The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
The Key to Theosophy
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Is it Necessary to Pray?
Q. Do you believe in prayer, and do you ever pray?
A. We do not. We act, instead of talking.
Q. You do not offer prayers even to the Absolute Principle?
A. Why should we? Being well-occupied people, we can hardly afford to lose time in addressing verbal prayers to a pure abstraction. The Unknowable is capable of relations only in its parts to each other, but is non-existent as regards any finite relations. The visible universe depends for its existence and phenomena on its mutually acting forms and their laws, not on prayer or prayers.
Q. Do you not believe at all in the efficacy of prayer?
A. Not in prayer taught in so many words and repeated externally, if by prayer
you mean the outward petition to an unknown God as the addressee, which was
inaugurated by the Jews and popularized by the Pharisees.
Q. Is there any other kind of prayer?
A. Most decidedly; we call it will-prayer, and it is rather an internal command
than a petition.
Q. To whom, then, do you pray when you do so?
A. To "our Father in heaven"-in its esoteric meaning.
Q. Is that different from the one given to it in theology?
A. Entirely so. An Occultist or a Theosophist addresses his prayer to his Father
which is in secret, not to an extra-cosmic and therefore finite God; and that
"Father" is in man himself.
Q. Then you make of man a God?
A. Please say "God" and not a God. In our sense, the inner man is the only God
we can have cognizance of. And how can this be otherwise? Grant us our postulate that God is a universally diffused, infinite principle, and how can man alone escape from being soaked through by, and in, the Deity? We call our "Father in heaven" that deific essence of which we are cognizant within us, in our heart and spiritual consciousness, and which has nothing to do with the
anthropomorphic conception we may form of it in our physical brain or its fancy:
"Know ye not that ye are the
absolute) God dwelleth in you?"
One often finds in Theosophical writings conflicting statements about the
Christos principle in man. Some call it the sixth principle (Buddhi), others the
If Christian Theosophists wish to make use of such expressions,
let them be made philosophically correct by following the analogy of the old
Wisdom-Religion symbols. We say that Christos is not only one of the three
higher principles, but all the three regarded as a Trinity. This Trinity
represents the Holy Ghost, the Father, and the Son, as it answers to abstract
spirit, differentiated spirit, and embodied spirit.
philosophically the same principle under its triple aspect of manifestation. In
the Bhagavad-Gita we find
abstract Spirit, Kshetrajña, the Higher or reincarnating Ego, and the Universal
Self, all names which, when transferred from the Universe to man, answer to
Atma, Buddhi, and Manas. The Anugita is full of the same doctrine.
Yet, let no man anthropomorphize that essence in us. Let no Theosophist, if he
would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this "God in secret" listens to,
or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite essence-for all are one.
Nor, as just remarked, that a prayer is a petition. It is a mystery rather; an
occult process by which finite and conditioned thoughts and desires, unable to
be assimilated by the absolute spirit which is unconditioned, are translated
into spiritual wills and the will; such process being called "spiritual
transmutation." The intensity of our ardent aspirations changes prayer into the
"philosopher's stone," or that which transmutes lead into pure gold. The only
homogeneous essence, our "will-prayer" becomes the active or creative force,
producing effects according to our desire.
Q. Do you mean to say that prayer is an occult process bringing about physical
A. I do. Will-Power becomes a living power. But woe unto those Occultists and
Theosophists, who, instead of crushing out the desires of the lower personal ego or physical man, and saying, addressing their Higher Spiritual Ego immersed in Atma-Buddhic light, "Thy will be done, not mine," etc., send up waves of
will-power for selfish or unholy purposes! For this is black magic, abomination,
and spiritual sorcery. Unfortunately, all this is the favorite occupation of our
Christian statesmen and generals, especially when the latter are sending two
armies to murder each other. Both indulge before action in a bit of such
sorcery, by offering respectively prayers to the same God of Hosts, each
entreating his help to cut its enemies' throats.
Q. David prayed to the Lord of Hosts to help him smite the Philistines and slay
the Syrians and the Moabites, and "the Lord preserved David whithersoever he
went." In that we only follow what we find in the Bible.
A. Of course you do. But since you delight in calling yourselves Christians, not
Israelites or Jews, as far as we know, why do you not rather follow that which
Christ says? And he distinctly commands you not to follow "them of old times,"
or the Mosaic law, but bids you do as he tells you, and warns those who would
kill by the sword, that they, too, will perish by the sword. Christ has given
you one prayer of which you have made a lip prayer and a boast, and which none but the true Occultist understands. In it you say, in your dead-sense meaning: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," which you never do. Again, he told you to love your enemies and do good to them that hate you.
It is surely not the "meek prophet of
Q. But how do you explain the universal fact that all nations and peoples have
prayed to, and worshiped a God or Gods? Some have adored and propitiated devils and harmful spirits, but this only proves the universality of the belief in the
efficacy of prayer.
A. It is explained by that other fact that prayer has several other meanings
besides that given it by the Christians. It means not only a pleading or
petition, but meant, in days of old, far more an invocation and incantation. The
mantra, or the rhythmically chanted prayer of the Hindus, has precisely such a
meaning, as the Brahmins hold themselves higher than the common devas or "Gods."
A prayer may be an appeal or an incantation for malediction, and a curse (as in
the case of two armies praying simultaneously for mutual destruction) as much as for blessing. And as the great majority of people are intensely selfish, and
pray only for themselves, asking to be given their "daily bread" instead of
working for it, and begging God not to lead them "into temptation" but to
deliver them (the memorialists only) from evil, the result is, that prayer, as
now understood, is doubly pernicious: (a) It kills in man self-reliance; (b) It
develops in him a still more ferocious selfishness and egotism than he is
already endowed with by nature. I repeat, that we believe in "communion" and
simultaneous action in unison with our "Father in secret"; and in rare moments
of ecstatic bliss, in the mingling of our higher soul with the universal
essence, attracted as it is towards its origin and center, a state, called
during life Samadhi, and after death, Nirvana. We refuse to pray to created
finite beings-i.e., gods, saints, angels, etc., because we regard it as
idolatry. We cannot pray to the absolute for reasons explained before;
therefore, we try to replace fruitless and useless prayer by meritorious and
Q. Christians would call it pride and blasphemy. Are they wrong?
A. Entirely so. It is they, on the contrary, who show Satanic pride in their
belief that the Absolute or the Infinite, even if there was such a thing as the
possibility of any relation between the unconditioned and the conditioned-will
stoop to listen to every foolish or egotistical prayer. And it is they again,
who virtually blaspheme, in teaching that an Omniscient and Omnipotent God needs uttered prayers to know what he has to do! This-understood esoterically-is corroborated by both Buddha and Jesus. The one says:
Seek nought from the helpless Gods-pray not! but rather act; for darkness will
not brighten. Ask nought from silence, for it can neither speak nor hear.
And the other-Jesus-recommends:
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name (that of
Christos) that will I do."
Of course, this quotation, if taken in its literal sense, goes against our argument. But if we accept it esoterically, with the full knowledge of the meaning of the term Christos which to us represents Atma-Buddhi-Manas, the "self," it comes to this: the only God we must recognize and pray to, or rather act in unison with, is that spirit of God of which our body is the temple, and in which it dwelleth.
Prayer Kills Self-Reliance
Q. But did not Christ himself pray and recommend prayer?
A. It is so recorded, but those "prayers" are precisely of that kind of
communion just mentioned with one's "Father in secret." Otherwise, and if we
identify Jesus with the universal deity, there would be something too absurdly
illogical in the inevitable conclusion that he, the "very God himself" prayed to
himself, and separated the will of that God from his own!
Q. One argument more; an argument, moreover, much used by some Christians. They say,
I feel that I am not able to conquer any passions and weaknesses in my own
strength. But when I pray to Jesus Christ I feel that he gives me strength and
that in His power I am able to conquer.
A. No wonder. If "Christ Jesus" is God, and one independent and separate from
him who prays, of course everything is, and must be possible to "a mighty God." But, then, where's the merit, or justice either, of such a conquest? Why should the pseudo-conqueror be rewarded for something done which has cost him only prayers? Would you, even a simple mortal man, pay your laborer a full day's wage if you did most of his work for him, he sitting under an apple tree, and praying to you to do so, all the while? This idea of passing one's whole life in moral idleness, and having one's hardest work and duty done by another-whether God or man-is most revolting to us, as it is most degrading to human dignity.
Q. Perhaps so, yet it is the idea of trusting in a personal Savior to help and
strengthen in the battle of life, which is the fundamental idea of modern
Christianity. And there is no doubt that, subjectively, such belief is
efficacious; i.e., that those who believe do feel themselves helped and
A. Nor is there any more doubt, that some patients of "Christian" and "Mental
Scientists"-the great "Deniers"-are also sometimes cured; nor that hypnotism,
and suggestion, psychology, and even mediumship, will produce such results, as
often, if not oftener. You take into consideration, and string on the thread of
your argument, successes alone. And how about ten times the number of failures?
Surely you will not presume to say that failure is unknown even with a
sufficiency of blind faith, among fanatical Christians?
Q. But how can you explain those cases which are followed by full success? Where does a Theosophist look to for power to subdue his passions and selfishness?
A. To his Higher Self, the divine spirit, or the God in him, and to his Karma.
How long shall we have to repeat over and over again that the tree is known by
its fruit, the nature of the cause by its effects? You speak of subduing
passions, and becoming good through and with the help of God or Christ. We ask, where do you find more virtuous, guiltless people, abstaining from sin and
crime, in Christendom or Buddhism-in Christian countries or in heathen lands?
Statistics are there to give the answer and corroborate our claims. According to
the last census in
committed by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Eurasians, Buddhists, etc., etc., on
two millions of population taken at random from each, and covering the
misdemeanors of several years, the proportion of crimes committed by the
Christian stands as 15 to 4 as against those committed by the Buddhist
population. No Orientalist, no historian of any note, or traveler in Buddhist
lands, from Bishop Bigandet and Abbé Huc, to Sir William Hunter and every
fair-minded official, will fail to give the palm of virtue to Buddhists before
Christians. Yet the former (not the true Buddhist Siamese sect, at all events)
do not believe in either God or a future reward, outside of this earth. They do
not pray, neither priests nor laymen. "Pray!" they would exclaim in wonder, "to
whom, or what?"
Q. Then they are truly Atheists.
A. Most undeniably, but they are also the most virtue-loving and virtue-keeping
men in the whole world. Buddhism says: Respect the religions of other men and
remain true to your own; but Church Christianity, denouncing all the gods of
other nations as devils, would doom every non-Christian to eternal perdition.
Q. Does not the Buddhist priesthood do the same?
A. Never. They hold too much to the wise precept found in the Dhammapada to do so, for they know that,
If any man, whether he be learned or not, consider himself so great as to
despise other men, he is like a blind man holding a candle-blind himself, he
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