Here we continue our exploration of the interplay between our individual movement on our spiritual path and our joining with others in that exploration.
In Part One, I pointed out that the tension we often feel between following our own individual calling versus joining with some organization and following their collective path is normal and can be a good thing.
And, to be clear, when I use the word “tension”, I am not talking about an emotional state of tension. The tension I am mentioning is like the tension when we are pulled in two directions simultaneously. It’s like a bungee cord or playing tug o’war, we are in a constant state of shifting in one direction and then the next always seeking some kind of balance or equilibrium. It can lead to emotional “tension” but it doesn’t have to.
All of our evolutionary journey is about navigating this “push and pull” between the needs and desires of the individual and the needs and desires of the collective. Meeting both are important but when the balance gets out of whack, then dysfunction or breakdowns can occur.
I suggested last time that some of the current challenges that spiritual organizations may be experiencing were due in part to such imbalances. Here we are going to look back in time at certain critical points in the lives of two different spiritual organizations and see what their leaders recommended.
Jiddu Krishamurti and Theosophy
After the death of founder H.P. Blavatsky, the theosophical movement went through a bit of an upheaval as certain individuals positioned themselves as the new leader. Eventually there was a break into at least 2 organizations, one of which was led by Annie Besant who was supported by fellow theosophist Charles Leadbetter. In 1909 in India, Leadbetter “discovered” a young boy named Krishamurti who he saw as the next “World Teacher”. From this point, Besant and Leadbetter formed an organization called the Order of the Star in the East and began “grooming” the boy to take over the organization as its spiritual leader.
Check out these links if you want more on this “back story”:
Krishnamurti continued his growth and the deepening of his spiritual wisdom. Eventually as it became time for him to “take over” the organization as its leader, in his famous 1929 address to his followers he took the bold step of disbanding the organization all together. Krishnamurti went on to become a long time wise spiritual teacher on his own. Here are some extracts from that talk where he disbanded the Order of the Star in the East:
“I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path. … This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.”
“One newspaper reporter, who interviewed me, considered it a magnificent act to dissolve an organization in which there were thousands and thousands of members. To him it was a great act because, he said: ‘What will you do afterwards, how will you live? You will have no following, people will no longer listen to you.’ If there are only five people who will listen, who will live, who have their faces turned towards eternity, it will be sufficient. Of what use is it to have thousands who do not understand, who are fully embalmed in prejudice, who do not want the new, but would rather translate the new to suit their own sterile, stagnant selves?”
“Organizations cannot make you free. No man from outside can make you free; nor can organized worship, nor the immolation of yourselves for a cause, make you free; nor can forming yourselves into an organization, nor throwing yourselves into works, make you free. You use a typewriter to write letters, but you do not put it on an altar and worship it. But that is what you are doing when organizations become your chief concern.”
“But those who really desire to understand, who are looking to find that which is eternal, without beginning and without an end, will walk together with a greater intensity, will be a danger to everything that is unessential, to unrealities, to shadows. And they will concentrate, they will become the flame, because they understand.”
To read the full text of this talk, go to this link.
Ernest Holmes and Science of Mind
In early 1954, the coordinated groups that had served to bring the Science of Mind to the world split into two separate organizations remaining that way until they reunited in 2012. The philosophy’s founder, Ernest Holmes, continued to lead one of the groups while maintaining a good relationship with the other. In the years that followed, Holmes expressed regret that this break had occurred and stated that he knew when the time was right they would come back together.
Shortly before his death in early 1960, Holmes delivered a final morning’s address to the attendees of his organization’s summer 1959 conference right before they left for home. This talk (at Asilomar in California) was called his “Sermon by the Sea” and in it he outlined his hopes and desires for the philosophy for the future. Here are some selected excerpts:
“Our religion is not something to be lived merely here at Asilomar, as much inspiration as we receive from it but rather to take that consciousness which we have arrived at here back with us into whatever activities we may be engaged in. I do not believe Life is separated from Its living, anywhere.”
“No person or organization can make the provision for that which is paramount, for that which is of the most stupendous importance, that out of the ranks of all of us, innumerable people shall grow up who shall have caught a vision, who shall have seen a glory, who shall have experienced God. The thing that interests me now is that every man shall find his savior within himself. If this is the only place he is going to discover God, you may be sure it is the only avenue through which any way-shower shall lead him to God. There is no other way.”
“It would be wonderful indeed if a group of persons should arrive on earth who were for something and against nothing. This would be the Summum bonum (Latin for the highest good) of human organization, wouldn’t it? It is in the life of the individual.”
“Find me one person who is for something and against nothing, who is redeemed enough not to condemn others out of the burden of his soul and I will find another savior, another Jesus and an exalted human being.”
“Find me one person who no longer has any fear of the universe or of God or of man or of anything else and you will have brought to me someone in whose presence we may sit and fear shall vanish as clouds before the sunlight.”
“Find me someone who has given all that he has in love, without morbidity and I will have found the lover of my soul. Is not this true? Why? Because he will have revealed to me the nature of God and proved to me the possibility of all human souls.”
“Find me one person who can get his own littleness out of the way and he shall reveal to me the immeasurable magnitude of the Universe in which I live.”
“Find me one person who knows how to talk to God, really and I shall walk with him through the woods and everything that seems inanimate will respond, the leaves of the trees will clap their hands, the grass will grow soft under him.”
“Find me someone whose song is really celestial because it is the outburst of the cosmic urge to sing and I shall hear the music of the spheres.”
“When I say, find a person, I don’t mean to go over to Rome, or London, or back to your own church. The search is not external.”
To read the full text of this talk, it is contained in the final chapter of the recent book I helped compile: Ernest Holmes at Asilomar.
Krishnamurti and Holmes
Hopefully in reading these passages from these two talks you will note some commonalities. Even though Krishnamurti is disbanding the organization formed around him and Holmes is outlining his hopes for the future of his, they are both expressing the same ultimate desire — that we each open ourselves to listening to that still small voice within us and follow our hearts to finding our way to the Divine, to Oneness.
Krishnamurti did not want an organization with followers, he wanted people to walk their own path to Truth. Holmes saw the value of an organization but pointed “followers” not to the organization but towards a personal internal search. They both pointed in the same direction.
They both realized that we are spiritual beings who are moving through a human experience. They both realized that the spiritual pull within us led internally and not externally. They both realized that we had to walk the path as individuals in our own way but that all of our paths converged in the eternal and that we will ultimately all “walk together”.
Reconciling the “Tension”
So in the push and pull between walking our spiritual path alone or with others, which is “right” or “better”? The decision is ultimately a personal choice of each individual, a choice that we continue to make and remake every moment by moment.
Yes, Krishnamurti disbanded his organization while Holmes expressed his hopes for his. But both wanted the same thing – that each of us would follow our own paths to finding that eternal and absolute truth that lies within us.
So long as we stay on course towards our realization of oneness (enlightenment), on one level it matters not whether we do it alone or with others. On another level, we can recogize that we are always both individual expressions of the One with the free will to make our own choices while simultaneously interwoven in that Oneness with every other individual expression. We are always experiencing both our unique individualness and our greater collective unity.
However, if our path has taken us into an organization that has become a barrier to our staying on our course, then we must consider our choices. We might choose to stay in that group and help to move it in the direction of our hearts. We might choose to leave that group and walk alone on our spiritual path for a time. We might seek another group who can better support us on the next steps of our journey.
The choice is always yours…..as you can always change where you step next on the path.
The questions I would ask for each of us are: “Where are we in relation to our spiritual organization (if any) that is currently supporting our growth? Where are we called in this moment for what’s next for our journey?”
Next time: we take these ideas and offer some reflections on the current challenges of spiritual organizations and how they might best be addressed.