The 1900 letter, and Belief
Oct 06, 1994 11:55 PM
Written by Murray Stentiford
Astrea writes (5 October 1994):
>[Re K. Paul Johnson]
>Please don't interpret lack of response for lack of interest in my case
>(although it's certainly understandable.) This is a letter in which I
>have had considerable interest for some years, and I had been looking
>for a copy of it - it's hard to come by. SO thanks for typing it in.
>I was taking some time to consider a response.
>My feeling is that it has the ring of truth, and it's advice is good.
>Probably Krishnamurti really popped the theosophical balloon "the
>theosophical Popery" referred to. Although maybe he went too far.
>Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't assigned this task... It's interesting
>because it seems to be the last published letter after HPB disappeared
>from the scene (someone correct me if I'm wrong.) Also it is
> apparently objective and does not support any one's position, which
> might have had some ego involvement. Therefore I would tend to think
> it to be genuine.
I agree with these thoughts. (I would have replied earlier but
didn't have the time then.)
The "theosophical Popery" may also have to do with the
fascination with "comparative spiritual advancement", ie who had
attained which initiation, that seemed to reach near-fetish
proportions over the next couple of decades.
> Says a Thibetan proverb "credulity
>> breeds credulty and ends in hypocrisy."
>Don't know what this means.
I imagine it means that if you start believing things without
applying reasonable checks, you will be open to believing more
and more such things until your mind is filled with stuff that is
not really an expression of your own inner nature, and not
consistent with itself. This fits in with "Be accurate and
critical rather than credulous." a bit later in the letter.
> How few are they who
>> can know anything about us.
>Why is that?
Two ways this would be true are
1) The physical scarcity of information on the Adepts, especially
at that point in history, and
2) The evolutionary gap between Them and the vast majority of
humanity. Intellectual or conceptual knowing can be but a
pointer to the vast reach, the sheer light of Their
>> mistakes of the past in the old religions must not be glossed
>> over with imaginary explanations.
>I rather suspect they might in part be talking about the Liberal
>Catholic church here. May be we are too accepting of some aspects of
>many traditional religions, which may have elements of superstition, or
>just be plain wrong.
Yes, and I think these mistakes include excessive personification
of spiritual powers or beings, inability to see the worth of
religion in other cultures, seeing as evil or best doomed to hell
the members of other religions, .... in other words the narrow
vision, territoriality, power play and violence that have
characterised the later life of many of the world's religions.
But then, is religion the only arena of these forces?
>> must have admittance. The crest wave of intellectual
>> advancement must be taken hold of and guided into
>The ts has failed in this.
I don't fully agree. Certainly, the TS is still not well known
to, and therefore cannot directly influence, most parts of the
academic and social world, but I believe the TS has nevertheless
played a pioneering role in the introduction of Eastern and
esoteric thought to the Western world. I can't help thinking of
the Irish poets (Yeats etc) and the story that Einstein used to
keep the Secret Doctrine on his desk. (IS that story true, by
There are significant ways in which the "crest wave of
intellectual advancement" is moving towards spirituality today.
Just think of Fritjof Capra and the growing number of theoretical
physicists who find striking correspondences between mystical
insights and the scientific view of ultimate physical reality.
Then there is the Gaia theory - a case of the wisdom of the heart
ensouling verifiable scientific concepts.
>> The T.S. was meant to be the cornerstone of the future
>> religions of humanity.
>Interesting. This could come to pass, but not necessarily directly via
>the ts. I think people are starting to take those parts of religions
>which appeal to them (in industrialized Western countries, anyway), and
>leave the rest. The result could be a kind of universalization of
>religion, with certain themes in common with the ts remaining e.g.
>unity and brotherhoo.
I think this is happening in a big way. While it may not look
like a cornerstone at the moment, the T.S. has an important role
to play, in offering pointers and support to the growing number
of people who are looking around for answers, whose intuition is
fuelling such things as the conservation movement and the
rejection of the old thought-forms of religion.
> To accomplish this object those who
>> lead must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms
>> and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to
> Uh oh - a dig at the comasons, perhaps?
Probably, but not just them, I'd say. Note that it's the
predilections that must be left aside. I see, in fact, value in
ceremony and ritual if it is approached as an opportunity for
meditative and creative work, in a way that is not too different
from a musical or theatrical performance, especially in providing
an expression or channel for energies of a higher nature. A
living symbol. All cultures have them; words, stories, dances,
music, art, carving, and the trick for the aspiring theosophist
is to be able to get into them, and be able to get out again. If
we can experience them vividly without getting stuck, it will
help us to be examples and promoters of the unity of humankind.
Mike Grenier writes:
>2. The essence of the higher thoughts of the members in
> their collectivity must guide all action in the
> T.S. and E.S.
>3. It is the collective aspect of many such thoughts that
> can give the correct note of action.
>It is difficult for me to understand how one group first
>discerns what the collective higher thoughts are and then
>use them to guide all action with it developing into a creed.
>How do you collect the higher thoughts of the members without
>asking for their beliefs? (assuming one believes in one's
The descent into creed is a slippery slope that virtually no
religion or culture in the world has escaped. The T.S. has this
wonderful brief to avoid creed, but the underlying human
propensity keeps on pulling us in that direction.
That accepted, though, I do see examples of where the the higher
thoughts or impulses of people in a group result in something
greater and more true to the heart of things than the individuals
alone could have come up with.
The word "essence" is important, here. To me, it emphasises
synthesis over analysis, a viewpoint beyond one's usual limited
circle of concern. I find that the act of gathering together in
goodwill, seeking a higher awareness or whatever, can potently
guide people's thinking.
"Higher thoughts" means something different from "belief" if you
take belief to mean an intellectual view that is held with or
without supporting evidence. Often the higher thoughts in a
group emerge without beliefs being asked-for. The problem is
partly with language, I think. "Thought" can mean several
things, as can "belief".
>Still - is not the Secret Doctrine a document which discribes
>a set of beliefs? Or is it the Society's position that the Secret
>Doctrine represents the view of only one member? - yet I doubt that
>it would publish much in the way of opposing viewpoints.
As far as I can tell, much of the S.D. was written as
observations or as quotes from other works, via H.P.B's seership.
Much of it would also have been her own belief too, of course,
but it was never her intention that it be offered to members as a
set of beliefs to BELIEVE (or else...!).
The Society has published some opposing viewpoints - the world
view of C.W. Leadbeater has a system of planes of nature
differing quite markedly in some ways from that in the S.D., for
example. Certainly the T.S. defends the right of independent
opinion, of honest studentship, but then ever-present human
nature keeps on sneaking in and making reality differ from
intention. So what's new?!
> - perhaps,
>though, it is the process that counts and not the final beliefs.
Yes, I think there's a lot in that. It's probably best to see
beliefs as an ever-changing image or model of reality. I read
somewhere that Annie Besant said she would hate to come back in
300 years and find her old writings being taught as the dogma of
- Murray Stentiford email@example.com
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