Fred Lindemans, Chairman
Jan Hoogervoorst, Translator
Fred Lindemans [After his introduction in Dutch]: I have been telling all our friends that we are here together to see how this partnership will work in the near future here in our Dutch partnership and in our branches. You may understand therefore that our companions are waiting to hear from you as to what you think about this very beautiful proposal. May I invite you?
JAL: Thank you, Fred. If you all will cooperate this afternoon we will try to have this a very informal meeting together, but before we begin I would first like to thank whoever was responsible for securing this fine room. I also want to thank you all for coming that we might have this opportunity to talk together about our work.
Brother Lindemans has shown me his tentative agenda and though I remember a little about it, I have been trying for the last half hour to forget it! However, I realize that all of you would like to have a little more of an understanding of what the leader feels with regard to this present administration. To begin with, I believe I can help you more by listening to your questions and then trying to give what answers I can. I may say one or two things as a starting point, as a general foundation in principle upon which I think this partnership should operate.
This administration will, to the best of our ability, be an example of practical occultism or practical theosophy in action. I would like to clarify my position here this afternoon, as well as the part I expect to play in this whole partnership, not only in the Dutch Section but throughout the whole TS. It was perfectly natural and correct in the past that in nearly every administration except Colonel Conger's there was the need to do some directing and telling what and how to do. But from the turning point of that which occurred before the midpoint of the century it became imperative for each member to become more self-reliant physically, psychologically, mentally, and spiritually. I need not explain why that has become necessary. If we really love our theosophy and are really working for the Masters and seriously want to have a nucleus of genuine theosophists available in 1975, then we must think of self-reliance in terms of practical theosophy. Some of us will not be there in 1975, but that does not offer any reason why we should not work toward that end with the other members of this partnership.
To sum it up very briefly and pointedly: It is my hope, and I feel it is a necessity, that every branch, every section, and hopefully every member will become more and more conscious of that unfolding daily karmic script. The membership may get tired of hearing that phrase before I die. All I can say is, if they do, that is just too bad, because to the degree that every individual, every branch, and every national group can become conscious of that unfolding karma, will they also become conscious of the fact that that unfolding karma has something to tell us, which actually comes to us like much needed rain to dry soil. The soil of our consciousness then will bloom into recognition, and reading that script wisely we will be of more value to the whole world. I can assure each one of you that it works. It is just a matter of becoming conscious of the fact that it is there for a definite purpose and not just to be suffered or enjoyed, and nothing to be done about it. That suffering and that joy come not only to individuals but come to groups of individuals who are associated together, whether that group is a study group, a branch, a national section, or the whole TS. It is with these principles in mind that I will talk with you this afternoon about your responsibility as branch presidents and members of the TS, and as members of the national committee. So Mr. Secretary I am ready to be put on the chopping block, if you have one!
A. H. Niemeijer: I am sorry I am the first one to say something.
JAL: Why should you be sorry?
Mr. Niemeijer: I am rather young. Perhaps others who have more knowledge than I do should speak first.
JAL: We are not interested in age now. We are interested in questions for the work.
Mr. Niemeijer: I have myself already had an experience in our lodge regarding by-laws. Heretofore the members have always had difficulty about such questions. Now last night I told them we would have nothing more to do with by-laws and that we would find we would work much easier together. Furthermore I told them that we would have a different president every now and then. One of them said to me: "You are much older in theosophical ideas, therefore you should be the president." But I explained that we should all take turns in taking the responsibility, because every member should do something to help the work and not only leave it to one. Now I want to ask you what to do with members who always say, "I have no time for it."
JAL: Strangely enough, as I was sitting waiting for the meeting time, I thought I might touch upon that subject in my introductory comments. Nothing would please me more as the leader than if every lodge in the whole Society, and every section thereof, burned its by-laws and regulations — not because that was a wish of the leader or even a hope of the leader, but because they recognized how absolutely worthless and valueless they are. From now on we must get out of our minds and hearts and thoughts that human beings, whether theosophists or not, can be regulated by any document, whether by-laws, a branch charter, or anything else. Above all in the Theosophical Society it is my opinion that by-laws do far more harm than good. They do more to break down and avoid a true spiritual partnership than anything else. Long before I ever became active in the work, it always seemed ridiculous to me that members, whom I at that time held in my consciousness as ideals, could not work together without a set of rules and regulations. It seemed to be a paradox that I could not understand, and I have not understood it yet. So from the by-laws angle you know what I think about that.
Now with regard to those people who do not want to accept responsibility in a working group: I should like to congratulate the gentleman from Apeldoorn for setting an example to the younger people in his lodge. I have no set thoughts as to how long anyone should be president of a group or branch. We must feel that out with the daily karmic script. Nevertheless I think one of the things that has held back our work as much as anything is that custom or tradition or practice which holds that when a man becomes a lodge or a branch president, especially if he is a very good president, he is going to be president for life. To me that is entirely wrong. I can understand how that practice came about. It was probably a result of considering that just because the leader of the Society fulfills his responsibilities until the end of his lifetime, section presidents and lodge presidents should also hold their positions for life. This idea ultimately turned into the misconception that the people holding those offices of section president and branch president were members of the hierarchy, rather than understanding that the positions they held were exoterically of a hierarchical nature, while esoterically the men or women who filled those positions were not necessarily members of the hierarchy. The hierarchical structure of the universe is an esoteric thing, and just by the creation of a tradition alone we cannot translate or make the organizational structure of the TS become an esoteric link in all its details with the esoteric structure of our sacred order.
Thus the matter of changing lodge or branch presidents is a good one in my opinion. It need not be done at any specific time or with any set regularity, but each group must decide for itself. The section or branch president who does the best job is the one who puts himself and his personality completely in the background and attempts to be a channel for the work, doing his job impersonally and without any attachment to the position he holds, thinking only of the welfare of the members and of their natural spiritual growth. If they are told what to do all the time and what they must believe, and are not given any responsibility, they cannot grow spiritually.
Now with regard to getting members to take part in the work of the branch: you cannot do that by regulation or by direction, and those members who draw back from assuming any responsibility must be dealt with in accordance with their own particular personality and problems. Nevertheless you will find, I believe, that usually the greater number of members will accept some responsibility if they understand that we are really trying to develop a working partnership and, what is more, if they are properly encouraged. Once that starts and some do accept responsibility, not necessarily the presidency, this will offer some incentive to those who have hesitated. However, if there are those who are absolutely phlegmatic, and we do find them occasionally, in this work to receive only and not to give, then we cannot do anything about it. They will be the losers, and if they are so basically selfish that they never want to give anything for what they receive they will ultimately pass out of the picture.
Each branch president, and especially those who have held the office for a long, long time, owe it to the work of the branch, owe it to their national unit, and owe it to the TS, to look themselves squarely in the face and in the heart, and ask themselves these questions: Have I become attached to this position of branch president? Have I developed the idea that the branch cannot get along without me as its president? Do I feel that I am better than the members of this branch? Have I made of myself an able and satisfactory channel for this branch, putting my personal feelings and personal likes and dislikes completely in the background, so that the impersonal force of the Great Lodge can flow through it? If the branch president can answer properly all of these questions, then I say he should keep the job a while longer. But if he cannot, then I would suggest that he sit in front of that mirror and begin to tear himself apart honestly and squarely and do something about it. If he will encourage someone else, preferably someone younger than himself, to take over the presidency, no matter how many mistakes he makes, I would be willing to bet my best shirt that in no long time he will learn more about what he thought he knew than he learned by his own efforts during his presidency.
Our work not only within our Society, but its effect upon the world, will fail and become like a flat balloon unless we absolutely work together as partners from the smallest unit to the Society itself. The wise chairman or branch president will never say what he thinks first. He will make everybody but himself speak first. He will get their ideas, every last one of them. In the process of so doing he will be astounded to find that he has a basketful of ideas to work with that he never thought of himself. If he puts them all together impersonally, he will by intuition recognize the right thing to be done and said for the simple reason that he has given preference to the other fellow before himself. That keeps the heart open to intuition. If he holds with his head that idea which he thinks ought to be done, he not only closes his own heart by speaking first and trying to get his idea accepted, but he automatically closes the hearts and the minds of his members.
That is simple practical theosophy. There are no rules or regulations. Instead of trying to work with some technical statement of theosophy out of a book in running our branches, if we get our hearts and intuition working, the light will shine so brightly in that branch that it won't make a bit of difference who is the secretary or the president. Does that answer your question, Mr. Niemeijer?
Mr. Niemeijer: Thank you, yes.
Intermission for ten minutes
Fred Lindemans: We have received a question which the Leader is ready to answer.
JAL: I don't want to miss an opportunity to show how the daily karmic script acts. In the intermission Mrs. Kromwijk sends a note and George Lindemans comes up, both of them with the same basic principle in mind. That means that I have missed something in talking about the by-laws. First, George said that we should not lose sight of the value that by-laws have at this particular time, when certain former members of the Society think they have a right to some property. Then Mrs. Kromwijk asked, if I interpreted the note correctly, what sign has there been to indicate that we are or have attained the position where we can give up by-laws? I think therefore that I had better take care of both of those things at the same time.
Now, I have said a number of times that the way to work in theosophy is the natural way, and I am in no position to know whether this lodge or that lodge is ready to give up their by-laws or not. They must find out for themselves and decide for themselves. I said nothing would make me happier than if every lodge burned them up, but I also said, please don't do it because the leader thinks it is the thing to do. Do it when you decide that it is the thing to do. When the infant begins taking its first steps, it falls flat a number of times before it gets the first step or two accomplished. But each time it tries it gets a little further. When we try something new in theosophical work, maybe the same thing will happen. One lodge may take longer to come to that conclusion than another. There is no set rule for every lodge in any country or in the whole TS. Thus I would give that as the answer to Mrs. Kromwijk's question. There is no rule, no decision that I am making, except that I say nothing would make me happier than to see them reach that point at which they can do it. But the lodges themselves must make the decision. Does that answer your question?
Mrs. Kromwijk: I am not thinking about the lodges but about individuals. How is everybody able to have so much self-knowledge that he can do the work without leading?
JAL: I see what you mean. That is an entirely different question, but may I postpone answering it for a while?
To go back to George's comment and the possible need for some by-laws to protect the property and the work of the former Dutch Section: if the national committee thinks they need a set of by-laws for that, that is all right, they may keep their old ones. If we don't have enough trust in the Masters to feel that they will — I won't say guide us, because they do not — protect our work when we do the best we know how, then we had better give up our theosophy. We must not lose sight of the fact that the by-laws, both of the sections and of the lodges, are subservient to the Constitution of the TS, and that the Constitution of the TS is authoritative and effective throughout the world, wherever there are members. That Constitution has been recognized by legal authorities in every country, including Holland. There is one clause in that Constitution which reads more or less as follows: the leader has the right to take any steps or any action he deems advisable for the protection of the work and of the Society. That is what he did in connection with the decision made here at Utrecht, and I am satisfied the Masters will protect that decision so long as the Dutch membership that recognizes it as an official decision does its part in carrying on the work as it should be carried on. Let the so-called opposition do what they will, and forget about it. Does that cover your point at all, George?
George Lindemans: Yes, certainly. Thank you so much.
JAL: I wonder if I can ask Mrs. Kromwijk to restate her question to me now.
Mrs. Kromwijk: The idea I had in mind was simply this: that perhaps some of us may not have enough self-knowledge to be able to do the right thing without direction.
JAL: In other words, the spiritual executive ability? Well, Mrs. Kromwijk, thank you very much for restating that thought, because it touches upon the very heart of the responsibility of each one of us, and points up to me one of the most difficult things that we as individuals or lodge presidents must try to overcome. It is this: we should not hesitate or be afraid to take the first step, just as the infant does not hesitate when it reaches that point. We may fall down and we may make a mistake. If we present the whole situation, in the case of the lodge, to the membership honestly and frankly, they won't mind our mistakes if we admit them. They will be the first ones to help us correct them. Instead of it being a failure, the benefits of an error will be shared by more than one and will turn it into a success. To fail is nothing, as Mr. Judge says, but to cease trying is awful.
I can only add to that a statement made to me long ago by Colonel Conger which impressed me very deeply and which I think applies to each of us, as individual FTS or as a branch or section president. The principle is the same though the circumstances may be different. One day, long before the Colonel became leader, he and I were talking in Washington about the theosophical work and workers. I was a fairly new member and was fired with enthusiasm, wanting to do my part to help the work. I felt that I would like to be able not only to give public lectures but in time have the responsibility of working with the lodge and have a group of my own. He said: "Why don't you do it?"
I replied: "It's impossible so far as public lecture work is concerned. My vocabulary is very limited, and I don't know enough about the teachings, and so on, to give such a lecture." I had a whole row of things that I thought I ought to have before I could do any real work.
I could not understand his repeated indications: "Why don't you go ahead and do it?" Finally he said to me: "When anyone has theosophy in his heart and has a strong desire to work for theosophy, I don't care how many words he has or does not have. I don't care how much technical theosophy he knows or does not know. If he will stand before a group and talk from his heart, with the feeling he carries in his heart, he will never fail."
Now that to me is the principle that operates in the question that Mrs. Kromwijk asks. If we put the real purpose of our work first and have that trust I spoke of, we cannot fail. We will make mistakes certainly, but there is no crime in making a mistake. They are actually stepping stones to success. But each one of us must make that first step ourselves. This is the time when a leader will do less and less. He will protect, and the mistakes that are made will not be held against the individuals, but where his responsibility comes in is to help that individual or that lodge utilize those mistakes as stepping stones for future success. That is the basis of my statement at the Congress that the leader is the servant of the members; not to scold or criticize when something has gone wrong, but if anyone has been hurt, to pour oil on the wound and help him to keep face forward and try again. Does that help any?
Mrs. Kromwijk: Thank you very much indeed.
A. M. Quist: You speak to my heart about the position of a lodge president and now I will ask that the partner who is here speaks to you and to all of what her thought is about it.
Ella Quist: Could I speak in Dutch please? This is a very unexpected moment and I am not prepared.
JAL: That is quite all right. Speak what is on your heart and do not mind anyone here.
Miss Quist: I feel in the branch a very strong force and I feel that it is absolutely necessary for each member of a branch to do the work of the president. Therefore one morning I felt that if I had to be branch president I would do so and so. So I got to work, looked into the books, took some parts of the teachings and asked the permission of the president for several members to share in this work. I took the Bhagavad-Gita as the subject. After reading the first chapter there came a change of thoughts about it, so everybody had a chance to speak what was on their heart. I am sure that I am now able to express the feeling that a member gets when he has to face the responsibility of a branch president, and one feels in the heart what it is to be a partner in this partnership. It is almost the same as what Brother Niemeijer of Apeldoorn said. When everybody gets a chance to express what inspires his heart then the lodge is one — not just the president up here and its members over there, but it is one unity.
A quiet conversation followed between Mr. Quist and his daughter, Mr. Quist asking her to mention something which Miss Quist felt he should ask.
JAL: That is all right. You say what is on your heart, Miss Quist. You see, Mr. Quist, your daughter has the floor now, but if you want to say anything later you will have the opportunity.
Mr. Quist: That is all right, thank you.
JAL: I like anything that is spontaneous and from the heart, but I do not mean that as any reflection on you, sir. Our children have their own svabhavas, after they come of age they are just like birds that have left the nest. I want each member in this partnership to feel that he has an individual right to express himself. That is the only way we shall become self-reliant, because if we cannot speak from our own hearts naturally then we will be making the first mistake. I believe I can sense what Mr. Quist wanted his daughter to say, but I would be happier to hear it if she says it spontaneously herself either now or later on in the meeting. Now if Mr. Quist himself has something to say I will be very glad to hear it so long as it is his thought and impulse, but tell your daughter not to put anything in your mind to say! [Laughter]
Mr. Quist: I think Ella wanted to say that I myself would retire from the presidency of the lodge now so that a younger person can have the responsibilities. That is all I meant.
JAL: I sensed what you were going to say. I know that you are a good sport, Brother Quist, and I utilized that situation to bring out the absolute necessity of developing and building spiritual self-reliance. It was no criticism of you, dear Brother, and I hope you won't feel badly about it. Also this was just an opportunity to give you an example of how to work honestly and practically without any ill-will or -feeling. We can all do it. We just miss nine-tenths of the joy of living when we don't do it that way.
Jaap Kooistra: It is not my intention to open the subject with a discussion, but there has been a question in my mind, and I hope in my heart too, ever since I read the report of that one Cabinet meeting where the leader said that he was going to be one among equals. When we first read that I think we all may have been more or less surprised and unable to understand that to some extent, because we may have asked ourselves: how can that be in consonance with the teaching of hierarchies? Since then I have had my question answered to a very large extent. We have found that because of that attitude of the leader, he has emphasized true leadership in a manner that we had hardly thought possible. Still, there is a part of the mystery not quite solved to me, and I should like the leader if possible to elucidate this point of one among equals, instead of the leader being the first among equals.
JAL: I will be glad to. Several times this afternoon I have mentioned that I was interested in practical theosophy and in doing things in a natural way. What is the leader of the Theosophical Society? He has by karma been placed in a position of responsibility. To whom? Certainly not to himself. He has a responsibility to the membership, and of course a responsibility to Those for whom he is in service. To me that is practically the same thing. If the Masters in their wisdom and compassion have said: "We will not go a step further into nirvana until the last one of you can go with us," who would I be as leader if I did not feel the same toward every member of the TS — as regards the leadership naturally, instead of nirvana! The gods know I am so far from nirvana today that I don't even like to think about it, so I don't have the Masters' decision to make yet! However, I do have it within my power to decide that I can be one among equals rather than first among equals, so that every member of the TS can share my responsibilities and I can share theirs. I think that is the answer.
J. Kooistra: I thank you very much.
Arnold van der Laan: First I would say you have spoken words of hope to us, but you have given us also a great responsibility. However, I had another question in my mind. When you took office something must have happened to you. It does not matter for the present what has happened to you because we know that the something has happened to you so that we recognized you as our leader and teacher. That is one thing.
