THE ESOTERIC SECTION
As far as has been ascertained from existing documentation, the first attempt to establish a group of students for the specific purpose of deeper esoteric studies and training was the one centered around the “Petition to the Masters for the Formation of an ‘Inner Group’ in the London Lodge,” the approximate date of which was July or early August, 1884.
Facsimile of the Document, transcription thereof, and all pertinent data, as far as known, may be found in Volume VI (pp. 250 et seq.) of the Collected Writings, to which the reader is referred.
Later the same year, namely in December of 1884, we hear of a Committee, proposed by T. Subba Row, and formed at Adyar to receive and direct further esoteric teachings and to transmit them to the “Inner Group” in London. It would appear that the Teachers had consented to detail a special group of their chelas to give material to this Committee through Subba Row and Damodar. The Committee was to be composed of Col. Henry S. Olcott, T. Subba Row, Mr. & Mrs. A. J. Cooper-Oakley, and S. Ramaswami Iyer.* No further information concerning this effort is available, and it is reasonable to assume that nothing tangible came out of it.
Subsequent to this initial attempt, and several years removed from it, we have the following letter written by William Quan Judge to H.P.B., and dated May 18 :
“Please reply to this. So many people are beginning to ask me to be Chelas that I must do something, so I have drawn up the enclosed paper which you can send me with some formalities on it as you think right to do so––or whatever I ought to have. If you do not think so, then please tell me in what way I had best proceed.
“I know a good many good ones who will do well and who will form a rock on which the enemy will founder, and this plan would encourage them. So fiat something. As ever,
William Q. Judge.”
* Cf. letters of Col. Olcott to Francesca Arundale, dated Dec. 31, 1884, and Jan. 7, 1885, and published in The Theosophist, September, 1932. Also The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 363, and Josephine Ransom, A Short History of The Theosophical Society, p. 206.
The enclosed paper drawn up by Mr. Judge was worded thus:
“To William Q. Judge:––You are directed to draw together all those persons, members of the Theosophical Society in the U.S., who have or express the desire to serve the cause of the Blessed Masters. This you are to do with the understanding in writing in every case that the persons taken are not thereby made Chelas of the Masters, but simply that they are thus given a chance to make a preliminary trial of themselves, and in each case you will take from the applicant an expression in writing, before making your private register of the names, that they well understand the basis on which you thus take them. Nothing is promised; each will have just what he or she deserves––no more, no less. And all must be faithful to the Cause, to Masters, and to the founders of the Theosophical Society.
“H.P.B. ... replied that I might go ahead without the paper and soon she would do something else. Later, at the time she was explaining in London the plan of the E.S.T. [Eastern School of Theosophy], I telegraphed her asking her to ‘make public the Inner Section.’ That telegram was received in the presence of Dr. Keightley and others. She then told me to come to London and help, which I did. The E.S. was founded on the exact lines of the above papers. I do not wish to place myself on the high level of H.P.B. ..., but in Occultism of Master’s Lodge a lower Chela is often used as the instrument for pointing out to such a great character as H.P.B. ... the times and seasons and sometimes the plan. That I did in this case, and by the direction of the Master. H.P.B.’s promulgations followed the ideas and also the words in part of my paper.”*
In the Fall of 1888, W. Q. Judge went to England and Ireland, visiting, together with Dr. Archibald Keightley, the Dublin Lodge which received a great impetus from their visit on November 27th.
In connection with his visit to London, we have the following words from Mr. Judge:
“I am not a pledged member of the E.S.T. and never made a pledge in it, as my pledges were long before to the Master direct; I was one of its founders, with H.P.B. ..., and she at the beginning made me manager and teacher in it from the first, under her, for the American part especially . . . . I wrote the rules of the E.S.T. myself in London in 1888 at H.P.B.’s request and under the direction of the Master. . . . .†
* E.S.T. Circular entitled “By Master’s Direction,” dated from New York, November, 1894, and signed by William Q. Judge.
† Op. cit., pp. 1-2.
The following Statement was published in Lucifer, Vol. III, on the last page of the October, 1888, issue:
THE ESOTERIC SECTION OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
Owing to the fact that a large number of Fellows of the Society have felt the necessity for the formation of a body of Esoteric students, to be organized on the ORIGINAL LINES devised by the real founders of the T.S., the following order has been issued by the President-Founder:––
I. To promote the esoteric interests of the Theosophical Society by the deeper study of esoteric philosophy, there is hereby organized a body, to be known as the “Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society.”
II. The constitution and sole direction of the same is vested in Madame H. P. Blavatsky, as its Head; she is solely responsible to the Members for results; and the section has no official or corporate connection with the Exoteric Society save in the person of the President Founder.
III. Persons wishing to join the Section, and willing to abide by its rules, should communicate directly with:––Mme. H. P. Blavatsky, 17 Lansdowne Road, Holland Park, London, W.
(Signed) H. S. OLCOTT,
President in Council.
Attest:––H. P. BLAVATSKY.
On December 14, 1888, H.P.B. issued a special order appointing W. Q. Judge as her “only representative for said Section in America” and as “the sole channel through whom will be sent and received all communications between the members of said Section and myself [H.P.B.],” and she did so “in virtue of his character as a chela of thirteen years’ standing.”*
The Archives of the E.S. (Pasadena) contain Mr. Judge’s handwritten draft of the Preliminary Memorandum and Rules, with H.P.B.’s changes, deletions and additions. This document has been seen many times by the present writer. In 1895, its existence was confirmed by Dr. Archibald Keightley, who writes:
* The original document of this order, facsimile of which is reproduced herewith, is in the Archives of The Theosophical Society, Pasadena, Calif.
“I have been asked as to the writing of The Book of Rules, and can only say that, to my knowledge, Mr. Judge wrote The Book of Rules under the guidance of Master M. and H.P.B. .:.; E. T. Hargrove and myself have both seen the original manuscript in Mr. Judge’s handwriting, with written additions in H.P.B.’s handwriting. This manuscript is in the possession of Mr. Judge. H.P.B. further told me that ‘all the Instructions should be studied by the light of The Book of Rules.’ I have seen letters from H.P.B. to Mr. Judge which show that he originated the idea of E.S.T.”*
In 1889, Col. H. S. Olcott made a protracted visit to Europe, during which he saw H.P.B. for the last time. The day before he left London for Colombo, Lanka, she handed to him the following document:
“Theosophical Society, Esoteric Section,
London, 25th December, 1889.
“I hereby appoint Colonel H. S. Olcott my confidential agent and sole official representative of the Esoteric Section for Asiatic countries.
“All correspondence relative to admission into, and resignation from, the Section shall be referred to him, and all Instructions transmitted by him, and his decision is to be taken and accepted as given by myself. Such correspondence to be invariably marked ‘Private’ on the envelope.
(Signed) H. P. Blavatsky.”†
Later, sometime after H.P.B. had formed her “Inner Group” in London, she issued an E.S. Order the text of which is as follows.‡
* E.S.T. Circular issued from 62, Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square, London W., dated January 12, 1895, and signed by Dr. Archibald Keightley.
† Lucifer, London, Vol. V, January 15, 1890, p. 437; The Theosophist, Vol. XI Supplement to March, 1890, p. cv; H. S. Olcott, Old Diary Leaves, Series IV, p. 184.
