THE Adept paused, and my mind was invaded by a multitude of questions to which I could find no answer: “What is nature, and what is man? Why am I in this world? Did I exist before, and, if so, where did I come from? What is the object of my existence, and how will it end?”
Again the Adept, reading my thoughts, answered: “Mortal man, as you know him, is an intellectual animal, living a sort of dream-life among dream-pictures which he mistakes for realities. Real man is a celestial being, a soul dwelling temporarily within a material body. Within this organism the spiritual, divine spark finds the proper soil to generate and develop the immortal man, as has been described by Saint Paul, who speaks of that spark of divine consciousness as being sown in corruption and raised in incorruption. This spiritual man is in each person his or her personal God and Redeemer. While a man is unacquainted with the processes going on in his invisible organism, he will have little power to guide and control these processes; he will resemble a plant, which is dependent for its growth on the elements which are unconsciously brought to it by the winds and the rains, or which may accidentally be found in its surroundings; it has neither the power to prevent nor to promote its own growth. But when man obtains a knowledge of the constitution of his own soul, when he becomes conscious of the processes going on in its organism and learns to guide and control them, he will be able to command his own growth. He will become free to select or to reject the psychic influences which come within his sphere, he will become his own master and attain–so to say–psychic locomotion. He will then be as much superior to a man without such knowledge and power as an animal is superior to a plant; for while an animal may go in search of its food and select or reject what it pleases, the plant is chained to its place and depends entirely on the conditions which that one place affords. The ignorant depends on the conditions prepared for him; the wise can choose his conditions himself.”
“And what will be the end and object of this?” I asked.
“The end of it,” was the answer, “is that the soul of man enjoys supreme bliss in realising that she herself is everything and that there is nothing beyond her. The object is that mortal man shall become immortal, and a perfect instrument for the manifestation of divine wisdom.”
I heard the answer of the Master, but I could not grasp its meaning. What could that “soul” be of which he spoke as being as big as the universe, and could my soul possess any other vehicle or organism than my visible material body?
While I was meditating, the Adept stepped with me to a window where the inaccessible mountain was seen, and pointing it out to me, he said: “Behold there the door by which you entered our stronghold; concentrate your attention upon the way you came, and seek with the eye of your soul to penetrate to the other side of the mountain.”
I did so, and suddenly I found myself standing at that other side, upon the place where I had lain down to rest. Before me, upon the ground, was stretched out an apparently lifeless human figure, and to my horror I recognised it as being my own bodily self. At first everything seemed a dream, but then the thought came to me that I must have died.
There was my body; and nevertheless I was myself, and saw myself such as I had always been, with all my organs and limbs and even the same clothing which the corpse before me wore. The hat of the corpse was drawn over its eyes, and I attempted to lift it; but I might just as well have tried to lift the inaccessible mountain. There was no physical strength within my arms. I realised that my present body consisted of a state of matter differing from that of the physical plane.
I thought I must have died, and a feeling of disgust came over me, thinking that I had ever inhabited that now lifeless, grossly material form; I was so glad to be free, and had no wish to re-enter it.
But an inner voice seemed to speak to me, saying that the time of my labouring in the mundane sphere had not yet ended, and that I must return. I even felt a sort of pity for that helpless body, and the sympathy caused thereby created a strong attraction. I felt myself drawn towards that body, and was about losing my consciousness when I was called away by hearing the voice of the Master. I started as one who awakes from a dream; the Adept stood by my side, and the vision was gone.
“Know now, my friend!” he said, “the difference between your physical and your psychical or astral organism. The divine soul has many vehicles through which it may act and manifest its powers.”
“But why,” I asked, “are these things not recognised by academical science?”
“On account of self-conceit,” answered the Adept. “The scientists, up to a very recent date, used to discard such questions as being unworthy of their consideration, and they preferred annihilation rather than confess that there was something in the wide expanse of nature which they did not already know. The theories advanced by the theologians were not more satisfactory than those of the scientists, for they believed–or professed to believe–that man was a complete being, in a finished state, with perfect freedom of will, and, as a punishment for his subsequent bad behaviour, made a prisoner upon this planet. Furthermore, they were of the opinion that, if a man were leading a pious life, or, after leading a wicked life, obtained pardon for his sins and the favour of God, he would after his death become a celestial being, be ushered into a paradise, and live there for ever in a state of never-ending enjoyment.
“It will be acknowledged now by every independent thinker, that these theories were not very satisfactory to those who desired to know the truth. But there was nothing either to prove or to contradict such assumptions, and, moreover, the multitude did not think; they paid their clergy to do their thinking for them.
“Since the publication of ‘The Secret Doctrine’ the opinions of the scientists and those of the theologians have been equally shaken to their foundations. The old truth which was known to the ancients, but which had been almost entirely forgotten during our modern age of materialism, that man is not a finished being, incapable of any further organic development, but that his body and his mind are continually subject to transformation and change, and that no transformation can take place where no substance exists, because force cannot exist without substance, has become almost universally known. It was demonstrated to the scientists that their science extended only to a very small portion of that mysterious being called Man; that they only knew his outward appearance, his shell, but nothing of the living power acting within that mask which is called the physical body. It was demonstrated to the presumptuous theologians who believed that man’s eternal welfare or damnation depended on their blessings or curses, that justice cannot be separated from God, and that man’s salvation depends upon his own spiritual evolution. It was made logically comprehensible to the intellect that God in man will continue to live after all the lower and imperfect elements are dissolved, and that therefore a man in whom God did not exist in a state of divinity could not, after the death of his body, jump into a higher state for which lie was not fit, and which he was not able to attain while alive.
“The exposition of the essential constitution of Man, known to the Indian sages, described three hundred years ago by Theophrastus Paracelsus, and again set forth more fully and clearly than ever before by H. P. Blavatsky and other theosophical writers, is calculated to humble the pride of the scientists and the vanity of the priests. When it is once more known and digested, it will prove to the learned how little they know, and it will draw the line for the legitimate activity of the clergyman as an instructor in morals. It proves that man is not already a god, as some had imagined themselves to be. It proves that he may look like an intellectual giant, and still be, spiritually considered, only a dwarf. It demonstrates that the law which governs the growth of organisms on the physical plane is not reversed when it acts upon the corresponding organisms on the psychical plane. It shows that out of nothing nothing can grow; but that wherever there is the germ of something, even if that germ is invisible, something may grow and develop.
“The growth of every germ and of every being, as far as we know it, depends on certain conditions. These conditions may be established either by means of the intellectual activity of the being itself, which has the power to surround itself by such conditions, or they may have been established by external causes, over which the being has no control. A plant or an animal cannot grow unless it receives the food and the stimulus which it requires; the intellect cannot expand unless it is fed with ideas and stimulated by reason to assimilate them; the soul cannot become strong unless she finds in the lower principles the nutriment required for the acquisition of strength, and is stimulated by the light of wisdom to select that which she requires.”
Here again the thought occurred to me, how agreeable and profitable it would be to live in such a Rosicrucian convent, where everything was rendered comfortable, no disturbing elements being admitted. To this the Master answered:
“One element necessary for the development of strength is resistance. If we enter one of the vast pine forests of the Alps, or of the Rocky Mountains in the United States, we find ourselves surrounded by towering trees, whose main trunks have very few branches. Upwards they rise like the masts of a ship, covered with a gray bark, naked, and without foliage. Only near the tops, that reach out of the shadows which they throw upon each other, the branches appear and spread up to the highest points, which wave their heads in the sunlight. These trees are all top-heavy; their chiefly or only well-developed parts are their heads, and all the life which they extract from the ground and the air seems to mount to their tops; while the trunks, although increasing in size as the tree grows, are left undeveloped and bare of branches. Thus they may stand and grow from year to year, and reach a mature age; but some day, sooner or later, some dark clouds collect around the snowy peaks and assume a threatening aspect; the gleam of lightnings appears among the swelling masses, the sound of thunder is heard, bolts of liquid light dart from the rents in the clouds, and suddenly the storm sweeps down from the summit into the valley. Then the work of devastation begins. These top-heavy trees, having but little strength in their feet, are mowed down by the wind like so many stems of straw in a field of wheat; there they lie rank after rank, having tumbled over each other in their fall, and their corpses encumber the mountain sides. But at the edge of the timber, and outside of the main body of the forest, looking like outposts or sentinels near the lines of a battle, there are still here and there some solitary pines to whom the storm could do no harm. They have, on account of their isolated positions, been exposed to winds all their lives; they have become used to it and grown strong. They have not been protected and sheltered by their neighbours. They are not top-heavy, for their great strong branches grow out from the trunk a few feet above the soil, continuing up to the tops, and their roots have grown through the crevices of the rocks, holding on to them with an iron grasp. They have met with resistance since the time of their youth, and, by resisting, have gained their strength.
