The Foundation of Religion
From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, September, 1921
To most people the word “religion” signifies something separate from human existence, and presents the idea of preparation for some unknown future existence. Some religions are based upon the knowledge of an individual who laid the foundation for them; others are believed to be the revelations of a Supreme Being at the time of the creation of the world. Each people has a God of its own; so many peoples, so many Supreme Beings corresponding to the mental ideas of the people. And so with individuals—as the ideas of men differ widely—so many individuals, so many Gods. All these Gods or Supreme Beings are the creations of men, and not facts in themselves. But back of all those ideas does lie a Reality. The very power that resides in man to create images and endow them with virtues which he does not possess points to something greater than the things created. The creatures cannot be greater than the creators. That which in man creates ideas is greater than any idea he may at any time have held or now holds. We have, then, to get back of all ideas to find the true religion.
True religion must give us a basis for thinking, and consequently, a basis for acting; it must give us an understanding of nature, of ourselves and of other beings. Religion is a bond uniting men together—not a particular set of dogmas or beliefs—binding not only all Men, but also all Beings and all things in the entire Universe, into one grand whole. Just that basis and that bond are presented in the three fundamental propositions of the Secret Doctrine.
Behind everything that exists is the Sustainer of all that exists, of all that ever was, is, or shall be. Nothing exists without It. It is omnipresent, and It is infinite. But, if we take that idea and endeavor to confine it to the form of any Being whatever, we shall find we have attempted the impossible. We cannot hold the idea of being with that which is omnipresent and infinite. No being can exist outside of Space which itself is, whether there is void or fulness, whether there are planets, gods or men, or none; which itself is not altered in any way by objects occupying it; which is illimitable—without beginning and without end. A Being must exist in Space, and so must be less than Space. We can then call the Highest Power any name we choose—the Supreme, the Self—so long as we do not limit It, or give It attributes. We may not say It is pleased, nor angry, nor rewards, nor punishes; doing so, we limit It. If Space itself cannot be measured or limited, how can we limit the Supreme? The Highest Power cannot be less than Space. Even to name It is to limit It; yet It must be the One Reality, the One Sustainer, the One Cause of all existences, the One Knower, the One Experiencer, in all directions and in every thing. This proposition drives us back to the very basis of all thought—the power to think, itself—the power which is in each and every being.
We cannot understand nature, other beings and ourselves, by going outside to any conceivable being. The growth of knowledge must be within the perceiver, the thinker himself. All his observation and experience bring him knowledge which he relates to himself in connection with others. Each stands in the vast assemblage of beings, seeing them all, understanding what he may of them all, but himself the only one who sees; all the rest are seen. All others are the same as he is in their essential nature; all are endowed with the same qualities, the same perfections and imperfections; all are copies of every other, differing only in the predominance of one or another quality. But the thinker is the Self—the only Self, so far as he is concerned—the One Life, the One Consciousness, the One Power. As action proceeds from that basis, the greater the powers which flow from that spiritual quality, the greater the increase of knowledge.
Knowledge is religion—not a supposed “revelation” from some superior being who created us as inferior beings, but an actual knowledge gained through myriads of years and many existences by Those who have expressed them all. Those beings above us on the ladder of evolution, who are greater than any “Gods” we can conceive of, passed through the same trials and the same sufferings which we are undergoing, until they learned to know their innermost nature and to act in accordance with it. They came to know that true religion is a knowledge of one’s own self, and action in accordance. Drawing nearer in themselves to the very Source of their being, they found the source of every other being to be the same—only the knowledge acquired and the use of that knowledge making the differences between all beings. Their knowledge is an absolutely accurate knowledge of the essence of everything in nature, which alone is the foundation of all true religion.
What is it that prevents us from understanding true religion? It is our minds, which we have filled with narrow ideas of life, with small ideas of the nature of humanity and of ourselves. It is our beliefs which constrain us. A belief is always a statement of ignorance. If we believe, we do not know; if we know, there is no occasion for belief. Unless beliefs are tested out in the fires of experience and show themselves true, they are absolutely useless and worse than useless, because they tempt us to use the very powers of our spiritual being in wrong directions which bring suffering and disaster upon ourselves. It is our very spiritual nature which makes our present unhappy condition possible, for from it flows the One power, either exercising itself through small ideas—its obstacles—or acting fully and without constraint. Each man is his own creator, and each one has to be his own savior through learning right use of the One Power. Those who have learned can only point out to us the Way they learned it; no one can learn for us. We ourselves have to clear away the obstacles that prevent us from knowing our inner selves. We ourselves have to throw aside the hindrances in thinking, in forms of religion, in mental as well as physical idols.
There is one realization which immediately sets our minds in order: it is of That in us which is unchangeable and unchanging. We are that Spirit in very essence; all that has been in our past lives and in our present life, all that will in future be, proceeds from the power of that Spirit itself, and is sustained by the power of that Spirit itself. There is nothing apart from us. Nature does not exist separate and apart from us. The laws of nature are but the interrelations and interdependence of all the beings concerned in this stream of evolution. The forces of nature do not exist of themselves. There never was a force of any kind that was not the result of intelligent action. We as spiritual beings are eternally creating forces; for every man’s brain and every thought has a dynamic power. Are they lost? No: all the thoughts, all the feelings of all the beings in the universe, provide a store of dynamic energy which constitutes the forces, as we know them, of nature. We draw upon that general reservoir of force in accordance with the ideas held and in accord with our present inward nature. All the time we are adding to the powers of nature for good or for evil. So, too, we are taking from the powers of nature the additions which other beings have put in—the forces which other beings have aroused in nature.
All the powers in the universe are latent in us if we only open the doors to their use. Everyone of us is a little copy of the whole universe. There is not one single element existing any where which each one of us does not contain within his own sphere; there is not a power anywhere that can not be drawn upon. Always the director of that power is the Self within each one. If that Self sees darkly, it is because the mirror into which the Self looks is covered with the dust of false ideas; he sees distorted images. He moves in the directions suggested by the mirror, but it is the Self which supplies the power to move. We would open the door to all powers by a daily and hourly living in accordance with the nature of the Self—seeing that every other being is but an aspect of Self, and acting so that every other being will be helped on its way. For we can not go on our way alone. We have our duty to fulfill by every other being, whether in the kingdoms below us, without which we could not exist, or in the human kingdom. Every other stands as a vicarious atonement for us—an object lesson—and if we have reached a point higher than that which is ordinarily reached by men, then all the more are we constrained to duty by them.
We come to physical existence incarnation after incarnation under the law inherent in our natures, to work with mortal ideas and passions and thoughts; but we who created them, we who sustain them, are immortal. If we were not immortal in our very natures, never by any chance could we become immortal. If we were less than Divinity, then we never could by any possibility understand divinity. Those beings who have been men and who have gone beyond our degrees of illusion—like Jesus of Nazareth, Buddha, and many others—have attained to Their Divinity. They accept the woes of birth to which Their younger brothers are subject, to remind us of our own natures—the only natures over which we have permanent control—that we may become as One of Them, bound to Them as to all nature. To live for others is the foundation and basis of religion—of true spiritual knowledge.