THEOSOPHY, Vol. 11, No. 12, October, 1923
(Pages 564-567; Size: 13K)
THEOSOPHY--THEORY AND PRACTICE
THEOSOPHY is both a science and an art. From the viewpoint of a science, it is a teaching in regard to life, its laws, its processes, its manifestations, its developments, and their resultants; from its aspect as an art, Theosophy is a mode of life. We have in English a simple phrase which well expresses these two aspects: theory and practice.
Whenever there is presented to us that which seems to be a wisdom greater than ours it must remain to us unreal until we take the necessary steps to make it part of our experience; that we call theory. When we have verified the theory by personal application, then it becomes practice. Those who come to Theosophy expecting to gain from theory are as deluded as those who go to whatever sect or church, philosophy or science. The theory can be presented; books will give it; but when anyone goes to the books, he gets but the speculative doctrine, the theory of life, of its laws and processes, of its modes of manifestation and what they lead to. All the time the enquirer is an indivisible part of that very life of which the theory treats. Act, he must, because action is the law of life. Action of every kind is a sowing on the life that surrounds, and the reaping must be from that life and in strict accord with the seed sown.
If we study the teachings of Jesus as they have come down to us, or the teachings of Plato, or of Buddha, or of Krishna, or of any other of the world's great leaders and teachers, we shall find they invariably taught this very doctrine. How did they come to know it? In but one way; they recognized that the only way to determine the truth of any teaching is to apply it oneself, and having so applied, they were able to weed out in themselves the erroneous and the false from the true, and gradually arrive at a state of pure knowledge. The transmission of the true doctrine of life is continuous, is unbroken, never having had a beginning, and can never come to an end. There are always the knowers of the truth in regard to the divinity in, permeating and enveloping all Nature, God-like knowledge.
In the light of this teaching of Theosophy, of theory and practice, of study and application, let us, then, consider what it is theoretically. From first to last Theosophy teaches one vast inclusive principle -- there is nothing apart from Life. To understand that, one does not need a "revelation," or creed, or ritual. Now enlarge our conceptions of Life until they become as high as Life itself in its highest manifestation, and until they become as low as Life in its lowest manifestation -- and we are ourselves conscious tabernacles of the Most High. People talk about "good" and "evil;" there is no "good" apart from Life; there is no "evil" apart from Life; both alike are manifestations of Life. We speak of the mineral kingdom as if it existed apart from and outside of Life; yet it has its laws, its manifestations and a most orderly sequence. The mineral kingdom is a sleeping manifestation of life; the vegetable kingdom is a dreaming manifestation of life; the animal kingdom, a crying, questing, calling manifestation of life; and the human kingdom, that stage and manifestation of life when for the first time the evolving self begins to recognize that God is not in one place, man in another, and Nature in a third quarter, but that these three are veritably one. H.P.B. wrote that the overwhelming difficulty in the face of the Western theologian and of the Western scientist and of all those who are conscious and unconscious followers of sectarianism, of materialism masquerading as pseudo-religion, of materialism masquerading as pseudo-science, is the non-perception of the substantial nature of life itself. What was there in the beginning of manifestation? Can one imagine anything back of Life? When the earth and heavens are rolled up like a scroll and dissipated like incense smoke throughout the endless reaches of invisible space, what will remain? Life. What is it that thrills through every atom, asleep, awake, or in that pulsing moment that we call the dream state? Life, nothing but Life.
In the perception of an omnipresent, eternal, boundless and immutable Principle back of everything, sustaining everything, creating everything, changing everything, withdrawing everything into itself -- Life, Spirit, Consciousness -- we have the first step in the theoretical understanding of what Theosophy is.
The second step is the perception of the Spiritual identity of all beings, the basis of Universal Brotherhood. That is the basis of every hope, every speculation, every longing and aspiration and, as well, of every false teaching of immortality. If the life that courses in what each calls "myself" and the life that is in the atoms of our bodies and in the viewless air and in the tidal haste and hurry of the vast waters of Space; if the life that is in all of us is indivisible and inseparable from the One Life, how can we ourselves be other than "ancient, constant and eternal?" It is only when a man esteems himself in his pride, and ignorance, separate -- that the life that he calls "myself" is separate from the life in the men about him, separate from the life in the elements, separate from the One Life which permeates all, it is only thus that the vision of immortality becomes but a dream. We have to burst the illusion that our life is separate from the One Life if we are to gain any conception of the ceaseless struggle of Life, the ceaseless struggle for Brotherhood, for fraternity, for unity that goes on everywhere in Nature.
Manifestly, differences in abundance exist, varieties in degree surround us on every hand, but they are not the source of our woes. There is no friction between a pear and a peach; between a fig tree that bears nothing but green leaves and one laden with fruit; there is room in Nature for everything that is, else it could not be there. There is room for the evil and room for the good, room for the to-be-born, the being born, the old, and the dying; room for moons and planetoids just as much as for suns and for comets.
We say the trouble with the world today is due to "human nature." What is human nature? It is the theory of life that we practise. The teachings of Jesus are theories of life that we do not practice; so are the teachings of H.P.B. and of Krishna. We believe Theosophy and practise human nature; we believe in Jesus and practise human nature; we believe in Buddha -- take pansil as the Christians go to the Communion Table, -- and all the time our basis of action is human nature. Let us consider what is "human nature." Human nature is "safety first -- for me." Human nature is "look out for Number 1;" human nature is selfishness. To save our bodies from day to day, from year to year for three score years and ten, we wreck our souls life after life; we put our divinity in pawn and never take it out of the pawn-shop from life to life; because if life is one and not many, the death of spiritual living is selfishness. Do we know that the life which is ours is the only real thing in all the eternities, is the most sacred thing there is; and that every form, every power, every function, every faculty, is a form and power and function and faculty of the Supreme Spirit? The life in any form is the God in that form; this God dwells there either as a pig in a sty, nescient of everything but his own ignorance; or he dwells there like a benign priest in a saving tabernacle.
Theosophy teaches not to seek dominance of Nature, nor dominance of one's fellow man, but to seek to co-operate with Nature and with the life in all evolving fellow beings; not to seek possessions but to work for the necessities of life. What are the necessities of life? The necessity of the Spiritual Life is Brotherhood; without that it starves as far as knowledge here is concerned. The Spiritual life is almost entirely driven out of the life of mankind; why? Man has starved it. And so we should get a clear light that the same life is in all and that the woes of the world are due to selfishness -- human nature -- yet that there is that in us which is divine; divine power as well as divine nature. It is because we do not recognize this divine power that we cannot discriminate between the appeal of the patriot and the appeal of the politician; therefore the politician trades upon the patriotism in us. We do not know the difference between a sectarian and a Spiritual teacher, and therefore the priest preys upon the divine longings in our hearts. We do not know the distinction between Spirit and matter, and therefore the materialist preys upon our longings during this life, saying, "Make the most and best of your possibilities here." The religionist bids you to be happy in the life hereafter and suffer in this. It makes no difference which way we turn, we are faced with false teachings claiming to be true, and unless a man is prepared to realize, to see for himself the One Life, and to act upon that perception, to practice according to what he sees, he must forever fight; he must eat or be eaten; he must rob or be plundered; he must cheat or be betrayed. The great wheel is set in motion, swinging the pendulum this way, and as far as it is swung in any direction, so far will it swing back in the other. So, if we cheat others, Life will not forget, and though the memory fades and the writing grow dim in our bodies, next life we are cheated, we are betrayed.
Every man sees from what to him is the highest, down to what to him is the lowest; that is his angle of Spiritual vision, because Spiritual knowledge is our perception of life itself as it is, and Spiritual knowledge must necessarily include all kinds of actions and manifestations good and bad. With that sheer distinction of good and noble and true and philanthropic and benevolent and fraternal, on down to the most devilish idea of preying upon our fellows, cannot we see which is the better path? Unless a man chooses the better, chooses the nobler, chooses the truer as he sees it and then practices it, he will infallibly use his powers according to the lower perception. If he does he holds back, he debases, he disintegrates, he corrupts the life about him, and then in the next life and the next and the next he reaps what he sowed.
Theosophy comes like a current of pure air off the uncontaminated seas through the foul streets of a great city in summer. Theosophy is a breath of pure Spiritual teaching blown square across the fetid atmosphere that we call religion, philosophy and science. We all seek something, else we had not come inquiring to Theosophy; we cannot possibly have the imagination and the longing unless that which we desire and that for which we long, exists. In the teachings of Theosophy is to be found what a captain of a ship finds in the chart room; there is to be found the topography and the lines of action, of study, of reflection, of meditation, which shall lead into the position indicated by Krishna when he says: "I will now tell thee what is the object of wisdom from which a man enjoys immortality." Because we think we are mortal, the best enjoyments we can get are mortal enjoyments. The best enjoyments we can get are earthly enjoyments because we think we are of the earth earthy. We are Spiritual, however ignorant, however corrupt, however depraved we may be. To cure that corruption, to remedy that depravity, to once more see God as omnipresent; to once more see the Supreme Spirit in all things is the final step in the path of Spiritual evolution. All Nature exists for no other purpose than for the sake of the Soul's experience and emancipation, and that all shall to some degree be helped to see, is the purpose of the teachings of Theosophy.
The Secret of Understanding