THEOSOPHY, Vol. 51, No. 4, February, 1963
(Pages 79-82; Size: 12K)


[Article number (4) in this Department]


Often the formulation of a question within the Theosophical context is found to supply the essential ingredients of an answer. At other times, though, the attempt to put the terms of a puzzle on paper serves to convince the writer that no adequate answer can be put down. Such seems to be the case with me when I wonder about the nature of developments able to bridge the gap between leading intellectuals who employ Theosophical ideas and their unwillingness to recognize in H. P. Blavatsky a friend, a mentor, and a guide.

H.P.B. herself adopted a definition of Theosophy to the effect that any man is a Theosophist "who has an inspiration of his own to solve the universal problems." But such men of our time -- say, for instance, W. Macneile Dixon, C. J. Ducasse, or Viktor Frankl -- are never attracted to affiliation with groups of H.P.B. Theosophists. Some sort of barrier seems to exist between independent thinkers of great merit and those who call themselves, somewhat formally, "Theosophists." What is this barrier and how in time may it be breached?

In the first place, it seems necessary to realize that Theosophy is characteristically classified as a religion, and independent thinkers who lean towards the philosophy of reincarnation or other Theosophical ideas are apt to have little interest in anything which reminds them of a religious type of presentation.

To affirm the existence of a wisdom religion and to transmit tenets which are represented as being central to its existence comprised the exoteric work of H. P. Blavatsky. Yet, as she pointed out in such a variety of subtle ways, wisdom itself cannot be transmitted and yields only to individual discovery. This crucial aspect of the Theosophical Movement is of necessity esoteric, from a psychological point of view.

There is no doubt that there are writers, scholars, and many unknown thinkers in the world who are currently discovering aspects of the wisdom religion in their own way, or are at least in the stage of ideation preparing them for such a discovery in the near future. If a man is in the process of discovering a portion of the Gnosis, it is the essence of that gnosis itself which he must touch. Recognition of the special value of certain transmitters of the Gnosis will of necessity come later. We should not, therefore, assume that such men as those described by our correspondent are woefully insensitive, or "blind" to the Theosophy of H. P. Blavatsky. They may be busy doing something few of us are able to do -- proceeding towards enlightenment in an extraordinarily self-reliant manner. But if they are not blind to the realities of a gnosis, they will inevitably come to a time when they are able to feel a rapport with the tradition of transmitted Theosophy, with H. P. Blavatsky, and those who have endeavored to carry on her work.

Such a perspective, at the very least, encourages Theosophists to refrain from classifying the worth of independent thinkers on the basis of their reactions to an overt doctrinal presentation of Theosophy. It is for Theosophists to demonstrate that, as H.P.B. insisted, Theosophy is essentially nonsectarian -- that its teachings are not the property of any group of human beings, but are touched in degree by everyone. The "barriers" between those who call themselves "Theosophists" and those who disseminate theosophical ideas without reference to the particular word "Theosophy" cannot be battered down by attempts at special proselytism, no matter how well-intentioned. Such a barrier, like all barriers, is not thrust aside in an abrupt manner, but rather dissolves in the crucible of spiritual search, prompted by individual integrity.

It is said that even the greatest of Masters "always have hope," yet in The Bhagavad-Gita we find this statement: "He who has attained to meditation should constantly strive to stay at rest in the Supreme, remaining in solitude and seclusion, having his body and his thoughts under control, without possessions and free from hope." How does one reconcile these two emphases?

It is probable that in the first instance "hope" is being used in an abstract sense -- hope for the enlightenment of all men -- and in the second is used in a personal sense. The context of the Gita quotation seems to indicate that personal and illusionary hope should be forsaken; i.e., that personal achievement, personal fulfillment in the separative sense is an impossible and quite illusionary goal, and therefore the necessity to forsake particularized hopes is indicated. Does not the Gita urge us to sink this sort of hope in service to the "total situation" in which we exist? The suffering involved in transcending purely personal motives is not to be avoided but cultivated. This will become a habit of fortitude and voluntary forsaking -- a rendering of the lower into fuel for the higher.

"Suffering," in some sense, would seem to be a necessary element in laying down one evolutionary tool and picking up another, or, as H. P. Blavatsky puts it in The Secret Doctrine:

It is quite natural that the pessimistically inclined profane, once convinced of Nature's numerous shortcomings and failures, and especially of her autophagous propensities, should imagine this to be the best evidence that there is no deity in abscondito within Nature, nor anything divine in her. Nor is it less natural that the materialist and the physicist should imagine that everything is due to blind force and chance, and to the survival of the strongest, even more often than of the fittest. But the Occultists, who regard physical nature as a bundle of most varied illusions on the plane of deceptive perceptions; who recognise in every pain and suffering but the necessary pangs of incessant procreation: a series of stages toward an ever-growing perfectibility, which is visible in the silent influence of never-erring Karma, or abstract nature -- the Occultists, we say, view the great Mother otherwise. Woe to those who live without suffering. Stagnation and death is the future of all that vegetates without a change. And how can there be any change for the better without proportionate suffering during the preceding stage? Is it not those only who have learnt the deceptive value of earthly hopes and the illusive allurements of external nature who are destined to solve the great problems of life, pain, and death? (S.D. II, 475.)
It is a knowledge of these psychological processes and laws which leads to such remarks as are found in the Dhammapada. In the second chapter, Buddha indicates why the first stage of discipleship requires willingness to forego the idea of suddenly "converting" all men to wisdom:
By endeavour, by vigilance, by discipline and self-control, let the wise man make for himself an island which no flood can overwhelm.

When the prudent man overcomes sloth by vigilance he ascends to the terrace of wisdom. Sorrowless he surveys the sorrowful crowd. This wise man regards the foolish as the mountaineer from his high peak looks at those who are dwelling on the plains.

The fifth chapter of The Dhammapada explains why it is foolish to "hope" that the unwise among men may in a moment be led to attain wisdom: first they must themselves forsake their illusions, and until then all the hope of all the wise teachers of eternity would be of no avail. Further:
A fool associating himself with a wise man all his life sees not the truth, even as the spoon enjoys not the taste of the soup.

But a thoughtful person associating with a wise man soon perceives the truth, even as the tongue enjoys the taste of the soup.

Yet, for the Buddha, no one is so sunk in ignorance as to make it impossible for him to change his attitude. The true hope for him is locked within his own capacity for decision. And the Wise Ones, knowing this hidden truth, are always prepared to nourish each germinal hope for attainment of a higher life -- once it manifests in any form, within the individual. So the Buddha points out that, while the foolish are without "hope" so long as they remain foolish, a change is always possible. Gautama reminded his disciples that even "from a heap of rubbish on the roadside, a lily blooms, fragrant and pleasing; from a mass of blinded mortals arises the disciple of the truly Wise One, shining with exceeding glory of his own Wisdom."

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:


The Ego is deluded by ignorance, and hence incarnates and reincarnates in various states; that is, it obtains a vehicle for every state into which ignorance puts it. So it obtains an earthly vehicle (body and personality) which is delusive and binding on the Ego so long as ignorance of the truth continues. It leaves the earthly vehicle and goes to another state -- Devachan -- where it has a vehicle appropriate to that sphere, and is there deluded and detained by the ignorance which is related wholly to pure, noble, and pleasant thoughts. From that it comes again to the earthly sphere, and so on until the hour when ignorance is destroyed. The so-called "sinful nature" is in the earthly vehicle, but as that is a part of the whole which includes the Ego, the latter is responsible for permitting the lower to rule it, and therefore suffers. For the body and astral body do not suffer nor know nor feel; they are merely blind instruments for the Ego who knows and feels through them, and are also the weights and clogs which keep the Ego down so long as ignorance prevails. Hence the continual revolving from one sphere to another. 


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