37 - “Our fundamental object is Universal Brotherhood (...) a Brotherhood of all faiths and denominations, composed by Theists and Atheists, Christians and Gentiles throughout the world, might without anyone surrendering his particular opinion be united into one strong Society or Fraternity (...)” (HPB, CW, Vol. IV, p. 470)
In the previous chapters we saw that conceptually the word Theosophy stands for the state of enlightenment of a truly wise mind, and that, as HPB said, “Real Theosophy is ALTRUISM, and we cannot repeat it too often. It is brotherly love, mutual help, unswerving devotion to Truth.” We also saw that the motto of the TS is an arrow forever pointing in the direction of this true wisdom. Again, we read that therefore the name “Theosophical Society” does not refer to a society engaged in a specific new formulation of the truth or a specific doctrine, but rather to one that is altruistic and thus exists to give effective aid to humanity as a whole.
Again, we saw that the fact that the TS was founded, as the founders frequently testified, through the direct orders of the Adepts (who in Themselves incorporate pure Altruism, the true Divine Wisdom or Theosophy), also tells us that the TS should be an organization with truly altruistic aims, at least where its original purposes are concerned.
The Altruistic Nature of the TS and its Three Objects
However, as stated before, if this truly altruistic nature of the TS is a fact, it cannot be restricted to its name and motto but must also be present in the Objects of the TS. These Objects should determine its specific activities. And if they really aim for the collective welfare of all humanity, then these Objects should lead to specific actions which would promote truly beneficent transformations both in the individual and society as a whole.
This being the case, it is our purpose throughout this book, in the first place, to verify whether the Objects of the TS really address such activities. This implies analyzing whether and in what way the Objects of the TS lead to actions which, once they are carried out, would make a significant contribution toward the overcoming of the great problems of the world. In the second place we shall attempt to show that this may or may not be something real, depending on the interpretation given to the Objects of the TS, or, in other words, depending on their being explained correctly. It is our belief, however, that these Objects are not usually understood correctly, and that this lack of comprehension leads to ineffective activities that may even be harmful. It is this dichotomy that we have synthesized as “the success and failure of the TS.”
In other words, in this and subsequent chapters, we shall attempt to find out whether there are logical and consistent reasons to state that these Objects, at least when perfectly understood, originate from or reflect Theosophy or true Altruism. If this is true, then, all actions caused by these Objects must be linked to the welfare of all humankind. If we can show that the Objects of the TS really point in this direction, then, and only then, shall we be able to justify the name of the TS in the sense that it is truly, at least in its aims and original program, a completely altruistic or theosophical society.
With this in mind, let us remember that the Three Declared Objects of the ST have been formulated thus:
I- To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color;
II- To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science;
III- To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.
As these are the three Objects of the TS, we must begin by considering whether or not the principle or law of the universal brotherhood, which is the main idea of the TS and which underlies the first and most important of its Objects, relates to the overcoming of the world’s problems. Because, as we read above, it is only thus that we shall be able to show that this principle originates from or reflects Theosophy, the true Wisdom which is Altruism.
Before, however, we proceed in this analysis of the relationship between Theosophy and the principle or law of the universal brotherhood (and, therefore, the first and principal Object of the TS), let us consider what is the general logic of the development of this text. The reason for this is that, if we hold on to this global view, reading it will be much facilitated. The general line of the text is, then, as follows:
1) If Theosophy is a state of true spiritual illumination in which Truth and Altruism are present, and if the founding of the TS was inspired by Adepts who attained Theosophy as the founders have testified, then this spiritual light (Truth and Altruism) should be reflected in the Objects of the TS.
2) This means that the TS should be an organization whose aims are eminently philanthropic in the highest sense of the word, which means giving effective aid to humanity as a whole in its most serious or fundamental problems. In other words, it means that the aims of the TS must point in the direction of consistent solutions to these problems.
3) It is our aim to clarify the truthfulness of these facts in the subsequent chapters, in which we shall above all examine the principle or law of the universal brotherhood, which underlies the first and most prominent Object of the TS.
4) We shall do this through analysis of this principle or law in the light of Esoteric Philosophy and by connecting it to the solutions for the world’s problems.
5) By the end of the book, finally, we shall analyze the relationship between Theosophy and the other two Objects of the TS, showing how the three Objects interact and truly complement one another.
The Universal Brotherhood: Fundamental Idea and Object
Bearing in mind this global view of the development of the text, let us see what the aim of this fifth chapter is. It is our sole intention, in this chapter, to show that – leaving aside the accuracy or lack of same of the interpretation presented in this work of Theosophy and of the principle or law of the universal brotherhood, as well as of the Objects of the TS and their importance in solving the world’s problems – we can, at least, accept as perfectly established the fact that for the Mahatmas and for the founders they inspired, the law or principle of the universal brotherhood of humanity, as well as the practical example of an organization that embodies it, was the most important and decisive aspect of the Theosophical Society.
This will be shown through the analysis of various quotations from the letters of the Mahatmas and from the writings of some of the most illustrious leaders in the history of the TS. And, since according to the founders these Mahatmas were living examples of the condition of Truth and Altruism (of Theosophy), this chapter has been called “Theosophy and The Universal Brotherhood.”
In previous paragraphs we have stated that the first Object is of fundamental importance in the work of the TS. The real reasons that justify this statement will, however, only be presented as the text continues. This being the case and to prevent someone who so far has little knowledge of the TS from inferring that this is an unproven declaration, it is useful to refer to HPB’s description:
38 - “Now our Society, as was explained even to the outside public repeatedly, has one general, and several – if not minor, at least less prominent aims. The earnest pursuit of one of the latter – occult science in this case – far from being regarded as the common duty and the work of all, is limited for the reasons given above to a very small faction of the Society, its pursuit resting with the personal tastes and aspirations of the members. As to the former – the chief aim of the Theosophical Fraternity – it is hardly necessary to remind any Fellow of what it is. Our fundamental object is the universal brotherhood (...) a Brotherhood of all faiths and denominations, composed by Theists and Atheists, Christians and Gentiles throughout the world, might without anyone surrendering his particular opinion be united into one strong Society or Fraternity (...)” (HPB, CW, Vol. IV, p. 470)
On the basis of the above let us now begin the analysis of a group of quotations which aim to show that (at least in the view of the Mahatmas and of some of the principal leaders in the history of the TS) the principle or law of the universal brotherhood of humanity as well as its practice are the most fundamental aspect in the work of the TS.
We shall begin with some sections of the letter known as “Letter from the Maha-Chohan.” This is really a letter from the Adept known as Koot Hoomi (K.H.), expressing the views of the Maha-Chohan. It seems appropriate to begin with this letter since the Maha-Chohan, according to the esoteric tradition contained in the letters of the Mahatmas and in the writings of their disciples such as HPB, is one of the highest Chiefs of the Occult Hierarchy of our planet. C. Jinarajadasa, former International President of the TS, referred to this letter in the following terms:
39 - “This is certainly the most important Letter ever received from the Adept Teachers, as it is a communication from the Maha-Chohan (“to whose insight the future lies like an open page” – K.H., Letter 16), one of the three great Adepts who form the “Triangle” of the Great Hierarchy. As the note from the Master K.H. says, the communication is not a letter written by the Maha-Chohan Himself, but a report of an interview.” (LMW, 1st Series, L. 1, p. 104)
The letter was sent to Mr. Sinnett and is introduced by a short note from the Master Koot Hoomi, which reads: “An abridged version of the view of the Chohan on the T.S. from his own words as given last night. My own letter, the answer to yours, will shortly follow. K.H.” The entire letter is a reply to opposing positions which existed within the TS, which maintained, among other things, that the principle or law of the universal brotherhood had relatively little importance since it had been a teaching of the Christian religion for almost two thousand years.
This argument received an answer containing the following views:
40 - “The world in general, and Christendom especially, left for two thousand years to the regime of a personal God, as well as its political and social systems based on that idea, has now proved a failure. If the Theosophists say: ‘We have nothing to do with all this; the lower classes and the inferior races (those of India for instance, in the conception of the British) cannot concern us and must manage as they can,’ what becomes of our fine professions of benevolence, philanthropy, reform, etc? Are these professions a mockery? And if a mockery, can ours be the true path? Shall we not devote ourselves to teaching a few Europeans, fed on the fat of the land, many of them loaded with the gifts of blind fortune, the rationale of bell-ringing, cup-growing, of the spiritual telephone and astral body formations, and leave the teeming millions of the ignorant, of the poor and despised, the lowly and the oppressed, to take care of themselves and of their hereafter as best as they know how? Never. Rather perish the T.S. with both its hapless founders than that we should permit it to become an academy of magic, a hall of occultism.” (LMW, 1st Series, L. 1, p. 7)
41 - “To achieve the proposed object, a greater, wiser, and specially a more benevolent intermingling of the high and low, of the Alpha and the Omega of society, was determined upon. The white race must be the first to stretch out the hand of fellowship to the dark nations, to call the poor and despised “nigger” brother. This prospect may not smile to all, but he is no Theosophist who objects to this principle.
“In view of the ever increasing triumph and at the same time misuse of free-thought and liberty (the universal reign of Satan, Eliphas Levy would have called it), how is the combative natural instinct of man to be restrained from inflicting hitherto unheard-of cruelty and enormities, tyranny, injustice, etc, if not through the soothing influence of a brotherhood, and of the practical application of Buddha's esoteric doctrines?” (LMW, 1st Series, L. 1, p. 4)
42 - “And it is we, the humble disciples of these perfect Lamas, who are expected to allow the T.S. to drop its noble title, that of Brotherhood of Humanity, to become a simple school of psychology. No, no, good brothers, you have been labouring under mistake too long already.” (LMW, 1st Series, L. 1, p. 9)
Practical Implications of the Universal Brotherhood for the World
The above three quotations, which contain some aspects of the Maha-Chohan’s view concerning the TS, clearly show the importance of the principle of the universal brotherhood to this Society, at least as regards its original conception and the formulation of its first Object. The main preoccupation can be clearly seen to be with “a greater, wiser, and especially a more benevolent intermingling of the high and the low, of the Alpha and the Omega of society,” in other words, for the interrelationship or the organization of humanity as a whole. This becomes even clearer when the current “political and social systems” are denounced, which “has now proved a failure,” along with their philosophical and religious foundations.
Also, a strong preoccupation is felt concerning the abuse of “liberty,” which might lead man to unimagined cruelty, atrocities, injustice and tyranny (brutal reactions to this abuse, which have already occurred in the 20th century, such as Nazism, Fascism and the Marxist dictatorships). This whole frightening picture prophesied in 1881, has, in fact, already become a reality through the XX century with its world wars, with the poverty of the Third World countries, with the growing deterioration of the ecological balance, and so many other atrocities.
It is not difficult to foresee that new and even greater tragedies will continue to occur if the current trends in the panorama of the world are not totally altered. It has been stated unequivocally that this cannot be prevented except “through the soothing influence of a brotherhood” (a more benevolent and harmonious mixture between what is high and low in human society), besides the practical application of the true esoteric doctrines, and that this was the general object to be attained.
In conclusion, it can be seen that the TS was expected to be an exemplary organization that would put into practice the principles of the esoteric doctrines, something which – as we shall see further on – means nothing less than the forming of a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of the world. In this way the TS would become the living example of the solutions for the great problems of the world. Such a practical application was perceived by the Mahatmas as absolutely essential; especially since preaching without doing what one is advocating can easily become a form of hypocrisy and is always of little effectiveness.
It is only the practical application of such a nucleus that would, on the one side, grant the TS the moral right to preach solutions for great problems and, on the other, generate the energy that – in the face of tremendous obstacles and antagonisms of every sort – is necessary to accomplish the regenerating task of an enormous intellectual reformation.
That is the reason why the Mahatma stated so categorically, “Rather perish the T.S. with both its hapless founders” than to turn its back on the solution of the problems of “the teeming millions of the ignorant, of the poor and despised, the lowly and the oppressed;” and that is the reason They would never “allow the T.S. to drop its noble title, that of Brotherhood of Humanity, to become a simple school of psychology.”
In view of the above, and also of the high position occupied by the Maha-Chohan in the planet’s Occult Hierarchy (as one of its great Chiefs), it is not hard for us to understand why Mahatma Koot Humi, who was one of the Adepts most involved in the founding of the TS, wrote the following lines, mentioning the importance of the esoteric doctrines and at the same time connecting them with the advent of new social institutions “of a genuine, practical Brotherhood of Humanity.”
43 - “The truths and mysteries of occultism constitute, indeed, a body of the highest spiritual importance, at once profound and practical for the world at large. Yet, it is not as a mere addition to the tangled mass of theory or speculation in the world of science that they were given to you, but for their practical bearing on the interests of mankind. (...) They have to prove both destructive and constructive – destructive in the pernicious errors of the past, in the old creeds and superstitions which suffocate in their poisonous embrace like the Mexican weed nigh all mankind; but constructive of new institutions of a genuine, practical Brotherhood of Humanity where all will become co-workers of nature, (...) The Chiefs want a ‘Brotherhood of Humanity,’ a real Universal Fraternity started; an institution which would make itself known throughout the world, and arrest the attention of the highest minds.” (K.H., ML, L. 6, pp. 23-24)
The General Misconception of the Objects of the TS
Up to the present, however, the members in general of the TS (and even the majority of its leaders) do not appear to properly understand – not even in intellectual terms – these high original aims. And, as a consequence of this fact, it is not surprising that the TS is still very far from a practical application of its Objects, especially the first one, as we shall try to prove in this book. This difficulty in accomplishing what had been proposed by the Masters was pointed out already in the first years of the TS, as can be seen in the quotation below:
44 - “Their success has not equalled the hopes of their original backers, phenomenal as it has been in certain directions.” (M., ML, L. 44, p. 263.)
Be this as it may, the truth is that, however great the difficulties encountered in what the TS really has accomplished in its nearly 135 years of existence, this does not affect in any way the hypothesis we are here trying to prove: that the TS is, in accordance with its original proposal as well as with the general aims of its Objects, a truly altruistic and theosophical organization and that, therefore, these Objects originate from and reflect the Divine Wisdom.
This warning and this clarification are important because ever since the first days of the TS the Mahatmas have found great difficulty in seeing their orientations properly understood by the members of the TS. Here follow several quotations that show this fact and at the same time emphasize the importance of the principle or law of the universal brotherhood, as well as its practical application:
45 - “On the other hand we claim to know more of the secret cause of events than you men of the world do. I say then that it is the vilification and abuse of the founders and the general misconception of the aims of the Society that paralyses its progress – nothing else. There’s no want of definitiveness in these Objects were they but properly explained. The members would have plenty to do were they to pursue reality with half the fervour they do mirage. I am sorry to find you comparing Theosophy to a painted house on the stage whereas in the hands of true philanthropists and theosophists it might become as strong as an impregnable fort. The situation is this: men who join the Society with the one selfish object of reaching power making occult science their only or even chief aim may as well not join it – they are doomed to disappointment as much as those who commit the mistake of letting them believe that the Society is nothing else. It is just because they preach too much ‘the Brothers’ and too little if at all Brotherhood that they fail (...) It is he alone who has the love of humanity at heart, who is capable of grasping thoroughly the idea of a regenerating practical Brotherhood who is entitled to the possession of our secrets.” (M., ML, L. 38, p. 251)
46 - “(...) it has been constantly our wish to spread on the Western Continent among the foremost educated classes “Branches” of the T.S. as the harbingers of a Universal Brotherhood (...) Notwithstanding his frank and honest admission to the effect that being unable to grasp the basic idea of Universal Brotherhood of the Parent Society, his aim was but to cultivate the study of occult Sciences (...) But, this consent, you will please bear in mind, was obtained solely under the express and unalterable condition that the new Society should be founded as a Branch of the Universal Brotherhood.” (K.H., ML, L. 28, p. 209)
47 - “Yet, you have ever discussed but to put down the idea of a Universal Brotherhood, questioned its usefulness, and advised to remodel the T.S. on the principle of a college for the special study of occultism. This, my respected and esteemed friend and Brother – will never do!” (...) But, the new Society, if formed at all, must (though bearing a distinctive title of his own) be, in fact, a Branch of the Parent Society as is the British Theosophical Society at London, and contribute to its vitality and usefulness by promoting its leading idea of a Universal Brotherhood, and in other practical ways.” (K.H., ML, L. 2, pp. 8-9)
48 - “Had I asked for your help in the organization of a system for teaching the occult sciences, or a plan for a “school of magick” the instance brought by you of an ignorant boy asked to work out “an abstruse problem regarding the motion of a fluid inside another fluid” might be a happy one. As it is, your comparison falls short of the mark and the bit of irony hits no one; for my mentioning the subject related merely to the general plan and outward administration of the projected Society and not in the least to its esoteric studies; to the Branch of the Universal Brotherhood not to the “School of Magick” – the formation of the former being the sine qua non for the latter. (...) I asked for a skeleton plan, and you imagined I clamoured for co-operation in the instructions to be given in spiritual sciences! (...) And you, otherwise a good and a wise man, being unconsciously to yourself the type of its spirit, are unable to understand our ideas upon the Society as a Universal Brotherhood, and hence – turn away your face from it.” (K.H., ML, L. 28, pp. 213-215)
49 - “The term “Universal Brotherhood” is no idle phrase. (...) It is the only secure foundation for universal morality. If it be a dream, it is at least a noble one for mankind: and it is the aspiration of the true adept.” (K.H., ML, L. 4, p. 17)
The following excerpt from the writings of N. Sri Ram, fifth international president of the TS, sums up the above set of quotations very neatly. In it we can clearly notice forces that oppose the basic direction in which the TS should have gone from its earliest inception:
50 - “It may not be known to all that the Objects, as they stand today, took shape gradually as a result of contending forces. There were different views as to what the Society should aim at, and these had all to be considered and met in some manner. In the early days there were those who asked for more and more occult knowledge. But the Adepts Themselves, from whom the knowledge originally came, were most reluctant to answer the questions which were put to Them. In fact, some of those questions were of a nature which could not be answered in terms that would not be misunderstood. On the other hand, They were keen on what one of Them called ‘a Universal Fraternity.’ That was Their main aim, from the beginning.” (N. Sri Ram, On the Watch Tower, p. 461-462)
The Adepts (Theosophy) and the Importance of the Universal Brotherhood
We shall end this chapter with a few more quotations which give us an overview of the relationship between the consciousness of the Mahatmas (of Theosophy – a true spiritual Wisdom or Altruism) and the principles and practice of the universal brotherhood of humanity:
51 - “You cannot have forgotten what I told you repeatedly at Simla and what the Master K.H. told you himself, namely, that the T.S. is first of all a universal Brotherhood, not a Society for phenomena and occultism.” (HPB, ML, L. 138, p. 468)
52 - “How little this principle of Universal Brotherhood is understood by the masses of mankind, how seldom its transcendent importance is recognized, may be seen in the diversity of opinions and fictitious interpretations regarding the Theosophical Society. This Society was organized on this one principle, the essential Brotherhood of Man, as herein briefly outlined and imperfectly set forth. It has been assailed as Buddhistic and anti-Christian, as though it could be both these together, when both Buddhism and Christianity, as set forth by their inspired founders, make brotherhood the one essential of doctrine and of life.” (HPB, quoting J.D. Buck, in The Key to Theosophy, p. 18)
53 - “The members of the Theosophical Society at large are free to profess whatever religion or philosophy they like, or none if they so prefer, provided they are in sympathy with, and ready to carry out one or more of the three Objects of the Association. The Society is a philanthropic and scientific body for the propagation of the idea of brotherhood on practical instead of theoretical lines.” (HPB, The Key to Theosophy, p. 19)
54 - “You may remember how, very early in the life of the Society, one of the Masters wrote to Mr. Sinnett that They do not come out of their age-long seclusion simply to teach a few people in an occult club. To Them, the teaching of the Brotherhood of man, the acceptance of that teaching, the willing work to forward the life of Brotherhood (...) that is the greatest Object of the Society; and knowledge is only valuable as it makes one more effective in carrying that Message to the world. And so, as it was put to Mr. Sinnett, the really important thing for the Society is: To teach and to live Brotherhood.” (Annie Besant, The Theosophical Society and the Occult Hierarchy, p. 19)
As was the intention of this chapter, we believe that
we have shown in the above quotations that, at least in the letters of the
Adepts (who are said to have attained Theosophy permanently) and in accordance
with the view of the great leaders of the TS, the principle or law of the
universal brotherhood of humanity, as well as the practical example of an
organization that embodies it, is not only the most important and decisive
aspect of the work of the TS but also “its master idea.” We hope, therefore, to have proved
how closely related Theosophy is to living and teaching the world the principle
or law of the universal brotherhood of humanity.