by Rick London, Guardian in Chief
Given Sunday, 23 April 2023, in the Blue Star Memorial Temple
Thirty years ago I became aware of the existence of the Temple of the People. My first contact was through the Halcyon Store, as it was so constituted at that time. It was the gateway to not only discovering what the Temple means to People, but to learning more about what I mean to myself.
“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom” is a quote attributed to Socrates. Seems so simple. Seems like common sense. Yet, its banality has been parsed philosophically by many a scholarly thinker since ancient times. While there are untold strategies for coming to know thyself, I am truly blessed for having been led to Halcyon by ways and means that only begin to make sense to me upon hindsight and self-reflection.
Transmuting unhealthy habits into the kinds of healthy habits that benefit myself and are not to the detriment of others is a daunting task — especially when I consider the mindfulness necessary for sustaining the healthy habits I developed early in life. There are many sources and resources for tapping into the healthy habit energies of life.
We know beyond the shadow of a doubt that healthy nutrition and hydration is key to our physical well-being. We know beyond the shadow of a doubt that whatever children grow up consuming is key to the foundation of their adult thoughts, words, and deeds.
As controversial as the worthiness of what we may put into our bodies and into our minds may be, how we nurture our Spirits and feed our Souls may be the least understood yet most vital Key to the wellbeing of our bodies and minds.
Quite frankly, getting to better know myself has been a byproduct of my getting to know the Temple of the People.
While I had grown accustomed to my own brand of overcoming fear and self-doubt, I find the general public’s efforts to familiarize themselves with the substance and meaning behind the Temple of the People to be analogous to the challenges of what it takes to know oneself. To use a version of an old English idiom, many of us excel at judging books by their covers.
To that end, since leaving United Way I have found that the reports of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated. When I counter that misnomer with “I’m now the Guardian in Chief of the Temple of the People,” I’m offered a sincere congratulations followed by an immediate “What’s that?” As soon as I mention Halcyon as a part of my explanation, I hear a “Where’s that?” Most then inquire if the Temple is anywhere near Ron’s Nursery, which then reminds me of my first encounter with the Halcyon Store.
Getting to better know the Temple and the Teachings continues to enhance my awareness about the sacredness of Mother Nature and the Laws of Unity and Balance. By respecting our Divine link to all aspects of existence, we are afforded the opportunity to tune into the necessities for sharing a healthy way of living. This is a state of consciousness that endlessly requires us to be present to our motives and to be intentional about our thoughts, words, and deeds, as we aspire to live by the beneficent version of the Golden Rule.
It has been said that timing is everything, which I believe is one aspect which “To Know thy Temple” and “To Know Thyself” have in common. For many of us, both can require lifetime journeys. During these modern times when it now takes only seconds to zap up a warm meal, we like our sound bites simple and concise and just as digestible as a microwaveable entrée. Yet once on the Path of getting to know the Temple of the People, inevitably you’ll find yourself chewing on the meaning of Theosophy.
There was a time when chopping wood and carrying water was everybody’s business. Today those once needful strategies for survival have evolved into industries, detaching us from our basic connections with Mother Nature all in the name of convenience and progress. It’s taken centuries for us to begin to recognize the possibility that there may be detrimental consequences to our insatiable desires for comfort and convenience.
To be a student of life requires study and open-mindedness, and for many this is hard work. Couple that with the human tendency to fear or judge unfavorably that which we tend not to understand, and we have a clue or two as to why one might be reluctant to take their first bite of Theosophy. Fortunately, when the student is ready the Teacher will appear!
While keeping the Blue Star Memorial Temple Centennial in mind, I would like to spend the rest of my time sharing with you two timeless essays that go deeper into what I have only been hinting about:
Cults and the occult are much in the news these days. We see reports of religious groups that are planning for some Armageddon or are brainwashing young people. Occasionally such stories refer to Theosophy as a cult. The occult, which Theosophical literature often refers to, is mistakenly reported as devil worship, animal sacrifice, and the desecration of churches or graveyards. What connection is there really between cults, the occult, and Theosophy?
The words cult and occult are often confused because they sound alike, but they have no more to do with each other than do cur and occur or pine and opine. And in the senses in which these two words are often used today, neither has anything to do with Theosophy.
The word cult comes from the Latin colere, meaning “to cultivate” or “to worship.” At first it meant quite innocently “a particular system of religious worship.” Then it came to mean “excessive and unreasoning devotion to a person or cause.” Nowadays it is often used for a religious group that demands the complete subservience of its members.
Cults, in this new sense, are religious groups that tell people what to think and how to act. The cult leader demands unquestioning obedience and loyalty. Cult members may be expected to leave their families behind, to give their money to the cult leader, and to dedicate themselves exclusively to the service of the cult. They are often subjected to a form of brainwashing that is intended to make them willing and docile followers.
Cult behavior, however, is not limited to fringe organizations. Any religious group that claims the right to interpret its scriptures dogmatically and infallibly, imposing its authority on all its members and allowing no other interpretation, is acting like a cult. Cults demand uniformity of belief and action. They stifle freedom of conscience.
Theosophists find that their view of life is expressed in some basic writings, but the official policy of the Theosophical Society is that all its writings and teachings are open to individual interpretation and that no one has the right to dictate what others believe or do.
Thus Theosophy teaches that cult-behavior and cult-mentality are the opposite of true spirituality.
According to the Theosophical tradition, we each have within ourselves a spark of the divine life, the One Life that expresses itself in every being of the universe. All human beings are therefore fellow pilgrims on a great journey of self-discovery. Although Theosophists respect and benefit from the wisdom of the Theosophical tradition, they recognize that we must each discover our own way for ourselves. And we should honor the right of others to do likewise.
It is only by the exercise of our minds and consciences that we can grow and progress. Our only sure guide to right action is the Voice within, which teaches us to love and respect and honor one another. Theosophy says that altruism, or a concern for the welfare of others, is the key to right living. If we are concerned for the welfare of others, we try to convince them, not by dominating them or imposing our beliefs on them, but by living our altruistic principles in daily life.
The word occult comes from the Latin occulere, meaning “to cover, to hide, to conceal.” Originally it meant simply “hidden.” Later it was used to refer to something that is not available to the ordinary senses or reasoning, being too deep or too great for words, something transcendental. Theosophists sometimes use the word in that latter sense.
Theosophy teaches that the world is a marvelously complex place where there are (as Hamlet told his friend Horatio) “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Today we know that the atmosphere all around us is full of radio and television waves that we cannot see or hear directly, as well as many other sorts of energy that escape our eyes and ears. All such waves and energy are “occult” — that is, hidden from our ordinary senses — but they nevertheless affect us, and we can learn to use them.
To say that something is “occult” is merely to say that it is beyond our range of perception or understanding — not that it is supernatural (outside of nature) or even abnormal. It is only a part of nature that is not obvious to us, such as the way one person’s thoughts can influence another, or the ability some people have to anticipate the future. Occultism is the study of such hidden aspects of nature. For centuries the word occult has been used in this sense.
In recent times, however, the words occult and occultism have been given new, debased, and even sinister meanings. They are often connected with such phenomena as devil worship, animal sacrifice, drugs, ghosts, fortune telling, and a variety of other things. For this reason, the “occult” section in a bookstore is likely to include books dealing with a hodgepodge of subjects — some respectable, some foolish, and some trashy, if not actually wicked.
Theosophy has nothing to do with this new meaning of occult, which has sprung up only during the past few decades. The Theosophical view is that the devil of popular lore is a myth and a misunderstanding of a symbol. Theosophy also teaches that the first step to spiritual progress is a clean life, which includes honoring the sacredness of all life.
Many Theosophists have extended this idea to become vegetarians and do not wear furs because they believe that killing animals needlessly is morally wrong. Theosophy teaches that we should be very careful not to alter our consciousness by artificial means, so many Theosophists shun the use of drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, except under a doctor’s orders.
Theosophy acknowledges and respects the hidden side of life — energy fields surrounding all living beings, the power of thought, intuitive understanding, and so on — and expects that one day human beings will learn to deal with those things more directly than we can now. At that future time, what was once “occult” will cease to be hidden, having become instead a part of our conscious knowledge.
Theosophy teaches that we can evolve and develop toward future knowledge only through our own actions and that no one should interfere with our right and responsibility to make our own decisions and discover truth for ourselves. This attitude is expressed in the motto of the Theosophical Society:
There is no religion higher than truth.
The “religion” spoken of in that motto is not just the creeds and dogmas of churches. It is instead any system of belief that limits and confines the human mind. We can make a religion out of science, politics, our own prejudices, or even Theosophy itself.
Theosophy teaches the unity of all life, the fundamental order of the universe, and the purposefulness of existence. It teaches that we as human beings have an unlimited potential within ourselves, that we have the ability to realize our potential, and that the way to that realization is available to all of us. The basic ideas of Theosophy can be summarized in several ways, one of which is called “The Three Truths of the White Lotus”:
Theosophists are Christians and Jews, Muslims and Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists, agnostics and free-thinkers. They acknowledge the goodness of the universe, honor the potential within each human being, and respect the diversity and responsibility of every person. They believe that the words spoken by the great Indic teacher Gautama Buddha to his followers when he was on his deathbed can inspire all human beings, of every culture: “Work out your own salvation with diligence.”
— Theosophical Society in America
Before continuing, I’d like to pause for a brief moment of reflection to catch our breath. You might do this by closing your eyes and slowly taking seven deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
by Harold E. Forgostein, Violet Star, 4th Guardian in Chief
The evolutionary path from God to atom and back to God proceeds on a downward arc of differentiation, through an upward arc of unification, leading to a conscious return to the Godhead. In the complete cycle, some degree of self-consciousness is gained by the traveler on the path. All things and beings are on this evolutionary path; all are a part of God. Those entities which have been on this path longest have a greater awareness of their unity with God. Necessarily, there must be a point on this path where the return wave to the Godhead begins for each evolving unit, and the humanity of this cycle of manifestation on earth has been passing this nadir during our present centuries.
All progress on this return path is marked by what may be called organization. The animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms of nature are meticulous evidence of response to laws of organization. Our own awareness of life has extended from ourselves to our families, our race, and our nation — each a kind of organization. The strength derived from this extension of common bonds is reflected in guilds, college associations, labor unions, professional associations, political and religious affiliations. All of these recognize the possibilities of achievement for a group when the individual interests are aligned with the well-being of the group. Long ago, the Master indicated the mystical power to be attained “where two or three are gathered in my name.” The human body is a practical example of the endowment of an organization of cells with a higher degree of consciousness.
The critical point of return is where the physical being is compelled to separate its consciousness from animal needs and sensual satisfaction. The physical body is no less sacred, but a process of transmutation sets in whereby ideals, morals, ideas, ethics, principles, and laws of life supersede individual rights. We begin to see those rights as depending on the rights of others. The awareness of this interdependence incarnates in each evolving person, one experience at a time. Eventually races and nations, or segments of them, come under the power of this consciousness, and dimly perceive what has been eternally proclaimed as humanity’s goal — the unity of all people.
Against such a background, the Temple of the People may well be included in the definition of an ordered group; however, the Temple definition may be qualified in part by what it is not. The Temple is not a secret organization. The Temple is not a casual grouping of people, sharing convenient interests of simply ordinary curiosity or purposes. Neither is it an academic society for stimulation or satisfaction of intellectual pursuits. Especially, it is not a private approach to what are popularly called extrasensory perceptions, sensitivities, or psychic phenomena, however defined. The Temple has no favors or concessions to offer any member, new or old. The Temple is not a status group at any level, individual or Cosmic. The Temple is subject to no change, success, or failure as determined by any worldly or personal standard. It is non-political and non-sectarian. The Temple is not a cooperative enterprise; neither is it intended as a refuge for a tiny band of people. The Temple is not a splinter group of any other organization. It is not committed to any school of philosophy, psychology, art, science, economics, politics, spiritualism, astrology, New Thought, vegetarianism, or any other isolated fragment of similar definition. The Temple of the People is not another church or sect or religion, as these words are conventionally used.
