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re: Group project

Sep 27, 1995 02:30 AM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

In reply to my questions regarding van der Leeuw's pamphlet, Art

Regarding theosophy as experience of the divine, art writes:

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.

 Yes, Blavatsky would call the people you mentioned some of
the great minds of the Theosophical Movement. I favor Plato and

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 understand your feelings here and share them. However I
think that most of the negativity came from a traditional (mis)
reading of Blavatsky rather than the tone she herself intended.
As for "blinds," HPB pointed them out in sacred Hindu writings.
Essentially they are just literary devices to avoid getting too
specific. We do a similar thing all of the time in our writing.
An instance in Hindu scripture might be the use of the word
"Dev", which means "shining one". It could refer to a god or to
a nature spirit. By using the general term, the writer is trying
to avoid giving out a teaching that he might have been pledged to
be silent about.

Art: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.

 And the TS did have such a democracy until Besant
reorganized the ES in 1908.

Art:As little a I know of the Theosophic movement, I can
not help but see it as schismatic as that of denominationalism in

 Yes, and we did it in far less time.

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 distinguishes 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.

 Yes, and this is because of the "schisms" that you alluded
to above. In truth, the Adyar Society (the one you belong to) is
the most schismatic. The others, generally speaking function
with a greater amount of solidarity. I'm not saying this as a
condemnation of Adyar; on the contrary, it might me a sign of
health. However, the great test is how the Society handles the
differences within its domain. In the 1970's John Coates (then
the international President) did not hold the double rank of
President of the TS and Outer Head of the ES. Rather than
proclamations through the ES, he tried to bring everyone into
solidarity by becoming more universal. At the 1975 Centenary,
under tremendous opposition within the inner circle, he affirmed
that William Q. Judge was a founder of the TS. Further, he made
the Adyar Archives open to all researchers. Coates' attitude was
that we should not have anything to hide. He died very suddenly
under circumstances that some have questioned. Our latest
International President, Radha Burnier has an approach directly
opposed to John Coates. She holds both the ES headship and the
TS Presidency. She has done nothing to continue the acceptance
of Judge as a founder, and opposed Coates when he proclaimed it
in the first place. Whenever a section opposes (or appears to
oppose) her policies, she resolves the issue by expelling the
section. Since 1984, she has expelled the Yugoslavian section,
the Canadian Section, and the Danish Section.
 Much of the conflict on this internet comes from a lack of
clarity of what this theosophy is that we are all interested in.
Only a minority of up have an historical understanding, while the
interests of the majority is a-historical. Paul Johnson, Dan
Caldwell, and myself tend to look at the movement from this
historical point of view. Thus we tend not to repeat the
doctrinal answers but rather seek historical answers to questions
concerning the teachings. Most others are doctrinal, and rely
upon the teachings of their tradition to supply the answers. But
among them, they are divided by the traditions. Thus they have
different views. Rich and Liesel would be the two who contrast
the most I would think. Then we have those who operate from
revelation, but even they seem to be often following very
different calls. Take Brenda on the one hand and Patrick on the
 Van der Leeuw discusses the different theosophies, and I
think this is a big part of the problem. Many people on this net
predicate their understanding of theosophy upon on or another
definition. But as I have outlined above, it is more complicated
than that--even in his time. I'm sure he was aware of the other
factors, but time and space forced him to be selective about the
issues that he could confront.

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.

 When I first joined the TS in 1963, I wined and screamed in
frustration that the Lodge was not involved in social service.
Efforts are made, and the Theosophical Order of Service is the
most important remnant of much more socially active days gone by.
But sadly, I would give the TS a "D -" in social activism.

Jerry's question:

2. van der Leeuw argues that the world has changed considerable
since the 19th century--that there was an antithesis between
spirit and matter that no longer exists in the 20th century. Do
you agree? Do you feel that the Present TS still operates under
this antithesis? Do you feel that Blavatsky's writings expressed
this antithesis? The Mahatma Letters?

Since Quest is a Theosophical journal, I think of the finest
quality, I see that the idealism charge of van Leeuw has to be at
least modified. On line I have tried to follow the dialogue
especially between Jerry S. and Eldon on physics subjects, and I
have heard of Liesel's interest in new physics so I conclude that
a change has occurred.

 Strangely, though ~Quest~ is a "Theosophical journal", it is
written and marketed to appeal to the general population, not to
the theosophical student, as understood by the status quo in the
TS. The doctrines and values of the Adyar TS are not really
reflected in this journal, yet it was marketed partially for the
purpose of attracting people into the TS. It is an interesting
paradox, and may have the future result of bringing the
membership more and more estranged from the doctrines of the
status quo. On the other hand, I feel that there is a direct
link between the theosophical movement and the "pop physics" of
today. So in a way, the TS through the ~Quest~ is embracing its
own step children.

3. van der Leeuw says that "...a thinker is always a disturbing
influence." and that there has been no place for thinkers in the
Theosophical Society. Do you agree with van der Leeuw's
assessment? What about the great thinkers who joined during HPB's
time but soon left after she died: i.e. Yeats; Gandhi etc. Why
did they leave?

Art quoting Emerson: Beware when the Great God lets loose a
thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk.. The very
hopes of man, the thoughts of his heart, the religion of nations,
the manners and morals of mankind, are all at the mercy of a new
generalization. Generalization is always a new influx of divinity
into the mind. Hence the thrill that attends it. p. 138

 Great quote. It says it all.

Art:The generalization Emerson speaks of is the message that is
incarnate in these people. The message is one that is timely and
transforms the consciousness of the world. It breaks history out
of its current circle or ripple and plunges it toward a new one
with great pain. I wonder as we approach the twentieth century if
a new individual or group of individuals will be the ones to more
us to the next circle. Right now the pain is here but the message
is not as clear.

 Yes, and hopefully it was be an expression of the ideals
within the TM.

4. van der Leeuw says that the "brotherhood" offered by the TS
actually creates a barrier. What does he mean by this? Do you
agree? 5. van der Leeuw says that Lodge life breeds mediocrity.
What has been you experience in Lodges? Do you find anything
familiar in van der Leeuw's description?

Art:First off it is impossible today to ignore the word
"brotherhood" it must be translated into human community or
siblinghood or something but it is distracting and tones the
discussion with a flavour of undue patriarchy which was never the
intention of the early Theosophist.

 There is an effort afoot to update the language, but has run
into considerable opposition. This family is very dysfunctional
in case you haven't already guessed.

6. What is your evaluation of van der Leeuw's central argument
that revelation and Authority have worked disharmoniously in the
TS? How can the TS conquer this duality?

None of these perspectives are superior or inferior
intrinsically, in my opinion, since all can work together to form
a balancing corrective to one another. The only problem, as I see
it, is when we get too identified with our opinions.

 Yes. Closely and dearly held opinions along with
unconditional devotion to a dynamic leader is the formula to
create another holocaust.

Enjoyed your post, Art.


Jerry Hejka-Ekins
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