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Eastern School of Theosophy (01)

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(Echoes of the Orient p. 273-282)

Eastern School of Theosophy

Suggestions and Aids


[The following papers were directed to a Correspondence Group within the Eastern School of Theosophy in order to help clarify the teachings provided by H.P.B. The name had first been the Esoteric Section. As the reader will see from Series A 1, they were printed by the Aryan Press along with circulars and E.S.T. orders or notices from time to time. At the close of H.P.B.’s lifetime, Annie Besant and Mr. Judge were appointed her sole representatives of the Eastern and Western divisions of the School, respectively, W.Q.J. being explicitly declared her sole representative in America

The idea for the School stemmed from a request by Judge to H.P.B. in 1887, although there was an earlier attempt proposed by T. Subba Row in 1884 which never materialized. To fully understand the evolution of the School, the reader should closely examine the E.S. Introduction by Boris de Zirkoff on pp. 479-511 of H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings (BCW), Volume XII. Much consideration was given by this editor, who wished to present a full picture of the School. The E.S. Instructions themselves complete the text of Volume XII, which was published in 1980 by the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, Illinois.

As the Esoteric Instructions were privately circulated, original copies are virtually nonexistent. Mr. Judge’s page references to them have therefore been updated to refer to BCW XII, and are shown in brackets throughout our text. The selections chosen include three examination papers, placed chronologically according to an outline in the T.S. Pasadena archives.

The material chosen is based stringently upon the teachings. Circulars hinging upon the later divisions in the School caused by numerous controversies, are not used. These have been treated in The Judge Case, compiled by Ernest Pelletier (Edmonton Theosophical Society, Edmonton, Canada, 2004). We hope to simply provide keys to the Teaching for students facing much the same quandaries today as in the past century. Today we have the added advantage of a Western culture much more conscious of Oriental terms and thought. Unfortunately, however, we see more widespread abuse of some of the very yogic practices warned about in these papers. Judge’s wise commentary will point aspirants to the safer guidelines that the Masters of Wisdom have established in their continual efforts for the spiritual upliftment of Humanity. — Compiler]

274 Echoes of the Orient

E. S. T.


Brother, Sister:

You have just taken on yourself the most solemn of obligations and have invoked your Higher Self as the sanction of those obligations. The pledge has been taken in full sincerity with the earnest desire that it may prove the entrance to a nobler and higher life than the one behind you. As one “new born” your path stretches before you, and it may seem, in the glory of a fresh enthusiasm, as though all difficulties would become easy, all burdens light. Such will not, cannot, be your experience, and lest the first shock of disappointment should breed despair it will be well for you to know the unbroken testimony of the past. Read then the words of H.P.B.∴ with which her first Instruction to her pupils opens:

A Warning Addressed to all Members1

There is a strange law in Occultism which has been ascertained and proven by thousands of years of experience, nor has it failed to demonstrate itself, almost in every case, during the thirteen years the T.S. has been in existence. As soon as anyone pledges himself as a “Probationer,” certain occult effects ensue. Of these the first is the throwing outward of everything latent in the nature of the man: his faults, habits, qualities, or subdued desires, whether good, bad, or indifferent. For instance, if a man is vain, or a sensualist, or ambitious, whether by Atavism or by Karmic heirloom, all those vices are sure to break out, even if he has hitherto successfully concealed and repressed them. They will come to the front irrepressibly and he will have to fight a hundred times harder than before, until he kills all such tendencies in himself.

Suggestions and Aids 275

On the other hand, if he is good, generous, chaste, and abstemious, or has any virtue hitherto latent or concealed in him, it will work its way out as irrepressibly as the rest. Thus a civilized man who hates to be considered a saint, and therefore assumes a mask, will not be able to conceal his true nature, whether base or noble. This is an immutable law in the domain of the occult. Its action is the more marked the more earnest and sincere the desire of the candidate, and the more deeply he has felt the reality and importance of his pledge. Therefore let all members of this School be warned and on their guard, for even during the three months before the Esoteric Teaching began, several of the most promising candidates failed ignominiously. . This “throwing outward” is called “pledge fever,” and has been shown by much experience to be a fact. It is unique in the world, as no other society or body is able to arouse it, such other bodies of formal order being merely players at grandeur or simply high philosophy. There appear to be two great reasons why the pledge fever should assail the candidate on his entry into the E.S.T., which really constitutes probationary discipleship. First, Karma has to exhaust more quickly; and second, defects must be brought up together with good qualities. Each person has in the karmic stream a vast mass of unexhausted Karma which by slow degrees, in the ordinary course, comes out as one is born into a suitable body and position. But when the pledge is taken that act removes a barrier holding back old Karma; for the Higher Self has been invoked, and at once some of the barrier is removed, so that the force of Karma becomes stronger. Now the force of this depends very much on the intensity of the desire for truth the person has in himself. Many years ago H.P.B., referring to the same subject, wrote as follows in the Theosophist:

One who undertakes to try for chelaship by that very act rouses and lashes to desperation every sleeping passion of his animal nature To conquer means adeptship; to fail, an ignoble martyrdom. [BCW IV:611]. As soon as one steps on the path leading to the Āśrama of the blessed Masters (the last and only custodians of primitive wisdom and truth) his Karma, instead of having to be distributed throughout his long life, falls upon him in a block and crushes him with its whole weight. He who believes in what he professes and in his Master will stand it and come out of the trial victorious. He who doubts — the coward who fears to receive his just dues and tries to avoid justice being done — fails. [cf. BCW VII:247]

In this she was speaking more particularly of those who could then get the notice of Master directly, but it applies to all in accordance with the degree of each. Here is the explanation of failures and also of successes; this explains the sad wrecks lying around the gate through which all must pass, and it too shows why some have triumphed and grown stronger and better each day. Two determinations are necessary then: first, to hold on grimly; second, to have confidence and faith. For as H.P.B. said, and as many have proven, confidence and faith in the Master will give victory; doubt will bring defeat. If you quiver at the first touch of pain, if you cannot face your own Karma, how can you expect to stand with those who consciously and with eyes wide open help to hold back the awful Karma of the world?

The second great reason has to do with the bringing up and to the surface of the actual character of the student. But few know their real character. They imagine often they are good, they do not think they are vain or selfish, nor do they often know how strong is the personal element in them. The pledge fever brings it all to the surface and at the same time come also all their good qualities. For the sake of the disciple, and for the sake of all others, his good must be increased and the evil must be dragged up by the roots. Hence the pledge fever, which acts as heat does on the metal in the crucible, melting it and raising all dross to the top. It is for the disciple to skim off the dross and keep the gold of good character. It is better to fail now, if one is to fail, than to gain power and then, failing, to fall deep and drag many on the same descent.

Curiously enough, but naturally, the person who has the fever very badly is inclined to say, as many have, that he has not got it but that others have. It exhibits itself as irritation with others, as a feeling that others are unjust and so on, to take its commonest expressions. But it is the fever, and after many years now of experience with hundreds of members, it is safe to say, that wherever a friction prevails in the E.S.T. there the fever is raging. It has exhibited itself in accusations made against other members, in attacks on others for fancied or other wrongs, and the list might be infinitely extended. This all means that the persons involved have not taken to themselves the warning while they have been quick to apply it to others. In these everyday trials are the trials and tests of disciples of this degree. Not by great and wonderful

events, not by forewarned temptations nor by flash of light or approach of demons, are we tried: those are for others who have gone still farther and penetrated a little more through the veil that hides the everyday from the day behind the scene. Nor must it be forgotten that the taking of the pledge brings into

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the field forces that help as well as forces that oppose. The appeal to the Higher Self, honestly and earnestly made, opens up a channel by which flow in all gracious influences from higher planes. New strength rewards each new effort; new courage comes with each new step forward. The Thought of the Masters overshadows all who enter Their School, and the “Holy Power” watches the stumbling steps of the beginner, giving such aid as the Good Law permits. You have come into a great company of brothers, knit to each other and to the Masters’ Lodge, and the delicate strands that bind you to those will stand every strain, so long as your will holds firm and your faith remains unshaken.

So take courage, disciple, and hold on your way through the discouragements and the successes that beset your earliest steps on the path of probation. Do not stop to mourn over your faults; recognize them and seek to learn from each its lesson. Do not become vain of your success. So shall you gradually attain self-knowledge, and self-knowledge shall develop self-mastery. Study and obey the rules given you for your guidance; meditate on your obligations, on your Higher Self, and above all, devote yourself to the service of others, work for the Theosophical Society, and so try to help forward the progress of mankind. Unselfish service, altruism in all things, is the demand made by the Masters of Compassion on all who seek to qualify themselves for chelaship. There is no other road. Those who seek Them for the sake of personal advantage will never find Them. Those who desire powers for themselves are foredoomed to failure. Narrow is the door that gives entrance to the Temple of Truth, and he who carries on his shoulders the bulky burden of self will never pass through that straitest of all gates. Clouds and darkness may wrap the entrance to the path, yet are “its summits lost in glorious light Nirvāṇic.”

You will find The Voice of the Silence and Letters that Have Helped Me, most valuable books for study. These, with, of course, the Bhagavad Gītā, should yield you subjects for daily thought.

278 Echoes of the Orient

E. S. T. S.


Correspondence Group Series A 1.

I am directed by the Head of the Section to inform you as follows: 1. All members receiving this will know that they are in the Correspondence Group, which is composed of those not in distinct groups. 2. (a) In order to increase the solidarity of the Section, to help the members in the study of the Instructions, and to relieve the Head of the Section, printed papers will be issued to the members from time to time, and will treat of the various subjects found in the Instructions. (b) These papers are not to be substitutes for the Instructions, which will be continued as the Head of the Section determines, nor will they be authoritative, but only explanatory. (c) Some of the matter will be made up from discussions in Groups upon questions arising.

(d) Delays in giving answers to questions will be often unavoidable. 3. These papers will be privately printed by an F.T.S., E.S., on the Aryan Press, and are to be held as privately as those coming from H.P.B., but may be discussed between members of the Section. 4. Members of the Correspondence Group, and Groups through their presidents, are invited to send to the undersigned, questions, doubts, and objections arising in their study of the Instructions; but they are particularly asked not to put questions which might after some reflection be answered independently, nor those irrelevant queries so often raised, nor such as can be answered by consulting ordinary works and encyclopedias on subjects referred to in the Instructions. Members outside of the Correspondence Group will only communicate through their respective Group president.

5. All questions and correspondence must be written plainly, upon one side of the paper, and not with pale ink. If these rules are not complied with, communications will receive no attention. The time Suggestions and Aids 279 of the undersigned is so occupied with numerous duties and a multiplicity of letters that the above regulation is insisted on in order to save valuable moments which would otherwise be wasted in the attempt to decipher illegible writing. The general rule that no matters of business can be referred to in the letters sent under this arrangement is again reiterated.

6. All communications hereunder must be marked “private.”

7. Advice is not to be asked in respect to personal business, family affairs, or social relations.

William Q. Judge Sec’y to H.P.B.


On the first page of Instructions No. 1 it is stated that there “is a strange law in Occultism which has been ascertained and proven by thousands of years of experience,” by which everything latent in the nature of the person who signs the pledge is thrown up and outward and that these must be found out, fought, and killed; and that the action of this law is the more marked the more earnest and sincere is the desire of the candidate and the more deeply are the importance and reality of the pledge felt.

The meaning of this warning, given by the Head of the Section, has not been seen by all, and the importance of the law, stated by her to be immutable in the domain of the occult, has been underestimated. In some instances no attention has been paid to the warning, and in others no heed has been accorded to the working of it upon the members themselves.

We should remember that H.P.B. has not spoken regarding this for her sake, but solely for ours, and due attention is to be given to the import of the statements made. She says the law has been found and proven by thousands of years of experience. This means that the Lodge — under which the Section exists — has been in action for thousands of years; that is, living men who were once like ourselves compose it, and have seen how this law acts in the cases of probationers such as we are, who have been pledged in other centuries, in different lands and civilizations. The effect upon those who sign the pledge is familiarly called “pledge fever” because it is a sort of heat in the whole nature which, acting like the air in a hothouse, makes all seeds, whether

280 Echoes of the Orient

of good or evil sort, suddenly sprout and show themselves to the person who has signed. A good simile for its action is found in the crucible for melting metals. In that the metal, containing all sorts of impurities, is heated; as it melts, the impurities come up to the surface in the form of scum, leaving the purified metal below. It is an intensification of the effect brought about on any person in ordinary life who takes up some occupation or task with which he has had no previous experience, but it differs from that in this, that such ordinary change only brings forth the qualities which are needed for the performance of the work undertaken, while this “pledge fever” brings into action every latent quality of the person’s nature.

Its Field of Operation

The field in which it works is that offered by the entire being, and therefore will include the hidden, unknown part of us which in all ordinary cases lies back awaiting other incarnations and circumstances to arise in new centuries and civilizations. This means that if we have not signed the pledge, we have before us a series of incarnations in which, with new material and psychic bodies, we will gradually show forth what is now hidden deep in our nature. This is referred to by Patañjali in his Yoga Aphorisms, Book IV, aph. 8: “From these works there results, in every incarnation, a manifestation of only those mental deposits which can come to fructification in the environment provided.” The “environment provided” means not only a new body and new circumstances, but also the new sort of psychic and mental nature acquired in reincarnating, for the thing which is environed is the Ego — the soul.

The disciple is therefore not to suppose that the effect of “pledge fever” will be seen only in some event for which he or she may be supposed to be prepared; it manifests itself in everyday life, in the way we look at and are affected by the treatment accorded to us by others, in the various changes on the mental plane and in every direction. If one is irritable by nature, that irritability will at first seem to be increased, and, indeed, will be unless it be suppressed; if there is a latent tendency to fault-finding or listening to gossip and slander, all circumstances will appear to bring it out prominently or to justify it; and so on in as varied a way as temperaments and faults vary. On the other hand, unknown good qualities come up at the same time as the bad ones, and are strengthened. Its most hidden operations will, however, be in the mental plane, and there we must watch against anger, vanity, doubt, uncertainty, ready to drive them away as soon as they appear.

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The Opportunity Afforded

The opportunity thus afforded to us all is unique. It cannot be met in any other association, nor in the affairs of life, nor by violent self-effort. Self-discipline and introspection will not accomplish what is done by the “pledge fever,” because the personal effort is limited by the powers of the individual; and although those flow from and are based upon that nature, they cannot except in rare, exceptional persons, reach down into and drag it forth for inspection. Secret societies will not accomplish the work either — they are only child’s play, mere empty forms which convey no truth and cause no development. There is therefore before us an opportunity such as cannot be found anywhere else, and upon the use of which really depends our true progress and all clear comprehension of the Instructions. In succeeding numbers other matters will be treated of, including the various diagrams in the Instructions.

282 Echoes of the Orient

Correspondence Group Series A 2.

THE PLEDGE FEVER (continued )

Its Effect on the Members

It is well known that all through the Section there are many members who have been struggling with the “pledge fever” and failing very often. They have criticized each other very harshly, have in certain instances refused to work with certain members, and put no check whatever upon evil-speaking and spreading of gossip and unfounded slander. Quite plainly they have carelessly passed by the warning of the Head of the Section, and would appear to think that they can gain knowledge from written Instructions without purifying themselves. Names are not given, but they are known. We all might as well look the matter squarely in the face and admit that it is quite unlikely the Section as a whole will receive Instructions for which on the moral as well as the intellectual plane it may be unprepared. Those of us who do not profit by the warning given will find out too late that, without their knowing it, the Head of the Section will make selections of those who are worthy, and to those only will be given the keys to unlock the gates that bar the way to attainment.

All those members who desired to be tested and tried have been put to the tests already. That is, they have been watched by the Hidden Ones through each day, and themselves can tell whether they have stood the tests. If they have awaited some strange event or trying ordeal, it has not arrived, nor will it; but events of each life are enough in number to show how each one is trying to live the life. If they have failed, it is never too late to try; if they are sure they have not, they are on dangerous ground, for it is an old occult maxim: “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

Question from A. — How long do manifestations of “pledge fever” Continue ? W.Q.J. — So long as the disciple does not overcome that which it brings up, the “pledge fever” will continue. It is useless to sit down and wait for it to burn out. Pains must be taken to eradicate the defects which it brings to the surface.

  1. [Reproduced in Blavatsky –  Collected Writings (BCW) XII:515-16. All bracketed page numbers in Section V refer to BCW XII. For an early version of the Probationers’ Pledge see BCW XII:506.] []
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