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Right Action, Not Quietism

Theosophy is a Call to Establish the Same
Harmony on Earth as Already Exists in Heaven

John Garrigues

J. Garrigues (1868 - 1944)
Editorial Note:
The following text was first published by
“Theosophy” magazine, at Los Angeles, in
the edition of January 1932,  pp. 109-113.
It had no indication as to the name of the
author. An analysis of its contents and style
indicates it was written by John Garrigues.
Original Title: “Passivity and its Dangers”. We
add explanatory and bibliographical footnotes.
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
Though it is one of the objects of Theosophy to awaken in Man a consciousness of the reality of the metaphysical and spiritual planes, still such awakening is not intended to loosen or undermine Man’s footing on this, the physical plane.
The truth of this statement must strike every Theosophist as self-evident. The aim is to apply our philosophy, and the place of application can be nowhere else than here, where we are.
The real purpose of our introduction to other planes is to strengthen and make surer our footing in this objective sphere by a knowledge of its relationship to the subjective Kosmos. All this sounds simple enough and appeals to the common sense; yet actually it is a hard lesson for students to master.
This difficulty is evidenced by the failure of so many promising and aspiring Theosophists to recognize the difference between true concentration and the spurious varieties. Those who think it lies in mere method and exercise miss the mark at the very outset and are imperceptibly carried far from their wished-for goal. There is no middle path, no compromise, for the serious student of Theosophy. The would-be master of concentration must learn that there can be no concentration without consecration. His consecration is to Humanity and his Higher Self and from this basis he works in the world, with the world and for the world.
One of the dangers, pointed out by all true teachers of the Science of Life, is passivity. If we examine the various systems of concentration which are taught for a price by the professors of occultism, east and west - we shall find they all have in common the assumption of a passive attitude by the student. The outcome of such an attitude is twofold: to make the student the victim of forces and powers he knows nothing about, and to tear him away from the only sphere he does know something about – this physical, objective world.
These deluded ones are truly neither here nor there, and sooner or later their end is tragic. Says Mr. Judge in “Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita”, pages 128-129:
“It is not meditation to stare at a spot on the wall for a fixed period, or to remain for another space of time in a perfectly vacuous mental state which soon runs into sleep. All those things are merely forms which in the end will do no lasting good. But many students have run after these follies, ignoring the true way. The truth is, the right method is not easy; it requires thought and mental effort, with persistency and faith. Staring at spots and such miscalled occult practices are very easy in comparison with the former.” [1]
Bearing on this point, one of the Masters wrote:
“… The British T. S. does not progress one step practically. They are of the Universal Brotherhood but in name, and gravitate at best towards Quietism - that utter paralysis of the Soul. They are intensely selfish in their aspirations and will get but the reward of their selfishness.” [2]
The term “Quietists” is defined in the “Theosophical Glossary” as follows:
“A religious sect founded by a Spanish monk named Molinos. Their chief doctrine was that contemplation (an internal state of complete rest and passivity) was the only religious practice possible, and constituted the whole of religious observances. They were the Western Hatha Yogis and passed their time in trying to separate their minds from the objects of sense. The practice became a fashion in France and also in Russia during the early portion of this century.”
Quietism is, therefore, Western Hatha Yoga and it is the practice of the latter that has brought a large part of the Orient to a spiritual impasse; made possible their subjection by nations which, though much inferior in psychic powers, are superior and firmly rooted in at least one plane, the despised physical one.
Psychism does not necessarily denote spirituality. Psychism is defined in the “Glossary”as follows:
“… A term now used to denote very loosely every kind of mental phenomena, e. g., mediumship, and the higher sensitiveness, hypnotic receptivity, and inspired prophecy, simple clairvoyance in the astral light, and real divine seership; in short, the word covers every phase and manifestation of the powers and potencies of the human and the divine Souls.”
From this definition it is apparent that only the highest phase of psychism - real divine seership -  may be called spiritual. What distinguishes this phase from all the others is also stated in the definition – the one is a manifestation of the powers and potencies of the divine Soul; the others, of the human soul. Spiritualistic mediumship and hypnotic receptivity are two very crude forms of Hatha Yoga especially prevalent in the West. In the East the range of psychic power is far wider, but, with the exception of rare cases, it all pertains to the human soul only – the lower aspect of manas. What makes it lower is that the aspiration of the devotee is selfish. He is centered in self, instead of in SELF. The “Soul withdraws like the shy turtle in the carapace of SELFHOOD” – “Quietism.”
Passivity includes all forms of running away from life, whether retreating to a monastery or forest, or simply evading Karmic duties and responsibilities. Is not this the very burden of the “Bhagavad-Gita”? Meditation, teaches Krishna, can never be attained by an escape from action. It is only towards the fruit that one should remain passive and indifferent. It is this passivity of non-action with its accompanying aspiration for personal liberation which has been and still is the weakness of India. It is this, which dividing her into hard and fast castes, and outcastes, the untouchables, has made foreign domination easy. India’s present struggle for political independence [3] is the mark of her awakening to objective reality and may be the preparatory step to her truly spiritual reawakening. If her present struggle will teach India that self-centeredness and exclusiveness are in reality weakness and maya, then her victory will redound to the benefit of the whole earth. Spiritual selfishness will bring about the gradual decadence and ultimate downfall of a nation as surely as will material selfishness.
