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    Chapter I

    The Ancient Wisdom

    Life's Riddle is a compound of many problems such as the following:

    Why is there so much suffering in the world?

    Why so much injustice?

    What is the purpose of life?

    Is there a life after death?

    Have we free will or are we the puppets of destiny?

    Are we responsible for our acts shall we reap what we sow?

    Is this a haphazard universe, governed by blind forces, or is there aplan behind it?

    The writer has found an answer to these and many other questions

    regarding life in a system of ancient teachings which has existed

    from time immemorial. These teachings, that have been known

    under the name of the "Ancient Wisdom," or the "Wisdom Religion,"

    have existed in all ages and in all countries, but have often and for

    long periods of time been obscured from the world. Yet they have

    always been preserved and have at intervals been reissued toillumine and guide mankind on its upward journey.

    After each new presentation these teachings remain pure for a

    period, but gradually they become warped by manmade dogmas

    and opinions and their true inner meaning is lost. They must then be

    given out anew in language suited to the new time in which they are

    issued. The latest such restatement of the ancient teachings was

    begun by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who founded the Theosophical

    Society for this purpose in 1875. The Ancient Wisdom, clothed in

    modern language, is known today under the name Theosophy.

    In the following will be presented some of the ancient teachings that

    furnish a solution to many of the problems of life and show that Man

    is not a helpless pawn ruled by blind forces, but that he has the

    power of choice and freedom of action, and is therefore responsible

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    for his acts, in due time reaping all that he has sown. They show also

    that there is a purpose in life, and that Man faces a glorious destiny.

    A brief outline of some of the Ancient Teachings will first he

    presented; later some of these will be taken up for further discussion.

    THE ONE LIFE

    The first proposition of the Ancient Teachings is the most difficult to

    present, for it deals with something infinite and therefore not easily

    grasped by our finite minds, and still less easily expressed in words.

    The general teaching is, however, that back of the material, visible

    universe that we know, there is an Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless

    and Unchanging Principle: a Divine Life-Essence, that is the unseen

    cause of the visible universe and all life in it. (The Secret Doctrine, Vol.I, pp. 14-17)

    This Universal Divine Essence is eternal and unchanging. But when a

    Material Universe comes into manifestation, then this Universal Life

    emanates or differentiates individualized units from its own essence,

    and every such life-unit, or "Monad" as it is called, enters upon a

    Pilgrimage of Evolution in the new universe that is just coming into

    being.

    The Universal Divine Essence, then, is the fountain and origin of all life.

    Every evolving Monad has at its innermost core a ray of this Divine

    Essence, just as a sunbeam has its origin in the sun and carries with it

    some of the sun's essence. The ancient Hindu scriptures express this

    idea:

    As a single sun illumines the whole world

    even so the One Spirit illumines every body. The Bhagavad-

    Gita, chap. 13

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    THE UNIVERSE A LIVING ORGANISM

    The ancient teachings state that the Universe as a whole is a living

    organism and that every individual life within that Universe is linked

    with the Universal Life, is in fact an inseparable part of that life.

    The various forms of life that we see in Nature appear to be separate

    from and quite independent of one another, but the Ancient

    Wisdom tells us that this independence exists only in the outward,

    material form, vehicle or body in which the Monad is embodied for

    the time being. Behind this outward form they are not independent

    of each other, but simply different manifestations, different

    expressions of the same Universal Life, inwardly united with one

    another on the invisible planes of Nature.

    As a group of islands seem to exist independently, yet are all

    outcroppings of the same Mother Earth hidden but connected

    beneath the water; as the fingers of one hand, though free to some

    extent, are yet united in the same hand; as the leaves of one tree,

    though leading their separate existences are yet parts of the greater

    unit, the tree, so also is every life in the Universe part of the One

    Universal Life. The link that binds the individual to the Universal Life

    and therefore to all other individual lives, "the stem of the leaf," is the

    ray of Divinity at the core of every being.

    This doctrine that all beings are emanations from the One Universal

    Life is found everywhere in the world and is recognized in such

    expressions as: "God is everywhere," "God is in all things." It is the "One

    in all," the One Life expressing itself through the vast variety of forms

    that we see in the Universe.

    But since the Universal Divine Essence extends throughout infinite

    space and the whole must embrace all its parts, it is equally true that

    we are "All in One," or as St. Paul puts it in speaking to the Athenians:

    " . . . in him we live, and move and have our being: a certain also of

    your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." Acts XVII,

    28

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    In parentheses St. Paul admits that the doctrine was already known

    among the Greeks. The fact that all life-units have emanated from

    the same Universal Source is the basis for the ancient teaching that

    "Brotherhood is a fact in Nature."

    To sum up: Everything in the Universe is alive and "All are . . . parts of

    one stupendous whole, whose body Nature is and God the Soul."

    (Alexander Pope)

    DUALITY OF SPIRIT AND MATTER

    When a period for manifestation of an outward, visible Universe is at

    hand, the One Life Essence appears under two contrasting aspects:

    Spirit or Consciousness on one hand, and matter or vehicle on the

    other. Spirit and Matter, however, are not independent realities, butare the opposite poles of the One Reality, so that even matter is not

    without life and consciousness of a lower order; and Consciousness

    must have a vehicle of matter, whether gross or ethereal, in order to

    express itself as individual Consciousness. In more evolved entities

    Spirit dominates, while Matter dominates in those less evolved. But in

    every case, as the Hindu scriptures express it:

    There is no matter without spirit and there is no spirit without matter.

    As a lens is necessary to focus diffused sunlight into a bright, active

    center, so is a body or vehicle of matter necessary to focus a ray of

    the Universal Mind as individual Consciousness. A large, perfectly

    transparent lens will produce a much stronger concentration of light

    than a small lens of uneven transparency or rough surface. So also

    will a highly evolved body or instrument admit a more perfect

    manifestation of the indwelling Consciousness than a less perfect

    instrument.

    All through the manifested Universe we see this duality of Spirit andMatter. Spirit or Consciousness cannot, however, act directly on gross

    matter, and the Ancient Teachings tell us that there are many

    intermediate forces and energies that form the connecting links

    between these two, thus enabling Spirit to control the body in which

    it functions. This will be discussed further on.

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    INVOLUTION AND EVOLUTION

    The Teachings regarding Evolution and Involution can best be

    understood by tracing the origin of these two words. They both come

    from the Latin verb volvere, "to turn, to roll." The prefix "e" means "out,

    or away from," while the prefix "in" has the same meaning as in

    English. Evolution therefore means to unroll or unwrap something that

    is wrapped up or rolled up, while Involution means the process of

    wrapping or rolling up something that has been unrolled. The

    following illustration may help to explain.

    In ancient times books were not printed on flat sheets of paper and

    bound into volumes such as we have today. The information was

    inscribed on rolls of parchment, calledscrolls, and when these were

    read, they had to be unrolled so as to expose the writing. As thereading proceeded, the lower end of the scroll was unrolled, or

    evolved, exposing the hidden writing, while at the same time the

    upper end of the scroll was rolled up, thus involving, and hiding what

    had so far been read.

    When the One Life manifests a portion of itself as a visible Universe, it

    does so by alternately evolving its two aspects of Matter and Spirit. In

    the beginning of a cycle of manifestation, Matter is evolved, as there

    must be a sub-stratum or foundation provided for the higherevolution that is to follow. This is exemplified in the early stages of a

    planet's existence when Matter dominates the scene and no higher

    life is discernible.