“Thus intellectual man, growing up protected by fashion and friends in a school, college, university, or perhaps within the walls of the convent, finds himself isolated from contrary influences and meets with but little resistance. Crowded together with those who think like him, he lives and thinks like the others. Over their heads waves the banner of some accepted authority, and upon that banner are inscribed certain dogmas in which they believe without ever daring to doubt their veracity. There they grow, throwing upon each other the shadow of their ignorance, and each prevents the others from seeing the sunlight of truth. There they cram their brains with authorised opinions, learning details of our illusory life which they mistake for the real existence; they become top-heavy, for all the energy which they receive from the universal fountain of life goes to supply the brain; the soul is left without supply; the strength of character, of which the heart is the seat, suffers; the intellect is overfed and the spirit is starved. Thus they may grow up and become proud of their knowledge; but perhaps some day new and strange ideas appear on the mental horizon, a wind begins to blow, and down tumbles the banner upon which their dogmas have been inscribed, and their pride tumbles down with it.
“But not only on the physical and the intellectual plane; in the realm of the emotions, too, the same law prevails. He who desires to develop strength must not be afraid of resistance; he must obtain strength in his feet. He must be prepared to meet the wind of the lower emotions, and not be overthrown when the storms of passion arise. He should force himself to remain in contact with that which is not according to his taste, and even to harmonise with that which appears inimical, for it is really his friend, because it can supply him with strength. He should learn to bear calumny and animosity, envy and opposition; he should learn to endure suffering, and to estimate life at its true value. The contrary influences to which he has been exposed may cause a tempest to rage through his heart; but when he has gained the power to command the tempest to cease and to say to the excited waves: be still! then will the first gleam of the rising sun appear in his heart, and before its warm glow the cold moonlight thrown out by the calculating and reflecting brain will grow pale; a new and still larger world than the external one will appear before his interior vision, in which he will be contented to live, and where he will find an inexhaustible source of happiness, unknown to those who live a life of the senses. Henceforth he will require no more to speculate reflectively about the truth, for he will see it clear in his own heart. Henceforth he will not be required to be exposed to storms, but may seek shelter in a tranquil place; not because he is afraid of the storms, which can do him no harm, but because he wants to employ his energies for the full development of the newly awakened spiritual germ, instead of wasting them uselessly on the outward plane.
“What the disciple ought to seek is to strengthen his character, which constitutes his real individuality; keeping it always in harmony with the law of divine wisdom and love. A man without strength of character is without true individuality, without self-reliance, moved only by the emotions which arise in his mind and which belong to powers foreign to his divine nature.
“Only after the attainment of a certain state of maturity, life in a solitude, isolated from contrary influences, becomes desirable and useful, and those who retire from the world as long as they need the world are attempting to ascend to the kingdom of heaven by beginning at the top of the ladder. Let him who needs the world remain in the world. The greater the temptations are by which he is surrounded, the greater will be his strength if he successfully resists. Only he who can control his mind and within his own mental sphere create the conditions which his spirit requires, is independent of all external conditions and free. He who cannot evolve a world within his own soul needs the external world to evolve his soul.
“Unspiritual men, therefore, who retire from the world because they are afraid of the world, cannot be considered to be heroes who have renounced the world; they deserve rather to be regarded as cowards who have deserted their ranks at the beginning of the battle with life. Such people sometimes retire into convents for the purpose of having a comfortable life, and in addition to that a ticket to heaven. They imagine they do a service to God by leading a harmless and useless life; for which imaginary service they expect to obtain a reward at the end of life. But the reward which they will receive will also exist merely in their imagination. As the sensualist wastes his time in the prosecution of useless pleasures, so the bigot wastes his time in useless ceremonies and prayers. The actions of the former are instigated by a desire for sensual pleasure in this life, those of the latter by the hope for pleasure in another life; both are acting for the purpose of gratifying their own selfish desires. I am unable to see any essential difference between the motives and morals of the two.
“But with spiritually developed man the case is entirely different. The divine spark in man exists independent of the conditions of relative space and time; it is eternal and self-existent. It cannot be angered by opposition, nor irritated by contradiction, nor be thrown into confusion by sophistry. If it has once become conscious of its own power, it will not require the stimulus needed by the physical organism and afforded by the impressions which come through the avenues of the senses from the outer world; for it is itself that stimulus which creates worlds within its own substance. It is the Lord over all the animal elemental forces in the astral body of man, and their turmoil can neither educate nor degrade it, for it is Divinity itself in its pure state, being eternal, unchangeable, and free.”
“Do you mean to say,” I asked, “that all asceticism and self-denial is useless?” And the Master answered:
“It all depends upon the motive. All that the egotist does for his own selfish progress and aggrandisement is useless; it is done for an illusion, and increases his self-conceit. But this you will understand only when the consciousness of the divine state awakens within you, and you begin to realise the difference between your true and your illusive self.
“He in whom this divine principle has once awakened, he who has once practically experienced the inner life, who has visited the kingdom of heaven within his own soul, he who stands firm upon his feet, will no more need the educating influences of the contending storms of the outer world, to gain strength by resistance; nor will he experience any desire to return to the pleasures and tomfooleries of the world. He renounced nothing when he retired into the solitude; for it cannot be looked upon as an act of renunciation if we throw away a thing which is a burden to us. He cannot be called an ascetic;for he does not undergo any discipline or process of hardening; it is no act of self-denial to refuse things which we do not want. The true ascetic is he who lives in the world, surrounded by its temptations; he in whose soul the animal elements are still active, craving for the gratification of their desires and possessing the means for their gratification, but who by the superior power of his will conquers his animal self. Having attained that state, he may retire from the world and employ his energies for the employment and the further expansion of the spiritual power which he possesses. He will be perfectly happy, because that which he desires he can create in his own interior world. He expects no future reward in heaven; for what could heaven offer to him except happiness which he already possesses. He desires no other good but to create good for the world.
“If you could establish theosophical academies where intellectual and spiritual development would go hand in hand, where a new science could be taught, based upon a true knowledge of the fundamental laws of the universe, and where at the same time man would be taught how to obtain mastery over himself, you would confer the greatest possible benefit upon the world. Such a convent would, moreover, afford immense advantages for the advancement of intellectual research. The establishment of a number of such places of learning would dot the mental horizon of the world with stars of the first magnitude, from which rays of intellectual light would stream and penetrate the world. Standing upon a far higher plane than the material science of our times, a new and far greater field would be laid open for investigation and research in these centres. Knowing all the different opinions of the highest accepted authorities, and not being bound by an orthodox scientific creed, having at their service all the results of the investigations of the learned, but not being bound to their systems by a belief in their infallibility, such people would be at liberty to think freely. Their convents would become centres of intelligence, illuminating the world; and if their power of self-control would grow in equal proportion with the development of their intellect, they would soon be able to enter adeptship.”
The Adept had spoken these words with unusual warmth, as if he intended to appeal to my sympathy and to induce me to use my efforts to establish such convents; there was a look of pity in his eyes, as if he exceedingly regretted the state of poor ignorant humanity, with whose Karma he was not permitted to interfere forcibly, according to the established rules of his order. I, too, regretted my own inability to establish such academies, and for once I wished that I were rich, so as to be able to make at least an attempt with one such establishment. But immediately the Imperator saw my thought in my mind, and said:
“You mistake; it is not the want of money which prevents us from executing this idea; it is the impossibility of finding at present the proper kind of people to inhabit the convent after it is established. Indeed, we would be poor alchemists if we could not produce gold in any desirable quantity, if some real benefit for humanity could be effected thereby, and of this I shall convince you, if you desire it. But gold is a curse to mankind, and we do not wish to increase the curse from which humanity suffers. Distribute gold among men, and you will only create a craving for more; give them power, and you will transform them into devils. No; it is not gold that we need; it is men who thirst after true wisdom. There are thousands who desire knowledge, but few who desire wisdom. Intellectual development, sagacity, craftiness, cunning, are to-day mistaken for spiritual development, but this conception is wrong; animal cunning is not intelligence, craftiness is not wisdom, and most of your learned men are the last ones who can bear the truth. Even many of your would-be occultists and so-called Rosicrucians have taken up their investigations merely for the purpose of gratifying their idle curiosity, while others desire to pry into the secrets of nature to obtain knowledge which they hope to employ for the attainment of selfish ends. Give us men or women who desire nothing else but the truth, and we will take care of their needs. How much money will it require to lodge a person who cares nothing for comfort? What will it take to furnish the kitchen for those who have no desire for dainties? What libraries will be required for those who can read in the book of nature? What external pictures will please those who wish to avoid a life of the senses and to retire within their own selves? What terrestrial scenery shall be selected for those who live within the paradise of their souls? What company will please those who converse with their own higher self? How can we amuse those who live in the presence of God?”
Here the Adept paused for a moment, and then continued, saying: “Verily the theosophical monastery of which I dream is even superior to ours. It is located far away from this earth, and yet it can be reached without trouble and without expense. Its monks and nuns have risen above the sphere of self. They have a temple of infinite dimensions, pervaded by the spirit of sanctity, which is the common possession of all. There the differentiation of the Universal Soul ceases, and Unification takes place. It is a convent where there exists no difference of sex, of taste, opinion, and desire; where vice cannot enter; where none are born, or marry, or die, but where they live like the angels; each one constituting the centre of a power for good; each one immersed in an infinite ocean of light; each one able to see all he desires to see, to know all he wants to know, growing in strength and expanding in size, until he embraces the All and is one with it.”
For a moment it seemed as if the soul of the Adept had gone and visited that blissful state of Nirvana, a state of which we mortals cannot conceive; but soon the light returned into his eyes, and he smilingly excused himself, saying that he had permitted himself to be carried away by the sublimity of this idea. I ventured to say that probably millions of ages would pass away before mankind would arrive at that state.
“Alas!” he answered, “the conditions which our present state of civilisation imposes upon its followers are now such as to force the vast majority of humanity to employ nearly all their time and energy in an outward direction, instead of employing them for their inward growth. Each man has a certain amount of energy which he may call his own. If he wastes his energy on the outward plane, either for the attainment of sensual gratification or in intellectual pursuits, he will have nothing left to nourish the divine germ in his heart. If he continually concentrates his mind outwardly, there will be no inward concentration of thought, which is absolutely necessary for the attainment of self-knowledge. The labouring classes, men of commerce, scientists, doctors, lawyers, and clergymen are all actively engaged in outward affairs, and find little time for the inward concentration of their powers. The majority are continually occupied in running after shadows and illusions, which are at best only useful as long as they last, but whose usefulness ceases when the heart ceases to beat. Their time and energy are taken up in procuring what they call the ‘necessaries of life,’ and they excuse themselves by saying that it is their misfortune to be so situated as to be forced to procure them. Nature, however, cares nothing for our excuses; the law of cause and effect is blind and inaccessible to argumentation. A man climbing over a mountain top and falling over a precipice, is as much in danger of breaking his neck as if he had jumped down voluntarily; a man who is not able to progress will be left as far behind as one who does not desire to progress. But nature is not so cruel as she appears to be to the superficial observer. That which man requires for the purpose of living is very little indeed, and can usually be easily obtained; for nature has amply provided for all of her children, and if they cannot all obtain their proper share then there must be something seriously wrong, either with them individually or with the social organisation as a whole. There is undoubtedly a great deal wrong in our social organisation, and our philosophers and politicians are continually trying to remedy it. They will succeed in their task when they succeed in making the laws of the human world harmonise with the laws of nature, and not before. That event may take place in the far distant future. We have not the time to wait for it. Let each one attempt to restore harmony in his own individual organism and live according to natural laws, and the harmony of the social organism as a whole will be restored.”
