You have asked me about the Teachings of the Temple. Although you may not know them by that name, you are already knowledgeable about them, as am I, as is all of humanity. You have somewhere heard of the Golden Rule and have been living your life with some degree of compliance with it and quite possibly some violation too. Probably none of us can judge and say how much, how good we are or how bad we are. It would serve us no purpose, since we must all admit to being less than perfect. What would it matter if we tried to place each other in a scale of one to ten, with God representing ten?
Probably we have different ideas about God — if we admit there is a God — and we would find ourselves comparing His various powers to our own advantage. There are today skilled scientists suggesting that the whole universe developed from a primary “big bang,” resulting in the accidental but systematic creation of everything in that universe. Then there are others who prefer to think that, maybe yes, but that Somebody had to set off that “big bang.” Some feel that a divine Intelligence loved everything into being because, with the possible exception of ourselves — man — the rest of the known universe seems to move in exquisite harmony and balance, whether it be a galaxy or a wilderness or a flower.
Curiously, of all the kingdoms of nature, only humanity — man — has the power of speech — a facility of communication that dominates our world, not always for the best, but always for some purpose. Our communication — asking questions and answering them; wanting to know, to tell — is not always as subtle as that which prevails in the animal, vegetable or mineral kingdoms, or as that which obtains in fire, air, earth and water. Their communication is recognized by people as laws of nature on which their interdependence, their obedience is implicit. Humanity, on the other hand, has the power of choice. We can communicate “yes” or “no.”
So it is well to avoid a complication of words in speech, making communication word-bound instead of serving to express ideas. For you and I may each take different and possibly contradictory meanings from the same words. One teacher (William Quan Judge) has suggested that if all the terminology of the scientific world — electronics, chemistry, physics, biology, geology — were withdrawn; if there were no system of words to describe them by hypothesis or measure ment, still the world would go on in a government of principles. Mountains, volcanoes, oceans, rivers, winds, the sun itself would not cease to exist in any way. And while countless civilizations have preceded ours that undoubtedly had some way of referring to the universe — all different — and have risen to great heights of achievement, this could not apparently have protected them from degeneration. Meanwhile, the world moves steadily on in an orbit that is governed by irrevocable laws called in words gravity, attraction, love, cohesion, loyalty, refracted rays, colors: facets of material and spiritual sunlight.
Frequently the Temple Teachings are referred to as Theosophy, an old word meaning Theo – God, sophy – wisdom, knowledge. It is a good word but too limiting, except as one doorway into the study of the Teachings; for, like all such words, it tends to imply sectarianism and creeds. The point is, my friend, that you are already acquainted with what the word means, what the Teachings are illuminating. You are not inquiring into a strange and foreign world. For you understand enough of the world in which you move to get along happily or unhappily in varying mixtures of emotions: your now existing relationship to the universe dependent upon your intelligence and physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Beginning wherever you are, doing whatever you are doing, is the most vital and important truth in the universe for you, since you obviously have no alternative.
Since we do have power of speech, we must admit that constantly, from whatever we call the beginning, a certain law has been pronounced in all our countless languages: “As ye would that others do unto you, do ye even so unto them.” There is no way that all humanity can not be primarily involved with that law.
That is the purpose of the Teachings of the Temple — to deal with us all as we are now, involved in knowledge and ignorance, love and hatred, selflessness and greed, common good and waste, regardless of the words we may affirm or deny, but without fail impelling us on to a fuller meaning of the life we are in. For you have found that your life is a learning process that has no limits. It represents achievement of skill in the physical, mental and emotional worlds wherein you dwell. The possibilities of those skills are unlimited. They are yours for the earning. There is no way for us to know how many of them we can learn, but there is a realistic evaluation of them in terms we already know — arts, sciences, ethics, morals, government, religion and, indeed, communication. We can put no limit on this learning except to call it infinite. Some call it the Mind of God. What we learn and earn is but a part of what already exists, as we are learning to find out.
