The Theosophical Forum — November 1943

"OUTSIDE THE WALLS" — J. M. Prentice

Many years ago, during a cycle of Evangelism that in some now inconceivable way wove itself into and intermingled with a quite definitely Catholic background in which it had no place, my voice might have been heard raised in the hymn.

"There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall. . . ."

It is one of the idiosyncrasies of our speech that the word "without" can be used in a double sense; i.e. minus or lacking, and outside. It is in the latter sense, of course, that it is used in that old hymn. Nevertheless it always conjured up in my youthful mind a picture of a hill unwalled, so that, however lustily I sang, a sort of doubt always remained as to the necessity or even the desirability of a hill being enclosed by a wall that might ordinarily be found protecting a city. Perhaps it was this childish doubt that was the root from which a luxuriant foliage of agnosticism grew later. It is unprofitable to debate this now.

Some years later, in a more Catholic atmosphere again, I encountered, in some tome on Divinity, the Latin phrase Extra Muros and some deep but hidden association of ideas called up extra consideration for it, beyond its bare but theological significance. It also can be translated as "Without the Walls" — in the sense of being beyond, of course. It applies to those who are without knowledge of, or belief in the Faith, so often spoken of as that once delivered to the Saints. . . .

To me it is a phrase that has lingered through the years. From time to time it recurs and always produces a mental picture of those unhappy people who lack faith and who, almost willing to be convinced, remain outside the fold, conscious of something that either they lack or have missed, desirous of the safety that comes from being with the protection, yet never quite achieving this objective.

 So today, as a Theosophist — without quite feeling myself worthy of such a proclamation — I find that there are many people who stand at the threshold of the Theosophical Society and who are unable to find the portal; who look longingly at the security of faith and morals that Theosophy over everything else has to offer and who still do not join in with us. Nor do they always stand: for many it is their unhappy fate

"To be imprisoned in the viewless winds
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world. . . ."

These people are indeed extra muros, and I ask myself why. What is there lacking in our presentation of the Ancient Wisdom that they cannot instantly respond to its gracious and comforting, all-encompassing beauty? So vast is its all-embracingness that there is no reason why anyone should be excluded; so ample and generous is its protection that none should feel that it is not for him. There is no questioning of heart or mind to which Theosophy has not the answer, although it is not given to all Theosophists to supply it at the healing moment, or in the right tone and terms. Let it be fully accepted, then, that it is not the Esoteric Philosophy that is at fault. Does it not follow, therefore, that it is the exponents who are missing some golden opportunity? In many if not in all cases I think it is.

It is the nice balance between technical knowledge of Theosophy and the living of the Theosophical life that is required above all else. Many people have a wide grasp of the mental concepts of Theosophy and can expound them in the most admirable way. To hypothetical questions answers can be given that are academically perfect, but the heart is not touched nor comforted when the same question is met with in the mundane life of everyday affairs. Was it not St. James who said "Faith without works is dead"; he was an eminently practical saint, although perchance he never experienced the ecstasy of the beatific vision. Hence it is, to me at any rate, that it is the living of the life that counts; "the standard that a great man setteth up, by that do the people judge" (Bhagavad-Gita). Any, not only the great.

Every effort should be made to draw inside those who look over our Theosophical wall, and who can thereby be expected to see us happy within its shelter. We must never be exclusive. Yet numbers in the Theosophical Society are not everything. Valuable as the organisation is, mere membership does not suddenly or instantly confer an accolade. Yet none who approaches should go hungry away; no matter how much mental or spiritual help is given the reservoir is not lowered, for it is inexhaustible. By all means let us have lodges and study-groups in which membership and participation may have fixed limits, but never let it be said that any one came to our doors and was turned away.

Recently there were three books published simultaneously in England, dealing with post-war problems. Written by men of high authority all were agreed on this — that a recognition of spiritual values, of a spiritual basis for man and the universe, was necessary if any lasting good was to be gained. Yet all three felt in some way that the orthodox faith lacked that subtle something that would make for self-discipline, a willingness to self-sacrifice, that would fire a generation with new ambitions and show new sources of inspiration. It was in my heart to wish that each of these writers had had a knowledge of Theosophy. Therein would have been found the necessary stimulus.

It seems to me that the world today needs the cement of Theosophy, both nationally and internationally, as never before. Hence we should be doing everything to expand our public work. In the new age that is emerging Theosophy is the only faith, philosophy or science that can provide everything that is required. For it includes all these in its generous comprehensiveness.

Let us so live the Theosophic life that all who come in contact with us will be drawn to us, naturally and easily. We should be centers of inner peace in a world of storms. Let us study the magnificent teachings that are our legacy from four great and spiritually illumined Leaders. Study them so that we can supply on the instant and in the most helpful way the answers to problems — personal or national. Yet withal modestly, giving all the credit to Theosophy and seeking no special recognition for ourselves.

All so very easy to write, someone says; all so very difficult to practice. But whoever said that the Theosophic life is easy? It is not — yet the reward for living such a life — as has been so eloquently pointed out by the greatest of all Theosophists — is the power to heal and bless Humanity. Never was such power so needed. Should we not all pledge ourselves to do all in our power to achieve such an end?


The Theosophical Forum

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE