Answers to Queries
Lucifer, December, 1887
A Correspondent from New York writes:
. . . The Editors of LUCIFER would confer a great benefit on those who are attracted to the movement which they advocate, if they would state:
“(1.) Whether a would-be-theosophist-occultist is required to abandon his worldly ties and duties such as family affection, love of parents, wife, children, friends, etc.?
“I ask this question because it is rumoured here that some theosophical publications have so stated, and would wish to know whether such a sine quâ non condition really exists in your Rules? The same, however, is found in the New Testament. ‘He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me, etc., etc.,’ is said in Matthew (x. 37). Do the MASTERS of Theosophy demand as much?
“Yours in the Search of Light,
“L. M. C.”
This is an old, old question, and a still older charge against theosophy, started first by its enemies. We emphatically answer, NO; adding that no theosophical publication could have rendered itself guilty of such a FALSEHOOD and calumny. No follower of theosophy, least of all a disciple of the “Masters of Theosophy” (the chela of a guru), would ever be accepted on such conditions. Many were the candidates, but “few the chosen.” Dozens were refused, simply because married and having a sacred duty to perform to wife and children.1 None have ever been asked to forsake father or mother; for he who, being necessary to his parent for his support, leaves him or her to gratify his own selfish consideration or thirst for knowledge, however great and sincere, is “unworthy” of the Science of Sciences, “or ever to approach a holy MASTER.”
Our correspondent must surely have confused in his mind Theosophy with Roman Catholicism, and Occultism with the dead-letter teachings of the Bible. For it is only in the Latin Church that it has become a meritorious action, which is called serving God and Christ, to “abandon father and mother, wife and children,” and every duty of an honest man and citizen, in order to become a monk. And it is in St. Luke’s Gospel that one reads the terrible words, put in the mouth of Jesus:
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, his own life also, HE CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE.” (xiv. 26.)
Saint (?) Jerome teaches, in one of his writings:
“If thy father lies down across thy threshold, if thy mother uncovers to thine eyes the bosom which suckled thee, trample on thy father’s lifeless body, TRAMPLE ON THY MOTHER’S BOSOM, and with eyes unmoistened and dry, fly to the Lord, who calleth thee!”
Surely then, it is not from any theosophical publication that our correspondent could have learnt such an infamous charge against theosophy and its MASTERS—but rather in some anti-Christian, or too dogmatically “Christian” paper.
Our society has never been “more Catholic than the Pope.” It has done its best to follow out the path prescribed by the Masters; and if it has failed in more than one respect to fulfil its arduous task, the blame is certainly not to be thrown on either Theosophy, nor its Masters, but on the limitations of human nature. The Rules, however, of chelaship, or discipleship, are there, in many a Sanskrit and Tibetan volume. In Book IV of Kiu-ti, in the chapter on “the Laws of Upasans” (disciples), the qualifications expected in a “regular chela” are: (1) Perfect physical health.2 (2) Absolute mental and physical purity. (3) Unselfishness of purpose; universal charity; pity for all animate beings. (4) Truthfulness and unswerving faith in the laws of Karma. (5) A courage undaunted in the support of truth, even in face of peril to life. (6) An intuitive perception of one’s being the vehicle of the manifested divine Atman (spirit). (7) Calm indifference for, but a just appreciation of, everything that constitutes the objective and transitory world. (8) Blessing of both parents3 and their permission to become an Upasan (chela); and (9) Celibacy, and freedom from any obligatory duty.
The two last rules are most strictly enforced. No man convicted of disrespect to his father or mother, or unjust abandonment of his wife, can ever be accepted even as a lay chela.
This is sufficient, it is hoped. We have heard of chelas who, having failed, perhaps in consequence of the neglect of some such duty, for one or another reason, have invariably thrown the blame and responsibility for it on the teaching of the Masters. This is but natural in poor and weak human beings who have not even the courage to recognise their own mistakes, or the rare nobility of publicly confessing them, but are always trying to find a scapegoat. Such we pity, and leave to the Law of Retribution, or Karma. It is not these weak creatures, who can ever be expected to have the best of the enemy described by the wise Kirátárjuniya of Bharavi:
“The enemies which rise within the body,
Hard to be overcome—the evil passions—
Should manfully be fought, who conquers these
Is equal to the conqueror of worlds.” (xi. 32.)
We have received several communications for publication, bearing on the subjects discussed in the editorial of our last issue, “Let every man prove his own work.” A few brief remarks may be made, not in reply to any of the letters—which, being anonymous, and containing no card from the writers, cannot be published (nor are such noticed, as a general rule)—but to the ideas and accusations contained in one of them, a letter signed “M.” Its author takes up the cudgels on behalf of the Church. He objects to the statement that the institution lacks the enlightenment necessary to carry out a true system of philanthropy. He appears, also, to demur to the view that “the practical people either go on doing good unintentionally and often do harm,” and points to the workers amid our slums as a vindication of Christianity—which, by-the-bye, was in no sense attacked in the editorial so criticized.
To this, repeating what was said, we maintain that more mischief has been done by emotional charity than sentimentalists care to face. Any student of political economy is familiar with this fact, which passes for a truism with all those who have devoted attention to the problem. No nobler sentiment than that which animates the unselfish philanthropist is conceivable; but the question at issue is not summed up in the recognition of this truth. The practical results of his labours have to be examined. We have to see whether he does not sow the seeds of a greater—while relieving a lesser—evil.
The fact that “thousands are making great efforts in all the cities throughout our land” to meet want, reflects immense credit on the character of such workers. It does not affect their creed, for such natures would remain the same, whatever the prevailing dogmas chanced to be. It is certainly a very poor illustration of the fruits of centuries of dogmatic Christianity that England should be so honeycombed with misery and poverty as she is—especially on the biblical ground that a tree must be judged by its fruits! It might, also, be argued, that the past history of the Churches, stained as it is with persecutions, the suppression of knowledge, crime and brutality, necessitates the turning over of a new leaf. The difficulties in the way are insuperable. “Churchianity” has, indeed, done its best to keep up with the age by assimilating the teachings of, and making veiled truces with, science, but it is incapable of affording a true spiritual ideal to the world.
The same Church-Christianity assails with fruitless pertinacity, the ever-growing host of Agnostics and Materialists, but is as absolutely ignorant, as the latter, of the mysteries beyond the tomb. The great necessity for the Church, according to Professor Flint, is to keep the leaders of European thought within its fold. By such men it is, however, regarded as an anachronism. The Church is eaten up with scepticism within its own walls; free-thinking clergymen being now very common. This constant drain of vitality has reduced the true religion to a very low ebb, and it is to infuse a new current of ideas and aspirations into modern thought, in short, to supply a logical basis for an elevated morality, a science and philosophy which is suited to the knowledge of the day, that Theosophy comes before the world. Mere physical philanthropy, apart from the infusion of new influences and ennobling conceptions of life into the minds of the masses, is worthless. The gradual assimilation by mankind of great spiritual truths will alone revolutionize the face of civilization, and ultimately result in a far more effective panacea for evil, than the mere tinkering of superficial misery. Prevention is better than cure. Society creates its own outcasts, criminals, and profligates, and then condemns and punishes its own Frankensteins, sentencing its own progeny, the “bone of its bone, and the flesh of its flesh,” to a life of damnation on earth. Yet that society recognises and enforces most hypocritically Christianity—i.e., “Churchianity.” Shall we then, or shall we not, infer that the latter is unequal to the requirements of mankind? Evidently the former, and most painfully and obviously so, in its present dogmatic form, which makes of the beautiful ethics preached on the Mount, a Dead Sea fruit, a whitened sepulchre, and no better.
