The Yogi Teachings give us but little information regarding the people of the First and Second Cycles, because of the low state of these ages. The tale, if told, would be the story of the Cave-dweller, and Stone-age people; the Fire-peoples, and all the rest of savage, barbarian crew; there was but little trace of anything like that which we call "civilization," although in the latter periods of the Second Cycle the foundations for the coming civilizations were firmly laid.
After the cataclysm which destroyed the works of Man of the Second Cycle, and left the survivors scattered or disorganized, awaiting the touch of the organizing urge which followed shortly afterward, there dawned the first period of the Third Cycle. The scene of the life of the Third Cycle was laid in what is known to Occultists as Lemuria. Lemuria was a mighty continent situated in what is now known as the Pacific Ocean, and parts of the Indian Ocean. It included Australia, Australasia, and other portions of the Pacific islands, which are in fact surviving portions of the great continent of Lemuria, its highest points, the lower portion having sunk beneath the seas ages and ages ago.
Life in Lemuria is described as being principally concerned with the physical senses, and sensual enjoyment, only a few developed souls having broken through the fetters of materiality and reached the beginnings of the mental and spiritual planes of life. Some few indeed made great progress and were saved from the general wreck, in order to become the leaven which would lighten the mass of mankind during the next Cycle. These developed souls were the teachers of the new races, and were looked upon by the latter as gods and supernatural beings, and legends and traditions concerning them are still existent among the ancient peoples of our present day. Many of the myths of the ancient peoples arose in this way.
The Yogi traditions hold that just prior to the great cataclysm which destroyed the races of the Second Cycle, there was a body of the Chosen Ones which migrated from Lemuria to certain islands of the sea which are now part of the main land of India. These people formed the nucleus of the Occult Teachings of the Lemurians, and developed into the Fount of Truth which has been flowing ever since throughout the successive periods and cycles.
When Lemuria passed away, there arose from the depths of the ocean the continent which was to be the scene of the life and civilization of the Fourth Cycle—the continent of Atlantis. Atlantis was situated in a portion of what is now known as the Atlantic Ocean, beginning at what is now known as the Caribbean Sea and extending over to the region of what is now known as Africa. What are now known as Cuba and the West Indies were among the highest points of the continent, and now stand like monuments to its departed greatness.
The civilization of Atlantis was remarkable, and its people attained heights which seem almost incredible to even those who are familiar with the highest achievements of man in our own times. The Chosen Ones preserved from the cataclysm which destroyed Lemuria, and who lived to a remarkably old age, had stored up within their minds the wisdom and learning of the races that had been destroyed, and they thus gave the Atlanteans an enormous starting-advantage. They soon attained great advancement along all the lines of human endeavor. They perfected mechanical inventions and appliances, reaching far ahead of even our present attainments. In the field of electricity especially they reached the stages that our present races will reach in about two or three hundred years from now. Along the lines of Occult Attainment their progress was far beyond the dreams of the average man of our own race, and in fact from this arose one of the causes of their downfall, for they prostituted the power to base and selfish uses, and Black Magic.
And, so the decline of Atlantis began. But the end did not come at once, or suddenly, but gradually. The continent, and its surrounding islands gradually sank beneath the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the process occupying over 10,000 years. The Greeks and Romans of our own Cycle had traditions regarding the sinking of the continent, but their knowledge referred only to the disappearance of the small remainder—certain islands—the continent itself having disappeared thousands of years before their time. It is recorded that the Egyptian priests had traditions that the continent itself had disappeared nine thousand years before their time. As was the case with the Chosen Ones of Lemuria, so was it with the Elect of Atlantis, who were taken away from the doomed land some time prior to its destruction. The few advanced people left their homes and migrated to portions of what are now South America and Central America, but which were then islands of the sea. These people have left their traces of their civilization and works, which our antiquaries are discovering to-day.
When the Fifth Cycle dawned (our own cycle, remember) these brave and advanced souls acted as the race-teachers and became as "gods" to those who came afterward. The races were very prolific, and multiplied very rapidly under the most favorable conditions. The souls of the Atlanteans were pressing forward for embodiment, and human forms were born to supply the demand. And now begins the history of our own Cycle—the Fifth Cycle.
But before we begin a consideration of the Fifth Cycle, let us consider for a moment a few points about the laws operating to cause these great changes.
In the first place, each Cycle has a different theatre for its work and action. The continent of Lemuria was not in existence during the Second Cycle, and arose from the ocean bed only when its appointed time came. And, likewise the continent of Atlantis reposed beneath the waves while the Lemurian races manifested during the Third Cycle, rising by means of a convulsion of the earth's surface to play its part during its own period—the Fourth Cycle—only to sink again beneath the waves to make way for the birth of the Fifth Cycle with its races. By means of these cataclysms the races of each Cycle were wiped out when the time came, the few Elect or Chosen ones, that is those who have manifested the right to live on, being carried away to some favorable environment where they became as leaven to the mass—as "gods" to the new races that quickly appear.
It must be remembered, however, that these Chosen Ones are not the only ones saved from the destruction that overtakes the majority of the race. On the contrary a few survivors are preserved, although driven away from their former homes, and reduced to "first principles of living" in order to become the parents of the new races. The new races springing from the fittest of these survivors quickly form sub-races, being composed of the better adapted souls seeking reincarnation, while the less fit sink into barbarism, and show evidences of decay, although a remnant drags on for thousands of years, being composed of the souls of those who have not advanced sufficiently to take a part in the life of the new races. These "left-overs" are in evidence in our own times in the cases of the Australian savages, and some of the African tribes, as well as among the Digger Indians and others of similar grade of intelligence.
In order to understand the advance of each race it must be remembered that the more advanced souls, after passing out of the body, have a much longer period of rest in the higher planes, and consequently do not present themselves for reincarnation until a period quite late when compared with the hasty reincarnation of the less advanced souls who are hurried back to rebirth by reason of the strong earthly attachments and desires. In this way it happens that the earlier races of each Cycle are more primitive folk than those who follow them as the years roll by. The soul of an earth-bound person reincarnates in a few years, and sometimes in a few days, while the soul of an advanced man may repose and rest on the higher planes for centuries—nay, even for thousands of years, until the earth has reached a stage in which the appropriate environment may be afforded it.
Observers, unconnected with Occultism, have noted certain laws which seem to regulate the rise and fall of nations—the procession of ruling races. They do not understand the law of Metempsychosis that alone gives the key to the problem, but nevertheless they have not failed to record the existence of the laws themselves. In order to show that these laws are recognized by persons who are not at all influenced by the Occult Teachings, we take the liberty of quoting from Draper's "History of the Intellectual Development of Europe."
Dr. Draper writes as follows: "We are, as we often say, the creatures of circumstances. In that expression there is a higher philosophy than might at first appear. From this more accurate point of view we should therefore consider the course of these events, recognizing the principle that the affairs of men pass forward in a determinate way, expanding and unfolding themselves. And hence we see that the things of which we have spoken as if they were matters of choice, were in reality forced upon their apparent authors by the necessity of the times. But in truth they should be considered as the presentation of a certain phase of life which nations in their onward course sooner or later assume. To the individual, how well we know that a sober moderation of action, an appropriate gravity of demeanor, belonging to the mature period of life, change from the wanton willfulness of youth, which may be ushered in, or its beginnings marked by many accidental incidents; in one perhaps by domestic bereavements, in another by the loss of fortune, in a third by ill-health. We are correct enough in imputing to such trials the change of character; but we never deceive ourselves by supposing that it would have failed to take place had these incidents not occurred. There runs an irresistible destiny in the midst of these vicissitudes. There are analogies between the life of a nation, and that of an individual, who, though he may be in one respect the maker of his own fortunes, for happiness or for misery, for good or for evil, though he remains here or goes there as his inclinations prompt, though he does this or abstains from that as he chooses, is nevertheless held fast by an inexorable fate—a fate which brought him into the world involuntarily, so far as he was concerned, which presses him forward through a definite career, the stages of which are absolutely invariable,—infancy, childhood, youth, maturity, old age, with all their characteristic actions and passions,—and which removes him from the scene at the appointed time, in most cases against his will. So also is it with nations; the voluntary is only the outward semblance, covering but hardly hiding the predetermined. Over the events of life we may have control, but none whatever over the law of its progress. There is a geometry that applies to nations an equation of their curve of advance. That no mortal man can touch."
This remarkable passage, just quoted, shows how the close observers of history note the rise and fall of the tides of human race progress, although ignorant of the real underlying causing energy or force. A study of the Occult Teachings alone gives one the hidden secret of human actions and throws the bright light of Truth upon the dark corners of phenomena.
At the beginning of the Fifth Cycle (which is the present one), there were not only the beginnings of the new races which always spring up at the beginning of each new cycle and which are the foundations for the coming races which take advantage of the fresh conditions and opportunities for growth and development—but there were also the descendants of the Elect Saved from the destruction of Atlantis by having been led away and colonized far from the scene of danger. The new races were the descendant of the scattered survivors of the Atlantean peoples, that is, the common run of people of the time. But the Elect few were very superior people, and imparted to their descendants their knowledge and wisdom. So that we see at the beginning of the Fifth Cycle hordes of new, primitive people in certain lands, and in other places advanced nations like the ancestors of the Ancient Egyptians, Persians, Chaldeans, Hindus, etc.
These advanced races were old souls—advanced souls—the progressed and developed souls of Ancient Lemuria and Atlantis, who lived their lives and who are now either on higher planes of life, or else are among us to-day taking a leading part in the world's affairs, striving mightily to save the present races from the misfortunes which overtook their predecessors.
The descendants of the people were the Assyrians and Babylonians. In due time the primitive new races developed and the great Roman, Grecian, and Carthaginian peoples appeared. Then came the rise of other peoples and nations down to the present time. Each race or nation has its rise, its height of attainment, and its decline. When a nation begins to decline it is because its more advanced souls have passed on, and only the less progressive souls are left. The history of all nations show the truth of the Occult the term. Men are forsaking old ideals, creeds and dogmas, and are running hither and thither seeking something they feel to be necessary, but of the nature of which they know nothing. They are feeling the hunger for Peace—the thirst for Knowledge—and they are seeking satisfaction in all directions.
This is not only the inevitable working of the Law of Evolution, but is also a manifestation of the power and love of the great souls that have passed on to higher planes of existence, and who have become as angels and arch-angels. These beings are filled with the love of the race, and are setting into motion influences that are being manifest in many directions, the tendency of which are to bring the race to a realization of its higher power, faculties, and destiny.
As we have said in other places, one of the greatest difficulties in the way of the seeker after Truth in his consideration of the question of Spiritual Evolution is the feeling that rebirth is being forced upon him, without any say on his part, and against his desires. But this is far from being correct. It is true that the whole process is according to the Great Law, but that Law operates through the force of Desire and Attraction. The soul is attracted toward rebirth by reason of its desire or rather the essence of its desires. It is reborn only because it has within itself the desire for further experience, and opportunity for unfoldment. And it is reborn into certain environments solely because it has within itself unsatisfied desires for those environments, etc. The process is just as regular and scientific as is the attraction of one atom of matter for another.
Each soul has within itself certain elements of desire and attraction, and it attracts to itself certain conditions and experiences, and is in turn attracted by these things. This is the law of life, in the body and out of it. And there is no injustice in the law it is the essence of justice itself, for it gives to each just what is required to fill the indwelling desires, or else the conditions and experiences designed to burn out the desires which are holding one back, and the destruction of which will make possible future advancement.
For instance, if one is bound by the inordinate desire for material wealth, the Law of Karma will attract him to a rebirth in conditions in which he will be surrounded by wealth and luxury until he becomes sickened with them and will find his heart filled with the desire to flee from them and toward higher and more satisfying things. Of course the Law of Karma acts in other ways, as we shall see in our next lesson—it deals with one's debts and obligations, also. The Law of Karma is closely connected with Metempsychosis, and one must be considered in connection with the other, always.
Not only is it true that man's rebirths are in strict accordance with the law of Attraction and Desire, but it is also true that after he attains a certain stage of spiritual unfoldment he enters into the conscious stage of rebirth, and thereafter he is reborn consciously and with full foreknowledge. Many are now entering into this stage of development, and have a partial consciousness of their past lives, which also implies that they have had at least a partial consciousness of approaching rebirth, for the two phases of consciousness run together.
Those individuals of a race who have outstripped their fellows in spiritual unfoldment, are still bound by the Karma of the particular race to which they belong, up to a certain point. And as the entire race, or at least a large proportion of it, must move forward as a whole, such individuals must needs wait also. But they are not compelled to suffer a tiresome round of continued rebirths amid environments and conditions which they have outgrown. On the contrary, the advanced individual soul is allowed to wait until the race reaches its own stage of advancement, when it again joins in the upward movement, in full consciousness, however. In the interim he may pass his well earned rest either on some of the higher planes of rest, or else in conscious temporary sojourn in other material spheres helping in the great work as a Teacher and worker for Good and Spiritual Evolution among those who need such help. In fact there are in the world to-day, individual souls which have reached similar stages on other planets, and who are spending their rest period here amidst the comparatively lower Earth conditions, striving to lift up the Earth souls to greater heights.
So long as people allow themselves to become attached to material objects, so long will they be reborn in conditions in which these objects bind them fast. It is only when the soul frees itself from these entangling obstructions that it is born in conditions of freedom. Some outgrow these material attachments by right thinking and reasoning, while others seem to be compelled to live them out, and thus outlive them, before they are free. At last when the soul realizes that these things are merely incidents of the lower personality, and have naught to do with the real individuality, then, and then only, do they fall from it like a wornout cloak, and are left behind while it bounds forward on The Path fresh from the lighter weight being carried.
The Yogi Philosophy teaches that Man will live forever, ascending from higher to higher planes, and then on and on and on. Death is but the physical symbol of a period of Soul Rest, similar to sleep of the tired body, and is just as much to be welcomed and greeted with thanks. Life is continuous, and its object is development, unfoldment and growth. We are in Eternity now as much as we ever shall be. Our souls may exist out of the body as well as in it, although bodily incarnation is necessary at this stage of our development. As we progress on to higher planes of life, we shall incarnate in bodies far more ethereal than those now used by us, just as in the past we used bodies almost incredibly grosser and coarser than those we call our own to-day. Life is far more than a thing of three-score and ten years—it is really a succession of such lives, on an ascending scale, that which we call our personal self to-day being merely the essence of the experiences of countless lives in the past.
The Soul is working steadily upward, from higher to higher, from gross to finer forms and manifestations. And it will steadily work for ages to come, always progressing, always advancing, always unfolding. The Universe contains many worlds for the Soul to inhabit, and then after it has passed on to other Universes, there will still be Infinitude before it. The destiny of the Soul of Man is of wondrous promise and possibilities—the mind to-day cannot begin to even dream of what is before the Soul. Those who have already advanced many steps beyond you—those Elder Brethren—are constantly extending to you aid in many directions. They are extending to you the Unseen Hand, which lifts you over many a hard place and dangerous crossing—but you recognize it not except in a vague way. There are now in existence, on planes infinitely higher than your own, intelligences of transcendent glory and magnificence—but they were once Men even as you are to-day. They have so far progressed upon the Path that they have become as angels and archangels when compared with you. And, blessed thought, even as these exalted ones were once even as you, so shall you, in due course of Spiritual Evolution, become even as these mighty ones.
