A Year on the Path
The Path, March, 1887
The present issue of this Magazine closes the first year of its publication. It was not started because its projectors thought that they alone knew the true Path, but solely out of an intense longing to direct inquiring minds towards a way which had seemed to many persons who had tried it, to hold out the possibility of finding an answer to the burning questions that vex the human heart.
The question is always naturally asked “What is the Path?” or “What is the Philosophy?” which is the same thing, for of course the following of any path whatever will depend upon the particular philosophy or doctrines believed in. The path we had in view is held by us to be the same one which in all ages has been sought by Heathen, Jew and Christian alike. By some called the path to Heaven, by others the path to Jesus, the path to Nirvana, and by the Theosophists the path to Truth. Jesus has defined it as a narrow, difficult and straight path. By the ancient Brahmins it has been called, “the small old path leading far away on which those sages walk who reach salvation;” and Buddha thought it was a noble fourfold path by which alone the miseries of existence can be truly surmounted.
But of course mental diversities inevitably cause diversity in the understanding of any proposition. Thus it happens that Theosophists have many different views of how the path should be followed, but none of them disagree with the statement that there must be one Truth, and that no religion can be called higher than Truth. We therefore have pursued, as far as possible, a course which is the result of the belief that the prevalence of similar doctrines in the writings and traditions of all peoples points to the fact that the true religion is that one which will find the basic ideas common to all philosophies and religions.
We turned most readily and frequently to the simple declarations found in the ancient books of India, esteeming most highly that wonderful epic poem—the Bagavad-Gita. And in that is found a verse that seems to truly express in powerful words what philosophers have been blindly grasping after in many directions.
“It is even a portion of myself (the Supreme) that in this material world is the universal spirit of all things. It draweth together the five organs and the mind, which is the sixth, in order that it may obtain a body, and that it may leave it again; and that portion of myself (Ishwar) having taken them under his charge, accompanieth them from his own abode as the breeze the fragrance from the flower.” 1
To catch the light which gleams through this verse, is not for mortal minds an easy task, and thus it becomes necessary to present as many views from all minds as can be obtained. But it seems plain that in every religion is found the belief that that part of man which is immortal must be a part of the Supreme Being, for there cannot be two immortalities at once, since that would give to each a beginning, and therefore the immortal portion of man must be derived from the true and only immortality.
This immortal spark has manifested itself in many different classes of men, giving rise to all the varied religions, many of which have forever disappeared from view. Not any one of them could have been the whole Truth, but each must have presented one of the facets of the great gem, and thus through the whole surely run ideas shared by all. These common ideas point to truth. They grow out of man’s inner nature and are not the result of revealed books. But some one people or another must have paid more attention to the deep things of life than another must. The “Christian” nations have dazzled themselves with the baneful glitter of material progress. They are not the peoples who will furnish the clearest clues to the Path.
A few short years and they will have abandoned the systems now held so dear, because their mad rush to the perfection of their civilization will give them control over now undreamed of forces. Then will come the moment when they must choose which of two kind of fruit they will take. In the meantime it is well to try and show a relation between their present system and the old, or at least to pick out what grains of truth are in the mass.
In the year just passing we have been cheered by much encouragement from without and within. Theosophy has grown not only in ten years, but during the year past. A new age is not far away. The huge, unwieldy flower of the 19th century civilization, has almost fully bloomed, and preparation must be made for the wonderful new flower which is to rise from the old. We have not pinned our faith on Vedas nor Christian scriptures, nor desired any others to do so. All our devotion to Aryan literature and philosophy arises from a belief that the millions of minds who have trodden weary steps before ours, left a path which might be followed with profit, yet with discrimination. For we implicitly believe that in this curve of the cycle, the final authority is the man himself. In former times the disclosed Vedas, and later, the teachings of the great Buddha, were the right authority, in whose authorative teachings and enjoined practices were found the necessary steps to raise Man to an upright position. But the grand clock of the Universe points to another hour, and now Man must seize the key in his hands and himself—as a whole—open the gate. Hitherto he has depended upon the great souls whose hands have stayed impending doom. Let us then together enter upon another year, fearing nothing, assured of strength in the Union of Brotherhood. For how can we fear death, or life, or any horror or evil, at any place or time, when we well know that even death itself is a part of the dream which we are weaving before our eyes.
Our belief may be summed up in the motto of the Theosophical Society “There is no religion higher than Truth,” and our practice consists in a disregard of any authority in matters of religion and philosophy except such propositions as from their innate quality we feel to be true.
1. Bhagavad-Gita, ch. 15.