How may we, you and I and all our fellowmen,find serenity of heart and mind amid the strains and stresses of modern life? Theosophy answers that important question very clearly. It tells us that peace of mind can be reached by gaining a due understanding of the meaning and the purpose of human existence. What is that purpose? Why are we here? What is the meaning of our lives? Theosophy answers simply and plainly"Evolution to perfection".
Life is not purposeless but very purposeful. It is gradually bringing us as a race and as individual people to the stature of perfected man. The evolution of man to ever greater and greater heights is taught in Theosophy to be the purpose of his existence,"the one far-off divine event towards which the whole creation moves", as Tennyson said. The spiritual Self of man is a God in the becoming and his future splendor, wisdom and power are entirely without limit. This, then, is the theosophical solution of the problem of the ultimate destiny of man for this epoch. And once this knowledge is really absorbed and applied to life, the mind is at once sunk in peace. The heart becomes serene.
Theosophy then draws attention to a further great idea. It is that the goal of human perfection to which we are all moving has already been reached by certain advanced men and women. Such perfected Beings are known as World Saviours, Rishis (which means Sages), Mahatmas (Great Souls), Adepts and Masters of the Wisdom. These superhuman Beings are organized into a great Adept Fraternity, sometimes called the Occult Hierarchy, and sometimes the Great White Brotherhood. They are regarded as the true spiritual Teachers and Inspirers of mankind. They are the august body of "just men made perfect" (St. Paul) and the Communion of Saints.
They are no vague tenets to the well instructed student of Theosophy. For him the Communion of Saints is a living truth, and the Masters of the Wisdom are living Supermen with whom a man may enter into direct relationship and Whose life of service to the Divine Will on earth he may begin to share. Eventually, aided by these Great Ones, by a Master, man may climb to the height upon which They already stand. They are the Great Initiates of the Sanctuaries of the Greater Mysteries of which we read in ancient literature, and these solutions of life's problems were discovered and given to the world by Them. Any sincere and capable servant of the human race can receive and deliver this teaching of the Great Adepts to his fellow men.
How then is this state of perfected manhood to be attained? The goal of human perfection, says Theosophy, is reached by means of successive lives in material bodies or vehicles, newly formed during the prenatal period of each succeeding life. Here, you see, we meet the doctrine of rebirth,which needs to be studied in detail and is not my special subject in this talk. I may say here, however, that reincarnation is the one and I believe the only logical solution, to the problems of life. I refer especially to the problems of time and opportunity in which to attain perfection, and more especially to the great problem of justice in human life. This last is especially important in the attaining of serenity of mind for without reincarnation and the law of cause and effect life is utterly unjust, is indeed a hopeless riddle which defies solution. With reincarnation and its twin idea of the law of cause and effect a flood of light is shed upon human life and we see it in its inception, its evolution, and its goal.
Successive lives alone make possible the attainment of perfected manhood; for, the multifarious experiences of these repeated incarnations are designed to draw out the latent powers of this evolving God which is man. Every experience, you know, has its value in terms of an increase of power, wisdom and knowledge. At the near approach to perfection, rebirth becomes no longer a necessity. All further progress can be achieved in the super physical worlds. Thus in the New Testament we are promised: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out."
The next theosophical thought especially concerns justice for man on earth. I've already referred to it in passing. More fully, this concept is that all human incarnations - these several lives of ours - are connected with each other by the operation of the law of cause and effect, or readjustment. All actions, feelings and thoughts produce their own natural and perfectly appropriate reactions. These actions may follow their causative actions immediately, like putting your finger in the fire and getting burned at once. Or they may follow later in the same life or in succeeding incarnations.
This law is referred to in our Bible, in the texts "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". The Sanskrit word, as you doubtless know, is karma, meaning action, and is used to designate the operation of this eternal, impersonal, immutable law.
The law works something like this: Actions motivated by love, service and unselfishness produce a pleasure, a health, and a growing freedom of self expression which encourage the actor to repeat them. But, on the other hand, actions motivated by dislike, greed, selfishness and cruelty produce a pain and an increasing limitation of self-expression, which discourage the actor from repeating them. Moreover, the intensity of the pleasure or the pain is governed by the degree in which the unselfish or selfish motives find expression in action.
So you see that suffering is not a retribution imposed by Deity, or punishment, nor accidental adversity. All pain is self-inflicted and educative in the extreme. This is the solution of the problem of justice for man, especially in regard to suffering and disease.
Now I want to put another idea before you concerning this law of cause and effect. The principle of the modification of karma, of the law of cause and effect, must always be remembered. You see, before effects have had time to be received, intervening actions can so modify the original ones as to change the result altogether. And so, whatever one's actions may have been in the past, their reactions are not to be regarded as an irretrievable fate or as a dead weight from which there is no relief. By subsequent actions, man can modify the operation of the law of cause and effect upon himself.
So you see, neither individuals nor nations need ever be paralyzed by their past actions and their results. Everything is not irretrievably fated, however good or bad the past. Man can master circumstances and make of each experience an opportunity for a fresh beginning, however heavily the past may weigh upon him. Isn't that a splendid idea? Doesn't that already bring a certain peace to heart and mind?
This is a very important idea - that we can pass from the grip of the law by learning to work with it. To savages and criminals civil law is an enemy, but to civilized man it is a form of protection. The same applies to the universal law of cause and effect. To selfish, lawless and cruel people it brings retribution, nemesis, but to others, the causative law for those who live by love, helpfulness and service, brings them health, happiness and freedom.
The Spiritual Self, the reincarnating individuality, is continually aware of the operation of this educative law and so acquires knowledge, wisdom, power and character development as a result. The law moves to righteousness. And this is very important. Because the knowledge acquired from life's experiences - the knowledge and capacity wrested from life <> constitute man's true and eternal riches. These are the "treasures in heaven which neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal". Ruskin pointed this out, sayings "There is no wealth but life, including all its powers of love, of joy, of admiration."
The action of this law of readjustment constitutes the only external control or judgment to which man is ever subjected. Man makes his own destiny by his own actions, and within this law he is absolutely and unconditionally free. Man is subject to no external, spiritual authority or power whatever. We need not fear anything save the weaknesses of our own character and the transgressions to which they lead.
Such is a sublime philosophy of life. Absorb it, my friends, and you will find that it really will bring to you peace of heart and of mind. It will enable you to meet the adversities, the stresses and the strains of life with equanimity and with poise. For you can know the whole meaning of man's existence. You know that he is a divine being, a God in the becoming, on an evolutionary journey which will bring him "to the stature of the perfect man".