Annie Besant

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Refusal to believe until proof is given is a rational position; denial of all outside of our own limited experience is absurd.

Annie Besant (1 October 184720 September 1933) was a prominent British socialist, theosophist, women's rights activist, writer, orator, educationist, and philanthropist. Regarded as a champion of human freedom, she was an ardent supporter of both Irish and Indian self-rule. Besant met the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Blavatsky in 1890 and became a prominent member of the group.

Quotes[edit]

Unclassified[edit]

  • We find amongst animals, as amongst men, power of feeling pleasure, power of feeling pain; we see them moved by love and by hate; we see them feeling terror and attraction; we recognize in them powers of sensation closely akin to our own, and while we transcend them immensely in intellect, yet, in mere passional characteristics our natures and the animals' are closely allied. We know that when they feel terror, that terror means suffering. We know that when a wound is inflicted, that wound means pain to them. We know that threats bring to them suffering; they have a feeling of shrinking, of fear, of absence of friendly relations, and at once we begin to see that in our relations to the animal kingdom a duty arises which all thoughtful and compassionate minds should recognize - the duty that because we are stronger in mind than the animals, we are or ought to be their guardians and helpers, not their tyrants and oppressors, and we have no right to cause them suffering and terror merely for the gratification of the palate, merely for an added luxury to our own lives.
Liberty is a great celestial Goddess, strong, beneficent, and austere, and she can never descend upon a nation by the shouting of crowds, nor by arguments of unbridled passion, nor by the hatred of class against class.
A prophet is always much wider than his followers, much more liberal than those who label themselves with his name.
Sun-worship and pure forms of nature-worship were, in their day, noble religions, highly allegorical but full of profound truth and knowledge.
Mysticism is the realisation of God, of the Universal Self.
The command to “preach the gospel to every creature” – though admittedly by doubtful authenticity – has been interpreted as forbidding the teaching of Gnosis to a few, and has apparently erased the less popular Teacher “Give not that is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”
Profoundly interesting is this world-tragedy of conflict to those who see in it a necessary preparation, a clearing of the ground, for the coming of the World-Teacher and for the new civilisation... through this Armageddon the world will pass into a realm of peace, of brotherhood, of co-operation, and will forget the darkness and the terrors of the night in the joy that cometh in the morning... (image: Besanti n 1897)
Every person, every race, every nation, has its own particular keynote which it brings to the general chord of life and of humanity. Life is not a monotone but a many-stringed harmony, and to this harmony is contributed a distinctive note by each individual.
Muhammadan law in its relation to women, is a pattern to European law. Look back to the history of Islam, and you will find that women have often taken leading places - on the throne, in the battle-field, in politics, in literature, poetry..
Annie Besant, Henry Steel Olcott and William Quan Judge in London May 1891
  • No one can eat the flesh of a slaughtered animal without having used the hand of a man as slaughterer. Suppose that we had to kill for ourselves the creatures whose bodies we would fain have upon our table, is there one woman in a hundred who would go to the slaughterhouse to slay the bullock, the calf, the sheep or the pig?... Dare we call ourselves refined if we purchase our refinement by the brutalization of others, and demand that some should be brutal in order that we may eat the results of their brutality? We are not free from the brutalizing results of that trade simply because we take no direct part in it.
    • A speech given at Manchester UK (18 October 1897)
  • If people want to eat meat, they should kill the animals for themselves... Nor should they say that if they did not do it the slaughter would still go on... Every person who eats meat takes a share in that degradation of his fellow-men; on him and on her personally lies the share, and personally lies the responsibility.
    • Vegetarianism in the Light of Theosophy(1913), p. 18-20
  • Profoundly interesting is this world-tragedy of conflict to those who see in it a necessary preparation, a clearing of the ground, for the coming of the World-Teacher and for the new civilisation... The terrible lesson now being taught, the widespread suffering, the devastation by sword and fire, the poverty caused by the dislocation of trade, the tension, the bankruptcies... But through this Armageddon the world will pass into a realm of peace, of brotherhood, of co-operation, and will forget the darkness and the terrors of the night in the joy that cometh in the morning...
  • Liberty is a great celestial Goddess, strong, beneficent, and austere, and she can never descend upon a nation by the shouting of crowds, nor by arguments of unbridled passion, nor by the hatred of class against class.
  • Muhammadan law in its relation to women, is a pattern to European law. Look back to the history of Islam, and you will find that women have often taken leading places - on the throne, in the battle-field, in politics, in literature, poetry, etc.
  • Empty-brained triflers who have never tried to think, who take their creed as they take their fashions, speak of atheism as the outcome of foul life and vicious desires.


  • (On H.P.B. (H.P. Blavatsky))And we, who lived around her, who in closest intimacy watched her day after day, we bear witness to the unselfish beauty of her life, the nobility of her character, and we lay at her feet our most reverent gratitude for knowledge gained, lives purified, strength developed.
    • Annie Besant, An Autobiography Chapter XIV
  • And thus I came through storm to peace, not to the peace of an untroubled sea of outer life, which no strong soul can crave, but to an inner peace that outer troubles may not avail to ruffle—a peace which belongs to the eternal not to the transitory, to the depths not to the shallows of life.
    • Annie Besant, An Autobiography Chapter XIV
  • Control of the tongue! Vital for the man who would try to tread the Noble Eightfold Path, for no harsh or unkind word, no hasty impatient phrase, may escape from the tongue which is consecrated to service, and which must not injure even an enemy; for that which wounds has no place in the Kingdom of Love.
  • Yet that is the most splendid privilege of man, that the true birthright of the human Spirit, to know his own Divinity, and then to realise it, to know his own Divinity and then to manifest it.
  • Man, according to the Theosophical teaching, is a sevenfold being, or, in the usual phrase a septenary constitution. Putting it yet in another way, man's nature has seven aspects, may be studied from seven different points of view, is composed of Seven Principles.
  • Yoga is a matter of the Spirit and not of the intellect. For just as water will find its way through every obstruction, in order to rise to the level of its source, so does the spirit in man strive upwards ever towards the source whence it came.
  • Karma brings us ever back to rebirth, binds us to the wheel of births and deaths. Good Karma drags us back as relentlessly as bad, and the chain which is wrought out of our virtues holds as firmly and as closely as that forged from our vices.
  • But no one can eat the flesh of a slaughtered animal without having used the hand of a man as slaughterer. Suppose that we had to kill for ourselves the creatures whose bodies we would fain have upon our table, is there one woman in a hundred who would go to the slaughterhouse to slay the bullock, the calf, the sheep or the pig?
  • Against the teachings of eternal torture, of the vicarious influence theory of atonement, of the infallibility of the Bible, I leveled all the strength of my brain and tongue, and I exposed the history of the Christian Church with unsparing hand, its persecutions, its religious wars, its cruelties, its oppressions.
  • Mysticism is the realisation of God, of the Universal Self. It is attained either as a realisation of God outside the Mystic, or within himself. In the first case, it is usually reached from within a religion, by exceptionally intense love and devotion, accompanied by purity of life, for only "the pure in heart shall see God".
    • Annie Besant Quotes
  • The generous wish to share with all what is precious, to spread broadcast priceless truths, to shut out none from the illumination of true knowledge, has resulted in a zeal without discretion that has vulgarised Christianity, and has presented its teachings in a form that often repels the heart and alienates the intellect. The command to “preach the gospel to every creature” – though admittedly by doubtful authenticity – has been interpreted as forbidding the teaching of Gnosis to a few, and has apparently erased the less popular saying of the same Great Teacher “Give not that is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”
  • India demands Home Rule for two reasons, one essential and vital, the other less important but necessary: Firstly, because Freedom is the birthright of every Nation; secondly, because her most important interests are now made subservient to the interests of the British Empire without her consent, and her resources are not utilised for her greatest needs.
  • My own life in India, since I came to it in 1893 to make it my home, has been devoted to one purpose, to give back to India her ancient freedom.
  • My heart revolts against the spectre of Almighty indifferent to the pain of sentient being. My conscience rebels against the injustice, the cruelty, the inequality that surrounds me on every side. But believe in man, in man’s redeeming power, in man’s remoulding energy, in man’s approaching triumph through knowledge, love and work.
    • Indian Political Thought, p. 191
  • The body is never more alive than when it is dead; but it is alive in its units, and dead in its totality; alive as a congeries, dead as an organism.
  • It Suicide is the deliberate or the hurried action of the man who is trying to get out of a trouble and escape from it. Yet he cannot escape from it...He is wide awake on the other side of death, exactly the same man he was a moment before... no more changed than if he had merely taken off his coat. The result of his losing the physical body is that his capacity for suffering is very much increased....All the part of him that drove him to suicide is there... The result of that is that he has still in him every­thing which made him commit the act; the consequence of this is that he keeps on committing it, going through the whole of the trouble that drove him up to the final act.
  • There is, in the Buddhist philosophy, a wonderful sentence of the Lord Gautama Buddha, where he is striving to indicate in human language something that would be intelligible about the condition of Nirvana. You find it in the Chinese translation of the Dhammapada, and the Chinese edition has been translation into English in Trübner’s Oriental Series. He puts it there that, unless there were Nirvana, there could be nothing; and he uses various phrases in order to indicate what he means, taking the uncreated and then connecting with it the created; taking the Real and then connecting with it the unreal. He sums it up by saying that Nirvana is; and that if it were not, naught else could be. That is an attempt (if one may call it so with all reverence) to say what cannot be said. It implies that unless there existed the Uncreate, the invisible and the Real, we could not have a universe at all. You have there, then, the indication that Nirvana is a plenum, not a void. That idea should be fundamentally fixed in your mind, in your study of every great system of Philosophy. So often the expressions used may seem to indicate a void. Hence the western idea of annihilation. If you think of it as fullness, you will realize that the consciousness expands more and more, without losing utterly the sense of identity; if you could think of a centre of a circle without a circumference, you would glimpse the truth.

Annie Besant: An Autobiography (1893)[edit]

(Full text several formats)

  • It is a difficult thing to tell the story of a life, and yet more difficult when that life is one's own. At the best, the telling has a savour of vanity, and the only excuse for the proceeding is that the life, being an average one, reflects many others, and in troublous times like ours may give the experience of many rather than of one. And so the autobiographer does his work because he thinks that, at the cost of some unpleasantness to himself, he may throw light on some of the typical problems that are vexing the souls of his contemporaries, and perchance may stretch out a helping hand to some brother who is struggling in the darkness, and so bring him cheer when despair has him in its grip. Preface
  • Since all of us, men and women of this restless and eager generation—surrounded by forces we dimly see but cannot as yet understand, discontented with old ideas and half afraid of new, greedy for the material results of the knowledge brought us by Science but looking askance at her agnosticism as regards the soul, fearful of superstition but still more fearful of atheism, turning from the husks of outgrown creeds but filled with desperate hunger for spiritual ideals--since all of us have the same anxieties, the same griefs, the same yearning hopes, the same passionate desire for knowledge, it may well be that the story of one may help all, and that the tale of one should that went out alone into the darkness and on the other side found light, that struggled through the Storm and on the other side found Peace, may bring some ray of light and of peace into the darkness and the storm of other lives.
  • That men and women are now able to speak and think as openly as they do, that a broader spirit is visible in the Churches, that heresy is no longer regarded as morally disgraceful—these things are very largely due to the active and militant propaganda carried on under the leadership of Charles Bradlaugh, whose nearest and most trusted friend I was. That my tongue was in the early days bitterer than it should have been, I frankly acknowledge; that I ignored the services done by Christianity and threw light only on its crimes, thus committing injustice, I am ready to admit. But these faults were conquered long ere I left the Atheistic camp, and they were the faults of my personality, not of the Atheistic philosophy. And my main contentions were true, and needed to be made; from many a Christian pulpit to-day may be heard the echo of the Freethought teachings; men's minds have been awakened, their knowledge enlarged; and while I condemn the unnecessary harshness of some of my language, I rejoice that I played my part in that educating of England which has made impossible for evermore the crude superstitions of the past, and the repetition of the cruelties and injustices under which preceding heretics suffered. Chapter VII Atheism I Knew and Taught It
  • But my extreme political views had also much to do with the general feeling of hatred with which I was regarded. Politics, as such, I cared not for at all, for the necessary compromises of political life were intolerable to me; but wherever they touched on the life of the people they became to me of burning interest. The land question, the incidence of taxation, the cost of Royalty, the obstructive power of the House of Lords—these were the matters to which I put my hand; I was a Home Ruler, too, of course, and a passionate opponent of all injustice to nations weaker than ourselves, so that I found myself always in opposition to the Government of the day. Against our aggressive and oppressive policy in Ireland, in the Transvaal, in India, in Afghanistan, in Burmah, in Egypt, I lifted up my voice in all our great towns, trying to touch the consciences of the people, and to make them feel the immorality of a land-stealing, piratical policy. Against war, against capital punishment, against flogging, demanding national education instead of big guns, public libraries instead of warships—no wonder I was denounced as an agitator, a firebrand, and that all orthodox society turned up at me its most respectable nose. Chapter VII Atheism I Knew and Taught It


