The Path – November 1889

THE SOCIETY AND ITS OBJECT — Arthur Gebhard

The three objects of the Theosophical Society are: 1st., to form a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood without distinction of race, creed, or color; 2nd, the study of religions and the finding of the basic unity underlying them all; 3rd, the development of the inner senses in man.

In reality these three objects are one, viz., Universal Brotherhood; and the longing to attain it constitutes the sole requirement to become a member. If the Society was a mere copy of such societies as the Odd Fellows or the Free Masons, its coming in the world would indeed have been worse than useless. The Theosophical Society must be able to show some inherent superiority, to have any claim for its existence. I think this can be easily shown. Leaving aside the underlying truth of the masonic ritual, we are well aware that all occult vitality long ago left this august body. It is just the claim of occult life which makes the Theosophical Society superior to all the rest. If all the members of the Theosophical Society were practical occultists, that is, men whose sole aim was with self-abnegation to develop the inner senses, and through their development to discover the basic unity of all religions and thence to attain to a comprehension of Universal Brotherhood, then indeed nothing farther need be stated than the three objects of the Society. But the founding of the Theosophical Society had evidently a greater scope in view than to be merely a band of the men who had already found the way. It was evidently intended as a nursery for those who, dissatisfied with the explanations from pulpit or professor, were seeking the more deeply-hidden truth. The forming of rules and by-laws, institutions like President, Secretaries, Councillors, and the like, plainly show that the infant occultist has to keep his toys in order to find the nursery at all attractive. Looking back on myself and on those who joined the Society about the same time with me. I readily admit that, if the Society or its publications had had nothing but true occultism to give, I, like the rest of my friends, would have refused it with scorn. It is to me a renewed proof of the wisdom of those glorious beings who are supposed to be in connection with the Theosophical Society, that they did not throw pearls before swine, for it is the nature of swine to rend. Swine cannot do otherwise, for the pearls are antagonistic to every fibre of their being.

The superiority of the Theosophical Society, then, lies in the fact that it welcomes every seeker, from the infant up to the man who has found the way. It is expressly stated that the third object is not obligatory, which clearly shows that a nursery was intended for the infant; not a nursery as some thought, where crude, antagonistic to truth, full of conceit and self-love, they would be shown the way by which they could attain to the fulfilment of their desires. No! for such, truly, the Theosophical Society never proved a nursery. Those who entered with the short-comings above stated and a thousand others, yet who had a spark of Truth within them, for those the Society has truly proved a nursery, inasmuch as the experience therein gathered brought to them the first degree of self-knowledge, viz., that what they had been seeking was not the Truth, but an idol of the worst sort, which from their judgment-seat they had declared to be the Beautiful, the Good, and the True.

Universal Brotherhood is a spiritual condition. Its realization would be equal to "I and the Father are one;" and that such realization cannot be brought about by a body which needs modern institutions such as voting, etc., seems very clear. Yet in the Theosophical Society there is room for all, from the man who thinks that Universal Brotherhood can be slowly brought about or even approximated by raising the ethical standard of the community, or the man who sees in charity the fulfilment of the command "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself", up to him who knows that Universal Brotherhood can be attained alone by the practical road of a mystic or yogi. Just so the second object gladly embraces all seekers, from the student of comparative mythology up to the mystic or yogi who finds that God has in all times expressed but one thought, the salvation of man, i.e., to lead the soul to those heights of boundless peace to which it was destined from the beginning, before the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; — those heights which awe forbids thought to contemplate.

"He beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me; hatred in those who harbour such thoughts will never cease." — Dhammapada
"Seek in your heart the source of evil." — Light on the Path.

I will now venture to speak to those of my brothers who after some years of ardent work have become dissatisfied, as I was, with the Theosophical Society. Their hopes and their dreams were not realized. They find that this or the other act of the officers of the Theosophical Society is not to their liking or conflicts with their standards of ethics and morality. They have studied and searched, they have taught others the new doctrines with the conviction and enthusiasm of converts, yet in a day of disappointment and inward examination they find themselves as empty and ignorant as in the first moment when they started. Some, perhaps, have fared even worse. They may feel that their most sacred feelings have been outraged, that where they asked for bread they have received a stone. To these I should like to say, Be of good cheer! Go deeper yet; you have worked well, otherwise you would not have been rewarded with this tribulation. Examine yourself; was it really a sacred feeling which has been outraged, or was it a pull at the giant weed — the self-will in your heart? My brother, you will have first to learn that the divine Truth is in no way even like your ideal of Truth, to say nothing of your idea of her; and so long as you pursue the Truth as the madman pursues the goddess Fortune, so long as you pursue the Truth with the intent of possessing her, so long as you pursue Truth with the smallest conception of what she is, by virtue of the spark of divine love within you which is struggling for life, you must be brought to disappointment and pain.

I find this clearly and beautifully expressed in the note to the first rule of Light on the Path, where it is said, "The pure artist who works for the love of his work is sometimes more firmly planted on the right road than the occultist who fancies he has removed his interest from self, but who has in reality only enlarged the limits of experience and desire, and transferred his interest to the things which concern his larger span of life." In this simile of an artist we have a very good guide towards understanding what our attitude ought to be. In art as well as in occultism we find three classes represented. The first class is the priest. He is born a priest, his mission is to be a priest, and his influence will be that of a priest, whatever may be the eccentricities or the short-comings of the visible man. The second class is that of the devotee. He loves his art; he longs to make every act and every breath of his being a sacrifice at its altar. That this is an impossibility for the human creature is a matter of course, but love covers a multitude of sins, and in proportion as his love is great will he advance in his devotion; his self-sacrifice for the sake of its glory will gain strength daily. The outsider may not perceive much advance; he will cavil and criticize as the personality of the devotee is unsympathetic or disagreeable. But the Goddess, who sees the heart, will reward her devotee with such insight into her glorious beauty as is incomprehensible and in conceivable to the outsider. Such men often pass away unrecognized or die of hunger in a garret, if their talent is not sufficient to allow them to gain a livelihood. But the spark of love which was allowed to be kindled has gained life eternal, and while shedding at mortal death its force over a barren world, it is surrounded by light which darkness cannot comprehend. The third class care for art as a man fancies a dog. They call it love, but they have not a spark of love. Its ranks are generally recruited from those who have great talent, but who seek, through the manifestation of their talent, either riches or the satisfaction of their vanity. They work hard, probably harder than the devotee, and are courted and thought much of by the world, but their work and their energy do not spring from the fountain of love but from the giant weed. So it is with occultists. There are few, if any, of the so-called devotees, certainly none of the disappointed ones, who will not find by self-examination that they have belonged to the third class. And if they have so found, let them go down on their knees and thank their Creator for the first glimpse of self-knowledge, the gift of that spark of love buried in the grave of self.


The Path

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