What the Theosophical Society offers is an opportunity to all lovers of humanity to do altruistic work, illuminated by the light of a comprehensive philosophy which explains the causes of the miseries and inequalities in the world. It was founded to help direct altruism along constructive channels, and to show that whole-hearted co-operation in such work was the safest way to higher development. The dynamic energy to give the Movement power to overcome every obstacle is not generated by striving to learn tricks of the occult arts, but by arousing a burning desire to serve. In short, the Society was not formed to be a "Hall of Magic." It was to be a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood in the world and "to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions."
Many Westerners find it very distasteful to contemplate a postponement of personal achievement. They say, "Why must we wait for future lives? We want powers now." Such people are fascinated by the various methods of training offered by self-styled "occultists," or by "yogis" from the East. Nevertheless, an inquiry into these systems and their results shows that even here they do not find satisfaction. Even when such systems are not positively dangerous, they practically all pander to the acquisitiveness of the undeveloped human being. Advertisements say: "You can learn in six weeks to gain power over others." Or, "You can have everything you want, power, riches, friends."
Yet with all their appeal, these adaptations of oriental systems are quite unsuited to the temperament of the average Westerner with his impatient, restless and undisciplined nature. As a rule we are entirely unable to go through the difficult courses of training to which the meditative, introspective Oriental is adapted by ages of heredity, by custom and environment. The eager enthusiast gets "stuck half way." Unable to win through to a promised success, and equally unable to regain the more normal if not enlightened state he previously possessed, he does not know where to turn.
The better systems, with a quasi-spiritual appeal, promise the student looking for quick results, the possibility of reaching a state of cosmic consciousness by following a particular course of lessons — for a price. But cosmic consciousness is not to be bought! It is the unalterable rule of the real Teachers that no spiritual teaching shall ever be sold.
Further than this, the human soul has taken millions of years to reach its present stage, and that slow process of unfolding growth which is to culminate eventually in full spiritual enlightenment cannot suddenly be consummated. You cannot over-night make of a soul something that it is not. Its quality and character change slowly. Soul-enlightenment comes as the fruition of lifetimes of diligence and one-pointed effort.
Thus the Theosophical philosophy holds out no false hopes. It explains the nature, origin, and destiny of the complex being called man, and provides a grand universal setting in which the awakening consciousness of the aspirant to wisdom views his own progress as inseparable from that of the whole human race, and almost inconsequential in its purely personal aspects. He finds that, far from any barriers being raised to his progressive development, the expansion of consciousness he receives from a study of the Ancient Wisdom and from its application in a life of unselfish service, clears away veil after veil of the lower selfhood. Thus he himself, by his own self-devised efforts, brings about those higher stages of training and teaching which lead to the final objective: the attainment of Atma-Vidya, the union of the human self with the aspirant's own inner god.
. . . H. P. Blavatsky, writing in 1889, in the closing chapter of The Key to Theosophy, draws a picture of what the Theosophical Society may do if it can avoid the pitfalls that so many former efforts have fallen into. She writes:
Then the Society will live on into and through the twentieth century. It will gradually leaven and permeate the great mass of thinking and intelligent people with its large-minded and noble ideas of Religion, Duty, and Philanthropy. Slowly but surely it will burst asunder the iron fetters of creeds and dogmas, of social and caste prejudices; it will break down racial and national antipathies and barriers, and will open the way to the practical realisation of the Brotherhood of all men. . . . Further, the development of the psychic powers and faculties, the premonitory symptoms of which are already visible in America, will proceed healthily and normally. Mankind will be saved from the terrible dangers, both mental and bodily, which are inevitable when that unfolding takes place, as it threatens to do, in a hot-bed of selfishness and all evil passions. Man's mental and psychic growth will proceed in harmony with his moral improvement, while his material surroundings will reflect the peace and fraternal goodwill which will reign in his mind, instead of the discord and strife which is everywhere apparent around us to-day.
— Reprinted from Psychic Powers, p.120-5