The Yogi Philosophy teaches that You who are reading these lines have lived many lives previous to the present one. You have lived in the lower forms, and have worked your way arduously along the Path until now you are reaching the stage of Spiritual Consciousness in which the past and future will begin to appear plain to you for the first time. You have lived as the cave-man—the cliff-dweller—the savage—the barbarian. You have been the warrior—the priest—the Medieval scholar and occultist—the prince—the pauper. You have lived in Lemuria—in Atlantis—in India—in Persia—in Egypt—in ancient Rome and Greece—and are now playing your part in the Western civilization, associating with many with whom you have had relations in your past lives.
In closing this lesson, let us quote from a previous writing from the same pen that writes this lesson:
"Toward what goal is all this Spiritual Evolution tending? What does it all mean? From the low planes of life to the highest—all are on The Path. To what state or place does The Path lead? Let us attempt to answer by asking you to imagine a series of millions of circles, one within the other. Each circle means a stage of Life. The outer circles are filled with life in its lowest and most material stages—each circle nearer the Centre holds higher and higher forms—until Men (or what were once Men) become as gods. Still on, and on, and on. does the form of life grow higher, until the human mind cannot grasp the idea. But what is the Centre? The MIND of the entire Spiritual Body—the ABSOLUTE! And we are traveling toward that Centre!"
And again from the same source:
"But beyond your plane, and beyond mine, are plane after plane, connected with our earth, the splendors of which man cannot conceive. And there are likewise many planes around the other planets of our chain—and there are millions of other worlds—and there are chains of universes just as there are chains of planets—and then greater groups of these chains—and so on greater and grander beyond the power of man to imagine—on and on and on and on—higher and higher—to inconceivable heights. An infinity of infinities of worlds are before us. Our world and our planetary system and our system of suns, and our system of solar systems, are but as grains of sand on the beach of the mighty ocean. But then you cry, 'But what am I—poor mortal thing—lost among all this inconceivable greatness?' The answer comes that You are that most precious thing—a living soul. And if you were destroyed the whole system of universes would crumble, for you are as necessary as the greatest part of it—it cannot do without you—you cannot be lost or destroyed—you are a part of it all, and are eternal. 'But,' you ask, 'beyond all of this of which you have told me, what is there—what is the Centre of it All?' Your Teacher's face takes on a rapt expression—a light not of earth beams forth from his countenance. 'THE ABSOLUTE!' he replies.
THE ELEVENTH LESSON.
THE LAW OF KARMA.
"Karma" is a Sanscrit term for that great Law known to Western thinkers as Spiritual Cause and Effect, or Causation. It relates to the complicated affinities for either good or evil that have been acquired by the soul throughout its many incarnations. These affinities manifest as characteristics enduring from one incarnation to another, being added to here, softened or altered there, but always pressing forward for expression and manifestation. And, so, it follows that what each one of us is in this life depends upon is what we have been and how we have acted in our past lives.
Throughout the operations of the Law of Karma the manifestation of Perfect Justice is apparent. We are not punished for our sins, as the current beliefs have it, but instead we are punished by our sins. We are not rewarded for our good acts, but we received our reward through and by characteristics, qualities, affinities, etc., acquired by reason of our having performed these good acts in previous lives. We are our own judges and executioners. In our present lives we are storing up good or bad Karma which will stick to us closely, and which will demand expression and manifestation in lives to come. When we fasten around ourselves the evil of bad Karma, we have taken to shelter a monster which will gnaw into our very vitals until we shake him off by developing opposite qualities. And when we draw to ourselves the good Karma of Duty well performed, kindness well expressed, and Good Deeds freely performed without hope of reward, then do we weave for ourselves the beautiful garments which we are destined to wear upon the occasion of our future lives.
The Yogi Teachings relating to the Law of Karma do not teach us that Sin is an offense against the Power which brought us into being, so much as it is an offense against ourselves. We cannot injure the Absolute, nor harm It in any way. But we may harm each other, and in so doing harm ourselves. The Yogis teach that Sin is largely a matter of ignorance and misunderstanding of our true nature, and that the lesson must be well learned until we are able to see the folly and error of our former course, and thus are able to remedy our past errors and to avoid their recurrence. By Karma the effects arising from our sins cling to us, until we become sick and weary of them, and seek their cause in our hearts. When we have discovered the evil cause of these effects, we learn to hate it and tear it from us as a foul thing, and are thence evermore relieved of it.
The Yogis view the sinning soul as the parent does the child who will persist in playing with forbidden things. The parent cautions the child against playing with the stove, but still the child persists in its disobedience, and sooner or later receives a burn for its meddling. The burn is not a punishment for the disobedience (although it may seem so to it) but comes in obedience to a natural law which is invariable. To child finds out that stoves and burns are connected, and begins to see some sense and reason in the admonitions of the parent. The love of the parent sought to save the child the pain of the burn, and yet the child-nature persisted in experimenting, and was taught the lesson. But the lesson once thoroughly learned, it is not necessary to forbid the child the stove, for it has learned the danger for itself and thereafter avoids it.
And thus it is with the human soul passing on from one life to another. It learns new lessons, gathers new experiences, and learns to recognize the pain that invariably comes from Wrong Action, and the Happiness that invariably comes from Right Action. As it progresses it learns how hurtful certain courses of action are, and like the burnt child it avoids them thereafter.
If we will but stop to consider for a moment the relative degrees of temptation to us and to others, we may see the operations of past Karma in former lives. Why is it that this thing is "no temptation" to you, while it is the greatest temptation to another. Why is it that certain things do not seem to have any attraction for him, and yet they attract you so much that you have to use all of your will power to resist them? It is because of the Karma in your past lives. The things that do not now tempt you, have been outlived in some former life, and you have profited by your own experiences, or those of others, or else through some teaching given you by one who had been attracted to you by your unfolding consciousness of Truth.
We are profiting to-day by the lessons of our past lives. If we have learned them well we are receiving the benefit, while if we have turned our backs on the words of wisdom offered us, or have refused to learn the lesson perfectly, we are compelled to sit on the same old school-benches and hear the same old lesson repeated until it is fairly driven into our consciousness. We wonder why it is that other persons can perform certain evil acts that seem so repulsive to us, and are apt to pride ourselves upon our superior virtue. But those who know, realize that their unfortunate brethren have not paid sufficient attention to the lesson of the past, and are having it repeated to them in a more drastic form this time. They know that the virtuous ones are simply reaping the benefit of their own application in the past, but that their lesson is not over, and that unless they advance and hold fast to that which they have attained, as well, they will be outstripped by many of those whose failure they are now viewing with wonder and scorn.
It is hard for us to fully realize that we are what we are because of our past experiences. It is difficult for us to value the experiences that we are now going through, because we do not fully appreciate the value of bitter experiences once lived out and outlived. Let us look back over the experiences of this present life, for instance. How many bitter episodes are there which we wish had never happened, and how we wish we could tear them out of our consciousness. But we do not realize that from these same bitter experiences came knowledge and wisdom that we would not part with under any circumstances. And yet if we were to tear away from us the cause of these benefits, we would tear away the benefits also, and would find ourselves back just where we were before the experience happened to us. What we would like to do is to hold on to the benefits that came from the experience—-the knowledge and wisdom that were picked from the tree of pain. But we cannot separate the effect from the cause in this way, and must learn to look back upon these bitter experiences as the causes from which our present knowledge, wisdom and attainment proceeded. Then may we cease to hate these things, and to see that good may come from evil, under the workings of the Law.
And when we are able to do this, we shall be able to regard the painful experiences of our present day as the inevitable outcome of causes away back in our past, but which will work surely toward increased knowledge, wisdom and attainment, if we will but see the Good underlying the working of the Law. When we fall in with the working of the Law of Karma we recognize its pain not as an injustice or punishment, but as the beneficent operation of a Law which, although apparently working Evil, has for its end and aim Ultimate Good.
Many object to the teachings of the Law of Karma by saying that the experiences of each life not being remembered, must be useless and without value. This is a very foolish position to take concerning the matter. These experiences although not fully remembered, are not lost to us at all—they are made a part of the material of which our minds are composed. They exist in the form of feelings, characteristics, inclinations, likes and dislikes, affinities, attractions, repulsions, etc., etc., and are as much in evidence as are the experiences of yesterday which are fresh in our memory. Look back over your present life, and try to remember the experiences of the past years. You will find that you remember but few of the events of your life. The pressing and constant experiences of each of the days that you have lived have been, for the most part, forgotten. Though these experiences may have seemed very vivid and real to you when they occurred, still they have faded into nothingness now, and they are to all intents and purposes lost to you. But are they lost? Not at all. You are what you are because of the results of these experiences. Your character has been moulded and shaped, little by little, by these apparently forgotten pains, pleasures, sorrows and happinesses. This trial strengthened you along certain lines; that one changed your point of view and made you see things with a broader sweep of vision. This grief caused you to feel the pain of others; that disappointment spurred you on to new endeavors. And each and every one of them left a permanent mark upon your personality—upon your character. All men are what they are by reason of what they have lived through and out. And though these happenings, scenes, circumstances, occurrences, experiences, have faded from the memory, their effects are indelibly imprinted upon the fabric of the character, and the man of to-day is different from what he would have been had the happening or experience not entered into his life.
And this same rule applies to the characteristics brought over from past incarnations. You have not the memory of the experiences, but you have the fruit in the shape of "characteristics," tastes, inclinations, etc. You have a tendency toward certain things, and a distaste for others. Certain things attract, while others repel you. All of these things are the result of your experiences in former incarnations. Your very taste and inclination toward occult studies which has caused you to read these lessons is your legacy from some former life in which some one spoke a word or two to you regarding the subject, and attracted your interest and desire. You learned some little about the subject then—perhaps much—and developed a desire for more knowledge along these lines, which manifesting in your present life has brought you in contact with further instruction. The same inclination will lead to further advancement in this life, and still greater opportunities in future incarnations. Nearly every one who reads these lines has felt that much of this occult instruction imparted is but a "re-learning" of something previously known, although many of the things taught have never been heard before in this life. You pick up a book and read something, and know at once that it is so, because in some vague way you have a consciousness of having studied and worked out the problem in some past period of your lives. All this is the working of the Law of Karma, which caused you to attract that for which you have an affinity, and which also causes others to be attracted to you.
Many are the reunions of people who have been related to each other in previous lives. The old loves, and old hates work out their Karmic results in our lives. We are bound to those whom we have loved, and also to those whom we may have injured. The story must be worked out to the end, although a knowledge of the Law undoubtedly relieves one of many entangling attachments and Karmic relationships, by pointing out the nature of the relation, and enabling one to free himself mentally from the bond, which process tends to dissolve much of the Karmic entanglements.
Life is a great school for the learning of lessons. It has many grades, many classes, many scales of progress. And the lessons must be learned whether we will or no. If we refuse or neglect to learn the lesson we are sent back to accomplish the task, again and again, until the lesson is finally learned. Nothing once learned is ever forgotten entirely. There is an indelible imprint of the lesson in our character, which manifests as predispositions, tastes, inclinations, etc. All that goes to make up that which we call "Character" is the workings of the Law of Karma. There is no such thing as Chance. Nothing ever "happens." All is regulated by the Law of Cause and Effect or Karma. As a man sows so shall he reap, in a literal sense. You are what you are to-day, by reason of what you were in your last life. And in your next life you will be what you are making of yourself to-day. You are your own judge, and executioner—your own bestower of rewards. But the Love of the Absolute is ever working to lead you upward to the Light, and to open your soul to that knowledge that, in the words of the Yogis, "burns up Karma," and enables you to throw off the burden of Cause and Effect that you have been carrying around with you, and which has weighted you down.
In the Fourteen Lessons we quoted from Mr. Berry Benson, a writer in the Century Magazine for May, 1894. The quotation fits so beautifully into this place, that we venture to reproduce it here once more, with your permission. It reads as follows:
"A little boy went to school. He was very little. All that he knew he had drawn in with his mother's milk. His teacher (who was God) placed him in the lowest class, and gave him these lessons to learn: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt do no hurt to any living thing. Thou shalt not steal. So the man did not kill; but he was cruel, and he stole. At the end of the day (when his beard was gray—when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said: Thou hast learned not to kill, but the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back tomorrow.
"On the morrow he came back a little boy. And his teacher (who was God) put him in a class a little higher, and gave him these lessons to learn: Thou shalt do no hurt to any living thing. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not cheat. So the man did no hurt to any living thing; but he stole and cheated. And at the end of the day (when his beard was gray—when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said: Thou hast learned to be merciful. But the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back tomorrow.
"Again, on the morrow, he came back, a little boy. And his teacher (who was God) put him in a class yet a little higher, and gave him these lessons to learn: Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not cheat. Thou shalt not covet. So the man did not steal; but he cheated and he coveted. And at the end of the day (when his beard was gray—when the night was come) his teacher (who was God) said: Thou hast learned not to steal. But the other lessons thou hast not learned. Come back, my child, tomorrow.
"This is what I have read in the faces of men and women, in the book of the world, and in the scroll of the heavens, which is writ with stars."
Under the operation of the Law of Karma every man is master of his own destiny—he rewards himself—he punishes himself—he builds, tears down and develops his character, always, however, under the brooding influence of the Absolute which is Love Infinite and which is constantly exerting the upward spiritual urge, which is drawing the soul toward its ultimate haven of rest. Man must, and does, work out his own salvation and destiny, but the upward urge is always there—never tiring—never despairing—knowing always that Ultimate Victory belongs to the soul.
Under the Law of Karma every action, yea, every thought as well, has its Karmic effect upon the future incarnations of the soul. And, not exactly in the nature of punishment or rewards, in the general acceptation of the term, but as the invariable operation of the Law of Cause and Effect. The thoughts of a person are like seeds which seek to press forward into growth, bud, blossom and fruit. Some spring into growth in this life, while others are carried over into future lives. The actions of this life may represent only the partial growth of the thought seed, and future lives may be necessary for its full blossoming and fruition. Of course, the individual who understands the Truth, and who has mentally divorced himself from the fruits of his actions—who has robbed material Desire of its vital force by seeing it as it is, and not as a part of his Real Self—his seed-thoughts do not spring into blossom and fruit in future lives, for he has killed their germ. The Yogis express this thought by the illustration of the baked-seeds. They show their pupils that while ordinary seeds sprout, blossom and bear fruit, still if one bakes the seeds their vitality is gone, and while they may serve the purposes of a nourishing meal still they can never cause sprout, blossom or fruit. Then the pupil is instructed in the nature of Desire, and shown how desires invariably spring into plant, blossom and fruit, the life of the person being the soil in which they flourish. But Desires understood, and set off from the Real Man, are akin to baked-seeds—they have been subjected to the heat of spiritual wisdom and are thus robbed of their vitality, and are unable to bear fruit. In this way the understood and mastered Desire bears no Karmic fruit of future action.
