[Cover photo: Nearing Sunset on Lake Wallenstadt, Switzerland.]
Published every Three Months. Sponsored
by an International Group of Theosophists.
None of the organized Theosophical Societies, as such, are responsible for any ideas expressed in this magazine, unless contained in an official document. The Editor is responsible for unsigned articles only.
The Society, as a body, has no creed, as creeds are but the shells around spiritual knowledge; and Theosophy in its fruition is spiritual knowledge itself - the very essence of philosophical and theistic inquiry. Visible representative of Universal Theosophy, it can be no more sectarian than a Geographical Society, which represents universal geographical exploration without caring whether the explorers be of one creed or another. The religion of the Society is an algebraical equation, in which so long as the sign = of equality is not omitted, each member is allowed to substitute quantities of his own, which better accord with the climatic and other exigencies of his native land, with the idiosyncrasies of his people, or even with his own ...
As a body, the Theosophical Society holds that all original thinkers and investigators of the hidden side of nature whether materialists - those who find matter "the promise and potency of all terrestrial life," or spiritualists - that is, those who discover in spirit the source of all energy and of matter as well, were and are, properly, Theosophists. For to be one, one need not necessarily recognize the existence of any special God or a deity. One need but worship the spirit of living nature, and to try to identify oneself with it. To revere that Presence, the invisible Cause, which is yet ever manifesting itself in its incessant results; the intangible, omnipotent, and omnipresent Proteus: indivisible in its Essence, and eluding form, yet appearing under all and every form; who is here and there and everywhere and nowhere; is All and Nothing; ubiquitous yet one; the Essence filling, binding, bounding, containing everything; contained in all. It will, we think, be seen now, that whether classed as Theists, Pantheists or Atheists, such men are all near kinsmen to the rest. Be what he may, once a student abandons the old and trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought - Godward - he is a Theosophist; an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth with "an inspiration of his own" to solve the universal problems. - H. P. Blavatsky, The Theosophist, Vol. I, October, 1879, pp. 5-7. 
[Reprinted from an earlier issue.]
In the quiet depths of every human soul there is a divine Urge which ever cries out for higher and nobler realizations.
The mystic Light which guides men to greatness shines star-like on the firmament of the human heart, amid the gloom of the outer desolation, and the gloom "Comprehendeth it not."
Whatever the blight of human passions, the despondency of bleak despair, the aggressive universalism of Truth invariably wins the final victory, and while the curtain is rung down upon some dying era, it rises elsewhere upon the ever receding vistas of greater eras to come.
Rushing from one illusion to another, swept by the whirlwind of sensuous life, men and women worship phantasms, then weep over their own blasted lives, while the Pioneers of Peace look on unrecognized, working for the good of the many through the awakened souls of the few. Age succeeds age, century chases century down the crested pathway of cycles, and the procession of the Great Ones winds its way through the maze of existence, mostly unheeded and often unknown.
Through the lurid smoke of human passions, and the frigid blast of negation and unbelief, Lights never-fading throw their golden gleam upon the turbulent waters of human life. Messengers of Good Tidings, Heralds of the Unseen, Servus Servorum Dei - they call one to the other across the echoing halls of Time, passing the flaming Torch to unborn centuries.
Channels of Solar Forces, it is to them we owe the varied impulses which have given rise to the manifestations of the Universal Theosophical Movement - One in nature and essence, though varied in form and aspect.
In this day and age, once again, there is a Global manifestation of the ageless Theosophical Movement at work. Fortunate are those indeed who are born in the present cycle; twice fortunate those who have deserved the inestimable privilege actively to share in the dissemination of Light, the seeding of the fertile ground of human minds with the seeds of Truth.
The great thought-currents of the present era are carrying mankind into a vast open sea. The cycle ushered in by the formation of the modern Theosophical effort, through the chief instrumentality of Helena Blavatsky, acting on the direct instructions of her Teachers, has now gathered momentum and its signposts are practically everywhere.
The most characteristic keynote of this cycle is Universality, and its primary objective is to bring about the birth of Global Consciousness on the part of a sizeable portion of the human race.
Hence every dogmatism, whether religious, scientific, philosophical,  or social, is out of time. Hence every intolerance, every incrustation, every unyielding emotional mould, every restrictive discrimination, every barrier to human understanding and goodwill, is so much useless ballast which mankind collectively - and everyone of us individually - must in time cast aside, if we are to rise into the spiritual stratosphere of our potential greatness.
The clarion-call of a Global Culture has been sounded, and the Forces of Light are rallying all those who have heard the call and have discerned its symbolic message. To them will be entrusted the task of building a greater Temple, whose bricks are living human hearts, cemented by bonds of unbreakable solidarity, domed by vaulting aspirations towards the stars.
Challenged by the Light-bearers, the powers which dwell in darkness have been forced into the open everywhere. It is but natural that it be so. The opposing elements of conservatism, separateness and inertia fight a losing battle on the field of the human mind; their days are numbered, hard though the struggle may be.
In the conflict of the present era, standing at the threshold of a new age, it behooves every student of the Ancient Wisdom to re-evaluate his ideas, and to search his soul for hidden purposes and motives. Let him ask himself where his allegiances are in this era of tottering reputations and false credentials; Are they to self-styled leaders, or are they to the Universal Ideals presented by and embodied in every true leader? Are they to man-made Organizations, however grand in objectives, or are they to the Banner of Truth, beyond organizations and forms? Is he a worshiper of books and scriptures, or are his thoughts roaming the infinite spaces of ageless Wisdom, carried by the Wind of the Spirit towards the stars?
If it is the former, he will stumble on the Path leading to the coming era. Caught in the viscosity of tradition, he will be unable to cross the threshold of the Portals of Light. If the latter, his will be the great, wide, open spaces of the future, where a new Sun shines over a regenerated humanity.
Some groups and students, whose zeal outran their wisdom, have attempted from time to time to set themselves up as the sole custodians of the Esoteric Wisdom, and the purest exponents of its mysteries. The unbeatable logic of historic events has invariably disproved their assertions. For the Guardians of Mankind do not work in that way. Their sympathies are universal. Their efforts to help, subservient to the karmic pattern, are limited mainly by the ability of men to respond. They are neither respecters of persons, nor do they countenance selfish ambitious. They have their agents the world over, and seeds of their Wisdom may be found in places least likely, when judged by worldly standards, to contain them.
The Lodge-Force is a leaven at work everywhere. Disciples of the Hierarchy of Compassion are active in every constructive aspect of  human life. Some have had a hand in the epoch-making developments of Modern Science; others have sponsored and encouraged the great shift towards world-fraternization taking place today in the consciousness of progressive religious bodies; others yet have leavened certain world-wide social efforts, bringing to pass more humane laws and instituting far-reaching reforms. Some have worked in the slums, others among the so-called "elite" of mankind; still others have registered their powerful thought in the literature of the day; and others yet have presided at times over the disintegration of worn-out vehicles of expression which had fallen prey to organized incrustations and the spirit of self-opinionated separateness.
Irrespective of organizations or groups, the Theosophical Movement in its most universal meaning is in need of men and women with a dynamic Faith, a Faith strong enough to break through the restricting walls of barren intellectualism. It calls for living Brotherhood, versus sublimated metaphysics unrelated to the urgent necessities of the opening era. It is in constant need of that Spiritual Impetuosity which alone can rise over the dangers of mental stagnation, and carry the Movement into the vast fields of the future.
The currents of the Lodge-Force flow through every open channel in the world, and are opening new and better channels as the need for such arises. It is therefore imperative for us to remember that the future of any Theosophical Society lies in its ability to respond to the changing frequencies of a growing age, and that greater than any organized Society is the Theosophical Movement.
From an un-self-conscious God-spark to a fully self-conscious God! This is the range of consciousness spanning the hierarchical ladder of life that is unfolding throughout all of the globes, visible and invisible, on our planetary chain of earth. And we, the human host upon it, are evolving now through the highest of the seven kingdoms of life, in which our self-consciousness increasingly awakens and unfolds in ever larger measure of Spiritual enlightenment and power, as we think nobly and live selflessly. We have reached the human stage on the evolutionary spiral upward, having climbed to it step by step through all the lower kingdoms, each of which is separated by a wide distance in mind-consciousness. The graduated stages of unfoldment between them are most ably explained by Dr. G. de Purucker in the following passage:
"... those Monadic Rays which are aggregated or grouped in such enormous numbers in the simple unism of the rocks, and which are in consequence bound and limited in mind and action, nevertheless aspire to higher things and essay to  climb out of the Mineral Kingdom into the larger measure of intelligence and will in the Vegetable Kingdom; out of which in turn they slowly climb out of these restricted fields of mind and will into the still larger measure of liberty and action that is offered in the Animal Kingdom; the members of which in their turn in precisely similar fashion, and possessing the dawn of mind and the beginning of free choice, are striving to leave their relatively limited fields in this respect and climb upwards into the Human Kingdom, where self-conscious voluntary action is accompanied with the exercise of a relatively free intelligence." (Esoteric Tradition, Vol. I, pp. 475-76.)
Could we but peer into the archives of Akasa and read the nebulous records hidden within the misty folds, we might trace the unbroken thread of our Selfhood back to its beginning in this seven-runged Hierarchy; back to when we were an un-self-conscious God-spark, our embryo-soul a mere beginner here, but which had moved upward as a perfected "being" from the highest class of some still lower sevenfold scale of life, somewhere in distant aeons reaching backward into the eternity of time without beginning, where the secrets of our past lie sleeping in the cosmic dust of extinguished Solar Manvantaras. Our pilgrimage through this hierarchy began on wings of thought; for we were ensouled by the thoughts of the then Human Kingdom in that hoary time, just as now we in turn ensoul an elemental every time we think and feel; our thoughts and feelings issuing forth a continual stream of life-atoms, each one of which pursues its own course as an individual center of consciousness, yet is linked to us forever. Dr. de Purucker continues:
"... By our thoughts and acts we bind ourselves to these life-centers by bonds of ineluctable destiny, bonds which are unbreakable, and which become part of the fiber of our being and affect us powerfully until we have straightened out the tangles and smoothed out the knots. ... These life-atoms are our own children, the offspring in their essence of our spirit ... We are to them as gods. They came into manifestation from the highest parts of our natures originally, as our spiritual thoughts ...
"Yes, these life-atoms sprang from us, even as we sprang from the gods in a somewhat similar way. Here is the reason explaining why man has a divine nature, because each one of us, as individuals, is rooted in one of these gods, each one of us springing forth from that evolving god in the beginning of our own present Cosmic evolution: coming forth from that divinity as an un-self-conscious god-spark, in the highest part of that divine being when formerly it was evolving in a past Universe, in other words when that divinity was a man or some other being equivalent to a man ... we sprang forth from the higher nature of such at present divine beings in far past aeons, as thoughts colored with the attributes of the mind and emotion, doing so as the emanation of a force  or as a ray; and we then ourselves began to grow and evolve along the Cosmic Pathway upwards ..." (op. cit., pp. 256-57.)
It is by and through thoughts, speaking generally, that we grow, unfold, which means evolve. We think thoughts and are affected, impressed, by them, strongly or weakly as the case may be. They stamp themselves indelibly upon the fabric ... of our consciousness. We are like a wonderful magical picture-gallery in all parts of our constitution, visible and invisible. Our entire constitutional being, both as a whole and in its parts, i.e., collectively as well as distributively, is like an immensely sensitive photographic film constantly renewed and constantly receiving and retaining impressions - in one sense like a palimpsest, receiving imprint upon imprint, each imprint remaining indelibly and yet being magically modified although overlaid by all succeeding imprints. Everything that passes in front of the 'film' is instantly stamped upon it, psycho-photographed; and the film is we. Each of us is such a psycho-photographic 'film'; and it is thus that our characters are builded, framed, shaped, and therefore of course affected, by the thoughts we think, by the emotions that we experience, by the passions that guide or misguide us, and even by the actions that all of these produce ..." (op. cit., Vol. II, pi). 652-53.)
