THE GOLDEN THREAD
When we read what H.P. Blavatsky has written of her predecessors, those true transmitters acting in strict obedience to the Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas Wise Men, Initiates, Mahatmas belonging to all mankind we are naturally led to think of what she herself experienced in the nineteenth century on behalf of us all. She founded the Theosophical Society in New York with three objects, the first of which was the formation of a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood Brotherhood in actu and not only in name. The second object was a comparative study of the religions, sciences and philosophies of every part of the world so that all men and women, including Americans, might come to salute every true witness in a long, largely unknown but unbroken history of accumulated wisdom. She taught the perennial philosophy and invited her true students to find in it an Ariadne's thread, a golden thread hidden behind the veil of form and symbol in every great tradition of thought, philosophy, religious aspiration and myth. It is the very basis of real science, and it is the inspiration behind the founding of the Royal Society as well as much of the significant work of men like Edison, a Fellow of the Theosophical Society, and many other scientists indirectly influenced by the wisdom of the Secret Doctrine.
When we consider the efforts of sincere Theosophists to apply this philosophy to their lives, in conformance with the third object of the Theosophical Society, we must think of those moments which are the first concern of any person of any age involved in finding meaning within the flux of experiences: the moment of birth and the moment of death. We can also think of the line that threads these moments. Each of us discovers this entirely for himself, exercising the supreme prerogative of a human being, the privilege of self-reflective consciousness, the gift of the gods, the Dhyanis and the Manasaputras, seeking out what in his or her whole life was most quintessentially sacred. A great deal happens every day, from morn to night. But even in a small town or in beautiful natural settings, much energy is dissipated. We live in a culture where fragmentation of consciousness is widespread and confusion prevails. In such times of trouble, students of Theosophia or Brahma Vach are wise in following the advice given by Merlin to Arthur: "Go back to the original moment."
Beginnings are important, endings are inevitable and change is constant in a universe of ceaseless transformation. The wheel revolves constantly faster in the Age of Iron, and everything changes so rapidly that irrelevant analyses and outmoded diagnoses crowd the scene. There are many learned tomes on the pace of change in technological society, but they are not needed by those who understand the winds of change because they recognize the timeless truth of the teachings of Lord Krishna: that a man is wise to meditate upon birth, death, decay, sickness and error. This is the most ancient wisdom, and it is as fresh today as it was five thousand years ago, thanks to the sacrificial ideation of the mighty Brotherhood of silent and eternal Teachers who worship the Nameless and Ineffable. They work in perfect harmony through willing and cheerful obedience to the Maha Chohan, who wanted a Brotherhood of Humanity to be initiated and knew that it would not happen at once, but that the line must and would be kept unbroken. In all theosophical assemblies and associations there are those self-determining agents who are self-elected to serve as the compassionate custodians of the living tradition of the primordial Teaching for the sake of all.
Theosophia is like that ancient Banyan tree. Some come to sit in its shade, while others come to exchange words and seek friends. Still others come to pick fruit. Nature is generous. Some come to sit in the presence of teachers to receive instruction in the mighty power of real meditation, to secure help in self-examination. All are welcome. The antiquity and enormity of the tree are beyond the capacity of any person in any period of history to enclose in a definition or formulation. Great Teachers point beyond themselves to that which is beyond formulation, which is ineffable and indefinable. They seek to make alive and to make real for every man "the priceless boon of learning truth" spoken of in The Voice of the Silence.
Pythagoras, in 530 B.C., with the precision of a man who had prepared himself through twenty-two years of training in the Egyptian Mysteries, came to the small town of Krotona. He spent twenty years there laying the foundations of a school and a college for the sake of establishing in the Near East, and in what subsequently became the western world, science (symbolized by the Pythagorean sphere), religion (symbolized by the tetraktis), and philosophy (a term that he devised). When asked, "Are you a wise man?" he said, "I am a man who is in love with wisdom, a philosopher, philosophos." Any man who loves like a child, like a teenager, like all human beings but loves with a wisdom sufficient to care for love itself, to treasure it, and to prize it, becomes like the blooming lotus. So he exercises the privilege and the right extended to every human being. Independent of authorities and experts, independent of the clash of rival and changing fashions, fads, isms, sects and systems, he may exercise the privilege of becoming a true philosopher, of reflecting upon the long journey. Every man is a nomad. The journey begins we know not where. It leads we know not whither. In a world which is like a stage, in which all the players are pilgrims, the pilgrimage is the thing. What is unique, precious and private to each one can only be partly known or shared imperfectly with even the closest friends. Light on the Path teaches that no man is our enemy, no man is our friend, but that all alike are our teachers. Our enemy is a mystery, a problem that must be solved even though it take ages. Our friend is an extension of ourself, a riddle hard to read. Only one thing is even more difficult to know, and that is one's own self. Not until the bonds of personality the mask under which all men masquerade is loosened, shall that Self be truly known.
Hence the great cry of the ancients, "Know thyself," and the sacred teaching in relation to self-knowledge and self-reference: that they involve and include a real love of wisdom unmanifest and manifested, in books and brooks, in stones where there are stones, and everywhere for those who have eyes to see, and ears to listen. One of the Mahatmas spoke of music as the most abstract of the arts and mathematics as the most abstract of the sciences. Pythagoras was concerned with both music and mathematics. He fused in himself active and passive contemplation. This is the subject of a conversation in The Merchant of Venice between the newlyweds Lorenzo and Jessica, where Jessica, a Jewish girl of the time with a kind of hippie background, experiences what Lorenzo formulates. It is Lorenzo who says that the man who has no music in his soul is fit for stratagems and spoils.
We are very fortunate to have had from the beginning of the Theosophical Society a great plan laid down in the letter of the Maha Chohan. He spoke of the Theosophical Society as the cornerstone, the foundation of the future religions of humanity. There is a grandeur, a magnitude, a magnificence and a breadth of love and compassion in that sacred document which few who call themselves students of Theosophy can remotely hope to emulate, but which every man or woman is invited to attempt to honour in daily life. H.P. Blavatsky said that we must honour every truth by its use, and that this is the archetypal ritual of any theosophical society. When we use those statements of the Great Master, we discover that the great plan laid down was not irrelevant then, never has been irrelevant since, nor could it ever be. Today it rings with a freshness and a contemporary relevance especially in its reference to the struggle for existence. Everything is known to the master mathematician Hermes, who is an old man and a young boy at the same time. It is a magnanimous letter, helpful to any of us at this point of time in relation to our fellow human beings.
Each of us is potentially perfect, but each of us is like an iceberg and a mystery to himself and to everyone else. Each of us knows many marvellous volumes of mystical philosophy. When so much is known, to so little avail, clearly then what we are faced with requires more than the knowledge of the mind. It involves more than what we, as inheritors of the methods and modes of Aristotle and Bacon, regard as head-learning. We need soul-wisdom. Here we might well think of simple people walking the streets with waiting, wanting lips. Some are very old, some of them so poor in the wealth of the world that they only have what Lord Buddha called the greatest wealth contentment. This is the simple man's golden thread. Have some of us lost that simplicity, being so overburdened with our divine discontent which sometimes takes less than human forms? Have we overlooked perhaps the importance of that which is so obvious a measure of contentment?
We are Promethean beings. We have gaps between our limitations and our potentialities. Every one of us knows that he might have been much more than what he is or what he can show on the surface. In this society the surface has become excessively important. Appearances are lies, but we are caught in the Mahamaya of these lies, which then become delusions. The Buddha taught that each man makes his own prison and that within ourselves deliverance must be sought. No man can be saved by himself, and yet no man can be saved by another. In fact, the very notion of "saving" needs re-thinking. We are taught in The Voice of the Silence that salvation for one man has no meaning apart from the salvation of the whole of mankind and all living beings. The Maha Chohan spoke of mystical Christianity, of the mystical in every religion, and of self-redemption through one's own seventh principle, the liberated paramatma. Etymologically, it is this which ceaselessly moves and which in its movement is the source of light, and life, and joy.
If a man asks, "How can we see the Golden Thread in relation to God, Law and Man?" we might say that theosophically, God is formless, beyond colours and sounds, yet immanent in all of them. God is to be found in each of the colours of the riddle of the spectrum, which are in turn puzzles in themselves. They hide subtler hues which may only be seen by those who have the appropriate senses developed and controlled on the planes where alone those senses operate. But all can salute Tat that which is like the one white colourless light, like the sacred white in rice or in the semen which gives birth to a human body within a holy receptacle. Every human being can understand that which is in the heavens, even if only in the realm of appearances, well enough to realize that there will be always some counteraction between solar wisdom Mercury close to the Sun and the Moon that waxes and wanes. Every human being finds that he participates in this waxing and waning, albeit not self-consciously enough since his knowledge of cyclic law is limited, his capacity to use it is less, and he usually forgets to look at the heavens. Theosophy appeals to no less an authority than the authority of the heavens, the universal wisdom from which all religions, sciences and philosophies sprang. The greatest founders of all faiths spoke in accents of great awe before That which could not be spoken about.
This profound message is relevant to seeking the Golden Thread that binds all monadic minds in the great universal pilgrimage, and to looking for that common storehouse in akasa where alone lies the universal solvent which no man can use unless he wishes to use it for all. In seeking the larger good, a man is able to insert his own good into the good of all lokasangraha. Every man is entitled to be concerned, directly and squarely, with his own good. But his good is only supportable by the law of the universe when it is compatible with universal good. We do not fully know this. Therefore, to the extent to which either we do not know or knowing, forget it we have to look for clues. These clues are in the process of life, in nature and in the working of prana. When the force of this good comes from outside, it seems like dharma or fate, but when we understand it and it works within, it is always seen as our very best friend.
The Golden Thread that binds the cosmos is unveiled only in partial ways. Arising in the realm of the unmanifest, it participates in the Light of the Logos, daiviprakriti, which is like a veil upon the Absolute. The Absolute is beyond all relativities or absolutizations of the relative, and, in the words of the Mandukya Upanishad, is "unthinkable and unspeakable." But if it is unthinkable and unspeakable, can men recognize it in each other? Can men greet each other with an inward thought and an authentic reference to the absolute centre of a boundless circle within the consciousness of another man inhabiting that holy temple we call the human body? Is this possible for a human being, in the midst of the primary activities of life, in one's respect for one's parents, in one's respect for one's husband or wife, ex-husband or ex-wife, future husband or future wife? Is it possible, in relation to one s own children and the children of others, to remember, where it counts and where it hurts, but where it matters most, that all are children, all are old souls, all are fallen gods, all are men who have made mistakes, but who in the making of them deserve a chance to become self-conscious in relation to survival. Theosophy, warned the Maha Chohan, is for all, not for a few.
The story of the Theosophical Movement and of every group that came together in the name of the Wisdom-Religion, is that each fell below the grandeur of the universality and catholicity of the pre-ecumenical, primordial and eternal revelation which remains always in the hands of its great and mighty custodians. Though its breadth is boundless, its height is relevant throughout history and in every religion. It is relevant to every man because every man is entitled to seek and to become worthy of relationship with those men of spiritual stature whom we treat as real Teachers. They cannot be known by external marks. The Buddha's thirty-two marks were always invisible, and as Kali Yuga proceeds, it is only from within without that anything worthwhile may be known. All else is a kind of tomfoolery, a concession to Wall Street and Madison Avenue which the Brotherhood has never made and does not now propose to make. "Are not our beards grown?" wrote one of Them. Humanity is mature to a point where it must observe with a wise eye, with a loving heart, and with a compassion that thrills and pulses with the heart of every human being. The Theosophical Movement is for all. The contented simple man who walks the valley of life with very little, and yet smiles and laughs, is one of the teachers of the Theosophical Movement.
The Wisdom-Religion is everywhere, it assumes strange and manifold guises, but it is always sacrificial. Self-reliance is not to be thrown at others like a weapon, but rather, to be gently exemplified through love. Appeals to lesser authorities are mutually destructive, cancelled by the boundless authority of the universe, with which every man is directly linked without need of intermediary. Every man has his own access to God, as was known by the Puritans who spoke of the civil war within the breast of every human being. When we think of the very idea of God, we know that we have to negate and negate. We must negate until we begin to recognize the relevance of No-thing to everything. To see this in nature with the mind's eye takes time, but once seen, it is the Golden Thread. It shows itself in human affairs as partial representations of the mighty workings of the great wheel of the Law, which is no protector of the illusions of classes, groups, or nations, but which, as the Founding Fathers of the American Republic sensed, can ultimately be understood by all.
