâ€™s seven bodies, comprising the Higher Triad and the lower quaternary, all occupy the same space, the finer interpenetrating and extending as an aura beyond the denser.
Knowledge of this sevenfold nature of human beings can be a key with which to unlock powers within them and the universe around them, which is also sevenfold. Each of the individualâ€™s seven bodies is in mutual resonance with forces and intelligences in the corresponding seven parts of the cosmos. The powers and intelligences associated with the seven planes of nature, the planets and the twelve signs of the zodiac, can be evoked and employed for constructive or destructive purposes by the person who possesses this key of the septenary constitution of universe and the individual. For this and other reasons, such power-bestowing knowledge, though partly conveyed, is heavily veiled in world scriptures and mythologies. In many of them, the seven principles of the individual are personified by dramatis personae who display their typical attributes, as is indicated later in this work.
When human consciousness is limited to the fourfold mortal aspect, one is temporarily unconscious of both oneâ€™s divine nature and oneâ€™s unity with God. When limited to brain consciousness, one may be said to suffer from spiritual amnesia. This forgetfulness can be overcome by arousing into activity and directing into the brain a certain electro-vital power resident in the physical body. This tremendous force is already partly active, being the source of nerve energy and of the procreative impulse and power. When more fully aroused, sublimated and directed into the heart and the head, it greatly heightens the speed of the vibratory frequency of the cells and the organs of the brainâ€”electrifies them, in fact. Thereafter, the individual thus sensitized becomes aware that he or she is a spiritual being endowed with divine powers. Because this force follows undulating pathways in its ascent along the spinal cord from the sacrum to the brain, it is sometimes referred to as â€œthe serpent fire.â€ Its potency is so great, however, that in many ancient scriptures it is only referred to under a protective veil of such symbols as serpents, dragons, hydras and other dangerous reptiles. For the same reason, knowledge of the method of its premature awakening is also protectively concealed in allegories of the conquest of serpents by saviors, heroes or heroines.
As oneâ€™s evolution proceeds, the serpent fire is naturally awakened, thereby assisting one to recover the lost knowledge of oneâ€™s own divinity and unity with God. This is the ultimate object of all spiritual endeavors. It is especially the goal of all who seek the way of mystical illumination. The Lord Christ described this experience as follows: â€œI and my Father are oneâ€ (John 10:30 ) and â€œI am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in youâ€ (John 14:20 ). Alexander Pope states, â€œAll are but parts of one stupendous whole.â€ American poet Kenneth Boulding has written of â€œThe burning oneness binding everything.â€ Oneness with God, and through God with all that lives, is the supreme truth, and its full and continuous realization is the highest attainment of humanity.
In a Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita (The Lordâ€™s Song), the Lord Vishnu as the second aspect of the Trinity, says: â€œHe who seeth Me in everything and seeth everything in Me, of him will I never lose hold, and he shall never lose hold of Meâ€ (6th Discourse, 30. Translated by Annie Besant).
In PassportAngela Morgan writes:
Hurl thou thy cry at Heavenâ€™s gate,
God must admit thee soon or late.
Thy passport? Saints could ask no more,
His image at thy very core.
The true salvation of the individual, following the â€œFall,â€ is an ascent into full experience of this fact of oneness with God, implying ascension into conscious union with the Deity.
Why, then, does the human spirit become incarnate in a physical body with the consequent loss, however temporary, of knowledge of its divinity and unity with God? The purpose of human life is spiritual, intellectual, cultural and physical evolution. This is a dual process, consisting on the one hand of the gradual unfoldment from latency to full potency of oneâ€™s threefold spiritual attributes, and on the other, of the evolution of the four material vehicles to a condition in which they perfectly make manifest the developed powers of the human spirit. Life in a physical body is essential to this attainment.
The spiritual Self of the individual is like a seed, in that it contains the potentiality of the parent plant, which is God. This seed is â€œsownâ€ or born on Earth, puts forth shoots, stems and leaves, and eventually it flowers. The resultant human individuality in its four vehicles is strengthened by the winds of adversity, purified and refined by the rain of sorrow, beautified and expanded by the sunshine of happiness and love, and ultimately reaches the fully flowered state. Just as in seeds all parental powers are inherent, so in the Monads of human beings all divine powers are potentially present from the beginning. The experiences of life, combined with the interior evolutionary impulse, bring these inherent powers to increasing fullness and perfection of expression. All experience is valuable; nothing is wasted. Life is truly educative. Egoic unfoldment and bodily development proceed simultaneously, inner evolution being accompanied by the outer development of the four mortal bodies. Here theosophical teaching becomes eminently practical, for when this all-important knowledge of the purpose of human life is gained and accepted, the intelligent person cooperates, and in such cooperation with the divine plan resides the whole secret of human happiness.
To what heights, then, does humanity ultimately attain? The goal of human evolution is the standard of perfection described in Christianity as â€œthe measure of the stature of the fullness of Christâ€ (Eph. 4:13 ). This implies the attainment of a divine state of perfected (only as far as human evolution is concerned) and resistless will, perfected and all-embracing wisdom and love, and perfected and all-inclusive knowledge.
The Ageless Wisdom affirms that the attainment of this culmination of human development is absolutely certain for everyone. The command: â€œBe ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfectâ€ (Matt. 5:48 ) , will be literally obeyed by the spiritual Self of all human beings. A lost spiritual Soul is an impossibility in nature, for the true Self is immortal, eternal and indestructible. Indeed, there is nothing to be saved from, nowhere to be lost, for God as the enfolding and indwelling life of the universe is omnipresent. Human beings need only to be on guard against the defects of their own character and the transgressions to which they lead, for all sufferings arise (karmicallyâ€”educatively) from such transgressions.
The evolutionary process is itself everlasting, being without conceivable beginning or imaginable end. Beyond human perfection is a still higher attainment reached during passage through the superhuman kingdoms of nature, followed by a general ascent towards the spiritual stature of the Logos of a universe. Beyond that again, progress continues towards the highest possible degree of unfoldment attainable at the end of a major cosmic period of manifestation. Even then, at the succeeding reemergence of cosmos from chaos, of activity from quiescence, development will continue from the point previously attained and proceed to still greater heights. Perfection is thus hardly the best word, since it suggests finality. Actually it is only attained in a relative sense, for it must give room to still further perfection, according to a higher standard of excellence in the following period of activityâ€”just as a perfect flower must cease to be a perfect flower and die in order to grow into a perfect fruit, if such a mode of expression may be permitted (SD 1:115). The individual is an evolving spiritual being and will one day become as God now is. The human being is a God-in-the-becoming, a pilgrim God.
What is meant by the term â€œGodâ€? The Ageless Wisdom affirms the existence of one transcendent, self-existent life, eternal, all-pervading, all-sustaining, from which, by which and in which all things which exist live and move and have their being. This life is immanent in our solar system and world as the Logos, the â€œWord,â€ worshipped under different names in different religions but recognized as the one creator, preserver and regenerator. The solar system is directed and guided by the solar Logos through a hierarchy of highly evolved beings, the â€œmighty Spirits before the throne.â€ On Earth this direction and guidance are carried out by a corresponding and related hierarchy of perfected beings, referred to as Rishis, sages, Adepts, saints. The divine, absolute principle reveals itself in a universal process of perpetual unfoldment of potentialities. Although this is fulfilled according to eternal law, it is not mechanical, being directed and aided by the solar Logos through its ministers. God is thus presented as both transcendent and immanent, as the creator, sustainer and transformer of all worlds and the spiritual Source of all beings within the solar system.
These definitions of Deity do not harmonize with the idea of God generally accepted in Christianity. In the Ageless Wisdom, God is not presented as an anthropomorphic figure, an almighty Being in human form and with human tendencies combined with divine powers. God is not regarded as susceptible of propitiation but rather as an embodiment of eternal law. God does not bestow favors on some and withhold them from others, all human children being regarded equally. God is not distant in a far off heaven, but actually present in the divine life in nature and the Divine + Presence in everyone, the â€œGod which worketh in youâ€ (Phil. 2:13 ).
The solar Logos is, however, said not to be so impersonal and impartial as to be unmindful of the aspirations and vicissitudes of human beings. On the contrary, the Logos may be thought of as responding to sincere and selfless aspiration to increasing wisdom and power to serve. Within the law of justice, or cause and effect, nations and individuals receive divine aid both directly and through the mediation of representatives. Divine grace is regarded as a reality which may descend upon one, either directly from the solar Logos or from the innermost divine Self. A wealth of testimony is provided by those who have experienced unexpected exaltation, inspiring enhancement of their willpower and intellectual grasp. Seemingly miraculous upliftment of spirit and the healing of disease are similarly affirmed.
