THEOSOPHY, Vol. 24, No. 6, April, 1936
(Pages 245-249; Size: 15K)
(Number 7 of a 7-part series)

PRECURSORS OF H.P.B.

WALT WHITMAN -- II

Grow as the flower grows, unconsciously, but eagerly anxious to open its soul to the air. So must you press forward to open your soul to the eternal. -- Light on the Path.
THE flower of Self-realization unfolds from its inmost center outwards. At every stage of this unfoldment the flower seems to have reached perfection, and not until we see it in its full-blown beauty do we realize the incompleteness of its earlier stages of growth.

Walt Whitman passed through four stages of Self-realization. In the first he realized the Self of Walt Whitman. In the second, his concept of the Self expanded to include the Souls of all men. In the third it embraced God, and in the fourth the entire Universe.

With this realization of the All-Self came a desire to promulgate the fundamental principles of his philosophy -- principles which may be stated in terms of the Three Fundamental Propositions. In attempting to propound the first he cried:

It is time to explain myself--let us stand up!
What is known I strip away;
I launch all men and women forward with me into THE UNKNOWN.
Plunging fearlessly into these vast, uncharted waters, he let his mind sink deep into the abstract concepts of Time and Space. Both appeared to him as limitless:
See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of that;
Count ever so much, there is limitless time around that.
Back, and still further back he went, trying to find a time when he did not exist. But no such time appeared:
Afar off I see the huge first NOTHING;
I know I was even there!
Life appeared to him as an endless procession, ever moving forward with measured and rhythmical tread. He could find no end to this eternal march, no port where the ship of his Soul would come to final rest.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill, and
        looked at the crowded heaven;
And I said to my Spirit: "When we become the enfolders of
        those orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge of everything
        in them, shall we be filled and satisfied then?"
And my Spirit said: "No, we but level that lift, to
        pass and continue beyond!"
He observed the Law of Cycles in every department of Nature. He saw the ages returning at intervals, undestroyed, wandering, immortal. The ocean of Life might seem to be ebbing, but he knew that it would as surely return. He pictured the cycles of his own life as cheerful boatmen ferrying his cradle, and saw himself as an acme of things already accomplished, an encloser of things still to be. On every step of the ladder of evolution he perceived ages upon ages,
All below duly travelled, and still I mount and mount.
        I know I have the best of time and space, and never was
        measured and never will be measured.
Whitman devoted his poem Manhattan's Streets I Sauntered to a consideration of the Law of Karma. In this poem he traced the relation between cause and effect, and showed how every action is followed by its appropriate reaction. For "every action already performed or still to be performed will inure to the identities from which they sprang or shall spring."
Not a move can a man or woman make, but the same affects
        him or her;
Not one word or deed but has results beyond death, as
        before death.
No consummation exists without being fromsome long previous
        consummation, and that from some other.
The unerring justice of this Law naturally removed the idea of vicarious atonement and the forgiveness of sins. If we are saved, we save ourselves,
If we are lost, no victor else has destroyed us;
It is by ourselves we go down into eternal night.
Although the word "Reincarnation" does not appear in Whitman's vocabulary, the idea is ever-present. He told his friends that his present appearance in the world was only a resurrection after a period of slumber; that the revolving cycles, in their wide sweep, had brought him back to earth again. He realized that trillions of years lay behind him, and that there were still trillions ahead. Many experiences had accrued to him as the result of this long evolutionary journey:
Births have brought us richness and variety,
And other births will bring us richness and variety.
Walt Whitman had no fear of death. For him death was merely a necessary episode in the great drama of life. He fully believed that he would come again upon the earth after five thousand years.
And as to you, Life, I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths;
No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.
Even the memory of a past life came to him occasionally, almost like a dream. He looked at a passing stranger, and felt that somewhere he must have lived a life of joy with him. He felt a responsibility to all those to whom he might have owed a debt from a previous life. As a matter of fact, the individual responsibility of the human soul was one of his favorite themes. He steadily reiterated the idea that man's evolution depends upon his own self-induced and self-devised efforts:
Each man to himself, and each woman to herself,
Such is the word of the past and present, and the word
        of Immortality.
No one can acquire for another, not one;
No one can grow for another, not one!
Lest this idea of complete self-dependence should discourage the reader, he pointed to Those who have reached the goal through Their own efforts, and urged every man and woman to follow Their example:
Allons! after the GREAT COMPANIONS! and to belong to Them!
They too are on the road! They are the swift and majestic men!
Observers of cities, solitary toilers,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the Universe!
These Great Companions are the Elder Brothers of the race. As we attempt to understand Their nature, to realize Their compassion and self-sacrifice for us -- their younger brothers -- we gradually arrive at a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood and all that the word implies.

