Too much attention has been paid by several to the opinions of men in the world who have a reputation in science and in scholarship. Their opinions are valuable in their respective fields, but the ideas of the world should not be permitted to dwarf our work or smother our hearts desire. These owners of reputations do not entirely govern the progress of the race.
The great mass of mankind are of the common people, and it is with them we have chiefly to deal. For our message does not come only for the scholar and the scientific man. In spite of scholars, in spite of science, the superstitions of the people live on. And perhaps those very superstitions are the means of preserving to us the almost forgotten truth. Indeed, had we listened only to those learned in books, we would long ago have lost all touch with our real life.
If we believe in our message and in the aim of the Society, we ought never to tire telling the people that which they can understand. And the rich as well as the poor are the people to whom I refer. They need the help of Theosophy, for they are wandering very close to the marshes of materialism. They must have a true ethic, a right philosophy. Tell them of our great doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation. Tell of these with confidence, unshaken by opinions of others, and that confidence of yours will beget confidence in the hearer. Science and exact scholarship are factors in our progress, but although they are important, the mass of the people are more important still. You cannot scientifically prove everything. But if you are sure, as so many of us are, that we are immortal pilgrims, then tell the people plainly and practically how they have been here before in other bodies, and will be here again to suffer or enjoy just as they may have decided in their other life, and they will believe it. They will soon come to that belief because these laws are facts in nature, facts in their own real experience. Were I to attend only to scholars, I should be able to do no other work, while all the time my fellow-creatures—not scholars and in the vast majority—would be deprived of the spiritual help it was my duty to give them.
We are really working for the future, laying the foundation for a greater day than this. We are all coming back together to carry on this work if we now take up all our opportunities. We must act from duty now, and thus be right for the future.
Our duty is to recognize the great human soul with which we have to deal and for which we should work. Its progress, its experience, its inner life, are vastly more important than all our boasted civilization. That civilization could easily be swept away, and what would be left? Your country could be frozen up solidly in a few weeks, were the Gulf Stream deflected from these shores. Mines have honeycombed your land, and a good earthquake might easily shake all your material glories to destruction beneath the sea. What then could remain save the human experience, the experience of the soul? But no cataclysm can destroy your thoughts. They live on. And so all the work that you do for the inner life of man can meet with no destruction, even though records and books and all the ingenious works upon this outer plane were swept out of existence. If then you believe in this mighty doctrine of Reincarnation, do not be afraid to tell it.
But do not, as Theosophists, confine yourselves to the intellect. The dry or the interesting speculations upon all the details of cosmogony and anthropology will not save the world. They do not cure sorrow nor appeal to those who feel the grinding stones of fate, and know not why it should be so. Address yourselves therefore to using your intellectual knowledge of these high matters, so as to practically affect the hearts of men.
Our debt to science is very great. It has leveled the barriers and made freedom of thought a possibility. Science is our friend, for without its progress you would now, at the order of the bigot, all be in the common jail. It has combated the strength and cut the claws of bigoted churches. And even those iconoclasts, such as Robert Ingersoll, who often violate the sentiment and ideals of many good men, have helped in this progress, for they have done the tearing down which must precede the building up. It is our place to supply the new structure, for the churches are beginning to find that they must look into subjects which once were kept out of sight. A sign of this was seen at a recent Council of the Methodist Church in America, where their brightest lights declared that they must accept evolution, or they would go down. The only church which does not publicly as yet proclaim on these matters is the Roman Catholic. It is so sly that I should not be surprised ere long to hear of its throwing its mantle over all our doctrines publicly, and saying that such had always been its doctrine. But if that step be taken it will be the fatal one. So even that need give us no fear.
We are working with and for the great unseen, but actual, Brotherhood of Humanity, and in our efforts, if sincere, will have the aid of those our Brothers who have perfected themselves before us and are ever ready to help on the human family. So if we are firmly fixed in that belief, we can never weaken.
I have heard some words about our pretending to be undogmatic, or that our claim to freedom is against the fact. I do not hold such an opinion. Our Society is, as a body, wholly unsectarian. It must always be so. But that does not affect the inevitable result of so many joined in one effort. A large number of us must have come at last to a common belief. This we can boldly say, and at the same time also that no enquirer is obliged to subscribe to those beliefs. For this we have the warrant, not only of our own statutes, but also that of the oft-repeated declarations of H. P. Blavatsky. If I have a belief which works with all the problems that vex us so much, then I will tell it to my fellow who has joined these ranks. If wrong, the interchange of thought will correct me; if right, the truth must at last prevail. In this, Brotherhood means toleration of opinion, and not a fear of declaring the beliefs you hold, nor does that declaration negative in the least the claim to unsectarianism.
This Society is a small germ of a nucleus for a real outer Brotherhood. If we work aright the day must come when we shall have accomplished our aim and formed the nucleus. If we had five hundred members in the Society loving one another with true hearts, not criticizing nor condemning, and all bent on one aim with one belief we could sweep the whole world with our thoughts. And this is our work in the future, the work traced out for us by those Masters in whom so many of us firmly believe.
If we only have patience, what a glorious, wide, and noble prospect opens up before us!