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THEOSOPHY WORLD ------------------------------------- April, 1999
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(Please note that the materials presented in THEOSOPHY WORLD are
the intellectual property of their respective authors and may not
be reposted or otherwise republished without prior permission.)
"Sources of THE SECRET DOCTRINE," by Joy Mills
"Regarding J. Krishnamurti," by G. de Purucker
"Karmic Ideas," by John R. Crocker
"Blavatsky Net Update," by Reed Carson
"What Are We Selling?" by Eldon Tucker
"What is the Purpose of Life?" by Mary L Fay
"Is the Theosophical Society an Addictive Organization?"
by William Greer
"Biographical Essay on Colonel Conger," by Sarah Belle Dougherty
"Checking Our Ideas With Facts," by Daniel Caldwell
"Being Everything in Dreams," by Jerry Schueler
"The Need for Impersonality," by Kenneth Morris
> If either a religion or a philosophy is too much in advance of a
> nation, it can do no present service, but must bide its time,
> until the minds of men are ripe for its reception. ... According
> to the ordinary course of affairs, a few generations pass away,
> and then there comes a period when these very truths are looked
> upon as commonplace facts; and a little later there comes another
> period, in which they are declared to be necessary, and even the
> dullest intellects wonder how they could ever have been denied.
> -- H.T. Buckle, HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION IN ENGLAND, I, 256 as
> cited in THE SECRET DOCTRINE, I, 298.
SOURCES OF THE SECRET DOCTRINE
by Joy Mills
[Chapter Two in LIVING IN WISDOM: LECTURES ON "THE SECRET
DOCTRINE," copyright 1989, Theosofische Vereniging in
Nederland / Amsterdam. Reprinted with permission. The booklet
was transcribed from a class given at the August 1988 Summer
School of the Dutch Section of the Theosophical Society.]
The intent of THE SECRET DOCTRINE -- as indeed the intent of all
esoteric writings -- is to transform the mind. It is to bring
about a profound change in consciousness, and it is from that
point of view that we should approach the work of H.P.B. At the
same time we may recognize that she had to use the language that
was available to her. She clothed the ideas she was presenting
in the only language that was available; also, we must recognize
that she was putting it in a western language. Specifically of
course, it was written in English. But English is a very poor
language, very poor from the point of view of philosophy.
However, it is a very good language from other points of view;
for example, it has spread all over the world. From a very tiny
island the language has moved out almost everywhere. From that
small island, England, there was a movement in trade and commerce
all over the world. But to use such a language -- or indeed to
use any western language -- to convey deeply philosophical
concepts is to ask of those languages quite an impossible task.
And consequently, we must look always behind the words to their
deeper meaning, to what is meant by the external word. We must
all the time seek the depth of meaning. We must seek that which
is hidden by the word. And only by a change in consciousness,
that is, a change so that the mind is no longer analyzing, but
now moves to a new perception, can we come to understand the
doctrine. It Is all too easy to be caught up in the externals,
to be concerned with rounds and races and globes. What planetary
chain is this? Do Mars and Mercury belong to this chain or do
they not? To become concerned with what I call "the technologies
of the lower mind." And then we miss the essence of what is
presented, so I should like to use H.P.B.'s own statements to
examine what is THE SECRET DOCTRINE and what are its sources.
Let me begin then with a quotation from H.P.B. in her magazine
LUCIFER, which she published in London after she went there.
This was written exactly one year after the publication of THE
SECRET DOCTRINE. H.P.B. wrote as follows:
> What I do believe in is: one, the unbroken oral teaching revealed
> by living, divine men, during the infancy of mankind to the elect
> among men. Two, that it has reached us unaltered. Three, that
> the Masters are thoroughly versed in the science based on such
> uninterrupted teaching.
I think that statement gives us a clue to the sources. First of
all, that there has been an unbroken oral teaching. Now
generally when we hear something, and we attempt to repeat what
we have heard, the statements pass through our own personal
filter, if I may call it that. It may be said that we hear what
we want to hear, and we screen out what we don't want to hear.
We color what we hear with our own feelings, and we therefore
distort what has been heard. We have to understand what is meant
by "the unbroken oral teachings," in which there was no
distortion. Because, she says, they have "reached us unaltered."
This inevitably points to the significant fact that the teachings
can only be received by the individual whose mind is pure, by the
individual who is receptive to them in their purity. And that
therefore we are dealing not with a collection of facts, but with
an interior teaching -- to which we must give attention. That
is, we must listen.
And for that reason, THE SECRET DOCTRINE is based on a certain
ancient text that has been identified as "The Stanzas of Dzyan."
Now that text has never been discovered historically, although
one student of THE SECRET DOCTRINE has suggested that there is
now evidence of the origin of that text. Indeed, an American
student of these volumes, who is also a student of Tibetan, has
proposed that the Stanzas are rooted in the Tibetan Buddhist
Tantras, that indeed they may have been taken from a text which
is referred to in certain Tibetan works, and that they are known
as the "Kalachakra teaching." It is interesting for example to
note, that that teaching was always the special property of the
Panchen Lama, and was focused at a monastery, the Tashi Lampo,
which is located adjacent to Shigatse. The teachers of H.P.B.,
who were responsible for giving much of the material which we
have in THE SECRET DOCTRINE, are said to have their abode in that
locale. But it is said by the Indo-Tibetan tradition that the
Kalachakra doctrine came directly from Shambhala, and therefore
it is known as "the teaching of Shambhala." Therefore, this may
have some historical evidence to support H.P.B.'s statements.
There is a small booklet dealing with this, regarding the origin
of the Books of Kiu-te.
The important point is not so much the historical evidence and
the analysis of some of the Tantric texts said to be in the
extant works in the Kalachakra Tantra. It is not necessary to
analyze this, but to look very closely at the recognition that
this is a teaching that was conveyed to the enlightened of
humanity as a result of an interior illumination. The term
DZYAN, which we have as the Stanzas, is of course a phonetic,
Tibetan rendering of the Sanskrit JNANA, which is the same as the
English word GNOSIS, and means therefore: wisdom in its
comprehensive sense, and that this is the result of profound
meditation, which in Sanskrit is known as DHYANA. One may just
add that JNANA is also the title of the fifth and last section of
the Kalachakra Tantra -- its most esoteric portion. So I have
tried to show that there is indeed some historical evidence for
the existence of these Stanzas but at the same time let me point
to the fact that this wisdom, JNANA, arises within the individual
seeking enlightenment, as a result of profound meditation. That
is, arises because the mind, or consciousness, Is in a certain
condition: a condition of pure listening. That indeed, when one
clears the consciousness, removes the "filter," one can enter
into a realm of knowing which is at one and the same time wisdom
and action, a realm that therefore has its own creative
It is said, for example, that the Rig Veda, which is the oldest
scripture in the world, was heard by the rishis, the wise and
saintly ones, and therefore was first "heard from within." Later
on we will look more closely at this matter of sound, for it is
the characteristic of the very substance of the universe. I
don't want to pursue this right now, but only to indicate that
there is that aspect of the creative principle which in Sanskrit
is called NADA and then the creative principle is Naha Brahma --
that is to say, shall we say, "the sounding God," "the speaking
God" if you wish, the creative principle that is forever sounding
throughout the universe. And that sound is the basis of all
harmony, the basis of all expression. Now it is this original
sound from that depth of meditation in which one is attuned to
the original sound that constitutes the unbroken oral teaching.
The reason that it has reached us unaltered is that the world has
never been without its divine teachers, and there has always
existed therefore a race of "the elect among humanity." To those
who have felt such compassion for humanity, those who were eager
to share this wisdom, we have given the term "Masters" or
MAHATMAS. They do not refer to themselves by that term because
they recognize that they are also "learners" who are endeavoring
both to hear the teaching and to convey the teaching. And so
H.P.B. gives as the third point she believes in, that the
Masters "are thoroughly versed in the science based on the
uninterrupted teaching." But this does not mean that they have
come to a full comprehension of the teaching. This may seem a
rather shocking statement to make! But in the letters that they
wrote to Mr. Sinnett, they make it clear the fact that they have
still more to learn. How much greater their wisdom is than ours,
there is still a greater wisdom to be achieved. And
consequently, if you are familiar with those letters to Mr.
Sinnett, you will recognize that they frequently had to ask a
Chohan, a being beyond their status. And you will also recognize
how often they referred to that teacher of teachers, the Buddha,
who, it is said, was the first of our humanity to achieve full
enlightenment. And yet even in that state, because he was in
physical incarnation, certain mistakes were made. I refer you to
a section in H.P.B.'s ESOTERIC TEACHINGS, a section called "The
Mystery of the Buddha." It is said that out of his great
compassion for suffering humanity, he revealed more than was
permissible. And therefore, the interior presence -- we may call
it that: the interior being -- had to take another incarnation.
There is a great mystery here that we cannot explore fully right
now. But it is a subject of very great interest, and it is one,
I suggest, that we need at some time to look into. In brief and
to make it as simple as possible, we may say that that interior
presence appeared later as the great Shankaracharya. And we have
then another step in the transmission of the original teachings.
