Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered December 14, 1930)
CONTENTS: The self-perpetuating brotherhood of teachers. Their cyclic appearance among men. Their messengers. — Theosophy in all ancient scriptures. — The way to receive truth. — Leader and follower alike. — The beauty of clairvoyant trust. — Not claims but facts. — Charges of charlatanry refuted. — "One man and Truth a majority." — Explanation of "In the name of the Masters"; "the authority that has devolved upon me"; the term mediator. — The constitution of The TS (Point Loma). Does it invest the Leader with absolute authority? — Autonomy of National Sections. — Esoteric spirit of The TS. — Dangers of unlimited power in the hands of one person. — Protest against charge of claiming infallibility. — Against laying down dogmas. — A vow of poverty.
For many weeks, for months indeed, I have been receiving at numerous intervals questions referring to myself; and I have regularly laid these questions aside. I don't like to talk about myself, although indeed I am always enthusiastic when it comes to the matter of the theosophical work which I am doing and which I am trying to do; but for a number of reasons I have brought these different questions with me to the platform this afternoon. I shall read them to you and then try to answer them, because it seemed to me that, while the subject of my own person is very uninteresting to me, it has possible value in the minds of those who don't know me and my work; and I think that the answers which I will try to give to these questions will enable you to understand our theosophical work better than many do at present. I refer here of course to questions which have been asked about me and my individual connection with The Theosophical Society and its activities. Had they been asked about The Theosophical Society only, I would have answered them immediately.
A theosophical lecturer speaks under difficulties always. A great many people don't know what theosophy really is. They think that it is some strange, outlandish, possibly even weird, form of belief; instead of being, as it truly is, a philosophy-religion-science giving in reasoned formulation truths about the structure, the operations, the physiology, and the psychology, of the universe. In other words, it answers the great questions which all thinking men put, not only to their own souls, but in the silences ask of that encompassing spirit of truth which some men call god and others nature, and to which others give no name at all.
All sane men hunger for truth; all aspiring men want light — and in the vast majority of cases they have neither. A little of each, mayhap, they indeed have: a little only of guidance, a bare glimmering of light; and these rays of light and truth that they do have come from within, from the operations of the divine entity which is resident in the core of the core of every human being — because, verily, my Brothers, this divine entity essentially speaking is that human being in his divine inmost.
It is due to the enshrouding veils of personal selfhood, and also due to miseducation along all lines of human thinking and feeling, that men in the Occident with very few exceptions have lost touch with the inner individual god dwelling at the heart of every individual human being, and which inner god is the divine-spiritual essence of each such individual. Hence it is that Occidentals usually seek for guidance and light outside of the inner fields of consciousness, forgetting that guidance and light are within, because the understander is within, the feeler is within, vision is within; and this within is an inseparable part of the universe — this divine flame within you, which is your very utmost, truest self, is an inseparable portion so to speak of boundless infinitude.
You obviously cannot leave the universe of which you are children. You are in it, you will be in it for aye, for aye you have been in it, because you are, each one of you, inseparably a part of it; and being thus each one of you an inseparable part of boundless infinitude, whatever is in the encompassing whole is in each part of that whole; and each one of you is such a part. Therefore the cosmic light is within you; the cosmic guidance or life is within you; and it is to this within that the truth seeker, the man hungry for light, for more light, must finally turn if he will find truth and light and peace and happiness.
Granted all this as being necessary deductions from the premise, nevertheless there remains the other fact that men, not knowing how to find this wondrous path, need help; they need guidance. The little child growing to adulthood has within it all the undeveloped faculties and powers of the adult; but during its period of infancy and childhood it needs the mother's guiding hand, the tender care of her protecting arms; and just so is it with us humans as contrasted with the sublime gods who infill the universe and of whom we are the offspring. Think! We humans have not by any means reached the summit of evolution. We have merely attained one stage, one grade, one state, on our upward evolutionary climb. Therefore it is that all the great sages and seers of all the ages have told men always: "Look within; Man, know thyself; seek out the inner god; but I will help, for I have found." Therefore are teachers necessary; therefore are teachers required; and these spiritual teachers are the truest helpers of the race, their noblest guides, sometimes called Saviors.
As every well-read man knows, there have been such great men on earth, men whose outstanding spiritual and intellectual genius has shaken the very fabric of civilizations, or, indeed, they have builded anew for a succeeding age and race of men. Each such great sage and seer brought in a new age, for in each such case, the times in which they came were times in which men had become spiritually asleep and intellectually and psychically degenerate.
All evolution, all growth, all progress, is like a rising along an arc for a time, reaching a culmination of power and faculty, and then slowly sinking as the faculties wane, until the historic trough of the curve is reached. Then a new great one appears, and directs men on another upward round subsequent to the one down which they had come. Each such upward round is a little higher in its culmination than the one last passed.
