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"WHAT IS TRUTH?"

From H. P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles, Vol. I.


 

Articles by HPB

Truth is the Voice of Nature and of Time--
Truth is the startling monitor within us--
Naught is without it, it comes from the stars,
The golden sun, and every breeze that blows. . . .
--W. THOMPSON BACON


. . . Fair Truth's immortal sun
Is sometimes hid in clouds; not that her light
Is in itself defective, but obscured
By my weak prejudice, imperfect faith
And all the thousand causes which obstruct
The growth of goodness. . . .
--HANNAH MORE

WHAT is Truth?" asked Pilate of one who, if the claims of the Christian Church are even approximately correct, must have known it. But He kept silent. And the truth which He did not divulge, remained unrevealed, for his later followers as much as for the Roman Governor. The silence of Jesus, however, on this and other occasions, does not prevent his present followers from acting as though they had received the ultimate and absolute Truth itself; and from ignoring the fact that only such Words of Wisdom had been given to them as contained a share of the truth, itself concealed in parables and dark, though beautiful, sayings.1. [Footnote: 1. Jesus says to the "Twelve" -"Unto you is given the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables," etc. Mark iv, II.) ]

This policy led gradually to dogmatism and assertion. Dogmatism in churches, dogmatism in science, dogmatism everywhere. The possible truths, hazily perceived in the world of abstraction, like those inferred from observation and experiment in the world of matter, are forced upon the profane multitudes, too busy to think for themselves, under the form of Divine revelation and Scientific authority. But the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, "there cannot be." There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them.

In every age there have been Sages who had mastered the absolute and yet could teach but relative truths. For none yet, born of mortal woman in our race, [HPB refers to the fifth root race which is the current humanity in all its different colors -BNet]  has, or could have given out, the whole and the final truth to another man, for every one of us has to find that (to him) final knowledge in himself. As no two minds can be absolutely alike, each has to receive the supreme illumination through itself, according to its capacity, and from no human light. The greatest adept living can reveal of the Universal Truth only so much as the mind he is impressing it upon can assimilate, and no more. Tot homines, quot sententiae [There are as many opinions as there are men  -BNet]--is an immortal truism. The sun is one, but its beams are numberless; and the effects produced are beneficent or maleficent, according to the nature and constitution of the objects they shine upon. Polarity is universal, but the polariser lies in our own consciousness. In proportion as our consciousness is elevated towards absolute truth, so do we men assimilate it more or less absolutely. But man's consciousness again, is only the sunflower of the earth. Longing for the warm ray, the plant can only turn to the sun, and move round and round in following the course of the unreachable luminary: its roots keep it fast to the soil, and half its life is passed in the shadow. . . .

Still each of us can relatively reach the Sun of Truth even on this earth, and assimilate its warmest and most direct rays, however differentiated they may become after their long journey through the physical particles in space. To achieve this, there are two methods. On the physical plane we may use our mental polariscope; and, analyzing the properties of each ray, choose the purest. On the plane of spirituality, to reach the Sun of Truth we must work in dead earnest for the development of our higher nature. We know that by paralyzing gradually within ourselves the appetites of the lower personality, and thereby deadening the voice of the purely physiological mind--that mind which depends upon, and is inseparable from, its medium or vehicle, the organic brain--the animal man in us may make room for the spiritual; and once aroused from its latent state, the highest spiritual senses and perceptions grow in us in proportion, and develop pari passu [on an equal footing -BNet] with the "divine man." This is what the great adepts, the Yogis in the East and the Mystics in the West, have always done and are still doing.

But we also know, that with a few exceptions, no man of the world, no materialist, will ever believe in the existence of such adepts, or even in the possibility of such a spiritual or psychic development. "The (ancient) fool hath said in his heart, There is no God"; the modern says, "There are no adepts on earth, they are figments of your diseased fancy." Knowing this we hasten to reassure our readers of the Thomas Didymus type. We beg them to turn in this magazine to reading more congenial to them; say to the miscellaneous papers on Hylo-Idealism, by various writers.2 [Footnote: 2. e.g., to the article "Autocentricism" - on the same "philosphy," or again, to the apex the the Hylo-Idealist pyramid in this Number. It is a letter of protest by the learned Founder of the School in question, against a mistake of ours. He complains of our "coupling" his name with those of Mr. Herber Spencer, Darwin , Huxley, and others, on the question of atheism and materialism, as the said lights in the psychological and physical sciences are considered by Dr. Lewis too flickering, too "compromising" and weak, to deserve the honourable appellation of Atheists or even Agnostics. See "Correspondence" Double Column, and the reply by "The Adversary." ]

For LUCIFER tries to satisfy its readers of whatever "school of thought," and shows itself equally impartial to Theist and Atheist, Mystic and Agnostic, Christian and Gentile. Such articles as our editorials, the Comments on "Light on the Path," etc., etc.--are not intended for Materialists. They are addressed to Theosophists, or readers who know in their hearts that Masters of Wisdom do exist: and, though absolute truth is not on earth and has to be searched for in higher regions, that there still are, even on this silly, ever whirling little globe of ours, some things that are not even dreamt of in Western philosophy.

To return to our subject. It thus follows that, though "general abstract truth is the most precious of all blessings" for many of us, as it was for Rousseau, we have, meanwhile, to be satisfied with relative truths. In sober fact, we are a poor set of mortals at best, ever in dread before the face of even a relative truth, lest it should devour ourselves and our petty little preconceptions along with us. As for an absolute truth, most of us are as incapable of seeing it as of reaching the moon on a bicycle. Firstly, because absolute truth is as immovable as the mountain of Mahomet, which refused to disturb itself for the prophet, so that he had to go to it himself. And we have to follow his example if we would approach it even at a distance. Secondly, because the kingdom of absolute truth is not of this world, while we are too much of it. And thirdly, because notwithstanding that in the poet's fancy man is

. . . . . . . the abstract
Of all perfection, which the workmanship
Of heaven hath modelled. . . . . . .

in reality he is a sorry bundle of anomalies and paradoxes, an empty wind bag inflated with his own importance, with contradictory and easily influenced opinions. He is at once an arrogant and a weak creature, which, though in constant dread of some authority, terrestrial or celestial, will yet--

. . . . . . . like an angry ape,
Play such fantastic tricks before high Heaven
As make the angels weep.

Now, since truth is a multifaced jewel, the facets of which it is impossible to perceive all at once; and since, again, no two men, however anxious to discern truth, can see even one of those facets alike, what can be done to help them to perceive it? As physical man, limited and trammelled from every side by illusions, cannot reach truth by the light of his terrestrial perceptions, we say--develop in you the inner knowledge. From the time when the Delphic oracle said to the enquirer "Man, know thyself," no greater or more important truth was ever taught. Without such perception, man will remain ever blind to even many a relative, let alone absolute, truth. Man has to know himself, i.e., acquire the inner perceptions which never deceive, before he can master any absolute truth. Absolute truth is the symbol of Eternity, and no finite mind can ever grasp the eternal, hence, no truth in its fulness can ever dawn upon it. To reach the state during which man sees and senses it, we have to paralyze the senses of the external man of clay. This is a difficult task, we may be told, and most people will, at this rate, prefer to remain satisfied with relative truths, no doubt. But to approach even terrestrial truths requires, first of all, love of truth for its own sake, for otherwise no recognition of it will follow. And who loves truth in this age for its own sake? How many of us are prepared to search for, accept, and carry it out, in the midst of a society in which anything that would achieve success has to be built on appearances, not on reality, on self-assertion, not on intrinsic value? We are fully aware of the difficulties in the way of receiving truth. The fair heavenly maiden descends only on a (to her) congenial soil--the soil of an impartial, unprejudiced mind, illuminated by pure Spiritual Consciousness; and both are truly rare dwellers in civilized lands. In our century of steam and electricity, when man lives at a maddening speed that leaves him barely time for reflection, he allows himself usually to be drifted down from cradle to grave, nailed to the Procrustean bed of custom and conventionality. Now conventionality--pure and simple--is a congenital LIE, as it is in every case a "simulation of feelings according to a received standard" (F. W. Robertson's definition); and where there is any simulation there cannot be any truth. How profound the remark made by Byron, that "truth is a gem that is found at a great depth; whilst on the surface of this world all things are weighed by the false scales of custom," is best known to those who are forced to live in the stifling atmosphere of such social conventionalism, and who, even when willing and anxious to learn, dare not accept the truths they long for, for fear of the ferocious Moloch called Society.

Look around you, reader; study the accounts given by world-known travellers, recall the joint observations of literary thinkers, the data of science and of statistics. Draw the picture of modern society, of modern politics, of modern religion and modern life in general before your mind's eye. Remember the ways and customs of every cultured race and nation under the sun. Observe the doings and the moral attitude of people in the civilized centres of Europe, America, and even of the far East and the colonies, everywhere where the white man has carried the "benefits" of so-called civilization. And now, having passed in review all this, pause and reflect, and then name, if you can, that blessed Eldorado, that exceptional spot on the globe, where TRUTH is the honoured guest, and LIE and SHAM the ostracised outcasts? YOU CANNOT. Nor can any one else, unless he is prepared and determined to add his mite to the mass of falsehood that reigns supreme in every department of national and social life. "Truth!" cried Carlyle, "truth, though the heavens crush me for following her, no falsehood, though a whole celestial Lubberland were the prize of Apostasy." Noble words, these. But how many think, and how many will dare to speak as Carlyle did, in our nineteenth century day? Does not the gigantic appalling majority prefer to a man the "paradise of Do-nothings," the pays de Cocagne [ an imagenary land of wonder -BNet] of heartless selfishness? It is this majority that recoils terror-stricken before the most shadowy outline of every new and unpopular truth, out of mere cowardly fear, lest Mrs. Harris should denounce, and Mrs. Grundy condemn, its converts to the torture of being rent piecemeal by her murderous tongue.

SELFISHNESS, the first-born of Ignorance, and the fruit of the teaching which asserts that for every newly-born infant a new soul, separate and distinct from the Universal Soul, is "created"--this Selfishness is the impassable wall between the personal Self and Truth. It is the prolific mother of all human vices, Lie being born out of the necessity for dissembling, and Hypocrisy out of the desire to mask Lie. It is the fungus growing and strengthening with age in every human heart in which it has devoured all better feelings. Selfishness kills every noble impulse in our natures, and is the one deity, fearing no faithlessness or desertion from its votaries. Hence, we see it reign supreme in the world and in so-called fashionable society. As a result, we live, and move, and have our being in this god of darkness under his trinitarian aspect of Sham, Humbug, and Falsehood, called RESPECTABILITY.

Is this Truth and Fact, or is it slander? Turn whichever way you will, and you find, from the top of the social ladder to the bottom, deceit and hypocrisy at work for dear Self's sake, in every nation as in every individual. But nations, by tacit agreement, have decided that selfish motives in politics shall be called "noble national aspiration, patriotism," etc.; and the citizen views it in his family circle as "domestic virtue." Nevertheless, Selfishness, whether it breeds desire for aggrandizement of territory, or competition in commerce at the expense of one's neighbour, can never be regarded as a virtue. We see smooth-tongued DECEIT and BRUTE FORCE--the Jachin and Boaz of every International Temple of Solomon-- called Diplomacy, and we call it by its right name. Because the diplomat bows low before these two pillars of national glory and politics, and puts their masonic symbolism "in (cunning) strength shall this my house be established" into daily practice; i.e., gets by deceit what he cannot obtain by force--shall we applaud him? A diplomat's qualification--"dexterity or skill in securing advantages"--for one's own country at the expense of other countries, can hardly be achieved by speaking truth, but verily by a wily and deceitful tongue; and, therefore, LUCIFER calls such action--a living, and an evident LIE.

But it is not in politics alone that custom and selfishness have agreed to call deceit and lie virtue, and to reward him who lies best with public statues. Every class of Society lives on LIE, and would fall to pieces without it. Cultured, God-and-law-fearing aristocracy, being as fond of the forbidden fruit as any plebeian, is forced to lie from morn to noon in order to cover what it is pleased to term its "little peccadillos," but which TRUTH regards as gross immorality. Society of the middle classes is honeycombed with false smiles, false talk, and mutual treachery. For the majority religion has become a thin tinsel veil thrown over the corpse of spiritual faith. The master goes to church to deceive his servants; the starving curate--preaching what he has ceased to believe in--hoodwinks his bishop; the bishop--his God. Dailies, political and social, might adopt with advantage for their motto Georges Dandin's immortal query--"Lequel de nous deux trompe-t-on ici?" [Which one of us two has been deceived?-BNet] --Even Science, once the anchor of the salvation of Truth, has ceased to be the temple of naked Fact. Almost to a man the Scientists strive now only to force upon their colleagues and the public the acceptance of some personal hobby, of some new-fangled theory, which will shed lustre on their name and fame. A Scientist is as ready to suppress damaging evidence against a current scientific hypothesis in our times, as a missionary in heathen-land, or a preacher at home, to persuade his congregation that modern geology is a lie, and evolution but vanity and vexation of spirit.

Such is the actual state of things in 1888 A.D., and yet we are taken to task by certain papers for seeing this year in more than gloomy colours!

Lie has spread to such extent--supported as it is by custom and conventionalities--that even chronology forces people to lie. The suffixes A.D. and B.C. used after the dates of the year by Jew and Heathen, in European and even Asiatic lands, by the Materialist and the Agnostic as much as by the Christian, at home, are--a lie used to sanction another LIE.

Where then is even relative truth to be found? If, so far back as the century of Democritus, she appeared to him under the form of a goddess lying at the very bottom of a well, so deep that it gave but little hope for her release; under the present circumstances we have a certain right to believe her hidden, at least, as far off as the ever invisible dark side of the moon. This is why, perhaps, all the votaries of hidden truths are forthwith set down as lunatics. However it may be, in no case and under no threat shall LUCIFER be ever forced into pandering to any universally and tacitly recognised, and as universally practised lie, but will hold to fact, pure and simple, trying to proclaim truth whensoever found, and under no cowardly mask. Bigotry and intolerance may be regarded as orthodox and sound policy, and the encouraging of social prejudices and personal hobbies at the cost of truth, as a wise course to pursue in order to secure success for a publication. Let it be so. The Editors of LUCIFER are Theosophists, and their motto is chosen: Vera pro gratiis.[Truth for free -BNet]

They are quite aware that LUCIFER'S libations and sacrifices to the goddess Truth do not send a sweet savoury smoke into the noses of the lords of the press, nor does the bright "Son of the Morning" smell sweet in their nostrils. He is ignored when not abused as--veritas odium paret. [Truth creates hate -BNet]  Even his friends are beginning to find fault with him. They cannot see why it should not be a purely Theosophical magazine, in other words, why it refuses to be dogmatic and bigoted. Instead of devoting every inch of space to theosophical and occult teachings, it opens its pages "to the publication of the most grotesquely heterogeneous elements and conflicting doctrines." This is the chief accusation, to which we answer--why not? Theosophy is divine knowledge, and knowledge is truth; every true fact, every sincere word are thus part and parcel of Theosophy. One who is skilled in divine alchemy, or even approximately blessed with the gift of the perception of truth, will find and extract it from an erroneous as much as from a correct statement. However small the particle of gold lost in a ton of rubbish, it is the noble metal still, and worthy of being dug out even at the price of some extra trouble. As has been said, it is often as useful to know what a thing is not, as to learn what it is. The average reader can hardly hope to find any fact in a sectarian publication under all its aspects, pro and con, for either one way or the other its presentation is sure to be biassed, and the scales helped to incline to that side to which its editor's special policy is directed. A Theosophical magazine is thus, perhaps, the only publication where one may hope to find, at any rate, the unbiassed, if still only approximate truth and fact. Naked truth is reflected in LUCIFER under its many aspects, for no philosophical or religious views are excluded from its pages. And, as every philosophy and religion, however incomplete, unsatisfactory, and even foolish some may be occasionally, must be based on a truth and fact of some kind, the reader has thus the opportunity of comparing, analysing, and choosing from the several philosophies discussed therein. LUCIFER offers as many facets of the One universal jewel as its limited space will permit, and says to its readers: "Choose you this day whom ye will serve: whether the gods that were on the other side of the flood which submerged man's reasoning powers and divine knowledge, or the gods of the Amorites of custom and social falsehood, or again, the Lord of (the highest) Self--the bright destroyer of the dark power of illusion?" Surely it is that philosophy that tends to diminish, instead of adding to, the sum of human misery, which is the best.

At all events, the choice is there, and for this purpose only have we opened our pages to every kind of contributors. Therefore do you find in them the views of a Christian clergyman who believes in his God and Christ, but rejects the wicked interpretations and the enforced dogmas of his ambitious proud Church, along with the doctrines of the Hylo-Idealist, who denies God, soul, and immortality, and believes in nought save himself. The rankest Materialists will find hospitality in our journal; aye, even those who have not scrupled to fill pages of it with sneers and personal remarks upon ourselves, and abuse of the doctrines of Theosophy, so dear to us. When a journal of free thought, conducted by an Atheist, inserts an article by a Mystic or Theosophist in praise of his occult views and the mystery of Parabrahmam, and passes on it only a few casual remarks, then shall we say LUCIFER has found a rival. When a Christian periodical or missionary organ accepts an article from the pen of a free-thinker deriding belief in Adam and his rib, and passes criticism on Christianity--its editor's faith--in meek silence, then it will have become worthy of LUCIFER, and may be said truly to have reached that degree of tolerance when it may be placed on a level with any Theosophical publication.

