The Theosophical Forum – January 1937



G. de P. — I should like to know if chelaship is something added unto us by a way of life and a living, or is it something which pours out from ourselves as from inexhaustible fountains? Or is it both? This question seems to me to be basic.

M. Forbes — We have been told that there are many potentialities within each one of us, and it is only by contacts that we make that these potentialities will be awakened. I think that chelaship is a potentiality that we all have; but I believe that it needs the contact of a greater soul to bring forth that potentiality into action.

G. L. Davenport — I should think that chelaship is something added to us to a certain extent because it draws forth from us higher and higher feelings and stages of consciousness that induce us to work ever upward, at the same time awakening us to our responsibilities to all around us; and the consequent self-evolution and expansion of consciousness brings us so much nearer to the divine qualities that are inherent in man's constitution, and every element of his nature is worked upon and all of the lower qualities are thereby raised one stage.

F. F. Webster — As a military man of many years" experience, there is an analogy brought to my mind based on the military life in its true ethical background: Groups of men are taught by drills and tests to evoke from their own minds and wills and increase their bodily strength to do the necessary co-operative acts. The chela-path seems to me to be in a similar manner the evolving of ourselves with the help of those who are instructed to develop ourselves into a higher degree so that we are more able to accomplish the greater object.

E. W. Lambert — It seems to me that the chela-life is prompted first by a law within oneself filtering into the mind of the man, and it assumes or becomes almost a conversational life with the Master within or a walking with that Master; but it requires a Teacher or helper to guide one even to his own Master.

A. B. Clark — The question is: Is chelaship or the chela-life the drawing forth of what is within or the adding of something from without? And as I understand the answer, it is both. As man is a part of, inseparable from, and a ray, as it were, of this infinite heart of the universe, all is within waiting to be evolved; but ages and ages would be required to bring it out by the sole process of evolution alone. It is a part of the nature of this universe that this very interlinking and interlocking of things should make it the function of those who would develop the higher to help the lower. We have there the law of compassion. We have brotherhood. We have love. And so those that have developed their consciousness so that it embraces a larger love express a greater degree of this inner divine infinity. They are the Masters. It is a part of their life, an expansion of themselves, to share this wider consciousness with their chelas so that the process of the chela's evolution becomes enormously hastened.

I remember a letter by one of the Masters" chelas written in the early days of the Theosophical Society before Mme. Blavatsky had her special group of students, to the members of the Pacific Coast, stating that if you had a Master it would bridge over many incarnations of evolution, save many, many incarnations of this long pitiless struggle, because a Master having already evolved greatly shares with you; you get a portion of his consciousness, of his life, his state of divine being. In one of his letters in the book Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, K. H. said this, which will illustrate what I mean: there was a tank filled with water, and another empty. One represents the Master, the other the chela, and they connect as it were by a pipe, and the empty one fills. (1) That is one illustration only.

But remember this fundamental proposition of The Secret Doctrine, on page 17, Vol. I, that there is no state of evolution gained by any evolving being, except by effort and merit. This process of chelaship is a process of reaching nearer and nearer to the Master, a process of ever becoming more like the Master, sharing therefore in his limitless consciousness and compassion.

S. Eek — Chelaship or discipleship implies the presence or the existence of a Teacher. Hence it is obvious that the disciple doesn't pour from himself the so-called benefits, if that is the proper word, but he is given them. Now the law of Karman obviously has brought the disciple in position where he has contacted the Teacher. Previous lives have brought the two together, and consequently it is only the result of previous aspirations which has placed the disciple in a position of learning more. For some reason the question of discipleship has come up frequently here during our last meetings, and I think many of us have given the question more thought on that account. It may be possible that our Human Ego will so open itself to the influences of the Higher Self that de facto it establishes the relationship of chela and guru within the constitution of the individual himself, this relationship corresponding to the outer relationship between an accepted chela and guru in the accepted sense of the East. The former can exist without the latter, but the latter cannot exist without the former, and it is only when the two blend that the full awareness of chelaship takes place. I believe that discipleship in its ultimate sense or meaning is a desire to live a purer and a more spiritual life. It is an intense sympathy and love of one's fellow man, a desire to see everyone happy in the best sense of the word — not a happiness that requires position, fame, etc., but the happiness that comes from a mind and soul one in the knowledge of spiritual humbleness or spiritual aspirations.

F. C. Clemeshaw — I think that the life of chelaship is rather an attitude of mind — an attitude of mind which is a dedication of every act of our lives from the meanest to that which seems to us the greatest, the divinest. Consciousness expands in ever growing quality as we are able to live more and more in conscious dedication. Thus we naturally grow nearer to that heart of the Universe which is the ultimate of the chela-path. As we travel thus in dedication it will at the cyclic and karmic time bring us to that Teacher who will open to us wider views, or who will point out wider horizons, or who will point out our own stumbling-blocks. This help comes from without, but that help we cannot take unless we have that inner attitude of dedication which alone enables us to accept the helping hand of a Teacher pointing the way along the Path.

G. de P. — As usual, it has struck me that all the answers have been beautiful and profound, they show advancement in study; and yet, I do not think that any of the answerers got just the drift of my question, doubtless my own fault, due to the difficulty of phrasing a question in such fashion that everybody will understand just what is meant. Most of the answers, possibly all, seem to point out the way to become aspirants for chelaship, and it is splendid that your thoughts should be running on these lines. But my question called for answers directly to this point: Is chelaship itself a giving or a receiving, a pouring out or a putting in. Do you see what I mean? I do not know that I could pick out a question harder to answer. I have pondered upon this all my life, and I am not yet completely satisfied that I have even a fair answer, but I think I have, and I am going to try to give to you what I think the proper answer is — but I assure you it is not a complete answer.

I think the reply lies in the words of the great Syrian Avatara, which in substance are: Seek ye the Kingdom of the Divine — the Kingdom of God as it runs — and all these other things will be added unto you. And that means everything: things of matter, things of the mind, things of the spirit. Why? You have your answer in the one word Evolution. Pause a moment and follow me in thought. A beast runs past a beauteous flower. What does the beast get from seeing that flower? A man a moment afterwards passes along the same path, reaches the flower, pauses, looks at it. What does the man get? Perhaps little more than the beast. But let a man of a different type come along that road, and see that flower and look into its heart. What does he get? A revelation not only of transcendent beauty, but a sublimity of thought. He sees something. Why? Because he has aroused in himself something that the beast has not yet evolved forth; and that the first man had not. The first man had more than the beast, but not as much as the second man.

Do you see what I mean? You have to become before you can be. You have to pour out from yourself what is within, lying latent, before you can receive the revelation from without. If the revelation is not pouring out! — marvelous paradox — you will not be able to read and interpret the Universe around you. You will pass unseeing by.

What is genius of any kind? What is even the inventive power that some men have? Ability to see! It is in them, and the outer world is a stimulus, brings forth what is within already. You cannot receive anything from without before it is already within, awakened, aroused. Teach a child in the womb if you can the wonders of the solar universe. There is no response, there is no receiving capacity. But wait till the child is born and grows to become a man, and that which is within him has come out, the understanding. Then comes comprehension.

Seek ye first the divine within yourself, cultivate it, evoke it, awake it; and just in proportion as you do this, you will be receiving from without, because you give from within. You give yourself. You cannot receive anything from without until there is something within you to receive, a receiver. You pass unseeing by. That is just why the Masters are higher than we, are greater chelas than we, because they are greater receivers, simply because they are greater givers. You have to have that within yourself calling for recognition before you can receive and recognise.

Now that is, as I understand it, a good answer to my question: Is chelaship a receiving from without, or a giving from within? It is neither alone, but both together — a paradox.

And reverence due to the Teacher? Nothing dignifies a man so greatly. It is the man of servile soul who is afraid to recognise grandeur in some other man. He is not big enough. He is afraid of giving himself grandly. The little man is afraid of being "sat upon," or snubbed, he won't admit that the other man is greater than he. The man who really is great inside recognises grandeur in other men, and bows to it because he himself is inwardly a great man. He recognises the security of his own manhood and can render homage and reverence and respect because he has them within himself. Reverence for a Teacher is a beautiful thing, and a sign of inner growth; and it is merely servility thinly disguised to consider that you, I, anyone is so frightfully independent and superior to others that he won't recognise greatness when he sees it. He has not it within himself.

It is precisely the same rule that teaches us to reverence the glory in the heart of a rose. We have it in us. We see it in the rose and render homage. To see beauty in the stars, their wonders, their mystery, their hid secrets, their stately movements in their orbital circuits: What is there more exquisite, more beautiful, more thought-provoking to look at than the flame of fire? What is fire? "Combustion." Isn't that an illuminating answer! What is a man? "Flesh and bones." Isn't that an illuminating answer! But to me they are not answers. They are just marks of stupidity. To me a man is a thought-producer, a lover, a giver, a genius, a creator, a power. A rose is a mystery, something from the invisible heart of Being exhaling itself in a marvelous beauty of form, perfume, color, and above everything else, something still grander, something that suggests the Beyond. You have the secret of chelaship just there.


1. It is a familiar saying that a well-matched couple "grow together," so as to come to a close resemblance in features as well as in mind. But do you know that between adept and chela — Master and Pupil — there gradually forms a closer tie; for the psychic interchange is regulated scientifically; whereas between husband and wife unaided nature is left to herself. As the water in a full tank runs into an empty one which it is connected with; and as the common level will be sooner or later reached according to the capacity of the feed-pipe, so does the knowledge of the adept flow to the chela; and the chela attains the adept-level according to his receptive capacities." — Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, pp. 82-3, Letter XXX

Footnote by C. J. This is evidently one of the letters to Mr. A. 0. Hume, written in 1881 or 1882. Reprinted from The Theosophist, June, 1907, pp. 702-6. (return to text)

The Theosophical Forum