[Notes on “Puzzling Queries”]
Theosophist, September, 1882
Article Selections by Bitra Ramaswamy Naidu | Notes by H.P.B.
I ask permission to offer a few questions in view of getting light for myself and some other of my fellow-men on several puzzling points.
I see that the philosophy of some men leads them to the conclusion that nothing is insurmountable to one—if he but perseveres to attain his object.—[Sanskrit text]. And, that some others hold to the opinion that to reach a purpose, both the divine and human exertions are absolutely necessary,—[Sanskrit text]. And still in the experience of many, and I am one of those, we see that, often notwithstanding all their exertions and prayer, many fail even in obtaining their simplest wants; while others, without any efforts whatever on their part, obtain all of a sudden that which laborious and devoted men longed for years together and never obtained. [Sanskrit text].
In my humble opinion this is a mystery even to the most wise.
2. It is also said in the Puranas, etc., that, according to the good and bad deeds of men, or Karma in a previous birth, they either enjoy a happy life, or are made to suffer misery. [Sanskrit text].
We are also taught that we are re-born in the forms of irrational beings, and sometimes even of inanimate objects.1
1. We confess here our ignorance. What is the religion which teaches such an absurdity as rebirth in an “inanimate form”?—Ed. [H.P.B.]
If so, we will have to trace the causes for all these variations from the very beginning of the so-called creation. At that period, if we have to be logical, the so created beings must have also been created for some good or bad deeds of theirs done before the commencement of the creation? No explanation, however, is given to this effect in the Hindu scriptures. At the same time, this doctrine is contrary to reason, since it is an absurdity to say that there were human or any other beings before the world’s creation.2
2. We do not believe in creation, nor that the universe had ever a beginning. All changes form in it—itself was ever and will never pass. Those who understand what they read will find an explanation even in the Hindu Scriptures. Nor is there any absurdity to say that there were “beings” before the world’s creation, since our world is certainly not the only one of its kind in the vast universe.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
3. The Vedantists and some others are of this opinion, that the so-called Deity is diffused in and out of the universe; or, in other words, the universe itself is God, and God is the universe.3 [Sansrit text]
3. Less learned than our correspondent—who strongly insisted to have the above questions published—we confess again our ignorance. None of the Vedantin sects, as far as we are acquainted with them, have ever taught that God was diffused “in and out of the universe,” or that he pervaded it beyond its limits. First of all, the Vedantists cannot believe in an extra-cosmic deity, since they teach that the universe is limitless and Parabrahm—infinite. We invite Vedantin Pandits to answer these assertions.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
If such is the case, what other thing is there which can be regarded as quite distinct from that which is all in all in things animate and inanimate4 that can do good or bad, so as to create according to its deed a Karma. The doctrine of Karma is quite current among most of the Pandits; and this is another puzzle for many.5
4. Nothing, of course. The universe is not only the outward garment, the Maya, or illusionary clothing of the deity—which, nevertheless is present, as we understand it, in every atom of it—but the deity itself: Parabrahm plus Maya or Iswar.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
5. It is not the absolute that creates Karma, but the finite and sentient being evoluted out of it, or the visible projection of a finite portion of this absolute. In other words, it is—man, or matter in its highest state of perfection on earth—matter plus Brahm or the absolute. If we are wrong we hope some learned Pandit will kindly correct us. Half-learned are not required.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
4. Leaving aside the rational and inanimate beings, I shall now pass to the inanimate things, and make some observations.
A piece of stone is cut out from a hill, brought home and spliy into several more pieces. With one of them a roof is mended; out of another a portion of a floor made to walk upon; and out of a third—an image, to be worshipped. The same with several pieces of wood cut from the same tree; some pieces of which will be honoured and the others—dishonoured. So with the animals, with beasts and birds; some of which are well, and others badly treated. Abandoned deserts and hilly places are for a time turned into populous cities with splendid palaces and temples, and then again abandoned and left to re-become deserts, forests and dunghills. What kind of good or bad actions these pieces of stones, wood, mud, etc., could have committed to be treated so differently by men, since there is no ground to suppose that they ever had life and hence, could never have behaved as rational beings.6
6. With our best wishes and desire to help our esteemed correspondent in his dire perplexity, we are utterly unable to understand what he is driving at. What have the “deserts” and “dunghills,” “palaces,” and “forests” to do with Karma, or the destiny of man except as necessary accessories? It is the eternal fitness or unfitness of things, we should say, that turns the desert into a city, and vice versa. If he objects to the idea that the deity is everywhere, i.e., omnipresent; and that, notwithstanding such a presence, men and things are not all alike honoured, happy, and miserable; then surely he cannot hope to receive an answer to such exhaustive a subject—the most abstruse and incomprehensible of puzzles for the philosophers of all and every age, namely, the origin of good and evil—in a few editorial lines? Let him study occult philosophy, and, perhaps, he may be then satisfied. It is not the Puranas alone, when read in their dead-letter sense, that will yield nonsense. In the Bible we find the same incongruities. Jehovah curses the ground for the sake (sin) of Adam (Genesis, iii, 17) and the earth since then—suffers! And yet the Mosaic Bible yields out of its secret meaning the Kabala, the Occult Science of the Western Philosophers.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
5. The words of chance (fate?) are also very extraordinary and numerous, and men are at a loss to account for the same. [Sanskrit text].
6. Moreover we are taught to regard the so-called God as all-good, all-wise, omnipresent, etc. If so, why should some men be poor; others sickly; some, again, suffering from all kinds of physical and mental pain, and undergoing various difficulties? All this is within our daily experience. Therefore, we have every reason to believe, that this so-called God does not actually possess the qualities attributed to him, but something quite different, and that, too, if we even admit that he is the doer of all things, and that he is every thing.7 [Sanskrit text].8
Natural Inference—No man is responsible for his actions, and scriptures and preaching are of very little use in this world.
7. The Western Kabalists call Devil “the God reversed,” Demon est Deus inversus. The Eastern occultists do better: they reject such a god altogether.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
8. We regret our Correspondent has not given the names of the authorities he quotes from. Unless the passages be very well known to every one, such an omission destroys entirely the value and the importance of the quotations.