2 June 1912, Oslo
My dear Friends,
We have spoken together in earlier lecture cycles on many important subjects that arise in connection with the theosophical outlook on the world. On the present occasion we have chosen a subject that is among the very most important of all for theosophical life and thought — man himself. For every branch of human knowledge this is a subject of the first importance and value, and for theosophy unquestionably so. In theosophy there should really be a fresh feeling of what the Greek understood by the word “Anthropos.” If we would find a true modern rendering of the Greek word, we might say “one who looks up into the heights.” This is the definition of man which finds expression in the word “anthropos,” — he who looks up into the heights to find the source and origin of his life. Such is man, according to the Greek. To recognise man as a being of this nature is the very raison d'être of theosophy, Theosophy wants to rise above the details of sense existence and of the outer activity of life, into the heights of spiritual experience where we are able to learn whence man has come and whither he is going. Man himself, rightly the object of study for every world outlook, must pre-eminently be so for theosophy.
In this cycle of lectures we propose to consider man in his spiritual nature from three standpoints from which a study of man has been pursued in every serious world-conception, although in ordinary external life they do not generally find the same recognition. I refer to the standpoints of occultism, theosophy and philosophy.
Now it is obvious that we shall first have to come to an understanding together of what these three words mean. When we speak of occultism, then for the majority of the educated world today we are speaking of something totally unknown. For ordinary everyday life occultism, in its original and proper form, has always been something secret and hidden. Occultism starts, indeed, from the idea that in order to come to a knowledge and experience of his own being, man cannot remain at the kind of vision that ordinary consciousness affords, but must go forward to an altogether different vision, an altogether different kind of knowledge.
Let me make this clear by a comparison. We live perhaps in a certain town and we see the experiences of a few individuals in that town. If the town is a fairly large one, we really know nothing more than a few small details of all that is to be seen and known in it. Suppose we want to take a survey of the whole town. We must seek out some elevated position in the environment whence to obtain a view such as we never could have so long as we remained in the town. And if we want to connect up and survey the whole intellectual and moral life of the place then we shall have to betake ourselves to a spiritual height above the experiences of every day.
This is the very thing man has to do when he wants to get beyond the experiences of ordinary consciousness, for these experiences show him in reality only a part of what goes to make the whole of life in all its connections. Knowledge must go out beyond itself; it must ascend to a vantage point above ordinary consciousness and ordinary knowledge. It follows naturally that the details — in all their intensity of colour and light and shade — tend to disappear. When we go up to a height in order to get a wider view over some town, we see it as a whole and lose the finer details that a closer individual experience can afford. It is the same with a point of view that is raised above ordinary consciousness. It has to forgo a great deal that belongs to the more detailed and individual part of life. But it gives on the other hand something that is of first importance for a knowledge of the nature of man, it gives a Vision of that which lies at the very foundation of man's nature and is the same in all men.
The only way to arrive at such a vantage point is to undertake a path of development and attain what is usually called clairvoyant knowledge. You can read about it in books on the subject and learn what souls have to do in order to come to clairvoyant knowledge. You will find described how the ordinary means of knowledge — perception with the senses and reflection with the ordinary faculty of understanding and judgment — are here not enough; and it is shown how these have to be overcome and superseded. Quite new means of acquiring knowledge, means that lie hidden in the soul like a seed in the earth, have to be discovered and developed.
You will probably already have learned from the literature on the subject that three stages are to be distinguished on the path to clairvoyant or occult knowledge. The first is the stage of Imaginative knowledge, the second the stage of Inspired knowledge, and the third that of Intuitive knowledge. If we wanted to describe in popular language the results of the self-knowledge attained by means of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, we should have to say that it enables man to behold things that are hidden from ordinary consciousness. In order to bring home to you in a simple manner what is attained in occult knowledge and clairvoyant vision, I need only point to the contrast between sleeping and waking. When he is awake man has around him the world of the senses, it forms his environment, and he judges it with his intellect and his other faculties of knowledge. When he enters into the condition of sleep, then consciousness — that is, ordinary consciousness — is darkened But man does not cease to be when he falls asleep, nor come newly into being when he wakes up. Man is alive in the time that passes between falling asleep and awakening; only, he has not sufficient strength and energy of soul to perceive what is in his environment when he is asleep. To put it in another way, man's powers of knowledge require to be sharpened by the physical organs, the senses and the nerves before he can become aware of what is in his environment. At night when man is away from his sense organs and his nervous system, the forces in the soul are too weak for him to be able to rouse himself and perceive his environment. Now it is possible, through the means employed for training in occult knowledge, to bring the soul, which is too weak in the night to perceive its environment, into a condition where it can under certain circumstances perceive even when it is in the state of ordinary sleep. In this way there is opened to man's perception a new and wider world; one might say — only the expression is from a certain aspect unjustified — a higher world.
We have thus to do with a change in the soul, and a change that is in the direction of strengthening the inner forces of the soul, increasing the soul's energy. As this change comes about, man learns to know what is the real nature of that which goes out of the body in sleep and comes into it again on awakening. He learns that the part of him which is outside the body during sleep contains that inner seed and kernel of his being, which enters into the body at birth and passes out of it again when he goes through the gate of death. Further, man comes to know that during the time between death and a new birth he lives in the world of soul and spirit. In short, he learns to have knowledge that is spiritual and he becomes familiar with an environment which is of a spiritual nature and hidden from ordinary consciousness. In the spiritual world lie the foundations of all existence, including physical existence; so that by following the path of occult knowledge man acquires the faculty to behold the deepest and original foundations of existence. He is, however, only able to acquire this faculty by first himself undergoing change; he has to become a different kind of “knower” from what he is in ordinary consciousness.
Occultism can only find its way to man, when man sets out to apply to his own soul the means that are given for attaining occult knowledge. It has lain in the very nature of things up to the present time — you will often find indications of it in literature — that it was not the concern of every single human being so to educate himself as to be able to have direct vision of the spiritual world and penetrate to the original foundations of existence. The means to do so were imparted only to small circles of persons, and strict care was taken that before a man was given the means of attaining occult knowledge, he should have a preparation and training which would make him ripe to apply these means to his own soul.
It is easy to understand why this had to be. Higher occult knowledge leads, as we have seen, to the foundations of all existence, it leads to the world from which our world is derived and made. At the same time man acquires faculties he did not have before; and so, when he becomes able to penetrate to the foundations of existence, he is in a position to execute deeds that cannot be carried out with the ordinary means of knowledge. To make myself clear, I must here refer to a fact on which I shall have more to say later: for the moment, I only want to cite it to demonstrate how impossible it was to give occult knowledge into the hands of everyone. Man has to have egoism implanted into him during Earth evolution. Without egoism he could not fulfil his task on Earth, for his task on Earth consists in evolving from egoism into love; through love he has to ennoble and subdue and spiritualise egoism. At the end of Earth evolution man will be permeated through and through with love, but he could never evolve up to this love in freedom, had not egoism been implanted into his nature from the beginning. Now, egoism is in the highest degree dangerous and harmful when it is a question of undertaking to perform some deed behind the world of ordinary consciousness. The whole history of man is filled with egoism, and endless harm has been wrought by it in ordinary life; but all the trouble that is due to egoism in ordinary life is a mere trifle in comparison with the harm and trouble it causes if it is able to work with occult knowledge. It has, therefore, always been required of those to whom means of occult knowledge were imparted that they should have a character so thoroughly disciplined and prepared that, let the temptation be ever so great, they would never work in the sense of egoism. That was the first and all-important requirement in the preparation for occult knowledge. Anyone admitted to such knowledge must be quite incapable of allowing the occult to be misused for an egoistic end. Naturally this meant that only a very few in the whole course of evolution could be chosen for reception into the occult schools, which in olden times were called Mysteries — and sometimes also known under other names.
The occult knowledge to which these few attained had definite characteristics and qualities. The characteristic of which I am now going to speak is in our own time undergoing change, but it has been common to all rightly named occult schools hitherto It is this. In the occult schools, where the means of occult knowledge were imparted to men, among the many things that had to be overcome in the process of overcoming egoism, it was required of the pupil that he should not speak in the Mysteries or occult schools with ordinary words, that he should not try to make himself understood with the words that are current in the life of external consciousness. For a kind of refined and higher egoism enters into man as soon as he makes use of the words and thoughts and ideas that are employed in external life. At once there come into consideration all the things in a man that do not let us see him as a human being pure and simple, but as a member of a particular folk or people, with all the egoisms that belong to him through the fact that he loves his own folk. These are quite justified in ordinary life. For external consciousness men must have these refined and higher egoisms; they are among the most praiseworthy qualities of human life. But for the highest knowledge, for the all human knowledge that has to be sought behind the life of ordinary consciousness, we may not bring with us even these refined and higher egoisms. Special preparation had therefore to be given in the occult schools, by the creation and study of an all-human language. The language of ordinary life was not used in occult schools, but a language that worked upon the human being in quite a different way. For it was a language that worked not by means of words and thoughts as is the case with ordinary knowledge, but by means of symbols. Those of you who know mathematics will readily understand why symbols were chosen for this purpose; for symbols have a universal meaning. By developing oneself up to the stage of a language that speaks in symbols, one was able to come right out beyond all the egoism that confuses judgment and clouds ordinary consciousness, beyond even the higher egoisms of which we have spoken. This meant however, that what one was able to say was comprehensible only to those who had first learned the language. The language consisted of symbols that could be drawn, or traced with movements of the hand in rituals, or expressed in colour combinations and so forth. In occult schools, not what was imparted in words was of importance — that was only preparatory — but what was spoken in symbols, independent of ordinary human words, independent even of ordinary human thoughts. Thus, the first step to be taken in an occult school was the study of a symbol language.
In very ancient times those who were initiated in the Mysteries were under strict injunction not to betray to people outside anything of the Mystery language; for if a man who was outside the Mysteries were to get to know the symbols and were clever enough, he might come to possess — all unprepared — a means to occult knowledge. The creation of the symbols provided the possibility of a language common to all men. The keeping secret of the symbols prevented the knowledge that was expressed in them from reaching those who were unripe to receive it. Thus, through the very fact that one was obliged to speak and use a symbolic language, provision was at the same time made against Mystery knowledge being communicated indiscriminately. True Mystery knowledge, true occultism, was a knowledge that was kept guarded in the secret schools of the Mysteries and had to be attained by the development of occult faculties. It was a knowledge that by its nature belonged to all mankind; nevertheless it was always limited to narrow circles of people in the way I have described.
There is still another reason why occultism could not be communicated to mankind at large. Just as truly as it is necessary in the first place to be free of egoism if one is to be allowed to penetrate the world that opens to occult vision, so truly does man find it impossible, when his power of knowledge has been transformed and he has become able to look into that totally different world, to make use there of the ideas and conceptions to which he is accustomed. The creation of symbols serves, then, this further purpose: it provides a means whereby one can express what cannot be expressed with ordinary human words and ideas. For the human being can only apply himself to occultism when he is not orientated to the senses and the brain, but is outside them. All ordinary words, however, are connected in their origin with the brain, they spring from outer observation; when therefore a man perceives a fact of occult knowledge, he at once feels how impossible it is to give expression to it with ordinary words. Occult knowledge is a knowledge that is attained outside the body. To give it expression by the use of means that are attained through the body is, on the face of it, at the beginning of occult knowledge quite impossible.
Occult knowledge is, however, not merely there to be acquired by a few persons who are curious; its whole content is something that is essential and of the very first importance for all mankind. Occult knowledge is the experience of the foundations of existence and in especial of the foundations of human existence, and it must enter right into life. Means must be found to carry occult knowledge right into the life of man and to bring it within the comprehension of people generally.
