THEOSOPHY, Vol. 45, No. 10, August, 1957
(Pages 433-436; Size: 11K)


THE working materials of a Theosophical education do not approximate the "end" of Theosophic studies, nor are they, in fact, the ultimate content of Theosophy. And yet the working materials are indispensable means to Theosophic ends. When William Q. Judge, writing in "The Synthesis of Occult Science," says of The Secret Doctrine, "Nowhere else in English Literature is the Law of Evolution given such sweep and swing," he is speaking of the intellectual or Manasic(1) majesty of the Theosophical doctrines and their exposition in the works of H.P.B.

While we have to "think for ourselves," there is for the student of Theosophy no more "private, individual education" than there is a "private, individual salvation." The proper study of hungry minds is the constructions of richer, deeper minds. It is not that the works of other minds are to be adopted, wholesale, as some form of holy writ, but that only through the contemplation of and reflection on great ideas can small minds become large, and the inexperienced in thought grow in depth and dimension. Here, as in everything else, we learn by example. From the study of how others think for themselves -- by recognition of their daring, their originality, and their capacity for synthesis, we may give these virtues of the mind a practical function in our own lives. Anything else -- any other view of the role of Theosophic study -- can easily turn into some species of sectarianism.

The gratitude, then, owing to H.P.B., is not so much for her declaration of "the Truth" as for her mastery of the ways of knowing the truth. She did not seek believers, but those who would strive to become knowers, and gratitude to her is best expressed by a striving of this sort.

Yet, even while saying this, one should admit the endless relativities of half- and quarter-knowing which are illustrated by the mental life of every student. Short of adeptship, no one "knows" entirely by and for himself. He lives in a state of dependency upon the teacher -- dependency for direction and dependency for inspiration. It is this state of unstable equilibrium which characterizes the disciple's life, in both the mind and the feeling side of his nature. Only by recognizing this fact will he be able to make peace with the fallibilities in his strivings, with the inconstancies in his feelings. These are phenomena natural to the process of becoming whole. To think them unnatural is to fall prey to "guilt-feelings," while, on the other hand, to accept them complacently because they are "one's own," is to import into the disciple life the personal attitudes common in the world. The disciple life follows a fine line which must be drawn by the philosophic temper. This line is the "Theosophical Movement" in individual life. It is in drawing this line that we are wholly alone. The line can be drawn only by the soul in evolution, while the gaining of serenity in drawing that line is the true entry to the philosophic life.

The teachings, in all their broad extent, have a clear relation to the quest for certainty in discipleship. The teachings provide great and looming landmarks which promise breadth of mind. They suggest the kind of thinking a man can do when he really knows. If he cannot think such thoughts, he does not really know. Any "subject" which may be studied in relative isolation by a topical examination of the Theosophical literature soon gives evidence of that breadth. The question of what happens after death, for example, once the general outline of the teachings has been blocked in, leads to endless subtleties. With Socrates, we are obliged most of all to confess our ignorance. The incredibly varied possibilities of states of consciousness become a forceful reminder of the difference between our small portion of first-hand knowledge of these matters and the vast horizon of adept-understanding, of the one who goes through these states without break in the continuity of awareness.

Oddly enough, this reminder may itself become a source of conviction. A mind humbled by the immeasurable extent of actual knowing -- the knowing of the teachers -- is a mind with a profound sense of proportion. When there is speech from this point of view, it is speech which takes full cognizance of the human situation, and even the casual hearer may recognize the accents of true perception and give his respect.

There is something baffling to the honestly inquiring mind in a glib display of verbal familiarity with what are great mysteries to nearly all mankind. It is a disrespect to the inquirer to exhibit an almost unbelievable certainty -- as though he, somehow, has been wholly left out of the company of those "who know." We are all, in the last analysis, very much the same in our knowing. A few short years of inspection of the Theosophic books has not turned us into sages. There is a way of sharing in the common ignorance without diminishing the light we hope to throw upon it. Indeed, an honesty of spirit demands an unpretentious attitude. The honesty we show may turn out to be the best possible advertisement of Theosophy, for a man who is without pretense, yet can dream such great dreams as Theosophy inspires -- this is something an inquirer can understand and hope to emulate.

There is indeed a "logic" in the teachings, and it is persuasive. No metaphysical scheme of the universe can compare with Theosophy in its self-consistency, inclusiveness, and capacity to explain. But logic is not a bludgeon with which to herd reluctant believers into the fold. The attitude of a man toward his own convictions is a greater attractive force than the announced character and content of those convictions. An unanxious seriousness, a friendly but unexpecting attitude, a manifest respect for the very different or not-so-different convictions of others -- it is here the true power of Theosophy lies.

An inquirer's mental processes may not lead him at once to embrace Theosophy. But the inquirer's mental processes are more precious to him than his present or any future opinions. To be impatient of them because they have not disclosed to him the "correct" conclusions is a kind of discount of the nature of man. Those processes are all he has to work with. If he is using them as well as he knows how, he will find the truth in good time. And he must find it, in his own way or in ways that he makes his own. If he has any other theory of progress in the quest, he is hardly a candidate for the study of Theosophy. So respect for another man's making up of his own mind is the first educational duty of Theosophists. That capacity in him is all they have to work with. This hardly means "agreement." Actually, "agreement" on any matter has almost nothing to do with education. What is all-important is the way in which agreement is reached.

It is here that the teachings are of inestimable value, educationally speaking. The teachings establish an impersonal relation between student and inquirer. They are something both can look at together and discuss. No other educational tool can so well correct the foreshortened views of both science and religion in our day. The teachings are not, perhaps, "knowledge," but they open up vistas which may evoke answering chords in the soul. In the matter of history, for example, the teachings about the early races extend conceptions of the past, making the idea of antiquity and of prehistoric ages into a high vault of possibilities, able to accommodate both the visions of poets and the bewildering facts of anthropological discovery. A vast frame of reference for study of the past is provided by Theosophy. All the myths, all the curiosa and oddities of legend and tradition may find a place within that frame. The Theosophic perspective on history keeps the mind open and free of limiting assumption and definition. This, surely, is one of its greatest values. For generations now, the slow change of scientific theory concerning human origins has been in part a refinement, in part an exchange of one set of prejudices for another. The Theosophist learns to welcome the refinements while never succumbing to the prejudices. He may not "know," in a scientific sense, but the freedom of his mind to think about the past at other levels than the microscopically and literally "historical" is never plagued by demeaning notions found in the archæology and scholarship of the day. This breadth of spirit is a value all too rare and is immediately appreciated by minds which are naturally suspicious of too easy confinements of the past to a single theory. The mood induced by the study of Theosophic teachings is the authentic truth-seeking mood. It is this, and only this, which makes Theosophists.

So with the other teachings. The real inquirers are those who wander without guide, with hope, yet with unsatisfied longing, among the narrow and restricting theories and beliefs of the age. They seek, not certainties, but avenues of discovery. They carry a sense of enrichment in their hearts, looking for signs of its realization. They do not want "revelations" or sudden disclosures, but, in a happy phrase of our time, "invitation to learning."

Next article:
Theosophy and Scientific Discovery
(Part 1 of 2)


COMPILER'S NOTE: I added this footnote; it was not in the article. If it doesn't paint an accurate enough picture, or is incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot it and point it out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Manas" means Mind.
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