For it was the great Shankaracharya who presented the teachings
in yet another way that could be meaningful -- we call those
teachings the Advaita Vedanta. The Vedanta is the essence of the
Veda's. The term VEDA incidentally, comes from the Sanskrit root
VID, that is "to see," and is also "to hear," so that it is the
VIDYA, that which is truly seen in its purity, or that which is
heard in its totality. We may say it is the hearing that H.P.B.
refers to in THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE. And so it is the
perception without any cloud, without any mist, without any
obscuration. It is the hearing of the original sound, the seeing
of what I like to call "the original face of God," "the original
face of the Logos." It is that, then, that again is transmitted,
and we begin to see a chain of transmission. Of course, there
were other great divine teachers, expressing the original
teachings in unique ways. It is for this reason that H.P.B.
> It is perhaps desirable to state unequivocally that the
> teachings, however fragmentary and incomplete, contained in these
> volumes, belong to neither the Hindu, the Zoroastrian, the
> Chaldean, nor the Egyptian religion, to neither Buddhism, Islam,
> Judaism, nor Christianity exclusively. The Secret Doctrine is
> the essence of all these. Sprung from it in their origins, the
> various schemes are now made to merge back into their original
> element, out of which every mystery and dogma has grown,
> developed, and become materialized.
This gives us a clue to the structure of THE SECRET DOCTRINE and
also should warn the student against what we may call "the
materialization of the teachings." She warned us against this: to
move from doctrine to dogma, to move from the teaching to its
concrete expression. And this of course is a danger which we
have to avoid.
So THE SECRET DOCTRINE in its structure presents first the
translation of those archaic Stanzas, and that is already two
steps removed from the original, oral teaching. Perhaps we could
say even three steps, for the oral teachings were heard otherwise
they would not be oral. That hearing, what was heard, was
expressed first in symbols. Those symbols -- and H.P.B. refers
to that archaic text of symbols -- were then expressed in a
sacred language, a language of which there is no record, which
H.P.B. refers to as "Senzar." But no student of linguistics is
acquainted with such a language. While it is postulated that
there is a root-language of all the Indo-European languages -- a
language that has been lost -- it is difficult to recognize that
that may have been the language to which H.P.B. referred. And
so we have to recognize that Senzar may refer not so much to a
language, but what she called "the most difficult mode of thought
altogether." She calls this mode of thought "logo-grammatical."
She says that, "It is the most difficult method of all, as every
letter represents a whole word." And then she added, no one who
is not initiated into the mystery of the occult, religious
"logography" can presume to know what a name in any ancient
fragment means before he has mastered every letter that composes
it. So I would suggest that Senzar is not a language as we think
of English or Dutch or German or French, but is a mystery
language, in the sense that it is perhaps a quite ordinary
language hiding occult meaning. We may even say it is a kind of
"code," and one must then be initiated into reading it. Now it
is apparent that H.P.B. was indeed initiated into this code. So
we have the next level in which she has attempted a translation.
And that forms the basis then of THE SECRET DOCTRINE, but we must
realize that this is indeed a translation -- as well as she could
do it or the Masters could help her do it -- of what is probably
untranslatable. In fact, in one of the letters to Mr. Sinnett,
H.P.B.'s own teacher, the Master Morya, told Mr. Sinnett that we
must agree upon terms. And he added, "because our terms are
So one sees the difficulty in a step-down tradition and while she
says the Masters are versed in the science based on this
uninterrupted teaching, there is every evidence in the letters
that they are still themselves learning further aspects of the
tradition. For example there is a very remarkable statement in
one of the letters in which the Master Kuthumi writes "I had to
study for 25 years before coming to the doctrine of cycles." Are
we willing to give so much time to some of the preliminaries? We
say the doctrine of cycles is a very simple doctrine! I often
hear it said in some theosophical circles "We have heard endless
lectures about karma and reincarnation!" I would suggest that we
know only a fraction of what those two terms really mean, I'd
suggest that we have really only begun to understand what this
doctrine is. Now from the Stanzas there are yet further
expositions. H.P.B., for example, gives commentaries on each of
the SLOKAS or verses. And then because she was presenting this
work to the western world and making public for the first time
certain fundamental concepts or ideas of the esoteric philosophy,
she added two further sections in each of the two volumes. She
commented on the language that was coming into use in her days
and the language which is our language in this century: the
language of science. We may not realize the extent to which
science has provided us with a language today, science has given
us all of our metaphors. Just as in the Renaissance period and
prior to that, the language was that of religion, so from the
late nineteenth century to this century, science is our language.
So she has a long section in which she uses that language to show
what are the original teachings. Do not pass over that section
lightly, by saying "well, the science to which she referred is
outdated" -- actually, while some of the external facts have
changed, the essential scientific attitude has not changed. Also
she recognized that it was through science that further
explorations into the teachings could be made. And then she has
a section on symbology, again pointing to the original teachings.
In one sense THE SECRET DOCTRINE was not put together by H.P.B.,
nor even by her teachers, but as history records, it was
organized by a remarkable uncle-and-nephew team: Archibald and
Bertram Keightly. When H.P.B. moved to London in 1887, from
Ostende, Belgium, it is said that the manuscript that comprised
THE SECRET DOCTRINE was about three feet in height! And H.P.B.
was not much of an organizer. You can read about this in the
reminiscences of the Countess Wachtmeister, in which both
Archibald and Bertram Keightly report how they assembled this
mass of manuscript. But because they were working with H.P.B.
and she was indeed working with her own teachers, the
organization followed the pattern of all occult teachings.
So the structure emerges because of the intent of the work. And
I come back to that intent to awaken a new mode of thought in the
reader. And therefore the message is, that there is a life to be
lived if one would come to wisdom, not just to understanding, not
just to a collection of knowledge.
REGARDING JEDDU KRISHNAMURTI
by G. de Purucker
[From THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, May 15, 1930, pages 14-17. Consists of
extracts from Lecture Number 39 on QUESTIONS WE ALL ASK,
delivered in the Temple of Peace, Point Loma, California, March
Here is an interesting question:
> Many persons who are sympathetic with the principles of Theosophy
> dislike the idea of joining an organized Society of any kind, and
> disapprove of the principle of Leadership. They say such things
> hinder the development of individual responsibility, and are not
> necessary for the discovery of Truth within oneself, which must
> be done by personal efforts. Mr. J. Krishnamurti, for
> instance, has lately disbanded his organization as unnecessary
> for sincere truth-seekers.
> Can you explain the fallacy in this, and give your reasons for
> building up a great organization under a single head?
Yes, the reason is the easiest thing in the world to understand!
It is the difference between an army and a mob; the difference
between having a source of information, of truth, on the one
hand; and merely hunting for it, on the other hand. It is the
difference between organization, law, order, and their
contraries. There is the gist of the answer. I tell you that
union is strength and that disunion is weakness.
Mr. J. Krishnamurti, an earnest young man, a Hindu, brought
before the world by one of the Theosophical Societies having its
headquarters in India, has my sympathy in some ways for the very
difficult task he has undertaken. I like always to seek the
points of contact, of friendship; I detest casting mud or making
slurs, and I never do these things. But that fact does not
prevent me from telling what I feel it my duty to tell.
In the first place, how many times here, from this platform and
elsewhere, have I not said that the road to divinity lies within
you. That sublime knowledge each one must seek for himself
within himself; for the pathway to divinity is exemplified by the
Greek maxim: Man, know thyself, for thou art a living god, and in
knowing thyself thou shalt know all the mysteries of the
How often have I not pointed out that you should believe nothing,
naught, in nothing, unless your own conscience tells you, and
with no uncertain voice, that such or another thing is true.
But, will you tell me why the world is filled full with
heartbroken searchers for truth, why men quarrel and fight with
each other? Because they have not the truth, nor have they a
Leader in whom they can trust, and to whom they can go for
enlightenment. Teachers they know not, because they will not
There is no reliance on anything today -- not even on the Inner
Light, which every true Theosophist teaches it is our duty to
follow. Men today do not know whither to turn for help and
light, for solace, for comfort, and peace. And do you think you
can answer that insatiable hunger of the human soul for light by
saying: "There is none except in yourself?" It is perfectly true
as a bald statement, but it is not the whole truth.
We Theosophists are members of a Society which was founded by the
Masters of Wisdom and Compassion, as an organized body to gather
into its ranks all hungry human hearts and minds, to give them
teaching which would bring them light and help, having a certain
source of knowledge, called a leader and teacher, who is duly and
properly authorized and qualified to communicate the Light. That
is why it is my duty to teach as I do, and to organize as I do.
I am a fisher for the souls of men. Every true Theosophical
And one of my first lessons is this: Look within! Within you can
be found all knowledge, all wisdom, all peace, all comfort, all
love. Within you, locked up in the god within each one of you,
are all the faculties and powers which the divinities themselves
possess, and which you must bring forth and will bring forth in
the course of ages. But I am pledged to help you. Knock, and
the door will be opened unto you; ask and ye shall receive.
Why send your children to school if teachers are not needed and
if children can learn all that they need without having teachers?
Why have your lands dotted with institutions of learning, if
every man can know everything without preceptors and guides? Do
you see the point?
Therefore, I tell my brothers this: Accept nothing that you hear
from me which is contrary to the dictates of your own conscience.
You may fail in so doing; you may lose in so doing; nevertheless
the rule is good, and should be followed, because in following
this rule, that is if you make a habit of obeying your sense of
right and wrong, however mistaken your judgment may be and
however often you may mistake, nevertheless in following that
rule you are on the pathway leading to Light. You are thereby
exercising spiritual faculties. But this is not all that could
I have spoken of what I may now call the anarchical side, where
there is no body of students with a teaching head, no centralized
organization. But I could also speak of the other extreme, which
we Theosophists likewise avoid. That is the extreme of excess of
organization and blind credulity, which is as wrong and as
morally weakening as is the other.
