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Oct 30, 1995 08:36 PM
by K. Paul Johnson

Eldon wrote:
> >
> > You say that, but when you start shouting, you help illustrate my
> > point. Dogmas are required beliefs, and the prohibition against
> > dogmas *is itself a dogma*. <grin>

No, a prohibition is not a belief. A belief is the acceptance
of a truth-functional proposition, i.e. something that may be
true or false. "Don't impose dogmas" is not a belief, but
rather an organizational imperative or principle or value. The
American Heritage Dictionary defines dogma as:
1. A doctrine or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such
as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner by
a church.
PJ-- To the extent that Theosophical groups set forth their
doctrines "in an authoritative manner" and act like churches,
they are dogmatic.
2. An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or
opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.
PJ-- Again, it's the authoritative nature of the belief, etc.,
that makes it dogmatic.
3. A principle or belief or a group of them.
PJ-- By this definition any organization from the American
Library Association to the DAR has dogmas; but it's too broad.
> >
> > A good sign of the presence of a dogma is in the *reaction* of
> > people holding it. The response to challenge is immediate,
> > passionate, and defensive.
Ten years ago I'd have said Theosophists were not dogmatic. By
the above criterion, older but wiser, I'd now say they include some
of the most passionate, defensive dogmatists who ever lived.
> >
> > This is a matter of style, a manner of presentation, an approach
> > that was taken by the founders of the Theosophical Society. It
> > is not, I'd suggest, an universal approach to the Mysteries, but
> > rather an approach tailored for the individualistic and
> > opinionated Western temperament of the 1800's.
Which is no longer Western but approaching global saturation.
Too late to turn back now!
> >
> > I would submit that the prohibitation against dogmas is a dogma of
> > theosophical groups. And other dogmas are the three objects of the
> > T.S. A belief in Universal Brotherhood *is required*, and not
As I recall the phrase is "acceptance of the principle" which
is not belief that a proposition is true, but agreement to live
in a certain way. You're stretching the meaning of dogma here.
> >
> > With science, there is an established body of proven knowledge
> > that are dogmas. They are *required belief* for scientists. After
NO WAY! Let Don or somebody tangle with this! What science
are you speaking of? Please name a required belief of that
science. I bet you can find scientists in good standing who
don't accept it. If you're talking about rules of evidence,
etc. those aren't beliefs but conventions of how science
operates. One can justify them with dogmatic statements but in
themselves they are just operational principles.
> >
> > Dogma is the skeletal or foundation ideas that give structure to
> > and shape our belief system. Without it, we are philosophical
> > invertibrate, holding "jellyfish philosophy".
Just call me a jellyfish philosopher.
> >
> > Each person has cornerstone beliefs that his worldview is based
> > upon. With Theosophy, these are the core teachings that define the
> > essential nature of its system of ideas.
Eldon, I really think HPB would disagree with you most
sharply. She explicitly said Theosophy is "not the tenets but
the principle of rational explanation of things" (paraphrase).
> >
> > With Tibetan Buddhism and other approaches to the Mysteries, other
> > approaches are used. It is both a strength and weakness of the
> > Theosophical Movement that there is no definitive presentation of
> > the philosophy, nor vows, nor formulated spiritual practice. It
> > leaves one to devise a personal approach. Some of us can come to
> > a theosophical group and benefit from this approach. Many may not,
> > leaving empty-handed in their search for a spiritual practice.
Theosophy was intended to be, not a religion, but a cornerstone
for the religions of the future. That is why it can only be
violated by those who would make a religion of it IMHO.
> >
> > Theosophy is real, and its core doctrines are required belief in
> > the same sense as the tenets of science are a required belief of
Required by whom? What happens to those who fail to meet the
requirements? Who punishes them?
> >
> > As our theosophical groups are currently organized, they are
> > declining in number and enthusiasm, because the emphasis has been
> > upon presentating speculative metaphysics, without any real sense
> > of spiritual practice, of a living sense of the Path, of the
> > actuality of chelaship *for anyone that would try*.
While the A.R.E. has nearly doubled in membership in the last
twenty years, giving plenty of "real sense of spiritual
practice, of a living sense of the Path." Yet the A.R.E. has
vastly less dogmatism in my experience than the Theosophical
organizations. You seem to be mixing apples and oranges here.
> >
> > You don't think, then, that Theosophy is literally true? I do, but
HPB doesn't, as I understand it. Rather, Theosophy (i.e. the
body of teachings in our books) is a fragmentary presentation
of a vast and largely unspeakable wisdom. Its statements can
be taken at many levels of meaning, let's say seven for
convenience. Such a multilayered and symbolic and fragmentary
teaching cannot be "literally true" in the way you seem to
mean; literalism is its mortal enemy.

I'm in a rush to get off-line and will pick up this thread


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