Esoteric and Exoteric

By B.P. Wadia

Chapter VII of “Living The Life” – p. 33-39

Soul builds body. The nature of the one is occult, as that of the otherB.P. Wadia - United Lodge of Theosophists is phenomenal. Of unchanging reality is life, while form is but the evanescent maya that is non-existent in fact. From 1851 to 1871 Wisdom was energizing in the inner planes of being propelling towards the outer world. Then H.P.B. emerged from the Great Lodge for the service of our world and ever since, and especially after 1877 when her Isis Unveiled was published, certain hitherto unfamiliar words came into prominence. Among these were esoteric and esotericism, exoteric and exotericism.

She was the first since the days of the Alexandrian Neo-Platonists who unhesitatingly and emphatically declared that a secret body of Teaching and Teachers existed. From the very start she claimed a somewhat intimate acquaintance with both. She laboured in the cause for which those Teachings and Teachers stood, for 20 years – from 1871 to 1891. Among the important missions entrusted to her was the drawing of the attention of the world to the existence of the Teaching and the Teachers; only a part of the former, under instructions from the latter, was put forward in discreet instalments. This process was affected by the growth or the hindrance, especially among the aspirants to Chelaship, in recognizing the truth of the esoteric nature of both the knowledge imparted and its Wise Custodians. It is apparent to the insight of the student of H.P.B.’s teachings that she tried to prepare a body of students wise enough to value silence and learn the art of assimilation of the philosophy and through it of its Master-Proficients. H.P.B.’s mission was not only dissemination of knowledge to the world at large and the service of the century which opened with 1875. She also had to prepare a band of student-servers of the Sacred and Secret Wisdom, who were capable of transmitting the same Charge to succeeding generations, and thus purify by life and labour the mind of the race till her successors in 1975 arrived before the public to complete that which she began.

Men’s minds had to be prepared for the reception of the Teaching. Grades of students is what she aimed at; those knowing less, learning from the group who knew a little more, till there would be two or three who in direct contact with the perfected Adepts remained also in touch with the world through their co-workers and helpers. A veritable Antahkarana-Bridge was planned to be erected between the World of Masters and the world of mortals. For this purpose and towards this aim she advised that the esoteric nature of matter and man be truly recognized by her students and especially by her intimate pupils. The public which perused her writings was callous to her hints and suggestions in proportion as her intimate associates and students were heedless of her direct and unequivocal injunctions. Indiscretions about the esoteric nature of the Lodge of Masters and Its Wisdom among other things, led to the collapse of the almost complete Bridge. A very small end of it which extended from the side of the Masters’ World remained and will ever remain intact. As modern students purify themselves by the energy of study and ensoul themselves by the power of service, more of the Bridge will be restored. Devotion and intelligence which create are the necessary requisites and the few builders look, watch and exclaim – “Who is on our side? Who will help us?”

It is essential that students should intelligently recognize, that Esotericism is a fact in Theosophy. Pythagoras termed it the gnosis of things that are and spoke of it in secrecy to his inner circle while Confucius refused to explain publicly his “Great Extreme.” The Rishis of India, the Magians of Persia and Babylon, the Hierophants of Egypt and Arabia, the Prophets of Israel taught as Jesus did in these strange words to his elect:-

“Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”

Ammonius Saccas obligated his disciples by oath not to divulge his higher doctrines, except to those who had been “exercised.” Our own H.P.B., following in the footsteps of her Predecessors, warned: “Woe be to him who divulges unlawfully the words whispered into the ear of Manushi by the First Initiator.” She affirmed, through hints, obscure yet broad, the intimate nature of Esoteric Wisdom to be practised, while she loudly proclaimed that Primeval Knowledge and the Heirs to the Ancient of Days lived and laboured for mankind. She gathered in her writings the radiant jewels of the many mines – the diamond of India, the sapphire of Buddhaland, the ruby of Persia, the opal of Chaldea, the emerald of Egypt, the amethyst of Greece, the moonstone of Judea and set them all in the exquisite platinum of our own era which she secured from her Masters. She made this necklace for the daughter of time named the 19th-20th century.

H.P.B. pointed out that the secret teachings of the sanctuaries have not remained without witness. They have burst upon the world in hundreds of volumes full of the quaint phraseology of the Alchemists; they have flown like irrepressible cataracts of Occult-mystic lore from the pens of poets and bards. Whence did Ariosto, in his Orlando Furioso, obtain his conception of that valley in the moon, where after death we can find the ideas and images of all that exists on earth? How came Dante to imagine the many descriptions given in his Inferno of his visit and communion with the souls of the seven spheres? The dark secrets of the Wisdom were allowed to see the light of day as people learnt to use them with genuine discrimination, with selfless dispassion. It is personal selfishness that develops and urges man on to abuse his knowledge and power. Thus during the last few centuries, as human selfishness grew, the Light of Wisdom diminished and those few Elect whose inner natures had remained unaffected by the march of the world became the sole guardians of the Esoteric Knowledge, passing it only to those fit to receive it, and keeping it inaccessible to others.

H.P.B. burst upon the world with her direct message. It was not poetical imagery, nor symbolic tales nor dramatized versions of Esoteric Truths. She wrote in the language of precision, simple and clear cut, as one having authority. She appealed to those around her to preserve inviolable secrecy in regard to certain information and teaching and await her cue from time to time to declare exoteric that which hitherto was given to the few to learn and assimilate. Her wise injunctions were disregarded; followed desecration of the sacred; that which was holy was given unto the dogs of the press and the pearls were cast before the swine of an egotistic, selfish public; press and public trampled them under their feet, turned on H.P.B. and rent her.

With the return of the Cycle the responsibility of her true students and followers assumes a grave proportion.

In this world of maya, Spirit and Matter are looked upon as two different things and so are Esoteric Wisdom and Exoteric Knowledge. Nature is one and so is Theosophy. The secret of Nature is in particles of dust and in constellations of stars and both are visible and yet – invisible. The writings of H.P.B. are at once exoteric and esoteric. Their occultism is perceived only by those whose inner natures have unfolded.

One of the qualifications unfolding that inner faculty which reveals the hidden side of the known phenomenal world is the power to keep inviolate the secrets entrusted to us by Nature or otherwise. Often in the enthusiasm to help and serve our fellows we scatter on the highway the seeds gathered from our study of Theosophy and our meditations on the facts of the philosophy. This is due to egotism, often of a very subtle type. To train them in the art of keeping secrets, many a wise teacher has devised ways and means whereby innocuous facts and fictions were given to students for the practice of keeping them private and learning how to avoid revealing them directly and indirectly in answering questions and in conversations.

It is a wise practice to impose on oneself the obligation of secrecy in reference to certain metaphysical and psychical teachings or spiritual and mystical practices. In doing so care must be taken that the student does not fall prey to the assuming of a mysterious attitude, which is still another form of egotism. “What thou hast to do, do it in quietude though a multitude surroundeth thee; what thy right hand receiveth or what thy left hand giveth let only thy Hidden Heart know” – such is the aphorism of old and the rules of the spiritual Path are the same today as of yore.

Corpses exist, but a living body has always a soul. Corpses of knowledge exist, but the Science of Life has the Master-Soul behind. The mystery of the living body, the mysteries of the Science of Life, are esoteric; these mysteries show themselves mystically in the visible body, in the recorded Teachings of the Master-Souls. The esotericism of the Gita is within the eighteen discourses and there is no need to look for a nineteenth discourse. In the recorded message of H.P.B. all her Esoteric Wisdom lies buried. Her students and pupils will discover in her teachings that which is esoteric; silence and secrecy preserved will lead to further and nobler knowledge of the Inner Temple. To gain entrance every student has to become the Path which is Life Eternal. He has not only to find the Path but to make the Path. Between the student and the Golden Wisdom of the Masters which he is seeking there exists a gulf – the abyss of separation. He has to find that Antahkarana-Bridge on which silently, secretly, faithfully, some may be building, building, building – who knows?

~ * ~

B.P. Wadia (1881-1958) was an influential figure in the United Lodge of Theosophists and greatly responsible for the spread and establishment of the ULT in both his native India and numerous other countries of the world.

He and his wife Sophia (1901-1986) founded and organised The Indian Institute of World Culture, the All-India Centre of the International P.E.N. (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), and edited “The Aryan Path” and “The Indian P.E.N.” magazines, as well as “The Theosophical Movement” magazine which continues to enjoy a worldwide readership.

Friends with Gandhi and other important and influential figures in India, the Wadias faithfully and relentlessly presented and promoted the original and genuine teachings of Theosophy – i.e. those of H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge – and did much to counteract the pseudo-theosophy that had sprung up under the influence of C.W. Leadbeater, Annie Besant, and their followers.

He had initially been a member of “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” and a colleague and supporter of those individuals. The story of his decision to leave the Adyar Society in order to join forces with the ULT can be found in the article The Theosophical Society is Disloyal to Theosophy. The expressed mission statement of the ULT, founded in 1909 by Robert Crosbie, is “To spread broadcast the original teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge.”

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~

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