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Autobiography of Alice A. Bailey - Chapter IV
Another reason that has helped me to work hard was the extremely ordered discipline of my life when a girl. This developed in me an inability to be idle. I was never permitted to be idle, so I never am. A third reason is one which I think could be very helpful to many people. There was so much I wanted to know and I had to find the time [136] for all these things and yet not neglect my children. I never neglected the children, but it took some planning, some scheming and some disciplining. I learnt to iron with a book in front of me and to this day I can read and iron simultaneously without scorching the clothes. I learnt to peel potatoes whilst reading without cutting my fingers, and I can shell peas and string beans with a book in front of me. I always read when sewing and mending. This is just because I wanted to and many women could learn to do the same if they cared enough for knowledge. The trouble is many of us don't care enough. I also read with great rapidity, grasping whole paragraphs and pages as quickly as other people read a sentence. I forget what is the technical name for this visual capacity. Lots of people do it and more could if they tried.

I came to an arrangement with my own conscience regarding my duty as a mother and as a housekeeper. I had watched a woman of my acquaintance who had five children. She apparently had a call from the Lord to go and teach and she went and taught - at the expense of the children whom she left at home in the care of the eldest girl, just fifteen years old. The child did her best but caring for four other children is no joke. We all had to help feed them and bathe them and, when necessary, discipline them. It was a lesson to me and a horrible example of what not to do. So I decided that until the girls were in their 'teens I would give them and the house all my time. When they got into their 'teens and were able themselves to be useful, I put the whole thing on a fifty-fifty basis.

Around 1930, when they were all practically grown up, I told them that I was there as consultant and as mother, but that having given them practically twenty complete years, I was from that time on going to put my public work first and them last. I asked them to remember I was [137] always there, and I think they have remembered, or they will after I am gone.

So I read and studied and thought. My mind woke up as I struggled with the presented ideas and sought to fit my own beliefs and the new concepts together. Then I met two very old ladies who lived side by side in two cottages - indispensable to each other and quarreling all the time. They were both of them personal pupils of H. P. Blavatsky. They had trained with her and studied with her.

I had just made the acquaintance of her great book "The Secret Doctrine." I was intrigued by it but completely bewildered. I couldn't make head or tail of it. It is a difficult book for beginners for it is badly put together and lacks continuity. H.P.B. starts with one subject, wanders off to another, takes up a third at length and - if you search - you will find her returning to her original theme sixty or seventy pages further on.

Claude Falls Wright, who was H. P. Blavatsky's secretary, told me himself that in writing this monumental work (for that is what it is) H.P.B. would write page after page, never numbering the pages, and simply throw them on the floor beside her as she finished them. When she was through writing for the day Mr. Wright and her other helpers would collect the sheets and endeavor to get them into some kind of order and, as he said, the wonder was that the book is as clear as it is. Its publication, however, was a great world event and the teaching it contains has revolutionized human thought, little as people may realize it.

I regard the hours of study that I expended over it as some of the most valuable hours of my life and the background and knowledge it gave me has made all the best of my work along occult lines possible. I sat up in bed reading "The Secret Doctrine" at night and began to [138] neglect reading my Bible, which I had been in the habit of doing. I liked the book and, at the same time, I disliked it cordially. I thought it was very badly written, incorrect and incoherent but I could not get away from it.

Then these two old ladies took me in hand. Day after day, for weeks, they taught me. I moved over into a little cottage so as to be near them. It was safe ground for the children, trees to climb, gardening to do and no care to make me anxious. So, whilst they played, I would sit on the porch in one or other of the cottages and talk and listen. Many of H.P.B.'s personal pupils have helped me and have personally taken the trouble to see that I understood what it was that was happening to human thought through the publication of "The Secret Doctrine." I have often been amused by the orthodox Theosophists who have disapproved of my presentation of theosophical truth. Few of them, if any, who have thus disapproved ever had the privilege of being taught by personal pupils of H.P.B. for weeks and months on end, and I'm pretty sure that, thanks to these old students, I have a clearer perception of what "The Secret Doctrine" was intended to convey than most of them. Why should I not? I was well taught and I am grateful.

I had joined the Theosophical Lodge in Pacific Grove and was beginning to teach and hold classes. I remember the first book which I started to expound. It was that great book by Mrs. Besant, "A Study in Consciousness." I knew nothing about consciousness and I could not possibly define it but I kept six pages ahead of the class and somehow managed to get away with it. They never discovered how little I knew. I know that no matter what the class learned I learned a great deal.

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