The American Constitution is at once a noble document and a threatening one. It is noble because it arose out of the same divine inspiration which is recalled by the third eye on the dollar bill. It is threatening to a country threatened by the magnitude of the Grand Canyon, but which offers every one of its children opportunities which they could use for the sake of all and exemplifies the meaning of the statement, "The whole of nature lies before you. Take what you can." In taking we should not forget to be thankful, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. Then, Theosophy becomes a living power in the life of a man, who can ascend into the hidden realm of occultism in daily life. What is true of scientists like Einstein is even more true of the Brotherhood that their knowledge cannot be communicated except when preliminary conditions are met. Primary among them, as Shankaracharya pointed out, is gratitude. But any and every man at any time could seek to meet them. Therefore, one of our Masters said, "Take one step in our direction and we will take one in yours."
A man may seek the Golden Thread that binds all religions, sciences and philosophies, and yet never be wholly successful unless he becomes a universal man, a Renaissance man, a man of all cultures. This is a task that is coeval with a whole lifetime. It would be good to begin it in childhood. It is never too late to start, but once started, it is not easy to pursue. Above all, it must be kept in mind with continuity of consciousness if we are to unravel the mystery of mysteries, the mystery of individuality. Who am I? Am I this or that? Am I the person who can be identified in terms of fears and hopes? Am I to be known by my likes and dislikes? Am I the person who masquerades behind a physical form of a certain age and sex, with advantages and disadvantages inherited from a whole line of remote ancestors? We know that over a thousand years every man has had a million ancestors. If a million ancestors have entered into the making of each human being, surely in the complex maze of psycho-physical ancestry there is no clue comparable to the Ariadne's Thread that Theseus used to escape the labyrinth.
Each of us is a labyrinth of complexity today. Everything is in print, but there is scarcely enough time to read or enjoy anything. We suffer from such a surfeit that it is tempting to become nominalists. Yet we know better than that, because we know that refinement of the soul and the culture of the man of the future have nothing to do with class. Therefore, Theosophy can speak to men of all kinds. It cannot be identified with the aristocracy, though H.P. Blavatsky helped them in the nineteenth century. It cannot be identified with the so-called working class, though it benefitted through the laying of the foundations of Theosophical socialism. Annie Besant founded the first trade union for girls in England, while B.P.Wadia founded the first trade union in India. Theosophists who must work in different ways must above all learn to respect diversity. We cannot have a secular fundamentalism wherein each one claims that his is the only diet, the only way. This merely creates more walls that divide men. Each must enjoy his own mode and make his own changes. A Theosophist who learns to set out on his own as an individual cannot make concessions to the conformities of a culture that is now dying. Its death throes, as well as its labour pains, are already evident both in the establishment and elsewhere. The young, with their hungers, sense that something is changing and that something has got to change. Sometimes, even though they love their parents, they cannot outwardly express their respect. In turn, sometimes parents love children so much that they cannot communicate to them the difficulty of the human enterprise. Many a man almost every great American knows at some level that God is not mocked, that, "As ye sow, so shall ye also reap." Nature is a teacher here. No man can teach this to another man except by the power of love and the force of example.
The modes of the future will require giving paramount emphasis to that greatest gift possessed by every human being the most divine gift in the hands of man, treasured in the oral traditions of the past the gift of sounding the Logos within the frame of the human body. It is the gift of making sound, of speech, of articulation. Appropriate articulation, with intrinsic negations, touches that which transcends all verbalization and is beyond verbal expression, that which must always baffle analysis and defy imitation. If we do not appreciate and respond to these opportunities in relation to self-discovery, it is because of the game of externalization, which people play when they come together in a variety of roles and contexts. We are all violating so constantly the most sacred commandment of the Master Jesus, "Judge not, lest ye be judged," that we are not even aware of it. Ceaseless judgment of other human beings in small towns, in large cities, and in villages pursued with loveless intransigence in small companionships and groups, makes us think that there is much we all have yet to do if our divine gifts ~ to become the basis of permanent well-being. What can we do but not "do" in the sense in which "doing" is usually understood in a society which runs around too much? Can we feel what is in the hearts of the young? Of those who are aging? Can we draw larger circles? Can we learn to come together not to analyze why we cannot cooperate but to forget ourselves and to see beyond ourselves? In simple ways, can we accommodate human foibles for the sake of enhancing the good of all?
The good of all is the key to the Golden Thread. No wonder Pythagoras" disciple Plato taught that the best subject for meditation is the universal Good to agathon. He who wishes to meditate on the universal Sun, the source of life and light, is invited to dwell on the sacred mantram, the Gayatri:
Aum bhur bhuvah svah
Anyone who wishes to meditate upon the Sun must see beyond the planets, beyond the diversity of the myriads of galaxies, to the midnight sun in the darkness of the firmament. He must see the Sun as the source of one flame from which shoots a ray of light that kindles every spark in every atom. It is that which is differentiated into innumerable monads and is the only line that persists through its reflection within the human being. Therefore, this is the thread upon which hang like pearls all the personalities of human beings over an immensity of lives in the long journey already extending over some eighteen million years of human existence on this planet.
Every human being has played every role from Puck to Prospero. There is hardly a person who has not held the burden of kingly office. There is no human being who has not known the iniquity of poverty and deprivation. Thoreau understood this when he said, "I was in Judea once, in Greece, in Egypt, everywhere." Whitman knew this and sang of it with love in his heart in the Song of the Open Road so that we may all become compassionaters, brothers and lovers of all men, nations and races. It is a teaching sung throughout the history of this Republic. Theosophy is an integral part of the inheritance of the American Republic, originally conceived as a Republic of Conscience.
It has been forgotten. Men have tried to limit America. Men have tried to say that this is a three-religion country, and that each American has to choose between being a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Jew. Now, there is a great deal to learn from the Jewish tradition. It speaks of justice. It speaks of the joy of God when a man and woman come together. It is linked up with the honesty of the psychiatric tradition. Every human being is an honorary wandering Jew. But every human being can also learn from the Catholic tradition, in terms of its current emphasis upon simple decency and the beauty of simple things that can be made sacramental. Just as every boy who is born Jewish has the right of choosing to be as Jewish as he pleases, so every Catholic boy or girl must choose his or her own ways of making moments in daily life sacramental. Also, we are all Protestants because we are all protesting against the views of authority. This was at the very basis of the inspiration of the Constitution. It is imperfect, but it is too late merely to condemn the Protestant tradition. Perhaps it is not three cheers, but it is surely at least two, for the Protestant ethic. It came with the Reformation as a part of the work of Tsong-Kha-Pa and the Brotherhood for the sake of a spiritual reformation within Christianity, comparable to a concurrent spiritual reformation within Hinduism and Buddhism and earlier work within the Catholic church. The last Adept actually to work within the church was Nicolas of Cusa.
No religion or institution is exempt from the all-seeing gaze of Migmar, whose eye sweeps over slumbering Earth. Every sincere human being who seeks to become a true disciple of the divine discipline of the Wisdom-Religion has the protective aura of the hand of Lhagpa over his head. When things go wrong we cannot blame our Teachers. Accepting or assuming our own limitations, we must not limit the Brotherhood. Men have often limited and crucified those the Brotherhood sent. They did it again in a subtle psychological way in the nineteenth century. They will surely attempt to do it in this century and in the future, but will always fail because a great galaxy of Beings is involved, within a carefully designed plan providing lines of retreat to one and all. It was only the Buddha who could take the sacred decision in Kali Yuga, where all men have failed and no man can condemn another as a sinner, that although the rules cannot be changed (since occult laws are inviolable), nonetheless access could be made easier for more souls in every part of the world to the wisdom and its mystery temple.
The key always lies within. Tom Paine was prophetic when he anticipated the religion of the future as a trimming away of all the excrescences upon the original substratum. In the beginning was the Word, the Verbum. That was Theosophia. Students of Theosophy should not be sensitive to ill-considered criticisms by those non-Theosophists who are also non-everything else, due to the fear of belonging to anything. This fear has become an obsession among human beings consumed with fear for themselves and therefore of others. Instead of worrying about the opinions of others, Theosophists should display the courage of the lion wed to the gentleness of the dove.
