Growth Through Service
1. Individual Progress 2. World-Service
1. – INDIVIDUAL PROGRESS
To present-day members this might sound somewhat strange. Why should we opine that the Theosophical Society has an undeclared Object which aims at helping its members to realise certain great truths with a view to enable them to tread the path of spiritual progress deliberately and consciously? And yet, when we begin to examine the teachings as Madame Blavatsky gave them, we come across that view put forward by her in more than one place. Thus, in a very instructive short article which appeared in THE THEOSOPHIST, H. P. B. said:
Here we get a corroboration of the fact I am putting forward; but besides that, the general method to be followed by our members is indicated. It is a very interesting statement; nowadays we are tending more and more to the idea that we of the Theosophical Society are here to do some particular form of physical-world work. While it is true that the Society exists to do active work for the benefit of the world, which is the subject of my second lecture, to-day I want to put forward the idea that that service is not possible unless our members fit themselves for it; for our service must show itself in activity which is of a special nature and character. It is a good and sound doctrine that we should try to live a life of self-sacrifice and service; but it implies that the members of the Society have selves to sacrifice, have something to offer at the altar of Service.
Further, the work which the T. S. has to do is spiritual. We were not created as a social service body, as a political reform league, as a Church to make men believe; neither as "a school of psychology" or as "a miracle club" or as "a college for the special study of Occultism." The work of the T. S., in the words of the Master K. H., is "to guide the recurrent impulse which must soon come and which will push the age towards extreme atheism, or drag it back to extreme sacerdotalism, if it is not led to the primitive, soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans. ... Its chief aim is to extirpate current superstitions and skepticism, and from long-sealed ancient fountains to draw the proof that man may shape his own future destiny, and know for a certainty that he can live hereafter, etc." [The Occult World, by A. P. Sinnett.]
This implies the understanding of some new laws of life and being. Therefore it is but meet that we should consider what it is that the Society offers to its members in the way of a programme for the spiritual life. Has it any definite plan to offer, any cut-and-dried scheme which its members can use to get results?
When we carefully study the message of H. P. B., we find that she does not even make an attempt to give a cut-and-dried scheme; in this passage and elsewhere she speaks about spiritual progress, and says that the kind of spiritual effort which members should make must conform to the oldest teachings of the genuine esoteric doctrine of the Ancients. And yet our literature does offer schemes and programmes. In recent times we have begun to dogmatise: we know in detail the fetters to be broken and the virtues to be worn for every stage of the Path, which is mapped out in divisions and compartments! That being so, naturally we ask what are the varied possibilities of these programmes given to us, first for study and then for practice? Let us examine them.
First, we get such teachings as come to us from H. P. B. herself: in this little article to which I made reference; in several other articles in the early volumes of THE THEOSOPHIST, in Lucifer and in The Path, edited in America by W. Q. Judge; in the oral teachings, later on published in the Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine; then in her priceless work, written down by her under the title of The Voice of the Silence, we get three schemes; in Practical Occultism we get another programme.
In the early days of the Society, Mabel Collins presented that little gem Light on the Path. W. Q. Judge, in his Culture of Concentration and in other places, has given some fine and inspiring teachings. His translations and interpretations of the Gita and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras take us to the second class of programmes, viz., interpretations based on ancient Hindu or Buddhist schemes. We have had several of these. There are many and sundry who have written on the four jewels of the Brahmanical and Buddhistic books, including Mrs. Besant, whose lucid exposition in the Path of Discipleship is one of the very best of its kind. We must not forget her contribution to the literature of the Inner Path through the little book The Doctrine of the Heart: her foreword and extracts from letters from "Indian friends" contained therein have an exquisite fragrance all their own.
Thus, through the years of our existence as a society, we have been accumulating (1) a number of schemes, and (2) a number of interpretations; both dealing with rules of conduct, of meditation, of practice for the training of bodies, the culture of mind and emotions, the unfolding of the Man within.
When we put all these teachings together, we get a number of definite programmes, and the question arises which, after all, is the precise scheme which one must follow to tread this mysterious path of progress, of self-conscious evolution? The Path has been spoken of by different people in different ways, and it has been given different names. From the point of view of the student these few programmes are expositions of and about the "Heart-Doctrine”; and their esoteric nature consists in the fact that a certain amount of spiritual perception is essential to grasp the inwardness of the truths they contain. Take the Brahmanical or Buddhistic Fourfold Way; or the three schemes of The Voice of the Silence; or the programme of Light on the Path; or the rules of Practical Occultism; or the atmosphere of The Doctrine of the Heart; or the laws of the Upasanas quoted by H. P. B.; these and others of like nature are sincere attempts of occultists to explain how they sought and found the Way, how they became the Path. These are, so to speak, so many links between the esoteric and exoteric: they are not esoteric, inasmuch as they are public property; they are not exoteric, for they require some familiarity and touch with the reality of Esotericism. There are no esoteric books in the public world; the teachings that come from within one's own unfolding consciousness can remain esoteric. All such books as I have named are indicative of the Truth which is the Path. The Message never is delivered, for it is spiritual in nature, and therefore always mysterious. The moment you begin to capture it, it eludes your grasp; the moment you begin to speak it, your language fails you. Thus it carries within itself the power of its own secrecy. Just as two individuals knowing a language can talk to each other, so also only those who have sought and found can know each other and hold intercourse. Thus must the secrets of the Real Mystery of Real Initiations be guarded. The power to guard the knowledge goes with the obtaining of the key of knowledge.
When we study carefully such writings, from most ancient times to modern ones like the Brahmanical Sutras, the philosophic propositions laid down by the Buddha in his "Heart Doctrine," the teachings of the great Chinese sages or early Sufis, or the profound wisdom of the Greeks and the Egyptians, or what H. P. B. has put forward we find that these are efforts made at explaining what the Path meant and what its treading involved for some daring souls who solved in the inner sanctuary of the heart the Mystery which cannot be revealed but can only be mysteriously indicated. But something very definite evolves out of the study of these Scriptures, viz., that there are common fundamental factors which are the rules and the laws of the foundations on which these edifices have been raised; the existence of the underlying basis is perceived. The practical student of the esoteric science, therefore, goes in search of these laws for the building of foundations. He seeks for the currents of life which produce form, and the vitality which brings the organism into being. It is with such fundamentals that I want to deal in this lecture, and then, next week, I shall proceed to show how the Theosophical service of the world, to be undertaken by the members of the Society, should be in terms of this particular kind of inner realisation of the fundamentals of the spiritual life.
Now what are these fundamentals? An hour's lecture can but deal with one, and that one only partially. Therefore I shall deal with the root-fundamental; others evolve out of it. This is the seed, others are branches and leaves and flowers. It is that man should know himself, that each one should find his own self.
Everyone has read "Man know thyself”; but most people have read so much about it that they have a fair knowledge of how to know, what to do, what not to do all about it, but not it! We have mistaken the descriptions for the experience; we have analysed and dissected the form and the coverings of the Sutra, the Truth, so much that its life has departed! The seed (bij) of the Sutra is important primarily. Thus, taking for granted that we have understood this very simple proposition, we have proceeded to the ramifications of that proposition, to the many forms of interpretation which others have built around that life, and thus we have missed the point. Instead of taking the simple, straight road as it lies before us, by applying this fundamental in terms of life, we turn in one direction or another, to one kind of practice or another, to one form of study or another, and adopt that peculiar course which takes us round and round the groove, and we make progress. Yes, progress which Kingsley has very beautifully described in his Water Babies, and which may be called "flapdoodle progress." Progress in terms of life, in terms of knowing ourselves first, has little to do with books and a great deal to do with realisation. All that the great, genuine books of the occult order can do is to give us the interpretation of individuals who have made the search and have attained; but what good is that to us unless we make the search in our own way, and check the results of our seeking with their results? And this is the great trouble we are always up against, not only in our own Theosophical Society, but in Theosophical Societies of every age. It is the going away from this fundamentally simple spiritual principle that ultimately brings about the disintegration of real spiritual movements, for people turn the spiritual life into the religious one. These two are very different. The religious life is something as different from the spiritual life, as the intellectual life of the scholar is different from the spiritual. Therefore we want to understand this principle of knowing ourselves. Can we know the laws underlying this principle? Is there any general interpretation of use to all? Is there any clue whereby we can undertake, each one for himself, this profound search of the primary fundamental, so that we know what we are?
As we study H. P. B. we find that it is possible; for she deals in a very living manner with spiritual and mysterious truths. She indicated the existence and hints at the use of certain keys, which we can apply to our own lives and get the solution of the mystery which surrounds us. In a sense she has solved the mystery for us; but also she has not, because, while she has provided the key, she demands that we must use it.
As a student of H. P. B. I have tried to understand this fundamental. In what I am going to say, I am giving you my interpretation, as useful or as futile to you as any other interpretation; for, after all, what comes in the shape of knowledge (not where it comes from) is useful to each one of us in proportion as we are able to utilise it; it is vital in proportion as we are able to understand it. It becomes the duty of succeeding generations of the students of the Sacred Science to record their interpretations of the inner truths, which they have been able to gain with the help of advanced occultists or teachers. I am giving you, who are students, my own interpretation as a student. You must examine impartially, accept or reject it after intellectual study, on its inherent merit. I am claiming no authority; for there is no such thing as authority in spiritual teachings, save the inherent authority that the teaching itself carries. If what is inherent in H. P. B. is authoritative to me, it is because I am able to respond. If I am not able to respond to the inherent power of any particular teaching, there is no other course for me than to put it away. In that sense examine what I have to offer as an interpretation of the primary fundamental of the inner life that man must know himself, that is, he must know the laws of his own being.
