Theosophical University Press Online Edition

James A. Long — 1951 Tour Reports


Meeting at Goteborg

Park Avenue Hotel
May 19, 1951 — 8:00 p.m.
Axel Fredenholm, Chairman and Translator


JAL: First I wish to thank all of you for coming this evening at my invitation. It has been an opportunity to come to Sweden and to the other countries, and it is my hope to meet as many of the members as time permits, so that I may get acquainted with you and thus be able to think more intelligently and work more intelligently with you in bringing into real fruition this partnership which was inaugurated when I became leader.

I have no special message for the members in Goteborg, except to say first, that you have a beautiful city. When one travels around the world and through the various cities of Europe and the other countries, one begins to feel rather than to see a city, and Goteborg to me has a very fine feel. As soon as we arrived today, we took a train after lunch to Trollhattan to visit for an hour or so a very "young" lady of 89 years, and returned here just in time to have a bite to eat and come to this meeting. To say that I appreciate your all having come here to exchange thoughts with me is putting it mildly.

In the responsibilities that Colonel Conger gave me, I have always worked with him on a basis of common understanding, speaking simply and frankly and honestly, admitting my mistakes and trying to correct them, and encouraging others to do likewise. By following that method, I was able to accomplish much more than working along the usual lines of allowing likes and dislikes and differences of opinion to sharpen themselves, rather than softening themselves and in time reaching a common understanding.

When it was given to me to initiate this partnership, which is a spiritual partnership in the true sense of the word, it was made clear that the only way I could accomplish it would be by speaking honestly and frankly with as many members as was possible for me to contact, not only in one trip to Europe, but in as many trips as become necessary — necessary from the standpoint of the call that comes to me at Pasadena from the membership in Europe. The call that brought me over on this trip was extremely strong. The hundreds of letters that came to Headquarters were such that could not be ignored; and from every country they asked how soon would I be able to come to visit them. I did not realize it would be as soon as it was. But now that I am here in the fairly limited time that I have in Europe, I want to try to carry out my responsibility in establishing the work for the new cycle.

I have no particular message other than to say that the force of the work of this Society throughout the world has shown itself so extremely strong and potent in this brief period of this administration that it bodes well for the future and for the long hard pull to 1975. When Colonel Conger indicated not very long before his death that the force of the Lodge, the force of the Esoteric Section which is now closed, is flowing through the TS, he made a real understatement of the fact. Don't think for one moment that I take credit as leader for that. The credit does not belong to me. The credit, if credit need be given, goes to the membership of this Theosophical Society because nothing happens in the world except by and through karma, and the membership has earned the right to have the opportunity to work with that increased occult force, else it would not have received it. It has earned the right to have this opportunity to work in the Society at this time, or it would not have received it.

Now what does that mean in a practical sense to you and to me? It means simply this: that the consciousness both outer and inner of every member of this TS has a brighter light of truth shining through it, and it gives to each member the added responsibility to utilize the good things in his character and to face fairly and squarely those aspects of his nature and his consciousness which need to be improved. That applies to every one of us, including the leader. For that reason it has been most essential for each member to attempt to stand on his own two feet, and to face himself squarely and ask the simple question: what can I do to improve my character that I may be more helpful to my fellowmen? After all, the first and only job of this Theosophical Society is to alleviate the sufferings of our fellowmen, to extend a helping hand to those who need it.

We are theosophists to begin with because we have in our hearts an aspiration not only to be better men and women, but to help our fellowmen. We all know the occult axiom that in proportion to our aspirations are our difficulties. That is true. At times like these when several cycles have come together — the moving away from the pit of the century, the passing over the three-quarter mark of the first century of the Theosophical Society, the new Messianic cycle, and other larger cycles — all have their bearing upon the constitution, all tie together, and put a terrific burden of responsibility upon each FTS: not to this, that, or the other person; to this, that, or the other Society; to this, that or the other leader or president of a section or lodge president, but to himself. We are all given the opportunity to become spiritually self-reliant, and in order to do that we must do our own thinking, be critical of our own thoughts, and wide open to the signs of the times. We must likewise be very kindly and considerate of the shortcomings of others.

Those members who are what we call pledged members, who were members of the Esoteric Section, have a double responsibility. But even that responsibility is not as great as some others have had. We know that the Theosophical Society itself is the outer court of a temple wherein the member puts himself in the position of serving his fellowmen, or at least to think about preparing himself to do that. We know that the Esoteric Section member became associated with that aspect of the work on a probationary basis. It doesn't matter how long he had been a member, he was still on probation. And when the leader or teacher or Outer Head initiated an additional group, as for example when GdeP initiated the KTMG, there were certain members selected whom he felt had earned the right for further tests, for a more stringent probationary experience. And when he formed the higher degree of his inner group, those selected for that group by the teacher were felt to have earned the right for a still higher degree of probation and testing. And the teacher in each of these degrees gave a little more.

Why do I tell you these things? To point out the dangers that lie in the pathway of a student, or a member of the TS, who is really trying to live the theosophic life and to abide by the laws of practical occultism as they operate in this Society. That is the danger that exists when the bright light of truth is shone full upon our consciousness, especially upon our inner consciousness; and the temptations are very great for us to feel not only that we are important individuals, but that we have been selected for these extra privileges because we were so much better than the average FTS. That is the first step of an individual's downfall. There is no danger so great as when a member — I don't care to what degree he has belonged in the past, and I don't care if he is the leader himself — begins to think and believe that he is better than any one of the members of the TS. A leader himself is no better than the worst, and no worse than the best; and that same thing is true of every member of the TS. We are all karmically linked together, and not one of us is any worse than the best, or any better than the worst. That is a paradox, but it is a true one.

Thus the individual so faced with this white light of truth and of practical occultism shining in his nature is not only tempted to think that he is important, but he is tempted to think that he has certain privileges that other members do not have, and he will begin to exercise one or two of them. When he does, he finds himself beginning to get into trouble. But he excuses himself, and then he gets into trouble again, just in little ways here and there that nobody but himself sees. But then he begins to compromise, and after a few more mistakes, he compromises still more, and in a little while he becomes so involved that he begins to compromise with the negative elements that come in contact with him — those elements which represent channels for the negative forces of destruction, those same forces that would, if they could, blot out the bright light of theosophy and the Theosophical Society.

I say these things not just to Goteborg. No — I have said these things in various ways before, and I say them now, because it is exactly what each one of us is faced with, or will be faced with in the future, if we really aspire to help our fellowmen and be theosophists. As soon as one begins to compromise with the negative forces around him, he begins to surrender the good in him to the bad in him. He surrenders the higher self to the lower self, and he gets in a worse state actually than Arjuna was in before the battle in which he had that memorable conversation with Krishna.

What is the panacea, what is the formula to avoid that type of situation? It is a very simple one: to think more of the welfare of others than of oneself; to weigh in the balance of judgment and intuition the thoughts that come to us from others, and to determine, with that simple formula, whether the thought or the idea is for the benefit of all or for the benefit of a few, whether it has a selfish aspect or a selfless aspect. That simple formula will help. When we begin to do that, we begin to put into operation the voice of the silence, that guardian and protector of our souls, which when we are truly impersonal and unselfish never lets us down, never guides us wrongly.

To get back to the starting point, and then I will close the formal thoughts and we can have the question and answer period. I say all these things because, as stated in the beginning, the full strength of the Lodge force which formerly flowed through the esoteric aspect of the Society is now flowing through the TS. The esoteric aspect is closed for an indefinite period, which means that you and I are working for theosophy in the world today with a tremendous amount of additional assistance, but also with a tremendous amount of additional responsibility, demanding therefore a tremendous amount of additional discipline and care. The esoteric having become exoteric, and by inference the exoteric esoteric, means in the final analysis that our day-to-day life as theosophists carries with it a simple but yet great responsibility to make of ourselves spiritually self-reliant individuals, each becoming stronger units in the work of the Theosophical Society in order that the Theosophical Society can have its proper influence, not outwardly but inwardly, in the world at large. Thus we as a true example will be part of that nucleus of a universal brotherhood formed by our devoted and worthy members in each country who have linked themselves together and whose influence upon the outer world will bring about a true step forward in the progress of civilization.