  • At this time also I met George Bernard Shaw, one of the most brilliant of Socialist writers and most provoking of men; a man with a perfect genius for "aggravating" the enthusiastically earnest, and with a passion for representing himself as a scoundrel. On my first experience of him on the platform at South Place Institute he described himself as a "loafer," and I gave an angry snarl at him in the Reformer, for a loafer was my detestation, and behold! I found that he was very poor, because he was a writer with principles and preferred starving his body to starving his conscience; that he gave time and earnest work to the spreading of Socialism, spending night after night in workmen's clubs; and that "a loafer" was only an amiable way of describing himself because he did not carry a hod. Of course I had to apologise for my sharp criticism as doing him a serious injustice, but privately felt somewhat injured at having been entrapped into such a blunder. Chapter XIII Socialism
  • Meanwhile I was more and more turning aside from politics and devoting myself to the social condition of the people I find myself, in June, protesting against Sir John Lubbock's Bill which fixed a twelve-hour day as the limit of a "young person's" toil. "A 'day' of twelve hours is brutal," I wrote; "if the law fixes twelve hours as a 'fair day' that law will largely govern custom. I declare that a 'legal day' should be eight hours on five days in the week and not more than five hours on the sixth. If the labour is of an exhausting character these hours are too long." Chapter XIII Socialism
  • On every side now the Socialist controversy grew, and I listened, read, and thought much, but said little. The inclusion of John Robertson in the staff of the Reformer brought a highly intellectual Socialist into closer touch with us, and slowly I found that the case for Socialism was intellectually complete and ethically beautiful.
  • The trend of my thought was shown by urging the feeding of Board School children, breaking down under the combination of education and starvation, and I asked, "Why should people be pauperised by a rate-supported meal, and not pauperised by, state-supported police, drainage, road-mending, street-lighting...? "Socialism in its splendid ideal appealed to my heart, while the economic soundness of its basis convinced my head.
  • All my life was turned towards the progress of the people, the helping of man, and it leaped forward to meet the stronger hope, the lofty ideal of social brotherhood, the rendering possible to all of freer life; so long had I been striving thitherward, and here there opened up a path to the yearned-for goal!
  • How strong were the feelings surging in my heart may be seen in a brief extract from an article published second week of January, 1885: "Christian charity? We know its work. It gives a hundred-weight of coal and five pounds of beef once a year to a family whose head could earn a hundred such doles if Christian justice allowed him fair wage for the work he performs. It plunders the workers of the wealth they make, and then flings back at them a thousandth part of their own product as 'charity.' It builds hospitals for the poor whom it has poisoned in filthy courts and alleys, and workhouses for the worn-out creatures from whom it has wrung every energy, every hope, every joy. Miss Cobbe summons us to admire Christian civilisation, and we see idlers flaunting in the robes woven by the toilers, a glittering tinselled super-structure founded on the tears, the strugglings, the grey, hopeless misery of the poor." Chapter XIII Socialism
  • It was this tenderness of hers that led us, after she had gone, to found the "H.P.B. Home for little children," and one day we hope to fulfil her expressed desire that a large but homelike Refuge for outcast children should be opened under the auspices of the Theosophical Society. Chapter XIV Through Storm to Peace
  • The lease of 17, Lansdowne Road expiring in the early summer of 1890, it was decided that 19, Avenue Road should be turned into the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Europe. A hall was built for the meetings of the Blavatsky Lodge—the lodge founded by her—and various alterations made. In July her staff of workers was united under one roof... Chapter XIV Through Storm to Peace
  • The rules of the house were—and are—very simple, but H.P.B. insisted on great regularity of life; we breakfasted at 8 a.m., worked till lunch at 1, then again till dinner at 7. After dinner the outer work for the Society was put aside, and we gathered in H.P.B.'s room where we would sit talking over plans, receiving instructions, listening to her explanation of knotty points. By 12 midnight all the lights had to be extinguished. My public work took me away for many hours, unfortunately for myself, but such was the regular run of our busy lives. She herself wrote incessantly; always suffering, but of indomitable will, she drove her body through its tasks, merciless to its weaknesses and its pains. Chapter XIV Through Storm to Peace
  • Her pupils she treated very variously, adapting herself with nicest accuracy to their differing natures; as a teacher she was marvellously patient, explaining a thing over and over again in different fashions, until sometimes after prolonged failure she would throw herself back in her chair: "My God!" (the easy "Mon Dieu" of the foreigner) "am I a fool that you can't understand? Here, So-and-so"—to some one on whose countenance a faint gleam of comprehension was discernible—"tell these flapdoodles of the ages what I mean." Chapter XIV Through Storm to Peace
  • With vanity, conceit, pretence of knowledge, she was merciless, if the pupil were a promising one; keen shafts of irony would pierce the sham. With some she would get very angry, lashing them out of their lethargy with fiery scorn; and in truth she made herself a mere instrument for the training of her pupils, careless what they, or any one else thought of her, providing that the resulting benefit to them was secured.
  • We, who lived around her, who in closest intimacy watched her day after day, we bear witness to the unselfish beauty of her life, the nobility of her character, and we lay at her feet our most reverent gratitude for knowledge gained, lives purified, strength developed. O noble and heroic Soul, whom the outside purblind world misjudges, but whom your pupils partly saw, never through lives and deaths shall we repay the debt of gratitude we owe to you.
  • And thus I came through storm to peace, not to the peace of an untroubled sea of outer life, which no strong soul can crave, but to an inner peace that outer troubles may not avail to ruffle—a peace which belongs to the eternal not to the transitory, to the depths not to the shallows of life. It carried me scatheless through the terrible spring of 1891, when death struck down Charles Bradlaugh in the plenitude of his usefulness, and unlocked the gateway into rest for H. P. Blavatsky.
  • Through anxieties and responsibilities heavy and numerous it has borne me; every strain makes it stronger; every trial makes it serener; every assault leaves it more radiant. Quiet confidence has taken the place of doubt; a strong security the place of anxious dread. In life, through death, to life, I am but the servant of the great Brotherhood, and those on whose heads but for a moment the touch of the Master has rested in blessing can never again look upon the world save through eyes made luminous with the radiance of the Eternal Peace. Chapter XIV Through Storm to Peace
  • Peace to All Beings

Karma, (1895)[edit]

  • The Invariability of Law. That we live in a realm of law, that we are surrounded by laws that we cannot break, this is a truism. Yet when the fact is recognized in a real and vital way, and when it is seen to be a fact in the mental and moral world as much as in the physical, a certain sense of helplessness is apt to overpower us, as though we felt ourselves in the grip of some mighty Power, that, seizing us, whirls us away whither it will. The very reverse of this is in reality the case, for the mighty Power, when it is understood, will obediently carry us whither we will: all forces in Nature can be used in proportion as they are understood — 'Nature is conquered by obedience' — and her resistless energies are at our bidding as soon as we, by knowledge, work with them and not against them. p. 1
  • On the invariability of law depends the security of scientific experiment, and all power of planning a result and of predicting the future. On this the chemist rests, sure that Nature will ever respond in the same way, if he be precise in putting his questions. A variation in his results is taken by him as implying a change in his procedure, not a change in Nature... In all worlds increasing knowledge means increasing power, and omniscience and omnipotence are one.
  • This assurance that perfect Justice rules the world finds support from the increasing knowledge of the evolving Soul; for as it advances and begins to see on higher planes and to transmit its knowledge to the waking consciousness, we learn with ever-growing certainty, and therefore with ever-increasing joy, that the Good Law is working with undeviating accuracy, that its Agents apply it everywhere with unerring insight, with unfailing strength, and that all is therefore very well with the world and with its struggling Souls. Through the darkness rings out the cry, all will be well from the watchmen Souls, who carry the lamp of Divine Wisdom through the murky ways of our human city.
  • Karma brings us ever back to rebirth, binds us to the wheel of births and deaths. Good Karma drags us back as relentlessly as bad, and the chain which is wrought out of our virtues holds as firmly and as closely as that forged from our vices.
  • How then shall the weaving of the chain be put an end to, since man must think and feel as long as he lives, and thoughts and feelings are ever generating Karma? The answer to this is the great lesson of the Bhagavad Gita, the lesson taught to the warrior prince. Neither to hermit nor to student was that lesson given, but to the warrior striving for victory, the prince immersed in the duties of his state. Ch. IX The Cleansing of Karma
  • What is it, when all is accomplished, that still binds the Masters to the world of men? Not anything that the world can offer Them. There is no knowledge on earth They have not; there is no power on earth that They wield not; there is no further experience that might enrich Their lives; there is nothing that the world can give Them, that can draw Them back to birth. And yet They come, because a divine compulsion that is from within and from without sends Them to the earth — which otherwise They might leave for ever — to help Their brethren, to labour century after century, millennium after millennium, for the joy and service that make Their love and peace ineffable with nothing that the earth can give Them, save the joy of seeing other Souls growing into Their likeness, beginning to share with them the conscious life of God.
  • The gathering together of Souls into groups, forming families, castes, nations, races, introduces a new element of perplexity into karmic results, and it is here that room is found for what are called 'accidents', as well as for the adjustments continually being made by the Lords of Karma. It appears that while nothing can befall a man that is not 'in his Karma' as an individual, advantage may be taken of, say, a national or a seismic catastrophe to enable him to work off a piece of bad Karma which would not normally have fallen into the life-span through which he is passing. Ch XII Collective Karma
  • Similarly, benefits may accrue to him by this indirect action of the Law, as when he belongs to a nation that is enjoying the fruit of some good national Karma; and he may thus receive some debt owed to him by Nature, payment of which would not have fallen within his present lot had only his individual Karma been concerned.
  • A man's birth in a particular nation is influenced by certain general principles of evolution as well as by his immediate characteristics.
  • Where long series of incarnations have been followed, it has been found that some individuals progress from sub-race to sub-race very regularly, whereas others are more erratic, taking repeated incarnations perhaps in one sub-race. Within the limits of the sub-race, the individual characteristics of the man will draw him towards one nation or another, and we may notice dominant national characteristics re-emerging on the stage of history en bloc after the normal interval of fifteen hundred years; thus crowds of Romans reincarnate as Englishmen, the enterprising, colonizing, conquering, imperial instincts reappearing as national attributes.
  • A man in whom such national characteristics were strongly marked, and whose time for rebirth had come, would be drafted into the English nation by his Karma and would then share the national destiny for good or for evil, so far as that destiny affected the fate of an individual.
  • The family tie is naturally of a more personal character than is the national, and those who weave bonds of close affection in one life tend to be drawn together again as members of the same family. Sometimes these ties recur very persistently life after life, and the destinies of two individuals are very intimately interwoven in successive incarnations. Sometimes, in consequence of the different lengths of the Devachans necessitated by differences of intellectual and spiritual activity during the earth-lives spent together — members of a family may be scattered and may not meet again until after several incarnations.
  • Speaking generally, the more close the tie in the higher regions of life, the greater the likelihood of rebirth in a family group. Here again the Karma of the individual is affected by the interlinked Karmas of his family, and he may enjoy or suffer through these in a way not inherent in his own life-Karma, and so receive or pay karmic debts, out-of-date, as we may say. So far as the personality is concerned, this seems to bring with it a certain balancing up or compensation... in order that complete justice may be done...
  • The working out in detail of collective Karma would carry us far beyond the limits of such an elementary work as the present and far beyond the knowledge of the writer; only these fragmentary hints can at present be offered to the student. For precise understanding a long study of individual cases would be necessary, traced through many thousands of years. Speculation on these matters is idle; it is patient observation that is needed. Ch. XIII, Conclusion
  • Such is an outline of the great Law of Karma and of its workings, by a knowledge of which a man may accelerate his evolution, by the utilization of which a man may free himself from bondage, and become, long ere his race has trodden its course, one of the Helpers and Saviours of the World. A deep and steady conviction of the truth of this Law gives to life an immovable serenity and a perfect fearlessness: nothing can touch us that we have not wrought, nothing can injure us that we have not merited. And as everything that we have sown must ripen into harvest in due season, and must be reaped, it is idle to lament over the reaping when it is painful; it may as well be done now as at any future time, since it cannot be evaded, and, once done, it cannot return to trouble us again.
  • Painful Karma may therefore well be faced with a joyful heart, as a thing to be gladly worked through and done with; it is better to have it behind us than before us, and every debt paid leaves us with less to pay. Would that the world knew and could feel the strength that comes from this resting on the Law. Unfortunately to most in the Western world it is a mere chimera, and even among Theosophists belief in Karma is more an intellectual assent than a living and fruitful conviction in the light of which the life is lived.
  • The strength of a belief, says Professor Bain, is measured by its influence on conduct, and belief in Karma ought to make the life pure, strong, serene and glad. Only our own deeds can hinder us; only our own will can fetter us. Once let men recognize this truth, and the hour of their liberation has struck. Nature cannot enslave the Soul that by Wisdom has gained Power, and uses both in Love.


In the Outer Court (1895)[edit]

Five lectures given at the European Theosophical Society August 1895 · PDF download of second edition (1898)
There is no suffering for him who has finished his journey, and abandoned grief, who has freed him self on all sides, and thrown off all fetters.
  • Looking at the Temple and the Courts and the mountain road that winds below, we see this picture of human evolution, and the track along which the race is treading, and the Temple that is its goal... along that road round the mountain stands a vast mass of human beings, climbing indeed, but climbing so slowly, rising step after step; sometimes it seems as though for every step forward there is a step backward, and though the trend of the whole mass is upwards it mounts so slowly that the pace is scarcely perceptible. And this aeonian evolution of the race, climbing ever upwards, seems so slow and weary and painful that one wonders how the pilgrims have the heart to climb so long...
    • p. 10
  • Looking at them, it does not seem as though even progress in intellect, slow as that also is, made the pace very much more rapid. When we look at those whose intellect is scarcely developed, they seem after each day of life to sink to sleep almost on the place they occupied the day before; and when we glance over those who are more highly evolved so far as intellect is concerned, they too are travelling very very slowly, and seem to make small progress in each day of life.
    • p. 11
  • At last, after many lives of striving, many lives of working, growing purer and nobler and wiser, life after life, the Soul makes a distinct and clear speaking forth of a will that now has grown strong; and when that will announces itself as a clear and definite purpose, no longer the whisper that aspires, but the word that commands, then that resolute will strikes at the gateway which leads to the Outer Court of the Temple, and strikes with a knocking which none may deny— for it has in it the strength of the Soul that is determined to achieve, and that has learned enough to understand the vastness of the task that it undertakes.
    • p. 17
  • In this way the Soul deliberately labours for growth; deliberately it works at itself, purifying always the lower nature with unceasing effort and with untiring demand; for ever it is comparing itself not with those who are below it but with Those who are above it, ever it is raising its eyes towards Those who have achieved, and not looking downwards towards those who are still only climbing upwards towards the Outer Court.
    • p. 34
  • And thus daily, and month by month, and year by year, he will work at his mind, training it in these consecutive habits of thought, and he will learn to choose that of which he thinks; he will no longer allow thoughts to come and go; he will no longer permit a thought to grip him and hold him; he will no longer let a thought come into the mind and fix itself there and decline to be evicted; he will be master within his own house... he will say: “No; no such anxiety shall remain within my mind; no such thought shall have shelter within my mind; within this mind nothing stays that is not there by my choice and my invitation, and that which comes uninvited shall be turned outside the limits of my mind.
    • p. 60
  • Thus thinking and thus practising, you will find this sense grow within you, this sense of calm and of strength and of serenity, so that you will feel as though you were in a place of peace, no matter what the storm in the outer world, and you will see and feel the storm and yet not be shaken by it.
    • p. 93
  • There is no suffering for him who has finished his journey, and abandoned grief, who has freed him self on all sides, and thrown off all fetters.
    • p. 162

The Ancient Wisdom (1897)[edit]

Full text of Second edition (1899) online for download in PDF or ePub formats
As the origin and basis of all religions, it cannot be the antagonist of any: it is indeed their purifier, revealing the valuable inner meaning of much that has become mischievous in its external presentation by the perverseness of ignorance & the accretions of superstition...
  • This book is intended to place in the hands of the general reader an epitome of theosophical teachings, sufficiently plain to serve the elementary student, and sufficiently full to lay a sound foundation for further knowledge. It is hoped that it may serve as an introduction to the profounder works of H.P. Blavatsky, and be a convenient stepping stone to their study. Those who have learned a little of the Ancient Wisdom know the illumination, the peace, the joy, the strength, its lessons have brought into their lives. That this book may win some to consider its teachings, and to prove for themselves their value, is the prayer with which it is sent forth into the world. Preface
  • The most sacred duty is filial piety. “God showers his blessings on him who honors and reveres the author of his days,” says Pampelus (De Parentibus, Orelli, op. Cit., ii, 345). Ingratitude towards one’s parents is the blackest of all crimes, writes Perictione ( ibid.,p. 350), who is supposed to have been the mother of Plato. p. 21
  • In all that concerns chastity and marriage their principles are of the utmost purity. Everywhere the great teacher recommends chastity and temperance; but at the same time he directs that the married should first become parents before living a life of absolute celibacy, in order that children might be born under favourable conditions for continuing the holy life and succession of the Sacred Science (Iamblichus, Vit. Pythag., and Hierocl., ap. Stob. Serm. xlv, 14). This is exceedingly interesting, for it is precisely the same regulation that is laid down in the Mânava Dharma Shâstra, the great Indian Code. Adultery was most sternly condemned (Iamb., ibid.).
  • Right thought is necessary to right conduct, right understanding to right living, and the Divine Wisdom – whether called by its ancient Sanskrit name of Brahma Vidyā, or its modern Greek name of Theosophia, Theosophy – comes to the world as at once an adequate philosophy and an all-embracing religion and ethic. It was once said of the Christian Scriptures by a devotee that they contained shallows in which a child could wade and depths in which a giant must swim. A similar statement might be made of Theosophy, for some of its teachings are so simple and so practical that any person of average intelligence can understand and follow them, while others are so lofty, so profound, that the ablest strains his intellect to contain them and sinks exhausted in the effort.
  • The sacred books of the East are the best evidence for the greatness of their authors, for who in later days or in modern times can even approach the spiritual sublimity of their religious thought, the intellectual splendour of their philosophy, the breadth and purity of their ethic? And when we find that these books contain teachings about God, man, and the universe identical in substance under much variety of outer appearance, it does not seem unreasonable to refer to them to a central primary body of doctrine. To that body we give the name Divine Wisdom, in its Greek form: THEOSOPHY.
  • As the origin and basis of all religions, it cannot be the antagonist of any: it is indeed their purifier, revealing the valuable inner meaning of much that has become mischievous in its external presentation by the perverseness of ignorance and the accretions of superstition; but it recognises and defends itself in each, and seeks in each to unveil its hidden wisdom.
  • The habit of quiet, sustained, and sequential thought, directed to non-worldly subjects, of meditation, of study, develops the mind-body and renders it a better instrument; the effort to cultivate abstract thinking is also useful, as this raises the lower mind towards the higher, and draws into it the subtlest materials of the lower mental plane.
  • The main preparation to be made for receiving in the physical vehicle the vibrations of the higher consciousness are: its purification from grosser materials by pure food and pure life; the entire subjugation of the passions, and the cultivation of an even, balanced temper and mind, unaffected by the turmoil and vicissitudes of external life; the habit of quiet meditation on lofty topics, turning the mind away from the objects of the senses, and from the mental images arising from them, and fixing it on higher things; the cessation of hurry, especially of that restless, excitable hurry of the mind, which keeps the brain continually at work and flying from one subject to another; the genuine love for the things of the higher world, that makes them more attractive than the objects of the lower, so that the mind rests contentedly in their companionship as in that of a well-loved friend.
  • First he must gain control over his thoughts, the progeny of the restless, unruly mind, hard to curb as the wind. (Bhagavad Gitâ, vi. 34). Steady, daily practice in meditation, in concentration, had begun to reduce this mental rebel to order ere he entered on the probationary Path, and the disciple now works with concentrated energy to complete the task, knowing that the great increase in thought power that will accompany his rapid growth will prove a danger both to others and to himself unless the developing force be thoroughly under his control. Better give a child dynamite as a plaything, than place the creative powers of thought in the hands of the selfish and ambitious.
  • Ere man could know what was right, he had to learn the existence of the law, and this he could only learn by following all that attracted him in the outer world, by grasping every desirable object, and then by learning from experience, sweet or bitter, whether his delight was in harmony or in conflict with the law. Let us take an obvious example, the taking of pleasant food, and see how infant man might learn there from the presence of a natural law. At the first taking, his hunger was appeased, his taste was gratified, and only pleasure resulted from the experience, for his action was in harmony with law. On another occasion, desiring to increase pleasure, he ate overmuch and suffered in consequence, for he transgressed against the law. A confusing experience to the dawning intelligence, how the pleasurable became painful by excess.
  • Over and over again he would be led by desire into excess, and each time he would experience the painful consequences, until at last he learned moderation, i.e., he learned to conform his bodily acts in this respect to physical law; for he found that there were conditions which affected him and which he could not control, and that only by observing them could physical happiness be insured. Similar experiences flowed in upon him through all the bodily organs, with undeviating regularity; his outrushing desires brought him pleasure or pain just as they worked with the laws of Nature or against them, and, as experience increased, it began to guide his steps, to influence his choice. It was not as though he had to begin his experience anew with every life, for on each new birth he brought with him mental faculties a little increased, and ever-accumulating store.

Evolution of Life and Form (1898)[edit]

(Four lectures delivered at the twenty-third anniversary meeting of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, Madras,]
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  • I want to lay before you an intelligible conception of evolution, taking it on its two sides, that of the evolving life and that of the developing forms. I begin by laying before you a sketch of the methods of "Ancient and Modern Science," the direction in which each has worked, and is working, the ultimate union that, we hope, may take place between them. For what could more fully presage the good of the whole world, what could promise more happily for the relationship between the different races of humanity, than to draw together on the plane of mind the science of antiquity and of modern days, the science of the East and of the West, and, by wedding them to each other, draw together the nations that are now divided, and make objective that brotherhood of humanity of which we dream.
  • What is life or consciousness—for the two terms are synonymous? It is the power to answer to vibrations, the power to respond—that is consciousness. Evolution is the unfolding of a continually increasing power to respond. The whole universe is full of the vibrations of Íshvara, of God. He sustains and moves the whole. Consciousness is the power in us to answer to those vibrations. All powers lie hidden within us as the oak tree lies hidden in the acorn. But it is in the process of evolution that the sapling slowly grows out of the seed. In Eternity, in the Now, all is existent, perfect; in Time only is there succession, the unfolding of one thing after another. In the changeless Point everything is present: Space is but the field for diverse sequences. Hence Time and Space are the basic illusions, and are yet the fundamental conditions of thinking. Keep, I pray you, that definition of consciousness in mind, for it will govern the remainder of our study. p.17
  • That which we know as Yoga is the method by which evolution is quickened in the individual, and all the powers of the Self, up to the threshold of divinity, may by it be brought into manifestation in the man of the present. That is why Yoga training was necessary for the ancient scientist; he must develop in himself the three aspects of God, if he were to understand them as manifested in the universe around him. Now, at our own stage of evolution, it is specially the life of Brahmâ—or the Brahmâ aspect of God—with which the human mind is coming into touch, because the mind in man is the reflection of the universal mind in Kosmos. That life is the life that is the force in the atom, that vivifies every atom, nay, that brings the atom into existence, as we shall see, and remains during the whole of the growth of the universe as the fundamental life that keeps those atoms as active particles building up innumerable forms.

H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters of Wisdom (1907)[edit]

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  • Sixteen years and a half have gone since Helena Petrovna Blavatsky passed away from this mortal world. Yet attacks are still made upon her veracity, upon her character, and good and sympathetic men still turn away from the Theosophical Society with: " Oh ! I do not care to belong to it ; it was founded by Mme. Blavatsky, who was convicted of fraud by the Psychical Research Society." The articles which defended her at the time have long been out of print, and are forgotten. Dr. Hodgson, the writer of the S.P.R. report, became a believer in phenomena far more wonderful than those which he denied in his youthful self-confidence, and also became himself the victim of misrepresentation and ridicule. The large circulation of Mme. Blavatsky's priceless works, the spread of the ideas which she spent her life in learning and teaching, the growth of the Theosophical Society which she founded at the orders of her Master, and with the aid of her colleague Colonel H. S. Olcott. the ever-increasing literature published by her pupils — all these form her substantial defence, the justification of her life's work. p. 1
  • It is not right that the continued crucifixion of the Teacher should be regarded with complacency, while the world profits by the teachings, nor that she should be branded as fraud and impostor who brought to this age the truths now gaining such world-wide acceptance. It is but just that her defence should be obtainable so long as she is slandered. Therefore I — who reverence her as my first Teacher, and who keep her in my heart with unceasing gratitude as the one who led me to my Master, whom I have now served with ever-increasing thankfulness for more than eighteen years — place here on record the facts of the past, with such comment as seems necessary.
  • Madame Fadeeff: proceeds: "The phenomena produced by the mediumistic power of my niece Helena are very curious and wonderful... so much force concentrated in a single individual — a whole group of the most extraordinary manifestations emanating from a single source... is certainly exceedingly rare and perhaps unparallelled... when she was here this power was in a condition far inferior to that which it has now reached... Helena... cannot be compared with anyone else. As child, as young girl, as woman, she was always too superior to her environment to be appreciated at her real value. She received the education of a girl of good family. She was well brought up, but was not at all learned, and as for scholarship, of that there was no question. But the unusual richness of her intellectual nature, the delicacy and swiftness of her thought, her marvellous facility in understanding, grasping and assimilating the most difficult subjects, such as would require from anybody else years of laborious study; an eminently developed intelligence, united with a character loyal, straightforward, frank, energetic — these gave her such an unusual superiority, raised her so high above the ordinary level of the insipid majority of human societies, that she could never avoid attracting general attention, and the consequent envy and animosity of all those who, in their trivial inferiority, felt wounded by the splendor of the faculties and talents of this really marvellous woman.
  • Helena Petrovna was married, as a girl of seventeen, to an old man, and promptly took flight from her husband, on discovering what marriage meant, and roamed about the world in search of knowledge. In August, 1851... on a moonlight night, as her diary tells us, beside the Serpentine, " I met the Master of my dreams." He then told her that he had chosen her to work in a society, and some time afterwards, with her father's permission, she went into training for her future mission, passing through seven and ten years of probation, trial and hard work....
  • Madame Fadeeff: "She was well brought up, well educated as a woman of the world, that is to say, very superficially. But as to serious and abstract studies, the religious mysteries of antiquity, Alexandrian Theurgy, ancient philosophies and philologies, the science of hieroglyphs, Hebrew, Samskrit, Greek, Latin, etc., she never saw them even in a dream. I can swear to it. She had not the least idea of the very alphabet of such things.... my niece spoke to me about them (the Masters of Wisdom), and that very fully, years ago. She wrote to me that she had seen and reknitted her connection with several of them before she wrote her Isis. Why should she have invented these personages? With what object ? and what good could they do her if they did not exist? Your enemies are neither wicked nor dishonest, I think; they are, if they accuse you of that, only idiotic.
  • Of this same visit to Lahore, November, 1883, Damodar himself gives many details. Of the Mahatma K.H. he says: "There I was visited by Him in body, for three nights consecutively, for about three hours every time, while I myself retained full consciousness, and in one case even went to meet Him outside the house. Him whom I saw in person at Lahore was the same I had seen in astral form at the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society, and the same again whom I, in visions and trances, had seen at His house, thousands of miles off, to reach which in my astral Ego I was permitted, owing, of course, to His direct help and protection. In those instances, with my psychic powers hardly developed yet, I had always seen Him as a rather hazy form, although His features were perfectly distinct, and their remembrance was profoundly graven on my soul's eye and memory. While now at Lahore, Jammu, and elsewhere, the impression was utterly different. In the former cases, when making pranam (salutation) my hands passed through His form, while on the latter occasions they met solid garments and flesh. Here I saw a living man before me, the same in features, though far more imposing in His general appearance and bearing than Him I had so often looked upon in the portrait in Mme. Blavatsky's possession, and in the one with Mr. Sinnett...
  • There was one policy with regard to the Masters, the phenomena worked by her, and Their communications, which she would not tolerate: the attempts to separate the occult from the philosophical, and to evade the criticism and the hostility of an ignorant world by exalting the philosophical at the expense of the occult. To do this, she repeatedly declared, was to invite the destruction of the Society. She was bitterly conscious of the unfairness with which she had been treated, and of the way in which many Theosophists were willing to sacrifice her to the mob, while profiting by her teachings, and declaring that the Theosophical Society had its own foundation, and could continue to exist, even if she were regarded as a fraud.
  • What H. P. Blavatsky was the world may some day know. She was of heroic stature, and smaller souls instinctively resented her strength, her titanic nature. Unconventional, careless of appearances, frank to unwisdom — as the world estimates wisdom — too honest to calculate against the dishonesty of others, she laid herself open to continual criticism and misunderstanding. Full of intellectual strength and with extraordinary knowledge, she was humble as a little child. Brave to recklessness, she was pitiful and tender. Passionately indignant when accused of sins she loathed, she was generous and forgiving to a repentant foe. She had a hundred splendid virtues, and a few petty failings. May the Master she served with unfaltering courage, with unwavering devotion, send back to us again "the Brother you know as H. P. B., but we — otherwise."

Essays and Addresses, Vol. III- Evolution and Occultism (1913)[edit]

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  • There is one thing that is eating the heart out of India, and that is modern materialism. There is one thing which is poisoning the mind of India, and that is the kind of science which is the teacher of materialism and works against Spirituality in the mind. How should I be able to tell you of the moral regeneration of India unless first I can strike at that which is piercing her heart and sucking out her very lifeblood. So--as I have been trained in the science of the West, trained in the knowledge of the physical Universe which is so much used to make men believe that nothing but the physical remains--I take for my first subject this undermining of materialism by science, and I attack it with the weapons that were once used to build it up.
  • A man who is a spiritual man--a religious teacher--regards the universe from the standpoint of the Spirit from which everything is seen as coming from the One. When he stands, as it were, in the centre, and he looks from the centre to the circumference, he stands at the point whence the force proceeds, and he judges of the force from that point of radiation and he sees it as one in its multitudinous workings, and knows the force is One; he sees it in its many divergencies, and he recognises it as one and the same thing throughout. Standing in the centre, in the Spirit, and looking outwards to the universe, he judges everything from the standpoint of the Divine Unity and sees every separate phenomenon, not as separate from the One but as the external expression of the one and the only Life. But science looks at the thing from the surface. It goes to the circumference of the universe and it sees a multiplicity of phenomena. It studies these separated things and studies them one by one. It takes up a manifestation and judges it; it judges it apart; it looks at the many, not at the One; it looks at the diversity, not at the Unity, and sees everything from outside and not from within: it sees the external difference and the superficial portion while it sees not the One from which every thing proceeds.
  • Study in one school of psychology came to what seemed a terrible conclusion. It was the school of Lombroso in Italy. He declared, and many others followed him, that the visions of the prophets, of the saints, of the seers, all their testimony to the existence of superphysical worlds, were the products of disordered brains, of diseased or over-strained nervous apparatus. He went further, and he declared that the manifestation known as genius was closely allied to insanity, that the brain of the genius and the brain of the madman were akin, until the phrase "genius is allied to madness," became the stock axiom of that school.
  • When men tell us that the great religious teachers are neuropaths, that Buddha, Christ, S. Francis, are neuropaths, then we are inclined to cast our lot with the abnormal few, rather than with the normal many. We know what they were. They were men who saw far more and knew far more than we; what matters it whether we call their brains normal or abnormal? In these men's consciousness is a ray of the Divine splendour; as Browning says: Through such souls alone God, stooping, shows sufficient of Hill Light For us in the dark to rise by. And if in those cases the brain change from a normal to an abnormal state, then humanity must ever remain thankful to abnormality. That was the first answer which may be made to this statement of Lombroso, and you find a man like Dr. Maudsley, the famous doctor, asking whether there is any law that nature shall use only for her purposes what we call the perfect brains? May it not be that for her higher performances she needs brains which are different from the ordinary, the normal brains of man?

Esoteric Christianity: Or, The Lesser Mysteries (1914)[edit]

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Foreword[edit]

  • The object of this book is to suggest certain lines of thought as to the deep truths underlying Christianity, truths generally overlooked, and only too often denied. The generous wish to share with all what is precious, to spread broadcast priceless truths, to shut out none from the illumination of true knowledge, has resulted in a zeal without discretion that has vulgarised Christianity, and has presented its teachings in a form that often repels the heart and alienates the intellect. The command to "preach the Gospel to every creature" (S. Mark xvi. 15.) —though admittedly of doubtful authenticity—has been interpreted as forbidding the teaching of the Gnosis to a few, and has apparently erased the less popular saying of the same Great Teacher: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.")(S. Matt vii. 6.)
  • This spurious sentimentality—which refuses to recognise the obvious inequalities of intelligence and morality, and thereby reduces the teaching of the highly developed to the level attainable by the least evolved, sacrificing the higher to the lower in a way that injures both—had no place in the virile common sense of the early Christians.
  • S. Clement of Alexandria says quite bluntly, after alluding to the Mysteries: "Even now I fear, as it is said, 'to cast the pearls before swine, lest they tread them underfoot, and turn and rend us.' For it is difficult to exhibit the really pure and transparent words respecting the true Light to swinish and untrained hearers." (Clarke's Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol. IV. Clement of Alexandria. Stromata, bk. I., ch. xii.)
  • If true knowledge, the Gnosis, is again to form a part of Christian teachings, it can only be under the old restrictions, and the idea of levelling down to the capacities of the least developed must be definitely surrendered. Only by teaching above the grasp of the little evolved can the way be opened up for a restoration of arcane knowledge, and the study of the Lesser Mysteries must precede that of the Greater. The Greater will never be published through the printing-press; they can only be given by Teacher to pupil, "from mouth to ear."
  • Where only hints are given, quiet meditation on the truths hinted at will cause their outlines to become visible, and the clearer light obtained by continued meditation will gradually show them more fully. For meditation quiets the lower mind, ever engaged in thinking about external objects, and when the lower mind is tranquil then only can it be illuminated by the Spirit.

Chapter I. The Hidden Side of Religions[edit]

  • Many, perhaps most, who see the title of this book will at once traverse it, and will deny that there is anything valuable which can be rightly described as "Esoteric Christianity." There is a wide-spread, and withal a popular, idea that there is no such thing as an occult teaching in connection with Christianity, and that "The Mysteries," whether Lesser or Greater, were a purely Pagan institution. The very name of "The Mysteries of Jesus," so familiar in the ears of the Christians of the first centuries, would come with a shock of surprise on those of their modern successors, and, if spoken as denoting a special and definite institution in the Early Church, would cause a smile of incredulity.
  • It has actually been made a matter of boast that Christianity has no secrets, that whatever it has to say it says to all, and whatever it has to teach it teaches to all. Its truths are supposed to be so simple, that "a way-faring man, though a fool, may not err therein," and the "simple Gospel" has become a stock phrase.
  • It is necessary, therefore, to prove clearly that in the Early Church, at least, Christianity was no whit behind other great religions in possessing a hidden side, and that it guarded, as a priceless treasure, the secrets revealed only to a select few in its Mysteries. But ere doing this it will be well to consider the whole question of this hidden side of religions, and to see why such a side must exist if a religion is to be strong and stable; for thus its existence in Christianity will appear as a foregone conclusion, and the references to it in the writings of the Christian Fathers will appear simple and natural instead of surprising and unintelligible. As a historical fact, the existence of this esotericism is demonstrable; but it may also be shown that intellectually it is a necessity.
  • The first question we have to answer is: What is the object of religions? They are given to the world by men wiser than the masses of the people on whom they are bestowed, and are intended to quicken human evolution. In order to do this effectively they must reach individuals and influence them. Now all men are not at the same level of evolution, but evolution might be figured as a rising gradient, with men stationed on it at every point. The most highly evolved are far above the least evolved, both in intelligence and character; the capacity alike to understand and to act varies at every stage.
  • It is... useless to give to all the same religious teaching; that which would help the intellectual man would be entirely unintelligible to the stupid, while that which would throw the saint into ecstasy would leave the criminal untouched. If, on the other hand, the teaching be suitable to help the unintelligent, it is intolerably crude and jejune to the philosopher, while that which redeems the criminal is utterly useless to the saint. Yet all the types need religion, so that each may reach upward to a life higher than that which he is leading, and no type or grade should be sacrificed to any other. Religion must be as graduated as evolution, else it fails in its object.

Chapter II. The Hidden Side of Christianity[edit]

  • Having seen that the religions of the past claimed with one voice to have a hidden side, to be custodians of "Mysteries," and that this claim was endorsed by the seeking of initiation by the greatest men, we must now ascertain whether Christianity stands outside this circle of religions, and alone is without a Gnosis, offering to the world only a simple faith and not a profound knowledge. Were it so, it would indeed be a sad and lamentable fact, proving Christianity to be intended for a class only, and not for all types of human beings. But that it is not so, we shall be able to prove beyond the possibility of rational doubt. p. 37
  • It is patent to every student of the closing forty years of the last century, that crowds of thoughtful and moral people have slipped away from the churches, because the teachings they received there outraged their intelligence and shocked their moral sense. It is idle to pretend that the widespread agnosticism of this period had its root either in lack of morality or in deliberate crookedness of mind. Everyone who carefully studies the phenomena presented will admit that men of strong intellect have been driven out of Christianity by the crudity of the religious ideas set before them, the contradictions in the authoritative teachings, the views as to God, man, and the universe that no trained intelligence could possibly admit. p. 38
  • The rebels were not too bad for their religion; on the contrary, it was the religion that was too bad for them. The rebellion against popular Christianity was due to the awakening and the growth of conscience; it was the conscience that revolted, as well as the intelligence, against teachings dishonouring to God and man alike, that represented God as a tyrant, and man as essentially evil, gaining salvation by slavish submission. p. 39
  • Another precept of Jesus which remains as "a hard saying" to his followers is: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect". (S. Matt., v, 48. ) The ordinary Christian knows that he cannot possibly obey this command; full of ordinary human frailties and weaknesses, how can he become perfect as God is perfect ? Seeing the impossibility of the achievement set before him, he quietly puts it aside, and thinks no more about it. But seen as the crowning effort of (reincarnation|many lives) of steady improvement, as the triumph of the God within us over the lower nature, it comes within calculable distance, and we recall the words of Porphyry, how the man who achieves " the paradigmatic virtues is the Father of the Gods",[Ante, p. 24.] and that in the Mysteries these virtues were acquired. p. 55

Chapter IV. The Historical Christ[edit]

  • We have already spoken, in the first chapter, on the identities existing in all the religions of the world, and we have seen that out of a study of these identities in beliefs, symbolisms, rites, ceremonies, histories, and commemorative festivals, has arisen a modern school which relates the whole of these to a common source in human ignorance, and in a primitive explanation of natural phenomena. From these identities have been drawn weapons for the stabbing of each religion in turn, and the most effective attacks on Christianity and on the historical existence of its Founder have been armed from this source. p. 121
  • It would be fatal to ignore the facts marshalled by Comparative Mythologists. Rightly understood, they may be made serviceable instead of mischievous. We have seen that the Apostles and their successors dealt very freely with the Old Testament as having an allegorical and mystic sense far more important than the historical, though by no means negating it...
  • Nowhere, perhaps, is it more necessary to understand this than when we are studying the story of Jesus, surnamed the Christ, for when we do not disentangle the intertwisted threads, and see where symbols have been taken as events, allegories as histories, we lose most of the instructiveness of the narrative and much of its rarest beauty.
  • Men fear that Christianity will be weakened when reason studies it, and that it is "dangerous" to admit that events thought to be historical have the deeper significance of the mythical or mystical meaning. It is, on the contrary, strengthened, and the student finds, with joy, that the pearl of great price shines with a purer, clearer lustre when the coating of ignorance is removed and its many colours are seen.
  • There are two schools of thought at the present time, bitterly opposed to each other... According to one school there is nothing at all in the accounts of His life save myths and legends... that were given as explanations of certain natural phenomena, survivals of a pictorial way of teaching certain facts of nature, of impressing on the minds of the uneducated certain grand classifications of natural events that were important in themselves, and that lent themselves to moral instruction. Those who endorse this view form a well-defined school to which belong many men of high education and strong intelligence, and round them gather crowds of the less instructed, who emphasise with crude vehemence the more destructive elements in their pronouncements.
  • This school is opposed by that of the believers in orthodox Christianity, who declare that the whole story of Jesus is history, unadulterated by legend or myth. They maintain that this history is nothing more than the history of the life of a man born some nineteen centuries ago in Palestine, who passed through all the experiences set down in the Gospels, and they deny that the story has any significance beyond that of a divine and human life. These two schools stand in direct antagonism, one asserting that everything is legend, the other declaring that everything is history. P. 123
  • We will study first the historical Christ; secondly, the mythic Christ; thirdly, the mystic Christ. And we shall find that elements drawn from all these make up the Jesus Christ of the Churches. They all enter into the composition of the grandiose and pathetic Figure which dominates the thoughts and the emotions of Christendom, the Man of Sorrows, the Saviour, the Lover and Lord of Men. P. 127
  • The Historical Christ, or Jesus the Healer and Teacher. The thread of the life-story of Jesus is one which may be disentangled from those with which it is intertwined without any great difficulty. We may fairly here aid our study by reference to those records of the past which experts can reverify for themselves, and from which certain details regarding the Hebrew Teacher have been given to the world by H. P. Blavatsky and by others who are experts in occult investigation.
  • As a man may be born with a mathematical faculty, and by training that faculty year after year may immensely increase his mathematical capacity, so may a man be born with certain faculties within him, faculties belonging to the Soul, which he can develop by training and by discipline. When, having developed those faculties, he applies them to the study of the invisible world, such a man becomes an expert in Occult Science, and such a man can at his will reverify the records to which I have referred. Such reverification is as much out of the reach of the ordinary person as a mathematical book written in the symbols of the higher mathematics is out of the reach of those who are untrained in mathematical science.
  • There is nothing exclusive in the knowledge save as every science is exclusive; those who are born with a faculty, and train the faculty, can master its appropriate science, while those who start in life without any faculty, or those who do not develop it if they have it, must be content to remain in ignorance. These are the rules everywhere of the obtaining of knowledge, in Occultism as in every other science. p. 129
  • The occult records partly endorse the story told in the Gospels, and partly do not endorse it; they show us the life, and thus enable us to disentangle it from the myths which are intertwined therewith.
  • His fervent devotion and a gravity beyond his years led his parents to dedicate him to the religious and ascetic life, and soon after a visit to Jerusalem, in which the extraordinary intelligence and eagerness for knowledge of the youth were shown in his seeking of the doctors in the Temple, he was sent to be trained in an Essene community in the southern Judæan desert. When he had reached the age of nineteen he went on to the Essene monastery near Mount Serbal, a monastery which was much visited by learned men travelling from Persia and India to Egypt, and where a magnificent library of occult works—many of them Indian of the Trans-Himâlayan regions—had been established. p. 131
  • He proceeded later to Egypt. He had been fully instructed in the secret teachings which were the real fount of life among the Essenes, and was initiated in Egypt as a disciple of that one sublime Lodge from which every great religion has its Founder.
  • The fair and stately grace of his white purity was round him as a radiant moonlit halo, and his words, though few, were ever sweet and loving, winning even the most harsh to a temporary gentleness, and the most rigid to a passing softness. Thus he lived through nine-and-twenty years of mortal life, growing from grace to grace. p. 132
  • The time had come for one of those Divine manifestations which from age to age are made for the helping of humanity, when a new impulse is needed to quicken the spiritual evolution of mankind, when a new civilisation is about to dawn.
  • To that manifested Presence the name of "the Christ" may rightly be given, and it was He who lived and moved in the form of the man Jesus over the hills and plains of Palestine, teaching, healing diseases, and gathering round Him as disciples a few of the more advanced souls. The rare charm of His royal love, outpouring from Him as rays from a sun, drew round Him the suffering, the weary, and the oppressed, and the subtly tender magic of His gentle wisdom purified, ennobled, and sweetened the lives that came into contact with His own. p. 135
  • By parable and luminous imagery He taught the uninstructed crowds who pressed around Him, and, using the powers of the free Spirit, He healed many a disease by word or touch, reinforcing the magnetic energies belonging to His pure body with the compelling force of His inner life... The teachers and rulers of His nation soon came to eye Him with jealousy and anger; His spirituality was a constant reproach to their materialism, His power a constant, though silent, exposure of their weakness. p. 136
  • The little band of chosen disciples whom He had selected as repositories of His teachings were thus deprived of their Master's physical presence ere they had assimilated His instructions, but they were souls of high and advanced type, ready to learn the Wisdom, and fit to hand it on to lesser men.
    The Master did not forget His promise to come to them after the world had lost sight of Him,[167] and for something over fifty years He visited them in His subtle spiritual body, continuing the teachings He had begun while with them, and training them in a knowledge of occult truths. They lived together, for the most part, in a retired spot on the outskirts of Judæa, attracting no attention among the many apparently similar communities of the time, studying the profound truths He taught them and acquiring "the gifts of the Spirit." p. 137
  • In the remarkable fragment called the Pistis Sophia, we have a document of the greatest interest bearing on the hidden teaching, written by the famous Valentinus.[Pg 138] In this it is said that during the eleven years immediately after His death Jesus instructed His disciples so far as "the regions of the first statutes only, and up to the regions of the first mystery, the mystery within the veil." p. 138
  • Moreover these same disciples and their earliest colleagues wrote down from memory all the public sayings and parables of the Master that they had heard, and collected with great eagerness any reports they could find, writing down these also, and circulating them all among those who gradually attached themselves to their small community. Various collections were made, any member writing down what he himself remembered, and adding selections from the accounts of others. The inner teachings, given by the Christ to His chosen ones, were not written down, but were taught orally to those deemed worthy to receive them, to students who formed small communities for leading a retired life, and remained in touch with the central body. p. 140
  • The historical Christ, then, is a glorious Being belonging to the great spiritual hierarchy that guides the spiritual evolution of humanity, who used for some three years the human body of the disciple Jesus; who spent the last of these three years in public teaching throughout Judæa and Samaria; who was a healer of diseases and performed other remarkable occult works; who gathered round Him a small band of disciples whom He instructed in the deeper truths of the spiritual life; who drew men to Him by the singular love and tenderness and the rich wisdom that breathed from His Person; and who was finally put to death for blasphemy, for teaching the inherent Divinity of Himself and of all men. p.141
  • But it must not be supposed that the work of the Christ for His followers was over after He had established the Mysteries, or was confined to rare appearances therein. That Mighty One who had used the body of Jesus as His vehicle, and whose guardian care extends over the whole spiritual evolution of the fifth race of humanity, gave into the strong hands of the holy disciple who had surrendered to Him his body the care of the infant Church. Perfecting his human evolution, Jesus became one of the Masters of Wisdom, and took Christianity under His special charge, ever seeking to guide it to the right lines, to protect, to guard and nourish it. He was the Hierophant in the Christian Mysteries, the direct Teacher of the Initiates. His the inspiration that kept alight the Gnosis in the Church, until the superincumbent mass of ignorance became so great that even His breath could not fan the flame sufficiently to prevent its extinguishment. p. 142
  • Through the long centuries He has striven and laboured, and, with all the mighty burden of the Churches to carry, He has never left uncared for or unsolaced one human heart that cried to Him for help. And now He is striving to turn to the benefit of Christendom part of the great flood of the Wisdom poured out for the refreshing of the world, and He is seeking through the Churches for some who have ears to hear the Wisdom, and who will answer to His appeal for messengers to carry it to His flock: "Here am I; send me." p. 144

Chapter VII. The Atonement[edit]

  • For so reverent is God to that Spirit which is Himself in man, that He will not even pour into the human soul a flood of strength and life unless that soul is willing to receive it. There must be an opening from below as well as an outpouring from above, the receptiveness of the lower nature as well as the willingness of the higher to give. That is the link between the Christ and the man; that is what the churches have called the outpouring of "divine grace"; that is what is meant by the "faith" necessary to make the grace effective. As Giordano Bruno once put it — the human soul has windows, and can shut those windows close. The sun outside is shining, the light is unchanging; let the windows be opened and the sunlight must stream in. The light of God is beating against the windows of every human soul, and when the windows are thrown open, the soul becomes illuminated. There is no change in God, but there is a change in man; and man's will may not be forced, else were the divine Life in him blocked in its due evolution. Thus in every Christ that rises, all humanity is lifted a step higher, and by His wisdom the ignorance of the whole world is lessened. p. 225

Chapter VIII. Resurrection and Ascension[edit]

  • The doctrines of the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ also form part of the Lesser Mysteries, being integral portions of "The Solar Myth," and of the life-story of the Christ in man.
  • As regards Christ Himself they have their historical basis in the facts of His continuing to teach His apostles after His physical death, and of His appearance in the Greater Mysteries as Hierophant after His direct instructions had ceased, until Jesus took His place. In the mythic tales the resurrection of the hero and his glorification invariably formed the conclusion of his death-story; and in the Mysteries, the body of the candidate was always thrown into a death-like trance, during which he, as a liberated soul, travelled through the invisible world, returning and reviving the body after three days. And in the life-story of the individual, who is becoming a Christ, we shall find, as we study it, that the dramas of the Resurrection and Ascension are repeated.
    But before we can intelligently follow that story, we must master the outlines of the human constitution, and understand the natural and spiritual bodies of man. p. 232
  • The lowest of these three divisions is usually called the Causal Body, for a reason that will be only fully assimilable by those who have studied the teaching of Reincarnation —taught in the Early Church—and who understand that human evolution needs very many successive lives on earth, ere the germinal soul of the savage can become the perfected soul of the Christ, and then, becoming perfect as the Father in Heaven, can realise the union of the Son with the Father. It is a body that lasts from life to life, and in it all memory of the past is stored. From it come forth the causes that build up the lower bodies. It is the receptacle of human experience, the treasure-house in which all we gather in our lives is stored up, the seat of Conscience, the wielder of the Will. p. 240

Chapter XI. The Forgiveness of Sins[edit]

  • On one occasion He pointed to the healing of a palsy-stricken man as a sign that he had a right to declare to a man that his sins were forgiven. So also of one woman it was said: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much."[[309] S. Luke, vii. 47.] In the famous Gnostic treatise, the Pistis Sophia, the very purpose of the Mysteries is said to be the remission of sins. "Should they have been sinners, should they have been in all the sins and all the iniquities of the world, of which I have spoken unto you, nevertheless if they turn themselves and repent, and have made the renunciation which I have just described unto you, give ye unto them the mysteries of the kingdom of light; hide them not from them at all. It is because of sin that I have brought these mysteries into the world, for the remission of all the sins which they have committed from the beginning. Wherefore have I said unto you aforetime, 'I came not to call the righteous.' Now, therefore, I have brought the mysteries, that the sins of all men may be remitted, and they be brought into the kingdom of light. For these mysteries are the boon of the first mystery of the destruction of the sins and iniquities of all sinners." (G. R. S. Mead, translated. Loc. cit., bk. ii., §§ 260, 261.)
  • In one form or another the "forgiveness of sins" appears in most, if not in all, religions; and wherever this consensus of opinion is found, we may safely conclude, according to the principle already laid down, that some fact in nature underlies it.[Pg 304] Moreover, there is a response in human nature to this idea that sins are forgiven; we notice that people suffer under a consciousness of wrong-doing, and that when they shake themselves clear of their past, and free themselves from the shackling fetters of remorse, they go forward with glad heart and sunlit eyes, though erstwhile enclouded by darkness. They feel as though a burden were lifted off them, a clog removed. The "sense of sin" has disappeared, and with it the gnawing pain. They know the springtime of the soul, the word of power which makes all things new. A song of gratitude wells up as the natural outburst of the heart, the time for the singing of birds is come, there is "joy among the Angels." This not uncommon experience is one that becomes puzzling, when the person experiencing it, or seeing it in another, begins to ask himself what has really taken place, what has brought about the change in consciousness, the effects of which are so manifest. P. 304
  • If we examine even the crudest idea of the forgiveness of sins prevalent in our own day, we find that the believer in it does not mean that the forgiven sinner is to escape from the consequences of his sin in this world; the drunkard, whose sins are forgiven on his repentance, is still seen to suffer from shaken nerves, impaired digestion, and the lack of confidence shown towards him by his fellow-men. p. 307
  • The loss of belief in reincarnation, and of a sane view as to the continuity of life, whether it were spent in this or in the next two worlds, brought with it various incongruities and indefensible assertions, among them the blasphemous and terrible idea of the eternal torture of the human soul for sins committed during the brief span of one life spent on earth.
  • In order to escape from this nightmare, theologians posited a forgiveness which should release the sinner from this dread imprisonment in an eternal hell. It did not, and was never supposed to, set him free in this world from the natural consequences of his ill-doings, nor—except in modern Protestant communities—was it held to deliver him from prolonged purgatorial sufferings, the direct results of sin, after the death of the physical body. The law had its course, both in this world and in purgatory, and in each world sorrow followed on the heels of sin, even as the wheels follow the ox. It was but eternal torture—which existed only in the clouded imagination of the believer—that was escaped by the forgiveness of sins; and we may perhaps go so far as to suggest that the dogmatist, having postulated an eternal hell as the monstrous result of transient errors, felt compelled to provide a way of escape from an incredible and unjust fate, and therefore further postulated an incredible and unjust forgiveness. p. 308

Chapter XIV. Revelation[edit]

  • We have already seen that Origen, one of the sanest of men, and versed in occult knowledge, teaches that the Scriptures are three-fold, consisting of Body, Soul, and Spirit. (1 See ante, p. 102.) He says that the Body of the Scriptures is made up of the outer words of the histories and the stories, and he does not hesitate to say that these are not literally true, but are only stories for the instruction of the ignorant. He even goes so far as to remark that statements are made in those stories that are obviously untrue, in order that the glaring contradictions that lie on the surface may stir people up to inquire as to the real meaning of these impossible relations. He says that so long as men are ignorant, the Body is enough for them; it conveys teaching, it gives instruction, and they do not see the self-contradictions and impossibilities involved in the literal statements, and therefore are not disturbed by them. p 373
  • The reason for this method of Revelation is not far to seek; it is the only way in which one teaching can be made available for minds at different stages of evolution, and thus train not only those to whom it is immediately given, but also those who, later in time, shall have progressed beyond those to whom the Revelation was first made. p. 373
  • The world-Bibles, then, are fragments—fragments of Revelation, and therefore are rightly described as Revelation. p. 375
  • He shows His splendour in the sun, His infinity in the star-flecked fields of space, His strength in mountains, His purity in snow-clad peaks and translucent air, His energy in rolling ocean-billows, His beauty in tumbling mountain-torrent, in smooth, clear lake, in cool, deep forest and in sunlit plain, His fearlessness in the hero, His patience in the saint, His tenderness in mother-love, His protecting care in father and in king, His wisdom in the philosopher, His knowledge in the scientist,[Pg 376] His healing power in the physician, His justice in the judge, His wealth in the merchant, His teaching power in the priest, His industry in the artisan. He whispers to us in the breeze, He smiles on us in the sunshine, He chides us in disease, He stimulates us, now by success and now by failure. p. 377
  • In a lesser degree a man is inspired when one greater than he stimulates within him powers which as yet are normally inactive, or even takes possession of him, temporarily using his body as a vehicle. Such an illuminated man, at the time of his inspiration, can speak that which is beyond his knowledge, and utter truths till then unguessed. Truths are sometimes thus poured out through a human channel for the helping of the world, and some One greater than the speaker sends down his life into the human vehicle, and they rush forth from human lips; then a great teacher speaks yet more greatly than he knows, the Angel of the Lord having touched his lips with fire. (Isaiah vi. 6, 7) Such are the Prophets of the race, who at some periods have spoken with overwhelming conviction, with clear insight, with complete understanding of the spiritual needs of man. p. 378
  • Those who have in any sense realised that God is around them, in them, and in everything, will be able to understand how a place or an object may become "sacred" by a slight objectivisation of this perennial universal Presence, so that those become able to sense Him who do not normally feel His omnipresence... This is the rationale of places of pilgrimage, of temporary retreats into seclusion; the man turns inward to seek the God within him, and is aided by the atmosphere created by thousands of others, who before him have sought the same in the same place....The effect produced will, of course, vary with the relative strengths of the vibrations... the laws of vibration are the same in the higher worlds as in the physical, and thought vibrations are the expression of real energies.
  • The reason and the effect of the consecration of churches, chapels, cemeteries, will now be apparent. The act of consecration is not the mere public setting aside of a place for a particular purpose; it is the magnetisation of the place for the benefit of all those who frequent it. For the visible and the invisible worlds are inter-related, interwoven, each with each, and those can best serve the visible by whom the energies of the invisible can be wielded. p 386

Afterword[edit]

We have reached the end of a small book on a great subject, and have only lifted a corner of the Veil that hides the Virgin of Eternal Truth from the careless eyes of men.... Peace to all Beings

Modern Science and the Higher Self (1915)[edit]

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  • I want to show you that there is a growing idea in the West that man in the waking consciousness is but a small fragment of the real man, that man transcends his body, that man is greater than his waking mind and consciousness, that there is evidence in plenty, daily forthcoming from most unexpected quarters, to show that human consciousness is far larger and fuller than the consciousness expressed through the physical brain. This idea of a larger consciousness, larger than the moral waking consciousness in man, the consciousness hitherto recognized in modern psychology, is one that has not only been suggested but is now beginning to be recognized by Modern Science in the West.
  • The Higher Self is the consciousness beyond the physical, the larger, wider, greater consciousness which is our real Self, the Self of which the consciousness in the brain is only the faintest of reflections. This body of ours is only a house in which we dwell for our physical work; we hold the key of the body... We may trust the consciousness and the testimony of the Saints, the Prophets, the Seers, and the Teachers of humanity... They were divine, showing Their divinity to the worlds. We are none the less divine, although our divinity is veiled. Let us claim our birthright, to know as They knew.... Every one of us is a divine fragment, every one of us an eternal Spirit, every one of us a deific life, striving to attain through matter to consciousness of our own divinity. That is the teaching of all faiths, that is the fundamental principle of life, of religion, of nature, and Modern Science is finding that even physical nature is not intelligible without the understanding of the higher world, without the recognition of larger possibilities.
    • Modern Science and the Higher Self (1915)

Occult Chemistry, Clairvoyant Observations on the Chemical Elements, by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater (1919)[edit]

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  • Mr. Leadbeater was then staying at my house, and his clairvoyant faculties were frequently exercised for the benefit of myself... I had discovered that these faculties, exercised in the appropriate direction, were ultra-microscopic in their power. It occurred to me once to ask Mr. Leadbeater if he thought he could actually see a molecule of physical matter. He was quite willing to try, and I suggested a molecule of gold as one which he might try to observe. He made the appropriate effort, and emerged from it saying the molecule in question was far too elaborate a structure to be described. It evidently consisted of an enormous number of some smaller atoms, quite too many to count; quite too complicated in their arrangement to be comprehended... I suggested an atom of hydrogen as possibly more manageable. Mr. Leadbeater accepted the suggestion and tried again. This time he found the atom of hydrogen to be far simpler than the other, so that the minor atoms constituting the hydrogen atom were countable. They were arranged on a definite plan, which will be rendered intelligible by diagrams later on, and were eighteen in number. (Chapter I. A Preliminary Survey)
  • The occultist has the satisfaction of knowing that the great Russian chemist, Mendeleef, preferred the atomic theory. In Sir William Tilden's recent book entitled "Chemical Discovery and Invention in the Twentieth Century," I read that Mendeleef, "disregarding conventional views," supposed the ether to have a molecular or atomic structure, and in time all physicists must come to recognise that the Electron is not, as so many suppose at present, an atom of electricity, but an atom of ether carrying a definite unit charge of electricity. (Chapter I)
  • Long before the discovery of radium led to the recognition of the electron as the common constituent of all the bodies previously described as chemical elements, the minute particles of matter in question had been identified with the cathode rays observed in Sir William Crookes' vacuum tubes. When an electric current is passed through a tube from which the air (or other gas it may contain) has been almost entirely exhausted, a luminous glow pervades the tube manifestly emanating from the cathode or negative pole of the circuit. This effect was studied by Sir William Crookes very profoundly. Among other characteristics it was found that, if a minute windmill was set up in the tube before it was exhausted, the cathode ray caused the vanes to revolve, thus suggesting the idea that they consisted of actual particles driven against the vanes; the ray being thus evidently something more than a mere luminous effect. Here was a mechanical energy to be explained, and at the first glance it seemed difficult to reconcile the facts observed with the idea creeping into favour, that the particles, already invested with the name "electron," were atoms of electricity pure and simple. Electricity was found, or certain eminent physicists thought they had found, that electricity per se had inertia. So the windmills in the Crookes' vacuum tubes were supposed to be moved by the impact of electric atoms.
  • In the progress of ordinary research the discovery of radium by Madame Curie in the year 1902 put an entirely new face upon the subject of electrons. The beta particles emanating from radium were soon identified with the electrons of the cathode ray. Then followed the discovery that the gas helium, previously treated as a separate element, evolved itself as one consequence of the disintegration of radium. Transmutation, till then laughed at as a superstition of the alchemist, passed quietly into the region of accepted natural phenomena, and the chemical elements were seen to be bodies built up of electrons in varying number and probably in varying arrangements. So at last ordinary science had reached one important result of the occult research carried on seven years earlier. It has not yet reached the finer results of the occult research—the structure of the hydrogen atom with its eighteen etheric atoms and the way in which the atomic weights of all elements are explained by the number of etheric atoms entering into their constitution.
  • The first difficulty that faced us was the identification of the forms seen on focusing the sight on gases. We could only proceed tentatively. Thus, a very common form in the air had a sort of dumb-bell shape (see Plate I); we examined this, comparing our rough sketches, and counted its atoms; these, divided by 18—the number of ultimate atoms in hydrogen—gave us 23.22 as atomic weight, and this offered the presumption that it was sodium. We then took various substances—common salt, etc.—in which we knew sodium was present, and found the dumb-bell form in all. In other cases, we took small fragments of metals, as iron, tin, zinc, silver, gold; in others, again, pieces of ore, mineral waters, etc., etc.... In all, 57 chemical elements were examined, out of the 78 recognized by modern chemistry. In addition to these, we found 3 chemical waifs: an unrecognized stranger between hydrogen and helium which we named occultum, for purposes of reference, and 2 varieties of one element, which we named kalon and meta-kalon, between xenon and osmium... Thus we have tabulated in all 65 chemical elements, or chemical atoms, completing three of Sir William Crookes' lemniscates, sufficient for some amount of generalization. (Chapter III. The Later Researches)
  • Here, for the first time, we find ourselves a little at issue with the accepted system of chemistry. Fluorine stands at the head of a group—called the inter-periodic—whereof the remaining members are (see Crookes' table, p. 28), manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel; ruthenium, rhodium, palladium; osmium, iridium, platinum. If we take all these as group V, we find that fluorine and manganese are violently forced into company with which they have hardly any points of relationship, and that they intrude into an otherwise very harmonious group of closely similar composition. (Chapter III. The Later Researches, Part V.—The Bars Groups)

Initiation, The Perfecting of Man (1923)[edit]

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  • There is nothing new in these lectures, but only old truths retold. But the truths are of such vivid and perennial interest that, though old, they are never stale, and, though well known, there is always something to say which seems to throw on them new light and new charm. For they touch the deepest recesses of our being, and bring the breath of heaven into the lower life of earth...
    May these reminders of the ancient facts of discipleship and Masterhood nerve some to effort, encourage others to perseverance. May they help some to realize the possibility of obeying the command: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Foreword
  • There is a Path which leads to that which is known as Initiation, and through Initiation to the Perfecting of Man; a Path which is recognized in all the great religions, and the chief features of which are described in similar terms in every one of the great faiths of the world. You may read of it in the Roman Catholic teachings as divided into three parts: (1) The Path of Purification or Purgation; (2) the Path of Illumination; and (3) the Path of Union with Divinity. You find it among the Mussulmans in the Sufi — the mystic — teachings of Islam, where it is known under the names of the Way, the Truth and the Life. You find it further eastward still in the great faith of Buddhism, divided into subdivisions, though these can be classified under the broader outline. It is similarly divided in Hinduism; for in both those great religions, in which the study of psychology, of the human mind and the human constitution, has played so great a part, you find a more definite subdivision. But really it matters not to which faith you turn; it matters not which particular set of names you choose as best attracting or expressing your own ideas; the Path is but one; its divisions are always the same; from time immemorial that Path has stretched from the life of the world to the life of the Divine.
  • The Path of Purification is the Probationary Path, on which certain qualifications must be developed; the Path of Illumination is the Path of Holiness, subdivided into four stages, each of which is entered by a special Initiation, symbolized among Christians as the Birth, Baptism, Transfiguration, and Passion of Christ; the Path of Union is the attainment of Masterhood, Liberation, Final Salvation.
  • It is the Path by which, to use a simile often used, instead of going round and round the mountain by an ever-climbing spiral, man climbs straight up the mountainside regardless of cliff and precipice, regardless of gulf and chasm, knowing there is nothing that can stop the Eternal Spirit, and that no obstacle is stronger than the strength that is omnipotence, because it has its source in Omnipotence itself.
  • We must assume, at least for the time, the existence of certain great facts in Nature. I do not mean that our man of the world, in taking his first step towards the Path, need either know or recognize these facts. Facts in Nature do not change either with our believing or non-believing. Facts of Nature remain facts whether we know them or not, and since we are here in the realm of Nature, and under the order of law, the knowledge of the facts and the knowledge of the law are not essential for the steps which lead man to the Path.
  • Sunshine does not cease to warm you because you may not know anything of the constitution of the sun. Fire does not cease to burn you, because, unknowing its fierceness, you thrust your hand into the flame. It is the security of human life and human progress that the laws of nature are ever working and carrying us on with them, whether we know of them or not. But if we know them, we gain a great advantage.
  • To know is the difference between walking in the darkness and in the light, and to understand the laws of Nature is to gain the power of quickening our evolution by utilizing every law that hastens our growth, by avoiding the working of those that would retard and delay.
  • Now, one of the great facts which underlie the whole possibility of a Path of Human Perfecting, that I must take for granted throughout the lectures — for to deal with it as a matter for argument would lead us far away from our subject — one of the fundamental facts in Nature, is the fact of reincarnation. That means the gradual growth of man through many lives, through many experiences of the physical world, of the intermediate world, and also of the world called heaven. Evolution would be too short to enable a man to grow from imperfection to perfection, unless he had many opportunities, a long, long road to lead him upward.
  • The fact of reincarnation, then, is taken for granted, for not one of us could possibly tread the whole of that long course, could reach divine perfection, in the limits of a single life. But our man of the world need not know of reincarnation. He knows it in his spiritual memory, although his physical brain may not yet have recognized it, and his past, which is a fact, will push him onwards until Spirit and brain are in fuller communication, and that which is known to the man himself becomes known in the concrete mind.
  • The next great fact, necessary and taken for granted, may be put into a single phrase of your own Scriptures: "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. It is the law of causation, the law of action and reaction, by which Nature brings inevitably to the man the results of that which he has thought, which he has desired, which he has done.
  • Next, the facts are that there is a Path and that men have trodden it before us; that the swifter evolution is possible; that the laws of it may be known, the conditions of it understood, the stages of it be trodden; and that at the end of that Path there are standing Those Who once were men of the world, but now are the Guardians of the world, the Elder Brethren of our race, the Teachers and the Prophets of the past, stretching upwards in ranks of ever-more dazzling light from the ending of the Path for man to the highest Ruler of the world in which we live.
  • These are the great facts in Nature, existing, whether recognized or not, on which the possibility of treading the Path depends: Reincarnation, the law of Karma, the fact of the Path, the Existence of the Teachers. p. 15
  • The first step of all, absolutely necessary, without which no approach is possible, by which achievement ever comes within reach of realization, may be summed up in four brief words: the Service of Man.
  • There is the first condition, the sine quanon. For the selfish no such advance is possible; for the unselfish such advance is certain. And in whatever life the man begins to think more of the common good than of his own individual gain, whether it be in the service of the town, of the community, of the nation, of the wider joinings of nations together, right up to the service of humanity itself, every one of those is a step towards the Path, and is preparing the man to set his feet thereon.
  • There is no distinction here between the kinds of service, provided they are unselfish, strenuous, moved by the ideal to help and serve... I cannot give you one by one the numerous divisions of the Way of Service. Anything that is of value to human life is included on that way. Choose then what way you will, because of your capacities and your opportunities; it matters not as regards the treading of the first steps. p. 20
  • Learn, then, that the service demanded is that unselfish service that gives everything and asks for nothing in return; and if you find that in you it is a necessity of your nature, not a choice but an overmastering impulse, then you may be sure that you are one of the men of the world who are taking the first steps towards the Path. (I need hardly say that when I say men I mean women too, but I cannot keep on saying "man and woman each time..)! p. 29
  • When a man has sufficiently distinguished himself by service, and by acquiring and accepting the theoretical views that were glanced at in 'Seeking the Master' then he finds his Master — or rather his Master finds him. During all the time of his struggle those gracious eyes have been upon him watching him progress; in many lives in the past he has come under the same influence which now is to become the dominant influence in his life. He has reached a point where the Master can reveal Himself, can place him definitely on probation, can help to prepare him for Initiation. That is the first stage: a particular Master chooses a particular aspirant and takes charge of him, in order to prepare him for Initiation; for you must remember that Initiation is a quite definite thing, that only Those who have already attained can enable others to enter on the Path which They Themselves have trodden. p. 61
  • Quickly or slowly, according as that probation is lived nobly or poorly, another summons comes to him, when the Master sees that he has gained to a considerable extent the Qualifications which are necessary, and needs a further fuller teaching in order that he may apply his knowledge more efficiently to life. Again he is called; again he sees his Master. And then the Master accepts him as disciple, no longer on probation, but accepted and approved; now his consciousness is to begin to blend with the consciousness of his Master, and he is to feel His presence more clearly. p.63
  • And so this great Teacher has traced out for us the Qualifications demanded for passing through the first portal of Initiation, for that Birth of the Christ in the human Spirit, which is the passing of that doorway. I have run over, roughly and inadequately I know, the wonderful teaching which comes from Him to illuminate us, but none the less you can see it is an exacting demand, none the less you will see how you must shake yourself free from many prejudices, customs, thoughtless ways of life, if you would find the Master and be reckoned by Him among His disciples. p. 82
  • May you be able to overclimb the obstacles custom, tradition, thoughtlessness, and habit have built up; may even such poor words as mine win you to the realization that there is no joy in life like the joy of discipleship, no so-called sacrifice that can be made which is not as the dross cast into the fire where gold comes out instead; oh! that in the hearts of even a few of you — one here and there scattered through this vast audience — the feeble words may light the eternal flame, and the passing movement caused by speech may grow into resolute will and a determined endeavor. Oh, then for you, too, in the near future there awaits the Finding of the Master, for you also who seek shall find; if you knock with the hammer of these Qualifications, surely the door shall swing open before you, that you may find Him, as I have been blessed enough to find Him, that you may know that service which is perfect freedom, that joy which is in the presence of the Master. p. 83

