THEOSOPHY, Vol. 39, No. 6, April, 1951
(Pages 274-277; Size: 12K)
(Number 18 of a 24-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 24 articles have the same name.]

"THE BHAGAVAD-GITA" -- INFORMAL ESSAYS

ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS

THE first portion of Chapter Twelve raises and cleverly fails to answer a very interesting question. Arjuna begins the discourse by asking: "Among those of thy devotees who always thus worship thee, which take the better way, those who worship the indivisible and unmanifested, or those who serve thee as thou now art?"

We may distinguish two broad categories of those who seek the moral life, or, as we may sometimes term it, "Devotion." The records of history, as well as our own personal experience among our acquaintances, indicate that some who seek to live a Higher Life strive to serve Noble Personages, while others strive to serve Noble Ideas. At their extremes, representatives of these two types of persons speak almost diametrically opposed languages. The man whose devotion is directed towards abstract ideas and ideals is apt to be either impatient or contemptuous of those who are chiefly propelled by a "special feeling" for the greatness or holiness of a Teacher. Devotees of the first type are not often renowned for their ability to reason and discuss. They cleave to that inward truth which their faith represents to them, and are concerned with neither facts, appearances, philosophical convictions, nor historical evidence. On the other hand, "those who worship the indivisible and unmanifested" may seem to their heart-doctrine-impelled contemporaries to be lacking in human warmth -- to be intellectuals, for whom truth is a series of fine distinctions and lengthy arguments, rather than a steady flow of compassion.

Krishna's equivocal reply to Arjuna simply says that both of these ways are movements towards ultimate worship of the Supreme Spirit -- and both ways, he might have added, are strewn with peculiar obstacles and pitfalls. The man who devotes himself to Personages, however exalted, is never closer than one remove from truth, being content to find its demonstration in the nature of one or several "exalted beings." Yet Buddha, Jesus, and H. P. Blavatsky all saw their truths at first hand, impersonally, as principles. In fact, those whose lives and natures bespeak this direct and impersonal communication with psychological and philosophical verity become a focus of attraction for devout natures. Devout persons do not venerate each other, but rather choose men of original inspiration. Personality-worshipers often make fetishes of those who are not personality-worshipers and, as all fetishes are temporary, we may expect to see frequent changes of these objects of religious affection. An overly-emotional approach will lead all but the men of perfect virtue to vacillate, as, from time to time, they find new persons to venerate.

Yet those who attempt to become "independent philosophers" before they have sufficiently fulfilled their obligations to their fellows can also easily become misguided. An unjustified faith in one's own capacity "to solve all problems unaided" can be as dangerous as a lack of sufficient confidence. The one approach, imperfectly undertaken, leads to self-gratulation and delusion; the other, to emotional and mental dependence. H. P. Blavatsky's "Follow not me nor my path, but the path I show" is one of the most signal mantrams ever established, for it indicates that all disciples must mingle, with their humility in the face of a greater wisdom, the determination to know and think for themselves. We need many mantrams of this nature, for independent courage and integrity are rare, and "with difficulty attained by corporeal beings." The comparatively easy worship of form -- any form, even the personality of a great teacher -- requires fewer of those difficult, meditative searchings for truth we must all undertake, while the simpler course ("by doing works for me thou shalt attain perfection") may allow the devotee to remain serene and untroubled for a very long time -- perhaps too long -- bent on accomplishing "works of merit."

For many, it seems -- and this view is expressed also in the Dhammapada --that the worship of a noble person is a protection and a guidance. In the company of a great teacher, following respectfully his suggestions, we skirt much dangerous terrain which might otherwise cause us to founder or fall. Eventually, however, all men must assume the responsibility of leading some procession, however humble, all by themselves. And, since the terrain is never the same from life to life, or from experience to experience, we will not always be able to progress by a series of "avoidances," but must ourselves learn how to refer to the guide-book our teachers provide. The conventional, though not the true "Eastern Occultism," it has sometimes been noted, is at variance with the new current of synthesis supplied by H. P. Blavatsky in the West, in that the worship of tradition, compliance, submission, resignation, and almost-unthinking devotion, do not sufficiently develop the creative centers of Manas. Yet unless men are ready to find a clear and true light revealed by their own developed spiritual intuitions, the simple course of an unqualified agreement with everything the Teacher says, may, temporarily, be a beneficent safeguard.

Western Theosophists of the last century, after a brief initial period of awe in the presence of H.P.B., too often turned to dreams of their own philosophical eminence, with the result that during the span of but a few short years, innumerable members of the original Theosophical Society set up personal "schools." In such cases, dependence upon "second-hand" guidance and wisdom was merely re-introduced, at a lower level --when these proud "independent" spirits showed a penchant for basking in the light of their own pupils' adulation. Adulation of H.P.B., on the other hand, was always rewarding, however imperfect it might be from the standpoint of the potential, ultimate development of the soul. Adulation of would-be prophets who have not yet themselves learned sufficient humility to follow consistently any leader, or any philosophy, simply led to additional divisions among T.S. members, and to further loss of clarity in philosophical thinking.

Probably all men are, at different periods of their lives, or at least at different moments, both "unthinking devotees" and aloof abstractionists. The great Theosophists, we know, have always resisted the temptation to live in a self-enclosed world of intellect: they accomplish much more than the perfection of word-symbols with which the issues of life may be theoretically represented. They have dealt compassionately and understandingly with human beings, at all levels, feeling directly their natures and problems. Also, they have never lost sight of their own teacher's integral relationship with the philosophy. For those who seek to establish the validity of the claim that H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge were both genuine messengers of a higher wisdom (without recourse to any special historical interpretations of their efforts) these considerations should be helpful. Further, independent and resourceful as both these beings were -- unafraid of public disdain, just as they were unaffected by acclaim -- they nonetheless approached all associations with their own students in an attitude of sharing and consultation on all matters of joint concern.

Since one of the fundamental facts of human evolution is the existence of worthy teachers, who under karma are able to be our mentors, a constancy of respect and devotion is a prerequisite for preserving such truth. Without this respect, our perceptions will never be entirely clear, since our minds gravitate either to expectation of the best and noblest, or expectation of errors and inadequacies, and we cannot awaken our own spiritual intuitions unless we know that true teachers and great men are eternal facts of nature.

In the previous chapter, entitled "Vision of the Divine Form as Including all Forms," Krishna summarizes thus: "I am to be approached and seen and known in truth by means of that devotion which has me alone as the object." We are to know great beings, then, in truth, and we only know them in a full sense when we ourselves are able to see the truth embodied by their sayings, deeds or motivations -- when we learn to think with the impersonal breadth that is theirs. Devotion to personages, perhaps, carries us no further than does a devotion to intellectual abstractions. The former, of itself, can lead to an endlessly revolving process as we fasten our admiration upon this or another person, while the latter, unmodified by compassion, can only buy the prize of intellectual brilliance with a too-costly separation from the aspirations, hopes and needs of one's fellow beings.


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:

INDEPENDENT LOYALTY

I advised ________ to do her part to lessen the constant bringing forward of the name of H.P.B., instead of independent thought on Theosophy. It is no proof of loyalty, and it gives rise to much of the foolish talk of our dogmatism. You will understand, and may be able to influence some to a more moderate though firm attitude that will not lessen their loyalty and devotion. One good point is that the true chela does not talk much of his Master and often does not refer to that Master's existence. 


--WILLIAM Q. JUDGE

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ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS
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ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS
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