THEOSOPHY, Vol. 23, No. 12, October, 1935
(Pages 529-533; Size: 14K)
(Number 1 of a 7-part series)

STUDIES IN THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT

PRECURSORS OF H.P.B.'S MISSION

EVERY year thousands of visitors cross the Indian Peninsula to catch a glimpse of the snow-capped Himalayas that rim its eastern border. But among those thousands, how many realize that these Gargantuan peaks are but the visible portion of an otherwise invisible chain that completely encircles the globe?

Every year thousands of religious devotees ponder over the lives and precepts of their chosen Teacher: the Christ, the Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Confucius or Lao-Tsu. But among those thousands, how many realize that these mighty characters are but the visible peaks of another invisible chain that encompasses the history of the whole human race?

Many correspondences between the Himalayan chain and the chain of the Theosophical Movement present themselves to the thoughtful student. The Himalayan chain -- "the belt of the sacred Himavat" -- appeared above the waters during the Third Race(1). The first of the Divine Dynasties also appeared during that period of the world's history, its purpose being to instruct the men of that day in the arts and sciences. Nature has preserved the Himalayas as the finest gems in her royal casket of jewels. Her still more precious gems -- those same arts and sciences that were imparted to the men of the Third Race -- are likewise preserved in the secret sanctuaries of the Initiates beyond the Sacred Range. The Himalayan chain forms a Guardian Wall of protection for the sacred land of Thibet. But there is another Guardian Wall. "Built by the hands of many Masters of Compassion, raised by their tortures, by their blood cemented, it shields mankind, since man is man, protecting it from further and far greater misery and sorrow."

The belt of the sacred Himavat that stretches round the globe is partly visible, partly invisible. The chain of the Theosophical Movement presents the same characteristic. Its visible portion is seen in those great characters who have appeared, under cyclical law, at different periods of the world's history. According to the Bhagavad-Gita:

"I produce myself among creatures, O son of Bharata(2), whenever there is a decline of virtue and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world; and thus I incarnate from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of righteousness."
Several different cycles are marked bv the appearance of these Great Ones. But since the fourteenth century, it is the hundred year cycle that has been specially observed, and the last quarter of every succeeding century has witnessed an attempt on the part of the Masters to bring the work of the Theosophical Movement into clear visibility. These attempts, and the workers concerned with them, may be traced through the pages of history. But the continuity of the Movement during the seventy-five intermediate years is not so apparent. It requires an effort to discover the connecting links.

During the coming year, the Magazine THEOSOPHY will present a series of articles dealing with the work of three men who helped to preserve the continuity of the Theosophical Movement after the public effort of the eighteenth century. These men were not consciously aware of the part they were playing in the Great Plan. Their work was finished before the formation of the Theosophical Society in 1875. They did not call themselves Theosophists. But as H.P.B. says in the First Message to the American Theosophists: "Many who have never heard of the Society are Theosophists without knowing it themselves." The proof that these men were Theosophists without knowing it themselves will be found in their own statements, and copious extracts from their writings will be offered for the consideration of the student. It is hoped that the forthcoming articles will assist the readers toward a clearer realization of the continuity of the Theosophical Movement, and inspire them to search for other hidden links.

In order to see the work of these men in their proper perspective, it is first necessary to take a quick glance at the preceding century.

The eighteenth century came to birth in a spirit of mutiny. Its first cry was one against the Jehovistic concept of God and the constrictive laws left as an heirloom by the century preceding it. It insisted upon the rights of the individual and proclaimed the sacredness of man's power of choice. Voltaire led the army of rebellion against Jehovah; Rousseau unsheathed his sword against the existing moral laws, and Diderot placed Man upon the throne hitherto reserved for Deity.

During the latter part of the eighteenth century another effort was made to gather together material for a period of reconstruction. New workers appeared upon the scene, and fresh forces were mustered to counteract the ravages of scepticism and to commence the work of rehabilitation. Some of these workers concentrated their efforts along the lines made necessary by the great national crises then facing France and America. Others put their efforts into the formation of groups for the promulgation of Theosophical principles.

Two individuals stand out for their work in these national crises, where the divine right of kings was being questioned and challenged by popular opinion. The Count de St. Germain assumed the role he was to play in the French Revolution, while Thomas Paine came to America to become the main instigator in the separation of the American colonies from the British crown.

At the same time certain groups, aiming at the promulgation of Theosophical principles, began to appear in different parts of Europe.

