THEOSOPHY, Vol. 50, No. 7, May, 1962
(Pages 312-315; Size: 13K)

QUESTION--AND COMMENT

[Article number (20) in this Department]

A PHRASE occurring in the Declaration of ULT has probably often led to a kind of quizzical questioning in the minds of inquirers: "It regards as Theosophists all who are engaged in the true service of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, condition or organization." Might this sentence not easily be taken to be presumptuous on the ground that Theosophists assume a dubious privilege in labeling all good and great men as "Theosophists," claiming a sort of proprietary kinship with them? [Note: "ULT" means "The United Lodge of Theosophists.--Compiler.]

In the first place, it is clear from a historical standpoint that this phrasing, as the rest of the phrasing of the Declaration of ULT, was originally addressed "to all open-minded Theosophists" -- at a time when rival organizations and partisan claimants to special authority were all presumably representing "true" Theosophy. The original associates of ULT were determined to avoid the trap of sectarianism, and felt that, among Theosophists, one should welcome those of any and all backgrounds on the basis of their simple profession to serve the cause of Humanity "without distinction of race, creed, sex, condition or organization." It is true, however, that sectarianism on the part of various Theosophical groups has noticeably diminished, so that a secondary question is therefore legitimate -- as to whether the quoted phrasing is sufficiently clear to those who begin their Theosophical studies for the first time under the auspices of ULT.

Underlying the obvious reference of the phrase in question to the need for erasing ideas of "distinction" among Theosophists, there may be seen a broad metaphysical assumption that all men, simply because they are men, are to some degree "Theosophists" -- that is, a vision of the need for transcendence of personal egocentricity is glimpsed at times by every person. Theosophy is represented as the collectivity of that sort of wisdom which aids in fulfillment of the vision, an enlargement of perspective which helps man to become truly himself by reaching beyond selfishness. The great teachers of mankind, whatever the doctrines they profess, are the symbols of "service to Humanity"; and the greater the teacher, the more clearly does he reach beyond "distinction of race, creed, sex, condition or organization."

The philosophical assumption of an identity of all mankind in terms of spiritual potential is a derivative, one might say, of the metaphysical implications of the First Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine. In H. P. Blavatsky's article "Our Three Objects," which appeared in Lucifer in 1889, the writer explains the relationship between Theosophical work directed towards the formation of a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood and "Occultism":

Though but a minority of our members are mystically inclined, yet, in point of fact, the key to all our successes as above enumerated is in our recognition of the fact of the Higher Self -- colourless, cosmopolitan, unsectarian, sexless, unworldly, altruistic -- and the doing of our work on that basis.

Social differentiations, the result of physical evolutions and material environment, breed race hatreds and sectarian and social antipathies that are insurmountable if attacked from the outside. But, since human nature is ever identical, all men are alike open to influences which centre upon the human "heart," and appeal to the human intuition; and as there is but one Absolute Truth, and this is the soul and life of all human creeds, it is possible to effect a reciprocal alliance for the research of and dissemination of that basic Truth. We know that a comprehensive term for that Eternal Verity is the "Secret Doctrine." [Note: For those who would like to read the whole article, once you have finished reading this article, I've placed a link to HPB's "Our Three Objects" article at the end of this one.--Compiler.]

These brief passages suggest some subtle distinctions between "service of humanity" based on the essence of Theosophical philosophy and more familiar humanitarian or altruistic works. "Service of humanity" is conventionally identified with benevolence, professional or otherwise -- perhaps connected with the same sort of sentiment which has long been responsible for the sending of Christian missionaries to the far corners of the earth. But Theosophical altruism may be thought to have two other connotations. The first is suggested by the derivation of the word from the French expression, le bien d'autrui, which means simply, according to Joseph Shipley's Dictionary of Word Origins, "the right of another." The philosopher Comte coined the noun altruisme from this phrase, as a condition of mind which is opposed to egoism. Comte assumed that what is good for another man is principally that which comes from granting him his full rights, and we find a similar emphasis by H.P.B. in her Key to Theosophy. She states that "altruism is an integral part of self-development," but adds that "we have to discriminate" -- "Theosophy teaches self-abnegation, but does not teach rash and useless self-sacrifice, nor does it justify fanaticism." In description of "the rights of another," she employs the context of that which is "due to humanity at large," which includes "full recognition of equal rights and privileges for all, and without distinction of race, colour, social position, or birth." Such due is not given "when there is the slightest invasion of another's right -- be that other a man or a nation; when there is any failure to show him the same justice, kindness, consideration or mercy which we desire for ourselves."

The other dimension of Theosophical altruism, or "service of humanity," is more difficult to discuss, because it involves a quality of heart that reaches beyond such specific considerations as those mentioned and beyond sentiment -- the quality of compassion. And, as The Voice of the Silence reminds us, "compassion is no attribute." Instead, compassion is "the Law of Laws," and, as Gandhi once put it, it should be "the law of our species" as "violence is the law of the brute." The Theosophist, then, is one who encourages himself to recognize the presence of this supreme capacity of egoic perception -- latent in all men and active in those who, regardless of creed or condition, have responded selflessly.

*  *  *

The following suggestions from a subscriber are in the form of a helpful "comment upon a comment" in regard to discussion of a question which appeared in THEOSOPHY for March. [Note: This refers to the 18th article in this department.--Compiler.] The question had to do with the possible interpretation of fatalism which might be derived from a statement in Isis Unveiled, dealing with the astral light -- where H.P.B. wrote that "the future exists in the astral light in embryo," and "while man is free to act as he pleases, the manner in which he will act was foreknown from all time." To the suggestion made by the editors of THEOSOPHY our correspondent adds the following:

I believe a little can be added on the score of literary history. The Kabalistic quotation is only half a statement pertaining to the state of the personality prior to physical birth, and in itself seems to be something of a distortion from fundamental philosophy. It is a serious mistake to consider that everything H.P.B. quoted represented her own view and/or that of the Mahatmas. She often used rather anomalous or distorted quotations to show general trends of past thought rather than tenets in detail. The Kabala is badly tainted with the personal god idea -- at least in the form in which it is available to the public. That idea implicitly carries with it both predestination and limitless prior knowledge, both of which are denied by the Mahatmas.

Both Isis and the S.D. contain a number of half-statements which have to be put together to get the whole truth, probably intentionally so, as the object of the teachings was at least as much to teach people to think as it was to convey definite tenets. Your quotation from S.D. I, 639 seems to be in that class. It applies to the local "preordination" of the events which will happen to the personality as the result of its own choices in the past; and even within that field shows a wide range of choice. It depends entirely on the difference between the Egoic and personal point of view. To the uninformed personality everything is predestination, merely because it does not see the line of causation -- which blindness the post-mortem vision cures temporarily.

The central suggestion here is of enduring significance for the Theosophical student. It is evident that H.P.B. spoke to those who realized she was largely providing them with material with which to work, rather than with revelations or doctrinal finality. Broad enlightenment on many of the abstruse or difficult problems treated in The Secret Doctrine comes only after individual discovery, when many related statements have been considered together.


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:

OUR LIFE UPON EARTH

To the Buddhist the Cosmos is not divine at all -- quite the reverse. It is Karma, it is the creation of thoughts and acts of error. Likewise it is an illusion. Our life upon earth is a state of sleep. Yet we do not sleep utterly. There are gleams in our darkness -- auroral wakenings of Love and Pity and Sympathy and Magnanimity: these are selfless and true, these are eternal and divine, these are the Four Infinite Feelings in whose after-glow all forms and illusions will vanish like mists in the light of the sun. But, except in so far as we wake to these feelings, we are dreamers indeed, moaning unaided in darkness, tortured by shadowy horror. All of us dream; none are fully awake; and many, who pass for the wise of the world, know even less of the truth than my dog that howls in the night.
 

--LAFCADIO HEARN


Note: Here's the link to HPB's article, entitled "Our Three Objects", that was mentioned and quoted from in the above article by the Editors.--Compiler.

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