The Hill of Discernment

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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

Our Immediate Work

I am very happy to be amongst you all again after an absence from England of rather more than two months, and I would like to take this opportunity to speak to you on several important matters in connexion with our Theosophical work. The whole purpose of our work and studies in the Theosophical Movement is to fit ourselves one day to play a part — a conscious part — in the direction of the forces which govern and guide the human race under Cosmic and Cyclic Law. Nothing less is our future destiny if we want to tread the age-old Pathway that leads to knowledge and to wisdom. Time is one of the factors that the occult student must take into consideration, because in real esoteric work there are times and seasons for everything — for initiating work, and for completing it. Our regular Lodge Meetings must and should begin promptly at the advertised time, whatever that may be. This is an elementary but fundamental principle in the conduct of any work such as ours. It is not only a matter of wholesome discipline for ourselves, but there are larger issues at stake.

There are times when certain things may be done; there are other times when it is not only folly, but it is dangerous, to do the same things. The very opening and closing of a Lodge Meeting according to the scheduled time is only a kind of symbolical exercise wherein we recognise the fundamental harmony of the Universe, and take into consideration that the advertised time is the right time when we have decided to come together, with heart and mind to study the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom; and we have asked Those who stand behind this work to take note of it, and to give us, if we are worthy, of their inspiration, their energy and their guidance. If then we turn up five or ten minutes late for a meeting! — it just shows that we are not sufficiently interested, that's all, and that we do not know what it is all about. It is the business of this exoteric movement to inject into the mind of the Race some elementary knowledge — first ideas — of the Teachings of Occult Science; and on the principle that a little leaven leaveneth the whole loaf, thereby make it possible for those who do play a conscious part in the direction of the destinies of this Race of ours, to come and work amongst us more openly than they can at present.

I am going to try to speak tonight of what it really means to come into this Theosophical Society and to work in it. You cannot, it would be wrong, to think of it as a body which in all its affairs is directed by some great Initiate or Master of Wisdom. That would be to mislead you and it is not true. But what is true is that these great Beings began the work of the Theosophical Society as a great hope — a great experiment — for the education and enlightenment of the Races now inhabiting this Globe, so that, if it might be successful, they could come into ever closer and closer touch with humanity.

The great masses of the people are for the esotericists, 'the profane' — those who have not reached spiritual birth, who have not commenced to set their feet upon the Path of enlightenment and knowledge. We must remember, however, that one of the Masters once said that Humanity in the mass has always a paramount claim upon them. None the less they have to protect their time and energy from interference by the curious and ignorant. They necessarily must do so; but the important fact for us to bear in mind is that these esoteric circles have, even in the Theosophical Society itself, individuals with whom they have entered into some kind of relationship — individuals who have proved for themselves that they exist. And some of these people live and work and do their best in the ranks of the T. S.; and the fact that they do so means that sooner or later each one of us has the opportunity of coming in contact with somebody who knows — thereby coming more closely within the sphere of the Masters' influence. Obviously, as you can see for yourselves, all the individuals with whom Masters have entered into any kind of relationship are themselves points of observation for these Masters; therefore the people that they in turn come in contact with must come under observation of Masters also, at least to that extent.

But we have always to bear in mind that a great Adept has a vision which is Universal. He can look over the surface of the globe in its most densely populated parts and also in the less populated, and there see, if he so chooses, anyone who has succeeded in lighting his spiritual lamp, even if it be but a feeble glimmer. Such individuals they look for, they watch over, they help to nourish and to tend the flickering flame, and to bring them sooner or later within the sphere of influence of any particular work in the world that one or other of their pupils may be doing. It is folly, in my humble judgment, to look upon the work of the Theosophical Society as the only work of this kind going on in the world. I do not believe that idea. We are not a sect, we are not a narrow Church that believe that we are the only ones who will be saved, and that only through us can Light come to humanity. We know, if we think for a minute, that such an idea must be false. I know personally of several groups in different parts of the world that have nothing whatever to do with the Theosophical Society, but the members of which know things — because they are being taught.

The human race is looked after, guided, helped, and opportunities are given for those who want them; but, as Katherine Tingley said, if you want it you have got to work for it, and if you don't work for it you won't get anything. And when I say you "won't get anything" I hope that no one will say to me that he did not think that was the idea — to get something. It is not, but think a little further. What I mean is this. If we start out in this work to try to do our best to serve our fellows, to help others, to share what little light and knowledge we have, immediately we are face to face with the problem of human individuals who are ignorant, suffering, and who need help; and when they come to you in their need what are you going to give them? By what means are you going to do the good that you want to do, if you don't know how?

The answer is that you have got to find out. You have to get the knowledge; and all your effort, all your endeavor to get, is in order that you may give; and if that is your purpose your motive is a true one, and you need have no fear. Let us search, therefore, all of us for the truth — within ourselves and without, let us seek for it in order that we may have that with which we may feed those who starve. The Theosophical life is nothing if it is not a fearless, courageous, open-minded search for Truth. And I hope it will never be our lot to hear any member of any of our Lodges talking and acting as if they no longer have to search for Truth because, forsooth, they have come into the Theosophical Society and they have found it already within the pages of some book or another. Unfortunately there are such in the Theosophical Movement who take just that position — we do not have to search because we have it. Poor souls! We have none of us got it as a final thing, but we may have started out to find it. Then we have gained something at least. We cannot give what we have not got, and so we must "keep up the aspiration and the search," as Mr. Judge used to say.

I believe that the true attitude is never the one which merely accepts everything without question which is handed to us. Think of the words of the Buddha: "Do not accept anything just because I say it." He, the Blessed One, the Teacher of Gods and men — do not accept it just because he said it, or because some other great Sage said it, or because you find it in one or other of the sacred Scriptures; but rather go in a spirit of humility, in a spirit of eager questioning, asking to be taught. Go to those sources of inspiration of the human race, and try to understand what you will find there. See if it is reasonable, logical, whether it brings you illumination, whether it shows you the Pathway before your feet; or whether it sends you to sleep in a kind of self-satisfied smugness. If we do not understand a thing, if it is repugnant to us, if we disagree with it (no matter from what source it comes) question, and do not be afraid. I personally enjoy to meet a man or a woman who takes another viewpoint in these matters than my own — that is if it is a sincere one and not an affectation or a pose. We do not have to have a dull agreement on everything. I say that we want to encourage the presence amongst us of fearless seekers after truth, along whatever line they may be going. Let us hear what they have to say. We should not permit them to cause us to diverge from our own course, but encourage them to express an honest doubt, to say perhaps: "But your theory, gentlemen, is not reasonable; we do not understand it; we have no sympathy with it, and what good does it do?" and then expound if you can — give them the solution of the riddle if you have it; and if you have not, for the love of the Immortal Gods let us admit it.

Let us thereby learn our lesson — that this (the work of a Theosophical Lodge) is our field of training in the Masters' service. Do you realize that? I believe that each one of us ought to be prepared to accept the conditions of our training if we want it; and it applies to all of us — Presidents of Sections, Presidents of Lodges, Officers of Lodges, Officers of Sections, all the way down the scale. Let us follow this fundamental principle and accept our condition of service. It will be at times uncomfortable, especially if we have a wrong point of view, but do not let our members and the public come here and go away empty-handed, saying "But these people do not understand — they do not grasp my questions; they give me nothing in reply; they do not seem to know." That is wrong. Cherish above almost everything the intellectual integrity and freedom of thought of our Theosophical Lodge, the intellectual honesty of our students; and let our purpose be to go to work; let us go like students to school, and let us study, let us go where we can get instruction, and get the information and make it a part of our being. But it does mean work.

It does not signify if you have been a member for fifty years of the Theosophical Society, if you have not done any work in those fifty years, and if you do not know your stuff. There may be no harm done except for yourself; but be humble enough to go to work now. Begin, because if you do not begin today, well tomorrow you won't be any better off, and you will have nothing to give the other fellows. Oh! how one longs to see the members of our Theosophical Lodges becoming more and more intellectually and spiritually alive, growing and discriminating purposefully in their Theosophical work, day by day learning more of the Ancient Wisdom: learning it, opening up their own inner faculties, so that they are not placed in the position very often of having to say, "I don't know"; but never miss the opportunity of saying you do not, if really and truly you don't. Why? Because it makes for mutual confidence, so that others can think: "At least these people do not pose, they do not pretend to know something that in fact they do not know."

You know that was one of the most marvelous things about our old H. P. B. She was never a deceiver. She made hundreds of mistakes perhaps — and I personally have very little use for the people who do not make mistakes. If you are a human being — learning, struggling, engaged in the affairs of this world, you are bound to make mistakes and thereby you learn. And therefore it is never necessary to put on the pose that you never make a mistake. Be honest about it.

And I would like, if the President of this Lodge will permit me, to voice to you a suggestion I have already made to him. I would earnestly suggest this for your consideration, as I always do to all the other Lodges — have your business meetings when they are necessary, but have them at a time other than the regular meetings of the Lodge — either before or afterwards; but do not interfere with the very life, spirit, and purpose of your Theosophical work in order to discuss how you are going to do something. Set your time, ask the people to come — lay emphasis, appeal to them to come at that time; but your proper Lodge Meeting time is the time for your Masters' work. That is the time that you want some illumination, and you won't get any in business meetings — or very little. But they have their proper place and purpose, and they are good; and I am delighted to hear that your President is taking steps to get more active co-operation from all the members of the Lodge and from the members of Committees, so that they all take their share in the common work. Shoulder the burden and delight in it; that is the right way. But do not let us get things out of proportion. Give business its proper place — but no more than that.

We stand at this moment at one of the most critical periods, I suppose, that the Theosophical Movement has had. I feel myself that if we go the right way about it; if we keep our views and our work broad enough, alive enough, if we are willing to accept Truth where it may be found, during the next few years we shall have an opportunity of an increasing amount of help from what we call Esoteric circles. Remember that every one who succeeds in making himself a fit channel for them to work through is going to do something for this Society, and through it for the human race, and that in time will bring its own result. It is our objective. We ought to work for it.



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