“TO THE READERS OF LUCIFER”
[Lucifer, Vol. 1, No. 5, January, 1888, pp. 340-343]
Our magazine is only four numbers old, and already its young life is full of cares and trouble. This is all as it should be; i.e., like every other publication, it must fail to satisfy all its readers, and this is only in the nature of things and the destiny of every printed organ. But what seems a little strange in a country of culture and free thought is that Lucifer should receive such a number of anonymous, spiteful, and often abusive letters. This, of course, is but a casual remark, the waste-basket in the office being the only addressee and sufferer in this case; yet it suggests strange truths with regard to human nature. *
* “VERBUM SAP.” It is not our intention to notice anonymous communications, even though they should emanate in a round-about way from Lambeth Palace. The matter “Verbum Sap” refers to is not one of taste; the facts must be held responsible for the offence; and, as the Scripture hath it, “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh”! [Matt., xviii, 7.]
Sincerity is true wisdom, it appears, only to the mind of the moral philosopher. It is rudeness and insult to him who regards dissimulation and deceit as culture and politeness, and holds that the shortest, easiest, and safest way to success is to let sleeping dogs and old customs alone. But, if the dogs are obstructing the highway to progress and truth, and Society will, as a rule, reject the wise words of (St.) Augustine, who recommends that “no man should prefer custom before reason and truth,” is it a sufficient cause for the philanthropist to walk out of or even deviate from, the track of truth, because the selfish egoist chooses to do so? Very true, as remarked somewhere by Sir Thomas Browne that not every man is a proper champion for the truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in its cause. Too many of such defenders are apt, from inconsideration and too much zeal, to charge the troops of error so rashly that they “remain themselves as trophies to the enemies of truth.” Nor ought all of us (members of the Theosophical Society) to do so personally, but rather leave it only to those among our numbers who have voluntarily and beforehand sacrificed their personalities for the cause of Truth. Thus teaches us one of the Masters of Wisdom in some fragments of advice which are published further on for the benefit of the Theosophists (see the article that follows this).* While enforcing upon such public characters in our ranks as editors, and lecturers, etc., the duty of telling fearlessly “ the Truth to the face of LIE,” he yet condemns the habit of private judgment and criticism in every individual Theosophist.
Unfortunately, these are not the ways of the public and readers. Since our journal is entirely unsectarian, since it is neither theistic nor atheistic, Pagan nor Christian, orthodox nor heterodox, therefore, its editors discover
* [Reference is here made to an important letter from one of the Teachers published under the title of “Some Words on Daily Life.” Vide pp. 173-75 of Volume VII in the present Series for the text of this letter.—Compiler.]
eternal verities in the most opposite religious systems and modes of thought. Thus Lucifer fails to give full satisfaction to either infidel or Christian. In the sight of the former—whether he be an Agnostic, a Secularist, or an Idealist—to find divine or occult lore underlying “the rubbish” in the Jewish Bible and Christian Gospels is sickening; in the opinion of the latter, to recognise the same truth as in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures in the Hindu, Parsi, Buddhist, or Egyptian religious literature, is vexation of spirit and blasphemy. Hence, fierce criticism from both sides, sneers and abuse. Each party would have us on its own sectarian side, recognising as truth, only that which its particular ism does.
But this cannot nor shall it be. Our motto was from the first, and ever shall be: “THERE IS NO RELIGION HIGHER THAN TRUTH.” Truth we search for, and, once found, we bring it forward before the world, whenceso-ever it comes. A large majority of our readers is fully satisfied with this our policy, and that is plainly sufficient for our purposes.
It is evident that when toleration is not the outcome of indifference it must arise from wide-spreading charity and large-minded sympathy. Intolerance is pre eminently the consequence of ignorance and jealousy. He who fondly believes that he has got the great ocean in his family water-jug is naturally intolerant of his neighbour, who also is pleased to imagine that he has poured the broad expanses of the sea of truth into his own particular pitcher. But anyone who, like the Theosophists, knows how infinite is that ocean of eternal wisdom, to be fathomed by no one man, class, or party, and realizes how little the largest vessel made by man contains in comparison to what lies dormant and still unperceived in its dark, bottomless depths, cannot help but be tolerant. For he sees that others have filled their little water-jugs at the same great reservoir in which he has dipped his own, and if the water in the various pitchers seems different to the eye, it can only be because it is discoloured by impurities that were in the vessel before the pure crystalline element—a portion of the one eternal and immutable truth—entered into it.
