A Living Philosophy For Humanity

No. 1 (163) - Summer 1980

[Cover photo: John B.S. Coats (1906-1979). Late International President of The Theosophical Society (Adyar), 1973-1979. Devoted Theosophist, dedicated humanitarian, lover of humanity and friend of all creatures. (Portrait from The Theosophical Journal, London, May-June, 1980.)]


A Living Philosophy for Humanity

Published every Three Months. Sponsored by an International Group of Theosophists.
Objectives: To uphold and promote the Original Principles of the modern Theosophical Movement, and to disseminate the teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy as set forth by H.P. Blavatsky and her Teachers.
Editor: Boris de Zirkoff.
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None of the organized Theosophical Societies, as such, are responsible for any ideas expressed in this magazine, unless contained in an official document. The Editor is responsible for unsigned articles only.



"There is a heritage in The Theosophical Society - a great heritage which has been handed down in unbroken succession from the founding of the Society 66 years ago until the present day. Long ago a lamp was lit with the Light of Wisdom, a veritable fire from Heaven; a banner was unfurled to herald the dawning comprehension by man that Brotherhood is a fact indeed - deny it as he may. That flag has flown bravely through the years, that lamp has burned steadily on: for better or for worse they have endured and carried their message to every place where Theosophy has sought to find expression.

Behind us, yet ever before us, lie the examples of those who have faithfully served the Flag, tended well the Flame - our leaders of the past whose lives inspire in us the Will to follow on, our leaders of today who work unceasingly and never spare themselves. And to us is handed on the precious heritage that we may do our share. Bright and glorious have we received it; to pass it on in still greater brilliance shall be our aim.

To this end we must bestir ourselves; our hearts, our minds, our very selves must know that light of Theosophy, and knowing it, realize how fundamental to all happiness, all peace, is the understanding which that light can bring." - John B. S. Coats, News and Notes, May, 1941. [3]


H.P. Blavatsky

[We publish below a faithful English translation of certain passages from H.P.B.'s powerful article originally written in French and printed in the first issue of La Revue Theosophique of Paris, March 21, 1889. Today, almost an entire century later, we witness all around us the signposts and developments of precisely that which she had in mind when writing this important pronouncement. We call for close attention to her words on the part of all readers. - Editor, Theosophia.]

The principal aim of our organization, which we are laboring to make a real brotherhood, is fully expressed in the motto of The Theosophical Society and all of its official organs: "There is no religion higher than Truth." As an impersonal Society, we must seize the truth wherever we find it, without permitting ourselves more partiality for one belief than for another. This leads directly to a very logical conclusion: if we acclaim and receive with open arms all sincere truth seekers, there can be no place in our ranks for the vehement sectarian, the bigot or the hypocrite, enclosed in Chinese Walls of dogma, each stone beating the words: "No admission!" What place indeed could such fanatics occupy amongst us, fanatics whose religion forbids all inquiry and does not admit any argument possible, when the mother-idea, the very root whence springs the beautiful plant we call Theosophy is known to be - absolute and unfettered liberty to investigate all the mysteries of Nature, human or divine.

With this exception, the Society invites everyone to participate in its activities and discoveries. Whoever feels his heart beat in unison with the great heart of humanity; whoever feels his interests are one with those of every being poorer and less fortunate than himself, every man or woman who is ready to hold out a helping hand to those who suffer; whoever understands the true meaning of the word "Egoism," is a Theosophist by birth and right. He can always be sure of finding sympathetic souls in our midst. Our Society is actually a sort of miniature humanity where, as in the human species at large, one can always find one's counterpart.

