H. P. B. was specially interesting upon the matter of "The Secret Doctrine"
during the past week. I had better try to sort it all out and get it safely down
on paper while it is fresh in my mind. As she said herself, it may be useful to
someone thirty or forty years hence. The Secret Doctrine is only quite a small
fragment of Esoteric Doctrine known to the higher members of the Occult
Brotherhoods. It contains, she says, just as much as can be received by the
world during this coming century. "The World" (she explained) means Man living
in the Personal Nature. This "world" will find in the two volumes of the S.D. (Secret
Doctrine) all its utmost comprehension can grasp, but no more. But this is not
to say that the Disciple who is not living in "the world" cannot find any more
in the book than the "world" finds. Every form, no matter how crude, contains
the image of its "creator" concealed within it. So likewise does an author's
work, no matter how obscure, contain the concealed image of the author's
knowledge. . . From this saying, I take it that the S.D. must contain all the
H.P.B. knows herself, and a great deal more than that, seeing that much of it
comes from men whose knowledge is immensely wider than hers. Furthermore, she
implies unmistakably that another may well find knowledge in it which she does
not possess herself. It is a stimulating thought to consider that it is possible
that I myself may find in H.P.B.'s words knowledge of which she herself is
unconscious. She dwelt on this idea a good deal. X said afterwards: "H.P.B. must
be losing her grip," meaning, I suppose, confidence, in her own knowledge.
But...and..., myself, also, see her meaning better, I think. She is telling us
without a doubt not to anchor ourselves to her as the final authority, nor to
anyone else, but to depend altogether upon our own widening perceptions.
(Later note on above: I was right. I put it to her direct and she nodded and
smiled. It was worth something to get her approving smile!)
At last we have managed to get H.P.B. to put us right on the matter of the study
of the S.D. Let me get it down while it is all fresh in mind. Reading the S.D.
page by page as one reads any other book (she says) will only end us in
confusion. The first thing to do, even if it takes years, is to get some grasp
of the "Three Fundamental Principles" given in the Proem. Follow that up by
study of the Recapitulation - the numbered items in the Summing Up to Volume I,
Part I. Then take the Preliminary Notes (Vol. II) and the Conclusion (Vol. II)...
H.P.B. seems pretty definite about the importance of the teaching (in the
Conclusion) relating to the times of coming of the Races and Sub-Races. She put
it more plainly than usual that there is really no such thing as a future "coming"
of races. "There is neither COMING nor PASSING, but eternal BECOMING," she says.
The Fourth Root-race is still alive. So are the Third and Second and First -
that is, their manifestations on our present plane of substance are present. I
know that she means, I think, but it is beyond me to get it down in words. So
likewise the Sixth Sub-Race is here, and the Sixth Root-Race, and the Seventh,
and even people of the coming Rounds. After all, that's understandable.
Disciples and Brothers and Adepts can't be people of the everyday Fifth Sub-Race,
for the race is a state of evolution.
But she leaves no question but that, as far as humanity at large goes, we are
hundreds of years (in time and space) from even the Sixth Sub-Race. I thought
H.P.B. showed a peculiar anxiety in her insistence on this point. She hinted at
"dangers and delusions" coming through ideas that the New Race had dawned
definitely on the World. According to her the duration of a Sub-Race for
humanity at large coincides with that of the Sidereal Year (the circle of the
earth's axis - about 25,000 years). That puts the new race a long way off.
We have had a remarkable session on the study of the S.D. during the past three
weeks. I must sort out my notes and get the result safely down before I lose
She talked a good deal about the "Fundamental Principles." She says: "If one
imagines that one is going to get a satisfactory picture of the constitution of
the Universe from the S.D. one will get only confusion from its study. It is not
meant to give any such final verdict on existence, but to lead towards the
truth." She repeated this latter expression many times. It is worse than useless
going to those whom we imagine to be advanced students (she said) and asking
them to give us an "interpretation" of the S.D. They cannot do it. If they try,
all they give are cut and dried exoteric renderings which do not remotely
resemble the Truth. To accept such interpretation means anchoring ourselves to
fixed ideas, whereas Truth lies beyond any ideas we can formulate or express.
Exoteric interpretations are all very well, and she does not condemn them so
long as they are taken as pointers for beginners, and are not accepted by them
as anything more. Many persons who are in, or will in the future be in, the T.S.
are of course potentially incapable of any advance beyond the range of a common
exoteric conception. But there are, and will be others, and for them she sets
out the following and true way of approach to the S.D.
Come to the S.D. (she says) without any hope of getting the final Truth of
existence from it, or with any idea other than seeing how far it may lead
towards the Truth. See in study a means of exercising and developing the mind
never touched by other studies. Observe the following rules.
No matter what one may study in the S.D. let the mind hold fast, as the basis of
its ideation, to the following ideas:
a) The fundamental unity of all existence. This unity is a thing altogether
different from the common notion of unity - as when we say that a nation or an
army is united; or that this planet is united to that by lines of magnetic force
or the like. The teaching is not that. It is that existence is one thing, not
any collection of things linked together. Fundamentally, there is ONE BEING.
This Being has two aspects, positive and negative. The positive is Spirit, or
consciousness. The negative is substance, the subject of consciousness. This
Being is the Absolute in its primary manifestation. Being absolute there is
nothing outside it. It is ALL BEING. It is indivisible, else it would not be
absolute. If a portion could be separated, that remaining could not be absolute,
because there would at once arise the question of comparison between it and the
separated part. Comparison is incompatible with any idea of absoluteness.
Therefore it is clear that this fundamental One Existence, or Absolute Being,
must be the Reality in every form there is...(I said that though this was clear
to me I did not think that many in the Lodges would grasp it. "Theosophy," she
said, "is for those who can think, or for those who can drive themselves to
think, not mental sluggards." H.P.B. has grown very mild of late. "Dumbskulls"
used to be her name for the average student.)
The Atom, the Man, the God (she says) are each separately, as well as all
collectively, Absolute Being in their last analysis, that is their real
individuality. It is this idea which must be held always in the background of
the mind to form the basis for every conception that arises from study of the
S.D. The moment one lets it go (and it is most easy to do so when engaged in any
of the many intricate aspects of the Esoteric Philosophy) the idea of separation
supervenes, and the study loses its value.
b) The second idea to hold fast to is that there is no dead matter. Every last
atom is alive. It cannot be otherwise, since every atom is itself fundamentally
Absolute Being. Therefore there is no such thing as "spaces of ether," or
Akasha, or call it what you like, in which angels and elementals disport
themselves like trout in water. That's the common idea. The true idea shows
every atom of substance, no matter of what plane, to be in itself a life.
c) The third basic idea to be held is that Man is the microcosm. As he is so,
then all the Hierarchies of the Heavens exist within him. But in truth there is
neither Macrocosm nor Microcosm but ONE EXISTENCE. Great and small are such only
as viewed by a limited consciousness.
d) Fourth and last basic idea to be held is that expressed in the Great Hermetic
Axiom. It really sums up and synthesizes all the others: "As is the inner, so is
the outer; as is the great, so is the small; as it is above, so it is below;
there is but One Life and Law: and he that worketh it is ONE. Nothing is inner,
nothing is outer; nothing is great, nothing is small; nothing is high, nothing
is low, in the Divine Economy."
No matter what one takes as study in the S.D. one must correlate it with those
I suggested that this is a kind of mental exercise which must be excessively
fatiguing. H.P.B. smiled and nodded. One must not be a fool (she said) and drive
oneself into the madhouse by attempting too much at first. The brain is the
instrument of waking consciousness, and every conscious mental picture formed
means change and destruction of the atoms of the brain. Ordinary intellectual
activity moves on well-beaten paths in the brain, and does not compel sudden
adjustments and destructions in its substance. But this new kind of mental
effort calls for something very different - the carving out of new "brain
paths," the ranking in different order of the little brain lives. If forced
injudiciously it may do serious physical harm to the brain.
This mode of thinking (she says) is what the Indians call Jnana Yoga. As one
progresses in Jnana Yoga one finds conceptions arising which, though one is
conscious of them, one cannot express nor yet formulate into any sort of mental
picture. As time goes on these conceptions will form into mental pictures. This
is a time to be on guard and refuse to be deluded with the idea that the
new-found and wonderful picture must represent reality. It does not. As one
works on, one finds the once admired picture growing dull and unsatisfying and
finally fading out or being thrown away. This is another danger point, because
for the moment one is left in a void without any conception to support one, and
one may be tempted to revive the cast-off picture for want of a better to cling
to. The true student will, however, work on unconcerned, and presently further
formless gleams come, which again in time give rise to a larger and more
beautiful picture than the last. But the learner will now know that no picture
will ever represent the truth. This last splendid picture will grow dull and
fade like the others. And so the process goes on, until at last the mind and its
pictures are transcended and the learner enters and dwells in the world of
no-form, but of which all forms are narrowed reflections.
The true student of The Secret Doctrine is a Jnana Yogi, and this Path of Yoga
is the True Path for the Western student. It is to provide him with signposts on
that Path that The Secret Doctrine has been written.
Later note: I have read over this rendering of her teaching to H.P.B., asking if
I have got her aright. She called me a silly dumbskull to imagine anything can
ever be put in words aright. But she smiled and nodded as well, and said I had
really got it better than anyone else ever did, and better than she could do it
I wonder why I am getting all this. It should be passed to the world, but I am
too old ever to do it. I feel such a child to H.P.B. yet I am twenty years older
than her in actual years.
She has changed much since I met her two years ago. It is marvellous how she
holds up in the face of dire illness. If one knew nothing and believed nothing,
H.P.B. would convince one that she is something away and beyond body and brain.
I feel, especially during these last meetings since she has become so helpless
bodily, that we are getting teachings from another and higher sphere. We seem to
feel and know what she says rather than hear it with our bodily ears. X said
much the same thing last night.
19th April, 1891