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Groups vs. Aggregates

Sep 20, 1995 01:06 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

In hopes of shedding some light on the School/schools
distinction, I would like to point out a distinction made by
sociology. A social group is a number of people associated
together, in interaction, connected in time and space, with
particular group dynamics. It can be short-lived or permanent,
but the ingredient of mutual interaction must be present to
meet the definition of a group. An aggregate, on the other
hand, is a number of people defined by a common characteristic,
rather than by any relationship among them. Examples of
groups: a bridge club, the Knights of Columbus, a teenage gang,
a professional association. Examples of aggregates: people
making more than $75,000/yr, Scorpios, geniuses, the obese.

As best I can make out, HPB freely switches back and forth
between groups and aggregates when she talks about Masters or
The Masters. Sometimes, as in the Mahatma letters as well,
"the Masters" seems to mean "Morya, Koot Hoomi and their
immediate colleagues" rather than the whole range of HPB's
inspirers including those in Egypt and Europe. Sometimes it
appears to mean "all the Masters encountered by HPB in her life"
whether or not they knew one another. Sometimes, she uses "the
Masters" to mean, really, just "Masters" i.e. the aggregate of
all spiritually advanced souls whether or not they were
personally known to HPB.

Where we get into trouble, in terms of misunderstanding
history, is in confusing groups and aggregates. Things said by
HPB about specific orders are taken to refer to Masters in
general, and vice versa. Theosophists tend to confuse the
Theosophical Masters, i.e. HPB's specific teachers, with
Masters in general-- and this gets more pronounced in later
writings like those of Leadbeater, Bailey and Prophet. This
confusion goes along with the general human tendency to
concretise the abstract.

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