The Divine Quest leads one to the Gates of illumination. The dreaming soul awakens to the larger life and demands of the universe that it be shown the way to wisdom. It is the Voice of the Eternal speaking in the heart, and it must be heard.
The Great Voice speaks, assuring him of victory, whispering the secret of triumph: "Disregard entirely the question of failure or success. Forget self utterly; fling all that you are upon the altar of service to the world: dedicate yourself to the good of others."
As he does this, self-concern falls away, and he is free. He becomes an impersonal instrument of service in the hands of Divine Will and Intelligence, and shares in its invincible power.
That is the whole secret. When a man or woman wholeheartedly surrenders selfhood at the Threshold, drops all SELF CONCERN, and makes the motive one of service to others, with NO EXPECTATION of reward, the first battle is won without striking a blow.
What is the Threshold? Is it symbol or reality? Occultism teaches that it is an actual frontier or boundary line of consciousness in the heart and mind of the disciple-to-be. It marks the point of separation between his higher and lower natures - the mystic bourne from which no traveler, once pledged to his journey, ever returns.
true spiritual path..., Katinka Hesselink
Obituary: Carmen Helena Small - July 6, 1918 - April 21, 2004 - obituary, Ken Small
Perhaps those who have engaged in discussions about whether it is more advisable to become acquainted with the Astral Plane and to see therein than to study the metaphysics and ethics of theosophy, may be aided by the experience of a fellow student. For several years I studied about and experimented on the Astral Light to the end that I might, if possible, develop the power to look therein and see those marvelous pictures of that plane which tempt the observer. But although in some degree success followed my efforts so far as seeing these strange things was concerned, I found no increase of knowledge as to the manner in which the pictures were made visible, nor as to the sources from which they rose. A great many facts were in my possession, but the more I accumulated the farther away from perception seemed the law governing them. I turned to a teacher, and he said:
"Beware of the illusions of matter."
"But," said I, "is this matter into which I gaze?"
"Yes; and of grosser sort than that which composes your body; full of illusions, swarming with beings inimical to progress, and crowded with the thoughts of all the wicked who have lived."
"How," replied I, "am I to know aught about it unless I investigate it?"
"It will be time enough to do that when you shall have been equipped properly for the exploration. He who ventures into a strange country unprovided with needful supplies, without a compass and unfamiliar with the habits of the people, is in danger. Examine and see."
Left thus to myself, I sought those who had dabbled in the Astral Light, who were accustomed to seeing the pictures therein every day, and asked them to explain. Not one had any theory, any philosophical basis. All were confused and at variance each with the other. Nearly all, too, were in hopeless ignorance as to other and vital questions. None were self-contained or dispassionate; moved by contrary winds of desire, each one appeared abnormal; for, while in possession of the power to see or hear in the Astral Light, they were unregulated in all other departments of their being. Still more, they seemed to be in a degree intoxicated with the strangeness of the power, for it placed them in that respect above other persons, yet in practical affairs left them without any ability.
Examining more closely, I found that all these "seers" were but half-seers - and hardly even that. One could hear astral sounds but could not see astral sights; another saw pictures, but no sound or smell was there; still others saw symbols only, and each derided the special power of the other. Turning even to the great Emanuel Swedenborg, I found a seer of wonderful power, but whose constitution made him see in the Astral world a series of pictures which were solely an extension of his own inherited beliefs. And although he had had a few visions of actual everyday affairs occurring at a distance, they were so few as only to be remarkable.
One danger warned against by the teacher was then plainly evident. It was the danger of becoming confused and clouded in mind by the recurrence of pictures which had no salutary effect so far as experience went. So again I sought the teacher and asked:
"Has the Astral Light no power to teach, and, if not, why is it thus? And are there other dangers than what I have discovered?"
"No power whatever has the astral plane, in itself, to teach you. It contains the impressions made by men in their ignorance and folly. Unable to arouse the true thoughts, they continue to infect that light with the virus of their unguided lives. And you, or any other seer, looking therein will warp and distort all that you find there. It will present to you pictures that partake largely of your own constitutional habits, weaknesses, and peculiarities. Thus you only see a distorted or exaggerated copy of yourself. It will never teach you the reason of things, for it knows them not.
"But stranger dangers than any you have met are there when one goes further on. The dweller of the threshold is there, made up of all the evil that man has done. None can escape its approach, and he who is not prepared is in danger of death, of despair, or of moral ruin. Devote yourself, therefore, to spiritual aspiration and to true devotion, which will be a means for you to learn the causes that operate in nature, how they work, and what each one works upon."
I then devoted myself as he had directed, and discovered that a philosophical basis, once acquired, showed clearly how to arrive at dispassion and made exercise therein easy. It even enabled me to clear up the thousand doubts that assail those others who are peering into the Astral Light. This too is the old practice enjoined by the ancient schools from which our knowledge about the Astral Light is derived. They compelled the disciple to abjure all occult practices until such time as he had laid a sure foundation of logic, philosophy, and ethics; and only then was he permitted to go further in that strange country from which many an unprepared explorer has returned bereft of truth and sometimes despoiled of reason. Further, I know that the Masters of the Theosophical Society have written these words: "Let the Theosophical Society flourish through moral worth and philosophy, and give up pursuit of phenomena." Shall we be greater than They, and ignorantly set the pace upon the path that leads to ruin.
"There is no better aid to improved and expanded living, loving, and learning than the concept of the Higher Self. Even more than the lower mind, it distinguishes humans from animals. This concept includes the real inner and outer dual aspect of nature and emphasizes the longer lasting part of the otherwise ephemeral person who, with countless other ‘faceless ones’ is here today and gone tomorrow. This higher immortal Ego inhabits or overshadows each being long advanced beyond the animal stage. It is the only actual theoretical basis for two central doctrines in modern Theosophy - the existence of Adepts and Karma- Reincarnation. Thus spiritual progress is made possible from the ‘lower’ to the ‘higher’ planes and the vision of human brotherhood becomes a possibility. Like mind and consciousness, the Higher Self is potential in physical-spiritual nature, although it is up to each one of us to make it actual, it declares that divinity is both beyond and within each person and object. This is the basis for the higher or esoteric pantheism that Madame Blavatsky accepted and that all real Theosophists acknowledge."
“Most of us do not want to know what we are. We invent the higher self, the supreme self, the atma, and all the innumerable ideas, to escape from the reality of what we are - the actual everyday, every-minute reality of what we are. And we do not know what we are from day by day, and on that we impose something which thought has bred as the atma, which tradition has handed over as the higher self.”
"The trouble with some theosophical aspirants is that they waste the strength of their lives looking at the goal ahead, rather than at the immediate moments and seconds of which the Path is composed, and so their better selves become exhausted. They should let the beaming thought pour itself into each arriving moment and be indifferent to the morrow. One can find in every instant of time, if one has the desire, the door into worlds of golden opportunity, the gateway to a glorious path stretching out into the limitless eternal."
Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.
Books on Buddhism often state that the Buddha's most basic metaphysical tenet is that there is no soul or self. However, a survey of the discourses in the Pali Canon -- the earliest extant record of the Buddha's teachings -- suggests that the Buddha taught the anatta or not-self doctrine, not as a metaphysical assertion, but as a strategy for gaining release from suffering: If one uses the concept of not-self to dis-identify oneself from all phenomena, one goes beyond the reach of all suffering & stress. As for what lies beyond suffering & stress, the Canon states that although it may be experienced, it lies beyond the range of description, and thus such descriptions as "self" or "not-self" would not apply.
Where is God in Buddhism? Why is Buddhism considered a religion? Where is the spirituality in Buddhism?
... it has been said too often to need repetition, and the fact itself is patent to any observer, that when once the desire for Occultism has really awakened in a man's heart, there remains for him no hope of peace, no place of rest and comfort in all the world. He is driven out into the wild and desolate spaces of life by an ever-gnawing unrest he cannot quell. His heart is too full of passion and selfish desire to permit him to pass the Golden Gate; he cannot find rest or peace in ordinary life. Must he then inevitably fall into sorcery and black magic, and through many incarnations heap up for himself a terrible Karma? Is there no other road for him?
Indeed there is, we answer. Let him aspire to no higher than he feels able to accomplish. Let him not take a burden upon himself too heavy for him to carry. Without ever becoming a "Mahatma," a Buddha or a Great Saint, let him study the philosophy and the "Science of Soul," and he can become one of the modest benefactors of humanity, without any superhuman powers. Siddhis (or the Arhat powers) are only for those who are able to "lead the life," to comply with the terrible sacrifices required for such a training, and to comply with them to the very letter. Let them know at once and remember always, that true Occultism or Theosophy is the "Great Renunciation of SELF," unconditionally and absolutely, in thought as in action. It is ALTRUISM, and it throws him who practises it out of calculation of the ranks of the living altogether. "Not for himself, but for the world, he lives," as soon as he has pledged himself to the work. Much is forgiven during the first years of probation. But, no sooner is he "accepted" than his personality must disappear, and he has to become a mere beneficent force in Nature. There are two poles for him after that, two paths, and no midward place of rest. He has either to ascend laboriously, step by step, often through numerous incarnations and no Devachanic break, the golden ladder leading to Mahatmaship (the Arhat or Bodhisatva condition), or--he will let himself slide down the ladder at the first false step, and roll down into Dugpaship. . . .
In The Mahatma Letters, page 200, there is a reply to a question by Mr. A.P. Sinnett on the effect of Karma on the Social position of men. It contains enough to solve most of the problems of this kind that are raised in ordinary discussion. Let us quote it.
"The 'reward provided by nature for men who are benevolent in a large systematic way' and who have not focused their affections upon an individuality or speciality, is that - if pure - they pass the quicker for that through the Kama and Rupa Lokas into the higher sphere of Tribuvana, since it is one where the formulation of abstract ideas and the consideration of general principles fill the thought of its occupants. Personality is the synonym for limitation, and the more contracted the person's ideas, the closer will he cling to the lower spheres of being, the longer loiter on the plane of selfish social intercourse. The social status of a being is, of course, a result of Karma; the law being that 'like attracts like.' The renascent being is drawn into the gestative current with which the preponderating attractions coming over from the last birth make him assimilate. Thus one who died a ryot may be reborn a king, and the dead sovereign may next see the light in a coolie's tent. This law of attraction asserts itself in a thousand ‘accidents of birth’ - than which there could be no more flagrant misnomer. When you, realize, at least, the following - that the skandas are the elements of limited existence then will you have realized also one of the conditions of devachan which has now such a profoundly unsatisfactory outlook for you. Nor are your inferences ( as regards the well-being and enjoyment of the upper classes being due to a better Karma) quite correct in their general application. They have a eudaemonistic ring about them which is hardly reconcilable with Karmic Law, since those ‘well-being and enjoyment’ are oftener the causes of a new and overloaded Karma than the production or effects of the latter. Even as a ‘broad rule’ poverty and humble condition in life are less a cause of sorrow than wealth and high birth, but of that... later on.”
In this as in all else, circumstances alter cases. It is just as easy and just as difficult to be kind and generous and helpful in a position of affluence as in a position of poverty. It is the nature of the Ego himself or herself to be generous and helpful or the reverse. And here stands one of the stumbling-blocks for the social reformer. We are all desirous of having better social conditions, everything better than it is. When everything is perfect and every one has all he wants, there will be room for anyone to help anyone else on the physical plane anyway, and it is to be feared that our benevolent impulses would thus soon become atrophied, and die out altogether for want of exercise.
We constantly forget that our faculties are gained by struggle and that as soon as we cease to struggle, or think we are so fortunate as to possess conditions which make struggle unnecessary, and have gained the summit of existence; right then and there we begin to lose what we have gained, and the sooner we are thrown back into the toilsome world the better for us. Too many people associate struggle with pain. There need be no pain in healthy struggle or effort, as long as our aims are unselfish.
Nor can it be wrong to strive to raise the conditions of society in general so that the standard of thought and aspiration should be raised among men. But there must continue to be struggle on the mental plane if physical conditions are made utterly pleasant and free from effort. This is why it is that no model settlement or colony, or anything of that kind has ever given prolonged satisfaction to intelligent people. Brook Farm, Fairhope, and all the rest of them become intolerable sooner or later to the best minds! Even Robinson Crusoe would never have been able to "stick it," had he not kept himself perpetually busy improving his home and planting and reaping and planning and executing, as all rational beings must if they would remain sane and capable.
It may be observed how often men when they retire, though in perfect health, drop off as though life had lost its grip for them. Those who do not know the joy of work must always remain among the most miserable and discontented of beings. "I have known joy," said Robert Louis Stevenson, "for I have done good work." It is in the nature of things that we should always be building and rebuilding and that nature should always be pulling down and destroying. Every time we come back into reincarnation in the ordinary course of things we come into a new world. It is no wonder we remember little of our past lives. After a few centuries little is left to be recognized.
