[The magazine Vidya http://www.theosophysb.org/site/publications.html , edited by associates of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Santa Barbara, USA, published the following article in its Summer 2015 issue; here is a slightly revised version.]
A warm welcome to each and all on this evening's consideration and honoring of the United Lodge of Theosophists, its aims, its mission, its purpose, and a thoughtful reflection about how we, as students, can help that movement go forward in the future. Inthe readings considered this evening we covered a vast number of ideas, of teaching, of instruction. Inthe words of Robert Crosbie, we have insights into how to become better students, how to follow both the lines that are laid down by greater minds and broader hearts, as well as how to establish our own continuity of purpose and direction. In the reading from H.P.B. we have an examination of the great law of karma, likened to that invisible deity who knows neither mercy nor wrath, but is fully considered an impersonal force, a law that restores harmony to the universe.
With the writings of William Quan Judge we have that sense of occult perception that he brought to many of his writings. He speaks of the nature of mind, and how mind is not like a great wall with a moat encircling and separating it from others; indeed, our thoughts are living things, reaching out and affecting all life around us.
Inthe concluding readings, again from Mr. Crosbie, we have insights into the great struggle that he faced. Mr. Judge called it the “transitional period,” but we know that that great cycle from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century brought with it great upheavals in politics, great discoveries in the realm of science. We know that people themselves both represent the cause and feel the effects of this great movement. So we have Mr. Crosbie establishing, bringing together the threads in the lines laid down by H.P.B. and Mr. Judge, and bringing them forth into the twentieth century as the United Lodge of Theosophists.
So, with that broad overview, let us look more closely at the first reading. In it, we have Mr. Crosbie's famous mantra, so to speak – that of unity, of study, of work. He points out that unity is the very focal point for our spiritual selves, as well as the basis for laying the groundwork for our mutual help and strength. 80 the idea of unity is very important, but he knows that unity itself is something to be discovered. The opening lines of that reading say that our own recognition of the truth of Theosophy does not put us in a position to enforce our ideas on another. There is a very organic feeling in Mr. Crosbie's writings – that these ideas are to be offered to the world, they are to take root in the minds of others, and have their own life, their own growth, their own beauty of expression. We honor other human beings by our recognition of that sanctity or sacredness of their own thought and study. The idea of studying, Mr. Crosbie says, is that we learn more about the nature of the great work. When he says that, we kind of tumble in our minds – What is this great movement? What is this great work? We see that there are ancient teachers from the time of Plato and before who are only names in history, but seem to resonate with these Theosophical truths. We think of the movement as something that was brought and made available through the great sacrifice of H.P.B., but she pointed to a lineage of teachers and an expression of wisdom that goes beyond the time and place of the nineteenth century. The work, Mr. Crosbie says, is the work we do upon ourselves, and that is to be done first, last, and always for others. He points out that work is the field where we put ideas into practice that we gain an appreciation of how to do better through attempts at applying them. The key here is that no effort is wasted; everything we do is in a field of learning. Mr. Crosbie's words give us hope and consolation that if we stick with the idea of Unity, if we are able to grow, if we are able to appreciate the insights and struggles in another's life, then these can be put to use and make better our attempts to apply the philosophy.
He points out that there is no need to tear down another’s idea. The motto of the Theosophical Movement is “There is no religion higher than Truth.” That which is true will be sustained in times of error. Karma, the great teacher, the great awakener to consciousness, will bring its lessons. That which created a disharmony will have its fruits, and bring about the opportunity for greater unity, greater strength, and greater harmony.
So perhaps with that keynote we can consider H.P.B.'s writings on the topic of karma. She calls it “that great unknown deity,” and she points out that the Wisdom Religion is without the boundaries of time, that it is immemorial. The idea in karma, she points out, is echoed in other religions. Specifically she mentions that teaching from the Bible, which says that with whatever ye mete, that will be rendered back to you, that all of the causes we generate will have a like effect upon us, that there is no separation truly between cause and effect. This teaching itself is echoed in The Voice of the Silence, the idea that even the adepts must let effects run their course; that the harmony of nature, the bringing to balance of disharmony is the natural way of life; it is the way nature works, and as students we try to work with nature and help on the efforts of nature. She puts forth the idea that from this view of karma we can have restrictive laws, but it is not our purpose to engage in punitive practices, and to this student it seems that what we learn from that is that we do not become the judges of others, but we take the position of a higher sense of understanding and only in necessary circumstances exercise restrictive powers. The great challenge is said to be ignorance and selfishness, and when these are eliminated, like the great inner cleansing that is portrayed in The Voice of the Silence, the laws themselves in the social context will become better.
So from the teachings of karma, we get the idea that it always works from within, without, from above, below and that we follow a pattern, a law set in nature to bring about change within society. Her closing remark in that second reading says, “Make men feel and recognize in their innermost hearts what is their real, true duty to all men. And every old abuse of power, every iniquitous law in the national policy, based on human, social or political selfishness will disappear of itself.” So, here, an understanding of karma brings about a response and a call to duty. What is our duty? Like Arjuna we become searchers after that sense of duty, become learners in how to perform duty, become true listeners to those who have performed greater dharma, met greater challenges, greater responsibilities so that we can learn from them.
