THEOSOPHY, Vol. 46, No. 7, May, 1958
(Pages 318-324; Size: 20K)
OF STUDYING THEOSOPHY
[Part 2 of 2][The passages put together to form the installments of this series have been gathered from various sources in Theosophical literature. Each passage is numbered at its conclusion and the source is given at the end of the installment.--Editors, THEOSOPHY.]ONE of the difficulties under which students of Theosophy labour is the partial and therefore one-sided or distorted view they take of the Wisdom-Religion. For some, Theosophy takes the place of an out-worn creed; for others it provides a better field for philosophic speculation; for a third class it is the interesting study of a new science which instructs where modern knowledge breaks down; for still others it affords, through the many and varied associations which exist in its name and for its sake, avenues of some altruistic expression. Only a few seem to recognize the synthetic character of Theosophy, viz., that it is the Religion of the Spirit, free and immortal; that it is the Philosophy of the Heart, to be practiced universally by us all the time; that it is the Science of Life which instructs us in the self-devised methods of never-dying energies moving in the direction of Universal Self-Consciousness, that it is the teacher of the Higher Altruism which calls for self-correction and growth from within, on the part of every being, resulting in the growth of all....
Such a recognition will inevitably lead him [the student] to study every Theosophic truth from three points of view -- spirit, mind, matter; also to apply every truth in three distinct spheres of heart, head, hands. Such study and practice will convince him very soon that the synthesis is rooted in and proceeds from within his own spiritual Being, but affects through his actions the deeds of others; through his thoughts, the minds of others; and that in turn he is so affected by others. If Theosophy in study reveals itself as a synthesis of religion, philosophy and science, in applying its tenets and doctrines we soon begin to sense that an additional or fourth factor exists -- a kind of over-soul, which is the Higher Altruism.
Altruism is the Absolute whose three aspects are the religion to be lived in terms of the philosophy to be learnt and of the science to be practised. To practise, to learn, to live, for and as the All -- is to manifest the Living Power of Theosophy.
This living power of Theosophy lies latent, buried deep down, in the heart of every man. Therefore everyone who is not a Theosophist is a Theosophist in embryo. It ought to be clear to an intelligent student that his task, however difficult, is not complex. Theosophy advocates the simple life by insistently pointing out in a hundred ways that the power by which we live is of simple character, both in its origin and in its operations. Men have strayed away from this simplicity and have assumed a million complexes by looking for knowledge outside of the Self, for peace and happiness without the Self, for divinity in other than the Self. Thus started on the inclined plane of retrogression we see division where a solidarity exists -- division between science and religion, between inanimate and animate, between secular and sacred. In place of "the immanence of God and the solidarity of man" is proclaimed -- God in the heaven and men the children of dust and worms on earth. This blunder and its correction which Theosophy puts forward has to be understood and applied by each student to himself in his own life. Unless this is done Theosophy will remain a religion, a philosophy, a science, a mode of charity, a method of philanthropy in contradistinction to other religions, philosophies, sciences, modes and methods of altruistic efforts.
H. P. Blavatsky has recorded her complaint in more than one place that solidarity in the ranks of Theosophists did not exist in spite of the fact that they were able to preach religious truths, and to put before the scientific world wonderful information in an instructive way. The religion of Universal Spirit fails to inspire most of us when our feelings are hurt by a fellow-Theosophist, or to give us courage to stand by him when he is unjustly attacked. Our philosophy of the one and Impartite Self evaporates into impracticality when we have to say that the moral leper, the intellectual prostitute, the psychically drunk, are our brothers. This will continue as long as the Synthesis of Theosophy is not applied by us to purify our lower nature and to create a higher perception of altruism.
The Living Power of Theosophy must become the power by which we live. As we have a material instrument and an energizing mind, and as we are in being spiritual, we must live as spiritual beings our Religion of Joyous Immortality which ensouls and illumines the mind. Aided by the philosophy of Theosophy we must let that mind energize our house of flesh, so that the latter is no more a palace of pleasure, but a Temple of the Living God, the Ruler who rules from within. (1)
The first requirement of the spiritual life is to learn the value of silence. The conservation of spiritual energy demands that the frittering away of soul-forces be stopped. There are very few avenues through which man's divinity goes to waste as through sound and speech. The dirt and dregs of our Kamic nature often find their outlet in useless or injurious speech....
