THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 2, December, 1963
(Pages 40-42; Size: 9K)


[Article number (14) in this Department]

It seems inevitable that an enthused Theosophical student finds himself in a paradoxical position regarding dissemination of basic Theosophical ideas. In the first place, he should be the first to know that philosophical comprehension must be won by "self-induced and self-devised efforts" -- so that attempts to proselyte or convert are ill-advised on principle. On the other hand, he feels a strong impulsion to express and discuss Theosophy with men of many differing persuasions.

In encountering the often-cynical "man of the world," the confirmed skeptic, a Theosophist may find that any expression of optimism in regard to an improved evolution of humanity will usually elicit only derision. But one does, nevertheless, wish for some solid line of reasoning to defend idealism -- in respect to international relations, public and private affairs, as well as in the fields of religion and philosophy. Just what sort of "logic" can the Theosophist use without finding himself in the position of defending his own doctrine of "perfectibility," et cetera?

Faith in the possibility of "future human evolution" depends upon belief that men are capable of transcending the attitudes which make mutual suspicion the rule in political affairs. "Human nature never changes" is a dictum which may hold only so long as people believe it. The primary psychological fact is that man, simply because he is man, has some conception of a marked difference between the world that is and the world that "might be" -- if it could only be brought into existence. Because man has idealistic capacity, even the cynic feels a compulsion to make sour comments on the venality of politics, the irresponsibility of Big Business, the egocentrism of most people in interpersonal relationships. All such expressions require an expenditure of psychic energy, for even negativism must be given embodiment in formulation and argument. The hopeful man, who talks about a better world to come, is simply expressing his psychic energy differently. He may be wrong; but his preoccupation with optimism, his penchant for treating men as if they can be principled and altruistic, certainly is not going to make other people more cynical nor the world a worse place to inhabit. So, the argument could run, Why not hope and dream a little, since nothing can be lost, and the possibility always exists that men who talk idealism may learn how to practice it, and that others in turn may learn from them?

The whole of Theosophical philosophy can be analyzed by reference to different conceptions of time. It is true enough that the man who wants a harmonious world in a hurry is doomed to disappointment. History teaches us that the revolutionaries who were in a hurry seldom precipitated anything except bloodshed. The sage, according to definition, is one who "builds for endlessness," in the words of The Upanishads. Optimism and idealism, for the sage, are not based upon the expectation that a better world will come about immediately, but rather upon a conviction that a better world is here for any man, at any time, when his own attitudes are sufficiently transformed. The doctrines of Karma and reincarnation simply provide a prospectus which assists in such transformation.

The closing passages of W. Macneile Dixon's Human Situation are apropos:

Immortality is a word which stands for the stability or permanence of that unique and precious quality we discern in the soul, which, if lost, leaves nothing worth preservation in the world.

How simple then is our duty -- loyalty to life, to the ship's company and to ourselves, that it may not be through our surrender that the great experiment of existence, whose issue remains in doubt, come to an end in nothingness. "We must not obey," said Aristotle, "those who urge us, because we are human and mortal, to think human and mortal thoughts; in so far as we may we should practise immortality, and omit no effort to live in accordance with the best that is in us."

What a handful of dust is man to think such thoughts! Or is he, perchance, a prince in misfortune, whose speech at times betrays his birth? I like to think that, if men are machines, they are machines of a celestial pattern, which can rise above themselves, and, to the amazement of the watching gods, acquit themselves as men. I like to think that this singular race of indomitable, philosophising, poetical beings, resolute to carry the banner of Becoming to unimaginable heights, may be as interesting to the gods as they to us, and that they will stoop to admit these creatures of promise into their divine society.

In respect to the all-important question of "time," it is apparent from the Theosophical point of view that we are involved in two types of duration: the one, phenomenological time and the other, subjective. Herbert Fingarette's The Self in Transformation has an interesting observation on this subject:
The enduring substantial Self neither begins with birth nor ends with death. This Self has a very special relation to time. The Self, being "noumenal" rather than phenomenal, is not in phenomenal time, the "subjective" time-order; it is a source of the order of (subjective) time. ... Time, for the enlightened one, becomes light, indeed transparent; for the unenlightened it is often confused, always a burden. This is the fact whether we take it within a karmic or a psychoanalytic framework.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


To my mind there is a great field of science which is as yet quite closed to us. I refer to the science which proceeds in terms of life and is established on data of living experience and of sure intuition. Call it subjective science if you like. Our objective science of modern knowledge concerns itself only with phenomena. ... It is perfect as far as it goes. But to regard it as exhausting the scope of human possibility in knowledge seems to be just puerile. Our science is a science of the dead world. Even biology never considers life, but only mechanistic functioning and apparatus of life. I honestly think that the great pagan world of which Egypt and Greece were the last living terms [of time which] had a vast and perhaps perfect science of its own, a science in terms of life. ... I believe that this great science once was universal, established all over the then existing globe. I believe it was esoteric, invested in a large priesthood. Just as mathematics and mechanics and physics are defined and expounded in the same way in the universities of China or Bolivia or London or Moscow today, so, it seems to me, in the great world previous to ours a great science and cosmology were taught esoterically in all countries of the globe, Asia, Polynesia, America, Atlantis and Europe. 


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