[Reproduced from The Theosophical Movement magazine for June 2009, published by Theosophy Company India – www.ultindia.org]
THE MEANING OF BEING AN ASSOCIATE
An Associate of the United Lodge of Theosophists (U.L.T.) is someone who has signed the “Associate Card,” but more than that he is someone who is closely connected with the U.L.T. What is U.L.T.? Mr. Crosbie, the founder of the U.L.T., says, “U.L.T. is a name given to certain principles and ideas.” These principles and ideas are enshrined in the Declaration of the U.L.T., which reflects the spirit of true theosophical work.
We may ask, why should anyone want to sign the associate card? Is it essential? Does it confer any special benefit to someone who signs it? Regular students of Theosophy are well aware that U.L.T. meetings are open to all. Theosophical literature is accessible to all inquirers. Nothing is demanded of anyone. No one is asked to relinquish his beliefs or make any payment for attending U.L.T. meetings or for participating in its activities. Yet, after attending a few meetings and familiarizing oneself with the teachings of Theosophy and the work carried on by its devoted students, if someone feels that here is a philosophy which explains, then it is but natural that he may want to associate himself, closely, with the work. He may feel moved from within to become, in some way, part of the great movement and take active part in the study and promulgation of Theosophy, i.e., he may wish to become an associate of U.L.T.
Becoming an associate is the most solemn and a sacred step in one’s life. It is not to be done casually. It is not like becoming a member of some club or a social circle. When one signs the “Associate Card” one becomes a companion of the Masters. These Masters are the custodians of the knowledge, but they need companions in this world to rediscover and promulgate it. To become an associate is to want to study the teachings of Theosophy, apply it in one’s life and give it out to others who are desperately in need of the right philosophy. By signing the card, you offer yourself as a candidate to work in that army of unknown soldiers who live to benefit mankind. Such should be the spirit. And the clause to which one affixes one’s signature reads thus:
Being in sympathy with the purposes of this Lodge as set forth in its “Declaration,” I hereby record my desire to be enrolled as an Associate, it being understood that such association calls for no obligation on my part other than that which I, myself, determine.
Thus, an associate is bound only to the principles and purpose of U.L.T., and to nothing else. It is for the individual to decide to what extent he feels “obliged” and grateful, for the life-giving philosophy of Theosophy. One of the many meanings of obligation is the “debt of gratitude.” The debt that an associate wants to pay for what he has received from Theosophy. Those who are touched give all they have – their entire life is devoted to the work of U.L.T. It is for each one to decide the real purpose of joining the Lodge. Some are attracted to the philosophy, which is the philosophy of rational explanation of things, and which throws practical light on most profound subjects. Others want to acquire powers. Some are attracted to metaphysics and others seek personal growth and development. Some are just happy to join and then, as Mr. Judge says, wait like young birds for food to be put into their mouths, they would not exert. H.P.B. calls them nominal Theosophists or drones, who prefer to live on labour of others. Their selfish desire for personal progress acts like an obstacle between themselves and what they wish to know.
It is quite natural to admire and look up to someone who explains Theosophy well, and to want to emulate the one who is a living example of a true Theosophist. But Mr. Crosbie’s sage advice is:
It is not the best thing to rely upon any living person, I mean to the extent of idealizing him; for if such an one should be swept into seeming darkness for a time, its effect would not be good and might dishearten. (The Friendly Philosopher, p. 6)
The reason being, no one is Theosophy, and the best are but transmitters. Mr. Crosbie says that the strength shown by any worker is not that of the personality, which has none of itself, it lies in the words, the ideas, and the conviction of the truth held by the inner man. His loyalty is not to any individual or any centre but to the founders of the Theosophical Movement and their message. Sadly, the newcomers do not even know who the founders of the movement are and what the source of the message is. It is essential for other students to explain to the newcomer the true position of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge, and the Masters who are behind the movement. It may be a good idea for the student to read from various Theosophical books, such as, The Ocean of Theosophy, Echoes From the Orient, The Heart Doctrine, etc., and get a better understanding of the nature of the Masters and how they help humanity.
This is important, because students tend to think that if the Masters have all the knowledge and powers, and if they are behind the movement, the Masters would be there to help them and protect them against all evils. But Masters are not some sort of guardian angels, who are always at hand, ready to correct our mistakes or act like personal bodyguards to protect us against harm or injury. They work for the humanity. If the Masters are always there to correct us, to guide us, to protect us – when will we grow up? Where is any merit? We must remember that the Masters cannot be substitutes for personal god. They cannot and will not offer help in a specific manner that we feel we have deserved, simply because we work for Theosophy. Help is all the time there, but not the kind we think we need. All sincere students are surrounded by an invisible escort, says Mr. Crosbie.
It is essential for an associate to grasp the fundamental teachings of Theosophy, otherwise, how is he going to help others? Unity, Brotherhood, Karma and Reincarnation are most essential for understanding life and its problems and solutions. Our grounding of fundamentals should be so strong that we are able to make its application to any and every situation of life.
U.L.T. is not an organization. It is a living organism. No external laws, bylaws, officers or authority can provide true basis for union. It comes from following the same teachings and working for common aim, i.e., to help humanity. All who study Theosophy pure and simple and who help in its promulgation are working along the original lines. When H.P.B. died, W.Q.J. declared that there cannot be any successor to H.P.B. Mr. Crosbie who had witnessed that people are led astray by personalities, came up with a unique idea of uniting all students on the unshakable philosophical basis which cannot be denied. U.L.T. does not depend upon this or that particular student, however prominent. Its professed mission is to spread broadcast the teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the writings of H.P.B. and W. Q. Judge. It keeps alive in print their writings in its pure form. It believes that all that could be given out and all that was necessary for our age has already been given out by them and that it is our mission to draw attention to the teachings and not to ourselves or our opinions. Therefore, the work of U.L.T. is conducted in an impersonal manner. Its magazines are conducted anonymously. Those who are looking for authority, looking for a set of rules and methods are bound to be disappointed, forgetting that if it was possible, then Masters would have given it to us as a capsule to be gulped down with waters of blind faith! It is important for every associate to remember this and help in the mission of U.L.T. Every student is encouraged to efface his personality and humbly pass on the teachings, saying, “Thus have I heard.” Mr Crosbie’s simple advice is:
All that any of us can give is Theosophy. We did not invent it. It was given to us; we stand in line and pass it along, as people used to do at fires in passing the buckets of water. People are grateful to the one who passes the “water of life” along to them, but the “passer” knows where gratitude belongs, and says: “don’t thank me; thank Theosophy—as I do. It enables me to help others; it will also enable you.” (The Friendly Philosopher, p. 381)
H.P.B., writing to Fourth American Convention, says: “In your hands, brothers, is placed in trust the welfare of the coming century; and great as is the trust, so great is also the responsibility.” Unfortunately, people do not make a distinction between Theosophy and its well-meaning but still imperfect and struggling students. They forget that same sinning human nature is to be found within U.L.T. as out of it. Mere entry into U.L.T. does not guarantee overnight transformation of the sinning person into a saint. It is a line of life’s meditation. He should hold out the teachings whenever he sees the opportunity and work through and upon himself to become “brand ambassador” of Theosophy. Brands like IIT, JIM and Oxford at once bring certain high image and respect in our minds. Without realizing it, associates of U.L.T. are its brand ambassadors, for good or bad. People are bound to judge Theosophy by how we live our life. It is not oratory or the knowledge of subtle metaphysics of Theosophy, but the practical application of the ethics that naturally draws people to Theosophy. Failure is not that of Theosophy but of its adherents who are unable to live up to its high standards.
An associate is in agreement with the declared purposes of the Lodge and he desires to fit himself, by study and otherwise, to be the better able to help and teach others. If Theosophy is to become a living power in our life then we must be willing to change. Besides regular attendance at all meetings, there must be active participation, through prior work before the meeting, as also by asking questions, by writing articles, by attending to book table and by attending to basic queries of newcomers. These are small ways of showing our gratefulness. Where there are so few, every helping hand is of value. No work is small or unimportant. If you love Theosophy, there will be automatic rearrangement made in your schedule to ensure regular attendance at the meeting. When one remains absent, one weakens the link, sets up a cycle of absence, which has a tendency to repeat itself, and also, one sets a bad example for the newcomers.
We must strive to become true warriors. The attitude of a true student should be as described by Mr. Judge, who says:
Oh, what a groan Nature gives to see the heavy Karma which man has piled upon himself and all the creatures of the three worlds! That deep sigh pierces through my heart. How can the load be lifted? Am I to stand for myself, while the few strong hands of Blessed Masters and Their friends hold back the awful cloud? Such a vow I registered ages ago to help them, and I must. Would to great Karma I could do more! (Letters That Have Helped Me)
All of us who have benefited from the labour of love of Mr. Crosbie must realize that under karma much is required of those to whom much has been given in opportunity and knowledge. There has to be a burning desire to reach out Theosophy to as many people as possible. Mr. Crosbie expresses it thus: “This is the time when one wishes to be like Brahma with ‘eyes, heads, mouths and ears in every direction’.” There is something that every student can do. Says H.P.B.: “No fellow has a right to remain idle, on the excuse that he knows too little to teach. For he may always be sure that he will find others who know still less than himself. And also it is not until a man begins to try to teach others, that he discovers his own ignorance and tries to remove it” (The Key to Theosophy, pp. 249-250).
Work for Theosophy forms an entrance to the inner life, and we have to strive to constitute ourselves a chela, being sure that “when the materials are ready, the architect will appear.”
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SOME RELATED ARTICLES: Theosophy around The World, The Four Branches of the Theosophical Movement, The Commitment of the ULT, On Anonymity and Impersonality, The Man Who Rescued Theosophy, The United Lodge of Theosophists, The Theosophical Society is Disloyal to Theosophy, The Closing Cycle, and 12 Things Theosophy Teaches.