H. P. B. wrote grandly of the Secret Doctrine of the ages, and she pointed out that this Secret Doctrine has come down to us from time immemorial in the guardianship of our great Teachers, in all their various grades. She showed that this Wisdom of the Gods was originally handed to the first human protoplasts by beings from other spheres, by spiritual beings from other planes, to use the argot which we have popularized. But it seemed to me that with all the grandeur of her teaching and the high plane of thought to which she led us, there still remained something to be given which should guard the student against the intrusion into his mind of false ideas, false teachings, doctrines leading him away from the Central Fire. In other words men lacked, Theosophists lacked, a standard, a teststone, against which they could lay a teaching presented to them and find out whether the teaching were pure gold or only tinsel, brass.
What is this really infallible touchstone, this instrument which you can use if you recognise it? It is universality. Any teaching presented to you which cannot stand that test, which can be shown to be only a purported communication from other spheres, and which has no basis in the great philosophies and religions and sciences of the past given to mankind by Masters of Wisdom — any such teaching is fraudulent and has no right, no place, in court, in the court of our conscience. The gods taught men in the beginning, man in his childhood, and led him on, and bred him up, enlightened his mind, so that it could receive and understand and pass on in secret and open tradition the archaic God-Wisdom, our god-teachings, the Secret Doctrine.
In getting this idea, this conception that truth, reality, has been communicated to mankind, that it is now on earth ready for us when we prove ourselves ready for it and worthy of it, we understand that it is traditional, that it has been given forth in larger or smaller measure and in varying manners from age to age by the greatest men, the titan intellects, of the human race; and therefore that this tradition, this Qabbalah, this Brahma-Vidya, can be found in all the great religions and philosophies of the ages.
In accepting this view, you lose sight of the mere author of whatever book may be in your hands. You forget the personality, the individuality, of the Teacher, and you look to what he brings. If he is genuine you find, not the vague frontiers upon which structures of falsity may be erected by scheming minds; but you understand that here is a glorious and mighty Tradition coming down to us from the Universe, from the heart of Divinity, and that its appearances as communicated to men are in the great religions and philosophies of the ages.
It is this Tradition, this Secret Doctrine, which gave to H. P. B the title of her masterpiece; and it was for this same reason that I chose these actual words, The Esoteric Tradition (1) as the title of my latest book. It is esoteric because few have as yet understood it. It is traditional because it has been handed down from immemorial time. Thus The Esoteric Tradition is an attempt, feeble it may be, but very honest and sincere, to do what our Teachers are trying to do with us: to instill into our hearts and minds a reverence for and a worship of the truth before us; to awaken in our hearts the divine Fire of love for all that is, which becomes constricted and restricted and usually degraded when it is fastened solely on an individual accepted as a Teacher.
The suggestion in the title of this book is that a Teacher should receive reverence, but only in so far as his teaching is truth. In losing sight of the man, you see the Message. Was there not need, is there not need, of just this touchstone, particularly in the Theosophical Movement today? Is it not absolutely accordant with all that dear H P. B taught us: to look within, to look up, to forget yet to revere the hand which gives; to take the Message? Inspect it. Take from it what you find good; reject the balance if you wish. You may make a mistake in so doing, but you are exercising your prerogative of choice, of discrimination, of intuition. And by so exercising it you give it strength, and as time passes it will grow very powerful, and you will then take back the cornerstone which you rejected, and in so doing you will receive the Teacher with the teaching in your hearts, and in the proper way.
One lesson I have learned: that it is the teaching and its magic working upon me which counts; for when the teaching enters my heart my reverence for the communicator grows. Is not your reverence for our Masters infinitely greater when you realize that they awaken in us the noblest and best? It is just this noblest and best in us which, when awakened, enables us to see them. And that is what they want: not to have us see them, but to have us awake, our hearts beating in steady rhythm with the heart-beat of the universal heart, and our minds fired with the truth which they communicate to us and which we value precisely in proportion as it is impersonal.
I think the Theosophical Movement will suffer from no more fakers, no more false teachers, now or in the future, provided we can remember that the touchstone of anything that may be offered to us for a teaching is universality, and the appeal to the conscience, the appeal to the voice within.
1. The Esoteric Tradition, published 1935 by Theosophical University Press. (return to text)