‡ Facsimile of this Order was published in The Theosophist, Vol. LIII, June 1932, pp. 230-31, the original being in the Adyar Archives.
H. P. Blavatsky
O R D E R
“I hereby appoint in the name of the MASTER, Annie Besant Chief Secretary of the Inner Group of the Esoteric Section & Recorder of the Teachings.
“To Annie Besant, C.S. of the I.G. of the E.S. & R. of the T.
“April 1, 1891.
“Read and Recorded April 11/91. William Q. Judge, Sec. U.S.
The status of the E.S. and its officials is outlined in the following Notice issued early the following year:
“The E.S.T. [Eastern School of Theosophy] has no official connection with the Theosophical Society.
“When first organized it was known as a section of the T.S. but it being seen that the perfect freedom and public character of the Society might be interfered with, H.P.B. some time before her departure, gave notice that all official connection between the two should end, and then changed the name to the present one.
“This leaves all T.S. officials who are in the E.S.T. perfectly free in their official capacity, and also permits members if asked to say with truth that the School has no official connection with the T.S. and is not a part of it.
“Members will please bear this in mind.
(Signed) Annie Besant.
William Q. Judge.”*
The first document issued by H.P.B. appears to have been a brief text entitled Preliminary Memorandum which was sent out in 1888, in a hectographed form, together with the Pledge folder. On December 14, 1888, a printed edition (which included the Rules) was issued.† Its text is as follows:
* “Important Notice,” in the E.S.T. Circular entitled Suggestion and Aids, New Series No. 4, dated New York, March 29, 1892.
† It was later published in The Theosophist, Vol. LII, August, 1931, pp. 591-99 with second paragraph deleted.
STRICTLY PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
ESOTERIC SECTION OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
[Strictly Private, Confidential, Personal, for Members only.]
One object of the present memorandum is to give an opportunity to anyone who has signed the pledge to withdraw it, should such person feel unable or unwilling to accept fully and without reserve the instructions which may be given, or the consequences that may result, and to do the duties whose performance shall be asked. It is but fair to state at once that such duties will never interfere with, nor encroach upon, the probationer’s family duties; on the other hand, it is certain that every member of the Esoteric Section will have to give up more than one personal habit, such as practised in social life, and to adopt some few ascetic rules.
Therefore, anyone who wishes to retire after reading what follows, can have his name removed from the list, and the pledge returned, by applying in writing to that effect with postage enclosed. Such applications to be made within three weeks from the receipt of this; by members in Europe directly to H.P. Blavatsky, 17, Lansdowne Road, Holland Park, London, and by members in America to William Q. Judge, General Secretary American Section, T.S.; Box 2659, New York.
This degree of the Esoteric Section is probationary, and its general purpose is to prepare and fit the student for the study of practical occultism or Raj yoga. Therefore, in this degree, the student––save in exceptional cases––will not be taught how to produce physical phenomena, nor will any magical powers be allowed to develop in him; nor, if possessing such powers naturally, will he be permitted to exercise them before he has thoroughly mastered the knowledge of SELF, of the psycho-physiological processes (taking place on the occult plane) in the human body generally, and until he has in abeyance all his lower passions and his PERSONAL SELF.
The real Head of the Esoteric Section is a Master, of whom H. P. Blavatsky is the mouthpiece for this Section. He is one of those Adepts referred to in theosophical literature, and concerned in the formation of the Theosophical Society. It is through H. P. Blavatsky that each member
of this Section will be brought more closely than hitherto under His influence and care if found worthy of it. No student, however, need inquire which of the Masters it is. For it does not matter in reality; nor is there any necessity for creating one more chance for indiscretion. Suffice to say, such is the law in the East.
Each person will receive in the way of enlightenment and assistance, just as much as he or she deserves and no more; and it is to be distinctly understood that in this Body and these relations no such thing is known as favour––all depends upon the person’s merits––and no member has the power or knowledge to decide what either he or another is entitled to. This must be left to those who know––alone. The apparent favour shown to some, and their consequent apparent advancement, will be due to the work they do, to the best of their power, in the cause of Universal Brotherhood and the elevation of the Race.
No man or woman is asked or supposed to do any more than his or her best; but each is expected to work to the extent of their ability and powers.
The value of the work of this Section to the individual member will depend entirely upon:
1st. The person’s power to assimilate the teachings and make them a part of his being; and
2nd. Upon the unselfishness of the motives with which he seeks for this knowledge; that is to say, upon whether he has entered this Section determined to work for humanity, or with only the desire to benefit or gain something for himself alone.
Let all members, therefore, take warning in time, and seriously examine into their motives, for to all those who join this Section certain consequences will ensue.
And at this stage it is perhaps better that the applicants should learn the reason for the formation of this Section, and what it is expected to achieve:––
The Theosophical Society has just entered upon the fourteenth year of its existence; and if it has accomplished great, one may almost say stupendous, results on the exoteric and utilitarian plane, it has proved a dead failure on all those points which rank foremost among the objects of its original establishment. Thus, as a “Universal Brotherhood,” or even as a fraternity, one among many, it has descended to the level of all those Societies whose pretensions are great, but whose names are simply masks,––nay, even SHAMS. Nor can the excuse be pleaded that it was led into such an undignified course owing to its having been
impeded in its natural development, and almost extinguished, by reason of the conspiracies of its enemies openly begun in 1884. Because even before that date there never was that solidarity in the ranks of our Society which would not only enable it to resist all external attacks, but also make it possible for greater, wider, and more tangible help to be given to all its members by those who are always ready to give help when we are fit to receive it. When trouble arose, too many were quick to doubt and despair, and few indeed were they who had worked for the Cause and not for themselves. The attacks of the enemy have given the Society some discretion in the conduct of its external progress, but its real internal condition has not improved, and the members, in their efforts towards spiritual culture, still require that help which solidarity in the ranks can alone give them the right to ask. The Masters can give but little assistance to a Body not thoroughly united in purpose and feeling, and which breaks its first fundamental rule––universal brotherly love, without distinction of race, creed or colour; nor to a Society, many members of which pass their lives in judging, condemning, and often reviling other members in a most untheosophical, not to say disgraceful, manner.
For this reason it is now contemplated to gather the “elect” of the T.S. and to call them to action. It is only by a select group of brave souls, a handful of determined men and women hungry for genuine spiritual development and the acquirement of soul-wisdom, that the Theosophical Society at large can be brought back to its original lines. It is through an Esoteric Section alone––i.e., a group in which all the members, even if unacquainted with one another, work for each other, and by working for all work for themselves––that the great Exoteric Society may be redeemed and made to realize that in union and harmony alone lie its strength and power. The object of this Section, then, is to help the future growth of the Theosophical Society as a whole in the true direction, by promoting brotherly union at least among the few.
All know that this end was in view when the Society was established, and even in its mere unpledged ranks there was a possibility for development and knowledge, until it began to show want of real union; and now it must be saved from future dangers by the united aim, brotherly feeling, and constant exertions of the members of this Esoteric Section. Therefore, anyone who has signed the pledge without realizing this is earnestly recommended to reconsider his position, and to withdraw unless he is prepared to devote himself to the carrying out of this purpose. Once offered the grand example of practical altruism, of the noble lives of those who learn to master the great knowledge but to help others, and who strive to acquire powers but to place them at the service of their fellow-men, the whole theosophical community
may yet be steered into action, and led to follow the example set before them.
