[New Series, May 1895 through February 1896]
If we admit the truth of theosophical doctrines regarding the inner constitution of man and his fate after death, what would be theFORUM's view as to capital punishment?
W.Q.J.-- My view is that capital punishment is both useless and injurious. It is as great an injustice to the world of beings left unexecuted as to the one so violently sent out of life. They used to kill men in England for stealing a ten-penny nail or a loaf of bread, but thieves and thieving did not lessen. Murders have not decreased. In the country districts executions are means for brutalizing the people, who make a hanging an occasion for a gala gathering in order to see a man legally killed. But theosophically it is far worse. The fact that the sudden killing is legal makes no difference with the laws of nature. The man is suddenly cut off from his body, and, just like a suicide, is condemned to be a 'spook'. He is dead so far as the body is concerned, but is astrally alive. Worse than a suicide he is filled with hate and revenge which he must wreak on some one. At first he is not able to do much, but soon he finds that there are sensitive persons on the earth who can be filled with his vicious and raging passions. These poor souls are then influenced to commit crimes; being filled mentally -- from the inner planes -- with the ideas and passions of the criminal, they are at last moved to do what their mind is filled with. The executed criminal does not have to know what is going on, for his raging passions, untouched by the executioner, excite and influence of themselves whoever is sensitive to them. This is why many a crime is suddenly committed by weak persons who appear to be carried away by an outside force. It seems hardly possible that anyone could believe in theosophical and occult doctrines and at the same time commend capital punishment.
According to Theosophical teaching, intuition is the sixth sense of man. Can it be cultivated, and, if so, how? If it is a sense like hearing, seeing, and smelling, why cannot it be trained as they are?
W.Q.J.-- I do not know that it is "according to theosophical teaching that intuition is the sixth sense." It would be well to have citation of chapter or article where this statement is made. The question of the sixth sense is speculative as yet, nothing being decided. Like the fourth dimension, it is involved in doubt. Hence it should not be assumed that the assertion in the question is correct. Many persons hold that intuition is not the sixth sense, because it may very well be that a species of very rapid reasoning enters into intuitional acts, making them so rapid in conclusion as to appear devoid of reasoning as a means to find the conclusion arrived at. For myself I do not believe that intuition is the sixth sense nor any sense at all. But whatever intuition is, it can only be cultivated by having the right mental poise, the right philosophy and the right ethics; and by giving the intuition scope, or chance, so that by many mistakes we at last arrive at a knowledge of how to use it.
What is precisely meant bySoul in Theosophical literature? We say the "Soul of man," the "Soul of the world," the "Soul of things."
W.Q.J.-- Theosophical literature has not as yet come to a precise meaning for "soul," nor can it until the English language has been so altered as to remove the confusion now existing among such terms as "soul" and "spirit," and in the uses to which both are put. So long as we have in fact but two terms, soul and spirit, to designate so many beings, kinds of beings and powers as those are used for, just so long will there be confusion.
If it is true that to ascertain the truth of the doctrines put forward by Theosophy many lives will be required after one has started on the Path, how and where am I to find that Path and to know it when I do?
W.Q.J.-- Do not look at this matter as if you had never been on the path before. It is more than likely in every case where an inquirer asks this question, either mentally or of some other person, that he has trod the path in another life. Some hold that all Theosophists were on this path hitherto. Each life is a step on the path, and even though we may make many and huge mistakes, we can still be on the way. One should not be anxious to know if he is on the path by reason of a constant conformity to some set rules or regulations about a path. That anxiety is mechanical. Nature and the path of true wisdom are not mechanical, but for each soul there is a way and means suitable to it and to none other. By watching these mechanical ways mistakes are made. For instance, one becomes a vegetarian from a secret desire to get nearer the astral world thereby, and not because it is deemed a sin to take life. The rule will not be violated. Great inconvenience is undergone and much watching indulged in so as to keep the rule, and much attention and energy is given to it which is taken from some other duty. All this is a mistake, for the kingdom of heaven is not gained by eating meat or by refraining from it. This mistake is due to too much desire to be sure one is on the path.
But it is not necessary one should know that he is on the path. If he uses his best reason, best intuition, and best effort to find out his duty and do it, then one may be sure the path is there without stopping to look for it. And the path for one person may be the carting of packages, while for another it may lie in deep study or contemplation. On this the Bhagavad-Gita says that the duty of another is full of danger, and it is better to die in the performance of one's own duty than to perform most wonderfully the duty of another.
