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Art: Group Project Question 1

Sep 21, 1995 09:43 AM
by Arthur Paul Patterson

Jerry HE & Theos-L

Thanks Jerry for posting the Van Der Leeuw's article as well as your
focusing questions. It is a fairly long article and I think worth the time
and energy looking into. Perhaps, if we stuck with it for one more week and
respond to the responses, we could do it justice. Here, I was anticipating
a small review response and here you go and give a seminal piece of
thinking for theosophists to ponder. I really appreciate your grasp of the
historical background to the movement.

Jerry gave me this article right when I started looking into theosophy.
While it did not deal with basics per se, it oriented me to my own
tradition and the things I have experienced there. Almost every sentence
took me aback - the work shocked me into a profound recognition of things I
once erroneously assumed. I came to realize ways I guided that were indeed
misguided. The work did what any classic should do and that is to point you
back to the experiential ground of your life with a renewed understanding.
Reading and reflecting on it furthered my "realization".

In my opinion, this little tract ought to be re-published and sent to any
spiritual group desiring growth. As a matter of fact, I sent the tract to
several people in our Watershed community in Winnipeg to consider at a
"lodge" community meeting next week.

What I will be doing is writing on Jerry HE's questions over a few
postings. I haven't the time to write a continued narrative but want to see
how far I get in considering these question from a Theosophical
*beginner's mind* perspective.

1. van der Leeuw offers four definitions of Theosophy, all of which are
used in our theosophical literature. Do you feel that distinctions are made
between these four definitions among most theosophists? What problems do
you see arising out of having four definitions for this single word?

Leeuw: "Historically the word means the experience of the divine, in
distinction to theology which is discussion about God. This experience of
the ultimate, of reality, of life, of truth, is beyond all discussion. It
exists wherever a man has it and cannot be criticized or denied."

Art: If that is the understanding of the word "Theosophy" then there has
never been a time when I has not a theosophist. I usually understand the
experience in classical mystical terms. That beneath all our language is a
reality, a unity in which we all participate and express- this reality is
the background of our Being. In this definition Plato, Eckhart, Swedenborg,
Blake, Tillich, Jung, and many others are my chief thesophical
interpreters. I feel much more comfortable with these figures because I am
familiar with them.

The word I would put on this sort of definition would be "essentialist". In
my old terminology I would call this the "universal body" of spiritual
seekers. The emphasis is on the spiritual somewhat invisible quality of
this fellowship - in distinction to the local historic manifestation.

Leeuw: "Secondly, the word has been used in an early theosophical manifesto
as "the archaic system of esoteric wisdom in the keeping of the brotherhood
of adepts."

Art: This I am only beginning to understand and can't comment definitively
except to say that I am a bit concerned about the hidden tonality of the
esoteric tradition. I am not at all the sort of person who gravitates
toward what Blavatsky calls "blinds" etc. I am not at all oriented toward
hierarchy but believe in a sort of participatory democracy of the spiritual
life in which there are those who are advanced but they are not in any
sense authoritarian or intrinsically superior to others. Secrecy and
hierarchy seem to me to support a teired approach to membership which Leew
seems to be against. In the church this has expressed itself in the phrase
"counsels of perfection" or monaticism, or the special status of priest or
minister - full time Christian worker is another way this status has been
discussed. I have hear of Masters, Adepts, and ES (?) which seems to be for
the truly committed. As little a I know of the Theosophic movement, I can
not help but see it as schismatic as that of denominationalism in

Leeuw: "Thirdly, theosophy is taken to mean the system of doctrines put
forward in literature or lectures since the beginning of the Theosophical
Society. This is what the world at large knows as theosophy."

Art: This is I think the "conceptual core" teachings of Theosophy as
represented in the various factions of the movement. (Creedal or Doctrinal
Theosophy) There seems to me to be some difference as to what bodies of
literature compose these core teachings. The group I have decided to start
my exploration with is Adyar -- I don't however know exactly what
distinquishes the various emphasis' of the different varieties of
Theosophy. I have detected that this list is trying to function
ecuemenically that is going beyond the sectarian interests, even though we
bump into one another sensitive spots.

Leeuw: "Finally, there is the practice in important centres of theosophical
work, where, in the work actually done and in the aims held before people,
we can see what is looked upon as valuable. At the moment I am speaking
only about these last two forms of theosophy, that is to say, about that
which has been presented to the world in books or lectures or can be seen
in centres of theosophical work. "

Art: This seems to be refering to the organizational "service values" of
the societies. The praxis of theosophy in local situations. What is
interesting to me is that I have never meet a theosophist in the flesh.
"Lodges" to me seem akin to fellowship groups. I also get the idea that
service to humanity is a vital part of the theosophical lifestyle. This has
come out in many posts. Good Theory is the basis of Good service.

Looking Forward to the Next Section,

Arthur Paul Patterson

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