The Esoteric Section is thus “set apart” for the salvation of the whole Society, and its course from its first steps will be an arduous and uphill work for its members, though a great reward lies behind the many obstacles once they are overcome. He who wants to follow the working of his inner self and nature for the purpose of self-mastery, has to understand them by comparison; he has to strive to fathom the mysteries of the human heart in general, before he can hope to learn the whole truth about the mysteries of his own soul. The power of Occult self-introspection is too limited in its area if it does not go beyond the Self, and the investigation of isolated instances will remain forever fruitless if we fail to work it out on firmly established principles. We cannot do good to ourselves––on a higher plane––without doing good to others, because each nature reacts upon other natures; nor can we help others without this help benefiting ourselves.
Disappointment is sure to come to those who have joined this Section for the purpose of learning “magic arts” or acquiring “occult training” for themselves, quite regardless of the good of other people less determined. Abnormal, artificially-developed powers––except those which crown the efforts of a Black Magician––are only the culmination of, and reward for, labours bestowed unselfishly upon humanity, upon all men, whether good or bad. Forgetfulness of the personal Self and sincere altruism are the first and indispensable requisites in the training of those who are to become “White Adepts” either in this or a future incarnation.
If any member of this Section agrees to all this, and yet says to himself that, notwithstanding what is said, he will seek for the knowledge for himself, caring little––provided he acquires the powers––as to whether he shall end as a Black or White Adept, let him know that disaster awaits him much sooner than he thinks, and that, although he tries to conceal his motive, it will be known and shall cause a reaction upon him which no one will be able to avert.
No blame will be attached to anyone for a constitutional lack of capacity for assimilating the teachings given, if he works earnestly and continually, if his aspirations do not relax or weaken; his efforts will be known in the right quarter, and it is in strict accordance with his deserts that help will be given him when he expects it the least.
Let every member know, moreover, that the time for such priceless acquisition is limited. The writer of the present is old; her life is well-nigh worn out, and she may be summoned “home” any day and almost any hour. And if her place is even filled up, perchance by another worthier and more learned than herself, still there remain but twelve
years to the last hour of the term––namely, till December the 31st, 1899. Those who will not have profited by the opportunity (given to the world in every last quarter of a century), those who will not have reached a certain point of psychic and spiritual development, or that point from which begins the cycle of adeptship, by that day––those will advance no further than the knowledge already acquired. No Master of Wisdom from the East will himself appear or send any one to Europe or America after that period, and the sluggards will have to renounce every chance of advancement in their present incarnation––until the year 1975. Such is the LAW, for we are in Kali Yuga––the Black Age––and the restrictions in this cycle, the first 5,000 years of which will expire in 1897, are great and almost insuperable.
As to the relations of the Masters to this Section, it may be further said, paradoxically, that with Them everything is possible and everything impossible. They may or may not communicate personally on the outer plane with a member, and those who are continually wishing to receive “orders” or communications directly from Them on this plane, either phenomenally or otherwise, will in all probability be disappointed. The Masters have no desire to prove Their power or give “tests” to anyone whatever. And the fact that a member has concluded that a crisis of some kind or other is at hand, when, according to his wise opinion, the Master or Masters ought to speak and interfere personally, is no sound reason for such an outward interference.
It is, however, right that each member, once he believes in the existence of such Masters, should try to understand what their nature and powers are, to reverence Them in his heart, to draw near to Them, as much as in him lies, and to open up for himself conscious communication with the guru to whose bidding he has devoted his life. THIS CAN ONLY BE DONE BY RISING TO THE SPIRITUAL PLANE WHERE THE MASTERS ARE, AND NOT BY ATTEMPTING TO DRAW THEM DOWN TO OURS.
Inasmuch as growth in spiritual life comes from within, members must not expect to receive any other communications than those through H.P.B. The additional help, instruction, and enlightenment, will come from the inner planes of being, and will, as said, always be given when deserved.
To achieve this, the attitude of mind in which the teachings given are to be received is that which shall tend to develop the faculty of intuition. The duty of members in this respect is to refrain from arguing that the statements made are not in accordance with what other people have said or written, or with their own ideas upon the subject, or that, again, they are apparently contrary to any accepted system of thought or philosophy. Practical esoteric science is altogether sui
generis. It requires all the mental and psychic powers of the student to be used in examining what is given, to the end that the real meaning of the Teacher may be discovered, as far as the student can understand it. He must endeavor as much as possible to free his mind, while studying or trying to carry out that which is given him, from all the ideas which he may have derived by heredity, from education, from surroundings, or from other teachers. His mind should be made perfectly free from all other thoughts, so that the inner meaning of the instructions may be impressed upon him apart from the words in which they are clothed. Otherwise, there is constant risk of his ideas becoming as coloured with preconceived notions as those of the writers of certain otherwise excellent works upon esoteric subjects who have made the occult tenets more subservient to modern Science than to occult truth.
In order, also, that the student may receive as much benefit as possible, it is absolutely essential that the superficial and inattentive habits of thought, engendered by Western civilization, shall be given up, and the mind concentrated upon the instructions as a whole as well as upon every word in them. To this end students are required to practise the habit of careful and constant concentration of mind upon every duty and act in life they may have to do, and not to reserve their efforts in that direction for the consideration of these teachings only. The student must make all his desires lean to, and centre upon, the acquirement of spiritual knowledge, so that the natural tendency of his thought may be in that direction. He must, therefore, in every moment of leisure revert to these subjects, as well as have a special time set apart for their consideration.
Students must not look for tests and trials of a special nature; these will come in the affairs of life and in relations with fellow-men. Specific tests will not in general be given, but even the manner in which the student approaches these teachings will be in itself a test or trial. The Masters do not judge students simply by their ability to do this or that special or difficult thing, but by the actual self-development and progress accomplished.
In entering this Section, the student begins to look his own nature in the face, and in accordance with the intensity of his aspirations, will be his difficulties. These difficulties may exhibit themselves on the physiological, mental, moral, or psychic planes of his being, or in the circumstances of his life. Having signed the pledge, his first failure to keep any one of its clauses is the failure to stand the first trial. Such a failure, however, is not defeat, so long as a further sincere endeavour is made.
In the following the masculine includes the feminine; the
singular, the plural; and vice versa.
1. Groundless condemnation on hearsay of others, theosophists or not, must be refrained from, and charity to each other’s faults widely practiced within, as well as without, the theosophical area.
2. Repetition of statements or gossip derogatory of others must be avoided. But condemnation of crime, of social evils and systems of every description, in the abstract, is a duty of every member. Above all, the duty of every member is to fight against cant, hypocrisy, and injustice in every shape.
3. A derogatory or slanderous statement made against a fellow theosophist in the presence of a member, shall not be permitted by him to pass without protest, unless he knows it is true, in which case he should remain silent.
4. No member shall boast of being in this Section.
5. No member shall pry into the standing in this Section of a Brother, nor shall he uninvited seek to know if another theosophist is a member of it. Members may use the password of the Section for the purpose of recognition, but never from curiosity, nor a desire to discover if the person addressed is a member of the Section.
6. Any member may, if he chooses, remain unknown as such, and that desire, if suspected by others, must not be talked about nor referred to.
7. If a member, whether falsely or truly, asserts that he has received letters or communications from Masters, unless directed to divulge the same, he will ipso facto cease to derive any benefit from the teachings, whether the fact be known or unknown to himself or to others. A repetition of such offense gives the Head of the Section the right to expel the offender in discretion. In every case where a member shall receive a letter or communication purporting to come from Master or Masters, and which directs the divulgation of its contents or a part thereof, the same before being divulged shall be communicated to H.P.B. directly, if the recipient is in Europe, and to William Q. Judge, if in America, for transmission to said H.P.B. For deception is easy, and, without great
experience, members are not able to decide whether such a communication is genuine or not.
8. No member shall, under any circumstances, bring any charge of whatever nature against another member, whether to H.P.B., William Q. Judge, or any other member of the Section. This rule does not imply that the Masters condone, excuse, or tolerate any fault or crime. But no member is the judge of the acts of another member or theosophist, in this Section less than in any other. For, while in every Exoteric Branch, its President and Council decide upon any charges against their Fellows, in this Section each member is to be judged by his Karma and the Masters alone.
9. No member shall pretend to the possession of psychic powers that he has not, nor boast of those which he may have developed. Envy, jealousy, and vanity are insidious and powerful foes to progress, and it is known from long experience that, among beginners especially, the boasting of, or calling attention to, their psychic powers almost invariably causes the development of these faults and increases them when present. Hence––
10. No member shall tell to another, especially to a fellow-member, how much he has progressed or what recognition he has received, nor shall he by hints cause such to be known. Where students of similar tastes and dispositions desire to form a group or groups for mutual help in training, application must be made to H.P.B. for permission and advice as to the same. But hasty judgment as to the advisability of forming such groups must be avoided. For it may so happen, that two or more members united by a real friendship, may yet be so contrary in their magnetic idiosyncracies and conditions that their friendship may be changed into hatred on the occult plane, if they form groups without esoteric knowledge.
11. No member shall ask for any orders or instructions as to the conduct of his business affairs or the management of his social relations, or the ordinary affairs of life, nor as to the cure of diseases, whether in himself or in any other person. Questions relative to the instructions given will alone be accepted and attended to.
12. It is required of a member that when a question arises it shall be deeply thought over from all its aspects, to the end that he may find the answer himself; and in no case shall questions be asked out of curiosity, nor until the person has exhausted every ordinary means of solving the doubt or of acquiring himself the information sought. Otherwise his intuition will never be developed. He will not learn self-reliance;
and two of the main objects of the Section will be defeated. For an adept becomes such by his own exertions, by the self-development of his own power; and no one but himself can effect this work. “An adept becomes, he is not made.” The office of Guru or Guide is to adjust the disciple in his progress, and not to drag or push him forward.
13. The use of wine, spirits, liquors of any kind, or any narcotic or intoxicating drug, is strictly prohibited. If indulged in, all progress is hindered, and the efforts of teacher and pupil alike are rendered useless. All such substances have a directly pernicious action upon the brain, and especially upon the “third eye,” or pineal gland (vide “Secret Doctrine,” Vol. II, p. 288 [d] et seq.). They prevent absolutely the development of the third eye, called in the East “the Eye of Śiva.”
14. The moderate use of tobacco is not prohibited, for it is not an intoxicant; but its abuse, like that of everything else––even pure water or bread––is prejudicial.
15. As to diet: The eating of meat is not prohibited, but if the student can maintain health on vegetables or fish, such diet is recommended. The eating of meat strengthens the passional nature, and the desire to acquire possessions, and therefore increases the difficulty of the struggle with the lower nature.
16. Each member is expected to set apart a certain time of the day or night, of not less than half an hour’s duration, for meditation upon the instructions received, for self-examination and self-study. If possible, the place selected for this should be used by no other person, nor for any other purpose; but the providing of such a special place, if inconvenient, is not insisted upon.
17. Harbouring doubt as to the existence of Masters in general is no crime, since it is often but the effect of ignorance, and comes involuntarily. But it will inevitably prevent the pupil from attracting the attention of the Master; and he will fail to draw to himself His influence. Suspicions as to the character of the members of the Section are also prejudicial to advancement. In short, any malevolent feeling, especially malice, envy or revenge toward any person high or low, creates peculiarly obstructive conditions in the student’s path, and will absolutely prevent progress of every sort. The elimination of the desire for reward aids the student in his development.
18. No member of this Section shall belong to any other body, association, or organization for the purpose of mystic study or occult training, except Masonry and the Odd Fellows, if they so desire. But
they must be as careful to guard the secrecy of this Section from Masons as they are to preserve the secrets of Masonry from Theosophists. The reason for this rule is so self-evident as to need no explanation.
19. It is expected that all members of this Section shall have the following books and magazines where they can be referred to, as constant reference to them will be made in the course of the instruction, and no extended extracts will be furnished. Works on metaphysics and articles expounding the teachings of our Special School should be procured. The following books and theosophical magazines should be especially attended to:––
|“The Secret Doctrine.”
||“Patanjali’s Yoga Philosophy.”|
|“The Bhagavad-Gita.”||“The Theosophist.”|
|“Light on the Path.”||“Lucifer.”|
This rule is not intended to force members into the purchase of these books and magazines, but the undersigned has no time to copy extracts, giving explanations that have already appeared in print. Much has been already published, and it will be necessary to refer very often to such matter, and if a member is actually unable to procure the publications referred to, it is expected that others who are able will, upon request, furnish the desired book or a copy of the matter referred to. And herein the plea of poverty––if a pretence––will be as prejudicial to the student as any other vice.
20. As “the first test of true apprenticeship is devotion to the interest of another,” it is expected that members will endeavor to fully comply with clauses 1 and 5 of the pledge. Theosophy must be made a living power in life, and, as a beginning, it must be applied in all relations, whether business, social, or personal. “The doctrine,” as a whole, “promulgated by the Adepts being the only true one, must––supported by such evidence as they are preparing to give––become ultimately triumphant as every other truth. Yet it is absolutely necessary to inculcate it gradually, enforcing its theories, unimpeachable facts for those who know, with direct inferences deduced from and corroborated by the evidence furnished by modern exact science. For these doctrines to practically react on the life through the so-called moral code or the ideas of truthfulness, purity, self-denial, charity, etc., we have to preach and popularise a knowledge of Theosophy. It is not the individual or determined purpose of attaining oneself Nirvâna, which is, after all, only an exalted and glorious selfishness, but the self-sacrificing pursuit of the best means to lead our neighbor on the right path, and cause as many of our fellow creatures as we possibly can to
benefit by it, which constitutes the true Theosophist.”*
21. Members of the Section will therefore not neglect the exoteric branches of the Theosophical Society, but are expected to infuse into those as much energy in theosophical work as they can. Although all cannot be teachers, yet each one can familiarise himself with theosophical doctrines, and promulgate them to those who are inquiring. “There is hardly a theosophist in the whole Society unable to effectually help it by correcting erroneous impressions of outsiders, if not by actually propagating the ideas himself.” The efforts of those members who benefit the Cause should never be impeded by criticism on the part of others who do nothing, but all should be encouraged and as much help given as is possible, even if that assistance be limited through circumstances to mere encouragement. Every sincerely based work for theosophy will bear good fruit, no matter how inappropriate it may appear in the eyes of those members who have set to themselves and everybody else only one definite plan of action.
Further rules will be made if exigency requires.
The communications to be made will be forwarded in Europe directly from H. P. Blavatsky; in America all communications will be sent through William Q. Judge, P.O. Box 2659, New York, U.S.A.; and all questions addressed to H. P. Blavatsky by members of this Section in America must be forwarded to said William Q. Judge, and shall bear upon them the number of the member as found on his certificate. As some early certificates of admission were sent without bearing this reference number, every member holding such a certificate should immediately apply for his number. William Q. Judge is authorized to establish regulations in his discretion in respect to the method to be followed in America for the transmission of communications, questions and answers, and also in respect to the appointment of assistant secretaries.
LONDON, December 14, 1888. (Signed) H. P. B.
* [These excerpts are from a letter of the Mahâ-Chohan, very likely the most important letter from the Teachers. Its original does not exist in any of the known Archives. Its approximate date is 1881. Copies which are available show it to have been intended for A. P. Sinnett. It is introduced by the following brief statement:
“An abridged version of the view of the Chohan on the T.S. from his own words as given last night. My own letter, the answer to yours, will shortly follow. K.H.”
Other excerpts from this communication were published by H.P.B in Lucifer, Vol. II, August, 1888, pp. 431-32 (cf. Collected Writings, Vol. X; pp. 78-81 with historical footnotes), and by William Quan Judge in The Path, Vol. VII, February, 1893, pp. 333-35 (cf. Echoes of the Orient, Vol. I, 1975, pp. 297-300). ––Compiler.]
Next to be issued were H.P.B.’s E. S. Instructions I and II. They were first run off on a hand-roller “primitive” mimeograph. Stencils were made, an ink-roller was used and sheets had to be spread out to dry. Henry T. Edge, personal pupil of H.P.B., then only 22 years of age, told me that he did this work and that H.P.B. signed some of them with her initials, in some cases with the triangle of three dots following them.
When they were printed by the Aryan Press, organized by Mr. Judge and James Morgan Pryse in New York in 1889, they were dated January and February, 1889, for Instruction I, and March and April for Instruction II. Later editions, which, unfortunately, are undated, show that these Instructions were entirely reset, with various minor changes and improvements incorporated.
Instruction III, preceded by “Preliminary Explanations,” was issued in 1889-90, and was printed. All key-words in the “Preliminary Explanations” were omitted in the copy given to the printer. H.P.B. herself, with pen and ink, wrote in the key-words for which a blank space had been left by the typesetter, and then initialed each copy.
After the H.P.B. Press had been installed in London, about November, 1890, and James M. Pryse had come over from the U.S.A. to operate it, the Instructions were printed by him. Nos. I and II were bound together, and No. III was bound separately. Copies were sent to Mr. Judge in New York, for the E.S. members in America. Also sheets were sent at a later time, and Mr. Judge had them bound for his own use.
The next document was a small booklet called the Book of Rules, consisting of two parts: text and Rules. The text had no special title, but actually was the Preliminary Memorandum issued previously. The wording of the General rules, in part, at least, drafted by Mr. Judge, was slightly modified.
In regard to Instruction No. III, it should be noted that its original edition has the full text of H.P.B.’s “Preliminary Explanations to No. III of the Instructions,” written at the time of a grave crisis or rather series of crises, through which the T.S. passed in 1889-90. This original text contains a spirited defense of W. Q. Judge against vicious attacks. At the time when the Instructions had to be reprinted in London, sometime in 1890-91, certain portions of these “Preliminary Explanations” were omitted by those who had been constituted the editors, on the ground that they were too personal. This was done when H.P.B. was too ill to supervise the work, and, she afterwards said, without her sanction and much against her wishes.*
* As stated in the Introductory Note to E.S. Instruction No. III, edition of 1895.
To quote again from Dr. Archibald Keightley:
“ ‘When the English copies of the Instructions had to be revised and reprinted, this paper [Preliminary Explanations] was partly incorporated with Instruction No. III, and those who had the work in hand omitted certain portions of the matter. At a household meeting held at 19, Avenue Road, in January, 1894, Mr. Mead stated that:
“ ‘The Instructions were being revised for the purpose of printing them;
“ ‘He considered that it would be better to issue the Instructions without any reference in them to living persons;
“ ‘He referred the matter to H.P.B. for her decision;
“ ‘At the time, H.P.B. was in very bad health, and it was exceedingly difficult to attract her attention to any routine business.
“ ‘He was told not to trouble H.P.B. but to “do as you like.”
“ ‘He, acting on what he then considered the best interests of E.S.T., cut out all reference to living persons from the Instructions.’
“ ‘The above agrees with what I recollect of the proceedings of the House Committee and with the statement of G. R. S. Mead made to me at the time he gave me the revised copy for reprinting No. III Instructions.
(Signed) James M. Pryse.’
“ ‘The above is a true statement of what Mr. Mead said at the meeting referred to. Moreover, I was often present at the E.S.T. private printing office when the Instructions were being printed, and I remember that statements by Mr. Pryse to the same effect were made to me at the time of revision. And I remember discussing the subject with Mr. Mead before the completion of the book, and he made statements to me personally to the same effect.
(Signed) Thomas Green.’
“ ‘The above is a correct account of Mr. Mead’s explanation of the revision as given at the meeting referred to. During the winter of 1893-94, when I was living at the Headquarters, I heard Mr. Mead give the same account both before and after that meeting.
(Signed) Ernest T. Hargrove.’ ”†
* Ac stated in the Introductory Note to E S. Instruction No. III, edition of 1895.
† E.S.T. Circular of Jan. 12, 1895, quoted from earlier.
Dr. Archibald Keightley states also in the same Circular that “Mr. Claude F. Wright also gave me the same account. I refer to the matter in detail because a rumour has lately been set afloat that H.P.B. . . . ordered the excisions above referred to. But above all there is her own written statement that all she said of Mr. Judge in that paper was from her Master’s own letter (posted at Sikkim) to her. Everyone who knew H.P.B. ... knew that she never would have intentionally removed the Master’s own words from a paper which He ordered her to write, as He did order her to issue the paper referred to . . .”
The third printed edition of Instruction No. III, issued in New York in 1895, restored the omitted portions.
In 1890, in England, a second Preliminary Memorandum* was published, this being extracts from H.P.B.’s “Preliminary Explanations to No. III of the Instructions,” plus the penultimate paragraph of that Instruction. The Aryan Press in New York also published this second Preliminary Memorandum in an eight-page pamphlet. Its text is as follows:
Strictly private and confidential.
“If thou canst not fulfil thy pledge, refuse to take it, but once thou hast bound thyself to any promise, carry it out, even if thou hast to die for it.”