I tell you that we Theosophists want no dogma-ridden men, no
dogma-ridden world. Do you see my meaning? I make no invidious
criticisms. I am not pointing my finger in any specific
direction. I cast no slurs and throw no mud. I seek the points
of contact and of unity. I merely point out, in answer to this
question what it is my duty to tell you: that we are neither
anarchical on the one side, in the sense of believing that no
organization is the right thing, nor are we ridden, on the other
side, with the idea that an ironbound, hidebound, spirit-stifling
organization is the right thing.
We F.T.S. say that organization is strength, that union is
power, that a centralized organization, a centralized authority,
makes for progress, if that authority is exercised by one who
knows how to do it and does it impersonally and with love in his
heart. This same rule holds with even greater strength in the
case of a teacher, and particularly of a Teacher of the Esoteric
As a matter of fact, this problem so called that I am now
speaking about to you is no new one. Every human being is faced
with it in his own home, in his own land. Whither shall I send
my child to be educated? Shall I allow him to run the streets and
let him grow up as 'nature' will have him grow, running wild,
with no control, no supervision, no instruction, no grand ideas,
just a little human beast? Or shall I send him, on the other
hand, to some school where he will be drilled, so that all the
individuality is drilled out of him? Neither, we say. Send him
to some place, which you will examine first and will feel to be a
place where there is an illuminated authority -- as far as you
can find it -- someone who knows how to teach, who knows what to
teach, and who will neither cripple the child's soaring
intelligence and growing will power on the one hand, nor allow
him to run wild on the other.
That brief picture shows you where we stand. We believe in
organization; we believe that union is strength and power; we
believe in Teachers -- in fact in a succession of Teachers, one
coming after the other; and this is the ancient idea, the archaic
idea of humanity universal.
I pity this Hindu youth, Mr. Krishnamurti; for, however sincere
he may be, to my mind he shows a lack of reflective wisdom and a
lack of knowledge of essential human nature. In disbanding the
trusting hearts who look to him for comfort and help, as I
understand is the case, I cannot feel that he is following the
ideal embodied in The Theosophical Society, established by the
Masters of Wisdom as a nucleus of universal brotherhood, and as
an organization energized and with a desire to help mankind.
I pray that, as long as I live, and whatever may be the success
that I will have, I may be true to the pledge that I have taken:
to bring light and comfort to my fellow men and to be worthy of
the trust put into my hands. I have a duty to perform in the
world, given to me by those who sent me here, and I will do it;
and I know that my fellow-men will recognize the appeal, the
logic of it all, and will see the difference between inflexible
authority on the one hand, and utter lack of centralized guidance
on the other hand. That is, where we Theosophists stand -- in
the middle place.
There is light to be had, because there are system and order in
the Universe, the results of flaming intelligence and cosmic
compassion. Anyone whose heart impels him to carry on the search
indefatigably and with a mental refusal to take discouragement at
any turn, but to carry on, will receive that light. This is a
by John R. Crocker
[based upon a May 16, 1995 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org]
Some sort of doctrine of "karma" is probably one of the core
BELIEFS among most Theosophists, with the only substantive
arguments being definitional.
There is a large, though, difference between assuming the "truth"
of karma, and then proceeding to attempt to discover (whether by
rational, dialectic, or intuitive modes of thought) the details
of that truth, and beginning by presuming that a "law" of karma
is nothing more than a hypothesis, and insisting that it be
subjected to rigorous examination before it is accepted --
especially as a guide for behavior. The second approach seems
very rare in the TS.
Most Theosophists do not speak of karma as a "metaphysical" truth
-- whatever that means -- but rather as a UNIVERSAL LAW. If it
is a universal law, it is NOT dependent upon personal experience.
It doesn't matter whether someone believes in gravity or not, one
still falls off a cliff. Aristotle's most basic principle of
metaphysics was "A=A," that is, a thing is identical to itself.
A thing cannot both be and not be. If there is a "law" of karma,
and it is "universal," how can it NOT be in EVERYONE'S personal
I am perfectly willing to accept that there may exist something
like the "metaphysical" truths of Theosophy, in the same way that
Christians believe in the "truth" of Christ, and in some form of
heaven and hell, for instance.
If someone holds that they know a truth about their own life --
well, no problem. If someone, however, holds that they know a
truth that not only applies to my life, but that is held to be of
so powerful and dramatic a nature that, if true, it ought to
substantially condition my thoughts and behavior, then yes, I
want something far more powerful than "I feel, intuitively, that
its true" as demonstration of its existence.
If there is a universal "law" of Karma, WHY IS IT NOT UNIVERSALLY
ACCEPTED? Why has the process of evolution not, by now,
thoroughly integrated such a truth into behavior? (As it has with
the "law" of gravity. We may be the first type of animal that
has consciously framed it as a law, but every life form, animal,
plant or human, behaves as though there is no doubt about its
Why is it that there is large numbers of the human population
that would NOT admit it as a truth? That it is really only held
as a truth by those who operate within particular
religious/philosophical traditions, and even among those among
whom its details are vehemently disputed?
When I consider ideas with care, challenging their truthfulness,
I'm not employing reductionism, like that of Krishnamurti, Freud,
and for that manner, countless others, is not what I am using
with the idea of karma. Krishnamurti BEGAN by assuming fear,
Freud BEGAN by assuming sex to be a thing that everything could
reduce to, and in doing so, I believe, made a mistake. But this
is the SAME MISTAKE MADE BY THOSE WHO BEGIN BY PRESUMING "KARMA"
TO BE A PREMIER OPERATIVE LAW AND PRECEDING THEN TO EXPLAIN ALL
SORTS OF EVENTS BY REFERENCE TO ITS OPERATION.
It is when I have FAILED to subject what I know, or feel, or
experience to severe scrutiny that thousands of roads full of
enticing illusion open before my eyes.
There are ideas that, when subject to close scrutiny, can be
debunked; the ideas are flawed. The sun does NOT revolve around
the earth. Drilling holes in a lunatic's head to "let the evil
spirits out" does NOT cure neurotransmitter imbalances.
Sometimes pushing a concept used to frame what is believed to be
a truth does cause it to fall apart to the extent that a much
wider appreciation of that truth becomes possible -- as with
gravity, where Einstein's equations didn't disprove Newton's, but
merely showed Newton's to be a partial understanding of what
General Relativity explained much more fully.
But Einstein didn't request that people simply BELIEVE his
insights. Upon framing the General Theory, he himself proposed
three tests, telling the scientific community that if they were
not passed, he himself would refute his own theory (which
resulted in Sir Arthur Eddington traveling to South America to
view an eclipse, and to observe the light of an occulted star
being distorted by precisely the magnitude Einstein's theory had
Subjected to severe scrutiny, some ideas dissolve to reveal much
larger scales of truth hidden within them, but OTHERS ARE EXPOSED
AS SIMPLY UNTRUTHS, OR SUPERSTITIONS.
If Theosophy, where "There is no religion higher than Truth" is
not willing to subject its own core concepts to rigorous
examination, is not willing to push its own ideas to that limit
you speak of, is willing to accept things on the basis of
personal, subjective experience alone, then it becomes simply
another religion. Theosophy then becomes an odd amalgam of
Hinduism and Buddhism sprinkled with a dash of western occultism,
asserting its "truths" in the same way, and upon the same
foundation, as any other religion. (This is, incidently, the way
the general population -- at least those parts of it that have
heard of Theosophy -- tends to see the Theosophical Society).
In theosophical discussions, the defenders of the status quo in
theosophical thought speak in a tone which is that of a Teacher
speaking to a Pupil, or of a Guru speaking to a Chela (sometimes
called Condescending). This attitude is, unfortunately, a
terribly common one throughout the current Theosophical Society,
and may be a chief reason why so many from my generation that
have touched the TS leave it after a very short period of time.
I had a good friend who was, as far as I can tell, born with the
instinct toward service within her; it was automatic. She had
little use for "techniques" and still less use for religions, but
after some persuasion, I convinced her that Theosophy might be a
place where kindred souls, sharing the service ethos, and
non-dogmatic about their pursuit of truth, might be found. (I
had recently joined, and was rather a tad idealistic about this).
Despite the fact that the First Object raised her hackles, she
still agreed to attend a meeting (not all that comfortable with
the notion of supporting a "Brotherhood.")
The meeting was discussing Karma (I won't say which Branch) and
after listening for a little while, she raised a couple of simple
questions. She was answered with an attitude that she framed
afterwards as composed of a couple of different aspects.
First, that she was lacking in the "mystical insight" necessary
to grasp the real truth, but with study and discipline she might
be able to reach the "level" of the wise persons in the group.
Second, that rational thought and the desire for empirical forms
of investigation were considered the marks of "unenlightened"
She RIGHTLY concluded that these two attitudes are pretty much
parts of the core definition of a CULT (albeit a relatively
harmless one), and she never returned.
Some theosophical students may start by assuming something called
"karma" to be an operative principle. They may unfold into
greater and greater circles of the unknown, and at each stage,
gain what you feel to be a deeper and deeper understanding of
what you call karma. This is their personal road, and their
understandings are THEIR personal understandings, and no one has
any grounds upon which to question the validity of their insights
or the intensity of their belief in them.
