THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 6, April, 1952
(Pages 254-258; Size: 29K)
(Number 6 of a 20-part series)

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


H.P.B.'s section on "The Working System of the T.S." must often occasion reflection upon whether or not the sort of "work" carried on by the Society in those early days has been extended into the present, and, if so, in what forms. Since the main labor of the most vital Theosophical centers since the death of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge has consisted in making the writings of these teachers available, it may sometimes seem to a new student of the Theosophical Movement that the broad, cosmopolitan objectives outlined under the T.S.'s professed Second Object have been replaced by an over-emphasis on "official doctrine." For instance, anyone who is inspired by the truly catholic basis of the Second Object may wonder how much attention is being currently given to work such as that described on page 47 of the Key, whereon H.P.B. supplied the following answer to a question as to what was then being done to further the Second Object. The immediate program, she said, was:

To collect for the library at our headquarters of Adyar, Madras, (and by the Fellows of their Branches for their local libraries,) all the good works upon the world's religions that we can. To put into written form correct information upon the various ancient philosophies, traditions, and legends, and disseminate the same in such practicable ways as the translation and publication of original works of value, and extracts from and commentaries upon the same, or the oral instructions of persons learned in their respective departments.
This paragraph refers, in particular, to the wealth of ancient wisdom upon which a cornerstone of belief in a "Wisdom Religion" could be laid; thus the ancients were given primary attention. Yet the full statement of the Second Object also included intent to study modern religions, sciences and philosophies, even though this endeavor could obviously best be undertaken after the neglected treasures of the past had been, at least in part, assimilated. H.P.B.'s remarks above, then, are certainly applicable to contemporary "works of value" as much as to ancient treatises, though the latter supply both an ideative and an historical base for evaluation of the former.

The magazine THEOSOPHY was clearly intended to serve both in doctrinal re-presentation, which of itself represents the essence of the ancient wisdom, and in the pursuit of the rather different task of transmitting "extracts from and commentaries upon original works of value." The "On The Lookout" section of THEOSOPHY has been an attempt to provide regular subscribers with a "library" containing a wealth of correlative material, in a manner only formally different from the keeping of the T.S. library at Adyar in 1889. If one is familiar with the definition of the Second Object supplied by H.P.B., the dual character of the magazine THEOSOPHY is more easily explicable; the constant reprinting of H.P.B.'s own writings and the simultaneous presentation of related excerpts from contemporary literature alike pertain to the Second Object. And while we can say that the Theosophical Movement of the present era is based upon H.P.B.'s writings, in another sense we must also realize that this same Movement, as represented by H.P.B., is a work of synthesis and correlation.

The fundamental propositions of Theosophic philosophy will serve, of course, as a foundation upon which such correlations are essayed. As contemporary material from the world of scholarly, scientific, and religious thought accumulates, the student is afforded additional glimpses of the fact that the movement of Theosophy in the mind of humankind is a universal "moving." Many readers of THEOSOPHY throughout the years have thus been encouraged to create their own libraries for supplementary reading in addition to the fragmentary contributions of "Lookout," and thus to increase their familiarity with the growing tips of ideative progress represented by exceptional "non-theosophical" works. Many of these express profound intuitions and cogent reasoning, and therefore belong with those contributions which occasioned such respectful and appreciative commentary by H.P.B. in her major articles.

H.P.B., as editor of Lucifer, was happy to make extensive use of the writings of non-Theosophists. An excellent case in point is provided by "Psychic and Noëtic Action," first published in October, 1890. This article, the most widely studied Theosophical treatise on the subtleties of the human mind, contains nine extensive extracts from a book by George T. Ladd, then professor of Philosophy at Yale University. Similarly, today, exceptional material occasionally puts in an appearance, signaling one or another "progressive awakening." Often, too, these are from the pens of those who command public respect and attention. (Cf. "Lookout's" current review of two works by psychologist Erich Fromm.) [Note: A full copy of this "On The Lookout" section "review" by the Editors follows this article; as well as the link to H.P.B.'s article entitled "Psychic and Noëtic Action". --Compiler.] May we not say that when a biologist or psychologist approaches the study of fundamental philosophical problems with Theosophic tendency, there is a sense in which his tools of analysis thereby automatically fashion extensions of Theosophical literature? If so, while most Theosophists will continue for very good reasons to feel that their primary work is to keep in print and alive everything published by H.P.B., no student need be oblivious of or unfamiliar with such contemporary contributions to the broad Theosophical Movement.

Class discussions on The Key to Theosophy have sometimes elicited wonderment as to the amount of space devoted in the first seven pages of the Key to discussions of Platonic mysticism. From what she has elsewhere written, however, it seems clear that H.P.B. was less concerned with scholastic study of the Neo-Platonists than with awakening a sense of the continuity of the Theosophical Movement, of its inspiring dynamism in ages when it was known by other names. Platonism itself has a forward continuity, too, reaching into our present day with new vitality. As was remarked by a contributor to "Youth-Companions Ask" a few months ago, the great German philosopher Leibniz is today more a force in the mind-world than he has ever been before, and the Leibnizian conceptions of the Monad, as shown by H.P.B., are both a continuance of Neo-Platonic doctrine and a partial affirmation of teachings contained in The Secret Doctrine. Evidence that "the religion of the ancients" may have a new and vigorous birth some day is on every hand. The author of a recent text on educational philosophy, for instance, has remarked on the close similarity to be found between the present refinements of scientific thinking and the postulates of Plato, to whom H.P.B. gives the title of Initiate.

In an attempt to understand what is happening on the various frontiers of Christianity, it is also possible to study Christian transitions by reference to Platonic or Neo-Platonic thought -- and vice versa. Neo-Platonic conceptions were responsible for many of the intelligent Christian heresies of the early Church, have always remained alive, and have thus represented, in part, the Theosophical Movement, whenever the soil of mind has been receptive to philosophical seeds. These same seeds continually germinate today. We find in the writings of such men as Harry Emerson Fosdick and John Haynes Holmes a return to the impersonal philosophical approaches to religious symbolism, a spirit first appearing in the works of Porphyry, Iamblichus, Origen and Synesius. The "religion of the ancients," of course, can hardly be expected to become "the religion of the future" in identical terms. The re-embodiment will be in essence, not in form, yet the present Theosophist who has learned to recognize infiltrations of the Neo-Platonic viewpoint, and who collects evidences of its continuance, may be said to be directly fulfilling one of the Second Object "requirements" listed by H.P.B. Buddhism, too, often comes to the forefront of current interest when psychiatrists wrestle with analyses of religion, the faith of Buddhism thus coming alive again for quite a number of psychologists, despite their differing terminology. Such emphasis encourages research into Buddhist scriptures, which, we might say, is being carried on at one and the same time by both psychologists and Theosophists.

So much for the study all Theosophists are currently assisted in pursuing together. Also, here and there throughout the world are individuals who feel a particular karmic attraction for a certain field of thought, and who have been afforded, by the continuance of THEOSOPHY, the help of all the specialized references that have been compiled throughout the many years of U.L.T.'s existence. [Note: "U.L.T." is The United Lodge of Theosophists. --Compiler.]

All these matters have their final relevance, however, not in "scholarship," but in human nature. The discoverable universality of the ethical impulse leads to an inspiring revaluation of man himself, and thus the work of the Second Object can easily serve the purposes of the First, just as knowledge and compassion are correctly said to be interdependent. H.P.B. certainly implies this strongly in the Key, when asked whether the Society had any particular ethical system it was endeavoring to promulgate:

The ethics are there, ready and clear enough for whomsoever would follow them. They are the essence and cream of the world's ethics, gathered from the teachings of all the world's great reformers. Therefore, you will find represented therein Confucius and Zoroaster, Laotze and the Bhagavat-Gita, the precepts of Gautama Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth, of Hillel and his school, as of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and their schools....
The extension of our minds to include sympathy for whatever is written or spoken on behalf of man as a responsible moral agent is perhaps both a theosophic duty and an immediate contribution to the Second Object of the original Society. The Theosophist has the opportunity to be the most cosmopolitan of all men, for the bases upon which he attempts synthesis of thought are never exhausted. He is not merely applying a theory or a set of beliefs, but a method premised upon the single central faith that all points of view are partial representations of truth. It is doubtful whether the "spiritual knowledge" of which Krishna speaks in The Bhagavad-Gita, and which frees from "all error," can ever be developed without that expansion of mind and heart which is always sympathetic to each individual quest for truth. And the individual quest for truth is always Noëtic. Such a quest requires that the mind discard its own incrustations, and thus proceed towards less trammelled comprehension.

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. And below that, before going on to the next article in the series, is a full copy of the portion of this issue's "On The Lookout" section that has the "review" of two works by psychologist Erich Fromm, as mentioned by the Editors in the above article. And at the end of the review you will find the link to H.P.B.s article entitled "Psychic and Noëtic Action", which was also pointed to by the Editors.


It was the mechanical view of Christianity that created an Inquisition. This sort of religion has driven out the true religion of Jesus, and the mechanical view of our doctrines will, if persisted in, do the same for Theosophy.

Our philosophy of life is one grand whole, every part necessary and fitting into every other part. Every one of its doctrines can and must be carried to its ultimate conclusion. If it conflict with old opinions those must be cast off. It can never conflict with true morality. But it will with many views touching our dealings with one another. The spirit of Theosophy must be sought for; a sincere application of its principles to life and act should be made. Thus mechanical Theosophy, which inevitably leads -- as in many cases it already has -- to a negation of brotherhood, will be impossible, and instead there will be a living, actual Theosophy. 


THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 6, April, 1952
(Pages 277-282)



Publication of The Forgotten Language -- An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairytales and Myths (Rhinehart & Co., N.Y., 1951), strongly suggests that Dr. Erich Fromm is consistently pursuing a line of reflection which will supplement the objectives of the Theosophical Movement. His 1950 volume, Psychoanalysis and Religion, was a departure in the analysis of religion, strongly reminiscent of H.P.B.'s points of emphasis, while The Forgotten Language bids to further the Second Object of the original Theosophical Society. (Dr. Fromm first studied psychology at the University of Heidelberg, is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Science, the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, and a member of the International Psychoanalytic Society.)

Dr. Fromm's approach to the subject of dreams is markedly different from that of orthodox Freudians. Not only does he employ the term "soul" without apology, when referring to that mysterious portion of the human being which cannot possibly be comprehended in biological terms, but he inclines to the view that the "soul" is able to live a higher life of its own during sleep and dreams:


Is it surprising that in a state of sleep, when we are alone with ourselves, when we can look into ourselves without being bothered by the noise and nonsense that surround us in the daytime, we are better able to feel and to think our truest and most valuable feelings and thoughts?

This, then, is the conclusion at which we arrive: the state of sleep has an ambiguous function. In it the lack of contact with culture makes for the appearance both of our worst and of our best; therefore, if we dream, we may be less intelligent, less wise, and less decent, but we may also be better and wiser than in our waking life.


Dr. Fromm begins The Forgotten Language by explaining his determination to avoid interpretations of dreams, his desire being rather to correlate the universal experiences of dream-consciousness with the symbolical language of religion and myth. He writes that "symbolic language is a language in its own right, in fact, the only universal language the human race ever developed." Far from believing that either he or any other modern psychiatrist possesses a final key to the understanding of dreams and symbolism, however, Fromm considers that "the study of dreams and myths is still in its infancy" so far as orthodox Western investigation is concerned. "For this reason," writes Dr. Fromm, "we lose sight of the many-sidedness of symbolic language and try to force it into the Procrustean bed of one, and only one, kind of meaning." He continues:

I believe that symbolic language is the one foreign language that each of us must learn. Its understanding brings us in touch with one of the most significant sources of wisdom, that of the myth, and it brings us in touch with the deeper layers of our own personalities. In fact, it helps us to understand a level of experience that is specifically human because it is that level which is common to all humanity, in content as well as in style.

Students of The Secret Doctrine and of Isis Unveiled will be aware of how much emphasis H.P.B. placed upon the esoteric meaning of symbols and myths. For instance, she says in the S.D. (I, 673) that "Fohat is the key in Occultism which opens and unriddles the multiform symbols and respective allegories in the so-called mythology of every nation; demonstrating the wonderful philosophy and the deep insight into the mysteries of nature." However, such knowledge is today not easily come by:

The ancients contrived to throw a thick veil over the nucleus of truth concealed by the symbol, but they ever tried to preserve the latter as a record for future generations, sufficiently transparent to allow their wise men to discern that truth behind the fabulous form of the glyph or allegory. They are accused of superstition and credulity, those ancient sages; and this by those very nations, which, learned in all the modern arts and sciences, cultured and wise in their generation, accept to this day as their one living and infinite God, the anthropomorphic "Jehovah" of the Jews. (S.D.)
Dr. Fromm makes use of a simple but effective form of logic in demonstrating, again as did H.P.B., the way in which misinterpretation of myth and symbol has cut Western culture off from valuable insights on history. H.P.B.'s prophecies in respect to the revelations of future archaeological discoveries are directly pertinent to the following remarks in The Forgotten Language:


If one fails to grasp the true meaning of the myth, one finds oneself confronted with this alternative: either the myth is a prescientific, naive picture of the world and of history and at best a product of poetically beautiful imagination, or -- and this is the attitude of the orthodox believer -- the manifest story of the myth is true, and one must believe it as a correct report of events which actually happened in "reality." While this alternative seemed inescapable in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries in Western culture, a new approach is taking place gradually. The emphasis is put on the religious and philosophical meaning of the myth, and the manifest story is viewed as the symbolic expression of this meaning. But even as far as the manifest story is concerned, one has learned to understand that it is not just the product of fantastic imagination of "primitive" peoples, but contains cherished memories of the past. The historic truth of some has been established by many findings from excavations in recent decades.

