A House of Cards? (Reply to Paul K.)
Jul 29, 1996 07:28 AM
The basic approach that you seem to be taking is based upon the
rule that the simplest explanation is generally the best, as
illustrated by the story of ocam's razor.
From the standpoint of a westerner, brought up in a certain
culture and educated a certain way about the nature of the world
and how life works, the simplest explanation would be the one
that fits in the most easily with what you already know and
What is simplest, though, is not always true. The simplest, most
direct explanation as to why someone acts differently than a
Fundamentalist Christian thinks proper might be "the devil made
him do it." To the Fundamentalist, that is the application of his
ocam's razor. But it is false.
When someone reviews the theosophical literature, and finds
references to science, and they appear obviously wrong, the
simplest explanation *to him* might be that the whole thing was
made up. That may satisfy him, but again I'd say it was not the
How does one tell if there's something to be found in the
theosophical literature, in the various metaphysical doctrines
that are expounded? One way is an innate deja vu, a recognition
and inner accord with what is taught. There's a sense that one
has known these things before, and that they have the ring of
truth to them.
A second approach is through a study of various religious and
philosophical traditions of the world. Does Theosophy offer a
key that unlocks their meanings? Does it reveal a common thread
of thought behind the many approaches? Blavatsky makes a case for
this in THE SECRET DOCTRINE. The theosophical materials are
consistent with or have ties with other great traditions.
When I pick up a book by Kalu Rinpoche, I find materials that are
in perfect accord, for instance, with what I might find in
Theosophy. I could also read something by Manly Hall, talking
about the Mysteries, and hear of the same thread of teachings,
this time from someone without any organization seeking
Yet a third approach comes from "living the life". It comes from
inner changes that result from treading the spiritual Path. One
grows in both experience, knowledge, and ability to perceive
life, and the teachings grow on one, they both aid one in
understanding life as well as help put into words what one is
The theosophical literature is not based upon scientific
pronouncements, and does not need to distance itself from them.
The reason, I think, certain writers need to have their material
reviewed, and subject to revision, is based upon how they arrived
at what they said. Leadbeater, in his books like "The Inner
Life", was giving materials arrived at by psychical
investigation, which is highly unreliable.
This is different than Blavatsky's materials, which were arrived
at by study, training, and intellectual means. In one case,
someone is writing down as scientific fact whatever they perceive
from out-of-the-body experiences. In the other case, someone is
passing on knowledge from a mahatmic Wisdom Tradition.
I also like the motto "There is no religion higher than truth".
It was, I recall, the motto of the Maharajah of Benares, and
adopted by the T.S. I don't think, though, that the first person
to invoke the motto has the upper hand on reality, truth, and
insight into life.
You mention a few highly judgemental terms like "cover up". This
term, for instance, implies the hiding of something, with perhaps
some element of wrong doing. I don't think the term is
Perhaps there is some element of it with regard to Leadbeater's
writings, where his attempts to use psychical abilities to
advance science have since been shown to have been off the mark.
But not with regard to what Theosophy is about, its real core,
its essential meaning: the philosophy, worldview, and status as a
genuine path to the Mysteries.
There is no evasion, no unwillingness to put Theosophy to the
test. But the test *is not* a scientific report card. The test
is something that can take years, or even lifetimes. It is in
undertaking the study and living the life.
You might say that since this is not readily apparent, and it is
not provable in your life and in the lives of your coworkers,
that it is untrue. You're entitled to that view, and in a free
marketplace of ideas, I'm equally entitled to my dissenting view.
If you had no education in mathematics, and were shown a complex
mathematical proof, covering a half-dozen pages, and knew no
geometry, trigonometry, calculus, etc., you might be inclined to
dismiss the whole thing. If the only verifiable bits of the
proof you could relate true were obviously untrue to you, it
might be possible that you'd dismiss the whole thing.
In this case, you'd have a situation where the person of average
education would not be able to verify the proof, but would have
to reserve judgment, and defer to the opinion of those recognized
to be knowledgable in the field.
In the field of spiritual development, dealing with the hidden
side of life and the Mahatmas, the most advanced of humanity, we
have a similar situation.
It is very possible, and in accord with the idea that truth comes
before all religions, that any of us, with regard to certain
occult truths, "have the wrong background and can't be a useful
judge of these weighty matters." That is, there *are* things in
life that we do not have the background to comprehend, but have
to defer to the views of experts, *until we acquire the necessary
background ourselves*, and see for ourselves the truth of the
This is true for all of us, in many fields of study and in many
areas of experience. I'd have to defer, for instance, to what a
chemist says about chemistry, having no formal training in that
Theosophy won't collapse like a house of cards, as someone finds
a few references to science to discredit. It may sway the
interest of a few borderline seekers, people without a strong
draw to the philosophy, but apart from that, I see little
The biggest draw is to those with an inner recognition, an
attraction that does not care how sloppily a book is written or
how highly it is disfavored by public opinion. The draw is the
inner evolutionary urge, the urge to move beyond the present
human condition. This is something that no amount of words will
"prove" nor evoke in someone. Each of us is responsible to
create our own necessary state of "inner ripeness" for this, to
make ourselves fertile to the germination of the spiritual.
In the eyes of some, Theosophy is a priori proven false, and no
amount of philosophical discourse will change things. In the
eyes of others, Theosophy is a (non-exclusive) source of an inner
Wisdom of life that is precious, priceless, beyond compare.
Either might claim that "truth" is on their side.
The latter, those finding a connection to the Wisdom Tradition,
have a obviously greater benefit. Is their benefit real? Is what
they study based upon the actual way that life works? I'd agree
with them. But each of us has to make his own way through life,
and that includes doing, studying, and being those things that
appeal to them.
If Theosophy seems nonsensical and simply confuses things, the
best advice for the person seeing it that way is: stay away,
forget this stuff, don't return until or unless your heart tells
you that something is being missed. On the other hand, if it
seems to be a wide open doorway, leading to a whole new world of
experience, I'd say: don't hesitate, jump in and do it!
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