When, however, someone UNIVERSALIZES their insights, when they
claim, either explicitly (as everyone from the Pope to David
Koresh has) or implicitly (by such means, for instance, as
calling a belief a "law") that the particular formulation of a
principle that they happen to hold at some particular time holds
for EVERYONE in ALL TIMES, then something considerably more than
"inner certainty" can, and should, be required from them.
And I hold this opinion BECAUSE of Theosophical studies. The
only thing "we," as Theosophists, are really encouraged to
accept, is the Three Objects.
The study of comparative religion is included in those objects,
and I have, over the years, attempted to understand both the
philosophical foundations as well as the outer activities of most
of the world's major (and many of the minor) religions.
Religion has contributed many remarkable things to the lives of
humans, but it has also engaged in deeds foul beyond imagination.
And if there is anyone idea that seems present among some in
almost every religion, and is arguably the most lethal,
dangerous, idea within them, that has lead to more suffering and
bloodshed than almost any other single idea, it is the idea that
could be formulated:
"I know the truth, and that truth is universal."
This sentiment was, and is, at the foundation of every crusade,
every inquisition, every "holy war" in the recorded history of
(I should add, however, that I believe it to be a necessary, but
not sufficient condition for atrocities. I do not mean to imply
that anyone that universalizes their personal truths does evil,
only that there is subtle, but very definite danger in not
knowing when it is being done).
For whatever its worth, I believe there may be two general ranges
of truths, the universal and the personal. Personal truths come
about through the agency of the human ability to condition their
Integrate a belief structure deep enough into the unconscious,
and it will become the equivalent of an operative archetype that
then conditions what a person perceives (and doesn't perceive)
and how the person evaluates the perception.
If a person believes an evil spirit called "Satan" is alive on
earth, it's easy to see how a multitude of different and
completely unrelated events will all appear to be "acts of
Satan." An entire perceptual world may then unfold out of that
belief-complex. Different people may come to be seen as "tools
of Satan." The perceptual world will differentiate into the
forces of "good" and the forces of "evil."
The person may pray or meditate on "Satan," and will, predictably
enough, begin to receive deeper and deeper "insights" about Satan
and the way he works. Anyone, however, that has not entered that
belief structure, will most definitely not accept the "truths" of
those insights, and will likely see them as superstition or
madness. Plato's Noble Lie was a recognition of this principle,
and an attempt to use it towards a positive end.
Universal truths, on the other hand, arise out of the most basic
qualities of existence itself, and are not at all dependent upon
the will or perception of any of the beings concerned.
The philosophical search for truth, I believe, is the search for
those universal truths, for the understanding of those basic
qualities of existence, and nothing is as destructive to this
search than failing to differentiate between the personal and the
universal, than, in fact, arriving at PREMATURE "Inner
Certainty." (The greater the person's Inner Certainty about
"Satan," the less chance that person would have of discovering
the actual principles and causes behind the events blamed on
The scientific method of the last couple of centuries has greatly
aided this search, but I believe it was used by genuine
occultists for millennia prior to its appearance in the general
If the "Masters" can, for instance, precipitate objects and
letters, or perceive events and situations at a considerable
distance from the location of their physical bodies, they must
have learned how to do it, must have gradually developed the
abilities, must have, in essence, done some (to most of us,
unknown) things, checked to see the results, refined what they
were doing, tried again, etc., etc. The knowledge and abilities
of these beings could not have been arrived at without a clear
differentiation between the personal and the universal.
Most religions don't even begin to distinguish between the two,
and simply speak the personal as though it is the universal.
"Karma" is a concept that is spoken of as a universal principle
by some, but definitely not all, religions on earth.
Those who accept it as a truth certainly do seem to gain
continuous insights about it, and many events in their lives
certainly are conceptualized as the operations of its principles,
but none of this means it is a universal truth, and if it is not,
then The Theosophical Society has contained within itself a
fundamental contradiction: It is composed of Three Objects, which
describe a society composed of people encouraged to work toward
creating the interconnectedness of humanity, its religions,
sciences and arts, and committed to the exploration of latent
human potential, but it also contains a set of writings that
introduce concepts from a couple of eastern religious traditions.
It is possible to fully accept the Three Objects without in any
way accepting (at least not a priori) any of the religious truths
of Hinduism or Buddhism.
The more I have thought through the concept of "Karma,"
especially in the light of modern physics, and with the
understandings coming from complexity and chaos theories, the
more it is beginning to appear as a personal, rather than a
The concept of Karma assumes a determinism that is only possible
in a closed, entropic, conservative system. But we are in a
world in which it is coming to be increasingly understood that
even the most basic particles of matter don't always behave in a
deterministic fashion. This leaves out the agency of "free will"
that might be expected to be present in human behavior, and would
suggest even greater indeterminacy.
Our world is one in which even the most materialistic of
scientists are beginning to describe with the equations of
nonlinear fluid dynamics and probability theory rather than with
simultaneous linear equations. It is a world in which simple
concepts are having an increasingly hard time explaining the
stunning complexity of human life at both the individual and
collective levels. Knowing this, it becomes harder and harder
for me to accept the notion of Karma as a universal truth, at
least as it is framed in the metaphysical texts of the Piscean
I also consider it at least possible that it is a sort of moral
dogma, introduced deliberately by members of the inner kingdom
for the benefit of human civilization.
Throughout books such as THE MAHATMA LETTERS, and many others,
including even the Christian bible, there are continual hints
that the "Masters" consider the average human to be rather
childish, both in motives for behavior and capacities of
understanding. They refer to themselves as "Elder Brothers," and
claim both the rights and the duties of guidance. I do not
question their motives, but I also believe them fully capable of
using white lies (even really HUGE white lies) as a means of
In short, I have NO certainty, inner or outer, about what Karma
is, or even whether it actually exists as a principle in lives
other than those who have internalized it as an operative
paradigm. And when I observe someone speaking with total
certainty about its truth and even its minute characteristics,
speaking as though it is not merely a personal belief but is a
universal law, then I cannot help but ask about the source of
There really IS no religion higher than truth.
BLAVATSKY NET UPDATE
by Reed Carson
[For more information on Blavatsky Net, go to
When Blavatsky Net was started some three years ago, vindication
of HPB was the pre-eminent objective. Later more objectives were
added. And now the dicussion on the bn-study list, concerning
scholarship and vindication, has triggered those old feelings
over again. In response, a new link was added in March to the
homepage called "Scholarship Forum."
There are scholars scattered around the globe and around the
existing Theosophical groups and as independent parties. There
is a real need for these individuals to communicate and most of
all to share the results of their studies and make them
permanently available. We want to encourage that effort, at high
scholarly standards, and to help make the results available to
all. The movement needs this. Such work will vindicate HPB,
work toward changing the view of Theosophy in the Universities
(mostly amongst those with open minds), and be of value in its
own right and for all students to come.
In discussions with Rich Taylor he has agreed to spearhead this
activity and lend his considerable expertise. We believe he is
The first item on that page is a scholarly matter written by
Siemons of Paris that compares the experiences of near-death with
the statements made by Theosophy last century. His observations
represent a real vindication of Theosophy. Also on the page will
be some substantial material by Rich Taylor addressing
Blavatsky's ideas as they can be found in Buddhism today. If
anyone has other scholarly research material that would be
appropriate for this new page please contact myself
(email@example.com) or Rich (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A tentative course agenda has been chosen for bn-study. It may
change subject to further discussion.
Week Starts Subject
1 2/14/99 The Absolute
2 2/21/99 First Logos
3 2/28/99 2nd and 3rd Logos
4 3/7/99 Where is the 3rd Logos in the world around us?
5-7 3/14/99 chart on SD vol I, p 157 (esoteric constituion
of a human being)
8 4/4/99 Septenary
9 4/11/99 The three objects of the Theosophical Movement
10 4/18/99 2nd Fundamental of Theosophy
11 4/25/99 3rd Fundamental of Theosophy
12-13 5/2/99 Reincarnation
14 5/16/99 Karma
15 5/23/99 After death states
16 5/30/99 The spiritual Path offered by Theosophy
17-18 6/6/99 Evolution -- rounds and races - monads
19-21 6/20/99 Lemuria, Atlantis, Giants
22-23 7/11/99 Masters
24-25 7/25/99 "Summing up" section in the Secret Doctrine
26-27 8/8/99 "Proem" of the Secret Doctine
28-29 8/22/99 What is practical Theosophy?
30 9/5/99 Where is Theosophy in the Bhagavad Gita?
And finally, two more issues of "In the Light of Theosophy" are
now online - from the magazine THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT,
published in Bombay India.
WHAT ARE WE SELLING?
by Eldon Tucker
[From THE AMERICAN THEOSOPHIST, Late Summer 1995 Issue, 4-5.]
Working in a Theosophical group in the 1990s, we are faced with
important questions that form the basis of a reality check. We
must stop, take a breath, look around, and individually ask the
question: What am I really trying to do?
If we in the Theosophical Society were a business, the question
would be: What are we selling? We are working to promote
Theosophy in the world. But what is it that we are trying to
accomplish? What are our goals? What people are our target
market? What service are we trying to provide to others?
