The following article, titled “Theosophists and Prayer,” first appeared in the February 1927 edition of Theosophy Magazine, the main monthly publication of the United Lodge of Theosophists. One of the purposes of the ULT, founded in 1909 by Robert Crosbie, was to save the original and genuine teachings of Theosophy from the oblivion to which they had been consigned by many of H.P. Blavatsky’s self-proclaimed “successors.”
The article corresponds well with several other articles here on this site, such as Prayer, Karma, and Compassion, We do not have Guardian Angels, Belief in God is Superstition, and On Prayer and Worship. In the latter article, B.P. Wadia implores Theosophists to “Get rid of the notion that some great God listens to your prayer and answers it or refuses to respond to it as the case may be. There is no such being; there is no God, no Allah, no Ahuramazda, no Jehovah, nor what some badly instructed theosophists call the Solar Logos, in the sense of a Personal creator outside of Nature, and Nature’s immutable laws, who can grant you special favours.”
In the new article Questions about Karma, we stated that the central Theosophical teaching of the Law of Karma “is one of several reasons why Theosophists also do not believe in the efficacy of prayer. One cannot believe in both prayer and Karma, since the two cancel each other out. If we believe that things can be altered and that destiny can be changed by our prayers, then we obviously do not believe in Karmic Law as “the Ultimate Law of the Universe” (H.P. Blavatsky’s phrase) since a Law is a Law and cannot be evaded or overpowered. If it could be, then it is not a Law after all and is not even worthy of being believed in.”
Prayer is “fruitless and useless” according to HPB in “The Key to Theosophy” and what the Masters themselves have written shows how much they disdain the practice of prayer, along with the belief in either a personal or impersonal God. One cannot justifiably accept the rest of Theosophy and then reject this part just because it happens to disagree with and go against our personal religious notions. “There is no religion higher than Truth.” Either the Masters and the one they called their “Direct Agent” knew what they were talking about or they did not. It’s that simple. If they were mistaken and misguided regarding the subject of God and prayer, then we may as well forget about the whole of their Message since, as the Masters have said, “our doctrine knows no compromises.”
It is time for us to grow up – spiritually, philosophically, intellectually, and emotionally.
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Official reports of the convention proceedings of a group of students of Theosophy printed not long ago advert to the fact that the convention was opened with a sort of “meditation” meeting at which “invocations,” or prayers, were said. The convention was closed in the same manner, and during its progress chants, invocations and other prayerful proceedings formed a part of its every day procedure.
A recently received printed slip enclosed in a business letter from a Theosophical student, was headed “A Prayer for a Child,” and was signed with the name of a prominent leader of one of the several Theosophical Societies. The prayer itself was of that variety of sentiment which H.P. Blavatsky denominated “flap-doodle.” But it was a prayer to “God.”
For some time past a magazine produced by adherents of another Theosophical Society has been devoted to printing the letters of a deceased member, in which this member counsels young students to pray, and tells them just how to do it.
All of which goes to demonstrate that three considerable bodies of Theosophical students, all of whom believe sincerely that they are studying and practising the true Theosophy, and two of which insistently asseverate their undying loyalty to the leadership and admonitions of H.P.B., are in fact doing the exact opposite.
They are soaked through and through with the “personal god idea.” They are practising black magic. They are depending upon something or somebody outside themselves – under whatever idea or name. And every one of these societies, in all of which the great majority of members are sincere, has as its real head and inspiring genius some authority saturated with the “personal god idea.”
The facts prove it. Anyone interested can verify them for himself. At this stage of the Theosophical Movement, launched half a century ago to destroy the “personal god idea,” “revealed religion” with its popes and prelates, “vicarious atonement” with its stultifying inferences and leadership abuses, three of the more prominent of the various Theosophical bodies are no more than churches, sects. They are religious organizations, but worse in practice and influence than their Christian brethren because their members are devoted to psychism and psychic practices, while the “magic” of the churches, though left-hand, is largely mechanical – a mere habitual following of rule and ritual.
This seems like a terrible indictment. It is none of ours: the palpable and undeniable facts carry their own indictment. Let any well-informed student of real Theosophy ally himself with any of the societies referred to, take a modest and impersonal part in their activities, and gradually and properly direct the attention of his fellows to the teachings of the “Secret Doctrine,” to H.P.B.’s “Five Messages,” to the unequivocal lines of teaching and practice laid down by her in the “Key to Theosophy” and in her many forthright and downright magazine articles. He will soon discover something! He will find he is “out of step” – the only one out of step, in fact. His “ignorance” or “effrontery” will be pityingly, or mayhap violently, squelched. Gradually or suddenly, as the case may be, he will be eliminated, removed, interred, if he is not “regular.” It is the heresy of the churches all over again. These people do not want Theosophy: they want their own interpretation of Theosophy, as set forth and approved by the “leader” who is prominently displayed in the foreground – or artfully concealed in the background.
What is the teaching of Theosophy as to the practice of prayer? Very simple indeed: Don’t! Energize yourself along honest lines, set the proper causes in motion, and the results will flow. Law rules – not sentiment! If you want anything, earn it.
Building up psychic images, reflections in the lower astral light of your own person; or gaining the attention of the Star Rishees – is the sure road to moral degradation and spiritual death. These are what the praying “theosophists” do, if successful. If unsuccessful, they break down their own mental integrity and practical self-reliance by the practice.
If you feel that you need the help of the “Master Jesus,” as some students denominate that One, his doctrine will be no different from that of his fellow Initiates. His teaching, as that of H.P.B. – and of Them all – was and is: Pray to your Father in Heaven, your own Inner Self, in the secret recesses of your own heart: that the will of the in-dwelling Spirit may be done through the body.
This means that you have to do it yourself! It does not, never has, and never will mean anything else. This is the “will-prayer” referred to by H.P.B. in the “Key.” It is a command to the lower man that he align himself with the Higher – who is not personal. It is not a petition, but its exact opposite. It is not an asking for help, or even that a higher and better understanding of truth be had, for that position is a personal and therefore selfish one. The true will-prayer requires that all ideas of personality be dropped altogether, and that the being, assuming his own true position as a Spiritual Being, compel the lower to open itself to the energizing rays of the Spiritual Sun within himself. Such prayer is selfless and universal in motive and effect. It is at once an affirmation of Self, an arouser of the Spiritual Will, an utter and complete resignation of works, fruits of works or desires, an abandonment of egotism. It is the Gayatri of the Ancient East. It is the under current and inner meaning of the Bhagavad-Gita.
… woe unto those Occultists and Theosophists, who, instead of crushing out the desires of the lower personal ego or physical man, and saying, addressing their Higher Spiritual Ego immersed in Atma-Buddhic light, “Thy will be done, not mine,” etc., send up waves of will-power for selfish or unholy purposes! For this is black magic, and spiritual sorcery. …
… let no man anthropomorphise that essence in us. Let no Theosophist, if he would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this “God in secret” listens to, or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite essence – for all are one. …
… we believe in “communion” and simultaneous action in unison with our “Father in secret”; and in rare moments of ecstatic bliss, in the mingling of our higher soul with the universal essence. … We refuse to pray to created finite beings – i.e., gods, saints, angels, etc.; because we regard it as idolatry. We cannot pray to the ABSOLUTE … ; therefore we try to replace fruitless and useless prayer by meritorious and good-producing actions. …
… the Theosophist looks, for power to subdue his passions and his selfishness, to his Higher Self, the divine spirit, or the God in him, and to his Karma. …
Thus wrote H.P.B. in the Key to Theosophy. She needs no interpreters – nobody to say what she meant. She said what she meant, and it accords fully with the Secret Doctrine of old, and the sayings of all the true Sages of whatever epoch, race or clime. Her teachings of Theosophy are available to all present-day students in exact reprints of her writings as published during her own lifetime; so there is no room for evasions or interpretations. The only thing they reveal is the bias, ignorance, or mental and moral turpitude of the one who would stand between the Teacher and the student – the priest, the leader, the “improver,” the jackdaw dressed in the peacock’s feathers of altruism.
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SOME RELATED ARTICLES (other than those mentioned at the start): 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, The Sevenfold Nature of Man, Atman – The Higher Self, The Difference between Soul and Spirit, The Existence of Evil, It’s All Illusion – but How?, The Whitewashing of Black Magic, Desire: The Cause of All Suffering, The Psychic is not the Spiritual, Practical Theosophy, The Yoga of Purity, Beware of the Star Rishis, Dismantling the Christian Edifice, The True Nature of Jehovah, Salvation from Christianity, The Masters and Madame Blavatsky, Words from The Masters about H.P. Blavatsky, and Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?