Category Archives: Blavatsky

Thoughts on Reincarnation

daffodils

We sometimes turn to Nature for illustrations that we can use in explaining some of the doctrines, and the best illustration that I can find for the teaching of reincarnation is a perennial plant. Perhaps a plant growing from a bulb provides the best example of all, because during the winter months all that had grown above the ground has been shed, and the bulb lies invisibly below the surface waiting for the new spring-time growth.

It is a wonderful thing, once you come to think about it, how the life-energies bring forth the blade-like leaves, and then the flower, and then when the flowering is over, the energies withdraw into the bulb, and the flower and the leaves are shed.

Suppose, just for the sake of this illustration, we cut the flower in its prime and preserve it.  When the new flower appears during the next Spring, we may find that to all intents and purposes it is an altogether different flower, as much so almost as though it had sprung from a different bulb.  And yet it is the outgrowth of the flower that we preserved from the year before, because the same life-energy produced them both.

It seems that here is the secret of the difference between the personality and the individuality.  The individuality, which we also call the reincarnating ego, is like the bulb because it puts forth a new personality at each new birth, which process we have come to call reincarnation.  The personality of this life-time is to all intents and purposes a different being from the personality that the reincarnating ego brought forth in its previous sojourn on earth.  And this is the reason that we cannot remember our past lives.

Now the great task confronting us in human life is to make of this personality a fitting instrument and vehicle for the life of the individuality, which is really the higher Self.  When we recognize that we as human beings have the responsibility of maintaining our bodies in health and control, and of using them for constructive purposes, and that we are responsible in the last analysis to our higher Selves, then this higher Self, or the individuality as we also call it, can become more manifest in our consciousness.  When this has been more or less successfully accomplished we have true human greatness.

So when a person says:  “But I don’t want to reincarnate,” that is the impermanent part of him speaking that isn’t going to endure anyway.  When he makes a sincere effort to study the grand teachings, and to live them, then he becomes conscious of those vaster reaches of his being that comprise the entity which does survive through the ages in that mysterious process called reincarnation.

And one more thought.  Reincarnation is only a special case of a wider teaching of the Continuance of Life.  We reincarnate because humanity at the present level of its unfoldment needs the experience.  There are entities in the universe that do not reincarnate because there is not the need for it.  They have passed through that phase of spiritual evolution, or, again, in other instances have not yet reached that phase, wherein reincarnation is the answer to their specific needs.

All entities, however, follow the habits of Nature, and the Continuance of Life in one form or another is the first law of cosmic activity.  Thus many entities, both above and below the human kingdom, reimbody although they remain within their own class.  Only entities that wear bodies of flesh, such as we humans, and the animals, reincarnate.
If we follow this line of thinking it will lead us into some of the deepest mysteries of consciousness.  And there is no spiritual exercise to be compared with that of delving into the teachings and encompassing them with our minds and hearts.  That is the secret of growth along spiritual and ethical lines.

 

– L. Gordon Plummer,  (Eclectic Theosophist, May, 1978)
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The Greatest Curse

2 procreation

[Some Theosophical teachings on Sex]

– G. C. Legros

In his Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, pp. 342-6, Dr. G. de Purucker states: “… sex is but a passing phase in racial evolution and, strictly speaking, is not normal to mankind on Globe D of our planetary chain. This method of procreation actually was copied from the beasts, which ‘separated’ before ‘man’ … As a matter of fact, the Atlantean and Atlanto-Lemurian karma has weighed so heavily upon us, the fifth race, that we are actually belated, and have not at the present date, the middle point of the fifth race, reached that stage as regards the evolving of the physical body which otherwise we should have reached.

“As it stands, however, the teaching tells us that at the end of our own fifth race, men and women will be disappearing as opposite sexes; and that by the middle of the Sixth Root Race (the race to come) men and women as separate sexes shall be no longer.

“The humans of that period (the Sixth Root-Race) will produce children by meditation and by will; during the Seventh Root-Race, the last to come on this Globe, during this Fourth Round – a race which to us now would seem glorious – the humans of that race will produce their kind in the same general manner; but by consciously exercised will and meditation…

“The main point… is to realize that this present physiological state of sex is a passing racial and evolutionary phase; and that every abuse, every misuse, no matter of what kind or what the world may think about it, is a reaction contrary to the evolutionary ‘law’… and that while it is true that the present method is the one which nature has evolved at the present time, as said before it is not really the method which primordial humanity might have followed… Nature has followed that line, as it were, under protest, through the evil doing involved in our past karma, as the only way souls can find incarnation at present …”

Sexual reproduction for humanity definitely was not in Nature’s original plan. On page 262, Vol. II, The Secret Doctrine, we read: “As has been shown in the present volume… it is the speechless animal that first started sexual connection… Nor was it intended by Nature that man should follow the bestial example …”

Ambition is the first curse says “Light on the Path;” but sex is the greatest, says The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, p. 412: “… the fire received has turned into the greatest curse: the animal element, and consciousness of its possession, has changed periodical instinct into chronic animalism and sensuality. It is this which hangs over humanity like a heavy funereal pall.” It has degraded man into “a helpless, scrofulous being, who has become the richest heir on the globe to constitutional and hereditary diseases.”

The deliberate profanation of sex in Atlantis led to the worship of the physical body (the Easter Island statues attest to this), and finally to the sex principle in itself. Phallic Sorcery followed, with half of the Atlantean civilization falling into Black Magic practices which survive today in African Voodoo, Tibetan Dugpa Lamaism, Hindu Tantrika, and many branchs of Western metaphysics.

“The question is often asked” – The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, pp. 295-6 – “Why should celibacy and chastity be a sine qua non rule and condition of regular chelaship, or the development of psychic and occult powers? The answer is contained in the Commentary… During human life the greatest impediment in the way of spiritual development, and especially to the acquirement of Yoga powers, is the activity of our physiological senses. Sexual action being closely connected, by interaction, with the spinal cord and the grey matter of the brain…”

From H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. XII, pp. 700-2: “Humanity will become once more hermaphrodite, male-female, and then there will be two Spinal Cords in the human body.. Ida and Pingala will be joined with sushumna and they will also become one. Thus the Sympathetic Cords, which are concerned so largely with the glandular system, developed more in the female than in the male, and the Cerebrospinal Axis, connected with the muscular system, developed more in the male than in the female, will reach equality or equilibrium, and with this the Androgyne becomes the typical Humanity.
“The sexual creative power of man is not natural… It was an abnormal diversion from the course of human or divine nature, and all tends to make away with it. Man at the end of the Sixth and Seventh Races will not have sexual organs.

“…no one can properly or safely enter on the study of Practical Occultism, in the real sense of the word, unless he or she is a celibate… any who get hold of some of the Hatha-Yoga exercises, and who begin to practice them in the midst of an ordinary family life, or while living in a loose way sexually, must, if to any extent successful, bring upon themselves physical disease, and very often madness… Therefore all sexual intercourse is forbidden to the students of Practical Occultism.”

[Our magazine] entertains no grand hope that the foregoing will transform its readers into an assembly of celibates, but it does expect the Purucker-Blavatsky material to clear the air, and show that the Sexual Revolution now raging is no holy crusade for man’s liberation from Puritanism, but a campaign of moral corruption conjured by demon hands from the lowest pits of Hell.

The Man of Tomorrow must see himself as a potential god imprisoned in the body of a beast, but with the wisdom and power to train it to serve him in his work for Universal Brotherhood. Either that, or he will lose his godhood and revert to something less than human, to a dwindling caricature of the Self he might have been.

(from “Messiah”)

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What is Theosophy?

Theosophy is a Greek term meaning Divine Wisdom, said to be the synthesis of religion, philosophy and science.  During the Dark Ages this wisdom was only taught in secret to dedicated pupils, but during the last century it became available to all seekers after spiritual truth, and its promulgation was intended to act as a counter-balance in our present age of scientific materialism. Theosophy is a Greek term meaning Divine Wisdom, said to be the synthesis of religion, philosophy and science.  During the Dark Ages this wisdom was only taught in secret to dedicated pupils, but during the last century it became available to all seekers after spiritual truth, and its promulgation was intended to act as a counter-balance in our present age of scientific materialism.
Two main teachings are stressed in Theosophy – Reincarnation and Karma.  Reincarnation means the successive births of every individual in a new human body, on this earth, birth and death following each other like waking and sleeping so that a period of activity is followed by a period of rest and assimilation.  Karma, meaning ‘action’, is the law of cause and effect, action and reaction being equal and opposite.
Put into practical terms, these two doctrines, called twins since one cannot be considered without the other, supply a rational and satisfactory explanation of what appears to be gross injustice in our lives.  Obviously we are not born equal, either physically or mentally, and our sense of justice demands a better explanation than laying the blame on the will of God or Fate.
If we realized the real implication of the Biblical injunction that “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” and if we applied this in our thoughts and actions, the quality of life would be immeasurably improved, eventually permeating the whole fabric of society.
A belief in reincarnation, which is accepted by two-thirds of the world’s population, would remove the fear of death, putting it in its proper place as a part of living, a door into a new state of consciousness free of the limitations of the physical body.
During the period between physical lives, the immortal man, the undying individuality, assimilates the experience and lessons of the life just ended, so that when the time comes to enter a new body again, he will be wiser and better able to cope with life’s problems as they arise.
Theosophical students revere all the great teachers and sages of history, as examples of what is possible for every individual.  “I have said, ye are gods and children of the most High.”
The third basic idea in Theosophy is that of the unity of all life and human brotherhood as a fact, not a sentimental opinion.
We are very aware today of the interdependence in the chain of life in the kingdoms below man.  Theosophy always taught this, but in addition includes mankind.  We are all parts of the greater life, sparks of Divinity, united like the fingers of one hand, and we have learned that when one finger is injured the whole hand suffers.
These three basic ideas are the foundation of Theosophy and can be grasped even by a child, although the deeper reaches of the philosophy have given great minds their fullest scope and will satisfy the spiritual longings of those who are gradually turning away from self-centered materialistic living.
( Dorita Gilmour, from The Eclectic Theosophist, Jan 15, 1978 )
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Why 360 Degrees?

zodiac

                                  – L. Gordon Plummer

The division of the circle into 360 equal parts called ‘degrees’ is very ancient. The early astronomers and mathematicians who divided it thus, knew well what they were about, and if we embark upon a short excursion into the mystic Land of Numbers we shall soon learn that there are wonderful correspondences between cycles of time and geometrical form. Let us first study the interesting astronomical cycle known as the Precession of the Equinoxes.

Those who have studied astronomy will recall that the points on the Earth’s orbit where it is crossed by the plane of the celestial equator, move slowly westward, making the complete circle in nearly 26,000 years. The number as reckoned by the ancients is 25,920 years. This cycle is known as the Precessional Cycle because the points of intersection above referred to are the points on the Earth’s orbit where the planet is at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and these equinoctial points move very slowly in the clockwise direction, while the Earth travels once around its orbit counter-clockwise every year, in other words, the time of equinox ‘precedes’ that of the year before. Hence the word ‘precession.’

The ecliptic is the great celestial circle in whose plane the Earth moves in its orbit, and as the other planets move in orbits whose planes are nearly identical with that of the Earth, these other planets actually, and the Sun apparently, move in the ecliptic. As we move along this circle or track in one year the Sun appears to pass across 12 great constellations called the Constellations of the Zodiac. The ecliptic is divided into 12 equal areas, which take their names from these 12 constellations, and therefore these divisions are called the Signs of the Zodiac. Imagine now the ecliptic (in which the Earth’s orbit lies ) to be a great wheel revolving slowly in the heavens. The point on the Earth’s orbit – and hence on the ecliptic – where the Earth passes through the vernal, or spring, equinox marks the beginning of the first of the 12 divisions, and they are reckoned counter-clockwise, or eastward. Since, as we have observed, the point of the vernal – and consequently of the autumnal – equinox moves westward, we may consider that it carries the ecliptic along with it. The great circle turns round and round in the heavens, and requires 25,920 years to make one revolution. The Signs of the Zodiac then move with it because they are a part of it. Thus, the Sign of Aries, which begins at the spring equinoctial point and the ecliptic, and which once occupied a position in the sky identical with the constellation Aries, has shifted, and is now entering the constellation Aquarius. That is to say, the Sun is now in the Constellation Aquarius at the time of the spring equinox, whereas it was once in the constellation Aries at the same equinox.

It is obvious that since the first point in the sign of Aries – usually called the ‘first point of Aries’ – takes 25,920 years to pass around the Zodiac, or across the 12 constellations, it will take one-twelfth of that time or 2,160 years to pass through one constellation, assuming for the moment that all the constellations occupy equal portions of the sky. This number, 2,160 years, is extremely important, because it is a basic factor in computing the ages of the Earth, and the Rounds and Races, as also in counting the numbers of degrees in the geometrical solids. Further, the length of the Messianic Cycle, or Cycle of certain Avataras is 2,160 years. A point of great interest is that the cube, which was anciently held to symbolize Man, has for the sum of its plane angles, 2,160′. The cube unfolded into a plane surface becomes a cross. At the commencement of the Avataric Cycle of 2,160 years a candidate for the highest initiation is placed upon a cruciform couch, and while his body remains there, his spirit soars through the inner realms of the spiritual world, reaching at last the ‘Heart of the Sun.’ When he arises from the couch, he does so as a glorified Adept, a Teacher of Men.

But we have digressed somewhat from the purpose in view, that is, to find out just why the circle is divided into 360 degrees. So let us note that the number 2,160 is 10 times the cube of 6. Now the cube of 6 is equal to the sum of the cubes of 3, 4, and 5. Among the important numbers, the numbers 3, 4, and 5 play a leading part in the building of form. The five regular polyhedrons, held so sacred by the ancients, are built upon the 3, 4 and 5. At some future time, we may devote an article to the study of these most interesting figures, so we will make but few allusions to them here.

There are five regular solids in geometry. These are: the icosahedron, having 30 edges, 20 equilateral triangular faces, and 12 vertices; the dodecahedron having also 30 edges, but 12 pentagonal faces, and 20 vertices; the cube with 12 edges, 6 quadrilateral faces, and 8 vertices; the octahedron having also 12 edges, but 8 triangular faces, and 6 vertices; and the tetrahedron, or triangular pyramid, having 6 edges, 4 triangular faces, and 4 vertices. The numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6 play a very important part in the building of these figures, both as to the numbers of faces, vertices, or edges in them, and as to the numbers of degrees in their angles. These figures are the working out in geometrical form of the same principles which are behind the manifested universe, which, before manifestation, may be represented by the circle. A circle may be divided into 3 equal arcs, each of these into 4ths, each resulting 12th part into 5ths, and the resulting 60ths, into 6 equal parts each, and the whole will be then divided into 360 equal parts, or degrees. Now the product of 3, 4, 5 and 6, or 360, divided by their sum, or 18, gives us 20, a number suggestive of the icosahedron, the most complex of the geometrical solids. Lines may be drawn, joining interiorly all the points of the icosahedron, and we shall find that within it we have a new figure, the dodecahedron. The dodecahedron, having 30 edges as well as the icosahedron, we have now 60 lines. (Note that 60 is the product of 3,4, and 5.) The dodecahedron was considered to represent the solar system – the 12 faces, symbolic of the 12 Signs of the Zodiac – and the icosahedron, the outer stars.

Suppose, now, that we take a circle, and divide the circumference into 10 equal arcs, suggestive of the 10 planes of consciousness, join each point with every other point . . . . . and we have drawn the icosahedron surrounding the dodecahedron! The point at the center of the circle, where some of the lines cross, becomes in reality 2 points, coinciding and forming the north and south poles of the icosahedron.

Now the circle here represents the Unmanifested, which, however, as soon as manifestation takes place becomes 10 Cosmic planes. These Cosmic planes we have learned to divide into sub-planes, 10 in each, as follows: 3 subjective or formless planes: 4 intermediate planes, upon which the globe-chains which belong to that particular cosmic plane manifest; then 3 lower planes of a substance and energy lower in vibration even than the lowest of the seven globes of the planetary chains occupying the four intermediate planes. Thus the planes can be numbered, 3, 4 and 3. (Incidentally, the number 343 is the cube of 7, the number of manifestation.) These sub-planes are not to be considered as layers in a cake, but are interpenetrating. Suppose, then, we divide in this fashion each of the 10 arcs of our circle: first, into 3 equal parts, each of which will be one-thirtieth of the whole, each of these into 4ths, making 120ths, then each of these into 3rds again, and we have our circle divided once more into 360 equal parts, or degrees.

To sum up, then, we find that the numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6, and also the number 10 considered as the sum of 3, 4 and 3 are of especial interest and importance in connexion with the number of degrees in the circle, because they represent active agents in the constructive side of Nature. The number 12 (the sum of 3, 4 and 5) has a particular function which will require further consideration, but it may here be said that the numbers 11 and 12 represent the zenith and the nadir of any hierarchy of 10 planes, because they represent the higher and lower connecting-points, as it were, between that hierarchy and the ones above and below it. The relations between the numbers are as intricate, apparently, as are the lines of the geometrical figure here illustrated, yet when we have a bird’s-eye view of the whole subject, we can see clearly the part that each number has to play.

And we have but touched the shores of the mystic Land of Numbers. We shall set sail again and find out more about the geometrical solids. Wonderful are the lessons we can learn about Nature and her majestic laws, and sublime is the inspiration that will come to us if we approach her with eager hearts, and a love of Truth, free from personal desires.

Theosophical Path, Jan., 1934

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Fundamental Buddhist Beliefs

Buddhist Temple

The following text is of the fourteen items of belief which have been accepted as fundamental principles in both the Southern and Northern sections of Buddhism, by authoritative committees to whom they were submitted by me personally…… [ – H. S. Olcott (1881) ]
I. Buddhists are taught to show the same tolerance, forbearance, and brotherly love to all men, without distinction; and an unswerving kindness towards the members of the animal kingdom.

II. The universe was evolved, not created; and it functions according to law, not according to the caprice of any God.

III. The truths upon which Buddhism is founded are natural. They have, we believe, been taught in successive kalpas, or world-periods, by certain illuminated beings called BUDDHAS, the name BUDDHA meaning “Enlightened”.

IV. The fourth Teacher in the present kalpa was Sakya Muni, or Gautama Buddha, who was born in a royal family in India about 2,500 years ago. He is an historical personage and his name was Siddhartha Gautama.

V. Sakya Muni taught that ignorance produces desire, unsatisfied desire is the cause of rebirth, and rebirth, the cause of sorrow. To get rid of sorrow, therefore, it is necessary to escape rebirth; to escape rebirth, it is necessary to extinguish desire; and to extinguish desire, it is necessary to destroy ignorance.

VI. Ignorance fosters the belief that rebirth is a necessary thing. When ignorance is destroyed the worthlessness of every such rebirth, considered as an end in itself, is perceived, as well as the paramount need of adopting a course of life by which the necessity for such repeated rebirths can be abolished. Ignorance also begets the illusive and illogical idea that there is only one existence for man, and the other illusion that this one life is followed by states of unchangeable pleasure or torment.

VII. The dispersion of all this ignorance can be attained by the persevering practice of an all-embracing altruism in conduct, development of intelligence, wisdom in thought, and destruction of desire for the lower personal pleasures.

VIII. The desire to live being the cause of rebirth, when that is extinguished rebirths cease and the perfected individual attains by meditation that highest state of peace called Nirvana.

IX. Sakya Muni taught that ignorance can be dispelled and sorrow removed by the knowledge of the four Noble Truths, namely:
1. The miseries of existence;
2. The cause productive of misery, which is the desire ever renewed of satisfying oneself without being able ever to secure that end;
3. The destruction of that desire, or the estranging of oneself from it;
4. The means of obtaining this destruction of desire. The means which he pointed out is called the Noble Eightfold Path, viz.: Right Belief; Right Thought; Right Speech; Right Action; Right Means of Livelihood; Right Exertion; Right Remembrance; Right Meditation.

X. Right Meditation leads to spiritual enlightenment, or the development of that Buddha-like faculty which is latent in every man.

XI. The essence of Buddhism, as summed up by the Tathagatha (Buddha) himself, is:
To cease from all sin,
To get virtue,
To purify the heart.