The Yogis teach that there are two great principles at work in the matter of Karmic Law affecting the conditions of rebirth. The first principle is that whereby the prevailing desires, aspirations, likes, and dislikes, loves and hates, attractions and repulsions, etc., press the soul into conditions in which these characteristics may have a favorable and congenial soil for development. The second principle is that which may be spoken of as the urge of the unfolding Spirit, which is always urging forward toward fuller expression, and the breaking down of confining sheaths, and which thus exerts a pressure upon the soul awaiting reincarnation which causes it to seek higher environments and conditions than its desires and aspiration, as well as its general characteristics, would demand. These two apparently conflicting (and yet actually harmonious) principles acting and reacting upon each other, determine the conditions of rebirth, and have a very material effect upon the Karmic Law. One's life is largely a conflict between these two forces, the one tending to hold the soul to the present conditions resulting from past lives, and the other ever at work seeking to uplift and elevate it to greater heights.
The desires and characteristics brought over from the past lives, of course, seek fuller expression and manifestation upon the lines of the past lives. These tendencies simply wish to be let alone and to grow according to their own laws of development and manifestation. But the unfolding Spirit, knowing that the soul's best interests are along the lines of spiritual unfoldment and growth, brings a steady pressure to bear, life after life, upon the soul, causing it to gradually kill out the lower desires and characteristics, and to develop qualities which tend to lead it upward instead of allowing it to remain on its present level, there to bring to blossom and fruit many low thoughts and desires. Absolute Justice reigns over the operations of the Law of Karma, but back of that and superior even to its might is found the Infinite Love of the absolute which tends to Redeem the race. It is that love that is back of all the upward tendencies of the soul, and which we all feel within our inner selves in our best moments. The light of the Spirit (Love) is ever there.
Our relationship to others in past lives has its effect upon the working of the Law of Karma. If in the past we have formed attachments for other individuals, either through love or hate; either by kindness or cruelty; these attachments manifest in our present life, for these persons are bound to us, and we to them, by the bonds of Karma, until the attachment is worn out. Such people will in the present life have certain relationships to us, the object of which is the working out of the problems in which we are mutually concerned, the adjustment of relationship, the "squaring up" of accounts, the development of both. We are apt to be placed in a position to receive hurts from those whom we have hurt in past lives, and this not through the idea of revenge, but by the inexorable working out of the Law of Compensation in Karmic adjustments. And when we are helped, comforted and receive favors from those who we helped in past lives, it is not merely a reward, but the operation of the same law of Justice. The person who hurts us in this way may have no desire to do so, and may even be distressed because he is used as an instrument in this way, but the Karmic Law places him in a position where he unwittingly and without desire acts so that you receive pain through him. Have you not felt yourselves hurting another, although you had no desire and intention of so doing, and, in fact, were sorely distressed because you could not prevent the pain? This Is the operation of Karma. Have you not found yourself placed where you unexpectedly were made the bestower of favors upon some almost unknown persons? This is Karma. The Wheel turns slowly, but it makes the complete circle.
Karma is the companion law to Metempsychosis. The two are inextricably connected, and their operations are closely interwoven. Constant and unvarying in operation, Karma manifests upon and in worlds, planets, races, nations, families and persons Everywhere in space is the great law in operation in some form. The so-called mechanical operations called Causation are as much a phase of Karma as is the highest phases manifest on the higher planes of life, far beyond our own. And through it all is ever the urge toward perfection—the upward movement of all life. The Yogi teachings regard the Universe as a mighty whole, and the Law of Karma as the one great law operating and manifesting through that whole.
How different is the workings of this mighty Law from the many ideas advanced by man to account for the happenings of life. Mere Chance is no explanation, for the careful thinker must inevitably come to the conclusion that in an Universe governed by law, there can be no room for Chance. And to suppose that all rewards and punishments are bestowed by a personal deity, in answer to prayers, supplications, good behavior, offerings, etc., is to fall back into the childhood stage of the race thought. The Yogis teach that the sorrow, suffering and affliction witnessed on all sides of us, as well as the joy, happiness and blessings also in evidence, are not caused by the will or whim of some capricious deity to reward his friends and punish his enemies—but by the working of an invariable Law which metes out to each his measure of good and ill according to his Karmic attachments and relationships.
Those who are suffering, and who see no cause for their pain, are apt to complain and rebel when they see others of no apparent merit enjoying the good things of life which have been denied their apparently more worthy brethren. The churches have no answer except "It is God's will," and that "the Divine motive must not be questioned." These answers seem like mockery, particularly when the idea of Divine Justice is associated with the teaching. There is no other answer compatible with Divine Justice other than the Law of Karma, which makes each person responsible for his or her happiness or misery. And there is nothing so stimulating to one as to know that he has within himself the means to create for himself newer and better conditions of life and environment. We are what we are to-day by reason of what we were in our yesterdays. We will be in our tomorrows that which we have started into operation to-day. As we sow in this life, so shall we reap in the next—we are now reaping that which we have sown in the past. St. Paul voiced a world truth when he said: "Brethren, be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
The teachers divide the operation of Karma into three general classes, as follows: (1) The Karmic manifestations which are now under way in our lives, producing results which are the effects of causes set into motion in our past lives. This is the most common form, and best known phase of Karmic manifestation.
(2) The Karma which we are now acquiring and storing up by reason of our actions, deeds, thoughts and mental and spiritual relationships. This stored up Karma will spring into operation in future lives, when the body and environments appropriate for its manifestation presents itself or is secured; or else when other Karma tending to restrict its operations is removed. But one does not necessarily have to wait until a future life in order to set into operation and manifestation the Karma of the present life. For there come times in which there being no obstructing Karma brought over from a past life, the present life Karma may begin to manifest.
(3) The Karma brought over from past incarnations, which is not able to manifest at the present time owing to the opposition presented by other Karma of an opposite nature, serves to hold the first in check. It is a well known physical law, which likewise manifests on the mental plane, that two opposing forces result in neutralization, that is, both of the forces are held in check. Of course, though, a more powerful Karma may manage to operate, while a weaker is held in check by it.
Not only have individuals their own Karma, but families, races, nations and worlds have their collective Karma. In the cases of races, if the race Karma generated in the past be favorable on the whole, the race flourishes and its influence widens. If on the contrary its collective Karma be bad, the race gradually disappears from the face of the earth, the souls constituting it separating according to their Karmic attractions, some going to this race and some to another. Nations are bound by their Karma, as any student of history may perceive if he studies closely the tides of national progress or decline.
The Karma of a nation is made up of the collective Karma of the individuals composing it, so far as their thoughts and acts have to do with the national spirit and acts. Nations as nations cease to exist, but the souls of the individuals composing them still live on and make their influence felt in new races, scenes and environments. The ancient Egyptians, Persians, Medes, Chaldeans, Romans, Grecians and many other ancient races have disappeared, but their reincarnating souls are with us to-day. The modern revival of Occultism is caused by an influx of the souls of these old peoples pouring in on the Western worlds.
The following quotation from The Secret Doctrine, that remarkable piece of occult literature, will be interesting at this point:
"Nor would the ways of Karma be inscrutable were men to work in union and harmony instead of disunion and strife. For our ignorance of those ways—which one portion of mankind calls the ways of Providence, dark and intricate, while another sees in them the action of blind fatalism, and a third simple Chance with neither gods nor devils to guide them—would surely disappear if we would but attribute all these to their correct cause. With right knowledge, or at any rate with a confident conviction that our neighbors will no more work harm to us than we would think of harming them, two-thirds of the world's evil would vanish into thin air. Were no man to hurt his brother, Karma-Nemesis would have neither cause to work for, nor weapons to act through ... We cut these numerous windings in our destinies daily with our own hands, while we imagine that we are pursuing a track on the royal road of respectability and duty, and then complain of those ways being so intricate and so dark. We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making and the riddles of life that we will not solve, and then accuse the great Sphinx of devouring us. But verily there is not an accident in our lives, not a misshapen day or a misfortune, that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or another life ... Knowledge of Karma gives the conviction that if—
'Virtue in distress and vice in triumph Makes atheists of Mankind,'
it is only because that mankind has ever shut its eyes to the great truth that man is himself his own savior as his own destroyer; that he need not accuse heaven, and the gods, fates and providence, of the apparent injustice that reigns in the midst of humanity. But let him rather remember that bit of Grecian wisdom which warns man to forbear accusing THAT which 'Just though mysterious, leads us on unerring Through ways unmarked from guilt to punishment'—which are now the ways and the high road on which move onward the great European nations. The Western Aryans have every nation and tribe like their eastern brethren of the fifth race, their Golden and their Iron ages, their period of comparative irresponsibility, or the Satya age of purity, while now several of them have reached their Iron Age, the Kali Yuga, an age black with horrors. This state will last ... until we begin acting from within instead of ever following impulses from without. Until then the only palliative is union and harmony—a Brotherhood in actu and altruism not simply in name."
Edwin Arnold, in his wonderful poem, "The Light of Asia," which tells the story of the Buddha, explains the doctrine of Karma from the Buddhist standpoint. We feel that our students should become acquainted with this view, so beautifully expressed, and so we herewith quote the passages referred to:
"Karma—all that total of a soul Which is the things it did, the thoughts it had, The 'self' it wove with woof of viewless time Crossed on the warp invisible of acts.
* * * * *
"What hath been bringeth what shall be, and is, Worse—better—last for first and first for last; The angels in the heavens of gladness reap Fruits of a holy past.
"The devils in the underworlds wear out Deeds that were wicked in an age gone by. Nothing endures: fair virtues waste with time, Foul sins grow purged thereby.
"Who toiled a slave may come anew a prince For gentle worthiness and merit won; Who ruled a king may wander earth in rags For things done and undone.
"Before beginning, and without an end, As space eternal and as surety sure, Is fixed a Power divine which moves to good, Only its laws endure.
"It will not be contemned of any one: Who thwarts it loses, and who serves it gains; The hidden good it pays with peace and bliss, The hidden ill with pains.
"It seeth everywhere and marketh all: Do right—it recompenseth! Do one wrong— The equal retribution must be made, Though DHARMA tarry long.
"It knows not wrath nor pardon; utter-true Its measures mete, its faultless balance weighs; Times are as naught, to-morrow it will judge, Or after many days.
"By this the slayer's knife did stab himself; The unjust judge hath lost his own defender; The false tongue dooms its lie; the creeping thief And spoiler rob, to render.
"Such is the law which moves to righteousness, Which none at last can turn aside or stay; The heart of it is love, the end of it Is peace and consummation sweet. Obey!
* * * * *
"The books say well, my brothers! each man's life The outcome of his former living is; The bygone wrongs bring forth sorrow and woes, The bygone right breeds bliss.
"That which ye sow ye reap. See yonder fields! The sesamum was sesamum, the corn Was corn. The silence and the darkness knew; So is a man's fate born.
"He cometh, reaper of the things he sowed, Sesamum, corn, so much cast in past birth; And so much weed and poison-stuff, which mar Him and the aching earth.
"If he shall labor rightly, rooting these, And planting wholesome seedlings where they grew, Fruitful and fair and clean the ground shall be, And rich the harvest due.
"If he who liveth, learning whence woe springs, Endureth patiently, striving to pay His utmost debt for ancient evils done In love and truth always;
If making none to lack, he thoroughly purge The lie and lust of self forth from his blood; Suffering all meekly, rendering for offence Nothing but grace and good:
"If he shall day by day dwell merciful, Holy and just and kind and true; and rend Desire from where it clings with bleeding roots, Till love of life have end:
"He—dying—leaveth as the sum of him A life-count closed, whose ills are dead and quit, Whose good is quick and mighty, far and near, So that fruits follow it.
"No need hath such to live as ye name life; That which began in him when he began Is finished: he hath wrought the purpose through Of what did make him man.
"Never shall yearnings torture him, nor sins Stain him, nor ache of earthly joys and woes Invade his safe eternal peace; nor deaths And lives recur. He goes
"Unto NIRVANA. He is one with Life Yet lives not. He is blest, ceasing to be. OM, MANI PADME OM! the dewdrop slips Into the shining sea!
"This is the doctrine of the Karma. Learn! Only when all the dross of sin is quit, Only when life dies like a white flame spent. Death dies along with it."
And so, friends, this is a brief account of the operations of the Law of Karma. The subject is one of such wide scope that the brief space at our disposal enables us to do little more than to call your attention to the existence of the Law, and some of its general workings. We advise our students to acquaint themselves thoroughly with what has been written on this subject by ourselves and others. In our first series of lessons—the "Fourteen Lessons"—the chapter or lesson on Spiritual Cause and Effect was devoted to the subject of Karma. We advise our students to re-study it. We also suggest that Mr. Sinnett's occult story entitled "Karma" gives its readers an excellent idea of the actual working of Karma in the everyday lives of people of our own times. We recommend the book to the consideration of our students. It is published at a popular price, and is well worth the consideration of every one interested in this wonderful subject of Reincarnation and Karma.
THE TWELFTH LESSON.
In this, the last lesson of this series, we wish to call your attention to a variety of subjects, coming under the general head of the Yogi Philosophy, and yet apparently separated from one another. And so we have entitled this lesson "Occult Miscellany," inasmuch as it is made up of bits of information upon a variety of subjects all connected with the general teaching of the series. The lesson will consist of answers to a number of questions, asked by various students of the courses in Yogi Philosophy coming from our pen. While these answers, of necessity, must be brief, still we will endeavor to condense considerable information into each, so that read as a whole the lesson will give to our students a variety of information upon several important subjects.
QUESTION 1: "Are there any Brotherhoods of Advanced Occultists in existence, in harmony with the Yogi Teachings? And if so, what information can you give regarding them?"
ANSWER: Yes, there are a number of Occult Brotherhoods, of varying degrees of advancement, scattered through the various countries of the earth. These Brotherhoods agree in principle with the Yogi Teachings, although the methods of interpretation may vary somewhat. There is but one TRUTH, which becomes apparent to all deep students of Occultism, and therefore all true Occultists have a glimpse of that Truth, and upon this glimpse is founded their philosophies and teachings. These Occult Brotherhoods vary in their nature. In some, the members are grouped together in retired portions of the earth, dwelling in the community life. In others the headquarters are in the large cities of the earth, their membership being composed of residents of those cities, with outlying branches. Others have no meeting places, their work being managed from headquarters, their members being scattered all over the face of the earth, the communication being kept up by personal correspondence and privately printed and circulated literature. Admission to these true Occult Brotherhoods is difficult. They seek their members, not the members them. No amount of money, or influence, or energy can gain entrance to these societies. They seek to impart information and instruction only to those who are prepared to receive it—to those who have reached that stage of spiritual unfoldment that will enable them to grasp and assimilate the teachings of the Inner Circles. While this is true, it is also true that these Societies or Brotherhoods are engaged in disseminating Occult Knowledge, suited to the minds of the public, through various channels, and cloaked in various disguises of name, authority and style. Their idea is to gradually open the mind of the public to the great truths underlying and back of all of these various fragmentary teachings. And they recognize the fact that one mind may be reached in a certain way, and another mind in a second way, and so on. And, accordingly, they wrap their teachings in covers likely to attract the attention of various people, and to cause them to investigate the contents. But, under and back of all of these various teachings, is the great fundamental TRUTH. It has often been asked of us how one might distinguish the real Brotherhoods from the spurious ones which have assumed the name and general style of the true societies, for the purpose of exploiting the public, and making money from their interest in the great occult truths. Answering this, we would say that the true Occult Brotherhoods and Societies never sell their knowledge. It is given free as water to those who seek for it, and is never sold for money. The true adept would as soon think of selling his soul as selling Spiritual Knowledge for gain. While money plays its proper place in the world, and the laborer is worthy of his hire; and while the Masters recognize the propriety of the sale of books on Occultism (providing the price is reasonable and not in excess of the general market price of books) and while they also recognize the propriety of having people pay their part of the expenses of maintaining organizations, magazines, lecturers, instructors, etc., still the idea stops there—it does not extend to the selling of the Inner Secrets of Occultism for silver or gold. Therefore if you are solicited to become a member of any so-called Brotherhood or Occult Society for a consideration of money, you will know at once that the organization is not a true Occult Society, for it has violated one of the cardinal principles at the start. Remember the old occult maxim: "When the Pupil is ready, the Master appears"—and so it is with the Brotherhoods and Societies—if it is necessary for your growth, development, and attainment, to be connected with one of these organizations then, when the time comes—when you are ready—you will receive your call, and then will know for a certainty that those who call are the true messengers of Truth.