Furthermore, the same “M.,” alluding to Jesus as one with regard to whom there could be only two alternatives, writes that he “was either the Son of God or the vilest impostor who ever trod this earth.” We answer, not at all. Whether the Jesus of the New Testament ever lived or not, whether he existed as an historical personage, or was simply a lay figure around which the Bible allegories clustered—the Jesus of Nazareth of Matthew and John, is the ideal for every would-be sage and Western candidate Theosophist to follow. That such an one as he, was a “Son of God,” is as undeniable as that he was neither the only “Son of God,” nor the first one, nor even the last who closed the series of the “Sons of God,” or the children of Divine Wisdom, on this earth. Nor is that other statement that in “His life he (Jesus) has ever spoken of himself as co-existent with Jehovah, the Supreme, the Centre of the Universe,” correct, whether in its dead letter, or hidden mystic sense. In no place does Jesus ever allude to “Jehovah”; but, on the contrary, attacking the Mosaic laws and the alleged Commandments given on Mount Sinai, he disconnects himself and his “Father” most distinctly and emphatically from the Sinaitic tribal God. The whole of Chapter V., in the Gospel of Matthew, is a passionate protest of the “man of peace, love and charity,” against the cruel, stern, and selfish commandments of “the man of war,” the “Lord” of Moses (Exod. xv., 3). “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old times,”—so and so—”But I say unto you,” quite the reverse. Christians who still hold to the Old Testament and the Jehovah of the Israelites, are at best schismatic Jews. Let them be that, by all means, if they will so have it; but they have no right to call themselves even Chréstians, let alone Christians.4
It is a gross injustice and untruth to assert, as our anonymous correspondent does, that “the freethinkers are notoriously unholy in their lives.” Some of the noblest characters, as well as deepest thinkers of the day, adorn the ranks of Agnosticism, Positivism and Materialism. The latter are the worst enemies of Theosophy and Mysticism; but this is no reason why strict justice should not be done unto them. Colonel Ingersoll, a rank materialist, and the leader of free-thought in America, is recognised, even by his enemies, as an ideal husband, father, friend and citizen, one of the noblest characters that grace the United States. Count Tolstoi is a freethinker who has long parted with the orthodox Church, yet his whole life is an exemplar of Christ-like altruism and self-sacrifice. Would to goodness every “Christian” should take those two “infidels” as his models in private and public life. The munificence of many freethinking philanthropists stands out in startling contrast with the apathy of the monied dignitaries of the Church. The above fling at the “enemies of the Church,” is as absurd as it is contemptible.
“What can you offer to the dying woman who fears to tread alone the DARK UNKNOWN?” we are asked. Our Christian critic here frankly confesses (a) that Christian dogmas have only developed fear of death, and (b) the agnosticism of the orthodox believer in Christian theology as to the future post-mortem state. It is, indeed, difficult to appreciate the peculiar type of bliss which orthodoxy offers its believers in—damnation.
The dying man—the average Christian—with a dark retrospect in life can scarcely appreciate this boon; while the Calvinist or the Predestinarian, who is brought up in the idea that God may have pre-assigned him from eternity to everlasting misery, through no fault of that man, but simply because he is God, is more than justified in regarding the latter as ten times worse than any devil or fiend that unclean human fancy could evolve.
Theosophy, on the contrary, teaches that perfect, absolute justice reigns in nature, though short-sighted man fails to see it in its details on the material and even psychic plane, and that every man determines his own future. The true Hell is life on Earth, as an effect of Karmic punishment following the preceding life during which the evil causes were produced. The Theosophist fears no hell, but confidently expects rest and bliss during the interim between two incarnations, as a reward for all the unmerited suffering he has endured in an existence into which he was ushered by Karma, and during which he is, in most cases, as helpless as a torn-off leaf whirled about by the conflicting winds of social and private life. Enough has been given out at various times regarding the conditions of post-mortem existence, to furnish a solid block of information on this point. Christian theology has nothing to say on this burning question, except where it veils its ignorance by mystery and dogma; but Occultism, unveiling the symbology of the Bible, explains it thoroughly.
1. We know but two cases of married “chelas” being accepted; but both these were Brahmins and had child-wives, according to Hindu custom, and they were Reformers more than chelas, trying to abrogate child-marriage and slavery. Others had to obtain the consent of their wives before entering the “Path,” as is usual in India since long ages.
2. This rule 1. applies only to the “temple chelas,” who must be perfect.
3. Or one, if the other is dead.