THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 10, August, 1964
(Pages 309-311; Size: 9K)
[Article number (22) in this Q&A Department]
It has sometimes happened that intelligent people, after engaging in a certain amount of study, have turned away from Theosophy; and not always because they disagree with its tenets -- perhaps simply because of the fact that "it" seems to be a System; while life, they feel, is far too vast, ambiguous, irrational -- too "real" -- to allow any logical structuring of process. How can this charge against Theosophy be answered?
The question seems to this student a highly urgent one, possible answers highly elusive. Of course, if one wished to get past the dilemma smoothly and quickly, he might assert that Theosophy makes no claim to completeness, and that, as H.P.B. somewhere puts it, a hundred such volumes as The Secret Doctrine would not contain all the Wisdom Religion. Yet Theosophy does claim comprehensiveness in outline at least -- completeness as a "key" to truth; and anyway, one can hardly avoid calling it a system. So the question remains.
It may be that the poet, Wallace Stevens, gives us implications of an answer when he exclaims, "Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon...." For although he is speaking of art, his words apply equally to systems of philosophy -- the compelling urge to find order in the universe, to establish relations, to give mankind a home. And Stevens suggests that there is even something blessed about this instinct, a fact which, if true, may be taken to imply that there is indeed an underlying order which man strives to comprehend just as naturally as a flower in the shade turns as it seeks the sun. Yes, it may be so; yet perhaps not necessarily so; or even if it is so, perhaps that order is too subtly implicit in the infinitudes of existence to be known in intellectual terms.
Perhaps -- to continue a while to twist and turn upon the page in the hope of finding an answer -- quite arbitrarily we might make up some stickily complex phrase like "non-contingent philosophic action"; and then throw it into the middle of the discussion, and maybe in this way catch a few hints for an answer. In a sense this phrase suggests nothing more than that we should apply our philosophic ideas to life-situations -- in short, that we should act. Too often people are so non-physical in their approach to living that they help no one, see no one, just stand and think instead of acting. The phrase, then, implies that if we had a greater feeling of personal, practical identification with our metaphysical ideas -- we might find that Theosophy is not so very far removed from the vibrant texture of life. "All is Life," declares Theosophy, and thus even the most illusory of forms has a relative reality, just as we ourselves, the very personalities we take ourselves to be, have a relative reality. We seem, therefore, to be able to pronounce contradictory verdicts about life, yet in both cases remain true to Theosophical philosophy. We can say with the preacher, "All is vanity," and then with equal conviction say, "All is soul and spirit ever evolving under the rule of Law." Surely any philosophy which allows for both these statements cannot be very far removed from the fabric of life, which often appears to us simply as a sum of irreconcilables, a mesh of ambiguities.
But this phrase we've coined seems most of all to imply that Theosophy, or any philosophy, is not in itself complete (even if those other hundred volumes were available to us), that in fact we are required, we and our actions, before it can find completion. For the essence of philosophy is not in its explanations, but in the impetus it gives.
All these considerations may indicate that our fine phrase, "non-contingent philosophic action," is really a synonym for "art," in a deep sense of that term. One is inclined to say this especially when considering the Theosophical exhortation to raise and transform physical life; most overtly it is the artists who effect this transformation (though if we are fully to accept this statement, we must consider as an artist anyone who "transforms life" in a positive way). In a sense, then, it may be that a slender book of poems (if they are great poems) represents a fulfillment of that heavy philosophical work next to which it stands on our shelf. This is not to say that philosophy is not necessary -- it is essential, and especially so in this period when artists are being suffocated by a feeling of meaninglessness, but, well, even The Secret Doctrine is based on a poem! Besides, when one comes to the end of this life, what is it that he is likely to remember as representing its essence? Surely not some easily verbalized moral, such as one finds at the ends of fables, nor yet some Aristotelian postulate -- rather, a few deeply personal memories, certain moments in our life that spoke to us like hints of portents, even if we can think of no apparent reason that they should have affected us that way. As one poet puts it (and as only a poet could):For all the history of griefSuch memories seem emblematic of a certain quality of existence, but surely, at such a time as the approach of death, no verbalizations, no words, unless perhaps just, "I've loved you all -- all of you ..."
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.
No, Theosophy does not seem complete in book form, nor even when introduced into our consciousness in the form of conceptions and opinions. It must be translated through action into life -- so that life in turn may be transformed into art.
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:
I hope we will come to an understanding that the material used is only incidental, that there is artist in every man; and that to him the possibility of development and of expression and the happiness of creation is as much a right and as much a duty to himself, as to any of those who work in the especially ticketed ways.
The great revolution in the world which is to equalize opportunity, bring peace and freedom, must be a spiritual revolution. A new will must come. This will is a very personal thing in each one. Our education has led away from the realization that the mystery of nature is in each man. When we are wiser we will not assume to mould ourselves, but will make our ignorance stand aside -- hands off -- and we will watch our own development. We will learn from ourselves. This habit of conducting nature is a bad one.
I am certain that we do deal in an unconscious way with another dimension than the well-known three. It does not matter much to me now if it is the fourth dimension or what its number is, but I know that deep in us there is always a grasp of proportions which exist over and through the obvious three, and it is by this power of super-proportioning that we reach the inner meaning of things.
[Article number (23) in this Q&A Department]
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