by Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov
Principles and Forms I
The important thing in life is to put the same heart and soul, the same tireless love into everything you do and never to give up, for it is the things that endure that must have priority. If something is to last, however, its particles must continually be renewed, and this means that if you are unwilling to clean out and discard the dusty remnants of your old ways of thinking and feeling, you will never create anything durable. Of course I know that it is going to be difficult for you to appreciate the importance of this truth, because the person who says it is a nobody. You think that only those who are learned or famous can reveal the truth. But that is not so; you should be able to recognize and appreciate a truth whoever may say it, be it a child or a beggar.
If something is to endure, it must constantly renew itself. And if the Church is disintegrating today, it is because it fails to renew itself; it continues to cling to old conceptions which are no longer valid and which need to be replaced. Of course I am not talking about the basic principles on which Christianity is built; no one will ever find principles more perfect than those of the Gospels. But why does the Church still burden itself with obsolete practices which no longer serve their purpose? Many people abandon the Christian religion because they think that science contradicts and nullifies the truth of the Gospels. This simply shows they have not understood the first thing about it, for it is just the opposite: the discoveries of science actually corrobate and emphasize the truths of the Gospels.
I can show you – in fact I have often done so – that the discoveries of science prove the truth of initiatic science, but this is something that neither scientists nor religious people have ever understood. For me there is no contradiction between science and religion; they go hand in hand. In fact they go hand in hand with art too, for the three are intimately related. From science mankind receives light, from religion warmth, and from art activity. Why have human beings separated these three realms that were created to coexist and work together in nature and in human beings? Initiates have never separated science, religion and art, but today there is a gulf between them, and the result is that religion no longer has a hold on scientists; they reject it out of hand. They reject it, of course, because they do not possess the one true science. Their science focuses only on the physical, material world. They know nothing of the true science on which all religions are based. As for art, it fluctuates uncertainly between the two, in conflict first with one and then with the other.
The true religion is initiatic science. In nature, I repeat, religion, science, and art are one. If they are not one today it is because human beings have separated them, and as long as they continue to separate them, they will never understand anything. Science, religion, and art form a unified whole, thanks to which everything can be understood and explained. Science corresponds to a need of the intellect, religion to a need of the heart, and art to a need of the will, which seeks to express something, to create and build. These three needs are closely related, for we begin by thinking something, but we have to feel it before we can make it a concrete reality.
As a matter of fact, many initiates of the past have reincarnated today as scientists. Yes, many contemporary scientists were once high priests of the ancient Mysteries. Those who discovered radio and television, for instance, were once initiates in ancient Egypt, and they have simply applied the knowledge they acquired in the distant past to the material world. Our era is connected in many ways to Egyptian civilization, and the science of ancient Egypt will soon be known and will manifest itself in many technical applications.
But let us get back to this idea that the Church should change some of its ideas and attitudes. Take just one example: the other day somebody sent me an article about a recent speech by the Pope in which he deplored the activity of the Devil who, he said, was poisoning the work of the Church by sowing doubt in the minds of the faithful. Yes, for centuries the devil has been blamed for everything that was wrong. Even now in the 20th century the faults and errors of human beings are still said to be the work of the devil. It is still the devil who moves human beings to act. Do you hear me talking constantly about the devil? Certainly not. Why is he still so conspicuously present in the discourses of religion leaders? In the Middle Ages the devil was present day and night in people’s lives. Everything began and ended with him.
Nothing else mattered. Even God took second place to Satan. It was he who was responsible for all miracles and prodigies. It was he who was said to heal the sick and utter prophecies. When a man or woman manifested exceptional gifts or talents they were always said that it was God who was omniscent and all-powerful. No, the all-powerful one was Satan. And the extraordinary thing is that even today, if someone works a miracle or achieves something truly unique, the Church is never very eager to acknowledge it as the work of God or of his angels; it is always suspicious, always ready to see the hand of the devil in everything. But believe me, the more you talk about the devil, the more you nourish and strengthen him and make it possible for him to act.
It seems that people need to fear something, so the devil is held up as the great ‘bogeyman’. But this is ridiculous, for the only result is that people get so used to him that they no longer fear him (just as birds get accustomed to an old scarecrow and no longer fear it). Now I am not saying that the devil does not exist; he does. But the less we talk about him the better. If you tell people you have done something really astounding they will often exclaim, ‘The devil you did!’ Why? What has the devil got to do with it? To invoke the name of the devil – and even the fact of being afraid of him – are forms of black magic by which you attract his attention.
