The Theosophist, december 1975
C. Jinarajadasa: Some Memories and Impressions
by Hugh Shearman
The Theosophical Society is a convergence of many temperaments. Some of us find ourselves closer to one of its leading figures, past or present, than to another. For me the one to whom I felt closest was C. Jinarajadasa. He, of course, in a lifetime which almost exactly coincided with that of the Society had known them all. He is the only person who has described to me actually seeing Madame Blavatsky herself.
Every one of the great figures of the Society's history has presented the paradox of the more or less divided human self. Each has met the day-to-day outside world with a very human, sometimes very fallible, personality and yet has also challenged that world with a far grander interior self which has given a freedom of dicisive action beyond the capacity of most other people. At the personal level, there is one quality that all those strong and very disparate figures in our history had in common. They were all of them childlike, in their capacity for wonder, in their access to a source of perpetual freshness and renewal.
As a personality, Brother Raja was fascinatingly eccentric. To those who were at ease with him, he was endearingly eccentric, but sometimes, to others, exasperatingly so. His had been a hard life, particularly in its early phases. As the little "coloured" boy, given an obscure position in the condescending atmosphere of A. P. Sinnett's London home, he had had to assert himself in his own way; and somthing of that habit of assertion remained with him through life.
I remember vividly the first time I saw him, a little benevolent elderly man, playing lightly with a rather too solemn audience, reading them little bits of verse that he had written, suggesting that they ought to be writing verse too. I heard afterwards that some members of that audience were very critical of him and thought that he ought instead to have been expounding reincarnation or "rounds and races" and telling us how to make "good karma". But his aim was clearly to open them up a little and make them more human, a much more necessary undertaking.
Suddenly, as I sat in the back row, our eyes met in a deep instantaneous mutual recognition, as if there was nobody else in the room and we had known each other for tens of thousands of years. The man who looked at me through those dark grave eyes seemed utterly different from the man who was talking to that audience. There was a momentary revelation of immense power, a glance that saw deep into me and took in an entire complex of human situations as one. It had all the quality that we associate withthe "first Ray".
Probably this aspect of Brother Raja is less widely known and understood than other qualities in him which were closer to the surface of his personality. People remember him for his habit of reading encyclopedias, his acquantance with many languages and literatures, his interest in transferring trees and plants from one part of the world to another and conducting naturalization experiments with them, his embarrassing zeal in getting people to sing "Waltzing Matilda," his birthday cards recording how on the date of his birth he had "departed from heaven, deeply regretted," is disquisitions on the great blessings and advantages of ill-health.
Yet behind his many personal interests and oddities he remained an autocrat, a figure of heroic and indomitable will, the devoted slave of an ever-mastering sense of duty. "The Work" was all that mattered, not any personal happiness or gratification. The card in his room said, "I am that Work. That Work am I." In himself he was very solitary, and he had a private conviction that he came in a very far past from an evolution not quite that of terrestrial humanity. He cared deeply for people and greatly valued friendship and affection; but he knew that he was wholly at the disposal of the Great Work, and any personal relationship that involved possessiveness or dependence would be illusory and pointless for him. He did not need or ask or expect to be personally happy.
From deep inside himself he was oriented to the task of acting as the agent of those greater than himself and as the servant of a life greater than his own. His recognition of beauty and worth, his fascination wiht nature and art, his sense of intimacy with other people, were all linked closely to his perpetual recognition of the infinite variety of one universal life manifesting itself through all these things. His writings, whatever the subject, are pervaded by a view of life as a constant discovery or rediscovery of the One in the many. He was something of a mystic in all that he did.
It was his readiness to enter and live in this vast inner world of the occult, that One, which made him particularly value the individual. Those whom he came to know were never forgotten. He thought of them all. He wrote to them all. Many an obscure old member of the Society treasures a picture postcard or some other little message in Brother Raja's own handwriting, showing that wherever he was on his travels he still remembered and cared and was really close at hand.
Equally he gave his affection to groups and gatherings. Once in a lucid moment I had a brief glimpse of his attitude objectified in a psychically perceptible form. A steady radiation of rose and gold went out from him to everybody present.
