Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Our work to change men's minds and hearts through a dissemination of Theosophy as brought by H. P. B. and the Masters — The fatal error of a creed — Necessity for genuine Teachers — A new philosophical Babel rising — Working for a reunification of all Theosophical Societies — Disagree or misunderstand, but at least not condemn — Common belief in H. P. B. necessary — Spiritual brotherhood not an unattainable ideal — Paraphrase of the Savitri.
BROTHERS AND FRIENDS:
I am so sorry that certain of our Comrades present this morning are not with us this afternoon, Brother-Theosophists! I think that they will be the losers, and not we, and for that reason I regret their absence.
In listening to what already has been said today, it seemed to me at frequent intervals that I was listening to addresses made by members of our own dear T. S. I noticed the same thoughts, the same ideas, the same ideals. I saw the working of the same inspiration; I felt the impulse in them of the same noble truths that impel our own course of action; and I marveled thereat, and my heart was heavy that people who believe so much alike, who think so much alike, who perhaps work so much alike, and act so much alike, and speak so much alike, should be separated by barriers which are as intangible and indeed as unreal as was ever any mayavi unreality in this gross material world.
I have heard several of the speakers mention 'practical work,' and the thought thereupon came into my mind: just what is meant by 'practical work'? Practical work, I said to myself, in an attempt to interpret, must mean work which produces the results which we Theosophists are aiming for: work which will bring to pass sooner than possible in other manners of action, the attaining of that objective towards which we are all marching. Therefore, what is the most 'practical' method, the most efficient method, of attaining that objective? It is not necessarily embarking on spheres of activity, or undertaking duties, which, however beautiful they may be, are after all more or less extraneous to our Theosophical sphere of duties; but in concentrating our thoughts and our minds on the heart of our Theosophical teachings: in living them, in teaching them, in giving them to the world, so that we may change men's minds and hearts. That is the most practical thing that we Theosophists can possibly do: Make men think differently, feel differently, and thereafter they will act differently! It is ideas, new ideas, grand ideals, that we must give to the world.
The time is coming in the far distant future, my Brothers, when men will walk this earth of ours like gods, because they will feel like gods and think like gods; and when we remember that in the core, indeed that the core itself, of every one of us is a spark of the Cosmic Life, indeed that very Life itself, and is therefore an inner divinity, we realize two things: first, that what separates us as human beings, and more particularly as Theosophists, is in fact our different respective opinions; and secondly, the lack of a realization that what I have within me, you also have within you, and hence that we all are one in essence, one in essential consciousness and thought and feeling; and just here, O my Brother-Theosophists, there seems to me to lie the crime of this present striving of Theosophist against Theosophist, of mind against mind, of the attempt to make one opinion prevail over other opinions at the cost to mankind of the sublime realities or truths which we are sworn, as disciples, to carry into the world.
Now, therefore, the most 'practical' thing, outside of the other most excellent proposals that have been made, some of them really excellent, is for us Theosophists to concentrate on disseminating Theosophy as it was brought to us by H. P. B. from the Masters. That is as Theosophists the most genuinely practical thing that we can do; and, furthermore, if we do that, we can all meet together in good fellowship, in right feeling, in a common sympathy; for all Theosophical Societies accept the fundamental precepts of the Secret Doctrine, of the Ancient Wisdom-Religion of mankind, which H. P. Blavatsky brought first in our age to the Occidental world.
So therefore I think — I believe, I feel, I am of the conviction — that the most practical way in which we can work better together, in order to arrive at a greater and a nobler understanding of each others' problems and difficulties, is to agree that we can meet whole-heartedly on the fundamental Theosophical teachings which H. P. B. brought. Forget opinions, and remember that membership in H. P. B.'s own Theosophical Society was open to the professors of any belief: any religious or philosophical thinker could join the Theosophical Society, and remain a member in good standing; and so in actual fact it is today with the Theosophical Society with its Headquarters at Point Loma, California. From that tradition and principle we have never wandered.
Not all — as becomes obvious — not all F. T. S. or mere 'members of the T. S.' would be genuine Theosophists as regards philosophical conviction. As to these latter, that is another story. But let us for all time keep our Theosophical Movement as H. P. B. shaped it and as she handed it on to us: let each one of you, I beg, I pray, strive to keep fellowship in your respective Theosophical Societies open to all, without any dogmatic creeds, without any 'Concordats' or lists of 'Articles of Belief.' Let us avoid the fatal error into which the early Christians fell, who in some cases at least had noble motives, admirable motives, in doing what they succeeded in doing, just as is the case today with a number of earnest Theosophists who believe that a practical way of reuniting the Theosophists of the various Theosophical Societies in a common work is by the brain-mind method of drawing up a list of Articles of Belief, which would serve as a 'symbol' around which all Theosophists could unite, and to which they could subscribe.
Alas, history shows us all too clearly that in a little while a 'symbol' becomes a creed, and that creed becomes hard and fast, because it becomes dogmatic; and then sectarianism and bitter strife and the achings of broken hearts and disappointed and uneasy minds follow in regular order!
As to genuine Theosophists, Theosophists by conviction, those who believe in the teachings of H. P. B.: it is to these more especially that I now desire to speak. It has always been a joy to me, my Brothers, to listen to the Theosophical interpretations of a genuine Theosophical student, interpretations, I mean, of the writings of our beloved H. P. B. I listen to these with deep respect. I have never had the remotest wish to contemn or to condemn any interpretation of any genuine Theosophist which I have heard. But while this is so, I have also found that many of these interpretations of H. P. B.'s writings have been inadequate, they have been incomplete, partly from lack of a sufficiently spiritual vision, and partly also from lack of a sufficiently keen intellectual insight, and sometimes also from lack of a sufficiently adequate brain-mind training in the ordinary workaday knowledge of the world's store of facts; and the consequence is that each man's interpretation of H. P. B.'s teachings is obviously his own, is limited or enlarged by his own limited or larger experience and training, and in the last analysis, therefore, is, as I have said, an inadequate and incomplete and therefore imperfect interpretation.
The interpreter himself is the basis of his interpretation, and no such interpretation should ever be accepted as being the crystal-clear waters of truth, the crystal-clear truth itself. So much for that.
But while that is true, and also while that is the pathway for the individual himself, that pathway which for the individual leads ever more inwards and indeed has no ending, for if followed faithfully and sincerely it leads to the very heart of the Universe ultimately: admitting this — and indeed I will do more than admit it, I would emphasize it as a truth — nevertheless we must not forget that genuine Teachers are needed, men whose inner vision is quicker and more penetrating than that of other men, men in whom the inner faculties have been awakened — and I mean the spiritual and intellectual faculties, not the psychical ones, for it were much better to leave these untouched in our present age. In our own day, and for Theosophists especially, recognition of a true Teacher is needed, who will interpret that which the greatest Sages of the world, the Fine Flowers of the human race — Titans in spirituality and in intellect — themselves have been in their turn the noble Teachers and Interpreters of.
I tell you, my Brothers, that there are such Titan-Teachers in the world even today. Even in our grossly materialistic age there are still a few of these, and it is upon the construing of the Ancient Wisdom of the gods by these Teachers that in the past has been laid the superstructure of the different religious and philosophical systems of the world. A Sage and Seer was the inspirer of each one of them. It is true that as time passed, these superstructural teachings became distorted and misunderstood, so that humanity in general from time to time has lost its instinctive faith in now one and now again another of these originally grand systems of thought.
I do not blame anyone for feeling a closing of the brain-mind against my statement of the absolute need of Teachers of the Ancient Wisdom, because the world today, alas, is conscious of a new philosophical Babel rising in many quarters from those claiming to possess the Word of Truth and who pose as Teachers. I say merely what H. P. B. herself on more than one occasion said. Don't I know how difficult it is to judge aright and to select with discrimination! Have I not seen human hearts break in sorrow and human minds misled by trust wrongly placed in would-be teachers? Don't I know the sickness which ails the Theosophical Movement itself today? But here is the test, my Brothers, by which you may select, sort out, set apart, the sheep from the goats. The test is the following: Is the teaching given universal? Is it a key to all the great religious and philosophical literatures of the world and of all ages? Is it on all fours, and does it run parallel with, and is it identic with, the teachings of the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion and Peace? If it is, and you so understand it, then my suggestion is for you to follow the giver of such universal keys.
I have heard some people say that we need a new truth brought to us, that what H. P. B. wrote was good enough for her time, but that that time has passed, and we have evolved. I sometimes wonder if these good people have ever really understood H. P. B. and the Wisdom that she brought. Truth is truth from the beginning of time, which means eternity, for time in one sense had no beginning. Truth is as ancient as the Universe. What was true ten billion years ago is true today, and what is true today will be true ten billion years hence; and the teachings that H. P. B. brought are the very truth of very truth, the very spirit of very spirit; and on this foundation all those who agree that she taught truth can meet on a common ground. That indeed is the foundation that I am convinced we can all meet upon and work together upon.
I will tell you frankly that I am working for a unification, a reunification, of all genuine Theosophical hearts into one spiritual brotherhood, with the teachings of the Masters, as originally coming through H. P. B., as the foundation-stones of that Temple of Wisdom which I hope to see builded. I do not care what opinions, religious or scientific or philosophical, other people hold. That gentle lady now sitting in the audience to my right, Miss Debenham, spoke so admirably, just like one of our own. Again, Mr. Hamilton Jones, sitting before me, spoke like a man after my own heart. The gentle lady from Austria, Miss Karsai, and Brother Shastri who is one of our own — they all seemed to tell us exactly the same thing but in different ways; yet as concerns all who have spoken today I have sensed an unvoiced feeling lest the speaker be misunderstood. Cannot we do away with that? Cannot we all work together on the Theosophical fundamentals, in the genuine sense of this last word?
What we all want is truth. Let us therefore find that truth and follow it, which we can do in the grand original Theosophical teachings of H. P. B.; and let us remember that it was H. P. B. who collected together the first members of the Theosophical Society and gave to them the key in the majestic doctrines of the Ancient Wisdom-Religion which she elaborated in her later years among us. In these words lies the reason why I am so heart-faithful to her.
Does anyone mean to tell me that our Brother-Theosophists of Adyar are consciously disloyal to H. P. B. merely because they have certain teachings that other Theosophists call neo-Theosophy? I believe that they mean to be and think they are as true to H. P. B. in their hearts as we know we are, and there are Adyar Theosophists here in this room who I know will support this statement. I do not care a rap what Mr. Leadbeater teaches, nor what Annie Besant teaches; I have always sought truth, and that truth for me is found in the Ancient Wisdom-Religion of mankind which H. P. B. brought; and when I find individuals teaching that truth, them I call Brothers in this Work. One such was H. P. B. That I know. One such was Judge. That I know. And one such was my great Predecessor Katherine Tingley. That I know. Many here did not know her; but am I going to turn my back on those who have not felt what I have felt and known? No indeed. I am going to practise the brotherhood which I preach; and in witness thereof here is my hand in the spirit of genuine fraternity.
I desire to work with all true Theosophists everywhere. It is a matter of utter indifference to me what mere opinions a man holds. O my Brothers, cannot you see that if people could ignore opinions and study the essentials of things — the genuine essentials, not the non-essentials like creeds and dogmas, but the essentials — we would then be one Brotherhood even as we were in H. P. B.'s time?
Dr. Besant sent to me a beautiful telegram from Geneva, in answer to my invitation to unite in brotherly co-operation. I gladly bear testimony to that acceptance. Dr. Besant and I, I suppose, if our views as individuals could be accurately and adequately described, would be in many respects at opposite poles of thought and feeling; but am I going to cast a brother into the 'outer darkness' or consider a brother-soul beyond the 'pale of salvation,' because her opinions are not mine? Don't you see what I mean? I am using this illustration in order to show you what seems to me to be the most important and most practical thing for us Theosophists to do: to forget the opinions and to hold to the fundamental Theosophical realities. For me, these realities are in the teachings of the Masters, and they can be found in H. P. B.'s works. Of course they are not found there merely because our beloved H. P. B. wrote them. If any individual person had written them, the truths would be the same. It so happens, however, that I love H. P. B. because she was H. P. B.; but, after all, that is my own affair. I can easily see that there are many who could not, at any rate who would not, understand H. P. B. as I see her and understand her, but am I going to condemn such because they differ from me in views and in feeling concerning H. P. B.?
