What Can We Believe?
T. H. Redfern
GETTING AT THE TRUTH
Among the members of The Theosophical Society are students and investigators who carefully examine the teachings of all the major religions, the findings of scientists and the thinking of philosophers of the East and West. Our concern is to avoid error and superstitions, and to get at the truth. We have no wish to undermine the convictions of anyone who is confident in a religious creed, but we have something to put before those who do not know what to believe.
Ideas can be classified as impossible, improbable, possible with insufficient grounds for assessing probability, probable, or facts known to the individual concerned. To find out what is true for oneself needs persistent inquiry and the sharpening of acutely critical discrimination, until reason, evidence and experience bring clear, direct discernment of known truth. This is work requiring inclination and the time to do it.
When we know, we no longer believe. Short of known facts, we have to make do with probabilities to be going on with, or be submerged in untested beliefs. Those who are puzzled about fundamental things and lack the opportunity or eagerness to find out what is true, as facts of experience, can with confidence base their way of living on certain high prohabilities.
THE ENERGETIC BODY
We live in a world of energies. These physical bodies are marvellously complicated structures of bone, muscles, blood, lymph and other glandular secretions, nerves, lung, heart and brain tissues, flesh and skin. Each one is a chemical factory, breaking down the stuff we send down our gullets, and separating it into what can be used at once in the chemical supply system, what can be stored as a reserve for future use when needed, and what is to be passed out as refuse. All this is done by myriads of cells all discharging their respective functions or assignments. Those cells are made up of molecules, and the molecules of atoms, and the atoms of lesser energy centres.
All these energetic processes go on constantly in ordered fashion while our bodies live, and we are normally unconscious of them. We breathe without thinking, we do not have to control our kidneys or keep our hearts pumping. Our endocrine glands discharge the hormones that regulate and balance the workings of the system without a ‘by your leave’ from our conscious minds. They respond to our feelings and thoughts, but we are oblivious of their transmissions, though we may be aware of the consequences. When we are angry, the messengers of our anger call for more adrenalin in the blood stream so that, if we want to fight, the body is already alerted and extra energy put on tap. We do not send the messages for that to be done; we just get angry. The rest happens.
This amazing body is a complex of energies. There is nothing solidly continuous. Only unimaginable myriads of energy centres in orderly functional aggregations. The differences between what appear to be solid, liquid and aerial states of matter, are really differences in degree of confinement of energy. The whole vast cosmos is a field of energy]distribution and energy]aggregation, and our bodies are infinitesimal fields within that larger field. We live in a vast energy field and have our own characteristic specialized corner of that cosmic field.
OUR EARTH]MOTHER AND SUN]FATHER
This planet, earth – one of eight or more that are swinging round the sun – is, indeed, our mother; her energies are in her rotation that makes our day and night, in the lapping of the quiet sea, the gentle refreshing breezes, the aspiring plants and trees, and all the mobile living creatures that thrive within her protective atmospheric envelope, including ourselves. More spectacularly, they are in the volcanic outbursts, earthquakes, upheavals, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. These physical bodies of ours belong to, are part of, Mother Earth.
But our Mother is only able to produce the vast multitude of living creatures because her moist nature is warmed by the Father in the heavens, the sun of our system, in the regular, cyclic, pulsating temperature]variations of diurnal rotation and seasonal changes, as we all travel together on the annual journey round the sun. This inconceivably intense energycentre holds the entire solar system in its ordering and balancing magnetic command. This sun, which gives us physical life out of Mother Earth, will also kill us if we are insufficiently shielded from it. Our very life depends upon the maintenance of a due balance, and a reliable, regular, rhythmic pattern of behaviour in the relationship of our Father, the sun, and our Mother, the earth. In the living conditions that arise from and depend on this constancy we have the opportunity to observe, learn, practise and become skilful in the control of energy; and we are wise if we practise and use our skill in harmonious collaboration with the processes of nature.
DEVELOPING OUR ABILITY TO COPE
We are conscious, energetic entities, slowly developing intelligence in our energetic and intelligible world. The intelligibility of our surroundings results from ordering intelligences surrounding us. To what end? For what purpose, and with what destiny?
Let us consider the characteristics of our energies. In addition to the body’s biological energy, with its drive to growth and procreation, and its involuntary selfprotective reactions, there are the energies of our conscious individual purposes, affections and thoughts. These blend with the body’s drives. Our experience of life is in the interplay of these sources of energy, those from the self within us, and those from the body. They are liable to come into conflict. Drives that we are not fully conscious of, arising from biological urges – from the id as the psychoanalysts say – seize our emotional nature and become irrational cravings and compulsions. We have to experience these and learn their significance until we become fully conscious of them and able to reverse the process — instead of the horses running away with us, we employ the horses to take us where we reasonably and intelligently seek to go.
This reasonable intelligence springs energetically through a centre within ourselves other than the physical body. It conditions, changes and develops its organs of expression in the body and is limited by the body’s present condition. In our ordinary waking consciousness we are affected by two unconscious sources — from the inner spirit, and from the bodily urges. Let us use the simple terms applied by Max Freedom Long in his interpretations of Polynesian lore — the high self, the middle self, and the low self. We can line up the more learned terminology of the psychologists or of the Eastern religions with these terms if we wish. The middle self is our waking consciousness. The low self is the source of the urges arising from bodily energies, not fully within the consciousness of the middle self. The high self is the source of sensible, elevating influences, also not within our ordinary consciousness. In this interplay of energy we are living to learn.
THE CYCLE OF PHYSICAL LIFE EXPERIENCES
Consider then what happens in a normal life cycle. We are here primarily because a high self wanted more opportunity to unfold, prove and establish capacities of understanding and command over the energies of a low self through a middle self. Each of us is the present middle self belonging to a high self. Secondarily we are here because our parents were biologically energetic. They performed together a procreative act of God. Parents are god]agents for the production of new bodies.
So we come forth as crying babies from the wombs of our mothers. Every one of us started as a fertilized egg too small to be seen. We became physically separate entities with a cry when maybe some nurse or doctor slapped us; and now look at us! The biological unconscious, low]self]drive towards growth continued. The middle self habits of feeling and behaviour patterns began to form. Later, high self influences played upon us. We came to adolescence. The procreative powers came to maturity in our bodies, and their drives brought new problems and experiences.
Usually we have married and become fathers and mothers ourselves, with the experiences and problems of the intimate interplay of family relationships. We have known frustration and exasperation; passion and love and resentment; sickness and the calls it makes on others; concerns about the way the children are growing up; problems about how much freedom we are entitled to, and how far our partners or parents or children are entitled to take it for granted that our time, energy and attention are at their disposal.
We have adopted or accepted a way of earning a living in the organized society of our fellows. Maybe we have striven for advancement, driven by the goad of ambition energized by the low self; or dedicated ourselves to serve by work of usefulness or betterment under the influence of the high self. We have felt insecure and inadequate, and hence have blustered and been arrogant or whined in self]pity or been ingratiating to placate. We have wanted our neighbours or associates to think well of us and have done what would be approved; or we may have been rebellious and suffered ostracism in some measure; or – not many, but a few – have set out to behave steadily under the influence of the high self, no matter who thinks what.
Out of our troubles, and our attempts to cope, from our excitements and sufferings, our moments of serene happiness and peace, our surgings of enthusiasm and effort, our times of bleak despair or murderous aggressiveness, or sadness at the sufferings of others that we could not dispel — out of these experiences we come to the end of the cycle; the body fails; it dies. What then?
LIVING AFTER DEATH
Some think that is the end. It is the end of the organized body. It is the end of the relationships based on the body. It is the end of the triple man or woman focused in that body. The low self energies progressively dissipate. A disentanglement of the middle self takes place and it ceases to be a battleground of life as the low self influences are shed, and only those of the quality of the high self remain. Then there comes the experience that is reflected in the various religious traditions of heaven after death. The middle self dreams blissfully and idealistically on all its unselfish experiences of love and dedications in the previous bodily life. ‘Where?’ you may ask.
We are living in a world of energies. Emotions are energetic, you can feel their dynamism. Thoughts are in a stream of energy. Will and desire are powerful. Who is there who is unaware of the influence of love? When someone you have cared for has died, quieten the disturbing emotions for long enough to look thoughtfully at the body as it remains. Where is the person you knew – the life, the quirks, the smiles, the anxieties, the love, the thoughts, the determination – where are they? Can you honestly believe that nothing has gone from it?
