Sri Raghavan Iyer – USA
The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York with three objects, the first of which was the formation of a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood. The second object was the comparative study of religions, sciences and philosophies, ancient and modern, so that all men and women, including Americans, might come to salute every true witness in a long, largely unknown but unbroken history of accumulated wisdom. Isis Unveiled taught the perennial philosophy (Philosophia Perennis) and invited its true students to find Ariadne's thread, a golden thread hidden behind the veil of form and symbol, in every great tradition of thought, philosophy, religious aspiration and myth. It is the very basis of real science, and it is the forgotten inspiration behind the founding of the Royal Society as well as much of the significant work of men like Edison, a Fellow of the Theosophical Society, and some other scientists influenced by the wisdom of The Secret Doctrine.
When we consider the efforts of sincere Theosophists to apply this philosophy to their lives, in accordance with the third object of the Theosophical Society, we must think of those moments which are the first concern of any person of any age seeking to find meaning within the flux of experiences: the moment of birth and the moment of death. We can also think of the line that threads these moments. Each of us discovers this entirely for oneself, exercising the supreme prerogative of a human being, the privilege of self-reflective consciousness, the gift of the gods, the Dhyanis and Manasaputras, seeking out what in one's whole life was most quintessentially sacred. We live in a society wherein fragmentation of consciousness is widespread and confusion prevails. In such times of trouble, students of Theosophia or Brahma Vach are wise in following the advice given by Merlin to Arthur: "Go back to the original moment."
Beginnings are important, endings are inevitable and change is constant in a universe of ceaseless transformation. The wheel revolves constantly faster in the Age of Iron, and everything changes so rapidly that irrelevant analyses and outmoded diagnoses crowd the scene. The wise recognize the timeless truth of the teachings of Lord Krishna: that a person is wise to meditate upon birth, death, decay, sickness and error. This is the most ancient wisdom, and it is as fresh today as it was over five thousand years ago, thanks to the sacrificial ideation of the mighty Brotherhood of silent Teachers who worship the Nameless and Ineffable. They work in perfect harmony through willing and cheerful obedience to the Maha Chohan, who wanted a Brotherhood of Humanity to be initiated and knew that it would not happen at once, but that the line must and would be kept unbroken. In all theosophical assemblies and associations there are those self-determining agents who are self-elected to serve as the compassionate custodians of the living tradition of the primordial teaching of Gupta Vidya for the sake of all.
Gupta Vidya is like an ancient Banyan tree. Some come to sit in its shade, while others come to exchange words and seek friends. Still others come to pick fruit. Nature is generous. Some come to sit in the presence of teachers to receive instruction in the mighty power of real meditation, to secure help in self-examination. All are welcome. The antiquity and enormity of the tree are beyond the capacity of any person in any period of history to enclose in a definition or formulation. Great Teachers point beyond themselves to that which is beyond formulation, which is ineffable and indefinable. They seek to make alive and to make real for every man the priceless boon of learning truth spoken of in The Voice of the Silence.
Pythagoras, around 530 B.C., with the prescience of a man who had prepared himself through twenty-two years of training in the Egyptian Mysteries, came to the small town of Krotona. He spent twenty years there laying the foundations of a school and a college for the sake of establishing in the Near East, and in what subsequently became the western world, science (symbolized by the Pythagorean sphere), religion (symbolized by the Tetraktys), and philosophy (a term that he devised). When asked, "Are you a wise man?" he said, "I am a man who is in love with wisdom, a philosopher, (philosophos)." Any man who loves — like a child, like a teenager, like all human beings — but loves with a wisdom sufficient to care for love itself, to treasure it, and to prize it, becomes like the blooming lotus. So he exercises the privilege and the right extended to every human being. Independent of authorities and experts, independent of the clash of rival and changing fashions, fads, isms, sects and systems, he or she may exercise the privilege of becoming a true philosopher, of reflecting upon the long journey. Every person is a nomad. The journey begins we know not where. It leads we know not whither. In a world which is like a stage, in which all the players are pilgrims, the pilgrimage is the thing. What is unique, precious and private to each one can only be partly known or shared imperfectly with even the closest friends. Light on the Path teaches that no man is our enemy, no man is our friend, but that all alike are our teachers. Our enemy is a mystery, a problem that must be solved even though it take ages. Our friend is an extension of ourself, a riddle hard to read. Only one thing is even more difficult to know, and that is one's own self. Not until the bonds of personality — the mask under which all souls masquerade — is loosened, shall that Self be truly known.
