Leadership is a special function within the broader framework of human relations generally, involving guidance, motivation and instruction. A consideration of Aquarian leadership is necessarily a speculative exercise for anyone who is not wise, for it suggests changes in human relationships that are now only incipient, developing more fully during the next two millennia. Nevertheless, imagination can be fruitfully exercised—an especially appropriate activity. For Aquarius is depicted as a water bearer, ministering the waters of idealism to wash away debris from the past and nourish new life. Aquarius is an air sign, the element associated with mind, and a pour from the water-bearer’s urn represents the transformation of existing forms and processes in time through the catalyzing influence of the timeless Akasha. Every effort by anyone to universalize and adopt a constructive perspective is part of this work, and anyone in any circumstance may be recruited by the water-bearer himself.
In 1902 the Sun at the vernal equinox passed from Pisces into Aquarius. By the arrival of the spiritually potent year of 1975, the cycle had completed one of its 30 degrees. A full precession of the vernal equinox through the circle of the zodiac requires 25,920 years, visiting each of the 12 signs for 2,160 years. A sojourn through each sign brings special evolutionary opportunities. The graces of the Aquarian age can be partially surmised by the conspicuousness of their absence in the mental and moral lives of human beings today, resulting in serious environmental and social diseases. Aquarius is the bearer of the Akashic waters of ideality. His tidal floods cleanse the mind of dead forms, while quickening the seeds of noetic change in receptive individuals. ‘Aqua’ is an alchemical term meaning liquid fire, associated with soma or the sacred beverage of the Mysteries. Aquarius opens the eye of intuition, direct beholding, loosening the coercive control of dogmatic rules and slavish conformity. In short, transition to the Aquarian age is inherently revolutionary and catalytic.
Positive hints can be garnered by intuitive theosophical students. A handful of the ancient precepts compiled by H.P. Blavatsky in Gems from the East: A Birthday Book of Precepts and Axioms (1890) are a case in point. Select quotations for the month of June are especially suggestive of Aquarian themes: harmony, noetic self-knowledge, originality, non-dualism, and non-violent reform.
Harmony is the law of life, discord its shadow; whence springs suffering, the teacher, the awakener of consciousness.
Gems from the East
Contemplation of harmony diffuses the coarse tendency to black-and-white thinking that causes so much division and violence in human relations. The Aquarian mind understands that good and evil have no absolute existence. “There is no malum in se: only the shadow of light, without which light could have no existence, even in our perceptions. If evil disappeared, good would disappear along with it from Earth” (SD I:413). By musical analogy, no composer speaks of ‘good intervals’ and ‘bad intervals’. On the contrary, she understands the relativities of consonance and dissonance, and their uses in the arc of musical narrative. An analogous revolution in human consciousness would constitute a giant step towards universal non-violence and compassionate understanding. Although human beings frequently behave cruelly and inflict suffering with vengeful motives, Nature Herself is impersonally beneficent. Aquarian perception recasts pain and pleasure, disease and health, suffering and well-being in the impersonal terms of disharmony and harmony. And so, both are accepted as necessary aspects to the evolution of consciousness.
The great watchword of the True is this—in the last analysis all things are divine.
Gems from the East
At present, people are all too willing to locate evil per se in others, justifying hatred, neglect, hostility and even extermination. Psychologically, evil is a projection of the shadow of one’s own selfishness. Erecting an idol, often in the name of the good, we greet any evidence for the shortcomings of our idolatry with hostility—and the chief of all idols is the personal self. By learning to see all human attitudes and activities under the umbrella of law, the Aquarian heart is in a better position to understand and include others, as nature understands and includes. This does not mean that the Aquarian standpoint is uncritical in identifying error; but it does mean that the enlightened response is corrective rather than vengeful.
Man makes himself in the image of his desires, unless he creates himself in the likeness of the Divine, through his will, the child of the light.
Gems from the East
Just as the monsoon is presaged by a few drops of rain, so the Aquarian revolution in consciousness is even now evident in examples of extraordinary leadership. Non-violent movements of social reform have convincingly challenged long-standing assumptions about human nature, motivation and conditioning, lending new credence to the power of ideals, not as wishful abstractions, but as potent summons to truth and commitment.
The essence of non-violent reform is a shift from coercion to volition, from provocation to evocation. Human dignity requires honoring the divine creative presence in every human being, which precludes using any man as merely a means to another’s ends. This suggests non-violent persuasion by reason or heart-appeal to shared interests and goals. The Aquarian leader renounces the temptation to stir the fears and prejudices of his followers. Whatever the seeming short-term gains, such high-voltage energies are ultimately destructive in their effects. Instead he calls upon the seeds of noetic change hidden in the hearts of his followers. He does not regard leadership as an elevated platform from which to lord over and live upon others. A revolution from authoritarian to noetic leadership will do away with the relishing of worldly advantage that too often attends upon positions of power. The Aquarian leader will lead by example.
Although heralding from the Piscean age, one of the great pioneers of this revolution is Jesus, as he is depicted in The Gospel According to John. At the Passover meal the night before his execution, Jesus wraps a towel around his waist like a servant, and slowly circles the room washing the feet of his disciples. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asks them. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” The humility of the act strikes a reprehensible chord in Peter, who will not be persuaded at first to participate in what appears to be a display of personal humiliation. Herein falls the divide between an Aquarian and authoritarian sensibility. Jesus tells his disciples that they will not immediately understand the significance of his action, and it is evident two thousand years later that humanity’s understanding still lags.
No reformer on the global scene committed himself more visibly to this principle than Mohandas Gandhi, who always led by example. As his “experiments with truth” progressed, he eventually realized he must share the suffering of those he wished to lead. Gandhi took vows of poverty, renounced luxury, and adopted the simple apparel, fare, and chores of a rural peasant. This was stunning inversion of long-held assumptions about power in human relationships. What marks this as especially ‘Aquarian’ is Gandhi’s renunciation of office and title. Aquarius frees spiritual vitality from the titles and rites that bind and limit it. An ascetic like Gandhi, according to worldly wisdom, should only diminish and disappear from public sight, yet in fact the less he claimed for himself the higher rose his star of influence. This appears to point to occult law.
The discovery and right use of the true essence of Being—this is the whole secret of life.
Gems from the East
Gandhi sometimes spoke of this as the law of love. “The man who discovered for us the law of love was a far greater scientist than any of our modern scientists. Only our explorations have not gone far enough and so it is not possible for every one to see all its workings.”
Leadership for Gandhi was a position of trusteeship towards the moral assets within others. It was not an enrichment of the leader through selfish appropriations of wealth or favor. Nor was leadership a matter of technique, nor an institutionally ordained position. Gandhi’s leadership marked an Aquarian departure from soulless practices of the past. As a man is, so shall he lead. It is relevant here to consider Gandhi’s twin absolute principles of satya or truth, and ahimsa or non-violence. Satya is a commitment to integrity and humility. As every human being is a fallible learner, so each deserves due consideration for his opinions, and due allowance for his errors. Philosophically, Sat or absolute truth transcends formulation, and therefore no practitioner of satya should fashion an unyielding idol out of his views. Adopting this truthful and honest position in mental life makes it possible to refrain from violence toward others based on sectarian or ideological differences. Considering the incomparable value of every human life, truth cannot justify actual differences in treatment based on social situations. There is violence in double-standards, and double-standards inherent to violence. Every double-standard is a violation of truth, for integrity is but another name for truth. The Aquarian leader must, like Gandhi, become the change he wishes to see, and renounce all advantages that cannot be shared. This prospect is a mighty challenge indeed.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
The Aquarian is often characterized as a dreamer or original thinker. Preoccupied on another plane of mentality, he misses social and punctual cues. Mere eccentric behavior or fashion, however, is no reliable indication of true originality. As the word suggests, an ‘original’ thinker is one who ascends from derivative forms and vestures, so to merge with his origin. Aquarian leadership, too, is reformation from within. It goes beyond the reactive pendulum swing of power shifts between Right and Left, correcting forms in time according to the timeless. This is what Henry David Thoreau called “action from principle” in his essay “Civil Disobedience,” which exercised influence on Gandhi.
Action from principle — the perception and the performance of right — changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine.
Henry David Thoreau, Essay on Civil Disobedience
We might picture the psychic plane oriented horizontally, dominated by conflict and conformity. It traffics in appearances, manufacturing consent based on coercion. Once secured, conventional power tends to tilt conservative, regarding with antagonism efforts to reassess policies by appeal to principle. In this sense, Aquarian reform is a vertical intervention. Like the flush of a well, or a flash of lightening, influence from a hidden dynamic plane is transmitted. Thoreau suggests that true vision is indifferent to mere convention— “anything which was.” In the words of his mentor and associate, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” What is more, noetic reform clarifies confusion with the lamp of truth, and therefore unrecognized or repressed concessions with untruth are brought to light, precipitating fateful moments of choice. As Jesus said of himself—he did not come to bring peace but a sword. Aquarian reformation leaves no one the luxury of concealing mixed loyalties underneath the cloak of ignorance or laziness. To move with the current is to greet error with openness and a humble willingness to make correction.
W.Q. Judge wrote that the time was coming when powers would be needed, and pretenses would go for naught. This suggests an experiential revolution in what we call spirituality and religion. No longer content to don in the worn-out apparel of a previous era, people all over the globe desire teachings and practices that will make a genuine difference to their mental and emotional lives. This is “the original relation to the universe” that Emerson eloquently argued for in the opening words of his first published essay “Nature”.
Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
An Aquarian revolution will finally overturn the tired trope that science is a matter of experience, while religion is a matter for faith. Theosophical criticism, especially in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky, has vigorously questioned this bifurcation by challenging the range and reach of both science and religion. The cultural hostility between these two opposing camps in the modern world is only a reflection of confusion and prejudice within individuals.
Spirituality is not what we understand by the words “virtue” and “goodness.” It is the power of perceiving formless, spiritual essence.
Gems from the East
The leaders of tomorrow will combine head and heart. Science has long been captive to a methodological dogmatism that chooses to ignore what it cannot account for—the most glaring omission being consciousness itself. What is more, uncritical proponents of empirical science are prone to unwarranted metaphysical leaps, attempting to limit the Real to the range of our present senses and sense-extensions. Self-intoxicated, too, by technology, science has failed to appreciate ancient knowledge—especially the contemplative sciences taught in the Yoga and Buddhist traditions. Religion, too, especially in the West, is a pale remnant of ancient mystery traditions which preserved and transmitted archetypal truths about human origins, constitution and destiny. Theosophy traces evidence of an ancient Wisdom-Religion which knows no division between the knowledge of life and the art of living, between reason and worship. The Aquarian current appears to flow forward but recedes back as it stimulates an aboriginal integrity between thinking and higher feeling. Like Gandhi and Jesus, the leaders of tomorrow will not posture and hanker for the power to lead, especially by exploiting deceptive dualities. Their crystalline purity will proffer the aqua of transformation, distributed on behalf of all.
Now he had to go through Samaria. …Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
A THEOSOPHICAL STUDENT
Printed by permission of the author.