The Theosophical Forum – February 1950

LIGHT IN DARKNESS — Benjamin W. Koske

Address delivered on New Year's Day, 1950, in the Temple at Covina

I have come from what has been thought of today as the dark continent, the continent of Europe; and I certainly left England with a feeling that through the many years we have passed, spiritual things have seemed very, very dark. But during the last six or seven days a transmutation of my whole vision has taken place. My feeling has singled down to one immense impression: I am no longer looking at the dark things of Europe. Instead I seem to be wrapt around with and looking at the light, feeling as though a great battle has been fought, and a great victory won for the light. Now we are looking ahead, and the mission when I return home is to tell of the glories that I feel are near. So clearly, so strongly do I feel this, that I feel it is the first thing that I must say.

Throughout the course of some 40 years I have been trying to lend such efforts as have been possible to the study of Theosophy and the spreading of its ideas. The studying of Theosophy is one thing; the spreading of its ideas is quite another. By the study of its teachings one by one, the errors that dominated our minds were one by one removed. We took the vision that opened up and discovered the truth about those dark problems of life which have so confused human living and civilization. As the hidden places in our hearts were illuminated, so did the elimination of those errors fortify and strengthen that natural ray of hope that living was a beautiful thing, and that we were here for a great and noble purpose.

From H. P. B. to our present Leader always there is maintained and sustained the promise that life is worth living. Everything they teach of, the deepest and even the most elementary teachings, have the ring of hope for mankind, hope for the individual. From the moment he sets his feet upon the path that Theosophy reveals, his own experiences bring forward conviction of the truth of what is taught. It is when we go through the cycles of the terrible conflicts of the world, of the hideous things by which men are confronted and through which we have had to live, that we ever turn to the force that flows from the Leaders of this work. Always we find there is a flow, a power, sustaining, beautifying, a power that upholds and demonstrates that all that is taught, all that is promised by the teachings, is an imbodiment of living force. That is the essential value of the Movement as it is incorporated in the society itself.

One of the great difficulties in proclaiming these teachings to the minds of the people has always been the attitude: "Yes, they are very nice, some of it we can believe to be true, but we do not like organizations, we do not like societies." All of us have had to meet that with a degree of understanding, for it is only as we find ourselves more and more imbodied in this work that we discover it is not an organization, or a society — such as the world understands. Rather is it a channel for a living spiritual power emanating from those — shall we ever know how great the privilege is that it is so? — emanating from those who have come to take upon themselves the task of guiding and helping and living with the fragments of mankind who become this society; infusing it with their deep heart-force that we may know that the promise of the teachings is a living vibrant hope. That is a very difficult thing to convey to the people to whom we present these teachings, and our heart yearns that they should know it.

There is some advantage in being able to look back upon a long number of years in this work, for within that period our own experiences bring forward for our own conviction the truth of what we are taught through Theosophy. We see this work then from various angles: sometimes as an intellectual presentation of concepts and ideas which challenge what we have hitherto believed, and with which few of us were really satisfied. As a body of teachings we study them in our books, in our conversation, and in the silence of our own places. That is a good and beautiful thing to have come into the life of one who has not known before where to find the teachings. There are times then when we vision the work as a challenge to ourselves. We begin to realize that we are beings who are to become. We examine ourselves. We have the vision of the ideal we are to become, of the spiritual being that ultimately that vision points to, and we see in it task of the reconstruction of ourselves. It is then we find that within the teachings there runs the guidance of how to deal with discouragement – how to live with hope, how to act with science — the science that understands, that teaches the potency of all the faculties with which we are blessed, how these faculties may be developed to a power and a strength that, if used rightly, will not only change our environment, but will guide us to become that ideal. We think perhaps that then we have the full picture; but another vision presents itself to our minds: that the entire family of humanity is not made up of, say ordinary people, with theosophists something apart, but that all is one. We begin to perceive that within the function and nature of the theosophical work there is the force, the intention of the ultimate inevitability that all humanity is to move towards. Shall I call it a civilization based upon those qualities which only a clear perception of the truth, of our own nature and of the universe, can really bring about, can really sustain? Once again, we see it as a hope, not alone of our own regeneration, but a hope that out of this a mighty civilization is to be reared that will more truly imbody the divine things that are at the heart of the universe.

There is still another angle that impresses itself very deeply in the course of ordinary daily living as we journey along amidst the blindness and misconceptions and errors of human thinking. It is the one that is perhaps most palpable, and has the strongest impact upon us: that is the sorrow, the burden, the weariness, the despair in human life as we move amongst it from hour to hour, from moment to moment. One of the saddest, most tragic things that a human being can feel is that he has nothing to give, that he has no real word of help, no sympathy based upon conviction, with which to do a little for his fellow man who is floundering. In the course of the tragedies of the last few years I have so many times felt that not the least of the privileges that Theosophy confers upon its students is the power to help, to feel that even in a word, an act, a gesture, we can bring a little of that sustaining power to another's life. There is conferred upon us a great privilege to be able to pass on to another an idea that brings light in darkness. That is itself a moment worth living for. To be able to live in our daily contacts so that each day we hear something of the melody that is Theosophy — for our hearts are indeed anchored to a great joy, to a permanent and sustaining hope — to be able to help another to sing it with us is something that does not pertain to the common level of human life in this world. It is a singular thing that emerges from the heart of a Theosophist as he truly feels the great inwardness of this work.

Now these aspects grouped together form the nature of a Theosophist's work anywhere. Though one lives at opposite ends of the globe to where the real heart and center of the Work is, the power of Theosophy is felt strongly, palpably. As a young man one of the things that used to strike me as most enlightening was the altitude of the remarks of the different Leaders as they dwelt upon the beauty of the fulfilment of evolution. It has seemed so far beyond the possibilities of our own attainments that perhaps it has been like a promise that is too far ahead to mean much; yet that again is where it is of some value to look down the years and see some of the secrets that have undoubtedly been in the minds of those Teachers.

In this work every step forward brings us a little experience of the beauties that are to be, and that adds and accumulates as time goes on until it becomes as natural as knowing that the sun shines even when the clouds are there, becomes as natural for us to feel and to know that these grand promises before our minds are realities which are right to pursue, right to hope for, and right to achieve by degrees of experience as we move along.

When we enter the theosophic field we often hear the word "training" as though members who joined the society were to be immediately given opportunity of a very specific and definite training in order to become the ideal to which their hearts had yearned. And the revelation of what that "training" actually is leads us to see that it is nothing that we had speculated upon; and we soon realize that the training is made up of being taught how to deal with the momentary circumstances and events of our ordinary daily lives. Almost immediately we begin to apply Theosophy, we get larger concepts of what that means — to be either slave or master; and the moment we begin to bend our intelligence in this application, to transmute the small circumstances so that from them may begin to emerge peace, harmony and beauty of relationships instead of chaos and the irritations that make, and mostly mar, the daily life, we then begin to find that we are actually in the process of that training. The field of help and work is our own selves, so that conforming with universal truth and all the teachings, we find that no matter where we are, no matter in what family we are placed, or into what circumstances we are brought, the principles of Theosophy may be immediately employed. All these are the material, the circumstances, by which we apply the teaching, by which we get the very life that we yearn to live. It is no faraway place, it is no out-of-the-way guidance, no special subtle unsuspected training we are given; but in applying the teachings to our individual lives, we therein realize all the beauty and joy of making human life that which Theosophy enjoins as the true destiny. There we find there can be no idle moments, no insignificant events, no circumstances without their meaning, but all have to be understood, all taken in hand. Thus our own worthwhileness must prove itself: either we emerge from these circumstances in peace, in harmony, and with joy in life, or with doubts and despairs.

And now I would like to return to where I started. I have moved around the world a good deal in the course of the years, and one of the strongest feelings that I have had, and perhaps one of the saddest, has been — not loneliness, but the feeling that there is no home in the sense of being at one and at home with your fellowmen. Nowhere has it been possible to meet with six or seven, or even two or three, fellow human beings, and feel instantly you meet there is simplicity, friendship and that utter utter trust in the harmony of human essentials. In the world everyone is on guard with everyone else, someone else distrusts something about somebody else, until relationships are all jangled — even if not discordant, they are none too happy. That is something so ordinary in human experience that you all know what I mean.

Coming here to these Headquarters has been a revelation of the promise of what human life can be when this fulfills itself by an ever wider spreading among humanity. When men can live their lives without fear, without distrust, without want of confidence in each other; when we can all go about our daily tasks knowing that around us there are friends who are dealing with themselves so that the irritations and suspicions and distrusts need no longer be a part of our nature — when all these are eliminated, there may be a wonder, a beauty in the life we live.

And now the last word, which to me is the biggest and best of all. So many of us out in the world have to work alone, and yet our natures being placed right inside this work we look always towards Headquarters, and above all to the Leader. The Leader is the palpable, beautiful, inspiring power, though we may never have seen him. Of all the experiences that have been so beautiful here, is to have been able to live, even if only a few days, in a close and intimate relationship so near to the presence of the teacher. It is like the fulfilment of what has only been dreamed of. . . . For that alone I would have traveled round the world.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition