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South of Heaven
An extract from
The Life After Death
To my mind it is one of the most beautiful points about our Theosophical teaching that it gives back to man all the most useful and helpful beliefs of
the religions which he has outgrown. There are many who, though they feel that they cannot bring themselves to accept much that they used to take as a matter of course, nevertheless look back with a certain amount of regret to some of the prettier ideas of their mental childhood. They have come up out of the twilight into fuller light, and they are thankful for the fact, and they could not return
into their former attitude if they would; yet some of the dreams of the twilight were lovely, and the fuller light seems sometimes a little hard in comparison with its softer tints.
Theosophy comes to their rescue here, and shows them that all the glory and the beauty and the poetry, glimpses of which they used dimly
to catch in their twilight, exist as a living reality, and that instead of disappearing before the noonday, glow, its splendour will be only the more
vividly displayed thereby. But our teaching gives them back their poetry on quite a new basis — a basis of scientific fact instead of uncertain tradition. A very good example of such belief is to be found under our title of "Guardian Angels".
There are many graceful traditions of spiritual guardianship and angelic intervention which we should all very much like to believe if we could only see our way to accept them rationally, and I hope to explain that to a very large extent we may do this.
The belief in such intervention is a very old one. Among the earliest Indian legends we find accounts of the occasional appearances of minor deities at critical points in human affairs; the Greek epics are full of similar stories, and in the history of Rome itself we read how the heavenly twins, Castor and Pollux, led the armies of the infant republic at the battle of Lake Regillus.
In mediaeval days St. James is recorded to have led the Spanish troops to victory, and there are many tales of angels who watched over the pious wayfarer, or interfered at the right moment to protect him from harm. "Merely a popular superstition", the superior person will say; perhaps, but wherever we encounter a popular superstition which is widely spread and persistent, we almost invariably find some kernel of truth behind it — distorted and exaggerated often, yet a truth still. And this is a case in point.
Most religions speak to men of guardian angels, who stand by them in times of sorrow and trouble; and Christianity was no exception to this rule.
But for its sins there came upon Christendom the blight which by an extraordinary inversion of truth was called the Reformation, and in that ghastly upheaval very much was lost that for the majority of us has not even yet been regained. That terrible abuses existed; and that a reform was needed in the church I should be the last to deny: yet surely the Reformation was a very heavy judgment for the sins which had preceded it. What is called Protestantism has emptied and darkened the world for its votaries, for among many strange and gloomy falsehoods it has endeavoured to propagate the theory that nothing exists to occupy the infinity of stages between the Divine and the human.
It offers us the amazing conception of a constant capricious interference by the Ruler of the universe with the working of His own laws and the result of His own decrees, and this usually at the request of His creatures, who are apparently supposed to know better than He what is good for them. It would be impossible, if one could ever come to believe this, to divest one's mind of the idea that such interference might be, and indeed must be, partial and unjust.
In Theosophy we have no such thought, for we hold the belief in perfect Divine justice, and therefore we recognize that there can be no intervention unless the person involved has deserved such help. Even then, it would come to him through agents, and never by direct Divine interposition. We know from our study, and many of us from our experience also, that many intermediate stages exist between the human and the Divine.
The old belief in angels and archangels is justified by the facts, for just as there are various kingdoms below humanity, so there are also kingdoms above it in evolution. We find next above us, holding much the same position with regard to us that we in turn hold to the animal kingdom, the great kingdom of the devas or angels, and above them again an evolution which has been called that of the Dhyan Chohans, or archangels (though the names given to these orders matter little), and so onward and upward to the very feet of Divinity.
All is one graduated life, from God Himself to the very dust beneath our feet — one long ladder, of which humanity occupies only one of the steps. There are many steps below and above us, and every one of them is occupied. It would indeed be absurd for us to suppose that we constitute the highest possible form of development the ultimate achievement of evolution.
