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On the Life of the Disciple

Self-Observation And
Self-Discipline In Altruistic Work
Robert Crosbie
The image of an hourglass suggests the fact that every
minute counts and each second makes a difference in life
The following paragraphs are reproduced from
pp. 120-126 of the volume “The Friendly Philosopher”,
by Robert Crosbie, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, USA, 1946,
415 pp. We add three subtitles within square brackets.
“True strength lies within and can only be
aroused and used by ceasing to think that
anything in particular of an external nature is
necessary for us, in the ordinary acceptation of the word.”
(Robert Crosbie)
The life of the Disciple must be one of constant watchfulness, not merely of others, but most of all of himself.
Our tendency often is to separate our Theosophical life from our personal life. But we cannot restrict our efforts upon ourselves to include only those relations directly connected with our active Theosophical work.
In our home life and in our ordinary communications there is more probability of our slacking down than in our public, student relations. The personality has had home life and connections as its paramount stamping-ground, and is more apt to give full play to its disposition there than elsewhere. And this play can be carried on, apart from what we might call inordinate self-assertion, in small and seemingly harmless methods of keeping itself in evidence - such as telling others in the home what one is going to do in regard to matters that are not necessary to communicate. When one comes to think of it  - and thinking of these things is necessary - such actions are just the efforts of the - personal nature to keep itself in evidence, trying to attract attention to oneself in any way - by speech, by action, by calls for sympathy, by assumed direction to others, by patronizing speech, and the thousand and one ways that the personality keeps on tap, by means of which he keeps alive; for when suppressed in one direction, he slyly emerges in some other way. “He” will do this as long as we leave any loop-hole for “him”.
The foregoing may seem very restrictive and difficult, but it really is not. The very feeling of “restriction” comes from the personality, not from the Ego. Some Disciples who were trying, and trying very hard, have been known to draw attention to the fact that they had overcome this and suppressed that - this is the same old personality with another suit of clothes on. So it is best always not to speak about one’s self, “either as to what he shall eat, drink, or wherewithal he shall be clothed”. Here are some good maxims, to apply:
“Never ask another to do for you what you can do for yourself”; “Know where your things are and get them for yourself when you need them”; “Do for others all you can in a nice way, but don’t expect others to do for you”; “You are valuable only when you are helpful, not when you require help.”
These will be found good, if we try them out. [1]

[Guarding Against Self-Deception]

The greatest thing most students have to guard against is self-deception. The versatility of lower Manas in this direction is beyond characterization. So we have to watch to see whether our ostensible motives are not cloaks for other underlying ones. While doing this, we should be serious but cheerful - not taking “ourselves” too seriously, but the task itself  as seriously as we can. By this course we will gain insight and strength, if we never despair, never doubt - and keep quiet, thoughtful and persistent, as well as cheerful, through it all. Nothing is as bad as we think it is, nor ever will be.

[Understanding Tolerance]

People sometimes charge others with intolerance. Perhaps this accusation arises, not on account of the statements actually made, but because of the tone and feeling within and behind them. One can usually state his belief and understanding, giving his reasons therefore, without arousing antagonism. This is a good thing to strive for. Tolerance is good, if understood rightly; but there are many strange ideas in regard to it.
Some think it to be intolerance to point out to others holding different views any errors of statement or fact. But Truth never yet agreed with error, nor does error agree with error; Truth agrees only with Truth.
So if we firmly believe, and are convinced by fact and reason, that we are in possession of Truth, it would be a false tolerance which would withhold it in the face of error.
Truth exists in the world for the purpose of destroying error. Error is dogmatic and does not court close investigation. Truth courts all and every possible investigation, and, calm in its certitude, examines everything upon its merits, tests it by the standard of Truth. The average mind of the day is still under the sway of superstition, of dogma and authority, and must remain so for some time to come. Meeting frequently those who have broken loose from old forms to engulf themselves and, what is worse, others in newer forms of the same old errors, we can but keep on the straight path we know, making a trail that these very ones may follow in the future. We need not be distressed that they cannot now see. Their time will come; for all these things are provided for in the vastness of time. We have but to go on with the Work.

[True Strength is Within]

At certain stages of his student life, the Disciple often feels that getting away alone somewhere with regularity helps him keep his psychic balance. Surely it is not a good thing for progress to depend upon externals for balance. Thinking so only perpetuates the dependence, and cannot bring that inner strength and perception which is so necessary. That dependence occasions dissatisfaction at the majority of externals, and demands periodical changes, none of which brings anything lasting. From all this a nervous tension is produced which is corrosive and destructive, occupies the mind with one’s fancied needs, and reacts injuriously on the body.
True strength lies within and can only be aroused and used by ceasing to think that anything in particular of an external nature is necessary for us, in the ordinary acceptation of the word.
We have our place and our duty to fulfil and perform; externals are our temporary opportunities, and we shall be wise to use these rightly. Furthermore, we will do well if we take the attitude that “we” are not necessary to others; that if we were gone they would miss us only for a comparatively short time, and that other persons and things would finally fully occupy their attention.
Only when we have arrived at that state - the sooner the better - where we stand self-centered in the true sense, and “upon nothing depend”, can we realize our inner nature, and be of the greatest service in the world of men. All of which means that our tendency is to exaggerate our importance; and that is distinctly separative and obstructive to real knowledge and effectiveness.
Effective Theosophical work cannot be done unless there are found persons in the world who can see the necessity for it and will fit themselves more and more to supply the need. That certain persons find such an opportunity is their karma, but what they do with the opportunity depends upon their realization of its importance. Once we see something of what the Theosophical Movement means to the world, we are necessary to it - not as persons - but because we see and do. The Movement is accelerated by us to the extent we work for it, and hindered to the extent that we, as it were, let it pull us along. Of course, if we were dead and gone, or not able to grasp the great fact of such existence as the Lodge of Masters and Their work in the world, the great Movement would be going on in such measure as others - perhaps not so wise nor capable in many ways - might afford. So, every student who will strive to make himself a fitting instrument is necessary to the work, to his full capacity, Soul, Mind and Body. It is a fact of tremendous significance to our personalities! If we are impressed with the significance of it, and accept “the fight that only fortune’s favored soldiers can obtain”, we will hesitate not at all, but seeing that the present basis of action in the world is wrong will work with it as far as we must, while ourselves thinking and acting from a very different basis. Our thoughts are our thoughts; our lives are our lives, and both are devoted to our work. Having put our hands to the plough, and seeing the field that needs cultivation, we may push on in confidence and faith. More power is needed? It will come, if we will just open those big hearts of ours and let “them” work.
[1] Up to this point the text is reproduced from pp. 120-121 of “The Friendly Philosopher”. The rest of the article is taken from pp. 124-126.
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On the Life of the Disciple

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