The One Rejected

by Minor Lile

Originally printed in the"Winter 2011 issue of Quest magazine."
Citation: Minor, Lile. "The One Rejected." Quest" 99."1 (Winter 2011): 19-20.

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

—Psalm 118:22

The Theosophical Society was chosen as the corner stone,

the foundation of the future religion of humanity.

—The Maha Chohan

minor lileThe allegory of the "stone which the builder refused" points to the value hidden in the things that we are inclined to reject. The theme lends itself to both individual and collective interpretations. We are all the builders of our own destinies. Yet as individuals we often find ourselves rejecting potentialities within ourselves and instead making choices in life that steer us away from the goals that we aspire to reach. In a collective sense, "the builder" might be seen as a metaphor for the established order, which frequently tends to overlook emerging ideas that will eventually be accepted as the established order of some future time.

The allegory of the stone that the builders rejected is well-known in the Judeo-Christian tradition and is found in both the Old and the New Testaments. It first occurs in Psalm 118, which was written approximately 2700 years ago. It also appears in three of the Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) as well as in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. In each instance it follows the parable of the vineyard, in which the son of a vineyard owner is killed by tenants who refuse to rightfully honor their leasehold agreement. The parable suggests that the Son (Jesus) is killed by those who refuse to honor either the Father (God) or the Son. Thus the Son is refused as the cornerstone who points the way to the blessings and salvation of the Father.

The continuing resonance of this idea is suggested by the story of a stone that the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung carved and placed in the walled garden of his retreat at Bollingen on Lake Zurich. In his autobiography, Jung wrote that the stone was one of many that had come from a quarry that lay directly across the lake. During the unloading of the barge, the mason who had placed the order noticed a large cubic stone that had not been ordered. Angrily, the mason told the men working for him that the stone must be returned to the quarry. Jung arrived upon the scene at this moment and observed the stone that had been rejected. "No, that is my stone. I must have it!" he said. "It struck my fancy and I leapt upon it, with the decision not only to keep it but to carve its face." Jung eventually carved on three of its faces. On one face, the first that he worked on, is chiseled a verse from the works of the thirteenth-century alchemist Arnaldus de Villanova: "Here stands the mean, uncomely stone, 'Tis very cheap in price! The more it is despised by fools, the more loved by the wise." Jung once wrote that if properly understood, this stone contained the whole of his philosophy.

In his works The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious and Aeon, Jung describes the linkage between alchemy and the medieval understanding of the teachings of Christ through the concept of the lapis philosophorum or Philosophers' Stone. In the alchemical tradition, the lapis is often conflated with the Christ. Both are referred to as "sacred rocks" or cornerstones, which are said to be uncomely, hidden, and of small account, but wonderful to look upon when revealed.

In The Secret Doctrine, the commentary to the Stanzas of Dzyan also refers to "one rejected" (The Secret Doctrine, I, 99). In this case it is the sun. The commentary goes on to tell the story from the Rig Veda of Aditi, the Mother of the Gods, and her eight children. Aditi represents the cosmic matrix out of which the sun and the planets known to antiquity were born. Of these children, one, the sun, was cast away and separated from the others because of its primacy. By being cast away, the sun becomes the cornerstone of our solar system and the pivot around which the planets revolve. It is a primary star, as the ancients perceived it, that provides light and love and is the indispensable ingredient for life as we know it on this earthly plane.

On a more mundane level, the Theosophical Society might be seen as a rejected one of our time, an organization that is neglected by the mainstream and generally held to be a curiosity from the past—if it is thought of at all. Yet like other seemingly rejected cornerstones, its ideas and influence have shaped the ways of custom and understanding in the contemporary world. One can readily find the influence of the TS in the ideas that inform our culture's understanding of the meaning and purpose of life. There would seem to be a measure of truth, then, in the statement attributed to the Maha Chohan, the head of the inner order with which the Society is aligned, that the TS "was chosen as the corner stone, the foundation of the future religion of humanity" (The Mahatma Letters, chronological edition, 478).

H. P. Blavatsky stated more than once that Theosophy is not a religion per se; rather it is the essence of religion. By "religion," she did not mean the term in the somewhat constrained and dogmatic way that it was commonly understood in her time. She meant it in the fullness of its original meaning, which is perhaps more along the lines of how the term "spirituality" is used today.

