The work it has on hand and the end it keeps in view are too absorbing and too lofty to leave it the time or inclination to take part in side issues. That work and that end is the dissemination of the Fundamental Principles of the philosophy of Theosophy, and the exemplification in practice of those principles, through a truer realization of the SELF; a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood.
Many a new-comer to Theosophy becomes a student—so great, so beneficial is the impact of the philosophy on receptive minds. When such a student sees the self-sacrificing service of others, he himself gets fired with the aspiration to serve. His immediate reaction is to study the philosophy in order that he, in his humble way, may spread the teachings and so help in the task of benefiting humanity. For him, the easiest approach to Theosophy is to subscribe to the three objects of the Movement, to study the Theosophical tenets and to embody as best he can the ethics of The Voice of the Silence. The danger he faces is that he may fall in a rut, and thus fail to perceive the opportunities for expanding his powers of service.
In the early years of the Theosophical Movement, Mr. A. P. Sinnett, who was then a devoted student-server, received a communication from one of the great Founders of the Movement drawing his attention to the fact that the recognition of the higher phases of man's being was not to be attained by mere acquirement of knowledge. Now, after nearly a century of Theosophical endeavour, there still seems to lurk among students the misconception that to become theosophists all they have to do is to acquire knowledge. Book-study is thus undertaken in all earnestness and sincerity, but even after years of strenuous effort no enlightenment comes. The student finds that his studies have given him only a little headway and that in his quest of soul and spirit he has made no apparent progress. He thus finds that the enigma of nature has remained unresolved and that the possibility of conscious communion with his Inner Self has not advanced beyond a theoretical assertion. To counter a lop-sided development which would result from the mere gathering and hoarding of information, Mr. Sinnett was told that the knowledge of spiritual facts had to be sought by personal experience and through actual observation. Books treating of Theosophical philosophy as well as devotional reading can and do help in establishing the serenity of mind which is essential for the gathering and evaluating of experience. They are aids valuable at all times, but they are no substitutes for the personal and conscious going through of spiritual experience. The student is expected to make a personal observation of any spiritual experience that may come his way. In the vast laboratory of nature he cannot stand aloof and expect to progress through the spiritual experience and observation of another. The effort must be entirely his. There are no short-cuts to attainment.
If the student desires to advance towards a more meaningful service of humanity, then must he supplement his book-learning with practices aimed at arousing his inner being to activity, and later on to power. This can be achieved in several ways, each of which has to be adopted so as to cleanse and clear his perception on planes other than the physical. Two of the ways which could be adopted with advantage are: (1) meditation and (2) the observance of silence for certain periods of time to enable nature herself to speak to him who comes to her for information. This latter method gives the student the opportunity to make his obeisance to nature and then to seek points by which the spiritual and psychic blending of himself with nature can be effected. (See the opening statement of the article "Some Words on Daily Life" in U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 22.) Both these methods require as a sine qua non the control of animal passions and impulses and the inculcating of an utter unselfishness of intention. A continuous devotion to the undertaking of this discipline is bound to breed enthusiasm the moment spiritual results begin to manifest under the student's own power of observation. The effort then takes on a more purposeful study of the laws that obtain in supernature, laws moreover which will enable him to aid the awakening of his dormant spirituality. It is only when this practice has been continued for a sufficiently long time that the student can proceed to the more recondite tasks of controlling his involuntary powers and developing his will in the right direction.
By adopting such practices as the above, the student would in fact be furthering the third object of the Theosophical Movement which is: To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible, and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially.
Theosophy is Universal Brotherhood. When the student is busy equipping himself for service, he has to be careful to see that each of his endeavours resolves round this central theme of Universal Brotherhood. His departure from this must invariably result in his straying away from the path. All that he learns of occultism, all the powers that are allowed to develop in him, all the qualities of service that burgeon in him, are due to the help and guidance he receives in the inner planes of his being from the great custodians of the Wisdom. Selfishness, even if it be latent, acts as a repellent and closes the channel through which light can come. Besides selfishness and ambition, that which militates against Brotherhood is the magnetism and invisible results proceeding from erroneous beliefs. Faith in the Gods and God and other superstitions attract millions of foreign influences, living entities and powerful agents whose aim it is to lead the student on to the path of error. Said one of the Great Ones: "Unless a man is prepared to become a thorough Theosophist...give up entirely caste, his old superstitions and show himself a true reformer...he will remain simply a member of the Society with no hope whatever of ever hearing from us....It is useless for a member to argue. 'I am one of a pure life, I am a teetotaller and an abstainer from meat and vice. All my aspirations are for good, etc.,' and he, at the same time, building by his acts and deeds an impassable barrier on the road between himself and us."
The task of equipping oneself for service is no light one, for, to wean away one's thinking from bigotry—religious, scientific or social—requires that he himself investigate and gather the proofs of its pernicious tendencies. For this, he must have not only a specialized knowledge but also a deep conviction based on personal experience. To promulgage the ideal of Brotherhood, the student has to demonstrate the truth of the teaching that the root of everything in nature is ONE, from which all emerge and into which everything returns. The parcelling of humanity into denominations of religions, sects, creeds and colours is man-made and has proved to be the breeding-ground of devisive tendencies. It therefore becomes the duty of the student to help to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions and to promote in every way and in all countries the spread of non-sectarian education.
In a student's life, study and practice have to be blended harmoniously with service. Spending all the time in service and neglecting either study or personal experience (which comes during moments of deep aspiration) is ill-advised. The invocation of nature during the daily hours of silence is as necessary as reviewing the actions of the day in the light of the Paramitas. Service starved of the strength which comes from such spiritual exercise hardly attracts the new-comer or swells audiences. Dissemination of the philosophy of altruism is a must, and if speaking or writing comes not easily to him, then it would be excellent discipline to undergo the necessary training.
The equipment of the student is not complete unless he has acquired the aptitude to accommodate himself to any circumstance arising from the daily contact with students as equally anxious as he to further the cause of human Brotherhood. Injustice may be encountered, criticism and even uncharitableness received at the hands of friends and associates. It is this which is the real training ground for building a character of such strength and flexibility as service in the hostile world outside is likely to demand. Unbrotherliness and lack of charity is very painful to witness in an association of persons who profess to give themselves up to the most solemn questions affecting human interest. The revered Master K.H. gave the following advice: "Let meaner natures wrangle if they will; the wise compound their differences in a mutually forbearing spirit." This advice applies with equal force to individuals, societies and lodges.