Membership in the E. S., and “pledges” sent, accepted and signed, are no warrants for a high success, nor do these pledges aim at making of every student an adept or a magician. They are simply the seeds in which lurks the potentiality of every truth, the germ of that progress which will be the heirloom of only the seventh perfect Race. A handful of such seeds was entrusted to me by the keepers of these truths, and it is my duty to sow them there, where I perceive a possibility of growth. It is the parable of the Sower put once more into practice, and a fresh lesson to be derived from its new application. The seeds that fall into good ground will bring forth fruit an hundredfold, and thus repay in each case the waste of those seeds which will have fallen by the wayside, on stony hearts and among the thorns of human passions. It is the duty of the Sower to choose the best soil for the future crops. But he is held responsible only so far as that ability is directly
* This second Preliminary Memorandum was included in a further edition of the Book of Rules issued in late 1891 by Annie Besant and William Q. Judge as joint Heads of the E.S.
connected with the failures, and that such are solely due to it; it is the Karma of the individuals who receive the seeds by asking for them, that will repay or punish those who fail in their duties to their HIGHER SELF.
(From the “Book of Discipline” in the schools of “Dzyan.”)
“1. TO THE EARNEST DISCIPLE HIS TEACHER TAKES THE PLACE OF FATHER AND MOTHER. FOR, WHEREAS THEY GAVE HIM HIS BODY AND ITS FACULTIES, ITS LIFE AND CASUAL FORM, THE TEACHER SHOWS HIM HOW TO DEVELOP THE INNER FACULTIES FOR THE ACQUISITION OF THE ETERNAL WISDOM.
“2. TO THE DISCIPLE EACH FELLOW-DISCIPLE BECOMES A BROTHER AND SISTER, A PORTION OF HIMSELF,* FOR HIS INTERESTS AND ASPIRATIONS ARE THEIRS, HIS WELFARE INTERWOVEN WITH THEIRS, HIS PROGRESS HELPED OR HINDERED BY THEIR INTELLIGENCE, MORALITY, AND BEHAVIOR THROUGH THE INTIMACY BROUGHT ABOUT BY THEIR CO-DISCIPLESHIP.
“3. A CO-DISCIPLE OR ASSOCIATE CANNOT BACKSLIDE OR FALL OUT OF THE LINE WITHOUT AFFECTING THOSE WHO STAND FIRM THROUGH THE SYMPATHETIC TIE BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND THE PSYCHICAL CURRENTS BETWEEN THEM AND THEIR TEACHER.
“4. WOE TO THE DESERTER, WOE ALSO TO ALL WHO HELP TO BRING HIS SOUL TO THE POINT WHERE DESERTION FIRST PRESENTS ITSELF BEFORE HIS MIND’S EYE, AS THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS. GOLD IN THE CRUCIBLE IS HE WHO STANDS THE MELTING HEAT OF TRIAL, AND LETS ONLY THE DROSS BE BURNT OUT OF HIS HEART; ACCURSED BY KARMIC ACTION WILL FIND HIMSELF HE WHO THROWS DROSS INTO THE MELTING-POT OF DISCIPLESHIP FOR THE DEBASEMENT OF HIS FELLOW-PUPIL. AS THE MEMBERS TO THE BODY, SO ARE THE DISCIPLES TO EACH OTHER, AND TO THE HEAD AND HEART WHICH TEACH AND NOURISH THEM WITH THE LIFE- STREAM OF TRUTH.
“5. AS THE LIMBS DEFEND THE HEAD AND HEART OF THE BODY THEY BELONG TO, SO HAVE THE DISCIPLES TO DEFEND THE HEAD AND THE HEART OF THE BODY THEY BELONG TO (in this case Theosophy) FROM INJURY.
(From the Letter of a Master.)
. . . . AND IF THE LIMBS HAVE TO DEFEND THE HEAD AND HEART OF
THEIR BODY, THEN WHY NOT SO, ALSO, THE DISCIPLES THEIR TEACHERS AS REPRESENTING THE SCIENCE OF THEOSOPHY WHICH CONTAINS AND
* “So shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives; bear love to men as though they were thy brother-pupils, disciples of one Teacher, the sons of one sweet mother.” (Vide Fragment III, in Voice of the Silence, p. 49.)
INCLUDES THE ‘HEAD’ OF THEIR PRIVILEGE, THE ‘HEART’ OF THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH? SAITH THE SCRIPTURE:-
“HE WHO WIPETH NOT AWAY THE FILTH WITH WHICH THE PARENT’S BODY MAY HAVE BEEN DEFILED BY AN ENEMY, NEITHER LOVES THE PARENT NOR HONOURS HIMSELF. HE WHO DEFENDETH NOT THE PERSECUTED AND THE HELPLESS, WHO GIVETH NOT OF HIS FOOD TO THE STARVING NOR DRAWETH WATER FROM HIS WELL FOR THE THIRSTY, HATH BEEN BORN TOO SOON IN HUMAN SHAPE.
“BEHOLD THE TRUTH BEFORE YOU: A CLEAN LIFE, AN OPEN MIND, A PURE HEART, AN EAGER INTELLECT, AN UNVEILED SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION, A BROTHERLINESS FOR ONE’S CO-DISCIPLE, A READINESS TO GIVE AND RECEIVE ADVICE AND INSTRUCTION, A LOYAL SENSE OF DUTY TO THE TEACHER, A WILLING OBEDIENCE TO THE BEHESTS OF TRUTH, ONCE WE HAVE PLACED OUR CONFIDENCE IN, AND BELIEVE THAT TEACHER TO BE IN POSSESSION OF IT; A COURAGEOUS ENDURANCE OF PERSONAL INJUSTICE, A BRAVE DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES, A VALIANT DEFENCE OF THOSE WHO ARE UNJUSTLY ATTACKED, AND A CONSTANT EYE TO THE IDEAL OF HUMAN PROGRESSION AND PERFECTION WHICH THE SECRET SCIENCE (Gupta-Vidyâ) DEPICTS––THESE ARE THE GOLDEN STAIRS UP THE STEPS OF WHICH THE LEARNER MAY CLIMB TO THE TEMPLE OF DIVINE WISDOM.”
(From No. III of the Instructions.)
Good and evil are relative, and are intensified or lessened according to the conditions by which man is surrounded. One who belongs to that which we call the “useless portion of mankind,” i.e., the lay majority, is in many cases irresponsible. Crimes committed in Avidyâ (ignorance) involve physical but not moral responsibilities or Karma. Take, for example, the case of idiots, children, savages, and other people who know no better. But the case of each of you, pledged to the HIGHER SELF, is quite another matter. You cannot invoke this divine Witness with impunity, and once that you have put yourselves under its tutelage, you have asked the Radiant Light to shine into and search through all the dark corners of your being; consciously you have invoked the divine justice of Karma to take note of your motives, to scrutinize your actions, and to enter up all in your account. The step is as irrevocable as that of the infant taking birth. Never again can you force yourself back into the Matrix of Avidyâ and irresponsibility. Resignation and return of your pledges will not help you. Though you flee to the uttermost parts of the earth, and hide yourselves from the sight of men, or seek oblivion in the tumult of the social whirl, that Light will find you out and lighten your every thought, word, and deed. Are any of you so foolish as to suppose that it is to poor, miserable H.P.B. you
are giving your pledge? All she can do is to send to each earnest one among you a most sincerely fraternal sympathy and hope for a good outcome to your endeavors. Nevertheless, be not discouraged, but try, ever keep trying;* twenty failures are not irremediable if followed by as many undaunted struggles upward: is it not so that mountains are climbed? And know further that if Karma relentlessly records in the Esotericist’s account bad deeds that in the ignorant would be overlooked, yet equally true is it that each of his good deeds is, by reason of his association with the Higher Self, an hundredfold intensified as a potentiality for good.
In the latter part of 1889, the following communication was addressed by H.P.B. to her Esotericists:
E.S.T.S. Strictly Private and Confidential.
The following has been received by me, with orders to send a copy to all members of the Section.
William Quan Judge,
Sec. to H.P.B.
17 Lansdowne Road,
November 29, 1889.
H. P. Blavatsky
To the Esotericists:
As one sees the blemishes of his face by looking in a mirror, so has the mere holding up to you of the shining image of the true and advanced Esotericists revealed to the earnest among you your own imperfections. The disclosure is so impressive that some of the best of the members of the E.S. have, with undue precipitancy, wanted to sever their connection and leap out of the “path.” They knew not that if among them there was one who embodied in himself the ideal depicted it would be my duty to relinquish the Teacher’s chair to him. For it would be the extreme of audacity in me to claim the possession of so many virtues. That the Masters do, in proportion to their respective temperaments, at stages of Bodhisattvic development possess such Pâramitâs, constitutes their right to our reverence as our Teachers. It should be the aim of each and
* Read pages 40 and 63 in The Voice of the Silence.
all of us to strive with all the intensity of our natures to follow and imitate them.
Take back your resignations, then, you sincere ones, who dazzled by the ideal held up to you in the Master’s letter, and stung by your sense of imperfection, have adopted the wrong expedient of retiring. This is the reverse of bravery. Try to realize that progress is made step by step, and each step gained by heroic effort. Withdrawal means despair or timidity. “No Arhan, O Lanoo, becomes one in that birth when for the first the Soul begins to long for final liberation.” (Voice of the Silence, p. 39.) Read those words and remember them. “And if he falls, e’en then he does not fall in vain; the enemies he slew in the last battle will not return to life in the next birth that will be his.” (Ibid., p. 40.) Conquered passions, like slain tigers, can no longer turn and rend you. Be hopeful, then, not despairing. With each morning’s awakening try to live through the day in harmony with the Higher Self. “Try” is the battle-cry taught by the Teachers to each pupil. Naught else is expected of you. One who does his best does all that can be asked. There is a moment when even a Buddha ceases to be a sinning mortal and takes his first step toward Buddhahood.
So, then, to answer plain questions put to me in several letters by frightened Esotericists, I say that probably though not one of you may attain in this birth to this full ideal (of Buddhahood), yet each of you may begin to tread the “sryâshtânga-Mârga.”* Afraid of Pâramitâs, are you? A man may be patient, kind and conscientious, without becoming at once a King Harichandra. “The sixteen Pâramitâs are not for priests and yogis alone,” as said, but stand for models for all to strive after; and neither priest nor yogi, chela nor Mahâtma, ever attained all, at once. Again, the idea that sinners and saints are expected to enter the Path is emphatically stated in The Voice of the Silence, p. 40, where it is said that “not one recruit can ever be refused the right to enter on the path that leads toward the field of battle.”
Read the “Voice,” I say. It was written for, and dedicated to you, by Masters’ special orders. Therein you will find all your inquiries anticipated and answered.
Note.––Pâramitâs are the transcendental virtues.––W.Q.J.
* [Noble Eightfold Path.––Comp.]
In regard to the Pledge of Probationers, one of its early versions was openly published in the pages of Lucifer (Volume III, September, 1888, pp. 63-67), in an article entitled “The Meaning of a Pledge,” said to have been written by Dr. Archibald Keightley, and which we reproduce herewith.
THE MEANING OF A PLEDGE
It has been thought advisable that members of a certain Occult Lodge of the T.S. should have the meaning of the Pledge they are about to take laid before them as plainly as possible. At any rate, that those who have previously signed the Pledge shall lay before those who are about to do so all that they understand this Pledge to mean and what its signature involves.
The Pledge runs as follows:
“1. I pledge myself to endeavour to make Theosophy a living factor in my life.
“2. I pledge myself to support, before the world, the Theosophical movement, its leaders and its members.
“3. I pledge myself never to listen without protest to any evil thing spoken of a Brother Theosophist and to abstain from condemning others.
“4. I pledge myself to maintain a constant struggle against my lower nature, and to be charitable to the weaknesses of others.
“5. I pledge myself to do all in my power, by study or otherwise, to fit myself to help and teach others.
“6. I pledge myself to give what support I can to the movement in time, money, and work.
“So Help Me, My Higher Self.”
It is at once plain that this is not a general Pledge like that which is taken so lightly by members of the Theosophical Society; but that it is a specific undertaking to do and to endeavour to do certain things. Also that it is given under an invocation:––
“So help me, my Higher Self.”
The term “Higher Self” has recently come into considerable use––at any rate so far as the Theosophical Society is concerned. To those who have studied the meaning of the words it is at once evident that to “take an oath” in the ordinary fashion of Christians is much less serious than a Pledge in presence of the “Higher Self.”
The “Higher Self,” moreover, is not a sort of sublimated essence of any one man; a sort of spiritualised “personality.” It is universal and
secondless and in such a sense the term “my Higher Self” seems misplaced. But every man, however dimly, is a manifestation of the Higher Self, and it is by the connection of the J…va, the Monad, with the secondless “Higher Self” that it is possible to use the term. What then does the invocation mean?
The man who takes this Pledge in the right spirit calls upon It, and calls every help and blessing from It to his assistance. By an intense desire to be under Its protection he (though It per se is latent and passive) places himself under the protection of the active and beneficent powers that are the direct rays of the Absolute Higher Secondless Self.
But if a man takes this Pledge and betrays his Higher Self, he risks every evil and brings it upon himself. Thus then, he who remains true to the Pledge has nothing to fear; but he who has no confidence in himself to keep the Pledge when taken, had better leave it and, much more, leave Occultism alone.
Breaking this Pledge cannot, then, involve penalty on the “Higher Self,” but it can affect the individual man. The “Higher Self” is immortal, but the Monad exists as a separate individual only during the Manvantaras, and around it various personalities are formed. This incarnates at every new birth, and not only can be, but is, punished if such a Pledge is broken. Once that it has progressed far enough to recognize the glorious light of the Higher Self and desire to live in it, the breaking of the Pledge tends towards a condition which would preclude the possibility of that light not only benefitting the Monad, but even reaching it.
Thus all men are in the presence of two forces in nature. One of them active and beneficent, whose aid and assistance is directly invoked by the Pledge; the other active, but maleficent, which is represented by beings who have a distinct interest in preventing the operation of the Pledge, and in hindering the work of the Theosophical Society. We see this more clearly when we know that we Pledge ourselves to be active, and not merely to endeavor to be.
Further, there are powers on the earth and in the flesh, as well as in the astral light, who desire to prevent and hinder the Pledge from taking effect. Some of these act consciously in this manner, and others because they are driven to such conscious action, but without any knowledge of the reason or force which drives them thereto.
We are to endeavor to “make Theosophy a living factor in our lives.” Before we can endeavor to do this, much less do it effectually, we must first understand what Theosophy is, and actually define to ourselves what we individually mean by Theosophy. Now it is exactly this definition, its want, and our ignorance generally which hitherto
has prevented us from carrying out this endeavor. Nothing need here be said of the Theosophical Society and the benefit which would come to it by even a small section of its members actually making Theosophy the living factor in their lives. Very few do so, and it is only too true that a member of the Theosophical Society is not necessarily a Theosophist. But those who take this Pledge are not content to remain nominally members of the Society, but aspire to be Theosophists indeed. And therefore it is so necessary that all should learn what a Theosophist is, and what any man must do to make Theosophy a living factor in his life.
As a negative definition nothing could be better than the definition in Lucifer, Vol. I, November, 1887, p. 169:
“He who does not practice altruism; he who is not prepared to share his last morsel with a weaker or poorer than himself; he who neglects to help his brother man, of whatever race, nation, or creed, whenever and wherever he meets suffering, and who turns a deaf ear to the cry of human misery; he who hears an innocent person slandered, whether a brother Theosophist or not, and does not undertake his defence as he would undertake his own––is no Theosophist.”
But this definition also contains the positive side. It is not sufficient merely to abstain from doing that which is condemned in this definition. The negative side alone is useless to those who take this Pledge––and not merely useless, for it involves practically the breaking of the Pledge. The Pledge demands not only that the man who takes it shall abstain from evil doing but, more, that he shall positively work altruistically and defend any innocent person as he would himself.
Many men may be so colorless as not to offend against the negative clauses of the Pledge and definition; but few are they who are sufficiently positive in their own character as not only not to offend against these clauses but also work in the opposite direction. For the greatest importance does not consist in “I will not” but in the “I will do.” Thus some strength is needed for impersonality. This impersonality is of two kinds, negative and positive. For the negative, strength is needed to fight against the forces of heredity and education, and prevent obedience to the instincts and acquired habits of this and other incarnations. But greater strength is needed to cross the zero-point and create new instincts and habits in the midst of conditions of life and habits of thought which are violently opposed to the new creation. And it would seem that strength is required so that it would be possible to conquer the tendencies of a devil and grow up into divinity. And if we regard the Pledge generally it would seem to be an admirable instrument, in view of the above quoted definition, for finding out and assailing everybody on their weak points. As men and women the
Pledge compels us to refrain from acting and thinking in our daily life as our education has hitherto compelled us to do. If we do not so refrain, we do not make Theosophy a living factor in our lives. And more, while we are engaged in this difficult task, the positive side appears and we are told that we have to do other things as difficult––otherwise we are not Theosophists.
The second clause of the Pledge will prove a stumbling block to many lukewarm members of the Theosophical Society. Many may be in complete accord with the objects of the Theosophical Society, so far as they understand them, but also be in complete disagreement with the leaders of the Society and their method of work. Not only may they disagree but also be in either open or concealed hostility to those leaders and many of the members. It is of no use to disguise from ourselves the fact that this has been the case, and unfortunately may be so again. We work for “Universal Brotherhood” and we are at enmity with our immediate neighbours. This then we pledge ourselves to put a stop to, and to excise the tendency from our natures. Thus Clause 2 has a special reference to certain persons, arising out of the general circumstances.
The question naturally arises: “Of what use is a Theosophical Society with such aims, when it is composed of such diverse elements?” And again: “Has the Society any coherence and purpose which shall make it a living power in the society by which it is surrounded?” For an analogy exists; and the Society is an individual among societies, just as men and women are individuals. And it may here be emphatically stated that the power and force of any given body is not the total force of its component units, but that the body has an individual force and power of its own apart from them. One has but to turn to the chemistry of “alloys” to see that this is true. If then we regard the Society, it does not seem that any of its strength is due to the united purpose and action of its individual members. But it has a great purpose, and to this a certain number of devoted individuals have sacrificed all that lay in their power. Among these the founders and present leaders of the Society are notable examples. The result is that the Society continues to exist exoterically. But the continued existence of the Society is not due to these few individual efforts alone but to the underlying influence of those under whose direction the Society was founded by its present leaders, and to the fostering care of those Masters in Wisdom, after it was founded.
Clause 3 opens out to many, as the Society is at present constituted, a good deal of casuistical reasoning. It has been said, and it would seem truly said, that it is perfectly open to those who are true Theosophists to condemn an act but not the actor. But this will be found to
be a distinction which is very subtle and difficult to make in life. Light on the Path, too, warns the aspirant against self-righteousness of a like character, “for the soiled garment you shrink from touching may have been yours yesterday, may be yours tomorrow.” Thus those who take this Pledge are about to meet a very subtle difficulty (for in life the act and the actor are indissolubly connected), unless they have attained the power of observing and reading on a plane which is at present beyond the reach of the majority of mankind. However, even if this power is beyond reach at present, it is at all events right for those who aspire to be Theosophists to try. We can at least put a bridle on our physical lips and endeavor to do so on our mind, and thus abstain from “condemning others.” For the silent condemnation of the mind would seem more “vicious” than physical speech, for, at any rate in the “judge,” it is a form of moral cowardice. And herein lies the casuistry. For apart from the definition in Lucifer, it has been open to those who take the Pledge to consider that their human brothers are not “Brother Theosophists,” and therefore that it is legal to judge and condemn. Thus if it could be clearly proven that any man or woman has erred against the said definition it might be possible to receive absolution from the pledge “never to listen without protest to any evil thing spoken” of them. But the definition stops this with its “whether a brother Theosophist or not,” and agrees with the legal maxim which is so seldom acted upon––always to consider a man innocent until proved guilty. Suspicion is a dangerous guest to harbour, and we are finally brought back to the fact that it is best to “judge not that ye be not judged.”
Clauses 4 and 5 are the completion of resolutions which go straight to the centre of all that militates against Theosophy and against its forming a living factor in men’s lives. In this sense Clause 6 is a completion also. But the power to help and teach others can only be found in the united spirit of life, which is a spirit of absolute equality and in the sense that to the Theosophist every man is a teacher.
Clause 6 is a ratification of all that has gone before, but places it in more definite terms.
Thus then before this Pledge is taken it is necessary for all who aspire to take it to carefully ascertain, before pledging themselves to work and activity for Theosophy, what Theosophy really is. Is Theosophy identical with the practice of the Theosophical Society? If it is not, ought it to be? Shall I endeavor to make it so? In pledging myself to work for it, am I in the near or distant future, in this or in some succeeding incarnation, looking for a reward? It would then seem that one of the first requisites is to endeavor to “Know Thyself.”
Such a Pledge must not be taken lightly nor in a spirit of mere
emotionalism. It has to be taken with a stern resolution to ever and ever more fully carry out its requirements, even at all costs to the man who takes it. It is taken at the risk of the man who takes it in a thoughtless spirit without examining what it really means and without the intention of making its fulfillment the supreme object of his life.
It is necessary “to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the truths which exist in Theosophy and then perhaps there may dawn upon the world the day when all men shall be as brothers, and Universal Brotherhood shall be a reality and the guide of all existence.
ONE WHO IS PLEDGED.
Such are the facts in general outline of the circumstances which prevailed during the formative stages of the Esoteric Section. It should be kept in mind that it was merely the outer form of an Inner School which had existed from immemorial antiquity, and whose ramifications and outer manifestations can be traced in all parts of the world and among all ethnic groups of humanity.
BORIS DE ZIRKOFF.