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re: "To Gaze on the Truly Grand"

Aug 21, 1994 04:12 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

     Eldon's well done essay pointing out the dangers of history
has many important points well worth emphasizing: among them,
that a historian can't know everything, and more importantly; the
teachings of theosophy go beyond the considerations of history.

     The industrialist Henry Ford once defined history as a "pack
of lies," while the philosopher George Santana warned that those
who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.  Ironically, both
statements are true, and each definition suggests its own

     As Eldon had pointed out, in a sense, the more esoteric
events leave "less clues" for the historian to go on.  If one
reads a variety of histories written by those involved in the
movement and compare them to those written by historians who are
not personally involved (Nethercot for instance), I think that we
all would agree that those on the outside put events together in
a different way than those historians who are on the inside.
Outsiders usually start out with a priori rejection of the
Masters and of the validity of phenomena, and thus seek other
explanations for these difficult issues--such as fraud.

     Histories written by those on the inside are not without
problems either.  They are often characterized by hidden agendas
to show their tradition, and their leaders to be more valid than
those of other traditions.  No theosophical organization has
managed to escape this pitfall.

     As Eldon says, "there is value to history."  It would be a
mistake to throw the baby out with the bath water.  ~Isis
Unveiled,~ ~The Secret Doctrine,~ and most of HPB's other
writings are very concerned with history.  A considerable portion
of ~Isis Unveiled~ is dedicated to writing about Christianity as
a historical movement, showing how the original message was
finally entombed and all but completely destroyed in the
Organizational hierarchy that we call churches.  One of her
arguments here is that message of Jesus was distorted beyond
recognition.  Obviously, HPB is trying to tell (or warn us of
something?) us something here. ~The Secret Doctrine~ also opens
with an historical overview of the ancient Theosophical Movement,
showing how the teachings come into the light under certain
historical periods and disappeared in others, depending upon the
values and governments of the time.

     Yet, I feel that it would be a mistake to confuse history
with theosophy.  The latter is an ocean of wisdom, which, for its
devotees is the fountain of life.  The former is a tool, which
when correctly used, can further reveal to us the beauty of the
Theosophical Movement, and warn us of its dangers when wrongly
used.  When history is unwisely applied, it can turn our fountain
into a polluted mud-hole.

     Our own theosophical study group in Turlock, has been
meeting for over a year now.  We have never assigned books on the
history of the modern theosophical movement, nor is history often
discussed, unless needed to clarify a particular point of
teaching.  We are a very small group of six people in a town of
45,000.  To make matters worse, Turlock, until recently, was in
the Guinness Book of World records as having the most Churches
per capita than any other town in the country.  In other words,
this is an extremely provincial, conservative place that is
blatantly anti anything that is not expressly Christian.  Even
greek mythology is not permitted to be taught in the public
schools, "because it threatens our culture."  There are many very
conservative sects of Christianity here that forbid their
children an education beyond the eighth grade.  Yet, we found six
people interested in studying theosophy.  At a recent meeting,
these six reported a total of fifteen others who have heard about
what we are doing (we don't advertise nor evengelize), and are
asking to join.  I think part of our success is because our focus
is on the teachings in *all* of their aspects, and, because we
are completely independent of any theosophical organization, we
are relatively free from having to waste precious energy
countering the karma of these organizations.

     As I had mentioned, theosophical history itself is not an
issue that we discuss in our group, however, we cannot avoid
using a historical reference for what we study.  Remember, that
those early nineteenth century theosophists, first reading HPB's
writings as they appeared, had no need to look at them in a
historical context, because they were already living in it.
Today, those articles are over a hundred years old, and have to
be looked at in the context which they were written.  To do that,
one needs a sense of history.

     There is one more area where history has value, and that
area is germane to what several of us have tried to do here on
this net:  As I mentioned earlier, histories written under the
auspices of the various Theosophical Organizations clearly show a
hidden agenda to prove their tradition of theosophy to be the
true one.  In doing this, they have written critically of
theosophical leaders "not on their side" and glowingly of those
who are.  If this were just limited to an internal infighting
among Theosophical Organizations, then we could just ignore it,
and do more productive work.  Unfortunately, the hearsay,
slanders and mis-information published in these books and
pamphlets are being picked up by a growing number of historians
not connected with the theosophical movement, who are now
presenting these old slanders to the general public through
academic presses that have a far wider distribution to the
general public than our little theosophical organizations have
ever had.  In a very real sense, these Organizations are reaping
the karma of seeds they had sown sixty, eighty and more years
ago.  If the directives in HPB's Preliminary Memorandum still
hold true, then it is the duty of *every* person who knows of
hearsay being spread to stand up in protest to it.  If, on the
other hand, what is being said is true, then we can meet it with
     Therefore, I believe that it is the responsibility of
students of theosophy who also have a historical background, to
be very careful about the source, evidence and documentation of
any historical information that is broadcast, either through this
net or anywhere else.  As HPB had pointed out, we are karmically
responsible for all information that we give out, and we are
karmically responsible for the results which that information may
bring.  On the other hand, it is also our karmic responsibility
to protest the spreading of hearsay, yet face up to what turns
out to be so.

     As the observations of Henry Ford and George Santana
suggest, history is a bouble edged sword.  Used in one way, it
can destroy; used in another it can shed further light on the
Theosophical Movement and the teachings associated with it.  It
is the historians that potentially are the greatest threat in
this manner, and also have an equal potential for good.  It
depends upon the wisdom they use in welding this sword.  We are
all learning.

     On another note--or perhaps germane to the above: Upon some
reflection, I feel that I owe a deeply felt public apology to
Paul Johnson for my overly zealous attitude in my recent debate
with him concerning Judge.  I sense that I have crossed that very
subtile line that separates the debators from the issues.  Though
such an attitude is applauded in other contexts, such as in the
half dozen 20-30 pg. critical research essays that I have to mill
out each year in my grad. program, I don't feel that it was
appropriate for me to exercise these literary techniques here,
and is counter productive to what Paul and I were trying to
accomplish.  I regret the results that may have come out of my
lack of fore-thought.

Jerry Hejka-Ekins

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