Materialism is a silly delusion. The world of energies is far vaster than these physical experiences. We are living also amid forces and intelligences we are not usually aware of, and we are exerting a creative influence among them by the way we think and feel. The energies of will, love, thought and desire do not die when the body dies. These forces, which we can name and divide into spirit and soul, are far from illusory — they are vital and factual. They come through the body and are limited and influenced by its condition, and the impacts of sensation received through it; but they are not mere by]products of bodily existence. They are objective on their own energy levels, in tandem with activities on the physical energy levels, while the bodily instrument lasts, and continuing apart from it when it dies.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING OURSELVES
While the body is living, our thoughts and feelings come out in speech and actions, and we are responsible for them. We get the rebound. Consider the kind of relationships that a perpetually bitter or nattering person has with relatives and other people, and contrast those of a steadily loving person. Compare their experiences in life — the resentment aroused and the feeling of loneliness caused by the former; and the surrounding gratitude and affection that flows to the latter. We make what comes to us by what we are. It takes time. Change for the better and there is still the backlash of the past trouble]making thought, speech and action to meet. Our past meets us today. Today we are creating what will flow into our tomorrows. This is not finished by death. It carries over. Deep within ourselves there is a process of learning going on. It is incomplete when we die. It goes on by carryover to new bodies and personalities, in various races and civilizations until, waking up through distress brought about by our own foolishness, we are really ready to learn how to expend energies wisely and well.
HELL OR HEAVEN AS WE MAKE IT
Let us backtrack a little. This carry]over after death leads to a kind of heaven or pseudo]heaven. What about hell? What about devilish energies? They too must lead to their inevitable natural consequences. We all experience them. In a normal decent, full rounded life, they should be outworn before bodily death comes and form no impediment or interruption to the quiet transition and gestation that precedes our birth in heaven; but where they have taken root in the soul, there can be suffering after death – purgatory; and in the extreme – hell; but not everlasting hell.
There can be hell on earth, in physical Hodies; and there can be the kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven. So far in our evolution, there is more disposition to make hell on earth than heaven on earth, though one would think that heaven would be generally preferred to hell. We can have which we choose. Our middle self is a soul to be saved. In this conscious self we make the decisions. We are saved by the high self and we have to turn to the high self; many do, simply by obeying true conscience — which is to be distinguished from pseudo]conscience; but if we let the devils run riot through us, the link with the high self can be broken. Short of that, the eagerness, intensity and frequency with which we give attention and obeisance to the high self within us – and hence the extent of the interplay – can vary enormously. It is those energizings which have the quality of the high self that take us to the temporary heaven and determine the nature and extent of our experiences there.
If heaven is temporary only, what follows? We die from heaven. The stored energies there are expended. All the lessons and active wisdom unfolded in that life are brought home to the high self; and the cycle starts again. Re]energizing of the mental and emotional nature so far developed produces energy]fields, still deficient in the powers as yet latent and awaiting active and balanced unfoldment. The nascent soul is linked usually with an embryo in a family whose high selves have been associated through the doings and relationships of their previous personalities, and between whom there is, therefore, a carry]over. The rebirth will sometimes be as a boy, sometimes as a girl. Always it will be bringing back the consequences of what previous middle selves have done or permitted.
To what then does this cycle of rebirth lead ? What does it yield ? We are learning — learning that we share in the universal intelligence and creative power; that we can abuse it, use it unintelligently and irresponsibly for selfish gratification and so make misery, now and in the future; and that we can use it well and share in the originating power of the universe, which Westerners call God.
If that is the goal in front of us, what should we do about it, what are the sensible ways of living? We must observe and learn, learn and practise. How shall we go about learning? We have to discover the high self increasingly, observe the pressures of the low self, and come to understand how the three selves interplay. We have to do it within ourselves. Our own souls are the laboratories in which the alchemy of transmutation has to be worked upon and brought about. Only when we understand and can regulate and regularize the energies within our own selves can we discern clearly what is happening in one another, and how we can pass along a useful cue or clue, because we see it is fitting and appropriate.
THE PEACE TO COME
Still the question remains: to what does it lead ? When we have learned what has to be learned, when we know how self arises and understand the whole fundamental processes of consciousness, what then? The testimony of those who have experienced it is that it is indescribable; it is no use talking about it, it is so far beyond the heaven]experience between physical lives as to make the same word quite unsuitable for both purposes. The Hindus and Buddhists both have distinguishing words for the two states.
According to the Gospel of Thomas, and the Oxyrhynchus papyrus, Jesus said: —
‘If you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the sons of the Living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty and you are poverty . . . Let him who seeks not cease seeking until he finds; and when he finds, he will be troubled; and when he has been troubled, he will be astonished and he will reign over the All. ’
This experience is as of a great sun or source of Light within. The physical experience of living in the interplay of the masterful sun and the responsive earth is found to be in symbolic parallel with the living consciousness that dwells in an accomplished Peace, poised between the radiant authority of the Heavenly Father within, and the respected but subservient energies of our physical body that belongs to Mother Earth. Bondage to self is over. The separated self is known as illusion and has vanished as a dispersing wraith. Liberation has happened. The kingdom of heaven has been brought down to earth. Nirvana is.
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