THEOSOPHY, Vol. 84, No. 4, February, 1996 (Pages 110-113; Size: 10K)
A BODY OF LEARNERS
THERE IS a distinction to be made between what we may call the doctrinal content of Theosophy and what the teachers suggest about the learning capacities and growth processes of human beings. There is much, for example, in The Secret Doctrine that does not seem to be found in earlier impartations of Theosophy; or, at any rate, it is much more clearly stated there than in previous versions of the Wisdom Religion. The further incarnation of Manas(1) said to mark the present cycle of human development doubtless explains why the teaching is so explicit in some respects, even if there are still many areas on which the teachers remain silent. Common sense suggests that those who have a thorough knowledge of what they wish to impart, along with an understanding of the nature of the learners, would set their communications at an appropriate level, embodying what is taught in terms best suited to the development sought.
Confirmation of this idea may be seen in the fact that each great age has its own teachers who do something more than simply repeat what was said by others before them. While the fundamentals are always the same, there are nonetheless differences in the way unchanging realities are conceived, in the illustrations given and in the symbolism employed. Nor do the Teachers always reveal themselves openly as They did in some measure through their Agent in the world during the last century. One of the conditions set down by H.P.B., for example, in respect to the fullest possible understanding of Theosophy, had to do with recognition of the natural reality of its Teachers -- Those who had sent her into the world with permission to disclose the fact of Their Fraternity and to give an account of the Theosophical Movement as the conscious expression of a great evolutionary impulse which it was their work and mission to foster.
This, then, was and is an aspect of the Theosophical teaching -- that behind the body of doctrines and principles communicated under that name, there always have been and are today living men, immeasurably wise, unimaginably accomplished and devoted to the welfare of the human race. It follows that an understanding of the Theosophical conception of progress depends upon a grasp of this idea. Both the progress of the race and of the individual are illuminated by it. Throughout The Secret Doctrine hints are given, and also direct statements, showing how the forward impulse of evolution comes from beings who have themselves completed the cycle of development in which we are now engaged. Respecting individual evolution, the ideal of perfected beings is essential for the development accomplished by each one, as it is from these beings that we are given the assurance of having the same divine potentialities. So, in study and reflection, the learner may first find help in the explanations of the Teaching, which are addressed, to the thought of the age; and then, for the reasons given by the teacher, may turn attention to oneself as a learner, in order to become the better able to help and teach others. This important step might not be taken without the learner knowing of these teachers and the knowledge of their work in the world. And we could hardly have the courage to move in this direction, so faltering are the capacities of all beginners, save for the idea that immeasurable possibilities lie hidden within himself, since we are the same in essence as a Buddha or a Christ.
But even the discussions of the world as we know it, and the Theosophical explanations given in terms that we can understand, bear implicit leadings to higher planes of perception and knowledge. "As we rise in the scale of development," H.P.B. says, "we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached 'reality'; but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya(2)." (S.D. I, 40.) This being the case, we are able to understand a little of the significance of Mr. Judge's statement that "the authors of ancient wisdom have spoken from at least two whole planes of conscious experience beyond that of our everyday 'sense perception,'" for the reason that whatever is said from that higher point of view will naturally exert a kind of gravitational attraction, inviting the reader to reach toward that height and to generate a sense of reality for what can be known there. It must surely be in this way that the learner is led gradually to feel more at home at the levels studied. Study thus begins the "progressive awakenings," and the ideal represented by the Teachers remains as a beacon light on the horizon, both as inspiration and as corrective of the supposition that any step along the way can be regarded as a final resting place.
Even in the face of the changes in scientific conceptions of truth, and the alterations of opinion from one historical epoch to another, there still remains this habit of supposing that the preoccupations of the day will never pass. They represent, rather, the most advanced inquiry and concerns possible for the human race. It is for this reason political passions run so high, that we may become overtaken by fear when the foundations of social systems become unstable or seem threatened by alien forces. These anxieties and consequent sufferings grow out of a false conception of self and the failing to consider human development in terms of soul evolution. How will the world be drawn, at last, to admit these ancient truths? Disillusionment and pain will doubtless play a part, but the opportunity for enlightenment has always depended upon two primary factors -- the presence of Teachers in the world, who offer their knowledge to those who are ready, a "body of learners", firm in practice and secure in devotion. These learners give practical evidence in their own lives that the way to truth can be found -- and found, indeed, by ordinary, erring humans, who are in all things like all others, save for the fact that they have found and are following the Way.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
A LIVING LIGHT
Many people move unconscious of their own charm, unknowing of the beauty and power they seem to others to impart. It is some past attainment of the soul, a jewel won in some old battle which it may have forgotten, but the less this gleams on its tiara and the star-flame inspires others to hope and victory.
It is true here that many exert a spiritual influence they are unconscious of, it is still truer of the spheres within. Once the soul has attained to any possession like love, or persistent will, or faith, or a power of thought, it comes into spiritual contact with others who are struggling for these very powers. The attainment of any of these means that the soul is able to absorb and radiate some of the diviner elements of being. The soul may or may not be aware of the position it is placed in or its new duties, but yet that Living Light, having found a way into the being of any one person, does not rest there, but sends its rays and extends its influence on and on to illumine the darkness of another nature. So it comes that there are ties which bind us to people other than those whom we meet in our everyday life. I think they are more real ties, most important to understand, for if we let our lamp go out our lethargy might make another feel still more helpless, while our courage, our faith, might cause "our light to shine in some other heart which as yet has no light of its own."
--GEORGE WILLIAM RUSSELL
Exoteric and Esoteric
TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.
(1) "Manas" means Mind.
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(2) "Maya" means Illusion.
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