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Writings of Ernest Egerton Wood


Masters and Men


Ernest Egerton Wood


An Extract from Natural Theosophy

First Published 1930

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THE theosophical world seems to be dividing itself on the old question: which is

more important for educative purposes, environment or character? Nobody of any consequence has ever suggested that character can be implanted by environment.


No Theosophist proposes the method of the builder, which assumes that a man

evolves as a house is built, that he is a vacant site to which you bring various

materials and there build them up into a house. Nor the method of the sculptor,

which assumes that human character is crude stone and someone must from the

outside chip away the unwanted portions, just as a sculptor takes a block of

stone and leaves a statue, which in a sense was in the stone all the time.

Thousands of forms were in that stone; the sculptor chooses one. But every man is a living being with a character of his own.


By Masters we mean those men who have realized the goal of human life and are no longer in bondage to things. They know the world of life. So they regard the

temporary creations as merely a shadow-world. They may remain in that world,

using human bodies, but they are interested as teachers in calling people to

enter their world, which is the world of life.


Those who recognize the life never become builders or sculptors of men, but may be gardeners or teachers, who know that every seed will grow according to its kind, that both the pattern that is to be made and the power with which it is to

be built come from within the seed itself. Therefore no thoughtful writer has

ever suggested that Masters can give life to anybody or can evolve anybody or

can help anybody to evolve themselves. They can give money, and have been known to do so. And they can give thought-forms. But they cannot give growth or evolution, understanding or love or power.


The Theosophical Society has the same function as the Masters. Its purpose is

not to attempt to feed the people, but to call their attention to great truths

with which they can feed, clothe, shelter, amuse and educate themselves

as men, without the suffering which they have been bringing upon themselves

so long, Its first object — brotherhood — is to be understood in this deep and

essential way. Greater than any material gift is the offering of wisdom.


Consider understanding. It is one of the powers of our life. It is tested by

power, for if I have made a machine, and it will not work, that tells me that my

understanding was wrong, Let me tell a story about thought-power, which is

vouched for by some good and honorable friends. In a certain city in America

there was over a deep gully a bridge which came popularly to be known as

“suicide bridge”, because from it a number of people threw themselves to

destruction every year. A group of friends who were accustomed to experimenting with thought-power decided to meet once a week, fix their attention upon that bridge, and think thoughts of cheerfulness, strength and hope. They told me that since they had begun the practice, which was about two years before, there had not been a single suicide from that bridge. I cannot personally vouch for their accuracy, but I can easily believe in such an occurrence, because I have had other striking experiences of the power of thought.


What would happen in this case ? The thought-form acts as one

speaking. It says: “Come now, things are not as bad as they have appeared, and

besides there is a possibility of happy life, which you really want. Please do

not lose your balance, but consider the facts.” Reason prevails, and the

would-be suicide changes his mind. The thought-form reminds him at a critical

moment of ideas which had been obscured in his troubled mind.


This is good work, of course, in the way of lifting a lame dog over a stile, but

now there is life to be lived and it must live in its own strength. Every

teacher recognizes that, however simple may be the idea which he is putting

before his class, no student will grasp it until he has made some effort of

attention and of thought. There is a moment between the hearing of his words or

the seeing of the experiment that he is doing, and the student's understanding.

In that moment the student thinks, and nobody can do it for him.


Consider in the same way the work of an artist. With skill he produces beauty.

Beauty is the test of skill, as power is the test of knowledge, and both these

come from inward effort alone. Painting pictures for a man who has no hands will not make him into a painter — or even for a man who has hands.

Carrying babies does not teach them to walk. On the contrary, I knew a naughty

little boy who when about four years old would insist upon being carried up hill

when out for a walk. He had been carried too much.


Similarly, the guiding lines given to us when we are learning to write prevent

us from writing straight, because they teach us to think that they are

necessary. Only a few days ago I was writing a letter on an unruled writing

block. Suddenly I said to myself: “Why, I am writing straight, without lines !”

From that moment my writing became crooked. Such is the power of suggestion. Crutches are only for cripples. You do not teach a baby to walk with crutches.





If people think they need a personal Master, by that thought they destroy their

own power and delay their own progress. If they think they could do better with

a personal Master than without one, it is the same thing. If they could, he

would be there. There are two kinds of persons to whom the Masters cannot

communicate their contribution to the common brotherhood — those who cannot get on with them, and those who cannot get on without them. But really

there is no need to search for a teacher, because when we start learning he is

always there. The entire galaxy of all who have attained liberation or entered

into the world of life is always at hand, for they are the one life, which is

also our essential life. No one can shut that open door.


The Masters work behind the scenes, and are not out of touch with any part of

life. Some one wrote to Madame Blavatsky and asked to be put in connection with the Brothers. Her reply was: “ Do you know so little of the laws of their order as not to understand that by this very act of yours — which was entirely

unsolicited and a spontaneous proof of your loyalty — you have drawn their

attention to you already, and that you have established relations with them

yourself ?