Because Theosophy is ultimately beyond names, the Wisdom-Religion is known by many names in all times. Today, the largeness and magnificence of the Wisdom-Religion is a Golden Thread of retreat for any man who wishes to make his own contributions to the future or who wishes to come out and become separate from the cycles of the past which must run their course. He should learn from the old man in the Japanese film Ikiru, who, when suddenly told that he had only another week to live, said "Good heavens, what can I do in a week?" He tried everything he had tried before drinking, doing this, doing that but time was running out. Suddenly it occurred to him that he had never really lived, or at least that there was still something fundamental he had yet to learn about living. There was no time to make a trip to Tibet or Timbuctu. He had to find his inspiration where he was. He sat sadly, very sadly, until he saw some children playing. He saw how they were doing what Buckminster Fuller teaches making a little go far getting a great deal of fun out of very little. They did not even have a proper children's park, but they were having a whale of a time. Then he knew he had something which he could use, that he had tremendous gifts in certain areas. He rushed like a man on a mission and organized with all his wisdom a park where these and many more children might play and enjoy themselves. In effect, he followed the advice that the inventor of supermarkets, Edward Bellamy, gave in the nineteenth century as the secret of self-transcendence. Bellamy felt that the time would come when the only self-transcendence that people would know and he said it would not work would be the lesser mystery, sexual love. He predicted that men would desperately want some other mode of seeing beyond themselves, and advised that there is a joy and a thrill which every human being knows in losing himself within the welfare of others. Without this, mothers would not have brought their children to birth and suffered the trials that all mothers have suffered to see their children grow.
Life is a great teacher of the Self and of the teaching about the Self. The Golden Thread binds the various centres within the human constitution. In every human being the sutratman, the thread-soul, is sutratma buddhi. It is reflected in an innate sense of intuitive recognition, decency, fairness, kindness and minimum self-transcendence. In our culture minima have become profoundly important. They will be the foundations for the maxima of the future. Anyone who has contacted the Path of the Wisdom-Religion can, at the minimum, grasp the simple message, a reminder of what everyone already knows, that it is possible at this moment to make a difference to the moment of death. Follow the injunction of The Voice of the Silence:
Every man can sift from experience what is worth saving from what cannot be taken or must later be discarded. This was part of the training of the disciples of Pythagoras. It is part of the American Dream. Every human being can, with psychological as well as social mobility, rearrange his critical luggage in the realm of the mind. This has to do with chains of self-reproductive thought, which cannot be stilled suddenly by a dramatic attempt at meditation. Meditation involves the hindering of hindrances. Patanjali's Yoga Sutra defines meditation as the hindering of the modifications of the thinking principle. Each must do this in his own way. In the old traditions of Tibet, where all the various schools of Buddhism respected each other and tolerance and civility were shown between the different orders, the distinctive teaching of the Gelukpa Yellow Cap tradition was that the best thing to meditate upon is meditation.
The Golden Thread eludes us when we try too hard to think about it. At the same time, when we do make the attempt we must think seriously about what it is and what it is not. The Golden Thread cannot be discerned in the realm of the physical body which lives through food the annamaya kosha, the lowest, grossest sheath. The Golden Thread cannot be discerned in the pranamaya kosha, the sheath in which the lower currents of energy circulate. The Golden Thread is not to be picked up from those portions of the manomaya kosha which are made up of thought-patterns that come from outside and that do not originate from above. The Golden Thread can be picked up in that aspect of the manomaya sheath which negates externals and seeks the sheath of Atman, the vignanamaya kosha, having to do with vignam, discrimination or buddhi.
The Golden Thread can only be genuinely picked up in the realm of discriminative insight, available to every man. When it is picked up, then one must seek by negation to become self-conscious in one's awareness of continuity of consciousness. Thereby, manas itself can shine and then in turn illuminate the sutratma thread which is sutratma buddhi. This, then, can become manas sutratman. A person could become self-consciously a being who knows "I am I" and could proudly take his place in the cosmic scheme of things. Every human being is a unit ray reflecting the light of the Logos. It is the light with which every man was born, according to the gospel of St. John, and with which he may become resplendent in its fullness. It may be found by all men who choose the heroic steps outlined in the Book of the Golden Precepts:
Hermes, November 1976