Another thing: I do not think it a practical method for bringing about our working together, my Brothers, merely to sit together at a table in a brain-mind way and in a brain-mind way seek brain-mind points of agreement. That method has been tried so many scores, indeed hundreds, of times, and has always failed, for it invariably leads into discussions which in their turn will lead to argument, which again leads only to wounded feelings and further causes of misunderstanding, concerning what Timothy Dexter or G. de P. or Dr. Besant, or some other prominent Theosophist, thinks to be 'an essential.' I think that such brain-mind methods are worse than futile: I think that they are dangerous. Isn't it much better to be practical than to follow the methods which have proved their impractical and futile and dangerous character? If we Theosophists cannot unite on the basis of the spiritual and intellectual verities which we have from the Teachers, and which we all know that we accept, we cannot unite and remain united merely by subscribing in a brain-mind way to a list of Articles of Belief, which as individual teachings all of us already accept. Why not, instead of doing this, unite in our love of and belief in H. P. B. as the Masters' Messenger. You have all the Theosophical teachings hitherto known to the world in her writings; why not, therefore, recognise this obvious fact and accept them all, instead of drawing up a new list comprising only a few of the great doctrines which she taught?
I readily see that many of you may be thinking that I am referring to the ideas of our Brother, Mr. William Kingsland, whose name I now mention for the first time. I have thought of him. I have done my best, my Brothers, to induce him to accept my outstretched hand of Theosophical fellowship; and, if I understand him aright, he has refused to do so whole-heartedly because of certain grounds of opinion which he holds concerning what he imagines to be my beliefs and methods and opinions. Of course he has a perfect right to do this, and I do not criticize him for exercising his indubitable right to follow what I believe he believes to be his conscience. But I regret his absence from this gathering, for I should have been so glad to have spoken with Brother Kingsland as man to man, and from heart to heart, precisely on the essential principles concerning which he writes so eloquently; and I am pretty sure that we should have arrived at a good understanding — not by any brain-mind discussion which would infallibly lead to argumentation, which in turn would lead to each of us two feeling that he himself is right and the man on the other side of the table is wrong; but by meeting each other just as we here are meeting today, in friendly interchange of views, and by an avoidance of controversial points, we thus could have followed the pathway of understanding by the simple method of fraternal sympathy on basic teachings, which we both recognise to be genuine Theosophy, and each without requiring the other to subscribe a formal brain-mind statement of what either might feel to be an incomplete list of Theosophical essential teachings.
There are a number of other matters, Mr. Chairman, which it would be of fascinating interest to us all to speak of, but it would be taking too much time to enter upon them. Before our meeting closes, I desire to say that in my judgment our main object has been successfully accomplished. I am very happy about this gathering in fraternal conclave. I desire to thank all of you for having had the largeness of mind and the genuine Theosophical spirit inducing you to come to this meeting. I know that you all want in your hearts just what I want; and I want to be brotherly with you all, and when I say 'I,' you know that I voice the will and feeling of the Theosophical Society with headquarters at Point Loma, of which Society I am the present head, and by our Constitution I am authorized to declare and to direct its policy; and I tell you now, speaking to those who do not understand what that policy is, that it is the identic policy of H. P. B. and of the Masters who were behind her — and nothing more. By our Constitution I am authorized to declare the policy that our Society shall follow, and therefore do I speak in the first person. I thank you in the name of the Theosophical Society with headquarters at Point Loma for coming here today, and for listening here so patiently to me, because I know that as yet I am a relatively unknown man in the Theosophical world. Some good people seem to think that under a hat I hide horns on my head, and actually I have been called a 'Dugpa' and a 'Black Magician,' simply because I have been Theosophically honest enough from the very beginning of my work frankly to say what my principles and my hopes and my objectives are. But I do not mind these ludicrous misunderstandings of me. My answer has invariably been that when these critical Brother-Theosophists know me better and understand me better, they will, I hope, then love me, and I will bear towards them the same fraternal love that I give and receive in the case of the members of our own T. S.
In the future, and I see it clearly — no, not by any psychic vision, I do not indulge in that — but my logic, my instinct, my spiritual feeling, tell me that in the future the Theosophical Movement will be once more a unified organism, somewhat changed it may be from what it was in the days of our beloved H. P. B., but with her teachings as the foundation of its life and its activity, and with the same policy guiding its destiny. I yearn to see this accomplished in my own lifetime, if I can bring it about. This basis of mutual understanding and of a common fellowship I do not want to have written, I do not want to see it set forth in black and white on paper. I want it based on the mutual understanding and tacit acceptance of genuine Theosophists and honest men, and to have it clearly understood that any man, or any one of the component Theosophical Societies will be free to withdraw from such association at any moment when it should please them to do so. I yearn to see this Spiritual Brotherhood that I speak of composed of all the Theosophical Societies in the world, and all working together for a common end, confessing by their action of unification and by the doctrines which they teach that they believe in the brotherhood which they preach.
This is not an unattainable ideal which lies beyond the bounds of possibility. It is easily to be brought about, and by the only way which is practical and practicable: Change men's hearts and minds to forget the opinions which they cherish so dearly, and to consent to work on the basis of the essential spiritual realities of life which we all acknowledge as fundamental, essential Theosophy. That is what I want, and I believe that the members of the Adyar Society and that the members of the United Lodge of Theosophists and that the members of all the various different Theosophical bodies, all have pretty much the same hope and ideal latent in their souls. I know that they all feel that they are working for genuine Theosophical principles, and I hope that I am large-hearted enough and broad-minded enough to realize that they have as much right to their opinions and feelings as I have to mine; and I hope that they are broad-minded enough to know that we all are brothers, fellow-Theosophists, every Society having its own difficulties, its own problems, and its own line of work in the world.
Do you not know that the Path to the Heart of the Universe is different for every living entity, and yet that all those paths merge into One? Each man must tread his own evolutionary path, which in the world's foolish view means that in his ordinary brain-mind way each man must hold fast to his own opinions. But verily this is a mistaken view. Opinions! It is opinions that separate men in politics, in religion, in all the ordinary affairs and avocations of human life. It is so, alas, even in our own Theosophical Movement; it is so in religious and philosophical societies everywhere. Men worship opinions instead of realities.
I know indeed that all these various Theosophical Societies have their respective and differing opinions; but I also know that each one is pursuing its own line of work and is, I believe, trying to do good in the world; and I also know that each one of them, as well as every individual composing their respective fellowships, is following its or his own pathway to the Heart of the Universe. Let us then remember this great truth. It will bring generosity into our hearts and a kindlier feeling for those who differ from us.
I will now close, with the expression of the hope that this will not be the last meeting of its kind. Our gathering is an historic event, believe me, Brothers, in the history of the modern Theosophical Movement. I know that if these thoughts which I have attempted so poorly this afternoon to lay before you, are understood, and accepted in your heart — in other words if your minds and hearts will run parallel with them — we shall have taken a great step forwards towards the accomplishment of that Universal Brotherhood of humanity which the Masters have set before us as the main work of the Theosophical Society; and I remind you of a great truth which I will quote for you in the words of the ancient Vedic sage:
Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.
which we may translate and paraphrase as follows:
"Oh, thou golden sun of most excellent splendor, illumine our hearts and fill our minds, so that we, recognising our oneness with the divinity which is the Heart of the Universe, may see the pathway before our feet, and tread it to those distant goals of perfection, stimulated by thine own radiant light."
This is a paraphrase of the Savitri, perhaps the most sacred verse in the ancient Hindu scriptures, and it contains a world of truth, for it sets forth the spiritual oneness of all things that are — that all things are rooted in the spiritual Universe, nay, more, in the Boundless: that in THAT we forever move and live and have our being; and that our whole duty is so to live, which means so to feel and so to think and so to act, that day by day and year by year we may recognise this fundamental oneness with the Cosmic Heart, and manifest its supernal glory and strength in our own lives.
— Address at the afternoon session of the Centennial Conference, London, England, June 24, 1931.