The first means employed to make occult knowledge comprehensible is, and always has been, what has in more recent times been called theosophy. In turning it into theosophy, one has to forgo what we have just seen to be an essential characteristic of occult knowledge, namely, that it makes use only of the very highest form of language. One abandons this restriction and proceeds to clothe occult truths in ordinary human words and ideas. Occult knowledge is communicated, for example, to a particular people in a form that employs the ideas and concepts current among this people. The result is that occult knowledge becomes specific and differentiated, appearing in the form of communications made through the words of one section of mankind. Those who were in possession of secret knowledge were obliged to clothe it in the language of a particular people; and so we find clothed in the language of particular peoples what is in reality the property of all mankind.
In the Mysteries the aim has always been to remain as human as possible, in the large sense of the word. At the same time the initiates of the Mysteries had to make themselves understood, they had to express themselves in the language of the people and in the ideas that the people had developed. And so individual theosophists who have come forward among mankind have had to take pains to make themselves intelligible in regard to the particular aim and object or the particular sphere of life about which they were speaking.
It is by no means easy to give expression in this way to occult knowledge, in one particular language or in one particular form of ideas. But it has been done and to no small extent, in various regions of the earth and at various times in man's history. Occultism is a thing into which one has to find one's way by means of clairvoyant training and discipline. Theosophy, on the other hand, is a thing that is presented to us in ideas and concepts that we have already and in which occult knowledge has only been clothed When this has been ably and correctly done, then occult truths are within the comprehension of any man who has sound and healthy judgment and takes pains to master them. Theosophy is absolutely understandable by anyone with a healthy intelligence if he will but give himself the trouble We have no right to say that he alone can grasp the occult who can himself develop occult vision. When occult truths are clothed in ideas, as they are in theosophy, they are within the scope of every healthy human intelligence.
Now in accordance with laws that prevail in the evolution of mankind (we shall have more to say about these later on) there came a time when a further change was necessary. In the far-off past of evolution we find among the most ancient peoples (I do not refer here to the decadent peoples that an un-understanding anthropology calls “primeval,” but to the really original peoples of which spiritual science tells) — among these original peoples we find Mysteries and occult schools which communicated occult knowledge to a few individuals, and we find also a more widely communicated theosophy, that is to say, occult truths clothed in familiar ideas. But as time goes on, we observe a change. Whereas hitherto almost the only way in which man could approach the first foundations of existence had been in the form of theosophy, that form began now to pass over into one that was more religious in character. It was recognised that while it is true that the healthy human understanding, if it will only go far enough, can quite well grasp theosophy, yet with the progress of human life it was becoming no longer always possible for men to adopt the comprehensive point of view of a healthy human understanding, and provision had also to be made for those who, simply through the conditions of external life, had no possibility of developing their intelligence far enough to enable them to penetrate occult truths. A way had to be found whereby such could attain a kind of “faith” knowledge of the foundations of existence.
The Mysteries had already what may be called a “feeling” knowledge, and out of this developed now the religious form of knowledge, which became for later times the more popular and more accessible form of knowledge in comparison with the theosophical. When we go back a long way in the evolution of mankind, we find a world conception which has not a religious character, — in the sense in which we understand the word today. In the first Post-Atlantean epoch, the ancient Indian, we find an occult knowledge of which the people were able to partake in the form of theosophy. For this far-off Indian time, “religion” coincides with theosophy. When we trace back the evolution of religion, we find at its starting point theosophy. With the progress of evolution it became more and more necessary to make use of the religious form of knowledge. It could no longer be assumed that man with his healthy human understanding could have insight into what theosophy was able to give. And so the truths of theosophy began to be poured into a new mould and became the truths of religion.
Passing on to more recent times, we find that in Christianity the change becomes complete, — the change, that is, from the theosophical form of knowledge to the religious. In the various Christian churches and creeds as they have developed through the centuries, very little trace of theosophy is to be found. The theosophy of the old kind has disappeared into the background, and we see how with the development of Christianity develops also a theology; so that in time we have in addition to faith a theology, whilst theosophy becomes an object, if not of hatred, at any rate of antipathy, to the theologians.