But so long as none of these organs do something of the kind, they are all sectarian, bigoted, intolerant, and can never have an idea of truth and justice. They may throw innuendoes against LUCIFER and its editors, they cannot affect either. In fact, the editors of that magazine feel proud of such criticism and accusations, as they are witnesses to the absolute absence of bigotry, or arrogance of any kind in Theosophy, the result of the divine beauty of the doctrines it preaches. For, as said, Theosophy allows a hearing and a fair chance to all. It deems no views--if sincere--entirely destitute of truth. It respects thinking men, to whatever class of thought they may belong. Ever ready to oppose ideas and views which can only create confusion without benefiting philosophy, it leaves their expounders personally to believe in whatever they please, and does justice to their ideas when they are good. Indeed, the conclusions or deductions of a philosophic writer may be entirely opposed to our views and the teachings we expound; yet his premises and statements of facts may be quite correct, and other people may profit by the adverse philosophy, even if we ourselves reject it, believing we have something higher and still nearer to the truth. In any case, our profession of faith is now made plain, and all that is said in the foregoing pages both justifies and explains our editorial policy.

To sum up the idea, with regard to absolute and relative truth, we can only repeat what we said before. Outside a certain highly spiritual and elevated state of mind, during which Man is at one with the UNIVERSAL MIND--he can get nought on earth but relative truth, or truths, from whatsoever philosophy or religion. Were even the goddess who dwells at the bottom of the well to issue from her place of confinement, she could give man no more than he can assimilate. Meanwhile, every one can sit near that well--the name of which is KNOWLEDGE--and gaze into its depths in the hope of seeing Truth's fair image reflected, at least, on the dark waters. This, however, as remarked by Richter, presents a certain danger. Some truth, to be sure, may be occasionally reflected as in a mirror on the spot we gaze upon, and thus reward the patient student. But, adds the German thinker, "I have heard that some philosophers in seeking for Truth, to pay homage to her, have seen their own image in the water and adored it instead." . . . .

It is to avoid such a calamity--one that has befallen every founder of a religious or philosophical school--that the editors are studiously careful not to offer the reader only those truths which they find reflected in their own personal brains. They offer the public a wide choice, and refuse to show bigotry and intolerance, which are the chief landmarks on the path of Sectarianism. But, while leaving the widest margin possible for comparison, our opponents cannot hope to find their faces reflected on the clear waters of our LUCIFER, without remarks or just criticism upon the most prominent features thereof, if in contrast with Theosophical views.

This, however, only within the cover of the public magazine, and so far as regards the merely intellectual aspect of philosophical truths. Concerning the deeper spiritual, and one may almost say religious, beliefs, no true Theosophist ought to degrade these by subjecting them to public discussion, but ought rather to treasure and hide them deep within the sanctuary of his innermost soul. Such beliefs and doctrines should never be rashly given out, as they risk unavoidable profanation by the rough handling of the indifferent and the critical. Nor ought they to be embodied in any publication except as hypotheses offered to the consideration of the thinking portion of the public. Theosophical truths, when they transcend a certain limit of speculation, had better remain concealed from public view, for the "evidence of things not seen" is no evidence save to him who sees, hears, and senses it. It is not to be dragged outside the 'Holy of Holies," the temple of the impersonal divine Ego, or the indwelling SELF. For, while every fact outside its perception can, as we have shown, be, at best, only a relative truth, a ray from the absolute truth can reflect itself only in the pure mirror of its own flame--our highest SPIRITUAL CONSCIOUSNESS. And how can the darkness (of illusion) comprehend the LIGHT that shineth in it?

H. P. BLAVATSKY

Lucifer, February, 1888

WHAT OF PHENOMENA?

From H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles, Vol. I.


 

Articles by HPB

To the Editors of LUCIFER: "I avail myself of your invitation to correspondents, in order to ask a question. "How is it that we hear nothing now of the signs and wonders with which Neo-theosophy was ushered in? Is the 'age of miracles' past in the Society?"


"Yours respectfully"        
"O"                 

"Occult phenomena," is what our correspondent apparently refers to. They failed to produce the desired effect, but they were, in no sense of the word, "miracles." It was supposed that intelligent people, especially men of science, would, at least, have recognized the existence of a new and deeply interesting field of enquiry and research when they witnessed physical effects produced at will, for which they were not able to account. It was supposed that theologians would have welcomed the proof, of which they stand so sadly in need in these agnostic days, that the soul and the spirit are not mere creations of their fancy, due to ignorance of the physical constitution of man, but entities quite as real as the body, and much more important. These expectations were not realized. The phenomena were misunderstood and misrepresented, both as regards their nature and their purpose.

In the light which experience has now thrown upon the matter the explanation of this unfortunate circumstance is not far to seek. Neither science nor religion acknowledges the existence of the Occult, as the term is understood and employed in theosophy; in the sense, that is to say, of a super-material, but not super-natural, region, governed by law; nor do they recognize the existence of latent powers and possibilities in man. Any interference with the every-day routine of the material world is attributed, by religion, to the arbitrary will of a good or an evil autocrat, inhabiting a supernatural region inaccessible to man, and subject to no law, either in his actions or constitution, and for a knowledge of whose ideas and wishes mortals are entirely dependent upon inspired communications delivered through an accredited messenger. The power of working so-called miracles has always been deemed the proper and sufficient credentials of a messenger from heaven, and the mental habit of regarding any occult power in that light is still so strong that any exercise of that power is supposed to be "miraculous," or to claim to be so. It is needless to say that this way of regarding extraordinary occurrences is in direct opposition to the scientific spirit of the age, nor is it the position practically occupied by the more intelligent portion of mankind at present. When people see wonders, nowadays, the sentiment excited in their minds is no longer veneration and awe, but curiosity.

It was in the hope of arousing and utilizing this spirit of curiosity that occult phenomena were shown. It was believed that this manipulation of forces of nature which lie below the surface--that surface of things which modern science scratches and pecks at so industriously and so proudly--would have led to enquiry into the nature and the laws of those forces, unknown to science, but perfectly known to occultism. That the phenomena did excite curiosity in the minds of those who witnessed them, is certainly true, but it was, unfortunately, for the most part of an idle kind. The greater number of the witnesses developed an insatiable appetite for phenomena for their own sake, without any thought of studying the philosophy or the science of whose truth and power the phenomena were merely trivial and, so to say, accidental illustrations. In but a few cases the curiosity which was awakened gave birth to the serious desire to study the philosophy and the science themselves and for their own sake.

Experience has taught the leaders of the movement that the vast majority of professing Christians are absolutely precluded by their mental condition and attitude--the result of centuries of superstitious teaching--from calmly examining the phenomena in their aspect of natural occurrences governed by law. The Roman Catholic Church, true to its traditions, excuses itself from the examination of any occult phenomena on the plea that they are necessarily the work of the Devil, whenever they occur outside of its own pale, since it has a lawful monopoly of the legitimate miracle business. The Protestant Church denies the personal intervention of the Evil One on the material plane; but, never having gone into the miracle business itself, it is apparently a little doubtful whether it would know a bonafide miracle if it saw one, but, being just as unable as its elder sister to conceive the extension of the reign of law beyond the limits of matter and force, as known to us in our present state of consciousness, it excuses itself from the study of occult phenomena on the plea that they lie within the province of science rather than of religion.

Now science has its miracles as well as the Church of Rome. But, as it is altogether dependent upon its instrument-maker for the production of these miracles, and, as it claims to be in possession of the last known word in regard to the laws of nature, it was hardly to be expected that it would take very kindly to "miracles," in whose production apparatus has no part, and which claim to be instances of the operation of forces and laws of which it has no knowledge. Modern science, moreover, labours under disabilities with respect to the investigation of the Occult quite as embarrassing as those of Religion; for, while Religion cannot grasp the idea of natural law as applied to the supersensuous Universe, Science does not allow the existence of any supersensuous universe at all to which the reign of law could be extended; nor can it conceive the possibility of any other state of consciousness than our present terrestrial one. It was, therefore, hardly to be expected that science would undertake the task it was called upon to perform with much earnestness and enthusiasm; and, indeed, it seems to have felt that it was not expected to treat the phenomena of occultism less cavalierly than it had treated divine miracles. So it calmly proceeded at once to pooh-pooh the phenomena; and, when obliged to express some kind of opinion, it did not hesitate, without examination, and on hearsay reports, to attribute them to fraudulent contrivances--wires, trapdoors, and so forth.

It was bad enough for the leaders of the movement, when they endeavoured to call the attention of the world to the great and unknown field for scientific and religious enquiry which lies on the borderland between matter and spirit, to find themselves set down as agents of his Satanic Majesty, or as superior adepts in the charlatan line; but the unkindest cut of all, perhaps, came from a class of people whose own experiences, rightly understood, ought certainly to have taught them better: the occult phenomena were claimed by the Spiritualists as the work of their dear departed ones, but the leaders in Theosophy were declared to be somewhat less even than mediums in disguise.

Never were the phenomena presented in any other character than that of instances of a power over perfectly natural though unrecognized forces, and incidentally over matter, possessed by certain individuals who have attained to a larger and higher knowledge of the Universe than has been reached by scientists and theologians, or can ever be reached by them, by the roads they are now respectively pursuing. Yet this power is latent in all men, and could, in time, be wielded by anyone who would cultivate the knowledge and conform to the conditions necessary for its development. Nevertheless, except in a few isolated and honourable instances, never was it received in any other character than as would-be miracles, or as works of the Devil, or as vulgar tricks, or as amusing gape-seed, or as the performances of those dangerous "spooks" that masquerade in seance rooms, and feed on the vital energies of mediums and sitters. And, from all sides, theosophy and theosophists were attacked with a rancour and bitterness, with an absolute disregard alike of fact and logic, and with malice, hatred and uncharitableness that would be utterly inconceivable, did not religious history teach us what mean and unreasoning animals ignorant men become when their cherished prejudices are touched; and did not the history of scientific research teach us, in its turn, how very like an ignorant man a learned man can behave, when the truth of his theories is called in question.

An occultist can produce phenomena, but he cannot supply the world with brains, nor with the intelligence and good faith necessary to understand and appreciate them. Therefore, it is hardly to be wondered at, that word came to abandon phenomena and let the ideas of Theosophy stand on their own intrinsic merits.

H. P. BLAVATSKY

Lucifer, February, 1888

WHICH FIRST—THE EGG OR THE BIRD?

From A Modern Panarion


  

Articles by HPB

I BEG to present my warmest thanks to Mr. William Simpson, F.R.G.S., the distinguished artist and antiquary, who last year extended his researches to Peshawur valley and elsewhere, and thereby so enriched the Lahore Museum, for kindly presenting me with a copy of his very valuable paper, "Buddhist Architecture: Jellalabad," enriched with seven illustrations. Our thanks are none the less due to Mr. Simpson, that in one point, and a very important one too, it is impossible for either our Society or myself, to agree with his conclusions. The feature of Mr. Simpson's interesting and learned paper is, to quote the words of Mr. James Fergusson, F.R.G.S., Past Vice-President, that every "form of art was imported into India, and nothing ever came out of it" (the italics are mine). Mr. Simpson builds his hasty conclusions upon the fact that most of the capitals of the pillars and pilasters in the ruins of the valley of the Kabul river, are Corinthian, and "the bases and mouldings generally are such as are most unmistakably derived from the far west," and finally that a "number of bell-shaped capitals, surmounted by double animals which look like a reminiscence of the pillars of Persepolis," are also found in the caves of Karli, and other caves of India, as well as in the valley of Peshawur.

I will not limit my protest in this case to merely pointing to the words of Mr. Fergusson, who cautiously remarks that "the similarity is, however, so remote that it is hardly sufficient to sustain Mr. Simpson's assertion that every form of art was imported into India, and nothing ever came out of it." But I will humbly suggest that in a country like India, whose past history is a total blank, every attempt to decide the age of the monuments, or whether their style was original or borrowed, is now pretty much as open a question as it was a century ago. A new discovery may any day annihilate the theory of the day before. Lack of space forbids me to enter upon the discussion more elaborately. Therefore, I will permit myself only to say that Mr. Simpson's present "assertion" remains as hypothetical as before. Otherwise, we would have to decide á priori, whether India or Greece borrowed from the other in other important cases now pending. Besides "Corinthian pillars" and "double animals," once so dear to the Persepolitans, we have, here, the solar race of the Hari-Kula (Sun family) whose deeds must have been a copy of, or the model for, the labours and very name of the Grecian Sun-God Hercules. No less is it a matter for the consideration of philologists and archæologists which of the two—the Egyptian Sphinx, called by them Harimukh, or Har-M-Kho (the Sun in his resting-place) or the lofty Himâlaya peak, also called Harimukh (the mouth of the Sun) in the range to the north of Cashmir, owes its name to the other.

H. P. BLAVATSKY

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

WHY THE MAGAZINE IS CALLED "LUCIFER"

From H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles, Vol. III.


 

Articles by HPB

WHAT'S in a name? Very often there is more in it than the profane is prepared to understand, or the learned mystic to explain. It is an invisible, secret, but very potential influence that every name carries about with it and "leaveth wherever it goeth." Carlyle thought that "there is much, nay, almost all, in names." "Could I unfold the influence of names, which are the most important of all clothings, I were a second great Trismegistus," he writes.

The name or title of a magazine started with a definite object, is, therefore, all important; for it is, indeed, the invisible seed-grain, which will either grow "to be an all-over-shadowing tree" on the fruits of which must depend the nature of the results brought about by the said object, or the tree will wither and die. These considerations show that the name of the present magazine--rather equivocal to orthodox Christian ears--is due to no careless selection, but arose in consequence of much thinking over its fitness, and was adopted as the best symbol to express that object and the results in view.

Now, the first and most important, if not the sole object of the magazine, is expressed in the line from the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, on its title page. It is to bring light to "the hidden things of darkness," (iv. 5); to show in their true aspect and their original real meaning things and names, men and their doings and customs; it is finally to fight prejudice, hypocrisy and shams in every nation, in every class of Society, as in every department of life. The task is a laborious one but it is neither impracticable nor useless, if even as an experiment.

Thus, for an attempt of such nature, no better title could ever be found than the one chosen. "Lucifer," is the pale morning-star, the precursor of the full blaze of the noon-day sun--the "Eosphoros" of the Greeks. It shines timidly at dawn to gather forces and dazzle the eye after sunset as its own brother "Hesperos"--the radiant evening star, or the planet Venus. No fitter symbol exists for the proposed work--that of throwing a ray of truth on everything hidden by the darkness of prejudice, by social or religious misconceptions; especially by that idiotic routine in life, which, once that a certain action, a thing, a name, has been branded by slanderous inventions, however unjust, makes respectable people, so called, turn away shiveringly, refusing to even look at it from any other aspect than the one sanctioned by public opinion. Such an endeavour then, to force the weak-hearted to look truth straight in the face, is helped most efficaciously by a title belonging to the category of branded names.

Piously inclined readers may argue that "Lucifer" is accepted by all the churches as one of the many names of the Devil. According to Milton's superb fiction, Lucifer is Satan, the "rebellious" angel, the enemy of God and man. If one analyzes his rebellion, however, it will be found of no worse nature than an assertion of free-will and independent thought, as if Lucifer had been born in the XIXth century. This epithet of "rebellious" is a theological calumny, on a par with that other slander of God by the Predestinarians, one that makes of deity an "Almighty" fiend worse than the "rebellious" Spirit himself; "an omnipotent Devil desiring to be 'complimented' as all merciful when he is exerting the most fiendish cruelty," as put by J. Cotter Morison. Both the foreordaining and predestining fiend-God, and his subordinate agent are of human invention; they are two of the most morally repulsive and horrible theological dogmas that the nightmares of light-hating monks have ever evolved out of their unclean fancies.

They date from the Mediæval age, the period of mental obscuration, during which most of the present prejudices and superstitions have been forcibly inoculated on the human mind, so as to have become nearly ineradicable in some cases, one of which is the present prejudice now under discussion.

So deeply rooted, indeed, is this preconception and aversion to the name of Lucifer--meaning no worse than "light-bringer" (from lux, lucis, "light," and ferre "to bring")1 [Footnote: 1. It was Gregory the Great who was the first to apply this passage of Isaiah, "How art thou fallen from Heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning," etc., to Satan, ever since the bold metaphor of the prophet, which referred, after all, but to an Assyrian King inimical to the Israelites, has been applied to the Devil."--even among the educated classes, that by adopting it for the title of their magazine the editors have the prospect of a long strife with public prejudice before them. So absurd and ridiculous is that prejudice, indeed, that no one has seemed to ever ask himself the question, how came Satan to be called a light-bringer, unless the silvery rays of the morning-star can in any way be made suggestive of the glare of the infernal flames. It is simply, as Henderson showed, "one of those gross perversions of sacred writ which so extensively obtain, and which are to be traced to a proneness to seek for more in a given passage than it really contains--a disposition to be influenced by sound rather than sense, and an implicit faith in received interpretation"--which is not quite one of the weaknesses of our present age. Nevertheless, the prejudice is to the shame of our century.

This cannot be helped. The two editors would hold hemselves as recreants in their own sight, as traitors to the very spirit of the proposed work, were they to yield and cry craven before the danger. If one would fight prejudice, and brush off the ugly cobwebs of superstition and materialism alike from the noblest ideals of our forefathers, one has to prepare for opposition. "The crown of the reformer and the innovator is a crown of thorns" indeed. If one would rescue Truth in all her chaste nudity from the almost bottomless well, into which she has been hurled by cant and hypocritical propriety, one should not hesitate to descend into the dark, gaping pit of that well. No matter how badly the blind bats--the dwellers in darkness, and the haters of light--may treat in their gloomy abode the intruder, unless one is the first to show the spirit and courage he preaches to others, he must be justly held as a hypocrite and a seceder from his own principles.

Hardly had the title been agreed upon, when the first premonitions of what was in store for us, in the matter of the opposition to be encountered owing to the title chosen, appeared on our horizon. One of the editors received and recorded some spicy objections. The scenes that follow are sketches from nature.

I

A Well-known Novelist. Tell me about your new magazine. What class do you propose to appeal to?

Editor. No class in particular: we intend to appeal to the public.

Novelist. I am very glad of that. For once I shall be one of the public, for I don't understand your subject in the least, and I want to. But you must remember that if your public is to understand you, it must necessarily be a very small one. People talk about occultism nowadays as they talk about many other things, without the least idea of what it means. We are so ignorant and--so prejudiced.

Editor. Exactly. That is what calls the new magazine into existence. We propose to educate you, and to tear the mask from every prejudice.

Novelist. That really is good news to me, for I want to be educated. What is your magazine to be called?

Editor. Lucifer.

Novelist. What! Are you going to educate us in vice'? We know enough about that. Fallen angels are plentiful. You may find popularity, for soiled doves are in fashion just now, while the white-winged angels are voted a bore, because they are not so amusing. But I doubt your being able to teach us much.

II

A Man of the World (in a careful undertone, for the scene is a dinner-party). I hear you are going to start a magazine, all about occultism. Do you know, I'm very glad. I don't say anything about such matters as a rule, but some queer things have happened in my life which can't be explained in any ordinary manner. I hope you will go in for explanations.

Editor. We shall try, certainly. My impression is, that when occultism is in any measure apprehended, its laws are accepted by everyone as the only intelligible explanation of life.

A M. W. Just so, I want to know all about it, for 'pon my honour, life's a mystery. There are plenty of other people as curious as myself. This is an age which is afflicted with the Yankee disease of "wanting to know." I'll get you lots of subscribers. What's the magazine called?

Editor. Lucifer--and (warned by former experience) don't misunderstand the name. It is typical of the divine spirit which sacrificed itself for humanity--it was Milton's doing that it ever became associated with the devil. We are sworn enemies to popular prejudices, and it is quite appropriate that we should attack such a prejudice as this--Lucifer, you know, is the Morning Star--the Lightbearer, . . . . . .

A M. W. (interrupting). Oh, I know all that--at leastI  don't know, but I take it for granted you've got some good reason for taking such a title. But your first object is to have readers; you want the public to buy your magazine, I suppose. That's in the programme, isn't it?

Editor. Most decidedly.

A M. W. Well, listen to the advice of a man who knows his way about town. Don't mark your magazine with the wrong colour at starting. It's quite evident, when one stays an instant to think of its derivation and meaning, that Lucifer is an excellent word. But the public don't stay to think of derivations and meanings; and the first impression is the most important. Nobody will buy the magazine if you call it Lucifer.

III

A Fashionable Lady Interested in Occultism. I want to hear some more about the new magazine, for I have interested a great many people in it, even with the little you have told me. But I find it difficult to express its actual purpose. What is it?

Editor. To try and give a little light to those that want it.

A F. L. Well, that's a simple way of putting it, and will be very useful to me. What is the magazine to be called?

Editor. Lucifer.

A F. L. (After a pause) You can't mean it.

Editor. Why not?

A F. L. The associations are so dreadful! What can be the object of calling it that? It sounds like some unfortunate sort of joke, made against it by its enemies.

Editor. Oh, but Lucifer, you know, means Light-bearer; it is typical of the Divine Spirit--

A F. L. Never mind all that--I want to do your magazine good and make it known, and you can't expect me to enter into explanations of that sort every time I mention the title? Impossible! Life is too short and too busy. Besides, it would produce such a bad effect; people would think me priggish, and then I couldn't talk at all, for I couldn't bear them to think that. Don't call it Lucifer please don't. Nobody knows what the word is typical of; what it means now is the devil, nothing more or less.

Editor. But then that is quite a mistake, and one of the first prejudices we propose to do battle with. Lucifer is the pale, pure herald of dawn--

Lady (interrupting). I thought you were going to do something more interesting and more important than to whitewash mythological characters. We shall all have to go to school again, or read up Dr. Smith's Classical Dictionary. And what is the use of it when it is done? I thought you were going to tell us things about our own lives and how to make them better. I suppose Milton wrote about Lucifer, didn't he?--but nobody reads Milton now. Do let us have a modern title with some human meaning in it.

IV

A Journalist (thoughtfully, while rolling his cigarette). Yes, it is a good idea, this magazine of yours. We shall all laugh at it, as a matter of course: and we shall cut it up in the papers. But we shall all read it, because secretly everybody hungers after the mysterious. What are you going to call it?

Editor. Lucifer.

Journalist (striking a light). Why not The Fusee? Quite as good a title and not so pretentious.

The "Novelist," the "Man of the World," the "Fashionable Lady," and the "Journalist," should be the first to receive a little instruction. A glimpse into the real and primitive character of Lucifer can do them no harm and may, perchance, cure them of a bit of ridiculous prejudice. They ought to study their Homer and Hesiod's Theogony if they would do justice to Lucifer, "Eosphoros and Hesperos," the Morning and the Evening beautiful star. If there are more useful things to do in this life than "to whitewash mythological characters," to slander and blacken them is, at least, as useless, and shows, moreover, a narrow-mindedness which can do honour to no one.

To object to the title of LUCIFER, only because its "associations are so dreadful," is pardonable--if it can be pardonable in any case--only in an ignorant American missionary of some dissenting sect, in one whose natural laziness and lack of education led him to prefer ploughing the minds of heathens, as ignorant as he is himself, to the more profitable, but rather more arduous, process of ploughing the fields of his own father's farm. In the English clergy, however, who receive all a more or less classical education, and are, therefore, supposed to be acquainted with the ins and outs of theological sophistry and casuistry, this kind of opposition is absolutely unpardonable. It not only smacks of hypocrisy and deceit, but places them directly on a lower moral level than him they call the apostate angel. By endeavouring to show the theological Lucifer, fallen through the idea that

To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell;
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven,

they are virtually putting into practice the supposed crime they would fain accuse him of. They prefer reigning over the spirit of the masses by means of a pernicious dark LIE, productive of many an evil, than serve heaven by serving TRUTH. Such practices are worthy only of the Jesuits.

