A Decisive Factor in the Theosophical Path
J. Garrigues (1868 – 1944)
An Editorial Note:
The present article was first published
at “Theosophy” magazine, Los Angeles,
in January 1925, pp. 102-106. It was later
published by the same magazine in October
1949, and by the electronic magazine “The
Aquarian Theosophist” in its Special Issue
dated February 2006, pages 13-16. A 2012
analysis of contents, style, and date of first
publication indicated it was written by Garrigues.
(C. C. A.)
“How few of the many pilgrims who have
to start without chart or compass on the
shoreless Ocean of Occultism reach the
wished for land. Believe me, faithful friend,
that nothing short of full confidence in us, in
our good motives if not in our wisdom, in our
foresight, if not omniscience - which is not to be
found on this earth - can help one to cross over
from one’s land of dream and fiction to our
Truth land, the region of stern reality and fact.”
[“The Mahatma Letters”, T.U.P., Letter LXIV, p. 358.]
TRUST is the spiritual touch-stone. Lack of it, in the Line which we hold in our lives, spells dust and ashes to all apparently high endeavor.
Confidence is the first requisite to success, anywhere and everywhere. Trust in the Law of our own imperishable natures, trust that justice does rule, certainty of our ability to learn, to grow, to perform, to find answers to all problems - these are the qualities for the lack of which students suffer and fall away, to join the swelling ranks of the “disillusioned”, and to die a spiritual death that is more bitter, and more truly “death” than merely physical dying ever was or ever could be.
The curse of our age is suspicion. Those who distrust themselves are afraid to trust anybody. Since the note of the times is the discord of materialism, the common ideal of superior living is to possess vast stores of material wealth. To have “plenty of money” is to be successful in life. Some theosophists feel the same way about it as anybody else, salving their concession to the race ideas with the excuse that then they could do so much for Theosophy. But the experience of human nature discloses the saddening fact that the more of this world’s goods one has, the more precious become the possessions and the less able does the possessor seem to be to voluntarily part with them. Men are suspicious of one another, knowing full well in their own hearts what they would do to their neighbour’s wealth if the opportunity presented itself. Conditions have actually reached a point where one cannot perform an altruistic service without rousing the certainty in the minds of many that an ulterior purpose is intended. If a Christ should walk the streets today, performing “miracles” and healing the afflicted he would be suspected of doing it for gain - or else it would be said, “He is advertising something!”.
The student of Theosophy who would climb the wall of theory and uncertainty - make a breach in the frowning ramparts of book-knowledge - has not only to stand firmly against the roaring torrent of materialism. He has in fact to make progress against it. He has to do more than to believe in Altruism; he has to become altruistic. He has by herculean efforts, steadfastly persisted in - when body, mind and even Soul itself are so weary over the unequal combat that he would gladly perish in his tracks - to keep doggedly on, even though all his world, himself included - believes him to be a fool.
Confidence is the only hard-won quality that will avail under these conditions. This confidence is not to be come by as a result of belief or blind faith. It is the result of reasoned faith, developed by a study and understanding of philosophy, and a rigid adherence to ethical teachings as a mode of life. The Theosophical dilettante will never gain it. The student who has taken up Theosophy as a study or to make himself or herself a better teacher, doctor, lawyer, artist, better at business, stronger intellectually - or for any of the thousand “side-issues” that the human mind attaches itself to - will never arrive at a position of trust, much less at conscious assurance. His knowledge will be just so much “information and belief” to the end of his days, and no more. His confidence in himself will fail him, when power is needed and pretence shall go for nothing.
Conviction of the truth of primary Theosophical ideas is the first requisite for true self-confidence. This may be had first by intellectual study and its fruits - a logical and reasoned comprehension of philosophical rationale. Then follows a testing out of the basis provided by observation and experience - in the affairs of the world and its inhabitants as the moving picture of events, men, things and methods presents itself to the mind’s eye from day to day; and especially a watchfulness and honest analysis of the psychological process of the student himself.
The time will soon come when the student shall find he has checked up the truth of the Theosophical teaching, so far as he is able to confirm it at all, in these ways:
(a) by an intellectual and philosophical synthesis, based on a foundation of self-evident truths;
(b) by application of the teaching to the affairs of daily life, and most of all as one’s own intimate, interior experience justifies the idea that psychology is an exact science and that Theosophy includes it;
(c) by realizing the fact that Truth always explains - that, given the complete explanation about anything, we have the Truth, unconflicting with any other Truth. This last is a realization, not a form of words. It comes with a compelling force, as if shot or projected into the mind from somewhere outside, although it really comes from inside: Buddhi expresses itself in terms of conviction.
Intellectual appreciation of the necessity of the existence of Masters grows simultaneously in the meditator’s brain and heart. If there is knowledge, there must be Knowers; knowledge does not exist in itself, but is the result of observation and experience; and there must be Beings who have made the observations and recorded the experience. This is as far as intellectual acuteness can take the student of Theosophy, in crossing over from “one’s land of dream and fiction to our Truth land, the region of stern reality and fact”. For heretofore the effort of nearly all has been towards the acquisition of knowledge for oneself, however much the student believes that his motive has been altruistic. The mind and reasoning powers are satisfied; a philosophy of life that really explains has been secured. Aside from exercise therein mentally, as a swimmer exercises his body healthfully in clear water, no further urge is felt - for an essential quality has not been developed.
What is the essential quality which drives a man in spite of himself to pursue that Path, the traveling of which brings “full confidence” in Masters? It is something so rare, yet so commonly named that incredulity is perhaps our first mental reaction when the word is set down before our eyes: Gratitude.
But think about it: This emotion that one sometimes hears and even sees expressed by students of Theosophy when Masters are mentioned is not Gratitude. Neither can it be called intelligent. The same thing inundates the Christian prayer-meeting, the revival, the spiritualistic séance, the patriotic assemblage - wherever people congregate and are “deeply stirred”. Occasionally, on Theosophical platforms, the “Masters”, or the “Founders” have been spoken of so feelingly that both speaker and audience have thrilled with emotion - but that was not Gratitude.
Gratitude is not any one of the many phases of psychic emotion which go under other names; nor does it usually show itself in words, or expressions of so-called love. Gratitude is the recognition that at a sacrifice, and without personal motives, something has been done for us - a recognition so compelling that we can never rest until we, in our turn, on a similar basis, have passed on the divine service. Gratitude is Buddhi in action, a universal quality, and thus spiritual. It expresses itself in altruistic service: in work for and as Masters, who are the universal servants in Nature. Gratitude transmuted into effective action is calm, controlled, quiet - and powerful as cosmic electricity. Indeed, it is Fohat “stepped down” and applied to the work in hand; for Fohat is an intelligent force, we may remember, and forces do not exist of themselves.
Thus in those students in whom rational cognition of the necessity of the existence of Masters has been succeeded by gratitude, one sees the active workers for Theosophy, the Companions “all over the world . . . engaged in bringing it forth for wider currency and propagation”. To the Western man or woman of the day the mental process expresses itself something like this:
“Somebody had to make the true writings available and keep them in print; somebody had to fit up the Lodge meeting rooms, advertise the work, keep it going - do the studying, speaking, helping, sick or well, in season and out of season; somebody had to find the money needed - and evidently has to keep everlastingly at it. By their sacrifice I found and have been helped to understand the philosophy. I feel compelled to do my part - which means all that I possibly can do - in any and every department of my Lodge activities; and that which presently am unable to do, I will set myself to learning with all my heart and energy”.
This, if carried out, is an exhibition of gratitude - is gratitude. This, too, is “devotion”; for like true gratitude, devotion is not an emotional affair at all. Nor does this student seek to develop special modes of service which are exclusively “his own”, and thus contract an aggravated case of “the itch for a following”. He works in the channels provided, which he has seen in his own case were pure and true - right there in the ranks with his fellows: he works for others, with others.
Confidence in himself arises in the student who thus felt gratitude and transmuted the feeling into action. Confidence in others inevitably follows, for he has constituted himself a worker in the ranks of others who feel and work as he feels and works, animated by the same noblesse oblige, determined as he is determined, intelligently happy as he is intelligently happy. The principles of his nature have impelled him to engage in this glorious, unsought fight, in which only fortune’s favoured soldiers may engage, so he is happy because he is “natural” in the highest and deepest sense.
As he proceeds, confidence begets confidence: in himself, in his fellows, in humanity, in all Nature. In his thought, Masters are beginning to emerge as facts and not merely ideals. They are “inside” first, and then “outside”, and then everywhere, on all sides, in every phase of his changing days and years. “Full confidence” in Them is a matter of growth, a growing realization, confirmed bit by bit through experience, in inner intimate and subtle ways - ways that would present no proof whatever to another; but the feeling that accompanies these veiled inner events does - it is unmistakable. It is clear, unsullied, indescribably convincing.
The student is actually “crossing over” from his land of dream and fiction to Their Truth land. At the same time he is gaining “full confidence” in Them. The processes are one - not two, not separate. They are merely aspects of the same old eternal process, mentioned in the ancient writings (another confirmation of its reality), and called in the present teachings, “building antaskarana”. This is the meaning of the phrase that the student has “to become that Path himself”. For how could he “cross over” if there were no “bridge” or “Path”? How could he build it, save with his own materials, since the “Path is within”? How could he find and transmute the materials, save for the fact that as an evolving human being he is in touch through his own instruments with every department of Nature? Thus does an understanding of the scientific teachings of the philosophy merge with the ethical and psychological. The veiled mysticism of the ancients proves true in the actual student-life of the observant and reverent man or woman of today.
“Full confidence”, then, is a growth - a growth through service - “without expectation and free from hope”. “The region of stern reality and fact” must necessarily be “Truth land”, because only the true is unchanging, and only the unchanging is real.
To reach it is not to “go” to any place - no change in locus; nor to attract the attention of our fellowmen - nor want to; certainly not to proclaim ourselves, directly nor indirectly. It is a different point of view, and intelligent action therefrom. The student life and the personal life are not separate.
On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.
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