Trân-Thi-Kim-Diêu – France
[The author is Chairperson of the European Federation and General Secretary of the French Section of the Theosophical Society. She has a deep concern for Theosophy and its future].
Every true spiritual teaching comprises three aspects: theory, which expounds its fundamental verities; practice, which experiments with these verities; and the testimony of the genuineness of the experimentation by those who practice.
Generally, for most of the established and organized religions, theory has become dogma while practice has lost its experimental value. As to the testimony of the genuineness of the experience, this aspect is almost non-existent, replaced long ago by blind faith under the argument of mystery. This has a common and obvious reason: all these religions have lost the vivifying contact with their founder.
The third and last aspect, which is the testimony of genuineness by those who practice the spiritual life, is bound to give proof that the teaching is true – that is, non-eroded by time and non-polluted by the action of human thought. In addition, it has to prove that the experience of the teaching leads those who practice towards an ever-greater understanding that will cancel or refute the wrong assertions brought into the doctrine. This experience constitutes the distinctive mark of the theosophical doctrine. How can we link Theosophy and the Theosophical Society to the three aspects mentioned?
Firtsly, what is Theosophy? In the famous message called The Maha Chohan's letter [1: 9] it is said in substance that religion and philosophy, if true, must offer an answer to all human problems. These problems have not found any satisfactory answer in the organized religions so far practiced. The current moral state of humanity is evidence that the significance of a true spiritual teaching has not been understood by most people.
Why is it that Theosophy, which is meant to be the source of solutions, has not provided at first sight the expected answers to benefit ailing humanity? The Theosophical doctrine does not contain any dogma, or any literature having the imprimatur seal. Also, it does not have any established authority. At first glance it looks like a disassembled body. This causes Theosophy to be accused of syncretism. Nevertheless, when the inner vision of a student has grown and widened through study and reflection, concepts can be better constructed into a harmonious theory which satisfies reason.
Yet, with all the knowledge acquired, nobody can define Theosophy. And that is perhaps for the better, because to define is to confine, whilst Theosophy, which deals with the Divine Wisdom, is limitless. How then can one experiment with a theory that cannot be defined?
Although it cannot be defined, the Theosophical doctrine is based on a few fundamental verities. To proclaim the One-Life is to affirm one of those verities. To deny separateness is to assert the same truth. To form a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood without distinction of race, caste, sex, color, or creed, constitutes the experience of this truth that is the One-Life. This truth remains theoretical as long as the experience of forming a nucleus of Brotherhood is not completed by the students.
How then to evaluate the degree of success or failure of the experience in order to testify to the genuineness of the doctrine? The testimony can be lived at least at two levels: the collective one, concerning the Theosophical Society as a group of individuals, and the individual level, concerning each of its members. Though it is difficult to judge the collective level, since this necessitates a global vision of its actual state on the subtle planes, one can say that on the visible plane the theosophical ideas have been well disseminated for more than a century. They have given birth to a multitude of movements, some of which claim their affiliation to the TS, whilst others deliberately ignore their origin. The Theosophical Society is no different from its members; each one of whom by their understanding and actions contributes undoubtedly to the collective spiritual level of the Society as well as its impact in the world.
We all know that the Theosophical Society was founded in the 19th century to oppose materialism and egoism. After more than one hundred years of existence and activity, it seems that its task and role are needed more than ever. The human society with more powerful appealing forms and effective organization often misuses technological progress for the intensive exploitation of human desires and fears. Unrestrained materialism, based on generalized greed, in covenant with religious dogmatism fed by ignorance and mental laziness, seems to hold the monopoly of dictating the behavior of many human beings.
The experiment of Theosophical action bears consideration. We may ask, who will hear better the voice of reason combined with the concern for the spiritual well-being of fellow human beings, but the members of the Theosophical Society? The latter, meant to be the cornerstone of future religions [1: 3], has to provide society with individuals who are capable of resisting materialism's new forms of attack and of helping their fellows to do the same. To learn to relinquish temptations – constantly fed by organized malice, to learn to get rid of all this amalgam of so-called religions, managed by a class of salaried priests, and to denounce the pseudo-mystic fair marketed by cheap gurus – means to prevent the evil-minded from poisoning the atmosphere of subtle regions of existence. In that way, the outpost of the Army of Light can be formed. Only those who have good will and who aspire towards that which is lofty can be enrolled.
The sharing of ideas which are, after all, different facets of the insight of the doctrine, should not become a contest of eloquence where the winner affirms his superiority as an undisputed and incontestable authority. This sharing is meant on the contrary to lead students of Theosophy towards a level of consciousness where awareness is de facto. Naturally, this is only possible after serious study and with an open mind. Moreover, the student would keep a distance from book learning which produces brains stuffed with undigested concepts which sooner or later, become mechanically repeated formulas.
However, study and reflection lead the student to self-enquiry. The student comes to the state of knowing what and when he knows, as well as what and when he does not know. In other words, while knowing, one is aware of what remains to be learned. The mind thus remains open, making possible the breaking-through of new insights that will create new pathways in the brain. These connections act as channels for new ideas and understanding. It seems it is the only effective way to prevent condescension and bigotry.
It is easy to see that dogmatism acts as a scourge on established religions. More courage is needed to be aware that this phenomenon can also strike the Theosophical movement. The fundamentalists who refer solely to The Secret Doctrine and to the writings of Madame Blavatsky, as well as the unreasonably passionate admirers of Krishnamurti could be the Pharisees of this century, unless they undergo a complete self-transformation.
As history often repeats itself, the Theosophical Society has a duty to avoid the death-trap of dogmatism because “the crest wave of intellectual advancement must be taken hold of and guided into Spirituality.” [2: 99] The mind can therefore be revolutionized so that it can reach the inconceivable heights of the Spirit. Thus it contributes to the “fane of imperishable rocks” mentioned in one of the Mahatma Letters:
For countless generations hath the adept builded a fane of imperishable rocks, a giant’s Tower of Infinite Thought, wherein the Titan dwelt, and will yet, if need be, dwell alone, emerging from it but at the end of every cycle, to invite the elect of mankind to co-operate with him and help in his turn enlighten superstitious man. [3: 51]
Today superstition is still the root-scourge from which originate many others such as obscurantism, cruelty and indifference, for example. The need to eat meat, the belief in vicarious atonement, the conviction, conscious or unconscious, of being separate from others, are some of the consequences of superstition manifested at different levels. To help humanity to free itself from superstition at every level is still one of the main tasks of the Theosophical Society. Moreover, it seems that this task is endless.
Humanity, being a collective entity, renews itself constantly by using new forms from the infinite reservoir of nature; the animal souls that reach maturity in their individualization are likely to take human forms soon. The doors between different realms of nature, which were closed and normally should remain closed for a long period of time, are in danger of being broken. This is due to the pressure of irresponsible actions of some scientists who constantly show their disdain for Nature by gambling with Her Laws as apprentice sorcerers, and to the rampant greed of those who unscrupulously inflict on animals unnatural and shameful treatments.
Just think about all the genetic engineering and poisoned food given to defenseless animals with the aim to increase profit. Much has been said about the consequences of those treatments upon the health of people who eat these products and corpses of animals slaughtered in pain and suffering. Little is said about, and few are concerned with, the much more serious occult consequence – the fracture of the door between different kingdoms in Nature.
Each member of the Theosophical Society, to the extent he or she is concerned with true occultism, could try to understand the great problems of humanity in the light of this science and solve them with the best of his or her understanding. To this effect, it is important to discriminate between the science of occultism and the occult arts, and all the fuss of cheap esotericism which is flourishing in many places. Each one of us could learn to bring a bit of light to the world of darkness. And in doing so, we have to be aware not to be moralizing towards our fellow human beings and avoid making them feel guilty. The Theosophical Society was founded on the universal basis of the One-Life by the constant endeavor of successive generations of altruistic workers with the benediction of our Elder Brothers. It is to be avoided to become, now or later, an ivory tower used as a privileged place of debate about somewhat metaphysical topics by a self-styled elect indulging in mutual congratulations whilst sipping the writings of the founders and basking in the secure sun of eternal life.
It is clear that any understanding of Theosophical teaching would necessarily be embodied in unselfish service of all that lives. This service – beyond the benefit of visible well-being and good common sense – should be anchored in goodness or universal love that is in fact the very foundation of true brotherhood. If it is delightful to see the innocent smile of a young child whose mind is still in the process of formation and not yet spoiled by the sense of ego, it is more touching to observe Universal Love expressing itself amongst co-disciples of Theosophy. More rare than gold, more precious than any possession on earth, this love, when manifested in terms of infallible solidarity, becomes an invincible armour against any attack of darkness. Since the fault through which darkness might break is embedded in the sense of ego, forming a nucleus of universal brotherhood is no different from surpassing and transcending one's own ego.
Inner growth is the other experiment. To oppose obscurantism and to serve humanity are the two main pillars of our action in the outer world. In parallel, to grow inwardly is the motivation of our inner action. Indeed, this limitless growth will lead the student towards higher doors of Nature and will expand his or her consciousness towards refined regions located beyond the human kingdom. The access to these crystal-clear regions cannot be forced by magic, nor can they be reached by the mere wishes of lukewarm hearts. Rather, it unfolds as an inevitable consequence of the natural growth of that soul which burns with constant ardor for the loftiest ideal.
This growth can be realized by an active preparation made of self-transformation, which is purification and which sooner or later will amount to the dissolution of the sense of ego. Through self-purification, understanding grows and matures with studies, reflection and meditation.
