THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 6, April, 1927
(Pages 241-246; Size: 18K)
(Number 7 of a 13-part series)


"I HAVE not changed my views on immortality. The word 'God' has no meaning for me, but I believe there is a supreme intelligence pervading the universe."

Thus Thomas A. Edison on his eightieth birthday, February 11th. His views are essentially identical with those of Lincoln, whose religion is still subject of vast dispute, and this despite the known facts as recorded in his own writing. Luther Burbank's convictions on the same subject excited much discussion recently. And so with Henry Ford's and many other men of note of the generation -- in science, in business, in letters, and even in what is popularly regarded as the "Christian religion."

Speaking of this latter, the popular fallacy is that there is a "Christian religion," whereas, in point of staring fact there is nothing of the kind. There is a multitude of warring sects, no two of which hold the same fundamental ideas, and any two of which are as far apart from each other in basic ideas as antipathetic elements of any kind in physical nature. In chemistry there are mechanical "mixtures" in which different elements are confined in the same receptacle, but they will not unite and, at the first opportunity, separate and go their several ways. In other cases the attempt to combine them results in friction, heat and explosion. So with the sects called Christian in popular fancy. They all use the same words, but when one examines the ideas these words are supposed to identify, "God," "immortality," and so on, the words of one sect have no meaning in the vocabulary of another.

The same thing is true in what the laity fondly calls "Science." The science of the present generation, although using the same words, and dealing with the same facts, as the science of a generation ago, attaches to them an altogether different validity -- or lack of validity, as you will. Whether in the preceding generation or our own, there is no science, but only a number of sects or schools, each as far apart from the other as the Christian sects are from each other.

It is hopeless for the searcher for Truth to dream of finding it in any sect of religion or in any school of science. Whatever Truth is in them, any of them or all of them, was derived by observation and experience at first hand by students of Nature, not of theologies or theories. Comparative study of creeds or hypotheses takes anyone farther at every step from real Knowledge, for he will but find differences, and Nature, in spite of all her "vast variety" is a Unity. One need not go outside the record written by themselves to overthrow the creed of any sect, the hypotheses of any school of science. And as to the facts on which all these controversial dogmas and dicta claim to be based -- the fundamental facts are common property, because known to all men quite regardless of scientific or sectarian bias. The respective partialities of men, their preconceptions and injected ideas, color and distort the facts to suit prevailing prejudices -- instead of the other way about. Whatever "Truth" may be, it is colorless, and how can the colorless be discerned in the midst of the discolorations inherent in limited and rigid points of view?

No wonder the Count de Saint Martin, the eighteenth century disciple of Jacob Behmen, used to say in the closing years of his life: "I would have loved to meet with more of those who guess at truths, for such alone are living men." The scarcity of such "living men" in the world can be realized when one reflects that theologians of all persuasions profess to reveal truth, not to guess at its whereabouts; while every whilom scientist prates continually of "exact" science as the foundation of his thesis. How much more intellectually honest the man who, while continually exercising all his faculties, openly confesses, "one man's guess is as good as another's." It is only such who are, perchance, far nearer to Truth than any others -- not because of their "guesses," but because they are mentally honest. When they come to rely on their own intellectual sincerity these men will gain moral courage. These two -- intellectual candor and moral courage -- are the two sine qua non conditions precedent to Spiritual evolution, which is the "search for Truth." In them inheres the possibility of a catholic basis of perception, and from them springs the energic emission which will carry any man's sight to transcendental regions. But intellectual honesty and moral loyalty are rare in every generation; impossible to the bigot or sectarian of any persuasion; a forever "unknown quantity" to the man who is persuaded that he already knows everything worth knowing, and that "progress" can only result in bringing the world to him. Those only are "dead" in the real sense who have arrived at a self-complacent finality. The public commons swarm with these spiritually dead -- leaders and followers. No rain of new ideas from masked and invisible sources can moisten in the slightest such inherently arid souls. One can draw up from the bottom of the sea, says a Chinese sage, a stone which has for ages reposed in a world of water and on breaking it, find that it is as dry as if no water existed. Only Nature's mortar and pestle, incessantly grinding and pulverizing into "primordial matter" such minds can achieve for them the miracle of even physical evolution. Of themselves these minds are "prisoners of fate" indeed, as powerless to serve themselves as is a very stone.

Nevertheless, it is not, in the first instance, the accuracy or lack of it of his "guesses at truth" which marks and distinguishes the true scientist or the true mystic -- two words for the same Soul-endowment. Rather, it is their common spirit of research, their refusal to be bound by any conventioned adjudication of what they well know to be sub judice to all mankind. The motto of the Maharajahs of Benares, borrowed by H. P. Blavatsky for the use of the Parent Theosophical Society, "There is no Religion higher than Truth," is only a phrasing of the historic fact that such progress as the race(1) has achieved in its long pilgrimage has been through the intelligent honesty and spiritual courage of those few who have dared all in their character of "strivers for perfection." No particle of that progression is or ever has been or will be due either to "religion" or to "science" -- only other words for complacent and callow "finalities" -- but to the fervent spirit of enquiry of those who insistently have faith that "the best is yet to be."

Even among these who strive for perfection, the most part fail to gain more than stray crumbs of truth. And why? May it not be, must it not in truth be, through lack of moral derring-do, rather than failure in intellectual clarity? In every generation, it will be found, most progressive minds yield to the temptation to give the multitude what that ignorant multitude desires, as the price of their own intellectual freedom. To aspire to learn new truths is quite another matter from the aspiration and the service to humanity required to teach these truths to the multitude -- even in parables. The price of this service is ever and everywhere martyrdom to the would-be teacher. What one mystic calls "the lure of sacrifice" appeals only to the "pure in heart" as well as to the pure in intellect. Lecky shows that in the most appalling ignorance and degeneracy of rulers and ruled through whole centuries of declining Rome, there were not lacking philosophers, sages, "searchers for truth" and "strivers for perfection" on their own account, who were content to let the masses plunge headlong to ruin, if so be they might themselves enjoy intellectual liberty and freedom of soul in their academic research and repose.

What "religious" man felt any gratitude to Burbank for his noble efforts to improve the vegetation of human fancy? What Doctor of Divinity will make Edison's expression of an honest "guess at truths" text or occasion for a sermon on freedom of conscience and intellectual impartiality in our common enquiry into the "Unknown?" Every enemy of Lincoln's great serviceability to mankind did his utmost to influence the popular mind to regard "old Abe" as an infidel, an atheist. If theological hatred and partisan ingratitude could have their way, every voice lifted up in Freedom's name would be silenced as blasphemous. Thomas Paine stands as the prototype of all those in the eighteenth and nineteenth century who, whatever their actual service to humanity, stood damned to theology and materialism alike when they undertook the greatest of all missions -- to publish broadcast the Emancipation Proclamation of the human Soul.

Yet they all served, the Unknown Soldier in the cause of Spiritual freedom as well as those who bore the sergeant's stripes of martyrdom. They served to give discipline and drill to the great underlying popular longing for that Truth which shall, indeed, make free the incoherent mind of the race. No greater sign, no truer index of the rising cycle of this, the twentieth century of the Great War, can be found than is afforded by the number of noted and influential men who make known their own unorthodox views, who dare assert in any degree their own freedom of thought, who, with nothing to gain and all to lose, yet do not hesitate to avow the pure basis of spiritual evolution.

