Gandhi on Theosophy, Modern Civilization and Social Reform
Let me begin this morning, by honoring the noble and ancient practice of saluting those who have made this talk possible. I have drawn inspiration for my talk principally from Gandhi’s own candid autobiography, his fiery tract, Hind Swaraj , and from his voluminous personal correspondence spanning decades. I have also benefitted from Louis Fischer’s sparkling and insightful biography, The Life of Mahatma Gandhi. Lastly, I have immensely benefitted from the brilliant, wise and seminal elucidation of Gandhian thought by Shri Raghavan Iyer in his book, The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi.
It is truly a privilege to share some reflections on M.K. Gandhi, the most eminent social revolutionary of the Twentieth Century and perhaps one of the paradigms of the Aquarian man and woman of the coming centuries. Gandhi, as we know, was an unusual individual. Like the American revolutionary Tom Paine, Gandhi was equally a lover of God and a lover of man. He was, as a consequence, both a deep thinker and a courageous man of action.
As an earnest thinker, Gandhi’s thought was invariably rational, lucid, insightful and utterly without guile. As a karma yogin, his actions were purposeful, fearless, discerning, and fundamentally heart-based. As a person, Gandhi was a Theophilanthropist, a lover of God and man and, most especially, a lover of God-in-man. He was honest to a fault, full of love for friends and strangers alike and was blessed with abundant good humor and a sparkling wit. The fount of his many resplendent virtues was perhaps the fact that his consciousness could readily renew itself by entering into the oceanic and regenerative waters of humanity as a whole.
No doubt, Albert Einstein spoke for peoples across the globe when he said:
“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this, ever, in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth.” (Albert Einstein) 1
Gandhi’s beneficent influence has been global, spanning geography and generations alike. He was the forerunner and inspiration to a Nelson Mandela in South Africa, a Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King in America, a Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia and, of course, the intrepid Malala of Pakistan. Each of these exemplary individuals has, in turn, become an inspirational prototype in our own times and will undoubtedly continue to affect generations to come.
As a thinker and a committed social reformer, Gandhi held that truth, non-violence and self-suffering are equally vital to universal human uplift. Truth, to Gandhi, is at the core of our being and of all existence. Truth is satya or that which is real, abiding and self-existent. Truth is all-comprehensive and, most importantly to Gandhi, an absolute value. It sustains us as well as illuminates us. Truth, then, involves the whole person and encompasses thought, word and deed. Truth, to be truth, is also relevant to every sphere of human life – public as well as personal. Finally, and most significantly for man, Truth or God is embodied in the world as the Law of Interdependence. The latter is the scientific basis of morality and of all religious and secular ethics.
As pointed out in The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi by Shri Raghavan Iyer, Gandhi made a critical distinction between Absolute and relative truth. Absolute truth is ever beyond us while relative truth functions as our immediate guide through the labyrinth of daily life. Absolute Truth is like the limitless light of the sun. Relative truth is like an effulgent ray. The ray participates in the sun’s radiance and in its boundless potential for growth. Because of this, Gandhi believed that relative truth has its own innate dignity and is to be respected in every man and woman of whatever persuasion, class or condition.
The philosophical distinction between Absolute and relative truth is, as Gandhi admitted, psychologically challenging to observe in social and political life. Nonetheless, it is crucial to all human growth – spiritual, intellectual and moral. It is in fact essential to the path of spiritual realization as well as to the harmonics of a thriving, democratic society. The spiritual seeker, for example, must always maintain a healthy agnosticism about any particular degree of God-realization he or she may have attained. Spiritual epiphanies and flashes of noetic insight can be intoxicating as well as illuminating, leading to a false sense of finality. There is always more beyond.
Gandhi believed that the inability of even genuinely open-minded thinkers, religionists and committed revolutionaries to clearly separate Absolute and relative truth in their own consciousness creates historical tragedies. So many activists, he observed, fall prey to the tenacious tendency to “absolutize the relative”, to take an idea, an insight or a revered truth and to treat it as final, as ultimate, as the only possible interpretation, as the only viable practical application. This inveterate ignorance spawns the world’s political “isms”. It likewise reduces the noble, unifying spirit of religion into one of competing sects that not only divide devotees of a particular religion from each other — and, from their illustrious founder — but, more significantly, separates them from the inclusive divine, itself. Paradoxically, when we acknowledge the truths imbedded in the perspectives, beliefs and practices of others, we relativize our own absolutizing tendencies and move closer to the Absolute Truth, to the synthesizing and transcendent One.
To Gandhi, non-violence is the self-transforming path to realizing Truth. It is the surest means of realizing the soul-satisfying goal of “living in the Divine”. For this reason, true worship is not simply the inner feeling of love for God or the ritualistic offering of prayer. True worship is action worthy of the divine presence. Non-violent action becomes the mental and moral fulcrum to progressively awakening the divine within the human.
Non-violence is action without the will to do harm. It is rooted in the mind and heart of the actor. It is the conscious negation of self-assertion, of pushiness, of arrogance and of the desire to impose oneself on others. Non-violence is, as Gandhi perceptively pointed out, the conscious ability to reduce one’s ego to a zero. From a theosophical perspective, we might say that non-violence is the conscious negation of the asuric will, of atavistic Atlantean pride and of the willful misuse of higher creative powers. If this is so, then non-violent, egoless action is that moral conduct that honors perceived truths by negating the personalizing will and releasing the latent, Gangetic waters of pure love.
Intrinsic to Gandhi’s theory and practice of non-violence is that of “creative suffering”. Voluntary suffering is a necessary ingredient of all non-violent truth- acts and especially so when it comes to dealing with seemingly intractable social and institutional injustices. Self-suffering is really the alchemical hyphen that connects truth and non-violence. It ignites the moral chemistry that releases the light within truth and the energy within unconditional love. This is intrinsic to the life of the undaunted and benevolent social reformer.
Truth, non-violence and creative suffering are vitally important to the earnest student of the teachings of H.P. Blavatsky. However ardent our study of the Theosophical philosophy and however sincere our attempts to weave their universal principles into the warp and woof of our daily lives, our understanding and practice are necessarily relative. There is always room for expanding and enriching our intellectual understanding, always room for purifying our aspirations and motives, always room for gaining skill in action and always room for progressing up the ladder of self-discovery.
“Theosophy is the brotherhood of man.” (Gandhi) 2
There was a golden current of Theosophical influence that continually sustained the spiritual arc of Gandhi’s life. That current entered his life, explicitly, in November of 1889 at the age of twenty in London, England and continued as a vibrant, tempering influence until January 30th, 1948 – the day of his assassination. The “seminal moment” that occurred in November of 1889 was when Gandhi met two Theosophists who introduced him to the Bhagavad Gita and, more significantly, took him to a meeting of the Blavatsky Lodge. There he met H.P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant. As a result of his fortuitous encounter with H.P.B. and other Theosophists, Gandhi studied The Key to Theosophy, as well as intensified his study of the Bhagavad Gita. He later read The Light of Asia , the Old Testament and the Sermon on the Mount. The Key to Theosophy made Gandhi keenly aware of the philosophical richness and spiritual potency of Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita’s sublime teaching eventually became his life guide and his book of daily counsel. And, The Light of Asia awoke in Gandhi the recognition that the Buddha made a profound contribution to Hinduism and to spiritual life in general.
Shortly before his return to India in 1891, Pyarelal Nayyar, his personal secretary in his later years, tells us in his biography on Gandhi that:
“He (Gandhi) read Mme. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, and on March 26, 1891, was enrolled as an associate member of the Blavatsky Lodge.” 3
Apparently, the cumulative effect of Gandhi’s fortuitous encounter with H.P.B. and his subsequent study of Theosophical teachings is that it helped him to spiritually self-ignite; it kindled and fed what became an all-consuming fire of spiritual aspiration, an ardent search to experience God-consciousness.
Later on, in South Africa, Gandhi continued his study of the Gita and took up the study of selected Theosophical writings with like-minded friends. In addition, he contributed substantially to the activities of the Theosophical Society of Southern Africa — Johannesburg Lodge. While he apparently never became an official member of that Society, he did give several engaging talks there on the major religions of India.
Gandhi’s association with Theosophists continued in India from 1915 until his death in 1948. He interacted frequently with Theosophists in the pursuit of Indian Independence and often collaborated with Shri B. P. Wadia, an eminent Theosophist and Labor Union spokesman. Gandhi freely acknowledged the historical fact that one of the co-founders of the Indian National Congress, A.O. Hume, was a Theosophist. He later repeated his recognition of Theosophy’s seminal contribution to the Indian Independence Movement when he said:
“In the beginning, the top Indian National Congress leaders were Theosophists.” 4
In a wider sense, we might say that Gandhi implicitly embraced the “Three Objects” of the Theosophical Movement (but with specific reservations about the Third Object). As we know, the First Object of the Movement is to form the nucleus of a universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color. Gandhi’s whole adult life could be seen as an attempt to embody the living spirit of this aim. It was the root inspiration of his fertile spiritual life and his numerous “experiments with truth”. Brotherhood was also the universal constant in his solution to the complex algebra of the religious communal issues that plagued India — and which the British so cleverly exploited. As Indian independence neared and violent disagreements intensified between Muslim and Hindu Congressmen, Gandhi saw his hopes for a politically unified India wane. In an interview with Louis Fischer in June of 1946, Gandhi lamented the patent smugness of many Hindus toward Muslim members of the Indian National Congress. He equally lamented the devolution of the Muslim belief in the brotherhood of man into the brotherhood of Muslims only. In light of this sad, dual realization, Gandhi made the following unequivocal declaration to Louis Fischer:
“Theosophy is the teaching of Madame Blavatsky… Theosophy is the brotherhood of man.” 5
Gandhi was, in effect, making it clear that H.P. Blavatsky was the only true voice of Theosophy and that its essential message of brotherhood was what both Hindu and Muslim proponents were sorely lacking. In the end, the lack of brotherly feeling in the Indian National Congress led to the devastating division of a unified Aryavartha into the separate nation states of Pakistan and India. What a tragedy – especially to poor, hapless Pakistan!
The Second Object of the Theosophical Movement is to encourage the comparative study of religions, philosophies and sciences. Gandhi was a Hindu – by choice as well as by birth. He was also an ardent student of the world’s major religions. Since he came to recognize that each religious tradition embodies a distinctive but profound set of spiritual truths, he declared that “Truth alone is God.” This statement parallels the Theosophical motto taken from the Maharaja of Benares: “There is no religion higher than Truth.” It is not surprising then that since Truth alone is God, Gandhi believed fundamentally in,
“…the religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature, which binds one indissolubly to the truth within and which continually purifies. It is the permanent element in human nature which counts no cost too great in order to find full expression and which leaves the soul utterly restless until it has found itself…” 6
This notion of a “para-religion” of sorts was compatible with, and supportive of, a diversity of religious teachings. Like the full moon simultaneously mirrored in many different lakes, each authentic religious teaching reflects some portion of Absolute Truth. This calls for not only tolerance of multiple religious traditions but a willingness to search for underlying truths beneath constricting dogmas and rituals. It is not surprising then, that Gandhi admired the universal and universalizing spirit of Theosophy. This appreciation was aptly and simply expressed in his Foreword to Sophia Wadia’s book, The Brotherhood of Religions:
“And understanding of and respect for the great faiths of the world is the foundation of true Theosophy.” 7
In this respect, Gandhi also noted that true religion, the Sanatana Dharma, not only transcends all formal religions, but also unifies them without destroying their fundamental, discrete integrity. This dialectical outlook is compatible with true Theosophia, is it not?
The Third Object of the Theosophical Movement is to investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man. In scanning the writings of Gandhi, it is evident that he believed in the “invisible” since he accepted the Vedanta belief that God is essentially formless (Nirguna Brahman) and yet present in every form (Saguna Brahman). Gandhi also deeply believed in karma and reincarnation. Furthermore, he recognized that the moral law was impersonal, subtle and many-layered. In the human kingdom, this means that karma works principally through the agency of the mind. This understanding of the karma-generating power of thought sometimes created peculiar problems for Gandhi. Take, for example, his reaction to the Bihar earthquake of 1934. After the earthquake, Gandhi publically commented that, in his view, the earthquake was caused by the sin of untouchability practiced by most caste Hindus. Rationalists everywhere were thunder-struck and dismayed by this statement and so was Gandhi’s close friend, Rabindranath Tagore. The latter publically chastised Gandhi and stated,
“… physical catastrophes have their inevitable and exclusive origin in certain combinations of physical facts.” 8
Gandhi’s retort to Tagore and his critics alike was:
“To me, the earthquake was no caprice of God nor a result of the meeting of mere blind forces. We do not know all the laws of God (karma) nor their working.” 9
It is interesting, is it not, that Gandhi’s view on the earthquake parallels Aphorism # 30 in William Q. Judge’s “Aphorisms on Karma” (communicated to Judge by H.P.B.) Aphorism # 30 reads:
“Karma operates to produce cataclysms of nature by concatenation through the mental and astral planes of being. A cataclysm may be traced to an immediate physical cause such as internal fire and atmospheric disturbance, but these have been brought on by the disturbance created through the dynamic power of human thought.” 10
While Gandhi recognized the reality of occult laws, he felt that it was often an unhealthy diversion for mystics, Hindus and Theosophists to focus on hidden and as yet undeveloped psychic powers. Gandhi’s concern, as we know, echoes a serious point made in The Great Master’s Letter in which the aim of universal brotherhood is fervently upheld and the fascination with occult powers strongly criticized. As the Great Master unequivocally states:
“… perish rather the Theosophical Society with both its hapless Founders, than that we should permit it to become no better than an academy of magic, and a hall of Occultism!” 11
In the last issue of Gandhi’s journal, “Harijan”, ironically published on the day of his assassination (January 30th, 1948), Gandhi wrote the following:
“There are many admirable works in Theosophical literature which one may read with the greatest profit; but it appears to me that too much stress has been laid upon …intellectual studies, upon the development of occult powers, and that the central idea of Theosophy, the brotherhood of man and the moral growth of man, has been lost sight of.” 12
In the final analysis, Gandhi believed that the identity of all life with God and the derivative principle of brotherhood were the keys to the fullest possible life for all. This is certainly compatible with the presiding and moving spirit of Theosophia, Divine Wisdom.
“…Piety will decrease until the world will be wholly depraved. Property alone will confer rank; wealth will be the only source of devotion; passion will be the sole bond of union between the sexes; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation; and women will be objects merely of sensual gratification.”
Vishnu Purana (on the coming of Kali Yuga) 13
To Gandhi, the real enemy in our turbulent, violent age is not simply the evil actions of individuals, the inertia of social institutions or the corrupting tendency of power politics. At a more causal level, the subtler and more subversive enemy of man is “modern civilization”. ‘Modern civilization’ can be characterized as a pervasive state of mind in which we are hypnotized by the glamor and glitter of materiality – a point that is compellingly made by H.P.B. in her article, Civilization: the Death of Art and Beauty. Gandhi believed that, at its root, modern civilization corrupts consciousness by denying the reality of the spiritual and the needs of the human soul. Our topsy-turvy age encourages the multiplication of bodily satisfactions over the deeper needs of soul expression. It inverts and subverts true morality and the dignity of the human quest. Most of all, modern civilization rationalizes evil actions in the name of the good – both worldly and other worldly.
Gandhi believed that the solution to “modern civilization” is to deliberately deglamorize materialized notions of progress and restore the primacy of spiritual values in all domains of private and public life. This Herculean challenge to the descending tropism of the modern age calls for a kind of secular monasticism, a courageous commitment by the few to take unconditional vows to constructively serve society – especially the disenfranchised. Indifference to the suffering of others is not acceptable to men and women who seek God. As The Voice of the Silence tells us, the isolated splendor of forest-dwelling yogis and sheltered monastics is simply the “…sweet but selfish rest of quiet wilds”. Direct, intelligently rendered service to the victims of greed and injustice is the clarion call of men and women of true religion and social conscience. In this regard, Gandhi’s ashrams were moral training grounds for committed social reformers to enact religious values in living communal contexts. Ashram vows and activities were prologue to constructive village work and to inaugurating civil disobedience to the unjust laws of the British Raj.
As can be seen, what we have called “secular monasticism” is really the marriage of religious vows with dedicated social service. To Gandhi, the motive power which makes any moral ideal vibrant in society is unconditional commitment. Intellectual conviction is often weak and impotent in the face of trying circumstances. Good intentions may likewise be blind or foolish. What binds reason and aspiration into a powerful vector for social uplift is a solemn resolve made before the court of one’s conscience. Vows provide not only moral direction but make self-restraint more natural. This is put insightfully and succinctly by Shri Raghavan Iyer:
“The social and political reformer needs self-discipline if he is to be dependable and if he is to promote the habits of reliability and self-restraint in society, and he must take vows that commit him completely. Vows are thus a sign of fullness, intensity and authenticity of personal commitment to chosen ideals and social ends.” 14
“You change your life by changing your heart.” (Gandhi) 15
To Gandhi, our human interdependence makes society necessary. Society is a living set of structured, but not necessarily static, human relationships. The complex geometry of “social relating” in diverse societies across the globe can only be mastered through the skillful performance of dharma or duty. The truthful and non-violent performance of our responsibilities to our families, communities, countries and mankind as a whole is the only way to become truly worthy of the divine. Why? Because, man is God in miniature. To serve others intelligently and whole-heartedly is to progressively realize the Divine Presence. In this sense, we discover God when we look “outside” as well as when we turn “within”.
Clearly, in Gandhi’s view, duties are primary and rights secondary. Our only real right is our right to freely and intelligently actualize our multiple responsibilities. Nowhere is the primacy of duty over rights more evident than in Gandhi’s response to the English novelist, H.G. Wells. In 1940, Wells drew up a concise document entitled, “The Rights of Man” — a precursor to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” adopted by the United Nations in 1948. He sent his carefully crafted statement on universal rights to Gandhi via cable and asked for his comments. Gandhi immediately responded — via cable — and stated:
“Received your cable. Have carefully read your five articles. You will permit me to say you are on the wrong track. I feel sure that I can draw up a better charter of rights than you have drawn up. But of what good would it be? Who would become its guardian? If you mean propaganda or popular education you have begun at the wrong end. I suggest the right way. Begin with a Charter of Duties of Man and I promise the rights will follow as spring follows winter. I write from experience. As a young man I began life by seeking to assert my rights and I soon discovered I had none…So I began by discovering and performing my duty to my wife, my children, friends, companions and society. I find today that I have greater rights, perhaps, than any living man I know.” 16
To Gandhi, duty is more than the “coherence factor” that integrates and sustains a community of moral individuals. Dharma can be a revolutionary force as well. In an ever-changing universe, societies are always tilting, always in some form of dynamic disequilibrium. This is particularly true in our own times. As modern civilization becomes increasingly ubiquitous, poisoning as it does almost every culture East and West and disconnecting them from their traditional values, only a strong sense of felt responsibility to the “God-in-man” can non-violently right social injustices, heal historical grievances, span racial divides, purify religious excrescences and deglamorize every form of government. Truthful and benevolent action is the vital, ever-revolutionary corrective to the moral inversions of Kali Yuga – even if such a corrective comes at a high cost to the intrepid few who dare to be set the example.
Gandhi was inspired throughout his life by the personal sacrifices of many men and women for the cause of human justice. He also held up before his mind’s eye, ideal models of historical and legendary heroes. Interestingly enough to us in the West, one of his historical heroes was Socrates. Gandhi apparently read some of Plato’s early dialogues. For a certainty, he read Plato’s Apology. Gandhi was deeply impressed by the character of Socrates. The latter was a sterling example of one who non-violently suffered for the sake of truth and right. Socrates was, to Gandhi, a true satyagrahi, a solitary Prometheus who held on to truth for the sake of lifting up his fellow man. Gandhi’s admiration for Socrates was so great that he published his own translation-summary of Plato’s Apology in Guajarati as a means of galvanizing the Indian community in South Africa to engage in civil disobedience. His rendition of the Apology (which means “defense” in Greek) appeared in his periodical, “Indian Opinion” in 1908. It was later distributed in pamphlet form in Bombay, India and was promptly banned by the British Viceroy.
Gandhi, himself, initiated many religious and social reforms over his lifetime due to his unconditional commitment to truth and non-violence. For example, he sought to purify Hinduism by removing the stains of untouchability, child marriage and animal sacrifice. He sought to restore the dignity of womanhood by insisting on a widow’s right to remarry and by making women the equal partners of men in all of life’s endeavors. He sought to reform education by integrating the head, heart and hand in all the progressive stages of learning. He initiated the radical notion of non-violent civil disobedience to unjust laws and likewise set forth the revolutionary ideal of non-violent socialism, with the village as the primary socio-political unit.
Theosophically speaking, what is most important is that Gandhi believed that self-reform and social reform are interlaced and that the key to both is experiencing a radical “change of heart”. (In this connection, the Buddha said that the greatest magic is that which affects a permanent change in the heart of another human being for the good.) To the extent that a committed social reformer is non-violent, he minimizes potential harm to others and thereby generates less undesirable karma. Non-violent action also makes the truth of a particular injustice potentially more transparent to its perpetrators. Furthermore, the reformer’s own suffering can awaken the hearts of his opponents and make atonement and self-correction on their part more likely. But, quite tellingly, Gandhi also believed that non-violent suffering for a worthy cause makes the social activist more likely to see his own possible errors and mistakes, and, like his opponents, engage in acts of self-correction and contrition when called for.
As we can see, both the reformer and the need-to-be-reformed usually experience suffering. The social reformer experiences creative tapas by attempting to bring about constructive social change through constructive, non-violent action. The need-to-be-reformed experiences the fire of tapas through the eventual pain brought about by his unjust acts and by the sobering recognition that conscientiously “righting wrongs’ is a painful and arduous process, e.g., the Buddhist story of the bandit, Angulimala, who suffered greatly in his attempts to serve villagers that he had previously terrorized.
To Gandhi, the pivotal lever for long-term social and economic reform is the principle of trusteeship. Each person is the custodian of his talents, knowledge and skills. He must voluntarily use them for the betterment of society in whatever way his natural dharma suggests. The entrepreneur, for example, who skillfully amasses wealth is morally obligated to find creative ways to re-distribute his income for needed social services. However, he should not be coerced to do so by the state. To forcibly deprive a successful businessman of his wealth is unjust. Without his own will, without a gradual change of heart, all coercive change for a worthy social goal turns to dust and creates an eventual reaction that cannot be easily avoided.
“My life is my message.” (Gandhi) 17
What might we learn from Gandhi that could enhance our ability to walk the Bodhisattvic Path? What we might extract from Gandhi’s life and teachings is that the most virulent problem facing humanity at this critical hour is not so much ignorance or physical violence as it is “perversity of will”. This deeply entrenched mental perversity is really the refusal to learn and this kind of refusal warps and disfigures our personality. In a sense, the “perverted will” is really the long shadow of Atlantean pride that obscures our recognition of and obeisance to the God-in-man and the God-in-Nature.
What then is the cure for this long abiding Atlantean malady, this disease of the will? Gandhi’s medicine is very hard for people to swallow in our troubled, irreverent times. His spiritual remedy for human perversity is to consciously cultivate an all-pervasive sense of reverence for the omnipresent divine, for what is deeply sacred. The mental posture of reverence for God, man and Nature can alone humble pride and leaven the bitter lump of perversity. There is, as Gandhi exemplified, a transfiguring power in true reverence. Its radiant presence is healing not only to the humble possessor of its purifying power but to all who come within the perimeter of its divine efflux.
But, to be absolutely clear, real reverence is not for the meek, the passive, the conventionally religious or for the obsequious. Reverence is vibrantly spiritual and calls for a standup attitude of the heart, a daring affirmation of the inherent wisdom and immortality of the human soul. To inwardly bow before each and all – even down to the dog-eater as Krishna says – is to initiate a war within the breast. But it is a holy war and every victory is a blessing and every failure a “learning moment”. Ultimately, inner reverence invokes the god above and ostracizes the demon within. It progressively renders truth transparent and makes non-violent action as natural as breathing.
Theosophically speaking, Gandhi’s curative for the soul (reverence) makes perfect sense. Are we not taught by H.P. Blavatsky that when humanity was lit up over eighteen million years ago that human beings felt a natural reverence for the divine within their progenitors, for the divine within their fellow human beings and for the divine within themselves? Did not the luminous, spiritual teacher Pythagoras declare to all wisdom-seekers in his mini-community in Crotona that mental obeisance to what is holy and sacred is fundamental to the spiritual life, to wholesome living? Did not Pythagoras state in his Golden Verses that one should revere the immortal gods, reverence the oath and likewise revere the heroes who are “…full of goodness and light”? 18
In fact, we might well ask, are truthful and loving actions even possible without reverence for our parents, our teachers, our friends, our benefactors, and even our enemies? Isn’t everyone our teacher? In an age of rapid disillusionment with every form of authority, we should not let ourselves slip into the sleep of spiritual forgetfulness. We should remind ourselves daily that reverence for the soul as well as respect for the virtues and limitations of each and all is the key to learning, is the key to happiness and is the key to moral and spiritual growth. Reverence for the sacred can alone restore a lost but recoverable spiritual innocence and make us all once again, “children of light who go forth into the world to render gentle service to all that lives.” 19
If all this is true, then we might venture to say that true reverence is the Lemurian cure for Atlantean illnesses still mutating in our Fifth Root Race as we rapidly approach many crucial “moments of choice” in the 21st Century and beyond.
I will end my comments on Gandhi by reading a stanza from a poem by the 19th Century Poet laureate of Great Britain, Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
“Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before, but vaster.” 20
This is Gandhian, through and through.
JT Delivered at the International Theosophical Conference 2016 Santa Barbara, California