The Key to Theosophy
THE MYSTERIES OF RE-INCARNATION
WHO ARE THOSE WHO KNOW?
Does this hold equally of ourselves as of others?
Equally. As just said, the same limited vision exists for all, save those who
have reached in the present incarnation the acme of spiritual vision and
clairvoyance. We can only perceive that, if things with us ought to have been
different, they would have been different; that we are what we have made
ourselves, and have only what we have earned for ourselves.
I am afraid such a conception would only embitter us.
I believe it is precisely the reverse. It is disbelief in the just law of
retribution that is more likely to awaken every combative feeling in man. A
child, as much as a man, resents a punishment, or even a reproof he believes to
be unmerited, far more than he does a severer punishment, if he feels that it is
merited. Belief in Karma is the highest reason for reconcilement to one’s lot
in this life, and the very strongest incentive towards effort to better the
succeeding re-birth. Both of these, indeed, would be destroyed if we supposed
that our lot was the result of anything but strict Law, or that destiny
was in any other hands than our own.
You have just asserted that this system of Re-incarnation under Karmic law
commended itself to reason, justice, and the moral sense. But, if so, is it not
at some sacrifice of the gentler qualities of sympathy and pity, and thus a
hardening of the finer instincts of human nature?
Only apparently, not really. No man can receive more or less than his deserts
without a corresponding injustice or partiality to others; and a law which could
be averted through compassion would bring about more misery than it saved, more
irritation and curses than thanks. Remember also, that we do not administer the
law, if we do create causes for its effects; it administers itself; and again,
that the most copious provision for the manifestation of provision for the
manifestation of just compassion and mercy is shown in the state of
You speak of Adepts as being an exception to the rule of our general ignorance.
Do they really know more than we do of Re-incarnation and after states?
They do, indeed. By the training of faculties we all possess, but which they
alone have developed to perfection, they have entered in spirit these various
planes and states we have been discussing. For long ages, one generation of
Adepts after another has studied the mysteries of being, of life, death, and
re-birth, and all have taught in their turn some of the facts so learned.
And is the production of Adepts the aim of Theosophy?
Theosophy considers humanity as an emanation from divinity on its return path
thereto. At an advanced point upon the path, Adeptship is reached by those who
have devoted several incarnations to its achievement. For, remember well, no man
has ever reached Adeptship in the Secret Sciences in one life; but many
incarnations are necessary for it after the formation of a conscious purpose and
the beginning of the needful training. Many may be the men and women in the very
midst of our Society who have begun this uphill work toward illumination several
incarnations ago, and who yet, owing to the personal illusions of the present
life, are either ignorant of the fact, or on the road to losing every chance in
this existence of progressing any farther. They feel an irresistible attraction
toward occultism and the Higher Life,
and yet are too personal and self-opinionated, too much in love with the
deceptive allurements of mundane life and the world’s ephemeral pleasures, to
give them up; and so lose their chance in their present birth. But, for ordinary
men, for the practical duties of daily life, such a far-off result is
inappropriate as an aim and quite ineffective as a motive.
What, then, may be their object or distinct purpose in joining the Theosophical
Many are interested in our doctrines and feel instinctively that they are truer
than those of any dogmatic religion. Others have formed a fixed resolve to
attain the highest ideal of man’s duty.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE; OR, BLIND AND REASONED FAITH
ENQUIRER. You say that they accept and believe in the doctrines of
Theosophy. But, as they do not belong to those Adepts you have just mentioned,
then they must accept your teachings on blind faith. In what does this
differ from that of conventional religions?
As it differs on almost all the other points, so it differs on this one. What
you call “faith,” and that which is blind faith, in reality, and
with regard to the dogmas of the Christian religions, becomes with us “knowledge,”
the logical sequence of things we know,
about facts in nature. Your Doctrines are based upon interpretation,
therefore, upon the second-hand testimony of Seers; ours upon the
invariable and unvarying testimony of Seers. The ordinary Christian theology,
for instance, holds that man is a creature of God, of three component
parts—body, soul, and spirit—all essential to his integrity, and all, either
in the gross form of physical earthly existence or in the etherealized form of
post-resurrection experience, needed to so constitute him for ever, each man
having thus a permanent existence separate from other men, and from the Divine.
Theosophy, on the other hand, holds that man, being an emanation from the
Unknown, yet ever present and infinite Divine Essence, his body and everything
else is impermanent, hence an illusion; Spirit alone in him being the one
enduring substance, and even that losing its separated individuality at the
moment of its complete re-union with the Universal Spirit.
If we lose even our individuality, then it becomes simply annihilation.
I say it does not, since I speak of separate,
not of universal individuality. The latter becomes as a part transformed into
the whole; the dewdrop is not evaporated, but becomes the sea. Is
physical man annihilated, when
from a foetus he becomes an old man? What kind of Satanic pride must be ours if
we place our infinitesimally small consciousness and individuality higher than
the universal and infinite consciousness!
ENQUIRER. It follows, then, that there is, de facto, no man, but
all is Spirit?
You are mistaken. It thus follows that the union of Spirit with matter is but
temporary; or, to put it more clearly, since Spirit and matter are one, being
the two opposite poles of the universal manifested substance—that
Spirit loses its right to the name so long as the smallest particle and atom of
its manifesting substance still clings to any form, the result of
differentiation. To believe otherwise is blind faith.
ENQUIRER. Thus it is on knowledge, not on faith,
that you assert that the permanent principle, the Spirit, simply makes a
transit through matter?
I would put it otherwise and say—we assert that the appearance of the
permanent and one principle, Spirit, as matter is
transient, and, therefore, no better than an illusion.
Very well; and this, given out on knowledge not faith?
Just so. But as I see very well what you are driving at, I may just as well tell
you that we hold faith, such as
you advocate, to be a mental disease, and real faith, i.e., the pistis
of the Greeks, as “belief based on knowledge,”
whether supplied by the evidence of physical or spiritual senses.
What do you mean?
I mean, if it is the difference between the two that you want to know, then I
can tell you that between faith on authority and faith on one’s
spiritual intuition, there is a very
What is it?
One is human credulity and superstition, the other human belief and intuition.
As Professor Alexander Wilder says in his “Introduction to the Eleusinian
Mysteries,” “It is ignorance
which leads to profanation. Men ridicule what they do not properly understand…
The undercurrent of this world is set towards one goal; and inside of human
credulity… is a power almost infinite, a holy faith capable of apprehending
the supremest truths of all existence.” Those who limit that “credulity”
to human authoritative dogmas alone, will never fathom that power nor even
perceive it in their natures. It is stuck fast to the external plane and is
unable to bring forth into play the essence that rules it; for to do this they
have to claim their right of private judgment, and this they never dare to
And is it that “intuition” which forces you to reject God as a personal
Father, Ruler and Governor of the Universe?
Precisely. We believe in an ever unknowable Principle, because blind aberration
alone can make one maintain that the Universe, thinking man, and all the marvels
contained even in the world of matter, could have grown without some intelligent
powers to bring about the extraordinarily wise arrangement of all its
parts. Nature may err, and often does, in its details and the external
manifestations of its materials, never in its inner causes and results. Ancient
pagans held on this question far more philosophical views than modern
philosophers, whether Agnostics, Materialists or Christians; and no pagan writer
has ever yet advanced the proposition that cruelty and mercy are not finite
feelings, and can therefore be made the attributes of an infinite god.
Their gods, therefore, were all finite. The Siamese author of the Wheel of
the Law, expresses the same idea
about your personal god as we do; he says (p. 25)—
“A Buddhist might believe in the existence of a god, sublime above all
human qualities and attributes—a perfect god, above love, and hatred, and
jealousy, calmly resting in a quietude that nothing could disturb, and of such a
god he would speak no disparagement, not from a desire to please him or fear to
offend him, but from natural veneration; but he cannot understand a god with the
attributes and qualities of men, a god who loves and hates, and shows anger; a
Deity who, whether described as by Christian Missionaries or by Mahometans or
or Jews, falls below his standard of even an ordinary good man.”
Faith for faith, is not the faith of the Christian who believes, in his human
helplessness and humility, that there is a merciful Father in Heaven who will
protect him from temptation, help him in life, and forgive him his
transgressions, better than the cold and proud, almost fatalistic faith of the
Buddhists, Vedantins, and Theosophists?
Persist in calling our belief “faith” if you will. But once we are again on
this ever-recurring question, I ask in my turn: faith for faith, is not the one
based on strict logic and reason better than the one which is based simply on
human authority or—hero-worship? Our “faith” has all the logical
force of the arithmetical truism that 2 and 2 will produce 4. Your faith is like
the logic of some emotional women, of whom Tourgenyeff said that for them 2 and
2 were generally 5, and a tallow candle into the bargain. Yours is a faith,
moreover, which clashes not only with every conceivable view of justice and
logic, but which, if analysed, leads man to his moral perdition, checks the
progress of mankind, and positively making of might, right—transforms every
second man into a Cain to his brother Abel.
What do you allude to?
HAS GOD THE RIGHT TO FORGIVE?
To the Doctrine of Atonement; I allude to that dangerous dogma in which you
believe, and which teaches us that no matter how enormous our crimes against the
laws of God and of man, we have but to believe in the self-sacrifice of Jesus
for the salvation of mankind, and his blood will wash out every stain. It is
twenty years that I preach against it, and I may now draw your attention to a
paragraph from Isis Unveiled, written
in 1875. This is what Christianity teaches, and what we combat:—
mercy is boundless and unfathomable. It is impossible to conceive of a human sin
so damnable that the price paid in advance for the redemption of the sinner
would not wipe it out if a thousandfold worse. And furthermore, it is never too
late to repent. Though the offender wait until the last minute of the last hour
of the last day of his mortal life, before his blanched lips utter the
confession of faith, he may go to Paradise; the dying thief did it, and so may
all others as vile. These are the assumptions of the Church, and of the Clergy;
assumptions banged at the heads of your countrymen by England’s favourite
preachers, right in the ‘light of the XIXth century,’” this most
paradoxical age of all. Now to what does it lead?
