What is Man?
The most important question that was ever asked, and is still asked with anxiety and often with fear, is the same that was propounded thousands of years ago by the Egyptian Sphinx, who killed him that attempted to solve the riddle and did not succeed: What is Man? Ages have passed away since the question was first asked, nations have slain each other in cruel religious warfare, making vain efforts to impose upon each other such solution of the great problem as they believed they had found, but from the tombs of the past only re-echoes the same question -- What is Man?
** The term Creation is frequently misunderstood. Neither the Bible nor any other reasonable book says that anything had ever been created out of nothing. Such a superstition belongs entirely to modern materialistic Science, which believes that life and consciousness could grow out of dead and unconscious things. The word "Creation" means the production of forms out of already existing formless materials; form in the absolute is not a thing, it is nothing but an illusion, and therefore if a form is produced nothing but an illusion has been created.
And yet the answer seems simple. Reason, if divested of religious or scientific prejudices, tells us that man, like every other form in the universe, is a collective centre of energy, a solitary ray of the universally present Divine Light "which is the common source of everything that exists"; he is a true child of the great Spiritual Sun. As the rays of our sun only become visibly active in contact with dust, so the divine ray is absorbed and reflected by matter.
The sun-ray plays with the waves of the ocean: the heat created by the contact of water with light from above extracts from below the refined material, and the vapours rise to the sky, where, like the ghosts of the seas, they wander in clouds of manifold shapes, travelling freely through the air, playing with the winds, until the time arrives when the energies which keep them suspended become exhausted and they once more descend to the earth.
In a similar manner a divine ray of the spiritual sun mingles with matter while dwelling on Earth, absorbing and assimilating whatever corresponds to its own nature. As the butterfly flits from flower to flower, tasting the sweets of each, so the human monad passes from life to life, from planet to planet, gathering experience, knowledge, and strength; but when the day of life is over, night follows, and with it follows sleep, bringing dreams of vivid reality.
The grossest elements remain to mingle again with earth, the more refined elements -- the astral elements -- which are still within the attraction of the planet, float about, driven hither and thither by their inherent tendencies, until the energy which holds them together is exhausted, and they dissolve again in the plane to which they belong.
But the highest spiritual energies of man, held together by love, freed from the attraction of Earth, ascend to their source like a white-robed spirit, bringing with them the products of experiences beyond the limits of matter.
Man's love and aspiration do not belong to Earth. They create energies which are active beyond the confines of the grave and the funeral-pyre; their activity lasts for ages, until it becomes exhausted, and the purified ray, still endowed with the tendencies impressed upon it by its last visit to the planet, again seeks association with matter, builds again its prison-house of animated clay, and appears an old actor in a new part upon the ever-changing stage of life.
Some of the greatest philosophers have arrived at a recognition of this truth by speculation and logical reasoning, while others, whose minds were illumined by wisdom, have perceived it as a self-evident fact by the power of intuition.
To build the new house the impressions gathered by its previous visits furnish the material. The slothful rich man of the past may become the beggar of the future, and the industrious worker in the present life develop tendencies which will lay the foundation of greatness in the next. Suffering in one life may produce patience and fortitude that will be useful in another; hardships will produce endurance, self-denial will strengthen the will; tastes engendered in one life will be our guides in another; and latent energies will become active whenever circumstances require it during an existence on the material plane either in one life or another according to the eternal law of cause and effect.
A child burns its fingers by touching the flame, and the adult does not remember all the circumstances under which the accident occurred; still the fact that fire will burn and must not be touched will remain impressed upon the mind. In the same manner the experiences gained in one life are not remembered in their details in the next, but the impressions which they produce will remain.* Again and again man passes through the wheel of transformation, changing his lower energies into higher ones, until matter attracts him no longer, and he becomes what he is destined to be, a god.
* There is a certain stage in the spiritual evolution of man, when he will remember the events of his previous lives; but to remember them in his present state of imperfection would be merely a hindrance in his progress. It has been said, that by not remembering the errors of our past lives, and their evil consequences, man is liable to commit his previous errors again; but we ought not to do good merely as a matter of speculation and to avoid evil consequences resulting therefrom, but from an inherent sense of duty, regardless of what the resulting consequences may be.
Man, like the majority of organised beings, is an atom in the immensity of the universe; he cannot be divided and still remain a man; but unlike other and lower organised beings, whose realisation of existence is confined to the physical or astral plane, that which constitutes him a Man and distinguishes him from an animal is an integral and conscious part of the highest spiritual energy of the universe, which is everywhere present, and his spiritual consciousness is, therefore, not limited to a certain locality in the physical world.
Who made Man? -- Man makes himself during every day of his life. He is his own creator. The clay -- the material body -- that clings to the ray of the manifested Life, is taken from Earth, the energies, called the astral soul, are the products of the astral plane, the highest energies belong to the spirit. Animal man, like the lower orders of nature, is a product of the blind law of necessity, and may even be produced artificially.*
* See Paracelsus. "Homunculi."
The physical attributes of the child and its mental qualifications are the result of inheritance of previously existing conditions. Like the tree that can send its roots into the neighbouring soil and gather the nutriment by which it is surrounded, but cannot roam about in search of food at distant places, so physical man has only a limited choice in the selection of such means of development as he may require; he grows, because he cannot resist the law of necessity and the impulses given by nature.
But as reason begins to enlighten him, the work of creation begins. The intelligence within says to the will: "Let us make man." She urges the will, and the will sullenly leaves its favourite occupation of serving the passions and begins to mould man in accordance with the divine image held up before him by wisdom.
Let us make Man, means: Let us make a divine man out of an animal man; let us surround the divine ray within us with the purest of essences; let us throw off everything which is sensual and grossly material, and which hinders our progress; let us transform the emotions into virtues in which the spiritual ray may clothe itself when it reascends to its throne.
Let us make man! It depends entirely on our efforts what kind of a man we shall make. To make an average man or even a superior one in the common acceptation of the term is not a very difficult matter. Follow the rules of health and the laws of diet, provide above all for yourself and never give anything away, unless by doing so you are sure to get more in return. You will then make a respectable animal, a "self-made" man, prominent, independent, and rich -- one who lives and dies on the plane of selfishness, an object of envy for many; respected perhaps by many, but not by his conscience.
There is another class of self-made men; those on the intellectual plane. They stand before the world as the world's benefactors, as philosophers, teachers, statesmen, inventors, or artists. They have what is called genius, and instead of being mere imitators, they possess originality. They benefit themselves by benefiting the world.
Intellectual researches that benefit no one are unproductive; they resemble physical exercise with dumbbells, by which muscular strength may be gained, but no labour accomplished. An intellectual pursuit may be followed for merely selfish purposes; but unless there is a love for the object of that study, little progress will be made, and instead of a sage, a bookworm will be the result. True genius is a magician who creates a world for himself and for others, and his power expands as he grows in perfection.
Mind and Spirit
The lower intellectual labour alone cannot be the true object of life; the truth cannot be grasped by the unaided efforts of the brain, and he who attempts to arrive at the truth merely by the intellectual labour of the brain, without consulting the heart, will fail. The heart resembles the Sun as the seat of Wisdom, the brain corresponds to the Moon; it is the seat of the reasoning intellect, and receives its light and life from the Sun. If the Sun stands guard over the Moon, thoughts which are distasteful to the heart will not enter the brain. The heart and the head should work together in harmony, to kill the dragon of ignorance, dwelling upon the threshold of the temple, and to arrive at the truth.
In the allegorical books of the Alchemists the Sun represents Intelligence; he is the "heart" of our solar system; the Moon represents dreams and desires or the "brain"; Earth represents the physical Body. If the male Sun cohabits with the female Moon in the water of Truth, they will produce a son whose name is Wisdom. The intellect is the material man whose bride is spiritual understanding, the divine woman; no man or woman is perfect as long as the celestial marriage has not taken place through the power of Divine Love.*
* Compare "The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ." [1882, by Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. 200 page Pdf at: www.theosophical.ca ]
The materials of which Man is constructed are the principles that flow into him from the store-house of universal nature, the builder is the will, reason the superintendent, and wisdom the supreme architect. The building goes on without noise, and no sound of the hammer is heard, because the materials are already prepared by nature; they only require to be put into their proper places.
The highest is the Spirit or "Consciousness," and Spirit alone is immortal. Such of the lower elements as harmonise with it amalgamate with the spirit, and are rendered conscious and immortal. Spirit can only find its corresponding vibrations in the highest spiritual elements of the soul such as are furnished by the higher principles, and consist of the purest thoughts, aspirations, and memories produced by the fifth, in which resides the intellectual power of man.
Pure intelligence is Spirituality, but intellectual activity confined within the lower planes of thought can bring to light no spiritual treasures. Intellectual activity is not a power; but the result of the power of spirit acting within the mind. A very intellectual and learned person may be very unhappy and unharmonious, if his tendencies are towards selfishness, and his mind incapable to be illuminated by the light of truth. Wisdom is the self-recognition of the truth; it resides in the spiritual soul of man, and sends its light down into his fifth principle, shining through the clouds of matter like the sunlight penetrating a fog.
