THEOSOPHY, Vol. 43, No. 3, January, 1955
(Pages 117-121; Size: 15K)
(Number 3 of a 3-part series)



THE Key to Theosophy is dedicated by H.P.B. "to all her pupils that They may Learn and Teach in their turn." To have become such pupils means to have already become aware that Theosophy is inseparable from the knowers thereof, that this Wisdom has been in the safekeeping of great sages from time immemorial. Thus the body of the Key contains extensive treatment of some of the historical traces and records of those who taught the Wisdom-Religion.

But in order properly to learn and to teach, the pupils must in their turn strive to become Knowers on their own account. They must ever try to awaken those higher and immortal principles in themselves -- Higher Manas and Buddhi -- through which alone a direct perception of spiritual truth becomes possible. This is the note sounded by H.P.B. in the Key to Theosophy. She wrote that her endeavor was "to present unfamiliar concepts in a form as simple and in language as clear as possible" -- but:

That it should succeed in making Theosophy intelligible without mental effort on the part of the reader, would be too much to expect; but it is hoped that the obscurity still left is of the thought not of the language, is due to depth not to confusion. To the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a riddle; for in the world mental as in the world spiritual each man must progress by his own efforts. The writer cannot do the reader's thinking for him, nor would the latter be any the better off if such vicarious thought were possible.
Another sort of note was struck by William Q. Judge at the time of the projected publication of his enlarged "An Epitome of Theosophy" by the Theosophical Publication Society in England. A "Historical Note," which may be considered the Preface to the Epitome, gives an account of the issues involved and the difference of outlook between Mr. Judge and the Managers of the T.P.S., who were afraid to pursue a "dissemination of doctrine" policy:
It is with great regret that I [W.Q.J.] learn from recent London advices that the Managers of the Society think that the Tract, 'Epitome of Theosophy,' which appeared in the Path, is "too advanced to be reprinted now, and that what is needed is a 'stepping-stone from fiction to philosophy'."

Permit me to say that I cannot agree with this opinion, nor with the policy which is outlined by it. The opinion is erroneous, and the policy is weak as well as being out of accord with that of the Masters....

It [the Epitome] is at once comprehensive and fundamental. It covers most of the ground, and if any sincere reader grasps it he will have food for his reflection of the sort needed.

If, however, we are to proceed by a mollified passage from folly (which is fiction) to philosophy, then we at once diverge from the path marked out for us by the Masters; and for this statement I can refer to letters from Them in my hands. I need only draw your attention to the fact that when those Masters began to cause Their servants to give out matter in India, They did not begin with fiction, but with stern facts.... We are not seeking to cater to a lot of fiction readers and curiosity hunters, but to the pressing needs of earnest minds.

The Key Preface points to the necessity of effort by "pupils," if Theosophy is not to remain a mere collection of tenets, and the tenor of the "Historical Note" to the Epitome is to the effect that speculation, without the teachings, is also of little avail. There remains to inquire into all that may be implicit in these two varieties of necessary "effort."

Very often additional light is cast on a subject by relating passages dealing with various aspects of the matter under consideration. In the Voice of the Silence, we read: "Learn that no efforts, not the smallest -- whether in right or wrong direction -- can vanish from the world of causes." In the statement of the Third Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine, the term "effort" is used in indicating the only means by which progress is made when the man-stage is reached in the course of Monadic evolution. From that stage onward, evolution is by self-induced and self-devised efforts. Also, "the pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations." (Italics ours.)

Effort in Theosophy always includes and is associated with the active use of the Will, considered as a spiritual principle. The line of demarcation between the path leading to adeptship and that to mediumship lies in the active use of the will in one case, and its surrender in favor of passivity in the other. As taught in Isis Unveiled: "Mediumship is the opposite of adeptship; the medium is the passive instrument of foreign influences, the adept actively controls himself and all inferior potencies." Our Teachers point the way to adeptship, and hence their constant admonition of the sine qua non condition of spiritual progress: arousal of the will. Now, sometimes "will-effort" must focus upon the need for original, independent thinking -- at others upon defense of the dissemination, as such, of doctrines. For both emphases are indispensable parts of the Theosophical Movement.

This brings us to the Preface to William Q. Judge's rendition of Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms, which appeared in 1889, the same year that H.P.B. published The Voice of the Silence. The latter work was dedicated by the author "to the Few," and the translation and interpretation of Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms for Westerners by one who was the "bridge between the two Manas(es)," the Western and the ancient Eastern, was likewise intended for the "few" who, in the words of the Preface to the Voice, were determined to persevere "seriously in the pursuit of self-knowledge." The Voice and the Yoga Aphorisms are companion books. In order to make the more or less abstruse Aphorisms comprehensible to the student, the Preface outlines the underlying psychological system and the method of soul development proposed.

