to a student
great point for the would-be Theosophist to try to realise, but of course
a most difficult one, is that none of our experiences are unique. Some
time and somehow we all undergo experiences, differing perhaps in external
details, but all producing similar inner effects. To get the idea that
we have in some way been singled out to undergo special blows or trials,
or to receive special favours is but to nourish the sense of separateness.
early trials of yours are of a nature which most Theosophists have experienced.
Their effects may be deep and lasting, and be carried forward into other
lives, but they need not be so. By rightly directed effort they may be
worked out long before this life ends. There is no such thing as an EVERLASTING effect from a cause no matter how tremendous. All that is everlasting
is the WISDOM which the experience brings, and which is assimilated into
the True Self. When once the lesson of any experience has been learned,
the thing itself is ended, it drops away and leaves no mark, and ceases
to have weight
the the thing to bear in mind, and struggle to act upon, is that every
trial whatsoever has been created by ourselves, and not arbitrarilly inflicted
by another, or by anything whatsoever outside ourselves. It isn't easy
to come to this realisation. No one who knows anything ever pretends that
the Theosophical Path is easy tredding. Even to contemplate seriously
tredding it implies that one has attained a stature and strength above
that of common man. The immense difficulty lies in failing to appreciate
that we are immortal beings in our true nature, and did not begin our
experiences with this life. Looking at this life only we see inexplicable
blows inflicted upon us, as you have done. As far as we see we have done
nothing to earn them. Others, often far more wicked and perverse than
we have their way made smooth and pleasant. Result, we rebel, and continue
rebelling against "fate", "providence" and our fellow
men. As long as we do that the effects of the things we have suffered
will haunt and oppress us - because WISDOM concerning them has not risen
of repining and rebelling because of the seemingly undeserved afflictions
we have suffered, our right attitude towards them should be one of rejoicing,
in that they provide us means of learning. How and what can we learn when
we cannot see our past lives and actions? is the constant complaint. The
whole secret of learning is not to be disclosed - but the beginning of
it may be revealed and understood. Be satisfied with small beginnings
- to be content with the single small step of the moment is part of the
process of learning. Look carefully at the phase of your life which seems
to have sorely oppressed you. Why did you feel it oppressive? It was not
that the thing in itself was intrinsically oppressive, since you have
but to glance round and see many others suffering much worse things, and
in many cases doing it cheerfully, and without recognition of any suffering
at all. There is no difficulty in seeing this. We see gipsies, slum-dwellers,
savages undergoing things which would be appaling to us cheerfully unknowing
that they are afflicted at all. Very well then, it is simply your own
nature which makes you feel oppressed, and you yourself and no other made
your own nature.
you can get this far you have already begun to release a little of your
burden. Go farther then, and try to examine detachedly this nature of
yours which causes you to feel oppressed. What is it which has this feeling?
Your personal, SEPARATE self of course. It cannot be otherwise. It is
this thing which is not yourself, but only an instrument which is loudly
asserting that it has certain RIGHTS. It is the sense of having certain
personal RIGHTS which makes us feel that we are ill used. It is just as
if a spade got up and refused to dig clay, asserting that by RIGHTS it
should encounter only light sand.
commonest thing in the world is for one to feel that another, or others
have treated us unjustly. We rebel silently, or openly against them, and
frequently grow to hate them, and to blame them for causing our lives
to be other than we think desirable. In all such cases we should pause
and examine deeply our own nature, and say would our trouble have had
existence if we ourselves had been different.
value of any experience begins to be realised by such self examination.
It teaches us to begin to know ourselves, and this knowledge is the way
to wisdom. However you find yourself reacting to any experience, you should
search for the cause of this reaction in yourself.
experience of the phase of Atheism, and search for something to give you
light subsequently is extremely typical. It is a fact that a period of
blank agnosticism is the invariable prelude to entrance into Theosophy.
This may extend over a lifetime, or may be of a few hours, or even minutes'
duration. It marks the "no-man's-land" between dependence upon
external aid, and the beginning of looking within oneself where the only
true light is to be found. No external teacher can ever bestow this light
on you. He can tell you where to look for it, and give hints upon how
to look, but that is all.
Philosophy of Theosophy is exceedingly difficult even for those minds
whose line it is to take the Philosophic Way. Unless you possess a metaphysical
turn of mind, it is next to impossible to get anything resembling a true
conception of things like the Doctrine of Correspondences, The Planetary
Chain, Cycles, etc. These are things which I myself have studied for twenty
years, but my real knowledge of them is but a dim glimmer in the upper
reaches of my mind. The greatest mistake a student can make is to think
that a few months' study of books is going to give any clear conception.
The greatest value from the study of works on Theosophy, or Occultism
does not come from any understanding which can be readily gained, but
it comes FROM THE EFFORT TO UNDERSTAND. The study of a Book like "The
Perfect Way", or "The Secret Doctrine", or "Light
on the Path", or "The Voice of the Silence"
is not a thing one must ever look to be done with. It is a business of
a whole life. If some tiny glimmer of understanding of one small point
appears at intervals, be satisfied. The truth, or anything approximating
to it, will grow only point by point, scattered widely at first, then
gradually thickening until some join, forming little patches of light,
and so on. The great thing is to find content in this constant seeking
never troubling about ultimate results.
understand very well how great the difficulties are which confront a beginner
in these studies. The secret of minimising those difficulties lies in
ceasing to be ANXIOUS either for results in the way of an access of knowledge,
or because of a sense of seeming to fail. To be happy knowing that one
is trying to do the right and see the truth is the thing.
Worry about past failures, or coming difficulties both are hampering things.
Think of present actions only. If you recognise a failure, be satisfied
with that recognition and trouble no more about it. Never allow yourself
to become self-congratulatory about seeming to have conquered a failing.
The very fact you think you have conquered it makes you relax your efforts,
and in a moment the thing has you in its grip again. When you have really
overcome anything you will know it. It will have passed as completely
out of your scheme of things as that of reverting to the stone-age and
cannibalism. Study yourself and you will be able to identify many things
which have thus dropped away and cannot be recognised as ever forming
part of your nature.
had not, as you think, the advantage of growing up in Theosophy. Although
my father was an advanced Theosophist, and eventually retired away from
the world into a secret Occult Order, he gave no teachings to me. I knew
him but little. He was a Naval Officer and already old when I was born.
Nominally he was a Roman Catholic, while my mother was a narrow Protestant.
My early education came from Jesuits, at my father's wish, but my mother
most foolishly strove to counter the "Papish influence" and
instil Evangelistic Protestantism into my mind. The quite natural result
was to set me against both religion and my mother. My home life, luckily
I had little of it between schooldays, and cadetship, was a stormy period.
Then while still in my teens I went to Africa and saw no more of home.
A few times I encountered my father, but not until I was in my middle
twenties did he mention Occultism to me. By that time, having passed through
a short period of agnosticism, and a longer of dabbling in various forms
of Magic, I had found Theosophy, or the beginning of it through certain
people in Africa of whom no doubt you have heard me mention. It was after
that when I had become definitely a "Learner" that my father
began to reveal his own knowledge, and connection with the same people
whom I had encountered.
see then there was no early training to smooth my way. The fact is that
early training has nothing whatever to do with one's course in life. Youthful
theosophical teachings would no more make a child a theosophist than my
own made me any sort of Christian. One comes into Theosophy according
to what one's own efforts in past lives have made one. You might think
that if this were true one would, as it were, commence as a child where
one left off in the last life. Such is not the Law of evolution. We move
by cycles and not by a simple direct advance. In each life all the cycles
of the past repeat themselves - lifetimes condensed down to days, minutes,
seconds. If one could but survey every passing phase of one's life from
infancy upward one could read the whole history of one's past.
one comes definitely into Theosophy it means that in a past life one has
touched it. To the extent that it seems easy and familiar one can begin
to judge what the measure of one's development in the past has been. In
this as in all else one is as one has made oneself. The case is not of
anyone having opportunities to learn denied to another. If one is ready
to learn the fitting teacher will appear. Bear in mind that we human beings
are not all of one age. Though born in one period of time, some of us
are ages older in REAL life than others.
point of great importance to all beginners, and one seldom properly emphasised
is that in one's early efforts to advance seriously on the Occult Path,
one must not look to find it smoothing out one's way in life. The first
effects are invariably to complicate life. The reason is
this. When living the common life one is drifting along the common stream
with no more effort of will or strength than is needed to keep afloat.
