Theosophy – August 1897

THE THREE OBJECTS OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN AMERICA: I — Franz Hartman

I. UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD

The first and main object of the Theosophical Society and the one to which the other two objects are only subsidiary, is the formation of a nucleus for the practical carrying out of the idea of universal brotherhood, irrespective of any dogma, creed, religious belief or opinion whatsoever; and the only thing which the Theosophical Society as such demands of its members, is that each shall grant to the opinion of others the same amount of tolerance that he claims for his own. However opinions may differ in regard to different subjects, and however much the members may discuss these differences of opinion and try to convince each other of what each believes to be true, or to demolish erroneous theories, there ought to be amongst them that harmony of soul-union, which springs from the recognition of the one certain fact that we are all manifestations of the one great divine spirit, in whom we all dwell and live and have our being and who lives and dwells and strives for manifestation in us.

Owing to the many misconceptions existing within and without the ranks of the Theosophical Society in regard to its nature and object, this non-dogmatic and unsectarian character of the Society can hardly be asserted and insisted on with sufficient emphasis. The idea of a society having no dogma and no creed is too grand to be grasped by the average mind accustomed to see itself surrounded by innumerable circles, each of which has a certain accepted thought, but no real self-knowledge for its centre. The idea of universal brotherhood is no theory, it springs from no inferential knowledge based upon appearances; it arises from the recognition of the truth, that God is one in all, and this recognition is not a theory worked out by the brain, but a self-evident truth, clear to the soul in which it has become manifest. It is not a matter of mere belief or philosophical speculation, but a matter of understanding; it is not an idea to be invented, but an eternal truth which is to be grasped, and which must be felt by the heart before it can be realized by the brain. There is nothing in the constitution of the Theosophical Society which requires us to believe in any particular doctrine or in the infallibility of any person; nothing is asked of any member except tolerance. He who is tolerant is loyal to the constitution of the Society and loyal to the principle upon which that Society rests; he who is intolerant is not loyal to that principle and acts against the object of the Society, and cannot be a true member of it, even if he were to be regarded by the public as necessary to its existence.

The Society has no adopted belief, nor can it ever have one without deserting its character as a theosophical society and taking a place among the many sects and societies crystallized around this or that theory or opinion. Even if some such theory were believed in by all the members, it could not become a dogma of the Society without destroying its character. If for instance the doctrine of Reincarnation — of the truth of which I am myself convinced — were to be adopted as a dogma of the Society, it would become a Society of Reincarnationists, drawing a dividing line between itself and those who did not believe in that dogma, and thus separating itself from that part of the great universal brotherhood of humanity. The word Theosophia means divine wisdom or the wisdom of the gods; but divine wisdom is not made up of opinions and theories, it is the recognition of absolute truth, independent of any proofs or inferences, it is soul-knowledge illumined by the higher understanding; it is enlightenment and manifests itself first of all as what is called "common sense." To those who have no wisdom the meaning of wisdom cannot be made comprehensible; those who possess it, require no further explanation of it.

According to this definition of terms, a "Theosophist" would mean a man in possession of divine wisdom. If taken in that sense, I am not presumptuous enough to claim to be a Theosophist, neither do I consider the Theosophical Society to be composed of people in possession of divine wisdom. In fact we are not a society of Theosophists, which would mean sages and saints or adepts, but merely a Theosophical Society; that is to say a society of people striving after higher knowledge or enlightenment, in the same sense as a Philosophical Society would not necessarily have to be a society composed of full-fledged philosophers.

But if a "Theosophist" means a person striving after wisdom, everybody who seeks for enlightenment is a Theosophist, whether or not he belongs to any society. In fact there are probably only a few people in the world who are not seeking or who do not believe they are seeking for light, and in this sense the whole world is striving after Theosophy. The teacher who educates the children, the preacher who presents to his congregation religious truths in a form which they are able to understand, the scientist who makes an invention that benefits mankind, and really everybody who does something useful for humanity works for Theosophy and is carrying out the dictates of wisdom. Only those who wish for the aggrandizement of self, those who work for their personal ambition, or to put themselves in possession of riches, or to outshine the rest, are the anti-Theosophists and anti-Christs, because they work for the illusion of self and that self is the devil, the enemy of love and truth. An ignorant servant girl who sweeps the steps, so that visitors may find them clean, is a far greater Theosophist than the greatest theologian or scientist, having his brain full of theories regarding the mysteries of divinity and having no love or truth or goodness within his heart. If everybody were to know the principle upon which the Theosophical Society is based, and if the members would act according to it, there is probably not a single honest and unselfish person in the world who would not hasten to join the Society.

The attainment of wisdom means the attainment of internal development; not only intellectual and moral, but above all spiritual development. In a perfect man or woman all of his or her principles or qualities are developed in the right direction. For the purpose of becoming a prize-fighter the muscles of the body must become well developed; for the purpose of becoming a good intellectual reasoner, the intellectual faculties and reasoning powers must be developed; for the purpose of attaining divine wisdom, the spiritual and divine powers of man must become unfolded by the influence of the light of divine wisdom.

All book learning, all dogmatic belief or all the theories in the world taken together, do not constitute wisdom; nevertheless we do not object to intellectual research nor to belief in dogmas. Everything is good in its place. Grass is good for the cow and meat for the lion. We do not ask anybody to give up his or her religious belief and to become converted to Theosophy: the blind cannot be converted to seeing the light. We only advise everyone to seek for the truth within his or her own religion; and if they have found it, they will have outgrown the narrow boundaries of their system and opened their eyes to the perception of principles. We do not ask the lame to throw away the crutches by which they are enabled to walk; we only try to instruct them how to walk without crutches, and when they accomplish it, they will want these crutches no more. We cannot overcome error by ignoring it, we cannot conquer ignorance by itself, we cannot become victorious by avoiding battle; but we should not be satisfied with our errors and narrow views; we should make room for more light.

Absolute truth is one and universal; it cannot be divided and the mind of no mortal man can grasp it as a whole. There is no bottle big enough to contain the whole ocean. But the more a man outgrows the narrow conception of self and the more his mind expands, the nearer does he come to the truth and the more will the light of truth become manifest in him; while on the other hand the more the light of truth becomes manifest in him, the more will it expand his soul and illuminate his mind, and, by helping him to outgrow the delusion of self, bring him nearer to the recognition of absolute truth, nearer to God. The great sun of divine wisdom shines into the little world, called "man," and the more the light of that sun is received by that little world, the more will the light therein grow and expand, and the two lights will thus be brought nearer to each other, until both lights blend into one. When the soul of man, the reflection of the light of divine wisdom, becomes one with the Oversoul, both will be as one. Then will the wisdom of God be the wisdom of man; there will be no extinction of individuality, but the individual soul of man will have become so great as to embrace the whole, and God and Man will be no longer separate, but one.

There is nothing in our way to the attainment of wisdom, except the love of self, and the love of self can be conquered only through unselfish acts. It is of little use to dream and talk about universal brotherhood and tolerance, if we do not practise it. An ideal will remain forever only an unattained ideal, unless we realize it by practice. When the ideal is once realized, it ceases to be a mere ideal for us and becomes a reality, and only when we begin to realize a thing can we come into possession of real knowledge in regard to it. Thus the theory must lead to the practice and without the practice the theory alone is of little value. If we practise the dictates of Universal Brotherhood, we will gradually grow up to the understanding of it and we will finally see in every being not only our brother and sister, but our own real self, which is God in All, though appearing in innumerable forms of manifestation. And having once attained through the expanding power of love that greatness of soul which constitutes the real Theosophist, there will be room for the manifestation of the light of divine wisdom, and as we enter into the wisdom of the gods, the wisdom of the gods will be our own.

(To be continued.)


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