The ideal of Universal Brotherhood is the foundation stone of Theosophy, its exemplification in practice the summit of this immortal philosophy. It forms the substance of the first, and most important, of the three Objects of the Theosophical Society. Its establishment is one of the aims and purposes of the United Lodge of Theosophists.

Walt Whitman considered the idea of Universal Brotherhood as the basis and finale of all metaphysics. He found it underlying all philosophies, ancient and modern:

I see reminiscent today those Greek and Germanic systems,
See the philosophies all,
Yet underneath Socrates clearly see,
And underneath Christ the divine I see
The dear love of man for his comrade,
The attraction of friend for friend,
Of city for city, of land for land.
It is significant that Walt Whitman, the apostle of Democracy and the prophet of the future, bowed his own head in reverence and humility to old and venerable Asia, and exhorted young America to do the same:
Bend your proud neck to the long-off Mother;
Bend your proud neck for once, young Liberdad!
He paid his homage to the "long-off Mother" in his immortal poem Passage to India. His was not a physical journey, for that he never made. It was a call to the soul to turn back to the seat of primal thought, a command to the mind to return to reason's early Paradise. He saw one hope of the future in the union of the East and the West, the lusty, vigorous West turning to its EIder Brother for spiritual help, the East, "the old, the Asiatic, renewed as it must be," stretching out the hand of fellowship to its Younger Brother, the West.

The union of the East and West is one of the objects of the present Theosophical Movement. The Orient and the Occident are both sons of the "long-off Mother". Both have their faults as well as their virtues. If that friendship of which Whitman speaks is to be cemented, two faults common to both must be eliminated. Criticism of each other must be abandoned, as well as blind adoration and imitation. Both must turn for spiritual guidance to the "long-off Mother" -- a figure which Whitman uses to symbolize

The myths and fables of eld--Asia's, Africa's fables,
The deep diving Bibles and legends;
Old occult Brahma, interminably far back, the tender
        and junior Buddha...
The compassion and understanding of Walt Whitman encompassed the whole earth. He sought and found his brothers and equals in every land, and prophesied a day when Brotherhood would be more than a mere name, when the solidarity of races would be an actual fact:
I see new combinations -- I see the solidarity of races;
I see Freedom, completely armed, and victorious, and very
        haughty, with Law on one side, and Peace on the other,
A stupendous Trio, all issuing forth against the idea of Caste.
Walt Whitman looked to America to make this dream of Brotherhood come true. It was to America that he sang his songs. It was America and her great spiritual possibilities that occupied his daily thoughts.So strong was his belief in her future that he longed to sire the coming race with the force of his own words:
Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever yet shone upon;
I will make divine, magnetic lands
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.
Walt Whitman, the last of the three invisible links in the Theosophical Movement which we have been studying, put his trust and his hope for the future into the hands of America. The three visible links that followed -- H. P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge and Robert Crosbie -- did the same. All three loved America and were proud of their American citizenship. In her first Message to the American Theosophists, H.P.B. openly declared that a large part of her heart and much of her hope for Theosophy lay in that country where the Theosophical Society was founded, in that nation whose Karma had brought Theosophy home to them. In her last Message she says:
In your hands, brothers, is placed in trust the welfare of the coming century; and great as is the trust, so great also is the responsibility.
May all Theosophists, wherever and however situated, realize that trust and responsibility. There must be no relaxation of effort, the link must be kept unbroken at all costs. May we all -- in Walt Whitman's words -- continue to
...labor together, transmitting the same charge and succession,
We few, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times;
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes -- allowers of
        all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
Till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras;
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races,
        ages to come,
May prove brethren and lovers, as we are.

Next article:
Plain Theosophical Traces in Poetry


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