When we begin to analyse, we find that most of us are in the real sense of the expression "non-entities," not non-entities in the ordinary sense in which perhaps the world uses that word, more or less contemptuously, but non-entities in the sense that we are no entity. This might sound to you who are students of Theosophy somewhat strange, that we who talk of monads and egos, and higher and lower selves, are no entities. But it is true; when we begin to analyse, we find that most of us are non-entities; that we do not find ourselves. Because there is no Self or Entity to find! Unless the kingdom of the Self is taken by violence, and he is compelled to reveal himself, we shall find that we are, each one of us, a bundle of non-entities, a fact that we ought to note carefully if we want to progress.
Something else we find: by the help of all the varied processes of life, as individual beings, we are passing, or are endeavouring to pass, from a state of non-entity to a state of entity. Everyone is making an effort to realise it. We find that we have nothing tangible on which we can put our finger and say "this is I”; but we are continuously finding that behind or beyond the bundle of non-entities there is somewhere an "I." We begin to analyse this "I" which instinctively to us is the law of our being. When we become deliberate in our search and analysis, when we become intellectually honest with ourselves, when we begin to think for ourselves and put a stop to thinking by proxy, which has been going on all the time, and when we think earnestly and sincerely, our search yields a result. What do we find?
We find that there are three beings in us, each yet to be sought and found; each yet to be looked for and recognised. Unless an analysis of our complex nature is undertaken and the law of beings in us found, spiritual progress is not possible. The laws which govern the life of Being can be understood only when the law of beings in us is grasped. The entity reveals himself when the non-entities are seen and overcome.
First, then, we find that there are ghosts of dead selves in us; and that we continuously identify ourselves with them; the ghosts of the selves which we were, but which we no more are. Thus in a very real sense we live in a ghost world. People are very anxious in the Theosophical Society to know what the astral plane is like; but there is a very real kind of astral plane which must first be investigated. The astral world plane which must be investigated. The astral world of our solar system can be found; but to investigate into the nature of this ghost world in which we are living, the world which is peopled by many ghosts of our own dead selves, that is a very important thing for us. Each one identifies himself with his dead selves of long ago, and the real Self cannot make himself manifest when this identification continues.
And these ghosts, where do they live? In the graveyard of the body. "What art thou? A little soul carrying a corpse," said the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. That is why our physical bodies live by rules and laws which are dictated to them from without. Our bodies are dead, and kept alive by artificial, mechanical processes. Civilisations have been killing them, and the task is not yet accomplished; our modern doctors with their serums and vaccines are achieving it as fast as they can!
First, then, we find dead selves ghosts in graveyards.
Next, we find that there is a living self in us, one which we can catch hold of. But there is this peculiarity about it - it is dying. This is very disconcerting when for the first time we experience the phenomenon. This living self which is dying is a very fascinating entity; it is a reality and an illusion; it reveals itself as an entity, and, before we realise it as such, it is a ghost ; it is elusive for it is becoming, and by the time it has become it is dead; it is an entity and yet not one entity; it is always changing, never stable, and yet is stable from childhood to maturity and old age, from birth through life to death. It unites all our experiences, connects all our actions, is the basis of all we call life, and even is there in what we call dreams. It is there and yet. not there.
And this too belongs to our body; but, when this self I is active, the body is no more a tomb, but, by turns, obeys its mood and becomes a garden of pleasure, a desert of loneliness, a prison-house of pain and suffering. Through all three we contact the present the illusion of Time. "Even this shall pass away" is the perpetual slogan this self habitually uses.
That, then, is the next constituent in our make-up, of which we should take note before we can advance further.
Then we go a little deeper. Our inspirations and our aspirations, our yearning and our quest, in the midst of death as also of change, enable us, if we will, to come upon the third Self in us, a Being in hiding. This is the Sleeping Self, and the pursuit of its existence reveals the fact that it is beginning to wake. It is willing to be coaxed into a condition of awakening.
This also belongs to our body; but, when this sleeping-waking Self works in it, it is like the Night silent and dark and mysterious but the star-chimes are heard. It keeps vigil to catch the whispering Voice of the Great Sleeper.
We find that there is nothing more in us than these three Beings: the ghosts of our dead selves; the living self that is dying; and the sleeping self that is trying to awake. This is the condition of most of us who belong to what is called the civilised human race.
