THEOSOPHY, Vol. 51, No. 12, October, 1963
(Pages 332-337; Size: 18K)

LETTERS-QUESTIONS-COMMENT

[Article number (12) in this Department]

Editors, THEOSOPHY: "Comment" for May seems to me somewhat dogmatic in tone. [Note: "May" is the 7th article in the department (grouping) that you are reading this article in.--Compiler.] I would feel that it would be better to rephrase such statements as, "There are good and bad religions," and, "An authoritarian God is a dangerous God, and any religion which claims to draw strength from a single miraculous individual is a dangerous religion." If we believe in reincarnation and evolution, then we should be able to go along with the idea that certain aspects of religion are good for the one who embraces them at a particular time. You quote H.P.B., and she says that "there is one truth which finds expression in all the various religions." It is only the feeling that one possesses all the truth in his particular version of religion that is wrong. I go along with the idea that truth is ever changing and that the search for it is continuous.

Of course one can say that only the true gnosis is completely adequate and "good" for the full development of humanity. But, as we all concede, none of us can manage the whole of the true gnosis at our imperfect stage of development. We necessarily have to segregate one portion of thought at a time to concentrate on. In the process of our endeavor to understand this "segment of the Whole," we tend to overemphasize the area of our own particular interest and so become unbalanced in our perspective. In our preoccupation with our segment of Truth, we come up with distortions because we cannot see the whole picture -- we can see only "in part," as St. Paul says, but we think we have the whole answer and try to pressure other people to agree with us and join our ranks. Along with this effort come the excesses of self-centeredness and other negative expressions, false claims, etc. Every so often we come up against those who have been focussing on a different "segment of the Whole" and have become equally as unbalanced along their line of thought as we have in ours. Then ensues a clash of one kind or another.

After much of this kind of experience (probably lives of it), we eventually begin to arrive at the early stages of understanding that all these segments contain within themselves both "good" and "bad" aspects -- "good" because they are part of the Whole, and "bad" because they are un-whole and imperfect and need all other segments to become rounded out and complete. H.P.B. says that as man's perception grows, "humanity will at last be cursed no longer with artificial polarizations, but will find itself bathing in eternal truth."

As we begin to understand "that the complete truth can be found only in the combined views of All" (H.P.B.), we come to realize that it is our job to rise above the differences in order to get the point of view of the Whole. I feel that we cannot effectively condemn any "segment of the Whole" as "bad" either psychologically or otherwise, because each has its defense, and all that ensues is the clash -- and misunderstanding.

What I feel is important is to try to reach a "common denominator" into which the parts can be fitted. In other words I feel it is necessary to find a positive approach in trying to enlighten the world with such concepts as: "What is needed is to impress men with the idea that, if the root of mankind is ONE, then there must also be one truth which finds expression in all the various religions." (H.P.B.) Therefore I would think that, rather than make a distinction between the gnosis of the Theosophist and any other doctrine, we (as Theosophists) will get farther and do more constructively to dwell on the fact that "Theosophy is like the white ray of the spectrum and every religion (or doctrine) one of the seven prismatic colours." This, I submit, would tend to be in line with "rising above differences" which is necessary if we hope to make use of Buddhi-Manas (this is probably not said correctly but perhaps you get my idea).

All of this holds in the attempts of Theosophists to shed more light on other departments of life as well, it seems to me. All of our living is fragmented because we are not capable of being completely integrated. The study of the Ancient Wisdom and the attempt to make use of its teachings in daily life helps the integration process. Helping people understand this in a positive way is our great opportunity for service, as I see it.

Getting back to the area of religion, I would feel that it is because of this necessary fragmentation in the process of evolution that one religion after another was brought to humanity to focus on. Incidentally, I have read that the word "religion" means literally to "bind back," and the word as we are using it has come to mean a "binding back to God," or a means of helping man return to his Source. When thought of in this way, it would seem to me that when we question the worth of any one religion we should start with the individual or individuals that accept that religion, and question whether it is helping them on the long path back to their Source and whether it is beneficial spiritually to them. This, I submit, is difficult to determine without being a part of that religion one's self, and even then there is a psychological problem involved because what is helpful to a person at one stage of development would not necessarily be helpful at another (at our stage as Theosophists, for instance). Having passed a certain stage we cannot always adequately understand its needs. So it seems to me that it requires care when making broad general statements about what is a "good" or "bad" religion (or aspects thereof) -- and this goes for the conceptions various people hold of what God is.

Sometimes it helps to think of the amount of such concepts that can be conveyed to a child. How can a small child be helped to understand who God is when the little child is at the stage where Mommy and Daddy are the most important security-insuring beings in his world? I feel that that part of humanity which still can only conceive of God as anthropomorphic is still at the conceptual ability of the child stage; and until they grow a little in this respect there is no use trying to make them understand that they are all wrong to believe that God is like a man; also my point is that such effort might even be harmful to them psychologically as it could take away from them the psychological security which is necessary to all of us until we have reached a pretty high stage. It is similar to the harm done to a small child whose faith in his parents is shaken in one way or another before he is strong enough within himself to withstand such an experience.

It seems to me that all this is true for all the various stages of man's needs, not just the most childlike -- for his various concepts and doctrines with which we do not agree. Certainly we can try to point out the helpful road as we see it -- but with a positive approach and in the form of suggestion rather than labeling it wrong, false, narrow, harmful, etc. -- at least this is the way it seems to me. Somewhere in this area is the question of the difference between the "anthropomorphic God" and the "personal God." I feel that the conception is a changing one, according to the need of the individual, and also according to the type of the individual.

Reader


There is no doubt about the fact that a Theosophical platform, to deserve the name, must accord respect for every religious belief, so long as that belief does not establish a criterion of superiority over others. The righteousness of sectarianism, though, is foreign to every Theosophical principle, since the attitudes which lead to the forming of nuclei of universal brotherhood are not compatible with the notion that one's relationship to deity can be evaluated by association or belief. The critical question in respect to a "personal God," then, perhaps becomes this: Is the God a Christian God, a Mohammedan or Hindu God, or is God a universalized deity? If "God" is thought of as exclusively Christian, and this is often the case, the notion is "dangerous" because it is sectarian in an exclusive sense. Sectarianism is dangerous because it leads to delusions of individual and group superiority on the basis of belief -- and it is from notions of individual or group superiority that come the promptings which lead to fratricide. In the name of religion and of a personal God, groups and nations have perennially felt themselves more worthy of survival than those of other affiliations, and hence accomplished what H.P.B. calls a retrograde "re-involution into the animal kingdom." It would seem clear, then, that Theosophists must oppose the psychology of sectarianism, whatever its roots.

To oppose sectarianism, or to point out the dangers of a God who is partisan by religious definition, is not, however, to inveigh against persons. But belief in an authoritarian God cannot, on the other hand, be regarded as an agency which leads to the gradual maturing of the higher human consciousness. Partisanship needs therapy; partisanship cannot be regarded as a step in therapy.

When the current language of psychotherapy begins to include genuine philosophical dimensions, a good many Theosophical perspectives emerge. And, as one should therefore expect, the philosophical psycho-therapist is ambivalent on the subject of religion, but is aware of and deliberates about his ambivalence. Dr. Jerome D. Frank, in his recent volume, Persuasion and Healing, makes some remarks on the relationship between the individual and various schools of psychotherapy which are parallel to the relationship of the individual with various fields of religion. Dr. Frank writes:

