It cannot be said that the members of the Theosophical Society are yet free from the trouble which the study of and delight in personalities are always sure to bring about. We should not be the imperfect human beings that we know we are, had we reached such perfection. But surely some effect ought to be produced upon all earnest members in this direction by the philosophy they study, as well as from a sincere attempt to carry out the objects of the organization.
Looking into the rules laid down for the pledged disciples, there is to be met an absolute prohibition against their talking to each other either about what happens to them, or the experiences they are having, or the progress they are making. With them there are two reasons for this, one the tendency to make trouble, and the other that vanity is certain to follow upon one's talking much to others about what he has done or experienced in the theosophical field of investigation, especially if there have been any abnormal phases to it. Long experience has shown that for the beginner vanity is a most insidious foe lurking everywhere, and which is as likely to attack the earnest as those who are neither earnest nor sincere, and its immediate action is to throw a veil over the mental sight, making things appear to be what they are not, tending to make the victim centre more and more in himself, and away from that tolerance for and union with others which it is the aim of theosophical study to bring about.
The civil law has always held that there is a wide distinction between a discussion or criticism of a person's work and of that person himself. It is permitted to say as much as one pleases regarding or against what another has said or written, but the moment the individual is taken up for consideration we have to be careful not to commit libel or be guilty of slander. In the theosophical life this excellent rule should be extended so that there could be no criticism of persons, no matter how much is said about their writings or the ideas they give out; and, in addition, another rule well to observe is to avoid as much as possible the retailing of what may be called gossip about the doings and goings to and fro of other members.
All those who are personally acquainted with H. P. Blavatsky and who have not been blinded by their devotion to personalities know that during all the years she has worked in the Society her constant goal has been to so educate those who were willing to listen that they might be able to think for themselves upon all points and not be led away by the personality of any leader or writer. Many have thought that in the Society her word is law, but no one denies this more than herself, she always insisting that we must accept and believe only that which we have decided is true after a careful study. Here the mistake should not be made of supposing that because one is told to have regard for what she says, therefore he is believing on her authority in place of accepting an idea from its inherent truth. Others again, carried in the opposite direction by their very fear of relying upon any person, have thought it right as a general rule to oppose whatever she says. But this is as great a mistake as the other. Respect for a leader of thought means that, as we have come to have belief in the general soundness of that leader's views, so when any come from that source we naturally give them more consideration than those uttered by persons of small repute and known paucity of knowledge. This readiness to give attention to a leader's views is not belief in any idea because such and such a person has put it forth, but solely a natural protection against waste of time in analyzing worthless notions.
I have known a great many of the theosophists who were prominent in the Society's work in India in its early history, and have been privileged to meet many more in England and be present at several so-called crises in our progress, and have noticed that in almost every case the whole trouble has been never about ideas but always about persons. Persons may foolishly think that either they or others may rule the world or some small section of it, but as fixed as fate is it that never persons but always "ideas rule the world." Persons are transitory, moving over the field of mortal view for a few brief years and then disappearing forever, but ideas persist through all these changes, and rule the different personalities as they flit out from the unknown into the objective sky and plunge soon again into the darkness of the beyond. So long as there remain in our ranks the devotees of the personal, just so long will we have to struggle, but as soon as we flee from all consideration of persons the entire Society will escape into the free upper air where every effort will have its perfect work.
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