If India is the birthplace of the Theosophical philosophy, and if the Hindus have more natural capacities for occult knowledge than we, should we not accept those of them who come here and offer themselves as our teachers rather than waste time at Branch meetings in discussing questions concerning which we really know but little?
W.Q.J.-- Doubtless India is now the most ancient storehouse of Aryan philosophy which may be called theosophical -- but no one is able to say that it is the birthplace. Egypt with its tremendous civilization, its philosophy and magic, is silent, and there is no one to put forward its claim. Beyond question also, the Hindus of today have more metaphysical acumen than we have. But the West is creeping up. And intellectual, metaphysical gifts are not spiritual gifts. We have all the intellect we need, active and latent. The Hindu of today is a talker, a hair-spliter, and when he has not been altered by contact with Western culture he is superstitious. Such we do not want as teachers. We will hail them as brothers and co-workers but not as our Magisters. But those Hindus who come here are not teachers. They have come here for some personal purpose and they teach no more nor better than is found in our own theosophical literature: their yoga is but half or quarter yoga, because if they knew it they would not teach a barbarian Westerner' What little yoga they teach is to be read at large in our books and translations.
The craze for present-day India is an eminently foolish one. If one will calmly examine the facts he will find the nation as a whole superstitious to the last degree; the few theosophists and Englishized ones being but as a drop in the ocean. It is not a united nation and cannot itself help the West. For centuries it has helped no one outside itself. As a whole -- there are grand exceptions -- the Brahmans keep up the superstition and proud isolation. We have the words of Master K.H. -- an Indian -- that India is spiritually degraded. Fakirs and wonder-workers and hypnotizers do not prove spirituality. It is the destiny of India to hold as a storehouse good things to come out later; the West, as newest, youngest, and hence least degraded spiritually, has to work and learn so as to help the East.
And the questioner speaking only of India seems to forget great Tibet and all Buddhist countries. What of those? What of their ignorance and superstition? Is India to be talked of alone, and all these others left out? It is time to call a halt, and for theosophists to broaden their conception of what and where the East is, and to stop talking as if the sun in the morning shone only on India.
What mental obstructions are in the way of meditation and most frequently present?
W.Q.J.-- The greatest foe and that most frequently present is memory, or recollection. This was at one time called phantasy. The moment the mind is restrained in concentration for the purpose of meditation, that moment the images, the impressions, the sensations of the past begin to troop through the brain and tend to instantly and constantly disturb the concentration. Hence the need for less selfishness, less personality, less dwelling on objects and desiring them -- or sensation. If the mind be full of impressions, there is also a self-reproductive power in it which takes hold of these seeds of thought and enlivens them. Recollection is the collecting together of impressions, and so it constitutes the first and the greatest obstruction to meditation.
Are theosophical doctrines for the cultured classes? Should we pay most attention, in propaganda, to the cultured and "respectable," or to those in a lower stratum?
W.Q.J.-- If theosophical doctrines are to be of any benefit to the race, then they must be for all classes, poor and rich, cultured and uncultured, young and old. Some people think that these doctrines are really only comprehensible by the educated and cultured; that most attention should be paid to these classes, to learned scientific persons, and to those who possess a worldly and powerful reputation. For, they argue, if we can get hold of such, then we may the more quickly affect the others.
But what has experience shown? Merely that the cultivated and respectable and scientific have laughed at Theosophy, and never would have paid it any attention if not forced to. A very prominent scientist, Prof. Crookes, early became a member of the London Lodge, but nothing has resulted therefrom to the distinct benefit of the movement. Many attempts have been made in the parlors of the rich, with hardly any result; certainly not enough to justify the outlay of strength and time. The theosophical propaganda has gone forward in the face of considerable opposition and coldness from the so-called better classes. Very true it is that the working, laboring classes have not pushed it, nor do they, as a whole, know a very great deal about it; yet that indefinite section of the working classes sometimes called the "middle class" has been its great propagator and supporter.
As to understanding the doctrines, it is my opinion that this is as easy for the uneducated as for the educated. Indeed, in some cases, over-education has been a bar, and deep intellectual study of Theosophy has led to a want of comprehension of the principle of Brotherhood and to a violation of it. The purpose and aim of Theosophy in the world is not the advancement of a few in the intellectual plane, but the amelioration of all human affairs through the practice of Brotherhood. The theosophical doctrines show what Brotherhood is and how it is to be practiced, and if we cannot succeed in the practice of it then we are failures. Brotherhood is more likely to arise in the ranks below than to spring from those above, for it cannot be declared that present conditions -- even in governments abroad -- are largely due to the better, the upper, the educated class.
However -- and here lies the duty of those Theosophists who have education -- it is necessary to clearly explain the doctrines to the uneducated classes before these can grasp them. But when so explained, it will be found that in practice alone the doctrines are understood. We must not forget, in all this, that in America the proportion of illiteracy is not large, and hence in this land it is easier to propagate Theosophy among the masses. And history, the facts of today, amply prove this.
Believing in reincarnation as many Theosophists do, and considering the fact that our ten preceding births may have been in ten different nations or races, how can the sentiment of patriotism be defended?
W.Q.J.-- Patriotism is love for the land in which your body was born, and it would seem on reflection that whether ten preceding births were in other nations and races or not has nothing to do with the patriotism felt in this. In each birth the same feeling would be felt for each country. All this has no connection with a defence of patriotism. Inasmuch as the sentiment has been always recognized as noble and good its defence seems unnecessary. Why should Theosophists, I may ask, raise a question of doubt as to such a high sentiment as this? It needs no defence at all. At first the man may love only himself; then he enlarges his love and extends it to his family; then a little more and he takes in his town or county; until at last he still further enlarges his love so as to embrace his country. Patriotism then is a love that is larger than the personal and hence a nearer approach to that feeling which would make all men brothers. A person cannot die for his country unless his love has gone beyond the confines of his family. Patriotism is in fact the best example humanity can furnish of an attempt at the universality of love that belongs to the Self within.
In what respect does a Master differ from an Adept, an Initiate, or a Mahatma? These terms seem to be used rather loosely and as if interchangeable; strictly speaking, how would they rank, and what qualifications and powers are the adjunct of one who has earned the name Master?
W.Q.J.-- It is not possible to clear up these difficulties of language. They are all -- except Mahatma -- interchangeable. That term of course stands alone, but when it is put into English as "Great Soul," then those two words begin the confusion again, because Soul is not definite. A Master is an Adept and an Adept is a Master, and both are Initiates. For my part I see no way of settling the question, and personally I do not want it settled yet; I want no strict limitations in terms until the English language has become scientific.
In several writings I have noticed belief in lost souls. If such belief be correct how can that passage of Arnold's inThe Light of Asia, which ends with this, be true: "All will reach the sunlit snow"; and also the thought of Nirvana?
W.Q.J.-- The two statements can be true. The quotation is simply from Mr. Arnold's words, and he is not a religious authority at all. Again "all will reach" is not defined. All what? Is it all souls, or all atoms, or all monads? And in what way, or as what, will "all reach the thought of Nirvana" did Buddha teach? They could all reach it even were some of them lost to individual consciousness by being absorbed into some of the others. Arnold's work does not decide such questions; it is popular. If you will read discussions of the priests of Buddha almost immediately after his death you will find many things to contradict present views of what was taught by Buddha. There is one long discussion, a report of which is in the Royal Asiatic Society's archives, upon Individuality, in which the priests who knew Buddha or his friends decided that there is no Individuality. Hence it is not very important to decide about Mr. Arnold's verses. The subject of lost souls is treated in theosophical literature slightly and is held by many to be true. But one must then be careful and accurate in the use of terms and be sure to decide what is called soul. The "several writings" referred to should be quoted as has been asked in the FORUM notice.
In theTheosophical Siftings, Vol. I., "Epitome of Theosophical Teachings," Page 15, it says: "When the Adept has reached a certain very high point in his evolution he may, by a mere wish, become what the Hindus call, a 'Deva' -- or lesser god. If he does this, then although he will enjoy the bliss and power of that state for a vast length of time, he will not at the next Pralaya partake of the conscious life 'in the bosom of the Father,' but has to pass down into matter at the next new 'creation,' performing certain functions that could not be now made clear, and has to come up again through the elemental world; but this fate is not like that of the Black Magician who falls into Avichi." Now in what form does he pass into the next new creation and what is the work he has to do?
W.Q.J.-- As I wrote the passage cited, I may properly reply. The very quotation shows that "the work he has to do" cannot be told, for, as I said he would perform "certain functions that could not now be made clear." The whole matter is a reference to a very obscure doctrine, but little known, that if the Adept voluntarily takes the delights, pleasures and powers referred to, he is compelled, after millions of years of enjoyment, to re-enter objective nature at the elemental stage. That is plainly related. So it is quite clear that the quotation as made answers the question put. This the questioner will see himself if he will rewrite, after his question at the foot, the whole of the statement quoted in the beginning.
Please explain the following passage from The Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter II, Judge's edition, page 14: "A Soldier of the Kshatriya tribe has no duty superior to lawful war," and especially show why the answer to Question I, New Series, is not inconsistent with the passage.
W.Q.J.-- It is a phrase meaning that the duty one is born to, or has, is the one to be performed and that no other assumed duty is superior. From the Hindu point of view it refers to caste and that a member of the warrior caste is born for fighting which for him is, according to his religion, a duty. As Arjuna was a Kshatriya, Krishna naturally referred to his caste duty. Had he been a Sudra, or servant, then the verse would read that a "slave of the Sudra tribe has no duty superior to performing service as required." The Vedic religion, unlike the Buddhist, permits a certain caste to fight and kill, lawfully and in defense of the country. But the Brahman and the merchant are not permitted to thus kill. Hence each in his caste performs the duty of that caste into which he was born. Looking at the verse from an American and non-caste standpoint, then it is simply an assertion that present duty, when known, is superior to any assumed or unknown duty.
I fail to see what Question I has to do with this. That question was upon capital punishment. If one is of the Vedic religion he will allow of lawful war for defense of country, if he is a Buddhist he will be against all killing; and both may be against capital punishment; the answers to Question I, did not declare anything as to what particular religion was followed. Capital punishment for crime is a very different matter from sudden death in lawful war.
What theosophical reasons are there for preferring cremation to earth burial?
W.Q.J.-- I find in the answer to this question which appeared in September, some statements regarding the Egyptians to which I would like to take exception on the ground that they cannot possibly be proved. It is said that because the Egyptians thought the soul could not gain its freedom until the body disintegrated, they therefore embalmed the body in order to chain the soul to it. I cannot agree to this at all. And all that we read of the aspirations for freedom and desire to be with the Gods which the Egyptians indulged in, would tend to show that if they knew how to allow the soul to gain its freedom they would not try to prevent it by making it stay in a mummy.
The answer then goes on to say that the soul being thus cut off from physical life and pent up in the body with its desires, it there had to fight its own nature, and if it did not succeed it had to fight again; this, the answer said, enabled the soul to have immense power upon its return to earth where it might achieve union (with the highest) without difficulty. It seems therefore from this that for a time at least it would be better to be a mummy than a man. I do not agree with the propositions made, they cannot be proved, and I do not think they can be shown to be anything more than fanciful; at present I do not know of any book or record in which there is any account or hint of this doctrine.
The effect of alcohol being degrading, why is it that a person under its influence will sometimes give expression to lofty sentiments and high moral teachings? A friend of mine knows a case of this kind. The person when in a drunken fit quotes many fine passages from the Bible and other sources.
W.Q.J.-- The assertion in the question is too sweeping. Some of the effects of alcohol are degrading, and some are not. It has many good uses. The abuse of it is what is degrading. There is no necessary sequence between the degrading effect and the utterance of lofty sentiments in every case, and yet in many cases there is. It is well known that -- just as happens in hypnotism -- the effect of alcohol may sometimes be to dull the outer brain and release the recollection of the teaching in early life of religious or lofty sentiments. This is like a phonograph which, as a machine, may repeat any good thing; the drunkard has become a maudlin machine. But the inner memory cannot be made drunk, and it is that memory which brings out the expression of lofty sentiments. In the same way morphine, more degrading in effect than alcohol, causes the taker sometimes to utter high sentiment and write magnificent literary matter.
Was Jesus the only Avatara who asserted that thought and intent was as culpable as actual deed? A friend states that to be the case and therefore holds Jesus to have gone further in ethics than any other reformer.
