The Theosophical Forum – February 1941

LEADERS ANCIENT AND MODERN — H. A. W. Coryn

There is one kind of leadership of which modern life has no understanding whatever. Indeed little or no study of leadership is made at all to see whether there are any different kinds. Yet one division — into true and seeming, is manifest in a moment. There are leaders who go ahead, and whom people follow; and those who are carried ahead, like a standard, who are but focus-points and merely voice strongly or eloquently what the people were already thinking.

The idea of leaders implies that of followers. But there are leaders who make with their followers an organic whole or unity; and there are men who, walking for themselves along a particular path of thought or action, are followed by others because that path which these others could not have cut for themselves, is thus made easy and attractive. These leaders may be indifferent whether they are followed or not; or they may like to be followed because they like the sense of power, the feeling of being influential. This constitutes more or less of their life-food, and if it is suddenly withdrawn they may actually die.

The chiefest division is between leaders who are either indifferent to a following, or who want for themselves something which a following can give — power, sense of influence, or life — or who find a following do for them what a good listener does for the ordinary individual, give him the chance either of clearing his thoughts to himself, of dumping the products of his intellectual activity on to a negative mind, or of drawing a fine picture of himself for himself to look at, in another mind —: and leaders who, because they love, desire only to give.

Of the highest type of this class, our day knows practically nothing. For not only is the wish to give necessary, and in such degree as to exclude all other wishes; but wisdom, what to give, how to give. Some of the older peoples recognised these men in their midst, and some of the old sacred writings describe them and their relation to their followers. They were the Teachers, and, in the days before the degradation of the temples, the temple-Hierophants. Their relation to their immediate circle of pupils was much more hidden than visible, much more on unspoken — and truly unspeakable — planes of thought and feeling, than on that of words and visible association. The Teacher was credited with having attained conscious unity with the Nous, the Logos, of the world, and saw in that Mind the Idea, the spiritual Eidolon, of each pupil, the sum, the final, the full flower of all possibilities. That he held in his mind, and held before the superconsciousness — we need this word for the upper pole of that whose lower pole science calls the sub- or subliminal consciousness of the pupil. He placed his mind in inner touch with the pupil's, the pupil reacting and cooperating and clearing the path to the best of his ability, and was thereafter continuously open to the pupil's mental states. To these he sent back a reply which was the accentuation of the pupil's conscience. The pupil felt in his heart in a new way, in increasing degree, and with increasing understanding of it and its connexions, the presence of that "witness, admonisher, supporter, reprover, encourager, friend." Conscience is self at self's root (in the heart), and the currents from the Teacher playing constantly upon the pupil in response to — encouragement or discouragement of — the pupil's mental states, were such as finally to call him to self-consciousness in his divinity. It lay with the pupil to respond with his own will; for though the way was thus shown as no words could show it, it was neither trodden for the pupil nor was he in the least hypnotically forced upon it. Yet the currents did constitute strength for his use if he chose. They were the spiritual blood of the Teacher poured into his veins because he had asked. Not asked with words, which are nothing; but with a power that could not be refused — love. He had recognised ideal humanity in the Teacher, and loved it.

The Teacher found his own life and joy in this giving. He manifested himself and in a way dissolved himself in his pupils as earth-life manifests in the lives of earth; yet was always more. Some of the old writings exhaust themselves in symbols to describe the relation. It was a relation at once of service and of being, both ways.

The Teacher's duty was therefore never finished, never intermitted. He lived entirely for humanity, and more immediately for his pupils; as it was to be their endeavor to live for humanity, to develop and acquire — for humanity. There was no moment at which with human weakness he would be thinking: I have done enough for them today. This hour is for myself. Such a thought, indulged for one fleeting moment, would have shocked and chilled the temple atmosphere, and would have been felt by the pupils as a plant feels when a knife cuts its root.

Finally, the Hierophant, as the ideal man, was regarded, in his fixed will to give, in the richness of his life by self-surrender, in his willingness to manifest his life through the enriched lives of others — as foretype of what all men will be. It was held that then only will the immeasurable possibilities of life be disclosed.

Some of the ancient writings dealing with what is written above, are accessible to scholars, though few have as yet been seen by them. The greater part are not to be made accessible till the world is readier for the ideals they deal with.


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