Light on daily living is what thoughtful men and women are seeking; it will be my effort to point to the bright Crystal White Fire light shed by great Master Sages and Seers in different countries and among different people upon this matter of intimate importance to all of us. The eternal ethical verities of life are like the masterpieces of music: they bear frequent repetition. We all prefer to hear these musical masterpieces interpreted by a Toscanini; but even when this is not possible, we still recognize them as masterpieces. So it is with the eternal verities.
One of the Adepts who inaugurated the modern Theosophical Movement by sending H.P. Blavatsky to America in 1873, transmitted through her to her disciples the following instructions, which proclaim a complete philosophy of life, insofar as one's relations to one's fellow men are concerned; and these instructions will serve as the text of this article:
Behold the truth before you: a clean life, an open mind, a pure heart, an eager intellect, an unveiled spiritual perception, a brotherliness for one's co-disciple, a readiness to give and receive advice and instruction, a loyal sense of duty to the Teacher, a willing obedience to the behests of Love, Wisdom and Truth, once we have placed a courageous endurance of personal injustice, a brave declaration of principles, a valiant defense of those who are unjustly attacked, and a constant eye to the ideal of human progression and perfection which the Secret Science depicts - these are the golden stairs up the steps of which the learner may climb to the temple of Divine Wisdom.
Let us now study each enunciated in the foregoing instruction, from one of the Masters of Wisdom, in order to appreciate the light they throw-upon daily living.
A clean life is one in which the real man, manas, the thinker, cleanses his mind of all ill-will, jealousy, hatred, anger, self-seeking, or desire for anything whatsoever that will bring unhappiness or loss to a fellow-human being. A clean life does not necessarily imply the life of asceticism, because, unless the ascetic is also a man of warm and tender sympathies, with a compassionate heart that refuses to be self-centered, asceticism per say can often degenerate into exaggerated concentration upon one's own progress; and the self-centered man is apt to become sadly constricted in his feeling and callous to the calls of compassion, no matter how 'virtuously' he may abstain from eating flesh or from otherwise indulging normal appetites. It is a man's thoughts and feelings that make him clean or unclean. If one heeds the following warning, it will cleanse the mind quite as effectively as soap and water will cleanse the body:
Beware then, of an uncharitable spirit, for it will rise up like a hungry wolf in your path, and devour the better qualities of your nature which have been springing into life. Broaden instead of narrowing your sympathies; try to identify yourself with your fellows, rather than to contract your circle of affinity.
The next flash of Crystal White Fire light on daily living which the Master projected in his radio-beam of high thoughts, challenges those seeking truth to have 'an open mind'. There seems to be a tendency in some of us to think like 'ex parte' pleaders rather than like open-minded judges. We allow our prejudices to serve as prosecuting attorneys against people and things which we don't like, and our predilections to serve as counsel for the defense of ourselves and those people and things that are pleasing to us. But, as Confucius wisely said:
The nobler sort of man in his progress through the world has neither narrow predilections nor obstinate antipathies.
The characteristic open-mindedness of such a superior man is well illustrated in the following story about Abraham Lincoln:
Some weeks after the election of 1860, John W. Bunn, on his way to Lincoln's room at the State House in Springfield, met Salmon P. Chase coming away. To Lincoln, Bunn said: "You don't mean to put that man in your Cabinet I hope?" "Why do you say that?" asked Lincoln. "Because," said Bunn, "he thinks he is a great deal bigger than you are." "Well," replied Lincoln, "if you know of any other men who think they are bigger than I am, let me know. I want to put them in my Cabinet."
How many of the asperities of life could be avoided if each one of us was determined at all times to approach every subject with an open mind! How many of the greatest difficulties in our social and political life, national and international, would vanish, if all people trained themselves to try to be so open-minded that they could always see the other fellow's point of view! One of the worst curses of the present age is the attempt of individuals or groups to force their ideas upon other individuals or groups.