Mutability is the keynote of life. Christians accuse the easterns of pessimism for recognizing this, but the New Testament is full of it. An, so are our hymns and sermons, and they are not seldom the most popular hymns we sing. Take Lyte's fine hymn, "Abide with me," and study its lines. There is no greater exposition of pessimism, and congregations actually revel in it. They "seek a city which is for to come." Buddhists are logical enough to realize that no permanent condition can be established in a world of change, so they aspire to the changeless Nirvana, not extinction, as some would have it, but the extinction of change, which can only mean something akin to the Absolute.
We can only find that Absoluteness in the Self. Hence, the whole race of Man draws onward towards that "far-off divine event." St. Paul assures us that God shall be all and in all, and many Christians shrink from such a fate. It is the Nirvana of the Buddhists, no matter what the theologians may say. So the whole Race passes on through Round after Round, race after race, aeon after aeon, till the Great Day Be-With-Us, the climax of the ages of the ages.
Are we inclined to slacken in our petty tasks, when these things are brought to our contemplation? Then, assuredly, we have not yet learned the lesson of action in inaction, and inaction in action. We still need to know how to act and to be detached from the results of action. To stand aside and let the Warrior fight for us. To become conscious that the Self has given us the whole world and that we may peacefully lose it for the sake of that which lies behind.
IN an age when men had lost their clear perception of realities and were encompassed by doubt and fear, there lived a brother and sister named Sindbert and Barbara. Descended from a noble line of ancestors they dwelt in the manner of nobles, and from their father they had inherited manifold possessions - a large estate and castle, cattle and horses and fowls and over-full granaries; and both would have been happy in their own way but for one thing, the fear of death. So steeped in shadow were the minds of the nation into which they had been born that the great mystery of death was spoken of in hushed voices and with terror in the eyes. The years glided past, and the seasons were regenerated; the leaves upon the trees died in the winter, and new leaves were born when spring returned - but though the people witnessed these events the fear of death lay heavily upon their hearts.
Sindbert saw the sadness in human lives, and out of the generosity of his being he distributed much of his wealth among the needy and the suffering. He provided for the old and for the orphaned, and to the lonely and despairing he gave wise counsel and kindly words of hope - for he loved his human brothers as though each were another himself.
With bitterness Barbara reproved him for his bountiful actions. Her heart was cold, and for her there was but one god to be worshiped, the self-sufficient `I.' She worshiped this god with all her mind, and in all ways gave him homage. There was no other lady in the city who was better dressed; none had such sparkling jewels, none a fairer countenance. Each day was to her a festival of self-indulgence, and wherever she went she left a record of broken hearts and bitterness. And she hated her brother for the beauty of his soul.
Illness came to Sindbert, and as he lay tossing on his couch his thoughts were troubled, for the fear of death had overtaken him. As his heart grew heavy with sorrow the door to his chamber opened, and a child came in. She was like the dawn, pure and radiant, and in her eyes there was god-like laughter. She took his hand and said, "Come! I walked in loneliness, but now you will be with me, and we shall be happy together." And Sindbert rose and forgot his illness, and followed the child. She took him through green glens and across grass-carpets made odorous with violets and lilies-of-the-valley; and they passed beside a lake, and rested on the shore and watched the tall rushes swaying in the sunlight, and it seemed to him that the world had never yet been so beautiful. He wanted to remain by the lake, but the child said, "Rise, for we must find your thoughts, for they are widely scattered, and are lost among the stars and in the waters of Space." And hand in hand they sought his thoughts, and walked among the stars, and rested in Space, and all he saw he recognised, although he thought these realms were new to his spirit. And then he said, remembering, "Dear child, is this journey not harmful to my fevered body? And if I do not rest, will death not overtake me?" And the child smiled and answered:
"Your body lies mouldering in the family vault, and your friends have dried their tears after your passing. What have you to do with death, when life has claimed you for her very own?"
And Sindbert was silent.
And a pestilence swept through the city where Barbara reveled in her pleasures, and she was seized with dread at the thought of death. And she wrapped a cloak of ermine about her shoulders and ran to an old hermit that lived in the vicinity of the castle. And she said to him, her beautiful face pale with terror:
"Holy father, help me, for I dread the death that comes with stealthy footsteps and brings agony and sleep to the unwary!"
And the hermit looked at her with sadness, and replied:
"Woman, why do you come to me? I cannot help you, for you are already dead, and your spirit has been a corpse these many years."