Does it not make the Christian happier than the Buddhist or Brahmin?
No; not the educated man, at any rate, since the majority of these have long
since virtually lost all belief in this cruel dogma. But it leads those who
still believe in it more easily to the threshold of every
conceivable crime, than any other I
know of. Let me quote to you from Isis once more (vide
Vol. II. pp. 542 and 543)—
“If we step outside the little circle of creed and consider the
universe as a whole balanced by the exquisite adjustment of parts, how all sound
logic, how the faintest glimmering sense of justice, revolts against this
Vicarious Atonement! If the criminal sinned only against himself, and wronged no
one but himself; if by sincere repentance he could cause the obliteration of
past events, not only from the memory of man, but also from that imperishable
record, which no deity—not even the Supremest of the Supreme—can cause to
disappear, then this dogma might not be incomprehensible. But to maintain that
one may wrong his fellow-man, kill, disturb the equilibrium of society and the
natural order of things, and then—through cowardice, hope, or compulsion, it
matters not—be forgiven by believing that the spilling of one blood washes out
the other blood spilt—this is preposterous! Can the results of a
crime be obliterated even though the crime itself should be pardoned? The
effects of a cause are never limited to the boundaries of the cause, nor can the
results of crime be confined to the offender and his victim. Every good as well
as evil action has its effects, as palpably as the stone flung into calm water.
The simile is trite, but it is the best ever conceived, so let us use it. The
eddying circles are greater and swifter as the disturbing object is greater or
smaller, but the smallest pebble, nay, the tiniest speck, makes its ripples. And
this disturbance is not alone visible and on the surface. Below, unseen, in
every direction—outward and downward—drop pushes drop until the sides and
bottom are touched by the force. More, the air above the water is agitated, and
this disturbance passes, as the physicists tell us, from stratum to stratum out
into space forever and ever; an impulse has been given to matter, and that is
never lost, can never be recalled!…
“So with crime, and so with its opposite. The action may be
instantaneous, the effects are eternal. When, after the stone is once flung into
the pond, we can recall it to the hand, roll back the ripples, obliterate the
force expended, restore the etheric waves to their previous state of non-being,
and wipe out every trace of the act of throwing the missile, so that Time’s
record shall not show that it ever happened, then, then we may
patiently hear Christians argue for the efficacy of this Atonement,”
to believe in Karmic Law. As it now stands, we call upon the whole world to
decide, which of our two doctrines is the most appreciative of deific justice,
and which is more reasonable, even on simple human evidence and logic.
Yet millions believe in the Christian dogma and are happy.
Pure sentimentalism overpowering their thinking faculties, which no true
philanthropist or Altruist will ever accept. It is not even a dream of
selfishness, but a nightmare of the human intellect. Look where it leads to, and
tell me the name of that pagan country where crimes are more easily committed or
more numerous than in Christian lands. Look at the long and ghastly annual
records of crimes committed in European countries; and behold Protestant and
Biblical America. There, conversions effected in prisons are more
numerous than those made by public revivals and preaching. See how the
ledger-balance of Christian justice (!) stands: Red-handed murderers, urged on
by the demons of lust, revenge, cupidity, fanaticism, or mere brutal thirst for
blood, who kill their victims, in most cases, without giving them time to repent
or call on Jesus. These, perhaps, died sinful, and, of course—consistently
with theological logic—met the reward of their greater or lesser offences. But
the murderer, overtaken by human justice, is imprisoned, wept over by
sentimentalists, prayed with and at, pronounces the charmed words of conversion,
and goes to the scaffold a redeemed child of Jesus! Except for the murder, he
would not have been prayed with, redeemed, pardoned. Clearly this man did well
to murder, for thus he gained eternal happiness! And how about the victim, and
his, or her family, relatives, dependents, social relations; has justice no
recompense for them? Must they suffer in this world and the next, while he who
wronged them sits beside the “holy thief” of Calvary, and is for ever
blessed? On this question the clergy keep a prudent silence. (Isis
Unveiled.) And now you know why Theosophists—whose
fundamental belief and hope is justice for all, in Heaven as on earth, and in
Karma—reject this dogma.
The ultimate destiny of man, then, is not a Heaven presided over by God, but the
gradual transformation of matter into its primordial element, Spirit?
THEOSOPHIST. It is to that final goal to which all
tends in nature.
Do not some of you regard this association or “fall of spirit into matter”
as evil, and re-birth as a sorrow?
Some do, and therefore strive to shorten their period of probation on earth. It
is not an unmixed evil, however, since it ensures the experience upon which we
mount to knowledge and wisdom. I mean that experience which teaches that
the needs of our spiritual nature can never be met by other than spiritual
happiness. As long as we are in the body, we are subjected to pain, suffering
and all the disappointing incidents occurring during life. Therefore, and to
palliate this, we finally acquire knowledge which alone can afford us relief and
hope of a better future.
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Brahmins are here meant. The Parabrahm of the Vedantins is the Deity we
accept and believe in.