If we are told that in our Society the atheist elbows the deist, and the materialist elbows the idealist, we would reply: What does it matter? Be an individual a materialist, i.e., one who would find in matter an infinite potency for creation or rather for the evolution of all terrestrial life; or be he a Spiritualist, endowed with a spiritual perception which the former does not have - in what way does this prevent the one or the other from being a good Theosophist? Moreover, the worshiper of a personal god or a divine Substance are much more materialistic than the Pantheists who reject the idea of a carnalized god, but who perceive the divine essence in every atom. Everyone knows that Buddhism does not recognize either one god or many gods. Yet the Arhat, for whom every atom of dust is as much replete with Svabhavat (plastic substance, eternal and intelligent, though impersonal) as he is [4] himself, and who strives to assimilate that Svabhavat by identifying himself with the All, in order to attain Nirvana, must travel the same painful road of renunciation, of good works and of altruism, and must lead the same saintly life, though less egotistical in its motive, as the beatified Christian. What matters the passing form, if the goal to be attained is the same eternal essence, whether that essence manifests itself to human perception as substance, as an immaterial breath, or as nothing! Let us admit the PRESENCE, whether called personal God or universal substance, and recognize a cause if we all see its effects. But these effects being the same for the atheist-Buddhist and for the deist-Christian, and the cause being invisible and inscrutable for the one as for the other, why waste our time in running after a shadow that cannot be grasped? When all is said, the greatest of materialists, as well as the most transcendental of philosophers, admit the omnipresence of an impalpable Proteus, omnipotent in its ubiquity throughout all the kingdoms of nature, including man; Proteus indivisible in its essence, and eluding form, yet appearing under all and every form; who is here and there and everywhere and nowhere; is All and Nothing; ubiquitous yet One; universal Essence binding, bounding, containing everything, contained in all. Where is the theologian who could go any farther? It is sufficient to recognize these truths, to be a Theosophist, for this recognition is tantamount to admitting that not only humanity - composed as it is of thousands of races - but everything that lives and vegetates, in short, everything that is, is made of the same essence and substance, is animated by the same spirit, and that, consequently, everything in nature, whether physical or moral, is bound in solidarity.

We have already said elsewhere, in The Theosophist, that "born in the United States of America the Theosophical Society was constituted on the model of its Mother Land." The latter, as we know, has omitted the name of God from its Constitution, for fear, said the Fathers of the Republic, that the word might one day become the pretext for a State religion; for they desired to grant absolute equality to all religions under the law, so that each form would support the State, which in its turn would protect them all.

The Theosophical Society was founded on that excellent model ... Thus, every Branch, like every member, being free to profess whatever religion and to study whatever philosophy or science it prefers, provided all remain united in the tie of Solidarity or Brotherhood, our Society can truly call itself a "Republic of Conscience."

Though free to pursue whatever intellectual occupation pleases him the best, each member of our Society must, however, furnish some reason for belonging thereto, which amounts to saying that each member must contribute his part, small though it be, in mental or other labor for the benefit of all. If one does not work for others one has no right to be called a Theosophist. All must strive for freedom of human thought, for the elimination of selfish and sectarian superstitions, and for the discovery of all the truths that are within the reach of the human mind. That object cannot be attained more certainly than by the cultivation of unity in intellectual labors. No honest [5] worker, no earnest seeker can remain empty handed, and there is hardly a man or woman, busy as they may think themselves to be, incapable of laying their tribute, moral or pecuniary, on the altar of truth. The duty of Branch and Section Presidents will be henceforth to see to it that the Theosophical beehive is kept free from those drones which keep merely buzzing ...

We are face to face with all the glorious possibilities of the future. This is again the hour of the great cyclic return of the rising tide of mystical thought in Europe. On every side we are surrounded by the ocean of universal science - the science of life eternal - bearing on its waves the forgotten and submerged treasures of vanished generations, treasures still unknown to the modern civilized races. The strong current which rises from the watery depths, from the depths where lie the prehistoric learning and arts swallowed up with the antediluvian giants - demigods, though but mere outlines of mortal men - that current strikes us in the face and murmurs: "That which has been still exists; that which has been forgotten, buried for aeons in the depths of the Jurassic strata, may reappear to view once more. Prepare yourselves."

Happy are those who can interpret the language of the elements. But where are they bound for whom the word element has no other meaning than that given to it by physics or materialistic chemistry? Will it be towards well-known shores that the surge of the great waters will bear them, when they have lost their footing in the deluge which is approaching? Will it be towards the peaks of a new Ararat that they will find themselves carried, towards the heights of light and sunshine, where there is a ledge on which to place the feet in safety, or perchance is it to a fathomless abyss that will swallow them as soon as they try to struggle against the irresistible billows of an unknown element?

We must prepare and study truth under every aspect, endeavoring to ignore nothing, if we do not wish to fall into the abyss of the unknown when the hour shall strike. It is useless to leave it to chance and to await the intellectual and psychic crisis which is preparing, with indifference, if not with crass disbelief, saying that at the worst the rising tide will carry us naturally towards the shore; for it is very likely that the tidal wave will cast up nothing but a corpse. The strife will be terrible in any case between brutal materialism and blind fanaticism on the one hand, and philosophy and mysticism on the other - mysticism, that veil of more or less translucency which hides the eternal Truth.

But it is not materialism which will gain the upper hand. Every fanatic whose ideas isolate him from the universal axiom, "There is no religion higher than Truth" will see himself by that very fact rejected, like an unworthy stone from the new Archway called Humanity. Tossed by the waves, driven by the winds, reeling in that element which is so terrible because unknown, he will soon find himself engulfed ...

Yes, it must be so and it cannot be otherwise, when the artificial and chilly flame of modern materialism is extinguished for lack of fuel. Those [6] who cannot become used to the idea of a spiritual Ego, a living soul and an eternal Spirit within their material shell (which owes its illusory existence to those principles); those for whom the great hope of an existence beyond the grave is a vexation, merely the symbol of an unknown quantity, or else the subject of a belief sui generis, the result of theological and mediumistic hallucinations - these will do well to prepare for the worst disappointment the future could possibly have in store for them. For from the depths of the dark, muddy waters of materiality which, on every side, hide from them the horizons of the great Beyond, a mystic force is rising during these last years of the century. At most it is but the first gentle rustling, but it is a superhuman rustling - "supernatural" only for the superstitious and the ignorant. The spirit of truth is passing now over the face of the dark waters, and in parting them, is compelling them to disgorge their spiritual treasures. This spirit is a force that can neither be hindered nor stopped. Those who recognize it and feel that this is the supreme moment of their salvation will be uplifted by it and carried beyond the illusions of the great astral serpent. The joy they will experience will be so poignant and intense, that if they were not mentally isolated from their bodies of flesh, the beatitude would pierce them like sharp steel. It is not pleasure that they will experience, but a bliss which is a foretaste of the knowledge of the gods, the knowledge of good and evil, and of the fruits of the tree of life.

But although the man of today may be a fanatic, a skeptic, or a mystic, he must become thoroughly convinced that it is useless for him to struggle against the two moral forces today unleashed and in supreme contest. He is at the mercy of these two adversaries, and no intermediary force is capable of protecting him. It is but a question of choice, whether to let himself be carried along without a struggle on the wave of mystical evolution, or to writhe against the reaction of moral and psychic evolution, and so find himself engulfed in the Maelstrom of the new tide. At the present time, the whole world, with its centers of high intelligence and human culture, its focal points of political, artistic, literary, and commercial life, is in a turmoil; everything is shaking and crumbling in its movement towards reform. It is useless to remain blind, it is useless to hope that anyone can remain neutral between the two contending forces; one has to choose either the one or the other, or be crushed between them. The man who imagines that he has chosen freedom, but who, nevertheless, remains submerged in that boiling caldron, foaming with foul matter called social life, most terribly betrays his own divine Self, a betrayal which will blind that Self in the course of a long series of future incarnations. All of you who hesitate on the path of Theosophy and the occult sciences, who are trembling on the golden threshold of truth - the only one within your grasp, for all the others have failed you one after another - squarely face the great Reality which is offered you. It is to mystics only that these words are addressed, for them alone have they any importance; for those who have already made their choice they are vain and useless. But you, Occultists, Kabbalists and Theosophists, you well know that a Word, [7] old as the world, though new to you, has been sounded at the beginning of this cycle, and the potentiality of which, unperceived by others, lies hidden in the sum of the digits of the year 1889; you well know that a note has just been struck which has never been heard by mankind of this era; and that a new Idea is revealed, ripened by the forces of evolution. This Idea differs from everything that has been produced in the nineteenth century: it is identical, however, with the thought that has been the dominant tone and the keynote of every century, especially the last - absolute freedom of thought for humanity.

Why try to strangle and suppress what cannot be destroyed? Why struggle when there is no other choice than allowing yourselves to be raised on the crest of the spiritual wave to the very heavens, beyond the stars and the universes, or to be engulfed in the yawning abyss of an ocean of matter? Vain are your efforts to sound the unfathomable, to reach the ultimate of this wonderful matter so glorified in our century; for its roots grow in the spirit and in the Absolute; they do not exist, though they are eternally. This constant contact with flesh, blood and bones, the illusion of differentiated matter, does nothing but blind you; and the more you penetrate into the region of the impalpable atoms of chemistry, the more you will be convinced that they exist only in your imagination. Do you truly expect to find therein every Truth and every reality of existence? For Death is at everyone's door, waiting to close it behind a beloved soul that escapes from its prison, upon the soul which alone has made the body a reality; how can eternal love associate itself with the molecules of matter which change and disappear? ...

