"Members of the Theosophical Society study these truths and Theosophists endeavour to live them." What manner of man then is the true Theosophist in consequence of his knowledge? What is the result in his daily life of all this study?
Finding that there is a Supreme Power who is directing the course of evolution, and that He is all-wise and all-loving, the Theosophist sees that everything which exists within this scheme must be intended to further its progress. He realizes that the scripture which tells us that all things are working together for good, is not indulging in a flight of poetic fancy or voicing a pious hope, but stating a scientific fact. The final attainment of unspeakable glory is an absolute certainty for every son of man, whatever may be his present condition; but that is by no means all. Here and at this present moment he is on his way towards the glory; and all the circumstances surrounding him are intended to help and not to hinder him, if only they are rightly understood. It is sadly true that in the world there is much of evil and of sorrow and of suffering; yet from the higher point of view the Theosophist sees that terrible though this be, it is only temporary and superficial, and is all being utilized as a factor in the progress.
When in the days of his ignorance he looked at it from its own level it was almost impossible to see this; while he looked from beneath at the under side of life, with his eyes fixed all the time upon some apparent evil, he could never gain a true grasp of its meaning. Now he raises himself above it to the higher levels of thought and consciousness, and looks down upon it with the eye of the spirit and understands it in its entirety, so he can see that in very truth all is well—not that all will be well at some remote period, but that even now at this moment, in the midst of incessant striving and apparent evil, the mighty current of evolution is still flowing, and so all is well because all is moving on in perfect order towards the final goal.
Raising his consciousness thus above the storm and stress of worldly life, he recognizes what used to seem to be evil, and notes how it is apparently pressing backwards against the great stream of progress; but he also sees that the onward sweep of the divine law of evolution bears the same relation to this superficial evil as does the tremendous torrent of Niagara to the fleckings of foam upon its surface. So while he sympathizes deeply with all who suffer, he yet realizes what will be the end of that suffering, and so for him despair or hopelessness is impossible. He applies this consideration to his own sorrows and troubles, as well as to those of the world, and therefore one great result of his Theosophy is a perfect serenity—even more than that, a perpetual cheerfulness and joy.
For him there is an utter absence of worry, because in truth there is nothing left to worry about, since he knows that all must be well. His higher Science makes him a confirmed optimist, for it shows him that whatever of evil there may be in any person or in any movement, it is of necessity temporary, because it is opposed to the resistless stream of evolution; whereas whatever is good in any person or in any movement must necessarily be persistent and useful, because it has behind it the omnipotence of that current, and therefore it must abide and it must prevail.
Yet it must not for a moment be supposed that because he is so fully assured of the final triumph of good he remains careless or unmoved by the evils which exist in the world around him. He knows that it is his duty to combat these to the utmost of his power, because in doing this he is working upon the side of the great evolutionary force, and is bringing nearer the time of its ultimate victory. None will be more active than he in labouring for the good, even though he is absolutely free from the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness which so often oppresses those who are striving to help their fellow-men.
Another most valuable result of his Theosophical study is the absence of fear. Many people are constantly anxious or worried about something or other; they are fearing lest this or that should happen to them, lest this or that combination may fail, and so all the while they are in a condition of unrest; and most serious of all for many is the fear of death. For the Theosophist the whole of this feeling is entirely swept away. He realizes the great truth of reincarnation. He knows that he has often before laid aside physical bodies, and so he sees that death is no more than sleep—that just as sleep comes in between our days of work and gives us rest and refreshment, so between these days of labour here on earth, which we call lives, there comes a long night of astral and of heavenly life to give us rest and refreshment and to help us on our way.
To the Theosophist death is simply the laying aside for a time of this robe of flesh. He knows that it is his duty to preserve the bodily vesture as long as possible, and gain through it all the experience he can; but when the time comes for him to lay it down he will do so thankfully, because he knows that the next stage will be a much pleasanter one than this. Thus he will have no fear of death, although he realizes that he must live his life to the appointed end, because he is here for the purpose of progress, and that progress is the one truly momentous matter. His whole conception of life is different; the object is not to earn so much money, not to obtain such and such a position; the one important thing is to carry out the divine plan. He knows that for this he is here, and that everything else must give way to it.
Utterly free also is he from any religious fears or worries or troubles. All such things are swept aside for him, because he sees clearly that progress towards the highest is the divine Will for us, that we cannot escape from that progress, and that whatever comes in our way and whatever happens to us is meant to help us along that line; that we ourselves are absolutely the only people who can delay our advance. No longer does he trouble and fear about himself. He simply goes on and does the duty which comes nearest in the best way that he can, confident that if he does this all will be well for him without his perpetual worrying. He is satisfied quietly to do his work and to try to help his fellows in the race, knowing that the great divine Power behind will press him onward slowly and steadily, and do for him all that can be done, so long as his face is set steadfastly in the right direction, so long as he does all that he reasonably can.
Since he knows that we are all part of one great evolution and all literally the children of one Father, he sees that the universal brotherhood of humanity is no mere poetical conception, but a definite fact; not a dream of something which is to be in the dim distance of Utopia, but a condition existing here and now. The certainty of this all-embracing fraternity gives him a wider outlook upon life and a broad impersonal point of view from which to regard everything. He realizes that the true interests of all are in fact identical, and that no man can ever make real gain for himself at the cost of loss or suffering to some one else. This is not to him an article of religious belief, but a scientific fact proved to him by his study. He sees that since humanity is literally a whole, nothing which injures one man can ever be really for the good of any other, for the harm done influences not only the doer but also those who are about him.
He knows that the only true advantage for him is that benefit which he shares with all. He sees that any advance which he is able to make in the way of spiritual progress or development is something secured not for himself alone but for others. If he gains knowledge or self-control, he assuredly acquires much for himself, yet he takes nothing away from anyone else, but on the contrary he helps and strengthens others. Cognizant as he is of the absolute spiritual unity of humanity, he knows that, even in this lower world, no true profit can be made by one man which is not made in the name of and for the sake of humanity; that one man's progress must be a lifting of the burden of all the others; that one man's advance in spiritual things means a very slight yet not imperceptible advance to humanity as a whole; that every one who bears suffering and sorrow nobly in his struggle towards the light is lifting a little of the heavy load of the sorrow and suffering of his brothers as well.
Because he recognizes this brotherhood not merely as a hope cherished by despairing men, but as a definite fact following in scientific series from all other facts; because he sees this as an absolute certainty, his attitude towards all those around him changes radically. It becomes a posture ever of helpfulness, ever of the deepest sympathy, for he sees that nothing which clashes with their higher interests can be the right thing for him to do, or can be good for him in any way.
It naturally follows that he becomes filled with the widest possible tolerance and charity. He cannot but be always tolerant, because his philosophy shows him that it matters little what a man believes, so long as he is a good man and true. Charitable also he must be, because his wider knowledge enables him to make allowances for many things which the ordinary man does not understand. The standard of the Theosophist as to right and wrong is always higher than that of the less instructed man, yet he is far gentler than the latter in his feeling towards the sinner, because he comprehends more of human nature. He realizes how the sin appeared to the sinner at the moment of its commission, and so he makes more allowances than is ever made by the man who is ignorant of all this.
He goes further than tolerance, charity, sympathy; he feels positive love towards mankind, and that leads him to adopt a position of watchful helpfulness. He feels that every contact with others is for him an opportunity, and the additional knowledge which his study has brought to him enables him to give advice or help in almost any case which comes before him. Not that he is perpetually thrusting his opinions upon other people. On the contrary, he observes that to do this is one of the commonest mistakes made by the uninstructed. He knows that argument is a foolish waste of energy, and therefore he declines to argue. If anyone desires from him explanation or advice he is more than willing to give it, yet he has no sort of wish to convert anyone else to his own way of thinking.
In every relation of life this idea of helpfulness comes into play, not only with regard to his fellowmen but also in connection with the vast animal kingdom which surrounds him. Units of this kingdom are often brought into close relation with man, and this is for him an opportunity of doing something for them. The Theosophist recognizes that these are also his brothers, even though they may be younger brothers, and that he owes a fraternal duty to them also—so to act and so to think that his relation with them shall be always for their good and never for their harm.
