The Path – March 1895

THE NEW DEPARTURE — F. Hartmann

With the advent of the theosophical movement inaugurated by H. P. Blavatsky, an era of self-thought began. The Theosophical Society was intended to be free from any enforced belief in any opinion, creed, or dogma whatever; being based upon no other fundamental principle than the unity of the One from whom all life with its infinite variety of forms originates, and the resulting brotherhood of all human beings. Undoubtedly one of the causes which led to the rapid growth of that Society was that many people instinctively or intuitionally perceived the sublimity of that idea, even if they were not capable of grasping it intellectually at once. In fact, those who are able to conceive that a person may become interiorly illumined by the light of truth and be taught by wisdom itself, so that he may know the truth, not from mere hearsay or from the reading of books, or from information received, or from his own speculations and fancies, but from awakening himself to a higher state of self-consciousness, and living himself in that light; the number of persons who can conceive of that, seems to be still comparatively small. Especially in England, the country ridden by orthodoxy, hypocrisy, and conventionalism; where everyone looks upon everybody with contempt unless he dresses like him, feeds like him, adopts the same manners and believes the same things as he; where everything is divided off into boxes and pigeon-holed; where nobody cares what you are, but everybody wants to know to what system, club, or church you belong; the meaning of the word self-thought, self-knowledge, or Theosophy seems to be generally misunderstood, and this misunderstanding is about to invade the ranks of the Theosophical Society, bringing with it a bagful of dogmas and doctrines, threatening the freedom of that Society and to turn it into a sect; perhaps a sect with more advanced views than those of the rest, but a sect after all, in which no one can attain freedom, but is bound to follow blindly the scent of a leader.

There is not a country in the world in which the book called "The Bible" is so much worshipped as in England, and perhaps nowhere is the meaning of its contents so much misunderstood; otherwise it would be known more generally that this freedom from dogmatism and the self-perception of truth taught by Theosophy form the sum and substance of the new "covenant" or the new dispensation. This is nowhere better explained than in Chapter viii of the epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, where it is said: "I will put my laws into their mind and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying Know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first one old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away."

It is not said that the new dispensation is to consist in that somebody with a new set of more plausible dogmas than the old ones is to come forward and to convert the people to a belief in them; but the new covenant consists in the self-recognition of that eternal light of divine wisdom which heretofore was known only theoretically from descriptions received through the prophets and sages. No amount of theories and opinions enables a person to see; they can only serve to aid him in overcoming the obstacles which prevent him from seeing, and perhaps to persuade him to open his eyes. The new covenant consists in growing into that freedom, where no sectarian or theological crutches are required; but where the light of divine wisdom itself can illumine the heart.

The fact that this new covenant does not consist in the establishment of a new creed is also shown by St. Paul in the same letter at its beginning: "Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens: a minister of the true tabernacle [the spiritual soul] which the Lord pitched and not man . . . For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law."

Thus it is shown that it is not an earthly, mortal man who puts his laws directly into men's minds and writes them in their hearts; but it is the great luminous soul itself that sends its light into every mind and heart that is ready to receive it; — not theoretically, as was the old way and custom among the blind, by secondary information; but practically, according to the new departure by which everyone is asked to open his eyes and receive himself that light of which those who keep their eyes closed know only from hearsay. Who is he who is set on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens? Surely not a man of this earth. The Occultist knows that the right hand of God means his power, become the right hand is the symbol for doing good, and the power of the divine man is divine love; while only that love is divine which is universal and identical with divine self-knowledge; for "love" in its true sense means the recognition of Self (Atma) in another thing, while divine love recognizes itself in everything.

This divine love or self-knowledge is Theosophy, of which it is plainly said in the Bible (I Corinth., II, 7); "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to nought; but we speak the wisdom of God [the inner man] in a mystery (theou sophian), which God ordained before the world (pro ton aionon) unto our glory", and it must therefore be plain to every rational mind that this Divine Wisdom cannot be explained and proved to those who have no comprehension for it, nor can the nature of Divine Love be demonstrated to those who keep their hearts closed against it by self-love, conceit, and mutual incriminations. Such persons, enveloped as they are in the veil of spiritual ignorance (Tamas), will not be able to understand the nature and purport of the new dispensation.

Those of the Theosophical Society, and out of it, who are still clamoring for a creed, needing, as a stick upon which to lean, the opinion of some leader believed to be a reliable authority, belong to the outer circle, to the pronaos of the temple. No matter how many pledges they have signed and how many ceremonies they have performed, they have not entered into the sanctuary into which none with his eyes shut is admitted. Praiseworthy as their object may be in studying the theories regarding immortal life, while they are not yet able to experience it practically they ought not to imagine that having become well versed in these theories they have attained self-knowledge, but know that a description of food does not appease hunger, while he who eats receives the benefit of it even without a description, so all the theories about the origin of man and his development into a divine being have only the object of inducing him to follow the true path, while only he who walks upon that path and practically develops into a divine being will obtain real self-knowledge and arrive at his destination.

To the inner circle will belong those who, not satisfied with mere theories nor with blindly following the sounding horn of a leader, succeed in opening their own spiritual eye and receive themselves the light which shines for leaders and for followers alike. Having awakened to the realization of the inner life of the soul, they are thereby initiated into that inner life and receive the new dispensation, which cannot be enforced upon them by any outward pledge, interpretation, or ceremony. All that the outward man (the personality) does out of his own perverted self-will and without the inner impulse from the divine man (Mahatma) within, is worthless and foolish; even his pledges are the result of folly and selfishness, for he makes his promises for the purpose of obtaining a selfish end and pledges himself to do that which he has not the power to accomplish. But the spiritually awakened man, knowing his own Master and having become united with him, even for a moment, is during that moment filled with the understanding and the power of the Master, and what he does in such circumstances is not done by him personally, but through him by the Master, as a conscious but selfless instrument of the Master's will, and the proof that he has acted as an instrument for the Master can be found nowhere except by and within himself.

This is the doctrine that has been taught in the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible, by the ancient Rosicrucians and mystics of all ages. Theosophical students have often admitted its possibility, but comparatively few seem to believe that it can be practically carried out. This, then, is the new departure which we would propose for the Theosophical Society; that we should seek to outgrow the old dispensation and enter the new; that the question should not be whether we are loyal to Jones or to Smith, but whether we are loyal to immortal Truth; that we cease to dispute as to whether the description given of the light by Smith or the one given by Jones is correct, but ourselves tear away the veil of selfishness and ignorance which shuts us out from the perception of light. This is the new departure, that everyone should seek to know the Master within himself, and become himself that Master over the delusion of "self"; when he will be able to know the reflection of the image of the Master in others as well as himself. Not by mere science and clever speculation, nor by gush and sentimentalism, is true freedom attained. There is no other way to it except through the awakening to the knowledge of eternal truth.


The Path

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE