VI. THE ALCHEMICAL LABORATORY
WE went through a beautiful and broad corridor, all along whose sides stood finely executed marble statues representing the gods and goddesses of antiquity, and busts of the heroes of olden times. “These statues,” my companion remarked, “represent the elemental principles and powers of nature, and they were thus personified by the ancients to bring the attributes of these principles within the conceptive power of the mind. None of the old Greeks and Romans, except the most ignorant, ever believed that Zeus, Pluto, Neptune, &c., were existing personalities; nor did they ever worship them as such. They were merely symbols and personifications of formless powers. Likewise, every man’s form and body is not the real man; it is merely a symbol and personification of the character and attributes of the real man, a form of matter in which the thoughts of the real man have found their external expression. The ancients knew these things; it is only the modern wiseacres who mistake the external illusions for internal truths, and the form for the principle. It is modern materialistic religion which has degraded the Universal Spirit into a limited being, and the great powers of nature into Christian saints.”
We entered into a circular hall in the form of a temple. It had no windows, but received its light from a cupola of clear glass. High over our heads, below the cupola, was a large interlaced double triangle made of gold and surrounded by a snake biting its tail. In the midst of the room, and directly under that symbol, stood a round table with white marble top, in the centre of which was a smaller representation of the figure above, executed in silver. The walls were ornamented with bookcases, in which were a great number of books on alchemy. At one side of the room there was a kind of altar upon which stood a burning lamp. A couple of crucibles, a few bottles upon a side-table, and some armchairs completed the furniture of the room.
I looked around, expecting to see some furnaces, stoves, retorts, and other implements, such as are described in books on alchemy, but could see none. My instructor, reading my thoughts, laughingly said: “Did you expect to find here an apothecary’s shop? You mistake, my friend. All this array of bottles and pots, of furnaces, stoves, retorts, mortars, filters, strainers, distilling, purifying, and refining apparatus, &c., described in books on alchemy, is nothing but nonsense, written to mislead the selfish and vicious, and to prevent them from prying into mysteries which they are not fit to receive. The true alchemist requires no ingredients for his processes, such as he could buy in a chemist’s shop. He finds the materials which he needs within his own organisation. The highest processes of alchemy require no mechanical labour; they consist in the purification of the soul, and in transforming animal man into a divine being.”
“But,” said I, “did not the ancient alchemists treat real metals and transform them into others of a higher order?”
To this Theodorus replied:
“The invisible principles of which the constitution of man is made up are called his metals, because they are more lasting and enduring than flesh and blood. The metals which are formed by his thoughts and desires will continue to exist after the perishing elements constituting his physical body have been dissolved. Man’s animal principles are the base metals of which his animal organisation consists; they must be changed into nobler metals by transforming his vices into virtue, until they pass through all colours and turn into the gold of pure spirituality. To accomplish this it is necessary that the grossest elements in his astral form should die and putrefy, so that the light of the spirit penetrate through the hard shell and call the inner man into life and activity.”
“Then,” I said, “all those alchemical prescriptions which we find in the books are only to be taken in a figurative sense, and have nothing to do with material substances, such as salt, sulphur, mercury, &c.”
“Not exactly so,” answered the Adept. “There are no hard lines separating the various kingdoms in nature, and the actions of laws manifested in one kingdom find their analogies in other kingdoms. The processes taking place in the spiritual planes are also taking place in the astral and material planes, subject, of course, to such modifications as are imposed by the conditions existing upon these planes. Nature is not, as your scientists seem to believe, an agglomeration of fundamentally different objects and elements; nature is a whole, and everything in the organism acts and is acted on by every other thing contained therein. This is a fact which the ancient alchemists knew, and which the modern chemists would do well to remember; for we find already in the book of Sohar the following passage, which I advise you to note down in your book, so that you will not forget it: Everything that exists upon the Earth has its ethereal counterpart above the Earth (that is to say, in the inner realm), and there is nothing, however insignificant it may appear in the world, which is not depending on something higher (or more interior ); so that if the lower part acts, its presiding higher part reacts upon it.”
“It has been taught by the ancients,” I interjected, “that man is a little world, constituted in a manner similar to the big world, which he inhabits.”