The fifth principle receives its stimulus from the fourth, the irrational nature of man. We cannot build a house without solid material, and we may just as well attempt to run a steam-engine without fuel or water as to make a genius out of a being without any emotions. The stronger the emotions are, the more enduring will be the spiritual temple, if they can be made to fit into the walls and pillars. A person originally without any emotions is without virtues, he is without energy, a shadow, neither cold nor warm, and necessarily useless. The passionate man is nearer to the spirit, if he can guide his passions in the right direction, than the man who has nothing to guide and nothing to conquer.
To produce a perfect building, or a perfect man, the proportions must be harmonious. Wisdom guides the work and love furnishes the cement. An emotion is either a virtue or a vice according to the manner in which it is applied. Misapplied virtues become vices, and well-directed vices are virtues. A man who acts according to the dictates of prudence alone is a coward; one who indiscriminately exercises his generosity is a spendthrift; courage without caution is rashness; veneration without knowledge produces superstition; charity without judgment makes a beggar, and even one-sided justice, untempered by mercy, produces a miserly, cruel, and despicable tyrant.
The irrational soul, impelled only by its desires and unguided by wisdom, resembles a drunken man who has lost his physical balance; it totters from side to side, falls from one extreme into another, and cannot guide its steps. Only an equilibrium of forces can produce harmony, beauty, and perfection. The irrational soul, swayed by uncontrollable emotions, forms an unfit habitation for the divine ray, that loves peace and tranquillity.
The control of the emotions is the difficult struggle that is allegorically represented by the twelve labours of Hercules, which the oracle of Zeus commanded him to perform. Every man who desires to progress is his own Hercules and works for the benefit of the king (his Atma), whose orders he receives through the divine oracle of his own conscience. He is constantly engaged in battle, because the lower principles fight for their lives and will not be conquered. They are the products of matter and they cling to their source.
Whence do the emotions come?
The cosmologies of the ancients express under various allegories the same fundamental truth; that "in the beginning" the Great First Cause evolved out of itself, by the power of its own will, certain powers, whose action and reaction brought the elementary forces that constituted the world into existence. These elementary forces are the Devas of the East, the Elohims of the Bible, the Afrites of the Persians, the Titans of the Romans, the Eggregores of the book of Enoch. They are the active agents of the cosmos, beneficial or detrimental according to the conditions under which they act, intelligent or unintelligent according to the nature of the instrument through which they work. They are not necessarily self-conscious rational entities, but may manifest themselves through conscious organisms endowed with reason; they are not persons, but become personified by finding expression in individual forms.
Love and hate, envy and benevolence, lust and greed are not persons, but become personified in human or animal forms. An extremely malicious person is the embodiment of malice, and if he sees the demon in an objective form, he beholds the reflection of his own soul in the mirror of his mind. Spirit exists everywhere, but we cannot perceive a spirit unless it first enters the sphere of our soul.
The spirit that enters our soul obtains its life from ourselves, and if we do not expel it from our soul it grows strong by vampirising our life. Like a parasite growing on a tree and feeding on its substance, it fastens its feelers around the tree of our life and grows strong while our own life grows weak. A thought, once taking root in the mind, will grow until it becomes expressed in an act, when, obtaining a life of its own by that act, it leaves its place to a successor.
Those elementary forces of nature are everywhere, and always ready to enter the soul if its doors are not defended. To call up a wicked spirit we need not go in search of him, we need only allow him to come. To call up a devil means to give way to an evil thought, to vanquish him means to resist successfully a temptation to evil.
The elementary powers of nature are innumerable, and their classification gave rise to the pantheons of the Greeks and to the mythologies of the East. The greatest power is Zeus, the father of the gods, or the source from which all other powers take their origin. Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, springs from his head, her origin is the noblest of all, but Venus, the daughter of the Sun, arising from the ocean of the universal Soul, conquers all by her beauty. She holds together the worlds in space by the power of her attraction, binds souls to souls, chains the like to like, and binds the evil to evil.
She is the mother of the minor gods that combat each other, because love of self, love of possession, love of fame, love of power, &c., are all only children of the universal power of love. They fight among themselves like children, because action gives rise to reaction, love is opposed by hate, hope by fear, faith by doubt, &c. To control them the god of Power (Mars) must be united with the goddess of Love -- in other words, the passions must be held in obedience by the Will.
Each power exists and is held in its elementary matrix or vehicle, the Aakaasa, the Universal Proteus, the generator of form, which finds its outward expression in Matter, and these powers constitute the eternal circle, or the snake, "whose head shall be crushed by the heel of the woman," meaning Wisdom, the eternal virgin, whose "daughters" are faith, hope, and charity.
