THEOSOPHY, Vol. 90, Spring 2002
(Pages 4-11; Size: 16K)
FACETS OF INQUIRY
[Article number (18) in this Department]
Is anything in theosophy illogical?
One is bound to confront ideas yet to be explored when approaching any all-encompassing study such as the theosophy presented by H. P. Blavatsky. The skeptics, the heretics, and the stalwart disbelievers are common newcomers to the search for a truth higher than any religion -- and we are always asking how, why, and where as we turn the pages. The Pandora's box of sorts, opened by the curious, theosophy unleashes no plagues, but it can release passions on one's inner world. Our studies may draw us to question some of the huge complexities of a life divine. Once opened, the newly found information can be very hard to keep orderly without discipline and perseverance.
When considering esoteric science, theosophy is not forbidden knowledge, just slightly hidden from the masses and in itself not all handed out. For long-time students, the difficulty lies in the opened box. Once you see the ocean, how can you not know its there when you return inland? How can you prove its massiveness and the swell of its cresting waves to the desert dweller? How can you correct your own mistaken views of its distant shores? In the introduction to the Secret Doctrine, HPB advises the seeker to use his or her "knowledge of landscapes left behind" to look in front at the "transmural view" seen from the "loftiest summit." Are we sure, then? Do we know? When challenged, do we use rationale that begs the question and looks very much like religiosity? Where then is our reality check?
A similar question: What comes first -- belief or understanding? According to Eliphas Levi (The Key of the Mysteries, 1861), the religious answer is belief, and the scientist answers understanding. Theosophy, however, favors the language of philosophy -- of logic and reason, of process, of learning how to know. To turn the question of sound reasoning on theosophy seems fair, since Blavatsky herself pits her presentation directly against "this age of crass and illogical materialism."
"Gently to hear, kindly to judge" (from Shakespeare's historical play, Henry V) opens the "Introductory" of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, using what becomes a classical prologue to invite all to be open to the offering. HPB herself suggests that between skepticism and certitude lies probability, which she admits may have to suffice. Is anything in theosophy illogical? Several students of theosophy have tried to sound out this question, following up along various facets of inquiry.
For the most part, we use logic to critique situations, judge others suppositions, decide if it is "safe" to do this or that; and in the final analysis we use it to support our existing point of view, to validate our lives. Logic, like statistics, has a definite malleability in terms of application. The logic used to conclude that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west is based upon repeated observation yet we know it is not true. The logic employed by the intellect will not take us very far beyond the world of appearances. The logic of theosophy is found in its vision as much as in the mathematical precision of its equations, or the interplay of the principles and propositions it puts forth.
Theosophy presents a higher wisdom, Sophia, that transcends the brain intellect and that is accessible to every human being, potentially, because each of us is essentially an expression of this divine wisdom. The logic of theosophy is rooted in the principle of Oneness, that everything in the universe, visible and invisible is alive, intelligent to one degree or another, is evolving and emanates from this "unknown source." Logic tells us that it must remain unknown to the mind because to know it throws it into the realm of duality. (To know means there is a knower and the known, subject/object relationship.) The "Source," or Absolute, by definition, must be formless; "be-ness" rather than being. Why? Because all being denotes form and no matter how vast, in the final analysis, is limited. The "Oneness" of theosophy is "Infinite Potentiality."
After saying all of the above, we find ourselves, oddly enough, in the land of the illogical. If we are the living expression of wisdom, why are we so unwise, why is the human world so wretched, and why are we so cruel and disrespectful of the planet, so selfish? Where is the logical conclusion streaming from our innate spirituality? Surely some toss up their hands and say theosophy is illogical. On the other side of the coin, we have examples of great kindness, brilliance, courage, compassion and wisdom on the human tree. Even our materialistic, warlike age has produced the likes of Gandhi, Einstein, and Mother Teresa. From these dual examples, we might conclude that theosophy isn't as illogical as it is paradoxical.
Actually it is the human being that is built of paradox, not the philosophy. We are spiritual souls in material bodies, beings of infinite vision blinded by finite, physical senses. We are pilgrims, travelers, who have lost the history behind us, and our direction to what's ahead. The logic of theosophy is to be found in the teaching of evolution, the progress of the soul through many incarnations toward actualization of its divine nature. It is the study of the triple evolution, the physical, psychic and spiritual, interwoven at every point that gives theosophy the power to give a rational explanation of things seemingly illogical and contradictory.
The logic of theosophy is to be discerned in the blade of grass that has pushed itself up into the sunlight through the concrete sidewalk, or in the boy born into a broken family in the drug-infested projects of the inner city who somehow ends up becoming a brilliant mathematician and inspiring teacher. The logic of theosophy lives in the indomitable power of the human soul that dares to dream.
Tolstoy tells a story of how one day he was riding on his horse across a vast plain. Far in the distance he saw what appeared to be a lunatic gesticulating wildly. When he drew closer, however, he saw that the man was not mad at all. He was simply making a fire. All the apparently wild gestures were entirely appropriate in that context. With partial knowledge a thing may seem illogical, but when the missing information is added, it all is seen to be perfectly reasonable.
So it is with theosophy. One of its ideas, isolated and considered apart from the others, may at first appear to be illogical. But when all the principles are united and considered together, one sees that the whole -- and each of the parts in relation to each other and to that whole -- are entirely logical.
