One for All, and All for One
A Few Brief Notes on the Music of the Soul
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
A Vina (photo) can serve as a metaphor for any
study group which aims at being an instrument of harmony
Upon creating his famous phrase “One for all, and all for one”, French writer Alexandre Dumas expressed an everlasting universal axiom. The idea constitutes a central point in the Pedagogy adopted since time immemorial by Eastern Initiates and immortal Sages.
In “The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett”, one reads:
“A group or branch, however small, cannot be a theosophical Society - unless all the members in it are magnetically bound to each other, by the same way of thinking at least in some one direction”. 
In this regard, quality seems to be more important than quantity, and one of the Sages who inspire the modern esoteric movement has written these clear guidelines:
“A band of students of the Esoteric Doctrines, who would reap any profits spiritually must be in perfect harmony and unity of thought. Each one individually and collectively has to be utterly unselfish, kind and full of goodwill towards each other at least - leaving humanity out of the question; there must be no party spirit among the band, no backbiting, no ill-will, or envy or jealousy, contempt or anger. What hurts one ought to hurt the other - that which rejoices A must fill with pleasure B.” 
Esoteric philosophy is universal. It must be recognized as a cross-cultural process. An interesting aspect of the central idea now under examination is explained in the first of the 72 Statements which summarize the ethical teachings of Indian thinker Sri Ramanuja, an exponent of the Vishistadwaita Philosophy. Tradition says that Sri Ramanuja lived in the centuries 11 and 12. His 72 statements are given in the book “Living in the Absolute”, by Dr. N. C. Ramanujachary. The first of the Statements says:
“Service to one’s preceptor (Acharya) and any other devotee (Bhagavata) should be on the same par. Serve any devotee of the Lord (Bhagavata) as you would serve your own spiritual preceptor.”
If one freely adapts these classical words to the context of modern theosophical movement, one can say:
“Your inner and real attitude towards the Masters - the source of the teaching - is inseparable from your attitude towards your fellow students. Think of your fellow students as parts of your own Master’s work, and give them a feeling similar to the feeling you have for your Master’s effort.”
Knowledge implies responsibility. The Master is not to be found as a personality, or in any sort of “vision”. He is to be found as - and in - a noble, collective, and long-term project.
In the 1900 Letter from an Adept, one finds another key to the understanding of the pedagogical axiom expressed in the words “one for all, and all for one”. In it, one of the Masters says:
“At favourable times we let loose elevating influences which strike various persons in various ways. It is the collective aspect of many such thoughts that can give the correct note of action. We show no favors. The best corrective of error is an honest and open-minded examination of all facts subjective and objective.” 
A profound sincerity among fellow-students is an essential point because of a simple fact. It is only by being in magnetic harmony among themselves that they can obtain a deeper and broader vision of the Masters’ influence and teaching, as well as of themselves, as individuals.
One for All, and All for One
To this, H. P. Blavatsky adds that the learning process will be helped by students actively comparing their notes and insights. In an 1887 letter to London theosophists, she wrote that “…the first rule in the daily life of a student” is to “never take off your attention from the smallest circumstances that may happen whether in your own or your fellow-workers’ lives”.
These impressions, she says, “whether they may or may not be connected with your spiritual pursuits”, must be included in the individual records of one’s efforts along the path. Then students should “bind (religare) them together by comparing notes with the records of the others, and thus extract from them their inner meaning.”
“It is from these totals that you would find out the direction and path to pursue.”
A few lines later, after referring to the true inner light, she says:
“Working by himself no man can achieve this - but when you are several it is comparatively easy.”
She also tells the London students what will happen if they fail in this: then “you will never establish in your group the first requisite element - perfect unity of thought and harmony between your spiritual selves.” 
Since ancient times, esoteric tradition uses a musical metaphor to describe the process of cooperation necessary among co-students. The shared consciousness in a group of truth-seekers works like a vina, that Eastern stringed instrument which is similar to a lute.
If the strings of consciousness are too tense, no good music is possible. If they are too relaxed, no sound will be produced.
One reads in “The Voice of the Silence”:
“Disciples may be likened to the strings of the soul-echoing Vina; mankind, unto its sounding board; the hand that sweeps it to the tuneful breath of the GREAT WORLD-SOUL. The string that fails to answer ‘neath the Master’s touch in dulcet harmony with all the others, breaks - and is cast away. So the collective minds of Lanoo-Sravakas. They have to be attuned to the Upadya’s mind - one with the Over-Soul - or, break away.” 
Each human being is a microcosm of the universe and the solar system, and in “The Secret Doctrine” one reads:
“Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers, and Wisdom will come to you naturally. Whenever you are able to attune your consciousness to any of the seven chords of ‘Universal Consciousness’, those chords that run along the sounding-board of Kosmos, vibrating from one Eternity to another; when you have studied thoroughly ‘the music of the Spheres’, then only will you become quite free to share your knowledge with those with whom it is safe to do so.” 
The harmony among fellow students has its true basis in the consciousness of every individual. “One for all” means that each student is the foundation of the common work. The source of collective harmony must be in the harmony of the individual with his own higher levels of consciousness.
The seven principles of human life are like the seven chords of a musical instrument. French philosopher Maine de Biran, who died precisely seven years before H.P. Blavatsky was born, offers an interesting expansion of the vina metaphor. Biran thought that the lower self of each individual is similar to a musical instrument, while his higher self represents the player.
“Another comparison comes to my mind (since, on such an abstruse subject, one always tries to have material objects as a basis). I would willingly compare the souls to the players of some instrument; their instrument consists of the fibers in the brain. I would suppose that each player receives as his share from nature an instrument which is in proportion to his own ability.”
And Biran proceeds:
“The instrument will not be always in accordance with the will of the player. Its strings will get tense or will relax due to causes independent from the player’s will, so that he sometimes will be able to play it in an easy way, and will get convinced that his instrument is at his disposal; in other occasions, he will rehearse in vain, and the strings, relaxed, will render all his knowledge useless; and then he will get frustrated.” 
In modern esoteric philosophy, students can find useful elements for them to learn and to practice the universal music of the soul.
The more they share its healing effects with other beings and the whole of mankind, the more they themselves are benefitted by such a transcendent and living knowledge.
 “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett”, T.U.P., Pasadena, CA, USA, 404 pp., Letter C, p. 222. (The editor of the Letters used Roman numbers; therefore Letter “C” is letter 100).
 “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom”, compiled by C. Jinarajadasa, First Series, TPH, India, 1973, Letter 3, Item III, pp. 13-14.
 See in PDF in our associated websites the book “Living in the Absolute - Studies in Vishistadwaita Philosophy”, by N. C. Ramanujachary, first edition, 1985, Vasanta Press, The Theosophical Society, Adyar, Madras (Chennai), India, 56 pp., p. 43.
 The full text of this letter can be found in our associated websites under the title of “The 1900 Letter From a Mahatma”. Its incomplete version, which does include the words quoted here, is at the volume “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom”, compiled by C. Jinarajadasa, First Series, TPH, India, 1973, Letter 46, pp. 99-100.
 “Extract of a Letter from H.P.B. to a London Group, 1887”, in “The Theosophist”, India, July 1988, pp. 386-389. See pp. 388-389.
 “The Voice of the Silence”, translated and annotated by H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, Copyright 1987, Fragment III, page 56.
 “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 1982, see volume I, p. 167.
 We have translated it from the volume “Maine de Biran, L‘Effort”, by A. Drevet; Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1966, 195 pp., p. 25.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.
E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).