Someone said to me the other day, "Theosophy is just another phase of the literature of escape. You people sit around and read and lecture about these grandiose cosmic ideas while all the time the world is going to the dogs around you. There's nothing really living and creative about Theosophy."
I then called his attention to the following statement of Sir William Henry Beveridge in connexion with his plan for the abolishment of poverty in Great Britain:
This planet is full of cruelty and oppression, of unexpected savagery, senseless injustice, killings of the body and killings of the spirit which one can do nothing to help — which one feels ought to rouse the conscience of humanity.
Beveridge said this in admitting that his plan would not make the world over. In fact he seems to doubt, as in this statement, that the world can be made over.
In quoting the above in response to my friend's objection I pointed out that here in the presentment of conditions which "we can do nothing about," is just where Theosophy comes in. Because it is so long range in its vision and methods of cure Theosophy seems to many at first sight both cold and unpractical. But one of the sound things about the Wisdom-Religion is that it has no immediate panacea for human ills. If it offered a quick, universal solution it might well be suspect. But its goal is the reform of the individual. When enough individuals become convinced of the truth of Reincarnation and Karman; that man is an imperfectly evolved god struggling with a selfish animal nature which he inherits from his own past; when the majority have learned to understand the roots of their own psychology, and that they have a divine as well as an animal heredity — when enough individuals are convinced of these things, then the race will be well on its way out of the dangers from "unexpected savagery, senseless injustice" and the other things that seem to Beveridge to be incurable.
That this goal is a distant one, no one denies. It is true that if we could sweep the world with a belief in Theosophy a miracle of social reformation could easily result. But no Theosophist is foolish enough to expect such easy and quick results. Growth is a gradual and laborious process. Reformations founded simply upon emotional reactions are generally transient. It is only when beliefs are rooted in knowledge and tested by experience that emotional conviction has any value. Only such a process brought about by toil both of mind and heart can result in growth.
He who becomes a real Theosophist undergoes of his own volition such a "cure." No mere study of our teachings will make a Theosophist of him, the kind that becomes a creative power in his own world. He must become a moral, or better, a spiritual scientist, making of himself and his daily life a laboratory of spiritual research, experiment and eventual verification.
Even then he will rarely succeed without a Teacher. Of course it is barely possible to succeed without one. As a man might become a great scientist unaided by the work and the discoveries of colleagues and teachers. But no student, say of chemistry or biology, would today attempt such a wasteful and senseless independence.
So the wise student of Theosophy seeks a Teacher. He allies himself with colleagues and gets the benefits of association and exchange of ideas and methods. In doing this he obtains the guidance and the knowledge for his individual research in the laboratory of his own being. He will then discover the real meaning of that tenet of the Buddhist religion: "I take my refuge in the congregation."
The word "congregation" in its true esoteric sense as here used does not refer to a mere collection of men with the same ideas. Dr. de Purucker's interpretation is: "I go to the Order of Holy Ones as my refuge." The word covers thus the whole congregation of Teachers — Adepts, Mahatmans and Bodhisattwas — who have preceded us on the pathway of liberation.
When a man allies himself with the Theosophical Society, founded under the auspices of the Mahatmans, and especially with its more esoteric work, he becomes an integral part of that Order. It is an organization of beings which we call the Brotherhood of Compassion. In a strict sense all humanity belongs to that Brotherhood, whose work consists largely in laboring incessantly for the salvation of the world. But between a genuine Theosophist and a non-Theosophist there is this difference: the Theosophist is a self-conscious, growing and developing member of that Brotherhood, a working partner. He is on the way to becoming himself a Savior of humanity. The other is like a minor shareholder who benefits in an unconscious way without knowledge or power to share in the advantages of active responsibility and co-operation.
Is not just the sense of such privileged co-operation in itself a mighty inspiration?
As for proof of all this — well, let anyone try living for six months the life outlined by Theosophy. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." Let a man start reforming himself in the light of Theosophy and the evidence for its truth soon becomes overwhelming.
Yes, in one sense Theosophy is the "literature of escape" — escape from the tyranny of our animal selves, and escape for the world from ignorance, and from the cruelty and selfishness which spring from these factors. The only thing needed is to get busy and test Theosophy out for one's self.