Pre-eminently and above all, this Theosophy is to him a doctrine of common sense. It puts before him, as far as he can at present know them, the facts about God and man and the relations between them; then he proceeds to take these facts into account and to act in relation to them with ordinary reason and common sense. He regulates his life according to the laws of evolution which it has taught him, and this gives him a totally different standpoint, and a touchstone by which to try everything—his own thoughts and feelings, and his own actions first of all, and then those things which come before him in the world outside himself.
Always he applies this criterion: Is the thing right or wrong, does it help evolution or does it hinder it? If a thought or a feeling arises within himself, he sees at once by this test whether it is one he ought to encourage. If it be for the greatest good of the greatest number then all is well; if it may hinder or cause harm to any being in its progress, then it is evil and to be avoided. Exactly the same reason holds good if he is called upon to decide with regard to anything outside himself. If from that point of view a thing be a good thing, then he can conscientiously support it; if not, then it is not for him.
For him the question of personal interest does not come into the case at all. He thinks simply of the good of evolution as a whole. This gives him a definite foothold and the clear criterion, and removes from him altogether the pain of indecision and hesitation. The Will of the Deity is man's evolution; whatever therefore helps on that evolution must be good; whatever stands in the way of it and delays it, that thing must be wrong, even though it may have on its side all the weight of public opinion and immemorial tradition.
Knowing that the true man is the ego and not the body, he sees that it is the life of the ego only which is really of moment, and that everything connected with the body must unhesitatingly be subordinated to those higher interests. He recognizes that this earth-life is given to him for the purpose of progress, and that that progress is the one important thing. The real purpose of his life is the unfoldment of his powers as an ego, the development of his character. He knows that there must be evolvement not only of the physical body but also of the mental nature, of the mind and of the spiritual perceptions. He sees that nothing short of absolute perfection is expected of him in connection with this development; that all power with regard to it is in his own hands; that he has everlasting time before him in which to attain this perfection, but that the sooner it is gained the happier and more useful will he be.
He recognizes his life as nothing but a day at school, and his physical body as a temporary vesture assumed for the purpose of learning through it. He knows at once that this purpose of learning lessons is the only one of any real importance, and that the man who allows himself to be diverted from that purpose by any consideration whatever is acting with inconceivable stupidity. To him the life devoted exclusively to physical objects, to the acquisition of wealth or fame, appears the merest child's-play—a senseless sacrifice of all that is really worth having for the sake of a few moments' gratification of the lower part of his nature. He "sets his affection on things above and not on things of the earth", not only because he sees this to be the right course of action, but because he realizes so clearly the valuelessness of these things of earth. He always tries to take the higher point of view, for he knows that the lower is utterly unreliable—that the lower desires and feelings gather round him like a dense fog, and make it impossible for him to see anything clearly from that level.
Whenever he finds a struggle going on within him he remembers that he himself is the higher, and that this which is the lower is not the real self, but merely an uncontrolled part of one of its vehicles. He knows that though he may fall a thousand times on the way towards his goal, his reason for trying to reach it remains just as strong after the thousandth fall as it was in the beginning, so that it would not only be useless but unwise and wrong to give way to despondency and hopelessness.
He begins his journey upon the road of progress at once—not only because he knows that it is far easier for him now than it will be if he leaves the effort until later, but chiefly because if he makes the endeavour now and succeeds in achieving some progress, if he rises thereby to some higher level, he is in a position to hold out a helping hand to those who have not yet reached even that step on the ladder which he has gained. In that way he takes a part, however humble it may be, in the great divine work of evolution.
He knows that he has arrived at his present position only by a slow process of growth, and so he does not expect instantaneous attainment of perfection. He sees how inevitable is the great law of cause and effect, and that when he once grasps the working of that law he can use it intelligently in regard to mental and moral development, just as in the physical world we can employ for our own assistance those laws of Nature the action of which we have learnt to understand.
Understanding what death is, he knows that there can be no need to fear it or to mourn over it, whether it comes to himself or to those whom he loves. It has come to them all often before, so there is nothing unfamiliar about it. He sees death simply as a promotion from a life which is more than half physical to one which is wholly superior, so for himself he unfeignedly welcomes it; and even when it comes to those whom he loves, he recognizes at once the advantage for them, even though he cannot but feel a pang of regret that he should be temporarily separated from them so far as the physical world is concerned. But he knows that the so-called dead are near him still, and that he has only to cast off for a time his physical body in sleep in order to stand side by side with them as before.
He sees clearly that the world is one, and that the same divine laws rule the whole of it, whether it be visible or invisible to physical sight. So he has no feeling of nervousness or strangeness in passing from one part of it to another, and no feeling of uncertainty as to what he will find on the other side of the veil. He knows that in that higher life there opens before him a splendid vista of opportunities both for acquiring fresh knowledge and for doing useful work; that life away from this dense body has a vividness and a brilliancy to which all earthly enjoyment is as nothing; and so through his clear knowledge and calm confidence the power of the endless life shines out upon all those round him.
Doubt as to his future is for him impossible, for just as by looking back on the savage he realizes that which he was in the past, so by looking to the greatest and wisest of mankind he knows what he will be in the future. He sees an unbroken chain of development, a ladder of perfection rising steadily before him, yet with human beings upon every step of it, so that he knows, that those steps are possible for him to climb. It is just because of the unchangeableness of the great law of cause and effect that he finds himself able to climb that ladder, because since the law works always in the same way, he can depend upon it and he can use it, just as he uses the laws of Nature in the physical worlds. His knowledge of this law brings to him a sense of perspective and shows him that if something comes to him, it comes because he has deserved it as a consequence of actions which he has committed, of words which he has spoken, of thought to which he has given harbour in previous days or in earlier lives. He comprehends that all affliction is of the nature of the payment of a debt, and therefore when he has to meet with the troubles of life he takes them and uses them as a lesson, because he understands why they have come and is glad of the opportunity which they give him to pay off something of his obligation.
Again, and in yet another way, does he take them as an opportunity, for he sees that there is another side to them if he meets them in the right way. He spends no time in bearing prospective burdens. When trouble comes to him he does not aggravate it by foolish repining but sets himself to endure so much of it as is inevitable, with patience and with fortitude. Not that he submits himself to it as a fatalist might, for he takes adverse circumstances as an incentive to such development as may enable him to transcend them, and thus out of long-past evil he brings forth a seed of future growth. For in the very act of paying the outstanding debt he develops qualities of courage and resolution that will stand him in good stead through all the ages that are to come.
He is distinguishable from the rest of the world by his perennial cheerfulness, his undaunted courage under difficulties, and his ready sympathy and helpfulness; yet he is at the same time emphatically a man who takes life seriously, who recognizes that there is much for everyone to do in the world, and that there is no time to waste. He knows with utter certainty that he not only makes his own destiny but also gravely affects that of others around him, and thus he perceives how weighty a responsibility attends the use of his power.
He knows that thoughts are things and that it is easily possible to do great harm or great good by their means. He knows that no man liveth to himself, for his every thought acts upon others as well; that the vibrations which he sends forth from his mind and from his mental nature are reproducing themselves in the minds and the mental natures of other men, so that he is a source either of mental health or of mental ill to all with whom he comes in contact.
This at once imposes upon him a far higher code of social ethics than that which is known to the outer world, for he knows that he must control not only his acts and his words, but also his thoughts, since they may produce effects more serious and more far-reaching than their outward expression in the physical world. He knows that even when a man is not in the least thinking of others, he yet inevitably affects them for good or for evil. In addition to this unconscious action of his thought upon others he also employs it consciously for good. He sets currents in motion to carry mental help and comfort to many a suffering friend, and in this way he finds a whole new world of usefulness opening before him.
He ranges himself ever on the side of the higher rather than the lower thought, the nobler rather than the baser. He deliberately takes the optimistic rather than the pessimistic view of everything, the helpful, rather than the cynical, because he knows that to be fundamentally the true view. By looking continually for the good in everything that he may endeavour to strengthen it, by striving always to help and never to hinder, he becomes ever of greater use to his fellow-men, and is thus in his small way a co-worker with the splendid scheme of evolution. He forgets himself utterly and lives but for the sake of others, realizing himself as a part of that scheme; he also realizes the God within him, and learns to become ever a truer expression of Him, and thus in fulfilling God's Will, he is not only blessed himself, but becomes a blessing to all.