It is time the Church had a more intelligent grasp of esoteric science and stopped seeing the hand of the devil in everything. As it is, instead of acknowledging that people are abandoning religion because its representatives are unworthy of their calling, it blames the devil, saying that the devil has infiltrated the Church. How often I have explained to you that if you refuse to entertain the elements that attract the devil and keep your doors resolutely closed to him, he is powerless. This law is absolute. But instead of explaining this, the Church allows the faithful to think that he has the power to enter their inner being and that there is nothing they can do to stop him. We are asked to believe that human beings are so shoddily made (the Lord obviously did not do a very good job.) that, however pure and saintly they may be, the devil can always get into them. Well, this is simply not true. It is the knowledge contained in initiatic science that is lacking in the Church.
Christianity is in need of major transformations, for it is still living in antiquated traditions that are no longer suited to our day and age. Mankind would be much better off today if religion as the Church understands it were really enough, but since it is little more than a series of empty forms, is there any wonder that most people cannot take it seriously any longer?
In any case, people are more and more inclined to think things out for themselves and question what others tell them.
In the past they were ready to swallow whatever the Church said because for them the Church was the authority; it was the Church that thought for them, that made decisions for them. But today nobody wants others to do their thinking for them, so they leave the Church. This shows that Christianity will be forced to accept the new forms that are being suggested to it by the invisible world. And the day will come when these new forms will wear out in their turn and will have to be replaced by others. Only principles endure, not forms. Cosmic intelligence has decreed that physical forms should not be permanent. The only function of a form is to keep the contents intact; it is a container, a boundary, a limitation. It is also a prison; and if the contents within a form are not to congreal and become rigid, that form must be broken open and the contents poured into a new, subtler, more flexible, more transparent form. This is why nothing that exists on the physical plane can be eternal. One day everything, even the great pyramids, even the sphinx, will disappear.
Principles and Forms II
Time cannot affect principles, but it does affect forms. To say that all things are corroded and destroyed by time is true only in regard to forms, and Christians have not yet understood that the foms in which their religion was given to them centuries ago cannot last for ever; they are going to have to change them. But Christians are stubborn; they are unwilling to change anything. The Teaching of the Universal White Brotherhood offers no new principles, only new forms; that is to say, new methods, methods that allow the content, the spirit, to express and manifest itself more perfectly. The Universal White Brotherhood has no desire to introduce new principles, for principles are eternal; it wishes to renew only the forms, because forms are subject to the wear and tear of time.
Remember this one thing therefore: only principles are eternal.
When people are happy about something, they say, ‘Long may it last!’ Lovers for instance always want their love to last for ever, but unfortunetly this is impossible. Why? Because they cast it in fragile, perishable forms. If you want to express your love eternally you are going to have to change its form. Let me give you an example: if you express your love through your lower nature, your personality, even your eyes will reflect the desire to indulge your appetites without a thought for the good of the other person or the effect your actions will have on them. The only thing you want is to satisfy your own hunger and thirst. This is a coarse, cruel, selfish form of love, and the eyes of one who loves in this way become bloodshot and swollen with lust; they express something slimy, impure, and violent.
But when human beings express their love through their individuality, their higher nature, beauty, light and transparency shine from their eyes because such love is selfless. It asks for nothing in return: it wants only to give and to help and enlighten others. This is the most beautiful form of love… and yet most women prefer to see the flame of desire in a man’s eyes. When they see this, the poor things are pleased because they imagine that such a love is so intense, potent, and expressive that it will last for ever. The one thing that women long for is a love that will endure – and of course they are right to do so. The only trouble is that they are blind; they do not realize that a sensual look speaks of a love that cannot last. The fire they see is a flash in the pan that will die down as suddenly as it flared up. Why do women have so little discernment?
It is up to you now to cultivate a broader outlook and, above all, to intensify your desire to evolve. For what is evolution? It is simply a change of form.
The natural sciences have always had a keen interest in the question of evolution: some say that it is forms that evolve, while others say that forms are predetermined from all eternity and that beings migrate from one form to another. It is this second theory that is correct; forms do not evolve. All forms – whether of animals, insects, or plants – pre exist in the world of archetypes, and individual creatures assume these forms for a time and then discard them and move on to others, exactly as actors put on a new mask for each new play. So the form in which the spirit is clothed is always different, but forms themselves do not evolve. They were created from all eternity, and the future froms of plants and animals that are still unknown to us already exist as archetypes.
