[Notes on “The God Idea”]
Theosophist, December, 1883
Article selections by Babu Raj Narain Bose | Notes by H.P.B.
I deem it necessary to reply to some of your remarks on my letter published in The Theosophist for the current month.*
You say, “Since few of us have identical beliefs and every religionist of whatever faith is firmly impressed with the truth and superiority of his own creed. . . ., the result is, sectarianism is ever kept alive.” To this my reply is: Let every religionist preach his own religion, and that which is the truest religion is sure to prevail. If religion be preached according to my plan, there would be different sects but no sectarian animosity. As different men have got different countenances, so there must always be different religious sects in this world. That cannot be helped.
You say: “Would our Atheists be welcome in the Brahma Mandirs?” I say no, because Atheism is no religion. It is the negation of belief. Any religionist who would discourse upon general religion would certainly be welcome.
You say that you do not propagate your religious opinions, and that you give out your views on the subject of religion only when challenged to do so. Granted. But do you not endeavor to prevail upon people to believe in Occultism and the existence of Spirit? If you do not do so, what is the use of these Theosophical Societies? Is not this a kind of religious propagation?1 Does it not lead sometimes to angry discussion like other kinds of religious propagation?
1. We join issue with our respected friend here; followers of all religions can be and have always counted among their numbers students of the subject in question, namely:—Occultism.
You believe in a “living God in man himself,” a “divine indweller,” a “divine Presence” and not a God outside of man himself. This, as far as I understand, means that you believe in the Eternal and All-pervading Principle manifesting itself in a personal and therefore a worshipable form in the human soul. You charge us, Theists, with believing in Existence and not Presence, and represent that you, believers in the human soul as God, are real believers in the Presence. To this I answer that we go further than you in believing in Presence. We believe in a soul of the soul, in a being in whom the soul or spirit lives, moves and has its being,2 in a Sarvabhutântarâtma, or Inner Soul of all things as preached by our venerable Upanishads.3 This we call God.
2. We are forced to reply to our venerable friend that if the Theists claim to go “further,” the Theosophists (of that school, at any rate, to which the writer belongs) claim to go deeper. Rejecting all Externals as true guides, they accept but the Internal, the invisible, the never to be described by any adjective or human qualification. And going deeper they reject the idea of “the soul of the soul”—anima; from which the word animal is derived. For us there is no over-soul or under-soul; but only One—substance: the last word being used in the sense Spinoza attached to it; calling it the One Existence, we cannot limit its significance and dwarf it to the qualification “over”; but we apply it to the universal, ubiquitous Presence, rejecting the word ‘Being,’ and replacing it with “All-Being.” Our Deity as the “God” of Spinoza and of the true Adwaitee—neither thinks, nor creates, for it is All-thought and All-creation. We say with Spinoza—who repeated in another key but what the Esoteric doctrine of the Upanishads teaches: ‘Extension is visible Thought; Thought is invisible Extension.’ For Theosophists of our school the Deity is a Unity in which all other units in their infinite variety merge and from which they are indistinguishable— except in the prism of theistic Maya. The individual drops of the curling waves of the universal Ocean have no independent existence. In short, while the Theist proclaims his God a gigantic universal Being, the Theosophist declares with Heraclitus, as quoted by a modern author, that the One Absolute is not Being—but becoming: the ever-developing, cyclic evolution, the Perpetual Motion of Nature visible and invisible—moving, and breathing even during its long Pralayic Sleep.
3. It is easy to prove that the Upanishads do not teach belief in a personal God—with humanly conceived attributes, etc. Iswar is not mentioned in the Upanishads as a personal noun. On the other hand we see Guhya Adeśa, the strictest preservation of the secrecy of the doctrines, constantly urged, the Upanishads, showing in their very name that the doctrines taught were never revealed but to the Initiates. At the very outset the seeker after knowledge of Brahma is enjoined to repair to a guru (tad vijijñâsartham sa guru mevâvigachchet), which is simply unmeaning if a literal interpretation of the text was capable of conveying the intended sense. This quotation from the Upanishad, we may add, is adopted by the Brahmos of the Adi Samaj and finds a place in their Brahma Dharma Grantha, compiled by the Pradhanacharya.
You say that Theosophy is the in-forcing life of every religion. How can it be so when its principal article of belief is that God is impersonal and has no gunas or attributes?4 The belief in one Personal God or Theism is the informing soul of every religion. Every religion recognizes a Personal Divinity—I observe that men, who do not believe in God, are led as it were by a curse of Nature to substitute infinitely less worthy objects of reverence or adoration in His place such as Humanity—as is the case with Positivists, departed Spirits—as is the case with some Spiritualists, or Human Reason or Logos5—as is the case with you, Theosophists.
4. We may be allowed to point out that we do not maintain that Parabrahm is absolutely without any guna, for Presence itself is a guna, but that it is beyond the three gunas—Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
5. When the term Logos, Verbum, Vach, the mystic divine voice of every nation and philosophy comes to be better understood, then only will come the first glimmering of the Dawn of one Universal Religion. Logos was never human reason with us.
You say that the Adi Brahmo Samaj movement has not succeeded, because the principal members of the Samaj have not the Yoga power. I need tell you that these members believe that the highest Yoga is the concentration of mind upon God even amidst the transaction of worldly affairs. . . . This best of all yogas, the real Raj yoga, is to be attained by long practice requiring constant and tremendous exercise of will-power as was done by Rajah Janaka. But do not think, therefore, that I do not believe in theosophic yoga apart from its, what I think, unnatural alliance with Agnosticism or Buddhism. Theosophic yoga has its use.6 It enables us to show that the people of Asia are possessed of scientific knowledge to which European science is as nothing. . . .
6. We are afraid some misapprehension exists in our correspondent’s mind as to what “Theosophic Yoga” is. Rajah Janaka was a Theosophic Yogi. See in this connection Sankara’s Commentaries on Bhagavad-Gîtâ.
With reference to your allusion to the supposed future of the Adi Brahmo Samaj7 movement, allow me to inform you that the Adi Brahmo Samaj is no organized church like the Brahmo Samaj of India or the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and has no muster roll of members. All educated men, who believe in a formless God, but yet do not think it proper to wound the feelings of parents and other dear relatives by diverging widely from prevailing customs and usages, are members of the Adi Brahmo Samaj.8 They form a very considerable section of the community. . . .
7. Our esteemed correspondent misunderstands us. We never spoke of the “Adi Brahmo Samaj,” of which we know next to nothing, but of the spurious Brahmo Samaj calling itself New Dispensation where all is to be taken on faith and the Universal Infallibility is claimed to have taken its Headquarters in the person of Babu Keshub Chunder Sen who has now come to comparing himself publicly—nay with identifying himself—with Jesus Christ. Again—the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, a body whose members—all those we have met, at any rate—scoff at the idea of yoga powers and laugh at the word phenomenon.
8. Are we to understand that when the “parents and other dear relations” of the present generation will drop off the scene, the Adi Brahmo Samaj will itself drop off the sphere of activity as an effete anachronism?
My health does not unfortunately permit me to continue this very interesting discussion further. I therefore conclude it on my part with this letter.
Deogarh, August 10th, 1883.