QUESTION II: "Are there any exalted human beings called Masters, or Adepts, or are the tales regarding them mere fables, etc?"
ANSWER: Of a truth there are certain highly developed, advanced and exalted souls in the flesh, known as Masters and Adepts, although many of the tales told concerning them are myths, or pure fiction originating in the minds of some modern sensational writers. And, moreover, these souls are members of the Great Lodge, an organization composed of these almost super-human beings—these great souls that have advanced so very far on THE PATH. Before beginning to speak of them, let us answer a question often asked by Western people, and that is, "Why do not these people appear to the world, and show their powers?" Each of you may answer that question from your own experiences. Have you ever been foolish enough to open your soul to the crowd, and have it reveal the sacred Truth that rests there? Have you ever attempted to impart the highest teachings known to you, to persons who had not attained sufficient spiritual development to even understand the meaning of your words? Have you ever committed the folly of throwing spiritual pearls to material swine? If you have had these experiences, you may begin to faintly imagine the reasons of these illumined souls for keeping away from the crowd—for dwelling away from the multitude. No one who has not suffered the pain of having the vulgar crowd revile the highest spiritual truths to him, can begin to understand the feelings of the spiritually illumined individuals. It is not that they feel that they are better or more exalted than the humblest man—for these feelings of the personality have long since left them. It is because they see the folly of attempting to present the highest truths to a public which is not prepared to understand even the elementary teachings. It is a feeling akin to that of the master of the highest musical conceptions attempting to produce his wonderful compositions before a crowd fit only for the "rag-time" and slangy songs of the day.
Then again, these Masters have no desire to "work miracles" which would only cause the public to become still more superstitious than they now are. When one glances back over the field of religions, and sees how the miraculous acts of some of the great leaders have been prostituted and used as a foundation for the grossest credulity and basest superstition, he may understand the wisdom of the masters in this respect. There is another reason for the non-appearance of the Masters, and that is that there is no occasion for it. The laws of Spiritual Evolution are as regular, constant and fixed as are the laws of Physical Evolution, and any attempt to unduly force matters only results in confusion, and the abortive results soon fade away. The world is not ready for the appearance of the Masters. Their appearance at this time would not be in accordance with The Plan.
The Masters or Adepts are human beings who have passed from lower to higher planes of consciousness, thus gaining wisdom, power and qualities that seem almost miraculous to the man of the ordinary consciousness. A Hindu writer speaking of them has said: "To him who hath traveled far along The Path, sorrow ceases to trouble; fetters cease to bind; obstacles cease to hinder. Such an one is free. For him there is no more fever or sorrow. For him there are no more unconscious re-births. His old Karma is exhausted, and he creates no new Karma. His heart is freed from the desire for future life. No new longings arise within his soul. He is like a lamp which burneth from the oil of the Spirit, and not from the oil of the outer world." Lillie in his work on Buddhism, tells his readers: "Six supernatural faculties were expected of the ascetic before he could claim the grade of Arhat. They are constantly alluded to in the Sutras as the six supernatural faculties, usually without further specification.... In this transitory body the intelligence of Man is enchained. The ascetic finding himself thus confused, directs his mind to the creation of Manas. He represents to himself, in thought, another body created from this material body,—a body with a form, members and organs. This body in relation to the material body is like a sword and the scabbard, or a serpent issuing from a basket in which it is confined. The ascetic then, purified and perfected, begins to practice supernatural faculties. He finds himself able to pass through material obstacles, walls, ramparts, etc.; he is able to throw his phantasmal appearance into many places at once. He acquires the power of hearing the sounds of the unseen world as distinctly as those of the phenomenal world—more distinctly in point of fact. Also by the power of Manas he is able to read the most secret thoughts of others, and to tell their characters."
These great Masters are above all petty sectarian distinctions. They may have ascended to their exalted position along the paths of the many religions, or they may have walked the path of no-denomination, sect, or body. They may have mounted to their heights by philosophical reasoning alone, or else by scientific investigation. They are called by many names, according to the viewpoint of the speaker, but at the last they are of but one religion; one philosophy; one belief—TRUTH.
The state of Adeptship is reached only after a long and arduous apprenticeship extending over many lives. Those who have reached the pinnacle were once even as You who read these lines. And some of you—yes, perhaps even You who are now reading these words may have taken the first steps along the narrow path which will lead you to heights equally as exalted as those occupied by even the highest of these great beings of whom we are speaking. Unconsciously to yourself, the urge of the Spirit has set your feet firmly upon The Path, and will push you forward to the end. In order to understand the occult custom that finds its full fruit in the seclusion of the Masters, one needs to be acquainted with the universal habit among true occultists of refraining from public or vulgar displays of occult power. While the inferior occultists often exhibit some of the minor manifestations to the public, it is a fact that the true advanced occultists scrupulously refrain from so doing. In fact, among the highest teachers, it is a condition imposed upon the pupil that he shall refrain from exhibitions of his developing powers among the uninitiated public. "The Neophyte is bound over to the most inviolable secrecy as to everything connected with his entrance and further progress in the schools. In Asia, in the same way, the chela, or pupil of occultism, no sooner becomes a chela than he ceases to be a witness on behalf of the reality of occult knowledge," says Sinnett in his great work on "Esoteric Buddhism," And he then adds: "I have been astonished to find, since my own connection with the subject, how numerous such chelas are. But it is impossible to imagine any human act more improbable than the unauthorized revelation by any such chela, to persons in the outer world, that he is one; and so the great esoteric school of philosophy guards its seclusion."
QUESTION III: "Does the Yogi Philosophy teach that there is a place corresponding to the 'Heavens' of the various religions? Is there any basis for the belief that there is a place resembling 'Heaven'?"
ANSWER: Yes, the Yogi Philosophy does teach that there is a real basis for the popular religious beliefs in "Heaven," and that there are states of being, the knowledge of which has filtered through to the masses in the more or less distorted theories regarding "heavens."
But the Yogis do not teach that these "heavens" are places at all. The teaching is that they are planes of existence. It is difficult to explain just what is meant by this word "plane." The nearest approach to it in English is the term or word "State." A portion of space may be occupied by several planes at the same time, just as a room may be filled with the rays of the sun, those of a lamp. X-rays, magnetic and electric vibrations and waves, etc., each interpenetrating each other and yet not affecting or interfering with each other.
