The Path – September 1886


Members of the Theosophical Society and the general public have alike manifested a wide divergence of opinion both as regards the fundamental aim of the Society, and its adaptation to individual cases. To get a right view of these points, it is first absolutely necessary that the Society should be considered as a whole, and to remember that like every movement in the physical or spiritual world, it must be governed by the great law of Evolution. This is its primal Cause, and the evolution of the individual its primary work. It is not, as its history shows, an ephemeral institution, to last for a given period, like a hospital, or a society to benefit animals, or poor children, or fallen women. It is a spoke of the universal wheel of Evolution. When the world contained a body of persons sufficiently developed on the spiritual plane, they naturally formed a nucleus, from which rays presently diverged to various parts of the globe. Stimulating centres of energy which are constantly expanding through the individual efforts of their members. What is true of the whole body is true also of its component parts, and each individual, in mental capacity and psychical conditions is precisely what his previous experience, or his evolutionary ratio entitles him to be. Only by means of ever increasing effort on his own part, can he invigorate these powers.

In founding the Theosophical Society, it was hoped that the united labors of all for each and of each for all, might result in so much enlightenment and expansion of individuals as the friction of many minds, all directed to one issue, should through the correlation of moral forces afford. Hence the Society was based upon the idea of Universal Brotherhood.

There are at present two classes of persons who misinterpret this aim of the Society. The first class is variously composed of — (A) those persons who suppose the Society to be solely devoted to a large phase of the subject, such as the progressive development of the entire body of the present race, or to the united interests of great masses of people, leaving the individual altogether alone in the up-hill path of his own spiritual development. (B) Various persons in different parts of the world who have seen fit, coincidently with giving in their adherence to the idea of Universal Brotherhood, to ridicule it as "a mere sham" or "a pure formula" or "an Utopian impossibility:" the wavering incredulity of every such person arises no doubt from individual or constitutional peculiarity. (C) Such as suppose this basic idea to be an elastic declaration which may always be used as a shield to ward off the unpopular or chaffing accusation of an interest in Mysticism. (D) Those who base their denial of universal brotherhood upon the very sensible rule requiring applicants for initiation to have endorsement from active fellows of the Society. "If you make distinctions you are not universal," is the cry of these last.

All the above persons will sooner or later discover that the Society as a whole progresses through the spiritual advancement of individual members. If the individual retrogrades, the common welfare is minus so much; if he progresses, it is plus so much, and when many rise all are presently lifted as by specific gravity, into a higher plane. For this reason not only the exoteric and much slandered founders of the Society, but also the hidden and real founders have always given much of their time and thought to individuals. At the same time they have unceasingly insisted upon the necessity for individual efforts, that each member might develop himself. This is the true meaning of Evolution. It is not the expansion of the man by means of an external force acting upon inert tissue, but an impulse from within outward and upward, enhanced by the cumulative effect of previous impulses, and further assisted by such favoring environment as his condition may permit him to assimilate.

It is in this final respect that the second class under consideration have erred. They demand greater extraneous aid for the individual. Such persons, having joined the Society and asserted their belief in the existence of Mahatmas, or Adepts, or highly advanced human beings, have after a time uttered complaints because they had no personal communications from these Great Beings, while they feel such attentions to be their due. These persons have said, — "We have declared our belief in these wise and holy Men; we have joined the Society, but we have not been favored with any proofs directly from them." Such persons require a letter under seal, projected in a phenomenal manner through the air or otherwise. Nothing short of this will satisfy them, and if they do not get it, they are likely to leave the fold of the Society, as they themselves intimate. Their complaint, in general terms, is that the Mahatmas are reticent, altogether too reticent to suit their requirements. They say that it is declared that certain other persons have received such evidence in the shape of letters, and they cite Messrs. Sinnett, Olcott, Damodar, Hume, Madame Blavatsky and several Hindus as the favored recipients. The complainants then state that their aspirations, their need, their merit, equal that of these persons, that they are, to put it roughly, "every bit as good." Some who do not say as much, think it, and a general outcry arises of, — "Why do we not get such letters as proofs? Are we not justified in ascribing undue reticence to the Mahatmas?" When in addition it is said that some others have seen the Mahatmas, or heard their voices and received gifts from them, the injured ones reiterate the complaint, — "Why are the Mahatmas so reticent? This attitude has finally become that of the press and the public at large, so that the question presents itself, — "Are the Mahatmas unduly reticent?"

The solution of this question is bound up in the subject of the "Evolution of the Individual." As regards the general evolution, the Mahatmas cannot be thus accused, for had we their knowledge of the whole, so as to be able to feel and know what all minerals, plants, animals and men feel collectively, we should see that in this department Mahatmas are never accused even in thought of withholding either knowledge, favor or blessing. The whole moves by law (which law includes the Mahatmas themselves), and as a whole recognizes this law and knows no possible departure from it.

As heretofore stated, the work of the Theosophical Society lies within the department of individual evolution, and just as its sphere may only be enlarged through the constant labors of its members, so every individual follows the same law, will he, nil he. The Mahatmas are not reticent. They can justly be no more than the favoring environment to the individual soul. They give to each human well just the water it can hold: to overflow it would be waste. It has been well said that the human mind, like the atmosphere, has its saturation point. To realise when we have reached this point is the first step on the path of self-knowledge: to strive to expand our boundaries by incessant study and observation, carries us leagues further on our way. Those who journey thus have neither time nor desire for complaint. We enter into this life through our parents, subject to law. From one mystery we pass, ignorant of the future, into another mystery: lessons are learned in each. So is the soul born into the higher life and becomes by degrees acquainted with its mysteries. Through each order of life runs the law of natural selection. "A man is a method, a progressive arrangement, a selecting principle," says Emerson. As the man chooses the friends and the pursuits best adapted to him, so by the law of spiritual dynamics is the soul attracted to just such food as it can assimilate, to the influences necessary to its present development. If the individual mind fails to grasp this idea and to see that we ourselves, (and not the Mahatmas,) create our own possibilities, how far less fitted is it to profit usefully by the very opportunities it demands. The gratification of curiosity, the quickening of interest in personalities or phenomena as such, are not growths of the soul, nor can they advance the evolution of the individual. The Mahatmas do not withhold us from Truth, but we ourselves. When we come to be a part of it, we shall know it: when we come to live in its laws, who can shut us away from it? The upright heart cries, — "Mine is mine, if the universe deny me, and not all the Mahatmas combined can convey to me one truth in which I am not ready to dwell. The Spirit communicates itself; the Masters but interpret the vision, as soothsayers the dreams of Kings. I am a king when the Spirit exalts me, made so by the super-royal act. I will not covet borrowed robes, nor whine as a beggar for charities, but wait until I am come into mine own estate. Then the Wise Ones will teach me how to rule it." The heart that chooses in truth this noble part, has felt already the quickening touch of the Divine. Like Jove of old, it bids the earth-bound waggoner abate his cries, and put first his own shoulder to the wheel.

Let complainants therefore reflect how ignorant they are of their own capacity to understand psychological data, and how necessary it is that they should first develop themselves in that direction. A ray of light may shoot by us unseen and unknown, to be lost in the further space, for want of the timely interposition of a reflective surface. Or it may stream directly into the eye, and even so may still be lost, should the eye lack the power to receive the impression. Thus an attempt at direct communication or illumination may be and often is frustrated for lack of the perceptive eye and soul. Shall we expect to receive these at other hands, as by a miracle, when we know well that we never fully profit by any experience which we have not lived out for ourselves. Who amongst us has not seen a child reject with impatience the teachings of his elders, and presently return home brimful of wonder and dogmatism over the very same fact which some companion had knocked into him? The strong soul must be self delivered. Amongst our number there are indeed those who have the spiritual eye in part, and the Mahatmas, desirous to arouse it more fully, now and then project a beam of wisdom which the eye fails to receive and it passes on to those who are better fitted to absorb it. "No man can learn what he has not preparation for learning, however near to his eye is the object. A chemist may tell his most precious secrets to a carpenter, and he shall never be the wiser, — the secret he would not utter to a chemist for an estate. God screens us evermore from premature ideas. Our eyes are holden that we cannot see things that stare us in the face, until the hour arrives when the mind is ripened; then we behold them, and the time when we saw them not is like a dream." (1)

Let us then press forward to this harvest time, neither asking for help, nor doubting that it is at hand though unseen, and remembering above all that what we consider reticence, or silence on the part of the Mahatmas, is often but a higher order of speech which we do not as yet understand, and to whose golden accents untiring endeavor alone can give the key.


1. Emerson. (return to text)

The Path