Aug 11, 1994 03:11 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins
Subjects: Hello, Education, Psychological Theosophy, Cincinnati
Study Center, Theos-xxx, Theosophical Terms, Glossaries, Masters,
I haven't been online for a while, so it seems that I've
saved up a bag or two of two cent pieces to add to the pile:
Hello: First hello and welcome to Bill Parrette. Perhaps we
should all repeat a short intro. concerning ourselves from time
to time for the benefit of those who recently come on line. Or
perhaps John can make a special archive for such things. But it
would have to be very-very user friendly for a new person to
access. In order to save you from going back into the archives
for my intro., I'll just say that I've been interested in
occultism since 1957, and involved with Theosophy since 1963. My
original interest was also sparked by psi phenomena, later
astrology, then finally Theosophy proper. I'm affiliated with
three Theosophical Societies: T.S. (Wheaton, Adyar); T.S.
(Pasadena); and U.L.T. (Los Angeles). Presently I'm a grad.
student at Calif. State. U. Stanislas, majoring in English Lit. I
also teach writing to freshman students, and am very involved in
seminars etc. concerning teaching and learning theory in the
areas of rhetoric and Literature. My wife is a Professor at the
same University and teaches Public Administration, Organizational
development, Government and Ethics.
Second: Hello to Richard Ihle. We have never met (that I
know of) but I well remember your "Captain Theosophy" Articles in
the A.T. some years ago.
Third: Hello to Vic. I have come to hear a lot about you
from our mutual friend Karen Elin.
Education: Vic, I think you have been assigned a pretty
sticky problem concerning theosophical education. Though my wife
and I believe that we apply theosophical principles when we
teach, yet these principles might have little meaning to others
with different theosophical experiences. It all depends upon
where one is coming from. Take for instance your prospective
manual, which you say is intended to cover two parts:
"theoretical" and "applied." The former is supposed to "cover
the philosophical foundations of `theosophical education', while
the latter covers "techniques and approaches" from a
"theosophical point of view." Here is your rub: I would first
do an exploration of what is really meant by "theosophical," and
what is "a theosophical point of view?" I suspect that you will
find that these terms are more important as political
conveniences than as to having a very precise meaning. Further,
if you explore these terms only from the parameters of the Adyar
Theosophical Society, then your definitions will merely be a
reflection of that Organization, and not be at all representative
of The Theosophical Movement--unless, of course, you are making
the assumption that they are synonymous--in which case, this
project is, in my opinion, doomed to failure.
Regarding your statement that "H.P.B. has stressed the
importance of education but as a worldwide movement the
Theosophical Society may not have done much yet in this
direction." I think you will find an abundance of historical
documentation showing that a tremendous amount of work was done
during the time of H.P.B. and Olcott. They set up schools all
over Sri Lanka and India. This work was continued under Annie
Besant in the Adyar Society. In the Point Loma/Pasadena Society,
theosophical schools were set up in San Diego, CA.; Havana Cuba;
and in Sweden. All four Societies (Adyar; Point Loma; U.L.T.;
and Halcyon) had years of experience with special groups set up
for children and teens. They were usually called "Lotus groups,"
and in the case of U.L.T.; "Pathfinders." All of this also had
its roots in the nineteenth century. So, though I would agree
with you that little is done now, much was done in the beginning.
But I think you are once again doomed to failure if you think
that these past efforts can simply be revived. They belong in
another time--and perhaps so does the Theosophical Society. Any
teaching theory that is much more than fifteen years old is very
out of date. Teaching theories that were the foundation of
earlier efforts are fifty to over 100 years old. I think that
even a casual perusal of theosophical history will show that the
Adyar Society typically doesn't respond to a paradigm shift until
at least twenty years after it has occurred. By the time the
T.S. begins to respond, the world is already beginning a new one.
Psychological Theosophy: I think it was Richard Ihle who
made the plea a few weeks back concerning a psychological
expression of Theosophy, as a way to attract more members. In
theory, I think you have hit the nail on the head. I suspect
that much of the popularity of the Arcane School (Bailey) was
because of Roberto Assagioli. If the Theosophical Organizations
had made that shift back in the 1970's when Assagioli and Jung
were really "in," they would have picked up quite a coup. But
today, this stuff is on the way out. Yet, the general public has
learned to think psychologically, leaving the pre-psychological
teachings from Blavatsky to Arundale, pretty incomprehensible.
