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Study Groups

Feb 06, 1995 10:07 AM
by Dr. A.M.Bain


A slightly different version of the article which follows was
originally submitted for puiblication  in  The Theosophical
Journal but was not used, although the endnote to it was.

It has been adapted and reprinted with a view to helping forward
the work of The Theosophical Study Group in Bristol and any
similar groups which may develop.

                      THEOSOPHICAL STUDY

"The Theosophical Society was founded to let it be known that
such a thing as Theosophy exists." - H.P. Blavatsky in The Key
to Theosophy.

Although it is high time that the language used should be amended
(see alternative suggestions) it is stated in every issue of the
Theosophical Journal:

THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY was formed in New York on 17th November
1875, and incorporated in Madras, India, on 3rd April 1905.  Its
three declared objects are:

1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity,
without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.

     . . . a nucleus of a universal human family . . .

2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and

3. To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers
latent in man.

     . . . the powers latent in human beings.

At first sight it seems that the first of these objects is more
than a little ambitious, however expressed.  On reflection, it
is clear that we are not striving for some kind of total and all-
embracing new world order without beginning where we all must -
on our own doorsteps.  If support for the first object is to mean
anything, we must endeavour to practice what we preach - and of
course, it is only by individual human beings living the life
that is implicit in such a lofty purpose that we can have any
hope of realising it.

And so, in practice, we are looking, in the first instance, to
form smaller groups attempting to live in harmony and co-
operation with each other, groups which may one day learn to
unite with others to form larger "families."

It is very clear that the second and third objects are as
necessary for the eventual achievement of the first as are the
good intentions of those who subscribe to them.

                     Comparative Religion

This is the first of three subjects which we are committed to
encourage - committed, not to take it or leave it, as it may or
may not please us, for to take such a view would be to deny
acceptance of the objects themselves.

Why should the study of Comparative Religion be the first on the
list?  It is plain that the world has not been well served by
religious institutions, by different religions in open competi-
tion or even war with each other, and by different sects within
the same religion committing acts of violence upon those who are
supposedly of their own persuasion.

Yet religions survive, competing with each other for the minds
and hearts of individuals.  Behind this impulse must lie a need,
otherwise no one would ever subscribe to any creed.  That a need
exists, and attempts made to meet it, is self-evident from the
long history of religion.  Religion may be as old as humanity
itself, planted there, perhaps, by some divine or spiritual
intelligence, an intelligence with the wisdom to know our needs
before we are ourselves aware of them; planted, perhaps, by a
divine wisdom - but "divine" and "wisdom" are the roots of the
word Theosophy itself.  May it not be that the theosophical
founders, in their wisdom, realised that if we could not overcome
the obstacles that religious institutions placed in the way of
universal harmony, then that harmony could not even be begun to
be achieved.  And so, perhaps, they realised the need to make
such a comparative study in order to discover the essence of
wisdom underlying all true religion, for surely it is wisdom, not
idealism, that may eventually enable us to fulfil our primary


"Philosophy" is a term that derives from two Greek words meaning,
together, "Love of wisdom."  Clearly this has also to be a part
of our study, equally with Religion.


Science is not so much a subject, but a method; a method which
takes the practical approach, the investigative approach.  It may
appear to ask "Why?" but in reality all it ever asks - and
certainly all it ever discovers - is "How."  If our perception
of the how of things is false, then we will place a false
emphasis on everything else.  The scientific method is essential
for a true approach to universal harmony, otherwise we may run
the risk - as some theosophists have done in the past - of
accepting ideas and opinions as dogmas - sacred "truths" never
to be questioned.  To encourage study, therefore, requires that
we ourselves engage in study, and to study is to ask questions
and look for answers.

Therefore we must not merely encourage the study of Comparative
Religion, Philosophy and Science, but we must undertake it
ourselves, otherwise will not others look at us and say, "This
is all very well, but why are you not doing yourself what you are
asking me to do?"  Will they not be justified in thinking of us
as just the teeniest bit hypocritical? - at least as hypocritical
they may already perceive "religionists" to be?

                       The Third Object

"Unexplained laws of nature."  To even begin to investigate these
a working knowledge of scientific subjects and disciplines must,
surely, already have been achieved?  In other words, only by
pursuing the second object can we hope to begin to work on the

The powers latent in human beings have become the domain of
psychologists and parapsychologists, separate scientific studies
within the overall perception implicit in the second object.  We
need to pay some attention to their discoveries.

Both parts of the third object are, in a sense, addressing the
same question - the unexplained and undiscovered - the "hidden"
or "occult."  This too requires study.

It is not enough therefore simply to attend lectures, listen to
speakers, engage in debates and theoretical discussions, thence
to go home saying, "Well, fancy that!" or "My oh my, what a
clever and learned person!"

We are various sorts of members of a Theosophical Group, not
the local debating club, or visitors to an entertainment centre.
The three objects are real, vital objects, requiring real vital
attention, devotion, and discipline.  To achieve anything really
worthwhile requires doing, not talking about doing.

Alan Bain, Bristol, January 12, 1994. (Revised February 1995).

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