Naturally among a people unmetaphysical and unphilosophical, you get a division which in truth does not exist. They see three different Deities and quarrel over them, where there is only One, showing Himself in the three essential forms for a Universe which comes, which lives, which passes; and hence you have the Shaiva and the Vaiṣhṇava fighting the one against the other. I saw the other day in the caves of Elephanta, the Arḍha Shiva Arḍha Viṣhṇu, the Hari-Hara, which is said in the legends to be the combination of the twain in one. A fanatic was worshipping one and depreciating the other, it is said, and the image of Viṣhṇu changed, and became half Mahāḍeva and half Viṣhṇu, and the double image smiled upon the worshipper, to remind him that the division was in man and not in God.
So also there are hosts of Ḍevas, for the eastern Pantheism includes the innumerable forms in which God-in-all expresses Himself, and so we have Polytheism in a higher form. You need not be afraid of words, for that is the all-embracing truth. Polytheism asserts the existence of the Ḍevas and Ḍevīs, who carry out the Will of the Supreme. “Not for the sake of the Ḍeva is the Ḍeva dear, but for the sake of the Self is the Ḍeva dear.” Only as the manifestation of the Self is the Ḍeva seen, as you, in your turn, are manifestations of the same Self. But the Ḍeva is a more highly evolved manifestation than you are. These innumerable ministers of the Supreme Will, they also are manifestations of the One; they mar not the Unity. And so in the Veḍas you chant to all of them; and so in the Zend-Avesta you invoke them all.
Now the Western will tell you that all these Ḍevas of yours are the personifications of the elements; that Agni is not a being, but is the Fire personified. You must turn that right upside down, if you want to make it true. Agni is not a personification of the element Fire; but Fire, the element, is the material expression of Agni, his body, his vehicle, by which he shows himself in the world. And that is your key. Ignorance personifies an Element. Knowledge sees a Being whose material expression is an Element. Ignorance sees the physical. Knowledge sees in everything physical a manifestation of the One Self, showing Himself in a limited form for the helping of His world. And so the higher Occultist may address Agni, the Ḍevarāja of Fire, and, below Agni, countless hosts of those who are called Fire Ḍevas, or Fire Elementals, all expressions of his nature, all using a special type of matter in the world. Hence you hear that when the world was built, the elements came forth, and each had the Life-principle within it. Fire came forth, but Agni, the Ḍevarāja, was the Life-principle within the fire-matter, and so with Varuṇa for water, and so with Kubera for earth. You have within every Element, nay, within everything that you call a law in nature, you have a Life-principle, a Ḍeva, or Angel, call him what you will, names matter not, provided that you realise that the Self which works in you as man, works in all these Beings in ascending ranks of hierarchical power; but they all are expressions of the one Divine Will, and the One works in all of them, and “the wise see the One, although they call Him by many names”.
Now there you have the whole truth: God is everything and in All. God is manifested in countless forms, in countless grades of living intelligences, and each has its own place, and the Ḍevas come forth from Brahmā, as later from Him come forth vegetables and animals and men. There is only the One Life, but it is manifest in infinite forms–Pantheism-cum-Polytheism, God-in-a-Universe. Now, if you realise that, if you understand that, all these many Ḍevas and Ḍevīs, these many Angels and Archangels, are only expressions, phenomena, manifestations, of the One, just as you are. Then, you will realise that all these, carrying out the Divine Will, are the hearers of prayer, are the guardians of mankind; some are guardians of Nations, others the guardians of special areas smaller than Nations, but all are agents of the One. When the peasant prays to the form that he worships, and asks for help, that is really a prayer to the One Supreme, which is answered by His minister, the Ḍeva who is addressed by the peasant; and if you talk to the peasant here in India, you will find that most, if not all, of them realise the One behind the many, and know, that the One alone is God, although they appeal to those who are nearer in evolution to themselves, as they ask a Collector rather than the King. And so we begin to realise that Polytheism has its truth, and only needs to be understood. Then all Nature becomes living, beautiful, sympathetic, God smiles in everything. The thinker should realise it, and then none will ever blur the Unity by the multiplicity of manifestations. Thus you come to the whole truth, and find it living, exquisite, a perpetual joy. All Nature lives and loves. There is but One Life, but One Existence, but one Supreme Omnipresent Being. We cannot call him Spirit, because Spirit is the antithesis of Matter, and Spirit and Matter blend in Him. So we call Him the ONE WITHOUT A SECOND. In the boundless realms of space, in the infinity of Universes, that ONE is expressing Himself in countless ways, but all is a manifestation of Himself. He the One Thinker; from Him, all thought comes forth. He, the one Actor; from Him all activities proceed. All our human words of right and wrong, of good and evil, those are limited to the evolving lives in relation to each other. There is nothing that can be excluded from the One and Universal. In Him, all is well, all is highest and best. And, when we come to deal with Right and Wrong, we shall see how this works out, how it gives us a human standard, a standard by which we may guide our steps. But, for this morning, I will leave with you that Supreme Ideal: that there is but the One in All, in Everything; the lowest dust beneath your feet has the One within it; the highest Ḍeva in the highest heaven is but another expression of the One. You express Him, the animal expresses Him, the vegetable expresses Him, the mineral expresses Him. How else shall they live, save in Him who is life? How else shall they evolve, save in Him who is manifesting Himself through them? Be not afraid to love the world, which is one of His manifestations, one of His thoughts; but see Him everywhere and in everything, and so shall everything become spiritualised. Let Him speak to you through the world, as He speaks to you through the Spirit. He speaks in every breath of air; He speaks in every leaf on the forest tree; He speaks in the foam and crash of the Ocean’s breaking billows; He speaks in the solitude and silence of the Mountain. There is none other. There is nothing else. He is the One Existence. And as you realise that, you share His power, and you share His peace.