Theosophy in the Christian Bible
A talk given at the World’s Parliament of Religions, September, 1893
I have been asked to say a few more words on the subject of Theosophy in the Christian Bible; that is, I have been asked to show what Theosophical doctrines can be found in the Christian books.
One of the Theosophical doctrines is the doctrine of Karma; that is, exact justice ruling in the spiritual as well as in the physical; the exact carrying out of effect from cause in the spiritual nature of man, the moral nature as well as in the physical world. That is, that every man is ruled in his life, not by a vengeful and partial God, but by justice. This life is just; whether one is miserable or happy, whether he is poor or rich, it is just. Where is this doctrine found in the Christian Bible, this doctrine that as ye have sown so shall ye reap? That is, having lived before in this world you have made causes which bring about today the life you lead now, which have made the characteristics that you have, which made you what you are now, and have plunged you into a living hell or into a happy heaven today. We say this doctrine has not of late been taught in Christianity; but it is in the books of the Christians and it ought to have been taught, it would have been profitable had it been expounded. Now, where can it be found?
Does not Jesus say, among other things, you should not judge others? Why? Because if you do you will be judged yourself. What you mete out to others will be meted out to you. That is, what men do to others will be done to themselves. Where and when is this to be done? When is the measure to be meted out if not in this life or some other? St. Paul says: “Brethren, be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” Do not these quotations prove that in St. Paul and in the words of Jesus can be found this doctrine of Karma: that as you sow so shall you reap? That your circumstances now are the result of your own acts? This is the doctrine which is the most prominent in the Theosophical field. I call it Theosophical, not because the members teach it, nor from its presence in our literature, but because it is found in the religion of every nation; that is why it is Theosophical. But you have been taught that you must be good or you will be punished. In the West you are told you will be rewarded and punished in this life and in the next. But men are not punished in this life. Today thousands of men live lives of luxury, strife, and crime, but they are not punished here, and, according to the teachings of Christianity, they stand a pretty good chance of escaping punishment hereafter if they only believe. We see that many are not rewarded who are good, but are often born into misery.
The doctrine of reincarnation is taught in the Christian Bible, that is, that you will be born over and over again in this world according to your destiny, to follow the effects of causes you yourself have put in motion in whatever life. Where is that found? In the mouth of Jesus; and certainly if Jesus, the founder of Christianity, has stated this, has any man or any body of men, has any person any right to say that it is not true? I deny their right, and I say that Christianity has been deprived by theologians of a doctrine which Jesus himself declared, when reincarnation is taken away from it. We say that the doctrine is in the Gospels. One day they brought to Jesus a man who was born blind and asked him why was this man born blind; was it for some sin he had committed or those his parents committed? Now, how could a man be born blind for a sin he had himself committed unless he had lived before that time to commit it? This was a doctrine believed in at that day. The Jews believed it and Jesus was a Jew. He did not deny the doctrine on that occasion. He only said, “Not for that reason.” If the doctrine were wrong, certainly Jesus, as the Son of God, would not only have denied it, but he would have said, “The doctrine you enunciate is false.” He said nothing of the kind. At another time he himself declared the doctrine, and he asked his disciples, “Whom do men think that I am?”, meaning and referring to what was believed at that time, that great sages were born over and over again for the enlightenment of mankind. They call them Avatars in the East. They had an idea great sages and prophets would come back. Will you tell me how such men then could be reborn at all unless under natural law and unless such law governs every man? So Jesus, referring to this idea, said to his disciples: “Whom do men think that I am?” And they said: “Some men think that you are Elias, who was for to come.” St. John had been killed just then by the ruler of Judea, and Jesus said to them that Elias had already come back in the person of John and the rulers had killed him, not knowing he was a reincarnation of Elias. So in one case he did not deny and in the other he explicitly asserted the doctrine. And if we take this view we know what he meant when he said to Nicodemus that a man must be born again. He meant not only the regeneration of the soul, but reborn into the body again; that is, that man is a soul who comes into a house to live life after life, and he must go from house to house until he has learned the whole architecture of human life and is able to build a perfect house. In Revelations, the last word of all the books, we find the great speaker writing that he heard the voice of God saying to him that him who overcometh the flesh and the devil, the world and sin, “I shall make a pillar in the house of my Father and he shall go out no more.” Does not that mean he had gone out before? The old fathers in the early ages of Christianity taught that if we triumphed over the flesh and the devil, the world and sin, God would make each one a pillar in the house of his father and he would not have to go out again. That is the doctrine of reincarnation.
Then if you will look at the history of the Christian Church you find that the doctrine was taught for five hundred years, and not until the Council of Constantinople was it rejected. At that time it was turned out by ignorant monks, and since then it has not been taught by the teachers, but it is in the Christian books, and to these Christian books we appeal. I say these very doctrines are in many other places found there. Another doctrine is that man is not merely a body, but is a composite being of many divisions. St. Paul taught we have a spiritual body as well as a material body, that we are a spiritual body and a physical body and spirit. That will bring in every one of the seven principles of the Theosophical category. So we say, all through the Christian books, in the Old Testament and in the New, we may find the great doctrines of Theosophy, by which I mean the great universal ideas of unity, of universal brotherhood, of strict justice and no favoritism, of reincarnation, and of the composite nature of man, which permeate every religion as well as the books of the Christians, both old and new.