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HPB vs. Theosophical orthodoxy

Jul 17, 1996 07:06 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

HPB's "Original Programme" manuscript lays out very clearly
where she, Olcott, and their teachers stand on the issue of
orthodoxy in the Theosophical movement.  This addresses the
popular trend toward normative "core teachings."
..if the two Founders were not told *what they had to do,*
they were distinctly instructed about *what they never should
do,* what they had to avoid, and what the Society should never
become.  Church organizations, Christian and spiritual sects
were show as the future contrasts to our Society.  To make it

(1) The Founders had to exercise all their influence *to oppose
selfishness of any kind,* by insisting upon sincere, fraternal
feelings among the Members-- at least outwardly; working for it
to bring about a spirit of unity and harmony, the great
diversity of creeds notwithstanding; expecting and demanding
from the Fellows, a great mutual toleration and charity for
each other's shortcomings; mutual help in the research of
truths in every domain-- moral or physical-- and even, in daily

(2) They had to oppose in the strongest manner possible
anything approaching *dogmatic faith and fanaticism*-- belief
in the *infallibility* of the Masters, or even in the very
existence of our invisible teachers, having to be checked from
the first.  On the other hand, as a great respect for the
private views and creeds of every member was demanded, any
Fellow criticizing the faith or belief of another Fellow,
hurting his feelings, or showing a reprehensible self-assertion,
unasked (mutual friendly advices were a duty unless declined)--
such a member incurred expulsion.  The greatest spirit of free
research untrammelled by anyone or anything, had to be
encouraged. (BCW VII: 146-48)
Contemporary Theosophy as a movement stands condemned by these
passages, I fear, at least in large part.  My own experience
suggests that the majority of individual Theosophists *are*
tolerant of others' ideas, helpful, encouraging of free research,
and so on.  But the organizations and their leaders are much
less so.  
One last line, I think, is especially relevant to the "us-them"
antagonism that has developed between Theosophists with
different levels of orthodoxy:

"The Theosophical body is neither a Church nor a Sect and every
individual opinion is entitled to a hearing.  A Theosophist may
progress and develop, and his views may outgrow those of the
Founders, grow larger and broader in every direction, without
for all that abandoning the fundamental soil upon which they
were born and nurtured."(p. 171)

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