We are living in three worlds. Recognise in you these three factors of consciousness which you call "I" and which build three worlds to live in. You live in three worlds. "Yes," you say, "but we know them physical, astral and mental." No, we do not live in those worlds; we do not even live in one of them fully. With the help of the five senses we contact only a portion of the physical world. We contact a meagre portion of the astral world with the help of our immature and uncultured emotions. How much do we contact of that mind-world which lies beyond the astral?
But we do contact in a very real sense three other worlds. There is, first, the world in which these dead selves of ours exist, the ghost world, the world of the past in time. All that has to do with our own dead selves has to do with the past, and there is little that is tangible in it; it may be called the world of the past. Secondly, we live in the world of the present, a very interesting world, full of illusions, but peopled by what to us is the only reality, because we can contact it the self which is dying. Then the third, the world of the future, a devachanic condition. It is the world of the Sleeper who is yet to awake. He lives in the Heaven of his own making.
Individual progress means that by some process that future world should be transformed into the present world. Spiritual progress means the transmutation of the future into the present but, herein lies the mystery, that new present must be of a nature that cannot pass into the past. [ * Compare the statement in the Voice of the Silence; "Before thou takest thy first step, learn to discern the real from the false, the ever-fleeting from the everlasting. Learn above all to separate head-learning from Soul-wisdom, the "eye" from the "heart" doctrine. Yea, ignorance is like unto a closed and airless vessel; the Soul a bird shut up within. It warbles not, nor can it stir a feather; but the songster mute and torpid sits, and of exhaustion dies."] When the Sleeping Self becomes awake, it must be endowed with the Virtue of Immortality the self must become the Self, the present must become the Living Present, the body must neither be the garden of pleasure, the desert of loneliness, nor the prison-house of pain but the Temple of the Living God. The sleeping star must not sing to the stillness of the Night, but its silver points, holding the angelic radiance of its Being, must incarnate into the Temple of the body. The illusion of time must vanish, and the Reality of the Eternal Now be precipitated. Therefore the Sleeping Self, in the process of descending into the graveyard must come enriched with the mysterious Power of Youth. He must not come, like his many predecessors, a mortal, but an Immortal Lord. That Sleeping Self generally awakes looking behind to the Past, and is the Epimetheus; he must awake with his Fiery Eye turned to the Eternal, a true Prometheus.
To build the Bridge between the Heavenly Home of the Immortal Lord and the graveyard transformed into the Temple, is the work of the Spiritual aspirant. The Path is the Path of Balance, the Path of Equipoise, the Middle Path named in a dozen ways and misunderstood in a hundred.
That, then, is the conclusion we come to. We have three beings in us; we live in three worlds ; and there is a definite thing to be done if individual progress is to be made. When we identify ourselves with our ghosts, we live in the world of the past, and this we continuously do. We do not live even in the world of the present; when we make plans for the hereafter or the morrow, we do it continuously in terms of the past. We plan in terms of that which is dead or that which is dying. But it is the eternal aspect of the present which makes that present the Great Reality, and the world of the present the world of Truth.
This, then, is the first great fundamental principle of the spiritual life. How far have we strayed away when we talk of going on to the astral plane, becoming invisible helpers, making progress by treading the "path of discipleship" and getting "Initiations", and so on and so forth! Did not H. P. B. affirm that the Initiator of the Initiates is within us? How have some found the Self? By self-effort, by self -practice. And it is the individual effort which brings forth help. From which source? From the Source from which all inspiration comes, the World of the Masters.
The spiritual world is not somewhere far away, but within us. When the three worlds of the past, the present and the future merge into the World of the Eternal Now; when the dead selves are resurrected, when the dying self is made to live, when the sleeping self becomes endowed with immortality in the process of awakening; then the graveyard becomes the Temple, and Man, as an incarnated entity, lives in this great World of Reality.
Therefore, to make entity out of non-entity is the process. Recognize the fact that there is an Entity standing somewhere on the threshold. We have read of "dwellers on the threshold," and we attire them in unattractive and even gruesome garbs; but there is a Dweller on the Threshold of the Heavenly World for each one of us a Radiant Being of Power which is Peace and of Wisdom which is Love.
This world of Maha-Maya Great Illusion where past and present and future abide; this enemy of the Self dead, dying, asleep, each engaged in the struggle for existence, bound by the laws of division of Mara's creation these two are one. We are dead, and therefore everything only seems; let us live, and the world will be the World of Reality. God is not in our heaven and all is not right with us when the eternal change fashions eternal pain. God will be on earth, and all will be right with our world, when we live by the Power of the Eternal Watcher within us.
Seek for the Self the Entity, the Inner Ruler, the Immortal God within you, which is you. The Masters teach him, on him their blessings rest, into him Their inspiration is poured. Seek for Them in the World of the Ego, in the sphere of the Self. Advises The Voice of the Silence "Seek not for thy Guru in those mayavic regions" the worlds of the past, the present and the future. Follow the one true Path of Search for your own Self, all other Paths are false. Know, and do not only believe; stand up, and do not lean on others; seek for the Bread of Life and do not ask to be fed.
H. P. B.'s words come to mind: "Through joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, the soul comes to a knowledge of itself ; then begins the task of learning the laws of life, that the discords may be resolved, and the harmony be restored."
Growth Through Service
You will remember that in the first lecture of this series on "The Fundamentals of Theosophy,” I spoke on “Individual Progress,” and pointed out that in aiming at that progress, our objective should be the same as that of the great Masters, viz., service of the world. That aim is the foundation of all teachings which occultists have given from time immemorial. Therefore, in considering the fundamentals of Theosophy for the service of the world, we want to obtain the particular viewpoint of those Great Servants of Humanity, the Masters of the Wisdom.
Many kinds of activity, many forms of service, are rendered by many types of people in the world of today. Our task in the T. S. is to render a peculiar kind of service, to give a particular type of assistance to the world. As H. P. B. said, "We believe in relieving the starvation of the Soul, as much, if not more, than the emptiness of the stomach." Our aim for the individual members of the Society is, or should be, to enable them to make an all-round spiritual progress, so that our task of rendering that specific service may be achieved. Our aim should not be to help the world in spheres where our members are not competent to hold their own as helpers and assistants. If we undertake a task which is not our own, we fall into the double error of trying to do something which is not our work, while that which is our work remains undone. Our members should find their own sphere of spiritual service.
The reason for this basic idea, that the T. S. should serve the world spiritually and not in other ways, is to be found in the root-idea to which H. P. B. gives expression: "There can be no real enfranchisement of human thought, nor expansion of scientific discovery, until the existence of Spirit is recognized, and the double evolution accepted as a fact."
What, then, are the fundamental principles which should guide us in the selection of our work as members of the T.S.? It has been well said that to feed the hungry people, to clothe the naked ones of the earth, is a very noble work, but that is not necessarily the work of the T. S.; and I think that is true. Our work is to give that which the Masters gave to the Society for the purpose of helping the world. What was that? The spiritual knowledge, the Wisdom-Religion, which gives a basis for the true life of the Spirit, which gives us material for building the foundation of the true type of altruism. Thus each individual can serve in terms of his or her own spiritual life. For the T. S. as an organization there never can be a definite programme of outer activity which all members can adopt.
It is sometimes said that there is no definite "programme," no connected scheme of Theosophical activity for the service of the world. How would you draw up a Theosophical political programme, and define the duty of the members of the T. S. in the province of politics? We have in our ranks Conservatives, Progressives and Socialists. What common programme of work can they all adopt? The only way is to leave our members free, so that each may be able to spiritualize his own politics. The day that we produce a complete scheme of activity, the day that we have a precise programme of service of the world, we shall not be a spiritual body, but one more sect fighting other sects, one more body fighting other bodies; the spiritual nature of the Society would lose itself in the struggle of creeds and parties.
Therefore, in reference to the active service of the world, true to its traditions, the T. S. must not adopt any particular programme; it should leave its members free to define their own actional creed and to serve the world according to what they deem to be right. Thus we act up to the primary fundamental of all occult societies and bodies; we place an instrument in the hand of every individual member to determine for himself what for him is the province of spiritual service in politics or in anything else. To grasp the real significance of this proposition, a definition of what is called spiritual life is required.
Now, we have very curious notions and ideas about the spiritual life. We rightly hold that spiritual life means something very precise and definite; but we make it nebulous where precision is required, and become harshly exacting when not necessary. There is a good deal of confusion in the minds of our members in reference to spiritual life and spiritual work.
Spiritual life is the gaining of an attiude, as I wa? pointing out in the first lecture. Each individual, by his own self-effort, gains an inner attitude; and, because he has evolved up to a certain point, he expresses something which is definitely his own, which profoundly represents his contribution to the spiritual service of his fellows. Spirituality should be understood as that particular attitude to life which enables a man deliberately to conceive the next step he has to take and to act self-consciously in reference to the world in terms of that step. You will see from this, that if a man thinks that it is his business to provide food to the hungry because in that step lies for him the expression of spirituality, that man is serving the world through the T. S. in the right way. It may not be the function or duty of another, but it is his. Everyone must be free to conceive what spiritual life means to him in terms of his own self -effort, to take the next step in front of him, and to help the world in terms of his self-realization. That, then, is the first general fundamental.
This brings us to the second principle. People have often thought that spiritual service of the world is an effort to grapple with some form of outer activity which is not related to their own individual lives. That is a wrong view. As we study Theosophy in all ages, we find the teaching that a man serves the world first by living his own spiritual life. As H. P. B. says, "It is an occult law 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." A man's service of the world, therefore, is not unconnected with, or unrelated to, his effort at leading his own individual spiritual life. The two are one. It is not an effort to save somebody else's soul, but a supreme effort to save his own; and this constitutes true service of the world. It is the recognition of the sublime fact that in living the life of the day the service of the world is rendered. Thus we give fine scope and a very, very wide field for activity to our members; each one must serve in terms of his own self-expression, not with the help of other people's programmes.
Service of the world in terms of other peoples' programmes means that we are serving the world as they would serve it. We can never do it satisfactorily, because it is like second-hand knowledge rooted in belief, and belief neither brings inner conviction nor enthusiasm, and without conviction and enthusiasm true spiritual service of the world is not possible. Therefore, comes into play the same principle which we were examining in the first lecture, that each one must know himself to live his own spiritual life; it is also true that each must know himself to render spiritual service to the world.
When we begin to study we find that in this particular race of ours, people are working with particular constituent principles of their being, and are evolving thereby. In the human kingdom the spheres of experience for different individuals are different, and therefore the methods of utilizing that experience in the province of service are also different for different people. I may be developing a particular principle of my being; another person may be unfolding another principle of his very complex constitution. My service of the world is through the particular principle which I am developing; the other man's business of serving the world is related to the principle which he is unfolding. Therefore, in adopting the plan of service of the world, our duty is to find out with which principle of our complex human being we are dealing at the present moment in this life.
H. P. B. has pointed out that in this Fifth Root-race of ours, the fifth principle in Man, the Mind, is developing. Our function in serving the world is therefore related to this Mind-principle. This, in my opinion, provides a key which most of our members have not learnt to use. People have often said that the T. S. is a highly unpractical body, because it deals with intellectual problems and not with the ordinary affairs of the practical workaday world. An effort to understand H. P. B/s proposition ought to be made. Nowadays our members seem very anxious to please the world! Our Lodges and our Sections, in planning their active work, have a tendency to consider only their own individual points of view, and are asking: "What is the world going to say about our programme?" Only a few people ask the very fundamental question: "What are the Masters going to say about this programme of work?"
The Masters who founded the Society have a plan of helping the world through the Society; that plan is rooted in laws, is carried out by the knowledge of these laws. Because we are living in the Fifth Root-race, and are developing the Mind-principle, the active service of the world is closely related to it. When we begin to examine and ponder over this aspect of service we meet with a somewhat strange phenomenon: a majority of our members’ view with suspicion the activity of the Mind. They speak of it as if it is some kind of terrible disease, and you often hear it said: "Well, such and such a man is no good, he is only an intellectual." Now our function is to spiritualize that Mind-principle which is functioning and developing in the race, and it is necessary for us to understand what this Mind race of ours is. Because, if we understand that, we shall be able to understand the rules, the laws which we are seeking, and apply them, each one for himself, in active work.
H. P. B. has hinted at a curious division of this Mind-principle in man. As with many other things, she has said, Mind is sevenfold, there are seven types of Mind. She has tried to suggest a teaching which has not been brought out fully in our studies of Root- and sub-races. She has indicated that this Mind race of ours can be divided in terms of Mind development. The race evolution must not be examined only from the ethnological point of view, but from the psychological point of view. In this whole Root-race of ours, different groups are developing different types of Mind. Therefore there are mental sub-races, as there are ethnological sub-races. You can find, for instance, from that point of view, all the sub-races, from the first to the fifth, in your own British Isles. Take your slum dweller here in the city of London. According to the ethnologists he belongs to the Teutonic sub-race, but there is a difference in the mind development of the slum-dweller and your highly developed politician, scientist, or artist. From the point of view of the psychological division of the races your slum-dweller is probably a Lemurian, or at most an Atlantean but certainly not an Aryan. Take our own Society and its membership; we have these different sub-types of mind. Add this consideration that there are not only sub-races, but also Root-races, all represented among us. There are many of our members who perhaps belong, from the psychological point of view, to the Third or Fourth Root-race; they are dealing with instincts, they are dealing with emotions, instead of with mind. There are perhaps a few who, from that point of view, belong to the Sixth Root-race; they are dealing with the development of the real intuitions not those things that are called intuitions, but Buddhi.
