United Lodge of Theosophists, London, UK

Practical Theosophy

ANYTHING that is to appear to us as Truth must be seen as such within the range of our own experience. To accept a statement as authoritative is folly. To believe on the statement of any person, or on the records of any book, or because of opinions held by any number of persons, is also folly. For belief is not knowledge; it is a confession of ignorance. Knowledge is gained through observation and experience, and in no other way. When we have the experience, we have the knowledge; and beliefs are no longer of any moment to us, one way or the other.

Is life continuous? Many think that life is merely what we experience in a physical body; that when the body ceases there is no more life. But if life began with birth and ended with death, what justice or reason could underlie these short physical lives? What of the myriads of people who have existed in previous civilizations? They had the same feelings, the same hopes, fears, sorrows, joys, that we have. Their day of existence is done – what did it mean?

Let us consider the physical body, and what occurs with us every day. We know that we wake in the body, and we know also that we sleep in the body. The body, then, is seen to be an instrument in which life always is, for certainly we are not dead when the body is asleep. There is a continuity of life throughout the night, and all we do is merely to arouse the body into activity again in the daytime: continuity of life exists through the sleeping and waking states. Furthermore, our identity persists through sleeping and waking, and all the Changes through which the body goes. The thinking entity who was born in the child’s body has been with that body through all its changes up to the present, and will be in that body through any changes that may occur in the future until the body goes to pieces. This entity is permanent and changes not at all, no matter how much the body changes. It sees and notes the changes, and relates them to one another. Unless it were changeless, how could it do this? For change cannot see change: only that which is permanent can see change.

Looking at ourselves from that point of view, as the persistent identity in this body, changeless ourselves, yet noting all the changes, we see that we are not our bodies at all, and never were, although we occupy them and are limited in a physical way by their capacities.

Some may say, then, that we must be our minds. This cannot be true. For if we were our minds we could not change them. We do change them many, many times during life; so the real man within must be behind and beyond the mind. Mind is merely a round of activity, a bundle of ideas that we hold in regard to life and in accordance with which we act. We all know that each one of us has had a different kind of mind in the past from what we now have; and as minds do not change themselves, we must have done the changing, clearing out some of our mental furniture and acquiring new.

The real life in man, then, is not the body, nor does it depend upon body. It is not the mind, nor does it depend upon mind. The real life is not what we see, nor what we hear, nor what we feel, nor what we know. Life itself cannot be seen, weighed, measured nor proved. It is the seer, knower, experiencer. It needs no proof. It proves itself by its very existence. Some call it Spirit; some call it Life; some call it Consciousness – and this last is as good a name to use as any, because Consciousness, the power to perceive, is in reality the only power in us, and it registers all the experience we have. All other powers are merely incidental, being special aspects or differentiations of the one power.

So it comes to this: when we think of ourselves we must not think of our bodies, or our minds, or our surroundings, as identical with us; these are merely incidental to us, the instruments with which we are working, the fields of our experience.

Now, there is a very wide difference between men in human bodies, as all will recognize. The bodies are very much alike, but the men are different. In what does the difference lie? Not in the bodies, but in the intelligencein the actual knowledge of the beings who inhabit the bodies. All the observation and experience, all the knowledge gained, is registered, not in the body, and not in the mind, but in the man who lives and thinks, and who uses these instruments for his own purposes. The great difference between men, then, is in their intelligence and character. There must be a reason for this. Let us consider Evolution. We know the beings below us are continually getting better and better instruments – better organs, better bodies, better brains for their use. We see that law of evolution working below us, up to us. We cannot stop there.We must see that law is continuous, that all beings proceed under it, that we ourselves must have evolved and must be still evolving. The differences in man, then, must be due to the differing stages of evolution that each one has attained. And Evolution must proceed along intellectual and spiritual lines, as well as physical. Applying this law still further, we must recognize that there are beings above us, as well as ourselves and the almost endless myriads of beings below us – and that these higher beings must have come up to our state, passed through it, and gone beyond it. Life in general would thus appear to be something like a great school, with pupils of all degrees of learning and intelligence in the various grades. The grades themselves are always there, but the pupils go up through them. How could this be, if life were not continuous? The pupil goes from grade to grade and term to term, adding to his store. So beings go from life to life – with an occasional “vacation’ – carrying on the knowledge gained in the previous “term,” going on from where they left off. How else can we rationally account for the vast differences in intelligence between men?

And the Teachers of the School? Is it not strange that all great religious teachers of widely separated times down the ages have taught the same teaching? The teaching of Buddha, for instance, does not differ in the slightest degree from the teaching of Jesus. Nor do the teachings of these two differ from the teachings of those who preceded them. The sole credentials of these Teachers are their knowledge, nothing else.They have passed through our stage of evolution And onward up the ladder of being, coming back and “becoming in all things like unto us,” as was said of Jesus, in order to help and teach us the old, old truths of immortality and the Soul. All these Teachers have had their followers, who in the progress of time formed “churches,” finally degenerating into a sect or a religion differing very greatly from the teaching originally delivered. Hence the necessity for the repeated appearance of “Saviours,” down the ages, in order that the pure truths may be restated.

Now, to point to life: how could these beings have reached the degree of power and knowledge which they showed they had, unless there had been for them a continuity of life, of experience?

