August 2019 Newsletter
The following articles are reproduced from the August 2019 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.
We Have to Popularise A Knowledge of Theosophy
By Geoffrey Hodson
Reprinted from Theosophy in Australia, June and August 1951 Editions
In the Theosophical Society, opinion is free. There are no theosophical orthodoxies, and therefore no heretics. This freedom of thought is part of the uniqueness of the Society amongst the public institutions of the modern world. Certain general conclusions do, however, tend to be drawn as the years of membership pass by. One of these is that the Society came into existence seventy-six years ago as a result of decision and action by certain Members of the Adept Brotherhood on this planet. That idea at once opens up a vast field of thought and research chiefly concerning the existence and nature of such a Brotherhood. I do not propose to enter that field. I shall rather consider some practical implications of the idea that this Movement is not of human origin, but that it was initiated by Supermen, using human agents, for the purpose enunciated in the title of this article: ‘We have to Popularise a Knowledge of Theosophy’ — a phrase which was used by the Maha-Chohan in his famous letter to A. P. Sinnett in 1881.
How may the implied intention of the Founders be fulfilled? Three factors are essential, I suggest. First, a clear knowledge of what Theosophy is. We must know the nature of that which we are to deliver to mankind.
Second, understanding of the Masters’ general idea in deciding to promulgate Theosophy.
Third, flexible but faithful adherence to fundamental principles in both doctrine expounded and methods employed.
First, then, what is the account which the Masters Themselves give of the nature and origin of Theosophy? Here is one of many statements:
‘The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate of all systems . . . the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, set down and explain. . . .
‘The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane observer, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. . . .
‘[Theosophy] is an uninterrupted record, covering thousands of generations of Seers, whose respective experiences were made to test and verify the traditions, passed on orally by one early race to another, of the teaching of higher and exalted Beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity.
‘[They did this] by checking, testing and verifying, in every department of Nature, the traditions of old, by the independent visions of great Adepts; that is to say, men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations, to the utmost possible degree.
‘No vision of one Adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions — so obtained as to stand as independent evidence — of other Adepts, and by centuries of experience’ (Extract from The Secret Doctrine).
Such, in part, are the stated nature and the origin of Theosophy. In order to offer a fragment of this accumulated Wisdom of the ages to the world, the Masters founded the Theosophical Society seventy-six years ago.
What, may we presume, was the general idea in the Masters’ minds?
‘Think you the truth has been shown you for your sole advantage? That we have broken the silence of centuries for the profit of a handful of dreamers only?’ (Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 24)
‘We seek to bring men to sacrifice their personality — a passing flash — for the welfare of the whole humanity, hence for their own immortal Egos, a part of the latter, as human’ (Mahatma Letters, 231).
The wonderful letter from the Maha-Chohan, written in 1881, says: ‘It is time that Theosophy should enter the arena’. This very great Adept, ‘to whose insight the future lies like an open page’, wrote:
‘Those “intellectual classes”, reacting upon the ignorant masses which they attract, and which look up to them as noble and fit examples to follow, degrade and morally ruin those they ought to protect and guide. Between degrading superstition and still more degrading brutal materialism, the white dove of truth has hardly room where to rest her weary unwelcome foot.
‘It is time that Theosophy should enter the arena; . . .
‘In view of the ever-increasing triumph and at the same time misuse of free-thought and liberty (the universal reign of Satan, Eliphas Levi would have called it), how is the combative natural instinct of man to be restrained from inflicting hitherto unheard of cruelty and enormities, tyranny, injustice, etc., if not through the soothing influence of a brotherhood, and of the practical application of Buddha’s esoteric doctrines?’ (Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 5, 6).
This, then, was the hope, the general idea, seventy-six years ago. For this, great Adepts sacrificed a measure of Their silence and solitude, gave up part of the freedom which with inconceivable effort and suffering They had attained.
I shall quote Their own words as revealed in letters written by Them or at Their direction. One of the Masters wrote to Mr A. P. Sinnett as follows: ‘One or two of us hoped that the world had so far advanced intellectually, if not intuitionally, that the occult doctrine might gain an intellectual acceptance, and the impulse be given for a new cycle of occult research’ (Mahatma Letters, 263).
‘The Chiefs want a “Brotherhood of Humanity”, a real Universal Fraternity started; an institution which would make itself known throughout the world and arrest the attention of the highest minds’ (Mahatma Letters, 24).
‘Our chief aim is to deliver humanity of this nightmare [of intolerant and dogmatic orthodoxy], to teach men virtue for its own sake, and to walk in life relying on himself instead of leaning on a theological crutch, that for countless ages was the direct cause of nearly all human misery’ (Mahatma Letters, 53).
Here is an extract from a letter from the Master K. H. to Miss Francesca Arundale, received at Elberfeld, Germany, in 1884:
‘The members of the London Lodge have such an opportunity as seldom comes to men. A movement calculated to benefit the English-speaking world is in their custody. If they do their whole duty, the progress of materialism, the increase of dangerous self-indulgence and the tendency towards spiritual suicide can be checked . . . The pendulum has swung from the extreme of blind faith towards the extreme of materialistic scepticism and nothing can stop it save Theosophy. Is not this a thing worth working for, to save those nations from the doom their ignorance is preparing for them?’ — (Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 1881-1888, T.P.H., Adyar).
What has been said concerning the method of work? H. P. Blavatsky, writing to Mr A. P. Sinnett, said: ‘Our Society was established to bring together people as searchers after truth, independent thinkers, one having no right to force his opinion on the other’ (Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, 221).
The method, then, included the maintenance of freedom of thought. ‘No teacher or writer, from H. P. Blavatsky downwards, has any authority to impose his teachings or opinions on members. Every member has an equal right to attach himself to any teacher or to any school of thought which he may choose, but has no right to force his choice on any other. Neither a candidate for any office, nor any voter, can be rendered ineligible to stand or to vote, because of any opinion he may hold, or because of membership in any school of thought to which he may belong. Opinion or beliefs neither bestow privileges nor inflict penalties. The Members of the General Council earnestly request every member of the Theosophical Society to maintain, defend and act upon these fundamental principles of the Society, and also fearlessly to exercise his own right of liberty of thought and of expression thereof, within the limits of courtesy and consideration for others’. (Part of the Resolution passed by the General Council of the Theosophical Society on December 23, 1929.)
Likewise the freedom of the whole Society has been defined in a declaration passed by the General Council on December 26, 1950. The declaration affirms the independence of the Society from all other movements, such as Freemasonry, the Liberal Catholic Church, etc., in part as follows:
‘The Theosophical Society, while co-operating with all other bodies whose aims and activities make such co-operation possible, is and must remain an organization entirely independent of them, not committed to any objects, save its own, and intent on developing its own work on the broadest and most inclusive lines, so as to move towards its own goal as indicated in and by the pursuit of those objects and that Divine Wisdom which, in the abstract, is implicit in the title The Theosophical Society.
‘Since Universal Brotherhood and the Wisdom are undefined and unlimited, and since there is complete freedom for each and every member of the Society in thought and action, the Society seeks ever to maintain its own distinctive and unique character by remaining free of every attachment and affiliation to any other organization’.
Since the founding, throughout the seventy-six years which have followed right down to the present day, capacity, effort, devotion, and joyful sacrifice of members have established the Theosophical Society throughout the world and made it an instrument for the spreading of Theosophy in some fifty-six countries. It has survived many internal shakings and two World Wars. It is increasing in numbers and influence today. True, amongst the citizens of those fifty-six countries the numbers of Theosophists, and still more of active workers, are relatively small. Nevertheless, what might be termed a skeleton staff has come into being. In New Zealand, for example, there are about 900 members on the rolls to a population of 1,600,000. This represents the second highest percentage of Theosophists to population of the country, Iceland having the highest percentage of all. In Australia there are about 1,050 member on the rolls to a population of 8,500,000. The outer machinery of propaganda, especially literature and lecture programs, now exists, and these, as external aids are ready to our hands as we cross the threshold into the last quarter of the first century of the life of the Society.
The inner force which drives the machinery is abundantly available. It has three sources:
(1) Theosophy itself. Every true idea is a source of power. When the idea is enunciated, power is released
(2) The inspiration, blessing and vitalizing power of the Masters of the Wisdom. In his Presidential Address at the International Convention of 1950 Mr Jinarajadasa said:
‘Here I must make a statement for which I cannot give the slightest proof to anybody. I make it, not as the President of the Society, but as an individual member of fifty-six years standing. It is that since 1900 to this year of 1950 the watchful guardianship of the Society by the Adept Teachers has never ceased. They do not give orders, because already so much has been said by Them concerning the work we are to do, and They give us freedom to develop that work to the best of our judgement, even at the cost of any mistakes which we may commit. I know there are hundreds, if not indeed thousands, who feel that the guardianship of the Society by the Adept Teachers continues; but it is a topic on which there can be no discussion, since no proof can be given’.
(3) The love for the Society of its thousands of members, the devotion, the years and years of service without thought of self, the patient endurance of personal suffering and the hours and hours of solid, hard, often unseen, work without thought of reward — these have generated and still generate a mighty force which empowers, sustains and vitalizes the Theosophical Society.
Thus the instrument for the fulfilment the Masters’ plan exists and a mighty power is already driving it. The work waiting to be done, I suggest, is to teach fundamental Theosophy to mankind. Whilst the machinery must continually be modernized and new and up-to-date methods of presentation must constantly be devised and used, I submit that the selfsame, age-old, ageless truths constitute our message to the modern world.
Close integration with advances in modern thought should, admittedly, be maintained, the presentation of many Theosophical discoveries support Theosophical teachings, which can be presented in terms of modern thought and can be shown to have long been far in advance of it.
The application of these fundamental teachings to the solution of human problems, to the illumination of human minds, to the consoling of human hearts and to the direction of human lives — this, the practical value of Theosophy, needs also to be thought out and presented to the world as the great gift of the Elder Brethren to the humanity of our day.