The Theosophist is often asked what practical good the Theosophical Society is doing in and for the world, and the answer is simple enough and direct to the point of the question. We work with ideas, and we try to show men that there is nothing more practical, stronger and more forceful than an idea. Ideas shake civilizations and overthrow them. Look what has happened in the past. What brought such changes about? Ideas. The ideas living in the minds of a few men — seeing ill or seeing good, is quite beside the point I am discussing. It is the ideas that I wish to stress, not who voiced them, or the consequences flowing from their enunciation to the world. The important thing is that ideas good or bad have tremendous power. And because these ideas and ideals were different from what was commonly accepted, they met at first with contempt and derision, later with study, and finally with acceptance; and structures toppled and there was much dust, and other structures rose and endured for centuries.
Show me something more practical than an idea. If ideas overthrow civilizations, they also build them up. The whole work of The Theosophical Society is to fill the minds and hearts of men with ideas of grandeur, inspiring them to ever nobler, more unselfish, and altruistic objectives; to give men and women thoughts that they can live and die by. Show me something more practical than this. This is our main work. True, we give from our slender means what we can and may when the calls come; but this is the least.
What ails the world today? Is it lack of riches? No. Is it lack of thought and good-will? The hearts of men vibrate with agony and pain at everything that goes on everywhere. But men and women are blind, they have no ideal, no solid, central spiritual idea around which men may collect. Religion has lost its grip on Western men. Science has become suspect even in the minds of its foremost proponents, so that they themselves are questioning whether their scientific discoveries are good for the ethical stability of the human race, giving to men power to control their present evil passions and thoughts. Philosophy is today little short of a caricature and mimic of far older and truly grand philosophical systems known however to relatively few in the Occident.
What the world needs today is grand humanitarian ideals that they can believe in and follow in trust, ideals of a constructive character: something to give men hope, and a conviction that this world is run morally, i. e. morally inspired by the spiritual powers of nature, and is not a mere accident, originating in some far off time in cosmic space when by chance a nebula began spinning in empty space and finally after many aeons brought us forth, creatures of a day, finally to draw up our legs in bed and die into nothingness.
For fifty or sixty years Occidental science has been teaching us that men are but a higher kind of beast, soulless, irresponsible, answerable to none: a teaching flying in the face of every voice of Nature, of every being around us. For everywhere we see law and order and cause and effect, and that if you do certain things you will reap the penalty, or win the guerdon, the reward. These are facts. The others are evil dreams or devachanic illusions.
What, then, can we do? Teach men that this universe is essentially and fundamentally governed and controlled by irrefutable law and destiny, ethical, moral in its essence; and that it is not simply a crazy phantasmagoria, a danse macabre, without sense or purpose or reason. That is what too many tens of millions think in the Occident today, that is what they think they believe. Self-interest has become their sole guide in life. Result? Each man for himself, and the Devil take the weakest. There is where the trouble lies: false teachings, false convictions, stupidity, and the pathetic picture of noble human beings run away with by ideas and ideals indeed — but of what category? The pathos of it all is that men fail to discern in nature and in themselves nature's own categorical moral imperative, in which indeed most men no longer believe. Thus they fail to find the road to everlasting happiness and peace and wisdom and unselfish love.
The greatest men in the world are they who have seen beyond the clouds, seen the stars of spiritual destiny and followed them. In other words they have followed that divine inner peace which all men vaguely sense, but which when recognized and followed gives us wisdom and knowledge and power to labor mightily for the common good of all men. But our civilization as a whole has lost that religious instinct of unity with inner guidance; it has lost belief in its science which has miseducated it; it has no philosophy; it is unguided, blinded, almost helpless, and yet it is pathetically crying and asking the cause like a child in the night, crying helplessly — an appeal to the powers that be. There is the picture.
The main work of the Theosophical Society seems to me to be the restoring to man of the self-conscious realization of his spiritual intuitions and of the belief in the innate morality welling through Nature's heart and recognizable when our own eyes, through the same moral urge, open to recognize it in others and everywhere. This is the main reason of its founding; this is the main reason why the Masters sent their first Envoy, H. P. Blavatsky: to restore to men the archaic heritage of the philosophy of life which is at once a religion and a science, which is founded on the spiritual heart of Almighty Mother Nature herself and on no man's say-so; which is provable by examination into Nature's secret places.
It is our work to change men's hearts by changing their thoughts; give them ideas and ideals for them to follow and live up to. And to work with malice towards none, with a yearning to do justice to all, even to those with whom we most disagree. The Theosophist will be successful just in so far as he can implant in the hearts of others who may see him and hear him the thoughts and ideas and ideals which he himself has sought and found and is blessed with. Little by little the thoughts of men will change, until a time will come when these Theosophic ideas will sweep like wildfire through the hearts and minds of men everywhere, permeating both mind and conscience, thus furnishing a strong, a mighty, guide to all. The world will then be changed because men will begin to think new thoughts, see new ideas, realize their truth and immense import and value, and instinctively will follow them; and they will understand then that self-interest is the worst policy possible to follow, because the man who works for his fellows works likewise for the best for himself and wins friends everywhere. The man whose honor is unstained and whose heart beats with love for his fellows: he is the man who will be looked to for counsel, for all will instinctively feel the inner guidance that such a man follows, and will themselves seek the light that directs him.
If ideas can overthrow and work havoc, it is by this fact evident that ideas of another type can build and unite and save.