The words of the Adept caused me some irritation, for I loved the comforts of life. A spirit of contradiction arose within me and caused me to say: “Would you, then, do away with all luxuries, which at our present stage of civilisation have become necessities? Would you have us return to the semi-animal state of our forefathers, living as savages in the woods? I know there are certain cranks that harbour such views.”
“Not so,” answered the Adept. “The great bulk of those things which are said to be the necessities of life are only artificially created necessities, and millions of people lived and attained old age long before many of the things which our modern civilisation considers as absolutely necessary had been discovered or invented. The term ‘necessity’ has a relative meaning; and to a king a dozen of palaces, to a nobleman a carriage and four, may appear as much a necessity as to a beggar a bottle of whisky, or to a fashionable man a new swallowtail coat. To get rid at once of all such fancied necessities and the trouble which is imposed upon us to attain them, the shortest and surest way is to rise above such necessities and to consider them not to be necessary at all. Then a great amount of our energy would become free, and might be employed for the acquisition of that which is really necessary, because it is eternal and permanent, while that which serves merely temporal purposes ends in time.
“There are thousands of people engaged in prying into the details of the constitution of external objects and in learning the chemical and physiological processes going on therein, and some are sacrificing their soul and extinguishing the spark of divinity within themselves by perpetrating the most inhuman cruelties upon their fellow-beings for the purpose of gratifying their scientific curiosity and making useless discoveries for the promotion of their ambition; but they do not manifest the least desire to know their own real self, although it would seem that such a knowledge is far more important. Modern science says that she wants to know the laws of nature in all their minute ramifications, and yet she pays no attention whatever to the universal and fundamental law from which all these ramifications spring; and thus she resembles an insect crawling over a fallen leaf and imagining thereby to learn the qualities of the tree. It is surely the prerogative of intellectual man to investigate intellectually all the departments of nature; but the investigation of external things is only of secondary importance to the attainment of knowledge of our own interior powers. All primary powers act from within; effects are secondary to causes. He who considers the knowledge of external things to be more important than the knowledge of God, possesses very little wisdom indeed.”
“God?” I exclaimed. “What can we know about God? How can you prove that such a being exists?”
To this answered the Adept: “I am sorry for a man who is so far backward in his course of spiritual evolution that he is not yet able to recognise the presence of God in everything. The supreme spirit which pervades, embraces, and penetrates everything, being the very essence, soul, and life of all things in the universe, from the atom up to the whole solar system, is beyond all mental conception. If He could be grasped by the human intellect, that intellect would have to be greater than God. There is nothing real but God. Nature itself is only a manifestation of His power. Let no man expect that somebody will prove to him the existence of God; but let every one seek to be himself a living witness of His presence and power by becoming god-like and divine by His divine grace. Man is destined to restore within himself the divine image. When he realises the divine ideal within his heart, his pilgrimage through manifold incarnations will have ended and the object of his existence be accomplished. Peace be with you!”
As the Adept finished this sentence, a sound as if produced by the tinkling of small silver bells was heard in the air above our heads. I looked up, but nothing was to be seen from which that sound could have proceeded.
“This is the signal,” said the Adept, “that the members of our order are assembled in the Refectory. Let us go to join their company. Some refreshment will undoubtedly be welcome to you.”