There is, and can be, but one absolute truth in Kosmos. And little as we, with our present limitations, can understand it in its essence, we still know that if it is absolute it must also be omnipresent and universal; and that in such case, it must be underlying every world-religion—the product of the thought and knowledge of numberless generations of thinking men. Therefore, that a portion of truth, great or small, is found in every religious and philosophical system, and that if we would find it, we have to search for it at the origin and source of every such system, at its roots and first growth, not in its later overgrowth of sects and dogmatism. Our object is not to destroy any religion but rather to help to filter each, thus ridding them of their respective impurities. In this we are opposed by all those who maintain, against evidence, that their particular pitcher alone contains the whole ocean. How is our great work to be done if we are to be impeded and harassed on every side by partisans and zealots? It would be already half accomplished were the intelligent men, at least, of every sect and system, to feel and to confess that the little wee bit of truth they themselves own must necessarily be mingled with error, and that their neighbours’ mistakes are, like their own, mixed with truth.
Free discussion, temperate, candid, undefiled by personalities and animosity, is, we think, the most efficacious means of getting rid of error and bringing out the underlying truth; and this applies to publications as well as to persons. It is open to a magazine to be tolerant or intolerant; it is open to it to err in almost every way in which an individual can err; and since every publication of the kind has a responsibility such as falls to the lot of few individuals, it behoves it to be ever on its guard, so that it may advance without fear and without reproach. All this is true in a special degree in the case of a theosophical publication, and Lucifer feels that it would be unworthy of that designation were it not true to the profession of the broadest tolerance and catholicity, even while pointing out to its brothers and neighbours the errors which they indulge in and follow. While thus
keeping strictly, in its editorials, and in articles by its individual editors, to the spirit and teachings of pure theosophy, it nevertheless frequently gives room to articles and letters which diverge widely from the esoteric teachings accepted by the editors, as also by the majority of theosophists. Readers, therefore, who are accustomed to find in magazines and party publications only such opinions and arguments as the editor believes to be unmistakably orthodox—from his peculiar standpoint—must not condemn any article in Lucifer with which they are not entirely in accord, or in which expressions are used that may be offensive from a sectarian or a prudish point of view, on the ground that such are unfitted for a theosophical magazine. They should remember that precisely because Lucifer is a theosophical magazine, it opens its columns to writers whose views of life and things may not only slightly differ from its own, but even be diametrically opposed to the opinion of the editors. The object of the latter is to elicit truth, not to advance the interest of any particular ism, or to pander to any hobbies, likes or dislikes, of any class of readers. It is only snobs and prigs who, disregarding the truth or error of the idea, cavil and strain merely over the expressions and words it is couched in. Theosophy, if meaning anything, means truth; and truth has to deal indiscriminately and in the same spirit of impartiality with vessels of honour and of dishonour alike. No theosophical publication would ever dream of adopting the coarse—or shall we say terribly sincere—language of a Hosea or a Jeremiah; yet so long as those holy prophets are found in the Christian Bible, and the Bible is in every respectable, pious family, whether aristocratic or plebeian; and so long as the Bible is read with bowed head and in all reverence by young, innocent maidens and school-boys, why should our Christian critics fall foul of any phrase which may have to be used—if truth be spoken at all—in an occasional article upon a scientific subject? It is to be feared that the same sentences now found objectionable, because referring to Biblical subjects, would be loudly praised and applauded had they been directed against any gentile system of faith (Vide
certain missionary organs). A little charity, gentle readers—charity, and above all—fairness and JUSTICE.
Justice demands that when the reader comes across an article in this magazine which does not immediately approve itself to his mind by chiming in with his own peculiar ideas, he should regard it as a problem to solve rather than as a mere subject of criticism. Let him endeavour to learn the lesson which only opinions differing from his own can teach him. Let him be tolerant, if not actually charitable, and postpone his judgment till he extracts from the article the truth it must contain, adding this new acquisition to his store. One ever learns more from one’s enemies than from one’s friends; and it is only when the reader has credited this hidden truth to Lucifer, that he can fairly presume to put what he believes to be the errors of the article he does not like, to the debit account.