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Vague Religious Feeling.—Fig. 14 shows us another shapeless rolling cloud, but this time it is blue instead of crimson. It betokens that vaguely pleasurable religious feeling—a sensation of devoutness rather than of devotion—which is so common among those in whom piety is more developed than intellect. In many a church one may see a great cloud of deep dull blue floating over the heads of the congregation—indefinite in outline, because of the indistinct nature of the thoughts and feelings which cause it; flecked too often with brown and grey, because ignorant devotion absorbs with deplorable facility the dismal tincture of selfishness or fear; but none the less adumbrating a mighty potentiality of the future, manifesting to our eyes the first faint flutter of one at least of the twin wings of devotion and wisdom, by the use of which the soul flies upward to God from whom it came.
FIG. 14. Vague Religious Feeling
Strange is it to note under what varied circumstances this vague blue cloud may be seen; and oftentimes its absence speaks more loudly than its presence. For in many a fashionable place of worship we seek it in vain, and find instead of it a vast conglomeration of thought-forms of that second type which take the shape of material objects. Instead of tokens of devotion, we see floating above the "worshippers" the astral images of hats and bonnets, of jewellery and gorgeous dresses, of horses and of carriages, of whisky-bottles and of Sunday dinners, and sometimes of whole rows of intricate calculations, showing that men and women alike have had during their supposed hours of prayer and praise no thoughts but of business or of pleasure, of the desires or the anxieties of the lower form of mundane existence.
Yet sometimes in a humbler fane, in a church belonging to the unfashionable Catholic or Ritualist, or even in a lowly meeting-house where there is but little of learning or of culture, one may watch the deep blue clouds rolling ceaselessly eastward towards the altar, or upwards, testifying at least to the earnestness and the reverence of those who give them birth. Rarely—very rarely—among the clouds of blue will flash like a lance cast by the hand of a giant such a thought-form as is shown in Fig. 15; or such a flower of self-renunciation as we see in Fig. 16 may float before our ravished eyes; but in most cases we must seek elsewhere for these signs of a higher development.
Upward Rush of Devotion.—The form in Fig. 15 bears much the same relation to that of Fig. 14 as did the clearly outlined projectile of Fig. 10 to the indeterminate cloud of Fig. 8. We could hardly have a more marked contrast than that between the inchoate flaccidity of the nebulosity in Fig. 14 and the virile vigour of the splendid spire of highly developed devotion which leaps into being before us in Fig. 15. This is no uncertain half-formed sentiment; it is the outrush into manifestation of a grand emotion rooted deep in the knowledge of fact. The man who feels such devotion as this is one who knows in whom he has believed; the man who makes such a thought-form as this is one who has taught himself how to think. The determination of the upward rush points to courage as well as conviction, while the sharpness of its outline shows the clarity of its creator's conception, and the peerless purity of its colour bears witness to his utter unselfishness.
FIG. 15. Upward Rush of Devotion
The Response to Devotion.—In Fig. 17 we see the result of his thought—the response of the Logos to the appeal made to Him, the truth which underlies the highest and best part of the persistent belief in an answer to prayer. It needs a few words of explanation. On every plane of His solar system our Logos pours forth His light, His power, His life, and naturally it is on the higher planes that this outpouring of divine strength can be given most fully. The descent from each plane to that next below it means an almost paralysing limitation—a limitation entirely incomprehensible except to those who have experienced the higher possibilities of human consciousness. Thus the divine life flows forth with incomparably greater fulness on the mental plane than on the astral; and yet even its glory at the mental level is ineffably transcended by that of the buddhic plane. Normally each of these mighty waves of influence spreads about its appropriate plane—horizontally, as it were—but it does not pass into the obscuration of a plane lower than that for which it was originally intended.
FIG. 17. Response to Devotion
Yet there are conditions under which the grace and strength peculiar to a higher plane may in a measure be brought down to a lower one, and may spread abroad there with wonderful effect. This seems to be possible only when a special channel is for the moment opened; and that work must be done from below and by the effort of man. It has before been explained that whenever a man's thought or feeling is selfish, the energy which it produces moves in a close curve, and thus inevitably returns and expends itself upon its own level; but when the thought or feeling is absolutely unselfish, its energy rushes forth in an open curve, and thus does not return in the ordinary sense, but pierces through into the plane above, because only in that higher condition, with its additional dimension, can it find room for its expansion. But in thus breaking through, such a thought or feeling holds open a door (to speak symbolically) of dimension equivalent to its own diameter, and thus furnishes the requisite channel through which the divine force appropriate to the higher plane can pour itself into the lower with marvellous results, not only for the thinker but for others. An attempt is made in Fig. 17 to symbolise this, and to indicate the great truth that an infinite flood of the higher type of force is always ready and waiting to pour through when the channel is offered, just as the water in a cistern may be said to be waiting to pour through the first pipe that may be opened.
The result of the descent of divine life is a very great strengthening and uplifting of the maker of the channel, and the spreading all about him of a most powerful and beneficent influence. This effect has often been called an answer to prayer, and has been attributed by the ignorant to what they call a "special interposition of Providence," instead of to the unerring action of the great and immutable divine law.
Self-Renunciation.—Fig. 16 gives us yet another form of devotion, producing an exquisitely beautiful form of a type quite new to us—a type in which one might at first sight suppose that various graceful shapes belonging to animate nature were being imitated. Fig. 16, for example, is somewhat suggestive of a partially opened flower-bud, while other forms are found to bear a certain resemblance to shells or leaves or tree-shapes. Manifestly, however, these are not and cannot be copies of vegetable or animal forms, and it seems probable that the explanation of the similarity lies very much deeper than that. An analogous and even more significant fact is that some very complex thought-forms can be exactly imitated by the action of certain mechanical forces, as has been said above. While with our present knowledge it would be unwise to attempt a solution of the very fascinating problem presented by these remarkable resemblances, it seems likely that we are obtaining a glimpse across the threshold of a very mighty mystery, for if by certain thoughts we produce a form which has been duplicated by the processes of nature, we have at least a presumption that these forces of nature work along lines somewhat similar to the action of those thoughts. Since the universe is itself a mighty thought-form called into existence by the Logos, it may well be that tiny parts of it are also the thought-forms of minor entities engaged in the same work; and thus perhaps we may approach a comprehension of what is meant by the three hundred and thirty million Devas of the Hindus.
FIG. 16. Self-Renunciation
This form is of the loveliest pale azure, with a glory of white light shining through it—something indeed to tax the skill even of the indefatigable artist who worked so hard to get them as nearly right as possible. It is what a Catholic would call a definite "act of devotion"—better still, an act of utter selflessness, of self-surrender and renunciation.
Links to Additional Media for Thought Forms by Annie Besant such as audio and ebooks are located at the bottom of this web page.