Another step on the Golden Stairs described by the Master is reached by means of 'a pure heart'. In the esoteric sense I believe that a man of pure heart is one whose whole being irradiates goodwill, compassion, high thoughts, wise words, and helpful deeds, just as a healthy physical heart pumps good fresh blood to every smallest tissue and cell in the whole body. Moreover, a man of pure heart is one that has had the dross of self-seeking burnt out of him, either, in some precious incarnation or in this one, by the fires of trial and suffering. 'For as gold must be tried by fire, so the heart must be tried by pain.' Only when the soul has been purged of personality; that is, when the masks of selfishness and ambition have been torn off and cast into the 'furnace of living pain', can one's heart be pure enough to respond, understandingly and effectively, to the cry of suffering from his fellow-human beings and even from the creatures below the human. Only when we have compassionate and understanding hearts are they pure. Then are we worthy to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha and Christ. In 'The Voice of the Silence,' translating from an ancient Eastern scripture, H.P. Blavatsky tells us:
Let thy soul lend its ear to every cry of pain, like as the lotus bares its heart to drink the morning sun; let not the fierce sun dry one tear of pain before thyself hast wiped it from the sufferer's eye. But let each burning human tear drop on thy heart and there remain; nor ever brush it off until the pain that caused it is removed.
According to Ancient Teachings, it is manas, the mind, the self-conscious thinker, that distinguishes a man from the creatures below him; in fact, it is from the Sanskrit verbal root 'man,' 'to think,' that the English word 'man' is said to derived. Therefore, if we would be truly human let us be eager to learn; for everything that we learn can be to us an added source of happiness as well as an increased power to serve. Here we can take a lesson from the much-misunderstood prophet of Arabia, Mohammed 'al Amin', Mohammed 'the Faithful.' Illiterate himself, he could yet lay down the law for Islam in this wise and thus set the feet of his Moslems on the road of learning and preserve what there was of civilization and the scientific spirit in the West during the Middle Ages. Taught the Prophet:
The ink of the doctors is holier than the martyrs' blood...Acquire knowledge: who so acquires it performs an act of piety; who speaks of it praises the Lord; who seeks it adores God; who dispenses instruction in it bestows alms; who imparts it to its fitting objects, performs an act of devotion to God. A mind without culture is like a body without a soul. Glory does not consist in riches, but in knowledge. He who leaves his home in search of knowledge, walks in the path of God. He who travels in the road of knowledge, God will lead him in the road of Heaven. To listen to the instruction of science and learning for one hour is more meritorious than attending the funerals of a thousand martyrs, or than standing up in prayer for a thousand nights.
Vast fields of knowledge lie open before us, provided only that we have an eager intellect. 'An eager intellect' does not necessarily imply a brilliant intellect. Every normal man, like every normal child, can be eager to learn; and the Ancient Wisdoms hold before us the picture of incarnation after incarnation in which we may learn, evolve, grow ever greater and wiser, until after many ages we attain relative omniscience for this human stage of evolution.
I believe that nothing stimulates the mind and encourages a genuine humanism more than the Ancient Wisdoms do. As H.P. Blavatsky wrote in her message to the Convention of the Theosophical Society in America in 1888:
Theosophy teaches the animal man to be a human-man; and when people have learned to think and feel as truly human beings should feel and think, they will act humanely, and works of charity, justice, and generosity will be done spontaneously by all.
Dr. de Purucker gave utterance to this exquisite gem of thought, which to my mind epitomizes in one sentence the essential purpose of the T.S.:
Light for the mind, love for the heart, understanding for the intellect: all three most be satisfied in every man before he has real peace.
What is the modus operandi for attaining 'an unveiled spiritual perception'? It is the method taught by the Mother of all Religions, the Ancient Wisdom, which has found different expressions among different people adapted to the needs of different ages in which have lived and taught succeeding Messengers from the Brotherhood of the Masters, who have themselves attained in varying degrees this unveiled spiritual perception.
It was taught by the Prince who became a beggar in order to enlighten mankind, Gautama the Buddha, in his Noble Eightfold Path: "Right Understanding, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Way of Earning a Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Thought, Right Meditation."
The age-old method of attaining to an unveiled spiritual perception was also taught by the Muddha's great contemporary in Magna Graceia, Pythagoras, in his mystery-school at Krotona in Sicily. Here is a translation of his 'Golden Verses':
Do innocent; take heed before thou act, Nor e'er let soft sleep upon thine eyelids steal, Until the day's acts thou has three times scann'd: What have I done? What done amiss? What left unwrought? Go over the whole account, nor aught omit. If evil, chide thee; if good, rejoice. This do, this meditate, this ever love, And it will lead thee into Wisdom's path.
In ancient and honorable China, in that same wonderful sixth century before the Christian era, we find two other great Sages proclaiming the method of acquiring an unveiled spiritual perception. In the Tao-Teh-King, Laotse, the old librarian and keeper of the royal archives at Honanfu, is reputed to have written:
Knowing Eternity makes one comprehensive; comprehension makes one broad-minded; breadth of vision brings nobility; nobility is like Heaven; the heavenly is like Tao. Tao is the eternal.
Concerning the essential steps in acquiring an unveiled spiritual perception. I know of no more simple yet profound instructions than those given to his disciples by Laotse's younger contemporary, Kung Futze, Kung the Master, better known to the West under its Latinized form of Confucius:
Tzu Kung asked, saying: Is there any one maxim which ought to be acted upon throughout one's whole life? The master replied: Surely the maxim of charity is such: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.
The above was given to the Black-haired people of old China five hundred years before the Nazarene gave to the people of Judea the Golden Rule.
Some fifteen hundred years after the rule was alleged to have been proclaimed by the Syrian Sage, we find Paracelsus, the great Theosophist of the Sixteenth Century, enunciating again the eternal truth concerning an unveiled spiritual perception. Robert Browning credits the celebrated physician-alchemist with the following illuminating teaching:
Truth is within ourselves, it takes no rise From outward things, what e'er you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, Where Truth abides in fullness; and around Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in, This perfect, clear perception - which is Truth. A baffling and perverting carnal mesh Binds it, and makes all error; and, to know Rather consists in opening out a way Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape, Than in effecting entry for a light Supposed to be without.
There, I believe, in those few lines one has the secret of reaching by degrees 'an unveiled spiritual perception' - 'that perfect, clear perception - which is Truth.'
The Master here does not lay stress on the general doctrine of Universal Brotherhood - except by implication from the fact that in a very broad sense we are all co-disciples in the school of life. The importance of this teaching lies in the fact that we are to be brotherly towards our co-disciples; i.e., those with whom we are in contact in our daily lives. It is often much easier to love 'humanity' in the abstract, than it is to be considerate and brotherly to the actual men and women who make up the only portion of humanity whom most of us will ever know at all intimately; i.e., the members of our own families or others with whom we must by karmic destiny live and work. Therefore, if we are to climb the golden stairs to the Temple of Divine Wisdom, we must learn to be brotherly to these intimate associates. It is as simple as that. But we can, of course, continuously expand our 'circle of affinity'. As Edwin Markham has so neatly phrased it:
He drew a circle that shut me out, Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout; But love and I had the wit to win, For we drew a circle that took him in.
I hardly need remind students of the importance which all the great spiritual Sages and Seers have placed upon this quality of brotherly love and kindliness. It is Buddha and the Christ. In 'Golden Precepts of Estericism'. Doctor de Purucker writes:
Love is the most beauteous, the holiest, thing known to human beings. It gives to man hope; it holds his heart in aspiration: it stimulates the noblest qualities of the human being, such as the sacrifice of self for others; it brings about self-forgetfulness; it brings also peace and joy that know no bounds. It is the noblest thing in the Universe.
The Tao-Teh-King, the Buddhist scriptures, the Bible, in fact the loftiest in the literatures of the world stress this idea of brotherly love and compassion as being among the divinest attributes of a truly awakened human being. In 'The Voice of the Silence' we read:
So shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives; bear love to men as though they were thy brother-pupils, disciples of one Teacher, the sons of one sweet mother.
We can often show real brotherliness for our co-disciples by refraining from misjudging or ciritcizing them. Alice Bailey brings home his lesson in the following lines shedding Crystal White Fire light on daily living:
Judge not; the workings of his brain And of his heart, thou canst not see; What looks to thine eyes a stain, In God's pure light may only be A scar brought from some well-won field, Where thou wouldst only faint and yield.
