Eleanor Shumway, Guardian in Chief
Temple Talk, September 13, 2020
In these days of the continuing impact on our lives of the coronavirus we are being asked by the Divine to face the fact that our continued subtle or not-so-subtle treatment of each other must face a major change. In addition to this, our assumption that everything in our environment is ours for the taking must be carefully re-examined. The Divine asks for our help and cooperation, in whatever direction our influence may extend, in the important endeavor to unify existing divergences of opinion along philosophical, ethical and political lines. We need to create a common ground, a fertile soil, for the growth of such qualities and attributes as will be conducive to the higher development of the human race.
A more critical period than the present regarding man’s mental, moral and spiritual evolution, it would be difficult to imagine. In all spheres of activity the great destructive and constructive forces of the Universe, perhaps better understood as the Creator, Destroyer, Preserver forces are peculiarly active. Grave trials will come during the upheaval and demolition of old philosophical and material landmarks. If we are possessed of faith in the “Divinity which shape our ends,” without which humanity is in a most pitiable condition, we know that after the disintegration of old forms and systems shall have been accomplished, we will be called upon to help reconstruct a way of life on higher geometrical lines.
Of course, I am speaking of the pandemic and having to switch to an online format for services and classes. This is an opportunity to re-examine these classes in terms of a worldwide participation, so let us take another look at how we can adapt to these twenty-first century conditions. No matter how this current pandemic evolves, we mustn’t lose touch with each other, near-by or far away.
Those in the world who “serve in the cause of those who suffer” must be drawn closer together, and such ties formed and cemented as will withstand all shocks and concerted attacks made by those who are in sympathetic contact with the forces belonging to the dark side of life. For the benefit of all humanity let us strive to lift on high the sign for the rallying of the forces under the banner of Love and cooperation, and in the spirit of true humility and service.
Spirit and matter, humanity and its environment, have been separated and studied apart, one from the other, for ages, and this divorce between the two great poles of our Being, is the fundamental cause of all the so-called evils of material existence. The time is near at hand for their reunification, and this can only be accomplished by unified action on the part of all those who have been touched by the spirit of Truth.
It is now difficult, if not impossible, for an intelligent unbiased man or woman to remain indifferent. We must take sides whether we will or nay, for events are fast shaping international and religious institutions to such a degree as will make inertia criminal; and it is for us to choose now whom we will serve, “God or mammon,” evolution or retrogression.
Misapplication of terms, misunderstanding of foreign words and phrases, have led to much unnecessary friction in the past. The fundamental truths underlying all religious systems are the same. The duty of an unselfish seeker for enlightenment is to reconcile existing differences of opinion by clearing away such shadows and misconceptions as have hidden the light of truth from the mental vision of ourselves as well as those other fragments of ourselves, our Brothers and Sisters near and far. We must find and retrace our steps over many a lost path, before we reach that unity of opinion which will render cooperative action on the living issues of the day possible of accomplishment. All we have to do is simply begin. One principle should dominate all our thoughts and actions, namely, tolerance for the opinions and desires of others, and charity to and for all. We will all face many trials of strength and endurance. But the Divine powers know that we are ready for this step, whether or not we think we are.
The individualized forces of disintegration now particularly active and noticeable between nations, states and families are controlled by conscious, superhuman entities, sometimes termed the fallen angels. These Brothers of the Shadow belong to the dark side of life, and work in opposition to the Builders, or Angels of Light, the Masters of the White Brotherhood. Wherever they can find anyone passive or evil enough to act as a distribution center for the dissemination of destructive force, they entangle him or her in a network of sophistry or offer some great personal reward, the acceptance of which destroys the power of right discrimination, leaving that person without power of resistance.
If we would free ourselves from these powers, which this particular age of the present great cycle has brought to the crest of the evolutionary wave, we must offer more than passive, negative resistance. We must call on the positive side of our nature to assist us in striking a true balance, and work unremittingly and unselfishly for the coming of that great day when the “Lion and the Lamb shall lie down together,” that day when “Peace shall rest as a bird o’er the bosom of the waters of Life.”
To those in every creed, color, nation, tribe, or family who have glimpsed this truth has been given one of the holiest offices ever given to humanity, the office of peacemaker. With it is given a charge to prepare the way for the Light of the Logos, which must appear when the forces of disintegration have done their work; when the Great Sifter has fulfilled its mission, and the powers of Resurrection and Reconstruction have brought from the Inner Spheres those souls and forces that shall build anew the Temple of Humanity on spiritually perfect geometrical principles. In the stress of the storm that must demolish some of its crumbling walls, we ask your to aid us in keeping the Holy Fire on its altars aflame—that fire of pure Love which is our real life, and without which nothing remains. Such instructions have been repeated many times from the inception of the Temple work in 1898. It is not a question of doing these things just once, but rather doing them over and over until they become second nature, as natural as breathing in and breathing out. Then we ARE the thing we say we believe in. This has been our assignment from the beginning, it continues to be our assignment now and in the years to come.
Contrary to popular opinion, The Temple, and its setting of Halcyon has never been a quiet Nirvana, where peace and harmony reign forever and ever. Rather, it is a place of contradictions, personal differences, and vigorously held opinions bound together by a dedication to the principles of Divine Law, which Law is Love. This is the place we have been given to practice what we preach. Now the whole world must be that “place.”
Elizabeth J. Canham wrote so definitively about this process: “Living with contradiction, holding together polarities, making room for divergence leads to vitality and enables us to see opposites not as dead ends but as a series of open doors. When we come to know ourselves as gifted and conflicted, we become more tolerant of the differences we encounter in others and can relinquish the illusion that we are the center of a harmonious universe.” This is the law of Brother/Sisterhood in action. With the banners of our ideals held high, let us celebrate the Law of Love, not only today but in all the years to come.
One of the ways in which we come together to learn, to practice these qualities of conscious awareness and acceptance is during the study classes. In observing closely our online Temple Study Classes on Tuesdays and Fridays I have come to some interesting conclusions. Here we are, faced with new conditions and new ways to function. So let’s take another look at how we are going to adapt to the twenty-first century conditions. No matter how this current pandemic evolves, we mustn’t lose touch with each other, near-by or far away.
Marti Fast recently spoke during a Sunday meeting about the Square Diagram and how it embodies the forces of Inner Guard, Outer Guard, Treasurer, and Scribe, which then in turn flow through the Center Point. On the one hand, this Diagram is wonderful for setting up the chairs for a study class. Now, however, we need to take this to the next step on interior planes. Our individual responsibility is to consciously set up that diagram on inner planes every time we attend an online class and to feel, as deeply as we are able, those forces flowing through us.
Since the Temple was founded, members have been getting together to talk about the Temple Teachings face to face, or by mail. The pace of life was much different than the present. The founders organized formal Temple Squares for the purpose of bringing discipline and order into the study groups. There is a regular procedure, carefully thought out, that builds the conscious inner soul, or entity, of the group gathered together. That never changes. It is not just a class where you show up for roll call to get the credit in some teacher’s grade book, but rather a conscious gathering of the building forces on inner planes. It must be our conscious choice each and every time.
This structure is at work whether we are physically present inside the Temple building or participating from anywhere in the world through electronic assistance. All this begins when we come in person or online to the study class. It should go without saying that we need to make every effort to arrive a few minutes ahead of time. It is simply good manners, otherwise known as consideration for others. If something unavoidable has come up to delay us, we need to enter quietly, stop and listen, then depending on what is happening, wait for a break and go quietly to a seat in the circle to become a functioning part of the group. This all works, physically or electronically. It is our intent, our motive that brings harmony or disruption.
Any time we make the effort to join such a gathering, there also come the testing forces to ask us to “walk the talk” of brotherhood, tolerance, and understanding. We must listen with our heart, with awareness and acceptance, and use our mental bodies rather than allowing them to use us. The testing forces do this by operating through each and everyone of us. Next time you are in class listening to someone expound upon the question at hand and you feel irritation or indignation directed toward the person speaking, grab that feeling and ask it where it came from, then send it away! Be honest with yourself. If those testing forces can pull you from your purpose of harmony and balance, they certainly will try, over and over and over again. Just be aware!
In our Aids to Study, it says, “Temple Squares are important points of contact with the world. Where four or more members are able to work harmoniously together, great results are possible.” At this point, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I thinking and saying only that which will lead to harmony, or do I feel I am absolutely right on everything and will drive my point home regardless!?”
We are told that each person should offer his or her best light on the thoughts and ideas suggested. I would suggest that by prefacing our remarks with, “I think. . .,” “It is my feeling that. . .,” “I understand that. . .,” or “In my study or reading I have found. . .,” we indicate that we are taking responsibility for our words.
On the other hand, all too often when we say, “The Master says. . .”, The Bible say. . .”, “the Pope says. . . “, or even [heaven forbid] “The Guardian in Chief says. . .”, we are not offering our own thoughts or ideas, and I feel we are shifting the responsibility to someone else. It is our responsibility to synthesize all we have studied. Constantly quoting others or reading long passages from other sources does not make one a scholar. Perhaps this is acceptable in a college class or paper, but not in a study class where our deeper purpose is to build a conscious body of intent on inner planes.
