and Madame Blavatsky
July 3, 1890 — Opening of New Lecture Hall, Blavatsky Lodge, Headquarters of the Theosophical Society, London, England
Friends, we have met here this evening, as all of you well know, in order to open this new hall as the regular place of meeting of the Blavatsky Lodge, in immediate connection with the European headquarters of the Theosophical Society, which will very soon be ready for occupation. The hall in which we are met to-night has been raised, as I dare say many of you will be aware, by the subscriptions of Theosophists in England and in Europe. We trust that it will gradually become widely known as a centre for Theosophical work of every description, and we most earnest hope that all Theosophists will feel that in this centre they have a real home, that they can come here and be sure of a welcome; whether they come here for the mere companionship of their brothers and sisters in belief, or whether they come for advice in difficulty, or for instruction in the study in which all of us are interested. To-night our special work will be to listen to certain speeches in celebration of this first opening of our hall, and it will be my duty to call upon the speakers one by one to address you . . .
Listening to the speeches which have been delivered from this platform to-night, I have found myself repeating over and over again the words of Mr. Sinnett at the beginning of the real importance of this meeting as a starting point for new progress. For always in Theosophy it is to be remembered we are dealing with causes rather than with effects; so that, wherever earnest and thoughtful men and women are gathered together, made brothers and sisters by one great ideal and y one common hope, there where the thought is founded on truth, where the intellectual basis is sound, so that the emotion will be guided along the right road, in every such movement there is not only hope, but there is certainty of a change in the world’s aspect; for the forces that work from change are the forces at once of intellect and of enthusiasm, and where those are joined together as an animating spirit, progress is the inevitable result. Here also, to-night, we have listened to voices from many countries, proving to us by the most practical of all proofs that this Theosophy that we speak of is in very deed a universal philosophy, and that whether people come to us from America or from Europe, whether they speak in one language or another, there is the unity of thought that underlies everything; there is the same hope of growth and of a real spiritual evolution. And not only so, but one cannot but feel, in meeting in this hall for the first time, that the very meeting and the erection of the building mark a very long step in advance. For so many, may years in the past she who, through her voice be silent to-night, is the inspiring spirit of this gathering and of the Theosophical movement — for so may years those who choose her, and who sent her to bear their message, met only with difficulty — difficulty almost impossible to overcome; but at least to-night we may say to her that this is some fruit of the work that has been so bravely and so patiently performed — and that here, at least, is a platform that none can touch, a centre where none can interfere, where she can give those instructions that she alone is fitted to give in Theosophy, and where she will always, we know, find pupils anxious to listen to the teaching and to take advantage of this opportunity which in this last part of the century has come to us all. We would fain hope that from this meeting some slight echo at least many sound in that far-off land to which all our eyes and all our thoughts are turned, telling those who have sent her higher that we are not unmindful of the opportunity, that we are not indifferent or careless to the message; that at least there is one here and one there, at least there are some present in this room to-night who hope that in days to come and even now their feet may be set in the path that the Masters have travelled before us, and that in time, no matter how long a struggle, or how many lives may intervene, there may be some who, starting here, may pass onwards through the centuries until they too shall reach that crown which at present has only come to a few of our race. Those of you who have looked back at all the history of the progress of human thought will have noticed that at the close of every century there has been, as it were, a gateway opened to those who had eyes to see. Look back to the close of the 18th century, to the close of the 17th, of the 16th and 15th, ad you will always find that close marked by an outburst of psychical and spiritual activity, an outburst we all know that has had comparatively small result, but which has never passed wholly without some fruitage, which has always won here and there a listener who the message that each century has been sent. We at the close of this 19th century stand in this position of special responsibility, that to us, as to those that went before us in the centuries past, has come the opportunity and the choice, a choice that if it be wrongly made means that no more progress for us will be practicable; but a choice that wisely exercised means the opening of an unending progress, of a progress that shall only grow the more useful and the more brilliant as year after year of human life is added to those who have chosen their path aright. To all who come to a meeting like this a special responsibility must also come; for each who has a choice put before him life is never the same afterwards as it was before. Either you must close your ears to the message and so make harder the hearing in the future, or, opening your ears, the message must pass into your life and mould your life as every true message must do; for that which does not touch the life is useless and idle, and it is only where life is moulded by thinking that the thought is worthy to endure. And the work that, to us within the society, lies before us is one that grows in weight and grows in responsibility, for the position of the Theosophical Society here, as in every land, is a somewhat strange one, warmly welcomed by the few, ignored by the great majority, bitterly hated by a very, very large number. So that the life of the Theosophist must always, for the present, be a life of struggle, as, indeed are all lives that are in any sense worthy to be lived, but, above all lives, that of the Theosophist is one of struggle. Like the builders of old that are spoken of, who in one hand held the trowel, and in the other the sword, so every Theosophist on one side must be able to apply his wisdom to the building up of life, and, on the other hand, must have the sword ready to defend the ground that has been won. For here as elsewhere, the Theosophical Society stands between two opposing hosts, and each host hostile to itself; on one side a Materialism that scoffs at all science of the spirit, at all yearnings after the unseen and the intangible; on the other side; a superstition ofttimes more degrading than the Materialism, because in itself it is fundamentally the same — the effort to turn things of the spirit into things of the sense, and to degrade all that is loftiest into the the crudest thoughts of anthropomorphic religion. Ad so to us standing equally opposed to both these hosts we must strive to keep the ground we have won and to carry on our attacks on either hand; but there is this difference between us and all other armies that may e encamped on an enemy’s ground, that to us those who to-day are enemies to-morrow will e friends; for in every human being around us, be he friendly or hostile, e hating or loving, in every such human being we see concealed our hidden brother, and the blows that we strike that seem to be at him are not in truth at that brother which is hidden, but they are aimed only to break through the thick crust of ignorance and hatred, so that, breaking it, the human spirit within may come out free and find his heritage awaiting him of progress and of liberty. So that right through, if with one hand we carry the sword, it is wreathed with the olive branch, and we only strike in order that we may free; we only carry on controversy I order that peace may be the outcome in the end. To each member of the s society there is a special duty, a duty nowhere in his or her path through life to be ever ashamed of acknowledging the Society to which they belong, always ready to say frankly the faith that is in them, never, coward-like, shrinking from a confession that perhaps may be the very word wanted by the stranger to lead him also into the path of thought and of progress. A duty also that the life shall be worthy of the creed; for let men say what they will, there is no enemy that can injure us, provided we are true to that which we believe. If we are frank in our speech and noble in our lives, our lives will preach Theosophy far more eloquently than any tongue can possibly do; and to each of us living, as I have said, amongst many who are anxious to prove that Theosophy is no better than any other religion, to us there comes especially the duty to show that the higher creed means nobler life, and that that light which has shone upon us from the East is a light which means service to humanity as well as intellectual vision of the unseen. And so we come back, as we always must at our meetings, to that central object of our society, the brotherhood of man, that it is to ne the nucleus of a Universal brotherhood, and a brotherhood of life and not of lip alone. Does anyone suppose that those whom we acknowledge as Masters won their places by idleness, by indifference, or in sloth? Every human being must tread the same path. There is no royal road upward to that splendid evolution which some few of our race have passed through. Each step of the way has to be trodden; each separate difficulty has to be overcome; each begins at the bottom of the ladder, and, rung by rung, must mount slowly to the top. There are no wings which will carry you from foot to summit. It is effort, continually repeated, which alone can raise you to that height. Ad so declaring to-night our Hall open, and hoping that many of you will come here to learn something of that Philosophy which, to many of us, has become the greatest truth and the central motive of life; hoping that, for to-night we only say to you that everyone who has tried what Theosophy means has found it to be a light and a help and a strengthener.
Those of you who know little of it have no right to judge it, and only as that before you judge you will endeavour to learn, that you will put aside prejudice and listen to the voice of reason and of thought, asking none of you to accept before you have investigated, but also warning you not to reject unheard, lest in rejection of that which you do not know, you may have rejected the most precious jewel which mortal can find within his reach.
There is one word I am reminded that I ought to have spoken here, and that, with your permission, I will speak before we leave this Hall. May of you will have noticed the paintings that we have here on some of the panels. There are others which will come a little later on. We owe those to an Artist-Theosophists, Mr. [Reginald Willoughby] Machell, and I am sure you will feel that in helping to beautify the Hall, he is doing a really useful service to the Theosophical Society.
Source: “At Headquarters. Theosophical Society (Blavatsky Lodge). Opening of the New Lecture Hall. 19, Avenue Road, St. John’s Wood, N.W. Mrs. Besant in the Chair.” Theosophical Siftings, Vol. III, 1890-91 (London: The Theosophical Publishing Society) 1891, pp. 3-4; 19-23.