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Re: What authenticates what we Believe?

Sep 11, 1995 10:49 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker


>He does bring up the issue of what becomes "authoritative": Tradition,
>Reason, Revelation or Experience.

This is a topic that we too could consider in a review of what we
believe about Theosophy.

>I am fully aware that the arguement for
>the authenticity of a statement resides in its self authentication in a
>persons Experience. That is one view point. Daniel tends to use Tradition
>and Scripture to authenticate what is true. Daniel has come for whatever
>reasons to mistrust human experience as a means of coming to truth.

When we quote Blavatsky to "prove" something, and cannot put the same
idea in our own words, and make it sound genuine, then we're doing the
same thing as Daniel. This appeal to authority, though, is not without
merit. If we can make a reasonable case for the more advanced knowledge
that our "authority" has, we should consider it carefully. This giving
special consideration to someone with expert knowledge is what Jerry H-E
would call "reasoned certitude." The materials presented by the Masters
could be considered as being along the same lines.

>You may
>have come to mistrust "Revelation" in any body of tradition as the means,
>and I am sure you have reasons for that.

In the theosophical schema, I would consider "revelation" as applicable
to the imparting of Wisdom from the Dhyani-Chohans to the Mahatmas in
the far distant past. Tht "revelation" was put into practical use, learned
by experience, and made into the knowledge of experience by the Mahatmas,
and preserved as such to this day.

>Others on the list seem to appeal
>to Theosophical tradition in a manner not unlike Daniel, however not with
>the tone of a Daniel. Answers seem to be decided by what HPB says or Judge,
>or the M.L.

Quoting scripture of any kind, even theosophical, does not prove a point.
In a genuine dialog, it is the materials that we have assimilated, the ideas
that we have made a part of our lives, that we can speak with conviction.
On the other hand, locating good materials for study can be useful, when
presented in the form of study materials rather than as authoritative

>There is a fourth authenticator on the list and that seems to
>be the use of Reason with a scientific flavour to it perhaps something of a

The use of reason starts with basic assumptions. Those assumptions come from
conviction or "faith" based upon personal experience. We are then working out
the logical consequences of what we have already accepted as "true".

>Personally I try to work out authentication as a blend of
>these things. But as the early greeks said, Give me a place to stand and I
>will move the world.

We can't really pin it down precisely, and say "this way is right" and
reject other ways. That is because our language will always be inprecise
in describing the living reality.

>Daniel is rather aggressively advocating that we stand
>in one particular place which he considers sure footed. This is why he
>quotes Scripture. I don't know if it is entirely helpful to tell him to
>come up with his own ideas since he has made a concerted effort to find his
>authority outside of himself.

He is in a spiritual "comfort zone" where it's easy to stay. But even
if his beliefs are based upon tradition and scripture, he *has no
beliefs* except to the extent that he has studied his materials and
has some ideas about them. Until there is something in his own words,
we're not hearing any of his ideas apart from the belief in biblical
authority. We may find the same thing among Theosophists at time, where
they're quick to quote their favorite authorities but uneasy in saying
what their quotes mean.

There is nothing wrong with authority and tradition as sources of
materials for our study. It's just how we approach and use them that
determines their affect on our lives.

>Eldon: >The offense that we take to beliefs we don't like is not unique to
>>Daniel's comments, but is equally true of other things that have been
>>said. It's a spiritual practice for us to work on not feeling a sense
>>of offense at ideas that we don't like.

>Art: I am not sure of this. I am very offended by real racism of the
>nazis, I am offended when by totalitarianism. And fundamentalism, in any
>form whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Theosophic which limits the
>freedom of others and degrades them is in fact offensive as well. There are
>limits to tolerance, not where Daniel sets them, but there are some limits
>to what can be tolerated by any group no matter how enlighted.

You're right. I was talking about different beliefs or word-pictures
about the spiritual, the good, the noble in life. It's entirely a
different thing to take offense with evil, the hateful, the monsterous
in life. We just should not confuse the two and call "evil" those
approaches to the spiritual that differ from our own.

>>I don't think that the discussions with Daniel will come to an end
>>because of some of us feeling any sense of offense. They will
>>end because there is nothing new for him or us to say to each other,
>>because our discusssions have gotten too repetitive. Or they can
>>continue and be productive because Daniel takes the courageous step
>>to speak with his own tongue, to clothe his thoughts in his own
>>words, and speak as a philosopher rather than simply parrot the
>>authoritative words of another.

>Art: I agree with you only I feel to that the admonition ought to be
>leveled at all of us. We need to personally own our position even if that
>position is one rooted in Tradition or Revelation.

Yes, regardless of the basis for our beliefs, we should have the courage
or conviction to voice them. It is only in giving expression to what we
believe that we have a chance to let it grow, change, and be influenced
by an interaction with others.

>I would like to hear
>the perspective of others who feel that they root their authority in
>revelation of some other sort than Daniel so that we could learn how this
>style is differentiated.

The difference between some theosophical viewpoints and Daniel's is the
philosophical basis for the "revelation". How sound is the philosophical
description of what is going on? Is it as easy to accept as "someone
more learned, more experienced, is passing on the fruits of their experience
to others less experienced," or does it require a more extreme, difficult
to accept belief to justify and explain its source?

>Or perhaps some one would like to argue from
>personal experience. For instance Why is it important that the Masters
>exit? Because Blavatsky tells me so? Or do I believe in the Masters because
>it is a revered tradition with Tibet or other esoteric places?

I would find the idea central to the philosophy. We are engaged in spiritual
evolution over countless lifetimes. Some have run ahead in their evolution,
they are the Mahatmas. They can teach us things that we have not yet learned
ourselves. They are like teaching assistants in college, helping their

>Are we capable of direct personal contact with the Masters.

Yes, but it would mean nothing particular, not any more than, say, meeting
a movie star and getting an autograph. The people that we know in our
lives are our teachers. Our friends and teachers change as we change, and
we are changed in no way simply by coming in contact with a holy man of
whatever status.

>Emerson speaks of a
>direct relationship to Divinity or Higher Consciousness not dependant on
>second hand accounts.

Sounds true to me. We are rooted in the divine, and it is our essential
nature. We can make this living connection conscious and self-aware, or
we can leave it as an unconscious "background feeling" to life.

This connection, though, is a source of inspiration for us. But it is
not practical knowledge of the world. We still learn and grow by an
interaction with other living beings, and those far ahead of us, the
Mahatmas, lead the way.

>Lastly, is there a logical necessity to believe in the Masters?

I would say that the idea is inseparable from that of reincarnation,
karma, and spiritual evolution over time. The only possible point of
disagreement among us is as to where on the evolutionary spectrum that
HPB's Teachers are. Some would view them as demigods; others would view
them as extraordinary men. My view is a bit different, putting them as
men like us while functioning in their human personalities on this
earth, and as highly-advanced humans in their consciousness and when
apart from their human personas.

>In no way am I dishonoring the tradition, experience or revelation by
>asking these questions. I am genuinely interested in the perspectives
>theos-l people have on these issue which for me have been stimulated by
>conversation with Daniel in the Lion's Den.

We all should feel more comfortable about talking about our views without
getting defensive and feeling that we have to "prove" and fight to support
them with various appeals to authority. This is different, of course, than
when we attempt to *teach Theosophy,* when we are trying to pass on what
we have heard without introducing our personal opinions in the guise of
theosophical teachings.

-- Eldon

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