At this point the student of the Ageless Wisdom meets with a statement concerning Deity which, though inevitable in logic, may at first be unacceptable and even repugnant. It is that God, as the divine principle in nature and in human beings, is evolving together with the whole universe and all which it contains toward a goal which is beyond the comprehension of mortals. â€œGod goes to school.â€ This unfoldment to ever greater heights is the ultimate destiny of everyone, â€œthe one far-off divine event, to which the whole creation movesâ€ (Tennyson, In Memoriam ). The spiritual Self of every individual is a God-in-the-becoming, whose future splendor, wisdom and power are entirely without limit.
The goal of human perfection has already been reached; such perfected beings are known as World Saviors, Mahatmas, Rishis, Adepts and, when they take pupils, Masters of the Wisdom. These superhuman beings constitute the inner government of the world and are the true spiritual teachers and inspirers of humankind. Each member of this Adept body would seem to be referred to in the Bible as having been â€œmade an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedecâ€ (Heb. 6:20 ) . The apostle Paul may have wished to indicate them by his phrase â€œjust men made perfectâ€ (Heb. 12:23 ) . This august assembly is also known as The Great White Brotherhood of Adepts, the Adept Hierarchy, the Sangha of Buddhism and the seven Rishis and their successors of Hinduism. Nietzsche expressed this idea of humans as evolving beings in his words:
Man is something to be surpassed.
Man is a bridge and not a goal.
Man is a rope stretched over the abyss
between the animal and the super-man.
How is this state of Adeptship attained? It is a natural result of evolutionary progress and is achieved by means of successive incarnations in material vehicles, newly formed during the prenatal period of each succeeding life. Repeated reincarnations in physical bodies provide the necessary time and opportunity for such attainment. The multifarious experiences thus passed through draw out the latent powers of the evolving spiritual Soul. Every experience has its value in terms of an increase of innate egoic power, wisdom and knowledge. At the near approach to perfection, however, rebirth is no longer a necessity. All further progress can then be achieved in the superphysical worlds. This is stated in the book of Revelation in the following words: â€œHim that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more outâ€ (Rev. 3:12 ).
That Shall He Also Reapâ€
All reincarnations are connected with each other by the operation of the law of cause and effect. Under this law, all actions, feelings and thoughts produce their own natural and perfectly appropriate reactions, which may follow the causative actions immediately, later in the same life, or in succeeding incarnations. This principle is referred to in many places in the Bible, Paulâ€™s statement being: â€œ. . . God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reapâ€ (Gal. 6:7 ) . The Sanskrit word karma (action) is used to designate this law, its operation and the effects it produces. Under its working, actions motivated by love, service and unselfishness produce pleasure and a growing freedom of self-expression, which encourage the actor to repeat them. On the other hand, actions motivated by dislike, greed and selfishness produce pain and an increasing limitation of self-expression, which discourage the actor from repeating them. Furthermore, the intensity of pleasure or pain is governed by the degree in which unselfish and selfish motives find expression in action. This balanced compensation is affirmed in the words of the Lord Christ: â€œJudge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you againâ€ (Matt. 7:1â€“2 ).
Human suffering is thus seen to be neither a retribution imposed by the Deity, a punishment inflicted from above, nor an unjust, accidental adversity. On the contrary, all pain is self-inflicted and therefore justly received. It is, moreover, designed to apprise the actor of his or her transgression. Suffering is thus seen to be both just and truly beneficent, because it is educative in its ultimate effect. Recognition of the law of action and reaction solves the problem of justice for humanity. All human conditionsâ€”suffering, disease, happiness and healthâ€”are self-created under law. The problem presented by the birth of babies which are malformed or diseased is solved when the sequence of cause and effect is recognized as operating throughout a series of lives. While such afflictions seem on the surface to be completely unjust because they are unearned and so undeserved, they are not really so. They are, in fact, the strictly appropriate effects of causes generated by the same Ego in former lives. Without this explanation life is, indeed, a hopeless riddle defying solution. The twin doctrines of reincarnation and karma throw a flood of light upon human life, revealing the existence of justice, purpose, and an assured goal for all beings.
