Nicholas Weeks – USA
[This article is based on a talk given in April 2010 at the Krotona Institute in Ojai, California by the author. References to Echoes of the Orient are from the revised version, 2009-2010.]
“The second idea is, that man is a being who may be raised up to perfection, to the stature of the Godhead, because he himself is God incarnate. This noble doctrine was in the mind of Jesus, no doubt, when he said that we must be perfect even as is the father in heaven. [Mt 5:48] This is the idea of human perfectibility. It will destroy the awful theory of inherent original sin which has held and ground down the western Christian nations for centuries.”
Whether our True Nature is called Tathagatagarbha, the One, Parabrahm, Ain Soph, God or simply That; the path of perfection leads to it.
Judge was very fond of the Bhagavad Gita, so much so that he wrote a commentary on the first seven chapters. I will refer to his Essays on that sacred text to give a sample of his teachings on the spiritual Path.
The first chapter on the despondency or dejection of Arjuna, is often wrongly ignored as not Theosophical or philosophical enough. Judge said this was a mistake.
“The cause of this despondency is to be inquired into.
Arjuna, in the flush of determination, and before any analysis of either the consequences to himself or to others who might become involved, entered the conflict, after having chosen Krishna as his charioteer. The forces are drawn up in line of battle, and he rides out to survey them. At once he sees ranged against him relatives of every class, ... preparing to destroy others, their relatives, friends and acquaintances as well as Arjuna’s, who are enlisted on his side. Turning to Krishna, he says that he cannot engage in such a war, that he perceives only evil omens, and that even if the opposers, being ignorant, may be willing to fight with such dreadful consequences in view, he cannot do so, but must give up the battle ere it is begun. Thereupon:
Arjuna, whose heart was troubled with grief, let fall his bow and arrows, and sat down on the bench of his chariot.
Every student of occultism, Theosophy or true religion -- all being one thing -- will go through Arjuna's experiences. Attracted by the beauty or other seductive quality,... of this study, he enters upon the prosecution of it, and soon discovers that he arouses two sets of forces. One of them consists of all his friends and relations who do not view life as he does, who are wedded to the "established order," and think him a fool for devoting any attention to anything else; while the general mass of his acquaintances and those whom he meets in the world instinctively array themselves against one who is thus starting upon a crusade that begins with his own follies and faults, but must end in a condemnation of theirs, if only by the force of example.
The other opponents are far more difficult to meet, because they have their camp and base of action upon the astral and other hidden planes; they are all his lower tendencies and faculties, that up to this time have been in the sole service of material life. By the mere force of moral gravity, they fly to the other side, where they assist his living friends and relatives in their struggle against him. They have more efficiency in producing despondency than anything else. In the poem, it is referred to in the words addressed by Arjuna to Krishna:
I am not able to stand; for my mind reels, and I behold inauspicious omens on all sides.
All of us are brought to this study by our own request made to our higher self, who is Krishna. Arjuna requested Krishna to be his charioteer, and to drive him forth between the two armies. It does not matter whether he now is consciously aware of having made the request, nor whether it was made [in this lifetime or earlier ones] it was made and it is to be answered at the right time. Some of us have asked this many times before, in ancient births of ours in other bodies and other lands; others are making the request now; but it is more than likely in the case of those who are spurred on to intense effort and longing to know the truth, and to strive for unity with God, that they have put up the petition ages since.
So now Krishna, the charioteer of this body with its horses -- the mind -- drives us forth so that we may stand with our higher self and all the tendencies connected with it on one side, and all the lower (but not all necessarily evil) principles on the other. The student may, perhaps, with ease face the crowd of friends and relatives, having probably gone through that experience in other lives and is now proof against it, but he is not proof against the first dark shadow of despair and ill result that falls upon him. Every elemental that he has vivified by evil thinking now casts upon him the thought,
‘After all, it is no use; I cannot win; if I did, the gain would be nothing; I can see no great or lasting result to be attained, for all, all, is impermanent.’
