Abridgement of Discussions upon Theosophical Subjects

[W. Q. Judge's comments under his own name, The President, General Secretary, and X.]
Number I

April, 1886

G. -- I would like to ask how many degrees there are in the Theosophical Society, and if there are any others, who, if any one, can confer them, or how can they be obtained?

The President -- I can state authoritatively that there are three degrees. The first or lowest is that in which every member is upon entering; the next is that of probationary and accepted Chelas, or disciples; and the last is that of Adepts and Mahatmas; each of these in turn has its natural divisions. The first is conferred by membership and diplomas. The second cannot be conferred by any person, officer or otherwise, in the Society's exoteric work, nor can the third. Those two are to be taken, so to say, by merit, and only that particular Adept in whose ray you are knows who is his chela.

G. -- Cannot Col. Olcott or Mme. Blavatsky, or the heads of the movement here, confer the second degree?

The President -- Most positively not. Persons have asked that before of Olcott and Blavatsky, and the reply has been a positive refusal and denial of power to do it.

G. -- I have heard that a member of another Branch was offered the second degree by some one, either an officer or some other person.

The President -- Such a proposal was highly improper. All of those who are in the second degree, when they have knowledge of it, conceal such fact; and, as I said, no official has any right in the matter. A degree so conferred would be, in fact, empty nonsense. As Light on the Path hints, those who reach the second degree will know it themselves, within themselves. Many work unceasingly for years not knowing from any written evidence that they are chelas.

The work of the Society is of two kinds: (a) Exoteric work in the world, to spread a knowledge of truth, and help all to make investigation to that end. In this work both chelas and non-chelas are engaged. It is the first degree; and anyone can take it, by asking for it and by being a person of good character. It takes in the work of all the branches of every kind, because what some choose to call "secret work" is the property of each man who pursues it. (b) The esoteric or secret work of the Society. This is done by adepts and their own chelas. Without exception this is profoundly secret, even extending to complete concealment by both adepts and chelas of what they have done. The reason is that it is all work upon the interior or soul part of the people, and chelas never say that they are chelas or that they are doing any secret work. If, for instance a chela is directed to implant in another's mind, a certain great idea, he tries to do so, but he tells no one, not even other chelas whom he may know to be such; nor do they ask him. Each proceeds on his own line of work, trying to carry out the directions he may have received. Each chela entered this so-called 2d degree because he attained to that moral and mental state. So it could not be conferred by any diploma, nor by any officer of any class whatever.

There are of course some chelas who are higher in mental and moral and spiritual development than other chelas. This would constitute another division among those of the 2d degree. But it is a natural division; and no amount of sentiment, or of declaration of desire, will accomplish this. The person must grow into that state, whether the growth be slow or rapid. The same differences exist among those of the highest section. Some are greater adepts than others, just as Moses appeared to be greater than the magicians of Pharaoh.

As to progress in this matter, it must follow that those progress the most who succeed in purifying their lives, their thoughts, and their motives, and who work the most unceasingly and unselfishly for others in the great cause.

It is hard to keep off the motive of working for the purpose of acquiring the reward, but it is easy to try, and to try to do so is absolutely necessary.

G. W. S. -- A friend asked me if some chelas do not confess to others who are supposed to be higher, something like the Catholic church.

+ -- Decidedly not. Such a thing is extremely ridiculous. As a preceding reply said, each one has to work on his own lines and his only superior is his Guru, and even to his Guru he does not confess. It is not necessary, but must be useless. For if our ideas of the inevitableness of Karma are correct, then no amount of confessions could wipe out the Karma of our acts. Consequently such confessions would be absurd.

Confidences then are never revealed.

Question from Chicago. -- "I am troubled by the idea that perhaps I am wasting time in my studies by pursuing them in the wrong direction. I do not want to fritter away the time and find after some years that all has been in the wrong direction."

R. H. -- I do not see why any effort can be called wasted. All study stores up energy and there can be no waste whatever. Even study in what seems the wrong direction gives that much experience.

Col. -- The only wasted time, it appears to me, would be in pursuing such powers as that of projecting the double, seeing astral forms, and so on. That does not, it would appear, develop spirituality, it is only a physio-psychical training.

+ -- The question could be answered better if we knew just what line of study the questioner has been and is now pursuing.

The subject of Karma was taken up, and discussion was had upon the influences which persons striving toward adeptship, had to contend with.
A. D. related the instance of a lady who said she would like to know several adepts, because "it would be so nice to have them do errands for her, recover small articles mislaid, bring coffee in Oriental cups, etc., with the aid of elementals." He thought this illustrated the false attitude in which many persons stood toward the subject, not even trying to understand the smallest of its great truths.

E. D. H. -- What effect has Karma on our present struggle to better our lower nature? Is old Karma lost or mislaid, or does it enter into the matter, or are we to be governed henceforth only by that Karma which we are now making? Can old Karma be avoided?

+ -- The remark of Jesus is applicable here, where he desired his disciples "to be delivered from temptation." He did not desire that temptation should not come to them, but that they should be delivered from it, that is from its effects or power. Karma is not always all worked off in any one incarnation. We are now under the effects of old Karma, which we ourselves, in a past life, or in the past of this life, stored up. At the same time that we are now working Karma off, we are making new, which will rebound upon us now or in a succeeding incarnation. Our duty then to ourselves and the race, is to now make as much good Karma as we can, not devoting ourselves to, or being worried about past Karma; that is inevitable. It must come, so whatever it may be, good or bad, we now should accumulate good Karma even if we find in a few years, some terrible disaster upon us, the result of crime or error in a former life. It is certain that the life to come after this one, will not have disasters if we do right now. The most powerful of Buddha's disciples, Moggallana, was suddenly assassinated in his later years by robbers, and Buddha did not interfere. His explanation was, that in a previous incarnation Moggallana had committed a similar act which had not up to that time been compensated for.

Col. -- I am led to believe Karma ought to be sub-divided, as: that of the body, the mind, the desires, and so on. The man himself must be the result in the ever present of all the good and evil of him in the past.

I think it can be changed and affected, (a) unknowingly, as, by climate, by family, by nationality, race, through ignorance, and by the age; (b) understandingly, by one's perceptions and judgment conjoined with will, when his mind is opened to a knowledge of Karma, for then he works with that in view. Immaturity of mind and want of clear perception of right may in this direction obstruct progress. So, until the dross is burned away, leaving only the spirit, he will have to fight many tough battles, which, however, will leave him better armed for each succeeding conflict.

+ -- In Light on the Path that is distinctly stated, and especially as to the constant fights or storms that will occur; and the silences coming among those fights and storms, are the chances for preparation.

B. X. -- A thought occurs here worthy to keep. This constant struggle, up and down, surely goes on. It is easy to aspire when we feel jubilant in spirit, but not easy when we are in the depth of despondency. In the first case it is natural, for the jubilant feeling is caused by the present aspiration. If we only aspire then, the progress will be slow. But if we force ourselves to contemplation of the Supreme Soul when we are in despondency, then in the succeeding period of joy which will come, the bound upward is to a point beyond where we were before, and so the next downward rush will not be so low as the last, whereas if we leave it to itself we may for a long period never rise above, or rather never pass certain limits of this oscillation. So it is more valuable for us to aspire and to reach toward the Supreme Soul, when we are in despondency, than when we find ourselves in a highly elevated condition. We must refer to this again in another light.

Col. -- Theosophists should take offence at no man, and have no pet theories of right for others. By helping a questioner he can build good Karma for himself. In all men is more or less of good. Nor should we despotically drive another into well doing. We should plant seeds of good. Lopping off, perforce, a branch of evil does no radical good, for the cause may still remain. So a correct view of Karma leads to a struggle with oneself in which all others are helped and affected, as we are so linked with others that any change in us must affect them.

+ -- The three great kinds of Karma should be well understood. That is, of our family, of our race or nation, and of the present age. It is very certain that if any of our duties are left unfulfilled, whether at death or upon renouncing the world, they will rebound on us at some time. These kinds of Karma are exhibited in the defects and good qualities of (a) the family, (b) the nation, and (c) the whole humanity. The first we may know and cure, (b) is obscure for us, (c) almost unknown. But all are powerful. So the rash person who rushes madly for Adepts and chelaship, unwittingly may put his head in the lion's mouth. The defects due to family Karma are strong enough to overwhelm him at the first trial, and how powerful, nay, dreadful, are the defects of his nation, all to him a blank. Here nature is cruel perhaps -- no, only just -- although inexorable. We first then must try to know our family defects, and by doing good Karma bring up to the front the reserved force of our past high deeds and aspirations, so that when we shall have got to a point of trial the good qualities are in sufficient strength to help us. This is what we may call "Karmic stamina." It is what Jesus meant when he said, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven."

E. B. H. -- I think every mental or physical fault allowed to hold its ground, insidiously leaves at every recurrence a sediment in the soul. This drags us back to earth, because of the desire which accompanied it. It would seem then that what people call fate is truly fate, but we made it and we alone can unmake it.

B. X. -- That is true, and that is the whole struggle. This "fate" is Samsara, or the great wheel of rebirths, from which each alone must deliver himself.

G. -- Perhaps the stress so often laid by Theosophy upon our not being anxious about the effect of our actions is really intended to prevent us occupying ourselves too much with what comes into the cognizance of our fully developed powers, lest we should not give those which are in embryo a chance to assert themselves -- that, in fact, there is a different and more important effect of our actions than that generally seen, this effect being the one on which our attention should be fixed.

The danger in that case is that one may be continually thinking about what kind of Karma he is generating, which, it seems to me, would be unhealthy and abnormal and only refined selfishness -- like thinking all the time of his own salvation from hellfire.

Col. -- After all, but a small part of each man's total Karma is the effect of his own action; there are, besides the Karma of his own making, the Karma of the family to which be belongs, his national Karma, the Karma which results from the condition, moral, intellectual or social of the civilization in which his nature is developed, and so forth, to all of which he is subjected. Before mankind can hope to escape from the bonds of matter all these different Karmas must run down and cease to have action.

E. D. H. -- Can Karma come to a head?

+ -- Undoubtedly, it is coming to a head all the time in life, blossoming out in the shape of thoughts, words and actions, which are themselves the seeds of future Karmic bloom and fruit. These are the lesser wheels within that greater wheel of Karma, each turn of which brings us back to the world of matter once more.

B. X. -- The meaning of what is said in Bhagavad-Gita about acting without being bound in the action, is, that we should learn to do any action because we believe it to be right, having no thought for what the consequences may be. But if we regard the consequences, then we are really acting not because we are sure of our standard of action, but with a view to some result. This inevitably binds us in the bonds of action, and results in a Karma that will bring us surely back to that kind of life. We are not to be indifferent, because that is worse yet. We should act with the above high motive, using at same time the same amount of energy as those do who are entirely bound up in results, as the author of Light on the Path tells us.

As yet, we must be content with putting the state of not caring for Karma and not making Karma, as an ideal to be aspired to, for we cannot even begin the struggle without making Karma. Therefore, as a step toward a higher plane, we must try to make good Karma, and in this endeavor we should not fail to try to comprehend, through study, what we are, how we should act, what Karma really is, and how best it can be reduced, avoided, or worked off.

After all, the attitude of mind we are in when any act is performed, is more important than anything else. This is easily understood when we consider how often men do a certain thing with good intention which we cannot condemn, although others, better informed, know it to be unwise.

Number II

May, 1886.

Question from Brooklyn. -- I have heard that telegrams or letters signed "K. H." have been received by certain theosophists directing things to be done or lines of study to be pursued. Can they be considered genuine and from the adept named, and if so why are they not more general?

W. Q. Judge -- stated his firm conviction to be, that such telegrams or messages were not genuine, and that he knew from statements made in India to him, that the Adepts do not send messages around in such a manner, and that, even with their accepted disciples, they are very chary of messages. He also said that a disciple of the adepts, whom he met in India, assured him that those Beings must not be held so cheap as they have been made by some, and the disciple (an accepted chela) declared that he would sooner cut off his hand than send a pretended message, referring also at the time, to the well-known rule in occultism that any occultist, student or adept, who directly by pretended messages or phenomena, or indirectly by mysterious assumptions or small deception, pretends to have siddhis (powers), or otherwise attempts to convey the idea that he has made progress in the secrets of occultism, thereby at once forfeits his progress and throws himself far back.

Col. -- It seems to me also, that every one must be careful not to accuse any student of having made such an attempt at deception, because often we may feel that such attempt has been made, when in fact, the feeling is due to our own ignorance and inability to understand, or to his desire to avoid possible misconception.

After further discussion, it was decided that it is quite unlikely that any such telegrams are genuine, but are merely either a hoax, or the outcome of the vanity of the person who sent them.

A. D. -- speaking on talismans said: "Admitting for the moment that talismans have real effect, we find Paracelsus and others saying that lead, which is sacred to Saturn, may be used to make a talisman which will perserve the wearer from death by means of lead. I should like to ask whether, if my life were saved from a bullet by this means, the Karmic result which would have been achieved by my being shot is avoided.

+ -- If Karma be a Divine law governing the universe it cannot be completely wiped out by the action of a talisman, for this would require that Karma, which ceases to act only when it exhausts itself or is counteracted by opposite Karma, should be nullified and disrupted by an extraneous force. The talisman therefore must be supposed only to avert the fatal blow for the moment, and the Karmic effect will show itself in some other shape at a later period during that life, or in the next incarnation in that form or some other.

Question from Florida. -- In No. 1 of "Abridged Discussions" it is held that we are answerable, in effect, for the sins of the Family, the Nation and the Age. But how does this accord with the doctrine of Reincarnation?

The soul returning from Devachan to resume its Earth life, is not necessarily related to the parents with whom it takes up its abode. Now, is it just that this soul should be deprived of the fruits of his good Karma merely because he has the ill fortune to be born of wicked parents? Admitting that the race is so bound together, that no individual can do or suffer wrong without hurting others, yet it seems repellant to our sense of justice that the good should suffer. It is a misfortune to belong to an immoral family, a wicked nation, or a corrupt age, but ought the individual to be punished for this misfortune? May we not believe that he who keeps his own soul clean shall reap his due reward? Otherwise is not the incentive for goodness, wisdom and truth greatly weakened?

+ -- In discussing this it was shown that No. 1 Abridgement did not hold that any one could be deprived of the fruit of good Karma, but that every one reaped exactly what he had sown, good or bad.

Col. -- Man coming from Devachan gravitates to the family which exactly suits the Karma he has made in previous existences, and he himself in former existences helped to build up the Karma of his race and civilization; his experiences in life, moreover, are the resultant of his good and bad Karma, therefore, it seems to me, there is no injustice.

W. Q. J. -- The effects of Karma can not be calculated mechanically, like weighing out a pound of sugar; for the Karma of one incarnation may appear in another under a different form, just as the sun's heat stored up in the coal is converted into flame in the furnace, reappears as steam in the boiler, changes into mechanical force in the engine, becomes electricity in the dynamo, and finally emerges as light in the electric lamp. Nor do they always assert themselves in the same shape or form; but they often might and do. Nor do they invariably show themselves in the incarnation immediately succeeding; their development might not occur for ten, or perhaps, one hundred lives after.

Our good and evil propensities have unknown mazes and ramifications, and they are as much a part of our Karma as are the mere effects upon our circumstances of any action, good or bad. And to these good and evil propensities, the law of science which permits one kind of energy to be converted into another under favorable conditions, must be applied; for any evil or noble element of human nature, converts itself when the conditions permit, into any other element however apparently remote. This is what is meant in Light on the Path, where it says that the source of evil lives fruitfully in the heart of the disciple as well as in the heart of the man of desire, and that it may blossom after many hundreds of incarnations. The possibility of this blossoming, and probable conversion into some undreamed of propensity or element, is found in this, that in one life the conditions did not arise which would enable the propensity to come to the surface, and that hundreds of lives have no power to kill a seed of either good or evil which has not had its chance for growth. And the "conditions" necessary, are not alone the state of life, the family, or the age, in which we incarnate, but also the attractions we may have set up in a former life for another being or any kind of conduct.

The moment we again meet those beings or that kind of attraction, at that moment the old propensity comes to light in its original form or in some other form which may be stronger, or perhaps in two or three different kinds of mental or moral energy.

E. D. H. -- If it be a fact that our progress follows the law of universal evolution, it is begging the question to say that any man suffers injustice, for his being born of bad parents or into unhappy circumstances must be considered as one of the results of his past Karma.

S. H. C. -- Our sense of apparent injustice in this case, seems to come from regarding the question in the light of human justice, which requires immediate settlement, rather than of the larger divine justice which has eternity before it to set things right. If every seed that fell on stony ground had to be compensated before the luckier ones were allowed to grow, the whole course of nature would be stopped. Providence does not strike the balance till the account of each individual is closed, but that balance is sure to be found correct.

R. H. -- The adjustment of Karmic causes and effects being a matter of natural law, and of cosmic rather than human justice, it is probable that in reincarnating the spirit is attracted unconsciously to the body fitted to receive it, much as during the process of chemical combination an atom of one kind is attracted to the atom of another kind which has most affinity for it. This apparent exercise of a power of selection is seen more clearly in the faculty possessed by the various tissues to extract from the blood the particular constituents necessary for their maintenance, but in no case can it be supposed to be consciously exercised in our usual sense of the term. Were the reincarnating spirits not guided by some higher influence which makes a certain choice for each one a necessary choice, it is difficult to see how, with the competing wishes and interests that would then come into play, the millions of reincarnating spirits could find their right bodies without cross purposes and conflict.

W. -- In the Bhagavad-Gita Krishna says that he who at the moment of death utters his name goes to Him. I should like to ask whether this does not savor strongly of deathbed repentance.

Krishna -- By "the moment of death," is meant the actual moment of transition when the senses have closed to this world and not yet opened to the other. This is entirely different to the moment before death when the mind is filled with ideas of terrestrial origin, and the expiring sinner calls excitedly upon God to save him. When the last breath has been drawn, and, as far as spectators are concerned, all is over, a moment of intense mental activity occurs before the spirit finally leaves the body. All the past life rushes with graphic vividness before the mind, and the thoughts, emotions, and desires which have become habitual, arise with irresistible force. At that moment, the true moment of death, what presents itself most strongly, and forces itself out, is that which has been nearest and dearest to the heart during life -- money, lust, charity, pride, -- whatever, in fact, the individual has habitually made an object of pursuit and worship. For anyone, therefore, to be able to call on God at the moment of death, implies a life-long service of God, and in that sense must Krishna's saying be understood.

Col. -- I am somewhat puzzled to understand whether our individual consciousness will be continued eternally. The favorite simile of a raindrop returning to the ocean seems to imply the loss of individual identity when the spirit becomes merged in the divinity.

G. W. S. -- Since we have consciousness we must have come from a power which possessed that consciousness in order to give it, and when it returns whence it came it is really we who return, for our consciousness is ourselves.

R. H. -- Who knows but that the rain-drop preserves in its own way its sense of identity, or memory of its drop life, although its material particles be scattered. At all events that we should preserve our identity forever seems to be a necessary corollary of the possession of a conscious individual indestructible spirit, and if such be the case, it does not weaken our position that, with our extremely limited mental powers, we are unable to say how it will be brought about. John Stewart Mill said that the possibility of two and two making five in some other state of existence should neither be affirmed nor denied on the strength of our present experiences and mental powers, and if material science goes so far as that, we should not be afraid to acknowledge limitation in our powers of intellectually comprehending spiritual things.

From St. Louis. -- Is it possible to skip an incarnation?

To skip an incarnation would be like skipping one lesson in a series. But as the subject matter taught during each incarnation, so to speak, must be learned before the individual can pass on to further development, to skip an incarnation is an impossibility and involves a contradiction. For no matter how, or in what body, or for what period of time -- long or short -- the ego reappears, it is an incarnation, inasmuch as incarnation means coming into a body. To skip a period in Devachan is, however, possible, but it is exceedingly exceptional, and seldom advantageous. It occurs, we are told, in two instances. First in certain rare cases when the Adepts, in order to hasten the development of a chela, aid him in passing at the moment of death into some other and younger body, which is at that instant in the act of losing its own tenant, but which is not so diseased as to prevent full recovery of health after the advent of the new vitality. Secondly in the case of the higher Lamas, when, at the death of the old Lama his spirit enters the new body while it is still unborn.

