The Theosophical Forum – December 1936

THE GUARDIANS OF THE TEMPLE (1) — J. H. Venema

There is an understanding which needs no words, and if we want to be "Guardians of the Temple" — the Great Temple of Light which has always existed, the Theosophical Temple of Love — we must realize that there is an insight, there is a mutual understanding, for which words are unnecessary. It is very easy to see this; we know how in human life two persons who love each other have that clairaudience, that silent understanding. Don't you believe, and don't you agree with me, that this is only a lower aspect of the greater love and that it explains why the Adepts have spiritual clairaudience? That deeper aspect is that they are lovers of humanity; and just because they have this greater love, they possess the spiritual clairaudience which we, Guardians of the Temple, all should have to some extent. Indeed, I realized yesterday, when we discussed the various items of this Convention with the National Presidents, how very few words we needed; after a few introductory remarks everything was understood and arranged; and this morning, after the wonderful spiritual pictures which passed before us in the speeches of our Companions, there was again that silence which gave us the clairaudient understanding.

At Conventions we have to speak, but I think that we must bear in mind that the Guardians of the Temple in reality have a spiritual way of communicating that has nothing to do with the spoken word on the physical plane.

When you saw this subject announced: "The Guardians of the Temple," you may have thought that I was going to speak about the great hierarchy of beings about which you read in our Theosophical books: The Secret Doctrine, The Esoteric Tradition, and Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy; and, indeed, friends, it would be a glorious thing at a Convention to go into that — the great hierarchies of the Adepts and the Silent Watchers: but No! at this meeting I am going to speak about you and me as the Guardians of the Temple; and especially let us listen to the words of H. P. B. as to what she expected of you and me as the Guardians of the Temple, which she erected for us, and which she expected us to expand so that it might embrace the whole world.

We know that Theosophy is foremost with us: that in trying to make it a living power in our lives, and in trying to pass on the light to our fellow-beings, we sometimes make the impression on others that we believe we alone have the truth. The strong convictions which we have occasionally irritate people, and they say we are getting one-sided, that we are limited in view; but, for heaven's sake, can we be restricted in our vision when we know that our philosophy is based on the structure of the whole Universe, that it embraces the whole of nature? Is it a limitation to admire and feel the deep beauty of a sunset or a sunrise? Is it limited to understand when looking at the galaxy, and feeling ourselves to be a part of that galaxy, that in reality we and our fellow-beings are the Universe, and that consequently we know the foundation of the Brotherhood of Men? Therefore, we say that, because the Temple is built on the structure of the Universe, we know that we are, in guarding this Theosophical Temple, really guarding the truths of nature and passing them on. In the first place then, what did H. P. B. expect from us in guarding these truths? She passed on the Light. There is a word in Dutch: bewustwording, which means "to become conscious of your consciousness," or if you like, in more Theosophical terms, "to become conscious of your consciousnesses." That is what H. P. B. did for us — she made us conscious of our consciousnesses; and the explanation of the teaching brought us that marvelous vision regarding the Buddhas of Compassion, the teachings about the two kinds of Buddhas, the Pratyeka-Buddhas and the Buddhas of Compassion, and the vision that, as human beings, we even now can make a choice between these two paths for the future.

H. P. B. left us this Temple of Light, and expected us to be Guardians; and profoundly are we grateful to her for what she did for us and the world. After listening to the symphonies of the great composers we often feel a similar gratitude: something has been opened in us, a light has been received, and we long to pass it on. Such an intense feeling of gratitude we have towards H. P. B., and that alone must make us the Guardians of the Temple which she erected.

Listen to her words in the first Message to the Convention in America [addressed to William Quan Judge], and let us also compare the times in which we live, thereby realizing the fact that the Guardians of the Temple living in H. P. B.'s time were not really different from the Guardians of the Temple in the present time:

It is to you chiefly, if not entirely, that the Theosophical Society owes its existence in 1888.

I ask: Is it different in 1936?

Let me then thank you for it, for the first, and perhaps the last, time publicly, and from the bottom of my heart, which beats only for the cause you represent so well and serve so faithfully I ask you also to remember that, on this important occasion, my voice is but the feeble echo of other more sacred voices, and the transmitter of the approval of Those whose presence is alive in more than one true Theosophical heart, and lives, as I know, pre-eminently in yours.

These words were written by H. P. B. to a Convention such as we are now holding in England.

First of all, a word to those Guardians among us who have no so-called "official" jobs, who do not, for instance, do public work, or are not Presidents or Secretaries of Lodges, but simply members; (as they sometimes say in Holland: "I am only a member.") Don't you understand that we who have these official jobs, would sometimes be very keen on exchanging them with the simple member? But at the same time we know well that these members, these Guardians of the Temple, have just as great a task as anybody else, even in a way perhaps more so, if it is permitted to say so, than those who have official jobs. The poet Milton says: "They also serve who only stand and wait." Don't you see what those silent Guardians are in reality? I am never tired of speaking about this, and it has helped in our Section! When they come to their Lodges — these silent Guardians — and give their sympathy to the work done there and never miss a Lodge meeting, they in reality are just as great Guardians as those who do the official jobs. Don't you understand that they help to make the Lodge-force flow just because they are there? There is a case in Holland of an old Lodge still existing, where, as I said at our Congress in July, there came a man who through his circumstances was not able to do much official work. He simply came to the Lodge meetings, rarely spoke, simply sat there and gave his sympathy, which radiated from his eyes, from his whole being, and then went away in silence. Do you not believe, friends, that but for this man that Lodge meeting might not have been on such a high plane during the time that it was held, and that the people who had work to do were greatly supported by that man? There is a story — a marvelous story — written in English — about a humble slave in ancient Babylon, who singlehanded opened the gates of Ancient Babylon to the Gods! It is not a fairy story, it can be made real history.

It is wrong to say that a Lodge does not do much work because there are not, at a critical moment, many helpers who do official work. It is wrong to think that we have not the Lodge-force if, at a certain moment, people do not flock in large numbers to the gates of the Lodge. If there simply is a focus of light, you provide the channel for the flowing of the Lodge-force, and that is what is expected from us. Let us be grateful then to the silent Guardians of the Temple, and those who have no official jobs, as they are Guardians indeed.

The next point is this: it has been impressed upon us again and again that the Guardians of the Temple should promulgate the ethics of Theosophy: this surely is necessary. What does H. P. B. say about it? I quote from her fourth Message to the American Convention:

The critical nature of the stage on which we have entered is as well known to the forces that fight against us as to those that fight on our side.

Now let us look at the world around us when we hear the following words from H. P. B.:

No opportunity will be lost of sowing dissension, of taking advantage of mistaken and false moves, of instilling doubt, of augmenting difficulties, of breathing suspicions, so that by any and every means the unity of the Society may be broken and the ranks of our Fellows thinned and thrown into disarray. Never has it been more necessary for the members of the T. S. to lay to heart the old parable of the bundle of sticks than it is at the present time; divided, they will inevitably be broken, one by one; united, there is no force on earth able to destroy our Brotherhood.

These Messages by H. P. B. should now be read and re-read by every earnest Theosophist, because he will continually be obliged to compare the times of H. P. B. with our present times.

Then she says about ethics particularly (third message):

What I said last year remains true to-day, that is, that the Ethics of Theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts. The latter relate wholly to the material and evanescent part of the septenary man, but the Ethics sink into and take hold of the real man — the reincarnating Ego. We are outwardly creatures of but a day; within we are eternal. Learn, then, well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation, and teach, practise, promulgate that system of life and thought which alone can save the coming races. Do not work merely for the Theosophical Society, but through it for Humanity.

May Theosophy grow more and more a living power in the lives of each one of our members, and may the coming year be yet more full of good work and healthy progress than the one just closing, is the wish of your humble co-worker and fellow-member. H. P. B.

Here the stress is laid on ethics, especially to give to the world the truths of Karman and Reincarnation. We are doing that, but, friends, how much more do we understand of ethics when our teachings are extended. As we heard in the Leader's message this morning, there was a definite promise in one of these Messages from H. P. B. to the Convention held at the time that more new teachings should be given. Well, the more deeply we understand the teachings the better we can be Guardians, because the better and with greater conviction can we pass on these verities of Karman and Reincarnation, truths about nature and man as a part of it.

Now what has happened since 1888? H. P. B. gave this definite promise, that if we deserved it, and the times permitted it, more would be given. Don't you see what has happened? Don't the Theosophists of the world see? After she went history simply repeated itself. In Blavatsky's time there was a Messenger of the Masters — H. P. B. She had the insignia majestatis — the tokens of majesty — on her. They were visible in her individuality, in her marvelous knowledge, and she showed these tokens of majesty in her books, The Secret Doctrine, Isis Unveiled, etc. She was recognised only by the few! She passed on. Those who carry the insignia majestatis are not easily noticed in this world.

We, the Guardians of the Temple, know that history repeats itself in our times, that there is one who has indeed the insignia majestatis, and that again they can be found in books which greatly extend and corroborate the teachings of H. P. B. in every respect. Majestically striding through this world again, the teacher and that which he brings are recognised only by the few; and the world in general scarcely notices that a great Temple of Light is standing right here! Chaotic conditions outside, yet the Temple is there; the Envoy is there; the teachings are there. The Secret Doctrine is corroborated, confirmed, the teachings are extended. Now are we good Guardians of this Temple if we do not continually make known to the world and to our Brother Theosophists what has been done? Point out to them why it cannot wholly be avoided that history repeats itself; but how we, Guardians of the Temple, can prevent to some extent in this fourth Round, in the fifth Race on Globe D its repeating itself as much as it does! But to do that we must have the spiritual power of discrimination; we must be able to say: "This is Theosophy"; "This is not Theosophy." By studying The Secret Doctrine and the other books, and comparing them with the present books, we must be able to tell our fellow-men, and especially our fellow-Theosophists: "Look, here are the teachings: realize how they are corroborated and extended; you see that indeed the Masters still work in the same way as in the time of H. P. B."

And here I must introduce the value of an intensely active Lodge-life. Don't you agree with me that only where there is an intensely active Lodge-life we, Guardians of the Temple, can get an insight into the difference between Wisdom and Knowledge? H. P. B. and our present Leader so often say that we may cram our brain-minds with the Theosophical teachings, it will only be Knowledge; but Wisdom comes if we put that Knowledge into practice, and through this active Lodge-life the Lodge-force begins to flow; we carry it with us in our daily lives, and must never forget that we are responsible for the Lodges and for the work carried on in them.

What is a symbol? The word itself comes from the Greek, and means "to fall together." Idea or thought, and object or picture fall together. It applies more to the intuition than to the intellect. Those who can spiritually interpret symbols have a great background for their lives. Well, here is a symbol! We, friends, you and I, as Guardians of the Temple, are at present right in that Temple. Indeed we form that Temple. We are the bricks, the building-stones; so we cannot allow one brick to be loose in any part of the wall, any part of the Temple, because the whole Temple will suffer if a brick is loose anywhere.

Everyone, as I said, has his task, no matter what it may be; and it is expected from the Guardians of the Temple that wherever we may be as part of that Temple, it will be firmly cemented to the other parts, so as to keep the Temple strong and beautiful. There is a picture which has often been reproduced in our Dutch "Theosophical Path." It represents a Guardian in ancient Pompeii. Perhaps you have seen that painting. There this Guardian stands at the gate of a palace or a Temple, and he has been told to guard that gate and never to leave; and the painter in his imagination makes him stand there, while the eruption of the volcano takes place: the lava covers him, and he continues to do his duty, he remains watching and dies standing, spear erect, at the portal of that gate, fulfilling his task to the very end. This is our idea about being Guardians of the Temple. It is required of us especially in these times. If we want tests as to how far we have understood H. P. B.'s expectation of our Guardianship, here are two principal tests. The first is: do the teachings, does our work in the Society, lead us to ever greater love for our fellow-beings in general? If we can say "Yes" in answer to that question it is all right. The second test is: "are we continually ready for service whenever called upon?" and again if we can say "Yes" to that question, it is all right; we are Guardians indeed, no matter what our position in the Society may be.

Finally this word of warning, though it is no threat. Are we so sure that if the Guardians fail the Temple will stand? It is a very serious question in this world just now. I for one am not so sure; I cannot get away from the idea that if the Guardians should fail, the Great Ones who erected this Temple might have to build elsewhere or at some other time. There has been a promise: As long as there are even a few Guardians to do their duty, to be, as the warrior of Pompeii, at the gates to the last moment, that "last moment" will never come, because the Great Ones have promised that as long as there are only a few working for Them, They will help. Now this promise is a great one; but we should understand the seriousness of the situation in the world at present, and fully realize what is expected of us as "Guardians of the Temple." Mind, not the men whose names are written in flaming letters in our papers and periodicals promote the spiritual evolution of mankind — they may be only instruments on the outer plane. It is the silent Watchers of the Temple, those who seek the power that makes them "as nothing in the eyes of men," who really advance the spiritual evolution. Let us not forget this.

Finally, there is a letter — our English members may know this letter better than members of the other Sections — it is the one letter ascribed to the Maha-Chohan, the Great One who, as you may know, also had something to do with the establishment of our Society, and in that letter it says: "The Theosophical Society was chosen as the corner-stone, the foundation of the future religions of humanity." It begins in this way:

The doctrine we promulgate being the only true one must — supported by such evidence as we are preparing to give — become ultimately triumphant as every other truth. Yet it is obviously necessary to inculcate it gradually, enforcing its theories — unimpeachable facts for those who know — with direct inferences deduced from and corroborated by the evidence furnished by modern exact science.

And here is an important part:

What becomes of our fine professions of benevolence, philanthropy, reform, etc.? Are these professions a mockery? And if a mockery, can ours be the true path? Shall we not devote ourselves to teaching a few Europeans, fed on the fat of the land — many of them loaded with the gifts of blind fortune — the rationale of bell-ringing, cup-growing, of the spiritual telephone and astral body formation, and leave the teeming millions of the ignorant, of the poor and despised, the lowly and the oppressed, to take care of themselves and their hereafter as best they know how? Never! Rather perish the T. S. with both its hapless founders than that we should permit it to become no better than an academy of magic, a hall of occultism.

Well, here again is the great emphasis on the ethics of Theosophy; and I think it is our duty, as Guardians of the Temple, to give to the world the ethics of Theosophy, especially the fundamental ideas of Karman and Reincarnation, because that will teach the "Why" of the ethics.

We therefore declare at this Convention that we still are and shall be the Guardians of the great Temple of Light; that we shall cultivate and develop that spiritual power of discrimination which will enable us to be so. The closer we are together in the Lodges and in the various centers of a country, the closer we are together as National Sections; the closer we stand together in passing on Brotherhood, the greater the flow of the Lodge-force will be. The greater the harmony that exists in our branches and Sections, the greater channel we shall be for the Masters" work. Let us then be Guardians of the Temple, the Temple that has its structure in the Universe. And what is grander than belonging to that Temple? Let us be Guardians, so that in the future we can pass on the light to those who shall be working after us.

FOOTNOTE:

1. Address given at the European Convention of the Theosophical Society, (Point Loma), London, August 2nd and 3rd, 1936. (return to text)


The Theosophical Forum

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE