THEOSOPHY, Vol. 42, No. 2, December, 1953
(Pages 72-75; Size: 12K)
[Article number (25) in this Q&A Department]
WE all admit and know the value of those who reach revolutionary, inspiring conclusions about the nature of man without the benefit of church or religious group. The ideas and convictions they hold are truly their own. How much should we, who are constantly surrounded by philosophical ideas and earnestly studious people, depend on and be influenced by the Lodge, its books for study and its members? [Note: The word "Lodge" refers to "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler.]
(a) We should be dependent on the Lodge only to the extent that it helps us to be independent thinkers. To depend on something so that we fail to come to conclusions on our own is a dangerous thing. In this case, a "Theosophist" would simply be a religionist with a different label, professing ideas instilled rather than discovered. There is nothing we can possibly know, however, which someone before us hasn't already known and helped us to know. We therefore must try to see if these ideas naturally become "ours" while also evidently the "property" of many others.
We probably often develop a habit of listening, recognizing what we hear, and failing to really weigh the thoughts to discover the logic or soundness of the idea. Perhaps we should first take an idea as a possibility, work on the assumptions behind its statement, and then find out if it is true. Once we have proved it to ourselves, it is "ours."
Actually, as long as our relationship to the Lodge is one of dependence, there can never be any "revolutionary, inspiring conclusions" on our part. It is only when we assume our share of the burden of independent thought that we can share with and be worthy of the greatest minds, the Masters of Wisdom.
(b) Students studying the philosophy naturally face a self-imposed danger of simply accepting Theosophy without seeing its rationale. Certainly there may be, at the outset, the conviction that "here is truth." But the knowing of it requires daily practice. If someone else in the Lodge is firmly convinced of a truth, it is no reason why we ourselves should accept it. However, we may note their conviction and investigate for ourselves. We know that Theosophy rests on what are often called "the three truths" -- though H. P. Blavatsky called them propositions. Oftentimes people accept them uncompromisingly, and depend on the letter of the philosophy rather than exercising independent judgment and practicing intelligent introspection. The third proposition of H.P.B.'s Theosophy shows that dependence must be upon oneself -- to earn our own knowledge by "self-induced and self-devised efforts." The "path varies with the pilgrim," and individual convictions are the result of ideas and knowledge gained which are peculiar to the "pilgrim." As we go along, though, we develop and express further recognitions of interdependence.
Theosophy is not seeking for indulgent agreement to its tenets. This attitude leads to dogmatism, because one gradually relinquishes the independent exercise of thought. His energies go toward either accepting or rejecting other people's thoughts. One need only look back along the corridors of the past to see how people have allowed others to convince them of perverted expressions of the truth. There is a passage well worth study in Robert Crosbie's Friendly Philosopher regarding dogmatism (p. 114).
(c) A close scrutiny of the Declaration of the Lodge should help us to determine the influence exerted by, and the dependence felt on, the Lodge, its studies and members. The Declaration states that the Lodge's "work and ... end is the dissemination of the Fundamental Principles of the Philosophy of Theosophy." This statement is a clear indication that the books and studies were geared by the founders of the movement toward the practical everyday application of the truths so that the student will gain "a truer realization of the SELF; a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood." The Theosophical Movement has always been concerned with the principles and basic laws of nature rather than with the tangents of individual opinion.
(d) The most "rugged" individualists and free-thinkers do not, it is true, take their ideas wholesale from a group or institution -- but their minds are nonetheless inspired by "outside influences." The American Transcendentalists were students of Asiatic and European religions and philosophies, especially the Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita; Mr. Gandhi was an admirer of Thoreau and Tolstoy; and Tolstoy, himself, was a student of the Bible. These and others have had the same contacts as millions of other people. The difference must lie in what they do with great ideas once they enter the mind.
We may admire more the ability to think than the thought arrived at. This attitude or ability to search, compare, relate and translate is the result of practice -- thinking through each action and idea until it is related to the Real Cause, to the laws guiding the universe and to the evolutionary scheme in nature. Following this procedure, we gradually acquire not just a collection of ideas but an honest, logical, sincere and strong (though gentle) way of living and looking at things.
H.P.B.'s mission was to help create free thinkers through the promulgation of Theosophical truths.
How can one develop a greater love for humanity and extend sympathy and understanding for those we do not see?
True love based on understanding has no geographical boundaries, and gentle thoughts of service and consideration will have powerful effects the world over, and will influence beneficently even those we do not see.
If the questioner is concerned with such matters as international politics and economics, then some effort must be made to understand basic issues concerning practical matters among the peoples of the world. Sometimes countries impose tariff barriers for purely selfish motives, or confiscate foreign goods that compete with the domestic market. Unimpeded trade among the nations of the world is often barred by ardent nationalists who exalt "self-sufficiency" to further military preparedness. The effect of this attitude on other countries is conveniently ignored, but the repercussions must necessarily affect all.
Attitude and motive are most important. Karma presents us with enough people at hand on whom to lavish our love, without our bending over backwards to give personal largesse abroad. But however excellent the invisible effects of "good attitudes" are, we can well make, in addition, a strong effort to understand and adopt courageously non-provincial attitudes toward such issues as international trade and economics. By such attitudes, based on the universal good and supported by intelligent distribution of goods, perhaps we can ultimately achieve the community among nations we profess to desire.
In a recent meeting it was said we should live as souls. How would one, unfamiliar with the Theosophical concept of the nature of man, wish to live a "life of the soul" when what he is able to perceive with his senses is that happy living concerns the tangible part of his nature, the body and its desires?
Almost all men, whether familiar or not with the "Theosophical concept of the nature of man," at times aspire to forms of expression transcending the bounds of personal pleasure-seeking. And it is that same aspect of man's nature which desires to support a cause greater than self, be it religious, political, or humanitarian, which also supports his wish for a higher life. Thus, in dealing with a wish to live a "life of soul," we are dealing with an idealism latent in all men. Of course, it is obvious, as the question suggests, that this potential becomes more easily manifest when nurtured in a climate of ideas such as study of Theosophy affords.
The question has other ramifications. We may think not only of the individual's attempt to live the life of soul, but also of those unusual men who have devoted their lives to the establishment of a better "social context" for the "souls" of others. Many men have sacrificed themselves in unceasing labor to achieve a society in which equality and freedom of conscience are truly respected. Thus while some have not consciously striven towards personal asceticism, they have nevertheless directed their energies from a basis of soul, and encouraged other men to do likewise. Such social reformers as Thomas Paine, Lincoln, and Eugene Debs are but a few who belong in this company. All these, and others, known and unknown, have supported the Theosophical Movement.
No, the larger portion of the Western world today does not wish to live a life of soul, but it is the natural responsibility of those whom Ortega called the "natural aristocracy" to stir the average man to greater heights of expression and self-consciousness. Thus, whether under formal Theosophical auspices or not, we have the workings and interaction of what is called in the Declaration of Theosophy School "the laws of Brotherhood." It must be realized, however, that progress in terms of the awakening of man's moral and spiritual nature is not always easily discernible. (The United States has been called, with some justice, "the greatest materialistic nation in history" and the rest of Western civilization seems to follow suit according to its capacity, but many impressive signs of new ethical awareness are also present.)
It should also be mentioned that as there is a kind of "happy living" for man in regard to "the tangible part of his nature, the body and its desires," there is also happiness for one who pursues the meaningful path of soul experience.
YOUTH-COMPANIONS ASK--AND ANSWER
[Article number (26) in this Q&A Department]
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