In listening to what already has been said today, I noticed the same thoughts, the same ideas, the same ideals. 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 unreality in this material world.
When we remember that the core of every one of us is a spark of the Cosmic Life, 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 we all are one in essence; and just 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 to carry into the world.
Therefore, the most practical thing is for us Theosophists to concentrate on disseminating Theosophy as it was brought to us by HPB from the Masters. 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 ancient wisdom-religion of mankind which H. P. Blavatsky brought first in our age to the Occidental world. Forget opinions, and remember that membership in HPB'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.
Let us avoid the fatal error into which the early Christians fell, who in some cases at least had noble 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!
A. Trevor Barker, Chairman
HPB Centennial Conference, London, 1931
It has always been a joy to me to listen to the theosophical interpretations of a genuine student of the writings of HPB. I have never had the remotest wish to condemn any such interpretation. But while this is so, I have also found that many of these interpretations of HPB'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 HPB'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 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 truth itself. But while that is true, and also while that is the pathway for the individual himself which leads ever more inwards to the very heart of the universe ultimately; 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. 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 — 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, 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. 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 HPB 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 by which you may sort out the sheep from the goats: Is the teaching given universal? Is it a key to all the great religious and philosophical literatures of the world and of all ages? 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 HPB 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 HPB and the wisdom that she brought. 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 HPB 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.
I will tell you frankly that I am working for a reunification of all genuine theosophical hearts into one spiritual brotherhood, with the teachings of the Masters, as originally coming through HPB, 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. 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 HPB.
Does anyone mean to tell me that our Brother-Theosophists of Adyar are consciously disloyal to HPB 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 HPB 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 desire to work with all true Theosophists everywhere. It is a matter of utter indifference to me what mere opinions a man holds. Cannot you see that if people could ignore opinions and study the essentials of things — not the non-essentials like creeds and dogmas — we would then be one Brotherhood even as we were in HPB's time?
Dr. Besant sent to me a beautiful telegram from Geneva, in answer to my invitation to unite in brotherly cooperation. 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? 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 HPB's works. Of course they are not found there merely because HPB wrote them. If any individual person had written them, the truths would be the same.
It so happens, however, that I love HPB because she was HPB; 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 HPB 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 HPB?
Another thing: I do not think it a practical method for bringing about our working together merely to sit together at a table in a brain-mind way and seek brain-mind points of agreement. That method has been tried so many 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 GdeP 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. 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.
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. 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 TS.
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 HPB, 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 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. 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. It is opinions that separate men. 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 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 hearts, 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.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2000; copyright © 2000 Theosophical University Press)