Studies let students examine fundamental ideas of the Theosophical doctrine. Reflection helps observe one's own behavior, actions and reactions, as well as one's deep motivations. Naturally, this necessitates a certain practice in order to see as far as possible the movements of mood, emotions and thoughts taking place, developing, and finally disappearing into the background of consciousness.
A quiet inner attitude of the mind generates a pre-disposition to attention prior to meditation. Meditation is not only the practice of some techniques by the body or the mind. It is not either the self-suggestive process of imagination, which is merely an expression of thwarted desires, nor is it the mere absence of images, emotions and words resulting from a dull mind. But, in a mind cleansed of all these phenomena emerges a state which is at the same time dynamic and refined; this state is watchfulness.
The testimony is important. These altruistic actions achieved in service of humanity to oppose obscurantism with studies, reflection, as well as self-purification and a meditative disposition of the mind are not sufficient for a theosophical foundation.
Theosophical teachings – if they are true – have the characteristic of remaining unscathed by time and thought. A Theosophist can testify to the genuineness of the teaching by giving it the element of irrefutability. History tells us that after his illumination, Gautama the Buddha was asked to give proof of it. As an answer, he touched the earth as a witness, showing by this mudra that his experience of illumination was as irrefutable as the reality of the earth.
This testimony cannot be given either by co-disciples or by institutional hierarchies. Each soul, before acquiring the merit of being directly instructed by the Elder Brothers, is destined to experiment for itself the truths which it has learned, assimilated and lived. Each one is meant to “be a lamp unto oneself,” as advised by the Dhammapada. The guidance comes from the innermost depths of oneself where, unceasingly, aspiration “to that which has neither substance nor existence” [4: 27] burns with a high, clear and steady flame.
Learning to know his lower nature and to master it, the student learns to observe life, the heart of human beings and his own heart as exhorts Light on the Path:
Regard earnestly all the life that surrounds you.
Learn to look intelligently into the hearts of men.
Regard most earnestly your own heart.
For through your own heart comes the one light which can illuminate life and make it clear to your eyes. [4: 23–24]
Thus the student Theosophist will be able to perceive the true dimension of life. And observing Nature outward, and his consciousness inward, he can learn from Her the secrets concealed in deeper levels of consciousness and matter. According to The Mahatma Letters, the Adepts had explored these levels at the peril of their lives in a remote epoch of universal time. The inner faculties can be developed to the extent of introspective investigation. These faculties help the flowering of intuition and the growth of discernment.
Thus we come to the future of the Theosophical tradition which will rely upon those individuals who consent to lead pure lives based on goodness and who actively work to get humanity out of obscurantism by co-operating with the Titan, whenever he emerges, “until the foundations of a new continent of thought are so firmly built that no amount of opposition and ignorant malice guided by the Brethren of the Shadow will be found to prevail.” [3: 51]
These individuals who are psychologically independent and who volunteer to submit themselves to the constraints necessary for the spiritual evolution of humanity, will not admit any fixed orthodoxy. They will accept neither any superficial hierarchy nor any uniformity. However, they will constitute an authentic, religious lineage which will lead a secular life, living in the world amongst people without being polluted by worldly preoccupation.
Keeping their feet grounded on earth, but having their heads anchored in space as the everlasting, and their hearts rooted in Universal Love, these individuals will be super-sensitive beings, capable of communicating with different levels of existence and consciousness. For them, spiritual insights will be transmitted from within, directly from the higher principles. They will have learned – in their turn – the capacity to explore matter with the inner instrument in order to verify by direct perception the occult facts announced in the doctrine. They will have learned to unify the love aspect to the will aspect of life. Indeed, they are individuals in flesh who have learned to master the passage bridging life and death, having learned to die consciously.
“Is it a dream?” you may ask. My answer is: No, it is not a dream. Such individuals do exist all over the world, yet the Theosophical Society has the dharma to be their nursery. A handful of souls, spiritually mature, are gathered in every generation in order to serve the Theosophical Society and, through it, humanity. This handful of “voluntary victims” [3: 51] meant to assist the Wiser in their immense task, will constitute the future of the Theosophical tradition. They will form an invincible army to oppose obscure forces until that day when Fraternal Love will seal them into an infallible solidarity.
This is not a dream, and even if it were a dream, who will dare to join and make it a sublime one? It is up to each one of us to answer.
The Mahā Chohan’s Letter, With commentary by C. Jinarājadāsa. Adyar: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1973.
Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom, First Series. Transcribed and compiled by C. Jinarājadāsa. 5th edition. Adyar: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1964.
The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K. H. Transcribed and compiled by A. T. Baker. Edited by Christmas Humphreys and Elsie Benjamin. 3rd revised edition. Adyar: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1972.
Light on the Path and Karma. Mabel Collins. London: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1917.