Hence the great cry of the ancients, "Know thyself", and the sacred teaching in relation to self-knowledge and self-reference: that they involve and include a real love of wisdom — unmanifest and manifested, in books and brooks, in stones and in trees, and everywhere for those who have eyes to see, and ears to listen. One of the Mahatmas spoke of music as the most abstract of the arts and mathematics as the most abstract of the sciences. Pythagoras was concerned with both music and mathematics. He fused in himself active and passive contemplation. This is the subject of a conversation in The Merchant of Venice between the newly-wed Lorenzo and Jessica, where Jessica experiences what Lorenzo formulates. It is Lorenzo who says that the man who has no music in his soul is fit for stratagems and spoils.
We are very fortunate to have had from the beginning of the Theosophical Society a great plan laid down in the historic letter of the Maha Chohan in 1881. He spoke of the Theosophical Society as the cornerstone, the foundation of the future religions of humanity. There is a grandeur, a magnitude, a magnificence and a breadth of love and compassion in that sacred document which few students of Gupta Vidya can remotely hope to emulate, but which every man or woman is invited to attempt to honour in daily life. H.P. Blavatsky said that we must honour every truth by its use, and that this is the archetypal ritual of any theosophical society. When we ponder the memorable statements of the Great Master, we discover that the great plan laid down was not irrelevant then, never has been irrelevant since, nor could it ever be. Today it rings with a freshness and a contemporary relevance — especially in its reference to the struggle for existence. It is a magnanimous letter, helpful to any of us at this point of time in relation to our fellow human beings.
Each of us is potentially perfect, but each of us is like an iceberg and a mystery to himself and to everyone else. Each of us knows several texts and tomes of mystical philosophy. When so much is known, to so little avail, clearly then what we are faced with requires more than the knowledge of the discursive mind. It involves more than what we, as inheritors of the methods and modes of Aristotle and Bacon, regard as head-learning. We need soul-wisdom. Here we might well think of simple people walking the streets with waiting, wanting lips. Some are very old, some of them so poor in the wealth of the world that they only have what Lord Buddha called the greatest wealth — contentment. This is the simple soul's golden thread. Have some of us lost that simplicity, being so overburdened with our divine discontent which sometimes takes less than human forms? Have we overlooked perhaps the importance of that which is so obvious — a measure of contentment?
We are Promethean beings. We have gaps between our limitations and our potentialities. Every one of us knows that one might have been much more than what one actually is or what one can show on the surface. In modern society the surface has become excessively important. Appearances are lies, but we are caught in the Mahamaya of these lies, which then become deep delusions. Gautama Buddha taught that each person makes his or her own prison and that within ourselves deliverance must be sought. No one can be saved in isolation, and yet no one can be saved by another. In fact, the very notion of 'saving' needs re-thinking. We are taught in The Voice of the Silence that salvation for one person has no meaning apart from the salvation of the whole of mankind and all living beings. The Maha Chohan spoke of mystical Christianity, of the mystical in every religion, and of self-redemption through one's own seventh principle, the liberated paramatma. Etymologically, it is this which ceaselessly moves and which in its movement is the source of light, and life, and joy.
If a person asks, "How can we see the golden thread in relation to God, Law and Man?", we might say that God is formless, beyond colours and sounds, yet immanent in all of them. God is to be found in each of the colours of the spectrum, which are in turn puzzles in themselves. They hide subtler hues which may only be seen by those who have the appropriate senses developed and controlled on the planes where alone those senses operate. But all can salute TAT, that which is like the one white colourless light, like the sacred white in rice or in the semen which gives birth to a human body within a holy receptacle. Every human being can understand that which is in the heavens, even if only in the realm of appearances, well enough to realize that there will always be some contrapuntal tension between solar wisdom — Mercury close to the Sun — and the moon that waxes and wanes. Every human being finds that he participates in this waxing and waning, albeit not self-consciously enough since his knowledge of cyclic law is limited, his capacity to use it is less, and he usually forgets to look at the heavens. Gupta Vidya appeals to no less an authority than the authority of the heavens, the universal wisdom from which all religions, sciences and philosophies sprang. The greatest founders of all faiths spoke in accents of great awe before That which could not be spoken about.
This profound message is relevant to seeking the golden thread that binds all monadic minds in the great universal pilgrimage, and to looking for that common storehouse in Akasha wherein lies the universal solvent which no man can use unless he wishes to use it for all. In seeking the larger good, a man is able to insert his own good into the good of all, lokasangraha. Every man is entitled to be concerned, directly and squarely, with his own good. But his good is only supportable by the law of the universe when it is compatible with universal good. We do not fully know this. Therefore, to the extent to which either we do not know — or knowing, forget it — we have to look for clues. These clues are in the process of life, in Nature and in the working of prana. When the force of this good comes from outside, it seems like karma or fate, but when we understand it and it works within, it is always seen as our very best friend.
The Golden Thread that binds the cosmos is unveiled only in partial ways. Arising in the realm of the unmanifest, it participates in the Light of the Logos, Daiviprakriti, which is like a veil upon the Absolute. The Absolute is beyond all relativities or absolutizations of the relative, and, in the words of the Mandukya Upanishad, is "unthinkable and unspeakable". But if it is unthinkable and unspeakable, can men recognize it in each other? Can souls greet each other with an inward thought and an authentic reference to the absolute centre of a boundless circle within the consciousness of another soul inhabiting that holy temple we call the human body? Is this possible for a human being, in the midst of the primary activities of life, in one's respect for one's parents, in one's respect for one's husband or wife, ex-husband or ex-wife, future husband or future wife? Is it possible, in relation to one's own children and the children of others, to remember, where it counts and where it hurts, but where it matters most, that all are children, all are old souls, all are fallen gods, all are pilgrims who have made mistakes, but who deserve a chance to become self-conscious in relation to spiritual survival. Theosophy, warned the Maha Chohan, is for all, not for a few.
The story of the Theosophical Movement and of every group that came together in the name of the Wisdom-Religion, is that each fell below the grandeur of the universality and catholicity of the primordial and eternal revelation which remains always in the hands of its great and mighty custodians. Though its breadth is boundless, its height is relevant throughout history and in every religion. It is relevant to every soul because every soul is entitled to seek and to become worthy of relationship with those beings of spiritual stature whom we revere as real Teachers. They cannot be known by external marks. Buddha's thirty-two marks were always invisible, and as Kali Yuga proceeds, it is only from within without that anything worthwhile may be known. All else is a kind of tomfoolery, a concession to Wall Street and Madison Avenue which the Brotherhood has never made and does not now propose to make. "Are not our beards grown?" wrote one of Them. Humanity is mature to a point where it must observe with a wise eye, with a loving heart, and with a compassion that thrills and pulses with the heart of every human being. The Theosophical Movement is for all. The contented simple man who walks the valley of life with very little, and yet smiles and laughs, is one of the teachers of the Theosophical Movement.
From Hermes, November 1976. Click HERE
Read THE TRIBUTE to Sri Raghavan Iyer HERE
The editor wishes to thank THEOSOPHY TRUST MEMORIAL LIBRARY