THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 5, March, 1952
(Pages 226-228; Size: 9K)


[Article number (4) in this Q&A Department]

MEMBERSHIP cards are generally thought of as being just part of the paraphernalia of organizations. Since ULT is said to be a free association of students, what, then, is the reason for the membership card of the Lodge?

Although the card is kept before the attention of students, it is important to notice that no one is approached individually and asked to sign it. We are informed that such a thing exists.

When a student signs a membership card, it doesn't change his "status" in the Lodge, nor does it change his relationship to it in any tangible sense. The card says that such association calls for no obligation on the signer's part other than that which he, himself, determines. Nothing is expected of him; everything he gives must be freely given. No duties are "delegated" to him because he is a member, and he is not obligated to do specific things nor behave in a certain manner. In other words, the membership card does not serve an organizational function, for it is not handed in for someone else's purposes.

Although a person may see that these things are true, there may be those who would feel that somehow their individual freedom would be infringed upon if they formally join any group. But there is yet another way to look at the idea of "freedom" in relation to the Lodge. The original Theosophical Society was started as a place of study for those who wished to participate, whether or not they were affiliated with any churches, other organizations or systems of thought. The Declaration of ULT invites people to its association regardless of "race, creed, sex, condition, or organization"; one is not obliged to accept a particular set of ideas in order to qualify for membership. So it is conceivable that a person might be a church member and a member of ULT at the same time. In the Key, H.P.B. says that Theosophy is the broadest and most catholic system of all, and we can see that the declared basis of ULT embodies this spirit. In a sense one might say that when a person who worries about his freedom signs the membership card, he is affiliating himself with a group of people who also want their freedom unimpaired. [Note: "ULT" means "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler]

Signing the membership card can be a matter of recording one's sympathy with the work undertaken by the Lodge -- a gesture of accord. Perhaps the card is especially provided, however, for those who do feel they would be glad to assume responsibility for what they see to be good. Too, it must be helpful as well as interesting to have some record of the number of people who have contacted ULT and found special value in aligning themselves with its principles in this way.

In another and deeper sense, moreover, such a move may be important to the signer as an individual in respect to his growth in responsibility. He has joined a group of people in a work he wishes to support, but he may also have "joined" the parts of his nature into a more forceful whole in that support.

In what ways do the doctrines of Naturalism and Supernaturalism have significance to Theosophists?

If we define naturalism as "the doctrine stating that scientific laws account for all phenomena," and supernaturalism as "a doctrine that asserts the control and guidance of nature and men by an invisible power or powers," then both are worth investigation. It should be made clear that modern materialism concerns itself with more than the laws of matter; it offers a method of study for determining the physical laws involved in psychology and biology, and has therefore received a great deal of criticism from those whose initial methods differ. There seems to be a great emotional reaction to the very name of materialism by the majority of religious people, the reason for this being that materialism is an attempt to take the control of the universe out of the hands of God. And so there are many critics who denounce materialism, but fail to investigate its claims.

Many materialists reason as does Chapman Cohen in Materialism Re-stated, where he says, in effect, that all of man's perceptions indicate he is primarily a body. We know life, not as a thing in itself, but as the expression of a relation. A person could assume that the body is controlled by a mysterious entity inside the organism, but there would be no explanation of how this entity got there, and where it will go when the organism dies. Also, the existence of such an entity is pure assumption. Cohen also reasons that since all our definite knowledge is derived from physical experience, either immediately or at second-hand, we must, therefore, be physical beings.

Such reasoning would appear to be very logical, but for the fact that man seems to have an inherent feeling of something greater than himself. This would not necessitate a "power that asserts the control and guidance over nature and men," but could be a higher intelligence within, and organic to, the body. Leaving God out does not mean that the soul must be left out, too. Hume denied the existence of a feeling for an inward power by saying that when he examined himself he found only particular perceptions, always associated with the physical senses. When perceptions are removed by death, then, he assumes that he would cease to exist. This is one of the arguments put forth by the supporters of materialism to reject "invisible powers." It would seem worthless to try to confute this argument by other arguments, though. All one can do is to assert that the feeling of spirit is a subjective realization, rather than a reaction to a perception. In other words, the perception of an inner, higher reality is not communicable on an objective basis.

Lin Yutang, in Between Tears and Laughter, brings out three strong points in criticism of the materialistic conception of the universe. The first of these is that in the final weighing of conclusions, after the assemblage of facts, the decision is always a subjective process, involving evaluation of imponderable factors, never reducible to facts and figures. The second, that psychological facts and factors could never be assessed with anything like the accuracy found in the scientific measurement of electric volts or radio waves. The third is that we all place different values upon human facts, making complete "objectivity" impossible.

The Naturalist seems to fail to conceive of anything more than "conditioned existence." Yet there should be no compromise on the doctrine that the universe is governed by law, especially with theism, monotheism, and supernaturalism often leading to beliefs outside law.

An important distinction to be made between the Naturalist and the Theosophist is that the Theosophist starts with the whole and investigates its parts, while the Naturalist starts with the parts, trying to find the whole.

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(April 1952)
[Article number (5) in this Q&A Department]

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