Barbara Hebert – USA
Several years ago, I was talking with a friend who is an avid worker for Theosophy and the Theosophical Society. Before working for the Society, he had a prestigious and important career in a field that he loved. I asked him why he had decided to leave his job to work for the Theosophical Society. He very wisely said something along these lines: I realized that anyone could do the work that I was doing, but very few people can work to share the Ageless Wisdom. I was stunned by his response, realizing the truth in his simple statement. It has frequently been a topic of contemplation for me in the years since our conversation.
We, as theosophists, as students of the Ageless Wisdom, have a very special task. We are called upon to serve, but our true service comes in a very unique manner. Many of us work to help others who are homeless or need food. We work for justice and equity in the world. We work for ecological causes to save our mother, the Earth. However, if we apply the wisdom shared by my friend in the previous paragraph, we quickly realize that anyone can serve in these ways. In fact, many people across the world are serving in these ways. I’m not suggesting we stop our work in these areas, but I am suggesting that we also have another, and perhaps even more important, path of service.
We have a special task that only students of the Ageless Wisdom can perform. We are not more important than anyone else, nor are we more “special.” However, we are more responsible. Through our studies, we have learned so much. Dare I say, that while recognizing that our perceptions may change as study and experiences continue, we KNOW that all are part of the One Unity that stands behind the apparent diversity we see in the physical world. We KNOW that all are on the path of spiritual evolution. We KNOW that as one part of the Whole changes, then all parts of it must also change.
We KNOW these things in the depths of our being. And, once we know, we cannot un-know. We can certainly act in ways that are inimical to this knowledge, but we still KNOW. This is where the core of our responsibility lies: in our knowledge. As Krishnamurti says in At the Feet of the Master:
In all the world there are only two kinds of people-those who know, and those who do not know; and this knowledge is the thing which matters. What religion a man holds, to what race he belongs-these things are not important; the really important thing is this knowledge-the knowledge of God's plan for men. For God has a plan and that plan is evolution. When once a man has seen that and really knows it, he cannot help working for it and making himself one with it, because it is so glorious, so beautiful. So, because he knows, he is on God's side, standing for good and resisting evil, working for evolution and not for selfishness.
We have a responsibility, a very special and unique task, to serve humanity based on a deeper knowledge. No matter how much we work to provide food and shelter for those who need it; no matter how much we work for justice and equity; no matter how much we work on ecological issues; we will never end the suffering in our world. Hunger, homelessness, injustice, selfishness, and so on are symptoms of the suffering we see. They are horrifying and painful; yet, they are not the cause of suffering. The root cause of suffering in the world is a lack of understanding or awareness of the unity of all life.
This awareness, which we have as students of Theosophy, calls us to the task of alleviating the suffering that exists in the world. We do this through our very special task of self-transformation. For, as we transform ourselves, we transform the world. H.P. Blavatsky tells us, “It is an occult law moreover, that no man can rise superior to his individual failings without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part.” (The Key to Theosophy p. 137)
A very simple metaphor for HPB’s words: We have a glass of water. We put one drop of blue food coloring into it. We watch as the blue color swirls through the water and then slowly disappears. We can’t see it, but we know it’s there. As another drop of blue coloring is added, and then another, and so on, we begin to see the water take on a slightly blue tint. Eventually, the water will be transformed into a glass of blue water.
This is our special task! This is the task, or more accurately, the responsibility of all students of the Ageless Wisdom. We must rise above our failings—add drops of blue to the water of the All—and thus facilitate the transformation of all life.
Radha Burnier, former international president of the Theosophical Society, while working to alleviate the suffering of the world in external ways, also spoke to the importance of human regeneration. She saw Theosophy as not simply a teaching to be studied, but rather as a tool to be used for self-transformation. In her book, Human Regeneration, she writes:
Human society cannot change unless the individuals change, and the change must be in the direction of universality of outlook". She goes on to say, “The fundamental change is therefore from selfishness, which is also self-centeredness, self-preoccupation, and so forth, to a state of sympathy, harmony, and unity, where other people's well-being is realized to be of as much, if not more, importance than one's own.
She perceived this work as the fundamental work of the Theosophical Society. She continues:
I think the work of the Theosophical Society is to point to the challenge within, because it is of much greater importance to see it and deal with it than to go on dealing with what is outside. If we do not look at the source of the problem, but only at the effects, then temporary, partial, and superficial solutions are found….To me it is clear that the main work of the T.S. is to point to the internal change and to help the world to deal radically with its problems. We must not become a group of people who are only interested in altering structures, systems, and methods. I am not saying that we should not participate in bringing about changes externally. But that cannot be the fundamental work of the Society.
The Theosophical Society is simply an organization. In and of itself, it is nothing. The people who make up this organization are the Theosophical Society. Therefore, our fundamental work is to bring about internal change. This radical change will radically change the world.
Therefore, we have a very special task that only a very few (among the billions of individuals on this planet) can undertake. It is a very special task based on a deep understanding of the Ageless Wisdom. We must serve humanity through the most difficult task of all—looking within and working toward self-transformation. As we do this, we are transforming, not only ourselves but also all of humanity. As the consciousness of humanity expands, then the understanding and awareness of the unity of all life expands. In this way, we are ameliorating the suffering we see in our world. What an amazing and extraordinarily important task we have before us.
Radha Burnier, Human Regeneration. Theosophical Publishing House, 1991.