You may have learned that somehow you have become responsible for the knowledge you have. Or you may feel that knowledge can be vastly imposed upon. You may feel that you live only one life — that life being responsible for placing you eternally thereafter in heaven or hell. You may feel that you were born out from annihilation and you will die back into it. Or you may feel that Jesus died for your sins, and that therefore you are absolved from the word responsibility, as from all the rest of the world’s inequities. Theologians call this doctrine, vicarious atonement. That is a priestly government of fear and supplication. But many people feel that this does not fit at all into a daily life where self-responsibility is shared by all the people you live with, even if you do not know them.
You may subscribe to some kind of organized worship that has brought you comfort, wisdom, and guidance, and inspires you to do good, to do better. If so, be happy in that security. No kind of worship can do more for you. If it has brought you to today where you find yourself in need of other answers to your life questions, be grateful that yesterday has brought you to today; and now you seek anew and so you ask about the Teachings of the Temple.
They will tell you that you reincarnate lifetime after lifetime, as do cells, atoms, worlds, ideas, laws, civilizations. For us there is an unending path of learning from the unknown past to the unknown future, bridged by the time called “now” — the present, the most important moment. The word “reincarnation” is a name, an idea, a force called hope. The Teachings tell us how to make the most of that moment. They do not dwell upon the psychic, mediumistic, spiritualistic, the so-called occult.
The Teachings tell you that nothing exists that has not been caused to exist. Nothing is accidental, although we may not know what caused it to happen. Therefore, you are constantly creating causes which become effects, which become further causes as you walk your path of life and affect all the world as it affects you. The goal of life is contained not in technology but in the integrity of character and common good. This self-responsibility is called, in Sanskrit, Karma; cause and effect, and renewed balance, and is directly related to reincarnation.
Reincarnation and karma — hope and responsibility — are simply two keys that help to unlock the great mysteries (W. Q. J.). You may not know enough about either to believe in them, but you cannot live without hope and self-concern. Actually, there is very little we know about anything, even cause and effect, our own world and ourselves.
But we have learned enough about life to know that we must eat our own food and breathe our own air — and no one can do it for us. Therefore, say the Teachings, each one of us is a part of the vast universe, a part that no one else can replace. We must do our own work because no one can do it for us. But we can only do that work because of all the work that others have done before us — and do ours so that those who follow us can do theirs. Nor can we fail so long as we try again to do that work, and hopefully do it better.
And in this world, of which we are an essential responsible part, there are most obviously degrees of creative intelligence, power and beauty that we can hardly understand. But this perfection reflects clearly to us from the lives of men who have gone before us, who are greater than we are and in reality are always living among us. They fire our hearts, our imaginations, our minds. They sing our songs, paint our pictures, pioneer us from the known to the unknown. They are our Teachers of the art and science of daily living. They hold our hands; They guide us on. They light our path through joy and sorrow, war and peace. They have given us laws and principles — laws like the Beatitudes, the 10 Commandments of the Old Testament, the sacred precepts of Buddha, the Commandments of the Temple. These precepts did not evolve by trial and error any more than does man. They are no more subject to referendum or committees or votes than are gravity or electricity. These are not word-bound directions requiring intellectual or material epitomes. They are what we have always recognized as a power greater than ourselves — a Father/Mother Love surrounding us as sunlight, though some may turn it into fear and vengeance.
The Teachings of the Temple exist to be studied for answers to the how and why and what and when and where for all of us — day-by-day answers to pain and suffering, expressions of joy and beauty, as all of us constantly change. Always do the Teachings point out the next step and always with love and concern, wisdom, service and enduring sacrifice. No one anywhere is a stranger to this guidance; it powers all life. And that is why you are already well into the Teachings of the Temple, known to you by whatever name or act.
If this letter has helped you along, it is because of its truth, which you have recognized because of the authority within yourself.