The Useful Tourist/Pilgrim Model
Jul 01, 1996 08:30 AM
The Tourist/Pilgrim Model
A recent discussion on theos-l was based upon the idea, coming
from Joy Mills, that visitors to theosophical groups could be
considered as either tourists or pilgrims. This idea was
immediately blasted, unfairly so, I think, since it was critisized
for saying things that it clearly did not say.
(It would be far more productive, as we discuss analogies such as
the tourist and the pilgrim, if we see where they are useful and
derive value from them. This is much better than using them as a
pretext to vent anger over unrelated issues, such as how the
Adyar Theosophical Society is run and how some views seem to be
shut out of a fair hearing within it, or how rotten a person
someone may think that Joy Mills is.)
The tourist/pilgrim idea provides a useful model, and can be
helpful in deciding how to deal with people coming to Theosophy.
It describes something we see as happening all about us in life.
At the most basic interpretation, we have two levels of interest,
two levels of committment. Someone is curious, window-shopping,
casually interested, and wanders in off the street. They're either
not looking for something, or are not sure what they want. Or
someone may be seriously searching for something, and ready to put
their money on the line.
Any retail establishment can distinguish between the two types of
customers. And the same can be true of membership organizations
too. Even people offering professional services can tell between
someone looking for their services and someone with an idle
curiosity. Why any difference with the Esoteric Philosophy?
Note that this is *not* saying that there are two levels of
people, one the "choosen" and upper class, and the other, the
"outsider" or inferior class. We're talking about levels of
interest, not how advanced a person is.
We can expand upon the tourist and pilgrim analogy a bit, taking
it to a deeper, more philosophical level of meaning.
A tourist is someone visiting a distant land, perhaps, for
personal enrichment, for escape from the routine of life, for
enjoyment. The whole experience, though, is centered in the
personality, is based on the notion of "enjoyment for *me*".
A pilgrim, though, is someone motivated out of deeply-felt
religosity, someone touched by the Path, someone motivated out of
transcendence, self-sacrifice, and the call to serve others.
Some may feel anger and resentment at the tourist/pilgrim
analogy, but this is not the fault of the analogy itself, which
is highly useful in describing things that actually happen in
life. The resentment may be against anything that seems to put
Theosophists into two classes, with those that don't believe in
the philosophy considered tourists and made to seem somehow
But there's no judgement, nor rating of individuals involved! It's
always been simply "Here's some fragments of the Wisdom Religion,
take what may benefit you, with the only obligation being to share
it with others, as you may, in its pristine form." There's no "I'm
better that you are because I believe in the *true stuff* and you
There are many approaches to getting people engaged on the Path,
which is the true *process*. Each such way has an associated
*content*, and the content and process are inseparable. The
theosophical approach involves the Mystery Doctrines. There are
many other approaches that each provide their own structure,
beliefs, and knowledge that their respective students study.
The important thing is in bringing people to the Path, starting
with oneself. Without getting serious about it in one's own life,
one is only a promoter of the theories and ideas of others, or a
weaver of fanciful tales.
It's not important if someone approaches the Path through the
approach or approaches offered through the Theosophical Movement.
One could approach it from a thousand different ways. The
important thing is *doing it*, not denying there is such a thing
nor claiming it is such a difficult thing to do that it would be
the height of arrogance to even consider it.
The Path is a real and important part of life, and is awaiting all
of us, in due time, if only we'd grow towards and approach it. It
is, in the longer run, the next step forward in human evolution.
(And it symbolizes all future such forward steps.)
We each must decide for ourselves if we'll be pioneers, if we're
ready to be Pilgrims and visit uncharted terrorities in life, or
if we'll simply go with the mob, and enjoy the status quo of
We can approach the *real work* from two directions. Approaching
*from with*, we are doing inner work, dealing with our states of
consciousness and *content*. Approaching *from without*, we are
doing external work, dealing with activites in the world for the
betterment of others. Both within and without are important, both
process and content, and the process is not really engaged until
both are going equally strong.
Let's get to the real work at hand, which is awakening both
ourselves and others to this inner reality. As to the angry
rhethoric and bitter words, we'll have to take turns taking out
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