THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 3, January, 1952
(Pages 114-118; Size: 14K)


[Article number (2) in this Q&A Department]

ARE there any evident indications that the Western world is progressing toward the recognition of Theosophical concepts and teachings?

Yes, there are indications of such progress, but the fruitlessness of generalizations can be at once realized. A brief sketch can be made, though, pointing out a few of the pioneering ventures into "the unknown realm of Spirit," launched by those who would know and face the truth -- ventures which show promise of becoming currents of the Theosophical Movement in the fields of science, psychology, philosophy, and literature.

The strategic question, when we attempt to evaluate the progress made by science in general, and particularly by psychology, is whether these groups are on the way toward the recognition that man is a soul. Psychology, theoretically "the science of the soul" (psychocentric viewpoint), naturally becomes the battleground where all is possible and all is impossible, according to whether the reality of soul is admitted or denied. While orthodox, academic psychology, assuming the prejudiced attitudes adequately described by H.P.B. in Isis three-quarters of a century ago, has mostly concentrated on the brain-centered physicalistic conceptions of man (cerebrocentric theory, which automatically eliminates the concept of the duality of mind), its two youthful branches, psychiatry and parapsychology, are pointing to and vindicating the validity of the psychocentric view.

Parapsychology represents the efforts of a few bold scientific investigators who, following the precedent set by the London Psychical Research Society (founded in 1882), have pushed ahead -- with the true scientific spirit of inquiry -- into a study of psychic phenomena. This undertaking represents a significant way station in the evolution of Western culture, for here are indications of a beginning of transition in the scientific world -- a transition from the materialistic, deterministic viewpoint of Nature to a superphysical, psychic, and perhaps, to be realized in the future, Leibnizian perspective. This cycle of transition has gathered strength already, for the stamp of approval of some who represent scientific orthodoxy has been granted to parapsychology. The initial work of this movement was inspired largely by the efforts of Professor McDougall at Duke University to encourage study of extra-sensory-perception.

It is encouraging to note that Dr. J. B. Rhine, McDougall's successor in this work, writes that "a distinct difference between mind and matter, a relative dualism, has been demonstrated by the psi experiments, and whether we like it or not, the evidence is now overwhelming." (Reach of the Mind, published in 1947). The last chapter in this book -- a treatise devoted to the history and possibilities of psychic investigation -- attempts to point out the many implications that may follow demonstration of an inner being or "soul": the possibility of immortality, the necessity and importance of free will, and a basis for brotherhood. Dr. Rhine writes:

We know, on no mere basis of faith, but on evidence, that [people] have independent minds with true volitional choice in the creative determination of their lives and have peculiar personal potentialities for unique cultural contributions to the world. Superficial group demarcations of physical character decline in importance as the significance of the inner life of the human mind is recognized. The social binding power of spiritual, as against physical, interrelations among men can be regarded as being fully as real, as effective, as any other power in the universe.
The recognition that man is more than a physical being is the underlying basis of much therapy and experimentation carried on by psychiatry and through psychoanalysis. The "strategic" question becomes, then: Are the principles of the soul understood and treated accordingly; or, is the soul, because of a lack of knowledge, hindered in its self-induced, self-devised efforts towards enlightenment?

A slender volume entitled Psychoanalysis and Religion, by Eric Fromm, presents numerous evidences of a consistent realization of some basic Theosophical viewpoints. In answer to the question on the treatment of the soul, Dr. Fromm asserts that "the aim of therapy is not primarily adjustment but optimal development of a person's potentialities and the realization of his individuality. Here the psychoanalyst is not an 'adjustment counselor' but, to use Plato's expression, the 'physician of the soul'." In the summary statement on the book jacket, the correspondence between the second and third objects of the original Theosophical Society is obvious -- "it [Fromm's sort of psychoanalysis] is concerned with the human reality behind theological doctrines and with the realization of the human values underlying all great religious teachings of the East and West."

Psychoanalysis, as a cure of the soul, has a truly religious function, according to Fromm's general formulation of the "human attitude underlying the thinking of Lao-tse, Buddha, the Prophets, Socrates, Jesus, Spinoza." He continues:

Man must strive to recognize the truth and can be fully human only to the extent to which he succeeds in this task. He must be independent and free, an end in himself and not the means for any other person's purposes. He must relate himself to his fellow men lovingly. If he has no love, he is an empty shell even if his were all power, wealth, and intelligence. Man must know the difference between good and evil, he must learn to listen to the voice of his conscience and to be able to follow it.
In order to point out the progress achieved in the philosophical field of thought, we must again take the liberty of rephrasing the question: Have the fundamental propositions of the philosophy of Theosophy been recognized and/or developed as a whole by any modern philosophers, and, if so, what reception has been given to the doctrines of such philosophers over a period of years by Western minds? In answer, we quote The Secret Doctrine: "It may be correctly stated that were Leibnitz' and Spinoza's systems reconciled, the essence and Spirit of esoteric philosophy would be made to appear."

An encouraging report on the reception of Leibnizian concepts is found in The History of Modern Philosophy (W. K. Wright): "Leibnitz has always been regarded with respect, and interest in him has increased during the twentieth century. Among contemporary philosophers, Whitehead's theory of 'actual entities' and Bertrand Russell's theory of 'Perspectives' are reminiscent of Leibnitz. Some of the recent developments in mathematics and physics ... are along Leibnitzian lines."

Spinoza, who "conceived of the whole of reality, including the human and the divine, as an organically interconnected cosmos, in which there is nothing capricious or contingent, but everything happens in an orderly manner according to law," according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, was fiercely resisted and ridiculed on all sides by religious authoritarianism during his lifetime, and for a century afterwards. "Nevertheless," the Britannica article continues, "the intelligent world has gradually come 'round to his views, and has learned to agree with him that the real 'word of God,' or true religion, is not something written in books but 'inscribed on the heart and mind of man'."

Among recent philosophical works, The Human Situation, by Macneile Dixon, presents a comprehensive study of the age-old philosophic problems, and of the philosophies, ancient and modern, which have attempted to explain them. In offering a way to find the "philosopher's stone," Dixon advocates, in substance, many teachings of Theosophy: the doctrine of the cyclic manifestation of universes, the reincarnation of soul, and the monadic concept of evolution, give evidence of parallelism with much that is expounded in The Secret Doctrine.

There also seems to have been, in the past decade, a sort of oriental influence exemplified popularly in the writings of Lin Yutang. In Between Tears and Laughter, we find the second chapter devoted to a consideration of Karma, which, from that point on, serves as a guiding light throughout the book.

In closing, we might say that while these indications of progress are indeed heartening, showing the Theosophical Movement in action, "yet Theosophy pure and simple has still a severe battle to fight for recognition."

How many "decisions" that we think we ourselves make are actually our own?

If mind is universal, how can any decision be only that of one individual?

From early childhood one is influenced by those with whom he lives. Such things as books, movies, and school, bear greatly upon a child's mind. Generally, one can see that a child's decisions are greatly colored by other people's thoughts and ideas. Such decisions may not be really the child's, but those of others.

As one grows older, the powers of mind come into bloom. Finally, although influenced at times by others, a person copes with situations -- not only by general evaluation, but also by particular forms of analyzing and reasoning. When these processes of reasoning are really brought into use, it is at least more true to speak of "decisions made by individuals."

A further aspect of the question arises, when one makes use of the idea of Karma. It can be considered to be self-initiated Karma which draws one into the particular environment of ideas which surround him as a child -- Karma which also forms the present character of the man, and so influences the choices he will be most liable to make when he reaches the age of intellectual maturity. In a sense, we are conditioned beings who make conditioned choices -- but we have conditioned ourselves. We make a choice and reap its effect -- which in turn "cultivates" us for our next choice. Since there is no beginning or end to Karma, we naturally find ourselves wondering where the real choice is made.

An act will bring about a certain effect, but we can adopt many different attitudes with which to receive it. The real choices have to do with the way we grow between the sowing and the reaping of an act; "choices" occur all the time in our minds while we think and try to assimilate the meaning of past decisions.

Always, though, we can see that we make our decisions by drawing upon the great network of human ideas. Thoughts and ideas which we like, we use, and then they become a part of us. Perhaps the best criterion is to try to have open minds, look for new conceptions which will widen our scope and help us in making wiser decisions.

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:


Our spontaneous action is always the best. You cannot, with your best deliberation and heed, come so close to any question as your spontaneous glance shall bring you, whilst you rise from your bed, or walk abroad in the morning after meditating the matter before you sleep, on the previous night. Always our thinking is a pious reception. Our truth of thought is therefore vitiated as much by too violent direction given by our will, as by too great negligence. We do not determine what we will think. We only open our senses, clear away, as we can, all obstruction from the fact, and suffer the intellect to see. 


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