W.Q.J.-- The friend who states that Jesus was the only teacher who asserted "that thought was as culpable as deed," should be compelled before being allowed to make a conclusion, to bring forward his or her authority. It would be found that there is no authority for such a statement but that history is directly opposed to it; Buddha always taught that the thoughts were the most important and were the actual deeds, the things in themselves, and that the outer deed was but the expression of a thought, and that only by good thoughts could we attain to perfection. In many ways this can be found in the Buddhist and Indian teachings and indeed in the teachings of all great reformers before Jesus. Buddha and his disciples taught that although a man might do a very charitable act, yet if he did not think charitably and if he was doing the act for the sake of gain or glory, it was his thoughts that determined the result for him. Therefore the thought which was not charitable was to be blamed. This shows how important they held the thought to be. Jesus having been educated in the schools of the Essenes and probably all the other mystics, all of whom dwelt upon the importance of thought, simply gave out what he had been taught.
On page 10 of MayFORUM, in answer to Question 5, appears the following "Those actions which in the moment are like nectar, are, in the long run like poison; -- and those actions which in the moment are like poison, are, in the long run like nectar." (The Bhagavad-Gita) This sentence seems to indicate that one should always do that which is disagreeable; that that I would do, I should not do, and that that I would not do, I should do. We are all seeking the truth from a strong desire to know of the truth; -- should we curb that desire and seek falsehood? For one, I would like to see every man reap the full rewards of his labor; -- should I curb that desire and despoil him (or assist) of those rewards? No man, however base, loves to be deceived, and there are some who do not like to practice deception; -- should I curb that desire and practice deception? Shall or should we learn to sip poison from nectar, and then nectar from poison? If so we must learn to love both; evidently there is something lacking in the sentence quoted.
W.Q.J.-- The confusion produced as shown in this question is due to the fact that C.F.W. did not quote the words of the chapter in question, and that the questioner did not consult the Gita for himself. It refers solely to pleasure or benefit or enjoyment and not to actions specifically. It mentions three kinds of pleasures. The first is due to a purified understanding and will appear in the beginning to the man who has lived in the senses to be as poison, that is, objectionable, but the end will be "as the waters of life," because it arises from sattva or truth. This does not mean we are to seek for poisonous or disagreeable things. The second sort of pleasure is derived from our senses, seems sweet at first, but in the end will be as poison, being derived from passion or rajas. The third includes all those so-called pleasures which in beginning and end are bad in themselves. Looked at in this way and having read the chapter the questioner will not ask the question; he ought to read the poem.
Do monsters of depravity ever seek rebirth through any but mothers of like character?
W.Q.J.-- I would like to answer this question so as to satisfy the questioner, but it being a question of statistics it is not possible to be exact from want of data. The question seems to bear the inference that the questioner thinks monsters of depravity seek mothers of like character. But is this so? Do we not know that all through time very bad men and women have been born of virtuous, righteous mothers? It was the mother's Karma to be so unfortunate. In Indian history there was a monster named Kansa born of a good mother; doubtless the mothers of Nero or other wicked Roman emperors were good women. All this being the case, we are at liberty to assume that sometimes monsters of depravity obtain birth through mothers of opposite character. If we were to insist on the opposite, then we must say, in the case of great sages and Avataras, such as Buddha, that they only seek birth through mothers who are great as they; but this is known not to be the case.
The fundamental question,"What is the criterion of Theosophy?" calls for an answer. Has Theosophy the power of growth, progress and advancement in line with all new expositions of truth? In the minds of many the writings of H.P.B. are regarded as the infallible oracles of Theosophy. But in time criticism is sure to do its work. Consequently it is necessary soon to give out a definition of it much broader, simpler, and more unequivocal than any heretofore offered.
W.Q.J.-- This is in fact a request to formulate and promulgate a dogmatic statement of Theosophy as we understand it. That is, to go completely back on the genius of the Theosophical movement, which is for the destruction of dogmatism. The strength of Theosophy lies in the fact that it is not to be defined. It is the wisdom of the gods, or of nature. This means that evolution, slowly progressing, will bring out new truths and new aspects of old truths, thus absolutely preventing any dogmas or "unequivocal definitions." Were we to make and declare a definition of Theosophy it would be only the words of those who participated in drawing it up, and not acceptable to all. And were it possible that all would accept, then would be sounded the doom of the movement. Hence the reply to the question, "What is the criterion of Theosophy?" is that it is found in each man's perception of the Truth: therefore there is no single criterion.
