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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

The Psychology of Chelaship

Friends: I am sure you will bear with me tonight if I seem not very intelligent. I have been rather "under the weather" all the week, and I really have not been able — I doubt whether I shall be able, to do tonight what I really set out to do. At any rate I have tried to find you some of the passages that may perhaps not be familiar to all of you in the book called The Mahatma Letters, as showing some of the psychological aspects of that mysterious "path" called the path of Chelaship, by which is meant the state of being that a student of these ancient mystery Teachings enters into when he reaches the point in his own inner development where, having transcended at least to a certain required degree the limitations of the lower personality, he reaches that condition of inner illumination that fits him in his inner egoic entity to enter into direct communication with those higher instructors of the Esoteric circles who are called the Mahatmas, or the Masters of Wisdom.

As you will see as these readings unfold tonight — at least I hope you will, if I have chosen the right ones — the Masters are concerned not really with the external personalities of those who become their agents, either publicly, or in secret dwelling with them in their own retreats; but, as they told A. P. Sinnett, and even Hume, they are concerned with the actions of the exterior man only when those actions affect beneficially, or, as sometimes happens, for evil, the interior man, the Real Ego, the Real Entity. When this latter becomes affected, then, once such an individual has entered into the relationship of an accepted Chela of the Masters, they are bound to take-note of those particular actions. Where the Real Ego is not affected by outer action, they say: Do what you like, think what you like; act what you like in your exterior personality.

Now I will read from page 259, and I think I will read the greater part of this, which covers so many of the particular aspects of Chelaship that I want to call to your attention:

You must thoroughly put aside the personal element if you would get on with occult study and — for a certain time — even with himself [K. H.]. Realize, my friend, that the social affections have little, if any, control over any true adept in the performance of his duty. In proportion as he rises towards perfect adeptship the fancies and antipathies of his former self are weakened: (as K. H. in substance explained to you) he takes all mankind into his heart and regards them in the mass. Your case is an exceptional one. You have forced yourself upon him, and stormed the position, by the very violence and intensity of your feeling for him — and once he accepted he has to bear the consequences in the future. Yet it cannot be a question with him what the visible Sinnett may be — what his impulses, his failures or successes in his world, his diminished or undiminished regard for him. With the "visible" one we have nothing to do. He is to us only a veil that hides from profane eyes that other ego with whose evolution we are concerned. In the external rupa do what you like, think what you like: only when the effects of that voluntary action are seen on the body of our correspondent — is it incumbent upon us to notice it.
One of the great values of a book like The Mahatma Letters is that if we study it in the way that we are expected to study it, in direct application to ourselves, we find on almost every page and every line some little photograph, as it were, of some type of event or incident with which we may be bound up and connected at any moment in our relationship with the Theosophical work; and therefore we are not so much concerned that it was Mr. Sinnett who did certain things, or Hume who did certain things, because we recognise that they are things that every individual to a greater or less degree either falls into doing, or may be tempted to do, or we may come into contact with others who are doing the very identical things that these early students of Theosophy did. It will show to us, by giving us a certain warning, as well as information, how to observe ourselves, and how to try to conduct ourselves in the extraordinary circumstances that any would-be Chela of the Masters is bound to find himself in directly he takes up serious work in this world of Theosophy. We simply cannot escape it; and if we study the book in that way, well then it simply becomes a perfect mine of information.

Here is a passage that throws a tremendous lot of light on just the little day to day incidents, and the attitude we ought to take towards them:

We are neither pleased nor displeased because you did not attend the Bombay meeting. If you had gone, it would have been better for your "merit": as you did not go you lost that little point. I could and had no right to influence you any way — precisely because you are no chela. It was a trial, a very little one, tho' it seemed important enough to you to make you think of "wife and child's interests." You will have many such; for though you should never be a chela, still we do not give confidences even to correspondents and "proteges" whose discretion and moral pluck have not been well tested. You are the victim of maya. It will be a long struggle for you to tear away the "cataracts" and see things as they are. Hume Sahib is a maya to you as great as any. You see only his mounds of flesh and bones, his official personality, his intellect and influences. What are these, pray, to his true self that you cannot see, do what you may? What has his ability to shine in a Durbar or as the leader of a scientific society to do with his fitness for occult research, or his trustworthiness to keep our secrets? If we wanted anything about our lives and work to be known is not the Theosophist columns open to us? Why should we dribble facts thro' him, to be dressed for the public meal with a currie of nauseous doubts and biting sarcasm fit to throw the public stomach into confusion. To him there is nothing sacred, either within, or without occultism. . . . No Sahib; the outside Hume is as different (and superior) from the inside Hume, as the outside Sinnett is different (and inferior) to the nascent inside "protege." Learn that and sit the latter to watching the editor, least — he play him a bad trick some day. Our greatest trouble is to teach pupils not to be befooled by appearances.
As you have already been notified by Damodar thro' the D----, I did not call you a chela — examine your letter to assure yourself of it — I but jokingly asked O. the question whether he recognised in you the stuff of which chelas are made. You saw only that Bennett had unwashed hands, uncleaned nails and used coarse language and had — to you — a generally unsavoury aspect. But if that sort of thing is your criterion of moral excellence or potential power, how many adepts or wonder producing lamas would pass your muster? This is part of your blindness. Were he to die this minute — and I'll use a Christian phraseology to make you comprehend me the better — few hotter tears would drop from the eye of the recording Angel of Death over other such ill-used men, as the tear Bennett would receive for his share. Few men have suffered — and unjustly suffered — as he has; and as few have a more kind, unselfish and truthful a heart. That's all: and the unwashed Bennett is morally as far superior to the gentlemanly Hume as you are superior to your Bearer.
On another page Master K. H. says that Bennett is, unknown to himself "one of our Agents." That again gives us a clue: that it is possible to be an instrument of these conscious beings and really be unaware of it. Such an agent has to be one who is self-sacrificing, unselfish, engaged upon some humanitarian work, or at least some work in which the Masters themselves are for the time being taking a hand.

What H. P. B. repeated to you is correct: "the natives do not see Bennett's coarseness and K. H. is also a native." What did I mean? Why simply that our Buddha-like friend can see thro' the varnish, the grain of the wood beneath and inside the slimy, stinking oyster — the "priceless pearl within!" B---- is an honest man and of a sincere heart, besides being one of tremendous moral courage and a martyr to hoot. Such our K. H. loves — whereas be would have only scorn for a Chesterfield and a Grandison. I suppose that the stooping of the finished "gentleman" K. H., to the coarse fibred infidel Bennett is no more surprising than the alleged stooping of the "gentleman" Jesus to the prostitute Magdalene: There's a moral smell as well as a physical one good friend. See how well K. H. read your character when he would not send the Lahore youth to talk with you without a change of dress. The sweet pulp of the orange is inside the skin — Sahib: try to look inside boxes for jewels and do not trust to those lying in the lid. I say again: the man is an honest man and a very earnest one; not exactly an angel — they must be hunted for in fashionable churches, parties at aristocratical mansions, theatres and clubs and such other sanctums — but as angels are outside our cosmogony we are glad of the help of even honest and plucky tho' dirty men.
All this I say to you without any malice or bitterness, as you erroneously imagine. You have made progress during the past year — and therefore nearer to us — hence I talk with you as with a friend, whom I hope of finally converting to some of our ways of thinking. Your enthusiasm for our study has a tinge of selfishness in it; even your feeling for K. H. has a mixed character: still you are nearer. Only you trusted Hume too much, and mistrusted him too late, and now his bad karma reacts upon yours, to your detriment. Your friendly indiscretions as to things confided to you alone, by H. P. B. — the cause — produces his rash publicities — the effect. This I am afraid must count against you. Be wiser hereafter. If our rule is to be chary of confidences it is because we are taught from the first that each man is personally responsible to the Law of Compensation for every word of his voluntary production. Mr. Hume would of course call it jesuitry.
Also try to break thro' that great maya against which occult students, the world over, have always been warned by their teachers — the hankering after phenomena. Like the thirst for drink and opium, it grows with gratification. The Spiritualists are drunken with it; they are thaumaturgic sots. If you cannot be happy without phenomena you will never learn our philosophy. If you want healthy, philosophic thought, and can be satisfied with such — let us correspond. I tell you a profound truth in saying that if you (like your fabled Shloma) but choose wisdom all other things will be added unto it — in time. It adds no force to our metaphysical truths that our letters are dropped from space on to your lap or come under your pillow. If our philosophy is wrong a wonder will not set it right. Put that conviction into your consciousness and let us talk like sensible men. Why should we play with Jack-in-the-box; are not our beards grown.
And now it is time to put a stop to my abominable penmanship and so relieve you from the task. Yes — your "cosmogony"! Well, good friend, your Cosmology is — between the leaves of my Khuddhaka Patha — (my family Bible) and making a supreme effort I will try to answer it as soon as I am relieved, for just now I am on duty. It is a life long task you have chosen, and somehow instead of generalizing you manage always to rest upon those details that prove the most difficult to a beginner. Take warning my good Sahib. The task is difficult and K. H. in remembrance of old times, when be loved to quote poetry, asks me to close my letter with the following to your address:
"Does the road wind up-hill all the way?"
"Yes to the very end."
"Will the day's journey take the whole long day?"
"From morn to night, my friend."
Knowledge for the mind, like food for the body, is intended to feed and help to growth, but it requires to be well digested and the more thoroughly and slowly the process is carried out the better both for body and mind.
It is rather an interesting sentence in this last paragraph where the Master M. says that Sinnett always seems to stick on just the particular doctrines that prove the most difficult to beginners. I think we can derive a lesson from that, especially those who may be beginning their studies of Theosophy. I think a student finds after a certain while, that as he reads and studies, an effect has been made upon his inner nature; he has become really inwardly convinced of the truths of these teachings. He finds knowledge beginning to spring naturally within him and his inner spiritual perceptions beginning to open. This brings definitely what Dr. de Purucker calls "proof — that which convinces."

Well, when you have reached that rather early stage you may still come across ideas and teachings and all sorts of things in the history of the Society, maybe in the human element of Theosophical organizations, that strike you as difficult to understand. I think we might take a word of encouragement from the Master here, and say to ourself "Let me put it to one side for the moment" and keep on going on — do not stop. The great difficulties occur when one stops on these sandbanks of thought, and cannot understand about it and doubts if anybody can. Sinnett got stuck on the doctrine of Cycles. He was only a student of three or four years, and the Master had to tell him that he himself had studied fifteen years before he was taught even the elements of that particular subject.

So do not let us worry if we do not understand some particular thing. Do not swallow it wholesale, and do not refuse to study any more. Put it aside, with faith in the Higher Self: that part of your being that after all is Truth itself, which has access to all the knowledge of the Universe. It knows; while the confusion is simply caused by the limitations of one's brain that is unable for the time being to make the effort of will, to rise into union with the Higher Self sufficiently to clarify the spiritual and intellectual vision.

I am choosing passages that will show the psychology of Chelaship rather than other aspects, because it is the psychology of ourselves that we have to deal with in our first steps. This was written by K. H., one of the last letters that Sinnett received, I believe: (from page 351)

My poor, blind friend — you are entirely unfit for practical occultism! Its laws are immutable; and no one can go back on an order once given. She can send on no letters to me, and the letter ought to have been given to Mohini. However, I have read it; and I am determined to make one more effort — (the last that I am permitted) — to open your inner intuition. If my voice, the voice of one who was ever friendly to you in the human principle of his being — fails to reach you as it has often before, then our separation in the present and for all times to come — becomes unavoidable. It pains me for you, whose heart I read so well — every protest and doubt of your purely intellectual nature, of your cold Western reason — notwithstanding. But my first duty is to my Master. And duty, let me tell you, is for us, stronger than any friendship or even love; as without this abiding principle which is the indestructible cement that has held together for so many millenniums, the scattered custodians of nature's grand secrets — our Brotherhood, nay, our doctrine itself would have crumbled long ago into unrecognisable atoms. Unfortunately, however great your purely human intellect, your spiritual intuitions are dim and hazy, having been never developed. Hence, whenever you find yourself confronted by an apparent contradiction, by a difficulty, a kind of inconsistency of occult nature, one that is caused by our time honoured laws and regulations — (of which you know nothing, for your time has not yet come) — forthwith your doubts are aroused, your suspicions bud out — and one finds that they have made mock at your better nature, which is finally crushed down by all these deceptive appearances of outward things! You have not the faith required to allow your Will to arouse itself in defiance and contempt against your purely worldly intellect, and give you a better understanding of things hidden and laws unknown. You are unable I see, to force your better aspirations — fed at the stream of a real devotion to the Maya you have made yourself of me — (a feeling in you, that has always profoundly touched me) — to lift up the head against cold, spiritually blind reason; to allow your heart to pronounce loudly and proclaim that, which it has hitherto only been allowed to whisper: "Patience, patience. A great design has never been snatched at once." You were told, however, that the path to Occult Sciences has to be trodden laboriously and crossed at the danger of life; that every new step in it leading to the final goal, is surrounded by pit-falls and cruel thorns; that the pilgrim who ventures upon it is made first to confront and conquer the thousand and one furies who keep watch over its adamantine gates and entrance — furies called Doubt, Skepticism, Scorn, Ridicule, Envy and finally Temptation — especially the latter; and that he, who would see beyond had to first destroy this living wall; that he must be possessed of a heart and soul clad in steel, and of an iron, never failing determination and yet be meek and gentle, humble and have shut out from his heart every human passion, that leads to evil. Are you all this? Have you ever begun a course of training which would lead to it? No; you know it as I do. You are not born for it; nor are you in a position, — a family man with wife and child to support, with work to do — fitted in any way for the life of an ascetic, not even of a — Mohini. Then why should you complain that powers are not given you, that even proof of our own powers begins to fail you, etc.? True you have offered several times to give up meat and drink, and I have refused. Since you cannot become a regular chela why should you? I thought you had understood all this long ago; that you had resigned yourself, satisfied to wait patiently for future developments and for my personal freedom. You know I was the only one to attempt and persevere in my idea of the necessity of, at least, a small reform, of however slight a relaxation from the extreme rigidity of our regulations if we would see European theosophists increase and work for the enlightenment and good of humanity. I failed in my attempt, as you know. All I could obtain was to be allowed to communicate with a few — you, foremost of all, since I had chosen you as the exponent of our doctrine that we had determined to give out to the world — to some extent at least. . . . Have you ever given a thought, or ever suspected the real reason of my failure? No; for you know nothing of the ins and outs of the work of karma — of the "side-blows" of this terrible Law. . . . And you are unable yet to realize, why we did this and that? Believe me that you will learn some day when you know better — that it was all brought on BY YOURSELF.
Now I wonder if you would like to have some short discussion on some of these matters, ask some questions, or what you like.

QUESTION: An individual might be the instrument through which the Masters might work without knowing it. I suppose no individual could be a definite Chela without knowing it?

ANSWER: I think that he could actually have reached that stage of becoming accepted and not actually know that he had been accepted; but I do think that he would have at least a consciousness of it, if you know what I mean. You see his inner development would have gone forward, and his own aspiration and study and thought would have gone ahead to the point where he would be aware of certain things; but he might still have a doubt as to whether this particular final stage had been reached or not. I think it is possible. There are so many categories in these things: lay chelas, probationer and accepted and initiated chelas, etc.

QUESTION: You do not think it necessary for everybody to become a Chela? Is not there sufficient information obtainable for anybody to work off his own bat, without extraneous help? Is not that the normal course for humanity?

ANSWER: I am inclined to agree with you really. I think it is obvious that this is a special Path in a sense. The Theosophical Society, for example, has been stated not to be a manufactory for Adepts. It is not intended to be. It is intended to provide certain spiritual nourishment, certain philosophy, certain ethics, which will have a definitely accelerating effect upon those who study; and the main idea is inner soul growth. It is quite obvious that the range or scale that the Masters are working on is infinitely greater than the one we are accustomed to work upon. We have concern with only one life: they are entirely indifferent as to whether it takes one life or twenty to accomplish their ends. Nevertheless they are — what shall I say? — creating the causes which affect the soul of man, and this may not show and come to full fruition in the one life. Nevertheless there is a tremendous benefit that the race will experience as a result, for example, of the Theosophical Movement, when those egos who have taken its Teaching deep into their spiritual nature, come again into earth-life. Then I think we can see something happening!

You see, there is a sort of twofold process that goes on. We come into contact with Theosophy; we derive benefit, inspiration from it. Now what are we going to do about it? We are either grateful or we are not. If it has really taken hold of us there can be no argument as to what our duty is to do. Then we must take our coats off so to speak, or put on the uniform of Theosophy, and get down to work. There are so many people who could be a splendid influence and example in the Theosophical Movement today, but who prefer not to soil their beautiful clothes and garments by contact with a Society and organization which is not fashionable or popular. And so they study by themselves. They have our books under their pillows at night, but they do not do a hand's turn towards reciprocating, even by a little, for that which has been poured out for them.

What I am concerned with are the tens of thousands of people who have The Secret Doctrine, of the thousands who have The Mahatma Letters, and who do not work for Theosophy. I tell you there are far more Theosophical students outside of the Societies today than inside, and this is a rotten situation.

After all, the works of H. P. B. — any one of the Theosophical books — have been produced by the sweat and labor in every case of members of the Theosophical Society. They have poured out their labor. H. P. B. gave everything she had; the same with Judge and K. T. and others who have passed on. Now if only the people who could help in this Work would come and give their services, and let it be known that they stood for Theosophy, that they believed in Theosophy, and that they were going to make this poor stumbling instrument really a success, our Cause would go forward. But so many of them think it entails some sort of sacrifice, in social and other matters, to be known as a Theosophist — that is what I mean!

QUESTION: Would Theosophy, correctly applied to the teachings of the New Testament, fully endorse and explain the teachings of Christ and the New Testament, and enable the Ministers of the Church, for example, to stand up and refute the questioners who doubt the possibility of the miracles he performed, and so on?

ANSWER: I would say this: that a knowledge of Theosophy applied to the New Testament will confirm all that there is therein of Theosophy, in other words all that there is therein of the Teachings of the Avatara Jesus, which is by no means to say necessarily that everything in the New Testament owes its origin to the Ancient Wisdom. With a certain amount we would be prepared to agree, but a certain amount owes its origin to later interpretations, as has happened to every one of the Great Religions. They have all at some time had someone monkeying with the text. But there is not a great deal to grumble at in the teachings of the New Testament. There is some extremely high and pure Esoteric Theosophy too, because it is not written so that he who runs may read. It needs the key of Theosophy.

I imagine that the point of your comment was somewhat to the effect: Could we not do something to appeal to a Christian-minded world by showing this illumination of Theosophy in explanation of their own teachings? You see, H. P. B. frequently said that the day of Christianity was doomed, and there seems to have been hardly enough of the Teachings of the Master given to stand the demands made upon it by the modern world. After all, the very scanty teachings we find in the New Testament were only the product, supposedly, of two or three years' work, and none of them were written down at the time. They were handed on by word of mouth, and there is very little philosophy in it. There is a lot of ethics and practice, which we all need very much, and I think we could study it with a great deal of profit; but when all is said and done I do not think that there is enough there to meet the modern demands; and that is why some two thousand (nearly two thousand) years after the coming of the Avatara Jesus we have this tremendous flood of Knowledge and Wisdom that was the mission of Blavatsky to bring. You have a new Messenger come to the world, and a new Teaching, a new presentation of Truth, not contradictory of any of the old Teachings, but taking you infinitely further. I do not think, somehow, that the line of effort is going to be along the way of regenerating to any extent the Christian field. I think — I only give my personal opinion — that as is happening today, innumerable Ministers are taking the teachings of Theosophy and proceeding to interpret their own teachings in terms of Theosophy, without acknowledging the source, to the great profit of their Sunday congregations! But I do not think they will make Christianity a success thereby. It is a form that seems to have served its purpose. But I really do think that we, living in a Christian world, should be well instructed in the Teachings of the New Testament.

QUESTION: You said there were thousands who had The Mahatma Letters and The Secret Doctrine not in the Society. Well, you see, those things give you plenty of knowledge, and don't you think the second step on the Path is not at all liked by the people? It is most unpopular.

ANSWER: I do not know. I have met some of these people, and I am also acquainted with the reasons that keep them out. I do think it is a mighty big problem, because if the convinced Theosophists in the world were to stand up, one and all, and say: "I am a Theosophist first" — and then took for the organization which has kept true to the light of H. P. B. — I tell you it would work a very big thing. We do not know but what that day may come, and personally I want to see it, because every one of us who has anything whatsoever to give to Theosophy — I do not mean to Theosophy, I mean to this Work — ought to be prepared to give it. We ought to be willing to dwell in it, with it, and sink or swim with it — accept the Karma of the group to which we belong. That is the only criterion of our manhood or womanhood, otherwise it is taking, and giving nothing. Surely it must be so!

QUESTION: What are some of the reasons of those who refuse to become members?

ANSWER: They just do not like organizations; they have seen the tribulations — not of our Society, but another one; and they do not like the happenings. They do not want to be associated with it. Theosophy to that extent has got a bad name. A few things get around as having been done by someone who is a Theosophist, and then the reputation is gone; and that I think is the main trouble. They have become disappointed with organizations, and they have gone away from them.

I think that Theosophists have to realize that to make their Society attractive first means living Theosophy and doing Theosophy; and if we find a way of really making our Brotherhood a true Fellowship, spiritually speaking, the problem is solved, because obviously it is a very attractive thing to belong to; but if people can see that we do not do what we declare we are setting out to do, then they are not interested. I think this is probably the main key.



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