Tag Archives: Theosophy

History of Saint Nicholas

St Nicholas

– Alexander Wilder

The sixth of December has long been set apart by the holy church as the anniversary of the jolly Saint Nicholas, dear alike to school boy and maiden, and equally so of later days to the wee lad and lass of the nursery. He seems to have wandered far and wide,

“Through many a clime,
O’er many a land and sea;”

and everywhere he wins a joyous welcome. In western lands he has wrested from Christmas its peculiar rites; and so far as we know, the simpler ones imagine that his vehicle, and not the choir of angels, made the joyous announcement of Bethlehem; and the eager little ones drown the carol of Yule morning with their glad refrain: “Santa Claus has come!”

But in the long-ago, among our British ancestors, an ill repute long attached to the name of this saint of tankards and flagons. The tears of the Recording Angel, long wept, would not suffice to wash away the entries made in his book of the evil deeds of the knights and chiefs who worshiped at his shrine. The halo of canonization which distinguishes saints from men of commoner clay, served to give to light the records in which were inscribed the scandalous mischiefs wrought by his votaries. Doubtless, canonizing was the charity which the apostle declared “shall cover the multitude of sins.”

In the undated periods of antiquity, great and good men were delivered by apotheosis from the ordinary conditions of entombment, and given a wider sphere of activity. Afterward, when religions changed, many a divinity, archangel and patriarch was taken from his former shrine, and by solemn canonization was placed in the category of “lang-syne saunts.” Abraham and David, Michael and Gabriel, Bacchus, Mithra, Satur, even Seithin himself, and the Nik or ocean-god of Norse mythology are all duly enrolled in the Christian calendar.

Of those who have received the new adoption, St. Nicholas has, perhaps, the most equivocal record. Even his associate, George, the brigand of Cappadocia, hardly comes up to his measure. The first mention of the name is in the Acts of the Apostles – “Nikolaos a proselyte of Antioch.” He is there chronicled as “of honest report.” Unfortunately, that praise has not, in English-speaking countries, been since attached to his name. “Keep thy neck for the hangman,” cries Chamberlain to Gadshill,(1) “for I know thou worshipest St. Nicholas as truly as any man of falsehood may.”

This kind of worship will readily be comprehended by anyone conversant with our English classics. There is a quaint old volume entitled Plaine Percival, the Peacemaker of England, the author of which gives us this passage: “He was a tender-hearted fellow, though his luck was but bad, which hasting to make up a quarrell by the highway side, between a brace of St. Nicholas’s clargiemen, was so courteously imbraced on both parties that he tendered his purse for their truce.” Without a doubt our hero was content to let that interview pass for a last shrift.

The Golden Legend has recorded very properly that robbers were under the protection of St. Nicholas; and other writers style them his knights. The more usual designation, however, appears to have been his clerks or priests. “If they meet not with St. Nicholas’ clerks,” says Gadshill,(2) “I’ll give thee this neck.”

Sir Walter Scott also treats of them. He depicts Jim Ratcliffe, the keeper of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, endeavoring to protect Jeanie Deans from highwaymen, when making her journey to London to implore his sister’s life.(3)
“He hastily scrawled a line or two on a dirty piece of paper, and said to her, as she drew back when he offered it: ‘Hey! what the de’il? it winna bite you, my lass; if it does nae gude, it can do nae ill. But I wish you to show it, if you have any fasherie wi’ ony o’ St. Nicholas’s clerks.’

“‘Alas!’ said she; ‘I do not understand what you mean.’

“‘I mean, if ye fall among thieves, my precious; that is a Scripture phrase, if ye will hae ane – the bauldest of them will ken a scart o’ my guse feather.'”

When Jeanie afterward showed this paper to Mrs. Bickerton, the hostess of The Seven Stars at York, that personage consulted her serving-man, Dick Ostler, who gave the assurance: “Only gentleman, as keeps the road o’ this side Stamford will respect Jim’s pass.” True enough, the heroine fell into the hands of highwaymen, …. resenting it, one ruffian exclaimed:

“‘Do you look at it, for d–n me, if I could read it, if it were for the benefit of my clergy.’

“‘This is a jark from Jim Ratcliffe,’ said the toller, having looked at the bit of paper. ‘The wench must pass by our cutter’s law.'”

Every reader of Ivanhoe remembers the sacking of the Castle of Torquilstone, and doubtless he sympathized with the deadly fright of Isaac the Jew, when passing the night with Friar Tuck, “the Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst.” The hedge-priest tarried to solace himself with Front-de-Boeuf’s Gascoigne wine. He was missed in the morning by his merry penitents, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest, who had met to divide the plunder, and required his presence to receive the tithe for the Church. He was found in the ruins, with Isaac as his prisoner, in the predicament explained by his finder thus graphically; “the runlet of sack half empty, the Jew half dead, and the Friar more than half-exhausted.” Locksley addresses his chaplain:

“‘Curtal priest,’ said the Captain, ‘thou has been at wet mass this morning, as early as it is. In the name of St. Nicholas, who has thou got here?’

“‘A captive to my sword and my lance, noble captain,’ replied the Clerk of Copmanhurst; ‘to my bow and my halberd, I shall rather say; and yet I have redeemed him by my divinity from a worse captivity. Speak, Jew; have I not ransomed thee from Sathanas? Have I not taught thee thy credo, thy pater and thine ave Maria? Did I not spend the whole night in drinking to thee, and in expounding of mysteries?’

“‘For the love of God,’ ejaculated the poor Jew, ‘will no one …… I know not one word which the reverend prelate spake to me all this fearful night. Alas! I was so distraught with agony and fear, and grief, that had our holy father Abraham come to preach to me, he had found but a deaf listener.’

“‘Thou liest, Jew; O thou knowest thou dost,’ said the Friar; ‘I will remind thee of one word of our conference; thou didst promist to give all thy substance to our holy order.'”

The Friar was well worthy to be Vicar-General of the “Holy Order.”

St. Nicholas, we apprehend, gained much of his ill-repute from his early associations. The deeds and the doctrines of the Nocolaitans I hate,” is the declaration of the Apocalypse.(4) We are not told why. A legend says that he had a wife and would not leave her, as recommended in the Gospel.(5) The old anchorites of Essenean and Apostolic times envied and hated men that had good wives. In our later times of private interpretation, each one explains passages by the way things happen nowadays. Such exgesis would make the Nicolaitans, the children of Nikolaos the deacon; and everybody knows the peculiar naughtinesses of deacons’ children in classic New England.

Ecclesiastical legend, however, has set forth that the deacon, though “full of the spirit,” was not the Saint; but that a bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor, who died in 326, was the august personage. In his cultus, he seems to have replaced Poseidon, or Neptune, and in that character received similar votive offerings from seamen escaped from peril.(6) The Scandinavians had also an ocean-god, the Nikke or Nek, who was greatly feared by mariners. “The British sailor,” says Scott, “who fears nothing else, confesses his terror for this terrible being, and believes him the author of almost all the various calamities to which the precarious life of the seaman is so continually exposed.” Hence the name, or rather Nick-name, which has been conferred on the arch-enemy, him of electro-sulphurous emananations, bovine horns and Bacchic foot. But the reputation of St. Nicholas is rather that of Mephisto, or Mercury, as god of thieves. We would have presumed this from his tutelary charge of merchants and shipping, which till very recently combined the practice of piracy with lawful trade. But English legend-writers offer another explanation.

St. Nicholas, having restored three murdered children to life, was thenceforth the patron of schoolboys, and aided them in their enterprises. Hence in the play,(7) when Speed endeavors to decipher the “catelog” which Launce had received of his sweetheart, the latter exclaims: “St. Nicholas, by thy speed.”

Accordingly, the sixth of December, the anniversary of the scholars’ patron, was anciently celebrated with peculiar rites and practices. It was usual to consecrate a boy-bishop, who continued in office till the twenty-eighth. An endeavor was made, in vain, as far back as the year 867, by the Synod of Constantinople, to break up the custom. The English had a prelate of this character in every parish, who seems to have exercised, during his brief episcopate, all the functions of the office. The Reformers made several efforts to abolish the Lilliputian diocese, and finally succeeded in 1542 in unfrocking the bishop, after which the pupils in Eton school adopted the montem festivities.

But presently the reputation of St. Nicholas became sadly clouded throughout England. Mr. Charles Knight suggests that this probably arose from the fact that the “poor scholars,” of whom there were many traveling about the country, and against whom, as vagrants, statutes were passed, may have occasionally “taken a purse” as well as begged “an almesse.” Be this as it may, both the saint and his pagan antecessor have been in turn, assigned to the patronship of robbers and outlaws.

But as the special tutelary of the children, Santa Klaus, as he is popularly designated, was widely known and esteemed. On the evening immediately preceding his anniversary, parents were accustomed, during many centuries, to indicate it by little presents and testimonials. The children were taught to believe that they owed these gifts to the kindness of St. Nicholas, his train, who came in at the window, even when closed, and made distribution. In Italy these presents were secreted in the shoes and slippers of the recipients, to surprise them when they came to dress in the morning. Young maidens were likewise under the protection of the bonny saint. He is recorded as having presented three destitute fiancees with marriage portions, by secretly leaving money at their windows. The pupils at convents used, on the evening of the fifth of December, to suspend their silk hose at the door of the abbess’s apartment, with a paper inclosed, recommending them to the great saint, and generally, the next morning, found the stocking filled with sweetmeats and other benefactions. In Flanders and Holland, all children put out their shoes or stockings in this way, in the confidence that Santa Klaus, or Knecht Klobes, as they call him, will put in a prize for good conduct before morning.

As a Dutch festival, St. Nicholas day transcends every other observance. Only lawful initiates are allowed to participate in the sacred orgies of the Holland Bacchus. When the awful night has come, the St. Nicholas societies meet in their mystic chapel. Proclamation is duly made: “Procul ite, o profani! donner und blitzen.” No Yankee may then remain, for of such is the abhorrence of every Dutchman of blue blood; nor is a “blarsted Englishman” welcome at the hearth of St. Nicholas. Even the English-tongued posterity of Dutch ancestors may be out of place. They only are welcome who utter aright the mystic password, KNICKERBOCKER. Alacki! for him who facilely lets drop the syllables, nick-kur-bok-kur. He has mispronounced the Shibboleth. He has intruded, like Clodinus at the rites of the Bona Dea. Like the man at the king’s marriage-feast, who had not on a wedding garment, he is incontinently driven away into the outer darkness.

Philologists, profound in Sanskrit and Semitic three-lettered radicals, have asserted that the secret of the password consists solely in properly separating the jaw-cracking consonants with a short vowel-sound, and clucking the heavy aspirates. Mr. Ellis once penetrated the adytum of a Brahman Temple by masonic grips and passwords; and perhaps even a drawling, nasal-speaking Yankee by saying as a suspiration, KUN-nikh-er-bokh-er, may enter the inmost sanctuary of the Dutch mysteries.

Much may occur that will never transpire. The “enterprising reporter,” so skillful in describing interviews and events that never had existence, has here no rightful place. It is the time of convocation of Dutch patriarchs and their unperverted discendants, to do honor to the manes and memory of their tutelary saint. The presiding officer, crowned – not with oak, laurel, or even oleaster, but – with the symbolic cabbage, exhibits a spectacle perhaps like that of Hendrick Hudson’s ghost in the Kaatskills, as nightly witnessed during Joe Jefferson’s personations of Rip Van Winkle. Of the brotherhood of St. Nicholas, it may be well not to say too much; it may be advised, however, that they refrain, as the sacred orgy, from quaffing any beverage of uncertain composition, lest it prove as lulling as the fiery draught swallowed by the luckless visitor from the village of Falling Water.

But we will not lift the veil that conceals the Batavian arcana. A Puritan ancestry of many generations, unmingled with any commixture from the region of the Elbe or Zuyder Zee since the emigration of Hengist and Horsa, has placed a Chinese wall between us and the sacellum of a Dutch sanctuary. We have never been permitted to taste the ambrosial kraut or drink the nectarean Johannisberger. We may not chronicle aught concerning the awe-inspiring ceremonials, the solemn processions, the invocations, the sacred incantations and the joyous smposiacs. All these we leave to every reader’s glowing fancy. We have heard of the distribution of pipes, stem a Flemish ell in length, and the ensuing holocaust accompanied with profuse and numerous libations. The fragrant wreaths and rings of smoke that ascend prepare all for the agonistics that follow. The Olympic games, the Isthmian and Pythian wrestlings cannot be compared with the contests at the festival of St. Nicholas. Mumming, blindman’s buff, and puss in the corner are all suggestions from this occasion. The scuffling queer antics which take place are the theme of many a jolly rehersal in the aftertime. It is against the unwritten law of St. Nicholas to permit a pipe to be carried out of the hall entire. Every tall man would have a superior opportunity; but few Batavi are of this character. The merry contest is kept up till the last pipe is broken. Immediately the blow of the gavel from the king of the night declares the festivities ended. But how the orgiasts find the street and the right way home, is a theme for the novelist. We pass it over, like Herodotus, in silence.

But may neither bigotry or indifference induce the abandoning of Santa Claus and his jolly rites. His journeys with car and bells from house to house down the chimneys and back again, leaving everywhere his remembrances, are so many green spots in life. Even the obliterated hearth, the pestilence-exhaling register and the sulphurous flues, have been ineffectual to drive him from the drawing-rooms and the children’s stockings. May he survive another millennium!

(from my book “The Perfective Rights, and Other Writings of Alexander Wilder,” originally “Merrie Saint Nicholas,” in The Evolution, Dec., 1877. The book is available at Lulu and Amazon.)

1 Shakespeare: King Henry IV, part I, Act ii, Scene 1.
2 Shakespeare: King Henry IV, part I, Act ii.
3 Heart of Mid-Lothian, xxv, xxviii, xxix.
4 Revelation of Joannes Theologos, ii, 6, 15.
5 Gospel according to Matthew, xix, 12.
6 Jonah, i, 5, 16.
7 Shakespeare: Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act iii, Scene 1.


Speed – More Speed!

The buildings rear immense, horizons fade
And thought forgets old gages in the ecstasy of view.
The standards go by which the steps were made.
On which we trod from former levels to the new.
No time for backward glance, no pause for breath,
Since impulse like a bowstring loosed us in full flight
And in delirium of speed none aim considereth
Nor in the blaze of burning codes can think of night.
The whirring of sped wheels and horn remind
That speed, more speed is best and peace is waste!
They rank unfortunate who lag behind
And only they seem wise who urge, and haste and haste.
New comforts multiply (for there is need!)
Each ballot adds assent to law that crowds the days.
None pause.  None clamor but for speed – more speed!
And yet – there was a sweetness in the olden ways.

– Talbot Mundy, 1921, “Guns of the Gods”

Gems from the East

Gems from the East

Days end with sunset, nights with the rising of the sun; the end of pleasure is ever grief, the end of grief ever pleasure.

Two things are impossible in this world of Maya: to enjoy more that Karma hath allotted; to die before one’s hour hath struck.

Seek refuge in thy soul; have there thy Heaven! Scorn them that follow virtue for her gifts!

Patience leads to power, but lust leads to loss.

The soul ripens in tears.

A narrow stomach may be filled to its satisfaction, but a narrow mind will never be satisfied, not even with all the riches of the world.

A learned man without pupils, is a tree which bears no fruit; a devotee without good works, is a dwelling without a door.

When Fate overtakes us, the eye of Wisdom becomes blind.

He who keeps to his business, he who loves his companions, he who does his duty, will never be poor.

He who knows not his own worth, will never appreciate the worth of others.

Whomsoever Riches do not exalt, poverty will not abase, nor calamity cast him down.

All the air resounds with the presence of spirit and spiritual laws.

[from “Gems from the East, A Birthday Book of Precepts and Axioms,” compiled by H. P. Blavatsky, which consists of a quote or axiom for every day of the year.


On Work


Work is something to be greatly desired, something to be praised and lauded by us all – our life-long friend, the giver of all gifts, the creator of everything we shall ever need or desire. And surely, with such thoughts in mind, our love for work will become deep and true. Then we shall gain the power to work even better – with greater capacity and talent – even with genius: for an intense love of work usually gives birth to genius.

Work for a great idea, and you arouse great ideas in your own mind. Great ideas produce great thoughts, and great thoughts produce great men. A man is exactly what he thinks himself to be. Therefore, the man who thinks great thoughts must necessarily become a great man, and the simplest way for anyone to form the habit of thinking great thoughts is to work for great ideas.

The man who shirks does not grow. The man who works poorly will remain small in mind. The man who works in the wrong concept of work will tire and wear out.

When you work simply for yourself, or for your own personal gain, your mind will seldom rise above the limitations of an undeveloped personal life. But when you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitiations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

The majority work to make a living; some work to acquire wealth or fame, while a few work because there is something within them which demands expression. The majority dislike work. Only a few truly love it. Nearly everybody wearies of work and there is only a limited number that gain streangth from work. The average person works because he has to, so that it is the exceptional one who works because he want to. When we dream of Utopia we picture it as a place where there is less work and more pleasure, and the highest heaven is supposed to be a realm where one does nothing. With this idea of work, the multitudes are eternally longing for rest, but this longing is seldom satisfied because their whole conception of work is based on lies and falsehood.

To get something without working for it – that seems to be the acme of delight. But why is the desire to get something for nothing so strong in so many minds? For no other reason that this: we do not understand the true nature of work, and therefore dislike it. When we learn to understand work, however, and learn how to work, we shall go to our work with just as much delight as we go to our pleasure. And when we consider the real purpose of work and discover the work that builds the man [or woman], we will consider it a far greater privilege to work for everything we need or desire, than to go to a free mine and take all the gold we can carry away.

– E. B. Szekely (?)


. . . . Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have dreamt would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

– W. H. Murray


The Last Theocracy


[This was written about 30 years ago, but the situation is the same and worse in Tibet as it was in 1950, with monasteries now being monitored with spy-cameras, and the Chinese bulldozing a Tibetan settlement and monastery of Larung Gar last summer. See: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36863888?SThisFB    Let’s hope the U.S.’s new administration will have more backbone in challenging the biggest murderer of human rights in the world.]

In what was to be the beginning of one of the periodic madnesses that grip parts or all the globe, in the spring of 1950 Tibet was invaded by China after China’s declaration that it intended to free Tibet from “the influence of foreign imperialists” (there being six westerners in Tibet at the time) It was to prove the total destruction of the base of exoteric Mahayana Buddhism, which has near identical doctrines to that of Theosophy. The invasion was to directly and indirectly result in the death of some one million Tibetans and to make refugees of 100,000 others including the Dalai Lama.

Before China’s attempted “modernization” of Tibet, it was the home of some 3,000 Buddhist monasteries and 200,000 monks. By 1984 these vast numbers had shrunk to a remaining or rebuilt 45 monasteries housing some 1,400 monks. For years any practice of religion was forbidden in Tibet, but in the last ten years under a new Chinese administration some of these strictures have been loosen. Partially this change in policy is due to the value of Buddhism as a tourist attraction. While the superficial ceremonial practice of Buddhism is allowed, any serious scholastic study of its scriptures is forbidden.

Most the destruction of monasteries occurred during the chaos of China’s “Cultural Revolution” in the 1960’s. Some monasteries were taken apart brick by brick while most were dynamited or shelled with field artillery – although the walls of most were too thick to be totally destroyed. The process was to first take an inventory of all valuables. Gold and silver artifacts were taken in truck convoys to China to be melted into bullion. Manuscripts were either burned on the spot or sent for use as shoe padding and toilet paper. Clay images were pulverized and recast for the specific purpose of making public lavatories. At the central temple in the capital at Lhasa, sacred manuscripts kept bonfires burning for five days. Monasteries not totally destroyed were used for granaries, barracks or offices. The temple at Lhasa was renamed “Guest House #5” and used for government offices and its courtyards for keeping pigs.

Monks were either killed or shipped with other Tibetans to work camps such as that at Golomo to build railroads, Tsala Ka to mine borax, or Kongpo for Timbering. At Golomo, which is at 10,000 foot elevation and has six months of winter with gale force winds much of the time, large numbers died almost immediately from exposure and starvation. One account claims that 1,400 of 1,700 prisoners held at Drepang monastery died of starvation from November 1960 to June 1961. Tibetan’s homes were arbitrarily seized and all their possessions sold. During this period Tibet’s agricultural production actually increased, but nearly all the harvest, except that kept for Chinese troops, was shipped to China. to offset its own famine. While famine was previously unknown in Tibet, formerly prosperous peasants were reduced to stealing scraps from the Chinese pigs, picking horse offal for undigested grain, and feeding their own blood mixed with tsampa to their starving children. Fare at the work camps, when there was any, was typically barley husks mixed with sawdust or ulcer-producing tree bark.

Monks and Lamas were special objects of Chinese persecution. Lamas, formerly heads of monasteries, were lashed through the streets of Lhasa with heavy statues of Buddha strapped to their backs. Monks and nuns were forced to copulate in public or branded with irons. There were crucifixions. Monks and nuns were forced to marry while other Tibetans were sterilized in large numbers. One of Tibet’s highest Lamas, the Panchen Lama, was publicly beaten in his trial for “crimes against the state” – chiefly his support of the Dalai Lama. His aged tutor was sent to Golomo where he shortly died and the Panchen himself was imprisoned for fourteen years, and released in 1978 for political reasons. [After the Panchen Lama died, the Chinese kidnapped his recognized child-reincarnation, and substituted their own state-sponsored reincarnation.] It is still illegal today to even have a picture of the Dalai Lama. NBC recently reported an arrest for having the Lama’s picture on a T-shirt.

In China’s “development” of Tibet, the provinces of Gansu and Amdo were transformed into what a 1979 Time magazine article calls a “vast sea of prison camps” with up to ten million Tibetan and Chinese prisoners – a “black hole … from which little information ever reached the outside world.” By 1978 China’s largest nuclear weapons factory was located at Nagchuka 165 miles north of Lhasa. Whole mountain ranges have been denuded of timber. Tibet’s vast herds of wild ass were machine-gunned, her snow leopards, himalayan monkeys and wild yaks have become nearly if not extinct and her formerly endless flocks of ducks and geese have disappeared. Sixty western scientists were allowed to visit Tibet in 1980 and according to their account there is not a large wild animal to be seen anywhere and only a few birds in Tibet’s now sterile landscape.

In short, there has been nothing worse in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Gulag, or under the Khymer Regime in Cambodia than what has occurred in Tibet under the Chinese. There is no outcry in the West, however, over this great atrocity or even sparse public knowledge. It is good politics to be friends with China and its billion people, while Tibet is important neither economically nor militarily and Buddhism matters very little in the political grist mills of the world. Our country, which prides itself for its stand on worldwide human rights, has chosen expediency and officially recognizes China’s claim to right of sovereignty over Tibet.

What was to befall Tibet was perhaps foreseen by the thirteenth Dalai Lama when he wrote in 1932 a year before his death:

“It may happen that here, in the center of Tibet, religion and government will be attacked both from without and from within. Unless we can guard our own country, it will now happen that the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, the Father and Son, and all the revered holders of the Faith,, will disappear and become nameless. Monks and their monasteries will be destroyed. The rule of law will be weakened. The lands and property of government officials will be seized. They themselves will be forced to serve their enemies or wander the country like beggars. All beings will be sunk in great hardship and overpowering fear; the days and nights will drag on slowly in suffering.”

While the present Dalai Lama has become a world ambassador in his never ending efforts to gain independence for Tibet, his attitude is also objective and philosophic. “There are many prophecies which indicate that I will be the last Dalai Lama. The world is changing so dramatically, that there may no longer be a need for the lineage.” Elsewhere he has stated that “the very aggregates of a human mind and body have, as their actual nature, suffering. They serve as a basis for suffering, and as long as one has them one is susceptible to suffering. From a deep point of view, while we Tibetans don’t have our independence and are living in someone else’s country, we are subject to a certain type of suffering, but when we return to Tibet and gain our independence, then there will be other types of suffering. So, you see, this is just the way it is. You might think that I’m pessimistic, but I am not. This is Buddhist realism. This is how, through Buddhist teaching and advice, we handle situations. These sorts of thoughts make one stronger, more active.”

In Exile from the Land of Snows, John F. Avedon, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1984
The Making of Modern Tibet, A. Tom Grunfeld, M.E. Sharp Inc., Armonk, NY, 1987

(from Protogonos, Winter 1987-8)


Aphorisms on Karma


The following, among others not yet used, were given to me by Teachers, among them being H.P. Blavatsky. Some were written, others communicated in other ways. To me they were declared to be from manuscripts not now accessible to the general public. Each one was submitted for my judgement and reason; and just as they, aside from any authority, approved themselves to my reason after serious consideration of them, so I hope they will gain the approval of those my fellow workers to whom I now publish them.
– William Q. Judge

(1) There is no karma unless there is is a being to make it or feel its effects.

(2) Karma is the adjustments of effects flowing from causes, during which the being upon whom and through whom that adjustment is effected experiences pain or pleasure.

(3) Karma is an undeviating and unerring tendency in the Universe to restore equilibrium, and it operates incessantly.

(4) The apparent stoppage of this restoration to equilibrium is due to the necessary adjustment of disturbance at some other spot, place, or focus which is visible only to the Yogi, to the Sage, or the perfect Seer: there is therefore no stopage, but only a hiding from view.

(5) Karma operates on all things and beings from the minutest conceivable atom up to Brahma. Proceeding in the three worlds of men, gods, and the elemental beings, no spot in the manifested universe is exempt from its sway.

(6) Karma is not subject to time, and therefore he who knows what is the ultimate division of time in this Universe knows Karma.

(7) For all other men Karma is in its essential nature unknown and unknowable.

(8) But its action may be known by calculation from cause to effect: and this calculation is possible because the effect is wrapped up in and is not succedent to the cause.

(9) The Karma of this earth is the combination of the acts and thoughts of all beings of every grade which were concerned in the preceeding manvantara or evolutionary stream from which ours flows.

(10) And as those being include Lords of Power and Holy Men, as well as weak and wicked ones, the period of the earth’s duration is greater than that of any entity or race upon it.

(11) Because the Karma of this earth and its races began in a past too far back for human minds to reach, an inquiry into its beginning is useless and profitless.

(12) Karmic causes already set in motion must be allowed to sweep on until exhausted, but this permits no man to refuse to help his fellows and every sentient being.

(13) The effects may be counteracted or mitigated by the thoughts and acts of oneself or of another, and then the resulting effects represent the combination and interaction of the whole number of causes involved in producing the effects.

(14) In the life of worlds, races, nations, and individuals, Karma cannot act unless there is an appropriate instrument provided for its actions.

(15) And until such appropriate instrument is found, that Karma related to it remains unexpended.

(16) While a man is experiencing Karma in the instrument provided, his other unexpended Karma is not exhausted through other beings or means, but is held reserved for future operation; and lapse of time during which no operation of that Karma is felt cause no deterioration in its force or change in its nature.

(17) The appropriateness of an instrument for the operation of Karma consists in the exact connection and relation of the Karma with the body, mind, intellectual and psychic nature acquired for use by the Ego in any life.

(18) Every instrument used by any Ego in any life is appropriate to the Karma operating through it.

(19) Changes may occur in the instrument during one life so as to make it appropriate for a new class of Karma, and this may take place in two ways: (a) through intensity of thought and the power of a vow, and (b) through natural alterations due to complete exhaustion of the old causes.

(20) As body and mind and soul have each a power of independent action, any one of these may exhaust, independently of the others, some Karmic causes more remote from or nearer to the time of their inception than those operating through other channels.

(21) Karma is both merciful and just. Mercy and Justice are only opposite poles of a single whole; and Mercy without Justice is not possible in the operations of Karma. That which man calls Mercy and Justice is defective, errant and impure.

(22) Karma may be of three sorts: (a) presently operative in this life through the appropriate instruments; (b) that which is being made or stored up to be exhausted in the future; (c) Karma held over from past life or lives and not operating yet because inhibited by inappropriateness of the instrument in use by the Ego, or by the force of Karma now operating.

(23) Three fields of operation are used in each being by Karma: (a) the body and the circumstances; (b) the mind and intellect; (c) the psychic and astral planes.

(24) Held-over Karma or present Karma may each, or both at once, operate in all the three fields of Karmic operation at once, or in either of those fields a different class of Karma from that using the others may operate at the same time.

(25) Birth into any sort of body and to obtain fruits of any sort of Karma is due to the preponderance of the line of Karmic tendency.

(26) The sway of Karmic tendency will influence the incarnation of an Ego, or any family of Egos, for three lives at least, when measures of repression, elimination, or counteractions are not adopted.

(27) Measures taken by an Ego to repress tendency, eliminate defects, and to counteract by setting up different causes, will alter the sway of Karmic tendency and shorten its influence in accordance with the strength or weakness of the efforts expended in carrying out the measures adopted.

(28) No man but a sage or true seer can judge another’s Karma. Hence while each receives his deserts, appearances may deceive, and birth into poverty or heavy trial may not be punishment for bad Karma, for Egos continually incarnate into poor surroundings where they experience difficulties and trials which are for the discipline of the Ego and result in strength, fortitude, and sympathy.

(29) Race-Karma influences each unit in the race through the law of Distribution. National Karma operates on the members of the nation by the same law more concentrated. Family Karma governs only with a nation where families have been kept pure and distinct; for in any nation where there is a mixture of family – as obtains in each Kaliyuga period – family Karma is in general distributed over a nation. But even at such periods some families remain coherent for long periods, and then the members feel the sway of family Karma. The word “family” may include several smaller families.

(30) Karma operates to produce cataclysms of nature by concantenation through the mental and astral planes of being. A cataclysm may be traced to an immediate physical cause such as internal fire and atmospheric disturbance, but these have been brought on by the disturbarce created through the dynamic power of human thought.

(31) Egos who have no Karmic connection with a portion of the globe where a cataclysm is coming on are kept without the latter’s operation in two ways: (a) by repulsion acting on their inner nature, and (b) by being called and warned by those who watch the progress of the world.

(The Path, March, 1893)


An Occult Tale


A Stranger within the Gates
– Annie Getchell Gale

Chapter I

 When Mr. Holcomb saw Dr. Riter start out on his round of evening visits he joined him. "Where are you going first?", he asked.
 "Down to Mr. Lester's", the doctor answered.
 "Then I will walk along with you. There's a piece of land down that way that I want to call your attention to. The thought occurred to me that perhaps you and I had better invest a few hundreds in it. Is Lester's boy going to pull through?" 
 "I see no reason why he shouldn't, though the fever has not run its course yet. He is rather a delicate child; he has a fair constitution, but not much vitality."
 "My boy speaks of him as a good-natured little chap who takes to books and pets."
 "Yes; he has a good mind and a good disposition. He is rather an unusually promising child."
 "I suppose his father and mother will try to make a preacher of him - if he lives. It runs in the blood."
 "It has run in the blood, as you say, but it may have run out. The time is coming, Mr. Holcomb, when there will be no preachers - using the word in the sense in which we use it now. The time is coming when men will look within for guidance in matters of religion."
 "Undoubtedly; and I fancy when that time comes every man will be his own physician."
 "I hope he will; there are signs in the air now that he who runs may read - if he runs with his eyes wide open."
 "This is the property that I had reference to", said Mr. Holcomb, stopping before a dilapidated old house, half-concealed by trees. "The buildings are of no value, but the land will bring a good price some day. We can buy it for two thousand dollars. What do you think of investing a thousand in it?"
 "It strikes me as a good bargain, and I will talk with you further about it to night, as I may have to go out of the city in the morning, and if we buy it at all we may as well do so immediately. But I must go on to Mr. Lester's now. I may not be detained five minutes; suppose you wait here for me, and we will walk down town together. I have an errand at the drug store before making my next call."
 Mr. Holcomb assented, and Dr, Riter went on. He was not gone long, but when he returned the sky was growing dark and lights shone through the windows of the buildings along the street. While passing a saloon their attention was attracted by sounds of angry voices, scuffling, and the crash of glass. They stopped and looked through a window; in the middle of the room two men, bent on murder, faced each other like wild animals about to spring. One held a revolver, the other a knife. For an instant they stood there, leaning forward, intent, alert, calculating the moment for action - the knife flashed in the air, and the report of the revolver was heard. One fell to the floor with a bullet in his heart; the other, unhurt, laid his smoking revolver on the bar. 
 "That was a close shave", he said coolly. "Another second and that knife would have done me."
 Following his professional instinct, Dr. Riter went inside and made a hasty examination of the body. The heart had ceased to beat and he told the bystanders that the man was dead.
 A crowd had gathered, and comments on the affair were made without reserve. "That was a neat bit of work", said one.
 "Caldwell was a tough and a bully, and it's a good thing for the community that he's gone where he can do no more harm", said another.
 "That's a fact."
 "He made the row in the first place", said the bartender, who had seen the beginning of the difficulty. "He wanted to fight, and he got what he deserved."
 "The world is well rid of him."
 "What are you men talking about?" Dr. Riter demanded. "How do any of you know that he can do no more harm?"
 The respect in which Dr. Riter was held prevented any open derision of his question, but several men exchanged significant glances. One, however, attempted to justify what he had said: "Dead men don't handle guns or knives - at least not that I ever heard of."
 "You are speaking according to your knowledge; you never heard of their ever handling guns or knives; that is well put in. But what lies behind the hand that fires the gun? Some one's mind supplies a motive. That is the real thing."
 "You're too deep for me, doctor; I don't know what you are driving at."
 "Do you think the soul of a man dies with his body?" 
 "No - no; I don't believe that."
 "Very well; Caldwell had a soul, and according to your belief and mine it didn't die with his body, but it can't control it any longer because his body is dead. Don't you think it might like to instigate some other man to commit crime, now, or do you imagine it has become changed in the twinkling of an eye, from what it was, to pure goodness?"
 "I don't know anything about it; I'm no spiritualist."
 "Neither am I; but for all we know to the contrary Caldwell's power to do evil may be ten times as great as it was half an hour ago."
 Mr. Holcomb and the doctor went out. "The man who said Caldwell had gone where he could do no more harm expressed the ideas of a great many people", Mr. Holcomb remarked. "You gave those people something to think about."
 "If they were in the habit of thinking they would question what becomes of a soul intent on crime at the moment it is set free. But they haven't learned to think. What would any one of that crowd say if I were to take him into an insane asylum and explain to him the real meaning of what he saw? He would be of the opinion that I was quite as much of a lunatic as any one there. How many generations do you imagine must pass before the masses have become fairly enlightened as to the facts of nature?"
 "About five, I should say."

Chapter II

 Willie Lester lost strength so fast that when the fever had run its course Dr. Riter doubted whether he could recover. For days he lay in a stupor of complete exhaustion; and when, at length, an increase of strength became perceptible, it was so very slight that weeks had passed before Dr. Riter could say that he was certainly recovering.
 As his strength returned certain peculiarities became apparent; his moods changed constantly, but none of them were pleasant. He was irritable, reserved, watchful, suspicious, and he frequently indulged in violent fits of anger, for which neither his mother nor Dr. Riter could find a cause, and which he could not, or would not, explain. He no longer cared for books, pets, schoolmates, or for anything which had formerly given him pleasure, but occupied himself in making feeble, but determined, efforts to kill the flies which occasionally came within his reach.
 Dr. Riter observed the change with some anxiety. His constitution was shattered, and his mind was weak; that he would be an easy victim to any strong and persistent influence was certain, and that some evil thing, seeing his weakness, would attack him, was more than possible. In the doctor's opinion his changing moods indicated real danger; two individuals, he argued, contending for supremacy in one body, would produce a discord which would be manifested externally by moodiness and irritability. Unfortunately, Dr. Riter was working in the dark; all that he could do was to exert his own will against the intruder - if such there was - whom he was unable to see, and there was not a well developed clairvoyant in the city.
 Going in very quietly one day, Dr. Riter heard him talking, with an expression of mingled fear and loathing: "Get away! get away, I say!"
 "To whom are you talking, Willie?" the Doctor asked.
 Willie started up, confused: "O, nothing - I don't know."
 "But you were talking to some one who was here; I would like to know. Don't you think you had better tell me?"
 Confused emotions flitted over his face, - fear, suspicion, and anger. "I tell you I don't know", he answered. "I wasn't talking. I wish folks wouldn't ask me so many questions."
 "Some one annoys you", Dr. Riter continued; "I will tell him to go away and let you alone."
 A strange expression came over Willie's face - a leer of triumph and defiance. It passed as quickly as it came, but its full significance was not lost on Dr. Riter. "It may be too late", he thought,
 In another room he questioned Mrs. Lester, adroitly, so as not to alarm her: "I heard Willie talking to himself just now; does he often amuse himself in this way?"
 "No, not now; he's getting over that."
 "Do you mean that he has been in the habit of talking to himself?"
 "Since he was ill he has talked and muttered to himself a good deal. Something annoys him, but he doesn't seem able to tell me what it is. He acts as though he was afraid of something. Have you noticed how moody he is? Sometimes he is like himself, and then, in a minute, he isn't like my Willie at all."
 "I wish you would observe him closely, without allowing him to suspect that you are watching him, and tell me what you see. He doesn't like to answer my questions."
 "I have noticed that; and it seems strange, because he used to like you, and to be pleased when you came."
 "He may like me well enough now", said the doctor, giving Mrs. Lester a look of keen enquiry and speculation.
 "Doctor", she said quickly, "I don't know precisely what you mean, but you mean a little more than you say. I feel it. And I have felt that something is wrong with Willie; I see now that you know there is - and you may as well tell me."
 "I will tell you, but not this morning, because I have not time. Tomorrow I will explain it to you - so far as I understand it myself. In the meantime, observe him and draw your own inferences."
 "Five generations", Dr. Riter said to himself as he went out; "well, it may be, but people are waking up pretty fast. Here's Mrs. Lester; she has intuitions; last week I ran across a case of clairvoyance. And if some kind of a plague should remove all the cattle and sheep and pigs from the face of the earth, there would be a great deal more intuition and clairvoyance."
 On his human side Dr. Riter regretted the tragedy which he believed was being enacted before his eyes, but on his scientific side he felt deeply interested in what he regarded as a tolerably clear illustration of a fact in nature; it was a case for observation and investigation, and for record in a certain private notebook. This notebook contained records of cases usually denominated "mental", which he had seen in many years of experience, and would, as he knew well, constitute sufficient proof in the minds of any court and jury that the writer was a lunatic - sane, perhaps, on all subjects but one, and on that one a monomaniac, a person who must not be permitted to tamper with precious lives. But as he had, in fact, a well-balanced mind, and was aware that he was moving along in the direction in which nature had fitted him to move, he did not impair his usefulness by leaving this interesting, but dangerous, book within reach of any hands but his own.
 The next day he had a talk with Mrs. Lester. "We must build Willie up'', he said, "build him up so that he will be strong enough to resist and crowd out this individuality which has begun to fasten itself upon him. He is weak and passive; he must become strong and positive. I am aware that it is easier to talk about bringing about this result than it is to accomplish it. Casting out devils is not an easy matter, I fancy. But we must try. Continue to give him a strengthening diet, but not a particle of meat, as that would tend to build up the animal within him - which is what we want to overcome. Keep him as much as possible in the fresh air, and occupy his mind in every way that you can think of; we must trust him to nature while he's asleep. We must make the conditions as unfavorable as possible to the will of the intruder. When he learns that he can no longer use Willie's brain and hands we must suppose he will seek some other victim, weakened by disease and without power of resistance. Meanwhile, watch him closely; some purpose or desire will become apparent if the obsessing influence increases; and, on the other hand, if Willie's power of resistance becomes stronger you will notice these strange moods less and less, and they will gradually disappear."
 "In your judgment, are the chances for or against him?" Mrs. Lester asked.
 "I am sorry to be obliged to say that in my judgment it is an even question; we do not know who or what the obsessing force is, and therefore we cannot estimate its strength. I have no personal knowledge of any one who can assist us in this matter at all. I have seen instances in which those who were affected in this way threw off the influence and regained their normal mental condition; and I have seen other instances in which they did not."

