The Path – August 1891

A HISTORICAL PARALLEL — Rev. W. E. Copeland

A comparison between the Christian Church during the first sixteen years of its existence and the Theosophical Society during the same period of its existence, with special reference also to the next five or ten years in each case, may bring some encouragement to those who feel that the death of Madame Blavatsky has taken the life out of the Theosophical Society.

During the first sixteen years of the Christian Church, including in that period the three years during which tradition reports that Jesus was with his disciples, the progress was slow; a few churches were formed in Asia Minor, and that was all. Twenty or thirty churches, whose membership was largely confined to the least influential people in the large cities, was all that could be shown as the fruit of much earnest work. These churches were established among people all speaking the same language and living the same lives. They were all to be found in a territory not much larger than one of the great Western States of this Republic. No one outside the membership knew much about them, and they had absolutely no influence in moulding the thought of the communities in which they were established. Their place of meeting was concealed from the public gaze. No more unpromising beginning for a great religion could well be imagined.

Consider now what has been done in Theosophy since Madame Blavatsky organized the Society in New York in 1875, just sixteen years ago. There is no civilized nation on the earth where there is not a branch of this society. In the New World and in the Old, among Buddhists, Brahmins, Parsees, Mahomedans, and Jews, as well as among Christians, it has been established. The movement in America keeps pace with the movement among the people of India. It has succeeded in doing what Christianity in 1800 years has not done; it has organized a Universal Brotherhood into which come people of every nationality and of every religion. It has overstepped the caste distinctions of India, which have heretofore absolutely separated one caste from another. Theosophy has taken hold of people of all degrees of intelligence, and many of the most brilliant thinkers of the world have enrolled themselves as members. In sixteen years theosophy has reached a place which Christianity had not attained in six hundred years, partly, of course, in consequence of the modern means of rapid communication and of rapid diffusion of knowledge.

Not only are these Branches of the Theosophical Society established in all parts of the earth, but true truths which make the value of the Wisdom Religion have modified the thought of the world. Newspapers and magazines devote columns to Theosophy; writers of fiction base their novels on Theosophical truths; even the priests of different religions, slowest of all to be affected by new truth, are profoundly influenced by Theosophical thought. Reports of Theosophical meetings find a welcome in the great dailies of Europe and America. There has been through the effect of Theosophic thought a great reaction from that gross materialism into which the so-called civilized nations were sinking deeper every year. Science has been compelled to modify some of her most positive affirmations, and ideas received from the Wisdom Religion are now not only tolerated but welcomed by teachers of Science who once taught only materialism. Theosophy has compelled the thoughtful people of Asia, Europe, and America to consider its claims and give a fair discussion to its prominent doctrines. All this, indeed, largely through the wonderful genius of Madame Blavatsky. That genius can work for us no longer, but what has been gained through her prodigious efforts and marvellous self-denial will never be lost.

When Jesus died it seemed to the little band of Christians that all was over, that the seed which their loved Master had planted was doomed to die without bringing forth a single flower. But the reverse proved to be the fact. While Jesus lived the disciples leaned upon him, they did no thinking for themselves, they were content to listen to his ever new expositions of truth. After his death, when they were awakened to the value of the truth which he had entrusted to their charge, they began to think for themselves, and there appeared a missionary zeal which would content itself with nothing less than the conversion of the world. Timid Galilean fishermen became all at once bold proclaimers of the truth; men of no education enthused by the truth which had been given them travelled and preached and organized. While Jesus lived, the truths of Christianity were confined to the disciples and the small audiences which Jesus addressed. After his death these truths were promulgated to the world at large, and were listened to by people in various parts of Asia Minor and along the Mediterranean.

Now with the departure of the founder of the Theosophical Society will come a similar experience to the members of that Society. The truths of Theosophy are identical with the truths of Christianity as taught by Jesus, which were the same as had given life and power to the religions before the time of Jesus. These truths will arouse among all members an enthusiasm such as prevailed among the early Christians. No longer able to depend on the chosen instrument of those who know, Theosophists must depend upon themselves, and, devoting more time to study and contemplation, they will make rapid progress, and there will soon be quite a body of men and women able to assume the office of teacher. Even should we have no additions to the truth already received, we shall digest that truth and make it such a part of our lives that, truth-inspired, we shall be able to do a work impossible to perform while we were always in the expectant attitude waiting for something more from our leader.

Judging from what was accomplished by Christianity in the ten years following the death of Jesus, we may expect a prodigious advance in Theosophy and nothing less than the conquest of the intellectual world, nay more, of the whole world, whether intellectual or not. When we see what has already been done, and note what progress the truths of Christianity, the same as the truths of Theosophy, made after the teacher had gone from among his pupils, we may look for a genuine conversion of the world; and what seems to many an injury will prove the greatest of blessings.


The Path

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