Madame Blavatsky included in her Fourth Message to the American Theosophists at their Convention held at Boston, Massachusetts, less than a month before her death, a fervent appeal for earnest dedication to the service of Theosophy, declaring:
Every wish and thought I can utter are summed up in this one sentence, the never-dormant wish of my heart, "Be Theosophists, work for Theosophy!" Theosophy first, and Theosophy last; for its practical realization alone can save the Western world from that selfish and unbrotherly feeling that now divides race from race, one nation from the other; and from that hatred of class and social considerations that are the curse and disgrace of so-called Christian peoples. Theosophy alone can save it from sinking entirely into that mere luxurious materialism in which it will decay and putrefy as civilizations have done.
This paragraph has often been quoted as a fillip to flagging zeal for the Cause and a quickener of devotion, but it should be taken in conjunction with an earlier paragraph in that message, in which the difficulties faced by the Movement were set forth candidly. To gloss over these, to take it for granted that her pointed warnings, however necessary for others, were not conceivably meant for us, is to ignore a danger signal and invite disaster on oneself and on the Movement which needs for its full success the one-pointed devotion of all its professed adherents.
Consider the several vital points in that message, which so many in her day and since have failed to take to heart. She pointed out the critical nature of the stage through which the world in general and the Theosophical Society in particular would pass in the years between 1891 and the close of the cycle in 1897-98. Within that period was made the unwarranted, misguided and unbrotherly—not to say disgraceful—attack by prominent members of the Society upon the bona fides of the devoted William Q. Judge, of whom the Master had written in 1887 that "he of all chelas suffers most and asks or even expects the least." He drew such comfort as he could under that attack, from his conviction that "the hands that smite us are our own," but there seems to be no doubt that, free though he was from anger and resentment, the decline in his health, followed in 1896 by his death, which deprived the Movement of the ablest exponent of and worker for Theosophy after Madame Blavatsky herself, was not unrelated to the injustice done him by his attackers.
All that need not have been, had those responsible heeded the warning which preceded the passage quoted above from Madame Blavatsky's message of 1891: "Self-watchfulness is never more necessary than when a personal wish to lead, and wounded vanity, dress themselves in the peacock's feathers of devotion and altruistic work."
In her First Message to the American Theosophical Convention, that of 1888, she had warned: "...let no man set up a popery instead of Theosophy, as this would be suicidal and has ever ended most fatally." And with what noble modesty she had included herself, who had brought the restatement of Theosophy for the cycle which commenced in 1875! For she had added: "We are all fellow-students, more or less advanced; but no one belonging to the Theosophical Society ought to count himself as more than, at best, a pupil-teacher—one who has no right to dogmatize."
How many of the victims of unthinking and exaggerated praise may have read those warnings of the devoted teacher, who had so short a time to live after she gave them, and even recognized their relevance to others without taking them to heart themselves! And yet how many of the Movement's worst disasters can be traced back to such unwarranted self-confidence, strengthened by the adulation of well-meaning partisans!
With what wise foresight had H.P.B. translated verses bearing on this danger to the Movement in her judicious selection from treatises included in the Book of the golden Precepts for The Voice of the Silence, intended, as its title-page announced, "for the daily use of Lanoos (disciples)"! The treatises from which those priceless excerpts came were those which she believed would "best suit the few real mystics in the Theosophical Society." Their message, however, is not only for these but for every earnest student-aspirant who is wise enough to make it the object of his constant study; and not least valuable for those in danger of being surfeited by praise and led to put a false evaluation on their qualifications and efforts for the Cause.
The few brief excerpts from that priceless devotional prose-poem which we bring together here should arm against vainglory the sincere aspirant who takes to heart their message and guides his efforts by them. Their warnings are so clear that he who runs might read unless blindfolded by megalomania or hero-worship, harmful alike to him who gives and him who takes:
Shun praise, O Devotee. Praise leads to self-delusion.