Take, for instance, the doctrine of karma, which states that this is a world of absolute justice; whatever you sow, so shall you reap. If you do evil to another, evil will be done to you. If you do good to another, good will be done to you. This law is often sometimes criticized as being unreasonable because of the many individuals who do horrible things yet go on to live long, happy, prosperous lives with very little or no suffering and, conversely, the many individuals who are always acting kindly and generously yet whose lives are filled with misery. For anyone who believes that we live for only a single lifetime, it would seem there is no absolute justice in the world: By itself karma is not a reasonable or logical principle.
However, the teachings of theosophy include another doctrine, reincarnation. What happens when we place this doctrine side by side with karma? Reincarnation states that we do not live for only a single lifetime, but rather we are immortal beings, journeying through eternity in a perpetual cycle of activity and rest. During a period of activity the soul takes on a particular form, a particular body, a particular life. When that life is over, the soul -- which never dies -- enjoys a period of rest. Once fully rested, it then assumes a new form, a new body, and a new life. But that new life is not assumed randomly. It is the inevitable outcome of karmic causes committed by that soul in prior lives. If a soul does an evil act in one life and does not experience the karmic effect in that same life, the effect is not lost, it remains intact, and the soul will inevitably experience it in a subsequent life. Thus, the evil-doers who seem to "get away with it" in one life never do so. They meet their inevitable punishment in a future life. And the good and kindly souls who suffer so much in one life surely experience their inevitable reward in a subsequent birth. When karma and reincarnation are joined together, then, one sees the inherent consistency, reasonableness and logic of both.
Theosophy is only illogical to those who do not understand it. When each and all its doctrines are fully comprehended and their interdependency fully grasped, one sees that theosophy is the very epitome of logic.
The body of knowledge called theosophy is most often described as the synthesis of religion, science and philosophy. Pursuing it is somewhat like working a jigsaw puzzle, we search for points of agreement rather than points of disagreement. To be sure, when embarking on the serious study of theosophy, many students meet with seeming contradictions, which are natural in the learning curve of any process where contradictions are due to incomplete connections or a lack of synthesis. In "The Synthesis of Occult Science" (WQJ Articles i, p. 32), William Q. Judge wrote: "No proposition stands apart or can be taken separately without limiting and often distorting its meaning. Every proposition has to be considered and held as subservient to the synthetic whole."
In the same article the limitations of empiric science are illustrated by WQJ:Taking, therefore, the facts of experience derived from the phenomena of nature and viewing both cosmic and organic processes purely from their objective side, the "missing links," "impassable gulfs," and "unthinkable gaps" occur constantly. Not so in occult science. So far as the science of occultism is concerned, it is both experimental and analytical, but it acknowledges no "missing links," "impassable gulfs," or "unthinkable gaps," because it finds none. Back of occult science there lies a complete and all-embracing philosophy. This philosophy is not simply synthetical in its methods, for the simplest as the wildest hypothesis can claim that much; but it is synthesis itself. It regards nature as one complete whole, and so the student of occultism may stand at either point of observation. He may from the stand-point of nature's wholeness and completeness follow the process of segregation and differentiation to the minutest atom conditioned in space and time; or from the phenomenal display of the atom, he may reach forward and upward till the atom becomes an integral part of cosmos, involved in the universal harmony of creation. The modern scientist may do this incidentally or empirically, but the occultist does it systematically and habitually and, hence, philosophically. The modern scientist is confessedly agnostic. The occultist is reverently and progressively Gnostic. (p. 23.)How then are we to fathom the vast literature of theosophy? We are warned to study, examine, to judge; to investigate relentlessly but honestly; to believe nothing unless the proof is found, but also not to reject anything until that proof is obtained. As our potential for spiritual growth expresses itself, we begin to perceive a direct connection with the truth of our scrutiny. HPB wrote in Lucifer (Vol. 1, p. 431):Theosophy is divine knowledge, and knowledge is truth; every true fact, every sincere word are part and parcel of Theosophy. One who is skilled in divine alchemy or even blessed with the gift of the perception of truth will find and extract it from erroneous as much as from a correct statement. However small the particle of gold lost in a ton of rubbish, it is the noble metal still, and worthy of being dug out even at the price of some extra trouble. As has been said, it is often as useful to know what a thing is not, as to learn what it is.This method assumes that we are that which we are seeking to know and, by direct perception or attunement, we become that portion of truth that we already are. This is a confirmation of the logic by synthesis. It would then seem that synthesis is of the higher mind and expresses itself through the logic of the lower mind. This process is illustrated in the concept of the right and left sides of the brain.
The study and application of theosophy once begun must be understood to be an unfolding of our potential over many lifetimes toward a conscious realization of the spiritual Self. In "The Synthesis of Occult Science" (Articles, i, p. 32), WQJ wrote:The most profound thinker and the most correct reasoner might well afford to devote a life-time to the apprehension of the philosophy of occultism and other life-times to mastering the scientific details," acknowledging that at the same time one's ethics and religious life are "made consistent" with the principles of altruism and brotherhood.He concludes: "If this be regarded as too hard a task, it is, nevertheless, the line of the higher evolution" of humans, and "soon or late, every soul must follow it, retrograde, or cease to be." (ibid.)
[Note: For those who would like to read it, here's the link to WQJ's article, entitled "The Synthesis of Occult Science", that was mentioned and quoted from in the above article by one of the students.--Compiler]
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