The distinction between “the lower IDDHI” – those abnormal powers in man which embrace “the lower, coarse, psychic and mental energies” - and the Higher Siddhis is emphasized throughout the whole of “Isis Unveiled” [4] and pointedly summarized in the final chapter as follows:
“There are two kinds of seership - that of the soul and that of the spirit. The seership of the ancient Pythoness, or of the modern mesmerized subject, vary but in the artificial modes adopted to induce the state of clairvoyance. But, as the visions of both depend upon the greater or less acuteness of the senses of the astral body, they differ very widely from the perfect, omniscient spiritual state; for, at best, the subject can get but glimpses of truth, through the veil which physical nature interposes. The astral principle, or mind, called by the Hindu Yogin fav-atma, is the sentient soul, inseparable from our physical brain, which it holds in subjection, and is in its turn equally trammelled by it … But the seer-adept knows how to suspend the mechanical action of the brain. His visions will be clear as truth itself, uncolored and undistorted, whereas, the clairvoyant, unable to control the vibrations of the astral waves, will perceive but more or less broken images through the medium of the brain. The seer can never take flickering shadows for realities, for his memory being as completely subjected to his will as the rest of the body, he receives impressions directly from his spirit. Between his subjective and objective selves there are no obstructive mediums. This is the real spiritual seership, in which, according to an expression of Plato, soul is raised above all inferior good. When we reach ‘that which is supreme, which is simple, pure, and unchangeable, without form, color, or human qualities: the God - our Nous’.
During the early days of this Theosophical Movement the “Prayag Psychic T. S.” of Allahabad, India, was formed. Its membership consisted largely of high caste Brahmins; and some “high class” Englishmen, such as Mr. Sinnett and Mr. Hume, the gentlemen who were favored with letters from Masters, were prominent in its affairs. Its avowed object was “psychical research”. Complaints were made by the Brahmin members of this society, that, whereas low caste men and “mllechhas” (foreigners) received messages from Masters, they had not been so favored. In time a “message” came, dealing with these very complaints and telling why the Brahmins and others like them had received no “messages.” We quote from this “message”:  
“It is useless for a member to argue ‘I am one of pure life, I am a teetotaller and an abstainer from meat ant vice, all my aspirations are for good, etc.’, and he at the same time building by his acts and deeds an impassable barrier on the road between himself and us. What have we, the disciples of the Arhats of Esoteric Buddhism and of Sang-gyas, to do with the Shasters and orthodox Brahmanism? There are 100 of thousands of Fakirs, Sannyasis, or Sadhus leading the most pure lives and yet being, as they are, on the path of error never having had an opportunity to meet, see, or even hear of us. Their forefathers have driven the followers of the only true philosophy upon earth away from India [5], and now it is not for the latter to come to them, but for them to come to us, if they want us.”[6]
This incident is important as proving that Masters have no favorites by reason of birth, race, geographical location or psychic development. They belong to Humanity and are attracted only to those who likewise work for Humanity. The fact that the original Theosophical Society was founded in America is an indication that the libertarian spirit of the West formed a more congenial soil for the true objects of the Movement than the psychic and exclusive atmosphere of the Orient. In her Fourth Message to the American Theosophists, H. P. B. wrote:
“As it is one of the tasks of the T. S. to draw together the East and the West, so that each may supply the qualities lacking in the other and develop more fraternal feelings among nations so various, this literary intercourse will, I hope, prove of the utmost service in Aryanising Western thought”. [7]
The lesson with which the West can in turn supply the East is that spiritual progress can never be made closing one’s eyes to mundane affairs.
If our principles are to remain more than mere pretentions, then, they must be tested and demonstrated unceasingly. “As above, so below” has an ethical as well as an intellectual and metaphysical significance. It is a call to the aspirant to establish the same harmony on earth as already exists in heaven. To permanently escape from this task is impossible. Nature abhors imperfection anywhere and keeps driving back to the periphery all life, which would return to its Source without the realization of Universal Brotherhood.
[1] “Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita” - This is a 237 pp., hard-cover volume published by “Theosophy Company”, Los Angeles.
[2] “The Mahatma Letters”, T.U.P., Pasadena, CA, USA, 494 pp., see Letter XXVIII, p. 210.
[3] The present article was first published in 1932. The independence of India from the United Kingdom was obtained in 1947.
[4] “Isis Unveiled”, Helena P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles. First edition, 1877.
[5] The Master is referring to the fact that Hinduism violently expelled Buddhism from India in ancient times.
[6] “The Theosophical Movement, 1875-1925”, E. P. Dutton & Company, 1925, 705 pages. See pages 625, 626. The book can be found online. Although it was published anonymously, it main author is John Garrigues.
[7] “Five Messages From H. P. Blavatsky to the American Theosophists”, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, 32 pp., 1922. The pamphlet is available in PDF  at our associated websites.
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Right Action, Not Quietism

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