The Hill of Discernment

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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

Questions and Answers

The Ego Of A Mentally Deficient Person

QUESTION: In The Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, page 224, in connexion with the functions of Jiva, H. P. B., quoting partly from a work on Occult Embryology, says: " '. . . in man, the germ must receive the fruition of all the five [principles of the Spirits of the Earth]. Otherwise he will be born no higher than an animal'; namely, a congenital idiot." Can the Ego of a mentally deficient person progress and after several incarnations become normal, or will it remain eternally deficient?

ANSWER: The question is not easy to understand: I would like to put it to you in this way: What is the cause of idiots, of people who are born into the world mentally deficient, and what hope is there for them? Why are parents called upon to bear the karma of the suffering associated with bringing such children into the world, and is the condition one which may be said to be due to the extreme youth or the very early stages of the evolution of the entity imbodied in the condition of an idiot?

The answer of Theosophy is that evolution itself produces normal people. In other words, if you could observe the first incarnation of an entity after it had emerged from the animal kingdom, it would not be an idiot! Certainly not. It would be a man, and it would be a normal man — as normal as any one of the members of a savage race at the present time. It might not (and would not) be highly developed from an intellectual or spiritual point of view, but nevertheless it would not be a congenital idiot, or anything approaching it.

Therefore we come back to the question: What has happened to an entity that it should lose all the higher directive processes of the mind so that it is virtually irresponsible in this life? I must say at once that there can be more than one reason, obviously, but that in the majority of cases there is no ego — that is no reincarnating Ego — associated with the congenital idiot. This is an important point. In other words there are certain entities who are bereft of their higher spiritual principles, who, as a matter of fact, reincarnate until finally they disintegrate altogether; but this is not a normal process of evolution at all; it is a disintegrating process, and the entity concerned will not improve. That is as I understand it. There may be — and I must cover this one point — there may be cases where a reincarnating Ego has done so many things against the laws of harmony of the Universe and against his fellow-men, committed in fact so many crimes that there comes a time when the retributive Law is so heavy that in a particular incarnation he may have such an impaired mechanism as to be very close to something that is called mental deficiency. But, it would not be true, in such a case, to say that in later incarnations it is impossible for him to improve, because if the Ego has a modicum of control over its vehicles of consciousness it can work through this condition; pay, as it were, a great debt to Nature by its suffering; and in the next incarnation, free of a large measure of its burden, it can go ahead and make progress.

QUESTION: An incarnation of the Ego would be simply lost?

ANSWER: Not in the case last spoken of, but in the case of the congenital idiot, born as such, then I suggest to you that there is no reincarnating Ego at all.

QUESTION: In an article in Lucifer, July, 1933, it is said that idiocy is usually the result of evil done in the past, and that when that incarnation is finished the Ego will be reborn in a normal body in the next life, but probably very low in the human scale.

ANSWER: The Ego will be reborn low in the scale of life. Why is this so stated? If you will put this statement side by side with the explanation I have tried to give you, I think you will find that it is the Monad (which is never destroyed) which is reborn low in the scale of life. This will be very difficult for those who hear Theosophy for the first time to understand, so I must try to give you just a very brief picture of what man is. We have a spiritual pole of our being — that which we call the Monad; we have an intellectual part, the real man; and we have the material body. Now it is the middle principle which suffers in human life, which is, as it were, crucified upon the cross of matter, and which is endeavoring to purify itself and rise into union with its own Divinity — the spiritual part of its being. Now then, the normal man, the physical body and the personality, are over-shadowed by the spirit which is all the time illuminating it, directing it. But where, as a result of evil living this higher spirit is forfeited, then you may get a degenerating condition which results in the birth of a congenital idiot. What happens to the Divine Monad, the spiritual part of that entity? One of these days it reincarnates, and it is this that Dr. de Purucker refers to as beginning once again in a low state of the human family. I think you will find that to be the explanation.


QUESTION: In the case of so-called spirit return, must the entity necessarily be entirely of a personal character and unlovable? Supposing anything in that return represented something of a human characteristic that was superior to that of the materialistic on this plane, would you change your theories to fit the facts or the facts to fit the theories?

ANSWER: There is no necessity for a Theosophist to seek refuse in either of these dubious alternatives. It is simply a question of being able to apply the appropriate esoteric law to the understanding of any particular psychic phenomenon. There are various types of spiritualistic phenomena, and there are cases in which it is possible for a higher type of spiritual communication to result. It must be stated, however, that the majority of cases of so-called spirit return will be found to be mere spooks, the lower personal parts of ex-human entities. But there are important exceptions, such as those who suffer death prematurely by accident or violence. Some of these can be made to communicate, and may produce a more human document. You will remember that another category is when a pure sensitive is able to raise his or her consciousness to that of the spiritual part of the departed entity. I will venture to suggest to the questioner that one of the superior type of communications that bh refers to can be and often is the result. But there are a variety of such communications, and I will go further and warn you that the number of different categories of spiritualistic and psychic phenomena is legion — you can never come to the end of them. For this reason we can only cover them all in a general way in trying to understand them from a Theosophical point of view; but if specific accuracy is required, then each case has to be considered in detail with all the attendant circumstances.

Neither the spiritualistic medium nor the psychic researcher is in a position to be able to prove with certainty the nature and identity of those who communicate. They masquerade under all sorts of names — generally high-sounding ones — but who can prove that these people are the entities they claim to be? It is generally accepted by spiritualists that frequently there is considerable evidence of personal identification available. It is in fact sufficient to convince the sitters that they are in contact with the person they knew in life. Spiritualists for the most part are entirely unwilling to concede that the spook is capable of giving just that kind of evidence of personal identity under the psychic stimulus of the medium.

But here is the importance of the question that we are considering. Occasionally you find something logical, philosophical, and — let us give them for the moment the fullest possible credit and say spiritual as well. How are you going to account for this kind of communication, you Theosophists? Are there not entities besides discarnate ex-human creatures? Of course there are. There are different kinds of spiritual beings across the gulf of death, and others who are self-conscious, but not necessarily spiritual, but nevertheless able to exert a controlling influence. There is no time to do more than name some of them. There are Nirmanakayas, who have been known to influence pure sensitives dedicated to a high spiritual purpose. There are Adepts of both the right and the left-hand, exerting their occult powers behind the scenes. As an example of this type readers would find it worth while to study the case of Stainton Moses in The Mahatma Letters, where there would seem to be ground for thinking that the "Imperator" of the early days of his mediumship was actually a living Adept who had permitted his beneficent influence to be interpreted by Stainton Moses as a Spirit guide. Again there are elementaries, i. e., self-conscious personal entities devoid of their higher principles. They are often extremely intellectual, though their influence is necessarily evil. The reader will be further repaid for referring to the standard Theosophical works for the phenomena associated with the different types of conscious beings just mentioned. Enough has been said to indicate the complexity of the subject, and the number of "theories," or as we prefer to say the number of "Laws" in the Esoteric philosophy which have to be correctly understood and applied to the elucidation of the so-called "facts" of spirit return.


QUESTION: I have understood that the Guru takes on himself the karma of the chela. Why and how is this possible; and if possible, is this not taking away the chela's free will and karma; and so if the chela is deprived of his karma would it not make his karma still harder?

ANSWER: This question of the Guru's being said to take upon himself the karma of his pupil can possibly give rise to a wrong conception. I believe the true understanding of this point is simply this, that when a Teacher begins to transfer to the consciousness of the pupil some of the occult truths of Nature, be becomes responsible if the pupil should make a wrong use of that knowledge to his own detriment and to the detriment of humanity in general. It is in that sense that a Teacher takes upon himself a very heavy responsibility indeed, and that is why such rigorous testing and training is demanded before it is thought safe for the Mahatma to make the close bonds between pupil and Teacher. It is not that he takes upon himself all the ordinary karma of the pupil; but on the contrary, if you look in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, page 310, it says that if we all had scavengers to go behind us and clear up the ill effects of our rashness or presumption, the path of chelaship would be altogether too easy. They only help their chelas when the chelas are entirely innocent of the causes which landed them into difficulty. If by any chance any of us get into the situation where we could misuse knowledge that had been transferred to us, then we also have a very heavy responsibility and we don't lose any of that responsibility.

QUESTION: It seems to me that the question of gurus and chelas may be considered as a relative one; sometimes the chelas may have to act as teachers, i. e., gurus, though not of the same degree as the further developed gurus. My main contention would thus be, that as soon as the higher part, the spiritual or leading part, in the nature of an individual is awakened or aroused to conscious activity by the influence of another being, that other being is in the position of a guru in relation to his follower. Is that right?

ANSWER: This is a rather thorny subject in some ways. A great deal depends on how you use this word 'guru.' There is one sense, however, in which I can agree with the questioner, and that is the sense in which Mr. Judge described the Guruparampara-chain, that chain which even includes our school-teachers, who in this sense are part of the golden chain of teachers from whom we receive something. Now, if you want to understand it in that way, then anybody from whom you learn anything is in a position of a guru, the idea being that we should always treat such teachers with respect, so that we may learn from them in the best way. But if it is understood that anybody who is engaged in Theosophical work and who perhaps may be only the chairman of a study-class, is in the relationship of a guru to the other students — well, except in the case that has just been mentioned, the Guruparampara-chain, there seems to me to be danger in that idea. If we people who are at best what H. P. B. called pupil-teachers, those having no right to dogmatize, adopt the role of guru, then many troubles can arise in the Theosophical Movement. There are a lot of these gurus loose in the world. I think it should be clearly understood that Theosophical lecturers, whether National Presidents or otherwise, are simply transmitters of information to the best of their spiritual ability; but they do not take the position of guru. That position is reserved, and very properly so, to the Leader of the Society who takes upon himself the role of Teacher, and declares that he has been authorized to teach. The rest of us who are not so authorized, but in whom the spiritual light has penetrated to some extent the lower darkness, can also help in our own spheres and become transmitters of light to others. But there is a disease called 'guru-fever,' and it is a very difficult complaint to cure!


