Some lectures given in 1935 at the Fraternization Convention in Toronto on August 23, 24 and 25.
Canadian Theosophist, Volume 16, #7
HAS THEOSOPHY A FUTURE?
By Dr. H. N. Stokes
Mr. Smythe has suggested to me that I should write something
about "The Future of Theosophy". First of all, has Theosophy a future?
That, I take it, depends largely upon the believer in Theosophy themselves.
Are Theosophical principles to spread so as to influence the entire race,
or are they to die out as so many philosophies and religions have done?
We are told that a special effort is made once in each century to awaken humanity to the principles for which Theosophy is supposed to stand. That may be so but it should be perfectly obvious that this is a two-sided arrangement. No efforts of the Masters can be effective unless they meet with response and co-operation. And that co-operation can be given by everyone interested, and the moment to begin this is today, not some forty years hence. Have we not already enough to live by?
Please remember this. We Theosophists are a very small body as compared with the whole of humanity, even with that portion which belongs to what we call our civilization. Just think: the membership of the largest Theosophical society is about 30,000; possibly we may add another 10,000 for the other societies and the unattached Theosophists, say 40,000 in all. That represents but a few thousandths of one percent of the world's population. If this almost vanishing fraction is to bring about any future whatever for Theosophy it must stand together. It cannot afford to work as a collection of separate units ignoring or opposing each other, each maintaining that its views, being wholly right, all the others must be wrong and hence not quite fit to speak to on Theosophical matters.
What would you think of an army which declined to fight as a unit because of some differences of opinion as to, uniforms or weapons? What would you think of an army which should insist that their political differences made it impossible to stand together in the same trenches? There is a common cause, and all minor differences have to be forgotten in the fighting, no matter how much the individual soldiers may differ on politics, or on the best sort of boots. And what would the supreme command - in our case the Masters - think of such people?
But that is precisely the condition we have in the Theosophical Movement today. This pitifully small army is divided into several clans or societies, each claiming to have the same object, but each so anxious over differences on minor points that they not only will not co-operate, but often antagonize each other. The situation may well be called scandalous.
Elsewhere I have had occasion to refer frequently to what appears too be an increasing tendency in some societies to represent to their members and the world at large that they alone constitute THE Theosophical Society, THE Theosophical Movement. In some cases this has gone to the extent not only of ignoring or denying the existence of a Theosophical Movement without their own limits, but even so far as issuing printed warnings, and charging officials of other societies with being a sort of transcendental robber trying to get into the sheepfold by climbing in instead of entering by the door. I am not giving names; their own words speak for them. From what one reads in official documents it would seem that some societies are almost in a state of panic over spies and propagandists from other Theosophical societies. All of you may not be aware of this, but it is an actual fact. It is most pitiful. I understand that the executives of each society have a certain responsibility, occupy as position where they are expected and should devote most of their efforts to the particular instrument for which they are responsible. But that affords no reason for acting as if they are afraid that they may lose some present or prospective members by acting in a friendly manner towards others. If members of other societies are less enlightened than their own they should welcome the opportunity of giving them more light. If, on the contrary, they are more enlightened, they should be glad to have their own members learn from them.
I look on this series of fraternization conventions, at present hardly beyond the embryo stage, as far more important than any of the other Theosophical conventions being held this year or at any other time. It is by far the most important because it is the nucleus of a movement, to secure co-operation in essentials, leaving it to those who choose to do so, to argue over minor differences. Do not forget the words of the Master K.H. (Mahatma Letters, page 231), speaking of the Jesuits:
"They work for the greater power and glory (!) of their Order; we - for the power and final glory of individuals, of isolated units, of humanity in general, and we are content, nay forced - to leave our order and its chiefs entirely in the shade."
As regards the proceedings of such a convention, while I have no comment to make on the reading of general Theosophical papers, which is perhaps essential, it must be remembered that such papers can be presented in any lodge or society at any time. The first and foremost object is to bring together associates of different societies and to give them the chance to get acquainted. "Oh, but that is turning the convention into a social affair, a sort of picnic," somebody may say. I reply that it is and should be first of all a social affair, because it gives the members of each society attending the opportunity to discover, as I have had to discover, that those of other organizations than their own are just as intelligent, just, as well-meaning as themselves, and that the essence of their Theosophy is just as good as their own, even if they may differ on matters of policy, theories of successorship, or certain other doctrinal points.
Consequently I look on this convention and other fraternization conventions as primarily a means of getting the several Theosophical sects to understand each other and to work together for a common cause, not as a time or place for general Theosophical discussions. It is quite possible that the attendance may be small, perhaps even smaller than last year. That is no reason for thinking that another convention will not be worth the trouble. There is nothing worth while which is not worth the trouble, and another convention should be held even if no more than fifty attend.
There is much being spoken and written on the subject of Brotherhood, in elaborating reasons why even though all admit the theory of Universal Brotherhood, that is something quite different from fraternization, that while we may concede that members of other societies are theoretically our brothers, practically we don't need to speak to them, or work with them, or recognize them in any way, and that the idea of fraternization is a useless dream, an impracticable ideal. I must say that all of these discussions, when really sincere and not intended to make an excuse for neglecting our duty, remind me of nothing so much as a squid trying to hide itself by ejecting a volley of ink. All such discussions are unpractical and an evasion of the real issue. There are people aplenty who always see the reasons why something cannot be done and who are as proud as peacocks over their ability to find such reasons. Far fewer are those who believe it can be done, even though it may require some experimenting and failure at first. It is on these latter that the future of Theosophy depends.
I believe that Theosophical societies can co-operate and I have yet to hear any one sound reason why they cannot. Of course there must be some common ground. The Secret Doctrine of H.P.B. has been suggested. If it cannot be that, then let it be her Key to Theosophy; if not that, then The Voice of the Silence, or Light on the Path, or the Bhagavad Gita. The first step is getting acquainted. This series of conventions offers that opportunity to the few who can attend. But it can be done everywhere, in every town where two or more societies have lodges. Efforts to hold joint meetings at times should be encouraged, but even where this is rejected by one or the other society, occasional visits to the meetings of other societies, not for purposes of propaganda, but for good fellowship, are sure to lead to closer relations in the long run. Many, to be sure, have a mortal dread of being rebuffed. It might happen at times, has happened, but it is a poor sort of martyr for his cause, who would hold back of such a triviality.
May I add that it is absolutely essential that no fraternization convention should permit the uses of methods, forms or ceremonials peculiar to one particular society. It is necessary to avoid everything which might give the impression that the convention is controlled by one particular organization. The sounding of gongs, prayers or invocations, meditations, quotations from the special literature of any one society should be avoided. This precaution has not always been observed in the past and has given rise to suspicions - probably unfounded - that the convention was being run by a particular society in its own interests. This, of course, is not saying that when conventions are held in cities where one society has a preponderance of members and a better hall, such society may perforce have to do the greater part of the details, but in any event, committees should be as representative of the leading societies as possible, names and associations being given.
So finally, I earnestly hope that those who have the decision as to a future fraternization convention will not be discouraged, that they will remember that great movements may have small beginnings and be long in growing, and that it is absolutely necessary to keep the lamp of Brotherhood burning, no matter how low the flame may sink at times, if Theosophy is to have a future.
ENEMIES OF FRATERNIZATION.
By Cecil Williams
The attitude of some to fraternization is like that
of the topers in the story to the ghost - they do not believe in it but
they are scared. Others approach fraternization in the spirit of the
gourmand who complained he could not eat as much as he wanted - they would
like to take everybody into their own society but they can't.
Fear and vanity are great enemies not only of fraternization, but of all human progress. Often we find them in the Movement wearing the mask of loyalty. Loyalty to a society or to a teacher is to be admired; but loyalty to Besant, or Arundale, to Tingley or de Purucker, to Judge or Blavatsky, or even to the Masters, is not enough. We must be loyal to Truth and to all humanity, else we are not Theosophists. The school spirit is suited to school boys, for grown men and women there is the world spirit. When we consciously or unconsciously put our society or teacher before Theosophy we betray the cause of the Masters, for to adapt the wise words of Annie Besant, Theosophy does not belong to any Theosophical society; all true Theosophical societies belong to Theosophy.
Shortly after the first fraternization convention at Niagara Falls I spent a few days with my family in the quiet village of Cherry Valley near the Bay of Quinte. They are religious folk down there. They invited us to Sunday school. We went because that also was a form of fraternization! Our visit gave me a glimpse of the state of our rural Sunday schools, but I was particularly struck with one thing. A young man sang a solo, the words of whose refrain went something like this:
"You go to your church and I'll go to mine, but we'll walk along together."
In the Sunday schools, I thought, they have put fraternization into a song, and I asked myself this question, "Is the Theosophical Society, which was designed to lead, doomed now to lag behind the churches?" In these days of new ideas, even in mathematics, are we to hang on to old formulas and say Theosophical societies should work on parallel lines and never meet?
We can understand, though we cannot exculpate, the fear one society may have that another will absorb it or lead its members astray, but let us also understand that this fear is a hangover from churchianity. In The Key to Theosophy H.P. Blavatsky pointed out that shortcomings of members were often errors they had brought in with them from the sects in which they had gown up. The fear that some members of Adyar have of Point Loma is akin to the fear Presbyterians have of Methodists. Timidity is not a Theosophical trait and judging by most Theosophists I have met in this case, it is utterly groundless; their loyalty to their society is too fierce. And if a society should lose a few members, they will not be lost among the many new ones it would gain because it practiced what it preached. In the Blavatsky lodge of Hamilton we do not hesitate to tell new-comers where and when the Hamilton society meets and tell them of its library. If inquirers prefer the Hamilton society to our lodge, why should we worry? The important thing is not that people should join the Blavatsky Lodge but that they should become Theosophists. The serpent on the Theosophical symbol, biting its tail, does not mean that a member of the movement, having professed universal brotherhood, should proceed to swallow himself.
Then the idea of one big society which is harbored, or is thought to be harbored, by some Paint Loma members - I admit this idea once docked in my mind; I, too, was brought up in a sect; educated in a denominational school - is it not also a hangover from churchianity? It smacks very much of Catholicism. But it is a dream as vain as the unconscious vanity that inspires it. Adyar and the U.L.T. are as loyal to their traditions as Point Loma is to its leader. And it is fortunate that it is so. The need is not for stereotyped unity but for diversified activity and thought within Theosophical bounds and for fraternal goodwill between all Theosophists, in every land and society. We cannot win the war upon ignorance and selfishness by turning all sailors and airmen into soldiers; we need all three arms, - but they must co-operate.
The complaint is made that Theosophical magazines ignore entirely the activities of other societies. My friends, this is not a sin of leading church magazines. They are not above reporting or commenting favorably upon outstanding events in other denominations. Are we who proclaim tolerance from the house tops to sink in the practice of tolerance below the Christian sects? Shame, eternal shame upon us, if it shall be so! It is reported that in some quarters of the Adyar society great emphasis is being laid upon the definite article "the" in the title. This society is "the" Theosophical society. Does this mean that instead of universal brotherhood' the first article of Theosophy is to become the definite article?
I feel free to criticize all three societies, because I am a member of all three. I honor and esteem them all. I want them all to grow in strength and influence, and I believe there are those in all three societies who, while they may differ from me in some paints, - which is only evidence they are exercising their intelligence, - appreciate my sincerity. I want to see the societies overcome those incorporeal enemies of truth and progress - fear and vanity; I want to see them enter more fully upon their heritage; and, above all, I want to see them do more effective work for the salvation of humanity.
From his watch tower in Washington, Dr. Stoke discerns a lessening of fraternal activity. My friends, this must not be! We must not allow fraternization to die. The woes of the world are too poignant. Humanity depends upon us! It is my hope that this convention meeting in the building where the international fraternization convention idea was first proposed and discussed, will adopt the suggestion of my friend, Mr. Emory Clapp, and appoint a committee to work for fraternization the year round.
If fraternization is slow let us not say with the pessimist, the glass is half empty, but with the optimist that it is half full. Let us not think of turning down an empty glass but of filling it to the brim.
Fear and vanity, these kamic enemies of Theosophy must be deflated, and they can be if we will recognize them for what they are, and ask ourselves honestly if our actions and our attitude towards fraternization make for a better world and the helping of poor, agonizing humanity.
Today the forces of love and hate are balanced and the time is so critical that the world despairs of the future. The power of thought and the power of spiritual love are potent forces. Let us throw all that we have in the balance. Let us show the despairing world by the example of love for our fellow Theosophists in other societies, that love is the great healer. Let us not through fear and vanity frustrate the efforts of the founders of the Theosophical movement. Perfect love casteth out fear and vanity, and these two kamic enemies of fraternization, of Theosophy, of the Masters, of Wisdom and of humanity, let us now resolve to banish forever from our midst.
FROM THE WESTERN WOMEN'S BUDDHIST BUREAU
To all Theosophical friends now assembled in this fraternization
convention Greetings: From a Buddhist sister in California who owes
a great debt of gratitude to the Theosophical founders, for the privilege
of hearing of Theosophy and Buddhism.
"It is not flesh and blood, but the heart that makes brothers". - Schiller.
This friendly and truly noble fraternization attempt on the part of various Theosophical leaders and their societies is indeed a precious one. And great credit is due all who have any part in it. It shows a commendable spirit of tolerance and a sincere effort to actually establish "a real Universal Fraternity" such as the Masters had in mind when the T.S. was first founded, and for which very purpose, indeed, it was founded.
In Letter VI. of The Mahatma Letters it tells of the Masters hopes to found "a genuine Brotherhood of Humanity where all will become co-workers of nature, will work for the good of mankind." Further on in the same letter we read: "The Chiefs want a Brotherhood of Humanity, a real Universal Fraternity started." While in Letter xxviii the T.S. is said to be "a harbinger of Universal Brotherhood". Surely then, a Theosophical fraternization convention as is now assembled in Toronto IS definitely such a harbinger. And, just as surely - let us hope - it foreshadows a wholly reunited T.S., " all sincere, the like of which has been, the like of which cannot help being." "You cannot make an association out of insincere men," says Carlyle. "Only in a world of sincere men is unity possible; and there, in the long run, it is as good as certain..." How heartening are his words - an actual promise - that "unity is possible, in the long run, in an association of sincere men."
In a world that at this moment is crumbling, indeed, is fairly crashing about our heads, how infinitely important that all Theosophical societies - NONE ExCEPTED - in which the Masters placed such hope and confidence, should NOW AND FOREVER MORE, forget every difference of whatever nature, and become, in truth, "a real Universal Fraternity."
Unity, harmony and unselfishness within the T.S. are the best propaganda possible to gain intelligent recruits by creating a favorable impression. Whereas discord, intolerance and selfishness create an opposite effect.
In the Key to Theosophy, used as a text book I believe by nearly all Theosophical societies, some of which are - regrettably so - at odds with one another, Madam Blavatsky says: "What the Theosophist has to do above all is to forget his personality." Perhaps then the surest way to establish an actual Universal Fraternity would be for each and every one - particularly those unsympathetic with fraternization movements - to recall H.P.B.'s words more often. A forgetfulness of personality, a little less of "I" and "thou".
"If you could'st empty all thyself of self
Like to a shell dishabited . . . . .
then there would be no room for (little) Me."
Arnold too expresses the idea beautifully in his Light of Asia: "Foregoing self the Universe grows I."
The T.S. was definitely intended at the outset to be a great unwavering beacon to show poor Humanity the Path. So that those seeking an explanation of life's perplexities would have a true light to guide them, not false lights. So they would not be misled as many were then, and still are today - by will-o-the-wisp lights of pseudo-teachings parading under different names, all claiming to have the Truth. Indeed, some are more harmful than the merely deceiving lights of will-o-the-wisps; they are dangerous as false mirages of the desert that lure thirsty travelers to doom. A tolerant, all-inclusive T.S., united in this one common purpose, would be just such an unwavering beacon light as it was originally intended to be.
An old Chinese philosopher said "the union of many threads make an unbreakable cord." How unbreakable, how invincible the distinguished leaders of the various Theosophical societies and their followers might become if each one forgot the "I" and "thou" and remembered only bleeding Humanity. The whole Theosophical teachings stress Oneness - not separation, but Oneness of All.
Marcus Aurelius says: "We are made for co-operation, like hands, like feet, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another is contrary to nature."
Perhaps at this very convention now assembled, a common meeting ground can and will be found, acceptable to all leaders and all societies not at present co-operating or even approving. It should not be difficult to find such a common meeting ground in the great, broad, field of Theosophy. Perhaps if everyone were to unbend just a trifle it would help - I do not know. But it is quite possible to unbend without loss of dignity, and the old Chinese philosopher already quoted also said that "a bow unbent is useless." Every intelligent Theosophist of course understands perfectly the true spirit of the teachings, and also well and truly understands the real reason why the T.S. was founded in the first place.
It seems a great pity to give outsiders the satisfaction of saying that it is easier for some Theosophists to pass through the eye of a needle than fraternize at a Theosophical convention. H.P.B. also says in the Key, that in her time it could be said "without a shadow of injustice"; "See how those Theosophists love one another." Have times changed any or have they not? Do you know that there actually are people who innocently believe that the letters T.S. stand - not for Theosophical Society, but, for Theosophies snobbery!
While there may have been in the past disappointments and discouragements in fraternization attempts, and there doubtless will be more, still for the sake of "poor orphan Humanity" as K.H.. feelingly spoke of it, remain steadfast in purpose, faithful in your efforts. Do not falter, those of you who have seen the vision and are trying to make an actuality out of the ideal set before Theosophists by the Masters - a Brotherhood of Humanity - which would, if ever it became an actuality, bring to the world universal peace and goodwill to men.
Knowing yourselves then to be absolutely right in these attempts, remain solid as a rock. The Dhammapada says: "As a solid rock is not shaken by the wind, wise people falter not amidst blame and praise."
May the overshadowing influence of the Wise Ones be manifest to everyone present on this auspicious and notable occasion which surely foreshadows a wholly reunited T.S. - a harbinger of "a real Brotherhood of Humanity" for which purpose the society ways first organized. Faithfully,
- Miriam Salanave,
Western Women's Buddhist Bureau of California.