THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 11, September, 1952
(Pages 494-497; Size: 12K)
(Number 11 of a 20-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 20 articles have the same name.]

NOTES ON "THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY"

THE affirmation of a Universal Brotherhood platform in the Theosophical Society served primarily, we may say, as a focal point for all synthesizing efforts undertaken by humanitarians, just as "synthesis" was the keynote of H. P. Blavatsky's projection of true tolerance into religio-philosophical study. Here, in both instances, by the avowed determination to seek, sympathetically, all the truth that could be found in alien viewpoints, was furnished the only valid psychological point of departure for attempts to make the warfare between religion and science constructively intelligible. H.P.B.'s remarks in The Secret Doctrine on the importance of re-establishing deductive habits of reasoning are here pertinent, for the Aristotelian "inductive" tradition had, in point of fact, dominated both religious and scientific mind-sets throughout Western history. The "first assumption" of universal brotherhood reproached, by implication, all compartmentalized forms of thought and extolled the virtue of learning how to transcend rigid categories. Thus we find that the greater proportion of H.P.B.'s writings were devoted to balancing extremities of perspective, both religious and scientific, and Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine are made weighty by her demonstrations of the many ways in which synthesis may be attempted without destroying whatever valid content was otherwise concealed by partisan allegiances.

In the closing section of the Key, entitled "Practical Theosophy," however, another sort of Theosophical "work" is suggested, that of opposing all practices which restrict freedom of thought or freedom of moral choice:

ENQUIRER: What do you consider as due to humanity at large?

THEOSOPHIST: Full recognition of equal rights and privileges for all, and without distinction of race, colour, social position, or birth.

ENQUIRER: When would you consider such due not given?

THEOSOPHIST: When there is the slightest invasion of another's right -- be that other a man or a nation; when there is any failure to show him the same justice, kindness, consideration or mercy which we desire for ourselves. The whole present system of politics is built on the oblivion of such rights, and the most fierce assertion of national selfishness.

It is no small task to list the ways in which "another's right" may be "invaded." An analysis of social, political, religious, and economic forms is demanded, and, in the determination to oppose all denials of ultimate human freedom of thought, the inductive method of reasoning must then be employed. The logic is easy to follow: In the determination of "another's right," we either proceed from the assumption at a certain type of social order or a certain religious structure must be preserved and that the individual can have no valid rights if they interfere with this order or structure, or one can assume that each must be allowed to frame his "goal for living" in his own way. We begin our analysis of valid rights, then, with each man's conception of his own rights, however distorted we may suspect them to be. Adopting his premises, we proceed within that context in an effort to discover, without pre-judgment, their implications in terms of effects upon others. Since these premises are not necessarily our own, we may need to suspend our own premises, at least temporarily, and in this sense proceed "inductively." We withhold final evaluation, in other words, and restrain ourselves from the temptation to use "the deductive method" unjustifiably by applying our own standards as rules of thumb. Yet it is the fundamental assumption of Universal Brotherhood which inspires such justifiable restraint, the one always justifiable assumption from which we "deduce" the necessity for tolerance.

A man's affiliations, beliefs and aspirations may not, on this view, ever be lumped together and judged at once. Recognizing that each person is a complexity of profundity and naïveté, brotherly and unbrotherly motives, we reason outward from each one of his separate premises, and only then are we entitled to conclusions. When a conclusion is reached in such a manner, then, and only then, are we able to give of our impersonal best in determining whether an individual or an organized movement needs our support and encouragement or whether we are obliged to offer opposition. Just as Christianity is not really an entity of itself, but rather a whirling universe of paradoxical beliefs and hopes, so is every individual. We must consider every facet of a man's nature in terms of its potentially constructive impact, and never allow labels or categories to define our judgment. This process, finally, leads to the perception that the Theosophist is engaged in warfare only against those who war against the right of freedom for other individuals.

In how many ways are human beings tempted to "invade another's right"? Obviously, we must begin with an examination of the characteristic attitudes manifested towards children in Western civilization, since arbitrary restrictions upon youth are, for any culture, the first and most revealing examples of invading the "inviolable right" of "free choice." Unless one is convinced of the reality of a universal brotherhood of soul, the child will always be judged in relation to a social, familial or religious pattern -- never in terms of his own premises. The nineteenth-century tendency to consider children as "little men and women" was actually often hypocritical, for the young were not thought capable of forming their own destinies, but considered ready only for shaping to fit adult standards of behavior. All humanitarian movements in education have begun with the child's own premises, the great educators placing themselves, as it were, within the mind of the child and attempting to see the universe as it there appears. Deviations from accepted thoughts and forms of behavior were to be studied, perhaps questioned, but never assumed arbitrarily to merit either reprimand or punishment. How else can any parent or teacher show "kindness, consideration or mercy" to those entrusted to his care?

Political practice, also, leads to the "oblivion of rights" whenever the assumptions upon which contrary opinions are assessed involve nothing more than "deductive reasoning" from the premises of the status quo. Unless a man places himself, metaphysically, within the mind of his opponent, unless the Whig knows how to become a Tory and the Tory a Whig, it is impossible to have any conception of what the rights of either may be, for these rights must be assessed, at least in part, in their own terms. It is clear enough that the present world-society leaves no more room for genuine political autonomy than did the Victorian age, if as much. How many Americans are willing, even in the cloister of their own homes, to become mentally "Communist" in order to understand the assumptions and promptings which are peculiar to the Communist faith? How many Russians would even know how to begin to understand "Americans," provided they had the courage for such an attempt? And in the economic field, how many in any land have attempted to apply "inductive reasoning" to the matter of understanding their commercial rivals?

The present condition may perhaps be attributed to the long centuries during which the grand deductive principle of Universal Brotherhood was almost totally obscured; we arrogantly classify "friends" and "foes" without much attention to our first premise. In any case, there is little doubt that the consideration of that sort of "mercy" which we desire for ourselves is precisely the sort we have been describing. We wish to be judged on our own terms, the terms of the values which we have assigned to various facets of our thought and action, and are dismayed when we discover that we are forever being judged on the basis of someone else's values.

Theosophy opens up the perspective of a vast evolutionary journey for each soul, during which each individuality clothes itself in scores of different forms. The opinions we reject today we may affirm tomorrow, the points of view which seemed to us most enlightened in the past may now appear to be obstacles to the general progress. And yet, while we are honestly striving for progress and illumination, we can but work through the partial truths which have become our temporary guides. All the opinions we detest either have been held or will be held by us in the future -- an esoteric fact which should inspire us to see that no man can be judged, finally, except by himself, since he must learn through his own peculiar combinations of attitude and circumstance.

These considerations raise another and especially subtle dimension of the question of happiness. For in "Practical Theosophy," H.P.B. has two paradoxical things to say. First, she states that "joys and pleasures teach us nothing; they are evanescent, and can only bring in the long run satiety," but later explains the Theosophical attitude as one which demands our avowal to never deprive someone else of the "fragrance" of life. The discovery that any of our aspirations directed toward the attainment of evanescent goals are insufficient must be a self-discovery. If we take away another's "pleasure," on the ground that we know that he or she is either falling into danger or pursuing an unworthy aim, we are interfering with the opportunity of that individual to learn for himself. Psychologists have thoroughly documented the conclusion that the child who is forced to become submissive will invariably develop an inordinately powerful or "over-reactive" drive toward the very pleasures that have been denied. It is in this basic sense, then, that Theosophy can never legitimately be held to condone a merely moralistic attitude.


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