But when one begins serious effort to become an Occultist, one turns one's
will to make one's way against the common stream, and at once one experiences
the force of the current. Difficulties and disturbances of innumerable
kinds begin to afflict the budding occultist, and he must hold his balance,
and steer his course among them, and learn from their effects on his nature.
One cannot predict just how any particular individual may be affected,
but a most common thing is to find oneself being misunderstood, losing
friends, being left with a lonely feeling. The beginner must be prepared
for such things. True, some apparent beginners seem to suffer nothing
in this way, but the fact is that these are not really beginners - they
are but running over an old cycle in which they had gone far in the past.
of confidence, and self-consciousness is simply one more manifestation
of the Sense of Separateness. When you say "I lack confidence",
just what exactly do you mean, ask yourself. Does it mean that in some
way one feels that one COMPARES unfavourably with one's fellows. Obviously
one is not considering the True Self when feeling this, for the True Self
is the self of all. It is the instrument, the lower, separate, personal
self which is doing the protesting. The only true remedy then is to begin
separating the True Self from its instrument. Turn and look at and analyse
this personal self. Consider its nature. Ask why this hankering to shine
among others? Why it is the best of all possible instruments for your
use: no other would bring you the experiences you need for your development.
Why this very feeling should be welcome, because it brings home to you
the fact that you are considering yourself as distinct from others.
is the same thing. There is no real cure except establishing a balance
within yourself, and seeing all personal things as apart from you, the
real self. At the beginning you can gain a good deal by turning your attention
to studying others instead of letting your mind dwell upon what they may
be thinking of you. Watch their various little failings, evidences of
unbalance etc, not uncharitably, but in a detached, impersonal way. Later
examine your own nature and see if you cannot see those others' failings
repeated in your own personality. But while steadily striving for a detached,
impersonal attitude, be sure not to allow your many failures in the effort
to trouble you. Self analysis, and steady suggestions to yourself that
your personality is not YOU, but your instrument is the safe way for the beginner. There are, as I suppose you know, or have heard,
other ways and means used in Occult circles to hasten evolution. Many
of these - most in fact - are expedients which if persevered with may
cause the development of certain psychic faculties, but it can never be
too strongly impressed upon learners that psychism is not Theosophy, or
True Occultism, and that far from helping towards Spiritual illumination
it more often than not obstructs and throws back. Light on The Path, and
The Voice of the Silence make plain the task that has to be accomplished
before the aid of a Master can be sought. "The Eyes must be incapable
of tears, etc." - which means that the learner must have gained a
poise, a detachment from personal desires and emotions so that they can
no longer sway him, or change his purpose. This task must be done by each
one of us, unaided, except for such guidance as a somewhat older student
can give. Until this has been done any opening of the doors into the true
spiritual worlds is dangerous in the extreme. The True Way is this which
I tell you - try constantly, steadfastly to achieve a detached, impersonal
attitude towards life. It does not mean destroying emotion, or becoming
unfeeling; it simply means being able to keep an unshaken balance no matter
how intense one's feelings. Be content with knowing you are doing that,
little by little, and put away violent desires of rapid progress and sudden
expansion of knowledge. Such desire is nothing more than another aspect
of the lower nature calling for personal gratification.
observances such as the ritual I showed you help if observed in the right
spirit - the attempt to realise what the symbolism suggests. They help
to calm the lower nature, and allow a spark of the higher to come through.
But even simple things like these are useless, or worse than useless without
some preliminary measure of detachment from the personal. If the consciousness
remains centred in the personal, even the very modified effect produced
will cause more or less severe disturbance. You should not force yourself
to participate in even this ritual unless you find that you can for the
time forget your personal side. Anything of this kind represents a step
beyond the beginner's effort. The first step of all has to be made by
one's own effort.
is a value in the study of the Philosophy if you can throw yourself whole
heartedly into it in that it sinks the personal nature, and causes it
to be forgotten for the time. But the study must be for its own sake,
and not anything done to gratify a mere personal lust for knowledge, not
yet must it be undertaken as an unpleasant duty.
hope these hints may prove of some help.