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re: historical and doctrinal

Oct 24, 1995 05:23 AM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins


>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.

 I think our discussion is running on two registers here.
I'm trying to look at theosophy from the point of view of a
knowledgeable outside observer. This is a much broader
perspective than one I would have as a theosophical devotee and
defender of the faith. As an informed outside observer, I would
say that the theosophical teachings are whatever the Organization
and the membership believe them to be. This belief has changed
over the years, and varies with the membership. As a devotee of
modern theosophy, I would say that the source for the teachings
of modern theosophy comes from Blavatsky, the Mahatma letters,
and to a lessor extent, from Judge and from Sinnett's early
writings. How you might want to summarize and categorize these
teachings is up to you. On the other hand, my opinion is a
minority one in the Adyar Society. Liesel, for instance, is more
representative of the majority opinion when she adds Besant,
Leadbeater, Jinarajadasa, and a host of newer writers such as
Serge King, perhaps Jay Williams and others. Jerry S. would add
Crowley, since he says that Aleister Crowley was a messenger from
the same Lodge as HPB. Liesel's and Jerry S's opinions are just
as valid as mine or yours. It is a matter of definition. I
tried to suggest a definition based upon historical
considerations, but you, Rich, Alan Bain and Dan Caldwell
appeared to be the only ones on this net that were tracking with
what I was talking about. So it seemed to be a futile exercise
to continue a discussion going when half of those who responded
were not tracking with me in the first place. I'm not suggesting
that the problem is one of intelligence, but rather one of coming
from very different reference points. For instance, if one
rejects the value of history for understanding the present, then
a discussion of a historically based definition of what the
theosophical teachings are is rather meaningless, and would
probably fall into Liesel's notion of "idle chatter."
 On the positive side (as I pointed out before), my suggested
historically based definition and classification of theosophical
teachings would unify the movement under a common history. On
the negative side, it too is not acceptable for those who find no
value in history.

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

 Well, here is the great incongruity. The Adyar TS defines
theosophy as being "without dogma" on the one hand, and on the
other, enforces restrictions upon what is to be taught to the
point that Lodge charters have been canceled when they go too far

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.

 And by these very restrictions against teaching certain
ideas as theosophy, then theosophical teachings become dogma.
You can't have it both ways. If you, myself, Rich, Jerry S.,
Patrick and Liesel were to each make a syllabus for a class in
theosophy, my guess is that each would look very different from
the other. But it is the Adyar TS, who in practice, has the
final say as to what is theosophy and what is not for their
Lodges. Very much the same situation is also true with Pasadena
and ULT.

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.

 The Adyar TS first needs to educate the membership
concerning the difference between doctrine and dogma. But, with
the decades of confusion on these matters, reformation of this
type is not IMHO in the foreseeable future.

>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 theosophical 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

 I would argue that the reading of these classics should come
before a study of theosophy. Blavatsky assumed her readers to
have a previous familiarity with most of these classics before
they read her writings.

>Surely she did not want this [library of religious and
philosophical classics] 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?

 The wording of the second object has been revised several
times, but the overall meaning has not changed. Rewriting of the
Objects is up to Radha. That is her privilege alone, as I
understand the bylaws of the Adyar TS. If I were in a position
to rewrite the objects, I would update the language without
making any additions or changes in meaning.

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

>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.)

 Fine. I just point out that this is the standard definition
of big t and little t. You are welcome to make your own
definitions too.

>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.

 Nevertheless, this confusion exists, and I have seen it
expressed on theos-l on many occasions.

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.

 That is one way of looking at it.

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.

 That is a currently popular Buddhist approach.

>>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.

 A proper Jnana yoga approach would go a long way towards
eliminating 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.

 It is Daniel H's approach and underlying assumptions that
put him into his position, just as it is our approaches and
assumptions that put us where we are. Think about it.

>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.

 And all of this was between HPB and her teachers. For those
who are not in personal contact with the Masters, still have the
Master within us. That is the relationship and the authority
that we need to focus on.

>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

 And those who still follow CWL's and AB's lead that we be
obedient and unquestioning soldiers of the Masters are welcome to
their beliefs. I only point out that this kind of relationship
to the Masters is precisely the opposite of what HPB and the
Mahatma Letters prescribe.

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.

And accepted as the word of God or the word of the Masters by
many listeners. That is a problem when that preacher and those
followers are running an Organization that was originally founded
upon individual conscience.

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.

 So what if he truly is? Do we worship him now? Do we
follow his orders? I would say no. It is more important that we
follow our own inner teacher than any outward one.

>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.

 No, and I would not deny the existence of the Masters
because there are pretenders.

>Nor has their existence been proved.

Not proven, perhaps, *to you*.

 No. I mean *not proven*. My own beliefs are irrelevant in
this context.

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.

 Which is my point.

>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.

>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."

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

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.

 A "Blavatsky-only student" is the only example I have raised
here. A discussion with the your above named people would be on
different grounds, with different assumptions and different

>>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 levels.

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.

 Whether someone is a trained chela or not is not something
that can necessarily be objectively determined, and I do not see
it as necessary to do so anyway. For instance, I have rejected
most of CWL's teachings, but this rejection has nothing to do
with whether or not he was a trained chela. For all I know, he
was indeed a trained chela. I have based my rejections upon what
he wrote, what he believed and what he taught. Therefore,
whether or not he was a "trained chela" is not relevant.

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.

 And because of Daniel H's world view, and his unwillingness
to negotiate other views, the playing field would not be level.
It is Daniel's faith in the revelation that destroys opportunity
for discussion on a level playing field. It does not matter
whether that faith is in the revelation of Jesus or Blavatsky, it
is the same problem. It pervades the TS as well as Christianity.

>>>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.

 Not a general assumption, but there are implied assumptions
in this particular observation. For instance, I'm assuming that
Jerry S. is coming from his own experience and study, and not
promulgating teachings from an unseen Master of which he is the
messenger. In other words, my assumption is that Jerry S. is
responsible for his one beliefs.

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
distinction of *three* sources, not two, as in personal views
versus external learning.)

 Unless I see evidence to the contrary, I'll continue to
assume that Jerry S's knowledge comes the same way as everyone
else's: External learning; personal views; personal insight.

>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, beliefs that have a profound effect in
our lives. What it means is that we keep a high degree of
freshness to the beliefs, rethinking them anew each time,
continually at risk of coming out differently each time they are

 Yes, but also being aware of the changes in our beliefs. If
they don't change, then we are not growing.

>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.

 We only rise above what we master. Ignoring our background
of beliefs and values is not mastery.

>>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.

 On the contrary, it helps us to do precisely this.

Occultism or the Esoteric Philosophy does not change from one
decade to the next, even though its exponents may.

 Be that as it may, we only know what we know. I don't know
Esoteric Philosophy in any ultimate sense. HPB says that it is
beyond knowing anyway. I only know what I personally understand
of that Esoteric Philosophy, and must call my own shots based
upon my own understanding.

>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 consumption.

 An understanding of the teachings begins with an ability to
discriminate. Without a means of evaluation, how can this
discrimination be developed? I submit that inner development
begins with the development of discrimination. Without
discrimination, there is no way to distinguish between psychic
and noetic insight. Why discuss spiritual insight when the world
has yet to learn discrimination?

>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

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

 This is the method that we use.

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.

 Many believe that CWL "rings true" to them. Others Believe
that HPB "rings true" to them. Once again, we need to go back to
discrimination before discussing spiritual insights. As HPB says
in the ES instructions, we can't skip rungs on the latter. We
must take every step.

>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 cognoscente 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

 In whatever metaphysics you want to cloth it, the present
comes out of the past. That "the effects of the past are found
in the present" is precisely the point and we have to deal with
those effects whether we recognize them or not. So I submit that
we learn to recognize them.

>>The doctrines ... are much more than the
>>mere words on the printed page, which can leave us
>>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 (propagation) 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.

 I think the theosophical "propaganda" that we have today is
mostly negative. Making information available is one thing. The
dissemination is where the problems start. Remember your earlier
statement: "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 teacher." That is what I consider to be the proper
dissemination of the teachings.

>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

 Once again, as HPB said, that level of truth is beyond
knowing here on this plane. See her article "What is Truth." I
don't try to teach what cannot be taught. I only teach what we
can know on this plane. What we know to be theosophy came from
historical people who lived in historical time and taught ideas
that have a historical reality. Anything beyond this, students
have to discover for themselves. I teach very mundane theosophy,
which students can use towards the discovery of deeper truths.
IMO, teaching this mundane theosophy as something that exists on
a higher plane is misrepresenting it. The real spiritual truths
are not taught--but discovered. HPB taught theosophy as a
"historical phenomena", I'm just following her example.

>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.

 Agreed. And I submit that to evaluate its quality, a
historical context would help.

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


 However, I don't do it that way. I found it to be a very
poor method.

>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*.

 For that method, we have to leave to student to do their own
going beyond. I found this method to be a very poor one because
students found the link between theory and practical application
to large of a gap to jump.

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.

 Exactly. That is why we don't do this.

>>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.

 There are many paths....

>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.

 This works too, when the student is ready for it.

>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.

 Huh? I though we were talking about the teaching of
theosophy. What does "observing the history of occult groups and
writers" have to do with anything? Are you confusing an
historical approach to theosophy with the historical
investigation of occult groups?

>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.

 Then we agree to 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, although it is a moot point for a scholar on
the outside.