The Temple is an organization based on centralization derived from the Hierarchy of Masters. The history of the Temple of the People is one of continuity and is the progression of the work started by H. P. Blavatsky in New York City in 1875. With her death in 1891, the line of Agency for this Lodge movement fell on the shoulders of William Quan Judge. The formation of the Temple was known to both of these great souls, who themselves were building toward that end. In 1898 at Syracuse, New York, the Temple of the People was co-founded by Francia LaDue and William H. Dower, with Francia LaDue as the first Guardian in Chief of the Temple. Both of them were members of the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society under W. Q. Judge. Masters of the Great White Lodge who had directed the work of Blavatsky and Judge likewise directed the formation of the Temple, set forth its Teachings, organization, and the appointment of the Temple Agents. In 1903, the Temple was moved to Halcyon, California, where it is incorporated under the laws of that state.
The fundamental Truths which have been, are, and will be the basis of all major and most lesser religions of all ages of the world are cyclically set forth for all races and civilizations, from the dawn to the night time of all human evolution. These Truths have never been lost. As with the light of the sun, they know no darkness; their Light shines somewhere constantly, no matter how clothed in orthodoxy or priestcraft. The Temple Teachings are one such vehicle by which those Truths are again presented to the world.
Being much more than exclusively religious, the spiritual Light of the Lodge of Masters accounts for every effort, discovery and development for the good of humanity — in scientific and technical fields, in the arts, in all fields of economics, and their relation to all kingdoms of nature. This source of love, power and intelligence has dominated the present as it has dominated the past.
Since 1875, the Lodge has used this movement as a focal point for the promotion, origin, and dissemination of this vital help to humanity. The motive was not to create change simply in technology and the material world, but in the thoughts and feelings of people toward each other. The results of this effort have produced a new world.
Each age or religion of people recognizes what it calls God, by whatever name. This omnipotent entity is the Father/Mother, the source and control of all manifestation. And subordinate to God, but no less sacred, are hosts of Angels and Masters who act under Divine Law. Familiar to all religions is the Messiah, the Christ, the Avatar. Familiar to people in every race is the one basic, primordial law which comes from these Great Souls in one voice, a law which simply may not be superseded. It is known to us as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would that they do unto you.” Every significant religion is founded on this law. Every great leader has proclaimed it; all of our history swirls around this ideal. There may be those who doubt that such a man as Jesus actually lived 2,000 years ago, but there can be no doubt that His Teaching has been by far the greatest influence of an Avatar in this twentieth century. The succeeding centuries. The Teachings of the Temple have proclaimed the coming mission of the Temple, its reason for being, has been to announce that arrival and to provide a groundwork of preparation and a center for spiritual work. Whether such an Avatar has been walking this earth in this time, 2,000 years after Jesus, whether or not anyone can claim to have seen that Teacher, no one can deny the quickening impact of Light and Power over the earth today. Such is overwhelmingly evident by the intensity of opposition to the Golden Rule, and the desperation of its opponents. Its force may be easily discernible in struggles on every level of our activities today, for each individual person on earth is a battleground for the Christ and the anti-Christ. The whole world is a mass reflection of its inhabitants, and we are a reflection of the world. Nothing that contradicts the Golden Rule may stand unexposed in its Light. The balance of Truth prevails.
Never in the history of this humanity has the possibility for a higher life been made more realistic to all inhabitants of this earth. The Temple relates these ideals to all people. People are daily choosing what they will have and, as does a seed, each choice will grow to its own fruition. This worldwide process of choosing marks a dividing of the evolutionary path: people are making their decisions here and now.
The Temple of the People represents to all beings one gate through which they may at some time freely walk to a state of more spiritual responsibility or may as freely choose to remain behind in a world governed by self-interest until another comparable cycle comes into manifestation. This is the natural evolutionary step which we must now take or leave.
While most people know of the Golden Rule, few are aware of its power of attraction, which guides and draws their Higher Selves to the Light. This is the foundation of the Temple. It is a fixed place on the evolutionary path to which each atom and person has grown in consciousness. Only through this gate can we now proceed toward a greater consciousness of our fellow humans and their God, and recognize our dependence on both as we travel toward Masters, Angels and Christs. The Temple is a fixed point in this geometrical progression from atom to star, from atom to God.
The Great World Religion, embodied in its highest form, is called Truth. It is presented in this cycle, in part, as the Teachings of the Temple. Designed by the Masters of the Great Lodge of Light to help the humanity of this age, the work of the Temple of the People is not optional — it is essential, providing help of a lasting quality to every problem — spiritual mental, moral, material. The value of this help is not in theoretical concepts, but in the direct, matter-of-fact cause and effect relation of an ideal to its most material expression, however incomplete or distorted that expression may seem to be.
This help requires no waiting, no qualifying, no training, no vast expenditure of means, no mass conversion of people. Neither does it require the contacting of illusive Masters in remote and inaccessible seclusion, nor unnatural initiations or ceremonies or rituals of daily living. On the contrary, the Temple represents a truth that the fulfillment of any need, great or small, is nearest the need itself. The Teachings point out the relation of suffering to all healing — spiritual, mental, and physical. It points out the relation of hunger and deprivation to the fulfillment of the need by bodily food or spiritual sustenance. The supply has never failed, though it has often gone unused, abused, or unrecognized. The most abstruse problem in science or philosophy will be better understood as it becomes related to the good of all humanity.
The relation of the world’s problems to their solutions may be referred to as opportunity. The Temple of the People involves all humanity, and is made up of people who recognize their indebtedness to the Hierarchy of Elder Brothers and Sisters who have traveled the path before them, whose wisdom and sacrifice have made it possible for people today to have reached this point in human development. Each person on the path is a bridge for others, and just as those before have smoothed the road for this time, so the present aspirants provide help and guidance for those who are “behind” them awaiting their help and guidance so they too may take their proper place and enter the gate. The design for sharing the true wealth and power of the world is through earning the right to understand it and pass it on in a useful form to the earth and her people.
The organization of the Temple contains the nucleus for the growth of unity between all people. It provides for that eventuality realistically, teaching that there cannot be had something for nothing. The war, starvation, disease, and poverty that exist in every person must be changed by themselves into their opposites. The Temple teaches this law of transmutation. The powers of endurance, the correlation of self-examination and self-responsibility, the application of Spiritual Will to the facing of daily problems, pain and suffering — this constitutes the actual study of the Teachings. The development of tangible alignment with those who have won such understanding — this is the objective for studying the Teachings. The realization that divine power is not self-created but is simply earned, and may be passed on to others less fortunate — this realization of selflessness is the Temple-taught key to all attainment. These facts define the organization of the Temple. The power indicated by the word “compassion” is integrated by thought, word and deed into the Temple Teachings. Less than that is simply not the Temple. No principle, no law in all manifestation is ignored. No detail of their relation to us in everyday living is overlooked. The exact correlation of principle to application forms the substance of the Teachings; their enactment forms the organization of the Temple of the People.
In the geometrical plan for the building of this humanity, each member of the human race is being fitted for their proper emplacement as a living stone in the Temple of Humanity. While only the Master’s eyes may see and understand that plan in its total splendor, each one of us being so fitted may also see that eventuality taking place in our own daily life and needs. This perception gives essential meaning to each day.
— Harold E. Forgostein
Fourth Guardian in Chief
Here’s to endeavoring to know ourselves as we evolve within our individual organizations, our very own bodies, our very own Temples.
— Richard A. London
Sixth Guardian in Chief