The Path – February 1895


It would seem by the way in which many members regard the working of the T. S. that the old traditions concerning exoteric wisdom and the method by which it is taught are but lightly regarded. There is a great difference between learning and wisdom, and a little reflection on that fact would be of use to many. The Theosophical movement was intended to give men Wisdom more than anything else, and the methods which it adopts in thus training its members are those which have held good in the East and in all Occult Brotherhoods from time immemorial. The peculiar and particular difference between the method of instruction employed in Occult bodies and that of our western colleges lies mainly in that the one, while apparently saying very little, seeks to develop the intuitions, and the other, while saying a great deal, merely supplies the brain with facts. The former deals in generalities, the latter in particulars. Mr. Sinnett rightly said in his Esoteric Buddhism that the traditional methods of teaching in the East aimed at impressing every fresh idea on the memory by provoking the perplexity it at last relieved. This perplexity arises from an absence of a certain power in the Ego of the student to perceive the greater laws of Nature. But by dwelling on the thought that the Master puts forward, in time the student comes to develop that power and thereby to recognize a new fact in Nature. Madame Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine was written in that way, and it will always perplex students until they have reached to the development of the author of that book. She has been criticized for her want of order, and sometimes for the absence of such statements as would lead the brain-development forward by orderly processes, but she did not seek to develop the reflective powers, but rather to awaken the perceptive ones.

Now we should remember, and always hold to in our endeavor to help the world, the occult and traditional method of teaching. In our Branches we should be sure that we are conducting them on this basis. The writer knows some persons who try to turn their Branches into clubs or literary associations, merely placing them on the level of any other like club. Then, again, he knows of others who try to turn them into semi-religious institutions, but in both of these cases there is a distinct falling away from the original lines, and we must examine ourselves very carefully to see what is the proper thing to do in the management of Branches and in public meetings in order that we may awaken the spiritual insight of anyone in the outside world.

Now there is one very simple matter by which we can know how to act, and that is by noting carefully in our minds those things which have helped us and developed us, and those things which have, on the other hand, held us back. The use of these things will undoubtedly have a similar effect upon, the generality of other persons and we should remember this. If we want to help others we should bring forward the ideas that have aided us. It does not matter if we ourselves have now gone far beyond them: they were stepping-stones to us at one time and would be helps now to other persons if rightly employed. It is not difficult to find members amongst us who are throwing aside a great many conceptions as materialistic now, that were aids to them once. The simple statement, for example, of reincarnation: that the soul is an intelligence which passes on from life to life, entering new physical bodies and coming back to the race again and again; is regarded now by many as a very crude and even materialistic statement of the truth of the matter. Yet it was a very new idea to them but a few years ago, and, moreover, they would never have advanced to their present high development had not Reincarnation been presented to them then in that very crude and materialistic manner. Therefore, what they should do now, when speaking to others below them, is to waive aside the immense knowledge they have gained and be content to present matters in a simple and clear light to those who know less than they.

If we enquire into the reason as to why it is that many desire to present such a vast amount of information in their essays and papers at a Branch meeting or before the public, or to become very metaphysical and discourse on the Absolute and Be-ness and the like, we should see that it arises really from a subtle form of egotism. They wish to show how much they know, and it does not mean simply that they wish to show how much book-learning they have, but often how much spiritual enlightenment they possess; this latter making it very difficult for them to find any egotism in what they do. To present a spiritual truth in a materialistic manner, and without referring to "spirit and matter", and "good and evil", or Sanskrit terms, would seem to them almost profane. Why? Because they know better, they have passed beyond all materialistic thought! But nevertheless they should remember that there are many others who have not yet reached this pinnacle of enlightenment, and their object in getting up to speak should be, if they are Theosophists at all, not to show how much they know, but really to help. Egotism springs from a want of sympathy with the race, and if one who speaks or writes or even converses with a fellow-student or one who knows nothing of Theosophy does so merely with the idea of impressing him with the amount of his own information he cannot help him in the slightest degree. True sympathy is a desire to help another, and this again is the root of one's own possible advancement. Egotism is a desire to get as much praise as possible from others, and it therefore closes up and destroys the nature of him who possesses it.

Always there is this difference between the egotist and the sympathetic helper of man. The one desires to tell how much he knows; the other seeks to aid men in knowing as much as he. The former tries to surprise with the amount of his learning and even spiritual wisdom, the latter always seeks to give his fellow-men instruction as to how to obtain that information and spiritual wisdom.

So, then, if we are going to develop teachers and helpers for the race, we must instruct others by picking out those things that have aided us from the mass of Theosophical literature that is given to the world, and speak of them in the simplicity in which we received them; in that way to lead others up to our own enlightenment. Many say that Madame Blavatsky made a mistake in her method of enlightening the world; yet all her "mistakes" had definite objects in them. She knew infinitely more than she said, but she did not care about saying all she knew because she was not an egotist. She desired rather to help the world than to surprise it with the profundity of her knowledge. And those persons who decry Madame Blavatsky and point to her mistakes are the very ones who but a short while past learned all that they now know of the sacred truths of life from her teachings.

Let all members, then, get rid of this egotism, and, remembering the old traditions, teach the philosophy as it was given out in the earliest T. S. days. Those things that helped you at first will help others now. It may be that in your idea that you have gone far beyond Madame Blavatsky, you have not come near to where she stood. You may have but intellectually recognized wisdom which she knew intuitively. The simple expression of the Theosophical doctrines, the teachings about Karma and Reincarnation and those about the seven principles of man and the like, in their simplest form, should be given to the public in order that they may be aided as you have been. For it is a fact that those things that aided you will undoubtedly aid others.

Again, remember also that the philosophy more than the mere ethics is what the world needs. Telling a person to "be good" instead of showing him why he should thus act, is what is being done in every church. It is not suitable to this age. Only a week ago one member overheard a visitor to a Theosophical meeting saying as he left the hall, "Universal Brotherhood! I don't know about that! Why should I not skin a man? He'd skin me if he had the chance." Showing that what the visitor wanted was not the mere telling him to become one of a body of universal brothers, but the giving to him of a philosophy which should explain the rationale thereof.

Remember, then, to place before the world and those you come in contact with the stepping-stones which have served as helps to you, and think constantly upon this rule of life:

Do not desire to tell people how much you know or how wise you are, but rather instruct them so that they also may acquire the knowledge and the wisdom for themselves.

The Path