In 1888 H. P. Blavatsky wrote: (1)
"Night before last I was shown a bird's eye view of the theosophical societies. I saw a few earnest reliable theosophists in a death struggle with the world in general and with other — nominal and ambitious — theosophists. The former are greater in number than you may think, and they prevailed — as you in America will prevail, if you only remain staunch to the Master's programme and true to yourselves. And last night I saw. . . The defending forces have to be judiciously — so scanty are they — distributed over the globe wherever theosophy is struggling with the powers of darkness."
And in the Key to Theosophy:
"If the present attempt in the form of our Society succeeds better than its predecessors have done, then it will be in existence as an organized living and healthy body when the time comes for the effort of the twentieth century. Not only so, but besides a large and accessible literature ready to men's hands, the next impulse will find a numerous and united body of people ready to welcome the new torch-bearer of truth. He will find the minds of men prepared for his message, a language ready for him in which to clothe the new truths he brings, an organization awaiting his arrival which will remove the merely mechanical material obstacles and difficulties from his path. Think how much one to whom such an opportunity is given could accomplish. Measure it by comparison with what the Theosophical Society actually has achieved in the last fourteen years without any of these advantages and surrounded by hosts of hindrances which would not hamper the new leader."
Every member of the Society should be, and many are, deeply interested in the above words. The outlook, the difficulties, the dangers, the necessities are the same now as then, and as they were in the beginning of this attempt in 1875. For, as she has often said, this is not the first nor will it be the last effort to spread the truths and to undertake the same mission as that taken up by Ammonius Saccas some centuries ago — to lead men to look for the one truth that underlies all religions and which alone can guide science in the direction of ideal progress. In every century such attempts are made, and many of them have been actually named "theosophical". Each time they have to be adapted to the era in which they appear. And this is the era — marked by the appearance and the success of the great American republic — of freedom for thought and for investigation.
In the first quotation there is a prophecy that those few reliable theosophists who are engaged in a struggle with the opposition of the world and that coming from weak or ambitious members will prevail, but it has annexed to it a condition that is of importance. There must be an adherance to the program of the Masters. That can only be ascertained by consulting her and the letters given out by her as from those to whom she refers. There is not much doubt about that program. It excludes the idea that the Society was founded or is intended as "a School for Occultism", for that has been said in so many words long ago in some letters published by Mr. Sinnett and in those not published.
Referring to a letter received (1884) from the same source we find: "Let the Society flourish on its moral worth, and not by phenomena made so often degrading." The need of the west for such doctrines as Karma and Reincarnation and the actual Unity of the whole human family is dwelt upon at length in another. And referring to some of the effects of certain phenomena, it is said (2) "They have to prove. . . constructive of new institutions of a genuine practical brotherhood of Humanity, where all will become co-workers with Nature." Speaking of present materialistic tendencies, the same authority says:
"Exact experimental science has nothing to do with morality, virtue, philanthropy- — therefore can make no claim upon our help until it blends itself with metaphysics. . . . The same causes that are materializing the Hindu mind are equally affecting all western thought. Education enthrones scepticism, but imprisons spirituality. You can do immense good by helping to give the western nations a secure basis on which to reconstruct their crumbling faith. And what they need is the evidence that Asiatic psychology alone supplies. Give this and you will confer happiness of mind on thousands. . . . This is the moment to guide the recurrent impulse which must soon come and which will push the age towards extreme atheism or drag it back to extreme sacerdotalism, if it is not led to the primitive soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans."
This is the great tone running through all the words from these sources. It is a call to work for the race and not for self, a request to bring to the west and the east the doctrines that have most effect on human conduct, on the relations of man to man, and hence the greatest possibility of forming at last a true universal brotherhood. We must follow this program and supply the world with a system of philosophy which gives a sure and logical basis for ethics, and that can only be gotten from those to which I have adverted; there is no basis for morals in phenomena, because a man might learn to do the most wonderful things by the aid of occult forces and yet at the same time be the very worst of men.
A subsidiary condition, but quite as important as the other, is laid down by H. P. B. in her words that we must "remain true to ourselves". This means true to our better selves and the dictates of conscience. We cannot promulgate the doctrines and the rules of life found in theosophy and at the same time ourselves not live up to them as far as possible. "We must practise what we preach, and make as far as we can a small brotherhood within the Theosophical Society. Not only should we do this because the world is looking on, but also from a knowledge of the fact that by our unity the smallest effort made by us will have tenfold the power of any obstacle before us or any opposition offered by the world.
The history of our sixteen years of life shows that our efforts put forth in every quarter of the globe have modified the thought of the day, and that once more the word "Theosophy", and many of the old ideas that science and agnosticism supposed were buried forever under the great wide dollar of present civilization, have come again to the front. We do not claim to be the sole force that began the uprooting of dogmatism and priestcraft, but only that we have supplied a link, given words, stirred up thoughts of the very highest importance just at a time when the age was swinging back to anything but what the reformers had fought for. The old faiths were crumbling, and no one stood ready to supply that which by joining religion and science together would make the one scientific and the other religious. We have done exactly what the letter quoted asked for, led the times a step "to the primitive soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans".
But we can never hope to see the churches and the ministers coming over in a body to our ranks. It would be asking too much of human nature. Churches are so much property that has to be preserved, and ministers are so many men who get salaries they have to earn, with families to support and reputations to sustain. Many "houses of worship" are intimately connected with the material progress of the town, and the personal element would prevent their sinking the old and glorious identity in an organization like to ours. Congregations hire their priests at so much a year to give out a definite sort of theology, and do not like to be told the truth about themselves nor to have too high a standard of altruism held up to them in a way from which, under the theosophical doctrines, there would be no escape. They may all gradually change, heresy trials will continue and heretical ministers be acquitted, but the old buildings will remain and the speakers go on in new grooves to make other reputations, but we may not hope to see any universal rush to join us.
Our destiny is to continue the wide work of the past in affecting literature and thought throughout the world, while our ranks see many changing quantities but always holding those who remain true to the program and refuse to become dogmatic or to give up common-sense in theosophy. Thus will we wait for the new messenger, striving to keep the organization alive that he may use it and have the great opportunity H. P. B. outlines when she says, "Think how much one to whom such an opportunity is given could accomplish."
1. See Lucifer for June, 1891, p. 291. (return to text)
2. Occult World, p. 101. (return to text)
The PathTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE