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Re: historical and doctrinal

Oct 23, 1995 05:01 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker


>My point is that the commonality of the Organizational
>definitions of theosophy suggest the existence of a body of
>teachings. I am not disputing the existence of those teachings

Given that we agree that there is a body of teachings, we must
ask, what are they? The difficult task would be to define them
sufficiently in words to distinguish what they are, without burying
them in the dead-letter of dogmatism.

>>Or that since there is
>>freedom of thought, that anyone's views, based on the teachings
>>or in total disagreement of them, may be taught

>Yes, and this argument has often been used to justify
>activities and classes in Lodges that go far afield of what one
>normally thinks of as "theosophy."

Perhaps we should make a distinction between what *may be taught*
or studied at a theosophical lodge and what *is taught as Theosophy*.
A theosophical group has the freedom to explore any avenue of learning.
It just gets into trouble when it starts teaching *as Theosophy*
anything that its members happen to think.

>As I understand it, part of
>the objection Wheaton expressed concerning Boston Lodge was that
>its activities were "new age" rather than "theosophical."

There does need to be, I'd think, something theosophical taught
in a T.S. lodge. This does not mean that a particular belief is
imposed upon its members from the overall organization. But its
members should have some exposure to the theosophical teachings,
so that they do not misrepresent it to the general public. This
gets, though, into the difficult idea of what should *qualify*
someone for membership. With an open membership policy, anyone
of any belief can join. This is the policy of the Adyar T.S.

Other theosophical groups like the School for the Study of the
Esoteric Philosohy in the Netherlands requires prospective members
to attend classes and after they have demonstrated a knowledge
of Theosophy, they are *invited* to join.

>Yet by the very loose definitions that the Adyar Society has for
>theosophy leaves them wide open for this kind of problem. The
>Danish section was expelled because of a devotion to Alice

This gets into a definite problem area. With an open membership
policy, anyone can join. If a majority of members in a National
Section believe in Alice Bailey, they will teach her materials to
the public as part of the theosophical literature. The same could
happen with followers of Maharishi (founder of TM), the I AM
group, or any other New Age belief system -- if a majority of
members believe in one such group, and they also believe in
Theosophy, they may confuse the two and teach, say, TM as
Theosophy from a theosophical platform.

>If studied according to her own guide lines, HPB's writings
>need not to be at all limiting. She warned against making her
>writings a dogma, as we both know.

Agreed. And Purucker makes a good distinction between dogma and
doctrine. Dogma is a required belief, to which a member of a group
must accept without question. Doctrine is a concept, an explanation,
a teaching, that explains and describes, but does not pronounce.

It's not really possible to speak of Theosophy as dogmas, since
the written literature falls short of the actual Mystery Teachings.
The words on the printed page cannot convey the occult truths,
which we are told in "The Mahatma Letters" require the proper
state of receptivity and inner readiness in order to be communicated.

When Theosophy is spoken of in terms of dogmas, the outer descriptions
or exoteric garb of the Teachings is being taken as literal truth,
and we're praising the wine bottle without tasting its contents.

On the other hand, when Theosophy is spoken of in terms of doctrines,
we open the door to relativism and the loss of the original Teachings,
buried in generations of metaphysical speculations.

What we really need, if it would be possible, is a delicate balance
between dogma and doctrine, with people in charge of our organizations
that are trained in the Philosophy and able to apply the wisdom of
Solomon to the organizational problems that arise at times.

>I think it is also
>significant that in the ~Key~ she specifies that every Lodge
>should have a library containing the religious and philosophical

There's value in reading Plato, the Gita, the Kabala, etc. This
would come after a basic study of Theosophy, and alongside a continued
study of the theosohical Teachings. Why? Because Theosophy offers a
key (or rather many keys) to revealing much of what is hidden in those
great works of world philosophy and world religion.

>Surely she did not want this for the purpose of
>decorating the walls, but to fulfill the second object of the TS.

It's a useful object. But the objects have changed at times. How
would we word those objects today, if we could rewrite them? Would
we possible add a few new ones to the list?

>I submit that the study of theosophy is much more than the
>reading of books published by the theosophical organizations.

True. And that the study is much more than the reading of books.
It is an inner practice, a spiritual process, an attempt to awaken
the student to the Path. The study of karate involves training and
practice sessions. The study of Zen involves sitting zazen. And
the study of Theosophy involves awakening the inner teacher and
the sense of the divine in our everyday life; e.g. the approach
to chelaship.

>I ... would always use the big 't' [with "Theosophy"] considering
>Theosophy to be a religious philosophy or the Wisdom Religion.

>I believe that the distinction that you are pointing out is
>a rather recent one that probably surfaced no earlier than the
>mid 1980's. Before that time, big "t" and little "t" theosophy
>was understood as I had described it. Ask any of the old timers
>at Wheaton.

Ok. That definition says "Theosophy" is "our stuff" and "theosophy"
is "sounds like our stuff". That's another way to use the word.
(But not how I'd use it.)

>However, the newer definition ["theosophy" is a belief system
>and "Theosophy" is divine truth itself] is evidence of the
>growing confusion, since it drifts further from the original
>understandings of the word "theosophy" and further confounds it
>with the distinction HPB makes with "truth" and "TRUTH."

It should not be confused with that distinction. Theosophy is
fragmentary doctrines and knowledge from the Mahatmas, and is based
upon the highest and most advanced materials that humanity currently
has. That knowledge is not absolute truth, but is one relative,
finite step closer to the truth.

Absolute Truth cannot be approached by going "bigger", because
no matter how wise a Dhyani-Bodhisattva or Logos we may find, over
however grand a cosmic system, there will be yet bigger schemes of
existence and wiser beings. There is no top, in terms of the
manifest worlds, in terms of *suchness* or Idam.

The top is approached in another direction, towards *emptiness*
or the Unknowable, Tat. It's not really a "top" because there's no
"up" or "down", nor any other attribute. It is the purest state of
being unmanifest, and is equally approachable (and equally unapproachable)
from beings from all schemes of existence, however grand or humble
they may be.

>>When someone is authorized by the Masters to present to the
>>public certain occult knowledge, that could be considered

>It is this "revelation" that has been so close to the
>underlying causes of the fragmentation of theosophy and
>theosophical organizations into so many camps.

True. Some are real, others are self-deluded or pretenders. Until
the day when the Mahatmas walk openly among us, and speak for
themselves, we have this problem.

Daniel H. may face the same problem with the Bible. How is he to
know when other writers speak the same divine truths, when so many
people, often in contradiction, write their differing ideas? He could
chose to ignore everything else, and solely study the Bible, or develop
sufficient spiritual insight to tell what is authentic for himself.

>HPB tried to
>downplay her teachers (notice that none of her teachings are by
>the authority of Master so and so). The Mahatmas tried to
>impress their humanness and fallibility to Sinnett.

She did not say she was speaking on the authority of the Masters.
But she did say that her writings came from their teachings, like
that the Stanzas of Dzyan were not something that she made up. And
we're read how the handwritten manuscript of The Secret Doctrine
was at times corrected in the handwriting of some of her Masters,
while she slept.

The Masters are human and fallible, yet there is something more to
them. And they are at but one step along an evolutionary spectrum
that leads to the Dhyani-Buddhas and yet higher!

>Yet AB and CWL played the master card, and teachings were issued
>under their authority.

When someone is speaking for the Masters, that is what they are
doing. This is regardless of whether they tell us that or not.
Were Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater speaking for the Masters?
When I was young, I used to think so. Many of us still do.

Issuing teachings under the authority of the Masters is like a
preacher speaking for the word of God, when really just presenting
personal religious views. It's a way to stifle dissent, to tell
others to shut up, to originate dogma.

Again, we come back to the issue of telling the pretenders
apart from the real Teachers. In a Mystery Temple there may be
a Hierophant that is justifiably empowered to speak with authority.
And in a spiritual center a bona fide Guru may likewise be empowered.

>However, the sudden appearance of teachings under the authority
>of the Masters is for me, an alarm to be cautious.

I would be skeptical of anything I come across bearing such claims,
because of what they've said in "The Mahatma Letters" regarding wanting
to avoid the public eye. We've seen what can happen by the example
in Japan. The "Om Supreme Truth" group has a leader with such claims,
and led his followers to kill people in subways with poison gas.

>>We cannot, though, deny the Masters, when and where they actually
>>work, simply because there are so many pretenders and impostors
>>in the world.

>Nor has their existence been proved.

Not proven, perhaps, *to you*. But there are different definitions of
proof. Consider that in the American judicial system. The highest standard
is "without a shadow of a doubt". This is used in criminal trials. If there
exists a single doubt, the indictment is thrown out. The scientific equalivant
is the "null hypthoesis", which we are trying to reject in every possible way.

A lower standard is "the preponderance of evidence", and it is used in
civil lawsuits. In this case, there can be doubts, but if the scales tip
in a particular direction, where the weight of evidence is higher in that
direction -- that side wins the suit.

Most of want we know is accepted by the lower standard. There are few
things in life that we are totally without doubt regarding, that we
know with absolute certainity.

>From a philosophical standpoint, there is a logical necessity for the
existence of the Masters. Consider the advances in modern physics. There
may be the logical necessity (as proposed from theory) for the existence
of certain subatomic particles. They can be presumed to exist. We then
devise experiments that eventually lead to the observation or experimental
proof of the existence of those particles.

With the Masters, we can likewise have a necessary place for them in
the Teachings, and someday progress to the point where they are proven,
*to us*, by our personal experience. But that proof will not become part
of the public knowledge, and proof for others, since the Masters desire
their existence to remain unproven to the general public.

>We could have an open discussion comparing the
>HPB model to the Purucker model, for instance.

>Yet, the point is that such discussion is
>impossible when the discussion rests upon the undisclosed biases
>that one is of a superior revelation than the other.

That is why it is important to know the person we are talking to.
We can take their biases into account when interacting with them.
This is different that one aspect of the ULT approach, where they
resort too often to "this student" rather than name from a public
platform, or "A Student" rather than byline on published articles.

Regardling "undisclosed biases", we first have to consider what is
a bias. It is an inclination to take sides or grant the benefit of
doubt to a source we consider authoritative.

If we openly state what we consider our authorities, then nothing
is undisclosed. Regarding "bias", we are, I'd suggested, biased or
predisposed to consider Blavatsky as correct, and Crowley as
in error. This is based upon our respective impressions of the
different sources. There's nothing wrong with this. We continue
to give different weight to the writings of different people until
our evaluation of those sources changes and we see them differently.

For myself, I'd consider Purucker on an equal basis with Blavatsky
as a representative and source of teachings from the Masters. That
is my bias or my granting of authority or status to them. Your
evaluation of them may be different, that that is your bias.

I would not consider either one as superior to the other in terms
of "revelation", but would carefully consider any differences between
their writings, and judicate in my own mind any apparent conflicts.

>First we need to level the playing field by bringing out
>into the open biases and assumptions. For instance your
>statement: "For these we'd consider how Purucker expanded upon
>what HPB had said..." already reveals the assumption that GdP
>"expanded" upon what HPB said."

Yes, I consider Purucker in the same light as Blavatsky.

>That would have to be discussed since it represents am assumption
>that probably contrasts with those held by the HPB student.

It might conflict with the assumption by the Blavatsky-only student.
Students of Purucker like Boris de Zirkoff, Geoffrey Barborka, and
Gordon Plummer might disagree with the assumption that to study
Blavatsky is to reject Purucker.

>>The fact that there are some differences does not mean that one
>>of the two represents the Masters and the other does not.

>Or, this very conjecture may be a rationalization to justify
>the (alleged) differences. We have to watch our thinking on many

Granted, that there are many possible explanations for the differences.
We have to use discrimination and determine if someone is a trained
Chela, teaching on behalf of the Masters, or is not. An examination of
the differences in what they say is one way help make this determination.

>>We examine the differences then make a choice. It's a separate choice as
>>to *which* individuals are representatives of the Masters.

>Because the playing field was not evened out in the beginning.

I'm not sure what would be a level playing field? When any New Age
writer is accepted (or rejected) on an equal basis as an equally
qualified candidate to sit alongside Blavatsky on our theosophical
bookshelves? Saying "Blavatsky only" is like Daniel saying "Bible only",
and begs the question but discards everything new in the world,
accepting only classical philosophers and religious figures.

>>>The second problem is when the student creates a
>>>unique model out of the pieces of several other models.

>>This would be an example of one's personal understanding, that if
>>taught as such is fine.

>Making clear that the model is such a personal compilation
>is a first step in leveling that playing field.

There seems to be an assumption here that what we know can only come
from external sources, like the books we read, the authors we respect,
the schools of thought that we belong to. Knowledge can come from
with, be authentic, and allied with the Theosophy that Blavatsky
taught. We just need to be clear regarding whether it came *from within*,
or it is our current idea, or that we externally read it. (Here I'm
making a distiction of *three* sources, not two, as in personal views
versus external learning.)

>Awareness of our changing beliefs is important too--in the
>evaluation of our own ideas.

That evaluation helps us achieve a degree of objectivity about
our beliefs, allowing us to develop greater flexibility of mind.
That does not mean that our beliefs are untrue, or that we should
not hold strong beliefs, belifs that have a profound effect in
our lives. What it means is that we keep a high degree of
freshness to the belifs, rethinking them anew each time,
continually at risk of coming out differently each time they are

>Ideas themselves are born out of a background of beliefs
>and values. We have to understand those beliefs and values to
>fully understand those ideas.

This is part of the process of self-discovery. We understand how
our mind works to create "the objective world", and learn how to
"stop the world" at times.

Granted that our personality, including the language that we
speak, and our belief system, is taken from the cultural context
of the world, the subrace that we belong to. But we *can* rise above
it, and inwardly learn and progress in advance of the external society.

>>The historical aspect may ... help explain why [Besant's] books
>>may differ from each other a bit. But what does this buy us?

>It "buys us" insight into where Besant got her ideas; how
>she regarded them; how and why they came to be accepted; who and
>what was a major influence upon her; etc.

This helps us evaluate the experiences of her life, but it does
not tell us which books were more true, and the degree of accuracy
from an occult standpoint of what she taught. Occultism or the
Esoteric Philosophy does not change from one decade to the next,
even though its exponents may.

>This background of
>information gives us a foundation to evaluate her ideas far
>beyond the "they feel right to me" way of measuring ideas.

This background lets us evaluate her personal relationship with
Theosophy and to comment on the value of her different books.
It provides the appearance of objectivity, which allows for a
scholarly evaluation. But an understanding of the Teachings,
apart from an initial intellectual study of the general doctrines,
requires some inner development and resulting personal insight.
It's not something that can be argued from an historical standpoint
because it goes beyond what can be written down in a book meant
for public consuption.

>whether or not ideas "feel right" is most more likely an
>emotional decision than an intuitive one. My observation is that
>most people don't make much of a distinction between the two.

There are other ways that we can recognize and accept occult
truths. My understanding of how occultism is taught is that the
student is brought to the necessary state of receptivity, so that
the student can *originate the idea from within*. This is done
rather than simply telling ideas, because the ideas are better
learned, and the student is being trained to awaken his inner

A good example is when a scientist has an brilliant flash, and
realizes something grand in but a moment. It may take years to
write about and prove that insight of a moment.

When a theosophical writer is effective, he leads us to this
experience frequently in our studies. If that writer is writing
about Theosophy, what appears in the books "rings true" to us.
We get a feel for the source of the writings, there's a definite
"thought current" that can be detected behind certain writings
that bears the stamp of the same source.

>Our current situation is
>a child of the past. If we have no past, then there is no
>context for the present. We must be cogniscent of both.

We have a past, and it provides a degree of stability to the
present. The past does not cause the present, because the past
does not exist. The effects of the past are found in the present,
but the past does not reach forward and fashion us in this moment.
We carry the effects of the past in ourselves, and determine, to
a degree, how those effects are incorporated in our lives.

>>The doctrines ... are much more than the
>>mere words on the printed page, which can leave us empty-handed,
>>but they don't consist of organizational propaganda.

>They did not start out a "organizational propaganda", but
>once ideas are embraced by an organization, they by necessity
>become so.

Perhaps we're using "propaganda" in a negative sense, when it
doesn't have to be a negative thing. We certainly have as a
goal the dissemination (progagation) of the Teachings. We're
not trying to keep them to ourselves. When we say that "propaganda"
is the material that we intend to propagate, then what we've
learned of Theosophy can be positively called such.

>It is the historical approach that side steps the
>"organizational propaganda" aspect in order to look at the

But we're not looking at the Teachings per se when we consider
them as a historical phenomena and see them chaning over times,
and as the product of various individuals. We're looking at the
Teachings when we consider them as a body of thought in their
own right, apart from any exponent of them, in whatever historic

>If we want to know what people were being taught in 1880, 1883,
>or 1908, that would be useful. But more important is what we're
>being taught and teaching others in 1995. We should concern
>ourselves with its quality.

>If you want to teach theosophical doctrine, then this is
>fine. No historical understanding of the teachings in necessary.


>Just read the books and parrot the teachings until you can put
>them into your own words. This had been done for years and is

It is only *the first step* to a study of Theosphy, and if nothing
follows, it is dead. The intellectual study of the books is a
prerequesite to Theosophy as a spiritual practice. We contemplate
the words then *go beyond them*.

The movement is dead when there is no one taking this second
step. And we are left empty-handed with the dead literature of
the past should we come to the point where there's no one left
to show us the way, to pass on or inspire in us this "fire of

>I taught theosophy this way for many years, and
>don't teach it this way any more.

Without teaching anything more than the intellectual learning of
doctrines, you would be faced with the question: What do we do
with this stuff once we've learned it? The teachings go
hand-in-hand with a *process* of inner work that both provides
insight into life and self-transformation and self-genesis.
What we are approaching is the awakening of chelaship in the
would-be students.

>>The only way to know for sure is to undertake the Path
>>ourselves and come to other ways of validating *to ourselves*
>>what is correct.

>Yours is a good doctrinal approach.

We cannot otherwise know, "without the shadow of a doubt,"
the inner nature of life.

>>If we were to say that the teachings change from year to year,
>>that would imply that they are being made up in an ad hoc
>>fashion, which I would disagree with. I would rather consider
>>them being progressively put into words, in a Western language,
>>over time.

>Can you prove that somebody had not "made up in an ad hoc
>fashion" these teachings?

No. Not "without a shadow of a doubt". Nor likely by "the
preponderance of evidence." The approach that I'd have to
take would be mostly descriptive, rather than authoritative,
and leave it to others to accept or reject what I say based
upon how it appeals to them.

I don't think that Theosophy needs to be "proven" to people.
There will be a natural appeal to some people. Some will come
to it and have an instinctive appeal. The appeal will be at
a more primal level than simply a rational argument, although
a rational case can be made for it. The appeal is to a part of
our nature that is pre-thought or Buddhic, although it also
provides satisfaction to the mind.

>Of course you can't.

True. Just as I cannot prove color to someone without eyesight.
I can talk about it, and explain what it is, but without the
actual experience what I say is received as but a theory.

>Is it important whether they we "made up" or not?
>From a doctrinal point of view--yes. From a historical point
>of view--no.

This is an important difference, if we're concerned with truth,
with what is real, with actual occult teachings, and not just
with observing the history of occult groups and writers.