The nature of his knowledge of other people was something of a mystery. I remember visiting him in London, and he sat talking to me in the October dusk at the window of his big room at Ovington Square. All over the floor were scattered little piles of papers and books, connected with the innumerable tasks and interests that he was simultaneously pursuing. Suddenly he groped for a quotation and asked me to get him a book. The bookcase was behind him, out of sight. Small and arthritic, he could not look round over the back of his big armchair. Yet he directed me in exact detail to the book ("More to your right") as if he was seeing through my own eyes. It seemed more like a momentary blending of consciousness than any conventional trick of psychism. Certainly he knew much more about people than they or anybody told him; and one did not feel that one minded.
He also knew about situations and developments in the world, not always accurately in detail, but correctly in general principle. He wrote to me about developments in my own part of the world and made statements to me about the intentions of the Occult Hierarchy there, seeming to know that I should be deeply involved in those developments, even though this did not actually happen until seventeen or eighteen years after his death and was not in my own expectations at the time. He knew that he himself would be able to make a tour right round the world in the Society'sservice during the height of the Second World War and told people confidently and accurately when he would be seeing them again.
His presence everywhere brought changes with it. Once I saw him in action in a lodge of the Society where there had been much frustration, friction and ill-feeling under the surface.He went round and was affable to everybody and gave a couple of talks; but there were moments when he drew apart a little and seemed turned inwards. At the end of his visit he said to me, "We'll see how things work out now." After he left, it was as if the current had been increased and the fuses began to blow. Tensions became intolerable, tempers broke, people resigned from the Society in a rage. Before long, every conflict had surfaced and taken itself away. There remained peace and co-operation. I told him about it some months later. He remarked dispassionately that he had not expected it to work out so quickly and said that he had set loose "a rush of clean forces."
A rather psychic member, who stayed for a while at Adyar and who was one of those who found herself in some ways temperamentally a little at odds with Brother Raja, told me of an experience which made a great impression on her and convinced her of his greatness and occult effectiveness even though she had found contact with him difficult at the personal level. He told a number of those working at Adyar that he was dissatisfied with the surface psychic atmosphere of the estate and that he was going to devote a certain time each day to cleaning it up, and he asked for their co-operation. From that day on, she became aware of a fresh clean atmosphere expanding out and out from his room,a little further every day, till it reached the very gates of the estate.
It surprised nobody, who knew what a powerful occult effect he could produce, to be told by him that the hours he spent as a spectator at the early meetings of the United Nations were devoted to the fulfilment of a purpose, a specific task given to him. The fact that he gave much attention to occult work, in which he could not always focus his attention on the material world, made him seem distant and offhand to some. Although he was interested in people and kind to them, his absorption in a deeper level of reality sometimes made him curt to the point of seeming rudeness. Occasionally he hurt peoples feelings very much. But, understanding him, it did not worry me to be at the receiving end of one of his abrupt dismissals or inattentiveness. I knew that at his own level he "meant business" and he was in a sense paying me the compliment of assuming that I meant business too.
Several times I have sat in a group which he was leading in meditation. Inevitably in such a group the rest of us tended to be passengers, carried along within his enfolding consciousness. On each occasion the experience expressed itself spontaneously in my own mind by the same vivid picture. I found myself standing high on a cold mountain country-side, with snow on the ground, while yellow wintry sunlight fell from a pale blue sky. It was beautiful, austere and utterly impersonal; and a great exhiliration lingered from it for days afterwards. He was making available to us qualities, forces or influences which we could not normally have reached.
One evening as I was leaving him, he insisted on escorting me down through the house to the front door. As I first assisted him into his jacket, I wondered if I should ever see this tiny frail old man again; and, as he gave me his small refined handshake and his unspoken blessing on parting, I knew that I did not care if I never saw him again. What united us was deep at the centre and did not seem to depend at all on the superficial circumstances of meeting or happening to live on the same planet. We should both be always in "the Work".
In the event, I did see him again, after he had laid down the presidency of the Society. I was at one of the last lectures he ever gave, the one he had given so often about the heaven world he planned for himself. Was it a private game, a self-indulgence, a challenge to conventional values, a question addressed to the inner nature of his hearers? And he had his material plans also, running many centuries ahead and involving him with many sections of humanity. In the evening, afterwards, I saw for a moment an expression of relaxed enjoyment on his face, a boyish look, surprising in a man than suffering from so many ailments. Shortly afterwards he left for America and died among friends there within a few days.