THEOSOPHY, Vol. 50, No. 8, June, 1962
(Pages 350-352; Size: 11K)


[Article number (21) in this Department]

IN approaching the problem of how to study Theosophical texts, the student should certainly first determine the most beneficial or profitable attitude. We are warned against being passive and are also told to avoid accepting statements on someone else's authority. What, then, is the proper mental attitude for the student to assume when reading a book like The Bhagavad-Gita -- or The Secret Doctrine? Does one mental orientation suffice for both?

In the first place, of course, there is something a bit strained in considering the approach to Theosophical texts as a "problem." The most natural means of getting to know Theosophical teachings may simply be that of seeking out, at first, that which is "homogeneous to one's own nature." As to attitudes, we surely must realize that an attitude cannot be adopted if it is not already some part of one's nature. What happens in the light of Theosophical reading is that constructive attitudes towards study which are embryonically present may become more fully developed.

Mr. Judge's suggestions as to the universal applicability of the "three qualities" doctrine of The Bhagavad-Gita may be considered here. If a student is dominated by the intellectual quality of sattva, he will be looking to Theosophical texts for their beneficial effect on himself -- as a purifying agency, a counsel to indefatigable goodness, or a rounding out of a harmonious feeling regarding place and station in life. If the rajasic quality predominates, the emphasis will be upon the "profitable" nature of the texts, i.e., in what way insight developed can enhance one's achievements. A corollary to this stance would be a development of a sort of patriotic partisanship in respect to the Theosophical Movement, perhaps based upon the growing conviction that "Theosophical ideas will eventually win." But in both such manifestations of intellectual sattva or rajas there are lurking elements of the tamasic. The partisan Theosophist may "remain inert, considering naught" when faced with the need of discovering a new truth in an old context or an old truth in a new context. The sattva attitude similarly can lead to inertia of the mind, though here the emphasis is apt to be upon self-satisfaction, and content with the status quo. Each one of us embodies in degree, all three "qualities."

The "truth seeker" is forever aware of that sort of dynamic tension which is produced in the mind by paradox. Thus the Theosophical student finds himself compelled to be both a gnostic and an agnostic at the same time, to believe in the disciplines of the mind and the disciplines of the heart without identifying himself exclusively with either. Ideas encountered in the writings of H. P. Blavatsky need be neither accepted nor rejected, for, as H.P.B. herself said, they should be viewed with "attentive expectancy." Exposure to H.P.B. by one who adopts this attitude allows "truths" of many sorts to flow into the life of the mind. The process of Theosophical education depends upon each individual becoming the "initiator." It is the Self which must initiate the self, and gradually the student comes to see that "study" is but one approach to the incessant transformations of outlook and personality which are the substance of soul evolution. Truth, being omnipresent, is not to be discovered in a book. However, a book read with reverence for Truth can be a dialogue between the "spirit" of the book and oneself, thus helping to the awakening of a Self which may have been sleeping. This approach to study illustrates one of the ways in which we raise the self by the Self, for it is not only through definable personal effort, but also by active meditational receptivity that the "spiritual intuitions" can flow to the conscious mind.

The questioner mentions two apparently dissimilar books in The Bhagavad-Gita and The Secret Doctrine, but it is misleading to say that the Gita speaks to the "heart" whereas The Secret Doctrine addresses itself chiefly to the disciplined intellect. The Gita, just as H.P.B.'s writings, "will remain a riddle to the mentally lazy or obtuse," and it is in the context of the perspective on all philosophy and religion which The Secret Doctrine affords that the Gita can be read for its greatest enlightenment. In this suggestion, too, there is a clue to the characteristic emphasis in study that can be called "Theosophical," for Theosophical study is and always has been by way of correlation. The comparative study of religions and philosophies as pursued under the Second Object of the Theosophical Society was designed to help every aspiring student to open his mind to differing emphases -- so that eventual distillations of truth would be achieved. The Secret Doctrine contains evidence that such distillations, and the attitudes which made them possible, have formed a channel for comprehension from the beginning of time.

It is also at this point that one may see the significance of H.P.B.'s continual denial of exclusive personal responsibility for Theosophic formulation. The illumination of a principle has nothing to do with claims of authorship, and H.P.B. was always willing, in respect to both Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, to accept whatever help could be utilized. In her article, "My Books," she wrote: "Even for The Secret Doctrine there are about half-a-dozen Theosophists who have been busy in editing it, who have helped me to arrange the matter, correct the imperfect English, and prepare it for print. But that which none of them will ever claim from first to last, is the fundamental doctrine, the philosophical conclusions and teachings. Nothing of that have I invented." [Note: A link to "My Books" has been placed at the end of this article.--Compiler.]

It is from this standpoint, and this standpoint alone, that the question of "authority" in Theosophical texts can be properly considered, for there is a special authority in that which represents itself not by one author, but by thousands. The critic who carps at the writings of H. P. Blavatsky as if they were somehow in contention with the writings of various ambitious authors has failed to lift the first veil, and it is likely that he has little desire to go to school to the spirit of truth. Commenting on this perennial problem and discussing the question of "authority" in general, William Q. Judge said in "The Synthesis of Occult Science":

Beyond all necessary and natural obstacles, there is another, viz., that contentious spirit that disputes and opposes every point before it is fairly stated or understood. In the study of the Secret Doctrine it is not a matter of likes and dislikes, of belief or unbelief, but solely a matter of intelligence and understanding. He who acknowledges his ignorance and yet is unwilling to lay aside his likes and dislikes, and even his creeds and dogmas, for the time, in order to see what is presented in its own light and purely on its merits, has neither need nor use for the Secret Doctrine. Even where a greater number of propositions are accepted or "believed," and a few are rejected, the synthetic whole is entirely lost sight of. [Note: A link to "The Synthesis of Occult Science" has also been placed at the end of this article.--Compiler.]
What sort of proper "faith" can be sought and employed by the Theosophical student? All the foregoing blends easily with a paragraph from Emerson on the subject of Natural Religion:
We are all believers in natural religion; we all agree that the health and integrity of man is self-respect, self-subsistency, a regard to natural conscience. All education is to accustom him to trust himself, discriminate between his higher and lower thoughts, exert the timid faculties until they are robust, and thus train him to self-help. I think wise men wish their religion to be all of this kind, teaching the agent to go alone, brave to assist or resist a world: only humble and docile before the source of the wisdom he has discovered within him.

Note: Here are the links to the two articles that were mentioned and quoted from in the above article by the Editors.--Compiler.
(1) My Books (by HPB)
(2) The Synthesis of Occult Science (by WQJ)
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