Outer Imperfections In Leaders May Be Used
As Excuses For Not Entering the Path to Wisdom
The following article was first published anonymously
at “Theosophy” magazine, in Los Angeles, in December
1939, pp. 69-71. An analysis of its contents and style
indicates it was written by John Garrigues (1868-1944).
A distinct and lasting contribution to the theosophical
effort and literature was made by John Garrigues in a
number of usually short articles examining various aspects
of a key issue: the Psychology of one’s motivation, along
the Path to Wisdom. These texts were published in
“Theosophy” magazine during the 1920s, 1930s and early
1940s. “The Leadership of Example” is one of them.
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
There are any number of books dealing with leadership, including studies of the world’s great military “leaders”, such as Napoleon, Alexander the Great, and Tamerlane, and treatises which analyze great literary figures like Poe, Dickens, Hugo, Flaubert. The trend in modern biography is to display the weaknesses of these personalities; and even to show in some cases that their very weaknesses elevated them to fame. Napoleon was only five-feet-three; hence, his ambition to dominate those who were taller! The shrivelled arm of the former Kaiser was the real impulsion behind his quest for glory.
But what of spiritual leaders? Modern psychology honestly searches for some ignoble motive to “explain” even great Teachers. Because no man known to the world is without some kind of imperfection, it is always easy to seize upon some attribute or quality as the “reason” for greatness. Jesus was not a pure-blooded Jew. He was poor and bore the insults which come to the poor. So he made virtues of poverty and humility. He professed to despise distinctions of race, creed, sex, condition and organization – a mere “defence-mechanism”, we are told. But does this so-called “debunking” of history explain why thousands of other men born in the same circumstances failed to attain the same greatness?
Such theories neglect altogether the fact that the message of the world’s spiritual leaders is always the same. It is part of the work of the present cycle of the Movement to gather together the numberless spiritual teachings of the world and to show their identity. Here is an illustration. According to Matthew (22:37-40):
“Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets’.”
And on “leadership” (Matthew 20:26-8):
“But whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. Even as the Son of man is not come to the ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.”
The same great ethical ideas form the Seven Keys of The Voice of the Silence, which tell of charity and love immortal; Harmony in word and act; Patience, and indifference to pleasure and to pain. Indeed, in the Voice one finds the essence of the ethical teachings of all the world.
The Theosophical movement was initiated by beings great in Spiritual Wisdom. The impetus behind that cyclic effort is the mighty knowledge of the brotherhood of All, a limitless compassion for all Life, in which sense of self has no part. When the Teachers retire from outward participation in the work, its fulfillment is left to the companions. How well they carry on the work is a secret in the heart, a knowledge each one has within himself, and which no other can know for him. The foolish world thinks the humble servant and lover of mankind to be worthless. But ultimately, “he who Wisdom hath is honored by all men”.
A true leader is personally unimportant in his own eyes. His value is measured by the extent of his help to others. His only thought concerning each one he meets is, “How can this spark be fanned from mere good intention into an all-consuming devotion to the spiritual welfare of all beings?” Any and all practical ways and means are used by him; all contacts of hearing, sight, touch, and perception, may serve to make the earthly and psychic vehicle porous to the voice of the inner man.
Each student can in this sense become a “leader”. But a leader of this sort is never “authority”. Each being is an example to some, and each looks to others for example to follow. In whatever position we stand, we must regard the divine in others as the real, work that it may manifest, and refrain from appealing to the lower separative nature which thrives on pride and subtle flattery. It is not our business to note that a man is susceptible to the “wiles of Mara”. It is our business to see that we are not guilty of striking him where he is weak.
Jesus said, “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” Every being participating in this Movement has been touched by a divine desire to let the Higher Self shine forth. That is the only call made to the world, and those who come answer to that call. The spark is there, now active, now quiescent, but it can be fanned into bright flames. If our purpose is to aid the weary pilgrim, no word or act of ours can increase the hold of matter upon him.
How can a leader be great because of some weakness, coupled with a strong personal ambition to dominate? A true leader is great because he calls always to the spirit in man – because his faith in the omnipotence of the spirit is supreme. His voice is universal, and all who hear it are raised in some measure to union with the truth.
Just as we stand where we are because of our Karmic relation to the whole, so all others stand in their positions through a universal interactive influence for which we share responsibility. We are now affecting those who are and will be examples to countless others. We have consciously chosen the ideal we desire to make paramount in our own lives. There must be no cross-purposes, no confusion or contradictions in the forces flowing from ourselves to others.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.