Theosophy and Some of the Vital Problems of the Day

By Katherine Tingley

Address Number Five -- February 14, 1915
He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. -- St. Paul

Knowledge Cannot Be Gained Without Effort

Friends: I am conscious that many are present tonight who have been here before, and that there are others who come regularly; besides these there are yet others who have never attended our theosophical meetings and who, possibly, know very little about Theosophy, if anything.

Even if the time at my disposal were sufficient to enable me to give you what knowledge I have of Theosophy, I am quite sure that by doing so I should deprive you of one of the greatest opportunities of your lives, for the reason that spiritual knowledge must be gained through self-effort, study, and spiritual growth.

The knowledge of Theosophy which has proven such a blessing to many thousands of people throughout the world has come first from an effort on their part to know more of the meaning of life, to understand why they are here, whence they came, and whither they shall go; and to this is added that compassion, that love of humanity, which all should have -- the unselfish desire to be of more service to one's fellows. And then there are many others who seemed to have reached the very end of things, who had lost faith in themselves, and faith in humanity; who had suffered; but who finally turned to the light.

So these two classes or types make up the larger part of the membership of our international society; and they realized from the beginning that if the knowledge of Theosophy is to be gained, there must be a deep and profound desire for it. They also know that in aiming to become true Theosophists, whose first duty is altruism, and whose second duty is self-effort, they cannot understand Theosophy merely by listening to one or even many expositions of it. They know that if they were to attempt to study music or any other branch of education, they would have to start from its beginnings, from the most elementary principles and simplest work; and that through concentration, study, and growing experience, they would finally evolve what abilities lie latent within. And so it is with the study of Theosophy.

Theosophy declares that man is potentially divine in nature; and that by its study he can become acquainted with the laws governing his life, and that in so doing he evolves the nobler, better, higher, and immortal part of his being and thus gains the strength to help others, than which no joy is greater.

Many people say in their questionings of members of our society, and of myself: "Well, there is so much effort required of one who wishes to be a true Theosophist." I answer, "Why, to me life requires our very best exertions on all lines -- our very best efforts." But really the finest thing about Theosophy is that it gives the knowledge which is essential for growth, moral and intellectual, and it will sustain one in all efforts for advancement. It enables one to work on lines of least resistance, and thus to conserve both energy and time. Hence one keeps naturally on middle lines, avoiding extremes and reactions, working intelligently and understandingly. One also learns by it when to speak and when not to speak, when to serve and when not to serve; and further, one learns to know what is his duty and what is not.


A student does not go very far in his studies before he finds, as he opens the great book of revelations which Theosophy is, that his vision is broadening, his comprehension is deepening, and that the compassionate part of his nature is evolving and bringing him closer to his brothers in sympathy; and it will not be long before he finds it quite impossible to hold himself fettered to the dogmatic belief of the past, that he, the highest expression of universal nature, is to be confined to this earth-plane of one limited experience for only seventy or possibly one hundred years, with no further chance to correct the mistakes he has made, or to work out the aspirations of his soul and the longings of his heart.

Step by step the student climbs to the mountain-heights of knowledge, gaining strength and courage as he goes on; and thus he is afforded a larger opportunity to study the laws of universal life. The great and comprehensive teachings of Theosophy not only take in all humanity, but also all that is, and open up the way for real living; through them the student finds the hidden, potential qualities within himself, his essential divine nature, and he then begins to understand the real meaning of life, and the doctrine of reincarnation.

Evolving the light from within, the student takes another view of the subject of immortality, and he finds that death is birth, and that there are other opportunities for him in other lives; that there are other chances for him; and that the latent qualities of his soul can only be expressed in many incarnations -- in many spheres of service in the great school of experience.

The larger number of those who first entered the path of Theosophy had passed the age of youth, when all life seemed beautiful, when they looked forward in the absolute trust that they would live out their ideals and find all men their brothers. But alas! How our ideals are shattered! Theosophy has interested that class that has met bitter disappointments and perplexities in life, as indeed we all have; it attracts especially those who have wondered and wondered at the mysteries before them which, through bitter experience, have become ever more and more complex. They have questioned, and have in their despair sought the knowledge that was awaiting them, that knowledge which explains those mysteries of human life which meet one on every hand. Such as these are not satisfied to rest their destiny on mere faith or half-living.

They now realize that in their efforts in the past to gain a position in life, they ignored the path that would have led them to understand the basic, fundamental teachings of the science of life, which is Theosophy. They further realize that without spiritual advancement they can do but little for themselves or their fellows. Is it not possible for my listeners to see that Theosophy is a glorious promise for humanity? Does it seem far-fetched? Does it appear speculative? Is it not very genuine, very real? And it is very old, as old as the ages, and was brought to the Western world by H. P. Blavatsky, to stay among us and to fulfil its mission.

Head-Learning Versus Soul-Wisdom

Only last week I met a very intellectual man -- one who said he was studying the serious problems of life from a purely intellectual standpoint, a scholar; but the most unhappy and miserable-looking human being of his kind I have ever met. It was plain that his intellectual efforts, without the warmth and the glow of spiritual knowledge, were wrecking him. He already was a cynic! What amazed me most was that he said he was an educationist and that he had devoted many years in a college to the education of the youth! In discussing the question of Theosophy, he said: "The teachings of Theosophy are very beautiful and very optimistic; you are enthusiastic, and so are all the members of your society whom I have met in this country and abroad, and I believe that you are all very genuine in your efforts and are devoted to humanity; but don't you know, it would be quite impossible for you to touch the masses with your philosophy? Don't you know that the masses are so far away from any conception of such ideals that they will not turn towards Theosophy?"

I answered: "My dear friend, may I be permitted to say that you have an unusual opportunity to prove the contrary? You are an educationist; you have been selected to guide our youth in study and morals; you are looked up to by some as a man of great scholarship and learning, so would it not be helpful if you evoked from your own nature sufficient courage by your intellectual will alone (that is, if you cannot recognize the spiritual will which Theosophy teaches is in man) to take up the study of Theosophy and thus be enabled to sow the seed of self-control and spiritual knowledge among the youth, that they might be taught not to follow in the footsteps of their parents so far as are concerned the latters' sufferings, and trials, and ignorance of the true spiritual laws governing human life?

"Believe me, Theosophy is so simple a child can understand its principles. As William Quan Judge, my predecessor, has said: 'Theosophy is that ocean of knowledge which spreads from shore to shore of the evolution of sentient beings; unfathomable in its deepest parts, it gives the greatest minds their fullest scope, yet shallow enough at its shores, it will not overwhelm the understanding of a child.' "

In my eagerness to have this man find help in Theosophy, I continued by saying that to do the greatest work for humanity, and to impart the teachings of Theosophy rightly, one must be conscious of one's essential divinity; one must have a knowledge of the duality of man, of the difference between the mortal and the immortal; one must command the attention of the youth of our age with a conscious power, with knowledge -- and by this I do not mean with personal and intellectual egotism. I then continued:

"My good friend, think of what glorious work you could do for our youth, though indeed you say they are too far away from theosophical ideals to be benefited. This I do not accept. You would not only guide them in their studies, but you would also do something greater than this: you would aid them in character building; in establishing a higher standard of morality. But to succeed in this effort, you must first know your own strength and the destiny of the human soul."

The outward appearance of this intellectual egotist, as well as his pessimistic conversation, indicated but few possibilities of his ever taking the step suggested; but my conscience was clear. I had tried to help him. I at least had sown seed that sometime along his path might bear fruit. This isolated character had my sympathy. I realized that his brain-mind egotism and his creed and dogmas had shut in his soul from becoming a potent factor for the world's good. I knew that his writings were admired by some for their erudition; I recalled that I had read them, and that I had found not a note of true affection for humanity in them -- the unselfish note unconsciously sounded by one who wishes to do the really helpful thing for the human family. I hold that unless man finds his own divine nature and the power of his soul-life, even though he may have the greatest accomplishments, he must in the end lose his way, as many in the past have done, and many are doing even now.

Theosophy for the Children

How are we to reach society and give it the help needed? I admit it is difficult, for we have so many classes, divisions, and subdivisions in the human family that we must necessarily meet strange and perplexing problems, that are, by the way, the result, to a very large degree, of ignorance. I am not ready to admit that our present age can be called a civilized age in the truest sense. I sometimes marvel that the educational institutions of our day can keep their doors open under existing conditions; and it seems to me that the only sustaining power among them, is, that down in the depths of the natures of those few who are endeavoring to promote a better life for the youth, a certain quality of heart-life is manifest as the holding force, though the higher knowledge is usually not there.

And our children. The pity of it -- to see our youth in their innocence, growing up from early childhood, trusting everyone they meet, beginning life blindfolded, though they know it not; losing their opportunities from day to day, limited to the belief (because of the belief of their parents) in but one life of not more than a hundred years; these looking at their little mental world as the only world to live in, not dreaming, when they look at the stars, that there are myriads in number that are not seen; unacquainted with the wonderful powers of nature, and the Divine Laws behind it all; not realizing when they caress the flowers that these too are telling their story of the beauty and harmony of the universal laws that encompass us. These are the needed teachings that our children have been deprived of all along the way.

We may philosophize with these dear ones, in a simple way, and we may teach them their catechism; we may try to make their minds see the difference between good and evil; we may talk to them of the devil or of eternal punishment and of a revengeful God to intimidate them into good behavior; or we may even use our best efforts for their advancement in pleadings and persuasions. But unless these children are born of parents who have acquired real spiritual knowledge, who have grown through different schools of incarnation until they understand themselves -- unless this is so, you may be sure that you will continue to see your children going along the path only half awake, so to speak. Their minds imbued with some knowledge of right action, some of them do not make those serious mistakes that alarm us so often; but they all miss the real thing, the real knowledge. The little ones all along the way are deprived of that conscious knowledge that would help them to build their characters nobly, of that knowledge that would round out their beings as the dew and the sunshine bring out the beauty of the flowers; that knowledge that would enable them to begin in their infancy to grow according to the higher laws of life, sweetly and soulfully for all the years to come. Had they that knowledge, it would promise a new order of ages.

Theosophy for the Youth

Now let us look at those of older growth, of the ages of fourteen or fifteen. Let us take for example those who have had the best scholastic training suited to their years, those who have had the best home environment of love and devotion; and then, on the other hand, let us look at those who have been deprived of all these advantages from birth. Let us take a youth from each of these two environments and place him on his path tonight in a mental picture for our consideration.

Both are meeting the mysteries of life that they find within themselves as well as outside themselves -- the kind of mysteries that none of you can really describe or explain to another, because you have all evolved differently, physically, mentally, and spiritually; and the experiences that you have had are yours, and theirs are theirs.

We have these pictures before us of the two types of young folk virtually entering the gateway of a new incarnation. Oh! the cruelty of it! To think how they lose their way; while right at hand there are the teachings of the Science of Life -- Theosophy -- that would give the necessary knowledge to the parents and educators of the age. For these, at least to a degree, are responsible. Is it not pitiful to think that our children should be deprived of their rights -- of the knowledge of their heritage and the knowledge of their responsibilities and of their possibilities? With these, they might go through life unafraid, equipped for life's battles and conquests.

When the youth arrives at the age mentioned, he begins to make a world of his own, and it is at this time that we see the duality of human life actively playing its part. The fact is that the youth's very ignorance -- his being deprived of the knowledge of the laws governing his being -- forces him to become secretive, and in fear of his weaknesses being discovered, he too often plays his part of insincerity.

What does he know of the duality of his nature? What does he know of the lower part, of the animal part, of that part which can be controlled by the higher part, by the higher ego, by the immortal self? He takes life as he finds it, meeting menacing conditions with not even half-knowledge. He goes on from year to year blindly -- and all this because of the ignorance, superstition, and selfishness of the age. 

Theosophy for Home-Builders

Later, perhaps, we find the one who has had the environment of luxury and education making a desperate effort to master his weaknesses in building up a home for himself, adapting himself as best he can to the conventional forms of respectability, trying to accentuate his so-called culture, and endeavoring to be recognized as a successful man. How little he realizes the sacredness of his undertaking! How little he knows the meaning of true human life! Little does he dream in his blindness that men and women should be prepared through real knowledge for the building of the home, that they may build truly and solidly, and thus make the home a center of sacred service by sustaining the purest ideals of the altruistic life. It is plain to see that in doing this they would also sustain the nation and the nations.

Home-making! How much does this youth I speak of know of the deeper and more profound meaning of marriage and of its responsibilities? It is true, he may have seen the ordinary harmony existing in his parents' life, in the home life of his childhood. He may have had a most devoted father and mother, who were imbued with very many helpful ideas for the building of the boy's character; but unless he is acquainted with the knowledge that will help him to control his animal nature, he only half lives. And his mission in life cannot help but be a failure, in the truest sense of the word. And through these failures his children must suffer.

Let us look at the woman -- the young wife in this home. She has come from a different environment, of a different ancestry. Her mind and character have been molded by different teachings and experiences; here are these two lives united for the purpose of home-building. She too has come more or less blindly to her new duty, quite unaware of what her own higher nature holds for the true expression of wifehood and motherhood.

May I ask you, how we dare sit still and let false influences and the selfishness of the age deprive our youth of that sacred knowledge which should be theirs?

Let us for a moment turn to the other type -- the youth I have mentioned who has had no education, the youth born in poverty, no opportunities having been afforded him to really know himself, nor for him to take a manly position before the world. The bread-and-butter question has been facing him from childhood and he has been associated with poverty, misery, and distress, despair and doubt. He has had no choice in the matter, although he may have had higher ideals than the youth born in luxury. He has had to go out in early life and battle with the world, deprived of even the ordinary support of a reasonably good education.

So this boy, day in and day out, has been associating with the uneducated and with some of the unpromising types that belong to his class. He has been tainted with the psychological fever of the age, recklessness and selfish pleasure. He either goes the downward path quickly, and ends in prison and even sometimes on the scaffold before he is twenty-one; or he marries. He sees other young folk marrying and in this he hopes for a chance to become a better man. The heart-urge for a home is there; it is inborn in man, this affection for home and the love of a happy life. And so he too marries. He begins to build a home hopefully, but unacquainted with the higher laws governing his life -- for he, poor fellow, knows nothing about his potentially divine nature, his heroic, grand, superb, godlike possibilities.

It is the same with the young girl whom he chooses to be his wife and to co-operate with him in building a home. She too has been deprived of the real knowledge. So we can realize, if we think well on the subject of the efforts of the two in home-building, the results of this marriage. What of the children of the two types I have spoken of, the rich young man and the poor young man?

Can we expect the highest and the best from them? Are the pictures promising? Can we see anything in the lives of the two tending to the nobler upbuilding of the home and the national life? Yet we should not censure them -- we, the people of this generation, we who have failed in our duty to ourselves, and hence to our youth, failed through our ignorance or our indifference.

We all know that crime is increasing -- not only crime, but new forms of crime and vice; forms that twenty years ago we had never heard of, though they may have existed in isolated cases. Read our court records and our prison records in proof of this statement. Rarely did we hear in those days of a young man of twenty or twenty-one committing a capital crime and being condemned to death; yet now we hear of hundreds of such cases. And we have to admit, if we look earnestly at the needs of the human race, that our institutions, as also our youth and our adults, with but few exceptions, lack the necessary knowledge to aid man to his true position in life. If we are rebuked now by our acts of omission and commission in connection with our duty to our youth, greater still will be our consciousness of our mistakes in after years.

The Remedy -- Theosophy

Now these pleadings of mine might seem to be quite out of place, if there were not a remedy for the ignorance of the age. This remedy I declare to be Theosophy. Consider its optimistic teachings, and then contrast them with the teachings that we and our fathers have been fed on for ages. While you have had your spiritual aspirations, while some of you have felt conscious to a degree of your immortal life, yet not positively sure, your minds have questioned and questioned; you have doubted and doubted; and now your faith is really only half-faith. If you call it whole faith, you will probably find in the course of time that you have psychologized yourself into believing that you are happy, when you are not. But faith cannot make you whole; it is knowledge that you must have; the knowledge that tells you who you are, from whence you came, and whither you shall go; that knowledge that gives you the power to make the distinction between the low, mortal, animal part of your nature, and the immortal, divine part; that knowledge which will show you how to cultivate the spiritual will, not merely the brain-mind will; and then that spiritual will, consciously strengthening your life, will clear your mind of its misconceptions, doubts, and prejudices, and give you trust in yourselves and in the justice of human life.

The higher law demands nobler types of men and women for more unselfish service in the workaday world, physically, mentally, and spiritually better prepared for true motherhood and fatherhood, alive in the consciousness of their divinity, truly strong in the power of that knowledge that will give the answer to the heart-cry of humanity and a helpful response to its deeper questionings.

Can you not see that if this knowledge, knowledge of the Science of Life (Theosophy), were accepted by all, instead of our drifting away from each other, we should be truly drawing closer to one another for the common interests of the human family? We should have greater privileges, larger opportunities, and more real success in life, and we should be so imbued with the spirit of justice to our fellows that we would be absolutely miserable in neglecting our duty to one human being.

But as human affairs go today we stand quite separated; we have our little family groups and our coteries of friends; we profess that we are aiming to study the best interests of our civic life and possibly even of our national life; but if we do not think rightly and understandingly, we surely cannot love rightly, nor can we serve rightly, because of our separateness and our lack of that knowledge I speak of.

Theosophy Would Make War Impossible

Do you believe that if the teachings of Theosophy had been accepted by even the last two generations (please remember that Theosophy is as old as the ages, but it has been obscured by the creeds and dogmas of the past, and through the failures of men) -- do you believe, I say, that we would have war today? Do you even believe that war would now be possible? Nay, I know it would not be possible. For Theosophy teaches the love of one's fellows, and also enlightens the human mind as to the best means to sustain a common unity among the peoples of the earth.

