Selections Written by Early Temple Member Elmer Hedin
Read by Guardian in Chief Rick London
in the Blue Star Memorial Temple on July 23, 2023
I was recently contacted by one of our local historians, who had come across the poetry of Elmer Hedin, a Temple member and resident of Halcyon. Joyce and Elmer Hedin came to Halcyon in 1934 from the intentional community of Cazadero, on California’s Russian River. They built a one-room cottage on Helena Street, with subsequent additions to their Craftsman-style home. Elmer was a sociologist and writer. Joyce ran the Halcyon Store and Post Office for 14 years after Elmer’s death in 1955. The Hedins were one of three family groups who came from Cazadero.
This local historian’s inquisitiveness about Elmer’s role in Halcyon inspired me to root around his archived Temple member files. Lo and behold, I came across a handful of Temple talks, plus a 1934 published article in The American Journal of Sociology entitled “The Anglo-Indian Community;” a 1949 published poem in Kaleidocraph: A National Magazine of Poetry entitled “Anniversary;” and a copy of The Hearts of Men: Selected Poems by Elmer Hedin, published posthumously in 1955 by New Age Publishing Company. The Hearts of Men includes 27 poems with this opening dedication: “To Elmer Louis Hedin, humanitarian, poet, mystic, this book is dedicated by his many friends in loving tribute, not to his memory, but to his vital living presence.”
I will open this morning by reading the poem “Anniversary” as published in Kaleidocraph, followed by Elmer’s 1947 Temple talk entitled “Common Sense in Occultism,” and will close with “The Watcher” from his book, The Hearts of Men.
— Richard A. London
Sixth Guardian in Chief
July 23, 2023
Another milestone by the road,
Clear weather and a cup to share.
Shall we take time to rest the load?
So. I’ll sit here and you sit there.
Here’s a libation to the earth
And there’s one to the four winds
And now, to us: to all we’re worth;
To all that frees and all that binds;
To all the friends we’ve known together;
To all the lights that drew us on;
To bitter blast and golden weather;
To age-long night and wavering dawn;
To wakening blows we struck each other;
To deserts crossed on hands and knees;
To one mischance upon another;
These were our friends, give thanks for these.
Last, to the Road, each stretch and winding,
Each icy pass and deep defile,
Road of all seeking and all finding!
— Come. Shall we walk another mile?
— Elmer Hedin
COMMON SENSE IN OCCULTISM
Over two hundred years ago, a young Englishman, in what was then the colony of Pennsylvania, wrote a little pamphlet called “Common Sense.” His name was Tom Paine. As a person, he was neither very wise nor very good, but he was one-pointedly devoted to the service of the dignity of the human spirit. And it was his good karma to live in a cycle of great events and to play his part in them. How large a part is a matter of opinion, but it may well have been a vital one. For something in him knew one of the fundamental secrets of Occultism: the way to ensoul a thought-form, the power of what Vincent Sheean calls, “the symbolic act.” So, printer Tom Paine poured all the intensity of his nature into a pamphlet that rudely thrust aside tradition, convention, conservatism, expediency, and simple fear, everything, in fact, but the bare actualities of the situation and the one honest conclusion to be drawn from them. Then, having built the mental form, he set out to give it life by pouring his own life into it. And soldier Tom Paine, carrying a musket and wearing what somebody thought was a uniform, joined Washington’s everlastingly defeated army.
For a few months he ran away from the British with the rest of them, then holed up for the winter in a sod-roofed hovel at Valley Forge in the midst of the woebegone encampment, of what no soldier in Europe would have called an army. There they spent the winter, these beaten, hopeless men and, often, their women with them, snarling at one another, stealing food from one another when there was any, cursing Congress, defaming Washington, hating themselves, sickening, dying, deserting. But some stayed and lived, and in the spring there was food and the sun came out and there was water to wash in. Moreover, there was tough, old Von Steuben, who lined them up and drilled them while they still staggered and fell in the mud from weakness, drilled them and coaxed them and swore at them in five languages until he had them believing they were men again; until they learned to keep their heads up and their muskets clean; until they knew that the inconceivable had happened — that they could face the bayonets of the best professional soldiers in the world and drive them back.
And Washington and LaFayette were there, beaming from the saddle, and Tom Paine was there, grinning from the ranks. And at least two of those three were Master Masons, who had received the mystery teaching concerning certain of the laws of life. They knew what had happened as well as something of why it had happened and what it was for. Furthermore, they had helped in inner as well as outer ways to make it happen.
So a nation was born, as all things are born, with agony and distortion and confusion without, and the steady white fire of faith within. Masonry played a major role in holding the faith steady, for in those days its organization was a keen-edged weapon in the hands of the Lodge of Light. Later, the edge dulled, the point blunted, the inner fire passed to other vehicles.