Then there is another thing. When the cosmic karmic script unrolls, it has a reflection in what you call the daily script with which we have to do. Now, this is my direct question: Is there a progressive development in you as our leader, that is, in the sequence of the development and the possibilities with each of us as members? That is one part. And if we fail to do what you call our duty as men and as theosophists, has that the same reflection upon you as the leader and teacher?
JAL: Thank you. I am sorry I don't have with me here the transcript of the meeting held in Stockholm in which the first part of your question was answered. I am not going to try to answer that question again because the Dutch members will eventually get copies of the transcripts. We are going to try to share all of the meetings with all of the members in every country, particularly those things which would be of interest to the respective countries. That is part of this partnership too.
To get back to Arnold's specific question. You ask in essence: apparently the karmic script as it unfolded put that karmic responsibility on the shoulders of one Jim Long and that something changed at that time when he became leader. Then you go on to ask: if that is the case, and if you are sharing the responsibilities with the membership, that puts a responsibility on their shoulders, and if they fail, doesn't that react on the leader? Is that the essence of it?
Mr. van der Laan: Yes.
JAL: This matter of sharing the responsibility with all of the members is in reality nothing new. It is only new in the sense that at this time it has become my responsibility to define this partnership in a practicable and workable manner. The responsibilities have always existed since the Society was formed, but their fruition during the early stages of the Society were a hope in the heart of the leaders rather than an immediate expectation.
Now Arnold's question about what happens when the members fail has been answered by other leaders, especially by GdeP, and I feel a little timid about answering it again. But I will have to. The leaders know that the membership is not perfect, and I am not the only leader who has taken on the karma of every individual FTS. They all have done it, willfully and gladly, but none of them ever sought it. But when the mantle of that karma fell upon their shoulders, they knew in a flash of great loneliness what it meant. From that moment on they had accepted a new form of death. We know what GdeP has said about it. Each day practically, a leader deliberately and consciously takes one step after the other as the result of the karma of the membership in this great work of ours, takes those conscious steps willfully and willingly toward that death that GdeP spoke about. But I say it again: never, never hesitate to make mistakes, but for the sake of the gods don't ever stop trying. Does that answer your question, Arnold?
Mr. van der Laan: Yes, thank you very much indeed.
Henk Lindemans: You spoke about the special death, the particular death. Do you mean your being so lonely that it could be compared with the death, or are you pointing to another kind of death you would perhaps not speak about here?
JAL: I think I know what you mean, Henk, and the only way I can put it is this. Someone asked me, I think it was in Nuremberg, whether I was trying to build a partnership of followers so that I would be the head of them! I do not remember the other part of the answer that I gave them, but I did say this, and it may provide part of an answer for you, Henk. When that mantle fell upon the shoulders of James A. Long, James A. Long died. All of these things which he had associated with himself in the past and his responsibilities as James A. Long no longer existed. He has another duty now and James A. Long hasn't anything to say about it because James A. Long has died. But that part of him which has had to forget about James A. Long is working to the best of his ability for the Masters, for the membership, and for our fellowmen. In so doing he is happy to give whenever it is called forth, which brings a bit of death each time, but it is a very, very happy and joyous thing to do. Is that what you meant, Henk?
H. Lindemans: Yes, thank you for your answer.
JAL: We are getting a little away from lodge work but that suits me. Perhaps it will help solve all of the lodge problems. I do not mind for I am here to serve and I will give you whatever you ask for, if I can.
Fred Lindemans: I think now we can all see the central point of the lodge work.
W. Tholen: One of the most remarkable things to my mind that has been said was about old souls coming in at this time, some of them being probably the old Egyptians. When we think of the time twenty-five years after this, they will be all strong men. And when we think of the period of the Egyptians they will be men of great energy and make a high civilization. My question is this: Is it not the responsibility of the lodges to give all of the strength that they have to the work of the youth to make a home for them in the lodges, to attract those birds coming home to their nest?
JAL: Thank you, Mr. Tholen. That is another matter that I thought I would take up in my introductory comments, but decided not to until the question was raised. I will take the answer to this question a little further than the question itself, and try to give you a picture of what is in my mind because I feel that before the afternoon is over somebody is going to ask about the young people's work and the Lotus Circles.
In all of our theosophical work, in every aspect of it, I think we should follow the same principle that was virtually stated by me here this afternoon. When we think of the Master with one hand in that of someone higher helping him, and with the other hand stretched out toward us that we might have their protection, we have the key to our youth problems. We should be fully conscious of the different generations of souls that have come into incarnation and that will be coming into incarnation in the future. If we want theosophy to live and grow and do its work, then we have got to give a real inheritance to the generation that follows us, so that the oldest among us give more to the generation succeeding them than to themselves, keeping their one hand forward in the direction of Masters but keeping their other hand and their hearts back in the direction of the succeeding generation, trying to understand more and more their responsibility to that generation in the light of what the Masters think about us. Then the second generation should have its one hand toward the older generation with the other toward the youngest, and so on down to the tiny tots in the Lotus Circle.
Thus the oldest generation in our Society should make one of its chief objectives the matter of passing the light and the responsibility and the joy to the generation succeeding it — not when they are ready to die, but while they have the strength and wisdom to be of some real help to that succeeding generation. And that same principle should be followed down the line. It should be obvious to all of us that the oldest among us cannot appreciate fully the psychology of the Lotus Circle, but I will venture a guess that the generation or age group above the Lotus Circle will understand the Lotus Circle a great deal better. And the group above the Lotus Circle will be understood far better by the group above it than by the oldest among us.
I am drawing that picture for the purpose of letting you know first how I feel about the situation, particularly to give you some idea of what I have in mind to go to work on when I get home. It is my sincere hope and belief that if I can get the different age groups to understand what is needed in this partnership, each age group will provide the necessary thoughts and ideas to organize a natural and intelligent basis of working together so that one age group willingly will be in partnership with the one above it, and yet the oldest among us will literally and happily be in partnership with the youngest Lotus Bud. Does that answer your question?
Mr. Tholen: Yes, thank you.
JAL: It is my hope to reorganize completely the youth work throughout the TS. The old method is outmoded. The youngsters today need something more, something up-to-date. I am not criticizing the Lotus Circles that are now in existence. Holland has done more in that connection than other countries, and has kept alive the work for the young people and for the children in a magnificent way. But I thought perhaps by expressing those thoughts I could help you to do even more.
I would like to ask the members here how much time they have. I don't want to keep you longer than necessary. Who has to leave early? I am satisfied to stay here until 9 o'clock tonight. Do I understand that some of the members must leave for Groningen soon? At 6 o'clock?
Fred Lindemans: As some of the members have to leave for Groningen and other distant parts the Leader asks for a ten-minute intermission.
The Leader suggests that as there are other members who have to go home at a certain time, when they see that the time has arrived, they should just come to the table and shake hands with him, even if he is speaking. Then they can go home quietly.
JAL: I think the lady over here has a question. Please ask it in Dutch. It will be easier for you.
Mrs. Burgers: Why do we use three strokes of the gong instead of seven? I had always thought that seven strokes of the gong touched more souls in a larger area than three strokes. So why are we using three strokes instead of seven?
JAL: I do not know whether three strokes have been accepted universally in Holland or not, but as I understand your question it is: Why have I requested three strokes instead of seven? I have done so in a number of places, in Sweden also, and the simple reason is this: because so many people have become attached to the strokes of the gong and to the gong itself. They have expected some kind of magical results for theosophy and for themselves as the result of the striking of the gong — whether it was three, seven, or twenty-seven strokes.
There is only one thing I am interested in and that is promoting and helping everybody understand what true Western occultism is, that occultism which the Masters and HPB and Judge tried so hard to get started. And we are a very, very long way off from being affected to any degree whatever in our spiritual development by the strokes of a gong. What we need for our spiritual development is to strike the real gong of our own hearts so that it rings in the ears of the whole world in the silence. Then those gong strokes will do some good for the advancement of theosophy.
Now please don't misunderstand me. Use the gong all you want and in any way you want. But don't depend upon the gong to effect the spiritual progress that we should make. Don't use the gong to build up formality and form in the sense of ceremony or anything that appeals to the outer senses.
I think that is all I can say about the gong for the moment. Now this was not intended for the lady, specifically, it is general. It is not for Holland or for Sweden but for every section as well as for Headquarters. The farther we get away from ceremony or formality or form, the further we will get into theosophy as it should be lived and understood today. Our initiation chamber is not in the temple with four walls and a roof and a beautiful gong. Our initiation chamber is in the walks of daily life where there are no limitations to that which will build character. In the process, the base metal of our constitution will be transmuted to pure gold. Then we will be able to say we have passed some tests and will begin to perform our real responsibilities to our fellowmen.
Mrs. Burgers: Thank you very much.
C. A. M. Wolthoorn: Is it possible to say something more about the reorganization of the youth work? I am in charge of the youth work, so I am very interested in it.
JAL: Is that your question also, Nel?
Nel v. W. Claterbos: Yes, something along that line.
JAL: Do you want to ask it now?
Miss Claterbos: There was one question which I have had for many years. I feel as if we are at present in a transition period. My question is: how can we best help our present generation when we are doing pioneer work? I feel as if when theosophists are doing something in the educational field, they should be pioneers. Just how can we do that? What is the plowpoint at present?
JAL: I am going to stand up to answer this for I have been sitting here a long time. Both questions are of course the same in reality. If you will have patience for a little while longer, I hope to be able to provide the answers to both your questions, because I am going to ask those same questions not to anyone except to the young people themselves in the different age groups. And once I get the answers that I think I will get from them, they will help share the responsibility with me in organizing and reorganizing and in building that pioneer effort you speak of. Those who know me even a little, know that it does not take me long to go directly to the point, either to find out or to do what I feel needs to be done. Since this problem concerns the young people, I think we will not only gain their confidence, but by going directly to them I think we will gain much wisdom from their suggestions, keeping our minds and hearts wide open, not to what we think they need but to what they say they need with their hearts, not necessarily with their words. If our hearts are open we will not only appeal to the hearts of the young people, but the young people's hearts will speak to ours, heart to heart. We will understand each other, and the old partnership will have made another step forward. But you will have to wait a little while until I get home. I have had these thoughts for a long time. This trip in Europe has confirmed them a hundred times over. Who's next?
Henk Lindemans: One thing I have thought a little about is this: we are working in our lodges and we do our best to do the work as well as we can. We see some results but they do not satisfy me enough because there is so much in this world that is so terrible that we should like to see that this world with its many problems shall be helped by our efforts. Once in one of our meetings you mentioned that the events of importance in the Society preceded the things in the world. Now I would like to ask you: do you really think that when we do our duty wholeheartedly we may see in our life some uplifting of that doom that is upon the world now?
JAL: Thank you. These are wonderful questions. They are difficult only in the sense that I want to be absolutely certain that my answers are not intended to be directed specifically to the questioner or to his particular problem. If they were, then what I have said might look like a reflection on the individual.
It has been a difficult job for me to draw open the hearts and the minds of the membership here and there to the real truth and the real spiritual drama that has been taking place in the world. We have all heard the saying that we sometimes get so close to the trees that we cannot see the forest. That is what has happened to most of us as theosophists. We have been working and working and working, and have seen no results. We forget what Krishna said in the Gita, which is really the heart and core of what we should do in theosophic work: do the work or the action because it is right to do it and do not worry about the results.
Now we have gotten so close to our particular theosophic situation and effort that we have not actually seen the results that have broken through during the years. For example, another member, in Stockholm I think it was, asked the question regarding the Raja-Yoga School and KT's work in it, whether the circumstances as they exist today indicate that she failed in her effort. The questioner was thinking of Point Loma and KT and the school, looking there for the results of the efforts expended by KT. Not seeing what he thought should be results there, he asked the question: did she fail? KT did not fail. Her efforts were a tremendous success, far beyond the concept of any of us. We see them in the revised and reformed educational systems of the West; we see them in the different treatment of prisoners; we see them in the youth organizations that have arisen all over the world to look after the young people; we see them in the many Greek Theaters in the United States, because when she built the Greek Theater at Point Loma there was not one in our country.
There are many aspects to a leader's work, at least three: the outer, the inner, and what I choose to call the seed-sowing aspect. So you see, KT's efforts with the school were not a failure because the results of her seed-sowing have broken through in most unexpected places. They don't have the name of theosophy attached to them, but that doesn't matter. We are not interested in having everything labeled theosophy, theosophy, theosophy. We are interested in helping mankind. We have not the slightest idea, therefore, of the effect of a true spiritual effort when it breaks through into the outer plane, and I feel reasonably certain, Henk, that the efforts of the Theosophical Society during the term of office of Colonel Conger when practical occultism became known to the membership — I have the feeling that even the true spiritual force contributed by those members who had but a mild recognition of what is going on, has done more to hold back the powers of darkness that have been advancing westward than we have any idea of. But the trouble with most of us is this: we lose sight of the fact that real theosophy is an inner thing, and thus when we have problems to solve and we think we are making no progress and that we ought to do this or that, if we could really analyze our thoughts we would find that we had become interested in effects rather than causes. The very fact that theosophy is an inner thing means that we are interested in correcting wrong causes, and if we are successful in replacing wrong causes with right causes, then the effects will take care of themselves on the outer plane.
With the world situation as it is today I repeat what I said at the Congress: there is nothing that will contribute more to bringing about the right effects than for each member of the Theosophical Society to recognize the need for really living the life, having the proper inner attitude, working together in unity and harmony so that the sincere inner effort and example, when it breaks through, will find in its effects more and more elements of the national life doing the same thing on the outer plane that we have done on the inner. That is the only thing that I know of that we as theosophists can do to alleviate the suffering of humanity. There are all kinds of other organizations in the world, financially supported without limitation, which are dealing with the effects, but the world gets no better. It is obvious therefore what our job is: doing our duty one-pointedly, not taking any thought for the results whatever. The very fact that we take no thought for the results adds additional weight to the strength of those efforts. Thus when the Masters receive that force they have the karmic opportunity then to take an even more active part by karma in the outer affairs of the world. That is the most I can say in that regard, Henk.
Mr. H. Lindemans: Thank you.
Henk L. van Aller: Please may I ask you a technical question? Can you tell us something more about accepting new members since we have no longer Associate Fellowship, and could you tell us about the initiation ceremony?
JAL: Thank you very much, Mr. van Aller. I think it is very important that we discuss these matters so that you as branch presidents and members will understand a little more fully how I feel. This idea of the leader having to accept members once they have applied to the TS is not correct. That statement applied only to the Esoteric Section, for there no one — with very rare exceptions, which do not apply generally — could be refused once he sincerely applied while the Esoteric Section was open. But as you know the Esoteric Section is closed and may be closed for an indefinite period.
Therefore, while we still have by custom a perfect right to refuse membership in the TS, the responsibility of such a decision rests with the leader who will not exercise that authority without due thought and consideration. Every application for membership comes to the attention of the leader, is not valid until it is accepted and signed by him. The applications must have the endorsement or the sponsorship, in the case of a branch, of the branch president as well as the national secretary, in the case of Holland. Now, if there is any question concerning a specific case, we at Headquarters are assuming that the background of such applicant comes with the application. It is not just a matter of getting the applicant's name on the dotted line and then sending the application through the red tape until it is accepted by Headquarters.
I don't mean by this to imply that we are going to refuse membership to a great many people, but I do want to try, in the course of time, to help the membership realize their responsibility in regard to bringing in new members. The strength of this Society does not depend upon the number of members we have. Rather does it depend upon the quality of that devotion and loyalty that we have in our hearts. When an inquirer asks about membership we should recognize that the greatest responsibility rests upon our shoulders. Since he has inquired of us, it is an act of natural karma that he has come to you or to me. If you were not the proper person to come to, he would not have come to you. That means this: that you must draw upon your whole experience, both your pleasant and unpleasant experiences in connection with your early years of membership, so that you can exercise whatever precautions may seem necessary in the case of this applicant.
I myself should never accept an application offered by an applicant or an inquirer on the spur of an enthusiastic moment or an emotional uplift of the moment. If I were you, I would suggest that he wait a little while, think it over, while he becomes acquainted with the true facts of membership — not to scare him to death, but you should tell him honestly and understandingly what it means to become a member of this organization which takes seriously the matter of universal brotherhood. Tell him simply that becoming a member carries with it a great responsibility — and don't forget that each individual must be spoken to differently. Let him know that this responsibility is not to you as a member, nor to the branch president; it is not to the national secretary or to the leader, but that his direct responsibility is to himself and no one else. His stepping into the ranks of the Society indicates just one thing, whether he realizes it or not, or whether you realize it or not. If he is sincere, then he is seeking more truth. If he is sincerely seeking more truth, he does so for one of two reasons, and we are in no position to judge. He is doing it either for personal benefit, or to improve his own character. We cannot tell, but in most cases the applicants who come to us naturally are souls who are beginning to find their home. If we tell them the real truth of our work, it will help them to recognize even more quickly that they have truly found their spiritual home. Those who are not sincere and are not looking for an opportunity to improve their characters that they might become of more use to their fellowmen, may in time decide not to come in. We won't have to take any action along that line.
When I return home, I want to double-check to see that all applications in all national sections are uniform and that certain questions will be incorporated on the back of the application. This will automatically give a little background not only to you to whom the applicant makes application, but will come to the branch president, the national secretary, and then to the leader. All of this will strengthen that partnership even more.
Now with regard to initiation ceremonies: you must give me a little time to do what I hope to do in that regard. I will say this in a general way. It is my understanding that many of the national sections do not use the existing initiation ceremony. In fact, some of the sections never knew there was such a thing. I have given this matter much thought. I think all of you know by now that I am not much interested in formality or form or ceremony. If, however, there seems to be a call for an initiation ceremony — I do not like to call them such — for an induction exercise or an induction procedure, then I will write one to meet the needs of the day. And if the gods are willing, it will be very simple. There will be a charge by the leader, but that charge will not be to the new member. That charge will be solely for the old members, telling them of their responsibility, that they have in reality a newborn babe in their midst. Does that answer your question at all, Mr. van Aller?
Mr. van Aller: Thank you very much.
Several members from Leeuwarden and surroundings left at 6:15 p.m.
Ab Bonset: In connection with the question that has been asked now: I had the pleasure to receive three new membership cards today from Kirby, and I suppose that the question Brother van Aller asked concerns one of the membership cards that he will receive within the next few days. So I think he likes to know whether he is to initiate the member now or not, and I think he has had the answer.
JAL: I am not going to tell you whether to initiate a member or not. It is up to the branch and to you. You can continue using the initiation ceremony if you think it advisable. I have no objection to its being used if you want to. I have let you know that form is going out of the door and the spirit of theosophic life and work has come in. When that comes in, we don't need to worry about the form. Do you see? Any formality or any form that we develop or use can be tested by us in this way: is it strengthening and expanding the spirit behind what we are doing, or is it lessening it? Anything that tends to pull into a narrow channel the thoughts and the consciousness of the member does not help. If it pulls the attention to the letter of the law instead of to the spirit of the law, then it is hindering in the final analysis; while anything that pulls our attention to the spirit of the law is helpful. We have had that thought expressed in the Christian scriptures and in other sacred writings for ages: The letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth, and giveth life.
Elizabeth Hoogervoorst: I had a little talk with the questioner a few moments ago as to whether the branch would be in the position to judge about the fact if a new member should be initiated or not, or whether a new member himself could ask for initiation or not. What would be the best?
JAL: If the inquirer knows about it, I do not see any reason since you have the initiation ceremony why you cannot state the simple facts. Explain that we have in the past initiated new members with an initiation ceremony, but that it is entirely up to you as to whether you go through this or not. I would tell him that there are certain questions asked, and if he wishes to go through the ceremony, I would certainly acquaint him with the questions first, so that he is not embarrassed to stand up in front of the branch and become possibly confused when he suddenly has those questions asked of him. I would give him the questions beforehand, let him think them over quietly, and if he wants to go through the ceremony, that is quite all right. But if he decides that he would prefer not to go through the initiation ceremony, that is equally satisfactory. He is a full member, with or without the ceremony. That last is important to remember.
Mrs. Hoogervoorst: Thank you very much. Yes, that answers the question.
Mr. Niemeijer: There is another point, about the public meetings. I heard first that it is not necessary to have them; then I also heard the opposite. Today I have heard many beautiful words and ideas, and I believe that when we want to find somebody who is seeking his home, we can perhaps find him in a public meeting. Is that right?
JAL: Do you want me to talk about that? There is no set policy, no set plan, no set method of carrying out any theosophic work. What applies to one lodge may not at all apply to another lodge. Just as each blade of grass is different, so each human being is different, each theosophist is different, so must each branch have its own svabhava. I could not tell you whether you should have public meetings or not until I know what your local circumstances are, and all the details in connection with them. After I found out these, I might have some idea. But there again, if we can get ourselves in the position of feeling the indications of the unfolding karma, we will have no doubt as to what is the right thing to do, and how to do it. This will take time, and we cannot do it over night.
During my trip there have been some lodges I visited where I encouraged the continuation and expansion of their public work; there were others where I absolutely encouraged them to stop it at once. In the first instance, there was harmony in the lodge; in the second, there was not. We cannot expect to display anything to the public but that which we carry in our hearts. Thus in each case you have to feel your way.
I have no criticism of public lectures and public work. I think we need it, in one form or another. But whether it should take the form of regular public lectures, or whether it should be in the nature of attracting people to study groups or to branch meetings, or whether we should rely solely on the personal contact, depends entirely on the circumstances in the respective areas. Most of all, however, it depends on the examples we make of our lives, for any one or all of these methods are good. We must determine which is best for our locality. At one time it may be one method, at another something quite different may be required. We must be flexible.
We have of course the literature always, so that we must by trial and error find out which is best for us, and keep flexible: ready to change when it is indicated that a change is required. I will simply say this in summary: I am not against public lectures, and yet I am against them. It all depends. The important thing is that if our branch does public work it should be as harmonious as possible inside. If the inner is right, then our public work will have the right effects, no matter if we may make some blunders or mistakes in our methods. The spirit will carry through. Does that help?
Mr. Niemeijer: Yes, thank you.
George Lindemans: This last brings up the matter of the literature. Since Colonel Conger's time we have heard that there is a great stress upon giving to the world our literature. This is a great difficulty in our country. As it costs immense sums of money, what do you think would be the best thing to concentrate in publishing in our country?
JAL: Thanks, George. Fred and I and a few others have been going into that question, and you can be assured that it has been in my thoughts for a long time because there are so many problems involved. We have the difference in monetary values; we have the matter of distribution and import duties, and many other things. But I want all of you to know that we are not unaware of the problems in Holland, in Germany, and in Sweden and in England. We have started already in Australia, and it is in process in Germany as soon as they will let us import, to establish Theosophical University Press agencies, operated by the members of the respective countries, but owned and the investment made by Theosophical University Press of Pasadena.
As to the literature situation as a whole, George: I have been making certain observations in all of the countries in Europe where I have been, and I see the definite need for a reorganization so that our magazines, etc., will be better coordinated in order that we at Headquarters can help the national sections more, and they in turn will be better able to help us, so that Headquarters magazines as well as national magazines will become better instruments in our work. Does that answer your question at all?
G. Lindemans: Yes. I suspect that much more will be heard from you and Headquarters in the near future.
JAL: Yes, with regard to the magazines. With regard to the books, I cannot say much more except that what you say about Colonel Conger expresses exactly my thoughts, only maybe I have them even more strongly, if that were possible. I was with him all the time that these thoughts and ideas were developed, and I know and he made clear to us just what his hopes were for the long future. It is a tremendous job which I cannot go into now, but there is no doubt whatever that our greatest attraction, that which will attract most people to theosophy — not necessarily members to the Society, but most people into thinking about theosophy — will be our publications. As an example: the sale of our books today in comparison with eight or ten years ago runs something like this: today 85 percent of our sales are made through bookstores and to libraries, 15 percent go to the members; whereas just the opposite was the case about ten years ago. And the members today are buying more in dollars than they were at that time. We are working on all of this so that the volume of sales will increase through the bookstores and thus the literature will get out to the general public. Whether they become members or not is incidental. We must do our job and make our teachings available. We can safely leave the rest to the Law.
Mr. G. Lindemans: May I ask one more question? It is this: I have the impression that in our country the case is not the same as it is in America. The sale to the public in general here is limited. I think we would have to give all our power to change that situation. But I should like to have any ideas about the way we could effect that change.
JAL: George, I will be honest with you. I don't think you can do much about it, because the daily karmic script has not indicated that the time has come yet. Our big job right now is to get the books in libraries. You have a large English-speaking and English-reading public. Unfortunately we do not have all the translations we should like. What you do have translated, get them into as many libraries as you possibly can — the more the better. That begins to build up a demand, and when the public gets sufficiently aroused, then the bookstores take an interest in wanting theosophical books to stock. Colonel drove hard on this, and we are ourselves working on that line. And I will try to help you work along this line here too.
Right before I came on this trip, the group of lodges in Los Angeles got together, and the member who had been delegated with the responsibility of placing books in the main library had succeeded in having the Los Angeles Public Library place an order for $475.00 worth of our books, for which the lodges would pay — not at list price, mind you, but $475.00 worth at 40 percent discount. That is one of the encouraging signs of the times. Many lodges have been doing this on a smaller basis in their own communities first, and then spreading out from there. I don't mean that you should spend a lot of money doing this right now. But I would try to get as many of the books that you do have translated, into as many libraries in Holland as is possible, because that is the surest way in the end to build up public interest.
Mr. G. Lindemans: Now I have another question. We here in Holland in many instances spend a lot of money for the public meetings. Do you think it a good thing to diminish the amount spent in that way, in order to put it in our effort into placing our books that are translated into libraries?
JAL: That is not for me to answer, George, I am sorry. That is up to the branches themselves in consultation with the national secretary and the committee. I certainly would not force any lodge, or put any pressure in any way to change their efforts from pubic meetings to placing books in libraries. If a lodge or branch comes to the national secretary, and wants to talk the matter over and see which is the better line of action or activity to follow, laying before him and his committee if desired all of the circumstances involved, then I am sure the right course to follow will naturally show itself in any particular case.
Mrs. Groot-Mellema: I would like to hear something about having more than one lodge in one place. Do you expect us to join all the little ones and to have just one branch?
JAL: There again, it all depends upon the circumstances in any particular city. If we keep in mind what I have tried to bring out here this afternoon that it is the spirit of the matter that counts, then we will be able to decide all these things. We must try by trial and error and see how it works. As far as Amsterdam or any other city is concerned, we must study the local situation and see whether it is better to continue having separate lodges or whether it is better to unite into one main branch, with several study groups in the different localities. I would suggest that you bring these matters up with your national secretary and his committee, for this is in reality a partnership. Discuss all the factors frankly, giving all of the facts, and I think you will be able to decide just what you should do in each case. When you have made such a decision, and worked out a recommendation, then I should like to know about it before it is actually put into effect, so that if it is possible for me to help build safeguards when it is initiated, I would like the privilege of helping with that aspect. But again, I must repeat, there is no set rule or policy that there must be only one lodge or branch in any one city. That is an ideal that we can hope for. But if the hearts of the members in the various branches are not ripe and ready for that, the effort will not succeed, even if the leader moved to that city and told the members to do thus and so. It still would not work if the hearts were not ready. Does that help you a little bit to understand the picture?
Mrs. Groot-Mellema: Yes, thank you very much.
A. E. Wichers Wierdsma: I want to know what we are to do with the members who are going through their probation, those who are going through their trials, because they have acted on the paper from Mr. Hartley who says he is the successor? That makes it difficult.
JAL: I see no problem there at all. You have your members who want to work for theosophy in this new cycle, in this partnership. There is nothing in the world to stop you from having your president and going on with your meetings, even if they are just study groups. I certainly would not concern myself with those members who have chosen a different pathway until they come to you for help. Go on with your theosophical work in your little branch at Arnhem, keep the right attitude in your hearts and minds, and you will be helped.
Questioner (also from Arnhem): Would it be good to join with the branch in Ede as far as public work is concerned?
JAL: That would be a beautiful thing to do.
Miss Wichers Wierdsma: One month have the public meeting in Ede, and the other month in Arnhem, because of the expenses?
JAL: If you are unanimously agreed, do whatever you think best. So long as your heart is right in the work, it will be good.
Now it is getting a bit late for everyone. I promised to stay until 9:00 o'clock if you wished, and I will if there are any important unanswered questions. If there are, let us have them now.
I do not see any more hands raised. Therefore I will say a few words to you in closing. This will be my last meeting in Holland with the members. Tomorrow night is the public lecture, but I don't consider that an official act. It is not a members' meeting.
My official duties in Holland started here in Utrecht, and to me it is not without significance that I end them here for this trip. You here this afternoon, representing the real heart of the work in The Netherlands, have made it very clear to me and to the Lodge that you have understood the spirit of the new cycle, and that you love theosophy more than anything else in your life. With this spirit and attitude, I feel that Holland has already built a bulwark strong enough in The Lowlands to stem the tide of darkness for some time longer than we could have expected, had you all not done exactly what you are doing today. And what is that? As I see it from here, you have recognized, not me as the leader, but you have recognized the real impulse of our time. You have taken it to your hearts and determined to do your part in this partnership which goes beyond the leader, and is in reality a partnership with the Masters. We can, all of us together, continue to work and build that bulwark in the hope that it will stem that tide permanently, and thus add a major part, not only to the progress of civilization itself, but to the strengthening of the Lodge and its karmic possibilities for the great ages of the future. I am serious about this.
I am looking forward to coming back here again and hearing what you will tell me will have happened when a band of strong hearts in theosophy get together and work impersonally for Masters' cause.
Thank you for everything that you gave of yourselves to me and my staff while we were in Holland. We appreciate it. It has been beautiful. I will say so long until we see each other again.
The meeting closed at 7:30 p.m.