In order to understand the system expounded in this book it is also necessary to admit the existence of soul, and the comparative unimportance of the body in which it dwells. For Patanjali holds that Nature exists for the soul's sake, taking it for granted that the student believes in the existence of soul. Hence he does not go into proof of that which in his day was admitted on every hand. And as he lays down that the real experiencer and knower is the soul and not the mind, it follows that the Mind, designated either as "internal organ," or "thinking principle," while higher and more subtle than the body, is yet only an instrument used by the Soul in gaining experience, just in the same way as an astronomer uses the telescope for acquiring information respecting the heavens. But the Mind is a most important factor in the pursuit of concentration; one indeed without which concentration cannot be obtained, and therefore we see in the first book that to this subject Patanjali devotes attention. He shows that the mind is, as he terms it, "modified" by any object or subject brought before it, or to which it is directed.... While the internal organ thus molds itself upon the object it at the same time reflects it and its properties to the soul....

It is further held that this internal organ, while having an innate disposition to assume some modification or other depending upon constantly recurring objects -- whether directly present or only such as arise from the power of reproducing thoughts, whether by association or otherwise, may be controlled and stilled into a state of absolute calmness. This is what he means by "hindering the modifications." And just here it is seen that the theory of the soul's being the real experiencer and knower is necessary. For if we were but mind, or the slaves of mind, we never can obtain real knowledge because the incessant panorama of objects eternally modifies that mind which is uncontrolled by the soul, always preventing real knowledge from being acquired. But as the Soul is held to be superior to Mind, it has the power to grasp and hold the latter if we but use the will to aid in the work, and then only the real end and purpose of mind is brought about.

These propositions imply that the will is not wholly dependent on the mind, but is separable from it, and, further, that knowledge exists as an abstraction. The will and mind are only servants for the soul's use, so long as we are wrapped up in material life and do not admit that the real knower and only experiencer is the soul, just so long do these servants remain usurpers of the soul's sovereignty.

In short, the pith of the practice enjoined is that everything that interferes with the Soul's sovereignty must be overcome. As Aphorism 16 of Book I, expresses it: "Dispassion, carried to the utmost, is indifference regarding all else than soul, and this indifference arises from a knowledge of soul as distinguished from all else." This does not mean that the Yogi withdraws himself from the world, and is indifferent to the problems and the struggles of his fellowmen -- such would be a false concept of "indifference regarding all else than soul." It means seeking the solution of all problems, and the resolution of all struggles from the basis of the Eternally Real, which is the SELF or Soul. The Preface refers to this as follows:
Isolation of the Soul in this philosophy does not mean that a man is isolated from his fellows, becoming cold and dead, but only that the Soul is isolated or freed from the bondage of matter and desire, being thereby able to act for the accomplishing of the aims of Nature and Soul, including all souls of all men. Such, in the Aphorisms, is clearly stated to be the purpose.
The last Preface in our study is the one to the Voice of the Silence, H.P.B.'s final work, if we except the Theosophical Glossary, which is really a posthumous production. The Precepts of the Voice and its sublime ethics are said to be derived from the same Source as are the "Stanzas" on which The Secret Doctrine is based. In the words of the Preface to the Voice:
The work from which I here translate forms part of the same series as that from which the "Stanzas" of the Book of Dzyan were taken, on which the Secret Doctrine is based. Together with the great mystic work called Paramartha, which, the legend of Nagarjana tells us, was delivered to the great Arhat by the Nagas or "Serpents" (in truth a name given to the ancient Initiates), the Book of the Golden Precepts claims the same origin. Yet its maxims and ideas, however noble and original, are often found under different forms in Sanskrit works, such as the Dnyaneshvari, that superb mystic treatise in which Krishna describes to Arjuna in glowing colors the condition of a fully illumined Yogi; and again in certain Upanishads.
Here, again, is intimated that necessary blending of doctrinal study and independent research.

The Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan are printed with the Voice of the Silence as a sort of supplement. Does not this point to the truth that the Golden Precepts of the Voice form the "key" to an understanding of the highly metaphysical Stanzas? One must lead the life to know the doctrine. In the words of a Master: "Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers, and wisdom will come to you naturally." (S.D. I, 167.)

We close with three Precepts from the Voice which seem to summarize much that has been said:

Alas! when once thou hast become like the fix'd star in highest heaven, that bright celestial orb must shine from out the spatial depths for all -- save for itself; give light to all, but take from none.

Know, O Narjol, thou of the Secret Path, its pure fresh waters must be used to sweeter make the Ocean's bitter waves -- that mighty sea of sorrow formed of the tears of men.

Know that the stream of superhuman knowledge and the Deva-Wisdom thou hast won, must, from thyself, the channel of Alaya, be poured forth into another bed.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Those theosophists who are in earnest, who know that we are here to learn and not solely for our pleasure, are beginning to see that a few books well read, well analysed, and thoroughly digested are better than many books read over once. They have learned how all that part of a book which they clearly understand at first is already their own, and that the rest, which is not so clear or quite obscure, is the portion they are to study, so that it also, if found true, may become an integral part of their constant thought. 


[Reminder: The A STUDY IN PREFACES series has now ended.]

Back to the
series complete list of articles.

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.