THEOSOPHY, Vol. 39, No. 5, March, 1951
(Pages 222-225; Size: 12K)
(Number 17 of a 24-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 24 articles have the same name.]

"THE BHAGAVAD-GITA" -- INFORMAL ESSAYS

ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS

ONE of the most interesting focal points for discussion in Chapter Ten is the enumeration of widely diversified classes of beings among whom Krishna, in some form, stands as Divine Inspiration. Once again we note a rather startling departure from the good-and-evil categorization of Western theology and its derived moralisms. Every class of spirit and elemental apparently has something of divine impulsion, for we find listed not only the (in our terms) "good" spirits and forces, but all elementals and "evil" spirits as well. Thus Krishna declares, "I am the lord of wealth among the Yakshas and Rakshasas," despite the fact that the former are, as designated by Mr. Judge, "Spirits of a sensual nature," and the latter constitute "an order of evil spirits." And, again, Krishna is the chief among the poisonous serpents as well as among the non-poisonous "serpents" of wisdom.

Before exploring these apparently dubious inclusions, we may ponder a phrase which immediately follows the passages quoted from. "I am," says Krishna, "the Preserver whose face is turned on all sides." This implies that each form of human or elemental experience, of whatever category, expresses a partial truth about the interrelationships of beings, or, with a self-conscious being, a gleaning of truth, itself a seed for future wisdom. Intelligence is the great transformer -- so great a transformer that Krishna says, "Even if thou wert the greatest of all sinners, thou shalt be able to cross over all sins in the bark of spiritual knowledge." This can only be because, on the basis of the theosophic philosophy, nothing under the sun is absolutely evil. What we call "evil" is a preponderance of the destructive, but the evil is never more than a preponderance -- the residuum is either something "constructive" or something which may be made constructive in the course of evolution, as each individuality acquires intelligence through personal effort and merit, in every experience of the phenomenal world.

Experience is possible, we know, only when we are able to evaluate circumstances. The evaluation is what constitutes the experience, in sober truth, for by "experience" we mean that which becomes a fund of knowledge, and there is no knowledge without evaluation. Evaluation, in turn, is impossible without contrast, contrast presenting the choosing being with alternative decisions. All beings, therefore, must have some direct knowledge of what is called "evil"; it, also, is a part of evolution. In the perspective of reincarnation, good and evil have a subtler aspect, since the adepts, the "crowns of human evolution," are said to be "as wise as serpents" as well as "harmless as doves." We may infer from this that the adept is one who, reflecting the universal diffusion of Spirit through consciousness and individual will, severs no ties with any form of "experience." The interpretation of Adepts or Mahatmas as beings who have progressively removed themselves from the complications of manifested existence, begins to seem no more than a half-truth, and a rather pernicious one at that. The Adept's release from confusion and turbulence comes because he has entered into the heart of all experiences, and holds the essentials of them all, permanently.

This, if taken by itself, can be considered a dangerous doctrine, unless preceded by a firm grounding in theosophical fundamentals. The danger would consist of the temptation to erase entirely the distinctions between "good" and "evil" in human conduct, all "experience" being presumed advantageous. But we must remember that sufficient thought upon theosophical principles will emphasize the fact that experience cannot be gained, by man, save through the evaluations which compel conscious choice. The central problem of good and evil, while indeed with us, and not solved by classifying acts, people, or categories of elementals -- does involve choosing between the preponderance of the constructive or of the destructive in each situation.

Let us think about the "demons" and "devils" and "spirits of a sensual nature," and see what Krishna can have to do with such as these. All of them, we may infer from statements in The Secret Doctrine, represent certain types of concentrated energy, intensities of intelligence operating at one or another level. Just as man, historically, oscillates between extremes of renunciation in religious life and uncontrolled submergence in experiences of the senses, so he leaves, on the astral plane, the impress of the partial truths embodied in each false position. It is perhaps easier to understand the evolutionary function of sense-renunciation than the function of the "devils" and seductive spirits who lure from respectability, yet--

The Demons, so called in the Purânas, are very extraordinary devils when judged from the standpoint of European and orthodox views about these creatures, since all of them -- Dânavas, Daityas, Pisâchas, and the Râkshasas -- are represented as extremely pious, following the precepts of the Vedas, some of them even being great Yogis. But they oppose the clergy and Ritualism, sacrifices and forms -- just what the full-blown Yogins do to this day in India -- and are no less respected for it, though they are allowed to follow neither caste nor ritual; hence all those Purânic giants and Titans are called Devils. (S.D. I, 415.)
Further light is thrown upon the Yakshas and Rakshasas in the colloquy between Parasara and Vasishta, which indicates that these personifications of certain human tendencies are not consciously evil.
"By whom, it may be asked, is any one killed? Every man reaps the consequences of his own acts. Anger, my son, is the destruction of all that man obtains ... and prevents the attainment of emancipation. The sages shun wrath. Be not thou, my child, subject to its influence. Let not those unoffending spirits of darkness be consumed; let thy sacrifice cease...." (S.D. I, 415-16.)
Here again is the theosophic logic for denunciation of denunciation. Righteous wrath and indignation at conduct we do not approve of has no place in the life of the Sage. The Sage opposes or seeks to control forces and ideas; he neither shuns, castigates, nor blames other human beings.

That peculiar appreciation of the "devil" Lucifer and, for that matter, of all the devils of symbolic lore, which characterizes so many of the Secret Doctrine discussions, needs to be interpreted, perhaps, in the light of a sentence from The Voice of the Silence: "Self gratulation, O disciple, is like unto a lofty tower up which a haughty fool has climbed. Thereon he sits in prideful solitude and unperceived by any but himself." The virtues, in other words, if pridefully and therefore wrongly understood, lead to essentially the same separation from the currents of progressive evolution as do the abysses of vice. Thus the elementals and elementaries represented by the terms used in the Tenth Chapter of the Gita are both Good, and Evil, at the same time, depending upon the context of consideration, and, to some extent, upon whether they are influencing a man who has removed himself too far from life, or one who has not removed himself far enough. (For an interesting cross reference, read the story of Kandu, S.D. II, 175.)

Here are more "double meanings": Under "Yaksha" in H.P.B.'s Glossary, we discover a discussion of the dangers of letting the sensual demons carry one's judgment into bondage, for these, in the sight of seers and clairvoyants, are said to "descend on men, when open to the reception of such influences, like a fiery comet or a shooting star." Yet under "Rohitaka Stupa," also in the Glossary, we discover these same Yakshas are called "inoffensive demons." Their "inoffensiveness" may consist in the fact that, unless they are linked to ambition for power over others, unless they are united with a moral pretense which makes for hypocrisy, they are simply the promptings for prolongation of pleasurable experience. And, in the capacity for seeking the pleasurable, we have not only the danger of soul-stultifying immersion in the life of the senses, but also a form of preservative intelligence. Just as Krishna speaks of himself as the "lord of wealth" among the Rakshasas -- and for beings concentrated in the pleasures of matter, wealth is certainly the preservative symbol -- so is the preservative quality of non-self-conscious life the "growing tip" for expanding intelligence. (We discover the notation on p. 165 of the second volume of The Secret Doctrine that the Rakshasas are called "preservers" beyond the Himalayas.)

The same preservative quality apparently is connected in a different way with the Yakshas. As animals become more highly evolved, as manas finds increasing scope and focus, the more psychically individual do the animals become. The psychic nature represents a form of consciousness, necessary since it provides some sort of unifying experience. Even the sensual spirits -- corrupt through misuse of the sensuous faculty by an exploitative human being -- contain a form of necessary intelligence. Controlled and re-formed for expression, these may become the stuff and substance of, let us say, a greater aesthetic sensitivity. In themselves, these spirits are not evil, but rather serve as vehicles for Karma, in the use of which man may lead himself -- and the "evil spirits" -- upward or downward.

Can there be a "universal brotherhood" without an attitude of mind like Krishna's, universally disseminated, which finds the potential for growth in every being, and more, in every dubious attitude or even in a wrongly-conceived action? "I am," says Krishna, "the Preserver whose face is turned on all sides." What a good thing for him to be!


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ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS
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