This Theosophical teaching of guides, of leaders, coming to men in regular serial order or in serial succession, is one of our most beautiful and most consoling theosophical doctrines. The burden of the message of every such great sage or seer always contains the appeal to the individual man to awaken from his spiritual and intellectual slumber and to become more at one with the god within him.
No true theosophical lecturer ever tells you: "Believe me!" Never! He says: look within; examine yourself, and if aught that you hear from me is repulsive or offensive to your ethical instinct, then abhor it. You may make a mistake in doing so, you may turn aside from something which might help you greatly; but nevertheless in being sincere with yourself you have exercised your divine prerogative of judgment, your divine prerogative of free choice and free will; and this is for you an invaluable spiritual exercise, which strengthens these inner powers, which opens new faculties within you, so that you grow or evolve more rapidly. It is also by our mistakes that we can learn lessons of great value.
Keep your heart pure: there is a key; keep your mind open: there is another key. Hearken for truth always. Seek for a greater light always. With your mind open, your heart clean, then no matter what may be the mistakes that you may make, you are rising along the upward path.
The Theosophical Society was founded by this association, this brotherhood, of great sages and seers; for they exist in all ages, and their association is self-perpetuating on account of the new recruits who join this brotherhood as age follows age. They sent forth one of their disciples to found the Theosophical Society in our age, in 1875; and that messenger was H.P. Blavatsky — instructed to bring to men, not something new, but the age-old truth based on universal facts: to sound that truth anew, to awaken men's hearts, to stimulate men's minds.
Theosophy teaches naught that is new in the sense of being unnatural — not based on nature. Theosophy teaches the ancient wisdom-religion of mankind. Search the old scriptures of the races of the world: you will find theosophy in all of them if you know how to look for it — how to find it under the guise of metaphor, symbol, emblem, and allegory — but it is there. Prove this statement of mine by your own investigation.
Hence, when a theosophical teacher speaks, he does indeed speak with a certain authority, because he himself has been taught. Himself having been taught, he in his turn can teach others. He knows whereof he speaks, and the witness that he brings is a true witness, no matter how feebly he may be able to show it. I tell you that the witness that he brings is a true witness. Indeed every good man is a true witness of goodness; every man of genius brings a true witness of that genius; and who will say nay to this obvious truth?
Therefore, when some people who don't understand these wondrous theosophical thoughts, which nevertheless are so simple, so true, criticize our doctrine of a succession of theosophical teachers and say that we "claim" this, or that we "claim" that, my reply is simply that they understand not that which they criticize. They haven't understood the meaning of the doctrine; and yet the truth is there for anyone who will honestly search for it in earnest study and unbiased mind.
Where and how will you learn chemistry? By going to a professor of chemistry. Where will you learn astronomy? By going to an astronomer. Where will you learn anything? By going for it to him who knows it. You can thus prove whether he knows or not what he teaches: you can prove whether he knows it by his life, by his teaching, and by your own reactions to these.
Abhor what your conscience admits not as good; on the other hand, accept what is good, what you feel to be right, and hold to it though all the world be against you. Be true men! Death itself is naught when compared with moral cowardice and the stigma of infidelity to principle. Be true, and all the world will be yours in time. Be sincere and in time you will know the truth, for then your heart is pure and your mind is clear; and nature's currents of life and of intelligence flow steadily and surely through hearts and minds that are pure. Truth lies within you. It is but visions of the truth that is within you that you see in the phantasmagoria outside of you. This is the basis of the teaching that every true theosophical leader will tell you of.
It has been said by some who don't know me and who don't understand me that I "make claims." I think that I have never made a claim in my life. I tell you facts, and I ask you to prove them. If you like them not, accept them not. But it is my duty to lay the facts before you; and if people say that in doing thus I make claims, what is my answer? I can only say: No, my Brother, I am telling you the truth as I have received it. That truth I cannot, I dare not, alter or distort. Prove it yourself. Accept it if it is good and hold to it like grim death. Abhor it if your conscience says nay.
As Victor Hugo used to say: "When the night is dark, shall I refuse the authority of the torches?" Shall we throw the pilot overboard because of our mind-proud feelings that "we don't relish the thought that we are under his control"? Ah! Immortal gods! I love to follow what is grand! I love what is beautiful, and I gladly follow it. Show me what is right, and I will follow to the world's end. I have learned something: When the night is dark, I accept the authority of the torches. But I never follow until something within me leaps in glad and instant recognition of a truth, and then I am a slave of truth.
I am a leader of men who trust me, but I am a follower of my teachers too; and I cannot follow those teachers faithfully and truly if I vary one faint line from the path of duty. I cannot fail and follow simultaneously.
Learn, my Brothers, the beauty of clairvoyant trust — of trust based on your instincts of what is right. A grander man is he who can trust when he feels that his trust is rightly placed than is the man who in his mind-proud way will believe in naught and trust in naught because, forsooth, he knows it all. Poor, purblind follower of his own darkened vision — a human mole! It is fashionable today to be moles of that kind. It is supposed to show strength of intellect to refuse to follow even when both intellect and instinct conjoin in an appeal to pursue the path that the great ones have trodden. Whereas, I tell you, that when the great man sees truth, he follows it, he moves steadily towards that truth; he cannot do otherwise.