But you, friends and readers, you who aspire to something more than the life of the squirrel everlastingly turning the same wheel; you who are not content with the seething of the caldron whose turmoil results in nothing; you who do not mistake the deaf echoes, as old as the world, for the divine voice of truth; prepare yourselves for a future of which but few in your midst have dared to dream, unless they have already entered upon the path. For you have chosen a path that, although thorny at the start, soon widens out and leads you to the divine truth. You are free to doubt while still at the beginning of the way, you are free to decline to accept on hearsay what is taught respecting the source and the cause of that truth, but you are always able to hear what its voice is telling you, and you can always study the effects of the creative force coming from the depths of the unknown. The arid soil upon which the present generation of men is moving, at the close of this age of spiritual dearth and of purely material surfeit, has need of a divine omen above its horizon, a rainbow, as symbol of hope. For of all the past centuries our nineteenth has been the most criminal. It is criminal in its frightful selfishness, in its skepticism which grimaces at the very idea of anything beyond the material; in its idiotic indifference to all that does not pertain to the personal self, more than any of the previous centuries of ignorant barbarism and intellectual darkness. Our century must be saved from [8] itself before its last hour strikes. For all those, who see the sterility and folly of an existence blinded by materialism and ferociously indifferent to the fate of the neighbour, this is the moment to act: now is the time for them to devote all their energies, all their courage and all their efforts to a great intellectual reform. This reform can only be accomplished by Theosophy, and, let us add, by Occultism or the wisdom of the Orient. The paths that lead to it are many; but the wisdom is one. Artistic souls envision it, those who suffer dream of it, the pure in heart know it. Those who work for others cannot remain blinded to its realm, though they may not always recognize it by its name. Only light and empty minds, egotistical and vain drones, confused by their own buzzing, will remain ignorant of the supreme ideal. They will continue to exist until life becomes a grievous burden to them.

It must be distinctly remembered, however: these pages are not written for the masses. They are neither an appeal for reforms, nor an effort to win over to our views the fortunate in life; they are addressed solely to those who are constitutionally able to comprehend them, to those who suffer, to those who hunger and thirst after some Reality in this world of Chinese Shadows. As for those, why should they not show themselves courageous enough to abandon their world of frivolous occupations, their pleasures above all and even their personal interests, except when those interests form part of their duties to their families or others? No one is so busy or so poor that he cannot create a noble ideal and follow it. Why then hesitate in clearing a path towards this ideal, through all obstacles, over every stumbling block, every petty hindrance of social life, in order to march straight forward until the goal is reached? Those who would make this effort would soon find that the "strait gate" and the "thorny path" lead to the broad valleys of limitless horizon, to that state where there is no more death, because one feels oneself re-becoming a god! It is true that the first conditions required to reach it are an absolute disinterestedness, a boundless devotion to the welfare of others, and a complete indifference to the world and its opinions. In order to make the first step on that ideal path, the motive must be absolutely pure; not an unworthy thought must attract the eyes from the end in view, not a doubt or hesitation shackle the feet. There do exist men and women thoroughly qualified for this, whose only aim is to dwell under the Aegis of their Divine Nature. Let them, at least, take courage to live the life and not conceal it from the eyes of others! No one else's opinion should he considered superior to the voice of one's own conscience. Let that conscience, therefore, developed to its highest degree, guide us in all the ordinary acts of life. As to the conduct of our inner life, let us concentrate our entire attention on the ideal we have set ourselves, and look beyond, without paying the slightest attention to the mud upon our feet ...

Those who are capable of making this effort are true Theosophists; all others are but members, more or less indifferent, and very often useless. [9]


William Quan Judge

[Originally published in The Path, Vol. VII, March, 1893, under the pseudonym of Eusebio Urban. Reprinted in Echoes of the Orient, Vol. I, pp. 318-21.]

A visitor from one of the other planets of the solar system who might learn the term Mahatma after arriving here would certainly suppose that the etymology of the word undoubtedly inspired the believers in Mahatmas with the devotion, fearlessness, hope, and energy which such an ideal should arouse in those who have the welfare of the human race at heart. Such a supposition would be correct in respect to some, but the heavenly visitor after examining all the members of the Theosophical Society could not fail to meet disappointment when the fact was clear to him that many of the believers were afraid of their own ideals, hesitated to proclaim them, were slothful in finding arguments to give reasons for their hope, and all because the wicked and scoffing materialistic world might laugh at such a belief.