As Bill Parrette has pointed out, these teachings are simply not
addressed in the language of modern times. To make things worse,
I would be personally embarrassed to repeat many of the
Theosophical notions promoted, say in the thirties, to a group of
educated people today. Yet, that is the heritage our beloved
Theosophical Organization clings to.
Yet, another issue is at hand: Is our mission to change the
Theosophical teachings to fit today's society, or to change the
language they are expressed in? (For those reading this who
assume that there are no theosophical teachings, my question will
either have no meaning, or a meaning other than what I intend).
I hope for the sake of serving the Theosophical movement, that
the effort is toward the latter choice. The theosophical
teachings have already been substantially changed, distorted and
watered down over the last hundred years. But that is a problem
that few are willing to own up to.
Cincinnati Study Center: Bill Parrette's account of the
Cincinnati Study Center members having no interest in
theosophical concepts and literature strikes me as a rather
familiar story. But what is behind such situations? I think it
has a lot to do with the rather bizarre stance taken by the T.S.
of proclaiming no dogma (which many interpret to mean that there
are no teachings) on the one hand, and defining theosophy with
narratives that are so vague that the impact at best evokes
sentimentality, but typically lacks substance.
Even members who claim to be knowledgeable as to
theosophical teachings have been, in my experience, hopelessly
confused. A typical example was a recent presentation I attended
that was supposed to be on the teachings of T. Subba Row. The
presentation had no sense of chronology and depended upon second
and third hand sources. Diagrams were presented that were
supposed to have represented Subba Row's teachings concerning the
Solar Planes and Principles. I immediately recognized them as
Leadbeater's (from ~Man Visible and Invisible~), but no one else
did. The presenter had no idea that they were not Subba Row's.
The primary source for the presentation was educational materials
published by Wheaton, that had wrong or inaccurate information in
almost every paragraph.
We have our own study group here, which is not associated
with any theosophical organization. We have learned the hard way
that more constructive work can be done without having to put up
with blanket rules that serves no one but the Organization's need
to protect its own interests. It is small--only six members (but
with as many more asking to join), yet the quality of the
research and presentations are at graduate level. These students
have no trouble distinguishing the difference between primary and
secondary information. They also know how to sort out facts, and
they didn't begin with the assumption that all theosophical
writers are saying the same things--an assumption that is about
as sustainable as the old Christian teaching that God has assured
that all copies and translations of the Bible are the same. It's
a nice ideal, but doesn't stand the test of critical examination.
With Theosophy under the control of Organizations like
T.S.A. who cannot (or will not) publish accurate manuals of
teachings on the one hand, then publishes a magazine ~The Quest,~
that is marketed more towards the new age crowd, it is no wonder
that less than five percent of the new members remain in the
Society over five years. Those who actually figure things out
usually don't stay. My own teacher is an example of that. She
met Boris de Zirkoff (Editor of the Blavatsky collected writings)
around the same time she had joined the T.S. De Zirkoff took her
in as a student, and within six months she figured out enough to
resign from the Lodge. But in her case, she maintained a
membership at large solely out of respect for Wheaton's
commitment to Publish the Collected Writings (which I believe to
have been one of the most important contributions Wheaton has
made since the beginning of its existence in 1895). As an
educated guess, I would say that out of the 5000 members in
T.S.A., there are probably less than 30 who have a tolerably
accurate and comprehensive understanding of core theosophical
teachings and history.
Bill's comments that Theosophical terminology is too obscure
is also quite relevant. The reason behind it is rather
complicated. To give a very quick and dirty historical account
of what happened, it went something like this: The earliest
theosophical book was ~Isis Unveiled,~ published in 1877.
