Enq. Is moral elevation, then, the principal thing insisted upon in your Society?
Theo. Undoubtedly! He who would be a true Theosophist must bring himself to live as one.
Enq. If so, then, as I remarked before, the behaviour of some members strangely belies this fundamental rule.
Theo. Indeed it does. But this cannot be helped among us, any more than amongst those who call themselves Christians and act like fiends. This is no fault of our statutes and rules, but that of human nature. Even in some exoteric public branches, the members pledge themselves on their "Higher Self" to live the life prescribed by Theosophy. They have to bring their Divine Self to guide their every thought and action, every day and at every moment of their lives. A true Theosophist ought "to deal justly and walk humbly."
Enq. What do you mean by this?
Theo. Simply this: the one self has to forget itself for the many selves. Let me answer you in the words of a true Philaletheian, an F. T. S., who has beautifully expressed it in the Theosophist: "What every man needs first is to find himself, and then take an honest inventory of his subjective possessions, and, bad or bankrupt as it may be, it is not beyond redemption if we set about it in earnest." But how many do? All are willing to work for their own development and progress; very few for those of others. To quote the same writer again: "Men have been deceived and deluded long enough; they must break their idols, put away their shams, and go to work for themselves — nay, there is one little word too much or too many, for he who works for himself had better not work at all; rather let him work himself for others, for all. For every flower of love and charity he plants in his neighbour's garden, a loathsome weed will disappear from his own, and so this garden of the gods — Humanity — shall blossom as a rose. In all Bibles, all religions, this is plainly set forth — but designing men have at first misinterpreted and finally emasculated, materialised, besotted them. It does not require a new revelation. Let every man be a revelation unto himself. Let once man's immortal spirit take possession of the temple of his body, drive out the money-changers and every unclean thing, and his own divine humanity will redeem him, for when he is thus at one with himself he will know the 'builder of the Temple.'"
ENQUIRER. This is pure Altruism, I confess.
THEOSOPHIST. It is. And if only one Fellow of the T. S. out of ten would practise it ours would be a body of elect indeed. But there are those among the outsiders who will always refuse to see the essential difference between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, the idea and its imperfect embodiment. Such would visit every sin and shortcoming of the vehicle, the human body, on the pure spirit which sheds thereon its divine light. Is this just to either? They throw stones at an association that tries to work up to, and for the propagation of, its ideal with most tremendous odds against it. Some vilify the Theosophical Society only because it presumes to attempt to do that in which other systems — Church and State Christianity pre-eminently — have failed most egregiously; others because they would fain preserve the existing state of things: Pharisees and Sadducees in the seat of Moses, and publicans and sinners revelling in high places, as under the Roman Empire during its decadence. Fair-minded people, at any rate, ought to remember that the man who does all he can, does as much as he who has achieved the most, in this world of relative possibilities. This is a simple truism, an axiom supported for believers in the Gospels by the parable of the talents given by their Master: the servant who doubled his two talents was rewarded as much as that other fellow-servant who had received five. To every man it is given "according to his several ability."
ENQUIRER. Yet it is rather difficult to draw the line of demarcation between the abstract and the concrete in this case, as we have only the latter to form our judgment by.
THEOSOPHIST. Then why make an exception for the T. S.? Justice, like charity, ought to begin at home. Will you revile and scoff at the "Sermon on the Mount" because your social, political and even religious laws have, so far, not only failed to carry out its precepts in their spirit, but even in their dead letter? Abolish the oath in Courts, Parliament, Army and everywhere, and do as the Quakers do, if you will call yourselves Christians. Abolish the Courts themselves, for if you would follow the Commandments of Christ, you have to give away your coat to him who deprives you of your cloak, and turn your left cheek to the bully who smites you on the right. "Resist not evil, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you," for "whosoever shall break one of the least of these Commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven," and "whosoever shall say 'Thou fool' shall be in danger of hell fire." And why should you judge, if you would not be judged in your turn? Insist that between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society there is no difference, and forthwith you lay the system of Christianity and its very essence open to the same charges, only in a more serious form.
ENQUIRER. Why more serious?
THEOSOPHIST. Because, while the leaders of the Theosophical movement, recognising fully their shortcomings, try all they can do to amend their ways and uproot the evil existing in the Society; and while their rules and bye-laws are framed in the spirit of Theosophy, the Legislators and the Churches of nations and countries which call themselves Christian do the reverse. Our members, even the worst among them, are no worse than the average Christian. Moreover, if the Western Theosophists experience so much difficulty in leading the true Theosophical life, it is because they are all the children of their generation. Every one of them was a Christian, bred and brought up in the sophistry of his Church, his social customs, and even his paradoxical laws. He was this before he became a Theosophist, or rather, a member of the Society of that name, as it cannot be too often repeated that between the abstract ideal and its vehicle there is a most important difference.
ENQUIRER. Please elucidate this difference a little more.
THEOSOPHIST. The Society is a great body of men and women, composed of the most heterogeneous elements. Theosophy, in its abstract meaning, is Divine Wisdom, or the aggregate of the knowledge and wisdom that underlie the Universe — the homogeneity of eternal GOOD; and in its concrete sense it is the sum total of the same as allotted to man by nature, on this earth, and no more. Some members earnestly endeavour to realize and, so to speak, to objectivize Theosophy in their lives; while others desire only to know of, not to practise it; and others still may have joined the Society merely out of curiosity, or a passing interest, or perhaps, again, because some of their friends belong to it. How, then, can the system be judged by the standard of those who would assume the name without any right to it? Is poetry or its muse to be measured only by those would-be poets who afflict our ears? The Society can be regarded as the embodiment of Theosophy only in its abstract motives; it can never presume to call itself its concrete vehicle so long as human imperfections and weaknesses are all represented in its body; otherwise the Society would be only repeating the great error and the outflowing sacrileges of the so-called Churches of Christ. If Eastern comparisons may be permitted, Theosophy is the shoreless ocean of universal truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the earth, while the Theosophical Society is only a visible bubble on that reflection. Theosophy is divine nature, visible and invisible, and its Society human nature trying to ascend to its divine parent. Theosophy, finally, is the fixed eternal sun, and its Society the evanescent comet trying to settle in an orbit to become a planet, ever revolving within the attraction of the sun of truth. It was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating its eternal verities.
ENQUIRER. I thought you said you had no tenets or doctrines of your own?
THEOSOPHIST. No more we have. The Society has no wisdom of its own to support or teach. It is simply the storehouse of all the truths uttered by the great seers, initiates, and prophets of historic and even pre-historic ages; at least, as many as it can get. Therefore, it is merely the channel through which more or less of truth, found in the accumulated utterances of humanity's great teachers, is poured out into the world.
ENQUIRER. But is such truth unreachable outside of the society? Does not every Church claim the same?
THEOSOPHIST. Not at all. The undeniable existence of great initiates — true "Sons of God" — shows that such wisdom was often reached by isolated individuals, never, however, without the guidance of a master at first. But most of the followers of such, when they became masters in their turn, have dwarfed the catholicism of these teachings into the narrow groove of their own sectarian dogmas. The commandments of a chosen master alone were then adopted and followed, to the exclusion of all others — if followed at all, note well, as in the case of the Sermon on the Mount. Each religion is thus a bit of the divine truth, made to focus a vast panorama of human fancy which claimed to represent and replace that truth.
ENQUIRER. But Theosophy, you say, is not a religion?
THEOSOPHIST. Most assuredly it is not, since it is the essence of all religion and of absolute truth, a drop of which only underlies every creed. To resort once more to metaphor. Theosophy, on earth, is like the white ray of the spectrum, and every religion only one of the seven prismatic colours. Ignoring all the others, and cursing them as false, every special coloured ray claims not only priority, but to be that white ray itself, and anathematizes even its own tints from light to dark, as heresies. Yet, as the sun of truth rises higher and higher on the horizon of man's perception, and each coloured ray gradually fades out until it is finally re-absorbed in its turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer with artificial polarizations, but will find itself bathing in the pure colourless sunlight of eternal truth. And this will be Theosophia.
ENQUIRER. Your claim is, then, that all the great religions are derived from Theosophy, and that it is by assimilating it that the world will be finally saved from the curse of its great illusions and errors?
THEOSOPHIST. Precisely so. And we add that our Theosophical Society is the humble seed which, if watered and left to live, will finally produce the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which is grafted on the Tree of Life Eternal. For it is only by studying the various great religions and philosophies of humanity, by comparing them dispassionately and with an unbiased mind, that men can hope to arrive at the truth. It is especially by finding out and noting their various points of agreement that we may achieve this result. For no sooner do we arrive — either by study, or by being taught by someone who knows — at their inner meaning, than we find, almost in every case, that it expresses some great truth in Nature.
ENQUIRER. We have heard of a Golden Age that was, and what you describe would be a Golden Age to be realised at some future day. When shall it be?
THEOSOPHIST. Not before humanity, as a whole, feels the need of it. A maxim in the Persian "Javidan Khirad" says: "Truth is of two kinds — one manifest and self-evident; the other demanding incessantly new demonstrations and proofs." It is only when this latter kind of truth becomes as universally obvious as it is now dim, and therefore liable to be distorted by sophistry and casuistry; it is only when the two kinds will have become once more one, that all people will be brought to see alike.
ENQUIRER. But surely those few who have felt the need of such truths must have made up their minds to believe in something definite? You tell me that, the Society having no doctrines of its own, every member may believe as he chooses and accept what he pleases. This looks as if the Theosophical Society was bent upon reviving the confusion of languages and beliefs of the Tower of Babel of old. Have you no beliefs in common?
THEOSOPHIST. What is meant by the Society having no tenets or doctrines of its own is, that no special doctrines or beliefs are obligatory on its members; but, of course, this applies only to the body as a whole. The Society, as you were told, is divided into an outer and an inner body. Those who belong to the latter have, of course, a philosophy, or — if you so prefer it — a religious system of their own.
ENQUIRER. May we be told what it is?
THEOSOPHIST. We make no secret of it. It was outlined a few years ago in the Theosophist and "Esoteric Buddhism," and may be found still more elaborated in the "Secret Doctrine." It is based on the oldest philosophy of the world, called the Wisdom-Religion or the Archaic Doctrine. If you like, you may ask questions and have them explained.