The whole sweep, meaning, and possibility of evolution are contained in the word Mahatma. Maha is "great," Atma is "soul," and both compounded into one mean those great souls who have triumphed before us not because they are made of different stuff and are of some strange family, but just because they are of the human race. Reincarnation, karma, the sevenfold division, retribution, reward, struggle, failure, success, illumination, power, and a vast embracing love for man, all these lie in that single word. The soul emerges from the unknown, begins to work in and with matter, is reborn again and again, makes karma, develops the six vehicles for itself, meets retribution for sin and punishment for mistake, grows strong by suffering, succeeds in bursting through the gloom, is enlightened by the true illumination, grasps power, retains charity, expands with love for orphaned humanity, and thenceforth helps all others who remain in darkness until all may be raised up to the place with the "Father in Heaven" who is the Higher Self. This would be the argument of the visitor from the distant planet, and he in it would describe a great ideal for all members of a Society such as ours which had its first impulse from some of these very Mahatmas.

Without going into any argument further than to say that evolution demands that such beings should exist or there is a gap in the chain -- and this position is even held by a man of science like Professor Huxley, who in his latest essays puts it in almost as definite language as mine -- this article is meant for those who believe in the existence of the Mahatmas, whether that faith has arisen of itself or is the result of argument. It is meant also for all classes of the believers, for they are of several varieties. Some believe without wavering; others believe unwaveringly but are afraid to tell of their belief; a few believe, yet are always thinking that they must be able to say they have set eyes on an Adept before they can infuse their belief into others; and a certain number deliberately hide the [10] belief as a sort of individual possession which separates them from the profane mortals who have never heard of the Adepts or who having heard scoff at the notion. To all these I wish to speak. Those unfortunate persons who are ever trying to measure exalted men and sages by the conventional rules of a transition civilization, or who are seemingly afraid of a vast possibility for man and therefore deny, may be well left to themselves and to time, for it is more than likely they will fall into the general belief when it is formed, as it surely will be in the course of no long time. For a belief in Mahatmas - whatever name you give the idea - is a common property of the whole race, and all the efforts of all the men of empirical science and dogmatic religion can never kill out the soul's own memory of its past.

We should declare our belief in the Adepts, while at the same time we demand no one's adherence. It is not necessary to give the names of any of the Adepts, for a name is an invention of a family, and but few persons ever think of themselves by name but by the phrase 'I am myself.' To name these beings, then, is no proof, and to seek for mystery names is to invite condemnation for profanation. The ideal without the name is large and grand enough for all purposes.

Some years ago the Adepts wrote and said to H.P.B. and to several persons that more help could be given to the movement in America because the fact of their existence was not concealed from motives of either fear or doubt. This statement of course carries with it by contradistinction the conclusion that where, from fear of schools of science or of religion, the members had not referred much to the belief in Mahatmas, the power to help was for some reason inhibited. This is the interesting point, and brings up the question "Can the power to help of the Mahatmas be for any cause inhibited?" The answer is, It can. But why?

All effects on every plane are the result of forces set in motion, and cannot be the result of nothing, but must ever flow from causes in which they are wrapped up. If the channel through which water is meant to flow is stopped up, the water will not run there, but if a clear channel is provided the current will pass forward. Occult help from Masters requires a channel just as much as any other help does, and the fact that the currents to be used are occult makes the need for a channel greater. The persons to be acted on must take part in making the channel or line for the force to act, for if we will not have it they cannot give it. Now as we are dealing with the mind and nature of man, we have to throw out the words which will arouse the ideas connected with the forces we desire to have employed. In this case the words are those which bring up the doctrine of the existence of Adepts, Mahatmas, Masters of wisdom. Hence the value of the declaration of our belief. It arouses dormant ideas in others, it opens up a channel in the mind, it serves to make the conducting lines for the forces to use which the Mahatmas wish to give out. Many a young man who could never hope to see great modern professors of science like Huxley and Tyndall and [11] Darwin has been excited to action, moved to self-help, impelled to seek for knowledge, by having heard that such men actually exist and are human beings. Without stopping to ask if the proof of their living in Europe is complete, men have sought to follow their example. Shall we not take advantage of the same law of the human mind and let the vast power of the Lodge work with our assistance and not against our opposition or doubt or fear? Those who are devoted know how they have had unseen help which showed itself in results. Those who fear may take courage, for they will find that not all their fellow beings are devoid of an underlying belief in the possibilities outlined by the doctrine of the existence of the Adepts.