With these comments I will now be glad to answer any questions you may have with regard to the work. Feel free to bring forward any questions that may be in your minds, and I will do my best to try to answer them. Don't feel backward. This is not supposed to be a hardboiled formal meeting, for I don't like that kind of thing. Just feel comfortable, and if you have any questions, ask them.

Edith Kahlson: I should like to ask if Mr. Fredenholm told the Leader of our problems here in Goteborg?

JAL: No, I have not discussed the work in Goteborg with him, or with anyone in fact; but if I am any judge of human nature in matters of theosophy I am convinced that there is really no serious problem here in Goteborg which a little time and a little patience and a little honest theosophic thought cannot solve. Now if there is anything serious in the work in Goteborg, I would like to know about it. The only thing I have heard was that some of the members did not accept me as leader of the Society, and preferred to select Mr. Hartley on the basis of his proclamation. Well, those members are privileged to do that. I am not here to seek support of myself as leader of the Theosophical Society — please don't get that impression under any circumstances. That is not the purpose of my visit here. If I have to do that to get support as leader of the TS, I will quit tomorrow. Let us have that understood right now. Nevertheless, each individual member does have a responsibility to accept or not accept a leader of this Theosophical Society. Every individual has that responsibility. Now I repeat, please do not misunderstand me. I love to speak frankly and honestly. I seek no support whatever for myself. If I had to do that I would not be leader. I would not deserve to be leader. I would not deserve to have received the mantle of responsibility that goes with that, and whether or not John Doe or Mary Smith accepts me as leader doesn't worry me one bit.

The work of this Society has already moved forward, and those members of this Society who want to get on board this caravan and to move along with it toward 1975 are most welcome. If there be members who prefer not to, that is perfectly all right. Every member has the inherent right to decide for himself. That is the only thing I ask: that each member decide for himself; and if perchance he should decide not to go along with this caravan and enter into this partnership then, as I have said in my letters, please be honest men and women and say so, and resign and go whichever way you want to go, wherever you may be, whether in Goteborg or Stockholm or Singapore. But be honest men and women and go the way you want to go and resign from this Society, because we must carry on the work, and we cannot carry on with the work if there is squabbling or doubts in the minds of the members of this Society. We cannot do it.

In Holland the members were quite upset because a small group who had centered themselves around Jan Venema had stirred up what they thought was a lot of trouble. After the Congress closed, I gave a message to the Dutch membership. After indicating the need for them to do their own thinking and a few other things, I canceled the membership of every member in Holland, at the same time inviting those who wished to work in this partnership in the new cycle to say so. In a week's or ten days' time, 90 percent of the active membership of Holland had sent into the Atlanta Hotel in Rotterdam, not pledges in the sense of a pledge, but voluntarily signing the slips indicating their desire to go along with this caravan. I am not asking the members of Sweden to do that. I am not canceling a lot of memberships.

Now, if there be any in Goteborg who have any doubts, don't for goodness' sake, just because I have spoken honestly and frankly to you, go home and immediately write a letter of resignation. No, that is not what I mean. But do this: go home, take your time, and think the thing through. Do your own thinking. And if you don't have all the facts, and only have part of the facts, do not hesitate to write to me, or to any member of my staff. They have no axe to grind. They know where they stand. They have weathered a lot of storms and will give you the facts from that side of the fence if you need any.

With every change there has been the natural normal conflict in the hearts and minds of many people. It is nothing new. But I appeal to you, don't run around in circles. Quietly do your own thinking. Garner your own facts in your own way. Whatever it is you want to know, you will get honest replies from me, or from my staff, who will not try to influence your judgment, but will answer honestly any questions you have. If you will take a little time and patience in doing this, to get the real feeling in your heart, between now and the autumnal equinox, the harvest season, you will find what I think will be the answer that will satisfy you — whatever it may be. And then, after calm, quiet thought, if you feel you cannot support this administration, then consider resigning. But don't go off and do it just because I mentioned it tonight. I am speaking in principles tonight.