They could not have reached it otherwise. We ourselves could not have arrived at our present stage of being, of knowledge, of power, unless there is continuity of life, of consciousness, of all experience. The very fact of life itself, the very necessity of life, is that continuity of experience shall be pursued. Immortality is a fact in nature. Life is continuous; it has no beginning and it has no ending. States of consciousness which begin in time, end in time; but that which goes through the states – our very selves – merely notes the states and passes on to further experience. As human beings we become involved in this physical state, while we are awake, and thus identify ourselves with physical existence. Immortality is not something that can be acquired or given to us. It already is. Our task is to realize it, as human beings.

What have we in our daily round of experience that may assist us in understanding this? Let us consider our waking and sleeping states. We wake in the daytime; we sleep, we say, at night. We do not know anything about the sleep side of existence – nobody ever knew he was asleep. The fact is that the body alone sleeps, for we dream and in our dreams we see, feel, hear, and do all the things we do in the body when awake. Now, the dreams show that we are conscious, that the identity persists and that we have the senses with us – that these last do not depend upon the bodily organs at all. The dreaming state is, however, a very short state. It occurs on the going to sleep of the body and on the letting go of the physical brain as an instrument. We let go of the brain, and the body becomes dormant, but we are conscious and acting in an entirely different way, for our thinking is not done by the brain at all. The brain is simply a medium for transmitting thought and expressing ourselves, when awake, and by means of which we synthesize the impressions that come to us from outside, and relate them to our own perceptions.

We pass, then, through the dreaming state and on to “dreamless slumber,” which occupies the greater part of the sleeping period. Then we pass back through the doors of dream and return to the waking state again – none the wiser’. Where are we during the “dreamless” or deep sleep? We certainly did not cease living. Consciousness was not snuffed out. It is merely that our brains are not trained to record what was done by us on the other side of dreams. But they can be so trained, just as, for instance, they can be trained to respond to the sounds of a foreign language, or to a science presently unknown to us. It is the application of thought to the language or science, to the desirability of the knowledge, that influences the brain to register it.

Thus if we, as persons, would but think that we are in fact immortal that life is continuous and would act in accordance with that thought, base all our ideas upon it, our brains would gradually become more and more responsive to the inner side of our nature, more “porous” to and impressionable by whatever may be on the invisible side, the higher state, the spiritual life apart from the body. This is not a guess; it is a fact which can be known by everyone. It is possible to have continuous perception and continuous memory for every moment of one’s existence, no matter what state he may be in; and to bring this perception and memory back into the physical brain.

If these things are true, can we think for a moment that life is not continuous? There is never a moment when we are not conscious. The body sleeps; yet we are still conscious. We never realize sleep at all. We have seen other bodies in the sleeping state, but we ourselves do not realize when our own body is sleeping. We know we are getting sleepy, but for us the time for sleeping never comes. Since all things are learned by analogy and correspondence, can we not understand that in like manner we will never know death? Death will never touch us any more than sleep touches us. The curtain rings down on the scene of physical life, to instantly rise on another scene – some state of the inner life. The only ones who know death are those who are left behind. They know that the form through which they communicated with that Ego who used it has dissolved; but the being who has passed out of the body has no such conception.

The body does not die because there is lack of life; it dies from excess of life. When it can no longer withstand the impact of the life current that is within and around it, from day to day, the body sleeps – this is the cause of sleep. So, also, in the course of time, when the repeated impact of the life forces gradually wears out the body’s power of resistance, it goes to pieces, and we say the man is dead. An illustration of this fact may be had by considering an electric lamp: the current which runs into a lamp has no obstruction in the wire that carries the electric fluid, but when it arrives at the lamp the filament causes resistance, and light and heat are produced. Our bodies are just the same. In the great ocean of life each human being is like a lamp. We resist the current of life with our bodies during the waking state. When this current overpowers our bodies, there is sleep for us, and finally “death’ – but it comes from an excess of life. The brain is the lamp of the body; that is all it is – and when we burn out a lamp we get a new one, do we not? The current is still there!

Those readers who have found the foregoing of interest and value will want to know that the ideas briefly expressed are Theosophical; and much more of a similar nature – together with the supporting evidence thereof – can be had by studying and applying theosophy. It is the very science of life, the art of living. One should go, however, to the Teachers’ own writings – the works of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge – in order to get at the pure teachings. The world is full of students of theosophy whose books embody their own (the students’) ideas and interpretations of the teaching – just as there are so many books and writings by students of Christianity and other religions, one and all interpretations of the ideas the original teachers enunciated. Most Teachers of olden times left no written record of their teaching; it was handed down by word of mouth. In theosophy we are in better case, for we have the Teachers’ own written statements, in books available to all who want them, so we need not go astray by “visiting the interpreter’s house.”

We can remember that all who are living and writing today on Theosophical subjects are students, and nothing more. Their writings are full of the mistakes and misinterpretations of students, no matter how sincere and devoted the student himself may be. The inquirer should therefore go to the Source, to the writings of Those who brought the Message. In the progress of time he will discover that the most sincere and discriminating students of theosophy are not themselves writing any “Theosophical” books, or assuming any leadership. He will find them always pointing to the Teachers – both now passed away as bodies – directing those who would learn to Their writings, and never for a moment standing between the earnest seeker and the teaching itself as given.

At least some of the books of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge will be found in almost every good Public Library. Help and suggestions in Theosophical study will be freely given by the United Lodge of Theosophists, a voluntary association of students, with headquarters at Theosophy Hall, Grand Avenue and Thirty-third Street, Los Angeles, California. Books, pamphlets, etc., can also be purchased through the ULT Lodges listed on this website.

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