Studies in the Secret Doctrine:
The Message For Today
In our last study we were able to draw the conclusion that H.P.B.’s Message was of the nature of Shruti for our civilization. We will now proceed to quote from her writings and show that she herself regarded it as such.
The SECRET DOCTRINE is not a treatise, or a series of vague theories, but contains all that can be given out to the world in this century. (S.D. I, xxxviii.)
Here is a definite period mentioned, and the explanation thereof is to be found in the following:
Every century an attempt is being made to show the world that Occultism is no vain superstition. Once the door permitted to be kept a little ajar, it will be opened wider with every new century. (S.D. I, xxxvii, fn.)
But I must tell you that during the last quarter of every hundred years an attempt is made by those “Masters”, of whom I have spoken, to help on the spiritual progress of Humanity in a marked and definite way. Towards the close of each century you will invariably find that an outpouring or upheaval of spirituality — or call it mysticism if you prefer — has taken place. Some one or more persons have appeared in the world as their agents, and a greater or less amount of occult knowledge and teaching has been given out. If you care to do so, you can trace these movements back, century by century, as far as our detailed historical records extend. (The Key to Theosophy, p. 306.)
The messengers sent out periodically in the last quarter of every century westward — ever since the mysteries which alone had the key to the secrets of nature had been crushed out of existence in Europe by heathen and Christian conquerors…. (Lucifer,March, 1890 — “The Cycle Moveth.” Reprinted in THEOSOPHY, February, 1916.)
Thus it becomes clear that within what are called historical times in the last quarter of every century an effort has been made by the Custodians of the Original Teachings to give some direction to the Original Impulse by means of the Original Method, and to keep the Fire of the Wisdom burning. An accredited messenger charged with a message, whose extent and influence was properly determined, appeared in the world, though often he was not seen and his message was not heard nor heeded.
H.P.B. and Theosophy were the Messenger and the Message, and they appeared in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In more than one place she has said that in the twentieth century more knowledge will be given out, and some misguided people, in their haste and carelessness have misunderstood and misinterpreted her carefully worded sentences. Thus:
In Century the Twentieth some disciple more informed, and far better fitted, may be sent by the Masters of Wisdom to give final and irrefutable proofs that there exists a Science called Gupta-Vidya; and that, like the once-mysterious sources of the Nile, the source of all religions and philosophies now known to the world has been for many ages forgotten and lost to men, but is at last found. (S.D. I, xxxviii.)
If the present attempt, in the form of our Society, succeeds better than its predecessors have done, then it will be in existence as an organized, living and healthy body when the time comes for the effort of the XXth century. (The Key to Theosophy, pp. 306-307.)
These and similar statements of H.P.B.’s have confused the minds which had in them the capacity of confusion. First, let us point out that in this as in all processes of Nature, the great law of demand and supply, of action and re-action, works. The aspect of contract of the Law of Karma has to be applied for a proper grasp of the method by which the Masters operate in the last quarter of every century. The work of the century is divided into two parts: first, the Masters supply the demand and then wait to see what happens; second, humanity’s response to Their Work, the use the Message is put to, becomes the object of observation on Their part. We do not think we will be wrong in saying that a quarter of the time is utilized by Them in Their Labor of Love, and that for the remaining seventy-five years of the century humanity is left alone to learn, mark and inwardly digest what has been given out, what it has been taught. The Message impels — for it has the nature of the Original Impulse in it — the mind of the race to seek for corroborative testimony on the physical plane for the metaphysical truths conveyed in the Message. This is really what underlies such statements as these:
In the twentieth century of our era scholars will begin to recognize that the Secret Doctrine has neither been invented nor exaggerated, but on the contrary, simply outlined; and finally, that its teachings antedate the Vedas…. This is no pretension toprophecy, but simply a statement based on the knowledge of facts. (S.D. I, xxxvii.)
After manifesting what was essential, the direct action of the force of the Impulse stops and an indirect line is followed, the nature of which is difficult for the lay mind to comprehend. The direct action may be likened to the discovery of the Electric Power, which once understood enabled many people to invent an hundred devices to use that power; this second may be compared to the indirect line which the Masters adopt in Their continuous work. But just as all inventions for the use of electric power are rooted in the original discovery, so also all that comes forth as a result of this indirect work must be based on the direct action manifestation.
In leaving this subject we will quote another pregnant sentence of H.P.B.’s from the Preliminary Memorandum quoted in THEOSOPHY, Vol. I, p. 455. This sentence should be read as supplementing the assertion that all that can be given out in this century has already been given out. Here it is:
No Master of Wisdom from the East will himself appear or send anyone to Europe or America … until the year 1975.
This will be regarded as sufficient to show the Shruti-nature of H.P.B.’s writings. It is likewise necessary to draw the reader’s attention to the fact which emerges in the following two statements that what has been given out is ancient and is regarded as very precious.
The outline of a few fundamental truths from the Secret Doctrine of the Archaic ages is now permitted to see the light, after long millenniums of the most profound silence and secrecy. (S.D. I, xxii.)
Think you the truth has been shown to you for your sole advantage? That we have broken the silence of centuries for the profit of a handful of dreamers only? (Letters from the Masters of Wisdom.)
Add to these the quotation from H.P.B. in our last study, to the effect that the unbroken oral teachings have reached her unaltered, and this part of our study is completed.
This completion, however, brings us to the subject of the Messenger. The nature and character of the Messenger are inseparable from those of the Message. They stand or fall together. H.P.B. claims for herself the place of neither an author, nor the inventor, nor even the full discoverer of the Message; she is a transmitter. It is unnecessary in these studies to examine the status and the claims of H.P.B. It has been done such justice as this magazine is capable of in the History of the Theosophical Movement, in Vols. VIII to X. The opening sentence of Isis Unveiled refers to her “somewhat intimate acquaintance with Eastern Adepts and study of their science.” The Preface of The Secret Doctrine says: “The sole advantage which the writer has over her predecessors, is that she need not resort to personal speculations and theories. For this work is a partial statement of what she herself has been taught by more advanced students, supplemented, in a few details only, by the results of her own study and observation”; and the Introductory says that “she now transmits that which she has received and learnt herself to all those who will accept it.”
The above dovetails with and corroborates the thoughts expressed in the Bhagavad-Gita and in the Mundakopanishad which we examined in our last study. The decay of the Original Teachings in course of time continued to take place, and for their restoration periodic attempts are made by the Great Lodge of Masters. This periodic attempt is spoken of as taking place in the last quarter of every century — it takes place in that quarter in accordance with the law of cycles. Just as what we call winter takes place at a particular period in the revolution of the earth around the sun, so also the psychical and spiritual revolution of our humanity around the spiritual sun causes a cycle whose duration in terms of human time is a century. The beginning of this cycle of a hundred years coincides with the last quarter of what is called the Christian era. Human mind is prone to see Nature adjusting her phenomena to our local arrangements. Seasons change not, though human calendars do. It is very probable, for instance, that the Iranian New Year at one time in the faraway past fell on the 21st of March — i.e., on the day of the Spring Equinox. Such is not the case now with the descendants of the old Iranians, though unchanging Nature celebrates her periodic birth on that very day every year. Some have naively asked why the Great Custodians of the White Lodge did not begin in a methodic order in the first quarter of every century! It does not seem to have occurred to them that the Lodge and its work have been in existence for more than two thousand years; that the Christian and other eras are men-made phenomena while the Lodge follows Nature-Plans; that the Masters did not choose to initiate and engender spiritual movements in terms of the Christian era, but that when that era came into being, ithappened to fall in a particular part of that Cycle of Nature which the Lodge was observing and working with. Therefore, if instead of taking a “Christian Century” we were to take, say, a “Muslim” one, the period of the spiritual activity would not fall in its last quarter, but in altogether another quarter.
The Original Impulse manifests itself as recurrent impulses, and this manifestation is aided and assisted by the Masters. Perhaps for some it would be a helpful suggestion if we say that the Impulse uses the Masters — Impulse is the Spirit which so energizes the Minds of the Masters that They have to work for It. Along this line of thought will be found the explanation of the theory of Avataras or Incarnations. The very mysterious and occult doctrine of Incarnations of great forces — good and bad, Christ and anti-Christ — has never been fully explained. For the intuitive student, however, a careful reflection on the doctrine of Original Impulse recurrently manifesting itself will open more than one avenue of understanding and interpretation thereof. Extraordinary incarnations of human impulses and instincts and thoughts and desires are the makers of history; but the student should differentiate between these and the Word made Flesh, the Great Incarnations of the Wisdom which is Love and the Sacrifice which is Bliss. That Wisdom-Sacrifice is a Mighty and Intelligent Force which energizes and ultimately ensouls emancipated Beings who become embodiments of It. This energizing and ensouling process is the Original Method whereby that Force of Original Impulse manifests the Wisdom-Sacrifice which makes up the Original Teachings, of which we spoke in our last study.
From all this the preliminary work of the earnest student becomes clear. Let him prove to himself (he can hardly prove it to others unless they, like him, are willing to take pains) that periodic incarnations of the Wisdom-Sacrifice, however varied and different in their manifestations, emanate from One Source, are rooted in One Soul. These incarnations, being not of an imperfect science, but of a perfect system of thought, are like the Avatars of Vishnu, and are not the incarnations of Mr. Jack Black who became John Brown and Mary Green and Tom White, and evolved into a great scientist or pious preacher — still evolving. Let the student note that the diversity of manifestation is immense: Vishnu as the Fish, the Tortoise, the Boar, the Man-Lion, the Dwarf, Parshurama, Ramachandra, Krishna, Buddha are more different from one another than Mr. Jack Black is different from Charles Darwin. On the other hand, in the many incarnations of the Perfect Vishnu there is a constancy and a consistency — a working out of plan, an harmonious unfolding of a perfect scheme which takes place.
As students our task is not to be misled by the apparent diversity, and secondly, to perceive the constancy and the consistency, the harmony and the dovetailing of all incarnations of the Wisdom-Sacrifice.
Let us prove to ourselves: (1) that the component parts which make up the manifestation of the Original Impulse in our day and generation are constant and consistent; (2) that this manifestation is in full accord and harmony with all previous manifestations; which means that we have been able to perceive not only the pearls, each one in itself, but the string on which they were all threaded together.
Sometimes it is said that it is impossible to prove this second consistency, as there exist in the world many philosophies and systems of thought. It is very difficult, we admit, but not impossible; further, we opine that at one time or another in his career each student of the Wisdom-Religion will have to undertake this task. What has to be done is to study ancient and modern religions, philosophies and sciences, and to sort out doctrines, propositions, teachings which when put together make a complete synthesis — a veritable mosaic. When this attempt is made it will be found that the Original Teachings under the influence of recurrent impulses of the Original Impulse incarnate by definite and purposeful method; further, that the structure of the synthesis is indicative of what should be and must be accepted as true and genuine and what has to be rejected as false.
This work will lead us to the Source, the Soul, the Original Teachings.
What is it? In a clear and unequivocal style H.P.B. has put it forward in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, and with that we will close this series. We set out to inquire if there was Absolute Knowledge, and examining the proposition of Relative Knowledge found ourselves entering the world of archetypes wherein we found sitting in patient serenity the Goddess of Secret Wisdom, who from time to time for the establishment of Dharma unveiled her Sacred Face and revealed the blessing of Its Memory which has so often been defiled. We found the existence of that Absolute Knowledge, of the Pathway of the Archetypal which leads to it; we found that in our day and generation the treading of that Path has been made possible, and it remains for us to follow the Guide of the Secret Doctrine and come to the “uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers.” Says The Secret Doctrine (I, 272-273):—
The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: e.g., even in the exotericism of the Purânas. But such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain, in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the “soul of things,” and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the “Wise Men” of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions — so obtained as to stand as independent evidence — of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences.