Theosophical University Press Online Edition

James A. Long — 1951 Tour Reports


Meeting at Stockholm

Fjallgatan — Lodge No. 15
May 17, 1951 — 8 p.m.
Peter Flach, Chairman
Harald Kallstrom, Translator


Mrs. Carlsson: The members of Lodge 15 through the Secretary are very happy indeed to welcome you here, and as a remembrance of this evening we want to give you a crystal heart, as it is called in Swedish, symbolizing the love the lodge feels for theosophy, and also the admiration we feel for our leader.

JAL: Thank you very much. O my! I don't know what to say.

Maybe I can get myself started by asking a question. Can you tell me, Peter, is this an apartment that is rented for this purpose?

Mr. Peter Flach: This is an apartment belonging at one time to a lady who was the sister of the mayor of Stockholm, Anna Lindhagen. She was a theosophist for a time, I don't know how long. When she died, an institution took over her apartment and then rented it out for musical evenings, and we have been able to rent it also, both for our lodge evenings and our public meetings.

JAL: I see. Well, it is a lovely place. Of course I cannot forget my last meeting with Lodge No. 15, which took place in your home, Peter, in Stocksund. While I suggested this meeting this evening in order to talk over the matter of the theosophical work in Stockholm, I do not feel that we should necessarily limit the discussion to that. I had a meeting with Lodge No. 1 Tuesday night, expecting likewise to talk about the work of theosophy in Stockholm, the problems that a few people think exist, but that meeting took a turn that ended up a long way from Lodge No. 1. Nevertheless, I did get what I can call the feel of the lodge, and some ideas which I told them I would sleep over, and that perhaps next Tuesday, when I would like to meet with both lodges together in their quarters, I might have something to say. But I made no promises.

I myself find little wrong with the theosophical work in Stockholm, and I think that the very first part of this meeting might well be devoted to giving a little time to any expressions that anyone here may have to make in that regard. If any one of you does have some thoughts that you feel may contribute to the work here in Stockholm, I would appreciate hearing them. I am sure Peter would. Then together we can consider them to see if any suggestions or recommendations that we might care to place before either or both lodges will have any merit.

Before I turn the floor over to you, however, I want to thank you for coming to the meeting and for giving me such a warm reception, and for this beautiful token of the theosophy I have found here in Stockholm. I will use this on my desk in Pasadena so that it will be awfully hard, in fact impossible, for me to forget this evening. Thank you very much, Madame Secretary, for this symbol of the love of Lodge 15.

Now Mr. Chairman, if there is anyone here who has any comments he would like to make, the floor is open.

Mr. Flodin: Many words are not needed if the vibration is on the same level. But I am bold enough to take the liberty to tell the Leader something about administration. I am only a new member, and if we consider any line of business — a factory, office, army, navy, etc. — what would that kind of business be if every member has to decide and no one, or some part of the members, would not follow the president's order about the administration? We have to consider that the president is elected by the majority of the national section's members, and we believe that the presidents get the spirit from the leader, and the leader from our Masters. If the member does not follow the president, he works against the Theosophical Society, the leader, and our Masters. If there are some members who do not follow the order of the president, or have some other kind of conception of administration, I do not understand it. I think he has to be humble and follow the order from the president. That is my conception of it. Thank you.

JAL: Thank you very much. The one thing that is very difficult to grasp for the member in our organization — who like yourself (and myself in my early days in the Society) is a business man by training — is the fact that this Society and the organization of theosophy is an occult institution; and while it has its official head of the Society, and its presidents of the different national sections, and the lodges and members-at-large, it does not operate and have its being in the same manner that the average organization or administration of a business or an army or a navy has. Now what I have to say is not in any sense to be considered as a criticism of your expression; not at all. But it is intended to help all of us to get what I conceive to be the correct conception of the administration of the organization of the Theosophical Society.

In the first place, your remarks would seem to indicate that you feel that the leader, being the official head of the Society, stands as the hierarch of the Society as a whole, and that the presidents of the different countries are part and parcel of that hierarchical structure, at the head of which are the Masters. And by inference we can carry it on down, and assume then that the presidents of lodges would be hierarchs in their own right of the lodge of which they have been elected as presidents.

I have to disagree, this is a wrong conception. By the very fact that the presidents of the national sections in this institution are elected, or have been elected in the past, by a majority of the electing body, would automatically take the section president out of that category of being, occultly speaking, a part of a hierarchical structure. Likewise the lodge presidents that are elected by the membership of the lodge would automatically be taken out of such a hierarchical structure, were it the case. And right there, companions, is where some of the greatest problems and difficulties in the work of this Society have arisen because, human nature being what it is, if a man is elected as president of a national section, and thereby feels that he has now in his hands the power and the strength of the authority of that occult organization, and that thereby his word is law and his direction should be followed, he makes a great mistake. By that I do not mean that if the leader of the Society asks a national president to do something in his national section, that in so doing he is overstepping his responsibility. When he receives a request to do something in his section, then it is his duty to carry it out, and I think that is the aspect that you are probably referring to.

In reality in an institution of this kind, the official head of the Society as a whole is actually the servant of both the Masters and the members; and is in a certain sense what I have called a nonentity. The same thing is true of a national president; the same thing is true of a lodge president; and to the degree that each one of them really works and acts in that capacity of a nonentity, and makes of himself a channel for the force of the Lodge to flow through from the leader, and for the strength and the support of the membership to flow through him back to the leader and to the Great Lodge, to that degree will he be fulfilling his mission. His job is more a receiver than a director, receiving that which has come from Headquarters for the membership of the national section or the lodge of which he is president, and in turn the recipient of that which is attempting to get to Headquarters from the members of a lodge and the membership of a national section. This must be done impersonally and without attachment. And to the degree that the lodge president and the section president and in turn the leader fulfill that mission impersonally, to that degree do they each satisfactorily fulfill the responsibility of their respective posts.

Now that I have stirred up the pot, I will try to clarify what I have just said. There is as you will no doubt have surmised more to it than what I have said so far. And that is why the Theosophical Society is different from any other organization.

Exoterically, the national sections and the lodges and so forth do look like and are in a sense a part of the hierarchical structure. Notice what I said, the national sections and the lodges and the members-at-large are part of an exoteric hierarchical structure. I did not say the section presidents, nor the lodge presidents, nor do I say the individual members.

Esoterically, there is no such thing. There is nothing between the leader and each individual member, because esoterically each member has the inherent right to develop himself to become a member of the true hierarchical structure, of which the leader is a part. And if by the force of circumstances and individual development it may happen sometime, which may have been the case in the past, that an individual has made of himself, let us say, hierarchical material, and happens to be at the same time the president of a section, then the more "hierarchical material" he becomes — if I may coin this phrase temporarily to convey my meaning — the less he will exercise his authority as a section president, or as any official. He will then become more and more a potent channel for the interchange and interflow of Lodge force between the leader and the Headquarters to the membership. I don't know if that clarifies it a little for you or not.

Exoterically, the sections and the national countries and the lodges are of a hierarchical structure, just as every organization has its hierarchical structure, whether a business organization, army or navy, etc.; but in the Theosophical Society the elected heads of the national sections and of the lodges do not necessarily become hierarchs in their respective planes of responsibility. It would be exactly the same in reality as if the world were to get together and decide to elect a buddha of compassion! It could not be done. Just the same as if they tried to elect a leader of the Theosophical Society. It cannot be done. When Colonel Conger took office, he smilingly referred to being "elected by the very prosaic Cabinet," but he was not "elected" by the Cabinet. He succeeded GdeP, and in reality began to take over the responsibility of the Society in certain inner respects before GdeP died. But the Cabinet period of three years was a test for the membership and for the members of the Cabinet. True hierarchs are not elected, except in the Roman Catholic Church, which can be considered in reality the opposite pole of the type of an organization that we have in the Theosophical Society. Does that help?

Mr. Flodin: Thank you very much.

JAL: You see, that is the thing that makes life in this Theosophical Society of ours interesting, and why the stranger and the newcomer cannot understand some of the things that take place, and the manner in which they take place. Because there is always the exoteric and the esoteric. Unfortunately, in the past, there have been those who had the privilege of becoming members of the Esoteric Section, which is now closed, who felt that they had the right and the authority to exercise certain privileges, personal privileges, because they were members of the Esoteric Section, and they began to think they knew a little more than the other fellow. Right there they began to get into trouble. They began to develop a sort of spiritual pride which is a very, very dangerous thing, and every time that this develops in the heart of any member, soon thereafter he is faced with situations, both in life and in his work in theosophy, which call forth hidden qualities that he never knew he had. He is faced with decisions. He is faced with the need to penetrate the maya, the false curtain of misunderstanding that he had built up by his own thoughts and spiritual pride, and invariably he found himself in a most difficult position.

Thus in our thoughts about the Society, its organization, and its work, let us always keep in mind what can be called the exoteric and what can be called the esoteric — the exoteric being that which is seen, the esoteric being that which is hidden and which must be felt with the heart and cannot be seen with the eyes and readily understood with the brain-mind. Because the esoteric has become exoteric, we have therefore even more responsibility to be alert to those difficult aspects of the events of our daily lives. They have their significance.

The esoteric always comes first. That which is in the heart is the most important, and when we make that right, then the exoteric is bound to be right. It can't be otherwise. There will be no conflict ever. There will be no question of how much or how little we know, because the more esotericism we get in our heart, the more humility we get in our consciousness. The more we realize we know very little, the more we learn and the more we realize we have to learn. The humble spirit that goes with true theosophic living acts as a tremendously strong protective shield against the arrows and the darts of the dark forces always attempting to destroy the light that shines in the heart of each one of us.

In summarizing what has just been said in regard to the gentleman's question, you can see from my comments regarding the fact that there can be no elected elements in the hierarchy between the leader and the membership, that that direct channel must remain unhampered by any section structure or lodge structure. This is a two-way street, however; it works both ways, outward and inward. The Masters are not going to miss anything that goes on — not that they are watching every move everybody makes. O no! But the white light of truth will always reach where it is supposed to reach. And, as I said to Lodge No. 1, if I live long enough it is my fervent hope that we will have established a real nucleus of a universal brotherhood before I end this incarnation.

I do not mean by that that every member should expect a direct communication from the Masters when they have had a right thought! Because that is a great danger when any member begins to expect direct communication from the Master, or expects that the leader knows his every thought and deed. If that were the case, then our occultism would be worthless; then there would be no need for the voice of the silence. What actually happens is that to the degree that we exemplify our theosophy and live the true life of a theosophist, the voice of the silence, which is no voice at all, begins to speak to us, and we get our guidance from within. That is when what we call the Warrior or our higher self begins to do some instructing. As the Master himself said, there is that law which is inviolable: for every step one takes in their direction, they are compelled to take a step in the pupil's direction. For most of us, however, there are many, many steps between ourselves and the Masters. But I think there is not one person in this room who has not had the experience of hearing that soundless voice of the silence, and getting a little guidance here and there at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. That is the way we grow in occultism, in altruism.

Mrs. Carlsson: You reminded us last Sunday of the Master's statement: "Brave soldiers need neither orders nor constant encouragement."

JAL: Yes, and I think I stated also that when we do live that life, and the voice of the silence begins to speak within, then we do get our constant encouragement and joy, and also our orders from our own higher self, our own inner divinity, however mildly this may be.

Well, now, does anyone else have anything he would like to talk about?

Peter Flach: We have gone rather far from the original question about the lodge and the work in Stockholm.

JAL: That doesn't bother me at all, Peter. You know what I think about the daily karmic script. And if we get on an unnatural road I will call a halt, but so long as it is naturally developing, that is all right. Don't forget I am getting a feel of Lodge No. 15 while I am doing all this. So if there are any other questions or comments — you all seem to be shy tonight! My goodness, they weren't that shy at your home, Peter, in January. It does not matter what the questions are about.

Gunnar Thornqvist: I wonder if the leader has talked with Lodge No. 1, and if we can hear, if it is possible now, the result.

JAL: We got pretty far from the subject of Lodge No. 1 by the time the evening ended, but there were one or two expressions there which indicated the desire on the part of at least some of the members — and there seemed to be no objections raised, no thoughts expressed in opposition — that they would like to cooperate with Lodge 15 in public work; that is, to keep on with the lodge work the way each of you has been doing in your own lodge studies, but in the public meetings to meet together rather than have two separate sets of public meetings. Then another member added to that the thought that there should be a much closer working together, and have one meeting a month at least where the section president could give to both groups the news that was coming in so rapidly from Headquarters. In this way a closer link with the members in Stockholm could be made by keeping them informed of what was taking place. That was about the essence of it.

It may or may not be advisable for the two Stockholm lodges to work together or become one. It will be up to the karma of the situation and what the membership needs. I myself think it would be a beautiful thing if the two lodges could really work together, and I also believe that 90 percent of the membership of Lodge No. 1 feels like that. But the majority doesn't count with me. It has to be unanimous; and when that unanimity of recognition of what has to be done comes about, nothing in God's world will stop it.

I have met, I believe, practically all of the active members of Lodge No. 1, and if I am any judge at all of theosophic qualities, then I would say that there are some mighty fine souls in Lodge No. 1. I don't think you here in Lodge 15 can fully appreciate what a problem, if we want to call it that, is faced by Lodge No. 1. You are not old enough as a lodge. But the same thing happens with a lodge or any group of individuals — whether in or out of theosophy, it makes no difference, it just has a more potent reaction in theosophy — as occurs with an individual. We have seen men and women who have grown old gracefully, and we have seen men and women who have grown old ungracefully; and the job for every theosophist individually, and for every lodge collectively — every lodge representing a collection of individuals — is to grow gracefully. Recognize your limitations when they come up. Never be afraid to admit them, never be afraid to say you have made a mistake and face the fact and go about correcting it. Individually and collectively grow with the times, with what in German is called the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the day, the spirit of the times. We are together today at a time which has been ordered by karma, and if we do not study the times in which we are living and keep a step ahead of the average people of our time so that we can reach out a helping hand, then we are not doing our job. Then we will not grow gracefully; we will grow old in a rut, and the people whom we would help we will find are way ahead of us, and may themselves not hold out their hand to us. That is what we have got to guard against.

If we cannot realize the very practical value of working in and living through our theosophic efforts in that way, then certainly we deserve to get into a rut and not get help from the Lodge. The old axiom which is so commonly used, and so little understood, is also an occult axiom: "God helps those who help themselves" — the Law and the Lodge stoop down to help those who pull themselves out of the mire of misunderstanding by their own bootstraps, by their own efforts. It is just another aspect of what I said earlier: for every step the pupil takes in Master's direction, the Master is compelled to take a step toward the pupil. When we really help ourselves to become more self-reliant, then the gods stoop down to help us too. That to me is the core of any problem of any lodge, of any group of individuals — that is the core of the solution to any problem.

Intermission for coffee and tea

JAL: During the coffee intermission I said hello to Mrs. Lars Eek, and she had a question that she wanted to ask, but felt she did not want to ask it in the group because of its nature. I told her by all means ask it and I would try to answer it at this time. Her question is a simple one, but it is one which I doubt very much has ever been asked a leader in public, and I don't know whether I will be able to answer it or not, but I will try, because it is something that I know came into my mind, years ago, and it must certainly have come into the minds of many members. And since this is a partnership, I certainly do not have anything to keep from the members that I am permitted to tell. Her question was this: "Do you feel differently now that you are leader from what you did before you became leader?" That was the essence of it, and I take it Mrs. Eek meant, is there anything different in the way I feel physically, mentally, and otherwise, and whether I don't feel some additional strength or something additional that I did not feel before I became leader?

Mrs. Eek: Yes, just so.

JAL: The Masters are very practical individuals and they must work in a practical manner with the instruments that they have available by karma. I have on several occasions spoken both to individuals and to some groups about this matter of leader-worship, and the danger that exists in having the wrong attitude about the leader. All the leaders in the past have suffered in their hearts when they have seen the membership set them on a pedestal and begin to ape them, do the things they did in the way they did, speak the way they did, gesture the way they did, and so forth. I say their hearts ached when they saw that the membership was missing completely the purpose for which they were giving their life. That purpose was to help instill into the hearts and minds of the members the need to become self-reliant individuals, self-reliant in the theosophic sense, in their own natural way in accordance with their own natural svabhava, because no two of us are alike.

This may seem a long way around to answering Mrs. Eek's question, but a leader is just a human being. He is not a demigod; he is just an ordinary human being whose life experiences, whatever they may have been, have by karma prepared him for the opportunity to be considered, unknown to himself, ready to carry the responsibility of the work of the Society.

In the case of HPB we all know her history and background very well. We know Mr. Judge's fairly well, and what he did for the Society. We know KT's — all of them in their respective ways had a pretty stormy early life, every kind of problem and test and obstacle to overcome. GdeP was a scholar, and by karma the Society and the world had earned the right to have someone who could write an immense commentary on HPB's Secret Doctrine, giving an expansive picture of the esoteric aspect of the exoteric things HPB said in The Secret Doctrine, which up to the time of HPB had been entirely esoteric.

A leader, as I have indicated, never knows exactly who his successor is going to be — not until the very last moment when the very last life-thread is broken may he then get a picture, when it is too late for him to do anything about it or to interfere with the karmic structure. Not that he would want to, but his personal attitude and ideas must not enter that picture. If he does not know, and is not permitted to know who his successor is going to be until the very last minute, then his successor does not know and is not permitted to know that he is going to be the leader until that very last minute, until that very same thread is broken. And that is a perfectly natural thing.

Thus what really takes place is that when that lifeline of a leader is broken, there may be two or three or more possibilities that have been developed through the years — but what rules the selection at the time? It very definitely is not the man who is leader, nor is it a Cabinet, nor is it even in the literal sense the Master. It is the karma of the TS and the world that rules the selection. And when that lifeline is broken the mantle that has rested upon the shoulders of that leader falls upon the shoulders of another, and that other one knows it instantly. He may never have expected anything like it. Certainly he did not aspire to it, because if he did, he would not be leadership material. So what does happen? Karma and the Society and the world have made their selection of the man to do that which the Society and the world are calling for, and the Masters find themselves with a new instrument to work with. The successor finds himself with a new responsibility. Invariably the successor is immediately faced with terrific tests. He has had many of them through the years, not knowing why, but his karma has earned him the right for a supreme test when he finds the mantle of the Lodge force upon his shoulders. It is that moment, Mrs. Eek, when he changes, not into a superman, no, not into a godlike individual sitting on a throne who is going to rule the universe. Not a bit of it.

How can I say how he is changed? I find it very difficult now that I am right down to the point of the question. He is no different from what be was an hour before, a day before, but yet he is completely different. Almost in a flash he has to forget completely and absolutely himself. He has heard about selflessness and what true service to the Master means, but of a sudden he becomes a very, very lonely individual. He is standing alone, absolutely naked inside, and feeling the karma of every individual of the Society plus the karmic responsibility of the Great Lodge from the other end bearing down wanting to be expended and given to the world. There he finds himself on the one hand faced with thousands of personalities, each one different, each one with a spark in his heart that has brought him into the work which he understands to a greater or to a less degree; and faced on the other hand with the supreme duty placed upon his shoulders by the karma of the Great Lodge and humanity which they serve, to do something not only for the members, but to help the members to help humanity. And the realization of that vast responsibility and that he can receive no help, no help whatever, tells him what real loneliness is.

Then the change takes place, and in his loneliness, after that terrific and violent inner experience which nearly wracks his soul into shreds, he sees his duty; and while still being lonely, he sees also a bright light which points the pathway day by day, and he begins from that moment to have to make decisions based upon the unrolling unfolding script of not only himself but of the Society and the work of the Masters and the unfolding karmic script of civilization itself. So you see the Masters then have a new instrument which they have got to train and take hold of, and yet not train and not take hold of. It is a great paradox. I need not go into any of the technical ramifications of principles and parts of principles of all that. That in reality does not enter very much into the fact of the question. That is a poor answer to your question, Mrs. Eek, but that is the best I can do.

It is a beautiful experience. No one would ever seek it, but once the responsibility is felt no one can give it up until he dies.

It is 11:00 o'clock, and you have been here a long time. There was one other question, but I do not think we had better take the time for this because it is too complicated to go into at this late hour, and it is not one that I am fond of discussing in public, but in any event I will see that the gentleman who asked the question will receive an answer.

Here too this evening we have gone a long way from the problems of Lodge 15! I want to thank each one again for this beautiful reception, and for the wonderful spirit that you have shown. I assure you there is really no problem in Stockholm, and I don't think there is much of a problem in Sweden itself. You should — and you can turn your back, Mr. Flach — you should feel proud of Peter and Kathinka. They have done a marvelous job, and as I told the group on Sunday, to me Peter saved theosophy for Sweden. I think he has got too darn much to do myself, and I hope that I can find some way of lightening his burden so that he can concentrate on the really important aspect of the work in Sweden, not only in Stockholm. But we shall see what the daily karmic script unfolds.

The membership is going to hear that phrase many, many times, but if in the course of my repetition I can get even a handful of members to realize the importance in their own lives and in their work for theosophy of working with and interpreting that day-to-day guidance which karma has placed before us, then I will have felt I had accomplished something.

I do not think there is any more that I can say other than this: you have my pledge to do everything I can, not only for Stockholm and for Lodge 15, and for Sweden, but to help you to be better men and women so that you can really hold out your hand to your fellowmen and help them along the way a little farther.

The meeting closed at 11:15 p.m.

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