Whether we are "Old Theosophists," fully informed about the intricate time schedules of the peregrinations of the rounds and the races, the complex interrelations of vast cosmic entifications and their energizing principles, — stop me if I misspeak, — or whether we are the merest fledgelings, gasping in full wonderment that here at last we find the Great Answer to It All, we like to "talk Theosophy."
Who among us, having for the first time encountered Theosophy in the questing years of life, but remembers the stunning, light-breaking impact of these great truths upon our minds, the thrill of new confidence within our hearts. You who have known Theosophy from earliest memory, having been born into it, are in a way fortunate. But you have, in this life at least, missed that throb of sudden discovery after prolonged searching, that coming into the sunlight after years of tunneling, wrestling and black conflict, — and having missed that, — you do not perhaps quite fully evaluate the wisdom that is yours nor sense how much others need it. One does not question or seek to share what seems a native inheritance.
Some of us find Theosophy only after much searching, and like most converts we are slightly fanatic about it. We want to rush out and tell others all about it, willy-nilly. This exuberance is reasonable enough if not allowed its head too long before it is broken to the bit. Ask any old Theosophist why this is. He will expatiate upon this swing of the pendulum in impressively couched terms, redolent of the more abstruse portions of the Secret Doctrine, touching upon the Law of Cycles with a dash, maybe, of Sanskrit to give it just that soupcon of esotericism and ancient authority. But the point is, fanaticism, though excusable at first, is reprehensible when perpetuated beyond the time when the scales should be balanced and equilibrium restored. Fanaticism breeds fixity, and the essence of the Theosophic teaching is away from crystallization of concepts toward the unfoldment of consciousness, toward expansion, ever becoming, adaptability and change.
If we would have others listen to our teachings, we need first to be good and receptive listeners ourselves. Some of the greatest teachers of Theosophic Wisdom never preach at all, nor even speak of it. From the eloquent silence of their vital, integrated and luminous lives, and from their understanding hearts, they elicit enquiry and inspire unsolicited emulation.
He who is not really seeking does not want to hear what we may have to say. He will not listen. If our path crosses his, nothing but lives as they are lived and our sincere compassion for his problem will make any difference to him. Therefore, conversationally speaking, one does not set out to talk Theosophy. One knows it, lives it, and one develops that special awareness of the moment's need so that no true inquirer ever goes away unaided.
The true inquirer for a reconciliation of life's seeming anomalies asks everywhere. He asks within himself, seeks out his pastor, teacher, and consults the man on the street. He is pretty desperate, mind you. What is the reason for all the suffering? Why must we live only to die? Why does not life, with its myriad inequalities, add up better than it does? He finds no answer within, and he is equally frustrated without. His pastor pontificates, or, if a kindly simple soul, he offers a well meant but unsatisfying blanket formula of dogma and the enjoinder that the supplicant open his heart to the Lord and all things will be added unto him. And the professor, privately sharing his uncertainty, offers him cynicism in the guise of much learning. That man on the street says, "Search me! Let's have a drink."
But the quester does not give up though no light shines. He is spiritually desperate. When the striving is great enough, the answer is forthcoming. Hope is almost spent perhaps, and just then someone, somewhere, SAYS something. It may be only a word, a phrase, or a lecture attended with a chance acquaintance. Chance? Or it may be no spoken word at all but encounter with a life so tranquil and yet powerfully pervasive that it bespeaks a motivation one longs to fathom.
And so one gets the hint, the clue, and moves on from there to discovery of some of the many sources of answers to one's questions. Usually it is all so new and strange, so absorbingly fascinating, that the searcher yearns for plenty of soul satisfying talk, — conversation with someone who is informed about these ancient and eternal truths. Of course, he begins reading voraciously, but he needs the outlet of communication and clarification gained only through conversational interchange, especially at the beginning.
There is something in the experience of spiritual awakening, as all who know will attest, that is like recognition, as if one were in a very real sense coming home after a long journey. It is like waking from a long bad night of dreaming and seeing the sunshine streaming through the familiar ruffled curtains of one's bedroom. For a little while the novice should be given the opportunity to talk it out, — at the expense, maybe, of his guide's leisure hours and precious sleep. Usually the delight is mutual, and the opportunity to help is beyond price.
How then do we who have found our truths meet the need of the true searcher? Do we open our hearts to his problem so that we have the compassion that helps us see life from his point of view, intuit where best to commence, how little or how much to say, and in what language? Have we clarified our own thinking, cleansed our natures of emotional colorations and pet prejudices, familiarized ourselves with the fundamentals so that we can answer the need lucidly, simply and fully enough? Having the knowledge, perhaps a great fund of it, have we the fine discrimination to say less than too much, letting the neophyte articulate his newfound wonder, haltingly express what this truth means to him?
The temptation of the teacher is to hold forth, dilate, submerge the pupil in a welter of verbiage. Time. . . . There is time for teaching in small doses, and administered only when he asks his questions, as he surely will if Theosophy has sounded a gong in his being. Whatever the degree of his enthusiasm, it is not well to gorge him before digestion has a chance to do its work.
Depending on his background, the seeker needs special intuitive response from his mentor. Does his search stem from emotional desperation, intellectual frustration, — what? What are his conditioning prejudices? To trample roughshod on his tender corns of prejudice before he has oriented himself to the new enfranchising concepts can alienate and delay him. In his nature fairly uncomplicated though well intentioned? Is his capacity for intake limited to a few simple, practical ideas and their working hypotheses, or is he one who needs to plumb the depths and reach beyond the farthest star before his questing mind can find its stillness? It is no time for blundering on the part of him who attempts to serve as guide. Though the moment is certainly not the one for withdrawal into taciturnity, and he may even wisely let the wisdom pour forth as one may who has the "gift of tongues," the general emphasis of his effort to help may safely be on the side of discreet reticence. The understanding heart in its compassion knows what help is needed and, partly with its stillness as well as with what it is moved to say, it plays its right part in the unfolding of a budding consciousness.
As the one whose privilege it is to help senses the explicit need, savours of the problem, help must come through him. His years of study have rendered him a suitable channel, as has his life. If he is very wise, he sternly checks the temptation to air his erudition; he remembers his own long-ago exquisite moment of discovery. He tunes his spirit to that of the newcomer, finds the right rhythm. Thus joy and discovery and the wisdom of the heart blend in a true harmony of brotherhood.
Having accepted the intuitive appointment to serve in the early awakening of another, responsibility looms large in other ways than the mere imparting of the truth. One's own life and practices must come under scrutiny. How do we, the expositors, exemplify these fine truths which we teach? Though the eyes of the grateful pupil may be charitably blind to the faults of the teacher for a time, the way of the neophyte is sometimes marred by disquieting disillusionment. Therefore, disclaiming perfection, we nonetheless mend our ways and deepen the wellsprings of our hearts. And the high wisdom of the heart channels its crystalline stream to the thirsty heart of another.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE