The Path – July 1891


The one-ness in any association must result from a common conviction enlivened by motive. Unless men have something in common they will not associate, and that something is what prompts the association. But mere abstract beliefs are inadequate to cause cohesion: only when they are vitalized by a purpose does magnetism set in.

Such is the genesis of all unions. A stock company expresses visibly the facts that certain individuals are convinced that a certain business department may be profitably exploited, and that they desire to secure the gain. A Public Library means that various citizens believe in literature as ennobling and wish to bring it within their own reach. A Charity Hospital presupposes that its founders felt unrelieved suffering to be an evil, and were anxious to aid in its cure. So in every other organization of units. There is first a belief, then a motive, then a combination to effectuate it.

It is obvious also that when either the belief clouds or the motive weakens, the association is abandoned. The stockholder sells out if he scents failure in his Company, the reader resigns from the Library when he has lost interest in books, the subscriber to the Hospital withholds his subscription as his philanthropy abates. Persuasion is hopeless unless the belief is restored or the motive revived.

The Theosophical Society exemplifies the facts exemplified in every other Society. Men do not enter it, any more than other bodies, without a reason, nor amalgamate with it without an impulse, nor remain in it when these expire. There must have been some inducement to its formation, and the same inducement must recruit its membership.

As to mere condition to entrance, nothing could be simpler, — belief in the doctrine of Universal Brotherhood, beyond which there is no exaction. But this is an abstraction, not of itself prompting to membership. Even the wish to express it would alone hardly influence a man to join, he being already a member of the Universal Brotherhood, Humanity, and not particularly needing to say so. If he joins, it can only be because he has further convictions and desires to give them practical force. If we scrutinize the motion resulting in our own entrance into the Society — a surer disclosure than dry speculation, we shall find it, I think, in the assurance that some finer truth is contained in the term "Theosophy" than is discerned elsewhere and without, and in the wish to ascertain it for our own benefit and to promulgate it for that of others. Just what that truth may be, how many or how defined its departments, what its range or certainty or value; how strong the purpose to acquire it; how vigorous the desire to extend it; may as yet be indeterminate. But that Theosophy holds truth, that some portion of it commends itself to our intelligence and moral sense, that we crave further light and fuller action, — these seem the combined facts which moved us to seek admission.

Very varied are the degrees and nature of this primary experience. Sometimes it is little more than curiosity, weariness of unsatisfying systems suggesting that this novel field may promise better. Sometimes there is an instinctual grasp of the fact that a whole region of thought and motive, so decidedly a revelation to Western eyes and so evidenced from history and literature and physical marvels, must contain pearls of great price. Sometimes a particular doctrine instantly evokes assent as eminently rational in itself and as solving difficulties hitherto hopeless, and the inference arises that a philosophy so satisfying on one point may be equally so on others. But whatever the amount of life in the germinal thought, the very slightest life produces interest, and the thought and the interest point to union with the Theosophical Society.

As a member identifies himself with the studies and the work of the Society, and in exact proportion as he does so, there come a light into his mind, an assurance into his heart, a transformation into his life. The spark spoken of in Light on the Path enlarges, swells into a gleam, a flame, warming and shining through every part of his being. His perplexities abate, his doubts dwindle, his perception becomes more acute, and his knowledge expands. Conscience softens, sympathy grows, intelligence strengthens. Life has a new meaning, a rich purpose, as the decaying notions of earlier days are supplanted by the now developing vitalities of a real Nature. If with steady hand he represses the habits which tie him down to animal routine, and if he encourages the higher nature to every flight, and if he consecrates his means to that great aim of spreading broadcast the truths which are saving him and may save the world, — thus living the life and dispensing it, he daily frees himself more and more from the limitations which distress and thwart, and revels in that sunny liberty which only they enjoy who are in harmony with the Universe and its Law. Theosophy has not only convinced him, it has emancipated him: the Society is more than an association, it is the almoner of blessings to a world.

There is, of course, a converse process. It is where the original interest has died down, the more tangible affairs around it displacing it, and so Theosophical thought fades away, Society meetings lose charm and are deserted, membership becomes distasteful and is silently dropped or formally repudiated. As the doctrine has no longer vitality, neither has the impulse to promulgate it, and the lack of sympathy with the Society very properly leads to retirement from it.

The real cohesiveness of members, the magnetic force which draws them together and overcomes all tendencies to disunion, is the conviction of certain truths, coupled with the desire to extend them through the world. This is the case also with a Church. But a great distinction separates the two. The Theosophical Society does not hold to a collection of doctrines as revealed by God, but as ascertained by man with the powers God has given him; nor as transcending reason and to be received with unreasoning faith, but as demonstrated by reason and verified better as it enlarges; nor as remote from practical human life, but as exemplified throughout it and in every item of it. The Society does not missionize because ignorance of doctrine loses the favor of the Almighty, but because it imperils the well-being of men; nor does it attempt to proselyte or to threaten or to persuade, but only to make known that all may examine; nor even to make known as a perfunctory duty, but because it perceives that only through knowledge of the Laws of Life can life ever be corrected and made happy and progressive. It points out evil and the cure for evil precisely as a sanitary engineer expounds the conditions to healthy homes and bodies; not at all as a policeman who enforces an arbitrary proclamation from his Chief. Hence its spirit and its motive and its method have no ecclesiastical analogy, and it is as far from a Creed as it is from a Ritual.

This distinction made, the solidarity of the Theosophical Society is evidently in the tenacity with which its members hold to Theosophy, and the self-forgetful zeal with which they disseminate Theosophy abroad. Solidarity is not in numbers. Mere formal membership creates no strength, excites no effort, produces no result. Belief in Universal Brotherhood is a dead belief until it prompts exertion for the benefit of that Brotherhood, and the exertion is aimless if it has no definite purpose, and fruitless if the purpose be unintelligent or ill-considered. Study of Aryan religions or psychic powers gives cohesion only so long as a student for selfish objects thinks he gains by union, and will never lead to large or generous altruism. If the members of the Society are to be welded into compact strength, a strength to withstand attack from without and dissension from within, it can only be as they are pervaded with the great warmth of a common conviction and a common mission. The conviction is that Theosophy is a truth, that it expresses the actual facts in the universe and the actual mode of man's spiritual advance, that as a philosophy and a religion it is not speculative but demonstrated. The mission is that this truth shall be so proclaimed that every ear may hear and every willing heart respond, that ignorance shall be everywhere dispelled and the way thrown open to intelligent choice, that no one shall continue in darkness and mistake and progressive misery through any causes but his own will. Such union is the counsel of our Elder Brethren. In the MSS. of an Adept it is written: "Have solidarity among yourselves like the fingers on one hand. Each member should strive to feel so towards the other". Filled with Theosophic doctrine and burning with Theosophic purpose, the members of the Society will have a solidarity no antagonisms can overcome; and as their own assurance deepens with larger knowledge and more copious experience, and as their consecration becomes more heartfelt, more intense, more unreserved, they will see in limitless measure the triumph which is as yet but partial, and rejoice that the treasure they have best valued by straining to dispense has become the delight of all humanity, the common patrimony of the Universal Brotherhood.

The Path