The TS has Brotherhood as its founding principle, but it struggles with it – it always seems easier to read a book than to work on oneself. Perhaps the TS is unlucky in that it came first – subsequent expressions of the ancient wisdom have much greater emphasis on personal transformation, and have provided some techniques and methods, whereas these are largely absent from the first theosophy, which remains generally theoretical and speculative.
What people usually think about Brotherhood
Brotherhood is usually expressed in one of four ways
- As a variant of love or compassion
- As a variation on words such as co-operation and teamwork
- As a family thing, relating to blood ties with others
- As a form of political correctness, eg the first Object of the TS begins "To form a nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood", and then goes on to say ……. "without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour". There is a temptation to say ……. we are open to all races, creeds, etc, so we are “politically correct”, so we must be expressing Brotherhood”
Following on from my experiences on the Executive Committee of the TS in England, I decided to investigate Brotherhood more deeply, as there was clearly a mismatch between the theory and the practice (although the TS is indeed generally OK with the politically correct aspects, it seems lacking in the other areas)
The two best sources on Brotherhood are
- The Mahatma Letters to AP Sinnett
- Brotherhood – one of the Agni Yoga books (this can be downloaded from www.agniyoga.org)
I think the thing that comes over from my studies is that we need to switch our perspectives ….. Brotherhood is NOT what we think from our viewpoint “down here”, it is a far more lofty and also practical matter if we try to work out “what Brotherhood means to the Brothers”, and this is what I have tried to do.
The Big Picture
First, I need to try and pass on how I think about the Brothers
- Earth is a School – this may not be a verifiably true statement, but it is a very useful starting point - the "Planetary Hierarchy / Brotherhood of Masters" are the graduates who remain here to teach
- We ourselves keep on coming back until we graduate.
- There is a curriculum and standard required to graduate (the Ancient Egyptian standard was that the heart should weigh less than a feather !)
- Some of the graduates stay here as teachers, and the highest of all (the professors) are the Masters
Obviously, our own ideas about this may be inaccurate and limited - it might be more useful to try and work out what the Masters think of it.
The Essence of Brotherhood
From the books I mentioned, it seems that Brotherhood is the essence of their relations with each other. The Mahatma Letters gives quite a lot of information on this (in the corners, not as the main direction of the text).
- Some groups of students and others approaching the hierarchy are “within the aura” of the Brotherhood
- It is very clear that they don’t want meat eaters or alcohol drinkers in their aura
- The same also applies to oaths, pornography, etc. …….
- It seems that the main masters are totally open to each other in every way – auras, feelings, minds but that others who are less perfect are allowed a bit closer – everyone is “kept at a safe and comfortable distance”, and they can approach more closely as they become more trusted
- They also don’t want to be swept with emotions, a disciple who was continually swept with fear or anger would be “rested” until they can be trusted again
- The Masters frequently write in the Mahatma Letters that they “obtain something from the contents of another Master’s mind”, even to the extent that a Master who has never learned English can utilise that ability from another Master
- They also mention thought transference.
- In general, they (their vehicles) are entirely open to each other, and to a greater or lesser extent they are also open to their disciples or ashrams in a similar way, while having to protect themselves from the imperfections of the lesser mortals. They are only in full communion with each other, and there are different degrees of communion as you step down the ladder
- In a more technical way, you might say that on the emotional and mental planes, they are on the higher sub-planes of these (as well as having full activity on the higher planes of atma, buddhi, etc.) – and they want to minimise the work of having to deal with the coarser sub-planes.
So, this is what I think the term Brotherhood really means in the First Object of the TS – I think the Brothers hoped with the TS that is might work as a “feeder” for them, as an “outer courtyard”, and, perhaps it does – who is in a position to tell ?
Brotherhood is more subtle than it first appears !
The Agni Yoga Book "Brotherhood" is mostly about how to develop Brotherhood in ourselves, although it has some other major themes too.
I have been told that the “best way” to study Agni Yoga is to start with the first book (Leaves from Morya’s Garden Volume I) and read one or two verses a day, continuing in this way through all the 18 books, in order. When you finish that, you just go round again ! It is difficult to read more than a few pages at once, as they are discursive and sometimes disconcerting.
I have made another page of Quotes about Brotherhood drawn from the Agni Yoga "Brotherhood" book, but I've included one of them here as a sample:-
99. Brotherhood or cooperation? It is impossible to define a sharp boundary between them. Whereas, people are desirous that concepts be quite sharply divided. But much flows into each concept from other concepts. Thus, cooperation will be, as it were, the threshold to Brotherhood; therefore, one must guard the approaches to the Stronghold of the Spirit.