The answer can be approached by a process of elimination. We can
deduce what we are working toward if we identify what we are not
The Theosophical Society is a membership organization. Is the
purpose of our movement to gain a membership of millions of
people who profess a belief in Theosophy? Certainly not. The
intent cannot simply be to found yet another organized religion,
an alternative group for people to belong to, rather than some
local church. People are not changed by having a membership
A variation on this goal is to promote universal brotherhood,
with no bias against people of other backgrounds, including
ethnic, cultural, religious, caste, sex, or age differences. The
goal of spreading a sense of universal love and acceptance of
others is a worthy one, verbally promoted by many religious,
fraternal, and political groups. Speaking about a loving
acceptance of others is not unique to the Theosophical Society,
although such acceptance is too rarely practiced. It's usually
qualified as: "We'll all love you if you join our church, if you
register in our political party, if you belong to us." We have no
special mission in regard to brotherliness.
Another goal might be to introduce simple philosophical ideas
into the West. We could be seeking to promote a popular belief
in reincarnation and karma, or other basic tenants of Eastern
philosophy that are missing in Western thought. But are these
ideas really missing from Western thought? Most people know about
karma, for instance, and the diversity of opinions about it are
no greater in popular thought than they are in a typical
Belief has levels, ranging from a superficial acceptance of ideas
to a deep, life-changing conviction. Do we bring people to the
deeper conviction by giving them a superficial exposure to
Theosophical teachings? Are people intrinsically changed by
seeing movies with Theosophical themes, by reading Theosophical
ideas in science magazines, or by having their educational
programs modeled on principles of high philosophy?
While we can certainly ennoble our society by the introduction of
higher thought, have we deeply changed people, or only beautified
their external environment? Suppose The Secret Doctrine's ideas
about the formation of the world were commonly accepted. We
might then be able to say that the popular creation myth was
truer than it had been. But what would we have accomplished by
changing one popular creation myth for another?
Yet another goal can be found in various world religions.
Christianity teaches that we need to be saved from our sinful
natures to gain a place in heaven. Buddhism teaches that the
world is a place of misery, from which we need to obtain
liberation through the attainment of nirvana. Some branches of
Buddhism also teach a compassionate concern for the liberation of
all life, which leads us to hold back from our personal nirvana
so that we can help to save others.
Again we can ask: What's the hurry? Why are we trying to rush out
of our existence in the world? Why is it necessary to bring
everyone to nirvana as soon as possible? Is existence the true
cause of misery, so that we must get out of it as soon as
possible, or could there be other causes of misery?
Theosophy teaches about the cyclic nature of life: birth, life,
death, after-death existence, then birth again. The cycle
repeats itself again and again, without end. On a small scale we
have reincarnation. On a bigger scale we have vast periods of
evolution, of manvantara, followed by periods of silence and
rest, of pralaya, when the world dissolves into quiet and
darkness, and we ascend into the highest within.
Being now in a manvantara, a period of manifested existence,
should our highest goal be to get out of it as quickly as
possible? Should we be seeking to rush out of life, taking with
us as many people as we can draw into the path of liberation? Not
really. The time to leave existence and move on is a personal
matter, based upon an inner ripeness. It is not something that
we can do for others. Moving on may have a tragic, sad side, and
not be entirely a time of happiness and fulfillment.
Consider the statement "Universal mind was not, for there were no
Ah-hi to contain it." It refers to a time in the formation of the
world when a grand wisdom had come into being, but with no
external presence, no manifestation, no sign yet that it had
appeared. Imagine that you are in outer space with nothing in
sight, only blackness everywhere. If you shine a bright
flashlight, but it has nothing to shine upon, nothing to reflect
back its light, the space about you will still appear as black as
without the light. It is only when there are objects for the
light to shine upon at the very least, dust to be illumined that
the light can manifest itself and appear to come into being.
That metaphor is a key to understanding the value of Theosophy
and what we want to accomplish in our work. Perhaps the purpose
of existence is not to escape the world with as many as we can
take with us into liberation. And certainly the purpose of
existence is not the opposite, to completely forget our spiritual
heritage, our inner nature, and the higher planes of
consciousness. The purpose may be between those two extremes.
Countless wonders of beauty, intelligence, and love may surround
us but still be in the blackness of nonexistence. Perhaps much
illumination in the world awaits something or someone to reflect
it, to give it expression, to allow it to come into existence and
be experienced by living things. Perhaps the purpose of life is
to bring down the higher into life, to give fuller expression to
the unexpressed, to make the kingdom of heaven a living reality
on earth, rather than to run away, leaving earth behind as though
it were an awful hell to escape from.
The true cause of misery may come from deep within. Suffering
may arise from the unexpressed within, from its hungering for a
change to come into life. Suffering may come from the highest
within us, seeking its turn to exist, rather than from our lowest
parts, seeking escape from the world.
We don't do the world much good as a church. We don't need a
membership of millions of card-carrying believers, people not
changed in any inner way from what they were as card-carrying
Baptists, New Agers, or nonreligious social workers.
We also don't do the world much good by promoting yet another
flavor of metaphysical ideas already in public circulation.
Some may say that we have to change our writings, to appear
differently, to reach out and appeal to others that we haven't
been reaching before. Certainly we can do that. But, again,
why? If the goal is merely at the psychological level, to bring
some people to a personal transformation, why can't we leave that
to the Jungians and other transformational psychologists? What
has that to do with the use and value of the teachings of
It is important that we see and appreciate the real value in what
we have. It is also important, however, not to allow ourselves
to be overcome by egotism, and lose our spirituality and the
wisdom center within. The Theosophical Society was a project
considered important at one time by a few of the Masters. Like
any project, its purpose can change over time, and it may or may
not be of use in the present day.
At this point in history, would anything really be lost if the
Theosophical Society one day went under and was no more? To the
extent that is it merely a fraternal membership organization,
with no inner, living connection to the Masters and their work,
it would be fairly useless. Are we a living organization, with
continued use to the work of bringing light into the world, or
are we a vestige of a former work, long since abandoned? We have
to examine what we are doing, and do some serious soul-searching
to answer that question.
Regardless of the present status of the Theosophical Society, the
work has gone on for millions of years, since the infancy of
mankind, and will go on long after anyone remembers our
modern-day languages, religions, and scientific thought. There
are timeless truths known and preserved as a living tradition by
the Masters. This knowledge cannot be written down, but can only
be taught as an oral tradition. It must be both taught and
learned individually in order to be carried on from one
generation to the next. This is an important work, which is
described, from varying points of view, by poetic terms like "the
Tower of Infinite Thought" or the "Guardian Wall."
People don't really need to learn and pay lip service to the
grand ideas in the Theosophical philosophy. They can benefit
from any approach to the spiritual that helps them open up their
inner mind and inner heart and give fuller expression to that
aspect of life which only they can uniquely express. They don't
need the Theosophical Society to play guru or priest in that
respect. Much good work goes on around us, and we don't offer
anything special in that regard.
What then do we offer? What is there of unique value in the
teachings that we love, study, and make such an important part of
our lives? It is the teachings themselves. As long as we learn,
study, and truly know the teachings, we have the possibility of
creating places or centers of learning where others, ready to
learn, can come and study. It is important to have people who
have learned, studied, and made the teachings a part of their own
lives. Doing so preserves the teachings as a living tradition.
When such people are gone, we have left only a philosophy club,
and we have become only a publisher of the dead literature of the
Our important, but not unique, role is to provide an outer court
to the Mystery Temples of today. We provide a place where those
who feel an inner calling can come and study the teachings along
with fellow students, preparing one day to give the right knock
and enter the Temples.
Does it matter that we have a high turn-over in membership? Not
really. In our role of junior college to the Mysteries, we may
go through a sifting process that brings us into contact with
large numbers of people before finding that rare individual ready
to benefit from some fragments of the Wisdom Religion outside the
Mystery Temples. If we were panning for gold on a river bed with
only an occasional speck of gold in many pans of rubble, we would
still patiently work, knowing that the gold we find is worth the
Does this mean that we are egotistical, that we consider
ourselves to be "gold" and the millions of other people around us
to be dross or rubble? Certainly not. The mere fact of thinking
oneself better that others is almost conclusive proof that one is
deeply entrenched in the personality, far-removed from the
spirituality and wisdom that we admire and seek after.
Our main job, then, is to preserve the teachings in a pure form,
in both a written form and as a living tradition by studying,
learning, and incorporating the teachings into our lives, so that
the Wisdom Religion stays alive in the Western world. We delve
deep within to learn, to know, to become that Wisdom, because we
love it and it is an important part of our lives. And we keep
alive in the world, outside the Temple doors, such of that wisdom
as we can carry in ourselves.
We don't need millions of members, or even hundreds of thousands
of members. We don't need members who are indifferently with us
and would be just as happy in any of thousands of other groups.
We need to provide a place for those people who, upon first
coming across the teachings, feel a deep inner recognition and
say: "This is what I've been looking for, this is that special
knowledge that answers a lifelong hunger I've felt to understand
Plenty of people have the necessary inner ripeness for the
teachings. They need no selling or convincing of the truths
before them. Let's help these people achieve their potential,
and forget about organizational details of money, size, power,
and public recognition. Let's go for the Gold, and share with
our fellow prospectors.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE?
By Mary L Fay
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, August, 1937, pages 126-27. Mrs.
Fay is the President of the San Diego Council of Parents and
Teachers. This paper was read at a meeting of the San Diego
Theosophical Society, April 2, 1937.]
I think everyone agrees that our purpose in life is growth,
physical, mental, moral, and spiritual. The purpose of life is
to raise the mortal into immortality; to give time and
opportunity for the deathless spiritual potency at the core of
man's being to develop, grow, unfold into perfection.
Man is a composite being with three elements in his constitution,
first a personality that we call by name; second, back of his
personality we find a deeper reservoir of consciousness expressed
in the ideal desires of the nature; third and lowest of all is
the animal consciousness, including the body which is the vehicle
for the two higher elements. When we understand this threefold
division, we can more fully understand St. Paul's description of
man as body, soul, and spirit.
It is this higher, ideal nature, the Spiritual Ego, which
reincarnates. The word reincarnation means reentering a body of
flesh. Human reincarnation is one phase of the universal law of
evolutionary growth through alternate states of rest and
reimbodiment. Reimbodiment of everything that has life is a
habit of Nature. Universes, solar systems, suns, worlds, men,
animals and plants, cells, molecules, atoms, all reimbody. This
habit of Nature is to me one of the strongest proofs that man
reincarnates. The innermost Self of man is a deathless Being, a
god, which reclothes itself from age to age in new bodies or
vehicles, that it may undergo all possible experiences in the
Universe to which it belongs and so reach its own most complete
growth and self-expression. Rebirth, then, is the pathway of
evolution. It is the method by which Nature progressively draws
into growth or unfoldment the limitless capacities latent in all
creatures from atoms to gods. The very fact that we intuitively
know that there are large reserves of power and possibility
within us that are seeking expression; the fact that nearly
everyone yearns to develop, to be, that Greater Self which he
senses within -- this very urge to a larger and fuller life, is
our daily witness to Nature's true purpose for man. It is
through Reincarnation alone that man can bring out and perfect
this hidden wealth of power and capacity. In each life some new
phase of character is shaped by environment. New powers and
capacities are unfolded from within. Weaknesses, selfishness and
other faults are corrected by suffering.
We might ask here why we do not remember our past lives, because
it would seem that if we did remember, we should not make so many
mistakes. However it is well that we do not remember details of
our past lives because we should spend too much time reviewing
our mistakes, which would hinder our evolution. Evolution always
looks forward, is constructive, builds afresh and on developing
patterns. So, instead of remembering our mistakes, we simply
carry over the memory of the lesson learned by the experience.
Character is memory. Genius too is memory. Both of these are a
result of repetition through life after life of lessons which
have been realized and absorbed and have become a permanent part
of our nature. Character is the spiritual fabric woven by
evolution. It is the only thing we can take out of life when we
go; it is what we bring back as our heritage from the past when
we return to incarnation on earth.
IS THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY AN ADDICTIVE ORGANIZATION?
by William Greer
[Note that William Greer is a former member of the American
Section of the Theosophical Society (Adyar). References to "the
Theosophical Society" are based upon his experiences with that
organization, and not to the Theosophical Society (Pasadena), the
United Lodge of Theosophists, or other theosophical groups. It's
good for members of the various theosophical groups to know why
members leave, and how the people leaving see things. That
feedback is essential to help make the groups responsive to the
needs of the theosophical community.]
The helping professions have given much attention to families
with problems of addiction. A few years ago, a comparison was
drawn between addictive families and organizations with
comparable problems. The major work in this field (and the
principal source of information for this article) was co-authored
in 1988 by Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel. [THE ADDICTIVE
ORGANIZATION: WHY WE OVERWORK, COVER UP, PICK UP THE PIECES,
PLEASE THE BOSS, AND PERPETUATE SICK ORGANIZATIONS. San
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. Note that all page numbers are
citations to this work unless otherwise stated.] Schaef gained
wide recognition with two of her previous books, CO-DEPENDENCE
AND WHEN SOCIETY BECOMES AN ADDICT. Fassel is an organizational
consultant and author of WORKING OURSELVES TO DEATH.
Recently some Theosophical Society employees in Wheaton likened
the Olcott community to a dysfunctional family. And it has been
suggested that some Olcott working relationships are reminiscent
of abusive marriages. Beyond the Olcott community, it has been
alleged for years that the Theosophical Society sometimes behaves
in a pathological manner. Often these allegations have been made
by members with credentials in the areas of mental and emotional
health. The work of Schaef and Fassel suggests that the
Theosophical Society is what they refer to as an "addictive
Throughout their work, Schaef and Fassel primarily refer to the
relationship of companies and employees. For this article,
whenever words like "company" and "employee" appear, they may be
replaced by "society" and "member."
Schaef and Fassel cite Robert Subby's nine "rules" of
dysfunctional families [Page 107. For the cited work, see Robert
Subby, "Inside the Chemically Dependent Marriage: Denial and
Manipulation," in CO-DEPENDENCE: AN EMERGING ISSUE (Hollywood
Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1984.] and suggest they also
apply to addictive organizations:
> 1. It is not okay to talk about problems.
> 2. Feelings should not be expressed openly.
> 3. Communication is best if indirect, with one person acting as
> 4. Be strong, good, right, and perfect.
> 5. Make us proud.
> 6. Don't be selfish.
> 7. Do as I say, not as I do.
> 8. It is not okay to play or be playful.
> 9. Don't rock the boat.
Information appearing in THE ACTIVIST has suggested that the
Theosophical Society is particularly troubled by rules 1, 2, 3,
and 9 -- and with the other rules to a lesser degree.
Most members are uncomfortable critiquing the Theosophical
Society because it and their roles in it are felt to be very
special. The mission of the Theosophical Society is nothing
short of sublime. But this very mission, if followed blindly or
in ignorance, can cause difficulties:
> The organization becomes the addictive substance for its
> employees when the employees become hooked on the promise of the
> mission and choose not to look at how the system is really
> operating. The organization becomes an addictive substance when
> its actions are excused because it has a lofty mission. We have
> found an inverse correlation between the loftiness of the mission
> and the congruence between stated and unstated goals. When this
> lack of congruence exists, it is more probable that the
> organization will enter into a rigid denial system with
> concomitant grandiosity. [Page 123]
If the Theosophical Society operates on unstated goals or if its
Three Objects are interpreted in a way that most members would
fail to recognize, then a problem exists. The Theosophical
Society is likely operating in "denial" if -- despite repeated
warnings -- it is not true to its mission. For many members, the
mission offers a profound source of identification -- a very
appealing philosophical orientation. Furthermore, denial can
allow identification and philosophical appeal to be cultivated by
the organization and its leaders for the purpose of putting "a
buffer between the people in the organization and what is really
happening in the organization:" [Pages 124-5]
> When organizations function as the addictive substance, it is in
> their interest to keep promoting the vision of the mission,
> because as long as the employees are hooked by it, they are
> unlikely to turn their awareness to present discrepancies.
> [Pages 124-5]
Addictive organizations are often plagued by improper or
inadequate communication, and the Theosophical Society is no
exception. Communication is frequently indirect and conflicts
rarely acknowledged. In these circumstances, people are
"unwilling to discuss these conflicts in a group setting." What
communication that does exist is often "vague, confused, and
ineffective." [Page 139]
Addictive organizations have many secrets, usually "for their own
good." Such has often been alleged of the Theosophical Society --
primarily secrets kept by the administration from its members.
Schaef and Fassel point out the destructiveness of such secrets:
> There is a saying in Al-Anon that families are only as sick as
> the secrets they keep -- so too in organizations. Secrets are
> divisive and powerful. Keeping them is difficult, fosters
> dishonesty, endangers trust, and creates "in" groups and tension.
> Organizations moving toward health try to keep fewer secrets and
> ideally work toward none at all. [Page 141]
Lack of information is sometimes deliberate and is accomplished
by what has been called "SKILLED INCOMPETENCE" whereby
"executives who are skilled communicators" use their
"communication skills (much like disinformation) to cover up real
problems." [Page 141] Such has been said to exist in the
The failure to acknowledge conflict and troublesome issues can
become institutionalized and lead to an environment "that cannot
tolerate 'straight talk,' honesty, or directness." One researcher
observes four steps in this process of perverted communication:
> 1. Design an obviously ambiguous statement that goes
> 2. Ignore any inconsistencies in the message.
> 3. Make the ambiguity and inconsistencies undiscussable.
> 4. Make the undiscussability undiscussable. [Page 142. For the
> cited work see Chris Argylis, "Skilled Incompetence," HARVARD
> BUSINESS REVIEW, September-October, 1986, p 74.]
Schaef and Fassel observe that addictive organizations are
"skilled at eliminating significant communication" which could
facilitate change in the organization. Resistance to change is
not always bad, but problems occur when such processes "serve to
cloud significant information and make it more difficult to get
access to what is really going on." In meetings, addictive
organizations typically allot more time to safe, mundane
announcements than to more important issues -- issues that those
in control wish undiscussed. [Pages 142-3]
In addictive organizations, intuitive concerns and emotional
needs are often marginalized -- allowing intellect the freedom to
maintain the hierarchy and control desired by the power elite.
In this situation, displays of feeling are deemed inappropriate
and, if expressed, could jeopardize one's standing in the eyes of
the leadership. [Page 143]
Dualistic thinking, so common in addictive organizations, is a
process which "sets up sides and establishes enemies." In this
process, one side is composed of the "good guys" and the other of
the "bad guys." Such organizations and the individuals involved
cannot appreciate that others may have opinions that are
valuable, helpful, and appropriate -- and consequently fail to
realize that a cooperative approach could lead to a better
situation for all. Dualistic thinking leads to an "arrogant
knowing that comes out of the pressure to know everything." [Page
One of the most predictable traits of addictive organizations is
denial, with the leadership virtually always refusing to
acknowledge that an unhealthy situation exists. This has long
been alleged of the Theosophical Society. Usually the denial is
accompanied with dishonesty at some level or other. Schaef and
Fassel observe that:
> Dishonesty arises ... alongside denial, and it ... is
> functionally related to the resistance to change at every level
> of the organization. For example, if people began to say what
> they really feel or want, there is a belief that it is not
> possible to preserve the organization as it is (this may well be
> true). Addictive organizations have institutionalized
> dishonesty. [Page 151-2]
Once dishonesty is established as the norm, everyone in the
organization participates -- either consciously or unconsciously.
The "systemic nature of dishonesty" begets two fundamental ways
of communication: "what is said and what is meant, or stated and
unstated goals." [Page 152]
Often the process of denial is part of an effort to maintain the
illusion of perfection. To achieve this illusion, it is
necessary to be dishonest "as it is not possible to maintain an
illusion of perfectionism without keeping information from
others." Consequently, the effort to maintain the illusion of
perfectionism entails "institutionalized secrets and dishonesty."
Another common feature of the addictive organization is
isolation, which usually appeals to the leadership for two chief
reasons: It keeps others from seeing the organization as it truly
is, and it enables the leadership to retain its sense of
self-righteousness. Sometimes isolation is partial, with
interaction with the larger world permitted under certain limited
and carefully controlled circumstances. As to how isolationism
compares in for-profit companies versus the not-for-profit world,
Schaef and Fassel note
> Profit-making organizations are usually more adept at staying in
> touch with consumers because their market share depends on it.
> Nonprofit organizations are frequently prevented from staying
> close to those who use their services by their very structure.
> Often decision makers in service organizations rarely have any
> contact with the clients they serve. ... Isolation means
> remaining in your own reality without concern for employees or
> the community ... [Pages 153-4]
It is not surprising that self-centeredness is associated with
isolationism. "When an organization feels that it is the center
of the universe, it sees no need to include any other information
..." [Page 154]
Much importance is assigned to the role which crisis plays in the
addictive organization. Some allege that the Theosophical
Society leadership operates in crisis mode when reacting to
events which question its worldview or challenge its
self-construed unique function in maintaining the organization.
As Schaef and Fassel observe,
> Crisis lets people lay aside their animosities to cooperate for
> the greater good ... [It] creates a false sense of
> camaraderie. It is fake, it is temporary, and it is a substitute
> for real life and a healthy organization. It leaves people with
> the illusion that if they pull together through this crisis, they
> really are a group. The organization absorbs this illusion and
> uses it to maintain itself ...
> ... In crisis we allow people to take over and enact unusual
> procedures. Crisis feeds on the illusion that control can bring
> the situation under control. Crises are used to excuse drastic
> and erratic actions on the part of managers ... When crisis is
> the norm, management tends to assume an unhealthy amount of power
> on a daily basis. [Pages 159-60]
In addictive situations, dishonesty and denial are probably the
clearest manifestations exhibited by individuals -- but CONTROL
is the main feature in organizations. Addictive organizations
strive to control how they are perceived by others. Image
control is achieved through several techniques such as limiting
discussion to certain "acceptable" topics and by giving out only
partial information. Only a few manipulators hold power, chiefly
by limiting information. They seldom seek feedback -- either
from inside or outside the organization. This stultifies
creativity and novel thought, although "inconsequential cosmetic
alterations" are made to give the false impression that truly
meaningful change is happening. Cooperative problem solving is
rarely found in the addictive organization. Often promises are
made, but rarely are they kept. "People are approached as
objects and a means to an end, although superficially they are
treated with the utmost respect and friendliness." As often seen
in the political process, pluralism and democracy are touted --
but dishonesty, control, and co-dependence are the reality. As
the addictive situation deepens, leaders will go to extreme
lengths to maintain their control. [Page 167-70]
The foregoing considerations embody the principal characteristics
of addictive organizations. To illustrate several examples of
these characteristics, Schaef and Fassel examine an educational
facility and describe it as a "perfect paradigm for the
organization as addict." The parallels with the Theosophical
Society and its recent dilemma are striking:
> Candidates are attracted to the institute because they believe in
> the institute's mission and stated purpose. The administrative
> structure is such that the mission cannot be achieved. The
> structure is based on a need to control; in fact, the structure
> actually interferes with accomplishing the goals of the
> organization. The candidates, who are now confused and angry,
> try to pursue their goals through avoidance of the structure and
> dishonesty with the administration. They by necessity become
> cons. Administrators feel they cannot trust students, so they
> create more rules to ensure uniformity and high standards ...
> They then get into impression management, which is a form of
> dishonesty. [Page 166]
If the pathology described in this article applies to the
Theosophical Society, what can be done to achieve greater
healthfulness? To have a reasonable chance of recovery, the
Theosophical Society must be willing to sincerely look at itself
and how it functions. Such introspection is unlikely without the
participation of management. But even then, cooperation from the
whole system is required. Schaef and Fassel assert that
"wholehearted cooperation is not always necessary, but the
willingness to at least look at the data about addictiveness at
all levels in the organization is essential." [Page 192] And they
> An organization that is ready to face the prospect that it is
> operating like an active addict is probably facing the broadest
> and deepest changes of all [and] ... must be willing to examine
> philosophy, mission, goals, structure, internal systems ... They
> need to be open to seeing that the organization itself is a
> contaminating force in its own life and in the lives of the
> individuals in it and in its community. [Page 193]
In their discussion about how organizations may recover from an
addictive situation, Schaef and Fassel propose nine suggestions
for addictive organizations: [Page 207]
> 1. Organizations must accept change as a constant and must
> become less static.
> 2. Organizational survival cannot be taken for granted.
> 3. Organizations cannot be as complacent as they have been.
> 4. CEOs must function differently.
> 5. Hierarchy and autocratic methods are outdated.
> 6. Collegial rule is necessary.
> 7. Individual involvement is necessary.
> 8. Organizations must transcend isolationism.
> 9. Organizations have to move with the market and be responsive
> to the market.
For the Theosophical Society, the "market" is determined by
prevailing public mood -- the present inclination for greater
spirituality and perspectives on acquiring it.
What if an organization fails to heed the warning signs and the
corrective measures enumerated above? Schaef and Fassel predict
three disturbing outcomes for organizations that do not achieve
recovery: [Pages 208-9]
> 1. They will exacerbate existing problems and develop more
> complex, destructive problems.
> 2. They will become less moral and ethical and more ruthless --
> losing influence and respect.
> 3. They will lose their best people.
In the case of the Theosophical Society, it seems quite probable
that its continued addictive behavior will result in two profound
changes in its membership: 1) It will lose those who would be
most likely to bring about meaningful and positive change. 2) It
will retain and even elevate those who will engage in further
addiction and eventual destruction.
The Theosophical Society appears to be at a crossroad in its
evolution and in its prosperity. It is faced with issues of
vital significance to its future. These are not new problems,
but they are growing and are demanding attention. If the
pathology proposed in this article rings true, if the
Theosophical is behaving in an addictive mode, will it -- like an
addict -- be given yet another ineffectual "fix," only to remain
mired in its Victorian stupor. Or will it throw off the
self-imposed fetters of obsolete custom and enter the 21st
century as a more responsive vehicle for transformative change --
an organization in touch with the times, not adamantly and
self-righteously behind them.
BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY ON COLONEL CONGER
by Sarah Belle Dougherty
[COLONEL ARTHUR L. CONGER, by Alan E. Donant, Theosophical
University Press, revised 1999.]
Humanitarian, scholar, musician, and military officer, Colonel
Conger was Leader of the Theosophical Society from 1945-1951.
Those who worked with him remember particularly his kindness,
perception, and strength of character; for many, he was truly a
spiritual mentor and friend.
A biographical essay, COLONEL ARTHUR L. CONGER, by Alan E.
Donant, describes his education, career, and theosophical
activities, where "we observe theosophic principles taken beyond
the books and into daily life." The enlarged and revised version
is available from Theosophical University Press, and is online
at: online at:
Joining the Theosophical Society under William Q. Judge in 1892,
Colonel Conger actively participated in the administrations of
Katherine Tingley and G. de Purucker. Three years after Dr. de
Purucker's death, he was elected Leader of the Theosophical
Society. Although confined to a wheelchair by Parkinson's
disease, he revitalized the Society's public activities and
supervised a vigorous publishing program, stressing that the T.S.
"must be turned from the receiving end of theosophy to the giving
Originally appearing in the magazine THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY, the
current work has been revised and enlarged, and contains several
photographs and a color portray of Colonel Conger. Those looking
for insight into this period of theosophical history, or who
enjoy exploring the life of a remarkable man, will find this
well-documented 32-page booklet of interest.
CHECKING OUR IDEAS WITH FACTS
by Daniel Caldwell
[based upon a June 27, 1995 posting to email@example.com.]
I've heard it said, regarding reincarnation, that a skeptic can
easily come up with an alternate explanation. This is supposed
to dismiss the concept. If this line of reasoning is used to
justify that reincarnation cannot be proved, then I would suggest
that this same line of reasoning can be used to claim that the
paranormal and the metaphysical in general CANNOT be proved.
