"LET EVERY MAN PROVE
HIS OWN WORK"
Article by H. P. Blavatsky
SUCH is the title of a letter received by the Editors of Lucifer.
It is of so serious a nature that it seems well to make it
the subject of this month's editorial. Considering the truths
uttered in its few lines, its importance and the bearing it has
upon the much obscured subject of Theosophy, and its visible agent
or vehicle--the Society of that name--the letter is certainly
worthy of the most considerate answer.
Fiat justitia, ruat clum!
Justice will be done to both sides in the dispute;
namely, Theosophists and the members of the Theosophical Society1 on the one hand, and the followers of the Divine Word (or
Christos), and the so-called Christians, on the other.
We reproduce the letter:
To the editors of LUCIFER
What a grand chance is now open in this country,
to the exponents of a noble and advanced religion (if such this
Theosophy be2 for providing its strength,
righteousness and verity to the Western world, by throwing a penetrating
and illuminating ray of its declared light upon the terribly harrowing
and perplexing practical problems of our age.
Surely one of the purest and least self-incrusted duties of man,
is to alleviate the sufferings of his fellow man?
From what I read, and from what I daily come into immediate contact
with, I can hardly think it would be possible to over-rate in
contemplation, the intense privation and agonizing suffering that
is--aye, say it--at this moment being endured by a vast
proportion of our brothers and sisters, arising in a large measure
from their not absolutely having the means for procuring the bare
necessaries of existence.
Surely a high and Heaven-born religion--a religion professing
to receive its advanced knowledge and Light from "those more
learned in the Science of Life," should be able to tell us
something of how to deal with such life, in its primitive condition
of helpless submission to the surrounding circumstances of--civilization!
If one of our main duties is that of exercising disinterested
love towards the Brotherhood, surely "those more learned"
ones, whether in the flesh, or out of it, can and will, if appealed
to by the votaries, aid them in discovering ways and means for
such an end, and in organising some great fraternal scheme for
dealing rightly with questions which are so appalling in
their complexity, and which must and do press with such irresistible
force upon all those who are earnest in their endeavours to carry
out the will of Christ in a Christian land?
L. F. FF
October 25, 1887.
This honest-spoken and sincere letter contains two statements;
an implied accusation against "Theosophy" (i.e.,
the Society of that name), and a virtual admission that Christianity--or,
again, rather its ritualistic and dogmatic religions--deserve
the same and even a sterner rebuke. For if "Theosophy,"
represented by its professors, merits on external appearance the
reproach that so far it has failed to transfer divine wisdom from
the region of the metaphysical into that of practical work, "Christianity,"
that is, merely professing Christians, churchmen and laymen, lie
under a like accusation, evidently. "Theosophy" has,
certainly, failed to discover infallible ways and means
of bringing all its votaries to exercise "disinterested love"
in their Brotherhood; it has not yet been able to relieve suffering
in mankind at large; but neither has Christianity. And not even
the writer of the above letter, nor any one else, can show sufficient
excuse for the Christians in this respect. Thus the admission
that "those who are earnest in their endeavours to carry
out the will of Christ in a Christian land" need the help
of "those more learned," whether (pagan adepts)
"in flesh, or (spirits?) out of it" is very suggestive,
for it contains the defence and the raison d'etre of the
Theosophical Society. Tacit though it is, once that it comes from
the pen of a sincere Christian, one who longs to learn some practical
means to relieve the sufferings of the starving multitudes--this
admission becomes the greatest and most complete justification
for the existence of the Theosophical Brotherhood; a full confession
of the absolute necessity for such a body independent of, and
untrammelled by, any enchaining dogmas, and it points out at the
same time the signal failure of Christianity to accomplish the
Truly said Coleridge that "good works may exist without
saving (?) principles, therefore cannot contain in themselves
the principles of salvation; but saving principles never did,
never can exist without good works." Theosophists admit the
definition, and disagree with the Christians only as to the nature
of these "saving principles." The Church (or churches)
maintain that the only saving principle is belief in Jesus, or
the carnalized Christ of the soul-killing dogma; theosophy, undogmatic
and unsectarian, answers, it is not so. The only saving principle
dwells in man himself, and has never dwelt outside of his immortal
divine self, i.e., it is the true Christos, as it is the
true Buddha, the divine inward light which proceeds from the eternal
unmanifesting unknown ALL. And this light
can only be made known by its works--faith in it having
to remain ever blind in all, save in the man himself who feels
that light within his soul.
Therefore, the tacit admission of the author of the above letter
covers another point of great importance. The writer seems to
have felt that which many, among those who strive to help the
suffering, have felt and expressed. The creeds of the churches
fail to supply the intellectual light, and the true wisdom
which are needed to make the practical philanthropy carried out,
by the true and earnest followers of Christ, a reality. The
"practical" people either go on "doing good"
unintelligently, and thus often do harm instead; or, appalled
by the awful problem before them, and failing to find in their
"churches" any clue, or a hope of solution, they retire
from the battlefield and let themselves be drifted blindly by
the current in which they happen to be born.
Of late it has become the fashion for friends, as well as for
foes, to reproach the Theosophical Society with doing no practical
work, but losing itself in the clouds of metaphysics. Metaphysicians,
we are told, by those who like to repeat stale arguments, have
been learning their lesson for the last few thousand years; and
it is now high time that they should begin to do some practical
work. Agreed; but considering that the Christian churches count
nearly nineteen centuries of existence, and that the Theosophical
Society and Brotherhood is a body hardly twelve years old; considering
again that the Christian churches roll in fabulous wealth, and
number their adherents by hundreds of millions, whereas the Theosophical
Brotherhood is but a few thousand strong, and that it has no fund,
or funds, at its disposal, but that 98 per cent of its members
are as poor and as uninfluential as the aristocracy of the Christian
church is rich and powerful; taking all this into consideration,
there would be much to say if the theosophists would only choose
to press the matter upon the public notice. Meanwhile, as the
bitterest critics of the "leaders" of the Theosophical
Society are by no means only outsiders, but as there are members
of that society who always find a pretext to be dissatisfied,
we ask: Can works of charity that will be known among men be accomplished
without money? Certainly not. And yet, notwithstanding all this,
none of its (European) members, except a few devoted officers
in charge of societies, will do practical work; but some
of them, those especially who have never lifted a finger to relieve
suffering, and help their outside, poorer brothers, are those
who talk the most loudly, and are the bitterest in their denunciations
of the unspirituality and the unfitness of the "leaders
of theosophy." By this they remove themselves into the outer
ring of critics, like those spectators at the play who laugh at
an actor passably representing Hamlet, while they themselves could
not walk on the stage with a letter on a salver. While in India,
comparatively poor theosophists have opened gratuitous dispensaries
for the sick, hospitals, schools, and everything they could think
of, asking no returns from the poor, as the missionaries do, no
abandonment of one's forefathers' religion, as a heavy price for
favours received, have the English theosophists, as a rule, done
a single thing for those suffering multitudes, whose pitiful cry
rings throughout the whole Heavens as a protest against the actual
state of things in Christendom?
We take this opportunity of saying, in reply to others as much
as to our correspondent, that, up till now, the energies of the
Society have been chiefly occupied in organising, extending, and
solidifying the Society itself, which has taxed its time, energies
and resources to such an extent as to leave it far less powerful
for practical charity than we would have wished. But, even so,
compared with the influence and the funds at the disposal of the
Society, its work in practical charity, if less widely known,
will certainly bear favourable comparison with that of professing
Christians, with their enormous resources in money, workers, and
opportunities of all kinds. It must not be forgotten that practical
charity is not one of the declared objects of the Society.
It goes without saying, and needs no "declaration,"
that every member of the Society must be practically philanthropic
if he be a theosophist at all; and our declared work is, in reality,
more important and more efficacious than work in the everyday
plane which bears more evident and immediate fruit, for the direct
effect of an appreciation of theosophy is to make those charitable
who were not so before. Theosophy creates the charity which afterwards,
and of its own accord, makes itself manifest in works.
Theosophy is correctly--though in this particular case, it is
rather ironically--termed "a high, Heaven-born religion."
It is argued that since it professes to receive its advanced knowledge
and light from "those more learned in the Science of Life,"
the latter ought and must, if applied to by their votaries
(the theosophists), aid them in discovering ways and means, in
organising some great fraternal scheme, etc.
The scheme was planned, and the rules and laws to guide such a
practical brotherhood, have been given by those "more learned
in the Science of (practical daily, altruistic) life";
aye verily "more learned" in it than any other men since
the days of Gautama Buddha and the Gnostic Essenes. The "scheme"
dates back to the year when the Theosophical Society was founded.
Let anyone read its wise and noble laws embodied to this day in
the Statutes of the Fraternity, and judge for himself whether,
if carried out rigorously and applied to practical life, the "scheme"
would not have proved the most beneficent to mankind in general,
and especially to our poorer brethren of "the starving multitudes."
Theosophy teaches the spirit of "non separateness,"
the evanescence and illusion of human creeds and dogma, hence,
inculcates universal love and charity for all mankind without
distinction of race, colour, caste or creed"; is it not
therefore the fittest to alleviate the sufferings of mankind?
No true theosophist would refuse admission into a hospital, or
any charitable establishment, to any man, woman or child, under
the pretext that he is not a theosophist, as a Roman Catholic
would when dealing with a Protestant, and vice versa. No
true theosophist of the original rules would fail to put into
practice the parable of the "Good Samaritan," or proffer
help only to entice the unwary who, he hopes, will become a pervert
from his god and the gods of his forefathers. None would slander
his brother, none let a needy man go unhelped, none offer fine
talk instead of practical love and charity.
Is it then the fault of Theosophy, any more than it is the fault
of the Christ-teachings, if the majority of the members of the
Theosophical Society, often changing their philosophical and religious
views upon entering our Body, have yet remained practically the
same as they were when professing lip Christianity? Our
laws and rules are the same as given to us from the beginning;
it is the general members of the Society who have allowed them
to become virtually obsolete. Those few who are ever ready
to sacrifice their time and labour to work for the poor, and who
do, unrecognised and unthanked for it, good work wherever they
can, are often too poor themselves to put their larger schemes
of charity into objective practical form, however willing they
"The fault I find with the Theosophical Society," said
one of the most eminent surgeons in London to one of the editors,
quite recently, "is that I cannot discover that any of its
members really lead the Christ-life." This seemed a very
serious accusation from a man who is not only in the front rank
of his profession, and valued for his kindly nature, by his patients,
and by society, and well known as a quiet doer of many good deeds.
The only possible answer to be made was that the Christ-life is
undeniably the ideal of every one worthy in any sense of the name
of a Theosophist, and that if it is not lived it is because there
are none strong enough to carry it out. Only a few days later
the same complaint was put in a more graphic form by a celebrated
"You Theosophists don't do enough good for me," she
said pithily. And in her case also there is the right to speak,
given by the fact that she leads two lives--one, a butterfly existence
in society, and the other a serious one, which makes little noise,
but has much purpose. Those who regard life as a great vocation,
like the two critics of the Theosophical movement whom we have
just quoted, have a right to demand of such a movement more than
mere words. They themselves endeavour very quietly to lead the
"Christ-life," and they cannot understand a number of
people uniting in the effort towards this life without practical
results being apparent. Another critic of the same character who
has the best possible right to criticise, being a thoroughly practical
philanthropist and charitable to the last degree, has said of
the Theosophists that their much talking and writing seems to
resolve itself into mere intellectual luxury, productive of no
direct good to the world.
The point of difference between the Theosophists (when we use
this term we mean, not members of the Society, but people who
are really using the organization as a method of learning more
of the true wisdom-religion which exists as a vital and eternal
fact behind all such efforts) and the practical philanthropists,
religious or secular, is a very serious one, and the answer, that
probably none of them are strong enough yet to lead the "Christ-life,"
is only a portion of the truth. The situation can be put very
plainly, in so many words. The religious philanthropist holds
a position of his own, which cannot in any way concern or affect
the Theosophist. He does not do good merely for the sake of doing
good, but also as a means towards his own salvation. This is the
outcome of the selfish and personal side of man's nature, which
has so coloured and affected a grand religion that its devotees
are little better than the idol-worshippers who ask their deity
of clay to bring them luck in business, and the payment of debts.
The religious philanthropist who hopes to gain salvation by good
works has simply, to quote a well-worn yet ever fresh witticism,
exchanged worldliness for other-worldliness.
The secular philanthropist is really at heart a socialist, and
nothing else; he hopes to make men happy and good by bettering
their physical position. No serious student of human nature can
believe in this theory for a moment. There is no doubt that it
is a very agreeable one, because if it is accepted there is immediate,
straightforward work to undertake. "The poor ye have always
with you." The causation which produced human nature itself
produced poverty, misery, pain, degradation, at the same time
that it produced wealth, and comfort, and joy and glory. Life-long
philanthropists, who have started on their work with a joyous
youthful conviction that it is possible to "do good,"
have, though never relaxing the habit of charity, confessed to
the present writer that, as a matter of fact, misery cannot be
relieved. It is a vital element in human nature, and is as necessary
to some lives as pleasure is to others.
It is a strange thing to observe how practical philanthropists
will eventually, after long and bitter experience, arrive at a
conclusion which, to an occultist, is from the first a working
hypothesis. This is, that misery is not only endurable, but agreeable
to many who endure it. A noble woman, whose life has been given
to the rescue of the lowest class of wretched girls, those who
seem to be driven to vice by want, said, only a few days since,
that with many of these outcasts it is not possible to raise them
to any apparently happier lot. And this she distinctly stated
(and she can speak with authority, having spent her life literally
among them, and studied them thoroughly), is not so much from
any love of vice, but from love of that very state which the wealthy
classes call misery. They prefer the savage life of a bare-foot,
half-clad creature, with no roof at night and no food by day,
to any comforts which can be offered them. By comforts, we do
not mean the workhouse or the reformatory, but the comforts of
a quiet home; and we can give chapter and verse, so to speak,
to show that this is the case, not merely with the children of
outcasts, who might be supposed to have a savage heredity, but
with the children of gentle, cultivated, and Christian people.
Our great towns hide in their slums thousands of beings whose
history would form an inexplicable enigma, a perfectly baffling
moral picture, could they be written out clearly, so as to be
intelligible. But they are only known to the devoted workers among
the outcast classes, to whom they become a sad and terrible puzzle,
not to be solved, and therefore, better not discussed. Those who
have no clue to the science of life are compelled to dismiss such
difficulties in this manner, otherwise they would fall, crushed
beneath the thought of them. The social question as it is called,
the great deep waters of misery, the deadly apathy of those who
have power and possessions--these things are hardly to be faced
by a generous soul who has not reached to the great idea of evolution,
and who has not guessed at the marvelous mystery of human development.
The Theosophist is placed in a different position from any of
these persons, because he has heard of the vast scope of life
with which all mystic and occult writers and teachers deal, and
he has been brought very near to the great mystery. Indeed, none,
though they may have enrolled themselves as Fellows of the Society,
can be called in any serious sense Theosophists, until they have
begun to consciously taste in their own persons, this same mystery;
which is, indeed, a law inexorable, by which man lifts himself
by degrees from the state of a beast to the glory of a God. The
rapidity with which this is done is different with every living
soul; and the wretches who hug the primitive taskmaster, misery,
choose to go slowly through a tread-mill course which may
give them innumerable lives of physical sensation --whether pleasant
or painful, well-beloved because tangible to the very lowest senses.
The Theosophist who desires to enter upon occultism takes some
of Nature's privileges into his own hands, by that very wish,
and soon discovers that experiences come to him with double-quick
rapidity. His business is then to recognise that he is under a--to
him--new and swifter law of development, and to snatch at the
lessons that come to him.
But, in recognising this, he also makes another discovery. He
sees that it takes a very wise man to do good works without danger
of doing incalculable harm. A highly developed adept in life may
grasp the nettle, and by his great intuitive powers, know whom
to relieve from pain and whom to leave in the mire that is their
best teacher. The poor and wretched themselves will tell anyone
who is able to win their confidence what disastrous mistakes are
made by those who come from a different class and endeavour to
help them. Kindness and gentle treatment will sometimes bring
out the worst qualities of a man or woman who has led a fairly
presentable life when kept down by pain and despair. May the Master
of Mercy forgive us for saying such words of any human creatures,
all of whom are a part of ourselves, according to the law of human
brotherhood which no disowning of it can destroy. But the words
are true. None of us know the darkness which lurks in the depths
of our own natures until some strange and unfamiliar experience
rouses the whole being into action. So with these others who seem
more miserable than ourselves.
As soon as he begins to understand what a friend and teacher pain
can be, the Theosophist stands appalled before the mysterious
problem of human life, and though he may long to do good works,
equally dreads to do them wrongly until he has himself acquired
greater power and knowledge. The ignorant doing of good works
may be vitally injurious, as all but those who are blind in their
love of benevolence are compelled to acknowledge. In this sense
the answer made as to lack of Christ-like lives among Theosophists,
that there are probably none strong enough to live such, is perfectly
correct and covers the whole question. For it is not the spirit
of self-sacrifice, or of devotion, or of desire to help that is
lacking, but the strength to acquire knowledge and power and intuition,
so that the deeds done shall really be worthy of the "Buddha-Christ"
spirit. Therefore it is that Theosophists cannot pose as a body
of philanthropists, though secretly they may adventure on the
path of good works. They profess to be a body of learners merely,
pledged to help each other and all the rest of humanity, so far
as in them lies, to a better understanding of the mystery of life,
and to a better knowledge of the peace which lies beyond it.
But as it is an inexorable law, that the ground must be tilled
if the harvest is to be reaped, so Theosophists are obliged to
work in the world unceasingly, and very often in doing this to
make serious mistakes, as do all workers who are not embodied
Redeemers. Their efforts may not come under the title of good
works, and they may be condemned as a school of idle talkers,
yet they are an outcome and fruition of this particular moment
of time, when the ideas which they hold are greeted by the crowd
with interest; and therefore their work is good, as the lotus-flower
is good when it opens in the midday sun.
None know more keenly and definitely than they that good works
are necessary; only these cannot be rightly accomplished without
knowledge. Schemes for Universal Brotherhood, and the redemption
of mankind, might be given out plentifully by the great adepts
of life, and would be mere dead-letter utterances while individuals
remain ignorant, and unable to grasp the great meaning of their
teachers. To Theosophists we say, let us carry out the rules given
us for our society before we ask for any further schemes or laws.
To the public and our critics we say, try to understand the value
of good works before you demand them of others, or enter upon
them rashly yourselves. Yet it is an absolute fact that without
good works the spirit of brotherhood would die in the world; and
this can never be. Therefore is the double activity of learning
and doing most necessary; we have to do good, and we have to do
it rightly, with knowledge.
* * * * *
It is well known that the first rule of the society is to carry
out the object of forming the nucleus of a universal brotherhood.
The practical working of this rule was explained by those who
laid it down, to the following effect:--
HE WHO DOES NOT PRACTISE ALTRUISM; HE WHO IS NOT
PREPARED TO SHARE HIS LAST MORSEL WITH A WEAKER OR POORER THAN
HIMSELF; HE WHO NEGLECTS TO HELP HIS BROTHER MAN, OF WHATEVER
RACE, NATION, OR CREED, WHENEVER AND WHEREVER HE MEETS SUFFERING,
AND WHO TURNS A DEAF EAR TO THE CRY OF HUMAN MISERY; HE WHO HEARS
AN INNOCENT PERSON SLANDERED, WHETHER A BROTHER THEOSOPHIST OR
NOT, AND DOES NOT UNDERTAKE HIS DEFENCE AS HE WOULD UNDERTAKE
HIS OWN--IS NO THEOSOPHIST.
Lucifer, November, 1887
1 Not all the members of the Theosophical Society
are Theosophists; nor are the members of the so-called Christian
Churches all Christians, by any means. True Theosophists, as true
Christians, are very, very few; and there are practical
Theosophists in the fold of Christianity, as there are practical
Christians in the Theosophical Society, outside all ritualistic
Christianity. "Not every one that saith unto me 'Lord, Lord,'
shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will
of my Father." (Matthew, vu, 21.) "Believe not in ME,
but in the truths I utter." (Buddha's Aphorisms.)
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2 "This" Theosophy is not a religion,
but rather the RELIGION--if
one, So far, we prefer to call it a philosophy; one, moreover,
which contains every religion, as it is the essence and the foundation
of all. Rule III. of the Theos. Body says: "The Society represents
no particular religious creed, is entirely unsectarian, and
includes professors of all faiths."
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"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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