But their sacred writ is the first to contradict their interpretations and the association of Lucifer, the Morning Star, with Satan. Chapter XXII of Revelation, verse 16th, says: "I, Jesus . . . am the root. . . and the bright and Morning Star" P374 "early rising"): hence Eosphoros, or the Latin Lucifer. The or probrium attached to this name is of such a very late date, the Roman Church found itself forced to screen the theological slander behind a two-sided interpretation--as usual. Christ, we are told, is the "Morning Star," the divine Lucifer; and Satan the usurpator of the Verbum, the "infernal Lucifer."2 [Footnote: 2. Mirville's Memoirs to the Academy of France, Vol. IV, quoting Cardinal Ventura.] "The great Archangel Michael, the conqueror of Satan, is identical in paganism3 [Footnote: 3. Which paganism has passed long millenniums, it would seem, in copying before-hand Christian dogmas to come. ] with Mercury-Mithra, to whom after defending the Sun (symbolical of God) from the attacks of Venus-Lucifer, was given the possession of this planet, et datus est ei locus Luciferi. And since the Archangel Michael is the 'Angel of the Face,' and 'the Vicar of the Verbum' he is now considered in the Roman Church as the regent of that planet Venus which 'the vanquished fiend had usurped'." Angelus faciei Dei sedem superbi humilis obtinuit, says Cornelius à Lapide (in Vol. VI, p. 229).

This gives the reason why one of the early Popes was called Lucifer, as Yonge and ecclesiastical records prove. It thus follows that the title chosen for our magazine is as much associated with divine and pious ideas as with the supposed rebellion of the hero of Milton's "Paradise Lost." By choosing it, we throw the first ray of light and truth on a ridiculous prejudice which ought to have no room made for it in this our "age of facts and discovery." We work for true Religion and Science, in the interest of fact as against fiction and prejudice. It is our duty, as it is that of physical Science--professedly its mission--to throw light or facts in Nature hitherto surrounded by the darkness of ignorance And since ignorance is justly regarded as the chief promoter of superstition, that work is, therefore, a noble and beneficent work But natural Sciences are only one aspect of SCIENCE and TRUTH. Psychological and moral Sciences, or theosophy, the knowledge of divine truth, wheresoever found, are, still more important in human affairs, and real Science should not be limited simply to the physical aspect of life and nature. Science is an abstract of every fact, a comprehension of every truth within the scope of human research and intelligence. "Shakespeare's deep and accurate science in mental philosophy" (Coleridge), has proved more beneficent to the true philosopher in the study of the human heart--therefore, in the promotion of truth--than the more accurate, but certainly less deep, science of any Fellow of the Royal Institution.

Those readers, however, who do not find themselves convinced that the Church had no right to throw a slur upon a beautiful star, and that it did so through a mere necessity of accounting for one of its numerous loans from Paganism with all its poetical conceptions of the truths in Nature, are asked to read our article "The History of a Planet." Perhaps, after its perusal, they will see how far Dupuis was justified in asserting that "all the theologies have their origin in astronomy." With the modern Orientalists every myth is solar. This is one more prejudice, and a preconception in favour of materialism and physical science. It will be one of our duties to combat it with much of the rest.

H. P. BLAVATSKY

Lucifer, September, 1887

WHY DO ANIMALS SUFFER?

From H.P.Blavatsky Theosophical Articles, Vol. II.


 

Articles by HPB

Q. Is it possible for me who love the animals to learn how to get more power than I have to help them in their sufferings?

A. Genuine unselfish LOVE combined with WILL is a "power" in itself. They who love animals ought to show that affection in a more efficient way than by covering their pets with ribbons and sending them to howl and scratch at the prize exhibitions.


Q. Why do the noblest animals suffer so much at the hands men? I need not enlarge or try to explain this question. Cities are torture places for the animals who can be turned to any account for use or amusement by man! and these are always the most noble.

A. In the Sutras, or the Aphorisms of the Karma-pa, a sect which is an offshoot of the great Gelukpa (yellow caps) sect in Tibet, and whose name bespeaks its tenets--"the believers in the efficacy of Karma," (action, or good works)--an Upasaka inquires of his Master, why the fate of the poor animals had so changed of late? Never was an animal killed or treated unkindly the vicinity of Buddhist or other temples in China, in days of old, while now, they are slaughtered and freely sold at the markets of various cities, etc. The answer is suggestive:

. . . "Lay not nature under the accusation of this unparalleled justice. Do not seek in vain for Karmic effects to explain the cruelty for the Tenbrel Chugnyi (causal connection, Nidâna) shall teach thee none. It is the unwelcome advent of the Peling Christian foreigner), whose three fierce gods refused to provide for the protection of the weak and little ones (animals), that is answerable for the ceaseless and heartrending sufferings of our dumb companions." . . .

The answer to the above query is here in a nutshell. It may be useful, if once more disagreeable, to some religionists to be told that the blame for this universal suffering falls entirely upon our Western religion and early education. Every philosophical Eastern system, every religion and sect in antiquity--the Brahmanical, Egyptian, Chinese and finally, the purest as the noblest of all the existing systems of ethics, Buddhism--inculcates kindness and protection to every living creature, from animal and bird down to the creeping thing and even the reptile. Alone, our Western religion stands in its isolation, as a monument of the most gigantic human selfishness ever evolved by human brain, without one word in favor of, or for the protection of the poor animal. Quite the reverse. For theology, underlining a sentence in the Jehovistic chapter of "Creation," interprets it as a proof that animals, as all the rest, were created for man! Ergo--sport has become one of the noblest amusements of the upper ten. Hence--poor innocent birds wounded, tortured and killed every autumn by the million, all over the Christian countries, for man's recreation. Hence also, unkindness, often cold-blooded cruelty, during the youth of horse and bullock, brutal indifference to its fate when age has rendered it unfit for work, and ingratitude after years of hard labour for, and in the service of man. In whatever country the European steps in, there begins the slaughter of the animals and their useless decimation.

"Has the prisoner ever killed for his pleasure animals?" inquired a Buddhist Judge at a border town in China, infected with pious European Churchmen and missionaries, of a man accused of having murdered his sister. And having been answered in the affirmative, as the prisoner had been a servant in the employ of a Russian colonel, "a mighty hunter before the Lord," the Judge had no need of any other evidence and the murderer was found "guilty"--justly, as his subsequent confession proved.

Is Christianity or even the Christian layman to be blamed for it? Neither. It is the pernicious system of theology, long centuries of theocracy, and the ferocious, ever-increasing selfishness in the Western civilized countries. What can we do?

H. P. BLAVATSKY

Lucifer, May, 1888

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