THEOSOPHY, Vol. 9, No. 2, December, 1920
(Pages 37-46; Size: 30K)
(Number 12 of a 34-part series)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT(1)
AFTER the events narrated in the last Chapter, Colonel Olcott returned to India, and, at the end of December, held the usual "convention" or "parliament" at Adyar. The full report of the sessions is contained in the Supplement to "The Theosophist" for January, 1889. It discloses the incongruities and inconsistencies of mind governing the actions of Col. Olcott and his immediate associates.
After the admission that "the Annual Convention of the General Council has ceased to be, save in name, the true parliament or congress of the Branches," the report nevertheless goes on to affirm that the "fair thing" was "evidently to extend the sectional scheme to all countries," while yet "keeping the Headquarters as the hub and the President-Founder as the axle of this wheel of many spokes under the car of Progress ... with the central point where the President-Founder represents and wields the executive authority of the entire undivided body known as the Theosophical Society."
"The President-Founder's Address" to the Convention opens with an argument to show that he "should be left with the widest discretion" in the management of the Society. Col. Olcott sums up:
"The time has come when I should say, most distinctly and unequivocally, that since I am to stay and be responsible for the progress of the work, I shall not consent to any plan or scheme which hinders me in the performance of my official duty.
"... I have never interfered with the esoteric or metaphysical part, nor set myself up as a competent teacher. That is Madame Blavatsky's specialty; and the better to enunciate that idea I have just issued an Order in Council in London creating an Esoteric Section under her sole direction, as a body, or group, entirely separate and distinct from the Society proper, and involving the latter in no responsibilities toward those who might choose to enrol themselves in her list of adherents.
"... This is my determination: To be ... loyal and staunch to the colleague you and I, and all of us know and a few of us appreciate at her true worth. This is my last word on that subject; but in saying it I do not mean to imply that I shall not freely use my own judgment, independently of Madame Blavatsky's, in every case calling for my personal action, nor that I shall not ever be most willing and anxious to receive and profit by the counsel of every true person who has at heart the interests of the Society. I cannot please all: it is folly to try; the wise man does his duty as he can see it before him."
The "Address" gives in brief the story of the troubles in Paris and London. Though these events were then all fresh in his mind; though the Master's words were still ringing in his ears; though the generous protection of H.P.B. still enveloped him and enabled him to "save his face" before the rank and file of the membership -- the view expressed and the attitude held testify the same invincible self-complacency that at last wholly absorbed the probationary chela in the "President-Founder." Thus:
"It was by the Executive Council found expedient that I should proceed to Europe and attempt to bring our affairs into order. We saw the Continental Branches languishing for lack of superintendence and reciprocal work, although there was reason to hope that the movement might be greatly strengthened and expanded under the proper organization. ... I formed new Branches ...; dischartered the old 'Isis' Branch at Paris and chartered a new one ..., called two Conventions in London ...; organized and chartered a British Section of the Theosophical Society; and issued an order in Council forming an Esoteric Section of the Society, with Madame Blavatsky as its responsible head. The trouble in the Paris Branch was solely due -- as we have almost invariably found to be the case -- to personal jealousies and disagreements. The landmarks of the Society had been obliterated and forgotten; there had arisen a strife for supremacy, and, instead of setting the public an example of zealous fraternal union for the propagation of our ideas, the members had fallen to mutual abuse, oral and printed. Both parties were to blame, as I found, after patient examination of the documents ..."
In no part of Col. Olcott's published statements is there a hint that might be construed that he at any time found himself in any way at fault; on the contrary, there is everywhere the insistent and reiterated formulation and expression of the facts in such fashion as holds him out as the all-important factor in bringing order out of chaos, in holding the Society true to its purposes. Nowhere appears the faintest glimmer of perception that he himself might be the weakest joint in the Society's armor; that his failures as probationer were constantly upsetting his work as Executive.
It is intensely interesting and instructive to turn for contrast from the Adyar "parliament" to the proceedings of the Convention of the American Section in the April following. Delegates and proxies, democratically elected, were in attendance from all of the twenty-five active Lodges in the United States. The only one not represented was the "Gnostic" of Washington, D.C., controlled by Dr. Elliott Coues, whose case we shall shortly consider.
The spirit and energizing direction of the American Section, the devotion to a Cause rather than to its instrument, the Society, as contrasted with the work in India under Col. Olcott's autocratic control, are well typified in Madame Blavatsky's Letter to the Convention, presented by Mr. Judge in these words: "I have received from our revered founder, Madame H. P. Blavatsky, a letter for this Convention ... and beg to lay it before you."
The four Letters of H.P.B. to the Conventions of the American Section are unique. They are the only addresses of H.P.B. to any Theosophical bodies, for she never thus honored either the Indian, the British or the European Sections. These letters are the public authoritative statements by the Agent of the Masters in enunciation of the real basis of the Theosophical Society and of all Theosophical endeavor, esoteric and exoteric. This second letter was written soon after the issuance of the Preliminary Memorandum and First Instructions to the members of the Esoteric Section. The letter shows the real spirit of the Movement in the West, the ever-existent dangers to be confronted, her insistent endeavor to keep the line energized in the true direction, and her exoteric treatment and appeal as compared with some extracts from the Preliminary Memorandum addressed to the members of the Esoteric Section. We quote:
"But you in America. Your Karma as a nation has brought Theosophy home to you. The life of the Soul, the psychic side of nature is open to many of you. The life of altruism is not so much a high ideal as a matter of practice. Naturally, then, Theosophy finds a home in many hearts and minds, and strikes a resounding harmony as soon as it reaches the ears of those who are ready to listen. There, then, is part of your work: to lift high the torch of the liberty of the Soul of Truth that all may see it and benefit by its light.
"Therefore it is that the Ethics of Theosophy are even more necessary to mankind than the scientific aspects of the psychic facts of nature and man ....
"... Once before was growth checked in connection with the psychic phenomena, and there may yet come a time when the moral and ethical foundations of the Society may be wrecked in a similar way. What can be done to prevent such a thing is for each Fellow of the Society to make Theosophy a vital factor in their lives -- to make it real, to weld its principles firmly into their lives -- in short, to make it their own and treat the Theosophical Society as if it were themselves. Following closely on this is the necessity for Solidarity among the Fellows of the Society; the acquisition of such a feeling of identity with each and all of our Brothers that an attack upon one is an attack upon all...."
These statements were at once the recital of history, a warning, an admonition, and, as events have all too plainly proved, a prophecy. Where the danger ever lies, and how to meet it, are considered:
"We have external enemies to fight in the shape of materialism, prejudice, and obstinacy; the enemies in the shape of custom and religious forms; enemies too numerous to mention, but nearly as thick as the sand-clouds which are raised by the blasting Sirocco of the desert. Do we not need our strength against these foes? Yet, again, there are more insidious foes, who 'take our name in vain,' and who make Theosophy a by-word in the mouths of men and the Theosophical Society a mark at which to throw mud. They slander Theosophists and Theosophy, and convert the moral Ethics into a cloak to conceal their own selfish objects. And as if this were not sufficient, there are the worst foes of all -- those of a man's own household -- Theosophists who are unfaithful both to the Society and to themselves....
"Let us, for a moment, glance backwards at the ground we have passed over. We have had ... to hold our own against the Spiritists, in the name of Truth and Spiritual Science. Not against the students of the true psychic knowledge, nor against the enlightened Spiritualists; but against the lower order of phenomenalists -- the blind worshippers of the illusionary phantoms of the Dead. These we have fought for the sake of Truth, and also for that of the world which they were misleading... Unless prepared carefully by a long and special course of study, the experimentalist risks not only the medium's soul but his own. The experiments made in Hypnotism and Mesmerism at the present time are experiments of unconscious, when not of conscious, Black Magic. The road is wide and broad which leads to such destruction; and it is but too easy to find; and only too many go ignorantly along it to their own destruction. But the practical cure of it lies in one thing. That is the course of study which I mentioned before. It sounds very simple, but it is eminently difficult; for that cure is 'ALTRUISM.' And this is the key-note of Theosophy and the cure for all ills; this it is which the real founders of the Theosophical Society promote as its first object -- UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD.
"Thus even if only in name a body of Altruists, the Theosophical Society has to fight all who under its cover seek to obtain magical powers to use for their own selfish ends and to the hurt of others. Many are those who joined our Society for no other purpose than curiosity. Psychological phenomena were what they sought, and they were unwilling to yield one iota of their own pleasures and habits to obtain them. These very quickly went away empty-handed. The Theosophical Society has never been and never will be a school of promiscuous Theurgic rites. But there are dozens of small occult Societies which talk very glibly of Magic, Occultism, Rosicrucians, Adepts, etc. These profess much, even to giving the key to the Universe, but end by leading men to a blank wall instead of the 'Door of the Mysteries.' These are some of our most insidious foes. Under cover of the philosophy of the Wisdom-Religion they manage to get up a mystical jargon which for the time is effective and enables them, by the aid of a very small amount of clairvoyance, to fleece the mystically inclined but ignorant aspirants to the occult, and lead them like sheep in almost any direction. ... But woe to those who try to convert a noble philosophy into a den for disgusting immorality, greediness for selfish power, and money-making under the cloak of Theosophy. Karma reaches them when least expected. But is it possible for our Society to stand by and remain respected, unless its members are prepared, at least in future, to stand like one man, and deal with such slanders upon themselves as true Theosophists, and such vile caricatures of their highest ideals ...?
"But in order that we may be able to effect this working on behalf of our common cause, we have to sink all private differences. Many are the energetic members ... who wish to work and to work hard. But the price of their assistance is that all the work must be done in their way and not in anyone else's way. And if this is not carried out they sink back into apathy or leave the Society entirely, loudly declaring that they are the only true Theosophists. Or, if they remain, they endeavor to exalt their own method of working at the expense of all other earnest workers. This is fact, but it is not Theosophy. There can be no other end to it than that the growth of the Society will soon be split up into various sects, as many as there are leaders. ... Is this prospect one to look forward to ...? Is this 'Separateness' consonant with the united Altruism of Universal Brotherhood? Is this the teaching of our noble MASTERS?"
In all this, as in so many other cases, H.P.B. showed both the knowledge and the compassionate patience of the true Sage, the prophetic insight of spiritual Clairvoyance. The evidence does not lie in the testimony of students, or in the divided opinions of friends and foes, but verily in the events of what was then the future, but is now Theosophical history. The lessons she strove so constantly to teach her students of thirty years ago are still the unlearned lessons of Theosophists of to-day.
The Letter contained a public reference to the Esoteric Section in these words:
"As many of you are aware, we have formed the 'Esoteric Section.' Its members are pledged, among other things, to work for Theosophy under my direction. By it, for one thing, we have endeavoured to secure some solidarity in our common work; to form a strong body of resistance against attempts to injure us on the part of the outside world, against prejudice, against the Theosophical Society and against me personally. By its means much may be done to nullify the damage to the work of the Society in the past and to vastly further its work in the future."
The Letter closes:
"And now a last and parting word. My words may and will pass and be forgotten, but certain sentences from letters written by the Masters will never pass, because they are the embodiment of the highest practical Theosophy. I must translate them for you:--
"'... Let not the fruit of good Karma be your motive; for your Karma, good or bad, being one and the common property of all mankind, nothing good or bad can happen to you that is not shared by many others. Hence your motive, being selfish, can only generate a double effect, good and bad, and will either nullify your good action, or turn it to another man's profit. ... There is no happiness for one who is ever thinking of Self and forgetting all other Selves.
"'The Universe groans under the weight of such action (Karma), and none other than self-sacrificial Karma relieves it. ... How many of you have helped humanity to carry its smallest burden, that you should all regard yourselves as Theosophists? Oh, men of the West, who would play at being the Saviors of mankind before they even spare the life of a mosquito whose sting threatens them!, would you be partakers of Divine Wisdom or true Theosophists? Then do as the gods when incarnated do. Feel yourselves the vehicles of the whole humanity, mankind as part of yourselves, and act accordingly...'
"These are golden words; may you assimilate them! This is the hope of one who signs herself most sincerely the devoted sister and servant of every true follower of the Masters of Theosophy."
To any sincere student of to-day the thirty years of history intervening since the date of this Letter furnish their own confirmation and commentary on the prevision, the spiritual insight, the practical common-sense and the never-dying courage of H.P.B. They show, as nothing else does or can do, the overwhelming need for a return to the Source of all true Theosophical inspiration and endeavor. This from the exoteric standpoint alone. Permissible extracts from the Preliminary Memorandum to the E.S. applicants do but go deeper into the same problem.
