The problem of the origin of evil can be philosophically approached only if the archaic Indian formula is taken as the basis of the argument. Ancient wisdom alone solves the presence of the universal fiend in a satisfactory way. It attributes the birth of Kosmos and the evolution of life to the breaking asunder of primordial, manifested UNITY, into plurality, or the great illusion of form. HOMOGENEITY having transformed itself into Heterogeneity, contrasts have naturally been created; hence sprang what we call EVIL, which thenceforward reigned supreme in this "Vale of Tears."
Materialistic Western philosophy (so misnamed) has not failed to profit by this grand metaphysical tenet. Even physical Science, with Chemistry at its head, has turned its attention of late to the first proposition, and directs its efforts toward proving on irrefutable data the homogeneity of primordial matter. But now steps in materialistic Pessimism, a teaching which is neither philosophy nor science, but only a deluge of meaningless words. Pessimism, in its latest development, having ceased to be pantheistic, having wedded itself to materialism, prepares to make capital out of the old Indian formula. But the atheistic pessimist soars no higher than the terrestrial homogeneous plasm of the Darwinists. For him the ultima thule is earth and matter, and he sees, beyond the prima materia, only an ugly void, an empty nothingness. Some of the pessimists attempt to poetize their idea after the manner of the whitened sepulchres, or the Mexican corpses, whose ghastly cheeks and lips are thickly covered with rouge. The decay of matter pierces through the mask of seeming life, all efforts to the contrary notwithstanding.
Materialism patronizes Indian metaphors and imagery now. In a new work upon the subject by Dr. Mainlander, "Pessimism and Progress," one learns that Indian Pantheism and German Pessimism are identical; and that it is the breaking up of homogeneous matter into heterogeneous material, the transition from uniformity to multiformity, which resulted in so unhappy a universe. Saith Pessimism:
This interpretation of the Eastern formula, attributing to it the first idea of escaping the misery of life by "putting an end to being" whether that being is viewed as applicable to the whole Kosmos, or only to individual life is a gross misconception. The Eastern pantheist, whose philosophy teaches him to discriminate between Being or ESSE and conditioned existence, would hardly indulge in so absurd an idea as the postulation of such an alternative. He knows he can put an end to form alone, not to being and that only on this plane of terrestrial illusion. True, he knows that by killing out in himself Tanha (the unsatisfied desire for existence, or the "will to live") he will thus gradually escape the curse of rebirth and conditioned existence. But he knows also that he cannot kill, or "put an end," even to his own little life except as a personality, which after all is but a change of dress. And believing but in One Reality, which is eternal Be-ness, the "causeless CAUSE" from which he has exiled himself into a world of forms, he regards the temporary and progressing manifestations of it in the state of Maya (change or illusion), as the greatest evil, truly; but at the same time as a process in nature, as unavoidable as are the pangs of birth. It is the only means by which he can pass from limited and conditioned lives of sorrow into eternal life, or into that absolute "Be-ness," which is so graphically expressed in the Sanskrit word sat.
The "Pessimism" of the Hindu or Buddhist Pantheist is metaphysical, abstruse, and philosophical. The idea that matter and its Protean manifestations are the source and origin of universal evil and sorrow is a very old one, though Gautama Buddha was the first to give it its definite expression. But the great Indian Reformer assuredly never meant to make of it a handle for the modern pessimist to get hold of, or a peg for the materialist to hang his distorted and pernicious tenets upon! The Sage and Philosopher, who sacrificed himself for Humanity by living for it, in order to save it, by teaching men to see in the sensuous existence of matter misery alone, had never in his deep philosophical mind any idea of offering a premium for suicide; his efforts were to release mankind from too strong an attachment to life, which is the chief cause of Selfishness hence the creator of mutual pain and suffering. In his personal case, Buddha left us an example of fortitude to follow; in living, not in running away from life. His doctrine shows evil immanent, not in matter, which is eternal, but in the illusions created by it: through the changes and transformations of matter generating life because these changes are conditioned and such life is ephemeral. At the same time those evils are shown to be not only unavoidable, but necessary. For if we would discern good from evil, light from darkness, and appreciate the former, we can do so only through the contrasts between the two. While Buddha's philosophy points, in its dead-letter meaning, only to the dark side of things on this illusive plane; its esotericism, the hidden soul of it, draws the veil aside and reveals to the Arhat all the glories of LIFE ETERNAL in all the Homogeneousness of Consciousness and Being. Another absurdity, no doubt, in the eyes of materialistic science and even modern Idealism, yet a fact to the Sage and esoteric Pantheist.
Nevertheless, the root idea that evil is born and generated by the ever increasing complications of the homogeneous material, which enters into form and differentiates more and more as that form becomes physically more perfect, has an esoteric side to it which seems to have never occurred to the modern pessimist. Its dead-letter aspect, however, became the subject of speculation with every ancient thinking nation. Even in India the primitive thought, underlying the formula already cited, has been disfigured by Sectarianism, and has led to the ritualistic, purely dogmatic observances of the Hatha Yogis, in contradistinction to the philosophical Vedantic Raja Yoga. Pagan and Christian exoteric speculation, and even mediæval monastic asceticism, have extracted all they could from the originally noble idea, and made it subservient to their narrow-minded sectarian views. Their false conceptions of matter have led the Christians from the earliest day to identify woman with Evil and matter notwithstanding the worship paid by the Roman Catholic Church to the Virgin.
But the latest application of the misunderstood Indian formula by the Pessimists in Germany is quite original, and rather unexpected, as we shall see. To draw any analogy between a highly metaphysical teaching, and Darwin's theory of physical evolution would, in itself, seem rather a hopeless task. The more so as the theory of natural selection does not preach any conceivable extermination of being, but, on the contrary, a continuous and ever increasing development of life. Nevertheless, German ingenuity has contrived, by means of scientific paradoxes and much sophistry, to give it a semblance of philosophical truth. The old Indian tenet itself has not escaped litigation at the hands of modem pessimism. The happy discoverer of the theory, that the origin of evil dates from the protoplasmic Amoeba, which divided itself for procreation, and thus lost its immaculate homogeneity, has laid claim to the Aryan archaic formula in his new volume. While extolling its philosophy and the depth of ancient conceptions, he declares that it ought to be viewed "as the most profound truth precogitated and robbed by the ancient sages from modern thought"!
It thus follows that the deeply religious Pantheism of the Hindu and Buddhist philosopher, and the occasional vagaries of the pessimistic materialist, are placed on the same level and identified by "modern thought." The impassable chasm between the two is ignored. It matters little, it seems, that the Pantheist, recognizing no reality in the manifested Kosmos, and regarding it as a simple illusion of his senses, has to view his own existence also as only a bundle of illusions. When, therefore, he speaks of the means of escaping from the sufferings of objective life, his view of those sufferings, and his motive for putting an end to existence are entirely different from those of the pessimistic materialist. For him, pain as well as sorrow are illusions, due to attachment to this life, and ignorance. Therefore he strives after eternal, changeless life, and absolute consciousness in the state of Nirvana; whereas the European pessimist, taking the "evils" of life as realities, aspires when he has the time to aspire after anything except those said mundane realities, to annihilation of "being," as he expresses it.
For the philosopher there is but one real life, Nirvanic bliss, which is a state differing in kind, not in degree only, from that of any of the planes of consciousness in the manifested universe. The Pessimist calls "Nirvana" superstition, and explains it as "cessation of life," life for him beginning and ending on earth. The former ignores in his spiritual aspirations even the integral homogeneous unit, of which the German Pessimist now makes such capital. He knows of, and believes in only the direct cause of that unit, eternal and ever living, because the ONE uncreated, or rather not evoluted. Hence all his efforts are directed toward the speediest reunion possible with, and return to his pre-primordial condition, after his pilgrimage through this illusive series of visionary lives, with their unreal phantasmagoria of sensuous perceptions.
