September has become for Theosophists a month of heroic memory connected with the thought of G. de P., of his life among us with its own peculiar quality and challenge, and of what he left with us in homely counsel about life and living.
Taken to heart and lived at least in part, the distilled essence of it is felt in a" changed outlook, an enlarged vision, a deeper insight into the verities of life. "Do you get it?" he often used to say; meaning, did we get the point, the subtle underlying substance of the thought he had been expounding in his inimitable way.
He taught us, for example, (and it dawned upon our consciousness as a fact in the course of time) that mysticism, however transcendental, was not necessarily spirituality. The same was true of estheticism. Psychic experiences likewise were by no means on the spiritual plane — in short, we learned that to keep our feet well on the ground, attending strictly to the duty of the moment and appraising life and circumstance with a factual eye, is the true practical occultism. When, after a particularly inspiring meeting in the Temple at Point Loma, one of his students made some rapturous remark to him expressing exalted feeling, G. de P.'s reply was some thing like this: "Have you seen to —," some homely household duty that was occasionally forgotten.
And then there were his references to the "Woofie-bird." The Woofle-bird, it seemed, "always flies backwards, and the reason is that it doesn't care a whit where it is going but wants to see where it has been." With this one humorous sally the Teacher turned our eyes forward along the path of achievement and away from the dead past more effectively than by hours of solemn dissertations.
This brings us back to the theme of humor as a saving power, which was so important an element of G. de P.'s teaching. To regard with detached amusement the elemental and impulsive part of ourselves that so largely fills the stage, we learned, was to get the proper perspective on our own natures: to laugh at it and even to ignore it was to put the stress of our will and effort into the positive and constructive course of action.
G. de P. had an engaging way of introducing a teaching. He would say, "I will tell you a secret," and then would show us how fascinating the technique of self-conquest could be — like this: We could actually (he said) become like unto what we admired and loved, by thinking towards it and dwelling upon it. . . . The key to right meditation was simply the being so downright interested in the subject chosen for contemplation that the mind dwelt upon it easily and naturally, and did not have to be "whipped" into concentration. But a form of meditation equally valuable was to hold the consciousness of these lofty teachings in the back of the mind all through the day's duties, and brood upon them thus. . . . To judge of the progress we were making, we had only to study our own reactions to the common events of life, observing how we met and handled situations, how it all affected us. That was criterion enough. . . . And then there was self-forgetfulness, the master-key of them all.
Our thoughtless estheticism was curbed by his trenchant observations. If we remarked on the jubilant song of a mocking-bird or the quaint antics of a pet animal he would sometimes say with a rueful smile, "Poor thing!", meaning that the creature was so far behind in the scale of being, and had so many aeons of evolution to live through before it arrived at self-consciousness, that it was rather to be pitied, from our human standpoint. Yet, on the other hand, stooping over a beautiful hydrangea blossom one day he said, "If we only knew what was locked up in here we would know the Universe," showing how he reverenced all life.
But to return to the "Woofie-bird," and the idea of looking forward instead of backward over trodden paths. Upon this naturally followed the teaching, which G. de P. forever accentuated: Change is growth. This stood us in good stead when it became apparent that we must move from our beloved Point Loma and establish new Headquarters at this beautiful spot near Covina. That move was more than a test, it was a triumph of G. de P.'s skill in touching our understandings with a fire that inspired our trust in his own joyous vision and confidence in the future. Perhaps in no other way than by actually making this move could we have realized as fully as we did that however dear the surroundings and however beautiful, they were only a means to enable an inner energy to work out its appointed purposes: when those purposes had been fulfilled, the fugitive but potent force withdrew to find its next appropriate vehicle: that no particular spot on earth is in itself any more sacred than any other spot, without the informing spirit to make it so.
Countless other hints, and keys to the riddle of everyday living given to us by G. de P. come to mind — our readers will all have caught some of them. But the whole burden of G. de P.'s kindly and patient efforts to show us the wise ways of life are perhaps summed up in this: that we must judge our experiences honestly, with a dispassionate attitude that faces the best and the worst with equanimity; with a clear-eyed perception of truth which will safeguard us from delusions, and will show us where our feet are set — in short, the faculty (borrowing a traditional phrase from the Mystery-Schools) TO SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE.
It is inspiring to reflect that in imparting to us these homely lessons — the "horse sense" of occultism — our Teachers are letting us in on a modicum of the genuine and traditional wisdom of the occult schools. They are sharing with us the teaching they themselves have received. After having had the benefit of this instruction from four of our Leaders, whose methods and teachings along these lines were fundamentally identical, we cannot help but recognize the stamp of the School, the effects of whose training they all have shown: the School of the Masters of Wisdom.
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