XII. The universe is subject to a natural causation known as “Karma”. The merits and demerits of a being in past existences determine his condition in the present one. Each man, therefore, has prepared the causes of the effects which he now experiences.

XIII. The obstacles to the attainment of good karma may be removed by the observance of the following precepts, which are embraced in the moral code of Buddhism, namely: (1) Kill not; (2) Steal not; (3) Indulge in no forbidden sexual pleasure; (4) Lie not; (5) Take no intoxicating or stupefying drug or liquor. Five other precepts which need not be here enumerated should be observed by those who would attain, more quickly than the average layman, the release from misery and rebirth.

XIV. Buddhism discourages superstitious credulity. Gautama Buddha taught it to be the duty of a parent to have his child educated in science and literature. He also taught that no one should believe what is spoken by any sage, written in any book, or affirmed by tradition, unless it accords with reason.

Drafted as a common platform upon which all Buddhists can agree.

– H. S. Olcott, P.T.S. (from Appendix of “The Buddhist Catechism”)

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Voluntary Action vs. Compulsion

charity

 

Militarily things seem pretty much the same today as 73 years ago – only not so much so. The inner laws of Nature, however, are still exactly the same.
[1944]

Two thousand Allied bombers drop hundreds of tons of flaming death on German cities. The four great powers meet at Dumbarton Oaks to agree on means for maintaining peace in the world. Eight thousand Japanese exterminated on Pelieliu Island. Thousands of tons of food supplies and clothing distributed to the war indigent in Italy, France and Greece.

Those, and similar contrasting newspaper headlines, run through the mind, as wending a somewhat weary way from the great city, the peace and quiet of the wayside is gratefully received. What does it all mean? This destroying with one hand and constructing and helping with the other.

The answer to all problems can be found by a communing with Nature, as long as we do not qualify it by placing that word HUMAN before it. Nature requires a rather close observation at times. So it is that we can note that all growth, whether vegetable or animal, all evolution or change of form, seems to be controlled by two great laws. One is Voluntary Action and the other is Compulsion.

It does not seem to matter much which law is allowed to hold its sway, the results seem to be the same. However, we note that the law of Compulsion is generally accompanied by sufferings, while that of Voluntary Action always seems to be a joyous affair.

Another thing to be noted is that whenever Voluntary Action is spurned, the very effects of such spurning is what produces the manifestations of Compulsion. An entity partakes of too much food, repudiating self-control, voluntarily exercised. Such nausea is produced that COMPULSION causes abstinence, until balance is once more restored. Therefore, the Law of Compulsion is not enforced by exterior forces, but merely produced by the throwing aside of the Divine Law of Voluntary Action.

In Nature, if it be studied with the Seeing Eye, it will be found that the Mineral Kingdom is ruled by the Law of Compulsion alone. In the Vegetable Kingdom, Voluntary Action makes its appearance, but faintly. Many botanical species have appeared and disappeared on account of it, but the Vegetable Kingdom, as a whole, has wonderfully progressed, since the days of the primitive fungi and gigantic tree ferns.

In the Animal Kingdom, Voluntary Action becomes more perceptible, as locomotion, the ability to change position has entered the life picture. Pity the poor plant, over-shadowed by the growing tree: it cannot move over into the sunshine, but has to make the best of it. Partly by Voluntary Action, partly by Compulsion, many a plant has grown into a tree that has overshadowed the tree that almost snuffed it out of existence. Sometimes, it is itself snuffed out of existence. In the Human Kingdom, having locomotion, as well as self-conscious mind, the Law of Voluntary action becomes supreme, the Law of Compulsion only lurks in the shadows of man’s creation, ready with its whip-lash to drive him onward and upward, if he will not move on his own intiative.

Now read again the first paragraph, and see if you can reconcile the conflicting actions, in the light of the Law of Compulsion, acting through the man-made destruction, compelling man to do what he should have done voluntarily.

Moral: Man advances, willy-nilly. With joy in his heart, voluntarily, or under the whip-lash of the Law of Compulsion.
And that’s just simple Theosophy.

– The Wayfarer [Maj. Hubert S. Turner]

– From “Thoughts by the Wayside,” Theosophia, Nov.-Dec., 1944

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Ambition vs. Attainment

2ambition

                                             – G. C. LeGros

“Oh, not the men of pomp and guile,
The crafty and the bold,
The haughty men who never smile,
And men who live for gold;
But broken men with hands that bleed
And souls by anguish rent . . . . ”

On the first page of Light on the Path we read the number one rule for disciples – “Kill out ambition.” The Adept-author explains that “Ambition is the first curse: the great tempter of the man who is rising above his fellows. It is the simplest form of looking for reward. Men of intelligence and power are led away from their higher possibilities by it continually. Yet it is a necessary teacher. Its results turn to dust and ashes in the mouth; like death and estrangement it shows the man at last that to work for self is to work for disappointment.”

Ambition may even persist in the life of the occultists “…who fancies he has removed his interest from self, but who has in reality only enlarged the limits of experience and desire, and transferred his interest to the things which concern his larger span of life.” We see this everywhere – “astral projection,” “psychic powers,” “third-eye clairvoyance,” “hypnotic control over others, ” etc.  Ambition is a hydra-headed thing.

In another book – Fragments of Life and Thought – the same Adept points out that “…not until the man has triumphed again and again in one incarnation after another, not until success has become tedious to him, and the high places of the earth all seem low and poor to him, is he beginning to be ready to go beyond it. And only so can it be killed out. “Man must go on struggling for earthly prizes until he reaches the point “…where the excelling of his fellows becomes suddenly and forever contemptible in his eyes, beneath the dignity and greatness of his soul, and then he will kill out ambition and cast it from him as a weed of earth. He will perceive that the strength which he has developed must be used, not in order to excel, but in the endeavor to attain.”

Attainment is different from Ambition because the latter fires one with a passion to out-distance all others striving for the same goal. The ambitious man is by necessity personal, jealous, envious, and ruthless – in other words, a menace to the world because he sows discord. To realize his aims he will stop at nothing save that which imperils his own preservation. And sometimes he will risk even that, like Shakespeare’s soldier “… seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.”

Attainment, on the other hand, is a reaching out from self to SELF, from the finite to the Infinite, from the conditioned to the Unconditioned. The man who attains finds no rivals at his side, no single prize waiting at the end of the race. He moves in Eternity, where there is room for all.

Ambition is the effort of man to add to himself some coveted fragment of Earth, hoping thereby to exalt and increase his stature before others; but Attainment is the giving of oneself to the Whole.

A good example is the poet who wins first prize in an important contest. At the reception which follows, he receives honor and praise, and for a little hour feels as a god among men. But he also looks upon the faces of other poets who had competed and lost. They regard him as a thief, a usurper of the prize they sought, and which, in their opinion, they deserve.

He also thinks of next year’s contest, and wonders if he will win again, or only receive honorable mention, or no mention at all. Instead of rejoicing in his triumph, he finds himself under a cloud of apprehension. Victory is not the splendid thing he had envisioned.

Looking back, he sees that writing the poem was Attainment; but competing and winning the prize was Ambition. In the joy of creating something beautiful, he reached out of himself into the starry spaces where the Gods of Glory sing, and where, for a moment, he was one with their song.

But winning the prize and humbling his rivals, was an earthly thing that compressed his soul, and imprisoned him in a little world made by the littleness of men, where Ambition is king, demanding its terrible price.

The poet should sing as a bird sings – not for reward, but to Attain, to reach out from self to Infinity. The poet can be taken as a symbol of all men because everyone strives to express what he is – what is in him – either to win something from the world that may be added unto himself, or to give something of himself to the world. Each man is, by nature, either a taker or a giver.

The taker, following the path of Ambition, loses with every step because he violates the Supreme Order of the Universe, which is Duty, Service, and Cooperation. The giver, following the path of Attainment, wins with every step because he acts in keeping with the Harmony of the Whole, thereby enriching himself, because he is the Universe.

Attainment is the foundation of the Ultimate Discipline of Life. “Work as those work who are ambitious.” Make the utmost of the life that is yours; but seek no personal victories which, once realized, crush those around you. Regard men not as rivals, but as fellow pilgrims walking beside you on the Eternal Highway. Help them to attain with you, to become whole with you, and all the treasures of the Universe will be yours!

(from “Messiah”)

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