Chapter III

 One afternoon in November, six months later, Dr. Riter and Mr. Holcomb went with a probable purchaser to look at the old house which stood on their land.
 "We will let you have the old lumber cheap", Mr. Holcomb said as they walked along. "It is of no present use to us."
 "I understand it's headquarters for some rough boys - the Lester boy and the crowd he draws around him. I was in the lot yesterday, trying to get a look at the inside of the house, but the doors were fastened and the windows were boarded up outside and covered with old papers inside, so I got only a glimpse here and there."
 Dr. Riter and Mr. Holcomb looked at each other in surprise. "If the doors are fastened and the windows boarded up it must be the work of those boys."
 "What is Lester's boy coming to, doctor? It looks to some people as though he's a proper subject for the reform school."
 "He will land in prison or in an insane asylum before he is many years older. The reform school will do him no good. The fact is, we don't know what to do with just such cases as his. I have told Mr. Lester that Willie should be under strict authority. Moral suasion has no effect upon him, because he has lost his moral sense, but, and very naturally, his parents are unwilling to send him to strangers."
 Two policemen and a boy rushed past them, and turning a corner disappeared from sight, and when they also turned the corner and approached the old house they perceived that something of an unusual nature had occurred, or was taking place there, and that the policemen whom they had seen were trying to break in one of the doors, while an excited crowd looked on.
 "What is the matter?" Dr. Riter asked, addressing one of the officers.
 "Some boys say that the Lester boy has killed a little chap in here - pounded him to pieces. They looked in through a crack somewhere. They're too excited to tell a straight story, but they must have seen something, for the boy that came for us was pretty near scared to death".
 "The child may not be dead", said the doctor, "but we must lose no time. Here - one of you men who live near - go for an axe. We must get that door open."
 "Mr. Lester must know of this; has any one gone to tell him?" Mr. Holcomb asked.
 "Yes" a man in the crowd answered. "The boy seems to have a devil in him. He wants to torture and kill".
 "He killed my dog last week", said a boy. "I guess he buried it in the cellar of that house. That's where he buries the cats and dogs that he kills."
 "He tried to kill his little sister a while ago", exclaimed another.
 The door was broken in at last, but it was not an easy matter to capture Willie Lester. He resisted the officers, striking furiously with an old ramrod at all who came near him, and being very quick and strong he succeeded in disabling several hands before he was finally overcome.
 In one of the rooms the body of a child five or six years old-was found, perfectly dead and horribly mutilated. While Dr. Riter was looking at it Mr. Lester came: "If I had taken your advice this would not have occurred", he said.
 The body was carried out and laid on the ground. Demoniacal fury had been spent upon it; men turned away from the sickening sight, but Willie Lester's eyes did not shrink from it, as he was carried past by the officers, struggling, screaming, and biting with uncontrollable rage.

 (The Path, May, 1894)