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Why Does Pain Exist?

To admit, as do certain ignorant fatalists, that the Universe was
created by the stroke of some magic wand, and that each planet,
kingdom, and being is condemned, so to speak, to a definite
crystallisation in the state in which it has pleased God to fix it; to
admit that the mineral will remain a mineral throughout eternity, that
the vegetable will ever reproduce the same types, that the animal will
definitely be confined to his instincts and impulses, without the
hope, some day, of developing the superior mentality of his torturers
in human form; to admit that man will never be anything but man,
i.e., a being in whom the passions have full play whereas the
virtues are scarcely born; to admit that there is no final
goal--perfection, the divine state--to crown man's labour; all this is
to refuse to recognise evolution, to deny the progress everywhere
apparent, to set divine below human justice; blasphemy, in a word.

It has been said by unthinking Christians that evidently God created
human suffering, so that those might gain Heaven who, but for this
suffering, would have no right to it. To speak thus is to represent
the Supreme Goodness in a very unworthy aspect and to attribute the
most gratuitous cruelty to Divine Justice. When, too, we see that this
absurd reasoning explains neither the sufferings of animals, which
have no right to enjoy the felicity of heaven, they say, nor the
fact[10] that "there are many called but few chosen," nor the saying
that "outside the Church there is no salvation," although for ages
past God has caused millions of men to be born in countries where the
Gospel has not been preached, we shall not be astonished to find that
those who arrogate to themselves a monopoly of Truth bring forward
none but arguments of childish folly in support of their claims.

Generally, however, it is original sin that is advanced as the cause
of suffering.

The absurdity of this doctrine is so apparent that it has lost all
credence by enlightened members of the Christian faith. First of all,
it does not explain the sufferings of animals, which have had no
participation in this sin, nor does it account for the unequal
distribution of pain amongst men themselves. This sin being the same
for all at birth,[11] punishment ought to have been equally severe for
all, and we ought not to see such frightful disproportions as are to
be found in the condition of children who have not attained to the age
of reason, i.e., of responsibility. Saint Augustine felt the weight
of this consideration; he reflected long on this torturing problem:

"When I come to consider the sufferings of children," he says,
"believe me, I am in a state of terrible perplexity. I have no wish
whatever to speak only of the punishment inflicted on them after this
life by eternal damnation to which they are of necessity condemned if
they have left their bodies without receiving the sacrament of Christ,
but of the pains they endure in this present life, under our very
eyes. Did I wish to examine these sufferings, time would fail me
rather than instances thereof; they languish in sickness, are torn by
pain, tortured by hunger and thirst, weakened in their organs,
deprived of their senses, and sometimes tormented by unclean beings. I
should have to show how they can with justice be subjected to such
things, at a time when they are yet without sin. It cannot be said
that they suffer unknown to God or that God can do nothing against
their tormentors, nor that He can create or allow unjust punishment.
When men suffer, we say they are being punished for their crimes, but
this can be applied only to adults. As children have in them no sin
capable of meriting so terrible a punishment, tell me what answer can
be given?"

The answer, indeed, cannot be made that original sin is capable of
explaining this unequal retribution; but then, ought not the very
absurdity of the consequences due to such sin to justify one in
refusing to examine this argument? What soul could admit that the
innocent should be punished for the guilty? Does human justice, in
spite of its imperfection, punish the offspring of criminals? Can the
millions of descendants of the mythical Adam have been chastised for a
crime in which they have had no share? And would this chastisement,
multiplied millions of times without the faintest reason, never have
stirred the conscience of the Church? Saint Augustine could not make
up his mind to accuse God of injustice; so, to avoid disputing the
truth of the Christian teaching in which he wholly believed, he
invented his famous theory of "generation," often called

Men suffer because of original sin, he says, but it would not be just
of God to punish them for this, had they not shared therein[12];
this, indeed, they have done, for the soul of a man was not created
directly, by God, at the moment of the birth of the body; it is a
branch taken from the soul of his father, as the latter's comes from
that of his parents; thus, ascending the genealogical chain, we see
that all souls issue from that of the common father of mankind:

So that Saint Augustine preferred to deny the creation of souls and to
derive them from the soul of Adam, through a successive progeny of
human vehicles, rather than to allow God to be charged with injustice.
We are not called upon to demonstrate the falsity of his hypothesis,
which the Church has been forced to condemn, though without replacing
it with a better theory; all the same, if human souls suffer from a
sin in which they have not individually and consciously
participated--and such is the case, for even granting that translation
be a fact, these souls existed in Adam only potentially, as
unconscious, undeveloped germs, when the sin took place--their
punishment is none the less arbitrary and revolting. Saint Augustine
believed he was justifying Providence; he succeeded only in deceiving
his own reason and revolted sense of justice, but he preferred by
suggestion to deceive himself to such an extent as to believe in the
reality of his desire rather than enrol himself against the Church.