“This is true,” said the Adept; “but you should not merely know it as a theory, but realise it. Within yourself is contained the universe with all its powers, heaven and hell, angels and devils, and all the kingdoms with their inhabitants, and you may call them into life at your pleasure. You are the god and creator within your own universe. You continually people that world with forms, coming into existence by your thoughts, and you infuse them with your life by the power of will. In each human being are contained germinally the essences which constitute the mineral, vegetable, animal, or human kingdom; in each man are contained powers which may be developed into a tiger, a snake, a hog, a dragon, into a sage or a villain, into an angel or devil, into an Adept or a God. Those elements which are made to grow and to be developed will become the man’s alter ego and constitute his “self.” Look at the double interlaced triangle over your head; it represents the Macrocosm with all the forces contained therein, the interpenetration and union of Spirit and Matter, within the never-ending circle of eternity. Look at the smaller symbol upon the table before you; it represents the same elements within the constitution of Man. If you can bring the double interlaced triangles existing within your own body into harmony with those existing in the Universe, the powers of nature will be yours, and you will be able to guide and control them.”
I thought of the nature of the many different ingredients necessary to make an alchemical experiment, and of the manner in which they must be mixed; but Theodorus perceived my thought and replied:
“The universal process, by which all the processes of life take place, is the unfoldment of Life. He who can guide and control the power of life is an alchemist. He can create new forms and increase the substance of those forms. The chemist creates nothing new; he merely forms new combinations of the substances in his possession; the alchemist causes the substance to attract corresponding elements from the invisible storehouse in nature, and to increase. The chemist deals with matter in which the principle of life is inactive, that is to say, in which it manifests itself merely as mechanical or chemical energy; the alchemist deals with the principle of life, and causes living forms to come into existence. The chemist may transform sulphur into invisible gas and cause that gas to become sulphur again, and the sulphur obtained at the end of the experiment will be just as much in quantity as it was at the beginning; but the gardener who puts a seed in the ground, and prepares the conditions necessary for that seed to grow into a tree, is an alchemist because he calls something into existence which did not exist ready-made in the seed, and out of one seed he may thus obtain a thousand seeds of the same kind.”
“But,” I objected, “it is said that the Rosicrucians possessed the power to turn iron, silver, or mercury into gold. Surely there is no gold in pure silver or mercury; how, then, could they cause something to grow which did not exist?”
The Adept smiled, and said: “Through your lips speaks the learned ignorance of your modern civilisation, which cannot see the truth, because it has created a mountain of misconceptions and scientific prejudices which now stand between itself and the truth. Let me then tell you once more that Nature is a Unity, and that consequently each particle of matter, even the smallest, is a part of nature in which the possibilities of the whole are hidden. Each speck of dust may under favourable conditions develop into a universe in which all the elements existing in nature can be found. The reason why your scientists are unable to comprehend this truth is because their fundamental doctrines about the constitution of matter and energy are entirely wrong. Your Dualism in theology has been the cause of untold misery, creating a continual quarrel between God and the Devil; your Polytheism in science blinds the eyes and obstructs the judgment of the learned, and keeps them in ignorance. What do you know about the attributes of primordial matter? What do you know about the difference between matter and force? All the so-called “simple substances” known to your science are originally grown out of primordial matter. But this primordial matter is a Unity; it is only One. Consequently each particle of this primordial matter must be able to grow under certain conditions into gold, under other conditions to produce iron, under others mercury, &c. This is what the ancient alchemists meant when they said that each of the seven metals contains the seeds of the other seven; and they also taught that, for the purpose of transmuting one body into another, the body to be transmuted would have to be reduced first into its Prima Materia.
“But,” he continued, “I see that you are anxious to have the truth of these doctrines demonstrated by an experiment; let us then see whether it is possible that we can make gold grow out of its seed.”
Without rising from the big armchair in which Theodorus was seated, he then directed me to take one of the crucibles upon the table, to see that it was empty, and to put it upon a tripod over the flame burning upon the altar. I did as directed. He then said: “Now take some of the silver pieces which you have in your pocket, and throw them into the crucible.” I took seven pieces which I had with me, and did as he said. After a few minutes they began to melt, and, as I saw the silver in the crucible had become fluid, I told the Adept that it was molten. He then indicated a small bottle containing some red powder, which stood upon the table, and requested me to take some of that red powder and to throw it into the crucible. There was a little silver spoon lying upon the table, and with this I took what seemed to be about one or two grains of the red powder from the bottle, and was going to throw it into the crucible, but Theodorus stopped me, saying that this was too much powder, and it should not be wasted. He told me to throw the powder back into the bottle and to wipe the spoon with a piece of paper, and then to throw the paper into the crucible. The quantity of powder which adhered to the spoon after I had returned the former to the bottle was so little as to be hardly visible; nevertheless, I did as he told me, and threw the little piece of paper upon the molten silver. Immediately the paper burned, and the molten metal began to foam and to rise, so that I was afraid that it would run over the sides of the crucible; but each bubble burst as it reached the top, and exhibited a variety of the most beautiful colours.