Mr. Judge’s reading, as we mentioned before, speaks of the occult dynamics of human thought. He points to a letter that was written by the Masters to H.P.B that put forth the idea that each member could become a centre. We talk about following lines that have been laid down, and in this article we have the idea that we, too, in our humble way, can be centres to uplift our community, bring forth a general betterment. The reading says that when we go around with thoughts in our head that are despairing or discouraging, it affects the atmosphere around us; so we are encouraged to put forth the very highest that we can consider, we are encouraged to send out the most generous feelings and thoughts that we can muster. Sometimes this is a challenge, but, as was stated before, the idea is, “Try, try, ever keep trying.” It is not the success or failure that is measured by external events, by people outside of us, but it is the soul growth from within.
This idea is echoed again in one of t e last readings, where it is stated that really the personality – that which is the mask, that which is the outside surface of things – that is what is always on the judgment stand that is oftentimes what we are perceived as, how our actions are judged. But the personality of itself has no power. What does have power is the soul within, and so all true change, all true dynamics for the spreading of knowledge as well as the compassionate expression of ideas in practice, rest upon the soul. The soul has neither birth nor death. The whole idea of reincarnation gives us hope, because no matter what circumstances we are bound by, no matter what karmic entanglement we feel bound and engaged in, there is always a way of taking a broader perspective, there is a way of standing apart from a situation or dynamic, and seeing a greater purpose, a greater lesson, something to derive meaning from that situation or lesson.
The other thought we would want to draw attention to is that Mr. Judge calls this time in the Theosophical Movement one of great fluidity. He says it has a certain echoing back to a time when the great Dhyanis gave forth the prototypes that formed the very elements of evolution; and of course we cannot say we fully understand this, but we certainly can take the idea and try to understand what is fluid in our situation, where we are able to make a difference, where we can change a current or a pattern of thought or behavior for the betterment of the whole. And he draws our attention to that rather mysterious statement that we are not working for any definite organization of the future, it is not that this building or this structure will exist in a hundred years, but the very quality of our efforts has to do with the inner principles of man, with the manas and the buddhi, with the thinking and the intuition, and so although he says it seems indefinite, it is very definite. It has to do with those qualities that will persist over time, those qualities that will form matrices of inner action and learning in times to come.
In the fourth reading, Mr. Crosbie gives us some, what we can perhaps call tips, on how we can be better students. He talks about becoming effective instruments in the work, and we might be perhaps a little put off by saying, “Why, I don't want to be an instrument, that sounds rather mechanical” but the message here is that we all live in harmony together, and the way we do that is, first, by focusing within, by trying to understand what the message of the teachers is, what it means to serve humanity, how to take the great truths of Theosophy and make them living powers in our lives. He points to what we could call the first of the Buddha's Eightfold Path that everything begins with “right understanding.” Mr. Crosbie says that everything begins in thought, that no situation can rise higher than the thought we bring to it. So it is important always to take the highest perspective we can and know that all action follows from thought, and we often get into grooves of thinking, and we do not step back and take a fresh look; we don't take a moment and try to understand the perspective of another. 8helley once said that the great secret of morals is love. Love is the ability to look beyond our own selfishness, to look beyond our own network of thought and ideas and try to see something through the eyes of another, and that is certainly part of the great discipline of being, in a true sense, an instrument of the Work. He closes with the idea that it is philosophy, love of wisdom and practice that will bring us to new and greater points of interconnection and help for others.
The fifth reading is a collation from the writings in The Friendly Philosopher. Those ideas that Mr. Crosbie expressed when the United Lodge of Theosophists was beginning to be formulated or forming, he sent out in letters. He recognized the great need for unity, for study, for work; he recognized the problems with any organization. Any group of human beings will have its struggles. There will be personalities because we come bearing the karmic fruit of past lives and past encounters, and these we have to learn to recognize for ourselves. And so the golden thread that he provided was the idea that this was to be an organization that was never putting forth an individual, but only putting forth an idea or ideas, that we would come together in meetings, not because X or Y was giving a talk, or not because X or Y was even there, but that we would be drawn to meetings, to the great work, simply on the merits of that work itself. In some sense it is learning to love something apart from every outside aspect to it, looking beyond the face and looking into the eyes and seeing the soul. So we owe Mr. Crosbie a great debt for this idea that we subdue as best we can our own selfishness, that we limit the idea of putting forth something with our personalities and that we greet each other and work with each other not as separate and exterior personalities, but try to greet each other and work with each other as souls. We recognize that we have had great challenges in the past and that in the future we can have great successes, but not because we seek success, but because we seek to serve those, study at the feet of those who have such a profound understanding, both of human nature and of the great need of humanity.