from Adyar Bulletin Sept 1911
The Order of the Star in the East
Its Outer and Inner Work
by Professor E.A. Wodehouse, M.A.
Part I - To part II
Ever since the announcement by our revered President, in the July number of The Theosophist, of the foundation of a new Order, the special work of which will be to help in preparing the way for the near coming of a great spiritual Teacher, so many inquiries have been pouring in from all parts, as to the precise character, objects and regulations of this Order, that it has been felt desirable to collect together whatever information may be available on these points and to present it, in compact form, to those who are interested in the matter. This, it is hoped, will, at least, be useful to some intending applicants; it may set at test a few of the difficulties which have arisen in certain minds with regard to the Order; and it will assuredly save the handful of officers, already appointed, from the task of having to send separate answers, in full and elaborate detail, to individual applications.
Briefly then, the Order of the Star in the East is the coming forth in a new dress, and it is advisable that for all practical purposes the Order of the Star in the East should be regarded as a new Order; and that those who, at the beginning of the year, enrolled their names as members in the Order of the Rising Sun should be asked to do so anew, if they wish to join the Order as it now is. Let it be noted then, briefly, that the Order of the Rising Sun ( for purposes of membership) is disbanded, and its place taken by the new Order of the Star in the East. Members of the former Order, therefore, must express their wish to be transferred to the latter, before their names can be enrolled, as no such wish can, in any case, be taken for granted.
Turing, then, to the Order, as it now stands, we think that we cannot make a better beginning than by quoting, for the benefit of those who may not have seen it, the first part of the announcement made by its Protector in the July Theosophist.
This Order - writes Mrs. Besant - has been founded to draw together those who, whether inside or outside the Theosophical Society, believe in the near coming of a great Spiritual Teacher for the helping of the world. It is thought that its members may, on the for His coming and to create an atmosphere of welcome and of reverence: and on the higher planes may unite in forming an instrument of service ready for His use. The Declaration of Principles, acceptance of which is all that is necessary for admission to the Order, is as follow:
- We believe that a great Teacher will soon appear in the world, and we wish so to live now that we may be worthy to know Him when He comes.
- We shall try, therefore, to keep Him in our minds always, and to do in His name, and therefore to the best of our ability, all the work which comes to us in our daily occupations.
- As far as our ordinary duties allow, we shall endeavour to devote a portion of our time each day to some definite work which may help to prepare for His coming.
- We shall seek to make Devotion , Steadfastness and Gentleness prominent characteristics of our daily life.
- We shall try to begin and end each day with a short period devoted to the asking of His blessing upon all that we try to do for Him and in His name.
- We regard it as our special duty to try to recognise and reverence greatness in whomsoever shown, and to strive to co-operate, as far as we can, with those whom we feel to be spiritually our superiors.
The first point to be noted in the above statement is, that the Order is not exclusively a Theosophical Order, but is intended to include all who share the common hope for, and belief in the near coming of a mighty Teacher, no matter to what faith, creed, or school of thought they may belong. The Great Teacher, when He comes, comes for the whole world; and if it so happens that we, in the Theosophical Society, have been among the earliest to receive the news of His coming, it is rather that we have the privilege to have amongst us a few who are in direct contact with the Sources, from which alone such information can come, than because of any peculiar claim, or merit, of our own. The Order of the Star in the East is intended to be a world-wide Order, not merely in the territorial sense, but in the sense that it can leave none outside its ranks who, holding that common hope, desire to enter. All are welcome to the Order, because they are welcome to Him. To accept the tenets commonly held by members of the Theosophical Society is not necessary. All that is necessary is to accept the Declaration of Principles just quoted; and this will be the one formal link binding all members in all countries together.
The second point to be noted is, that the perfect freedom of thought and belief embodied in the Declaration will be embodied also in the whole scheme upon which it is proposed that the Order shall be organised. Each country, in this scheme, will be self-governing unit with its own Chief Officers, a Representative and an Organising Secretary ; and , within its own limits, will manage its own affairs and develop its own work as it may think best. Little thought is needed to see how necessary it is that such freedom and elasticity should be preserved in an organisation which will have to meet so many problems and to deal with life in so many presentations and shapes as this Order will have to do. Every country, every faith, has its own problems. Different methods and different solutions are demanded in the various cases. Even the Great Teacher, when He comes, cannot speak to all alike. His teaching, universal thought it be, will yet, in its outer expression, have to be coloured by the peculiar needs and difficulties of those whom He may be addressing at any particular time. And so in the Order which is to prepare for His coming, a similar freedom must be observed. Each member, whatever his position, should feel himself free to grapple with the problems around him in the way most suitable to the conditions amid which he moves, taking as his guide the general principles laid down in the Declaration, but applying and adopting those to the special needs of the case.
Such is the plan on which the Order should develop its work. IT remains, next, to consider in what ways an organisation, thus devised, may hope to do useful work and so justify its existence. What exactly can members of the Order do to prepare for the coming of the Lord?
If we turn back to the second sentence of the Protector's announcement, we shall find that there the work to be done by the Order is characterised as twofold. "It is thought" she says "that its members may, on the physical plane, do something to prepare public opinion for His coming and to create an atmosphere of welcome and of reverence, and on the higher planes, may unite in forming an instrument of service ready for His use". We may, then, classify these two kinds of work as outer and inner work; and it will be best to take each separately; treating them, first of all, in the most general way and afterwards coming down to practical details.
All so-called "outer" work must clearly consist in so preparing the conditions in the every-day physical world, with which we are familiar, that they will present the least possible obstacle, and the greatest possible help, to the work of a divine Teacher. In other words it is necessary to work upon the minds of men.
Now of the obstacles which the mind of the ordinary man of today would conceivably present and put in the way of such a Teacher, the first and foremost would be, quite plainly, sheer unbelief. The typical modern mind, in its admirable struggle to comprehend and define, has almost inevitably tended to reduce everything in life to the compass of its own limitations. Hence it has largely lost sight of the vast stretches of truth and of experience which lie beyond its bounds. The coming of a World-Teacher is likely to be to it, quite frankly, something bizarre, out of the accepted order of thins, and hence to be regarded, at the very least, with suspicion and mistrust. The obvious question "How do you know?" springs naturally to every lip, and it is clear that much of the work of an Order like the one which we are considering, devoted to the specific task of preparation, must consist in a definite campaign, waged in many different fashions and with many different weapons, against the chill obsession of an intellectual unbelief.
All over the world, in a general sense, the battle has already begun. The Order will but enlist itself in an army which is already enrolled, but it may surely do something to give to the work of that army an aim and a hope which it had not before. Those who know, realise that the whole battle of today is but a preparation of the World-Teacher. While, then, the members of the Order should throw in their lot with those who, in every country are fighting for a higher and more spiritual interpretation of life, and should do this, regardless of dogmas and of creeds, they may still give to the whole movement a more definite shape, by infusing into it the expectation of a Person, who, coming forth ere long amongst men, shall be the crown and consummation of the whole.
Thus the first task of the Order should be, wherever minds are aspiring upwards to a larger light, to endeavour to personalise those aspirations; to breed, at any rate , a sense of expectation, an acknowledgment of the possibility of the promise, which will go far to kindle recognition when He comes.
The second task will be, slowly and painfully, to seek to wear away the walls of intellectual unbelief. There are, quite briefly, only two possible ways in which the thing can be done. We can either meet intellect with intellect, or we can meet it with something higher. The former method will consist in marshalling all the arguments which seem to indicate that the time has come for another great manifestation on Earth, a task which, for example, has been very thoroughly done in The Changing World and other more recent lectures of our President. The latter method will consist in awakening that inner mysticism, that sense of the wonder and of the largeness of things, which, however deeply concealed it may be beneath many folds of intellectual scepticism, is yet latent in every man and ready to be awakened, if only the magic formula may be found. We should remember that, in the case of both methods, it is only a partial task that has to be performed. In both it is only the awakening to a possibility that is required. Let the intellectualist merely acknowledge the possibility, in terms of reason, of another manifestation in our own day; let the man who, after long darkness, has recovered a glimpse of his Soul, but acknowledge that in a world of wonders nothing is too wondrous to happen; and surely we may leave the Teacher Himself to justify His claim when He comes. After all, no amount of anticipatory statement can ever fully justify a Great One to the world. By His own teaching He stands or falls. "How", asks Mrs. Besant in her great lecture on "The Coming of a World-Teacher", recently delivered at the Queen's Hall, London, "How shall a man know the Teacher?" And she answers in seven brief words: "Only by the teaching that He gives". That is the conclusive, the ultimate criterion, and all that this or any other Order can do is merely to create the conditions in which this criterion shall have free and ample chance of being fairly applied.
And herein, lies the answer to a possible objection. "Why", it may be asked, "if the teaching is to be its own justification, is it necessary to prepare the way at all?" The answer is, quite briefly, that certain preliminary conditions are essential, before the teaching can be fairly judged. It is at least necessary that the Teacher should receive a fair hearing; since in justifying Himself in the face of blind prejudice and unreasoning hatred. Sooner or later His teaching will prevail - that is certain: but it will be only after many generations, when the challenge and (must we say it?) the odium of His sacred presence shall have been removed from the eyes of men. Retrospective acceptance there will be; but what we want, this time, is surely somewhat more of contemporary acknowledgment. It is for this that the Order has been founded. The eventual future may take care of itself, for it must inevitably work itself out, in the long run, according to the great plan. The immediate object of the Order is that the Lord, when He comes a few years hence, shall find welcome and hospitality upon earth, that He shall be met, so far as is possible, with love and not with hatred; with reverence and not with scorn.
And, for that, one little thing alone is needed; a thing so simple, and demanding so little sacrifice, that one would think that it need hardly be asked. Give to Him only, in the words used above, "a fair hearing" and He will do the rest for Himself. In these words lies the key to all the outer preparatory work of the Order in the few years that lie before it. It is useless, in the majority of cases, to seek to convince. Rather, we should appeal to a sense of justice, and ask only that the Teacher, whose coming we anticipate, shall be judged by what He actually says and does, not by hearsay or by prejudice; and if this be conceded, the utmost will have been conceded that we have a right to ask of the world. Why, indeed, should it give more? It, like ourselves, has the right to make up its own mind on debatable questions. There have, as we know, been many false teachers ere now. The statement of no individual is, a priori, binding upon the world at large. All then that can be asked is a fair hearing, a willingness to wait and to judge; a readiness to acknowledge the theoretical possibility of the appearance of Great Teachers, together with freedom to determine, when the hour comes, if this be truly one.
On these lines our Order should work, whether it be in private conversation, in public lectures, or in whatever literature it may think fit to publish as time goes on. If it go beyond these and demand more rigorous standards, it is likely to repel instead of attract. While seeking to persuade, it should also respect; and herein, perhaps, lies one reason for the selection of Gentleness as one of the three qualifications chiefly to be striven after in the Order. It is not only that He whom we expect is the Lord of Gentleness and Compassion, it is that the more enlightened spirits of today, all over the world, are passing out of the region where anger and intolerance are considered essential accompaniments of difference of belief. The dawning age is one of Brotherhood. The great Teacher Himself comes to inaugurate that age. Even therefore, upon the question of His coming, there should be gentleness as tolerance shown, and not their opposites. The first propagandist in the world is love. Where that is, all else tends to follow. Hence in all its work the Order should remember what Matthew Arnold has called the virtue of "sweet reasonableness"; for thus alone is it likely to succeed in preparing a suitable environment for the Great One when He comes.
That granted, there are certain things of which the world in general surely needs to be reminded, and warned if it would be prepared for the acceptance of a Great Teacher. It must be reminded that the Great Ones do not speak according to the popular standard of their age, but far in front of it; that what They preach must needs go directly against may of the most deeply rooted, because most primitive, instincts of mankind; that the laws of the spirit are not the emendation but the direct negation, of the laws of worldly life; and that, in consequence, there can be little in the words of the truly great Teacher of what is known as "popular appeal". The churches and the priesthoods, moreover - from which in all countries, from the very nature of things, the most powerful and unyielding opposition of all is to be feared - must needs learn the bitter lesson of the essential and the unessential, of the spirit and the letter, ere they can make themselves ready to meet face to face the common Master of them all. And so, in this age as in all others, the very alphabet of the spiritual life has to be learnt anew - how hatred disappears not by hatred, but by love alone; how true greatness is meek and gentle and long suffering; how all reform, to be true and lasting, must come by the self-sacrifice of the higher, not by the rebellion of the lower; and how the greatness of life comes not from outer, but from inner possessions.
These are the rudiments and the common-places of the higher life; and yet it is impossible to insist on them too strongly, or too often, in an age, whose habitual philosophy is the exact antithesis of these; an age of egoism and rivalry, of militarism and commercialism, of the insistence of such outward distinctions as those of creed and colour and race. For according to the philosophy of an age, will its attitude be towards its teachers, and unless the public expectation be guided into the right channels, and an approximately correct mental picture created of what a great Teacher is likely to be, and what kind of teachings He is likely to give, the profound shock of the actuality, when it comes, will certainly repel and make bitter enemies instead of willing adherents. And for this guidance - lest it should seem that special knowledge of the Great Ones and of Their way of looking at things is claimed - all that is needed is merely the re-reading of existing scriptures. We have but to turn to the sacred books of the nations to find what manner of Beings the great Teachers of mankind have ever been, how they have lived, and what kind of doctrine they have taught And having found these things, we have only to insist upon the logical inference that when that Teacher comes, whom we are expecting, He will be moulded after the fashion of His great Forerunners, and not after the fashion of our passing age. This is a task to which the Order must assuredly set itself, and which it should untiringly pursue. Common sense; the expectation of what is most probable; the drawing of logical inferences from all that we know of the past and, generally, of the spiritual life in all ages, if these can be attained , in any appreciable degree, in the few years which lie before us, then the Order will have done its work efficiently, and little need then be feared. A fair hearing, and common sense: these are the things for which, in brief, it has to work in the outer world; and upon these it should concentrate all the energies of its soul.
One thing further, however, is needed, in order that the work may be effectual, and that is, that there should exist, between the members of the Order and the coming manifestation, a kinship born not merely of intellectual anticipation, but, so far as possible, of character also; to prepare the way they must themselves embody that way. They must not merely indicate qualities; they must, in some measure, possess them. The mere existence of the Order in the world for a number of years before the coming of the Lord should do something, at least, to accustom men to the "atmosphere" which, enormously strengthened, He will bring with Him when He comes. And so we are led, almost insensibly as it were, to the consideration of that second part of the activities of the Order, to which we have given the name of Inner Work.