Immediately following upon the publication in "Lucifer" of the Notice of the formation of the "Esoteric Section," H.P.B. sent out to all applicants a formal communication, marked as were all subsequent papers of the Section, Strictly Private and Confidential. It contained an introductory statement, a summary entitled "Rules of the Esoteric Section (Probationary) of the Theosophical Society," the "Pledge of Probationers in the Esoteric Section," and some preliminary questions and requirements to be responded to by the applicant. The introductory paragraphs read as follows:
"I forward you herewith a copy of the Rules and Pledge for Probationers of the Esoteric Section of the T.S.
"Should you be unable to accept them, I request that you will return this to me without delay."
The Rules referred to recite, amongst others, that no one will be admitted who is not a Fellow of the T.S.; that applications for membership in the Esoteric Section must be accompanied by a copy of the Pledge "written out and signed by the Candidate, who thereupon enters upon a special period of probation, which commences from the date of his signature;" that "all members shall be approved by the Head of the Section" -- H.P.B. Rule 7 provides:
"To preserve the unity of the Section, any person joining it expressly agrees that he shall be expelled, and the fact of his expulsion made public to all members of the Section, should he violate any one of the three following conditions:--(a) Obedience to the Head of the Section in all Theosophical matters.The nature of the Pledge is sufficiently indicated by the foregoing citations, plus the fact that the applicant solemnly pledged his sacred word of honor to covenants requiring his unremitting devotion to the great First Object, its application and implications to his own personal, daily thought and action.
(b) The Secrecy of the Signs and Passwords.
(c) The Secrecy of the documents of the Section, and any communication from any Initiate of any degree, unless absolved from such secrecy by the Head of the Section."
Some hundreds of the most active and earnest Fellows of the T.S. complied with all the formal requirements above outlined, sent in their Pledges, and entered upon their "special period of probation." H.P.B. forwarded to all these the "First Preliminary Memorandum" of the Section. This remarkable document has either been suppressed, altered or ignored, like the Pledge and Rules of the original School, by its unworthy "successors;" while its plain statements of fact, its prescient presentments of principles and their applications to the then present and future, now the past, the present and the future, have been deliberately disregarded and corrupted by those who, since 1896, have presumed and assumed to "speak in the name of the Masters" in derogation or contradiction of the recorded Message of Their Direct Agent.
The Preliminary Memorandum tells the probationers the impelling occasion for the step taken:
"... At this stage it is perhaps better that the applicants should learn the reason for the formation of this Section, and what it is expected to achieve.
"The Theosophical Society has just entered upon the fourteenth year of its existence; and if it had accomplished great, one may almost say stupendous, results on the exoteric and utilitarian plane, it had proved a dead failure on all those points which rank foremost among the objects of its original establishment. Thus, as a 'Universal Brotherhood,' or even as a fraternity, one among many, it had descended to the level of all those societies whose pretensions are great, but whose names are simply masks -- nay, even SHAMS. Nor can the excuse be pleaded that it was led into such an undignified course owing to its having been impeded in its natural development, and almost extinguished, by reason of the conspiracies of its enemies openly begun in 1884. Because even before that date there never was that solidarity in the ranks of our Society which would not only enable it to resist all external attacks, but also make it possible for greater, wider and more tangible help to be given to all its members by Those who are always ready to give help when we are fit to receive it. When trouble arose, too many were quick to doubt and despair, and few indeed were they who had worked for the Cause and not for themselves. The attacks of the enemy have given the Society some discretion in the conduct of its external progress but its real internal condition has not improved, and the members, in their efforts toward spiritual culture, still require that help which solidarity in the ranks can alone give them the right to ask. The Masters can give but little assistance to a Body not thoroughly united in purpose and feeling, and which breaks its first fundamental rule -- universal brotherly love, without distinction of race, creed, colour or caste, i.e., the social distinctions made in the world; nor to a Society, many members of which pass their lives in judging, condemning, and often reviling other members in a most untheosophical, not to say disgraceful, manner.
"For this reason it was decided to gather the 'elect' of the T.S., and to call them to action. It is only by a select group of brave souls, a handful of determined men and women hungry for genuine spiritual development and the acquirement of soul-wisdom, that the Theosophical Society at large can be brought back to its original lines. It is through an Esoteric Section alone -- i.e., a group in which all the members, even if unacquainted with one another, work for each other, and by working for all work for themselves -- that the great Exoteric Society may be redeemed and made to realize that in union and harmony alone lies its strength and power. The object of this Section, then, is to help the future growth of the Theosophical Society as a whole in the true direction, by promoting brotherly union at least among a choice minority.
