THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 8, June, 1946
(Pages 297-300; Size: 13K)
(Number 6 of a 12-part series)



IN the West, wrote H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, the full and awful significance of the Greek Nemesis, or Karma, has been entirely forgotten. The present cycle marks the beginning of the harvest, in larger measure, of the compounded disaster which that ignorance of the Law must inevitably bring. For in the failure of Western nations to emerge from the moral infancy of their early period lies their present inability to meet and deal with the mighty energies of physical and intellectual maturity.

There is a natural ignorance of childhood, a natural vision of youth, the strength and balance of manhood, and the sagacity of age. Each of these phases of human life has its appropriate Karma, the product of its degree of potency in causation. And each contains the potentiality of success in learning the lessons of that phase, through the unfolding knowledge of the soul, called into activity by the challenge of circumstances and events.

The child, for example, is held responsible for simple things. Early he must learn simple acts of self-control. Obedience is another lesson. His natural wants may become a means of gaining self-reliance. His environment, if normal, presents only the experiences which are within the scope of his understanding -- adapted to his plastic potency. Then, in the progress of time, his powers of self-expression grow, and with them his responsibilities. Relationships with other children create for him a great and unexplored region of new experience. These others, he learns, are like him. They, too, have desires, hopes, and intense longings. Now there are other lessons. The idea of sacrificing for the happiness of others is presented. There is born in him a sense of power -- he can hurt other people, or he can help them. Soon the conception of knowledge as an impersonal reality becomes possible for him to consider. Then, the vision of human suffering may move his heart, while the stirring powers of manhood multiply his desires and awaken ambition and the personal will.

Each phase of the cycle of individual growth develops upon the foundation of what is past. Each is both a trial and an opportunity for further growth. And each opens another portal to the Karma held over from former existences, while enlarging the capacity for understanding the impacts of experience. The appropriate balancing of trial with moral strength is a function of the great law of equilibrium, illustrated throughout all the kingdoms of nature. Both plants and animals reveal countless protective mechanisms which shield the tender organisms of the young from the dangers of the outside environment. Such is the wisdom of the natural economy that each adaptive provision of nature serves many functions, all suited to the needs of the maturing creature. The tiny chick, whose gestation cycle is continued in the egg after it leaves the body of the mother, grows strong within the protecting shell. Then, for viable existence, it must break the shell from within. If it fails it cannot emerge to life, and if some outside agency cracks the shell and releases the chick, it will die for lack of the strengthening exertion of breaking the shell itself. Nature has created this delicate balance of external and internal conditions which prevails in every department of life.

Man, however, in his progress from the purely psychic condition of the mindless race to the full fire of manasic consciousness, has to develop the capacity to adjust this balance himself. His evolution is not the passage of the impersonal Monad, or monadic essence, through many and various forms of matter, but a journey of the pilgrim-soul "through various states of not only matter but Self-consciousness and self-perception." The first stages of that journey are accomplished with the guidance of teachers who have been over the path before. They establish the impulse to civilization, leading the nascent minds of men to the development of the arts and sciences, and institute centers from which spreads the beneficent influence of the Wisdom-Religion. The protection afforded by Nature throughout the cycles of moral growth is the Guardian Wall of the Adepts. They place in the hands of the race at appropriate times wise scriptures and ethical teachings.

But with the first tasting of the fruits of the Tree of Wisdom, the struggle between the higher and the lower principles in man tended to become an individual process. As the ages rolled by, the further descent into matter brought increased psychic individuality and increased moral independence. Even today, we may contrast the group protection of the early sub-race of the ancient Greeks with the more advanced help given to the present races by H.P.B. The source of spiritual and moral inspiration among the Greeks and other peoples of antiquity was the Mystery School. The Lesser Mysteries provided awe-inspiring spectacles of the drama of the soul; their purpose was to induce in the witnesses a state of feeling that would have a purifying effect on the whole nature. As the harassed man of today will turn to the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, to the Bhagavad-Gita or some other great Scripture, to obtain a quiet of the emotions and serenity of mind, so the wise hierophants of Egypt and Greece established periodic performances of the Mystery plays for the people of their time. But the Lesser Mysteries were symbolic representations, not instruction in philosophy or metaphysics. The inward meaning of the dramas was reserved for the initiates of higher degrees, who were deemed capable of understanding, as Thomas Taylor says, "a theory so abstracted and sublime."

So far as the masses of people were concerned, the Mysteries were a group ceremony designed to purify and uplift the psychic nature; to fill, that is, the senses with great impersonal images which would sustain the spectators in elevated feelings through their daily lives. The Greeks called this process katharsis, by which the moral life was renewed. A similar effect is sometimes obtained from listening to great music or reading great literature, such as the works of Tolstoi or Dostoievsky. This, in fact, is the link between the arts and the life of the spirit. A contemporary illustration of this use of the arts is to be found described in Peaks and Lamas by Marco Pallis, a book about the life of the Tibetans living in the states bordering on India.

The passage from psychic catharsis, as the means of protection and instruction of the race, to a more philosophical method of moral education is illustrated by the founding of the philosophical schools of Pythagoras and Plato. With the decline of the Mystery Schools the responsibility for moral teachings passed from the hierophants to the philosophers. The content remained the same -- for both these sages had drunk deeply of the Orphic wisdom; the form, however, became more intellectual, or rather, Manasic. In Plato there begins a great cycle of philosophical and moral instruction, in which the use of myth and symbol still plays an important part, as a transition form, but used only to impart the subtle conceptions that could not be directly defined without danger of materialization. The Socratic dialogue is a higher form of the catharsis; it, too, induces a feeling, but feeling illuminated by manasic perception. The cycle of the flowering of Greek thought is that referred to by H. P. Blavatsky as the period, beginning with Buddha and Pythagoras at the one end and with the Neo-Platonists and Gnostics at the other, which is the only focus left in history wherein converge for the last time the bright rays of light streaming from aeons of time gone by, unobscured by the hand of bigotry and fanaticism.

The modern cycle corresponding to the work of the Greek philosophers is that inaugurated by H. P. Blavatsky. She brought no rites and ceremonies of psychic purgation, but principles for reflection and application. The institutional function of the Mystery Schools is replaced by treatises of devotion, and the regularity of catharsis, once determined by the public calendar, is now dependent upon the individual will. The aspect of man's nature invoked by the message of H.P.B. is the Manasic principle, which is provided with food for its appropriate growth and strengthening in this cycle. After presenting the three Fundamental Propositions of the Secret Doctrine, she informs the reader that once he "has gained a clear comprehension of them and realized the light which they throw on every problem of life, they will need no further justification in his eyes, because their truth will be to him as evident as the sun in heaven." Here, then, is the keynote of the present cycle. It is the challenge of philosophy, of "the rational explanation of things" in terms of fundamental principles which have to be studied and applied.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Many of us accept the existence of high and low Intelligences, and of Beings as great as any "personal" God. Most of us believe in the survival of the Spiritual Ego, in Planetary Spirits and Nirmanakayas, those great Adepts of the past ages, who, renouncing their right to Nirvana, remain in our spheres of being, not as "spirits" but as complete spiritual human Beings. Save their corporeal, visible envelope, which they leave behind, they remain as they were, in order to help poor humanity, as far as can be done without sinning against Karmic law. This is the "Great Renunciation," indeed; an incessant, conscious self-sacrifice throughout æons and ages till that day when the eyes of blind mankind will open and, instead of the few, all will see the universal truth. These Beings may well be regarded as God and Gods -- if they would but allow the fire in our hearts, at the thought of that purest of all sacrifices, to be fanned into the flame of adoration, or the smallest altar in their honour. But they will not. Verily, "the secret heart is fair Devotion's (only) temple," and any other, in this case, would be no better than profane ostentation. 

--H. P. Blavatsky

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