“ It is not within our power to do anything for you more. Occultism is not like

Christianity, which holds out to you the false promise of mediatorial

interference and vicarious merit. Every one of us must work his own way up

towards the Brothers. If you want to see them, act so as to compel them to let

you do so. They are equally with all of us subject to the laws of attraction and

repulsion; those who most deserve their companionship get it. Take a

half hour each morning upon first rising, and in an undisturbed place free from

all noises and bad influences concentrate your thoughts upon them and upon your own higher self, and will that you shall become wise, and illuminated and






What then does a Master do? He is a witness to the life beyond all appearances,

even his own. As fire tells us not to burn ourselves, so does the Master tell us

not to forget ourselves. People forget themselves not only in anger sometimes,

but in a thousand things and nearly always.


The Master's human form is beautiful because his life is true. Consider the

beautiful limbs of a race horse They have been produced quite naturally by life

trying to run. What would be the use of a small horse worshiping that beauty of

limb ? He must run. So the Master says to us: “ Do not worship me. Know that

there is life which can be fulfilled in full living, and from which all beauty,

truth and love will flow.”


I can realize that the Masters see benefit wherever people are trying

to express their life, even though there be grave attendant defects. Let me take

a crude and rather painful example — that of the old practice of foot-binding in

China. This was not done, .as some have suggested, to keep women in subjection to men, but, as Chinese poets have explained, as an assertion of human superiority to earth, that women might not be gross and earthly, like men, but delicate as a flower that sways lightly upon its slender stem. It was an attempt to express beauty and spirituality, somewhat similar to the old Western custom of tight-lacing the figure. They have now recognized the folly and harmfulness of these external means, that small and beautiful feet belong to those who balance themselves and walk well, and that the shapely waist is produced by healthy activity, so that if we have it not in our age as well as in our youth

it is entirely our own fault.


Yet the main point of all this, the abiding good of it, is that they show an

effort. However ignorant they were, they were well-meant, and were therefore in

their degree expressions of life. Whenever mankind puts itself to some trouble

for an idea, however stupid, it is good, for there will then be progress. There

is no room for ridicule, and little for interference or correction.


There is great danger in what is usually called devotion. True devotion is

respect for the beautiful, the good and the true, wherever it may be seen. It is

respect for life. But most devotion implies disrespect for life, inasmuch as it

singles out one expression of life for its fervent admiration, and almost

equally despises the rest. So is God shut away, as people go into caves to

worship the sun.


True devotion has nothing to do with that self-abasement which makes a man think that because he is inferior to another he must not rely on his own judgment.

However evolved or unevolved he may be, that is exactly what he must do. The man who does not make his own vision of the goal for himself does not awaken to the full his own life in the present moment of living, and therefore does not make the most use possible for him of that moment.


There is always some danger even when virtues are extolled. Such praise implies

or suggests that they are beyond ordinary life, and the feeling arises; “It

would be uncommonly good of us if we did this. We are not quite expected to do it”. In India I find when some attainment is mooted, there will be

someone to say; “O, but that is for those who have taken the yellow robe”.


I have come across some cases of partial mental paralysis due to misuse of the

idea of Masters. I have heard one say; “This work has failed; that shows that

the Masters did not want it.” It was perfectly clear to me that the cause of the

failure was that he had not used his brains in the work under reference. Then

again, when the thought was habitually turned to the Master as if he were a

separate entity, in moments of difficulty, for example, when there was a blank

in conversation, the man would find himself able to think only of the Master's

name. And also in danger, or in any crisis, do you pray or do you keep your head ? You cannot do both. Every occasion is a crisis, did people but recognize it.


But what of Master's authority ? Does he not know more than we? The Master is a witness of the light, but it is the light that lighteth every man that cometh

into the world. His form is only an illusion; it is not our goal, but our life,

which is also his life, is our goal. There cannot be a form of a Master. There

is nothing unusual in this. In a chemistry class the professor is not our goal,

but chemistry is our goal. Leaf whispers to leaf, and tells rejoicingly of the life it feels, like lovers hand in hand looking at the same moon. It is the power of love that with it we thus at last come to look with all eyes at all things.


And Master's work and orders ? I see no use in them unless they are our own work and orders at the same time. If a man does his honest best he will be doing what the Master wants to have done. If our understanding rises to what the Masters call their mind-plane their ideas become our ideas, we think their thoughts with them, and there is nothing to be gained by insisting that the ideas or purposes are theirs, not ours, which is a mode of separation of the Masters and ourselves, and tends to prevent our union in the one life.


You cannot have this separation in fact. You cannot have men gradually making

their own noses perfect according to their own thoughts, feelings and actions,

and at the same time the Masters moulding those noses according to some external plan. Masters' work and orders are surely a question of our being attuned to their spirit and their law, which is our own true spirit and law, In that

service (if such it can be called) is perfect freedom, Their teaching

is an intuition, but not usually peculiar and distinguishable from what we call

our own thought. There is no necessity to import into the idea of our relation

to Masters the dramatic and separative characteristics of human domination or

interference by man with man. Masters are masters of life not masters of men.


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