"All know that this end was in view when the Society was established, and even in its mere unpledged ranks there was a possibility for development and knowledge, until it began to show want of real union; and now it must be saved from future dangers by the united aim, brotherly feeling, and constant exertions of the members of this Esoteric Section. Once offered the grand example of practical altruism of the noble lives of those who learn to master the great knowledge but to help others, and who strive to acquire powers but to place them at the service of their fellow-men, and the whole Theosophical community may yet be steered into action, and led to follow the example set before them.
"The Esoteric Section is thus 'set apart' for the salvation of the whole Society, and its course from its first step is an arduous and uphill work for its members, though a great reward lies behind the many obstacles once they are overcome."
To allay any misapprehensions due to widespread erroneous ideas regarding "chelaship" and "asceticism" while at the same time placing before the Candidates the seriousness of the steps contemplated and the absolutely essential prerequisites to any real solidarity or individual evolution, several paragraphs are devoted to direct plain speaking on these subjects. Thus the Candidates are told that one object of the Memorandum--
"Is to give timely warning to any applicant, should he feel unable or unwilling to accept fully and without reserve, the instructions which may be given, or the consequences that may result, and to do the duties whose performance shall be asked. It is but fair to state at once that such duties will never interfere with, nor encroach upon, the probationer's family duties; on the other hand, it is certain that every member of the Esoteric Section will have to give up more than one personal habit, such as practised in social life, and adopt some few asceptic rules." [Note: "asceptic" may be a typesetting error, as I could not find it in the dictionary, but I did find "ascetic", which seems to fit the idea. --Compiler.]
Those who may be seeking "powers" and "occult preferment" are advised:
"This degree of the Esoteric Section is probationary, and its general purpose is to prepare and fit the student for the study of practical Occultism or Raja Yoga. Therefore, in this degree the student -- save in exceptional cases -- will not be taught how to produce physical phenomena, nor will any magical powers be allowed to develop in him; nor, if possessing such powers naturally, will he be permitted to exercise them before he has mastered the knowledge of SELF, of the psycho-physiological processes ... in the human body generally, and until he has in abeyance all his lower passions and his PERSONAL SELF....
"Each person will receive in the way of enlightenment and assistance, just as much as he or she deserves, and no more; and it is to be distinctly understood that in this Section and these relations no such thing is known as favour -- all depends upon the person's merits -- and no member has the power or knowledge to decide what either he or she is entitled to. This must be left to those who know -- alone. The apparent favour shown to some, and their consequent apparent advancement, will be due to the work they do, to the best of their power, in the cause of Universal Brotherhood and the elevation of the Race.
"No man or woman is asked or expected to do any more than is his or her best; but each is expected to work to the extent of his ability and powers.
"The value of the work of this Section to the individual member will depend upon:
1st. The person's power to assimilate the teachings and make them a part of his being; and
2nd. Upon the unselfishness of the motives with which he seeks for his knowledge; that is to say, upon whether he has entered this Section determined to work for humanity, or with only the desire to benefit or gain something for himself.
"Let all members, therefore, take warning in time, and seriously examine into their motives, for to all those who join this Section certain consequences will ensue."
The Book of Rules supplied to each Candidate with the Preliminary Memorandum provided specifically, amongst other things, that the various Groups into which those accepted were to be formed were not for practical Occultism, but for mutual study of the Instructions and help in the Theosophic life; gossip, derogatory statements and the repetition of slanderous and hearsay statements were strictly forbidden; the dangers and evils of cant, hypocrisy and injustice to others were enforced; claims of occult powers, boasting or speaking of occult experiences, whether falsely or truly, discountenanced under penalty; the widest charity, tolerance, and mutual consideration and helpfulness laid down as the sine qua non of all true progress. "The first test of true apprenticeship," said the Rule on that subject, "is devotion to the interest of another," and continued: "For these doctrines to practically re-act on the life through the so-called moral code or the ideas of truthfulness, purity, self-denial, charity, etc., we have to preach and popularize a knowledge of Theosophy. It is not the individual or determined purpose of attaining oneself Nirvana, which is, after all, only an exalted and glorious selfishness, but the self-sacrificing pursuit of the best means to lead our neighbour on the right path, and cause as many of our fellow creatures as we possibly can to benefit by it, which constitutes the true Theosophist."
(To be Continued)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT
(Part 13 of a 34-part series)
"THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT"
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