Such pantheism can be qualified as "pessimistic" only by a believer in a personal Providence; by one who contrasts its negation of the reality of anything "created" i.e., conditioned and limited with his own blind unphilosophical faith. The Oriental mind does not busy itself with extracting evil from every radical law and manifestation of life, and multiplying every phenomenal quantity by the units of very often imaginary evils: the Eastern Pantheist simply submits to the inevitable, and tries to blot out from his path in life as many "descents into rebirth" as he can, by avoiding the creation of new Karmic causes. The Buddhist philosopher knows that the duration of the series of lives of every human being unless he reaches Nirvana "artificially" ("takes the kingdom of God by violence," in Kabalistic parlance) is given, allegorically in the forty-nine days passed by Gautama the Buddha under the Bo-tree. And the Hindu sage is aware, in his turn, that he has to light the first, and extinguish the forty-ninth fire1 before he reaches his final deliverance. Knowing this, both sage and philosopher wait patiently for the natural hour of deliverance; whereas their unlucky copyist, the European Pessimist, is ever ready to commit, as to preach, suicide. Ignorant of the numberless heads of the hydra of existence, he is incapable of feeling the same philosophical scorn for life as he does for death, and of, thereby, following the wise example given him by his Oriental brother.
Thus, philosophic pantheism is very different from modern pessimism. The first is based upon the correct understanding of the mysteries of being; the latter is in reality only one more system of evil added by unhealthy fancy to the already large sum of real social evils. In sober truth it is no philosophy, but simply a systematic slander of life and being; the bilious utterances of a dyspeptic or an incurable hypochondriac. No parallel can ever be attempted between the two systems of thought.
The seeds of evil and sorrow were indeed the earliest result and consequence of the heterogeneity of the manifested universe. Still they are but an illusion produced by the law of contrasts, which, as described, is a fundamental law in nature. Neither good nor evil would exist were it not for the light they mutually throw on each other. Being, under whatever form, having been observed from the World's creation to offer these contrasts, and evil predominating in the universe owing to Ego-ship or selfishness, the rich Oriental metaphor has pointed to existence as expiating the mistake of nature; and the human soul (psüche), was henceforth regarded as the scapegoat and victim of unconscious OVER-SOUL. But it is not to Pessimism, but to Wisdom that it gave birth.
Ignorance alone is the willing martyr, but knowledge is the master, of natural Pessimism. Gradually, and by the process of heredity or atavism, the latter became innate in man. It is always present in us, howsoever latent and silent its voice in the beginning. Amid the early joys of existence, when we are still full of the vital energies of youth, we are yet apt, each of us, at the first pang of sorrow, after a failure, or at the sudden appearance of a black cloud, to accuse life of it; to feel life a burden, and often curse our being. This shows pessimism in our blood, but at the same time the presence of the fruits of ignorance.
As mankind multiplies, and with it suffering which is the natural result of an increasing number of units that generate it sorrow and pain are intensified. We live in an atmosphere of gloom and despair, but this is because our eyes are downcast and riveted to the earth, with all its physical and grossly material manifestations. If, instead of that, man proceeding on his life-journey looked not heavenward, which is but a figure of speech but within himself and centered his point of observation on the inner man, he would soon escape from the coils of the great serpent of illusion. from the cradle to the grave, his life would then become supportable and worth living, even in its worst phases.
Pessimism that chronic suspicion of lurking evil everywhere is thus of a two-fold nature, and brings fruits of two kinds. It is a natural characteristic in physical man, and becomes a curse only to the ignorant. It is a boon to the spiritual, inasmuch as it makes the latter turn into the right path, and brings him to the discovery of another as fundamental a truth; namely, that all in this world is only preparatory because transitory. It is like a chink in the dark prison walls of earth-life, through which breaks in a ray of light from the eternal home, which, illuminating the inner senses, whispers to the prisoner in his shell of clay of the origin and the dual mystery of our being. At the same time, it is a tacit proof of the presence in man of that which knows, without being told, viz: that there is another and a better life, once that the curse of earth-lives is lived through.
This explanation of the problem and origin of evil being, as already said, of an entirely metaphysical character, has nothing to do with physical laws. Belonging as it does altogether to the spiritual part of man, to dabble with it superficially is, therefore, far more dangerous than to remain ignorant of it. For, as it lies at the very root of Gautama Buddha's ethics, and since it has now fallen into the hands of the modern Philistines of materialism, to confuse the two systems of "pessimistic" thought can lead but to mental suicide, if it does not lead to worse.
Eastern wisdom teaches that spirit has to pass through the ordeal of incarnation and life, and be baptised with matter before it can reach experience and knowledge. After which only it receives the baptism of soul, or self-consciousness, and may return to its original condition of a god, plus experience, ending with omniscience. In other words, it can return to the original state of the homogeneity of primordial essence only through the addition of the fruitage of Karma, which alone is able to create an absolute conscious deity, removed but one degree from the absolute ALL.
Even according to the letter of the Bible, evil must have existed before Adam and Eve, who, therefore, are innocent of the slander of the original sin. For, had there been no evil or sin before them, there could exist neither tempting Serpent nor a Tree of Knowledge of good and evil in Eden. The characteristics of that apple-tree are shown in the verse when the couple had tasted of its fruit: "The eyes of them both were opened, and they knew" many things besides knowing they were naked. Too much knowledge about things of matter is thus rightly shown an evil.
But so it is, and it is our duty to examine and combat the new pernicious theory. Hitherto, pessimism was kept in the regions of philosophy and metaphysics, and showed no pretensions to intrude into the domain of purely physical science, such as Darwinism. The theory of evolution has become almost universal now, and there is no school (save the Sunday and missionary schools) where it is not taught, with more or less modifications from the original programme. On the other hand, there is no other teaching more abused and taken advantage of than evolution, especially by the application of its fundamental laws to the solution of the most compound and abstract problems of man's many-sided existence. There, where psychology and even philosophy "fear to tread," materialistic biology applies its sledge-hammer of superficial analogies and prejudiced conclusions. Worse than all, claiming man to be only a higher animal, it maintains this right as undeniably pertaining to the domain of the science of evolution. Paradoxes in those "domains" do not rain now, they pour. As "man is the measure of all things," therefore is man measured and analysed by the animal. One German materialist claims spiritual and psychic evolution as the lawful property of physiology and biology; the mysteries of embryology and zoology alone, it is said, being capable of solving those of consciousness in man and the origin of his soul.2 Another finds justification for suicide in the example of animals, who, when tired of living, put an end to existence by starvation.3
Hitherto pessimism, notwithstanding the abundance and brilliancy of its paradoxes, had a weak point namely, the absence of any real and evident basis for it to rest upon. Its followers had no living, guiding thought to serve them as a beacon and help them to steer clear of the sandbanks of life real and imaginary so profusely sown by themselves in the shape of denunciations against life and being. All they could do was to rely upon their representatives, who occupied their time very ingeniously if not profitably, in tacking the many and various evils of life to the metaphysical propositions of great German thinkers, like Schopenhauer and Hartmann, as small boys tack on coloured tails to the kites of their elders and rejoice at seeing them launched in the air. But now the programme will be changed. The Pessimists have found something more solid and authoritative, if less philosophical, to tack their jeremiads and dirges to, than the metaphysical kites of Schopenhauer. The day when they agreed with the views of this philosopher, which pointed at the Universal WILL as the perpetrator of all the World-evil, is gone to return no more. Nor will they be any better satisfied with the hazy "Unconscious" of von Hartmann. They have been seeking diligently for a more congenial and less metaphysical soil to build their pessimistic philosophy upon, and they have been rewarded with success, now that the cause of Universal Suffering has been discovered by them in the fundamental laws of physical development. Evil will no longer be allied with the misty and uncertain Phantom called "WILL," but with an actual and obvious fact: the Pessimists will henceforth be towed by the Evolutionists.
The basic argument of their representative has been given in the opening sentence of this article. The Universe and all on it appeared in consequence of the "breaking asunder of UNITY into Plurality." This rather dim rendering of the Indian formula is not made to refer, as I have shown, in the mind of the Pessimist, to the one Unity, to the Vedantin abstraction Parabrahm: otherwise, I should certainly not have used the words "breaking up." Nor does it concern itself much with Mulaprakriti, or the "Veil" of Parabrahm; nor even with the first manifested primordial matter, except inferentially, as follows from Dr. Mainlander's exposition, but chiefly with the terrestrial protoplasm. Spirit or deity is entirely ignored in this case; evidently because of the necessity for showing the whole as "the lawful domain of physical Science."
In short, the time-honoured formula is claimed to have its basis and to find its justification in the theory that from "a few, perhaps one, single form of the very simplest nature" (Darwin), "all the different animals and plants living to-day, and all the organisms that have ever lived on the earth," have gradually developed. It is this axiom of Science, we are told, which justifies and demonstrates the Hindu philosophical tenet. What is this axiom? Why, it is this: Science teaches that the series of transformations through which the seed is made to pass the seed that grows into a tree, or becomes an ovum, or that which develops into an animal consists in every case in nothing but the passage of the fabric of that seed, from the homogeneous into the heterogeneous or compound form. This is then the scientific verity which checks the Indian formula by that of the Evolutionists, identifies both, and thus exalts ancient wisdom by recognizing it worthy of modern materialistic thought.
This philosophical formula is not simply corroborated by the individual growth and development of isolated species, explains our Pessimist; but it is demonstrated in general as in detail. It is shown justified in the evolution and growth of the Universe as well as in that of our planet. In short, the birth, growth and development of the whole organic world in its integral totality, are there to demonstrate ancient wisdom. From the universals down to the particulars, the organic world is discovered to be subject to the same laws of ever increasing elaboration, of the transition from unity to plurality as "the fundamental formula of the evolution of life." Even the growth of nations, of social life, public institutions, the development of the languages, arts and sciences, all this follows inevitably and fatally the all-embracing law of "the breaking asunder of unity into plurality, and the passage of the homogeneous into multiformity."
But while following Indian wisdom, our author exaggerates this fundamental law in his own way, and distorts it. He brings this law to bear even on the historical destinies of mankind. He makes these destinies subservient to, and a proof of, the correctness of the Indian conception. He maintains that humanity as an integral whole, in proportion as it develops and progresses in its evolution, and separates in its parts each becoming a distinct and independent branch of the unit drifts more and more away from its original healthy, harmonious unity. The complications of social establishment, social relations, as those of individuality, all lead to the weakening of the vital power, the relaxation of the energy of feeling, and to the destruction of that integral unity, without which no inner harmony is possible. The absence of that harmony generates an inner discord which becomes the cause of the greatest mental misery. Evil has its roots in the very nature of the evolution of life and its complications. Every one of its steps forward is at the same time a step taken toward the dissolution of its energy, and leads to passive apathy. Such is the inevitable result, he says, of every progressive complication of life; because evolution or development is a transition from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, a scattering of the whole into the many, etc., etc. This terrible law is universal and applies to all creation, from the infinitesimally small up to man for, as he says, it is a fundamental law of nature.
Now, it is just in this one-sided view of physical nature, which the German author accepts without one single thought as to its spiritual and psychic aspect, that his school is doomed to certain failure. It is not a question whether the said law of differentiation and its fatal consequences may or may not apply, in certain cases, to the growth and development of the animal species, and even of man; but simply, since it is the basis and main support of the whole new theory of the Pessimistic school, whether it is really a universal and fundamental law? We want to know whether this basic formula of evolution embraces the whole process of development and growth in its entirety; and whether, indeed, it is within the domain of physical science or not. If it is "nothing else than the transition from the homogeneous state to the heterogeneous," as says Mainlander, then it remains to be proved that the given process "produces that complicated combination of tissues and organs which forms and completes the perfect animal and plant."
As remarked already by some critics on "Pessimism and Progress," the German Pessimist does not doubt it for one moment. His supposed discovery and teaching "rest wholly on his certitude that development and the fundamental law of the complicated process of organization represent but one thing: the transformation of unity into plurality." Hence the identification of the process with dissolution and decay, and the weakening of all the forces and energies. Mainlander would be right in his analogies were this law of the differentiation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous to really represent the fundamental law of the evolution of life. But the idea is quite erroneous metaphysically as well as physically. Evolution does not proceed in a straight line; no more than any other process in nature, but journeys on cyclically, as does all the rest. The cyclic serpents swallow their tails like the Serpent of Eternity. And it is in this that the Indian formula, which is a Secret Doctrine teaching, is indeed corroborated by the natural Sciences, and especially by biology.
This is what we read in the "Scientific Letters" by an anonymous Russian author and critic:
In this case material nature repeats the law that acts in the evolution of the psychic and the spiritual: both descend but to reascend and merge at the starting-point. The homogeneous formative mass or element differentiated in its parts, is gradually transformed into the heterogeneous; then, merging those parts into a harmonious whole, it recommences a converse process, or reinvolution, and returns as gradually into its primitive or primordial state.
