THEOSOPHY, Vol. 41, No. 7, May, 1953
(Pages 320-324; Size: 15K)
(Number 19 of a 20-part series)

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

NOTES ON "THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY"

THE concluding section of H.P.B.'s Key to Theosophy, entitled "The Future of the Theosophical Society," suggests itself for a more frequent re-reading than any other portion of the book. In the first place, once again H.P.B. stresses the fact that Theosophy demands dynamic embodiment in many forms. "Theosophy," she writes, "is synonymous with everlasting truth" -- which means a true perception of man's relation to his evolutionary opportunities and responsibilities. While those philosophical principles upon which correct evaluation of the nature of Self and soul depends will never change, the opportunities and responsibilities are specific as well as general, and, as specifics, alter according to each karmic situation. Thus "the future of the Theosophical Society" (or Movement) can never be assured by a mere repetition of doctrines, however valuable these will continue to be as foci for reflection.

H.P.B. emphasizes, in particular, this point: that the success of Theosophical aims will depend "upon the amount of knowledge and wisdom possessed by those members on whom it will fall to carry on the work." The inquirer then professes an inability to see how the "knowledge" of professing Theosophists is as important a factor as their devotion. "Surely," he writes, "the literature which already exists and to which constant additions are still being made, ought to be sufficient." H.P.B. replies:

I do not refer to technical knowledge of the esoteric doctrine, though that is most important; I spoke rather of the great need which our successors in the guidance of the Society will have of unbiassed and clear judgment. Every such attempt as the Theosophical Society has hitherto ended in failure, because, sooner or later, it has degenerated into a sect, set up hard-and-fast dogmas of its own, and so lost by imperceptible degrees that vitality which living truth alone can impart. You must remember that all our members have been bred and born in some creed or religion, that all are more or less of their generation both physically and mentally, and consequently that their judgment is but too likely to be warped and unconsciously biassed by some or all of these influences. If, then, they cannot be freed from such inherent bias, or at least taught to recognize it instantly and so avoid being led away by it, the result can only be that the Society will drift off on to some sandbank of thought or another, and there remain a stranded carcass to moulder and die.
How easy it has been to "lose by imperceptible degrees that vitality which living truth alone can impart" is demonstrated by the history of Theosophical organizations since the death of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge. Viewing the matter in psychological terms, it is clear that not only organizations and societies have foundered on one or another variety of complacency; individual students, too, inside or outside of even the most auspicious affiliations, may allow themselves to feel "self-gratulation" because of supposed possession of H.P.B.'s "secret doctrine," and then, unfortunately, are no longer capable of either giving or receiving "living truth."

On the last page of the Key, H.P.B. voices the hope that those Theosophists who are able to keep fraternal affiliation as a "living and healthy body" will effect a marked lessening of prejudices and dogmatic illusions in all fields of thought. The modulus for such effort was left by H.P.B.'s own example, and involved two strenuous lines of parallel endeavor. First, for Theosophists to have "living" and "healthy" minds, they will need to transcend the common human propensity for thinking in creedal patterns. As H.P.B. elsewhere remarked, "The Theosophist is ever ready to welcome truth, under whatever new name." For such, Theosophy is not so much something to be "learned" or "taught," as a vision to be realized, and a method of study to be employed in making its realization possible. Just as competent "knowing" of the Theosophy of Buddha, of Pythagoras or of Plato is not the knowing of Theosophy in its entirety, so did H.P.B. recognize that even the most complete assimilation of all her writings could not supply the whole of Theosophical philosophy. Settled conviction in respect to the basic principles of Theosophy is one thing -- the belief that Theosophy may have only one "authentic" form of expression quite another.

H.P.B., in the first passage quoted, implies that one of the most needed contributions to the cause of the Theosophical Movement is a goodly number of free, flexible minds -- sufficiently flexible to appreciate Theosophical progress wherever it takes place, as in unfamiliar books, movements or phrasings. Continual revaluation of habitual forms of theosophic expression can then proceed pari passu with development of an "eager intellect" -- eager because enthusiastic about all of those trends in literature, psychology, religion and science which indicate the unfoldment of further Buddhi-manasic perceptions in the culture of the race. Theosophists who follow these admonitions, clearly, are best prepared to establish rapprochement between H.P.B.'s writings and the language spoken by inspired leaders in each of these fields. Thus it must be the business of every Theosophist who seeks to be more than a creedal adherent of doctrine to constantly add to the language of Theosophy, in accordance with the capacities, propensities and needs of his time. How else, we might well wonder, will a "new torchbearer of Truth find the minds of men prepared for his message"? When H.P.B. speaks of a "language ready for him in which to clothe the new truths he brings," what else can she have in mind than the results of such an outgoing endeavor as that discussed?

Since the last chapter of the Key closes with reference to new presentations of Theosophy which may be expected during the auspicious closing years of this century, it is particularly valuable to note the phrasing used by H.P.B. in speaking of this coming quarter-century. We fear theosophical students have often regarded such a time and place as a sort of final coming of the Messiah, marking the Millennium, whereas in truth H.P.B. indicates that there never will be a "final" revelation, but only cyclic quickenings of opportunity and progress in accord with the receptivity created by the periodic development of many new "languages" of the soul. On page 306 H.P.B. describes the cyclic efforts of adepts in these terms:

I must tell you that during the last quarter of every hundred years an attempt is made by those "Masters," of whom I have spoken, to help on the spiritual progress of Humanity in a marked and definite way. Towards the close of each century you will invariably find that an outpouring or upheaval of spirituality -- or call it mysticism if you prefer -- has taken place. Some one or more persons have appeared in the world as their agents, and a greater or less amount of occult knowledge and teaching has been given out. If you care to do so, you can trace these movements back, century by century, as far as our detailed historical records extend.
We may note here the emphasis upon the collective nature of the "attempt" made by "those Masters." The word "Master" being in the plural, too, suggests that it is the cooperative effort of many great beings of such status which finally prepares a fit vehicle to serve the particular karmic opportunity. Further, in stating that "some one or more persons" have often represented the message, she again indicates that the leadership and guidance involved is not one of personality, but a leadership of mind and minds. How easy it is for Theosophists who have not yet entirely rid themselves of spectacular religious thought-forms to imagine a single great being of awesome visage, blinding the world with his radiance, sweeping evil into the sea and establishing the golden age on earth! And precisely, perhaps, because it is so easy for men of all persuasions to associate great teachers with the imagined personal characteristics of a great leader, a much more subtle form of Theosophical energizing may occur as century the twentieth comes to a close.

Reflection is also invited upon H.P.B.'s description of cyclic readiness at the end of each century as "an outpouring or upheaval of spirituality, or call it mysticism if you prefer." What sort of "mysticism" is here meant? H.P.B., for instance, evidently regarded honest inquiry into spiritualistic phenomena as a part of growing "mystical" awareness. Perhaps wherever a probing into the unknown takes place for reasons other than those of emotional fascination or ambition, the inspiration must derive from an inward conviction that man has yet a long road to travel towards full awakening of his powers or perception. "Mysticism," in its broadest sense, then, may play a part in inspiring the discoveries of scientists, psychologists or sociologists. "Mysticism" may be simply the faith that many things we profoundly need to know cannot yet be approached by orthodox methods of inquiry, and that new avenues may now be explored.

It is always a readiness to embrace the new, and a corresponding willingness to relinquish the old, which signifies one's readiness for Theosophical understanding. The mere development of psychic powers and faculties is of little constructive significance, unless it occasions stimulation of the "mystical" urges in man's transcendental consciousness. Similarly, men may, and do, awaken to realization of "the transcendental" in nature and man without phenomenalistic promptings, and particularly should this be possible during an evolutionary cycle of intensified manasic activity. Today the tremendous transformations which have taken place in the western science of psychology have not come about through new forms of personal psychic experience, but by new forms of thinking about the psychic experiences of mankind as a whole. Such a trend, away from phenomenalism and toward philosophical evaluation, is perhaps but a higher, most natural rebirth of nineteenth-century "mysticism." As a psychiatric writer remarked:

Scientists, instead of seeing the universe as rigidly bound in law and predictability -- as totally "unfree" -- have begun to see it as unbelievably plastic and flexible and as having in it immense potentialities of the kind we think of as life.

This is, in fact, the scientific news of our day; that the livingness of the universe has been returned to us.


Theosophical "mysticism" may have its root in just this sort of perception, and those who recognize that present thinking often reflects increased awareness of a universe "everywhere and in all its parts alive," can easily detect hopeful waves of the future already beginning to swell.


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:

TWO STATES OF MIND

Consciousness is the mental activity in our state of being preoccupied with external reality -- with acting. The unconscious is the mental experience in a state of existence in which we have shut off communications with the outer world, are no longer preoccupied with action but with our self-experience. The unconscious is an experience related to a special mode of life -- that of nonactivity; and the characteristics of the unconscious follow from the nature of this mode of existence. The qualities of consciousness, on the other hand, are determined by the nature of action.

The "unconscious" is the unconscious only in relation to the "normal" state of activity. When we speak of "unconscious" we really say only that an experience is alien to that frame of mind which exists while and as we act; it is then felt as a ghostlike, intrusive element, hard to get hold of and hard to remember. But the day world is as unconscious in our sleep experience as the night world is in our waking experience. The term "unconscious" is customarily used solely from the standpoint of day experience; and thus it fails to denote that both conscious and unconscious are only different states of mind referring to different states of existence. 


--ERICH FROMM

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