This gives us the clue as to the nature of the service to be given to the world by members of the Theosophical Society. Our sphere of service is determined by that aspect of mind which we are developing. Thus H. P. B.'s hint is most illuminating and highly practical. Our members exclaim: "Tell us what to do." Nobody can tell us. A person with real spiritual conception, one who is an occultist, cannot say what other people should or should not do. People have often misunderstood the expression "the order that comes from the Masters." The Masters never give orders in that sense. We have misunderstood this idea of obedience in following a particular order when it comes. Occultism knows of no obedience; but only of the response which wells up from within as a conviction. Masters' orders carry their own conviction: Their messages are self-luminous; they illuminate the minds and uplift the moral natures of those to whom they are presented.
But let us revert to the idea we were considering; our service must relate itself to that type of the mind which we are unfolding. To put it more generally, it is related to that principle for us to serve the world according to the Masters' way. It is said sometimes, and truly said, that what the Masters need is channels through which They can help the world. But we are not channels when we accept other peoples' programmes and schemes. Then we become mediums, not the ordinary mediums of spiritualism, but mediums in a very real sense, continuously filling our heads with other people's thoughts, our hearts with other people's feelings, our activity with other people's plans. Thus we are not the channels for the Masters, as we should like to be, because we do not live what we ourselves are, but are trying to live somebody else's life. Therefore, in planning the service of the world, it is well that that portion of our being which is in the process of unfoldment should be made the channel of communication between the world of human beings and the world of Supermen, of the Masters. That is what the Masters want. That is what they have tried to explain in their many letters and writings. Self-expression, therefore, is the fundamental service.
Let us come to another idea arising out of this. Our people often say: "Well, I have such and such work in life; I am so busy that I cannot undertake any Theosophical activity; that is my bad karma." Now, this "Theosophical activity" is one of the greatest of illusions. What is Theosophical activity? Is not the function of taking your morning breakfast a Theosophical activity? Is not attending to your work at your office a Theosophical activity? How can you make a division in the spiritual life? And yet we do make a division when we speak of Theosophical activity. We have simply removed ourselves from one sphere of illusion to another sphere of illusion. We have blamed the orthodox Christian because he regards Sunday as a sacred day when he must go to church, and all the others as secular days when he must do his business. We say that is all wrong; but instead of dividing our week into two compartments, we divide our days into more than two, and we say: "This thing I am doing well, that is ordinary life; but if I go to the Lodge meeting to deliver a lecture or listen to one, then that is Theosophical activity." Thus we get away from the spiritual life, from the true service of the world. What we need is the fire of true altruism, which is to live our natural life Theosophically, which demands the effort consciously to help the growth of that particular principle which is evolving in us. That is the true kind of impetus necessary for spiritual service. I want you to note how this question of service is related to our individual progress. In this connection let me quote The Voice of the Silence:
"The selfish devotee lives to no purpose. The man who does not go through his appointed work in life has lived in vain. Follow the wheel of life; follow the wheel of duty to race and kin, to friend and foe, and close thy mind to pleasures as to pain. Exhaust the law of karmic retribution. Gain Siddhis for thy future birth."
In this teaching lies the method of world-service. We have to go through our appointed work in life; we have to attend to duties and obligations to race and kin; and as Theosophists we have to discharge this by the method indicated in these words, closing our minds to pleasures and pains. He who does not live and serve thus is described as "the selfish devotee." He who does live and serve thus, he is gaining Siddhis for his future birth an idea that is not yet fully understood.
Next, let us come to the form into which this service should be moulded; there again we find confusion of ideas. If what I have been saying is true, then our duty as active helpers of our fellow men is to put into the existing forms, if such forms are clean, that power of Theosophy which we are evolving from within ourselves. What are we trying to do? Exactly the reverse of this we are trying to build new forms. But ours is not the task to build unnecessary new forms. We want to spiritualize all spheres of the world, forms which already exist. Therefore, you do not want a new political party. You want the spiritual power of Theosophy to influence all political parties, so that it can unite the parties which are fighting and struggling one against the other. Therefore, you do not want a new school of art. You want the spiritual power to touch all emotional activities of artists of various schools of thought, so that they can find a common ground, a common basis, for their emotional expression. You do not want a new creed, or a new faith, or a new religion, or a new church you have enough in this country at any rate. You want the power of the spiritual life felt and realized. Let each one take into his particular denomination, church, creed, or faith his own spiritual current. And why should that be so? Because that enables the right fulfilment of living the spiritual life according to the dictates of the law of karma. We speak of the law of karma, but we do not recognize the fact that the law of karma must be helped to fulfil itself through our spiritual life. We always want to change out karma. But how can we change karma? We can only change karma by the fulfilment of that karma. Many of our members desire to get away from the environment which the law of karma has created for them and want to contact a new one. This, in a very real and occult sense, leads to caste-confusion, and thus to pain, suffering and failure in activity.
Let us grasp the principle that we must let karma fulfil itself, and not try to fight and change save the fight that comes from within, and the change which is of the nature of inner conversion. When we begin to speak in terms of fulfilment of the law of karma, we begin to look at the forms with which our karma is related. W r e ask ourselves: "In what nationality have I to work? What religion, or what denomination of religion, has been decreed for me?" We should then say: "That is where my primary duty lies." But we try to run away from our duty, and thus commit a wrong. Our attitude should be: "What I did not understand before, through my Theosophy I have begun to understand, and now I am going to let karma fulfil itself." We must work out that idea in life. The notion that we are going to right the world by taking one or another course of activity is one of the greatest of illusions. We cannot affect the course of evolution in the world of forms, save by one method; the world suffers through the obstacles of form, and only one power removes that obstacle; it is the power of life. When you pour fresh life into obstructing forms, they crumble.
We must see, therefore, what our karma has brought us in our life, and endeavour to pour into those forms with which we have contact, the power of the spiritual life, so that the law may fulfil itself. Apply this to your city, country, nation, religion, and you will perceive the truth underlying spiritual service of the world. In helping the world, therefore, we should always keep in mind the fact that our duty is to spiritualize action. Some of our members want to make good karma, as they put it. But that is not Karma-Yoga; that is not treading correctly the Path of Action ; that is not "skill in action which is Yoga"; that is not "To abandon both good and evil deeds." Thus our personal karma is intimately related to our efforts at serving the world.
Adopt a way of service other than this, and you will find that, when you have finished the task, the world has not moved much further. What we want, therefore, is the power to remove the causes of evils which we karmically contact. To deal with evils in the ordinary way is to deal with effects, and that is not productive of lasting good. Therefore discrimination in action is necessary for the service of the world.
How can we perceive the causes of evil belonging to our own environment, save by the process of inner conversion whereby we have rooted out that evil in ourselves, and thus spiritualize that environment? Do not judge the success of our Theosophical service in a crude material way. "How many members have we got by adopting this particular form of propaganda?" asks our zealous activist. That is a wrong measure. It is not the number of members, but the quality that matters. Proselytism from without gives you quantity; inner conversion gives you quality. Our method should be to live our life and let loose a spiritual power in living that life which will produce inner conversion in the hearts of men. Not by words of eloquence but by words made flesh in life that ought to be the way. We can do it in terms of that particular principle of our being which is evolving, because that is the line of least resistance for us. We must react on our own environment and allow our karma to fulfil itself. It is in that sense that Shri Krishna said in the Bhagavad Glta:
"Better is one's own duty, though destitute of merit, than the well-executed duty of another. He who doeth the duty laid down by his own nature incurreth no sin.
Congenital duty, though defective, ought not to be abandoned. All undertakings, indeed, are clouded by defects as fire by smoke.
He whose Buddhi is everywhere unattached, the self-subdued, dead to desires, he goeth by renunciation to the supreme perfection of freedom from obligation."
There you have a teaching identical with H. P. B.'s: "Follow the wheel of life; follow the wheel of duty to race and kin." "Exhaust the law of karmic retribution," says The Voice of the Silence, and: "Gain Siddhis for thy future birth"; the Gita teaches the same lesson of "freedom from obligation." This is the way of service by which we do not incur sin by not abandoning congenital duty. Other paths take us away from the true spiritual life; and we shall go round about it; but we shall neither make progress ourselves nor help the world to advance spiritually. Therefore we should try to lead the life contacting that very sphere which is our own.
There is a world in which we live as individuals; it is no one else's world; for ordinary individuals Nature makes that world; a true Theosophist ought to build it himself. Create a sphere by letting loose some of the spiritual power and force from within, and from there endeavour to remove the causes of evil in the world. Let other people touch that world of yours, for that touch will lead them to the inner conversion which you yourself have gone through, and enable them to build their own world. That is your service to them and the world.
That is what the Masters are doing; They are trying to raise the members of the T. S. to Their level by a process of inner conversion, so that through us They may help a greater number of human souls not human bodies. They are endeavouring to draw human souls into Their world ; for in that world, beyond the worlds of name and form (nâma-rūpa), all names and forms come into being. There we can deal with causes and effects. That is the World of Will and Wisdom and Creation, wherein is determined the destiny of the worlds of effects. Therefore the true Theosophical Service consists in a sincere attempt to master intellectually the scheme of evolution to which we belong, to find our place therein, to apply the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom in reacting on our own environment, and thus, moving from the world within, to affect causes and thereby nullify the evil that encompasses this Sorrowful Star.