These ideas may indicate a real meaning of the fact that many noble souls appeared in various important countries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and created in every form of higher thought that upward swing called Idealism. The time was ripe to provide for and to sustain the great influx into the West of that Light of Spiritual Knowledge to be sent out as part of the long prepared Seven-Century Plan of Tsong-Kha-Pa and his body of Co-Workers.
For Them, the incarnating of these souls may have meant a definite hope of a wide-spread understanding and adoption of what was to be called Theosophy, - may have meant a possible revival of ancient spirituality in both East and West. On the other side, for the souls who incarnated, it would have meant a marvellous opportunity of fresh growth in true knowledge, of closer contact and egoic companionship with those Greater Beings who stood back of them and back of the whole Occult Movement, of which those souls, as men, might form an important part. For them as souls, therefore, as Masters' disciples, coming somewhat obscured for the life period, that particular incarnation would be an unusual developing and testing time - a time of offered possibilities such as they might wait long indeed to find repeated. Could they remove enough of their earth-life obscurations, could they as men intuit the inner character of the period, could they place themselves frankly in the tide of the Theosophical Movement and drive their canoes steadily along with that current, passing by many tempting side streams, they would reach a degree of attainment which their souls longed for and which would place them far, far ahead for their next incarnating effort.
Inspection of the period and its personages seems to show that there was less intuition among men than Masters may have wished and needed, of the nature and measureless importance of the invisible Movement, or even of its existence. Some such intuition there was; indeed much - among the beginners of lines of action; those who had, even unawares or without brain memory, the full inspiration of their purpose in coming. Accordingly, the middle and later eighteenth century seethed with change, internal and external. French philosophers tore ruthlessly at the foundations and the impressive towers of middle-age theology; German idealistic thinkers carried aloft their structures of non-materialism. One particularly important effort was in the politico-governmental field, that inspired and made by the Englishman, Thomas Paine. He envisioned and gave to others a preview in America of a new order of polity and statesmanship such as would befit the oncoming higher race.
In this he touched and partly revealed the very essence of the great Occult Plan. He and a few perceptive associates strove against manifold ignorance and actually succeeded in founding such an order; but so little was their effort understood by the commonalty below them that, when their powerful influence was gone, their vision too was gradually dissipated. Today little more remains than its shell. Typical of the present American commercialized thought level is the fact that the picture of Paine's vision is now vulgarized by being stamped on every United States dollar bill! Countless dirty fingers handle it, but few minds, even the cleaner ones, pause to study the meaning of that strange picture. Paine seems to have been definitely working under the Fifth Impulsion of the Plan, which was only less great than the two to follow it. The 'new order of the ages,' as he and his fellows perceived and created it, had it remained operative, had it been understood and followed by a sufficient number of people, would have fulfilled the occult hope to provide a natural abiding-place and field of development for the Spiritual-Humanitarian Movement which the Great Beings were promulgating.
Other spiritual and intellectual heads of uplifting efforts in the eighteenth century, though they too had no detailed brain memory of the past, gave proof of their souls' egoic knowledge of what was happening on the invisible plane, and of their past and present connection with it. In various ways they showed that they came with a sense of being 'dedicated spirits'; and they were able to maintain that sense, even unawares often and in spite of bitter frustrations and defeats. All these were Adepts less obscured, who shed the brighter light in that trail of glory which, unrecognized, preceded and accompanied the Great Teacher.
It seems to have been especially among the later comers, those more contemporary with the Teacher, that the obscurations proved too heavy. They reacted against the fallen idealisms and philosophic panaceas of the preceding period. They permitted the disappointments of the earlier time to shut out a perception of a possible philosophy great enough to transcend all failures. Since their minds were half closed in that direction, they could not receive any illuminating flashes from the spiritual level that might have led them to anticipate some new and higher philosophic revealing and might have imbued them with the faith to try to understand it. They seem not to have firmly kept enough of what as souls they had started with, that sense of being dedicated to a great Cause, no matter what the vicissitudes encountered. If this is true, it is not strange that they became the victims of the past period's failures, and also incapable of evaluating properly the happenings of their own present. For instance, they did not realize the significance of the Spiritualism that arose in the middle of the nineteenth century; or the probable results of the revivals, at about the same time, of ritualistic ecclesiasticism. Some of them even became Spiritualists themselves or clung with wavering religiosity to the old time theology. Many others were thrown out of poise by the domination of the latest sciences.
All of them did indeed interpret in some measure that Philosophy, the earlier vibration of which surrounded them like the air they breathed; but, thinking as little of it as of the air, and calling it something else, they could not perceive hints of the actual oncoming to the West of a new and greater knowledge. Hence, though they depicted the sharp conflicts between all the currents of thought, they did not rise far enough above them. They cast flitting lights here and there on the battlefields, they gave genuine guidance now and then, but were mostly too conventional, too purely literary and merely intellectual, or too largely scientific, to have remained fluidic toward the spiritual in their own minds and hearts. They were not porous to the secret influences, or able even to guess at events soon to occur, and so they could not realize their own hidden responsibility to their age.
Therefore, when the public Teaching began in 1877, these men, having followed without sufficient thought the usual processes of physical and psychic change, had become too old in body and mind to respond. Mentally fixed in 'Use and Wont,' some had become incapable of lifting themselves above revered worn-out traditions. Others were too poor in health to retain a Manasic control; and merely lived on, choked about by family and friendly attentions, in the self-enclosing thought-domiciles they had earlier built for themselves. Still others, not quite incapacitated by age or health, seem to have settled into the comforts of successful worldly life and physical ease with a concomitant lack of nourishment or atrophy of the spiritual. Doubtless the intellectual habits of most informed them of the publication of strange doctrines from the East, proceeding from strangely unconventional sources; but they did not perceive the real importance of these, and often turned rather to the materials of the European Orientalists which had been given out during the decade or two preceding.
Then there were those of a slightly later generation, those who were in active life in the time of H.P.B.'s publications, those who gathered around her in the New York quarters and in London. It may naturally be supposed that Adepts were among them likewise. Many of those men were really intellectual lights of the time, and they were deeply interested in what they heard and saw. They had it in their power to influence permanently hundreds of others, either their peers in advancement or the eager thinking ones a degree or two lower than they. Some did in fact seize the opportunity, and did give generously of their special abilities, their money and their time. But of the many others, - what became of them and of their possible educative efforts? Why, with their Occult Guide actually moving among them in human form, with the presentation of occult teachings which egoically they knew, with their interest alive and active, - why did not many of these finely developed men, naturally obeying occult law, form a phalanx of supporters around the Teacher and the Teachings which would have quashed at once adverse activity? Are the obscurities of the Dark Age so black as to kill such pure-hearted loyalties? Did many of them fail to go beyond their personal intellectual interest, fail to see the immeasurable depths in the words ALTRUISM IS THE WAY? Did they forget that on the Occult Path "all of us have to get rid of our . . . illusory, apparent self, to recognise our true Self, in a transcendental divine life," and that, if we would not be selfish, we must strive to make other people see that truth, and recognize the reality of the transcendental Self in them?
Thus it may be that though most, even among the less awake, contributed something in aid of the Theosophical Movement, yet the Higher Beings who were trying to lead those souls, darkly obscured, into giving the needed intelligent, unreserved and active support in spreading the new spiritualizing influences and planting the new 'seed-thoughts,' - it may be that They sadly felt obliged (judging from Their own exalted standpoint), to put in Their register opposite many of these names the mark "Partial Failure." Perhaps these most obscured Adepts, like other and ordinary men, lived partly in vain because they did not go through with their appointed work in life.
What bearing has this on the men of the present? All possible bearing. For the present is the past repeated and intensified. Though no one can think of making any personal claim, is it not reasonable to suppose that obscured Adepts are on earth now, with the same purposes as then? Besides, now no one need have advanced far in adeptship to find his guidance and his duty, because now the full teachings of Theosophy are published broadcast. This fact gives every man today an immeasurable advantage over even greater men heretofore; and this fact puts on every man today a responsibility far more serious than that in earlier time, when the Movement was as yet largely in the invisible. Our period too is more weighty with possibilities than even the two preceding centuries. For the Seventh Impulsion of the Seven-Century Plan is not far away, and every line of action grows more tense. The intellectual and spiritual vibration is higher, and will be higher still. Many of the needed 'seed-thoughts' have already been put into the 'new mental soil' and in their sprouting they are breaking up the old hard ground. Much possible evil looms ahead, but also much good streaks with gold those evil shadows. To the seeing eye the combat is open and plain. The alignment of Theosophists, as of all men, is in the making.
Where will we place ourselves? For it is a question of Will. We may yield allegiance in partial measure, along with many well-meaning companionable friends 'interested in Theosophy' but seeing no urgent need - or for private reasons feeling incapable - of unremitting devotion. But the higher choice, - how far superior! - is to struggle to plant ourselves 'nearer the altar of sacrifice' and go definitely, strongly and unreservedly under that spiritual impulsion which, if properly supported by the humanity it is intended to benefit, will uplift their whole world!
The Theosophical Movement