QUESTION: How can one give implicit obedience to the Teacher and yet keep one's own freedom of thought and intuition alive?

ANSWER: I will suggest that there is only one real way that it can be done, and that is by the recognition that the Initiator, and therefore the Teacher of every Initiate, is the Lord of Splendor and Light within, and that this Higher Principle or Self is one with any external Teacher. Therefore the answer to this problem — and it is a problem with many people — is simply that they must live in terms of, and under the illumination and inspiration of the higher part of their being, and if they do not believe that this can be done; if they think it is an impossibility; then they will lose their freedom; then they will sacrifice their intuition; and their last state I do not think will be any better than their first — and possibly a little worse.

I have seen too many instances of people being told to go and do something, merely to see what they would do in these interesting circumstances. I think it is a matter for the exercise of the highest and most constant discrimination; I think that the most important thing of all is that we should have our own light from within ourselves on any problem that besets us, and I believe that the granting of that light, the finding of it, and the preserving of it, depends upon believing in its reality; aspiring towards it; living in terms of its behests; looking for its guidance within our own heart and nowhere outside ourself; and I believe that that is, in a nutshell, the essence of the true occult Path — I believe it is verily so; and if we do that, then we shall understand what is meant by the Teacher in an entirely different way from what is ordinarily understood.


QUESTION: How is it possible to prevent the Theosophical Society from degenerating into a sect?

ANSWER: There can be no doubt whatever that the Theosophical Movement as originally conceived by the Masters who were responsible for it, has definitely changed its objectives. You cannot alter that fact. Read your Mahatma Letters — read the original objectives of the Theosophical Society, and you will find that there were the strictest possible rules laid down that even Theosophy — their own teaching — should not be the one and only thing, so to speak, that was taught. In other words that people must be left entirely free to believe in whatever religion or philosophy they choose: and any Officer in the Society in his capacity as such, who expressed or showed a preference for one kind of philosophy or religion rather more than another, could be expelled. The situation, therefore, has really changed, because today the Theosophical Society is a body of students studying one set of books and teaching. H. P. B.'s life was spent in trying to prevent that: she did not want that apparently — at least we have the evidence of the early part of the Movement, showing that Olcott and H. P. B., under direct supervision of the Masters, were constantly at work keeping an open platform, on which all men of goodwill, of any religious persuasion, could come together, express their ideas, and learn to live side by side as brothers.

Well now, of course that policy has certain grave difficulties — it is extremely difficult. It was possibly because the Theosophical Society as it originated, was so broad that it opened the door for all sorts of abuses to creep in. It is an almost impossible task to keep an open platform successfully, and the only hope of doing so is a very strongly established esoteric nucleus, who would be sufficiently highly trained, and have sufficient practical knowledge, that they could really keep the lamp of the Ancient Wisdom alight, in the midst of that collection of men and women that constitute the main body of the Society.

Now, how are you going to prevent the sectarian spirit arising? I can only suggest this to you: by a definite recognition that there are other Theosophists in the world, of other Societies, who are at least as worthy of respect as the members of our own Society are — I go further and suggest there are many we might even emulate. I think that is the first step upon the Path to non-sectarianism. If you cannot admit that hypothesis then you are sectarian to begin with. If you do not admit that there are men and women who are just as good Theosophists as we are, and probably better — at least possibly so; if you do not admit it as a possibility, then you are sectarian. If you believe that the members of any one Church or body are the only ones who are really and truly on the right path, that is sectarian — no question about it. And I will go still further and say that there are bodies of students and instructed individuals quite outside of the organized Theosophical Societies altogether; and that a recognition of this third fact is absolutely essential if you want a non-sectarian point of view. As a matter of fact it is largely because a sectarian viewpoint insensibly grows up in the modern Theosophical Movement that makes what Theosophists like to call 'the outside world' fight shy of them, because they think that they are in some way superior; and the result is that the other people say: "Well, all right, have it your own way. Think about it as you like, but we feel that perhaps you are not doing as much in the world, and creating as great an impression, and doing what you might do, because you have this viewpoint." Remember the words of Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita:

In whatever way men approach me, in that way do I assist them; but whatever the path taken by mankind, that path is mine.



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