And then, in this connection, what think you of the part we Americans are playing in this European war? We pride ourselves very much on this wonderful country of ours, upon its vast territory and its material prosperity, and its culture; and I will admit that to a degree, we are a very great nation and that we also have among us very brilliant minds, very clever men and women, some splendidly unselfish, who are making many sacrifices to try to lessen the sorrows of the world. Yet in spite of all these advantages I say that we, in this twentieth century, with our boasted civilization, are permitting the shipping of millions and millions of dollars worth of munitions of war to Europe, for the slaughter of our fellow men, albeit we have numerous peace leagues and some of us pray for peace. Surely the picture is appalling, if one has a disposition to look at it from a humane standpoint.

My Heart-Urge

My purpose in bringing these word-pictures before you is that you may take a new view of life and its responsibilities. I cannot help but speak, and plead for all humans to turn their minds toward the gaining of true knowledge. For years past in my public work, I have felt the pulse of the people of all classes, and to a large degree I have sensed the aching hearts of the people, and their needs, not only here in America, but in many other nations. I have, in fact, encountered all sorts of conditions in human life in my worldwide travels and in my work in the prisons of different lands, and in my association with the social side of life, and also in my close association with individuals. Because of these experiences, I know whereof I speak.

I love the great human family, and I am trying to serve it. I did not seek my present public position as Leader and Official Head of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society throughout the world; I was called to this position by my predecessor, William Q. Judge, the successor of Madame Blavatsky, the Foundress of the original Theosophical Society, started in New York City in 1875. Mr. Judge found me while I was daily working quietly among the poor and unfortunate on the East Side of New York. But now I am here at my post, seeking to spread the helpful teachings of Theosophy, knowing well its resources for the upliftment of our fellow human beings, for bringing the great human family together for the highest interests of all. Now that I am here, I cannot be silent. I feel I must do my duty even though I may be persecuted for daring to speak the truth.

I am in the same mood tonight that I was when I purchased this Theater fourteen years ago, and declared that it should be dedicated to the service of humanity every Sunday night as long as I could control it, in giving the simple teachings of Theosophy to the masses; asking no favors of the public but their attention, interest, and fair dealing; no bequests; my co-workers and myself receiving no salary, but each doing the simple duty of calling the attention of the hungry hearts of the world to their own, to their immortal rights, and to their sacred duty to their fellows.

I admit that when I do meet my audiences here, although I come gladly, yet I hesitate; because I am able to do but poor justice to the subjects I present. Yet from the beginning of my work in early life I have felt the needs of humanity and presume to declare that I have known the remedy. But however much my sympathy goes out to all people, the greatest sympathy I have is for our youth, the youth of our age, the makers or the destroyers of our future civilization. And my pity also is great for those discouraged souls behind the bars and on the streets, homeless and shelterless. Alas! We have many such, and the number is daily increasing.

Yet please bear in mind, I am not an extremist. I have no disposition to turn the world topsy-turvy through what some may call my strenuous efforts; for the world is already in that state. But I do know there is a continuous urge in my heart to lift the burdens of the people that they may catch a glimpse of the beauty of the life that can be found in the knowledge of Theosophy -- and that they may find needed help there.

One individual can do but little in stemming the tide of the growing disintegration in human life, you may say; but if one does the best one can under all circumstances, he can do no more. And so believe me, my good friends, when all humanity has done the best it can, individually and collectively, then we shall find not only a new order of ages beginning, but man shall have a new life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. He shall see new systems of effort for the upliftment of all, based on the simple truths of Theosophy; a broader and deeper and wiser training for the youth; and instead of guess work and experimental brain-mind projects, we shall have scientific education resting on real knowledge.

Then too we shall have a higher standard of living, higher standards of morality -- we shall become potent factors in the betterment of the human race. Then too, we shall know of the help that can be found in the teachings of reincarnation and karma, and we shall also see that there is even justice in sorrow. We shall further have a knowledge that will impart courage to all our unselfish efforts. We shall not be satisfied in studying effects only; but we shall turn our minds with clear vision to fundamental causes; and we shall have the remedy for these and shall know how to apply it. Then we shall find the key that will open the doors to the hall of spiritual learning, that will make the universal laws stand out in their splendor; and through our enlightenment we shall gain victories for the world's children, and this will bring us joy unspeakable.


The deep conviction of the indestructibleness of our nature through death, which everyone carries at the bottom of his heart, depends altogether upon the consciousness of the original and eternal nature of our being . -- Schopenhauer


Short Addresses: Man's Mission