The principle needs to be advanced here of the modification of karma by intervening actions performed before causes have had time to produce their full effects. Whatever oneâ€™s actions in the pastâ€”good or bad in varying degreesâ€”the reactions which they produce are not to be regarded as an inescapable fate or as a dead weight from which there is no relief. Both individuals and nations by their subsequent actions are constantly modifying the operation of the law upon themselves. Thus, neither individuals nor nations are paralyzed by their past actions. Everything is not irretrievably fated. One can master circumstances and make of each experience an opportunity for a fresh beginning and can pass from the grip of the law by learning to work with it.
Civil law is an enemy to the criminal because it restrains and restricts the expression of criminal tendencies. To the good citizen, however, the same law is an assurance of security; it is not an enemy but a friend, not a source of restriction but a preserver of freedom. This is also true of the universal law of cause and effect. To selfish, lawless and cruel people, it brings nemesisâ€”retribution in the form of a reaction appropriate to every pain-producing action. To unselfish, law-abiding, kindly people, the law brings health, happiness and freedom. Furthermore, every such helpful action performed before the effects of selfish action have had time to be precipitated reduces, and may even neutralize, oncoming adversities. Such, briefly, is the principle of the modification of human karma. There is thus a spiritual alchemy by means of which adversity resulting from actions motivated by selfishness can be diminished or even nullified. This is achieved by self-purification, self-discipline, and the enactment of deeds motivated by universal, nonpossessive love.
Such a mode of life partly constitutes â€œthe way of holinessâ€ and the â€œnarrow wayâ€ of Christianity, the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism and the Razor-edged Path of Hinduism. Christ said: â€œEnter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find itâ€ (Matt. 7:13â€“14 ). This way of life leads to quickening of evolutionary progress and the development in advance of the normal time of supernormal faculties, including spiritual intuitiveness and thaumaturgic powers. It also leads to discipleship of an adept teacher, and thence through successive initiations to salvation or perfection, Nirvana, Moksha or liberation.
The lives of Christ and his disciples, as well as of other great teachers, may be regarded as dramatic representations of the experiences of the Soul on this path. The teachings of the Lord Christ, particularly those in the Sermon on the Mount, of the Lord Buddha concerning the Noble Eightfold Path and its applications to the spiritual life, and of the Lord Shri Krishna as recorded in the Bhagavad Gita indicate the motives and the conduct necessary for this attainment.
The Noble Eightfold Path was defined by the Lord Buddha as consisting of: â€œRight Belief, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Exertion, Right Remembrance, Right Meditation or Rapture.â€ This pathâ€”noble indeedâ€”he summed up in these words: â€œTo cease from sin, to acquire virtue, to purify the heart, to serve the world.â€ â€œThe way of holiness,â€ leading to hastened progress and rapid development of spiritual powers, is open today as of old. Success in finding and treading it demands purity of life, selfless service and an unconquerable will.
This group of ideas may briefly be summed up as follows:
- The individual is essentially a spiritual being, whose mind and body are only temporary means of self-expression and self-unfoldment. When this true Self is discovered and becomes the directing power, there is permanent peace for the individual. Without that discovery, peace is impossible. The search for and the discovery of the Self is therefore of supreme importance.
- The evolution of the spiritual Self to perfection through successive lives on Earth is the true purpose of human existence.
- A personâ€™s experiences are decided by the operation of the law of cause and effect. Cruelty brings war to nations and pain and disease to individuals. There is no possible escape from this sequence.
- Inversely, kindness brings happiness and health. Until this law is recognized and accepted as a rule of life, there will continue to be both war and disease.
- The Spirit within humanity is one. Each being belongs to one spiritual people which is without divisions of any kind.
- Experience of this unity, and its applications to human life, constitute the only possible means whereby lasting peace can be established on Earth and assured health and happiness be attained by every human being.
Such, in part, are the teachings of the wisdom of the ages. Such is the path to health, happiness, perfection and eternal peace. Theosophy must not, however, be regarded as a completed system to be accepted as such. On the contrary, as must be true of everything organic and spiritual, Theosophy cannot have a fixed geometrical outline the whole of which can, as it were, be traced on paper by rule and compass. Certain aspects, such as the ideas and experiences of oneness and of the eternal Self, refuse to be objectively defined; for this would be setting a limit to both truth itself and oneâ€™s capacity to discover it as interior experience.