The Key to Theosophy
THE RELATIONS OF THE THEOSOPHICAL
SOCIETY TO THEOSOPHY
ENQUIRER. Is moral elevation, then, the principal thing insisted
upon in your Society?
THEOSOPHIST. Undoubtedly! He who would be a true Theosophist must
bring himself to live as one.
ENQUIRER. If so, then, as I remarked before, the behaviour of some members strangely belies this fundamental rule.
THEOSOPHIST. Indeed it does. But this cannot be helped among us,
any more than amongst those who call themselves Christians and act like fiends.
This is no fault of our statutes and rules, but that of human nature. Even in
some exoteric public branches, the members pledge themselves on their “Higher
Self” to live the life prescribed by Theosophy. They have to bring
their Divine Self to guide their every thought and action, every day
and at every moment of their lives. A true Theosophist ought “to deal justly
and walk humbly.”
ENQUIRER. What do you mean by this?
THEOSOPHIST. Simply this: the one self has to forget itself for
the many selves. Let me answer you in the words of a true Philaletheian, an F.
T. S., who has beautifully expressed it in the Theosophist: “What
every man needs first is to find himself, and then take an honest inventory of
his subjective possessions, and, bad or bankrupt as it may be, it is not beyond
redemption if we set about it in earnest.” But how many do? All are willing to
work for their own development and progress; very few for those of others. To
quote the same writer again: “Men have been deceived and deluded long enough;
they must break their idols, put away their shams, and go to work for
themselves—nay, there is one little word too much or too many, for he who
works for himself had better not work at all; rather let him work himself for
others, for all. For every flower of love and charity he plants in his
neighbour’s garden, a loathsome weed will disappear from his own, and so this
garden of the gods—Humanity—shall blossom as a rose. In all Bibles, all
religions, this is plainly set forth—but designing men have at first
misinterpreted and finally emasculated, materialised, besotted them. It does not
require a new revelation. Let every man be a revelation unto himself. Let once
man’s immortal spirit take possession of the temple of his body, drive out the
money-changers and every unclean thing, and his own divine humanity will redeem
him, for when he is thus at one with himself he will know the ‘builder of the
ENQUIRER. This is pure Altruism, I confess.
THEOSOPHIST. It is. And if only one Fellow of the T. S. out of ten
would practise it ours would be a body of elect indeed. But there are those
among the outsiders who will always refuse to see the essential difference
between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, the idea and its imperfect
embodiment. Such would visit every sin and shortcoming of the vehicle, the human
body, on the pure spirit which sheds thereon its divine light. Is this just to
either? They throw stones at an association that tries to work up to, and for
the propagation of, its ideal with most tremendous odds against it. Some vilify
the Theosophical Society only because it presumes to attempt to do that in which
other systems—Church and State Christianity pre-eminently—have failed most
egregiously; others because they would fain preserve the existing state of
things: Pharisees and Sadducees in the seat of Moses, and publicans and sinners
revelling in high places, as under the Roman Empire during its decadence.
Fair-minded people, at any rate, ought to remember that the man who does all he
can, does as much as he who has achieved the most, in this world of relative
possibilities. This is a simple truism, an axiom supported for believers in the
Gospels by the parable of the talents given by their Master: the servant who
doubled his two talents was rewarded as much as that other
fellow-servant who had received five. To every man it is given “according to
his several ability.”
ENQUIRER. Yet it is rather difficult to draw the line of demarcation between the abstract and the concrete in this case, as we have only the latter to form our judgment by.
THEOSOPHIST. Then why make an exception for the T. S.? Justice,
like charity, ought to begin at home. Will you revile and scoff at the “Sermon
on the Mount” because your social, political and even religious laws have, so
far, not only failed to carry out its precepts in their spirit, but even in
their dead letter? Abolish the oath in Courts, Parliament, Army and everywhere,
and do as the Quakers do, if you will call yourselves Christians.
Abolish the Courts themselves, for if you would follow the Commandments of
Christ, you have to give away your coat to him who deprives you of your cloak,
and turn your left cheek to the bully who smites you on the right. “Resist not
evil, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate
you,” for “whosoever shall break one of the least of these Commandments and
shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven,”
and “whosoever shall say ‘Thou fool’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
And why should you judge, if you would not be judged in your turn? Insist that
between Theosophy and the Theosophical Society there is no difference, and
forthwith you lay the system of Christianity and its very essence open to the
same charges, only in a more serious form.
ENQUIRER. Why more serious?
THEOSOPHIST. Because, while the leaders of the Theosophical
movement, recognising fully their shortcomings, try all they can do to amend
their ways and uproot the evil existing in the Society; and while their rules
and bye-laws are framed in the spirit of Theosophy, the Legislators and the
Churches of nations and countries which call themselves Christian do the
reverse. Our members, even the worst among them, are no worse than the average
Christian. Moreover, if the Western Theosophists experience so much difficulty
in leading the true Theosophical life, it is because they are all the children
of their generation. Every one of them was a Christian, bred and brought up in
the sophistry of his Church, his social customs, and even his paradoxical laws.
He was this before he became a Theosophist, or rather, a member of the Society
of that name, as it cannot be too often repeated that between the abstract ideal
and its vehicle there is a most important difference.
ABSTRACT AND THE CONCRETE
ENQUIRER. Please elucidate this difference a little more.
THEOSOPHIST. The Society is a great body of men and women,
composed of the most heterogeneous elements. Theosophy, in its abstract meaning,
is Divine Wisdom, or the aggregate of the knowledge and wisdom that underlie the
Universe—the homogeneity of eternal GOOD; and in its concrete sense it is the
sum total of the same as allotted to man by nature, on this earth, and no more.
Some members earnestly endeavour to realize and, so to speak, to objectivize
Theosophy in their lives; while others desire only to know of, not to practise
it; and others still may have joined the Society merely out of curiosity, or a
passing interest, or perhaps, again, because some of their friends belong to it.
How, then, can the system be judged by the standard of those who would assume
the name without any right to it? Is poetry or its muse to be measured only by
those would-be poets who afflict our ears? The Society can be regarded as the
embodiment of Theosophy only in its abstract motives; it can never presume to
call itself its concrete vehicle so long as human imperfections and weaknesses
are all represented in its body; otherwise the Society would be only repeating
the great error and the outflowing sacrileges of the so-called Churches of
Christ. If Eastern comparisons may be permitted, Theosophy is the shoreless
ocean of universal truth, love, and wisdom, reflecting its radiance on the
earth, while the Theosophical Society is only a visible bubble on that
reflection. Theosophy is divine nature, visible and invisible, and its Society
human nature trying to ascend to its divine parent. Theosophy, finally, is the
fixed eternal sun, and its Society the evanescent comet trying to settle in an
orbit to become a planet, ever revolving within the attraction of the sun of
truth. It was formed to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy
exists, and to help them to ascend towards it by studying and assimilating its
ENQUIRER. I thought you said you had no tenets or doctrines of your own?
THEOSOPHIST. No more we have. The Society has no wisdom of its own
to support or teach. It is simply the storehouse of all the truths uttered by
the great seers, initiates, and prophets of historic and even pre-historic ages;
at least, as many as it can get. Therefore, it is merely the channel through
which more or less of truth, found in the accumulated utterances of humanity’s
great teachers, is poured out into the world.
ENQUIRER. But is such truth unreachable outside of the society? Does not every Church claim the same?
THEOSOPHIST. Not at all. The undeniable existence of great
initiates—true “Sons of God”—shows that such wisdom was often reached by
isolated individuals, never, however, without the guidance of a master at first.
But most of the followers of such, when they became masters in their turn, have
dwarfed the catholicism of these teachings into the narrow groove of their own
sectarian dogmas. The commandments of a chosen master alone were then
adopted and followed, to the exclusion of all others—if followed at all, note
well, as in the case of the Sermon on the Mount. Each religion is thus a bit of
the divine truth, made to focus a vast panorama of human fancy which claimed to
represent and replace that truth.
ENQUIRER. But Theosophy, you say, is not a religion?
THEOSOPHIST. Most assuredly it is not, since it is the essence of
all religion and of absolute truth, a drop of which only underlies every creed.
To resort once more to metaphor. Theosophy, on earth, is like the white ray of
the spectrum, and every religion only one of the seven prismatic colours.
Ignoring all the others, and cursing them as false, every special coloured ray
claims not only priority, but to be that white ray itself, and
anathematizes even its own tints from light to dark, as heresies. Yet, as the
sun of truth rises higher and higher on the horizon of man’s perception, and
each coloured ray gradually fades out until it is finally re-absorbed in its
turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer with artificial polarizations,
but will find itself bathing in the pure colourless sunlight of eternal truth.
And this will be Theosophia.
ENQUIRER. Your claim is, then, that all the great religions are derived from Theosophy, and that it is by assimilating it that the world will be finally saved from the curse of its great illusions and errors?
THEOSOPHIST. Precisely so. And we add that our Theosophical
Society is the humble seed which, if watered and left to live, will finally
produce the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which is grafted on the Tree of
Life Eternal. For it is only by studying the various great religions and
philosophies of humanity, by comparing them dispassionately and with an unbiased
mind, that men can hope to arrive at the truth. It is especially by finding out
and noting their various points of agreement that we may achieve this result.
For no sooner do we arrive—either by study, or by being taught by someone who
knows—at their inner meaning, than we find, almost in every case, that it
expresses some great truth in Nature.
ENQUIRER. We have heard of a Golden Age that was, and what you describe would be a Golden Age to be realised at some future day. When shall it be?
THEOSOPHIST. Not before humanity, as a whole, feels the need of
it. A maxim in the Persian “Javidan Khirad” says: “Truth is of two
kinds—one manifest and self-evident; the other demanding incessantly new
demonstrations and proofs.” It is only when this latter kind of truth becomes
as universally obvious as it is now dim, and therefore liable to be distorted by
sophistry and casuistry; it is only when the two kinds will have become once
more one, that all people will be brought to see alike.
ENQUIRER. But surely those few who have felt the need of such truths must have made up their minds to believe in something definite? You tell me that, the Society having no doctrines of its own, every member may believe as he chooses and accept what he pleases. This looks as if the Theosophical Society was bent upon reviving the confusion of languages and beliefs of the Tower of Babel of old. Have you no beliefs in common?
THEOSOPHIST. What is meant by the Society having no tenets or
doctrines of its own is, that no special doctrines or beliefs are obligatory
on its members; but, of course, this applies only to the body as a whole. The
Society, as you were told, is divided into an outer and an inner body. Those who
belong to the latter have, of course, a philosophy, or—if you so prefer it—a
religious system of their own.
ENQUIRER. May we be told what it is?
THEOSOPHIST. We make no secret of it. It was outlined a few years
ago in the Theosophist and “Esoteric Buddhism,” and may be
found still more elaborated in the “Secret Doctrine.” It is based on the
oldest philosophy of the world, called the Wisdom-Religion or the Archaic
Doctrine. If you like, you may ask questions and have them explained.