In 1767 Benedict Chastanier founded the "Lodge of Illuminated Theosophists" in London. In 1783 Mesmer, who was an initiated member of the Brotherhoods of the Fratres Lucis and of Lukshoor, founded the "Order of Universal Harmony", in which the tenets of Hippocrates, the methods of the ancient Asclepieia, the Temples of Healing, and many other occult sciences were expounded. The Marquis de St. Martin, a disciple of Pasqualis and of Jacob Boehme, founded an occult Masonic Society in Lyons, where he attempted to bring Masonry back to its primeval character of Occultism and Theurgy. In 1773 the Lodge of Philalethes -- an offshoot of the Loge des Amis Reunis -- was formed in Paris. The members of this Lodge, aided by St. Germain, St. Martin, Mesmer and Cagliostro, made a special study of the Occult Sciences. At the same time Cagliostro, who was a friend and protege of the Prince Cardinal de Rohan, began to teach the Eastern doctrines of the "principles" of man, and the presence of the "indwelling God."

But the world was in such a state of chaos and upheaval at that time that it failed to appreciate either the Message or the Messengers. St. Germain, Mesmer and Cagliostro were branded as charlatans. Thomas Paine was arrested for treason, and his books burned. The work of St. Martin was misunderstood and dishonored by the so-called Martinists, and the Masons refused to accept his explanations of the true origins of Masonry because they differed from their own exoteric history. And so, from one point of view, the work of the Messengers of the eighteenth century seems to have been in vain.

But from another angle its success appears. For it left a decided impress upon the race mind, and greatly influenced the coming century. The effect is perceived in the early years of the nineteenth century, as Theosophical ideas began to filter into the literature of the day. By the middle of the century, some of the greatest thinkers, writers, poets and philosophers were ardently disseminating Theosophical principles, although not under the name of Theosophy. The Wilkins translation of the Bhagavad-Gita in 1785 had much to do with this, as it turned the mind of the West back to the ancient East, and gave it a more secure foundation upon which to build its philosophy.

The forthcoming articles will consider the Theosophical ideas presented by three English speaking writers: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Browning and Walt Whitman. These men have been chosen for several reasons.

First of all, they represent three types. Emerson was a deep student, a profound thinker, primarily a lover of philosophy. Browning was a cosmopolitan, a man of the world, a traveler, a poet, above all a lover of the arts. Walt Whitman was a man of the soil, unpolished, uncouth, untraveled, provincial. His outstanding characteristics may be stated in three words: he loved mankind.

Another reason why these three men were selected is because each of them seems to have specially concerned himself with one of the three Objects of the Theosophical Society. Robert Browning, in his poem "Paracelsus" illustrated the Third Object. He called attention to the powers that lie latent within every man, and demonstrated how one man -- Paracelsus -- developed these powers to the point of perfection. Emerson, on the other hand, seems to have concerned himself principally with the Second Object. He constantly urged the necessity of the study of comparative religions, sciences and philosophies. But Walt Whitman's life was spent in promulgating the First Object. He was an apostle of Universal Brotherhood, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.

In order to properly evaluate the work of Emerson, Browning and Whitman, it is necessary to see it in its true perspective. It cannot be considered as part of the main stream of the Theosophical Movement, but rather as some of the "minor currents" that flow into it and feed it.

These three men cannot be numbered among the high peaks of the mighty chain of the Theosophical Movement. They are rather like its foot-hills, standing well above the valley of the race-mind, offering a method of ascent to the greater heights beyond. From the summit of their thought, many a seeker after truth has caught his first glimpse of the snow-capped peaks that crowd the Guardian Wall. Starting from those levels, many a student has begun his climb to the greater heights.

It is therefore with gratitude and appreciation that this series of articles is offered.


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

THE NATURE OF GENIUS

...the presence in man of various creative powers -- called genius in their collectivity -- is due to no blind chance, to no innate qualities through hereditary tendencies -- though that which is known as atavism may often intensify these faculties -- but to an accumulation of individual antecedent experiences of the Ego in its preceding life, and lives . -- H.P.B.


Next article:
Precursors of H.P.B.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Part 2 of 7)


TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Third Race" means the whole Human Race here. The use of this term is that of a Root-Race. A "Root-Race" is contained within a much longer evolutionary period (or cycle) called a Manvantara, which has a beginning and an ending. In the present Manvantara we are in the evolutionary period of humanity known as the Fifth Sub-Race of the Fifth Root-Race. A Manvantara is many millions of years long. Within that immense period there are seven Root-Races, each of which is divided into seven "Sub-Races", which are each divided into seven "Family-Races. It is always cycles within cycles. The shortest of these cycles is about 30,000 years. There is always a long period of overlapping as one racial period of development blends into the next one. But it is we, each eternal soul, individually, and all of us together, who are going through all of these evolutionary periods over and over again, incarnation after incarnation, from age to age, with no final end to this cosmic process.
Back to text.

(2) "Bharata" is an ancient name for India.
Back to text.
 
 


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