If any persons regard H.P.B.'s writings as the infallible oracles of Theosophy, they go directly against her own words and the works themselves; they must be people who do not indulge in original thinking and cannot make much impression on the times.
As for the Theosophical Society, the moment it makes a hard and fast definition of Theosophy it will mark the first hour of its decay.
Inasmuch as Theosophy is the whole body of truth about man and nature, either known now or hereafter to be discovered, it has the "power of growth, progress and advancement," since every new truth makes it clearer. But among the truths will not be reckoned at any time the definitions, dogmas, creeds or beliefs laid down by man.
I should like to have explained what is meant by"all experience" in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, page 17, where it is stated that it is necessary to pass through "all experience" in this manvantara before the Divine Spark can be individualized. Does this mean that one must in the human kingdom have experience of each phase of civilization? Must one be a plumber, carpenter, painter, minister, lawyer, physician, etc., before he can reach full consciousness? I am aware that all experience cannot be attained in any way but by repeated re-embodiments, but the stumbling-block in my mind is what is meant by all experience. Further, is it necessary to go through the whole school of crime in order to develop strength to progress?
W.Q.J.-- First, experience, under evolution, in and through all nature's kingdoms is a necessity for all egos because they constitute the spirit, spring and impulse of evolution; without them there would be no evolution. Hence all of that general experience is necessary because inevitable; and only by that great experience is individuality attainable. That is so because such is the law of our being.
Now, take any one of such progresses or kingdoms. It was full of variety. Such variations were inevitable and necessary. Curious shapes of animals were evolved in the evolutionary struggle, all necessary in such a struggle to make perfect. But they were only details in a grand whole, like steps on a journey. Does it trouble us, does the question about "all" arise here? If not, why should it arise about mere details of changing human life, not yet perfect, still struggling to attain, to alter, to polish? Plumbers, painters and carpenters are mechanics, as are those in many other more desirable occupations, but all are for mechanical experience due to our, or any, form of civilization. And the ego cannot get intuition of mechanics if it never is put through that sort of experience. "All experience," being thus found in a statement relative to great outlines and objects of evolution, must be considered thus and not as a mere detail. All possible experiences can be put under a few heads and it is those general types of experience we have to pass through. How would an ego know of motherhood and fatherhood if it never had the experience? Telling about them would not suffice. How would it know of governing if it had never governed, nor of submission if it had never been in bonds? There should be no stumbling-block in the word "all."
I understand Devachan to be a state in which the highest ideal of the late personality is attained. H.P.B. says,"He who has placed himself beyond the veil of maya or illusion can have no Devachan." Is it then to be understood that the farther advanced the Ego in the knowledge of Truth, and the closer it has come into communion with the one Great Truth, the less need it has for that dreamlike state, Devachan?
W.Q.J.-- I never heard that in Devachan the "highest ideal of the late personality is attained." Were that so the question would answer itself. I have therefore to drop the first statement when considering the question. Attainment of "highest ideals" is only possible when one is above all illusions; certainly Devachan furnishes no such condition. There the soul pursues its highest ideals spiritually, and, seeming to carry those all out to highest perfection, it is benefitted, enlarged and strengthened. Devachan is for rest and recuperation and not for action. Not alone do evil and mediocre people go to Devachan, but pre-eminently those who have high and deep -- though unfulfilled -- aspirations. These are artists, musicians, dreamers, religious enthusiasts. And they, having impetuous thoughts, stay there longer than others.
But those who have been through all those experiences here and in Devachan, and who have triumphed over illusion through self-conquest, do not need Devachan because they have grown to their full strength and cannot against their wish be thrust into it by natural force. So they do not become subject to it. But that is the Adept. And he can enter into the Devachanic state of another so as to help and benefit the other. We are not such as yet, but may perhaps some day, in the distant future, be able to do such great and altruistic work.
How far should branches go in permitting the discussions at their meetings to be led into questions concerning topics not directly bearing on the theosophical philosophy or in permitting members or outsiders to detail their views on socialism, spiritualism, single tax, or the like, unless they have a direct bearing on Universal Brotherhood?