This play lasted for about fifteen minutes, when the boiling ceased, and the foaming mass sank back to the bottom of the crucible. Theodorus noticed that it had become quiet; he directed me to take the crucible from the fire and to pour the contents upon a marble slab. I did as he told me, and directly the mass became solid, and appeared to be the finest gold.
“Take this gold with you,” said Theodorus, “and let it be examined, so that you will be convinced that you have not been the victim of an hallucination.”
I was very much astonished, and I thought how much our people would give to become acquainted with the secret of this red powder. I desired to ask the Adept how this powder could be prepared, but I did not dare to ask the question aloud, because I was afraid that Theodorus would think I desired to know the secret for the purpose of enriching myself. But the Adept saw my thought, and said:
“The secret of how this red powder is prepared cannot be explained to men until they become more spiritual; because it is a secret whose knowledge must be practically acquired. How can we teach mankind to employ powers which they do not possess, and of which they do not even know the existence? Nevertheless, the germs of these powers are contained in a latent condition within the organism of every human being.
“It would be foolish to suppose that gold could be made out of any other substance than gold; but every substance contains the germ of gold in its own primordial state.
“In the alchemical laboratory of nature, iron-pyrites and other substances produce gold in the course of ages, because the principle of gold contained in their primordial element grows by the action of the life-principle of nature, and becomes visible gold. This process, which it may require unconscious nature millions of years to accomplish, can be accomplished by nature in a few minutes if her will-power is guided by the spiritual consciousness and intelligence of the Adept. It is as impossible to make gold grow out of anything containing no gold as it is impossible to make an apple tree grow out of a cherry stone. But if we wish to see an apple tree grow out of a seed we do not insert it in a hole bored into a rock, but we select a proper piece of soil where it can grow by the aid of sunlight and moisture. Likewise, if we desire gold to grow out of the ‘seed’ or principleof gold, we must add the proper soil which it requires; and this ‘soil’ is furnished by the red powder, which contains the life-principle for the production of gold. Know that there is no ‘dead’ substance in the universe, and that even a stone or a metal contains life in a latent form. If the life-principle within such a substance becomes active, this substance will begin to form and to produce the various colours which you saw in the crucible. If the mass were cold and solid, the power of life would be slow to penetrate below the surface of the metal; nevertheless, the transmutation would gradually take place; but in the molten mass the life-giving substance becomes thoroughly mixed with the metal, ebullition takes place, and the transmutation is quickly performed.
“Why should growth and development and transmutation of form be possible only in the vegetable and animal kingdom? It is equally possible in the mineral kingdom; the only difference is that in the former it takes place within a sufficiently short period of time, so as to come within the observation of man; while in the latter these processes take place very slowly, and many generations of men may pass away before any progress in the growth of metals can be observed.
“The seed for the production of plants grows in the plants themselves; the seed for the production of animals grows in the animals; the ‘seed’ for the production of metals rests in the metals. It is not sufficient merely to melt a metal, to make it grow; it must be made subject to the power of life. This is done by the addition of the red powder, of which an almost imperceptible quantity is sufficient to cause the growth of a great quantity of gold. The few atoms of powder which you used were enough and to spare to transmute your silver, as you will see if you now examine your gold, which has not absorbed all of the red powder which adhered to the paper.”
I looked at the gold, which had now become cold enough to be handled, and, indeed, upon its surface there were some little red pearls like rubies, which seemed to indicate that they were parts of the red powder which had not been absorbed by the molten mass.
“Master! “I exclaimed, “teach me this secret, and I promise you that I will never use the knowledge obtained for any selfish purpose whatever. I have learned enough of occultism to know that worldly possessions and riches are useless for the purpose of spiritual development, and that they are in truth the greatest obstacles which can be put in the way of those who desire to progress. I only desire to know the truth for the sake of the truth, and not for the purpose of obtaining any selfish advantage. Teach me these secrets, and I will forget my own self, and devote my life to benefit the universal brotherhood of humanity.”