Putting these two approaches together and coming up with a statement such as: “In my study I see that The Master repeatedly says: . . . “ or “I have noticed that the Bible pays a lot of attention to . . . “ you have taken the responsibility and offered the other’s opinions or facts.
This collective study stimulates and arouses the intuition, and it is wonderful what is brought out in such meetings where harmony reigns and there is a sincere desire to get the truth as far as we can see it at the present time, irrespective of opinions. The one great prize that humanity must strive for is the gaining of an open mind. Remember in The One Great Prize, page 228 of Teachings of the Temple, volume II, the Master tells us, “It is not easy for humanity to understand that two diametrically opposed methods of action may both be right.” This statement has done more for me personally that almost any other.
One real online advantage is that we can offer short comments in the Chat column without interfering with the flow of force in the class. It is especially valuable when one’s audio signal is compromised and Chat allows us to share an idea. One word of caution is that using Chat or texting during a class or service is like whispering to someone during a group gathering, which can easily break the lines of force set up in the Square Diagram and cause us to miss something important while we were busy typing a comment. We must use these tools wisely and respectfully.
The Aids to Study worked out over the years give us eight guidelines for group effort. They are really applicable to every group, not just Temple study groups. Let us explore them. And while we do, let us also think what might be the intent behind each one, how we will apply it in the electronic world, and what might be the real lesson for each of us in our daily lives.
The first one says: “The subjects to be studied must be confined to the Temple Teachings and Instructions. No exoteric subjects may be considered other than those of the philosophy relating to the subject under discussion.” There are so many interesting side paths in our studies, all legitimate, and we could wander far afield. (In my classroom teaching days we used to call it “bird walking,” or wandering around the subject.) Have you noticed that when someone else does this during a class that your feelings are sometimes those of irritation? It would be natural, but the force of the irritation or anger is destructive to the inner harmony we are all working on. If we are truly honest when we ourselves are wandering from the subject, we would admit to small inner voices urging us back to the subject at hand. Unless of course we are so caught up in ego satisfaction that those inner voices are drowned out by our own voice. The intent might well be that true learning comes through repetition.
The second Aid to Study says, “In the discussions, remarks are always addressed to the Outer Guard. Failure to follow this procedure may result in the rapid crossing of the circle by straight lines that evoke or describe symbols of disharmony.” Upon careful consideration, this makes sense. On this plane alone, such disruption is just plain bad manners. On the inner planes, the results are clearly defined above, with scrambled, crossing lines. When the Outer Guard hands the meeting over to the person leading the lesson, then that person guides the meeting until he or she is through or the time is up. A this point maybe the intent is learning and practicing hierarchy.
We need to remember that the program is conducted along the lines of The Law of Centralization. In meetings around the world this program is essentially Robert’s Rules of Order, a system in which everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard. There must be a central point through which we operate. It doesn’t mean we have to be solemn and stiff, it just means we do need to consciously practice the Law of Centralization, not just talk about it. Don’t forget that laughter never harmed any group, as long as it is not at anyone’s expense.
The third Aid speaks again to harmony and wholeness in telling us, “Ideas and comments are offered not as disagreement or as contradictions to what others have said, but simply as another point of view to enrich the whole study.” We must keep this in mind when someone offers a different point of view, rather than defending our own view to the bitter end! It is the different points of view that make each class so rich in its pattern, and from which we can learn so much. Perhaps the intent might be paying attention to developing and synthesizing ideas.
The fourth is succinct in its brevity: “Only observations pertinent to the subject being discussed are appropriate.” This addresses the need to keep focused on the studies at hand. We need to try not to get ahead in the lesson, but to stay with the question at hand. It helps to listen carefully to the question. Asking for a repetition of the question is always helpful and entirely in order. What do you think is the intent?
Aid for Study number five tells us, “Personal experiences are only offered if generalized and made applicable to the subject at hand. Other people or groups of people are not to be considered in a critical or demeaning light.” Personal experiences are important to each of us, but we need to be able to extract the lesson from them and present it in a way to benefit all. In addition, I am sure we all assume that none of us are really “anti” any other group, yet there are times when a listener might very well assume that we are other-group-bashing. We must choose our words with loving care, expressing our thoughts from the best motive. Even Madame Blavatsky, addressing the rock-hard mind sets of her day, was only demanding that another point of view has validity, and should be considered. The Masters have told us not to accept something just because They say it is so. We must measure each statement up against our inner knowing. If it rings true, it is for us now. If it doesn’t feel right, drop it, and know that as we unfold, that particular truth may or may not come into our lives when we need it. Is this another facet of “self-responsibility?”
Number six is crystal clear: “As helpful and interesting as reference material is to all study, study will be limited to the lesson and subjects under discussion. Lengthy quotes or references from other lessons or sources of information are to be avoided. Focus and balance are important to the task at hand.” Again, we are building the soul of that particular class by following these instructions consciously. This is the process of the development of group consciousness. As we do this, we are consciously evolving balance within.
In Aid number seven, H. P. B. elegantly covers everything we have talked about when she says, “Those who wish to succeed in Theosophy, abstract or practical, should remember that want of union is the first condition of failure. Let any number of determined Theosophists unite themselves; let them work together, each according to his [or her] own way, in one or another branch of Universal Science, but let each one be in sympathy with his brother or sister. Let this be done and we can answer for it that each member would make greater progress in the sacred science in one year than could be made in ten years [by ourselves]. In Theosophy, what is needed is emulation and not rivalry.” We need to ask ourselves do we contribute to emulation and cooperation, or do we feel that “we know better” than someone else, and thereby again feed our own lower personal egos? We must be truly honest with our selves and by being so, we begin to contribute to mankind’s growth.
Number eight states, “Development of the faculty of intuition depends upon care of motive and attitude of mind. Attention to these qualities contributes to spiritual growth.” It requires all our mental and psychic power to examine what is given, to the end that the real meaning of the teaching may be discovered. I find my own understanding of that lesson may be different every time I go over it. New facets of understanding are always presenting themselves. While studying, we strive to free the mind from all preconceived ideas so that the inner sense of the Teachings may be impressed upon it. The mind should be concentrated upon the Teachings as a whole as well as upon every statement in them. In this way, what is the very best we have in ourselves from heredity, education, and other teachers will be synthesized with the Teachings. Remember, what you understand from the lesson at this moment, will be even richer and deeper next time. These teachings are not a matter of “study it once and we are through, hurrah.” Each time we read and discuss, something more is added to our insight and feelings. It is a life-long study. A study that is rich, meaningful, and full of joy and love. We often forget that we should never leave the joy out of everything we do all day, every day.
I might add that it is not the duty of any of us at the class to make sure that the other person understands it the way we do. Remember, the Master says, “It is not easy for humanity to understand that two diametrically opposed methods of action may both be right.” We are being asked to consciously assume the responsibility of tolerance and understanding.
The Aids to Study go on to point out, “To accomplish this, it is most necessary that the student practice the habit of concentration of mind upon every duty and act in life, making correlations between spiritual teachings and the simple acts of everyday life. No failure is defeat if a further sincere effort is made.” If we have come to class with the best motives at our command, to give from the highest place we can access at that moment, then the force we contribute will come flowing back to us in a healing, nurturing, enlightening stream. The opposite is equally true. This statement also suggests that all Life is our study class. However, if we only massage the mental muscles, we have lost the point of everything. In fact, we have lost, period.
And one aid to study not actually written down, but vitally important to those of us whose hearing is becoming a bit compromised: please speak up so all may hear. As an English teacher, I might be forgiven if I say, “Enunciate. Hold you head up and slow down. Don’t run your words together.” Besides, all of us need to hear what all of us have to say. How else will we develop the different points of view and the rich tapestry of our group consciousness? In this process we are building bridges through ideas shared. Please help my old ears to hear your new ideas.
Think about the meaning of the Aids to Study and your responsibility when next you go to class. Remember, sometimes the greatest contribution you can make to the inner group-soul-building experience is to not say anything at all. Simply be. Generate an awareness of the forces of harmony on the inner planes and consciously contribute all the love and understanding of which you are capable at that moment. The Masters are aware we have “down” times and “up” times, and that at some classes it is all we can do to simply get there. We must not forget that it is more important what we bring to the class than what we get out of it. But once there, if we lay our weariness, our irritability, our very human feelings on the Altar, asking for Help, we will find that Help flowing out into the depths of our beings. I speak from experience. And remember: Audio off. Don’t move around with camera on. Use RH or Chat thoughtfully.
When we do this, we become a channel for that High Force and it can flow through all of us and out to everyone else around the world as we sit in the circle of Love. We leave enriched, refreshed and ready to tackle Life. All of this is up to us. Begin now!
By consciously following these Aids to Study in person or online we are building our House of Hope as John Varian so elegantly wrote:
THE HOUSE OF HOPE
By consciously practicing the Aids to Study during our Temple classes, we become clearer channels for that High Force to flow through us and out to everyone else around the world. “May every heart and every hand that helps in this work” sit in the circle of Love, enriched, refreshed, and ready to flow that spiritual substance to everything we do in Life.
All of this is ours to do. Let us begin, now, together.