There are probably millions of our fellow-human beings who are groping for an adequate philosophy of life and who often chase will-o'-the-wisps in their search for such a philosophy. These truth-seekers would, I believe, prize above everything else that could be given them the absolute knowledge that there is eternal truth about man and the universe to be had by anyone who really wants to find it. Therefore it behooves us, always within the bounds of common-sense and good breeding, and as far as our own studies and experience have enlightened us, to be ready to pass on to others what we know of the fundamental Theosophical doctrines of Karma, reincarnation, cycles, the perfectibility of man and his essential divinity, the existence of the Masters and their teachings, the grandiose Theosophical conceptions of the involution and evolution of man - the microcosm, and of the macrocosm or great world, the doctrines of the common divine origin of all science, philosophy, and religion in the Wisdom of the Gods, 'Theosophia.'
In 'The Voice of the Silence' we read:
Give light and comfort to the tiling pilgrim, and seek out him who knows still less than thou; who in his wretched desolation sits starving for the bread of Wisdom and the bread which feeds the shadow, without a Teacher, hope, or consolation, and - let him hear the Law.
There speaks the voice of compassion. It is also a challenge to every student to pass on to the best of his ability such light as he may be able at anytime to enkindle in the minds and hearts of fellow-pilgrims through having lighted his own candle at the altar-fires of the Ancient Wisdom. Strange paradox! The more we give of spiritual and intellectual treasures, the more so we ourselves acquire a store of riches from which to give still more. Such is the magic of helping and sharing in the higher spheres of human activity.
'A loyal sense of duty to the Teacher, a willing obedience to the behest of Truth, once we have placed our confidence in and believe that Teacher to be in possession of it.'
We individualists of the West are inclined sometimes, I fear, to shy off a bit from this idea of loyalty to a Teacher - especially if we belong to the class of mind that prides itself on its independence. It is, of course, manly that we should retain our own self-respect as thinking human beings and not become mere 'Yes-men'. But the bigger we are ourselves, the more capable shall we be of recognizing the greatness of a true Teacher. There is nothing more ennobling to a real man than the capacity to appreciate and love a wise Teacher who also exemplifies fine qualities of personal character and high ideals. Some of the greatest minds of the West, like Carlyle, Emerson, and Victor Hugo, have extolled this attribute quite as earnestly as have the Sages of the East, where the traditional reverence due a 'Guru' or Teacher makes loyalty to one more universally prevalent.
Suppose some one should tell you with such conviction that you would know it was true, that there were living in the world today such Teachers as Carlyle spoke of, who could deliver you out of darkness into light, or as Victor Hugo referred to, who could be your guides and point the way, or as Emerson reminds us of, who could admit you to the feast of being: would you not accept such fast as the gladdest tidings you had ever heard? And would you not then rejoice in the opportunity to show 'a loyal sense of duty to the Teacher, a willing obedience to the behests of truth once we have placed out confidence in and believe that Teacher to be in possession of it?
There is no philosophic truth, I believe, so well calculated as is the Theosophical doctrine of Karma to give a man the fortitude to endure personal injustice with courage; because a student of Ancient Wisdom knows that somewhere, somehow, at some time in the immediate or distant or very remote past, in this life or in some previous incarnation, his real ego, the inner self, the enduring individuality, 'the man that was, that is, and ever shall be for whom the hour shall never strike', sowed the seeds that are now bringing forth their due fruition in his present suffering or so-called 'personal injustice'. As we read in 'The Light of Asia':
That which ye sow, ye reap. See yonger fieldst The sesamum was sesamum, the corn Was corn; the Silence and the Darkness knew. So is man's fate born.
He cometh, reaper of the things he sowed, Sesamum, corn, so much cast in past birth; And so much weed and poison-stuff which mar Him and the aching earth.
Compare the above with almost the identical teaching given six hundred years later by the Syrian Sage, Jesus:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruits; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Again, in 'The Voices of the Silence', H.P. Blavatsky translates:
Learn that no efforts, not the smallest - whether in right or wrong direction - can vanish from the world of causes. E'er wasted smoke remains not traceless. "A harsh word uttered in past lives is not destroyed, but ever comes again." The pepper plant will not give birth to roses, nor the sweet jessamin's silver star to thorn or thistle turn.
If one uses the Rontgen Rays of utter candor with himself in throwing light upon this question of reaping the results of his own sowing, one finds that there's a tendency to place in too remote a past, especially in some former incarnation, the sowing of the seeds of which we are at present reaping the unpleasant harvest. My own experience has been that most, though of course not all, of the difficulties and so-called 'personal injustices' which I have endured, can be attributed to thoughts entertained, emotions indulged, deeds committed, words spoken and adventures undertaken right here in this present life while incarnated in this body.
Indeed, much that most of us suffer. I verily believe, can be traced back to the seeds sown within a few hours sometimes, often within a few days, generally within a few months, and nearly always, at least within a few years; though in some instances, to be sure, the so-called injustices which we endure - hopefully with courage because with knowledge of the law of consequences - do owe their origin to seeds sown in precious lives. Such knowledge could give us a philosophic basis for enduring all personal injustices with courage and equanimity.
Mang the Philosopher, the great expounder of Confucianism, best known in the West under the Latinized form of his name, Mencius, has given some inspiring thoughts of those who have to endure defeat and personal injustice:
When Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first disciplines his mind with suffering, and his bones and sinews with toil. It exposes him to want and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens him, and supplies him imcompletencies.
One's thoughts turn to Lincoln, Dickens, Franklin, Columbus, Cervantes, Gandhi, Mohammed, and other heroes in less conspicuous roles, who have rendered great services to mankind, after undergoing in the school of adversity such training as Heaven thus vouchsafed them. By no means is it always those who have the easiest berth to lie in who are the most favored of Heaven. Generally it is the baby-egos of the race who are born with silver spoons in their mouths. They are not strong enough to stand adversity's stern disciples nor to receive its great guerdon. The challenge, the lesson, and the reward of adversity are admirably told by Kipling in his immortal poem 'IF' - ending with the words, "you'll be a man, my son." Some years ago, when I recited these lines to my keen young nephew just out of high school, he commented sagely: "A man? You'll be a Master." He was right. It is truly masterly to be able to endure personal injustices with courage and equanimity.
Light is always shed upon our daily lives by anyone who, with calm conviction, bravely declares sound principles, even though they be for the time unpopular ones. We think, for instance, of the lustre shed upon human nature by Emile Zola when he dared boldly to buck the whole entranced officialdom in France by his valiant defense of the wrongly accused Dreyfus. Though few of us will ever be placed that we can as conspicuously make a valiant defense of those who are unjustly attacked as did this courageous Frenchman, still there are occasions in the lives of all of us when we can bravely declare our principles and thus shed some Crystal White Fire light on daily living. In our own restricted spheres we can always declare for decency and generosity and understanding, and valiantly defend those who may be bullied or misrepresented or otherwise unjustly attacked. If we fail to do so, then, as John Masefield, England's Poet Laureate, in his versus entitled "A Creed", which are an undiluted exposition of the Theosophic doctrines of Reincarnation and Karma - says one couplet:
The brave word that I failed to speak Will brand me dastard on the cheek.
And H.P. Blavatsky reminds us: "Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin." There are two passages in "The Mahatma Letters" which are appropriate to these two steps on the Golden Stairs - 'a brave declaration of principles' and 'a valiant defense of those who are unjustly attacked':
I believe the time fully comes when social and moral safety demands that someone of the Theosophic Society should speak the truth though the Himalaya fall on him.
Those who have watched mankind through the centuries of this cycle, have constantly seen the details of this death-struggle between Truth and Error repeating themselves. Some of you Theosophists are now only wounded in your "honor" or your purses, but those who held the lamp in preceding generation paid the penalty of their lives for their knowledge.
What is the 'ideal of human progression and perfection which the Secret Science depicts', and to which we are enjoined to keep a constant eve? We have been taught that it is the pilgrimage of the deathless center of consciousness in man, the immortal individuality or Monad, starting as an unselfconscious god-spark, at one with Spirit, and descending age after age through increasingly dense spheres of ethereal substance, until it reaches this earth-sphere, the densest of all, the most material. Here it goes through all the experiences of incarnate existence in life after life, learns all the lessons to be learned here, and then ascends along the luminous arc through countless aeons of time, progressing ever higher and higher, until it finally joins again the Spirit from which it emanated - not then as an unselfconscious god-spark, but as a fully self-conscious god, one of the spiritual rulers of the Universe. Thus, if we use the Christian terminology, the Monad ascends to become 'at one with the Father in Heaven', or, as we Theosophists say, it journeys to the portals of the Sun, and thence to its Parent Star. What a conception!
"These are the Golden Stairs, up the steps of which the learner may climb to the Temple of Divine Wisdom."
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