W.Q.J.-- While branches have the right to have any sort of discussion they please, it has been found that those which import into the meetings subjects not such as we call theosophical, have a quarrelsome and precarious existence. Special topics, such as Socialism or Single Tax, always lead to friction and away from Theosophy, because they create partisan strife. And again, members should not attempt to make special applications of Theosophy to such topics unless they know both so well as to be able to instruct their hearers. And do members in general know Theosophy, even, so well as to be qualified to apply it to anything but daily life and conduct? I do not think so. If a Socialist or Single Taxer, or rabid Spiritualist is asked to speak on any one of those subjects, he will be found to be a partisan or extremist, and most likely, if well up in his particular topic, he will not be versed in Theosophy.
Theosophy is so new, and its adherents so few, and all reformatory questions (as specialties) are so changeable and evanescent, it is far wiser for a branch to go on studying Theosophy and propagating it together with the idea of Universal Brotherhood than to offer particular explanations on empirical topics. Were Theosophy understood and practiced, everything needing reform would be at once reformed.
I think the time to settle this question is later, because as yet the mass of members in general are not versed in Theosophy. They are unwilling to go to school though they need schooling in Theosophy. When they can thoroughly and at the word explain the doctrines we promulgate they will then be competent to touch other matters.
It has been said that all sounds are still in existence, and that if we could rise high enough we would be able to hear every sound that has ever been produced. If this be true, would not the intermingling of so many sounds only produce a roar as of thunder?
W.Q.J.-- This is not a profitable Theosophical query. The FORUM is not for scientific replies, but for theosophical discussion. This question relates solely to natural physical laws. Science deals with it and says the resultant sound would be a harmonious tone. Questioner should read books on vibrations of air; music; sound-waves; and consult practical scientific men on this question. Suppose the FORUM replied "No," or "Yes," to the question, what would be the effect on theosophical doctrines? Nothing at all, and no advance made either way.
When great teachers like St. Paul, St. John, Socrates and others incarnate, do they commence with the degree of development with which they closed the preceding incarnation? If so, why are there so few great souls in the world teaching and living the proper life?
W.Q.J.-- Let us take the last part of your question first, and ask you how do you know there are "so few great souls in the world"? It would not be right to judge all other men by yourself nor by a limited number of persons you may have known, hence it is likely you do not so judge, but have merely assumed that there are very few souls in the world like unto those you mention. Such an assumption does not seem to be a correct one. There very probably are among us now many great souls of the past. Nothing in philosophy or the doctrine of reincarnation is against such a view. We being actors on the present stage are not able to judge whether some others of whom we know are great men or not, who may be regarded by posterity as great personages like to St. Paul and your other examples. It is more than likely St. Paul was not highly regarded in his time; now, in the distance, he shines out. Certainly we know that Socrates had such poor regard from his contemporaries as to be poisoned because he was thought not to be a good man; now we, so far off, look at him differently. In the same way will it be respecting our own present times after the lapse of centuries.
As to where any Ego will begin in any life is determined by karma and the needs of development. The whole front, or mass, of our nature is so enormous that one life or one sort of development is only a small part of it: there is no possibility of at once exhibiting it all. So the former life of St. Paul may be now certainly hidden for future use while he is undergoing another necessary development which had formerly been neglected. If we look at his life we find he was a persecutor once. That was not at all atoned for by his subsequent conduct -- unless of course you admit vicarious salvation -- which I do not. He must atone for all that hurt done to others, and his reincarnation in some obscure place and body for several lives would quite accord with the needs of the case. So you can reason out the whole matter, recollecting that karma goes by cause and effect, and that the whole vast nature of man must be considered, and that you and I do not know the whole nature of those people you refer to. Hence we must conclude that the present age and the karma of past sages do not coincide in such a way as to produce many living before us. And if we ask what is the use, we must conclude that in such a selfish, superficial time as this they would be useless and out of place.
It is said that at the time of death everyone reviews all the actions of his past life and even knows the object for which he took upon him the now fading personality. Is this knowledge or vision possible at any other time during life?
W.Q.J.-- It is said to be possible for one who knows all the secret laws of nature and of his own being. Certainly it would appear that no other sort of person could possibly do it. And such individuals must be almost as rare as the horns upon a hare.
What is the opinion of the leaders of the T. S. in regard to vegetarianism?