What countless throngs of un-self-conscious god-sparks have we clothed and constantly propel along their journey in the Elemental Kingdom! How do we start them on their way? Fashioned perhaps in veils of loveliness born of thoughts beautiful, to circulate in the pastoral calm of nature? Or do we imprison them in garments of anger, hatred, lust or greed and drive them into violence that cause the elements to writhe and twist in cataclysmic pain? Poetic fancy glimpses fleeting visions in the Cosmic panorama where the unbroken thread of our selfhood unfolds slowly, slowly along in unceasing continuity of consciousness reaching upward forever; and as we grow and expand into a greater dimension of awareness each lesser self is outgrown and lost in every new awakening. Imagination captures glimmering vignettes of bygone kingdoms in our past that make us feel again we are the whispering wind breezing through a summer day; a flash of lightning splintering a tree; a single dew drop kissing the velvet beauty of a blushing rose ... What mineral forms encased our embryo-soul? We might have been a humble lump of coal glowing in the hearth of a happy household; or maybe we stood tall in a magnificent marble wall; and ah! how brilliantly the un-self-conscious spark of our divinity flashed in diamonds and precious jewels - the treasures humans struggled to possess then as we do now - the self-same covetous passion and greed dimming the light in humanity ... And once upon a Manvantara, our consciousness awakened to dwell in growing things, for which vaster liberty we thanked the gods with floral gratitude, crowning the earth  with an extravagant profusion of exquisite flowers exhaling wonderful perfumes. But then, again the evil thoughts of men spoiled the plan and grew into poisonous plants that menace man ... How many countless billions of years ago did Our animal hearts roam free, crawling, flying, swimming and leaping in Nature's ecology, then finally to reach that highest stage - the animal soul in man - ready to be uplifted into humanity ...
Yes, we have thought our way upward through all the lower Kingdoms and are ready now to unfold our higher human self - if we will. The un-self-conscious god-spark has awakened to self-consciousness. Our embryo-soul has grown into a human soul wherein there dwells an embryo-god inspiring us to think beautiful; to clothe the messengers of our tomorrows in Spiritual light that we may soar upward towards a mystic dawn on wings of human yearnings that cry: "Oh to be a man and strive to be a God!"
Among the happenings which mark the evolution of a culture, none stands out as being of more singular significance than the element of communication. Religious beliefs, cultural mores, the definition of what constitutes a family unit, language - all of these are dependent upon the art of communication. The religions of the world, as chief recorders of man's evolutionary development, have preserved the primal memory of man's communication processes by bestowing their gods with appropriate terms. In the Hindu religion, Vach, the Goddess of Speech, and Viraj, the Hindu Logos, fulfill this role. In the Rig-Veda, Vach is represented as saying:
"On the world's summit I bring forth the Father; my home is in the waters, in the ocean.
Thence I extend o'er all existing creations and touch even yonder heaven with my forehead.
I breathe a strong breath like the wind and tempest, the while I hold together all existence."* (* Rig-Veda, X, 125.)
In the Hellenic-Christian tradition is the Logos, the Word, or the personified Christ as recorded in the Gospel of John:
"When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him."* (* The New Testament, New English Bible, "Gospel according to John," 1-4.)
The Hopi people in North America in their "Song of Creation" express it thus: 
"The song resounds back from our Creator with joy,
With the Hopi, it is the god Sotuknang who gave them speech. Whatever the words used, communication has traditionally been regarded as a reflection of the Divine impulse from which the universe came into being.
The communication media is an environment unlike the natural environment because it depends upon conscious interaction between entities rather than the more or less unconscious interaction between an entity and Nature. It is an environment with symbols, or a cluster of symbols; it has purpose, and it occurs within a definite time-space structure. As cultures become more and more enlightened, there is an expansion of former methods of communicating. Insofar as scholars of the day know, this has come about gradually through a slow process of time - until the 15th century of the current era.
Five hundred years ago, a revolutionary development altered the cultural patterns so radically that no human deviousness could deflect it: The communications or media revolution in the fullest sense of the word and its impact, rather than regional or tribal as before, was world-wide.
It began with the invention by Johann Gutenberg of a printing press that utilized moving type. Bursting upon the European scene with an impact exceeding that of the first atomic explosion, this technological acceleration provided a means for cultural growth at a time when the people were in a state of great unrest.
By reviewing the events leading up to this hurricane, it is possible to gain historical perspective. Reviewed chronologically, the history of the Christian culture began with the political opportunism of the Roman emperor, Constantine, and his recognition of the Christian Church as a vital factor in the maintenance of his political power. After that, Christianity passed through stages of codification, tribal exclusiveness, crises of identity, the Crusades, and the rise of Aristotelian logic. This latter, Aristotelian logic, laid the philosophical foundation for the triad of mechanization, the theory of unilineal physical evolution and materialism.
These, then, were elements which were inherent within the milieu surrounding western man in the fifteenth century. Two decadent forces were also operative and should not be overlooked - the Spanish Inquisition and political expansionism. The two primary forces of church and state authoritarianism appeared at that time to be subject to no power that could challenge their combined strength. Common man did not have the tools to bring  about a major change, as he was largely uneducated and thus unaware of the very elements which governed his life. He was also unequipped, because of the lack of communication, to join forces with others in this same predicament. (It is interesting to note that Socrates is credited with having been against public education because of its radical possibilities and possible misuse.)
The downward rush toward total annihilation of individual intellectual freedom could only have been forestalled by an extraordinary event. Such was the invention of the printing press and the subsequent publishing of the famous Gutenberg Bible. The significance of this cannot be over-emphasized. From tile inertia of intellectual sterility, the printed word, like the sun, cast light into comers wherein lurked dark, ominous shadows created by a hierarchy of religious dictators. With the tool for mass production of the written word came mass education, new literary forms and an exchange of ideas, ultimately, between the East and West.
Mind, man's divine inheritance, was lighted by the Promethean Manasaputric influence. Centuries of ignorance were suddenly transformed. Common man, cribbed and confined by his ignorance of the printed word, now had access to the jealously guarded holy book of the Christian priesthood. For the first time in the history of Christianity, the Bible was mass produced. The communications revolution was born, and Christianity suffered a blow under which it is still reeling.
A culture hero also came upon the medieval scene - Martin Luther, Catholic priest and soon-to-be apostate. The distribution of religious and philosophical tracts critical of the status quo of the Roman Catholic Church enabled men such as Luther, Melanchthon, Erasmus (one of the greatest figures in the humanist movement) and others to spread the word throughout Europe. Martin Luther made public his famous 95 Theses, and the Reformation was born. Religious tradition made the transition from oral to written tradition, with the publication of the Bible, and Luther added his own unique contribution: The right and necessity of each and every person to interpret the word of God himself, rather than through an intermediary. Mass communication and mass education were a force no institution could deter. Although the Church was quick to retaliate with the counter-Reformation under the leadership of the "army" of the pope, the Jesuits, the Reformation was there to stay.
The ensuing centuries marched by like so many well-regulated armies: The prophets of the Enlightenment; the Age of Reason; the Philosophers; the Industrial Revolution; and with the invention of the daguerreotype - the first successful "mechanical picture" - in the mid-19th century, the Electronic Era was born. The convulsive force of the media revolution, including the printing press and the art of photography, had such a startling effect  that few had or have the intuition to reflect on the consequences of this. Having been thrust into some semblance of self-reliance by the Protestant movement, the West had no built-in belief systems with which to cope with this new ecological force.
It was at this precise moment that H.P.B. stepped on to the world scene. Her writings were the first to be circulated throughout the world under the mantle of a belief in universal brotherhood untrammeled by cultural bias. The moving picture, the television screen, radio, the telephone, electronics, the paperback book, all were awaiting their cue. The 100 years between 1875 and 1975 have witnessed great changes, and the power of the written word, through various channels, is yet to be comprehended. It is only 500 short years since the beginnings of this new kind of revolution, and there seem to be no scholars willing to prognosticate the ultimate outcome, let alone find a philosophical meaning.
Because man worships within a new framework of reference, i.e. the Catholic priest giving way to the Protestant minister, the confessional to the psychiatrist's couch, baptism to encounter groups, prayer to meditation, does not guarantee growth of the inner man. Religious authoritarianism is a matter of defining the term "religious." Whatever awaits in the wings of history, the quietly insistent Voice of the Silence demands that whatever measure one can give, must be given.
Accessibility to knowledge now provided by these various means of communication affords an exciting opportunity for the Laws governing the nature of man and the universe to be broadcast throughout the world. Now more than ever, humanity is sharing its experiences almost as they are happening. The television medium can either teach or hypnotize; more importantly, it can structure our behavior. It has also been described as being the most subversive tool yet devised by man; and that it has the potential of isolating the individual from the group experience - just as the lack of education and mass printing did prior to the advent of the printing press. Hence, what began as unique experience - reading, which led to universal values and understanding, could give way to passive looking with isolation as the bed-fellow. In conjunction with this, television has the potential of becoming the tool of the few who rule at the top.
The scholars, the intelligentsia, all are probably aware of these facts to some degree. However, are they aware of the potency of sound, as H.P.B. calls it? The Universe itself was called into being through a vibratory thrill that excited "sleeping" atoms into activity. The dynamics of the Universe rest upon interrelationships and interaction. The communication revolution embraces all the factors, from the personal to the universal. As we stand at the portals of a new Age, reflection coupled with knowledge of the esoteric Laws can provide insight and direction. 
(Another dialog between Theosophocles, a student and promulgator of Theosophical doctrines, and his friend, Harry Stotle, a hard-headed but open-minded businessman.)
Theo: Hello there, Harry. I'm glad to see you. I'm having some problems.
Harry: You're having problems? They're nothing compared to mine. However, since you spoke first, you might as well explain what's on your mind.
Theo: Well, mine concern some investments that I am considering, and I want to ask you for some advice. But that can wait. I believe that your problems are of a different nature and should come first.
Harry: All right then, and thanks very much. My problems are causing me some loss of sleep, and perhaps you can help to straighten me out on this matter of Karma.
Theo: What then seems to be the problem?
Harry: Well, you gave me some good ideas about reincarnation, but I came away feeling that there was a lot that you did not say.
Theo: That is true. Go on.
Harry: Supposing that all that you said is true. What is the purpose of it all?
Theo: That's quite a question. Can you be a bit more specific?
Harry: You see, I have been much interested in science, and claim some understanding of the laws of physics and relativity, not to mention the quantum theory, and I am faced with a universe that could just as well have gotten along without human or any other kind of life. The galaxies would have been formed, the atoms would have behaved just as they do and have always done. So why did life have to enter into the picture at all?
Theo: Are you aware that some of the deepest thinkers among your philosophers and scientists take the view that life is not derived from the universe. But that the universe in the last analysis is derived from consciousness?
Harry: Why did you change the word to consciousness? We were speaking of life.
Theo: Speaking of life as you did might be likened to asking, "why do we have candies?" We could not consider this question unless we studied light as a whole. In the same way when you speak of life in the context that you did, you were probably referring to living beings such as plants, animals and animals. You cannot discuss these things without investigating the nature of consciousness. I am trying to bring our thoughts around to the idea that consciousness is to living things as light is to my source of illumination like a candle.
Harry: Aren't you jumping off the deep end?
Theo: Not really. You have asked a deep question and it is one which deserves much thought. If we accept  consciousness as fundamental in all processes of nature, and in this we must include the so-called inanimate, then we can begin to move from the general to the particular and discuss what I believe is in the back of your mind. It appears to me that you are puzzled and distressed by human behavior, and wonder how it fits into the scheme of things.
Harry: You've hit the nail on the head. I can't make head nor tail of the state we have brought the world to.
