THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 4, February, 1952
(Pages 172-176; Size: 14K)
(Number 4 of a 20-part series)

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


ONE of the most useful psychological correlations suggested by H.P.B.'s brief discussions of the educational objectives of the Theosophical Society is that between what she terms "the natural selfishness of human nature" and "bigotry in every form, religious, scientific, or social, and cant above all."

In one sense, it is clear that the central thesis of Theosophical teaching, as H.P.B. herself presents it, is that the human being is not "naturally selfish." But the Higher Soul of man, able to raise itself through its own inherent "divine" inspiration to presently unimaginable heights of power and knowledge, is apparently something other than "human nature."

"Human nature" obviously refers to the idiosyncrasies and vagaries of the purely personal self, and the term has acquired the meaning she assigns to it through common usage. When we say, "Well, it's simply human nature," we obviously are referring to the most typical sort of everyday weaknesses. But what are these weaknesses? Are they actually inherent, as is often so casually assumed? "Weaknesses" are but the habit patterns of undisciplined natures. They become "typical" when the level of thought in contemporary society encourages their retention, when once inaugurated by the individual. Cant and hypocrisy, the vices H.P.B. castigates the most strongly, are, so to speak, the societal "freezing points" for a great many forms of pride and self-seeking. Each disciple, according to The Voice of the Silence, must battle the demon of pride, but if one lives in a society wherein the highest places are open to those who force their way into prominence through pride, there will be no effort to transcend the habit of prideful self-regard, when once it has been acquired -- and all, it must be thought, exist at some time or other in this state of "self-gratulation."

The pattern of society, from this point of view, does not determine the nature of the individual, but it does act toward establishing a common denominator of apathy and ignorance. All of this should be so obvious as to scarcely need mentioning, since psychologists and sociologists speak often of "moral man and immoral society." The same view reaches the public at large in supplementary form through those perennial plot-forms for novels which depict the relatively excellent personal virtues of some man whose small "Achilles' heel" is struck fatally by societal arrows, and who "falls" because he has no encouragement for retaining other and higher impulses than those dominating in his environment.

This is the drama of Triumphing Environment -- and the drama of the man who is less than a hero, only because he is unable to retain his nobler ideals, while from a Theosophical point of view attention needs always to be drawn to those others of true heroic stature who do not succumb. H.P.B.'s castigations of society indicate her sympathy for the plight of every modern man. None can become a hero overnight, and when psychological materialism makes the task of moral improvement so difficult, the karma of retrogression is by no means that of the single person who fails to live the life of a Buddha.

Strangely enough, from conventional viewpoints, but logically enough from the viewpoint of Theosophy, conventionalism in any of its forms is a perfect introduction to totalitarian political systems. For both the totalitarian forms of government and conventionalisms are obviously premised upon the deification of environment. The belief that men can be remade in the proper image by a controlled environment, to the extent that they will easily and habitually conform at all times and in all ways, is the same belief which inspires those who wish to control, or even simply condemn, social "deviation" in presently existing society.

The last paragraph of "The Objects of the Society" (p. 40, original edition) points out the manner in which conventional religion has served to betray its adherents by preoccupation with the weaknesses of man when unaided by God and the Church:

This selfishness, instead of being eradicated, is daily strengthened and stimulated into a ferocious and irresistible feeling by the present religious education, which tends not only to encourage, but positively to justify it. People's ideas about right and wrong have been entirely perverted.... The precepts of practical selfishness taught in the Mosaic Bible, against which Christ so vainly preached, have become ingrained into the innermost life of the Western nations.
H.P.B. then continues with the assertion that "Theosophy alone can eliminate the perversity of this trend." She adds:
What we have to do is to seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of nature; and to diffuse it. To encourage the study of those laws least understood by modern people, the so-called Occult Sciences, based on the true knowledge of nature, instead of, as at present, on superstitious beliefs based on blind faith and authority.
It is not difficult to see the bearing of the above on the matter of whether or not Theosophists, who strive to practice the greatest tolerance, should generate a sort of fraternal warmth for the teachings of all creeds and sects. It appears that H.P.B. is saying that sympathy and tolerance are possible only when the sectarian message is affirmative, morally and spiritually. It is not possible for the Theosophist to be tolerant of intolerance, if he wishes to alter the conditions which encourage man's worst habits of thought and feeling to flourish in socially supported sanctity. To be tolerant to hypocrisy, to cant, to destructive intent, prideful ambition or dishonesty is not only an unprincipled acquiescence to the wrongs perpetrated by them -- it is also a casting of one's lot with all that is tamasic in world society. H.P.B. further writes that:
Our duty is to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions. To oppose and counteract -- after due investigation and proof of its irrational nature -- bigotry in every form, religious, scientific, or social, and cant above all, whether as religious sectarianism or as belief in miracles or anything supernatural.
Now we come to another equally important subtle distinction. In discussing the relationship between the catholicity of the study policy of the society and the fact that Fellows in the Society are enjoined by rule to never "force their personal opinions on another Fellow," she quotes further from one of the rules of the T.S.:
No officer of the Society, in his capacity as an officer, has the right to preach his own sectarian views and beliefs to members assembled, except when the meeting consists of his co-religionists.
The same rule, however, also states that:
All have an equal right to have the essential features of their religious belief laid before the tribunal of an impartial world.
It would appear that the intent of this rule, expressing so well H. P. Blavatsky's own attitude, was to discourage members from condemnation of the "essential features" of any "religious belief." Their own "personal views" were similarly protected, but they must not be forced on others. Now, when we contemplate the matter, a "forcing" of personal opinions and beliefs seems always to involve condemnation of contrasting beliefs. There is literally no other way to "force" than to brusquely or angrily brush aside as irrelevant the reservations, questions, doubts, or opposing thoughts raised by another. The spirit of the Society's platform was to encourage an intelligent synthesis of beliefs and opinions, while the establishment of any routinized disapprobations was discouraged.

Here we see, perhaps, the extent to which both H.P.B. and the original Society were concerned with what is now called "methodology." If we turn from these considerations to a study of the bulk of H. P. Blavatsky's published works, it is easy to come to the conclusion that she was nearly as much concerned with methods of study as with the specific content of study. Her opposition to all forms of religious bigotry was an opposition based, not primarily upon the differences in teaching between theological assertions and the doctrines of Theosophy, but upon the falseness of the methods used to inculcate and preserve those assertions. We may perhaps conclude, then, that any Theosophical "Fellow," regardless of the title of the organization to which he belongs, is entitled to respectful consideration for any views expressed, so long as these are in no way denunciatory of others' affirmations. To denounce "denunciation," however, is not to inveigh against an idea or ideal, but only against the belligerence or unkindness which accompanies its expression.

Turning back to the consideration of the "natural selfishness of human nature" and, conversely, considering the natural divinity of man's higher nature, we may establish a further correlation. It must be precisely by the breaking of the molds of men's minds that the higher aspirations and intuitions are encouraged to lead us further on the quest for impartial knowledge. Since the pilgrimage of the soul involves the expression of the Kshatriya qualities, there are many times of necessary battle wherein all the strength and vehemence of one's nature can be utilized. But justifiable battles are always battles against those who are waging destructive warfare, or, more accurately, against pernicious methods of warfare, which have to be named for what they are.

It would seem that unless these subtleties are grasped in their entirety, Theosophists will find it impossible to advance the Theosophic cause, even though it would be entirely possible to "champion" Theosophical doctrines by the condemnation of beliefs antithetical to them. The inheritors of H.P.B.'s Theosophical Movement of the last century seem to have been often oblivious of the truly occult significance of H.P.B.'s methods. The content of Theosophical teaching was preserved by various Societies, but since deeply ingrained psychic forces of religious habitude continually asserted themselves, the breadth of the Theosophical perspective remained for but a few to see. The "moral" to be derived for our present cycle of the Twentieth Century should be clear.

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:


H.P.B. always said -- following the rules laid down by high teachers -- that no proposal for theosophical work should be rejected or opposed provided the proposer has the sincere motive of doing good to the movement and to his fellows. Of course that does not mean that distinctly bad or pernicious purposes are to be forwarded. Seldom, however, does a sincere theosophist propose such bad acts. But they often desire to begin some small work for the Society, and are frequently opposed by those who think the juncture unfavorable or the thing itself unwise. These objections always have at bottom the assumption that there is only one certain method to be followed. One man objects to the fact that a Branch holds open public meetings, another that it does not. Others think the Branch should be distinctly metaphysical, still more that it should be entirely ethical. Sometimes when a member who has not much capacity proposes an insignificant work in his own way, his fellows think it ought not to be done. But the true way is to bid good-speed to every sincere attempt to spread theosophy, even if you cannot agree with the method. As it is not your proposal, you are not concerned at all in the matter. You praise the desire to benefit; nature takes care of results. 


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