[Reprinted from THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, September 1963.]
The work upon which all disciples are employed is that of rendering the body more porous, more fluidic, more responsive to all spiritual influences which arise in the inner centre, in the soul which is an undivided part of the great Soul of all, and less receptive of the outside material influences which are generated by the unthinking world and by those qualities which are in nature.
It would be extremely difficult to find a human being whose thoughts and emotions, and consequently whose actions, cannot be influenced in some way by the consciously or unconsciously active will of another, or by the good or evil forces of Nature. A kind of mediumship prevails: if a loved general leads, even the coward becomes filled with heroism and enthusiastically follows; a favourite school teacher is looked upon by the pupils as an idol to be followed; a speaker or a writer may inspire others and awaken the slumbering ideals in their hearts, or may arouse the low and the bestial in them; the radio, the television, the cinema, can mould men's minds and influence them for better or for worse. All these afford examples of outer impress made on the brains of men through the power of suggestion. Modern educational methods may vary in details, but all of them have this common foundation—impress through suggestion from outside.
Theosophical education is founded upon the opposite principle: culture that will make the brain, not pervious to outside suggestions, but more receptive to the soul's influence. All exercises of self-discipline are directed to a common end—that of making the brain porous to the soul's recollections. As a moon reflects itself in the tranquil waves, so in the brain freed from the turmoil of passions the light of Egoic omniscience is reflected.
The recognition of the fact that we draw from the common reservoir of thought and feeling in terms of our positiveness or our passivity, our receptivity to the higher or our impressionability by advancement. Every human being is to some extent mediumistic to these two different types of forces, and a preliminary necessity is to draw a line of demarcation between the two. In the words of H.P.B.:
Every individual is a medium in whose magnetic atmosphere the denizens of higher invisible spheres can move, and act, and live....Mediumship is measured by the quality of the aura with which the individual is surrounded. This may be dense, cloudy, noisome, mephitic, nauseating to the pure spirit, and attract only those foul beings who delight in it, as the eel does in turbid waters, or, it may be pure, crystalline, limpid, opalescent as the morning dew. All depends upon the moral character of the medium. (Isis Unveiled, I, 487)
An article in The Theosophist for June 1884, "Are Chelas Mediums?" (reprinted in U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 13), defines different types of mediums, but all have one thing in common—they have relinquished their self-control and their power or will to regulate their own actions.
Now such a relinquishing of self-control may be either active or passive, conscious or unconscious, voluntary or involuntary, and differs according to the nature of the beings who exercise the said active influence over the medium.
The phenomenon of mediumship appears similar to that of Chelaship; but if by a "medium" is understood one who is fast degenerating into a passive instrument of dangerous foreign influences, then the Chela is moving in the opposite direction, for he is steadily learning to control himself and all inferior potencies, developing his own Soul to become a Mediator between the Universe of Light and this world of shadows. He is on his way to becoming a real genius, and, as H.P.B. points out in her article on "Genius" reprinted in the same pamphlet from which the above has been quoted, "true genius is a synonym of self-existent and infinite mind, mirrored more or less faithfully by man." An Adept, who becomes such by walking successfully the Path of true Chelaship, is not a genius only in the sense that his own Ego energizes and inspires his personality; he is the highest type of true genius mirroring the "self-existent and infinite mind." This type of genius H.P.B. calls a Mediator in Isis Unveiled.
About such men as Apollonius, Iamblichus, Plotinus, and Porphyry, there gathered a heavenly nimbus. It was evolved by the power of their own souls in close unison with their spirits; by the superhuman morality and sanctity of their lives, and aided by frequent interior ecstatic contemplation. Such holy men pure spiritual influences could approach. Radiating around an atmosphere of divine beneficence, they caused evil spirits to flee before them. Not only is it not possible for such to exist in their aura, but they cannot even remain in that of obsessed persons, if the thaumaturgist exercises his will, or even approaches them. This is MEDIATORSHIP, not mediumship. Such persons are temples in which dwells the spirit of the living God; but if the temple is defiled by the admission of an evil passion, thought or desire, the mediator falls into the sphere of sorcery. The door is opened; the pure spirits retire and the evil ones rush in. (Isis Unveiled, I, 487)
Mediumship, as practised in our day, has come to mean the yielding of a weak nature to the control and suggestions of "spirits" and intelligences other than one's own immortal spirit. Such mediumship is always passive; it is in fact a diseased condition and has been called by H.P.B. "a more undesirable gift than the robe of Nessus."
Side by side with passive mediums (whose counterparts can be found in the witches and wizards and jugglers of old) there have always existed on the earth active mediators, or hierophants. The former exercise their gifts for money; the latter hold that the accepting of pay transforms an act of White Magic into Black Magic.
Buddha was a mendicant and refused his father's throne. The "Son of Man had not where to lay his head"; the chosen apostles provided "neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in their purses." Apollonius gave one half of his fortune to his relatives, the other half to the poor; Iamblichus and Plotinus were renowned for charity and self-denial; the fakirs, or holy mendicants, of India are fairly described by Jacolliot; the Pythagorean Essenes and Therapeutae believed their hands defiled by the contact of money. When apostles were offered money to impart their spiritual powers, Peter, not withstanding that the Bible shows him a coward and thrice a renegade, still indignantly spurned the offer, saying: "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." These men were mediators, guided merely by their own personal spirit, or divine soul, and awaiting themselves of the help of spirits but so far as these remain in the right path. (Isis Unveiled, I, 488)
Just as there is in all persons a latent mediumistic faculty, so have we all within us the latent germs of mediatorship; but for some individuals it is infinitely easier to bring them into activity than for others. The passivity that mediumship develops is the opposite of true receptivity—receptivity to the Inner Ego. The task before the Theosophical practitioner is to transform his brain from a passive into a receptive instrument. The present quality of the elemental lives making up our brains renders them susceptible to impressions from the lower astral light. The animal nature in us also makes its corresponding impress on these lives. To purify the brain, the mind needs to check the ebullitions of the personality, to curb the tendency to daydream, and to cultivate intelligently the Divine Paramitas. This will give an upward impulse to the tanhaic elementals and will make the brain receptive to impressions from the God within.
The Theosophical student-aspirant is called upon to resist quick responses to outer suggestions, training himself to evaluate the latter calmly before acting on them, and, above all, to initiate activity from within, in terms of first principles, in the light of the philosophy which he is studying. The habit of speaking and acting after proper consultation with one's own Ego must be developed.
Among the qualifications expected for Chelaship is "an intuitional perception of one's being the vehicle of the manifested Avalokitesvara or Divine Atman (Spirit)." When read superficially, this instruction remains but a mental picture; but when, through meditation and sustained purity of thought, remembrance of this idea becomes permanent, then the mind catches glimpses of the Inner Divinity and the latter becomes the guiding and ruling Force within us. In order that the Avalokitesvara, "the on-looking Lord," the Higher Self, may work through us as constantly as possible, we have to learn to develop the necessary sensitiveness or receptivity of the brain. Correct receptivity develops pari passu with the awakening Will which is Buddhi made active.
While the student is preparing himself to become what a true Mediator is—a temple "in which dwells the spirit of the living God," of what use is that temple if his fellow men gain no benefit, find not the temple giving forth Light? As the God within the shrine becomes more and more active, the aspirant becomes a centre from which, in his measure, flow out the potentialities for good that from the Perfect Blessed Ones come in large and affluent streams.
Know that the stream of superhuman knowledge and the Deva-Wisdom thou hast won, must, from thyself, the channel of Alaya, be poured forth into another bed.
In each of us that golden thread of continuous life—periodically broken into active and passive cycles of sensuous existence on Earth, and super-sensuous in Devachan—is from the beginning of our appearance upon this earth. it is the Sutratma, the luminous thread of immortal impersonal monadship, on which our earthly lives or evanescent Egos are strung as so many beads—according to the beautiful expression of Vedantic philosophy.