 If these beliefs are not "affecting the person for the
better", then it does matter to the person. Doesn't it?
Personally, I would not presume to make such judgements
concerning the spiritual growth of others. I teach what I teach;
people attend or not as they choose; and they go away with the
experiences and understanding which they gain. My
responsibility, as I see it, is to be accurate in what I teach
and to know my limitations. And, by the way, I consider my self
a *student* of theosophy who has taken a scholarly approach to it
and found this approach to be tremendously beneficial, as HPB
also did. As a student of theosophy, I also teach theosophy
according to my understanding--which I presume to be fallible.
I'm just another student, who is perhaps only a step ahead of
those I teach--nothing more. As for being a *practitioner* of
theosophy (one who prescribes for the spiritual needs of others),
I wouldn't presume such a status for myself. Even the Mahatmas
did not do such a thing.

>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.

 And this is all that I can teach--those teachings which lead
towards spiritual perception. They have to do their own
perceiving. I can't do the spiritual practices for them, nor
will I presume to tell them how to go about those spiritual

>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.

 No. The authority remains with me, and the reasoned
certainty is mine alone: because it was earned through my own
efforts of enquiry and experience. Any "status of authority"
that I may grant to anyone else is highly conditional and subject
to my own authority.

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

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 introduced 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?

 In the case of HPB's teachings, my opinion is that she was
introducing an already extant body of teaching over a period of
time. I have ample evidence to support this opinion.

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.

 I see a different process. I can see an outline of the
entire theosophical system in HPB's first "occult shot." The
process has to do with the laying down of foundations so that the
ideas could be developed.

>>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.

 Exactly. Therefore I don't dictate the spiritual practices
of others.

>>But it [historical approach] 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.

 Yes--"more than the understanding of the beliefs of a
particular culture or time period" but not exclusive of it. This
level of understanding is necessary too.

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.

 Exactly. That is why we abandoned the doctrinal approach.

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

 They do both.

>>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.

 Fine. I don't teach popular thought--I teach theosophy. I
don't teach the mysteries either, but only point in their

>>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

 Fine. I just teach theosophy. I leave the teaching of the
"living truths" (Truths?) to those who are qualified. On this
dirty little planets, with the limitations of time, space,
gravity, language, etc., all I can do is have classes where we
talk about relative truths that lead towards those "living

>This [i.e. Eldon's last statement] is a classic doctrinal
>position you are presenting here, and is not what HPB had

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?

 When theosophy is expressed on this planet to humanity, it
is expressed in historical and cultural contexts.

[here reproduces a page worth of SD quotes].

 Thanks for the lesson Eldon, but after 25 years of teaching
the SD, I've seen these quotes. They all refer to "The Secret
Doctrine", as "the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages" as you quoted.
She is not talking about doctrine here, but something upon which
that doctrine is based. First hand knowledge of that
"accumulated wisdom of the ages" is beyond all by the highest
initiates--so I'm not qualified to teach this, even if it were
possible. Therefore, it is the teachings in ~The Secret
Doctrine~ (i.e. the teachings in the book) that HPB presents in a
cultural and historical context that I have access to and work
with in order to teach theosophy. However, so that there is no
understanding, I'm not so interested in the dead letter doctrines
from the SD that have been taught and distorted ad nauseam over
the last hundred years, but more in the process of spiritual
growth that comes through the study of theosophy, whether it be
through the SD or by other methods.

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.

 It does to me. Or don't you believe that the Masters have a
physical, historical and cultural existence.

>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.

 Right. But remember, we only know the "content" by the
garbs. However, by an historical approach, we can see the same
contents in different garbs, and by comparison gives up insight
into what is behind those garbs. Get my drift?

>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.

 Of course she is showing the universality of the philosophy.
She is also showing it in different "historical garbs." I never
suggested that the "Ancient Wisdom" is the "product" of a
culture, but only that it is expressed in different "cultural
garbs" as you are now putting it.

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.

 Almost. Substitute "theosophical doctrines" with
"Theosophy". The "theosophical doctrines" are just other
expressions in other times. It is the "Theosophy" that we were

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.

 She is not teaching the "timeless truths" but rather giving
her own expression of them to us. The difference is crucial.
She may also be "talking from an established body of doctrines"
that she learned from her teachers. More importantly, I think
she may be talking from her own spiritual insight. But the
bottom line is that the "Ancient Wisdom" which is not anything so
gross as a "body of doctrines" are only being, at best, given an
historical and cultural expression.

>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.

 The point is--I only teach theosophy. The discovery of
Theosophy as a transcendental reality is up to the individual
student. I can in my own small way assist in that discovery as
would the psychopomp at the time of initiation, but the discovery
is up to the student.

>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.

 Exactly. And I don't want to proselytize a religion for my
students. Just the opposite.

>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 instinctively knowing
what to do, resuming an inner work left off in another life.

 I think you are tracking with me now.

Jerry HE

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