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Re: To be a Theosophist

Oct 31, 1995 03:46 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker


>Eldon's remarks about required beliefs ... contribute to
>these thoughts.

Theosophy is a well-defined body of ideas. It has been presented
in the West as a collection of speculations or spiritual theories
for the individual to consider because that suits the Western
temperament. But there's more to it than that.

My discussion of "dogma" was attempting to deal with this sense
of individualism and I'd expect the discussion to lead to the
resulting problems with Theosophy becoming the cornerstone of
future religions in the West.

The dictionary defines doctrine as a "body of principles presented
for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific,
or philosophic group; dogma."

>Despite harmonious interaction with Theosophists across the country,
>it's been a year of nearly constant agonizing over the karmic
>consequences of my books in terms of my relations with the

This sounds like you're dwelling in the past. When you've written
a book, it's done, and you can move on. Unless it's not a matter
of simply writing a book and expounding a certain theory; unless
you see youself on a crusade to "reform" Theosophists of some
particular view of the Masters that you don't hold.

>Only now do I feel I understand *where* it hurts, and thus can
>diagnose the illness and find a cure ... The self-image that's
>been slashed away at ... is simply "I am a Theosophist,
>entitled to respect as a loyal member of the movement to
>which I've devoted much of my time, energy and money for the
>last 17 years."

As a person, you deserve the same respect as others in the
movement. This respect can exist even when some of your ideas
are disagreed with. Personal attacks are inappropriate, but
people will sometimes resort to them, rather than dealing with
the issues. This is not new to you.

>Sorry to be so confessional, but this is going somewhere. When
>Eldon talks about *required beliefs* it sounds to me very much
>like he wants a basis for *excluding* people, saying "you're no
>Theosophist if your thoughts don't pass my litmus test."

You can say "sounds like" and that's your reaction to the
discussion. My intent is not to exclude people from anything.
My point was that the very reason that Theosophy was presented
in the West as a body of theory and in a pick-and-choose manner
was to avoid this sort of reaction in Westerners. We don't want
someone to tell us what to think, and find it difficult to study
a complete system of metaphysical thought, because we might feel
pressured to accept ideas that we don't like. But if the ideas
are offered "buffet style", then we're not frightened away and
may come and consider them.

I'd find (at least) three stages of accepting Theosophy, of
accepting the theosophical body of occult teachings presented
for our acceptance or belief.

(1) There might be a lay Theosophist, for which the only
required belief was in universal brotherhood, and a degree
of open tolerance for the spiritual practices of others.

(2) Next would come the Theosophical practioner, someone that
deeply embraced the teachings and attempted to follow the
chela life as outlined therein.

(3) Finally would come the actual chela, someone who had
progressed to the point of inner teaching, training, and
perhaps having a Master as mentor and guru.

There are many different possible formulations. Each one,
if having merit, might form the seed of a future Western
religion. There would eventually be a family of religions
that could be labelled "theosophical", and the apporach
that I outlined would be one sect among them.

>When all of y'all go round and round interminably about what
>Theosophy is, what it's not, what to respect, what to
>disrespect, it reminds me of "I'm Chevy Chase and YOU'RE NOT."
>Who the hell cares, anyhow?

As to defining and studying the Philosophy, the degree of
meaning is in the mind of the beholder. Perhaps you're having
a crisis of meaning with Theosophy? Perhaps it's become a
cracked winebottle to you, no longer able to carry spiritual
content? The study is not merely word games, but involves a
literal understanding about how life and consciousness works,
and that understanding can become experiential and lead to a
progressive spiritual unfoldment alike that to be had in
expert training at a spiritual center.

>I don't think HPB and Olcott intended to create a movement
>of exclusivistic, elitist nitpickers, and if they are/will
>be reborn I bet they'll put their energies someplace far
>more productive.

We're not their followers in the sense that we do things
simply because they wanted us to. Theosophists follow a
particular approach to the Mysteries. When anyone attempts
to talk about the Path, and to describe what its steps are,
there will always be charges of exclusivism. If we talk
about future steps along the way, we're called exclusive
because we describe things most people are not ready for,
and that is seen as a put-down. If we keep our mouths
shut and perhaps have esoteric groups where we study the
same ideas behind closed doors, we're also called exclusive,
for not inviting everyone to attend those meetings. It's
a no-win situation! Regardless of approach, it will be
possible for people to mis-preceive exslusiveness when
none it intended.

> level of commonly-held beliefs and values is *much*
>higher with ARE members than with Theosophists ... but I don't
>want to get into a "mine's better than yours" game since that's
>exactly what I'm sick of about organized Theosophy.

You'll find that attitude in any group of people, the attitude
that the group is somehow better than other groups. I would
not accept relativism, though, the idea that all possible
groups are of equal value and equally promote the truth.

Theosophy is not an exclusive approach to the Mysteries, but it
is a genuine one. And there are a lot of groups and organizations
that *are not* approaches to the Mysteries. You cannot discredit
Theosophy by pointing to the numbers of foolish people calling
themselves Theosophists.

>It is with a sense of tremendous relief and liberation that I
>say to you, I am NOT a Theosophist. Joining ARE ...
>You're just one person, doing his or her best to live by the
>light you have and to gain more enlightenment as you go.

Whether you call yourself a Theosophist or not, you remain
on the same path of self-discovery. That may involve exploring
interesting ideas and hanging out with compatible people, and
perhaps may involve *a practice* as well, when you feel a need
for such. Good luck.

>There are thousands and thousands of people who are interested
>in HPB and other Theosophical writers, who may have at one time
>joined a Theosophical organization, and have moved on not in
>anger but in regret.

Agreed, but we may have different explanations for why this

>Regret that a great rushing torrent of
>spiritual energy that transformed the world has now become a
>muddy trickle incapable of transforming the dysfunctional
>organizations that commemorate its heroic past.

You can indict the current organizations. They certainly don't
live up to our expectations. The torrent of spiritual energy
continues to transform the world, through every person and
group that would give it expression. It is not the exclusive
property of any individual or organization.

It's an oversimplification to speak of a single torrent of
energy. There are many. One is with regard to the maintenance
of the light of spirit in the world. Avataras return at cyclic
times to rekindle the fire of the spiritual, and the Mahatmas
work on maintaining that fire. A second has to do with the
slow, gradual evolution of the human lifewave over vast periods
of time, convering millions of years. This is deeper than the
superficial social changes of a generation, a century, or a
millennium. A third is related to the Mysteries, and a higher
calling felt by a special few, that *is not elistist*. Your
objection to elitism among Theosophists may be in regard to
people pretending to relate to this third "torrent".

I'd object to calling the past "heroic" and the present lacking.
Agreed that the theosophical organizations are somewhat
dysfunctional and declining in numbers. But that is because
the spiritual practices associated with Theosophy remain

Theosophy was intended to form the cornerstone of the
future religions of the West, and the organizations are
failing in their work to accomplish this goal. Theosophy
remains a speculative metaphysical philosophy and that is
not enough. People leave theosophical groups after finding
nothing there that is spiritual nourishing to them, because
it's hard to create a self-devised practice through
Theosophy as it's currently taught.

>Regret that the most creative, interesting people who have
>passed through the movement in this century-- like Ouspensky,
>David-Neel, and Dharmapala-- were stifled by its conformity
>and felt obliged to move on.

As individuals, they have their individual reasons for
moving on. The general situation, though, as I see it, is
that theosophical groups lack well-defined spiritual
practices, and it is the lack of such that leads people to
move on. Conformity is not a problem, although rigidity of
thought is a problem. In the East, when you adopt a particular
Buddhist practice, you're expected to give your whole being
to the practice, and not stand at arms-length, picking and
choosing what you like from it, like Buddists in the West
tend to do. There is no well-defined theosophical practice
for Westerners to give their whole being to; it is all
pick-and-choose, and this is its downfall.

>Regret that "What is Theosophy" and "What is a Theosophist"
>have become ways of excluding and feeling superior to the
>outside world, rather than embracing and including the best
>it has to offer.

Whenever you draw a circle to include things, you exclude
everything outside that circle. That does not mean that
you never draw a circle. It also does not mean that your
intent and motivation is to exclude anything.

While we may agree that there is too much rigidity of
thought in theosophical groups, we may part company when
you ascribe the motivation of excluding others and feeling
superior to Theosophists. Theosophists may say: "Here is
something special that we have to offer, take it if you
find it of value," they wouldn't (or shouldn't) say "I'm
better than you because I've got the right stuff."

We may both agree that the existing theosophical groups
need an overhaul, but differ as to what is needed. I
would say that a greater degree of pick-and-choose
presentation of theories is the wrong direction. My
recommendation is that theosophical groups carefully
examine the successful Eastern religious traditions,
and formulate one or more practices for Westerners to
join that can provide *genuine* training, that can
truly act as an entry to the Mysteries.

-- Eldon

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