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.
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 potential.
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. could write:
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 nearly untranslatable."
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.
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 16. 1930.]
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 Universe.
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 know them.
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 teacher is.
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 be said.
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 Wisdom.
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 promise.
By John R. Crocker
[based upon a May 16, 1995 posting to email@example.com]
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 experience?
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 existence).
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 predicted).
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" minds.
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 our race.
(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 perceptive reality.
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 Satan).
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 population.
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 universal truth.
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 age.
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 guidance.
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 that certainty.
There really IS no religion higher than truth.
By Reed Carson
[For more information on Blavatsky Net, go to http://www.blavatsky.net]
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 superbly qualified.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rich (email@example.com).
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.
By Eldon B. 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 going after.
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 card.
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 Theosophical group.
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 Theosophy?
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 past.
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 sifting work.
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 life."
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.
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.
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 organization."
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 messenger.
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 Theosophical Society.
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 unquestioned.
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 149]
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." [Page 152]
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 add:
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.
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 end."
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.
By Daniel H. Caldwell
[based upon a June 27, 1995 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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 true, etc.?
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 everyday world.)
By Gerald Schueler
[based upon a July 31, 1995 posting to email@example.com.]
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 it.
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 they start.
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 for years.
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 rare thing.
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 taking offense.
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 felt.
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.