That is the way of the inner fire. It never wavers and never dies and, by its nature, it cannot cease from furthering the evolution of humanity, step by step, point by point. Organizations come and go, are born and expand and harden and die, since that is the way of everything in form. Sometimes, they appear to be dying but, since the White Lodge still has need of them, their tangled growths are cut away and pruned back, as a grapevine is pruned to its basic structure, so that they climb once more and bear fruit for another season. But, in the end, each must go and give place to something better fitted for other kinds of men and women. Soon the United States, and every other nation now existing, will have passed. Soon every Christian church and every Theosophical group in the world will have vanished. The exterior organization of The Temple of the People will have vanished.
To be shaken by such a thought is to demonstrate our incredible lack of common sense. What greater good can there be, for any nation, any group, any individual, than to serve the ends of evolving life for a little while and then pass on? That which is at the heart of America cannot be bound. Let us hope that we Americans in this time will be great enough of heart to begin to voluntarily release that essence into a more inclusive unit, great enough to sacrifice a little of our wealth and our notions of superiority and, what legalists call our sovereignty, to the common good of mankind. If we fail to do so, we will soon find ourselves bereft of these things anyhow, and bereft of them without honor.
In like manner, but in much more subtle ways, the fire and the force and the pattern, which are the prototype and reality behind this mortal vesture we call The Temple of the People, must continue to be released to meet the needs of evolving humanity. For, should we ever turn to serving and worshiping our organization as an end it itself, in that moment we would be turning against everything the White Lodge has ever taught and against the laws of life itself. Our existence, therefore, would be brief and, once again, without honor.
This is the most elementary common sense and it has been summed up, with much beside, in a familiar sentence: “The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life.”
Now, what of the individual, the basic unit of nations and of occult groups? How are we to implement this creative movement of the essences? Surely, by doing the duty closest at hand, the one our individual karma has put before us. We must be very sure that it is our own, that we are not deceiving ourselves and ignoring what is our own while we reach out for something else that looks easier, or perhaps is more likely to attract the admiration and approval of others. We Americans, occult and otherwise, are very apt to do that and consequently, we are not a happy people. No, we must be sure to find our own thing to do, which is almost certain to be the thing that comes to us to do, that we do not have to seek, that our own heart’s wisdom tells us we must accept. It may well be service to another individual or to an organization.
Whatever it is, we must do it as well as we can in its outer details, and we must put into it something of our own life-force, consciously willing that the common fund for the upliftment of all men and women everywhere. We must accept bondage of our outer vehicles in order to effect freedom for the movement of the creative spirit over the face of the waters. In so doing, whoever or whatever may be the immediate beneficiary, we are really serving the Lodge, we are giving to the Lodge the only kind of service it can use, the service of a free man or woman who knows what he or she is doing. The service of slaves is of no use to anyone; it only creates tyrants.
But the one who consciously serves all mankind in whatever he or she is doing, no matter how small, is a direct contributor to every movement for the real welfare of the race. For example, if a successful world-state is achieved, whatever credit may be due to those who are in the forefront of the effort that achieves it, the real mass power and direction will have come from those silent and unknown workers who have made the sacrifices and accomplished the labor required to create the world-state in essence in their own hearts. It is the way great things are done and the only way they are done. For this is the beginning of real occultism as distinguished from theorizing and daydreaming about occultism; it is the practice of altruism, the releasing of the force and consciousness of the Christ into the pathways of all humanity.
This is discipleship.
This is the way of gentleness and peace and the flooding ecstasy of inclusive awareness. And it is also the way of tears and blood and the agony of merciless civil war. Why? Because the first step of any man or woman upon the path is the signal for the opposing forces within that man or woman to form ranks and draw up in order of battle. And it is from the midst of such battle that the force is drawn which does the Lodge work for humanity. From unseen and unknown Victories of the souls of human beings over their personalities is derived the power which makes possible even the existence of mankind upon this planet. When there is no such inner battle, when we are quite satisfied with ourselves and sure of our rectitude, busily pushing ourself forward and making much ado about our rights and the respect and appreciation due us, then we are not a disciple at all; our consciousness is still seated in the animal and content to be there; our service is not to God, but to mammon.
Now, mammon is another word for greed, and greed is not so obvious and easily recognized a thing as one might imagine. It is true, greed for money is easily recognized and is not in good repute. The same may be said of greed for status, for recognition and approval and importance. These are familiar and pitiable forms of the thing. Even greed for power can often be observed by everyone but those afflicted by it. A familiar instance is the patriarch or matriarch who rules and inhibits the lives of children and grandchildren — always, of course, for their good, either by a rod of iron or by a show of helplessness and dependence.
But when these greeds in their cruder forms are met and defeated by the aspiring nature, they always disguise themselves as virtues and return to take one unawares. Thus, we may find ourself believing that the basest avarice, the cruelest suppression, becomes somehow ennobled when they are practiced no longer in our own personal interest but in the interest of the family, the nation, the church. We bring down dreadful karma upon ourselves by transferring greed for the things of the material world to the interest of God Himself, by proudly bearing the fruits of forbidden motives and acts to lay at His feet as an offering.
Thus greed dogs the steps of even the most sincere and aspiring of those who have undertaken to fight to the death against it. But the common sense of the matter seems to be that sincerity and aspiration are not enough; they have to be balanced by sharp discrimination and the hard courage to turn it upon one’s tenderest points of self-righteousness and self-esteem. In fact, it has been suggested that one’s progress in occultism may be measured by the amount of personal self-esteem one can get along without — and live.
So it is common sense to say that greed, in its many phases, from utter crassness to the most delicate subtlety, is a major enemy in the way of one who seeks to cooperate in our own evolution and thereby contribute to the evolution of all humanity. For it is the truth that all centers are one; consequently, what is accomplished in the inner sanctuary of any man or woman, takes place potentially in the corresponding center of every human being. It is the awe-inspiring power inherent in the infinitely small, the force of the atom released and conquering.
But there is another enemy of the disciple as huge and as many-faced as greed, at least in this race. It is the lower mind, unlit from above and preoccupied with creeds, dogmas, rationalizations, ideologies, fixed notions, hard and cruel and self-willed preconceptions. And this, like greed, has a way of disguising itself as spirituality.
When we choose to align ourselves with our own soul-consciousness, we declare war on what we formerly thought of as ourselves, and we face the gross and the clever and the self-willed foes of our own households. They are always there, in everyone, without exception, and to see them is not to have conquered them; it is only to realize, at last, what we have to deal with. Many go insane at that realization. The majority turn and run. A very few stand from the beginning. None are so pure that they are not shaken and sickened at first-hand knowledge of what is in themselves.
This experience comes to every man and woman some time. For, in each of us exist the great adversaries, and between those two — the self-seeker and the doctrinaire — the Christ in man is, daily, dragged away to the hill of crucifixion. That is the truth. And it is the common sense of discipleship that, in this thing, each man and woman must stand alone and no one will know at the end of each day how well we have fought, whether we have yelled among the killers or hung with our Master on the cross. Even without knowing we must go on, striving to overcome the currents that beset us.
What, then, is the path of discipleship? It has been often described, but nobody really knows about it from being told; it is known only by experience. Then, and only then, what one has been told takes on meaning and it is not the meaning one had expected. A little we know, and that little has been touched upon. It has to do with the first steps.
In the beginning, there is a growing weariness with the struggle for personal success, with no greater issue at stake than whether we, or some other, should have such-and-such a position, such-and-such comforts and securities. And along with this weariness, a growing assurance that there really is somehow, somewhere, a Father-Motherhood of God and a Brother-Sisterhood of Man.
Then there is the specific ideal, the conscious choice of direction, the first glimpse of the enemy and, usually, the feeling of complete inadequacy and the panic flight.
Next, there is the end of flight; there is squalor and filth and sickness and degradation, the Valley Forge of the soul. And when there is no more hope, but only endurance, the spring comes again, the weakened personal will is ready for the whiplash voice of the drillmaster whose orders have weight because he knows the game and because he asks nothing for himself.
And, finally, once more the test of battle. The noise deafens us, the smoke chokes us, the guttering points of advancing bayonets make our stomach muscles crawl and twitch, but we do not run. We keep our places and listen for the order. We hear it, aim at a red-and-white facing, fire, load, aim, fire, methodically as the drillmaster taught us. We are afraid, but stand aloof from our fear. The line of bayonets is thinner now, it shakes and stops moving, it scatters and those rifles are being thrown away. The thing has happened! We, the beaten Godforsaken scarecrows, we, Emil the farmer, Hannah the weaver, Abe the haberdasher, Susan the cook, Tom the printer, have broken a charge. We will not run away again, but retreat, if we must, in good order. We are veterans. And when we march in review and our leaders smile at us from the saddle, we will grin back at them from the ranks.
— Elmer Hedin
We grope in dark and twisted ways,
Blind to our own Reality,
While all unmoved the high stars blaze,
Far-visioned eyes of God that see —
That see within your self and mine
These powers which we cannot know,
Who live as froth upon the brine,
Unmindful of the deeps below.
That see — not doubt or toil or fear,
The broken strength, the blasted faith,
But one clear light effulgent there,
Wherein there is — can be — no scathe.
That see — not strife of race with race,
Nation with nation, kin with kin,
But one bright web of cosmic lace,
Where all our lives are woven in.
— Elmer Hedin
I extend our thanks to Elmer and Joyce Hedin for their contributions to The Temple of the People, the Town of Halcyon, and to our chosen way of life.