And if we look over the work of the Society we find wherever the members boldly avow their belief and are not afraid to speak of this high ideal, the interest in theosophy is awake, the work goes on, the people are benefitted. To the contrary, where there are constant doubt, ceaseless asking for material proof, incessant fear of what the world or science or friends will think, there the work is dead, the field is not cultivated, and the town or city receives no benefit from the efforts of those who while formally in a universal brotherhood are not living out the great ideal.

Very wisely and as an occultist, Jesus said his followers must give up all and follow him. We must give up the desire to save ourselves and acquire the opposite one, - the wish to save others. Let us remember the story in ancient writ of Arjuna, who, entering heaven and finding that his dog was not admitted and some of his friends in hell, refused to remain and said that while one creature was out of heaven he would not enter it. This is true devotion, and this joined to an intelligent declaration of belief in the great initiation of the human race will lead to results of magnitude, will call out the forces that are behind, will prevail against hell itself and all the minions of hell now striving to retard the progress of the human soul.



Think of Them Constantly.
Think of Them as having a line of communication with you, by simply thinking of it, by placing yourself at Their disposal and by introducing into your thoughts and feelings Their point of view.
So that, when you consider what you would like to do, you think of what They would like you to do.
Give Them a chance to have a word.
A constant thought of Them will give them that opportunity.
Then of course, your lives will be much happier.
- George S. Arundale, Daily News Bulletin, 104th International Convention, Adyar, December 26, 1979. p.7. [12]


Edward Toronto Sturdy

[Originally published in Lucifer, Vol. XII, August, 1893. For many years, Mr. Sturdy was the last surviving member of H.P.B.'s "Inner Group." A profound student of Esotericism, he passed away in 1957 at the age of 97 years.]

The question of the relationship between the teacher and disciple in Eastern countries has occupied the minds of many Western Theosophists. This relationship will be better understood when it is explained that there is no one system or attitude maintained, and that the position varies with nearly every group of teachers and disciples.

The important questions which a disciple must solve are - (1) In regard to such and such a man has he knowledge? (2) Will he use it unselfishly? (3) Will there be a personal affinity between him and me? Then in some schools - (4) Can I have such trust in him as to surrender myself entirely into his hands and obey without any hesitation what I am told to do? It is on account of this latter question that Western students have found difficulty in understanding how a man could come into association with his Guru.

On the other hand the Guru has questions to ask himself in regard to the Chela - (1) What is his motive? (2) What is his stage of knowledge? (3) How will he use further knowledge? Is he to be trusted? The solution of these questions depends upon the development of the Guru and whether he can see beyond the evidence which is given to ordinary man, but even with the highest it is doubtful whether complete certainty can be made.

The whole question then resolves itself into one of mutual knowledge and trust. In the most reasonable and philosophical schools the association begins gradually. It commences by a disciple going to a teacher for advice and instruction upon some point. It may be a small affair and even a promise of secrecy is not taken from him. Then other philosophical doubts arise and he finds answers and explanations which are satisfactory to him in his Guru. Meanwhile the life and character of the teacher come more and more under the observation of the disciple and we will suppose he finds these exemplary from his standpoint. He has so far found that the advice and instruction given him have always been sound; thereby his confidence has increased. His Guru has never shown that he had any motive other than a purely unselfish desire to benefit. By this his reverence and affection have grown. He has not asked idly, he has been an earnest seeker; he has tried to act by what he has been taught and what he has been able to accept. The teacher too has observed the Chela, has studied his character and judged his trustworthiness. This process may have taken months or years. It cannot be hurried by "faith"; each step has to be taken in the light of knowledge, not in the dark. If we take vast precautions in the entrusting of our mere self, how much more should a man discern and proceed warily, where so great a matter as the guidance of his very life is concerned. [13]