According the Mahatma Letters, a decision wasn't yet made at that
time to give teachings out to the general public, so the book
contains more hints than actual teachings. Yet if you look at
H.P.B.'s earliest article "A Few Questions to Hiraf ***"
published in 1875, I think you will recognize via hindsight that
the article touches upon every major teaching that she eventually
gave out. Though it gives no details, the article leaves little
doubt that she was familiar with these teachings from the very
beginning. A.P. Sinnett and A.O. Hume began their correspondence
with the Mahatma's in 1880, and began publishing these teachings
in October 1881 in a series of articles for ~The Theosophist.~
Much of the terminology (such as races, rounds and globes) were
coined by Sinnett during his correspondence with the Mahatmas.
So there was a lot of confusion concerning what Sinnett and Hume
meant by these new terms, and what they thought they understood
in the correspondence. Sinnett and Hume then began the series,
"Fragments of Occult Truth" in the Oct. 1881 issue of ~The
Theosophist.~ It was a real mess. For instance, the term they
used for "prana" was "jivatma." Over time, H.P.B. tried to
straighten out the mistakes as best she could without
embarrassing anyone. Hume, instead of putting the blame where it
belonged, started accusing the Mahatmas of giving conflicting
information. Eventually, Sinnett published ~Esoteric Buddhism~
in 1883, which was a great improvement over the original
exposition, but still flawed. The most well known error in this
book concerns the relationship of Mars and Mercury to our own
planet. But there were others also. H.P.B. tried to get Sinnett
to correct his mistakes in subsequent editions, but Sinnett felt
that he understood the teachings better than H.P.B., and held
fast. This may sound like an odd position for Sinnett to take,
but keep in mind, that he believed that H.P.B. was sometime under
the influence of "black magicians." By 1885, the Mahatma's gave
up trying to deal with Sinnett and completely broke off
correspondence with him, with the assurance that he would not be
able to contact them through mediums. Sinnett, not to be
dissuaded, found a medium whom he believed was channeling them.
Sinnett's later books are based upon these seances.
Things were further complicated by H.P.B. being forced out
of Adyar in 1885 over the Coulomb conspiracy. Thus she lost
control of ~The Theosophist~ to Olcott. It wasn't until 1887,
when she began ~Lucifer~ in London, that she had a voice again.
During that period between 1885 and 1887, Subba Row turned
against her, and started doing his own thing. In 1886-87, he
gave a series of lectures in Adyar that denounced the sevenfold
principle scheme as "unscientific" and advocated the Vedanta five
fold scheme. What needs to be stressed here, is that Subba Row
had spent the previous five years in complete support of the
Mahatma's and H.P.B.'s teachings, only to make a 180 degree turn
It wasn't until late in 1888, with the publication of ~The
Secret Doctrine~ that H.P.B. was able to thoroughly deal with
Subba Row's issues, and to correct the errors in ~Esoteric
Buddhism.~ By that time, theosophical terminology as presented
by Sinnett in ~Esoteric Buddhism~ had already become pretty
standard, and one might say that H.P.B. was "stuck" with a lot of
terminology she would not have used if the circumstances were
different. That is why, for instance, we have funny terms like
"races" which really have nothing to do with "races" as we
commonly understand the term, but really connote "periods of
evolution." Further, Sinnett had moved to England by that time,
and was influential in the London Lodge, while Blavatsky was
influential in the Blavatsky Lodge in the same city, there was,
for a while, two sets of theosophical teachings, with different
terminologies being generated from these Lodges: Those "mahatmic
teachings" from A.P. Sinnett's medium, and those of H.P.B. Thus
we inherited further conflicting terminology.
With H.P.B.'s death in 1891, Annie Besant, a member of the
T.S. for less than two years, was already gaining in influence,
primarily because she was already well known as a socialist and
atheist before joining the T.S., but also because she gained sole
control over the E.S. and later claimed direct "spiritual
successorship" to H.P.B. By 1893, she reissued ~The Secret
Doctrine~ with a considerable number of changes, and in 1897,
issued what she claimed to have been the promised "third volume"
of that work. In reality, a considerable part of the material in
that third volume was without doubt intended to have been
included in the third volume, but a substantial part of it was
previously published and, not intended for that purpose. After
1895, things began to go down hill very quickly. Annie Besant
fell under the influence of C.W. Leadbeater, who was in turn
deeply influenced by T. Subba Row and A.P. Sinnett. Besant began
revising her earlier works to comply to Leadbeater's "clairvoyant
revelations." Almost from the beginning, they began to revise
the terminology, and to change many of the meanings. For
instance, "astral body" an alternate term for "Linga Sarira" in
H.P.B.'s terminology, became an alternate term for "Kama," in
Besant and Leadbeater's terminology. Later, Besant renamed it
"desire body," and confused it with "Kamarupa" while "Linga
Sarira" was renamed "Etheric Double," but also redefined, so the
two terms are not really synonymous, though Besant claims they
are. By 1904, little was still recognizable.
