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.
Here are some quotes from “Brotherhood”, with verse numbers:-
8……. No greater concept can be named, none which could so crown human relations and correspond to the essential nature of the Subtle and Fiery Worlds. Therefore the Brotherhood is called threefold. It extends between the three worlds as a firm bridge. It is almost impossible to imagine the contact of the earthly with the Fiery World, but under the panoply of Brotherhood such confluence is made possible.
25. The pathway to Brotherhood is a high path. As a mountain is seen from afar, so, too, is Brotherhood. The Teacher cannot be insistent where the eyes are near-sighted. And during the ascent the outlines of the summit are lost from view. Right around it one does not distinguish the height, so, too, on the path to Brotherhood there are many turnings of the way. One should become accustomed to thought about the complexity of attainment. One should grow to love all the obstacles, for the stones on the path are but the steps of ascent. Long ago was it said that one does not ascend by a smooth stone.
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.
108. Is it possible to name a man who would be satisfied at receiving only half a garment instead of the whole one expected by him? And so it is in cooperation. If instead of a full brotherly collaboration half of what is offered is suspicion and doubt, then what kind of success can be achieved? It is needful to cultivate one's capacity for cooperation, beginning with the most routine tasks. It is a mistake to assume that cooperation is manifest in great deeds if it has not been present even in everyday ones. One should look deeply into the depths of one's consciousness and ask oneself whether the spirit is prepared for cooperation.
It is impossible for a man even to think about Brotherhood if he is not happy to take part in a common work. Each common work contains many aspects which correspond to different capabilities. Is the field of labor narrow? Is it not joyous to perceive true co-workers around oneself? The joy We feel at each co-worker is not small. It is necessary to encourage discretely each one who draws near. But one need not lament those who fall by the wayside, if their spirit cannot understand true joy.
110. If the surpassing feeling of Brotherhood is difficult in the earthly condition, nevertheless Brotherhood is entirely accessible to each aspiring mind. There is no need to make something complicated of it, if you are able to wish for your neighbour nothing that you do not wish for yourself. Thus, every day, in every task, in every thought, one may be affirmed in the realisation of Brotherhood.
116. Often one may hear narratives about the start or abolishment of the Brotherhood. Various countries are pointed out, many epochs are named, but no one can say authentically when Communities have been founded. People regard as a beautiful tale the remnants of indications about the Brotherhood. Many disputes, many misunderstandings are caused by the details about the structure of the earthly Brotherhood. Most often it is regarded in general as non-existent. It may be noticed that people fall into particular irritation in discussing the structure of the Brotherhood. Especially suspicious are people who do not admit the existence of anything higher than their imagination. They forget that the imagination is an accumulation of actuality. Hence, they cannot admit that there is anything above and beyond their own conception of life.
Too few are the travellers who pay attention to extraordinary manifestations. On the contrary, frequently the most exceptional evidences are dismissed by the most trivial explanations. People, as if blind, are unwilling to observe the evidence; they hasten away from it in order to shut themselves up in their conventional illusions. It may be asked, "Who then is more devoted to truth, he who sinks into the narcosis of illusion or he who is ready to encounter reality with keenness and courage?"
We esteem devotees of reality.
166. Once again let us affirm the distinction between cooperation and Brotherhood. I note a puzzlement about this, as if the two concepts were identical. But they are different steps. Cooperation is definitely expressed in outward action, but Brotherhood is conceived in the depths of the consciousness. Co-workers may differ in the degree of consciousness attained, whereas brothers will sense each other precisely according to consciousness. Brothers may not be working together outwardly, but their thinking will be strongly knit together. They will be united freely; their unity will not be a burdensome yoke or a bondage. But precisely these brothers will understand unity as a powerful motive force for the good of the world. It is impossible to place limits upon such unity, for its basis will be love. Thus, cooperation will be a preparation for the realisation of Brotherhood.
Often people are unable to perceive the boundary line where outward actions end and the invincible fundamentals begin. Do not think it superfluous to affirm the foundations of Brotherhood. It is hard to conceive what false imaginings arise during discussions about Brotherhood. Unprepared people think that Brotherhood is a legend, and that anyone can build spectral towers in his own way. They consider that unproven testimonies about Brotherhood cannot convince the reason; but no one is going to try to convince them. Likewise, no one compels collaboration. People themselves arrive at the necessity for cooperation. In the same way will they arrive at the reality of Brotherhood.
I decided that I didn’t want to read all the Agni Yoga books, and that I only really wanted to know about Brotherhood, so I printed out 2 pages (about 10 verses) and sat with them for a week or two until I was ready to move on. I have a bigger document which extracts all the main quotes on Brotherhood – the above are a quick sample of this
This description of brotherhood is also interesting
…… I will send you an Essay showing why in Europe more than anywhere else a Universal Brotherhood, i.e., an association of "affinities" of strong magnetic yet dissimilar forces and polarities centred around one dominant idea, is necessary for successful achievements in occult sciences. What one will fail to do -- the combined many will achieve.
from Mahatma Letters, p20, letter 5 from Master KH to A P Sinnett, November 1880, regarding the proposed Anglo-Indian Lodge in India.