Skeptics belonging to the organization CSICOP constantly use the
tactic of suggesting an alternative explanation as a possibility
in order to show that there is no good proof even of ESP,
telepathy, clairvoyance, etc.
In trying to explain any phenomenon -- including historical cases
like who killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman! -- there are many
POSSIBLE alternative explanations.
In scientific studies, there are many possible alternative
explanations to explain a phenomenon but it is the job of the
scientist to rule out and weed the number of competing
possibilities and to attempt to come up with the explanation,
i.e. the most probable explanation that can be found in light of
all the known evidence.
If you see a man stumbling down the sidewalk as you drive by,
from your armchair vantage point in the car, you can come up with
many different explanations for his behavior. (1) He is drunk;
(2) he is injured; (3) he has a physical disability; (3) he is
crazy; (4) he is pretending and hoping someone will come over to
him so he can mug that person, etc.
All these alternative explanations are possible given the right
circumstances. But you will never know the real explanation
unless you are willing to get out of your car and collect more
data, information, evidence to help you answer the question: "Why
is the man stumbling down the sidewalk?"
If anybody offers an explanation the burden of proof is on that
person to submit evidence of some kind that shows that his
explanation rules out the competing explanations. To simply
offer an explanation as a possibility solves nothing.
For example, a number of people have tried to identify who the
Master Koot Hoomi really was. Richard Hodgson said K.H. didn't
exist! That's one explanation.
About seven years ago, Steve Richards said in THE AMERICAN
THEOSOPHIST that K.H. was really a man by the name of Nisi Kanta
Chattopadhyaya. Paul Johnson has tried to identify Thakur Singh
Sandhanwalia as the man behind the K.H. prototype. Mary K.
Neff suggested that K.H. was a certain man (I can't remember the
name and don't have before me that file). etc, etc.
But in each and every explanation has the person putting forth
the explanation really solved the problem concerning K.H. or
have they only offered a possibility with some suggestive
evidence while at the same time ignoring evidence to the contrary
which would show their explanation is way off the base?
How do you prove anything? What is evidence? I have found that
far too many writers (including Theosophical writers) dealing
with Theosophical history don't even follow the simple rules of
basic research and some have the vaguest understanding about
evidence, proof, possibilities versus probability, etc.
And dealing with the teachings of Theosophy, it seems that
Theosophists -- at least many of them -- are even less concerned
with attempting to find facts that would help to show the
truthfulness or falsity of some of the basic ideas of Theosophy.
Far too often I find them invoking faith, intuition or personal
experience to buttress their acceptance of Theosophical ideas.
Therefore, are the Theosophists any more head of the game than,
for example, orthodox Christians who also invoke faith,
intuition, and personal experience to prove that the Bible is
Now I am not denying that faith or intuition or personal
experience doesn't have its place in the scheme of things. But I
dare say that their is not a belief system in the world that
cannot be validated' by faith, intuition and personal experience!
So if Theosophists claim Theosophy is something unique among all
the competing ideologies of this world -- notice I said IF! --
what is it that Theosophists can present to seekers other than
faith, intuition or personal experience?
(Please note that I make these comments from the perspective that
Theosophy, as a body of knowledge, is a science, and subject to
the same standards of being checked against the reality of the
BEING EVERYTHING IN DREAMS
by Jerry Schueler
[based upon a July 31, 1995 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Lucid dreaming is a gift if you come by it naturally, but it can
be learned like anything else. It took me many years to learn
The idea is to stay in the semi-sleep state as long as you can.
I have found that I do this naturally now, more than I want to.
I often feel like I am not sleeping and can't get to sleep, but
later my wife will tell me that I was sleeping away like a baby.
Physically you sleep (your body rests) but mentally you are
semi-awake and know that you are lying in your bed and so on. It
allows you to consciously direct your dreams rather like a movie
director. Because of this, you can easily stop nightmares before
Could there be a lucid nightmare, something awful? No. As far as I
can see, one would have to want to have the nightmare in order to
have one. I used to have terrible ones years ago, but thanks to
lucid dreaming I have eliminated them altogether. Whenever one
starts, I just say "no," and then change the direction of the
dream content to one that I would prefer. This has worked well
Can we visit the past or the future? I am not at all sure that
the future and past are "places" to visit. I think that both
only exist in a kind of quantum probabilistic sense and that only
the present is real. To visit THE future is really to visit A
possible future, one of many possible futures, and yes, we can do
this. To visit THE past is also really to visit A past.
How about the beings we may meet? Could these beings be "real" or
coherent in the same way we are? HPB does warn us that about the
astral world is mayavic.
This question is also found with students of Magic. They ask:
"Are the gods and angels real?" I believe that I have already
answered this one several times. The beings we meet in dreams
are as real as those we meet with in rituals and in meditations.
Someone might say that in our dreams, we are reminded of how we
participate in POTENTIAL pasts and futures, so that talking to
aliens, Masters, elementals, devas, angels, etc. is not such a
THE NEED FOR IMPERSONALITY
By Kenneth Morris
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, August, 1937, pages 125-27.]
Once upon a time a member came into a room at the headquarters of
one of our National Sections, and heard -- and misheard -- half a
sentence spoken by the National President about one of his
coworkers. This half sentence seemed to praise the coworker in
question at the expense of all the other members: to say that he
was the only one worth anything: which was very great nonsense.
The one who so misheard forgot impersonality, and took it as an
insult to himself and the rest of the membership, and spread the
news; and -- that National Section was very nearly wrecked by
jealousy of the member thus supposed to have been singled out for
unique praise and detestation of the National President supposed
to have been so ridiculously unjust. If the whole sentence had
been heard, instead of the last half of it being misheard, the
wrong impression would never have been created. If a listener
had treated the matter impersonally, he would have said to
himself, "The one thing that matters to me is that I should carry
out MY duties in my lodge: what anyone thinks of me, matters to
none." And the other members would not have heard the false
report. If they HAD heard it, would have known there was a
mistake somewhere, and been unconcerned. There would have been
no jealousy, no disharmony, no distrust or suspicion. The work
for humanity would have gone forward undisturbed. The world is
in this horrible condition simply because people have not been
taught the facts about their own nature. They do not know that
the Real Man is not the personal self. So they live in and
identify themselves with this personal self which is the seat of
all selfishness, stupidity, vanity, and ambition, and in many
cases is like a bomb ready to explode at any moment and set loose
these poisonous effluvia on society. So the world -- which might
be a decent enough place -- is turned into the hell it is. What
are you going to do about it? Grab what enjoyment, complacency,
and self-satisfaction you can, and let the rest go hang? Even so,
in its lifetime, did the bacon you had for breakfast!
Now comes along the Theosophical Society with the business of
changing things. It is established and watched over by men we
call the Masters of Wisdom. We call them such because they have
taken the trouble to learn and evolve, and so KNOW what the
meaning of life is, and the nature of man and the universe. And
they give out, through the Theosophical Society, as much of their
knowledge as there is the least chance we can assimilate, in
order that men may begin to base their lives on fact instead of
on fatuous foolish fiction, and so pour into the world an acid to
corrode away selfishness and the misery that just can't help
following on its heels.
There are two sides to man's nature: this dirty little personal
side which functions here in the world; and the Real Side,
impersonal, immortal, and incorruptible. There is no reality in
the personal nature; and in the Impersonal, neither selfishness,
nor separateness, nor capacity for being hurt or wounded, or for
Now Theosophy is: knowing these facts and using them. You can't
know them unless you use them. You can only know by putting in
practice. There was once a man who knew everything that was to
be known about swimming; he had read every treatise on swimming
in the ancient and modern literatures of the world, sitting in a
particularly comfortable armchair in his study. Then he went to
sea and fell overboard, and was drowned in the minimum of time
required for drowning. The moral of which is still truer of
Theosophy than it is of swimming. What? You know THE SECRET
DOCTRINE by heart? Yes. But have you forgiven the chairman who
did not ask you to speak on such and such a very Public Occasion?
For use of Theosophy means above all things being Impersonal.
Not taking offense. Every time someone offends you, deliberately
using that as a means of climbing out of your personal Self. It
is only the personal nature that can be offended. It is only the
personal that can be hurt. So when the hurt comes, welcome it as
a signal to retire into the Impersonal part where no hurt can be
We have only one concern with our fellow members: to do our
utmost at all times to help them along the Path. Who joins the
Theosophical Society takes the first step on the road that leads
to Discipleship. A disciple is one who exists only to help
humanity. He can no more criticize or tear down his fellow
disciple than a frog can fly. Our work can only grow and become
strong in proportion as we take on ourselves the attitude of
Discipleship. The more of its members who resolutely aspire
toward the Gate of Discipleship, the stronger a lodge is. A
lodge of three members who all so resolutely aspire, and maintain
the harmony that comes of such aspiration, is far stronger than a
lodge of fifty members who pick each other to pieces.
We are here as fellows of the Theosophical Society for a great
purpose, and not just to amuse ourselves. That purpose is, to
make us individually and collectively, a link between humanity
and the Masters of Wisdom; a channel through which Their Divine
Influence can flow into, to sweeten, the life of the world. For
those who can stand, and force themselves into the impersonal
position the work demands, it is an enterprise more inspiring and
glorious than any other a human being could undertake.
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application