In order to reconcile divine Justice with the injustice of punishing
all for the fault of one alone, the theologians also said: "Adam
sinned, his sin has been distributed over the whole of his race, but
God, by sending down his son, instituted baptism; and the waters of
the sacrament wash the stains of original sin from the souls of men."

This reply is as childish as the former. As a matter of fact,
according to the Church, about four thousand years intervened between
the sin of Adam and the coming of the Redeemer, and so only after that
interval did the souls of the just, who were waiting in the Life
Beyond for the coming of the Messiah, enter Paradise!

Would not this delay in itself be an injustice? Ought not baptism to
have been instituted immediately after the sin, and should it not have
been placed within the reach of all? Besides, do we not see that even
in our days, two thousand years after the coming of the Christ,
millions of human beings are born and die without ever having heard of
the existence of this sacrament. This part of the argument is too
puerile to dwell upon at length, but we will spend a few moments on it
to show definitely how powerless this theory is to explain evil.

Before teaching the doctrine of "Limbo," the Church accepted the idea
of the damnation of children who died without being baptised, as we
have just seen in the case of Saint Augustine.[14] Bossuet, with
incredible blindness, also accepted it; and, sad to relate, his reason
did not feel called upon to furnish an explanation which would justify
Providence, as was the case with Saint Augustine. He rejected
"translation," and discovered nothing with which to veil the

On this point the following is a faithful resume of his letter to
Pope Innocent XII.:

The damnation of children who have died without being
baptised must be firmly believed by the Church. They are
guilty because they are born under the wrath of God and in
the power of Darkness. Children of wrath by nature, objects
of hatred and aversion, hurled into Hell with the rest of
the damned, they will remain there for all eternity punished
by the horrible vengeance of the Demon.

Such also are the decisions of the learned Denis Petau, the
most eminent Bellarmin, the Councils of Lyons, of Florence,
and of Trent; for these things are not decided by human
considerations, but by the authority of tradition and of the

Such logic makes one really doubt human reason, and reminds one of the
spirit with which the courts of the Holy Inquisition were inspired.
Where in Nature can there be found such lack of proportion between
cause and effect, crime and punishment? Have such arguments ever been
justified by the voice of conscience?

Official Christianity remains powerless to explain suffering. Let us
see what we can learn from the philosophies and religions of the past
and the greatest of modern philosophers, as well as from the admirable
resumes of Teachers of theosophy.

The problem of suffering is one with that of life, i.e., with that
of evolution in general. The object of the successive worlds is the
creation of millions of centres of consciousness in the germinal state
(souls) and the transformation of these germs into divinities
similar to their father, God. This is the divine multiplication,
creating innumerable "gods," in God.

To produce divine germs, homogeneous Unity must limit its immensity
and create within itself the diversity of matter, of form. This can
be obtained by the creation of "multiplicity" and by the "limitation"
of what might be called a portion of Divinity. Now, limitation implies
imperfection, both general and individual, i.e., suffering; and
multiplicity implies diversity of needs and interests, forced
submission to the general law i.e., suffering again. That the divine
germs may evolve, their potentialities must be awakened by their
surroundings; in other words, by the action of the "opposites," and
sensation must come into being; the action of the opposites on
sensation is also a cause of pain.

Outside of the unknown Being--which will be known at the end of
evolution--nothing can be. Everything is in Him. He is all; the
worlds, time and space are "aspects" which He assumes from time to
time[15]; for this reason it has been said that the Universe is an
illusion, which may be expressed more clearly by saying that it is an
illusion to believe that what exists is not one form of divine
activity, an "aspect" of God.

That anything may exist, or rather that aspects of God may appear,
there must be manifested in Him a special mode of being, to call
forth what we designate as multiplicity.

That multiplicity[16] may be manifest, differences must be produced in
Unity; these differences in the world are the "pairs of
opposites"--the contraries. These contraries are everywhere.

Matter is the fulcrum of force--both of these terms being "aspects" of
God--and without a fulcrum no force can manifest itself; there is no
heat without cold, and when it is summer in the northern hemisphere it
is winter in the southern. There is no movement that does not depend
upon a state of rest, no light without shadow, no pleasure without the
faculty of pain, no freedom that is not founded upon necessity, no
good that does not betoken an evil.

The following are a few examples of duality taken from nature. The
current of electricity is polarised into a positive and a negative
current. It is the same with the magnet; though you break a bar into a
hundred pieces, you bring into being a hundred small magnets, each
possessing its positive and negative side; you will not have destroyed
the "duality," the opposites.

Like the magnet, the solar spectrum forms two series, separated by a
neutral point, the blue series and the red one, united by the


Indigo. Yellow.
Blue. Orange.
Green. Red.

The terms of the two series are respectively complimentary to each
other; the violet dominates the two groups of opposites and is a
visible member of the axis formed by the colours that might be called

Duality appears in every shape and form.

Symbolically, we may say with the Hindus that the Universe begins and
ends with two opposite movements: an emanation from Brahma, it is born
when the breast of God sends forth the heavenly outbreathing, it dies,
reabsorbed, when the universal inbreathing takes place. These
movements produce attraction and repulsion, the aggregation and
dissolution to be found everywhere. It is the attraction of a
force-centre, the "laya centre" of Theosophy, which permits of the
atomic condensation that gives it the envelope whose soul it is; when
its cycle of activity ends, attraction gives place to repulsion, the
envelope is destroyed by the return of its constituent elements to the
source from which they were drawn, and the soul is liberated until a
future cycle of activity begins.

Even the rhythm of pulmonary respiration, the contraction and dilation
(systole and diastole) of the heart, the ebb and flow of the tides, as
also day and night, sleeping and waking, summer and winter, life and
death, are all products of that law of contraries which rules

These "opposites" are the very essence of cosmic life, the twin
pillars of universal equilibrium; they have been represented in
Solomon's symbolical temple--here, the Universe--by Jakin and Boaz,
the white and the black columns; they are also the interlaced
triangles of "Solomon's Seal," the six-pointed star, the two Old Men
of the Kabbalah, the white Jehovah and the black Jehovah; Eros and
Anteros, the serpents of Mercury's caduceus, the two Sphinxes of the
car of Osiris, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, the
Chinese "Yang" and "Yin," the goblet and staff of Tarot, man and
woman. All these images represent the same law.

Multiplicity, the fruit of the contraries, makes its appearance in the
forms born in infinite, homogeneous Being; its goal is the goal of
creation; the production, in infinite Being, of centres which are
developed by evolution and finally become gods in God. These centres,
or "souls," these points in the supreme Point, are divine in essence,
though, so far, they have no share at all in the perfection
"manifested" by God; they are all "centres," for God is a sphere,
whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere, but they have
not developed consciousness which is as yet only potential in them.
Like cuttings of willow which reproduce the mother-tree, these points,
veritable portions of God, are capable of germinating, growing up, and
becoming "I's," self-conscious beings, intelligent and endowed with
will-power, and finally gods, having developed the entire
potentialities of the All by their repeated imprisonment in the series
of forms that make up the visible and invisible kingdoms of nature.

Every form, i.e. aggregate of substance-force, reflects within
itself one of these points of Divinity. This point is its Monad, its
centre of consciousness, or soul; it is the cause which is manifested
as qualities in the envelopes, and these give it the illusion of
separateness for a certain period,[18] just as a soap-bubble
momentarily acquires a fictitious individuality and appears separate
from the atmosphere--of which it forms part--so long as its illusory
envelope endures.

Thus do men imagine themselves separate from one another, when all the
time their soul is nothing more than a drop of the divine Ocean,
hidden momentarily in a perishable body.

The "contraries" are the anvil and the hammer which slowly forge souls
by producing what might be called sensation in general, and sensation
is a fertile cause of suffering each time the vehicles of
consciousness receive vibrations that greatly exceed their fundamental
capacity of sensation. Without sensation however--consequently without
suffering--the body could neither walk,[19] nor see, nor hear, nor
show any disturbance brought to bear upon it; there would exist no
possible relation between the Universe and the "I," between the All
and the parts, between bodies and souls; there would be no
consciousness, or sensation of being, since no vibration from without
would find an echo in the incarnated "centres" of life; no knowledge
would be possible; man would be, as it were, in a state of
nothingness; and, without suspecting it, his body might at any moment
be crushed to the ground by the forces of Nature.

But these material necessities are not by any means the only ones that
demand sensation; without it, one of the principal objects of
evolution--the development of "Egos"--would be impossible. As an
example borrowed from the domain of physical sensation, we need only
call to memory a well-known experience in childhood.

All who have been at a boarding school know how heavy and fetid is the
atmosphere of a dormitory in the early winter morning, when fifty boys
have been breathing the same air again and again during the whole of
the night. And yet, who suspected this until he had gone out for a few
minutes and then returned to the bed-room? It needed the "contrary,"
the pure outside air, to make known the state of the atmosphere
inside. The contrast produced sensation--that nauseous, suffocating
impression of foul, mephitic air; suffering[20] generated knowledge of
the vitiated air; as the result of this influence, the "centre of
consciousness" felt itself an "I" distinct from its surroundings, and
its "self-consciousness" received a slight increase.

What might be called passional sensibility--desire, emotion,
impulse--is, like physical sensation, another indispensable factor in
evolution; it is the special element in the development of the animal
kingdom as well as of the less evolved portion of the human kingdom.

The young souls of mankind must receive the comparatively simple lessons
of sensation, desire, and passion, before beginning the far more
complicated study of mentality. But for desire, a host of needs could
not be manifested, numberless functions would remain inactive; the body
would not feed itself, and would die, were it not for hunger; danger
would not be fled from, but for the instinct of self-preservation; nor
without this would there be any propagation of the species. None the
less is this life of sensation the source of many evils; desire and
passion amongst human beings create terrible misery, fill prisons and
hospitals, and are at the root of all kinds of moral suffering. In its
turn, intelligence--that sensation so characteristic of the human
state--is both an indispensable necessity and the most fertile source of
evil, so long as it has not experienced a yearning for that inner
"divinity," deep in the heart of man, which calls to it. A powerful
lever of progress, it might convert this earth into a paradise, whereas
it is the weapon which the strong, in their egoism, use to crush the
feeble, a terrible weapon which either creates or intensifies all the
evils under which the people writhe in despair. Once it becomes the
instrument of a regenerate humanity, that is to say, when men have
become compassionate, loving, and devoted, then the social question will
cease to exist, and the old instrument of torture will become a pledge
of general happiness.

Even spiritual sensibility is a cause of suffering to some noble souls
who have developed it, for however deep the joy of loving and giving
oneself, intense too is the pain of witnessing the cruel drama of
life, that fratricidal struggle in which passion strikes without
mercy, whilst illusion and ignorance deal blows even more terrible,
for into the wounds they make they instil the poison of revolt and

The action of multiplicity, and of its creators, the "contraries,"
engenders still other causes of suffering. Every being lives both for
others and at their expense. For instance, physical bodies are obliged
to replace with food and nourishment those particles which the various
functions of life cause them to lose. The vegetable kingdom takes its
constituent elements from the mineral kingdom, and itself serves as
food for large portions of the animal kingdom; up to this point
physical pain has not manifested itself, though there is a momentary
arrest of evolution for the animistic essence which represents the
individual in the destroyed vegetable. A portion of the animal kingdom
feeds on its own members; man, too, extorts from this same kingdom a
very heavy tribute; here, the arrested evolution of the victims is all
the more important, inasmuch as their stage of evolution is higher,
and the existence of a nervous system brings the possibility of
suffering, suffering which certain influences[21] either diminish or
suppress altogether, when caused by animal destructiveness, but which
may become intense when it is man who is the sacrificer.

Among the causes of pain, arising from multiplicity there is also the
physical, mental, and moral action exercised by the solidarity of all
beings. By exchanging, with those that come into contact with us, the
products thrown off by our visible and invisible bodies, we are the
dispensers of good or ill-health. Everyone, for instance, is aware of
the far-reaching effects of an evil intellectual and moral example;
physical contagion, in spite of the torture it inflicts, is far less
to be dreaded than moral contagion. The spiritual qualities alone do
not form a leaven of evil; they are not the double-edged instruments
we meet with elsewhere. The reason of this is that they belong to the
plane of Unity. But it is none the less true that, though the
presence of a highly developed soul is a help to younger souls within
its reach and influence, its powerful vibrations may, from certain
points of view, prove fatiguing to those still at the foot of the
ladder of evolution. This is one of the many reasons that have given
rise to the saying that it is dangerous prematurely to enter the
"circle of the ascetics."

But the most powerful causes of pain, due to multiplicity, are the
ignorance and the will of beings who have reached the human stage. Man
can employ his mental faculties for good or evil, and so long as he
does not know definitely that he is the brother of all beings, i.e.,
until his divine faculties have been developed, and love and the
spirit of sacrifice have taken possession of his heart, he remains a
terrible egoist, more to be dreaded than the criminal dominated by a
momentary burst of passion, for he acts in cold blood, he evades or
refuses to recognise the law of humanity, he dominates and destroys.
This man is at the stage of ingratitude; he no longer possesses the
harmlessness of childhood, nor has he yet acquired the wisdom of
advanced age. Our Western race has reached this critical stage,
whereof the menacing demands of the suffering masses are a striking
testimony. Here, too, God could not do otherwise; He might create
bodies blindly obedient to his law, mere automata, but it would be
impossible for Him to cause divine germs to evolve into "gods" without
pulling them through the school of evolution which teaches them,
first, of the "ego," the root of all egoism, then knowledge by
ignorance, liberty by necessity, good by evil, and the perfect by the

It may at this point just be mentioned that though human egoism
appears to have free play and to be unrestrained in its cruelty,
divine Law never allows innocence to suffer for the errors of evolving
souls, it punishes only the guilty, whether their faults or misdeeds
be known or unknown, belonging to the present life or to past ones.

Such, briefly, is the cause of pain and suffering in evolution; in the
following pages we will set forth the causes of the unequal
distribution of this suffering.

Next: The Problem Of The Inequality Of Conditions

Previous: Reincarnation And The Moral Law

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