Much, if not all, of the effectiveness of different forms of psychotherapy may be due to those features that all have in common rather than to those that distinguish them from each other. This does not necessarily mean that all therapies are interchangeable. It may well turn out, when types of patients and effects of therapy are better understood, that certain approaches are better for some types of patients than for others and that they differ in certain of their effects. Until these questions are clarified, the advance of both knowledge and practice is probably better served by members of different schools defending their own positions, while being tolerant of other schools, than by being uncritically eclectic.
But along with a necessary breadth of tolerance and understanding in respect to ideas or systems in which people place great faith, other considerations come to view, particularly in relation to the idea of an authoritarian God. On this subject, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm is especially provocative. In Psychoanalysis and Religion, Dr. Fromm writes:
The mystics have been deeply imbued with the experience of man's strength, his likeness to God, and with the idea that God needs man as much as man needs God; they have understood the sentence that man is created in the image of God to mean the fundamental identity of God and man. Not fear and submission but love and the assertion of one's own powers are the basis of mystical experience. God is not a symbol of power over man but of man's own powers.

While in humanistic religion God is the image of man's higher self, a symbol of what man potentially is or ought to become, in authoritarian religion God becomes the sole possessor of what was originally man's: of his reason and his love. The more perfect God becomes, the more imperfect becomes man.

But this alienation from his own powers not only makes man feel slavishly dependent on God, it makes him bad too. He becomes a man without faith in his fellow men or in himself, without the experience of his own love, of his own power of reason. As a result the separation between the "holy" and the "secular" occurs. In his worldly activities man acts without love, in that sector of his life which is reserved to religion he feels himself to be a sinner (which he actually is, since to live without love is to live in sin) and tries to recover some of his lost humanity by being in touch with God. Simultaneously, he tries to win forgiveness by emphasizing his own helplessness and worthlessness.

What people think and feel is rooted in their character and their character is moulded by the total configuration of their practice of life -- more precisely, by the socio-economic and political structure of their society. In societies ruled by a powerful minority which holds the masses in subjection, the individual will be so imbued with fear, so incapable of feeling strong or independent, that his religious experience will be authoritarian. Whether he worships a punishing, awesome God or a similarly conceived leader makes little difference.

On this topic, Part II of "Misunderstood Biblical Traditions" (September THEOSOPHY) offers correlative reading -- as, for instance, one of the closing sentences: "In the view of the Theosophist, the only fear that does any good and is worthy of the human being, that stabilizes the mind and makes a person think before he acts, is that fear or caution which springs from and is rooted in a knowledge of the Divine Law of Karma, which is one with God." [Note: A link to it follows the next item.--Compiler.]


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:

FROM PREFACE TO PART II -- "ISIS UNVEILED"

Were it possible, we would keep this work out of the hands of many Christians whom its perusal would not benefit, and for whom it was not written. We allude to those whose faith in their respective churches is pure and sincere, and those whose sinless lives reflect the glorious example of that Prophet of Nazareth, by whose mouth the spirit of truth spake loudly to humanity. Such there have been at all times. History preserves the names of many as heroes, philosophers, philanthropists, martyrs, and holy men and women; but how many more have lived and died, unknown but to their intimate acquaintances, unblessed but by their humble beneficiaries! These have ennobled Christianity, but would have shed the same lustre upon any other faith they might have professed -- for they were higher than their creed. They are to be found at this day in pulpit and pew, in palace and cottage; but the increasing materialism, worldliness and hypocrisy are fast diminishing their proportionate number. Their charity, and simple, child-like faith in the infallibility of their Bible, their dogmas, and their clergy, bring into full activity all the virtues that are implanted in our common nature....

An analysis of religious beliefs in general, this volume is in particular directed against theological Christianity, the chief opponent of free thought. It contains not one word against the pure teachings of Jesus, but unsparingly denounces their debasement into pernicious ecclesiastical systems that are ruinous to man's faith in his immortality....

--H. P. BLAVATSKY

Note: For those who would like to read it, before going on to the next article in this Department, here's the link on this web site to one of the articles in the 9-part series entitled "Misunderstood Biblical Traditions", that was mentioned and quoted from at the end of the above article by the Editors. The article is the 4th one in the series, and is entitled "Fear of God" [Part 2 of 2].--Compiler

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(November 1963)
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