A third form in which man's strivings after the foundations of existence have been clothed is the philosophical. Occult knowledge is acquired by the human being in so far as he is free from the physical body. Theosophy expresses occult knowledge in external thoughts and external words. Philosophy strives to reach to the foundations of the world with instruments of knowledge which, though refined and subtle in quality, are nevertheless bound to the physical brain. Philosophy, as we find it in the essentially philosophical epoch of human evolution, does not set out, as does theosophy, to hand on that which has been acquired outside the physical body; philosophy tries, in so far as may be, to approach the foundations of existence by means of man's ordinary faculties of knowledge. The truths of philosophy are thus striven after with faculties of knowledge which, though of the subtlest, are yet connected with the body. Philosophy has, at bottom, the same goal as occultism and theosophy, namely, to search out the foundations of existence; but philosophy makes use of the thinking and the means of research that are bound up with the brain and with outer perception. With the aid of these it sets out to delve into the foundations of existence. And, working as it does with the subtlest and finest knowledge faculties of man, philosophy remains perforce the concern only of a few. Philosophy can never become popular. A great many people feel philosophy to be something that is much too difficult for them, — if not tiresome and tedious!
Now the aforesaid characteristic of philosophy is important, — that it works with knowledge faculties which are bound up with the senses, and that it chooses of these the subtlest and the most refined. For, in so far as it employs means that are connected with the personality, philosophy has inevitably a personal character. When, however, man really succeeds in excercising the very subtlest of his knowledge faculties, it becomes possible for him to throw off something of the personal element; and in the degree that he is able to do this, philosophy becomes universal, all-human. One needs to enter very deeply into philosophy to be able to detect its universal character. Its personal character is unfortunately only too obvious. It requires deep penetration to perceive fundamental principles that are common to such apparently different thinkers, for example, as the ancient Greek philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus. One can however quickly appreciate the difference between these and an unkindly critic like Schopenhauer who approaching merely the external side of philosophy, sees only what splits it up into many different personal standpoints, and does not see the sequence of these personal human standpoints.
In this sense philosophy is the very reverse of occultism. Philosophy has to be attained by the most personal of means, whereas occultism is achieved by laying aside personality. Therefore is it so difficult for one who gives utterance in correct philosophical manner to what is personal in him to be understood by his fellowmen. On the other hand, anyone who succeeds in clothing occultism in expressions and ideas that are current and generally comprehensible, will meet with understanding all the world over. Occultism strips itself entirely of the personal element. Systems of philosophy arise directly out of the personal in man; occultism arises out of the impersonal and is on this account capable of general comprehension. And when it is a question of expressing occultism in terms of theosophy, the endeavour is always made to speak to every human heart and every human soul, and in large measure this can be done.
The foregoing description of the three points of view may serve as a kind of preparatory introduction to our studies, You will have been able to see for yourselves what one may call the more external characteristics of the occult, the theosophical and the philosophical point of view.
Occultism is in its results one and the same for all mankind. In reality there is no such thing as a difference of standpoint in occultism, — any more than there are different mathematics. It is only necessary in regard to any particular question to have the means actually at hand to acquire knowledge on that question, and the knowledge will be the same as is reached by everyone who has the right means at his disposal. Thus, speaking in the ideal sense, we can just as little admit the existence of different standpoints in occultism as we can imagine there might be different standpoints in mathematics. Consequently occultism, wherever it has made its appearance, has always been recognised as single and universal. It is true that in the various theosophies that have existed from time to time and have supplied the outer cloak, so to speak, of occult truths, differences show themselves; but that is because the truths have had to be clothed differently for one folk or one epoch, than for another folk or another epoch. In other words, the differences between the theosophies that exist on the Earth lie in the manner of thought used to clothe the occult truths. The foundations of occultism are always and everywhere one and the same.
Religions, on the other hand, since they take their source in the theosophical garment of occultism, have acquired differences in respect of people and time. Occultism knows no such differentiations, it knows nothing that might stir up opposition between man and man. No cause for opposition exists, since occultism is the single undivided property of all mankind. And inasmuch as theosophy should in our time concern itself with the provision of a right and proper expression for occultism, it too must take care to absorb as little as possible of the differentiations that have manifested themselves in mankind. It must set itself the aim of being a faithful expression of occult truth and occult connections in so doing, it will inevitably also work for the overthrow of all specialised world-conceptions and help to break down religious differentiations. We must learn completely to overcome the inclination to a theosophy of a definite stamp and colouring. It has gradually come about in the history of evolution that theosophies have tended to receive a certain nuance and colouring in accordance — I will not say with religious prejudices, but with religious preconceived feelings and opinions. Theosophy needs to keep constantly in view its ideal, — to be a reflection of occultism. There can therefore be no such thing as a Buddhist theosophy or a Hindu theosophy, or a Zoroastrian or a Christian. Naturally, regard must be had to the characteristic ideas and thoughts with which particular people will approach theosophy. Nevertheless it must never let go its ideal of being a pure expression for occult truth. It was, for example, a repudiation of the fundamental principle of occultists all the world over, when a theosophy made its appearance among certain societies in Central Europe, calling itself a “Christian” theosophy. As a matter of fact, you can just as little have a Christian theosophy as a Buddhist theosophy or a Zoroastrian.
The relation theosophy has to assume to religion is that of an expounder of its truths. For theosophy is in a position to understand the truths of religion. And then forms and expressions of some particular aspect of occultism and that occultism itself has to be grasped independently of all such differentiations.
As I have pointed out, this must be our ideal. It is quite understandable that occultism has been clothed in many and varied ways the world over, even while all occultists are in agreement as to their knowledge; it is nevertheless of great importance that in our time a possibility should again be given for speaking with a single voice about occultism. This can only be, if the goodwill is really present to shake off once for all the differences that have their origin in preconceived feelings and opinions. And it is encouraging to see how already the desire is gaining ground for a general agreement on elementary matters of occult knowledge. In regard, for instance, to the knowledge of reincarnation and karma it will in the near future be possible to attain something like universal agreement. As our theosophy develops, it will, to begin with, concern itself first and foremost with the spread over the whole earth of the great and important truths of reincarnation and karma. For these truths are destined to prevail; even religious prejudices will surrender before them.
A great work for peace on earth would be accomplished if unity and harmony could be established in regard to the higher realms of occult knowledge. Let that stand before us as an ideal. It is hard of attainment. When one reflects how intimately men are bound up with their religious prejudices and with the whole way in which they have been educated, one will readily perceive the difficulty of presenting them with something that is not coloured with any religious prejudice but is as faithful a picture as possible of occult knowledge.
Within certain limits we must be prepared to recognise that as long as the Buddhist takes the standpoint of the Buddhist faith, he rejects the standpoint of the Christian. And if theosophy takes on a Buddhist colouring, then that Buddhist theosophy will quite naturally show itself inimical, or at any rate unsympathetic, to occultism. We shall also understand how difficult it is, in a realm where Christian forms prevail, to come to an objective knowledge, let us say, of those aspects of occultism which find expression in Buddhism Our ideal, however, must always be to meet the one point of view with just as much understanding as the other and to establish over the whole earth a harmonious and peaceful relationship based on mutual comprehension.
The Buddhist and the Christian who have become theosophists will understand one another, they will be sure to discover a standpoint where they are in harmonious agreement. A theosophist has always before him the ideal of a universal single occultism, free of all religious prejudice. The Christian who has become a theosophist will understand the Buddhist when he says: “It is not possible that a Bodhisattva who has passed from incarnation to incarnation and has at length become Buddha (as happened in the particular case with the death of Suddhodana) should afterwards return again into a human body. For in becoming Buddha he has attained to such a lofty stage of human evolution that he does not need ever to pass again into a human body.” The Christian will reply to the Buddhist: “Christianity has not up to the present given me any revelation concerning Beings like Bodhisattvas, but as I strive after theosophy I learn to recognise not only that you know this truth out of your knowledge, but that I too must receive it as truth.” For as theosophist, the Christian will say to himself: “I understand what a Bodhisattva is, I know that the Buddhist speaks absolute truth about these Beings, he utters a truth which could be spoken in lands where Buddhism prevailed. I understand it when the Buddhist says that a Buddha does not return again into a fleshly organism.” The Christian who has become a theosophist understands the Buddhist who has become a theosophist. And if the Christian were now in his turn to address the Buddhist, he could say: “When one studies the Christian faith in its true occult content, as it is studied in occult schools, then one finds that the Being who is designated by the name of Christ” — the name of Christ may be quite unknown to the other — “is a Being who was never on earth before the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. He is a Being who can never come again in a physical body; for that would contradict the whole nature of the Christ.”
When the Buddhist who has become a theosophist hears this from the Christian, he will answer him in the following way: “Just as you understand how impossible it is for me to admit that a Buddha, after he has once become Buddha, can come again in a fleshly body, — just as you understand me, recognising what has been imparted to me as truth, so am I ready to recognise the share of truth that has been communicated to you. I try to recognise what you receive from your faith, namely, that at the beginning of Christianity stands, not so much a Teacher, but a Deed, an Act.” For the occultist places at the beginning of Christianity not Jesus of Nazareth, but the Christ, and he sets the actual moment of its beginning in the Mystery of Golgotha.
Buddhism differs from Christianity in that it has a personal teacher as its starting-point, whereas Christianity has a deed, the deed of salvation and release, the deed accomplished by the death on the Cross on Golgotha. Not a doctrine but a deed stands at the foundation of Christian evolution. This the Buddhist theosophist understands, and he receives what is given as the occult foundation of Christianity and in doing so helps to establish harmony among mankind. He would be breaking the harmony if he were to apply to Christianity his Buddhist ideas. It is the part of the Christian, when he becomes theosophist, to understand Buddhism out of Buddhism itself, not to re-mould in some way of his own the ideas about Bodhisattva and Buddha, but rather to understand them as they are contained in Buddhism. Similarly it is the part of the Buddhist to receive the Christian ideas as they are, for they form the occult foundations of Christianity. Just as it is impossible to bring together the Being Who is named with the name of Christ with Beings of a lower kind, namely with Bodhisattvas, so also is it impossible, if we would remain loyal to the ideal of theosophy, to allow theosophy to be anything else than a faithful reflection of the single undivided occultism.
To apply the properties of a Bodhisattva to the Christ would be to hinder the great mission of peace that it is given to theosophy to fulfil. On the other hand, theosophy fulfils its mission of peace, when it undertakes to bring to mankind the universal foundations of truth in a scientific form such as is adapted for our day and generation. When we in the West understand Buddhism or Brahmanism or Zarathustrianism without prejudice, and when Christianity too is understood in the way it needs to be understood, then it will be possible for the really fundamental ideas of Christianity to find recognition and response among men.
Mankind has not always risen to the perception of the fact that a deed stands at the beginning of Christianity and that there can therefore be no question of a return of the Christ. Again and again it has happened in the course of the centuries that men have come forward and spoken of a return of the Christ. Such teachings have always been silenced and refuted, and they will be so again, for they run counter to the great and universal mission of life and peace that it belongs to theosophy to fulfil, if it would be a pure expression of occultism. Occultism has always had the character of universality and is independent of every Buddhist as well as of every Christian shade of colouring. Hence it can understand objectively the Mussulman or the Zoroastrian or the Buddhist, even as it can also the Christian. What I have said will help you to see how it is that occultism, which is universal, has come to assume in theosophy so many different forms in the course of human evolution. And you will be able also to see why in our time it is so important to hold up as the ideal, not that one form of religion should gain the victory over the rest, but that all the different forms of expression of religion should mutually understand one another. The first condition for this, however, is that men should come to an understanding of the occult foundations that are the same for all religions.
My intention has been in this lecture to give a kind of introduction to the important matters we shall have to consider in the following days.