[Selected from The Splendor of the Soul and The Gods Await.]
When I first came into the Theosophical Movement I had only the theosophical books and H. P. Blavatsky's knowledge of her great teachers on which to rely. But since that time I have had in my own experience the proof of those truths which theosophy expounds in reference to man's attainment of a state of perfection so far as it can be reached in one earth-life. This fact of relative human perfection was revealed to me through a personal meeting with such a man -- one of our great teachers. What I tell you is not the result of fancy, or of dreams, or of delusions, or of an imagined self-sufficiency in my own spiritual discernment. But I do tell you what happened and what I saw and what I myself learned.
Not so many years ago, on my first tour through Egypt and India, I received an invitation to meet a great teacher. I met this great character in India. Early in the morning before the sun was up I had a call from the teacher's chela, who brought four servants and a special escort with their open palanquin. The chela acted as guide and, with my maid, I went out up the mountains, and up the mountains, and up the mountains -- the heat of the day was beyond anything that you can conceive of. After miles of travel we arrived at noon at an almost unimaginable height. Everything except the great range looked small and insignificant. In looking out over the wonderful prospect, one could see how very easy it would be for one living up there all the time to have high aspirations and great ideas and to grow and to become royal and splendid.
Katherine Tingley in Darjeeling, India, 1896
I had my mind fashioned, as I think yours might have been, to see something quite remarkable -- some astounding manifestation. But when I reached this person, he was standing leaning against a tree with an English jackknife in his hand -- he was cutting a little piece of wood. When he saw me he came to meet me, asking me to excuse him for a short time because one of the bullocks with which one of his chelas was plowing had suffered an injury to his neck and he was trying to repair the yoke.
I looked straight at the man. Now, even in H. P. Blavatsky's time he was considered to be quite old in years, but he looked very young when I saw him. I would have said that he was then not more than thirty-two or thirty-three years of age. He appeared to be Tibetan, dark of skin. His face was unlike any other that I had ever seen before. His whole life was lighted up with an inner light that had toned his features, had brightened his eyes, and had brought to him the glow of youthfulness and splendor of character. One could not look merely at his face: his whole figure commanded attention. Yet he was very unpretentious in manner.
He drew my attention to the plowman, one of his own chelas he said. "You know how the women here in India lave and anoint the feet of the pilgrims? Well, his feet after the longest day's journey have never been found hurt or damaged by the road. Why? Because he never dreads or even thinks of the distance, but goes on his way happily; and it never occurs to him to be troubled as to whether or not he may have missed the road or taken the wrong turning or the like. His mind is so buoyant with the joy of the spiritual life that it actually lightens his body for him.
"You know, the atoms of the human body become weighed down as a rule with the burdens of the mind -- the irrelevant ideas, the preoccupations and anxieties. They go through series of changes momently, affected by the thoughts of the brain-mind. The lack of trust, the lack of inspiration that people suffer from -- the hopelessness -- bring these atoms down halfway to death. But they can be quickened to a kind of immortality by the fire of the divine life and attuned into universal harmony. Men anywhere could get rid of all that burden of unnecessities, and carry themselves like that young chela does, if they had the mental balance.
"If you had to go from here to America," he continued, "you would not sit still and dream about the place you wanted to go to, and think that was enough. The trouble with some theosophical aspirants is that they waste the strength of their lives looking at the goal ahead, rather than at the immediate moments and seconds of which the Path is composed, and so their better selves become exhausted. They should let the beaming thought pour itself into each arriving moment and be indifferent to the morrow. One can find in every instant of time, if one has the desire, the door into worlds of golden opportunity, the gateway to a glorious path stretching out into the limitless eternal. . . .
"To move away from the material plane of effort and thought and personality -- that is what the soul is urging us to do: to move out into the hidden vast realities of life and understand that within and above and around us, and in the very atmosphere in which our thoughts and feelings exist, universal life is pulsating continuously in response to our yearnings and questionings. When people say that they are seeking happiness, they mean that they are aiming at that stage in their evolution where their present problems will be solved. To reach it, one must withdraw from the allurements of life and all its outward and discouraging aspects, and find himself in the solitude of his own being, in a silence unbreakable within his own heart and mind.
"The outer life is transient: he must gain the inner power and live in the spirit which is eternal. He cannot step free-souled into that light without having learned concentration, which many these days advertise they can teach, and lecture on it, forming cults, holding classes, and taking dollars. But all they can do at last is to lead their victims away from reality and farther and farther away from the true self within themselves. For concentration is a power inherent in the self and above and beyond the mind: it cannot be found in the objective world, for it is not there. The kingdom of heaven is on earth, and the gates of it are to be sought and discovered in the heart of man.
"So the aspirant should not think about the cultivation of powers, but live in the light and strength of his own higher nature. The divine law is in every man and woman, and each must find it there for himself and make it manifest in his life. No one can pour pure water into foul so that it shall still retain its purity. Selflessness attains, selfishness defeats: men's possibilities are in direct proportion to their ability to see beyond themselves and to feel for others. . . .
"To throw the mind, on moving out of sleep into waking, directly upon the outward things is to lose half the life of the day. One should awake in the morning with a beautiful thought, reminding himself that the battle for the day is before him and that the god within desires a moment's conference with the mind before the arduous duties of the morning begin.
"He should find something in the silence and sunlight of the first hours which should link itself with his own higher nature and bring forth the blossom and the fruit. He should free himself in the morning in the sweetness of the sunlight, beginning the day as gently as though he were waking a little child from its slumbers, bringing forward the truer and nobler side of himself -- I do not mean working it out in words and language, but in thought approaching the richness and fullness of the spirit and letting the god within blossom into each moment as it rises. Then, reaching out for the most difficult duty that one knows to be one's duty and overcoming it, he will learn the secret of being on guard, and in a little while have thrown away unawares all the burdens that obstructed him. Many have been working hard and conscientiously to get rid of these burdens: there is no need to spend a moment on them. It is but to put aside the doubts and misgivings, to enter the chambers of the soul, to bask in the sunlight and strength that are there.
"The first three hours of the day," he continued, "are the great opportunity. He who does not rise with the sun loses an immense amount of power. He who rises before the sun, and by daybreak has finished with the duties of this plane and what may be necessary for the care of the body and is ready to step out with the sunrise and work with the sun, he has the cooperation of a force he little knows of -- the vibrant blue light behind the sun.
"The trouble is with many of our aspirants that too often they begin with the letter and go backwards in search of the spirit. But let them hold to these things in the silence and create a noble future in their hearts, going alone in the morning into the silence of nature. Freeing themselves there from their old trying memories and from all anticipations of trouble, let them make themselves at one with that light in nature. And it will not hurt them to look at the stars with wonder occasionally, or to listen with delight to the music of the birds, or to spend whole days in silence, brooding on these sacred things whilst performing all the duties that come to them to do."
I did not ask many questions because I found that he anticipated them -- questions that I had wanted an answer to ever since I came into the Theosophical Society, especially as to how I was to meet the heavy responsibilities that became mine when I was named as the Leader of the Society for life -- the responsibility of helping to direct this Society of aspirants for spiritual wisdom and knowledge at a time when I was unknown to all save perhaps one or two members of the Society.
He referred to incidents in my own past that I had almost forgotten -- incidents that at the time turned my footsteps in this or in that direction, and that finally led to my meeting with W. Q. Judge and eventually to his appointment of me as his successor in the leadership of the Society.
William Q. Judge
Mr. Judge had found me working among the poor of the slums on the East Side of New York City, trying to help the unfortunate and to lift some of their burdens in an honest and determined way. (1) That in itself was to me a great big world of effort. It seemed to me at the time that it was about as much as I could handle. But here was a man who had grown great in unison with the higher expressions of life, to which he had attuned his whole being in utter self-forgetfulness. We all have this same opportunity, but he was a great soul and welcomed this opportunity, and profited by it daily.
We must all, sooner or later, believe in the marvelous powers of the spiritual soul of man. We must all sooner or later fathom the depths of our own nature and find therein the royal talisman of wisdom and truth. This is what I found with and in this great teacher. Just while I was standing there with him, I discovered anew, under the great force of his presence -- and it came to me like an illumination -- that there was something indeed in me more than the mere mentality, that there was a vital, latent force inside me that desired to come out and inspire me to achieve things that I had never done before. It seemed to me as if I had never really lived before that moment, and never known so much about life as I then knew. This was the great day of my life -- a day of greater promise for my work for all humanity. Since then I have felt that it would be easy to go through fire and suffering and persecution and anything to push this message of theosophy out to the world. The credit for this spirit of courage within me is not mine; it came to me from being in the presence of this great teacher and from realizing in him to what heights a true man can reach.
1. See "My First Meeting with William Quan Judge," The Gods Await, 2nd ed., pp. 62-6; reprinted in Sunrise, April/May 1996, p. 192. -- ED. (return to text)