The Hill of Discernment

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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

Idolatry and Leadership

If you would go on with your occult studies and literary work — then learn to be loyal to the Idea, rather than to my poor self. When something is to be done never think whether I wish it, before acting: . . . I am far from being perfect hence infallible in all I do; . . . — K. H.
There is no subject that at the present time so occupies the minds of Theosophists of all colors and degree, as the much vexed question regarding the place and true meaning of Leadership in Theosophical affairs. It is a problem before which the stoutest heart may at times be forced to quail, because the duty to Truth and the impersonal ideals that the great Masters have set before us come in conflict with the demands made upon the nature of the student by ties of personal devotion spontaneously rendered to some Leader, or perhaps in some cases unreasonably demanded by the latter as being more important than free and untrammelled service to an impersonal Cause by workers in the Theosophical field, who are capable of individual initiative.

What is the Truth about it? By what touchstone shall we measure and test the principles which we hold for our individual guidance on this most difficult and thorny problem? What should come first? The dedication of life to Truth and the Higher Self: to the Holy Cause of which the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion are at once the purest ideal and the best exemplars; or the personal devotion demanded by one or other of the many Gurus who walk their way amongst men, and who promise salvation to the aspirant if only personal devotion to the said Guru is strong enough?

Let us ask ourselves the question: what kind of devotion would we choose as the dominant characteristic of any group of Theosophical students if any of us individually were called to lead them as an officer, whether of high or low degree? Would it be of the personal kind? Would we ask first of all for unfaltering trust and devotion to ourselves? Surely not — for to do so would be to invite failure at the very outset. It would be in fact like taking the tiller of each man's individual boat out of his hands, and thereafter to incur a most dangerous and all but impossible responsibility; and moreover it would result in a group of individuals incapable of individual thought and initiative.

What are the qualities then which we should look for and encourage and welcome in those whom we may be called upon to lead? First and foremost we would have free and vigorous searchers after Truth who recognise that their first duty, their highest devotion, is to the splendor of their own innate Divinity, and through their realization of That which is the Higher Self in each one of us, to the Great Teachers of the human race who watch and wait. Such true men and women, by the power of their own innate spirituality evoke the love, the confidence and the trust of any individual whom they may be called upon to serve under. They will not have to pause and think before every action as to whether what they are about to do would be agreeable to their immediate superior, because they would have learned the beauty and the peace of loyalty to an Idea — an idea and an ideal the grandest, the highest, the most noble that the mind of man has ever conceived of.

There is nothing ignoble in the spontaneous hero-worship which sometimes comes about in the devotion that is evoked in the heart of a younger for an older student, when the latter seems for the time being to be the splendid embodiment of the ideal to which the younger is striving to attain. The devotion of a trusting heart is a holy thing, because it springs from love — that holy and immortal feeling that opens the heart to the perception of Truth, and strips the veils away from the eyes of the seer. But most emphatically such devotion cannot be commanded. Its very essence and life is in its spontaneity, and we cannot command love any more than we can control the sea. The origin of devotion in the human heart is a mystery. It is evoked by a true Teacher in his pupil almost inevitably as the pupil finds reason for gratitude for the help and enlightenment that the Teacher has brought him. It is also intimately concerned with the past Karma of the respective individuals.

One of the most beautiful things in the Theosophic life is the love and mutual trust that springs up between an older and a younger student as a result of the service rendered by the younger in the larger work of his superior, and the help, understanding and sympathy extended by the elder, when the neophyte is assailed in moments of darkness, doubt and uncertainty. Many are the trials that assail the minds of those who set forth on the voyage across the mighty ocean of Theosophy and occultism; and there is nothing that so evokes the love and gratitude of the neophyte as the finding of a friend more advanced than he is himself whom he can trust — to whom he may safely reveal the mental doubts and the unsuspected weaknesses that he discovers in his own lower nature.

No sane man can quarrel with the attitude of truly impersonal devotion, confidence and trust to a Teacher or Leader when it arises from the recognition that Light has been transmitted and received. On the contrary, to such as these who embody Wisdom and Compassion, unswerving loyalty is a virtue as well as a duty and the necessary pre-requisite to the receiving of further Light.

But the world alas! is full of false teachers who beguile the unwary with their siren songs, thus poisoning the well-springs of true devotion and setting up Idolatry instead of Leadership. The Guru who is not worthy of the name is the one that diverts the attention and devotion of his followers to himself, and places their personal regard as higher and of more importance than their unswerving fidelity to the Truth enshrined in the age-old teachings, and to the Great Teachers who made those teachings available to us in modern times.



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