In this wider sense, there clearly are new religious or spiritual developments, emerging in the world, which can often be traced back to the influence of the Theosophical Society and its offshoots. These include the establishment of various Buddhist traditions in the West, the emergence of feminine spirituality, and the establishment of concepts such as reincarnation and karma in the common vernacular. In the generation or so after its founding in 1875, the Theosophical Society played a significant role in introducing the world to a deeper awareness to the spiritual riches of the East. It was Theosophists in England, for example, who awakened a young student, Mohandas K. Gandhi, to the religious wealth of his own Indian heritage through their English translations of the Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata.

The emergence of a renewed spirituality can also be observed in today's religious eclecticism, as expressed by such concepts as inter- or transtraditional spirituality, which attempt to characterize the many people who are drawing meaning and practices from various traditions in forming a unique and individual approach to spiritual practice. This eclecticism is reflected in the Society's Second Object, which encourages the comparative study of religion, science, and philosophy as a path to better understanding the ideas that influence spiritual perceptions and practices.

The deepening awareness of Buddhism in the West can be seen as one of the most significant religious developments of the last quarter of the twentieth century, and it is one in which the Theosophical Society played a prominent part. Both Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott were practicing Buddhists. Olcott played a significant and honored role in helping to restore the place of Buddhism in the culture of Sri Lanka. Blavatsky's esteem for and close ties to the Buddhist practices of Tibet are well documented. Since then, Theosophists have been continuously involved in helping dislocated Tibetans settle in India, Europe, and America. The Theosophical Society hosted the Dalai Lama at Adyar in 1975, and later at the national center in Wheaton during his first visit to North America. (Plans are afoot to sponsor another presentation by him, probably in 2012.) The Theosophical Publishing House also issued The Opening of the Wisdom-Eye, the first of the Dalai Lama's books to be published for a Western readership, in 1966.

While the TS is typically assigned something of an Eastern orientation, there is no denying that the Egyptian, Hermetic, and alchemical traditions also provided essential source material for the works of Blavatsky and those who have followed in her footsteps. The influence of the Theosophical Society can also be found in the reawakened awareness of esoteric Christianity that was central to the life work of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was a prominent member of the TS in Germany before breaking off in 1912 to form the Anthroposophical Society as a container for his own work. Another early Theosophist, G. R. S. Mead, was a translator of significant Gnostic texts that reintroduced, modernized, and helped make practical the esoteric threads of Western spirituality.

Notwithstanding these accomplishments, the essential work for which the Society was formed is far from done. As expressed in the Theosophical World View, the central concern of the Society is "to promote understanding and brotherhood among people of all races, nationalities, philosophies, and religions." Even as a shared sense of global community is slowly forming in the world, enhanced by developments in transportation and communications, the great environmental, economic, and sectarian challenges that we face continuously divide us. We are still called on to strive, as is also said in the Maha Chohan's letter, "to achieve the proposed object, a greater, wiser, and especially a more benevolent intermingling of the high and the low, of the Alpha and the Omega of society" (Mahatma Letters, chronological edition, 478).

It may be useful to recall that the core spiritual teachings embodied in the Theosophical tradition are rooted in love and compassion. This call to live for the well-being of others is exemplified by the virtues of the Bodhisattva and the commandment of Jesus Christ to "love one another." From this perspective, the great exemplars of humanity are those who devote their lives to helping reduce and eliminate suffering in the world.

In other words, Theosophy recognizes that while one's spiritual quest might appear to be individual and unique, and self-realization an individual attainment, that endeavor can only be undertaken in the context of a relational and inextricably interconnected world. In this sense, spiritual awakening is essentially a work of learning to live in harmony with and in service to one another and the world around us.

There can be little doubt that these teachings about our shared human bonds are underappreciated and largely disregarded. It seems likely that awakening a true awareness of interconnectedness and shared responsibility for the well-being of others is the work not of a lifetime or a century but of an eon. It may be that the forms of religious practice that call to us from the future will be rooted in an emerging relational spirituality that honors both the individual and the communal, thereby healing the mistrust and fear that dualistic perceptions seem to engender.

We're not there yet. From our current vantage point, it appears that there are lifetimes to be lived and much to be done before the realized Objects of the Theosophical tradition might shine forth as luminously as the light of the sun. When that day does finally come, as the teachings say it inevitably must, all those who have toiled on its behalf will be able to share a measure of satisfaction at having helped to nurture the work of this one rejected, this cornerstone of that endeavor.


"Minor Lile is a spiritual director and has been a resident manager at Indralaya, the Theosophical center in the Pacific Northwest, for over eleven years. He leads workshops on relationship and community and has served on the board of directors of the Theosophical Society in America.


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