>From an historical approach, the questions of veracity;
>how people are affected by the teachings; and how one
>is personally affected by the teachings are the important

This is the argument that it does not matter what one believes,
nor what one thinks, just so long as it affects one for the
better. It is found in relativism, where everyone's beliefs are
considered on an equal basis, as equally true. I'd disagree.

I'd suggest that it *does* matter what one believes, since those
beliefs affect one's inner growth, relate to the direction that
one takes in life, and strongly bias any psychical experiences
to be had by that person. And the beliefs

Whether or not they are true is important for a *practicioner*
of Theosophy, althought it is a moot point for a scholar on
the outside.

>teachings were "progressively put into words..." is a
>belief that cannot be confirmed by ordinary experience.

Nor can reincarnation and karma, the creation of the world by
a series of emanations, nor the true nature of mind. There is
much to the world that cannot be confirmed by ordinary
experience, but requires a spiritual practice for confirmation.
Until or without that practice, we have theory rather than
technique, hypothesis rather than proof, a belief system rather
than an experiential description of life.

>Personally, I prefer as much as possible not to lean on
>that which I cannot confirm.

Except where your "reasoned certainity" comes into play,
where you have granted the status of authority to someone
that you are studying, based upon your assumption that the
teacher in question knows that he or she is talking about.

>If and when I learn to astral project to the snowy Himalayas and
>have tea with the Mahachohan every other thursday afternoon, I'll
>let you knom.

Now here's something that I would have trouble with, were you
to say this. If you *really* did such a thing, you'd likely
know to keep your mouth shut, and not say a word about.

>>It does not take into account that less teachings were available
>>at first, and that both further teachings along with possible
>>error were introducted over time since then.

>Right. But more importantly, doctrine within a vacuum
>creates a canon of dead letter teachings.

If the teachings take shape over time, is the canon that is
being formulated arbitrary, and without substance, or is it
a more complete expression of Theosophy taking shape? If you're
writing an article, the first few paragraphs don't convey the
full meaning, and the article may not take shape for many pages.
With Theosophy, a partial expression of the Esoteric Philosophy,
it may take several generations to take shape as a body of
thought in the West.

>>But for us, *as individuals*, we
>>are not limited by what is available to the public in this or any
>>particular generation. We are only limited by the depth of our
>>spiritual practice and how far our studies take us.

>Yet we have the published writings to indicate the nature of
>that practice.

To an extent the practice is outlined in the published writings.
But also, the practice is self-initiated, and comes from taking
additional steps in our lives, steps belong the intellectual
study of the source writings.

>>But it does not deal with the question: "what are the Mystery
>>Teachings and how can a student approach them today?"

> It not only deals with this question, but gives context to it.

Dealing with the question involves *understanding* the Mysteries,
which is something more than the understanding of the beliefs
of a particular culture or time period. How the Mysteries are
approached is a combination of *content* and *process*, Teachings
and spiritual practice, and takes us beyond the books and speechs
given from the lecture platform.

The Mysteries take us out of our historic context; they don't
originate within that context.

>>History tells us how we got
>>here, the geneology of ideas, but in the doctrine we have the
>>treasury of what is now known, and working with that treasury
>>leads us into the future.


And there's much to history that will never meet our eyes.
That's the history and geneology of ideas of the Mahatmas,
something not to be found in our history books nor public

>>Instead of history dealing with the evolution (or
>>degeneration) of ideas over time, we're now talking
>>about taking ideas inside or outside of their cultural context.

>Yes. It is the historical understanding that gives the

And this is one thing that distinguishes the occult or Mysteries
from popular thought. The former is hidden, apart from (and
going far beyond) the popular state of things; the later is
what is readily available to the common man, until feeling a
need for something more and beginning his spiritual quest.

>>Since Theosophy deals with timeless truths, and with things that
>>go far beyond our current cultural context, they would of
>>necessity be doctrines. And since when we initiate our personal
>>evolution, and step outside the cultural norms, we're personally
>>outside that context in our inner lives, if not the outer lives.
>>The popular conception of Theosophy may change, and when viewed
>>as a social phenomena, could be considered in a historic sense,
>>but the living truths are an entirely different matter!

>This is a classic doctrinal position you are presenting
>here, and is not what HPB had presented.

I'm not sure where you would disagree, or think that HPB would
disagree with this. Does Blavatsky think that Theosophy was
made up, and a product of our culture?

According to HPB, in "The Secret Doctrine", I, 272-3:

] The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages,
] and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system
] ...

This is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, not a culture
specific product.

] The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the
] very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where
] an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the
] external work of form. ...

The Adepts have learned of things that go far beyond our world
of forms.

] It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy
] of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the
] uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers
] whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the
] traditions passed orally by one early race to another, ... of the
] teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the
] childhood of Humanity. ...

The system is not made up, and is not the product of isolated
individuals. It is an oral tradition, passed on from one generation
of Adepts to the next.

] How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing,
] and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old
] by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have
] developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and
] spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree.

The knowledge is proven anew with each generation.

] No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and
] confirmed by the visions--so obtained as to stand as independent
] evidence--of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences.

And new knowledge is not accepted into the Master's body of
thought until proven by centuries of experience.

This sounds in a way like the scientific methodology, except that
the repeatable experiment is in the experience of other adepts.
It doesn't sound like we're talking about a culture-specific
body of thought.

>Even those "living
>truths" were communicated in an historical and cultural context
>of Christianity and its relationship to gnosticism.

Agreed that the manner of communication is customized to the
specific culture. But the *content*, the Teachings, are not
culture-specific, just the exoteric garb.

>HPB explores magic, science and phenomena through an historical

My assumption is that she was doing this to show the
universality of the philosophy, rather than showing it as
the product of this culture or that culture.

>In the flowering and oppression of the theosophical movement through
>the cultures over the centuries. The teachings are one by one
>discussed through the comparison and contrast of historical
>religions and cultures ancient and modern.

We can observe the flowering and oppression of the movement
during different historic periods. And we can contrast the
beliefs held at each time with the theosophical doctrines.

Blavatsky will state when the Esoteric Philosophy agrees with
or disagrees with the views of various religions and peoples.
She is teaching the timeless truths, and showing us that they
can be found throughout the world and throughout the ages. She
is also telling us when the various religions and philosophies
are wrong. Blavatsky is talking from an established body of
doctrines, and contrasting them with popular views.

>~The Key to
>Theosophy~ opens with an account of the relationship of theosophy
>to neo-platonism. In fact, take any of HPB's books or articles
>and you will find the subject matter in each of them to be
>treated in a historical way. Even ~The Voice of the Silence~,
>which is a translation, has footnotes explaining the teachings in
>a historical and cultural contexts.

This is for the purpose of showing the universality of the
Wisdom Tradition. I don't think that her intent was to indicate
that the theosophical doctrines were the byproduct of their
respective ages.

>Whether or not Plato's archetypes are "real in their own
>right" is a matter of debate, as the transcendental reality of
>the teachings.

True. Some people with "believe in" Theosophy, others will remain
skeptics. Much of Theosophy is only subject to proof by "living
the life", and remains unprovable otherwise.

>One may come to that personal realization, but to
>accept this transcendent view of theosophy from the start is a
>doctrinal and religious approach.

Agreed. When someone accepts Theosophy as a belief, before it
is proven in his life, it acts as a form of religion. But not
everything is first proven *in this lifetime*. Some people are
drawn to Theosophy because of a natural affinity; they have
found it proven in their lives ages ago, and are drawn to it
yet again in this lifetime because they recognize something
special in it.

>IMHO it is better to begin one's study of theosophy in a
>historical context and not as a revelation. As one's
>understanding of the ideas grow, then one
>will come to deeper realizations concerning them.

I'd put this last statement a bit differently. An intellectual
study of Theosophy provides an important foundation for a
later spiritual practice. But since each person is different,
some may rush into a practice, because of instictively knowing
what to do, resuming an inner work left off in another life.

-- Eldon

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