The Theosophical Society in America

Walking Without Crutches

Originally printed in the September - October 2003 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation:Burnier, Radha. "Walking Without Crutches." Quest  91.5 (SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 2003):186-187.

by Radha Burnier

Radha_BurnierAccording to the Theosophical philosophy, humanity in the course of its progress, will have to develop enough intuition to understand not only the structure and forces of the physical universe, but also its purpose and place in the totality of existence which includes, besides the physical, many subtler dimensions. We must learn to understand what Nature intends for humanity and where, in her own time, she will take it. Our role is to become a cooperator and a helper in carrying out Nature's Plan for the unfoldment of faculties that lie latent and unrecognized at present within the depths of the human being.

Mighty Teachers who have proceeded on the Path ahead of most of humankind—the Buddhas and other awakened individuals—have consistently refused to provide crutches for people who want to follow the spiritual path, but do not wish to be self-reliant. Gautama Buddha famously said "Be a lamp unto yourself." In "Adyar pamphlets, New Series No. 3" of the same title, the learned author has indicated how the same advice has come from Hindu, Christian, Jaina, and other sources, providing an example of the truth in the ancient view that all wise ones speak of the same verities. They all want human beings to realize for themselves the Plan of Manifestation emanating from the Divine Mind, by exercising their own budding faculties. They do not want to provide ready-made instructions to obey. On the other hand all their guidance is directed to "awakening intelligence."

In the first letter that Mr. A. O. Hume received from K. H., the latter wrote:

To "guide" you we will not consent. However much we may be able to do, yet we can promise only to give you the full measure of your deserts. Deserve much, and we will prove honest debtors; little and you need only expect a compensating return. This is not a mere text taken from a schoolboy's copybook, though it sounds so, but only the clumsy statement of the law of our order and we cannot transcend it.

A similar message was give to C. W. Leadbeater. The teacher was not willing to relieve the disciple of his duty to think things out for himself and learn from his own experiences. In regard to the founders of the Theosophical Society, H. P. B. and H. S. O. also, they remarked: "We leave them to their own devices."

Not understanding this, some people hope to be favored with instructions and orders, while there are other cases of people who believe they are being constantly instructed and guided by highly evolved beings. They receive messages galore. They are elated by the belief that they are the chosen channels for communications from higher levels. Such beliefs could be the result of persistent wishful thinking: what is imagined as desirable becomes perceived reality. A strong desire to be close to a Master creates a strong thought-form—perhaps of oneself being instructed by the Master or great being—and continually feeds that thought-form by mental repetition of the wished-for happening. It ends in seeing one's own thought-form as an independent entity. Thus a devotee of Rama or Krishna sees their favored deity, and a devotee of Kwan Yin or the Lady Mary sees the form created by his or her own mind. Others see or hear various Masters.

In such cases the question why oneself should become the preferred focus of a Master's or deity's constant attention, guidance, blessing, and so forth does not arise. The delusion is so satisfying to the mind and emotions and so skillfully boosts the ego, that questions are not wanted. The crucial fact that one must merit what one gets by a life of selflessness and service, and compensations which are due will come by themselves, is thrown to the wind.

These are the subtle temptations which the serious aspirant must guard against. Universal laws are not broken by even the highest Masters with great powers and the law is, as K. H. wrote to Hume, that one must deserve what is sought, not for oneself, but because it is good. Therefore all that one must do is to "live the life" and be utterly vigilant in observing the egoistic self surfacing in subtle and delectable forms.


Radha Burnier is the international President of the Theosophical Society as well s the head of three international centers: in Ojai, California; Sydney, Australia; and Naarden, the Netherlands. She is the editor of The Theosophist and author of several books, including Human Regeneration, No Other Path to Go, and Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. This article is adapted from The Theosophist 124 (June 2003): 325-6.