The snake cannot enter the soul, if the soul is defended by wisdom. If an evil thought enters the soul and we do not reject it, we harbour a devil in our heart, whose claims we take into consideration; we give him a promise and induce him to remain, and, like an unwelcome creditor, he will continually urge his claims until they are fulfilled.
The lower triads of principles in the constitution of man receive their nutriment from the inferior kingdoms of nature. If the body is overfed or stimulated by drink, the emotional element will become excessively active and the intellect will become weak. Too stimulating food or drink is injurious for higher development, because life will in such cases withdraw its activity from the higher principles and be made to work in the lower principles of man. Large quantities of otherwise healthy food will be injurious for the same reason.
The principle of life which transforms the lower energies into higher ones is the same principle which causes the digestion of food.  If it is squandered in the lower organs, the higher organs will starve. Some men are habituated to meat-eating, and they require it; others are used to alcohol, and if they would suddenly discontinue its use they will suffer; but meat and alcohol are, under normal conditions, unnecessary for the human system, and often they act positively injurious.
[1. See Gurdjieff section: /gurdjieff/#food-diagrams ]
The principle argument of the lovers of animal food is that it "gives bodily strength, and is necessary for those who have to perform manual labour." This argument is based upon an erroneous opinion, because animal food does not give as much strength as a vegetable diet;* it only stimulates the organism, and induces it to use up the strength which it already possesses in a short period of time instead of saving it up for the future. The consequences of an exclusive animal diet, gluttony, extreme sensuality, combativeness, cruelty, and stupidity, indolence, physical and psychical apathy, are the necessary consequences of over-stimulation.
* According to the calculations made by Prov. J. v. Liebig, the same amount of albuminous [protein] substances for which, if in the form of animal food, is paid 100d., can be bought in the shape of peas for 9d., and in that of wheat for 4d.
Darwin says that "the hardest-working people he ever met are the persons that work in the mines of Chili, and that they are living on an exclusively vegetable diet." The country people in Ireland live almost without meat-eating, and yet they are strong and enduring. The common Russian eats very little meat and enjoys good health.
The strongest people that can perhaps be found anywhere are the country people in the South of Bavaria, and they eat meat only on exceptional occasions and holy-days. Horses, bulls, elephants, are the strongest animals, and live on vegetable food, while the prominent traits of character of the flesh-eating animals are cowardice, irritability, and cunning. A bear kept at the Anatomical Museum at Giessen showed a quiet, gentle nature as long as he was fed on bread, but a few days' feeding on meat made him, not stronger, but vicious and dangerous.
Let those who desire to know the truth in regard to meat-eating seek the answers to their questions, not with the intellect of the head, but through the voice of wisdom speaking in the interior of their heart, and they will not be mistaken.*
* See Dr A. [Anna] Kingsford: "The Perfect Way in Diet."
[Pdf at Archive.Org ]
Another question arises in regard to the eating of flesh; it is the question whether or not man has a right to kill animals for his food. To the professed Christians who claim to believe in the Bible there seems to be no cause for any doubt, because the command is plain: "Thou shall not kill." And yet this command is disregarded daily by millions of professed "Christians," who base their illusory right to kill animals upon a misunderstood verse of their Bible. It is said that God permitted man to "have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowls of the air, and over the cattle, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,"** if he kills his inferiors, his dominion over them is at an end. Man's prerogative is to appease suffering, not to cause it; not to interrupt the work of evolution, but to assist it. Christianity and murder are incompatible terms.
** Genesis i. 26.
Meat is stimulating, and stimulating food creates a desire for stimulating drink. The best cure for the desire for alcoholic drink is to avoid the eating of meat. It is doubtful whether there is any passion in the world more devilish and more detrimental to the true interests of humanity and of individual happiness than the love of Alcohol. As meat-eating endows man with illusory strength, that soon fades away, leaving its possessor weaker than he was before; likewise stimulating drinks lull him into an illusory happiness, which soon disappears, and is followed by lasting and real misery, causing suffering to himself and to others.
It causes a long list of diseases of the internal organs, and leads to premature death; it is the cause of by far the great majority of all crimes committed in civilised countries. To those who look upon man as a rational being, it seems incomprehensible why civilised nations will suffer an evil in their midst that fills their jails, hospitals, lunatic asylums, and graveyards; and why men will "put an enemy in their mouths" that destroys their health, their reason, and their life. But those who look deeper see that in our present age the dawn of reason has only begun, and that the spiritual faculties of the majority of men still sleep in the icy embrace of ignorance. Reforms are necessary, but they cannot be inaugurated by merely external means; the only redeemer is knowledge.*
* See Dr A. Kingsford: "The Alcoholic Controversy."