Why we believe in the coming of a World Teacher[edit]

  • The Theosophical conception, as widely put forward among thoughtful people, asks them to consider the coming of World Teachers as normal, not as abnormal; as under a certain definite law, and not as a breach of continuity; as part of the Divine plan working out in human evolution, by which these Teachers form a long succession, appearing at quite definite intervals, and accompanied by certain definite signs or conditions in the civilization of the world to which they come. Theosophists, looking back over the world's religions, pointed out that each religion had such a great Teacher as its Founder; that no matter where you searched in the past, you found some magnificent figure at the commencement of a new era alike of religion and civilization; that you could trace a definite order; that you could recognize a quite intelligible sequence of world religions, rising one after another and appearing in the world when the previous civilization and religion was beginning to show signs of failing in its power, and of no longer being able thoroughly to cope with the conditions surrounding it. p. 126
  • Looking just at these purely physical things, and trying to understand them as signs of the line along which mankind will be evolved, we remember that whenever a new sub-race has appeared a new great Teacher has come to start it on its way. There we find one of the strongest reasons for looking to the coming of the great Teacher within a comparatively short time: that there is in the making a new type, and that always in the past that has been accompanied by the manifestation of a World Teacher. Is it likely, we say, that what has happened over and over again — is it likely that, when looking back over our own great race, we see how the Teacher has come with each of these offshoots that we can trace in the past, that, as we see the beginning of a new vista when another type is developing, then the sequence of Teachers will be broken, and that one type for the first time will be left unguided, with none to shape its spiritual aspirations, with none to lay the foundation of the civilization that it will be its destiny to build?
  • And we put that on one side as one of the proofs — a very important proof when you realize that it is dealing with physical things that every one of you can judge about for yourselves. And we look to see if there are other reasons why we should expect a World Teacher; and the next thing we notice is that now, as in the time when the Christ came to the earth, you are face to face with a great civilization which has become strong, luxurious, and dominant, but which is carried on side by side with an enormous amount of misery and of wretchedness; which, while on one side it is undoubtedly magnificent, is on the other side as undoubtedly miserable, downtrodden, and depressed. How is our civilization to progress further along the lines on which it is going today? Take the social conditions as you see them around you now. Look on the terrible unrest in every country in the civilized world. You cannot take up a newspaper without seeing in one column after another references to labor troubles... where millions are being driven to the very verge of starvation in the frightful labor war that is desolating our land today. p. 139
  • It is impossible to have those convulsions in the labor market without driving thoughtful men to consider the question of new departures, of re-organization, of a change in a system which is palpably breaking down before our eyes. And there is a strange indication, that comes from that American country where our new subrace is arising, of a possibility of an organization of industry, which, though at the moment it be on distinctly anti-social lines, has yet in it the possibility of growing into an organization that would serve society. I mean that flowering of the competitive system into trusts, in which you destroy a large amount of competition, in which one great trade is organized — granted for the benefit of those, a few, who have the control of it... we are beginning to feel the need of a new organization, of a new type of civilization, and that exactly fits in with the coming of a new sub-race, and demands by all the testimony of the past the coming of a World Teacher. p. 140
  • And it is not only in the labor world that we feel that this deadlock is seen. Along many other lines of human thought and human activity there is the same feeling that we have worn out our old methods and need a new departure in order that progress may be continued. You see it in the world of Art where the old ideals are fading away, and efforts in every direction are being made to body out new forms of art, new conceptions of the beautiful for the growing longings of man. You see it not only in the world of industry and art but in the world of science — the same demand for a new departure because the old methods are beginning to be outworn, and along these lines no further progress seems possible. Endings in every direction! p. 141
  • That wide-spread expectation which now is spreading among the great religions of the world, in all the great religious organizations of the world, is literally a prophecy of the event which is to crown these expectations with realization, the thought - heralds of the coming Teacher preparing His way before Him. But it is not only the world's expectation; it is the world's need. That view, perchance, will appeal only to those who believe that the world is guided, helped, protected by higher powers than humanity, by mightier Beings than ourselves; Who look on the world as the huge field of evolution in which Spirits are unfolding, and which exists for the very purpose of their unfoldment; Who realize that the world has a mighty Architect Who plans out the progress of humanity, and that that plan is worked out stage by stage by His agents, His subordinates, who build slowly along the lines of the plan that He has designed and conceived. Then all those, when they see the terrible need of the world of to-day, feel that they need some Master to voice and to bring down the help of which the world feels the sore necessity. And those social problems to which I alluded mark out the need of our world.
  • We need a leader, one greater than ourselves, who, seeing these mighty problems that to us are insoluble, will point us to the road along which we may walk to their solution, one who will apply to the tangle of earthly life these fundamental truths of morality which are unchanging and eternal, but which have never yet been thoroughly applied to human society, or to the organizing of men on the principles there laid down.
  • The great Teachers have all spoken with one voice. They have told us: 'Love one another.' They have told us that hate ceases not by hatred at any time, that hatred ceases but by love; but although that was taught by the Lord Buddha twenty-five centuries ago, although the Christ in His exquisite Sermon on the Mount pressed that same eternal teaching in words familiar to you all, where do we find one nation that puts these principles into practice, where is a single organization which is built according to that moral law? p. 145
  • Those who are willing to work, those who are willing to toil, those who are willing to sacrifice, they shall be the peaceful army that He shall lead to the conquest of the great ideal Society, which they shall build under His direction and make practicable under His inspiration; and they, perhaps more than any other proof, are the sign of the new departure, are the welcome and the heralds of the coming Teacher. p. 148
  • If glancing back to the history of the past, you are able to see there something of the promise of the future; if you realize something of the changing world around you, the physical earth showing signs of alteration; if you see the beginnings of the new type, of the new sub-race; if you understand something of the problems around us and the hopelessness of trying to solve them along lines previously used; if you realize the growing expectation, the looking for the coming of One to lead and to guide, and then you realize that while He is preparing for His coming, His children are preparing to welcome Him and are getting ready to march under His banner and to carry out His will; then I think that... to some of us, there will rise up the hope, nay, the certainty, that we are on the eve of mighty changes to be carried out under a World Teacher, Who shall come to our help. Who shall act as our Guide; and as that thought grows strong in your hearts, life will grow full of hope, full of joyful expectation.
  • You will realize that the world is not left alone, that the troubles of the present are but the birth-pangs out of which a new civilization shall be born; and that just as in the coming of a longed-for son the pain is forgotten in the joy of welcome, so, the troubles of our time, menacing and terrible as they are, are but that hour that precedes the dawning, are but the sufferings that precede the birth; and that we also shall ere very, very long realize that change is upon us, that the Teacher is with us, that hope has changed into realization, and that the longing for the coming has altered into the delight of the come.

Quotes about Besant[edit]

Swami Vivekananda (At the World Parliament of Religions): I... appointed Mrs. Besant special delegate to speak there on behalf of the whole (Theosophical) Society. How great a success it was for us and how powerfully it stimulated public interest in our views will be recollected by all our older members.
  • The significance of Annie Besant’s political activities lay in building up step a heightened sense of public resentment against the iniquitous and oppressive British rule in India, which other political leaders were to seize on to launch a full-scale anti-imperial agitation in the country in 1919. Thus it was from Annie Besant’s intellectual and moral capital that Mahatma Gandhi was to derive immense resources to sharpen his weapons of satyagraha to fight the British and to free the country from the fetters of foreign rule.
  • Annie Besant’s book where she put forward the idea that theosophical mystical energies could be portrayed as colours or abstract shapes was practically the invention of abstract art. A lot of artists rushed out and read it and suddenly thought, ‘oh God you could, you could portray love as a colour, or depression as a colour” All of a sudden abstract art happens, a flowering out of occultism.
  • As the World's Parliament of Religions 1893 was to meet at Chicago in the following September, and as it had been arranged that our Society should participate in it, I deputed the Vice-President, Mr. Judge, to represent me officially, and appointed Mrs. Besant special delegate to speak there on behalf of the whole Society. How great a success it was for us and how powerfully it stimulated public interest in our views will be recollected by all our older members. Theosophy was presented most thoroughly both before the whole Parliament, an audience of 3,000 people, and at meetings of our own for the holding of which special halls were kindly given us. A profound impression was created by the discourses of Professor G. N. Chakravarti and Mrs. Besant, who is said to have risen to unusual heights of eloquence, so exhilarating were the influences of the gathering. Besides these who represented our Society especially, Messrs. Vivekananda, V. R. Gandhi, Dharmapala]], representatives of the Hind Vedanta, Jainism, and Buddhism respectively, captivated the public, who had only heard of the Indian people through the malicious reports of interested missionaries, and were now astounded to see before them and hear men who represented the ideal of spirituality and human perfectibility as taught in their respective sacred writings.
  • Besant was an amazing teacher who wrote many books and played a key role in the early years of the Theosophical Society]].

See also[edit]

External links[edit]