The occasional appearance among humanity of men much further advanced shows us our next stage, and furnishes us with an example to follow. Men such as the Buddha and the Christ, and many other lesser teachers, exhibit before our eyes a grand ideal towards which we may work, however far from its attainment we may find ourselves at the present moment.
If special interventions in human affairs occasionally take place, is it then to the angelic hosts that we may look as the probable agents employed in them?
Perhaps sometimes, but very rarely, for these higher beings have their own work to do, connected with their place in the mighty scheme of things, and they are little likely either to notice or to interfere with us.
Man is unconsciously so extraordinarily conceited that he is prone to think that all the greater powers in the universe ought to be watching over him, and ready to help him whenever he suffers through his own folly or ignorance. He forgets that he is not engaged in acting as a beneficent providence to the kingdoms below him, or going out of his way to look after and help the wild animals.
Sometimes he plays to them the part of the orthodox devil, and breaks into their innocent and harmless lives with torture and wanton destruction, merely to gratify his own degraded lust of cruelty, which he chooses to denominate "sport;" sometimes he holds animals in bondage, and takes a certain amount of care of them, but it is only that they may work for him — not that he may forward their evolution in the abstract.
How can he expect from those above him a type of supervision which he is so very far from giving to those below him? It may well be that the angelic kingdom goes about its own business, taking little more notice of us than we take of the sparrows in the trees. It may now and then happen that an angel becomes aware of some human sorrow or difficulty which moves his pity, and he may try to help us, just as we might try to assist an animal in distress; but certainly his wider vision would recognize the fact that at the present stage of evolution such interpositions would in the vast majority of cases be productive of infinitely more harm than good. In the far-distant past man was frequently assisted by these non-human agencies because then there were none as yet among our infant humanity capable of taking the lead as teachers; but now that we are attaining our adolescence, we are supposed to have arrived at a stage when we can provide leaders and helpers from among our own ranks.
There is another kingdom of Nature of which little is known — that of Nature-spirits or fairies. Here again popular tradition has preserved a trace of the existence of an order of beings unknown to science. They have been spoken of under many names — pixies, gnomes, kobolds, brownies, sylphs, undines, good people, etc., and there are few lands in whose folklore they do not play a part. They are beings possessing either astral or etheric bodies, and consequently it is only rarely and under peculiar circumstances that they become, visible to man.
They usually avoid his neighbourhood, for they dislike his wild outbursts of passion and desire, so that when they are seen it is generally in some lonely spot, and by some mountaineer or shepherd whose work takes him far from the busy haunts of the crowd. It has sometimes happened that one of these creatures has become attached to some human being and devoted himself to his service as will be found in stories of the Scottish Highlands; but as a rule intelligent assistance is hardly to be expected from entities of this class.
Then there are the great Adepts, the Masters of Wisdom — men like ourselves, yet so much more highly evolved that to us they seem as gods in power, in wisdom and in compassion. Their whole life is devoted to the work of helping evolution; would they therefore be likely to intervene sometimes in human affairs? Possibly occasionally, but only very rarely, because they have other and far greater work to do. The ignorant sometimes have suggested that the Adepts ought to come down into our great towns and succour the poor — the ignorant, I say, because only one who is exceedingly ignorant and incredibly presumptuous ever ventures to criticize thus the action of those so infinitely wiser and greater than himself. The sensible and modest man realizes that what they do they must have good reason, for doing, and that for him to blame them would be the height of stupidity and ingratitude. They have their own work on planes far higher than we can reach; they deal directly with the souls of men, and shine upon them as sunlight upon a flower, drawing them upwards and onwards, and filling them with power and life; and that is a grander work by far than healing or caring for or feeding their bodies, good though this also may be in its place. To employ them in working on the physical plane would be a waste of force infinitely greater than it would be to set our most learned men of science to the labour of breaking stones upon the road, upon the plea that that was a physical work for the good of all, while scientific work was not immediately profitable to the poor! It is not from the Adept that physical intervention is likely to come, for he is far more usefully employed.
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