New forms have been prepared and are ready and waiting for human beings as well. As our evolution progresses we shall assume these new forms, for we must constantly cast off the old forms and assume new ones that are, purer, more flexible, and more luminous. When we assume a new form we also acquire new and better means of action and manifestation. To remain tied to our old forms would be to limit our progress; we would never get any further. This si what Christians fail to understand. They try to perpetuate the form, but that is not possible. Their attitude is diametrically opposed to the decrees of cosmic intelligence.
Cosmic Intelligence has no need to perpetuate forms on the physical plane; they are already eternal. Yes, but they are eternal only in the higher realms, in the world of archetypes. On that level all forms are eternal because they are there to serve cosmic intelligence. It is when men try to perpetuate them on earth, when they cling obstinately to one particular form, that the invisible world is obliged to set them free by taking its sledge-hammers and smashing that form.
Human beings are scandalized by what they take to be cruelty on the part of cosmic intelligence, but how could they be free if they were permanently bound to the same form? Are you still not convinced? Very well, but think about what happens to human beings from one incarnation to the next. More often than not they change their sex. If you were a woman in a previous life, it was in order to learn to manifest the qualities of the feminine principle, and now that you are a man you must learn to manifest other qualities.
This apparent cruelty on the part of the invisible world, which shatters old forms in order to create new ones, is not yet understood by the Church. But whether it understands or not I guarantee that its old forms will be destroyed. However hard Christians try to save their old forms, the invisible world is going to move on. Human beings always have a tendency to cling to their old ways, and this is precisely what they should not do. What is a materialist? A materialist is someone who clings to material forms. This is why materialists will also be broken, smashed, and wiped out – so that they may be freed.
One day an angel, wishing to study the ways of animals and humans at first hand, decided to come down to earth in the form of a pig. He adapted himself so well to his new state that life in a pigsty seemed to him to be all that was most desireable. He stuffed himself with acorns and pigswill, he took a wife and was soon surrounded by innumerable offspring, and his happiness was complete.
Nothing could induce him to abandon such bliss. In the meantime his brother angels were getting very worried about him and tried to decide how to get him back to heaven, for he was enjoying his life as a pig so much that he ignored all their messages. Finally, as a last resort, they decided that there was only one solution, and that was to send him to the slaughterhouse. Well, when the angel was released from his animal form and saw the carass being roasted for a banquet, he was astounded that he could have forgotten his own identity so completely and was full of gratitude ot his fellow angels for rescuing him.
Unfortunetly a great many human beings are like that angel; they too have become ‘pigs’, and they too are destined to be butchered. All the philosophies, be shattered; only the principles will remain, and they will assume new forms.
The Universal White Brotherhood is a new form of the religion of the Christ. Oh, I know, Christians are going to exclaim in horror and take up arms against us to show that they are faithful to the traditions they have inherited. But this is a battle they will not win, for the invisible world will intervene to show them that they are wrong. A new form is going to appear, and it will last for a certain time before it too makes way for yet another more perfect form. As you see, I am being perfectly fair and honest with you, I have no wish to deceive you by telling you that the forms introduced by our teaching are eternal. There will always be new expressions; expressions that will become more and more perfect and luminous.
Principles and forms III
When people tell me that as Catholics they cannot accept the teaching of the Universal White Brotherhood, I say, ‘Very well, if you feel more at home in the Church, stay there. But as for us, we are going to move on.’ I ask you, what can you learn from all those sermons that explain nothing at all? Who is to blame if people listen to them and then go on doing all the things they should not do? They leave the Church because it has no answers to their questions, no words with which to allay their anguish. Their sermons are very poetic and also highly moral. Yes indeed, very pretty and very pathetic. I entirely approve of what they say, but you cannot learn much from their words because they contain no real understanding of the meaning and goal of human existence, the laws that govern it, or how to behave in harmony with those laws. It is all words, words; no mention of how to put those words into practice. Do you really believe that Christendom has ever put the Gospels into practice?
No, the facts speak for themselves. For my part, I am in favour of radical changes; and such changes are coming. You will see them for yourselves.