Theo: You are not alone in the feelings that you express. I am equally alarmed at the increase in crime, disease and all the other forms of human suffering.
Harry: Is the state of the world worse now than it has ever been?
Theo: I doubt it. There have been times of plague, famine, and worst of all, mass ignorance. A little study will convince us that the quality of life, which really means the state of mind of the human race, has improved over the centuries. This progress is helped along by the workings of Karma.
Harry: You Theosophists are always talking about Karma. Tell me if you can, just what do you mean by 'the workings of Karma'?
Theo: It is probable that of all of our doctrines, Karma is the most difficult to understand for the reason that it has so many facets, some of them appearing to be on the surface where they manifest as human character and behavior, and some aspects reaching into the very fabric of universal life.
Harry: Why not start at the beginning then? What do you mean when you say 'It's your own Karma'?
Theo: The simplest definition of Karma is that it is the working of the law of cause and effect. No one will deny that everything that happens has an underlying cause. But we must carry the idea a step further and point out that everything that happens is also the cause of something else that will follow. It is an endless chain of cause and effect.
Harry: Then where does it stop?
Theo: It doesn't. And since we hold that life is universal and has neither beginning nor end, we cannot reach back to an originating cause. This is the reason that I spoke of the universe as being the outgrowth of consciousness. Consciousness and Karma are one and the same thing.
Harry: Doesn't that place us at the mercy of forces utterly beyond our control?
Theo: Not utterly. Within the sphere of our own lives we have more control than we realize. Do you not have freedom of thought, and do you not make decisions based upon your own judgment, and act upon them?
Harry: That is true, but I am hemmed in, as it were, by the thoughts and acts of others. It seems to me that the major part of my life is beyond my control.
Theo: What is the major part of your life? Is it the events of your daily existence, or is it yourself?
Harry: I suppose that it must be  myself, since you put it that way.
Theo: There is no other way to put it. Once we come to see that a man's Karma is himself, and not merely those things that happen to him, good or bad, then we reach some understanding of its mysteries
Harry: But everybody speaks of good or bad Karma - mostly bad, it seems to me.
Theo: True. And it only shows how little the idea of Karma is understood. May we not say that a man's good Karma is his ability to live constructively and to be a force of good in the world? His reward comes to him in the form of increased skills in doing good in the real sense of the word, and increased opportunity for doing the kind of work that he loves best, to help relieve human suffering through enlightenment of the hearts and minds of people everywhere. And if this sounds reasonable, may we not say that a man's bad Karma is his ability to undermine the moral fibre of another fellow being? An evil character is the worst Karma that a man can possibly have, and his punishment, if we may call it that, is increased skill in working evil, and increased opportunities for adding to human suffering. A person whose life moves in this direction is headed for the worst kind of Karma, loss of soul.
Harry: This does put a different light on the matter of Karma, and I am willing to concede that your concept is very basic. But it leaves many questions unanswered.
Theo: Naturally. But then a full explanation of Karma is beyond the scope of our minds to give. It is the universality of Karma that must be felt rather then described in cut and dried terms.
Harry: Yes, but here are a few questions that many people ask: Why will the drunk driver smash another car on the freeway and kill and maim people he never saw, and escape with only a few scratches? Why do the victims of crime suffer far more than the criminal? Why are children born crippled in mind and body?
Theo: Yes, I know, and you could go on and on. Do you know, the worst question that I hear is, 'why did this happen to me?' I always want to ask: Well, to whom did you want this to happen? None of the questions you cite, and dozens more like them, are not the right questions to ask. They show that we do not yet know how to ask the kind of questions that will evoke the right answers. I could mention another that is often asked. 'Why, if my suffering in this life is brought about by something that I did in a past life, do I not know why I am suffering? Wouldn't it help to know what I did?'
Harry: Well, wouldn't it?
Theo: Not at all. It is part of the workings of the compassionate heart of being that we do not remember our past lives. If we did, the load of suffering and mental torment would be more than we could endure.
Harry: How, then, should we accept the suffering and pain?
