By George S. Arundale

Of the National Educational Service (India)

Theosophical Publishing House Adyar Chennai India, 1918


this is part 2 of 2 - click here for part 1




THE Master proceeds to explain that when you become a pupil of one of the great Masters "you may always try the truth of your thought by laying it beside His". He explains that the pupil is one with the Master, and only needs to put back his thought into the Master's to see at once whether it agrees. This remark obviously does not apply to pupils yet on probation, but only to those whose consciousness is in some wonderful way blended with that of their Master. Many people have said to me that they cannot understand how this laying of the thought beside that of the Master can be accomplished. The only explanation I can think of is that the pupil who is accepted by the Master may always listen, if he will, to the great harmony which the Master sends forth into the world. Any thought the pupil has either harmonises with the Master's harmony, or is a discord, and in this way the pupil somehow feels whether his thought is true or not. If it is true it gives him a sense of fuller life, and causes him, as it were, to glow throughout his being. If the thought is not true, it gives him a sense of discomfort and of being ill at ease. He feels, in some way, out of tune with things, and [Page 144] intuitively knows that he is not as genuine as he ought to be. Probably most people have this feeling in greater or lesser degree. At a certain stage when conscience becomes active, we know in a general way what thoughts are constructive and what thoughts are destructive in our nature. We have certain ideals, and we know, at least, whether we are, on the whole, living up to these ideals or not. Indeed such people may always ask the question: " What would the Master think about this ? What would the Master say or do under these circumstances ?" But the pupil of the Masters has these feelings with very much greater intensity, and the only way in which I can describe the difference between the thought which harmonises and the thought which does not, is by telling you that the former gives a sense of freshness and clearness, while the latter causes a clouded and uncomfortable sensation. It is of course possible to be so immersed in one's thoughts and actions as to shut oneself off from the Master's consciousness, and very often thoughtlessly think or do or feel things which do not make us feel nearly as uncomfortable as they ought to, because we do not take the trouble to test them in the light of the Master's consciousness. We identify ourselves so entirely with the lower planes of Nature that we cannot listen to the voice of the spirit, and it very often happens that we go through a whole series of wrong thoughts or feelings or actions before awakening to the fact that we have made a mistake. Especially in times like the present, when the great [Page 145] world-crisis concentrates our energy so very much in purely worldly activities, there is a danger of forgetting that it is the Great Teachers who order the destinies of Nations and who guide Their peoples to right action.


We cannot expect, therefore, that the ordinary individual will be able continually to think that which the Master would think, or say, or do under such and such circumstances. But anyone who has a definite link with his Teacher ought to be able constantly to hear the harmony of his Master's life, and so almost automatically to accept this, and to reject that, thought or action which may come to him in the course of his daily life. As a piece of general advice I would urge students to live, just at present especially, as much in their ideals as possible, so as to allow these ideals to become as dominant as may be. The ideal may be a great Teacher or a great principle, but now is the time to keep it strongly in mind, and to prevent all attacks upon it from becoming successful. At the present time we are at the stage of a conflict between ideals and worn-out forms, between the New Age and the Old, and our ideals are therefore specially susceptible of attack because the Old wishes to remain in possession, and strives to kill that which would take its place. In some ways at the present time it is easier to have ideals because the dawn of the New Age stimulates them almost [Page 146] prematurely. On the other hand it is easier also to abandon ideals and to accept worn-out conventionalities and general world conditions.


There is always a temptation to move slowly with the majority rather than to lead with the few. Leadership is hard work and involves not only much sacrifice, but also much sorrow and disappointment. It involves also the ridicule, contempt and disapproval of your ordinary surroundings. Do not imagine for a moment that any leader the world has ever produced has gone through life to the plaudits of his fellow men. We may not, at present, be ready for leadership, but now is the time to make a beginning, and the making of a beginning consists in trying to understand what our ideals are, and to adhere firmly to them. That is the first stage towards leadership, for the Master does not need among His pupils any who are not ready for leadership or who are not ready at least for that training which leads to leadership. The preliminary stage is to learn to stand on your own feet; to give such help as you can to others, and to ask as little as you can from them. It is good that others should help you, but it is your business to do without such help as much as you can. I do not suggest that the help, if offered, should be rejected. It is as blessed to receive as it is to give, and the blessing comes both to the receiver as well as to the one who gives. But what I wish to lay [Page 147] stress on is that we must not depend on the help of others, because our task in life is to help others who still need to depend upon the strength they may be able to get from the outside. The way in which this works out in practice is more a subject for psychology than for these elementary papers on At the Feet of the Master. Nothing is more complicated than progress on the Path. I only wish to indicate here a few general principles, so that these may be known and studied. Each of them will work out differently in different people according to their respective temperaments, but the principle remains the same in all cases.


I do not suppose it is possible for any of us to practise perfectly the Master's statement: "You must never do or say or think what you cannot imagine the Master as doing or saying or thinking". He places that as an ideal and asks you to work towards it as earnestly as you can. It takes a long time to get, one's various bodies in order, and no one should be despondent either because he cannot bring order out of chaos all at once, or because he often fails. I have never yet heard that the Master condemns failure, but I do know that He expects us to go on trying, however often we fail.

We are then told of various ways in which we must try to harmonise our own lives with those of the great [Page 148] Teachers. We are told to be true in speech — accurate and without exaggeration. Exaggeration is a most common fault among us all, specially among those of a highly imaginative temperament. We do not exaggerate because we are wilfully desirous of perverting the truth, but because our astral bodies like violent vibrations, and because we like to create a definite effect upon our surrounding's. Facts as they are might not have the effect either of stimulating the astral body, or of arresting the attention of our surroundings. When they do not have this effect we intensify them so as to get the result we want. The effect is to acquire a loose habit of thinking, of feeling, and speaking, and sooner or later people will cease to trust us, and so our power of usefulness in the world will be considerably diminished and we shall be further from, not nearer to, the Master's service. In the pain produced by having great eagerness to help, and at the same time being powerless to help, we shall learn how to help without exaggerating, or in any other way causing things to appear that which, in reality, they are not. Many people complain that their circumstances interfere so seriously with their eagerness to be of service. One of the causes of this may be that in the past they;have not used truthfully the powers they then had. So they have to learn in the present life what it is to have eagerness, and yet to be shut off from its application.

We are told not to attribute motives to another, which, again, is one of the commonest of our [Page 149] faults. We see the act or the thought or the feeling, and we immediately interpret the cause. My own experience has been that most people act from reasons that never enter one's mind when one is criticizing them. In my own case I know to how small an extent people really know the motives which underlie my actions, and I must assume that this is true of other people as well. People have their own troubles and sorrows and griefs, and very often they act under the influence of these troubles and sorrows or griefs, although the action itself, from the standpoint of the outsider, cannot have any possible connection with them. The greater the leader, the more he interprets kindly the attitude of other people to him. I have often wondered why Mrs. Besant allowed herself so often to be deceived, as it seemed to me, when she must surely have known that those who were deceiving her were doing so from evil motives; but I believe that at a certain stage you can only think in a kindly way about people, and while it is true that you may in some ways be more easily deceived, yet because your thoughts are thoughts of goodwill the deceit recoils upon the deceiver and earns for him a terrible lesson. Moreover, by thus generating a continuous stream of goodwill you acquire a power that somehow or other prevents people acting towards you as they might were you less pure of heart, and it is clear that your capacity for serving the Master is immensely increased by a purity of thought which no adverse external circumstances can besmirch. [Page 150]

One of the most valuable pieces of advice given in At the Feet of the Master is: "If you hear a story against anyone, do not repeat it, it may not be true, and even if it is, it is kinder to say nothing". The human race seems to have a special penchant for repeating stories about other people, and I imagine that half, at least, of the world's sorrows and troubles are caused by this pernicious habit of exaggeration, which is due to lack of power of controlling our various bodies, which are always craving for excitement of some kind.

We are told also "to think well before speaking, lest you fall into inaccuracy", We are far too impetuous and impulsive both in speech and action, and if we could be a little calmer, more contemplative, more self-controlled, we should speak more deliberately and with a greater sense of responsibility. But many of us, I am sorry to say, are like butterflies, flying hither and thither, and caring little about the result of speech or feeling or action, provided we enjoy them at the time. We are too prone to imagine that the future can take care of itself, but when the future comes we often wish that we had paid a little more attention beforehand to its construction.


Then, again, we must avoid pretending to be that which we are not. This is a most difficult matter for many people. We are often in the habit of pretending [Page 151] in order to create an effect, in order to induce other people to give us more attention and respect than that to which we are, from our condition, entitled. If only people would realise that the more natural they are the more effective and useful they must necessarily be. Sooner or later people cannot help seeing through pretence, and then the castle which you have been at such pains to build up dissolves into thin air. You are left in your nakedness, and the world turns away from you. Many people try to induce others to believe that they have powers which they do not possess, and then, of course, begins a series of deceptions which some day overwhelm them. On the other hand I do not think it is a mistake for people sometimes to imagine themselves as they hope to be in the future, provided they do not allow this imagination to deceive others. If you can imagine yourself to be more kindly than you are, and if you try to make that imagination a fact in the outer world, then the imagination may be valuable. If you imagine yourself to be truthful when, as a matter of fact, you are untruthful, then your imagination, if carried into practice so far as you are able, will help to stimulate in you the growth of truth. If you imagine yourself to be purer than you normally are, and if you make this imagination a kind of embodied reminder to you of the need for purity, then you are likely to grow in this respect. Imagination of this kind is far different from the pretence of which the Master speaks, for it is a clearing away of the obstruction [Page 152] between the outer world and the light of your soul, while pretence is an effort to deceive the world into believing that your nature is better than you are actually trying to make it. It is good that your friends should think well of you, that they should think better of you than you deserve, but you must not yourself try to deceive them. If they think that you are really better than you are, it may not be necessarily wise for you to disillusion them, but at least you must try to live up to the standard which they have created for you. A leader is very often much greater in the eyes of his followers than he is in reality, and may feel, therefore, almost as if he were deceiving his followers, and that he ought to make them understand that he is far more ordinary than they think. I do not think he is at all bound to take this course, partly because it would not help his followers at all, and partly because if he is a true leader he is striving day by day to rise to the needs of his followers, and to the ideal which he is to them. Apart from this, remember the Master's words: "All pretence is a hindrance to the pure light of truth, which should shine through you as sunlight shines through clear glass".


Two more points are emphasised. One, that we must learn to distinguish between the selfish and the unselfish, and the second that we must learn gradually to realise that good is in everyone and everything, "no matter how evil he or it may appear on the [Page 153] surface". "Selfishness", says the Master, "has many forms, and when you think you have finally killed it in one of them, it arises in another as strongly as ever". The only way to get rid of selfishness is to concentrate your thoughts or feelings, or your actions, on the service of other people, then you will have no room for selfishness. Selfishness only arises when we think too much of our small selves, and too little of those larger selves to which others too belong.

Finally, let me quote that beautiful passage which concludes the Master's observations on discrimination: "You can help your brother through that which you have in common with him, and that is the Divine Life; learn how to arouse that in him, learn how to appeal to that in him; so shall you save your brother from wrong". It is essential we should realise that we are not apart from the sinner any more than we are apart from the saint. Mrs. Besant has often laid stress on the fact that while we are very eager to claim unity with the saint, we are far less eager to acknowledge unity with the sinner. Sinners and saints share a common life, and are striving towards a common goal, and the condition of our gaining strength and help from the saint is that of giving strength and help to the so-called sinner. After all the sinner is merely ignorant, and we ought to know by this time how ignorant we ourselves are. We are all sinners in some degree, and we are all thankful for whatever help we can get. Let us earn the help from others above us by cheerfully and thankfully giving help and strength to others less evolved than ourselves. [Page 154]



WE have now come to the second of the great qualifications given by the Master — that of Desirelessness, and at the outset of His remarks He points out that people feel that they are their desires. I suppose that this feeling of unity is part of growth, for unless we have it we do not fully understand the desire with which we identify ourselves. We are all made up of our likings and dislikings, and so much are these part of our daily lives that we feel that if these were taken away "there will be no self left". As we pass through the portal of death into the intermediate stages which precede rebirth we are taught that these desires and likings and dislikings are not really part of ourselves, for we learn that only by withdrawing from them can we reach the higher regions of the heaven world. But we need not wait until death for the lesson as to the need for desirelessness. Alcyone remarks — for it is he who speaks in this sentence, not the Master — that those who think there will be no self left if their desires are taken away "are only they who have not seen the Master; in the light of [Page 155] His holy Presence all desire dies, but the desire to be like Him".

Alcyone makes this remark with the memory of the great unifying fact of standing in the presence of the Master. I myself remember on one occasion standing in the presence of one of the greatest of earth's Teachers and experiencing the most complete sense of unity I have ever known. In the first moment I felt acutely my own unworthiness, but in a flash that was past. He lifted me into Himself, as it were, and I was one with Him — seeing with Him, being with Him. So I can of my own experience testify to the truth of the statement that "in the light of the Master's presence all desire dies, save the desire to be like Him". And the desire to be like Him is immediately accomplished by the Master's power of drawing us away from the smaller self. The Master feels so strongly His unity with us that it temporarily compels the feeling on our part of unity with Him. But we must remember that this feeling is a temporary one, and that when out of His presence, away from His compelling influence, we tend to fall back into the illusion that if our likings and dislikings are taken away from us there will be no self left. Fortunately, as we are told, desirelessness does not depend upon being in the presence of the Master. His great value to us consists in His continually emphasising the true desirelessness in His own nature, and sending out strong impulses which gradually tend to awaken wise desirelessness in us. We, on our side, must be alive to these great [Page 156] impulses, and must gradually train ourselves to make use of them. Now they are always playing about us, but they cannot affect the God within, save infinitesimally, unless and until the God within, of Its own volition, wills Its upward climb. In connection with desirelessness the Master points out that "discrimination has already shown you that the things which most men desire, such as wealth and power, are not worth having; when this is really felt, not merely said, all desire for them ceases". Hence we must begin by finding out what things are worth having and what things are not worth having, and gradually we eliminate those we realise to be no longer worth having until at last we find, so far as our own evolution is concerned, the only thing remaining worth having.


At our varying stages of evolution various things are right to be desired. Most men, we are told, desire wealth and power, and it may be that these desires are a necessary stage for them. For we only reach the higher desires by climbing upon the down-trodden forms to those which are higher. So unless men desire wealth and power, and through such desire proceed to realise that wealth and power confer merely temporary benefits, they will not be ready for the next stage, which may be "to gain heaven, or to attain personal liberation from rebirth". So you must not imagine that because an individual [Page 157] has a desire which you have outgrown, therefore he ought to have outgrown it too. In the matter of desire always learn "to mind your own business", and do not expect other people to conform to your standards, any more than you can imagine the Master as limited by ideals which, to you, are the highest conceivable. It is not for you or for me to say at what stage an individual ought to have realised that any particular desire ceases to be worth having. If he wants an experience, if he desires an experience, it is probably because he has not yet passed the stage appropriate to the experience. Of course, if we are in charge of young people it becomes our duty to try and make their desires as noble and unselfish as possible, but we must, at the same time, remember that they may wish in their young lives to run rapidly through a series of desires which we, in this particular life, have managed for the time being to outgrow. I often hear of young people saying that while they feel that in the long run Theosophy is the only thing worth working for, for a little time they would like to experience the ordinary worldly life. You and I perhaps, having experienced the ordinary worldly life, know its valuelessness and desire it no longer. Possibly we may have substituted that which, to us, is a higher desire. Our young friends will doubtless come to this stage, but there is no reason to suppose that they may not have to pass through a series of experiences similar to those which have led you and me to our present position. The young physical body desires above all [Page 158] things contact with an outer world which it has not had so great an opportunity of knowing as have had older people. We sometimes jump to the conclusion, therefore, that young people are not as earnest as we are ourselves. This may have been a conclusion to which elder people may have come when we were young, and when we ourselves turned from those ideals which the elder people of our generation had already reached. A desire is a desire, and does not cease to be desire because it ought not to be desired. The only way to cause cessation of desire is to experience its object, and while I do not by this wish to suggest that we should rush headlong into the satisfaction of all possible desires that come haphazard into our consciousness. I nevertheless feel that it is not in the least degree helpful to baulk desires which are insistent. I should, in the case of young people, proceed along the lines of strengthening the powers of discrimination, so that they themselves may be able to decide between the various types of desire, so as to select the more noble as against the less noble, the less selfish as against the more selfish,


That is why in At the Feet of the Master the qualification of Discrimination comes first. First get a standard based upon past experience, and upon the realisation that certain desires afford less permanent satisfaction than others. This standard will be the main factor in helping people to turn away [Page 159] from desires which tend to make them identify themselves with their lower bodies. I do not say to young people that they ought to have this desire, and ought not to have that; I say to them that they should pay attention to their experience, and make their experience their guide. Those who feel to a very considerable extent at the mercy of their desires, may very well make a point of carefully reading all that the Master says with regard to discrimination. Remember how He asks us to distinguish between our various bodies and ourselves; between right and wrong; between the important and the unimportant; between the more useful and the less useful. Remember how He advises us "that the small thing which is directly useful in the Master's work is far better worth doing than a large thing which the world would call good". Then again, remember how He tells us that "God is Wisdom as well as Love", and that the more wisdom we have the more we can manifest God. Then He emphasises the need for truth, for unselfishness, and for realising the God in everyone and everything. In these various ways our discrimination becomes reliable and helpful, and so we are led to a realisation of that which desirelessness really means.

We must not forget, when we are reading what the Master tells us about desirelessness, that He is addressing a pupil about to pass through the portal of Initiation, and His remarks do not necessarily therefore apply to those who have not yet reached that stage. They do, however, represent an ideal, and [Page 160] as those who read these pages should be within reasonable distance of discipleship, it is well that they should standardise their ideals as far as possible in conformity with those required by men and women already accepted as the Master's apprentices. The spiritual condition of the pupil addressed in these pages becomes clear when we read that he must not fall into the error of desiring heaven, or personal liberation from rebirth. "If you have forgotten self altogether, you cannot be thinking when that self shall be set free, or what kind of heaven it shall have. I think the Master in this passage is probably referring to the fact that the candidate for Initiation dedicates himself to the service of the world, and so no longer desires heaven for himself, or his own personal liberation from the round of births and deaths. This does not mean that for many people such desires may not be entirely proper. They are only not appropriate for those of us who wish to prepare ourselves for the Master's service, since the Master's service means the service of the world, and forgetfulness of the individual self.

How difficult that service is, is made clear when the Master tells us "that all selfish desire binds, however high may be its object, and until you have got rid of it you are not wholly free to devote yourself to the work of the Master". There are very few pupils ready to devote themselves to the work of the Master! Speaking as one of the humblest, I notice how considerably my own selfish desires bind, and interfere with the duties I owe to my Teachers. [Page 161] But my own condition may perhaps give comfort to others, in that they may realise that we are not expected to get rid of all selfish desire before we can hope to become pupils of one or other of the great Teachers. But we are expected, at least, to make Their work the dominant activity of our lives, and to be willing at all times to subordinate our individual concerns to the needs of the world for which we strive to live. However this may be, selfish desire does bind, and so there are but few who can consider themselves as true servants of the Master. Indeed, desire is a most subtle form of illusion, and the Master shows us how many subtle desires there are which, perhaps, we are inclined to call quite natural.


"Surely there is no harm in wanting to see the result of work, or to see how much we help other people?" I quite agree that for most of us such desires are natural, inevitable, and perhaps helpful, inasmuch as they may make us work and help other people. On the other hand, the Master tells us that such desires imply want of trust. "When you pour out your strength to help, there must be a result whether you can see it or not; if you know the Law you know this must be so". So far as I am concerned, it may be well to confess at once that I often desire to see the result of my work, and to see how much I have helped people. I think I may go so far as to disclaim any desire for people's gratitude, [Page 162] though gratitude is certainly a most pleasant experience. But I realise quite clearly how necessary it is to have desirelessness as regards the result of work, and as regards the amount of helpfulness an individual receives in relation to the amount given. So I am trying gradually to work towards this, and to do right for the sake of right and not in the hope of reward — not in the hope of seeing the result. The Master points out it is a question of love. The intensity and purity of the love determines the amount of desirelessness. If we love an individual we give him of our best, whatever the result may be; if we love our work we pour our whole hearts into it and have no time to think of the result accomplished. We leave results to take care of themselves, as indeed we are justified in doing. Love is the great purifier of desire, and while it is true that many people are inclined to mistake passion for love, true love is utterly self-sacrificing and derives the completest joy from the mere process of giving. As the Master says: "You must give yourself to the service of the world because you love it, and cannot help giving yourself to it".


The Master proceeds to explain to us that it is very unwise to desire further powers until we have adequate control over those we already possess. As He says, they will come when He knows that it is [Page 163] best for us to have them. Most of us who are really in earnest soon find out that we have as much as we can do, indeed more than we can do, to use wisely and moderately the powers we already possess — the powers that ordinary people possess. We find, too, that we are very far from having learned how to use the force already at our command, and that it will take us a very long time indeed to be sure of ourselves. I always wonder at the conceit of people who want to acquire psychic powers, in other words, powers beyond those which we normally possess. Psychic powers belong to a world different from the physical, and it seems to me to be very undesirable to want to add the experiences of another world until we are fairly sure of our attitude in connection with the experiences the physical world affords us. Some people have certain psychic faculties. Perhaps they see nature spirits, or auras, or they can read the thoughts and feelings of other people. But the fact that they can see these things does not mean that, therefore, they are able to draw correct judgments from such sight. We know how difficult it is with the waking consciousness in the physical brain to draw just conclusions from all we see around us. This is none the less difficult when our waking consciousness is transferred to the astral plane, and is in contact with the experiences appropriate to that plane. To understand the world in which we live for many hours of the day is difficult enough, and for my part I think it is just as well to confine our attention to that world until those [Page 164] wiser than ourselves deem it desirable to impose a greater burden on our judgment than has hitherto existed. If I see a certain colour in a person's aura, how can I be really sure what that colour means in connection with that special individual ? And even if I am certain, what means has that individual, who perhaps is not a clairvoyant as I am myself, of judging the extent of my infallibility ? In the Theosophical Society we have many people who profess to see this, to experience that, to hear messages, and so forth. Personally, if ever I judge at all, I judge of people by their actions as I see them, and by the extent to which self-sacrifice seems to dominate their lives. Unfortunately, however, we have in our ranks people who long to be continually in contact with the mysterious, and who are willing to believe, to almost any extent, that which is out of the ordinary. The Master teaches us that we belong to Him according as we make service of our fellow creatures an ever increasing part of our lives. That is the standard, and those who live lives of continual self-surrender are alone entitled to receive respect for statements made in connection with conditions which the ordinary individual has no means of judging. The fact of the matter is that the more an individual really has these psychic powers the less he talks about them, the less he imposes them upon other people. He uses them for helping, but realises at the same time that it is not wise to ask other people to attach credence to that of which they have so far had no experience. As the Master observes; "In any case the time [Page 165] and strength that it takes to gain them might be spent in work for others". In the course of development these powers will undoubtedly come, and those who truly rely upon the Master will not trouble about them until He gives directions as to their unfoldment, or unless they have come naturally and without effort. If only people would remember that it ought to take us all our time to use the powers we already have in the service of our surroundings ! [Page 166]



THE Master then lays stress upon a few very common desires which the candidate for Initiation or discipleship must strive to avoid. It is a great pleasure to many of us to appear clever, to shine in conversation. But in the Master's world nothing is said save that which is true, kind, and helpful. I say deliberately, "in the Master's world", because I am afraid that this direction can only be successfully carried out by those who either are Adepts, or are approaching the Adept level. Nevertheless, we must gradually strive towards this ideal, and perhaps take one of the conditions at a time. We might, for, example, determine for a certain period of time to be utterly truthful, and then by degrees qualify truth with kindness and helpfulness. It is a matter for experiment and gradual development. The useful maxim: "Think twice before you speak", might, for you and me, be extended to: "Think seven times before you speak". I am often told by people to whom I give this advice that anyone following these directions would hardly ever be able to say anything at all, or that by the time he had thought seven times the necessity [Page 167] for the remark would have passed ! This is quite probable, and it might be worth while to remember that most of our conversation is both useless and unprofitable, and there are many remarks which after reflection we wish we had not made. The teaching comes to this: that we should be deliberate and not impulsive; that we should realise that truth is far more helpful than outward splendour; and that, as the Master points out, we must get used to thinking carefully before speaking, for as we grow truths are given to us which it would not necessarily be helpful to utter to the outside world. Above all we want t» be helpful, not to appear learned.


"Another common desire which you must sternly repress", says the Master, "is the wish to meddle in other men's business". Note that the Master uses; the word "sternly", indicating this to be a desire to which we are all uncommonly susceptible. I suppose that more harm is done by yielding to this desire than people at all realise, not only because we interfere with another person's responsibilities, but also because we imagine that everyone else must look upon things from the same point of view from which we ourselves regard them. We are all at different levels of evolution: all have different duties, different conceptions of life, different lines of activity, and have different parts of the plan to help in working out. So we must never forget that each individual is [Page 168] working out his destiny in his own way, and while there is no reason we should not help him if he asks for help, or if we feel we can usefully be of assistance to him, we must never forget that we cannot possibly see things from his standpoint, nor can we imagine what his "dharma" under certain circumstances would be. There are circumstances, of course, in which certain steps have to be taken, in which a certain course of action has to be adopted, and such steps, or such course of action, may possibly be in opposition to the views and principles of some members of the body which has to take the decision. For example, in the present War there are people who believe that the War ought never to have been begun at all, and yet it is quite possible to imagine that the War is inevitable, and that people who believe that it ought never to have been begun must, to a certain extent, be ignored. Sometimes the will of the majority must prevail; sometimes the will of the minority; at all events, it does not follow that everybody must have his, or her, way at all times.

But this is a far different matter from judging other people, or from trying to interfere with what, after all, is their business. "Everyone", says the Master, "has full right to free thought and speech and action". But, of course, he must not interfere with the freedom of other people, except under very abnormal circumstances. We constantly hear, at the present time, of such freedom being interfered with, and of various kinds of oppression being directed towards those who do not think with the [Page 169] majority. The point is a very difficult one because, in such difficult times as these, I can conceive it necessary, on occasion, for much individual freedom to be surrendered for the sake of the freedom of the whole. I do not wish to lay stress on this aspect of the situation, because it would involve me in a long line of argument outside the particular object with which At the Feet of the Master was written. Suffice it to say that much turns upon the way in which we define the word "freedom", and before you allow yourself to suppose that the Master has laid a ban on all restriction, just think over the question as to what freedom really means, and try to fit in your definition with the fact that perfect freedom means perfect service. The point on which I imagine the Master is laying stress in this particular paragraph is that we must not imagine that that which is true for us is necessarily true for everybody else — or ought to be ! In other words we must grow increasingly tolerant. You claim freedom to do what you think proper. Other people must have the same freedom, and are entitled to the same respect and appreciation for their sincerity of purpose as you would unhesitatingly claim for your own. These remarks specially apply, of course, to the outer differences which people so often think to be of supreme importance. The colour of a man's skin; his religion; his customs ! All these largely affect the judgments of many people. Some of us believe that our religion alone is the true one, that our customs alone are sensible customs, that the colour of our skin is typical of the [Page 170] highest stage of evolution at present reached. We instinctively depreciate those who do not conform to standards to which we imagine that we ourselves conform, "He is not in our set. He belongs to the lower classes, he does not eat as we eat, his habits are not ours" — all these may, no doubt, be statements of fact, but they should not be implications of inferiority. It is for this reason that the Theosophical Society couples with its declaration as to Universal Brotherhood an insistence on the unity of all great religions, and a declaration that distinctions of sex and colour do not affect the essential unity of mankind.




People who are keen about other people's business are generally uncertain about their own, and are eager that other people should conform to their own standards in order that these standards may have behind them the strength of many. On the other hand, behind your own standards of life should be the strength of your own purity of conviction. Strength does not lie in numbers but in sincerity of belief. People sometimes believe that law ultimately rests upon force, but as a matter of fact law rests upon consent, for it is impossible to force a law upon an individual who does not choose to obey it. You may kill the body but you cannot kill the spirit, and this is what many governments have found out to their cost. The Romans killed the bodies of the Christian martyrs, but the spirit of the Christian [Page 171] martyrs built the Church which has endured long after Imperial Rome ceased to exist.


You will notice that the Master takes care to observe that there is no harm in suggesting to an individual that he is doing wrong if you feel it would be helpful to tell him so. Parents, for example, often have the duty of telling their children that they think they are wrong, and sometimes they have to restrain them from doing that which they think to be wrong or unwise. There is never any harm in placing your knowledge at the disposal of other people, but you must not imagine that you can force them to believe that which you happen to know and believe. Experience must always come from within, and while people may sometimes act according to your advice, even though they do not necessarily understand it, the only good karma they will get will lie in the action and not in the motive, for the motive is yours. Theirs is the good karma of obedience, but yours is the karma of knowledge, and the karma of knowledge is even better than that of obedience.


People are often very anxious to live near one of the great Teachers so as, probably, to be relieved of the responsibility and anxiety of using their own judgment, thus learning through mistakes. They do not understand that they would, under these circumstances, only be using the Master's judgment instead of striving to develop their own. From time to time the Master can stimulate, but man is indeed the master of his destiny and must work it out for himself. Those people are most helpful in the [Page 172] world who have themselves gone through many experiences, who have had to suffer the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune", and who have gained from the buffeting a strength which they can use, not only for themselves, but in the service of others also. When, through experience, our judgment and discrimination have become keen and strong, then is it that the actual presence of the Master might be of very great advantage. In the meantime, while He exercises a paternal watchfulness over us, He leaves us to mind our own business, and to learn what is the nature of true freedom.




I should like to lay great stress upon the Master's warning that we should not go and gossip with some third person about another person, unless, of course, there is some special, and helpful, reason for so doing. But many people spend their time in taking other people, to pieces, enjoying the gossip because it has a stimulating effect upon the astral or Mental bodies. But such action is, as the Master says, "extremely wicked". It is wicked because it creates thought forms which tend to fasten upon the individual's weakness, and make it more difficult for the victim to over come his deficiencies. We irritate the sore places and the result, of course, is that they take infinitely longer to heal. It is very difficult to bear this advice in mind, because gossip is so extraordinarily common a failing, and many people would [Page 173] have nothing to say at all were they to cease gossiping. Nevertheless, we are continually being told that our speech should be helpful, and gossip is very distinctly harmful.




I can quite imagine people saying that they would not like anyone to tell them if they were doing wrong, not so much because they dislike to be told but, probably, because they fear the manner of the telling. It is perfectly true that some people take a delight in pointing out to others their mistakes and weaknesses, and in pointing them out in a comparatively cruel manner. They point them out harshly and unsympathetically, without making the person feel they are with him in the effort to correct his fault. Everything depends the way in which you do things. There are some people who have the faculty of never giving offence, no matter what they say. Others can hardly open their lips without causing trouble. It all depends on what is behind the action, behind the speech, behind the thought, behind the feeling. Anyone who is genuinely desirous of helping, and who has a strong feeling of sympathy for others, can always safely point out to his friends any faults he may think they have, because his manner of pointing out would be to show these individuals that he had a real brotherly sympathy for them, and that he assumes no superior attitude, being conscious of his own defects. On the whole, however, we should [Page 174] realise that we have as much as we can do in strengthening our own weak places, and the more we can do to emphasise other people's good qualities, the more we shall help them to grow. In this connection I should like to point out the value of a book written by Jerome K. Jerome, entitled The Pacing of the Third Floor Back. In this book one of the characters — a stranger — is continually laying stress on people's potential qualities. He goes to a boarding house in which are a number of quite ordinary people, and by identifying himself with their higher natures he causes them automatically to drop the foolishnesses which had been making their lives so ineffective. Hitherto they had all been looking contemptuously at each other and had been criticising each other, and the result was that each became confirmed in his own vulgarities and found himself estranged from his fellows. The coming of the stranger altered all this, and when he came into the room everybody's lower nature retreated into the background and the higher stood forth triumphant. You may say, if you like, that he idealised people. Indeed, Mrs. Besant is often accused of being deceived by people because she trusts them or because she idealises them, "because she does not know them as they really are", people would say. As a matter of fact it is because she does know them as they really are that she idealises them. What we see in them is merely a temporary phase; what she sees in them is the eternal reality, and it is the reality that she is trusting. The reality is thankful for the trust, however [Page 175] much the temporary lower nature may seem to be unworthy of it, and the result is that the individual whom Mrs. Besant trusts, or whom she idealises, is infinitely the better for the trust and the idealisation. People's lower natures may sometimes take advantage of her, but the ego has been respected and recognised, the result being that it acquires increased strength to dominate its lower vehicles. I believe that this attitude is the attitude we should all strive increasingly to adopt. The test of spirituality in an individual is his capacity to pierce through the outer form into the inner reality, to dismiss as fleeting that which many of us might regard as of the essence, and to associate himself with the reality which most of us may be unable to see. Each one of us has his defects, and many of our friends stop short at these defects, but the leader draws out from the individual his higher self, and calls upon that to dominate the ignorances, and gradually to diminish their obstructive power. The leader is one who induces a sense of capacity, of life, of energy, of power to surmount obstacles, to overcome difficulties. He is able to do this by evoking the God within, and his power to evoke the God within is determined by the extent to which his own inner nature has become strong through experience.




The Master points out that it is our duty to interfere in cases of cruelty. In such cases it is not a question [Page 176] of "minding your own business" but of protecting the weak against the ignorance of the strong. And there are, of course, certain ignorances which cannot be tolerated. If we see a case of cruelty to an animal or child it is our duty to interfere, but not with brutality or passion. We sometimes become furious at the wrongs done to other people, and such fury is a necessary stage, but the power and force of the fury could better be employed in other ways. Anger never really helps in the long run; people are much more dominated by calm than they are by storm.


We are told also that if we see anyone breaking the law of the country we must inform the authorities. This is one of the phrases least understood by readers of this little book. They do not see that our primary duty is to be on the alert against laws which we conceive to be wrong, and to fight bad laws as actively as we can. So long as we acquiesce in the law we must accept it as part of the machinery for establishing peace throughout the land. Those who break the law are, under the circumstances, therefore, disturbers of the peace, and our business as good citizens is to see that the peace is as little disturbed as possible. People so often declaim against a law without taking the slightest trouble, either to agitate for its repeal, or deliberately to submit themselves to its provisions in order to show its injustice. Our first duty is to help to make the laws of the land as righteous as we can make them. If we are so doing, then we must help to see that they are not broken. The difficulty is that [Page 177] people pay little attention to the laws of the land, and only take an interest in them when they are strongly brought into conflict with them. You will notice in Mrs. Besant's Autobiography how she always gave notice when she was going to do anything wrong, in order that the law might be applied, because she knew that the existence of law in the country was the only safeguard for individual freedom, and while she thought it her duty sometimes to fight the law, she fought it openly, and with a willingness to come under its authority. Indeed, she always went out of her way to assist the authorities to take cognisance of her actions, so that while she might be breaking the law she would not actually be breaking the peace.


People sometimes tell me that they would not be traitors to individuals fleeing from justice and who trust in them. I do not believe that such an attitude is necessarily true loyalty, either to the individual or to the State. If an individual has offended against the laws of the country, it is necessary that his offence should be brought home to him for the sake of experience. If the laws of the country are unjust, we should already have been busy in striving to have them replaced by better edicts. It means that people do not take their citizenship sufficiently earnestly, do not take sufficient trouble about their civic duties, do not realise their individual responsibility for the laws of the land. Those who have no responsibility for the law of the land, and who cannot affect it in any way, are, indeed, in a difficult position, but most of us have such a responsibility, and, having it, must stand [Page 178] by the law while it is law, and seek, if we think proper, to modify such portions as may seem to us unjust. It means, of course, that not only must we be watchful about the laws, but also about the authorities. It often happens that the authorities are men or women who have no business to be authorities at all, who do not know how to use their power wisely; in which case, by informing the authorities, we might be placing the individual in the hands of those whose sense of power overwhelms their sense of justice. So we must be careful to see that we place in positions of authority only those who are worthy of the trust. I quite agree that this takes time, but we must be ceaseless in our efforts to improve the conditions of society, and it is because we do not take these duties seriously enough that we find ourselves in the difficulty of having to choose between our duty to the country in which we live, and our sense of justice in regard to the individual who asks for our protection. The country ought to be able to protect as justly as ourselves, and if it cannot we must help it so to do. Remember also that the welfare of the many is of greater importance than the needs of the one, and we must not allow our personal sympathy for the individual entirely to override the conditions which make for the peace of the country as a whole.




In this connection there often arises the question as to whether it is right to tell a lie to protect another. [Page 179] I have been sometimes asked in meetings whether, if I wanted to protect a refugee from justice, I should be willing to indicate to his pursuers that he had gone in a direction different from that actually taken; My answer is that it all depends upon the circumstances; upon the nature of the wrong done; upon the various points to which I have just alluded. On the other hand, if I choose to tell a lie and to accept the karma for so doing, it is my own business and no one else's. It is quite clear, of course, that people should not lie, but I can conceive, personally, that circumstances might arise in which, rather than tell the truth, I would tell a lie and accept the karma of the evil action. The question is, of course, a very thorny one, and the motive for lying would have to be an extreme one. Under very few circumstances are we justified in telling lies, but I am not, myself, prepared to say that I would never tell one. In asking the question people seem to me to be laying too great a stress on their own personal progress. They do not want to lie, not so much because it is wrong as because it would interfere with their personal progress, and because it would increase their burden of karma. I consider this to be a selfish reason.




The Master concludes by telling us that it is sometimes our duty gently to tell people of their faults, especially if we are placed in charge of them, and I would venture to emphasise that word "gently". [Page 180]Harshness is far too general an attitude of those who desire to correct. I close this with the priceless words: "Mind your own business, and learn the virtue of silence!" [Page 181]






WE now come to the six points of conduct to which attention must be paid by all who are seeking to serve the Master. These six points are, of course, well known to Hindus, since they are specifically dealt with in Hindu religious literature. I do not want to trouble you with the Samskrit names for the various lines of development indicated by the Master. He has used certain English words by way of translation, and we need not trouble about the original terminology.


You will probably have noticed that the Master gave us at the outset Discrimination, because by discrimination we are taught how to distinguish between right and wrong. This capacity is, of course, the foundation of our evolution in the human kingdom. We possess a conscience, that is to say we possess in ourselves the result of past experience whereby we are. able to test experiences as they come along and to accept or reject them according to our knowledge of their uplifting or degrading effect.


Stress is then laid on the qualification of Desirelessness, using the word desirelessness in the true [Page 182] sense of not allowing yourself to be dominated by your desires. As the Master says: "The qualification of Desirelessness shows that the astral body must be controlled", and we are told that the first of the six points of conduct, namely self-control as to the mind, shows that the mental body must be controlled. You may perhaps wonder why this particular qualification is not given a chapter all to itself, as was the qualification of desirelessness with reference to the astral body. As a matter of fact, with most of us, the astral body is more fully developed than the mental body. Our mental body comes to as when we pass from the animal to the human kingdom, and is therefore of comparatively recent growth. The astral body, on the other hand, has been with us during our life in the animal kingdom, and has to a very large extent been the medium through which our growth so far has taken place — the animal, for example, depends for its growth largely on the vibrations of its astral body. The result is that, coming over into the human kingdom with an astral body trained to vibrate in many directions, the new lesson we have to learn is to control it, largely through the help of the new mental body which is, up to a certain point, in the human kingdom the special medium for growth. The Master, therefore, lays great stress on the need for controlling the astral or emotion body, and places this particular qualification in its natural position after the supreme quality of discrimination. [Page 183]



At once the Master takes us to the most important aspect of control of mind — control of temper and of nerves. Calmness of mind is one of the most important qualifications, for unless we possess it there is very little chance of our being able to control our emotions. An agitated thought inevitably reacts on the astral body, and, since the mental body is a more powerful vehicle than the astral, the effect of a disturbed mental body is largely to increase the disturbance of the astral. Then again as regards the nerves which are the means of conveying impressions to and from the brain, it is very necessary to have them under control so that both their receptive and their expressive power may be even. The difficulty always is, especially to those who really mean business and are trying to acquire sympathy and love, that in order to do this they must inevitably make their bodies much more sensitive to outside impressions so that they may respond to them more readily than hitherto. This means that every outside impression affects them much more easily than it would the ordinary individual, and the result is that the nerves become tired of communicating so many responses and impressions, and so tend to get out of hand. Hence irritability and depression — in other words nerve exhaustion. At the higher levels individuals are able to control the response of the nerves to the outside stimuli, and may refuse to part with more nerve power than they can afford to spare, so, while [Page 184] being as sensitive as their younger brethren, they husband their resources more carefully and respond to the best advantage instead of in a haphazard manner. Those of you who have been trying to put into practice the principles given us in At the Feet of the Master may very likely have noticed an increased tendency towards irritability, towards an absence of calmness, even towards a passage through the mind, or through the emotions, of undesirable thoughts and feelings. If you really mean business you may take comfort in the fact that probably much of this is an inevitable concomitant of your efforts towards progress, and much of it belongs rather to the outside than to you — comes from outside sources, but is regarded by you as yours because of your power of imagination. Remember that sympathy and goodwill are largely dependent on imagination, and if you train yourself to imagine along one line you cannot help tending to imagine along another line as well, and you can control your imagination only after you have already exercised it to a considerable extent. I should like to lay great stress on this matter of the imagination, for many people who are doing their best become almost martyrs to imagination — imagine all kinds of difficulties and troubles unnecessarily, imagine all kinds of evil things unnecessarily. On the other hand, just in so far as they are able accurately to imagine the sorrows and troubles of those around them, so far will they be able usefully to help them. At present the world is a very difficult place to live in. There is so much disturbance both on the mental and [Page 185] on the emotional planes that those who are highly sensitive find life in a big town, where masses of people are sending violent forces through these planes, a very difficult business. In the first place, there is much anxiety, much trouble and sorrow, much, hopelessness and despair, much doubt and confusion. All these are like so many blows to the sensitive person, and he often becomes confused as to whether the blow comes from within or without. The world is in a whirl of excitement, and unless one has sufficient power to steady oneself against the whirling forces, one hardly knows whether the excitement is from within or from without.




It is for this reason that religious training generally takes place away from the world, in the sense of away from its outer activities. In older days the teacher and his pupil retired to the forest and lived under the soothing and unifying influences of nature. I am told that the experiment is now being tried of allowing some part of this training to take place in the outer world. If the experiment is successful, progress can obviously become much more rapid, because a larger number of experiences can be crowded within a comparatively short time. On the other hand the strain is infinitely greater, however much more rapid the progress may be, and we have to pay in terms of strain for the quickness with which we may be able to grow. Speaking from my own [Page 186] experience, I would never recommend anyone to offer himself without very careful consideration for such special training as At the Feet of the Master is intended to give. It is all infinitely worth while if you can do it, but it is no use pretending that it is easy or that it has not its moments of extreme sorrow and unhappiness. Such sorrow and unhappiness are undoubtedly due to the lower bodies, and need have no place in the training at all. The fact of the matter is, however, that they are there, and I do not know anyone now on the Path who would not say that, while the goal is worth any effort, nevertheless it does indeed demand an effort of no inconsiderable magnitude. Fortunately there is the normal and ordinary rate of growth, and I myself sometimes wonder why I was not contented with that. Remember, no one can be forced against his will to move more rapidly than the normal rate. No one could have said to me: "You must move more quickly than you want to". What they might say would be : "If you want to move more quickly the opportunity is open to you — it is for you to decide". I can imagine my readers saying it is difficult to know what to decide if you do not know in fact what is before you; you can only decide on the basis of past experience, not on the result of the experiences of other people. This is true, but I think that the ego probably knows what is likely to be before him, that he makes the choice with that knowledge, and that the whole difficulty consists in training the lower bodies to do that which their master wants [Page 187] them to do. Down here, on the physical and on the emotional planes, we are more ignorant than is the ego, for the ego is the direct reflection of the Monad — a spark in the flame of God. Further, our physical and emotional bodies have had things a good deal their own way in the past; we have used them for purposes of growth, and they want to go on being used, even though we no longer need them for this purpose. What we need them for now is that they may become vehicles for the expression of the ego's will. We want them more as messengers than as independent individualities. They have already grown, in the case of those who are candidates for the Path, as fully as is necessary. Their respective functions are established. Force has been generated, and it is now the ego's business to direct it into the proper channels. I do not say that this is the case with everyone. Doubtless there are many people who need much more expression for their physical and emotional bodies than they have hitherto been able to obtain. But that does not apply to us, for our special business is to acquire the qualification of desirelessness.


Remember that our great objective is to vibrate as much as possible in harmony with the vibrations of our Master, so that His force may be able to flow through us uninterruptedly. While we vibrate at one rate, and He at another, the passage of the force through us is very much more difficult, and in many cases almost impossible. What He is telling us, therefore, in At the Feet of the Master is how to harmonise our vibrations with His, so that, all being more or less [Page 188] at the same rate, He may be able with comparatively little effort to send through us His messages to the outer world. Calmness of mind is needed, not only that we may not think hastily, and not only that we may have a peaceful atmosphere into which, and through which, the Master's force may flow, but also that we may be able to meet fearlessly all the troubles and difficulties that come to us when we are being tested as to our strength. The Master wants us, as He says, to make light of the troubles which come into our lives, and to avoid worrying about little things. I think one of the most wonderful passages in the book is where the Master tells us that all that happens to us from the outside — sorrows, troubles, sicknesses, losses — belong to the past and are therefore of no importance. I must candidly confess that I find myself a long way from being able to reach the standard set by our Teacher in this respect. I know it in theory, which, I hope, is some progress in the right direction, but I cannot at present put it into practice. Then I cannot always remember that troublesome things are as transitory as happy ones, although the Master tells us that they are. The fact of the matter is that the Master wants us to remember all the time that we should be the masters of our destinies and not be enslaved by them. What comes to us in the present is what is due to us from the past, and the more cheerfully and happily we bear it, the quicker it will be over. That is of course obvious, but when one is in the midst of trouble one does not know how long it will be before it is over, for [Page 189] it would not be trouble if one could detach oneself from it.




We are told that we cannot alter our sorrows and troubles, so it is useless to worry about them; and indeed I have heard some young friends of mine express these sentiments with the most cordial approval. But I cannot help thinking these young friends of mine refuse to worry because, as a matter of fact, they have nothing to worry about. It is not very wonderful to avoid worrying when you have no worries, but it is a very definite spiritual advance when, having worries, you refuse to allow them to worry you. If I may be allowed to hazard a guess, I imagine that only those of the rank of Master are likely to remain at all times completely joyous and serene. I do not say this in order to give people an opportunity of thinking that they cannot be expected to be joyous and serene. We are all expected to be joyous and serene, but the lesson takes time to learn, and it does not very much matter if there are a certain number of backslidings on the way. People pay far too much attention to their lapses from successful striving in the direction of the Qualifications, not realising that these are inevitable. As little attention as possible should be paid to them. . If we did not often fall by the wayside we should not learn how to sympathise with those who fall perhaps more frequently than we do ourselves — [Page 190] if possible ! Out of failure comes success, and unless we ourselves have had the experience of failure, we cannot help others at times when they most need help, namely when they themselves fail.


Then, again, we are told never to allow ourselves to feel sad or depressed, because it makes other people's lives more difficult. Here again we have a long way to go before we can hope to accomplish the duty thus laid upon us by the Master. At such a time as this its accomplishment is doubly hard, for there are many people who naturally feel depressed because they have no knowledge, as we have, of the laws of Karma and Reincarnation to help them. They have no knowledge of the fact that much that they cannot do in this life they can do in another; of the fact that things they have longed for, but have been unable to accomplish in this life, some day they will be able to achieve, nor do they know that there is no such thing as separation from those they love. With ignorance on all these points it is not astonishing they should be depressed, especially since we, with all this knowledge, cannot help being depressed ourselves. But we must recognise that depression is a manifestation of ignorance, of inability to apply in the right way the knowledge we possess. We must try to throw it off as soon as possible, but this is of course all the more difficult in the midst of a great war which sends its sorrows into the hearts and homes of every one. Above all things we need knowledge if we would dispel depression, and it is for this reason [Page 191] that every effort must be made for movements like the Theosophical Society and the Order of the Star in the East to spread the knowledge they have, especially through books such as At the Feet of the Master, for in this way people may acquire the strength to bear the pressure of evolving life.


One of the ways of avoiding depression is, as we are told in the next paragraph, not to allow our thoughts to wander. If we have had troubles, these troubles have made grooves along which thought and feeling flow easily, and if we allow our thoughts and feelings to wander, they naturally take the easiest channel, and that channel may be the channel fashioned by trouble or by pain. If we let our thoughts wander they may flow along the channel of pain and trouble, and so resuscitate difficulties which perhaps in reality have passed away. Also, if we let our thoughts wander, all kinds of evil thoughts from outside can come into a mind of which we have not full control, and so our brains may become receptacles for undesirable thoughts which we very likely think to be our own and which cause us great trouble to reject. The Master points out that we ought always to try to keep good thoughts in the background of the mind, so that when it has nothing special to think of, these may come into the foreground and keep us not only steady but conscious of that relation which subsists between ourselves and our Elder Brethren. In this way the channel is always kept open, and at any time the Master can send through us His helpfulness to the world. [Page 192]






WE now come to a very important observation with reference to the practical ways in which we should strive to control the mind,




The Master suggests that we should think each day of some one who is in trouble, surrounding him with loving thought, so that from the loving thought he may draw courage and power of endurance. In most Occult Schools there are definite systems of training whereby the members are shown how to control the kinds of thought that enter the brain, how to get rid of those they do not wish to receive, and how at any time to draw the mind from any special line in which it is engaged and to focus it elsewhere. When I was Principal of the Central Hindu College, Benares, I was in the habit of helping large numbers of students in this direction, and I suggested to them that they should set aside three special times during the day during which they would allow only a special kind of thought to pass through the mind. The first of these times was in the morning [Page 193] before rising, the second was about midday, and the third was just before retiring to rest. In the morning I advised them first to think of what they were going to do during the day and to try to make up their minds to do everything deliberately, at the proper time, and without haste. In this way they were to fill their day as usefully as possible, allowing, of course, ample time for recreation and rest. Having made a mental plan of the day, they were then to turn their thoughts in the direction of those who needed their help. There would be fellow students or friends, or there might be people in distress and sorrow to whom they could send, as the Master directs, a loving thought. They were then to turn their attention to their families, to send thoughts of goodwill to the brothers and sisters and other relatives. After this they would pass to the elders — father and mother, teachers and professors. Finally their thoughts were to be turned to their highest conception, whatever it might be. I generally recommended the Hindu students to think of their Gurudeva and mentally to bow in reverence before Him. Some might turn with thoughts of love to a revered teacher, others possibly might think of Mrs. Besant, others might think of one of the great Masters of the Wisdom. It would not matter to whom they turned, provided they lifted themselves up at this moment to the highest they knew. In this way they would become permeated at the beginning of the day with the greatest thoughts they could reach, and a note would be struck which, in [Page 194] course of time, by frequent repetition, would continually be sending its sound vibrating through the day. As a result, a definite force would be created, tending to minimise the chances of mistake, and the individuals concerned would be centres through which the Divine force could more easily flow. The whole process need not take longer than five minutes — or at the outside ten — and ought to give a dignity to the day's proceedings which these do not possess when we hurry unprepared from the night's rest into the ordinary activities of what is called the waking world.


Then at noon, no matter what they were doing, I asked these young people to turn their thoughts to their ideal, whatever it might be, so as to show themselves capable in the midst of worldly occupations of withdrawing the mind from that in which it might, for the time being, appear to be absorbed. The thought of the ideal should never be absent from us, no matter what we are doing, no matter how strenuously we are working, and in order that the ideal may not lose its position, I would recommend people in the middle day to switch themselves off, as it were, from that in which they are engaged and to turn to the highest reality they know. This would mean but a second's distraction, and far from injuring the work in hand would produce increased energy and power of concentration.


In the evening I asked my students mentally to look through the day's proceedings in order to see what was well done and what ill done, not in order [Page 195] that they should worry over the mistakes, but that they should take note of them so as to strive to prevent them recurring. Having done this, I asked them to offer themselves in thought for such service as they might be capable of performing during the night, and they were to end by striving to lose themselves in the thought of their ideal, so that it might carry them through safely on to the astral plane. Of course there are many other ways of bringing about the same result, but this is not a difficult method, and from the experience I have had I know it can be extraordinarily successful.


After a time the thought of the ideal becomes a habit, and during the course of the day the individual tends automatically to refer to this thought the various actions which he has in contemplation. He sets them by the side of his ideal and accepts or rejects them accordingly. This is a most desirable condition of mind, and although it certainly takes time to establish, it is worth any amount of effort because, through it, we gradually learn the value and possibility of laying our thought beside that of the Master, a statement which many people find difficult to understand. As a matter of fact, unless one has already had practice in trying to compare one's ordinary thoughts with one's highest thought, it is difficult to imagine how the Master's thought may similarly be used for purposes of comparison. The process is easier in the East than in the West, because in the West there is so much competition and hurry [Page 196] and rush that people seem to have hardly any time in which to be deliberate and, above all, in which to draw down their highest spiritual consciousness. But sooner or later all who mean business must make up their minds to follow some such scheme as I have outlined above, and they must be willing to carry it on whether results show themselves or not. People are far too inclined to feel that the system is wrong if results do not come when they expect them, or that they are incapable of achieving success and so need not try further. We have to learn to be far more careless as to results than we actually are — the motive is all-important, and there is nothing we cannot accomplish if we have both the will and an infinite power of perseverance.




We are then told to hold back the mind from pride — for, as the Master says, "pride comes only from ignorance". I do not know what opportunity my readers have had for observing those who are truly great, but for my own part I have specially noticed that the greater the spiritual stature the greater the true sense of humility. You will find, for example, that Mrs. Besant refers back to the Master all her successes, and recognises that it is such ignorance as she has that accounts for such mistakes as she may make. In other words, she is as the “wise man" who "knows that only God is great, and that all good work is done by God alone", and [Page 197] by "God" we can, if we like, mean either the Master, or our higher self, or whatever our ideal may be. People who are proud are generally those who, knowing very little, wish to make the most of the little they know, for the more, people know the more they realise that they have yet to learn many things, and those who know most have the keenest sense of their weaknesses. I can truly say, from my own experience, that since I have begun to learn from my leaders I have increasingly realised, not only how little I know, but also how many more imperfections I have than I had before thought possible. The fact of the matter is that if we offer ourselves for the Master's service we have to be tested before we can be trusted, and the testing partly consists in making us aware of our weaknesses so that we may as far as possible not only get rid of them, but try to prevent them from hindering such good work as we may be capable of accomplishing. So you must not be surprised when you start on your life's true career — either by joining the Order of the Star in the East, or the Servants of the Star, or the Theosophical Society — if difficulties seem to multiply and if, somehow or other, life not only becomes more troublesome, but even the worst sides of your nature seem to spring into activity. They were there before you associated yourself with one of these great spiritual movements, but they were slumbering. Now that you spring forward to vitalise your higher nature you must not be surprised if the vitality flows through to the lower nature as well and makes it emerge in its true [Page 198] colours. People sometimes become depressed when this happens. They say they did not know how wicked they were, or that they did not know this to be the effect of joining a spiritual movement. Sometimes they blame themselves and say that they are unworthy to join, but sometimes, if they are specially selfish, they blame the movement, thinking that the movement is really not as spiritual as they had imagined, for otherwise how is it that they seem so much worse after joining it ? They have not learned that force is force, and that it depends on us as to how we use it. What we gain from joining some great forward movement is added force, an added force which is capable of being turned with comparative ease in the right direction. On the other hand, it is also capable of being turned in the wrong direction, and we have, therefore, to be careful not to allow the lower nature to gain any control of the added force which has been given to us through membership of one of these movements.


A great Teacher can give a person power. It depends upon the person as to how he uses that power. Indeed, it does not at all follow that he may not sometimes use the power unwisely, but this does not mean that the Master has made a mistake in entrusting it to him. If the Master sees that on the whole the power will be used wisely, He may feel able to take the risk of such unwisdom as may from time to time appear. An individual who joins the Order of the Star in the [Page 199] East, or the Theosophical Society, is in reality given a little added power, and the force rushes through the whole of his nature, and it is only if his nature rests mainly on the higher and not on the lower that he will be able to make good use of his membership. I have always thought that people would not probably be allowed, save for some very special reason, to join one of these movements, because of the added responsibility involved, unless there seemed to be a fair certainty of the force being used for good purposes on the whole and only rarely in the wrong way. Mistakes we are sure to make, and when we join one of these movements we shall probably make more mistakes than before, but on the other hand we may hope to do more good than before, and gradually we shall learn through the mistakes to direct the force more and more wisely. But pride is a fatal barrier to the useful exercise of spiritual capacity. Those who are proud, even of their spiritual knowledge, are of comparatively little use. I have been told that, it is impossible entirely to get rid of pride until very far up in the evolutionary scale, but we must make a beginning now and do all we can to realise, not only how little we ourselves individually know, but how little we really know even of those around us. So our advice must always be very tentative. As has been said in At the Feet of the Master, only the Master knows about His people. Only the Master knows a man's motives, and it is motives which count more than anything else in the spiritual world. I do not wish to suggest by this that actions [Page 200] do not matter. Actions matter on their own plane, but motives matter even more than actions. There is karma from both, but the karma of motive is more powerful than the karma of action. [Page 201]






WE now turn to the consideration of Self-Control in Action. The Master remarks that thought alone will not suffice; there must be no laziness in action; but He points out that we must not therefore try to do other people's work as well as our own, unless we are asked to help. As He says: "For many people the most difficult thing in the world to learn is to mind their own business". People seem to find it very difficult to understand that if they try to do other people's work they are preventing those people from evolving as rapidly as they might. People grow through the work they do, and if you try to do so much that you prevent other people from exerting themselves to the utmost, not only will you do your own work badly but you will be stultifying the growth of those around you. It should be clearly understood that the true leader is he who helps other people to work along their own lines more successfully. It is not so much a question as to what the leader himself does as the extent to which he inspires other people to do things. If he helps them to take a more active part in life, to feel more vital, [Page 202] to feel more interested in their work — then is he truly leading and guiding. But if when he takes up a piece of work he centres it all in himself, and makes other people feel that they are entirely dependent on him for all originative effort, he is one of those who do not know how to mind their own business. We are often told that none of us are indispensable, and the reason we are not indispensable is that there are always people to do the work if the work has to be done. We need to have among us people who will try to understand what it is that those around them have to do, and, while doubtless being in general charge of a special piece of work, they will take care to be behind the scenes as much as possible, and to give everyone about them the opportunity of growing through independent, and yet harmonious, action. This is what I think is at the root of the Master's statement that we should leave every man to do his own work in his own way. Of course we should be ready to give help when asked or when needed, but, as a general rule, it is far better for people to learn through the making of mistakes, and to feel themselves free agents within reasonable limits. It is true that in times of emergency the leader may have to take full control, and demand from his followers obedience rather than initiative. But such times are rare, and in most cases what we have to stimulate is initiative and the sense of independent, yet co-operative, capacity. [Page 203]




Then the Master observes that however much we may be interested in what is called "higher work" we must not neglect the ordinary duties of life. Indeed, upon the fulfilling of these ordinary duties depends our progress and our usefulness. If we cannot do the ordinary things well we are not likely to do well what are called the "higher things". Just for the time being, under the influence of their glamour, we may put our energies into them, and so appear to do them better than the ordinary things. But the glamour will not last, and if we have been in the habit of doing ordinary things badly, we shall find ourselves in course of time doing the higher things badly too. And it is much more serious to do the higher things badly even than to do the ordinary things in a slipshod manner. The fact of the matter is, of course, that there is very little distinction to be drawn between the higher and the lower. We learn to grow as rapidly through the performance of the humblest duty as through the accomplishment of higher tasks. The Master tells us that until the ordinary duties of life are done we are not free for other service. Notice that He uses the word "other" and not "higher". We have been told, in fact, that until an individual gets rid of the more obstructive portions of his karma he is not free to undertake the burdens of discipleship. And the only way to get rid of obstructive karma — indeed of any karma — is to try to do the little things as well as possible. [Page 204] Of course little things seem rather humdrum and uninteresting, but while they seem so to us, we must remember that we should soon lose our interest in the "higher things" if we had the opportunity. It is only while they seem new and out of the ordinary that our attention is turned more directly towards them, and so in fact we prove that our attention turns more to that which excites us than to that which needs doing. Until the attention is so trained that it turns automatically to that which needs doing, we have not gone very far. Hence we must try to remember that the little things are the stepping-stones to bigger things. I have no doubt that what I am writing here does not sound particularly interesting, or helpful, or inspiring. I can hear my readers exclaim that there is so much more drudgery in making progress than they had thought. Perfectly true ! There is a great deal of drudgery until we begin to realise in fact that nothing is drudgery. We have none of us yet reached that stage, but the great principle of life is that nothing which is needed to be done has in it the essence of drudgery. Such drudgery as there seems to be is due to our ignorance, and to the fact that for many of us nothing seems worth while save that which causes an unusual excitation of the astral or mental bodies.




We are then told that we should undertake no new worldly duties. I do not suppose this means [Page 205] that we are never to attempt anything fresh, but, rather, that it is very unwise to keep on trying to take up new work, to extend our attention to new interests, when we are not really fulfilling our duty to the work and to the interests we already have in hand. Many people always wish, for example, to belong to everything new, to join every new movement, to take part in every possible new activity, The result often is that they fritter their energies away, and neither give to these activities, nor receive from them, that which should be the result — an increase of vital power, both to the movement and to the individual. On the other hand, if one feels that one can help some new activity by taking part in it, there is no reason why one should not join it after careful consideration as to the amount of time one can place at its disposal, and as to whether such amount of time could produce adequate fulfilment of any obligation involved. In other words, one must proceed deliberately, and not take on new worldly duties simply in order to be "in" with everybody else, and to get as much as we can from them. We must not forget that there is the karma of non-fulfilment of obligations, whether the obligations be undertaken deliberately or lightly. The link is made, and we must not imagine that we can avoid our karmic responsibility if we drop the activity when we no longer feel interested. In a word, we must do as much as we can but not more than we ought. The fact of the matter is that those of us who mean business, and who are striving to get into touch with [Page 206] one or other of the great Teachers, have to remember that the Master tells us that we have to do ordinary work better than other people do it. If we perform our duties no better than other people perform theirs we should not be worthy of the special tie we hope to make between ourselves and the Elder Brethren. Indeed, every human being already has his tie with an Elder Brother, but if we want to make our respective ties stronger and brighter, we must show our worthiness, and in order to show our worthiness we must live more intensely and more vigorously, with more attention to detail. Any who have had the privilege of watching the Masters at work will know how extraordinarily careful They are with regard to the slightest and, apparently, most trivial details. Not a moment is wasted and every moment is used to its fullest extent, and with it all there is no appearance of rush or hurry. On the contrary, there is every indication of calm, strength, and power, because there is no waste. Waste inevitably means weakness and looseness of purpose, and a dulling of faculty. So it is not so much a question of the kind of work that is done as the way in which it is done, and the man who manages affairs of State lazily and carelessly has much to learn from the crossing-sweeper who is careful to keep in utmost cleanliness the crossing upon whose cleanliness his attention is concentrated. As the Master says: "If you are to be His, you must do ordinary work better than others, not worse; because you must do that also for His sake". [Page 207]




I should like to lay special stress upon the Master's statement that the work we must do must be work that we recognise as part of our duty and not the imaginary duties which others think we ought to perform. There are many people in the world today who are trying to make other people do that which they conceive to be the duty of these other people. They seem to know so much better what is good for others than they know what is good for themselves. The position is obviously absurd, but we have become so much dependent upon outside opinion that we are much more likely to pay attention to another's views with regard to our duties than we should be likely to hearken to any independent personal intuition. Obviously, when people are quite young it is the duty of parents and teachers to help them to discover what are their individual duties, and sometimes it may even be necessary to impose duties upon them. But teachers and parents should be extremely careful not to make their charges think that parents and teachers inevitably know better what is good for them than the children themselves can know. In the long run each individual must be a law unto himself, and the duty of the parent or teacher is to help the boy or girl to find out what their particular law is. In other words it is their duty to stimulate the discriminative power of those placed in their charge, and not to impose their own discriminative faculties [Page 208] upon them. Children who have not been trained to think and act for themselves are of very little use in the world, and are much at the mercy of the opinions and influences of their surroundings, depending for their actions upon the advice and opinion of their friends. We have to learn not to believe things simply because other people believe them, or to perform actions in a particular way just because other people perform them in that way. We have to become independent, and to learn that true independence by no means involves antagonism. So many people are inclined to believe that you cannot be truly independent unless you are rude and disagreeable, unless you deliberately try to do things in ways entirely different from the ways in which other people do them. It is sometimes thought that you must strike out a fresh note for yourself. I do not object to the phrase, provided the note is a harmonious one, but if it be discord, then, unless there be some specially strong motive for its existence, it had better not appear. With regard to the question, for example, of religious observance, I think it highly desirable that every boy and girl should be trained in the beliefs and ceremonies of the faith into which they have been born, but I also think it most important that parents and teachers should explain to children that they are given these ceremonies and beliefs, which have been very helpful to large numbers of people, only until they find out something which may perhaps be more appropriate to their particular temperaments. [Page 209] I should never think it my duty to try and make a child believe that any special form, or any special truth, is the only form or truth he ought to accept. Since karma has brought him within the teaching of certain definite forms of truth, he may as well grow up in them, but a loophole should always be left for his individual judgment, so that he may feel that he can act freely without becoming a traitor either to his elders or to his traditions. There is no reason why a child who begins as a Hindu should not become a Christian later if he feels irresistibly impelled, but if he is born a Hindu he had better remain one until he has arrived at maturity of judgment sufficient to enable him to decide whether he wishes to make a change. There is never any harm in training a child to understand the forms and truths which have been helpful to a large number of people, for such training will bring into being a sympathy which will enable him later on to help, even though later on he, himself, finds other forms and other truths more appropriate to his own special line of evolution.




All this brings us to the consideration of the third point of Conduct, namely Tolerance. Above all the Master lays stress on the need for our feeling a hearty interest in the beliefs of those of another religion. Religious differences have done an infinite amount of harm in the world, and now we have to [Page 210] begin to work so that religious differences may no longer imperil the real unity beneath. As the Master remarks: "Their religion is a path to the highest just as yours is"' and then He says what is probably at the back of His mind through the whole of these teachings: "To help all, you must understand all". This is indeed the key-note of the teaching. Every word written in At the Feet of the Master is intended to give the reader power to be of more service to those around him. If you wish to belong to the Master you must be able to go anywhere and do anything. You must be able to help all kinds of people, you must be able to adapt yourself to all kinds of circumstances, and to sympathise practically with troubles which perhaps you have never yourself experienced. In order to be free to serve in this way you must take care that you yourself are not bound by the very fetters from which you seek to free others. If you yourself think that your religion is the only true religion, if you yourself think that your customs are the only useful customs, if you think that your nation is the only truly great nation, if you think that your modes of life are the only really useful modes of life — then you are blind, however much you may be trying to help others as blind as yourself. As the Master tells us, we must "be free from bigotry and superstition". This does not mean that everyone must be free from bigotry and superstition, but rather that those who wish to be servants of the Master must themselves be free from conditions which would hamper their activity, [Page 211] however much these conditions may help other people. At certain stages, no doubt, bigotry and superstition are inevitable. They are the scaffolding by means of which the building is erected. But when the building is completed there is no further need for the scaffolding, and our own spiritual building should be in such a forward state that these two pieces of scaffolding can usefully be dispensed with. For you and me most ordinary ceremonies are no longer necessary, that is to say such ceremonies are no longer necessary for those who may expect to be taken within a comparatively short time as apprentices in a Master's school. We may take part in them if we like; we may enjoy them; but they must cease to be necessary parts of our existence; otherwise, as the Master points out, we shall think ourselves in some way better than people who do not perform the special kind of ceremony which interests us.


Here again the Master's statement is not meant to convey to us that no one should perform any ceremonies. Remember He is addressing one already a pupil in His school and therefore subject to very special teaching. Ceremonies may possibly be necessary for some of us, and, indeed, for most, but it is laid down that they are no longer necessary for those who are being specially trained. You will obviously be wrong to feel contempt for those who still need them. The Masters feel no contempt for our colossal ignorance in many very essential matters. They desire to help us where we stand, and [Page 212] this should be our attitude towards those less evolved than ourselves. We must try to help people where they are and through their own special lines of growth. This is why it is so very necessary to "understand all". In other words, before anyone can become a pupil of the Master he must in previous lives have passed through a wide series of experiences so as to enable him intuitively to grasp the varied conditions and stages of belief, even though he, himself, may not actually have passed through these conditions. He must have acquired the spirit of the experience, though he may not, necessarily, have passed through the individual form. But we must take care that people do not try to force upon us things which they know to be essential to themselves and which they think, therefore, to be equally essential to us. People often strive to do this. They feel so greatly the need of a certain experience themselves that they cannot imagine for a moment how it is that other people do not need it equally, and in this way have arisen the Inquisition and other forms of narrow cruelty. People must not be allowed to interfere with us in the performance of what we conceive to be our duty, however much that duty may differ from the duties of those around us. But while we must insist upon our rights, nevertheless we must " make allowance for everything; be kindly towards everything". [Page 213]






ONE of the most informing similes in At the Feet of the Master is where the Master tells us that many customs, ceremonies, and beliefs, which individually we may have outgrown, may still be needed by large numbers of people, just as children need double lines to help them to write straightly and evenly until they have learnt to write better without them. The position is, as the Master explains, that we must remain in sympathetic touch with those who possibly may not have yet reached our level of evolution. "He who has forgotten his childhood and lost sympathy with the children is not the man who can teach them or help them". There is a very general tendency on the part of people as they grow older to become impatient with children and to find no interest in the ways in which children live. Children's interests cease to interest them, and gradually they drift into what I may call a crabbed old age, out of touch with the aspirations and impulses of the younger generation, and convinced that everything is gradually going wrong. Many middle-aged people are convinced that in their young days everything [Page 214] was very much better than it is now. They feel quite certain that children were brought up in a better way, that the government of the country was less vacillating and weak, that there was less license and more true liberty. They feel that people no longer know their place. The fact is that these middle-aged and old people do not know their place. In other words, they have lost their place and cannot find it, and the result is that they feel out of harmony with the world which has really left them far behind.




Now this attitude will not do. The older we grow, the more we must make every effort to keep in touch with the young, to be young with them and, above all, to realise that the ideals which have sufficed for our generation need not necessarily be the ideals appropriate to the new. The fact of the matter is that a true server must do all he can to adapt himself to the ever-changing conditions necessitated by the world's growth. I consider that one of Mrs. Besant's most remarkable characteristics is that she understands young people and is able to voice their aspirations. She unites the wisdom of age with the enthusiasm of youth, and so you will find her always in the forefront of all new movements — restraining impetuous and inexperienced ardour, but not hindering good work. The same may be said of Mr. Leadbeater: indeed, all true helpers of the world [Page 215] have this special characteristic of being able to live in the spirit of the time and of responding to the changing needs of the world. This means, of course an intuitive and adaptable temperament; we must ever be on the alert to discover the signs of the times and to understand in the aspirations of youth the dawning of the New Age. The older a person grows the more valuable becomes his experience, and the more therefore he should be revered and honoured, provided he places his experience at the disposal of those who have not yet had time to acquire it. You should remember always that the world in its future condition belongs to the coming generation, and all we have to do is to help the transition from the old to the new to be as easy and simple as possible. The French Revolution was largely due to the fact that the older generation had no understanding of the new. They came into terrific conflict, and the result was a transition period of terrible suffering. Just at present we are in a similar transition stage, and much depends upon the wisdom and co-operation of the elders. We must unceasingly study the lines of thought of young people. We must ever be on the alert to watch for the signs of the new conditions which may manifest themselves in the lives of the younger generation. We must keep ourselves up to date, and must give not a sneer but a welcome to the new order which is taking the place of the old. It is all a question of sympathy and realisation that other people's ways may be just as helpful as, possibly more helpful than, our own. Above all, [Page 216] if we are in the position of having outgrown certain customs and beliefs appropriate to the world as a whole, we must not therefore imagine that everybody else has also outgrown such customs and beliefs. Our business is to help people where they are, and not to force them along a line for which they are not yet ready. It must of course be conceded that, for the sake of example, one might occasionally feel an obligation to associate oneself with some special custom or belief. For example, if I were living in the country, I might find it helpful to go regularly to church, not so much for my own sake as for the sake of those for whom church ought to mean much spiritual guidance. But I must not be bound by customs or beliefs which I have outgrown, although I may, if it is desirable, occasionally clothe myself in them.




The Master then lays stress upon Cheerfulness, and He tells us many important truths. In the first place we have to try to understand that it is an honour that suffering comes to us. I presume He means here that it is an honour if suffering comes to us in larger doses than would normally be the case, for all suffering is of course the result of past actions, so from this standpoint it is hardly a matter of "honour" or dishonour, but a matter of law. On the other hand, if we offer ourselves to the Master, such suffering as we need for the purposes of [Page 217] purification becomes concentrated within a comparatively short time so that we may get rid as quickly as possible of our evil karma. As the Master says, in this way we work through in one or two lives that which otherwise might have been spread over a hundred. Until we have got rid of the most obstructive portion of our karma we are not free to share with our Teacher the burden of the world. Our shoulders must be comparatively free from past karma if we are to go into the outer world and stand side by side with those who need our help. This does not mean, of course, that before we can become pupils we must exhaust practically all obstructive karma. Not only is this not the case, but, on the contrary, our debts come tumbling down upon us when we offer ourselves for service. But they are not debts which stand hopelessly in the way of continued service. Debts which bar us from practically any strenuous service must first be got rid of, for, if we would offer ourselves to the Master there must be something worth offering. So we must be comparatively free from burdens. as I have said. But it would be very foolish to expect lives of ease: on the contrary there will be lives of exceeding difficulty, but it would be unwise to complain. We have offered to pay our debts as quickly as possible, and if this offer works out in pain we must not be surprised. We shall the sooner be free, although the process may, for the time being, be agonising. [Page 218]

The Master tells us that, however hard our karma is, we should be thankful that it is not worse. I must confess that very often one cannot see how it possibly could be worse ! But I have no doubt that it may be to a certain extent a comfort to think this. I try to imagine that it might be worse, so that I may realise that, however far down I may be, I am not actually at the bottom ! All I would say, however, is that it would seem in some ways almost more satisfactory if one could feel that one were at the bottom, so as to know that things could not be worse than they are. If you are thankful that things are not worse, you may possibly be wondering whether in a short time they may not become so. What of course the Master wishes us to understand is that we must keep cheerful and always look on the bright side of things. Part of the payment of our karmic debts consists in paying them cheerfully: our karmic enemies soon cease to trouble us if we take their hostility — our own creation — cheerfully and good-humouredly. Perhaps we can do this more satisfactorily if we continually try to realise that all that comes to us is part of the inevitable training that we have to go through as we proceed from unconsciousness to self-consciousness.


The Master then goes on to observe that we must give up all feeling of possession, because "possession" is an aspect of the lower nature. The higher self expresses itself through the sense of Unity; the lower through a sense of possession. Hence the Master urges us to get rid of this feeling, because by so doing we get [Page 219] rid of that which obstructs. He points out that karma may take from us even the people whom we love most. That is to say, karma may appear to take them from us; we can never lose that which we have drawn into the universal Unity. Loss is entirely of the lower planes, it is an illusion, although I know full well it is an illusion which causes an infinite amount of suffering. There can be no doubt that the physical plane exerts its inevitable plane influence, and a physical plane loss cannot but be felt while we are for the time being immersed in physical plane matter. But however hard the parting may be, it does not therefore follow that it is a real parting. Personally, the more I learn, the more I find that physical plane partings are less depressing as I establish myself more firmly in the larger life. A physical plane parting undoubtedly has its disturbing features, but the more we live in the Masters' world, the more we definitely find that those whom we love are in reality always with us, and every parting is intended to bring this lesson home to us.


The Master concludes His observations on cheerfulness by reasserting the truth that depression is wicked. He observes that He often needs to use His servants in order to pour force through them for the helping of others, and He remarks that He cannot do this if we yield to depression, because depression builds a black wall round us through which little comfort may come from outside, and through which little of the Master's light can pierce into the outer world. It is worth while to remember that depression [Page 220] is as often caused either by an unhealthy body or by outside circumstances as it is caused by some disturbance of our own centres of life. We must not therefore conclude that because we are depressed, therefore the depression comes from within. To help to guard against depression it is necessary to have as healthy a body as possible and to take care that it keeps healthy. When our nervous system becomes devitalised through over-strain or through some other form of ill-health, then cheerfulness is more difficult to maintain, because the channels of communication with the Master's world are, for the time being, out of repair. Similarly, we must guard against disturbances from the outside. Many thoughts and feelings which appear to be ours are, as a matter of fact, visitors, and we ought to try to imagine as far as we can that all undesirable thoughts and feelings are visitors, and that we can turn them out if we like. Never let us suppose that any thought or feeling is an inalienable part of our nature.




We now so on to One-Pointedness, which means doing the Master's work. Everything, as a matter of fact, which is helpful and unselfish is the Master's work. We must not imagine that only work connected with the Order of the Star in the East, or with the Theosophical Society is the Master's work. Living helpfully at home is just as much the Master's work. Playing our games well, [Page 221] studying well, are just as much the Master's work. People sometimes wish they could do more in the Master's service than for the moment seems possible. They say their karma is against them ! Karma, as a matter of fact, is never against anybody, for it is nothing more than a stepping-stone to the higher life — we spring to a higher position from the springing-board which our karma has fashioned for us. However lonely you may be, however isolated from Theosophical surroundings, you can none the less do the Master's work, and the Master's work consists in the way in which you do that which comes to you to do, day by day. Everything that comes to us, of however trivial a nature, is a little piece of training specially given to us to bring us nearer to the Master's world. You and I may not be able to realise this. We may wonder how an apparently trivial piece of business can possibly have any relation to the Master. A clerk in an office, for example, may wonder how writing an unimportant letter on behalf of his firm can possibly be of service to the Master. As a matter of fact if he can write that unimportant letter well, he will be able to write a less unimportant letter well, till the time will come when he can write important letters well, and some day he will perhaps have the opportunity of writing the Master's letters well. Every . act of life is a step on the ladder of evolution, and leads to the step next above. No matter what the act may be, it is a step nearer than the act before it, and definitely leads to the step beyond. The fact is that every [Page 222] action becomes part of the Master's work if we remember Him while doing it. Try to understand, therefore, that the nature of the action is of no importance; what matters is your recognition of the fact that the Master watches everything you do and in this way makes everything you do a possible link between Him and yourself.


The rest of the remarks on one-pointedness merely emphasise the need for realising that every day of life can so be used that it shall draw us appreciably nearer to our Master. As the Master says, we "must become one with the Path", and the Path is everywhere. People sometimes think that the Path is nowhere save at the headquarters of the Lodge to which they belong, and that they are only treading the Path when they are attending meetings. The whole world and every part of it, and every condition of it, is the Path leading humanity to its goal, and while certain conditions undoubtedly assist to an increasing consciousness of the Master's world, that is because there are people living in those conditions who have vitalised them. You can as much become conscious of the Master's world in your home life, in your school life, in the playground, as you can anywhere else. But do not let temptations, or even worldly affections, draw you away. There is always a tendency that these shall become difficulties in your way because there is a natural tendency for all grades of matter to emphasise inertia. Matter always wishes to stay as it is, to avoid disintegration and change. For this reason many people fear death, but you must try as far as you can to avoid that [Page 223] which tends to hinder your growth. People sometimes say that it is only natural to be at the mercy of worldly affections or at the mercy of worldly temptations. But the word "natural" is here used in the wrong sense. It is not according to nature to be at the mercy of these things, but it is undoubtedly customary and habitual. In other words, people certainly tend to be at the mercy of all kinds of conditions which hinder progress, but you and I should remember that we must no longer be fettered by habit and custom, and we are never truer to nature than when we strive to grow by breaking the customs and barriers through the help of which in the past we have been able to evolve.


As regards the question of worldly affections, I do not want my readers to imagine that we should try to stifle the love we bear towards our friends and relatives. On the contrary, the more love we can manifest through our nature the more quickly shall we grow. But we must not allow our affections to become selfish and make us weak, for this would neither be helpful to ourselves nor to those whom we love. The most loving service we can render to our friend is to become a rock and support whenever that friend needs such help, but we cannot be this if we allow our affections to blind us to the way in which we can become truly helpful. A child often thinks its mother does not love it because the mother does not give it everything it wants. The truest love is to help the soul to grow; selfish love panders too often to the body. [Page 224]




The Master finally observes that the Monad, which is the God within us, decided to grow, and the sooner the lower bodies harmonise themselves with the inflexible will of the Monad, the sooner shall the will of God become accomplished. The Monad creates veils of illusion in order that it may gain experiences in all the kingdoms of God's nature, and the veils so created strive to maintain their existence even when their value has disappeared. By a process of imagination they strive to believe themselves to be the reality instead of being only the perishable forms. It is from time to time necessary to retire within oneself so as to break off that association with the lower bodies which so frequently causes as to believe that these are the only realities. It is for this reason that meditation is so valuable, and I would recommend readers to adopt some such scheme as that I outlined in an earlier chapter. But remember that the reason for such meditation is that we may increasingly learn to distinguish between the God within and the vehicles through which that God within works, and thus learn to give to every part of ourselves its true proportion and value. [Page 225]






THE last of the Six Points of Conduct is CONFIDENCE. We are told that we must trust the Master. "If you have seen the Master, you will trust Him to the uttermost, through many lives and deaths". This, I believe to be a phrase of Alcyone's own — feeling the magnificent inspiration of the Master's presence, the words burst forth from him in gratitude. For the Master, once known, is as a rock against which all ignorance and all doubt are shattered. But though many of you may have been privileged to have seen one or other of our great Masters, perhaps you cannot remember Them so far as physical plane memory goes, and it would, therefore, be more difficult for you to bring down into this world the knowledge of what They are. But, as we are told, we must try to realise Them. We must try to remember that They are in fact our Elder Brethren, and that They watch over us with far more loving tenderness and care than we can possibly realise. If we cannot feel Their physical presence, or if They do not seem to be watching over us, it is that we may learn to rely on the God within us and to trust to ourselves. We are [Page 226] continually in the presence of the Masters; we should continually be relying on Them; and we should never forget that that which They are, we, too, may become. The Divine spark is in each one of us, and we have the duty of relying as much on the God within as on the God without. Therefore is it that the Masters sometimes seem to be far away from us, although, in reality, They are nearer to us than our nearest friend or most loved relative. If we, in the physical brain, are ignorant of Their individual existence, we must nevertheless think of Them and try to remember that in Their perfection is the promise of ours. Thinking reverently of Them, we, in fact, pay reverence to ourselves — to the God within us. We must be continually thinking of Them, trying to do that which we think They would wish us to do. In this way we create a link between Them and ourselves, and through the channel thus made They are able to help us. This is what is meant when it is said that if you do not trust the Master "even He cannot help you". Remember that the Masters never intrude Their help upon people who do not want it. Free-will belongs to us all, and if we do not want any help it is not obtruded upon us. In other words, if we do not make our share of the channel, They will not make it for us. So if we want Their guidance and direction, we must show that we want it by making a channel towards Them through our endeavour to become like Them. [Page 227]



We are also told that we must trust the Master. You may perhaps wonder how it is possible to trust Those whom you do not remember to have seen. As a matter of fact, the Masters are, in reality, the embodied examples of what we ourselves shall one day become. Once They were as we are now. And by Their strength and unwavering determination to help the world, They developed the God within Them until He shone out undimmed by selfishness and separateness. Having fully awakened Their Higher Selves, They are now ready to help us to awaken ours, so that in trusting Them, we are, as a matter of fact, trusting ourselves. All that is best in us They are, and much more, and in reality there is no separation between the God within and the God outside us. Every kindly action we perform, every effort we make in the direction of unselfishness, every means we employ to develop our mental, emotional, and physical bodies for service, are so many signs of our trust in the Master. If we trust our Higher Selves, we trust the Master. "Unless there is perfect trust, there cannot be the perfect flow of love and power". This means that unless we are determined to give up all selfishness for the sake of helping the world, we shall not be as younger brothers to the Elder Brothers of humanity. We must strive to become one in nature with Them, if there is to be the uninterrupted flow of love and power from Them to us. Every selfish thought, every indulgence of the lower nature, [Page 228] is as a little barrier which intercepts the stream. To trust the Master means to know Him to be that which in our heart of hearts we hope some day to become. We, therefore, think of Him as living the ideals towards which we can only aspire, and we must try to use our imagination in discovering what They might say, or do, or think, under the various circumstances in which we find ourselves in the lower world. To trust Them, therefore, means to know Them as living examples of the Higher Self in man, in whose form and nature we must strive to fashion ourselves.




We are also told to trust ourselves. To many this will seem a strange piece of advice. "You say you know yourself too well ? If you feel so, you do not know yourself; you know only the weak outer husk which has fallen often into the mire. But you — the real you — you are a spark of God's own fire, and God, who is Almighty, is in you, and because of that there is nothing which you cannot do if you will". I know how difficult it is to believe this, because we identify ourselves so much with our lower bodies that we continually think that we are the lower bodies. When we say, "I think", or "I feel", or "I do this or that", we identify ourselves with the feeling, with the thought, with the act, although we are continually being told that the lower bodies must be servants and not masters. We have continually to realise [Page 229] that the God within us is trying to work through these lower bodies, and it is in the difficulty of getting control over them that the confusion arises. The real you, as the Master says, is "a spark of God's own fire", and "God, who is Almighty, is within you". When you say, "I cannot", it means that the lower self is, for the moment, getting the upper hand again. Feelings, thoughts, actions, pass away; only you remain. That, indeed, is the test. All that grows stronger day by day, and becomes more and more permanent, is likely to be the sign of the God within you beginning to dominate the bodies which He has put forth in order to come into contact with the various experiences these lower worlds afford. All that gives you an increasing power of love, an increasing power of unselfishness, an increasing power of service, is the God within you; the rest which, from time to time, seems to dominate you so entirely, not only will not last, but cannot satisfy you long. The more you help others, the more you want to help. The bigger your love grows, the more you want to love. But there are many desires which cease to exist the moment they are satisfied. In fact, most of the desires you have are but the toys with which God trains you to distinguish between the real and the unreal. He shows you, by letting you have the things you want, that the real you does, not really want them, for after a time they cease to satisfy. Thus, by gradually turning away from one thing after another, by a process of exclusion, you find out what it is that alone can give permanent peace [Page 230] and happiness. It is for this that you live in the world, and alternating joys and sorrows lead you gradually to concentrate your efforts on that which endures. If you did not have these, you would not make any effort. They are signs of the God within you struggling to know Itself, to know Its powers, to know Its divinity. It is continually saying: "No, this is not what I want, for there is no lasting happiness in this". The God within you must grow, but from time to time it may think that this, that, or the other, is permanent happiness, and therefore part of its very nature. It experiences that which seems to be permanent, grows tired, finds that the apparently permanent ceases to have power to satisfy, and so learns that that, too, is not the goal. Little by little, it draws near to the realities of life, and finally reaches the comparative perfection of the Master who has learned the nature of at least many of the certainties which make Divinity.


We are told to say to ourselves: "What man has done, man can do. I am a man, yet also God in man; I can do this thing, and I will". In other words, what the Master has done, I can do, for I am God in man. If there be Masters of the Wisdom, I can become a Master of the Wisdom, for there is but the One Life in us all, though it may be at varying stages of unfoldment. That which is the One Life in the Master, is also the One Life in me. Life in Him may be more perfectly unfolded, but only because He has gone further along the path which[ Page 231] I myself am treading. It is most important that we should all feel our identity with those in front of us, just as we must feel our identity with those behind us. But the difficulties are innumerable, and this is not to be wondered at when we think of the immeasurable glory of the goal. Little efforts may bring forth little successes: greater efforts may bring forth greater successes. But the difficulties of the Path lead man to perfection, and only by the measure of the difficulty can we at all gauge the magnificence of the goal towards which we are striving. We can therefore, in a sense, be glad that the difficulties are as great as they are, for if the obstacles be many and difficult to surmount, there must be a result at the end well worth all the efforts we may have had to make. Let us, therefore, not think so much of the intervening difficulties as of the result at the end; let us remember that in us lies the power to overcome all obstacles, however great. Difficulties are insurmountable when we do not want to surmount them. It may be that in any particular life there may be difficulties which we cannot overcome, and we may have to reconcile ourselves to this. A man may, for example, have certain bodily defects which prevent him from playing games, or he may have certain mental deficiencies which prevent him from being clever in certain directions. But that is all from the past. In the future he can become whatever he desires to be if he uses the Divine Will that is in him. [Page 232]




I do not wish for a moment to suggest that the task is easy. It is not. And the reason is that there are two conflicting forces — one, the creative, and the other, the preservative. There is the force of growth, and the force of inertia. Now we desire to be active, now we desire to rest. Now we are full of energy, now we are tired. If we did not know what it is to be tired, we should not understand to the full the joy of energy, and if we did not know what it is to be full of activity, we should not appreciate the contrast of rest. But there is always the tendency to overdo things; sometimes to be over-energetic, sometimes to be too lazy. And we are continually playing between the two — sometimes over-emphasising the one, and sometimes over-emphasising the other. Best we need; energy we need; but we must rest when we need to rest, and we must be active when we ought to work. We must not be at the mercy of either. It sometimes happens that when the difficulties seem too much for us, we become inclined to let everything go, and rest. This is, of course, exceedingly natural, but we forget that, in reality, no difficulties can be too much for us, for, indeed, there are no difficulties which we have not made for ourselves. Every difficulty you and I have is a lesson from which we have to learn something we do not at present know. The moment we will to surmount it, we can overcome it, and then, ceasing to be in the form of a difficulty, it becomes [Page 233] a force for action. That which seems so difficult to climb becomes, when we have climbed it, a place from which we can see far more clearly than we could see before. Those who are on the summit of the mountain see far more clearly than those who are in the valley. It is, no doubt, tiring to climb the mountain, but the view from the top is generally worthy of the trouble of the climb. The Masters are at the top of the mountain, and we must trust to Their assurance that the view at the top is worth seeing. We see the joy on Their faces, and we must try to realise that the difficulties before us are as nothing compared with the joy at the end. [Page 234]






WE now come to the most important of the Qualifications, although it is placed last in the book, that of LOVE. I have heard our leaders say that each world or system has its own distinguishing note, just as an individual has his own distinguishing characteristic. I have understood them to say that so far as this world is concerned, its dominant note is love. However this may be, it remains true that, provided an individual has in his character a strong touch of love, it does not very much matter if he has a large number of weaknesses which are continually obstructing him. As the Master tells us, if the quality of love is strong enough in a man, "it forces him to acquire all the rest, and all the rest without it would never be sufficient". This means, that if you have the love nature well developed in you, it will gradually become purer and purer until it cleanses you entirely from selfishness. From the love of the one we gradually proceed to the love of the many. Prom the love of our own work, our own occupations, we grow into a love of work for the world and for its service. People sometimes think that those who [Page 235] desire to serve the world must get rid of all personal affection. I often hear people say, that they are trying to rid themselves of all affection for their families, for their friends, so that they may learn to serve the world and follow the Master. They forget that it is only through love of friend and love of family that we learn how to love the world as the Master loves it, and we do not sufficiently realise that personal affection need not disappear — indeed should not disappear — even when our love is so strong that it embraces the world. The Masters Themselves have Their personal affections. They have, we are told, Their favourite pupils, and Their little circle of special friends. And why should They not ? True, They would not allow Their personal affections to interfere with Their duty to the world, nor would They permit Their personal ties weakly to countenance wrong lines of action. Their love, whether for the individual or for the world, is a strengthening love — a love which gives, not a love which demands. This is the true basis of all love, and is its purifying factor.




So many of us, in loving our friends, demand that they shall love us in return, and perhaps we expect from them all kinds of attitudes and services in return for the love we give them. This may be natural in the early stages, but the grasping nature of love is love in its selfish aspect. Love should be as a great [Page 236] river of force, ever flowing outwards, and indifferent as to its effect so far as any return is concerned. Love in its lower aspect is desire, in its higher aspect it is will, as the Master points out. Many people in the world demand return for their love, and are hurt if no return is given. This is like demanding payment for a present, and shows that the person has not yet begun to purify his love. People who really know how to love say that there is so great a satisfaction merely in pouring out streams of love, that there is no inclination to consider the nature of the return. The lesson of love must certainly be begun with the individual. If there is anyone whom you love intensely, make a practice of deliberately brushing on one side any tendency to think of the result, so far as regards yourself. Try to avoid the least expectation of return, or even the slightest hope. Do not spend an atom of your energy in thinking about what he or she feels about you, devote all to the process of outpouring. You have no idea, probably, unless you have tried this, how complete a satisfaction there is in the mere giving. Every now and then one lapses into the desire for some kind of return, but by contrast this desire seems sordid and poor, and one is thankful to be rid of it. On the other hand, there is continual interest in discovering new ways of loving, and the fact that you gradually grow more impersonal as to the return, is the starting-point for the spreading of your love among the many instead of confining it to the one or to the few. If you are deeply interested in work of any kind, you will find yourself [Page 237] beginning to love people for the contribution they make to the work in which you and they are engaged. You feel that they are comrades in a common cause, and that feeling of comradeship soon develops into feelings of pure affection. You feel that they are working for the same cause in which you yourself are engaged, you feel that they are with you in the difficulties and in the dangers, and the unity thus manifesting soon shows itself in its aspect of love. There will always be, of course, those who are specially near to you, and there may be truth in the assertion that each soul has a special affinity. I do not know about this, but I do know that on the basis of the affection for the few is gradually built up the power to love the many. And the secret of it all is in expecting no return.


If you are always looking for a return it must be from the one or from the few. You cannot expect a return from the many, and so there is a barrier between you and the possible affection for them. They cannot give to you the return which the few can give you for the love you pour upon them, therefore it is useless to love them ! This is the inevitable conclusion to which those come who want payment, in some form or other, for their affections. I know it sounds brutal to put it in this way. People will reply that they do not want payment, they only want recognition. But true love demands no recognition; it is satisfied with its own being, and with the joy of its outpouring. The river is happy in its flow towards the sea. So you will understand [Page 238] that by making your love for anyone independent of that individual's attitude towards you, you will lay the foundation the Master wishes you to acquire as regards the whole world. And when you reach the level He has reached, you will probably find that the love you have for the world has not made you forget your affection for the individual; on the contrary, individual affection has been the basis of it all, and will be cherished by you with the deepest of happiness.




You will notice that this fourth Qualification is stated by the Master to be often translated "as an intense desire for liberation from the round of births and deaths, and for union with God". That is to say the idea of love has been given a personal aspect, as if through love in its more restricted aspects freedom were to be gained by the individual from the round of births and deaths. But, as the Master points out, this is the selfish way of looking at love. "It is not so much desire as will, resolve, determination. To produce its result, this resolve must fill your whole nature, so as to leave no room for any other feeling. It is indeed the will to be one with God, not in order that you may escape from weariness and suffering, but in order that because of your deep love for Him, you may act with Him and as He does. Because He is Love, you, if you would become one with Him, must be filled with perfect unselfishness [Page 239] and love also."Truly, we are often quite eager to escape from weariness and suffering, but while in the earlier stages we desire to escape from these in order that we may enjoy peace and rest, later on we wish to get rid of these feelings of personal weariness and personal suffering, so that we may be free to help others to get rid of them too. This is the peace of the Master. He is able so wonderfully to help in bearing the burden of the world, because He no longer needs to bear that burden Himself. It may be that, if He wished, He could cut Himself off entirely from the world, having gained liberation. But we are told that if a Master were to do this, He could only be free for a certain time, that, sooner or later, He must return to share the world's burden. For there is the one great Unity which binds us all together, and we must grow together through pain into joy. As a matter of fact, of course, while those who have reached the level of the Master are at liberty, if They so choose, to take a long period of rest, They deliberately renounce that rest because of Their love for the world. And you must not forget — I do not hesitate to repeat this over and over again — that this beautiful love for the world has grown out of Their unselfish love in the past for an individual or for a few.




The Master makes a suggestion to us with regard to the way in which we may gradually translate our [Page 240] love for the one into a love for the many. It is obvious that, with regard to anyone we love, we should be always trying to help them in every way, as well as taking care never to do them any harm. And these two aspects of love must not be confined to the individual, but must dominate our attitude with regard to the outside world. So far as the duty of doing no harm is concerned, the Master gives three examples of doing harm which are very common. First, gossip. "See what gossip does. It begins with evil thought, and that in itself is a crime. For in every one and in everything there is good; in every one and in everything there is evil. Either of these we can strengthen by thinking of it, and in this way we can help or hinder evolution; we can do the will of the Logos or we can resist Him. "Obviously, we cannot have evil thoughts with regard to anyone we love, but we often have evil thoughts with regard to other people, and we must try to think of the way in which we truly love the one, so that we may reproduce the features of that love in our attitude towards the many. "In every one and in everything", as the Master says, "there is good", and if we think of the good in an individual we strengthen the good in him, while if we think of the weakness, we strengthen that weakness. Try to imagine that good and weakness are continually struggling within a man's nature, each trying to elbow the other out of the way. What we have to do is to try to make good so strong that it gradually edges the weakness right out of the individual's [Page 241] nature altogether. The good in a man thus becomes so big that there is no room left for weakness, and we make the good part of a man's nature bigger and bigger as we think about it. I have noticed this, particularly in the case of Mrs. Besant. People sometimes say that she is very easily deceived because she always idealises people. I believe it to be true that she sometimes is deceived, although I have a shrewd suspicion that she is quite aware of the extent to which she is being deceived. But I am quite clear that the fact that she does idealise people helps those people enormously, for in the process of idealising them she is strengthening all that is best in them. It is as if she were pouring her force into the better nature of those with whom she comes into contact so that it gradually pushes the weaknesses out of the way. No doubt the weaknesses come back, because the man's own nature is not yet strong enough to give them their permanent congé. But their power has been broken, and, if only the individual would take advantage of this fact, it will not be so difficult for him to complete the ascendancy of his higher nature. The fact that Mrs. Besant idealises people forces them to show the better side of their natures, at least while they are with her. This tendency begets a habit, and if an individual really means business this little beginning of a habit is of enormous importance to him.

That which Mrs. Besant does on a very big scale, we can do on a smaller scale. If an individual is to be trustworthy, we must begin by trusting him.
[Page 242] Trust needs two people, one to trust, the other to be trusted. We must do our share with regard to others and trust them to the very greatest possible extent, because in so doing we strengthen in them their power to be trustworthy. The Master points out that if we think of the evil in another, we not only intensify evil in our neighbourhood, but we strengthen the evil in the individual about whom we are thinking, and create within ourselves a greater capacity for evil thought. It very often happens, of course, that the evil we think does not in reality exist, and then our imagination is a temptation in the way of the individual about whom we have thought wrongly. As the Master says: "Your wicked thought tempts your brother to do wrong, for if he is not yet perfect you may make him that which you have thought him". Thus, if we gossip about people it is evident that we are filling our neighbourhood with evil thought and so, as the Master points out: "you are adding to the sorrow of the world".


The Master explains that, in addition to thinking evil things, whether in reality they exist or not, " the gossip tries with all his might to make other men partners in his crime". It is curious how people enjoy meeting together to talk over the defects of others, entirely oblivious, it would seem, of the fact that there are other people elsewhere meeting together and talking over their defects also ! You must not imagine that others spare you if you do not spare them. So, if you have been gossiping unkindly about, other people, the next time you walk through [Page 243] the streets and meet your friends, just remember that they may have been saying all kinds of cruel things about you, as you have been saying all kinds of cruel things about them. I have not much time myself for gossip, but I have gossiped a good deal in the past, and when I began to consider the evil of it, I used, deliberately, after having fallen into a little period of gossip, to imagine the various friends whom I met to have been also indulging in the same failing. No doubt I ought not to have imagined this about them, but there was one advantage about it, namely, that it made me very uncomfortable, for I began to wonder what kind of things they said about me, and then whether, perhaps, after all, those things might not be true ! Then I determined that in my own nature I would try to avoid giving any foundation for such gossip, and so, by degrees, I found a disinclination within me to gossip about other people. The best way to avoid gossip is to have no time for it. It is only lazy people who gossip, and if you occupy yourself with healthy work and with healthy amusements, you will not care for gossip. "Never speak ill of anyone; refuse to listen when anyone else speaks ill of another, but gently say: 'Perhaps this is not true, and even if it is, it is kinder not to speak of it.' " [Page 244]






THE second sin to which the Master refers is the sin of cruelty, and he divides cruelty into intentional and unintentional cruelty. As regards the former, one can hardly imagine, as the Master says, that anyone could be deliberately cruel to any living thing, but you will remember, nevertheless, that in olden times there was the Spanish Inquisition, under which people were tortured because their consciences did not agree with those of their torturers. You must also know that there are people in the world who deliberately give pain both to human beings and to animals in order that they may try to find out the source and cure of various diseases. And, as the Master says, many schoolmasters deliberately give pain to their pupils. I wonder to myself whether it is possible to say of these people that, behind the deliberate cruelty, there is a good intention. In some obscure sort of way there may possibly be a good motive behind the cruelty, but it is so ignorant and so distorted a motive that there can be only an infinitesimal amount of good connected with it. I should not like to say that inquisitors and vivisectors and schoolmasters are wholly bad when they commit [Page 245] acts of deliberate cruelty. Rather are they at so low a stage of moral evolution that they are only to a limited extent responsible for their actions. But the actions being so vile, the reaction of them is, as we know, a terrible one, and if they know in their hearts that they ought not to do such things, then their karma is indeed heavy. As the Master points out, it is useless to say that such and such a practice is the custom: "A crime does not cease to be a crime because many commit it". I know that because there is the halo of custom surrounding these brutalities we are apt to try to excuse them. After all, we say, with regard to the vivisector, at least he is trying to benefit mankind. But it is a selfish mankind that is willing to benefit from the suffering of others. Mankind has no right to inflict suffering on others in the vain hope that health and happiness may come to itself.




You may be told that certain discoveries in vivisection have resulted in securing definite immunity from a particular disease. To that I always reply that however much you may stop up one avenue there must always be another avenue for the working out of karma if karma remains. The dirt that you prevent coming out from one pore of the skin must find its way out through another. What the vivisector cannot prove is that, though one form of disease may be less frequent, disease as a whole is also less [Page 246] frequent. We have our scourges in one form or another as much as people had them in bygone centuries. And even though some diseases have disappeared there are new diseases which have taken their place; perhaps, indeed, they may be the old diseases with new names. Be that as it may be, the question is a question of morality and duty. Even if the torture of an animal could give mankind release from suffering, mankind can have no right to excuse such torture. If the animal voluntarily chooses to inflict upon itself the torture, that may be another matter; but so far as I am aware, animals are not consulted before they are vivisected. I do not want to put the matter in the shape of a question as to whether we really gain the benefit we are supposed to gain. We do not want to gain so-called benefits in that way. We would rather have our diseases than ruthlessly compel animals vicariously to suffer on our behalf. The giving of pain is one of the great sources of karma: the more pain we give to animals, the more our karma binds us to this world of sorrow and whatever conditions of health we may think we derive from the infliction of torture, these are overwhelmingly outbalanced by the diseases and sorrows which will surround us from that very infliction of torture.




As regards schoolmasters, there again the argument is that it is the custom. "Spare the rod and spoil [Page 247] the child", is the hackneyed phrase. If you and I are to try to follow the Master we must free ourselves from those dark glasses of superstition with which the average individual veils realities from his eyes. Many people will tell you how much better they are for the fact that when they were children corporal punishment was administered to them. I always reply to such people that we do not know how much better they might be than they are, had their teachers and parents refrained from administering corporal punishment to them. The argument is, of course, silly. The infliction of pain merely has the result of evoking fear. We are told that sensible discipline, of which corporal punishment forms a part, hardens the nature. It is from that very hardening of the nature that the world is suffering at the present time. We do not want to harden the nature; we want to soften it and make it sensitive; we want to make it capable of far deeper sympathy than it is capable of expressing at present. Blows may possibly steel a man's heart to indifference as to the results and effects of competition with his fellow-man, but we ought to-day to have passed the stage of callousness; we ought at least to be beginning our entry into the stage of cooperation. We do not beat flowers in order to make them grow more beautiful: on the contrary, the more we surround them with tenderness the more beautiful they become. A child is also a flower, a more beautiful flower even than those forms of life which we call flowers. Corporal punishment can very rarely be administered without anger. It may be so [Page 248] administered in exceedingly rare cases, but we cannot allow teachers as a whole to inflict corporal punishment simply because a few people may be able to administer it without suffering from excess of emotion. I say deliberately that the average teacher cannot avoid a trace of anger while he is caning his pupil, and such trace tends to infuse into the punishment the vulgarity of a personal quarrel. In many countries corporal punishment is seen to be unwise and it has accordingly been abolished. In England and in India, unfortunately, the old procedure still remains; but we are doing our best to get rid of it and to give the young child an opportunity to grow as the flower itself grows.




As for the Inquisition, we do not now, as a rule, inflict personal torture on those whose consciences are at variance with our own. I say, "as a rule", because, during the present war, a certain number of people have had truly conscientious objections to military service and have been subjected to iniquities which remind us of those which stained the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. Perhaps this is to be expected when the whole world is angry and the brutality of fighting has gained undisputed sway over the minds of men, and these conscientious objectors are such martyrs as were the early Christians in Rome, or those who endured suffering at the hands of the Inquisitors for the sake of their faith. [Page 249]


We have added to the list of tortures many forms which were unknown in the earlier days. For instance, there is the torture which the orthodox inflict on the unorthodox — a torture which often takes the form of cruel ostracism. There is the torture of contemptuous superiority which many rich people inflict upon the poor. There is the torture which men inflict upon women when they proudly think that only those of the male sex can understand how to govern a country. There is the torture which the people of one faith inflict upon the people of another faith, as, for example, the attitude of the Christian missionary to faiths other than his own. Then, as the Master tells us, there are those who go out intentionally to kill animals and "call it 'sport“ In some cases, no doubt, the intention may be good, but intentions do not always alter facts, and it is no excuse for cruelty to say that it was committed with a good motive. You and I must continually judge for ourselves, and must not be content with the customary judgment which the average individual accepts. Many people take their opinions ready-made. Most people hardly bother to think for themselves at all. They are surrounded by certain definite thought-forms; they live in those thought-forms, and very often imagine that they themselves are thinking them. All too often when some one says "I think" he ought to be saying, "I have fallen into the clutches of a thought-form and the opinion I am expressing is the result ". [Page 250]




You will recollect that in an earlier part of At the Feet of the Master we are told to realise very clearly that ourselves and our bodies are separate. We must also understand that because a thought comes into our minds it does not follow that we have thought it. It does not follow that because we live in a house, therefore we have built it with our own hands. We may speak of "our house" ; it may be "our house" because we have made it our house, but it is not our house in the sense that we have created it unless, possibly, we have designed it for ourselves. The Master warns us that "Karma takes no account of custom"; also karma takes no account of the fact that, in reality, we are mainly occupied with soaking in other people's thought-forms, and in giving them out as our own. We have to learn to think for ourselves and, above all, not to accept an idea, or a belief, or an opinion, because it makes life easier for us if we accept it. Of course, it is always easier to travel at the same rate at which the stream is flowing. But you and I are people who intend to get on a little faster, and who must be willing, therefore, bravely to endure the curious phenomenon of a stream which, though actually moving in the same direction as ourselves, seems as if it were opposing our progress. However fast the stream may be moving, if you are moving faster than the rate at which it is moving, it appears as if the water were flowing in a direction opposite to that in which you are [Page 251] going. In many cases people oppose you, not because they themselves are not evolving, but simply because you are evolving more rapidly than they; their rate is slower than your rate and therefore seems to be opposed to your own movements. We must think for ourselves, and accept nothing which our own judgment, made as independent as we can make it, fully and unhesitatingly accepts. Persecution is, of course, the inevitable result; but, as we know, the blood of the martyrs — whether physical, emotional or mental blood — is the foundation of the church that is to be.


The Master reminds us that when opportunity offers we must have the courage to speak against these cruelties, however much other people may believe in them. The time has now come when certain of these cruelties should cease to exist, and the only way they can be destroyed is for those of us who realise their valuelessness to proclaim the truth of which they are the distortions, the truth which is to take the place of the evil. Those of us who are trying to follow the Master must remember that we have the duty of proclaiming the truths we know, at whatever personal risk, or, at least, of proclaiming such truths as, in our judgment, the world is ripe for. So much for intentional cruelty.




We are also told, however, to be on our guard against unintentional cruelty. As the Master tells [Page 252] us, people are often so full of thoughts about themselves that they do not think sometimes of the pain which, no doubt thoughtlessly, they inflict upon others. The Master gives various examples of this, which you would do well to study and think about. Remember that long after you have forgotten your unintentional act of cruelty, its result may still be lingering in the individual upon whom you have inflicted the pain. A careless word, a look of indifference, apparently studied neglect, without any deliberateness behind any of them, may often be the cause of many hours, and possibly days, of suffering to those whom you have so treated. No doubt it is true, as the Master tells us in an earlier part of the book, that these people should remember that we may not have been thinking about them at all. But that is these people's business; our business is to be careful and not careless. This means that we must always be deliberate in what we do, in what we say, in what we think. We are all of us more or less careless, and in our ignorance we often cause unintentional cruelty.


When we realise the importance of giving as little pain as possible, we shall try to gain control over our various bodies — physical, emotional, mental. We may forget, but, as the Master says: "Karma never forgets, and it takes no account of the fact that men forget". To those of us who want favours for nothing, karma may seem very cruel; but a dirty wall does not become clean simply because a coat of whitewash is spread over it; sooner or later the dirt begins to show [Page 253] through, and if we then give another coat of whitewash, it is only a question of time for the dirt to show through again. If karma were to forget, we should go on forgetting too; we should go on forgetting our unintentional cruelties, and out of the forgetfulness would come the idea that we had never committed the cruelties. Were karma to forget, we should never learn. So, indeed, the memory of karma is the greatest of its blessings, for it obliges us to remember too, and so at last to learn the lesson and to profit from its strength-giving power.


"If you wish to enter the Path, you must think of the consequences of what you do, lest you should be guilty of thoughtless cruelty", says the Master, and while I know how difficult it is to think of the consequences of what we do, nevertheless that is the lesson we have to be continually learning. It is a hard lesson, but a very necessary lesson. After a time, when we have truly learned to think of the consequences of what we do, we shall see that only kind and helpful actions are worth doing. In other words, we shall see that the service of others means the greatest happiness for ourselves, and that is the lesson the Path is continually impressing upon us. [Page 254]






THE remarks of the Master with regard to superstition are of extreme importance at the present time. We must always remember that in looking forward to the coming of the great World Teacher we are looking forward to the advent of One who will usher in a New Age to replace the Old Age outworn. Even in the midst of this great War, indeed, because we are in the midst of this great War, we are taking stock of the kind of life we habitually lead. We are learning the lesson the Master indicated in an earlier part of the book, when He said that "karma takes no account of custom". We are finding that there is a far deeper truth in the legal maxim that ignorance of the law is no excuse for its breach, than we have hitherto been willing to recognise. Ignorance and indifference are seen to be fatal defects. The War has taught us this lesson. The War has taught us that the life of every citizen, however humble, is valuable to the State, and that we may neither be ignorant of, nor indifferent to, the kind of life he leads, lest we imperil the welfare of the community. We have discovered that innumerable customs which, hitherto, have seemed to have little harm in them, [Page 255] are, in fact, seen to be injurious when brought against the background of a great emergency. We are beginning to realise that it will no longer do to allow riches and poverty to dwell side by side, with the poor hating the luxury of the rich, with the rich contemptuous of the struggles of the poor. It may take us long to work out the nature of the true relation between the two but at last we are up against the problem, for in the agony of the nation the poor have proved to be no less its comforters than the rich. We are beginning to see that the reign of brute force must cease, and with it the superstition that women are inferior to men. In the nation's agony we have seen its women to be indispensable, and we are forced to the conclusion that there must be equality of citizenship since the State demands from each an appropriate service. The destinies of the State are in the hands of its men, women and children, and the elders must together determine the conditions under which the nation's youth shall grow to their maturity. Further, we are beginning to realise that difference of religious belief does not deny an identity of goal, that difference of colour does not mean difference of quality. In a word, we are, by degrees, shaking off certain superstitions which now stand between us and a realisation of the common brotherhood of mankind. The very word "superstition" suggests both that we are still dominated by, and that we should be standing above, these lower stages of the ladder of evolution which we are so slowly climbing. [Page 256]




For you and me, however, as would-be apprentices in the Master's training school for world-servers, there must be an even keener discrimination between the essential and the non-essential. If we desire to learn to lead, we must not allow ourselves to be lost in the crowd: we must make our way through, so that the crowd may see us. The Master specially draws attention, as you will notice, to the superstitions which involve cruelty. All superstitions involve more or less cruelty, but there are certain superstitions which we ought to be able to get rid of at once. The superstition that woman is not the equal of man involves very definite cruelty to the State, and we must work against it, even though we cannot abolish it all at once. Further, the cruelty of sacrificing animals in the course of religious ceremonies, and "the still more cruel superstition that man needs flesh for food", are superstitions that we can deal with individually. No doubt it is customary in certain parts of India for animals to be sacrificed during the course of religious ceremonies. It is customary in many parts of the world for people to eat meat. But those who are trying to avoid being blinded by custom will endeavour to look each habit in the face in order to judge for themselves whether or not the habit is right for them. You will remember how the Master said that "though a thousand men agree upon a subject, if they know nothing about that subject their opinion is of no value". [Page 257] Millions of men agree that meat eating is reasonable, and possibly necessary. But you and I must ask ourselves the question: "Is it?" Never mind whether it is necessary or reasonable for other people; our business for the moment is to decide whether it is necessary or reasonable for us. From the Master's instructions on the subject, we know that it is not.




As I write these words I am thinking of the hundred and one arguments people will use to excuse their inattention to the Master's directions. Most people wish to become apprentices in the Master's school, and at the same time to avoid all training. They want to become athletes without undergoing even any physical discipline, and they are silly enough to imagine that because they can find excuses for not going through the discipline, the results will be the same as if they had trained themselves and had observed the discipline. They will tell you that vegetarianism is all very well for people whose circumstances permit them to be vegetarians, but there are occasions under which it is wiser, and perhaps better for the sake of the work, to follow the ordinary custom. Now I do not for a moment deny that there are critical periods during which it may be necessary to follow custom. I have heard Mrs. Besant say that however averse an individual may be to vaccination, [Page 258] he should not allow a very wise aversion to prevent him from doing his duty to his country in her time of urgent need. If the authorities insist on vaccination, he had better allow them to vaccinate him. There are, in other words, supreme moments when one has to sacrifice one's own individual preparation, and even certain lesser principles, which the world is still too young to understand, for the sake of the common good, and for the preservation of greater principles; and one must gladly face the possible disadvantages accruing from the neglect of certain principles of life in order that one may be free to fit in with the plan the country has made for her protection. The lower kingdoms themselves may have to submit to temporary trouble and unhappiness for the sake of the maintenance of essential principles which can, at the time, be preserved only in ways the world understands and trusts.


But generally times are comparatively normal. It is, as a general rule, best that the individual should live as pure an individual life as possible. It is only during supreme happenings that he has to merge his individuality and his individual principles into the common whole. Certainly when the War is over, each one of us who aspires to be an apprentice must endeavour to show to the world how an individual life should be lived. Those who still take part in religious ceremonies, either because they need them or because their example is necessary for the weaker brethren, should set themselves resolutely in all possible ways against participation in, or encouragement of, sacrificial [Page 259] rites. Also, they should be vegetarians. No doubt it is very inconvenient to be a vegetarian. People often say that it shuts them off from the amenities of life, that it makes them a nuisance to their hosts. That is possible. But, surely, we have no right to inflict suffering on some of our friends in order to avoid inconvenience to others. It would, no doubt, be very annoying to cannibal hosts if we were regretfully to express our inability to eat human flesh, especially if no other dish were provided. But a man must have certain principles of conduct, and if we would be apprentices of the Master we must have principles of conduct just a stage in advance of those by which the world guides itself. We know that within a comparatively short time the whole world will be vegetarian (see Man : Whence, How and Whither), and it would be well for us to have the privilege of leading the way, realising that leadership invariably involves sacrifice. There are a number of foolish people who will tell you that vegetarians should not eat vegetables because they are lining things. It is curious how people, who have no special principle in the matter at all, want to push others to extremes in matters of principle. Having no principles themselves, they insist upon our carrying our principles to impossible conclusions. With regard to this, the sensible attitude is to support your life with the help of that life which is the least sentient. It might be better if we could eat rocks since these are less sentient than vegetables, but rocks have not hitherto proved [Page 260] sufficiently sustaining, and we are compelled, therefore, to go one step higher. I know that plants are sentient things, but their sentience is of a far different kind from the sentience of animals.




The Master then refers to India, and animadverts on “the treatment which superstition has meted out to the depressed classes in our beloved India". He observes: "See in that how this evil quality can breed heartless cruelty even among those who know the duty of brotherhood". Those of you who know little about India cannot be aware that, from the occult standpoint, much of India's suffering is directly attributable to her own treatment of those of her own people who are outside the pale of caste. She has treated them as "untouchables", and yet has not scrupled to take the lowest of services from them. In other words, while scorning them she has used them. Such an attitude is one of the greatest crimes against the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. But remember that every country has its depressed classes — those who are oppressed by power in all its forms. Everywhere the poor are depressed. All this is due to the fact that in our present-day civilisation there survives the spirit of brute force. The man rules because he is physically the stronger, and for no other reason whatever. The result has been the depressed classes. Were woman associated with man, the problem of the depressed classes would soon [Page 261] disappear. Only, while woman herself forms a depressed class, nothing can be done. Personally, I feel that if we would tackle the question of the depressed classes, we must first recognise that we cannot do without the equal counsel of woman. One of two courses is open. Either men will have the sense to recognise that brute force is played out, and that true government is impossible without the cooperation of women; or efforts will be made to keep women out of their duty to society. If the later course is persisted in, the world is in for another period of terrible suffering, because woman suffrage does not rest on the basis of justice to women but on the basis of justice to the State. It is not merely that women have a right to the vote; they have a duty to vote. We must face these things clearly, freeing ourselves from superstition.


The Master says: "Many crimes have men committed in the name of the God of Love, moved by this nightmare of superstition; be very careful therefore that no slightest trace of it remains in you". When you read that sentence, think of the Inquisition; think of the evils in your locality thriving under the supposed sanction of habit, of custom, of necessity. Think of the various cruel things that people do on the plea that it is impossible to avoid! them. You will remember what the Master has said about vivisectors and about schoolmasters who cane their pupils. Then say to yourself that you will avoid all the cruelty that it is possible for you to avoid, and you will see that there is very much to be [Page 262] got rid of. The position is summed up very beautifully by the Master when he tells us to avoid sinning against love. That really is the whole point. We are often tempted to think that cruelty to the larger self is inevitable for the preservation of the smaller. We think that we must live at other people's expense — I mean, at the cost of other people's suffering. Such an attitude is the result of the elevation of the individual as the supreme object of worship. We must remember, however, that the family is the unit of our life, and not the individual; and that our task is, living as far as we can a life of love in the smaller surroundings, gradually to learn to expand it through the nation as a whole.




"You must be active in doing good", says the Master. "You must be so filled with the intense desire of service that you are ever on the watch to render it to all around you — not to man alone, but even to animals and plants. You must render it in small things every day, that the habit may be formed, so that you may not miss the rare opportunity when the great thing offers itself to be done. For if you yearn to be one with God, it is not for your own sake; it is that you may be a channel through which His love may flow to reach your fellow-men". I think you would all do well to copy out this passage and to hang it in front of your bed, so that you may be able to see it [Page 263] when you get up in the morning. In the words "intense desire of service", is to be found the most powerful qualification for admission to the Master's training school. The keener the intensity, the surer the admission, and one who, as it were, palpitates with an intensity of desire of service and who is, on that account, ready to go anywhere and do anything, is on the threshold of admission. That very eagerness is the force the Master will be able to use in helping the world, and it will also be the means of helping his pupil to turn away from all the weaknesses which hinder both his own progress and his usefulness in the world. You know how it is often said that to get rid of a weakness it is necessary to have some object strong enough to attract away the attention from the weakness. Attention is the food on which thrive both qualities and weaknesses. If you would get rid of a weakness strive to starve it by depriving it of attention. If you would strengthen a quality, feed it with attention. I believe that, from the Master's standpoint, it is not so much a question as to whether an individual is free from defects, as to whether he has some dominant note strong enough, in the long run, at least, to concentrate attention on itself at the expense of his weaknesses. If I may be allowed a personal illustration, I would say that such self-control as I may possess is, in great measure, due to an overwhelming interest in the science of education. I have an intense desire in some future life to become a great teacher and a great authority on the principles and [Page 264] methods of education. I know that certain weaknesses I possess stand in the way of the consummation of my hopes. I play with my weaknesses less than I otherwise might do, because my desire to become a true teacher demands so much attention-food that there is not so much to spare for the weaknesses, and they have, therefore, to go more or less without; thus they will starve and finally die. If you have a great and uplifting desire, it will demand attention-food. The stronger it is, the more food it will demand, and since you have only a certain amount of food at your disposal in the shape of attention, you must necessarily starve something, and you will starve your weaknesses because self-preservation — using the word "self" in the sense of "Higher Self" — demands that the weaknesses shall go to the wall. [Page 265]






THE Master wants us to be positive and not negative. He wishes us ever to be filled with that outrushing force of love which expresses itself in "the intense desire to serve". I wonder whether you have seen the beautiful motto Mrs. Besant gave to the Theosophical Society's Order of Service. She said that the Order should be "a union of all who love in the service of all who suffer"; and if you were to go into her room in the Headquarters at Adyar, you would see this motto in front of her desk. Only the other day she told me she thought it was one of the most useful mottoes to have about, for it sums up the spirit in which we should live. You must, however, remember that in the words "all who suffer" are included all living things, not merely human beings. As the Master says, you must be "ever on the watch to render it [service] to all around you — not to man alone, but even to animals and plants". There is far too deep a cleavage in the modern world between the human and the lower kingdoms. We are over eager to unite ourselves with the higher, and often imagine that it is possible to reach the higher by standing upon the lower. [Page 266] We think of our own progress, of our own personal evolution, as if these could be accomplished independently of the rest of the world. We think that if we avoid offending, according to the worldly standpoint, certain moral laws, that each inevitable wrong-doing will be forgiven, and that if we are respectful to God. He will be generous to us, I am not for the moment saying that this attitude is not a necessary stage of evolution. The idea of personal salvation has its place in our upward growth, for it helps us to realise ourselves, and we cannot realise the larger unity outside us until, to a very considerable extent, we have realised ourselves as individuals. This is the value of competition and of many other forms of individualised growth and activity which, from certain points of view, seem so revolting. But the world is growing out of competition. The great War of 1914 sounded the death-knell of competition and heralded the advent of brotherhood. We who belong to the new age must live the teachings of the new age. We must try to understand that the process of evolution is the gradual expansion of our capacity to love. There are some who love but themselves, and although the world has reached the stage when it can call such love selfish, it must be remembered that love of humanity must begin in the little home of the individual self. Some love their families. This is a more expanded form of love. Others may love the community to which they belong. Others may love their nation. All these are stages, and the greater includes the less. [Page 267] Finally, there are the great lovers of humanity, who love the whole world because all is an expression of God. But the lovers of humanity are the better patriots for the wider love they possess. The patriot is a better lover of his community than the individual whose affection does not go beyond the particular class to which he belongs. And so downwards. The Master, who loves the whole world, loves the individual all the more; He does not ignore the individual as being lost in the wider love. I lay stress on this lest people should think, as it is inevitable they should think, that a love for the whole world is something cold and unattractive. They imagine that such an individual has done with his family, pays no more attention to it, ceases to be a loving member of it, that he has been through the earlier stages of the growth of his love. It is true that those in whom the love of humanity consciously begins for the first time tend to forget the smaller in the enthusiasm they feel for the larger. It is quite natural. A child will throw away an old toy for one newer and more beautiful. As he grows older, especially when he grows quite old, even the earliest toys of childhood will once again become dear to him. And so it is that while we see in the world the curious anomaly of people who love the whole world often neglecting their immediate families, this does not mean that love for the world inevitably involves the abandonment of all lesser affections. The temporary abandonment is merely due to temporary lack of power of adjusting. Take, for example, the case of Jean Jacques Rousseau. [Page 268] History tells us that he utterly neglected his own children. Yet he wrote Amiel, in many ways a wonderful exposition of the way in which children should be trained. The more shallow-minded would say that Amiel is valueless, because he contradicted in his own life the theories which he expounded in his writings. The fact is that Rousseau was at an earlier stage of a larger love. In trying to grasp the bigger principles, he temporarily let go of the lesser ones. In the course of a few lives, Rousseau will realise that the love of the whole is based on the love of its component parts and that all his theories will not be really true until he applies them in everyday life.




We thus see how complicated evolution is, and above all do we realise how little cause or reason we have to judge others. The conduct of other people very often strikes us as unwise or wrong, and we rush into criticism. The criticism would not much matter if we did it as a warning to ourselves, but we generally make criticism a stick with which to beat those whom we criticise. Yet we are not true psychologists. As the Master says: "Never attribute motives to another; only his Master knows his faults, and he may be acting from reasons which have never entered your mind". Every individual is a mass of enormously complicated machinery. We find it difficult enough to understand [Page 269] ourselves. It is impossible to understand other people; all we can do is to try to sympathise with them and to help them. The Master brought this out very clearly when He said: "Each soul has its own troubles and its thoughts turn chiefly around itself". It is true, I think, to say that, even when we feel most condemnatory of another, there are sure to be extenuating and explanatory circumstances of which we know nothing at all. A little, insignificant attitude at any particular moment may, looked at by itself, give rise in our minds to criticism, but it is probable that this little attitude has causes, possibly in the remote past, of which we can have no conception. I have no space to give illustrations of this, but you will probably be able to work them out for yourselves. At all events, it would be well for you to remember quite clearly that every time you criticise or think unkindly, you are almost certain to be unjust.


And if we are unjust to those who belong to the same kingdom as ourselves, how much more unjust shall we not be to those members of God's family whom it is still more difficult to understand. The apparent helplessness of animals and plants has led us to take advantage of them and to imagine that because they are helpless, therefore we have the right to do what we like with them. This attitude is a reflection of the individualistic spirit which has for so many years been so dominant in many parts of the world. "The weakest to the wall" has been the principle of conduct of large numbers of people, and animals and plants have correspondingly suffered. [Page 270] We who aspire to be servants of the Masters must remember that God loves equally every kingdom in His divine empire. The time will come when the animal and the plant will once more be friendly to the human being. As it is, the animals generally know who, among those of the human kingdom, appreciate and love them. But the general ill-treatment of the animal kingdom has created the gulf between human beings and animals, and the habitual attitude of the animal must necessarily be one of distrust towards his undutiful elder brother. But as the spirit of brotherhood begins to permeate the human kingdom, we may hope that it will bridge this gulf and draw the warring kingdoms into an alliance similar to that which exists between the superhuman and the human kingdoms.


It is the same with plants. Many of you must have remarked that flowers and trees are attracted towards certain individuals. Plants grow the better under the hands of those who love them, and I have often noticed how long plants live, and how happy they seem when in the immediate vicinity of Mrs Besant. People sometimes give Mrs Besant flowers, and when she wears them on her dress they often last for a very long time. In other words, they have found a home and are happy in the home. Some day the world will indeed be beautiful, for some day there shall be a loving co-operation between all the various kingdoms of Nature, in which the elder shall do its duty to the younger and in which the younger shall act in loving co-operation with the elder. [Page 271]






As the Master points out, love and service are really identical and interchangeable terms. If we love God, we yearn to be one with Him, but, as the Master says: "If you yearn to be one with God, it is not for your own sake; it is that you may be a channel through which His love may flow to reach your fellow-men". That is why the Master tells us that we must love, and therefore serve, all that is in the world — men, animals and plants. Indeed, we must serve minerals too, though the idea seems somewhat far-fetched. But all who truly love Nature are well aware of the wonderful lesson the mineral kingdom teaches us. That minerals are living things we are now well aware, through the researches of that great Indian scientist, Sir J. C. Bose, but all who have an eye for Nature know the effect a beautiful landscape has upon human beings. The grandeur of mountain scenery impresses itself upon the individual soul and makes the lover of nature feel the unity to a very marked degree. The Power of God becomes deeply manifest in the rugged results of great upheavals, and the relentless sea speaks of His inexorable Law. To use a phrase of Professor James, [Page 272] the voice of life's eternal meaning "speaks through every kingdom of Nature", and our business is to develop through love and service the power to hear God's message in the various stages of development of His all-pervading Love.




Those who have been privileged to pass through the first of the great Initiations are to a certain extent aware of the living unity. They are able to merge themselves, at least for the time, in the external, and in so losing themselves they gain a feeble glimpse of the image of God. One who has passed through this experience says:


I cannot quite explain to you the nature of the experience I went through on the buddhic plane, but I can tell you of its after effects when I returned to what we call the waking consciousness. When I woke, I was full of a feeling of being self-merged in the external, as if I had been distributed in nature around me and that, therefore, my consciousness lived in all around. Getting out of bed and going to my window, I looked down upon a beautiful lemon grove, the trees of which were ripe with lemons. As I looked, the centre of my consciousness seemed to spread, to expand, so that I was not only "I" but also the lemon grove, and the gardener who was at that moment engaged in plucking lemons. I seemed to have spread and to alternate between the external and myself. Now I felt myself to be the lemon grove, now I contracted into my ordinary self, and I realised that my task was so to live and love and serve that some day my consciousness should be spread in all around me with myself as but a centre. Curiously enough, so complete for the time being was the identification of myself with the lemon grove, [Page 273] that in the person of the tree I seemed to experience the slightest of twinges when my lemons were plucked from my branches. Somehow, it seemed a pity; it seemed as if I were being deprived of that which I had won the right to enjoy. I had brought the lemons into existence and they made me beautiful. They completed me, and there was the slightest of pain in being deprived of the fruit of my labour. Going back to myself, I knew that the tree need not be sorry, for its lemons were its love and its service. But I knew, too, that the tree could not be expected altogether to realise this. The question then arose in my mind as to whether it was fair to give the tree its pain. It came to me, however, that only thus could the tree learn its dharma, for trees have their dharma as have human beings, and the little minute of pain the tree suffered was well repaid by the gratitude of those who have learned to be thoughtful. This brought me to the point that we should help the lower kingdoms of Nature far more than we do, were we to be more deliberately thoughtful of them than we are. An act of homage to the lemon tree on eating a lemon may sound in these modern days absurd, but, from the point of view of the tree, there is no absurdity at all. Who knows whether trees will not produce far better fruit than they do, and will be glad for the fruit to go, if they feel that the pain of separation is but a payment in advance for a more vigorous life fed by the gratitude of man ?


The writer pursues this theme into many bypaths, in the course of which he shows how, while sympathy begins with the reproduction of the feeling; sympathised with, true sympathy means the imparting of strength to endure. This, indeed, is what both love and service mean. It is not usually our business or our duty to bear other people's burdens, but it is our duty in the name of a common unity to share with them the strength which shall help them to bear their troubles bravely. [Page 274]




The Master says: "He who is on the Path, exists not for himself, but for others; he has forgotten himself, in order that he may serve them". Note the phrase — "he has forgotten himself". I take this to mean that he has learned to merge himself in others. Only by merging himself in others will he know how to understand them. And this shows to us the value of experience, both bitter and sweet. It is not necessary to pass through all conceivable experiences, nor to sympathise individually with all the world; but it is necessary to have become acquainted with the essence of experience. We must have experienced the essential quality of experience, though by no means necessarily in all the various forms experience assumes. Experience teaches its lessons in various ways, according to the varying temperaments and conditions of human beings, as well as of other forms in which God has expressed Himself. When we have learned the lesson we have understood the process, and it will not be difficult for us to recognise the process through forms of experience through which we may not ourselves actually have passed. The actual experiences through which we have gone give us our individuality, while the essence of those experiences gives us our universality. A great sorrow may teach us what sorrow really is, no matter what the various forms of its expression. If we can take ourselves from "our sorrows" to "sorrow" the lesson has been learned, for, if through our sorrows we learn of sorrow, then we shall [Page 275] understand sorrow in all its forms, for it is the life that makes the form. So we must always try to reason from the individual to the general. When trouble comes to us, we would do well to communalize our feelings, and to say to ourselves that other kinds of trouble bring such feelings to other people. We would do well, too, to realise that all the little difficulties that we have to encounter, and all the excuses we make for ourselves, have their counterparts in the lives of other people. If I do some hurt to somebody, I am generally able to find an excuse or a reason. Similarly, if somebody hurts me, he, too, can find his excuse and his reason. Each of us can explain, and in the explanation we find either justification or, at least, mitigation. Indeed, the mitigating circumstances we always claim to exist in our own case exist equally in the case of other people. And we would do well to remember that the understanding we ask from others is an understanding we should in turn give to them. But misunderstanding others is as inevitable as to be misunderstood oneself, so, in other words, if we do not contribute to the total world's happiness such share as may be expected from us, we shall have great difficulty in receiving, in return, the share we ourselves need. Do you see what I mean ? If you want to be happy, you must first put happiness into the common stock and then draw it out. You cannot be happy independently. It is for this reason that At the Feet of the Master may be called a "gospel of happiness", for it is a gospel of love and service, and [Page 276] only as we love and serve do we become abidingly happy. You will have noticed that the Master says that those who are on the Path exist not for themselves, but for others. The indication of that fact will have been apparent in the words which I have quoted from one who himself is treading that Path. He exists for others because he has experienced the unity, and once that unity is experienced it cannot only never be forgotten, but in course of time must increasingly dominate the daily life. We are told that at a later stage the process is reversed; so that the individual draws everything into himself instead of feeling himself merged in the external. I need not, however, deal with this, as it is probable that the majority of my readers have yet to experience that first stage the nature of which I have already described.


"He is as a pen in the hand of God, through which His thought may flow, and find for itself an expression down here, which without a pen it could not have. Yet at the same time he is also a living plume of fire, raying out upon the world the Divine Love which fills his heart". In these magnificent phrases the Master shows how, while each one of us is a channel for the expression of the Master's force, we become at the same time an individual fountain for the water of life. Out of our expression of the unity come to the world the eternal principles of the Divine Life, while out of our individuality these Divine principles assume certain definite forms whereby they may be the more easily recognised by such individuals as naturally respond to the special [Page 277] forms through which we express the One Life. So we are useful in a twofold way. We can send out to the world both the formless and the form. Each one of us has his individual contribution to make to the world's happiness, as well as being able, to a certain extent at least, to send out an expression of general principles. Each one of us can be at least something to all the world, but, as individuals with a special line of activity, we can be very much to the few. [Page 278]






IN teaching her pupils, Mrs. Besant lays stress on the different kinds of training which we need for all-round development. If we are to tread the Path successfully, we must not merely utilise and develop our capacities, but we must also replace our weaknesses by strength. Under ordinary circumstances, an individual's duty is to pay special attention to the less developed aspects of his character, so that he may gradually attain that all-round perfection, so characteristic of Those who have reached the Adept level. He who is strong in will but weak in wisdom must, for example, strive to acquire wisdom. He who possesses knowledge but remains weak of character must so strengthen his will as to make good use of the knowledge he possesses. Similarly, with all other characteristics and qualities, the growing must strive in every possible way to acquire a balanced nature in which all qualities are at a certain definite level of expression, while definite weaknesses have entirely been replaced by strength. This is more or less what is meant by general development. It is of essential importance for young people, and might be expressed in ordinary terms by stating [Page 279] that there must be a good foundation of general knowledge before specialisation begins.


On the other hand, each individual has his own special contribution to make to the progress of the world. We are told that the great Hierarchy which rules us is divided into distinct branches of activity. There are roughly three main divisions — the ruling, the teaching, and the organising. In each of these divisions there are Master-Experts, specially trained for work in the divisions to which They belong. Each Master, if one may reverently say so, has not only acquired an all-round perfection, but has also developed His nature in accordance with the special dictates of His individual being. The music of the world is a harmony, not a single note. The very beauty of the harmony depends upon the many differences which constitute it, provided each separate note be in tone with the spirit of the co-ordinating harmony. Therefore, while each one of us needs to acquire an all-round development, specially strengthening the weaker parts of our nature, we must at the same time remember that, as individuals, we have, each one of us, a special message to give to our surroundings. Within the three great divisions — ruling, teaching, organising — there are many varieties of work, and no one should feel that he has no message to give. It may be that he has not yet given his message, that he is not yet ready to specialise, just as the child is not ready for specialisation. But some day he will know his work, and if he realises that he has special duties to perform, he will [Page 280] be on the watch for them, and so grow the more quickly. Many who read these pages may feel that they really do not know to which line they belong, nor to which special sub-division they belong. Let them keep in mind the fact that they truly have their own special place and special function in the world's service, and that in due course they will discover themselves. Each one of us will become a specialist, either in the near or in the distant future, and the more quickly we learn to modify our exaggerations, to replace our weaknesses by strength, and to bring the various constituents of our nature into harmonious relationship, the sooner shall we discover the special place God sends us into the world to occupy. I have no space to pursue this subject further, or I would suggest in detail how it seems to me the great divisions of activity express themselves in various ways. But I believe that if we look around us intelligently, we can begin to see into what divisions the people we know well are gradually sorting themselves. At first we shall be more often wrong than right, but with experience will come increasing accuracy of judgment. I would add as a final word on this subject that, if I have learned aright, the specialisation I have spoken of extends into the highest regions. I have heard that the dominant note of our own world, for example, is love, expressed in a certain specific way. I can imagine that the dominant note of some other world might be wisdom, while with yet another it might be will, and so on. Whether I am right or wrong, this field of study is [Page 281] exceedingly fascinating, and invaluable to those who have to deal with humanity either as statesmen or as teachers.




In the last paragraph of At the Feet of the Master, the Master lays down the nature of the fundamental qualifications each one of us must develop. He tells us that we must gain wisdom, but not for ourselves, rather that we may be able to help. Then we must gain will, so as to direct our wise helpfulness through suitable channels of service. But there must also be love, for without love there can be no true will; while without the will to help there could be no force stimulating us in the pursuit of true wisdom. You notice how the Master makes love the inspiring element. Perhaps this is because the dominant note of this world is love. Having love, the will to serve must inevitably come. And with the will to serve must come a longing to serve helpfully, wisely. I might be asked how it is possible to acquire the quality of love for others. I am inclined to answer that one learns to love others by growing tired of loving oneself. One becomes weary of the smaller self, and turns with relief to the greater freedom of the larger self. Love for others comes from within, not from without. It cannot be imposed upon us. It is impossible to force a child to love other people. But the wise teacher stimulates in his pupils that fatigue which sooner or later arises from [Page 282] loving themselves alone. For some time, it is inevitable that we should care most for our own individual, small selves. It is not only inevitable, it is right; for we can only proceed to the wider from the narrower and we must begin with ourselves. Later on we begin to realise that real happiness depends far more upon our relations with our surroundings than upon the endeavour to get what we want for ourselves, indifferent that the satisfaction of our own desires may be bought at the expense of pain to others. But to realise this means gradual growth. We cannot achieve it all in a moment, and I would, therefore, repeat that the only way to stimulate the love for others is to encourage in all legitimate ways the weariness of loving oneself alone.




I have now come to the end of these studies, and I think that if I were asked to sum up what the results of the teachings should be for any individual, I should quote the two verses given at the end. I reproduce them here:


Waiting the word of the Master,

Watching the Hidden Light ;

Listening to catch His orders

In the very midst of the fight;


Seeing His slightest signal

Across the heads of the throng;

Hearing His faintest whisper

Above earth's loudest song.


[Page 283] The result of all true teaching is far more to produce right attitude than to fill the brain with details of knowledge. The best teaching is that which establishes on a firm basis a mind trained to know where to look for the needed knowledge, how to gain such an attitude as shall enable the individual not only to direct his knowledge wisely but, also, sympathetically to understand the thousand and one motives and circumstances which lie at the root of every individual existence. The teachings of the Master should help us to acquire an attitude of kindliness and of eagerness to help, while both of these must be sufficiently genuine to make us willing to undertake the necessary training and the necessary sacrifices. It is an attitude which is expressed in the two verses I have quoted, the attitude of listening for the slightest indication as to conduct from Those who may be called the Perfect Servers.


The first verse indicates to us the need for humility, for realising how little in reality we know— however much the world may call us wise. If we would be truly helpful, therefore, we must be ever on the watch for hints from Those who possess the true knowledge. The last two lines of the first verse teach us the most important lesson that we must never lose sight of God's plan for men, however much we may be absorbed in our own individual lives. Our own lives are parts of God's Life, and we can only live our own lives truly when we strive to shape them, adapt them, mould them, to His. Mrs. Besant has often told us how in the background of her mind [Page 284] is always the thought of her Master, with the result that everything she does is influenced and coloured by that dominant thought. We, too, must similarly learn to keep our Master ever in our thoughts, because the Master represents in embodied form our highest selves, is the Messenger of God to our hearts. If we cannot yet think of any special Master, at least we can have the image of one of the earth's Great Helpers ever before us. There are a few living in our midst even now whom we might do well to enshrine in the sacred places of our being. Every one of us should be a hero-worshipper, whether of a hero of by-gone ages or of one living in the world to-day.


The second verse amplifies the first, and it would be well to learn these verses by heart, so that they may as frequently as possible come into our thoughts to remind us of the true motive that should be behind our thoughts, our feelings, our activity. The lines


Hearing His faintest whisper

Above earth's loudest song.


teach us that the lightest suggestion of the Master is of infinitely greater importance than the considered opinion of the world in which we live. Those who would be pupils of a Master must learn to judge for themselves, to think the thoughts the Master would wish them to think, to feel as He would wish them feel, to speak as He would have them speak, to act as He would have them act. Public opinion has its value, but the opinion of the Master is the purest truth for those who know, and above all for the occultist. On the other hand, we must take care not to be too lazy [Page 285] to think for ourselves. Laziness keeps large numbers of people from the feet of the Master, for either they want to be spoon-fed by their elders, and to receive and act on distinct orders as to every little detail of their lives, or they grovel before public opinion rather than take the trouble to stand up for themselves and, if necessary, to brave public opinion and suffer the consequences. No one can become the pupil of the Master who is not fully willing, indeed eager, to suffer in the cause of that which he believes to be the truth, however much he may thereby bring down upon himself the execration of his friends and surroundings.


I would specially warn you against the very common weakness of many good, but not spiritual, people, who go about telling others how they were told to do this and that, how they dreamed this dream, heard the voice of So and So, how Mrs. Besant or Mr. Leadbeater has specially advised this, approved that, recommended this course, endorsed such and such an interpretation of an astral or other experience. There are many such well-meaning persons in our circles, revolving placidly in theirs. Let them say what they will, but for yourselves remember Mr. Leadbeater's advice not to become the centre of your circle. People who act as I have described are really striving to persuade others that they are very important people. They seek praise by trying to strut about in garments alleged to have been made for them by personages greater than they. Apart from the fact that in nine cases out of ten their [Page 286] remarks are generally gross exaggerations of the little amount of truth which may possibly be in them, our business as apprentices in a Master's school is to prove ourselves by action, not by speech.


I hope that the Master's teachings are as precious to my readers as they are to me. We may read At the Feet of the Master many times, but we are only beginning to understand it if we find each time we read it afresh that we are learning something new. He who, having read At the Feet of the Master, does not long to read it again and again, has not yet understood its message.


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