The ethics of life propounded by Jesus are not different from those found in theosophy, but the latter holds in its doctrines a compelling power which is absent from Christianity and from those systems which require a man to be good for virtue's sake alone. It is not easy to practice virtue for the simple reason that we ought to do so, since the desire for reward is inherent in humanity, and is a reflection of the evolutionary law which draws the universe ever upward to higher points of development. A man reads the command of Jesus to turn the other cheek to the smiter, to resist not evil, to forgive without stint, and to take no thought for the morrow, and then - pauses. His next thought is that such a canon is wholly utopian, and would if followed subvert society. In this he is sustained by eminent authority as well as by example, for a great Bishop has declared that no state can exist under such a system.
Theosophic doctrine, however, on either the selfish or spiritual line of life, convinces that the moral law must be obeyed. If we regard only the selfish side, we find when people are convinced that evil done in this life will be met with sure punishment in another reincarnation, they hesitate to continue the old careless life when they lived for themselves alone.
Hence practical theosophy must enter into every detail of life in our dealings with others and our discipline of ourselves. It reminds us that we should be more critical of ourselves than of others, that we must help all men if we are to be helped ourselves. And herein the theosophist may escape the accusation of selfishness, for if in desiring to lay up for a future incarnation a store of help from others by giving assistance now himself, he does so in order that he may then be in a still better position to help humanity, there is no selfishness. It is the same as if a man were to desire to acquire this world's goods in order to help those dependent on him, and surely this is not selfish.
The practical theosophist adds to his charitable deeds upon the material plane the still greater charity of giving to his fellow men a system of thought and life which explains their doubts while it furnishes a logical reason for the practice of virtue. He extinguishes a hell that never could burn, and the terrors of which soon faded from the mind of the sinners; but he lights the lamp of truth and throws its beams upon the mortal's path so that not only the real danger, the real punishment, can be seen, but also the reward and compensation.
The civilized man cannot be guided by fear or superstition, but reason may take hold of him. Theosophy being not only practicable but also reasonable as well as just, its doctrines are destined to be those of the civilized man. They will gradually drive out the time-worn shibboleths of the theologian and the scientist, giving the people of coming centuries a wisdom-religion deeply-based and all-embracing.
Were theosophical practice universal, we should not see the unjust Judge plotting beforehand with the officials of a railroad company about the decision he should render, nor the venal public officer engaged with the Judge and the officials in arranging the virtuous protest to be offered in court against the foreordained decree, for both would fear to rouse a cause which in their next life might issue in unjust accusation and punishment. Nor would men save their lives, as now they often do, at another's expense, since in succeeding incarnations that person might be the means of depriving them of life twice over. The rich man who now hoards his wealth or spends it on himself alone would not be thus guilty, seeing that, as compensation in another life, his friends would forsake him and nature seem to withdraw subsistence.
The practical theosophist will do well if he follows the advice of the Masters now many years in print, to spread, explain, and illustrate the laws of Karma and Reincarnation so that they may enter into the lives of the people. Technical occultism and all the allurements of the Astral Light may be left for other times. Men's thoughts must be affected, and this can only be done now by giving them these two great laws. They not only explain many things, but they have also an inherent power due to their truth and their intimate connection with man, to compel attention.
Once heard they are seldom forgotten, and even if rebelled against they have a mysterious power of keeping in the man's mind, until at last, even against his first determination, he is forced to accept them. The appreciation of justice is common to all, and the exact justice of Karma appeals even to the person who is unfortunate enough to be undergoing heavy punishment: even if, ignoring justice, he does good in order to make good Karma, it is well, for he will be reborn under conditions that may favor the coming out of unselfish motive.
"Teach, preach, and practice this good law for the benefit of the world, even as all the Buddhas do."
Path, July, 1890