At length the disciple has reached a point where he asks a question not to be solved from texts. Hitherto he has been helped in solving questions and doubts for which the teachings of various scriptures sufficed. Now, by his own perseverance and the guidance he has received he is brought face to face with a question which comes under a different category. The Guru has received this knowledge from his Guru, under the condition of handing it down to worthy disciples only, and even then only under the same conditions on which he received it. He may or may not, at first, permit his disciples so to communicate it in their turn. After long experience they may do so. Hence arises the necessity of the first promise. It is merely one of secrecy. The Guru has judged of his disciple and trusts him. He knows that long pledges are useless, for men will pledge themselves to anything in their hunger to gratify their curiosity, or to gain what they suppose are valuable secrets for their own ends. The Guru bases his actions on his knowledge and experience. The Chela does likewise with such as he has. There is no false mystery, no mere hypothesis, no straining of faith. And so time goes on, and the respect and love of the Chela grows as he is able to see deeper and deeper into his Guru's qualifications and character. He receives instruction as difficulties occur in his growth. No artificial pledges are needed. The conditions of holding such knowledge are taught him; he accepts it under those conditions. He does not receive it until he is judged fit. He knows when he fails that he brings upon himself inevitable results or karmic punishment.

A man instinctively obeys him whom he has found always right and always disinterested. His obedience springs from the very bottom of his heart. Any pledge of obedience would be a false prop and a sacrilege. How can he disobey him whom he has come so much to love and reverence? Great indeed must be the inducement before he does so and great indeed the disaster.

It is not difficult to understand the enthusiasm and love of a man who has beaten with weary brain and heart against the wall which bounds our ordinary knowledge when he finds someone who gives him even a grain of the knowledge which goes beyond. He needs no artificial props to keep him to his faithfulness. And so, in his love and confidence, if he bursts into expression some day of his ever-living devotion to every expressed wish of his Guru, it is because love has grown to that extent within him that words come as a relief.

His Guru accepts it, understanding how it has grown; he never asked for it. It is love which has caused love to grow. The Eternal Atman is the true Initiator, the true Guru. Nothing must eventually come between the aspirant and That. In his Guru he must worship That; in himself That. His love and devotion must not fall into a worship of form or feature or abode. His Guru is to him an expression of truth higher than himself. It is as that he worships him; but he distinguishes between the vessel and its content.

And so progress, bounded and assured in every direction by acquired knowledge, is made. [14] The association between Guru and Chela does not cease with death if both are sufficiently advanced. If the Chela is not sufficiently advanced, he may unknowingly receive much from his Guru, and may later learn to recognize its source.

Between the relationship as described, and the lowest forms of fanatical devotion of the ignorant to those who know little, the gradations are innumerable. It is no uncommon thing to hear a man talk of his Guru as if he were an omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent being, who could do anything for the Chela if he chose; who is always guiding and watching over him at any time or anywhere. To this Guru he has a pledge of absolute obedience and devotion. He seeks instruction upon every little detail of life which he carefully fulfills, or if he does not he feels guilty of a sin, like the devotee of a personal God. He in the first place became a Chela with very little previous knowledge of his Guru. It was not in him then, or since, to have much discrimination. He thought he saw a very great Yogi who would lead him to Moksha, and he caught on at once. He may some day alter his opinion, in which case he breaks his pledge and goes elsewhere.

These pledges of absolute obedience and surrender to the will of a Guru are fortunately rare. The chief condition is secrecy. All the rest is part of the conditions of the knowledge given. Such for instance, as continence, abstinence from certain foods, and so on, the breaking of which conditions, once they are known, produce their own inevitable disasters. Hence a man may receive knowledge from one man for a time and afterwards go to another, and so to a third, fourth, fifth, etc., but he should remain under the tutelage of only one at a time, and where Yoga is being practiced this is especially necessary to prevent confusion, if for no other reason. Of course where a Guru can continue or wishes to continue teaching various things, the Chela may never change, but the Guru himself may often refer his disciple to another Guru.

In a country like India, where a large number of people are more or less intently bent upon the search for Gurus, the cases of deception are constant and numerous, and cases frequently occur where the rascal masquerading as a Yogi manages to obtain very considerable sums of money from people whose credulity, or whose greed for acquiring knowledge, outweighs their discrimination.

The belief in the possibility of Yoga and the capacity of man to rise by it to the noblest and most sublime conditions, is so innate in the Indian mind, there is so much natural reverence in the people, that some centuries of imposture, which grows yearly more and more brazen-faced, have done little to decrease the reverence for the orange-red garment. This is also partly to be accounted for by the undoubted fact that many men of blameless life and great knowledge still continue to be found in India wandering as Mendicants. It has become the custom for men to wander far and wide, through cities, and in wild places, hunting for a Guru to guide and instruct them. Whether this was always so is much to be doubted. With the decline of the search for trite knowledge in India, those, in whose custody it is, have withdrawn more and more from the outer life [15] of the world, and the difficulty in finding these custodians, no doubt, serves as a fair test to prove the determination of the seeker, whether his motive be pure or selfish. Others, remembering the failure of multitudes of those who wandered and sought, make no such effort, believing either that the Guru will find them when their time has come, or that there are no Gurus, true Yogis, or Mahatmas now existing.