“Very well,” answered the Adept. “I will do all I can to show you the way, but you must do your own walking. To teach you the secret of how to make gold is identical with teaching you all the secrets of the constitution of nature, and of its counterpart, the microcosm of man. This cannot be done in a few hours, or within a few days, and it would be against the rules of our order to retain you here longer than after sunset. But to enable you to study this science of alchemy, I will lend you a book which you may read and study; and if you keep your intuitional faculties open and your mind unclouded, I will be invisibly near you and assist you to understand the meaning of the secret symbols contained therein.”
With these words Theodorus handed me a book containing a number of coloured plates with symbols and signs. It was an old book, and its title was “The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.”
“The size of the book,” continued the Adept, “renders it rather inconvenient for you to carry it on your descent from the mountain, but I will send it to your hotel at the village, where you will find it on your arrival.”
I thanked the Adept, and looked once more at the mysterious book. I glanced at the titles of the pages, and saw that they treated about the greatest of mysteries, of the Macrocosm and Microcosm, of Time and Eternity, of Occult Numbers, the Four Elements, the Trinity of All, of Regeneration, Alchemy, Philosophy, and Cabala; it was indeed a book on Universal Science.
“If you practically understand the contents of this book,” said Theodorus, “you will not merely know how to produce gold out of the baser metals, which is one of the lowest, most insignificant, and comparatively worthless parts of our art, but you will know the mystery of the Rose and the Cross; you will know how to come into possession of the Philosopher’s Stone and the Universal Panacea, which renders those who possess it immortal. You will then not merely know how to direct the processes of life, so as to make pearls and diamonds and precious stones grow, but you will know how to make a man out of an animal, and a god out of a man. This last alchemical process is the one thing which is needed, and in comparison all other arts are merely playthings for children. What will it serve us to run after illusions, which will vanish in time, if we can obtain within ourselves that which is eternal and real?”
I asked the Adept whether I would be permitted to show that book to others, or to have it copied and printed; upon which he replied:
“There are at present few people in the world who would be able to comprehend this book to its fullest extent; but there are some who desire to know the truth, and for the sake of these few you may risk to throw pearls before the swine. The symbols contained in these pages must be not merely seen and studied with the intellect, they must also be grasped by the spirit. To make this plain to you, know that each occult symbol and sign, from a mere point up to the double-interlaced Triangle, to the Rose and the Cross, has three significations. The first is the exoteric meaning, which is easily understood; the second is the esoteric or secret signification, which may be intellectually explained; the deepest and most mysterious one is the third, the spiritual meaning, which cannot be explained, but which must be spiritually experienced within yourself. This practical, internal experience is arrived at by the power of intuition, or the faculty by which the soul feels the presence of things which one cannot see with the bodily senses. If a person once feels interior things with his heart, sees them by his internal sight, and understands their attributes, then such a person has become illuminated, and is practically an Adept.
“As the number Three grows out of the One, likewise the Seven grows out of the Three; because by a combination of three numbers or letters four complications arise, forming with the original Three the number Seven; and thus there are not merely three, but seven explanations of each symbol. You see, therefore, that the matter is very complicated, and requires deep study. Nor would it benefit you if I were to explain to you all the various meanings of these symbols; for you must learn to realise that you yourself are a symbol. These symbols represent the mysteries of the universe and of man. You are that universe, you are the man, and these things are representing yourself. What good would the explanations do to you if you do not realise that they are true?”
“But,” I interposed, “if this is so, it will be useless to read any such books.”
“Those who know these things themselves,” said Theodorus, “do not need them, and those who do need them do not understand them. Books of that kind are like mirrors in which a man sees the things reflected which are existing in him. A monkey stands before a looking-glass and sees his own image, but he thinks it is another monkey aping his motions. If you know the contents of a book, describing a truth, you only know the description but not the very truth itself. You may know the contents of the Bible by heart from beginning to end, together with all the commentaries, and still not realise the truth of one iota of it. Self is the man. That which he finds out by his own experience, that he knows, and nothing more.
“When I was an inhabitant of your world, I had many a hard rub with your doctors of medicine and of divinity, because they lived upon the ignorance of the people, and the more I enlightened the latter, the less flattering grew the bread-and-butter prospects of the former. I usually found that the more learned your doctors were, the more did they lose their own common sense. I live here in peace, and care little about their disputations and argumentations; but I take occasionally a glance at the world, and I do not see much change for the better.”
“Nevertheless,” I said, “you will agree that science has made a great deal of progress since those days?”
“True,” he answered, “she has progressed in some things and retrograded in others. She has made many inventions to increase the physical comforts of man and to gratify his desires; but in proportion as man’s desires have been gratified, they have also grown, and new necessities have been created. Many of your most useful inventions, however, have not been made by the help, but rather in spite of the opposition, of your professional scientists.
“Moreover, if the psychical faculties of man were developed, many of your most useful inventions would be perfectly useless; they would be displaced by far better methods, in the same sense as bows and arrows have become useless since the invention of gunpowder and guns. You are very proud of your railroads and telegraphs, but of what use are they to a man who is able to travel with the velocity of thought from one place to another, however distant that place may be. Learn to chain the elemental spirits of nature to the chariot of your science, and you may mount like an eagle and ride through the air.”
“I should be very glad,” I said, “if you would inform me how a person can travel with the velocity of thought from one place to another. It seems to me that the weight of the physical body would present an insurmountable impediment.”
“Neither would psychically developed man need to take that cumbrous form along on such travels,” answered Theodorus. “What or who is Man? Is he that semi-animal mechanism, which eats, drinks, and walks, and wastes nearly half of its life in unconscious sleep; that mass of bones and muscles, of blood and sensitive nerves, which hinders the free movements of the spirit who is chained to it; or is the man that invisible something which thinks and feels, and knows that it exists?”
I said: “Undoubtedly the real man is the thinking principle in man.”
“If you admit this,” answered the Adept, “you will also agree that the real man is in that place and locality wherein he thinks and perceives; in other words, he is there where his consciousness exists. Thinking is a faculty of the mind, and not a faculty of the physical body. It is not my brain which thinks; but I myself do my thinking by means of my brain. Wherever our mind exercises that faculty, there is our true habitation; whether our physical form is there, too, is a circumstance which need not concern us any more than it would concern us to carry a warm and. heavy coat which we are accustomed to wear in winter along with us while we are making a summer excursion. Thinking is a faculty of the mind, and Mind is universal. If we learn to think independently of our physical brain, we may as well exercise that faculty in one place of the universe as in another, without taking our physical body along.”
“But,” I objected, “how can a universal and therefore unorganised principle think, without using for that purpose an organised brain?”
“Short-sighted mortal!” exclaimed Theodorus. “Who says that Mind is without an organisation? Who has so little judgment as to suppose that the highest organised living and conscious principle in the universe is without an organisation, if even the inferior kingdoms upon the face of the earth, such as crystal, plant, and animal, cannot exist without an organisation? Surely the air does not think; it has no firm organisation; but the Universal Mind is not air, nor is it empty space; it has nothing in common with either, except its being everywhere present. It is the highest organised principle in the universe.
“Inferior man, in whom the consciousness of his higher spiritual self has not awakened, cannot think without the aid of the physical brain; he cannot experience a consciousness which he does not yet possess; he cannot exercise a faculty which is merely latent within his organisation. But the man who has awakened to the consciousness of his higher self, whose life has been concentrated into his higher principles, which exist independently of the physical form, constitutes a spiritual centre of consciousness, which does not require the physical brain to think, any more than you require the use of your hands and feet for the purpose of thinking. If a person in a somnambulic condition travels in spirit to a distant place and reports what he has seen there, and his observations are afterwards verified, must we not conclude that he has been at that place, and would it be reasonable to suppose that he has taken his physical brain with him and left the empty skull behind? How absurd is such an idea; but verily its absurdity does not surpass that of your suggestion, that the universal mind is without an organisation.”
I was somewhat confused at having inconsiderately expressed an opinion about a subject of which I could not know anything, and the Adept, noticing my regret, continued in a mild manner: “If you desire to know the organisation of nature, study your own constitution, not merely in its physical, anatomical, and physiological aspect, but especially in its psychological aspect. Study what may be called the physiology of your soul. If your foot were not an organised substance intimately connected with your brain by means of the nerves and the spinal cord, you would never be able to feel any sensation in your foot; the latter might be burned or amputated, and you would not be aware of it unless you should see its destruction. You do not think with your foot, you think with your brain; or, to express it more correctly, you think by means of your brain. But if you were more spiritually developed, you would be able to sink your thought and consciousness from your brain down into your feet, or into any other part of your body, and, so to say, live in that part and be entirely unconscious of any other part. It has already come to the comprehension of some of your more advanced scientists that sensation and consciousness may be withdrawn from any part of the body, either by an effort of the will and imagination of the person who undertakes the experiment, or by the aid of the will and imagination of a ‘magnetizer’ or ‘mesmerizer.’ In the same manner the opposite thing can be done, and a person may concentrate himself, so to say, in any part of his own organism, or in any part of the great organism of nature with which he is intimately and inseparably, although invisibly, connected. A man who believes that he exists independently of nature and separated from it, labours under a great delusion. The fundamental doctrine of occultism is that nature is only one, and that all beings in nature are intimately connected together, and that everything in nature acts upon every other thing therein. The feeling of isolation and separateness existing in individuals is only caused by the illusion of form. Man’s form is not man; it is merely a state of matter in which man for the time being exists, and which is continually subject to change. It may be compared to an image in a mirror in which the character of man is imperfectly reflected, and although it differs from the image in a mirror in so far as it is temporarily endowed or infused with life, sensation, and consciousness, nevertheless it is nothing else than an image; for life, sensation, and consciousness do not belong to the form; they are functions of the invisible but real man who forms a part of the invisible organism of nature, and whose mind is a part of the universal mind, and who, therefore, if he once realises his true character and learns to know his own powers, may concentrate his consciousness in any place, within or beyond his physical form, and see, feel, and understand what takes place in such a locality.”
“These ideas,” I said, “are so grand that I am not yet fully able to grasp them; but I fear that they will never be accepted by our scientists, who cannot see beyond the narrow systems which they themselves have created.”
“True,” answered the Adept; “they will not be accepted or understood by our present generation of scientists; but they will be known in the future to those who are not merely learned, but wise, as they were known to the wise men of the past. Ignorance and self-conceit are twin-brothers; and it flatters man’s vanity to believe that he is something superior to and different from the rest; and the more a man is learned in superficial science, the more does he believe in his own imaginary superiority and separateness. The consciousness of the great majority of intelligent people in our intellectual age is nearly all concentrated within their brains; they live, so to say, entirely in the top-storey of their houses. But the brain is not the most important part of the house in which man resides. The centre of life is the heart; and if consciousness does not take its residence in the centre of life, it will become separate from life, and finally cease to exist. Let those who desire to develop spiritually attempt to think with their hearts, instead of merely studying with their brains. Let them attempt to sink day after day their power of thought down to the centre of life in the heart, until their consciousness is firmly established there. At first they will see nothing but darkness; but, if they persevere in their efforts, they will behold a light at that centre which illuminates the mind. This inextinguishable light will send its rays to the brain and carry them as far as the stars; and in it they may see the past, the present, and the future.
“The greatest mysteries in nature are by no means difficult to understand, if we only prefer to look at them instead of looking at our own delusions. The grandest ideas are easy to grasp, if we merely prefer to grasp them instead of holding on to our fancies. Man’s mind is like a mirror in which the ideas floating in the universal mind are reflected, comparable to a tranquil lake in which you may see the true images of the passing clouds. If the surface of the lake is disturbed, the images become distorted; if the water becomes muddy, the reflections cease altogether. Likewise, if the mind of man is in a tranquil state and clear of foreign elements, he will reflect the grandest and noblest ideas existing within the world of mind. If we desire to think reasonably, we should allow the goddess of Reason to do her thinking within our brain; but if we attempt to be wiser than Reason, our mind becomes filled with our own fancies and those which we have acquired from others, and we cannot see the truth as it is, but we see it as we imagine it to be.
“This truth you will find symbolically or allegorically represented in all the principal mythologies and religious systems of the world. It is the old story of the ‘Fall of Man.’ As long as man remained in a state of purity–that is to say, as long as his will and imagination were one and identical with the will and the imagination of the spiritual creative power in nature–he knew the truth and was all-powerful; but when he began to think and to imagine in a way different from that universal power, he lost sight of the truth and could see only his own fancies. If man wants to see the truth again, he must give up his own way of reasoning and let Reason act in him. But you may as well ask a miser to give up the treasure which he has collected and hoarded during a lifetime as to ask a modern scientist or philosopher to give up his own crooked ways. I see in your heart a desire to establish a secret society; but let me warn you that if you attempt to accomplish this by appealing to those who are clever and cunning, vainglorious and proud of their own attainments, full of ambition and anxious to come into possession of occult or magical powers for the purpose of gratifying their scientific curiosity or to employ them for the fulfilment of some selfish desire, you will certainly fail; for it is written: “Whosoever hath, to him shall be given and he shall have more in abundance, but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
“I know that quotation,” I answered, “but its meaning is not quite clear to me.”
“It means,” replied Theodorus, “that to him who has the love of wisdom in his heart, abundant light will be given; but from him who is filled with selfish desires, what little understanding he has will be taken away.”
“I acknowledge,” I said, “that I have been thinking of finding means to establish a society, or a school for spiritual development, where those who desire to progress might be able to spend their energies for the purpose of that which is useful and lasting, instead of being forced to run after the illusions of the world. I have been mentally seeking for a place in a solitude where the members of such a society might lead an interior life. I should like to establish a theosophical monastery, where we could live like yourself, surrounded by all the grandeur, sublimity, and stillness of nature, escape the servitude of fashionable society, and step on the path to adeptship. But surely I could not think of selecting our members from the ranks of the uneducated and ignorant.”
“Select them among those who are strong and virtuous,” answered Theodorus, “and your choice will be well made. Choose those who have overcome preconceived opinions and prejudices; select them among those who have no desire to obtain knowledge for their own personal benefit and do not wish to shine, but to let the light grow within themselves. Such persons are very rare; but if you find any, and if they join you in your efforts, you will soon have the most enlightened society in the world. That which is to-day called learning and education is merely a very laborious method of acquiring a little superficial knowledge which mankind is forced to adopt because they do not know how to develop their spiritual perception. If this method were taught and practised, real knowledge would soon occupy the place of mere learning, certainty the place of belief, conviction the place of opinion, true faith the place of creed. If the inhabitants of your proposed convent were pure-minded men and women, great souls and living mirrors in which Divine Wisdom could be reflected without any adulteration, such a monastery would be the greatest ornament of the world. Such centres of spiritual intelligence would be like suns of the first magnitude on the mental horizon of the world. One such centre would be sufficient to illuminate the world with its wisdom and to send its intellectual rays to the utmost limits of the planet.”
“And what is to hinder the establishment of such a centre of intelligence?” I asked.
“Nothing but the imperfections of man and the abundance of his selfish desires. There are two sources from which the obstacles arise that are in the way of those who desire to attain self-knowledge and immortality. One class of obstacles arises from man’s interior self, the other from the external conditions in which he lives. The internal obstacles are caused by his acquired scientific or theological prejudices and misconceptions regarding the constitution of man, and by the living elemental forces active within the animal principle in his constitution. As they are fed and grow strong by external influences, they manifest themselves in various ways, producing animal impulses, and in combination with the intellectual acquirements they grow into the more dangerous class of vices, such as ambition, vanity, greed, intolerance, selfishness, &c. Each of these animal elements, orElementals, may grow into an intellectual but unreasonable being, and finally constitute the very alter ego of man. Man may have a great many such false egos within him, until perhaps one of these overmasters the others and becomes a king in the realm of his soul. Each such “self” absorbs a share of the life and consciousness of the man in whose soul it exists, and may finally even occupy all space within his intellectual sphere, so as to paralyse reason or drive it away. The world is crowded with such intellectual or semi-intellectual Elementals in human shape, in whom reason has been paralysed to a greater or lesser extent. You see them every day in the streets, in the pulpit, the forum, in the halls of learning, as well as upon the market-place. Man’s principal object in life should be to keep the realm of his mind free from such intruders, so that the king Reason may rule therein without being impeded. His duty is to fight the herculean battle with those animal and intellectual Elementals, so that they will become servants of the king, and not become his masters. Can this be accomplished if all our energies are continually employed on the outward plane; if we are never at home within ourselves; if we are continually engaged with the illusions of life, either in the pursuit of sensual gratification or entirely absorbed in scientific pursuits, which tend to give us knowledge of outward things but convey no knowledge of self? Can we expect to accumulate our energy and employ it at the centre within ourselves, if we continually spend it at the periphery? Can we hope to be able to waste all our power, and at the same time to be able to retain it? An affirmative answer would be as irrational as unscientific.”