Theo: We should learn to grow. That is the purpose of it all. While  the principle which states that, "as ye sow, so shall ye also reap," is true in every respect, and while we are now accepting the consequences of thoughts and deeds committed in the past, it may not be wise to dwell upon that aspect of it to the point that we build up feelings of guilt which can only damage our growth. If we can acknowledge that in the course of many lifetimes we have made innumerable mistakes, and let it go at that, and then achieve forbearance and develop the will to learn and grow, we shall develop healthy attitudes toward our own sufferings, and feel compassion and understanding for the sufferings of others.
Harry: But what about the misfortunes of life? Will they never end?
Theo: What do you mean by the misfortunes of life?
Harry: All the reverses in life that we have to endure. Think of the child who is beaten by his parents. Think of the loss of loved ones, and of financial disaster that can befall any of us.
Theo: Yes, I also think of these. While a child cannot understand, we as adults can learn to see that all things that happen to us, whether in our eyes they appear to be fortunate or disastrous, are really neither. They are experiences by which we can learn the very things that we need most of all to learn. Each one of us has a Higher Self that gives us inner guidance, whether we are aware of it or not. Sometimes we are led into those very experiences that, had we the wisdom to know how to ask, would be just those events that we would welcome in order to attain the degree of inner growth that we all long for.
Harry: With a businessman's viewpoint, I wonder if we can think of it as though we are making investments in character that will give dividends in the form of opportunities to work in the best interests of others, as having a higher priority than our own advantage.
Theo: Very well put. And, speaking of investments, how about an appointment for tomorrow morning?
Much his been written lately on the art of aging gracefully, and we are prone to indulge in speculations of what is to be our own way of dying when we witness the passing of friends. What sort of "ode" will be written on the wind as we veer out into our own journey back to the Sacred Seat? Will it be a Universal course, a slow but stately withdrawal tempered by the wise reflections of our waning years? Will it be a swift course, like an arrow to the Sun, unhampered by narrow clingings of a crystalized but fast disintegrating personality? Will it  be a flame, pure and steady; or a flicker?
"Out of the furnace of man's life and its black smoke, winged flames arise ... (Voice of the Silence, fragment II.)
When a man is aging we sense that the best in him is slowly releasing itself, about to be ushered up into the inner structure of Life, and leaving only a minimal interest in holding together the enfeebled remnant below. The tenor of this withdrawal depends upon the tempo of his earlier days. Was he organized in his affairs, of a calm, deliberate nature all along? Probably then, his "ode to immortality" will be a well-arranged departure, desk in order, friends well-aware of his intentions and sobered by his preparations. Another, whose life has been like a streak of a meteor, leaves but a faint trail behind him (allowing that we may only be scanning our immediate Zenith in the world of appearances). As if having made his speech at the banquet, some other fellow will be quite willing to sit back and let the rest of the show streak by. He may even become sullen, disillusioned by the fickle loyalties of the world. What a pity to see good men give way to their worst suspicions, even to close companions, when they become generally discouraged with humanity.
If, as Plato taught, the purpose of life is to know how to die properly, how should one pen his "Ode to Immortality"? Shall we burst through our prison house in a constant peon of joyous song? If we came in with a cry could we go out with a laugh? I know of one grand lady whose whole life was a song. She was a constant cheer to others, and her laughter flashed with glints of immortality at every turn. She aspired to learning until the very last, modestly feeling herself limited by the enormity of the task. Knowing how to treasure truth, hard won by strong search, she caused others to value the opportunities flowering by their own doorsteps. Indeed she was a flower herself in her appreciation of the Beauty around her. Such a one cannot fade like a meteor, but like a comet gain momentum when it nears its parent sun.
When the love of beauty is elevated to a love of Truth, each life may be raised from a fascination with the sense of touch into a pursuit of aspirations. In this way we become free of the desire to possess what we appreciate, and are on the road to Becoming. How about that free course, unchartered by the dictates of waning appetites and hounded possibilities? A poem of Whitman inspires an ode worthy of emulation:
"Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,