As I suppose you know, we humans are so apt to follow what we like, what we want to do. In this respect we are much like little children. If daddy tells a child something that he doesn't like, the child usually obeys because he knows what is going to happen to him if he doesn't; but although he may follow daddy's instructions, the child badly brought up thinks that daddy has made a mistake — or that daddy is a mistake. We grownups in many respects are just like such a child. This is illustrated by a little story which I have before me and which I will read to you:
His father had found it necessary rather severely to punish Robert, aged five. The little chap came running to me with resentment in his heart.
"Auntie," he sobbed, "did God make you?"
"Yes, Robert," I answered.
"And did he make ma?"
"And did he make me?"
"Certainly, my boy."
"And did he make pa, too?"
"Of course he did."
"Well," sobbed Robert sadly, "that's when he made a mistake!"
I am afraid that we are much like little Robert. We always think that the other fellow makes a mistake if he does not do as we think he ought to do. But is that state of mind fair? Give the other man the benefit of the doubt. Examine what he sets forth. Prove it yourself. Can anything be more fair than this procedure? It is wise, too.
You have claimed in some of your General Letters addressed to members of The Theosophical Society and of the Esoteric Section that spiritual and intellectual forces are flowing through you and that you stand in personal contact with the Masters. As so many unworthy people have made similar claims does this not open you to the charge of charlatanry and thus injure the reputation of the Society which you represent?
I have not at any time made any claims; but I have indeed stated certain facts, and have stated them positively. I have not at anytime set these facts forth as mere claims. Any man, my Brothers, who will tell others a new fact is always exposed by that act to the charge of charlatanry. What is he going to do? Is he to be a coward and keep his mouth closed, or is he to do his duty and tell the truth as he was told to do it, charge of charlatanry or not? There is the case.
I always say: examine what I say for yourselves. If you like what you are told, then hold to it and come and help me; and if is offensive to you, then reject it. You are the judges, each one is the judge for himself. But as to my making claims, I make none! The annals of history are written large with the cases of men who have taught truths, who have stated facts, and who have been called charlatans, thieves, rogues, robbers of souls, devils, imps, cheats, frauds, and whatnot. But you will never find a true man bending under these charges. He will pursue his path and will go to the end.
I tell you that the old saying is true which you must have often heard, that "one man and God are a majority"; and theosophists say: one man and truth are a majority. What happens finally? Very soon other men come, and the man who was alone is the head of a multitude, and that multitude swells until one day it suddenly finds itself to be the majority. This is the guerdon of courage, a courage based on the conviction that what you say is right, is true, is just. A theosophical teacher who could be afraid of aught in this sense of the word — afraid of anything save his own feeble, human, erring nature — a theosophical teacher, I repeat, who could be afraid at any time of telling what he knows to be true is indeed a weakling and at worst a fraud; and the sooner he is pulled down from the pedestal upon which he stands, the better. He is no true theosophical teacher.
The mere fact that evil men have made false claims to be teachers of truth in the world — does this disprove the obvious truth that good men have taught truth? Shall we deny the sunlight because the night is there? Shall we deny the existence of truth and peace because falsehood and war exist in the world? Shall a man be afraid of being called a charlatan because there have been charlatans? You have your answer. The world moves ahead on account of the great men who have led it and who lead it — true leaders: those men who have courage, moral courage, and who are not afraid to speak the truth, but who speak it with kindness. Courage, truth, brotherly love — these are three magical weapons always ready for the hand of one who brings real light and help to his fellow men.
As regards the statement in the question that I have claimed that "spiritual and intellectual forces flow through me, and that I stand in personal contact with the Masters," I can only say that whatever statements I have made in these respects are not claims, but are statements of fact, and I don't think it would be easy to point to any statements made by me which would show me as a poser claiming myself to be a focus of spiritual and intellectual forces.
As much as any other true theosophist I shrink with disgust from advertising myself, as a charlatan might do, as being a public envoy of the Masters. What I have written and said, I hold to, because it is truth, but it is grossly unfair and unkind to claim that statements of fact which I have indeed uttered have been made with the remotest desire of posing. Such would be abhorrent to me.
In some of your official announcements you speak of yourself as the messenger of the Great White Lodge. What do you mean by this? In what sense is more weight to be attached to your claim than to similar claims made by others since H. P. Blavatsky's time?
I have never at anytime made claims, as is here alleged. I have stated certain facts; and upon those facts the construction imbodied in this question could indeed be made; but the facts that I have stated have been indeed statements of facts and in no case the making of claims. Furthermore, no more weight is to be attached to anything that I may say, in case I should ever make a claim, which is most unlikely, than is to be attached to a claim made by anyone else. Claims amount to little, if anything: it is what the man gives from himself that you must go by; it is your reaction to him and to his life and to his teachings which for you is the important thing; it is not his claims, nor is it indeed his bare statements. Otherwise you are like dumb driven sheep, merely following some more or less vociferous bellwether.
I urge upon you to listen to what you hear; to listen carefully and honestly, to give it careful thought; and if you find that it appeals to you as true, then, in the name of holy truth, hold to it and give your help where you feel that help is needed. This is the act of a true man. If, on the other hand, what you hear appeals to you as false or as offensive, then abhor it, refuse it, reject it. Never mind if you make a mistake, if your judgment is insecure and lacks clarity and strength. By exercising your judgment and discrimination, such as you have them, you exercise spiritual faculties and these faculties will grow stronger in time and with practice; consequently in time your judgment and your discrimination will be stronger than now they are through the exercise that you give to them. This principle of conduct is an excellent one to follow. But as I have already told you, if you believe that what you hear is true, then hold to it and ally yourself with its proclaimer. Is not this right?
I do not know that I have ever definitely called myself "a Messenger of the Great White Lodge." On the other hand, I have made certain statements of fact which point in that direction, but I have left the inferences to be drawn from my statements to the good judgment and sense of honesty and truth of those who have listened to me. What I am, I am, but I urge this upon no man. It is, however, true that I have been given a mission to fulfil from the same great teachers who sent H.P. Blavatsky into the world; but it must not be thought that these great men are not working through others also. By their lives you will know these others, and by their teachings you will recognize them.
Your General Letters to the Fellows of your Theosophical Society and of the Esoteric Section are signed, "In the name of the Masters and under the authority that has devolved upon me." This expression has caused adverse comment from members of other theosophical organizations. Please explain just what you mean by it.
It would seem to me that the words are clear enough, and possess a meaning which can hardly be misunderstood. They mean that what I write officially, in such official communications, is written in the name of my teachers, whom I follow, whom I am pledged to follow; and I am pledged by my spiritual self, and by my manhood, faithfully to follow and to deviate not from the path. Would you have me do aught else than tell you the truth as I know that truth? Would you have me cheat and hide the facts and perhaps from fear say something that is untrue? Am I to be blamed because I tell the truth, because I state a fact? Shall this be thrown in my teeth as being a mere claim? I tell you, as I have told you before: reject what I tell you, if it offends your ethical sense; but if you know me, know me to be a true man, know what I do, know what I aspire to do and what I long to accomplish, and if you feel that I am right and that I need help in my work, then why not help me in that work?
"The authority that has devolved upon me" is the authority which I possess as Leader of The Theosophical Society, an authority which fell upon my shoulders after our beloved Katherine Tingley, my great-hearted predecessor, passed on. That is all this latter part of the quoted sentence means. I cannot see that there is any particularly unjustifiable claim here.
Why is it that people are so prone unkindly to judge? Usually without asking a man openly what he really means or intends to say, some people will sit down and write articles for the newspapers, or write letters to each other, and allege that So-and-So "makes claims." There is one pleasing thing about all this: it arouses an interest in our theosophical work; it advertises both our theosophical work and myself. We thus get a lot of free advertising, and this fact does not at all displease me; but nevertheless such action is hardly fair. As a matter of fact, despite its unfairness I nevertheless wish that they would do more of it, simply because of the advertising value it has for us.
Shall I change my policy and say something different from what I have already said merely because what I have said has aroused adverse comment from people who don't understand me? Shall I not rather follow the example of the great teacher of Palestine: "Master, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
I know full well, my Brothers, that many of these people who have criticized me and my various written and spoken communications and also certain of my acts since I became Leader of The Theosophical Society, would be now with me and supporting me if they only knew me and understood me. I recognize this fact fully; and therefore have I long since extended my hand in friendship. I have said: "Come, Brother; here is my hand. Come to know me. Learn to trust me. Test me. Differ from me, if you will; but let us live brotherly."
It is publicly stated by the official representative of another Theosophical Society who declined to accept your outstretched hand of fraternal cooperation: "A Theosophical Society is a union of men on the basis of the recognition of the divine self for the realization of universal brotherhood without mediation or mediator." He also says that Dr. de Purucker claims to be such a mediator. Do you? And if so, why?
Here is a man criticizing me because he thinks I have not said the very thing that I have been talking about from this platform for eighteen months, ever since I became the Leader of The Theosophical Society. I have said to you on each Sunday when you have attended here: "Look within. Man, know thyself. Find your own inner god and abide by its guidance, for there lie truth, and peace and happiness and light." And now this criticizing brother comes along and says that I make claims to be a mediator between a human being and his own inner god! This is a preposterous assertion!
What I do claim — and this is a claim, and I have so announced it openly — what I do claim is to be one who can show you how to find your self, how to find your own inner god. In that sense, I am a mediator between you as men or women and the god within each one of you, because I point to the path, to the Middle Way. I have myself been taught this; therefore having been taught it, I can teach it, exactly as a professor of chemistry or astronomy can teach chemistry or astronomy because in each case the teacher has been taught his science — he has himself learnt it. He is a mediator — such a professor — between the untaught consciousness or mind of the learner and the graduate expert. That should be clear. It is on the other hand, absolutely false should anyone say that I have said that a theosophical leader, teacher, lecturer, writer, or whatnot is a mediator in the sense of being an intermeddler between a man and the divine spark within that man which is the core of that man's spiritual essence.
I think that the statement that the question contains with regard to what a Theosophical Society should be, is very good as far as it goes; but it is also incomplete. I, too — and I know that all my fellow theosophists will agree with me — also say that a Theosophical Society is a union of men on the basis of the recognition of the divine self for the realization of universal brotherhood, but also that a genuine Theosophical Society exists for teaching men the forgotten doctrines of the wisdom-religion of mankind. Furthermore, in such a Theosophical Society, the grand, the sublime, teaching should be constantly to the fore: that it is man's primal duty to find himself, to find his divine self — the god within him. I tell you this truth on every Sunday afternoon when I speak here.
But because I can show you the way by which to find your own inner god, to find that inner peace which passeth all ordinary understanding, and because I can show you the way by which to unlock marvelous faculties and powers now lying latent within you, does this contradict what I have so often stated that the supreme tribunal for every man lies within his spiritual being? The two statements are not contradictory, but complementary. When the night is dark, may I not accept the authority of the torches? If a man shows me the way and says: "Here lies the Path," shall I treat this friend with scorn, and say to him, "I myself know the way; I need you not"? If you do indeed know the way, then you need not help from outside; but how many know this way?
Yes, the two go together: teachers are needed; the true man longs for light; he yearns to be shown the path; a teacher does this; but nevertheless that path is to the inner god, to the man's own divine essence, and he himself must find it and must tread it when found. This inner divine essence of the man is of cosmic reach, for it is divine.
Consequently, is a theosophical teacher a mediator? Is a theosophical teacher a mediator in the sense that I have just set forth as being one showing you the path that you yourself will follow? Yes. But if it means that I claim or that any theosophical teacher claims to insinuate himself into your conscience and to guide your conscience, thus coming between you and your own inner god, then the allegation as I understand it is a falsehood.
It is unfortunate that my hope for a fraternal union of all genuine theosophical hearts has been in some cases so greatly misunderstood, and that the essential or rather the true meaning of my words has been so frequently distorted. If my outstretched hand of fraternal cooperation is refused, I myself will nevertheless decline to withdraw it. Some day I hope a brighter light will come to those who now don't understand.
The next question:
I belong to a Society in Germany which, like yours, claims to have been founded by H. P. Blavatsky in New York in 1875. I was much interested in your appeal for fraternal cooperation among all Theosophical Societies, but was discouraged by the following objection raised by the administration of our organization:
"By virtue of its constitution the Theosophical Society (Point Loma) is guided by a Leader invested with paramount authority in all that concerns the society, holding his office for life (Art. V of the Constitution). In accordance therewith, the Leader exercises all power, all rights, and authority (Art. VI). By virtue of his power, the Leader appoints all the leading officials of the society, and has the right at any time to remove them from office (Art. VII)."
Are you really an autocratic despot with absolute power over your members? I'm not frightened by words; I like what I know of your character; and so long as you are the Leader, then I say the more power in your hands, the better. I believe in the Masters, and if a servant of the Masters rules in the spirit of wisdom and compassion and peace, nothing could be finer. But I have heard of schemers getting control of theosophical groups. Is there not danger in placing so much power in the hands of the Leader?
Very soon after I came into office, following the passing of my great-hearted predecessor, Katherine Tingley, I found our Society, as of course I knew was the fact, working successfully under a Constitution which had been adopted almost unanimously in 1898 in and by the Theosophical Congress in Chicago, thus giving great and wide-reaching powers to the "Leader and Official Head" of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, as the Society was then called. I immediately began to talk about the matter to our officials, and to take counsel with them. I told them that I desired to strip myself of all the authority that I possibly could renounce; that I wanted to govern, if they insisted upon using that word — in other words I wanted to do my work as Leader — only by appealing to the hearts and to the minds of the Fellows of The Theosophical Society. I stated that I desired to bind our members to me, individually and collectively, by bonds of brotherhood, by strong bonds, bonds stronger than steel, the bonds of mutual love and mutual understanding; and, I added, I don't want anyone to follow me as Leader who does not trust me and love me — to love me not as a mere man but to love me for what I stand for, to love me for the spirit of truth that is within me, to love me for what I am trying to do in my theosophical work, i. e., to bring brotherhood as a reality into the world, to bring peace to men's hearts and confidence and quiet to men's souls. Our officials listened to me for a long time in silence, but at last they saw my viewpoint, and I succeeded in having my way.
Thereupon, at a Congress held on December 5th, in 1929, in this our Temple of Peace, our old Constitution was changed in certain respects in conformity with my urgently expressed views, and it was thus that, at my own desire, I stripped myself of much, of most indeed, of the authority that my great predecessor had — a wide-reaching authority given to her by almost unanimous vote in Chicago in 1898 at the Theosophical Congress, and given to her in order to enable her to save the Society at that time, so that there should be one head, one directing will, one guiding intelligence for the years that then were to follow.
The Chicago Congress at the time acted wisely, for the Society was then in very difficult waters. When a ship is close to the rocks of disaster, as was then the case, what will best and most quickly ensure safety? Is it by calling a council of everybody on board from the chief navigator down to the cabin boy, and having long discussions about every detail, whether the wheel is to be swung to starboard, whether the wheel is to be thrown to port, or whether so much coal is to be consumed? Nay! When the ship is in danger you put its affairs and its control into the hands of a wise and responsible head, and thereafter hold him responsible for what ensues. In times of danger one guiding mind means safety. What would happen if two men tried to steer the same automobile in a crowded city street? Then when the work is done, he lays down the authority formerly given to him. And that is what happened in The Theosophical Society.
It is true that the Constitution of The Theosophical Society, as it at present exists, gives "paramount authority" to the Leader in all that concerns the policy of the Society; and my power as Leader of The Theosophical Society begins and ends there. By constitutional direction I am bound to direct the policy of The Theosophical Society; but, as a matter of fact, so does the head of any big business organization; so does a captain on a ship; so does the President of the United States; so does the man anywhere who holds the guiding wheel. To say, as does this kind critic, that I exercise "all power, all rights, and authority," is false; it is not true. I have no power outside the duties laid upon me by the Constitution to direct or guide the policy of The TS, and this I am instructed and solemnly pledged to do.
Let me add here that our Constitution contains an Article in accordance with which it can be amended at any time, and I could be voted out of office in a day, if the Fellows of The Theosophical Society so desired it. As it happens, they don't so desire it. I have learned to love my fellow men more and to recognize with even profounder vision the duty I owe to them since they put their trust into my hands.
Let me tell you something, my Brothers: There is nothing in the world that will call out the best in a man so quickly and so strongly as trusting him. All his being rises in eager desire to prove that your trust is well placed. There are rascals in the world, I admit; there are evil men. But look at our Society as it is today. Suppose (I will suppose this) that I am or my Successor will be an evil man: do you know how long I or he would be the Leader of The Theosophical Society? Probably within a year, perhaps within six months, either of us would be a leader without a following.
Theosophists believe in the realities of life; we believe in trusting each other; we have learned that it is the best way. It is so even in the ordinary walks of life. If you go into a gentleman's business office and commence your talk with him by saying: "Sir, I distrust you; I think that you are a blankety-blank scoundrel," you are surely not going to do much business with him! Use your instinct of troth and of right in such matters. If you go into his office and he impresses you as being an honest man having a clean steady eye and a manner expressive of intelligence and power, then it is only natural and right to trust him within reason. It is an incomparably better thing to do than to be ruled by corroding suspicions. It is incumbent upon you to exercise your judgment, of course; there is need to use discrimination; remember always the experience that you have gained of men; don't be a fool; but learn to trust the best in others, and they will welcome your trust and return your trust a hundredfold. That is what all good men learn.
Furthermore, I do not appoint "all the leading officials of the Society"; I appoint my own Cabinet, as I believe the President of the United States does, and as I believe that some of the great men of affairs of the world appoint their own councils or executive committees; and I appoint also the General Secretary and the General Treasurer of The Theosophical Society. Every National Section of The Theosophical Society is autonomous within the provisions of our Constitution, and appoints its own President and Officers. But under our Constitution such National President requires my approval before he assumes office. As The Theosophical Society, considered as an international body, is composed of these National Sections, and as the Constitution explicitly recognizes the autonomy of these Sections within the provisions of our Constitution, you see at once that so far as the National Sections go the constitutional power of the Leader is rather negative and passive than positive and direct in this respect.
It amazes me that people will criticize and judge before they know the exact facts and the spirit governing The Theosophical Society and permeating all the provisions of our Constitution. This spirit of which I have just spoken is a tradition among us and dates from the time of H. P. Blavatsky. In other words I mean that the spirit of The Theosophical Society is distinctly an esoteric one, and it is this esoteric spirit as between teacher and pupil — which theosophists call the chela spirit — which distinguishes our Society from any other Society called theosophical that exists today. This spirit is not something new, but has existed in all esoteric movements of the past. It is based on the fact that there is truth in the world, that the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion and Peace exemplify this truth in their lives and in their teachings, and that such authority as they have flows forth from their spiritual status and is gladly accepted by their chelas or pupils on account of the love and the devoted trust which these chelas and pupils have in these teachers or masters. It is this esoteric spirit of devotion to which I refer, and its influence is both powerful and beneficent in its operations.
The objection raised in the question which I am now answering was doubtless intended to be honest and kindly; but nevertheless this objection is a criticism which is erroneous because greatly divergent from the facts. Furthermore — and this is to my mind the strongest observation that I can make to any sensible body of people in commenting upon this matter — what would it avail me so to conduct myself, so to treat the people who trust me, that they would lose trust in me, begin to dislike me, begin to hate me, and finally to turn from me? I would be cutting the ground from under my own feet. Remember that our National Sections are autonomous within the provisions of our Constitution; furthermore, every lodge of The Theosophical Society is autonomous within the provisions of the Constitution; and it stands to reason, therefore, that in order to insure success for the Movement which I head, I will do all I can so to conduct myself and so to guide the policy of The TS that the Fellows of The Theosophical Society will continue to respect me and continue to love me. This is obvious. Hence I say that criticisms like the one embodied in this question are childish because they show lack of mature reflection and ignore the essential esoteric spirit permeating not only our Constitution but far more important still our entire theosophical work.
The next question:
The Constitution of The Theosophical Society of which you are the Leader places enormous powers in the hands of its chief executive, which is yourself. Is it not dangerous and unwise to bestow unlimited powers upon any person? Does not experience teach that such powers are misused if the person endowed with them is neither holy nor wise?
Yes, certainly; but our Constitution does not place enormous powers in my hands, as I have already tried to explain to you. The power, such as it is, that I wield, my Brothers, is the power of an understanding heart working on the understanding hearts of those who have learned to understand me and to love me. That fact is the basis of such power that I have. I have no right under the Constitution to say to anyone: "You must do thus or so; you will have to do it." All I can say is: "I appoint you to such or such other position or to do this or that work. Will you do it?" The Constitution gives me the power to appoint and even obligates me to appoint certain people to do certain things, if the need be great enough; but is that an unusual and an awful power? I say No, because it is a power commonly exercised by individuals holding responsible positions of authority.
A captain of a ship on the high seas has more power on shipboard than I have — several times more power. His word is absolute law. He can put a man in chains and do other things that I would have no power to do even did the fantastic idea occur to me to do it, and this supposition is absurd to the last degree. And yet people cross the seas by the millions, put themselves under the despotic control of the ship's captain — and don't know anything about it!
Yes, answering the question more specifically, I think that it is very dangerous to bestow unlimited powers upon any person; but when it is not a question of unlimited powers being bestowed, where is the point of the question? I have not unlimited powers. My powers are very restricted.
The next question:
H. P. Blavatsky is quoted as having said: "Dogma and authority are the extinguishers of light and truth." Are you not laying down dogmas in the name of theosophy and demanding that people shall accept you as an infallible authority?
Now, can you beat this question as a sample of a preposterously false statement? How on earth could anybody get the idea that I pose as being infallible? I have never at any time made any such claim or demand; I simply could not do it because it is utterly contrary to all my character, to my instincts, and to my views of what is right. I have never given any slightest grounds for the supposition that I demand "that people shall accept me as an infallible authority," nor have I ever laid down any dogmas of any kind. What I have said is this, and to me it is a simple statement of truth: "Shall I, in the nighttime, deny the authority of the torches?" When I go to school I go to learn. Shall I, when I go into the schoolroom, refuse to allow my professor to lecture, because I don't like the idea of being taught by him? Why then go to the schoolroom? But the professor does not claim to be infallible. The presumption is that he would not hold his post long if he did.
No, my Brothers, I have never at any time made any such preposterous demand or claim. Every human being can err, and any human being who errs is fallible. I can err; it is as possible for me to make a mistake as for anyone else to make a mistake; but granting all this, I am also bound to say that in my own line of work and duty I have been taught; therefore in those lines I know what I am doing; consequently, in those lines I am much less apt to err, to make mistakes, than one who has not been taught in these respects as I have been taught. Isn't that fact an obvious fact? Why then utter the utterly false statement that I demand "that people shall accept me as an infallible authority"?
Furthermore, as concerns the matter of "laying down dogmas in the name of theosophy," all my policy and all my teaching run directly counter to this idea, for I can envisage no more disastrous fate for The Theosophical Society than to have it become a vehicle for the teaching of dogmas of any kind, even dogmas of truth.
The next question:
Some of your supporters speak of your superior fitness as a theosophical leader and say that your authority rests thereupon. If that is so it's very fine indeed; but when they go on to say that the possibility that you might err is not even to be considered, it gives me pause. [And it gives me pause, too!] Do you really consider yourself infallible?
I do not. I do not know where this kind questioner got his (or perhaps her) idea that our people of The TS look upon me as infallible or claim that I am. I have never at any time heard any one of our people make such a stupid remark. The allegation is manufactured out of whole cloth, out of a complete misunderstanding of the facts. My people know me; they know that I am a man, that I have my own troubles; they know that they can trust me; and that is why I am here in the position that I hold. But they also know that I came as a teacher of the ancient wisdom-religion of mankind, however much my human capacities are inadequate to reach the lofty standard that an ideal teacher holds. All I say is that I do the best that I can do, and try to do it all the time. I was taught and trained to teach, and I pass my life and give all that I have and all that I am in a sincere endeavor to do my utmost best. Some other, doubtless, could do much better than I, but at least I feel that what I do do is the best that I can do, and our blessed Masters ask no more than this from any one of their disciples. Consequently, when the Above and the Below conjoin in harmony, we have peace and understanding and such efficiency as may be in the circumstances.
I wish that I might be notified immediately of any Fellow of The Theosophical Society who may at any time (and I am merely stating this as an absurd possibility) be overheard to say that I cannot err and that I am infallible; and I can assure you that should such an impossible thing occur, such Fellow and I would very soon have a most interesting and beneficial half hour together. I certainly would talk to him like a Dutch uncle!
(I have before me a number of other questions similar to those that I have already briefly answered, and as I have determined once for all to have this matter out and to be done with it, on Sunday next I think that I will continue this lecture and talk to you on the same theme under the title 'Something More About Myself.' Before closing, I desire to add a few remarks to those I already have made to you, if you please.)
I do my best — at least I try to do my best — with the heavy duties laid upon me, and under the heavy responsibilities which I carry. I know that it is quite possible that I may make mistakes, but I can easily rectify them, because such mistakes as I may make at any time will not be mistakes of the heart but mistakes of a tired brain. For instance, I may be sleepy some day and then may make a mistake in writing. Anybody can make mistakes. But I will tell you that I have been taught to fill the post that I now occupy; and having been taught, I am more or less expert in that post; and therefore the chances of making mistakes are fewer than otherwise they would be.
Furthermore, I have taken certain irrevocable obligations upon myself, one of them being what you might call a vow of poverty. I have no right individually, personally, to own one dollar — no, not one. I can of course hold millions, billions, at any rate as much as I can gather, for the beautiful, for the grand, work of The Theosophical Society. But personally I cannot own a dollar. So you see that one common fear of so many people in modern times that a leader will be a money-grabber or an amasser of funds for his personal benefit, is in this case without any foundation.
Furthermore, I don't want to own any personal fortune. I give my life and all that is in me, the best that is in me, to the work which I love more than anything on earth, more than any human tie, and as I shall labor until I die in the work to which I have made my life consecrate, do you think that paltry temptations such as those of money-getting would have any weight with me or make any appeal to me? None at all! Personally I am poor. I don't personally own a dollar in the world. I am provided with the means to get the little food which I eat. Kind and understanding friends help me. I labor at my theosophical work unceasingly from morn till eve. I have no vacations — I work night and day. I love my work. But shall I say in this respect that "the laborer is worthy of his hire"? No, I am not hired, I give myself and give myself gladly. But I have no right and I have no slightest desire to lay aside one dollar for myself.
But how I long — and I will tell you this frankly, my Brothers — how I yearn to be able to control the monetary means for expanding our theosophical work, thus enabling me to bring peace to human hearts, to bring light to human souls, to bring help and consolation to broken human minds, by a far larger dissemination among men than is the case at present of the teachings of the ancient wisdom-religion of mankind today called theosophy. That is what I yearn to do; and had I the funds wherewith to do it today, you would see marvels of theosophical propaganda and growth within even a twelvemonth's time. What cripples me is lack of monetary funds.
All that I ever had I have given to The Theosophical Society, exactly as Katherine Tingley did, exactly as did her predecessor Mr. Judge, exactly as did H. P. Blavatsky who preceded him. I would that I could describe to you the peace, the rest, the happiness, and the joy, that flow from the feeling that all you have and all you are has been laid on the altar of the Masters of Truth! I cannot tell you what a keen and poignant feeling of happiness and peace this brings.
I think now, my Brothers, that you have learned something about me; and I am happy to be able to talk to you as frankly and as openly as I have spoken this afternoon — more frankly than I have ever talked to a public audience at any time since I assumed office.
In closing, let me remind you, as I remind you always on every Sunday afternoon when we meet here together to study and to commune heart to heart and mind to mind, let me again remind you, my Brothers, that each one of you is the vehicle or carrier or garment of a divine flame, your own inner divine essence, which is a flaming spark of the central fire which permeates the universe. Let me again remind you that each one of you, although a human being, is in his inmost, a god; and this god attempts to express its divine faculties and powers through you as a man; and it succeeds but feebly as yet, because evolution has not as yet sufficiently opened the inner nature so that the glory there within and above may stream down into the human consciousness. We wrap ourselves around with encircling veils and garments of selfishness, obscuring veils of the lower selfhood; so that even this divine splendor can pierce through these thickened veils but poorly. Nevertheless, there it is; there is the divine within you, your own inner god, the source of all that is good in you, of all that is strong in you, of all that is noble in you: the source of all your aspirations, the source of all your deepest yearnings, the fountain of all your noble hopes. Oh! ally yourself with your self, your divine self!
Vol 2, No 23