There is one thing only that is important in the life of a theosophist, if he is a theosophist, and that is Masters' work. That is what I am interested in, and what I have given my life to, and I have been assured, as every leader has been assured, that as long as three devoted, truly devoted members in the TS remain, it will never fail. I did not seek this job. It happened. But I am going to fulfill it to the best of my ability. And this partnership which has been inaugurated must succeed, and it will succeed. It has succeeded already, and we are on our way. And I want as many people to be happy in it as possible, because the joy, the real spiritual joy that comes in the heart when we work for our fellowmen in the cause of Masters cannot be equaled by anything.

Mrs. Kahlson: I should like to know whether the President of the Lodge and the members want me to let you hear their problems? I hope that you will understand them and will see our problems through. I would like to give you them.

The leader preferred to leave it up to their president, who at first did not think it necessary to bring up any problems, but then it was agreed that Mrs. Kahlson might give expression to the difficulties the lodge had been having.

Mrs. Kahlson: I should like to refer to the first report that we received from Pasadena. This was not rightly understood, they could not understand it right, and need some explanations concerning it. That was one thing. Then another thing, some members who were not present at a certain meeting in Halsingborg, but their names were given, were accused of disloyalty. Then later in Stockholm some of the members mentioned were present. Now we have taken the pledge not to say anything against a brother theosophist without protest. Then there is a third thing. In the Sectionsbrev [Section letter] it was written that anybody who wanted to resign would be free to do so; but nobody here wanted to resign, but wanted to just wait and see.

These are the three questions. We were not pleased with the matters, but we did not want to resign, but wanted to wait and see.

JAL: I am very glad indeed to have this opportunity to clarify that matter for Mrs. Kahlson and for those members who asked this question. First, are you referring to the first Cabinet meeting? Well, you have got as much explanation in Goteborg as anybody else anywhere received. That report was sent with a full realization by the members of the Cabinet that it would be hard for some members to understand. It was followed shortly thereafter with other reports which did much to clarify the situation. All the facts are there. What happened in some cases was that some members reading those Cabinet meetings became so interested in the drama of the actions that they missed completely the keys to the mystery, the clues if you want to put it that way. Just exactly as when we look at a mystery movie, or read a mystery story, we become so attached or so involved in the action of the story that we miss the clues to the solution of the mystery. The clues are all there, and were all through, and those who sat quietly, undisturbed, and did not allow themselves to become too wrapped up in the action saw the clues, and there was no problem. But the facts are all there.

The second question referred to my good friend Peter Flach. Well, I will start my answer with another question: I wonder what any one of you would have done under the circumstances were you in Peter Flach's shoes, attempting to fulfill a request from the leader of the Society to present those facts that were presented, and deal with the situation squarely, making it clear that should anyone want to resign no barriers would be put in the way? Many members interpreted that as an invitation to resign. It was not so intended. Those words that Peter spoke in that regard were words put in his mouth by myself. I asked him to give that report and to make those statements. I wonder what any one of us in the same position would have done. Perhaps we might have become a little more affected by the excitement of the moment, and might well have said a great deal more than Peter did. I offer no excuses for Peter Flach, and I want you all to know that he has my 100 percent support, and will have it so long as he holds theosophy true in his heart as he does, however many mistakes in your opinion he may or will make. In my judgment he has made very, very few, if we can consider them mistakes at all.

Now Peter's statements at the meetings you refer to were intended to apply to the actions of certain theosophists. I mentioned earlier that high inner group of GdeP's. I regret to say that certain members of that so-called special group not only at Headquarters but throughout the world, in Sweden and in Holland, and in the United States and England, all took the same bait, as we call it in America, and were the few members who caused Colonel Conger, and even GdeP in certain instances, the most trouble. It was a few of the members of that inner group, who felt they knew more about the running of the Theosophical Society than GdeP and Colonel Conger, who caused what little difficulty there is. And why? Because they felt they were important.

To get back to Peter and his statements at Halsingborg: he was asked by me to state the facts, regardless of the consequences, that the truth might be got into the open, and to get theosophy untangled wherever necessary in Sweden. In Stockholm he mentioned names, which is perfectly all right, but I am not criticizing the individuals at all. I am criticizing their actions.

I have the greatest admiration for anyone in the Theosophical Society who, with the right attitude in his heart and mind, attempts to carry out the requests of the leader and the Outer Head. We at Headquarters who have worked close to the leaders know what that means, and that they give us some very terrific jobs. But we have had to carry them out, or fail. And if we do fail, we would not stay at Headquarters very long. I could tell you a lot of unpleasant jobs that I myself have had to do.

Don't forget, it is the motive that is the important thing. And nothing that Peter may have said that hurt anyone's feelings was meant personally, and I know he would be the first one to do whatever he could to heal those wounds. I think I have covered the question, but whether I have done it satisfactorily I do not know, and if you want to talk about any aspects of it I will be glad to do my best.

There was a little discussion in Swedish on the exact meaning of Peter Flach's statement that members should resign if they wanted to go another way, etc.

Blame that please on me. I have learned on this trip in Holland and in Sweden that I must be more careful, not of what I say, but how I say what I want to say in English, so that it can be translated with the exact meaning. What Peter's statement referred to was exactly what was sent to every member of the TS to make it clear that anyone who chose to resign would find no barriers in the way. Those are not the exact words, but that was the thought. Now I can see readily that in translating this into a foreign tongue it might be difficult to convey the exact shade of meaning. Hereafter, before I send anything of a vital nature like that again, I will try to see what the problem of translation is so that it can be double-checked before it gets over here. Please blame me, therefore; I will take the full responsibility. This was brought home to me especially the other night when at a meeting after I had answered a question, someone spontaneously said: It is a pity to have to translate that. The thought was not that the Swedish language was not as good as the English, but that in the process of translating it would be so difficult to convey the fine shades of meaning. That is the problem we must go into at Headquarters, particularly in connection with our publishing program.

Agnes Andersson: I belong to the lodge here in Goteborg, though I live quite a distance away from here. But when I received the first records you sent out from Pasadena, I read them in English, and listened to the inner voice and got my answer. I thought it was wonderful that Mr. Long was brave and had courage enough to do what he did. I felt that he was the right man at the right place. And when it comes to questions that have been asked, I think that we received all the answers that we really needed in the records that we received from Pasadena, as well as of course in the Swedish Section letters, the Sectionsbrev.

JAL: Thank you very much, Miss Andersson. I am inclined at the moment to give you a very brief x-ray picture. If we believe in the Masters, if we believe in karma, if we believe in cycles, what would we expect to occur naturally, according to law, at this particular change of administration? I am not talking about leaders, please understand; I am talking about the work of the Theosophical Society and the responsibility of the members in it. Would not we expect that when the hour struck, every member of the TS would be put to a test by the occult force of circumstances which would force each one to use his own intuitions in order to read the unfolding karmic script of the Theosophical Society? We could not possibly go on ad infinitum as we had been up to Colonel Conger's administration: receiving, receiving, receiving the teachings, with the examples and instructions of the leaders, and doing nothing about it. The accumulated power of those teachings naturally would have to break through somewhere. If we ate food and ate food and ate food and did not stop to digest it, we would get sick. The same thing is true in a spiritual sense: if we take in spiritual food, spiritual food, and spiritual food, and never digest or assimilate it, never let it be absorbed in our character or in our constitution, we are going to get some kind of spiritual indigestion. When we get that, we cannot see very well; we cannot think very well; we cannot feel very well.

This matter of practical occultism is a matter of the heart doctrine. We all know how much HPB has said, and others have said, about the eye doctrine and the heart doctrine. I need not explain. Those of us who really believe our theosophy and try to put the heart doctrine into operation in our lives, never will have any serious difficulty in reading the unfolding karmic script of the Theosophical Society or of our own individual lives. We will recognize the signposts pointing in the direction of true spirituality and will never be troubled with spiritual pride or spiritual selfishness or spiritual indigestion.

I have just glanced at my watch, and I find it is already 10:30. I did not realize it was so late — time always flies so fast when we talk about theosophy. Are there any more questions? I do not want to keep you here too long, but after I thank him for the excellent translation job, I would like to give Mr. Fredenholm the opportunity as president of one of the lodges here to say a word or two on anything that he has in his mind to say.

Mr. Fredenholm: Well, what I would say is that we appreciate very much that you have come to us and given us the explanation of your work and many other things that we really needed to get. Otherwise I have not anything to say but to thank you for your patience with us and for what we have received from you and from the TS this evening.

JAL: Thank you very much, Mr. Fredenholm. I have given you obviously very little tonight. You have given me very much. Before I came I refused to have any opinion with regard to Goteborg. I go away with an opinion, a first-hand opinion — the only kind of an opinion I like to have, for I will not abide by any second-hand opinions. What I have found in Goteborg I have found so far everywhere in Sweden: an innate, inherent desire to do the right thing for theosophy. And if there have been any misunderstandings with regard to the documents that have been sent out by Pasadena and myself or the Cabinet, or by Peter Flach in his Section Letters, I hope you will forget about them and realize that they are sent in the true spirit of trying to give you everything that we can.

With regard to the question raised by Mrs. Kahlson, I don't want any to feel that they are rushed into this matter of decision. The important thing, and the only important thing I will repeat and emphasize, is: do your own thinking. If you want any facts, then don't only write to one person, but to everybody involved, and get all the facts you can and take them home. Then, as the Master Jesus says: "When you pray, pray to your Father in secret, and He will reward you openly." That is the true occult theosophic approach. If a theosophist will in the secret of his own heart appeal to his higher self, quietly, calmly, and secretly, in the silence of the closet of his own thoughts, the higher self will reward him openly with the right decision — always. It will never fail.

I will take a few more minutes, if I may. [Addressing Eufrosyne Collander, President of Goteborg Lodge No. 3] I believe we have a lady here from another lodge, and if you have a few words to say, this is the time to say them.

Miss Collander: I appreciate very much that you came to Goteborg, and did not just pass by, because it was a wonderful opportunity for us to have heard our leader. The split that has been here I think seems to indicate that we are going through the gateways of purification. It is not caused because we are lukewarm, but we have felt this because it is karmic. Now that we have heard, we realize that if we wholeheartedly go in for the teachings, we will all feel united in this brotherhood, which is such a holy brotherhood. And we will now, after this evening, look into ourselves and think of these things. It is hard for you because we are taking so much from you, but our gratitude is very deep, because you came here and gave us all this. Also we can do as you do, try to serve the Masters in helping humanity; then we are doing something.

JAL: I would like to make two brief comments. Miss Collander in her statement has touched the pulse of the true situation throughout the TS when she speaks of going through the gateways of purification. That process is going on with every truly aspiring member, and with every lodge that has any life to it. And she is right when she says that if you were lukewarm it would not happen.

One thing Miss Collander said that I both agree and disagree with, and that is that if we stick to our teachings we will come out on top. I do not agree with that. I say, that if we live our teachings we will come out on top, and I think that is what Miss Collander meant. I want to thank you very much for your statement. You put a lot of heart into it, and it is all part of Goteborg to me.

I want to thank all of you again for coming, and please don't hesitate to write at any time if you feel the urge to write. This is a partnership, and those members who have accepted it as such have found that I don't hold back anything. You have given me a great deal, and I can only give, at any time, at any place, whether there is one person or a hundred, what you call forth. Nothing more, nothing less. So I deserve no thanks. But you deserve my appreciation for giving me this opportunity to meet you and to know you a little better.

With that I think we will close the meeting. I would like to shake hands with each one of you as you leave, and to express the hope that I will be able to see you all again before too many years. I cannot promise. As there hasn't been the opportunity for a leader to come to Europe for a long time, I hope to make up for that and be of as much help as I can.

Thank you all again.

The meeting closed at 10:45 p.m.

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