Paine in America, St. Germain, Cagliostro, and Mesmer in Europe, found little footing for what might be called the psychical rebellion against both superstition and materialism. But the American and French revolutions bespoke a new credo of political freedom, and the work of the metaphysical pioneers coupled with the rest, opened the doors to Spiritualism -- that as yet unsolved mystery of the mid-century. It swept like a tidal wave over the barrier reefs of both religion and science, for it gave to all men empirical evidence of new worlds of consciousness and force. Combined and utilized as only the Masters of Wisdom know how to turn failures and seeming evils into powers for good, all these made possible the mission and the message of H. P. Blavatsky. The facts were produced by Spiritualism: their meaning was made historically, philosophically, logically, and scientifically clear by her. A. Russel Wallace, Cox, Flammarion, Pirogot, Crookes, Edison -- the whole intellectual forefront of the generation, became interested in "Spirits," in metaphysical as well as physical phenomena. "The Darwinian Theory" versus "Special Creation" threatened to turn the world from the superstition called Religion to the materialism called Science. On the simple principle of similia similibus curantur, Spiritualism threw both the contending armies of the metaphysical Armageddon into irretrievable confusion. To-day there are more Christians who are Materialists than there are Scientists who are Christians. There is no longer any distinguishable uniform in either science or religion, while unnumbered millions of the orthodox of both camps no longer doubt that there is "something in" Spiritualism, now rechristened Psychical Research.

"But," questions the enquiring mind, "do you profess to assert that these millions of believers in psychical phenomena, these Modernists in the churches, these Professors and Edisons of science -- do you claim that all these are Theosophists?"

Why not? Doubtless most, if not all of those who have the ear of the public, who speak openly to that public of what they themselves are trying to interpret of Nature's revealing speech -- doubtless they would reply in the negative if asked, "Are you a Theosophist?" But what of that? There are many things of which they are yet unconscious or unrecognisant; into which they have not as yet inquired. But the real Theosoph, familiar with the tenets of the Wisdom-Religion, knows the truth in this matter and sees its confirmation in the wondrous phenomenon of all these minds, but a little while ago content with the arid wastes of theology, the stony soil of materialism, now reaching up or boring down to strata of heaven and earth never dreamed of by the complacent Horatios of the day. Certainly these are as yet, and necessarily, unordered and uncorrelated endeavors -- as much as or more than the gropings of Youth -- but they are even more telltale. They betoken, not so much individual perception of fundamental verities, as the emergence of a state of mind in which all things may become possible. In time these isolated units of the race will recognize the identity of the intelligence in themselves with that "supreme intelligence pervading the universe" -- to repeat Mr. Edison's words.

If we regard as Theosophists all those who are engaged in the true service of humanity, and admit that no truer service can be rendered than that imposed by simple sincerity of mind, simple courage of conviction, then the roster of true Theosophists in our day contains hundreds of these contributors to that "change in the race mind" which it was H. P. Blavatsky's foremost object to hasten. On this very subject she herself wrote these prophetic and inspiring statements in her article entitled "The Cycle Moveth," in Lucifer for March, 1890:

The enormous and ever-growing numbers of mystics at the present time show better than anything else the undeniably occult workings of the cycle. Thousands of men and women who belong to no church, sect, or society, who are neither Theosophists nor Spiritualists, are yet virtually members of that Silent Brotherhood the units of which often do not know each ether, belonging as they do to nations wide apart, yet each of them carries on his brow the mark of the mysterious Karmic seal -- the seal that makes of him or her a member of the Brotherhood of the Elect of Thought. Having failed to satisfy their aspirations in their respective orthodox faiths, they have severed themselves from their Churches in soul when not in body, and are devoting the rest of their lives to the worship of loftier and purer ideals than any intellectual speculation can give them. How few, in comparison to their numbers, and how rarely one meets with such, and yet their name is legion, if they only chose to reveal themselves. Under the influence of that same passionate search of "life in spirit" and "life in truth," which compels every earnest Theosophist onward through years of moral obloquy and public ostracism; moved by the same dissatisfaction with the principles of pure conventionality of modern society, and scorn for the still triumphant, fashionable thought -- these earnest men and women prefer to tread alone and unaided the narrow and thorny path that lies before him who will neither recognize authorities nor bow before cant ... Carrying in the silent shrine of their soul the same grand ideals as all mystics do, they are in truth Theosophists de facto if not de jure. We meet such in every circle of society, in every class of life. They are found among artists and novelists, in the aristocracy and commerce, among the highest and the richest, as among the lowest and the poorest.

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The Rising Cycle
(Part 8 of 13)

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COMPILER'S NOTE: I added this footnote; it was not in the article. If it doesn't paint an accurate enough picture, or is incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot it and point it out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Race" means the whole Human Race here.
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