The Teacher and Disciple of Old

By Herbert Coryn
(From notes dictated by Katherine Tingley, July 1902; reprinted from Lucifer: The Light-Bringer, Point Loma, May-June 1931, pp. 130-1.)

Freedom of one part of our nature always requires the bondage of another part. In the old schools about the Temples of ancient peoples, the teachers and disciples fully recognized this, and the latter voluntarily submitted to a most stringent control and regulation of their habits and outer life. They submitted voluntarily; they offered themselves to the discipline because they knew that through it alone could come freedom for their higher natures, the flowering of their finer possibilities. So they put themselves under the care of a teacher whom they had learned absolutely to trust.

This relation of teacher and pupil became at once unique. It was no domination of mind by mind; the teacher never sought that, was careful that it should not occur. It would not be thus that the pupil could ripen his possibilities. It was his aim to grow up to and assimilate the mind of his teacher, but the relation never approached that of hypnotizer and subject; of that there was no element. The pupil remained himself; wove his own pattern of himself; achieved an ever-completer freedom.

As to daily life: once the pupil was enrolled, he had no more concern with the earning of his living. His daily work was before him, and it had a dual relation to him. It had relation to his existing capacities, previous habits, and temperament; and, alternatively with this, it was designed to call forth capacities which he needed but lacked.

As to his assignment of work, he was expected to trust the teacher; and not only to do the work faithfully, not only with entire peace and content, not only with the utmost use of every faculty concerned, but also with a quality of enthusiasm. And he was expected to be always ready to leave it regretlessly for any other. And his daily habits were so gathered in that he needed to expend a minimum of mental energy in arranging them for himself. This economy he effected by the simple process of obeying the wise rules. His mind was therefore freed for other matters.

The trust he had in the teacher, and -- as he proved worthy -- the teacher in him, begot an intimate and sacred mental relationship with which space and verbal communication had nothing to do. In a certain sense, the mind of the teacher was opened to him, that he might take what he could. Threads to weave into his own mind and to dye with his own color were thus offered to him, ready for the weaving, threads necessary for the pattern, which, under any other circumstances, might have cost him years or lifetimes of experience and pain to extract and spin for himself from the raw mass which life offers. In return the teacher received energy for his work and even protection, from the atmosphere of trust and love kept about him by his pupils.

The whole arrangement therefore was one of economy, both of time and energy. The pupil was, so to speak, in a spiritual forcing-house. The experiences of a whole ordinary, slow-passing lifetime were compressed into a year, a month, a day. For the relation of the pupils to each other was under the teacher's direction, and was constantly changed, groups being formed and dissolved, new combinations constantly produced, so as to afford a maximum of experience in the least time.

When we remember that almost all that we get out of life, all our experience, all our pleasure and pain, comes from our association with each other, we can see that in the great Temple-schools it was possible for the teacher to compress into a short period all the experience of any deeply educative value which a whole slow lifetime in the world would hardly give. Some of it, to the pupil, might seem unjust and unnecessary. But he had only to recollect how much of his life-incidents in the world, were he there, would also seem unjust and unnecessary. Yet he would have trusted to the Law for their value -- for their profound justice and necessity. Here he also trusted in the Law as manifested in the teacher, focalized, made swift, undiluted with resting-places.

The teacher's credentials were only the intuition of the pupil; he offered no other. If the pupil once recognized in the teacher a soul far in advance of his own, the relation became established and sacred. And both knew that if at any future time the pupil should lose his trust, his whole nature would fall into confusion. He accepted the situation open-eyed because of the possible reward -- the attained goal. And the teacher was willing to accept the care, knowing that if the pupil did win on to the goal, another helper and teacher of humanity, another Guardian of the Mysteries, would have been born -- born and baptized in the fire of experience.

  • (From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Theosophical University Press.)

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