All those who decide to work with eternal, unchanging principles of Christ belong to the Universal White Brotherhood. They are not destroying anything; they are not working against Christ; they are not trying to promote new forms. And those who cling to the old forms show that they have not understood the principles. They rely on forms to save them, and they sleep soundly at night in the security of their protection. Yes, those who rely on forms fall asleep; whereas evolve very rapidly. Is this not a far better, far more benficial ideal? Jesus himself tells us how magnificent it is, for we read and that is exactly what I have been trying to explain. I am constantly urging you to turn toward the spirit that gives life.
So, as I say, all those who give the priority to principles belong to the Great Universal White Brotherhood; not to the Brotherhood here on earth, but to that glorious Brotherhood that embraces all the most luminous creatures in the universe. Our role in the world is simply to provide these perfect beings with means and possibilities for action so that the kingdom of God may be established on earth. It is in this sense that the Universal White Brotherhood can be seen as a new form of the religion of Christ, and this is why I say that those who work with the principles of Christ belong to that great Brotherhood.
They may not even know of our existence, but that does not matter; they are still members of the Universal White Brotherhood.
Principles and Forms IV
Why do human beings cling so stubbornly to forms? The answer is that they are lazy. All their spiritual activity is dead; all that is left to them is to wave the banner of form. Take the case of all those people who wear a cross, for instance: their cross will not save them if they wear it only externally without any participation of the spirit. But if they cling to the principle behind the material cross and try to understand what it means and apply it to their lives, then it can help and protect them. Keep certain forms if you wish, but never lose sight of the spirit behind them, otherwise you too will be lost. Wear a cross if you like, but attach yourself to the spirit, for behind that form is the spirit. For me the cross is a fantastic symbol (a three-dimensional cross is composed of twenty-two planes, corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Cabbalah with which God created the world). But the Christians of today are really to be pitied; they have no desire to learn. They oppose change in the belief that they are being faithful to human beings, to idiots, to people who are sick.
We must be faithful to God, not to men. If you insist on being faithful to men, very well, that is your own business. I have no objection, but you will end up as dust. What was so special about all those people who ruled the Church for so many hundreds of years?
What did they stand for? As often as not they were no different from all the other poor wretches on earth. In fact if any of them manifested a higher degree of understanding they were immediatly banished, excommunicated. Look at the historical record and you will see for yourselves: all those who really wanted to reform things were cast out and rejected.
Yes, for the sake of forms. But form is not very productive; all it can do is imprison human beings. Form is a perfect prison. If you are a prisoner of form you can never escape.
A form should be preserved only as long as necessary, as long as it is indispensable or simply useful. As soon as it becomes obsolete it means that a new phase has begun and we must either replace it or reach a much more profound understanding of it. There are a certain number of rites, such as Baptism, Marriage, the Mass, and Communion, that are founded on eternal laws and a knowledge of magic. This is particularly true of the Mass, which is pure magic. In fact it would be true to say that it is thanks to the Mass that the Church has endured until today.
The sad thing is that a great many priests do not realize the profound significance of what they are doing when they celebrate the Mass. If they understood it, the power of the Mass would be even greater.
Then there is the custom of lighting candles and votive lights in church. Take the example of the Easter ceremony in Orthodox churches: everyone in church holds a candle and the celebrant begins by lighting his own candle. He passes on the flame to the candle of the priest or deacon standing next to him, who passes it in turn to the person beside him. And so it goes on, each one receiving light from one neighbour and handing it on to another until the whole church is ablaze with light. Symbolically speaking, this means that there must be someone who begins by lighting his candle, that is to say, his intelligence, his mind. Once he holds a lighted candle others will come and light their candles, their intelligence, from his, until all the men and women in the world form a multitude of lighted candles. The symbolism of the votive light is identical to that of the candle except that a candle is a masculine symbol whereas a vigil light is feminine. But this is such a profound and sacred question that I dare not tell you any more than that.
Man has a candle and woman has a votive light, but neither of them knows that they have something that needs to be set alight. Christians automatically light candles and votive lights, but I have never seen one who knew anything about the mystery involved in this act, who knew how and why they should be lit. And yet what great transformations they could work in themselves if only they knew. This is why I say that Christians have not yet begun their real work. Even if they go to church, light candles, bless themselves with holy water and receive Communion, they have still not begun, because they have not yet done these things inwardly. They hang a little icon of the Virgin Mary in their homes and imagine that whatever they do the Virgin will always be there to protect them, but this is nothing but superstition. They count on this and believe in that, but belief and faith are two quite different things.
Most people who think they have faith actually have nothing but a collection of beliefs. Yes, because they are too attached to forms. They do not realize that even prayers can be no more than forms. There is a story about a monk who was in the habit of paying secret visits to the wine-cellar every evening. It was his péché mignon, his favourite weakness, and he was incapable of giving it up. Every night he would say his prayers and ask God to forgive him and then sleep soundly with a clear conscience – as though by mumbling an act of contrition he could put everything right. One night he was rudely awakened from sleep by someone shaking him and saying: ‘Wake up, wake up! You forgot to say your prayers.’ And whom did he see beside his bed but the devil himself. All of a sudden he understood that the devil had taken the trouble to come and remind him to say his prayers, because it was the devil who benefited from them, not he. If he continued to say his prayers in the belief that he was automatically forgiven, then he could go on drinking. It was certainly not the Lord who had come to wake him up. The Lord does not hear a drunkard’s prayers. So you see, often enough it is the devil who hides behind forms and urges you to go to church, light a candle, say your prayers, or receive Communion. In this way he helps you to become more and more deeply entrenched in these old forms.
I have nothing against Communion. The only thing is that I see so many Christians who receive Communion all their lives long, who have already swallowed wagonfuls of hosts and drunk barrels of wine, and who are still as vicious, aggressive, slanderous, and unjust as ever. Whereas if you communicate with the perfect, living host of the sun as it rises every morning and with the wine of life that flows from it, it will not be long before you find that you are obliged to transform yourself. Yes, because the sun is alive. This is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternyl life.’ At the time Jesus said this people were incapable of understanding such advanced ideas; this is why they had to be given bread and wine. But that era belongs to the past; today we must go much further. The fact that a man can be a regular communicant and still continue to beat his wife or slander his neighbour is surely proof that this kind of Communion is not very effective. Communion can help, of course; if you have faith, it can help. However, in spite of your faith, in spite of the strength of your convictions, and in spite of the priest’s blessing, the sun is more potent than any number of hosts.
The blessing given by a priest is very important, that is true; but the quality of his blessing depends on his own elevation, purity, and faith. I am afraid that many priests are so sick of repeating the same gestures over and over again every day that they mumble the words of consecration without putting their soul or spirit into what they are saying. So the bread and wine are blessed, but with a blessing that is not very potent. Besides, even if a priest puts his whole heart and soul into the blessing I feel like asking: ‘If you believe that the words of consecration are so powerful, could you not just as well consecrate some wood shavings or scraps of metal and distribute them to the faithful?’ The truth is that in blessing bread a priest is blessing something that has already been blessed by the Creator. The wheat from which the host is made is alive, and this means that it has already been blessed by God. The blessing it contains is life itself.
To conclude, let me repeat that it is time to do away with the old forms that you still stand up for and try to defend. You think I am exaggering, but I know that once you see the question more clearly you will not only agree with me, but you too will find these old forms irksome and intolerable and be anxious to free yourselves from them.
Principles and Forms V
I want to add a few words today to what I have already told you about forms and principles, for it is important that the question should be clear to you. You must not think that I am against all forms – certainly not. Forms are useful and necessary but they must not be expected to last for ever. After a time they need to be changed.
As I have said, a form is simply a receptacle, a container. This is easy to understand. Take the example of the clothes we wear: does a man wear the same clothes, the same trousers, shoes, or shirts, from the age of two to the age of ninety? Of course not. He always needs trousers, shoes, and shirts, but at intervals, as his size and shape changes, he grows out of his old clothes and needs new ones. And just as each human individual grows and changes, so the world itself evolves and needs new forms that corresponds to that evolution. Centuries ago mankind was like a new-born baby, but today that baby has begun to grow out of its swaddling clothes; it needs to exercise its arms and legs – and in doing so it claws and bites and kicks out in all directions.
The only real question is which forms to retain and which to change. As long as you are on earth you have to preserve and even protect the form of your physical body. You have to keep it healthy, well-groomed and expressive; but for how long? Only until the day you depart for the next world. There always comes a moment when this form has to be cast off like a threadbare garment. Perhaps you are wondering why the ancient Egyptians tried to preserve the physical forms of the pharaohs, and why our museums are still full of their mummies. In reality, the ancient Egyptians knew very well that forms cannot be preserved. They mummified the bodies of their pharaohs for purposes of magic, for they were very advanced in the knowledge and practice of magic.
It would take far too long to mention all the different instances in which forms change, but the example of dress is very significant. Only a few years ago the well-dressed man wore a carefully pressed suit, carried a walking stick and wore a hat, gloves, and even spats. And today? Today there are no more walking sticks, no more gloves, and men’s trousers are all crumpled. These are the new forms. And women are in even more of a hurry than men to abandon old forms. Every year, several times a year in fact, fashion obliges them to change forms. This is why I must address myself particularly to women, because women are the first – the only ones – to take this question of changing forms seriously. Ah, woman, the marvellous creatures! How they love to change their hats, their shoes, their dresses. Just wait and see how many new forms there will be next year.
Nobody ever criticizes the leaders of fashion for bringing in new fashions every few months, and yet when I speak about changing forms everyone is up in arms against me. I ask you, is that fair? Dress designers are applauded when they change forms, but when I suggest that some forms should be changed everyone is against me. How unjust people are!
Of course, many of the forms that still exist served a useful purpose in the past, because when they were first developed, human beings could not understand anything more advanced. But they must not be allowed to last for ever. We have to see how nature deals with this question; it is nature that leads animals and men to adopt certain patterns of behaviour and then, after a while, it is again nature that urges them to change their ways and behave differently because times have changed. Take the example of fear: nature has cultivated the reflex of fear in animals for their own protection. Fear is a healthy reaction in an animal because it warns it to flee when it is in danger. But if human beings are to attain a higher degree of evolution they need to rid themselves of fear, and replace it with other, nobler sentiments. There always comes a time, therefore, when nature recognizes the need to change patterns that she herself defined hundreds and thousands of years before. There are many different kinds of fear: the fear of public opinion, the fear of falling ill, the fear of financial ruin, and so on. But we must no longer be ruled by fear. It was necessary for our own self-preservation at an earlier stage of evolution but today it is a serious obstacle to spirituals progress.
Fear is a very striking example of something that was necessary or useful in the past and that may no longer be useful today. It is nature herself that has taught me this, fo I continue to study in her school. Unfortunetly, Christians never turn to nature to learn how she envisages things and how long she intends them to last. They think that something that was decreed by human beings in the past must remain valid for all eternity. The trouble is that human beings are not qualified to foresee everything; they do not know what life will be like a few centuries from now. Scientists are always making predictions about the future and telling us what is going to happen, but the only way to be sure is to go and find out from cosmic intelligence; for it is cosmic intelligence that planned things a very long time ago.
For centuries, the Church taught that a life of poverty and destitution was a spiritual ideal. It is true that poverty can be a good exercice; it can help you to become stronger. In other words it can be good for a period of training, but cosmic intelligence has not designed us for a life of perpetual deprivation. Our heavenly Father is not poor and destitute, and there is no reason why we should be. So poverty can be a good exercise for a time (in fact, when the sages first taught the practice of poverty it was as an exercise to counteract certain excesses), but it should not be seen as an ideal in life. The Lord wants us to be as rich, as beautyful, and as powerful as he is. If he has created us in his image, it is not so that we might eat rotten, mouldy fruit and live in the midst of filth and disease, wear hair shirts and flagellate ourselves. Human beings can no longer be expected to abide by such rules of life. A life of poverty can no longer be held up as an ideal, and people are less and less ready to believe that it is a good thing.
Heaven has a curriculum, an itinerary mapped out for us, but it is a course, a route to be followed, not a permanent abode. The plans of the invisible world are not what human beings imagine. Many saints and prophets acted on orders from heaven and carried out their assigned tasks faithfully and well, but special missions of this kind were only valid for a certain period; they were designed to encourage people to develop certain faculties which they still needed. Once those faculties were acquired, the next phase of the curriculum was waiting for them. As far as poverty is concerned, therefore, there is no reason why it should not be practised for a limited period as an exercise. For my part, almost half my life has been a life of poverty – of destitution, in fact. But does this necessarily have to go on for ever? No.
On the other hand there is no necessity for me to go to the opposite extreme, for in doing so I would lose all that I had gained by the practise of poverty. Well, there is a great deal more that could be said about this question, but it will have to wait.
Principles and Forms VI
Even if you possess all the gold in the world, you still need light. You also need to know what to take for yourself and how much to take, where to stop.
There was once a Turk, a member of the Sufi sect of Whirling Dervishes, who lived in Bulgaria. The Dervishes lead very frugal lives, and when they ask for something people are happy to give it to them immediately, for they are much loved and well known for their integrity. One day, when this Dervish asked a rich man for alms, the man offered him his purse full of money, but the Dervish took just one coin, enough to cover his basic needs for that day. This is what you should do, too. Even if you possess great wealth you should only take very little, the strict minimum, for yourself.
And now let me tell you frankly that the reason why so many religious orders and spiritual movements are in error is simply that they fail to understand the Lord’s plans for mankind; they cannot see things from this point of view. The tragedy is that human beings always see and judge things with their own limited intellects, and in this way they distort reality and hinder the Lord’s plans. The truth is that they are not concerned about what the Lord has in mind for us, but only about precepts which were formulated by human beings centuries ago and which were now obsolete.
God manifested himself through Jesus, true, but he had already manifested himself through Moses. If Moses accomplished so much that was extraordinary, it was because god was with him. But by the time Jesus came, the intransigence of the Law of Moses was no longer appropriate to the plans of cosmic intelligence for the development of mankind.
Human beings find it so difficult to discard old forms. The different religious still treat those who are not of their flock with hostility and intransigence; they still think of them as pagans, infidels, sinners. Why should these old forms, which are an impediment to the coming of the kingdom of God, not be replaced with new ones? I tell you, it is the Churches that stand in the way of the kingdom of God. Fortunately, young people are getting rid of many of the old forms. They are eager to travel to other countries, to love all human beings, to understand and help everyone.
However, new forms have yet to be found for these manifestations, for they often degenerate and slip back into the old forms. If new impulses are forced into old forms, the old forms split open. Jesus said: ‘No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed.’ And this is exactly what happens with young people: they have a new wine that is foaming and fermenting, but they put it in old wineskins. Young people want to love freely, and this is magnificent, but why do they think that they can only do so by sleeping together and wallowing in sensual pleasure? New and better forms must be found.
How can we find these better forms? Well, they will certainly not be found by the blind groping of ignorant human beings. Or rather, they could be found in this way, but the process would take hundreds and thousands of years and involve a great many mishaps on the way. The best way is for an initiate to explain things, for only an initiate knows how mankind is destined to mature and blossom in new, innocent forms. The trouble is that human beings are not willing to accept the opinions of the initiates; they want to find their own solutions, and the results are always disastrous.
Even when they do find a solution, they are incapable of putting it into effect because it is always too late; they find it only when they have already wasted their energy in futilities. They are already old, worn out, human wrecks. And if they try to tell other people what they have learned from their painful experience, nobody listens to them: ‘How can you imagine that you have anything to teach us? Just look at yourself in the mirror.’
Cosmic intelligence has other plans for mankind today. There was a time when disciples had to swear that they would never divulge the secrets revealed to them by their initiator. But then the Marquis of Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, a well-known French spiritual writer, published his book ‘The Mission of India’ in which he tells of how one of the leaders of Agharta saw in his meditation that the pyramid of light that shone over Agharta was split in two. When he asked cosmic intelligence what this meant he was told that although the mysteries had traditionally been hidden form non-initiates, the time was coming when they would be revealed to all those who were capable of understanding them. Incidentally, the Bible also says that the time will come when all that was hidden will be revealed; and that time is now upon us, so there is no cause to be astonished if you see that many great secrets are revealed in the Universal White Brotherhood.
In the past, the truths of initiation were revealed very sparingly and only at the price of terrible trials. This is why those who received them could use them to become extraordinarily powerful. But now that people receive them without having to make any effort of their own, they are incapable of using them to become powerful. They are like those who have a lot of money without having earned it: they waste it; they have no true appreciation of its value.
Whereas those who have to earn their living by the sweat of their brow are fully aware of the value of money. How true this is. However, in spite of all this, the great mysteries must gradually be revealed, for that is the will of heaven. Actually, you yourselves already know far more than even the sadhus and yogis in India. Their knowledge is not very extensive, but they use the little they know to acquire great powers; whereas you who know a great deal are not capable of achieving very much.
In our time also, initiation will take a different form. In the old days it was given in the temples, and candidates had to endure trials by fire, air, water and earth. Nowadays, it occurs in the course of everyday life: an initiate places his disciples in certain situations, confronts them with certain problems, and observes their reactions without their even being aware that he is doing so. All your trials occur in the ordinary course of life; the four elements are present in your lives. It is in your everyday lives that you have to show that you have overcome fear, concupiscence, egoism, sensuality, and so on. Yes, there are many trials in everyday life, and this is particularly true for those who want to advance towards initiation. They can be sure in advance that their desire will be granted, but they can also be sure that they will be put to the test. When they are least expecting it, in the ordinary course of their lives, they will be tested.