From Malden Branch, T.S., May, 1886. -- The reading of the article, "Kimenis," in The Theosophist for April, caused a discussion on the temptations to which the student of occultism is subjected. One of the members said that Kimenis, or Khimenou, was once known to a certain student as Kamen. In The Idyll of the White Lotus the name of one of the priests, who renounced his humanity in order to gain the love of his fellows, while he thenceforth loved no one in return, was Kamen Baka. Had the young man who wrote his experiences with Kimenis been in pursuit of occult knowledge, that fair demon might have tempted him not only in the astral form, but in the body of some living woman. This is one of the twelve temptations to which, under the rites of the Egyptian mysteries, the candidate for occult advancement is subjected. Another temptation is to sell the knowledge acquired; to make use of it for the sake of gain. Whoever does this, directly or indirectly, loses his chance of advancement for the time. The Divine Wisdom cannot be prostituted to selfish ends in any way, and whoever does so becomes a black magician. All are given the chance to enter upon the Path, though they may not realize the value of the opportunity, and many fail, not knowing that they have failed. Such is the Law.

Z. -- It seems to me that many who think that they would earnestly seek the light do not comprehend the true nature of the temptations to which they are continually subjected. They are looking for something unusual, something hard in the way of a trial, and think: If something of the sort would only come along, how I would show my power to stand it! At the same time, by their daily yielding to the small vexations of life they show their unfitness for meeting greater trials. Even if one who has waited long and patiently asks, "Why am I not given an opportunity, since my conduct deserves it," he shows by the very question his unfitness. As the great poet, Walt Whitman, who is full of occultism, says: "When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall appear." When a person loses his temper over a trifle, he is hardly likely to meet any greater temptation in the right spirit. Every time we successfully overcome even the slightest obstacle, we have made a step in our initiation into the mysteries. Let us remember that it is the unexpected that always happens in the way of trials to the novice. The devil never sends a herald to announce his coming, and when pictured as a serpent it is never as a rattlesnake. When we have learned to encounter every vexation absolutely without complaint, either internally or externally -- if it disturbs us in the slightest degree within, it is just as bad as if we expressed it in words or action -- then, and not till then, can we expect to be given the opportunity to take a decided step forwards. For the secret of advancement is the development of the will through its union with the Divine Will. By meeting the ordinary ills of life with unvexed soul we educate and strengthen our will, fitting us for further advancement. Humbleness, Patience and Content are the first 3 steps that lead to the door. 

The book entitled Ghost Land, familiar to many occultists, was alluded to.

M. C. -- I have just been reading the book for the first time. The author had undoubtedly gone far in occultism. But there are evidences of a misstep. The work is marred by the false glare of Spiritism, and it is notable how the denial of the great truth of Reincarnation is insisted upon. But the next time the author passes this way he will know more of Reincarnation, and admit that he was here before and will be again. He is an old man, and will soon desire a new coat. When he thinks he sees the dear friend, who gave up for him his own life, suffering among the earthbound souls and himself among the shining ones, that is self-glorification, egotism, self, -- and he is mistaken. He tells more in detail concerning some great mysteries than probably any other man has yet put in print. But when he says that he himself occupied the Seventh Seat, that is conclusive proof that he did not, in reality, for that is a place which once occupied is never referred to by the occupant. He may have thought that he did. But there is no danger that a man can reveal the secrets of the most High. When he thinks he does, he does not. "He that exalteth himself shall be humbled." It is one of the tests that, if a man is proud of his wisdom, he must fail.

Number III

June-September, 1886.

E. D. W. -- asked: "Is not Christianity in its purity, that is to say as taught by Jesus, much the same as Theosophy?"

X. -- The religion which Jesus taught is not what the world understands by Christianity. Those who follow the real religion of Jesus think they are Christians only because they still try to combine in their minds the theology of their church with the sublime and simple ideas of their Master; and nothing could prove more clearly the moribund condition of dogmatic Christianity than the growing tendency to identify the name "Christian" with the teachings of Jesus, rather than with orthodox Christianity. The doctrines of Jesus are undoubtedly the same as those of Theosophy, inasmuch as they are the embodiment of the same high morality that all great sages have inculcated -- the morality of the Ancient Wisdom Religion, which is the highest morality conceivable to mortal man. If, however, "Christianity in its purity," is to be made synonymous with the doctrines of Jesus it will be necessary to rub out nearly everything which the world has understood by Christianity for 1800 years. Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is within men, that all men are children of one father, and therefore brothers; that man must be saved -- attain to perfection -- through the Comforter, the Christ, the spirit of God in his own heart, his own divine nature, and not through Jesus himself in any sense. This divine spark is man's birthright which he can either forfeit entirely or redeem and cherish, and which Jesus felt so strongly within himself that he identified his conscious principle with it. All this is pure Theosophy.

E. B. H. -- It is well to have this made clear, because people are inclined to confound the phenomena generally understood as Theosophy with the philosophy of the movement. They imagine that all there is to Theosophy is to be found in its wonders, and hence suppose that the religion of Jesus and Theosophy are incompatible.

Edson H. -- The doctrine of reincarnation is so different from accepted Christian theories, it is hard to convey these ideas to minds of Christians, unless they have had some instruction upon them. The moment such persons get their minds open to the fact that they are more or less bound by old ideas, they begin to make progress. Christians ought to remember that Jesus himself apparently accepted this doctrine of rebirth, as for instance, in the cases of the child born blind, and, where Jesus referred to John the Baptist as being Elias. Rev. Ed. Beecher in the book Conflict of Ages claims this doctrine as a Christian one.

Col. -- When it shall be clearly understood that to be living a truly theosophic life includes in it the same reverence for the eternal One, the same devotion to high morality and justice, and the same love for fellowmen that Jesus inculcated, then Theosophy will begin broadly to be seen in its true light; yet the theosophic life is deeper, higher and broader than that which the Christian church ever teaches.

P. D. asked: -- Ought Theosophists to send their children to Sunday School?

X. -- Going to Sunday School is, for the children, a social pleasure; for the parents to send them there is in this case a tribute paid to conventionality. In the absence of any similar institution on a theosophical basis it seems a tempting and easy way to dispose of the children during a few awkward hours. Much depends upon the character of the teacher, and upon the tone of the particular Sunday School. Sometimes a simple and unobjectionable morality is taught and illustrated from the Bible stories; but in those cases where the teacher offends the consciences of the children with theological dogmas it would naturally seem advisable to keep them at home, unless any bad effects of the Sunday School lessons can be counteracted by home instruction. It appears to be a choice of evils, for to keep the children at home is a punishment to them, and probably a trial to the parents, and to contradict what they hear in Sunday School would tend to puzzle the children, and to sap their faith in any teaching, for a child must be taught dogmatically and it has no criterion except personal respect for the teacher by which to choose between opposing assertions about religious matters. The dilemma shows the need of Theosophical Sunday Schools for those members who are not Christians, but in any case it is the duty of parents, when they are themselves agreed, to teach their children the fundamental truths of Theosophy, and to present to them, in such a form as the young can comprehend, whatever ideas they feel have done good to themselves. If certain doctrines have done the parents good, they should not idly allow the children to remain without them in the hope that later on the latter will find these things out for themselves.

E. B. H. -- In my opinion, children can be taught by reason, and they will accept theosophical truths very readily if put before them in the true light.

Question from Los Angeles. -- Many seem to feel acutely the buffeting of the world; would not a retreat, a kind of lamasery, so to speak, be of great value to such persons in their spiritual development?

R. A. -- Experience proves that a lamasery which contains only students is not productive of good, and no real student retires from the world on account of weariness of life. Peace and content come only to him who tries to live each day as it is given. Wisdom and knowledge only to him who performs his duty in life. We are here to learn our lesson -- to realize that all men are one, high or low, and this we cannot learn unless we live among them. Those who in this country sought seclusion in an isolated retreat would find themselves in the full glare of public notoriety. Here, the yellow robe of the ascetic, must be worn internally, not externally. Each must have his lamasery in his inner self. The effort and the money needed to establish a lamasery would be better employed in active works of charity. Self is the most dangerous of all the powers with which we have to contend, and to shut oneself up from the world for the purpose of soul development is a dangerous and extreme kind of selfishness, and he who goes off by himself to watch his soul come into blossom will see it wither and die at the roots under the blazing sun of his own selfishness.

After some discussion the views expressed by R. A. were endorsed by the meeting.

A. N. S. -- asked if the Theosophical Society was a secret one, as many of his friends had put the question to him, and the President of the Board of Control had said so much in the newspaper about secrecy that he hardly knew how to reply.

The President in reply drew attention to the Report of the last Annual Convention of the Society in India, when the rule of secrecy was abolished, and the only thing required was that one desiring membership should be in sympathy with the idea of universal brotherhood. The old obligation was retained only to be used at the discretion of the Presidents of Branches. The New York Branch retains the obligation of secrecy only in regard to the signs and passwords, and their signification, a knowledge of which is imparted to a new member at the time of his initiation. But any person may become a member of the Society by making application in accordance with the Society's rules and by-laws, and need not take any obligation to secrecy, and it will then be the duty of the Society at large to admit that person as member of the Society unattached to any particular Branch.

The subject of Anger having been introduced, the Colonel said:

He who perceives a spark of the Eternal spirit in all things can have but little selfishness left in him, and he is necessarily free from attacks of Anger as distinguished from an unselfish feeling of Righteous Indignation at injury done to unprotected innocence. In all nature, animate and inanimate, he recognizes only a mass of scintillation's of the Eternal Spirit, each surrounded by materiality; and this makes the doctrine of Universal Brotherhood a grand, heart-filling anthem of harmony, ever thrilling through and through him. He sees in long perspective the never ending march of evoluting progression of all things, and all tending up to the Eternal. What can anger him? He is too deeply concerned in the well-being of all to care how obscure he may be. He is too engrossed in building right principles to concern himself about himself. So flimsy is the structure of his selfishness that a blow goes through it without evoking that resistance from which anger is generated, as a spark is generated by the collision of flint and steel.

S. C. Y. -- There is a floating suspicion in the Society that there exists in this country an unknown head or director of the Theosophical Movement.

General Discussion. -- There is strong reason to believe that such is the case, although anyone who knew it to be a fact would not be likely to declare it. It is said that although only a portion of the Brothers of the First Section were at first in favor of establishing the Theosophical Society, they have all given their adhesion to the movement now. It stands to reason, therefore, that the well-being of the Society must be a matter of common concern with the Brotherhood, and that it will employ the methods usual with it in all such cases. We should remember, however, that the mode of action of the Brothers of the First Section is to work in harmony with nature, which does not consist in arbitrary interference with the laws of cause and effect. By their unseen aid we can accomplish things which would be difficult or impossible without it, and we are apt in such cases to flatter ourselves on our achievements, like a child pulling a cart which someone unperceived is pushing from behind. It is evident that this supervision being guided by a clearer, and therefore more prophetic, perception of consequences, is apt sometimes to push things in a direction we do not want them to go, even to the extent of apparent injury; to bring on, in fact, what doctors call "a beneficent crisis;" but in all such cases our verdict, when we see afterwards how matters turn out, invariably is: "It was for the best after all."

Question from South America. -- How far should such works as "Esoteric Buddhism" and "Man" be taken as authoritative?

X. -- The writers of these books are pupil-teachers, and their works are not textbooks of Theosophy. What the Masters are now imparting are, so to speak, elementary fragments of the Ancient Wisdom religion. Much of the teaching they are now giving us is in the form of problems for ourselves to solve; but in clearly understanding the statement of those problems we learn how to solve them. Men see things and ideas in different lights, and what is proof for one mind is not proof for another. Those who are in the same "ray" as the authors above mentioned will be satisfied with their works; while to those in a different ray the books in question may perhaps appear somewhat dogmatic or fanciful, especially in points where the writers give their own inferences. In reasoning from generals to particulars it is necessary to take a birds-eye view of the field at a time when the mind has not acquired the knowledge, perhaps not even developed the faculties necessary to comprehend that part of the subject which lies beyond everyday experience. It is in endeavoring to form a clear mental picture of that unaccustomed part, that writers in Theosophy chiefly disagree with each other, and tax their readers' powers of comprehension. It should be remembered, however, that our inability to form clear and satisfactory conceptions of things which until our knowledge grows we are told we must receive as if they were provisional hypotheses, is no proof that those things are not actualities, which will be fully shown and explained to us in due time.

Number IV

November, 1887

S. -- I have seen various references to "The Parent Theosophical Society," and would like to know the meaning of the term, and to what it is applied.

General Secretary. -- At present there is no meaning in this name, and its use is a source of error; it never should have been used. If there is in existence any "Parent Society," then it is the Aryan, because its charter members are the only ones left here of the first Branch ever formed, while Mme. Blavatsky and Col. Olcott are the founders of this Branch which became the Aryan after their departure. But as the whole Society is composed of its Branches and unattached members, and as each person who joins -- either through a Branch or at large -- thereby becomes a member of the whole Society, there can be no "parent Society." It is advisable that this term be discarded altogether, as it has no reason for its existence and no meaning in its use.

1st Question from California. -- Anatomical science teaches that the nerves of organic life, which furnish power for every vital function, have their source and center in the brain, and that the latter is the seat of the soul.

+ -- It seems to me that anatomical science does not teach that brain is the center of the soul, for the soul is not recognized as necessarily to be inferred from the anatomical and physiological structure.

D. -- The sympathetic nerve system controls organic life. That system, as a whole, includes the heart and brain as well as the other ganglia. From this it might be inferred that the brain is not the exclusive seat of the soul, (the existence of which must of course be admitted by us), but rather that its dwelling place, as far as organic life is concerned, is in the portion of the nerve system having most to do with that life, as, for instance, the solar plexus. Inasmuch as the developing human germ carries its processes of organic construction to a high degree without a brain, but with more or less well defined nerve centers, we might safely conclude that the heart in that case is then the seat of the soul.

J. -- The Upanishads state that the soul or self dwells in the center, or knot, of the heart. This knot of the heart is also spoken of by Mohammedan devotees. Both say that in order to know the soul the heart's knot must be unloosed. Yet we find that the Hindu yogi affirms that in order to know the soul the man's conscious will must pass through and become master of the different vital centers of the body, ending in one that is in the brain. This seems to give the brain a high place, but a co-operative one, because by itself it could have done nothing.

Then again many well authenticated cases show us that hearing, sight, smell, and feeling may be transferred to the stomach or even the feet -- as in the hysterical patients of the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris.

Some well-versed theosophical students affirm their belief to be that the brain is only the commander who executes certain orders from the soul, which they say has its real dwelling place in the heart, while at the same time it dwells also outside of the heart.

Arjuna. -- Have you reflected on that verse in the Aryan books which says that from the heart radiate various arteries -- 101 I think -- which are said to serve for the soul's departing in different directions, and that in these arteries is a fluid of different colors, in which the soul dwells, or to which it retires when the body is asleep. They also say, I think, that that soul which can at death go out from the man through the great astral nerve, a passage going from the top of the head, will not be reborn, but knowing itself -- or God -- will reach salvation.

Col. -- Regarding this matter, it is well to remember that all souls are not alike, and therefore would have perhaps, different places for their seat. Take, for instance, those exhibitions at spiritistic seances where sometimes a form is seen to exude from the side of the medium and gain consistency. Here we have an instance in which the brain seems to be ignored by a conscious, or apparently conscious, thing.

E. D. H. -- I have always heard it asserted by many mediums that their "controls" told them that they took control of the body through the spleen. If the control had first to be obtained over the soul, the interesting query arises, is it the animal soul or the human soul of the person? The Greeks admit an animal soul, and St. Paul gives two higher principles than the body, so we may fairly ask whether, if there be two souls, one animal and the other divine, they each reside in the same spot in the body?

As for the pineal gland, it is well settled that it now has no particular function, being only a small sandy-like lump, and its assumption for the soul's place seems merely to arise from the failure of function for it. But the spleen presents just as good, if not a better, place, in which to put the soul's particular home.

W. Q. J. -- Many writers of old have asserted that man had once a third eye, and that the pineal gland is that third eye, dead, unused, and therefore retracted to its present place. I put this idea lately before a physician of ultra materialistic ideas, and he said it was not too wild an assumption, for there are many unused organs and remains of organs in the human body which once had a function of their own.

E. D. H. -- In one case I have placed my hand on the side of the medium over the spleen while being controlled, and felt a peculiar trembling there. I think it is the animal soul that is affected in those cases.

+. -- Hypnotic suggestion would account for the recollection by mediums in many instances.

B. -- What do you mean by "animal soul?"

E. D. H. -- I use the term to make a distinction between the higher conscious soul and that part of the soul which governs mere life.

S. -- I think it is the animal soul that has its seat in the solar plexus; but I do not think that the higher soul has any particular spot for its seat in the body; it is both within and without and everywhere, as I assume we are discussing the human soul as distinguished from the animal.

Dr. W. -- We have first to settle what we mean by soul and spirit. The spirit in man is that which is like the divine, and the soul is outward to the inward spirit.

Mrs. G. -- I have seen what has been called by some the soul, and by others the astral man, come out from a person and heard it speak; is not that the soul? And this thing has no particular spot in the body for its seat.

O. K. -- If the soul has any special place in the body, it must be, I think, in the heart; for first there must arise will and desire, and the brain must be under command of the soul, but cannot say if this soul is the animal or spiritual one; and by the word "soul" I mean what is usually understood by the Christian as Soul.

G. W. -- The soul does not locate itself in any particular spot; it must permeate the body, and act by and through in its different organs.

H. T. P. -- To locate the soul is to materialize an immaterial thing. The body is only a manifestation of the soul. By locating it in any particular organ you are making it more material than body.

Some notes sent by Wm. Brehon, F.T.S., were then read, regarding the soul and the first chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita in which the writer laid down the proposition that the clearest way to think of the subject was to say that the soul took upon itself one sheath, or cover, after another, beginning with the finest and ending with the body, and that in these various sheaths reside the various powers and properties ascribed to the so-called "seven principles" of Theosophical literature.

J. V. -- I think this idea will aid us in clearing up the slight confusion which arises from dwelling upon a division of man into seven principles. As we admit that the seventh is spirit and therefore the whole, it would seem too much like leaving an eighth to be accounted for. But if we assume a great all pervading Higher-Self -- the same as Emerson's "Over-Soul" -- which assumes six manifestations more and more dense, arriving at body as the most dense, we can more easily come near the absolute truth that the Self is the basis for all, and thus also we may apprehend why all but that Self is an illusion -- for to me, illusion, in these subjects, means "a veil."

Krishna. -- I agree with J. V., and am reminded of the idea, so much dwelt on in the Upanishads, that the self -- the Higher-Self -- is the sole perceiver of all states or planes of consciousness, and therefore that which we know as the lower-self -- or the "I" of most of us -- must admit that it has to gradually be merged in the Higher-Self, in order to fulfil its destiny and acquire true knowledge.

C. -- This then will destroy the erroneous idea that Spirit ever can be, or needs to be, developed, and show, on the contrary, that it is the lower-self which must be purified or alchemized in order that the Higher may alone be seen. It will also show that it is philosophically wrong to say that "the Higher-Self will be increasingly conscious of the lower in proportion to the extent that the latter applies itself deliberately to the task of living for the sake of the Higher." For if the consciousness of that task is in the Higher -- as it must be -- then it is the lower that gradually disappears, and, further, to say that the Higher-Self "increases its consciousness of the lower" is to reduce the greater to be included in that which is less than itself.

2nd Question from California. -- What became of the bodies of Moses, Elias, Jesus, and others like them?

G. W. S. -- This query seems unprofitable; for if we could reply accurately, it could be of no benefit to anyone.

S. H. C. -- Inasmuch as the body is a material composition subject to the laws of growth and decay, it must be the fact that these bodies decayed and dissipated in the ordinary manner, if they were not burned. But if the mystical Something meant by Moses, Elias, and so on, is really referred to -- which I doubt -- then we know that nothing could or did happen to such bodies.

Cains. -- How does the Esoteric teaching bear on the doctrine of Free Will?

Col. -- Whether we admit the truth of the doctrine of Free Will or not, -- whether we believe that we are simply children of a life predestined or not, this ground fact is apparent, viz: That we never make a step in advance, never live down and out an evil tendency which is within us, without what is to us a sacrifice of inclination of our lower, baser, ignorant self; a sacrifice by efforts which to our consciousness springs from our ego. When the youth says, "No, I will not do this thing," to his consciousness, he has decided, and that, too, by the sacrifice of an earthly, selfish consideration -- by a sacrifice of a desire of his material self. Such a sacrifice demands self -- forcing and pain or trouble, or self-imposed deprivation, and sometimes even life itself, but the suffering, the pain, the trouble, the deprivation, and the death bring man to a higher plane by his sufferings; and when the ego by the sufferings of self shall have at last lost its earthly nature and shall have arisen to a one-life with the universal spirit, will it matter to him whether you call his law of progress one by Free Will or one by predestination? He knows "I chose, I certainly suffered; by this pain and suffering, the earth of me has been separated from me, and at last I am at Bliss -- life with the Great Spirit; I received the stripes, -- this advance on to the plane of God-life is mine."

A. N. S. -- You say Mr. President, that you very much doubt if there is such a state or attribute of the mind as "Free Will," and that it is a question with you if we ever have so-called "Free Wills."

If one views their present status or condition from every side, that is to say, from the side of their national Karma, as well as that of their family, and the times in which they live, and their own individual Karma, we may perhaps, conclude that there is no unqualified "Free Will;" yet I cannot imagine any thought more depressing than the belief in Fate or predestination. The very rules laid down in Light on the Path, in the Bhagavad-Gita, in the commands of Jesus, and in the Eightfold Path of Buddha, all imply a freedom of choice, which the individual may accept or reject, and the acceptance of which, we are told, will bring him ultimate happiness, and the rejection nothing but misery.

Number V

March, 1888

A mingled discussion on Karma and Self-Culture had taken place.

Dr. M. -- The purification of the individual character would seem to embrace all the Society's aims. For in the realization of Universal Brotherhood as a fact, comes a realization of spiritual unity as its essence; and a grasp of the truth of spirit involves in time knowledge of its nature and workings and power. Given such sense of pervasive spirit as leads to the broadest beneficence and the loftiest endeavor, you have the germ of the principle which, in full growth, ripens to knowledge of philosophy and religion, and to the acquisition of the psychic and other powers now latent in us. Hence, I take it, the first of the Society's three aims is the greatest, as virtually including the information and the powers referred to in the others.

Anonymous -- Self-culture, as an aim, seems open to the same charge of selfishness as any other aim referring to self. As a mere personal attainment, does it differ essentially from the striving to be rich or learned or influential? On the other hand, is it possible for any one to seek self-culture only as a means to benefitting the race? If self in every form is to be discarded as a hindrance to progress, how can it be retained in the intensest of all forms -- the expansion of personal gifts and powers? This seems to me a contradiction in the Theosophic scheme.

E. M. T. -- I do not so see it. The very aim of such culture is to rid the person of narrow views or interests, and to enable him, not only to apprehend universal interests, but to lose himself in them. The broader the range of his sympathies and aspirations, the narrower his purely individual concerns. Besides, the spirit in which all acts are done, specially acts of charity, is a love of or homage to the Supreme, or whatever is our highest ideal, and this excludes selfishness.

Mrs. J. G. -- This does not at all express my idea of charity. When I see a fellow being suffer and the wish to relieve him comes into my heart, the wish is to do away with his pain, to make him happy, and I want no other, especially no more remote, motive. Why is not the motive I have good enough in itself? If I desire to take away sorrow or confer pleasure, without any reference to myself and only for the good of another person, is not that a just and proper feeling of itself? I can't see how it would be bettered by turning away my thought from the present sufferer to a distant God and persuading myself that I am doing a kindness because of Him. And, indeed, I am suspicious of people who don't say simply that they do a right act because they want to, but say they do it for the glory of God or from thought of Him. The best proof of a God-like spirit is in God-like acts. If I have and exhibit real sympathy and helpfulness, it is because some measure of the Divine is in me, -- though I may not talk of it.

E. D. Mac P. -- I am not clear on this point; -- How far is the production of good Karma a proper motive to good acts? If I give money or time to a charity in order that I may lay up treasure in heaven, is not this a mere investment just as truly as one in Wall Street?

General. -- I think so. There seems no difference in principle between investing in Karma and investing in bonds. But can good Karma be thus produced? Occult writers teach that the ending of all Karma is the adept's aim, and that this is only accomplished as the causes generating it are made to end, -- that is, the self-seekings, interests, desires which bind to and renew earth-lives. When these die out and the adept's wishes and will are merged in the Universal life, Karma, as a cause of rebirth, has nothing to sustain it and disappears. The desire for good Karma is a desire for some Karma, whereas the highest aim is to get rid of the necessity for any. One may say that goodness, rather than the being good, is the goal. Charity as an investment would not lead to either. Nor would any act, right in itself, if its object was reward. The production of good Karma is the result of good acts, but is not a motive for them. The motive may be two-fold, -- internal, as seeking the formation of noble and God-like character; external, as effecting benefit to others. Both may combine, the one producing a sympathetic nature, the other a useful life. From these good Karma will arise naturally: less so, if at all, when sought for itself.

W. Q. Judge. -- Let me read you a passage from the Visishtadvaita Philosophy. [Reads]. This states, as does Patanjali, that there are three kinds of Karma, -- that which is now inoperative because thwarted by Karma of an opposite kind, that which is now operating, and that which will operate hereafter when formed. Over the first and second we have no control, but the third is largely within our molding power. Now what produces a good Karma? Evidently, a good life. But what produces a good life? As evidently, a good motive. But what produces a good motive? Analyze one, and you will see that it springs from two things, -- true conception and a strong aspiration. We first see the validity and beauty of spiritual truth; then we desire to assimilate and exemplify it; from this double experience of the soul comes the motive towards good. Towards good, observe; not towards reward or happiness or self-aggrandizement in any form. Now what maintains this motive? I should again say, two things. First, the steadily increasing sense of the richness of spiritual attainment as contrasted with all other; second, the formation of the habit of offering all acts, even the most trifling, as voluntary sacrifices on the altar of life. This is a matter of growth, slow growth, but a sincere student will find the growth possible. For if he understands that the real value of deeds is measured by the spirit prompting them, and not the results they accomplish, he will see that a small duty discloses that spirit as truly as a large one, and the Bhagavad-Gita says that one's own duty, however small, is that which we should perform. Further, this habit is helped by fixing in the memory some pregnant sentence from the Sacred Books. Here is one from the Upanishads: --

"Unveil, O Thou who givest sustenance to the worlds, that face of the true sun which is now hidden by a vase of golden light! so that we may see the truth and know our whole duty."

If you will memorize this, you will find it an invaluable aid to self-culture. It contains matter for profound thought and the stimulus to the highest life. Still another thing. We need to recall the incessant caution of the Bhagavad-Gita against action with a view to consequences. We are to concern ourselves with the quality of action, not with its results. Once more; the first of the Society's three aims seems most important because most enduring. Merely intellectual acquisitions cease with death; psychic powers do not go beyond the astral plane, and are not a permanent possession of the individuality; but any spiritual gain or power, spirit being indestructible, continues on unimpaired from one incarnation to another. I agree with Dr. M. that he who fully grasps the first aim has really all. Adepts acquire their vast domination over physical and astral forces as an incident in their spiritual course. It is not sought either in or for itself, but comes naturally, and is picked up, so to speak, on their way to the higher peaks of knowledge. It is not well to strive for the lesser good, but for the greater, which includes the less. All our acts, therefore, must be done without our having an interest in the result.

A. F. -- I once asked an accomplished student what he judged the best and simplest prescription for Theosophic culture. He replied, "I believe the best to be that a man should read every morning Light on the Path, and carry out its precepts during the day." He added that a great assistance to the aspirant was to embody in a word or phrase the particular aim he had before him, and to recall it at each moment of temptation or weakness or needed endeavor. It might be "purity," "patience," "content," perhaps even "chelaship," -- whatever best expressed his need or purpose as he clearly saw it.

The caution against action with a view to consequences seems to require explanation of "consequences." Are they the logical consequences of the action, or the consequences to which the action makes himself liable? The latter should of course be disregarded, as one is to do what is right, no matter at what cost. But the logical consequences of any action are really part of the problem, and one must include them in forming judgment of its desirability. Theosophy would hardly recommend rashness, or thoughtlessness, or lack of foresight.

W. Q. Judge. -- No; but I mean an adhesion to such action as, according to our lights, on the whole seems best, and then freedom from anxiety as to all the possible results. Every act has numberless sequences of which only the nearest can be foreseen. When these are considered wisely and the decision made, we should cease worry over possible or any effects whatever.

H. B. F. (Phila.) -- We are taught that each person must develop in his own way and on his own lines. There is no one path for progress, as there is no one mold for character. But more than this, I much doubt if any one can advance faster than at a rate which all the conditions of his being make normal. Tastes, likes and dislikes, personal preferences, desires, and habits are part of each man's make-up, whether coming down from prior incarnations or an incident of this. We can outgrow them when the time comes, but can we shrivel them up or extirpate them, and, indeed, should we? The child loses interest in his toy as he becomes older, and another interest arises, fitted to his next time of life. The snake sheds its skin when the proper season arrives, and the man sheds his aims with successive stages of development. Can these changes be forced, and, if so, would they be healthful? Is not each taste or desire natural to the man when it exists, and, being natural, proper? And will it not become effete and drop away when, and only when, his general development advances beyond it? In brief, is any artificial system better than the normal one? If better, is it practicable? These considerations are strengthened by our doctrine that each man must pass through all experiences. If he curtails or mutilates any (I exclude, of course, such as are sinful or injurious to others), he lessens that experience and may have to repeat it. Surely the great experience cannot be self-mutilation.

S. H. C. -- There are many replies to this -- more than space admits. It is true that Nature, and therefore Occult Science, does nothing by leaps. Yet it is also true that Nature is often aided by science, and thus effects in less time and more perfectly what would otherwise require years. Plants are grafted, manured, and pruned. Breeds of animals are advantageously crossed. Men's characters may be improved by discipline and applied will. The lessons would, no doubt, be in time driven in by repeated sufferings, but no one would recommend so slow and painful a process in preference to intelligent reflection and a consequent effort after self-control. All education, as distinguished from book-study, is based upon the belief that we can, and should, work into betterment, and not merely drift into it. Theosophic culture has the same basis. It holds that development through effort is right, and that it produces a finer and stronger character, and in shorter time, than does a life without purpose; and it holds also that one may well sacrifice an inferior or transient good to a superior or permanent one. A child may give up a toy for a book, and a man may give up a pleasure for a principle. Whether either can do so depends upon the power of his motive. He certainly will not do so until the motive has grown to the needed degree of power, and in that sense it may be said that nothing can occur before its proper time; but here again comes in the doctrine of growth through effort, for motive may be developed thus. And so I should say that the question before anyone with conscious aspirations is: whether he thinks the reasons for a vigorous Theosophic life more cogent than those for the "normal" human course, and, if so, whether he is ready to sacrifice to the greater aim the desires and habits consonant with the lesser aim.

L. B. -- I should say also, as to experiences, that it is hardly meant that each man must pass through all. That is inconceivable. What is meant, I think, is that he must pass through each type, or class of experiences. One may have to be a physician in some incarnation, but not necessarily an allopath in one, a homeopath in another, and a surgeon in a third. One may learn the nature of rulership without being successively a Rajah, a President, and a Queen. So in the matters of art and emotion. I do not see that we are to be in turn poets, painters, sculptors, and musicians, though at some time we must learn the principles of all art; nor that we have to experience every shade of taste, desire, passion, but only the general quality common to all. It may very well be, then, that a time may come to each when he thinks that he has had enough of emotional interest, and would prefer, even if not without effort, to reach out after interests less perturbing and more satisfactory.

Question from California. -- Does the doctrine of Karma give, through our circumstances in this life, any reliable clue to the circumstances of the preceding life or lives? In other words, can we at all conjecture what we were before being what we are?

Paul M. -- I always insist that there is anyhow one such clue. The very fact that our eyes have been opened to the truths of Theosophy proves that we have somehow or somewhere acquired the right to so great a privilege. When we observe that an enormous majority of people are absorbed in purely secular interests; that, of the minority interested in super-sensual truth, most misconceive it or hold it in combination with belittling or misguiding error; and that, in our hemisphere, the number of sincere students of Theosophy is so minute as compared with the secularists or the ordinary religionists; we can hardly ascribe our being of that number to accident or to present merit. Occult Science extrudes the conception of accident, and we often find Theosophic aspirations disassociated from rank, high intelligence, large culture, or strong character. The remaining explanation is that they are karmically connected with a creditable past. They imply some degree of spiritual instinct or affinity, and this so contrasts with the materialism around as to almost demand reference to an antecedent source. My contention, then, is that real interest in Theosophy is to be accounted for by good karma in a preceding incarnation. Moreover, I think this one of the most inspiring and exhilarating of thoughts. For, if my interest in the Great Truth is thus to be traced back, two things follow: 1st, I have behind me some certain mass of good Karma, and probably ended many experiences in evil which I should be sorry to repeat; 2nd, I am encouraged to believe that I am now truly on the Path, and that there is hope that my efforts will neither die down nor fail. The effect is inspiriting, whether I look backward or forward. And this view of previous karma has special value to beginners in Theosophy, who are disheartened by isolation, or by confused thought, or by the apparent futility of conflict with self. Let them understand that their interest comes from a past of good Karma, and they freshen up to cheeriness and to renewed effort.

E. D. H. -- But does not such a view arouse pride? If I am now a Theosophist because hitherto a good man and a better man than my neighbors were, the elation from the fact may ruin me.

Col. -- Not at all. It applies to what you were, not to what you are. What you are and what you will be depend on yourself, and you may misuse a spiritual endowment just as you may misuse any other, -- beauty, talent, and so on.

* * * * -- Besides, the abuse of a doctrine is no argument against its use. If the doctrine is true and is precious, we can't give it up because somebody may pervert it.

Arjuna.-- We should always remember what the Bhagavad-Gita says in the 2nd Chap., that "there is no loss or detriment to our efforts in study," and, in another place, that we "take up the thread of good Karma on each return." But I conceive it an unwise and profitless thing to try to determine what were the circumstances of previous lives.