Dr. Fromm has been very busy in an extremely useful way for a number of years. Among the many psychologists who were solicited for commentary on the famous Kinsey Report, Dr. Fromm's discussion was particularly outstanding for the same sort of "philosophic logic." While some others hailed the value of Kinsey's "revelations" as a new hallmark in "objectivity," Fromm directed attention to the limitations of the scientific method in dealing with such a "significant expression of a person's relatedness to others." He further observed:

The reason for the neglect to study these fundamental problems of character and culture is largely to be found in the attitude of most social psychologists. They believe that unless phenomena can be studied in a way which permits of exact and quantitative analysis they must not be studied at all. They try to imitate methods successful in natural sciences and make a fetish of "the" scientific method. Instead of devising new methods proper to the study of significant problems in their own field, namely, people and life processes, they choose those problems for study which fit the requirements of laboratory methods. Their choice of problems is determined by the method instead of the method being determined by the problem.

Of all of Dr. Fromm's recent works, however, Psychoanalysis and Religion, published by the Yale University Press in 1950, will prove of the greatest interest to Theosophical students. In this volume Dr. Fromm stands unequivocally for the elimination of the personal God concept as the only possible method of saving whatever higher intent and values may be contained in religious aspirations. As does Brock Chisholm, Director General of the World Health Organization and fellow member of the William Alanson White Psychiatric Foundation, Fromm sees orthodox Christianity as one of the greatest threats to true morality. While Fromm states that "there is no one without a religious need, a need to have a frame of orientation and an object of devotion," he points out that authoritarian religion weakens man's capacity for devotion by projecting all greatness and all strength outside himself into the pernicious symbol of a sovereign personal God:


The real fall of man is his alienation from himself, his submission to power, his turning against himself even though under the guise of his worship of God.... The prevailing mood in authoritarian religion is that of sorrow and of guilt. Frequently authoritarian religion postulates an ideal which is so abstract and so distant that it has hardly any connection with the real life of real people. To such ideals as "life after death" or "the future of mankind" the life and happiness of persons living here and now may be sacrificed; the alleged ends justify every means and become symbols in the names of which religious or secular "elites" control the lives of their fellow men.

Humanistic religion, on the contrary, is centered around man and his strength. Man must develop his power of reason in order to understand himself, his relationship to his fellow men and his position in the universe. He must recognize the truth, both with regard to his limitations and his potentialities. He must develop his powers of love for others as well as for himself and experience the solidarity of all living beings.... The distinction between authoritarian and humanistic religion cuts across the distinction between theistic and nontheistic, and between religions in the narrow sense of the word and philosophical systems of religious character. What matters in all such systems is not the thought system as such but the human attitude underlying their doctrines.

One of the best examples of humanistic religions is early Buddhism. Buddha is a great teacher, he is the "awakened one" who recognizes the truth about human existence. He does not speak in the name of a supernatural power but in the name of reason. He calls upon every man to make use of his own reason and to see the truth which he was only the first to find. Once man takes the first step in seeing the truth, he must apply his efforts to live in such a way that he develops his powers of reason and of love for all human creatures. Only to the degree to which he succeeds in this can he free himself from the bondage of irrational passions. While man must recognize his limitations according to Buddhistic teaching, he must also become aware of the powers in himself. The concept of Nirvana as the state of mind the fully awakened one can achieve is not one of man's helplessness and submission but on the contrary one of the development of the highest powers man possesses.
Also in Psychoanalysis and Religion, Dr. Fromm provides inspiration toward awakening both one's individual powers and recognition of the bonds of soul-brotherhood:
In trying to give a picture of the human attitude underlying the thinking of Lao-tse, Buddha, the Prophets, Socrates, Jesus, Spinoza, and the philosophers of the Enlightenment, one is struck by the fact that in spite of significant differences there is a core of ideas and norms common to all of these teachings.
Beyond the attitude of wonder and of concern there is a third element in religious experience, the one which is most clearly exhibited and described by the mystics. It is an attitude of oneness not only in oneself, not only with one's fellow men, but with all life and, beyond that, with the universe. Some may think that this attitude is one in which the uniqueness and individuality of the self are denied and the experience of self weakened. That this is not so constitutes the paradoxical nature of this attitude. It comprises both the sharp and even painful awareness of one's self as a separate and unique entity and the longing to break through the confines of this individual organization and to be one with the All. The religious attitude in this sense is simultaneously the fullest experience of individuality and of its opposite; it is not so much a blending of the two as a polarity from whose tension religious experience springs. It is an attitude of pride and integrity and at the same time of a humility which stems from experiencing oneself as but a thread in the texture of the universe.
All Dr. Fromm's books are worth reading, while The Forgotten Language and Psychoanalysis and Religion may be regarded as definite milestones, contributing to the synthesis of religion and science. Dr. Fromm brings to his evaluations of the "soul" the careful thinking and precise speaking which are characteristic of the best in the scientific tradition, while his attitude is broad enough, and sufficiently filled with genuine humanitarian concern, to make him receptive to the Theosophy of many of the Great Teachers of the ages.

[Note: Here's the link to HPB's article, entitled "Psychic and Noëtic Action", that was pointed to by the Editors. --Compiler.]

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