On the lower planes of the Astral World there are to be found the earth-bound souls which have passed out from their former bodies, but which are attracted to the earthly scenes by strong attractions, which serve to weight them down and to prevent them from ascending to the higher planes. On the higher planes are souls that are less bound by earthly attractions, and who, accordingly, are relieved of the weight resulting therefrom. These planes rise in an ascending scale, each plane being higher and more spiritual than the one lower than itself. And dwelling on each plane are the souls fitted to occupy it, by reason of their degree of spiritual development, or evolution. When the soul first leaves the body it falls into a sleep-like stage, from which it awakens to find itself on the plane for which it is fitted, by reason of its development, attractions, character, etc. The particular plane occupied by each soul is determined by the progress and attainment it has made in its past lives. The souls on the higher planes may, and often do, visit the planes lower in the scale than their own, but those on the lower planes may not visit those higher than their own. Quoting from our own writings on this subject, published several years ago, we repeat: This prohibition regarding the visiting of higher planes is not an arbitrary rule, but a law of nature. If the student will pardon the commonplace comparison, he may get an understanding of it, by imagining a large screen, or series of screens, such as used for sorting coal into sizes. The large coal is caught by the first screen; the next size by the second; and so on until the tiny coal is reached. Now, the large coal cannot get into the receptacle of the smaller sizes, but the small sizes may easily pass through the screen and join the larger sizes, if force be imparted to them. Just so in the Astral World, the soul with the greatest amount of materiality, and gross nature, is stopped by the spiritual screen of a certain plane, and cannot pass on to the higher ones, while other souls have cast off some of the confining and retarding material sheaths, and readily pass on to higher and finer planes. And it may be readily seen that those souls which dwell on the higher planes are able to re-visit the lower and grosser planes, while the souls on the grosser cannot penetrate the higher boundries of their plane, being stopped by the spiritual screen. The comparison is a crude one, but it almost exactly pictures the existing conditions on the spiritual world.
Souls on the upper planes, may, and often do, journey to the lower planes for the purpose of "visiting" the souls of friends who may be dwelling there, and thus affording them comfort and consolation. In fact, the teaching is that in many cases a highly developed soul visits souls on the lower planes in whom it is interested, and actually imparts spiritual teaching and instruction to those souls, so that they may be re-born into much better conditions than would have been the case otherwise. All of the planes have Spiritual Instructors from very high planes, who sacrifice their well-earned rest and happiness on their own planes in order that they may work for the less-developed souls on the lower planes.
As we have said, the soul awakens on the plane to which it is suited. It finds itself in the company of congenial souls, in whose company it is enabled to pursue those things which were dear to its heart when alive. It may be able to make considerable advancement during its sojourn in "heaven," which will result to its benefit when it is reborn on earth. There are countless sub-planes, adapted to the infinite requirements of the advancing souls in every degree of development, and each soul finds an opportunity to develop and enjoy to the fullest the highest of which it is capable, and to also perfect itself and to prepare itself for future development, so that it may be re-born under the very best possible conditions and circumstances in the next earth life. But, alas, even in this higher world, all souls do not live up to the best that is in them, and instead of making the best of their opportunities for development, and growing spiritually, they allow the attractions of their material natures to draw them downward, and too often spend much of their time on the planes beneath them, not to help and assist, but to live the less spiritual lives of their friends on the lower planes. In such cases the soul does not reap the benefit of the sojourn in the "after-life," but is born again according to the attractions of its lower, instead of its higher nature, and is compelled to learn its lesson over again.
The Yogi teachings inform us that the lower planes of the Astral World are inhabited by souls of a very gross and degraded type, undeveloped and animal-like. These low souls live out the tendencies and characteristics of their former earth lives, and reincarnate rapidly in order to pursue their material attractions. Of course, there is slowly working even in these undeveloped souls an upward tendency, but it is so slow as to be almost imperceptible. In time these undeveloped souls grow sick and tired of their materiality, and then comes the chance for a slight advance. Of course these undeveloped souls have no access to the higher planes of the Astral world, but are confined to their own degraded plane and to the sub-planes which separate the Astral World from the material world. They cling as closely as possible to the earthly scenes, and are separated from the material world by only a thin screen (if we may use the word). They suffer the tantalizing condition of being within sight and hearing of their old material scenes and environments, and yet unable to manifest on them. These souls form the low class of "spirits" of which we hear so much in certain circles. They hang around their old scenes of debauchery and sense gratification, and often are able to influence the minds of living persons along the same line and plane of development. For instance, these creatures hover around low saloons and places of ill-repute, influencing the sodden brains of living persons to participate in the illicit gratifications of the lower sensual nature.
Souls on the higher planes are not bound by these earthly and material attractions, and take advantage of their opportunities to improve themselves and develop spiritually. It is a rule of the Astral World that the higher the plane occupied by a soul, the longer the sojourn there between incarnations. A soul on the lowest planes may reincarnate in a very short time, while on the higher planes hundreds and even thousands of years may elapse before the soul is called upon to experience re-birth. But re-birth comes to all who have not passed on to other spheres of life. Sooner or later the soul feels that inward urge toward re-birth and further experience, and becomes drowsy and falls into a state resembling sleep, when it is caught up in the current that is sweeping on toward re-birth, and is gradually carried on to re-birth in conditions chosen by its desires and characteristics, in connection with the operation of the laws of Karma. From the soul-slumber it passes through what may be called a "death" on the Astral plane, when it is re-born on the earth plane. But, remember this, the soul, when it is re-born on earth, does not fully awaken from its Astral sleep. In infancy and in early childhood the soul is but slowly awakening, gradually from year to year, the brain being built to accommodate this growth. The rare instances of precocious children, and infant genius are cases in which the awakening has been more rapid than ordinary. On the other hand, cases are known where the soul does not awaken as rapidly as the average, and the result is that the person does not show signs of full intellectual activity until nearly middle age. Cases are known when men seemed to "wake up" when they were forty years of age, or even later in life, and would then take on a freshened activity and energy, surprising those who had known them before.
On some of the planes of the Astral world the souls dwelling there do not seem to realize that they are "dead," but act and live as if they were in the flesh.
They have a knowledge of the planes beneath them, just as we on earth know of conditions beneath us (spiritually), but they seem to be in almost absolute ignorance of the planes above them, just as many of us on earth cannot comprehend the existence of beings more highly developed spiritually than ourselves. This, of course, is only true of the souls who have not been made acquainted with the meaning and nature of life on the Astral Plane. Those who have acquired this information and knowledge readily understand their condition and profit thereby. It will be seen from this that it is of the greatest importance for persons to become acquainted with the great laws of Occultism in their present earth life, for the reason that when they pass out of the body and enter some one of the Astral Planes they will not be in ignorance of the condition, but will readily grasp the meaning and nature of their surroundings and take advantage of the same in order to develop themselves more rapidly.
It will be seen from what has been written by us here and elsewhere that there are planes after planes on the Astral side of life. All that has been dreamt of Heaven, Purgatory or Hell has its correspondence there, although not in the literal sense in which these things have been taught. For instance, a wicked man dying immersed in his desires and longings of his lower nature, and believing that he will be punished in a future life for sins committed on earth—such a one is very apt to awaken on the lower planes or sub-planes, in conditions corresponding with his former fears. He finds the fire and brimstone awaiting him, although these things are merely figments of his own imagination, and having no existence in reality. Murderers may roam for ages (apparently) pursued by the bleeding corpses of their victims, until such a horror of the crime arises in the mind that at last sinking from exhaustion into the soul-sleep, their souls pass into re-birth with such a horror of bloodshed and crime as to make them entirely different beings in the new life. And, yet the "hell" that they went through existed only in their imaginations. They were their own Devil and Hell. Just as a man in earth life may suffer from delirium tremens, so some of these souls on the Astral plane suffer agonies from their delirium arising from their former crimes, and the belief in the punishment therefor which has been inculcated in them through earth teachings. And these mental agonies, although terrible, really are for their benefit, for by reason of them the soul becomes so sickened with the thought and idea of crime that when it is finally re-born it manifests a marked repulsion to it, and flies to the opposite. In this connection we would say that the teaching is that although the depraved soul apparently experiences ages of this torment, yet, in reality, there is but the passage of but a short time, the illusion arising from the self-hypnotization of the soul, just as arises the illusion of the punishment itself.