W.Q.J.-- Physicians and those who have tried vegetarianism are those who should speak on this. The opinions of "leaders," as such, are of no consequence. I tried it for nine years, and found it injurious. This is because the western man has no heredity of vegetarianism behind him, and also because his dishes as a vegetarian are poor. They should be confined to rice, barley, wheat, oats, some nuts and a little fruit; but westerners don't like such a meager variety. The stomach does not digest vegetables, it is for meat; the teeth are for tearing and grinding meat. Most of those vegetarians I know eat a whole lot of things injurious to them and are not benefited. Had we an ancestry going back thousands of years, vegetarians always, the case might be different. I know that most of the experienced physicians we have in the Society -- and I know a great many -- agree with my view, and some of them insist that vegetarianism is wrong under any conditions. With the latter view I do not agree. There ought to come a time in our evolution when new methods of food production will be known, and when the necessity for killing any highly organized creature will have disappeared.
The other branch of the subject is that regarding spiritual development and vegetarianism. It has been so often dealt with it is sufficient to say that such development has nothing to do with either meat-eating or the diet of vegetables. He who gives up meat-eating but does not alter his nature and thoughts, thinking to gain in spirituality, may flatter himself and perhaps make a fetish of his denial, but will certainly thereby make no spiritual progress.
"Lower manas" and "kama-manas" are terms in frequent use in Theosophical literature and conversation, and from the fashion in which they are used they seem to mean many things to many minds, while not infrequently they are used as though their meanings were synonymous. Will the FORUM kindly give a clear-cut definition and so clear up this haze?
W.Q.J.-- It is not the FORUM's place nor is it possible, to give these definite replies and informations. Lower manas is English and Sanskrit, kama-manas is all Sanskrit, and lower may mean kama to many. Each one is entitled to what he likes. Only after lapse of much time can the "haze" be cleared.
Sometimes a hypnotist makes his subject blind to some of the objects before him while he is able to see others. How is this phenomenon explained?
W.Q.J.-- Doubts have been raised as to whether this was ever done. But taking it for granted, man is a thinker only and sees nothing but ideas. Hence if the idea of any object is inhibited, as in mesmerism, he will not see the idea of the subject being disjointed, the operator imposes his own mind and inhibits ideas.
Ages of blind, usurious laws have brought the world to ruin. Our struggle for physical existence prevents the full study of Divine Wisdom. Would it not be wise for Theosophists to unitedly advocate improved conditions, say through the Labor Exchange system or some such method? One may ask, why should we strive for that which would place us on the higher planes of thought or feeling when conditions are so unfavorable?
W.Q.J.-- I cannot admit the two first assertions of the question. The world is not yet in ruins; the struggle for existence does not prevent the full study of Divine Wisdom. The study of self, the attempt to carry out the old direction, "Man, know thyself," does not depend on human laws, nor upon conditions. The body may be in prison, or engaged in incessant labor, but the soul and mind cannot be bound by environment unless we ourselves allow it. The soldier does not seem to be in a business or conditions favorable to self-development, but even while in his sentry box he can still think on the matter and thus study it -- for study does not mean mere reading of books and writing of compositions. People fail in their efforts to study truth just because they start out by formulating a need for different conditions, or by insisting on having surrounding objects in just such a position and of such a quality before they will begin the work. They are wrong.
Inasmuch as Divine Wisdom and the nature of the Self are not material, physical things or objects, they are not to be confounded with mere physical surroundings. Hence material environments should not be permitted to confuse or throw back the man who desires to study that Divine Wisdom.
Again, as all things down to the most gross from the most ethereal are a part of Divine Wisdom, it is a mistake to try and destroy or put away because one does not presently like them, the very conditions in which under Karma one is obliged to study Divine Wisdom.
The second part of the question contains a proposition for the T.S., or Theosophists as a body, to advocate some one or other of the many proposed reforms. This should never be done. The T.S. is free and independent of all such reforms, while it applauds all good results. But it does not follow that the reformatory measures are the best. Nor has the last word been spoken on those subjects. It is very wise and right to alter if we can the oppressive conditions about the poor or others. But so long as the philosophy, the religion, and the view of life held by the people are wrong, just so long all reforms will be temporary. The people must be altered in thought and heart, and then conditions will right themselves. I therefore strongly oppose any propositions looking toward binding the T.S. down to any system of reform or of legislation. Individual members can do as they please about it so long as they do not involve the Society.