These feelings are not confined to just our personal spiritual future. When one looks at the dominance by the popular so-called “culture”, rooted in self-centered desire, sectarian anger & oodles of stupidity, it is easy to postpone, ignore or give up on our altruistic inclinations. What could we ever write, say, think, do, pray or meditate that would have any uplifting effect? But our duty is just to take selfless action on any plane, not to care about or look for results.
This dreadful feeling is sure in each case to supervene, and we might as well be prepared for it. We cannot always live on the enthusiasm of heavenly joys. The rosy hue of dawn does not reach round the world; it chases darkness. Let us be prepared for it, not only at the first stage, but all along in our progress to the holy seat; for it comes at each pause; at that slight pause when we are about to begin another breath, to take another step, to pass into another condition...
Who is the sufferer from this despondency?
It is our false personality as distinguished from Krishna -- the higher self -- which is oppressed by the immediate resistance offered by all the lower part of our nature, and by those persons with whom we are most closely connected, as soon as we begin to draw them away from all old habits, and to present a new style of thinking for their consideration.
For Arjuna, sinking down upon the seat of that chariot which is his body, fell back upon his own nature and found therein the elements of search and courage, as well as those previous ones of gloom which arise first, being nearer the natural man. Reliance and pressure upon our own inner nature, in moments of darkness, are sure to be answered by the voice of Krishna, the inner guide.
The first consequences of the despondency are to make us feel that the battle we have invited ought not to be carried on, and we then are almost overwhelmed with the desire to give it up. Some do give it up, to begin it again, in a succeeding life, while others like Arjuna listen to the voice of Krishna, and bravely fight it out to the end.”
Not only is it vital to know that some degree of this depression & moral cowardice will come upon us, but that we made vows long ago to fight the good fight. Nothing comes our way that is not our own. Using our weapons of duty to others, great compassion, devotion to our ideal, understanding of our divine nature and disgust with the realm of self-cherishing; we press on to our high calling.
Walt Whitman’s inspired poem To Him that was Crucified was quoted by Judge, to remind us and uplift us:
“My spirit to yours, dear brother;
Do not mind because many, sounding your name, do not understand you;
I do not sound your name, but I understand you, (there are others also;)
I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you, and to salute those who are with you, before and since—and those to come also,
That we all labor together, transmitting the same charge and succession;
We few, equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times;
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes—allowers of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the disputers, nor any thing that is asserted;
We hear the bawling and din—we are reach’d at by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every side,
They close peremptorily upon us, to surround us, my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and down, till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races, ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers, as we are.”
In addition Judge points out that this first chapter has many truths hidden within it.
“If we look at the poem in its application to a man aspiring to devotion, then the battlefield is the body acquired by Karma and Tanha, thirst for life, while the speaker and his party represent the lower self, and the Pandus the Higher Self. But if this and succeeding chapters are regarded from the cosmic standpoint, then the speaker, the plain of Kuru, the generals described in the first chapter, together with their instruments and weapons, are beings, forces, planes, and planets in the universe, of which it would be out of place to treat here.”
So he does not give the occult meaning of the generals & weapons etcetera. But there were, at the end of the 19th century, other branches of the Theosophical Movement. Lahiri Mahasay (who died in 1895) was the public face for the Kriya Yoga movement in India. He taught, as did Sri Yukteshwar, Swami Yogananda and several other Kriya gurus, the meaning of the persons & objects given in this first chapter. Consult their commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita for such interesting details.
“A mighty spirit moves through the pages of the Bhagavad-Gita. It has the seductive influence of beauty; yet, like strength, it fills one as with the sound of armies assembling or the roar of great waters. Appealing alike to the warrior and the philosopher, it shows to the one the righteousness of lawful action, and to the other the calmness which results to him who has reached inaction through action...
End of part one – to be continued