Of the Absolute, the Infinite, the All-embracing, we can at our present stage know nothing, except that It is; we can say nothing that is not a limitation, and therefore inaccurate.
In It are innumerable universes; in each universe countless solar systems. Each solar system is the expression of a mighty Being, whom we call the LOGOS, the Word of God, the Solar Deity. He is to it all that men mean by God. He permeates it; there is nothing in it which is not He; it is the manifestation of Him in such matter as we can see. Yet He exists above it and outside it, living a stupendous life of His own among His Peers. As is said in an Eastern Scripture: "Having permeated this whole universe with one fragment of Myself I remain."
Of that higher life of His we can know nothing. But of the fragment of His life which energises His system we may know something in the lower levels of its manifestation. We may not see Him, but we may see His power at work. No one who is clairvoyant can be atheistic; the evidence is too tremendous.
Out of Himself He has called this mighty system into being. We who are in it are evolving fragments of His life, Sparks of His divine Fire; from Him we all have come; into Him we shall all return.
Many have asked why He has done this; why He has emanated from Himself all this system; why He has sent us forth to face the storms of life. We cannot know, nor is the question practical; suffice it that we are here, and we must do our best. Yet many philosophers have speculated on this point and many suggestions have been made. The most beautiful that I know is that of a Gnostic philosopher:
"God is Love, but Love itself cannot be perfect unless it has those upon whom it can be lavished and by whom it can be returned. Therefore He put forth of Himself into matter, and He limited His glory, in order that through this natural and slow process of evolution we might come into being; and we in turn according to His Will are to develop until we reach even His own level, and then the very love of God itself will become more perfect, because it will then be lavished on those, His own children, who will fully understand and return it, and so His great scheme will be realized and His Will, be done."
At what stupendous elevation His consciousness abides we know not, nor can we know its true nature as it shows itself there. But when He puts Himself down into such conditions as are within our reach, His manifestation is ever threefold, and so all religions have imaged Him as a Trinity. Three, yet fundamentally One; Three Persons (for person means a mask) yet one God, showing Himself in those Three Aspects. Three to us, looking at Them from below, because Their functions are different; one to Him, because He knows Them to be but facets of Himself.
All Three of these Aspects are concerned in the evolution of the solar system; all Three are also concerned in the evolution of man. This evolution is His Will; the method of it is His plan.
Next below this Solar Deity, yet also in some mysterious manner part of Him, come His seven Ministers sometimes called the Planetary Spirits. Using an analogy drawn from the physiology of our own body, Their relation to Him is like that of the ganglia or the nerve centres to the brain. All evolution which comes forth from Him comes through one or other of Them.
Under Them in turn come vast hosts or orders of spiritual beings, whom we call angels or devas. We do not yet know all the functions which they fulfil in different parts of this wonderful scheme, but we find some of them intimately connected with the building of the system and the unfolding of life within it.
Here in our world there is a great Official who represents the Solar Deity and is in absolute control of all the evolution that takes place upon this planet. We may image Him as the true KING of this world and under Him are ministers in charge of different departments. One of these departments is concerned with the evolution of the different races of humanity so that for each great race there is a Head who founds it, differentiates it from all others, and watches over its development. Another department is that of religion and education, and it is from this that all the greatest teachers of history have come—that all religions have been sent forth. The great Official at the head of this department either comes Himself or sends one of His pupils to found a new religion when He decides that one is needed.
Therefore all religions, at the time of their first presentation to the world, have contained a definite statement of the Truth, and in its fundamentals this Truth has been always the same. The presentations of it have varied because of differences in the races to whom it was offered. The conditions of civilization and the degree of evolution obtained by various races have made it desirable to present this one Truth in divers forms. But the inner Truth is always the same, and the source from which it comes is the same, even though the external phases may appear to be different and even contradictory. It is foolish for men to wrangle over the question of the superiority of one teacher or one form of teaching to another, for the teacher is always one sent by the Great Brotherhood of Adepts, and in all its important points, in its ethical and moral principles, the teaching has always been the same.
There is in the world a body or Truth which lies at the back of all these religions, and represents the facts of nature as far as they are at present known to man. In the outer world, because of their ignorance of this, people are always disputing and arguing about whether there is a God; whether man survives death; whether definite progress is possible for him, and what is his relation to the universe. These questions are ever present in the mind of man as soon as intelligence is awakened. They are not unanswerable, as is frequently supposed; the answers to them are within the reach of anyone who will make proper efforts to find them. The truth is obtainable, and the conditions of its attainment are possible of achievement by anyone who will make the effort.
In the earlier stages of the development of humanity the great Officials of the Hierarchy are provided from outside, from other and more highly evolved parts of the system, but as soon as men can be trained to the necessary level of power and wisdom these offices are held by them. In order to be fit to hold such an office a man must raise himself to a very high level, and must become what is called an Adept—a being of goodness, power and wisdom so great that He towers above the rest of humanity, for He has already attained the summit of ordinary human evolution; He has achieved that which the plan of the Deity marked out for Him to achieve during this age or dispensation. But His evolution later on continues beyond that level—continues to divinity.
A large number of men have attained the Adept level—men not of one nation, but of all the leading nations of the world—rare souls who with indomitable courage have stormed the fortresses of nature, and captured her innermost secrets, and so have truly earned the right to be called Adepts. Among Them there are many degrees and many lines of activity; but always some of Them remain within touch of our earth as members of this Hierarchy which has in charge the administration of the affairs of our world and of the spiritual evolution of our humanity.
This august body is often called the Great White Brotherhood, but its members are not a community all living together. Each of Them, to a large extent, draws Himself apart from the world, and They are in constant communication with one another and with Their Head; but Their knowledge of higher forces is so great that this is achieved without any necessity for meeting in the physical world. In many cases They continue to live each in His own country, and Their power remains unsuspected among those who live near Them. Any man who will may attract Their attention, but he can do it only by showing himself worthy of Their notice. None need fear that his efforts will pass unnoticed; such oversight is impossible, for the man who is devoting himself to service such as this, stands out from the rest of humanity like a great flame in a dark night. A few of these great Adepts, who are thus working for the good of the world, are willing to take as apprentices those who have resolved to devote themselves utterly to the service of mankind; such Adepts are called Masters.
One of these apprentices was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky—a great soul who was sent out to offer knowledge to the world. With Colonel Henry Steel Olcott she founded The Theosophical Society for the spread of this knowledge which she had to give. Among those who came into contact with her in those early days was Mr. A.P. Sinnett, the editor of The Pioneer, and his keen intellect at once grasped the magnitude and the importance of the teaching which she put before him. Although Madame Blavatsky herself had previously written Isis Unveiled, it had attracted but little attention, and it was Mr. Sinnett who first made the teaching really available for western readers in his two books, The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism.
It was through these works that I myself first came to know their author, and afterwards Madame Blavatsky herself; from both of them I learned much. When I asked Madame Blavatsky how one could learn still more, how one could make definite progress along the Path which she pointed out to us, she told me of the possibility that other students might be accepted as apprentices by the great Masters, even as she herself had been accepted, and that the only way to gain such acceptance was to show oneself worthy of it by earnest and altruistic work. She told me that to reach that goal a man must be absolutely one-pointed in his determination; that no one who tried to serve both God and Mammon could ever hope to succeed. One of these Masters Himself had said: "In order to succeed, a pupil must leave his own world and come into ours."
This means that he must cease to be one of the majority who live for wealth and power, and must join the tiny minority who care nothing for such things, but live only in order to devote themselves selflessly to the good of the world. She warned us clearly that the way was difficult to tread, that we should be misunderstood and reviled by those who still lived in the world, and that we had nothing to look forward to but the hardest of hard work; and though the result was sure, no one could foretell how long it would take to arrive at it. Some of us accepted these conditions joyfully, and we have never for a moment regretted the decision.
After some years of work I had the privilege of coming into contact with these great Masters of the Wisdom; from Them I learnt many things—among others, how to verify for myself at first hand most of the teachings which They had given. So that, in this matter, I write of what I know, and what I have seen for myself. Certain points are mentioned in the teaching, for the verification of which powers are required far beyond anything which I have gained so far. Of them, I can say only that they are consistent with what I do know, and in many cases are necessary as hypotheses to account for what I have seen. They came to me, along with the rest of the Theosophical system, upon the authority of these mighty Teachers. Since then I have learnt to examine for myself by far the greater part of what I was told, and I have found the information given to me to be correct in every particular; therefore I am justified in assuming the probability that that other part, which as yet I cannot verify, will also prove to be correct when I arrive at its level.
To attain the honour of being accepted as an apprentice of one of the Masters of the Wisdom is the object set before himself by every earnest Theosophical student. But it means a determined effort. There have always been men who were willing to make the necessary effort, and therefore there have always been men who knew. The knowledge is so transcendent that when a man grasps it fully he becomes more than man and he passes beyond our ken.
But there are stages in the acquirement of this knowledge, and we may learn much if we will, from those who themselves are still in process of learning; for all human beings stand on one or other of the rungs of the ladder of evolution. The primitive stand at its foot; we who are civilized beings have already climbed part of the way. But though we can look back and see rungs of the ladder below us which we have already passed, we may also look up and see many rungs above us to which we have not yet attained. Just as men are standing even now on each of the rungs below us, so that we can see the stages by which man has mounted, so also are there men standing on each of the rungs above us, so that from studying them we may see how man shall mount in the future. Precisely because we see men on every step of this ladder, which leads up to a glory which as yet we have no words to express, we know that the ascent to that glory is possible for us. Those who stand high above us, so high that They seem to us as gods in Their marvellous knowledge and power, tell us that They stood not long since where we are standing now, and They indicate to us clearly the steps which lie between, which we also must tread if we would be as They.