This latter class is an increasing one, and its growth is no doubt assisted by the Agnostic influence of Western civilization, and also by a consideration of the vast numbers of men of small learning, beggars and idlers who are indifferently called Sannyasi, Bairagi, Swami, Yogi, Mahatma, Paramahansa, etc., as the speaker may consider fitting. To hear a man say that he met "several Mahatmas" at a fair or festival sounds strange to Western Theosophists who have used that term in the original sense to signify those who stand where humanity merges into Deity. The meaning of the narrator was that he had met several men in the garb of ascetics who gave him a more or less favorable impression.

It will be seen, from what has been said, that chelaship, like every other wise institution, must be founded upon knowledge, experience and judgment. If these have to be exercised to the very highest degree where the Chela comes into direct communication with his Guru, whose knowledge and power, if he has any discrimination, will in time become known to him, how much more is it imperative upon him to be ever watchful and discriminating in the case of those who, having little or no further knowledge than himself, claim to teach through being in communication with beings whose knowledge in regard to things here is, by the conception we have of them, almost infallible. He can but fall back upon his own reason and his own light as to how to act in any emergency that may arise: he can take no directions from a source he does not know, through an agency he sees little, or not at all, different from himself. He might as well have remained under the dominion of a priest, as tread such treacherous ground.

What infinite claims have been made to being in communication with God and with superior beings! Not by deliberate impostors, not by men and women of impure or selfish lives; often quite the reverse of this. Perhaps they did evil that good might come of it, leading their fellows upon the path of virtue as they saw it, thinking that through the motive and the apparent result the means would be forgiven them. Dire illusion! A misrepresentation is only a bill drawn at long date: it will mature after the successes of having "raised the wind" have passed away. Truth cannot be juggled with or put off. Who can know another's heart? Who can know the springs of action in another, when he has not yet been able to sound the depths of good and evil within himself?

Or again, the claimant to mediatorship, either with a God, an Angelic Being, or a Mahatma, for they are all the same as far as the recipient of messages and directions is concerned, may be utterly or partially deceived either by himself or by some masquerading intelligence external to himself. [16]

The Christian who tells you how you will "find Christ" and the mediator who tells you how you will "find your Guru" differ somewhat in their methods, but both begin with "if," and a long following list of ideal conditions, and therefore as regards proof, so far, both are equal.

The aspirant to chelaship must be tested in the world in every manner. Heavily indeed is he punished for lack of discrimination and for credulity, or for accepting claims and building on them without having probed these to the very bottom. Credulity is punished almost as heavily apparently as lack of heart, and on nothing than this latter can karmic blows fall heavier. And this is just; for discrimination, straightforward understanding of everything, as far as we can go, and then resisting the temptation to go further and treat hypotheses as facts, or take statements as such, however enticing, is the very root from which knowledge springs.


Vol. I (1874-78) lxxx + 570 pp.
Vol. II (1879-80) xlvi + 590 pp.
Vol. III (1881-82) xxxviii + 583 pp.
Vol. IV (1882-83) xliv + 718 pp.
Vol. V (1883) xxxii + 416 pp.
Vol. VI (1883-85) liv + 481 pp.
Vol. VII (1886-87) xxiv + 433 pp.
Vol. VIII (1887) xxviii + 507 pp.
Vol. IX (1888) xxx + 487 pp.
Vol. X (1888-89) xxxvi +461 pp.
Vol. XI (1889) xxxvi + 632 pp.
From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan (1883-86) lxviii + 719 pp.
Isis Unveiled (1877): Vol I, [64] + xlvi + (6) + 657 pp.; Vol. II, iv + (6) + 848 pp.
The Secret Doctrine (1888): Vol. I, [84] + xlviii + 696 pp.; Vol. II, xvi + 817 pp.
Vol. XII (ca. 800 pages) will appear at the end of 1980. Volumes XIII and XIV are almost ready in Manuscript form. Eventually a second volume of H.P.B.'s Russian stories in translation will be published. The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence will be published together in one Volume.
Order from: The Theosophical Publishing House, P.O. Box 270, Wheaton, Ill., 60187.