In spiritual growth, learning and listening go together; they precede teaching and speaking. In ancient India the moment the seeker of the peace of wisdom resolved to follow the footsteps of the guru, the pupil gained the name of shravaka, -- a listener. In ancient Greece he was named akoustikos. He was not even permitted to ask questions; bij-sutras, seed-thoughts were given him to ponder over and understand to the best of his ability. These thoughts were intended as purificatory food which if adequately assimilated would cleanse his kamic nature; not only remove the accumulated poisons of the past but reveal to the pupil the correct alchemical process of transforming within his own constitution, passion into compassion, lust into love, antipathy into sympathy. Once started on this highway he was ready to become an exerciser, a positive doer, shramana, the asketes of the Greeks.
Our modern Theosophical student has not fully recognized the occult significance of silence. A vow of silence does not mean to become mute, and not to speak at all. It consists in (1) self-imposition of periodic silence; (2) not indulging at any time in injurious and untruthful speech; (3) not giving way to useless speech; (4) not asking questions on philosophy or practice till what has already been taught or is before us is fully scanned and thoroughly looked into from the point of view of our particular questions; (5) not indulging in ahankaric speech, i.e., not making statements about the Divine Self or Ego in terms of our kamic or lower nature; (6) not indulging in injurious speech regarding our lower nature, our own faults and weaknesses, lest by speaking of them we lend them the strength which ensues from the power of speech; (7) not to speak even that which is true unless at proper times, to proper people, under proper circumstances.
While this sevenfold exercise is practised, secrecy has to be observed about it. To refer to, or speak about the exercise we have undertaken and are practising, is to vitiate it altogether and make it worse than useless. Such an indulgence gives birth to conceit and enhances it where it already exists. Secrecy and silence are needed and a contemplation on their kinship should precede the sevenfold exercise.
Deliberate speech will be the first result. It will not be rooted in kama -- passion -- but in Buddhi -- compassion. There are two types of criticism: one is fault-finding; the other is the perception of virtue in meritorious expressions, but also the perception of virtue behind vice, demerit and weakness. The deceit of the dice is Shri Krishna and the power to perceive that comes from the second type of criticism. The first is criticism by words of Kama, the second is by words of understanding; the first is on the plane of words, the second on the plane of ideas; the first is of head-learning, the second of soul-wisdom; the first praises or condemns the lower nature, the second imports into it the strength of the higher, causing readjustment; the first has behind it the superior spirit of teaching, the second the sublime spirit of learning and propagating that which is learnt....
In all affairs of thought, feeling and action our tendency is to look for our thoughts repeated, our feelings reproduced, our actions imitated. We regard ourselves as the model for all examination; we the pattern whereby right and wrong is to be determined. Such an attitude is not blatantly expressed, but veils itself in a subtle form of humility, which is mock-modesty.
There are a hundred who plunge into the waters of the ocean for pleasure or profit to only one who dives for the pearl of great price. The latter proceeds to his work in the secrecy of silence and his art in the ocean is of a very different kind from that of the ordinary swimmer. Those who are in search of the pearl of wisdom must acquire the strength of muscle, the control of breath and the finesse of stroke, necessary against the stormy billows of this ocean of Samsara. These lie securely hidden in the Power of Silence. That power must be invoked, not by a pledge to some other being, but by a vow silently sung and silently registered in the sanctuary of the Heart. Thus the path begins in silence and secrecy and ends in the hearing and the chanting of the soundless Sound. (2)
The opinion of theosophical students is divided in respect to reading. There are those who consider that the chief source of learning is study, while others deprecate much reading and urge us to confine our efforts to "living the life." The truth of course is that both methods are to be combined. They serve different departments of the same end. By study -- especially of scriptures -- we are enabled to form more just ideas of what "the life" may be, and in what way we shall live it. By living it, we correct all mistaken ideas; we shave and prune the excrescences of the mind. The application of spiritual (impersonal) ideas in daily life; the study of how we may hold to them amid the practical routine; the endeavour to discover them within all material conditions and things; the effort to develop them; broaden the nature and enable us, through the spiritual will, to alchemize it into spiritual essences and powers. ... All the powers existing in the macrocosm having also their various specific seats in man, it follows plainly that, if we wish to evolve more rapidly by means of these powers, as the universe also evolves by them, we must think and think within ourselves. These forces are under the guidance of will, thought, and knowledge; reading will never enable us to reach them; thinking may put us on their track....
The whole problem for both writer and reader consists in eschewing mere forms, in looking beyond words to the principles which they represent faintly. A man represents one or more universals; his thought should do the same. He will never mislead while he only gives us these; we shall never misunderstand him while we look for nothing less. All reading is useless, so far as spiritual progress is concerned, which cannot be conducted upon the above lines. If they limit your reading, they will extend your thinking. So much the better, for thinking is the path toward becoming. "What a man thinks, that he is; this is the old secret," say the Upanishads. There is a way of taking a thought and brooding over it as a bird broods on the nest; by this method the true thought hatches out and itself manifests to us. We must apply these thoughts to the touchstone of our own souls. Reading and thinking are not to be divorced. They should be one act; then each would correct and equilibrate the other. (3)
It is a trite axiom that truth exists independent of human error, and he who would know the truth, must rise up to its level and not try the ridiculous task of dragging it down to his own standard. Every metaphysician knows that Absolute Truth is the Eternal Reality which survives all the transient phenomena. ... Language belongs to the world of relativity, while Truth is the Absolute Reality. It is therefore vain to suppose that any language, however ancient or sublime, can express Abstract Truth. The latter exists in the world of ideas, and the ideal can be perceived by the sense belonging to that world. Words can merely clothe the ideas, but no number of words can convey an idea to one who is incapable of perceiving it. Every one of us has within him the latent capacity or a sense dormant in us which can take cognisance of Abstract Truth, although the development of that sense or, more correctly speaking, the assimilation of our intellect with that higher sense, may vary in different persons, according to circumstances, education and discipline. That higher sense which is the potential capacity of every human being is in eternal contact with Reality, and every one of us has experienced moments when, being for the time en rapport with that higher sense, we realise the eternal verities. The sole question is how to focalise ourselves entirely in that higher sense. Directly we realize this truth, we are brought face to face with occultism. Occultism teaches its votaries what sort of training will bring on such a development. It never dogmatises, but only recommends certain methods which the experience of ages has proved to be the best suited to the purpose. But just as the harmony of nature consists in symphonious discord, so also the harmony of occult training (in other words, individual human progress) consists in discord of details. The scope of Occultism being a study of Nature, both in its phenomenal and noumenal aspects, its organisation is in exact harmony with the plan of Nature. Different constitutions require different details in training, and different men can better grasp the idea clothed in different expressions. ... This will show why it is that until a certain stage is reached, the Chela is generally left to himself, and why he is never given verbal or written instructions regarding the truths of Nature. ... His success or failure depends upon his capacity for the assimilation of the Abstract Truth his higher sense perceives....
At the beginning of our studies we are apt to be misled by the supposition that our earth, or the planetary chain, or the solar system, constitutes infinity and that eternity can be measured by numbers. Often and often have the Mahatmas warned us against this error, and yet we do, now and then, try to limit the infinity to our standard instead of endeavouring to expand ourselves to its conception. This has led some naturally to a sense of isolation, and to forget that the same Law of Cosmic Evolution, which has brought us to our present stage of individual differentiation, is tending to lead us gradually to the original undifferentiated condition. Such allow themselves to be imbued so much with a sense of personality that they try to rebel against the idea of Absolute Unity. Forcing themselves thus in a state of isolation, they endeavour to ride the Cosmic Law which must have its course; and the natural result is annihilation through the throes of disintegration. This it is which constitutes the bridge, the dangerous point in evolution. ... And this is why selfishness, which is the result of a strong sense of personality, is detrimental to spiritual progress. ... We should therefore constantly remember that the present is not the apex of evolution, and that if we would not be annihilated, we must not allow ourselves to be influenced by a sense of personal isolation and consequent worldly vanities and shows. This world does not constitute infinity, nor does our solar system, nor does the immeasurable expanse our physical senses can take cognisance of. All these and more are but an infinitesimal atom of the Absolute Infinity. The idea of personality is limited to our physical senses which, belonging as they do to the Rupa Loka (world of forms), must perish, since we see no permanent form anywhere. All is liable to change, and the more we live in transient personality, the more we incur the danger of final death, or total annihilation. It is only the seventh principle, the Adi Buddha, that is the Absolute Reality. (4)
Sources: (1) THEOSOPHY, November, 1923; (2) THEOSOPHY, April, 1924; (3) Jasper Niemand, Path, June, 1888; (4) Damodar K. Mavalankar, Theosophist, May, 1884.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
The purpose of The Key to Theosophy needs but few words of explanation. It is not a complete or exhaustive text-book of Theosophy, but only a key to unlock the door that leads to the deeper study. It traces the broad outlines of the Wisdom Religion, and explains its fundamental principles; meeting, at the same time, the various objections raised by the average Western enquirer, and endeavouring to present unfamiliar concepts in a form as simple and in language as clear as possible. That it should succeed in making Theosophy intelligible without mental effort on the part of the reader, would be too much to expect; but it is hoped that the obscurity still left is of the thought not of the language, is due to depth not to confusion. To the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a riddle; for in the world mental as in the world spiritual each man must progress by his own efforts. The writer cannot do the reader's thinking for him, nor would the latter be any the better off if such vicarious thought were possible.
--H. P. BLAVATSKY
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