The "Elixir of Life"

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The "Elixir of Life" is an article written by Godolphin Mitford and originally published in two installments in The Theosophist on March and April 1882.

Publication history

  • The Theosophist on March 1882, Part 1, pp. 140-142.
  • The Theosophist on April 1882, Part 2, 168-171.
  • "Five Years of Theosophy" (1885 edition) pp 1-32.

Online publication

Repercussions

Some readers took exception of a number of remarks published in this article. This lead to the publication of the article Is The Desire To Live Selfish? by H. P. Blavatsky

References in The Mahatma Letters

In The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett we find some references to this article.

In Letter No. 49 the Mahatma K.H. tells Mr. Sinnett:

You will find in the forth-coming number, two articles which you must read, I need not tell you why, as I leave it with your intuitions. As usual, it is an indiscretion, which however, I have allowed to remain as there are few, if any, who will understand the hint contained — but you. There are more than one such hint though; hence your attention is asked to the “Elixir of Life” and W. Oxley’s “Philosophy of Spirit.” The former contains references and explanations, the haziness of which may remind you of a man who stealthily approaching one gives him a hit upon his back, and then runs away; as they most undeniably belong to the genus of those “Fortunes” that come to one like the thief by night and during one’s sleep, and go back, finding no one to respond to the offer — of which you complain in your letter to Brother. This time, you are warned, good friend, so complain no more.[1]

In Letter No. 74 Master K.H. refers to the article in answer to Mr. Hume, who had been complaining about Master M.'s "anger":

Would you think more of him, were he to conceal his anger; to lie to himself and the outsiders, and so permit them to credit him with a virtue he has not? If it is a meritorious act to extirpate with the roots all feelings of anger, so as to never feel the slightest paroxysm of a passion we all consider sinful, it is a still greater sin with us to pretend that it is so extirpated. Please read over the "Elixir of Life" No. 2 (April, p. 169 col. 1, paras. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). And yet in the ideas of the West, everything is brought down to appearances even in religion.[2]

The fragment referred to by the Master is the following:

Next comes meat-eating, and for the very same reason, in a minor degree. It increases the rapidity of life, the energy of action, the violence of passions. It may be good for a hero who has to fight and die, but not for a would-be sage, who has to exist and . . . .


Next in order come the sexual desires; for these, in addition to the great diversion of energy (vital force) into other channels, in many different ways, beyond the primary one (as, for instance, the waste of energy in expectation, jealousy, &c.) are direct attractions to a certain gross quality of the original matter of the Universe, simply because the most pleasurable physical sensations are only possible at that stage of density. Alongside with and extending beyond all these and other gratifications of the senses (which include not only those things usually known as "vicious," but all those which, though ordinarily regarded as "innocent," have yet the disqualification of ministering to the pleasures of the body - the most harmless to others and the least "gross" being the criterion for those to be last abandoned in each case) - must be carried on the moral purification.
Nor must it be imagined that "austerities" as commonly understood can, in the majority of cases, avail much to hasten the "etherealizing" process. That is the rock on which many of the Eastern esoteric sects have foundered, and the reason why they have degenerated into degrading superstitions. The Western monks and the Eastern Yogees, who think they will reach the apex of powers by concentrating their thought on their navel, or by standing on one leg, are practicing exercises which serve no other purpose than to strengthen the will-power, which is sometimes applied to the basest purposes. These are examples of this one-sided and dwarf development. It is no use to fast as long as you require food. The ceasing of desire fro food without impairment of health is the sign which indicates that it should be taken in lesser and ever decreasing quantities until the extreme limit compatible with life is reached. A stage will be finally attained where only water will be required.
Nor is it of any use for this particular purpose of longevity to abstain from immorality so long as you are craving for it in your heart; and so on with all other unsatisfied inward cravings. To get rid of the inward desire is the essential thing, and to mimic the real thing without it is barefaced hypocrisy and useless slavery.
So it must be with the moral purification of the heart. The "basest" inclinations must go first - then the others. First avarice, then fear, then envy, worldly pride, uncharitableness, hatred; last of all ambition and curiosity must be abandoned successively. The strengthening of the more ethereal and so-called "spiritual" parts of man must go on at the same time. Reasoning from the known to the unknown, meditation must be practiced and encouraged. Meditation is the inexpressible yearning of the inner Man to "go out towards the infinite," which in the olden time was the real meaning of adoration, but which has now no synonym in the European languages, because the thing no longer exists in the West, and its name has been vulgarized to the make-believe shams known as prayer, glorification, and repentance. Through all stages of training the equilibrium of the consciousness - the assurance that all must be right in the Kosmos, and therefore with you a portion of it - must be retained. The process of life must not be hurried but retarded, if possible; to do otherwise may do good to others - perhaps even to yourself in other spheres, but it will hasten your dissolution in this.

Nor must the externals be neglected in this first stage. Remember that an adept, though "existing" so as to convey to ordinary minds the idea of his being immortal, is not also invulnerable to agencies from without. The training to prolong life does not, in itself, secure one from accidents. As far as any physical preparation goes, the sword may still cut, the disease enter, the poison disarrange. This case is very clearly and beautifully put in "Zanoni," and it is correctly put and must be so, unless all "adeptism" is a baseless lie. The adept may be more secure from ordinary dangers than the common mortal, but he is so by virtue of the superior knowledge, calmness, coolness and penetration which his lengthened existence and its necessary concomitants have enabled him to acquire; not by virtue of any preservative power in the process itself. He is secure as a man armed with a rifle is more secure than a naked baboon; not secure in the sense in which the deva (god) was supposed to be securer than a man.

Notes

  1. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 49 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 137.
  2. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 74 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 224.