The trials of initiation are part of life; every minor event of our lives can be a testing. In fact it is precisely because people underestimate the importance of these little things and expect their trials to take the shape of a major event that they often fail.
When you have advance warning that you are going to have to confront great difficulties you are better armed, better prepared; you can plan for what lies ahead. But when you are taken unawares it is much more difficult, so it is up to you to be awake and on your guard. You must constantly remind yourselves that every little event or circumstance can be an initiatic test. And your response will be judged by beings in the world above – and perhaps also in this world if you have a master on earth. If you pass the test you will be awarded a diploma, but not the kind of diploma that you get at a university and that can fade or be torn, burned, or stolen. The diplomas of the invisible world adhere to your face and your whole body; nobody can ever take them away from you.
And the spirits of nature, who know how to read these diplomas, will welcome and appreciate you if you have one. Otherwise, wherever you go throughout the whole of space, if they see that you have not earned your diploma they will have no respect for you. They will even persecute you because they will consider you to be a weak, ignorant, useless creature.
I could point out thousands of examples of forms in which human beings have become bogged down. Take the case of medicine. It is reduced to nothing but forms: pills, capsules, drops, surgical operations, all these are forms. What has happened to the spirit? There is no life in these things, nothing to trigger or evoke something spiritual, something divine.
No it is all forms. This is why people never get any healthier, why they are always weak and sickly.
Those who cling stubbornly to the same old forms become fossilized and lifeless because they dam up their inner spring. One often sees people like that, people who always have the same blank, wooden expression. It is dangerous to cling always to the same form. In fact this is one of the reasons why so many marriages break up. The man and wife are sick of seeing always the same gestures and expressions, of hearing the same words every day. They never see anything new or expressive in each other. In the long run they cannot bear it any longer, and they both go off and look for new forms. Many couples have never thought about this, and yet it is often the reason why they separate. If you are always the same, other people will get bored with you and begin to dislike you. Always try to renew yourselves therefore, be alive and expressive and no one will ever want to leave you, because you will always be sparkling with new life, always expressive.
But women have never understood this – neither have men for that matter. A woman faithfully does her duty by her husband: she takes care of him, washes his clothes, irons his shirts, cooks his meals – and even keeps him supplied with the little confections he loves – and then one fine day he leaves her for another woman. She cannot understand it at all. What has happened? Everything she did was for him. Yes, but she was always the same and her husband got bored with her.
One day a woman came and complained to me that her husband had deserted her. ‘And yet,’ she moaned, ‘I always did everything I could to make him happy.
I was always so devoted, so loving.’
‘Ah, yes, and what is the other woman like?’
‘Oh she’s cold. She’s a block of ice.’
‘Well, there you are; you were always too warm and he has gone off with that other woman because he needs to cool off.’
So you see, it is not good always to be too warm, otherwise your partner will have to go and find someone cooler.
You must know how to have variety in your life, but variety in the forms, not in the principles. You must always adhere to the same principles, always be animated by the same love, the same light, the same nobility, the same ideal; but you must not always manifest them in the same way.
What an extraordinary thing the Universal White Brotherhood is. What extraordinary power it has to vivify and exalt us, to fill us with awe, wonder and enthusiasm. The great clairvoyant Rudolf Steiner saw this. He said, ‘When I have gone, someone else will appear whose work will be marked by enthusiasm.’ The keynote of Steiner’s work was not enthusiasm: it was philosophy, science. I know nothing about either philosophy or science – or anything else for that matter – but I am capable of firing you with enthusiasm.
And now, in conclusion, always remember that everything in life is the product, the result of the relation between the two opposite poles: spirit and matter, principles and forms. Human beings are not capable of living only with principles; they need the support of forms. The spirit incarnates in the form of a body in order to manifest on the physical plane. When it returns to the higher regions it no longer needs this form, but here on earth it does need it. We have to remember, however, that the form cannot last long. God has not given eternal life to forms. This is why heaven sends an initiate or a great master every now and then to change forms. Yes, but forms only; never the principles.
The principles are unchangeable because they are the spirit, the soul, the virtues; they are love, wisdom, truth, and sacrifice. These principles are immutable, they will be valid for all eternity.