All humanity is one vast family. We might think of it as the branches of a tree growing in many directions and consequently each being different. Bear in mind, moreover, that there are in every tree two streams of the life-sap — one from the main trunk to the branches, the other in the opposite direction. Both of them are indispensable to the life of the whole tree.
Realizing this, we ought to remember also that the features in which our neighbor differs from us are differences only, and not imperfections. Also, imperfections are not necessarily faults, and we expect him to bear this in mind when he considers us.
The more a man is able to grasp of wisdom, the higher he rises in its light, the deeper he gauges its profoundness — the more he realizes the wisdom of Lao-Tse's aphorism: He who knows Tao does not speak of it; he who speaks of it does not know. The flow of the Wine of Life, though all-encompassing in itself, is limited by the cup which receives it. And just because it is the Wine of Life, it remains forever impossible to crystallize it in the dead letter of a dogmatic formulation.
When we try to influence the growth of our tree of humanity by cutting off certain branches, it will only produce new shoots. We may succeed in distorting its characteristic shape, but we cannot prevent it — without killing the tree — from fulfilling its innate destiny. That is to develop into a hierarchy of which every member expresses in his own individual way his basic type.
The tree — as also humanity, left to its own devices — will drop those leaves and branches which have fulfilled their duty. Diseased ones wither and fall; the sound branches grow on year after year.
If we study ourselves a bit, we will readily see how strewn with difficulties is the path uphill. But we discover soon enough that our horizon widens and that we are climbing in proportion to the strictness with which we keep our eyes fixed on our personal duty, and avoid trying to influence our fellows. We see and follow the direction duty points to, without caring whether our fellow travelers do and think as we do. Of course we can reach toward them a helping hand, not by telling them what their way of living and thinking should be, but by helping them to think and judge — whatever way that is — for themselves. And in helping anyone, sincere sympathy is always more welcome than counsel and advice.
To love our neighbor is a great thing, but let us be sure that it is love, and not meddlesomeness or ambition which urges us on. Then we will find that tolerance is not merely to tolerate, but the only way to fulfill our own destiny and reach freedom.
(From Sunrise magazine, October 1953; copyright © 1953 Theosophical University Press)