Nor does Pessimism find any better support in pure Materialism, as hitherto the latter has been tinged with a decidedly optimistic bias. Its leading advocates have, indeed, never hesitated to sneer at the theological adoration of the "glory of God and all his works." Büchner flings a taunt at the pantheist who sees in so "mad and bad" a world the manifestation of the Absolute. But, on the whole, the materialists admit a balance of good over evil, perhaps as a buffer against any "superstitious" tendency to look out and hope for a better one. Narrow as is their outlook, and limited as is their spiritual horizon, they yet see no cause to despair of the drift of things in general. The pantheistic pessimists, however, have never ceased to urge that a despair of conscious being is the only legitimate outcome of atheistic negation. This opinion is, of course, axiomatic, or ought to be so. If "in this life only is there hope," the tragedy of life is absolutely without any raison d'être and a perpetuation of the drama is as foolish as it is futile.
The fact that the conclusions of pessimism have been at last assimilated by a certain class of atheistic writers, is a striking feature of the day, and another sign of the times. It illustrates the truism that the void created by modern scientific negation cannot and never can be filled by the cold prospects offered as a solatium to optimists. The Comtean "enthusiasm of Humanity" is a poor thing enough with annihilation of the Race to ensue "as the solar fires die slowly out" if, indeed, they do die at all to please physical science at the computed time. If all present sorrow and suffering, the fierce struggle for existence and all its attendant horrors, go for nothing in the long run, if MAN is a mere ephemeron, the sport of blind forces, why assist in the perpetuation of the farce? The "ceaseless grind of matter, force and law," will but hurry the swarming human millions into eternal oblivion, and ultimately leave no trace or memory of the past, when things return to the nebulosity of the fire-mist, whence they emerged. Terrestrial life is no object in itself. It is overcast with gloom and misery. It does not seem strange, then, that the Soul-blind negationist should prefer the pessimism of Schopenhauer to the baseless optimism of Strauss and his followers, which, in the face of their teachings, reminds one of the animal spirits of a young donkey, after a good meal of thistles.
One thing is, however, clear: the absolute necessity for some solution, which embraces the facts of existence on an optimistic basis. Modern Society is permeated with an increasing cynicism and honeycombed with disgust of life. This is the result of an utter ignorance of the operations of Karma and the nature of Soul evolution. It is from a mistaken allegiance to the dogmas of a mechanical and largely spurious theory of Evolution, that Pessimism has risen to such undue importance. Once the basis of the Great Law is grasped and what philosophy can furnish better means for such a grasp and final solution, than the esoteric doctrine of the great Indian Sages there remains no possible locus standi for the recent amendments to the Schopenhauerian system of thought or the metaphysical subtleties, woven by the "philosopher of the Unconscious." The reasonableness of Conscious Existence can be proved only by the study of the primeval now esoteric philosophy. And it says "there is neither death nor life, for both are illusions; being (or beness) is the only reality." This paradox was repeated thousands of ages later by one of the greatest physiologists that ever lived. "Life is Death," said Claude Bernard. The organism lives because its parts are ever dying. The survival of the fittest is surely based on this truism. The life of the superior whole requires the death of the inferior, the death of the parts depending on and being subservient to it. And, as life is death, so death is life, and the whole great cycle of lives form but ONE EXISTENCE the worst day of which is on our planet.
He who KNOWS will make the best of it. For there is a dawn for every being, when once freed from illusion and ignorance by Knowledge; and he will at last proclaim in truth and all Consciousness to Mahamaya:
DELUSION FASHIONED IT!
SAFE PASS I THENCE DELIVERANCE TO OBTAIN. . . .
H. P. Blavatsky
1 This is an esoteric tenet, and the general reader will not make much out of it. But the Theosophist who has read Esoteric Buddhism may compute the 7 by 7 of the forty-nine "days" and the forty-nine "fires," and understand that the allegory refers esoterically to the seven human consecutive root-races with their seven subdivisions. Every monad is born in the first and obtains deliverance in the last seventh race. Only a "Buddha" is shown reaching it during the course of one life.
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