The body politic resembles the individual body. It is of no use to destroy the means to gratify a desire as long as the desire itself is suffered to exist. The evils that affect mankind are the outcome of their desires for such evils. Means to gratify evil desires will exist as long as they are patronised, and if they are abolished other means will be found. Weeds are not destroyed by cutting their leaves, if the roots are allowed to remain. These roots grow in the dark soil of ignorance, they can only be destroyed by the light of the truth.
To eat and drink and sleep for the purpose of living, and not to live for the purpose of eating, drinking, and sleeping, is a maxim which is often heard, but which is not frequently carried out. A great deal of nutriment daily taken by men serves no other purpose than to comply with habit, and to gratify an artificially created desire. The more a man is gross and material, the greater is the quantity of food he desires, and the more food he takes the more gross and material will he become. Noble and refined natures require little nutriment, ethereal beings and "spiritual" entities require no material food.
The means should always be adapted to the end in view. If the end is low and vulgar, low and vulgar means will be needed; if it is noble and high, equally high and noble means are required. A prize-fighter, whose main object is to develop muscle, will require a different training from that of one who desires to develop the faculty to perceive spiritual truths. Conditions that may be suitable for the development of one person may be impracticable for another.
One man will develop faster through poverty, another through wealth; one man may need as his initial psychic stimulus the gentle and exalting influences of married life, while another one's aspirations rise higher, if independent of earthly ties. Each man who exercises his will for the purpose of his higher development is, to the extent he exercises it, a practical occultist. Every one grows necessarily in one direction or in another; none remain stationary. Those who desire to outstrip others in growth must act.
One of the Tibetan Adepts says in a letter --
"Man is made up of ideas, and ideas guide his life. The world of subjectivity is the only reality to him even on this physical plane. To the occultist it grows more real as it goes further and further from illusory earthly objectivity, and its ultimate reality is Parabrahm. Hence an aspirant for occult knowledge should begin to concentrate all his desires on the highest ideal, that of absolute self-sacrifice, philanthropy, divine kindness, as of all the highest virtues obtainable on this Earth [the paramitas], and work up to it incessantly.
"The more strenuous his efforts to rise up to that ideal, the oftener is his willpower exercised, and the stronger it becomes. When it is thus strengthened, it sets up a tendency, in the gross shell of Stula-sharira, [gross or physical body] to do such acts as are compatible with the highest ideal he has to work up to, and his acts intensify his will-power doubly, owing to the operation of the well-known law of action and reaction. Hence in Occultism great stress is laid on practical results.
"Now the question is: What are these practical results, and how are they to be produced? It is a well-known fact, derived from observation and experience, that progress is the law of nature. The acceptance of this truth suggests the idea, that humanity is in its lower state of development, and is progressing towards the stages of perfection. It will approach the final goal when it develops new sensibilities and a clear relation with nature. From this it is obvious that a final state of perfection will be arrived at when the energy that animates man co-operates with the One Life operating in the Cosmos in achieving this mighty object; and knowledge is the most powerful means to that end.
"Thus it will be clear that the ultimate object of nature is to make man perfect through the union of the human spirit with the One Life. Having this final goal before our mind, an intellectual brotherhood should be formed by uniting all together, and this is the only stepping-stone towards the final goal. To produce this practical result, union, we must hold up the highest ideal, which forms the real man, and make others see that truth and act up to it. To lead our neighbours and fellow-creatures to this right path, the best means should be pursued with self-sacrificing habits. When our energy as a collective whole is thus expended, in working up to the highest ideal, it becomes potent, and the grandest results are produced on the spiritual plane.
"As this is the most important work in which every occultist should be engaged, an aspirant for higher knowledge should spare no efforts to bring about this end. With the progressive tide of evolution of the body as a whole, the mental and the spiritual faculties of humanity expand. To help this tide on, a knowledge of philosophical truths should be spread. This is what is expected from an aspirant for occult knowledge, and what he should do."
Faith and Will
The will is developed through action and strengthened by faith. The movements of the body, such as walking, are only successfully performed by a person because he has a full and unwavering faith in his power to perform them. Fear and doubt paralyse the will and produce impotency; but hope and faith produce marvellous results. The lawyer or physician who has no faith in his own ability will make blunders, and if his clients or patients share his doubts, his usefulness will be seriously impaired; whereas even the ignorant fanatic or quack may succeed, if he has faith in himself.
Lord Lytton [Wikipedia] says: "The victims of the ghostly one are those that would aspire and can only fear." Fear and Doubt are the hell-born daughters of ignorance that drag man down to perdition; while Faith is the white-robed angel that lends him her wings and endows him with power. "Samsayatma Vinasyati" (the doubter perishes), said Krishna to Arjuna, his favourite disciple.
Faith is soul-knowledge; therefore, even without intellectual knowledge, it is more useful than intellectual knowledge without faith. Strong faith, even if resting upon an erroneous conception, acts powerfully in producing results; faith produces an exalted state of the imagination, which strengthens the will, banishes pain, cures disease, leads to heroism, and transforms hell into heaven.
The only way to develop will-power is to act according to law. Each act creates a new impulse, which, added to the already-existing energy, increases its strength. Good acts increase the power for good; evil acts, the power for evil. A person who acts only from impulse manifests no will of his own. If he obeys his lower impulses he passively develops into a criminal or a maniac; he who acts by the impulse of divine wisdom is a god.
The most horrible crimes are often committed without any proportionate provocation, because the perpetrators had not the power to resist the impulses that prompted them to such acts. Such persons are not necessarily wicked; they are weak and irresponsible beings; they are the servants of the impulses that control them, and they can be made the helpless instruments and victims of those who know how to call forth their emotions. They are like the soldiers of two opposing armies, who are not necessarily personal enemies; but are made to hate and kill each other by appeals to their passions.
The oftener such persons give way to impulses, the more is their power of resistance diminished, and their own impotency is their ruin. It is of little use to be merely passively good, if abstinence from wrong-doing may be so called. A person who does neither good nor evil accomplishes nothing. A stone, an animal, an imbecile, may be considered good, because they do no active evil; a person may live a hundred years, and at the end of his life he may not have been more useful than a stone.*
* "He who is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, will be spued out by nature." -- Bible. [Revelation 3:16]
Development of the Will
There is nothing in nature which has not a threefold aspect and a threefold activity. The Will-power forms no exception to this rule. In its lowest aspect the Will is that power which induces the voluntary and involuntary functions of the physical organism; its centre of activity is the spinal cord. In its higher aspect it is the power which induces psychic activity; it is diffused through the blood which comes from the heart and returns to it, and its actions are governed, or can be governed, by intellect acting in the brain by means of the impulses, influences, and auras radiating from there. In its highest aspects the Will is a living and self-conscious power having its centre in Wisdom.
The will, to become powerful, must be free of desire. If we desire an object, we do not attract that object, but the object attracts us. Eliphas Levi says: "The Will accomplishes everything which it does not desire"; and the truth of this paradox is seen in every-day life. Those who crave for fame or riches are never contented; the rich miser is poorer than the beggar in the street; happiness is a shadow that flies before him who seeks it in material pleasures. The surest way to become rich is by being contented with what we have; the safest way to obtain power is to sacrifice ourselves for others; and if we desire love, we must distribute the love we possess to others, and then the love of others will descend upon us like the rain descends upon the earth.
[2. Paradoxes of the Highest Science, Paradox 7: /magic/eliphas-levi/paradoxes/levi-paradoxes-7.htm ]
The development of the will is a process of growth, and the only true way to develop the Will is by being obedient to the universal Law. If we wish to use nature, we must act according to natural law; if we wish to use spiritual powers, we must act in obedience to the spiritual law. Then will we become masters of Nature and God, and our Will will become a serviceable instrument for the fulfilment of law; but as long as the Will is governed by personal desire, it is not we who control our will, but it is our desire. As long as we do the will of the lower animal I, we cannot be gods; only when we perform the will of the Divinity, we will become free of the bondage of the animal elements, and our true Self will be the Master.
Man in his youth longs for the material pleasures of earth, for the gratification of his physical body. As he advances, he throws away the playthings of his childhood and reaches out for something higher. He enters into intellectual pursuits, and after years of labour he may find that he has been wasting his time by running after a shadow. Perhaps love steps in and he thinks himself the most fortunate of mortals, only to find out, sooner or later, that ideals can only be found in the ideal world.
He becomes convinced of the emptiness of the shadows he has been pursuing, and, like the winged butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, he stretches out his feelers into the realm of infinite spirit, and is astonished to find a radiant sun where he only expected to find darkness and death. Some arrive at this light sooner; others arrive later, and many are lured away by some illusive light and perish, and like insects that mistake the flame of a candle for the light of the sun, scorch their wings in its fire.