This brings up another point raised by Bill: "Where is the
theosophical dictionary or encyclopedia that defines these
concepts and philosophies in a way that an ordinary 20th-century
American can understand." The simple answer is that it doesn't
exist. Such a glossary would have to take into account the
metamorphoses of the meaning of these terms over the past 100
years. Dr. Bendit had such a glossary published through Wheaton
some years back, that was much better than most, but I don't
think it is still in print. Someone is Australia is working on a
"Theosophical Encyclopedia." Also, there is an earlier
"Theosophic Encyclopedia" mss in the Pasadena society archives,
compiled by the best minds of the Point Loma Community, that may
yet see the light of day.
Regarding Bill's question concerning the term: "First
Cause," you picked a pretty abstruse concept to start with. I
suppose you are already familiar with the Western philosophical
schools source discussion on this, i.e. Aristotle's
everything in existence had a preceding cause. But he also
argued that there cannot be an infinite succession of causes,
therefore there must be a first cause, i.e. a "causeless cause."
Aristotle called this "causeless cause" the "unmoved mover." St.
Thomas later stole Aristotle's argument and used it as proof of
the existence of his Christian personal God. To put the idea in
a more current context, you might ask yourself the question; what
was the first cause behind the "big bang" of astronomical fame?
If I were to suggest an answer, it would be: "laws of nature," or
"necessity," or perhaps, from another context; "unity." Perhaps
that is as close as we can hope to get to cracking that one,
without getting into a lot of vague metaphysics. Since you are
starting to read ~The Secret Doctrine,~ I would suggest that you
linger on those three fundamental propositions found around pg.
16, and keep them in the back of your mind as you read the book.
They are the real anchor to the whole book.
Masters: Richard Ihle's "sitting on the fence" concerning
the Masters intrigues me. Which Masters do you have trouble with
Richard? The Masters as they presented themselves (and by
H.P.B.) as over worked people dedicated to making the world
better? Ordinary people (to the passer by) who don't get enough
sleep; travel primarily by foot or horseback; one of whom liked
to smoke water pipes, and both of whom had some pretty sexist
ideas about women? The one's who were seen in the flesh and
close up by dozens of people? These are the ones who made it a
point to inform Sinnett that their judgements are not infallible,
and that in this respect they are like ordinary people. Or do
you have trouble with the later Masters presented by Leadbeater,
who travel primarily via the "astral plane," and have perfect
Victorian British mannerisms and values, even though they are
Northern Indians. These are the ones whose wisdom is so vast,
that we were told that dedicated members of the T.S. should be
like soldiers, and follow these master's every request (given
through Mr. Leadbeater) without question or delay. These are the
Masters seen only by C.W. Leadbeater and Alice Bailey. The
confusion is that both sets are named M. and K.H. Though
Leadbeater and Bailey claim their Masters are the same ones
H.P.B. knew, can they really be taking about the same people?
Don Garcia's suggestion that Masters can be construed as
"basic father figures,'" I think is an important consideration
for those who are attracted to Leadbeater's view of the Masters.
If we accept the first definition of Masters, however, we find
that they were more concerned with people finding the "master"
that dwells within each one of us, rather than having a flock of
groupies waiting with bated breath for orders.
Censorship: Richard comments that T.S. never showed any
interest in "censoring or rejecting anything of my `non given'
views." Perhaps you never expressed any views that they wished
to censor. In truth, the Adyar Society has a long history of
censorship. But if that isn't already obvious, then it wouldn't
matter to you anyway.
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application