Life is a continual battle between error and truth; between man's spiritual aspirations and the demands of his animal instincts. There are two gigantic obstacles in the way of progress: his misconception of the nature of God and of Man. As long as man believes in an extracosmic personal God distributing favours to some and punishing others at pleasure, a God that can be reasoned with, persuaded, and pacified by ignorant man, he will keep himself within the narrow confines of his ignorance, and his mind cannot expand. To think of some place of personal enjoyment or heaven, does not assist man's progression.
If such a person desists from doing a wicked act, or denies himself a material pleasure, he does not do so from any innate love of good; but either because he expects a reward from God for his "sacrifice," or because his fear of God makes him a coward. We must do good, not on account of any personal consideration, but because to do good is our duty. To be good is to be wise; the fool expects rewards; the wise expects nothing. The wise knows that by benefiting the world he benefits himself, and that by injuring others he becomes his own executioner.
Power of Life
What are the powers of Man, by which he may benefit the world? Man has no powers belonging to himself. Even the substance of which his organisation is made up, does not belong but is only lent to him by Nature, and he must return it. He cannot make any use of it, except through that universal power, which is active within his organisation, which is called the Will, and which itself is a function of an universal principle, the Spirit.
Man as a personal and limited being is merely a manifestation of this universal principle in an individual form, and all the spiritual powers he seems to possess belong to the Spirit. Like all other forms in nature he receives life, light, and energy from the universal fountain of Life, and enjoys their possession for a short span of time; he has no powers whatever which he may properly call his own.
Thus the sunshine and rain, the air and earth, does not belong to a plant. They are universal elements belonging to nature. They come and help to build up the plant, they assist in the growth of the rosebush as well as the thistle; their business is to develop the seed, and when their work is done, the organism in which they were active returns again to its mother, the Earth. There is then nothing which properly belongs to the plant; but the seed continues to exist without the parental organism after having attained maturity, and in it is contained the character of the species to which it belongs.
Life, sensation, and consciousness are not the property of personal man; neither does he produce them. They are functions of the Spirit and belong originally to God. The One Life furnishes the principles which go to build up the organism called Man, the forms of the good as well as those of the wicked. They help to develop the germ of Intelligence in man, and when their work is done they return again to the universal fountain.
The germ of Divinity is all there is of the real man, and all that is able to continue to exist as an individual, and it is not a man, but a Spirit, one and identical in its essence with the Universal God, and one of his children. How many persons exist in whom this divine germ reaches maturity during their earthly life? How many die before it begins to sprout? How many do not even know that such a germ exists?
To this Universal Principle belong the functions which we call Will and Life and Light; its foundation is Love. To it belong all the fundamental powers which produced the universe and man, and only when man has become one and identical with God or to speak more correctly, when he has come to realise his oneness with God, can he claim to have powers of his own.
But the Will of this Universal Power is identical with universal Law, and man who acts against the Law acts against the Will of God, and as God is man's only real eternal Self, he who acts against that Law destroys himself.
The first and most important object of man's existence is, therefore, that he should learn the law of God and of Nature, so that he may obey it and thereby become one with the law and live in God. A man who knows the Law knows himself, and a man who knows his divine Self knows God.
The only power which man may rightfully claim his own is his Self-knowledge; it belongs to him because he has required it by the employment of the powers lent to him by God. Not the "knowledge" of the illusions of life, for such knowledge is illusive, and will end with those illusions; not mere intellectual learning, for that treasure will be exhausted in time; but the spiritual self-knowledge of the heart, which means the power to grasp the truth which exists in ourselves.
What has been said about the Will is equally applicable to the Imagination. If man lets his own thoughts rest, and rises up to the sphere of the highest ideal, his mind becomes a mirror wherein the thoughts of God will be reflected, and in which he may see the past, the present, and future; but if he begins to speculate within the realm of illusions, he will see the truth distorted and behold his own hallucinations.
Rules of Life
The knowledge of God and the knowledge of man are ultimately identical, and he who knows himself knows God. If we understand the nature of the divine attributes within us, we will know the Law. It will then not be difficult to unite our Will with the supreme Will or the cosmos; and we shall be no longer subject to the influences of the astral plane, but be their masters. Then will the Titans be conquered by the gods; the serpent in us will have its head crushed by Divine Wisdom; the devils within our own hells will be conquered, and instead of being ruled by illusions, we shall be ruled by Wisdom.
It is sometimes said that it does not make any difference what a man believes so long as he acts rightly; but a person cannot be certain to act rightly unless he knows what is right. The belief of the majority is not always the correct belief, and the voice of reason is often drowned in the clamour of a superstition based upon erroneous theological doctrine. An erroneous belief is detrimental to progress in proportion as it is universal; such belief rests on illusion, knowledge is based on truth. The greatest of all religious teachers therefore recommended Right Belief as being the first step on the Noble Eightfold Path*
* The eight stages on the noble eightfold Path to find the truth are, according to the doctrine of Gautama Buddha, the following:
- Right Belief
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Doctrine
- Right Means of Livelihood
- Right Endeavour
- Right Memory
- Right Meditation
The man who keeps these augas in mind and follows them will be free from sorrow, and may become safe from future rebirths with their consequent miseries.
Perhaps it will be useful to keep in mind the following rules:
- Do not believe that there is anything higher in the universe than your own divine self, and know that you are exactly what you permit yourself to become. The true religion is the recognition of divine truth; idols are playthings for children.
- Learn that man is essentially a component and integral part of universal humanity, and that what is done by one individual acts and reacts on all.
- Realise that man's nature is an embodiment of ideas, and his physical body an instrument which enables him to come into contact with matter; and that this instrument should not be used for unworthy purposes. It should neither be worshipped nor neglected.
- Let nothing that affects your physical body, its comfort, or the circumstances in which you are placed, disturb the equilibrium of your mind. Crave for nothing on the material plane, live about it without losing control over it. Matter forms the steps upon which we may ascend to the kingdom of heaven.
- Never expect anything from anybody, but be always ready to assist others to the extent of your ability, and according to the requirements of justice. Never fear anything but to offend the moral law, and you will not suffer. Never hope for any reward and you will not be disappointed. Never ask for love, sympathy, or gratitude from anybody, but be always ready to bestow them on others. Such things come only when they are not desired.
- Learn to distinguish and to discriminate between the true and the false, and act up to your highest ideal. Grieve not if you fall, but rise and proceed on your way.
- Learn to appreciate everything (yourself included) at its true value in all the various planes. A person who attempts to look down upon one who is his superior is a fool, and a person who looks up to one who is inferior is mentally blind. It is not sufficient to believe in the value of a thing, its value must be realised, otherwise it resembles a treasure hidden in the vaults of a miser.
Louis Claude de Saint Martin (the Unknown Philosopher) [First to translate the writings of Jakob Böhme from German into French: Wikipedia] says:
"This is what should pass in a man who is restored to his divine proportions through the process of regeneration:
"Not a desire, but in obedience to the law.
"Not an idea, which is not a sacred communication with God.
"Not a word, which is not a sovereign decree.
"Not an act, which is not a development and extension of the vivifying rule of the Word.
"Instead of this, our desires are false, because they come from ourselves.
"Our thoughts are vague and corrupt, because they form adulterous alliances.
"Our words are without efficacy, because we allow them to be blunted every day by the heterogeneous substances to which we continually apply them.
"Our acts are insignificant and barren, because they can but be the results of our words."
The best of all instructions for becoming spiritual and ultimately divine are to be found in the Bhagavad Gita. They also teach that man needs not to exert his self-will for the purpose of saving himself; for Krischna says: "Devote thy heart to Me, worship Me, sacrifice yourself to Me, bow down before Me, so shalt thou surely come to me";* and the prayer of the Christians says: "Let thy will be done on earth (in our mortal nature) as it is done in heaven (in our spiritual nature)."
* Bhagavad Gita, xviii. 65.
Such and similar instructions are nothing new; they have been pronounced in various forms by the philosophers of all ages, and have been collected in books, and men have read them without getting any better for it, because they could not realise the necessity for following such advice.
These doctrines have been taught by the ancient Rishis and Munis, by Buddha and Christ, Confucius, Zoroaster and Mahomed, Plato, Luther and Shakespeare, and every reformer. They have been preached in sermons, and written in poems and prose, in works of philosophy, literature, fiction, and art. They have been heard by all, understood by some, and practised by a few. To learn them is easy, to realise them is difficult, to adopt them in practical life is divine.
The highest spiritual truths cannot be intellectually grasped, the reasoning powers of half-animal man cannot conceive of their importance; terrestrial man can only look up to those ideals which are perceptible to his spiritual vision in moments of aspiration, and only gradually can he grow up into that plane when, becoming less animal and more spiritual, he will be able to realise the fact that this growth is not necessary to please a god whose favour must be obtained, or to insure a happy animal life; but that he himself becomes a god by that growth, and learns to experience his own immortal existence.
The highest energies are latent in the lower ones; they are the attributes of the spiritual soul, which in the majority of men is still in a state of infancy, but which in future generations will be more universally developed, when humanity as a whole, having progressed higher, will look back upon our present era as the age of ignorance and misery, while they themselves will enjoy the fruits of the higher evolution of Man.